Millions and Billions and Zillions of Webcartoonists

Posted by on December 4th, 2009 at 6:04 PM

So the new thing is webcomics mini-conventions.  The things are everywhere.  It all started with the New England Webcomics Weekend in Massachusetts this past July, which started as a modest open-studio event for local creators and quickly snowballed into a confab of everyone who’s anyone in online comicking.  The rest of the country took note, and this month there’s an explosion of similar one-day or two-day mini-cons.  Check it out:

This Saturday in Portland, Oregon, the city that claims America’s highest concentration of cartoonists: The Legend of Webcomics, an open studio with Aaron Diaz (Dresden Codak), Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie), Dylan Meconis (Family Man), Erika Moen (DAR), and Luke Mahan (Selfish Steam).

Next weekend, in Austin, Texas: Webcomics Rampage, a store event featuring Brian Clevinger (8-Bit Theater), Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots), Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content), Scott Kurtz (PvP), and more, much more.

Also next weekend, in San Francisco: Monsters of Webcomics: Webcomic-Con 2009, at the Cartoon Art Museum, featuring a long list of locals that includes Jamaica Dyer (Weird Fishes), Chuck Whelon (Pewfell), Karen Luk (Raconteur), and me.

Whew.

It’s easy to see the appeal of the formula.  Every city has webcartoonists; they’re like roaches except they breed less.  And most of them have even more free time than regular cartoonists.  Find a venue, agree on a date, come up with an ironically hyper-inflated name, and you’ve got a convention.  A popular convention, I should add, since people actually read webcomics.  The Legend of Webcomics has 72 confirmed guests on its Facebook page, and will probably draw far more.  And it’s just an informal, one-day open studio.  Judging from the comments (“This is as sweet as a sweet thing sweetened with sweetener”), a lot of people are thrilled by the opportunity to meet their favorite virtual cartoonists  in meatspace.

Some of the mini-cons include scheduled events, classical convention-style; others are just opportunities to meet the artists and watch them draw.  Webcomics-Con will feature signings, art tutorials, and a jam comic.  That seems to be about as elaborate as a mini-con needs to get.

Although it’s a natural fit for cartoonists riding the digital long tail, the mini-con could be a viable model for other comics events.  What with all the social networking sites the kids are into these days, it’s possible to organize a small convention cheap and on the fly.  Do you know some cartoonists?  Will they agree to meet at the same place on an appointed date?  Congratulations, you have a convention.  Anime fans already know this.  There’s an anime convention every damn weekend in America, and a lot of them are the work of college kids with a few folding tables and DVD players and access to Facebook.

If Webcomics-Con goes over well, the Cartoon Art Museum plans to follow up with more mini-conventions for local artists: say, one for superhero artists, one for minicomics creators, one for kids’ cartoonists.  Next time we might even have chips.

(Thanks very much to Gary Tyrrell of Fleen for keeping up on this and all other webcomics-related developments.)

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