The place smells of nervous ambition, the type you see from in hopefuls in a high school talent show. It's not a bad thing; Ambition is probably the only thing that ever got anyone to do anything. Over here, though, one notices how different this is from a high school event.
For one thing, the people here are essentially prospectors, a small group amongst battalions of like-minded individuals across the world trying to do the same thing: make money from the Internet through the use of their hands. It's this distinction that makes their efforts seem so much more...dedicated, I think is the word I'm looking for. They are of various qualities and skill levels, but one thing is for sure, their motivation is not for want.
Webcomics Con is a very small expo, maybe a couple hundred or so attendees. For such a small group it's a wonder they managed to host this convention in such a gorgeous location--it was hosted in a hotel/convention center in Norwalk, Connecticut that apparently used to be a monastery, sequestered in a forested area with isolated ponds and paths where the devout would tread, with occasional, possibly randomly placed stone monuments depicting the life of Jesus; presumably places to stop and contemplate the trials of their savior along a stroll, using the kind of stimulus-response technique normally reserved for one who stomps on the brake pedal when a child runs into the street. It's certainly an odd place to have a hotel, which makes the convention just a single layer inside an onion of anachronisms.
I have no idea what kind of money it takes to host any kind of event here; the only other listed events on the posted agenda were a GE conference and a sorority meeting from *insert rich university name here*. Once I made it up there, though, it looked like any other convention--clean hallways teeming with people dressed up in costumes, booths manned by gangly nerds of every shape, size and gender, a place where one could be at home if you'd ever felt out-of-place in high school.
I've never been one for costume play so I showed up in a t-shirt with the Autobots symbol on it; a little more hipster than hardcore nerd, if anything. I was traveling with my sister (the illustrator for Ajar), and together we were trying to accomplish two objectives--for me, to scope out any promising leads for reviews, and for her, to visit a friend or two.
To be honest, despite my distaste for cosplayers, I loved the time I spent there, not only because the venue was beautiful, with wide open rooms colored in earth tones and giant bay windows displaying the forest and fields all around, but also because of the size. NYCC and other cons like it are pretty annoying to me. Tuning out the noise and bustle of the tens of thousands is the only way to really enjoy them, at least for me.
I don't know. Alex says big open spaces freak him out, therefore he prefers cities. Beth lives in a city but gets freaked out by large crowds. There's probably something diagnosable there in both of them, but I've always loved forests. Maybe that's why a convention with less than 300 people made me feel so comfortable.
The entire convention took up maybe five rooms total. I was only able to go for Sunday, so perhaps it was busier the previous day. The main room contained a slew of webcomic artists, a few widely known, many more simply looking to strike it big in their own way by starting small. Dr McNinja and Drow Tales were two comics on display; Dr McNinja I am an avid fan of, Drow Tales I'd checked out a few times back a few years ago. The rest I had never heard of, or only vaguely knew. I tried thinking of this place from a press perspective, thinking of interview questions and how to garner contact info for reviews. It was a new experience for me, though. Maybe next time I will have the endurance to sleuth around for connections. This time, I got a few business cards, but I could have done better. I figured I needed something to do while Beth comes up with more assignments. Turns out she was there the day before, so I guess for a first time I didn't do too bad.
There was an auction floor too, where people were bidding on art made by artists on the main floor. The speed at which the auctioneer spoke filled me with sadness when I thought of how such events transpire in movies, but it's not really his fault that he can't speak a thousand words a minute--I don't know why anyone would want to anyway.
Like other cons, there were panels, and many seemed to be focused on helping artists improve their craft, like a panel on Adobe Photoshop, for example. There was also an advertised cosplay contest; different strokes for different folks, I guess. They even hosted Super Art Fight, something that is pretty popular in this area of New England.
Of the few webcomic artists I did talk to, they all had different stories and approaches to what they were trying to pull off. Hopefully, I'll have reviews up for a few of these artists in the coming weeks, when I have the free time.
I talked to one Sarah O'Donnell, who runs a webcomic called Rumbirds, as well as a podcast about how to beat a Wii game called Monster Hunter Tri. There's Jamie Noguchi, who runs ypcomic.com, what he describes as "An Asian-American Office Romance Comedy" (though he seemed okay with me interpreting it as "The Office set in California"). You've got Chris W. Rann's comic Aquarium Drinking, and an artist named "Pici" who runs Hell Inc., as well as a couple other websites.
Oh, and if you're wondering what the tagline in the title is about, a baby chewed and slobbered all over my ID tag, once again proving my age old hypothesis: "Babies are dumb."
Overall I'd say Webcomics Con isn't a bad place to find a few artists that you haven't heard of before. This was their first convention, according to signs near the registration booth, so hopefully they will have the money to keep this up. From the looks of it, I think it could be a great venue for new artists to cut their teeth, as well as venue to foster the webcomics community and to network.