Photos and text by Jen Vaughn
The New England Webcomics Weekend was like no other convention I have attended in all my (two) years of attending comics events coast-to-coast. While many conventions are relaxed, this one was absolutely chill, with the many exhibitors neither hassling nor hard-selling to the attendees. Maybe it was because the event was held in EastWorks, a rather remote arthouse building in Easthampton, or the fact that many of the attendees are fans of the cartoonists. They are already familiar with each other and the creators thanks to online comments, blogs, message boards, and social media sites. Regardless of the reason there was a great energy pumping below the skin of the convention.
(Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan of Darwin Carmichael Goes to Hell.)
The discussion panels covered a wide range of topics, from digital inking techniques to a travel guide which covered both the practical (how to update your comic while on the road) and the strangest experiences creators have encountered.
(Dorothy Gambrell of Cat and Girl.)
With greats like Aaron Diaz of Dresden Codak and Dorothy Gambrell of Cat and Girl, attendees were able to soak up YEARS of experience. John Allison of Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery made it across the pond for an excellent interview by Dr. McNinja‘s own Christopher Hastings. The odd panel setup featured creators sitting on some incredibly beautiful and crazy expensive couches while the audience were left yards away from them. More than one speaker mentioned they tried to merely hover their buttocks above a couch more worth more than their life; one was perturbed she couldn’t fart on it.
The convention attracted many web cartoonists who chose not to table, but used it as a chance to hang out with friends and buy comics. Liz Baillie of Freewheel thinks she will wait a year or two before she starts tabling at NEWW given her already pregnant convention schedule. This did not stop many a fan from coming up to her, and the forward-thinking Baillie sold copies of her comics straight from her bag.
Most webcomics creators at NEWW had print version of their comics for sale as a way for fans to support them. It goes without saying that most of them make money off their merchandise. Topotaco led the way, showing off many of their creators’ merch in a beautiful windowed room. A pile of Giant Dinosaur plushies filled the middle of the room and I caught more than a few people surreptitiously reaching out to pet them.
(Alex Dueben and a lot of plush dinosaurs.)
The lack of academic institutions tabling at the convention did not go by unnoticed. Perhaps it is a sign of the curriculum among all the schools that the world of the internet is an untapped, often frightening and ever-changing resource. I’m used to a deluge of comics by student and alumni of various schools like the Center for Cartoon Studies, SCAD, SVA and the Joe Kubert School. Still, Hampshire College had a strong number of students in attendance and even set up a drawing party area. Julian Fine of Hampshire approached wandering cartoonists to take a test on page flow. There was no way myself, Liz, nor Alex Dueben of Comic Book Resources could resist contributing to the science of comic theory.
Many of the cartoonists present tabled at NEWW for the first time, but all seemed to enjoy it. Some, like the indelible Evan Dahm, promised to return next year. I know I will be there, with my money in hand and a string of cartoonist friends in my wake.
(Evan Dahm of Rice Boy had a good time, despite what you may think from this photo.)
You can see more photos from the New England Webcomics Weekend on my Flickr account.
She also writes and draws the webcomic Mermaid Hostel.