Robot 6

Guest contributor: Bobby Timony on New England Webcomics Weekend

Eastworks

Eastworks

Editor’s Note: Over the weekend webcomics creators and fans gathered for New England Webcomics Weekend. Bobby Timony, co-creator, writer and artist on the Zuda Comics strip The Night Owls, attended the event and agreed to share his thoughts on his weekend here at Robot 6.

by Bobby Timony

What started as a simple idea to get some webcomics people together for a weekend signing event soon took on the aura of a bona-fide cultural turning point. The word spread and the guest list grew and it started looking more like a webcomics Woodstock.

The new Webstock started with a pub crawl on Friday. The cold Northhampton, Mass. night saw webcomics creators and fans walking around under the orange streetlights from pub to pub drinking beers and toasting webcomics. It felt like Halloween, but instead of costumes, people were dressed up in clever, self-aware ironic T-shirts.

Ah, the T-shirts. It’s a lucky thing that webcomic fans are such fans of T-shirts, since much of the webcomics industry seems to revolve around the sale and design of them. There was even a panel on Saturday devoted exclusively to T-shirt design.

Webcomics Weekend was held at the Eastworks building, which used to be a cleaning supply factory that now housed a small mall and studio space occupied by a variety of artists. Remnants of the building’s history haunt the place like ghosts. The wide aisles are spanned by hardwood floors with long grooves worn into them from decades of being trod upon, and the cafe on the ground floor has two large arches made from metal conveyor belts.

The crowd on Saturday was enthusiastic and friendly. Strangers conversed like old friends, encouraged to friendliness by mutual devotion to comics on the web. The energy on the floor carried over easily to the various panel discussions, where even the slightest quip by a panelist was met with a hearty chuckle by the appreciative crowd. Laughter rolled around the panel rooms like a gathering storm of merriment.

Many phones were out and twittering like mad. Twittering seemed to be an essential part of the weekend, as people updated where they were and with whom throughout the weekend. Do a Twitter search for #neww and you’ll see a firsthand account of what people were thinking.

I drove four hours to attend the show, but I met people from as far away as Los Angeles who made the trip. I think it shows that the audience for webcomics tends to be a fiercely loyal one.

Buzz on the floor covered a couple of topics, ranging from discussions on the merits of each panel, the impending doom of print comic strips, to the inevitability of next year’s New England Webcomics Weekend being an even better event. Many creators who had simply attended the event vowed to secure a table for the next one, myself included.

Webcomics have been around for almost as long as the internet, but in the last five years, they’ve really taken off, and their popularity shows no signs of slowing down. I think New England Webcomics Weekend may have tapped into something good here. They seem to have filled a niche in the convention circuit that up until now was empty. If they can capitalize on the success of this weekend, I think they’re in a position to leverage themselves as the premiere webcomics must-see event of the year.

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