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Mike Peterson went to the New England Webcomics Weekend, and if you are curious how it went but not familiar with all the names involved, his is the account to read, as he gives a good general overview of the event. plus a few conversations with individuals. I liked this in particular, from part two of his account:
There was a lot of laughter and a lot of conversation, but it was basically a mass book-signing event, with this important difference:
What makes webcomic fans so loyal is the sense of community that springs up around a successful webcomic. This doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of emailing back-and-forth with individual fans, but it does mean creating place online where they can feel their input and their presence is of value to you and perhaps has some effect on the cartoon itself. “Success” and “community” are inseparable, and it’s a major reason why, as mentioned yesterday, you can’t hide in your garret churning out amazing art and expect to succeed in this medium.
(His hiding-in-a-garret point is from part one.) A lot of the successful webcomics that I see have blogs or comment areas, which helps promote the feeling of community, and of course everyone is on Facebook and Twitter nowadays. The result is that while the Stan Lee of my childhood was a distant figure sitting at a desk in a skyscraper in New York (itself an abstract concept to a Midwestern kid like me), todays comics creators are all over the place, and their readers can interact with them on more than one level—read the comic, buy the T-shirt, follow them on Twitter, chat with them at cons. Of course, print comics creators have gotten a lot more accessible as well, but it seems to be more fundamental to the webcomics model.