New England Webcomics Weekend wrap-up

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This past weekend was the first annual New England Webcomics Weekend, a gathering of cartoonists and fans from all over the world that, while initially planned as a smaller, informal gathering, grew to a giant event that still thrilled everyone there and was a success far beyond the expectations of everyone in attendance.

About 500 or so people descended upon Easthampton, MA, for web cartoonists to meet their fans and vice versa. Unlike the usual formality of a convention, this was a much more personal experience for fans and creators alike, allowing people to spend more time talking about comics on a one-on-one level without having to deal with the usual bustle of a con.

I was there for two reasons: to meet my favorite cartoonists and to try and get more people to read my own webcomic, “Moon Freight 3.” I made 100 free sample packets to give to people, and handed out about a third of them. For a guy like me, a web cartoonist just starting out, this was an invaluable opportunity to meet the perfect audience for my work and to get my name out there.

But there were plenty of people who were already well known among the NEWW crowd, and they were more than happy to talk to their fans and give them sketches or autographs. I met Danielle Corsetto of “Girls with Slingshots” for the second time, getting a sketch of her character McPedro the talking cactus. I also met Scott Kurtz of “PVP” for the second time, as well as Dave Kellett of “Sheldon,” Brad Guigar of “Evil Inc.,” and Kris Straub of “Starslip” and “Chainsawsuit.” Straub is my cartooning hero, so getting a sketch from him and having a chance to talk to him was a dream come true. And Guigar is easily one of the nicest guys I have ever met. I mean seriously. He was friendly and approachable and was more than willing to talk shop with a guy he’s never met, like me. Guigar and Kellett both gave me some constructive critiques on my comic, which I have already started implementing in the comics I’ve drawn since then.

I also hung out a lot with Alina Pete, the writer/artist of “Weregeek.” She didn’t have a table, but was still stopped a number of times by fans of her comic who were eager to get sketches or autographs from her. If you haven’t checked out her comic, you really should.

The panels they had were equally entertaining and informative. I attended three of them: a panel on making and selling t-shirts, a live recording of the Webcomics Weekly podcast, and one about the horror stories cartoonists have because of crazy e-mails and the like that they’ve gotten from angry fans.

There was also plenty of time for artists to draw a bit, too, whether they were professionals giving demonstrations on the Cintiq to people like me, who joined little clusters around the show and just sketched.

It’s important to note than I only did a fraction of what there was to do there, because frankly, I couldn’t get to it all. There were so many panels I didn’t have time to see and so many creators – big and small – that I didn’t get a chance to talk to. But that’s not a bad thing. It just goes to show what a massive event this was.

And while 500 people were there this weekend, that number could have been much higher. The NEWW organizers had to have people register beforehand because there were so many people who wanted to come the building and parking lot could not hold any more people.

Also, a big “thank you” needs to go out to Meredith Gran of “Octopus Pie” and all the volunteers who helped put this show together. They did an immense amount of work to make sure everything ran smoothly, and they did it all without making anyone pay a cent. That’s right, admission to Webcomics Weekend was free.

It’s easy to agree that the first New England Webcomics Weekend was a smashing success. I did not talk to a single person who had anything less than an excellent time, and everyone was looking forward to next year’s. And at this point, it’s safe to say the second NEWW will be a “when,” not an “if.”

GS Reporter: Luke

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