I’ve never been to a comics convention, but I can imagine it can be overwhelming — Comic-Con International especially, with its enormous exhibition hall, packed programming schedule and multiple venues. There’s a webcomics presence, but it remains something of a niche. A quick scan of events, for example, turns up more presentations on how to become big on deviantART than anything directly connected with webcomics.
There’s a powerfully strong digital comics representation, however. Perhaps this indicates a swing from the independent, comic strip-influenced world of webcomics to the formalized, floppy-inspired format of digital. Shoot, Publishers Weekly even arranged a panel to discuss that very thing on Friday morning with “Behind the Digital Line.” Mark Waid has an entire panel devoted to pitching ideas to Thrillbent. Monkeybrain Comics will have a roundtable about the benefits of publishing digitally. And on Sunday, “Digital Comics: Going Beyond the Page” will feature a discussion with a panel that includes Waid (Thrillbent) and Ron Perraza (formerly of comiXology and DC’s digital division).
Jen Brazas of Keenspot will be on that panel as well. Lately, the veteran webcomic collective (which, once upon a time, hosted the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards) has operated much more like its cousins in the digital comics world. Rather than hang around the webcomic types, for example, the Keenspot booth is located next to Marvel and Image. Incidentally, Keenspot is also hosting its own panel called “Keenspot 2014: Giant-Size Panel of Pure Weirdness.”
Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, whose Bandette took home the Eisner last year for Best Digital Comic, step into the spotlight with “How to Succeed in Comics Without Ever Crying.” Coover, especially, seems to be incredibly busy this weekend, as she’ll also appear on panels about the disappearance of romance comics and how to write strong female characters.
Webcomics do have representation, with the documentary Stripped! screening Friday at 6:10 p.m. as part of the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. I mentioned here before that Stripped! builds a narrative about how webcomics are the next logical evolution of newspaper comics. It spends a long time honoring the history of comic strips, then providing solution on how those same strips can survive in a digital environment. Comic-Con has been more about long-form storytelling, which may explain why webcomics get such little room on the schedule.
Still, webcomics are here. Longtime blogger and inaugural Reuben Award Webcomic judge Gary Tyrell provides a fantastic rundown of where to find your favorite webcomic creators. Most are clustered near each other. You’ll still find stalwarts like Penny Arcade, Dumbrella, Cyanide and Happiness, TopatoCo, Blind Ferret, and PvP. (Scott Kurtz of PvP once infamously got interviewed by Triumph The Insult Comic Dog at this very convention.) Looking for David Willis (Dumbing of Age) or Spike Trotman (Templar, AZ)? Check out the Blank Label booth. Matt Inman (creator of The Oatmeal and a nominee for two Eisners this year including Best Short Story and Best Digital Comic) will also be on hand in a booth of his own.