A Look at the First New England Webcomics Weekend

New England Webcomics Weekend wasn't intended to be a weekend-long extravaganza with dozens of cartoonists and hundreds of attendees, according to its organizer Meredith Gran. "I'd planned with a dozen or so of my cartoonist friends to meet in my town, go out for drinks, and invite any nearby fans to come join us," she said. "But as soon as people got wind of this, it was a force that couldn't be controlled."

A lot of people joked that most webcartoonists were at the event, and a quick look at the attendees list revealed that wasn't far off, as cartoonists from multiple countries and all over the U.S. came to spend time with fans and each other. Online pre-registration was closed after a day because of the sheer number of people signing up, but the weekend itself ran incredibly smoothly, due in no small part to the many volunteers who directed traffic, oversaw registration and helped run the events.

Except for Friday night's pub-crawl through Northampton, the weekend was based at the Eastworks building, an old factory in Easthampton that's been converted to retail space, apartments and artists' studios. The first floor dominated by retail space was where the cartoonists set up tables. There were times when even in the wide hallways, the lines from each row of tables met in the middle, but even then the crowds weren't overwhelming. Blind Ferret employees (who drove to the U.S. in a very colorful minivan) passed out free "Least I Could Do" bags and books, which writer Ryan Sohmer and artist Lar DeSouza signed for fans.

On the second floor, Dumbrella and Topatoco had their rooms open with more cartoonists taking up table space there. Panels were running in the afternoon, but for most attendees and even most cartoonists, those weren't a major interest. There was a panel on T-shirt design, and another titled "Print vs. Web vs. A Bear." The Halfpixel crew of Brad Guigar, Dave Kellett, Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub recorded their Webcomics Weekly podcast in front of a crowd, which was more entertaining than usual in large part due to the varied audience questions and that the four of them enjoyed playing to the crowd.

There was also live drawing, with cartoonists showing how they use the Cintaq and the many other ways they work, although their usual routine probably doesn't include hecklers, as Scott Kurtz so entertainingly sent up himself in his strip last week.

In the end, the energy of everyone seemed to carry the weekend; a sense that this was similar to how comics onventions used to be, years ago when fandom was smaller and artists alley wasn't just a small corner off to the side of the expo hall. Webcomics Weekend felt like an event that has a lot of room to grow. As Gran said, "It seems we've stumbled upon an event that bears repeating."

Rene EngströmThe Dumbrella room"Least I Could Do" artist Lar deSouza

Live drawing demonstrationHalf Pixel recording the

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