New England Webcomics Weekend 2009

This weekend I attended the first (and hopefully annual) New England Webcomics Weekend in Easthampton, Massachusetts. NEWW was organized by the denizens of the Eastworks building, a converted button factory which has been transformed into a wonderful workspace, and which houses some of webcomics’ most prominent studios, such as Dumbrella and Topatoco. While this was the first year of the event, the core webcomics group organizing this shindig—including Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie and R. Stevens of Diesel Sweeties—are very active on the Twitters, the Facebooks, and the internets in general, so interest spread through the tubes like wildfire, and there was a healthy attendance (so much so, in fact, that despite the event being free, the organizers had to institute an attendance cap due to safety reasons).

The main attraction of NEWW was, of course, the creators themselves, and many were in attendance, signing books and sketching for their fans. Among them were Steven Cloud (and beard) of Boy on a Stick and Slither; Emily Horne and Joey Comeau (who is hilarious in person) of A Softer World; Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots; the ever-effusive Spike of Templar, AZ; Chris Hastings of Dr. McNinja; Jeph Jaques of Questionable Content; Scott Kurtz of PvP; David Malki! of Wondermark; Kris Wilson of Cyanide and Happiness; and a surprise appearance by Randall Munroe of xkcd. Honourable mention goes to Anders Loves Maria‘s Rene Engström, who made it out all the way from Sweden (yes, I had a fanboy moment, so sue me). To a person, all these creators were extremely gracious and funny, and certainly imbued the con with an intimate and friendly atmosphere.

While the event was light on programming, it never felt lacking—there were some technical issues, but again, nothing major, and certainly nothing beyond regular hiccups encountered at any con. I was actually impressed with how well-put-together NEWW was, for a first-time con. The con kicked off on Friday night with a pub crawl through Northampton’s many fine drinking establishments, coordinated almost entirely through Twitter (hashtag: #neww), and programming ranged from the informative (“Print vs. Web vs. a Bear: The age-old debate, finally addressed by a panel of industry know-it-alls.” Spoiler: the bear wins. The bear always wins), to the funny (“Creative Partner Newlywed Game”), to the informative and funny (“Webcomics Can Get You In Trouble: Join our panelists as they share stories about the perils of internet cartooning. Angry e-mails? Cease and desist letters? Lynch mobs? We’ve seen it all.”). In addition to the panels, both Dumbrella and Topatoco opened their doors to the public, so that fans could see where the webcomics magic happens (and buy some cool t-shirts, books, and posters, too).

In all, a great weekend full of great people, great comics, and great vibes. Great. If you’d like to see pictures of the event, Meredith Gran has started a Flickr pool here.


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