Comic Non-Sans: MarsCon in Review

MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA was my first-ever convention back in 2000.  It’s always been on the smaller side — which suits many (including myself) just fine — and over the years it’s developed its own style of programming and sales.

This year, I actually took a leap and decided to try being on the other side of the table.  There’s a small Artist/Authors Alley that runs along two walls of Main Programming — very limited space both by way of table size and number, but given the relax-a-con size of the convention itself, it’s sizable enough for the crowd it attracts.

There are positives and negatives to this.  On the one hand, it’s right near where all the live programming is, which sometimes encourages attendees to drift to the edges of the room once the entertainment at any given time is over.  On the other hand … it’s right near where all the live programming is, and when there’s a major event going on you’ve got people distracted from your table directly.  On the bright side, you get to see what’s going on as well.

By way of sales … I did not expect this to be a high-sales con so much as a high-promotion con, and it was certainly more geared towards getting your name out than pulling money in.  By way of networking, chatting with readers and fans, and trading with other artists and writers, it was excellent.  And the table price was essentially hamburger money; you had nothing to lose and enough to gain if you stayed laid-back.

The webcomics track has a fair number of panels over the course of the weekend, and each has the luxury of having half a dozen webcomickers available to speak if so desired.  Good for both the con and the artists/authors.  Provided there are at least two handy to talk, the panel is on.  And if, say, one happens to be dying of bubonic plague-AIDS and can’t really offer anything coherently to panels, there are plenty of others to cover for you.  Not that this happened to me or anything.

MarsCon doesn’t have a masquerade like most other conventions do, mainly because they’ve got a stack of live events available to attend.  This year’s selections were regulars Luna-C, Coyote Run, and the local Rocky Horror shadow cast, Fishnet Inc.  This year they added on the Boogie Knights, showing that they’re continuing to expand the hell out of their guests, panels, and entertainment.  (The main guest this year was Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files, which ain’t too shabby a move.)

From a webcomicker’s perspective, MarsCon isn’t a place to make money.  But it’s also not a place to lose it.  The hotels in the area are inexpensive, tables are (as I mentioned) the cost of what might otherwise have been an evening out drinking, and interaction with fellow artists is easy and friendly enough that even if it turns out not to be lucrative, it’s still enjoyable.  If you only do cons to make money and sell books and merchandise, then no, you likely won’t enjoy this.  It’s not high-traffic or high turnover at all.

From the perspective of a webcomic fan, there’s a lot to learn from some qualified individuals, and a lot of very targeted panels over the course of the weekend to answer a variety of questions.  Yes, attendance was up about 200 this year (so I hear), but it hasn’t lost the relaxation atmosphere.  You’re not going to find the big huge dogs of the webcomic world there — yet, anyway — but there are still impressive names and intelligent artists to keep you busy, informed, enlightened, entertained, and a universe of other adjectives.

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 00:34 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , ,