Weekend con report: The kinds of cons that cartoonists avoid

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While the legend of DashCon and its bouncy castle continues to elicit laughter and jokes as perhaps the worst run con ever, it’s still a mixed bag out there. A lot of smaller “Maker” shows are emerging out there, and your mileage may vary. InterventionCon is now in its fifth year and is billed as a show highlighting webcomics and blogs and that kind of thing. I’ve heard good things about it in the past, but guest Jon Rosenberg had some pretty dispiriting tweets over the weekend, showing small turnouts for his panels, and leading to this conversation with Jim Zub.


ON THE OTHER HAND, this LJ user had a pretty good time, although it seems the show needed to freshen things up:

Well, as always, Intervention is a well-run, fun con.

I stayed for all three days, beginning to end, and kept entertained throughout. I had sorta a weird mix of feeling a lot of the webcomic people were ‘the usual suspects’ who were at the prior Interventions, but on the flip side I bought more webcomic books and stuff than ever before, so, more minor ones. I think the webcomic panelage wasn’t quite as good (or, I should say, as *fresh*, the ones I went to are good but I skipped over some because I saw the same people on the topics in prior years), because it was the usual suspects to me (and of the usuals, Shaenon Garrity wasn’t there- for very obvious reasons of a newborn! She tends to do creative panels so I’m hoping she’ll be back next year). That said, I saw plenty of other good panels in addition to the webcomic ones, and I hit some I’d never checked before, like a talent show (heard a very good raunchy folk ballad on acoustic guitar). One interesting one was about My Little Pony, but largely talking about why Hasbro does what it does in respects to fans, toys, etc., as well as things like similaries between shows and fandoms (original Star Trek and it’s habit of keeping extras in the same uniforms and jobs was used in comparison to the reoccurring background ponies)- and since it was at the end of the day with no panels after they kept talking for the next 20 minutes, and after *that* I talked to some of the panelists longer about different conventions and stuff. A lot of the other panels were behind-the-scenes, how-to-do X stuff (X being podcasts, independent films, blogs, etc.), which sound useful if you’re interested but aren’t my thing. I think next time I may scale things back to just hitting the main day, largely due to the usual-suspect factor.

I’m not trying to bag on InterventionCon — I’ve spoken to the folks running it and they seem nice, and I’m sure it was all nice. But folks expectations for even smaller shows have been raised by the SuperCons and guests certainly have a lot of shows to choose from. Everyone is going to have to up their game a bit.

Comments

  1. I’ve been a guest at Intervention for the last several years (as the LJ commenter notes, I didn’t attend this time because I was pushing a baby out of unmentionable places), and it’s one of the cons my cowriter Jeff and I most look forward to. It’s a small con, but very professionally run and friendly. The organizers go above and beyond for their guests. I always sell a lot of books and have a great time.

    It’s great for Jon Rosenberg that he’s way too big a deal to rub shoulders with mere podcasters and cosplayers–after all, he’s a WEBCARTOONIST–but I have to admit I haven’t reached that level of success yet, so I look forward to doing Intervention next year.

  2. Andrew Farago says:

    Intervention’s one of my favorite conventions, and Shaenon Garrity and I would have been there over the weekend if we hadn’t just had a baby last month.

    It’s a smaller show, definitely, but Jon Rosenberg had to have known that going in. The sales aren’t on par with a big comic book convention, but it’s a great show for talking to fans and other creators. Table costs are low, and the organizers, Oni and Harknell, have always taken great care of Shaenon (and me, even though I’m just the tag-along), so we’ve always done pretty well at the show, plus we get the opportunity to visit Washington. D.C.-area friends and family while we’re there.

    The show’s been growing steadily for years, and I’m looking forward to a repeat trip in 2015. It’s a shame that the first press coverage the show is getting from some outlets is when a paid guest of the convention decides that it’s good form to make fun of his hosts and the attendees on his Twitter account, but I’m sure the organizers are already taking this to heart and setting to work on next year’s convention.

  3. I agree with Shaenon and Andrew above on all fronts. I have also been a guest at Intervention and one of many things I like about the con is that it is smaller scale and thus more intimate. There is enough creative space to interact directly with a wide variety of creators who work in a variety of mediums. You have space to collaborate, compare notes, and brainstorm with others. Are the panels always packed? No. Will you be able to spend quality time interacting with creators you admire? YES! I hate MEGACONS with standing room only, where you have to fist fight to get 5 seconds with a creator. Intervention is quirky as hell, (Jesus hosting a auction above being a great example) and only much fun as you make it. Heidi, the LiveJournal quote/page you linked to is much more insightful, informative and useful as a testimonial to the true character of the event.

  4. Hey peeps thanks for speaking up on behalf of InterventionCon. It seems some people have different expectations of the con experience as both attendees and guests.

  5. Kambrea says:

    My husband and I were guests this year and Intervention is meant to be about the panels and the workshops and investing in growth and connections. It is more of a conference and less of a comic convention. There were no surprises for us. We knew going into it what to expect. Their website clearly indicates what the traffic is like, their goals, and their purpose. The promoters do go above and beyond for the guests. Every time I would see one of them they would ask us if we were okay or if we needed anything. It was a lot of fun and we got to meet a lot of people and we picked up some great info that could help us. We do pretty well already, but you can ALWAYS learn something new! Since I am a teacher I am all about education and that is what it is about.
    As for panels. It depended on what panel you went to. I was in several that were much fuller than others. 3 or 4 are run simultaneously and audience size could depend on many factors from topic to the time slot. I know we did a panel with Jon Rosenberg on Webcomics 101 and the crowd was small, but it was also one of the first panels, on day one, and it was while people were setting up and coming in. Later that day and even the next day, I was in panels that had much larger and more engaged audiences.
    There were some really great panels. They had the Doctor Who Premiere (standing room only). Special events and parties. There was something for everyone. I know on Facebook one mom thanked them because her daughter realized (at the con) that it was okay for her to like steampunk and comics and stuff like that and it was a break through for her. That is makes it worth it right there.
    There are a LOT of small cons. We go to many smaller conventions and have a much nicer experience and make more connections than we do at the bigger conventions where you can simply get lost in the shuffle. Some of our most profitable cons (if we are going by money–as it seems some do) are small cons. Just because a con is small does NOT mean it is Dash Con.

  6. Andrew Farago says:

    I guess it seems cool to be an invited guest and to spend your time at the convention tweeting about what an awful time you’re having, but it feels really classless to me. If I’m having a bad time at a convention on my own dime, sure, I’ll complain to my table-mates and I won’t make plans to go back the next year if I’m not sure my problems are going to be addressed.

    If I’ve been completely misled (and I’ve tabled at conventions where that was the case), I’ll take that up with the organizers after the show. If traffic’s slower than expected at a con, I’ll get some work done or do some socializing. Tweeting about what a terrible time you’re having because you’re bored and you wish you’d gotten a bigger hotel room and a larger appearance fee…yeah, I guess it makes Rosenberg seem pretty cool to his friends, but if I were a convention organizer, I’d go out of my way to avoid ever inviting him as an official guest.

  7. Incidentally, if the organizers of other small conventions are looking for a guest who isn’t horrified by exposure to hoi polloi, I’ll pretty much go anywhere that will cover my transportation and lodging.

  8. Torsten Adair says:

    In general:
    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/86/86hgetalife.phtml
    “Emcee: Yeah! It’s a very special item, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, and it’s ONLY… thirty dollars.
    Secondly, we have some exciting guests at the convention today, so let me introduce them to you right now. First, we have the lovely actress Julie Cobb. Now you all remember her as Yeoman Leslie Thompson from the first ten minutes of Episode 51, “Errand of Mercy”… in which she was transformed into a cube… and crushed!
    And next up is Pamela Denberg Doohan, the ex-wife of course of James “Scotty” Doohan, and ah… I understand life with the Enterprise’s Chief Mechanical Officer *was* somewhat turbulent… kinda like living with a MUGATU! ”

    Smaller shows might need to follow the business model perfected by SF cons many decades ago: The Big Tent.

    A small regional show needs to pull in as many fandoms as possible, so the show is multi-faceted. You might have a comics guest-of-honor, a writer GOF, an artist GOF, someone from Hollywood (SFX pros are cheap and show lots of cool behind-the-scenes stuff), some local pros.

    For comics, that means finding people in the region who can drive or fly cheaply. Cartoonists are all over the place. You can do art workshops via the local university or art school. Maybe you fly in an award-winner, or a Living Legend. Keep it simple, let it grow slowly, and soon you’re an SPX or Baltimore with good word-of-mouth.

    And yeah… don’t complain publicly, unless it’s something illegal or life-threatening.

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