Convention season is gearing up once again, and shows are ramping up their marketing accordingly. I tend to focus on the ones in/around Chicago, since those are the ones I’m most likely able to attend, but I caught something a little different in the materials I’ve seen for them this year.
Not surprisingly, a lot of shows like to tout their biggest guests that will be in attendance. You want to draw in as many people as possible, so of course you’d want to tell everyone of the great talent that you’ve lined up. The level and stature of creators varies from show to show, of course, but just today, I saw that CAKE will be bringing in the likes of Eddie Campbell and Carol Tyler and C2E2 will have Chris Claremont, Brian Michael Bendis, Amy Chu, and Charles Soule. The shows both have many other creators as guests, as they try to pull from a variety of niches within comics.
But what struck me this time was seeing, among the “Featured Guests” the likes of Tony Breed at CAKE, and Kel McDonald and Ali Cantarella at C2E2. That’s striking to me because those are all creators who are primarily known for webcomics. There have certainly been guests at these and other shows where people who’ve done webcomics were featured—Mark Waid springs to mind—but that’s not what they’re primarily known for. There have also certainly been creators attending those shows who are known for their webcomics, but they had simply gotten a table in Artists Alley. I certainly haven’t done any exhaustive research, but this is the first year I recall seeing multiple shows featuring webcomic creators.
These webcomic creators are by far in the minority compared to the full guest lists; the vast majority of Featured Guests still hail from print. But that they’re being put in the same class, the same category, the same station as the folks who work on Batman or X-Men is an as-far-as-I-recall-previously-unacknowledged acknowledgement of their status as creators of significance that can help draw in a greater audience. I don’t know what criteria these, or any other, conventions use for how/why a creator might be “featured” but I think we’re seeing a turning point in how shows are now starting to recognize the relative commercial importance and permanence of webcomics.
And it’s about damn time!