by Rob Balder
July 16-18, 2004
West Hartford, Connecticut
Awareness of webcomics at science fiction, comics, and gaming cons has been growing steadily over the last five years or so. At first, a webcomics guest was considered a novelty. Before long, most conventions had at least one. Soon, major creators started showing up as Guests of Honor, right beside authors and actors and industry leaders. But ConnectiCon is the first science fiction convention to make webcomics its biggest attraction, and has achieved a little bit of history because of it. Prior to ConnectiCon 2004, Katsucon 2004 had probably boasted the largest single webcomics panel in history, with its fifteen people representing eleven comics. At ConnectiCon’s “mega” panel, fully thirty webcomics creators were present. And although the con boasted many other cool people from stage, screen, print comics, anime, books, gaming, filking and more, the artists and writers of some of the world’s top webcomics were in the center ring. There were too many webcomics names to list, but notables included Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance, Tim Buckley of Ctrl-Alt-Delete, Matt Boyd and Ian McConville of Mac Hall, and Brian Clevinger of 8-Bit Theatre. The rest of the field was also very strong. Nearly every title represented had web traffic in the top five percent of comics, including my comic PartiallyClips.
ConnectiCon was held at the University of Hartford, which has to go down in the minus column. There were a number of problems with the physical facilities, including a spontaneous revolt by the exhibitors in Artists’ Alley. They simply picked up their tables and moved en masse into the registration area to get out of the suffocating room they were assigned. This was the second year for ConnectiCon, and they attempted an extremely ambitious 24-hour-a-day programming schedule which was a little rocky. So it was a college con, in its sophomore year, that majored in webcomics. But it also declared a minor in anime. The screening room was open 24 hours and screened over 125 titles, including such strange non-anime notables as The Snorks and The Star Wars Holiday Special. There were also game rooms set up with the latest systems, hooked up to video projectors and played on enormous screens (one way the campus setting was a GOOD thing). For programming, there was a great deal of gaming and media-related fare to choose from. Bob May, the voice of the original Lost in Space robot was there, as was Peter Mayhew, aka Chewbacca. There were a number of musical and filk concerts, too. Piano Squall (a guy who had worked out classical style arrangements to video game and anime themes) was a treat, as were Dementia/filkers Sudden Death and Worm Quartet. I even did a couple of numbers from my upcoming filk CD before introducing Worm Quartet.
I also have to reserve some general praise for the staff. Matt Daigle the Con Chair worked his ass off all year, and hardly slept at the con. And the staff really did everything they could for the guests. All-in-all, ConnectiCon was an event with a whole lot of character, a fun time and a unique experience among cons. It will be interesting to see what they do with it next year, as it is scheduled to run opposite San Diego Comic-Con. Stay tuned.