Not everyone could be at Comic-Con this past weekend. But through the magic of the intertubes, a group of web-comics creators were able to quickly set up a virtual convention for all the people not at Comic-Con. Conceived and spearheaded by Ryan Fisher of Gin and Comics, The Non Con served as a place for fans and creators to interact through live chats that simultaneously resemble Comic-Con’s panels and artists alley but with none of the traveling costs and long lines. Response was very positive, so Fisher plans to hold more non-conventions at TheNonCon.com, probably starting as soon as the first weekend of September.
The site is officially in public beta, as the site was built within 2 days before Comic-Con when Fisher got the idea. There is a slideshow currently showing off some of the artwork created by artists that attended the inaugural event. Creators and retailers can also register to participate in future Non Cons.
The live chat is particularly ingenious due to the inclusion of live video feeds integrated into the chat room. When I spent some time in there, I was able to watch two artists creating artwork for their own web-comics. It was really cool to watch. We could ask them questions and interact in a way that would be difficult on a loud convention floor. Visitors can chat either through the old fashioned keyboard or by using a microphone and/or webcam, which creates a really interesting dynamic of some people talking to silent/typed questions or comments. If you don’t want to sign up with the WordPress system they’re using (and the registration process isn’t quite the smoothest), there’s also integration with Facebook chat.
Ryan Fisher has big plans for The Non Con. There will be a few each year, with over 150-200 creators attending each one. There will be an art feed to see what is being created, as well as a schedule of panels done via chat and podcasts. There will also be a store for attending creators and retailers to sell directly to fans.
Comic-Con is a fun adventure but not anyone can travel across the country (or the world) to attend. This brings the experience of comic book conventions straight to fans, with an unprecedented level of interaction and creativity happening all at once. Sure, similar things are happening on Twitter all the time, but they’re unstructured, spontaneous, and requires people search out and follow the people they like. This preserves the crucial element of discovery that can happen at comic book conventions, where you seek out artists you know and love, and also end up finding new artists.
As big as Comic-Con has become, this has even bigger potential, as the attendance limitations are only confined to how much the site’s servers can handle. We’ll check in again come September to see how the first full blown Non Con goes.