With Further Ado #108: Virtually a Comic Con : Catching-Up with John Siuntres

Right now, the Democrats are working hard to create on online convention that resonates with true believers and motivates anyone still on the fence. And it’s gotta feel like an effort that’s worth it all.

American business, and specifically Geek Culture is doing the same thing. A few weeks back, San Diego Comic-Con. (officially entitled Comic-Con international) pulled together a virtual comic convention. Seem like a lot of folks participated at various levels. From a personal level I was pleasantly surprised; my typical on-location panels can fill a room of 350 fans but this year, online, they drew 5,000+ viewers!

Looking ahead to the weekend, FanDome will celebrate DC Comics, despite the depressing anguish fans felt from the recent corporate “bloodbath”.

And this past weekend, two online comic conventions debuted:

  • Reed Expo’s Metaverse – The pop culture division of Reed Elsevier (full disclosure; I worked there and frequently collaborate with them) created this online event which many thought, at first, to be a dress rehearsal for the virtual New York Comic Con in October.
  • Mainframe Comic Con – This live event virtual comic con from YouTubers Chuck Lindsey from Chuckload of Comics and Chad Ramsden of Comic Corps looked like a lot of fun. I really enjoyed a few panels. And it was all made better by the fact that this con’s Big Ideas is to support that worthwhile charity, The Hero Initiative.

John Siuntres of The Word Balloon Podcast hosted my favorited panels, so it made sense for me to reach out to him and to get the scoop on it all.

Climbing Onboard

Siuntres told me that this is actually the third Mainframe convention, and that Lindsey and Ramsden had previously reached out him to help secure guests and moderate a couple of panels. He appreciated what they did, and they seemed sincere about their support for the Hero Initiative.

Siuntres explained that It is even more difficult now, during the age of COVID, for the Hero Initiative. They are losing 80% of their funding due to lack of convention revenue. And he reiterated that while many think of this organization that helps out older creators who fall on tough times, they are also there for young freelancers who have limited options during times of financial hardship.

The Word Balloon Podcaster was really impressed by their spirit of entrepreneurism and how they are seized upon this virtual opportunity to create an online event. Lindsay and Ramsden are “like the Apple guys in their garage,” laughed Siuntres.

The spark of the idea came from the fact that as fans, they were all going to miss their usual comic convention events. “So”, they thought, “why don’t we create an online event?’ Siuntres got involved again as they planned this 3rd show.

The Mainframe team all worked hard to provide programming – all kinds of programming : There were a number of “How to panels” as well as talks with creators and celebrators. (I’m really looking forward to hearing the one where Robert Burnett Meyer interviews Howard Chaykin.) And fans didn’t have to make that typical choice of choosing which panel to attend. As this is a virtual convention, they can see them later. Each panel will all be chopped up and served up again, on the Mainframe site, and Siuntres’ will be on the Word Balloon site.

They also reached out to a number of publishers who took them up on the opportunity to engage in conversations with fans, as well as create collectibles and variant covers. Publishers, focusing on new talent and other older creators, included AWA Studios, Ahoy Comics, Top Cow, IDW Publishing, Scout Comics and Humanoids Inc.,  among others.

Of note was new publisher Neotext. They create works of fiction, novellas, and essays with spot illustrations. Folks like Chloe Maveal, and Howard Chaykin are involved. I’d like to learn more about this publisher myself.)

There was even an artist alley – complete with Original Comic Art Dealers. Dealers like Splash Page and Panel Page Art were exhibiting. At this point, we don’t know how well they did, but fingers crossed there was a solid revenue stream for them.

What’s Next? Was it Successful Enough to Do it Again?

Siuntres was coy. But it seemed to me that he’s got some plans up his sleeve. “We’re learning from each event. All I can say is stay tuned. I think we’ve found our niche. Even after COVID goes away –for those can’t afford conventions, don’t’ have time for conventions. We’re happy to use our skills to create these vents beyond the status quo to continue this virtual convention.”

For more information, and to watch the panels visit. Mainframecomiccon.com, The Word Balloon Podcast at http://Spreaker.com/WordBalloon or watch WordBalloon’s Youtube Channel and/or The Hero Initiative.