Can a virtual comic con work? That’s a question I asked myself before I bought a ticket for Virtual Con 2020 – the online, socially distant, comic book convention!
The con took place yesterday, with guests, traders and attendees all joining in from all over the world. However, unlike regular cons which take place in a convention hall or exhibition centre that can house thousands of guests, this one took place in cyber space.
For the cost of £2 (plus a 74p booking fee), attendees such as myself were given access to the con. This access came in the form of a security password, which allowed me to join a private Facebook group.
The group – Virtual Con 2020 – then became the digital convention hall from which the event could take place. This one group gave me and other ticket holders the opportunity to meet with likeminded people, while various talks and Q&A sessions took place throughout the day.
Every hour (and sometimes every half hour) a new guest would appear in the group via a Facebook Live chat session. Attendees could then join the chat and pose questions to the guests over the next 30 minutes.
The first guest of the day was British actor, Clive Mantle. The actor has appeared in Alien 3 (1992), Robin of Sherwood, and Casualty amongst other things, and was cut from Superman IV (1987) – a blessing I’m sure you agree.
Mantle popped up just after 10:30am and answered many questions about his career (including one from myself… about Superman IV), and also took part in general chit-chat. His Q&A session was then promptly followed at 11am by British actress (and Mantle’s other half) Carla Mendonça who did more of the same, and was an absolute delight.
After these two finished up, the sessions then continued to appear with regularity, with some stretching up to an hour. During this time, attendees could dip in and out as they pleased.
The Q&A sessions were a big part of the event, but they weren’t the only thing going on. Running simultaneously with the sessions, various traders posted videos and photos into the group, to present their goods to any interested buyers.
From toys and collectibles, to bags, jewellery and art, there was a wealth of items on offer. And if something caught your eye, all you had to do was comment on the post and that would enter you into a discussion about purchasing the item.
Cosplay tutorial videos, competitions, a band and a magician also popped up during the course of the event. And numerous people posted images of themselves in cosplay – proving that even if you are stuck at home, you can still get dressed up.
While the event didn’t require me to leave the house, stand in a queue, interact with another human being, or pay over the odds for a tray of chips and a fizzy drink, it did feel like a convention! The atmosphere wasn’t exactly the same, yet there was still a buzz about the event – one not-too dissimilar from being at a con.
The con started at 10am and went on until 11pm, which meant guests from the other side of the pond could join in without the need to hop on a plane. The lengthy running time of the con allowed for international guests, including The Raccoons creator, Kevin Gillis(!!) and this was a winner in my book.
What surprised me most about this virtual convention was the way in which it worked so well. Bar a couple of technical hitches, with the use of Facebook Live proving a little tricky for those new to the format, everything ran as it should.
So, in answer to my opening question, can virtual comic cons work? Yes; yes they can and this one – ran by The Geek Asylum – proved they can be awesome too. They are not exactly the same as a traditional con, but this was a damn fine alternative.
Would I attend another virtual con? Absolutely. Depending on what the future holds, I would gladly like to see more of these events held in tandem with traditional cons, allowing everyone to take part.
Not everyone can attend a packed social event, so this virtual realm offers up new opportunities. This was a strong start, and I can’t wait to see how it is developed by The Geek Asylum and others who pick up the baton.
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