2020 and the beginning of 2021 have seen so many changes for not only the convention circuit but the world at large. We adjusted to a new way to live, a new way to work, and a new way to interact. Social media was no longer a child’s toy. In some respects, it became our only source of connection to others. For people like myself, Cons were the only way to find like-minded collectors and enthusiasts. Enter the pandemic. In a flash Cons were shutdown. Those connections we held so dear were severed. Things change so rapidly and so often, it was hard to keep heads or tails of it all. Rounding the corner on a year of pandemic-life, I saw a notification for StrangerCon. I didn’t really know what to expect and like most of us, I’ve been “Zoomed” nearly to death. But something about Sebastian Jones and the team at Stranger Comics piqued my interest. They have an infectious energy that can’t be ignored. So, like many of us, I pushed that reminder button for YouTube and hoped the pre-show followers climbed over 100 (because who doesn’t like free stuff?). There have been numerous virtual conventions over the past year with varying degrees of success. It’s a new frontier and one that will likely be in place for a while. For smaller shows and vendors, it is a great place to get a captive audience. It’s also a great place for creators to share tips, tricks, and the comraderies we are often denied in our current circumstances.
To its credit and to that of its creators, StrangerCon felt different than other virtual Cons I’ve attended. Virtual Cons can feel like elongated sales pitches with the occasional panel diversion. Or conversely, a long series of creator panels with little or no access to purchasing merchandise. StrangerCon married the two ideas VERY well. Opening with Sebastian sitting in front of the classic Stranger Comics booth background and a brief flashback of where the Stranger Comics team started, set a tone that was inviting and interesting. He’s an excellent orator, so each time he read a passage from The Stranger or any of their other works, he created a captivating mood that was a welcome respite from screen burnout. Another thing that StrangerCon captured was the “swag” of in-person conventions. I always leave with a bag full of trinkets, mini-comics, keychains, stickers, and flyers when I’m at in convention. That’s usually not possible with virtual events. But Stranger Comics found a unique way to drive people to their website and also ensure a free gift for everyone in attendance. It was a nice change of pace. Along with the swag, there were raffles for in-demand items, unreleased variants, prints, and even a few auctions. Now I’ve never been one to think online auctions were engaging, but with Stranger Comics’ fandom, I was presently surprised. Like I said, their energy is infectious and it did not disappoint.
The crowning achievement for me was the ease and disarming nature with which Sebastian spoke with the Stranger Comics team and collaborators. They had conversations that flowed naturally and gave a brief insight into the working environment and passion from their entire studio. Not only are these notable talents good at their jobs, but they’re also excited about the work. The random questions that Sebastian asked each guest at the end also added a human factor that was disarming. Each person answered differently and the nervous energy that you get from an in-person con was felt in those moments. It was ultimately a great experience and a great way to spend the day celebrating Stranger Comics and the togetherness of conventions that we all miss. Needless to say, virtual or in-person, StrangerCon has a permanent attendee in me.