Online comic cons have existed for a while, though with a very weak presence. In recent months however, the number of online comic conventions has skyrocketed. You can find half a dozen by just looking up ‘comic con’ on Instagram. With most in-person conventions around the world being cancelled or postponed due to a certain pandemic (thanks a lot, pandemic), online conventions are a great way to get together with geeks, nerds, and cosplayers, as well as attend panels, and shop in Artist Alleys.
However, since they’re still so new, and different from what we’re used to, it can be hard to know what to expect. Hopefully, this article will give you a good idea of what to expect from online comic cons.
What are online comic cons?
Online comic cons are gatherings of geeks, nerds, artists, cosplayers, and (occasionally) celebrities, who come together for a few days of virtual hanging out, usually through a website, livestream, or Discord sever. Unlike in-person cons, you don’t need to travel anywhere, or even be in the same time-zone as the con. And, most times, they’re free to attend as well.
In an online comic con, you can attend panels, shop in their virtual Vendor Hall or Artist Alley, hang out with like-minded geeks, talk about the latest episode of a show, and attend the events the con has going on. The possibilities are endless!
Online comic cons can range from huge in-person conventions shifting some of their programming to be online, to small, Discord-hosted cons run by one or two people. No online con is the same as another, and they all have their own quirks and advantages and drawbacks. In my experience, most online conventions are free, or ‘pay what you can.’ There are some that charge admission, but I’ve personally never attended one that I’ve had to pay admission for, since there are currently so many free options available.
How do they work?
Online conventions are usually held through a website, a Discord sever, or both. Many online cons have both a website and a Discord sever. The website will usually have application info, schedules, and FAQs, while linking to the Discord sever that serves as the main convention hall. Within the Discord sever, there are a number of channels, such as an introductions channel, an Artist Alley, a convention hallway, panel severs. Sometimes each artist or vendor or featured cosplayer will have their own channel, while other times they have a single ‘Artist Alley’ that features all their artists. Typically, there is a planned schedule, with different live chat channels being used to host the panels and events. Most have a chat area associated with them.
Sometimes, however, no Discord sever is used, and the website or schedule will simply have links to panels and events, live-streamed through the panelist’s Youtube or Twitch, or just on the website itself. No two in-person cons are the same, and no two online cons are the same. It may take some time to understand how they all operate. Most of the time, however, they have an assortment of staff that are more than happy to answer any questions.
As with any con or event, make sure to read all the rules, and be sure to follow them. Different cons have different rules and expectations, and most require you to confirm that you have read the rules before they allow you into the virtual event.
A common rule among online cons is that you must be 13 in order to attend. This is usually because the con is held through Discord, which you must be 13 in order to use.
What to expect
Like actual conventions, most online cons last a few days, with programming stretching across all days. And, like actual conventions, they typically have Artist Alley’s, cosplay contests, and other events. It’s a great alternative to in-person cons, especially in a time like right now (early 2021), when in-person cons are hard to find.
Although the cons can last several days, you don’t have to stay the entire time. You can look in for a panel or two, chat with some featured cosplayers or special guests (if they have any), and browse Artist Alley for a bit, then leave, combing back for the evening cosplay contest judging, or special giveaway. You can check out a panel for a few minutes, and leave if you aren’t interested. You can come back every single day, or just for a single event in the weekend. It’s totally up to you! Online cons are incredibly flexible, and can usually fit into whatever schedule you have.
And what about cosplay? Well, some people dress up in costumes, some don’t. Some panelists dress up in their cosplays (I have before), and some attendees dress up, take a picture, and send it to the Discord chat, to show off their con look. It’s totally up to you. I occasionally like to dress up in cosplay for a con, just to bring a little of that ‘con spirit’ to my day.
How to find them
So, how do you find these conventions? The easiest way to find online cons is to go online (shocker, I know). Most online cons have a presence mainly on Instagram, though I’ve seen a couple on Twitter as well, and many have their own website.
The easiest way is to go on Instagram and search ‘online con,’ ‘convention,’ or ‘con,’ to see what comes up. Most of the time, online conventions have the word ‘con’ in their name, so they’re pretty easy to spot. On their page you can find info such as the dates of the con, any application and ticket info, and more. Then you can usually just follow the link in their bio to find their website, Discord sever, or application forms.
Again, most of them are free to participate in, and usually all you have to do is join the Discord sever and follow the staff’s instructions from there. Sometimes you have to register through Eventbrite, their website, or some other online system, but those cases seem to be more rare than common.
Something great about online conventions is that it’s really easy to participate in all the events! If you find out about the con far enough in advance, you can apply to be an artist, vendor, panelist, special guest, and more, depending on the con. Usually done through Google Forms, these types of applications are really quick and easy, and it’s a great way to get involved. Panels are usually live-streamed through Youtube, Twitch, or right in Discord, so you can host or watch them really easily as well. There’s often cosplay or art contests, as well as giveaways and other neat events.
The first con I participated in was way back in May of 2020; I mainly just ran a ‘vendor booth’ for my Etsy shop. But since then, I’ve been a panelist, vendor, featured cosplayer, cosplay contest contestant, and more! It’s a super fun way to get involved with the geek and cosplay communities, and I highly recommend it, especially while in-person cons aren’t much of an option right now.
Upcoming online comic conventions
If you want to see what online conventions I’ll be attending in the near future, you can check out my About page for info on that. In the meantime, here’s a couple online conventions that are coming up, that you could look into.
- Bizbaz (This is a reoccurring, monthly convention, with free or ‘pay what you can’ ticket options)
- Sozoku Con 2 (The second run of this convention, held halfway through February. I’ll be there as a vendor, and a panelist, teaching my ‘Monetizing Your Cosplay’ panel)
- Bobacon Online (An online convention coming in March 2021. At the time of publishing this blog post, applications were still open, and I’ve applied for a couple different things in it)
There are a ton more online conventions, and more being announced all the time, but these are a couple that I have attended, or am planning to attend.
Hopefully, this blog post gave you a good idea of what online conventions are, how to find them, and what to expect. They’re different from in-person cons, but they can still be a ton of fun, and I highly recommend checking them out! It can be an all-round great experience.