With the ongoing pandemic scuttling most comic book conventions through the foreseeable future, the comic book convention community is trying to figure out what can satisfy fans used to gathering together with thousands of their fellow genre enthusiasts but now bound to their laptops and tablets in the socially-safe distance of their own homes.
Mainframe Comic Con is one of a still new breed of virtual events aiming to fill in the gap and celebrate comic books and comic culture with a fully online experience.
This weekend, August 15 and 16 (with a preview night Friday, August 14), Mainframe will hold their third event, live from its own website.
Newsarama recently had a chance to put a few questions to Mainframe co-founder as well as panel moderator Chuck Lindsey, who spoke about what he believes makes Mainframe unique, the future of the online comic book convention, and what Mainframe has to offer during this weekend's edition.
Newsarama: Chuck, your event this weekend is not your first event, but you're still a brand new category and likely there are a lot of people out there who don't yet know Mainframe. Who are you and what is it that you do?
Chuck Lindsey: This is actually our third Mainframe Comic Con, the first two having gone of gangbusters back in April and again in May. Mainframe is a company started by myself and Chad Ramsden in the wake of the COVID quarantine that forced us all indoors for months on end.
Before Mainframe, Chad was a full time online broadcaster and I traveled to physical conventions like C2E2 & ACE Comic Con to moderate on stage panels and provide freelance con coverage for those companies. Once the COVID thing happened, we thought to ourselves, there's no reason we can't take what we know about comic conventions, add to it our knowledge of live video broadcasting and create an online fan event, complete with celebrity interviews, audience Q&A, vendors, and exhibitors, comic creators, etc.
And so Mainframe was born.
Nrama: Though early on in your life as an online presence, what would you say you do well?
Lindsey: We're an extremely fun group that enjoys what we do. Chad and I, along with our partners John Siuntres, Rylend Grant, Annie Banks, Ryan Smith, Mark Ouska, Drew Hild, Shauna Lindsey, and our entire team make up one of the most fun groups I've ever worked with.
Also, our meticulous attention to every detail is what sets Mainframe apart from some other online events. Each panel is planned out to the tee and guests are very appreciative of that. We've heard from some of our talent that Mainframe is the only online con they will ever do.
Nrama: Let's tackle the obvious upfront. Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) attempted their @Home version of SDCC a few weeks back. Give us your review, if you're open to that?
Lindsey: Personally, I watched almost every panel from Comic-Con @Home and I think they did a great job with their production. I was a little disappointed that the video chats were disabled and that the panels were not live, but overall I enjoyed the panels very much.
Nrama: What worked, what didn't, and why?
Lindsey: When you prerecord your panels, you have the ability to make them look perfect. Take the Bill and Ted panel, for example. That panel looked beautiful with graphics and fancy edits, and it looked great.
But, is it really a comic con panel without that live element? I mean, I think Star Wars Celebration (SWC) has always done it right with their live panels.
Granted, SWC doesn't have audience Q&A, but I always loved watching it live at home or at work. It really makes you feel like you're there. Whereas when it's prerecorded, it just feels like your watching a YouTube video.
Nrama: And why is Mainframe different?
No pre-recorded panels. We have always been 100% live and open to the fans in real time.
We simulcast on Facebook, YouTube, and our website, MainframeComicCon.com, and take questions from the audience for our guests the whole time. All our panels typically consist of a short interview between our moderator and guest and we follow that up with live questions from the audience.
It's really the funnest way to enjoy a comic con at home.
Not only is Mainframe truly a 100% live interactive fan event, but we give back to the community as well. 100% of the proceeds from Mainframe 1 & 2 went to support The Hero Initiative, The Red Cross, and other COVID-19 charities and we will continue our tradition of giving back to the fan community at our event this weekend.
Nrama: This weekend others are putting on virtual comic cons. If you don't mind us asking, who are the other players, and again, why is Mainframe different?
Lindsey: We know our friends at ReedPop are doing an event and while I don't know the specifics of their event, we know they will do a great job. I think what makes our event different, again, is our group.
We've collected the very best in on-air talent to moderate our panels. Names like Collider Hero's stars Coy Jandreay, John Rocha, and Jay Washington. From the John Campea Show, Mr. Robert Meyer Burnett. From PREVIEWSworld, Troy Jeffrey Allen and from Word Balloon, Chicago's favorite son, Mr. John Siuntres.
Also, we have designed a fully immersive Virtual Convention Center featuring four panel halls, con exclusive merchandise, and private meet and greets for fans to meet their favorite celebrities and comic book stars. It's going to blow peoples' minds!
Nrama: What do you see as the future of this space? Be it giant entities like Comic-Con International or ReedPop, what's going to work in this space while large gatherings aren't feasible?
Lindsey: Mainframe Comic Con will continue to produce online events year-round, so stay tuned. We will also be offering fans the opportunity to meet their favorite stars through private meet and greet sessions that will be a constant element of www.MainframeComicCon.com even when we are between fan events.
Nrama: Is the best course trying to replicate a tactile experience when large crowds are the defining factor, or is it completely inventing a brand-new wheel?
Lindsey: While we do try and bring fans what they know and love about physical conventions with elements like multiple panel halls, photo ops in the form of private meet and greets, and con exclusive merchandise, Mainframe Comic Con is still very much a unique fan experience.
I mean, have you ever tried to get from one panel to another at a physical con?
The lines, the waiting, the rushing around, it's impossible to see it all. But not at Mainframe. At Mainframe Comic Con, fans can experience every panel, interact with every star, all from the comfort of their own home.
It kind of is a new wheel.
Nrama: We've been talking concept, let's talk about the actual event. Can you highlight some programming you're particularly looking forward to yourselves?
Lindsey: I thought you'd never ask. We have four "panel halls" running simultaneously featuring programming catered to fit every fan.
The top names in the comic industry will be there taking your live questions.
Names like Jock, Al Ewing, Tom King, Donny Cates, Grek Rucka, Kevin Eastman, and many more. And if comics aren't your thing, we have entertainment guests like the cast of The Walking Dead, AMC's NOS4A2, film star Robert Wuhl and more on the way.
Nrama: Let's talk about the future of this space. While there is (or was) a comic book convention somewhere every single weekend, we still think of these as annual events.
Moving forward how do you envision creating enough buzz to classify Mainframe as an "event" of finite time while having virtually no limits to how often you can schedule future installments?
Lindsey: Being that we are 100% live and rarely repeat our guest list, every Mainframe is an "event", nay, a can't miss event!
Every panel we bring is a once in a lifetime opportunity for fans to interact with their favorite celebrities live and in real-time. Hearing a celebrity answer your question, or seeing your name on the screen is something that fans love, and even if we did Mainframe every week (which we are not), it would still be something that, if you miss it, you missed it, and that exact moment will never happen again. It's really something special.
As for creating a buzz... tell your friends! Mainframe Comic Con is here to stay and we can't wait to bring the fan community more great interactive content year-round!
Readers can check out their website for more details about this weekend's event.