Intervention 2011 - internet culture convention logo

‘sup, internet junkies. Do you need an Intervention?

Intervention is an indie creator and Internet geek culture convention. Now in its second year, Intervention 2011 is occurring at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville in Rockville, MD, from September 16-18. It sounds to me like a pretty cool celebration of digital DIY culture, and I might consider attending myself if I didn’t have prior vacation plans that weekend. So, I did the next-best thing: sat down over email and interviewed the con founder, Onezumi Hartstein. It was great to hear more about Intervention straight from the source. Here’s what she had to say about the event and the culture behind it.

Intervention founder Onezumi Hartstein with her husband, James Harknell

Onezumi Hartstein with her husband, James Harknell

JACKSON FERRELL: Okay, I gotta ask about the name. Is “Onezumi Hartstein” your given name? Is it a nickname or internet alias? Is there some meaning or story behind it?

ONEZUMI HARTSTEIN: Nope, actually I’ve never gone by my birth name since it is something I can’t even pronounce. I was adopted and my birth mother was a hippy. My legal name is more normal, but I don’t use my first name online to protect my privacy. I’ve had people show up at my day job before asking me to draw things for them. Not cool.

“Onezumi” means “honorable rat”. Rats have nothing given to them, work hard, and don’t care what things are said about them. That’s kind of my life story. The shortening into “Oni” means demon. As hilarious as that is, if you’ve ever seen me when I’m angry it would make sense. I don’t get angry very often, only when it’s warranted to make positive change. I protect my friends and supporters.

JF: What made you decide to start Intervention?

OH: I didn’t have much support when I was growing up. Conventions provided a family structure that I wish I had been born with. It’s because of these relationships that I pushed myself through college, became a better person, and learned to be positive. The root of this was comics and the internet. This is my way to give back to the community that has helped me so much.

JF: What hurdles did you encounter in Intervention’s first year? How did
you overcome them?

OH: Our event is solid – nowhere else can you find a convention that is as well run with such innovative programming at an affordable price. We actually had very little trouble making an awesome weekend because I chose all experienced staffers to back me up and the creative community knows my reputation from working with me at other cons.

The hardest part was getting people to know we exist without a large advertising budget. I worked with all of our guest speakers to pulse out the details of the convention via social media. If it weren’t for Twitter we probably could’t have done this. Yet again, I used technology to overcome my financial limitation.

JF: What are you most excited about for Intervention 2011? What programming have you got lined up that you’re especially jazzed about?

OH: New this year is a full video gaming room with new and vintage games set up. We have XBOX 360s s and a Commodore 64 in the house. Also our Children’s Programming that was designed by Corinne Simmers, our staff K-12 Art Teacher, Matt Blum of Wired.com/GeekDad, and Helene and Brian McLaughlin of GeekMom/GeekDad and NASA. It ranges from comics drawing session, scavenger hunts, to making things explode for the sake of science. I kinda want to pretend that I’m 8 and sneak in. 🙂

JF: You’ve got a comic of your own, Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos (http://www.Onezumi.com) What’s the premise behind it? What made you decide to start it?

OH: Well, I was getting close to college graduation and didn’t know what I was going to do. College doesn’t really give you a great perspective of what careers are actually out there and what it’s like to work – at least mine didn’t. A jerky friend of mine who occasionally had a few good ideas suggested that I put the drawings I had been doing on the internet and try to monetize it like some others have done. At first it was a pretty offensive R-rated comic. The iteration you see now is probably PG or PG-13 and more focused on doing things creatively rather than how many naughty words I can fit into each panel.

Stupid and Insane is set in a universe where Lovecraft-inspired monsters are real. The protagonists are vaguely based on me and my husband Harknell. They have evil twins (Negazumi and Garthnell) that live in a parallel universe where evil won and monsters rule. By accident, Onezumi and Harknell get switched with Negazumi and Garthnell. Now they both have to adjust to worlds that are very different from what they have come to know. Also there are monkeys and elder gods like Mr. OctoPants. He’s so lame that all he can do is collect awful looking pants from the Macy’s sales rack. The evil universe is scary, but the real world is just plain stupid.

JF: What do you see as the relationship between humor and storytelling?
Do you lean toward one or the other in your comic?

OH: That’s a tough balance. I tend to like being absurd. That’s just how I naturally am. I’m what you’d get if you put Salvador Dali and Beavis and Butthead in a blender with Kermit the Frog.

JF: To you, what are the most exciting possibilities that the internet offers? What unrealized possibilities do you hope to see the internet deliver in the future?

OH: We all know the problems people face if they don’t have enough money to meet the right friends. Before the internet, I had absolutely no hope of ever having anyone see my work because I was a poor kid living in Pittsburgh. The comics industry doesn’t have the most stellar track record of hiring women, either.

The internet put some of the control back into my hands and let me and others get past these roadblocks. If you look at indie comics, you’ll find that a large majority of them are women and people of every color – every gender. I think the internet is going to continue putting the power back into the hands of creators. Will it make it absolutely easy? No – we still have to deal with cliques just like in real life. The thing is that you have a chance now where before it was all based on the publisher printing you or who you were already friends with.

JF: I’m a huge internet junkie myself, but I also recognize the dangers of not having a life offline. What are your thoughts on striking a balance between internet life and “meatspace” life?

OH: I’m not the best at it, since I’m attached to my iPhone all the time answering emails. I try to schedule time to go out and do things each week. The other thing I do – blogging theme parks and fun things to do at Onezumiverse helps motivate me, too. I went through 31 haunted houses last Halloween season!

Onezumi Hartstein is the founder and convention head of Intervention, and the creator of the webcomic Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos. She loves Heavy Metal and Disney World.