Robot 6

Is Brian Michael Bendis a casualty of the Con War?

"Last minute cancellations" at last weekend's Big Apple Comic Con (via The Beat)

"Last minute cancellations" at last weekend's Big Apple Comic Con (via The Beat)

With the initial salvos — head-to-head scheduling, employee ejections — out of the way, the battle between Reed Exhibitions and Wizard Entertainment’s Gareb Shamus that began in earnest this past weekend may have produced its first major fallout.

Following Shamus’s scheduling of next year’s Big Apple Comic Con directly against Reed’s New York Comic Con, previously announced Anaheim Comic Con guests of honor Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev and Phil Jimenez — all marquee names under Marvel-exclusive contracts, for what it’s worth — are now nowhere to be found on the Shamus show’s guest list. Will Shamus’s apparent loss be Reed’s gain, particularly for that same weekend’s C2E2 con?

For now, Con War watchers’ eyes must turn to the PR front for answers — and there, the battle’s been mostly one-sided. Reed showrunner Lance Fensterman has been taking to news sites to discuss Shamus’s Big Apple/NYCC maneuver. (Not to mention his pitting Anaheim against C2E2 — itself seen as a rival to Wizard’s Chicago Comic Con — and Toronto against Boston’s PAX East.)

Speaking with CBR’s Kiel Phegley, Fensterman called out Big Apple’s practice of allowing its big media guests to charge for autographs:

But to be honest, we’ve always shied away from “pay-to-play” guests, meaning you have to pay to get a signature, because we’ve always tried to view ourselves as all-inclusive. When you buy a ticket, the many guests of honor that we’ve lined up are there for free. You buy a ticket, and you have a right to see those people and get a signature. We never felt it was our philosophy to say, “No. Buy your ticket, and then everyone you want to see costs $100 to get a signature.” It wasn’t our thing.

And in this interview with The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, Fensterman gingerly addresses rumors of misconduct by Shamus’s organization:

I don’t think there is any question when someone puts a similar named event, in the same city as the market leader on the same weekend, they are counting on drafting off our success and confusion as part of there business model. To me that’s without question. We are aware of guest issues and exhibitor issues that are not what we would consider “above board” on the part of other events and we’ve chosen not to take action because, frankly, we believe we have a better business model because we consistently put the industry, the exhibitors, the fans and the guests first. That’s a headache we don’t need, we’d rather focus on our customers and growing this industry.

In both cases, Fensterman calls on potential attendees and other observers to take a look at existing declarations of support from both the industry and the fan community and draw their own conclusions about the differences between the rival convention circuits.

Creators continue to weigh in as well, largely on the side of Reed and NYCC. Following her recent photo parade (from which the above shot is taken), Heidi MacDonald’s latest “Con War” round-up at The Beat directs us to A Distant Soil creator Colleen Doran’s Big Apple horror story from the pre-Shamus days, the gist of which is that Big Apple’s current complaints about Reed’s “soliciting” at their shows are the height of irony. And on his Twitter feed, PvP”s Scott Kurtz offers the most scathing assessments of Gareb Shamus and his cons yet to surface from a comics pro.

But what about the other side? CBR reports that Wizard offered only a “no comment” when asked for its take on the controversy. Indeed, the only source for on-the-record comments by Wizard staffers on this weekend’s show and next year’s scheduling appears to be the Wizard Universe Message Board. Reacting to complaints about guests showing up late to their announced signings and the media-heavy make-up of the guest list, Big Apple Convention Coordinator Spat Oktan offered the following rationale:

The guests that we book to the show know what time the show opens (or their agents/reps/handlers do), and are adults. If they arrive late, there’s not a lot we can do about it. Short of kicking in their hotel room doors and dragging them out, we have to just wait until they arrive. I know I asked one of the agents every hour when their guest was going to arrive (I don’t want to mention any names), and was told over and over again that they would be there within the hour. So again, there’s just nothing we can do. Some guests like to get there before the doors open to set up, some sleep in and show up a little late, and others like to stop in later in the afternoon.

And as for the focus on comics, I consider our Media Guests who appear in movies or TV shows that are based on Comic Books to be Comic Guests in their own way. John Schneider played Jonathan Kent on Smallville, so as far as I’m concerned, he fits right in.

Thomas Jane had nothing to do with the Punisher comics, but a lot of people brought their Amazing Spider-Man 129 to the show for him to sign.

And I do believe that little kids are more likely to start collecting comics after seeing an awesome movie based on a comic.

Does everyone at the show have a comic? No. But if you look at the number of comic writers and artists we have at the show, and add the number of media guests from movies and TV shows based on comics or that spawned into comics, then you will see how heavily focused we are on the comic genre as a whole.

But that’s just my opinion.

A more impassioned and wide-ranging defense was offered by Wizard freelancer Mark Allen Haverty. As Rich Johnston notes, Haverty’s WUMB post read, in part:

If Reed had shown any respect, they would not have shown up to not one but two Wizard cons to hand out their fliers for their con. They did so not as vendors, retailers, or exhibitors, but as people buying tickets. That’s unethical on multiple levels.

But, please, feel free to think that Wizard is somehow a bad guy.

This will be my last reply here, because I really don’t want to sit here and listen to 20 people scream at me. Here are the facts, though:

1. You don’t call Marvel a–holes when they make you choose between buying X-Men or a DC book.

2. You don’t call Sony an a–hole if they release a movie you want to see at the same time as another studio releases a movie you like.

3. You don’t call Coke a–holes because they force you to choose between Coke and Pepsi.

Business is business. Just because some comic fans on a message board want to make it personal does not make it so. In business, there is going to be competition. Wizard and Reed are competing for the convention market. Reed has been playing dirty by walking into Wizard shows and handing out fliers – which, by the way, is a fact that multiple sites will confirm. Wizard shot back by deciding to go head-to-head with them. That’s called the free market — if Reed is better, it will win; if Wizard is better, it will win.

Interestingly, these comments, along with incredulous responses from other users and several entire threads responding negatively to Shamus’s moves, have since been scrubbed from Wizard’s site. However, Johnston has preserved the bulk of Haverty’s posting on Bleeding Cool, while many of the responses have also been copied to this thread on PanelsOnPages.com, a site set up by former Wizard contributors and message board users. And the battle continues …

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Comments

23 Comments

Sean,

I’d just like to clarify, while a good deal of the traffic on the PanelsOnPages.com forums is attributed to disgruntled former Wizard Universe Message Board posters, it was not our sole intent. We, the founders of PanelsOnPages.com, were ourselves former Wizard contributors who struck out on our own with this venture, and a forum to pair with the original content on the Main site was an inevitability.

Unfortunately for Wizard and the WUMB, their missteps have seen our online community grow by leaps and bounds.

Thanks for the shoutout, anyways!

Jason Knize
http://panelsonpages.com/
http://forums.panelsonpages.com/

Duly noted. Thanks, Jason!

Yes, thanks for the shout-out, Sean. If Wizard’s loss can be our gain, that’s a perk we hadn’t anticipated when launching Panels on Pages. But I would suggest folks join our community. We won’t delete your posts if you disagree with us.

Wow… Gary Coleman ditched on the Wizard World Chicago too! Twice dumped by Gary Coleman! Better fire up another Wolverine cover!

Sean, if it wasn’t for you and Rich Johnston, Gareb and co. wouldn’t have known they still have message boards…

Have we really fallen to such a low level of discourse that “you’re a douche and your show sucks” qualifies as a “scathing assessment”?

This whole thing is so adolescent.

I actually spoke to Gareb on Saturday at BACC and asked him as a fan why he chose to make BACC next year the same weekend as NYCC here is his reply:

“Gareb answered that they felt that weekend was the best weekend to have it because September had too many holidays. He followed that up by saying that the guests they have (Media guests I would assume) lined up for next years show are going to be so huge that nobody will want to miss his show.”

Now I didn’t understand what he meant when he said that September had too many holidays, but I was informed by a friend that he was referring to lots of Jewish holidays in the month of September. Since NY has such a large Jewish population alot of people wouldn’t be able to attend a con in September.

Ok – I was able to understand that – but what about all of the other weekends left in the other 11 months of the year?

Christian Otholm

October 21, 2009 at 11:35 am

As someone who can’t attend either of the conventions, I’ll atleast comment on the rhetorical side of things and avoid debating whether one show is better than the other.

However, seeing such poor PR and argumental skills agitates me.

“If Reed had shown any respect, they would not have shown up to not one but two Wizard cons to hand out their fliers for their con. They did so not as vendors, retailers, or exhibitors, but as people buying tickets. That’s unethical on multiple levels.

But, please, feel free to think that Wizard is somehow a bad guy.”

Calling people out and using Ad Hominem attacks are well and good. They’re based in character and not argument, but fair enough. Of course this also means, you impose an ethical standard on the business of running a convention. A standard they, according to my own experience and Colleen Dorans experience, don’t uphold themselves.

“1. You don’t call Marvel a–holes when they make you choose between buying X-Men or a DC book.”

Marvel doesn’t make you do anything. You choose to buy an X-men book over a DC book. Buying an X-men book doesn’t exclude you from buying a DC book as well. Which placing another con at the same time as another does. It’s a false dilemma.

“2. You don’t call Sony an a–hole if they release a movie you want to see at the same time as another studio releases a movie you like.”

Again- False dilemma. You can see the movies at different times, if you wish. You can’t visit the two conventions at different times, because their scheduling is head-on-head.

“3. You don’t call Coke a–holes because they force you to choose between Coke and Pepsi.”

False Dilemma. You could buy and drink both. You might not want to, but this is an option.

Jennifer dG: Regardless of whatever else that statement is, it is both scathing and an assessment.

Didn’t see it in the article:

“sadly, i will not be guest of honor or attending the wizard anaheim show next year. i will be staying home and making comic books.”

“i will be at the excellent emerald city con. why? no con war.”

http://twitter.com/BRIANMBENDIS

Bendis Tweeted two hours ago: “sadly, i will not be guest of honor or attending the wizard anaheim show next year. i will be staying home and making comic books.”

and then

“i will be at the excellent emerald city con. why? no con war.”

Jinx, NickT! Ya owe me a coke… :)

Funny, I get a lot of BAC fliers at NYCC. Poor ol’ Shameless, always dishin out but can’t take it.

Sean, I would say that it’s not even worth linking to, but that’s just me.

Now I understand why Wizard usually offers no comment — it should be that way. The way these reps of Wizard conducted themselves in the posts on the message boards is ridiculous. Look, there’s defending ones self and then there’s being defensive. These guys don’t understand spin or media relations. Take a cue from Reed or the CCI folk — they get it. And truth be told, Reed isn’t a bunch of saints, but they at least understand the game and are willing to play it.

I especially love the crap about guests not showing up and how they have “no control” over that. No, you DO! And you’re the ONLY people the public, who purchases tickets to your shows, has any contact with. YOU, as the convention organizer, when setting up appearances need to get assurances , in writing, of the appearances with appropriate repercussions should the guest not be able to show up — I realize this is neither an easy or uncomplicated solution, but this happens at sports conventions around the country. You’ve marketed your show with their name attached — if I went to BACC specifically for Pete Rose, only to discover once I got there and already bought my ticket that he’s not, do you think Pete Rose’s manager is going to reimburse me?

There’s room in this world for Wizard conventions, even if they’re on the same weekend as others, but you have got to put a more professional foot forward.

My posts were deleted , but you can definitly find them on the POP! msg boards, I thought ahead and copied and pasted them there :)

“…Gareb Shamus and his cons…”

HA! That’s some great word play, Sean… Even if you didn’t intend it.

People aren’t realizing the real casualities of this Con War.

Where does Lou Ferrigno and former WWF star Virgil go? Can they afford to burn bridges with Gareb if they go with Reed?

I mean, it’s easy for big time actors like Gary Coleman and the guy who “killed” Uncle Ben in the Spider-man movie to stick there nose up at the Big Apple Con. Having the two cons at the same time in the same city won’t put extra autograph money in poor Virgil’s pockets.

“Having the two cons at the same time in the same city won’t put extra autograph money in poor Virgil’s pockets.”

Is Virgil available for comments?

I think people are confused… It wasn’t Gary Coleman this time. It was Gary Cole, man! That’s right, the star of Midnight Caller and Office Space… The problem is, both Coleman and Cole, man, have been just as confused about this as the rest of us. As a result, neither one shows up.

Shamus just can’t get anything right.

Who’s Smokin’ Joe Frasier?

Maybe that’s a clue as to why Smokin’ Joe Frazier didn’t show up. That, or he didn’t want everyone asking him about that Battle in Seattle with Ali. Frazier ended up looking like a mess of tossed salad and scrambled eggs after that one.

1. if x-men and batman come out the same day, i buy both.

2. If sony and paramount release movies i want to see on the same day, i see both.

3. If i feel like coke, i drink coke. if i feel like pepsi, i drink pepsi. if i feel like mixing coke and pepsi, i drink copsi.

If i want to go to BAC and NYCC, unfortunately, i haven’t found the tech to be in 2 places at the same time. Their arguments are fail. Fortunately, I only want to be at one of those.

Carlos Martinez

October 30, 2009 at 9:48 am

I’ve been trying to log onto the WUMB forums on the Wizard Website – seems they have removed them altogether. Here is the message I get when I try to log-in:

“This menu has been disabled”

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