Robot 6

Is Wizard’s message board another Con War casualty?

Not the Wizard Universe Message Board

Not the Wizard Universe Message Board

“Board offline” — that’s what visitors are seeing when they attempt to use the Wizard Universe Message Board. As first noted on the comics discussion site Panels on Pages, the WUMB, as its users affectionately dubbed it, ceased to exist just before 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.

The board was launched in 2006, at the start of Wizard’s often-shaky attempt to maintain a web presence in a comics-news scene increasingly dominated by online outlets. The WUMB was a priority for then-Editor-in-Chief Pat McCallum, who mandated daily posts from all editorial staffers as a way to increase the sense of community with readers of Wizard’s publications (at the time, there were four monthly magazines).

McCallum and many other high-ranking editorial figures — among them, Wizard Editor Brian Cunningham, ToyFare Editors Zach Oat and Justin Aclin, VP Joe Yanarella, Anime Insider Editor Summer Mullins, WizardUniverse.com Editors Rick Marshall and Jim Gibbons, and Wizard and WizardUniverse.com Managing Editor, uh, me — posted on the board frequently, even though its hosting on an outside company’s server prevented its hits from being counted toward Wizard’s main site.

Though the creative staff policed the board’s users only for spam, obscenity, and netiquette violations, higher-ups from Wizard’s business end frequently intervened to order the deletion of posts or threads critical of the company, though this would often, and predictably, simply spur further complaints. Over recent months, a perfect storm of problems — including the firing of yet another batch of popular staffers (of the editors listed above, only Aclin remains with the company), a slew of customer-service complaints about Wizard’s web store during the holidays, and dissatisfaction with Wizard magazine’s creative direction and page count (perpetual and not always reality-based sentiments, to be fair) — spurred a dramatic increase in the number of members joining, and threads being created, for no purpose other than to criticize the company and its policies. The recent announcement of Wizard owner Gareb Shamus’s intention to challenge Reed Exhibitions’ New York Comic Con by scheduling his own Big Apple Comic Con directly against NYCC next year, coupled with what many WUMBers described as a lackluster and frustrating Big Apple show this year, set off a real firestorm of complaints, many of which were then deleted — along with the potentially off-message responses of staffer Mark Allen Haverty, one of the few remaining Wizard employees to maintain a presence on the board.

It’s unclear if today’s rash of complaints regarding the elimination of Wizard magazine’s comics price guide — news of which, like that of several Wizard-related stories since the Con War’s outbreak, actually broke on the WUMB — was the final straw for the board. Indeed, this may have been a planned maneuver following the dismantling of the WizardUniverse.com site last week. But with the WUMB’s ostensible purpose of fostering good will toward Wizard seemingly a lost cause, and given both the company’s track record regarding criticism on its own site and its increasingly noticeable pivot away from the comics community as its target audience, this final move (provided it is a final move and not some sort of revamp) was not entirely unexpected.

Jason Kerouac of Panels on Pages — a site founded in part by WUMB members and populated by WUMB refugees — has posted a brief tribute to board. As someone who spent his fair share of time there over the years, I’ll miss it, too.

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Comments

13 Comments

It’s a sad day, to be sure Sean. If not for the WUMB, I’d never have learned of your Bat-villain-esque obsession with David Bowie. I like to think of Wizard, and the WUMB in general, like the giving tree. You know, but with more T & A

Can’t say this was entirely unexpected, as it almost happened back in 2006, too.

When I was let go, Wizard never bothered to continue paying for the message board, and since I was still the primary admin and contact between the hosting company and Wizard (the Wiz crew never bothered to find out how to change that stuff), they contacted me about it when the bill came due (they had my personal contact info due to how often I communicated w/ them off-hours and weekends) and no one was paying. I told the hosting company the situation, and they tried to contact Wizard to get things settled – only to receive
the ol’ “we’ll get back to you” runaround.

The hosting company eventually called me back, and asked if there was anybody else at Wizard who I thought would be interested in keeping the boards running, and we (the hosting company and I) eventually decided to put the boards in my name (and on my credit card) to keep them live while Wizard got around to deciding if they wanted to keep them. It seemed pretty dickish to shut down the boards and the community we’d developed there because Wizard couldn’t get their shit together, and I figured I’d give it a month to either get settled w/ Wizard or, in the event that it never happens, put the fate of the board at the hands of the members.

A week or two went by with no word from Wizard, so I figured a proper “nudge” was necessary. I started ratcheting down staffers’ admin access and limiting the staffers’ moderating abilities – and even changed the official name of the board from “Wizard Universe Message Boards” to “WUMB” throughout the system.

Just shy of the one-month mark, I tried to log in and discovered that my account had been deleted and my IP blocked. A call to the hosting company revealed that Wizard had finally settled up with them and found someone to pay for the boards, so they were refunding the charges on my credit card that had kept the site afloat. The hosting company’s reps seemed genuinely frustrated by the entire situation, as they hadn’t received a response from Wizard after weeks of calls and emails, only to get a bunch of angry complaints when I started changing staffers’ admin controls. From what I gather, the hosting company informed them that they’d actually have to pay for the boards if they wanted to, well… own them.

So, yeah… that’s why the boards’ departure isn’t really a surprise to me. Heck, I’m more surprised that it took this long for them to drop it.

Rick, that was a good way to perform a nudge.

One of the best parts of Wumb, back in the beginning was being able to interact with actual members of the Wizard staff. I’m going to miss Aclin pimping out the new issues of Toyfare and asking for reader feedback

Hell, I am (was, I guess) a moderator there, and I got zero warning. I just tried to log in last night and found it gone.

I just want to thank the Mods & members of that board for being very kind to me and supporting my site,
http://www.statuemarvels.com/
Hopefully, some of you will stop by & say, “hi!”

Al

I’ll be in the bomb shelter at panelsonpages.com, waiting for our John Connor. Join us. Bring bottled water.

Wow. I just got back into comic books a YEAR ago. What a shitty year anniversary this is. I’ve been non-stop writing reviews (which many have dubbed “paragraphed essays” and continued to post/reply as much as I could. This forum really helped excel the reading experience, reviewing/replying to comments just after reading the issue itself. Now, while there always is the stagnant ign.com, I’m not so sure if I’m going to be picking up as many issues or caring to even reading these issues as quickly (just to write/read the reviews on the forum). Now that the forum is gone, the comic buying/reading experience appears dreary.

I’m going to spend a lot of money, read books…with no one talk to about them. Blows.

See you at panelsforpages.com

They couldn’t stand the criticism and went out of their way to censor the free speech of others. They banned those that openly opposed them or disagreed with them. They tried to create a perfect vision of themselves.

They failed.

In the end… MAGNUS WAS RIGHT.

From a business point of view, it makes perfect sense. The boards had stopped being a way to interact with the readers and became a vitriol delivery device. It makes no sense for them to continue to pay for something that does not benefit them.

There’s just no way to spin the act without making them look like complete wieners.

Even if it turns out to be another billing issue or something else completely accidental (and based on the story above, that’s not impossible) the damage is done. People have made up their minds about what “really happened”, and no facts will shift it.

There’s very little a company can do that won’t be taken as a negative by its detractors. So anything and everything Wizard does will be shown to be a sign that they’re on their last legs. Their recent decision to get rid of the price guide is “obviously” a sign that the industry has left them behind, as opposed to maybe an attempt to become more about the comics than their price.

Rick,
Did you fail to mention that you attempted to hold all of these passwords for the Wizard message boards hostage when you were let go by Wizard and not share them unless you were given Sum X of money? And that you had retained Lawyer X to try and negotiate a settlement of money before you would share company information that you were charged with procuring?

In the aftermath of your dismissal you managed to paint yourself as the most persecuted person on the face of the planet. All the while dragging the names of innocent people through the mud who did nothing but show up for work every day and perform the responsibilities they were given. And I find that downright laughable, especially given the fact that a steady stream of people would come through my office asking why we didn’t fire you, citing how difficult you were to work with and such an unpleasant personality to deal with. Those same people who wished you well on message boards when you spread your venom everywhere. But those are the stories that don’t make it to message boards.

Unfortunately, you still haven’t moved on and dedicate energy to wishing ill to people who just want to get up in the morning and support their families. I can honestly say that over the course of 20+ years in hiring staff, you’re the biggest regret I have. You’re just not a good person. And yes, I was fired by Wizard too. But I’ve moved on. Maybe it’s time you did.

And I’d also recommend you move to the other side of the street should we ever see each other again.
Joe Yanarella

Wizard Comics magazine stopped being a magazine for the people who loved and collected comics a long time ago. I shed no tear for them as they dug their own hole.

I frequented the board often and whenever anything critical was said about the magazine, staffers would reply with childish like remarks, posts would be deleted, but the posts defending Wizard would be allowed to remain.

http://www.comicspriceguide.com is the best source for comic book pricing. On their forums they interact with collectors like others and myself and they take into consideration our suggestions when it comes to the current market value of books.

Wizard, R.I.P.

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