Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Retailing | Following a week in which much of the comics coverage was fixated on Action Comics #900 and Superman’s apparent renunciation of his U.S. citizenship, mainstream media outlets are now shifting their four-color focus to the 10th annual Free Comic Book Day, which will be held Saturday at more than 2,000 stores worldwide. You can see a list of notable creator appearances at the FCBD website, but here’s a rundown of some event previews: FCBD press release, Wired’s GeekDad blog, Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex blog, Phoenix New Times, The Marietta (Ohio) Times, The Coast (Halifax, Nova Scotia), The Daily Athanaeum (West Virginia University) and TribLocal (Evanston, Ill.). [Free Comic Book Day]
Awards | Rich Johnston asks a PRISM executive how DC Comics’ widely reviled miniseries Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal rated the group’s award honoring “the accurate depiction of substance abuse and mental illness.” “Obviously our criteria is a bit different from that of reviewers,” said Larry Deutchman, PRISM’s executive vice president of marketing and industry relations. [Bleeding Cool]
The battle of New York is over without so much as a shot fired.
On its convention website, Gareb Shamus’s Wizard Entertainment announced this morning that it is rescheduling its suite of Northeastern comic conventions, eliminating the head-to-head, same-town, same-dates match-up between its Big Apple Comic Con and Reed Exhibition’s New York Comic Con on October 7-10. Now, the Big Apple Comic Con will now be held on Oct. 1-3, the New England Comic Con on Oct. 15-17, and the New Jersey Comic Con on dates to be announced later. In addition, Big Apple has changed locations from Pier 94 to the Penn Plaza Pavilion, while the New England show will be hosted at Boston’s John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. It’s unclear whether the New Jersey con’s date change will lead to a move from Edison’s New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center upon rescheduling.
Wizard made headlines, and drew a significant industry backlash, beginning late last year by making a series of aggressive scheduling moves against veteran convention promoter Reed and its slate of comic and pop-culture shows. Most notoriously, Wizard scheduled its Big Apple show the very same weekend as Reed’s New York Comic Con, October 7-10, and in 12th Avenue venue literally blocks away from NYCC’s Javits Center location. Later, Wizard scheduled its New Jersey con for the following weekend. Ever since, guest-list comparisons and official industry presences have weighed in mightily in Reed’s favor.
She was the top-billed star of the Wizard World conventions in Toronto and Anaheim — and briefly the victim of a case of mistaken identity with Warren Ellis. But now Eliza Dushku, the Joss Whedon mainstay who starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse, has quietly been dropped from the guest lists of both shows.
Is this a victory for the shows’ Con War rivals, Fan Expo (the same city as Toronto) and Reed’s Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (the same weekend as Anaheim), a sign that Wizard’s rapid convention-circuit expansion isn’t making it any easier to attract big-name talent, or just schedule churn?
In theory, at least — as of the writing of this post, there’s nothing up about it on Wizard’s convention website yet. But Rich Johnston had the news even before Wizard’s official Twitter feed: “Garev [sic] Shamus has bought the ten year old Nashville Comic & Horror Festival and has renamed it Nashville Comic Con Wizard World Convention for later this year.”
This latest rebranding of a small local show with the Wizard/”Comic Con” name is part of a now-established pattern; interestingly, Johnston describes it as one in which “no money actually chang[es] hands,” but rather an existing con infrastructure is essentially bartered for Wizard’s name recognition. I hadn’t heard that before, but it may be the only way such rapid expansion makes sense for a company with fewer employees than it’s had since its very earliest years.
In other recent Con War news, Johnston reported last week that Wizard has now sandwiched Reed Exhibition’s New York Comic Con with nearby shows of its own the weekend before (New England Comic Con, Oct. 1-3), the weekend after (New Jersey Comic Con, Oct. 15-17), and of course the very same weekend in the very same city (Big Apple Comic Con, Oct. 7-10). Johnston sees this as an attempt to crowd NYCC out; piggybacking off the press of the larger and more established show could also be a motivation.
For their part, Reed continues its M.O. of adding guests, rather than shows: Recently announced additions to Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo — a competitor of Wizard’s Chicago Comic Con that runs head-to-head against Wizard’s Anaheim Comic Con the same weekend — include Dan DiDio, Paul Levitz, Mark Bagley, Peter David, Mark Waid, Dash Shaw, Chip Kidd, Art Baltazar, Bob Layton, Jonathan Hickman, Peter Tomasi, James Robinson, Greg Pak, Jim Valentino and, in all likelihood, probably quite a few I’m missing. The presence of DiDio, Levitz and Geoff Johns seems to be a pretty clear vote of confidence from DC, by the by. Meanwhile, reports that the city of Anaheim is strongly trying to woo Comic-Con International away from San Diego indicate that Wizard’s show isn’t quite what the city is looking for.
Search Robot 6 for our most recent Con War stories and you might get the impression that the action has been one-sided. In under a month, Gareb Shamus’s Wizard Entertainment has added four new shows to its “Wizard World Tour” of “Comic Con”-branded pop-culture conventions.
Apart from the early-December announcement that Wizard rival Reed is partnering with Lucasfilm to put on the next Star Wars Celebration — a move that forced Wizard to reschedule its Chicago Comic Con — the outfit behind the New York Comic Con and Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo has left the expansion arms race to its opponent.
Instead, perhaps attempting to make good on its nose-tweaking tagline “The con Chicago needs, the con you deserve,” Reed has focused on shoring up its C2E2 guest list. The show boasts some true heavy hitters, including Geoff Johns (superhero comics’ biggest writer), Alex Ross (superhero comics’ biggest painter), Gail Simone (superhero comics’ most prominent female writer), Jeff Smith (arguably the biggest name in children’s comics with Bone) and, in a very rare con appearance, Chris Ware (arguably the biggest name in alternative comics with The ACME Novelty Library).
Additional guests on the pretty-massive roster include Jim Cheung, Mike Mignola, Steve McNiven, David Finch, Steve Epting, Geof Darrow, Frank Cho, Gene Ha, Adam Hughes, Greg Land, Ethan Van Sciver, Ben Templesmith, Mike Perkins, Butch Guice, David Lloyd and a dedicated line-up of women creators spearheaded by Amanda Conner, Jill Thompson and Sherrilyn Kenyon. And as best I can tell, every single guest C2E2 has announced actually makes comics.
Con War is hell, and you never know who’s gonna get caught in the crossfire. Wizard owner Gareb Shamus’s evolving effort to rebrand his publishing and online empire and take on Reed Exhibitions’s C2E2 and New York Comic Con by aggressively counter-scheduling his Anaheim and Big Apple events has produced some nasty peripheral exchanges, even as direct confrontations between the two convention promoters have all but ceased.
Take the back-and-forth we noted last week between PvP creator Scott Kurtz and Comics Alliance honcho Laura Hudso . It started when Kurtz publicly blasted a Wizard/Shamus functionary with both barrels after the staffer obliviously sent him an email addressed to “Kurt” — hey, these things happen — soliciting his attendance at Anaheim Comic Con. Hudson took Kurtz to task for tarring all Wizard employees with a brush perhaps better reserved for the company’s decision-makers. This led to a lengthy and ugly comment-thread roundelay between Hudson — who, as the former senior editor of Tim Leong’s defunct Comic Foundry magazine, need bow to no one in the “taking cheap shots at Wizard and its employees as though the two were fungible entities” department — and Kurtz, some of his fans, and former Wizard staff writer Chris Ward. Over the course of the argument’s five pages, posts were deleted; accusations of trollery, spamming, egomania and hypocrisy were thrown about like so much confetti; Hudson’s problems during her tenure with Jenna Jameson-publishing Virgin Comics were hashed out; former Wizard President Fred Pierce was accused of buying off former Wizard critic Frank Miller; and a horrid time was had by all.
Confirming yesterday’s report on Robot 6, comics superstar and Marvel mainstay Brian Michael Bendis has announced that he won’t attend Gareb Shamus/Wizard’s Anaheim Comic Con, for which he’d been announced as Guest of Honor during last weekend’s controversial Big Apple Comic Con. Why not? We’ll let him explain it, courtesy of his Twitter feed and message board.
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.