Big Apple Comic-Con
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.
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.
It’s the biggest thing to hit the Garden State since Jersey Shore: Wizard Entertainment’s Gareb Shamus has announced the launch of yet another convention, the New Jersey Comic Con Wizard World Convention. (Yes, that’s the full name.) The ninth show in Shamus’s ever-increasing roster — many of which are based on pre-existing cons, rebranded with the Wizard name — it will take place in Edison’s New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center on Oct. 15-17.
That, of course, places it just one week after both Reed Exhibition’s New York Comic Con and Shamus’s own Big Apple Comic Con, controversially scheduled in the same city and on the same weekend as Reed’s effort in a move widely seen as launching a Con War between the two companies. Since then, the two outfits have rolled out distinct battle strategies, with Reed focusing on top-tier comics guests and Shamus/Wizard concentrating on adding more and more shows to the Wizard World Tour.
Is Wizard preparing to relaunch its web presence one more time? That’s the implication of a graphic recently added to the current, bare-bones site that once housed the digital version of Gareb Shamus’s publishing flagship (and once employed yours truly).
A banner atop the placeholder page now present at wizarduniverse.com reads:
Please pardon our appearance!
There’s a new WizardUniverse.com coming soon!
We’re relaunching with a New Look & New Attitude!
In the meantime, we are still open for business…enjoy!
Additional, awkwardly punctuated text directs visitors who are “looking for Wizard” to WizardWorld.com, where in addition to the usual assortment of news they will find updates on “the Wizard World tour of conventions, from 2010′s Toronto Comic Con, to our inaugural Anaheim Comic Con to next summer’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con!”
Con War tea-leaf readers can make of the omission of the June 11-13 Philadelphia and October 7-10 Big Apple shows what they will.
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.
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:
Next year’s same-weekend, same-city showdown between Reed Exhibitions’ New York Comic Con and Wizard Entertainment/Gareb Shamus’s Big Apple Comic Con looms large in fandom’s collective mind. But what about the here and now?
By several important measures, this weekend’s inaugural Shamus-owned Big Apple Comic Con was a major success. For starters, it received an avalanche of enthusiastic coverage from the mainstream press, from both local and national outlets. (Lack of this kind of promotion has been a problem for Wizard shows in the past.) Meanwhile, guest of honor Jim Lee was thrilled with the show, while his fellow headliner Joe Quesada signed on with Shamus’s new GeekChicDaily newsletter (as seen in the photo above). And a look around relevant message boards, Twitter accounts, and comment threads provides any number of happy anecdotes regarding apparently terrific bargains from the show’s retailers (Acme Novelty Library #19 and The Collected Doug Wright for four bucks apiece!) or delightful interactions with its nerd-heaven line-up of comics pros (Lee, Joe Quesada, Joe Mad, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams), geek icons (William Shatner, Adam West, Billy Dee Williams, Linda Hamilton, Carol Cleveland) and crush objects (Kelly Hu, Adrianne Curry, Bottomless Suicide Girl, Linda Hamilton, Carol Cleveland).
Attention, con warriors: shots fired! The battle between Gareb Shamus’s Big Apple Comic Con and Reed Exhibitions’ New York Comic Con, kicked off today by Big Apple’s announcement that its 2010 show would run on the same weekend as NYCC, has claimed its first casualties: NYCC director Lance Fensterman is reporting on the show’s official blog that three NYCC staffers have been ejected from Big Apple.
The group was reportedly escorted out by security, though their tickets were refunded by Wizard’s Vice President of Business Affairs Peter Katz. (As we reported earlier, Wizard has some experience with kicking rival con staffers out of its shows.) “World War Con” rages on …
Many things can be and have been said about Gareb Shamus, founder and CEO of Wizard Entertainment, but “he lacks chutzpah” isn’t one of them: As reported by Comic Book Resources, Shamus has pitted his recently purchased Big Apple Comic Con head-to-head against Reed Exhibitions’ New York Comic Con. Both shows will take place in Manhattan on Oct. 8-10, 2010, with Big Apple starting a day earlier on Oct. 7.
Shamus is no stranger to aggressive scheduling and positioning against rival comic conventions. Word surfaced in 2005 that he’d planned a potential Wizard World Atlanta against regional staple Heroes Con; though company spokespeople quickly backpedaled in the face of withering industry criticism and the Atlanta show never materialized, the increasingly crowded convention scene saw this year’s Heroes Con once again overlap with Shamus’ rebranded Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con.
Shamus also responded to convention powerhouse Reed’s announcement of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, a rival show to his Chicago Comic Con (formerly Wizard World Chicago), by creating the Anaheim Comic Con and scheduling it directly against C2E2′s debut. He also waded into one of the most acrimonious con feuds in North America by purchasing the Paradise Toronto Comicon, which itself has a history of disputes with the larger, more pop culture-focused Fan Expo Canada. Shamus’ convention organization has also been quite aggressive in fending off a perceived challenge from the nascent Long Beach Comic-Con, created and staffed in large part by former Wizard employees, going so far as to ban LBCC’s Steve Hoveke from Wizard’s Philadelphia show despite having okayed him as an exhibitor.
Creators | Tom Spurgeon has word from a former George Tuska spokesman that the longtime Iron Man artist has passed away. He was 93.
Tuska began his career in 1939 as an assistant on Scorchy Smith, and worked for the comic “packaging” studio owned by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. He later drew for Fawcett and Quality, and then moved to Marvel in the 1960s, where he penciled such titles as Daredevil, Ghost Rider and The X-Men before beginning a decade-long run on Iron Man. Tuska left Marvel in the late 1970s for DC Comics and in 1978 helped launch a new Superman daily comic strip, on which he worked until 1993.
Conventions | As Big Apple Comic Con — “the New York area’s largest pop culture festival” — opens, Variety and the Los Angeles Times spotlight the official launch today of GeekChicDaily, the new e-newsletter founded by Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus, movie producer Peter Guber and digital entertainment entrepreneur Peter Levin.
Meanwhile, comics and TV writer Paul Cornell explains why he won’t be attending the convention: “The guy who originally invited me was made redundant the day after he did so. Which doesn’t fill one with confidence. But, sure enough, his boss was kind enough to honour the commitment. And there was some communication on that score. However, by the start of this week, I’d noticed that days were ticking by without any actual arrangements being made. So I finally said that if they’d already bought the air ticket, then of course I’d come, because I didn’t want them to lose out financially because of me, but if they hadn’t, then not to worry about it. Which resulted in… absolute silence. So when I say I’m not going to New York… well, that’s my best guess as we speak.”
Heidi MacDonald reported earlier this week that “several announced guests” hadn’t received their travel arrangements, “and several others who were invited pulled out when such arrangements were not forthcoming.” [Big Apple Comic Con]
Manga | Wicomico County Public Library in Maryland is conducting an “internal reconsideration” of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball after the popular series was removed from a combined elementary/middle school library last week due to depictions of nudity and sexual situations. The public library has pulled the manga while it decides in what section the T-rated series should be shelved. [The Daily Times]
Publishing | Deb Aoki gets more details from Viz Media Senior Editor Eric Searleman about the publisher’s relaunched original comics initiative, which began accepting submissions last week: “We’re hoping to publish a wide range of comics by a diverse group of creators. A lot of people are expecting Viz Media to publish manga (or comics that look like manga) but we don’t plan on limiting ourselves, in any way. It doesn’t matter to us if you draw like Tite Kubo or Darwyn Cooke. If you’ve got an awesome idea for a comic book, we want to see it.” Simon Jones provides commentary. [About.com, Icarus Publishing]
Wizard.com reports that their CEO, Gareb Shamus, has acquired the Big Apple Con, “one of the trailblazing brands in the comic book and pop culture world, and the longest-running annual show in New York City.”
Per the press release, Big Apple’s fall show, called The National, will move from its traditional November date to Oct. 16-19 at Pier 94 in Manhattan. Also building on a partnership they announced for Wizard’s Philadelphia show, Wizard will also partner with the Video Game Expo on both the Big Apple show and the upcoming Chicago Comic-Con.
This is interesting news for a few reasons, not the least of which is that Wizard recently canceled their Dallas show and postponed their Los Angeles show. They also shut down Anime Insider and have had many, many layoffs over the last couple of years, so it’s a little surprising to see any news on the acquisition front coming from the Wizard camp.
Also, as Heidi MacDonald notes about the new October date, “Should this date hold for next year it would put the show in direct competition with the New York Comic-Con which is moving to a fall date in 2010.”