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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.
Conventions | On the eve of the inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, the Chicago Reader examines the escalating competition between convention owner Reed Exhibitions and longtime Chicago Comic Con organizer Wizard Entertainment: “It’s but one battleground in a war the two powers are waging across the country — an epic struggle that some observers see as a contest between the forces of good and, well, not so good.”
Writer Deanna Isaacs touches upon the rise of Wizard’s Rosemont event to the second-largest comics convention in North America, and its more recent decline. She quotes a couple of local retailers who have become “disenchanted” with the show. But Wizard CEO Gareb Shamus shrugs off the complaints: “Everybody’s going to tell you this or that. You’re talking about one person. We have 1,000 vendors at our show in Chicago, and they make a lot of money.”
The Daily Herald interviews C2E2 show-runner Lance Fensterman, who says he expects between 35,000 and 40,000 attendees this weekend. The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, offers its own preview, with eight “must-see” convention events, and brief Q&As with Alex Ross and Jeff Smith. [C2E2]
If you were to go to WizardWorld.com, the online home of Gareb Shamus’s publishing, retail and convention empire, you would see a jazzy new layout (albeit one still based on the old Yahoo SiteBuilder template) and a fancy new logo for both the company and its many conventions (the little superhero silhouette guy is gone). You’d see news and blog sub-sites dedicated solely to guest-list updates for the aforementioned cons. You’d also see a major, major, MAJOR SPOILER for the acclaimed Syfy series Battlestar Galactica, based on the appearance of certain actors from the show at Wizard’s Chicago Comic Con. Let the surfer beware.
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.
The running battle between rival convention promoters Reed Exhibitions and Gareb Shamus’s Wizard Entertainment just saw a game-changer of Death Star proportions enter orbit: Reed has announced it’s partnering with Lucasfilm to become the exclusive producer of the Star Wars Celebration conventions. The relationship officially begins with the announcement of Star Wars Celebration V, to be held in Orlando, Florida, on Aug. 12-15.
Of course, those are the same dates for which Shamus’s Chicago Comic Con had been scheduled.
Until this morning, that is, when Shamus announced via press release that he is pushing the Chicago show back a week, to Aug. 19-22. In a statement that will no doubt raise some eyebrows given his past scheduling maneuvers, Shamus said:
We respect our 20 year relationship with LucasFilms [sic] and everything Star Wars has meant to the fan community. In deference to our attendees, guests and friends at Lucas, we are changing dates. We are all fans of the Star Wars films, and this slight change enables us to bring the type of presence the fans would expect at our annual Comic Con.
Shamus, apparently, has been doing some partnering-up of his own: According to this post at the message board for the horror magazine Rue Morgue, recent Wizard emails to potential exhibitors have touted coming partnerships with horror-con outfits Rock and Shock and Monster Mania. But can it compete with the firepower of a fully armed and operational alliance between Reed and Lucasfilm — one that’s apparently quite willing to take aim square at Shamus’s own schedule?
Superfun Adventuretime is no doubt getting a lot of hits due to this post by “Yellow Hat Guy,” a.k.a. Ryan Coons, at the Chicago Comic Con this weekend. After demanding an apology from Rob Liefeld for his work on the 1990s Marvel event “Heroes Reborn,” Coons bought a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and left it in a bag on Liefeld’s table. He said he inscribed a note to Liefeld in it that included his email address and cell phone number in case Liefeld wanted to contact him with that apology.
The comments field includes both supporters and critics, with some folks calling Coons names and others offering him words of encouragement. Artist Cameron Stewart fell into the “not amused” camp:
I’m a professional comic artist, and I attend conventions often. Most of the time the experience I have with fans is pleasant and courteous, but there’s usually one or two who are so clueless of how to interact with people in a respectful and polite manner that it spoils the otherwise fun day. So you don’t like Rob Liefeld, big deal. His work isn’t to my tastes either but I would never dream of trying to publicly humiliate him in person. He’s taken the time and expense to come to that show to ply his trade – just as you work at your job – and interact with the people who DO appreciate his work and presence. He’s not there for you to be snide and condescending and to be the recipient of your asinine, half-witted pranks. I’m sure you got a big kick out of it (I love how you describe yourself as shaking and sweaty because you “can’t process that much awesome” instead of it being because you’re cowardly and nervous), and you probably high-fived your friends and giggled all the way home to write your smug blog report, but what you did was classless and childish. I guarantee you that this blog post is making the rounds of the pro community (another pro artist forwarded it to me, and *not* because he thought it was a hilarious prank), and thanks to your readily-identifiable yellow hat, you’ve marked yourself as someone to avoid at cons. Well done.
Update: Liefeld offers his account of the incident via Twitter. “Guy looked like someone I wouldn’t trust around my kids, could barely speak, almost pee’d his pants, and now he’s bold. I don’t thinks so,” he tweeted, followed by, “And I love that the video doesn’t match his descriptions. I’m smiling. Because that’s what i do. I’m always smiling.”
Also, Liefeld gave the copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way to Marat Mychaels, whose copy was lost in a house fire.
10:00 am – After a quick breakfast and a quicker check-out, Jess and I are at the convention. We’re too slow for Grant who’s already here.
On the way in, we pass the Battlestar Galactica table and see that Michael Hogan doesn’t have a line yet. We stop briefly to shake his hand and gush a little. He’s sweet and graciously appreciative of our fondness for his work.
10:30 am – Visit Mark Kidwell’s table in Artist Alley. RD introduced me to Mark last night at the bar and Mark’s a smart, smart guy. He hooks me up with a few books including his Bump mini-series from Fangoria and Freedom, the Western he wrote for Image’s Frank Frazetta line.
…that the cover to the Dark X-Men mini-series features two characters whited out:
which means it’s time for another edition of “guess who’s on the team.” I’m guessing that those two characters weren’t actually part of the Dark X-Men crew that is appearing in the Utopia crossover, otherwise why hide their identity? So who else do you think is on the team besides Dark Beast and Mimic?
The X-Men panel at the Chicago Comic-Con just ended; I wasn’t there, but CBR’s Shaun Manning covered it live. One of the announcements at the show is another Dark X-Men mini-series that kicks off in November, by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk. The pair worked together on Captain Britain and MI13, as well as stories in the Dark X-Men: The Beginning mini-series that ties into the big Utopia crossover between Dark Avengers and Uncanny X-Men.
So the Dark X-Men are hanging around after Utopia, in some form or another. And it sounds like another old character we haven’t seen in awhile is making his return, based on this quote: “This also has something to do with an X-Man named… X-Man.”
Per an additional article on CBR, Nate Grey/X-Man is indeed back:
8:30 am – Breakfast at the Embassy buffet again. Tried the build-your-own omelet today. Tomorrow: bagels and cream cheese!
10:30 am – I arrive at the convention a half-hour after it opens. There may be something to say about my not being excited to get there, but really it was mostly me waking up a little late and taking my sweet time getting ready.
I spot Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan from Battlestar Galactica at their tables and as much as I’ve complained about Autographapalooza, I admit to getting a bit of a thrill from seeing them. Not enough to stand in line and pay for whatever, but man that was a cool show and it’s cool to see them in person.
7:30 am – Breakfast with Jess at the Embassy’s free buffet. Talked over some plans for a comic we want to do about a jungle girl who gets captured by pirates and has to fight intelligent, evil sharks. Great conversation and the sausage was pretty good too.
10:00 am – The show officially opens for the day. I check back on my press pass and though my printed name tag still hasn’t arrived, the woman offers me a wrist-band that’ll identify me as press and get me into the show. She’s just as nice and helpful as the woman from yesterday and says that I can check back on my badge later.
On the way into the exhibition hall I’m offered a flyer explaining that Michelle Rodriguez and Rhona Mitra will only be signing 750 autographs each and that you really should buy a $45 ticket to make sure you get one.
A few steps later and I’m passing a booth that will take your picture and PhotoShop Hayden Pantierre into it. I’m curious how much they charge for that, but I’m afraid to hear the answer.
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Chicago | Mark Millar, Dan Slott, Jason Aaron and more will be at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for Wizard’s Chicago Comic-Con.
A couple of events are occurring in conjunction with the show that are worth noting. There’s a charity auction to benefit John Ostrander, who recently underwent surgery for glaucoma. Also, the Hero Initiative has teamed up with George Perez and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab to help con attendees find love. Not only can they improve their personal smell with a new fragrance based on Perez and Peter David’s Sachs & Violens comic, but they can also bid on the opportunity to attend a speed dating session hosted by Perez. And it all benefits charity. What could be better?
Robot 6’s Michael May attended last night’s preview night and will have additional reports all weekend.
Las Vegas | 2009 Star Trek Convention, featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lloyd, Zachary Quintos and many more.
4:00 am – Up and at ‘em. Have to finish packing before Comic-Con Roommate #1, LucasFilm artist Jess Hickman, arrives at 5:00.
5:45 am – Jess and I pick up Roommate #2, Grant Gould (Star Wars: Clone Wars web comic; Wolves of Odin) and we hit the road.
2:00 pm – Arrive at hotel. We’re staying at the Embassy Suites right across from the convention center this year, which is really nice because I won’t have to pay $80 a day to park in the convention center lot. Free breakfast in the morning too. Nice!
3:00 pm – Drop Jess off at the convention center to get checked in. In addition to my press duties, I’m also her booth babe for the weekend. While she was grabbing our exhibitor badges I tried to get checked in at the press area, but the guy sitting at that booth told me he didn’t really work there and wasn’t sure when the official press check-in people would arrive.
Grant is still at the hotel, so I’ll go check on him and try again for my press pass later.
Conventions | Despite a decreased presence by major publishers, fewer panels and rampant online speculation, Wizard CEO Gareb Shamus says he’s expecting “record attendance” for this weekend’s Chicago Comic-Con. “We’re absolutely committed to the show and its location,” Shamus says. “As far as I’m concerned, we’ll be there forever.” [Daily Herald]
Events | Chicago Comic-Con will include an auction to benefit veteran writer John Ostrander, who has been battling glaucoma for years. The Saturday event will include work donated by such creators as Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, George Perez, Matt Groening, Jim Lee, Dave Sim and countless others. [Comix4Sight.com]
Legal | Vanguard Productions has emerged the winner in a lawsuit filed last year against by Warren Publishing founder Jim Warren over art from the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. [press release]
Publishing | Viz Media’s Gonzalo Ferreyra speaks briefly about the company’s accelerated release schedule for Naruto and One Piece. [ICv2.com]