Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
As noted here on Monday, and amplified by Heidi MacDonald, two big indy comics shows, Stumptown Comics Fest (in Portland, Oregon) and the MoCCA Festival (in New York City) are now scheduled for the same weekend, April 28-29, 2012. MoCCA was originally scheduled for April 14-15, and in the letter to exhibitors that MacDonald reproduces at her site, no explanation is given for the change, although it is clear organizers realize that some exhibitors will be inconvenienced by the shift.
I went to MoCCA for the first time this year, and several creators told me they were doing both shows, which were a week apart. I was impressed that they made the effort, but it was clearly worth it to them, so it’s not surprising that there has been some grumbling, and it was nice to see Stumptown organizer Indigo Kelleigh’s gracious response to the conflict:
I just wanted to state for the record, that I know the difficulties in arranging for a venue for an event of this size, and more often than not our own final dates are dictated by the venue’s availability moreso than our desired schedule. I can’t assign any malice to this announcement on the part of the MoCCA organizers, and I hope nobody else does, either.
I do believe that there’s plenty of talent on both coasts, and further that this move will not harm either of the shows in the short term. For a show like Stumptown, which has only seen increased demand year after year, even last year in our move to a much larger exhibit space, I don’t believe this unfortunate scheduling will impact the quality of our Comics Fest in the slightest.
Some of the commenters at The Beat had said more or less the same thing, but it’s good to hear it from a show organizer. (Torsten Adair pointed out that Wizard World Anaheim is also scheduled for that weekend, but no one was complaining about that.) It sounds like the organizers of indy-comics shows already do try to avoid conflicts, but they don’t always succeed. I hope they do next year, because one inevitable result is that the East Coast artists stay on the East Coast and the West Coast artists stay on the West Coast, and everything gets a little bit more boring.
For all intents and purposes, NYCC is now my big hometown show. I still didn’t go, despite the fact that between getting a press pass and having a monthly Long Island Rail Road ticket, it would have cost me basically nothing to do so, and despite the fact that nearly all of my friends were there. There are a few reasons for this, including a major one involving the health of a family member (the good health, fortunately) that has nothing to do with the show itself. But it’s also for the reason I talk about in this comment thread discussion with The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald: There wasn’t a thriving alternative/art/literary/underground comics presence.
Heidi points out that Pantheon and First Second and Top Shelf all had booths at the show, which is true, and which is good. I like tons of Pantheon and Top Shelf books and usually one book per First Second slate. But when I say “thriving presence” I don’t mean “are the individual altcomix-y publishers that are there awesome or not,” I mean “Does the altcomix-y section of the show do well, attract attention, get press, draw attendees and creators, put up a formidable programming slate.” In that light, I don’t think that segment of this show is thriving vs. the rest of the show, no. For example, did Pantheon have X’ed Out, its eagerly anticipated, apparently awesome new book from titanic talent Charles Burns, available at the show? If so, awesome, but did you read word one about it in any show coverage? I sure didn’t. That little group of publishers Heidi speaks of–which by the way is mostly the alt-ish wings of gigantic NY publishing houses, not the alternative comics press per se–doesn’t reach the critical mass that it does at San Diego, even San Diego circa 2010, let alone TCAF/MoCCA/SPX/APE/BCGF/etc. I know there are any number of reasons why NYCC lacks the altcomix component that even San Diego has been able to preserve. I know that not all of it rests at the feet of NYCC’s organizers at Reed. I still think it’s a dealbreaker.
“We’re not done with Philly per se, but we do seem to be done, at least for the moment, with the Wizard conventions.”
–Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, answering a Formspring question about Marvel’s third Wizard World Philadelphia no-show in a row by making Marvel’s severance from Wizard’s convention wing more-or-less official. (On its blog, Wizard reports that this year’s Philadelphia show “broke ever [sic] attendance record EVER!! The show was a HUGE success!”)
Just as his Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con kicks off today for its 10th year, Gareb Shamus announced he’s acquired another convention, bringing the total to 13. This time it’s the fledgling ComiCONN, which was held for the first time in May in North Haven, Connecticut.
In what’s become standard practice for these Wizard World acquisitions, the convention’s organizers will remain to “promote, advise and consult on the show.” They’ll also continue to operate their own local events.
The renamed Wizard World Connecticut Comic Conn will debut sometime in 2011 in Hartford.
But back to Shamus and his Philadelphia show, the subjects of a fawning preview — the convention “appears to be bigger and better than ever,” mainly because “Gareb Shamus is back in charge” — in this morning’s Philadelphia Daily News.
After the repeated drubbings the Wizard empire has received, maybe it’s due a softer spotlight. Still, even the company’s defenders are likely to admit the article is a little … much. Witness, for instance, this passage, explaining away the recent decline of Wizard’s convention arm. It turns out it was an unfortunate result of Shamus’ flirtation with mixed martial arts fighting and the International Fight League:
“I had left Wizard for a number of years,” said Shamus, whose Wizard brand is arguably the most popular, powerful and influential name in comics. “Around 2003, when I felt the company and conventions were healthy and in good hands, I decided to try something different.” […] “These shows take a lot of time and a lot of money,” Shamus said. “I thought others could handle them, but then decided I had to get back to the company.
And the cancellation of shows in Los Angeles and Arlington, Texas? That was “all just part of a grand plan dating back to when I came back in 2008.”
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]
While the inaugural C2E2 is getting the lion’s share of the attention, it certainly won’t be the only comics convention going on this weekend:
• The Anaheim Convention Center, one of the venues vying for Comic-Con International, will play host to the first Wizard World Anaheim Comic-Con Friday through Sunday.
Comics guests include Simon Bisley, Tim Bradstreet, J.M. DeMatteis, Glenn Fabry, Ale Garza, Phil Jimenez, Drew Johnson, Stan Lee, Rob Liefeld, Mike Mayhew, Arthur Suydam and Bernie Wrightson. Media guests include LeVar Burton, Yvonne Craig, Michael Dorn, Richard Hatch, Kato Kaelin, Juliet Landau, Lee Meriwether, Julie Newmar, Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, Helen Slater, Brent Spiner, Lindsay Wagner, Billy Dee Williams and the kid who played Young Ben Linus on Lost. Doors open at 3 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
• Denver ComicFest kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn Tech Center in Denver, Colorado, and continues through Sunday. Guests include Dan Brereton, Amy Reeder Hadley, Zach Howard, Jon Boy Meyers, John Porcellino, Whilce Portacio, Fiona Staples, Matt Sturges and Noah Van Sciver.
• The ninth FLUKE mini-comics festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Ciné, 234 W. Hancock Ave., Athens, Georgia. Flagpole has a preview of the event, which will feature such cartoonists as David Mack, Eleanor Davis and Devlin Thompson.
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.
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.
Congratulations to anyone who had “Cleveland” on their Wizard World Tour bingo card: Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus has announced “the re-launch of North Coast Comic Con as Cleveland Comic Con Wizard World Convention.”
In the now-traditional mode for Wizard’s aggressive convention-circuit expansion, former North Coast owner Roger Priebe will remain aboard as an advisor and consultant.
The new show’s venue and dates have yet to be announced, but depending on when Wizard’s Cleveland and Cincinnati conventions end up falling, we may see another front in the Con War develop, this time against the Columbus-based long-time regional player Mid-Ohio Con.
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.
There are almost more words in the name than there are conventions on the “Wizard World Tour,” but there you have it: Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus has acquired the Cincinnati Comic & Anime Show after its first year of operation and rebranded it as part of his seemingly never-ending expansion of his convention line-up.
As is now custom with Wizard shows, the con’s previous organizer, dealer Marc Ballard, will remain with the show — Shamus’ tenth — as a consultant. New dates and venue information are forthcoming. “Attendees can anticipate the strong caliber lineup of stars and exhibitors that fans across the nation have come to expect,” according to Shamus’s press release.
The announcement comes one week after the creation of the New Jersey Comic Con Wizard World Convention, to be held just one week after dueling Manhattan-based shows: Reed Exhibitions’ New York Comic Con and Shamus’s own Big Apple Comic Con.
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.
More than four years after abandoning plans for an event in Georgia’s capital, Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus has purchased Atlanta Comic Convention, a one-day show founded in 1994.
Renamed (deep breath) Atlanta Comic Con Wizard World Convention, it joins Shamus’ rapidly growing stable of eight events that includes Chicago Comic Con, Big Apple Comic Con and the recently announced Austin Comic Con. No date or venue have been announced for the Atlanta convention.
According to the press release, Atlanta Comic Convention founder Will Tillander will remain as a consultant for the show, which will expand from one day to three.
Wizard’s previous attempt at an Atlanta convention, announced in July 2005, triggered a backlash from retailers, creators and fans because its inaugural show was scheduled for the same weekend as Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina. Shamus quickly dropped plans for a 2006 Atlanta show, but said Wizard would seek an event there the following year. None materialized.