Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Gareb Shamus’s rapidly expanding convention slate just got one show bigger. According to a press release posted on Wizard’s recently launched Magic Words blog, “Gareb Shamus, CEO of New York based Wizard Entertainment, today announced the launch of Austin Comic Con 2010 Wizard World Convention, to be held at the Austin Convention Center from November 12-14, 2010.”
Wizard is no stranger to the Lone Star State: The Dallas/Arlington-based Wizard World Texas was a staple of the late convention season for several years, including one in which it merged with the horror show Fear Fest in 2008, until its cancellation last year. The press release for the Austin con specifically positions the new show as a response to popular demand for Wizard’s convention wing to return to Texas.
The Austin Comic Con is the seventh such show Shamus and Wizard are now behind, along with conventions in Toronto, Philadelphia, and Chicago; an as-yet-unscheduled New England Comic Con in Boston (site of another past Wizard World attempt); and the controversially scheduled Anaheim and Big Apple Comic Cons, set to take place the same weekends as Reed Exhibition’s Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo and New York Comic Con respectively.
Update: In other convention news, organizers of the newly launched Long Beach Comic Con have announced a one-day show for Feb. 20 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Creators from Aspen Entertainment and Top Cow Entertainment are scheduled to appear.
Long Beach Comic Con, which debuted in October, is run by Martha Donato, former senior vice president and convention organizer for Wizard Entertainment.
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.
* Organized by Desert Island‘s Gabe Fowler and PictureBox‘s Dan Nadel, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival made its debut on Saturday, and I’m awfully glad I was able to make it. (I didn’t think I’d be able to, but my wife and mother-in-law gave me a reprieve from going to see New Moon for the third time. Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!) I live on Long Island, so having an artcomix convention on my very own land mass is a cause for celebration. And provided you’re willing to brave a dreadful mile or so on the BQE and the Kosciuszko Bridge, it’s not even that much of a hassle to get there — parking in Brooklyn is a snap.
* Less easy was dealing with the weather, which was awful. Freezing rain and, eventually, snow. I figured this would do a real number on attendance levels …
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?
Looks like the Con War has opened a new front: Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus has purchased the New England Comic Con to add to his ever-growing slate of comics and pop-culture shows. According to a press release posted on the Wizard site, the Con’s previous owners, Larry Harrison and Jerry Tournasm of retailer Harrison’s Comics & Collectibles, will continue to work for the show.
The latest addition to a roster of Shamus/Wizard shows that includes Anaheim Comic Con, Toronto Comic Con, Big Apple Comic Con, and Wizard World Philadelphia, the Wizard World New England Comic Con, as it will apparently be called, is not to be confused with either the Boston Comic Con — whose guests for its April 10-11 show next year include Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Eric Powell, and Bill Sienkiewicz at the top of a pretty impressive roster — nor the previous Wizard World Boston show, held once (in 2005) before being canceled. Whether Shamus’s latest attempt at a Boston event will engender the same sort of rivalry as his other cons have with such shows as Heroes Con, the Long Beach Comic Con, Fan Expo Canada, and Reed Exhibition’s New York Comic Con and C2E2 remains to be seen.
More, undoubtedly, as it develops.
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.
Full-scale warfare between convention promoters isn’t universal, believe it or not — some are giving peace a chance. In addition to the recent arrangement worked out by Heroes Con and Supercon to avoid a date conflict, Emerald City ComiCon‘s Jim Demonakos tells Robot 6 that following an unavoidable conflict with Orlando’s MegaCon the weekend of March 13, 2010, he and MegaCon’s Beth Widera collaborated on choosing dates for 2011 so that future overlap could be avoided. “We ended up on the same dates for 2010 and neither of us could move, but we’ve talked and coordinated and our mutual 2011 dates will not be on each other’s dates at all,” says Demonakos. “Con planning, always an adventure.”
“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.
Users of the Wizard Universe Message Board are reporting that Wizard, the flagship magazine of Gareb Shamus’s publishing, retail, and conventions empire, has ceased publication of its long-running price guide for collectible comics with this month’s Issue 218.
When Shamus started Wizard out of his parents’ basement in 1991, it essentially was a price guide. Even as it evolved from a glorified newsletter into a full-fledged comics magazine, its monthly tracking of “hot” comics and their supposed value on the secondary market — supplemented with “Hot Ten” writers and artists lists, mini-guides dedicated to particular characters, creators, or titles, spotlights on issues of note and so on — put the publication on the map during the speculator boom of that decade’s early years and, in the eyes of many readers and fans, was how Wizard earned its long-time subtitle: “The Guide to Comics.”
But the section has also been a divisive one, with many in the comics community tying it to what they see as lamentable trends like variant covers, “slabbed” and graded comics, and of course the bust that followed the boom, to say nothing of the somewhat-dubious notion that contemporary comics are potentially lucrative collectibles in the first place. Moreover, recent years have seen the section’s page count slowly chipped away (along with that of the rest of the magazine, which WUMBers report is still retailing at the same price as it did with the price guide’s eight pages intact) as the Internet’s capacity for constant updating caused much of the price guide’s information to be outdated even prior to publication. Outspoken staffer Mark Allen Haverty, who recently made himself a moderator on the increasingly hostile Wizard board, says as much in his explanation for why the guide is gone:
Not every comic-convention conflict has to end in tears. So Heroes Con organizer and Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find retailer Shelton Drum discovered when he ran into a seemingly unavoidable scheduling overlap with Florida Supercon, the Miami-based show organized by Mike Broder. The two shows have announced that Supercon has voluntarily switched its 2010 dates to June 18-20 in order to accommodate Heroes Con, which will be held on June 4-6.
According to Drum, the increasingly busy convention season and a booked-solid schedule at the Charlotte, NC convention center during the June-July timeframe during which Heroes Con is traditionally held combined to limit his scheduling options.
“I had actually just about given up on doing anything at the Charlotte Convention Center in 2010,” Drum tells Robot 6. “Using a smaller venue was an option as well as just taking a year off.” But when Drum put out feelers in these directions at the Baltimore Comic-Con, he was met with such an overwhelming response that he feared hosting the show at a smaller site would lead to overcrowding.
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.