"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Vintage comics and original comic art brought in $4.4 million over the weekend during a Heritage auction in New York City, Artinfo reports. Among the bigger sales were a CGC-graded 6.5 copy of Detective Comics #27, for $567,625, and John Romita Sr.’s original cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #121, which fetched $286,800.
As we noted on Friday, Dave Gibbons’ original cover art for Watchmen #1 sold for $155,350, with the first three covers going for a combined $216,892.50. John Higgins’ color guide for the first cover was bought for $7,767.50. The remaining covers for the 12-issue landmark series are expected to go up for auction later this year.
Wired.com delves into the history of the 12 covers, which were purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 by former Wizard Publisher Gareb Shamus for what’s been reported to be in the neighborhood of $26,000. The article doesn’t repeat that figure, but it does say what was paid was “a bargain price” (for instance, Higgins’ color guide for the cover of Watchmen #1 was picked up for $50, which was then five to 10 times the usual price).
Nearly four months after Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus resigned as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc., the company has announced the appointment of John Macaluso as his replacement.
Shamus shuttered his publishing empire in January 2011 and took his nearly 20-year-old company public as Wizard World, which at the time boasted pop-culture conventions in a dozen cities. That number has since been whittled down to six: Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Columbus, Austin and (in 2013) New Orleans.
Macaluso, who joined Wizard World’s board of directors in May, is a California businessman who sold his garment-manufacturing company California Concepts in 2007.
“I am excited to continue the momentum that the Wizard World Comic Con shows have built, and to help develop new strategies to take us to new levels of success,” he said in a statement. “We have an outstanding lineup of events on the schedule with highly talented celebrities and artists and an outstanding team of professionals in place to maximize the Wizard World experience.”
Libraries | An editorial in the Lewiston, Maine, newspaper praises a local school board’s decision last week to leave the 2007 comics anthology Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library following a parent’s complaints about “objectionable sexual and language references”: “American culture can be graphically sexual and explicitly foul and it’s important that young people learn how to navigate that world in a responsible way. The best possible way, of course, is for parents to steer their children through that process, but not every parent does and many children are left adrift. So, the next-better place to learn is the school library, where a responsible adult can help educate children about their hormone-charged emerging feelings in a confusingly sensual culture.” [Sun Journal]
Business | Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus, who resigned earlier this month as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc., will sell most of his shares in the company to his successor, who’s expected to be named next month. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | Wizard’s executive chairman Mike Mathews tells Heidi MacDonald that after the resignation of former CEO Gareb Shamus, the company wants to be “a Switzerland of entertainment” and mend fences with members of the industry: “Gareb is one of these types of personalities who has taken strong positions over the years with various people in the industry and brands. And that kind of hurt us because of where we are trying to go — we’re trying to be a Switzerland of entertainment and we want to try to try to reach out to brands.” MacDonald notes the company is offering a $100 credit toward Wizard conventions to former Wizard subscribers whose subscriptions abruptly ended when the magazine was shut down. A new CEO is expected to be named early next month. [The Beat]
Conventions | Image Comics announced several more guests for the Image Expo, scheduled for Feb. 24-26 in Oakland, California. The lineup now includes Blair Butler, John Layman, Rob Guillory, Nick Spencer, Joshua Fialkov, Joe Keatinge, Jim McCann and Jim Zubkavich, among many others. [press release]
Organizations | The Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer is running an awareness campaign in Mozambique featuring images drawn by artist Maisa Chaves of Wonder Woman, Catwoman, She-Hulk and Storm checking their breasts for lumps. [Daily Mail]
Gareb Shamus, divisive founder of the once-influential Wizard magazine, has resigned as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc.
The publicly traded company announced the move in documents filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “The resignation is not the result of any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices,” Shamus wrote in his two-sentence letter of resignation.
Michael Mathews, the former CEO of interclick inc. who joined Wizard World in March as chairman, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company until Shamus’ replacement can be found.
Shamus founded Wizard: The Guide to Comics in 1991, overseeing the rise of a magazine whose prosperity was inextricably tied to the speculator boom it helped fuel with its price guides, creator hot lists and enthusiastic coverage of new publishers like Image Comics and Valiant. By 1997, Wizard Entertainment had added Inquest Gamer and ToyFare magazines and extended its reach with the purchase of Chicago Comicon, later rebranded Wizard World Chicago, setting the company on its long, and occasionally rough, path to becoming a major organizer of regional conventions (earlier this year Wizard World briefly trumpeted 12 cities before slashing that number to eight).
However, the following decade wasn’t as kind to Wizard or the comics industry, with the magazine seeing its circulation dwindle to about 17,000 copies by December 2010. A month later, Shamus abruptly announced the closing of Wizard and ToyFare, the company’s last remaining magazines, and the subsequent launch of an online magazine, a move he later characterized as “the smartest business decision I’ve made in years.”
But about two weeks ago, the digital magazine that Shamus had boasted reached “millions of people” apparently disappeared from the Internet, just about the time that its founder launched a blog on the Wizard World site. Now that, too, is gone. His new Twitter account remains — although he hasn’t written an update since Nov. 28.
Wizard World hopes to have Shamus’ successor in place by Jan. 15.
Looks like Wizard Magazine/Wizard Entertainment/Wizard World founder Gareb Shamus is taking a more hands-on approach to the internet component of his comics-related empire. After years of communicating with his audience (or at least putting his signature on these communications) solely through press releases, editor’s letters, and the occasional confrontation over unrefunded subscriptions to the now-defunct Wizard magazine with a white Lando Calrissian cosplayer, Shamus has started a blog and opened a Twitter account. Meanwhile, Wizard Magazine’s much-ballyhooed digital incarnation — previously touted by Shamus as “the smartest business decision I’ve ever made” — appears to have disappeared from the Internet.
On Twitter, Shamus is following a dozen people, including Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee, Kevin Smith, and Whitney Cummings of the NBC comedy Whitney. So far his only tweet is a retweeted link to an interview with Siggy Flicker, matchmaker and star of VH1’s Why Am I Still Single? (Ironically, perhaps, that last bit reminds me of the weird fake Gareb Shamus twitter account that’s been following virtually all of us ex-Wizard employees for a couple of years now.)
On his blog, Shamus has posted interviews with creators Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack, Marv Wolfman, Phil Jimenez, Greg Capullo, and Kevin Maguire, as well as his thoughts on chocolate chip cookies. That’s actually a pretty fun line-up.
But Wizard World, the digital magazine that replaced Wizard‘s print iteration after it and sister publication ToyFare were unceremoniously canceled? Nowhere to be found on its dedicated URL WizardWorldDigital.com. And on Wizard’s main site, currently billing itself as the place “Where Pop Fi Comes to Life,” Wizard World‘s death has gone unnoted as well. Perhaps White Lando can direct inquiries about this matter to @gareb.
Publishing | May marked the worst month of the year for the direct market since January as sales of comic books and graphic novels fell 11.21 percent versus May 2010. Chart watcher John Jackson Miller chalks up the decline to a combination of retailers ordering more Free Comic Book Day titles than “for-profit” books and publishers’ summer events heating up a little later this year. Marvel led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of top comics for the month with Fear Itself #2, followed by the first issue of DC’s Flashpoint. Avatar topped the graphic novel chart with Crossed 3D, Vol. 1. [The Comichron]
Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has joined a coalition that includes booksellers, media companies and the ACLU of Utah in seeking to permanently stop enforcement of a 2005 Utah statute that would regulate Internet speech that some consider “harmful to minors,” including works of art, graphic novels, information about sexual health and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. The law has not gone into effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction until the case can be decided. [press release]
When Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus decided to cancel his long-running magazines Wizard and ToyFare, and relaunch them in an amalgamated electronic form as a digital magazine called Wizard World, he did not do so quietly. Well, alright, the initial press release didn’t so much as mention the cancellations themselves, or the employees laid off in the process. But Shamus has been quite vocal about his new project’s prospects for success, as well as what he perceives to be the dire state of the industries surrounding it. In an interview with iFanboy’s Ron Richards, Shamus spoke of the new digital magazine sharing the things its staff likes with “the millions of people that we reach all the time,” in contrast with more traditional digital-news outlets like websites, which he said “are pretty worthless in their ability to have an impact on an audience.” And in the editor’s letter (see above) for Wizard World‘s third issue, “Version 1.3,” by way of explaining why he made the leap to digital publishing, he writes:
When the news broke that Wizard was killing both the print edition of its long-running comics magazine and its sister publication ToyFare, the company also announced a new online publication called Wizard World that’s due to launch this month.
In an interview with iFanboy’s Ron Richards, Wizard founder Gareb Shamus announces that the new, free publication is due Feb. 23 and will be distributed in several different ways.
“It’s going to be free, and it’s going to be weekly, and it’s going to be available everywhere,” Shamus told Richards. “So however people are going to want to read it, whether it’s through their iPad, they’re going to be able to read it online, they’re going to be able to read it through a bunch of different mobile devices.”
Shamus mentions digital comics providers comiXology and Graphic.ly as distributors, noting, “Our intent is to work with everybody to get it everywhere. Because for us, we want the product to continue to be ubiquitous the way the products I’ve created in the past have been.”
Richards also asked a lot of good questions about GeekChicDaily, the Wizard conventions, the new public company and his thoughts on websites, which Shamus says are “pretty worthless in their ability to have an impact on an audience.” About the only ground Richards didn’t — and probably should have — cover were the layoffs and how people were treated. Otherwise what he did ask were some good, solid business questions. It’s too bad the answers themselves come across as (as was pointed out in the comments field) very rehearsed, politician-like and kinda vague.
Broadway | Michael Coehl, lead producer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has responded to the thrashing the $65-million production received this week from some of the country’s top theater critics. The Julie Taymor-directed show, which finally opens on March 15, was labeled by The New York Times and The Washington post as one of the worst musicals in Broadway history. “Any of the people who review the show and say it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period,” Coehl told Entertainment Weekly. [PopWatch]
Publishing | Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus gives another interview about the abrupt closing of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, his expanding stable of regional conventions, plans for a weekly online magazine, and the state of the industry: “The market’s changed. When I started 20 years ago, I was pioneering in the publishing world in terms of creating a product that got people excited about being involved in the comic book and toy and other markets, and we could do a lot of really cool and innovative things. Unfortunately right now being involved in the print world is very stifling, in terms of being able to leverage your content and your media and your access to the world out there.” Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon and Martin Wisse comment on Shamus’ previous interview, which is pretty much the same as the new one. [ICv2.com]
“The comic industry has a lot of issues that need to get solved because the sales on comics are dwindling, and there hasn’t been a leadership role in this industry to change the course of that. So from one perspective I don’t think the material and the talent and the quality of stories has ever been greater. I don’t think we’ve ever had such an exciting time in the comic book industry. But nobody is taking a leadership role in changing the course of sales. And it’s very unfortunate because the retailers are having a very tough time out there, and nobody is helping them. […] The comic industry lacks the leadership, and I’m not pointing fingers at anybody in particular. But somebody has to make sure that the comic book industry thrives.”
– Wizard World CEO, and self-described pioneer, Gareb Shamus, in an interview touching upon the legacy of Wizard magazine, criticism from former employees and more
Last week’s news that Gareb Shamus was shutting down the print versions of his long-running magazines Wizard and ToyFare to pursue a new business model centered on digital publishing, conventions, and a reverse-merger-based penny stock was the talk of comics. This is hardly surprising, given not only Wizard once-outsized influence on and increasingly maligned role in the field, but also the vast number of former Wizard staffers and freelancers populating the industry. Many of those ex-employees, myself included, hit the Web with their thoughts on the demise of the publications they once worked for.
Most of their posts focus in large part, or even in full, in praising the work and character of their co-workers. (There are exceptions, of course: Writing for Bleeding Cool, recently laid-off freelance price guide writer Mark Allen Haverty mostly praises the work and character of…Mark Allen Haverty.) And no one — not even writer Chris Ward, whose comments about the Shamus Brothers are among the most scathing you’re likely to see — has come forth with the full-on “here’s where all the bodies are buried” piece some folks are no doubt waiting for. Nevertheless, the picture that emerges when the remembrances of the Wizard diaspora are pieced together is a clear one: Wizard and its related publications employed a staff talented enough to land on their feet in positions across the length and breadth of the comics industry and pop culture at large; a staff whose bonds of mutual admiration and respect last to this day; a staff that has high hopes for the employees who were let go in this most recent spate of cutbacks (laid-off Research Editor Dan Reilly, an 18-year veteran of the company, and still-standing ToyFare editor Justin Aclin are repeatedly singled out for high marks); a staff that includes many who feel their potential and that of the publications for which they worked were consistently squandered by what they deem the erratic and unscrupulous management of the company. In a way, they indicate that while the death of Wizard is unfortunate, the death of the alternate-universe Wizard that might have emerged from a better marshaling of their talents may be the bigger loss.
Below you’ll find links to a comprehensive list of posts by former Wizard, ToyFare, Anime Insider, and WizardUniverse.com editors, writers, and contributors. It will be updated as more become available.
Publishing | More details have begun to emerge about the abrupt closings of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, and the announcement of a new public company headed by Gareb Shamus. ICv2.com reports that Wizard World Inc. was taken public through a reverse merger with a shell company, a failed oil and gas venture known as GoEnergy Inc., which acquired the assets of Kick the Can, a corporate repository for the assets of Shamus’ Wizard World Comic Con Tour. Following the acquisition, GoEnergy’s chairman and chief financial officer resigned and was replaced by Shamus. In the process, the new company raised capital through the issuance of $1.5 million in preferred stock. Meanwhile, an anonymous Wizard staff member reveals to iFanboy he was informed that the magazine had folded during a phone call Sunday evening, and was not permitted to collect personal belongings. A freelance contributors writes at Bleeding Cool that he learned about the closing through a Facebook message on Monday morning.
The comics Internet is swarming with reaction pieces: Andy Khouri points out the huge number of comics editors, bloggers and journalists who got their starts at Wizard; Heidi MacDonald does the same, noting that it was “a total boys club”; Albert Ching surveys numerous creators and editors; and Robot 6 contributor, and former Wizard staffer, Sean T. Collins comments on the magazine’s demise and rounds up links.
Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Statements in this press release relating to Wizard World’s future plans, expectations, beliefs, intentions and prospects are “forward-looking statements” and are subject to material risks and uncertainties. When used in this press release, the words “will”, “future”, “expect”, “look forward to”, similar expressions and any other statements that are not historical facts are intended to identify those assertions as forward-looking statements. Any such statement may be influenced by a variety of factors, many of which are beyond the control of Wizard World that could cause actual outcomes and results to be materially different from those projected, described, expressed or implied in this press release due to a number of risks and uncertainties. Accordingly, no assurances can be given that any of the events anticipated by the forward-looking statements will transpire or occur. A detailed discussion of these factors and other risks that affect our business is contained in our SEC filings, including our most recent reports on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q, particularly under the heading “Risk Factors.” Copies of these filings are available online from the SEC or by contacting [contact info redacted]. All information set forth in this press release is current as of January 24, 2011. Wizard World undertakes no duty to update any statement in light of new information or future events.
–The legal boilerplate disclaimer that accompanied today’s Wizard press release in which Gareb Shamus announced the beleaguered company would be going public, launching an all-digital Wizard World magazine, and soldiering on with its convention circuit — without mentioning the shutdown of Wizard magazine and its accompanying layoffs. The line for investors forms to the left, folks.
“When it comes to the comics industry, we invite the comics industry. You can ask them why they may or may not go to shows, but at the end of the day, we bring the fans. The fans come here because they want to be part of our experience […] and we create a very compelling experience for people, as you can see […] we have a lot of celebrities and a lot of TV stars.”
– Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus, addressing the absence of most major comics publishers from this year’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con