Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Conventions | A group of 21 events companies, including New York Comic Con and BookExpo America organizer Reed Exhibitions, are opposing a plan by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tear down the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In a letter to the governor that was also distributed to 600 other officials, the Friends of Javits said they would not patronize the much larger venue that’s to be built in Ozone Park, Queens, primarily because of its distance from Manhattan. [Crain’s New York Business, via ICv2]
Conventions | Comic-Con International is just six weeks away, and you know it’s coming when Tom Spurgeon posts his annual list of tips for enjoying the convention. It’s a wealth of information, compiled over 17 years of con-going, so go, learn. [The Comics Reporter]
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.
Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus has announced an additional New York City convention set for May 6-8, 2011, overlapping with Free Comic Book Day and the premiere of Marvel’s Thor.
Comic Con NYC — not to be confused with rival Reed Exhibitions’ New York Comic Con, certainly — will be held in the newly renovated Penn Plaza Pavilion, which will play host in October to Shamus’ Big Apple Comic Con.
“Response to last year’s Big Apple Comic Con and advance interest in the show this October has been so strong that we had to add the Spring event,” Shamus said in the announcement. “Everyone – the celebrities, the fans, the dealers, manufacturers, artists, and the entire community we deal with was begging us to bring a huge Spring event to New York. And now we have Wizard World Comic Con NYC.”
Rich Johnston suggests the date might be “ideal” to tempt Marvel back into the Wizard fold. However, it’s tough to imagine Marvel viewing as some sort of olive branch an event that stands to compete with Thor‘s opening weekend, at least regionally. What’s more, the studio doesn’t need Wizard World to market the movie — to its core audience, no less — particularly that late in the game.
What may be interesting to see is reaction from New York-area retailers regarding the possibility of the convention siphoning off Free Comic Book Day traffic. I don’t know, maybe some attendees will still wander over to Midtown Comics or Jim Hanley’s Universe to pick up free comics before heading back to the Penn Plaza Pavilion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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).
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.