Creators | The Hero Initiative offers an update from colorist Tom Ziuko, who was hospitalized earlier this year for acute kidney failure and other health conditions, and then returned to the hospital for emergency surgery about a month ago. “I can’t impress upon you enough how frightening it is to actually come up against a life-threatening medical situation (not to mention two times in less than a year), and not have the financial means to survive if you’re suddenly not able to earn a living. Like so many other freelancers out there, I live paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford health insurance. Without an organization like the Hero Initiative to lend me support in this time of dire need, I truly don’t know where I would be today,” Ziuko said. [The Hero Initiative]
Publishing | CNN asks the question “Are women and comics risky business?” as Christian Sager talks to former DC editor Janelle Asselin, blogger Jill Pantozzi, Womanthology organizer Renae De Liz and others about the number of women who work in comics, the portrayal of female characters and why comic companies don’t actively market books to women. “Think about it from the publisher’s point of view,” Asselin said. “Say you sell 90 percent of your comics to men between 18 and 35, and 10 percent of your comics to women in the same age group. Are you going to a) try to grow that 90 percent of your audience because you feel you already have the hook they want and you just need to get word out about it, or b) are you going to try to figure out what women want in their comics and do that to grow your line?” [CNN]
Legal | Edward Kramer, co-founder of the 25-year-old Dragon*Con held each Labor Day in Atlanta, was arrested Tuesday and charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment of a child after police allegedly found him in a Connecticut motel room with a 14-year-old boy. Kramer, who was first charged 11 years ago with child molestation and aggravated child molestation, never went to court after his lawyers argued that Kramer was physically incompetent to stand trial, due to a degenerative spinal condition and chronic pain. Kramer was under house arrest until 2008, when a judge ruled that he could travel, although conditions of his bond stipulated that he report his whereabouts on a weekly basis to the district attorney’s office and that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16. On Wednesday a judge signed an order revoking Kramer’s bond, and the district attorney said Kramer will be extradited back to Georgia.
Pat Henry, current chairman of Dragon*Con, posted a statement on the convention’s website: “Edward Kramer resigned from the Dragon Con Convention in the year 2000 after being indicted on felony charges in Gwinnett County. He has not had any role in Dragon Con planning or activities since that time. Since 2000 the convention has been managed by three of the other founders. These men have been involved with the convention since the beginning. They are chairman Pat Henry, and board members Dave Cody and Robert Dennis. In these eleven years the convention attendance has grown from less than 10,000 to over 46,000 this past Labor Day.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution]
A concerned fan alerted us via email that Wizard World has removed the convention formerly known as the Central Canada Comic Con, or C4, in Winnipeg from their convention listings page; trying to hit the Winnipeg page on their site gives you a 404 error.
While there don’t appear to be any details on why the listing was removed, posts on the show’s Facebook group indicate the show will go on. Michael Paille of Raven Toys, Comics & Games posted a message asking for help to keep the show going, noting “I guarantee you Winnipeg will have a comic con this year!” In another post, he indicated he has booked the convention center.
I’ve reached out to both Wizard World and Paille for additional comment, and will post any updates I receive.
Update: Paille has posted an update on the Raven Comics blog, noting that Wizard is out, but the con will continue. And he’s looking for help with various fundraising activities, so if interested, head over there to check them out.
Awards | Adam Hines has won the graphic novel category in the 31st annual Los Angeles Times Book Prize for his debut book Duncan the Wonder Dog: Show One. The other nominees were Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld, Karl Stevens’ The Lodger, Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know, Book II, and Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft. [press release]
Conventions | More than two years after canceling its Los Angeles convention, Wizard World announced it will return to the city Sept. 24-25 with Los Angeles Comic Con, to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Big Apple Comic Con, which previously had been scheduled for those dates, will be moved to the spring. [press release]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson talks with Viz Media Vice President Alvin Lu about the expansion of the publisher’s iPad app to include iPhone and iPod Touch. [Publishers Weekly]
And then there were two — it looks like Wizard’s editorial staff has been cut in half, as two of the four people listed on the masthead for the now-digital magazine were either fired or are leaving on their own this week.
Current “Co-Chief of Pop Culture” Justin Aclin confirmed on Twitter that he gave notice and is leaving Wizard at the end of this week. Before its cancellation, Aclin was the longtime editor of ToyFare magazine and was the head writer for the popular “Twisted ToyFare Theater” feature. Aclin, who is also the writer of such comics as Hero House and S.H.O.O.T. First, is moving on to an as-yet-unannounced new gig.
Second is Creative Director James Walker, who, according to sources, was fired earlier this week. Walker seems to confirm this on his own Twitter account with several messages, including one that seems to confirm he was fired over the phone: “this apprentice show is strange. people are actually fired FACE TO FACE! what a strange concept.”
According to the masthead, that leaves Wizard World Digital with an in-house editorial staff of two: the second Co-Chief of Pop Culture Mike Cotton and Senior Associate Producer Carlos Mejia.
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:
Graphic novels | Metro, the graphic novel by Egyptian cartoonist Magdy El Shafee that was banned in 2009 under Hosni Mubarak’s regime, will be published in English next year by Metropolitan, a division of Macmillan. El Shafee who, along with his publisher Mohammed al Sharqawi was convicted of disturbing public morals, has appealed to Egypt’s new Ministry of Culture to have the ban lifted. “I’m waiting to hear if the minister of culture will allow it to be published again,” El Shafee says. “They will have to consult with the courts. I’m hoping there may be some kind of apology.” [CNN.com]
Legal | In an article that’s heavy on background and light on new information, Matthew Beloni reports that the attorney representing the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster has asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine exactly what elements from the Man of Steel’s mythology his clients can reclaim as a result of the 2008 court ruling. [THR, Esq.]
Retailing | Barnes & Noble stock fell 16 cents following a report that bookstore chain, the largest in the United States, will likely end its months-long search for a buyer. Although the auction isn’t over, initial interest from at least seven potential buyers is said to have waned following the first round of bidding. [Bloomberg]
Retailing | Borders Group, the second-largest book chain in the United States, filed for bankruptcy protection this morning, announcing plans to close about 192 of its 639 Borders, Waldenbooks, Borders Express and Borders Outlet locations over the next several weeks. It’s unclear how many of the company’s 6,100 full-time and 11,400 part-time employees will be affected by the closings. Borders, which listed $1.29 billion in debt and $1.27 billion in assets, plans to continue to operate through the court process with the help of $505 million in financing from lenders led by G.E. Capital.
The likelihood of bankruptcy has loomed for the past several weeks as the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based bookseller pushed unsuccessfully for publishers and distributors to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. That concession was critical to Borders securing $550 million in refinancing from G.E. Capital. Publishers like Penguin Group, Hatchette, Simon & Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins are now, in Publishers Weekly‘s words, on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. Diamond Book Distributors, which stopped shipping to Borders last month, is owed $3.9 million. [Bloomberg, The New York Times]
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
Publishing | Citing “distribution concerns,” Marvel has canceled plans to allow members of the ComicsPRO retail trade organization to sell the first issue of author Orson Scott Card’s Formic Wars: Burning Earth on Feb. 15 rather than Feb. 16. Announced last Friday, the move was designed to take advantage of Diamond Comic Distributors’ new day-early delivery program, which allows direct-market stores to receive comics on Tuesday for sale on Wednesday. It’s what just this week enabled the early release of the heavily publicized Fantastic Four #587. According to Rich Johnston, complaints from DC Comics and other publishers over that promotion are what led to cancellation of the ComicsPRO incentive.
But publishers weren’t alone in protesting Tuesday releases: On the retail-oriented news and analysis site ICv2.com, store owners complained about “special treatment” for ComicsPRO members, and criticized Marvel for already authorizing day-early sales. “At this rate, by the end of the year, Tuesday will be new comics day,” wrote Ed Sherman of Rising Sun Creations. [Marvel]
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.
Conventions | Wizard Entertainment has added New Orleans to its growing convention circuit, bringing the number of events to 15 in 14 cities. The inaugural New Orleans Comic Con will be held on Jan. 29-30, 2011, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. [press release]
Crime | Two Rochester, N.Y., men have been charged with burglary after they allegedly broke into the home of 70-year-old Homer Marciniak in July, beat him and stole his comic book collection. Marciniak died of a heart attack later that day. Authorities have determined his injuries were not life-threatening, and that his death was a result of a pre-existing condition. [WKBW.com]
Publishing | The Yano Research Institute’s survey of the “otaku marketplace” found that digital comics in Japan grew 29.8 percent in 2010 to $520 million. Dojinshi (self-published works) rose 4.7 percent to $815 million. [Anime News Network]
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.”