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Here’s ‘The Situation’: Greg Horn cover debuts

The Situation & His Amazing Friends, by Greg Horn

There’s probably something to be said for Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, who’s somehow managed to parlay washboard abs and an unnatural tan into a high-paying career as a reality-television (ahem) personality, clothing designer, vitamin-pusher and celebrity endorser. I don’t know what that might be, mind you, but definitely … something.

Now that he’s conquered the worlds of tanning, reality TV, workout DVDs and puzzling public-service announcements, Sorrentino is (naturally) turning his attention to comic books — one that, like his autobiography, he didn’t write himself. Instead, the still-untitled comic from Wizard World and MPS Entertainment is written by Paul Jenkins, illustrated by Talent Caldwell and colored by Paul Mounts. Sorrentino, in the proud tradition of Bob Hope and Jenna Jameson, will only star.

Today Wizard World officially unveiled the cover by Greg Horn (below) that, according to the press release, “depicts ‘The Situation’ fully charged and ready to go.” I’ll just leave that alone.

“I was confident that an amazing artist like Greg Horn would come up with a great look, but I was still blown away by his painting,” Sorrentino said in a statement.  “It has me more excited than ever to see what’s coming next.” I should probably leave that alone, too.

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Wizard World names John Macaluso as new CEO

John Macaluso

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.”

Comics A.M. | More on Stuck in the Middle library challenge

Stuck in the Middle

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]

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Comics A.M. | Wizard tries to ‘reach out’; Image Expo adds creators

Wizard

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]

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Gareb Shamus resigns from Wizard World

Gareb Shamus

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.

Wizard’s Gareb Shamus launches blog, Twitter feed — and shuts down digital magazine

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.

Comics A.M. | Tom Ziuko health update; women and comics

Tom Ziuko

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]

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Comics A.M. | Dragon*Con co-founder arrested; Michael George trial begins

Ed Kramer

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]

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What’s happening with Wizard’s Winnipeg convention?

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.

Wizard acquired the convention last November, and according to the press release that went out at the time, it is (was?) scheduled for Oct. 28-30.

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.

Comics A.M. | Duncan wins LA Times Book Prize; Wizard World returns to LA

Duncan the Wonder Dog: Show One

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]

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Two more gone from Wizard

Wizard

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.

‘The smartest business decision I’ve made in years’: A look at how Wizard World Digital is doing

from Wizard World Version 1.3

from Wizard World Version 1.3

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:

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Comics A.M. | Banned Egyptian GN to be published in English

Metro

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]

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Comics A.M. | Borders files for bankruptcy, plans to close 192 stores

Borders

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]

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man producer fires back; more from Gareb Shamus

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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]

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