Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Broadway | The New York Times reports the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark are considering delaying the $65 million musical for a sixth time, until as late as June, a move that would make the show ineligible for this year’s Tony Awards. Speculation about another possible postponement follows a wave of scathing reviews, reports that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rewrite the book, and the hiring of veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev to help improve the production. A spokesman for the show would only say that, “Opening night remains scheduled for March 15.” [ArtsBeat]
Comic-Con | Hotel reservations for Comic-Con International will open at 9 a.m. PT on March 9. A preliminary list of hotels included in the Comic-Con block is available on the convention website. [Comic-Con International]
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]
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.
Wizard magazine has ceased publication after nearly 20 years, laying off its remaining staff and canceling freelance assignments. Its sibling publication ToyFare also has closed.
CEO Gareb Shamus followed a morning filled with reports of the magazines’ demise with a press release announcing the February launch of “an all-new digital magazine called Wizard World” that will target the same audience. Curiously the release, which you can read below, doesn’t mention Wizard magazine. Instead its focus is on the news that Wizard World Inc. is now a public company with Shamus as its president and CEO.
Wizard World has since confirmed the closings of Wizard and ToyFare: “Wizard Entertainment is ceasing publication of the print magazines Wizard and ToyFare. Wizard World, Inc. will begin production of the online publication ‘Wizard World’ beginning in February. We feel this will allow us to reach an even wider audience in a format that is increasingly popular and more readily accessible.”
Calls to the Wizard offices this morning office went unanswered. The Wizard bullpen blog Pie Monkey has been taken offline, with assurances from its Twitter feed to “Please stay tuned — there’s a good chance we’ll be up and operational in the next 24-48 hours.” The link to magazine subscriptions on the Wizard website is also dead.
Launched in 1991, Wizard was once a dominant, if controversial, force in the comics industry, with its price guides, Top 10 Writers and Artists lists and annual Wizard Fan Awards carrying significant weight. But in recent years the magazine’s star faded even as its scope expanded — it rebranded itself as “The Magazine of Comics, Entertainment and Pop Culture” — becoming known more for its staff firings than for its exclusive coverage. ToyFare debuted in 1997 as a companion publication devoted to toys and collectibles.
Related: Charts watcher John Jackson Miller chronicles the circulation decline of Wizard, from an estimated 100,000 copies in October 1998 — not the height of its popularity, but the last month it broke the 100,000-copy mark — to just about 17,000 copies in December 2010.
The Digital Age has washed over comics in the past few years the same way it hit the music and film industry years before. And no one at the major comics publishing houses have taken to it more, seemingly, than Ryan Penagos.
Penagos, who many know by the moniker of “Agent M,” works as editor of Marvel’s website, coordinating its content and direction as well as monitoring the company’s reach through social networking. When he started, the site was merely a portal of press releases for the print books, but in the four years he’s been with the company it has expanded to be a hub of information for all things Marvel, with interviews, features, artwork, databases and — most importantly — comics. But this probably isn’t how you know him.
Penagos has developed quite a fanbase on Twitter as @Agent_M, accumulating 1.4 million followers — keep in mind that Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada has just 22,000 and writer Brian Michael Bendis has 28,000. He gets his thoughts out there with Twitter, his Marvel blog and an after-hours Tumblr blog.
Full disclosure: Penagos is one of my editors in the writing I do for Marvel.
Chris Arrant: You’ve long been part of the online world, going back to generating ideas for Wizard magazine’s website when you worked there from ’03 to ’06. Now as editor in charge of Marvel.com, you’re continuing that. What do you think are the big things you’ve learned about writing for the internet audience instead of the print audience?
If news about Superior isn’t enough to pique your curiosity about this week’s issue of Wizard, then maybe this will — the magazine, guest-edited by Mark Millar, includes an article by the Hero Initiative’s Jim McLauchlin on the late, great Wally Wood.
“I found the piece very difficult to write,” McLauchlin says. “The subject matter is not always very pleasant. But I hope that in the end, you as a reader will get a circumspect view of Wood, and see the amazing warmth and his genius that accompanied his tragic, but very human, flaws.”
Wizard gave him permission to post the article on the Hero Initiative website; you can find it here.
A variant cover for the Mark Millar guest-edited issue of Wizard, in stores this week, provides the first look at Superior, his upcoming creator-owned project with artist Leinil Francis Yu.
Teased a month ago at Comic Book Resources, Superior has remained somewhat mysterious, with Millar keeping uncharacteristically tight-lipped about the title. But with the release of Wizard #228, we get a glimpse at the comic’s hero — and his wrestling belt.
“His visual is based on the same old strongman look from the ’30s as [well as] lots of other old heroes,” Millar writes on his message board. “The story starts with Superior 5 in cinemas and nobody really caring anymore. It’s a character who’s been around for a long time. My love-letter to another costumed hero.”
What costumed hero could that be? Hm …
“I love the fact that nobody has guessed the tone of this yet,” writes Millar, adding that more will be revealed in an interview at CBR closer to the October launch. “This is your Super 8-style teaser for now.”
Update: Rich Johnston has a few more details (and a couple of scanned images) plucked from Millar’s Wizard interview, in which the writer says, “What I suppose I’ve done here really is kind of Marvelize Superman.” Superior apparently centers on a 13-year-old boy with multiple sclerosis who becomes “an adult overpowered superhero.”
And if anyone has an extra airline ticket to Germany, I’d love to visit Hermkes Romanboutique …
Legal | Leo Cendrowicz examines the issues surrounding the upcoming trial, set to begin Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, over whether to ban Herge’s Tintin in the Congo for its racist portrayals of native Africans. The legal battle was launched three years ago by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a Congolese man living in Belgium, who wants the book removed from the country’s bookstores, or at least sold with warning labels as it is in Britain. “It shows the Africans as childish imbeciles,” Mbutu Mondondo says. “It suggests blacks have not evolved.” [Time.com]
Conventions | Amid Amidi reports that Comic-Con International has raised the price of additional-exhibitor badges from $75 to $200: “As anybody who has ever exhibited at Comic-Con can tell you, artists typically don’t earn truckloads of money at the event, and when all the costs of booth rental, travel, and lodging are factored in, the obscene $200 exhibitor badge essentially guarantees that an independent artist will leave the convention empty-handed.” [Cartoon Brew]
If you’ve been within a six-yard radius of a comics blog over the past day or so, you’ve probably read Rich Johnston’s rumor that DC is planning to release a sequel and/or prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s stone-classic superhero landmark, Watchmen. The thinking is that whatever his issues with Moore, and vice versa, former President Paul Levitz kept the kibosh on any further use of the Watchmen world and characters, and that with him gone, Senior Vice President-Executive Editor Dan DiDio is opening the door to such projects.
We can’t speak to the veracity of the rumor — nor will DC, who told Robot 6 the company has no comment. But as an ex-Wizard employee, I can clear up some things regarding one of Johnston’s bits of evidence. He writes:
But there were moves. A Wizard splash showing DC’s Countdown multiverse had Rorschach as one of the combatants and it was rumoured one of the universes in the DC 52 Multiverse was intended to be the Watchmen world.
The piece Johnston’s talking about was done toward the tail end of my time with the company in 2007, during a period when I was working primarily on the website rather than the magazine, but I do know how it went down.
Legal | A Stockholm judge has refused to order a Swedish Internet provider to end service to a website that a movie-industry lobbying group claims is The Pirate Bay’s new torrent tracker.
Operators of the controversial filesharing site announced just two weeks ago that they were closing the tracker for good, as advances in peer-to-peer technology had made it obsolete. But the Motion Picture Association was quick to accuse The Pirate Bay of trying to pull a fast one by simply moving the tracker to OpenBitTorrent, and sued ISP Portlane to try to force the company to shut down the site. [TorrentFreak, Threat Level]
Awards | Submissions are open for the 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. [Comic-Con]
Comics | Citing budgetary constraints, the British defense ministry has canceled plans to send comics to troops, forcing the Comic Book Alliance to search for other partners at the last minute. [Politics.co.uk]
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 …