So Gareb Shamus has announced his latest comic-convention acquisition with the addition of Cleveland Comic Con to his roster of Wizard World events, bringing it to a total of 11. Shamus continued his strategy of scooping up a smaller convention from the owner/s and keeping him/them on as a consultant or show-runner. This time around, he bought the North Coast Comic Con from Roger Priebe, who will advise Shamus’s people and consult on the convention.
In the official news release, Priebe said, “This partnership is a win-win for everyone; the fans, the industry and the locals. I see nothing but good things ahead.”
Well, he’s not looking hard enough. I see a number of problems with Shamus’s strong push with these Wizard World Comic Cons, both on a local basis for some venues and in the bigger picture. First of all, he’s now got two unscheduled comics conventions being staged in the same state, only about a four-hour drive apart. Also consider it’s less than a five-hour drive between Cleveland and Toronto. It looks as though he may be drawing upon the same regional pool of customers for several shows.
The more obvious problem with this expanded lineup of 11 shows is that Shamus has already diluted a brand he’s trying to rejuvenate. If there are 11 Wizard World cons, which one is the big one, the most important show? Furthermore, why is Shamus clinging to the Wizard brand at all with what appears to be a new business venture with these comic conventions? Wizard’s a damaged label. The publishing and product-sales divisions have been shrinking and stumbling. Once a powerhouse in the industry, Wizard magazine is really more a symbol of the excesses of comics in the 1990s. It’s like a C-list media guest at one of Shamus’s conventions, smiling awkwardly as it hopes people remember it fondly as they pass by. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Shamus definitely got off on the wrong foot in the industry by scheduling a couple of his new cons at the same time as other respected events, earning the ire of many potential guests and customers.
Also of interest in the recent Cleveland Comic Con Wizard World Convention (say that five times fast) news release is this boilerplate phrase: “Wizard’s Comic Con Tour will bring the strong caliber of stars and exhibitors that fans across the nation have come to expect.”
Well, let’s look at this “strong caliber of stars” expected at the next of these Wizard World cons, namely the Toronto Comic Con, slated for March 26-28. Among the comic creators listed as guests for this event on the official Wizard World website are Marvel artists Adi Granov and Phil Jimenez, DC writer Gail Simone and DC artist Cameron Stewart. Of all the comic-book talents (who’ve been lumped in with toy creators, for some reason), I only recognized about 14 names all told, including those mentioned above. I’m sure the others are talented people, but they’re certainly not draws to the con (and neither are some among the 14 names I knew).
Now, turn your attention to the list of “sports guests” scheduled to appear at this Toronto con (and by “sports guests,” Wizard World means “wrestlers”). The number: 14 (there are 13 listings, but one’s for a tag team, bringing the total to 14). And that number doesn’t even include the media guests. About 15 actors from various sci-fi or genre shows are scheduled to appear, including such notable names as Eliza Dushku and former Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson.
Explain to me again how this is a “comic con”?
Shamus bought his Toronto Comic Con from Paradise Conventions, and I attended that con once a few years ago. What was truly appealing about it was that it was a comic convention. The focus was on comics, creators and the people who love the medium. Wizard’s Toronto Comic Con looks more like one of HobbyStar’s conventions, only with B- and C-list media guests than A-listers.
The Toronto Comic Con is set to take place in about six weeks, give or take a few days. The site lists no exhibitors and no programming, and while it promises convention exclusives, there’s no information listed on what those might be.
Wizard World reportedly held a successful show in New York City last year, but in one of the most densely populated cities in North America that also serves as the home to two giants in comics publishing, how hard could it be, really, to get guests and customers alike to come out? No, it’ll be smaller cons such as Shamus’s more recent acquisitions and the upcoming Toronto show that will decide if this new business venture soar or hit the floor.
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