Con Wars: Wizard Vs Reed – Where Did It Begin?

chicago comicsFor a time it seemed that Wizard World was the central, growing force in comics conventions, challenging the San Diego-based Comic Con International who all seemed to be up for expanding into new shows but never quite did. Wizard World’s expansion was also pushed by the increasing signed photograph media appearances at the show, and a willingness to take over existing shows or compete with them with bigger names. And all was good, Marvel, DC and Image put on big displays, brought in the high profile guests and Wizard World was in the ascendance, albeit criticised for high handed and crass tactics along the way.

Then Reed, international professional convention organiser with hundreds of shows under its belt,  stepped in with the New York Comic Con, serving a city that despite being the focus of the industry, didn’t have big conventions. Wizard promoted and sold tickets to the NYCC. And NYCC put on a convention closer to San Diego thematically and less aligned with the more collector-focused tactics of Wizard World. Oh, and bigger as well.

Then earlier this year, Reed announced a new show, C2E2 for Chicago, an area Wizard regarded as their turf after buying the Chicago Comic Con, based in the Rosemont Centre. Around this time Wizard began plans for their Anaheim convention.

Then on the Saturday evening of the Wizard World Chicago Con, the local Chicago Comics store held  a “Get The F Out Of Rosemont Party” for attendees in association with Reed and C2E2 with the promotional lines;

Wash the stink of Rosemont off you with booze!

special gifts and prizes courtesy of the fine gents at C2E2. Come celebrate the end of one era and the beginning of a new one

The poster and copy was created by Chicago Comics store. But Reed promoted it with the copy on their official blog. Now this could be seen as over the top, cheeky and actually quite funny. Wizard however didn’t take it that way and kicked off. A line had been drawn. Wizard felt that they were trying to make up for mistakes of the past, had apologised to those they had offended, had a fresh lineup of staff, and now were being needlessly targetted. The post is something I know Reed representatives regret now. But in Wizard’s minds, this was the equivalent of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria that started The Great War.

Wizard counterprogrammed a Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con to conflict with the first C2E2 show, placed next year’s Big Apple Comic Con against the New York Comic Con and ejected representatives from this year’s Big Apple. But it was starting to look too late.

This year, the major publishers started to side with Reed. Marvel, DC and Dark Horse were not at Chicago and even the likes of Image, Boom, IDW and Dynamite were nowhere to be seen at Big Apple – although some employees were present, indeed Jim Lee and Joe Quesada were guests of honour. But DC and Marvel senior staff have been very down on Wizard in private conversations, with CB Cebulski taking the matter public. And both Reed and Wizard have accused the other of dirty pool, tactics designed to aggressively compete with the other, from paying kickbacks to paying cancellation fees. Both sides deny such allegations.

Wizard World had signed up Brian Bendis to be their guest of honour for Anaheim Con, as well as Alex Maleev, quite a comic facing crew, and C2E2 would seem Bendis’ natural choice.

But then things changed. Bendis seems to have abstained, saying;

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.

i will be at the excellent emerald city con. why? no con war.

And later commenting on the Wizard situation

mike cotton and those guys are good guys. there’s just stuff going on behind the scenes i don’t want to be part of. when those things stop, i’ll do more cons.

(Mike Cotton is editor of Wizard Magazine and reportedly the man  who talked CB out of going nuclear a few weeks ago). Paul Cornell posted about his abscence at Big Apple due to them not sending his air ticket. But PVP’s Scott Kurtz has probably been the most aggressive. He twittered;

I wanted to tweet this last night but it was 3am and everyone was asleep. Gereb Shamus is a total douche and Wizard is a fucking blight

and

Hey Gereb, you can rename your shitty Wizard World cons anything you want. You’re still a douche and your shows still suck.

and he was reported at Panels On Pages saying that;

Wizard should change the name of the magazine to “Megan Fox Tits Wolverine”

Funny he should say that. Because I am hearing rumours of a complete change of identity and focus on behalf of Wizard. And the Hollywood-facing launch of the Shamus’ GeekChicDaily site, offering up one story a day may be the means. If Wizard: Guide To Comics becomes GeekChicMonthly, and if Wizard World Comic Cons become GeekChicComicCons then the change of emphasis is apparent. A more diverse audience that’s less interested in comics but more interested in wrestling, Twilight, Star Trek and buying cool stuff. It may be still called a Comic Con, but to the mass market that means pretty much anything but comics these days.

Of course, the Reed shows will have a lot of that too… and the comics companies as well.

Obviously more, much much more to come. More shows from Wizard and from Reed. More competing dates. This is not the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning. Take it away Kirk…

Wash the stink of Rosemont off you with booze!
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