First let me give you some perspective on where I am coming from in my comparisons of Wizard World Chicago and the Baltimore Comic Con. Dusk Comics is a small indy press out of Dallas Texas. Our main focus is on horror but we have everything to Malaysian manga. So we’re aware not having superheroes or cheesecake means our stuff won’t sell as well at certain shows but that’s the choice we’ve made as a publisher.
The first thing to point out is the similarities. Both cost around the same (Wizard World being slightly higher). Both are mainly set in cavernous convention halls. Both have a dearth of activities besides the main hall. I’m sorry, but I do a lot of anime shows, and there is so much to do at anime shows that I find comic books shows activities outside of shopping to be pretty weak. Comic shows will have a handful of panels (half of which are just PR announcements for major companies) and a costume contest. At anime shows, there is 24hrs of programming from panels, to concerts to who know what else. It just feels more value for your dollar at an anime show.
But I’m digressing. Basically on the outside Wizard World Chicago and Baltimore Comic Con look exactly the same, but on the inside, it’s very different. At Wizard World Chicago, it’s totally about the “pop culture” or to more exact, the autographs and photo ops. At Wizard World, people spend plenty of time and effort to get an actor’s autograph or a picture with them. Then they go through the dealers room, and if there’s any money left they can spend it in the artist alley (which is curiously always in the back of everything). But that was the trick at Wizard World. There wasn’t a strong interest in original material like Dusk Comics in the artist alley. Most of the interest was fan art of one form or another. I understand that those famous characters are what got people into comics but I just wonder sometimes how much can this inertia be driven by nostalgia. For me, that whole mindset gives a sort of stale feel to the whole Wizard show. With the celebrities and fan art, it’s like people are chasing after ghosts they’ll never be able to catch.
Don’t give me wrong, there were stars at the Baltimore show too but they were all comic stars. At Wizard, you had everyone from Peter Tork of the Monkeys to Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake of the WWF/WWE. At Baltimore, you had comic artists and writers as the stars, Stan Lee of course being the biggest one.
– Quick side note – Little free but awesome thing to do at shows with celebrities is just talk to them. It’s fairly easy to wait for the line to die down and you can just walk up, shake their hand, and say hello to them. I went a tad past that at Wizard World because my GF loves the webshow the Guild so I asked two of the actors to leave a voice mail on her phone. She loved it, and it didn’t cost me a cent. Watch vendors charge for that now –
But with Baltimore being just comic stars, you knew there was a heavy interest in comics. Sure there was more autographs and fan art going on, but people were curious about all comics. There were tons of people going up and down the Baltimore artist alley totally looking for new stuff to try. People were curious and open minded. Hell I saw known creators from Marvel and DC going up the artist alley aisles picking up books or just checking things out.
So hands down Baltimore was a far better show and that was mainly because of the people. The audience was just better at Baltimore. Which I find interesting because Wizard made it very clear, and I quote
“We had record-breaking crowds, it was our largest attended Wizard World Chicago by far!”
But curiously enough they also said this as well;
“I only ask that you please post your positive experiences with Wizard World on your Facebook, blog, etc, it all helps out. Also, when speaking with fellow creators or publishers, if you could put in a positive word, as well, it goes a long way for us.”
Of course this all came from their Marketing department, so it could be basic hype, but to my cynical mind it’s because Wizard World has been getting some bad press lately.
But then I am opinionate about Wizard World so there easily is bias. I have a fellow creator who lives near me in Texas and we have very different experiences at the same shows. He makes a living off of prints and commissions. Wizard World Chicago is one of his best shows. For Dusk Comics, it was a lot of work for very little pay out. at Chicago. Then again my friend can do well at most shows. Where as I only seem to do good at non-Wizard shows. I do great in my local area of course, but also the various shows in Phoenix (like their Phoenix Comic Con) I do damn well at too.
And I did the Wizard Worlds in Arlington and Austin Texas, but they just haven’t worked out too well. So after all this, writing this has made me realized Wizard World events are not worth my time and effort. They fill a role, but sadly that role doesn’t service my needs or interests.
One last quick aside, I’ve noticed at these shows, there is a lot of deep discounts of newer graphic novels. And they’re mainly Marvel graphic novels. For every 1 DC graphic novel I see discounted, I’ll have seen 50 Marvel ones. I very rarely see independent so deeply discounted (unless they’re fairly old like from the 90s or older). And the average discount is around 50% off for these GNs. I don’t know what that means exactly, because I see variant covers going for 5 to 20 dollars above retail. Two steps forward one step back I guess?
David Doub is Publisher of Dusk Comics.