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Thread: Con Wars: Wizard Vs Reed - Where Did It Begin?

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    Default Con Wars: Wizard Vs Reed - Where Did It Begin?

    For 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 appearancesat 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.

    Wizardcounterprogrammed a Wizard WorldAnaheim Comic Con to conflict with the first C2E2 show, placed next year's Big Apple Comic Con against the New YorkComic Con andejectedrepresentatives from this year's Big Apple. But it was starting to look too late.

    This year, the major publishers started toside with Reed. Marvel, DC and Dark Horse were not at Chicago andeven 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 Magazineand 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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    It started WAY before that Rich.

    It started with the publishers moving out of Wizard Event because Marvel was getting preferential treatment in booth pricing over DC while the indie publishers booth rates were being jacked up.

    It started with Wizard running one of the worst Chicago Cons I've been to. Complete with lame "guests," a dead AC system on the busiest day, cheap badges, and a wrestler screaming through the speakers doing a bad Rock impression every 15 minutes or so and yelling about playing video games with Roddy Piper instead of making announcements about the John Ostrander auction.

    It started with Artist Alley being the only saving grace of that show and fans and pros making the best of a really bad show.

    It started because Wizard lost focus.

    I went to the Reed party at Chicago Comics, they threw a great party that was a lot of fun... what kept Wizard ever throw any parties in the city or drawing attention to all the great Chicago Shops such as Chicago Comics, The Comic Vault, Challengers and Dark Tower???
    Last edited by Crowley; 10-23-2009 at 08:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
    It started WAY before that Rich.
    I'm not talking about the performance or quality of Wizard World. I'm talking about the almost gutteral rivalry that was seen this past weekend.

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    VP in Charge of Cool Kevin T Brown's Avatar
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    Crowley is correct though, Rich.

    This year's Chicago Con was horrendously run and poorly organized. The main commentary by attendees, guests and retailers going around the convention was that this was going to be "their last year" attending Wizard's con and that they were looking forward to C2E2. It was not a few people, but a majority of them.

    Personally speaking, I've been attending all variations of Chicago Con for 30 years. ('09 was my 30th.) From Pick Congress to Americana Congress to Ramada O'Hare to Rosemont, I've gone every single year. This year was the 3rd worst Chicago Con of all time. (The Dr. Who convention mixed in with Chicago Con is the worst because the A/C cut out and people kept wearing their Tom Baker costumes. And the first year at Rosemont Convention Center is second because they under-estimated their size and it was a freakin' madhouse.) This year there was not much to do other than wander the aisles and go to artist's alley. 4-5 panels a day, and some were cancelled without people knowing. And, as Crowley mentioned, there were no real announcements being made. And certainly none that actually included COMICS.

    This year is my last going to Rosemont Con. It's time for a real 3-day comics convention in Chicago. What we got this year was Wrestler Con with people selling comics.

    I'll pass.

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    The bigger point is that through negligence Wizard is going to get slammed by not one but TWO cons in Chicago. I had much more fun at last year's Windy City Con than I had at Wizard World.

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    Ugh. This is not what I imagined waking up to this morning.

    Let me state on record a few things. The party was going to happen if Reed and C2E2 existed or not, and most likely very close to the form it ended up in. The entire point of the party was, in actuality, to get people out of Rosemont for the evening. Chicago is an amazing town with a myriad of restaurants and show venues, but, every year, creators and fans and professionals alike are more or less "stuck" in Rosemont, a suburb with very very little to offer anybody. We wanted people to have a reason, an excuse, to get out into the city and have some fun beyond the four walls of the Stephenson Center.

    The party was a huge success, and, despite the heat, we grilled and busted out a keg, and old customers who were in town for Wizard that we hadn't seen for years came by, as well as many professionals from the con looking for a reason to see some of the city, as well as a nice event for our regular customers, who didn't even go to the con, but just like a reason to hang out and gather in the shop. Were we selling tickets to C2E2? Yes. Would we have sold tickets to Windy City Comic-Con as well if they had asked? Yes.

    Are we excited about C2E2? Yes. Very much so. Do we feel the same level of excitement towards Windy City Comic-Con? Yes, very much yes. We are excited to have ANY convention run by people who care more about the fans and genre than their own bottom line. Both C2E2 and Windy City Comic-Con have a grass roots communication with stores that show a level of involvement that Wizard World, in it's many many years in Chicago, never ONCE showed.

    I'll be honest, though, Rich. If history wants to look at our party metaphorically as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Wizard's rule of the convention circuit in Chicago , I say "Pass the ammo".


    -Eric Thornton
    Manager
    Chicago Comics

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    Rich, I respect you wanting to focus this on how the Chicago flier led to the hurt feelings and escalation of the Con Wars over the past weekend. However I can't help but see it as a minor scuffle in the bigger picture...

    - It feels like Wizard is playing the victim card in this. The same Wizard that moved Chicago closer to San Diego. The same Wizard that tried to move Philly to the same traditional dates as HeroesCon. Then, when that blew up in their faces, tried to start up an Atlanta show roughly the same weekend.

    - Not stunned Reed people were kicked out, but to try and pin part of the reason on the party flier is weak. Didn't a former Wizard staffer who was involved with Long Beach Con get kicked out of either the Philly or Chicago show?

    - The "End of one era" wording might have been tacky, but I can't believe there wasn't a person not involved with Wizard directly who did not go into that show wondering if it might not be the last hurrah for what HAD BEEN the #2 con in the US and Wizard Cons overall. The California show had been cancelled (eh, "indefinately postponed") at essentally the last minute, Texas cancelled outright, reports out of Philly weren't great, the policy change on Pro credentials and the word leaking out days before that the major publishers would not be setting up officially at Chicago had a lot of folks looking forward to Chicago like they look forward to a wake or class reunion. "Hey, at least I'll get to see some old friends."

    - I've seen some comments where Wizard tied to wrap themselves in the comics flag and paint Reed as a mercenary convention outfit trying to cash in. Pot...Kettle...

    WizChicago has been the major con for my area for a long time. I've watched it get smaller every year as the company tried expanding into another market. If C2E2 wnds up being the nail in the coffin, I'll be kind of sad to see it go. But in the end...nothing personal, just business...and a little Karma.
    Last edited by SDulaney; 10-23-2009 at 12:34 PM. Reason: Edited to specify when the escalation occured

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    As a loooooooooong-time customer of Chicago Comics, I'd further point out that they _stopped_ having a booth a Wizard World at least 2 or 3 years back.

    Gareb doesn't want to admit it, but a whole lot of people are horrified with how he's run that show into the ground. It would be a pretty big show in Iowa. Chicago, not so much.

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    As another long-time customer of Chicago Comics and former patron of Chicago Con/Wizard World, let me add/emphasize two things:

    1) At no time in the days before the party did Eric and his fine crew ever push the fact that there was any Reed involvement in the event. It was simply another in a series of great events they've been hosting over the last few years. I think this was the second party they've thrown this year.

    I got those flyers and chatted with Eric and all about the party for at least two weeks prior, but at no point did they "promote" or frankly even mention C2E2. I was completely unaware of it until you mentioned it in this post. Maybe it was on some web site copy, but it certainly wasn't a focus.

    Most importantly, Rosemont does suck balls. There are a few chain restaurants that you have to drive to and a few hotel bars/restaurants, which even though they're within sight, still take you 20 minutes to get to, usually walking in the sweltering heat. In years past, there were things going on like the Taste of Chicago, etc. that would specifically draw attendees into the city or large fan gatherings that might have kept people in this suburb. But, in the current absence of those, an opportunity presented itself.

    2) Wizard created their own problems in Chicago. I used to attend the Chicago Con and the first few years of Wizard World. It started out as a fantastic experience, but soon after Wizard took over, their pricing and horrible treatment of guests (not to mention Artists Alley, etc) made it a really unpleasant experience. I was seduced to go for a day two times in recent years and was just appalled at how horrible it had become. A booth for a strip club? Seriously? At the same time, I'd been to SDCC a few times and watched it grow. The difference? Purely management.

    I can't speak to scheduling in New York or the Atlanta conflict a few years ago, but the situation here is very clear. Wizard royally messed up and created a market opportunity for both the Windy City con (a great little show) and C2E2. It isn't a war. Wizard died a few years ago and became a local joke and source of derision. The others are just stepping into their place.

    Rich - what the hell happened to you? In the years I've been following you on Usenet and the CBR column, you always seemed pretty reasonable and a joy to read. Is it that you have to worry about your own site now and "have to" provide content every day that you're making crap up or listening to, well, idiots? Maybe less was more, man.
    Last edited by HalShipman; 10-23-2009 at 04:14 PM. Reason: fixing typos

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    Since I was quoted in this article let me clarify my problem with Wizard a bit more.

    I've only attended the Wizard World Texas show and both times I attended as an exhibitor and the one time I attended as a con-goer I was treated like utter shit by the staffers. I was charged way too much for booth space, and basically was bullied by the people running the show.

    One year out booth was right next to that of a band blaring their music so loud into our space we couldn't hear our customers talking to us. Turns out that the band is good friends with some of the staffers so they got to continue blaring their shitty music and we got handled and laughed at. LAUGHED AT. Like we were on a school-yard.

    One year a Wizard staffer stood at the front of the queue and started laughing at attendees screaming "GO REDSKINS!" at them while clapping. These are Dallas con-goers on a Redskins Vs. Cowboys weekend. Classy.

    So yeah, it's not surprising people hate these shows. And it's not surprising that Gereb and Wizard have to use bullshit tactics to try to compete since they are clearly incapable of caring about the creators, fans and retailers that they serve.

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