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Wizard World

Convention Season is upon us, bringing with it another editorial from Sam Moyerman on the evolution of comic book cons over the last few years. 

Wizard World

 

Convention Season is upon us, bringing with it another editorial from Sam Moyerman! Sam shares his thoughts on the evolution of comic book shows over the last few years, and what part Wizard World played in that progression.

Take it away, Sam!

 

Evolve or die. 

That’s the mantra of life. 

The world is going to change, either change along with it or watch it pass you by.  It’s not just about science and life though.  It works in business.  It works in career.  And, as proven in recent years, it is applicable to comic book conventions as well.

 

Wizard Magazine

There was a time when Wizard Entertainment could do no wrong.  They were THE news magazine for the comic book industry.  All the interviews, all the news, all the previews, everything was in Wizard.  It was even used as an authority in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  But that was then.  Now there is Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, and hundreds of other sites out there (including this one).  These sites even give you news daily, whereas Wizard used to only come out monthly. 

Evolve or die.

 

Enter at your own risk

So they did.  Wizard Entertainment begat Wizard World.  And suddenly they were THE company for comic book conventions.  All over the United States, Wizard World Conventions were popping up.  Now fans all over the world didn’t have to scrimp and save to try and make it to San Diego.  Wizard was bringing the industry to us.  Every convention you would walk in, look up and see publisher booths.  Marvel signs hanging from the ceiling; DC Characters just as tall right next to them.  Michael Turner’s Aspen at the slightly smaller booth.  All of them were there.  And the creators they would bring in, oh the names.  Joe Quesada would do a "Cup O’Joe" panel at every single one.  Dan Didio and Geoff Johns spilling news all over.  Jim Lee signing autographs for hours making sure every fan in line got one.  Panels upon panels of writers and editors talking about comic universes, superhero teams, lines of books... it was a fan’s dream.  Creators spilling news about characters and companies telling you who would be the new team on a book.  Even if San Diego still got the most news and people and Wizard used Chicago as it’s big show for news, every convention had something announced. 

 

Wizard World Booth

I remember when DC announced that Andy and Adam Kubert signed exclusive deals at Wizard World Philadelphia one year.  They followed that up with a preview showing of Batman Begins.  But that was the biggest show.  And it’s been downhill since.  The last bit of news I can remember being given at Wizard World Philadelphia is Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin were doing a Blade book.  I’m pretty sure the book didn’t make it a year.  Companies decided it was expensive to have a presence at every single show.  Creators decided the same.  And the tour took them away from their families.  So anything that required a plane ride became out of the question.  It’s hard to blame them.  It got so bad that 4 years ago you could walk up at Wizard World Philadelphia on Saturday and wait in no line to buy a ticket.  The place was empty.  But that’s what happens when your major panel goes from “X-Men Team Panel with Chris Claremont and every X-editor” to “Learn How to Use a Lightsaber With the New Jersey Jedi”

Evolve or die.

Wizard World Roamers

The person they can really thank is Patrick Stewart.  The following year (2010 - I distinctly remember him wearing an England soccer jersey the day of the US/England match) he arrived as the Guest of Honor for Wizard World Philly.  And the people came back in droves.  The celebrity guest was always a mainstay of Wizard World.  Even while Joe Quesada was a Guest of Honor, Hayden Penetierre or Eliza Doshku was the Celebrity Guest.  There was always a row of “celebrities” like Lou Ferrigno, the guy who played Chewbacca, and Mike Jones, AKA Virgil of the WWFBruce Campbell was their king.  He usually arrived in a tuxedo.  But Captain Picard showed that people will come back to meet him.  Well, it was either he or Professor X.  And if they came back for him, wouldn’t they also come back for Batman and Robin, even if they were Adam West and Burt Ward.  And suddenly, the row of booths that used to be earmarked for pictures of superheroes, were now going up with pictures of guys who played superheroes.  It wasn’t even just the stars, there were booths of people everyone recognized from these movies but couldn’t remember their names.  Some of them were celebrities who had to dig deep on the resume for a sci-fi/comicbook/fantasy connection.  But people came to see them.  (Mea Culpa, I went fanboy over Pam Grier.  She’s still sexy.  I wanted to hump her leg.  Oh, and I paid Nikolai Volkov $20 to sing the Soviet National Anthem with me.)  It got so crazy last year with Scott Bakula’s attendance.  The Star Trek booth with all of the former TV captains had to go next to the Quantum Leap booth, so he could go from sitting with Stewart and [William] Shatner to sitting with Dean Stockwell in order to appease both sets of fans.

 

Large Wizard World Crowd

Yes, it has turned Wizard’s once amazing set of Comic Book Conventions into Celebrity Conventions.  But if people will pack the halls to hear about Julie Benz’ career the way they packed for Brian Bendis then why not make the switch? Yes, it takes away from what the show once was all about and who it was for, but those people stopped coming.  At least, they stopped being the dominant attendees.  There are publishers still there, but now they are Avatar and Zenoscope instead of Marvel and DC.  The comic people and artists are plugging away in artist alley.  Selling their hard work and trying to make a name.  So while I may curse the massive crowd around Jason Priestly (and my sister for making me get something signed by him), we have to be thankful he and the rest of them started coming.  Because otherwise I’d never get to bug Ian Glaubinger about working with me again.  And I’d never get introduced to the exceptional work of Kate Glasheen

Eventually the conventions will have to evolve again.  Maybe that will bring the major companies back.  Or maybe it will just switch to bring in a new crowd, and I’ll be cursing someone else’s fans as I struggle to make it past them to Artist Alley.

(Sam Moyerman is a professional demon hunter. He editorializes on the hunt while camped out within the protective womb of hollowed monster husk.)

 

Who's gone to a Wizard World show? What did you think? Let us know below!

More from Sam on MightyVille:

I Still Love You, Frank Miller

What About Bob ... Kane?

 

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