Years ago I had to write these blogs and shoot my mouth off and hope people understood in order to survive, and to be completely honest, as scary as it was, it was also fun. . Nowadays with a considerably more formidable resume I can shoot my mouth off and not care if anyone understands…it’s just as much fun.
Today allow me to try to educate you to a complete blight on the comic book industry …the Wizard World Conventions.
To start let me explain that I have attended about 10-15 comic book conventions a year for almost 15 years, from shows in the side room of a bowling alley all the way to being an anchoring corner booth in the independent press section of Comic-Con International. From having to give away books being a complete no-name, to being a regular in Mad magazine and even now eagerly awaiting the airing of an animated segment on Comedy Central “Trip Tank”. I have seen Comic book conventions up down and sideways. I know what I am talking about when I say that whether you are a pro or a fan, Wizard World shows are a waste of your time,effort, and money. They have become such a joke that I won’t even travel 90 minutes from my own apartment to their Chicago show.
Let me break it down for you.
The first problem is these shows are NOT comic book shows, they are b-list actor autograph shows. Just take a look at their web site if you don’t believe me. In not ONE of their “comic book conventions” do they give top billing to a comic book pro…nor in most do they give second, third or even fourth billing to anyone directly involved with ACTUALLY MAKING COMIC BOOKS. They boast square footage and number of tables but if you actually look at the floor plans you’ll see that only about 25% of that is actually devoted to space for comic book creators…and much of that space is their infamous “artist alley” or as I refer to it -the refugee camp of broken dreams. They seemingly care not one iota if the people in this section have actually done jack squat in the comic book industry. Need I remind you of the Rob Grantio fiasco? He was a fella with a “resume” that was lies, made up, and fantasy, and he was a regular in Wizard Worlds “artist Alley”. And having set up in this “artist alley” in years past I can assure you he was not a fluke…most of the people in the artist alley that you pay to get into meet…you could just as easily meet for free sketching into their notebooks at Starbucks. This is no particular dig on them, you gotta start somewhere and if a convention promoter is so lazy as to not check and make sure you ACTUALLY penciled batman…that’s not your fault.
SO…if you see someone on the Wizard World roster and it says they worked on your favorite book…it could be completely false. In the entire artist alley there may only be a handful of people who actually work on comics for a living.
Allow me to educate you further.
For the sake of seeming like big shots they pick great big over-sized venues and charge you great big over sized ticket prices. A ticket to Wizard world runs about 40.00 a day Compare that to the largest Comic Book Convention in the US in a building the size of a small town where there are booths from every major comic book, video game, and movie company and an artist alley the size of two gymnasiums…also 40.00 a day average ticket price. That’s right Wizard World is charging people THE SAME PRICE FOR ONE OF THEIR AUTOGRAPH SHOWS AS A TICKET TO COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL.
But of course many of you don’t have the option of flying to San Diego, so let’s compare it to one of their rival local shows like the MNCBA Spring con which is 9.00 a day and roughly the same size but devotes it space to actual pros … Oh did I forget to mention parking? figure on 15.00-20.00 a day for that at most of their venues and Higher at some. Need I add that most local shows are set up at venues where they don’t charge parking? If you choose a show like the MNCBA for example you have just walked through the door into the same sized show ( with more ACTUAL comic book related guests) for 9.00 as opposed to 60-80.00 to get into a Wizard World show. How long does it take you to earn 60.00-80.00? a lot longer than it takes you to earn 9.00. How much more cool stuff can you get with 60.00-80.00 still in your pocket after you get in the door?
But lets say you got hit on the head and still think it’s not a waste of money and spent 60.00-80.00 to walk into a room…now what?
You can wait in line to “meet” some actor from some old sci-fi show who you won’t recognize without the fake nose glued on, or is 30 years older now and the rack you coveted so much via syndication is now haplessly resting on the table having been ravaged by time and gravity. Oh, when I say “meet” I am being generous. “Meeting” entails about 30 seconds of “hello, glad you liked the show (scribbles his/her name) thanks for stopping by”…the end. OH…did I forget to mention you also need tickets ( PAY EVEN MORE MONEY) to get an autograph? Anywhere from 40.00- 200.00 depending on the person and specific Wizard World show…PER ITEM AUTOGRAPHED! Think I’m making this up? here’s a link to that info on their upcoming show in CA.
So 120.00 in total between tickets, parking, and autograph tickets ( on the low-end) and an hour later you have A (as in ONE) autograph… which you’ll do what with exactly?
Did you get to actually talk about anything ? no.
Do you have a cool story to go along with the autograph? no.
The most common refrain from people after they get an autograph was “he was a real nice guy” which means they didn’t get to talk to the person at all. If they actually got to interact at all they would tell you about the interaction…he told me about this, or we talked about that…”he’s a nice guy” means he hand a good handshake and spelled his name right. Anyone can seem like a “nice guy” for 15 seconds and 40.00. Hell, I seem like a nice guy for 15 seconds…I’m not. But, people who meet me leave with at least some sort of story, because I don’t attend shows where you, me, and everyone else are treated like Iphones running down a conveyor belt. I can collect your money for my books on a web site. I go to shows to get the feel of the readers and you go to shows to get the feel of your favorite pros. If that’s not happening why waste your money?
I suppose you could repeat this process and get a few more autographs ( HEY! one ticket per Item remember! http://wizardworldops.ticketleap.com/sacramentoautographs/ )and then push your way through undersized isles laid out with only getting as many booth in as possible ( to get as much $ as possible selling booth space) searching around for some comic book pro…who If he/she is even at the table ( and not pushing his way though undersized isles to run some menial errand because there was no “Staff member” around to help because Wizards “staff” is by and large people who volunteer to get in free and then remove the “volunteer” shirt on disappear once inside the doors) will no doubt be in a less than pleasant mood because of the jacking around they’ve gone through by a haphazardly run convention.
And that IS what you pay to go to a comic book convention for right? To meet comic book pros, to see things you don’t already know about? You can get an autograph on the internet for half the cost and non of the time. If you aren’t getting to have an actual interaction with a pros you are a fan of, If you are not able to find cool new things, if all a show has to offer is lines to wait in and booths full of toys you can find on the internet then why go? Why spend the money? why use up your precious time off of work?
I HOPE YOU FELLOW PROS PAID ATTENTION TO THE COST FACTOR of the Wizard World shows because as you very well know, the more cash someone has to pay to get in the door…they more tightly they hold onto whatever they have left. Having the first thought in the head of a fan as they enter a show being “crap I already spent X amount of dollars” doesn’t bode well for YOUR sales.
I have noticed in my years the “fun” factor and the general mood of the crowd and guests is more or less in direct correlation with the mood of the people running the show. Shows run by people who actually give a damn about comics are fun, well run, organized, and have a nice flow to them. This translates to the pros, who are in a pleasant mood and having fun and enjoying themselves, which translates to the fans who actually get to interact with pros who didn’t just have the most stressful day of the month trying to set up and deal with knucklehead operators. It’s just a different feel. And if you don’t think that “feel” translates into better sketches, better interactions, and even better prices from comic book artists than you don’t understand artists.
Allow me to give you a couple of examples. The newest show in Ohio- Cincy comicon had their first show last year. Now…what Is the thing about going to these cons that sucks the most? or at least is in the top three things that suck…WAITING IN LINE TO GET IN. If you have some specific thing you want , or a specific person to meet you kinda want to get there early to make sure you get it or make sure you meet him/her before he/she is worn out and tired. This means waiting in a line before the doors open right? And that’s boring. Well at Cincy they had a goofball volunteer with a megaphone letting people know how close they were to opening, that they were in fact actually in the correct line ( if you have been to a wizard world show…you know this is a BIG concern) and in general giving info and goofing around. It was one of the most ingenious yet simple ways of improving the convention going I have ever seen. Everyone who walked through the door came in with a smile on their face, even if it was from shaking their head at the antics of the goofball with the mega phone.
The MNCBA show has a slightly simpler solution to the problem…they just let everyone in early if a line builds up. What’s harm right? As I say..I’ve been to a lot of these shows…if someone is there to steal something, they don’t care if your set up and standing there or still putting up your display. So, for my money, and yours…it’s better to have people inside the building mulling around and a little stoked that they get to see things being set up, then standing in line in a parking lot worrying whether or not they are actually in the correct line. It’s about the FUN stupid.
I HOPE YOU FELLOW PROS PAID ATTENTION TO THE “FUN FACTOR”, because the better mood everyone is in the more freely they spend cash.
Wizard World is the great and powerful Oz of comic book conventions. Lots of noise and lights and smoke but once you are inside the curtain there ain’t much to see.
BUT there is good news. Because while Wizard World doesn’t have any heart or brains…it also has no courage. They don’t take chances setting up in towns hoping there are comic book fans that will come out. They sniff around like jackals searching for towns that already have robust conventions that have slowly been built up over the years by folks who actually care. They troll around and when they see all the heavy lifting has been done in an area they swoop in and set up a show to filter off the excitement for comic book conventions someone else already created. What this means for YOU is…if there is a Wizard World show in your area…there is no need to pay 80.00 for a miserable waste of time. A quick search on the internet will give you the website of a local show that is about the same size but better run, cheaper, more fun, and better organized (i.e. you won’t spend you time pushing your way through the isles against sweaty cretins who are getting autographs to complete their masturbatory shrines).
Just like anything else…if you support what is good it will get better, and if you support what is bad it will get worse. Wizard World is, in each of its locations, trying to rub out the locally run shows. They have a big flashy web site, and lot’s of “flare” and they are hoping you don’t notice that they are overpriced, understaffed, have little to nothing to do with comics, and have little to nothing to offer in exchange for your time and money.
The choice is simple for a fan or a pro, you can go and spend too much money/not make enough money getting jacked around by people who don’t actually appreciate you being there, OR attend shows run by people who care about/ have knowledge of comics and have one major goal – making sure everyone is glad they went to their show, because that is how THEY plan to grow. They plan to grow with word of mouth, as opposed to Wizard World, whose plan for growth is emails with even more b-list actors next year.
Here’s a few shows though that ARE worth your time, based on my OWN experience or the experiences of people I know who have attended and whose judgement is solid. Keep in mind there are more…and if there is a Wizard World show in your area , it is because they noticed a Good local show was ALREADY THERE getting things right.
MNCBA (st.Paul MN)
Cincy-Con ( Cincinnati Ohio)
Cincinnati comic expo (cincinnati Ohio)
Detroit Fanfare ( Detroit MI)
Mega Con ( Orlando FL)
Gen Con ( Indianapolis IN)
C2E2 (Chicago IL)
NYCC ( new york NY)
Heroes Con ( North Carolina)
Dragon Con ( Atlanta Georgia)
Phoenix Con ( phoenix AZ)
Baltimore Comic Con ( Baltimore MD)
Honorable mentions to these two new shows (below) that look to be getting it right and poised for big growth
C4 ( Portland Maine)
WV Pop culture con ( west Virginia)
and last but not least ( this show really needs to be on its own list because it’s like having a Navy Warship on a list of party yachts)
Comic-con International (San Diego CA)