Wizard Panics

Wizard apparently didn’t care much for the general “yeah, pull the other one” response to their recent Chicago con, especially their announced attendance figures.

They fired two people responsible for convention planning. This is typical company thinking: refuse to acknowledge valid criticisms and don’t admit your strategy could be broken. Instead, sacrifice a couple of people doing what were reportedly good jobs. Heidi provides this analysis:

But with Chicago now acting as the ugly, bleary-eyed hangover to San Diego’s big night out, New York and WonderCon are vying for the #2 spot on the convention schedule. … Wizard shows are currently like comics versions of Star Trek cons, with the same seven guests being wheeled out year after year. Even hardcore message boarders were complaining about hearing the same Kevin Smith stories over and over again. Torpid and stagnant. The irony is that the comics industry and its outlying fiefdoms is anything BUT torpid and stagnant — the Wizard malaise sticks out like a sore thumb in an industry that is on the move.

Tom Spurgeon is even more blunt:

The move comes after a chaotic, rough 12-14 months for Wizard’s Wizard World conventions, including but not limited to: an abortive attempt to start a New England version of the show, an abandoned attempt to start a show in Atlanta that wilted in the face of support for the same-weekend Heroes Con, denials of that attempt, announced attendance figures at this year’s Philadelphia show very few at the show believed, getting snaked on a big New York show by Reed Exhibitions after Wizard had been circling the Big Apple with a hungry look in its eye for two-three years (they did work with Reed on show publicity), and, last Tuesday, announced Chicago attendance figures very few at the show believed and a subsequent refusal to discuss how those numbers were tabulated.

The problem with getting rid of a couple of scapegoats is that it aggravates the issue. You’ve lost people with a lot of internal company and experience-based knowledge, and you’ve made it harder to hire someone as good or better to replace them (since you’ve shown that you’re setting them up as a target the next time you don’t get the attendance you want).


  • Dan

    As a longtime veteran of Chi-Con for many years before Wizard took it over, I can tell you it was waaaaaay better back in the day. Wizard brought nothing to that convention but higher table rates, higher entry fees, and a few “exclusive” action figures. I would love to see them remove themselves forcibly from the convention circuit.

  • Tom Spurgeon

    I’ve been going to the Chicago con since the Dark Horse presence was Mike Richardson behind a table in a hotel corridor. My memory is that the Chicago Convention was all but dead before Wizard took it over; I was covering the convention circuit back then for the Comics Journal and would have loved a “Wizard muscles its way into a successful con” story, but that wasn’t the case. at least not as I recall.

    Wizard can do a lot of things to improve their shows; I don’t think this is a referendum on All Things Wizard. Just a bad 24 months for the division. If the right person gets a hold of that department, they could very conceivably have it turned all the way around in another 24 months.

  • Dan

    You know, it’s nice having you around to tighten me when I start remembering things wrong. Going back through my old CJs and looking over a general overview of the numbers you were reporting back then, you’re absolutely right. Chi-Con was about dead before Wizard took it over. I think I’m just getting nostalgic for the days of fewer crowds and more variety in the guest list.

    Heh… man Spurgeon, you’ve been reporting on comics for a loooooong time. Some of these articles are from the Pleistocene. Of course, I remember buying these new, so that kind of dates me as well.

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