Wizard World cancels two shows — UPDATED

Newsarama reports what we’ve been hearing all morning: Wizard World is canceling their Los Angeles and Dallas shows.

WizardWorld LA was scheduled for March 13-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center; and Dallas for November 6-8. Newsarama confirmed the information about the L.A. show early Friday afernoon when a spokesperson for the L.A. Convention Center said that they that had been notified via voicemail on Friday morning that Wizard was canceling its show. Other sources have confirmed for Newsarama that the Texas show has been cancelled as well.

The move will halve Wizard’s convention schedule, leaving only Philadelphia on June 19-21 and Chicago, on August 6-9.

Wizard’s Dallas show is said to have lost money last year, and the LA show remained problematic for years due to lowered local attendance, sometimes due to factors outside Wizard’s control such as Marathon scheduling and so on. However, the 2009 show has already advertised guests and a number of tickets and booths had already been sold.

The move leaves Wizard with two shows: Wizard World Chicago and Wizard World Philadelphia.

The cancellations are the first real signs of effects of the softening economy on comics, although we’ve been hearing bits and pieces of layoffs and lessened hours at a few other places.


UPDATE: Wizard has released an official statement indicating that WWLA is only postponed, but no new date was revealed.

Wizard Entertainment announced today that it has postponed its 2009 Wizard World Los Angeles show slated for March 13-15 and cancelled the Wizard World Texas show November 6-8 due to the current economic climate.

The successful Philadelphia and Chicago shows will go on as planned. Wizard World Philadelphia, featuring Guest of Honor Garth Ennis, is June 19-21 at the Philadelphia Convention Center and Wizard World Chicago, featuring comic legend George Perez, is August 6-9 at the Rosemont Convention Center.

For tickets and more information about Wizard World Philadelphia and Chicago, be sure to visit www.wizarduniverse.com.

DC Comics Month-to-Month Sales: November 2008

by Marc-Oliver Frisch

While the economic crisis still didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect on the periodical comics direct market in November, the unplanned absence of several major titles certainly did. In the case of DC Comics, the offenders were – take a deep breath – Final Crisis, All Star Batman, Justice League of America, Green Lantern, Final Crisis: Revelations and Superman/Batman; and Batman, which was meant to have two issues out, instead of just one. Consequently, in a drop that mirrors the one back in September, the average DC Comics periodical sold a whopping 13% fewer units than it did in October. With the crossover storylines “New Krypton” and “JSA: Kingdom Come” and the debut of the Kevin Smith vehicle Batman: Cacophony, DC had a few potential new top-sellers out in November, but none of them did especially well.

At DC’s Vertigo sublabel, P. Craig Russell’s new comics adaptation of an old Sandman prose story by Neil Gaiman was moderately successful, but not successful enough to noticeably affect the imprint’s flagging average sales. WildStorm tried to tap into two more Hollywood franchises with new comics adaptations of The X-Files and something called Push, meanwhile. Like most of their recent avalanche of licensed properties, however, they were given the cold shoulder by comics retailers.

See below for the details, and please mind the small print at the end of the column. Thanks to Milton Griepp and ICv2.com for the permission to use their figures. An overview of ICv2.com‘s estimates can be found here.


11/2001: Batman #597 --  40,682*
11/2002: Batman #609 --  95,065*
11/2003: Batman #621 --  96,784 [100,754]
11/2004: Batman #634 --  63,769
11/2005: Batman #647 --  69,718
11/2006: Batman #658 --  94,349
11/2006: Batman #659 --  90,651
11/2007: Batman #671 --  76,764 (- 0.2%) [ 80,440]
12/2007: Batman #672 --  71,189 (- 7.3%)
01/2008: Batman #673 --  69,234 (- 2.8%)
02/2008: Batman #674 --  68,208 (- 1.5%)
03/2008: --
04/2008: Batman #675 --  71,138 (+ 4.3%)
05/2008: Batman #676 -- 105,039 (+47.9%) [122,877]
05/2008: Batman #677 --  96,116 (- 8.5%) [111,065]
06/2008: --
07/2008: Batman #678 -- 103,213 (+ 7.4%)
08/2008: Batman #679 -- 103,588 (+ 0.4%)
09/2008: --
10/2008: Batman #680 -- 103,941 (+ 0.3%)
11/2008: Batman #681 -- 103,151 (- 0.8%)
6 months: + 2.6%
1 year  : +34.4%
2 years : +11.5%
5 years : + 6.6%

Well, this is very unusual.

All throughout the “Batman RIP” story, Batman managed to sell well above 100K. For the last four issues, it seems like somebody nailed it to 103,000 copies and went away for an extended vacation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blockbuster storyline hold on to its audience as consistently well as this one.

In theory, now, this should be very good news for DC. In practice, of course, it’s nothing of the sort. Because, as you may have heard by now, they rather blew it. The solicitation copy for Batman #681, a story titled “Batman RIP: Conclusion,” promised, among other things, “the final fate” of Batman, “the horrifying and shocking truth” about the big villain of the piece and – brace yourself – “an ending you’ll never see coming.” Well, I guess they did deliver on the latter. In case you missed the grand finale: It consisted of a helicopter crash; both Batman and the villain, whose identity remains obscure, were aboard the helicopter when it crashed. And they disappeared.

And that was it. No “final fate” in sight. “Shocking truth” cancelled.

And so, when two hundred thousand eyebrows raised in unison caused a minor earthquake at the DC Comics offices in New York, DC Universe editor Dan DiDio went on Newsarama to defend the lack of a payoff. According to Mr. DiDio, the real ending to “Batman RIP” will, in fact, appear in the delayed Final Crisis #6, currently scheduled for January. But because the eventual “Batman RIP” paperback collection – which, of course, won’t include Final Crisis #6 – will require some closure of its own, Mr. DiDio explains, an inconclusive faux ending was needed for Batman #681. Because, evidently, DC Comics’ extensive probing of the market has revealed that the only people who crave inconclusive faux endings more than the followers of monthly periodicals are those who prefer paperback collections. (The latter is pure conjecture on my part, I should add. DC didn’t share their market research concerning inconclusive faux endings with me.)

So, all in all, whether the great commercial success of “Batman RIP” is a blessing or a curse for DC remains to be seen. Clearly, a lot of people liked this story while it was going on. And clearly, DC utterly and blatantly botched what should have been a big payoff. Who knows, maybe those 100,000 folks who turned up at the store every month will just shrug and move on to Final Crisis #6, as DC would like them to.

I’m rather skeptical, though.

As usual for the duration of the “Batman RIP” story, there was a 1-for-25 variant-cover edition boosting the book’s sales.

[Read more…]

WATCHMEN producer speaks

Lloyd Levin, one of the producers of WATCHMEN, breaks his silence to speak of the film’s arduous path to the screen. As you might guess, he thinks Fox is being a real dog in the manger here.

After 9/11 some felt the story’s themes were too close to reality ever to be palatable to a mainstream audience.

There were those who considered the project but who wished it were somehow different: Could it be a buddy movie, or a team-up movie or could it focus on one main character; did it have to be so dark; did so many people have to die; could it be stripped of its flashback structure; could storylines be eliminated; could new storylines be invented; did it have to be so long; could the blue guy put clothes on… The list of dissatisfactions for what Watchmen is was as endless as the list of suggestions to make it something it never was.

Also endless are the list of studio rejections we accrued over the years. Larry and I developed screenplays at five different studios. We had two false starts in production on the movie. We were involved with prominent and commercial directors. Big name stars were interested. In one instance hundreds of people were employed, sets were being built – An A-list director and top artists in the industry were given their walking papers when the studio financing the movie lost faith.

After all these years of rejection, this is the same project, the same movie, over which two studios are now spending millions of dollars contesting ownership. Irony indeed, and then some.

Spider-Man’s team-up with Obama gets attention…lots of it

Asm583 ObamavariantA Reuters story about the issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, with Barack Obama guest starring has been printed everywhere,. In our news feed it showed up all over the US, in Australia, India, Ghana, New Zealand, you name it. It was even on the front page of the Drudge Report:

Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada said the idea for the “Spidey meets the President!” edition came from a statement from Obama’s campaign listing 10 little known facts about the Democrat who will be America’s first black president.

“Right at the top of that list was he collected Spider-Man comics,” Quesada told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

“I was inundated with tons of fan mail saying ‘Have you read this?'” Quesada said. “I was just floored, absolutely floored, to find out that the future commander-in-chief was actually going to be the future nerd-in-chief.”

What’s notable about all this is that we now take this kind of media saturation for comic book stories for granted. It started five or six years ago — remember the gay Rawhide Kid? Or the gay Batwoman? Or the death of Captain America? The first few times one of these stories exploded, it seemed miraculous to longtime comic book watchers. Now, it’s ho hum, another media stunt.

We remember when this kind of coverage for ANY comic book story would have resulted in everyone in comics doing the happy dance, thinking “Now we’ve arrived!” It seems we arrived a long time ago now. We also recall (showing age now) how comics retailers, publishers and other think tankers long dreamed of forming a “Milk Board” for comics that would advertise how famous people read comics and it was okay.

Who needs a Milk Board when you have celebrities, pseudo-celebrities and politicians (like…uh, POTUS) casually proclaiming their love for comics. Sometimes they even have to explain why they DON’T read comics, as if it were something to be ashamed of.

Nutty, huh?

We may be standing on the brink of dark times now, but to you, my fellow comics travelers, I say, sometimes it’s important to take a moment to look at how far we’ve come. When you see how much road is behind us, it makes the road ahead look a lot better, doesn’t it?

Movie award roundup

With the Golden Globes taking place this weekend and the Oscar® nominations due shortly, it’s time to look at where the nerd and animated movies are ranking. Short answer: pretty well.

First, DARK KNIGHT. You may have heard of this film? It’s scored nominations for Best Director from the DGA, best Adapted Screenplay from the WGA and a Best Movie nod from the Producer’s Guild, virtually assuring that it will get a Best Picture Oscar nod (although it was snubbed by the Golden Globes.) Oscar likes success, and DARK KNIGHT is the second most successful movie of all time. The late Heath Ledger is also all but a lock for a Best Supporting Actor nod, and favored to win by many. (Tangent: see J. Caleb Mozzocco’s analysis of whether DARK KNIGHT’s screenplay is “adapted” at all.)

Next there’s WALL*E, for our money the best movie of 2009, a perfect, gorgeous film that says so much about life that we could watch it over and over and over. It scored prestigious wins as Best Picture from the Boston Society of Film Critics (tie), Chicago Film Critics and Los Angeles Film Critics, but is looked at as a dark horse for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, which is a darned shame, because its fresh, touching unique story says a whole lot about what it means to be human than Benjamin Gump. Whatever.

Finally, WALTZ WITH BASHIR was named best picture by the National Society of Film Critics, and is winning all kinds of acclaim everywhere. This animated documentary follows the experiences of an Israeli infantryman during the 1982 war with Lebanon. Geoff Boucher has a good write up about it here. And here’s the trailer.

WALTZ WITH BASHIR has also been adapted into a graphic novel, and you can read an excerpt here.

Female superhero fight!

Well, well, the debate over Josh Tyler’s mild statement We Don’t Need More Female Superheroes is getting a few ladies riled up. Dodai at Jezebel’s hackles are raised right up.:

First: I’m a woman who hates Julia Roberts. I hated that hooker with the heart of gold movie, found it to be condescending and nauseating, and I am not looking forward to seeing anything she does in 2009. By the by: Selling yourself on a street corner while waiting for Prince Charming? Not cute.

Second: I loved Wonder Woman when I was a kid. I had Wonder Woman underoos! A Wonder Woman swimsuit, which I wore with roller skates! I wanted to spin around and have my outfit change, I wanted to chase bad guys and kick ass, and I still do. I love Coffy, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Fifth Element, Resident Evil, Underworld and all kinds of stories in which a female — possibly wearing tight leather pants — is powerful, gorgeous and super-human in her strength and ability to drop-kick a fool.

Third: There’s nothing sexist about wanting a female superhero; there is something sexist in assuming that all women only want to see Sex And The City-type movies, that women are a monolithic block who all act the same way and want the same things. Women are multifaceted with varied interests. I never played with dolls as a child and I know I am not the only one. Why can’t the next generation look up to Wonder Woman, Catwoman or She-Ra the way my sister and I did? Why is Carrie Bradshaw the only acceptable alternative? And since when is it a man’s place to tell women what they do and do not need? Dude. Give me my goddamned Christopher Nolan-directed Catwoman and shut the fuck up. Is anyone with me?

Mariah Huehner, for one.

::deep sigh:: Yeah, we’ve all heard the one about how women like romance and “love” stories and guys like exploding things with cars that go Zoom!. ::yaaaawn:: What an amazing bit of trite, obvious, stereotypical, gender categorizing. Can’t someone PLEASE come up with something new? Because women are not a hive vagina. And while I may like a story about love or relationships, I ALSO LIKE STORIES ABOUT THINGS THAT GO BOOM! These things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Nor does my uterus decide what stories I like. This constant need to label women a certain way (and men, too, though due to the male perspective being dominant and default “neutral” it has a different result)just works my last nerve. Also, the guy quoted in that article is WAY not up on his comic book history. Apparently he hasn’t read any of Trina Robbins work on the subject, but Wonder Woman’s audience has often been comprised of women. I’m not sure where he got “never” from. I also don’t know who the “most women” are that he thinks we should poll about what movies they’re looking forward to in 2009 because the “odds are that it will be something starring Julia Roberts.” I’m looking forward to a lot of movies that do not star Ms. Roberts in any way. While I may be more interested in a project due to my respect of the actor/director/writer involved, the story has to grab me. Otherwise I don’t really care who’s in it. And Ms. Roberts hasn’t been in anything I looked forward to since Mystic Pizza. This is what happens when you base arguments on sweeping generalizations made about an entire gender. They are crappy and bad and full of holes.

In short, to generalize…generalizations suck.

Things that should not exist #2: Lego Steampunk

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Flickr: The Lego Steampunk Pool:

Things that should not exist #1: Moe Watchmen

They’re all here.

Land o’ LInks

§ First off, a huge APOLOGY to Douglas Wolk, whose answers to our 2009 survey were inadvertently dropped. Douglas’s thoughts were too pertinent and cogent to leave out, so we’ve put them at the end of Part III: just scroll down.

§ Disney is assailing Castle Boy again, writes Peter Sanders in the WSJ. Although girls swoon for Disney franchises from Princesses to High School Musical, reaching boys 6-14 is more elusive. (Previous attempts we remember off the top of our heads was a long ago “Tough Michey Mouse” and picking up the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.) This time, Disney is rebranding the Toon Disney channel as Disney XD. (One assumes those letters must have tested well.)

Using both television and a new Web portal, Disney hopes to introduce boys to a host of new live-action and animated shows, original movies, new music acts and games. And Disney executives also hope to leverage boys’ love of sports, using the company’s ESPN brand, which will likely collaborate on original programming and other sports-themed topics for Disney XD. (Disney says the letters don’t refer to anything.)

On Feb. 13, Disney will rebrand its existing animation channel, Toon Disney, as Disney XD and will launch the new action-adventure show “Aaron Stone,” that it hopes will become the channel’s centerpiece. The show melds aspects of what the company says boys are interested in: action, adventure and videogames. Another new show, “Zeke & Luther” will be a comedy filmed in quasidocumentary style about two best friends trying to become world-famous skateboarders.

Interestingly, the “CB” word isn’t mentioned.

§ If you don’t have time to read Newsarama and CBR, check Twitter, or attend panels this article will bring you up to speed on what Marvel and DC are up to in ’09, although it’s a bit harsh on Final Crisis.

§ Kyle Baker is doing some licensed comic called Webcarzz and reading a quote from Baker in a press release is a rather weird experience:

‘The world of cars and racing ‘ from a kids perspective ‘ is something that I am very interested in exploring,’ remarked Baker. ‘As both a father and an artist, I can appreciate the imaginative design of the Webcarzz world with its bold shapes and colors. It is the perfect setting for a new comic book.’

‘Comic books and graphic novels are increasingly used to fuel new brands and intellectual properties in the video game space ‘ and our relationship with Kyle is sure to spark the interest of consumers all around the world,’ said Nique Fajors, Executive Vice President, Webcarzz Inc. ‘Kyle’s talent, combined with his exceptional sense of humor, will no doubt deliver an outstanding comic book that captures the vision and quality of the Webcarzz world and further entertains our consumers.’

But wait what are Webcarzz, anyway?

Webcarzz) is the next evolution in casual massively multiplayer online games. Targeted towards boys ages 6-12, Webcarzz offers the competition of circuit track racing in a casual environment where all roads lead to fun.

Okay if all roads lead to fun, we’re there! Has Disney heard about these guys?

200901090220§ Tucker Stone looks at the PROJECT X manga which tell corporate tales of Nissan, Seven Eleven, and Cup Noodle. Tucker is less than impressed by our favorite, though, the epic Cup Noodle:

No, the only one of these comics that fails to do anything other than educate the reader on the corporate history of its chosen corporate venture[c] is “The Miracle of 8.2 Billion Served, The Magic Noodle, Nissin Cup Noodle.”[d] Whereas the other two manga take the intelligent tactic of presenting their stories by focusing on the young amateur businessmen struggling against the conformist corporate mentality of their superiors, depicting their struggles as little mini-dramas (of which the happy ending is assured by the first pages, where the success has been made EXCITEDLY CLEAR BY AN OMNISCIENT NARRATOR USING BOLD LETTERS), Nissin Cup Noodle instead focuses on the team forced to work on a project designed and run by one of the company’s corporate honchos, a man who is for some reason depicted at times as if he is mildly insane and/or willing to kill as punishment for failure.[e]

We’re puzzled that he failed to be impressed by this story of “personal prevalence,” esp. the scene where the designer struggles to find the perfect shape for a styrofoam noodle container, because we found it one of the most thrilling scenes in comics history, but you know, different strokes.

§ Finally, here’s a bit from the latest Dan DiDio interview about focus group testing.

7. In the decision-making process – in other industries, you always hear about focus groups – bringing an idea to a group of potential customers and see what they think about it. Do you have anything like that at DC? I know you have the panels that you like to do on Sundays at conventions, and see feedback in letters and message boards, but do you have any direct way of reaching out to fans and saying, “this is what we’re thinking of doing next year – how does it strike you?”

DD: No – we don’t. When I worked in animation – on the ABC Saturday morning lineup, we used to do focus testing for all of our Saturday morning cartoons. The reason why we did it, and the reason why you see it with other products and not comics primarily is because the amount of investment that is made on each individual show is greater than the investment than what we make on an individual comic book. Therefore the risk is greater, so in television, we were trying to reduce the level of risk by going out to focus groups, and going out to see if people think they’re on the right track for the material or not.

Like I said, we’re creating 55-65 comics on a monthly basis – on a non-returnable basis – so we can see how the sales work. Also, by putting out these 55-65 different books in different directions with different voices and different tonalities, that’s 55-65 different opportunities there – in some ways, that’s what a focus group does. If I put out 55 books, and I find a key group that’s working better than others, we build around those that are working. In some ways, that’s like a focus test.

§ Finally, Matthew Parris at the UK Times answers the question no one dared ask:

Domestic circumstances: Tintin does not, in fact, move in with his sailor-friend, Captain Haddock, until 1940 (The Crab With The Golden Claws). As is so often the case with male homosexual couples, a veil is drawn over how and where the couple met, but Tintin and his mincing toy dog Snowy are invited to share Haddock’s country home, Marlinspike Hall. The relationship, however, is plainly two-way, for although when Haddock first meets Tintin (before the sea captain’s retirement) he is drinking heavily and emotionally unstable, he is calmed over the years, settles down and is finally ennobled by his younger friend’s companionship when, in Tintin in Tibet, he offers to lay down his life for him.