Yesterday’s announcement that next year’s Big Apple Comic-Con was planned for the exact same dates at New York Comic-Con unleashed a firestorm of opinion and a wee bit of acrimony as well. As we reported earlier, what’s shaping up is a Con War between the Gareb Shamus-owned slate of shows — Chicago Comic-Con, Wizard World Philadelphia, Anaheim Comic-Con, Big Apple Comic-Con and Toronto Comic-Con — and a group of shows owned by Reed Exhibitions (a sister company of Publishers Weekly, host of this blog), which include the New York Comic-Con, New York Anime Fest, and the new C2E2. Here’s Friday’s developments:
The New York Comic-Con’s director Lance Fensterman responded at Newsarama, sounding a bold stance:
“We confidently welcome any competition, whomever they may be,” was the response of Reed Exhibitions, in light of Friday’s surprise news that Gareb Shamus’ Big Apple Con will to head-to-head in 2010 with Reed’s New York Comic-Con & Anime Fest.
…”New York Comic Con is without question the second largest pop culture event in North America with a legitimate attendance of 77,000 last February,” continued Lance Fensterman, Reed’s Vice President, Publishing and Pop Culture and show manager of the New York events. “In 2010 the event will grow to occupy nearly the entire Javits Center – nearly 750,000 gross square feet and also host the New York Anime Fest.
“With 51 other open weekends on the calendar, it’s a curious decision to run an event that aspires to be similar to NYCC on the exact same weekend, but that is a question that the creators, fans, and publishers will answer…Or already have with 60% of the enlarged NYCC already sold with still 12 months to go. I think this speaks for itself in terms of the support from all corners of the industry.”
At his own blog, Fensterman posted that hostilities had escalated at the show, with several Reed Exhibition employees escorted from the floor:
Just got a call from the NYCC crew (Larry, Mark and Tonya) that the Wizard people kicked them out of Big Apple Con! Too funny. They had a whole bevy of security guards escort them out. Wow. Little different than the last few years when Joe Yanarella, Adam Tracey and the Wizard crew would come to NYCC and we’d have a nice chat, catch up, be professional and then they’d hang out and see customers…..
To be fair, Peter Katz of Wizard did hand them cash to refund the ticket cost. Classy.
So why were they so afraid of having some NYCC staffers there?
This move echoes what happened at Wizard World Philadelphia in June, when Steve Hoveke was escorted off the floor, despite having been approved as an exhibitor, allegedly for his connections to the Long Beach Comic-Con.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media, a.k.a the Huffington Post has a different view of the Big Apple:
“With this, we bring the comic-book world to life,” said Gareb Shamus, CEO of Wizard Entertainment, which organized the New York show along with Comic-Cons in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto.
He started selling comics as a 12-year-old growing up in Nanuet, N.Y., a town 25 miles north of New York City.
“That was my first job – and I’m still doing it,” said the 40-year-old father of two children, ages 9 and 11.
He plays with them, tapping their opinion about “what’s the latest and greatest on the market,” said Shamus, who publishes the FunFare toy-industry magazine. “My role is to identify what’s hot before everyone else does.”
More than 500 exhibitors displayed everything from a fully functioning “Batmobile” to the current dozen “hottest toys,” chosen by FunFare.
As long lines of fans lined up to have comic books signed by their artistic creators, families streamed into the show.
“We don’t want children to be exposed to an adults-only environment, with sex and violence,” said Shamus, standing by a table where real-looking weapons – synthetic air pistols, machine-guns and a sniper rifle – were sold to anyone over 18 for as little $45.
Neither Shamus nor other Wizard spokespersons have yet responded to the allegations made by Fensterman or offered a rationale for planning a show on the same dates as an existing show.
However, we can vouch for the fact that the first thing that everyone told us upon getting to this show where families streamed in was a Suicide Girl who was wearing no underpants, as captured on film by Rich Johnston:
To be fair, according to Johnston, the girl was made to put on tights. Maybe by the same people who made the Reed people leave? Con security has its hands full.
We were at the show for a little while Friday and hope to go back Saturday, to visit and check things out. Was it any good? That depends on what you are expecting. The venue is very large, a bit industrial, and yes, could use a bit more carpet. Be forewarned — concessions are very expensive: three bottles of water and a KitKat will run you $11, so you might want to bring a few supplies with you. On the plus side, it’s not as hard to get to as we feared — take the N line to 57th and then catch a bus to 11th Avenue.
In a fairly epic post, ex-Wizard staffer Sean T. Collins runs down the recent history of Wizard’s shows:
On the convention front, shows have been canceled or placed on indefinite hiatus (Atlanta, Boston, Texas, Los Angeles), attendance figures have been viewed as exaggerated, and announced guests have pulled out (including at least one who was never actually booked at all). Meanwhile, major publishers like
Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image have ceased to have official exhibitor presences at Wizard shows, though their support for San Diego and Reed’s shows has simultaneously all but increased. This has led to an increased non-comics presence at Shamus’ shows: This weekend’s debut installment of the Shamus-owned Big Apple Comic Con is heavy on sports and wrestling stars, for example, although Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and WildStorm Editorial Director Jim Lee are guests of honor.
We have some pictures from Friday — which was sparsely attended, no matter what the Huffington Post thinks — and you can judge for yourself whether you like the venue or not. The show is, like the Chiller Cons that have been held in Jersey for years, a great place to meet celebrities — our hearts beat a bit faster when we spotted Carol Cleveland, the 7th Python — and rows of longboxes offer many bargains for comics collectors. The show is very much in the spirit of the Big Apple cons as they have existed for the past decade and the new venue is an improvement over the crumbling Penn Plaza hotel.
However, that doesn’t mean that it is a full service “Comic-con” as the term is generally understood. And as Collins wrote in his piece, the comics industry is not necessarily racing to embrace the Shamus brand. One convention veteran we spoke to said not a single exhibitor he’d spoken with planned to go to Big Apple instead of NYCC next year. Another industry observer, when asked what he thought of the concurrent show dates said simply, “Gareb is being a dick.”
Or, as Collins but it succinctly: “Begun these Con Wars have.”
Signage was plentiful.
A raw autumn day on the river.
High ceilings! and lots of ducts.
More of the air ducts. What if an Alien got in there?
A DeLorean drew much attention, as did a woman in very short white shorts.
You can see Adam West and Julie Newmar in this picture.