A few years ago, comics water cooler gossip (and message boards) were enlivened by Con Wars, a series of conventions—mostly run by Wizard World—that were scheduled very close to conventions in the same cities. The most notorious example was a Wizard World which was planned a week prior to—and on the same street as —New York Comic Con. While it was a source of annoyance and conflict for many, eventually the con wars seemed to settle down as the increasingly busy convention schedule meant everyone just had to mind their own store and not worry about other cities—there were enough fans to go around.
However, a letter circulating yesterday charges that Wizard’s Con Wars are on the rise again, this time in Minneapolis, where a Wizard show has been scheduled for two weeks prior to the well-established non-profit Midwest Comic Book Association’s SpringCon. Next year’s Spring Con is slated for May 17 & 18, 2014 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. According to the letter, Wizard has scheduled a show for May 3 & 4, 2014 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. (A check of the MCC website confirmed Wizard had booked those dates.)
Here’s the relevant portion of the letter, written by the aptly named Fredric Wertham, who has been involved with the MCBA shows for years:
Recently, Nick Postiglione, one of the lead MCBA volunteers recently spoke with Peter Katz, Senior VP of Business Affairs& Development for Wizard who informed him “we had no idea that we were scheduling so close to the MCBAs event” and further continued that the proposed space (the Minneapolis Convention Center) “Only had the first weekend in May available to us”. The MCBA SpringCon dates for 2014 have been posted for quite some time on numerous industry websites and the MCBA website as well. In addition, one quick phone call inquiry to a space rental employee about space availability at the Minneapolis Convention Center put the lie to his availability statement. Evidently, the first week in May was specifically and strategically chosen.
Another interesting tidbit casually mentioned by Postiglione “About a year ago, we were approached by Wizard to see if we were for sale or absorption” he continued “I told them that given the fundamental structural differences in our respective organizations, that probably wouldn’t be possible. But we’d be happy to help their efforts in establishing a presence here. I just had no idea that they actually intended to land right on top of us. It’s an unfortunate situation, a huge disappointment for many of our volunteers, and ultimately a missed opportunity for the various communities we serve as well.”
There you have it. A group that has donated over 30 tons of food to the food shelves, over $100,000.00 to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the MN Lupus Foundation and the MN Literacy council, as well as promoting retailer and creator events and other regional events is about to be bullied about by the corporate Wizard World convention machine. Again, seems like the “new Wizard” is just like the old Wizard.
After reading these charges, we reached out to Wizard chairman John Macaluso to get his side of the story. According to Macaluso, the letter stated several things incorrectly, but he confirmed that the MCBA show “was not on our radar” when they were going into the new territory, and additionally, Wizard had no choice in the Convention Center dates. Although this would seem to be a bit of a research failing, he asserted that “we do do our research” when going into a new area.
Whatever the origin on the conflict, Macaluso repeated that he has no axes to grind with any other shows. “Scheduling conflicts do no one any good,” he told the Beat. “We’re trying to go into more cities, and we do everything in our power not to compete with anybody. Why would we want conflict? It would reduce the amount the attendees going to both shows.”
Given all the success of the convention circuit we’ve been covering for the last few years, it will come as no surprise to observers that Wizard is planning to expand its convention activities next year; Minneapolis is just one of several territories they are expanding into. Macaluso expects them to hold between 14 and 17 shows in 2014, and he said they would be looking at dates for other shows as they planned them. “We’re not looking to cause chaos,” he concluded. “We try to be mindful of conflicts with all the shows we do.”
While same week shows are unavoidable because of the explosion in comics shows in general, these kinds of problems do leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Luckily, as mentioned above, there seem to be enough fans to go around.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.