Matthew J. Brady over at Indie Pulp actually bagged Wizard owner Gareb Shamus for an interview and asked all the questions a lot of us have been wondering about, like why is it called a Comic-Con when it’s really a media stars con? Shamus has a lot of answers for everything, but doesn’t even seem to be saying that comics are a focus of the Wizard shows any more:
“When you look at how comicbooks or the characters pervaded the media, they’ve become celebrities themselves. They’ve become movie stars; they’ve become television stars; they’ve become video game stars or toy stars. So when you look at people, and how they’ve come to know Spider-Man, or Batman, or Star Wars, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, they may have only known Spider-Man through a comicbook or maybe an animated show or something like that. But today, hundreds of millions of people know Spider-Man through the movies, not by reading a comicbook. So what we’ve been able to do is create a really amazing pop culture focus to the show, so that no matter how you enjoy these characters, this is a place to come together to find them.”
When asked about the absence of comics publishers, Shamus states that “we invite the comics industry. You can ask them why they may or may not go to shows, but at the end of the day, we bring the fans.”
Over at Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston argues that the media-focused brand of “comic-con” is actually an area of potential growth for comics publishers:
Wizard have taken lessons from San Diego but have clearly tried not to emulate that beast. They are going on their own way, creating a large national chain of comic conventions that’s servicing a local population that can’t make it to the bigger shows – but also injecting them with stars of stage and screen to bring in a new audience. I firmly believe that it is up to publishers to realise this, and find ways to attend more of these shows. Because that’s what Wizard World is doing, finding new audiences and creating potential comic book readers and bringing them to the shows. And it’s an audience that publishers can and should be on hand to woo.
I used to be a real comic convention snob. It took the MCM London Expos to knock that out of me, and I’m starting to realise that my expectations and experiences are not shared by the vast majority of the population and that an increased numbers of Wizard World style conventions will increase the acceptability and appeal of comics to a population, even if that population is only on hand to see Xander and Spike. It is evangelistic, it is social engineering, it is marketing. Wizard World Chicago is not a show I’d recommend to international visitors, or people trying to break into comics. But for locals, coming for one, maybe even two days, it should be a blast. And, hey, comics!
I’d argue that the focus on celebrities past and present at Wizard/Creation shows is not driving attention to the comics publishers who do exhibit at these shows, so without some kind of support — even Shamus says that the reason there was such minimal comics programming is because attendees weren’t interested in it — it might not be a cost-effective marketing push.
Back in the day, Creation Cons were the big national chain of comic book shows. But then they evolved into media-only shows, with special brands or horror, or Star Trek or Twilight or Xena and so on — these days, Creation has NOTHING to do with the comic-con business.
My own thought is that I have no beef with Wizard evolving their shows any way they want to make money. But I think their use of the word “comic-con” is hijacking its original meaning.
What do YOU think? Are media cons good exposure for comics?
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.