A terse SEC filing on Friday has led to headlines all over comics: Gareb Shamus has resigned as CEO, President and Director of Wizard World, Inc., the convention-running entity of the Wizard empire. Seeing as how Shamus is the owner and founder of the company it came as a shock. But what does it really mean? Has Shamus really been ousted from his own company — or is it just a filing to reflect some internal resource shuffling?
The latest iteration of the shrinking of the Wizard brand began about a year ago when Shamus announced that the magazine would return as a downloadable PDF. A we noted at the time, Shamus seemed almost eerily focused on this new outing, promising an audience of millions and the ability to break new comics. “We can make things cool,” he told us at the time, a perhaps distant echo of Wizard’s one time ability to actually make any new Image artist cool in their early 90s, pre-internet heyday.
The PDF continued to come out at irregular intervals, and with a declining posse of warm bodies to actually produce it, as long time staffers Mike Cotton and Justin Aclin gradually faded into the forest, leaving a skeleton staff of Shamus, brother Stephen and convention runner Peter Katz, along with new hire Kevin Kelly, who came on board as managing editor a few months ago.
Just recently, however, a couple of very strange things happened — both so quickly that we never even had a chance to write about them. The pdfs of the Wizard magazine were pulled from the website, and replcaed with a garden variety WordPress blog by Shamus himself which consisted of video interviews with folks such as Mark Texiera and Bill Siekiewicz — perhaps filmed at the recent Mid-Ohio Con.
And then as of Friday, the blog and all its videos were nowhere to be found. Even the vdeos has been posted internally so they don’t even reside on YouTube.
Before they were taken down there were a couple of thoughts the longtime observer might have looking at the blog. #1 was that having fired or downsized a virtual army of talented staffers over the years — with former employees at DC, Marvel, CBR, Newsarama, and pretty much every other existing company now — it was down to Shamus himself to hold the microphone.
My own second reaction was sort of like looking at “America’s Greatest Otaku” with TokyoPop head Stuart Levy hosting his own tatty little web series. Shamus is a lifer — he’s said as much many times — and running his own empire was his greatest dream and goal. So if it came down to doing it all yourself, if that’s what it took, that what he would do.
But then…someone somewhere decided Gareb wasn’t needed any more. Who? Or what?
As our own Torsten pointed out in the comments, Wizard World Inc. is only one part of a lattice-work of shell corporations and holding companies. There’s also Kicking The Can LLC and Gareb Shamus Enterprises, and who knows what else. World World Inc., the side of the company which went public about a year ago, only handled the convention side of the business, not the publishing arm.
Michael Matthews, who came on board in March, has taken over day to day operations, and there are new bylines on the anorexic website —
Kevin Kelley hasn’t been heard from since mid-November. Correction: Kelly is still posting, most recently with a pieces spotlighting crafty things for girls, such an unWizardlike topic that you can well believe that Gareb Shamus might have moved on.
Our best guess? — and a guess it is only — is that this is still some kind of PR move — or perhaps even a way to shore up the bottom line by removing Shamus’s salary from the equation. He still owns the company but his own reputation may now be such that no one wants to do business with the company. Years of denial and literally running away from people you owe money to– as the above famed “White Lando” video shows — might have done that.
There is still a Wizard for now, but it seems to be wasting away to nothing. Even so, post this under “Developing…”
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.