As we reported the other day, the Wizard World convention experience is expanding dramatically in 2014, adding seven shows in comics market ranging from huge—Atlanta—to kind of off the beaten path—Sacramento, Tulsa.
Given past show scheduling conflicts, a few people have scrutinized the list for potential regional conflicts. Given the hectic nature of the current comics convention schedule it’s pretty much impossible not to be before or after another show that’s just a day-trip away. A few close calls do seem to exist. The new Atlanta show is three weeks ahead of Heroes Con—Atlanta is a four hour drive or so away, so this could kind of be construed as a regional thing. On the other hand, the Richmond, VA show is the week after Baltimore Comic Con, and I didn’t catch the SPX dates for 2014, but it’s right about the weekend it usually falls. That’s probably three regional shows in two or three weeks. But Baltimore and SPX don’t seem to conflict, so I doubt a Wizard show will really impact either of them.
A bigger question is just how many shows can the comics economy really absorb? (I suppose first you have to ask if Wizard shows are really comics shows, since celebrity appearances are their bread and butter.) As anyone who has been reading The Beat the last few years knows, it’s pretty hard to throw any kind of reasonably planned show and have it fail nowadays. The massive call-the-fire marshal success of the Denver and Salt Lake City cons this year show that in a new territory people are kind of starved for the glitz and glamour of their own Comic Con.
A story that didn’t get too much discussion around the blogosphere was the change in ownership at Fan Expo Canada, North America’s third largest show, which was purchased by Informa, which bills itself as “the largest publicly-owned organiser of exhibitions, events and training in the world with around 7,000 employees working in over 150 offices across more than 40 countries.” The purchase included Fan Expo Vancouver, and I’m told they are looking to launch or acquire more Canadian pop culture events. So more coming there. People want to get in on this business.
While thinking about all this, the thing that popped into my mind was Creation Con, a name which will be familiar to old timers, but whose current existence I had to verify on Google. Creation was one of the original comic con companies, putting on the big Thanksgiving show in New York City from the early 70s until the 80s. Somewhere along the way they morphed into more of a “nerdlebrity autograph” kind of company, putting on shows themed to Star Trek, and (back in the day) Stargate, Hercules and Xena. Discussing this with some industry pals, I surmised that they would be throwing Vampire Diaries shows now, and whaddaya know, when I checked their website, they are indeed putting on a Vampire Diaries show in Orlando in December. They also produce shows based on Supernatural, which I should have guessed. Gotta stay on the game. Their upcoming events calendar shows 20 events in the next year, not one of which I have ever heard anyone in my circle talk about going to.
But, business is business. William Shatner and Ian Somerhalder have to do something with their time, especially if you can charge $119 for a photo op. I did go to a Creation show over a decade ago to meet Bruce Campbell, back when that was a rare event. It wasn’t really my kind of thing—a teeny dealers area, and mostly celebrity panel after celebrity autograph session. Not much of a fest. I see they have costume contests and movie contests now. If you’ve been to one of these events and want to report in the comments, I’d be grateful. (I did check out the “fan testimonial” page where someone noted they had a good dinner, so that’s a start then.)
Still, you can pick out the flow of natural evolution here, and with their ambitious expansion plans, Wizard World could be going down the Creation path if they aren’t careful. Putting on a full service “comic con” with artist alley and publishers and curated panels and all that takes a lot of effort. (Check back to The Beat’s own series on putting on a con is you don’t believe us.) And each and every comics person thinks they are the star of the show and expect a certain amount of care and handling, which can be very, very time consuming. As the “comic con” whittles down its focus to a bunch of actors or a single show, it all becomes much easier to deal with—actors all have agents who set these thing up and the whole process becomes streamlined as to costs and events. A comics show has to be a labor of love at some point, whereas an autograph show is more of a business. And as I’ve noted before, the activity and creativity of actual comics artists create a buzz and liveliness that just autographs don’t.
On some level, I do understand the need to meet Ian Somerhalder—I trekked off to meet my man Bruce after all. All of these events are fulfilling some kind of need in the fan base, so there isn’t really a right or wrong as long as no one gets hurt. If people want to pay $359 to get a front row seat at a celebrity panel, I can’t really stop them. I hope they are getting their hearts desire.
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.