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.”

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Signage was plentiful.

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A raw autumn day on the river.

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High ceilings! and lots of ducts.

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More of the air ducts. What if an Alien got in there?

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A DeLorean drew much attention, as did a woman in very short white shorts.

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You can see Adam West and Julie Newmar in this picture.

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Artist Alley.


  1. This really seems like a make-or-break decision for the rapidly crumbling Wizard empire (or is it just a banana republic at this point?). And unless Shamus has an unbelievably deadly ace up his sleeve, I just can’t see him winning this one.

  2. And another thing: I hope Shamus realizes how much he’s gonna piss off exhibitors by effectively splitting the amount of money present at either show. I can’t imagine many people will be able to go to both.

    I don’t know, this seems really, really dumb and pointlessly aggressive on his part.

  3. Didn’t Reed throw the first punch by saying they are bringing a real convention to Chicago? And even hosted a party with a pretty mean spirited flier during Wizards Chicago show. People act like NYCC is a saint in this, let’s not forget they started the New York Comic Con to capitalize on San Diego’s brand.

  4. As an exhibitor, I did Wizard World LA twice (I live in LA) and I doubt I will ever do another Wizard show. I have done NYCC twice and I already have a booth reserved for next year. NYCC will win with exhibitors because they get people through the door (which has not been my experience at the Wizard shows). And the NYCC crowd is like the Comic Con crowd – diverse, kids, adults, teens, families. That is what moves the business forward. Catering to a young male comic geek demographic is limiting and just adds to the marginalization of Wizard shows.

  5. Personally, I don’t look at any of these companies as being good guys per se — they’re all in it to make $$$, or there’d be no entrance/dealer fees. But historically speaking, Reed does seem to run more professional shows that don’t focus on lowest common denominator aspects of the industry. If I go to either of these cons, it’ll be NYCC. (And no, I don’t work for Reed.)

  6. I’m with Cully, also, splitting the ability for dealers and artists, myself being the later…we make good money at shows, with people buy our prints, our sketches, and our books. Now the fans have to pick between shows as well as creators. My agent already has me at NYCC for 2010.

    There is an old saying about picking battles you can win, not just walk away from. Hopefully this head to head battle will not hurt the one thing we all rely on..THE FANS.

  7. I can tell that NYCC has got the right idea when putting together a show. I can’t tell you what or who is part of the show just yet, but I can assure you the staff at NYCC is looking towards new innovative exhibits, art forms, and guests. I don’t work for Reed either but I am part of a tentative exhibit that demonstrates the pursuit of satisfaction for fans and professionals alike.

  8. “We don’t want children to be exposed to an adults-only environment, with sex and violence,”

    Huh?… Last time I went to a Wizard Con (granted, that was four years ago) the place was full of adult film stars and booth babes. A couple of friends had a table across from a porn actress signing and selling nude photos.

  9. I honestly can’t say I’m surprised at how this has developed. I’ve been attending cons for years, and helping organize them as well. When there’s money at stake, things are bound to get ugly.

    There is of course the question of *how* one chooses to make their money. The behavior displayed above doesn’t speak well for the intentions of Shamus.

    I’m thankful that the non-profit convention scene have not become quite this… unfortunate. Scenes like this push me towards staying with non-profit shows and avoiding any involvement with organizations that operate solely with a profit-making agenda.

    Oy vey! *headpalm*

  10. Heidi, please tell me you said hello to Carol Cleveland, on behalf of those of us whose jaws and tongues would have fallen to the floor like a Tex Avery cartoon if we’d tried.

  11. It’s strange to read the quick support for REED/NYCC from the comicsratti in the battle against WIZARD/Shamus/BAC…

    Considering how REED only got into the Comic Convention scene just 3 years ago, they sure got the comics Industry behind them really quick. Must’ve been some sort of reaction to how badly WIZARD was
    running itself in that Industry!

    Say what you will about Shamus, but his Comics bona fides have a decade+ head start with genre-focused magazines and yes, those WIZARD Cons. Compared to that, NYCC parent company REED ELSEVIER seem like a corporate ‘comicbagger’ to the scene— why else would a company mostly known for publishing and info-mining LEXISNEXIS get into ‘Nerd Prom’s? I suppose RE’s experience in the lucrative field of “the Defence Exhibition business” [thanks, wiki!] helped them deal in what to expect from the Comic Con crowds? Afterall, politicians, various heads of states, the Military-Industrial manufacturing complex are exactly the same as cosplayers, otaku, and MARVEL/DC fans…

    I dunno. For some reason, I can’t help but see that BAC is the underdog in this “battle” against NYCC. (But give me another one of those articles revealing just how WIZARD screwed somebody somewhere, and I’ll get over THAT asap!)

  12. Competition is the foundation of democracy. I get that. Profiteering is the American way. I get that too. My gut reaction is to root for NYCC but that’s an emotional reaction.

    What I don’t get is why Shamus would do this. It seems like splitting the baby.

  13. I been to NYCC the last two years and loved it. When it was located in April I thought that was a great time of the year to go to New York, and was a little skeptic when it took place in February this year, but it worked out fine. When it moved to October I thought that that was a great time of year, and a nice way to end a convention season in New York, all though I’m sorry that it forced the Baltimore Comic-Con to move. With that said, I simply can’t understand why the Big Apple didn’t just pick up the empty Spring sloth to put their convention, instead of going head to head with probably the best new addition to the convention circuit in the past 5 years. Wizard should have learned by now that they always lose if they try to push out another convention, and with this announcement it is just a matter off them either losing face and cancel/postphone or lose money by proceeding with the dates.

  14. I think I read somewhere that Shameless is now partnered with Peter Gruber. If so, Gruber better be wary.

  15. Concerning Reed’s movement into Chicago – it’s on record for years and years of people wanting a Chicago-based comic con. Not out in Rosemont. but in Chicago. Reed is just giving people what they want. The decline of Wizard World Chicago has been going on for years, not just since Reed decided to do their show there.

    Concerning Reed’s NYCC development – again, this was in reaction to people wanting a San Diego type show on the east coast. It sure wasn’t Wizard World Philly. Why is Wizard only now making in-roads into NY? Because Reed showed them that it can be done. Reed isn’t trying to capitalize on San Diego’s brand. They are trying to rescue the comic con that is somewhere on an island in the middle of the Hollywood ocean that San Diego has become.

    And to the reason why people are backing Reed, it’s because as others said above – they are trying to make a convention that covers as much as it can in two of the greatest cities in the country by actually using the resources of those cities.

    What is Wizard doing? Crying in the corner that nobody wants to play in their sandbox anymore.

    Wizard started this 3-4 years ago by trying to dump on Heroes Con and they got burned by the community. I have no doubt Big Apple 2010 will be full of wrestlers and aging actors. Good for them. I’ll be going to the real comic show over at NYCC.

  16. it’a just all so sad and stupid (on Gareb’s side). I mean, fine, he wants to brand his con and make it a known name and all, fine.

    But to make this choice and make people choose one over the other, and even splitting the exhibitors and all (most, if not all, who CAN’T possibly attend both at the same time), just seems petty decision making and moronic.

  17. Michael: that’s exactly what Reed did by taking the Comic Con name. Why wouldn’t they take another name. And Reed has been going after Hollywood from day one. in regards to Chicago, They aren’t bringing a comics convention to Chicago, they are bringing a comics and entertainment expo, so they don’t have to worry about having non comics stuff there so people won’t complain like they do about San Diego. Like it or not hollyood brings in new people and those people can be turned into comics fans.

  18. All I can say is that I’ve been to NY Comic Con for the past several years and I went to big apple today, I enjoyed NYCC more, which is not to say BACC was bad just if I have to choose I’m going to choose NYCC.

  19. If you put aside whatever legal claims the Comic-Con International organization might have on the term “Comic-Con”–which I’ll grant is something not everyone would want to do–I really don’t blame Reed, Wizard/Shamus, or various local mid-level shows for appropriating that name. At this point the general public knows what a comic con is, and calling your show a comic con is pretty much just basic truth in advertising. (I’m not gonna get into the whole “too much Hollywood” debate–that stuff’s never bothered me provided that there’s also a strong comics presence.)

    I think where this DOES get more problematic is when the organizations allow or even actively encourage potential attendees, guests, and exhibitors to believe that their show is either affiliated with another comic con, or is in fact one and the same with that comic con.

  20. Tyler – have you ever even been to NYCC? If you think NYCC has gone Hollywood you were caught in a tiny circle on the floor.

  21. honestly , comic shows cost me time and money since I don’t really sell anything and do mostly signings and panels. I really just do them to get to connect with the fans…its all I care about really.

  22. Is it just me or do some of the anonymous pro-Shamus posts seem just a little detached from reality?

    The biggest reason I didn’t go to Wizard World Chicago this year was because I knew there’d be a much better convention happening in Spring 2010 to combine with getting to see some friends and colleagues.

    Reed came in and ran their cons professionally. Yeah, it was bumpy the first year, but they seem more willing and able to correct their mistakes and improve upon their past offerings. All I ever saw Wizard to was buy pre-existing conventions, slap their names on them and seem to expect cons to sell themselves.

  23. Having attended WizardWorld Chicago, I have to say it was one of the worst conventions I have attended, being in the middle of no where, with nowhere to eat anywhere nearby, with an anemic indie and webcomic presence.

    By contrast, NYCC is bending over backwards to accommodate me.

    The only thing Shamus can be hoping for is brand confusion at this point, or maybe Christian Bale showing up to his con this time.

  24. It’s also interesting (to me at least) that Wizard has dropped the Wizard World branding from its cons, with the exception of Philly which is still listed as such for 2010. Maybe I’m wrong, in which case I apologize in advance, but it seems to be the same thing as Philip Morris becoming Altria a few years back. Public opinion about your brand turning negative due to your own actions? Just change the name!

  25. @ Tyler:

    The flyer wasn’t aggressive at all. .-.

    It was an “After Wizard World” after party at one of the comic shops in chicago (Graham Cracker comics? Or chicago Comics? Can’t recall.) And the C2E2 people were there. It wasn’t a “HEY BLOW OFF WIZARD AND COME PARTY” It specifically said “AFTER the con, head on over let’s have fun.”

  26. went to the big apple last weekend. i’ve been to better, i’ve been to worse. i feel the deal breaker for a lot of comic fans will be the guest list as far as comic book creators. whoever has the more diverse group of creators (superstars, fan favorites, old school, and indies) will probably attract the lion’s share of fans. for some reason i feel that nycc will come out on top with the guest list. big apple will probably get more media celebrities to come (wrestlers, actors, etc.) to their show, so depending on which kind of fan you are, you’ll pick which show to go to accordingly. who i really feel sorry for is the vendors. having the fans split down the middle between two shows is really gonna hurt them overall. i also don’t get why this shamus guy is doing this. forcing pro’s, fans, and vendors choose between two shows that they would otherwise go to is a really s****y thing to do.

  27. I’ll tell you what, EVERYONE at WWC this year did nothing but talk about A) how horrid the con was this year and B) how much they are looking forward to a new con to swoop in and give us a con worthy of our city.

    WWC has been slumping into the gutter for years with nothing more going for it other than being the only show in town and Wizard took advantage of that to give us increasingly dull shows and I hate to break it to you Wizard, we’ve noticed and your days are numbered. Everyone is looking forward to C2E2 and I have a feeling WWC will be a ghost town when it comes around this year.

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