Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the return of the Convention Wars

Chicago, like Philadelphia, is a city that can easily support a good comic con. Indeed, Chicago used to be a tentpole convention before Wizard got ahold of it - it was the first show the entire Image team appeared at, resulting in the legendary Image Tent. But Wizard has, for a couple of years now, scheduled them so badly that they're both nearly dead. Philly went up against, and lost to, Heroes Con two years running (tho it looks like they're gotten a different weekend in 2010), and now Chicago is barely two weeks after San Diego. And even if some of the companies wanted to come, they couldn't, becasue their booths got shipped to wherever they're filming the new Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movie to stand in for SDCC.

Reed Exhibitions (the folks behind the staggeringly successful New York Comic Con) is making their move into Chicago next year, a full season away from Wizard, far enough apart for both to coexist amicably. But Gareb has chosen to fire back, setting a show in Anaheim the same weekend as the Chicago show, likely to draw away media guests who'd rather travel a few miles than a couple time zones. It's a scorched earth tactic that will only serve to leave both combatants damaged.

Gareb/Wizard is taking the tactic Fred Greenberg used in NYC in the 90's - allow no other show to thrive, cooperate with no one, be the only game in town. You'll notice Fred isn't doing shows anymore. His place was taken by Mike Carbonaro, a very nice guy who's been running Big Apple Conventions for years now. He runs the same kind of shows Fred used to run, in most of the same venues - shows on the "large size of small", a nice assortment of artists and dealers, a good local comic con. Recently, through no fault of his, his shows have grown a tad overcrowded for their confines. That's not going to be an issue anymore, as Gareb Shamus bought his company and is using it to compete directly with Reed and the NYCC.

Wizard's New York show is set for this October, in the same timeframe that Reed's NYCC will be in NEXT year. I see this as an unveiled attempt to mislead the casual fan into believing that Wizard's show IS the NYCC, at least once. As of this moment there are exactly TWO comics guests listed for that show - Jim Lee and Joe Quesada. NO exhibitors listed, and only three media guests - not even the same handful of mid-range celebrities that travel from con to con like Greatful Dead fans following the band in their VW MicroBus. I'm actively worried.

On the other hand, the Baltimore Comicon, one week previous to Wizard's NY show, is putting up a STAGGERING guest list. Baltimore is a GREAT little show, and has really made a strong regional convention of itself. There's been no announcement of plans for next year, but since they're the same time as next year's NYCC, I'm hoping they can move far enough away from it that it won't be squeezed out. I'm actually willing to believe that Reed would work with them to make sure that didn't happen (purely conjecture, I hasten to clarify).

I'm in the Lehigh Valley (PA), have been driving down to Baltimore (about a 3-hour run) for four years now, and have been overjoyed with the show every time. I'm hoping it can stay clear of the heavy lumbering feet of both Reed and Wizard, and keep providing a great show for the Mid-Atlantic area.

The comics market is growing again, and considering the major players are only doing two or three shows a year, it seems to me there's MORE than enough room for them to happily co-exist. New York can easily support two major conventions, as can Chicago, provided they're scheduled far enough apart. With only a modicum of courtesy and maybe just a little bit of cooperation, there's a chance to keep a steady stream of shows available for fans across the country, but not so many as to exhaust the publishers and the fans alike. I fear that won't happen, however.


  1. Really really good write-up. Correct on every front.

    One point I have info on. New York Comic Con did not want to step on other show dates. Due to their space requirements and for the safety of the fans/exhibitors, ironically the Javits has very few time slots to offer their mega event; that's why they got stuck with February.

    As you mentioned it turns out to be very beneficial for the industry with 3 major events even throughout the year.

  2. NYCC next year is the same weekend as Baltimore Comic-Con this year. Baltimore moved to August 28-29 in 2010 to avoid a conflict with NYCC. It was not a preferred move, but the only option available given the (relative in convention terms) late notice from Reed.

  3. Unfortunately, NYCC is now CHARGING for Artist Alley tables, which Mike Carbonaro never used to do. So I'm afraid we won't have a table this year, we just can't afford the $300 what with Robin out of work.