Con Wars in Minneapolis as Wizard World schedules show two weeks before Spring Con

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A few years ago, comics water cooler gossip (and message boards) were enlivened by Con Wars, a series of conventions—mostly run by Wizard World—that were scheduled very close to conventions in the same cities. The most notorious example was a Wizard World which was planned a week prior to—and on the same street as —New York Comic Con. While it was a source of annoyance and conflict for many, eventually the con wars seemed to settle down as the increasingly busy convention schedule meant everyone just had to mind their own store and not worry about other cities—there were enough fans to go around.

201308131202 Con Wars in Minneapolis as Wizard World schedules show two weeks before Spring Con
However, a letter circulating yesterday charges that Wizard’s Con Wars are on the rise again, this time in Minneapolis, where a Wizard show has been scheduled for two weeks prior to the well-established non-profit Midwest Comic Book Association’s SpringCon. Next year’s Spring Con is slated for May 17 & 18, 2014 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. According to the letter, Wizard has scheduled a show for May 3 & 4, 2014 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. (A check of the MCC website confirmed Wizard had booked those dates.)

5209ba31d535cf7a7b00002f Con Wars in Minneapolis as Wizard World schedules show two weeks before Spring Con

Here’s the relevant portion of the letter, written by the aptly named Fredric Wertham, who has been involved with the MCBA shows for years:

Recently, Nick Postiglione, one of the lead MCBA volunteers recently spoke with Peter Katz, Senior VP of Business Affairs& Development for Wizard who informed him “we had no idea that we were scheduling so close to the MCBAs event” and further continued that the proposed space (the Minneapolis Convention Center) “Only had the first weekend in May available to us”. The MCBA SpringCon dates for 2014 have been posted for quite some time on numerous industry websites and the MCBA website as well. In addition, one quick phone call inquiry to a space rental employee about space availability at the Minneapolis Convention Center put the lie to his availability statement. Evidently, the first week in May was specifically and strategically chosen.

Another interesting tidbit casually mentioned by Postiglione “About a year ago, we were approached by Wizard to see if we were for sale or absorption” he continued “I told them that given the fundamental structural differences in our respective organizations, that probably wouldn’t be possible. But we’d be happy to help their efforts in establishing a presence here. I just had no idea that they actually intended to land right on top of us. It’s an unfortunate situation, a huge disappointment for many of our volunteers, and ultimately a missed opportunity for the various communities we serve as well.”

There you have it. A group that has donated over 30 tons of food to the food shelves, over $100,000.00 to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the MN Lupus Foundation and the MN Literacy council, as well as promoting retailer and creator events and other regional events is about to be bullied about by the corporate Wizard World convention machine. Again, seems like the “new Wizard” is just like the old Wizard.


After reading these charges, we reached out to Wizard chairman John Macaluso to get his side of the story. According to Macaluso, the letter stated several things incorrectly, but he confirmed that the MCBA show “was not on our radar” when they were going into the new territory, and additionally, Wizard had no choice in the Convention Center dates. Although this would seem to be a bit of a research failing, he asserted that “we do do our research” when going into a new area.

Whatever the origin on the conflict, Macaluso repeated that he has no axes to grind with any other shows. “Scheduling conflicts do no one any good,” he told the Beat. “We’re trying to go into more cities, and we do everything in our power not to compete with anybody. Why would we want conflict? It would reduce the amount the attendees going to both shows.”

Given all the success of the convention circuit we’ve been covering for the last few years, it will come as no surprise to observers that Wizard is planning to expand its convention activities next year; Minneapolis is just one of several territories they are expanding into. Macaluso expects them to hold between 14 and 17 shows in 2014, and he said they would be looking at dates for other shows as they planned them. “We’re not looking to cause chaos,” he concluded. “We try to be mindful of conflicts with all the shows we do.”

While same week shows are unavoidable because of the explosion in comics shows in general, these kinds of problems do leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Luckily, as mentioned above, there seem to be enough fans to go around.

Comments

  1. I will be promoting and appearing at the MCBA show. Nick and crew have done a great job over the years. The show celebrated it’s 25th birthday last spring.

    The MCBA also has a one-day show in the fall. This year, it will be held on October 5. Can I leak the news that Mark Waid will be there?

  2. Phil Hester says:

    Nick and the crew at the MCBA put on such a wonderful show, the kind that actually features comic books and their makers, that I think they have little to fear from Wizard. It’s the most down home, hospitable, fan-friendly, egalitarian show in existence. If you are a creator and have never done the show, do yourself a favor and drop the MCBA a line. You’ll be spoiled for every other con.

  3. Add my support for the MCBA. Phil and Peter are spot on.

  4. This is interesting as the scope and scale of Springcon and Wizard World are very different. And it is obvious from attending both shows the driving motivation is very different. Wizard’s driving force is money (not judging at all) and Springcon’s driving force seems to be sharing their love of comics.
    I live in MN and regularly attended both the Fallcon and the Springcon put on by MCBA. They are always fun and very casual. Guest are very accessible. Attendees are polite. When there are lines, they are short.
    Strangely enough, my son and I just returned from the Wizard Chicago event. While we had fun, it was a very different experience than the conventions put on by MCBA. There were things at the Wizard that I really liked, but there are several areas where there could and should be improvement. (Programing, programing, programing)
    The biggest difference between the two camps is their approach. Bluntly, Springcon attendees are treated better than Wizard VIP’s. Really.
    Also, I get the impression that the MCBA team has attended a lot of other conventions and learned from that.
    Personally, I think Wizard could have their work cut out for them here in MN.

  5. Corporate double speak and flubitty bub! Old Wizard, new wizard, blah, blah, blah, it’s all the same! A long standing history of predatory practices, low brow behavior and hucksterism’s. If you’re going to be the bully than at least have the stones to stand up and admit it. Be recognized for what you truly are. A predatory traveling circus chock full of washed up TV and never was movie stars, marginal personalities, has been wrestlers, girly girls, terrible programming, overpriced tickets, crappy food, a horribly managed signature show masquerading as a comic book convention. At some point the comic book community has to stand up and do the right thing! Now is the time and here is the place!

  6. MCBA’s Spring Con is part of the reason that Minneapolis is an indie comic paradise. They always have room in artist alley for local creators who aren’t famous. Yet.

    The volunteers treat the fans and the guests like stars. They work their asses off. They have a ball and love what they do. And they really do help others throw local cons. MCBA folks were a big part of the success of Fables Con in nearby Rochester, MN.

    As far as Wizard’s side of the story goes, the big gap in the Twin Cities convention schedule is autumn. MCBA throws a 1 day show, but it’s when MCBA used to have their big show. A big show could still work then. If you look at the Minneapolis Convention Center’s schedule, you’ll see there are open weekends all throughout 2014. Especially in the autumn of 2014. Wizard needs to concoct their cover story before they get asked something embarrassing. They fabricate lies badly on the fly.
    http://www.minneapolis.org/minneapolis-convention-center/guests/event-calendar

  7. James T says:

    I live in Northern Minnesota and only make it to one con a year. It has been SpringCon for a few years now and that will not change. Wizard can drag in as many C & D list celebs they want but I’ll still be found at the State Fair Grounds come May.

  8. Gene Ha just dropped the mic.

  9. Wizard World charges $30 -40. MCBA charges $10 or $11, and gives a discount if you donate canned goods to the food shelf. While I suspect they will appeal to somewhat different branches of the fan community, at least the MCBA folks know there IS a community and work to build it, rather than swooping in solely to make a buck
    I’ve worked with Nick on numerous projects and I’m far from alone. The Wizard corporate drones have no hope of matching that spirit, which means a lot to the locals.

  10. James T says:

    “The MCBA also has a one-day show in the fall. This year, it will be held on October 5. Can I leak the news that Mark Waid will be there?”

    Shut the front door! Looks like I’ll be heading to Fallcon as well.

  11. We have a big market for shows here in Minneapolis, and plenty of room for more. But the obvious silliness of declaring no choice on the venue is poor and transparent. We also have an extremely strong sense of community here. A very truly engrained sense of family. The MCBA is an angel organization to many… And many not even involved with comics. If this is some sort of bully tactic, the perpetrators will find a very vocal and active defense of SpringCon and MCBA. That sort of community attitude is prevalent throughout Minnesota history. Just ask Jesse James.

  12. I’ve had the privilege to be involved with the MCBA shows since 2003, and in those 10 years I’ve not experienced a better comic book promotion. Everyone has covered their bases well. Wizard is about being a business, where as the MCBA is about being a Community.

    As their slogan says: “Something for Everyone, and Everyone is Welcome.”

    You won’t find me at any Wizard show. Made that choice a long time ago for personal reasons. Yet, no matter where my career takes me, I will never miss an MCBA show.

  13. MCBA Springcon and Fallcon have been my favorite comic book conventions for years. I’ve never been treated better as a comics professional than I am at the MCBA shows, and that same generous attitude seems to be shown to attending fans and everyone else associated with these great conventions. I have no problem with the idea of additional comic conventions in the Twin Cities area, but it’s a shame that it looks like Wizard is attempting to succeed here at MCBA’s expense.

  14. Steve says:

    I’ve worked with many conventions and just because there are open weeks in autumn on the convention center calender doesn’t mean they work for a company. There are a lot of varibles including size, programming space and ither things. Or that they are actually open. Wizard also has their largest show, Chicago in late August of next year. Along with a few other shows announced already.

    Also, I’m not trying to talk poorly about MCBA, never been and it sounds fantastic but I’ve never heard of the show and there’s a good chance they haven’t either. It also sounds like a different type of show then what Wizard does. Why judge a show before it happens? Everyone seemed to do the same thing with their Portland show over Emerald City and both shows went seemed to do just fine.

  15. Cory!! Strode says:

    “Also, I’m not trying to talk poorly about MCBA, never been and it sounds fantastic but I’ve never heard of the show and there’s a good chance they haven’t either.”

    No, they have, and attempted to purchase it a couple of years ago.

  16. The good news is that no amount of Walking Dead variant covers and wrestlers (“Bob” bless them) can substitute for the amount of fun you’d have at SpringCon. The MCBA is a class act and Nick is a true champion of comic books in the Midwest if not nationally. If anyone wants to pretend to say the same thing about Wizard, I’d love to hear it.

  17. Brent Frankenhoff says:

    I took my son to one of the MCBA’s FallCons a few years ago and we had a ball. All the guests were very accessible. His highlight was getting to meet Don Rosa who gave him a sketch. I’ve been planning to go back for some time and will make every effort to get to SpringCon next year.

  18. The_TRUTH says:

    MCBA’s shows are a disorganized mess, with little to no real talent outside of locals and has-beens. I for one, welcome Wizard’s presence in the Twin Cities.

  19. As someone living in South Dakota, Minneapolis is the closest place for me to visit a Con. And that Con is Spring Con. Spring Con was my first and I can’t wait to boycott Wizard, and rock out Sring Con again.

  20. “The Truth” is welcome to his opinion, but I call BS. The local talent roster in the Twin Cities is amazing, and the guest list at FallCon and SpringCon always includes a great line-up of comics pros. Yes, the show does have a sense of history — and special guests are often not the current “hot” artists, but long-time pros who have proven themselves with decades of work. As a former Twin Cities resident, I was a regular guest of the MCBA shows for many years (and still attend when I can). Meeting the out of town guests was/is always a treat — Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Alex Niño, Tony DeZuñiga, Howard Chaykin, Jose Delbo, Trina Robbins, Michael T. Gilbert, Don Rosa, Steve Rude, Herb Trimpe — just a few recent names that come to mind — admittedly, none of them are the flavor of the month — but hardly “has beens” in any sense. The MCBA having a sense of history of the medium, and a healthy respect for those who’ve spent years working in it, is something to be celebrated, not denigrated.

  21. Chad Spilker says:

    I have have been a long time supporter of Midwest Comic Book Association’s shows. They are well organized and treat creators and attendees both like royalty. SpringCon is all about the artform and fandom of comic books and comic book art, as well as the fun of costuming. They work their tails off to put on a great show, and they do it all without profit. I don’t think the MCBA have anything to worry about, in regards to Wizard’s show hurting attendance. See you at SpringCon, folks.

  22. Mark G says:

    While I think WW is pulling a jerk move with the scheduling, I am interested. WW is a MEDIA convention and MnCBA is a COMIC convention.
    I will admit that I didn’t go to the MnCBA conventions for several years because I miss the old Thunderbird hotel location, er, lack of names (I only went back this year for Adam Warren and Amy Reeder, they are not JIM LEE, or other, hot, now name, but I like them).
    For $10, you get a great low-key convention with some names.
    That said, WW is ~$75. You are PAYING to see a mess of names and some people will be very excited to see Darth Maul or the Green Ranger. I couldn’t care less about actors and it’s going to come down to what comic creators are there and if its nobody I care for, or too few to make it worth it the entry cost, I’m not going.
    Either way, I hope there is room for both conventions.
    Also, check out Autoptic (Minneapolis’ new indie comic expo, this Sunday August 18th, http://autoptic.org/) Jaime Hernandez and Jim Rugg will be there!

  23. John Walter says:

    Minneapolis already does have a convention slowly growing up Autumn, called Meta Con. But it’s a small, fan-run show, starting with 1,000 people in 2012 and 2,000 people this year. They had an entire billboard in downtown Minneapolis, so they have to be doing something right. It was really really small, but it was cheap ($30) and intimate, because you actually could get an autograph or sit near the front row of the guest’s panels.

    It’s really anime and TV/cartoons heavy, but I talked to staff and they said they want to get more comics included.

  24. Adam Hughes and I had already RSVP’d for Spring Con, and were looking forward to returning to MN for this show. Now we’re determined to do whatever we can to help bring attention to what a great event the folks at the MCBA (Midwest Comic Book Association) put on!

  25. Erik Burnham says:

    I was at the inaugural MetaCon. I was the only comics guest and there were no comics retailers — it was not really a comics crowd (I say this in spite of being caught in an elevator with three Deadpools and a Kick-Ass) so much as a crowd of people who liked comics-related characters.

    But I’m not running them down! For a first year show it was beautifully run and went off without a hitch – I expect they’ll do just as well this year. (Funny note: a lot of local pros were surprised it existed at all, not hearing about it until seeing that billboard a few weeks before the show!)

    It seems more like a Junior CONvergence, but that’s all good.

    I realize this is all beside the point. (:

  26. Chill_pill says:

    I’m not sure I see the problem.

    Surely people in the Twin Cities area who love comics and pop culture will attend both. Right now it seems like the ones who are most upset are the (mostly local) creators, but I honestly believe that this Wizard show will not have an impact on SprinCon attendance or support.

    There have also been arguments that scheduling shows so close together causes conflict because creators can’t attend two shows in the same city so close together, HOWEVER, with the exception of a very few (such as Adam Hughes), I don’t think the artist and creators that have tables at SpringCon would be the same type of artists you’d see at a Wizard show. As for local creators, well then, they don’t have any travel expenses so what’s to complain about? Frankly, the creators that are up in arms over this come off as elitists.

    And as long as we’re on the topic of Adam Hughes, sure it is great to have such a talented artist attend such a grassroots show, but good luck getting a sketch. His time is booked within two seconds of the show opening.

    Anyway, I think everyone should take a deep breath and realize that while there might be some crossover, these two shows are two different animals. Comic books are without a doubt the reason people attend SpringCon (and FallCon). TV celebrities and such are the main reason people attend Wizard shows.

    SpringCon is a great place to meet people like Howard Chaykin or John Ostrander or Don Rosa. But if Wizard is going to bring James Marsters or Ray Park or Norman Reedus or Billy Dee Williams you bet your ass I will be going.

  27. BenReily says:

    Wizard World is a real convention Spring/Fall Cons are just a glorified Flea Market. Nothing against either of them I go to any event that supports the comic community; which both are doing.

    Saying these confilct with eachother is saying “I cant have an apple this month because I ate an orange 2 weeks ago.” There is more then enough room in MN for these two drastically diffrent events.

  28. silly socks says:

    I agree with the lat two comments — these two events conflict about as much as the State Fair and the Ren Faire. Both have cheese curds and turkey legs, both are called “fairs”, but each are vastly different.

  29. New Romantic says:

    I third (or fourth, or fifth) what has been said about the lack of a conflict. Or con-flict. *rimshot*

    If Spring Con is $10 or $11, no one can claim they won’t have money for it. Maybe they will not be able to afford WW Minneapolis so soon after, but then that will not affect Spring Con.

    Same thing was said this year about Emerald City and WW Portland. John Macaluso even said it was the only available time in a statement, many said it was a lie. Sure enough, it was true. Next year, Portland is a full two months away from Emerald City.

    Chill pill is right. Take a deep breath. No cause for alarm. Go where you will, and support what you love. :)

  30. GreyWorm says:

    Yikes! You artists who are hating on the Wizard show are coming off as nothing less than paranoid and a bit snobbish! Grow up! The rest of you who think MCBA has nothing to fear from Wizard = grounded in reality!

  31. Spanky says:

    More cons in the midwest is a good thing, no matter when or where they happen.

  32. I am happy to see creators showing loyalty to MCBA. I just moved back to mn after many years in Chicago and Idaho and I missed the kind of fandom we have here. I went to WW Chi 2013 and it was a huge disappointment. Other than the Frazetta museum, no programming. Big bucks. No Marvel or DC. It has become a big sinkhole for $. Thanks for being here, MBCA, I look forward to a chance to volunteer. Boo to WW for trying to squeeze out such a great organization.

  33. Andrew says:

    I have gone to NYCC, Springcon a ton of years, Fallcon, WW Chicago, and C2E2. C2E2 is by far the best con, and worth every cent I spend on it every year. WW Chicago is a mass market to meet stars. Springcon is awesome to meet and see local artists so you can discover new books and we have met the creators of Punisher, Ghost Rider, and Booster Gold at Springcon. Great track record if you ask me.

  34. MN Fan says:

    MN has some great cons. CONvergence, Marscon, Crypticon, Britcon, Spring/Fall Con. Wizard has some cool celebs. but $50 to get in, $40+ for an autograph, then another $40+ for a photo op (at Crypticon most stars take free pics with autograph purchase) its just too rich for my blood.

  35. Holly Spilker says:

    No one is talking about how this show is running during Free Comic Book Day!! So many local shops rely heavily on the foot traffic, specials they run and extra business they generate from this once a year event. Wizard is not only trying to split the audience between another con, but also between an industry wide event and itself. Its hurting small businesses and local artists. They should be ashamed.

    I attended Wizard in Chicago for a couple years. Hell, I met my husband there. I’m not 100% opposed to them being here, just that they could have been wiser in their choices of weekends, and the whole claiming they didn’t know about the show is total BS because they tried to BUY Sprincon and Fallcon just a couple years ago. Gross. I’ve also seen in my research that they’ve done this to other local shows across the country.

    Support a local show that actually gives back to the community!!

  36. LocalNerd says:

    It’s not that there isn’t room for more than one comic book con – there is. That’s not the issue here. The issue is how Wizard chose to go about creating a presence here in the Twin Cities.

    When asking nicely (to combine MCBA and Wizard World) didn’t work (for the very clearly stated reason that MCBA is a non-profit and will continue to be so, and Wizard World is a for-profit, and nothing wrong with either ways of running a con), the ethical (and gracious) thing would have been to find a weekend where WW was not conflicting with MCBA or any of the other already established cons in the area, and set up there.

    But WW tried to bully Nick and MCBA into aquiescing to their demands, and when Nick and MCBA continued to hold firm, WW (please see Postiglione letter, and I quote: “In addition, one quick phone call inquiry to a space rental employee about space availability at the Minneapolis Convention Center put the lie to his availability statement. Evidently, the first week in May was specifically and strategically chosen.”) deliberately selected a weekend that could possibly conflict with MCBA.

    There are currently 19 (soon to be 20, with MantaCon coming in 2015) fannish conventions in and around the Twin Cities in a calendar year. MN is a fannish state, and very proud of it. There is room for all KINDS of cons here. And we expect that the people presenting these conventions behave in a certain way – not only legally, but ethically. Not only with enthusiasm and energy, but with grace and joy. This is a huge community, and, by behaving the way they did, WW has not only diminished their own brand, but has managed to besmirch MCBA by association.

    Shame on you, WW, for your lack of integrity in your business dealings!

  37. LocalReporter says:

    Count me among those who agree that there’s room for both conventions, since they have differing purposes. The reality is that some people will be interested in both, and some will have to choose one or the other for a variety of reasons. It’s unfortunate that the geniuses at WW need to be so fraudulent about their intentions.

    I find LocalNerd’s comments interesting in that s/he seems to speak with intimate knowledge of the MCBA, and seems to speak on behalf of all convention attendees and organizers. If you speak for so many of us Minnesotans, why is it that you are nameless.

    Speak for yourself.

  38. jay johnson says:

    The inconsiderate and ruthless nature in which Wizard World is conducting it’s convention business is unfortunate. Not only are they putting on a media/comic book con on the weekend of Free Comic Book Day – FCBD is a nationwide event meant to promote and support the comic book industry AND comic book stores- they are putting it 2 weeks in front of the show that’s established themselves for 30 years. To suggest this is done with out intent to harm is beyond naïve.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “specifically and strategically” selecting a date so close to Spring Con, contrary to assurances by chairman John Macaluso that the established event “was not on our radar.” The email also quoted Postiglione as saying Wizard had previously approached the Midwest Comic Book […]

  2. […] long running Spring Con thrown by the MCBN (Midwest Comic Book Association) —held May 17-18. I first reported on this last year, and Wizard’s John Macaluso insisted that they hadn’t known about the local show, and […]

  3. […] convention calendar that already hosts several conventions. The move reminded many of the Con Wars of years past, when large cons (Wizard among them) would move into occupied locales making it difficult if not […]

  4. […] around the web got word that Wizard World, the parent company responsible for WonderCon, has once again scheduled a […]

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