Retailer files complaint against Wizard AND posts dramatic video on YouTube

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The Mid-Ohio Con was held this weekend — the first one to be run by Wizard since taking over the show last year — and based on reports, it was very well attended. But, in an echo of long ago scars from Con Wars, it was not quite as well attended as its organizers seem to imagine in their own worldview.

To start with, there’s this quote from owner Gareb Shamus in a local Columbus, OH paper:

“It is the third-oldest comic convention,” said Gareb Shamus, CEO of Wizard World, which is taking over the event. “It is near and dear to my heart.” In fact, Shamus said he considers only the San Diego Comic Con and the Chicago Comic Con to be more influential than Columbus’s.


You might notice a show missing from that influencers list — the recent New York Comic-Con which drew some 105,000 people. You’ll also recall that Wizard and ReedPOP have often been at loggerheads ver the years. Although out-and-out hostilities have ceased — scheduling shows for the same day etc — the little zingers still fly through the air.

However, at least one Wizard staffer is aware of NYCC — in fact he claimed that Mid-Oho’s attendance would be greater than NYCC’s, according to Jared Whitaker and Tony Barry of Superfly Comics, a local shop that declined to attend the show this year. In an interview with Panels on Pages, the two explained that this decision — based on the general economics of the show and a rise in booth prices — led to what Barry considered a harassing level of calls and emails from Wizard staffers trying to get them to reconsider, without ever actually offering them a good price. Whitaker recounted the claim made by a staffer:

Jared: The first contact for me was October 5th. We were getting ready to open the store when I got the call. The gentleman did say that he was with Wizard and did notice that we were not going to Mid-Ohio this year. I laid out the reasons that we weren’t going to the show. He then went into the “points”: That Mid-Ohio was under new management and that the show would be run differently this year. He then said the most amazing lie he could have told. He floated the idea that Mid-Ohio this year would “have as many people in attendance as New York Comic Con.” He backed this up by saying that “people in the mid-west area want to go to NYCC, but won’t be about to make it there, so they will end up going to Mid-Ohio.” I was offended because it’s mathematically impossible for Mid-Ohio’s attendance to have those kinds of numbers in one year. Mid-Ohio is a mid-level comic con. It’s bigger than most local and regional shows, but it’s in no way, as big as a NYCC and it’s going to be anytime in the near future, let alone in ONE YEAR of Wizard, or anyone else for that matter, taking control and organizing any show.

After that, it seemed like he was looking for a chink in my armor: “It’s a local show, so you should make it out. He talked up an alternate area for us to set up at, (in which he misinformed me about the price of said area. I didn’t find out about this until after Tony talked to the rep later) everything. He even informed me that they were allowing “booth babes” this year as a selling point. I assumed that he was trying to play on the stereotype that people involved in the comic industry doesn’t get the opportunity to see breasts often. I assured him that I, in fact, have been involved with breasts before and after my involvement in the comics industry.


The interview is quite long–the bottom line is that Barry and Whitaker were annoyed by a series of phone calls despite their explanation of why it didn’t make sense for them to attend. Barry was so incensed he even filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and Whitaker posted a dramatic reading of a letter of complaint on YouTube — surely even a more punitive measure in this day and age.

We don’t know if we’d consider it a complaint-worthy offense, but clearly the Wizard folks weren’t very good at negotiating and should have noticed that no means no.

More than any individual incident, the Superfly folks note that while the Wizard shows are clearly successful and draw good crowds, there is still a lack of enthusiasm in some quarters:

I don’t mean to suggest that I think Wizard shows are completely awful; but I had developed a feeling that they’re a touch overly proud in some unquantifiable way. In my conversations with other vendors who’ve been in the game for much longer than I, I’ve noted a general lack of enthusiasm for the Wizard branding as well as the direction of Wizard shows. When pressed, the most description any of these folks have been able to give me regarding this is the feeling of a ‘general trend downward.’

ON THE OTHER HAND, some people do very very well at Wizard shows. An artist posted in the comments to the above thread:

I’m sorry, guys, but I was in artist’s alley and I had my best show yet. They really did a good job bringing people through the door. The old owners did basically zero marketing. 2x the price is way too high, but it sounds like they were figuring that out. And I really can’t get upset that someone tried to sell you something. You’re in sales. It happens.

An official Wizard rep also passed along this gallery of photos from the show which show many people having a good time.

201110241329 Retailer files complaint against Wizard AND posts dramatic video on YouTube
So…your mileage may vary.

Comments

  1. Superfly is a great store, and it is unfortunate that they were so heavily badgered by the organizers as to publicly proclaim their frustrations. It is worth mentioning for added perspective of the situation that Superfly is located in Yellow Springs, Ohio, possibly one of the most hippie-centric areas in the country. These guys are extremely friendly, easy going store owners that have always made my comic shopping experience pleasant. I’d imagine it would take quite a bit to piss them off to this extent.

    I have attended Mid-Ohio Con in the past, and have enjoyed it, and this was based entirely on the vendors and artists present. Not getting a store like this is a missed opportunity on Wizard’s part, and if this is how they are treating all of their reluctant vendors, the old saying honey gets more flies than vinegar comes to mind.

  2. Nawid A says:

    Fearless Readers actually had a sale based on them not wanting to go to Mid-Ohio Con despite loving it in the past.

  3. As a guest of the show, I can verify that Saturday the 22nd was HUGE in terms of turnout. Space was definitely at a premium, especially in the cramped tables in Artists’ Alley, and hopefully next year will feature a bigger venue.

    And if anyone’s interested, here are some of my pics from this year’s Mid-Ohio Con…

    DAY ONE

    http://charlesskaggs.blogspot.com/2011/10/mid-ohio-comic-con-2011-day-one-photos.html

    DAY TWO

    http://charlesskaggs.blogspot.com/2011/10/mid-ohio-comic-con-2011-day-two-photos.html

  4. Wizard World’s Big Apple Comic-Con Press tent lost my driver’s license at check in, then when they couldn’t find it denied that it had happened. Their PR guy is maybe the biggest douchnozzle I’ve ever encountered. So, I’m glad if the con went well for the artists and the crowd but Wizard World’s staff behaving like thugs is not unheard of by any means.

  5. I’d have just told them yes and not sent them any money.

  6. These Superfly guys, I mean… you say maybe they don’t have a 3B complaint-worthy offense, but… my time is my time. I don’t deal with telemarketers or political calls well, and those are completely random. This is a business looking to establish a relationship with another business. If you’re going to hound someone, make it worth their while. If they make it clear they’re not interested, no means no. This is like some sort of corporate rape, and I think the retailers in question (nice beards, guys) are well within their rights for pepper spraying Wizard in return.

    The real question here, however, is why did those no good GI Joes force the people at Wizard into this action? Our tax dollars are being used to fund their strong-arm malarkey!

  7. Joshua says:

    For anyone interested, the full interview with the Super-Fly crew can be found here: http://panelsonpages.com/?p=44568

  8. Yeah, is it The Beat’s practice to repurpose huge chunks of an interview without giving credit to the original site and author (besides a link hidden in the mention of the comparison to NYCC)?

    I’m a fan on The Beat (as an alternative to the ever-icky Bleeding Cool), but just as PoP! would extend the professional courtesy to link and credit The Beat if massive amounts of content are copy and pasted directly from the site, so should The Beat.

  9. Torsten Adair says:

    “In fact, Shamus said he considers only the San Diego Comic Con and the Chicago Comic Con to be more influential than Columbus’s.”

    Okay, I’ve never been to the MOCC, although it always had a good reputation and an amazing guest list.

    But influential? Have publishers ever announced news there? Do they even show up?

    And Chicago? No. I know the comics publishers don’t show up, so whatever influence it had vanished long ago.

    Judge any convention by the national news coverage, that’s the best way to gauge influence.

    As for size, this year they occupied the Batelle Ballroom at the Convention Center, which has 50,000 square feet. The first NYCC had more space than that, and their attendance was 30,000.

    Oh, and Wizard? If you want to promote yourself and your influence, let’s see some attendance figures.

  10. Josh and Jason —

    Um, I did link to the interview. “would be greater than NYCCs” is the text.

    It is a longish chunk but it is a long, thorough interview.

    I guess I didn’t mention Panels on Pages, which I probably should have done, but that was an oversight. I think you guys did a great job bringing this story to light, so props on that.

  11. James says:

    A bit of truth mixed with a bit of “occupy” hysteria.

  12. DublDownDrew says:

    Unfortunately due to family considerations beyond my control (“darn” kids) I had to miss Mid Ohio Con for the fourth year in a row after having been for something like 13 straight years. Can’t speak to Wizard’s involvement, but it has always been a great mid sized con (in relation to local shows I’ve attended vs. Dragon Con or Wizard World Chicago or even c2e2).

    The only major news I can remember seeing at Mid-Ohio was getting to attend the Gorilla Comics launch party and meeting the awesome Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid for the first time. Still sad I never got to see more Section Zero, but I certainly enjoyed ShockRockets and Empire when we got them.

    Hoping to get to attend next year.

  13. Thank you for your response, Heidi. I made note of the link in my comment, but outside of that link (which was simply that, not a mention of panelsonpages.com), the excerpts from the article as well as the comments quoted from the article were not attributed to said article…or attributed to anyone but Jared or Tony. Superfly Comics, Jared Whitaker, and Tony Barry share a longstanding and symbiotic relationship with PanelsOnPages.com, and it was only because of our relationship with the Superfly folks that the full story and interview were brought to light. And that’s the main idea of this whole story…to get said story out there. However, we at PanelsOnPages.com would still appreciate the same professional courtesy (i.e. site credit) that we would allow The Beat.

  14. Chris Hero says:

    I used to go to Mid-Ohio when I was a kid. It was awesome back then. I remember my first panel was a Legend Comic panel where Mike Mignola was describing this new comic he was working on, Hellboy.

    Anyway, I’d definitely say Chicago’s con, which used to be *awesome*, was way more influential than NYCC currently is. Maybe that will change.

  15. Jerry Smith says:

    I was at the show and had a great time. Who could meet Adam West and Burt Ward and not have a great time? It was well attended, but I have no idea of the actual numbers.

    There were two things Wizard could do better: ticket prices (way too high) and Exhibition rooms. They did all Q&As and presentations in one room that held 160 people. Do they really think out of the thousands of people attending, only 160 people want to hear Lando Calrissian and Batman & Robin speak? I was refused entry into the West & Ward Q&A along with hundreds of other people. Get a clue, Wizard.

    Otherwise, it was a good show.

  16. Glenn Barbis Jr. says:

    Asking for attendance figures is really no gauge of how many people really attended the convention, especially a Wizturd con. All of them fudge the numbers to some extent, but Wizturd are masters of it. They normally count someone with a 2 or 3 Day pass as 2 or 3 different purchases/attendees, so any attendance figures they issue.

    And I have not and will not attend any Wizturd show, even if it was free, after the incident years ago in which Gareb Sham-Us’ father berated and embarrassed the late Carrie Nodell. After having a few bad experiences with Wizturd conventions in the past (as well as with their “magazine”), that incident was the last straw for me.

  17. I have mad-love for the Super-Fly guys (as well as the PoP! Crew) and was bummed-out that they weren’t at the show. That being said, despite the need for a few tweaks, it really was quite a successful show for a lot of the artists and creators who set-up there.

  18. Glenn Barbis Jr. says:

    Oops…

    (…so any attendance figures they issue.) are highly suspect.

  19. I was only peripherally aware of the controversy and bad buzz related to this con. We did have a representative present (one of our users who contributed reports as an attendee) and he reported nothing negative.

    I’m not posting this to be contrary as this guy was not there as a retailer. His experience was that of a fan which is entirely different.

    Here’s hoping Wizard can sort out their PR with retailers so fans can continue having great con experiences.

  20. I should say however that if it’s any indication, our mid-ohio con reports are not getting nearly as many reads as our regular content. That could possibly be indicative that interest in this con is lower than Wizard purports.

  21. NOT THE Robert Kirkman says:

    I truly believe this is a case of “Bored-Adversarial-Conflict Deprived-Comic Book Store Guy” Vs “Stereo-Type-Driven-Overly-Persistent Salesman Guy”
    I have no love for Wizard but Comic Book Guy just can’t seem to let this one go. I think the Superfly boys might be taking this a little too seriously.
    Would an English Lit drop out joke be superfluous?

  22. Actually, this sounds like a case of “Snarky-0verly-Self-Important-Writer-Guy” vs “The-People-Who-Made-Him-What-He-Is-Who-He-Seems-To-Love-Pissing-On”

    What I really want to know is, did anyone who made it to Mid Ohio Con get any Ultimate X-Men trades? The stuff by Millar, Bendis, and Vaughn was great! I need to pick that stuff up.

  23. Mr. Kirkman,

    Did we take things too far? That’s up to other people to decide. We did what we thought we had to do when someone, in this case, a huge company that continuously hounded us to spend money on a show that we clearly had no interest in attending. I would ask you that same thing that we’ve been asking people: “How many times do you have to be told ‘no’ before you get the hint?”

    An English Lit joke would be superfluous. Tony does have a degree in English Lit.

    Love the show. I can’t front on that.

  24. Can we get some kind of verification if that was THE Robert Kirkman with that comment. I love Kirkman, Invincible and Walking Dead are some of my favorite books.

    The snark that “Kirkman” used is completly uncalled for though. I know that sometimes that the people we look up too are not always what they seem when we meet them, but at the very least, a writer in the comic industry should never insult a comic store.

    We live in a time in which comic stores should have more support form the industry itself. With more and more people going digital, stores are fighting even harder for money. Everyone in the industry should place more focus on helping out the comic stores.

  25. Pablo says:

    I really enjoyed this year’s Anaheim WizardWorld Convention. I probably had the best con experience ever with meeting celebrities like Harry Hamlin, Ray Park, Ernie Hudson, and John Schneider. I didn’t, however, meet any of my most favorite artists like at the San Diego and Long Beach Comic Cons. WizardWorld definately has its major flaws like ticket prices, lack of panels, high autograph prices for celebrities, none of the publishers attending, and not quite enough writers and artists (you can never have enough writers and artists!). After watching this video and reading this article now I know why WizardWorld is so flawed, and why this show might never live up to its potential.

    I applaud the guys from Superfly Comics for standing up to Wizard’s bad PR. Nobody should have to put up with such harassment and bullying from Wizard or anyone. I heard a long time ago that the guy that published Wizard, Mr. Shamus, was greedy and stuckup, and that is why he started Wizard magazine (price gouging of comics? Really?). I hope that that is not true, but just look at the way his people deal with comic dealers (some of the niciest people on the planet!).

    This article and video will definately change the way people view WizardWorld and the people that run the show. Even though the article and video made me think negatively of WizardWorld and its employees, I will still go to the next WizardWorld the next time it is in Anaheim. Besides, I went to WizardWorld to meet the artists, writers, and celebrities; not to meet the people that run the show!

  26. Tom W. says:

    Wizard jacked all the rates up across the board. By 50-60%. For example, an artist alley table last year- $125. This year- $200. I wouldn’t mock anyone for balking at that. Sight unseen and knowing how many people showed up last year.

    I skipped this show because Gem City is only a few months away and is almost $30 cheaper to get in.

  27. ROBERT KIRKMAN says:

    WHOA! Someone pointed me in the direction of this thread. The person above is TOTALLY NOT ME. Sorry if it’s another guy who just happens to have the same name as me.

    If that’s not the case, though… NOT COOL, MAN.

    Heidi, can you correct that post or something?

    -Robert

  28. WALKING DEAD Robert Kirkman: I was actually going to check with you on this, since I’ve had several instances of people posting under well known names. Thanks for coming by to set the record straight.

    OTHER Robert Kirkman: I have clarified your screen name.

  29. You might find this rather article of the con from a non comic web source and the other cons that were running in parallel to it…

    http://www.columbusunderground.com/review-2011-mid-ohio-comic-con

    Note “Dead hours on Sunday”. Compare that to “packed on Sunday” at NYCC to the point it useless to go there. Is that how it usually is there? I have never been.

  30. I, Hector Ramirez, do hereby solemnly recant my prior comment. It was reactionary and – if that was not THE Robert Kirkman – mostly untrue. Although I still really didn’t enjoy his run on Ultimate X-Men.

    Either way, that first Robert Kirkman’s a douchenozzle.

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