This year’s Wizard World Tour kicks off in a couple of weeks with the Wizard World New Orleans Comic-Con, January 29-30th, but this year’s edition has significantly freshened up the guest list. For instance, a recent press release regarding the New Orleans show touted 12 Eisner award winners or nominees among the guests:
Superstar artists and writers who have won the prestigious Eisner Award who will be on site include Rob Guillory (“Chew”), John Layman (“Chew,” “Puffed”), Kevin Maguire (“Justice League,” “Batman Confidential,” Cameron Stewart (“Batman & Robin,” “Catwoman”), Tony Harris (“Starman,” “Ex Machina”) and Bill Sienkiewicz (“Elektra”).
Eisner nominees scheduled to appear include Kaare Andrews (“Astonishing X-Men,” “Iron Man,” John Dell (“JLA,” “Adventure Comics”), David Mack (“Kabuki”), Ethan Van Sciver (“Green Lantern,” “Superman/Batman”) and Dexter Vines (“Ultimate Thor,” “Superman/Batman”).
These announcements are interspersed among what would be considering more characteristic Wizard announcements such as the participation of TV stars like Bruce Campbell, Chandler Riggs, David Prowse, Walter Koenig, and so on. But this kind of nod to comics of quality is a newish thing for the Wizard brand.
In recent months, Wizard has also been reaching out to pretty much every cartoonist on earth to invite them to be guests at their shows. The basic invite includes a table but no travel or hotel room. Our email has been filled with puzzled veteran ‘tooners wondering whether it’s worth it to accept the invite for a free table. Yesterday there was evidence of Wizard taking it to a whole new level, as indie cartoonists were tweeting about their own Wizard invites:
Weirdly, bizarrely, I just got an email offering me a comp table at any of the Wizard World shows?? Not even sure how to respond.
Sarah Glidden among them
@dustinharbin Me too. Are those shows any good?
Other indie stars getting the Wizard letter include Gabby Schultz, Lisa Hanawalt and Nathan Schrieber. Not exactly the kind of folks you’d expect to see at a Wizard show. Harbin further tweeted that his invite was particular surprising given past history:
Back when I ran HeroesCon, there was a ton of bad blood between us. They’re dicks. So I was like ??? at the invite. …Well, I don’t bear them super ill will or anything. I’m tempted to email back and ask for a plane ticket/hotel room.
It’s not exactly clear what’s behind this open invitation to the whole world of comics — for years we’ve been saying that Wizard needed to freshen up the guest list beyond artists who were hot when PITT was a best selling title, so it’s a smart move. It could also be that with a big slate of shows to fill, there just aren’t enough of the previous guest list to go around. In addition, we hear, several former guests just don’t want to go to Wizard shows any more.
Another recent press release suggests the convention is still looking to expand:
Coming off its most successful year, featuring eight events across North America, Wizard World, the world’s largest pop culture convention series, today announced an expansion to at least 13 events in the coming year. The 2011 tour gets underway at Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con, January 29-30, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“This past year was a landmark one for our brand, with successful expansion into new markets and the addition of a large slate of activation programs, celebrities and special events,” said Gareb Shamus, CEO of Wizard Entertainment. “With our added shows now announced for 2011 we can continue to grow and offer top flight entertainment to pop culture fans and the brands who want to engage them in even more markets cities across North America.”
And indeed, our email is also filled with talk of renewed offers from Wizard to pact with even more local shows in various parts of the country.
The current schedule calls for a show a month, except July:
January 29-30 – New Orleans Comic Con
February 26-27 – Miami Comic Con
March 18-20 – Toronto Comic Con
April 29 – May 1 – Anaheim Comic Con
May 21-22 – Big Apple Comic Con ‘Spring Edition’
June 17-19 – Philadelphia Comic Con
August 11-14 – Chicago Comic Con
September 17-18 – New England Comic Con
September 24-25 – Big Apple Comic Con
October 22-23 – Mid-Ohio Comic Con
October 28-30 – Central Canada Comic Con (C4)
November 11-13 – Austin Comic Con
December 3-4 – Atlanta Comic Con
Still unscheduled: the New Jersey Comic Con, Cincinnati Comic Con, Cleveland Comic Con and the Nashville Comic Con. These shows haven’t been held since it was announced Wizard was taking them over. Holding more than a show a month is hard work.
The flames of Con Wars have mostly died down, and Wizard cons are becoming the kind of celebrity heavy shows with some cartoonists that the Creation Cons of old eventually turned into. as Creation expanded into more and more shows, and even more specialized shows — Trek cons, Xena cons — the comics part of their formula has died out completely. It remains to be seen which way Wizard evolves.