Farace cherishes his direct relationship with his customers, most of whom are serious comics collectors or regular readers who visit every week. He says that participating in special events like conventions — which sometimes cater to mega dealers or one-and-done consumers — can disrupt that vital relationship.

The bad blood boiled to the surface in 2001 — a decade before John Macaluso jumped into the Wizard World driver's seat.

"I've done three-day shows in St. Louis before. People come in from out of town and you do tend to make more money, but coming back, I've had regulars be mad. 'You went to a show and sold stuff at a discount?'" Farace says. "Now if I want to mark something down, I'll look at a regular customer and say, 'Well, give me this [dollar amount]' as opposed to having a sale for people who never come but one day a year."

Despite Farace's reservations, Macaluso says he wants Wizard World to be a positive force for local shops.

Brian Spath screens his Web series Comic Geeks around the country at conventions like Wizard World.
Jon Gitchoff
Brian Spath screens his Web series Comic Geeks around the country at conventions like Wizard World.
Star Trek's William Shatner is one of many celebrities slated to appear at Wizard World St. Louis. John Macaluso stands at right.
Courtesy of Wizard World
Star Trek's William Shatner is one of many celebrities slated to appear at Wizard World St. Louis. John Macaluso stands at right.

"We're looking to help the comic-book industry," Macaluso says. "We try and attract every local comic-book dealer to the shows."

"I'm sure my Neal Adams [award-winning artist for Superman, Green Arrow and Batman] books are going to be hot because he's coming to town," Farace admits. "But will I see long-term customers because of it? Very, very few."


The bad blood boiled to the surface in 2001 — a decade before John Macaluso jumped into the Wizard World driver's seat. Frank Miller, creator of the acclaimed Sin City series, was delivering the keynote speech at the Harvey Awards, a major awards program for those in the comic-book industry. As a prop, Miller held in his hand a copy of Wizard magazine, the publication that eventually led to the Wizard World trade shows.

"Even though this monthly vulgarity reinforces all the prejudice people hold about comics, they cry to all the world that we're as cheap and stupid and trashy as they think we are, and we sponsor this assault," Miller said as he ripped apart an issue of the magazine onstage. "We pay for the goddamn privilege. But really, when will we finally get around to flushing this thing, this load of crap, once and for all?"

Miller concluded his speech by tossing the torn magazine into a trash can, to thunderous applause.

The target of Miller's rage, Gareb Shamus, is no longer with Wizard World. But without him, hundreds of thousands of geeks in the heartland may never have experienced a large-scale comic con. In 1991, Shamus, then a recent college grad, founded Wizard: The Guide to Comics, a monthly magazine that gave readers story-arc speculation, humor columns, comic-book reviews, a price guide and an inside line to some of the industry's best personalities.

Back then it was difficult for comic-book readers to find easy-to-read information about upcoming issues or ascending writers and artists. Thus, readers prized Wizard's top-ten lists and its commentary on collectibles. Moreover, because the magazine used a fun style of writing and design, it stood out from dry resources like Comics Buyer's Guide.

"You weren't a comic-book retailer if you didn't carry Wizard. In fact, the magazine was popular enough to be on some customers' pull lists, just like comic books were," says Neil Sobleski, a long-time comic-book collector and conventiongoer in Dayton, Ohio, who is considering opening his own comics shop. "One of the cool things Wizard did was to share photos of artists and writers, which you didn't see before."

Successfully filling a public hunger, Shamus spread his publication empire to several monthlies before turning his attention to events — specifically consumer conventions. Operating as Wizard Entertainment, Shamus' team in 1997 bought Chicago Comicon, expanding the scope and boosting attendance from 5,000 to 25,000 the following year (the Chicago con continues to be one of the most popular of its size in the country).

"It was the first Wizard show, and we've done it consecutively every year since then," says Jerry Milani, the public-relations director for Wizard World.

Wizard Entertainment continued pushing comics into the mainstream through publications and conventions, and things were good. Until they weren't.

After Miller's outburst at the Harvey Awards, fans perceived a shift in Wizard's quality and mission during the 2000s. Some comics collectors speculated that the publication was playing favorites with its lists and inflating the value of certain titles. In addition, some people saw Wizard Entertainment as somewhat of a bully, scheduling its conventions directly against those already established in some cities. By the end of the decade, Wizard was on fewer newsstands, and the Shamus era of Wizard Entertainment began drawing to a close. In 2011, the print publications suddenly ceased production, quickly followed by the dissolution of the digital version of Wizard magazine.

"What hurts the most about all of this...is that it didn't have to happen," former Wizard news editor Brett White was quoted as saying in the wake of the magazine's closure. "Wizard as a name, as a thing, it's something that has always existed to me. I started collecting hardcore in 1993, and Wizard was there for it. And when you look at all the great people that have worked there, it really should have always been at the absolute top of its game. Wizard in 2011 should be as popular as Wired in print and Comic Book Resources and Newsarama online."

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8 comments
VeraC
VeraC

That's the problem, Wizard World is looking at it like a market. I have been to many conventions around the country, and Wizard World is horrible to it's fans. Did you know that all the local geek groups used to have tables set up where locals can connect with local clubs, they now charge those non-profit, charitable groups $600 for a booth? They also charge more for autographs for the same celebs that attend different cons. Basically it's like attending an overpriced flea market. Dragon*Con is a convention 10 times larger than WW cons, and yet it costs the same to get in. They have tables for the fan groups, activities to do, panels, parades, and more reasonably priced autographs. WW doesn't care about the fans, and the only way to send them a message is to stop giving them money. 


Join the boycott and look here for more info: https://www.facebook.com/BoycottWizardWorldConventions

scarbelly857
scarbelly857

Went last year. Paid $40 to get in and walk around for an hour. After that there was pretty much nothing else to do. It's just a flea market with a huge entry fee. Would not recommend.

Darla Cook
Darla Cook

They nickle and dime you to death. Pay to get in, pay to get an autograph, pay for food, pay to park, soon I expect you'll have to pay to get in to event room too. You will, because I no longer go.

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

is this where all the nerdy chicks walk around with their boobs out

Big Damn Heroes
Big Damn Heroes

One of the days we will play Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con if it's the last thing we do...

Mark Correira
Mark Correira

Great Article...Be sure to stop by Booth #801 and visit The Zocalo Connection and toysofouryouth.com for an awesome selection of Comic, Sci-Fi, Pop Culture collectibles and Retro Toys and Retro Video Gaming. Please come support us and other local dealers.

jch1962
jch1962

Thanks for the look into Wizard World. Incidental takeaway: Spiderman appeared first in summer of '62.  I had thought he was older than that.

 
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