Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Death of a Convention?



I got two press releases from Wizard Entertainment today; the second of which contained the above ad. Both were about the upcoming Chicago Comic-Con (formerly Wizard World Chicago) and now I'm a little afraid to go to the show.

It's no secret that Wizard is in a bad way financially. They're closing down magazines and letting go employees all over the place. No one was sure what to make of it back in February when it was first noticed that they were re-naming the Chicago convention. Wizard's website is inconsistent in its reference to the show, sometimes calling it Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con, but also sporting the above logo that makes no mention of Wizard. Both press releases I got today just called it Chicago Comic-Con. Is Wizard actively distancing itself from the show?

The reason this concerns me is that Chicago has traditionally been my one, major convention of the year. It hasn't been the best or busiest show for a long time now, but it's close enough for me to drive, so I've always made the trip. Now I'm wondering if it's going to be worth it at all, even if I'm getting in for free as press.

What's most frightening isn't that Wizard seems to be pulling back, it's that everyone else does too. Todd Allen pointed out yesterday that none of the biggest publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse) have booths at this year's show. That doesn't mean that they won't have people there on panels and whatnot, but it's disturbing to know that there won't at least be the massive DC booth that always dominates the front of the hall.

And what about the guests? The February announcement was about Mark Millar as a guest of honor, but the best that the ad above has to offer is Ernie Hudson? Don't get me wrong, I like Ernie Hudson, but how is he your major draw? And the other celebrities it mentions? Donna Derrico? Jake Busey? Margot Kidder? I'm scared, ya'll.

Fortunately, next year I'll have a choice when Reed Exhibitions starts its Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2). When that announcement was first made I hoped it meant that Wizard would up their game in order to compete, giving us two good shows instead of one mediocre one. Instead, it looks like they're just phoning it in. I'll be surprised if there still even is a show in the Stephens Convention Center in a couple of years.
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