Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

August 7, 2009

Reed/C2E2 Launches Frontrunner For Best Press Release Of 2009 As Wizardworld Chicago Clanks To Life

Intentional or not, the press release dropped Wednesday by Reed Exhibitions about all of the awesome, big-name comic book vendors lining up to be in their C2E2 show at Chicago's McCormick Place/Lakeside Center in Spring 2010 will no doubt be seen by many comics insiders as an across-the-bow shot at Chicago convention incumbent Wizard Entertainment. Reed's PR burbles to life as Gareb Shamus' flagship show Wizardworld Chicago, now and forever (forever in comic book terms) Chicago Comicon, once thought a genuine challenger to Comic-Con International, lurches to life bereft of many of these comic book show anchor participants.


As has been widely reported, Wizard World's shows in 2009 have been beset by dozens of problems: the perception that the sponsoring company is deeply troubled via massive corporate downsizing and a noticeable slide in their display advertising, a credentialing issue in Philadelphia that led some to comment that processing personal grudges about the downsizing were more important than putting a best face forward, the perceived success of independent show Heroes Con going up against that Philadelphia show a scan pair of years after the though of a not-established show going up against Heroes was an outright act of bullying, other Wizard World shows being either canceled outright or indefinitely postponed (I can't tell the difference, but I think one of those fates befell Dallas and the other Los Angeles) and Gareb Shamus picking up conventions in his own name rather than in the name of his potentially beleaguered company. This includes an Anaheim-based show announced for the same weekend as C2E2, and this show's rebranding.

The Chicago's show arrival has been the subject of a swirl of rumors and the instigating factor of some face-saving PR, such as this hard-to-listen-to interview with Gareb Shamus on Word Balloon where part of the Wizard founder seems stuck in the early '90s and another part seems to be grasping for the right words to start to negotiate in advance whatever might happen with the Chicago show. (I expect it to do pretty well, incidentally. Chicago is a great comics town, and the just-outside-of-Chicago setting allows for accessible car traffic from a circle of 500 or so miles and that remains a strength for the target audience.) For one thing, I understand there's a criticism of CCI either in that interview or elsewhere where Chicago is more about the comics than the admittedly film-stuffed CCI, only this renamed Chicago Comicon has very few comics companies and seems to have increased its dependency on the actors-signing-things circuit (god bless them).

In this article, much of the spin seems fine -- when I was a kid heading to Chicago in the summer I wanted dealers and comics professionals and would have been happy for them -- except you have a claim by Shamus that they'll break attendance records. I thus figure we're in for a weekend of people saying attendance is really light followed by Wizard's claim to have shattered those attendance records. Who does that help? It seems to me that Shamus and his crew are staying in the convention business because even smaller conventions can be run in a profitable way, and it further seems to me that a genuine strategy for dealing with C2E2 -- which will be held during the school year, and is taking place downtown where there are some access issues (or at least perceived issues) when compared to Rosemont -- would be playing the accessibility and tradition cards. Lowering expectations against a big-money opponent. Boasting about a result that probably won't match what anyone in attendance sees seems to run counter to implementing such a strategy. Then again, I've never had a successful businesses of this type, so maybe we should wait and see how things play out.
posted 8:20 am PST | Permalink

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