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

August 14, 2016

Wizard On DS Arms Inc.: “We Have Elected To Not Retain Them As An Exhibitor At The Event”

Wizard has disinvited gun dealer DS Arms, Inc. from their forthcoming show in Rosemont, Illinois. Attentive fans had noted the exhibitor's name and were surprised to see a booth given over to that kind of merchant. Safety concerns, public perception concerns (given Chicago intense recent history with brutal gun violence) and concerns for the nature of the show were all expressed.

Wizard spokesperson Jerry Milani wrote CR on Saturday night to explain the situation and say the exhibitor will not be retained. Milani's statement in full:

"A scheduled exhibitor at our upcoming Wizard World Comic Con Chicago event, one which had been included through a third-party partner, was to have displayed and presented imitation, costume Star Wars and other movie/comic type weaponry. But, as it has come to our attention that the organization markets and sells actual, real-life weapons, we have elected to not retain them as an exhibitor at the event.

"Wizard World Comic Cons celebrate many facets of pop culture and entertainment. The vast majority of these are suitable for all ages; some are intended solely for adults. We are committed to providing a wide variety of entertainment options within our venue and associated businesses, with safety a top priority.

"Any fan interested in expressing concerns with any of our policies is invited to contact us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)"

I believe that's the same decision most people would have made, although I suppose whether or not Wizard had enough of a grasp on its exhibiting partners is up for debate. Filling your show through a third-party mechanism is likely to lead to some exhibitors you just don't know as well as others drawn directly from the comics, gaming and pop-culture industries.

Whether or not safety concerns would have been a real thing and to what extent is something one could also debate more generally, or have that argument migrate to non-gun weaponry sometimes available on a show floor.

One CR reader pointed out that based on past experience with DS Arms' set-up at a non-comics convention, he believed it wasn't quite the arm-sales scenario imagined on their behalf. "Had a table next to these guys at Flashback Weekend in Rosemont show before last," wrote John Ira Thomas. "The owner is a fan who uses the table as a rally point for attending the show (they said they also set up at an adult entertainment show as well). They displayed a secured and deactivated AR-15 and gave away piles of gun-themed gimmes. They had no intention of selling anything at the show." That alone doesn't make them a desirable exhibiting partner for Wizard, but it's nice to have a clearer picture of what is being avoided as both show and exhibitor move forward in their other business.

As cons and festivals remain popular enough for organizers to try, what exhibitors related to comics will be invited in -- particularly for wide-reach mainstream shows -- is likely to be an interest and concern to the fans and fellow exhibitors asked to take some ownership of each event. This includes scrutiny for people that might be selling something odd or dangerous but will extend to those simply advocating for a hobby or a political position or attendance at a school or promoting a military career. There's a chance we'll be seeing this kind of show-to-show blowback and discussion a few times a year over now. Let's hope everything remains in the realm of words.

Update: They're having the dealer on the floor in the way that Mr. Thomas describes above: no real guns. They did not send a correction my way, which means Wizard's official statements will not get any meager benefit of the doubt they were given at this site from now on. There's a reason you credit someone in the headline as making a statement, and it's not that you trust them.
posted 11:41 pm PST | Permalink

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