Tagged: Wizard World

Marc Alan Fishman: The Top Five Best and Worst Of 2012

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my ComicMixers! I hope you all had a merry Christmas, a sassy Chanukah, and grumpy Festivus if you were so inclined. So, with Father Time about to hit the retcon button on our daily calendars… I thought it would be apropos to reflect a bit on those amazing and terrible things that made my year. Please note: this isn’t ALL about comic books; you’ve been warned.

Because I like to start on a dour note… here’s The Worst!

5. Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. My Sanity: Simply put, this stands up as yet-another-example of what makes me hate the mainstream comics business. No matter how many times they lather us up with “we’ve got the best talent on this”, “this will change everything”, and “you won’t believe what happens!”, they always end up the same. Bloated, predictable, and unending. Every Marvel event since the dawn of Brian Michael Bendis has finished up in deeper doo-doo than when they began. His boner for “shades of grey” is unnerving. We get it; making our favorite characters wail on one another is why we buy comics. But, hey… guess what? It isn’t. I’d much prefer a well thought out story that ends instead of a non-stop soap opera.

4. The 2012 Election: Not the result, mind you, but the unending nature of it all. For what felt like nearly the entire year, we were privy to 24 hours a day coverage of not only our POTUS but everyone vying for his seat. It brought out the worst in the candidates and the politically charged masses along for the ride. In the worst case, certain louder-than-usual politico-creators became so unnerving I was forced to hide them from my feeds. First world problems? You bet. But no less annoying on my life and times this year.

3. Wizard World Conventions: The movie definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So Wizard World changes the guard on high. They attempt to make sweeping changes on the floors of their traveling circus, making D-List celebs the premier attraction. They continue to maintain the second highest per-show cost for visiting artists. In short? They continue to drive away the very thing that started them out so very long ago: comics and the people who make them. While my li’l studio always sells well at these abominations… rarely are we joined in celebration at the end of the cons. Hence, my finger of shame this year.

2. Green Lantern: Another finger of shame… a ring finger! Geoff Johns has taken Grant Morrison’s Five-Year Plan model and Michael Bay’ed it to death. As I’ve been forced to note several times this year, the continual event fatigue on the entire line –which shouldn’t even be a line – is too much to bear. And while the majority of 2012 was spent with Sinestro and his gal Friday Jordan traipsing around the universe righting wrongs… this Rise of the Third Army is the emerald icing on a sheet cake of excess. Too many McGuffins, too many predictable plots, and a brand-new Lantern who thus far is more a caricature of “not-a-terrorist” than a fleshed-out legacy ring-slinger. One I’ll happily predict will last in prominence half as long as the last not-ready-for-prime-time-player, Kyle “Costume Change” Rayner.

1. Comics News Coverage: Well it finally caught up to us too, didn’t it? CNN begat CNN, and from them spawned the 24-hour news cycle that has extended to comics. Between Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, and others (hold your tongue for a second, please) all looking for an audience… We’re left scouring trash-bins and date books in order to report anything about our beloved industry. I waive the white flag. And now to those who think I hold this very site on the fire? Nay. ComicMix is about writers expressing their opinions, and that’s enough for me to remove us from said blaze. Simply put, the news is important, but the environment we’ve built to report and sustain it is sickening. Marvel, DC, and the like can’t sneeze without us finding out about it… and then creating a backlash over it before the press releases have hit an inbox. Enough is ‘nuff said.

And now… The Best:

5. The Dark Knight Rises: Three cheers for Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. Yeah, I know… The Avengers was more fun. But it wasn’t close to TDKR’s level of sophistication. Neither movie was flawless, but Batman kept me on the edge of my seat pretty much the whole way through. The depiction of Bane was as good as it will ever be – menacing, big picture villainous thinking, and an actual brain amidst the brawn. But Bane wasn’t what made the movie. Bale’s Wayne was nuanced, angsty without being annoying, and above all else… visibly human. Nolan, in spite of Frank Miller and Grant Morrison showed that you don’t have to depict the God-Damned Batman to show the world a fantastic caped-crusader. Add in a brilliant turn for Selina Kyle, and it added up to one of my favorite flicks of the year. I would have put Django Unchained in this spot, but I haven’t seen it yet.

4. Marvel Now: If you read my reviews over at Michael Davis World (and I know you do…), then you’d know just how much I’m loving the House of Mouse these days. Fantastic Four / FF is proving thus far to balance the whimsy the series used to be known for with mature overtones. Iron Man, while nowhere near as good as Fraction’s run, is still entertaining. Superior Spider-Man has me legitimately interested in the wall-crawler again. Mike Gold has tried several times to recommend Captain America to me. My Unshaven Cohort is reading an X-Men book for the first time ever. And Avengers? Epic as I’d ever want it to be. Marvel looked at DC’s retcon-reboot-whatever, and opted instead to play it safe. Frankly, it’s proven to me that it was the right thing to do. Sales spikes or not. By choosing not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Marvel is stealing me away one book at a time

3. The Baltimore Comic-Con: Unshaven Comics took the 13-hour drive to the East Coast, and boy howdy was it ever worth it. We sold an incredible amount of books. We rubbed elbows with industry giants at the Harvey Awards. We got to hand our book to Phil LaMarr. We had dinner with Mark Wheatley, Marc Hempel, Glenn Hauman, and Emily Whitten. And at that dinner? We had crab cakes as big as softballs. Frankly? It was a weekend of a lifetime. Such that we’ve already registered and purchased our table for 2013. It’s the most comic-book-centered convention we’ve been privy too. Charm City? Color me charmed.

2. Unshaven Comics’ Sales: Hate to get all self-promotional here, but screw it. Unshaven Comics had a simple goal. With no distribution, no investors, and nothing more than our blood-sweat-n-tears… we wanted to sell 1000 books over the course of a year. After attending a dozen shows, and doing our best work ever? We sold 1406. We made amazing connections, saw fans actually seek us out at shows, and gained over 300 Facebook fans without purchasing an ad or doing anything more than hustle. By hook or crook, we’re making the smallest impact known to man on the comic book industry. But I’ll be damned—it may actually be working. All it’s done is fuel our fire for 2013. 1,667 books moved next year will mean we see the shores of San Diego in 2014. Beards on.

1. Bennett Reed Fishman: Simply put, no other moment, comic book or otherwise, is worth a hill of beans in my world. On January 27th, 2012, I became a father. Ever since, every single thing I’ve done has been for the betterment of his life. Having been an ego-centered bearded ne’er-do-well for far too long, suddenly became moot. In his eyes and smile, the world around me means nothing. And when at 5:30 every day he stops whatever he’s doing, and smiles ear to ear when Batman: The Animated Series comes on? It tells me this kid is my kid. And my worldview is 100% different. Sorry, comics. You never stood a chance.

Happy New Year to all of you who read my articles week in and week out. May 2013 prove to be a safe, prosperous, and amazing year for you all.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Marc Alan Fishman: Wizard World Redemption

Hello, everyone! After last week, I figured it’d only be fair that I give Wizard World a little hand up, since I was so quick to toss them into the gutter. Suffice to say I saw a ton of responses via Facebook, Twitter, etc. in support of my disappointing feelings at this past Wizard World Chicago. So, with all eyes from their ivory tower now squarely pointed at me*, I shall make an epic journey for Wizard, giving them the laundry list of things I’d like to see them do to reclaim their former convention glory.

Remember what started this whole shebang – comic books. Just because you can’t lay claim to the publishing giants does not mean with some delicate planning, you can’t land the amazing creators behind said publishers. Suffice to say, if you bring them, the fans will come. People love Marvel and DC. But they don’t come to the convention just because there’s a chance to see DC Direct action figures and snag some Marvel posters. More often than not? The mainstay of your crowd – the real comic fans – want a chance to meet the creators behind their favorite book. Whatever Wizard did to shun so many artists and writers? Well, it’s time to send out some apologetic gift baskets, and comp the way for the names that will draw in the most people.

And if you should be so lucky to entice a gaggle of cool creators, the next step is simple: plan a convention that celebrates the medium through intelligent discussion and good old-fashioned fun. What this means? Programming. Even in the larger convention halls, your crowd can peruse the show floor in about two hours, if they take it slow. This means that there is time in every show-goers’ schedule to enjoy something more than just spending their money.

In my youth, I recall amazingly fun panels: the Silver Age Trivia Contest, hosted by Mark Waid, the CBLDF Sketch-off, where top names like Jim Lee and Phil Hester jammed on audience suggestions for charity, as well as countless “how-to” panels where small gatherings of 50 or so fans got live demonstrations on everything from digital inking to script writing. At their core, the conventions are here to celebrate comics, not (just) corral all our cash.

Next up on the list? The non-comic stuff. Hey, I freely admit that these shows have grown to encapsulate all of Nerdtopia. And it’s cool if the show plays well with others. Comic geeks are also Trekkies, Jedis, Whovians, Vampires, and Otaku. So bring on the D-List Sci-Fi Channel celebutaunts. Bring on the retired WWE wrestlers. Create a dais of former Starfleet Captains and Wookies. Just don’t make them the sole reason to come. And better yet? Find a way to reduce the gouging. No need to pay for a show floor ticket, if you’re only there for some pictures. In the past, there was a nice area off the main floor where photo ops and autograph seekers could assemble. Do it again and you can bring back something all good shows have… a laid back traffic flow, instead of a jam of fanny packs and unwashed masses.

The last bit I’d like to touch on is something I yearn for: the promotion of the little guy. For a company like mine, these conventions are the single best way for us to gain a following. We sell books, hard, and do our best to connect to every fan that walks past our table and makes eye contact. With just a little help from show promoters (ahem, Wizard World…) we “indie guys” could have access to the fans en masse. And that could make all the difference in the world. Back when Wizard was huge, tickets came with a grab bag of materials. Offer the opportunity for indie creators to make samplers to place in these bags. Offer up panels to unknowns, who can help lead discussions, debates, tutorials, and demos. Con attendees interested in the content alone might then be converted into legit fans.

In short, Wizard World is well within the grasp of greatness. A few apologies, a few comps, and a few good planners could help take their show from the doldrums their in right now, and slowly rebuild them to be what they once were. The first step though is to admit there’s a problem. As the industry slowly crawls towards the advent of creator-owned content, the convention circuit will quickly become the single best way to connect fans to the industry. Don’t lose sight of that just because you can nab Sookie for a few autographs. We’re the reason these shows started, and dag nabbit, we’re the ones who can make them great again.

* I’m safely assuming that Wizard scours the net for mentions of their cons, and have no doubt flagged me as a ne’er-do-well on their hit list.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Marc Alan Fishman: Hey Wizard – You’re Running Outta Magic!

This past weekend Unshaven Comics attended our fifth Wizard World Chicago Comic Convention … as creators. As fans, we’ve been going to this every year since 2000. It is, for all intents and purposes, our home show. We sell the most books, meet the most fans, and generally enjoy an amazing time. Some, if not all of this is derived by selling the most books, but don’t quote me on that. I am quite proud to report that we hustled and bustled our way to our “soft goal” of a 10% increase in sales over the year past. 333 books left our table, and into the eager hands of friends, fans, and passersby who were lured by the pitch of Kung-Fu Monkeys and Zombie Cyborg Space Pirates. For that? We’re elated creators.

That being said, this was easily the worst Wizard World we’ve ever been a part of –be we just fantastic fans or curmudgeonly creators.

Where to begin: how about show length. As I recall this show used to be over a Saturday and Sunday. Then they added Friday. Then they added “preview night.” This year? They made it a full four days. Hey if it works in San Diego, right? Wrong. When the two largest booths on the convention floor are Chevy and “Smell Like An Avenger” and your panel listings fit on a black and white 11 x 17 photocopy? You don’t have four days worth of con. You have a weekend con stretched to the absolute limit.

Next? The floor plan. There’s a saying, I’m not sure if Wizard is familiar, that goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a great saying. Since Wizard obviously hasn’t heard it (and they most certainly are reading this) let me make it clear as the Invisible Woman. For 20 years the show floor has followed a very simple layout. Enter into the exhibitor zone with small press booths behind them, move to the dealer zone, and then the Artist Alley. Autographs and appearances? Wrapped right into the exhibitor booths. This year? They littered exhibitors with dealers all over the floor, put the autograph area smack dab in the middle of the convention hall, and then shoehorned the Artist Alley in the back third of the hall, split by a few jutting walls and the ATM.

And just to stick it to artists on the far end, they placed the photo op zone right at the end of the hall, ensuring a lengthy queue that stretched into the alley at all times during the convention. Nothing better for book sales and fan interaction like a line in front of your table that only cares about snagging that shot with Lou Ferigno, right? Wrong.

Far too many of my friends extended smiles coldly bookended with sighs of exasperation. Our neighbor from Mid-Ohio Con, the always amazing Eliza Frye, was forced to move her table three times. Three times! Which meant this show, which she flew in for, was a wash at best. Our close personal friend and arch nemesis, Dan “Beardo Comics” Dougherty, was one of the unlucky ones shoehorned near the photo op booth. He “made table” (as we in-the-know like to say) but didn’t quite reach his personal goal. Given that he makes comics for a living? This means less living for Dan. On one hand, I’m glad my arch nemesis failed. On the other hand? He’s an awesome creator who got the shaft by Wizard.

Concerning our Unshaven table… life was somewhat better. Our neighbors, both very awesome in their own ways, out-flanked our paltry table decorations with elaborate PVC and metal shelving installations. Our roll-up sign, and clear plastic tabletop book holder certainly didn’t impress. So much so that we heard from several fans after the show that they simply didn’t find us. It didn’t help that we were table “3113,” but there were no markings on the show floor (or provided program map with font size only Hank Pym could read) that would have assisted people in finding us. It also begs to note that prior to the show, Wizard e-mailed all the artists asking who we might want to sit next to. We listed six friends, all similar in fame and similar in style. We sat nowhere near them. While traffic on the floor itself was steady, it was always apparent how weary the fans were. Suffice to say (and it’d been said before) four days for a two day show does not make for an energetic crowd. Had it not been for our fevered pitching, I doubt we could have even topped the prior years’ sales.

Ultimately the show was just okay. Most creators saw enough sales to warrant their appearance. Most dealers left pissed at their spotty placement. I’m sure all the celebrities enjoyed being the star attraction of the show, in addition to getting to charge anywhere from $20 to $50 for signing their name.

There was a time when Wizard World Chicago was the crown jewel of a Chicago comic geek’s summer. Nowadays? It’s a second rate flea market peppered by those of us fighting in the trenches to earn one fan at a time. Will we be there next year? In order to be successful, we have to be. Will be bitch about it then, too? You better believe it. Wizard has a whole year to improve upon the car wreck they displayed a weekend ago.

In the simplest terms: Put the show floor back the way it was, attract more comic creators and publishers to return, make panels that celebrate the medium that spawned the creation of the show itself; You’re not San Diego, and you’ll never get close. It’s time to own that, Wizard. Excelsior.

Footnote: Post show, we received an e-mail from Wizard asking all creators to “put a good word in” for them to respective fan bases and with other creators. Nothing like owning up to shared feelings of failure, right?

SATURDAY: John Ostrander


Marc Alan Fishman: Gone Fishin’

After staying up for the better part of a week, or perhaps the worse part of a week, meeting his Unshaven Comics deadlines Marc has no printable words for us this week. Just some groans, moans, twitches, and a lotta snoring. All this is for the benefit of those attending next week’s Chicago Wizard World or the Baltimore Comic-Con September 8th and 9th, and you can see the results of their labors and actually meet the entire Unshaven Comics crew in person, in the respective Artists Alleys.

Warning: Several other ComicMixers will be at the Baltimore show as well. We will have you surrounded. Surrender Dorothy.

SUNDAY: In the Dark With John Ostrander


Meet the new Wizard World chairman, Mike Mathews

Meet the new Wizard World chairman, Mike Mathews

201112151733 SCOOP: New chairman talks about the new Wizard WorldWizard World without Gareb Shamus. The entire idea would have seemed ridiculous until just a few days ago when an SEC filing revealed that Shamus, the owner and founder of the company, had been removed as CEO. It was startling news which left everyone wondering what would become of the Wizard brand—once mighty in both media coverage and entertainment shows.

Answers are beginning to emerge. In an interview with The Beat, Wizard’s executive chairman Mike Mathews revealed that a new era has already begun at Wizard World, which will include outreach to the entire industry in a move to repair damaged relationships with both other industry players and fans.

In one of the most notorious examples of the bad blood which the old Wizard had given rise to, subscribers to the print magazine had not been given any make-up subscriptions for issues paid for but never mailed. However, according to Mathews, a letter is being sent out to old subscribers offering them a $100 credit towards Wizard shows.

Is Gareb Shamus Really Gone From Wizard World?

Is Gareb Shamus Really Gone From Wizard World?

Wizard (magazine)

A terse SEC filing on Friday has led to headlines all over comics: Gareb Shamus has resigned as CEO, President and Director of Wizard World, Inc., the convention-running entity of the Wizard empire. Seeing as how Shamus is the owner and founder of the company it came as a shock. But what does it really mean? Has Shamus really been ousted from his own company — or is it just a filing to reflect some internal resource shuffling?

The latest iteration of the shrinking of the Wizard brand began about a year ago when Shamus announced that the magazine would return as a downloadable PDF. As we noted at the time, Shamus seemed almost eerily focused on this new outing, promising an audience of millions and the ability to break new comics. “We can make things cool,” he told us at the time, a perhaps distant echo of Wizard’s one time ability to actually make any new Image artist cool in their early 90s, pre-internet heyday.

The PDF continued to come out at irregular intervals, and with a declining posse of warm bodies to actually produce it, as long time staffers Mike Cotton and Justin Aclin gradually faded into the forest, leaving a skeleton staff of Shamus, brother Stephen and convention runner Peter Katz, along with new hire Kevin Kelly, who came on board as managing editor a few months ago.

Just recently, however, a couple of very strange things happened — both so quickly that we never even had a chance to write about them….

Gareb Shamus Resigns From Wizard World

As of last Thursday, Gareb Shamus is no longer president/CEO of Wizard World, Inc.  Being publicly traded, notice of this change had to be filed with the SEC.

This includes the company’s report and also includes Gareb’s letter of resignation. An SEC filing is about as official as you’re likely to get on the matter.


New Pulp Authors at Wizard World Austin This Weekend!

Wizard World Austin, premiere pop culture convention for the state of Texas is
happening this weekend, Friday November 11th through Sunday the 13th.

On hand to represent the New Pulp
movement are authors Alan J. Porter and Mike
Bullock, both with tables in the creator section,
better known as Artist Alley.

Alan J. Porter is best known for his work
on JAMES BOND: The History of the Illustrated 007
and BATMAN: The Unofficial Collectors Guide
as well as the creator of the New Pulp character The 
Raven. Alan is currently writing the New Pulp column
Pulp Perusals that runs monthly on

New Pulp fans and others interested in meeting
Alan can do so by going to table #1809.

Mike Bullock is best known in Pulp circles as
the longest tenured comic book writer of The Phantom.
Bullock wrote over forty original Phantom stories for
Moonstone Books, edited dozens more and helped
guide The Ghost Who Walks as the Phantom Group
Editor for Moonstone for much of the last decade.

Currently, Bullock is writing the exploits of the
Black BatCaptain FutureDeath AngelThe 
Runemaster and Xander: Guardian of Worlds. In
addition to his pulp work, Bullock is the creator and
writer behind the all-ages hit series Lions, Tigers and 
Bears, as well as Timothy and the Transgalactic Towel.
Bullock is participating in the Wizard World Kids
Adventure Passport program on Sunday as well. You
can find Bullock at table #1709 in the front section
of Artist’s Alley.

For more information on Wizard World Austin,
navigate to:

MIKE GOLD: X-Ray Specs

Reading Michael Davis’s last two columns brings to mind a story; a story about glasses.

I can’t tell you the exact year, but it was around 1990. We were in Chicago (go figure) at the late, lamented Chicago Comicon, since subsumed by Wizard World. By “we” I am referring to Messrs Davis, Cowan, Ostrander, Grell, and my former wife Ann DeLarye. Ann had to get back to New York on business and, therefore, I had to drive her to the airport nearby. It was late at night. Very late. The time of night when only Richard Belzer would wear sunglasses.

Since Michael and Denys and I had late night things to do – probably involving Ostrander and Grell because, as you inferred from Michael’s column yesterday, we often hung out together at conventions, certainly at Chicago shows where Ostrander and I, and to a slightly lesser extent Grell, knew the city like the back of our usually typing hands. In the door pocket of my car (yes, whenever possible I drive everywhere east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line) was a pair of wraparound shades. Sort of like the type Cyclops would wear if he didn’t mind melting the plastic. I was blessed with great peripheral vision and on long highway drives sometimes it’s helpful for me to wear them to minimize the blinding sun coming across the open fields along the highway. This isn’t as much of a problem today as I’m almost completely blind and I’ll probably run you over no matter which direction the sunlight comes from.

However, at that time there was only one logical reason for me to don wraparound shades at 11:30 at night: I wanted to mindfuck Davis and Cowan. So, on my head they went.


‘Comic Book Legends Revealed’ Hits #300

‘Comic Book Legends Revealed’ Hits #300

Congratulations to Brian Cronin on the 300th installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, his ongoing series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true, false, or somewhere in between. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and ninety-nine, or buy the book he got out of it, Was Superman A Spy?

Now if he ever finds about that time with the thing in the men’s room at the Wizard World in… but I’ve probably said too much already.