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Wizard World Chicago 2009 – What Happened to the Exhibitors?

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A friend of mine recently commented that DC and Marvel didn’t have booths at the Wizard World Philadelphia show and that neither company was listed as an exhibitor at Wizard World Chicago, either.  Well, today (7/7/09), I took a look at Wizard’s site.

Oh.
My.
God.

It used to be that Wizard would list “Exhibitors & Small Press” and “Retailers” as separate categories.  Well, have a look at the 2009 “Exhibitors” list.  I’m counting 99 “exhibitors,” mostly retailers.  In fact, 16 of those exhibitors were even added after 6/01/09.  So prior to June, mathematics would lead me to believe they only had 83 exhibitors signed up.

Is that low?  I dug my print copy of the 2007 Wizard World Chicago program.  I counted 75 entries in the Exhibitors & Small Press” list and 165 entries in the “Retailers” list.  That’s 240 exhibitors in the 2007 program and only 99 entries on the website for this year’s show.  Well, they have about a month to make up the difference.

I’m not saying the publisher turn-out is poor, but here are the publishers whose names I recognize this year’s list:

Avatar Press
Moonstone
Top Shelf Productions

If there’s another publisher on the list, I apologize, I didn’t recognize their name.  I also see a listing for 360ep, which I believe is the company Bill Jemas founded after leaving Marvel, but I’m unaware of any comics they’re currently publishing.  Perhaps an announcement is in the offing?

Publishers that exhibited in 2007 that aren’t listed for 2009?

  • DC Comics
  • Marvel Entertainment Group
  • Dark Horse Comics
  • Image
  • Top Cow
  • Boom! Studios
  • Aspen
  • Devil’s Due (they’re even a Chicago company)
  • Dabble Brothers Productions

Dynamite, Fantagraphics, IDW and Oni, in fairness, don’t usually have booths at Wizard World Chicago.

I’m at a loss for what the publisher area is going to look like.  I’m used to walking into the Rosemont Convention Center and seeing the DC booth.  Not going to be a lot of action from the usual suspects.  My best guess is Avatar takes over the entrance.

Well, if you’ve been to Wizard World Chicago in the last couple years, you’ll probably recall Artist Alley was getting more traffic than earlier years, so you figure maybe some of the people that would normally be at the DC/Marvel/Dark Horse/Image booth might be sitting there.  And I did, just glancing through, notice writers Jason Aaron and Chris Yost as having space in the alley.  Still, counting the number of artists currently on the site I found 386 names.  91 of them were marked as being added after July 1st.  That’s a pretty hefty last minute percentage.

How many artists were listed in the 2007 program?  I counted 698.

Summarizing

Percentage of 2007
2007 Exhibitors: 240 2009 Exhibitors: 99 41%
2007 Artist Alley: 698 2009 Artist Alley: 386 55%

I sure hope they get some more late sign-ups.  That’s pretty sad.

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7 Comments

  1. For what it is worth, I think Marvel has been an exhibitor at Wizard World Chicago in name only for years. Sure, they have some tables with blue table cloth and crowd-control tape set up, but that was only for the occasional signing. Marvel never exhibited anything like DC, Moonstone, et. al. Even Dark Horse, limited to a small booth, exhibited their product.

    Personally, I think that the excuse of the economy is why DC is not exhibiting this at Wizard World Chicago this year, but the real reason is that the company sees WWC on life support, which it is, in my opinion. I have not felt any excitement regarding the show since 2005, people I talk to often going out of obligation and regarding it as a chore. DC will probably send a token representative or two like it did to WW Philadelphia, but I think it is holding back its resources to exhibit at the Reed Exhibitions-sponsored Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) in April 2010. In just a few years, the New York Comic Con appears to be the premiere convention on the east coast earning praise for the way it is run (Reed appears to actually learn from its mistakes) and the way it treats exhibitors, retailers, and attendees. Why wouldn’t DC spend money to exhibit at a show people in this area are looking forward to embrace? Plus, one of the biggest complaints has been how Wizard has too often scheduled WW Chicago a week or two after San Diego; C2E2 is four months earlier, giving DC (and other exhibitors/retailers) sufficient breathing room, but it also far enough from the San Diego convention that the company can actually use the show as a platform for announcements, etc.

    Finally, take the exhibitor list with a grain of salt. Why I think that there will be a lot of open space this year, I also don’t think that the exhibitor list is accurate. For instance, my attending this year is predicated on Discount Comic Book Service exhibiting. They are still not listed as exhibiting and on the official DCBS forum at thecomicforums.com I asked about that. Zack Kruse, DCBS front man, replied it is 100% assured it will be there and then he added, “I have no idea as to why we wouldn’t be listed on the WWC site yet.” Also, Graham Crackers, a huge presence at the convention, isn’t listed; I can’t believe it won’t be there.

  2. Todd, Nice research, as always. I must say, I am not surprised, though. For as many decades that I have been in the business, the market has been flooded with junk not fit for toilet paper.

  3. Its disappointing but such is life. When something is embraced by the mainstream, it is destined to be co-opted and changed..pandering to the masses and in most cases, to make a quick buck. And the people that were there at the beginning are almost guaranteed to reminisce and talk about how great it used to be “in the old days.”

    I’ve recently caught myself doing just that…about how much I miss the old monthly comic shows at the Congress Hotel “back in the day.” Nothing fancy, just comic books and people that love comic books. It would be great if San Diego or another of the big shows were to say, “no comics at your booth? No booth for you.” But that would eliminate Hollywood and toy makers and everyone else that has “co-opted” our beloved hobby.

    Did you read that Chuck Rozanski article on the state of Comic-Con’s show last summer? It’s worth reading but it’ll make you sad.

    http://www.milehighcomics.com/tales/cbg182.html

    I wouldn’t be upset if I didnt have to see another g-damned sword retailer or wresting ring at a Wizard World show.

    (not to jump out on a tangent but…this was my problem with Joe Quesada taking the helm at Marvel; less concern for the stewardship of their institution and more concerned with how much cash they can generate and their own personal standing/image in the industry.)

  4. As for artist alley, please realize that Wizard used to do this thing where they listed your guest badge person as an artist. So, the list was horribly inflated and very confusing, as well as very funny(friends, wives, fake names, etc…all artists!).
    They stopped doing that this year, and for the first time, are putting up photos and bios of folks in artist alley. So, they’re trying at least…

  5. I have gone to Wizard World: Chicago/Chicago Comic Con since 1998 and I’ve noticed the change every year since then.

    In all honesty, I’d blame the lack of DC/Marvel/Top Cow booths on 2 things.

    1) The Economy. The state of the economy has caused people to have to limit which conventions they will be attending. Which leads into reason #2

    2) The San Diego Comicon – Like 2 years before, Wizard’s Chicago Com fell 2 weeks after San Diego. That meant that people had only 1 week from packing up after SDCC ended to then take a break and head to IL.

    So with the #1 reason, I doubt Marvel/DC really had any announcements on hold that they didn’t release 2 weeks earlier and it was cheaper just to pay creators to get a table in artist alley.

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