Is Wizard Rebranding?
Is Wizard rebranding? Change has been a constant in what’s left of the Wizard empire, and recent events are starting to look like there might be a rebranding strategy in place. A slightly schizophrenic strategy, but a strategy, nonetheless.
On the convention side, two things have happened. First, Wizard has started rebranding the shows to emphasize the name “Comic Con” and de-emphasize “Wizard World.” Second, the guest lists for the conventions started shifting a bit further away from comics. Instead of the majority of the draw being comic book creators, you see more actors (frequently from genre films and TV), pro wrestlers and the odd pro athlete (wrestlers falling somewhere between actors and athletes in the greater scheme of things).
At the same time, Wizard boss man, Gareb Shamus, managed to get Hollywood executive Peter Guber to invest in a new digital property/e-mail newsletter called GeekChicDaily. Reminiscent of successful digital properties like Daily Candy or Thrillist, it is worth noting the order of tabs on the GeekChicDaily homepage is “games,” “toys,” “movies/TV” and THEN “comics.” This would consistent with the new emphasis on more pop culture-ish topics at the new “Comic Con” shows.
At this point, you might stop and ask “why call anything Comic Con if comics don’t seem to be the main emphasis anymore?” And that’s a good question. This is where it gets a little schizophrenic and most likely falls into the realm of personal feud.
Your two big “Comic Con” shows are the “San Diego Comic-Con” and “New York Comic Con.” San Diego has been partially taken over by Hollywood, to the extent it might be more of a media show than a comic show. In that sense it isn’t wholly inappropriate for Wizard to want to glom on to the “Comic Con” name (except without San Diego’s hyphen in the title). Excepting that SDCC is still the biggest comic book gathering point, and Wizard’s shows have fallen so badly that DC and Marvel no longer consider them national shows and bother to staff a booth. I’m told by people who would know that Wizard’s shows are now considered “regional,” which means they’ll still have people for panels, but ascribing the same level of comic book industry turn out as San Diego seems a tad disingenuous to me. Similarly, there would seem to be a big difference between Johnny Depp/James Cameron/Robert Downey, Jr. announcing their new project at San Diego and the evening cocktail hour with Gil Gerard event at Wizard’s last Chicago show. I’m just saying…
As for connotations when juxtaposed with the New York Comic Con, this gets into the feud part. Reed Exhibitions, which runs the NYCC, decided they were going to start their own comic convention in Chicago. Shamus seems to have taken this a bit personally, so he’s scheduled a convention in Anehiem opposite Reed’s Chicago Show and bought the much smaller Big Apple Comic Con in New York City, which will be held the SAME WEEK as the New York Comic Con next years.
[Note: Shamus and his Wizard World show are not as popular in Chicago as some would have you believe. I’ve personally spoken with multiple publishers, dealers and attendees who were fed up with how that convention had declined since Wizard acquired it. A lot of the problem came with Wizard constantly scheduling show too close to the San Deigo show, seemingly under the delusion that if people were going to choose between the shows, they’d choose Wizard. No, given the choice of one show, creators, publishers, retailers and fans chose San Diego. Reed came to Chicago because of demand for new and better run show.]
In the case of New York, maybe Wizard thinks their pop culture mix will draw a distinct and separate audience. Maybe they think people will get confused between the names “New York Comic Con” and “Big Apple Comic Con,” thereby drawing some of Reed’s crowd by virtue of mistaken identity. Maybe they think NYCC will sell out and they can get the over-flow. It sure raises the eyebrow.
Is the “Comic Con” name just an attempt to cash in on a form of sloppy seconds from the San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con? Is it a means for Shamus to thumb his nose at an industry that surely seems to be getting increasingly fed up with his antics? Or will we see all the Wizard conventions rebranded as “GeekChic” conventions in another year?
From attending the last Chicago convention and reading accounts of the Big Apple show, it certainly seems like things are heading in the GeekChic direction. This begs the question if the real competition for Shamus is Creation Conventions and precisely how personal (as in a vendetta, which is how it is increasingly perceived by many) his scheduling opposite comic conventions is? If it is strictly personal, it would explain some of the inconsistencies in the rebranding. If not, well, there’s always room for a third round of rebranding.