I’ve had a lot of folks asking me lately what I think about the big dust-up over the WIZARD folks wanting to start a WIZARD WORLD show in Atlanta during the same dates as the HEROES CON in Charlotte, NC. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t share the same sense of blistering outrage at their attempt to crush Shelton Drum’s long running and beloved show– because I really wasn’t surprised that they would try to do something like this. As they have been starting WW shows in the many different parts of the country over the past couple of years, I thought it was just a matter of time before Gareb Shamus would get around to trying to take over the South East. Y’see, I don’t think that Gareb Shamus really loves comics– if he ever did. I know that he CLAIMS to love the medium of the comic book and everything about it…. and he may very well HAVE loved comics early on when he started WIZARD MAGAZINE. But now, I’m of the firm opinion that the only thing that Gareb loves about comics anymore is making money from them. He wants to monopolize the ‘collector market’– which is why he’s trying to squeeze out any other decent sized show with his own extravaganzas. If he TRULY loved comics his magazine would cover more than just the same massively over-hyped output from Marvel and DC every single issue. The world of comic books encompasses SO MUCH MORE than Marvel and DC; there’s so many wonderful smaller publishers out there offering amazingly creative work– publishers like ONI, FANTAGRAPHICS, DRAWN AND QUARTERLY, DARK HORSE, IMAGE…. the list goes on and on. But books from those companies are lucky if they ever get a brief mention in the pages of WIZARD. If it’s not X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN, SUPERMAN, BATMAN, AVENGERS or the latest big budget superhero flick, forget it. Even their attempts at covering the indy and small press with WIZARD EDGE concentrated on Jeff Smith and Kevin Smith…. guys who get more than their fair share of press already. And they do this type of coverage in WIZARD to maximize sales.
I will admit to having a personal bias against Gareb Shamus and his magazine. There was a time, when I was working on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN with Todd Dezago years back that I WANTED to be in their mag. They placed me in their ‘TOP 10 ARTISTS’ list many times during that time. And I would do FREE ARTWORK for them any time they asked me to as prizes for contests they would frequently run. I also did lots of pieces for their articles– and accepted, let’s say, less than fair market payment for those illustrations just to make them happy in hopes of staying in the magazine’s good graces. And they flew me to their big show in Chicago during those years as a guest, it’s true. Unfortunately, they never provided table space for me. They only wanted me to sign at their booth for 1 hour each day of the show and the rest of the time, I had nowhere to be. Honestly, I would have preferred to be home working and earning money. But the fact of the matter is, once I was no longer drawing a SPIDER-MAN title, I was no longer of any use to them. Todd and I tried to get some coverage for our creator-owned TELLOS comic, but were rebuffed. And when we joined with Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek and many other great creators to launch GORILLA COMICS, WIZARD proclaimed that we were dead in the water before we even got out of the gate– which became a self fulfilling prophecy, as fans and retailers read that and decided not to try our books at all. After all, WIZARD magazine said we wouldn’t last, so why waste money on GORILLA…? I still fume over that one. As I have come to learn, if one isn’t working on something that Gareb and Co. deem worthy, one doesn’t exist. And past generosity to the magazine means nothing– there is no reciprocation in that regard. But sure enough– I recently received an invitation from a WIZARD contact through my web site to their November Texas show. Now that I’m drawing SPIDER-MAN again…. lo and behold, I exist again….! Well, I won’t be going.
So I suppose you have to take my opinion on the WIZARD WORLD vs. HEROES CON debate with a grain of salt. But consider this: Shelton Drum truly loves comics and everything they represent. He’s the biggest SPIDER-MAN fan I’ve every encountered…. and he’s also one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. He truly believes that comic books are one of the greatest forms of entertainment ever invented. And his HEROES CONVENTION is a celebration of that form of entertainment– a huge party he throws every year to share that love and excitement with anyone who believes as he does. Shelton certainly doesn’t get rich from these shows, by any means. In fact, I’d wager just the opposite is the case. But he continues to do them every year despite that. He’s always tried to bring the best, most exciting guests he can to the show to share with fans. And HEROES CON for ME, PERSONALLY, is a place that has fostered many wonderful experiences and memories over the 20 years I’ve attended the show as a fan, and later as a professional. I’ve met many wonderful people there, formed lasting friendships and met some of my personal creative heroes (pun firmly intended) as well. It’s the kind of family friendly and comic book-centric show that everyone can be happy and proud to attend. We need MORE shows like Shelton’s HEROES CON– and not a monopolized show circuit by folks only in it for the money and not the enjoyment of the medium we all love so much. We’ve already got a monopoly on the DISTRIBUTION of comics– we don’t need any more of that kind of thing. It only hurts the business.
The fallout of all this has resulted in some very great creators signing up to appear at Shelton’s show next year. Folks like Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch and J. Michael Straczynski have all lined up to make the trek to Charlotte. And that’s wonderful. But I know that Shelton has also tried very hard to get others like Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee, Michael Turner and J. Scott Campbell to come to the show as well, but to no avail. I’d love to see some or all of those guys make it to Charlotte next year and help spread a little of their creative genius here in the Carolinas. I know they’d be warmly and enthusiastically welcomed and truly appreciated by the great folks who attend Shelton’s show.
This is entry 134.