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Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (14 comments)

Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia

Monday, June 22, 2009 - 09:45 PM


What happened at to Wizard World Philadelphia?

Wizard World Philadelphia is usually packed with surprises and this year was no different. For starters, DC Comics pulled out of the convention. So did all of the other major publishers (Marvel, Image, Dark Horse and Top Cow) as well as con staples such as Kevin Smith's View Askew T-shirt booth.



The floorplan that Wizard had posted before the event was vastly different from the floorplan that exhibitors and attendees navigated over the weekend. Aisles were huge as booths were stretched thin to fill the exhibit space. And, unlike past years, there was no carpeting in those mammoth aisles to ease the sore feet of attendees.

And, in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to alienate the exhibitors and attendees who insisted on supporting the convention, badges were nixed in favor of paper wristbands. Exhibitors were expected to wear their wristbands for the entire weekend. According to Wizard, the move was made to prevent scammers who would switch badges outside the convention center and send new people in. But, we soon found out that, if we asked, we could get a handful of replacement wristbands. I had a pocketful all weekend. If I had wanted to (I didn't, of course), I could have run the exact same scam that Wizard had hoped to prevent with the wristbands.

The wristbands, to me, seemed to say, "We've lost all the major publishers, now what can we do about the rest of those pesky exhibitors?"

And it wasn't just exhibitors that Wizard was trying to chase away. Take the case of the Evil Inc reader who donned a handmade Marvel Girl outfit and headed for Saturday's costume competition. She says she was told that they had instituted a limit of 25, and had allowed 39 -- but that was as far as they were willing to go. She competes every year. The 25-person limit was completely new to her. So Marvel Girl sat out while others -- including a couple in nothing more elaborate than jeans-and-a-T-shirt competed in the event.

As you might expect, the absence of top publishers and a pretty sorry pre-con promotional push made for a low turnout -- made even more stark by the huge aisles and the sparse floorplan. Friday and Sunday were desolate. Saturday was very good, but the crowd disappeared at 4 p.m. -- which made for a long slog to the 7 p.m. finish line.

I tweeted before coming in on Sunday: "I'm prepping for the last day of Wizard World Philadelphia, really hoping that it's not the Last day of Wizard World Philadelphia."

"Wizard World" responded that they're not going anywhere and that they're gearing up to announce next year's Philly dates. But didn't Wizard World LA and Wizard World Texas both have pre-announced dates -- and weren't both either cancelled or "postponed" earlier this year? I'd love for Wizard World Philly to rebound. I truly love having a major convention that I don't have travel/hotel expenses for. But I'm skeptical.

Partly, I'm dubious because of another announcement from Wizard. They're teaming with Big Apple Con to have a New York presence. If Wizard has a NYC presence -- and if the publishers have abandoned Wizard World Philly -- I have to conclude that it's just a matter of time before my backyard con becomes a fond memory.

When I got to the show Sunday, fans had made up T-shirts: "R.I.P. WWP."

I sure hope they're wrong.

BobTGoldfish
goon

Posts: 4

Registered:
Jun 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 03:57 AM (#48273)

I think that there is a few things you should know

a) it is not that the Major comics companies pulled out of just the philly convention, Marvel and DC both had MAJOR presences at the show, Just no Booth. Hell Dan Didio, head of DC comics, was there on both Saturday and Sunday. The major companies on average drop $10,000 easy on a weekends con booth, when you consider that they fly out the talent and pay for hotels and all the give aways. I'd be surprised to see DC/Marvel/Dark Horse booths at any shows beside the major NY and SDCC shows.

b)The show that you saw was NOT optimal. The show had been mismanaged up until about 8 weeks ago, when someone new came on board at wizard and the pile of crap they;d scraped together was dumped in his lap, and the job he did, was pretty amazing.

C)The T-shirt booth was never a View askew booth, they were Graphiti, who made the view askew merchandise. It was never Kevin's booth to begin with.

d) The wristbands were also for the fans, and I for one think the wristbands, while not popular is a SMART idea. I myself have gotten up to 10-15 people into a show, with 2 badges. Sure they could have moved to the plastic wristbands which could stand up to some showering, but.. I think they are a GOOD idea.

The other points are all valid, the costume contest was a bit of a bust to tell you the truth, and both after parties kinda sucked ( or never happened, the VG expo was horrible but all but the Costume contest were things that were out of Wizards hands, I think they definitely learned a lesson this year.


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Silvanus
goon

From: Catonsville, MD

Posts: 91

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Jan 2008
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 07:37 AM (#48274)
In Response to BobTGoldfish (#48273):

Gotta agree with you Brad. Wizard World Philly did not impress me and I have been to quite a few of them. It was not that well run in my opinion.

The wrist bands were the major insult. And the reason of making it harder to switch is nonsense. All you needed was a pair of scissors and some scotch tape. Unless you get some really dedicated Gestapo like guards and photo IDs you are not going to stop badge switching. Plus it gives some of the more …”aromatic” fans one more reason not to shower. Really do we need to give then another reason?

Also was it just me or were all the convention employees a bit on the surly side? Never saw any of them crack a smile. It was a bit disconcerting.

I mean overall I still enjoyed myself. Got to meet some cool actors and shop around some. One good thing about low crowds is that it made for a relaxing weekend if nothing else. And a convention is always fun when you get to chat with the head of Evil Inc for a while!


--
Torture numbers and they'll confess to anything.
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Silvanus
goon

From: Catonsville, MD

Posts: 91

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Jan 2008
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 07:48 AM (#48275)
In Response to Silvanus (#48274):

Also the costume contest was not well managed even if it was run a little better this year. It really ticked me off that they limited how many people could register for it without actually posting that fact anywhere. They could have at least made an announcement on the PA. And then to add insult to injury they let those three yahoos in T-shirts and Jeans sign up for it taking slots away from others. They put ZERO effort into their costumes. Since that meant my wife did not get in (who made her costume herself from scratch, the aforementioned Marvel Girl) it really annoyed me.


--
Torture numbers and they'll confess to anything.
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NunyaBidness
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Posts: 9

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Apr 2008
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 09:42 AM (#48278)
In Response to Silvanus (#48275):

What were the three yahoos in T shirts and jeans supposed to be?


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Guigar
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Sep 2007
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 10:46 AM (#48280)
In Response to BobTGoldfish (#48273):

Bob, I respectfully disagree with you. But you have to understand that I see this from the perspective of an exhibitor *and* a fan... so we're probably seeing the same issues differently. And that's perfectly valid. :)

a) No booth = no major presence. As an exhibitor at Wizard, I count on a big presence from the publishers on the exhibition floor to bring in more attendees. That simply wasn't there.

b) I so don't care. I think Spat is a swell guy, and I feel horribly that this got dumped into his lap. But a poorly run show affects my bottom line. At the end of the day, as an exhibitor, I paid for something I didn't get.

C) Now we're splitting hairs. The point is, View Askew is a comic-con staple, and it pulled out, too. I've exhibited at about 8-10 conventions a year for the past 8 years. I've seen View Askew at most of the big ones. And I had a *lot* of attendees come up to me (while I was wearing my Bizarro shirt) asking me where View Askew was this year because they couldn't find the shirts they wanted at the Stylin' booth. So, in my mind, the absence of View Askew was significant.

d) I still think it penalizes both exhibitors and three-day-pass fans (both of whom Wizard had better be bending over backwards to keep, from what I saw last weekend). If this is an anti-scam effort, then they have to maintain the one person / one band rule. Otherwise, it's a toothless effort. And that means I have to keep this stupid paper band around my wrist for three days... in the shower, etc. If they hand out extra bands, they've defeated their own purpose.

See, I think you have awesome points, but I'm just approaching this from a different perspective. I need that show to be run well so I, as an exhibitor, can turn a good profit. The absence of con-staple booths (from DC to View Askew) had a downward effect on that.

And the wristbands angered fans. I want fans to be happy when they approach my table. It's as simple as that. Wizard cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to angry fans.

Wizard has been running a show in Philly since 2002. It's a little late for them to be "learning lessons."

Here's what's I think is *really* going on. The comics industry has changed. Wizard can no longer rely on being the unofficial marketing wing of DC and Marvel anymore for its cache.

It has to shift to a model closer to the one used by Emerald City and Baltimore -- focus on attendee experience and creators over publishers.

From what I hear, Wizard tried to squeeze out Heroes Con this year by moving their dates to coincide with that of the Charlotte-based convention. But it sounds as if the plan backfired on them, as all of the major action seemed to come from the South this past weekend.

For years, Wizard could treat people poorly because they were the 800-pound gorilla. Reed Exhibitions came in an presented a huge, regional con (NYCC) that also focused on these basics like attendee experience and creators.

It sounds like I'm a Wizard-hater, and I'm really not. I'm ambivalent towards Wizard. I want a big con in Philly and I don't care who does it as long as it's done well.

Wizard has to adapt or die. And I want to see it adapt, because, as I said, I *love* having a huge, regional convention that I don't have to travel to. :)


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mumblepuss
mumblepuss

goon

From: Millersville, Pa

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Apr 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 11:05 AM (#48282)

I have to agree with Brad with WW Philly. While I was only in attendance on Sunday, the show was a shade of what it's been in past years. I was wondering where the big publishers were...I thought they had never signed up to begin with.

It just seems like they are floundering and not really taking control of their failing conventions in positive directions. If you go to Pittsburgh or Baltimore (can't speak for Reed, as I haven't had a positive experience with them), you can really see the difference in how they treat their exhibitors. You don't have to be Stan Lee, Hugh Jackman or chewbacca to get treated like a contributing force to the convention.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh are run awesome, and really make you feel like you are part of something. Wizard should take notes.


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Ubergeek
goon

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Apr 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 11:17 AM (#48284)

Brad -

Sorry for the tough Con. I know how nice it is to have a Con in your back yard - Emerald City has been a Godsend for us up here in sunny Seattle.

I think this experience and your feedback will be the litmus test for the Philly Con. As you said, it is about the fans, and if they are really trying to turn it around and committed to putting on a decent Con they will take the feedback into consideration and make changes. If they don't, and you end up slogging through the WWP Con next year you will know it is time to go.

I know it is disappointing to take part in a Con disaster like this one, but from this particular fan you need to know it is guys like you and the Half Pixel crew that make these Cons for us. Don't consider your time there wasted; look at it as community service. We are your community, your fans and friends, and you being there makes these kinds of Cons all the more bearable.

Oh… and hey, thanks for being on time!

Doug


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Guigar
goon

Posts: 1985

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Sep 2007
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 11:42 AM (#48285)
In Response to Ubergeek (#48284):

By all means, don't get me wrong... any time I get to meet the people who read my strip is phenomenal.

But right now, the conversation in my household is this: If WWP and Heroes Con is on the same weekend next year, would it actually be more beneficial for me to travel to the Charlotte con? I might actually do better traveling to Heroes (even factoring-in expenses) than I could do at home (with no expenses).

See, that shouldn't even be a question. But it is.


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BobTGoldfish
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Jun 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 01:23 PM (#48289)
In Response to Guigar (#48280):

If Spat was telling the truth, the days of Wizard squeezing out smaller cons is done. (though if what has been told to me by other members of staff from other cons, at least once, it wasn't always Wizards fault, even though it was certainly portrayed that way.)

So hopefully you wouldn't have to choose between Heroes and Philly, and I wouldn't blame you if you chose Heroes.

I brought up the view askew thing, mainly because Kevin's gear hasn't been on the graphitti table in at least a year now, it's Just been a Tee-shirt vendor, it was something that both shocked and slightly annoyed us hardcore view askew fans, and something that may have attributed to the decline of the show.

Also I wanted to make the point about the No booth, because it's not just going to be this show.

But you are right as a fan, and even though everyone else who posted here seems to have a wizard hate-on as well, I had one of the best con experiences I've had in a long while. I was very happy with the way the big companies were represented, I was very happy with the panels and artists alley.

About the only thing I'd have changed was the almost crippling back pain I got form a 2 year old deciding to pinata my spine with a lightsaber when his parents weren't looking.

But You are right Wizard does have to adapt or shrivel and die. There is something to be said for them putting a bigger focus on the autograph area, there were ALOT more people from TV and sci-fi there than there usually was. I think it's a case of the old Class wasn't WILLING to adapt and when Spat was brought in he didn't have TIME to adapt, he did what he could.

Lets see what they do with chicago, and if another area improves the way that the Autograph area did, maybe they are taking the steps they need to take (at least not in the right order).

and I wanna address those WWP RIP shirts, frankly they annoyed the hell outta me, it was almost like saying "I hate this convention so much that I'm going to declare it dead.....but I'm still going to get sketches." if you think it;s dead, stay home and talk with your wallet, that is the ONLY way that Wizard are 100% going to listen.


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Silvanus
goon

From: Catonsville, MD

Posts: 91

Registered:
Jan 2008
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 03:33 PM (#48290)
In Response to NunyaBidness (#48278):

The guys in the T-shirts were supposed to be Wrestlers of some variety. It was pretty lame.


--
Torture numbers and they'll confess to anything.
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abelundercity
goon

Posts: 28

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Jun 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 06:43 PM (#48295)

I had last been to WWP back in 2007. The difference between then and now was jaw-dropping, and not in a good way. I wanted nothing so much as a new Graphitti Designs t-shirt (Reverse Flash, for the record, and just TRY to find that one at a reseller!). WizKids, DC, Marvel, Image, all names that had a strong presence in '07, and gone this year.

It was dismaying and in no small sense alarming. Like Brad, this is "my backyard con." I don't really have the budget to go further afield. WWP is my con and if it goes down my money isn't going elsewhere.

I take comfort from the knowledge that Wizard has already announced next year's dates on its site, but I worry that it will be a "contractual obligation"-type effort, which I imagine isn't far from what I saw this year.

I'm not a Wizard hater. I take no joy in writing this. But next year's WWP really needs to bring its "A" game or 2011 will see Philly comic fans booing louder than the Phillies fans.

And that takes doing.


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abelundercity
goon

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Registered:
Jun 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 06:49 PM (#48296)
In Response to BobTGoldfish (#48289):

and I wanna address those WWP RIP shirts, frankly they annoyed the hell outta me...
This town is not kind to underperformers. Ask the Eagles.


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JohnK
goon

From: Detroit

Posts: 3

Registered:
Jun 2009
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 01:50 AM (#48303)

It really is too bad if that convention folds, it was actually the first convention I went to (my brother lives in Philly, and it was a very nice bonding experience considering comics is all we have in common,) and I have a deep affection towards it.

that said, I have to say i am not surprised to hear that it is dieing. Even last year it seem like it was REALLY light.

I am just gonna keep my fingers crossed that this convention can make a turn around.


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NunyaBidness
goon

Posts: 9

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Apr 2008
Re: Con Report: Wizard World Philadelphia (Score: 1)
posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 08:28 AM (#48308)

I started attending cons in 1988, and became a pro in 1990. I've only been to one Philly con, and it was so horrible an experience in every way possible I will never do another. This just sounds like par for the course.

Sorry to hear it, of course, but it only reinforces my position.


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