South Florida has slowly become flooded with numerous events over the years. I have a personal stake in such things because I was party to starting it all in Miami. I helped bring about the first and largest free convention in the country and eventually the largest anime convention the city ever had at the time—Otakucon (later Kunicon). Then many more companies sprung up around us. Like Supercon, an event where at one time I was its Vice President. Side-By-Side with its shrewd owner. Over the years there have been other events that have come and gone. Failed horribly, or succeeded; yet somehow couldn’t get it together to return. Kunicon was one such show where I chaired five anime conventions, a few horror events, and a cruise based show while consulting numerous others. The success of that event in Miami was astronomical. But the company itself got too greedy in its other ventures and eventually collapsed on itself after I and many of my contemporaries departed.
This past weekend a convention that was originally put together by another colleague, and now owned by an anime vendor, is still (somehow) chugging along with below mediocre attendances and community support. Especially up against a very well-oiled machine like Wizard World. I wasn’t even aware there was an anime event running simultaneously this past weekend 25 minutes away. At least not until late Sunday evening.
So I look at what Wizard World has done and what it can do for our community--in the long run.
Wizard World is a very different style of event. It has very specific guest models that harken back to the old school “cattle call” style of conventions that were akin to the Star Trek events and that of Creation Entertainment. But it also has main stage events similar to what you expect to see at San Diego Comic-Con and various panels from their various guests. Even if the setting is generally more intimate and compacted than that of SDCC. Panels that change (in many cases) with each convention, and if you didn’t realize, have very informative and important figures in the industry doing great things. One such event this weekend was The Batman Legacy: The Triumph of Bill Finger, a panel where authors on the subject of Batman and its creators give an open discussion regarding how full accreditation is now being given to Mr. Finger who co-created Batman, with his wife and son present for the discussion. Including events that are taking a very serious and needed set of discussions regarding young women in the gaming industry. Be it as players or as developers, creators, programmers, artists, coders, etc. Led by Genese Davis; who herself is an author of a very successful science fiction novel, Holder's Dominion, that is steeped in a subtle video game concept.
Wizard World this weekend brought the ever-popular William Shatner, along with the real hero of the Lord of the Rings--Sean Astin. The Librarian Co-Star Christian Kane. The Ghostbusters Allum Ernie Hudson and many others like the Buffy and Angel Alum James Marsters, Lois and Clark star Dean Cain and a variety of guest from the WWE.
At the moment Supercon in Miami is doing well in terms of attendance but the community support is slowly waning. Be it a lack of critical success or lack of material that the community truly wants. It’s a cattle call masked as a quality convention. One whose history has a track record of non-payment to guests and other Hollywood and Industry personalities. This is something that is addressed silently by Wizard World. Because they make no statements of competing because they simply go where they project there is a need and bring their brand of stable comic-con functions to the masses. Keeping a simple model that allows even the youngest of retailers in the local environment to join in and take part. Like one of the newest comic shops in Miami--Korka Comics--that took part here as their first convention. So again, what is Wizard World doing for us? It’s bringing a solid and organized set of events into this community.
So again, what is Wizard World doing for us? It’s bringing a solid and organized set of events into this community.
At most conventions, especially animecons, people (now) tend to buy art and fan-created material because there is no impulse to buy product from a vendor you know you can purchase from Target or Barnes and Noble, or Hot Topic—likely at a lower price. But the kind of art you find at Wizard World is not simply fan-created—although you will find quite a lot of it by ridiculously (and I do mean ridiculously) talented artists. The artists you will (mostly) find are part of the industry. You’ll likely see people like Rob Liefeld, creator of Deadpool; Jame’s O’Barr, creator of The Crow; Legendary Artist and Comic Industry Activist Neal Adams, known for his definitive work on Batman, Superman and many others. All of whom I interviewed regarding their upcoming projects for Deadpool and The Crow. Perhaps you’ll bump into Arthur Suydam who like Mr. Adams commands an entire row of his art. Perhaps you didn’t know who he was? He’ll happily show you after you get sucked in by his art. He started the Marvel Zombie line of comics with his zombie art and works on George Romero's upcoming Empire of the Dead. You’ll also see some locals who work in the industry like Brian Reedy, who has amazing woodblock art; Henry Cisneros producing amazing metal sculpture of recycled metal materials. Perhaps you’ll see Tom Cook who directed and animated various series my generation and the one before it grow up on: like He-Man, Fat Albert, The Jetsons, The Ghostbusters, and many more. It’s daunting (on a smaller scale) to walk into one of these events and realize you will be perfectly able to meet, greet, and get something personal to you signed that was created by likely any number of guests in these events. That’s the kind of setup they have created. It’s accessible, it’s intimate—for a large show—and it’s affordable.
Wizard World naturally recreates a smaller version of the San Diego Comic-Con style of event in a much more obtainable and compact manner with their own flare and style. A little bit of Hollywood, a lot of comics, a dash of local industry talent, wrapped around the usual offerings of signatures and photo-ops that people want and love with a sprinkling of up-and-coming creators of various media. You can even find a variety of authors and indie publishers here! This weekend there was also dual-talent artist and lead guitarist for Good Charlotte Billy Martin. Not only does he tour, play, and record for the band but he works as an animator on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I thought that was an amazing feat to balance. But he was down to earth, approachable and easy to talk to. Setup right next to Rob Liefeld—not sequestered away from the fans like untouchable royalty.
I’m glad Wizard had a successful weekend here in Ft. Lauderdale. I have numerous interviews to put to paper and post here and at other websites for non-comic book related material; such as science fiction and horror book reviews as well other interviews for other television and films which I conducted. I look forward to working with them again at future events and I look forward to seeing what they have in store for this community in the years to come, it is my backyard--We deserve it.
Wizard World has two more events in October—Tulsa, OK; and Austin, TX. two events in November—Louisville, KY; and Reno, NV. Before their Christmas break and returning in January in New Orleans where I'll likely be returning to cover that event for CBM and other media outlets. I look forward to seeing them again.
Have you been to Wizard World? I met a few fans that flagged me down while wearing my CBM Tee. I hope to see many more CBM fans at the next Wizard World Comic-Con.
I have various interviews to showcase for CBM, so check back often. Interviews with Rob Liefeld, James O'Barr, Arthur Suydam, Joel Adams, Indie Comic Creator James Haick, and more Comic Book discussions with Christian Kane.
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@EmanuelFCamacho | Editor | CBM