Wizard announced today it is postponing its Wizard World L.A. show, originally set for March 13-15, and is canceling Wizard World Texas in November. That leaves the magazine publisher/con organizer with two shows: Chicago and Philadelphia.
I can't say this is surprising news, considering the struggles indicated by the paring down of the Wizard staff. The magazine, which truly was the bible of comics reading and collecting in the early to mid-1990s, has seen its stature as the source for news, info, comedy and data about the comics industry migrate to the internet. The last Wizard World L.A. show was a decent but unexciting event. My one year at the Texas show was enjoyable, but the show was quite small compared to other Wizard shows and to events like San Diego and New York.
The problem with Wizard's shows has always been their limited scope. While shows like WonderCon, NY Comic-Con and Heroes Con are inclusive of all kinds of fans, Wizard shows have always focused far too much on just superhero comics fans. While other shows put a lot of effort into thoughtful and compelling programming that covered a lot of territory, the Wizard programming was pretty much limited to cheerleader marketing sessions for Marvel, DC and whatever Hollywood properties the show could reel in. (Essentially, what you get in the magazine.) There wasn't enough there to warrant more than a single day's visit. In short, it failed to tap into the wider interest in things like anime, manga, indie comics and the wider worlds of cool TV, movies and animation that give shows like Comic-Con their wide appeal.
They also could have helped themselves with better marketing. I know comic shop regulars who are always surprised to hear a Wizard show is coming up or has just passed. And this show needs a better locale — the L.A. Convention Center is scaled for huge mega-events and Wizard World, taking up last year just a small corner of one of the massive halls, was lost in there. A decent hotel, or even the original Long Beach site, would be far better suited and more comfortable for a mid-size comics con. And maybe that's what we'll get — assuming the show is rescheduled.
Meanwhile, Texas is out of luck. That was a really pleasant show the one year I went. I don't think fans there had another option when it came to a show that brought in creators and celebrities. But it was the smallest of the Wizard shows and obviously first on the chopping block should times get tight — and they have.
The current absence of an L.A. show opens up the schedule a bit and should let the organizers of WonderCon and New York Comic-Con breathe at least a little easier. Hopefully, it will give both shows more flexibility when planning their shows for 2010 and beyond.
And the big questions, still to be answered, is whether the economy will put the breaks on the runaway growth of other comics shows — most notably the summer behemoth in San Diego.