At a time when both Marvel and DC are downsizing their mainstream superhero lines, and potentially decreasing their public visibility, in an effort to scrape a few pennies together in a bad economy, those who thought (I’ve heard them before, and I know they’re out there) that Wizard Entertainment was going to be able to bolster its struggling magazine with revenue from its big-ticket Wizard World conventions have just discovered that they’re sadly mistaken.
The reality is (as pointed out in the linked story above), The Wizard World conventions have been struggling for a few years now, and the fact that Wizard Entertainment has been shifting management around and laying people off all during that time probably hasn’t helped them to form a cohesive business plan to make the cons viable again, frankly. Three years ago, you could have gone to five Wizard World conventions, whereas the announcement today of the Los Angeles and Texas closings brings the number in 2009 down to only two.
This can’t be good for the comics-convention business at large; while DC and Marvel weren’t actively participating in either of these shows on a meaningful level, they were still “high-profile” shows that drew in big audiences in big cities, and Wizard Entertainment still carries some brand recognition with fairweather fans who came aboard during the heyday of the ’90s comics boom, back when EVERYONE was reading Wizard: The Guide To Comics. That recognition is valuable in the marketplace, as looking at the Comic Book Convention Calendar for 2009, I can only see maybe a dozen cons that outsiders or even casual fans might recognize by name–and that’s being quite generous.
The reality is, with the exception of San Diego, there aren’t many conventions that can persuade their fans to relocate to attend. What that means is that with Wizard closing these two conventions, we won’t see that revenue stream into New York and HeroesCon; it will likely simply vanish. There had been rumblings last year that Marvel was interested in taking over Wizard’s convention business, which seemed at the time to be a terrible idea (didn’t Marvel already try to have their “own” conventions a while back and spectacularly punt that one?), but if it would keep shows open and dollars streaming in, maybe it’s not as bad an idea as I’d first thought.