You know what’s been a recurring theme this year? The escalation of the Con Wars, with Wizard Entertainment and Reed Exhibitions duking it out for possession of the Leadership Matrix and the leadership of the free world! Or at the very least, controlling shares of both fan dollars and industry respect.
In the past, I took at look at Wizard’s convention line-up vis-a-vis Reed’s more-or-less rock solid hold on New York Comic-Con — traditionally a big newsmaking event after San Diego Comic Con — as well as their growing hold on Chicago with April’s C2E2. With scheduling and personal politics each playing a big role, it’s been interesting to see Wizard — despite its shrinking staff and store woes — buy convention after convention after convention. Which is why it was so interesting to hear that Wizard had scooped up the rights to the New England Comic Con.
You see, Boston makes it a little different. Mainly because Wizard had tried this once before.
Ah, 2005 — I remember you fondly. I was living just outside of Boston at the time, and was able to — for the first time in my life — actually experience a convention setting. The problem (according to some) was that Wizard couldn’t get enough people in a conducive space to actually make the whole event worthwhile… despite things being a bit crowded (at least in my recollection). So a one-hit wonder was unceremoniously canceled the next year — despite the copious amounts of books I bought. Yet New England — perhaps more than any other area in the country — really has been the untapped frontier of conventions.
Remember, two things help make a convention “a big deal” — lots of fans, and lots of publishers breaking news. Yet with more than a dozen colleges in the area — Harvard, B.U., MIT, the UMass network, and a ton of arts schools — you would think that the fan dollars thing wouldn’t be a problem. Indeed, New England as a whole has a robust number of comic shops, and you’d better believe some would come out to sell their wares at a highly discounted price.
Yet the way that Wizard could — COULD, not will — succeed against competitors such as the Boston Comic-Con is in the PR battle with the publishers. Boston, in that way, is actually an easier battle for Wizard than, say, Chicago — with Marvel and DC (and a whole slew of creators) in New York, it isn’t nearly as long of a trip to get a few people out there to release announcements and drum up some real enthusiasm. If the Boston Comic-Con can get people Jim Lee, Mark Chiarello, Mike Mignola, and Skottie Young, imagine what a group with the connections of Wizard could get.
Right now, this is a pie that Reed doesn’t have its fingers in yet — if Wizard can make this convention work at a time that is actually conducive to the major publishers, this could be good news. But if Wizard tries to go for the Con War strategy — forcing fans and publishers alike to “choose a side,” whether against the currently established Boston con or against a convention elsewhere in the country — this can only backfire. What say you, Rama readers?