Con War dispatch: of con guests and collateral damage

Con War is hell, and you never know who's gonna get caught in the crossfire. Wizard owner Gareb Shamus's evolving effort to rebrand his publishing and online empire and take on Reed Exhibitions's C2E2 and New York Comic Con by aggressively counter-scheduling his Anaheim and Big Apple events has produced some nasty peripheral exchanges, even as direct confrontations between the two convention promoters have all but ceased.

Take the back-and-forth we noted last week between PvP creator Scott Kurtz and Comics Alliance honcho Laura Hudso . It started when Kurtz publicly blasted a Wizard/Shamus functionary with both barrels after the staffer obliviously sent him an email addressed to "Kurt" -- hey, these things happen -- soliciting his attendance at Anaheim Comic Con. Hudson took Kurtz to task for tarring all Wizard employees with a brush perhaps better reserved for the company's decision-makers. This led to a lengthy and ugly comment-thread roundelay between Hudson -- who, as the former senior editor of Tim Leong's defunct Comic Foundry magazine, need bow to no one in the "taking cheap shots at Wizard and its employees as though the two were fungible entities" department -- and Kurtz, some of his fans, and former Wizard staff writer Chris Ward. Over the course of the argument's five pages, posts were deleted; accusations of trollery, spamming, egomania and hypocrisy were thrown about like so much confetti; Hudson's problems during her tenure with Jenna Jameson-publishing Virgin Comics were hashed out; former Wizard President Fred Pierce was accused of buying off former Wizard critic Frank Miller; and a horrid time was had by all.

But as unpleasant as that argument got, it looks like one of those Sam-and-Diane fights from Cheers where they end up making out compared to the blistering comments made by former Wizard Senior Vice President of Operations Joe Yanarella regarding former WizardUniverse.com Editor Rick Marshall. After Robot 6 reported the shuttering of Wizard's message board following its users' vociferous criticism of the company's recent convention maneuvers, Marshall, currently the editor of MTV's Splash Page comics/movie news blog, commented that he wasn't surprised by the move given what he characterized as Wizard's longtime neglect of the board. Marshall said that after he was let go by the company, for a time he remained in financial and administrative control of the board because Wizard hadn't paid the hosting company. Several days later, Yanarella, currently a writer for the sports news site Bleacher Report, stepped in to dispute Marshall's story in strenuous terms. According to Yanarella, Marshall held the board and its passwords "hostage" to extract monetary concessions from Wizard. After disparaging Marshall as an employee and as a person, Yanarella went on to say, "I'd also recommend you move to the other side of the street should we ever see each other again." It's worth noting that from lawsuits to rumor mills, the engendering of serious hostility by forced departures from Wizard is not uncommon.

So yes, tensions run high, and the Con War is spilling a lot of bad blood. But what of the competing cons themselves?

All we can do at the moment is compare guest lists. Today, Reed's C2E2 announced its newest guest of honor, Blackest Night writer Geoff Johns, and a trio of featured guests: Beasts of Burden's Jill Thompson, Green Arrow/Black Canary's Mike Norton and The Stand's Mike Perkins. Wizard's competing Anaheim Comic Con -- being held the same weekend as C2E2 (April 16-18, 2010) in a move widely seen as a tit-for-tat response to Reed's encroachment upon Shamus's Chicago Comic Con turf -- recently announced Power Rangers and Naruto voice actor Neil Kaplan, Hellboy 2 performer Doug Jones, '60s Batman villains Lee Merriwether and Malachi Throne, Babylon 5 actress Tracy Scoggins and CHiPS star Erik Estrada. I for one am left wondering who among them realizes they've just enlisted.

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