Gareb Shamus acquires Connecticut convention, brushes off critics

Just as his Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con kicks off today for its 10th year, Gareb Shamus announced he's acquired another convention, bringing the total to 13. This time it's the fledgling ComiCONN, which was held for the first time in May in North Haven, Connecticut.

In what's become standard practice for these Wizard World acquisitions, the convention's organizers will remain to "promote, advise and consult on the show." They'll also continue to operate their own local events.

The renamed Wizard World Connecticut Comic Conn will debut sometime in 2011 in Hartford.

But back to Shamus and his Philadelphia show, the subjects of a fawning preview -- the convention "appears to be bigger and better than ever," mainly because "Gareb Shamus is back in charge" -- in this morning's Philadelphia Daily News.

After the repeated drubbings the Wizard empire has received, maybe it's due a softer spotlight. Still, even the company's defenders are likely to admit the article is a little ... much. Witness, for instance, this passage, explaining away the recent decline of Wizard's convention arm. It turns out it was an unfortunate result of Shamus' flirtation with mixed martial arts fighting and the International Fight League:

"I had left Wizard for a number of years," said Shamus, whose Wizard brand is arguably the most popular, powerful and influential name in comics. "Around 2003, when I felt the company and conventions were healthy and in good hands, I decided to try something different." [...] "These shows take a lot of time and a lot of money," Shamus said. "I thought others could handle them, but then decided I had to get back to the company.

And the cancellation of shows in Los Angeles and Arlington, Texas? That was "all just part of a grand plan dating back to when I came back in 2008."

"We had already decided that Austin would be better to have a show than Arlington, and Anaheim would be better than Los Angeles," Shamus explained, "so why put the time, effort and money even for one more year where we knew we wouldn't get maximum benefit? We needed to realign and put our time, effort and money on making sure that worked long-term. But we have never failed. Some people laughed when we did Boston for one year and stopped. Well, guess what? We're doing a Boston show again."

As for criticisms of the Wizard conventions, well ...

Shamus said that because Wizard has been so successful, it is a target for everybody - from fanboys on the Internet to writers and artists who are used to being coddled at smaller shows.

"A lot of those people who complain want something for free," Shamus said. "We will work with people as much as they want to work with us."

Wizard World Philadelphia began today at noon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and continues through Sunday. Comics guests include Greg Horn, Michael Golden, J.G. Jones, Joe Madureira, Mike McKone, Arthur Suydam, Mark Texeira, Herb Trimpe and Ethan Van Sciver.

Philly2Philly has a solid primer for attendees.

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