The death of <i>Wizard</i> and <i>ToyFare</i>, from the inside

Last week's news that Gareb Shamus was shutting down the print versions of his long-running magazines Wizard and ToyFare to pursue a new business model centered on digital publishing, conventions, and a reverse-merger-based penny stock was the talk of comics. This is hardly surprising, given not only Wizard once-outsized influence on and increasingly maligned role in the field, but also the vast number of former Wizard staffers and freelancers populating the industry. Many of those ex-employees, myself included, hit the Web with their thoughts on the demise of the publications they once worked for.

Most of their posts focus in large part, or even in full, in praising the work and character of their co-workers. (There are exceptions, of course: Writing for Bleeding Cool, recently laid-off freelance price guide writer Mark Allen Haverty mostly praises the work and character of...Mark Allen Haverty.) And no one -- not even writer Chris Ward, whose comments about the Shamus Brothers are among the most scathing you're likely to see -- has come forth with the full-on "here's where all the bodies are buried" piece some folks are no doubt waiting for. Nevertheless, the picture that emerges when the remembrances of the Wizard diaspora are pieced together is a clear one: Wizard and its related publications employed a staff talented enough to land on their feet in positions across the length and breadth of the comics industry and pop culture at large; a staff whose bonds of mutual admiration and respect last to this day; a staff that has high hopes for the employees who were let go in this most recent spate of cutbacks (laid-off Research Editor Dan Reilly, an 18-year veteran of the company, and still-standing ToyFare editor Justin Aclin are repeatedly singled out for high marks); a staff that includes many who feel their potential and that of the publications for which they worked were consistently squandered by what they deem the erratic and unscrupulous management of the company. In a way, they indicate that while the death of Wizard is unfortunate, the death of the alternate-universe Wizard that might have emerged from a better marshaling of their talents may be the bigger loss.

Below you'll find links to a comprehensive list of posts by former Wizard, ToyFare, Anime Insider, and WizardUniverse.com editors, writers, and contributors. It will be updated as more become available.

Alejandro Arbona (former Associate Editor, Wizard; Associate Editor, Marvel): "I'll be 100% blunt in my opinion: Gareb & Stephen Shamus are dishonest, disreputable, ethically rudderless businessmen playing a shell game." [Alejandro Arbona's Twitter]

Scott Beatty (former Editor, ToyFare; writer, Batgirl: Year One, Buck Rogers, DC's Ultimate Guides, etc.): "Any mention of ToyFare should include Editor-in-Chief Pat McCallum, who was the comedic heart and guiding influence of the magazine." [Points of Articulation]

Rob Bricken (former Editor, Anime Insider; Editor, Topless Robot): "For all the shit Wizard got, I don't think my writing has been influenced by anything more -- that nerdy subjects could be worth of news coverage, critical thought, and a shit-ton of humor. That you could take things like comics more seriously than regular people, but less seriously than insane fanboys. There was a time when Wizard did that before and better than anybody, and I hope people remember that. At least today." [Topless Robot]

Rob Bricken, part two: "...I would like to call out the gutless shitweasels in charge of the company who had the unmitigated hubris and bastardry to issue a press release today, heralding both the announcement of "Wizard World" and that Wizard is now being publicly traded without ever mentioning the cancellation of either magazine, or the god-knows-how-many people they laid off. Not only it is callous and classless, telling people they should invest money in their company ON THE SAME DAY THEY CANCELED THEIR TWO MOST VISIBLE PRODUCTS... well, that sums up Wizard Entertainment more than anything." [Topless Robot]

Mel Caylo (former Editorial Director, Wizard Entertainment; Marketing Manager, Archaia): "It really irks me that some people are celebrating the 
demise of Wizard, but that’s the Internet for you. It won’t take away 
all the good times I had and the good people I met at the company.” [Newsarama]

Mel Caylo, part two: "There definitely were a lot of disagreements between editorial and the managerial side of things." [Meltdown Comics' Meltcast]

Sean T. Collins (former Managing Editor, Wizard; writer, Robot 6, Maxim, Destructor, etc.): "I met, oh, between a dozen and two dozen of the best people I’ve ever known, people with whom I’m close friends to this day. You’d recognize their names as they’re in positions of prominence across the industry and the popcultjourno biz at large; I don’t care about any of that so much as i care about the fact that they’re kind, generous, talented people I’m privileged to know and be associated with. And there’s nothing I can say about Wizard and its management more damning than telling you how poorly so many of those people were treated there, up through and including today." [Attentiondeficitdisorderly]

TJ Dietsch (former Associate Editor, ToyFare/freelance writer, Wizard and ToyFare; freelance writer, Marvel.com, Maxim.com, etc.): "...I got the news and was floored. I had actually just started writing for Wizard again, though I don’t know whether the piece I finished will ever run or what the deal is. It was fun to write about comics again." [United Monkee]

Eric Drumm (former freelance writer, ToyFare; freelance copywriter, DC): "ToyFare and the people i met there opened every door that has ever been opened to me." [Eric Drumm's Twitter]

Ryan Dunlavey (former freelance illustrator and cartoonist, Wizard and ToyFare; artist, Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics): "WIZARD: It was fun working there, the people were awesome and they all deserved better than what the owners gave them. THE END." [Ryan Dunlavey's Twitter]

Poe Ghostal (former freelance writer, ToyFare; Editor, Points of Articulation): "The heyday of the action figure industry was around 1999-2004, so in some ways it’s impressive that ToyFare lasted as long as it did, and remained fairly successful for most of that time (as far as I know, anyway). But I also know that all those toy news websites, and even sites like PGPoA, were hammering in ToyFare‘s coffin nails. It’s not at all clear to me how Wizard’s new online venture will fare, and what role ToyFare, or toys in general, will have in it. Here’s hoping the best parts of ToyFare survive, not only in whatever the new website brings, but in the continued success of its many contributors." [Points of Articulation]

Jim Gibbons (former Associate Editor, Wizard; Publicity Coordinator, Dark Horse): "Between the dire atmosphere Wizard had towards the end of my tenure and the unceremonious and impersonal way I was let go, there was a fair share of anger and bitterness at a company I was once proud to work for. Time heals all wounds and all that jazz—a rad new job certainly doesn’t hurt, either—but I kind of felt I was past really caring about Wizard. I’d had good times there as well as bad and the place and publication seemed firmly set in my past, only occasionally entering my present when my job in comics PR required. It’s for that reason I found the disparate emotions that washed over me this week regarding the news about Wizard to be so unexpected. " [Enemy of Peanuts]

Doug Goldstein (former VP, Wizard Special Projects; co-Head Writer, Robot Chicken): "From what I’ve read online so far, there’s too much celebration of the downfall of the “upstairs” management, and not enough loving eulogies recalling the good times we had “downstairs” in editorial. It IS understandable though. As Wizard got really big and successful, people “upstairs” thought everyone should suck their assholes because their dicks were too good for ‘em. Maybe that plan works at Halliburton, but the world of comics is a small place where everyone knows each other, loves what they’re working on, and likes to keep it loose. So you can imagine management’s annoyance that their bungholes remained unsucked. Wizard began as a silly fun-time friend and ended as an adversarial bully." [Doug Is Typing]

Mark Allen Haverty (former freelance Price Guide writer, Wizard; editor, CrucialTaunt.com): "What I find so amusing about the posts here and on other sites is that the same people that ridiculed Alan Moore for his absurd criticisms of comics today, only to admit that he does not read any, is that those criticizing also proudly proclaim that they stopped reading ages ago. If they actually had read, they would know how absurd so many of their criticisms were. There is of course the knocks about Wizard being filled with boob jokes and homophobic cracks, which I rarely if ever saw in my two years in the magazine, and certainly not from me – after all, I did say [I have a] 'partner' above, for those of you playing along at home." [Bleeding Cool]

Rick Marshall (former Editor, WizardUniverse.com; Editor, MTV Splash Page): "Sadly, I remember a time when Wizard could've turned the corner & ensured their future, but chose to keep walking toward a cliff instead. My sympathies go out to the Wizard staffers I'm still friendly with. Some of them really are the best in the biz." [Mind Pollution]

Jim McLauchlin (former Consulting Editor for Wizard; co-founder and member of the Board of Directors, Hero Initiative): "I just had lunch with Mark Waid a couple weeks ago, and I mentioned to him that as much as people like to sharpen sticks and point them at Wizard, they were the only organization left that was willing to fund things such as the Wally Wood feature I wrote a few months ago, which I thought was a very good and very vital piece. I don't know that there's anywhere left in comics media that's actually willing to pay for stuff like that anymore." [Newsarama]

Ben Morse (former Staff Writer, Wizard; Associate Editor, Marvel.com): "I had a lot of fun during my three years at Wizard and I daresay on our good days we put out some fine content. In that sense, I'm sad to see the magazine go. I certainly know plenty of people have axes to grind with Wizard as an entity and organization and most of them have pretty legitimate grievances. For me, though, my time there was positive and so are my memories." [Newsarama]

Zach Oat (former Editor, ToyFare; Editor, Television Without Pity and Movies Without Pity): "The company regularly swelled to seating capacity in times of growth only to contract to its previous size after a year or two. I saw at least two or three purges in my time there, which meant a lot of my friends were let go, although many got out ahead of a purge -- the purge of early 2008 was what prompted me to leave, since a lot of my best friends at the company were gone by that point." [Buster of Chops]

Ryan Penagos (former Price Guide Editor, Wizard; Editor, Marvel.com/Twitter superstar Agent M): "I’ve been thinking about all this today. And I’ve been thinking all my friends who were (or are) at Wizard. We, to a man, have all had different experiences. Some good, some bad, some terrible. But I have this great band of brothers (hurr durr) who I shared this time with and will be friends with for life. I’ve been thinking about guys like Andy Serwin and Dan Reilly (two names who, I assure you, you’ll hear great things about from most of us sane post-Wizard folks) who deserve better from the way this shook out. I’ve been thinking about shitty management and bad decisions and missed opportunities and hope for a successful future because there are people who still depend on the Wiz." [Agent M Loves Tacos]

Kiel Phegley (former Staff Writer, Wizard; News Editor, Comic Book Resources): "I'm having a much harder time getting worked up over this than some of my bros, but then again, I expected the magazine to get killed about a year and a half ago." [The Cool Kids Table]

Alex Segura (former Associate Editor, Wizard; Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing, Archie): "If you’d told me while at Wizard that I was working with future Marvel, DC, Archie, Archaia, Maxim, Robot 6, WB, Mashable, CBR, Television Without Pity, Bluewater, Topless Robot, Robot Chicken, Cracked and Bleacher Report employees or contributors, I probably would have scoffed. So, while the print magazine may be gone, the spirit of Wizard at its best certainly continues.” [Newsarama]

Alex Segura, part two: "And yeah, I did a lot of cool stuff while at Wizard – got to interview Sarah Michelle Gellar, met a ton of awesome creators and celebs, traveled around the country and networked like crazy. But the moments I miss – the ones that still get me choked up in a happy, 'Damn, those were good times' way – are the little ones. Laughing over our lunch break. Hanging out after a long week. Those quiet seconds between conversations when you’re just sitting around and basking in the fact that you’re surrounded by people you care about. That’s what I’ll remember most, and I’m thankful for that." [Alex Segura's Tumblr]

Steve Sunu (former Staff Writer, Wizard; freelance writer, Comic Book Resources): "Wizard helped me get to where I am today. Some of the most awesome people I've ever met came through Wizard. It's sad to see the magazine go." [Steve Sunu's Twitter]

Chris Ward (former Staff Writer, Wizard; writer, Political Power: Barack Obama): "...while it’s easy to go with the old 'Wizard can’t copy edit' jokes or 'Wizard has just been shitty boob graphics' jokes during this time, just remember to direct your ire straight to the top, instead of where good people are not being paid enough to copy edit AND come up with something other than boob jokes AND write Gareb’s masthead letter (he never wrote his own masthead. In other breaking news, Burt Reynolds wears a toupee). And, even then, you almost can’t get mad at the people straight at the top. Because it falls on deaf ears. Because it’s aiming for the slow kid in a dodge ball game. Because it’s like getting mad at yourself for touching the stove every time and finding out, 'Shit! That’s HOT!'" [World of WardCrap]

Brian Warmoth (former Staff Writer, WizardUniverse.com; freelance writer, Comic Book Resources, MTV Splash Page, etc.): "Used to work right next to the InQuest guys. The debates that went on in there made me look forward to work every day." [Brian Warmoth's Twitter]

Brett White (former News Editor, WizardUniverse.com; writer, Tales to Diminish): "Wizard’s continued refusal to change with the times has now completely bitten them in their foot which was just shot by the gun their ass was holding. As a former employee who ran one of their websites (Wizard World) I know they are still using a late ’90s Yahoo Business model site. I know they cannot update their site more than 3 times a day. I know that the updating process takes about an hour. I know that Wizard Magazine was irrelevant because every other internet news site was beating us at our own game. But was any money ever pushed towards an up to date website? No." [Digsy Finally Has a Tumblr]

Brett White, part two: "What hurts the most about all of this, ALL of this, is that it didn’t have to happen. Wizard as a name, as a thing, it’s something that has always existed to me. I started collecting hardcore in 1993 and Wizard was there for it. And when you look at all the great people that have worked there, it really should have always been at the absolute top of its game. Wizard in 2011 should be as popular as Wired in print and CBR/Newsarama/Etc online." [Digsy Finally Has a Tumblr]

Josh Wigler (former Assistant Editor, Wizard; Editor, MTV Movies Blog): "OK, comment: met some of the best people I know through Wizard. Wouldn't be where I am today without it. I'm very grateful for those things." [Josh Wigler's Twitter]

Anonymous (former Wizard employee, let go as part of the cancellation of the magazines): "Honestly, I know [Wizard's new plan] will fail. First off, there is no leadership. The people that are still on staff have no digital publishing experience or seem to want to be there. As more money goes into the conventions, the less the owners care about the magazine side. They plan on publicly trading and launching this app for free with no real advertising. I think anyone who does a little research before purchasing stock will find just how screwed that place is." [iFanboy]

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