Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It Came From the Back Issue Bin! #26: The Toronto Wizard World Convention

By Jason Shayer

Wizard World hit Toronto over the weekend of April 14th. This year, the con was held at the Metro Convention Center in downtown Toronto, rather than out at the Exhibition grounds which made it more of a difficult commute for fans. The rival show, Hobby Star’s Fan Expo, has regularly hosted their Comic Con in the Metro Convention Center. The show’s layout of the show took full advantage of the new locale and didn’t feel cramped. Artist’s alley was cleverly put in between the Autograph Area and the retailers. The show had a bit of a slow start in terms of attendance, but by early afternoon it had picked up and there was a lot of traffic in the aisles. The booth advertizing The Cabin in the Woods was great and got a lot of attention.

The convention length was also changed this year, moving from 3 days to 2 days. With their relatively small guest list, this was a good move. And that brings up my biggest complaint about this show, the light comic book guest list. Wizard World was fiercely competing with the Fan Expo which has set the bar very high for a comic book guest list. And unfortunately, a lean comic book guest list doesn’t help them make in roads with fans. Interestingly, I usually attend Toronto conventions with a group of guys and this time, all of them passed citing the guest list as the main reason. John McCrea and Jock were the main comic book draws for me and they had a few people in line and the line moved quickly. Both were avidly sketching and it was great to watch them at work.

Most of the line-ups at the con were at the booths of wrestling stars, in particular the Edge. I still don’t get the connection between a comic book show and wrestling. Is it the costumes? The over-the-top fights? I was impressed with the number of cosplayers (costume players) and their enthusiasm to pose with anyone, especially with kids.

Another thing I was impressed with how Wizard World brought in a handful of local Toronto writers and provided them with booths in the Artists’ alley. One of these writers was up and coming, supernatural-noir author Ian Rogers who was kind enough to chat with me about his work.

Interview part 1:

Interview part 2:

The Toronto Wizard World was an okay show, but I can’t help but feel that it could be made into a great show simply by expanding the roster of comic book guests. Unfortunately, one of the show’s biggest draws was comic book writer, Marv Wolfman, cancelled. Both Fan Expo and Wizard World need to harvest a bit more of the talents from the 1970s and 1980s like Wolfman and get the older fans to come to the show and bring their kids along. An interesting side note, Hobby Star is now suing Wizard World as it apparently claims rights to the "Toronto Comicon" term. The suit is is seeking $500,000 for damages believing that Wizard World used their term “Toronto Comic Con” to confusing the general public. So we’ll have to see what happens now that this dispute seems headed to the courts.

--Jason Shayer