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Gareb Shamus: The ICv2 Interview, Part 2

The End of 'Wizard,' the State of the Market, & Its Lack of Leaderhip

Published: 02/08/2011 08:58pm
ICv2 caught up with Wizard World President and Chairman Gareb Shamus, founder of the recently shuttered Wizard magazine, who recently took his expanding circuit of pop culture shows public. In Part 2 of the interview Gareb talks about shutting down Wizard, the current state of the comic market, the lack of leader ship in the comic book industry and his new venture, the Geek Chic Daily.  In Part 1 Shamus discusses taking Wizard World public, and putting together a circuit of shows that range in venue from the biggest cities in North America to much smaller regional centers, creating shows with broad appeal, and competition with other purveyors of pop culture exhibitions.
 
You recently shut down your last two magazines, Wizard and ToyFare.  Can you tell us what led you to that decision?
Sure. The market’s changed. When I started 20 years ago, I was pioneering in the publishing world in terms of creating a product that got people excited about being involved in the comic book and toy and other markets, and we could do a lot of really cool and innovative things. Unfortunately right now being involved in the print world is very stifling, in terms of being able to leverage your content and your media and your access to the world out there.
 
Through Wizard World I’m starting an all new free weekly digital magazine. By doing it digitally, we have direct access to our consumers. There are no intermediaries between us now and our end consumer in all the businesses that I’m in now. When you look at my ability to sell tickets to fans, or get fans excited about our digital offerings now whether it’s through Wizard World, our new digital magazine, or Geek Chic Daily, I have direct access right now to the consumers who are our biggest fans. They’re the ones who support us, they’re the ones who get excited about what we do, and now we have direct access in all areas of the world I live in.
 
What does a weekly online magazine look like?
It’s going to be through an app download virtually in every format that people can have any type of e-reader, that’s the magazine.
 
Including the Web?
Everywhere where someone would want to be able to read a magazine format and content.
 
You mentioned that all of your businesses have direct access to the consumer. One of the tiers of the business that’s affected by that is the comic retailers. We pointed out in our article about the magazines going away [see “RIP Wizard & ToyFare Magazines”] that those magazines over the years have been better sellers than a lot of the comics they published. Retailers have made a lot of money from those magazines over the years. That’s gone now. Print is under pressure. What’s your perspective on the future of the comics store?
First of all it’s true in the sense that Wizard, up until we ceased publishing, probably sold better than 95% or more of every single comic book out there in terms of sheer units. Forget about even dollars because it was a higher cover price. So from that perspective Wizard magazine was always a leader in that category.
 
But I actually feel very bad for the retailers right now. They have a very difficult situation ahead of them. I read a lot of their newsletters in terms of their struggling, their crises, having their worst sales ever. The problem is the comics industry has not taken a leadership position in helping these guys. Their sales continue to fall, they’ve been falling for a long time, and nobody’s taken a leadership position in helping these stores pay their bills. And I feel bad for them.

These are guys that I’ve known for a very long time, we certainly work with them a lot through our events and that’s why, quite frankly, these events have become a very vibrant part of their retailing experience where now there are lots of opportunities in addition to their stores for them to be able to sell their products. When you look at other industries--take the toy industry, and you have companies like Mattel and Hasbro, that are very, very proactive, they spend a lot of money supporting the toy industry, even if it’s not a direct benefit, to make sure people are always excited about buying toys. And if people go online to buy or to a store to buy there’s a high likelihood that it’ll be a Mattel or a Hasbro toy, but they do a lot to support the marketplace. They’re very proactive. They are leaders and they act like leaders in their space. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody in the comics industry, but the industry is not doing its part to play a leadership role in making sure that these retailers get supported out there.
 
I don’t make the product, I make the magazine about the product, so it’s up the people that make the product to figure out how to support the system that gave them their livelihood.
 
What would that leadership role in the comics industry look like?
The leadership role is like this: when you go into a city with a show, I do everything I can to sell tickets. I do everything I can to get the word out. I do everything I can to get people to come to the show and have a great time and get exhibitors and get dealers. I do everything. I work with everybody. I do everything I possibly can, and the companies in this industry aren’t doing everything they can. They’re picking and choosing when they should be doing everything. Mattel and Hasbro don’t sit there and say, oh well, no TV or no radio, or no this or not that. They work with everybody. They support everybody that supports them.
 
You’re a co-founder of GeekChicDaily. What’s your involvement in that and how is it going?
Geek Chic Daily is going unbelievably well. It’s really an incredible company that I started with Peter Levin and Peter Guber. We’ve really become an incredible voice in the geek world with that model and it’s worked extremely well. I’m sure everybody has seen, and if they haven’t seen, the latest round of financing that we got for the company, and who’s involved in it. It’s a testament to how incredible that product is and what we’ve done with it and how we’ve positioned it and how the response from the consumer base has been for that product. We’re talking about people that are involved now with us that are brand names of the entertainment world. People like Peter Guber,Thomas Tull,Joe Roth, Bob Pittman, you have some of the most extraordinary guys that have had impacts on the way we see things in this world involved with us. It’s incredible, incredible.
 
See Part 1 for more.
 
 
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