Carnival of souls: Special “Death of Wizard” edition [UPDATED with more links]

The amazing John Byrne "Days of Future Past" riff Tom Derenick and Nelson did for a Batman article in Wizard based on an idea I suggested

Above: The amazing John Byrne/Terry Austin “Days of Future Past” riff that Tom Derenick and Nelson did for a Batman article in Wizard based on an idea I suggested

Gareb Shamus has shut down Wizard and ToyFare magazines, and is taking his company public as a penny stock while relaunching as a digital magazine called Wizard World. I’ll be perfectly honest with you: It’s been an awful day because of this. So many of the details about the news rankle: How it was broken online by a disreputable gossipmonger who — quelle coincidence! — argues the magazine was at its all-time best during the same time period it was wining and dining him at its conventions and regularly feeding him the company line; the unceremonious and cowardly way the company broke the news to its employees, both the ones it kept and the ones it let go; the time spent with no idea as to the fate of some of those employees, since Wizard’s official press release didn’t see fit to mention them or their magazines’ cancellations; the fact that the company’s years of malfeasance and dubious taste overshadows so many of the wonderful and talented and ethical and comics-intelligent people who’ve worked there; the fact that wanting to celebrate those wonderful, talented, ethical, comics-intelligent people makes it harder, emotionally, to do the necessary work of calling out everyone who’s worked there who are none of those things; the tasteless way in which at least one of the survivors chose to mark the occasion; the unintentionally revealing legal disclaimer tacked on to the PR; the gamut of emotions experienced by those of us who used to work there and the occasionally uncomfortable way those different emotions have brushed up against one another; and, of course, the massive blow to the security and happiness of the people who were laid off, and even those who weren’t.

Before I worked at Wizard, it wasn’t as integral a part of my life as a comics reader as it was for many of the ex-Wiz employees with whom you may be familiar. But the only issue I can ever remember reading is one that played a pivotal role in my getting involved in comics at all: After flipping through a copy I found on my then-boss’s desk and reading about an intriguing-looking upcoming approach to the X-Men by this guy named Grant Morrison I’d heard of and this artist Frank Quitely I hadn’t, I figured I’d go to the store to pick it up. The rest is history — a history that includes three years spent in Wizard’s employ. It was a frustrating three years in many ways, and the way it ended was the most frustrating part of all. But in that time I learned a great deal about effective writing from the editors with whom I worked most closely, Pat McCallum and Brian Cunningham, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. If you’ve ever read a review of mine you liked, you have Pat to thank; if you’ve ever read a feature of mine you liked, it’s Brian. Moreover, 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.

Since the Great Con War erupted, it’s become clear that the comics industry, at least, has less and less time for the management’s behavior. This seems to be at least somewhat mutually beneficial: The comics industry has divorced itself from an entity it clearly has disliked and distrusted for far longer than it’s felt comfortable saying so, while that entity is clearly willing and able to pursue avenues of exploration outside the confines of that industry, its characteristic self-promotional mojo still intact. But the conflict’s resolution has seen more than its share of collateral damage over the years, and this latest spasm of it is just the most obviously and publicly gruesome. I just feel badly for anyone who’s ever seen the people and the work they care about caught in the blast radius.

If you’d like to read more about the situation, I recommend the following articles and interviews:

* Kevin Melrose with the basic 5Ws situation

* Me on that press release disclaimer

* Brian Hibbs’s quick two-liner on the near simultaneous demise of Wizard and the Comics Code Authority

* Tom Spurgeon on what the press release’s silence on certain subjects says about Wizard

* Heidi MacDonald with the first official word of the magazine cancellations; Heidi and her commenters do some sleuthing about Wizard stock

* Andy Khouri on (among other things) an even-handed appraisal of the magazine and its legacy in terms of alumni across the industry

* Rob Bricken of Topless Robot on the cancellation of ToyFare and on the way Wizard World announced its decision

* iFanboy’s Ron Richards interviews a laid-off employee

* An industry-reax round-up at Newsarama that includes my friends and fellow Wizard alumni Ben Morse (Marvel), Mel Caylo (Archaia), and Alex Segura (Archie)

* My friend and fellow Wizard alumnus Chris Ward (Boom!, Bluewater) with a warts-and-all take on it not dissimilar to my own

* Vocal Wizard critic Laura Hudson with a kind and even-handed take on the news

* A testimonial by my friend Ryan “Agent M” Penagos (Marvel)

15 Responses to Carnival of souls: Special “Death of Wizard” edition [UPDATED with more links]

  1. No one puts it better. Thank you for this, Sean!

  2. Zach Oat says:

    Tears. Your words touched my soul with their truth.

  3. Hear, hear. I was waiting for this. Thank you Sean.

  4. [...] and Anime Insider. There’s also plenty of well-crafted commentary, such as this post from friend and ex-Wizard Editor/Writer Sean T. Collins. Sean, as always, provides a level of discourse and insight that make posts like mine completely [...]

  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rick Marshall and Bryan J.L. Glass, Sal Loria. Sal Loria said: Highly recommended read on Wizard's announcement by @theseantcollins: http://tinyurl.com/6f9dslk [...]

  6. [...] Well, almost: I’ve added a couple more links to my post on the shutdown of Wizard and ToyFare; I hope you’ll read [...]

  7. Chris, Zach, Rachel, thank you. I’m glad I met all of you!

  8. Fantastic account, Sean, and eloquently put. I’m not exactly sure what has me traversing the internet, looking for various takes on this situation. That impulse that I hate, probably, the one that likes to take a look at the car accident as I drive by, for some terrible unknown reason? Guh, who knows. Regardless, thanks for adding a bit of perspective to things.

  9. Dirk Deppey says:

    Say this much for Fantagraphics: When they suspend a magazine’s regular publication or let an employee go, they at least do so in straightforward and honorable fashion.

    So basically, the Comics Buyers Guide wins…?

    • For real, Dirk, for real. One of the guys who was let go had worked there for eighteen years, and they fired him over the phone on a Sunday night. Shamus didn’t even have the stones to make the call himself — he never has, not even when they fired the magazine’s co-founder Pat McCallum; he had his Desaad-like underling do it. Really contemptible.

      Anyway, I think the rules dictate that you now have the right to write a short essay explaining my partial responsibility for the decline and fall of this once-great institution. :)

  10. Perfectly put, Sean, as I’d expect from you. And while we hardly had an opportunity to work together on a magazine, I do still remember sitting in on your interview process those many years ago. While the print magazine may be dead, the lessons, camaraderie and lasting friendships certainly will live on long past that final issue.

  11. [...] Ching surveys numerous creators and editors; and Robot 6 contributor, and former Wizard staffer, Sean T. Collins comments on the magazine’s demise and rounds up [...]

  12. [...] at Wizard I highly recommend checking out posts by my friends and former colleagues Ryan Penagos, Sean Collins, Chris Ward and Alex [...]

  13. [...] 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] [...]

  14. [...] this economy, but when they day comes that Wizard World goes extinct the way of Gareb Shamus’ other much-maligned venture, I won’t shed a tear. The comics industry will be better off with a more progressive, [...]

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