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: