Why I Won’t Be Attending Wizard World

Conventions Featured GeekMom
Screenshot from 2015-02-26 14:25:04
An upcoming Wizard World convention’s webpage with the “Cosplay & Fan Communities” section conspicuously empty, but representative of their attitude towards those groups. Screenshot by Ruth Suehle (thanks to Boycott Wizard World on Facebook for pointing out this glaring hole in event information).

In two weeks, a Wizard World-branded convention descends on my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. Last week, all of of my Facebook friends had a simultaneous squee of joy when David Tennant was added to the guest list. If I had a dollar for every person who asked if I was going now, I’d be kept in Starbucks for the rest of the month. But no, I’m still not going. I have no interest in any Wizard World events.

First, let’s just look at this from a rational point of view. Admission for the three-day event is $75 in advance or $85 at the door. Or you can choose a “VIP Experience” with the aforementioned Tennant for $400 or with William Shatner for $275 or $500, depending on just how VI you want your experience to be. What does that extra $225 get you? A Shatner lithograph instead of a trading card and a photo pre-signed by Leonard Nimoy. (These prices were set and this post written before Nimoy’s death yesterday.)

I can’t tell you what the programming will be since, 12 days out, they’re still accepting suggestions. But having looked at other Wizard World schedules in the past, there are usually 15-20 programming panels/sessions over the course of the weekend. Total. Not per day. Not per room. Total.

In the end, you’re paying $75 minimum to get in the door, largely for the opportunity to spend more money on autographs ($25 to $150) or photos with celebrities ($40-$110). That’s not what the con experience is about for me.

To compare, for $95, you could buy an advanced membership to Dragon Con for a much larger guest list with a similar caliber of names and four days of constant programming that adds up to more than 3500 hours, not 15. And if you want to go get an autograph and a photo in a spare moment, you can do that, too. And a lot of other stuff. So much other stuff.

Or for $5, you could go to the Oak City Comic and Toy Show today, only a week before Wizard World, also in Raleigh. (Free to the first 200 in costume!) In fact, Wizard Worlds have a bit of a reputation for moving into town within weeks of another show. First by scheduling their Big Apple Comic Con during the same weekend as New York Comic Con in 2010. Then in Toronto, Seattle/Portland, and in Minneapolis. Sometimes they just straight up buy the local con, like in Ohio, where they then increased the cost of an artist’s table from $125 to $200 (on top of a buying a pass to attend at only a 26% discount). A vendor described how, post-purchase by Wizard, the cost of a 10’x10′ booth went from $50 to $1,245. “By the end of the day I was noting vendors who’d been present for years posting signs reading ‘RIP Mid-Ohio Con,'” he says. These are hardly isolated incidents. Read tales from Wizard World experiences in Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Wizard World has also started charging $600 for fan tables, something offered for free by many cons, including Dragon Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. As a result, jilted fans have gathered through the Facebook page “Boycott Wizard World,” where they share tales of assorted bad experiences with Wizard Worlds. In Philadelphia, reports of those hundreds of high-priced photos being thrown on a table for retrieval by their owners. In New Orleans, a band providing music for free wasn’t even given comped badges—they were effectively asked to pay to perform. A winner of their online cosplay contest was told that Wizard World had no idea what he was talking about when he tried to collect the promised prize.

This fan-excluding money-grab isn’t the type of fandom I’m interested. In fact, I’m not sure you can call what Wizard World does “fandom” at all. “Fan exploitation,” perhaps. It’s not the type of show I want to support, and I suggest you don’t either.

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17 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Be Attending Wizard World

  1. Totally agree. Local fans would do better with IllogiCon, ConGregate, MystiCon, RavenCon, ConCarolinas, ConTemporal, etc., etc.

  2. Wasn’t there also an issue with some vendors selling stolen designs on tshirts and Wizard World not banning them?

  3. I’m so sad to read this. I was very excited to see that WW was coming to Raleigh since I’m right here in Cary however the price really was too high for me to want to go. I’ve actually never been to a comic con before but I’ve gone to some Creation fan conventions and for them I pay a crazy price but I get to sit in my same seat the whole weekend and get my autographs. I don’t want to pay such a high price to have to wait in line and then maybe or may not get into the panel. I’d rather save my money and go to one where (if seeing the guest) I can see all the panels and not feel so herded.

  4. This is very interesting to read, especially seeing that WW created a “Fan Fest” here in Chicago early this year scheduled a month before C2E2 while still keeping their con in August. Granted, it’s only $18.13 for one day this coming weekend, but I think I’ll just keep that for C2E2. Their panels are indeed quite limited….

    1. The “Fan Fest” filled a void that Wizard World had when they had to cancel/postpone a Bruce Campbell horror film festival that was originally scheduled in that slot. Guess they had paid the rent for the hall already, so they filled it with something rather than declaring it a total loss.

  5. WW events are not conventions. They’re autograph and celebrity picture shows. There’s no reason to go to any Wizard World event unless those are the only things you’re interested in (and have lots of money to spend).

  6. Just to comment on the screen grab at the top (and this is not to say you aren’t otherwise right or wrong about their attitude towards fans, just not sure it’s really representative of that) That section of the event page just appears to be an area to list “invited” cosplayers and cosplay items that will be at the event. It didn’t have anything for awhile for the Raleigh con, but is now showing 2 cosplayers, and 3 movie vehicles available for photos. I expect it’s the same for other cons, that it doesn’t have anything until they are closer to the actual event.

  7. But.. but.. but… Spartacus will be there. Sigh…Are there no programs, bands, speeches, anything for free? If not, I’ll be really disappointed!

  8. I have never been to a “comic con” and my family loves Doctor Who, so I decided to buy Qty 04 VIP Matt Smith tickets 2 months ago for the New Orleans WW. And I bought some other photo ops and autographs. Total $2,500. NO Joke!!!! We wanted the VIP so we could get in early for other meet and greets. This was going to be a great time for our family. I say, was…so Matt Smith just canceled, one week before. I get an email about it and that my money would be refunded, and to call ticketcreep to get new tickets. So I call and find out VIP admission is not available! They have been sold out. So what happened to the VIP admission tickets that just got canceled with my VIP Matt Smith tickets?
    Not available, but I can buy some general admission tickets, which I do not want. I wanted to get in early to beat crowds if possible.
    Couldn’t get a straight answer so I canceled everything…Wizard World can go pound salt. $2,500 went to ZERO in seconds.
    It was a pain in the ace to get someone from ticketcreep on the phone in the first place.
    But I am glad this happened. $2,500 is a lot of money. I was off my rocker to even consider spending this on my family, Thank You Matt Smith for canceling!

  9. In the aforementioned issues, I will add my own. I’ve been to many a convention, and worked quite a few as well, sincluding Derpycon South 2013, Bronycon 2014, Bronycon 2015, recently Ichiban Con 2016, and Triad Anime Con 2016, and will be working Colossal Con 2016. I’ve also attended Bronycon 2012, Bronycon 2013, and Anthrocon 2014, plus smaller in-town cons here and there. And never, ever in my con-going experience have I come across such a horrible ‘convention’ in my life.

    First off: Money. The ticket prices were outrageous, to say the least. But it didn’t stop there, oh no. To take advantage of *anything* advertised? You had to pay. Pay, pay, pay. Course that was included in VIP, but if you didn’t shell out hundreds upon hundreds for a VIP ticket, you basically should have just had your wallet outstretched in a hand with a sign that read ‘take what you want WW’. I mean they actively tried to stop non-VIPs from taking photos of guests, especially David Tennant-Whom by the way has said he will never attend another WW event, ever.

    They even left it up to the staffers if you could just go up to a person and say hello or not, guest wise. Prime example? John Schneider. I saw him at his table, and no-one was so much as even stopping by really. Visibly bored out of his skull. So me and another guy decided, hey, we’ll go up, say hi, talk a bit and thank him for what he did in Dukes of Hazzard as we grew up on that show… Nope. Staffer was incredibly rude, bordering on aggressive. Told me I had to either buy something, or go the hell away. In that exact wording.

    So I brought this to the Convention Staff in the office. They kept trying to dodge the issue and make it out like it wasn’t a big deal.

    Now do you remember how earlier in this I mentioned all of the cons I work, and attended? Here’s where that comes in. And I shall do this, script style with me and the staff person whom we will name Mary.

    Me: Look, I get that, you have security for your guests. However that was -beyond- uncalled for, and there are numerous folks who have had this issue with that exact staffer.
    Mary: Well, I’m sorry, but we run a tight ship here-
    Me: I -understand- that, however you’re running TOO tight of a ship. You’re running a Cruise Ship which is supposed to be a fun, pleasant getaway, but you’re running it with almost military like harshness and strictness.
    Mary: Well, we make sure our guests at our shows are well taken care of, and it’s up to the guest and their manager.
    Me: Really? Last I checked some of these guests had zero issue talking to fans. And infact LOVE to. Your staffer is quite out of control, and swearing at con attendees. What is -wrong- with you folks? I have worked at a good number of conventions, and this is without a doubt the worst person I’ve ever seen. If he worked at any of the cons I do? He’d be sent home, that day, posthaste.
    Mary: Well, we run very large shows-
    Me: Like what? You’re claiming you are larger than Anthrocon 2015? Or Bronycon? We have -thousands- of attendees there, every year and we’re still growing.
    Mary: Well, this is one of our smaller shows.
    Me: Ok lady, first off, this is a convention, not a show. You want a Show, you go to something like the Circus, a movie theater, and such. This is a convention. And give me numbers. How big? If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. How big?
    Mary: *getting irritated* Well you know, if you don’t like it you don’t have to come back here. Have a good day.
    Me: Believe me, I won’t.

    So this con thinks behavior like that, is acceptable. They won’t even quote me any numbers of their other cons, for some reason either. So you know what… This “convention’s” attendees were more of an attraction than the convention itself, though a number of them were capital assholes, including this Ironman cosplayer who decided to tell me to screw off when I was getting a video of his working faceplate.

  10. I don’t know if you still reply to messages but Wizard World has always had a huge issue with Staff for some messed up reason. I just met Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye from Firefly) and let me tell you she was an absolute sweetheart I mean she literally was an angel and even talked to me for a good 5 minutes and drew a little heart on my comic with the line “I love my Captain” (I was cosplaying Captain Mal). I mean we talked about the show and her son and a lot of stuff and she was super sweet. Well i wanted to thank her at the end of the con for being so nice to me and to everybody and the staff were just super rude. I asked the lady if I could just tell Jewel thank you and she told me “No we’re cleaning up”. When I told her look I just wanted to say thanks for 5 seconds and leave she just told me “No I said we’re cleaning up” and she didn’t even ask Jewel or anything. Jewel was just packing up her stuff and had no idea. Wizard World has always had rude staff but thankfully the actors are pretty cool and Jewel was just a sweetie so I’m not letting that ruin my experience with Jewel. Don’t let that staffer ruin your experience with the guests because the actors are really nice (most of them). I remember meeting the guy who plays the governor from the walking dead and the only reason I got to talk to him was because his staff handler wasn’t around. When staff was around you couldn’t go near him but he was totally fine with you saying hi when he was just sitting there. When I brought my comic to Jewel before she even arrived one of the staff handlers almost bent the comic and it’s a limited edition Serenity Leaves On The Wind. However when I met Jewel and she was sooo sweet all of that went away. I just remember how sweet Jewel is not how rude the stupid staff was because why should they deserve the credit or benefit of me thinking about them. Jewel Staite was a doll but her staffer was rude that’s the staffers problem. Just wanted to let you know you’re not alone the staff at Wizard World have always been rude.

    1. Hi mal, I too met Jewel and she was absolutely wonderful. Just like you said a sweetheart from beginning to end. One thing I learned at the last Wizard world is that the staffers at the tables with the celebrities are not Wizard world employees, they typically work for the agency that the celebrity is represented by. I have had both good and bad luck with the staffers but in almost all cases, the negative experiences were with staffers that work for the celebritie’s agency and not Wizard world. However, I do believe the people that control the lines leading to the celebrities are Wizard world volunteers in most cases, and not paid staff. I was told there was color coding to the shirts that would identify them as paid staff or volunteers. But I would imagine when you’re hiring volunteers in a Some cases you get what you pay for. I’m looking forward to meeting the real Mal in Seattle at Emerald City! Take care!

  11. I have attended the last three Wizard world’s in Portland Oregon. I had a very positive experience at each one. I don’t doubt there are business goings on behind the scenes which can be difficult… Greed and difficulty are not unusual in the entertainment industry. That being said as an attendee I had an outstanding time and I would recommend the event to anyone who enjoys meeting celebrities, artist, and like-minded individuals of comic, fantasy, and sci-fi.

  12. Wizard World is to Cons what Wal-Mart is to local small businesses. But since they’re pretty much the only game in town for me, i begrudgingly give them my cash every year for pretty much just the liberty to shop in the dealer room. I draw the line at paying $25-100 for a.c. autograph and 10 seconds of a celebrities time.

  13. I attended the first Wizard World Con in Minneapolis 2014. First off it was pricey. I decided to do the Shatner VIP since it was only 175 a package at the time. I figured it was worth the swag to drop an extra 100 a ticket. There were not many panels but plenty of guests. I got pictures with Lou Ferrigno (30), James Hong (20), and Shatner (part of package). I hung out with Neal Adams for an hour and actually decided to have him draw me a custom Conan sketch (graphic novel with sketch on inside cover 100). He actually signed a bunch of other stuff for me since I paid a hundred for the item. Chatted with Tom Cook and had him do a original Skeletor sketch (30). Was going to do photo and autograph from David Smith but he wanted 150 an autograph or photo. Nope. Jame Hong was amazing guy. Funny as heck! Lou was awesome. Shatner was cool to meet and I am blessed to have gotten 2 photos with him and he signed an extra item for 80 bucks. Entered the cosplay contest with a gal I met there that day. Had a blast bantering with David Frank (Green Power Ranger) on stage. He even did a free karate demo earlier for the kids. Met Micheal Rooker also as he was walking by. Overall, it was worth the 1000 bucks for the weekend (for 2). Missed last year with Karl Urban. I see Minneapolis is not on the 2017 schedule. Kinda bummed but after reading how the Wizard World folks are running stuff now looks like its in death spiral.

  14. I have been to 2 Wizard World Cons . One in 2015 in Louisville, KY and one this year (2017) in Nashville ,Tn. Both were very different experiences for me. The one in Louisville was actually pretty cool and I enjoyed my time there. The one in Nashville kinda sucked. I just went one day for the Nashville con and spent almost my whole time there waiting in line. First waiting in two different lines to get in and then having to wait over an hour to get Stan Lee’s autograph and then even more surprising waiting another hour to get a photo op with him. Both of those cost $120 each. My reward for waiting so long in the autograph line was not getting to have have any interaction with Stan. He didn’t even look up . They just slid things in front of him to sign and you had to keep moving and pick up your item after he signed in. I could have bought his autograph online much cheaper and not had to waste time standing in line for nothing. I had purchased the autograph and photo op online before the convention, because I assumed there would be a limit, but it seemed as long as people were willing to pay they would have just kept taking money. The man is almost 95 years old and I could tell he was struggling to keep up with the signing. It was both sad to see him put through that and also I was upset with the con for being such a poorly run event . I will never go to another Wizard World Con again.

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