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Can Beleaguered Wizard World Continue into 2018?

Wizard World
Financial woes have plagued pop culture convention host company Wizard World for the last few years and 2017 is no exception. Wizard World’s quarterly report (released 11/14/17) shows that the comic convention runner is still in financial trouble, down about $1 million for the same quarter last year and almost $4.5 million for the year. In response the company stated “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.” A 2.5 million dollar investment by Wizard World chairman Paul Kessler (through his financial firm, Bristol) was used up in the first three quarters of this year and they reported a loss of 1.5 million for the first quarter of 2017. Overall first quarter 2017 revenue was $74,199 compared to $348,182 in the first quarter of 2016.

In addition to financial losses, the number of Wizard World conventions dropped from twenty six in 2016 to sixteen in 2017. While rumors originally circulated that they would have as many as 40 in 2018, their late September announcement shows only seventeen. Of those, five are shows that had originally been scheduled for this fall but were postponed. The official statement indicated that these changes came about so that they would have more time to plan those shows. “In moving five of our more recently announced shows to 2018, we are better equipped to put on the kind of successful pop culture celebration that our fans have come to expect.” That being said, none of the rescheduled shows actually has calendar date.

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Wizard World’s efforts to relaunch Wizard magazine digitally this year tanked as well. After much fanfare in July regarding its new format, Wizard Digital has disappeared from the WW website and former Associate Editor Luke Y. Thompson posted to twitter “Okay, followers. Seems I’m looking for work again. I’d love any pointers. Thanks.”

Additionally the accompanying Facebook daily video series Wizpop has only managed to pick up 1.2K followers in the last 6 months. Wizard had a circulation of over 100,000 at its height in 90s.

And the company has been suffering through legal woes this year as well. Former COO Randall Malinoff left the company in July and is now “engaged in a dispute” with Wizard World over his departure. Wizard World told investors that they were “ in communication with a representative of Mr. Malinoff, which communications may, or may not, result in a conclusion of this matter.” A contract dispute was filed in the Los Angeles court system on 9/1/17. This comes seven months after Wizard World sued their former Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Shamus (brother of company founder Gareb Shamus) for allegedly using his position to obtain more than $1 million dollars worth of signed memorabilia and collectibles which he then sold for his own profit. Stephen Shamus counter-claimed that Wizard World manufactured the claim  and owed him over a million dollars. That matter has since been settled but not before some pretty outrageous stories emerged alleging Wizard executives were trying to loot the company.

How much longer can Wizard World carry on despite these legal, financial, and administration troubles? Well, I wouldn’t mark any of their dates in sharpie on your 2018 calendar.

Wonder Woman Honored then Snubbed by the U.N.

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The United Nations, famous (infamous?) for having Saudi Arabia on the human rights council, recently appointing Wonder Woman as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.  Then, even more recently enough, people threw a fit that it was reversed.  Strangely enough of the people who complained aren’t who you think.  UN staffers, feminists, and non-fans of the character were vocal about their opposition.  Even written in the petition:

Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent warrior woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a pin-up girl.

What this says about women who do look like Wonder Woman is a bit of a double standard in my opinion.  While every woman is different, there are probably a great many women who look like her and girls who will look like her.  Saying they are abnormal is just as bad as saying any other body type is abnormal.  Saying she’s a ‘white woman’ shows the ignorance of people who cannot tell the difference between the wide range of  European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people, as much as the ignorance of people who think all Asians are the same.  And what’s wrong with pin-up girls?  It’s a job just like any other, and there are highly talented, and successful burlesque dancers, pin-up models, and dancers and if we are empowering women that means accepting whatever job it is they decide is best for them, right?  Who are we to shame any of these aspects of real women?

If a woman of Greek descent, who saves people all around the world and immigrates to America is too American, then which fictional character would work?  What other fictional female character is as well known, especially with the upcoming DC movie?  How many little girls, and even adults, cosplay as Diana every year?  What message does the UN send to these woman and girls, and even boys, when they say Wonder Woman isn’t womaning well enough to be an example for girls to look up to?

And current iteration?  Did they even google Wonder Woman before writing that?  Take a look.  Wonder Woman art is as varied as the artists who’ve drawn her.  Just in the top few results, we have her in the traditional red, white and blue, decked out in armor, wearing pants, and covered from neck to toe in an armored body suit.  She’s drawn as athletic and slender, or muscular and curvy, large chested or smaller, and everything in between.  The current iteration of this immigrant super heroine is quite diverse really, and it seems to me she shows that women can be whatever they want, and look however they want when they do it.

Thankfully fans are speaking out, with one 14 year old girl starting a petition to reinstate her.  Even Phil Jimenez shared this great tweet with art from Catherine and Sarah Satrun:

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Quite honestly, at the end of the day, if the point is to pick a woman who will fit everyone’s definition of a role-model, you’ll fail.  You’re not going to find a single fictional female, or male character, that everyone will think is a perfect example.  It’s simply not possible.  What I do know is when I see the faces of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman, they look like they’re having the time of their lives.  Do little girls really care what she’s wearing, or do they care that they feel like goddesses when they put on a costume and pretend to be Diana for a few hours?  Should we be focusing on what a woman wears (I’m told that’s really bad), or what she does?  Should our message be that a woman can do whatever she wants, and dress however she likes when she does it, or she can do it as long as she dresses in an acceptable manner?  I may just be one of those silly guys, but it seems like a damn confusing message to me.

Guest Post: Synopsis of DC’s Raven Vol 1 (Comic Book)

By Dandc_special_-_raven_1

I would like to thank the staff at Real Women of Gaming for giving me the opportunity to write a few words for them about comic books. As a fellow geek, I understand the powers these sacred tomes hold dear to us, in various ways. I don’t know if I pique enough interest in my digital correspondence to the world, but I’ve never been one for backing down in a request from a friend.

Given the task of writing about a comic book hasn’t been an easy one. I seriously thought about choosing a character I can associate myself with, going beyond the actual powers of said character and resonating with the story itself. Initially, there were a few I thought would be “flashy” or “neat,” but shortly after reading them, I didn’t quite feel the message of what the writers were trying to portray. Deciding I was thinking too hard about this, I’ve opted to go for a gut feeling.

DC Comic’s Raven, issue one, written by Wolfman, Borges and Blond.

First glance of the cover art, I felt a strong sense of nostalgia. Raven’s wings juxtaposed to a shining white light conveys a sense of apprehension in being a protector, torn between the fear she has of people knowing who she is (as the book she’s clutching is a foreshadowing of her father) and the good nature, which I presume comes from her mother, or even her, herself. Its pretty apparent from the age she’s drawn at, she’s in high school, which only further reinforces the fact that she’s going through turmoil. This instantly reminded me of the struggles I faced in school, having been a “weird(nerd)” kid in school, constantly carrying all of my textbooks, being made fun of, wondering if people really liked me (or only for my homework).

Upon reading, you’re immersed into being a typical teenager, who’s lost and trying to find their way in life. The story starts with Raven sent to live with her aunt’s religious suburbanite family. This doesn’t seem so bad, unless you’re the daughter of a prime evil demon and your very namesake would make Poe never quote you. She feels uneasy being around such nice people, even if they are her family, but she craves trying to be normal, still thinking what she’s doing is for the best. This ideology causes her to have conflict with herself and dreams of her father lash out at her. This scares her new family, but they understand from a “normal” perspective, trying to cheer her up and soothe her. Raven’s aunt tries to assure her, that she’s just like every other “normal” teenager, even if she’s the daughter of her “different” sister.

At “normal” school, we’re inferred that she can just basically feel emotions around her. She presses on, knowing that “normal” kids her age are struggling with problems, too, given by a two page spread showing the different thoughts that typical teens might have. She feels that she cannot fit in, but she’s quickly made the center of attention from a group of friends that basically realize she’s not like everyone else, causing an instant bond. However, one teen is not quite like the others, and in comic fashion causes Raven to react to help one of her new found friends. We’re given the idea that someone can use powers similar to Raven’s, although is much stronger and controlled in their powers, and left wondering who that person could be.

Comic Book Spotlight: Batgirl #1

Title: Batgirl #1
Writer: Hope Larson
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque
Published by DC Comics
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Reviewed by Johnny Destructo
A bit of history: the first post-Killing Joke-version of Batgirl that appeared about 5 years ago via “The New 52” was a no-nonsense woman dealing with recently getting back on her feet, and the after affects of PTSD. Then the powers that be did a bit of re-branding, making Barbara slightly younger, with a whole new outfit (which is far more visually striking) and suddenly she was worrying about her online presence, Instagram and her popularity as a superhero in a piece of the city called Burnside. That brings us to this new #1! Babs has left Burnside and is doing some globe-trotting, starting in Japan, specifically to meet an elderly ex-crimefighter, Chiyo Yamashiro, aka FRUIT BAT.

 

OK, so on her first day in Japan, Babs runs into her old friend Kai, who just happens to be her new roommate, coincidentally, on the other side of the world. Even though I love super-heroes being taken out of their comfort zone and into a new locale, in this issue, Kai sees a red-headed friend from Gotham, and then runs into a red-headed Vigilante from Gotham the next day? This is the bit where we as readers have to do some belief-suspension and just go along with it. This is a long-running super-hero trope that we just have to pretend not to notice. Or is it? Should we expect better from modern comics?

 

At any rate, the action soon ramps up when Kai is attacked by a bad-ass “school girl” and Babs has to jump in as Batgirl, only to have the aforementioned Fruit Bat take care of the kid herself. She deflects a knife-toss meant for her throat, sending it bouncing off a nearby drum and through the School Girl’s tie! Not bad for a lady 104 years in. Babs sees this and decides, as good as she is, she needs more training. Fruit Bat, clearly unable to take her on as a student, tells Batgirl to “find Teacher.” Before succumbing to a weak heart, imparts, “You can’t see the future when the past is standing in your way.” This, plus a billboard, lead our favorite ginger to the MMA Grand Prix in Singapore, and to issue #2.

 

Upon a second reading, I actually liked the mystical coincidences that popped up here, despite it reeking of cliched “Asian magicks.” I’ve always enjoyed when a crime-fighter needs to travel the world to learn different techniques. It gives the character a sense of having to actually work for their abilities, unlike in shows such as Arrow where it only takes the length of an episode to become a master of martial arts and cool weaponry.

The art by Rafael Albuquerque is sketchy yet fluid, kinetic but still solid. It’s a bucket of fun to look at, and the colors by Dave McCaig have a Pop-Art sensibility and don’t take themselves too seriously, if that makes sense. It’s a beautiful book, with a fun story, give it a shot!
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Be sure to visit Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex in Manayunk for great comics just like this one! Like them on Facebook here!
Note from the editor: This month’s Comic Spotlight was delayed due to conflicting schedules.

Tim from Last Week Reviews: Dungeons & Dragons #1

Writer: John RogersD&D#1 coverArtist: Andrea Di Vito
Colorist: Aburtov and Graphikslava
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Released: 11/2010 (collected 7/2011)

Review by: Tim from Last Week

John Rogers is one of those writers that you know, but don’t know you know. He handled the first script for the Transformers movie. He was a creator on The Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon (a favorite in the From Last Week household!). He created and executive-produced TNT’s Leverage. In comics, he was co-creator of Jaimie Reyes, DC Comics’ “new” Blue Beetle. He has also written for BOOM! Studios (Cthulhu Tales, Zombie Tales).

Andrea Di Vito has been working in comics since the early 2000s. His first regular art gig was on The First, followed by Brath (CrossGen Comics). Then he moved on to higher profile jobs, including Thor, Annihilation, and Nova (Marvel Comics). Di Vito has also worked on assorted G.I. Joe titles for IDW Publishing.

On the first page, we are dropped right into the action (don’t get too excited: it’s just a tease, to whet your appetite). Dealing with zombified orphans (“…nobody’s gonna miss ’em”) seems like a good place to start! Then, flashback to earlier that day. A pre-existing party of adventurers is signing up a new member at the local bar. The team is set (but not stable): Adric Fell (human, leader), Kahl (dwarf), Varis (elf), Bree (halfling), and new member Tisha (human/tiefling). We get to see them razzing each other, just before the action starts.

Zombies break through the floor, and we get to see everyone in action trying to stop the horde of zombies. It turns out the zombies were following tunnels under the town. But, it seems that the zombies aren’t really zombies, and that leads to the gang getting arrested for murdering a bunch of townsfolk. The group is about to be sentenced, but an old friend of Fell’s, Copernicus Jinx, arrives to explain the situation. It seems darkness is seeping into this realm, and infecting people.

As Fell and the team try to escape the now-infected constabulary, Jinx tells Fell that his daughter (who also has history with Fell) had already gone to investigate this disturbance at the Orphanarium. The team splits up to try to solve the mystery and save lives, some going into the tunnels, and some heading for the orphans. The tunnel crew finds that a strange being invoking dark forces below town. The orphan crew arrives to find that the orphans have already been “turned,” and Jinx’s daughter, Juliana, is defending herself from an onslaught of mini-zombies. A large explosion occurs below the orphanage, and we leave the story, there.

Reading this comic, I reacted similarly as I have to other D&D comics, over the years (more on that, later): this isn’t a D&D story, it’s a sword-and-sorcery story that happens to have the D&D logo on it. I’m still not sure if that’s a bad thing, or a good thing. Although I played Dungeons & Dragons when I was younger, I was never deeply into it, and I have only read D&D stories in comic book form (yes, someday, I will read all of the D&D related novels). As such, I do not have a deep connection to the worlds and motifs of D&D, and that may be the reason that I do not “feel” it.

However, I do have to say that I enjoyed the camaraderie between the adventurers, and could imagine being at the table with a group of players, having similar conversations in and around the gameplay. At the same time, I generally enjoy stories about otherworldly evil/darkness affecting the “regular” world, so I think this could be a fun story to explore. Though I am still not sure how effective this comic was as a D&D story, I do need to credit Rogers with giving us a taste of what could be a good sword-and-sorcery story. Maybe that is more important…

I’ve enjoyed Andrea Di Vito’s art in most of the titles mentioned above. Between his CrossGen Comics work and his work on Marvel’s Thor, Di Vito really made a name for himself in sword-and-sorcery comics. However, I sometimes find that his art is a little too heavy for some adventures. To a certain extent, most of his characters look very strong and powerful, but I like a little more variation between dwarves and elves, for example. But, I expected certain things in Di Vito’s art for this comic, and I got what I wanted. Dynamic characters, action, and good story-telling. While I am not sure this is my favorite Di Vito art, it is still pretty good. I am hoping that his characters evolve, visually, over the course of the series.

The granddaddy of tabletop gaming, Dungeons & Dragons has had an on-again-off-again relationship with comic books. DC Comics published a line of D&D comics in the 80s. KenzerCo published D&D comics in the 90s. In 2005, Devil’s Due Publishing was adapting R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf stories. In 2010, IDW Publishing obtained the license, and is still publishing D&D comics today. This series ran for a little over a year, and had 16 issues. Those 16 issues have been collected into 3 trade paperbacks. Volume 1 (“Shadowplague“) and volume 2 (“First Encounters”) are priced $19.99, and volume 3 (“Down”) is priced $17.99.

Dungeons & Dragons, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook!