The winds of change just tore through the North American fan convention space.
After maintaining a presence on the convention scene for the past 25 years, Wizard World is exiting the events business completely with the sale of its six biggest U.S. shows to Informa Markets’ Fan Expo HQ. With the addition of the established conventions from the Wizard World portfolio, Fan Expo HQ immediately assumes the throne as the world’s largest producer of fan conventions with 17 shows across North America. Next year, Wizard World events in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, Portland, New Orleans, and the flagship Wizard World Chicago Comic Con will be “rebranded and revitalized” as Fan Expo.
As it stands today, Wizard World Chicago will go out with a bang this October with one final event that Wizard Special Events LLC is touting as “a historic return.” Perhaps it’s appropriate, given it’s “Third Coast” location, but Wizard World Chicago holds the distinction of being the third-largest pop culture fan event in North America behind Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC). Founded in 1972 as Nostalgia ’72, the event has evolved over the years as the Chicago Comic Con, the Chicago Comic and Nostalgia Convention, Wizard World Chicago (1996), and eventually the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con.
I first attended Wizard World — named for the late Wizard magazine — as a fan in the ’90s and eventually found myself exhibiting in the small press area in the early ’00s before being fortunate enough to be a billed guest and exhibitor in 2008.
In the years that followed, I attended as press and have seen Wizard World evolve as major exhibitors, such as Marvel, DC, and Hasbro pulled out of the event and the company faced an almost cyclical pattern of controversy, expansion (2013), and contraction (it almost went under in 2017) before competition from ReedPOP’s excellent C2E2 (where the Pop Insider proudly planted a flag last year) moved in. But pre-COVID-19, it seemed like Wizard World was back on the upswing, and new ownership might be just what the event needs to become something special again.
According to Fan Expo HQ President and Founder Aman Gupta, the six new cities in the Fan Expo family will have their experiences “supersized.”
“Fan Expo HQ is devoted to creating unmissable, exceptional fan experiences, Gupta said in a post on LinkedIn. “We’re looking forward to getting to know each of these individual communities, learn what they’re looking for, and raise the bar!”
Additionally, the company plans to use its new scale “to offer even more exclusive access to superstar talents, international brands, and innovative experiences” as it prepares to welcome nearly 1 million fans next year. While the exact details have not been revealed, Gupta says that Fan Expo HQ has hired five members from the existing Wizard World team and it expects to hire more U.S. staff in the coming months.
This weekend, Fan Expo HQ will host Megacon Orlando, its first show since the pandemic. In recent months, Fan Expo HQ has been on a roll as it acquired existing shows (Denver Comic Con) and revealed plans to launch in new markets (San Francisco). As for Wizard World, there are no details yet on if it will continue in some form following this October’s event. Amid the pandemic, the company shifted to virtual events but has recently been going heavy on merchandise offerings, including signed photos and NFTs.
Whether you credit Seneca or Semisonic, as the saying goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”