Wizard World has announced its 2012 convention plans and it includes a big locale change in Toronto, Canada that effectively brings to a close a long, bitter dispute in the comic book and pop culture convention landscape involving Fan Expo Canada
For the uninitiated, Fan Expo Canada, run by Hobby Star Marketing Inc., is the premiere comic book and pop culture event in Toronto. Since 1995, they have worked to establish their Toronto footprint and expand their brand. The Expo has grown to include comic books, movie/TV, sci-fi, manga, anime, horror, toys, collectible card games, and video/web entertainment.
Paradise Toronto Comicon was an upstart convention that ran from 2003 to 2008 and was almost exclusively a comic book convention touting itself as a “Celebration of Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Manga and Sequential Art”.
Rumors and online nattering between both proprietors and their emissaries erupted on the ComicBloc forums and several others in the mid-2000s when the rivalry reached his zenith. All you have to do is type into Google the words “Hobby Star” and “Paradise” to see the vast amounts of information on respected comics sites and forums to learn the gory details of this mis-matched rivalry (Hobby Star’s Goliath to Paradise’s David).
The most serious allegation made against Hobby Star Inc. at the time was its alleged anti-competitive practices that lead to the Paradise Toronto Comicon being allegedly barred from using the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a downtown, accessible venue. This was the premiere venue that Fan Expo Canada has held its big summer conventions in since 1997.
To allegedly lock up the venue year-round, Hobby Star Inc. ran several smaller conventions throughout the year to gain favor with the venue and allegedly keep Paradise out. The Paradise Toronto Comic Con was forced to hold many of its conventions at Exhibition Place, a venue farther way from the downtown Toronto core. Despite strong Canadian laws concerning anti-competitive business practices, I understand no legal action was taken in this dispute and none of the allegations were proven or dismissed in a court of law.
So, what does all this have to do with Wizard World? Well, in 2009 Wizard World bought the Paradise Toronto Comicon. They continued to hold the conventions at Exhibition Place, but as noted earlier, their 2012 Wizard World Toronto show will be held at the… wait for it… the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 14-15th. This will take place 5 months before the Fan Expo show at the same venue on August 23-26th, 2012.
How Hobby Star will respond to this new development is unknown at press time. However, intereststingly, they did have a smaller “fan appreciation” show at the same venue on April 9-10 this past year.
At this point, there is no question that the Fan Expo is the superior show running 4-days in the summer to Wizard World’s 2-day show in the spring.
The Toronto market can support two premiere comic or pop culture events anchored in different seasons. The hope is this new development will be the win-win for fans that it clearly is on its surface and a sign that the years of acrimony between rival Toronto conventions are over.
Comic book professionals, retailers, and fans have been caught between the two convention solitudes for too many years. The hope is that with Wizard World, and with the locale battle resolved, that the two big comic book and pop culture conventions in Toronto will embark on a new era of peaceful co-existence that can only help grow the comic book and pop culture industries in Canada for the benefit of fandom.
Wizard World Toronto didn’t win anything with the Metro Toronto Convention Centre booking. Nor did Hobby Star’s Fan Expo Canada lose anything with this locale news. Comic book and pop culture fans are the only winners here.
Our friends at Bleeding Cool are calling this a full scale war in Canada now that both cons will be at the same central venue.
I still think that the war as it has been fought until now is over. Fan Expo and Wizard World can now compete, as they should as good capitalists, both from positions of strength in THE central venue for fandom.
I still believe despite the counter-programming and other tactics that we can expect, that BC points out, in the end the fans will be the winners.