As of Monday, we’re one step closer to the demise of print publications.  That’s because Monday it was announced that comic magazine publisher Wizard would be closing down both of its flagship periodicals – Wizard and Toyfare – as of February and shifting focus to a new online magazine called Wizard World.

It kind of boggles the mind, but at the same time it’s hardly surprising.  Wizard Magazine has been around for almost twenty years.  The publication grew rather quickly from its humble beginnings, finding an audience that was very wanting of such a monthly rag during the decade when comics exploded in an overabundance of variants, over-the-top artistic styles, and media-grabbing gimmicks.

But over the past few years the magazine has waned quite a bit in the content department.  And with that new-fangled invention called the internet growing in popularity and usefulness, a lot of what a print mag about comics, movies, and/or toys can offer becomes absolete and old news almost the moment it hits the stands.

I remember picking it up at my local comic shop when it first started circulating as a thin, newsletter-style supplement.  I thought it was the coolest idea and official evidence that a hobby once relegated as being for nerds was getting some validation.  I mean, adults were writing about this stuff seriously!  They were analyzing themes, characters and storylines, interviewing people in the biz, and talking about product that was coming down the pike.  Suddenly, it was cool to love comics!

I continued to pick up Wizard off and on for the next several years after that.  I was guilty of taking my attention over to a rival rag that was rising in the ranks during the early years called Hero.  But, that copycat didn’t last long, and I was back to reading the monthly with the pointy, purple starcap on the cover.  Even when I dropped comics altogether for a few years, I still found myself picking up an issue from time to time just to see what was going on.

Years later I got back into the industry that was quickly becoming overpriced and overindulgent thanks to a couple of great titles that actually stood out amongst the majority of crap filling the stands.  And at that point I got right back into collecting Wizard, as well as Toyfare.  Around that same time Gareb Shamus – the guy who is responsible for Wizard – started staging conventions sporting the Wizard banner all over the country.  I went to the first one in Philly back in 2003 and continued to attend it each year until it started to feel like the red-headed step-child of Wizard conventions a couple of years ago.  I haven’t been back to one since, mainly because they’ve now gone to the other end of the spectrum – overpriced and overbooked.

It’s a shame, really – for both the magazine and the conventions.  I loved reading Wizard and Toyfare growing up due to their insightful articles, news, and humour.  I continued to read both publications over the past couple of years depsite the fact that the news started to become dated upon publication, mainly because the humour was still there and the introspective articles were still a plast to read.  But now, everything I loved about both the cons and the magazines are going away – replaced with a corporate mentality to make things more efficient and profitable while taking away the human element that made it fun.  I feel especially bad for all of the staff who are losing their jobs due to the decision to stop printing.  I got to know a couple of them through my annual convention attendance.  They are some really great people that possess some amazing talent.

And then there’s the man himself who started it all – Gareb Shamus.  I met him the first year I went to Wizard World Philly.  The man went out of his way to come over and talk to us about the con, depsite the fact that his wife and kids were waiting for him just down the hall.  He came off as a very down-to-earth kind of guy – very approachable and intent on connecting with the fans that read his rag and came to his con.  Over the next couple of years I would find myself talking to him (and his wife) quite a bit each year in Philly.  Extremely nice people, they both seemed very interested in whatever we discussed.

But by the last couple of years that I attended, Gareb and his wife stopped popping up.  I dunno why, but by that point the machine that was the Wizard World Tour was becoming quite a massive beast.  I’m certain the work involved was taking its toll, and Gareb just didn’t have the time or energy to keep himself connected to the masses.

And maybe that’s part of why both the print mags and the convention are where they are now.  Maybe the Powers-That-Be have gotten too far out of touch.  Just speculation on my part, obviously… but it just seems like the human element that made the whole experience between page and panel room so much fun, personable and meaningful is missing.  That said, maybe it’s a good thing that Wizard has ceased publication in print.  By pulling the plug now, we don’t have to sit and watch them suffer a slow death.