Toronto Convention Shocker: Kevin Boyd Jumps Ship
FanExpo's New Star
by Bryan Munn
In the relatively small world of Toronto comics fandom it is a story of almost Biblical proportions: Kevin Boyd, long-time promoter of the Paradise Toronto Comicon, has left Paradise for arch-rival, Hobbystar Promotions, owner of the Toronto FanExpo.
Boyd, along with Paradise Comics owner Peter Dixon, had been co-promoter of the Paradise conventions since 2002. He announced his move to Hobbystar last month through several online venues.
Boyd's move came as a surprise to many, given the recent acrimony between Hobbystar and Paradise. Boyd was an active player in these disputes, even going so far as accusing Hobbystar of "aggressive counter-programming tactics" in 2006.
According to Boyd, since the two organizations began arguing 3 years ago over event scheduling, brand confusion, and the alleged intimidation of guests and dealers, Paradise and Hobbystar have "been trying to get along and the conflict has pretty much disappeared," paving the way for Boyd to join his former competitor.
The Stop Hobbystar Movement
The conflict between Paradise and Hobbystar held many comics fans and businesses in its thrall, some quite literally, to the point where several dealers and pros took sides and refused to do business with one or another faction. For the most part it seemed that Hobbystar suffered the most in this regard, with several high-profile vendors like Toronto's The Beguiling, and several comics artists actively boycotting the FanExpo shows. Things came to a boil with the creation of the Stop Hobbystar blog by Brian Garside, of online comics retailer All New Comics.
According to Boyd, "the whole Hobbystar/Paradise feud was something I was deeply caught up in. I was one of the people fighting tooth and nail with them over playing fair and not interfering in other people's businesses. I think last August, with the creation of the Stop Hobbystar blog, and some industry interest in the conflict, that most of us realized that this was not good for the city of Toronto and the industry as a whole.
"The two sides met many times last fall to try to resolve something, and while no agreement was reached, we've been trying to get along and the conflict has pretty much disappeared and the Paradise Comicon had this year to stand or fall on it's own without interference. The Stop Hobbystar people closed the blog up in the spring, feeling it had served its purpose. They've also worked out their concerns with Hobbystar and will be at the show in August. Most of the industry didn't like the conflict, but remained neutral in their actions as they saw merit in supporting both."
Boyd was hired away from Paradise by Aman Gupta, owner of Hobbystar, after meeting with him for several years to resolve the differences between the two cons, all the while resisting Gupta's offers of employment. According to Boyd, the crucial meeting happened early last month: "We met again on July 12 and he made me an offer which I seriously considered and decided to take after consulting with my family and close friends outside of comics. My options were limited: retire from conventions or work with Hobbystar. It happened very quickly, in less than a week's time."
This seeming drastic change in Boyd's orientation and loyalties was actually a long time coming. He had been dissatisfied with the financial aspects of the Paradise con for several years and argues that his decision to leave the show was based almost solely on the lack of renumeration he received for his efforts.
"Since I agreed to be involved in the Paradise show in late 2002 my involvement has been pretty all-encompassing. I worked on pretty much every facet of the event. The only thing I did not do was deal with the suppliers or book flights and hotel rooms. It has always been a common misconception that I was an employee of Paradise Comics. Aside from occasionally watching the store when no one else could, I have never worked there for pay. So to say I worked for Paradise is not really true. I shopped there, and was friends with the staff there, helped out a lot, and my commitment with the show was to work on the show in exchange for a percentage of the gate, which I never received. My contribution and commitment to the con was time and effort."
"The convention business was not successful so I decided it was time to end it. I worked on it for five years and did not receive any money for time spent on the big convention, as bills needed to be paid first. It was not acceptable for me to continue working so hard on something that I was not making anything from and saw no room for that situation improving. Being in business is supposed to be about making money, and I make no ancillary profits from the con. I don't set up as a dealer any more. I don't have a store to promote. I'm just a guy that likes comics and got caught up in something that I thought would give me more money to pay my own bills and buy more comics, and that didn't work out."
Boyd has a long history of involvement with comic art and conventions. Although by day he is a mild-mannered research affiliate for Cancer Care Ontario, by night and on weekends he has operated as something of a super-fan for years. A collector and fan for most of his life, in the mid-1980s he formed Black Light Comics with two friends from high school and sold photocopied mini-comics (The Cat, Tales from the Hood and Battlestar) at Toronto conventions.
In the early 90s Boyd started selling comics at some smaller shows run by Simon Watson and Doug Simpson, two employees of the Paradise Comics shop. When Simpson retired, Paradise owner Peter Dixon came on board. In 2002, after Watson left under difficult circumstances, Boyd was invited to fill his role as co-promoter of the Paradise cons and began work on the Toronto Comicon 3-day events. Boyd worked on 10 Paradise events in total: five 3-day conventions and four and a half one-day shows.
In addition, Boyd is an organizer of the Joe Shuster Awards and does work with the Certified Guaranty Company, travelling to U.S. shows with them and getting books signed for their customers. He is also an Overstreet Price Guide advisor with market reports published in the last two editions. "I do some work with the Hero Iniative as well," he adds.
Boyd and Dixon were the sole owners of the Paradise con. The con itself had no employees, although according to Boyd, Dixon's store employees contributed by answering calls, taking messages, offering advice and forwarding e-mails, with the rest of the slack being taken up by unpaid friends, family and between 15-25 volunteers.
Faced with another year of zero net profit from the Paradise con, Boyd decided to quit: "Although I had been saying I was done since I was told the financial results in mid-June, on July 9, I wrote a letter detailing my position on future cons and my lack of interest in continuing, and I reiterated that position to Peter Dixon in person on July 11 and July 14."
It was during these last two dates that he was approached again by Hobbystar's Gupta, who successfully persuaded him to hire on as Coordinator, Comic Book Events for the FanExpo convention. Boyd took over the position quite late in the run-up to this weekend's con, after much of the groundwork had been laid, guests booked, etc., so that his duties have been limited to "working on the comic book programming and related events and assisting with guest services, things like that. Doing what I can and learning along the way."
Boyd sees quite a few differences between his new job and his old business, not the least of which is the focus on the bottom line.
"There are a lot of differences, mostly in tone and atmosphere. Hobbystar conventions are very much focused on the big mainstream end of comics. That's the gateway to other comics. Paradise Comicon was about celebrating comics on their own terms. I'm obviously going to try and bring a lot of that to what I do with Hobbystar events. Unlike Paradise where I was pretty much on my own, Hobbystar already has an existing and successful formula and organization. I have to apply that formula to the comics piece of the large pie that is FanExpo Canada. As a relative outsider and newcomer, there are things that I think could be tweaked to make for a more enjoyable experience for the attendees and the creators, but I have to learn how they do it firsthand and then make recommendations."
Although he has contributed to the programming schedule of this weekend's con, he doesn't think his impact will be visible this year: "I'm just learning the ropes. If this works out and I continue with them then I'll have more of an involved role in future comic events."
As for any regrets over leaving Paradise, Boyd seems to have left them behind in his excitement over the transition.
"I feel that how Paradise feels is not really my concern at this point. I tried to explain my position for not continuing, and the further I get from the decision the better I feel that it was the right thing to do. I wish them luck with whatever they decide to do from now on."
Although there has been some grumbling from observers, Boyd has been getting quite a bit of support over his move.
"I expected a lot more negativity, and I've been getting a lot more support than I ever expected. I guess people knew I was not happy. I'm not saying that I haven't received some negative e-mails from people who feel betrayed, but they see my actions as being anti-Paradise. I don't see it that way at all. If anything, my like and support of those people should help eliminate any future problems."
This sentiment is echoed by Boyd's friend Peter Fisico, the All New Comics co-owner who is also a sponsor of the Shusters and of the Paradise con's Women of Comics programming. According to Fisico, "in the end it will be a good thing. It will hopefully improve relations within the Toronto comics community and Kevin will also help bring comics as a medium back to the forefront of the Hobbystar show."
The Toronto FanExpo begins today and continues through Sunday.
(top image: a tight-lipped Boyd transforms into a happy partygoer at last week's Wright Awards. Photos courtesy of Brad Mackay and amateurishly edited without permission.)
- Stumble It! - Leave a comment!| 3comments - - we honor OpenID -
Archive by Region
Alberta - British Columbia - Calgary - Gatineau - Halifax - Moncton - Montreal - New Brunswick - Newfoundland - Nova Scotia - Ontario - PEI - Quebec - Saskatchewan - Saskatoon - Toronto - Vancouver - Victoria - Winnipeg -
Archive by Month
August 2002 - September 2002 - October 2002 - November 2002 - December 2002 - January 2003 - February 2003 - March 2003 - April 2003 - May 2003 - June 2003 - July 2003 - August 2003 - September 2003 - October 2003 - November 2003 - December 2003 - January 2004 - February 2004 - March 2004 - April 2004 - May 2004 - June 2004 - July 2004 - August 2004 - September 2004 - October 2004 - November 2004 - December 2004 - January 2005 - February 2005 - March 2005 - April 2005 - May 2005 - June 2005 - July 2005 - August 2005 - September 2005 - October 2005 - November 2005 - December 2005 - January 2006 - February 2006 - March 2006 - April 2006 - May 2006 - June 2006 - July 2006 - August 2006 - September 2006 - October 2006 - November 2006 - December 2006 - January 2007 - February 2007 - March 2007 - April 2007 - May 2007 - June 2007 - July 2007 - August 2007 - September 2007 - October 2007 - November 2007 - December 2007 - January 2008 - February 2008 - March 2008 - April 2008 - May 2008 - June 2008 - July 2008 - August 2008 - September 2008 - October 2008 - November 2008 - December 2008 - January 2009 - February 2009 - March 2009 - April 2009 - May 2009 - June 2009 - July 2009 - August 2009 - September 2009 - October 2009 - November 2009 - December 2009 - January 2010 - February 2010 - March 2010 -