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.)
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
More Convention Mania
Sequential hardly ever links to convention reports but
since we're in the last throes of convention season for fans of comics in Canada, I thought I'd see if there's any bloggers out there who have posted con reports recently. Paradise Con's "Fan Super Show" was this past Sunday and there are already a few reports out, most notably from the blogging brothers (?) Jason Truong and Danny T. Jamie Coville also has some photos online (that's one of his up top). Any others?
As well, the Toronto Star reported on the Hobbystar vs Paradise conflict recently, quoting some of the major players in the drama:
Peter Birkemoe, the sage of sequential art: "Hobbystar is ``trying to hurt other people's comics events in the city," says Birkemoe, owner of the Beguiling store, which has chosen not to exhibit at any more Hobbystar shows.
"We make a lot of money at that show, ... but in spite of all that (we decided not to do the show) even though it was a way to reach out to new people," he says. "But it's obvious that what they're really trying to do is be the only game in town."
and Aman Gupta, Hobbystar owner and putative Mephistopheles of the metropolis: "Most of the people who come don't know or care about this. The people behind these attacks are doing it on purpose and want to try and bring us down. It's just business and what I'm trying to do is look out for the Fan Expo."
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Beguiling, Ed the Sock Pull out of HobbystarRetailers and entertainers cancel their appearances at conventions all the time but it's rare that such actions take on the form of a crusade. With the creation of a Stop Hobbystar blog, these once-minor actions are beginning to steamroll into a political boycott. Since our last update, the latest news, according to Beguiling employee Chris Butcher, is that the Beguiling has pulled out of the upcoming Hobbystar Toronto convention. As well, crowd-pleasing Liana K of "Ed the Sock" fame has recently publicly discussed her problems with the Hobbystar organizers:
"However, it's been subtley suggested to us, and quite forcefully said to others, that we aren't welcome at Hobbystar's event. Part of this apparently involves the fact that we don't purchase a table at this show."
Stop Hobbystar: Liana K blackballed by HobbyStar?
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Monday, July 17, 2006
Hobby Star Sinks to a new low it seems.For the record, I've stopped going to Hobby Star events as a guest or fan - officially ever since this happened back in April - unofficially ever since the last con of theirs I attended over a year ago because of the generally unpleasant atmosphere I feel at their events.
While I have not gone to any conventions in the last year, when next I do brave the wacky world of comic fandom en masse, it will not be at one of Hobby Star's unpleasant monster mash gatherings. For myself I do not find I enjoy the events enough to justify the effort, nor do I wish to encourage via my participation the culture that they represent. An overwhelmingly market and commerce driven [rather than content], superficial side of my medium.
But at this point I feel what is far more important than any issues I personally have with the philosophical side of these massive gatherings, which in the end have very little to do with books or art. Or the more superficial experiential shortcomings of massive convention hall gatherings where commerce takes president over craft and people, is the increasingly nasty market tactics being practiced by those behind the curtains at Hobby Star.
Anyone in it knows the comics industry is too small a world to accommodate the kind of destructive behavior they have engaged in, and it's well past time we let them know, as a community, how we feel by voting with our words, feet and dollars.
With that - my unapologetic bias if you will - in mind, I present to you two letters sent to me tonight by Sean Ward, an inventive positive practitioner and promoter of comics [amongst other media] and the creator of The Sean Ward Electric Comics Freak-Out!.
Friday, April 14, 2006 - "Seems to be some confusion due to dirty pool going on in Toronto"
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Friday, April 14, 2006
the PARADISE TORONTO COMICON - APRIL 28-29-30, 2006Seems to be some confusion due to dirty pool going on in Toronto, Bryan just sent out this link to a post on comics.212 about it to our group.
Toronto convention promoter Hobby Star is being called out by PARADISE COMICS for parking their recently announced FREE Toronto Comicon Fan Appreciation Event, titled "TORONTO COMICON" on the logo, and held this coming April 23rd, just one week before the April 28-30 PARADISE COMICS TORONTO COMICON - commonly already referred to and long marketed as "The TORONTO COMICON".
PARADISE'S Kevin Boyd has posted PARADISE COMICS official reaction on torontocomicon.com about it here, and Chris of the Beguiling has on his site.
I've personally liked what the guys at PARADISE have been doing. And to remind you what that is, here's the line up off of their site, for the April 28-30 PARADISE COMICS TORONTO COMICON - I'm going.
Check out our growing guest list for 2006, including Guests of Honour comics Legend GEORGE PEREZ (who produced the stunning image to the right for our program cover) and V for Vendetta illustrator DAVID LLOYD!
More on the web site here.
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FREE Toronto Comicon Fan Appreciation Event April 23!Addendum: seems this event is somewhat controversial. Check out Chris Butcher's comics.212 post here , and Sequential's post here.
Please join us for the 2nd annual Toronto Comicon Fan Appreciation Event that will be held April 23, 2006 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 11 am to 6 pm. Special guests include:
Labels: Hobbystar vs Paradise
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Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Convention WarsNews Link Source: Chris Butcher
Comic.212 reports on the continuing enmity between two Toronto comic convention promoters, Hobbystar and Paradise. For the second year running, Hobbystar, which runs the Canadian National Expo convention, has scheduled a free event a week before the Paradise convention, which Paradise argues is an attempt at "hurting" its convention.
Comics.212.net --Something is Rotten in the Citystate of Toronto
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