Tenafly resident is pop culture guru and the Wizard of Wizard World
BY JERRY MILANI
If you are in the business of comics...you know Wizard. But, chances are, if you have seen an action movie, browsed collectibles or shopped for the best toys in the past 20 years, Wizard knows you. No, it's not the man behind the curtain that has been portrayed so wonderfully over the years by actors like Frank Morgan or Richard Pryor or even Joel Gray. This real "Wizard" is a very much front and center promoter who knows his business and lives in Tenafly, N.J.
His name is Gareb Shamus, and for two decades he has been at the forefront of knowing what pop culture is all about, and what guys, and now girls, want in the pop culture genre. Shamus' company, Wizard Entertainment, has published Wizard Magazine for almost 20 years, and has sister publications dedicated to the toy world (Fun Fare) as well as some of the biggest pop culture festivals in the country. Now the New York area will get to see them all converge in one place.This weekend, all of the pieces of the Wizard World — licensing, comic books, video games, action figures, toys, pop culture — will come together in one place for Big Apple Comic Con, the New York area's largest pop culture festival. The 2009 edition, Wizard's first in this area, will take place from Friday through Sunday at Pier 94 in Manhattan, and will feature over 500 exhibitors and brands as well as over 200 celebrities from all eras and genres, ranging from ‘70's stars like Gary Coleman and Lou Ferrigno to Danielle Staub of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" and sports hall of famers like Joe Frazier and Yogi Berra. In short, something for everyone, whether you like LEGO or leggy b-movie stars.
"Pop culture today is a multi-million dollar business that combines so many different elements, from toys and collectibles to the biggest action movies and movie stars, and our business is all about bringing those pieces together where fans can test out product and meet the stars, whether they are icons like William Shatner or new faces like the stars of Twilight," Shamus said. "Our events give everyone a reason to attend and have fun and most importantly, have a shared positive experience that is very rare in today's world. It's very exciting and we are glad to be able to pull it together for so many fans."
The business of Comic Con started 40 years ago as small events in San Diego and Chicago. Shamus purchased the Chicago show 15 years ago, and has been able to grow that from 5,000 to 70,000 attendees in a four-day event. He now runs five of the events that bring in some 250,000 people to Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Anaheim, Calif., and New York, with Chicago being the biggest. New York, however, remains as the event with the most potential. City officials have bought into the event as well after seeing the explosion of the San Diego event, and want to make the New York version just as big if not bigger in the future. After all it is New York, and the original demographics for the events, the 18 to 30 year old male, have now expanded exponentially through the explosion of video games, action movies and a collectible business that is now more inclusive and affordable than ever before.
"This is a very exciting time to be in this business, and it is great to be able to pull so many aspects of pop culture together in one place," added Shamus, who also is in the process of launching a new daily information service for the fans of the space — www.GeekChicDaily.com — with legendary Hollywood producer Peter Guber. "People say it's a ‘kids business,' but it is really big business these days, and it is a business that kids and their parents can really share together now more than ever before. We never really thought we could get to where we are today, but the best part is we are just getting started."
For pop culture fans, the fun starts at noon on Friday. Click here for a complete list of events.