Note: This event has been postponed to October 2018.
John Macaluso knows fans.
Whether they be of The Walking Dead, Marvel or old-school sci-fi classics, for almost five years he catered to them as the CEO of Wizard World Entertainment, purveyor of fan conventions across the country. Now, striking out on his own with the Fandemic Tour, coming to Houston’s NRG Center in September, he’s putting his knowledge to the test, trusting that with over 100 shows under his belt, he knows what the people want.
“Give them a good execution of the show,” says Macaluso. “Bring in celebrities that they want to see, like Sebastian [Stan] and Norman [Reedus], Bruce [Campbell] and Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] and Steven Yuen, [Michael] Rooker and Dean Cain. Make sure the show is well-run. Make sure the food lines aren’t too long. Make sure we’re really well organized in our photo ops. Make sure the panels are entertaining and interesting.”
Or simply put, he says, take care of the fans, which is not always easy.
“We’ve got the same fanatical fans as the Houston Texans, but our fans are just fans of something different than football,” says Macaluso. “They’re different. They’re early adopters. They’re the first ones to buy the flat screens. They’re a very smart, very educated fan.”
Though Macaluso admits they won’t exactly be re-inventing the comic con wheel, they are trying out some new things, including a “Drink and Draw” party, which will allow fans to mingle, pick up some drawing tips from an expert artist and get a little tipsy, and special programming they’ve set up with CineSpace. The priority, however, is to show Houston that Fandemic can put on a good show – a task made harder by an event Houston-area geeks and nerds will remember all too well.
“It’s funny, the biggest barrier to get over was the unbelievably bad show that was at the NRG Stadium last year,” says Macaluso. “All people want to do is make sure I have nothing to do with those people, that company, so we’ve been fighting that more than anything else.”
The barrier Macaluso politely refuses to name is Space City Comic Con, which made headlines last year when Charlie Hunnam left the con early and took to Facebook to say he wasn’t paid. The messy details that followed – bad checks, shakedowns and finger-pointing – were outlined and updated by the Houston Press’s own Jef Rouner, but while the experience was less than ideal for the Sons of Anarchy cast, among others, it was inspiration to Macaluso.
“That show drew like 20,000 people, so to me it was instant – I’m going to Houston,” says Macaluso. “I knew they weren’t coming back, they weren’t going to be allowed to come back – they still owe people money and the center money – and it just seemed like the perfect slot for me.”
And what about that other Houston institution, Comicpalooza?
“The God’s honest truth is the goal of this show is not to have as many people as Comicpalooza, even though I wouldn’t mind it,” says Macaluso. “The goal of the show is to really show Houston we’re a good company, that we’re here for the fans, that we’ll listen to what the fans have to say and next year we’ll come back and give them an even bigger and better show.”
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Yes, count on Fandemic coming back next year – and with their layaway plans, count on dropping a big chunk of change to meet your idols in the most responsible, budget-friendly way possible. Macaluso is far from done, and if his time away from the business taught him anything, it’s that he missed the con experience.
“I get the enjoyment of seeing smiley happy people and – now listen, I don’t care what you do you’re never going to please everybody ever, ever, ever,” says Macaluso. “But when I get people who walk up to me and thank me, and I see people’s faces when they meet a Norman Reedus or they meet a Jeffrey Dean Morgan and you see people start to shake, get flustered – it’s really something very enjoyable, to see people enjoy themselves.
“I missed being around people that really appreciate these events.”
The Fandemic Tour is scheduled for September 15-17 at NRG Center, 1 NRG Park. For more information, visit fandemictour.com. General admission is $35 to $150; Celebrity VIP Packages available separately.