One of my former writers, Kiel Phegley, was let go by Wizard Entertainment yesterday. In the last couple of months, Kiel had become the most (and perhaps, only) respected voice of Wizard to the online community, hosting their Wizard TV video coverage, spreading himself thin representing the company at various events and contributing to what was pretty much the only element of their site worth reading these days, the IndieJones blog. (I’ll even admit reading it on the regular, and we all know my feelings about the company.)
Kiel was one of the former Wizard staffers who worked with me to make the Wizard site relevant between mid-2006 and throughout much of 2007, and I’d like to think we achieved some success in that respect, despite all of the problems with Wizard that have been well-documented here and in many other forums. He was also the last remaining person on staff who played a primary role in the site’s development after the purge of Sean T. Collins and myself, as well as the mass exodus of the rest of the editorial and design team for the site.
Basically, now that Kiel has departed, there isn’t a single person left on staff there who was part of the website team when WizardUniverse.com’s traffic was on an upward trend.
Just some food for thought, since I’ve been flooded with messages from people wanting to know my thoughts on Kiel’s departure. I spoke with Kiel yesterday afternoon to offer him some support and, of course, to let him know he’s always welcome as a ComicMix contributor. To any editors out there looking for a talented, hard-working writer who knows his subject matter, provides clean copy and can operate well on his own, Kiel’s your man. I’d be more than happy to recommend Kiel to any and all publishers of print or online content.
In other Wizard-related news, just before the news went out about Kiel I received a series of emails from other ex-Wizard staffers and freelancers. Several of these messages had subject lines featuring variations of “You have got to be fucking kidding me!” Apparently, Wizard World Conventions created their own page on Facebook recently, and then proceeded to send out invitations to “become a friend of” WWC. Among the people receiving these invitations were several former employees who the company “let go” unceremoniously within the last 6-8 months.
Of course, this whole scenario just illustrates one of the many dangers of getting rid of everyone with any history with the company: You’re suddenly left with very few people who have an accurate count of who you’ve pissed off.
Finally, someone recently passed along the news that Rockland Magazine ranked Wizard Entertainment as one of the “Top 10 Places to Work in Rockland County” (or something to that effect – I haven’t seen the article). From Wizard’s widely reported staff purges and broken freelancer contracts to stories of corporate bullying and constant threats of dismissal, one has to wonder exactly what qualities the Rockland Magazine crew look for in a working environment. Maybe just “located in Rockland” is all that matters – but then again, that might change for Wizard in the near future, too.
Oh, and on a side note, I’m told that the Rockland Magazine article includes the line, “When things get tense, employees can unwind with Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii.” I found this particularly amusing, since I can recall at least a dozen former and current staffers there who were reprimanded and/or threatened with termination when they were “caught” playing a videogame during their lunch breaks.
[I unabashedly yanked the image for this article from The Beat. My apologies, Heidi. I just didn't feel like opening up Photoshop.]