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The Guide to the Guide to Comics – WIZARD #83 (July 1998)

by  in Comic News Comment
The Guide to the Guide to Comics – WIZARD #83 (July 1998)

The Superbabes are ranked, the Greatest American Hero is revealed, and Wizard fantasizes about a Deadpool film…in 1998!  All in the Guide to the Guide to Comics!

Gatefold covers are back, with “Superbabes” by Adam Hughes, and an Astro City piece by Alex Ross.  I’m guessing the Hughes cover was the newsstand version, since Astro City isn’t well-known by the average supermarket reader.  If anyone can find a nice scan of the gatefold Astro City piece, let me know in the comments. (EDIT: Okay, commenter Jim2k has pointed me here.)

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on the Top 10 sexiest females in comics, followed by another list — this one ranking the best superheroes ever, a John Byrne interview, and a preview of the storylines of Summer 1998.

The Standards include Basic Training (Tony Daniel on how to draw Spawn…Greg Capullo never covered this?), Toy Chest, Coming Attractions, Last Man Standing, Manga Scene, and Report Card.  Plus, letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, a cartoon calendar by Brian Douglas Ahern, Time Travel, and market information.

Magic Words

In this month’s letter column, we discover…alternate endings of the Marvel vs. DC/DC vs. Marvel fights exist, but Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini are legally prohibited from showing them…the origin of the Yancy Street Gang’s prank war against the Thing, from editor Tom Brevoort (who later edits a story establishing that the Human Torch was doing the pranks all along)…and the legal difference between Super-Hero and superhero.  Super-Hero is jointly owned by Marvel and DC, while superhero is free for the rest of us.

Wizard News & Notes

Notice that the title now includes “Notes,” meaning that Wizard is providing industry analysis along with the news.  The lead story of the month is Top Cow’s “critical juncture,” with Wizard examining how the publisher will go forward after Michael Turner leaves Witchblade for Fathom, new series like Spirit of the Tao are launched, and Marc Silvestri departs for multimedia projects.

Top Cow is praised as the only non-Marvel or DC publisher to have three titles consistently in the Top 30 (a future issue runs a correction — Wildstorm could also make that claim), and a stable of talent that’s the envy of most companies.  Top Cow sticks around, but has never replicated its late ‘90s success.  Within a few years, the hottest artists with the publisher, including Marc Silvestri, are back at the Big Two producing work.

In other news…Erik Larsen will take over Wolverine following Todd Dezago’s fill-in run (since Wolverine’s fans skew young, Larsen wants an artist like Jeff Matsuda to join him)…Penthouse Comix is shutting down, while Topps is still active with The X-Files and Xena…the Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti collaboration with Marvel has been officially named “Marvel Knights”…a new X-Men line-up will debut this summer…Brian Holguin will begin co-writing Spawn with Todd McFarlane, with promises that the stories will pick up the pace…Chaos! Comics will produce The Supernaturals for Marvel…the next year of Batman titles will be devoted to the “No Man’s Land” event…and Scott Lobdell will be taking over WildC.A.T.s with Travis Charest, now that Lobdell’s exclusive Marvel contract is up.

Spicy Girls

There’s no great surprise that Wizard threw money at Joseph Michael Linsner to draw various female characters in “looking for a lost contact” poses for the sake of a Top 10 list.  It’s pretty much as Wizard as it gets.  Rainmaker is described as the perfect Howard Stern guest, Storm is compared to RuPaul if “he really was a woman,” and the top female, Catwoman, receives a lengthy write-up detailing the true qualities that drive men mad…her hair and eyes.  Linsner, to his credit, does try to present some variety to the body types, but I’m sure that would do little to quell the reaction a piece like this would generate today.  If that Spider-Woman cover was enough to break the internet, this would spawn enough outrage to get someone into trouble.

The actual list, from 10 to 1, in case you’re curious about the fantasies of the editorial staff:

Psylocke

Rainmaker

Mystique

Witchblade

Storm

She-Hulk

Tigra

Dawn

Vampirella

Catwoman

The Greatest American Hero

It’s a cocky opinion piece and a pointless list article all in one!  Wizard declares that it can settle the argument of who is the greatest American hero, “and not only do we name who the greatest superhero ever created is, but we’ll prove it.”  (“American” means created for American comics, in order to shut down any complaints about Wolverine’s inclusion.)

The piece opens with original Mike Wieringo art, and a listing of the criteria chosen by the writers to determine the winner.  The Wizard staff grades the four hero finalists they’ve selected — Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and Wolverine — on five standards: origin, costume, motivation, abilities/accessories, and personality/attitude.  Even though many people remember Wizard as a source of endless promotion for the X-titles, the entries on Wolverine in this piece reveal just how little the staff understands the character.  The idea of Wolverine as a born brawler who wants a noble cause to fight for (likely inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter) was made explicit numerous times during his early years as an X-Man…yet Wizard maintains that his motivations are impossible to discern.

Spider-Man is declared the winner, and — I hope you can handle this shock — a panel from the Roger Stern/John Romita, Jr. run is used to illustrate Spider-Man’s superiority.  Yes, it’s from that Spidey/Juggernaut fight, which was just honored last issue in the cartoon calendar.  I half-suspect Brian Douglas Ahern was threatened with some form of bodily harm if he didn’t work in a tribute to that fight at some point.

The Wizard Q&A – John Byrne

John Byrne is interviewed to promote his upcoming work on Spider-Man: Twice-Told Tales (still isn’t Chapter One yet), Amazing Spider-Man, and X-Men: the Hidden Years, which is over a year away.  The interview opens with one of those ridiculously tight shots of a creator that Wizard loved so much in this era, the kind that lets you count every hair in their unibrow and perhaps provide a dermatological examination.  In a few months, one letterhack will write in to ask Wizard to cut this out — he didn’t need to know if Howard Mackie had chin acne or not.

The interview has Byrne playing up his egomaniac persona, boasting about the authority Marvel’s now given him, questioning why the Green Lantern office would want Donna Troy back from Wonder Woman, and joking about his dismissal of Kurt Busiek’s Spider-Man work, which is about to be Man of Steel-ed.  (“Well, every once in a while, I’ll discover somebody whose buttons are particularly easy to push — and I’ll do it, ‘cause I’m that kinda guy.”)  He also reveals that DC’s decision, over his objections, to place Orion in the JLA was the main impetus for him leaving Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.  When pressed on whether or not he’s difficult to work with, Byrne maintains that he isn’t — “Just be straight with me and I’ll be straight with whoever I’m working with.”

Byrne acknowledges that he’s intentionally chosen lower-profile assignments following Superman, and makes fun of himself for launching Next Men during “the peak of my obscurity.”  He now wants a new generation of fans to discover his Spider-Man and X-Men work.  And, finally, a sidebar details Byrne’s experiences with Hollywood.  He was paid “$20,000 for two days’ work” on Superman IV, turned down a chance to write an Eddie Murphy Green Lantern treatment, and one day hopes to adapt his old Star Trek ideas.

1998 Summer Preview

I can understand the appeal of the big “Year in Preview” articles, giving you small spoiler hints for upcoming storylines (which, due to the nature of comics, often didn’t occur.)  But going back to that well for the sake of previewing the summer releases?  It just comes across as filler, and boy does this fill plenty of pages.  Including the ads, this feature takes up a full twenty pages of the magazine…all to tease events that we’re going to see within the next three months anyway.

Casting Call

A Deadpool movie?  Keep dreaming, Wizard.  Their picks…

Henry Rollins as Deadpool (I don’t know if he could pull off the motormouth routine, but Rollins does seem tailor-made to appear in some kind of comics adaptation.  It’s crazy to think he wasn’t cast as the character he inspired in The Walking Dead.)

Anne Haney (Liar Liar) as Blind Alfred

Wilford Brimley as Dr. Killbrew

Guy Pearce as Weasel

Michael Jeter (Evening Shade) as Patch

Nicole Eggert (Baywatch) as The Expediter

Kate Winslet as Siryn

Chris Jericho as T-Ray (professional wrestling and a Baywatch casting, all in the same issue)

Ben Cross (First Knight) as Overboss Dixon

Robin Tunney as Typhoid Mary

Coming Attractions

The lead article is an interview with Nicolas Cage (or, at the very least, someone has provided quotes from him), hyping Superman Lives.  The opening line expresses skepticism about Cage taking on the role (citing Cage’s “sunken eyes and receding hairline”), but the article quickly turns into a promotional piece, listing all of Cage’s reasons for why Cage and Tim Burton need to make this movie.  Included at the bottom is another sidebar that evokes Entertainment Weekly, detailing Superman’s history in film.

Toy Chest

I think Wizard has entered its early days of Relentless Kevin Smith Promotion.  Not only do we have a “Kevin Smith Watch” blurb in the Coming Attractions feature, but — Snootchie Bootchies! — the Jay and Silent Bob action figures are also highlighted.

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

Witchblade remains the top hero in Wizard’s eyes.  Superman makes his way into the Top 10, based on Wizard’s enthusiasm for his true costume’s return.  (He’s warned to stay away from more publicity stunts, however.)  The Spawn entry, which compares him to the most popular kid in your high school, is my favorite this month.  The Mort of the Month is a Firestorm villain named The Weasel.  DC also took it on the chin with these Mort segments, didn’t they?

Picks

The Book of the Month is JLA: The Nail #1, the indie pick of the month is Bathroom Girls #2, and the upcoming releases highlighted include the standard mainstream Marvel and DC books (the main X-Men titles have been elevated from the sidebar, now that they’re being written by Steven Seagle and Joe Kelly).  Also, Wizard is starting to pay attention to Superman Adventures, which is now written by Mark Millar.

Report Card

This issue, Cable (#48-55, graded as a C+), Awesome’s The Coven (#1-5, graded as a D), and Catwoman (#51-56, graded as a C) are reviewed.  Wizard likes the new, more human direction of Cable, but thinks the plots fizzle out, and questions if Ladronn’s style suits the character.  The Coven is dismissed as utterly confusing, but it has nice visuals.  And Catwoman has picked up since Devin Grayson’s arrival, but the plots remain predictable.

Wizard Market Watch

Kevin Smith appears again, this time as the writer of the early Oni release Clerks, which is selling out of its second printing.  Market Watch also reports that Joseph Michael Linsner’s cover for Justice League Quarterly has pushed back issue prices up to $12.50.  Linsner’s fans are reportedly so rabid, they keep computer databases of every comic he’s ever produced a cover or pin-up for.

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Kurt Busiek
  2. Joe Kelly
  3. Grant Morrison
  4. Mark Waid
  5. Steven T. Seagle
  6. Garth Ennis
  7. Peter David
  8. Matt Wagner
  9. James Robinson
  10. Christina Z.

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Michael Turner
  2. Jim Lee
  3. Joe Madureira
  4. J. Scott Campbell
  5. Alex Ross
  6. Adam Kubert
  7. Andy Kubert
  8. Chris Bachalo
  9. George Perez
  10. Lenil Yu

Top Ten Comics

The list of hot back issues is noticeably different this month, with a few surprises:

  1. KISS: The Psycho Circus #1
  2. Uncanny X-Men #350
  3. JLA #1
  4. Thunderbolts #1
  5. The Darkness #1
  6. Witchblade #1
  7. The Avengers (1997) #1
  8. Nightwing #18
  9. Battle Chasers #1
  10. Danger Girl #1

Top 100 – April 1998

The Top Ten is largely the same, with the exception of Superman’s return with Superman Forever.  Retailers invested heavily in the return of Superman’s original costume, and the Alex Ross cover didn’t hurt, either.  The Spider-Man titles have also bounced up the charts, ranking between Number 18 and 30, thanks to the Identity Crisis event.  KISS: The Psycho Circus #9, at Number 35, is outselling some of the X-titles and all of the Batman books.

More commentary on sales can be found in the new Close-Up Look sidebar.  Notice that 1993 already feels like a lifetime ago.

Wizard Price Guide

The magazine reports that recent Uncanny X-Men issues are increasing in value ($5 for Maggott’s first appearance; $6.50 for #354’s variant cover, which was one of UXM’s first variants ever), while early Image titles are sinking.  Youngblood #1 is down to four dollars.

Bullpen

I’m not going to lie — this is a good one.

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “I am the gimmick.” – John Byrne, on his upcoming Spider-Man work.
  • “I like the fact that I don’t look like Superman…That’s the beauty of the character in my opinion.  Anybody can be Superman in their mind.” – Nicolas Cage
  • “Trust me: It ain’t The Hobbit.” – Joe Madureira on whether or not Battle Chasers is secretly a superhero comic.
  • “It’d be Humberto, because he’s the only one who hands his work in on time.” – Jim Lee, when asked to name his favorite Cliffhanger creator

Nope:  Jim Starlin doesn’t produce a Defenders revamp…Eidos doesn’t release a Witchblade video game…no Red Skull one-shot in late 1998…no Lightning Rods miniseries (although they do eventually star in a few miniseries under their original name)…Tomazooma, The Living Totem doesn’t make his way into the monthly Fantastic Four series…no Incredible Hulk: Past Imperfect miniseries by Peter David…no Jim Cameron Spider-Man film…the fate of Wolverine’s adamantium isn’t decided in 1998…no character from Chris Claremont’s Wolverine run plays a “critical role” in Fantastic Four…Wolverine #127 isn’t a Sabretooth solo story, either…no resolution of the Legacy Virus storyline in 1998…Top Cow’s animated series Subculture never happens…Sam Hamm doesn’t script the Fantastic Four film…and Mark Evanier is consulting on an animated New Gods film that’s never produced.

Finally, there’s some info on the phantom X-Factor #150:

Stuff Wizard Likes:  George Perez’s work on Avengers…DC’s decision to cancel Sovereign Seven (this seems needlessly bratty; S7 was the definition of a book that could’ve been easily ignored if you wished)…and various back issue picks, such as Fantastic Four #249-250 and Batgirl Adventures #1.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Kitty Pryde joining SHIELD…the “non-story” behind the return of Superman’s original look…the price of Marvel Manga books…Jim Valentino for “tanking” his line of small-press books at Image…Bat-Nipples…circus peanuts… “crappy DC origins,” such as Wally West’s…and the “post-Lobdell” team on Fantastic Four.  “Pee-yew!”

This Ain’t HuffPo:  Wizard asserts that comics need more never-before-seen concepts, such as Witchblade (“‘Cept nakeder.”)  The Darkchylde: Swimsuit Illustrated issue is examined very carefully, and rates a “Whoo, boy!”  Also, the surprise reveal of The Crying Game inspired lunch to come “back up for a return engagement.”

The Wizard’s Crystal Ball:  “High adventure and low comedy would set Deadpool: The Movie on the fast track to Hollywood success.” – Wizard’s introduction to Casting Call.

Naughty:  Marvel villain the Eel suffers from the Irish Curse, we’re informed that the “hot gates” in 300 are a “narrow mountain pass, not a porn star,” and The Brotherhood of the Fist in Nightwing conjure up “at least one disturbing image.”

I Love the ‘90s:  George Michael is named the “Best reason to hold it in” in the list of credits, and Yasmine Bleeth is viewed as Wizard’s ideal Catwoman.

Vive la France:  Quantum and Woody #17 sees the duo heading to Paris, and Wizard is incredulous that the French police could arrest them, or anybody else.  I’m starting to wonder if France kept popping up in comics of this era specifically because Wizard was making these jokes every issue.

Pathological Scatological:  The issue only has one page to go before it presents its first potty joke — Gentiles attending Wizard’s first unofficial Seder are in for a surprise after eating so much matzoh for the first time.

Commercial Break:

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  If you want exclusive artwork by big-name artists, and the patented Wizard irreverence, there might be enough in this issue to satisfy you.  I think most of the articles lack depth, however, and I get the sense that there’s a lot more filler than usual this issue.  I will say that the editorial text made me laugh more than once, and the humor lately has expanded past bathroom jokes.

Until next time…

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