Users of the Wizard Universe Message Board are reporting that Wizard, the flagship magazine of Gareb Shamus’s publishing, retail, and conventions empire, has ceased publication of its long-running price guide for collectible comics with this month’s Issue 218.
When Shamus started Wizard out of his parents’ basement in 1991, it essentially was a price guide. Even as it evolved from a glorified newsletter into a full-fledged comics magazine, its monthly tracking of “hot” comics and their supposed value on the secondary market — supplemented with “Hot Ten” writers and artists lists, mini-guides dedicated to particular characters, creators, or titles, spotlights on issues of note and so on — put the publication on the map during the speculator boom of that decade’s early years and, in the eyes of many readers and fans, was how Wizard earned its long-time subtitle: “The Guide to Comics.”
But the section has also been a divisive one, with many in the comics community tying it to what they see as lamentable trends like variant covers, “slabbed” and graded comics, and of course the bust that followed the boom, to say nothing of the somewhat-dubious notion that contemporary comics are potentially lucrative collectibles in the first place. Moreover, recent years have seen the section’s page count slowly chipped away (along with that of the rest of the magazine, which WUMBers report is still retailing at the same price as it did with the price guide’s eight pages intact) as the Internet’s capacity for constant updating caused much of the price guide’s information to be outdated even prior to publication. Outspoken staffer Mark Allen Haverty, who recently made himself a moderator on the increasingly hostile Wizard board, says as much in his explanation for why the guide is gone:
To be blunt, all the content I could write would have meaning when it hit the stands, since much of it would be forward-leaning or timeless, but the guide itself becomes extremely difficult to keep topical with the preeminence of the internet in back issue sales. A $25 variant one month is worthless two months later, and a Savage Dragon issue with Bush being punched peaks while I am writing about it, only to drop when the issue hits. It made more sense to keep the content that was there, such as the Five on the Rise, and let the guide itself slide for now.
However, as the WUMB thread shows, many of Wizard‘s most die-hard devotees saw the section as key to the magazine’s identity — a magazine about comics, as the opposed to general nerd-friendly pop culture touted by Wizard over the past few years and at Shamus’s GeekChicDaily e-newsletter. Coupled with the apparent move away from comics-focused conventions toward nerd-celeb-heavy shows that seems to be the Shamus/Wizard strategy for its Con War with Reed Exhibitions, the price guide’s elimination is another step away from the traditional Wizard brand, and a step toward some future Shamus 2.0, less dependent on the comics industry and its customers.