Kevin Smith casts his Superman movie, we remember the days of black blood in comics, and the "Preacher" film of 1999 is racing toward production. All in the Guide to the Guide to Comics!
It’s another three-cover month; this time the honorees are Dawn, Kevin Maguire’s Superman/Spider-Man piece, and a photo Buffy and Angel cover. I love the thought of Dawn making her way on to the newsstand cover, but I doubt that happened. (She is relatively clothed this time, though.)
In this month’s "Wizard," we have features on...Grant Morrison’s "Invisibles," a Tom DeFalco interview, pieces on "Dawn" and "Batman Beyond," and "Wizard's" attempt to answer the age-old question: “Who’s better, Marvel or DC?”
The Standards include Basic Training (Mike Wieringo on storytelling), Toy Chest, Coming Attractions, Last Man Standing, Manga Scene and Report Card. Plus, letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, Time Travel and market information.
From the Top
Gareb Shamus’ opening column once again advises readers to check out "Wizard's" website, which has been redesigned since the last time he urged us to check out their amazing redesigned site. He promises that you’ll info on everything from “comics to 'Star Wars' to wrestling,” which signals the direction the physical magazine will soon take. Hypothetically, "Wizard" embracing elements of pop culture that many comic fans do enjoy isn’t a terrible idea, but the execution alienated many readers.
Jim McLauchlin fields such questions as “Why does blood show up as black in comics?” (quick answer: censorship), and who inked "Fantastic Four" #1 (surprisingly, McLauchlin says it’s Artie Simek, who’s much better known as a letterer). Other segments of the letter column give in to one of the strangest impulses of fans -- demanding that characters you don’t like be killed off. There are calls for both Steel and Orion to die, in addition to the results of "Wizard"’s poll: “Which X-Men Member Do You Want Dead in 1999?” The winner is Marrow, with almost half of the vote. Shadowcat, due to her “lame” powers comes in second at 15 percent. The X-Man who actually dies in 1999, Joseph, barely received any write-in votes, and only one singular fan voted for Nightcrawler.
Wizard News & Notes
The lead story of the month is the announcement that Alan Davis is no longer the interim X-writer, but now the “indefinite” plotter of the titles. We’re also informed that Davis will be using the main X-Men titles to launch the new “Marvel Tech” line (later renamed “M-Tech”). Marvel hopes that using the X-Men to launch a non-mutant line of titles will bring more attention to the books…but M-Tech dies just as quickly as most Marvel launches from this era, and many X-fans resent using the books to promote an unrelated line of titles.
In other news … "Captain America" #14 ran without a writer’s credit, due to a conflict between Mark Waid and Marvel … Jim Steinman is in the early stages of writing a "Batman" musical for Broadway … Joe Orlando has passed away…Todd McFarlane is ignoring the industry slump and launching "Cy-Gor," "Dark Ages Spawn," and "Sam & Twitch," featuring stories by crime writer Brian Michael Bendi s… and in other Todd McFarlane news, McFarlane Productions Publisher Beau Smith is denying MSNBC’s report that Todd has purchased Mark McGwire’s 70th home-run ball for $3 million. The story turns out to be true (I believe Smith had to play dumb because the deal wasn’t finalized), and in fact, it’s just the first in a series of “record-setting” home-run ball purchases from McFarlane. Todd’s acquisition was a frequent source of jokes -- and that’s before Mark McGwire was exposed as, well, Mark McGwire. In McFarlane’s defense, not only did he use the balls to raise money for charity, but McFarlane claims that he received several million dollars of publicity through the deals, and gained connections with MLB that allowed him to produce sports-themed action figures.
Finally, I should mention that Scott Lobdell is currently scheduled to write ongoing titles "Wildcats" "The Tenth," "The Darkness,' "Divine Right" and "CryBaby" from Exiled Studio, in addition to his creator-owned "Ball & Chain" miniseries, which just might become a Tom Cruise movie. Who knew Marvel was holding the guy back?
"Wizard" devotes four pages to promoting a Vertigo book that isn’t "Preacher." How’d this one slip through? Grant Morrison discusses "The Invisibles," his book about "five terrorists" from back in the day when terrorism wasn’t much of an issue in the west, so it was okay to say these things. We’re also told of the importance of the date Dec. 22, 2012, which is yet to take hold in the pop culture landscape, inspiring bad movies and perhaps the dumbest family in "Wife Swap" history.
You don’t see the phrase “Bad Girls” in the magazine anymore, but it’s still devoted to concepts like Witchblade, Fathom, Danger Girl, Tomb Raider and, in a blast from 1995, Dawn has returned. It’s a promotional piece for the upcoming “Dawn” miniseries, in the form of a “Ten Things You Didn’t Know…” list. We discover that in spite of appearing in only seven actual stories at this date, “Dawn” has inspired a rabid fan following and an army of female impersonators. The 1998 and 1999 DragonCons held “Dawn Look-a-Like” contests, and if you think “Wizard” isn’t going to run photos of this, and profile the winner, you’re insane. We also discover that Dawn was initially inspired by a “lingerie doodle” from her creator, Joseph Michael Linsner, and that the bevy of Dawn cosplayers view Linsner as nothing less than a celebrity.
"Wizard" previews"Batman Beyond," and honestly, no juicy behind-the-scenes info is revealed, aside from the censors disapproving of female villains Inque and Freon’s costumes. This sidebar, featuring cut scenes from previous DC animated episodes, is worth reading, however.
The Wizard Q&A
Tom DeFalco, self-identified as the “bozo-in-chief” of the MC2 line, is interviewed. This is one of the better interviews of this era, since it touches on DeFalco’s thirty years in the industry and exists as more than obvious hype for the MC2 titles. And even when MC2 is being promoted, DeFalco details his philosophy behind the line and how it relates to other comics of the era, so it doesn’t read as a blatant commercial. According to DeFalco, MC2’s genesis began with "What If…?"#105, the debut of Spider-Girl, which sold out in one day. Marvel was stunned by the success and decided that an ongoing Spider-Girl series should be DeFalco’s next project.
I’m slightly curious as to why Spider-Girl was initially so popular, based on her one appearance in a book that was close to cancellation. There has always been an audience for female versions of existing heroes, and a segment of fans who want to see established heroes grow older and have kids (a concept the companies usually oppose, adamantly), so I can see why "What If…?"#105 stood out as fan wish fulfillment. But the idea that it was so popular, so quickly, I’ve never quite understood. I’ll also mention that even though "Spider-Girl" as a series was intentionally conceived as a lighter, less cynical take on superheroes, "What If…?" #105 is a pretty dark comic; one of the darkest DeFalco’s ever written, actually.
There is one question in the interview that amuses me: The interviewer is perplexed as to why DeFalco would stick with Marvel even after being removed as editor-in-chief in 1995. DeFalco gives a credible answer that he still cares about many of the people working there, and he has connections to many of Marvel’s characters. While that’s true, the interview never mentions DeFalco’s exclusive Marvel contract, which I think had been in place since he left the EiC position in ‘95. Of course DeFalco stuck with the company that signed an exclusive deal with him! As for the current state of Marvel, DeFalco declares that he can’t answer that question in a “civil” way, since a negative response will be perceived as sour grapes, and a positive one would come across as him being “full of it.”
Finally, there’s the obligatory interview subject sidebar, which is also quite informative.
Tug of War
The all-knowing "Wizard" (accompanied with art by Phil Jimenez) will answer the question, Who’s better: Marvel or DC? What follows is a pretty bland piece that seems reluctant to name either side a winner in the various categories. Every time a list of DC’s strengths is detailed, the next paragraph will say something to the effect of “But don’t count Marvel out yet!” And vice versa for any category that Marvel wins. "Wizard" jokes that it doesn’t want to risk offending Marvel Zombies or Johnny DCs, but I half-suspect that "Wizard" is at a stage where it doesn’t want to alienate either of the major comic companies. As I’ve mentioned before, "Wizard"’s targets of ridicule in the late ‘90s are often extremely safe … I don’t see jabs at "Team America" threatening any exclusive #1/2 deals or "Toyfare" limited edition action figure agreements.
As for the criteria chosen, we have … Characters (Marvel wins, “DC created the superhero, but Marvel perfected it.”) … Writers (DC wins, based on “quality, consistency, and diversity”) … Artists (Marvel wins, because the most popular artists of the day are a “Marvel artist or a byproduct of Marvel.”) … Universes (Marvel wins, thanks to its consistent continuity and refusal to reboot; which was already being weakened by "Spider-Man: Chapter One," but I digress …) … Diversity (which meant something different in 1999; DC wins based on its wide variety of titles, aimed at everyone from kids to adults) … Risk Factor (DC wins, based on its ‘90s success with “event” storylines) … and finally, Mass Media (DC wins, because its owned by Time-Warner, although "Wizard" correctly predicts that a few successful Marvel movies could change their score. Interesting that this is a criteria at all, if the material being judged are the actual comics.)
The winner by a narrow margin is DC, but "Wizard" is quick to inform us that Marvel’s characters “still connect to us like no others” and they’re sure the company could come out on top in a future match-up. Goodness, it’s nice to know that no one was at all offended and everybody had a fun time!
Kevin Smith takes shots at Jon Peters and Tim Burton, reveals that he initially mentioned Nicolas Cage for the project (as Brainiac and not Superman), and gives "Wizard" his picks for a new Superman film.
- Ben Affleck as Superman (Affleck will also play a different sort of “angel” in Smith’s film "Dogma")
- Jason Lee as Brainiac (due to his “calm, almost monotone” delivery)
- Jack Nicholson as Lex Luthor
- Linda Fiorentino as Lois Lane (even though she has a “bit of an age gap” with Affleck.)
- Jason Mewes as Jimmy Olsen (“Who wouldn’t want to trade ‘Golly, Miss Lane,’ for ‘Snootch to the nootch, Miss Lane!’?”)
- Famke Janssen as Mercy (and they’ve found a photo of Janssen wearing a uniform identical to the one Mercy wears in the WB cartoon.)
- John Mahoney as Perry White
- David Hyde Pierce as The Eradicator (because he’d work as a “reverse-Brainiac”…what?)
- Joey Lauren Adams as Cat Grant (Smith doesn’t mention that they’re dating at this time)
- Walter Flanagan as Doomsday (the voice of Doomsday, that is)
- Michael Keaton as Batman
- And starring as the two polar bears Jon Peters demanded appear in the film … Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger.
And if that casting wasn’t enough to convince you Smith is largely viewing this as a goof, here’s his closing paragraph:
I thought "Wizard" was just passing along wild rumors a few issues ago, but it looks as if a 1999 "Preacher" film came darn close to reality. Coming Attractions reports that "Tank Girl" director Rachel Talalay seeks to redeem herself with a "Preacher" adaptation that will involve both Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. “Not only has a screenplay been penned by Ennis,” and Dillon is working on designs, but early word on casting has begun: Ben Affleck as Jesse, Cameron Diaz as Tulip, Robert Carlysle as Cassidy, and Samuel L. Jackson as the Saint of Killers. Executive Producer H. Michael Heuser has already raised the film’s $25 million budget from European investors, which pleases Talalay, who blames the studio system for ruining "Tank Girl". Also serving as executive producers on the project? Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
In other news…"Lobo" and "Supergirl" are in the early stages of development at Kids’ WB!, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, and Shekhar Kapur have all been offered "Superman Lives," and Disney has recalled videos of "The Rescuers" because two frames of a topless woman in the background have been discovered…decades after the film’s initial release.
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
The list is largely the same, although now Hawkeye is allowed in at Number Ten, thanks to his prominent role in "Thunderbolts." This issue's Mort of the Month is Avengers villain The Voice, who has the “lame-ass ability to be louder and more obnoxious than the average fat guy.” Perhaps I’m biased, but it seems as if the Marvel “Mort” picks tend to be halfway decent characters. It’s not as if Marvel doesn’t have plenty of characters that are easy targets, I just tend to view "Wizard"’s selections as fairly arbitrary.
The Book of the Month could’ve been "The Authority" #1, at title that (like it or not) influenced the next five years of superhero comics. Instead, the Book of the Month is "Nightwing" #31, which features the return of Nite-Wing. The On the Edge pick is "Fred the Possessed Flower" from alternative creator Happy Nick.
This issue, "Danger Girl" (#1-4, graded as a B), "Spider-Man: Chapter One" (#1-5, graded as a D), "Captain America; Sentinel of Liberty" (#1-6, graded as a B-), and "DV8" (#19-25, graded as a D) are reviewed. "Danger Girl" is viewed as fun but shallow (and publication gaps, like the six months between #3 and #4, are irritating), "Spider-Man: Chapter One" is trashed for its lifeless plots, “hip” dialogue, and sketchy art, "Captain America; Sentinel of Liberty" is praised for its portrayal of a young Cap, but "Wizard" thinks the plots run out of steam, and "DV8" is dismissed as a dull book with unlikable characters.
Okay, I’ll acknowledge that the Report Card segment is still willing to unleash some fanboy rage (and in this instance, I can’t quibble with the reviews), but you really don’t see this point of view in the rest of the magazine. The editors clearly aren’t going out of their way to praise "Spider-Man: Chapter One" , but the days of "Wizard" declaring all-out war against a concept they despise (like the Clone Saga), and beating you over the head with their disdain in almost every section of the magazine…that "Wizard" seems to have passed.
Wizard Market Watch
Dark Horse’s "Buffy" is attracting new readers, and Market Watch helpfully details all of the low-print variant covers that are now targeted by collectors. (Amazing to think that variant covers still haven’t gone away.) Market Watch also reports that "Star Wars" comics will become scarce once the first prequel hits, and later notes in its roundup of various Dark Horse titles that "Shadows of the Empire" has been declared official movie canon by LucasFilm. (Until, of course, it isn’t.) Finally, Viz Comics is profiled, thanks to the success they’ve had with these things called "Pokemon" comics. As for the Buried Treasure, it’s the debut of the new Batgirl in "Shadow of the Bat" #83. I’m going to check her Wikipedia right now to find out if she’s been killed off in the past ten years…
"Wizard"’s Top Ten Writers are…
- Kevin Smith
- Kurt Busiek
- Mark Waid
- Garth Ennis
- Grant Morrison
- Joe Kelly
- Dan Jurgens
- Erik Larsen
- Christinia Z.
- Ron Marz
"Wizard"’s Top Ten Artists are…
- Michael Turner
- Alex Ross
- Joe Madureira
- J. Scott Campbell
- Adam Kubert
- George Perez
- Joe Quesada
- Jim Lee
- Humberto Ramos
- Jae Lee
Notice that this is (I believe) the first Top Ten list in literally years, perhaps ever, that doesn’t feature Peter David.
Top Ten Comics
"Wizard" compliments itself on predicting the secondary market success of "What If…?" #105, reminds you that you love Kevin Smith more than the Easter Bunny, and declares "Crimson" the only Cliffhanger book with back issue demand, because it’s the only one that ever comes out. We also have "Pokemon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu" #1 entering the Top Ten back issues list, a rare acknowledgment that a non-superhero comic could be a "hot" collector’s item. Which reminds me -- why is "Sonic" never on this list?
Top 100 - January 1999
Half of the Top Ten Diamond orders are X-books ("Uncanny X-Men," "X-Men", "X-Men: The Magneto War," "Wolverine," and "Gambit"), Image is represented by "Spawn" and "Fathom," and "Earth X" #0 has a surprisingly high debut at No. 5. Just outside of the Top Ten are "Amazing Spider-Man," "Daredevil," and the newly relaunched "Wildcats." (In spite of the hype surrounding the Marvel Knights titles, its flagship title is being outsold by "Gambit.") Batman sales are up five to ten percent thanks to "No Man’s Land," and some of the Superman titles are starting to slip into the 50-and-under chart position.
We revisited 1986 a few issues back with the "Watchmen" retrospective, didn’t we? Well, we’re back in the year Comics Will Never Escape for this month’s installment, which focuses on "Dark Knight Returns." Frank Miller provides one brief quote, comparing his Batman to a terrorist, making this the second questionable use of that term in one issue.
So, what did we learn today?
- “You know, those elusive female readers. Both of them.” - John Byrne, on his prospective audience for "Spider-Woman."
- “Todd has no balls. Period. That’s it.” - Beau Smith’s denial that Todd McFarlane has purchased Mark McGwire’s homerun ball.
- “(S)o the guys and I got together and said, these could be the last days of comics so let’s go out singing and dancing and having a blast.” - Tom DeFalco, on the philosophy behind MC2.
Nope: Alan Davis does resolve quite a few dangling plotlines from the X-books, but Marvel claims this issue that he’ll be tackling the Legacy Virus and the Third Summers Brother plots (answers are literally years away) … the announced M-Tech title "Magus" is released as "Warlock," and German Garcia is not the artist; Joe Bennett (Marvel’s perpetual last minute guy in the late ‘90s) is brought in…Lee Weeks doesn’t pencil the rumored "Bishop" ongoing series … Steven Seagle’s animated series "Dot’s Bots," produced by the studio behind "Beast Wars," doesn’t surface (the original press release is online) … Brendan McCarthy is working with George Miller on "Mad Max 4," which they hope Mel Gibson will soon commit to… and we never see Catherine Zeta Jones as Wonder Woman.
Stuff "Wizard" Likes: The “No Man’s Land” event for redefining “the boundaries of a character and his universe,” the Dan Jurgens/John Romita Jr. "Thor" run, and "Slingers." All three of these subjects seemed to be hated by segments of the comics internet, based on my memory. (Although "Slingers" did develop a cult following after people got over the first issue’s variant interior gimmick.)
Stuff "Wizard" Doesn’t Like: "Wildcats" #1 for being light on plot, and for breaking its promise of self-contained stories, Marvel dropping Stan Lee’s “exclusive for life” contract, and the color job on Jay Anacleto’s detailed pencils in "Aria." (Years later, I’ll have similar issues with the color work on Anacleto’s "Marvels: Eye of the Camera" pencils, which made every character look as if he was made out of plastic.) Also, someone at "Wizard" thinks G. W. Bridge “deserves an ass-kicking on general principle.”
This Ain’t HuffPo: "Wizard" tells us that they purchase "Lady Pendragon" for its stories, and not her “big boobs and nice gams”…compares Black Widow and Catwoman’s cup size during the “Last (Wo)man Standing” feature … asks if Dawn is a “true redhead ”… and wants everyone to know just how much the cheesecake in "Danger Girl" is appreciated.
Sick Burn, "Wizard": “One of the books you’re writing is 'Divine Right.' Did you lose a bet with God?” - opening question in a Scott Lobdell interview.
The Wizard’s Crystal Ball: “It won’t affect the physical comic book -- just like Coca-Cola won’t change -- but it will change everything from how you buy it, to how you find what you’re looking for, and how you find others who are interested in it as much as you.” - Gareb Shamus, on how “everyone is talking about the Internet” these days.
Naughty: "Wizard" isn’t sure if they can print the name of a certain Bond girl.
I Love the ‘90s: "Wizard" warns Alanis Morissette that "Human Target" #2 contains “real irony,” Dragon Lord has his revenge on Seattle for the grunge rock craze in "Iron Man" #16, and John Constantine is beaten like “Pearl Jam’s bass drum” in "Hellblazer" #137.
Vive la France: Not a single joke at the expense of the French this issue, but there are two references to the legendary (?) slowness of the Italian post office, in regards to Cliffhanger’s publishing schedule.
Pathological Scatological: While explaining what a White Castle is, Jim McLauchlin details the “quick fashion in which they achieve egress from your system.” Also, the image of Hyperion from the cover of "Avengers" #5 is utilized for a “Pull my finger!” joke.
Commercial Break: Amazingly, I could not find a decent scan of this original print ad for "The Matrix" film, so I decided to scan it for prosperity's sake.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: The visual representation of the magazine is still slick, even though I haven’t noticed this many typos since the earliest issues of "Wizard". Typos are forgivable, but reverting to the earliest days of all-hype, little-substance "Wizard" is troubling. We still have tiny glimpses of snark, but the bulk of the publication is clearly geared towards selling you stuff. As much as the magazine’s snotty attitude irritated me at times, it certainly wasn’t boring. Right now, "Wizard" reads as if it’s being assembled by various publicists for the major companies (and a certain filmmaker), and large stretches of the magazine are just dull.