Welcome to The Guide to the Guide to Comics, an examination of the “classic” era of “Wizard” magazine. In this installment, Chris Bachalo nearly designs an “Avengers” cartoon, future industry superstar Pat Lee is profiled, and the pro wrestling takeover has begun.
We have three covers again, and the Gene Ha variant seems to be the most difficult version to find, by far. I’ve noticed that the practice of restricting all blurbs to the polybag has ended. I suppose this is a pretty standard layout for a newsstand magazine of this era, but those blurbs are just ugly. Confining the copy to the polybag and allowing the images to run as clean as possible on the cover was one of "Wizard’s" smartest moves, and it’s been lost in this quest to mutate the magazine into an “Entertainment Weekly”/“Electronic Gaming Monthly” hybrid.
While it’s no shock that “Wizard” would commission a Batman/Darkness cover by Marc Silvestri and a JLA cover by Joe Madureira, I was surprised to see an America’s Best Comics-themed cover by Gene Ha as one of the variants. There’s no real information on ABC in this issue, outside of a sidebar in the news section that details the literary history of the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” cast. Alan Moore explains that he can’t use copyrighted characters in the series, but just for fun, he’s introduced a character named Campion Bond. “Wizard” doesn’t think the repeated “bond” puns are enough to tip you off to his identity, so they suggest you “think 007.” By the way, I realize that some people would view this as an absurd distinction, but that JLA cover looks much more Roger Cruz than Joe Mad to my eyes.
The Standards this issue include Basic Training (Matt Haley on body language), 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.
“Wizard” staffers André D. Shell and James Walker fill in for Jim McLauchlin this month, answering fan questions in the letter column. The first topic? Pro wrestling. More specifically, WCW wrestler Raven, who’s been spotted wearing Sandman and Daredevil t-shirts. “Wizard” gets in contact with Raven, and discover that he’s a fan of a few Vertigo titles and the Marvel Knights line. Who can’t “Wizard” contact? Known Superman fan Jerry Seinfeld. A reader asks if Seinfeld could follow in Kevin Smith’s steps and write a comic; DC’s rep doubts it will ever happen.
Wizard News & Notes
“Wizard” gets its wish -- the Superman titles have been revamped with “hipper creators” and will now go with an “unlinked” format. The announced creators include Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, Ed McGuinnes, and German Garcia. Creators Stuart Immonen, Mark Schultz, and Doug Mahnke have “survived the purge,” while Karl Kesel, Dan Jurgens, and Louise Simonson are out. The announcement was overshadowed by Internet rumors that had Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and Mark Millar pitching their own Superman revamp, which was shot down due to internal politics at DC. (The pitch can be located at Deep Space Transmissions, along with other rejected Morrison proposals.) In fact, I believe the actual pitch made its way to the Internet around the time these revamped comics were being released. The idea that DC rejected a Waid/Morrison/Millar Superman run was considered a Hindenburg-level tragedy by online fans for a few years.
This is also “Wizard”’s April Fool’s issue, so in addition to a few fake ads, it’s presented an obituary for its publisher, Gareb Shamus. It’s also fueling rumors of Marvel-produced wrestling comics…
In other news…Rob Liefeld is returning to “Cable” with issue #71…Alex Ross has rescinded and apologized for whatever remarks he made regarding Jason Pearson in the “Wizard Alex Ross Special”…some guy named Geoff Johns is writing a new “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.” series for DC…a company called Archangel Comics has hired Mark Texeira away from Marvel…Scott Lobdell is writing another new Image comic; his collaboration with Adam Pollina, “Hellhole,” will be released soon…and Vince Sullivan, DC’s first editor, the man who helped launch Superman and Batman, has passed away.
Center of Attention
A fluff piece on Pat Lee. He’s only 23, but he’s sure to be the industry’s next big star…he’s rented out a five-office studio, even though he’s so swamped with work, he hasn’t had time to buy furniture for it yet…Joe Quesada says he leapt at the chance to have Lee pencil a “Wolverine/Punisher” miniseries… and when Pat isn’t busy bringing manga pencils to American audiences, he’s engaged in Nerf wars with his studio mates. Pat Lee was the final “hot new thing!” pushed by “Wizard” during my stint reading the magazine. He eventually became better known for Rich Johnston exposés than his actual comics work.
I will say that I’m surprised that the coloring style Pat Lee introduced didn’t become a standard look at the major comic companies. Udon was coloring a few Marvel books with the computerized anime style up until the mid-00s, but the look seems to have died out.
The days of “Wizard” running a promotional piece for a Howard Mackie comic are almost at an end, but as of this date, they’re still fans of “Mutant X.” Admittedly, the earliest issues of “Mutant X” are surprisingly entertaining, and the book did develop a cult following after a few issues…even though the series quickly descended into a mess of poorly defined characters and utterly incomprehensible plots. By the end of its second year, Internet reviewers seemed convinced that it was the worst comic being published by Marvel. (If you can find those old Paul O’Brien reviews, they’re far more entertaining than the actual comic.) Early “Mutant X” did show potential, though, and since this is a “Wizard” interview, Mackie was asked to contribute a sidebar feature. Here are his thoughts about the “Mutant X” versions of a few characters we’ve yet to see.
Batman’s Big 10
It’s the closest “Wizard” has come to an opinion piece in a while, with the staff presenting a series of questions about the future of the franchise, then providing their commentary at the end of each section. The “Wizard” stances aren’t hard to guess -- they reject Joel Schumacher’s pitch for a “Year One” film, desperately want Jim Lee on a Batman title, and dread the prospect of a Batman musical. Most of the piece, however, is “Wizard” asking DC editors for “No Man’s Land” spoilers and being told “wait and see!” We also have “Wizard” incorrectly making five guesses as to the new Batgirl’s identity, and Denny O’Neil stating that “Batman Beyond” won’t be reflected in the comics, before adding “who knows” what the future brings.
The Wizard Q&A
The “real” Spider-Man is interviewed -- a.k.a. the guy who’s been dressing in Marvel’s Spider-Man suit for public appearances since 1979. Marvel refuses to give out his real name, but “Wizard” does disclose his birthday (October 11, 1954), his height (6-foot-2), and his past as a soap opera actor (stints on “Guiding Light,” “Ryan’s Hope,” and “Another World.”) In the age of the Internet, this would likely be more than enough to identify him. As goofy as the concept is, this turns out to be a decent interview. “Spider-Man” discusses being tackled by two Secret Service agents at the 1979 White House Easter Egg Roll, his greatest gig to date (the Spider-Man wedding at Shea Stadium), and his work with victims of child abuse. I’m not sure if this program still exists, or how a kid today would react to this quaint spandex outfit when compared to the million-dollar Spidey costumes now seen in the movies, but there was a time when Marvel’s official Spider-Man model was the only Spidey available to the public, and the guy honestly loved his job.
Featuring original art by Mike Wieringo, Dev Madan, Ethan van Sciver (incorrectly credited as “Schiver”) and Fred Perry, “Wizard” pitches the animated series that the staff wants to see. In their dream world, “Wizard” would place JLA, Danger Girl, Blade, Battle Chasers and Savage Dragon cartoons on the air. (With “Savage Dragon” being more loyal to the adult tone of the comic, naturally.) In the seventeen years that have followed, “Wizard” scored two out of five, with “Justice League” running on Cartoon Network, and an anime “Blade” series that aired on G4. “Wizard” is also accurate in predicting that “Justice League” will maintain the Bruce Timm look, and the voices from the existing “Batman” and “Superman” series. “Wizard” also gets the cast right, with one exception -- Hawkgirl takes Aquaman’s place on the team.
This month’s entry is just another excuse for the staff to run their own photos in the magazine -- “‘Wizard’ casts its own stupid movie!” as comic characters are cast as various staffers. Let’s move on.
The lead story is FOX’s confirmation that an Avengers cartoon is scheduled for the fall. The article teases us with the information that Chris Bachalo has redesigned the team, and that Bob Skir and Marty Isenberg have written a treatment that’s excessively loyal to the comics. What we see in just a few months is one of the more flagrant “toy commercial disguised as a cartoon” shows from the era, with a dumb cyborg/animal power tie-in for each character, gaudy digital colors, and I’m willing to bet, not a single Chris Bachalo design to be seen.
In other news… ”Wizard” has late-breaking news that the Spider-Man film is out of legal limbo, Nicolas Cage has officially given up on “Superman Lives,” and Matt Groening’s new series “Futurama” is previewed. Can you decipher the alien language hidden in its opening credits?
Electronic Arts has recalled 100,000 copies of “Tiger Woods Golf ’99,” because the original “South Park” short “The Spirit of Christmas” (which is certainly not rated “Everyone” by the ESRB) was somehow included on the disc. The copy has become a collector’s item, but EA is encouraging anyone who purchased the “South Park” version to return it. How dare some prankster sully the wholesome reputation of our national hero, the virtuous Tiger Woods?!
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
Four new additions to the chart this month -- Buffy, Fathom, Magneto, and Lara Croft -- while the top heroes remain unchanged. Spider-Man has also nudged out Deadpool in the magazine’s arbitrary ranking of popularity, although I doubt this lasts long, given that the hype surrounding the character’s relaunch will soon fade. This issue's Mort of the Month goes back to Silver Age DC for the original Tattooed Man from “Green Lantern.”
The Book of the Month is “Thor” #12, while the On the Edge pick is “Thundergirls” #2, from indie publisher Pin! & Ink. Apparently, it’s a cheesecake comic devoted to female professional wrestlers -- you guess why it’s been plucked from obscurity. “Wizard” also notes that the six months-late “Battle Chasers” #6 is being solicited for the third time this month, but if it is actually released, they’re sure it will be “chock full of yummy goodness.” Finally, Awesome Comics is back, with solicitations for “Alan Moore’s Awesome Adventures” #1 and the autobiographical “Rob!” #1. “Allies” #1, by Alan Moore and Rob Liefeld, doesn’t have a solicitation, but it is included with other Awesome titles in a paid ad that runs in this section.
This issue, the Batman “No Man’s Land” event (chapters 1-4, graded as an A), “Inhumans” (#1-5, graded as an A-), and “Martian Manhunter” (#0-5, graded as a C-) are reviewed. The editors are thrilled by “No Man’s Land” even though they initially dismissed the premise, “Inhumans” succeeds in making the characters feel real, even if the pacing is sluggish, and “Martian Manhunter” just “bores us to tears” with lame villains and no human foil for the main character.
Wizard Market Watch
Borrowing more elements from “Entertainment Weekly,” back issues are now grouped with up or down arrows -- “Battle Chasers” and “Danger Girl” are “Down” due to both books being six months late, killing back issue demand. “Pokémon” continues to soar with an “Up” arrow, meanwhile, along with “Green Lantern” #101, the Death of Oliver Queen issue. Now that rumors of our savior Kevin Smith taking over the book have begun, fans are searching out Oliver’s last appearance. As for the Buried Treasure pick, it’s the very recent “Inhumans” #5, featuring the debut of the new Black Widow.
“Wizard”’s Top Ten Writers are…1. Kevin Smith 2. Kurt Busiek 3. Mark Waid 4. Garth Ennis 5. Grant Morrison 6. Dan Jurgens 7. Alan Davis 8. Erik Larsen 9. Paul Jenkins 10. Chris Claremont
“Wizard”’s Top Ten Artists are…1. Alex Ross 2. Adam Kubert 3. George Perez 4. Michael Turner 5. Joe Madureira 6. J. Scott Campbell 7. Joe Quesada 8. Jae Lee 9. Jim Lee 10. Pat Lee
Top Ten Comics
New entries on the hot back issues list include “Spider-Girl” #1, “Batman: Shadow of the Bat” #83, “Transmetropolitan” #1, “Star Wars: Crimson Empire” #1, and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” #1. So, half of the Top 10 books weren’t “hot” enough to be listed last issue? Is the back issue market growing more volatile, or is “Wizard” bored with having to write about the same comics each month?
Top 100 - February 1999
Top Cow’s “Aria,” the new McFarlane-produced “Crow” series, and “Planetary” all chart higher than “Wizard” expected. The top books remain X-titles, “Spawn,” and Cliffhanger titles, Spider-Man sales have yet to tank (except for “Webspinners,” which is already down to No. 49), and the Marvel Knights “Daredevil” is now in the Top Ten.
Comic Book Price Guide
In keeping with the April Fool’s theme, the staff has replaced “Famous Firsts” and “Good Readin’” with “Famous Worsts” and “Bad Readin’.” It’s like the “Wizard” of 1995 never left us! The comics selected for ridicule include usual “Wizard” targets, such as the first appearance of Ben Reilly, Capwolf, and the debut of the New Gods (explaining that there’s “hardly a New God worth his weight in dog crap.”) “Wizard” is also opposed to any story that merges football with superheroes, such as “NFL Superpro” and a random “Green Lantern” back issue. The picks are all relatively non-controversial, although targeting “Amazing Spider-Man #269-270” seems odd, since I seem to recall the “Spidey vs. Firelord” story as a genuine back issue pick in an earlier issue.
An ECW employee has gleaned that the staff are fans of pro wrestling, so he invited the “Wizard” crew to a match. Editor Dan DiGiacomo has his photo taken with ex-ECW champ Shane Douglas in a headlock… and thus ends “Wizard”’s pro wrestling obsession, right?
So, what did we learn today?
- “I thought it was a prank.” - Rob Liefeld, on Marvel’s call asking him to return to “Cable.”
- “I’m not Donald Trump. I blew my life savings on this…If (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s) record falls, I go from the idiot who spent $3 million on the crown jewel of memorabilia to the idiot who spent $3 million on a $5 ball.” - Todd McFarlane
- “You think (the Clone Saga) ruined the Spider-Man books? You wish the whole story never happened? TOUGH! We’ve got a million more clones coming right at you!” - Howard Mackie, on his future plans for “Mutant X.”
: “Wizard” speculates that Scott Lobdell and Jim Lee will take over a Batman title in the year 2000. They were off by one creator and one year. Also, Jim Cameron doesn’t return to the “Spider-Man” film after the rights are cleared up, rumors that Jim Carrey might be involved also aren’t true, and we never see a weekly “Generation X” live-action series.
Before They Were Stars
: Alex Milne is the winner of the “Design a Variant Danger Girl Contest.”
Stuff “Wizard” Likes
: DC for doing essentially everything the magazine previously advocated in their “Why Superman Sucks Now” article (new creative teams, smaller supporting cast, and self-contained stories)…Marvel cartoons returning with the new “Avengers” and “Spider-Man Unlimited” series (don’t speak so soon, guys)…and a certain filmmaker from New Jersey.
Stuff “Wizard” Doesn’t Like
: The prospect of an autobiographical Rob Liefeld comic…the Wonder Twins…the “nonentity” known as Gen 13’s Burnout…Magneto’s clone Joseph…“Divine Right,” which a copywriter wants to “end right now”…and we have the first acknowledgment this issue that, just perhaps, the stories in “Witchblade” aren’t that great.
This Ain’t HuffPo
: “Wizard” wishes for a “harem of buxom bikini queens” in the letter column…runs fan art of Catwoman, Witchblade, and other female characters as Hooters waitresses…speculates that desperate virgins at a comic con are ready to “‘get some’ by force”…titles a Lady Death caption “boobs” and contemplates touching her the way Todd McFarlane must fondle his million-dollar balls…speculates that “the chick’s big yabbos” haven’t hurt the sales of “Darkminds”…questions if the best Carmen Electra can do is Dennis Rodman, given her “bazoobies”…praises the women’s lib movement for the “cute chicks” starring in their own comics now, such as Buffy, Fathom and Lara Croft…admires the new Black Widow with a “Mwwwrrooow!”…engages Erik Larsen on the “big hooters” seen in “Savage Dragon”…and speculates that Northstar loved fighting Spidey foe Slyde, assuming that he was in a Speedo and covered in olive oil. Finally, Canadian Pat Lee informs us that “a hot French chick” is his favorite thing you can only find north of America.
I Love the ‘90s
: The ever-changing Avengers membership is compared to Dennis Rodman’s hair.
Vive la France:
Monsieur Mallah is considered even more deplorable because he’s a “French monkey.”
: A few Taco Bell and White Castle jokes are slipping back in. The classic photograph of the original Image Seven also has a “who farted?” joke inserted into the caption. Credit to “Wizard” for correctly identifying the man next to Jim Lee as Hank Kanalz, and not Whilce Portacio, though.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:
Less mindless hype this issue, but even the little snarky bits (which can be funny) highlight a recurring theme from the earlier days of “Wizard” -- there’s little justification for why these concepts suck, just an automatic assumption that the reader agrees that the New Gods should be forgotten and Dakota North exists solely for a cheap joke. And the fact that every issue seems to have an excuse for an extended feature starring the “Wizard” staff is just getting old. Occasionally there’s a sense the magazine’s still putting up a fight against the Internet, with the original artwork, joke ads, and unusual choice for an interview subject, but “Wizard” is already at the point where many fans have turned against it. It’s crass, immature, and you’re usually getting the same thing each issue.