Welcome to the Guide to the Guide to Comics, an examination of the (in)famous fanzine “Wizard,” the unique aesthetic of ‘90s comics, and…Austin Powers?
Photo covers of TV and movie stars will become the norm for “Wizard,” a move that I’m going to assume was made to keep the magazine relevant to newsstand readers as the comics market continued to crash. The only Austin Powers content this issue is a thin Austin retrospective pamphlet included with the polybag, and Austin-inspired makeovers of the pros in the Top 10 Creators list. The comics-themed cover, the one sold at comic shops, features Adam Hughes’ rendition of ‘90s Bad Girls that are still lingering at the end of the decade. (Mycomicshop.com has one of the few scans of the cover you can find online.)
The Standards this month are nothing new: Basic Training (Adam Hughes on how to draw “chicas!”), Toy Chest, Coming Attractions, Last Man Standing, Manga Scene, and Report Card. Plus, we have letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, Time Travel, and market information.
Jim McLauchlin opens the letter column by informing fans that “Deadpool” is not cancelled, regardless of the rumors on that crazy internet contraption. According to Marvel’s reps, its “Save Deadpool!” website has been an effective means of increasing subscriptions. Other letters address why Marvel and DC still use the Comics Code (Marvel says it sticks with it due to their commitment to all-ages entertainment; DC says it’s necessary for newsstand sales), the existence of the legendary “Miracleman” #25 (Mark Buckingham says it’s been completed, along with six pages from issue #26), and if Mankind from the WWF will receive his own comic. Of course he will, because this is 1999.
McLauchlin also makes a joke about “Wizard” still living off “those juicy Image and Valiant kickbacks we were gettin’ in 1993.” The kickback or payola allegations against “Wizard” are nothing new, but this is the first time I’ve seen the magazine joke about them. Not too long ago, Rob Liefeld made a reference to giving “Wizard” payola back in the early ‘90s, and there’s a “Savage Dragon” issue in 1996 where Erik Larsen makes a blunt statement about fanzines accepting kickback money. I’m going to assume these were all jokes...
Wizard News & Notes
The lead story is the announcement of Chris Bachalo joining the Cliffhanger imprint. J. Scott Campbell comments that having an artist known for keeping a regular schedule will aid Cliffhanger’s reputation for lateness. Bachalo’s announcement, however, makes it clear that he has no plans on releasing his untitled book on a monthly basis. This title is eventually released as "Steampunk," Bachalo’s collaboration with Joe Kelly that received absolutely scathing reviews online. And by the time of its release, the “Cliffhanger” label was on its last legs.
In other news…Scott Lobdell is adding another book to his schedule, as he takes over “Gen 13”…Todd McFarlane says that the more adult “urban horror” feel of his new book “Curse of the Spawn” will be reflected in the second “Spawn” film (something he’s still discussing to this day)…Image’s “Alley Cat,” starring a comic book version of Playmate Alley Baggett, will be released soon…Mark Waid has been named as Grant Morrison’s “JLA” replacement…and Joe Casey will “kick out continuity” with his “X-Men: Children of the Atom” miniseries, which retells the origins of the original X-Men.
A four-page hype piece for Kevin Smith’s comic book store. I was getting worried, because the News section barely mentioned Smith, but thank the heavens “Wizard” hasn’t broken its “No ten pages without a Kevin Smith reference” rule. Likely no one would’ve guessed that something called a “reality show” would one day be set in this store, although I doubt there’s as much “Mallrats” and “Dogma” paraphernalia lying around it today.
The legal web surrounding the “Spider-Man” movie rights have now been cleared, so “Wizard” spends four pages detailing the ramifications…but mostly, telling us how cool it would be to have James Cameron direct the film. Cameron has already indicated in interviews that he’s moved on (stating that any future films should be “something that I create.”), but that doesn’t stop the magazine from fantasizing. This sidebar lists the potential names surrounding the project; many of them seem hilarious in retrospect. I will say that this photo is the only time I’ve thought Leonardo DiCaprio actually resembled Peter Parker. Also, notice that most of those rumored actors indicate the automatic assumption that a “Spider-Man” film has to star a teenage Peter Parker didn’t yet exist.
“It” refers to Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton and claws, just one of the events in the second half of 1999 that “Wizard” swears will bring us “comic book nirvana.” It’s hype, hype, hype, with every creator promising significant ramifications and brave new directions that will hook you after one issue. This sidebar is the only dose of cynicism in the piece…“Wizard” has always vacillated between hype and cynicism, but this piece represents the ratio of this era. Four pages of press releases, followed by a box that pokes a tiny bit of fun at the industry.
The Wizard Q & A
I remember when MTV News used every available opportunity to interview Marilyn Manson, praising him for his selfless defense of free speech and hoping for a controversial soundbite or two. Hart D. Fisher was “Wizard”’s Marilyn Manson. The publisher of Boneyard Press discusses his “Marvel Can Suck My C**k” t-shirts (which allegedly elicited threats of violence from a famous Marvel artist), his disappointment in Howard Stern’s reaction to the “Rush Limbaugh Versus Howard Stern” comic (Limbaugh actually had a better sense of humor, Hart says), and how exactly he ended up publishing the Christian comic “Soldier of God,” created by Peter King, a man Fisher describes as a “nutbag.” (Is this the same Peter King who was once an MTV VJ and a member of the Christian rock band Dakoda Motor Co.? There is almost no information to be found online.)
Twenty-four hours with Todd McFarlane, as he goes on the publicity tour that surrounded his $3.3 million purchase of nine baseballs hit by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, during their quest to break the existing home run record. McFarlane gives a press conference at Toy Fair, visits the “Today Show,” is interviewed by Lou Dobbs, and in a collision of “Wizard” worlds, sits down for a “Howard Stern Show” appearance. When asked if he’s suffering buyer’s regret, McFarlane responds that he had “buyer’s manic-depressive coma. For 10 days, I felt like this.”
Surprisingly, “Wizard” is only now casting its fantasy “Captain America” film. Also surprising -- they don’t reach for the big stars this time. Many of these actors would’ve been game for a made-for-TV “Captain America” movie.
- Jim Davidson as Captain America, based on his performance on the long-forgotten USA drama “Pacific Blue.”
- Kylie Travis as Sharon Carter. Travis starred in something called “Retroactive,” which apparently had an impact on the “Wizard” staff.
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Bucky, based on nothing more than the staff’s desire to watch the young actor die.
- Tom Berenger (“The Substitute”) as Nick Fury.
- Charles Sheen as Nomad. Yes, “Charles.” “Wizard” is quick to note that the serious thespian doesn’t go by “Charlie” anymore. How long did that last?
- Dennis Haysbert as the Falcon.
- Kari Wuhrer as Diamondback. Apparently, she was in “Sliders,” but she’ll always be Colin Quinn’s sidekick to me.
- Dick Butkus, who gave acting a shot in “Johnny Dangerously,” as Dum Dum Dugan.
- Robert Duvall as Jarvis, due to his ability to serve up “dignity and dry wit.”
- And, surely this would’ve been a performance for the ages…Christopher Walken as the Red Skull.
The big Hollywood story of the month is the announcement of a “Fathom” animated movie from 20th Century Fox. Creator Michael Turner thinks that animation is the better vehicle for the property, which would be too expensive for live-action. The cartoon never materializes, but “Fathom” was briefly a live-action NBC series, under the name "Surface" (not really).
In other entertainment news… “Wizard” has learned that the top-secret Pixar project “Hidden City” will actually be called “Monsters, Inc.”…the CGI “Final Fantasy” movie is causing headaches, with its swelling budget and slow production time…comic creators such as Neil Gaiman and Moebius have contributed work for “The Matrix” website. (www.whatisthematrix.com -- archived at this link. A few of the comic links are still active. Gaiman's contribution seems to be a text piece, and not a comic story.) The producer of the website credits Steve Skroce and Geof Darrow for getting the film made…Tia Carrere still thinks that “Shi” movie is happening, discussing it on Howie Mandel’s talk show…and “Wizard” will soon have a favorite cartoon -- the animated “Clerks” is set to premiere on ABC in 2000.
Weren’t you desperate to see Jay and Silent Bob fan art? Well, tough. That’s the theme of the Drawing Board segment this month. The winner receives a signed Kevin Smith gift pack!
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
Daredevil continues to inch up in popularity, Spider-Man’s been replaced by Deadpool once again, and Pikachu has managed to enter the list. This issue's Mort of the Month is Manslaughter from “The Defenders,” who is dismissed as a 115-pound pantywaist by the editors.
“Wizard” declares “Savage Dragon” #61 as The Book of the Month, continuing their effort to promote the series in some way every issue, while the On the Edge pick is “Arsenic Lullaby” by Douglas Paskiewicz.
This issue, “Daredevil” (#1-5, graded as a B+), “Avengers Forever” (#1-5, graded as a B), and “Young Justice” (#1-8, graded as a D-) are reviewed. Shockingly, “Wizard” doesn’t invent a new grade above an A+ to describe their love of what could be the most-hyped title in the magazine’s history. “Daredevil” ranking only a B+, due to its late schedule and excessive monologues, is nothing short of a bombshell. Meanwhile, “Avengers Forever” is praised for its varied selection of Avengers members, although the Kang/Immortus storyline seems needlessly confusing, and “Young Justice” is eviscerated for bad puns and lame villains. In the past, Peter David has implied that the bad review was payback for his criticism of the magazine’s content.
We’re told that “Aria” and “The Coven” are hot books to watch (a rare “Aria” variant is going for $100), but future success hinges on the titles actually coming out on a regular basis. As for the Buried Treasure, it’s the intentionally low-printed “Total Eclipse” #1, which was a showcase book featuring Todd McFarlane’s plans for his Eclipse Comics acquisitions. Even though “Wizard” is convinced that “Black Terror” and “Todd McFarlane’s Twisted Tales” are going to take the world by storm, nothing ever came of this. Does that make “Total Eclipse” #1 more or less valuable today?
“Wizard”’s Top Ten Writers are…1. Kurt Busiek 2. Kevin Smith 3. Mark Waid 4. Garth Ennis 5. Grant Morrison 6. Dan Jurgens 7. Alan Davis 8. Paul Jenkins 9. Joe Kelly 10. Erik Larsen
“Wizard”’s Top Ten Artists are…1. Alex Ross 2. Adam Kubert 3. Joe Madureira 4. J. Scott Campbell 5. George Perez 6. Michael Turner 7. Joe Quesada 8. Jae Lee 9. Jay Anacleto 10. Travis Charest
Top Ten Comics
New entries to the hot back issues list include “Earth X” #1, a Bobba Fett miniseries, and this “Aria” book, which is shaping up to be the latest heavily-promoted, out-of-nowhere Image release that “Wizard” can’t get enough of. Missing from the list? “Darkminds,” last month’s heavily-promoted, out-of-nowhere Image release that “Wizard” couldn’t get enough of.
Top 100 - March 1999
The two main X-books remain the top sellers, “Spawn: The Dark Ages” debuts high at No. 3, and the Batman titles are spread from positions No. 30 to 65, even though they’re all participating in the same storyline. “Undertaker” #1 debuts at No. 75, and “Wizard” predicts that it will soon become a massive back issue hit. I’d actually be curious to know if the wrestling-themed comics from this era are still collectible amongst wrestling fans.
I probably haven’t emphasized just how heavily anticipated “The Phantom Menace” has been during the previous year of “Wizard.” This list is clearly intended as a joke, but if you’re talking “The Phantom Menace” and “disappointments” the internet will have you covered on that score for the next twenty years.
So, what did we learn today?
- “I think Joe (Madureira) and myself have some things we could still learn about getting a book out more regularly.” - J. Scott Campbell
- “I own one suit, which my wife bought for me. I drive a ’92 Acura Legend with 70 dings on the side.” - Todd McFarlane, emphasizing that $3.3 million on baseballs was not an impulse buy.
- “I look like Conan the Barbarian on LSD.” - Ozzy Osbourne’s initial reaction to his action figure.
When asked if “The Maxx” could possibly return, Image’s Traffic Director theorizes that it might be as late as the year 2000 (as opposed to “never”)…Apocalypse isn’t given a significant revamp when he returns in 2000, unless you count that Apocalypse/Cyclops amalgam look…“Earthworm Jim” creator Doug Ten Napel doesn’t direct a “mature animated film” for Dreamworks entitled “The Monkey Prince”…Sony isn’t able to place “Nexus” on Saturday mornings (like Hanna-Barbara, they’re trying to work around the whole “killing his enemies” thing)…and the eventual “Avengers/JLA” storyline doesn’t appear as a crossover event in their monthly titles, which was an early idea kicked around by Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid.
Stuff “Wizard” Likes
The trailers for “The Phantom Menace,” the possibility of a “Spider-Man” movie, the revival of monkeys in superhero comics, and a few “Good Readin’” picks include DC’s “Atlantis Chronicles” miniseries, “New Mutants” #45, and “Batman vs. Predator II.”
Stuff “Wizard” Doesn’t Like
The anticlimactic ending to “Magneto War,” the first issue of John Byrne’s revamped “Hulk” title, endless reruns of “Dawson’s Creek,” the 1990 “Captain America” movie, the “idiotic trend” of villains living in the sewers, characters from the X-canon appearing in Chris Claremont's “Fantastic Four” (amazing that it took “Wizard” so long to gripe about this, because that complaint was unavoidable online in 1999), “the crappiest Green Lantern” John Stewart, the success of “Secret Wars” leading to crossovers like “Maximum Clonage,” and Johnny Storm’s marriage, along with other Marvel marriages dictated by “some dim-bulb writer/editor.”
This Ain’t HuffPo
Gareb Shamus poses with two scantily-clad convention models in the introduction, above a title that reads “Shag Me, Baby.” Plus…an image of Ian Churchill’s new heroine Lionheart is captioned “Lions and tigers and boobs, oh my!”…the announcement of the “Fathom” animated movie is titled “Wet Dream”…a quick review of “The Ice Storm” describes the “scrumptious” Katie Holmes and hyperventilates over the thought of a Christina Ricci sex scene…“Wizard” can’t wait for the cat fight between “spandex-clad super-babes” in “Black Widow” #2…previews for “Robin” and “Wildcats” express the staff’s love of “the epic film ‘Naughty Nurses’” and the concept of all-girls schools…“Buffy” is praised for its display of “chicks in tight sweaters”…and one staffer wants to know why Spider-Girl isn’t “drawn way hotter than she is,” given that her mother is a supermodel.
Sick Burn, “Wizard”
A caption asserts that Spawn’s blazing green eyes have just viewed Peter David in a thong -- “And he’s really happy to see me!”
Vive la France
“Boy, do we ever hate the French.” - opening line of “Nightwing” #33’s preview.
“Wizard” passes along a link to a website featuring “Mistress Cohleana,” who tells you “how to read your bowel movements.”
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?
Which is more annoying -- “Wizard”’s tendency to insert photos of its staff whenever possible, or the ceaseless reminders that they’re totally friends with Hollywood superstar director Kevin Smith? The past two issues have shown an increase in that ol’ “Wizard” snark, but there’s little in the way of actual commentary, and internet message boards could’ve easily provided me with snotty cheap shots aimed at unpopular comics. Unless you’re holding on to the idea that comics are precious investments and you’re desperate to know how much your variant “Witchblade” #25 is worth…what’s the appeal of this magazine?