Is Marvel ready for Beavis and Butt-Head? Which creators are sniping at each other in the letters column? Why did Wizard have to run a public apology after Comicfest ’93? Do any of the X-Men wedding issues match their original solicits? Find out in the Guide to the Guide to Comics!
We all remember how much Beavis and Butt-Head liked Skull and Death Rock, don’t we? Or, more likely, MTV never wanted to pay AC/DC and Metallica for using their logos, so the merchandising art was stuck with fake band names. I’m willing to gamble, by the way, that this was one of Wizard’s highest-selling issues this year, if not the highest. Beavis and Butt-Head was an absolute pop culture phenomenon, the likes of which we rarely see today.
In this month’s Wizard, we have…
Features on Marc Silvestri, Marvel’s Beavis and Butt-Head series, the Iron Man and War Machine titles, Matt Wagner and Sandman Mystery Theatre, and steps on creating an ashcan comic.
The regular columns include Pat O’Neill’s “The Ed.”, Palmer’s Picks (this month’s pick is Hate), Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Power Up!, Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O. No Hollywood column this month.
The Departments include the usual blend of letters, fan art, trivia, opinion pieces, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.
The opening three letters are devoted to industry people disputing things stated by creators in previous issues. Steven J. Massarsky of Valiant refutes Barry Windor-Smith’s claims about Valiant in a previous issue, going as far as giving specific numbers offered to Smith to stay with Valiant. (Let’s just say the money flying around the industry in these days was outrageous.) John Byrne appears next, revising Todd McFarlane’s shoe store analogy from a previous E.G.O. column. Byrne claims Image is much closer to a shoe manufacturer than a shoe store, and questions why Image’s business practices --which he describes as soliciting books and collecting the money while never delivering them, severely disrupting store owners' cashflow -- haven’t been the subject of legal scrutiny. Finally, Richard Pini writes in to dispute claims Colleen Doran made in a previous Palmer’s Picks that WaRP Graphics attempted to take the copyright to A Distant Soil during its days as publisher. Doran responds a few issues later and this drags on for a couple of months.
Other letters have Magic Words addressing X-continuity questions, reminiscing about Spidey Super-Stories, fielding marriage proposals for a hypothetical “sister” in the Wizard empire, and picking on Quasar once again.
Next to the letter column is a page-long apology “to the creative community” from Wizard’s Rob Samsel, regarding a souvenir program “which was produced by Wizard for and in conjunction with the inaugural Comicfest ’93.” I have absolutely no idea what Wizard did to offend so many creators, the letter doesn’t say, but Samsel goes as far as to give out his work number to “offer any assistance I can regarding this regrettable episode.”
Seriously, what was this about?! It reads as if someone was caught with a dead Vampirella model.
The lead story is Stephen Platt’s departure from Marvel. No Cable for Stephen, he’s going to be penciling, inking, and co-plotting Prophet beginning with issue #5. Platt reports that he was open to doing a few issues of Cable to help editor Bob Harras out of a deadline jam, but Harras declined “because he wants somebody in there to stay.” Cable doesn’t find a regular artist until six months or so after this issue was published, when Steve Skroce joins the book.
In other news, Harvey will be publishing licensed Hanna Barbera comics, which are described as “different and more adult-oriented.” Artists like Sergio Aragones and Bill Sienkiewicz have been approached about doing covers. Did this ever happen? And did Harvey truly expect to find an audience with a “more adult” Jetsons and Yogi Bear? (I get that “more adult” probably just means not strictly for kids, but it still sounds misguided.) Wizard also reports that Jeffery Scott will not change his professional name to J. Scott Campbell, “so if any of his books are late, it’s because he keeps changing his darn name!”
Pat O’Neill questions the recent characterizations of Hal Jordan, Sue Richards, and Charles Xavier. He argues that a natural progression of a character is one thing, but in all of these cases, the characters have swapped personalities overnight. Jordan never had hints of megalomania before, Sue never felt the need to dress as a bimbo exposing too much flesh, and Xavier has never placed pragmatism over principles.
I do think “Emerald Twilight’s” portrayal of Hal Jordan is indefensible, and even though it took DC far too many years, the proper correction was eventually made. I believe Sue’s change in personality was at least partially attributed to the Malice persona, and also grief and anger after losing her husband. As for Xavier…hmm. I wouldn’t say he was outrageously out-of-character when mindwiping Magneto in the “Fatal Attractions” crossover. Magneto was wildly misused based on his development under Chris Claremont in that storyline, but I thought Xavier was rather convincingly portrayed as a decent man forced into a decision he knew he might regret. If Pat O’Neill was irritated by Xavier’s portrayal in that story, then I’m sure he loved seeing Xavier morph into a perpetual liar and creep in almost every X-story published after Joe Quesada took over Marvel.
A freelance piece by Michael Berry on the Beavis and Butt-Head craze, which is now moving to Marvel Comics. Marvel was an unlikely choice to pick up the B&B license, given their commitment to all-ages material and the Comics Code, but I guess Beavis and Butt-Head was such a hit at this time even Marvel had to loosen its restrictions.
Beavis and Butt-Head, the comic, was in a sense handled “in-house” by Marvel, with editor Mike Lackey assigned as writer and Bullpen letterer Rick Parker hired as artist. I’m not saying Marvel simply tossed the job off to just anyone in the office, but they clearly didn’t break a sweat searching for a creative team. Parker seemed to enjoy the property, even if he never quite drew B&B on-model. I was okay with that, actually. One issue I’ve often had with Simpsons comics is that they’re so rigid about keeping the Springfield cast exactly as they appear on the show, which can make the art seem stiff and lifeless. I haven’t read the Beavis and Butt-Head comic in years, but I do recall as a fourteen-year-old disliking Lackey’s stories, thinking they didn’t capture the spirit of the show. Lackey didn’t last too long on the series; he was replaced by writers from the television show after a few issues.
I’ll note that the MTV producer who discovered Beavis and Butt-Head says he enjoys the characters because they’re “politically incorrect in a very politically correct time.” It’s worth remembering the first round of…let’s say “increased sensitivity” regarding language and art occurred over twenty years ago. The culture reacted against it, and Beavis and Butt-Head was arguably a part of that backlash. (There was even a film called PCU, which mocked the campus climate in the early ‘90s. Not to mention a comedian named Bill Maher hosting a show called Politically Incorrect.) I wonder if MTV and Marvel today would so proudly produce something labeled un-PC.
Berry, by the way, writes perhaps the most erudite piece in Wizard history, tossing around phrases like “MTV’s paean to adolescent imbecility” and references to Umberto Eco, all while describing Beavis pulling Butt-Head’s finger and the running joke that classmate Daria’s name is actually “Diarrhea.”
Men of Iron
Len Kaminski talks about his run on Iron Man, and the upcoming War Machine spinoff. Iron Man isn’t the kind of comic typically covered by Wizard, but the introduction of the War Machine armor brought some reader (and speculator) interest to the book. And Kaminski’s Iron Man run is honestly good; not only do elements of it survive today in the films, but it’s enjoyable in its own right. Kaminski acknowledges in the interview that most of the major life events you can do with Tony Stark have already been done, so he’s not focused on reinventing the wheel, just producing solid stories that stay true to the character. The theory that Kaminski wrote this run as a rebuke of capitalism might have its roots in this interview, with Kaminski making broad, negative statements about capitalism when discussing how Tony Stark fits into that world. This rumor was addressed years ago in an all-Kaminski installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed.
The X-Men controversy is obliquely addressed when Kaminski says he’d like to reveal Stark’s company had a hand in manufacturing the Sentinels, in order to justify a fight with one of the X-teams. (This never happens, by the way.)
Backstage at the Mystery Theatre
An in-depth interview with Matt Wagner, covering everything from the controversy surrounding early Sandman Mystery Theatre issues, the legal battles over Grendel, to when Mage II might someday appear. There’s also a sidebar piece on various Grendels throughout the years. I appreciated pieces like this as a kid; I was only aware of Grendel through the Batman crossover, and had very few means of learning about independent comics. Having the basics of a fairly convoluted premise like Grendel laid out for me was the type of thing I could only find in Wizard.
It’s hard to imagine Wizard ever topping this one -- this issue announces the Kitchen Sink/Wizard/Melting Pot Camaro Sweepstakes. Correctly answer the three questions about Kitchen Sink’s Melting Pot series in the next issue and you’re entered in a drawing for a 1969 Camaro, one with a special paint job by Simon Bisley and Kevin Eastman. Think about that -- Wizard had “You get a car!” money back in 1994.
In the Can
The ashcan, that is. Remember ashcans? Originally created as a means for publishers to cheaply reserve trademarks in the Golden Age, the ‘90s saw an explosion of ashcans as collectibles -- it’s not enough to own the first copy of this overprinted Image #1 comic, you’ve got to have the ultra-limited edition ashcan preview comic as a real collectible. This piece by independent creator Phil White gives readers steps on creating their own ashcan comics, surely disappointing the speculators who wanted a piece on how to find the rare purple-cover version of Prophet #1.
More snark is sneaking into the magazine, this time through the monthly trivia quiz. Wizard is now including “Stupid but true…” a blurb at the end of the quiz that mocks events from comics past. This issue ridicules Galactus’ original short-sleeve, green and purple outfit, complete with massive “G” chest emblem. (Kurt Busiek also plays on the idea, but in a classier way in Marvels.) Later on in the issue, in the Comic Watch section, the writer assures fans that Machine Man #2 (the mini) isn’t “Crap with a capital ‘C’” because it contains the first appearance of Iron Man 2020; whereas the lame Machine Man’s original appearance in the “very pathetic” 2001: A Space Odyssey comic isn’t collectible. As I’ve mentioned before, the Kirby bashing in the magazine fades not long after his death.
Brian Cunningham informs readers that, unfortunately, yes -- your toys are more valuable in the original packaging.
Watch out for Machine Man #2 and Superman (vol. 2) #51, not because of Mr. Z “one of the lamest-looking villains ever created,” but because it was the debut of DC’s triangle numbering system on the Superman books. And that black cover is easily damaged, making near mint copies ultra-collectible!
Picks from the Wizard’s Hat
The top pick is the biggest wedding since Peter and Mary Jane’s wedding bash…it’s X-Men #30. According to Fabian Nicieza, the notes left by Wolverine for Xavier, Scott, and Jean will serve as “the thematic hook for the next thirty years.” I remember endless speculation regarding the notes Wolverine left the X-Men at the end of Wolverine #75; what exactly people thought they were going to get, I’m not sure. I still think the letter Wolverine leaves for Jubilee at the end of Wolverine #75 is touching, but the ones revealed in X-Men #30 amount to Wolverine telling Scott and Jean how much he admires them, then telling Xavier in one line he needs to lighten up. Big deal. And while I can’t speak for the next thirty years, it seems as if the past twenty-two years for the X-Men have consisted of a series of increasingly poor decisions that have driven away much of the fanbase.
Other picks include Shadowman #0, Rune #1, Green Lantern #50, and Beavis and Butt-Head #1.
Top 100 - December 1993
The top book this month is Spawn #19. Again, this isn’t the Spawn #19 featuring Harry Houdini that actually shipped, but the cancelled issue solicited as the debut of the Freak. The rest of the Top Ten consists of four Superman titles, three X-titles (this includes X-Men 2099), WildC.A.T.s, and Codename: Stryke Force’s debut issue. The Ultraverse title Solitaire #2 comes in at #100.
Top 10 - January 1994
Stephen Platt mania is still gripping the country, or at least Wizard’s offices, with Moon Knight #56 topping the back issue sales, followed closely by issue #55, which is ranked at Number Four. Wolverine #75 is listed at Number Three. For some reason, the final issue of Avengers West Coast is ranked at Number Nine. Marvel has seven books in the Top 10, six of them are the top six, while DC, Valiant, and Malibu all have a lonely one. Image isn’t represented at all. Wizard seems increasingly hostile towards Valiant, maintaining that Ninjak #1 is hot solely due to Joe Quesada’s art -- it isn’t a dud like Turok #1, a book Wizard suggests you use as kindling.
In the first of several objections, Wizard describes Wolverine #75’s revelation that Wolverine has bone claws is a “throw-continuity-out-the-window development.”
Wizard Market Watch
Marvel’s decision to cancel Conan has surprisingly created a flurry of back issue demand, and the final issue of the long-running series has sold out around the country. Valiant back issues are cooling, while the Green Lantern crossover issue in the “Return of Superman” arc is hot.
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
- Todd McFarlane
- Jim Lee
- Joe Quesada
- Frank Miller
- Marc Silvestri
- Bart Sears
- Dale Keown
- Stephen Platt
- Erik Larsen
- Mark Texiera
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Neil Gaiman
- Frank Miller
- Peter David
- John Byrne
- Alan Moore
- Jim Shooter
- Dan Jurgens
- Matt Wagner
- Chris Claremont
- John Ostrander
E G O (Everyone’s Got Opinions)
McFarlane responds to Peter David’s But I Digress response to their debate, by posting the chart positions of Spawn versus Sachs & Violens. David responds to this response in an upcoming Wizard letter column, and I respond by not caring at that point.
So, what did we learn today?
- “We offered Barry a five-year guaranteed contract at $60,000 per year as a consultant. His only burden was to attend two conventions per year (at Valiant’s expense) on behalf of Valiant and to have his name on the masthead as a consultant.” - Steven J. Massarsky’s take on Barry Windor-Smith’s rejected contract. He later claims that Valiant offered Smith $300,000 overall for “very little” work.
- “Between four to six issues.” - Joe Quesada on the number of issues he plans to do of Ninjak. He ends up penciling three.
- “Why anger (Hal) Jordan’s fans by making him into an unredeemable madman?” - Pat O’Neill.
- Marc Silvestri is still under the impression Greg Capullo is penciling a Ripclaw miniseries. The plans for a “Cosmic Images” imprint featuring Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Rob Liefeld’s sci-fi concepts also don’t materialize, I believe. Finally, while Chris Claremont did write issues of WildC.A.T.s and Cyberforce, I don't think he ever orchestrated a crossover between the books.
- Despite the solicit for Excalibur #75, the published comic doesn’t feature the team at Scott and Jean’s wedding (the issue begins right after they get back from America), nor does “a new love interest develop for Kitty” while “an old love interest returns for Rachel.”
- Madelyne Pryor does not visit Cyclops on the eve of his wedding in Uncanny X-Men #310. That's the Cyclops & Cable vs. X-Cutioner issue.
- Detectives Sam and Twitch are not “hot on Spawn’s trail” in Spawn #20, although McFarlane will continue to tease this for the next fifty issues.
Talkin’ ‘Bout Gen 13 (Relentlessly): I’m not sure if the first issue of the miniseries is even out yet, but Wizard is offering a Gen 13 #1/2 comic, starring heroes people still know nothing about. Later in the issue is a four-page preview of Gen 13 #1, featuring some extremely shaky work by J. Scott Campbell. (It’s much more reminiscent of Extreme Studios than Wildstorm.) I’ve been following Augie De Blieck Jr.’s recap of the series, and it’s amazing to see just how far Campbell comes in only a few issues.
I Love the ‘90s: Unless Wizard gives out Cindy Crawford’s phone number with each order of Gen 13 #1/2, they’re confident that “it really doesn’t get any better than this!” Also, the gag-writer for the card section correctly notes that Namorita has stolen Chyna Phillips’ hairstyle.
This Ain't HuffPo: A fan accuses Wizard of being “macho sexist dorks” for not featuring her Jubilee costume in the Halloween issue. (She missed the deadline.) Wizard responds that while they’re “proud of our macho and sexist attitudes (we parade around the office naked and in sombreros), we like to think that we’re not dorks.” Also, the CBIQ quiz asserts Jim Balent deserves a raise for his interpretation of Catwoman.
Pathological Scatological: A non-sequitur joke about Darth Vader’s armor filling with urine is tossed into the summary of Tales of the Jedi #2. “Flush when we’re done” is also listed as one of Wizard’s New Year’s resolutions.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: All around, this was a rather informative issue; not only do we have information on slightly under-the-radar titles, but there’s no shortage of creators sniping back and forth at each other. It might be petty to enjoy that kind of thing, but outside of Wizard, I had no access to this side of the industry. The pieces on Iron Man and Beavis and Butt-Head are also nicely done, serving as more than crass commercials for upcoming books. The Beavis article could’ve easily been an embarrassment, but it turns out to be an honest examination of the pop culture sensation. I’m still wondering, out of all the Image product on the market at this time, why Wizard was so hyped for Gen 13, though…