Can Wizard top its Camaro giveaway contest? Will Jim Balent’s Catwoman corrupt the nation’s youth? Also, which industry powerhouse was writing Wizard sidebar pieces in 1994?
That’s a genuine Jim Balent Catwoman on the cover, right there. If you weren’t around for the early ‘90s, this is the kind of thing you missed. Occasionally, Wizard wasn’t what you might call “safe for classroom reading” -- actually, the magazine’s only a few months away from cheerleading the ridiculous Bad Girls fad, which made the publication even more lurid with each issue.
In this month’s Wizard, we have…
Features on Catwoman, Dave Cockrum, the first year of the Ultraverse, and an interview with Mike Allred.
The regular columns include Pat O’Neill’s “The Ed.”, Palmer’s Picks (another examination of mini-comics), a new Hollywood column called Cut & Print, Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.
The Departments include the standard letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.
This was the first issue published following the death of Jack Kirby in February 1994, so the regular letter column is suspended in place of tributes to The King. John Byrne takes the opportunity to again attack those who dismissed Kirby as “Jack the Hack,” while Alan Moore pens a stream-of-consciousness homage to Kirby’s creations. Moore praises Kirby’s “feverish hack energy,” which I’m sure delighted Byrne.
Mark Evanier contributes the obituary for Jack Kirby…underneath Wizard’s obligatory wacky convention photos with goofy captions. Someone new is portraying Wizard’s convention model Crystal, posing with a couple cosplaying as newlyweds Cyclops and Phoenix.
In other news…Batman and Punisher will star in Marvel and DC’s first crossover in over ten years…Joe Quesada has left Valiant, saying he can no longer work there “in good conscience.” Valiant responds that Quesada has left Ninjak due to deadline issues…Greg Capullo is replacing Bart Sears on the final Violator issue…the Cartoon Network is premiering the Space Ghost talk show…Extreme Studios and Malibu are sponsoring the MTV game show Trashed (which was hosted by Chris Hardwick, and featured comedians like Brian Posehn and Doug Benson!), and the Punisher has another team-up in the works, this one with Archie.
All of the editorial features are dedicated to Jack Kirby this month. Pat O’Neil recounts Kirby’s history in the industry, and defends his work against the dismissive attitudes of many younger fans. (Perhaps they even write for a comics magazine, taking cheap shots at Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man.) I believe it was from this piece that I learned Kirby co-created romance comics and “kid gangs” comics.
Pick of the Litter
A profile on DC’s new Catwoman series. Writer Jo Duffy discusses her take on the character, and her belief that Selina Kyle was never a prostitute, in spite of what you think you saw in Batman: Year One. Duffy goes on to discuss writer-artist collaborations, and her annoyance with artists that demand co-plotting credit, and payment, without a willingness to put in the same amount of work she does. Jim Balent is interviewed, offering his defense of Catwoman’s new figure. He argues that he wanted to make a provocative statement, that comics don’t reflect reality, and DC is happy with Catwoman’s shapelier figure. He does say that he’s slightly toned down her Pamela Anderson proportions in response to reader complaints, however.
A sidebar in the article provides the history of Batman’s relationship with Catwoman, and it’s written by a familiar name -- Dan Didio. That’s right, future Superboy co-writer Dan Didio was a Wizard contributor!
A piece on Dave Cockrum by his friend Clifford Meth. I learned a lot about the early days of the All-New X-Men from this feature as a kid, like the fact that many of those characters began life as potential Legion of Superheroes cast members. His original sketches are even reproduced with the article, which turns out to be a rather extensive review of his career. Cockrum also mentions his brief stint penciling Batman, and his disdain for Max Allen Collins’ writing. Turns out, the feeling was pretty mutual.
Big Babies 2
Wizard had enough faith in this feature to run it twice, I guess. You’re supposed to match the photos of various comics creators with their baby photos, a task I find impossible because babies all kind of look alike to me.
Hunk & Babe
I normally avoid discussing this feature because it grosses me out, but this installment is worth discussing. This month’s Hunk is Deathblow. Yes, the tortured, war-weary veteran was featured playing volleyball and Frisbee simultaneously in, I’m assuming, one of Homage’s swimsuit specials. Wizard notes that they’re avoiding any obvious jokes regarding his name (trust me, that’s rare restraint in this magazine), and questions why Deathblow needs a vacation, given that he’s only appeared in two comics so far.
The Babe of the Month is Persuasion of Alpha Flight. (If you’ve seen the Jessica Jones series, you know her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, uh, unlikely.) I can only assume the art is from one of Marvel’s swimsuit specials, which I didn’t know featured rather brazen photorefs from actual swimsuit shoots. Persuasion is very obviously taken from a Cindy Crawford photo, in the form of a crude airbrush repainting. Even as a kid, I was shocked someone got away with this.
Cut & Print
Another attempt at a Hollywood column, this time written by Dave Galvan. The lead story is the cancellation of X-Men by a station in Canada due to concerns about the show’s depictions of violence. In more news from the Great White North, the Canadian version of the FCC is holding hearings to “allow a nationwide cartoon network.” (I certainly hope you guys were allowed to have a cartoon channel.) In other news, the new Fantastic Four cartoon will allegedly resemble the John Byrne issues (patently untrue, for the first season at least), the original Star Trek cast isn’t happy with the proposed crossover film with the Next Generation cast, and Joss Whedon is writing the next Alien movie. The big industry news is Viacom purchasing Paramount Pictures, which also nets them Blockbuster Video in the process. Blockbuster, as it turns out, actually owned a piece of Aaron Spelling’s production company.
Ultraverse: Year One
A fluff piece on the Ultraverse line, emphasizing how deeply the backstory has already been mapped out, the synergy between the comics and the videogames, and the company’s commitment to creator rights. Ultraverse was often described as one of the new superhero universes that would last for decades, which seems funny now, but perhaps wasn’t so outrageous back then. The initial stable of writers is pretty impressive, and the company always had some new marketing push that was gaining publicity. Marvel purchased Malibu and inherited the characters, and allegedly due to a reluctance to pay the creators’ royalties, has allowed the Ultraverse to die. Occasionally, people used to petition Marvel to revive the line, but I’m not sure if anyone’s thought about these characters in ages at this point.
Brian Cunningham pens his final Toying Around column, bringing us news from Toy Fair 1994. The initial wave of Spider-Man toys, the ones released in conjunction with the FOX cartoon, has been announced. I’m not much of a toy collector, but a part of me regrets not picking these up; it’s probably the only “classic” Spider-Man toy line that’s ever going to be released.
Star Wars toys are almost coming back, with many of the vehicles being released as Micro Machines. Playmates is releasing Mego-inspired Star Trek: The Next Generation figures that wouldn’t seem to appeal to any kid I know.
The X-Men line continues to expand, featuring characters even I didn’t know existed as action figures. (Bonebreaker of the Reavers? Quark from the Mojoverse?) The fourteen-inch Sentinel figure is released with this set, which sounds great in theory but is thoroughly underwhelming in practice.
Finally, Todd McFarlane has announced his initial wave of figures, and the preliminary designs are reprinted here. McFarlane receives a lot of the credit for revolutionizing action figures by making them larger and more detailed, and while that is true, it’s worth remembering that Kenner’s Legends of Batman line beat McFarlane to the market with some exhaustively rendered figures that still look nice today.
This month’s “Stupid but True…” recounts the time Ghost Rider encountered Jesus in Ghost Rider #9. Jim Shooter rather famously hated this story, and he made a crack about it on his blog some years back.
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
This feature becomes a Wizard staple. It’s another slightly arbitrary Top Ten list, this one listing the “10 comic book characters with the strongest fan following - nothing more, nothing less.” It’s followed every month by the “Mort of the Month,” a character that Wizard has deemed so lame he’d be better off dead.
The top hero of the month is Spawn, which is often the case during these days. Number Two is Spider-Man, and based on the description of the current state of his comics, I think Wizard is under the impression Marvel’s going through with the “Spider-Man’s ID is exposed to the public” plotline, which was originally intended as the big Spidey story this year. Instead, Marvel went with the Spider-Clone.
The rest of the lists consists of Batman, a few X-Men, Superman, and a handful of Image, Valiant, and Ultraverse characters.
The Mort of the Month is Mindworm, who’s mocked for his “crazy cutoffs, Partridge Family tank top, and weenie-esque sandals.” The Morts would occasionally serve as a challenge to fans and creators, in the vein of “I could do something cool with this guy!” Mindworm did later appear in a Paul Jenkins’ Spider-Man comic, I believe.
Picks from the Wizard’s Hat
This month’s top pick is the first issue of Superman/Doomsday: Hunter Prey, the prestige format miniseries that gave fans a rematch between Superman and Doomsday, in addition to Doomsday’s origin. It’s not a bad miniseries, but I’ve never been thrilled with DC releasing this story in a $5 per issue prestige format.
Other top picks are Valiant’s Secret Weapons #11 (shipped in a brown wrapper in order to keep the surprise inside a secret), Rick Jones’ wedding in Incredible Hulk #418, Madman Comics #1 (signifying that Wizard does occasionally highlight books they just honestly enjoy), and Detective Comics #675, which is supposed to be the finale of “Knightquest”…except it’s continued for one more issue in Robin #7.
Top 100 - March 1994
The most-ordered book on Diamond’s list this month is Spawn/Batman: Red Scare. That’s the Frank Miller/Todd McFarlane Image half of the crossover, which loses the Red Scare subtitle when it’s actually published. DC’s Batman/Spawn: War Devil comes in at Number Three, behind X-Men #32. Pitt and WildC.AT.s remain in the Top 10, and Ghost Rider 2099 #1 debuts at number ten. The Superman books are still doing well; none are in the Top 10 this month, but they dominate slots 11-15, outselling all of the Spider-Man titles.
Top 10 - April 1994
The hottest back issue of the month is Prophet #4A. That “A” is important -- it’s the alternate cover penciled by Stephen Platt as a teaser for his run, and less than twenty percent of the covers have the Platt cover. Apparently, this was done without telling retailers in advance, stirring up a little controversy.
The other hot books include more Stephen Platt Moon Knights, the first Gen 13 issue, recent X-books, Marvels #1, Beavis & Butt-Head #1, Green Lantern #50, and signifying again that the Bad Girls are coming, Lady Death #1. The anonymous writer of this column also encourages DC to keeping going with Green Lantern’s new direction, calling the purists “a big bunch of babies,” and applauding the company for making comics people want to read.
Wizard Market Watch
G I Joe is cited as one of Marvel’s loser back issue titles; I believe the final issue of that series is still going for serious money today, even after IDW reprinted it in the final “classic” Joe trade. Wizard also reports that recent Batman back issues are cooling down, and orders are slowing on the new issues…yet, the Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month just assured me that the new Batman was “hitting it off with fans”! It’s my understanding that the resolution to the Azrael-as-Batman storyline was moved up a few months, at least partially in response to negative fan reaction.
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
- Todd McFarlane
- Jim Lee
- Joe Quesada
- Frank Miller
- Dale Keown
- Stephen Platt
- Bart Sears
- Marc Silvestri
- Andy Kubert
- Mark Texeira
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Frank Miller
- Neil Gaiman
- Peter David
- John Byrne
- Alan Moore
- Chris Claremont
- Fabian Nicieza
- Dan Jurgens
- Jim Shooter
- Matt Wagner
More commentary is making its way into the “If you missed…” blurbs, with little knocks on books like Thunderstrike, Moon Knight, and Web of Spider-Man. Codename: Stryke Force #1 is called out for never naming the issue’s antagonist. I like this summary of Spirits of Vengeance #20 - “…we’re not really sure what happens in this issue, but if you like guns and bullets and stuff, this here comic is for you.”
There’s also a shot at X-Men Unlimited #4 for its “total disregard of continuity (or is rewriting continuity considered continuity these days?)” There is a continuity error this issue -- Mystique is shown adopting Rogue after she reaches adolescence, even though Claremont had Rogue state years earlier that Mystique raised her before her powers surfaced -- but it’s amusing that even contradicting a spoken line of dialogue from ten years earlier was considered that egregious a mistake. I don’t think you could find that much consistency in Marvel books published in the same month today.
Finally…should we check on the value of Youngblood #1? It’s down to ten dollars, while the gold foil edition is still running for sixty-five bucks.
What’s it like to work for Wizard? Apparently, you toss POGs at one another in-between Street Fighter II tournaments. There’s also a blurb for other Wizard publications, such as ER, which has an interview this month with trading card guy Bill Jemas (who also seems to be buddies with the Wizard staff.)
Some interesting contests this month…one prize is a Judge Dredd pinball machine, something I doubt the average reader could ever purchase. A Sega Game Gear contest is won by unscrambling the photo of an established comics pro (I’m going to guess it’s painter/inker Nelson, because he seemed to be friendly with the Wizard staff and his name is used as a hidden joke in the legal type). Another unique contest encourages readers to design a Madman costume; the winner was unveiled in Madman Comics #5. This is pretty impressive -- readers could win every X-Men toy made so far if they identify the issues three random panels have been selected from. Finally, if you count the number of cats on the cover, you can win a piece of original Catwoman art by Jim Balent. In a few months, Wizard will have a “count the shell casings” contest based on a Stephen Platt cover featuring Prophet.
So, what did we learn today?
Money Quote: “DC wanted to know if I could draw sexy women…” - Jim Balent on his audition for Catwoman. He goes on to joke that he was traumatized by Dolly Parton at a young age.
Nope: Tim Burton never gets around to directing that Catwoman spinoff movie, Mike Wieringo is not the artist of the monthly Power of Shazam series, and Wolverine doesn’t encounter Jessica Drew and Karma in Madripoor in Wolverine #82. Finally, Uncanny X-Men annual #18 is not written by someone named Neil Hansen, although the plot does follow the one described here.
Talkin’ ‘Bout Gen 13 (Relentlessly): Gen 13 #1 is the first Image back issue to make Wizard’s Top Ten in almost a year.
I Love the ‘90s: Apocalypse stealing a woman’s body in the Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix miniseries is described as a great potential Oprah episode. The CBIQ also has jokes about Tonya Harding, Lorena Bobbitt, and troubles within the LAPD (this is a reference to the Rodney King beating and LA riots. I also thought of the OJ trial, but the cover date predates it.)
This Ain't HuffPo: The Top 10’s description of Lady Death #1 asserts she’s “tied with that Vertigo chick for the coolest embodiment of death.” There’s also a joke about Robin resembling k. d. lang in the Wizard Bullpen page.
Pathological Scatological: X-villain Mojo is compared to a yellow turd in the Wizard of Cards segment. More highbrow material in this department, when a green, translucent Steve Ditko figure gripes that his “Mexican dinner sure isn’t agreeing with me.” Also, references to Doomsday farting and Prophet giving someone an enema in the Top Picks section.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: I wouldn’t say that, but it’s bordering close in a few cases. I’m not thrilled at the prospect of reliving Wizard’s support of the Bad Girl fad, hints of which we see this issue. I enjoyed the Dave Cockrum piece, and you’ve got to admit that if Wizard is on your side, they’re on your side. This is certainly an issue assembled by Mike Allred fans. I also think the contests are unique and fun this issue, and the Kirby tributes are nicely done.