The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #34 (June 1994)

Wizard celebrates women with another Jim Balent cover, TSR resolves the X-Men vs. Iron Man debate, and an anonymous Wizard copywriter makes J. Scott Campbell very angry.  All in today’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!


That’s right -- two Jim Balent cheesecake covers in a row.  Who said this wasn’t the Wondrous Wizard Age of Prurient Pandering?  Notice that Psylocke seems to be wearing suspenders made out of pouches, which might even out-‘90s characters like Prophet.  And who else but Jim Balent would choose to place his signature right there?

In this month’s Wizard, we have previews of Marvel’s upcoming Generation X series, an article on the new Green Lantern, more photos of comic creators as babies, features on Norm Breyfogle and Jeff Smith, and an inside look at Lightning Comics.

The regular columns include Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (highlighting Marshal Law this month), Cut & Print, Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.  Pat O’Neill’s “The Ed.” has disappeared in-between issues.

The Departments include the regular mix of letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.  Oh yeah, and Hunk & Babe is still here, in case you weren’t sure which fictitious comic book characters should star in your no doubt wholesome fantasies this month.


Magic Words

Jim McLauchlin, the editor I personally associate with Magic Words, is handling the letter column by now (honestly, I skipped reviewing his first installment because the rest of the issue didn’t seem overly interesting).  Under McLauchlin, Magic Words becomes progressively bizarre, and legitimately funnier with each issue -- McLauchlin’s snappy comebacks to many of the letters might initially seem rude, but it’s all done in the right spirit.  McLauchlin also loves to print odd letters, such as the fan this month posing as the injured Bruce Wayne, questioning when he’s taking his job back from Azrael.  In coming months, the letters grow increasingly weird.  At one point, Wizard seems to be receiving dozens of letters a month on the subject of breakfast cereal mascots.  And this was back when people had to pay actual money for stamps and physically write out letters; I don’t know if anyone would even bother to Tweet some of this nonsense today.

Letters this month include questions on limited edition comics (McLauchlin encourages fans not to waste their money), a fan who dislikes pros sniping at other pros, a pro sniping at another pro, and Hart Fisher writing in to denounce Capital City Distributors for destroying independent comics.


Wizard News

I guess some months are just slow news months.  The top story is Marvel’s acquisition of the Disney license.  I have a hard time believing that more than .05% of Wizard’s audience ever purchased these Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast comics, so listing this as the big story was a questionable choice.  The runner-up story is DC’s formal announcement of its continuity clean-up miniseries Zero Hour, which would’ve seemed a more logical headliner.

In other news…Mike Allred has joined the Legend imprint (John Byrne and Frank Miller’s creator-owned imprint; the classier Image), Bart Sears is spinning his Brute and Babe characters from his Wizard art column into their own series, and Marvel says Peter Parker will wish he was dead by Amazing Spider-Man #400.  Sidebar articles provide the history of Mars Attacks! (the first time I learned any of this info…they published that back in the early ‘60s?), some videogame news, and “Gamer’s Guide,” a brief glimpse at comics-themed roleplaying games.  This month is a review of TSR’s Marvel Universe game; the writer says he used the game to settle the X-Men vs. Iron Man debate and has declared the X-Men winners.


I Was a Teenage Mutant!

A preview of Marvel’s highly anticipated new series Generation X.  The promotional machine Marvel put out for this book was intense; Generation X might just be the last serious attempt by Marvel to sell a teenage mutant book consisting of new characters.  They had awful luck with the concept throughout the early 2000s, and today clearly don’t view the X-Men as a major priority.

Wizard’s graphic department is growing more experimental with each issue.  This article’s headers utilize a distorted font ThaT lOOkS likE ThIs, foreshadowing the look of early Xanga sites.


In Darkest Night…

Pat O’Neill does a piece on the new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and while the tone of the article isn’t overly critical of DC, there is at least some pushback on their decision to transform Hal Jordan into a murderous madman.  Ron Marz asserts that Hal is not a “villain,” but a broken man at the end of his rope.  Marz also acknowledges that this decision has upset many fans, but he hopes they give Kyle a chance.  Within ten years or so, all of the “necessary” steps taken to revive interest in Green Lantern (no more Corps, no more Hal, a relatable neophyte hero still learning the ropes) are tossed out, and the book becomes one of DC’s best sellers.  At this moment, however, the radical changes to Green Lantern did revive interest in the title and push sales past the then-dismal level of 40,000.


The Drawing Board

This is Wizard’s monthly fan art showcase, featuring mock Wizard covers.  I often had issues with their 1st Place winners as a kid, and this one still perplexes me.  Wizard has granted the 1st Place prize to an adequate Maxx cover that just so happens to co-star their little-seen mascot Poof the Magician.  The Runner-Up prize is given to a painter named ELF, who contributed quite a few pieces to this feature.  ELF’s Spawn vs. Violator piece is essentially of professional quality, and clearly required more time and effort than the cartoony Maxx/Poof crossover.  There’s also a very nice, almost-pro Hulk drawing that doesn’t merit a prize, while the second Runner-Up goes to a crude rendition of Angela.

Cut & Print

There are rumors Spawn will be adapted into a cartoon on HBO; the network “denies any knowledge of such a production.”  In other news, CBS has picked up WildC.A.T.s, but dropped The Savage Dragon and parted ways with Rob Liefeld after disagreements on potential censorship in Youngblood.  (They wanted to make the guns smaller!)  News is reported on the upcoming Batman sequel (now directed by Joel Schumacher), details on how The Crow was completed following Brandon Lee’s death, and a review of Peter David’s screenwriting debut on Trancers 4.  Cut & Print’s author reports the film had so much profanity, he felt “uncomfortable watching it at times.”  Finally, one of Malibu’s bus ads made its way into the Charlie Sheen film The Chase, a clear sign comics are taking over Hollywood.


Bone-A Fide Success

Another entry in Wizard’s continued efforts to publicize Bone.  Jeff Smith talks about his animation background, revealing he worked on feature films like Ferngully, Rover Dangerfield, and Bebe’s Kids.  In a sign of the times, details of the early Bone strips Smith did in college (reprinted by Smith years earlier) haven’t leaked, keeping the story unspoiled.  Wizard does reprint a few of the strips that were redone for the series, though, giving readers an opportunity to see how far Smith’s evolved as an artist.


Storm Warning

A hype piece on Lightning Comics, one of the small-press companies that ran several ads during the early days of Wizard.  Honestly, the art from their ads, and the samples in this article, don’t look any better than most of the fan art Wizard runs.  The theme of this article, however, is that Lightning Comics is going to be one of the few survivors of the Superhero Glut of 1993.  Sure.

Lightning’s heroes consist of a government super-soldier fighting HIV, a supernatural mystery man on the wrong end of a deal with Lucifer, and a buff, shirtless assassin named War Party who sports a fashionable do-rag.  Eternal concepts, surely.

Lightning Comics goes on to garner some publicity by publishing nude variant covers featuring their superheroines, a gimmick that genuinely shocked me as a kid.


This month’s “Stupid but True…” is on Superman’s Superpets -- Krypto, Streaky, Comet, and Beppo.  While the writer is just barely willing to tolerate Superboy and Supergirl, he contends the Superpets were “the stupidest collection of characters ever to appear in comics…Thank god Crisis wiped ‘em all out.”  Reading this, I’m now even more convinced Wizard’s influence played a role in the early Quesada and Didio efforts to darken superhero comics and make them more “serious” in the early ‘00s.  Isn’t this really the type of fan those books were catering to?

Warner Brothers will find a suitable audience for these characters with the Krypto, the Super-Dog cartoon series years later, and at least some attempt has been made to reintroduce Silver Age concepts into the mainstream DC comics.  It’s hard to argue these concepts aren’t dumb, but that doesn’t mean they’re without some charm.


Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

Spawn remains the most popular hero while 1940s hero the Red Bee is named the Mort of the Month.  The selection of the Red Bee highlights a problem with this piece -- the writer is far more interested in writing sick burns, bro than actually providing info on the character.  I’ve never heard of the Red Bee before and don’t even know if he’s a legitimate Golden Age character, or a more modern creation inserted into the past.  Wizard doesn’t even tell us which company published his adventures.  (Just to circumvent anyone lecturing me in the comments, I see on Wiki that Red Bee was a Quality Comics character from the early 1940s who was obtained by DC in 1956.  A revived version debuted a few years ago.)

Picks from the Wizard’s Hat

The top pick for this month is Violator #1, which went on to become the highest-selling comic of 1994, according to one of Image’s ad campaigns.  Other top picks include Starwatchers #1 (a Valiant book I don't remember at all), Batman #509 (solicited as the debut of the new Batman…again), Force Works #1 (in spite of Wizard’s sudden disdain for the West Coast Avengers), and the DC/Milestone crossover Worlds Collide #1.


Top 100 - April 1994

X-Men #33 tops the charts, followed by more X-books, Spawn, WildC.A.T.s, and the return of a few Superman titles (Action Comics and the Hunter/Prey bookshelf series…judging by this chart, the first two issues were released in the same month, which had to kill a few kids’ wallets.)  Sales of the Spider-Man books are picking up, in anticipation of the much-hyped clone storyline.


Top 10 - May 1994

Stephen Platt’s variant cover for Prophet #4 remains the Number One back issue, although Wizard is starting to wonder if issue #5 is ever going to ship.  Gen 13 #1 is Number Four, and the blurb that accompanies it is a needlessly snarky list of why the book is popular…Augie posted J. Scott Campbell’s response a few weeks ago.  It’s worth reading.  I’m not sure what point Wizard thought it was making… Wizard itself was the major force behind the Gen 13 hype!


Wizard Market Watch

War Machine #1 is selling well for Marvel, aided by its point-of-purchase display, which “lights up and makes noise when people set off its motion detector.”  Valiant, meanwhile, is starting to pick up sales again according to Wizard’s “V.I.P.s”

Wizard’s  Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Joe Quesada (who isn’t currently penciling a book - Wizard lists his next project as “Florida.”)
  3. Jim Lee
  4. Stephen Platt
  5. Frank Miller
  6. Bart Sears
  7. Greg Capullo
  8. Marc Silvestri
  9. Dale Keown
  10. Andy Kubert

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Frank Miller
  2. Neil Gaiman
  3. Peter David
  4. John Byrne
  5. Alan Moore
  6. Fabian Nicieza
  7. Dan Jurgens
  8. Chris Claremont
  9. Jim Shooter
  10. Ron Marz


Wiz Quiz

Another effort to poll their readers, Wizard asks fans which articles they liked and disliked this issue.  In almost every issue during this period, Wizard tells readers that it’s actively working to evolve the magazine into what they want.  I have to assume some kid wrote “MORE FART JOKES” in Magic Marker on the form and mailed it in.


Some unique contests this issue.  One fan, who must be under fifteen, will visit Extreme Studios (with another friend and legal guardian) to celebrate the return of Rob Liefeld.  Another fan, who must be eighteen or older, can win a chance to go bowling with Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Nelson.  Also, there’s a chance to win every Sabretooth comic ever published -- not just any comic starring Sabretooth, every comic featuring Sabretooth in any capacity.


Wizard Bullpen

Wizard’s best friends remain Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Nelson.  Editor Patrick McCallum lists his favorite comics as Amazing Spider-Man #229-230.  I’m not going to look up the issue numbers; just take a wild guess and say it’s the Spidey vs. Juggernaut two-parter from the Roger Stern days.

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “We’ll be left with nothing but inbred mongoloids like Stephen Platt.” - Hart D. Fisher on the impact of Capital City’s new policies on independent comics, which were allegedly in response to Image disrupting retailers’ cash flow.
  • “I don’t think there’re too many out there yet.” - Bob Harras on the number of X-titles.  Harras goes on to list hypothetical Bishop, Gambit, and Rogue solo series as examples of Marvel doing too many X-books.
  • “ (T)he book is called Green Lantern, not Green Lantern and A Bunch of Other Guys Who Have the Same Costume and A Bunch of Little Blue Guys.” - Ron Marz
  • “Lightning Comics promises never to print more than 250,000 copies of a first printing.” - from the Storm Warning article, extolling Lightning’s efforts to protect collectors.
  • “I assure you a major event in the Marvel Universe will be happening this issue.” - Marvel editor Nel Yomtov, promoting Force Works #1.
  • “We were a bit wary about listing a market value for a book we co-published, but since many people clamored for it, we obtained these prices from our retailer network.” - Wizard’s explanation for not previously listing a price for The Maxx #1/2, which it now says is worth $8.00…and the gold foil edition is listed at $75.  I’m sure you just had to beat those prices out of Wizard.


  • Jim Shooter’s announced run on Youngblood never happened.  (That might’ve been intriguing…just imagine Jim Shooter and Jae Lee on a lengthy stint on Youngblood.)  Shooter later claimed he never scripted the book because Rob Liefeld didn’t call him back after making the announcement.
  • Indie publisher Axis never took over Mike Grell’s Shaman’s Tears; it landed back at Image.  Grell actually had a line of books announced by Axis, including Bar Sinister and Sable and the Cat.
  • Rob Liefeld's deal with Activision doesn't produce a Youngblood game, but the story behind it is perhaps a bit of a legend in video game circles.  You can read details of its development here and apparently a playable demo is out there.
  • The in-development Youngblood cartoon never makes it to syndication or video.  I’ll reiterate that the preview reel looked nice.
  • Bob Harras says upcoming X-Men storylines in 1994 will “resolve a number of ongoing plots, including Cyclops’ ‘unusual’ family tree, the Shi’ar Empire’s occupation of the Kree galaxy, and some of the X-Men’s staple ‘future history’ storylines.”
  • Even though it’s been officially announced, Robin Williams will not play the Riddler in the third Batman film.  And this was after he was dropped as the Joker in the first film!
  • Spawn does not “break down like a little girly-man in front of Terry Fitzgerald” (his best friend and father of his ex-wife’s child) and reveal the truth about who he is in Spawn #22.  McFarlane backs off from this idea and doesn’t get around to it until after issue #60.
  • John Romita, Jr. is not the penciler of Uncanny X-Men #314; Joe Madureria has already moved into that slot by the time the issue is released.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  The Robin, Sandman, Spectre, Prime, Bone, and Catwoman series.  And Stephen Platt, of course.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Moon Knight, that Power Pack issue featuring Sabretooth, the West Coast Avengers, Moon Knight, Aunt May still kicking around, Defensor (Who?  This guy.), Moon Knight, too many X-teams, Deathblow #2 for featuring too many ads, and Moon Knight.  Also, for some reason, Marc Silvestri’s Uncanny X-Men #221 cover.

I Love the ‘90s:  Marvel is releasing collectible calling cards (Google what those things were, kids), and Wizard is tossing in references to Nancy Kerrigan, Susan Powter of “Stop the Insanity,” and Lorena Bobbitt like they’re going out of style.  Also, the instructions for the Envelope Letter Art contest are now listing ‘90s celebrities you could possibly date if you win.  This month it’s Luke Perry and Jennie Garth.  Finally, the heartbreak of Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson’s divorce is referenced in one of the trading card insert jokes.

This Ain't HuffPo:

  • One of the fan pieces in The Drawing Board has Trencher mocking gun control.
  • Hunk & Babe of the Month speculates on what will happen when “certain females” catch wind of Tony Stark’s bank account.  The Babe of the Month, Rapture, is complemented on her “thingies.”
  • The CBIQ quiz jokes that Tim Drake really wants to wear short pants and get close to Bruce Wayne.
  • Wizard questions if Jean Grey should’ve worn white on her wedding day, given that she’s been with Cyclops for thirty years.  (Oh, way to reaffirm patriarchal, puritanical, anti-sex attitudes, Wizard!)

Pathological Scatological:  Wheelchair-bound Bruce Wayne feels like he “has a swamp” in his shorts, the CBIQ ranking this month is based on various types of farts (such as the “Woofer Fart -- all bark, no bite”), Captain Atom is letting off some gas in his trading card, and that's just the beginning.  Even the legal print for one of the contests has a “number two” joke hidden in it.

Vive la France:  Wizard’s gratuitous and unexplained French bashing begins during this run of issues.  I'm almost willing to bet Jim McLauchlin is the originator of it, since I remember the bulk of them appearing in Magic Words, but they’re certainly not limited to his column.

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  An argument could be made for all three.  I’ve noticed that Wizard’s retrospectives on the history of comics have moved from full-fledged articles to brief sidebar pieces.  (Last issue’s sidebar on the history of Batman and Catwoman’s romance would’ve been more interesting than the actual hype article it accompanied.  And this issue’s retrospective on Mars Attacks! would’ve filled five pages better than a commercial for Lightning Comics.)  Meanwhile, more potty humor is working its way into the book, but with the exception of Magic Words, most of the jokes are duds.  That, plus the unrelenting hype and a general snotty attitude makes for a grating issue.

That's all for this week.  Find me at Not Blog X or on Twitter in the meantime, and let me know if you have any specific Wizard moments you'd like to see covered.

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