The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #40 (December 1994)

It’s true:  Marvel’s X-titles have been cancelled.  Also, Rob Liefeld debuts Maximum Press, Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman are interviewed, and one lucky fan wins dinner with a guy in an X-O Manowar suit.  All in today’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!

See?  Violator and his brothers are killing little kids because it’s the Halloween issue.  The copyright info at the bottom lists Bart Simpson along with the Ninja Turtles, but I can't discern if any of the victims are actually dressed as Bart.

Before we even reach the Table of Contents this issue, we’re greeted by a four-page ad for Marvel’s “Age of Apocalypse” storyline.  That exact term isn’t used in the promo piece, but we do see a shadowy painting of the various “timeflip” versions of the X-characters.  The new lineup of titles is announced, leading every kid reading the magazine to proclaim that there’s no way something called Gambit & The Externals is going to be replacing X-Force.  Also, the ad reveals that all of the AoA titles were originally going to have “The Mutants” added as a subtitle, a reference to Stan Lee’s original name for the X-Men.  This never makes it past the planning stage, but Wizard will list the AoA books as “The Mutants” for months in the price guide.

In this month’s Wizard, we have…

Features on...Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, the Batman Adventures series, the history of Fredric Wertham, and a retrospective on horror comics.  Plus, the annual Halloween costume contest.

The regular columns include Cut & Print, Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (highlighting a pre-Batman Paul Pope), Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.

The Departments include the usual blend of letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.


Magic Words

Jim McLauchlin opens the piece by revealing that Wizard received 2,379 letters this month, and he’s read them all.  The letters this month address the “Should Spider-Man Kill Carnage?” controversy, before moving on to a series of random questions relating to comics (pronunciation questions are big this month…“Is Banshee’s first name pronounced 'Scene' or 'Shawn'?”).  The nuttiest letter of the month has McLauchlin suggesting its writer visit her local psychiatric unit.

Wizard News

“The rumors are true.  In December, Marvel Comics is cancelling all of its X-Men titles, and then relaunching all-new mutant titles, beginning with #1, in January.”  Wizard confirms that the X-books are being cancelled and replaced by completely new versions of the cast; Marvel’s publicity manager refuses to comment on whether or not the change is permanent.  An entire page of Rob Liefeld news follows the X-announcement.  Extreme is going to be paring down its line to four titles a month (Prophet, Knightmare, The Mark, and Supreme)…Rob Liefeld has announced the formation of Maximum Press, a home for non-superhero comics (Image’s marketing director praises Liefeld for the move and swears Image supports him)…and Keith Giffen will be fleshing Supreme’s character out in the Legend of Supreme miniseries.  In the Image news section, the Youngblood trade paperback is announced, with an entirely re-scripted first issue.  Assuming that’s true, that means this issue has been re-scripted twice, since Joe Casey later re-writes the entire miniseries for a hardcover edition.

In other news, Clark Kent will die in a future Superman storyline, the Friends of Lulu has elected a steering committee, Topps is publishing The X-Files, and DEFIANT has suspended publishing.

Natural Born Miller

An enjoyable interview with Frank Miller, covering his recent controversial Diamond speech (the one calling out Marvel for its treatment of Kirby), the possibility of a Sin City movie one day (Miller says he’d like to direct it), and the reaction to Spawn/Batman (Miller’s defense is that he focused on the comedy because he didn’t want a direct comparison to Dark Knight Returns.)  The interview ends with Miller repeating his desire to do a Superman story one day.


In the “Play with the Good Skin!” contest, readers have an opportunity to have dinner with…a guy dressed in an X-O Manowar costume.

Fables & Reflections

A lengthy piece on the career of Neil Gaiman, which he says he agreed to for the sake of his eleven-year-old son, a Wizard fan.  This easily could've been a bland PR job for Gaiman's new Tekno Comix books, but it's actually an informative interview about his years in the industry, covering his career to this point.  Gaiman also reveals that he helped to pay Todd Klein's lettering fee for his Alice Cooper comic because Marvel's such a "nickle and dime" company in this era.

The Other Batman

The creative team behind Batman Adventures (the monthly comic based on Batman: The Animated Series) discusses how the book differs from the mainstream Batman titles, and the overall comics market of 1994.  Stripped down art, single-issue stories, and a classical hero as the lead…yet, as writer Kelly Puckett points out, there is an element of subversion to the title, since many of the stories are from the villains’ point of view.  Batman is a force of nature who appears to stop them, and not a true protagonist in the traditional sense.

A sidebar on the production on the animated series presents the opposite view.  The series is closing up production, and Paul Dini laments FOX’s edict that no more episodes focus on the villains, and for the show to lighten up now that it’s on Saturday mornings.  Bruce Timm talks about his regrets for the show, like trying to make Robin “cool” instead of a young brat, and never having a “really good” Penguin story.  When the show is revived by the WB years later, Timm addresses many of his issues, yet never makes that great Penguin episode.

Dark Legend

A piece on Fredric Wertham, which actually focuses on more than just Seduction of the Innocent.  The writers of the piece cover Wertham’s career as a researcher and writer, going back to his first book, 1926’s The Brain as an Organ.  The article is never able to explain why exactly Wertham latched on to the anti-comics cause, but it does offer the most nuanced portrayal of the man I’ve ever read.  He's not just some ogre who wants to take your comics away.  His testimony against school segregation in Delaware was later used as evidence in the U. S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and his final book was a surprising tribute to the fanzine culture that developed amongst fantasy and science fiction readers.  The 1954 U. S. Senate Subcommittee hearings on comics are also covered in more detail than you’ll see in the average comics documentary -- including a quote from Pogo’s Walt Kelly indicating his violent opposition to comic book artists joining the National Cartoonists Society.

A Tale from the Crypt

A history of horror in comics, going back to the later years of the Golden Age to the current crop of Vertigo titles.  So far this issue, the amount of genuine content versus generic hype pieces is quite strong.

Toying Around

Toys ‘R Us is releasing a Wizard exclusive -- How to Collect Comics by Wizard Press.  Get ‘em when they’re young, Wizard.


This month’s “Stupid but True…” is the early ‘90s “Capwolf” storyline from Captain America (or, as Wizard refers to it, “Crapwolf.”)  As much as I love Mark Gruenwald’s Captain America, I can’t really debate this one.

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

The Top 10 this month is Halloween-themed, with Venom topping the list.  The Mort of the Month is the obscure DC hero Ultra the Multi-Alien.  “Wanna be a real hero, Ace?  Go drive a nail into your forehead and jump in front of a bus.  Now that would be a good deed.”

Picks from the Wizard’s Hat

This month’s top picks are Sin City: The Big Fat Kill #1, Youngblood: Year One #1 (which wasn’t even released!), Ash #1, Rogue #1 (the miniseries from Marvel’s overpriced “Select” line), and the painted Tales of Suspense one-shot.

Good & Cheap

Wizard highlights Saga of the Swamp Thing annual #2, priced at $5.25, as a reasonably priced back issue that’s worth reading.  For that price, or close to it, you could probably pick up one of the trade reprints of Alan Moore’s run today.

Top Ten Comics - November 1994

More Gen 13 and more Bad Girls.  The only surprise is Flash #92, placed at Number Seven, the first appearance of Impulse.  It’s the only “hot” DC back issue according to the list.

Top 100 - October 1994

No real changes here; the Top 10 comics on the list remain Spawn and the main X-titles.  Wildstorm is still placing strongly, with Team 7 #1 at Number Eight, while the sequel to Batman vs Predator makes it to Number Nine.  Number 100 on the list is ClanDestine #3.  Looking at the franchise books of this era, the Superman titles are doing extremely well (all placed between #13 and #16), while most of the Batman and Spider-Man books are selling competitively in the Top 30, in-between various Image titles.

Wizard Market Watch

Wizard offers a guide to the “frightening” market of late 1994.  The writers suggest stocking up on Superman back issues from recent years; Superman #75 is “still a strong mover, and very hard to track down.”

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Frank Miller
  3. Stephen Platt
  4. Greg Capullo
  5. Marc Silvestri
  6. Joe Quesada
  7. Andy Kubert
  8. Rob Liefeld
  9. Whilce Portacio
  10. Adam Kubert

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Frank Miller
  2. Peter David
  3. Neil Gaiman
  4. John Byrne
  5. Jeff Smith
  6. Ron Marz
  7. Scott Lobdell
  8. John Ostrander
  9. Chuck Dixon
  10. Fabian Nicieza

The Wizard Profile

Wizard is now asking creators the “What would you do with the power of the Beyonder?” question in its profile piece.  I was always amused by the creators who didn’t know (or claimed not to know) who the Beyonder is.  This month’s subject is Val Semeiks, who does indeed know who the Beyonder is.


So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “Yes, Wizard does have a responsibility to its readers, and I believe anyone who gives comic ‘investment advice’ is acting irresponsibly.” - Jim McLauchlin, from the Magic Words column.  Does this mean we can ignore the last third of this magazine each month?
  • “All I know is Daredevil’s got some really funky-looking new costume and they’re bringing back a character they call Elektra, but it couldn’t really be her because she’s dead.” - Frank Miller, when asked about current Daredevil issues.
  • "I wanted (a character) to be blunt to the point of clinicalness about masturbation....but I was told that nobody masturbates in DC comics.  I assume that these days in Vertigo comics they are wanking and even (having sex.)  In the DC Universe...they're still dressing in colorful costumes and hitting each other to relieve their tension." - Neil Gaiman
  • “There have been some characters I shy away from using, such as Harley Quinn…I don’t like to write Harley because I think Paul Dini does such an incredible job.” - Kelly Puckett, Batman Adventures writer.

Nope:  The Age of Apocalypse is initially listed by Wizard as “The Rise of Apocalypse” in the News section…Tom Cruise doesn’t star in a movie adaptation of Rob Liefeld’s The Mark…Ann Nocenti doesn’t write Top Cow’s upcoming The Darkness series, and has not-nice things to say about the company after the book is released…Bill Murray doesn’t voice Concrete in his film debut…no Fantastic Four movie from Chris Columbus…and no Nexus animated movie from Hanna-Barbara.  Wizard reports that the studio heads aren’t happy after discovering Nexus “is an assassin of sorts.”

Stuff Wizard Likes:  I guess we can assume from the features this month that Wizard enjoys Sin City, Sandman, and Batman Adventures.  And the usual suspects are given a “Recommended Reading” icon next to their solicitations.  Outside of that, we mostly have a list of…

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  More cracks about the Spider-Clone, Marvel’s numerous X-titles, and Spawn/Batman.  We also have cheap shots devoted to Steel (labeled the worst of the replacement Supermen...I would argue he's the strongest concept), ‘80s He-Man action figures, G. W. Bridge's action figure, Solo Avengers, the debut issue of Fantastic Force (“Now that’s entertainment!  Not!”), and the various #0 DC issues.

I Love the ‘90s:  Babe of the Month (hooray, that’s back) Wildstorm’s Diva has special government clearance, so she can get you Paula Jones’ autograph.  The CBIQ quiz has another Michael Jackson pedophilia joke, and Roseanne is subject to even more fat jokes.

Vive la France:  Dozens of entrants in the Halloween contest dressed as the Crow, leading Wizard to remark that they’ve tried to keep mimes, and the French, out of this magazine.  Also, the summary of Gen 13 #4 in the Top Ten Comics section descends into French bashing when the writer runs out of things to say about Gen 13.

This Ain't HuffPo:  A caption in the Fredric Wertham piece asserts that sexist material, such as the cover to Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #5, negatively influenced more kids in the 1950s than any horror comic.  Wait, that is something you’d read online today!  Rest assured that the Top Ten Comics section is filled with lusty descriptions of the Bad Girls, however.

Pathological Scatological:  A fan asks Wizard what would happen if the Human Torch lit his own farts.  He receives a detailed response.  This is in addition to jokes about cosplayers getting diarrhea in their suits, Diva’s lengthy hair getting in the way when she goes to the bathroom, questions on how Stormtroopers get their suits off before defecating, and the usual three-poo-jokes-per-page average in the Wizard of Cards segment.


Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  This is the classiest issue Wizard has published in months, as it turns out.  The features aren’t just mindless hype, the retrospectives are detailed and coming from unique perspectives, and many of the non-fart jokes are honestly funny.  This incarnation of Wizard I wouldn’t mind so much…it’s immature in places, but there is a sense of fun and the articles are genuinely informative.

That’s all for now.  Until next time, find me here:


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