Alex Ross welcomes you to Wizard #42 with the greatest heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe...plus, Dark Horse Star Wars comics are still in canon, Marvel purchases Malibu, Keith Giffen reveals which of his creations he hates, and one of the magazine's worst features finally says goodbye. All in today's Guide to the Guide to Comics!
The first of many, many Wizard-exclusive Alex Ross images. Wizard turns into a publicity machine for Alex Ross at a certain point, but I think this was a genuine case of giving the readers what they wanted. Ross’ covers have certainly aged better than most of the Wizard covers of this era.
In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...Alex Ross, Dark Horse’s newest Star Wars comics, Keith Giffen, Billy Tucci, a retrospective on some of Batman’s strangest outfits, and Moon Shot, the true story of the 1969 Apollo 12 mission. Also, there’s a piece on psychics that I’ll have to explain later.
The regular columns include Cut & Print, Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks, Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.
The Departments include letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information. And, let’s throw a party, Hunk & Babe of the Month is now officially gone.
Pat McCallum announces that he’s Wizard’s new editor-in-chief, and will be taking over Gareb Shamus’ column every month. The immediate changes to Wizard will be the elimination of a few features, fewer multi-page articles, expanding the spotlight to more creators, and a few “goofy idea” articles.
The bulk of the letter column is devoted to fans reviewing the Best and Worst of 1994. There’s a decent amount of Marvel bashing, but as Jim McLauchlin points out, practically every letter is still talking about the company. One fan asks Wizard to articulate why exactly they hate the idea of the Spider-Clone, and a credible rationalization is presented. (It’s another example of an old story being undone, it clutters up a previous continuity point that had a clear ending, and adding a second Spider-Man just overexposes the character even more.) The letter writer does have a legitimate point -- Wizard would’ve come across as far less obnoxious if it provided legitimate reasons for dismissing the things it hates, instead of taking little drive-by shots at them in all of the editorial pages.
Finally, a fan asks what John Byrne enjoys in a snack; he receives an answer, but McLauchlin makes it known that no more John Byrne culinary questions will be printed.
Wizard News brings us what might be the first appearance of “It’s a trap!” entering the lexicon.
The big news this month is Marvel’s acquisition of Malibu. Terry Stewart, Marvel’s president, cites Malibu’s computer coloring, the strength of the Ultraverse line, and the strategic west coast location of the company as reasons for acquiring Malibu. We do see Malibu’s coloring department take over numerous Marvel books in the next year, but after a glut of increasingly bland crossovers, it’s apparent that Marvel has no interest in the Ultraverse characters. And the idea that Malibu would help launch Marvel’s Excelsior! Comics line certainly doesn’t come to pass. Excelsior! Comics, by the way, somehow evolved into the MC2 line, according to several rumors of the day.
In other news…Rob Liefeld has decided that he’ll be publishing far more than four books a month, although the announced Futurians and G. I. Joe books never appear (yes, Liefeld was pursuing G. I. Joe at one point)…Valiant’s publisher Voyager Communications has renamed itself Acclaim Comics following its acquisition by the videogame company…Tom DeFalco has officially left as Marvel’s editor-in-chief…and Spike Lee and Dark Horse have announced a comics line.
The Psychic Hotline!
This is the kind of Wizard chicanery that I still enjoy. Jim McLachlin and Andrew Kardon call the LaToya Jackson Authentic Psychic Network phone line, asking for spoilers on upcoming comics storylines. After they discover that the other Ms. Jackson isn’t personally involved in the readings, they contact the Joyce Jillson Astrology line. 1-900 psychics use tarot cards to predict the outcome to various storylines, such as whether or not MJ is pregnant (it’s a “pseudo-pregnancy”), if Reed Richards will return (it’s all “somehow related to a dream”), and if Lois and Clark will marry (a “high probability” that they will not.) The Joyce Jillson psychics are far more specific, offering precise details on hypothetical story arc, such as the role a young female will play in Hal Jordan’s reformation. In the sidebar piece, consumer hotline operators are asked their predictions for comics in 1995. This kind of thing is an absolute waste of everyone’s time, but it’s funny and it exhibits the unique attitude I used to associate with Wizard.
Not quite a regular feature yet, but it’s obvious the Wizard staff enjoys these. If you read Wizard in these days, you know what this is -- Wizard’s dream castings for hypothetical comic book movies. I think the only one they accurately predicted was Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, but maybe someone out there in the comments can correct me.
This month, Wizard casts the Spider-Man movie, which has actually been in some level of development since the ‘80s. Wizard’s dream cast includes…
John Cusack as Peter Parker (dismissing the idea that Charlie Sheen could play Pete…I don’t recall that name ever coming up, outside of Mark Bagley saying he based his version of Peter on Sheen)
Cindy Crawford as Mary Jane Watson
Howie Long as Venom (based partially on his haircut)
Larry Drake as Dr. Octopus (this wouldn’t have been totally outrageous, given that Sam Raimi goes on to direct the movies and Drake starred as the villain in Darkman)
Michael Douglas as J. Jonah Jameson (this one is purely a haircut casting, based on Douglas’ crewcut in Falling Down.)
Robert Guillaume of Benson as Robbie Robertson
Katherine Hepburn as Aunt May
Eddie Jones (Pa Kent on Lois & Clark) as Uncle Ben…not a very imaginative casting.
Dana Delany as Betty Brant (more haircut casting…Delany had Betty’s old hairstyle on China Beach.)
And this oddity…Bill Fagerbakke from Coach and The Stand as Flash Thompson. Because he has blond hair and acted on a football-themed sitcom. Yes, that makes perfect sense.
I do remember thinking that these features were fun, and I guess part of the enjoyment was in disagreeing with Wizard’s choices. Today, with a slate of a dozen comic movies a year being released, it might be difficult to understand the appeal. Comic book movies, good ones that actually bore a resemblance to the source material, were just a pipe dream, and part of the fantasy was listing off every star you wanted to see in the movie. Maybe some fans still do this today, but it’s crazy to think now that people paid money to read something like this.
A New Hope
A feature on Dark Horse’s Star Wars line, which is already developing its own intricate continuity. For many, many years, these Expanded Universe products were the only Star Wars out there for fans, and while the piece does occasionally read like a commercial, you do get a sense that the creators on the titles are truly passionate about the property. In a sidebar piece on Star Wars Galaxy Magazine, we discover Star Wars is going to be rereleased on its anniversary, with four minutes of additional footage. The article mentions that the Han Solo/Jabba the Hut scene will be included, but doesn’t tell us that Jabba will be recreated with shoddy CGI.
Six contests this issue, ranging from a 1,001 comics giveaway (comics Wizard deems “the coolest comics of all time!”…a nice selection that mainly consists of Marvel and DC titles from the ‘80s) to a “Fun with Meat” contest that asks you to sculpt Pitt with meat products. There’s also “The Best of Boris,” a chance to have Boris Vallejo immortalize you in a painting.
Clothes Make the Man
Here’s something you’ll see repeated endlessly during the blogging boom of the ‘00s -- a retrospective on all of the goofy costumes Batman wore during the Silver Age. Pat McCallum wasn’t kidding when he said Wizard’s features would be getting shorter; this one is only two pages long.
Crossing the Line
Okay, this one isn’t short. It’s a lengthy piece on Keith Giffen, who’s rather candid when it comes to his career (he took the final issues of Hex because he couldn’t find any other work), and a few of the controversies surrounding Legion. Giffen also mentions borrowing an idea from Alan Moore for an upcoming Supreme story, which is slightly amusing in retrospect.
The writer of the quiz remarks that fans today would never “watch the Watchmen,” essentially because it’s too smart for ‘em. This month’s “Stupid but True…” comes from Fantastic Four #5, the time Dr. Doom sent the Fantastic Four back in time and the Thing impersonated Blackbeard.
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
Spawn, X-Men, Bad Girls…nothing new, except Rogue has entered the chart. (Seems as if Psylocke would’ve been better suited for Wizard’s purposes, but I guess Rogue’s solo miniseries has made her “hot”). The Mort of the Month is Marvel’s Team America, which is another example of the magazine predicting what the internet will be buzzing about in 2005.
Picks from the Wizard’s Hat
The first month of “Age of Apocalypse,” two forgotten events (“Extreme Sacrifice” and Malibu’s Godwheel), Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #1, and Bloodshot #27 (another crossover prelude) are this month’s top picks.
Good & Cheap
Avengers #164-166 (the Count Nefaria story from the Jim Shooter/John Byrne run) is highlighted, although the price of $6 per issue might stretch your definition of “cheap” just a tad.
Top Ten Comics
Lady Death #1 has overtaken Gen 13 #1 as the hottest back issue of the month, an event Wizard treats as Muhammad Ali defeating Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila.
Top 100 - December 1994
X-Men Alpha is the highest ordered book, followed by even more X-titles, Spawn and the spinoff Angela miniseries, and a few of the Bat-titles. (Azrael debuted as a Top Ten book!) Looking at the rest of the chart, Tekno-Comix has debuted strongly throughout the Top Fifty, and both of the Batman and Superman franchises are, overall, outselling the Spider-Man line.
Wizard Market Watch
Wizard remarks that Marvel has very little going on outside of Spider-Man and the X-Men. Although Beavis & Butt-Head is still selling well…
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are...
- Todd McFarlane
- Stephen Platt
- Frank Miller
- Greg Capullo
- Joe Quesada
- Rob Liefeld
- Andy Kubert
- Whilce Portacio
- Adam Kubert
- Jeff Smith
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Frank Miller
- Peter David
- Neil Gaiman
- John Byrne
- Fabian Nicieza
- Scott Lobdell
- Jeff Smith
- Ron Marz
- John Ostrander
- Chris Claremont
So, what did we learn today?
- “Peter Parker was such a disappointment to me as a kid…The first time I saw him, I thought there was no way that this square could be Spider-Man! I thought Spider-Man would be cool out of his costume…Kurt worked out the best cameo. It was so fitting…My personal distaste for the character came through in Phil (the narrator.)” - Alex Ross on Peter Parker’s brief appearance in Marvels.
- “What, we demanded to know, could possibly tear these lovebirds apart? One of Supes’s old flames? Lana Lang? It’s gotta be Lori Lemaris. That broad’s just a bit too fishy for our tastes.” - Wizard’s reaction in The Psychic Hotline! to Clark and Lois’ broken engagement.
- “And I do hate Lobo. Of course I do. Lobo is a reprehensible character. How could anyone not hate him? The thing is, Lobo was created as an indictment of the sort of mindlessly violent characters you find in too many comics, and instead he became a role model for them.” - Keith Giffen
Nope: I think every new project announced in the Cut & Print column vaporizes. HBO’s Spawn cartoon does actually happen, although it doesn’t feature any work by Peter Chung. Cyberforce and Youngblood don’t star in FOX cartoons, Jan De Bont never directs that Godzilla movie, and the Concrete, Madman, and Monkeyman and O’Brien films are never produced. Also, Keith Giffen and Marat Mychaels never created a Futurians comic set in the Image Universe, and John Byrne’s announced art column for Wizard never materialized.
Before They Were Stars: Kaare Kyle Andrews is one of the finalists in the “Design a Madman Costume” contest.
This Ain't HuffPo: The writers of the Casting Call feature aren’t sure if Dana Delany is hotter than Teri Hatcher…Top Cow artists pencil a special Bad Girls poster…the hidden text in a Street Fighter - The Movie contest’s legal print remarks on how hot the actress playing Chun-Li is… Wizard of Cards speculates that Grand Moff Tarkin wears women’s underwear…the Comic Watch segment features “hot bodies” Ms. Marvel and Wonder Woman…Lady Death’s “natural bumpers” are referenced endlessly…
Stuff Wizard Likes: Wizard’s almost exclusively negative in its commentary this month, although the 1,001 Comics contest gives you some idea of which comics the staff respects...
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: The Marvel Action Hour, Hydra (dismissed as a lame terror group), Fantastic Force, Guy Gardner, the Spider-Clone, the Gwen Stacy clone, Rob Liefeld’s art in the Shadowhawk Image-X issue, Jim Valentino’s Youngblood Image-X issue, and that Energizer Bunny commercial featuring Darth Vader.
I Love the ‘90s: The Wizard bullpen’s Album of the Year is Live’s Throwing Copper.
Vive la France: France gets another break this month.
Pathological Scatological: A reader writes in to respond to Wizard’s previous question regarding Daredevil wiping himself, the joke text added to a homemade Namor toy instructs you to pull his finger, and the pull-art used for Batman in the Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month allegedly represents him on the toilet.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: This is something of a new era for the magazine, given that Pat McCallum is the new editor-in-chief. I tend to agree with McCallum’s plans to improve Wizard, and overall, I have to acknowledge that this issue was pretty fun. It’s not hard to notice that it’s even more sexist than usual, but a joke in the Wizard Bullpen feature leads me to believe there’s an intentional level of self-parody going on here. You couldn’t get away with this humor now, of course, especially if you already have a reputation for being an exclusionary boys club. I wonder how the magazine will evolve in future issues… McCallum does seem to recognize how immature Wizard is. Will he embrace this or put a real effort into improving the magazine’s image?
That's all this week. Until next time, you can find me at Not Blog X, and on Twitter. My examination of the work of television writer David Milch continues at The Real Gentlemen of Leisure and my novel Yeah, Shut Up. is on sale at Amazon. (It's free for Kindle Unlimited readers for the next few weeks; reviews are appreciated...)