The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #43 (March 1995)

Howard Chaykin pays Chris Claremont what might be the greatest backhanded compliment of all time, Preacher quietly debuts, and Wizard runs what could be the best piece in the history of the magazine (honest).  All in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!

If you think Jim Lee and/or Marc Silvestri look a little off on that cover, it’s because Scott Clark is actually the artist.  Lee and Silvestri’s characters are still being lumped together during these days, although we’re just on the precipice of Wildstorm being viewed as its own superhero universe, while Top Cow moves on to fantasy and science fiction.

In this month’s Wizard, we have…

Features on...new WildC.A.T.s writer James Robinson, Mark Waid’s Flash run, another piece on Star Trek comics, and an interview with Howard Chaykin (the one with the Claremont quote).  Plus, two “Up Close” features on how to trademark and copyright a self-published comic, and what I consider to be Wizard’s finest hour, “Hot Off the Griddle.”

The regular columns include Cut & Print, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (this month’s spotlight is on David Mazzucchelli’s Rubber Blanket), 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

Douglas Goldstein, the previous editor of the letters column, fills in for Jim McLauchlin this month.  Goldstein fields letters from fans obsessed with breakfast cereal slogans, a female reader who doesn’t understand why most heroines are nearly nude, and a fan who misses those ‘70s Twinkies ads.  Goldstein remarks that Wizard is still receiving X-traitor letters, much to his annoyance.  There’s also a letter from Joe Quesada, poking fun at Todd McFarlane for turning his E.G.O. column into a monthly ad for McFarlane products, all while hyping his new book, Ash.  If you remember the days of Quesada publicly campaigning for a Spawn/Spider-Man crossover, you’ll know this isn’t the last time Quesada will troll McFarlane.

Wizard News

The lead story this month is Acclaim acquiring the license for Magic: The Gathering comics, featuring work by Jeff Gomez, Val Mayerik, Raael Kayanan, and painted covers by Charles Vess.  In other news…Thor will be the first Marvel hero to visit the Ultraverse…Dan Jurgens has left penciling duties on Superman to make room for Solar…DC has fired Tony Isabella from Black Lightning (neither side is willing to explicitly state why)…Jim Shooter has signed on with Broadway Comics…and Joe Quesada is thrilled that MTV News has interviewed him, although MTV tells Wizard that this was only for a potential story and there are no plans to air the footage.

Reaching for the Stars

A lengthy piece on James Robinson, which was presumably done to promote his upcoming run on WildC.A.T.s, but focuses far more on his background, his Vertigo work, and his thoughts on Starman.  Starman is starting to become a critical darling, and I don’t want to be cynical and imply that Wizard just jumps on the bandwagon, but I do remember it becoming the magazine’s new Bone for a few issues.

TM & ©

An informative, multi-page article written by attorney and comics fan Jeffery E. Jacobson detailing the ins and outs of copyright law.  Wizard later remarks that it was surprised by just how many fans enjoyed this piece; they assumed it was too dry for their average reader.

Hot off the Griddle

This is the one I’ve been waiting for.  It’s four pages of pure, unadulterated Wizard -- and I don’t mean that as an insult.  I’m not talking about locker room humor or shameless hype, I’m talking sheer goofiness, one of the redeeming features of the magazine.  The premise of this piece is that Wizard will answer the age-old question, “Do comics truly sell like hotcakes?”  Never mind that no one in the history of the world has likely asked that question, and the comics market was actually at the beginning of a slump that it’d never truly recover from at this time…it’s an absurd premise for an article and only Wizard would dedicate its resources to such a ludicrous stunt.

Making the article even more endearing is writer John Seals, who acknowledges that he participated in this because he was broke, and never shies away from pointing out what a dumb premise for an article he’s been saddled with.  Playing this straight would’ve gotten old quickly, but going inside the mind of the poor sap stuck writing this feature is like some novelty-themed brand of gonzo journalism.  Seals is the one who has to set up the electric skillet and pancake mix inside a comic book store, giving patrons the choice of a free hotcake or a free comic.  Allowing him to be direct and open in the article was the least Wizard could do.

Seals’ honesty is what sells the piece -- he opens by describing the local city ordinances that stood in his way, goes on to detail almost throwing up while cooking the hotcakes (he was hungover on the morning of the stunt), and then catalogues the varied reactions he received from the public.  Most seemed to be either incredulous or purely negative.  The best quote is from a laid-off construction worker who opts for the free hotcake.  “I don’t read comics, but I eat food.”

After Wizard conducts a fan survey on recent articles, “Hot off the Griddle” seems to be poorly rated by its readers.  Philistines.  This is Wizard giving you what Comics Buyers Guide can’t…dumb, harmless fun.  I wouldn’t want an entire magazine of this material, but four pages out of two hundred-plus isn’t a huge burden, is it?  Unfortunately, I don’t think the era of “goofy ideas” Wizard lasts for too long after this article runs.  It’s entirely impossible that this is the piece that scared Wizard away from the wacky schemes, which is a shame.


No Slowing Down

A promotional article for the current run of The Flash, which really wants us to believe that Wally West is going to die in issue #100.  At least DC is committed to keeping Barry Allen dead, though…

Cut & Print

New Line has officially announced the Spawn movie, FOX and Warner Brothers are developing a Bruce Timm-produced Superman cartoon (which ends up on the new WB network), and Canadian cable network YTV has cancelled Might Morphin’ Power Rangers “in response to a decision by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.”  As crazy as it seems today, MMPR were often the subject of “violence in the media” news reports.


Howard Chaykin speaks about his career in comics, promotes an upcoming Nick Fury series I have no memory of, and gives his opinion on mainstream superhero comics (he views them as trash, essentially.)  Chaykin states his admiration for his friend, John Francis Moore, for being able to produce a monthly superhero comic, something Chaykin says he has no interest in doing.  This is the piece that has Chaykin giving Chris Claremont credit for the “contemporary language of comics,” which I believe Claremont didn’t exactly view as a compliment.

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

The standard list (even Wizard doesn’t seem to know why it keeps including Pitt), with Robin thrown in, based on the fact that his solo series is pretty popular.  The Mort of the Month is Bat Lash, a character Wizard dismisses as a “tough pansy.”

Picks from the Wizard’s Hat

The top picks this month are the second Lady Death miniseries, Flash #100, Prophet (vol. 2) #1 (the beginning of the Chuck Dixon/Stephen Platt run...relaunched after vol. 1's issue #10), The Mask #1, and the Vampirella/Shadowhawk crossover.  I also see while looking through the rest of the solicits that Valiant released a Ninjak #0 and Ninjak #00 in the same month, because his origin story was so immense, it needed two full issues.  Another comic in Wizard’s “Other Picks” section is the debut of a Vertigo book called Preacher.

Good & Cheap

The Spectre #5, from the John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake run, is highlighted as a nice back issue find for $2.

Top Ten Comics

Lady Death #1 remains the top back issue, according to the magazine, while the rest of the list is evenly distributed between X-books, Gen 13, and other Bad Girls.  And Impulse’s first appearance in Flash #92, which is gaining interest due to his upcoming series.

Top 100 - January 1995

With the exception of Spawn #28 at Number Eight, the Top Ten issues ordered in January are all “Age of Apocalypse” mutant books.  Meanwhile, most of the Batman and Superman titles seem to be nudging the Spider-Man books further down the charts.  The Number 100 book is Malibu’s Godwheel.

Wizard Market Watch

Early Clone Saga issues of the Spider-Man books are starting to pick up steam as back issues, thanks to the rumor that Ben Reilly will be replacing Peter Parker.  Legion’s first appearances in New Mutants are also gaining in popularity thanks to the “Legion Quest” crossover.  Meanwhile, retailers are reporting an erosion in Image’s brand name, with studios being left to stand on their own merits.  Wizard reports that the Wildstorm titles are still selling well.

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

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

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

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

(Another month of Wizard just swapping the writers’ names around in a few places.  Also, is this the first time Bart Sears hasn't made the Top Ten Artists?)

Market Watchers

A reader writes in to ask if he should burn his collection of Brigade, Bloodstrike, Team Youngblood, and Supreme since they’re not going up in value.  Wizard is opposed to burning any comic, even Secret Defenders, but does advise the fan to recycle his comics if the upcoming “New Order” event doesn’t revive interest in Extreme’s books.  Another letterhack has discovered that Wizard sneaks in names like Darth Vader and Eddie Vedder in its key of creator abbreviations in the price guide.

I searched “Extreme Studios New Order” and this is the only hit I received:

Wizard Price Guide

I haven’t checked on any back issue prices lately, so let’s see what’s going on this month.  Superman #75 in the polybag is listed at $28, with the Platinum Edition going for $200.   The first issue of the original Alpha Flight ongoing is just under five bucks.  Ren & Stimpy #1 remains at $24.50.  Early Punisher War Journal issues are going down in price, yet the first issue is still listed at ten bucks, and Youngblood #1, we’re told, remains a ten-dollar book.

The Wizard Profile

Does painter John Bolton know who the Beyonder is?

No.  No, he does not.


So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “Is it the same as having a white, middle-class, mid-American like Tony Isabella writing a black superhero?” - Black Lightning’s new editor, defending his choice to hire an Australian to write a series set in an American urban environment.
  • “A lot of people have this concept about British comics writers, that what they always do is trample over the sacred ground and take these grand old characters and turn them inside out.” - James Robinson
  • “But it’s not like I want the Tick on my tombstone as my major accomplishment.  Well, maybe I’ll give him a corner of my tombstone if he manages to pay for an entire empire.” - Ben Edlund
  • “He invented the contemporary language of comics, the current relationship of hero to hero.  His characterization of the X-Men is the single most influential language in comics today.  Comics are what they are today because of what Chris did with the X-Men.” - Howard Chaykin on Chris Claremont

Nope:  Cyberforce doesn’t star in a six-episode miniseries on FOX, Chris Columbus doesn’t direct a Daredevil film…Hanna-Barbera doesn’t release a series of animated films (like Nexus, Werewolf to the Moon, and Space Ghost) for older audiences…Judge Dredd doesn’t receive an animated series…and Spawn #29 doesn’t feature Spawn sharing stories with a group of outcasts in the Bible Belt.

Before They Were Stars:  Bart Sears’ Brutes and Babes feature is missing this month, but Jim Lee is here to judge the winners of the monthly Drawing Board contest.  He selects Kenneth Rocafort, who’s gone on to do work for Wildstorm, Marvel, and DC (remember the Lobo redesign?), as the winner for his rendition of Zealot.  Lee says he can’t wait to give Kenneth his first assignment.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Topps’ Lone Ranger and Tonto miniseries, along with Shi and Robin.  The current creative team of Green Lantern is also given credit for turning sales around.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  That Darth Vader/Energizer Bunny ad (again), the Spider-Clone (again), the alleged continuity screw-up that’s given Wolverine bone claws (again), Marvel’s 2099 books, Dakota North, the current runs on Captain America and Fantastic Four, and the Republicans taking over Congress.

This Ain't HuffPo:  Wizard jokes about the low value of the Peso, the possibility of Charles Xavier catching “Jungle Fever” and fathering a child with Storm, Lady Death’s “bajoobies,” and how hot a filly Shi remains.

I Love the ‘90s:  We’re told that Namor jumped into a Quinjet, not a Ford Bronco, when he had to kill his wife Marrina, in addition to references to The Crying Game, Ricki Lake, and the mystery of the White Ranger.  (A Power Rangers reference, I’m assuming.)

Vive la France:  Replacement Batman Jean-Paul Valley is referred to as “Jean-Frog” Valley, and Wizard questions if Wonder Woman is like one of those French chicks who don’t shave their armpits.

Pathological Scatological:  I thought this issue might get away with only one crude joke (a reader in Magic Words wants to know what happens when Eddie Brock farts inside the Venom symbiote), but Wizard of Cards appears halfway through the mag to bring us a series of “Who farted?” jokes.  Lucky us.

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  There seems to be some self-awareness now, regarding Wizard’s weakest elements, and as for the “Stupid” category, I would argue that the magazine is entertainingly stupid this month, which is fine by me.  And even though no one seems to remember this, Wizard did have quality interviews for a while there.  Jim McLauchlin’s lengthy sit-down with Howard Chaykin is almost like something The Comics Journal would’ve done back in the ‘80s, with Chaykin giving a blunt assessment of the industry at that time, and McLauchlin asking very honest questions such as “What the **** was Black Kiss supposed to be?”  Also, I can’t hate the issue that brought us the hotcake article, a feature so bizarre I’ve never forgotten it.

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


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