Wizard celebrates its fiftieth anniversary by revealing all of its secrets, Todd McFarlane offers a glimpse into his life, and one fan has a crazy thought -- a Red or Yellow Lantern to join the Green Lantern. All in today’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!
You’ll probably recognize the cover as the McFarlane image from the first issue, only now recolored with the fancy airbrushing used on the Marvel Flair trading cards. It hasn’t exactly aged well, has it? It reminds me of one of those airbrushed Hulk Hogan t-shirts they used to sell at the beach. I know that McFarlane has recolored (and even redrawn) many of the early Spawn covers in recent years. I’m not sure if Marvel’s done the same with his Spider-Man work, but if Jim Lee’s X-Men can receive the Photoshop treatment, then it seems as if McFarlane’s Spider-Man would also be a candidate.
In this month’s Wizard, we have…
Features on Todd McFarlane and Paul Smith. “Up Close” stories on Ben Edlund, the Casting Call for Spawn, and a preview of the new incarnation of Red Sonja. Wizard celebrates “Special Anniversary Stuff” with retrospectives on the magazine, and a Gareb Shamus interview conducted by Fabian Nicieza.
The regular columns include Cut & Print, Greg Capullo's Krash Course, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks, Manga Scene, 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.
Wizard receives its first ever “online letter,” in response to its request for the lyrics to the 1960s Spider-Man theme. (That’s the early internet right there -- people looking up obscure trivia from old cartoons, and attempting to decipher every garbled song lyric ever recorded.) The writer gets them mostly right, mixing up “Wealth and fame, he’s ignored” with “Welcome fame? He’s ignored.” Old cartoon theme songs were re-entering pop culture at this time; the Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits tribute collection was also released during this era, featuring the Ramones’ interpretation of Spidey’s theme.
The letter column is now adding titles for each letter, giving Jim McLauchlin another excuse to work in some extra jokes. This month, McLauchlin corrects a fan on the origin of “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” explains why Vertigo’s Death wears a symbol of life, and touches on the never-ending debate on the portrayal of female characters in comics, and is careful not to deliver a lecture on what his readers are supposed to think. The final letter asks if DC has ever established a Red or Yellow Lantern. McLauchlin tells the reader that the characters have appeared in the past, as members of the Stoplight Corps, protecting your hometown by “regulating automobile traffic and making the streets safe for pedestrians everywhere.”
The upcoming Hulk/Pitt team-up one-shot is the main story, a book that was probably lost amidst the sea of Marvel/Image crossovers released in ’96 and ’97. It’s amazing how much attention Pitt still receives in this magazine, even though Wizard itself acknowledges that the book is only sporadically released. In other news…Boneyard Press is being sued over its Doin’ Time with OJ and OJ’s Big Bust Out books…Peter David’s original plot for The Last Avengers Story, the one nixed by Tom DeFalco, will now be published…Mirage has dropped its comic book line, but its rep reminds you that you can follow the Ninja Turtles in their Archie series, and the syndicated daily newspaper strip…Dr. Strange has another new writer, J. M. DeMatteis…and Penthouse Comics editor-in-chief George S. Carragonne has committed suicide. You can read Mark Evanier's thoughts on his friend here.
A profile on The Tick creator Ben Edlund, who makes it clear in the piece that filmmaking is ultimately where he’d like to end up. (He’s since become an executive producer on Supernatural and the first season of Gotham…if you thought the balloon-themed villain was like something out of The Tick, you were right.) Dave Sim also provides a quote, absolving Edlund of claims that the Tick is a rip-off of the Roach. Edlund says the influence was likely subliminal, and that the Tick is actually much closer to Megaton Man. Don Simpson isn’t quoted, but he has taken shots at the Tick in the past, so perhaps he isn’t as forgiving as Sim.
Wizard casts the Spawn film, which they hope will be directed by John Carpenter and have demonic creations from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Their hypothetical film stars…
Mario Van Peebles as Al Simmons/Spawn
Halle Berry as Wanda Blake
Leon (an actor from Above the Rim who only went by one name) as Terry Fitzgerald
Chris Zorich of the Chicago Bears as Overtkill
Lawrence Taylor from the New York Giants as Chapel
Kelly Lynch as Angela
Grandpa Al Lewis as Violator/Clown (possibly the dumbest casting I’ve seen so far)
Jeremy Irons as the voice of Malebolgia
Paul Sorvino as Tony Twist
John Rhys-Davies as Jason Wynn
Chris Farley as Det. Sam Burke
Michael Jeter as Det. Twitch Williams
Michael Ironside as the voice of Anti-Spawn (he will go on to voice Darkseid…)
And finally, Spawn’s homeless pal Gareb, named after Wizard’s Gareb Shamus, should be played by…Gareb’s “twin,” Bill Maher.
Amazingly, Wizard didn’t predict that two of the black characters from the comic will be played by white actors in the upcoming Spawn film.
Time to Work
A feature on Paul Smith, focusing heavily on his career; not in the standard “here’s a list of books he drew” fashion, but on his actual career. The piece is largely about an artist building a name for himself in comics, and the mistakes Smith feels he made by not taking his career seriously enough. It’s interesting to see Wizard run this kind of profile, detailing the actual life of someone working in the industry, and Smith is so candid it’s hard to hold his lax work ethic against him (he calls his work on X-Factor #44 “garbage,” acknowledges that he took the X-Men/Alpha Flight job to pay for a motorcycle, and he hates most of his work on the first issue of The Golden Age). Smith’s plan, however, to keep doing mainstream work and to consistently have his name out there, didn’t seem to pan out.
The Many Faces of Todd
A day-in-the-life feature on Todd McFarlane, which has him inking his book, talking to movie producers, examining the latest molds for his toyline, and reviewing demo reels from studios looking to work on the Spawn cartoon. Important Todd Info revealed in the article: He owns Madonna’s bustier from the “Vogue” era, his favorite lunch spot is Taco Bell, and he needs glasses to ink the excessive rendering on Spawn pages. He’s also unnerved Greg Capullo a bit by printing so many negative reactions to his art in the Spawn letter column; later on, he’ll print exclusively positive responses. (Capullo discussed this in his lengthy podcast interview with Kevin Smith; essentially, McFarlane printed the negative letters in order to encourage the fans who did like Capullo’s stuff to write in.)
The article features the ultimate piece of Spawn trivia -- McFarlane and his sister/assistant Tiffany aren’t happy with the lettering correction on Spawn’s “Cog?” word balloon on page 21, issue #32 of Spawn. Todd decides to let it go through, figuring there’s no time to make everything perfect and the readers won’t notice something so minor.
The first of Wizard’s anniversary retrospectives; some might view this piece as another example of Wizard’s unyielding self-promotion, but if you’re someone curious about the history of the magazine (and I am, obviously), there’s a lot of great info here. It’s remarkably candid, detailing all of the times the magazine made Marvel and DC mad, while also pointing out some of the more regrettable decisions made by Wizard over the years. I believe this is the first time the connection between the magazine and the comic store owned by Gareb Shamus’ parents is ever acknowledged in the magazine. The story of McFarlane drawing the cover for the first issue, which the writer acknowledges was an amateur effort (the magazine, not the McFarlane art), is unrevealed until later this issue.
For the sake of historical preservation, I’ve decided to run the entire article below.
We Knew ‘Em When…
Now, this is just shameless back-patting. Wizard lists all of the hot artists it was hyping before they were comics superstars. Stephen Platt is here, and in his bio we learn that the initial Moon Knight serial he drew for Marvel Comics Presents remains unpublished. If Marvel was willing to go through the archives and print the rejected McFarlane G. I. Joe issue, I wonder why S.Platt’s Moon Knight pages stayed in a drawer?
Behind the Curtain…
Is this the first Wizard fumetti feature? Jim McLauchlin stars in a tour of the Wizard offices, and even Dee Snider (and I guess his two children) make cameo appearances.
Marc Wilkofsky has the unenviable task of rereading the entire run of the magazine and counting up important info, such as how many times the word “hot” has been used in Wizard so far (1,358), and which states have the best and worst representation in the letter column (Montana has had zero letters published.) Wizard will do more of these in the future; in one X-Men special the staff counted how many times Nightcrawler has exclaimed “Mein Gott!” in addition to how many times a character appeared naked.
For the record, according to this article, the three best-selling “regular issues of Wizard” are #35 (the Stephen Platt cover), #41 (the year-ender with the Cyclops cover), and #45, which featured Cyberforce on the cover. The lowest-selling issue? Issue #5, featuring a Silver Surfer cover.
Fabian Nicieza, who praises the magazine for directly speaking to fans ages 8 to 16, interviews Wizard founder Gareb Shamus. (Fabian’s intro lists Wizard’s sales in the “over a quarter-million” range, which actually means that the magazine’s already past its commercial peak -- just a year earlier, the Statement of Ownership had sales at over 400,000 a month.) In the interview, Shamus tells the story of his father owning a piece of original McFarlane artwork (purchased with hockey cards), and McFarlane later allowing Shamus to use the piece as the cover of #1. Nicieza also tries to discern how Wizard decided which creators and books are “hot,” but only receives a vague “we listen to our fans!” answer.
A look at the new Sega Saturn system, which (if I’m reading this correctly) originally retailed for $400?!
Top Ten Comics
In addition to the standard Top Ten list (which is led by X-Men: Prime, a five-dollar jam book that I don’t recall ever being scarce…), Wizard provides an overall Top Ten list covering its four years of existence. Bearing in mind that many of the slots feature ties, here’s the Top Ten of 1991-1995:
- New Mutants #87/Lady Death #1/Gen 13 (mini) #1 -- Wizard makes a crack about Cable’s waning popularity in its summary…
- Shi #1
- Gen 13 (mini) #2/Uncanny X-Men #201
- Vengeance of Vampirella #1
- Uncanny X-Men #248/Rai #0
- Uncanny X-Men #266
- Magnus Robot Fighter #12/Spawn #4/Wolverine #75
- Amazing Spider-Man #361/Harbinger #1/Sword of Azrael #1
- Daredevil #319/Moon Knight #55 -- after initially praising this run, Wizard is now snottily dismissive of the “new, improved” version of Daredevil.
- Shadowman #8/Rai #4/Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1/Prime #2
Comic Watch/Good & Cheap
Spawn #9 is your investment pick, while Wizard recommends DC’s The Shadow #7 (vol. 2) as a solid $2 back issue find.
Wizard’s highlighted picks this issue are the Scarlet Spider titles (launched with new #1s, which editor Bob Budiansky claims will be ongoing books), Chaos Quarterly, Spider-Man/Batman, Underworld Unleashed #1, and Batman & Robin Adventures #1 (featuring Paul Dini and Ty Templeton as rotating writers…a great book that will hopefully live on in reprints one day.) What surprisingly doesn’t make the Top Picks segment is the launch of “Operation: Rebirth” in Captain America (the Waid/Garney run). Wizard’s clearly excited, gleeful that Mark Gruenwald is gone, but not excited enough to give the book the half-page spotlight. Instead, that privilege goes to… the Scarlet Spider books?
Wizard’s winner of the month is Shi, while “all Valiant back issues” are named as the loser.
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
- Todd McFarlane
- Joe Quesada
- Jim Lee
- Frank Miller
- Billy Tucci
- Greg Capullo
- Bart Sears
- Adam Hughes
- Dale Keown
- Stephen Platt
So, J. Scott Campbell has totally disappeared off the list; he was #2 just two issues ago! The Kubert brothers have also been dropped off the list.
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Neil Gaiman
- Peter David
- Frank Miller
- Chris Claremont
- John Byrne
- Alan Moore
- Dan Jurgens
- Jeff Smith
- Matt Wagner
- John Ostrander
Brandon Choi finds his time in the Top Ten (Top Three, actually) short-lived.
Top 100 - August 1995
Due to Marvel’s deal with Heroes World, the Top 100 isn’t exclusively the Diamond list anymore. Wizard’s compiled this list based on “data supplied by comic book retailers across the country.” I hope it’s not as arbitrary as the Top 10 Writers/Artists, although it might be the only listing of the Top 100 books to exist from the brief Heroes World era. The top book is Uncanny X-Men #325, followed by mostly X-books in the Top Ten, with the exception of Spawn, a Spawn miniseries, and Gen 13. DC’s top selling title is Sovereign Seven #3. The Spider-Man books are starting to dominate the 20-30 list, outselling both Superman and Batman franchises.
Wizard is now directly asking readers to list their Top 10 Writers/Artists, and to point out any glaring errors they see in the Price Guide.
Wizard Comic Price Guide
I actually enjoy flipping through the Price Guides of this era of Wizard. Not because I really care about the prices, but because the Wizard staff is now listing its personal back issue picks, along with a brief paragraph extolling the virtues of the book. It’s a nice contrast to the two-sentence, often snarky, summaries of recent comics that line the bottom of each page. This section of the magazine used to be a dull slog of text and numbers, but now it’s colorful and often entertaining.
Hall of Fame
A new feature that spotlights key back issues of a long-running series. This month the focus is on Detective Comics, and while most fans are certainly familiar with the key issues selected, one does stand out. There’s confusion over whether or not the villain on the cover of Detective Comics #40 is supposed to be the Joker or Clayface. According to legend, the Joker story that was originally to appear in this issue was pulled and printed in Batman #1 instead. If that’s the case, does that make Clayface the first true recurring Batman villain?
The Wizard Profile
Does John Romita, Sr. know who the Beyonder is?
He does. I’m going to assume that Romita was stuck doing art corrections every time a Marvel artist didn’t draw the Beyonder’s crimped coif properly. He probably spent half of 1985 doing that, come to think of it.
So, what did we learn today?
- “If people remember me at all, it’s as an afterthought. They think of Walt Simonson, Byrne, Frank Miller, and a half hour later they say, ‘Hey, we forgot Smitty!’” - Paul Smith
- “As a professional, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished a whole hell of a lot. I’m thankful for the success that I’ve had. But damn -- it’s all happened so very quickly!” - Stephen Platt
- “Yeah, I’ve got my problems with Wizard. But one thing I’ve always made clear…is that I honestly respect what Gareb and his editorial crew have done over the last five years.” - Fabian Nicieza
Nope: Web of Scarlet Spider does not become an ongoing series (although it did last two issues longer than the other Scarlet Spider books, for reasons that no one seems to remember; check out this installment of Life of Reilly)…MTV never produces that second season of The Maxx…and almost every film mentioned in the Cut & Print column is never produced (Shi, Madman, a Tim Burton Catwoman, Chris Columbus directing Fantastic Four, a ‘90s Green Hornet & Speed Racer), with the exception of X-Men produced by the Donners. Lauren Shuler Donner suggests that Gary Sinese could make a good Wolverine. Oh, we also have early rumors of Michael Jordan starring in a film with the Looney Tunes cast...
Before They Were Stars: A Lenil G. Yu from the Philippines has a Crow drawing win Honorable Mention in the Drawing Board contest.
Stuff Wizard Likes: The Price Guide is now packed with back issue picks from the staff, including Elfquest #1, Spectacular Spider-Man #76, and Nexus: Book Two.
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: The original theme song from the Captain America cartoon, the “Maximum Clonage” crossover, recent Superman marketing gimmicks (and we’re not even on the Blue/Red issues yet), sideways double-splash pages, and yet again, Spawn/Batman.
This Ain't HuffPo: In the legal print for the latest Scavenger Hunt contest, Wizard says it’s going to sell the junk you send in and spend the money on “Booze, Broads, and Bacon”…jokes about Harvey Fierstein having a tryst with the Dark Knight Returns Joker…a reminder that Sharon Carter is a babe…and comments on the chicks Robin is going to bag while at summer camp.
I Love the ‘90s: Kato Kaelin is the surprise witness when the Earth is put on trial in Icon #31, and apparently it’s the DC villain Blockbuster who’s putting small mom and pop video stores out of business.
Vive la France: Wizard apologizes to the countries whose comics it mislabeled in a previous article; except to the French, of course…and in the CBIQ quiz, France ranks as the top item on Earth that Galactus should avoid eating.
Pathological Scatological: We’ve gone from around a dozen (or two dozen) crude jokes an issue to just three. The Spectre might be suffering from gas in issue #35 of his series, Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi just might feature Darth Vader’s “pee-pee,” and in the fan-made toy column, apparently Captain Atom is giving constipation advice in his photo.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: The Wizard retrospective material perhaps runs a bit too long (not the history of the magazine, but the Shamus interview and retrospective on “hot” artists), but overall, this is a solid issue. Wizard does seem to be making an honest effort to improve the magazine, and even segments (like the Price Guide) which were easily skipped are now worth reading. The portion of the magazine dedicated to speculators seems to be decreasing with each issue, and it’s just funny in hindsight to look at some of the dogs Wizard is promoting as collectible. As far as cheap/stupid/trashy goes, the magazine’s been moving away from that material with each issue. Lately. Who knows where the magazine will be on issue #75.
Until next time, find me here...