The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #51 (November 1995)

The public is granted its first glimpse of Witchblade, Jim Lee and Chris Claremont discuss their days on X-MEN, and the most notorious AVENGERS story of all time is plotted poolside at Ralph Macchio’s place.  All in today’s The Guide to the Guide to Comics!

In this month’s Wizard, the magazine goes behind the scenes of the X-Men animated series, offers a peak at the Avengelyne swimsuit photoshoot, has Jim Lee interview Chris Claremont, profiles David Lapham, casts a hypothetical Tick movie, previews Witchblade, interviews the Kubert brothers, and offers yet another behind the scenes feature…this one on the creation of Avengers: The Crossing.  Did that Wizard staff writer realize how lucky he was?

The regular columns include Gareb Shamus’ From the Top, Greg Capullo’s Krash Course, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (profiling the legendary Harvey Pekar), Manga Scene, Card Market (the new, condensed card column), and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.  The Hollywood column has been renamed Trailer Park, and shoved to the very end of the magazine.  Just think, at one point the entire magazine essentially becomes that column.

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

From the Top

Gareb Shamus teases that he'll possibly cameo in the surely upcoming The Maxx movie.  He also hints that next issue’s Halloween Costume Contest just might feature the “controversial” Vampirella cosplayer Paula again.  Outside of the magazine mentioning once that it wasn’t going to be giving out her address, I’m not sure why Paula was “controversial.”

Magic Words

One letter writer responds to a father’s previous statement that he likes the Comics Code by comparing it to the government cutting tongues off to protect anyone from offense.  I think this is in paragraph four of his full-page tirade against the Code.  Another writer is offended that Jim McLauchlin seemed to assume anyone defending the Code must be a “fire and brimstone witch-hunting censor.”  The topics then move on to more important matters, such as Punisher 2099 #1 and the Shi trade both giving their heroes six fingers on the cover.  Wizard is also fielding letters from fans shocked that Gen 13’s Rainmaker is a lesbian.

Wizard News

The lead story is the announcement of the Marvel vs. DC crossover series.  I remember this news breaking, and it did seem rather momentous at the time.  I can even recall the series being announced on the radio, in-between mindless rock DJ patter.  And now that we have the previously unthinkable Batman V. Superman, I suppose the next internet crusade is for an actual Marvel/DC crossover film.

In other news…Frank Miller has moved on to using brush exclusively in Sin City: Silent Night…Leonard Nimoy is writing a Primotals story…Dan Slott is writing Archie’s new TMNT miniseries (which the company hopes will revive interest in the franchise)…Wendy Pini is previewing production art from the still-nonexistent Elfquest film during a showing of her original artwork…and the typewriter used by Jerry Siegel when creating Superman has sold for $65,000.

Quiet on the Set

Wizard visits the recording studio for what’s believed to be final days of the X-Men animated series.  The final three episodes being recorded are the two-parter “Storm Front” and “Bloodlines.”  The article doesn’t go into specific details, but executive producer Joe Calamari and FOX liaison Sidney Iwanter have an argument at the record over the censorship of two words from the script.  What those two words were supposed to be has been lost to time, but the final days of the show did have a few ridiculous examples of BS&P coming down hard on the producers.  The article ends with the voice of Rogue encouraging fans to write in and ask for more episodes.

Strike a Pose

If you wanted multiple photos of model Cathy Christian posing for the Avengelyne swimsuit photoshoot, but didn’t want to pay for the comic, you’re in luck.  The article reveals that Christian is married to Image president Tony Lobito, who was there for the shoot.  At this point, everyone at Image is still publicly supportive of Rob Liefeld’s Maximum Press, which is even announcing crossover comics with Liefeld’s Image creations.  Real-life models posing as comic book characters for pin-up books and various merchandise was a fad during this era; one of the Wildstorm card games featured a Voodoo model, which was used as a marketing hook for the game, and I can remember photo variant covers were a craze for a few months.

Casting Call

Wizard thinks that a Tick film is entirely possible, given the success of The Mask.  I doubt a film will ever be made, but we did get a live-action Tick series on FOX for a few short weeks.  Patrick Warburton, who was essentially perfect in the role, starred.  Who did Wizard cast in their 1995 dream version?

John Tesh (!) as The Tick

Rick Moranis as Arthur

Bruce Campbell as Die Fledermaus

Teri Hatcher as American Maid

Cynthia Stevenson (from CBS’s Bob) as Dot

Brian Benben (HBO’s Dream On) as Human Bullet

Dustin Hoffman* as Sewer Urchin (because the character was conceived as a parody of Rain Man)

Nick Turtorro (NYPD Blue) as Dinosaur Neil (mustache casting)

Ricardo Montalban as El Seed

John Cleese as Chairface Chippendale

(*Now, doesn’t this feature require at least a semblance of plausibility in order to work?  Why not think of a comedian who does a decent Hoffman impression and cast that guy?  Naming a superstar you know is never going to play a bit part in the movie isn’t playing fair.)

First Look

A preview of “Marc Silvestri’s newest Bad Girl,” who will star in an upcoming series called Witchblade.  I barely noticed when its cancellation was announced last year, but Witchblade was certainly significant at the time, and survived far longer than most people would’ve predicted.  Not only was Witchblade #1 a sought-after collector’s item for a few years there, but it paved the way for Top Cow’s evolution away from superheroes towards fantasy/sci-fi, and introduced Michael Turner to the world.  I wasn’t personally a fan, but I can’t deny the impact.

Greg Capullo’s Krash Course

Capullo is “up with the establishment!” this issue, explaining how to create effective establishing shots.

Capullo also presents the solution to his previous challenge on perspective, where he intentionally penciled a piece with wonky perspective and asked the readers to identify the mistakes:


Gene Pool

A joint interview with Adam and Andy Kubert, done to promote the new series of X-Men trading cards they drew with their father Joe Kubert.  Two notes on the cards -- you can see an example of the coloring technique on the cover, and Andy Kubert’s comments indicate he was ambivalent about the “painted-looking” final product.  Also, Joe Kubert was given the characters his sons didn’t feel like drawing (he was ignorant of the X-roster and up for drawing anything); Adam and Andy had to inform him that Shatterstar is around 18, not 40.

We also discover that Adam Kubert originally drew Wolverine’s claw ripping through Sabretooth’s head in the climax of Wolverine #90, but Marvel asked him to pull it back.  Another tidbit from the article -- Adam Kubert was perhaps the youngest letterer in comics history, and appeared on the game show What’s My Line at the age of 13.

Crash the Party!

Wizard (specifically Jim McLauchlin) spends a day with the creative teams behind the Avengers family of titles.  This sounds rather prosaic until you realize they were actually planning the plot and aftermath of The Crossing, one of the most-hated stories in Marvel history (but still available as a $100 hardcover reprint…not that anyone ever paid cover price for it.)

There is something sad about the article, listening to a group of creators plotting out comics they think kids will enjoy, only to have every plan tossed aside for the “Heroes Reborn” relaunch, and this entire era of the books dismissed as garbage. (With the exception of the Waid/Garney Captain America, naturally.)  I should also mention that there is the theory that all of these published plans were a ruse, designed by Mark Gruenwald and the editors to deceive readers on what their real strategy for 1996 was intended to be.


Dynamic Duo

Jim Lee interviews Chris Claremont, discussing his favorite period on Uncanny X-Men (Louise Simonson’s stint as editor), the possibility of returning to the book one day (he’s discussed it with Marvel’s president, Jerry Calabrese), his original plans for Uncanny X-Men #300 (which involved a war against the Shadow King and Wolverine becoming a “totally natural character” without adamantium.)  Claremont also states his desire to finish the Excalibur graphic novel he began with Rick Leonardi; this eventually saw print as X-Men: True Friends.  Finally, I discovered from this piece Claremont’s role in co-plotting the ending of X-Men #59, years before he was the writer of the title.  Also worth noting that Claremont is remarkably diplomatic during this interview, and every interview I’ve ever read with him, even when he’s discussing issues that clearly had a negative impact on him.

Manga Scene

Lea Hernandez reports that J.A.I.L.E.D. (The Japanese Animation Industry Legal Enforcement Division) has made its first seizure of bootleg anime.

Power Up!

The videogame column reports that the Sega 32X game Spider-Man: Web of Fire might not be released due to the current Spider-clone storyline, “so that Spider-fans aren’t confused.”  I'm assuming it was released, though...


Top Ten Comics - September 1995

Gen 13 #1, with all the variants counting as one, tops the back issue list.  Making its way into Number Six is a tawdry Bad Girl comic called High Impact #1.  At least that’s what the cover seems to be calling the book, though Wizard lists the title as Double Impact.  I wonder why…

Comic Watch/Good & Cheap

Sandman #69 (Daniel’s emergence as the new Dreamdweller) and Uncanny X-Men #129 (first Kitty Pryde, first Emma Frost) are predicted to increase in value.  The Good & Cheap pick is Dr. Strange #56, from the Stern/Smith run.


Upcoming releases highlighted include the Ultraverse reboot (from the Marvelized days), Amazing Fantasy #16 (written by Kurt Busiek, supposedly because he didn’t want anyone else toying with Spider-Man’s early days), Vampirella Strikes #1 (featuring a photo cover), Ripclaw #1, and Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #1.

Wizard Market Watch

Independent books like Stray Bullets, Poison Elves, and Scud, the Disposable Assassin are gaining heat in the back issue market, allegedly because of the dearth of creativity in mainstream comics.  In Wizard’s new Winner & Loser of the Month feature, the ultra- limited Gen 13 collectors’ packs are the winner while Bronze Age Ghost Rider back issues are the loser.

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Joe Quesada
  3. William Tucci
  4. Jim Lee
  5. Adam Hughes
  6. Bart Sears
  7. Greg Capullo
  8. Frank Miller
  9. Stephen Platt
  10. Steven Hughes

(J. Scott Campbell is off the list, after peaking at Number Two, even though virtually every page of this magazine swears that Gen 13 is the hottest thing alive.)

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Neil Gaiman
  2. Peter David
  3. Chris Claremont
  4. Frank Miller
  5. John Byrne
  6. Alan Moore
  7. Scott Lobdell
  8. Jeff Smith
  9. Dan Jurgens
  10. Fabian Nicieza


Top 100 - September 1995

Like last month, the Top Ten features seven X-titles, and three Image titles (Spawn, Gen 13, and Spawn Bloodfeud).  The Scarlet Spider books dominate the slots between Eleven and Twenty, while the Superman franchise is ranked just a few slots above the Bat-titles in the second half of the Top Fifty.  The first issue of the (first) Youngblood relaunch ranks at #75, a number Wizard thinks is fairly low.  (A little more than a year earlier, Youngblood  spinoff books were in the Top Ten.)  Number 100 on the list is Captain America #445.  The big mover of the month is X-Files, which has gained 57 notches since the previous chart.

The Wizard Profile

Does Tom Lyle know who the Beyonder is?


Yes, and with the Beyonder’s powers he’d do something “pretentious and stupid” like cure all world evil.


So, what did we learn today?


Money Quotes:

  • “We had actual Cajuns come in to audition, but their Cajun was so thick, you couldn’t understand them.” - Dan Hennessey, voice director of the X-Men cartoon, on casting Gambit.
  • “Yes, she’s got big breasts.” - Marc Silvestri on his new creation, Witchblade.
  • “The more interesting aspects of the past three or four years was watching all of the plot lines of the X-Men books that I had bounced before I left, spin themselves out in the course of the book with slight variations.  Obviously, there was something there that clicked with the creative and editorial staffs.  I guess it was just a need to define it in their terms (rather than) mine.” - Chris Claremont, on leaving the X-Men.
  • “Variant covers are looked upon as unnecessary and devised solely to extract more money from readers.” - Todd McFarlane, while evaluating the results of his reader survey.

Nope:  1996 doesn’t bring us titles such as The Awesome Avengers (a bimonthly team-up title) and The Mighty Avengers (from the creators of Force Works)…Patrick Stewart doesn’t star as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin, and neither Julia Roberts nor Demi Moore are cast as Poison Ivy…Drew Barrymore doesn’t appear in the Crow sequel (which is receiving email death threats from fans furious that another Crow film is being made following Brandon Lee’s death)…and Youngblood never airs on FOX, although it gets as far as a series bible and a pilot written by Marty Isenberg and Robert Skir.

Before They Were Stars:  Scott Kurtz contributes a “Captain Amazing” drawing to the Drawing Board segment.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  The debut of Mark Waid and Ron Garney on Captain America #444, the Toy Biz Thanos figure, and numerous back issues, such as The Spectre #26.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Operation Dumbo Drop…Iron Fist (dismissed as lame)…the Extreme Universe…stupid interchangeable paramilitary teams…overexposed mutant characters…the convoluted mess Daredevil has become (although the thought of Elektra reading the book and clutching her chest is greeted with a “Woo-woo!”)…David Copperfield for bagging “a babe like Claudia Schiffer”…Iron Man #318, which is cited as evidence the book needs a Waid/Garney level revamp…the Spider-clone story for never dying…Lois and Clark, although Teri Hatcher remains popular…and plastic capes on action figures, such as the Prowler and Mysterio figures.

This Ain't HuffPo:  Wizard remarks that their local police officers don’t resemble Witchblade…speculates that X-Force’s Boomer can blind opponents with her “bippies”…offers some predictable advice re: soap if you ever go to prison…labels X-Men Prime hotter than Psylocke and Rogue Jell-O wrestling in the goo created when Prime changes forms...makes a joke about Koreans eating Krypto the Super-Dog in a Top Ten list devoted to how bad Lois and Clark is…and has another office contest that ends with cross-dressing.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Gen 13 (Relentlessly):  The Gen 13 animated movie (which I’m not sure ever had an official American release) is planned to be released to video stores by Disney in a PG version, and a possible R-rated version for the direct market.

I Love the ‘90s:  Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and Rusted Roots’ When I Woke are the staff’s music picks for the month.

Vive la France:  Wizard has received its first letter from “a pissed-off Frenchman” for its routine attacks on the French.  Later, the recap of Outsiders #20 states that the team’s efforts to save the world have prevented the French from having to surrender once again.

Pathological Scatological:  A homemade Tonto figure is going to “do rudeness to Silver,” and various methods of Superman removing an Alien from his bowels are discussed in the CBIQ quiz.

Commercial Break:  Wanted...

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  As I’ve mentioned earlier, Wizard is trying to be less of those three things with each issue.  They don’t always succeed, but most of the juvenile behavior is saved for the editorial features that appear on the final few pages.  The Price Guide section is still trying to push the Bad Girls fad, and has even found a new obscure book to be labeled “hot” (I’m not sure if anyone cares enough about Double Impact today to even make fun of it, but some of the Google Images that appear for it are hilarious), so the worst elements of the magazine are still on display.  However, the issue also brings us one of the better Claremont interviews of this era, some insight into what Marvel was trying to do with the Avengers pre-“Heroes Reborn”, and a profile of David Lapham that examines his transition from freelancing to self-publishing Stray Bullets.  And the regular features like Magic Words and Krash Course remain enjoyable.  It’s not so bad, overall.

Until next time...

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