The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #55 (March 1996)

Wizard can’t hide its crush on Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, the “Heroes Reborn” deal is announced, and something called Magic: The Gathering is stealing speculators away from comics.  Plus, how much is Steve Ditko’s autograph worth?  All in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!

This issue’s cover date is March 1996, meaning it could’ve been released as early as January ’96.  For historical context, remember that Heroes Reborn (originally entitled “Unfinished Business”) was announced in December 1995.  Getting a Jim Lee Fantastic Four cover was a coup for the magazine, a sign of just how large a player Wizard remained during these days.  I first discovered the Heroes Reborn news from this issue, so seeing that Jim Lee cover on the stands was quite a shock.  (Apparently, it inspired me to purchase my very first Wizard with my own money; every copy I read before this one was borrowed from a friend.)  The best part of the “Unfinished Business” article today, looking past all of the hype, is the varied responses from creators on the deal.  I realize that Comics Buyers Guide and The Comics Journal were already doing this material, but as someone with no access to those magazines, these quick blurbs in Wizard were my only insight into the industry that wasn’t the all-roses portrait of the Bullpen Bulletins.

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, a Casting Call for a potential X-Factor film, a story on the just-announced return of Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to Marvel, behind-the-scenes of The Crow sequel, a piece on Magic: The Gathering, and interviews with Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid.

The regular columns include Greg Capullo’s Krash Course, Toy Chest (the newly renamed toy column), Palmer’s Picks (this issue’s pick is Minimum Wage), Trailer Park, Manga Scene, and Card Market.  Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O. is apparently retired.

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


Magic Words

Jim McLauchlin is taking the month off, and subbing for him is Kathy Newman from the promotions department.  She declares no French-bashing nor threats of violence from the column this issue.  Letters this month include a defense of independent creators from Mike Leonard, a female reader who doesn’t want to be labeled a feminist but wishes to know why only men are featured in the Top 10 creators list, and a sidebar devoted solely to Wolverine questions.  Also, one reader is curious as to what “nougat” is; Newman refuses to answer.  Finally, there’s a letter from a fan disappointed by the mindless interactions he’s found on the internet lately.  He thinks Wizard going online is partially responsible.

Wizard News

The top story this month is the announcement that Vengeance of Vampirella will be cancelled with #25; not due to low sales, but to pave the way for a new direction for the character.  In other news…some poor publisher known as Marlow and Company thinks it’s acquired the rights to Miracleman from Eclipse…Dan Jurgens is leaving Spidey after Sensational Spider-Man #6…and Jim Shooter and Lorne Michaels announce the formation of Broadway Comics at a party in New York.  Finally, we learn that Marvel actually hired a guy to dress as Johnny Blaze, for at least one appearance.



Paradise Found

Wizard did make some effort in these days to promote independent comics, and Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise was a favorite for a few months.  I don’t know how well the book is regarded today (I’ve heard people refer to it as a proto-web comic in print form), but at this time, Strangers in Paradise had a growing fanbase.  Plus, it was a certified “Hot Pick” by Wizard, just to give you an idea of how crazy this decade could be.

Casting Call

Wizard’s picks for an X-Factor film, based on their enthusiasm for the recent decision to pair heroes with villains on the team:

Steven Seagal as Forge (Did Seagal go through a phase of pretending he’s Native American instead of Asian?)

Famke Janssen as Mystique (based on her role in Goldeneye, which actually inspired Bryan Singer to cast her as Jean Grey)

Clancy Brown as Sabretooth

Stephanie Seymour as Polaris

Steve Buscemi as Wildchild

Jasmine Guy as Shard

Wrestler Sid Vicious as Dark Beast (If you’re going with a wrestler, Mr. Perfect would seem to be a better choice…or that guy who used to enter the ring wearing a robe and mortarboard, boasting that he was smarter than the hicks in the crowd.)

Kim Basinger as Val Cooper

Brian Bosworth as Random

And a CGI Apocalypse, to be voiced by John Vernon of Animal House.

The Art of the Deal

Wizard covers the announcement of “Unfinished Business,” Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee’s return to Marvel.  These are the books that are eventually branded Heroes Reborn, and even though the event has largely been forgotten (outside of that particular image of Captain America), it did serve as an indication of where the industry was headed.  New number one issues of long-running books, fan favorite creators (or occasionally, Hollywood producers) given carte blanche to rewrite the history of established characters, new origin storylines specifically designed to appeal to movie producers, tons of hype, and after a few months…the hangover.  Reading the reactions of fans (and some pros) at this time, it seems like the end of the world.  Today, it’d just be Tuesday.

One element of “Heroes Reborn” that was unique to the era was the general knowledge that, within Marvel, this deal was intensely hated.  Probably a few years prior to this event, Marvel could’ve gotten away with presenting a bold, united front to the public, telling fans that Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld just loved Merry Marvel so much they absolutely couldn’t wait to return.  In 1996, with the internet coming into play and a fanzine selling as well as the industry’s Top Ten books, gossip could not be squelched.  Everyone knew that Marvel’s staffers took this deal as an insult, which made for an awkward year of a two-tiered Marvel Universe.  The X-books, the Spider-Man books, and a handful of leftovers in the “real” universe, and everyone else stuck in Image-land.

The Crow Must Go On

A piece on the Crow sequel, which some people at the time viewed as purely sacrilegious.  Director Tim Pope has a unique qualification to helm the movie -- he’s directed all of The Cure’s music videos.

Spin Doctor

A profile of Kurt Busiek, highlighting two of Wizard’s favorite books of this era, Untold Tales of Spider-Man and Astro City.  (The New Shadowhawk also receives a brief mention, but clearly isn’t the main interest of the article.)  One of the redeeming aspects of Wizard, at least the Wizard of this era, is its willingness to focus on books that probably aren’t receiving a major push by the publishers, but are favorites around the office.  Wizard was so powerful during these days it created the impression that everyone was buying Untold Tales of Spider-Man and Astro City, and if you weren’t, something was wrong with you.  Early Wizard was mainly devoted to reprinting press releases and promoting new companies, later Wizard was mindless hype for the movie industry, middle Wizard went through that pro wrestling phase…but this run of Wizard reads like a legitimate comics magazine, for the most part.  How long it lasted, I’m not sure.

The Wizard Q &A - Mark Waid

Mark Waid is interviewed, I’m assuming to promote his upcoming X-Men run, although all of his current assignments are touched upon.  Waid only lasted six months on the X-titles, but he seems to have made one lasting mark on the books.  In a sidebar devoted to his upcoming plans for X-Men, Waid makes it clear that he can’t view Professor Xavier as the warm, fuzzy mentor knowing that Xavier pulled such manipulative tricks as hiring a shapeshifter to take his place for months and “then (lying) to his students about being dead.”  Waid’s more cynical view of Xavier was nixed by editorial, which meant the villain Onslaught went from being Xavier’s repressed subconscious to a separate entity co-created by Magneto’s evil spirit.

This attitude towards Xavier, though, will dominate the books after Bob Harras leaves Marvel, creating the environment where every Xavier story is about what a lying, manipulative jerk he is.  The thing is, the story that’s always cited as evidence of this was A) written by a fill-in writer, B) a one-issue story designed to retcon away Xavier’s previous death, and C) just so dumb everyone at the time simply agreed to forget about it.  Also, it’s worth remembering that Xavier never faked his death; he had no way of knowing Changeling would die in battle with the team.  (Changeling did have cancer of course, but presumably Xavier thought he had enough time left to lead the team for a few months.  The cancer angle is another indication of just how poorly conceived this story was to begin with.  You’ve really got to wonder why this one-issue story from 1970 hangs around Xavier’s neck forever.)

Mark Waid also indicates that the Legacy Virus storyline will be resolved this year…a year after Bob Harras stated the story would be resolved in 1995.  And it’s still not resolved by the end of the decade!

Big Bang

A profile on the growing Magic: The Gathering phenomenon, which is only two years old at this point.  Much of the collector mentality that fueled early ‘90s comics went into collectible playing cards, although I don’t think those delightful individuals ended up nearly killing CCGs (collectible card games).  Magic doesn’t seem to be what it was in the ‘90s, but I don’t think it’s ever died out.  The sidebar of this article is interesting, with the editor of Acclaim’s Magic: The Gathering comics lamenting that comic shops aren’t ordering the books in large numbers, even though they sell briskly when displayed during tournaments, and “do particularly well” with female readers.

Character Profile: Green Lantern

A new feature that highlights a current title, provides quotes from the creative team, lists some back issue suggestions, and gives you a recommended reading list if you enjoy the book.  Unlike many of the magazine’s other features, it’s uniformly positive, and it’s not driven by speculation (the articles aren’t encouraging you to buy anything for investment purposes).  A piece like this could easily come across as more hype, but it’s written to be more educational than anything.  More along the lines of, “Hey, we like what’s been going on in Green Lantern lately, here’s some things you’d want to know about the book.”

Greg Capullo’s Krash Course

Capullo displays his cartooning skills, giving readers a tutorial on how to draw various emotional reactions.



The Phoenix Aftermath Trivia Contest

I’m assuming the Ultraverse was already in trouble by now, because I’m not sure how else to explain the effort to incorporate the X-Men and the return of the Phoenix into the Ultraverse, leading to the creation of a new character deemed Marvel’s first Bad Girl.



The event was The Phoenix Resurrection, the spinoff title was Firefox, and ultimately, the (teenage) character’s sex appeal was toned down considerably by the time of the book’s release; also, the Phoenix connection was dismissed by saying that Firefox was only imitating the power of the Phoenix.  She was labeled “the stepdaughter” of the Phoenix and quickly forgotten, which is probably for the best.  The winner of this contest, however, was immortalized forever in a pinup in the final issue of the title.



Trailer Park

Now moved to the middle of the magazine from the back, more news from films that were never made.  This issue, we learn that George Clooney was expected to star in a Sam Raimi-directed Green Hornet film, but he’s doing Dreamworks’ The Peacemaker instead.  The column also has writer John Turman give an update on the three superhero scripts he’s currently working on: Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Prime.  There was a Hulk film made with producer Gale Anne Hurd (who you might recognize today from The Walking Dead), but Turman’s script, which involved characters like Rick Jones, the Leader, and Dr. Sampson, clearly wasn’t the one used.

The Toy Chest

Wizard’s revamped toy column brings us news from the various toy manufacturers, and alerts fans to the “Free with 2 Proofs of Purchase” Han Solo in a Stormtrooper outfit toy that’s available through Froot Loops cereal (I just realized it isn’t spelled “Fruit Loops”).  Toy Chest has also revived the Wish List feature for toys that haven’t been produced yet.



Top Ten Comics - January 1996

The first issue of the Gen 13 series has returned as the top back issue of the month, followed by several Bad Girls, and new entries such as the first two X-Files issues and Preacher #1.  The first issue of the Wolverine ongoing has also popped up in the Number Four slot, for no obvious reason.

Comic Watch/Good & Cheap

Stormwatch #8 is the investment pick of the month, because it features the debut of Rainmaker from Gen 13.  I had no idea any member of Gen 13 appeared before the miniseries, although it does make sense that Wildstorm would’ve worked in an appearance from at least one of the characters before the series’ debut.  I refuse to believe that anyone’s paying anything more than two quarters for Stormwatch #8 today, however.  The Good & Cheap selection is another entry from the Jim Shooter era of Avengers, issue #217, featuring Yellowjacket’s “last stand” against the Avengers.


Upcoming releases highlighted include the second Death miniseries, Captain America #450, and Untold Tales of Spider-Man #8.  The Picks section of this magazine must be going through a transition, because just a few issues ago it was focusing attention on heavily promoted books from major companies, many of which the Wizard editorial staff clearly hated (like Maximum Clonage).  These picks, especially a seemingly random issue of Untold Tales of Spider-Man, clearly weren’t the big “event” comics of their day.


The trivia piece ranks your score based on horrific things that have happened to superhero girlfriends in the past.  The lowest score is “Green Lantern’s tomato, Alex” who “found out if the light goes out when you close the door” on the refrigerator.  And everyone is just going to forget about that issue, right?

Wizard Market Watch

Some retailers are reporting that the Bad Girls trend is starting to die down, with even titles like Shi not selling as they used to.  In other market news, the first two issues of the independent book Creed (not the “down-to-earth” Sabretooth solo series that may or may not have ever existed) are going for $26 and $28 respectively.  And Joe Linsner’s Dawn is “super-hot!” so the odds of the Bad Girls disappearing from Wizard any time soon remain slim.

Wizard also announces that it’s starting an Autograph Price Guide, which will list “several hundred of the top artists and writers and include a value for their autographs.  Values range from one thin buck to several hundred dollars, depending on who the artist or writer is (get a Steve Ditko or Joe Shuster autograph and you’re really in luck.)”  If you’re curious, that Ditko autograph is listed at $500.  I have no idea what standard Wizard used when developing these prices; for example, an Art Adams autograph is only worth $3, while a Jim Balent is $10 and a Neal Adams is $60.  Legendary creators like Joe Kubert are allegedly only worth $4, and if the blue bars (which indicate decreasing value) are to be believed, Sal Buscema’s signature is dropping just like the prices of various Extreme Studios’ artists.  Who honestly thought this feature was a good idea?

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Joe Madureira
  3. J. Scott Campbell
  4. Jim Lee
  5. Joe Quesada
  6. Greg Capullo
  7. Steven Hughes
  8. Frank Miller
  9. Mike Deodato, Jr.
  10. Bill Tucci

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Neil Gaiman
  2. Peter David
  3. Kurt Busiek
  4. Mark Waid
  5. Garth Ennis
  6. Alan Moore
  7. Scott Lobdell
  8. Ron Marz
  9. James Robinson
  10. Stefan Petrucha

Top 100 - December 1995

DC Versus Marvel #1 tops the chart, with the rest of the Top Ten including several X-books, two issues of Spawn, and two Gen 13 books (one of them the Maxx crossover.)  The Batman books, in the midst of the “Contagion” crossover are outselling the Superman books this month, while Spider-Man titles are outselling both of DC’s franchises.  The Top 20 books are largely X-Men and Spider-Man titles.  (Spider-Man’s been bolstered by the renamed Scarlet Spider stunt, and the promotion that the “one, true” Spider-Man is headlining Sensational Spider-Man #0.)


The Bullpen feature is used to revive the Mort of the Month.  This issue’s victim is Merry: the Girl of a Thousand Gimmicks:



The Top Ten list this issue gives Marvel advice on how to bump up its stock price.  Suggestions include another Secret Wars and selling its movie rights to Comedy Central.

The Wizard Profile

Does Paul Chadwick know who the Beyonder is?


Yes; he’d use the Beyonder’s powers to give humans the ability to live a thousand years, but we’d have to think for at least a year before deciding to have a baby.


So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “If you’re a woman trying to get into this business, don’t hold your breath.” - Colleen Doran, in response to a fan’s inquiry on why so few creators are female.
  • “And I’ve already told Mark Waid that I was not going to be changing Captain America’s costume.  His response was ‘Whew!’” - Rob Liefeld, who says Mark Waid’s job on Captain America is “his to lose.”
  • “It’s not what I would’ve chosen to do.” - Kurt Busiek on the current clone storyline in the Spider-Man books.
  • “Comic books have lost out to game cards.” - Steve Milo, president of American Entertainment.
  • “I know what you’re all thinking: ‘An Italian is gonna teach me how to control emotions?’” - Greg Capullo’s intro to his column.

Nope:  The News column is reporting rumors of Claremont returning to the X-Men, which doesn’t happen for another four years.  Also, the “four issue all-Image crossover” written by Alan Moore and penciled by Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, “and others” never materializes...no live-action Kabuki film…Sharon Stone is the latest name thrown around to play Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin… I’m not sure if George Miller’s syndicated Mad Max TV series ever got off the ground (you can read old reports about the show here)…and the Nintendo Ultra 64 is released as just “Nintendo 64.”  (Wizard describes Super Mario 64’s graphics as “realistic.”)

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Fans paying attention to John Buscema’s work in Wolverine #1…recent DeMatteis/Wagner issues of Daredevil…and a few back issue picks, such as Infinity Inc. #33, Dreadstar #14, and Alpha Flight #12.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  D-Man, who “sucks” for numerous reasons, not the least of which is his bald head…some of the previous artists who had books in the Top 10 back issues list (Scott Kollins is singled out, but maybe it’s a friendly joke)…the previous “armored” run on Daredevil (even though it was a consistent Wizard pick when it began)…so many X-books…the possibility of Thor being cancelled (Wizard begs Marvel to rehire Walt Simonson.)…and the $3.95 cover price of DC Versus Marvel #1.

This Ain't HuffPo:  The deep, dark secret revealed in Preacher #13 is that Pamela Anderson is a guy.

I Love the ‘90s:  Gen 13 (mini) #1 has come out of nowhere “like a Stealth Bomber (that) blows Saddam Hussein right out of his friggin’ bunker!” on the Top 10 back issues list.  Later, married couple Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell are named the “Bruce Willis and Demi Moore” of the painting world.

Vive la France:  No French bashing this issue, perhaps because Jim McLauchlin has taken a month off.

Pathological Scatological:  Mulder and Scully go together like “warm water and an enema bag.”

Commercial Break:  So I guess Rob Liefeld had some faith Warchild would be released after all?



Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  Wizard does seem to be making the transition into a more mature magazine, without losing the irreverent attitude that made it stand out during its early years.  While adding even more price guides, including ones for toys and autographs, would seem to be a mistake in hindsight, the rest of the magazine is a fun read.  If you go back to just a few issues ago, you’ll see that many of Wizard’s excesses have been toned down considerably.  Again, I’m not sure how long this will last, but it’s nice to know that my teenage interest in the magazine wasn’t totally misguided.

Until next time...


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