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The Guide to the Guide to Comics – WIZARD #57 (May 1996)

by  in Comic News Comment
The Guide to the Guide to Comics – WIZARD #57 (May 1996)

Ben Reilly is out, Rob Liefeld’s Cap is in, the Simpsons live-action movie is cast, and Wizard brings us the first of many Alex Ross sketchbook pages, all in today’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!


I realize that the “Cap’s boobs” image from the Heroes Reborn era will always stay with a generation, but the cancerous tumor consuming Captain America’s back on this cover is also worth a mention.  Jim Lee’s Iron Man doesn’t look so bad, although I’ve never understood those two…things that look like the rifle butts sticking out of his back.

The alternate cover this month is a preview of Kingdom Come, which will receive probably a full year of publicity in this magazine.

In this month’s Wizard, we have…features on Paul Grist’s crime noir comic Kane, a Casting Call for a live action Simpsons movie, a sketchbook preview of Kingdom Come, a Heroes Reborn (still “Unfinished Business” at this date) interview, a few toy-related articles, and a Dan Jurgens interview.

The regular columns include Greg Capullo’s Krash Course, Toy Chest, Trailer Park, Palmer’s Picks (this month the focus is on Rick Veitch’s Rare Bit Fiends), Manga Scene, and Card Market.

The Departments include letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.  And here’s something new…monthly cartoon calendars by Brian Douglas Ahern (who also pencils a “Supervillain Garage Sale” cartoon for the issue).  I always enjoyed these, and I know more than a few people have fond memories of the calendars.


Above is the original art from one installment, from a fan’s collection on

Magic Words

Jim McLauchlin spends much of the letter column answering pretty pedestrian questions, such as “What comics has Jim Balent drawn?” (Remember, this was essentially pre-internet.)  There is an amusing letter from Brian Pulido, though, accusing Rob Liefeld of swiping his “dead Elvis” pose.



Wizard News

The lead story this month is Marvel’s announcement that the Spider-Man clone storyline will have a definitive ending and that Peter Parker will be back as Spider-Man.  After the Onslaught crossover, though.  (It’s odd that Marvel is outright saying Ben Reilly won’t remain as Spider-Man, yet is still scheduled to publish around six months of comics starring him.)  Ralph Macchio encourages fans to give the books a shot after the clone story is over, promising to revive Peter Parker’s large cast of supporting players.  I reviewed this entire era of the books recently, and while it’s obvious the creators wanted to get back to this idea early on, they never delivered on it.  Readers’ apathetic response to the post-clone issues is what eventually brought us John Byrne’s Spider-Man: Chapter One reboot.

The next story is a full-page obituary for Jerry Siegel.  This would’ve been a more obvious choice as the lead story, but I’ll give Wizard the benefit of the doubt and assume that this page had to be added at the last minute, after the Spider-Man story had already been slotted for the main page.  In other news…Marvel and Image are publishing numerous crossover comics…Supergirl is returning…Grant Morrison’s JLA revamp is announced…Jim Lee has created his Homage Comics brand (which, like Maximum Press, isn’t going to be published by Image, although I believe those plans changed)…Burne Hogarth, inker Malcom Jones III, and Spectre co-creator Bernard Baily have also died…and Mark Waid will not be writing Rob Liefeld’s Captain America series.

Casting Call

A Simpsons live-action movie has always sounded like a horrible idea to me, but I think it’s probably inevitable that one will be produced one day.  Wizard’s dream casting includes…

Tom Arnold as Homer

Julie Kavner as Marge (“Heck, she’s got the voice and everything.”)

Kieran Culkin as Bart

Lacey Chabert as Lisa (I believe she was also John Byrne’s choice for Kitty Pryde, or perhaps I’m thinking of Jennifer Love Hewitt…)

Florence Stanley (My Two Dads) as Patty & Selma

“The kid from Baby Boom” as Maggie

Abe Vigoda as Abe Simpson

Al Franken as Smithers (that one, I like)

Conrad Bain (Diff’rent Strokes) as Mr. Burns

Dan Hedaya (Clueless) as Moe

Josh Saviano (The Wonder Years) as Millhouse

Bobcat Goldthwait as Krusty

Chris Farley as Barney

And, oh dear, Fisher Stevens as Apu (“Fisher Steves did a perfect Apu-like character in Short Circuit and he wasn’t even trying.  So why not have him do the real deal here?”)

Brave New World

Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld hint at their “Unfinished Business” plans, while Bob Harras has a few quotes, reassuring fans that the history of the Marvel Universe isn’t being wiped away.  The sidebar provides readers with Lee and Liefeld’s career highlights, which gives Wizard another opportunity to proclaim Team Youngblood #9 and Youngblood #6 modern classics.  The sidebar is attributed to a “Vic Tayback,” which just has to be a pen name.

Thy Kingdom Comes

A Wizard exclusive peak into Alex Ross’ sketchbook for Kingdom Come.  In the years that follow, we will see many, many Alex Ross sketchbook pieces in this magazine.



The Wizard Q&A

Dan Jurgens is interviewed, following his short stints on Solar and Sensational Spider-Man.  Jurgens explains that he left Solar at Acclaim’s request, and that his Spider-Man stint was always intended as a trial run.  This is the interview where Jurgens reveals he quit Sensational Spider-Man because Marvel was unwilling to revive Peter Parker as Spider-Man, which ironically became Marvel’s plan right after he left.  Jurgens also discusses the likelihood of him taking over Teen Titans, and a Superman/Fantastic Four one-shot he’s written but isn’t sure will be published.  It did appear in the late ‘90s, when quite a few Marvel/DC crossovers began popping up.

A Toy’s Story

Wizard examines the booming toy market, which is attracting new collectors due to the increased variety of characters and intricate sculpts of new action figures.  (To give you an idea of how dominant the X-Men remain, Toy Biz has a plan to release twenty unique X-figures a year.)  Avi Arad, still viewed as Marvel’s toy guy, is interviewed, and a piece of Arthur Adams’ design work is reprinted.  I have no idea if Toy Biz was developing a character actually called “Piecemeal” or if this is some stage of production Adams was stuck drawing.  Arad, by the way, dismisses the idea that female action figures don’t sell, maintaining that characters like Storm, Rogue, and Phoenix have done “tremendously well.”



Greg Capullo’s Krash Course

Capullo’s lesson this month is on pacing, and it’s one I vividly remember because it was the first time I was consciously aware of how the same story could be told in an unlimited variety of panel layouts.  Capullo presents a simple story — a grandma offers cookies to a kid, then shoots the kid, who turns out to be a robot — and showcases various ways to dramatize the idea.  The more cinematic example Capullo cites as a “bit extreme in its pacing” will go on to become the industry standard for much of the 2000s.



Trailer Park

The rumored cast of Batman & Robin is actually correct this month — George Clooney as Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl.  The early word is that the actor playing Commissioner Gordon, Pat Hingle, is too old to credibly play Batgirl’s father, so her origin will be changed.

Promotion for the WB Superman cartoon has also begun, with Bruce Timm revealing that Clark and Lois won’t have a romantic relationship on the series.  (“They’re like a brother and sister who don’t get along.”)  Dropping the Superman/Lois/Clark love triangle might’ve seemed like a good idea at the time, eliminating one of the hoary elements from the Silver Age Superman, but I never felt as if the show replaced it with anything.  Superman was a well-animated series with great action sequences, but Clark Kent’s life on the series always felt stale to me.

Manga Scene

Now written by Carl Gustav Horn, this month’s column highlights manga legend Osamu Tezauka’s work.  His Adolf graphic novel is being printed in America for the first time.


Wizard’s top picks this month are the debut issue of Batman: Black & White, the Ron Marz/Claudio Castellini Silver Surfer: Dangerous Artifacts one-shot, and…that’s it.  Only two major picks this month, followed by summaries of the April 1996 solicitations with some Wizard humor (which is pretty tame this month) tossed in.

Top Ten Comics

March’s hottest back issues feature no X-books, and really no Marvel at all, outside of the DC VS. Marvel miniseries.

  1. X-Files #1
  2. DC VS. Marvel #1
  3. Preacher #1
  4. Preacher #2
  5. Gen 13 (mini) #1
  6. Shi #1
  7. Lady Death #1
  8. Dawn #1
  9. Marvel VS. DC #2 (the billing changed based on which company published the issue)
  10. Angela #1


Wizard Market Watch

We’re informed that Lady Death’s first appearance is Evil Ernie #1 is selling in the $100-$140 range, while many fans are overwhelmed at the new wave of Image product being released in the wake of Gen 13’s success.  Wizard’s also participating in the rumor campaign, I assume initiated by Marvel, that Wolverine’s adamantium will return in Wolverine #100.  Not only was this never the plan, but #100 is also the debut of the nose-less, feral Wolverine that fans hated so intensely in the ‘90s.

The Ten Hottest Artists/Writers list is also receiving a revamp this month, as the look of the magazine continues to evolve:



Top 100 – February 1996

Marvel VS. DC #3 is the top seller, followed by Spawn, various X-books, the Spawn/WildC.A.T.s crossover, and Adam Hughes’ Gen 13: Ordinary Heroes #1 (which went around six months between issues one and two.)  The Spider-Man titles start to appear in the lower section of the Top 20, while Batman and Superman titles sell competitively in the 20-30 slots.  Also worth mentioning — Shi #8 is ranked at Number 18, above some of the X-books and all of the Spider-Man titles, except for Amazing Spider-Man.  Many established Image books, like Savage Dragon and Youngblood are sinking lower to the bottom of the Top 100, while Valiant/Acclaim isn’t on the list at all.

The Wizard Comic Price Guide

X-Men Alpha is highlighted as a “Buried Treasure” because it features the debut of the Dark Beast, who Wizard thinks just might be the X-traitor.  Looking through the Price Guide, I see that Preacher #1 is listed at $27, Marvels #1 is $10, Shi #1 is $35, and Youngblood #1 has fallen from over $12 to a more reasonable (but still implausible) $5.  The Comic Price Guide is followed by a greatly expanded Action Figure Price Guide, which helpfully informs us that an Angela action figure with the painted-on underwear is worth five dollars less than the one without the paint, which is going for $30.  The toy price guide is surprisingly thorough, actually, with several pages devoted exclusively to Star Wars toy prices.

Wizard Bullpen

The Mort of the Month is DC villain Rainbow Raider, which Wizard declares is an argument for birth control.


So, what did we learn today?


Money Quotes:

  • “I almost see this as the last hurrah.  If we can’t launch these characters and make them work, then we’re going to have an industry full of vigilantes and half-naked women.” – Rob Liefeld on “Unfinished Business.”
  • “John Byrne is a sissy for not drawing all the stars.” – Alex Ross, joking, while describing his Wonder Woman design.
  • “What we’re waiting for is a reason — an event, a show, a movie…” Avi Arad, on why Marvel characters like Thor and Daredevil don’t have toys, but X-Men characters like Senyaka do.


Nope:  The Prophet/Cable crossover isn’t written by Chuck Dixon (although if you believe some rumors, Rob Liefeld did pencil it under a pen name)…The Savage Dragon never crossed over with any Marvel titles during the Image/Marvel crossover frenzy…Chris Claremont didn’t join Marc Silvestri on the X-Men/Star Trek crossover…J. Scott Campbell’s rumored Batman project never materialized…Spawn #49 doesn’t feature Spawn and Sam & Twitch uniting (McFarlane holds off on this idea for, literally, years)…a second Angela series never appears in late ’96 (in fact, this is when McFarlane’s relationship with Gaiman began to fall apart)…the rumored Beetle Bailey and Razor films never happen…Greg Kinnear never stars as the Green Hornet…Shadowhawk never stars in a live-action film or a cartoon for the USA Network…and the Scud, the Disposable Assassin script by Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon (expected to be polished by Alan McElroy, who co-wrote the Spawn film, and later the Resident Evil movies) is never produced.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  The Waid/Garney Captain America run, Green Lantern, Preacher, and Sin City.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Rob Liefeld ending the Waid/Garney Captain America run, the Generation X made-for-TV movie, and various robot sidekicks, such as Twikki and HERBIE.

This Ain’t HuffPo:  Wizard jokes about exposing “the entire Far East” for child labor abuses during the Toy Biz article, and the caption given to an old Star Wars trading card implies that Ben Kenobi is desperate to take Luke’s shirt off.

I Love the ‘90s:  “You’d think these things were Pearl Jam tickets.” – How Wizard describes a line of Marvel action figure fans waiting outside a toy store early in the morning.  Also, Wizard keeps referencing “The Hansons” during the hidden jokes, which is a pop culture reference that escapes me.  The music group Hanson didn’t debut until early ’97, and were never really referred to as “The Hansons” so that can’t be the answer.  Apparently, it’s a hockey movie reference?

Vive la France:  No French references this issue.

Pathological Scatological:  We’re 172 pages into the issue before we reach the first joke relating to bodily functions (an image from a Batman Returns card that has the Penguin discovering a “warm spot” in the pool.)  That, and the title “Rectal Halitosis” to describe the staff’s chili cookoff contest on the Bullpen page, are the only examples of scatological humor this issue.  It’s not all class, though, since a few jokes about characters using their “right hand” and Spider-Man’s tights growing tighter when he meets a femme fatale villain make their way in.

Commercial Break:  Is this from the same Mirage that brought us TMNT?


Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  Not this issue.  I’ve been saying this quite often lately, but it’s true — Wizard is a solid comics magazine during this era.  You get a sense reading the magazine that the staff honestly wants to improve the book with each issue; Wizard is concerned about value for your dollar and wants each issue to be as packed as possible.  Not just with the freebies in the polybag, either.  The Brian Douglas Ahern calendar was a nice surprise, not to mention the cartoon joke contest he penciled for the issue.  And if you hate the crude humor, I don’t think any of it gets in the way of the actual content; it’s been shoved far into the back of the magazine, or virtually hidden as captions in a cramped price guide page.

Until next time…

Not Blog X || Twitter || The (David) Milch Studies on Real Gentlemen of Leisure || Tumblr || Also, my novel Yeah, Shut Up. is now on Amazon. 

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