How did Superman avoid the long hair on his ‘90s animated series? Who wears more clothes -- Dawn or Wonder Woman? What if Iron Man starred in a videogame and no one remembered? Answers and more in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!
Superman makes the cover, on the newsstand version at least, while Shi stars in the direct market version. The Superman cover allegedly depicts him emerging from the clouds, but I assumed the white substance surrounding him was supposed to be water until I later read the behind-the-scenes column by Joe Quesada. It’s not one of Quesada’s best covers, but it’s one of the few times he’s ever drawn Superman, and might turn out to be the last.
In this month’s Wizard, we have… profiles on Nexus, Legion of Superheroes, and Dawn, a hypothetical Fantastic Four casting, a preview of the “Onslaught” crossover, a preview of the new Superman animated series, previews of The Darkness and JLA, and a Frank Miller interview. There’s also a humor piece penciled by Tom Grummett.
The regular columns include Toy Chest, Palmer’s Picks (featuring some guy named Brian Michael Bendis and his crime comic Jinx), Manga Scene, Card Market, and Trailer Park. Greg Capullo’s Krash Course is already gone it seems, with Jimmy Palmiotti stepping in with an inking lesson. Also, Brian Douglas Ahern's cartoon calendar is included.
The Departments include the usual mix of letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.
The Wizard letter column addresses fan questions relating to this new Heroes Reborn deal (a Marvel rep confirms the deal was in the works before Waid and Garney were hired for Captain America)…prints a letter from Joe Quesada chastising them for leaving Michael Golden, Humberto Ramos, and Adam Warren out of an article on American manga…provides Jo Duffy’s commentary on the chances of females making it in comics (she’s not as pessimistic as others) …provides a brief history of Sonic Disruptors (a miniseries allegedly so bad DC cancelled it before it could be finished)…and announces that Marvel will have mercy on our pocketbooks by increasing the content of its $1.95 books to 40 pages; which is great, except those extra eight pages turned out to be ads for other Marvel books.
Marvel headlines the news with the announcement that the “Onslaught” crossover will lead into the Heroes Reborn event, and that Marvel’s focus during Heroes Reborn will be on the heroes left behind, such as Black Widow and Quicksilver. There actually is a potentially interesting setup in here -- most of the public heroes are gone, mutants are blamed for their deaths, and only a handful of drifting Avengers are left. This could’ve lead to something great. What we got was…Operation: Zero Tolerance, I guess.
In other news…Spider-Man #75 will officially end the clone storyline…DC has announced the Darkest Night crossover/miniseries event…Fantagraphics is celebrating twenty years…Ron Garney has moved on to Silver Surfer…and the internet has begun to influence comics, with numerous creators (like Dave Gibbons and Ron Lim) joining Byron Priess’ online company Virtual Comics, and DC boasting that its five-page a week serialization of a Legends of the Dark Knight comic was the “first electronic serialization in comics history.”
Wizard’s casting of a Fantastic Four movie is pretty impressive, all told.
Mark Harmon as Mr. Fantastic
Gail O’Grady (NYPD Blue) as Invisible Woman
Dennis Franz as the Thing (the voice of the Thing, with the body created with animatronics)
Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Human Torch
Jeremy Irons as Dr. Doom
Brian Bosnall (Star Trek: TNG) as Franklin Richards
Marlon Brando as Galactus
Helen Hunt as Alicia Masters
Robert Patrick as Silver Surfer (because he was already “silvery” in Terminator 2)
And Jesse Ventura as Terrax, because one wrestler must be cast each issue.
Hype for the “Onslaught” crossover, which tries to sell the idea that Onslaught is going to kill half of the Marvel Universe. Not quite. The article does reveal that “Onslaught” has undergone numerous revisions, right up until publication, which likely explains why Marvel published an “Onslaught” tie-in book filled with plot outlines that never happened. Mark Waid also states his desire to have the X-Men actually interact with the rest of the Marvel heroes during a big crossover event, something he feels Marvel has never done.
Truthfully, the “Onslaught” event did have some nice, small moments between the massive cast of characters, but the crossover was obviously poorly conceived if you tried to read every chapter of it. There’s virtually no consistency from chapter to chapter, and the storyline ultimately served merely as a continuity explanation for the Heroes Reborn books and yet another excuse to write Xavier out of the X-titles. Not exactly the significant event we were promised.
Superhero High School - 1976
A humor piece, inspired by Brian Douglas Ahern’s monthly calendars, that offers a glimpse of various comic characters’ yearbook from twenty years ago. (And since twenty years have passed since the publication of this issue, that means 1996 yearbooks are fair game for mockery, I suppose.) Tom Grummett is the artist, displaying a more playful side of his art. I thought most of the entries were pretty funny, to be honest, although I’ve always felt that sexualizing the Riverdale cast was just too cheap a joke. Entries like this one are evidence of the influence Wizard will have on the early days of online comics fandom.
Dawn of a New Era
A promotional article for Joe Linsner’s Dawn series, who just so happens to be starring in this issue’s Wizard-exclusive Dawn #1/2. As you might’ve guessed, Wizard has a lot invested in keeping the Bad Girls fad alive.
Men of Steel
An exclusive look at the upcoming Superman cartoon, featuring interviews with Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Wizard used to score these exclusives regularly, and there’s a good chance I bought this issue specifically for this article. The promotional stage for the Superman cartoon must be in its infancy at this moment, since WB seems to have provided Wizard with only two images of Superman to use. The rest of the article is decorated with images pulled from a comic, possibly penciled by Mike Parobeck, which speculate on what the animated Superman might’ve looked like (and it isn’t Batman Adventures #25, since Superman doesn’t have long hair and Lex is bald.)
The interview with Dini and Timm is remarkably candid, especially given that it’s being done to promote the series. Most of their interview is spent discussing the difficulties in bringing the show together and the various traps they’re afraid the series might fall into. Timm acknowledges that he views most of Superman’s villains as dull, and that finding a psychological angle for Superman was difficult. Timm was also adamant about not giving Superman the long hair (DC relented after “long, drawn-out negotiations.”) As for Dini, he’s felt that the writers assigned to the show haven’t been sticking to the original bible and were producing predictable Superman stories that relied on a boring Clark, Superman as the Boy Scout, and Lois acting as “a bitch.”
The main challenge the producers seem to face is making Superman palatable for a ‘90s audience, which has them swearing to avoid “old, weird, goofy Superman stories.” I can understand why this mentality existed at the time, but over the years, I think many people have come to realize that Superman without those “old, weird, goofy” elements is usually missing something. I get the impression reading the article that Dini and Timm had a long list of things they didn’t want to do with Superman, but had a hard time finding unique elements to replace those aspects with.
The piece also reveals some plans that never quite made it onto the show. Despite what Dini thinks, I don’t believe anyone who watched the series viewed Clark Kent as a “hard-ass” who’s “a bit of a motormouth” with “a sarcastic sense of humor to everything.” The large supporting cast, which is mentioned in all of the early press for the series, also amounts to virtually nothing on the actual show. (That Angela Chen really took off, huh?)
All of this sounds like I’m trashing Superman when I actually enjoyed the series, I just think it often felt a tad generic. Still, those “World’s Finest” episodes will probably remain my favorite Batman/Superman crossover of all time.
Grant Morrison is interviewed about the upcoming JLA relaunch (still officially titled Justice League America at this stage), in a piece by Scott Beatty, who goes on to write a few projects for DC. Morrison says that he was inspired to tackle JLA after reading Mark Waid’s Flash run, which fueled his desire to produce superhero material to counter the Dark Age of comics. Morrison also hints at the idea of reintroducing old Silver Age stories “no one admits to having read” into JLA through dream sequences, foreshadowing elements of his Batman run.
It’s worth remembering that JLA was a massive hit for DC during the last half of the ‘90s; the idea of a “big guns only” version of JLA might seem obvious now, but DC had deprived the fans of it for so long, people were desperate for the book. Wizard also went mad for the series, hyping it relentlessly for most of Morrison’s run. Online reaction to the book seemed to be mixed, however. One of my first instances of realizing that online fans weren’t necessarily in lockstep with Wizard was when I discovered just how many readers were trashing Howard Porter’s artwork.
Wizard Q&A -Frank Miller
Frank Miller, who Wizard views as increasingly opinionated, is interviewed. Miller states that he made a “fool of myself” for defending the Image creators in their early days, in light of the Heroes Reborn deal. He also makes it clear that standing up for Kirby’s legacy shouldn’t be intended as a slight against Stan Lee, who he calls a friend. Miller also wants it known that he in no way views Stray Bullets as a Sin City rip-off. After stating his admiration for DC’s new progressive publishing policies, and the various Legend creators, Miller reveals that he’s taking his Sin City script away from Hollywood because they “want a lot more than I’m willing to give.” Is it possible Robert Rodriguez read this interview and was inspired to offer Miller a Sin City made his way?
UPN’s Incredible Hulk animated series is announced, with Lou Ferrigno cast as the Hulk and Neil McDonough (apparently the Arrow actor, who spells his first name differently now) as the voice of Bruce Banner. Voiceover work on the HBO Spawn series has begun, with the great Keith David in the starring role. Kevin Altieri is still trying to complete the Gen 13 animated film, even though most of his staff has been hired away during the animation boom of the mid-‘90s. I had no idea Glen Murakami did the initial designs for the cartoon, which don’t appear to be the final models used in the movie.
Wizard apparently limits its full-page picks to only two books a month now. This month, it’s singling out WildC.A.T.s #31 (the first Alan Moore/Jim Lee issue) and Legion of Super-Heroes #83 (which might feature a character’s death).
Top Ten Comics
The hottest back issues for May 1996 are an odd mix of Bad Girl comics, X-Files back issues, and Garth Ennis (Wizard’s new favorite creator) books. Aside from DC Versus Marvel #1, Wolverine #100 is the lone Marvel book at Number Two. Wizard thinks fans are responding to Marvel’s effort to revive a more feral Wolverine, but in actuality, this is the beginning of the much-hated “Scooby/Bandana” version of the character that quickly became a joke. Wizard, by the way, now states that it has surveyed “hundreds of retailers throughout the country” to tabulate these results.
Wizard Market Watch
Is it possible the shift from artist-driven comics to writer-driven comics has already begun? Wizard, which originally didn’t even have a ranking of writers, is now listing the Writers list before the Artists lists.
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Peter David
- Neil Gaiman
- Mark Waid
- Garth Ennis
- Kurt Busiek
- Ron Marz
- Karl Kesel
- Chuck Dixon
- Scott Lobdell
- James Robinson
(Seven of those ten writers had never appeared on the list as of a few issues ago.)
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
- Todd McFarlane
- Joe Madureira
- Jim Lee
- J. Scott Campbell
- Bill Tucci
- Joe Linsner
- Alex Ross (incorrectly listed as Joe Linsner)
- Joe Quesada
- Greg Capullo
- Adam Kubert
Top 100 - April 1996
The Top 10 books are led by X-Men #53, followed by more Onslaught-era X-books, some Spawn titles, and Gen 13. The Spider-Man titles start to appear at Number 17 and hang around the Top 25 slots, followed by Superman and Batman books alternating in the Twenties and Thirties. On the bottom of the chart, Bone is outselling most of the Extreme Studios books, with Youngblood going all the way down to Number 100 on the chart.
Wizard dedicates a few pages in the back each issue to random comic-themed merchandise being released this month, such as the Madman yo-yo and Lady Death beach towel. Frank Miller is designing a tenth anniversary Dark Knight Returns statue, from the very early days of established Marvel and DC heroes receiving pricey, direct-only merchandise for adult collectors.
Videogame information is also tossed into this column, which announces the release of new Star Wars games, an Aeon Flux game for Playstation, and an Iron Man & X-O Manowar game that’s being released to coincide with their crossover comic. I don’t remember the comic at all, and the videogame has been totally erased from my memory. According to Wizard, it marks the videogame debuts of characters like Yellowjacket, Absorbing Man, Titania, and Arnim Zola.
Game Informer did a replay of this game a while back...
The Mort of the Month is Balloon Buster, a retconned WWI hero from DC's Silver Age. It seems he received a revamp in DC's New Earth continuity. Balloon Buster shouldn't be confused with that poor comic shop employee who had to tell high school seniors that their Bad Girls comics actually weren't worth anything.
So, what did we learn today?
- “To view something inherent and unchangeable about yourself - like sex, race, height or whatever - as something that will hold you back seems like a good way to limit your chances for success and make yourself nuts in the process.” - Jo Duffy
- “We’re not saying to anybody that the books they read for the last 10 or 20 years never happened. That’s not what Marvel is about.” - Bob Harras, regarding rumors Heroes Reborn is a reboot.
- “A lot of people don’t realize that Dawn wears more clothes than Wonder Woman. It’s true. Check it out.” - Joe Linsner, who doesn’t mention that Dawn’s top is a see-through teddy.
- “You don’t have to think very hard to make Batman an interesting character. You have to put more thought in to make Superman interesting. It’s a challenge.” - Bruce Timm
- “I don’t regard Marvel as a creative force anymore. So my Marvel bashing days are over, because there’s nothing there to bash.” - Frank Miller
- “(W)e try to coordinate all of this and have it be one seamless whole, rather than some sort of patchwork.” - Peter David on plotting out the “Onslaught” crossover.
Nope: Chuck Dixon doesn’t join Rob Liefeld on Captain America (and is later annoyed when he receives a plot assist credit in the first issue)…I don’t believe Garth Ennis takes over WildC.A.T.s following Alan Moore…Joe Madureria does not pencil the Spider-Man/Gen 13 one-shot…George Perez doesn’t join Rob Liefeld on Avengers…The Spectre never appears on the Superman animated series…Avengelyne doesn’t star in a film, Ghost Rider never lands that animated series, Ivan Reitman doesn’t produce a Wonder Woman film, and the live-action Maxx film never happens…
Stuff Wizard Likes: The new team of Karl Kesel and Cary Nord on Daredevil (Wizard declares it the best since Frank Miller, a designation that’s always used to hype new DD creative teams; one that unfairly overlooks Nocenti/Romita, in my opinion, although I thought Kesel/Nord was also great…), Untold Tales of Spider-Man, the Ruins miniseries, and Mark Waid’s DC work.
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: George H.W. Bush’s campaign against Michael Dukakis (Wizard fears this reference dates them)…Rob Liefeld replacing the A with stylized wings on Cap’s cowl…the Bane toy from the Batman:TAS line…the results of Marvel VS. DC’s fan voting…and the prospect of George Clooney playing Batman. The ranking on the CBIQ quiz is also a bit snarky this month…
This Ain't HuffPo: Wizard implies Betty and Veronica are high school skanks…states that Batgirl is one of the very few attractive redheads…and remarks that guys in skintight costumes should be more popular than Bad Girls, then corrects itself.
I Love the ‘90s: The club for Teen Bald Kids enjoy salivating over Cindy Crawford workout videos (although this is from the 1976 Yearbook feature; anyone lusting after Crawford in 1976 was a pedophile)…a joke about Michael Jackson purchasing the Elephant Man’s skeleton somehow makes its way into the summary of Batman/Grendel II…and editor-in-chief Pat McCallum reports that he awakens to loud Alanis Morrisette music.
Vive la France: Dr. Doom’s high school yearbook profile says he conquered France as a teenager. Later, Wizard questions if a virus destroying Paris in Robin #32 would be a bad thing.
Pathological Scatological: The first potty joke doesn’t appear until page 180 this month, with a few caption jokes in the trading card feature devoted to Mexican food and making it to the toilet in time.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: This is an issue I purchased more for the news and previews than for any original content, although it turned out okay. The humor pieces are pretty funny, and well-drawn (Tom Grummett!) so nothing to complain about there. I’ll also mention that Wizard isn’t only targeting forgotten Bronze Age comics for jokes now; you’re seeing more cynicism than hype regarding new comics, which is a turn for the magazine. And, wow, did Frank Miller do a lot of Wizard interviews in the day, before deciding Wizard was everything wrong with comics. I’ll chalk this one up as a decent installment from Wizard’s slightly more mature era.
Until next time...