The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #63 (November 1996)

Give the people what they want -- Witchblade and Gen 13 spinoffs!  Plus, Rob Liefeld is leaving Image, Superman’s getting hitched, and Wizard mocks its readers during the annual Halloween costume contest.  All in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!

Wizard brings us another issue devoted to Marvel’s brave new direction, promotional pieces for Witchblade and Gen 13, and how Grant Morrison is making DC great again.  Plus, Superman’s getting married, an event that’s surely staying in continuity, so that should probably get the newsstand cover.

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...Marvel’s new post-Onslaught status quo, Superman’s wedding to Lois Lane, the latest developments in Generation X, the annual Halloween contest, articles on Witchblade and Gen 13’s new spinoffs, and a Grant Morrison interview.

The regular columns include Basic Training (Kelley Jones teaches you how to create mood), Toy Chest, Trailer Park, Palmer’s Picks (highlighting Steve Weissman’s Yikes!), Manga Scene, and Card Market.

The Departments include the usual blend of letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.  The Top 10 Heroes & Villains list has also been revived after disappearing for several months.

Magic Words

I’ll never forget this installment of Magic Words, because it’s where I learned the origin of the term “minding your Ps and Qs.”  I’m not sure how Jim McLauchlin researched some of these questions before the internet consumed all knowledge (perhaps he called the local library and asked?), but I’m glad he put the effort in.  Other topics covered this month include Roger Corman’s unreleased Fantastic Four movie, Rob Liefeld “reviving” Bucky and whether or not this means the world is coming to an end, a comprehensive list of all eleven colors of Kryptonite, and one heartbroken reader asks McLauchlin if comics are better than girls.  McLauchlin sides with female companionship over comics.  McLauchlin also reveals that many fans have questioned Todd McFarlane’s spot on the Top Ten Artists list, given that he hasn’t penciled a book in two years.  The surveys Wizard conducts, however, consistently have him as one of the most popular artists (and since the category is “artist” and not “penciler” specifically, he would still qualify as Spawn’s regular inker.)

Wizard News

Spider-Man teaming with Gen 13 is the lead story of the month…but if Wizard had received this news earlier, it would’ve certainly been given the top slot: Rob Liefeld has left Image!  A breaking news page informs readers that Liefeld is leaving the company he helped found (not only did Image’s concept originate with Liefeld, but he also came up with the name and designed the logo).  The exact circumstances of Liefeld leaving Image are still in dispute (years after this happened, a few online comments indicated it remained a sore spot between Liefeld and some of the other founders), but he’s on good terms with the company today.

In other news…Gen 13 editor Sarah Becker is a featured cast member on MTV’s The Real World this yearWizard’s poll of comics fans indicate that 87% of them don’t want MJ written out of the Spider-Man books when Peter Parker returns (which was the plan at one point…Kurt Busiek even posted his proposal on how he’d hypothetically handle the situation years ago)…Kevin Eastman and his wife Julie Strain have purchased the Batmobile used in the 1989 movie…and Golden Books Family Entertainment has acquired Jim Shooter and Lorne Michael’s Broadway Entertainment.  Finally, in very sad news, Mark Gruenwald has passed away at the age of 43.

Included with the News segment is an early contribution by Matthew Senreich, who goes on to co-create Robot Chicken.  Comic pros tell childhood Halloween stories…


Wedding of the Century

A promotional piece on the upcoming wedding of Superman and Lois Lane.  The creators acknowledge that the Lois & Clark TV series has disrupted their plans twice; first by delaying the marriage when it debuted (which led to “Death of Superman” becoming the big story that year), and now that the show will feature the marriage, the creators have to quickly renege on the breakup story that’s just been published.  The article also has a sidebar on the upcoming wedding episode of Lois & Clark, which is entitled “Swear to God.  This Time We’re Not Kidding.”

As you’ve probably guessed, the article presents all of the creators as united in their belief that Superman should be married, and that there’s nothing that’s ever going to kill this marriage.

Witchful Thinking

A profile on Top Cow’s Witchblade, which has quickly replaced Cyberforce as the company’s flagship title (a spinoff has already been announced).  The purpose of the article is to sell Witchblade as a fully realized character and not a Bad Girl; David Wohl boasts that the character’s backstory and origin were worked out before the series was released, which was something of a novelty in the early Image years.  We’re also to believe that Witchblade works as a legitimate police procedural, drawing much of its inspiration from NYPD Blue.  (Did Witchblade have gratuitous nude scenes tacked on to the end of its stories, too?)  I’ve never read this book and I realize that many people would laugh at the idea that this series was anything other than cheesecake, but I do have to say that the book survived the Bad Girls fad by about a decade or so.  Some form of legitimate fanbase is out there for Witchblade.

Trailer Park

The Spawn film has been cast, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be voicing Grunge in the Gen 13 film, and the early episodes of the Incredible Hulk cartoon are previewed.  But the real star of this feature is the revamped Flash Gordon…

Would you like to watch the first episode in French?

Casting Call

Wizard’s gone around thirty pages without promoting Preacher, so to make amends, here’s their dream casting for a movie:

Jason Patric as Jesse Custer

Sean Penn as Cassidy

Lauren Holly as Tulip O’Hare

Elijah Wood as Arseface

Cloris Leachman as Gran’ma Marie

Jack Palance as Saint of Killers

Christopher Walken as Jesus de Sade

R Lee Emery as Sherrif Root

Tracey Walter (Repo Man) as T.C.

John Wayne (with “Forrest Gump style special effects”) as The Duke

Hulk Hogan as Jody

And Lois & Clark’s Lex Luthor, John Shea, as Herr Starr

The Wizard Q&A - Grant Morrison

Didn’t we have a JLA hype article with Grant Morrison quotes just a few issues ago?  Morrison discusses his transition from Vertigo to mainstream DC, a feat that Wizard seems to view as impossible.  Aside from revealing that Gideon Stargrave from The Invisibles was a character he created as a teen for a Scottish science fiction magazine, and the details of how he met Mark Millar, we have Morrison elaborating on his views on superheroes.  He’s bored by the Dark Knight Returns influence, misses the mythic elements of Len Wein’s Justice League from his youth, and uses “widescreen” for perhaps the first time to describe a new style of superhero action.


All Dressed Up With No Place to Go

The fifth annual Halloween costume contest, with even more bathroom humor and cheap shots at the participants’ weight thrown in.  The winner, a Wonder Woman cosplayer from Hollywood, FL, is given a full page to document the various elements that went into her suit.  This is followed by an article by a previous winner, giving detailed instructions on how to create an Angela costume.  That’s around fifteen pages dedicated to cosplay, even if the term probably doesn’t exist yet.


Junk Drawer

Aside from previewing the latest prestige-priced comics-themed statues (Elektra can be yours for only $150!  Sandman bookends for a mere $275!), Junk Drawer takes a look back on Spider-Man’s video game history.  Anyone remember this 1982 Atari “classic” from Parker Brothers?


Or 1991’s Spider-Man for the Sega Genesis?  Wizard declares it the “grandfather of the superhero video game.”  This one was always a lost treasure of my youth, since I didn’t own a Genesis during its release.


The Toy Chest

Even more X-Men and Spider-Man toy lines are announced (this Ninja Wolverine figure looks insane), but the column’s real significance is the revelation that Marvel’s Holocaust character is going to be renamed “Dark Nemesis” as a toy because Toy Biz was uncomfortable with the name.  This influences the comics, which rename Holocaust as “Nemesis” during this era.  Also announced is the Wizard Toy Special (featuring an exclusive offer for a Molten Man figure), which is a prelude to Wizard’s upcoming Toyfare spinoff.  I’m surprised that I’m up to November 1996 and haven’t come across Twisted Mego Theater yet, but it has to be coming soon if Toyfare isn’t too far away.


Win a piece of Joseph Michael Linsner original art -- just draw Dawn’s “teardrop” logo on your own face and send in a photograph.  Winner is chosen by a random drawing.  The hidden jokes in the legal text are, for some reason, dedicated to harassing Tony Orlando.


Continuing the new trend of just picking comics the staff enjoys, this issue Daredevil #359 and Green Lantern #81 are highlighted as your main picks.

Top Ten Comics

Kingdom Come #1 is now the hottest back issue comic on the market, followed by Wolverine #100, and more Bad Girls and Garth Ennis comics.

Top 100 - August 1996

The Onslaught: Marvel Universe one-shot is highest-ordered book of the month.  Image’s Gen 13 spinoff, DV8 #1 (which had eight covers) comes in at #2, followed by the predictable list of X-titles, Gen 13, and Spawn.  (Wizard notes that Wolverine has been consistently outselling Spawn for a year now, a sign that Spawn might be cooling off a bit.)  Kingdom Come #4 also ranks high at number six.  Looking at the other big franchises, Spider-Man is now consistently outselling both of DC’s main heroes, and Batman books are firmly outranking Superman’s titles.

Wizard Market Watch

Just a few pages after Kingdom Come was declared a modern classic, the Market Watch segment runs complaints from readers who found the story overly dramatic and unfulfilling, believing that the Kingdom Come trading card set offered more insight into the characters than the actual series.  Preacher is also controversial, with some fans declaring the book over-hyped and far too reliant on shock value.  What any of this has to do with the market, I’m not sure, but it’s more interesting to read than an overview of Valiant back issue prices.

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

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

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Jim Lee
  3. Joe Madureira
  4. Alex Ross
  5. J. Scott Campbell
  6. Joe Linsner
  7. William Tucci
  8. Joe Quesada
  9. Humberto Ramos
  10. Mike Wieringo

Odd that Greg Capullo, who’s penciled Spawn for a few years at this point and up until recently was producing his own art column for the magazine, has dropped off the list.  Given the ongoing popularity of Wolverine, you’d also think Larry Hama and Adam Kubert could make the lists.  The Kubert brothers do occasionally appear on the artists list, but Hama is consistently ignored.

Guest Column

I don’t think this feature lasts long, but I’ve always remembered this installment.  Paul Dini writes about comic adaptations, and the years it’s taken for networks to produce cartoons loyal to the comics.  This turned out to be a fad that didn’t survive the end of the decade.  By the late ‘90s, networks declared that superhero cartoons should specifically appeal to young viewers, which is why Batman Beyond starred a teenage Batman -- even if the show itself was dark, Dini/Timm did give the network the young hero it asked for.  More recently, the overall tone has also become much friendlier for kids; not only did Krypto receive the series Dini jokes about in the closing, but shows like Ultimate Spider-Man are essentially Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends for a modern audience.  In just the past few years, networks have gone further and declared that the shows have to be “boy-friendly,” packed with jokes, and feature a lesson learned by the end of each episode.  That’s why Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! had to evolve into the formulaic, and far less interesting, Avengers Assemble.

Also, have we ever received confirmation of this Marvel Heroes & Their Dogs cartoon?

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

It’s back, after months away, and for some reason it’s returning with a gimmick theme.  We’re treated to the Top 10 characters no one actually wants to look at, and topping the list is Aunt May’s corpse.  And this is where it begins.  If you’re a Spider-Man fan, you’re going to see this argument appear on a regular basis until the day you die:  “We gotta own up to a bad call.  Back in Wiz #45 we ran the Top 10 heroes and villains we wanna see dead, and ol’ Aunt May clocked in at #1.  Our mistake.  Just like Superman needs his Ma and Pa Kent and Batman needs his Alfred, Spidey needs his kindly, advice-full Aunt May.  We goofed for wanting her dead and Marvel goofed with making her dead.  What they shoulda done is offed MJ.  Luckless sad sack Peter Parker should not have a supermodel wife or any bratty kids.  It’s just not in his character.”

Yes, this is the moment Wizard firmly turns anti-Spidey marriage, and the drive to revert the character to his Roger Stern-era status quo begins.

In other news, the Mort of the Month is Little Boy Blue (and the Blue Boys), a selection that has Wizard showing a shocking amount of restraint during its write-up.

The Wizard Profile

Forget about interviewing the latest guy to pencil Cloak & Dagger -- this issue blesses us with a profile of the (Ultimate) Warrior!

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “Comic movies are made to break your heart.  You always want them, you always wait in breathless anticipation of them and they always suck.” - Jim McLauchlin
  • “I’m not even sure yet why I resigned from Image.” - Rob Liefeld
  • “It’s kind of mind-boggling to think that 20 years from now, people will still look back at this wedding album as a turning point that changed the status quo of Superman, and your face will be in the background.” - Karl Kesel, on the Superman creative teams appearing in the audience of Superman’s wedding.  Kesel later predicts that, unlike his death, Superman will not “get better” from being married.  I guess he was right?

Nope:  Top Cow and Marvel never finalize that deal for Top Cow to take over the art (but not story content) of several Marvel titles.  Generation X never stars in that syndicated series, Mort, The Dead Teenager never makes it to the screen, and Kevin Smith’s Superman Lives! never makes it past the script stage, although it’s given him endless material over the years.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Kingdom Come, which the magazine predicts will “find itself in that elite pantheon of comics inhabited by the likes of The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and the introductions of Galactus and Silver Surfer -- it will be an all-time classic.”

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Oasis (specifically “Champagne Supernova”), Silver Sable, the wacky names of Witchblade’s creative team (Christina Z. and D-Tron), Ben Reilly, the idea of the X-Men meeting the Star Trek crew, and the very concept of Heroes Reborn.

This Ain't HuffPo:  Wizard predicts Birds of Prey will feature “hair pulling, nail scratching and articles of clothing being ripped to shreds.  Man, stage this in a big ring full of mac ‘n cheese and you could charge admission.”…speculates that Al Gabone from Detective Comics can’t stay out of prison because he likes the showers…suggests midget tossing as a way to relieve boredom in a small town…and jokes that the Hulk and Thing fight because Hulk doesn’t want to be “Thing’s woman.”

Talkin’ ‘Bout Gen 13 (Relentlessly):  After topping the News segment with the announcement of their Spider-Man crossover, Gen 13 ’s new spinoff series, opening with an Alan Davis arc, is previewed.  Also, the Gen 13 chromium card set will feature preview cards for the upcoming animated movie.

I Love the ‘90s:  We have a few Michael Jackson pedophilia jokes, the thought of hanging out with Dennis Rodman is compared to spending time with God, and Joey Buttafucco somehow makes his way into the magazine’s preview of Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’96.

Vive la France:  I think a few months have passed without a single reference to the French.  Is the French bashing era of the magazine over?

Pathological Scatological:  Whatever restraint Wizard was showing in the previous months is now gone.  I guess the temptation to mock those cosplayers proved too great, because after the door is opened in the Halloween feature, we’re confronted with bathroom humor on what feels like every page.  Even the joke that accompanies a photo of a homemade Captain America toy somehow goes with “defecating inside his shield” as a premise…it’s like Wizard saved all of its toilet humor chips and decided to cash them in this month.

Commercial Break:  "Virtual Comics exists in three media: print, online, and in CD-Rom Comics/Game Packs."

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  Opening with five consecutive hype articles (Marvel’s post-Onslaught status quo, Superman’s wedding, Generation X, Witchblade, and Gen 13: Bootleg) gets the issue off to a sluggish start.  The Grant Morrison interview at least offers some insight into his background and philosophy on comics, but even this piece is largely a promotion for JLA.  After that, we have the Halloween contest, which the staff acknowledges is an excuse for third grade bathroom humor, and the standard “on sale soon” material relating to toys and random junk.  It’s a dud of an issue, overall, although the Brian Douglas Ahern cartoons are fun.

Until next time...

PREVIEW: Superman #7

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