Rob Liefeld departs Heroes Reborn, Batman & Robin is slated to disappoint audiences nationwide, and this Kyle Rayner guy will always have Wizard’s heart, all in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!
The previous issue promised an Adam Kubert Hulk/She-Hulk team-up cover…guess she got crowded out of the shot? The direct market cover this month features Wizard’s favorite Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner.
In this month’s Wizard, we have features on…how much better Green Lantern has become without Hal Jordan, a piece on the death of Graydon Creed, an article questioning the new lighter tone of the Batman movies, a hype piece for Marvel’s Flashback Month, a ranking of the toughest superheroes, and an interview with Jeph Loeb.
The Standards include Basic Training (Mike Wieringo provides a lesson on drawing Spider-Man), Toy Chest, Trailer Park, Palmer’s Picks, Manga Scene, The Skinny, and Card Market. Plus, letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, a cartoon calendar by Brian Douglas Ahern, the Wizard Profile, and market information.
From the Top…
Gareb Shamus announces that Wizard has purchased the Chicago Comicon. Wizard will continue to focus on conventions, a market they’re still active in today, and eventually it will define the name far more than the magazine.
Letters this month from a reader who’s discovered Superman/Christ imagery in Kingdom Come (shocking), a fan who’s stumbled across Jim Lee’s early work in Samurai Santa (Lee’s embarrassed to be asked about it), and Jim McLauchlin is asked which female member of Gen 13 is the hottest. He refuses to rank the “soulless non-women.”
Leading the news this month is Marvel’s announcement of Heroes Return, a miniseries that will bring the Avengers and Fantastic Four “back where they belong.” As for Heroes Reborn, a small box on the opening news page informs us that Rob Liefeld’s involvement has been terminated, and that Jim Lee’s studio will take over his books with Avengers #8 and Captain America #7. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s amusing to see Marvel brag about getting their characters back months before Heroes Reborn is even close to finishing.
In other news…Marvel’s promoting the Zero Tolerance crossover heavily (three ads run during the news section, in addition to Wizard News teasing the two new X-Men introduced during the story)…DC is prepping for the Genesis miniseries and crossover…The Tick is returning to comics…George Perez is killing real fans in Crimson Plague…Topps Comics is publishing Jackie Chan’s Spartan X…Transmetropolitan is debuting with the new batch of Helix titles…and sadly, writer Kim Yale has passed away.
Better Off Dead
Wizard takes another look at Green Lantern, now that Hal Jordan is dead and surely never returning. Most of this information was covered in the previous Green Lantern hype piece, but we do learn that sales have increased three hundred percent since Hal Jordan was replaced by Kyle Rayner. The article also acknowledges Green Lantern #47, the issue set directly after Coast City’s destruction that presented a very different response from Hal Jordan. Editor Kevin Dooley acknowledges that Gerard Jones had already written that issue before the radical plans for Hal were in place, and that it “(didn’t mesh) with the way we wanted to go.”
The article closes with a sidebar where Ron Marz and Darryl Banks give their thoughts on how to revamp other DC heroes. Wizard wanted Ron Marz to write almost everything during these days.
The Usual Suspects
Wizard remembers that most of its readers buy X-books, so it runs an article speculating on the killer of Graydon Creed. Even by the standards of ‘90s X-mysteries, this one turned out to be unbelievably wretched. Wizard lists ten suspects (including the already-forgotten Upstarts) before reaching the conclusion that the most likely culprit is Bastion, motivated by his desire to foment anti-mutant sentiment. This would make logical sense, so of course that’s not what happened. (Wizard does accurately predict that Bastion is the hybrid of Master Mold and Nimrod that emerged from the Siege Perilous, though.) According to Wizard’s online poll, 37% of fans don’t believe that Creed is even dead. This sidebar is attributed to a “Conrad Bain,” by the way. I wonder if he worked across the hall from Vic Tayback?
The promotional push for Batman & Robin has begun. Wizard has the typical “it’ll be the best one yet!” quotes from the stars, but the piece does at least present some skepticism about the movie. The article attempts to address such questions as “Will the public embrace a new Batman?” “Will Arnold Schwarzenegger dominate the film?” and “Has the franchise moved on to Batman Lite?” Even before the film’s release, George Clooney is already having fun at his own expense, acknowledging that Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to outshine him in the film because that’s what villains do in Batman movies. Clooney’s also unconcerned about presenting a dark, tortured version of Batman, reasoning that his parents died thirty-four years ago and it’s something he needs to get over.
There is some concern about the internet’s early reaction to the trailer, but Joel Schumacher is confident that he’s picked up on the more popular elements of Batman Forever (“the humor and the action”) and will give the public what they want. I can almost see why Schumacher thought Batman Forever gave him license to go in a cartoonier direction…but I don’t think any significant portion of the audience wanted pure camp. And poorly written, humorless camp at that. The Adam West Batman series presents its own bizarre reality with a unique rhythm to its performances and jokes -- Batman & Robin is just strung together ice puns dubbed over a two-hour toy commercial.
In a sidebar on the final page, Wizard teases the next Batman movie, already in the script stage, which will feature Harley Quinn and Scarecrow. The magazine repeats the rumor that Howard Stern will play Scarecrow, even though everyone involved denies it.
Back in Time
Marvel’s “Flashback Month” is previewed, with Bob Harras revealing that the idea of pre-Fantastic Four #1 stories originated as a proposal by Scott Lobdell for an X-title crossover. Harras says that the editors loved the idea so much, they decided to apply it to the entire line. (Heroes Reborn titles didn’t participate, of course.) The creators on the Spider-Man books initially weren’t thrilled, though -- as some of them mention in this article, conceiving full-length stories set during Peter Parker’s childhood was no easy task. “Flashback Month” wasn’t overly popular with fans, but it clearly required a lot of work on Marvel’s part. Every title had to have a 1960s logo and letter column design, even if the book itself didn’t exist in the 1960s. And, seriously, how do you tell multiple stories set before these characters became superheroes, especially when many of them were children?
Wizard lists its picks for an “Age of Apocalypse” movie, something that seemed inconceivable in 1997, but today would almost seem to be a no-brainer.
Robert DeNiro as Weapon X (Wolverine), based on his performance in Cape Fear.
Christopher Lambert (Highlander) as Magneto
Courtney Cox as Rogue (Wizard says all she needs is a Southern accent…apparently unaware that Cox is originally from Alabama, and took classes to erase her accent.)
Brian Thompson (Lionheart) as Apocalypse
Barry Watson (7th Heaven) as X-Man
Dermot Mulroney as Gambit
Kurt Russell as Cyclops (because he also had one eye in Escape from LA)
Carey Lowell (Law & Order) as Jean Grey
Ving Rhames as Bishop
Jimmy Smits as Sinister
Stephen Baldwin as Havok (Baldwin actually does resemble Steve Epting’s version of Havok.)
And, finally, Bryan Singer’s original choice to play Wolverine, Russell Crowe, is Wizard’s pick for Quicksilver, because he played a quick-witted villain in Virtuosity.
Last Man Standing
This will eventually become a regular feature -- it’s an excuse to fantasize about superhero vs. superhero fights. Wizard ranks the “10 Toughest Superheroes in Comics,” with the caveat that cosmic-level entities aren’t eligible. The ranking goes…
Listing Silver Surfer seems dangerously close to breaking the “cosmic” rule, but I guess he’s just enough of a traditional superhero to qualify. It’s interesting that Thor ranks at Number Two, which would confirm many fans’ belief at the time that Thor was practically a cosmic-level character, even though Kurt Busiek didn’t agree (and boy, did that cause a mess.) Wizard’s assertion that Dr. Strange could easily defeat Spawn was also a mini-controversy back in the day.
Wizard Q&A - Jeph Loeb
Jeph Loeb is interviewed, only a few days after Rob Liefeld’s termination from Heroes Reborn was announced. Loeb reveals that the Marvel executives who originated Heroes Reborn were already gone when the first issues debuted, and that terminating Liefeld over perceived low sales was possibly just a negotiation ploy. (Essentially, they wanted Liefeld to do the same work at a lower price.) Loeb also divulges that he was, at one point, going to be writing three of the four Heroes Reborn books. Jim Lee had already asked him to take over Iron Man (due to Lee and Liefeld’s “friendly rivalry,” Loeb asked for Liefeld’s blessing before accepting), and then asked Loeb to continue with Avengers and Captain America after Liefeld’s termination. Loeb stuck with his commitment to Iron Man, but eventually declined to work on the titles formerly assigned to Liefeld.
The conversation then moves to Batman: The Long Halloween, which Loeb says was partially inspired by a phone call with Mark Waid, and his realization that Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and Bruce Wayne are…the Beatles, so Loeb wanted to tell the story of their “Yoko.”
Mike Wieringo offers tips on how to draw Spider-Man, including how to draw those pesky webs at different angles. Years later, Wieringo will state that he wasn’t totally pleased with his Spider-Man from this era and will revamp his approach with Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
Tom Palmer, Jr. takes a break from small press comics to highlight a new syndicated newspaper strip called Liberty Meadows. Creator Frank Cho has already run into problems with his depiction of the female form…surely this kind of thing won’t be controversial in a few years. Cho actually isn’t the first indie creator highlighted to later sign a Marvel exclusive contract; Brian Michael Bendis was featured a few issues ago.
The Captain America Super Art Giveaway Contest
This had to be one of the priciest contests in Wizard’s history. The magazine is giving away every page (including the cover) of Rob Liefeld’s original artwork from Captain America #4. I doubt anyone involved in the contest knew that Liefeld’s exit from the book would be announced in this very issue, but it’s still a surprisingly generous prize.
The review column is now listing the specific issues being reviewed, so we know that when Uncanny X-Men receives a 3 (the middle of the magazine’s 1-6 ranking), it’s for issues #337-344, the issues immediately following the Onslaught crossover. With the exception of Astro City, all of the books listed are criticized for not being new-reader friendly enough. I think Marvel took these criticisms to heart and introduced the recap fold-outs just a few months after this feature began.
This issue, Uncanny X-Men receives a 3 (Wizard likes the art and the book’s family feel, but thinks the stories are poorly introduced and resolved), Witchblade is a 2 (“too much dialogue, gratuitous T&A and bland characters”), Astro City is a 6 (“the best superhero comic being published today”), and Azrael is a 3 (thanks to the “awkward stories and flat characters”).
Wizard’s blurbs suggest you pick up Ka-Zar #3 and Legionnaires #50. Virtually all of Marvel’s books are left off the previews section this month, since they’ve already been covered in the Flashback Month article.
Top Ten Comics
Darkchylde #1 is the top back issue, followed by Witchblade #1, Darkness #1, other Wizard favorites like JLA #1, and the lone Marvel book, Heroes Reborn’s Fantastic Four #1. Leave it to Chance #1 takes Astro City #1’s place as the critically acclaimed, hard-to-find back issue that barely makes the list. I think Darkchylde’s popularity was short-lived, but it looks as if the staff wants to position it as the next Witchblade #1.
Wizard Market Watch
Market Watch reports that Ka-Zar #1 is an unexpected hit, and that Marvel’s attempts to solicit it as an X-book failed because it was lost in the clutter of X-titles, causing retailers to under-order. After the book hit the stands, it disappeared. Of course, we’re also told to be on the lookout for Spawn back issues because the movie is coming soon…
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Garth Ennis
- Mark Waid
- Peter David
- Scott Lobdell
- Grant Morrison
- Frank Miller
- Kurt Busiek
- David Wohl
- James Robinson
- Erik Larsen
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
- Jim Lee
- Joe Madureira
- J. Scott Campbell
- Michael Turner
- Andy Kubert
- Carlos Pacheco
- Humberto Ramos
- Joe Quesada
- Alex Ross
- Randy Queen
Top 100 - March 1997
The hype surrounding Superman’s new costume has pushed Superman #123 to the top of the charts, with the rest of his titles moving up into the Top 20. The rest of the charts are largely the same -- X-books and Spawn continue to dominate the Top 10, Spider-Man books continue to outsell Batman titles, early Image titles continue to drop down the charts, and Strangers in Paradise is now selling competitively with many of the Vertigo books. I was interested to see that Pitt, which Dale Keown is now publishing without Image ranks at #46, only five slots below WildC.A.T.s.
Wizard Price Guide
Comic Watch and Good & Cheap were dropped several issues ago, but the Price Guide does highlight back issues that are pretty affordable, and books the editors think might go up in value are now labeled “Buried Treasure.” This issue’s Treasure is WildC.A.T.s. #11, the debut of Savant, who led a team of replacement ‘Cats and is a member of the new book Savant Garde.
And just to give you an idea of how the Price Guide looks during this era….
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
No surprises here -- Wizard hates nose-less Wolverine, is amazed by Witchblade’s outfits, and remarks again that Rogue doesn’t need a belt with a one-piece bodysuit. Seeing Preacher listed as Number Nine surprised me, until I remembered that Sandman and Death also appeared on this list months earlier.
The Mort of the Month is Ape-X, from Marvel’s Squadron Supreme.
So, what did we learn today?
- “To be honest, I feel really relieved that it’s over for me.” - Rob Liefeld, on the termination of his Heroes Reborn contract.
- “Warner Brothers seems confident that the director, who steered the franchise back into blockbuster waters two years ago with Batman Forever has another hit looming this summer.” - text from “Batman Lite.”
- “Old guys like Siskel and Ebert won’t like it. They’re too old.” - Shaquille O’Neal on the anticipated critical reaction to Steel.
Nope: Virtually none of the ideas Scott Lobdell teases for the new mutant Maggot are adopted by later writers, such as Maggot playing a role in Magneto’s de-aging (also, the official spelling is later changed to "Maggott")…Tangent is in no way a DC version of Heroes Reborn…CBS never picks up that Justice League dramedy series…the Gen 13 animated film is never released in America…Aquaman doesn’t star in a live-action drama…Nic Cage never stars as Superman nor Iron Man…Dilbert is never adapted for live-action…Ash’s Dreamworks cartoon movie never materializes…and Badrock has yet to make it to theaters.
Stuff Wizard Likes: Batman: The Long Halloween…JLA (“the single best superhero team book on the market today!”)…and in addition to other back issue picks, Amazing Spider-Man #248 (your monthly tribute to Roger Stern’s ASM run…)
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: Fargo being snubbed for Best Picture…that “Carrie Kelly wannabe” Heroes Reborn version of Bucky…“alla them crappy New Gods”…various superhero vehicles, such as the Pogoplane…the ending of Hobgoblin Lives! (this is after hyping the miniseries for months and petitioning for Roger Stern’s return to Spidey in every issue)…and so many teen heroes gaining superpowers as “guinea pigs for experiments”
This Ain’t HuffPo: Wizard speculates that Captain Marvel would score with the moms of Billy Batson’s friends…compliments Pamela Anderson for “filling out that costume” even if no one actually wanted to see Barb Wire…fantasizes about Gen 13 action figures with breakaway clothing…is enthused at the prospect of seeing Fairchild in cold weather in an upcoming issue…hopes Hitman will use his x-ray vision on Catwoman…and praises Gen 13 for giving readers what they want -- a red-haired, green-eyed chick with legs up to her neck.
The Wizard’s Crystal Ball: “The Batman & Robin movie will suck so bad it will frighten small children and make the elderly explode.”
I Love the ‘90s: X-Man is declared more popular than Baywatch…Black Panther urges the reader to “Show me the Wakanda!”…and Batman foe Lock-Up has potentially incarcerated the Menendez brothers.
Vive la France: Assistant editor Andrew Kardon once marked his scent at the grounds of Versailles. “Take that, Frenchies!”
Pathological Scatological: A Rebel trooper regrets having Taco Bell before being trapped inside his action figure’s blister pack, and suppositories and “the Hershey squirts” somehow make their way into the CBIQ trivia quiz.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: I’m not personally into superhero power rankings, but most of the other features this issue aren’t so bad. Some hype articles are just that, but the pieces that question that just maybe the newest thing being sold (Batman & Robin) won’t be so great, are far more interesting. And not only did Wizard hire Bernard Chang to pencil new art for the Graydon Creed article, but they also presented an overall look at the X-line that critiqued certain elements without coming across as snotty. Not that the little barbs sprinkled throughout the editorial features aren’t snotty, however. I usually liked the quick shots as a teenager, and I’m still surprised they got away with some of this stuff.
Until next time...