Batman gains a new look, the X-Men gain two members, and Deadpool gains a conscience, all in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!
Ordinarily, the X-Men would’ve made the newsstand cover, but since this month the cover is debuting two unknown members, it’s released as the direct-only cover. Spider-Man vs. Venom (featuring one of the very few ‘Ringo renditions of Venom) has more recognizable characters, so it’s this month’s newsstand cover. Considering that this issue features Michael Golden’s first interview in 18 years, it would’ve been nice if he could’ve contributed a cover, but I can’t complain about the ones we actually received.
In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...DC’s new Major Bummer series, an article on the “bad guys gone good” fad, a Michael Golden interview, a preview of WB’s revamp of Batman, a piece on how new comic series are pitched, a look at how “dark” the X-titles have grown lately, and an interview with Mark Waid and Ron Garney.
The Standards include Basic Training (Arthur Adams!), Toy Chest, Trailer Park, Palmer’s Picks (focusing on Peter Kuper’s work), 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.
Another controversy! Jim McLauchlin has offended Star Wars fans with his previous assertion that the material consists of simplistic, vastly overrated children’s stories. He responds to the outrage by stating that he enjoyed the movies, but he doesn’t think “we’re dealing with any kind of high art here like many seem to believe.” He also questions why fans are so desperate to attach so much of their identity to pieces of entertainment they enjoy.
Other letters question how exactly Erik Larsen knows what God looks like, why so many “mature” writers are doing superheroes today, whether or not Ka-Zar smells, and if the English simply refer to English muffins as “muffins.” McLauchlin asks both Alan Moore and Dan Abnett for help. Moore informs McLauchlin that “my muffin research is not up to par, I’m afraid.” Abnett explains that they are simply called “muffins” in England, and if you want a specific kind, the type of fruit is included in the name. McLauchlin also addresses whether or not Jim Lee will ever finish the Punisher graphic novel Rules of the Game. McLauchlin reveals that Marvel was in talks to have Wildstorm finish the book, but “the idea has fallen by the wayside.”
Jim Lee is extending his Heroes Reborn titles for an extra 13th issue to aid Marvel’s publishing schedule. Wizard also reports that Lee is working on three new Marvel titles, but, well…
In other news…J. Scott Campbell is leaving Gen 13 with issue #20. Wildstorm is attempting to revive interest in the book by altering the team’s line-up…James Robinson will join Ash with its new #1 issue…Dark Horse, DC, Marvel, and Wildstorm are all bidding to publish Star Wars comics (Dark Horse’s contract is up at the end of 1998). Jim Lee and J. Scott Campbell are open to doing work if Wildstorm lands the license…Todd McFarlane will become the first non-Marvel publisher to release Kiss comics…and Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise is leaving Homage Comics with issue #8.
Bad is Good
Wizard has been complaining about villains turning hero for a few issues now, and it’s culminated with this article. Featuring quotes from Kurt Busiek, Tom Brevoort, Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Joe Kelly, Howard Mackie, and Denny O’Neil, various villains that have landed their own series are profiled. The piece presents most of the creators as conflicted about allowing villains to “reform” and star in their own books, with reasons varying from “it robs us of good villains” to “it’s a dangerous message to send to kids.” We also learn from the article that Bob Harras never felt comfortable with Venom in his own series, and cancelled the book as soon as he felt sales justified it. Scott Lobdell also reveals that he was the writer originally asked to revive Elektra (I assume they mean Elektra, as in the series), but he didn’t want to write an ongoing series about an assassin. Joe Kelly’s quotes regarding Deadpool and whether or not he could work as a hero are amusing today, given how important the character has become to Marvel.
Wizard is in its final days of non-stop Strangers in Paradise promotion. This month, they cast their dream movie…
Mira Sorvino as Katchoo
Jennifer Connelly as Francine
B D Wong as David Parker
Joey Slotnick (The Single Guy and later Boston Public) as Freddie Femurs
Christina Applegate as Margie
Double Caroline in the City castings…Lea Thompson as Rachel Hampton and Malcolm Gets as Chuck Janson
Zap from American Gladiators as Tambi Barker
Catherine O’Hara as Olivia Feinstein
Joan Chen (Twin Peaks) as Darcy Parker
And Ruben Blades as Det. Mike Walsh
Silence is Golden
Michael Golden is, very reluctantly, interviewed to promote Jackie Chan’s Spartan X. (It’s only the second interview he’s ever done, according to the article.) Golden refused to provide a photograph for the article, and would only give the interviewer vague details on his background. Larry Hama provided some quotes to establish just how respected Golden is as an artist (since Golden is so uncomfortable with that kind of self-promotion), listing Golden as one of the five most influential artists of the past twenty years. Golden reveals in the interview that he despises the original art market, regrets not taking advantage of Bucky O’Hare’s popularity, admires Todd McFarlane’s success, prefers commercial design work to comics, and doesn’t care for superheroes and doesn’t grasp their appeal. He also jokes that it will probably be another twenty years before he’s interviewed again, although Golden seems much more willing to speak today. He’s even been interviewed on a few podcasts.
The Dark Knight Returns
After months of rumors, Wizard sits down with Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Paul Dini to discuss the evolution of Batman: The Animated Series to The New Batman/Superman Adventures. Everyone involved with the show denies that they’re following the movies’ lead and going into camp, although they do have an edict to include Batman’s sidekicks and to focus on supervillains instead of mobsters. Whether or not the show was truly “darker” during this run is something fans debate to this day -- the producers feel as if Batman himself is appearing even more intense since he’s being surrounded by so many lighter characters (which also means he doesn’t have to speak as much.)
The producers also dismiss concerns that Warner Brothers is going to be stricter on them now that the show is airing on the WB network. Time has definitely proven this to be true -- The New Batman/Superman Adventures got away with all kinds of things that FOX would’ve never allowed. The very hands-off WB of this era doesn’t last for long, however. Within a year, they’re asking the producers for a teenage Batman in order to chase their preferred demographic, which is just the first step in Kids WB! devolving into increasingly dumb kids’ material. (The producers made something out of Batman Beyond, but since it didn’t skew young enough, Timm was continually looking for some way to keep Batman alive on the WB, going as far as pitching a Pokemon-themed Batman show set in the future.)
Most of the new model sheets are reprinted, which is one of the main draws of Wizard during this time. I don’t know if I had access to any other magazine that would’ve provided such a detailed look at the evolution of one of my favorite shows.
The process of a pitching a new series is examined, with Kurt Busiek and Jeph Loeb offering detailed thoughts on how Thunderbolts and The Long Halloween went from the proposal stage to becoming an actual series. Karl Kesel also reveals that he’s submitted a pitch for Fantastic Four, which is the likely source of the internet grousing for two solid years that Kesel should really be writing Fantastic Four. On the final page, a sidebar reprints excerpts from Mark Waid’s Ka-Zar proposal.
Army of Darkness
An article with the questionable premise that the X-Men comics have grown too dark recently. Did anyone honestly think the Scott Lobdell issues were particularly grim? It sounds crazy to me, but artist Joe Madureira agrees with the writer, Matthew Brady. Joe Mad calls the book “really dark and depressing” and cites the introduction of Bishop, who he’s never drawn smiling, as the start of the trend. Wizard goes back further, citing the more cynical tone introduced into the book when Wolverine joined. Other examples of just how “dark” the X-Men have become include two new members -- Dr. Reyes, who doesn’t want to be there, and Maggott, who has bizarre powers derived from the two large maggots that live on his shoulders. And if you’ve read the issues that featured these characters as members…did they really turn out so dark? Maggott seemed to be the team’s new Nightcrawler for a few issues there. And could you imagine the writer’s reaction today if he saw some of those “black ops” X-Force comics Marvel was publishing a while back?
Scott Lobdell is also interviewed for the piece, and he denies consciously pushing the X-Men in a negative direction. Lobdell cites the Australian outback period as the grimmest in the title’s history, and reveals that he “just stopped reading the book because things were too depressing” during this era. (In comparison to the X-Men living as ghosts in an abandoned desert town, hoping to catch their murderous enemies by surprise and protect their loved ones by severing ties with them, Lobdell’s X-Men is pretty darn light.) Lobdell uses the interview to address a topic he views as more pressing -- the X-Men just have it too easy, with their mansion, alien technology, holographic training facility, and supersonic jet. “Operation: Zero Tolerance” was proposed as a way to address the issue, but Marvel had no commitment to the idea.
The Wizard Q&A: Mark Waid and Ron Garney
Matthew Senreich interviews Mark Waid and Ron Garney, who at this point have a verbal agreement to return to Captain America, even though the contracts haven’t been completed. They reveal that no one at Marvel called to inform them that they were being replaced by Rob Liefeld; it was just kind of known around the industry. Waid also clarifies that he never had an offer to write the Heroes Reborn Captain America book. He was only asked to script already completed pages, and he turned it down. After joking that he plans to stay on Captain America “until Scott Lobdell drives me away,” Waid offers some insight into how he sees the character. Both Waid and Garney believe that Cap’s interesting because he is so infallible, and use (eep) Tiger Woods as an example of someone who’s intriguing because he’s so focused. Finally, we have one of the popular “Creators give their opinions on…” sidebars of the day.
Arthur Adams provides a lesson on how to use texture. Wizard is consistent about asking artists to do lessons focused on their specific strengths, and the tutorial has several outstanding black & white Adams images.
The Toy Chest
Wizard is excited to announce the latest toys unveiled at Toy Fair…Incredible Hulk toys featuring everyone from Maestro to Wendigo, Storm with a Mohawk in the X-Men: Battle Blasters line, a newly sculpted Han Solo in Stormtrooper disguise, and in an answer to their prayers, “Enslaved Princess Leia” is set for a September 1997 release.
Based on a 1-6 ranking (6 as the best, 1 as the worst), this issue The Flash merits a 4 (“Has flash but needs more substance.”), Ghost Rider bombs out with a 1 (“Confusion rides this book to death.”), and Sandman Mystery Theatre ranks as a 5 (“It’s no mystery why this book’s a must read.”).
This month, JLA Secret Files #1 and Mage: The Hero Defined #1 earn the “Read This Book!” blurbs.
Casting rumors for the new Superman film have begun (Will Warner Brothers pay Jim Carrey $20 million to play Brainiac?), as Tim Burton scraps Kevin Smith’s script. Meanwhile, producers of the Superman cartoon have convinced DC to bend their “Superman must be the last Kryptonian” rule and allow Supergirl to debut on the series, as a descendant of the Kryptonians raised on a nearby planet. Bruce Timm reveals that two episodes of Batman were taken off the schedule to allow for two more Superman episodes to introduce Supergirl -- “They had a (Supergirl) toy coming from Kenner, so they allowed us to do those.”
In other news…a live-action Witchblade series is in development…Lois and Clark has been cancelled…the David Hasselhoff Nick Fury TV movie has begun production…the controversial Venus DeMilo is set to join the Turtles on Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation…casting has begun for the first Star Wars prequel…Night Man will enter syndication this Fall, even if the comic is dead…and Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict will debut soon. This is the series that allegedly prevented Magneto’s voice actor David Hemblen from actually portraying Magneto in the first X-Men film. (According to rumor, Bryan Singer loved his performance in the cartoon and wanted to cast him as the live-action Magneto, but his Earth: Final Conflict schedule couldn’t be accommodated.) There’s also a special report on the upcoming Blade film. Writer David Goyer reveals that the studio wanted to do “almost a spoof,” but he refused.
Top Ten Comics
Wizard declares the following comics the Top 10 back issues in the country:
- JLA #1
- Witchblade #1
- Darkchylde #1
- The Darkness #1
- JLA #2
- Fantastic Four (vol. 2) #1
- Astro City #6
- Witchblade #10
- Body Bags #1 (the Jason Pearson miniseries from Dark Horse)
- Preacher #1
It’s reported that Marvel’s Flashback Month had the unexpected result of pushing sales of some books down for that month, since many fans viewed the #-1 issue as an excuse to skip an issue and still keep their collection complete. We’re also informed that JLA is causing a bump in sales for Aquaman and Green Lantern.
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
- Garth Ennis
- Mark Waid
- Peter David
- Scott Lobdell
- Kurt Busiek
- Grant Morrison
- Frank Miller
- Erik Larsen
- David Wohl
- James Robinson
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
- Joe Madureira
- Jim Lee
- Michael Turner
- J. Scott Campbell
- Joe Quesada
- Carlos Pacheco
- Marc Silvestri
- Andy Kubert
- Alex Ross
- Adam Kubert
Formerly known as “Comic Watch,” this blurb highlights a back issue that Wizard thinks will likely rise in value soon. This month they’ve selected Showcase ’96 #8, which features an early Supergirl story by Peter David.
Top 100 - May 1997
Spawn #62 is the highest-ordered book of the month, joined in the Top 10 by several X-titles, Curse of the Spawn, and Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Captain America #9. DC’s highest entry is JLA #7 at Number 11. Wizard reports that Gen 13 Bootleg isn’t selling as well as its predecessor (Numbers 32 and 13, respectively), due to the lack of J. Scott Campbell. Meanwhile, the latest Superman event has pushed sales past all of the Batman titles and most of the Spider-Man titles. The Peter David/Adam Kubert era of Incredible Hulk is also doing well, ranking at Number 22, just behind the highest-ranked Spidey title, Amazing Spider-Man #-1 at Number 20.
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
The list is largely unchanged, with the additions of Savage Dragon at Ten and Deadpool at Seven. The cult following for Deadpool was always there (after his first appearance, Marvel was apparently flooded with demands to bring him back), but it truly began to grow during Joe Kelly’s run on his solo book.
The Mort of the Month is Ruby Thursday, indicating that Wizard doesn’t love zany Bronze Age Steve Gerber creations as much as I would’ve thought.
So, what did we learn today?
- “If I’d known he was to become a monthly character, I might have set him up differently…Azrael has been tricky, and I’m not sure I’ve succeeded completely with him.” - Denny O’Neil
- “Frankly, if I’d known Deadpool was such a creep when I agreed to write the mini-series, I wouldn’t have done it. Somebody who hasn’t paid for their crimes presents a problem for me.” - Mark Waid
- “We’re running a risk because some hardcore fans don’t want him softened at all. We’re hoping to enrich him beyond being a one-note psycho.” - Joe Kelly on Deadpool
- “He’s granted only one other interview in his career, to a small St. Louis-based fanzine (coincidentally called Whizard) in 1979.” - text from the “Silence is Golden” article, detailing Michael Golden’s reluctance to do interviews.
- “Who doesn’t love Batgirl…except maybe the people at DC Comics?” - Bruce Timm
Nope: Jim Lee is never the “executive producer” of in-continuity Defenders, Dr. Strange, and Nick Fury comics for Marvel…The creative team for Ash plans to be on issue #12 in a year and issue #120 in 10 years…Steven Seagle never takes over Wolverine, instead moving over to Uncanny X-Men after Scott Lobdell and Bob Harras clash…Marvel’s Satana series by Warren Ellis is shelved before its release, and not long after the release of Man-Thing, Marvel’s horror line evaporates…Rob Liefeld is not the artist of the Alan Moore Youngblood relaunch, nor is the book named Y2…it’s generous to say that Uncanny X-Men #347 features “a strange world” and “an old enemy”…and the first Star Wars prequel film is not named Star Wars: Balance of the Force.
Stuff Wizard Likes: Back issue picks this month include Captain America #367 (Magneto vs. Red Skull), Iron Man #152-153, Justice League International #15, and as a part of the magazine’s monthly tribute to Roger Stern’s Amazing Spider-Man run, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, the debut of the ‘80s Captain Marvel.
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: Mr. Freeze’s portrayal in Batman & Robin (I was expecting an endless series of digs at the movie, but I recall Wizard being fairly restrained in taking shots at it)…Archer Batman, Pirate Batman, and the thousand other Batman variations released by Kenner… the 1984 line-up of the Justice League (Martian Manhunter, Vibe, Gypsy, Steel, Vixen, and Zatanna. Wizard likes her fishnets, though.)…and “Baked Lays chips that taste like Styrofoam, flooding rivers, and Republicans.”
This Ain’t HuffPo: Wizard remarks on Lady Death’s “big…sales”…announces that “Oh, baby! Slave Girl Leia!” is coming…is still lobbying for Gen 13 figures with “breakaway student clothes”…speculates that Gen 13’s Fairchild admires her own posterior…views “having a midget on the team” as the strangest aspect of Alpha Flight…describes Zatanna as “magically babelicious” during the trivia quiz…advises readers to avoid the Vampirella convention model with “the funny-looking sores around her mouth” and “that really cute guy dressed up as Rogue”…and posits that “in a perfect world, all women would look like they were drawn by Michael Turner.”
I Love the ‘90s: The write-up for Fantastic Four #11 speculates that Galactus is coming to Earth to end Pauly Shore’s movie and TV career.
Vive la France: The magazine looks back on Justice League Europe #6, which featured a joint hero/villain French lesson. (“A language possibly more annoying than the people who speak it.”)
Commercial Break: The Wizard polybag remains packed with goodies from the publishers, and now things like AOL trial discs and American Entertainment ads like this gem.
Pathological Scatological: Little bathroom humor this time. The humor has now moved on to slightly racy fare, such as veiled references to vibrators, premature ejaculation, and…well, gerbils.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: You can certainly describe the humor that way, but this issue is a nice example of Wizard providing exclusive news and interviews that most readers wouldn’t find anywhere else. The writing can be a little irritating at times, and I think some of the editorial stances remain baffling, but it’s a pretty entertaining issue. I doubt a reader today would understand the significance of two new X-Men debuting on the magazine’s cover, but at the time, this certainly caught your attention.
Until next time...
Also, the second entry in my Batman Adventures/The Animated Series retrospective was posted recently here on CSBG! If you're a fan of either series, you might find it worth a read.