The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #74 (October 1997)

Why did Wizard want Deadpool to take things more seriously?  Which long-running Wizard feature says farewell this issue?  And will Heroes Return enable characters like the Avengers to stay in the spotlight?

I’m not certain if the direct market cover this month is the Nightwing or Fantastic Four cover.  It seems as if they would be equally recognizable for the newsstand audience, but I could be wrong on that.  I most likely purchased this issue specifically to learn more about this “Heroes Return” business, which illustrates the amount of attention Marvel received by farming its books out and then restoring them to their proper home.  Ordinarily, Wizard wouldn’t have bothered with the Fantastic Four on their cover, but announce that Image creators are doing their book, and then announce a year later that Marvel’s taking them back with an honest-to-gosh decent creative team this time, and you end up with publicity in both directions.

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...Sotheby’s comic book auctions, artist Mike Diana (the first cartoonist convicted on obscenity charges), the new Nightwing solo series, a report from the Chicago ComiCon, animals with “real-life” superpowers, and a roundtable interview with the “Heroes Return” creators.

The Standards include Basic Training (Jim Balent teaches facial structures…I missed the previous issue, which covered body types), Toy Chest, Trailer Park, Palmer’s Picks (this month’s pick is Andi Watson’s Skeleton Key), 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.

Magic Words

Jim McLauchlin opens his column by telling us that he’s been inundated with letters from fans appalled by Batman & Robin (he also advises his audience to look up the word “inundated”), and by readers demanding more Amalgam comics.  This fever seemed to die out rather quickly, didn’t it?  Other letters address Frank Miller’s inspirations for Sin City (giving Wizard an excuse to run one of its “I like pie.” word balloons with Miller’s photo), the identity of Top Cow inker Batt, and why DC hasn’t reprinted Crisis on Infinite Earths yet.  Apparently, DC wants to update the coloring, and it isn’t sure how the public will respond to a pricier trade containing a whopping 250 pages.

Wizard News

X-Men: Vertigo Style is the top headline, with the announcement that Steven Seagle and Chris Bachalo are taking over Uncanny X-Men.  Seagle will only commit to doing four or five issues, which he says tell a specific story with a clear ending.  Seagle actually stayed for over a year, although it’s questionable just how many of his stories had endings at all (apparently, Marvel second-guessed most of the stories he tried to tell while on the book.)  As for Scott Lobdell, he’s taking over Fantastic Four, and leaving a basic plot for Seagle to follow in Uncanny X-Men #350, even though Lobdell isn’t credited in that issue.  Wizard’s enthusiasm for a Vertigo-style X-Men foreshadows the approach Joe Quesada will bring to the line when he takes over Marvel in a few years.  I’m not sure if Wizard was the source of this, but there was a sense amongst some fans that a Vertigo-influenced X-Men just had to happen, for some reason.

In other news…John Romita, Jr. will pencil the new Thor ongoing, but he’s adamant about staying on Peter Parker, Spider-Man as well…Joe Madureira announces Battle Chasers, Mike Wieringo is rumored to be doing a creator-owned series for Erik Larsen’s Image imprint, and J. Scott Campbell has released the first Danger Girl image (although the word “Cliffhanger” has yet to appear)…and Rob Liefeld is now running ads for Awesome Entertainment, his new comics company.  Wizard, for some reason, doesn’t cover any of the new titles (including his answer to Captain America, Jack Kirby’s Fighting American) in the news section, though.

Sale of the Century

Wizard gives two of its staffers $1,000 and has them attend one of the Sotheby’s auctions for comics and comic-related memorabilia, such as molds for unreleased Toy Biz action figures (sadly, Gauntlet of the Dark Riders didn’t make it past the mold stage.)  You always read about these auctions, but I don’t know if anyone else has done a first-person story about attending one and actually bidding on the items.  There’s no dress code, apparently, and deodorant starts to give out as the day wears on.  Wizard reports that they had terrible luck bidding on many of the items, but did manage to drive the price of several lots up to $1,100 exactly.  Eventually, Wizard picks up Detective Comics #64, which features the “death” of the Joker and the debut of the Boy Commandos, for $900.  Editor Greg Orlando boasts that he opened the book’s Mylar sleeve and read the issue on his train-ride home.

Arrested Development

Newsweek contributor Adam Rogers profiles Mike Diana, publisher of Boiled Angel.  I’m not sure how the Diana case would be covered today, but I have a feeling that the existing comics press wouldn’t come down as fiercely pro-free speech.  We learn that Diana fulfilled his community service obligation by volunteering for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is a non-profit.  In the article, Diana says he now supports himself by dancing in little pants “around a pole on a bar Friday nights at a downtown Manhattan club,” and I’m not sure if he’s joking.



Casting Call

Wizard makes the case against Batman & Robin, and in the process, presents a brief example of the arrogant tone of this era that’s always irritated me.  More than once during these days, you’ll see Wizard pieces based on the premise that if we, the all-knowing staff of Wizard, ran comics (and movies), things would be so much better.

As for Wizard’s casting of their dream Batman film, we have…

Alec Baldwin as Bruce Wayne/Batman (he was up for the role in the ‘80s, I believe)

Kyle Gibson (Nick Freno, Licensed Teacher) as Robin

Jason Gedrick (Murder One) as Nightwing

Anthony Hopkins as Alfred

Robyn Lively (Karate Kid III) as Batgirl

John Mahoney (Frasier) as Commissioner Gordon

Willem DaFoe as the Joker

Joe Pesci as the Penguin

Julie Strain (don’t Google her at work) as Catwoman

Mel Gibson as Two-Face (based on his performances in Lethal Weapon and Man without a Face)

Kevin Spacey as the Riddler

Julia Roberts as Poison Ivy

Patrick Stewart as Mr. Freeze (Stewart was originally rumored for the part)

Wrestlers Steve McMichael as Bane and Buff Bagwell as Killer Croc

Jeff Goldblum as Scarecrow

And John Malkovich as Ra’s Al Ghul

Chicago Confidential

A convention report from the Chicago Comicon, following Wizard’s purchase of the convention.  We learn of Wizard antics, such as spying on George Takei in the hotel gym, sneaking a photograph with Lou Ferrigno without paying his $10 fee, and accidentally ruining a televised interview being conducted by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  Wizard also reports that Awesome Entertainment publisher Jeph Loeb wasn’t happy with a fan asking him just how much of a rip-off Fighting American is of Captain America.

The Wizard Q&A - Heroes Return

Scott Lobdell, Kurt Busiek, and Mark Waid do a roundtable interview to promote upcoming issues of Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Avengers, and Captain America.  Marvel had a lot riding on Heroes Return; not only fighting the notion that these characters were no longer relevant, but also the industry belief that Marvel itself couldn’t save these books without outside help from people like Jim Lee.  The piece opens with Wizard reminding us of how much Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid dislike each other.



The interview itself emphasizes just how much these creators want the “classic” Marvel heroes to regain their lost popularity, and no real conflict ensues, except for Lobdell’s firm contention that the Fantastic Four could defeat the Avengers, all Avengers, in a fight.  Waid and Busiek present their “Captain America can never lose a fight” argument (which I believe was a recent invention attached to the character), and Lobdell concedes that maybe the Avengers could win with Cap as the leader.  “I mean, Cap even survived Rob Liefeld.”

We also have an image of Alex Ross’ new Iron Man design, which was intended to be smooth and sleek.  The standard Iron Man of today more closely resembles an armadillo.  Alan Davis also reveals in a sidebar that he’s slightly reinventing the Human Torch, taking advantage of computer coloring to show the actual “human” within the Torch.  I believe this “boy on fire” interpretation of Torch exists to this day, and we rarely see the bald, nude version with lines drawn on him.


Junk Drawer - Video Games

So this is why I remembered footage of a Youngblood game…Wizard previews the upcoming release, which was supposed to be out in the fall of 1997.  As I’ve mentioned before, Youngblood has something of a reputation in the video game community.

 Palmer’s Picks

I wasn’t expecting this -- Tom Palmer, Jr.’s profile on Andi Watson’s Skeleton Key is also the final entry in Palmer’s Picks.  Palmer says that there are numerous motives for ending the column, but the main reason is the fact that Wizard is now expanding its focus and highlighting small-press comics like Hepcats on a regular basis as featured articles.  He doesn’t feel as if his two-page column can compete with full-length articles, so he’s hanging up his hat.  Palmer thanks the people who’ve supported his column, including the indie creators who weren’t necessarily thrilled to be interviewed by a mainstream comics magazine.

The Skinny

Based on a 1-6 ranking (6 as the best, 1 as the worst), this issue Deadpool #1-7, Batman #539-546, and Thunderbolts #1-5 & Annual ‘97 are reviewed.  Deadpool and Batman both earn the “so-so” rating of 3, while Thunderbolts is a solid 5.  Aside from disliking some of Joe Kelly’s non-sequitur humor (the character of Blind Alfred is viewed as an unexplainable irritation), Wizard questions the tone of the series, declaring that if Deadpool were played straight like the Punisher, he’d be easier to relate to.  As for the Moench/Jones Batman run, Wizard likes the dark tone, but feels that the supporting cast is misused and the stories have pat endings.


Wizard’s nominees for “Read this Book!” this month are Flash #130-131 (early in the Morrison/Millar run) and Sin City: Family Values.

Trailer Park

Batman & Robin experienced a 61% drop-off after its opening weekend, and just barely reached the $100 million mark in the US (it was expected to do at least $120).  It’s performed well overseas, however, so Warner Brother is likely producing a sequel.  The producers behind the upcoming Spawn are also optimistic for a sequel, citing enthusiastic responses from test screenings.  In a “Trailer Park Special Report,” Wizard goes behind-the-scenes of David Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Hasselhoff reveals that he would’ve liked to keep Fury’s trademarked white temples, but the director felt that he appeared “too distinguished” and questioned if the audience would accept the look.

Top Ten Comics

The Top Ten back issues remain largely unchanged, with only Resurrection Man #1 and Nightwing #1 as the new entries.  JLA #1 remains the top comic, and Bad Girls are represented by the debut issues of Darkchylde and Witchblade at numbers Two and Three.

Wizard Market Watch

Market Watch has noticed that Batman Adventures: Mad Love, which was “initially ordered about as heavily as rats in a plague hunt” is starting to gain popularity.  And the Buried Treasure this month is Aquaman #2, the issue featuring the loss of Arthur’s hand.

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Garth Ennis
  2. Mark Waid
  3. Peter David
  4. Scott Lobdell
  5. Kurt Busiek
  6. Grant Morrison
  7. Frank Miller
  8. David Wohl
  9. Joe Kelly
  10. Steven Seagal

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists (now explicitly defined as pencilers and painters) are…

  1. Jim Lee
  2. Joe Madureira
  3. Michael Turner
  4. Marc Silvestri
  5. J. Scott Campbell
  6. Adam Kubert
  7. Alex Ross
  8. Andy Kubert
  9. Carlos Pacheco
  10. Mike Wieringo

Top 10 mainstays Todd McFarlane and Joe Quesada are gone, presumably because they’re no longer penciling monthly titles.  Previously, this didn’t seem to stop Wizard from placing a creator on the list.

Top 100 - July 1997

The Top Ten remains a mix of X-books, Spawn, and Heroes Reborn titles, with the addition of JLA.  DC is exploiting the revamped JLA’s popularity by releasing five separate comics with “JLA” in the title this month.  Other notable debuts include Maverick at Number Forty and Marvel Team-Up at Number Forty-Two (Wizard is stunned that Maverick’s X-connection, and the debut of a new Spider-Man book, didn’t place higher...within a few issues, Marvel Team-Up isn’t even in the Top 100), while Fighting American #1 ranks at Number Forty-Six.

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

One small surprise this issue -- Superman has dropped off the list, and Captain America has just barely made the cut based on the anticipation for Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s return to the book.  But the real reason we read this feature is for the Mort of the Month, right?


So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “McLauchlin’s Postulate #1 still stands: You will never see a comic book movie you like.” - Wizard staff writer Jim McLauchlin’s response to reader outrage over Batman & Robin.
  • “We want to make them headliners again.” - Kurt Busiek, on the “spine of the Marvel Universe,” the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
  • “While this book is chock full o’ fun, unfortunately, it’s very hard to accept the character of Deadpool.” - from Wizard’s review of Deadpool.
  • “If you’re a comic book fan, you won’t be disappointed.” - Director Rod Hardy on the Nick Fury telefilm.

Nope:  Larry Hama and Mark Buckingham don’t become the regular creative team on Generation X…nothing comes from these alleged secret talks between McFarlane and Marvel…the 1998 Marvel annuals do not take place in the Heroes Reborn universe…Kevin Smith doesn’t write an Ash or Martian Manhunter project…the untold resolutions to the insect-Wasp and Teen Tony stories aren’t revealed in the 1998 Marvel annuals, either…the Hulk doesn’t become an important figure in the early “Heroes Return” titles…despite the “Warning!” in the ads, Marvel’s Strange Tales imprint is in fact Code-approved…the J. M. DeMatteis script for Daredevil isn’t produced, although he did post it on his website months ago…Rob Zombie does not direct the third Crow film (his script floats around the internet, though)…no Hate cartoon on MTV (although a few years back, there was talk of reviving the project)…no Cyberfrog cartoon…and we all know by now that Nic Cage is never Superman and the Gen 13 cartoon remains unreleased in America, right?

Before They Were Stars:  Chris Giarrusso, still a Marvel intern at this point, submits a Tyson/Holyfield parody featuring Hulk and the Thing.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Back issue picks include Green Lantern #48-50 (originally trashed by the magazine, during its early attempts to add genuine commentary to the book), Avengers #223, and New Mutants #18-20.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Various Alpha Flight characters from the past, such as Gilded Lily, Pink Pearl, Smart Alec, Sasquatch as a chick, and Flashback…Batman & Robin…”those elves responsible for Heroes Reborn”…the prospect of attending a Hanson concert…Nightwing taking eleven issues to solve a murder mystery in his solo title…Sovereign 7…Marvel relaunching its core heroes twice in a year’s time…and the CBIQ quiz is packed with snark this issue.  Everything from the New Gods to the Spider-Clone to “hack-job stories thrown together by waaaay overrated writers who are incapable of nothing more than taking establishing, loved characters and screwing with them to cover their own un-talent” is trashed.

This Ain’t HuffPo:  Wizard speculates that two of the Spice Girls might be “Spice Guys”…suggests again that Mary Jane Watson-Parker could be a man…and jokes that Klingons are into fat women.

Sick Burn, Wizard:  “The LAST thing the X-books need is more forced writing, more contrived stories and more useless guest stars” - Wizard’s view on “Any X-crossover.”

I Love the ‘90s:  Apparently, there was a “scary old Japanese guy” in Nissan commercials during this era that creeped out the editors.  Also, Barney must die.

Vive la France:  The Wizard staffers are stunned to learn that they’ve been booked at a “FRENCH-THEMED HOTEL” during their stay in Chicago.  We’re also informed that the JLA will discover how rude the French truly are in JLA #12.

Pathological Scatological:  The Wizard staff documents their predictable reaction to convention food, and the flatulence that permeated the bus they took to the airport.  We also have references to tapeworms, ancient feces in chamber pots, and an “itchy heiney” and a “smelly finger” as a joke caption in the trading card segment.

Commercial Break:  Who do you think is responsible for Gambit’s copy in this ad?


Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  For the most part, it’s a tame issue.  In terms of giving the reader exclusive news and interviews, Wizard easily fulfills that mandate.  The editorial content seems to be growing increasingly negative, which can be fun, but it seems as if we’re back to gratuitous shots at undeserving targets.  Instead of casually trashing the New Gods and not providing a reason, why not do an article on the characters and try to map out where, perhaps, DC’s gone wrong?

Until next time...

Yeah, Shut Up. on Noisetrade || Not Blog X || Twitter (your source for almost daily Mark Gruenwald Captain America reviews) || The (David) Milch Studies on Real Gentlemen of Leisure || Tumblr

Also, the second entry in my Batman Adventures/The Animated Series retrospective  is up now, featuring an early Mike Parobeck issue.

Bendis Is Taking an Ultimate Spider-Man Approach to DC's Legion of Super-Heroes

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