The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #75 (November 1997)

Marvel sues Rob Liefeld, Wizard casts a Lady Death film, and which character tops the list of “still-dead” heroes?  Find out in The Guide to the Guide to Comics!


It’s another Halloween issue, so Lady Death graces the direct market cover.  An Alex Ross painting of the classic JLA is the newsstand cover, although my copy cuts off right before the Hal Jordan side of the image seen in the included poster.  Was this originally intended as a fold-out cover?

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...Sam & Max (including an exclusive cartoon), a “Who would win?” article comparing the classic JLA to the ‘90s version, a profile on the “just out of college” Joe Kelly, the annual Halloween Costume Contest, and an interview with Jim Lee.

The Standards include Basic Training (Mike Mignola explains shadows), Toy Chest, Trailer Park, 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

Publisher Gareb Shamus announces that Wizard is now offering Wizard Authentic to “provide high-quality autographed comics and toys.  So now you can buy autographs that we certify as authentic.”  Wizard is attempting to become a more legitimate comics magazine, but that hasn’t ended the series of cheesy gimmick products.  He also advises readers to be on the lookout for a hilarious new show called South Park.

Magic Words

The Wizard mailroom is still receiving letters from fans irate over Batman & Robin, while Men in Black seems to be pretty popular.  This issue, Jim McLauchlin prints what he says is the literal one letter he received in defense of Batman & Robin, from a 14-year-old fan who urges 30-year-old fans to take this stuff less seriously.  The idea of writing to a magazine that had absolutely nothing to do with the production of a film you hated probably seems as bizarre today as…writing a letter in the first place.  Other topics addressed include whether or not most of Gen 13’s plots involve Fairchild’s butt, the existence of female comic artists (which turns into an excuse to run a photo of Witchblade writer Christina Z), the significance of the work of Alex Toth, and the location of the creators of POGs today (“Hopefully rotting in a very dark, very hot, very stinky corner of Hell” says McLauchlin.)

Wizard News

DC’s expansion of the JLA title is the lead story, with the announcement of JLA: Year One, JLA: Paradise Lost, and JLA: World Without Adults, which will set up a new series tentatively titled JLA Junior.  (Which is actually released as Young Justice.)

Personally, I find the second news story more interesting.  Marvel has sued Awesome Entertainment over Rob Liefeld’s redesign of the Fighting American character, claiming he too closely resembles Captain America.  A judge has ruled that Liefeld can publish his Fighting American series, so long as he makes certain cosmetic changes to his redesign, and is sure not to have Fighting American throw his shield.  The article also mentions a character I’d totally forgotten -- Agent: America was a new creation from Liefeld that was originally going to be his answer to Captain America, before he acquired the rights to Fighting American.

In other news…Jim Lee’s new “executive producer” deal with Marvel (to produce Defenders, Dr. Strange, Nick Fury, and as a late addition, The Punisher) now seems doubtful…Gen 13’s new creative team is John Acrudi and Gary Frank…Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. will reunite on a project tentatively entitled Kingpin, later released as Spider-Man/Daredevil: To The Death…and Dark Horse has retained the rights to the Star Wars franchise.

Strip Tease, Starring: Sam & Max

An original three-page Sam & Max strip, created to promote their upcoming Saturday Morning cartoon on FOX.  Honestly, I’d totally forgotten about the FOX animated series; I remember FOX’s The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, but Sam & Max is just a blur.

A League of Its Own

Another “Who would win?” article, this time pitting the Silver Age JLA against the Grant Morrison version.  Morrison provides quotes for the article, and tends to side with his team.  Wizard agrees, giving the modern JLA a 5-3 advantage.

 A Wonderful Life

A profile on Joe Kelly, who’s been doing regular work for Marvel for a year now, and is set to take over X-Men.  Aside from hyping an era of the X-Men that Marvel quickly decided to toss aside, this article also offers a glimpse into Wizard’s practice of turning freelancers into personalities.  Joe Kelly isn’t just some guy writing X-Men, he’s exactly like you, the readers!  A true fan who knows how lucky he is!  The generation of comics fans who experienced the ‘80s boom are now entering the industry as creators, and the idea of a writer treating the X-Men as this precious thing that cannot be desecrated would seem to be unique to this era.


Casting Call

Wizard lists its picks for a Lady Death film, and I have to acknowledge that I have no idea who most of these characters are.

Anna Nicole Smith as Lady Death

Garett Maggart (UPN’s The Sentinel) as Evil Ernie…I’m surprised Wizard didn’t go for Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, or even Howard Stern, given past choices.

Elizabeth Berkley as Dr. Mary Young

Bobcat Goldthwait as Smiley

Salma Hayek as Purgatori

Lee Majors as Dr. Leonard Price

Kevin Bacon as Dead King

Ashley Judd as Chastity

Jeff Kober (The First Power) as Cremator

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top as Matthias

Dennis Leary as Pagan

Thuy Trang (Crow: City of Angels) as Jade

And Tyra Banks, still known as a Sports Illustrated model, as Kabala

The Wizard Q&A - Jim Lee

Jim Lee discusses the possibility of doing more work for Marvel, who he feels didn’t truly support Heroes Reborn, but makes it clear that his priority at the moment is his new book, Divine Right: The Adventures of Max Faraday.  Lee also gives his thoughts on the books he’ll potentially “executive produce” for Marvel.  His idea that SHIELD should have a more active role in a world filled with superheroes (Lee believes that Nick Fury wouldn’t let them to operate without oversight) foreshadows Marvel’s future direction.  Personally, I’ve always hated the idea of SHIELD knowing every hero’s secret ID and actively participating in every aspect of the Marvel Universe.  I’m probably biased because SHIELD was such a non-entity during my formative years reading comics, but it seems as if adding a level of government bureaucracy to superhero action sucks out the fun.

The Toy Chest

Tom Palmer, Jr. takes over the toy column, bringing us news on the new Manga Spawn line (featuring designs far more eye-catching than anything going on in the comic at this stage), and the new Silver Surfer collection, which was released in conjunction with the short-lived Saturday Morning cartoon.  How many of us remembered that Beta Ray Bill had an action figure all the way back in 1997?  Because I certainly didn’t.  Palmer also shows a remarkable amount of restraint when covering the announcement of Kenner’s twelve-inch Greedo figure.

The Skinny

Based on a 1-6 ranking (6 is the best, 1 is the worst), this issue Peter Parker: Spider-Man (4), Ka-Zar (5), Aquaman (4), and Leave it to Chance (3) are reviewed.  I’m slightly surprised to see Peter Parker: Spider-Man receive a 4 ranking, while Leave it to Chance (which is dismissed as being “a bit too simple”) only merits a 3.  Wizard uses its review of Peter Parker: Spider-Man to once again take a shot at Spider-Man’s marriage, but maintains that Howard Mackie is doing a good job giving Peter Parker problems and providing him with “witty banter.”  Aside from Wizard’s assertions that the Stacy family subplot is going nowhere and that John Romita, Jr. is producing incredible artwork, I can’t agree with anything in this review.  Peter Parker: Spider-Man was an aimless title with bland characters and frequently wooden dialogue during these days, but maybe I’m alone in that opinion.  Presumably Marvel did have a lot of faith in this creative team, since they were asked to keep going after the relaunch of the titles.  I wonder now if Wizard was powerful enough at the time to influence Marvel’s belief that this was the “good” Spider-Man title?

Trailer Park

The animated Batman and Superman will finally meet in October 1997, when The WB! airs the three-part “World’s Finest” serial.  Meanwhile, the final episodes of Beavis & Butt-Head are airing, various Marvel films are in the early stages of development, and NightMan is expected to be a huge hit in syndication.

Top 10 (Still-Dead) Heroes & Villains of the Month

Wizard continues its Halloween theme with presenting a list of comic characters that have somehow managed to remain dead.


(I actually think Jericho’s hair looks fine in that panel.)


Top Ten Comics

Even Wizard remarks on how irritating it is that the same books keep popping up on the Top Ten back issues list.  This month there is one unexpected entry -- Aircel’s The Men in Black #1 from 1990, which is now being priced at eighty dollars thanks to the recent film.

Wizard Market Watch

The Market Watch reports that the early issues Spawn aren’t going up in value, in spite of the movie and HBO cartoon, because more than enough copies are out there.  Spawn’s gone from selling well over a million copies of its first issue to “only” 200,000 a month today.  In other news, Nightwing is selling unexpectedly well, and Marvel has begun its “Two for Two” program, which provides a variant cover for the second issue of each series in an effort to lessen the typical second issue drop.  We also have Marvel experimenting with retribution-split variants, with rare variants of its Heroes Return titles in the coming months.

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

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

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

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

Buried Treasure

Wizard highlights the overlooked Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, which features early work from the perpetually hyped Garth Ennis.

Top 100 - August 1997

Spawn #65 is the top title, thanks to retailer incentives that included a special B&W reprint of Spawn #1 with a new McFarlane cover, and an even rarer signed edition.  The rest of the chart is largely the same, with X-titles and Heroes Reborn books dominating the Top Ten, Spider-Man and Superman titles selling competitively in the #25-40 slots, and Batman titles ranking just below in the #40-60 range.  The chart surprise of the month is the debut of Awesome’s The Coven at a respectable #43.

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “I don’t blame Marvel for not being into it.  They had to admit another company is doing something they couldn’t…It was just a very unpopular project at Marvel Comics, and it was hard to do a project for a company that was not really supportive of it.” - Jim Lee, on Marvel’s reaction to Heroes Reborn.
  • “With titles like Spawn: The Eternal, Youngblood, Fantastic Four, and Batman & Robin on the horizon, the future of superheroes in video games looks as bright as the glare from a 100-watt bulb.” - Wizard’s hype for upcoming video games releases; I believe all of these games are generally viewed as terrible today.
  • “I first one is awful compared to the second one.” - Mortal Kombat: Annihilation star Sandra Hess.

Nope:  Todd Dezago is not the monthly writer of the follow-up to JLA: World without Adults (which will be Peter David on Young Justice)…Warren Ellis never creates “the new Marvel Universe” in a twelve-issue miniseries that some claim was going to be Marvel’s Crisis (although he did use the ideas later for some of his Ultimate Marvel work)…in spite of his enthusiasm, Jim Lee never gets around to producing twenty issues of Divine Right…July 4, 1998 doesn’t bring us a Hulk film starring Johnny Depp, written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh…Tia Carrere never stars in Shi, even though her husband purchased the rights…the rumored Adventures in the DC Universe animated series is just that…and MTV’s Hate was closer to air than I ever realized; Wizard thinks it will debut in either Fall or Winter 1997, and reports that Peter Bagge has moved to New York to work on the series.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Garth Ennis comics, Batman: The Long Halloween, the upcoming meeting of the animated Batman and Superman…and random back issue picks, such as Uncanny X-Men #159 and Batman: Bloodstorm.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  The standard targets -- Batman & Robin, Spider-Man’s marriage, and Oasis, along with the repaint on McFarlane Toys’ Thresher figure…the Toy Biz repaint of Gambit that has him in traditional X-Men garb…the “crappy superteam known as Team Titans”…the return of Norman Osborn…DC’s annuals from the past eight years…and Marvel’s line of Flashback books.

This Ain’t HuffPo:  Wizard assures us that they’ve verified that the various female creators listed in the magazine are truly female…jokes about someone looking up a Wonder Woman cosplayer’s skirt…posits that a man carrying a purse is scarier than the concept of a Green Goblin (and jokes that the Goblin keeps a “weird-looking ‘massager’” inside his purse).

Sick Burn, Wizard:  “Red Rocket 7 is an alien, a clone and one heckuva rock musician -- kind of like Michael Jackson, minus the ‘heckuva rock musician’ part.”

I Love the ‘90s:  “Who cares about washed-up losers like Freddy Krueger or Jason?” - Wizard’s pitch for Scream action figures.

Pathological Scatological:  The Halloween Costume contestants are used as fodder for toilet humor, although Wizard is far more reserved this year when compared to last year’s installment… a warning about “egg farts” sneaks into the legal text of the Scavenger Hunt contest… two “pull my finger” jokes…a Mego Hulk doll uses his farts against a Tie-Fighter in the Action Figure Price Guide…and a write-up of JLA #1 reminds of how difficult corn is to digest.

Commercial Break:  Did “North By Northwest” ever take off?

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  The highlights of the issue are what you’ll find in most issues of this era; it’s packed with cartoons, exclusive artwork, and interviews with creators offering teases for upcoming storylines and some insight into how they view the characters.  We also have more of that Wizard snark that isn’t afraid to mock pretty much anything the editors feel like mocking.  It’s obnoxious at times, but having an identity beyond “mindless hype monthly” is a major reason why Wizard was able to build its audience.  And the crude humor doesn’t make its way into any of the major features this issue, which is always a relief.

Until next time...

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