The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #79 (March 1998)

Is Awesome Entertainment ready to take on the world?  Did Steven Seagle and Joe Kelly manage to sneak even one of their ideas past X-Men editorial?  And why does the JLA suddenly have over a dozen members?  Find out in the Guide to the Guide to Comics…

Top Cow’s Ascension graces the direct market cover this month, although I’d love to see how this cover would’ve gone over at a CVS newsstand.  A Chris Bachalo X-Men cover is the newsstand version, featuring the original team in their current incarnations.  I suppose I should also mention that, as of now, Wizard is "The Comics Magazine" and no longer "The Guide to Comics."

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...Michael Turner’s Fathom, indie comic Holey Crullers, the new Acrudi/Frank team on Gen 13, Awesome Entertainment and the impressive talent roster it’s assembled, Wizard’s fantasy superhero team, a look at eight creators to “keep an eye on,” and an interview with X-writers Steven T. Seagle and Joe Kelly.

The Standards include Basic Training (Brent Anderson explains curvilinear perspective), 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, Time Travel with Peter Sanderson (examining Alan Moore’s debut on Swamp Thing), and market information.

From the Top

Gareb Shamus opens the issue by addressing the issue of “computers replacing comics.”  Shamus touts Wizard’s amazing website (the one that never quite competed with other online comic news sites) and says that it’s worked as a fine addition to the magazine, but he’s confident that nothing’s ever going to replace print.  Shamus’ argument is that people want physical objects to hold and collect, which is something the internet can’t bring us.

Magic Words

This month, the letter column reveals that Alex Ross’ cover to Wizard #75 will be released soon as a print at the Warner Bros. Store (and that Ross slipped a sex scene into Kingdom Come but no one’s noticed), discusses the possibility of Scarlet Spider and Buffy comics existing one day, confirms that Gen 13/Batman is dead, explains why the Gen 13 movie is running so late, divulges Karl Kesel’s nixed Daredevil event story, and contacts the Kraft consumer help line for information on cheese.

The Bunny Award (Jim McLauchlin’s favorite letter of the month) comes from a fan who’s discovered that Gambit’s real name consists of two actual towns in Louisiana: Remy and LeBeau.  McLauchlin asks Chris Claremont to comment, but learns that Claremont didn’t give Gambit his real name.  Claremont directs him to Howard Mackie, who wrote the initial Gambit miniseries, but he’s clueless as well.  McLauchlin then declares that the mystery of who named Gambit is “already lost to the mists of time.”  But if McLauchlin’s knowledge of the X-Men extended past 1985, he would’ve known that Gambit’s real name was revealed in X-Men #8, plotted by Jim Lee and scripted by Scott Lobdell.  As far as I know, no one’s ever asked them if Gambit was named by picking two cities from a map, but it’s hard to believe that there’s any other explanation.

Wizard News

Topping the news this month is the announcement of Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty, a new spinoff that is slated to feature the talents of Mark Waid, Ron Garney, and Andy Kubert.  Wizard expresses some skepticism about Marvel producing another Captain America series so soon after the Heroes Return relaunch, but Mark Waid is confident that the title can work.  Wizard reports that spinoffs of non-X-titles could be a trend at Marvel.

In other news…Chris Claremont will have an indefinite run on Wolverine beginning with issue #125…Brandon Peterson is slated to pencil a Dr. Strange arc for Journey into Mystery, now that he’s parted ways with Top Cow…Shi will guest star in an upcoming Vampirella arc…Superman’s classic look will return in Superman Forever…Chris Claremont is replacing Scott Lobdell on Fantastic Four (Wizard reports that Lobdell is none too pleased)…Lightning Comics and London Night Studios are discontinuing their series of nude variant covers…the pro-Hal Jordan group H.E.A.T. has spent thousands on an ad campaign…and Grant Morrison reveals his “Grecian Formula,” which doesn't stop Wizard from griping about the new JLA line-up for months.

I’ll also mention that most of the rumors in the “Buzz Box” turn out to be true.  John Byrne does move to Marvel for a Man of Steel-style revamp of Spider-Man’s early days…Marvel does farm out several titles to Event Comics (which eventually leads to Joe Quesada becoming editor-in-chief)…Carlos Pacheco is in fact leaving X-Men for an Avengers project…and Paul Dini and Alex Ross do team up for a special Superman one-shot.

The Hole Story

A spotlight on the mini-comic Holey Crullers, written by Troy Hickman.  Hickman explains that the series is an attempt to address the mundane details of life as a superhero, such as what happens when a hero has to go to the bathroom while on patrol (one issue-long story featured a hero and villain in opposite stalls, sharing a conversation.)  Wizard claims Marvel and DC would never publish a comic dealing with these topics, but it’s the kind of material that Bill Jemas seemed eager to publish during his stint at Marvel.  (I’m increasingly convinced that Jemas never really read comics, but he certainly read Wizard every month.  Where else would he get the idea that Marvel should simultaneously embrace indie sensibilities and gratuitous T&A?)  I didn’t remember this article at all, and don’t recall ever hearing about Holey Crullers again, but I have to say that the sidebar description of the characters does make it sound pretty interesting.  Years later, after Jim McLauchlin becomes editor-in-chief of Top Cow, Hickman was hired to do a follow-up series, Common Grounds.

Next Gen-eration

A promotional article for the new direction of Gen 13, by John Arcudi and Gary Frank.  Both creators joke about fans bolting after the original creators leave the book, which is ultimately what happened.  No one has ever replicated the success of J. Scott Campbell on this book, and even during his final days on Gen 13, much of the hype seemed to be gone.  Wildstorm still had a lot riding on the property, however, given the amount Gen 13 product still being pumped out.  Wizard pokes fun of the series, and its spinoffs, in this sidebar… (By the way, this article is written by Jay Faerber, who’s only a few months away from taking over Gen 13’s rival title, Generation X.)

Casting Call

Wizard casts a Thunderbolts film, a movie I seem to recall a certain bigwig at Marvel saying he couldn’t pitch to Hollywood.  The magazine’s picks include…

Juergen Prochnow (Air Force One) as Citizen V

Charlie Sheen (who had a tightly groomed goatee in these days) as Techno

Grant Show (Melrose Place) as Atlas

Melissa Joan Hart as Songbird

Billy Ray Cyrus as Mach-1 (inspired by his classic mullet, maybe?)

Rebecca Romijn as Meteorite (this will likely never happen, but points to Wizard for predicting her future in superhero films)

Irene Ng (Mystery Files of Shelby Woo) as Jolt

Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) as Dallas Riordan

Bernie Casey (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) as G. W. Bridge

Famke Janssen as Black Widow (another sign that the producers of X-Men possibly followed Wizard)

Jeff Bridges as The Mad Thinker

and Mitch Pileggi (Shocker) as Baron von Strucker

An Awesome Attraction

A hype piece for Awesome Entertainment, but there is at least a hook for the article -- how is the “controversial” Rob Liefeld recruiting some of the industry’s biggest names?  The piece runs down the reasons: artists want to work with Alan Moore (who’s still on Supreme), publisher Jeph Loeb is relentless in recruiting his favorite pencilers (always calling them from his car phone, we’re told), and Rob Liefeld genuinely cares about the production of the books, hiring only the best colorists and paying close attention to paper quality.  A sidebar lists the new talent doing work for Awesome, including Alex Ross, Jim Starlin, and…Will Smith and his future-wife Jada Pinkett.  Smith is in talks to star in Rob Liefeld’s The Mark, and Pinkett is writing the upcoming horror comic Menace.

Awesome is financially backed by Crossroads Communications (in Loeb’s words, they’re “owned” by Crossroads), a financing company that helped to bankroll films like 9 ½ Weeks and Short Circuit.  They also own a video game company and have connections in various entertainment fields, so Loeb is confident that Awesome’s various properties will soon become toys, films, etc.  Things don’t work out between Crossroads and Awesome, and that’s being polite, and this promising young company is essentially gone within a year.  It’s a shame that the Alan Moore/Steve Skroce Youngblood only lasted two issues, and I have to say that Ed McGuinness draws a fantastic rendition of the Fighting American.

The All-Wizard Team

Wizard selects Marvel and DC heroes to form their own dream team (they even went as far as hiring Phil Jimenez to do a Perez-style group shot of the heroes).  I’ve never cared about the ranking of powers or fan attempts to form the strongest team in history, but the focus of this article is to create a well-balanced team.  This means that characters like Nightcrawler and Invisible Woman are included, thanks to their stealth and defensive abilities.  For the record, the team consists of Captain America, Superman, Iron Man, Phoenix (“plain ol’ Jean Grey”), Invisible Woman, Nightcrawler, and Dr. Fate.  Heroes who didn’t make the cut, like Spawn and the Flash, are listed in the “Sloppy Seconds” sidebar.

Eight to the Fore ‘98

Another attempt to pick the hottest young talents, and admittedly, Wizard has been getting better at this over the years.  The eight for ’98 are…David Finch, Batt, Lenil Francis Yu, Leonardo Manco, Ed McGuinness, Salvador Larroca, John Cassaday, and Jose Ladronn.

The Wizard Q&A - Joe Kelly & Steven T. Seagle

Matthew Senreich interviews the two new X-Men writers, who only offer vague hints about future plans.  Most of the hints don’t pan out -- there is no deep philosophical divide amongst the team, a new member doesn’t join soon, an old member doesn’t die, and the X-Men’s lack of technology never turns out to be any kind of a hurdle.  The interview does provide a sense of how the X-titles are perceived at this time, however.  Kelly and Seagle are adamant about doing stories with clear endings (and don’t want to revive certain characters just to resolve old mysteries), no one wants to do giant 18-part crossovers anymore, and there is a sense that many of the X-spinoffs need to be cancelled.  The interview closes with Kelly and Seagle stating their desire to be remembered 15-20 years from now as people who pulled the job off…these issues were well-received, but due to Marvel’s unwillingness to go forward with any of Kelly and Seagle’s big ideas, this era of the books is now a quirky little blip in retrospect.

The Skinny

Where do X-Factor, Wonder Woman, and Strangers in Paradise fall on a 1-6 scale?  X-Factor (#134-140) is the second X-spinoff disgraced with a 1 score, with the reviewer declaring X-Factor “all frivolous filler awaiting the next mutant crossover”…Wonder Woman (#121-129) doesn’t fare much better, with a 2 rating.  Wizard has officially turned against John Byrne’s work, critiquing his “sketchy” art, verbose scripting, disappearing backgrounds, and “just really boring” plots.  Strangers in Paradise (#1-10) remains a favorite of the staff, receiving a 5 score for its “fantastically realized characters” and surprise endings.


The two books meriting a “Buy This Book!” blurb are JLA:Year One #4 and Nightwing #19, the title’s foray into the “Cataclysm” event.

Trailer Park

The animated Captain America series is still on schedule for a Fall 1998 debut. (You can watch a promo reel here.)  Wizard has two of the character models, and an interview with producer Will Meugniot.  Meugniot reveals that Bucky has been aged from 12 to 17 to make his adventures more plausible, but other than that, the series will be faithful to the source material.  The touchy issues of “blazing guns and Nazis” is still being addressed with Standards and Practices, he notes.  The rest of the feature is more updates on projects we never see, a sidebar on Wizard’s picks for comics that should be TV shows (including Preacher), and information on this Japanese television series Pokemon accidentally causing “more than 600 young viewers to have epilepsy-like seizures of spasms and nausea.”

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

Deadpool has cracked the Top 10, ranking all the way at Number Four.  Wizard laments that Marvel isn’t able to inject the sense of humor seen in his title into Spider-Man’s comics.  As for the Mort of the Month, this month’s target is the Captain Atom villain, Dr. Spectro.

Card Market

It just might be the end of an era…Fleer/Skybox has announced that it has no plans to release any comics-themed trading card sets in 1998.

Top Ten Comics

Two new additions to the Top Ten back issues list -- Kiss: The Psycho Circus #1 and 1984’s Mage #1.  Wizard thinks Kiss: The Psycho Circus was a guaranteed hit, which might seem odd today.  I know that Kiss has returned to comics a few times since ’97, but it’s not viewed as a particularly hot property, is it?

Wizard Market Watch

Market Watch predicts that Heroes Reborn: The Return could have a long life in the back issue market, while Shi is suffering from the collapse of the Bad Girls trend.  Also, Joe Kelly and Steven Seagle have proven a hit on the main X-books, but Market Watch wonders if more fans buying the main titles will cause X-spinoff sales to sink even lower.

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

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

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Michael Turner
  2. Marc Silvestri
  3. Joe Madureira
  4. Alex Ross
  5. Jim Lee
  6. Adam Kubert
  7. Andy Kubert
  8. Carlos Pacheco
  9. Chris Bachalo
  10. Lenil Yu

J Scott Campbell has been dropped off the list, presumably because he’s in-between Gen 13 and Danger Girl.  As for the Buried Treasure, it’s Alex Ross’ first comics work, Terminator: The Burning Earth #1.

Top 100 - December 1997

The Darkness #11 is the top title, thanks to eleven variant covers.  Wizard labels it “far and away the top direct-market sales book of the entire year.”  The rest of the Top Ten consists of Heroes Return titles, the main X-titles, Spawn, and JLA.  Wizard notes that Excalibur has dropped to Number 34, signifying a growing gap between flagship X-titles and the spinoffs.  Meanwhile, the Superman Red/Superman Blue event comic comes in at Number Sixteen, the highest-ranking Spider-Man title is Amazing Spider-Man #431 at Number 26, and Batman’s best-selling book is Batman #551 at Number 39.

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “Nobody is making people read Green Lantern if they don’t want to.  It’s been four years.  Maybe they should stop making themselves crazy.” - Ron Marz
  • “This is exactly what (Marvel) did to me with Uncanny X-Men #350…I wanted to do 50 issues of FF, but I guess they didn’t want me.” - Scott Lobdell
  • “I figured anyone who Marvel sued couldn’t be all bad.” - Jim Starlin on working with Rob Liefeld.
  • “Psylocke.  I wish she were dead.  She was British once, then became a ninja assassin?  I don’t get it.” - Steven Seagle on his least-favorite X-Man.

Nope:  Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty doesn’t feature Andy Kubert as artist, as he is moved over to the original Captain America series and Ron Garney goes to the spinoff… the initial arc doesn’t focus on Bucky…and we also don’t see the animated Captain America series that’s supposedly going to help promote the book…no Brandon Peterson on Journey into Mystery...Wolverine #125 doesn’t “definitively” answer the question of Wolverine’s adamantium returning (I understand what Claremont meant, though.  The next issue has Sabretooth appear with an adamantium skeleton, an idea Claremont intended as the new status quo: Wolverine as the perpetual underdog in his battles with Sabretooth)…Stan Lee’s “Excelsior” line never happens, but the proposed Spider-Girl series is eventually released…The X-Man rumored to die is intended to be Storm; Marvel had cold feet.  As for the new member teased, I’m not sure who this was going to be, but it certainly seems as if this was a Seagle plot for Uncanny, because Joe Kelly initially doesn’t know what he’s talking about…and Jason Pearson doesn’t replace Carlos Pacheco on X-Men.

Now, a special “Nope” Hollywood edition…Will Smith still hasn’t starred in Rob Liefeld’s The Mark (which Liefeld hopes will costar Jennifer Lopez, who’s still years away from becoming a superstar)…Tim Allen doesn’t star as Brainiac in Superman Lives, but Kevin Spacey does portray Lex Luthor years later…the Wonder Woman live-action series that Warner Brothers is holding auditions for never happens…Steven Seagle’s House of Secrets script remains unproduced…James Cameron doesn’t direct a remake of Planet of the Apes (which, in the early ‘90s, was going to star Arnold Schwarzenegger)and, sadly, the world was deprived of Sandra Bullock starring as the title character in Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

Stuff Wizard Likes:  JLA, the Kurt Busiek-scripted Heroes Return titles, Green Lantern, and back issue picks such as Swamp Thing #53 and Dazzler #30 (guest-starring…Marvel editor Ralph Macchio?)

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  The post-Crisis version of Dr. Fate…more Kenner variations on Batman, such as “Arctic Lava Monkey-Lovin’ Batman”…the number of buttons on a N64 controller…Mortal Kombat: Annihilation…turning Superman “all blue and glowy”…the name “Thunderbolts,” even though they love the comic…“the whole lame miniseries” that was Genesis…and “the JLA franchise get(ting) watered down and lame when a bunch of second-tier losers are allowed to join.”

This Ain’t HuffPo:  An added word balloon to Alex Ross’ JLA print has the Atom questioning if Red Tornado and the Flash are holding hands…Wizard’s writers continue to have Teri Hatcher fantasies…Raiden from the Mortal Kombat movie is a “sissy…with an unbelievably cheesy, girly haircut”…and Wizard gripes about being attacked by “the Amalgamated Feminists of America or some such organization” for focusing so much on Witchblade’s body in past issues.

Vive la France:  The French are blamed for the Hulk’s pained expression in his Top Ten Heroes & Villains headshot…Jerry Lewis, in collusion with the French government, is responsible for the Legacy Virus…and just when you thought the French were safe, this is slipped into one of the final pages of the issue:

Pathological Scatological:  Someone at Wizard may or may not have provided his coworkers with brownies laced with Ex-Lax.

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  I’d say the issue opens with too many hype pieces…none of them are mindless hype (they all have an angle so they don’t come across strictly as informercials), but they remain hype articles.  Also, even though the magazine is becoming less crude, the arrogant tone in many of the editorial features continues to annoy me.  There’s also an abundance of cheap shots in the magazine, but only a few pages of critical analysis of what we’re supposed to be hating.  The interviews are interesting, however, and we still have exclusive cartoons and, presumably, the internet hasn’t supplanted Wizard as the main vehicle of comics news by this date.

Until next time...

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