The Guide to the Guide to Comics - WIZARD #85 (September 1998)

Why did so many of the 25 greatest moments in comics’ history occur in the 1980s?  Who is this young Joe Casey fellow?  And what happens when Galactus visits the offices of Wizard?  Find out in The Guide to the Guide to Comics!

Three covers now?  It’s hard enough finding decent scans of just two covers, now I have to track down three?  Fine then.  This month a gaggle of mainstream superheroes grace the covers, and I have no clue which one was designated the newsstand version.  My copy has the “animated” Avengers by Rick Burchett, which I’m almost positive I purchased at a comics shop.  Based on the two remaining options, I’d guess the Wolverine/Superman cover by Kevin Maguire was the version sold at 7-11s.

In this month’s Wizard, we have features on...hot young writer Joe Casey, an interview with Chris Claremont, a fumetti comic starring Galactus and the Wizard staff, and “the 25 greatest moments in comics…ever!”

The Standards include Basic Training (by Dale Keown...you can see some of his original art here), Toy Chest, Coming Attractions, Last Man Standing, Manga Scene, and Report Card.  Plus, letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, a cartoon calendar by Brian Douglas Ahern, Time Travel, and market information.

Magic Words

The opening letter addresses the issue of libraries carrying comics, a concept that feels like a pipe dream to most readers in 1998.  Other letters are dedicated to the “evil beady eyes” of Wizard staffer Greg Orlando, the perceived unfairness of DC publishing new pages in the Kingdom Come trade, and more Kevin Smith hype, as Wizard’s readers eagerly anticipate the guy who “talk(s) about comics in his movies…now write the comics he talked about.  Who isn’t excited about that?”  Finally, one of my favorite Jim McLauchlin responses of all time:

Wizard News & Notes

The lead story this month isn’t really a story at all; it’s Wizard refuting a rumor.  Due to the 75% sales increase of Green Lantern #100, featuring a time-traveling Hal Jordan, fan speculation is that Hal will return in a monthly Green Lantern spinoff.  DC denies this, and for the thousandth time, attempts to defend the whole “goes insane and kills his friends” deal.

In other news, the attempts to save the sales-challenged Deadpool have begun.  Joe Kelly announces The Encyclopedia Deadpoolica, the Wizard-exclusive Deadpool #0, and Deadpool Team-Up, Starring Deadpool and Widdle Wade one-shots, which all coincide with Marvel’s Deadpool Month in October.  You could mark this as the official moment Deadpool went from a ‘90s X-character who happened to have some decent one-liners, to the self-aware, darkly comedic figure that embraces full-on absurdity.  I still think it’s crazy that Deadpool’s turned into what he is today, but the germ of that rabidly devoted fanbase already existed in 1998.

Also…Wizard reports that John Byrne’s Hulk series will have “TV influences” (from the 1970s show.)  Byrne later calls Wizard’s writers “idiots” for interpreting his quotes this way.  Vampirella is getting a “‘90s sexy” makeover, with “a lot less flesh” and “shards of wood from the remains of Christ’s cross.”  It’s quite hideous.  And, in the “Thumbing Off” column, Wizard berates DC for only making small changes to the Superman creative teams, presenting the argument (in that humble, unassuming Wizard style) that the company needs a drastic shake-up to revive the stagnant titles.

The Mighty Casey

Another personality profile, where Wizard singles out a young creator, presents him as the hottest young talent in the industry, and finds a hook in the article to make you like the guy.  This month’s entry is Joe Casey, who’s gone from poverty and unemployment to writing two Marvel books in eight months.  Casey explains the role James Robinson played in helping him break in, and muses on the absurdity that has him taking over Incredible Hulk, even though John Byrne was announced as his replacement before his first issue shipped.  Even though the theme of the piece is how this hot Young Turk is taking on the industry and building a name for himself, everything Casey says Marvel has promised him concerning Cable evaporates.  (Casey is under the impression that Apocalypse won’t appear until the year 2000 in a major Cable story, and that he’ll possibly close out the book with #75.)  Casey leaves Cable months before #75, when it’s announced that Rob Liefeld will be returning as plotter/penciler.

Casey’s visibility from this interview carried over to the early comics internet; I remember Casey always popping up in interviews and even writing columns for various comics sites.  He’s a writer perceived by the industry as a “name” you can hire to draw attention to a title, although I question if his sales track record is any better than, say, John Francis Moore’s.  As a member of Man of Action, however, he’s had great success in TV animation.

Finally, the piece closes with the predictable “Have a writer pitch various books” sidebar.

The Wizard Q&A

Chris Claremont is interviewed about his new role at Marvel as “vice-president/editorial director.”  The bulk of the questions center on the X-Men, even though Claremont is currently on Fantastic Four and doesn’t seem eager to return to the books.  I’m assuming Wizard wasn’t overly pleased with this interview, since Claremont is repeatedly characterized as bored in the introduction, and they weren’t able to coax any negative quotes out of him regarding John Byrne, who’s criticized Claremont’s work in the past.  The interview does offer some insight into what Claremont was trying to do with his brief Wolverine stint, and his “favorite X-Men plot he never got to write.”  It’s the “Wolverine becomes a brainwashed assassin” story, one we’ve seen more than once since this interview was published.  And, of course, we have a sidebar with brief quotes from the author.

Galactus Meets Wizard

More of these will pop up later…it’s the Wizard editorial staff starring in a fumetti adventure.  These were often funny, and this one holds up today.  Maybe Wizard could’ve competed with the internet with more pieces like this (which I also recall appearing in Toyfare.)  This issue, Galactus arrives to consume the Wizard offices, unless they can defeat him in a series of contests.  His arrival is announced by, who else?, the Silver Surfer.

 Heat of the Moment

Wizard picks the 25 most memorable moments in comics history”…and annoys Peter David.  Three defining elements of this era’s Wizard in this piece: 1) it’s virtually identical to the lists Entertainment Weekly was so fond of, 2) it begins with a cocky premise (Wizard of course knows which moments to include, and exactly how to number them), and 3) “comics history” is somehow limited to the past 15 years or so, with only a few exceptions.  Much of the list is a love letter to Shooter-era Marvel (Byrne’s Fantastic Four appears a few times, along with the death of Elektra, and Days of Future Past), and Alan Moore’s 1980s output.  More recent entries include Hal Jordan’s descent into madness and Captain Marvel’s turn as a villain in Kingdom Come.  The lone entry from the Silver Age is the revelation of Uncle Ben’s killer in Amazing Fantasy #15.  The entire piece is archived at the What Would Spidey Do? site.

If you’re curious about the Top Three, Wizard has selected “Phoenix Kills Herself” from Uncanny X-Men #137, “Ozymandias Victorious” from Watchmen #11, and “Batman Beats Superman” from Dark Knight Returns #4.  And if you’re curious about comics’ funniest moments…


Casting Call

After a mere two issues, Danger Girl is already set for a Wizard dream casting…

Charlize Theron as Abbey Chase

Gena Lee Nolan as Natalia

Elizabeth Hurley as Sydney

Claire Danes as Silicon Valerie

Dan Schneider (the Head of the Class actor who later created half of Nickelodeon’s lineup) as Duncan

Sean Connery as Deuce

Timothy Dalton as Donavin Conrad

Jon Polito (The Crow) as The Peach

Billy Zane as Johnny Barracuda

Cheech Marin as Kid Dynamo

And finally, Night Court’s Richard Moll as Mr. Giggles

Coming Attractions

The majority of column is devoted to a roundup of various animated series.  The proposed Avengers series now looks like it’s in doubt, thanks to Marvel’s bankruptcy.  I’m going to guess Wizard assumed that more would be happening with the series when they commissioned an “animated” Avengers cover for the issue (not that anyone could’ve predicted the actual Avengers cartoon we received in 1999.)  In the “Trailers” sidebar (dedicated to rumored productions), we have the earliest whisperings of Tom Cruise as Iron Man.

Video Stuff

The video game column offers an update on the still-missing Youngblood game, before previewing two of the most famous games from this era.  Famous for different reasons…

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

Two surprise entries this month, Savage Dragon at Number Nine (presumably because the editorial staff loved his book so much) and The Demon at Number Ten.  The Jack Kirby creation, you ask?  Nope…Gene Simmons’ character from KISS.  Finally, the Mort of the Month is a Wonder Woman villain named Doctor Psycho.  It’s not hard to guess why Wizard selected him; it’s an excuse for more midget jokes.


The Book of the Month is Untold Tales of Spider-Man: Strange Encounter, while the On the Edge pick is Underhanded Comics’ Captain Dingleberry #1.  Surely no one involved with such low-brow material will ever have a shot at working in mainstream comics.

Report Card

This issue, Iron Man (#1-7, graded as a B), Gen 13 (#25-30, graded as a C), Nightwing (#17-22, graded as a C) and indie comic Strangehaven (#1-9, graded as a B) are reviewed.  Iron Man is criticized for being “too straightforward,” Gen 13 is complimented for its characters, but berated for everything from its directionless plots to the team’s similarity to the X-Men, Nightwing is viewed as “hit or miss” due to inconsistent and often familiar plots, and Strangehaven is deemed “fascinating” but too slow.  I’ve noticed that Wizard often complains about traditional superhero plots in these reviews, even though they’re reviewing traditional superhero comics.  Sounds like someone needs that John Byrne lecture…

Wizard Market Watch

Thanks to its line of $4.95 and $5.95 prestige format titles, DC has edged out Marvel in “total dollars sold,” taking in 24.2% of the money spent in the direct market, as opposed to Marvel’s 22.6%.  Retailers are also reporting that DC’s reputation for quality monthly titles is helping them gain ground on Marvel.

Wizard’s Top Ten Writers are…

  1. Kurt Busiek
  2. Joe Kelly
  3. Mark Waid
  4. Grant Morrison
  5. Garth Ennis
  6. Steven T. Seagle
  7. Peter David
  8. Kevin Smith
  9. Matt Wagner
  10. Christina Z.

Wizard’s Top Ten Artists are…

  1. Joe Madureira
  2. Michael Turner
  3. Jim Lee
  4. J. Scott Campbell
  5. Alex Ross
  6. Andy Kubert
  7. Chris Bachalo
  8. Adam Kubert
  9. George Perez
  10. John Romita, Jr.

Finally, the Buried Treasure blub selects Queens of Halloween Ashcan #1, because it features a rare Witchblade story.

Top Ten Comics

The hottest back issue in the country is Battle Chasers #1, which was “drastically under-ordered” even though it was Joe Madureira’s first project following Uncanny X-Men.  It’s amazing to think the bias against fantasy comics was so strong that even when the most popular artist in comics produced something that fell into that category, retailers were reluctant to fully support it.  Thor #1 also places high on the list, thanks to the renewed interest in Marvel’s “classic” heroes, and John Romita, Jr.’s art.

Top 100 - June 1998

The top ten highest-sellers now have to welcome the Cliffhanger books to the chart (the two by Campbell and Madureira, that is…Crimson #2 is down at a still-respectable Number 17.)  Uncanny X-Men #358 is the top seller, followed by sister title X-Men, and Spawn at Number Three.  Also in the Top Ten is every Heroes Return title, with the exception of Iron Man, which narrowly misses at Number 11.  Revived interested in the traditional Marvel heroes, the steady success of Top Cow, and the debut of Cliffhanger is pushing most X-spinoffs, and Superman and Batman titles, further down the chart.  The Spider-Man books are actually doing okay, relatively speaking, ranking from 19 to 31, thanks to the Identity Crisis stunt and the publicity surrounding the upcoming relaunch of the titles.  Oni also scores its first Top 100 book this month with Clerks, giving Wizard another opportunity to remind us that Kevin Smith is “big bank these days.”

Price Guide

Good Readin’ picks include the “Genesis” crossover issue of Aquaman, Nightwing #7-8, and Untold Tales of Spider-Man #5.  The price guide reports drops for recently hyped titles like Arcanum, Ascension, and Ash.  And Youngblood #1 is being listed for $3.50, while early issues of Spawn have the “this book is hot” label.

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “The bottom line is if we brought Hal back, we’d please people for a month or two, but then we might fall right back into the same area that we were in before.” - Mike Carlin, on DC’s decision not to revive Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern.
  • “I guess Peter David said he thinks she’s permanently dead…But I could revive her in two panels.” - John Byrne, on the status of the Hulk’s wife, Betty.
  • “I’m the caboose on the Will Smith train…It’s the greatest train ride I’ve ever been on.” - Rob Liefeld, “ecstatic” over his collaboration with Will Smith.
  • “Can a world without Witchblade even exist?  Will reality fold up into a paper hat and exit stage left on Satan’s head?” - text from the Top Ten Comics list.

Nope:  Nickelodeon never produces Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureira’s Blast.  The announced tie-in comic from Awesome never surfaces, either…Mark Waid’s announced Barry & Hal miniseries is renamed Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold…the revelation of the contents of the vial given to Gambit by Sinister in Uncanny X-Men #350 isn’t part of “an enormous storyline” in winter 1998…Matt Damon doesn’t star in Daredevil…Showtime never produces an Alien Legion series…and, even though Rob Liefeld is “read to get jiggy with Will Smith,” and producers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich are onboard, The Mark is never produced.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Battle Chasers…Fathom Preview and Fathom #0 for setting the stage for the #1 issue (unlike the Danger Girl preview comic)…Preacher for Ennis’ “shockingly graphic” work…and WCW Vs. NWO World Tour for the N64.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  The overexposure of the JLA…the nonsensical revelation of M’s origin in Generation X #40…the stagnation of the Superman line…Steel and Plastic Man joining the JLA…the Dan Jurgens incarnation of Teen Titans…and radio DJs.

This Ain’t HuffPo:  Wizard is stunned by the presence of a “cute chick” at a local comic con…longs for “scantily-clad spy chicks” in the form of Danger Girl action figures…commends Witchblade for having a chick co-writer (which means that Witchblade reads like “a real chick”)…informs us that Supergirl’s “undies are blue” so that no one tries to peek…praises Grunge’s attempts to see Rainmaker topless…and is thrilled by how Danger Girl “bounces.”

Naughty:  Spoiler is facing “the biggest personal problem a teen-age girl can face.”  Wizard questions if it’s a “short skirt and a strong breeze.”

I Love the ‘90s:  Captain America’s Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month entry questions if he can survive the newest British invasion -- Teletubbies!  Also, Spider Jerusalem is compared to Kenneth Starr, and Wizard wants to commit violence against the cast of Veronica’s Closet.

Pathological Scatological:  Galactus destroys Wizard’s bathroom following his White Castle-eating contest with Jim McLauchlin…and there’s really no potty humor in the rest of the magazine, until we reach the CBIQ trivia page at the end.  Every question has at least one joke answer this month, which is an excuse for a few Mexican food jokes.

Commercial Break:


Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  More “attitude” than “depth” this month, it seems.  I’m not a big fan of list articles, but it seems as if Wizard has entered an era where every issue must have one.  (And why not just acknowledge that you want to talk about modern comics, instead of declaring every ranking to be “definitive” or for “all time”?)  After making a conscious decision to legitimize the magazine, Wizard is leaning more towards hype again.  I’m still laughing at most of the humor features, however.

Until next time...

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