Thursday, October 19, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  WIZARD MAGAZINE #79 - A MightyVille Rewind Review

WIZARD MAGAZINE #79

 

OK, so today at MightyVille, we’re going to do something a little different.  Instead of reviewing the latest and greatest books, we’re going to take a trip into the distant past ... 1998.  Yes, get ready for a look at the comic world from 17 years ago, an age where we were all wearing Michael Jordan jerseys and making Clinton sex scandal jokes.  But what’s the best way to truly get a sense of what the comic fan loved back then?  One word: Wizard.

“What’s a Wizard?” asks our younger readers (as well as our readers who love asking questions).  Well, Wizard Magazine was magazine dedicated to comic news, interviews, price guides, and fictional super-hero battles.  Started in 1991, at the height of the comic collectors market, it was very relevant throughout the 90s.  Wizard eventually became so popular that it would host multiple comic conventions throughout the country, and, at one point, published its own comic books.  However, it shared a love-hate relationship with both comic fans and comic creators.  It gave fans unprecedented access to comic news and exclusive interviews with creators, but was derided for being immature and relying on hype to inflate the dying collector market.

It was often said amongst comics fans that Wizard wasn’t a magazine, it was a phase you went through.  From a personal point of view, that’s completely how I was.  After picking up a copy in the summer of 1997, when I was 12, I was immediately hooked.  The sense of humor was a mix of scatological and iconoclastic – there’s nothing that will make a prepubescent boy laugh more than Superman making a fart joke.  And yet, their “best of” lists were essential in broadening my horizons and trying out new books.  It seems quaint in retrospect, as “best of” lists are a dime-a-dozen in the Internet age, but I distinctly remember their list of the best Batman stories sending me to scour through tradepaperbacks and back-issue bins to try to read all the stories.  However, after about 2-3 years of rabid fandom, I began to think the magazine was unfunny and annoying, and better information could be found on this thing called “The Internet”.  Turns out I wasn’t alone.  After struggling to remain relevant and compete with the Internet for years, Wizard was cancelled in 2011.

And there you have it: a brief history of Wizard, with a little blogger navel-gazing thrown in for good measure.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s open up the time machine!

 

Wizard Photo 1

 

This is a wonderful cover by Chris Bachelo, featuring the original X-Men wearing their '90s best.  Plus, we’re in for a sneak preview of the Captain America cartoon from the 90s!  

…wait.  Captain America cartoon?  Yup, it was in development, but never saw the light of day.  Check out the (low quality) promotional video...

 

 

Given that Ant-Man went through 17 different directors and with Marvel Studios movies planned until the robot apocalypse, it seems inconceivable that Marvel would fail on a project as simple as a Captain America cartoon.  But it happened.  Don’t let that kick-ass cover fool you; the '90s were a dark time for the industry.

 

Wizard Photo 2

 

Ah, the letters page.  I remember this being one of the must-reads back in the day – I enjoyed Jim McLaughlin’s snarky sense of humor, and the occasional informational answers from comic creators.  However, this has aged about as well as milk from the same time period.  See that letter above?  That’s an entire page of one reader’s letter, regarding his top 10 “dream” comic titles (including The Astounding Scarlet Spider).  It’s basically an internet comment in print.  Yes, in the '90s, people paid for this.  What’s more remarkable is that half of the following page is McLaughlin’s response, telling the reader why all these books would be stupid.  Yes, that’s 1.5 pages of what was basically a typical message board exchange, in print, on sale, and forever immortalized.  That’s not the weirdest part.  

 

Wizard Photo 3

 

There was a pen-pals section of the magazine.  OK, so I guess that was a “'90s thing”.  But, good lord, this lists the age and gender of the pen-pals, with some being as young as 11!  That’s right; a national magazine published the home addresses of 11 year olds, and what comics they liked to read.  What could possibly go wrong??  Aside from Roberto Benigni, this may be the most difficult thing to explain from 1998.

 

Wizard Photo 4

 

If I could sum up this copy of Wizard Magazine in part of a word and a number, it would be ”Gen-13”.  From the letters pages, to the main features, and throughout the price guide, it seems like this was THE book of the generation.  I’ve never read any Gen-13, nor do I know any Gen-13 fans.  It seems that the following 17 years have not been kind.  It’s hard for me to imagine a book as big as this nowadays just disappearing from the comic scene.  Any guesses?  Let me know in the comments.

 

Wizard Photo 5

 

Well, it took 48 pages, but we finally got our first mention of Rob Liefeld.  It wouldn’t feel right to have him missing from a late '90s Wizard.  Don’t worry, he makes many more appearances throughout the magazine.

 

Wizard Photo 6

 

“Casting Call” was a recurring feature in Wizard, where every month they would come up with their dream cast for a potential superhero movie.  So, if you feel like you are overwhelmed by superhero movies, don’t take it for granted – there was a time where people would pay to read articles about movies that wouldn’t happen.  And, man, holy '90s casting!  Melissa Joan Hart, Billy Ray Cyrus, the girl from The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo!  Not pictured: Jeff Bridges as the Mad Thinker and Charlie Sheen as Techno.  Am I alone in wanting to see this movie more now than in 1998?  Or more than any other super-hero movie?

 

Wizard Photo 7

 

Here’s an ad for ToyFare, a spin-off of Wizard focused solely on, you guessed it, toys.  (This issue of Wizard still had some coverage of toys and an abridged price guide, but it would slowly be phased out as ToyFare became more popular).  While Wizard’s humor is a bit juvenile, ToyFare’s writers had legitimate talent.  Not only would ToyFare publish collections of their “Twisted Mego Theater” comic strips, much of the staff would eventually write for Robot Chicken.  

 

Wizard Photo 8

 

The monthly “Picks” was another recurring segment, and was hugely influential in my early comic buying years.  Looking back, it is easily the most redeeming quality of Wizard, as they placed huge titles like Avengers and JLA next to indie books like Box Office Poison and Groo.  The 33 titles spotlighted in this particular issue came from nine different publishers, including one publisher called Dancing Elephant Press.  So, kudos to Wizard for spotlighting the little guy.

 

Wizard Photo 9

 

Wizard always was known for their wacky contests.  This issue featured a Green Lantern drawing competition, a Duke Nukem trivia contest, and, um, this above.  Seriously, we need more information about this.  Have Jimmy Palmiotti or Amanda Conner ever talked about this since 1998?  I can’t imagine it wasn’t anything but insanely awkward for all parties involved. [Editor's Note: Jimmy says, "We did it."]

 

Wizard Photo 10

 

Ah, the price guide.  In 1998, I was just discovering eBay, which basically made monthly price guides like this useless.  Still, I was always fascinated about how these worked.  Did they poll comic stores?  Who came up with the prices?  Did they really do research each month to make minor changes, like a book going up or down by a buck?  Either way, it seemed like a tremendous waste of space back then, and it’s nothing more than an eyesore to anyone reading this in 2015.  The font is incredibly tiny, there’s a page telling you how to use it, there’s two pages explaining the abbreviations they use for various writers and artists, and then 50-ish pages of poorly laid out, hard to read, oddly colored comic prices.  Sadly, these price guides were probably the reason Wizard got popular in the first place, but after the collector market died in the mid-90s, this was just wasted space (even moreso than the letters pages).  

 

Wizard Photo 11

 

The last page of the magazine is a look back to Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, discussing its popularity and how it shaped Vertigo.  I loved features like this (even though, somehow, I still haven’t read all of Moore’s Swamp Thing).  

And that’s it for this issue of Wizard Magazine.  Gen-13, Rob Liefeld, fake movies with Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charlie Sheen, foursomes with Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, about 70 pages of useful content in a 200 page magazine: that’s 1998 in a nutshell.  Despite its flaws, Wizard serves as the perfect comic book time capsule, preserving everything that was important to comic fans at that particular moment.  It provided an array of news and information for comics across the spectrum, from the Big Two to the tiniest companies in the back pages of Diamond's Previews Catalog.  It delivered this information with a snarky attitude (that would soon be co-opted by nearly every Internet blogger).  So here’s to you, Wizard!  Thanks for the memories.

 

More Editorials on MightyVille:

A (Not So) Long Time Ago - A Year With The New Star Wars Continuity

DEADPOOGLE - A MightyVille Editorial

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