"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
Can Wizard do a promo piece on the Spider-Clone storyline while keeping a straight face? Will Event Comics change comics forever? Can Zero Hour keep DC’s continuity straight for at least five years? Find out in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!
This cover convinced me as a teenager that Joe Quesada simply had to do Spider-Man. Didn’t Spidey just need that kind of power and dynamism post-McFarlane? Little did I know one day Quesada would actually be running Marvel Comics, and he’d orchestrate a Spider-Man story so utterly misguided it’d chase me away from the Marvel Universe. C’est la vie.
In this month’s Wizard…
Features on Marvel’s big clone plans for Spider-Man, the Zero Hour continuity clean up, Jae Lee’s Hellshock, and the after-effects of the Valiant crossover “The Chaos Effect.” Plus, a tribute to Jack Kirby and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Maximum Carnage videogame.
The regular columns include Palmer’s Picks (a profile on Jim Woodring), Cut & Print, Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.
The Departments include the usual blend of letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.
Jim McLauchlin fields letters from readers who don’t understand why Spider-Man didn’t kill Carnage during “Maximum Carnage,” how reprints work, or why Wizard is allowing Magneto to do mean things to the X-Men. It’s that kind of month. One fan suggests interviewing comic strip artists like Bill Watterson; McLauchlin says they’ll look into it. Good luck with that.
The Letter Art contest has some clever quips hidden in the legal print and copyright info. One of the finalists has submitted a drawing of a dwarf, which may or may not be inspired by the Golden Axe videogame. Just to be safe, Wizard copyrights the image to “Some Video Game Company.”
Wizard’s buddies Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti have announced the launch of Event Comics, and not only is this the top story of the month, it merits a full-page article. I wonder how Bart Sears felt, given that the announcement of his new publishing company was previously buried in the “Other News” section, even though he produced far more work for Wizard, and his Brute & Babe characters are featured in this magazine every month.
While looking through those old issues, I kept wondering why so many artists at this time were eager to take on the demands of self-publishing. It seems as if every issue during this period, someone has a new comics company or imprint to announce. I realize money was flying around in a hurricane during these days, but it seemed crazy that so many artists actually wanted to run a company and publish comics, especially with Image already in existence, offering to take care of that burden for you. I then realized that the Image of this era was firmly tied to the original founders, and after the Shaman’s Tears fiasco, many creators might’ve been reluctant to join up with the company. So, in that light, self-publishing almost makes sense, but I still wonder why Dark Horse or even Epic didn’t pick up more of these titles.
In other news…Don Thompson has passed away, Kurt Busiek has dropped out of Marvels II (the implication being he left because Alex Ross wasn’t involved), Stan Lee is receiving a lifetime contract from Marvel, and Mike Diana has been jailed in Florida. He’s the first cartoonist jailed for producing obscene material.
Send in the Clones
This is one for the ages…a hype piece for the upcoming Spider-Clone storyline. The creative teams of the various Spider-titles acknowledge that many fans might be resistant to the concept, but encourage readers to give them a chance. The writer of the piece even seems skeptical about the idea, emphasizing just how long ago the original clone issues were published, and cataloging a list of the ways Marvel had previously attempted to move away from the poorly received 1975 storyline.
One problem with the story is highlighted by the summaries of upcoming issues — Peter Parker is behaving like a madman (even physically abusing an elderly man, according to one solicit), and it’s up to his clone to set him straight. Tearing down Peter in order to make fans more accepting of the “twist” that he was the clone was a remarkably cheap move, and I’m not surprised readers turned against Marvel for this. (And I also recognize that Ben Reilly developed a sizable fan following on his own, but this was always a large hurdle for me.)
Wizard will come out as vehemently anti-Clone within just an issue or two. This highlights the duality of Wizard; it’s there to hype whatever ridiculous story you’ve got in the works, but the editorial pages are quick to cut down anything the writers view as lame.
Less than Zero
Dan Jurgens discusses Zero Hour, DC’s second attempt to clean up continuity, following Crisis in the ‘80s. Jurgens reveals that the inspiration for the story came from an editorial disagreement over whether Hawkman had ever met Superman, an event wiped from continuity in 1989, even though readers saw the “first” meeting between Hawkman and Superman only a year earlier in Action Comics. Jurgens seems to realize all of these continuity clean-ups are ultimately futile, he just hopes this one lasts at least five years. (Are we counting 1999’s creation of Hypertime?)
Cut & Print
We discover Batman III has been renamed Batman Forever, and Robin Williams is out as the Riddler. Jim Carrey, now hot due to Ace Ventura and the upcoming The Mask film, has signed to play the villain, while Michael Keaton is still expected to return as Batman.
In other Hollywood news, Marvel is allegedly looking into a film starring the female Punisher who recently debuted in Punisher War Journal. Hong Kong action star Sophia Crawford is rumored to star…Disney is in the early stages of flooding the market with direct-to-video sequels…and Seaquest DSV is somehow still on the air.
A Shock to the System
A promotional interview for Jae Lee’s new series Hellshock. To say Hellshock was surrounded by controversy would be an understatement — not for the religious-themed material, though. The first issue was panned for barely having any story content (even Todd McFarlane sided with a fan in the Spawn letters page who complained), and the proposed ongoing series never materialized. Reading promotional interviews like this is always entertaining, since they leave you with the impression that the creator has waited his entire life to do this series and has a million ideas he can’t wait to dramatize.
Order from Chaos
Another hype piece! Valiant’s still at it, promoting the don’t-call-it-a-crossover “The Chaos Effect” event. These articles are all essentially the same, with creators promising that the event 1) isn’t like other crossovers, 2) will have real repercussions down the line, and 3) is entertaining as a story in its own right, and not just an event for an event’s sake.
It’s hard to get mad at this one — an eight-page retrospective on the career of Jack Kirby, even including a few of his “in-between” drawings for Popeye.
Wizard is giving away an absurd amount of comics during this era, including every Image comic published at this point. (You qualify as a potential winner if you can identify specific Image characters by the guns he or she has carried in previous issues.) There’s also a Zero Hour-related contest, which promises you every individual issue of “Death of Superman,” “Emerald Twilight,” and “Knightfall.” The legal print in that one is amusing; it’s obvious some lawyer had to find the precise wording to make sure Wizard stayed true to the promised prize, even though it would’ve been impossible to know if DC was going to add issues to those storylines in the future. For example, is Wizard obligated to include Hunter/Prey, the bookshelf format sequel to “Death of Superman,” with the package?
New writer Sean Aune reports more rumors that Star Wars toys might be returning someday soon. Also, the three-and-three-fourth-inch A Real American Hero iteration of G. I. Joe is rumored to be dying out.
This month’s “Stupid but True…” is the Spider-Mobile. Low hanging fruit, given that the original storyline featuring the Spider-Mobile also mocked its existence.
Wizard of Cards
These new Magic: The Gathering cards are getting pretty popular. Also, Valiant’s latest card set has been cancelled due to low orders.
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
The usual suspects this month, with the addition of Vampirella at Number 10. The text informs us “hot bad girls are newly popular in comics,” foreshadowing the next year or so of Wizard – more than enough T&A to make you uncomfortable reading it around your mother. As for the Mort of the Month, it’s Composite Superman, a character that’s mocked years later on Robot Chicken. The text doesn’t seem to match the character, by the way. I’m not sure how a janitor being granted the Legion’s powers becomes a composite Batman/Superman.
The first appearance of the Spider-Clone in Amazing Spider-Man #149 is possibly “the biggest Comic Watch sleeper book of all time.” The other pick this month is Evil Ernie #1, the first appearance of Lady Death.
Picks from the Wizard’s Hat
The top three picks are the Zero Hour miniseries, the long-awaited Wetworks #1, and the Brute & Babe: “It Begins” Monument Set #1. This is the debut comic from Bart Sears’ Ominous Press, which features unstapled “tablet” pages that are kept inside the cover, which also works as a folder. Other hot picks include Fantastic Four #392 (the debut of the Fantastic Force), and Uncanny X-Men #316, which is paving the way for Generation X #1.
Top 100 – June 1994
Adjective-less X-Men tops the list again, followed by more X-books, Image titles like Spawn and the final issue of the Gen 13 mini (which is growing in popularity every month, at least in part due to Wizard’s hype machine), the Batman/Punisher crossover, and…Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1!
Top 10 – July 1994
Oh, bite me, Wizard. The top back issue in the country is not Stephen Platt’s variant cover for Supreme #12. I’m willing to accept that a certain number of readers where drawn in by Platt’s McFarlane-esque pencils on Moon Knight, and maybe some fans just had to have his preview variant Prophet cover, but this is just too much. The three highest-ranked books on the Top 10 list are all Image books with variant covers, by the way. The rest of the list consists of a few Bad Girl books, early issues of Gen 13, and Marvels #1.
Wizard Market Watch
Retailers are now gun-shy after being stuck with excess product, creating high demand for books with limited print runs, like (of course) Lady Death.
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
(Wizard features pretty much the same writers each month, alternating their ranking seemingly at random.)
E G O (Everyone’s Got Opinions)
Todd McFarlane asks readers for advice on how to improve his current autograph system, which has conventions assigning tickets to fans and McFarlane only signing one autograph per fan. It already seems like a fair system to me — you don’t even have to wait in line for that long, since the ticket numbers are called in order.
So, what did we learn today?
Nope: DC assures us Jason Todd is dead and the alternate pages from his death scene will never be published…Youngblood: Year One by Busiek/Liefeld doesn’t happen, but Liefeld does use Busiek’s plot years later on a renamed Youngblood miniseries…the project currently being called Marvels II is eventually released as Code of Honor…and a Richard Donner-produced, live-action Jonny Quest film never happens.
Stuff Wizard Likes: The same picks as last issue, such as Bone, and the upcoming Action Comics annual, which is an Elseworlds tale by John Byrne.
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: Wizard wants you to know just how much it hated Spawn/Batman — I counted six shots at it during the course of the issue. Other targets include the Golden Age Green Lantern, the Frightful Four, Archer & Armstrong, and Motley Crue’s cover of “Anarchy in the UK.”
I Love the ‘90s: References to The Crying Game, Bill Clinton’s mistresses, and Tom and Roseanne’s marriage appear throughout the mag. Valiant hero Geomancer is also receiving a “grunge look” after the upcoming “mega-event” is over.
This Ain’t HuffPo: Wizard wants dibs on Mary Jane if Spidey and his clone abandon her, more jokes about Whoopi Goldberg’s physical appearance, another crack about Lord Emp’s height (he’s got the perfect view at a strip club), and a reminder that Gen 13 features “a whole bunch of scantily-clad babes.” Finally, the loser of an office weight-loss competition has to dress in drag for the entire day in the Wizard Bulletin.
Pathological Scatological: A giant Ripclaw balloon wants Gareb Shamus to pull his finger, more fart jokes in the card inserts, and a reference to Thor giving you an enema in the legal print of one of the contests.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: Compared to the last issue I reviewed, the pubescent attitude is a bit less abrasive, which makes this installment more readable. I think my enjoyment of Wizard is largely based on who’s writing all of the hidden jokes throughout the magazine; most of the ones this issue were actually pretty funny. So many hype articles, though…it’s hard to get through this thing at times. Also, the early attempts to sell Stephen Platt (someone who’d probably drawn less than 10 comics at this date) as a comics superstar made me laugh a bit a few issues ago. Now, it’s actively getting on my nerves.
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