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The Guide to the Guide to Comics – WIZARD #37 (September 1994)

37-bannerYoungblood receives its first rebranding, Event Comics is still preparing to take over the comics industry, and Brute & Babe escape the pages of Wizard and star in their own comic.  All in today’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!

37-cover

I’m trying to discern just how many Youngblood covers Wizard has featured by its thirty-seventh issue.  It’s not as simple a task as it might sound, given that Wizard was enthusiastically onboard the variant cover train and many of the cover gallery sites out there don’t feature every alternate Wizard cover.  (This also makes looking for back issues on eBay a chore; just because you don’t recognize a cover doesn’t mean you don’t already own the issue.)  Regardless, Wizard was firmly in the Youngblood camp in these early years, even though the book’s critical reputation was shaky at best.  This issue was a part of Rob Liefeld’s efforts to push the new direction of the title, which was allegedly going to feature Jim Shooter in just a few months.  Landing a Wizard cover was a great start to the campaign, but it doesn’t seem as if this brave new era of Youngblood went anywhere.

In addition to the first of many pieces on a Youngblood relaunch, this month’s Wizard also features an interview with Peter David, a profile of legend Frank Frazetta, and hype articles for Event Comics and Bart Sears’ Brute & Babe series.

The regular columns include Cut & Print, Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes drawing column, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (spotlighting Jay Stephens), Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O.

The Departments include (what else?) letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.

 

A Letter from our Publisher

Gareb Shamus announces that due to popular demand, Wizard will offer more #1/2 comics.  This issue has a coupon for Doom’s IV #1/2, which seems to be the only promotion the previous owner of my copy ever turned down.  Are Wizard back issues with the coupons intact worth more money?

Magic Words

Letters from fans asking comic pros to stop relying so much on blood and guts, various opinions on Hart D. Fisher’s letter in a previous issue, questions about Rogue’s powers, and one letter comparing Rob Liefeld’s comics to the movies on MST3K.  I used to wonder how Magic Words was able to poke fun of popular creators and books like Spawn…didn’t someone at Wizard worry that they couldn’t get their fiftieth Youngblood cover or special Spawn mini-comic if the opening feature was taking these shots?

Finally, Jim McLaughlin states that the introduction of Wolverine’s bone claws, even though we’ve seen Future Wolverine with adamantium, means it’s “inevitable that Marvel will have to do a massive time cleaning sooner or later, much as DC has done with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour.”  The befuddlement that seemed to surround Wolverine’s bone claws is kind of amusing in retrospect — when Chris Claremont casually established that Wolverine always had them in 1999’s X-Men: True Friends miniseries, no one seemed to care by that point.

37-news0001

Only one of those pairings is correct. Check out SHADOWHAWK #10’s cover to see Liefeld with a SIN CITY influence.

Wizard News

Our top story this month is the announcement of Image-X month.  This is the month dedicated to Image founders swapping titles for a month.  An “industry insider” has revealed which creator will be swapping which book, and practically every example cited is wrong.  A year or so ago, Rob Liefeld revealed in a podcast interview that this stunt was created as a reaction to Scott Lobdell’s cryptic announcement of a “major X-event” in the Fall of 1994.  He was talking about the Age of Apocalypse.

In other news, Marvel begins its merry-go-round of new presidents, Neal Pozner has passed away, Marc Silvestri has left Homage Studios, and Rob Liefeld has published his proposal to his girlfriend in Youngblood #6.  I seem to recall Liefeld also appearing on Good Morning, America when this issue was released…come to think of it, the publicity campaign for Youngblood’s return was pretty ambitious. (There’s a brief clip on Youtube, but I don’t see anything about the engagement in this section.)

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Is the Blood Back?

The first of many “Can Rob Liefeld Make a Comeback?” articles.  (The answer, always, is yes.)  Liefeld’s still selling an absurd amount of comics each month, but the interview starts with the assumption that maybe fans have moved on from Liefeld’s style and want comics with more substance.  The interview has Liefeld musing on the nature of comics superstardom, and speculating on why someone like Neal Adams wasn’t able to maintain his 1970s popularity.

Youngblood, Liefeld maintains, hasn’t been as good as it should’ve been in the past, and will now be more character-driven with less of an emphasis on fight scenes.  There’s a lot of talk this issue, not just in this interview, about Youngblood #6 and what a dramatic turnaround it is for the series.  Even if you are a fan of this era of comics — do you remember the earth shaking when Youngblood #6 was released?  Outside of this Wizard issue, I’ve never heard anything about that comic.  What’s frustrating is that Youngblood actually is a solid premise for a superhero series, and with the exception of a few Joe Casey issues, I don’t think anyone’s truly explored the elements that (should) make the book unique.

Words to live by.

Words to live by.

David & Goliath

Peter David discusses his lengthy stint on Incredible Hulk, one of the runs we assumed would last forever back in the ‘90s.  The article keeps hinting at a shocking event that will push the book into even darker territory, but Peter David is adamant about not spoiling anything.

Cut & Print

Val Kilmer is officially announced as the star of Batman Forever.  And Jean-Claude van Damme will grace us with his presence in the Street Fighter adaptation.  The rest of the Cut & Print segment is a multi-page preview for the upcoming WildC.A.T.s animated series.  Like most advance cartoon publicity, we’re promised that the show has a larger-than-normal budget, the creator is intimately involved, and the finest animators in the world are working on it.  (And, in all seriousness, the model sheet by Jim Lee does look very nice.)  I’ve seen bits of the show on Youtube, and honestly, it doesn’t look any better than the largely mediocre Marvel cartoons of the time.  Streamlining Lee’s designs didn’t seem to make the animation more fluid at all, which is very disappointing.  In the interview with Jim Lee, he also tries to spin WildC.A.T.s airing against X-Men as a good thing…instead of, say, a dumb decision by the network that likely killed the show.

Joe & Jimmy’s Excellent Adventure

A hype piece on Event Comics that wants us to believe Ash and Kid Death will be the next comics superstars.  Event Comics does have a legacy, though, one far more significant than the other artist-driven projects of the time.  No one could’ve possibly guessed what it would be at this point, but it’s quite a legacy.

A New Mythology

More hype, this time for another friend of Wizard, Bart Sears.  Spinning off the characters from his How to Draw column wasn’t a bad idea at all; given that they were featured in a magazine with a circulation of around 500,000 copies a month, Brute & Babe at the very least had some market recognition.  I don’t think the series lasted long, but you can’t accuse Sears of not being ambitious.  Not only has he developed an elaborate mythology to serve as the book’s backdrop, but he’s attempting to totally reinvent the format of comics by selling his titles as unstapled single sheets of paper that rest inside a cover-folder.  When the market’s absolutely flooded, you get ideas like this.  I can see why it didn’t work, but it beats nude variant covers.

Frazetta

I believe this article was my introduction to Frank Frazetta as a kid.  It’s nicely done, running eight pages, and reprinting some of his classic pieces.  I will say that the article reminds me of a Wizard quirk that they never outgrew.  Glenn Danzig is a Frazetta fan and he wants to publish comics featuring his characters and sell them at Danzig shows.  That’s worth a mention, sure, but in coming months Wizard keeps referencing this as if Oprah just nominated Dark Knight Returns for her book club.  Wizard’s hung up on the idea that outside celebrities are going to bring the masses to comics, and any sitcom star or rapper with a mild interest in comics must be interviewed because comics just have to be brought to the mainstream.  This “Please like us!” attitude has always irritated me, and it grows more prevalent in the magazine as the decade wears on.

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Mudd-ah...tell yer children graphic arts are legitimate artistic vehicle...

Mudd-ah…tell yer children graphic arts are a legitimate artistic vehicle…

CBIQ

I love the quiz ranking this issue – your score is ranked by cancelled Wizard segments.  Looks Familiar, the inexplicable readers’ pet feature, is listed as the worst Wizard segment in the magazine’s history.  Wizard’s willingness to occasionally poke fun of itself earns it some goodwill in my eyes.  In-between the hype, snark, and fart jokes, there is a sense of irreverence that makes the magazine appealing during these days.

This month’s “Stupid but True…” highlights the time the Avengers appeared as guests on David Letterman’s talk show during “Assistant Editors’ Month.”  Wizard asserts that some of the “Assistant Editors’ Month” issues were cool, but “most were pretty ugh.”  By the time of the blogging boom of the 2000s, “Assistant Editors’ Month” seems to be pretty fondly remembered.

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

Spawn tops the list, yet again, and Prophet, Ripclaw, and the Violator are now dominating the bottom Five.  Wizard notes that many of the Top 10 characters don’t have pupils this month.  Actually, you don’t see any pupils this month, since Spider-Man is wearing a mask and Gambit, Violator, and Superman all have red glowing eyes.  And Prophet is all white-eyed because that was an Extreme Studios’ stylistic choice, let’s just say.

The Mort of the Month is a pathetic choice — The Great Lakes Avengers!  They’re clearly joke characters, Wizard…where’s your sense of humor?  Who knows, maybe the general attitude around comics will change, and another joke character tossed into a GLA miniseries will even land her own ongoing series?

Picks from the Wizard’s Hat

The top pick is Ultraforce #1, featuring work from Malibu’s big new hire, George Perez, followed by Gen 13 #0, Marvel’s version of the Punisher/Batman crossover, Topps’ The Lone Ranger and Tonto #1, and Valiant’s Timewalker #1.  It is amazing in a way that a Don Perlin comic, and another one starring the Lone Ranger, could be sharing a list with Gen 13.  I have no idea who now owns the Lone Ranger rights, but reprinting this series by Joe R. Landsdale and Tim Truman wouldn’t seem to be a bad idea.

Top 100 – July 1994

Spawn #23 is top of the list, followed by the main X-titles, the loooong-awaited Wetworks #1, and the weekly Zero Hour miniseries.  The Spider-Man titles have moved up the Top 25, but are still outsold by the Superman line.  Non-enhanced versions of titles show up separately on the list, which is why the standard version of Uncanny X-Men #316 clocks in at #100.

Top 10 – August 1994

Is anyone surprised that Wizard has named Gen 13 #1 the top back issue in the country?  And where’s that Stephen Platt Supreme variant that everyone just had to own last issue?  Not even on the list, although the Whilce Portacio variant for Deathblow #5 is still listed at Number Two.  The rest of the list features more Bad Girls, more Wildstorm variant covers, and the first appearance of the Spider-Clone, from all the way back in 1975.  Missing from the list entirely is Stephen Platt…has SPLATT fever subsided in the Wizard offices by now?

Wizard Market Watch

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Stephen Platt
  3. Joe Quesada
  4. Frank Miller
  5. Greg Capullo
  6. Rob Liefeld
  7. Bart Sears
  8. Marc Silvestri
  9. Andy Kubert
  10. Jeff Smith

(Funny how a major figure like Jim Lee can just drop off the list from one month to the next, while another creator in the midst of a publicity campaign suddenly appears.)

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

  1. Frank Miller
  2. Neil Gaiman
  3. Peter David
  4. John Byrne
  5. Ron Marz
  6. John Ostrander
  7. Fabian Nicieza
  8. Jeff Smith
  9. Chris Claremont
  10. Alan Moore

Market Watchers

A fan writes in to complain that Secret Wars #8 (the alien symbiote’s first appearance) should be worth more than $10.  Wizard responds, “Good news” and declares that it’s now worth $16; the fan was looking at an earlier issue of the magazine with a lower price.  In the closing comments, the writer remarks that he’s glad Wonder Woman villain Circe is now labeled a “Bad Girl” because the book finally has something that will attract new readers.  In this month’s “Collector’s Clue” blurb, fans are advised to focus more on quality than flash-in-the-pan gimmicks.

E G O

Todd McFarlane has been told female action figures don’t sell because they lack sex appeal; he’ll resolve this problem with his new Angela action figure.

 

Commercial Break: One day this MAGIC thing might take off.

Commercial Break: One day this MAGIC thing might take off.

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

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  • “A lot of people, when Youngblood #1 came out, said to me, ‘I read the interviews and I was looking forward to all the cool ideas…and none of them were there.’  Well, actually, they weren’t.” – Rob Liefeld (Is the Blood Back?)
  • “George Lucas has the story all plotted out for his new Star Wars trilogy — now he just has to write the screenplays.  But the good news is that Lucas may direct the first film of the new trilogy, something he hasn’t done since 1977.” – Cut & Print
  • “I got real depressed when Daredevil and Batman changed their spandex costumes into armor.  It looks they’ve been ‘Image-ized,’ and I didn’t like it.” – Jim Lee on the inspiration behind Gen 13 (Picks from the Wizard’s Hat)
  • “Us bozos at Wizard ran two alternate covers on this month’s issue, proving that even we are susceptible to a fad.” – Top 10, August 1994

Nope:  Casey Jones and Raphael isn’t completed by Mirage, but is resurrected by Erik Larsen years later at Image as Bodycount…Rob Liefeld does not publish Dave Cockrum’s Futurians, even though he seems enthusiastic about the project…Jim Shooter never takes over Youngblood, and Kurt Busiek and Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood: Year One doesn’t quite come together…none of the projected directors for the ‘90s Godzilla film materialize (this includes people like Joe Johnson, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, and Jan deBont)…and Spawn #24 doesn’t feature the anti-hero fighting crack dealers in his community.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Bizarre Adventures #27 (the X-Men issue), Master of Kung-Fu back issues, ClanDestine, and John Byrne’s Next Men.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  Tribe #1, DC’s Bloodlines heroes, the Spawn/Batman crossover (again), Batman Returns (again), Deathmate, the hair on Bart Sears’ Brute & Babe characters, new Thors, Elsie-Dee & Albert, and the Spider-Clone.  Any mention of the Spider-Clone in the More Picks section is preceded by an “(ugh).”

Talkin’ ‘Bout Gen 13 (Relentlessly):  The first cameo appearance of Gen 13, Deathmate Black, is the lead pick in the Comic Watch segment.  The first issue of the miniseries is also the top back issue in the Top Ten listing; the write-up has a sly reference to J. Scott Campbell’s claim that he’ll never be a Wizard Top Ten artist following his rant against the magazine.  There’s also a  chromium-foil Gen 13 card included in the polybag.

The Wizard of Cards segment is always pure class.

The Wizard of Cards segment is always pure class.

I Love the ‘90s:  The news section speculates that comic-themed phone cards will be the next big thing, the Nancy Kerrigan trading card set has flopped (Wizard wonders how the inevitable OJ card set will do), and there are a few obligatory jokes about Roseanne’s weight scattered throughout the issue.

Vive la France:  No French bashing this issue!

This Ain’t HuffPo:  The writer of the Rob Liefeld piece states his preference for brunettes in the “about the author” blurb…the Drawing Board fan art segment is exclusively devoted to “new look” Vampirellas (mixing her with the Predator seems unusually popular)…the hidden jokes in the legal print seem to be running a “Who’s Hotter?” debate — Teri Hatcher or Sandra Bullock…Wizard of Cards pokes fun at the “cottage cheese” on one of Frazetta’s females…disabled X-character Hammer is described as being “as crippled as (Hammer’s) rap career”… and the preview for Gen 13 #0 reminds us that the voluptuous female characters are clad in skintight spandex.

Pathological Scatological:  No potty jokes this issue!  Just kidding.  Wizard wonders if the symbiotes ever “have to crap or something”…the Leader’s head is compared to a butt…Havok can also make smoke rings out of his butt, according to a caption joke, and on and on and on.

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  A large portion of his issue is dedicated to telling us that Youngblood is really, truly going to be good from now on.  (The piece actually does spell out how a Youngblood series could evolve into a decent read, hypothetically.)  It’s followed by more hype for the usual suspects: Malibu, Valiant, Image, and the Bad Girls.  Oh, and projects from the guys who always seem to appear in the magazine, of course.  The piece on Frank Frazetta is a welcome relief, though, and I do have to admire Wizard’s willingness to mock Marvel for the Spider-Clone plot, regardless of the marketing campaign that’s behind it.  Wizard’s willingness to be a bit snotty can get old quickly, but done in moderation, it gives the magazine some personality.

That’s it for this week. If I can be forgiven a moment of self-promotion, I’d like to announce that my novel Yeah, Shut Up. is now available on Amazon.  You can read it for free, even if you’re not a KindleUnlimited reader, until January 16th.  The book has nothing to do with comics, but I couldn’ t resist a small tribute to the Sunbow G. I. Joe cartoon towards the end. If you take the time to read it, I hope you enjoy.  In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter or Not Blog X.

 

24 Comments

Geez. If anyone ever needed evidence that comics used to be ‘boys club’ and that attempts to diversify are needed…

All of comics want outside involvement from celebrities. Always have, always will! Luckily, I transcend both realms… LOL

Wetworks was the sole Image book that had a legitimate reason for the publication delay. If memory serves, Whilce Portacio’s sister died of lupus (or a similar auto-immune condition) and he had been dealing with family issues. I remember a lot of people who had been screaming for his blood got very quiet after that became public knowledge.

That Topps Lone Ranger was pretty good, though I wasn’t keen on the opening, where Tonto slugs the Ranger in anger and they are somewhat estranged. It progresses and ends well; but it was heavily marketed on that point. Didn’t Dynamite have the license last? Do they still? Did anyone care after the Depp movie? I didn’t see their book, though Greg Hatcher spoke highly of it.

On the subject of western licenses, why the heck hasn’t some tried the Wild Wild West? Hasn’t the stink of the Will Smith movie worn off yet? Millennium had a decent mini-series, back in the very early 90s; but, I don’t recall anyone since. Given the popularity of steampunk, you’d think Dynamite, Boom or IDW would have snapped that up.

Speaking of MST3K, around this time (give or take a year or two) Peter David presented an idea of doing Mystie riffing on comic pages and ran a contest in CBG, using an issue of the Teen Titans (during the Wildebeast storyline, where Deathstroke kills Jericho). They had the silhouettes of the bots at the bottom of the comic page (which featured Deathstroke’s sword sticking out of his son) and everything. As I recall, the winner had, “Whosoever pulleth this sword from this Titan is rightwise King of England.”

That comment about secret wars being the synbiots first appearance…. Was that your mistake or theirs? Probably theirs in the hopes for something else to push. Lol.

Still I love this era of superhero cartoons. Besides whatever else was on repeat (and there were tons of live actions shows), you had X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, WildCATS, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Mega Man, and The Tick. Action cartoons were an endless stream 1992-1998. I had five siblings and we were all thankful for free entertainment, so I don’t really remember anything sucking even if there was a difference in quality between episodes here and there.

Anyway, the idea of Busiek doing a Youngblood Year One continues to be my favorite thing.

Why have I not been reading this whole series so far? So many memories, so many bad memories.

I always enjoyed McLaughlin’s letter replies, because I felt he actually got comics a bit more than the rest of the book did. He liked cool stuff, like Steranko, before we’d see 300 pages of 90’s art. I’m not sure how re-reading those now would make me feel about it though.

Somewhat related – being the ocd collector we all are, I kept every issue of Wizard I ever had, not in a bag/board situation, but I hauled those things around with me even after several cross-country moves, until I left them in a free pile in an apartment in Pittsburgh around 2007. What a burden lifted.

I believe their alternate covers were mostly Newsstand vs Direct market and kept that up the rest of their run I believe. Or at least until I stopped getting issues.
I know the newsstand version was the Hulk wielding a large gun…

I am glad “The Force Awakens” erased the memories of “The Phantom Menace”!!!

BTW, the Lone Ranger rights is now controlled by Dreamworks Classics!

I get sad every time you wonder how a publication can juggle promotional consideration/previews with opinion & critique. In ten years, it will be a segment in my look back at look backs about Wizard.

Enjoying the nostalgia and time capsule. Keep up the good work!

As usual, great work, G.

Dynamite has the Lone Ranger license. It would be great indeed to see them bring the Lansdale/Truman mini back, since I’ve heard great things about it and never had the chance to read it.

Liefeld is just… there. You cannot beat his enthusiasm. His artwork on the other hand…

One of the bugs up Wizard’s butt was the idea that to be taken seriously, comics — especially superhero comics — needed to be “serious”. Silver Age-style absurdity, self-mockery or lighthearted comedy, even as a single-issue diversion, was verboten.

Of course, some of the “Stupid But True” and “Mort of the Month” stuff did have a point, but you also got false positives like in this issue.

Michael –

Very ironic, considering that most of the stuff Wizard hyped was impossible to take seriously.

Some years ago we did a extensive search of Wizard covers, just to see in a graphic view how comic tastes were evolving, in a similar way than your articles do.

There were some Youngblood previous covers, but it seems that the variant cover craziness started with issue 36, with usually two different covers each month. You can start checking here if you want (and leave a comment if you find another missing cover!):

http://blog.adlo.es/category/la-otra-guia-del-comic/

Keep up with the good work.

That Wizards of the Coast ad was drawn by Phil Foglio, right? I know he did a bunch of the cards in the early days.

Oh yeah, that’s absolutely Foglio.

This was my first issue and it looks like I stayed a monthly reader through #89.

Classic early Foglio. He did a ton of stuff for Wizards of the Coast in the 90s.

See, I told you Elsie-Dee sucked. There, I said it.

As I recall, they did feature the variant covers either in the table of contents or the publisher’s page. I was thinking I didn’t have this issue, seeing your featured cover, because I have the other one (the Hulk one that Astrozac mentioned).

That Lone Ranger and Tonto mini is pretty good stuff. I’m surprised Dynamite hasn’t reprinted it, actually.

Wasn’t that Drawing Board with the mixed Vampirellas the results of a contest?

J Calduch —
Thanks! That’s a great collection.

It’s telling that, in an issue featuring Rob Liefeld outlining plans for Youngblood #6, there’s a solicitation for Spawn #20-something.McFarlane really knew that providing a reliable product was a huge part of maintaining a fan base (now, the actual quality of said product…..)

Wasn’t Spawn #20 one of the issues that shipped wildly out of order, though?

I can understand your feelings about outside entertainers being pushed hard in Wizard when they say they like comics but it’s definitely a double edged sword. Wizard can put that person, depending on how popular they are, on the cover to help sell more copies of their magazine. The various publishing companies will want to have them featured since this could connect their product with a popular person which will help to get their books in front of people that might not ordinarily read a comic book.

I see where you’re coming from with this but I really don’t see any of these companies not finding a way to maximize their publicity on something like this.

But, but… What was the Good and Cheap pick???

Also, I do remember Youngblood #6 being a huge deal at the time, but that’s possible because I was 12 years old in the fall of ’94.

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