An "X-Force" To Be Reckoned With - Marvel's Mutant Militia Turns 25
What insane marketing hook did Marvel initially use for the Age of Apocalypse? How did the average Person on the Street react to Wizard’s Bad Girls survey? Why would anyone ask John Byrne about his breakfast? Find out in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!
I didn’t want to cover three issues in a row, but there’s too much good stuff in this issue. Cancelled X-titles! Bad Girls! More Gen 13 hype! How could I resist?
This month’s cover is a joint Kubert Brothers production. I’m not sure what it says about me, but I was immediately able to discern which brother drew which figure. Wolverine hasn’t been featured on the cover for a while now, surprisingly, so I guess this was overdue.
In this month’s Wizard, we have…
Features on the Hama/Kubert Wolverine run, the Bad Girls trend, the Gen 13 phenomenon, Milestone Media, and an interview with Tim Truman
The regular columns include Cut & Print, Bart Sears’ Brutes & Babes, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (focusing on the works of Steve Bissette), Wizard of Cards, and Todd McFarlane’s E.G.O. Hunk & Babe is missing this month, mercifully.
The Departments include the usual blend of letters, fan art, opinion pieces, trivia, Top 10 lists, the Wizard Profile, and market information.
Letters this month address the increased level of violence in comics, Wizard’s predilection for focusing on the Big Three publishers, left-handed comics creators, which scene in The Crow is responsible for Brandon Lee’s death, and a random goofball question about Tootsie Pops. There’s also a request for Jim McLauchlin’s liver.
My favorite “Why Would You Bother to Write This?” letter comes from a fan who wants to know what John Byrne eats for breakfast. There’s actually an answer from Byrne, leading me to wonder if a Wizard staffer called him up to specifically ask that question, or if it was snuck into an unrelated conversation.
“A major rumor circulating through comic circles says Marvel Comics plans to cancel some or all of its X-Men related titles. Suspiciously, Marvel’s publicity manager, Gary Guzzo, would not comment as to the truth of this and other rumors regarding Marvel’s merry mutants.” That’s the first step in Marvel’s marketing plan for Age of Apocalypse — circulate a rumor that the X-books were being cancelled, another one stating that all of the major X-artists now have “time off,” and just wait for fans’ heads to explode. I never believed the books would be cancelled, but I was certainly intrigued. Given that every other aspect of Age of Apocalypse has been mined to death over the years (the title even inspired the name of the last Avengers movie), I’m surprised the fake cancellation stunt (to sell the death of a character, or an entire universe) hasn’t been pulled again. Perhaps because being “cancelled” today usually just means your relaunch is a month away. It meant something in 1994, though, and the kids buying this magazine had no idea what was going on.
In other news…Jim Lee begins his sabbatical just as Rob Liefeld ends his (my brother read this headline and remarked that he didn’t know Jim Lee was Jewish)…Groo is leaving Epic for Image…Alfred Harvey has died…that status of Howard Stern’s Fartman comic is up in the air…and Alec Baldwin did not attend the Washington premiere of The Shadow, sponsored by Topps and Dark Horse.
Power Up!, Wizard’s videogame column that’s now tucked into the News section, is actually giving a “Six-Month Used-Game Forecast” for new releases. Yes, Wizard is trying to push a speculator’s market for videogames, as well. (The writer is confident that your copy of Maximum Carnage will hold its value, as opposed to the new Incredible Hulk game.)
An article on the post-adamantium era of Wolverine. Larry Hama acknowledges that many of the events that have happened in the book so far weren’t his idea, but he’s up for the challenge of making them work. He also offers some of his views on continuity and consistent characterization, some basic common sense that seemed rare in this era.
This piece is probably deserving of its own 2,500 words, but I’ll try to keep this brief. Wizard examines the Bad Girls fad in an extremely uneven piece — in just one page, it veers from presenting opposing views by Colleen Doran and Jo Duffy on the craze to outright shilling for Wizard’s upcoming Lady Death #1/2 comic. The article takes the angle of “finally female characters are headlining books,” while not hiding that most of these comics are softcore titillation features. Wizard wants to have its cheesecake and eat it, too. What amused me most while reading the article is Wizard’s refusal to acknowledge in any way its role in creating this fad by pumping titles like Vampirella and Lady Death as “collectible” for months. Wizard alternates between acting as an impartial observer, an advocate for women’s lib, and a licentious teenage boy from paragraph to paragraph.
In retrospect, it’s not hard to guess why the Bad Girls became so popular. Enough years had passed since the Seduction of the Innocent days for comics to publish pretty much anything without garnering too much mainstream press. And it’s not as if there’s ever been a point when teenage boys didn’t want to stare at barely-clothed females, this just happened to be before the days of every teenager having access to internet pornography. Lady Death was easier to come by than a Playboy, and hey, it’s filled with blood and guts and demonic material, too.
The piece ends with the Wizard staff going out into the streets, presenting images of the Bad Girls (Vampirella, Lady Death, Ghost, Mantra, and Catwoman…and Thorn from Bone, to provide balance) to the public, and tabulating the reaction. Not surprisingly, most women view the characters as exploitative, while many of the men are intrigued. I realize that this isn’t scientific in the first place, but Wizard’s methodology doesn’t make a lot of sense — the survey was supposed to be about the Bad Girls, but veers into questions like “name a female comics character,” which would be an entirely different topic.
Cut & Print
Extreme Studios has lost its lawsuit against Roustabout, the animation studio that created the Youngblood test footage (Extreme claimed ownership of the animation cels and master tapes from the production). Now, Roustabout is suing Extreme, a move that will likely delay Youngblood airing on FOX. In other Hollywood news…Rene Russo is out of Batman Forever (she’s deemed too old to play Val Kilmer’s love interest)…Stan Lee has a cameo in Natural Born Killers (of all things)…Lois and Clark will feature more comic-themed villains…CBS will air an animated adaptation of The Mask…and Sam Raimi’s Hercules is set to debut as a regular series in 1995.
The latest in the Wizard campaign for Gen 13. By this point, the book is a legitimate hit, and the back issue frenzy that surrounded the initial miniseries has become its own phenomenon — Wizard certainly helped, but the book can now stand on its own without the magazine’s hype machine. The article highlights what made the book so popular in the early days (a lighter tone, adventure in place of phony “intrigue,” and less angsty protagonists) while conspicuously failing to mention the cheesecake element. Previously, every mention of Gen 13 made sure you knew about the female cast members and what they weren’t wearing.
If It Ain’t Broke…Fix It!
An article on Milestone Comics, the answer to every Millennial’s diversity think-piece, published while they were still in preschool. The feature goes with the angle that Milestone is being unjustly ignored in the marketplace, perhaps because of its emphasis on minority characters. Dwayne McDuffie asserts that the goal of Milestone is to be inclusionary and not exclusionary; years later, I can remember McDuffie on Usenet chastising fans who still dismissed Milestone as “the black superhero” imprint. Out of all of the characters from the 1990s superhero glut, Milestone’s Static probably had the best chance of going mainstream. His animated series was a success for years, but little effort was placed into truly exploiting the character. I remember MTV News doing a story on Milestone and interviewing its creators when it launched, but can’t find it online today.
What a Long, Strange Trip…
Tim Truman looks back on his career, asserts he’s okay with Zero Hour tossing out his Hawkman work, and lets us know that he thinks a regular Grimjack series could outsell Spawn.
Another instance of Star Wars toys almost coming back — Kenner is set to release a series of die-casts figures based on famous science fiction films, and Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Han Solo are scheduled for the line. Also, prototypes of the original Spawn toys are revealed, and a quarter-page is dedicated to the various Jean Claude van Damme Street Fighter toys Hasbro is set to release.
This month’s “Stupid but True…” is the revelation that Lex Luthor II is not in fact Lex Luthor’s son, but a clone created with the brain, eyes, and spinal cord of the original Lex Luthor. According to the author, the only decent Lex was the one seen immediately post-Crisis and this clone stuff needs to stop.
Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month
The list is largely unchanged (Spawn at the top, followed by Spidey, Batman, some X-Men, Superman and a few Image characters and Bad Girls), with the exception of Morpheus, who is appearing due to the attention Sandman is receiving as it closes out its run. Morpheus is identified by Wizard as a Howard Stern lookalike, by the way. Pitt is still on the list, even though Wizard acknowledges that his own series has barely shipped in the past two years.
The Mort of the Month is the Spider-Clone, who is “the first crappy character in mort history (to) go completely off the (Mortometer) scale!” The Scarlet Spider’s impractical costume is mocked, in addition to the basic premise that has Peter’s clone from 1975 returning to the books.
Rob Liefeld returned to comics a bit early with Team Youngblood #9, and the Wizard staff declares it’s an understatement to say he’s improved in his time off. This, coupled with Youngblood #6, is supposed to be a new era for Rob Liefeld. Since Team Youngblood #9 had the lowest print run of any Liefeld comic ever (only 90,000 — even lower than his early New Mutants issues), Wizard is predicting big things for this issue.
Picks from the Wizard’s Hat
Image-X month, Batman Adventures #25 (the first “animated” Superman in this world, later declared non-canon), Steve Bissette’s Tyrant #1, Generation X #1, and Night Man #12 are this month’s top picks. Why Night Man #12? It’s the first official chapter of a Malibu crossover that will surely change the Ultraverse as we know it.
Good & Cheap
Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar #1, the first monthly Epic comic, is a back issue Wizard declares is a good read that is still affordable.
Top 100 – August 1994
Spawn and the main X-titles top the charts, while the Zero Hour-related #0 issues help DC place three books in the Top 10. The proliferation of #0 DC issues has the chart a little out of sorts this month, giving DC seven extra slots in the Top 100.
Top 10 – September 1994
The back issue list is dominated by Gen 13, more Bad Girls, and the debut of Spider-Man’s clone from ASM #149, even though Wizard still hates the clone’s return more than anything on Earth.
Wizard Market Watch
Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…
Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…
While in the Market Watchers letter column (the one devoted solely for collecting issues), the debate over opening polybags rages on.
E G O (Everyone’s Got Opinions)
Todd McFarlane draws a cartoon to mock a recent editorial by Ralph Macchio, which praised comics fans for avoiding Marvel’s competitors like “the plague”.
Wizard reveals that the seemingly random collection of toys it asked readers to collect in its previous scavenger hunt contest were toys requested by a local children’s hospital. Wizard thanks its readers for helping them out. The Wizard Top Ten list references J. Scott Campbell’s “scathing” anti- Wizard column in Gen 13 #4 as a reason why they haven’t done a jokey Top Ten in two issues…they were still recovering.
So, what did we learn today?
Nope: George Perez does not publish a Gladiator series through Image, FOX never airs a live-action Badrock series, Kenneth Branagh doesn’t play young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, the newly mutated Ninja Turtles don’t appear in a fourth movie, and Jim Carrey doesn’t voice the Mask in the CBS cartoon. Finally, Wolverine #87 doesn’t feature Logan versus the Juggernaut, nor does Shatterstar attempt to return to his own dimension in X-Force #40.
Before They Were Stars: The second-place winner in Bart Sears’ art contest is Andy Park, who may or may not be the professional working today.
Stuff Wizard Likes: This new guy on Wonder Woman, Mike Deodato, Jr. Also, the usual suspects — Bone, Sandman, The Spectre, John Byrne’s Next Men…
Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like: Wizard’s more irritable than usual this month (or maybe it’s just evolving into the snarky beast I remember). Wizard isn’t a fan of the Hulk now using giant guns, Robocop 3, the conclusion to Knightsend, the Superman/Doomsday prestige format series, and as we already know, Spawn/Batman and the Spider-Clone.
Talkin’ ‘Bout Gen 13 (Relentlessly): Not only does the team dominate the Top Ten back issue list, but it receives its own article this issue. The article is for the most part typical Wizard hype, but it does offer an interesting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes workings of Image during these days. Gen 13 wasn’t delayed solely due to Marvel’s claim on the name, but also because of a new Image policy that required series to have three completed issues before being solicited. And now that Gen 13 is coming back with a new number one issue, the three-issue rule is slowing down the launch of the ongoing series.
I Love the ‘90s: Do I have to catalogue every OJ reference this issue? Let’s just say OJ is referenced repeatedly this month. We also have Lorena Bobbit as a joke answer in the CBIQ quiz (Who was the mystery girl Aunt May tried to set Peter Parker up with?), a Michael Jackson pedophilia joke worked into the summary of an upcoming Static issue, and the claim that Bad Girls are now hotter than a hypothetical NYPD Blue/Melrose Place crossover. (And if you want to hear me babble on about NYPD Blue in the future, check out the announcement below…)
Vive la France: France gets another break this issue.
This Ain’t HuffPo: Wizard promises to look closely into the Bad Girls fad… the CBIQ quiz has a joke answer that claims Dr. Strange once allowed the Avengers to spy on Rogue in the shower…a reference to Catwoman’s ample bosom is tossed into a Detective Comics preview (even though she doesn’t even appear in that issue)…Wizard asserts that it would look just as hard as X-Factor to find that babe Mystique…and we’re told Gen 13 #2 is hotter than Tia Carrere in True Lies.
Pathological Scatological: The “Wizard Wonders…” joke blurb questions how Daredevil knows when to stop wiping his butt. (So much wrong with that one…) Later, the magazine questions how obese Marvel villain the Slug wipes himself. Should someone send Wizard an educational book on this subject? Finally, a fan has posed his homemade Wonder Man toy on the edge of a toilet seat.
Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?: I cringed a few times going through this one, certainly, but I thought the Wolverine piece was a solid read (Larry Hama interviews were extremely rare in this era, so I was excited to see one), and the Gen 13 feature actually does help to place the book’s popularity in context. Even the Bad Girls article has a few lucid moments before it descends into exactly what you’d expect it to be. Probably the most interesting aspect of the issue is Marvel’s early attempt to promote the “Age of Apocalypse” crossover…the industry knows that Wizard sells just as well as any popular comic, so Marvel’s now using the magazine as a part of a metatextual marketing stunt involving the “death” of the X-Men. It’s actually pretty clever, and it’s a stunt that’s unique to this era of comics.
That’s all this week. Until next time, you can find me at Not Blog X, and Twitter. I’ve also begun a new series, examining the work of television writer David Milch at The Real Gentlemen of Leisure. (Just in time for the announcement of the Deadwood movie!) Next week — Wizard classes things up a bit.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.