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The Guide to the Guide to Comics – WIZARD #43 (March 1995)

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Howard Chaykin pays Chris Claremont what might be the greatest backhanded compliment of all time, Preacher quietly debuts, and Wizard runs what could be the best piece in the history of the magazine (honest).  All in this week’s Guide to the Guide to Comics!

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If you think Jim Lee and/or Marc Silvestri look a little off on that cover, it’s because Scott Clark is actually the artist.  Lee and Silvestri’s characters are still being lumped together during these days, although we’re just on the precipice of Wildstorm being viewed as its own superhero universe, while Top Cow moves on to fantasy and science fiction.

In this month’s Wizard, we have…

Features on…new WildC.A.T.s writer James Robinson, Mark Waid’s Flash run, another piece on Star Trek comics, and an interview with Howard Chaykin (the one with the Claremont quote).  Plus, two “Up Close” features on how to trademark and copyright a self-published comic, and what I consider to be Wizard’s finest hour, “Hot Off the Griddle.”

The regular columns include Cut & Print, Toying Around, Palmer’s Picks (this month’s spotlight is on David Mazzucchelli’s Rubber Blanket), 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.

 

Magic Words

Douglas Goldstein, the previous editor of the letters column, fills in for Jim McLauchlin this month.  Goldstein fields letters from fans obsessed with breakfast cereal slogans, a female reader who doesn’t understand why most heroines are nearly nude, and a fan who misses those ‘70s Twinkies ads.  Goldstein remarks that Wizard is still receiving X-traitor letters, much to his annoyance.  There’s also a letter from Joe Quesada, poking fun at Todd McFarlane for turning his E.G.O. column into a monthly ad for McFarlane products, all while hyping his new book, Ash.  If you remember the days of Quesada publicly campaigning for a Spawn/Spider-Man crossover, you’ll know this isn’t the last time Quesada will troll McFarlane.

Wizard News

The lead story this month is Acclaim acquiring the license for Magic: The Gathering comics, featuring work by Jeff Gomez, Val Mayerik, Raael Kayanan, and painted covers by Charles Vess.  In other news…Thor will be the first Marvel hero to visit the Ultraverse…Dan Jurgens has left penciling duties on Superman to make room for Solar…DC has fired Tony Isabella from Black Lightning (neither side is willing to explicitly state why)…Jim Shooter has signed on with Broadway Comics…and Joe Quesada is thrilled that MTV News has interviewed him, although MTV tells Wizard that this was only for a potential story and there are no plans to air the footage.

Reaching for the Stars

A lengthy piece on James Robinson, which was presumably done to promote his upcoming run on WildC.A.T.s, but focuses far more on his background, his Vertigo work, and his thoughts on Starman.  Starman is starting to become a critical darling, and I don’t want to be cynical and imply that Wizard just jumps on the bandwagon, but I do remember it becoming the magazine’s new Bone for a few issues.

TM & ©

An informative, multi-page article written by attorney and comics fan Jeffery E. Jacobson detailing the ins and outs of copyright law.  Wizard later remarks that it was surprised by just how many fans enjoyed this piece; they assumed it was too dry for their average reader.

Hot off the Griddle

This is the one I’ve been waiting for.  It’s four pages of pure, unadulterated Wizard – and I don’t mean that as an insult.  I’m not talking about locker room humor or shameless hype, I’m talking sheer goofiness, one of the redeeming features of the magazine.  The premise of this piece is that Wizard will answer the age-old question, “Do comics truly sell like hotcakes?”  Never mind that no one in the history of the world has likely asked that question, and the comics market was actually at the beginning of a slump that it’d never truly recover from at this time…it’s an absurd premise for an article and only Wizard would dedicate its resources to such a ludicrous stunt.

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Making the article even more endearing is writer John Seals, who acknowledges that he participated in this because he was broke, and never shies away from pointing out what a dumb premise for an article he’s been saddled with.  Playing this straight would’ve gotten old quickly, but going inside the mind of the poor sap stuck writing this feature is like some novelty-themed brand of gonzo journalism.  Seals is the one who has to set up the electric skillet and pancake mix inside a comic book store, giving patrons the choice of a free hotcake or a free comic.  Allowing him to be direct and open in the article was the least Wizard could do.

Seals’ honesty is what sells the piece — he opens by describing the local city ordinances that stood in his way, goes on to detail almost throwing up while cooking the hotcakes (he was hungover on the morning of the stunt), and then catalogues the varied reactions he received from the public.  Most seemed to be either incredulous or purely negative.  The best quote is from a laid-off construction worker who opts for the free hotcake.  “I don’t read comics, but I eat food.”

After Wizard conducts a fan survey on recent articles, “Hot off the Griddle” seems to be poorly rated by its readers.  Philistines.  This is Wizard giving you what Comics Buyers Guide can’t…dumb, harmless fun.  I wouldn’t want an entire magazine of this material, but four pages out of two hundred-plus isn’t a huge burden, is it?  Unfortunately, I don’t think the era of “goofy ideas” Wizard lasts for too long after this article runs.  It’s entirely impossible that this is the piece that scared Wizard away from the wacky schemes, which is a shame.

 

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Embiggen to experience the magazine’s finest moment.

No Slowing Down

A promotional article for the current run of The Flash, which really wants us to believe that Wally West is going to die in issue #100.  At least DC is committed to keeping Barry Allen dead, though…

Cut & Print

New Line has officially announced the Spawn movie, FOX and Warner Brothers are developing a Bruce Timm-produced Superman cartoon (which ends up on the new WB network), and Canadian cable network YTV has cancelled Might Morphin’ Power Rangers “in response to a decision by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.”  As crazy as it seems today, MMPR were often the subject of “violence in the media” news reports.

What’s…Chaykin?

Howard Chaykin speaks about his career in comics, promotes an upcoming Nick Fury series I have no memory of, and gives his opinion on mainstream superhero comics (he views them as trash, essentially.)  Chaykin states his admiration for his friend, John Francis Moore, for being able to produce a monthly superhero comic, something Chaykin says he has no interest in doing.  This is the piece that has Chaykin giving Chris Claremont credit for the “contemporary language of comics,” which I believe Claremont didn’t exactly view as a compliment.

Top 10 Heroes & Villains of the Month

The standard list (even Wizard doesn’t seem to know why it keeps including Pitt), with Robin thrown in, based on the fact that his solo series is pretty popular.  The Mort of the Month is Bat Lash, a character Wizard dismisses as a “tough pansy.”

Picks from the Wizard’s Hat

The top picks this month are the second Lady Death miniseries, Flash #100, Prophet (vol. 2) #1 (the beginning of the Chuck Dixon/Stephen Platt run…relaunched after vol. 1’s issue #10), The Mask #1, and the Vampirella/Shadowhawk crossover.  I also see while looking through the rest of the solicits that Valiant released a Ninjak #0 and Ninjak #00 in the same month, because his origin story was so immense, it needed two full issues.  Another comic in Wizard’s “Other Picks” section is the debut of a Vertigo book called Preacher.

Good & Cheap

The Spectre #5, from the John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake run, is highlighted as a nice back issue find for $2.

Top Ten Comics

Lady Death #1 remains the top back issue, according to the magazine, while the rest of the list is evenly distributed between X-books, Gen 13, and other Bad Girls.  And Impulse’s first appearance in Flash #92, which is gaining interest due to his upcoming series.

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Top 100 – January 1995

With the exception of Spawn #28 at Number Eight, the Top Ten issues ordered in January are all “Age of Apocalypse” mutant books.  Meanwhile, most of the Batman and Superman titles seem to be nudging the Spider-Man books further down the charts.  The Number 100 book is Malibu’s Godwheel.

Wizard Market Watch

Early Clone Saga issues of the Spider-Man books are starting to pick up steam as back issues, thanks to the rumor that Ben Reilly will be replacing Peter Parker.  Legion’s first appearances in New Mutants are also gaining in popularity thanks to the “Legion Quest” crossover.  Meanwhile, retailers are reporting an erosion in Image’s brand name, with studios being left to stand on their own merits.  Wizard reports that the Wildstorm titles are still selling well.

Wizard’s Ten Hottest Artists are…

  1. Todd McFarlane
  2. Stephen Platt
  3. Frank Miller
  4. Greg Capullo
  5. Joe Quesada
  6. Andy Kubert
  7. Whilce Portacio
  8. Rob Liefeld
  9. Adam Kubert
  10. Jeff Smith

Wizard’s Top Ten Hottest Writers are…

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

(Another month of Wizard just swapping the writers’ names around in a few places.  Also, is this the first time Bart Sears hasn’t made the Top Ten Artists?)

Market Watchers

A reader writes in to ask if he should burn his collection of Brigade, Bloodstrike, Team Youngblood, and Supreme since they’re not going up in value.  Wizard is opposed to burning any comic, even Secret Defenders, but does advise the fan to recycle his comics if the upcoming “New Order” event doesn’t revive interest in Extreme’s books.  Another letterhack has discovered that Wizard sneaks in names like Darth Vader and Eddie Vedder in its key of creator abbreviations in the price guide.

I searched “Extreme Studios New Order” and this is the only hit I received:

See, I do Google things.

See, I do Google things.

Wizard Price Guide

I haven’t checked on any back issue prices lately, so let’s see what’s going on this month.  Superman #75 in the polybag is listed at $28, with the Platinum Edition going for $200.   The first issue of the original Alpha Flight ongoing is just under five bucks.  Ren & Stimpy #1 remains at $24.50.  Early Punisher War Journal issues are going down in price, yet the first issue is still listed at ten bucks, and Youngblood #1, we’re told, remains a ten-dollar book.

The Wizard Profile

Does painter John Bolton know who the Beyonder is?

No.  No, he does not.

 

So, what did we learn today?

Money Quotes:

  • “Is it the same as having a white, middle-class, mid-American like Tony Isabella writing a black superhero?” – Black Lightning’s new editor, defending his choice to hire an Australian to write a series set in an American urban environment.
  • “A lot of people have this concept about British comics writers, that what they always do is trample over the sacred ground and take these grand old characters and turn them inside out.” – James Robinson
  • “But it’s not like I want the Tick on my tombstone as my major accomplishment.  Well, maybe I’ll give him a corner of my tombstone if he manages to pay for an entire empire.” – Ben Edlund
  • “He invented the contemporary language of comics, the current relationship of hero to hero.  His characterization of the X-Men is the single most influential language in comics today.  Comics are what they are today because of what Chris did with the X-Men.” – Howard Chaykin on Chris Claremont

Nope:  Cyberforce doesn’t star in a six-episode miniseries on FOX, Chris Columbus doesn’t direct a Daredevil film…Hanna-Barbera doesn’t release a series of animated films (like Nexus, Werewolf to the Moon, and Space Ghost) for older audiences…Judge Dredd doesn’t receive an animated series…and Spawn #29 doesn’t feature Spawn sharing stories with a group of outcasts in the Bible Belt.

Before They Were Stars:  Bart Sears’ Brutes and Babes feature is missing this month, but Jim Lee is here to judge the winners of the monthly Drawing Board contest.  He selects Kenneth Rocafort, who’s gone on to do work for Wildstorm, Marvel, and DC (remember the Lobo redesign?), as the winner for his rendition of Zealot.  Lee says he can’t wait to give Kenneth his first assignment.

I wonder how WIZARD would respond to Lobo's TWILIGHT makeover.

I wonder how WIZARD would respond to Lobo’s TWILIGHT makeover.

Stuff Wizard Likes:  Topps’ Lone Ranger and Tonto miniseries, along with Shi and Robin.  The current creative team of Green Lantern is also given credit for turning sales around.

Stuff Wizard Doesn’t Like:  That Darth Vader/Energizer Bunny ad (again), the Spider-Clone (again), the alleged continuity screw-up that’s given Wolverine bone claws (again), Marvel’s 2099 books, Dakota North, the current runs on Captain America and Fantastic Four, and the Republicans taking over Congress.

This Ain’t HuffPo:  Wizard jokes about the low value of the Peso, the possibility of Charles Xavier catching “Jungle Fever” and fathering a child with Storm, Lady Death’s “bajoobies,” and how hot a filly Shi remains.

Commercial Break:  How did you celebrate Jamday’ 95?

Commercial Break: How did you celebrate Jamday ’95?

I Love the ‘90s:  We’re told that Namor jumped into a Quinjet, not a Ford Bronco, when he had to kill his wife Marrina, in addition to references to The Crying Game, Ricki Lake, and the mystery of the White Ranger.  (A Power Rangers reference, I’m assuming.)

Vive la France:  Replacement Batman Jean-Paul Valley is referred to as “Jean-Frog” Valley, and Wizard questions if Wonder Woman is like one of those French chicks who don’t shave their armpits.

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Pathological Scatological:  I thought this issue might get away with only one crude joke (a reader in Magic Words wants to know what happens when Eddie Brock farts inside the Venom symbiote), but Wizard of Cards appears halfway through the mag to bring us a series of “Who farted?” jokes.  Lucky us.

Cheap and Stupid and Trashy?:  There seems to be some self-awareness now, regarding Wizard’s weakest elements, and as for the “Stupid” category, I would argue that the magazine is entertainingly stupid this month, which is fine by me.  And even though no one seems to remember this, Wizard did have quality interviews for a while there.  Jim McLauchlin’s lengthy sit-down with Howard Chaykin is almost like something The Comics Journal would’ve done back in the ‘80s, with Chaykin giving a blunt assessment of the industry at that time, and McLauchlin asking very honest questions such as “What the **** was Black Kiss supposed to be?”  Also, I can’t hate the issue that brought us the hotcake article, a feature so bizarre I’ve never forgotten it.

That’s all for now.  Until next time, find me here:

Not Blog X || Twitter || The (David) Milch Studies on Real Gentlemen of Leisure || Tumblr || Also, my novel Yeah, Shut Up. is still free for Kindle Unlimited members on Amazon.  Reviews are appreciated…

 

20 Comments

Nice article, G., thanks again for your work. I didn’t buy this issue so it looks like I missed out. (I bought the next one, #44, I don’t recall if it’s the Gen¹³ cover or Dredd cover).

Chaykin is one of my favorites, and yes, he did a Nick Fury limited series back then – Fury of SHIELD -, but there was another guy who drew it.
This is the book that banned Fury from smoking. Go figure.

I guess Claremont didn’t think much of the state of comics writing at that point.

I have to admit, WIZARD’s trashy and silly elements don’t seem worse to me than today’s methods of clickbait (even if today there’s more of a political edge to the bait). Maybe I would feel different if I’d read it at the time. But every publication has silly stuff that pays for the substantial stuff.

Chaykin’s description of Claremont seems fair to me. Whether or not you like the way comics were written in the early ’90s, Claremont’s influence was all over them.

Ok. You know how you can go through your life absolutely convinced of something and then have your entire existence thrown into question when you find out that fact, that you KNOW is true, is wrong?

As God as my witness, I always thought Tony Isabella was black.

Man, I don’t think there’s been one installment yet where the “Mort of the Month” feature didn’t annoy me, but this one is especially bad.

But boy, we dodged a bullet with that Chris Columbus Daredevil movie. And we thought the movie we actually GOT was bad… I mean, okay, it was bad, but his would probably have been even worse.

They still did some goofy features.I remember the Wizard office vs Galactus later on. Or similarly McLauchlins visit to Marvel’s offices. IIRC the same writer did a feature on old comics vs new comics. He did such things as seeing which would take a bullet better,,which Superman could withstand a locomotive and which aquatic comic would survive better under water.

Oh shit, that advertisement reminded me that Jam Day ’16 is right around the corner!

If I recall correctly, Fury of SHIELD was supposed to be a regular series and suddenly became a 4 issue mini-series; or else, it was supposed to be longer than 4 issues. It was actually pretty good and featured Fury alongside his son, introduced in Wolverine/Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection, from Chaykin and Archie Goodwin.

Chaykin thought superhero comics were garbage back in the 70s, so this wasn’t exactly earthshattering, though it was probably new to the primary Wizard audience. Chaykin was never one to mince words and he could be equally blunt about the failings of his own work. He said for years he couldn’t look at his early stuff and some of his then-recent stuff didn’t quite come off. Even when his work wasn’t exactly hitting it out of the park, I usually found something intriguing about it. I still wish that American Century (which he co-wrote; but didn’t draw) had lasted longer. I loved what he was doing on that book an enjoyed his exploration of the underside of post-WW2 America. Say what you will about some of his work, he was one of the guys who really experimented with the medium of comics.

He’s also an equal-opportunity offender, as he has also said that European comics are just as bad as American; we just see the better ones.

That hotcakes thing was pretty great. I wasn’t a regular Wizard reader in 95 but I remember this.

Chaykin always struck me as a curmudgeon and a snob. Also, both his art and writing are very repetitive. But I have to admit that he struck gold with the first year of American Flagg! and… well, his opinion about the state of superhero comics in 1995 is largely correct. There was some superlative stuff, like Astro City and Starman, with Kingdom Come just around the corner, but mostly the genre was at one of the all-time low points.

Also, he was totally correct about Chris Claremont. Claremont’s influence on American superhero comics (and pop culture in general) is very underated. Stan Lee is more parodied, Alan Moore is more talented and respected, Morrison is crazier, Miller is edgier, but Chris Claremont is the real father of the modern superhero genre, if anyone is. But it’s not an influence that everybody likes to advertise (though there are exceptions, like Joss Whedon), and also, it’s not an influence that is entirely positive.

@Rene remember Grant Morrison said, in his X-Men pitch, that “Early Alan Moore is pure Claremont.” His influence on the British Invasion writers is very clear, even though many of them clearly have a love-hate relationship with his work. (But even some of the things they didn’t do, like thought balloons, can be seen as a reaction to Claremont’s over-use of them.)

“Chaykin always struck me as a curmudgeon and a snob. Also, both his art and writing are very repetitive. But I have to admit that he struck gold with the first year of American Flagg! and… well, his opinion about the state of superhero comics in 1995 is largely correct. There was some superlative stuff, like Astro City and Starman, with Kingdom Come just around the corner, but mostly the genre was at one of the all-time low points.”

I think 1995 with some of the titles you mentioned, was the year that they started to turn around. Marvels had just come out, Busiek also started Untold Tales of Spidey then. Mark Waid still on Flash was about to start his Captain America run. 1994 was basically the post glut year from the crash of 1993, with a lot of the same elements and gimmickiness.

The hotcakes piece was truly inspired. It’s too bad they stayed away from doing more stuff like that.

My first issue of Wizard was the one right after this, so I only knew about the hotcakes article from the passing mentions it would get in future issues. I never actually knew what the article was all about. Good stuff! Thanks again. These are some of my favorite articles on CSBG.

@Rene
Curmudgeon yes (he did apprentice with Gil Kane, who was one, himself); snob? Well, I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder. I’ve read several interviews with him and it always sounded like he outgrew superheroes long before his contemporaries; but, he saw a lot of possibilities in the medium. One of his biggest influences, certainly by this period, was Alex Toth, who rarely touched superheoes and was prickl, at times. I always felt his writing suffered after he went to Hollywood, though he would surprise you. I thought he was at his peak from around 1978/79, up through the late 80s. Once he was working of the Flash tv show, he didn’t do much comic work; and, when he did, he was writing more and drawing less. Still, he would come up with a nice sleeper hit, like Batman: dark Allegiances or Thrillkiller. American Century was a very nice surprise and I was glad he wasn’t drawing, as the book seemed more subtle than the stuff he was drawing then. he was great, as a writer, when paired up with an artist like Mike Mignola, on Fafhrd and Gray Mouser (at Marvel’s Epic imprint) and the Ironwolf graphic novel (Fires of the Revolution, at DC).

Chaykin is definitely a provocateur. He was known for wearing 3-piece suits at conventions, in the 70s, when his contemporaries were dressing casual. He had a rep in the 80s that was rather like that of Harlan Ellison, one who didn’t suffer fools gladly. In fact, Ellison is probably a great comparison to Chaykin, in terms of personality, reputations, and critical assessments of their work. Both also have that reputation as a snob and critic.

Jeff –

Ed Brubaker said in an interview that he had to overcome an inner blocking when he started writing superhero comics, by telling himself that superheroes aren’t innately any worse or more silly or cliched than other more respected genres, like detective stories or medieval fantasy or pulp stories. And I agree with him. 90% of superhero stories can be shitty, sure. But that number is probably the same for genres that Chaykin didn’t outgrow.

Harlan Ellison, well. The expression “don’t suffer fools gladly” reminds me of that saying: if you met an asshole, you met an asshole; if you keep meeting assholes all day, then you are the asshole. It’s how I consider guys like Ellison and Chaykin. But I try not to let my personal antipathy to someone color my appreciation for the work. Harlan Ellison is an awesome writer, one of the greatest, in fact. Chaykin… I dunno. I want to like his stuff, I usually dig pulp and historical fiction, but I think I’m just not in the same frequence as him.

I had a chance to meet Chaykin when he attended my local con, and because I was volunteering at the show, I actually ended up getting to spend some time with him (and fetch him coffee at one point) during the post-show dinner. He’s definitely a character. Loud, opinionated and convinced of the rightness of his opinions, but also a relatively nice guy, at least in our limited interactions. Like, he was brash, but not a jerk, and had tons of energy. He just seemed to suck people in whenever he was talking, regardless of the topic.

As other have said, while I’m not sure Chaykin meant it as a compliment nor do I think Claremont was wrong to not take it as a compliment, his statement about Claremont’s influence is pretty spot-on. Not surprisingly, I don’t think it’s as negative of one as Chaykin does (though like Rene said, it’s not COMPLETELY positive), and it’s definitely underrated/overlooked.

Funny thing about that hot cakes article – I remember reading it at the time, but somehow missed (until now) the fact that the writer was a local, and the shop he was at was not far from my house just based on the city he mentioned (if it’s the one I’m thinking it is, it’s not there anymore).

Here’s the thing about Ellison and Chaykin, from what I’ve seen (well, through other eyes); because both have a reputation for ripping into someone whose challenging them, they get people trying to bait them. Kind of like the old gunfighter who has every young punk wanting to see if they still have it. Most of the Chaykin stories I heard were from the 80s, though, at the height of his fame. He seemed to mellow after time in Hollywood; or else, the comic landscape of the 90s was so bad that he had more people agreeing with him.

Like I said before, Chaykin got his start as an assistant to Gil Kane and Kane was pretty outspoken. He had a few interviews in The Comics Journal that really bit the hand that fed him. He wanted comics to be more than superheroes but had been frustrated when he tried to escape the confines of them. I think that describes Chaykin, as well. He did some bookcover illustration; but, it wasn’t for major publishing houses, so pay wasn’t that great and the demands were higher. I agree that most of his stuff from the 90s onward tends to read the same, especially the pulpier stuff, except maybe American Century, though it has the same cynical tone. Part of it is the same cycle you see with other writers and artists: you are willing to take chances when you are young and starving, then deliver what you know sells, when you are older and have a lifestyle to maintain.

I also think Chaykin was often better in collaboration, than solo. His writing was stronger when he worked with John F. Moore and David Tishman, or when he collaborated with a strong artists, like Mike Mignola. One of Chaykin’s best works of the 90s, to me, was Wolverine/Nick Fury, thanks to Archie Goodwin’s writing. Chaykin on his own can be occasionally frustrating, as he seems to digress from the main story, or leaves you a bit confused. Blackhawk was a very frustrating read for me, though I think part of it was my expectations for the action. Chaykin was doing a character study and I was expecting an adventure series.

I always thought CyberForce had potential, even if it did begin as an X-Men ripoff.

AverageJoeEveryman

February 12, 2016 at 7:08 am

My favorite piece in Wizard ever was when they went through Kingdom Come showing us a bunch of the background jokes and easter eggs. I re-read that more than I have most comics. Also the monthly Calendars they made for a year or two were hilarious.

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