The legendary cover that got people in trouble. Image is nigh. A 200 page color magazine all about comics is only $2.95. It’s time to take a Retro review of Wizard: The Guide to Comics issue 10 from June 1992.
This post is inspired by the Wizards Podcast, part of the Retro Network. If you would like to listen to Wizards every other Wednesday, save this link: https://theretronetwork.com/category/podcasts/wizards/
I read this issue from cover to cover and took notes on columns and articles. Many of these magazines can be found on the Internet Archive. I found this copy by opening up a longbox that probably hasn’t seen daylight in 20 years if not longer.
There’s an editor rant about the state of comics. Dark heroes that kill are all the rage. Wizard has a lot of nerve to put this out front in the first article of the magazine, but we’ll get there. I understand the frustration, and I’ll support the “no kill” ethics of a Superman or Spider-Man all day long. I don’t think Wizard has a cybernetic leg to stand on here. Even worse is this quote from the same article: “superheroes will never be great literature”.
What?! You bite your thumbnails at me? One, nothing will be elevated if people don’t try to elevate it. Especially those within the same world. If a comic magazine is saying comics aren’t great then what chance do they have with the rest of the world? It’s a short sighted flippant but harmful remark. Many great comics were yet to come but there is no shortage of classic tales in 1992 that this magazine could have elevated. This is also a sign of where comics and comic fandom was at the time though. We’ll see more of this as the issue continues.
Rob Liefeld interview.
Youngblood is nigh! Rob talks about all the controversy, and I forgot a lot of it. The media is confused about Image being a separate entity where the creators own the characters yet also published by Malibu. Rob insists he can work on Youngblood and X-Force at the same time. He’s plotting, pencilling, and inking so maybe he’ll only do 2 out of 3 for each title. Of course that didn’t happen. Once Image was announced that was it for all of these artists with Marvel.
Rob explains his rationale for the infamous Executioners ad with a big X. A team that became the Berserkers I guess, to get away from copyright.
The Youngblood idea is great. A super team that controls the narrative. If anything, the idea is ahead of it’s time. We see how media interpretations control our opinions every day. A super team that is fallible but presented as perfect is a hell of an idea.
Speaking of great ideas, I’ve had a comic character idea for years named Cross. He leads a team, has a cross on his body, powers, etc. Then I read this and hear about Rob with a character called Cross. Different, but I’m shocked that something in this article buried itself so deep in my subconscious I created my own hero who is similar but different.
Rob makes some interesting points that probably came back on him. Saying the importance of putting out a book monthly. If the fans cant buy a book monthly they’re going to leave. Which happened over and over with Image. He also says “judge me on quality of my work, not on reselling my work” and that’s an interesting point. If a book sells more or less titles with the same artist that does not necessarily mean that artist’s work is better or worse. Or the writer. It could be many different factors. But you can’t say sales are down therefore your art sucks. That doesn’t actually look into the details. There’s no control group in that statement.
“Marvel would like to own our style”. The entire comics industry wanted the Image style. Marvel and DC books at this time are full of art styles aping Todd, Rob, Jim and the rest. There are also numerous characters created in an attempt to have something similar to what Image is doing.
Hank Kanalz, the Youngblood “scripter” is interviewed. Isn’t this the guy that Rob had to replace what he did with a “re-mastered” version of the comic? Hank announces he’s also working on Brigade. Youngblood is barely on the shelves and they’re already extending the idea into yet another team book.
Anyone else remember Youngblood #1 shipping very late and the rumor was Marvel held it up? Trying to say that due to Rob being under contract it legally couldn’t be released? There were rumors that issues of #1 that had slipped through were reselling at hundreds of dollars. Or maybe that was just the talk at my local shop.
“Meet Youngblood”. It’s interesting that we have names and powers but nothing else about the characters. Real names, ages, personal lives, anything about character. Name, look, cool powers to draw. That’s it. A lot like dating. Yes, the first reaction is always visual. No one walks into a bar and says ‘look at the personality on her!” But after that initial attraction, there has to be something more. Something worth sticking around for.
A history of Cable. Is he this? Is he that? What about Stryfe? How is he brand new yet has a history with characters? The X-Men line is comics’ greatest soap opera and Cable one of the most confusing characters. Speaking of confusing, remember that in the first article comics are too dark. Now here’s an article about X-Force, a group of teens and young adults, the youngest Mutant team, killing their enemies. Wizard is putting certain works on a pedestal and then complaining they’re up there.
Mark Bagley interview as he leaves New Warriors for Amazing Spider-Man. I was buying both of these books for years and still cherish them. I’ll never have anything bad to say about Bagley’s work.
Happy Birthday Spider-Man article. A love letter to the Web Head, but with a minor complaint about “dark” heroes. A couple pages after multiple pages featuring Cable and Deadpool.
All Star Memories. This is the only DC Comics piece in this issue. DC is getting buried here. The memories are about the original Golden Age JSA and written by an older comic collector. Not the demographic Wizard is going for. But maybe an attempt to get their younger audience into the classics. A need that I don’t think anyone yet realizes is there, nor how desperate they are.
Palmer’s Picks on independent comic book anthologies. A vastly different audience than who Image is going after. A few interesting things in this article. Diamond initially refused Drawn and Quarterly because they didn’t think it was a high quality magazine. I’ve seen lots of things in Diamond that were not high quality. Some even from big publishers like Marvel or DC. The anthology Taboo had trouble getting printed due to “questionable content” and now that same content is seen as groundbreaking classics. Where is this Sweeny Todd from Neil Gaiman though? That’s a new one to me.
Spider-Man the Movie. It still took 10 more years to get a movie. This also makes me want to take a fresh look at the original Spider-Man cartoon. If they used all of his villains that existed at the time of the cartoon, that’s 1967. I can no longer complain about villains not being on the cartoon, if they did not yet exist. I watched the cartoon in the 80’s and I guess part of me always thought it was “new”.
Brutes and Babes. How to draw, with Bart Sears!
King of the Hill is the X-Men vs the Avengers. A modern picture of the X-Men vs a classic picture of the Avengers. Pushing the Mutants as the stars. No wonder other fans said the Avengers sucked. It’s cool extreme art vs Silver Age here.
Top 10 Heroes and Villains. All Marvel. No DC, and no Image yet but it’s coming. DC continues to get dumped on. Carnage is called “the spawn of Venom”. Interesting word choice.
The Hunk and Babe of the month are Wonder Man and She-Hulk. Again, more Marvel.
Wizards Comics Watch features some hot titles. Which then blew up in price because of Wizard and now most of them have settled where they belong.
The Way I See it by Wizard creator Gareb Shamus pushes Image, Valiant, and Topps Comics. Topps had a lot of cool licensed books and might be a fun back issue dive for me. A cheap dive too. Gareb also says there are 12,000 retail stores for cards. The baseball card market had not yet crashed. And the comic boom then bust was just about to start. There’s a lot less than 12,000 now.
Wizard Art and various Contests.
Wizard news has a few interesting things. A comic that never happened, Lobo’s Frag Race. Not a RuPaul take off, but a space version of Death Race 2000. Shame that never came out. Speaking of never came out, lets look at Image’s schedule for the rest of the year. Including Rob up to 3 books by the end of the year (Youngblood, Brigade, Supreme). Darker Image by Sam Keith. This would be a single issue series which debuted the Maxx along with two other characters by different artists. But what happened to Chris Claremont and Whilce Portacio’s The Huntsman?!
The Brat Pack is the worst column of the entire magazine. A couple of 14 year olds and one 12 year old. Answering questions about what they read and why. Yay Marvel. Image looks cool. DC and independents suck. Such age appropriate 1990’s quotes like: “Marvel is ‘in step'”, “Spidey has only been around half as long as the big S” (who the hell said that one, Billy Batson?) “Even new stuff like Hawkworld is all screwed up” What 14 year old is reading Hawkworld?! But the worst: “Guys like the Punisher and Wolverine. The other companies can’t match up with their bland, out of date characters… Marvel comics are collectibles. Most of their books go up.” I like Wizard. If Forest J Ackerman created Monster Kids, Gareb and the 1990’s created Wizard kids. But I cant believe how much my thoughts and financial opinions on comics were shaped by what Wizard told me. They’re molding the market. Steering the money. Also, I don’t believe a single sentence in this column was actually spoken by a kid.
Wizard Crystal Ball. Terror, Inc sounds great in idea. Again, I’m adding it to the back issue search list. A character that may have done better as a MAX horror title and not squeezing it into the super hero line.
Wizard Picks: Hey kids, here’s what’s cool to buy this month. Spawn is brand new. Image doesn’t even have a logo yet. Every pick has the artist listed first, before the writer.
Toy collecting column. Toy collecting as we know it now is in it’s infancy here. Horrible questions. Because no one knew where to look for answers. eBay wasn’t as big. Amazon wasn’t around yet. Nor blogs or any of the other methods we use now to find old toys. These fans seem ignorant but they are just desperate for knowledge and help. Dumb questions, but where and how else are they going to ask? How can anyone learn without asking questions? It’s really surprising to see this level of interest looking for a home. No wonder Wizard began ToyFare magazine later.
Market Watch. What’s hot in comics. Top 10 artists list. No writers. DC gets the short end yet again.
Magic Words. The infamous letters page. Again, these readers are desperate for information. So many questions that now are a quick Google away but didn’t exist yet. Your local comic shop might have help. An owner who is more than willing to answer questions and steer new readers the right way. But looking at how many new readers complain about shops still to this day, probably not. School isn’t going to help. Libraries in 1992 aren’t taking comics seriously. Also, Wizard was available on magazine racks not just comic stores. Many of these letters probably come from people with no access to a comic store. The most striking example is in the final letter: “Can you explain Crisis to me?” Crisis at this point wasn’t even 10 years ago. But that’s enough time. I can see this kid in a shop. Hey what’s Crisis all about? You don’t know Crisis?! You don’t understand DC continuity since the 1930’s and how it all came together? No, no I don’t. And now instead of maybe buying some of these comics I’ll just leave feeling stupid and spend my money somewhere that doesn’t insult me.
Thankfully many people in comics and stores aren’t gate keepers and are more willing to help new readers. Plus the internet helps with many answers. But to see how much things have changed, keep looking at the letters page. She-Hulk was the most desired woman and John Byrne the hot female artist scheduled to do a cover (didn’t happen). The X-Men cartoon is in development. But if you want to find old Marvel cartoons like Spider-Woman or the Fly check a movie store for a VHS featuring one maybe two episodes for $10.
Also, the idea of variants starts to come up in the letters page when a guy named Neil Gaiman writes in about a Sandman difference.
This letters page also starts the infamous X-Men vs. Iron Man debate which raged in the letters pages for years. Fans writing in praising the X-Men. Wizard saying Iron Man would win and going into detail. Which was funny, because they crapped on the Avengers in every other way. The answer is it depends on who is writing, who is on the X-Men team in this story, and what the overall story is about. Personally, without some sort of massive initial attack that wipes out multiple X-Men in one shot I don’t think Iron Man can defeat an entire team. Especially a team with members that can teleport, slice, or worst of all for him – control metal.
That was my extensive look at this issue of Wizard. Be sure to listen to Wizard podcast!