Friday, April 11, 2008

Wizard Magazine: Reflections

My workplace is the last place I expect to be offered a copy of Wizard Magazine. But so it happened -- with issue #200 yet! (It's like I can't escape comics no matter where I go)

To be honest, I haven't sat down and really read a copy of Wizard for a long, long time. This is the anniversary issue -- filled to the brim with the sort of lists and sidebars that would be considered "link bait" if it was online -- so I guess it would be hard to judge the magazine on this issue alone.

That said, it's an entertaining enough issue -- and pretty "Entertainment Weekly" in terms of design and tone.

I remember when Wizard first hit. I was working at a comic book store, and that issue of Wizard itself was considered "collectible." So we had Wizard #1 in the "special case" at the shop.

A magazine about collectibles that became collectible?

Wizard fanned the flames in terms of the speculative market, there is no doubt about that. But I don't think it created that market -- only reflected and magnified it. It filled a niche. It took all that craziness about multiple covers, "hot" artists, and "instant classics" and gave it a home.

I always saw Image Comics (at least in the beginning) as being the spiritual sibling of Wizard. They came from the same zeitgeist. Image, obviously, has developed quite a bit since then. Has Wizard?

I see Wizard's trajectory as starting from "Fanboy Wet Dream Publication" to "Mass Market Pop Culture Magazine." No, not quite like "EW." But along those lines. At least, I think that's what they want. I know there has been the whole "is Wizard aping Maxim" debate. I think it would be a losing strategy even if that was what they wanted. Or rather, it would be too narrow. If a guy wants real titillation they'll go read Playboy or Penthouse. Or Maxim itself, who can afford to pay actresses to strip to their underwear. Or tons of free porn online. Or Witchblade.

Let's take a look inside the issue, shall we?

The "200 Greatest Comics In Wizard's History" list is admirable. Here is the top 10:
1. Y the Last Man #1
2. Marvels #1
3. All Star Superman #1
4. Sandman #50
5. Superman #75
6. Preacher #1
7. Bone #1
8. Identity Crisis #1
9. Daredevil #1 Vol 2.
10. Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special

Now, obviously this list is really the 200 greatest superhero comics in Wizard's history plus some indies. Nobody would mistake this for a Comics Journal list. But it tries. We got Acme Novelty Library #1 at 60. We got Ganges #1 at 136. I mean, frickin' Ganges. You'd never see a comic like Ganges in a Wizard mag ten years ago.

But Identity Crisis at #8? Really?

I guess part of it is assessing the relative impact these comics have had on the greater comics community. That's why you have a lot of #1s. Number ones are valuable. At the old comics shop we had a list of just the #1s that were coming out. Some people collected all the #1s, regardless of title.

Then there is the fan-orgasm "commisioned art" segment, where we see all our favorite characters interacting with each other. That's always kind of fun. Strawberry Shortcake running around with Thundercats. When I was a kid there was this T-shirt that had ET and a Smurf playing Pac-Man on it. I always wanted that one.

I mean, they were on the floor with the Atari playing Pac-Man.

Next we have the "50 Clusterf**ks To Hit Comics," or something like that.


#50: T&A in comics. Gasp!

#42: Liefeld leaves Image. Yes, I think the poor company has never recovered from that blow.

#25: Wolverine's origin revealed. Actually, this is the first time I've read this. I never picked up that "Origin" book. (...) Really? Logan was the hero of his own gothic novel? Was Charlotte Bronte the co-writer on that?

#11: "The Internet Cometh." And the paper goeth.

#4: The comics market, it implodeth.

#1: Image Comics. Did it really revolutionize things? I mean, we got a decent indie company and a really great line of hockey action figures out of this collaboration. But as somebody who tried in vain to sell a friend's complete run of early Image on eBay...let me tell ya.

All-in-all, Wizard #200 is a good magazine to just sit around and sentimentalize with. At least, if you were a comic-collecting teen/twentysomething when the publication first came out. I realize that this issue has infuriated a few online critics. But I dunno. Sure, I hate the fact that their top tens on writing and artists each month feature mostly bald white men with or without goatees. But, is that really their fault? They are reporting mostly on what's out there in mainstream comics. They are a mirror. I don't buy that they created this. I don't buy that they created the comics implosion of the nineties.

Wizard bills itself (at least this month) as "The Magazine Of Comics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture."

Pop Culture. Popular culture.

I think they will change as we do. They have to.


  1. I remember the Spanish Wizard. We were just curious when we bought the first issue: aware as we were of its existence and its relative importance in the American market, we had never really read it before.
    The second issue, we already found it a bit repetitive. With the third one, the formula was clear: The seventeen best comics with goatees on the cover, some previews, some childish jokes, more lists. It was too expensive, to insubstantial, the Internet was already providing news, previews and gossip faster and frankly, their tastes had little to do with mine.
    Or maybe I was just getting too old, who knows.
    Anyway, it seems that Wizard has changed, that it's trying to evolve into something akin to a general entertainment magazine. Has it already gotten rid of the slightly chauvinistic, slightly fanboyish, always simple puns? Is there any serious criticism or does it still focus on whatever the big editorials feed it with?
    If that is still the case, sorry, I'll still find it crap. That they are a mirror of the popular trends is no excuse for that crappiness. That is just the kind of magazine they choose to do, the kind of trends they choose to promote.
    Yeah, they are not worse than your average issue of "Generic teenage magazine for girls" full of "Reassert yourself learning how to become his 'bad girl' wet dream" or "What's fashionable this season: leech your parents' accounts and buy, damned, buy!". Or "Movies magazine focusing only in Hollywood films - no food for thought, more of the same is good". Or "Generic Hipster Music Fashion magazine for the University student with fringe and black-rimmed glasses". Or... you get the idea.
    Those magazines, they give people what they ask for. And still, they enforce a limited view. They don't have to try better. I just hope they did...

  2. I started buying Wizard in early 1994. My love for comics was fairly new, and the idea of a magazine like Nintendo Power about funnnybooks made me a happy kid.

    I stopped getting Wizard around Identity Crisis, wondering how I last so damn long. Álvaro nailed it with his comment. The mag lost its wit, its connection, pure hype.

  3. My latest wizard magazine its like 8 years old.
    Its hard to find the latest Usa superman comic in my country (only a couple of stores at the capital city) but you can always find a wizard copy at the nearest cofee and books shop that and this month shonen jump

  4. I can't tell you how heartened I am at reading I'm not the only one who's disappointed by the trade mag Wizard's become, for the sake of being "positive" about the business.