In 1991, Wizard Magazine hit newsstands and was unlike anything else out there. I was six years old when it came out and I can still remember being excited for every new issue. In those pre-internet days, Wizard was the go-to source for comic book news and rumors. The key word in the previous sentence is “pre-internet.” Unfortunately, with the coming of the digital age, most of the news in Wizard felt like old hat by the time the magazine saw print.
For a perfect example of this, I remember reading an article in Wizard a year or so ago that featured “under the radar” titles that readers should pick up. One of the featured titles was Ms. Marvel and it read something along the lines of how issue 50 was going to be huge and I’m almost positive that the next line was, “and here’s to 50 more!” The very next day, Newsarama ran a story about how Ms. Marvel had been cancelled.
Timeliness. Without it, there is no news.
Yesterday, Gareb Shamus (president and CEO of Wizard World Inc.) announced that the print version of Wizard was being discontinued along with their action figure counterpart Toyfare, and next month will see the launch of the digital magazine Wizard World.
It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Wizard will no longer be in print. After all, the comic industry itself is struggling, and how can a magazine about comics sustain itself in such a difficult market? I mean, if the comic industry has reached a point where the highest selling comics are topping out at under 100,000 issues sold, then a print magazine that comments on under selling comics simply has no chance.
Could the print version of Wizard have survived in some form? Of course it could have. The problem with Wizard‘s demise is two fold:
1) Timeliness – as stated before, the internet provides information instantaneously which is something that a magazine simply cannot. Unfortunately, Wizard never really changed with the times and it remained in the mentality of what a magazine should be rather than adapting to a changing market.
2) Price guide – Initially, Wizard‘s price guide was the go-to for wannabe speculators looking to make some money on their old comics. Wizard was the poster child for the 90’s era of the speculator boom and given that the market eventually busted, the Wizard price guide likewise fell apart. Essentially, half of the magazine’s function dried up in the late 90’s.
Given that the price guide was obsolete and the internet effectively killed its timeliness, Wizard should have become was a place to interpret comics in a scholarly light. As comics became legitimized and worthy of literary discourse shortly after the new millennium, Wizard should have shifted to fulfill the need for good literary criticism within the world of comic books. It should have been on the cutting edge of literary interpretation instead of relying upon news and rumor to fill its pages.
Given that both Wildstorm and Wizard have closed up shop, it feels as if last vestiges of the 90’s have died. All of the glamor of the boom era of comics has truly disappeared now that these two giants have folded. Its really kinda sad when you think about it.
Still, I suppose there is hope on the horizon as the digital form of Wizard World will be out soon. I hate to be so pessimistic in this article, because Wizard has been around for 20 years, so no one can call it a failure by any stretch of the imagination. I just wish it could have changed into what it should have become.
To conclude this article, I would now like to reflect on some of my favorite Wizard moments:
1) Mort of the Month – This feature was a spotlight for the worst superheroes and supervillains in comic books. If it weren’t for the Mort of the Month, I wouldn’t be aware of villains like Rainbow Raider and Crazy Quilt. I’m immensely thankful for this feature because it improved my knowledge of obscure characters and gave me an appreciation for things that are considered “awful” (perhaps this is why I love Showdown in Little Tokyo so much).
2) the Sentry – Maybe I’m the only one who remembers this, but before the first Sentry mini-series came out, Wizard ran a story about a forgotten superhero created by Stan Lee and a forgotten artist named “Artie Rosen.” The magazine claimed that some old sketches of the character were found and Marvel had decided to create a mini-series to honor Rosen (who had apparently just passed away). The thing is that Artie Rosen was made up. He never existed. Likewise, Stan Lee never created a character named “the Sentry.” Marvel and Wizard worked together to fabricate the story in order to generate some buzz about the comic.
Obviously, this raises some ethical issues regarding the role of journalism within comics, but honestly, it was kind of a fun idea. Had it happened today, I think I would be mad, but back then, I thought it was a pretty great prank. Also, the Sentry introduced me to Jae Lee’s artwork and he is now my favorite comic artist.
3) Blackbull – In 2000, Gareb Shamus decided to launch a comic book imprint called “Blackbull.” Only three titles were ever released, but it was still a cool project. Just a Pilgrim is probably the one everyone remembers because it was written by Garth Ennis, but Gatecrashers (written by Mark Waid) was kind of a cool title as well.
4) All those exclusive offers – With all of their half issues and exclusive action figure offers, Wizard and Toyfare were fantastic at promotion. Some of the action figures still fetch some coin, and I’m sure the price will go up from here.
5) Twisted Mego Theatre – Toyfare used to be one of my favorite things in the world. I can still remember laughing until I cried while reading an issue of Toyfare with my best friend Jared Lee. Twisted Mego Theatre was one of the funniest things ever and I can still remember my favorite bit being when Dr. Doom unveiled his most powerful weapon, the Spice Cannon (a weapon that fired deadly Spice Girls).
6) Keep Squeezin’ Them Monkeys Lad – He didn’t last long, but I thought he was hilarious.
If you have any favorite Wizard memories, be sure to post them in the comments section and lets celebrate the magazine together!