What Wizard’s cancellation means for comics

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 theĀ 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!

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6 Responses to What Wizard’s cancellation means for comics

  1. C. says:

    I’m convinced Casting Call set the stage for the late 90′s to early 2000′s explosion of superhero films. While it started as a purely academic exercise in a time when comics were all but forgotten at the theaters, it started the discussion about translating graphic narrative to the screen. In fact, I’d go so far as to guess that many of the earlier casting directors might have used the articles as a point of reference. Many of the projects covered in the series actually saw the light of day (albeit a decade or so after the fact), and even when the proposed comic was “unfilmable,” I always found it fun to debate who should play whom with fellow ambidextrous film/comic nerds.

  2. Michael says:

    I’ve read Wizard since issue 1. The last few years have been, well, in a word, awful. The mag lost weight but didn’t get any smarter. I’m not a huge fan of obtaining my geek news on this newfangled interweb thingy (that’s because I’m old). Does anyone have a suggestion for a replacement mag?

    As for websites, to get my geek on, I read Popgun Choas, IGN, Comic Book Resources, and Newsarama. Still, I prefer the slick pages of a magazine as I curl in my easy chair.

  3. Rob Pickering says:

    I have picked up one issue of Wizard in the last year, and that was because it had a very well-written article about Wally Wood (no, not Kid Flash, idiots). Otherwise, the magazine sacrificed quality long ago for a “slicker” look. I liked all of the things you listed as your favorite moments, and I also liked the exclusive 1/2 and 0 issues that one could order from Wizard (well, some of ‘em. I didn’t care about Witchblade/Tomb Raider or Lady Death). It wasn’t a feature I bought the magazine for, but I know plenty of fanboys and shops that picked it up for the price guide in the back. They stopped once that feature was dropped. Like Michael above, I find that there are plenty of other reliable sources for pop culture news… like popgunchaos.com (I feel like Mick Foley whenever I plug this site… right here… in Springfield, Missouri! *thumbs up*).

  4. Trav says:

    I distinctly remember why I gave up on Wizard. It was way back when the Hellboy movie was about to show in theater’s. A reader wrote in asking why the magazine didn’t really cover comics other than the one’s pumped out by Marvel, DC, or Image.

    Instead of proving that they did cover things out of the main lines, the response was a thinly veiled ad for a upcoming one shot magazine for Buzzworthy comics.

    To me, it was then obvious that they felt that the only way to make a profit was not to report on comics overall, but on only the companies that sold well. So if I wanted to read something critical about a comic (not its plot, but its meaning) I was out of luck. At least until I started using the Internet more.

    I equally loved their running gags such as the Superhero/villain Top 10 and the photo-comics they did every so often, but it was empty calories for my brain.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    I have been collecting comics for over 50 years now… but to regress, while I am retired military years ago, but while in Saudi 1991 and Bosnia in 1996, my best memory was of being in combat was getting my monthly subscription… yes, the half issues were nice and they allowed people to get a taste of new books or reunite with many artist and the heroes… I was really disappointed that Wizard seemed to close its doors … sure digital age started but I no longer see a use of the Wizard format now… it does not give me the information I need.. It just lacks vision to me… but I collect the old issues and many people I talk too also miss the old format and how it helped many old and new collectors to keep up…

    • Popgun Chaos says:

      Thank you for your service and thank you for commenting!

      Wizard was a very rare but very wonderful thing. I miss it dearly.

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