by Nevs Coleman

Habitual, No Longer….

When people sell off their collections, sometimes it’s an all or nothing gambit. They bring in all their long boxes. No looking back. Someone did this last week and in amongst all the good stuff was a stack of 90’s issues of Wizard. Which was a lot more illuminating than I would have believed.

You see, back in the 90’s, there were, to quote a mate of mine, a metric fuck-ton of comics magazines: Hero, Fan, Indy, The Comics Journal. In amongst this competition, Wizard just looked like P.T. Barnum. ‘HERE, KIDS, these comics will be worth LOADS. BUY MANY!’  That kind of thing. It also suffered from a price guide, and an angle towards journalism that went along the lines of ‘Hey, creator you’re a GENIUS. Tell us why your new project is the work of Plato mixed with Einstein that will be worth millions and sort world hunger at once.’  Brilliantly, it did also have the honour of being the 1st to show off Rob Liefeld’s Captain America/Lady Death Amagalm effort.

Cap:

'Fighting Badness!'

Lady Death:

Fighting Impotence, yesterday.

=

Frankly, those of us behind the counter laughed at Wizard, its foolish attempt to turn comics into some kind of low rent version of the stock exchange, their misguided belief that anyone in comics is a celebrity in the same way that Beyonce or Brad Pitt is a celebrity. Wizard was what you read on Sunday lunch-break at work AFTER you had read all the comics and, well, good magazines that had shipped that week.

Fast forward to 2010 though, and in comparison to today’s Wizard, the 90’s version looks like McSweeney’s with contributions by Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and Hunter S.Thompson and art by Ralph Steadman, Rian Hughes and Scarf. At least it had a letters page. News, also. There were generally more than 20 words on any given page and by God, it wasn’t overwhelmed by endless lists. ’20 comics that James Robinson once read whilst taking a shit!’

'Comics Grant Morrison might read while on drugs 5 of 15! Collect the set!'

‘The Top Ten Women who have been half naked in a film and have some tenuous connection with comics!’

'These are drawn in comics! JUSTIFICATION!'

‘Some books you might want to read with REALLY big repros of the cover and less than a paragraph explaining why this might be so!’

This is GOOD! FOR SOME REASON! OR OTHER!

And sadly, the shitty little incarnation of Wizard, now at less than a fifth page count of it’s ancestor (even accounting for pages dedicated to the price guide) is pretty much all there is if you want to read about comics in a monthly magazine fashion. The Comics Journal is sporadic in its release and priced well out of reason. The Comics Buyer Guide appears to be on a mission to be as expensive as possible whilst utterly dropping the standards for what a well designed cover should look like. Not sure why it thinks reviewing comics that came out six months ago is a wise idea. God bless ’em. It isn’t like reading the exploits of a retirement home in the DC U circa 1967. At all.

Tripwire is pretty well done, but as an annual (or even biannual) it’s more a fancy for when you have a few extra quid than an essential read and given it’s scheduling, they’re just not in a position to do news.  Comics International was a fine, frequent magazine that stopped being monthly, became obsessed with multiple covers and constantly berated it’s readers for wondering why it wasn’t coming out anymore with belligerent editorials quoting Bob Dylan and promising THIS TIME, it would be coming out on time. HONEST.

Most people tell me it’s dead now.  I don’t WANT to go along with gossip, but it has been nearly a year since the last one, which is why I’m suggesting this:

What we are, I think, is in need of a monthly, reliable magazine that’s cheaper than the regular comics. Somewhere between Warrior, Deadline and Comics International.

What would be good:

Kick off bit of news with editorial comments by people who’ve been around a bit, rather than just rewording press releases from the net.

Original Serials from both the ‘Old Guard’ and the ‘New Generation’  I know there’s a habit of posting work almost as soon as it’s done nowadays, but ultimately I think that’s one of the reasons the physical artifact is dying out. ‘Why should I buy this when it’s online?’ Well, what if it wasn’t?

Previews of comics that could maybe be arranged not to be leaked to the net until AFTER publication of the magazine.

A deal where the stuff being serialised would then be available in CHEAP trade collections. Honestly, do the Big Two just work out the price of collections by adding a tenner to how much the comics cost in the first place? (Yep, Strange Tales HC, I’m looking at you! 3 x £3:65 an issue works out as £25 for a HC, does it? Your Mum!)

Maybe some kind of History Of Cool Stuff section with a short essay leading into reprinting some of the great lost works of comics publishing that would be serialised and then reprinted into cheap collections. Moebius’s work is out of print in English. Why is this?

Finally, a decent letters page. Not a bunch of ‘Culled from The Message Boards’ shit but actual letters, like in the old days where people would slate each other and explain WHY the other person was wrong. Which is a step up from the current state of dialogue, innit?

So, having burnt all my bridges with this, I hope SOMEONE takes this idea and becomes stupidly rich with it. We need a community again. Who’s up for it? If you’re going to tell me why it wouldn’t work, piss off! Life is short enough without you faithless fops.

My exposure for this column is the brilliant Kate Beaton. I know nothing about her, but her comics make me laugh:

More of her can be found here.

Be well, dearies…

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2 responses

  1. The thing to understand about early Wizard is that it was basically a bunch of kids getting excited about comics they liked. That explains everything good and bad about the magazine in the earliest days. I think I was one of the older regular contributors and I was barely in my 20’s at the time.

    At that time there was an editorial guideline for contributors to avoid the “this is going to be worth a ton!” type of stuff, I actually think Wizard was a bit more conservative than some of its competitors there, believe it or not. I was needled endlessly by a writer for another mag at a Diamond retailer trade show one year because Wizard hadn’t touted some hot books as a good investment when his mag had done so. That said, there is of course no denying that the hot lists and the guide were hugely influential in that regard.

    Still, we did some good stuff. William and I were the first to interview people like Alan Moore and Garth Ennis there, for example, and I did make an effort to bring good comics to the mainstream’s attention.

    March 11, 2010 at 16:27

  2. Thanks for the TRIPWIRE mention. We wish we could be more frequent but we’re still looking for a publishing partner. News in print these days is almost redundant thanks to the net. There are even rumours that EW is going online only next year. But we are doing another issue this July full of the good stuff people have come to expect in the magazine.

    March 12, 2010 at 15:26

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