Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Insert Obligatory Wizard Joke Here

I come not to praise or bury Wizard, but to note the passing of a magazine. Although I was aware of it, I was never that interested in it as others were. I was more into newspaper comics than anything currently being printed in pamphlet form back then. Not to mention that there were no in-between comics that could've segued my reading habits from newspaper comics to S-hero comics. To use a relevant analogy, it would be like going from Peanuts to Doonsbury in one shot. The transition would be easier if Bloom County was somewhere in between. There needs to be some kind of comprehension evolution there.

A common complaint about Wizard was that it focused far more attention on S-hero comics while paying 2-page lip service to independent comics. Comics with themes such as life in Palomar, living beans, or cool hep cats. Okay, so maybe Indy comics weren't as much of a chartburner as the most recent fisticuffs, but would it have killed them to do some promotional advertising for praiseworthy comics? I'm guessing the answer is "yes".

Considering that magazines live or die on their customer's tastes, changing their tastes to explore new options would've been sounding the death knell for them. Sadly, their reluctance to change with the times turned them into pariahs and became something of an industry joke. Especially when people were beginning to notice other comics that weren't from Marvel or DC that were more interesting.

Then there was the time the first issue of Pokemon was a consistent seller for sixteen weeks straight on their charts. It must've mystified them that such a kiddiefied concept could've attracted so many readers without having to resort to blood & boobs to attract an audience. (If they'd known that it was actually censored to appear more family-friendly, they would've had to admit that some themes were more attractive to a general audience than others)

Another major knock against Wizard was that it was little more than a thinly-veiled price guide with some comic editorials added in. In fact, it was the price guide taking up the majority of the issues that made me reluctant to pay full price. The only times I ever bought a Wizard was when they were available in a bag of other comics or when a second-hand bookstore had an issue's content that wasn't reproduced elsewhere.

The only reason for reading Wizard would be for the humour, which was remarkably juvenile for its taste. When comic news sites such as Comicon, Newsarama, and ComicBookResources popped up, Wizard declined to put up a webpage of their own to compete with them. After all, they had their own customers to deal with, and why change a good thing? But as the need to be more up-to-date on comic news became a daily ritual, Wizard's announcements of upcoming projects became laughably out of date months after their issue was launced. It was their failure to adapt to a changing climate that spelled their doom. The sad thing is Wizard was a more consistent seller than the comics it routinely covered. Now that sales have fallen to a fraction of what they once were, it seems they can no longer depend on their name brand and have to branch out onto the web. That hasn't stopped them from acting like immature jerks though. They fired their staff without warning, and have no immediate plans to renew subscribers of their money.

So far, Toyfare is the magazine spinoff I'm most likely to miss. I never collected any of the figurines that were advertised (which became more esoteric with episode-specific statues), but I greatly enjoyed Twisted Toyfare Theater. Though I'm disappointed that there'll probably never be an omnibus collection of all the silly comments sprinkled throughout the magazine, as well as some larger TTTs that were too big to be contained in a collected format. Apparently, some of these stories ran throughout the magazine, and would only make sense in that context. Would it really be that difficult to re-edit those issues in a more manageable form? Though, as some people noticed, Toyfare had fallen in quality recently, so it doesn't feel like much of a loss.

Like many readers, I was always more likely to read the humourous commentaries the comic characters were saying than read any of the self-congratulatory essays of Marvel or DC that were the major mainstay of the magazine. I really appreciated its comic summaries which were far too few and far in between. The one that comes to mind is a concise history of the Hulk with wonderfully cartoony art by Brian Ahern:

I have no way of knowing if any of this is true, and if it is, it's even more ridiculous than I ever thought.

I was never a big fan of the Jade Bruiser, and even after reading all this, I'm even more reluctant to even start.

This is the inherent danger of trying to tie everything that's happened into one cohesive narrative. Some things may fall apart even as various writers try to hold everything together.

Personally, this last part is where the appeal begins to fall apart for me.

For those of you lost in the last panel, it's a reference to Future Imperfect, about an old tyrannical Hulk versus a younger Hulk. It's these kind of in-jokes that lessens the impact of these summaries. Marvel's What The...?! magazine had a spot-on parody of Akira that ended with an in-joke involving their editors, which felt extremely out of place with everything else that happened. If Wizard had made a more serious effort to put their essays in comic form, they could've collected them together in an easy-to-read format for an interested public. Of course, nobody back then ever thought that anything in magazine form would be considered being read again years later. Do you see the irony here? A comics magazine devoted to pricing rare comics back when comics were disposable entertainment with throwaway comic material that should be reprinted.

Pop Quiz: If Wizard and Toyfare magazine were listed in a price guide, how much would they be worth? The winner will get a no-prize.

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