thrift store finds: wizard: the guide to comics #28

Today we’re looking at Wizard: The Guide to Comics, Issue #28. Published by Wizard Press in November 1993, the original cover price for this bad boy was $3.95… I paid a buck.

1993 was a big year for the comics’ industry, in that it was the last great gasp of the speculator boom time which began in the mid 1980’s. In the eighties and nineties, comic book makers were increasingly focusing their product on a collector’s market rather than a broad readership. Companies introduced a variety of gimmicks to get their fans to buy multiple copies of the same book. Some were sold in pre-sealed polybags to force collectors to buy two copies. Other comics ran with multiple variant covers, throwing completists into a buying frenzy. Superhero comics were published with an incredible amount of hype… and VERY little in the way of substance. Wizard Magazine became a key part of this hype machine, not only in their reporting, but also in their price guide.

It was for this very reason I chose to write about Wizard #28. I wanted to see what excesses the comics industry was peddling in ’93 and if there was anything on offer that had substance. I should also, before we get into the actual content of the magazine, confess something: As a kid, Wizard Magazine was a BIG DEAL for me and my friends. We read it to pieces. I saved every issue of Wizard and kept them on my bookshelf. Without the Internet, it was very hard to socialize your love of comics… and for good or ill, Wizard filled that role for me as a kid.

Wizard’s editorial style leant itself to the teenage mindset pretty heavily, as you’ll see in this post. I have some residual nostalgic love for the magazine, even though it was truly brain-dead and heinous at times.

I suppose I must begin by talking about the beautifully designed triple gatefold cover.

Most Wizard covers were gatefolds- they would expand out when you opened the magazine to reveal a bigger image. The Simpsons cover is a TRIPLE gatefold cover, encompassing a great number of characters from the show. It’s a well designed piece in that the cover begins facing the reader, and then turns away from the reader. It’s sort of interactive, and that’s a fun aspect of the drawing… which I have to point out, was drawn by Bill Morrison and Steve Vance, NOT Matt Groening. See?

Huh. Someone miscolored Lou the police officer.

While the drawing IS awesome, it’s hardly emblematic of what you’d normally find splashed across the covers of Wizard. More often, overly rendered superheroes graced Wizard’s cover, but in 1993, Matt Groening launched Bongo Comics as a home The Simpsons’ print adventures. Today, Bongo remains a going concern and is one of the only companies whose comics can easily be found on supermarket newsstands.

Wizard was divided into two sections- the magazine content and the price guide. I’ll talk about the price guide first, as I have very little to say about it. Every month, the Wizard Price Guide would (supposedly) keep a tally on the comics market… specifically which comic books were going up in value, and which were decreasing in value. I seem to recall reading Wizard consulted with comic book shop owners about these prices. In reality, I’m willing to bet a fair amount of the price guide was dictated by whatever the hell the copy editor was feeling on the morning of publication, or what comics Wizard was pushing on a given month. The price guide was in NO way complete, but I never remember it being advertised as such.

I remember really liking those little “If You Missed…” capsules at the bottom of the pages.

Ok, onto the content of the magazine. I’ll briefly talk about the regular features of Wizard with my own perspective on them.

Magic Words: The letters column. Remember, this was 1993, years before you could easily hop on the Internet and engage in a blistering flame war with some asshole about whether or not Iron Man could beat up the X-Men. For a time, Magic Words served that purpose. The discourse was about as intelligent as you’d expect. To wit:

Your mileage may vary as to whether or not you think this is funny… or insulting to Wizard’s readership. I tended to lean toward the former when I was a kid, but as an adult reading this thing, it’s embarrassing. Looking at it now, Wizard is probably the most sophomoric magazine I’ve ever read outside of something like Maxim. Read on to see this illustrated further.

Wizard News: Some headlines covering the just-announced news that likely couldn’t be massaged into a feature piece so close to when the presses had to run. In November of 1993, DC Comics had just announced an end point for The Sandman, the mega-popular Vertigo Comics series penned by Neil Gaiman. Also included in the headlines, an announcement that adult magazine Penthouse was getting into the comics’ business and a brief piece about Jeff Smith‘s Bone appearing in Disney Adventures Magazine under the headline

Classy, Wizard… classy.

Feature Articles: This month, Wizard spotlighted Matt Groening and Bongo Comics, John Byrne, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Joe Quesada. The article on Quesada focuses on his art career, but obviously the guy would go onto bigger things, chief among them a stint as Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics throughout the 2000’s. I’m going to give Wizard some credit here. While they have a quite deserved reputation for only covering genre comics and big comic creators, there is also a nice piece on Steve Bissette here. Bissette is a quality creator who definitely wasn’t on a lot of folks’ radars during the early 1990’s.

Palmer’s Picks: Spotlighting “indie” books, I’ve talked about how important Palmer’s Picks was to my growth as a comics’ reader before. This month, Tom Palmer writes about Colleen Doran‘s A Distant Soil. I can tell you for a fact, back in 1993, I went out and sampled A Distant Soil based on Palmer’s column this month. I can also tell you, for a fact, I completely hated it… but I was inspired to go out and try it. That’s something.

Hunk and Babe of the Month: …and after praising the mag a bit, let’s go back to the gutters with something awful. Hunk and Babe of the Month is a truly reprehensible aspect of the magazine- very early on, it was just “Babe of the Month” and featured the editorial staff drooling over whatever big boobed fictional character they most felt like degrading in a given month.

Eventually, people wrote enough letters in complaining about the column’s sexism to lead to the addition of a hunk, but this always struck me as an afterthought. Even as an overly hormonal teenager, I NEVER understood this facet of comics fandom. The characters people are drooling over are just drawings on piece of paper.

Toying Around: A monthly column on the toy industry. Toying Around was WILDLY popular with my friends and I… and I’m betting with other readers in general, as Wizard expanded the column out into its’ own monthly magazine a few years after this. The best part about Toying Around were the fan-submitted custom figures

Comic Watch: A column that looked at affordable comics which COULD potentially become a collectable sometime in the future, often this column would spotlight possible good investments in comics. Wizard invested HEAVILY in the collectable mindset which pervaded the industry in the 1990’s.

This month, Wizard’s pushing you to buy the first appearance of John Constantine in Swamp Thing #37… which would have been a decent buy if you scooped it up back in ’93. They also told you to buy Eternal Warrior #4, featuring the first appearance of The Eternal Enemy… and this would NOT have been such a good buy. I’ve seen this book in quarter bins a million times in the past decade.

Picks from the Wizard’s Hat: Wizard NOW tells you which NEW books will presumably be worth big bucks in future.

I have to imagine most of these books were chosen based on how much advertising the company chose to buy in a given issue of Wizard, as there are some real stinkers here. Nova #1 leads the pack… but Defiant ComicsThe Good Guys is pretty bad as well. The five major picks lead into a couple of pages of small choices, some with a “RR” label, meaning that while they might now accrew any value, they might offer a decent story. RR books identified by Wizard for this month include two books written by Frank Miller (Daredevil: Man Without Fear and Sin City), John Byrne’s Next Men, Aquaman, and Marvels, written by Kurt Busiek with painted artwork from Alex Ross. Marvels would prove to be one of the big sellers for Marvel during the lean years after the bottom fell out of the comics’ market.

Top Ten: Wizard NOW tells you which already-hot comics you should be ponying up your dough to purchase. More often than not, these were “flash in the pan” hits with very little staying power. As with the Picks of the Week, there are a LOT of stinkers on the Top Ten, including most of DC Comics‘ various publishing events connected to The Death and Return of Superman and their crappy 1990’s Batman.

…and that’s about it. Clearly from the tone of those last three sections, you can see how heavily Wizard was invested in championing the collector mentality of the speculator market. When the bubble burst in the mid 1990’s, Wizard reaped what they had sewn and had a tough time covering an industry which had shrunk so significantly due to greed and excess. The magazine eventually dropped quite a bit of its’ comic coverage and started focusing on geek-related Hollywood news in order to compete on the newsstands.

A little over a year ago, Wizard Magazine seised publication, citing a great loss of profits in their print endeavors… but for the better part of my pre-teen years, Wizard was the bible for comics as far as I was concerned. I have a feeling a LOT of guys my age would feel the same way. I mean, look at this advertisement:

Seriously, Wizard Magazine sold GOLD RINGS WITH THEIR LOGO PRINTED ON THEM. Now, I’m not sure ANYONE bought one, but they were popular enough to have ’em on offer. That’s sort of crazy.

4 Responses to “thrift store finds: wizard: the guide to comics #28”

  1. This is from when I owned my shop! Believe it or don’t, Wizard actually spent quite a bit of time putting that price guide together each month. Most of the information was taken from the sales at their own store (Wizard started as a newsletter for a small comic shop, imagine that!) but by the time issue #5 came out they had established a phone network for determining “Hot” items. Many retailers (myself included) were encouraged to call in with any big sales or sales trends and were rewarded with “Wizard Exclusive” variant covers of random books that rarely ever made it past issue #2 which we could then sell for $60-$100. For example, I’d call in that I just sold a copy of Punisher #1 for $20. They would then ask a bunch of follow-up questions regarding other stuff that other retailers had called in (“How’s the new issue of X-Men selling for you? Any increased interest in Howard The Duck? How are your pre-orders for the new Valiant titles?”) and then they’d send me a special foil variant of WildStar #1. And then when next month’s Wizard hit the stands, it would show that the NEW guide value of Punisher #1 was now $25! This is how Wizard kept pushing the back-issue market in to the frenzy it became 🙂

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      That’s really interesting Brian. I even sort of recall the magazine giving this process some lip service in their “Market Watch” section at some point…

      I found a TON of those exclusive Ultraverse books with the hologram covers that Wizard used to give away in the Half Price Books quarter bins. I remember those going for INSANE money when I was a kid. I was tempted to buy one, just because.

  2. I have a bunch of these Wizard, the guide to comics, books. Are they worth anything. Mostly from the early to mid ’90’s. Guide numbers 35 to 52.

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      I’m fairly certain most issues of Wizard aren’t worth much but you might want to check on eBay. There could be some that have value. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

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