Why Wizard? (or, Donde Estan Los Testiculos?)

It’s been a while, but I’m willing to take you back! It’s time for Tact is for the Weak, the article that has NO problem teabagging someone asleep on the tour bus with their mouth open. Before I begin, I wanted to assuage any concerns by stating for the record that I had a great time at the international drumline competition, but it’s great to be back among my followers and acolytes!

Let’s take another one of Tact is for the Weak’s famous time trips, back to the dark ages…

…of 1991. While in college, Gareb Shamus, inspired by his work at his parents’ specialty store and his friendship with some shmuck named Todd McFarlane, began publishing a newsletter featuring the estimated values of popular comics. Within a year, Shamus had moved from paltry newsletter to semi-legitimate magazine, including close ties with then-emerging Valiant and Image Comics. However, it was only after the titanic frenzy surrounding the Death of Superman event in the early 90′s that fans and readers began clamoring for the “inside scoop,” and Shamus’s Wizard Magazine fit the bill. Soon, most big-name publishers (including DC and Marvel) were eagerly swapping exclusive scoops and secret information in return for preferential advertising space in the growing magazine.

Fast forward to the present. Wizard is now the number one hard copy news source for comic book fans, and virtually the only source for “inside information” pertaining to the comics industry. Now shipping monthly across the globe, the comic shops that don’t carry Gareb Shamus’s baby are few and far between.

“Hold on,” you may be saying, “this magazine sounds like an essential tool for the modern comics fan. Why is this tool rocking the boat?” Hmmph; my time away has obviously damaged your faith in me, my studious apprentices. While Wizard may provide special previews and information that can’t be found anywhere else, it has also become a veritable propaganda machine for its publisher clients (most notably DC, Marvel, and Image). One only needs to look at the indulgent “Top 10 Writers and Artists” feature, which is horribly biased towards the larger publishers. Furthermore, Wizard typically devotes at least two or three whole pages answering fan mail, and the self-indulgent, always-moronic back page feature “The Bullpen,” but only the tiniest of blurbs are given to news items pertaining to the smaller, independent publishers.

Of course, one could argue that the vast majority of comics fans prefer the products from the larger publishers over the smaller, independent ones, and thus any preferences shown to these larger companies are justified. Also, much like a certain distribution company, Wizard is a veritable monopoly in its sphere of business (namely, comics industry news). Not that there’s a real demand for another comics magazine; there’s a reason Kevin Smith’s Monthly Comics Journal never took off (well, okay, more than one reason…).

However, neither Wizard’s lopsided content nor its monopolistic hold on the comics industry’s news reporting is the problem here; the real issue here is that Wizard has long since bent over and taken it up the ass from its publisher clients. Forget the ring, forget the nuptials; Wizard has become the comics industry’s personal call girl.

Now, I don’t mean to say that the Wizard staff has become a literal harem for the publishers; I mean that, rather than an idealistic, non-biased, journalistic publication, Wizard has become the comic industry’s leading source for publicity and hype. Don’t expect to find any eye-opening investigative journalism or hard-hitting feature stories; the only articles being published typically involve pestering comics creators with the usual “What projects would you like to do? What’s it like working with John Byrne?” blather, providing a special “sneak peek” at an unreleased title (usually strategically revealed on the publishers’ cues), or occasionally bothering some poor celebrity that happens to be stuck portraying a fan-favorite character in the latest comic book movie adaptation (see the “star treatment” Rebecca Romijn-Stamos received for her role as Mystique in Marvel’s X-men movies).

Of course, most people who read Wizard do so with open eyes, and understand that 85% of what they read is carefully planned by the publishers before it even reaches the Wizard offices. And hey, if pre-fabricated “news” stories straight from the administration’s desk are your cup o’ tea, fine by me (may I also suggest FOX News); I just prefer actual news when it’s money coming out of my pocket so I can read it.

Well, that was a nice, cleansing experience! Before I leave you, it’s time to dole out this week’s Tactless Book of the Weak Award!!!

This week, the award goes to… DC Comics’s Ion #1, written by the woefully unlikable Ron Marz. Now, perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to judge Marz on his latest sci-fi project (after all, I know how well he treated my man Hal Jordan), but to be fair… it’s really not a top-tier book. For all the grief Marz is sure to receive from Green Lantern fans, his writing is actually pretty good. He manages to capture the essence of Kyle Rayner (not difficult, since Marz was the one that created him), and lends a nice flow to the pacing of an otherwise bland issue (not really any action to be found here, but there is a monumentally forced historical recap in the middle of the book!). There is the troubling status of Kyle’s mind, however. One choice line: “I never had a choice…I didn’t ask to become this” (not to say that Marz is a one-note guy, but this sounds a little Parallax-ish, don’t it?).

However, the real tragedy of this book isn’t the story; it’s the wildly hectic and uneven art by Greg Tocchini. He has some great ideas with his shading and has an almost cinematic approach to the viewing angles, but his general body art (particularly the scenes in outer space) leave something to be desired. The earth scenes are very well rendered, but the body contours in the space scenes are unwieldy and distracting, and, were it not for the generally good quality of the rest of the issue, one would think that this issue was done by an unexperienced artist. Sorry if this angers any Tocchini fans out there, but with all the hype DC has been giving this book (supposedly one of the “essential” post-Infinite Crisis titles), I was expecting more.

Well, that’s all for now. Before I go, you all better be damn sure to stop by and wish me luck on my college finals this week! Nothing puts me in a sour mood like having to take Honors Philosophy, Music Theory, and piano proficiency finals all on the same day! But enough about my problems; it’s great to be back in the saddle, and it’s only getting better from here! So be sure to tune in next week, i miei amici, as I bringeth the hammer!

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