Words of Questionable Wisdom: Honey Frosted Stupid Bites!
By Paul Sebert
It seems in vogue to pick on Wizard Magazine these days. Why is that? Well for starters about 50% of the magazine (the price guide doesn’t count because really who uses Price Guides these days) is dedicated to video games, anime, Hollywood movies and other forms of entertainment which are not comics. Of the 50% of the magazine dedicated to comics, all but about two pages are dedicated to Marvel & DC, and only Marvel & DC’s biggest projects. If you’re the kind of person whose favorite book is â€œSpider-Man Loves Mary Janeâ€ or â€œLovelessâ€ well then Wizard simply has no time for you.
That said Wizard has one thing over it’s biggest competitor Comics Buyers Guideâ€¦ it’s review section doesn’t make me want to pull my hair out. As much as I love CBG for it’s obvious love affair with the genre and it’s flowery nostalgia pieces, it has some of the most exasperatingly stupid reviewers to ever see print outside of entertainment weekly. Take for example Tim Lasiuta’s 1 and Â½ star review of Justice League of America #3 written by Brad Meltzer from the December 2006 issue of CBG.
â€œHowever, with such a high profile novelist can come a downside. Sure, his name will attract readers who may not normally buy comic books, but the skills that create a regular comic book are not necessarily those that make a novel good.
â€œThis story arc is case in point. In this issue. The Tornado encounters The Phantom Stranger at the grave of Boston Brand, Black Lighting tackles the Tornado clones, and two other plot threads run in the 20-plus pages of story. The trouble comes if this is the only issue you pick up for the run. If have been following the entire thread from JLA and other DC universe books, connect the dots: As a novel, this would be pages 23-45, and you would turn the page to Chapter Four. Problem solved. But this is not.â€
Well actually this is chapter 3 of a multi-chapter story. While there is much to be said about writing for the trade, and having a hard time to jump-on issues. That said Tim Lasiuta seems to be saying that Meltzer’s isn’t qualified to write a monthly comic because Meltzer is using the exact same trade-friendly format that wellâ€¦ just about EVERY COMIC BOOK IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS has used. Now I suppose it’s possible that Lasiuta hasn’t read a comic other than Justice League of America #3 in five years but you could essentially apply his complaint to the third issue of about any story in this format: Ultimate Spider-Man #3, Marvels #3, Watchmen #3…
Oh and the review ends with a downright cryptic comment.
â€œRecommended if you read this series — in sequence.â€
I suppose that Lasiuta frequently reads his comics out of sequence. Maybe he starts at the middle issue and reads the story inside out? Perhaps he prefers to start with the last issue of a story-arch and work his way backwards? For all I know he might be upset because he can’t read the book underwater because his sole gripe seems to be with the book’s format and not it’s actual content.
Another flat-out dubious review can be found in the magazine’s January issue which came out a couple of weeks ago, as Tony DiGerlamo has a bone to pick with 52. Specifically the use of Captain Marvel. Not the handling of Captain Marvelâ€¦ just the fact that DC’s using Captain Marvel at all.
â€œHow many times do we have to sit through another revamp of Power of Shazam? The Captain Marvel character hasn’t been relevant since the â€˜40s; most of the original fans are dead. Ho many more trees will DC kill to revamp a character whose first issue some grandfathers missed because they hadn’t been born.â€
Okâ€¦ now first off I’m not a fan of Judd Winnick’s current Trials of Shazam mini-series, but only because it seems like an effort to fix something that’s not broken. It’s the latest in a long series of efforts into trying to make what’s obviously a children’s character into something serious as if the formula John Byrne used to revamp Superman, or the approach Frank Miller used on Batman can be applied to all characters.. That said consider how much of each issue of Comics Buyers guide is nostalgia based? How many pages are dedicated to Craig Shutt musing over his favorite Silver Age Marvel stories? Or Beau Smith talking about his favorite Bronze age books? Heck this month’s issue of CBG features a countdown of the best World War II era comics featuring Hitler as if the cover Supersnipe #8 was some kind of milestone in the medium. (And really why that one over Supersnipe #9?) Not only would I be willing to guess that a good portion of the readers are old enough to remember the days when Captain Marvel outsold Superman, I’d bet half the magazine’s staff is in that demographic.
Also it’s also not like Captain Marvel’s the Red Bee or some other Golden Age hero completely lost inside of the pop-culture lexicon of the past 60 years. Many fans who weren’t around when the character hit his prime have fond memories of cheesy live-action SHAZAM from the 70s starring Michael Gray or the Filmation cartoon from the 1980s. Even after Fawcett comics was forced to close up shop and the character was in limbo the character had a definite influence of the pop culture of the 50s and 60s. Elvis Presley modeled his haircut and jumpsuits after Captain Marvel Jr. Jim Nabors turned â€œShazam!â€ into a national catch phrase on The Andy Griffeth Show and Gomer Pyle, USMC.
While DC comics may be wrongheaded in it’s current effort at revitalizing the Captain Marvel franchise, to imply that the comic company should mothball the character simply because he’s old seems shortsighted if not downright heartless. Particularly in a magazine that seems to be dedicated to loving all of the he vast history of comics.
So as someone who has written comic reviews and columns on this fine website on and off again for about 3 years nowâ€¦ I please offer all of you aspiring comic critics three tips.
1. Please have a general understanding of how comics have worked in the past 5 years.
2 Please keep in mind the general audience of the publication or website where you are writing the review.
3. Please try not to be a complete idiot.