Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Random Reading: Wizard #183

It's been a good five or six years since I've read a new issue of Wizard (although, I did find back issues make for decent bathroom reading, especially the "rumours" section of the news just to see what happened, what didn't). I was, at one point, a subscriber, but I gave it up once I had steady access to the internet at home. As Warren Ellis once said, if you've got the internet, you're buying Wizard for the price guide. And during the time there was overlap, I did find Wizard to be pretty useless, except for the occasional preview or random sidebar where Ellis or Garth Ennis tells us which heroes they would have sodomised for 22 pages given the chance. Otherwise, I got my news, interviews, reviews, solicitations, everything online--hell, I interacted with creators directly online.

But, that was then and this is now. I still don't need--or want--Wizard in my life, but let's see how the old girl is holding up. Is it still a waste of paper or does it hold some value?

I chose the year-end issue very specifically since it was always my favourite issue of the year. It was always bigger, full of longer articles, usually a giant interview with someone important and other fun stuff.

This issue isn't like that. It has the usual year-end awards, but is arranged in such a hap-hazard way that I don't know what the point is.

A break-down of the issue (in which I also spoil all of their awards):

* Editorial
* Letters
* News
* "Man of the Year": Joe Quesada
* "Event of the Year": Civil War
* "Artist of the Year": Steve McNiven
* "Single Issue of the Year": New Avengers #22
* "Breakout Talent of the Year": Charlie Huston
* "'What The?' Moments of the Year": ten random moments where Wizard asks "The fuck?" They're divided equally between Marvel and DC with five each (four for each in the comics, one movie moment each). But, funny thing, ALL of the Marvel moments come from a comic relating to Civil War, the event of the year.
* A comparison between Punisher MAX and Punisher War Journal
* A preview of Olivier Coipel's sketches for the new Thor series
* "Boldest Move of the Year": 52
* "Writer of the Year": Brian K. Vaughan
* "Book of the Year": Daredevil
* "Hero of the Year": Superman
* "Cover Artist of the Year": JG Jones
* "New Characters of the Year"
* "Comebacks of the Year"
* "Villain of the Year": The Governor (from The Walking Dead)
* "Mini-Series of the Year": B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine
* "Movie of the Year": The Descent
* "TV Show of the Year": Lost vs. Battlestar Galactica
* "Animated Series of the Year": Justice League Unlimited
* "Video Game of the Year": Ultimate Alliance
* "DVD of the Year": Superman: The Ultimate Collector's Edition Box Set
* "Collection of the Year": Absolute Kingdom Come
* A chart on who is leading the villains against the Justice League
* An article on New Avengers: Illuminati
* An article on the Metal Men
* An article on Zod
* An article on Green Lantern: Year One
* An article on X-23: Target X
* A profile of the Inhumans as it relates to Silent War
* Three writers argue who is the best Flash (guess who Alex Ross champions)
* Five reason you must read The Lone Ranger (the guy at the shop told me that he loves this book and I should keep an eye out for this article)
* An article on Kaare Andrews and Spider-Man: Reign
* An article on The Darkness
* A section called "MEGA!" where they discuss movies, DVDs, games, manga, toys and other random shit (for some reason, the anime and manga stuff of the year is in here, but DVD of the year isn't--odd)
* "Book Shelf" (reviews of collections--a place where collection of the year might have gone)
* The indie section--where indie book of the year (Scott Pilgrim) is located
* Price guide--with sidebar lists of shit like hot ten comics, hot writers/artists, blah blah blah
* Graded comics guide
* Shows and cons
* Final page goof, this time with Iron Man's Myspace page

Now, every article from "Man of the Year" until "Boldest Move of the Year" also has a "Civil War Report" tag, so you would think they're organised that way, BUT the articles on New Avengers: Illuminati and Silent War ALSO have that tag, so they obviously aren't organised that way--the "'What The?' Moments of the Year" also has that tag for some reason even though it's half DC stuff. Is it just me or should all of the "best of the year" awards go together as they used to?

As well, why do DVD of the year and collection of the year warrant articles independent of their respective sections, while other awards don't?

It's just sloppy, sloppy layout.

Looking at the issue in a more linear way, let's start with the letters. Same old shit, really. People write letters, they get half-assed responses that are supposed to be funny. What really annoys me is how in one letter, the author apparently spelled title "tittle" and the staffer feels the need to mock him for this. Now, am I to expect that this was the only typo found in EVERY letter printed this month? If it is, fair enough, Wizard has the readers who can spell; if not, it's just amateurish dickery. You don't pick and choose which words to edit and which words not to edit (the only exception being if the letter writer is writing in to point out mistakes you made, then you get to point out their mistakes). And, it was a legitimate question posed, but totally ignored because this jackass felt the need to be . . . well, a jackass.

Today, I got the latest issue of Chart in the mail. It's a Canadian music magazine and on its letter page, it doesn't edit a single thing in the letters/e-mails it receives and answers most of them in a very tongue-in-cheek, confrontational way. Except there it works. Why? Because they don't edit any letter and respond to the letters appropriately. Sure, the answers are very asshole-like, but so are the letters. It mostly comes down to this: Chart's letter page is entertaining, while Wizard's is not. Proof, I submit the last letter found in the new Chart (title underlined, response bolded):

You are an idiot! --(person's name)
And your mom, too.

See, with letters like that, you can be an ass. With letters where a reader questions why a feature in your magazine has been removed, yeah, you don't come off looking that great by being a jerk.

Moving on . . .

The news section isn't that bad. It begins with a summary of events/books/whatever coming up in 2007 to look out for. There's a solid mix of news items and fun little features like a history of Robin versus the Joker. This is probably the section of the issue that works the best, mostly because it seems like it has patterned itself on other magazines.

The actual articles of the issue are . . . fine. Not much depth usually. But that's fine, I suppose. The Civil War article summarises the series, hitting the major plot points--oh, it also contains an "editor of the year" award for Tom Brevoort.

My largest complaint with regards to most of the awards (especially the ones relating to specific people) is that Wizard used to get quotes from OTHER creators. If Kurt Busiek was writer of the year, they didn't talk to Kurt Busiek, they talked to other writers who would tell you why Kurt Busiek is so good. You save talking to the specific creator for interviews and profiles. As cool as it is to see some of Brian K. Vaughan's thoughts on his work, that doesn't exactly show me that he's writer of the year--whereas, his peers telling me what they love about his work does.

The JG Jones article is particularly good, only because it has every cover of 52 up to #35 with commentary by Jones and various creators like Mark Waid, Andy Kubert, and colorist Alex Sinclair among others. This technique of changing up how some of the awards are presented works well in the JLU article, which has the ten best moments of the past season and even the Lost versus Battlestar Galactica one.

The non-awards articles are more of the same. They change up the style and format to keep things somewhat interesting, but rarely go beyond the minimum as far as depth goes.

The "MEGA!" section works as well as the news section, giving you information and not much else. It does the job.

"Book Shelf" is an interesting move for the magazine as it acknowledges the importance of trades as ONLY collections get reviewed--no single issues. All but three reviews are a couple of hundred words, but they do a decent job. Again, Wizard seems to have looked to magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin, which also contain large review sections, and aped the format. And it works. The reviews are to the point and give you a good sense of what you'll be getting.

That just leaves the price guide and the less said about it, the better.

Overall, it wasn't a bad read. It certainly has its share of problems and I have no desire to buy another issue (especially with the hefty $7.99 Canadian price tag). I really do think the editorial staff should look to other specialty magazines like Rolling Stone or Sports Illustrated and see what works there and what doesn't. It seems like they already have to some extent.

Oh, and you'll notice that I didn't really talk about how Marvel and DC dominate the content and that's because I don't see the point. That's Wizard. They could definitely improve in that area, but I'm not going to harp on that when they have more basic issues to deal with.

The next few weeks will be really random with updates, just so you know. The holidays and all, I definitely won't be buying something every week. You'll probably get one or two giant posts instead.