The Rise and Fall of Wizard Magazine Part 1

by Matthew Russell - Posted 3 weeks ago

Welcome, my CryptoComics Compatriots. I was recently going through a box in my office (Spring Cleaning) and found an old Wizard Magazine. I started reminiscing about the “Good Old Days” of racing to my local comic shop and picking up the latest issue along with the adventures of Batman, DareDevil, Moon Knight, and so on. 

I was able to find new and exciting characters that were normally outside my limited purview (Lady Death, Witchblade, Dawn, Savage Dragon, Tick - the list goes on) and get insight into the inner-workings of the industry that I hold dear. 

Hell, I first learned about Image Comics' 10th Muse from the pages of Wizard Magazine. If I remember right, it was the Tower Records variant of issue #1. Today, you can find some of these older issues on the CryptoComics Marketplace (including that particular issue), where they continue to captivate new readers and collectors, preserving the legacy that Wizard helped establish.

I decided to hit Google and go down a very strange rabbit hole as I started typing “What happened to Wizard Magazine. After about 4 hours of searching, see…rabbit hole, I decided to write this article and share it with you. 

For those unfamiliar with Wizard (I’m not sure how that’s even possible), let's start with a brief introduction.

Wizard Magazine was THE beacon for comic book enthusiasts, a publication that didn't just celebrate the world of comics but actively shaped its future. In its heyday, Wizard transcended being a mere a magazine; it became a gateway into the universe of superheroes, industry news, and exclusive content. It was essentially a monthly portal to imagination and wonder.

Fans eagerly awaited each issue (I can personally vouch for this), and Wizard's influence extended far beyond its pages, leaving an indelible mark on pop culture. 

In this article, we’re going to explore the meteoric rise of Wizard Magazine. Everything from tracing its early years, it’s “Golden Era", and the innovations that cemented its place as a true powerhouse in the comic book industry.

The Early Years and Rapid Growth

Wizard was founded in 1991 by Gareb Shamus, this dude was (and still is) a passionate comic book aficionado with a vision for a magazine that would appeal to both hardcore fans as well as the casual reader. 

In my personal opinion, the early years were characterized by a bold, vibrant approach to comic book journalism, setting Wizard apart from its contemporaries. This is an approach that I would really like to take in these blog articles. If only I had a large enough team dedicated to just this.

ANYWAY, Shamus aimed to create a magazine that not only reported on the industry but also actively engaged with its audience. Call me crazy, but I think he succeeded!

Wizard's core content quickly became its defining feature. It offered comprehensive comic book news, covering everything from major industry announcements to niche, underground movements. 

A standout section was the market price guide, an essential tool for collectors wanting to stay updated on their collections' value. Normally you had to grab a quarterly copy of the Overstreet Price Guide. This was clunky and extremely expensive to do on a regular basis. Wizard wouldn’t show the price changes for ALL the comics ever created, but the main ones. 

Wizard also featured in-depth interviews with some absolute beast of creators, providing readers with insights into the minds behind their favorite comics. I remember reading all about Rob Marz or the creators behind Image.

Fan interactions were crucial to Wizard's success. They encouraged reader participation through letters columns, fan art showcases, and polls, fostering a sense of community among its readers. I think I even submitted some fan art at one point, not that it was ever published, but I did it.

This approach helped Wizard create a deep connection between the magazine and its audience.

Wizard Magazine's influence on comic book culture was profound. It shaped major trends, highlighted groundbreaking works, and championed both mainstream and independent creators. 

By blending entertainment with informative content, Wizard became an indispensable resource for fans, playing a pivotal role in the evolution of comic book fandom throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Golden Years

During its golden years, Wizard Magazine reached numerous milestones, becoming an essential read for comic book enthusiasts. Iconic issues like the debut of Wizard #1 and the celebrated "Wizard Top 10" lists solidified its reputation. 

The magazine significantly influenced major comic book events, such as the rise of Image Comics, the Marvel vs. DC crossover, and the launch of the Ultimate Marvel line, reflecting its deep integration into the industry's fabric.

Wizard was renowned (and sometimes mocked) for its notable exclusives and major scoops. Even if they mocked Wizard, they still had to pick up the magazine. Early previews of blockbuster titles, insider interviews with industry legends like Stan Lee and Todd McFarlane, and special variant covers became hallmarks of the publication. 

Ok, who remembers the “Swimsuit Editions?” Yep, straight out of Sports Illustrated…

The magazine’s ability to break news and offer first looks at upcoming releases made it indispensable for fans and collectors alike. This was how I decided exactly what to add to my pull-list at Cliff’s Comic World (shout out to Cliff). 

Wizard's influence on trends, from spotlighting new talent to shaping fan discussions, underscored its pivotal role in the comic book world during its most successful years. It was through this that I found and started following certain creators, and still follow them today.

Expansion Beyond Print

As Wizard Magazine grew in popularity, it expanded beyond merely print to become a multimedia juggernaut (pardon the pun). This growth began with the introduction of spin-off publications like ToyFare and InQuest Gamer. 

ToyFare focused on the burgeoning action figure market, providing collectors with news, price guides, and humorous photo comics. I was so sad when they ceased publication in 2011.

InQuest Gamer catered to the gaming community, covering trading card games, role-playing games, and miniatures with the same enthusiasm and detail that Wizard brought to comics. I personally didn’t pick up this one as much as ToyFare. That may explain why it shut its doors in 2007.

One of Wizard's most significant undertaking was the launch of Wizard World conventions. These events quickly became some of the largest and most anticipated comic book and pop culture conventions in the country. 

In response to the evolving media landscape, Wizard also ventured into digital content and multimedia projects. The magazine's website provided readers with up-to-the-minute news, exclusive online content, and interactive features. Think of CBR before the Kingdom Come Message board.

Wizard experimented with digital editions, offering readers a new way to engage with their favorite publication. Additionally, Wizard produced multimedia content, including web series and video interviews, to further connect with its audience.

Through these expansions, Wizard Magazine not only solidified its influence in the comic book industry but also adapted to the changing ways fans consumed media, ensuring its relevance in a rapidly evolving digital world.

To Be Continued

Wizard Magazine’s meteoric rise and subsequent dominance in the comic book and entertainment industry are a testament to its visionary approach and deep connection with fans. 

From its early years of pioneering comic book journalism to its golden era filled with iconic issues and influential events, Wizard became a cornerstone of comic culture. 

In the next post (Decile and Legacy of Wizard Magazine), we’ll delve into the challenges that led to Wizard's decline, exploring the shifts in the media landscape and the financial pressures that ultimately led to its closure.

In the meantime, I’ve already suggested the 10th Muse, but believe me, you should really check them out. If you dive into that, you might get swallowed up until part 2 of this article comes out. Here is a quick synopsis.

Created by our good friend; Darren Davis (that's still so cool to say), the story follows Emma Sonnet, a young woman who discovers she is the reincarnation of the mythical 10th Muse, a forgotten member of the Nine Muses from Greek mythology. Bestowed with incredible powers, Emma navigates her dual life as a modern-day superheroine while uncovering the mysteries of her ancient past.