John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


Farewell Wizard

Wizard Entertainment announced on Monday that it has ceased publication of its Wizard and Toyfare magazines, bringing an end to one of the pillars of my childhood.

Although I hadn’t bought the magazine in years or read it in months, I’m sorry to see it go. It was a big part of my adolescence – I still have a stack of issues sitting at my dad’s – and helped shape me as both a writer and as a person.

Since 1991 Wizard has been the go-to source for most comic book fans. The monthly magazine featured news items, interviews, how-to articles, reviews, previews and just about anything else you can imagine involving comics, all in an irreverent and fun package.

It was that flippancy and sense of humour that has informed my personal and professional style. Although journalism is rarely an appropriate venue for sarcasm, it certainly has its place on this blog, on my Twitter feed, on Facebook and most especially in person.

Every so often I’m reminded of one of Wizard’s jokes or particularly funny turns of phrase and I still laugh.

For example, like the Marvel Comics of the 1980s and early 1990s, Wizard always had a page dedicated to the antics of its bullpen of staff.

In that space they often discussed the escalating prank war amongst the magazine’s different departments, including a gag where three staff members took thousands of photocopies of their faces and plastered them all over their rival’s offices. Into file folders, on computer screens, covering phones, cut into slices and taped to the individual slats of venetian blinds. Everywhere.

Years later, when my friends Wes and Ruben wanted to prank our friends Kate and Hannah, I knew just what to do. Nearly $150 at Kinko’s and hours in the girl’s apartment later, and we’d covered every square inch with black and white copies of our faces, all with the staff of Wizard as our inspiration.

But the slick magazine’s reach extended far beyond its sophomoric humour.

As Matt Demers of points out “Wizard showed me that a person could take something that he/she enjoyed and make a living at it. The articles were written with passion and flair, and exposed me to the deeper side of comics' fandom.”

Basically, being a writer for Wizard was what I aspired – really, still hope - to be. It helped show me that it’s possible to make a living being creative and doing what you love.

But as much as Wizard was a positive influence on me and my work, it also served as a cautionary tale in two respects.

First, it was often criticized by comic fans and professionals alike for essentially becoming a catalogue for the industry’s two biggest publishers - Marvel Comics and DC Comics - and generally ignoring smaller or independent printing houses.

Obviously, this underscored the need not just for journalistic integrity, but to have diversity in your coverage. If you’re going to develop a beat and report on something like the comics industry, you should not neglect any corner, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

Second, despite its decidedly nerdy demographics, Wizard never really expanded on to the internet. Yes, they had a website but it never had any news or really any content beside subscription information or the details on their series of conventions.

I think this was their ultimate undoing. Wizard was in a position to get in on the ground floor of the Internet boom with a hardcore audience that would presumably be web savvy. could’ve been ComicsAlliance nearly a decade before there was a ComicsAlliance.

Instead, publisher Gareb Shamus stuck with Wizard’s out-dated print-only business model. Ironically, they plan to launch, an online comics magazine in February, but it’s obvious to everyone that the cat is out of the bag with several competitors already well-established online.

Farewell Wizard, it’s been fun. You taught me a lot about comics, writing and journalism both in life and in death, but your time had come.