Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wizard Whirled

Lots of talk on the internets about the editor-in-chief vacancy over at Wizard Magazine, the slick market-leader in comics "journalism." I put that it quotes because it's not a very good magazine. Mediocre writing, poor presentation, editorial myopia, all of which add up to a sophomoric catalog for Marvel and DC.

I was reading Augie De Bleick's Pipeline column today, and he laid out some very valid points about what needs fixing over there.

For my part, I won't run down my litany of suggestions. And, no, not because I'm saving them for some job interview. I haven't been offered the gig and probably wouldn't take it if I was. (For lots of reasons, chief among them: they couldn't pay me enough to leave EW and stop suckling at the Time Warner golden teat; I don't particuarly wanna commute from Jersey to upstate New York; and going back into comics journalism would prohibit me from writing comics themselves.)

But I will say this: Wizard should aim to be the Sports Illustrated of comics. Bet you thought I was gonna say EW, right? No, our focus is too wide. SI, on the other hand, is all about sport, in every possible permutation. You get the meat-and-potatoes coverage you're expecting, of the NFL or the NBA or the or MLB or the PGA, but you still get stories about up-and-coming atheletes, veterans, sports you never thought were sports (spelunking, anyone?), and breaking news about sport (steroids, gambling, sex-offender high-school coaches, etc.). You get everything you could possibly want, as a sport fan: something about that particular sport you're interested in, something about sports you might not be, and a "deep dive" into a surprising arena you hadn't thought of.

So replace "sport" with "comics" and "athlete" with "creator."

Why isn't Wizard covering these reports of gender discrimination and sexual assault? Why aren't they doing a reported piece on the effect shipping delays have on readership? If you've gotta cover Hollywood, why not a piece on all the capeless comics that are becoming movies? Or the shift in the firmament that has occurred thanks to the old Hollywood gatekeepers—the ones who shunned comic flicks—dying and being replaced with younger ones that grew up with comics? All right alongside stories about the latest Marvel and DC books.

All I'm saying is that there's a way to make Wizard a real magazine, one that covers its industry without talking down to their readers, without pandering to the marketplace but still giving it what it wants. Yes, they will lose a few friends, maybe a few advertisers. But if what you're after is a legitimate journalistic enterprise instead of a PR outlet, then it's worth it.

Look, I did what I said I wasn't gonna do. Stupid blog.


Bill Cunningham said...

I've always thought that Wizard should be the Variety and Hollywood Reporter of comics, but not sooooo B2B.

There should be hard news in comics, and since it's a monthly it's perfect for in-depth examinations (as opposed to websites which are great for quick blurbs).

Will it happen?


marc bernardin said...

problem is, Variety or Hollywood Reporter wouldn't work as a monthly publication. News happens too fast for that. Hell, its hard making it work at EW, and we're weekly.

Wizard needs to create an integrated magazine-website plan, so they can break news on the site, and then spin it forward in the magazine.

But, will it happen? Who knows. Change is never easy, especially change that requires a total shift in business practices

Ken Lowery said...

There's also the assumption that Wizard wants to be anything other than what it is right now. As you say, they're at the forefront, and all the depressing things that little fact says about the comic book industry's self-esteem will mean nothing to them. Because all they see is "we're number 1", and will thus decide that there's no reason to change.

I mean, ask Marvel and DC. They operate under the same philosophy.

marc bernardin said...

they are No. 1, but No. 1 in a field of one. So they can't be measuring themselves against competition; the only thing they've got is the bottom line to go by. And their bottom line is shrinking--by half.

At least Marvel and DC can rally around successes (like Civil War, 52, Infinite Crisis, etc.) even though the marketplace is shrinking.

Ken Lowery said...

Well, I guess that depends on what your definition of their field is. There's probably a half-dozen magazines worth mentioning that cover comics, but I have no idea what their circulation numbers are like compared to Wizard's. As you can probably tell, I can't stand that magazine.

The big crossovers and such are a success, insofar as they get the breadth of comicdom to buy the titles. But they seem to do precious little to bring in new fans, garner anything but fleeting attention, or actually change the landscape of how one tells comics. Not that I think every comic needs to be capital-R Revolutionary, but mostly what I see is Marvel and DC cannibalizing a dollar they're already getting. I don't know if you'd call that success or not.