Ad Nauseam: Wizard Magazine #78

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Look! Up on the internet! It’s another installment of Ad Nauseam: tediously long articles where I take the form of an elderly man sharing his geeky recollections of “the good ‘ol days” that nobody asked to hear! It’s been a while since I buckled down to write one of these, so I figured my subject matter better have quite the fat to chew. And our issue today is nothing short of obese, folks. I mean, I can practically hear it wheezing.  Let’s set the scene for February 1998:

You’re bummed on the bus ride home from school because your Tamagotchi died for the sixth time this year. As you prepare to get off on your block, Josh the bully, compares your body shape to that of a Teletubbie. Embarrassed, you scurry off with clenched fists. It’s Monday, so you look forward to a new episode of WCW Nitro to cheer you up. You get home and open the door to your room, admiring the new “I Want To Believe” X-Files poster you bought at Spencer Gifts last weekend. You carelessly throw your backpack to the floor, pick up your Gameboy, and fire up your newest savepoint in Pokemon Red. The music of the Spice Girls hum from your clock radio. You hope they play some of The Offspring next. Nope, it’s Alanis Morissette

Frustrated by the sleeping Snorlax ignorantly blocking your way to Lavender Town, you turn off your Gameboy and decide to finally study. But just as you’re about to open your backpack you spot the newest issue of Wizard Comic Magazine on your nightstand. You begged your mother for it, just as you do every month, during another insufferably mundane grocery store trip. “Homework can wait” you think as you delve into another issue, losing yourself in a world of halftone fantasies where you always felt more accepted.  

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Wizard Magazine #78: February 1998 

Wizard was a monthly magazine about comic culture featuring news, previews, and interviews. It boasted price guides, advice columns from industry professionals, and contests packaged in its own slew of offbeat humor. It was also a spotlight on the comic community with monthly sections showcasing fanart, costumes, collections, polls, and reader mail. It ran from July 1991 to March 2011. To admit that “Wizard Magazine was my bible” would be a severe understatement. From my preteen years until my early twenties, it was a respite from the norm. This was long before cinematic and television “universes” and the ability to connect through social media to discuss them all. This was a time where mentioning “Iron Man” was met with blank stares, collecting action figures was a dark hidden secret, and no one noticed you quoted Yoda in your cover letter. 

You can download a PDF of this entire issue here! Although I don’t remember having this issue in particular, you bet your bippy I transformed into my childhood self (sans a Godzilla ‘98 shirt) thumbing through it’s digital pages. Understand this is a 200+ page magazine. I’m not going to cover every advertisement offered. I’m certain that would kill me. But I did cherry pick what I could gab about most complete with bad jokes and embarrassing childhood memories. I recommend reading this while sipping your favorite beverage from a Disney Animal Kingdom McDonalds Collectors cup for a true 1998 experience…

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Tomb Raider II Video Game 

Looking back, it’s sort of wild realizing nearly every male with a Playstation crushed hard on a video game mascot that looks like she’s made out of cardboard boxes. But that’s Lara Croft, baby. Of course, as video game consoles progressed to increase polygons, Lara increased on the Babe-O-Meter. But even in the early days of Tomb Raider, she was still viewed as the sex icon of gaming. Maybe if Samus and Zelda wore some booty shorts and showed off the midriff they’d be in the same discussion? I was aware of Tomb Raider even though I had yet to play the games, and that’s mostly due to seeing ads like these…which involved Lara in some sort of cheesecake-pinup-pose. They certainly get your attention…but, at the time, I didn’t know what these games were about.   

If you never played the Tomb Raider games…imagine an Indiana Jones adventure presented through a mosaic filter…but the protagonist is a rich British babe…and she controls like Frankenstein. Take note this wasn’t just Tomb Raider II…this was Tomb Raider II starring Lara Croft. The character had become so hot that her name became part of the title. And, on top of that, she was getting her own action figure just 2 years after her initial debut! Sure, she ended up looking like Michael Jackson’s mugshot, but it was the only way you could finally wrap your Dorito crusted fingers around a real physical Lara Croft. She’s at her peak, boys. And it’s simply not the late 90’s without Tomb Raider. 

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Wizard World Chicago ‘98 Convention

Besides magazines, Wizard also held some of the largest countrywide comic conventions in the 1990s through the 2000s. Chicago Comic Con started back in 1972 and was purchased by Wizard in 1997. Rebranded as “Wizard World Chicago”, it became the homebase for Wizard Magazine and its award ceremonies. It grew to the third largest pop-culture event in the country, only behind New York and San Diego Comic Con. The first comic book convention I ever attended was Wizard World Chicago (though I was late by a couple years to this particular con) and it was something that rocked my fandom to the core. It was as if the world I had been reading about came to life and charged me money to go inside of it. And although I’m used to paying to go inside things, I always got more than my money’s worth in terms of fond memories and special moments when it came to Wizard World..  

With this ad, you can’t get more “1998” than Todd Mcfarlane’s dramatic mystery face. The guy practically was the comic industry at the time (for better and for worse). Spawn disappointed us all with his big silly Hollywood movie the summer prior yet was still hotter than Hell (ha!). Mcfarlane’s toy company was busting out affordable collector figures with detail like we’ve never seen before. And Image comics was puffing out its chest to bigwigs like Marvel and DC boasting some of the most popular comic characters at the time (#YoungbloodFan4Life). Nowadays, unfortunately, Todd Mcfarlane has been less “let’s revolutionize the comic industry!” and more “My mouth writes checks that my ass can’t cash!”. There was a time where I daydreamed about being this guy…but now I sort of treat him like grandpappy saying racist things at the family Christmas party. Smile and politely excuse yourself.  

Believe it or not, this was a time when comic book conventions were about the comic book industry. A big convention like this would cost you $10 a day or $25 for a 3-day- pass. And you could actually walk around once you were inside. Today, a comic convention is an event in which you put a 2nd mortgage on your house to wait in a line for 16 hours to get a picture with one of the kids from The Stranger Things. It’s worth the “likes” though, isn’t it guys? 

I’m not bitter you’re bitter.  

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Toyfare Magazine Ad

Imagine Wizard magazine but it’s 100% about toys. That’s Toyfare magazine. It’s published by Wizard, so it literally has the same flare, humor, and layout. In fact, I used to get these magazines mixed up all the time. The main difference? I would never buy Toyfare Magazine. Why? Because I was too embarrassed! I could never convince my mom to slap down some hard cash for a subscription, so all my copies of Wizard came straight from the grocery store magazine rack. And this was before the days of self checkout. At the time of Toyfare I was clearly a boy that was approximately “Too-Old-To-Play-With-Toys” age. So the embarrassment of walking up to the cute checkout girl and give her five bucks in exchange for a magazine exclusively about spandex clad plastic people was too much for a shy nerdy 13 year old to handle. 

I had to quickly rifle through the magazine in the store. Quickly scanning each page and absorbing it’s information like a Johnny Five robot obsessed with capitalistic garbage. I had no time to be taken aback by surprising figure releases. Excitement was saved for a safer time. My precious moments were spent cementing release dates in my brain for action figures I pined for. Triple H Wrestlemania 16 Attire? Summer 2001. Now Playing Series 1 Darkman figure? Spring 2005. Scanning. 12 inch Power of the Force Boba Fett with real cloth costume? February 1998. All this data processing being absorbed before my mom waltzed around the aisle with her grocery cart. When she entered within range to command a “C’mon, lets go…” little did she know my knowledge of future action figure releases increased tenfold since we entered the store prior. I had an updated list of future figure daydreams. I could not simply abandon the mission. The future of creating new and robust playtime adventures was at stake. 

I’m pretty sure typing that reinstated my virginity. 

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Julie Strain Posters and Lithographs

I decided to include this ad for several reasons…the first being it’s colorfully ugly…the second being I don’t understand what any of it means…and the third being it features an awkward looking Mark Hamill drawing. It’s three ads in one. Each one being more confusing than the last. So let’s try and make sense of this together…

After some research…Julie Strain was a Penthouse babe in the early 1990s. Think of Penthouse as Playboy’s younger not-as-classy coke addicted brother. And if you really wanted to bring that “sexually frustrated” aura to your room , you can buy some racy original artwork featuring her likeness. But if your parents believe the “Miami weed dealer” aesthetic has no place in their house …well you’re in luck! Because artist Rob Prior replaced all that nudity with 90’s sci-fi fodder! We have some laser guns, Vampirella attire, probably some power crystals (pretty sure she’s wrestling a dinosaur in one). They’d look great hanging next to your gas station velvet tiger painting. The pinups have a bit of an ugly retro charm to them. As for Julie Strain, she made “headlines” earlier this year by simply being alive. God bless, Julie. 

The two other comics advertised have little to no online presence to be researched. I can find next to nothing on the artists either. The “Lost Heroes” comic starring Mark Hamill is pretty interesting because, despite being a futuristic setting featuring demons, Hamill is just drawn wearing a t-shirt on every cover. It’s clear they reached out to license his likeness for marketability, and Hamill just sent them 4 modern 8×10 headshots and cashed the check. 

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Hangar 18 Toys & Collectables 

Wizard issues often featured some ads for “local” businesses such as this one. Of course, with this magazine being nationwide…”local” was a matter of opinion. Although I can’t recall ever seeing a store from my neck of the woods, I still loved seeing what others had to offer. Take “Hangar 18” of Wichita, Kansas offering a peripheral “Who’s who” when it came to a 1998 toy aisle. Star Trek, Babylon 5, DC, Marvel, Star Wars, and Spawn. Also Puppet Master showed up for some reason. Who invited that guy? Do you kids notice anything peculiar? There’s no website! No pre orders either. If I wanted that Violator action figure, I had to call that number, get mailed or faxed an order form, send it back with payment, they process my payment, and finally ship my toy. The whole process could take months. With no guarantees if it would still be in stock either. A Violater of my time perhaps! 

Out of all the figures offered in this ad, I believe I only had a handful of Star Wars “Power of The Force” figures. The electronic X-Wing pictured here was a birthday gift I cherished way longer than necessary. It was possibly one of my favorite toys growing up. I looked up “Hangar 18” and, unfortunately, they no longer exist. What’s sad about a lot of these “pre-internet” businesses is there’s no sign of them existing unless you came across a random ad such as this. A couple years back I bought a couple dozen old Fangoria horror magazines. It was disappointing looking up so many of the “Cult Video” businesses advertised with virtually zero acknowledgement of their existence. Besides these little physically printed nuggets, the internet has been a broom to their footsteps. So tonight, my homies, pour out some Patron in remembrance of your favorite forgotten collectable store. Word up, my brothers-in-plastic-articulated-arms. Your essence lives with Wizard.


 As absolutely syrupy as this sounds, Wizard Magazine was much more than a magazine to me. It was a ticket to another world I’d visit a few hours a month. A world where my interests and hobbies were not insulted or looked down upon…but instead celebrated. An issue of Wizard was always carried in my backpack or messenger bag throughout my life. And it’s a piece of media that has very much shaped the man I am today in too many ways to list. In the words of Egon Spengler “print is dead.”, so the need for this magazine to exist in modern society is moot. But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss what it was. 

To be real, I enjoy looking back as a hobby. Nostalgia is a fun thing to experience from time to time. I haven’t looked through a Wizard since it was currently in publication. And going through this particular issue really gutted me. Every page brought a flood of memories back in a way that no “Ad Nauseam” article had done prior. This was a really bittersweet experience. And I don’t think I can go through another Wizard issue for a while. I’m a person thats always been about moving forward. But nothing has quite sent me the message of “The Past is Dead” like this issue and article.

Thanks for cracking open a 22 year old magazine with me. You’ll always find articles on the remnants of comic culture right here on ChrisDoesComics. Now, excuse me, I have to go purchase some LR44 batteries. My Tamogotchi isn’t just going to revive itself now, is it?

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I Ate Ninja Turtles Kid Cuisine

I’ve yet to come across someone from my generation that doesn’t know what Kid Cuisine is. Whether recalling the penguin mascot on the box or the icy blue plastic tray it came in, others recollections of it are surprisingly fond. And with so many iconic childhood brands going the way of the dodo, it’s remarkable that you can still find Kid Cuisine nestled comfortably in your local freezer section.

I know this because I just bought one from my local freezer section.

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This site has hit an all time low.

No, I didn’t buy it because I had a hankering for soggy cardboard cheese pizza. Nor did I get a craving for soupy slimy mac and cheese. I didn’t yearn for spongey chicken nuggets and a “brownie” so hard it could break a kitchen window. I bought it because it featured the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And anyone that knows me understands you can slap a Ninja Turtle on anything and I’ll buy it. Case and point: Kid Freaking Cuisine.

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A Kid Cuisine Vanity Shot.

I was never particularly fond of Kid Cuisine. I think I just felt, as a kid, it was my duty to eat Kid Cuisine. It’s right there in the title after all. This time around after a nostalgic conversation with my girlfriend I found myself in the “frozen dinner” section for curiosities sake. Lo and behold, towards the bottom of the freezer they be for a mere $1.97. The presence of Ninja Turtles coupled with the diarrhea the meal would surely cause reinforced my purchase. And to bring everything full circle I realized I could write about this on my virtual tumbleweed of a website. Now as I put this in writing I realize it is very sad.

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The activity I did located on the back of the box whilst waiting for my dinner.

I put my tray in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I crushed the activity on the back of the box in about 25 seconds. Writing the Turtles names and weapons down? Please! I scoffed confidently. I pondered why I was doing this exactly. That took some time. Before I could come up with any discernible answer my food was about ready.  And here it is…

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It’s food! (?)

For anybody who wants the details it’s Cowabunga Popcorn Chicken with fries, corn, and Shell Shocked Chocolate Cookies. You’d think a Ninja Turtle themed meal would contain PIZZA. But at this point I realized I was giving too much thought to my frozen children’s meal. I mean, I probably have the longest review on a Kid Cuisine out there right now. And if that’s true, it’s an accomplishment I’ll relish to the grave.

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The new TMNT logo was on the “Shell Shocked” cookies. That was the peak for me.

Now, I’m no food critic. I don’t have sophisticated tastes (I took pictures of a Ninja Turtle doll next to a frozen dinner). I grew up on Happy Meals and think Taco Bell is high culinary art. But I do like to watch Gordon Ramsey television shows. So I have some training in that regard.

THE GOOD

  • The tray is blue. Which is fun. Most trays are not blue.
  • The Cowabunga Popcorn Chicken could be kinda sorta maybe passable with a decent dipping sauce.
  • The Ninja Turtles were on the box. And their logo was on the “cookies”.

THE BAD

  • Everything tasted like the packaging it came in.
  • Corn tasted like packing peanuts. The fries were bland mush. The cookies were literally a bag filled with nobody’s favorite part of an off brand Oreo.
  • I felt sad eating it.

To be frank, it was awful. But it was just a microwavable kids meal for $1.97. And when you’re a kid…you’re picky and your taste palette sucks. So maybe this would be passable to the average 5 year old I don’t know. Taking what I remember about previous Kid Cuisines, I would’ve had a pizza, that weird brownie thing (with some green “ooze” icing) and maybe a Ninja Turtles sticker/trading card/temporary tattoo in the box.

In conclusion, I can’t believe I’m writing about this much more posing it for pictures. I guess it adds to the eccentric charm of my website. I’m not going to recommend this to adults or children. And with the “clean and healthy” eating angle my generation pushes, I’m sort of astonished that these are still around. I’m not saying that because I think you shouldn’t feed trash to your kids, I’m simply saying there’s much tastier trash you could be feeding your kids.

This is just the consequences of being a shill to a brand you love. A slave to my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cowabunga, dudes. Cowabunga.

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I Dissected An Alien

Are toys as fun as they used to be? Would the modern kid rather have a touchscreen instead of a Stretch Armstrong? Years of experience as an expert man-child led me to realize that toys have sort of “grown up” alongside me. Trading “Glow In The Dark!” and “Oozing Action!” features for “collector friendly packaging” and “high articulation and detail”.

Yet sometimes you long for a toy that wants to be played with. It’s a wild concept, I know. So my 25% off coupon and I ventured to a Target toy aisle this holiday season in search of adventure. And I think I found it…in the form of a plastic capsule holding what looks like an aggravated cucumber.

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If you’re not here for this why do you even come here to begin with?

Enter the TREASURE X ALIEN. 

This dude cost me $12.99. They have two other alien designs you can slice into, but I chose this one because I wanted the rare opportunity to own something that looks like someone pickled The Creature from the Black Lagoon. 

ALIEN2Some research (scrolling through Amazon while eating a damp corndog) revealed that Treasure X is a line excavation toys that involve slime, sand, scalpels, skeletons, and serpents. Digging deeper revealed boards games, expansion packs, and promises of REAL (?) gold and meteorite treasure. Feeling overwhelmed and confused I longed for the simple days of baking a tray of insects using a low wattage light bulb. And using my recollection of Creepy Crawlers as a palate cleanser, I decided to (literally) dig into my discounted alien creature. You’ve come this far. You might as well finish the article.

ALIEN3Long story short: You cut open a slimy alien to retrieve a smaller slimier alien.

After struggling with insanely intricate packaging, I removed my oozing phallic space monster as well as several accessories needed to dissect it. The “directions” given were really creative, overall looking/reading less like directions and more like a special top secret assignment. I do not feel as ridiculous as I should I thought to myself standing in my living room dressed in Ninja Turtle pajamas holding a plastic toy scalpel.

I began to cut into the creature, eventually removing it’s rubbery skin plate revealing a bright yellow ribcage. I proceeded to snap it out because I watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe 5 times and that is what you do. That led me to discovering  the alien’s slimy yellow egg-like gut sac. Gut sacs normally don’t intrigue me but I was lost in my playtime imagination and proceeded with the autopsy as directed by my top secret government files from Target.

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What was thought to be a simple autopsy turned out to be a rescue mission.

Using my scalpel to slice open the egg-sac, it began to overflow with what I can only describe as thick dank green ooze. Feeling in the moment, I quietly exclaimed “My god…” to myself as my mutant cucumber’s innards dramatically dripped on the paper towel I laid down out of fear of my girlfriend’s wrath. I then dug my scalpel inside the snot-like region and “rescued” our dear alien adventurer. To the right of the gut-sac squeezed in tight was a “heart” bag containing more strange alien treasure. I put that to the side as I tended to the little mucus soaked creature I had just removed.

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The gooey contents within my creature…

After a quick cleanup I examined the little ninja alien guy. He was a pretty cool little action figure complete with moving limbs and a blaster. I also discovered a stretchy and sticky little pink slug monster within the gut-sac. If I was a child I would have ate that for sure because even as an adult I was debating doing so. Cutting open the creature’s heart-bag revealed this a small plastic accessory that looked like a late 90s pocket planner. Kind of a let down, but I made up the story that my alien devoured some sort of Michael Douglas-esque businessman during rush hour. So it had that going for it.

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The little adventurer dude that I extracted. I named him Barry.

That pretty much sums up the autopsy process. Think of this as those little “blind box” figures you see at the store checkout, but instead of ripping up some cardboard you have to cut into a large rubber alien to reveal your character.  It’s a very creative and fun way to go about it and isn’t that what buying toys is all about? So let’s breakdown the positives and negatives of this Treasure X Alien.

GOOD: 

Creative and fun. From the directions to the packaging to the actual dissection. It all comes together well. I took my time and the whole process took me about 15-20 minutes.

Affordable. For $13 you get a cool little action figure, accessories, rubber alien, slime, and a really awesome experience to retrieve it all. I could also see why Target has these dudes all over the store for the Christmas season: They are perfectly sized for CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS. Duh. Solid marketing there.

Gross with Variety. There’s 2 other types of aliens to slice open. And about a dozen different little alien adventurer guys to “save”. And in an age terrified of gender labeling, it’s refreshing to see something that is so clearly a “Boy’s Toy”. Though anybody can dig this, honestly.

BAD:

Messy. I don’t mind gettin’ down and dirty with my alien cucumber, but the toy scalpel isn’t very sharp and it may take some scissors to cleanly open/dig into things. I understand it’s for safety reasons, but at times I felt like my alien was like cutting a Dollar Tree steak using a glorified spork. And, obviously, slime is involved. And kids, probably. So take that as you will.

No Story. Is my alien dead? Who are these little guys I’m digging out? What are their names? Why is their treasure and why am I getting it? Imagination is a great tool but so is direction. I love that this isn’t some sort of tie in an existing property, but having some fun backstory is nice too.

One and done. You can’t “re-dissect” the alien. And if you somehow spend too much time reassembling it, the autopsy still won’t be as fun. The whole point of these being so cheap is to buy more and “discover” more aliens. So it’s understood. It’s just kinda sad that your big oozing alien has a huge permanent hole in his chest.


Overall this is an awesome little toy for an affordable price. It took me back to the days of Creepy Crawlers and Dr. Dreadful’s Lab. It’s original, it’s gross, and mysterious. I hope these gross dudes end up in some Christmas stockings this year, because I’d love for this line to continue and even expand into more intricate sets of gross slimy dissection.

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Pictured: My face when being forced to watch The Last Jedi

Plus when you’re done dissecting, you can jam as much goop into your alien’s head as possible, squeeze it, and watch him ooze from his eyes, nose, and mouth! Yum!

So are toys as fun as they used to be? While the innovation and creativity may have taken a backseat to collectability and intellectual properties, fun original and interactive toys are still in the aisles. You just might have to dig a little deeper to find them than, say, 20 years ago. The best thing about toys is the ability to pretend and imagine. And these types of toys are perfect for that. Like I mentioned earlier, these are toys that beg to be played with. Would I buy another one? Not for myself, but they’d make an excellent gift for kiddos on Christmas.

I hope you enjoyed reading my college thesis on pointless future trash that you don’t even care about. The thought “Why are you even doing this?” popped up several times when I was writing this article and photographing my toy. Then I seen green slime ooze out of my new rubber alien’s toy face and that’s when I knew the answer. It was all worth it in the end, folks.

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