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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Super Mario Happy Meal Toys

SM_MCI bought a plastic sack of Super Mario toys for eight bucks so now I’m gonna write about that.


I love Super Mario. I’ve spent decades playing through this plump plumber’s adventures. And that’s not just nostalgia speaking. Mario games have a history of being innovative, timeless, and fun. He’s viewed as the Mickey Mouse of video games without becoming a soulless corporate mascot hellbent on absorbing everything you cherish for profit.

Mario simply stands a quiet chubby Italian man who loves jumping on everything. And, deep down, aren’t we all ? Click for a picture of me as Super Mario from 13 years ago. Not from Halloween or anything either. Just living life.

So when you’re at a flea market and come across a ziplock of mysterious Super Mario toys for $10, you offer $8. And when you get that ziplock of Super Mario toys for $8, you go home and you write about it for your sad decrepit website damn it.

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Note: NES, Bowser, and Goomba added for pure A E S T H E T I C S

Research revealed this is a complete set of Super Mario toys featured in McDonald’s Happy Meals back in August of 2018. Retro? Definitely not, but covering the Super Mario Bros 3 Happy Meal toys at this point is beating a dead horse. And I happen to like my horses alive…and thriving…and quietly drinking water midday from a wooded creek. That’s how I like my horses. Anyway the Mario toys…

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I would have easily snuck one of these in my pencil case when I was a kid as a reminder of my freedoms in the outside world.

My favorite Happy Meal toys as a kid were barebones action figures. This is because I’d incorporate them with my non-Happy Meal action figures for what can only be described as Epic Playtime Crossover-Battles™ that predate the Cinematic Universe craze by decades. Yet 2018’s Super Mario toys are games in their own right featuring a pinball game, a maze game, and a Rubix cube-like puzzle game. My favorite being the 8 bit throwback pinball game which can give you seconds of fun.  These are all well made and cool, but unlike the good ‘ol days, I can’t have one of these fight my Robocop. I probably could though honestly.

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Note: Yoshi is supposed to be in a cloud of smoke. But it indeed looks like he is melting into my Nintendo. I like both explanations.

 Ah, now we’re getting action-figurey! Yoshi “dashes” with the help of his little plastic launcher. He comes with two token targets. Luigi is the same gist with better execution. He comes with a little Goomba and Koopa Troopa target. You put that plastic “fireball” in his hand, wind him back, and he hurls it at those nerds. It’s also pretty rare to get a Fireflower version of Luigi. Especially one that looks so salty. You can possibly make your own targets…like Mario himself…to really further the jealously that fuels the sibling rivalry.

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Mario without his hat is like Dracula without his cape. They just become regular dudes.

Don’t worry, there are Mario toys in the Super Mario lot. On the left there’s addictive gambler Mario, where you push his head into a Slot Machine question mark block to test your luck. The Florida Gambling Council actually tried to get this toy recalled  as they stated it’s “marketing gambling to children.” Mind you, This is coming from the same state known for an enormous theme park that promises more money more “magic”. And then there’s “Hat Toss” Mario. He operates like “Salty Flame Luigi” but instead tosses his hat onto a target. Think of it as “Manchild Floor Darts” but it comes with a smashed cheeseburger and french fries. Not too shabby. And you also get another rare figure: Hatless Mario. Which is cool and all, but the hat makes the man.

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Is this the best toy? YES. Did I play this alone? YES. Did I realize how sad it looked from a different perspective? YES.

This one is my favorite: YOSHI BINGO. It’s a legit game of bingo with Mario inspired flippable cards, little punch pieces, and a radical Yoshi “spinner” to play. That spinner makes it. It’s creative and it’s a game that takes more than 30 seconds to play.  It’s a fun gateway to introduce your kids to a game they’ll be taking way too seriously about 70 years down the road. Do you think we’ll have Happy Meals still?


The Good: 

  • Solid variety of features/games
  • Very well made. Better than a lot of the small in-store Mario toys.
  • Video Game Characters are “games” themselves. What a concept!
  • I got these for $1 per toy. Not sure how many gold coins that is.

The Bad: 

  • Not Enough Mario characters (Bowser? Peach? Toad? Donkey Kong?)
  • Rubix Cube Puzzle thing is clearly the least cool toy
  • Yoshi Dasher doesn’t “shoot” very far (He was never a runner though)

In conclusion, for a cheap impulse buy and being a big Mario fan…these were really interesting and fun to examine and play. The toys themselves are studier with better paint applications than what I’ve seen in stores. It’s always fun to see where Happy Meal toys are nowadays. Nothing can replace the ones when I was a kid, but I think it’s fair to say that’s nostalgia talking. These are way cooler and a lot of thought went into their designs. I don’t even know if kids play with physical toys nowadays or if a McDonald’s Happy Meal is something they’d crave, but I’d be begging my grandma to stop at the ‘ol Mickey D’s drive-thru for these guys without a doubt.

“Shut up, Christopher…” She’d say. “You need a toy like you need another hole in the head.”

Ah, childhood.

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Ad Nauseum: Magneto #2

Hey, I heard you guys like trash. Welcome to another installment of Ad Nauseum: a completely original idea where I look at old ads from childhood comic books and write about them as a means to escape an unfillable void!

Let’s wind the clocks back to December 1996, a time where Superman inexplicably had a mullet, Nickelodeon was in its golden era, Bill Clinton was totally not getting head in the oval office, and Michael Jordan kept telling me I should buy a particular brand of hot dogs based solely on plumpness.

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Magneto Vol. 1 Issue 2 December 1996

Magneto is quite possibly one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. And riding that X-Men high from the mid-90’s, he was able to acquire his own title in the form of several miniseries throughout the era. This is the first of 3 miniseries and is the second of four issues. In this particular issues Magneto does such badass things as cry about his daughter and complain about violence. Let me remind you this was the 1990s, which means every character you were reading about was always revealed to be a clone or cyborg. Duh! 

I found this issue in a clearance drawer for 50 cents. And even though the bookstore was nearly empty, the one customer besides myself was browsing the same section without a shred of decency concerning personal space. Humans are very irritating.  So it’s fitting this all led me to a Magneto comic. He smelled like stale pizza rolls.

Let’s see what we got between these dank smelling yellowed pages…

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Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Universal’s “newest” theme park didn’t open until 1999 but they built up years anticipation in what is one of their earliest ads! The park was a smorgasbord of Intellectual Properties such as Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss, and Marvel Superheroes. In this particular ad the park “skyline” is illustrated from early concepts and is showcasing the Incredible Hulk roller coaster!

I was lucky enough to visit Islands of Adventure multiple times as early as 2000.  And as much as I enjoy Disney, it was a very special feeling to be among superheroes at Marvel Superhero Island. I seen ads in my Marvel comics for years building up this section of the park. Realize this was long before a cinematic universe. Tony Stark and Stan Lee were names only “nerds” recognized. Walking around this colorful “city” ripped straight from comic panels, passing Kingpin’s “gambling” arcade, and Fantastic Four’s cafe seemed to good to be true. Walking through Dr. Doom’s fortress and seeing an army of full scale Doombots was incredible!

Due to Disney now owning the rights to Marvel, Universal Islands of Adventure has an agreement to still use the characters for this section of the park but Universal can only use what they have. Therefore the Island is stuck in this late 90s era of Marvel comics style. This may seem disappointing with how much Marvel has grown in the years but I find it very comforting to see this piece of childhood nostalgia frozen in time when comics were most important to me. ‘Nuff said! 

Editors note: The park does not feature a twelve story raging Hulk. Sorry.

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Crash Bandicoot Video Game

This ad for Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation perfectly exemplifies the 1990s counter culture “attitude” of the era. The idea of costumed characters in rebellious “adult” situations mixed with the crude “handwritten” messages to create this almost scrapbook-like advertisement was fresh and cool way of marketing your garbage.

I didn’t pick up a copy of Crash Bandicoot until it was a “Greatest Hit” on the Playstation about 3 years later. This was a great 3D platforming game with solid humor and a fun style. It was Playstation’s attempt at a Mario or Sonic. And though Crash was cool and had good games to back him up, he never really met that level. My favorite thing about this ad is definitely the picture of Crash showing of his new game at Nintendo headquarters.

My main question is why Crash is traveling to Seattle exactly. Perhaps this was a series of ads that featured Crash traveling major cities to show off his new game? If anything, Crash taught me that a Bandicoot is an actual living animal. A marsupial based in Australia. Though I highly doubt they can drive automobiles. Who said video games rot your brain?

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Marvel Online

Well now the masses have access to this thing called the internet. And American Online was a browser that pretty much streamlined it to where anyone can use it.

Having a website at this time meant you were somebody. And the mere idea of the internet to someone like myself was expansive in thought yet limited in execution. I remember one of my first interactions with the internet involved me trying to wrap my head around being able to look up information on anything. My fingers hovering over the keyboard overwhelmed. I specifically remember visiting the official website of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, WWF, Disney, and Marvel. Take it, there wasn’t much to these sites back then…but it was still a new exciting experience. And little did I know Disney would end up owning mostly everything I loved.

This ad for Marvel Online in particular takes me back to the early days of internet. Calling itself the “C Y B E R V E R S E” with exclusive features like Live Chat Sessions, Cybercomics, and Message boards. Message boards were probably my favorite thing about the internet. Being able to connect with other fans all over the world about such niche interests and hobbies was fascinating at the time. Being able to access exclusive comics of Spider-man or Wolverine for free was something captivating.

In this time, when left to your own devices, you had what you had. But the idea of having a device that was constantly updating, evolving, and changing around your interests and hobbies but being able to access it anytime? It was mind bending. Suddenly being “stuck” in video games and not knowing song lyrics was gone….expansive knowledge on your favorite subjects you can only find in libraries was all there. And it was just waiting for you to find it.

Also AOL Keywords. That was a thing.

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Millennium TV Series

Sometime in the late 1990s somebody at Fox thought it’d be a good idea to put Lance Hendrickson’s enormous head on television and I actually watched it every week with my grandma. Well, really, X-Files was huge at the time and the creator decided to give another swing with a series titled Millennium

It’s about an ex-FBI agent that can read the minds of criminals and works in Seattle where he probably ran into Crash Bandicoot. The series ran for 3 seasons and was cancelled right before the friggen’ Millennium! So close! Imagine the X-Files meets Se7en and you got yourself Millennium. I remember the show being very atmospheric and gritty. And you can use those words to describe Lance Hendrickson’s forehead alone. After it’s cancellation it had a crossover with the X-Files for an episode to give things closure.

And, after that, Lance Hendrickson decided to haunt every horror convention within a 1200 mile radius of his home.

If that’s not enough for you, IDW actually published a 5 issue Millennium series of comics in 2015 proving that nearly anything can get revived as a comic! And I sit here like an idiot waiting for a Perfect Strangers season 9 in comic form.

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Bonus! Macfarlane Movie Maniacs! (Bloody Edition) 

Oh, sweet nectar of the horror Gods! I praise thee!

McFarlane Toys was pretty much the company that stepped up and made adult collectable action figures a thing (in the US anyway). Started by Spawn creator and human slinky dog, Todd McFarlane, McFarlane Toys took IPs that appealed to adults and made super detailed high end collectable figures. The Movie Maniacs line took R-rated slashers like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Jason Vorhees, packaged them, and sold them so your mom could complain about how you’re well on your way to becoming a serial killer.

The set pictured featured “blood splattered” variants in which you can order all 3 for $29.95. Pretty incredible considering a single figure fetches a price of around $50 unpackaged nowadays. To much surprise, I actually never owned a single McFarlane Movie Maniac. And the series expanded quite bit from Predator and Terminator to The Blair Witch and even Shaft for some reason.

I couldn’t tell you why I never partook in buying a single action figure from a toy line that seemed to be marketed specifically for me...it could’ve been that I was too caught up in Sideshow Collectable Universal Monsters figures…or I was simply too thick headed to pick up on signals like that girl in my art class junior year of high school (sorry Liz).


Looks like we’re on the last page of Magneto Vol. 1 Issue 2  from December 1996. I hope you enjoyed reading my overblown recollection of theme parks, Lance Hendrickson, and bloody action figures. While typing this article I actually had a coworker ask what I was doing. After I explained they had a look of complete bafflement on their face and simply asked, “Why?”. 

I honestly didn’t have an answer.

You’ll always find articles on ancient comic culture right here on ChrisDoesComics. Until next time, fiends!

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