Dead is dead

This week marks the release of Fantastic Four #587, the highly anticipated issue that will feature the death of one member of Marvel’s First Family. Marvel is going to great pains to make this feel as special as possible. It’s reprinting the last four issues of FF the same day, the comic itself is being sold in a polybag so you can’t just flip through it at the shop, and most surprisingly, Marvel is allowing shops to sell the issue a day earlier on Tuesday.

Of course, we all know the character that dies won’t stay dead for long. But on the eve of the biggest death in comics since Batman (or maybe Nightcrawler? Or did somebody die last week?), it looks like two long-standing staples in the comic book industry might be gone for good: the Comics Code Authority and Wizard Magazine.

Late last week, both DC Comics and Archie Comics announced they’d no longer be using the Comics Code stamp of approval on their comics. Marvel stopped using the CCA stamp about a decade ago in favor of their own rating system, so quite frankly I’m surprised it took this long for the other companies to follow suit.

The weird thing is, it seems as though the CCA may not have existed for the last year or so, despite it’s stamp of approval gracing the covers of kid-friendly comics from DC and Archie. The company that used to run the approval process denies that they’re supposed to be running it, and they don’t know who is. Archie Comics even admits they haven’t actually been submitting issues for approval since 2009, despite using the stamp on their comics. Weird.

Much more surprising was the announcement that Wizard Magazine would no longer have a print edition, effective immediately. It’s being replaced by an online magazine, which certainly makes sense when I think about the fact that I’ve already linked to four times in this post. It does seem a little strange though, because if there’s one thing you can always count on comic fans to do, it’s read. While the publishing industry in general may be dying a slow death, I kind of figured people would still read a magazine about reading comics. I guess that’s not the case.

I’ve had my own love/hate relationship with Wizard over the years. I still remember the first issue I bought, issue #26 featuring a gatefold cover of Spider-Man vs. the Hobgoblin illustrated by Mark Bagley. I started getting every issue starting with the over-sized 1994 year-end issue #41 with a Ray Lago painted Gambit cover that came poly-bagged with the special gold variant of Uncanny X-Men #320. That’s right around the time I started reading comics, on the eve of the Age of Apocalypse. And I thought Wizard was awesome. Of course, I was 12 at the time.

As I grew up, I came to realize that Wizard wasn’t really aimed at me anymore. The humor rarely evolved past sophmoric. The price guide in the back was ridiculously incomplete to the point where it didn’t seem worth including anymore. And because of the rise of the internet, the magazine stopped breaking news and essentially became a combination of Entertainment Weekly and Previews. Articles pretty much only told you what comics, movies, TV and video games you could look forward to reading/watching/playing in a few months. Not really worth the $5 a month when my local comic shop gives away Previews for free.

I honestly don’t remember when I stopped reading Wizard. It was a long time ago and I never missed it. It was probably around the time that I stopped noticing if there was a Comics Code stamp of approval on the comic I was reading (actually, I don’t think I ever noticed that). But still, it’s weird to see these two former giants of the comic industry crumble at the same time.

They will not be missed.