John Riley of Grasshopper's Comics in Williston Park, New York saw the cover of this week's Wizard magazine and thought it went too far:
Am I the only one who is offended by Wizard Magazine's apparent move toward 'sex sells' style covers? Yesterday's Wizard Magazine #166 has one cover featuring Jessica Alba dressed up as Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four. That's fine, totally comic-related and timely considering the imminent release of the film. But the large headline reads '30 of the Summer's SEXIEST Superbabes / Fantastic Four's Jessica Alba and 29 Others to Make You Sweat!' The other cover only features Jessica Alba at the top but has the eye grabbing headline of 'Summer's Sexiest Superbabe! Jessica Alba on Stripping, her Push-Up Bra and Invisible Zippers.' For this year's FCBD, Wizard chose to put a picture of Jessica Simpson bursting out of a leather vest on the cover. For FCBD 2004 the cover headline was something about 'Comics' Kinkiest Relationships' and along with the illustration seemed to be implying some type of sexual threesome between Spider-Man, Mary Jane and the Black Cat. That's exactly the message I didn't want to send to the hundreds of new customers I work so hard to attract at each year's FCBD!
These headlines would be fine for Maxim, Stuff, or FHM magazine, but they're inappropriate for a magazine supposedly directed at the entirety of comic fandom. I have nothing against Maxim or Stuff, but I don't want them next to my register. And isn't that where the folks over at Wizard have continually urged retailers to stock the magazine as a universal impulse item for comic fandom? Wizard also is quick to point out its broad demographics within the industry, if you don't believe me, ask for their advertising package. If Wizard is aimed at the entirety of comic fandom as they state, do they think these covers are editorially appropriate for their younger readers? And please don't tell me that Wizard isn't aimed at a young audience considering the incredibly juvenile nature of so much of Wizard's content. I once counted 28 potty jokes in a five page Halloween Costume Contest pictorial. So I'm assuming that the magazine is directed at least in part to a very young audience!
Obviously, these covers are aimed purely at selling the magazine, especially considering that the article on the '29 Other (Superbabes) To Make You Sweat' is nothing more than a two page, primarily text-only list of attractive women actresses, and is in fact one of the shortest and most sparsely illustrated articles in the magazine. What I don't think Wizard realizes is that at least in my store, my customers will actively choose the less-sexual cover every time. They're comic fans. If they want Maxim magazine they have no problem going next door and buying it.
As a retailer who has worked long and hard to establish a family-friendly, kid-positive atmosphere, I find these covers to be irresponsible. These days we all work daily to dispel the stereotype that comics are little more than soft-core porn, and yet the headline on our industry fan magazine is primarily concerned with 'Superbabes That Make You Sweat' and 'Jessica Alba's Push Up Bra.' When a mother comes to the counter to purchase something for their child, whether it be comic or game related, they naturally survey the counter to see what this hobby is all about. Is this really what Wizard wants to communicate to the non-hobbyist? That comic fans are primarily interested in Superbabes and push up bras?
Like it or not, Wizard is by far our dominant industry fan magazine. Considering that the guys at Wizard are comic geeks extraordinaire you would think they would have learned that with great power comes great responsibility. Perhaps we should start holding them to using that power responsibly.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.