TITLE: Hero Illustrated vol. 1, issue #1
YEAR: July 1993
COMPANY: Warrior Publications Periodical
Editor: John Danovich
Senior Editor: Frank Kurtz
Publisher: Steve Harris
When I heard that a new comic book magazine was coming out, I’m going to be truthful, I was surprised.
With Wizard Magazine dominating the scene, could this new magazine known as Hero Illustrated make an impact?
The answer is a resounding “yes”.
Part of the problem with Wizard Magazine was their love for Image Comics. There was love for Rob Leifeld, there was love for Todd McFarlane and there was a surprising and consistent love for Stephen Platt and Wizard Magazine used its influence to no doubt sell a lot of Image Comics and Valiant Comics and eventually started to show love to other comic book companies including Marvel and DC which was an interesting relationship (as frustrations would be detailed in their 50th issue).
But the magazine was also a host for people in the industry slamming each other, even staff showed they have big ego’s and it was a swagger that didn’t surprise anyone because similar to Image Comics during their first year, Wizard Magazine also had that ego, that swagger, ego and jokes aplenty and they could care less. You either loved them or hate them and being the only one on the block, people had no choice to love them. Comics would be late from Image Comics and while the industry were pissed, Wizard Magazine didn’t focus on that. They focused on the artist, the glitz, the glamour and it was like the MAXIM of comic books, putting these writers and artists in a light that we have never seen before.
There was huge love for Wizard (earlier on) and that love was because of their price guide. Where Wizard Comics had an influence on taking popular comics, especially from Image Comics and Valiant Comics and featured them in their price guide and showed comics being worth a lot of money.
It was the ’90s, people indulged on variant covers, ash cans, comics in polybag and people were buying multiple copies but people couldn’t help but purchase these independents and believe Wizard Magazine as gospel.
Through Wizard Magazine, readers believed that “Youngblood, “WildC.A.T.S”, “Prophet”, “Spawn”, “The Savage Dragon”, “Pitt”, “Cyberforce”, “Bone” and nearly every “X-Men” related title were the best damn comics in the planet.
But there was a slow backlash as people started to chime in on “style vs. quality”. Were people enjoying comic books more for the art and the fact that they can invest in these comics and make a big profit hopefully later in their lifetime?
In July 1993, Hero Magazine featuring publisher Steve Harris and editor John Danovich and crew brought their magazine to the mainstream and unlike Wizard, they did things different.
Sure, they didn’t have the glitz and glamor of Wizard Magazine and the magazine was filled with more ads that I found reminiscent of my girlfriend-at-the-time’s fashion magazines. But Hero Illustrated had balls. I mean this in a sense that they were covering fan backlash towards the industry. And the sad thing is that in a little over two years, that backlash and the problems with the direct market and the very late comic book releases would eventually cripple the comic book industry.
They would print letters from people that were supportive to letters that were downright scathing.
They would feature reviews and their “The Hero Insider” would reveal gossip without identifying sources (sure this is common place on social media but back then it was electronic BBS or magazines such as this publication).
The publication was not going to focus on Image Comics either. Sure, Image Comics were featured but you would also see other independent comic book lines receiving some love, such as Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse and Dark Horse Comics lineup which I don’t even recall receiving any love from early Wizard Magazine issues back then.
Hero Illustrated also had interviews that didn’t ask stupid questions, sometimes they were blunt.
They would take on things that were fad, such as ashcans, about signed copies of comic books and they didn’t just ask fans but also people in the comic book industry about their feelings of it. Granted, this was years before eBay and Amazon third party sellers.
The magazine also spotlighted artists and writers and also those involved in the movie and video game industry. And the publication also showcased collectors cards and action figures.
But this magazine was different because it showed love to comic books, the industry as a whole but also wanted to show the creeping resentment that people started to have at the time.
I tend to look at “Hero Illustrated” and their entrance to the comic scene like the battle between “Mad Magazine” vs. “Cracked Magazine”. “Mad Magazine” was a top dog and “Cracked Magazine” was entertaining but not considered the best because it didn’t have the glitz, the glamour, the name recognition compared to “Mad”, yet “Cracked Magazine” didn’t mind taking a swipe on Mad’s mascot. Fortunately, “Hero Illustrated” were more mature than that. They let the fans do the venting about the industry and the rival mag. They just reported of what the fandom was back in the day and how the comic book shops and the other writers/artists in the industry were responding.
But I give “Hero Illustrated” credit for their accomplishment of creating a magazine in ’93 and keeping things together throughout their 26-issues. In 1993, they were the new guys that wanted to create a comic book magazine unlike their competitors and I respected them for that.
But the magazine also had to battle for your wallet, and in the ’90s, if you were collecting too many titles, buying variants or purchasing “Wizard Magazine” for the free swag, “Hero Illustrated” was that magazine that you let sit in the shelf and hope it would be there the next week or the week after. It sucked because I really enjoyed this magazine but comics were getting expensive, magazines were getting expensive and for me, it was not just “Hero Illustrated” vs. “Wizard Magazine”, it was comic books from all different companies versus these magazines and throw in other magazine publications such as “Animerica”, “Protoculture Addicts”, “Anime UK” and then my geeky sci-fi magazines that I was purchasing.
Again, I don’t know how I was able to pay for all this but I made it happen… And on top of the comic books I purchased each week, unfortunately I could no longer get the magazines. I was caught up in a comic book industry of the ’90s and while “Wizard Magazine” made me believe the hype, “Hero Illustrated” made me see things clearer and made me know that I was not alone in seeing how screwed up things were getting in the comic book industry but from the clutter of variant covers, ash cans and a plethora of crossovers, giving readers the alternative to know that there are other comics out there worth reading and enjoying.
And that is where I’m grateful to “Hero Illustrated” and its crew for being the alternative to “Wizard Magazine” and providing us with some similar but mostly different content that was sorely needed in the early-to-mid ’90s.