It’s 2015, and Wizard: The Guide to Comics hasn’t been published in almost four years. But it’s been at least a decade since Wizard actually mattered. There are many comics readers out there who don’t remember when Wizard was an important industry organ, and may not even know what Wizard’s deal was. In short: it came of age right as Image (and Valiant, and a legion of other New Universes) was ascendant, when gimmick and variant covers walked the Earth like titans, and people were excited about how superheroes were going to become multimedia sensations and genuine investments.
Over twenty years after Wizard began, superheroes and comics dominate the media landscape, Image has matured into a genuine powerhouse publisher of all manner of comics, Valiant is back for its third or fourth attempt, and pretty much everything else Wizard represented has faded into vaguely frightening punchlines. But it’s still worth remembering Wizard. For those who never read it, Wizard’s editorial voice calcified in the mid 1990s into “A fraternity run by middle schoolers who have never actually had a beer or seen a boob, but are really excited at the ideas of both.” So in 2001, Wizard peppered its Price Guide section with a dozen of “SUMMER SIZZLERS: COMICS’ SEXIEST MOMENTS.”
Looking back at these twelve moments gives us a nice snapshot of where the comics press (and to an extent, pop culture) lived thirteen years ago. I tried to enlist my roommate Jessica (who definitely never read Wizard) to comment on each of these picks too, but she got through about three before she started skimming and declining the offer with a “GAHHHHHHH. Gross. So many terrible thiiiiiiings. Ugh.”
Why does Wizard think this is sexy? Because it’s a lady and she gets naked. Then she pretends like she wants to bang a bad guy (a stinky fat bad guy) but she really just beats him up and runs away. And she runs away wearing clothes, THAT TEASE.
Does it depict consent? I’m going to vote yes provisionally, because she chooses to strip down and fake-seduce a bad guy. It’s possible that it’s problematic on The Peach’s side, because he was deceived and subsequently assaulted. But he’s also a gross fat criminal so I don’t think we’re supposed to feel sorry for him.
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? According to the text, because Wolverine has a lot of hair, and also because “wimpy old Scott Summers” is totally getting cuckolded.
Does it depict consent? It sounds like Wolverine is basically coming onto Jean unbidden, but the image they show indicates both parties are totally into the kiss. So I guess yes? I’m still not sure why this is considered so sexy and steamy, considering the Wolverine/Jean Grey/Cyclops love triangle has involved all sorts of trysts involving clones, time travel, demonic possession, shapeshifters, and enough actual sex to produce multiple children across different timelines. But to be fair, this scene probably involves more straightforward consensual action than many of those.
Why Does Wizard Think It’s Sexy? I’m honestly not sure, since even their description is about “a nasty plot” and tells us not to worry, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who jerks it to the film “gets his in the end”. Then again, BOOBS. Or the suggestion of naked boobs, which is enough to make the list.
Does it depict consent? Hell no.
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? It’s teenage girls in bathing suits and then one of them hits on the other one. She doesn’t appreciate the pass, but what if those teenagers got drunk? Oh man, maybe then they’d totally make out! Who wouldn’t pop like a thousand boners for that?
Does it depict consent? I mean, Rainmaker stops her advances when Roxy is freaked out I guess, so it’s a case of someone actually taking “no” for an answer. Of course it’s a woman who does this.
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? The editors of Wizard (and I guess Campbell) seem really into the idea of super-competent spies tantalizing the enemy with their genitals before violently assaulting them. I mean, we all remember the times Indiana Jones slipped out just enough dickroot to get a Nazi hot and bothered, then he shoots them. It’s kind of like that, only sexier because it’s a J. Scott Campbell Helium Doll.
Does it depict consent? Again, the woman is willingly using sex as a weapon to deceive a foe, then attacking them. That’s basically consent, right?
#6 John Byrne Has She-Hulk Get Photographed While Sunbathing Topless
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? They’ve never seen a real porno magazine before, so the idea of one appearing in a comic book is mysterious and wonderful. This is a tangent, but it always bothers me when people in comic books act like their world actually looks like a comic book. People have distinguishing characteristics besides costumes and colors; if you put different people in (most) superhero outfits, no one would mistake Thor/Iron Man/Captain America/Bruce Banner for Hawkeye just because Mark Ruffalo or Chris Hemsworth put on Jeremy Renner’s costume. I think everyone could tell that it was Zoe Saldana as Gamora even though her skin color was altered, so color-corrected She-Hulk nudie photos would look like nudie photos of She-Hulk with caucasian skin. I haven’t seen anyone go “it’s cool if you post my leaked naked phone pics, so long as you Photoshop my skin to be green, that way no one will know it’s me.”
Does it depict consent? Nope! Not at all!
JESSICA: Poor She-Hulk.
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? Because a lady gets naked for her husband, but that husband is upset because a crazed stalker has threatened his wife and vowed to ruin his life, so he’s a little down in the dumps. This means maybe they have a shot at hooking up with the lady, because her husband is a nebbish.
Does it depict consent? Yes! This is a scene that would actually be kind of romantic in real life, even with the totally 80s fashion. This might be the only of the twelve moments that involves two people in love with each other in a functioning relationship, at least until their marriage is retroactively sold to Satan.
JESSICA: Does them saying they feel like a car going through the car wash mean that they got wet? Do they know what that means? This is the only one of these moments that seems mutually enjoyable for both parties. And is that “marriage sold to Satan” thing a metaphor?
CHRIS: Nope! [five minute explanation redacted]
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? Two iconic heroes are straight up “tickling tonsils”, which is pretty sexy, except Superman is a dude and we’re not about to say he’s sexy so we’d better insult him a bunch, especially since he is some hillbilly with morals who doesn’t HIT. THAT. SHIT. Wizard definitely doesn’t think Superman is sexy, and you can quote them on that!
Does it depict consent? I guess? Wizard mostly deserves credit for their restraint in picking Action #600 where Superman just briefly makes out with Wonder Woman, instead of the much “hotter” Action #592-593 where the evil New God Sleez brainwashes Superman and Big Barda and makes them shoot a porno film. That really seems right up their alley.
#9 Jim Lee Has Psylocke Try to Make Cyclops All Horny in Front of His Wife
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? I mean, on the surface this is really just a scene of Psylocke being all sexy coming out of the ol’ swimmin’ hole. But it’s couched in a storyline where prim British lady Psylocke is kidnapped and brainwashed by supervillains and has her mind transplanted into a sexy Japanese ninja body. She resists the brainwashing but is still kind of evil, and spends a year or so trying to seduce Cyclops, using her psychic powers to manipulate him, and even though she keeps doing it right in front of Cyclops’s wife (who is also a psychic) Jean never notices and keeps getting mad at Cyclops. Then Jim Lee leaves to form Image and this plotline more or less gets dropped and the evil Japanese ninja shows up in Psylocke’s old British body and I go into a fugue state trying to remember 1990s X-Men plotlines. But I guess two hot babes in bathing suits trying to hook up with a vestigially ‘nerdy’ character really works for Wizard.
Does it depict consent? There are a lot of moving telepathic parts in the scenario, so my gut says no, but there’s also nothing resembling sex in the scene besides Psylocke being a flirt, and she definitely wants to try to wreck a relationship, so she is in control? Unless it’s a remnant of her brainwashing. Let’s go with no.
JESSICA: That poor woman’s hips and thighs. They’re literally Barbie thighs. It’s creepy.
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? Good ol’ Bad Boy Byrne, back when he was a Bad Boy for objectifying ladies instead of being a Bad Boy for saying really problematic shit on the Internet! I think this was a running gag for years, and on his second run on She-Hulk Byrne actually makes good on his longstanding “naked jumprope” threat, breaking the fourth wall and using authorial power to make Strong Female Character She-Hulk skip rope naked for several pages. Then he got tired of the joke and continued an actual story, much to Wizard’s dismay.
Does it depict consent? Not in the slightest.
JESSICA: Poor fucking She-Hulk!
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? Wizard really loved J. Scott Campbell’s sexy characters! Even when they’re not behaving deliberately provocatively, their clothes tend to get ripped off, which in itself is sexy enough! I mean, what if she wasn’t wearin’ no underwear when her clothes get ripped up for the fifth time in five issues?
Does it depict consent? I mean, I don’t think Fairchild deliberately gets her clothes all ripped up, and she definitely doesn’t deliberately tell a viewer she ain’t wearing no drawers but I guess within the fictive world no one is ogling her, so there’s no consent to give?
Why Does Wizard Think This is Sexy? It’s a variant cover drawn specifically to titillate, so sure, it’s meant to be sexy. It’s like saying one of the scariest magazine stories of the year is an issue of Fangoria. There is no plot or character involved, it’s literally softcore porno. It’s what Wizard wants out of comics, so it’s a perfect marriage.
Does it depict consent? She is asking you to look at her panties. She wants you to look at her panties. She exists solely for you to look at her panties. So yes?
JESSICA: I wish I had been able to give consent to whether or not I read “…panties you could floss with. And we’d try.”
As a reminder, this wasn’t some weird back-alley dirtbag ‘zine that was publishing shit like this in 2001. This was the best-selling magazine about comics in the country, the 2001 equivalent of Newsarama, CBR, Bleeding Cool, and eBay all rolled into one. And they ran articles like this a lot. As troubling as some aspects of fandom have been in recent years, this was where a lot of fandom was only a decade and a half ago. This isn’t to say “it could be worse”, but to say “things improve”. Also I cannot believe Wizard lasted as long as it did.