A View From Mark Allen Haverty, Wizard’s Ex-Price Guide Writer

Looking Backwards and Forwards, Simultaneously

By Mark Allen Haverty, CrucialTaunt.com

To say that this has been a difficult day would be to put it mildly. It started with my daughter waking up in the wee hours of morning to grab a snack when she should have been sleeping, so I had to go in her room, grab some yogurt containers, and shut her light off. A couple of hours later, I needed to wake her up to get moving for school, which was an extremely difficult process, then in getting her heading towards the shower she turned uglier and attempted to hit me a few times. Eventually, she would get in the shower, get clothes on, and run out the door for the school bus without making it wait too long for her.

From there, it was time to sit down and work on finishing the price guide for issue #236.

One hour into that, I received a note via Facebook informing me, unfortunately, that this was not necessary, and that the only reason for contacting me through Facebook is that it was the only electronic means available for my former editor to do so.

Unlike the rest of the staff in the masthead, I never worked out of the New York office, mercifully. I had already interviewed for the position of price guide editor and Market Watch writer two years before I accepted it, as New York and I were not a good fit. The second time around, it was offered to me on a freelance basis; for them, they would not need to pay me benefits as such, and for me, it made more sense financially since the move to New York would have cost far more than the benefits that Wizard could have delivered. I also had a day job at the time, working for Verizon, which gave me extremely generous benefits, so having that there made working for Wizard far easier.

This was my first freelance writing position in comics, after writing for years in sports, both on my own and, at various times, for Sporting News and FOX Sports. However, working in the comic industry had always been my dream, going back to when I first started working at a comic book store in 1988 at the age of 13. I would later go on to be assistant manager of the shop, and then open its successor when it shut down in 1993, when I was 18. Comics have always been a part of my life, and working in such a capacity was a dream come true.

This position also was a godsend when it came time to take a leave of absence from work when my partner and I were getting ready to welcome our daughter into our home. See, she is not our biological daughter, but a foster child we are working to adopt, providing the state of Vermont does the right thing by her in court. She had an extremely traumatic past, with severe neglect and abuse, and she has significant behavioral challenges and developmental delays. That Wizard paycheck I would get from every issue allowed me to pay for her lessons at Sylvan Learning Center, her piano and vocal lessons (the piano is to help her learn patience as well as to work on her fine motor skills, which are significantly behind, and the vocal is more about helping her with her speech difficulties rather than making her the next Susan Boyle), and a little extra to take her out to dinner a couple of times without worry.

This morning, I lost that – and people in message boards are celebrating that.

What I find so amusing about the posts here and on other sites is that the same people that ridiculed Alan Moore for his absurd criticisms of comics today, only to admit that he does not read any, is that those criticizing also proudly proclaim that they stopped reading ages ago. If they actually had read, they would know how absurd so many of their criticisms were.

There is of course the knocks about Wizard being filled with boob jokes and homophobic cracks, which I rarely if ever saw in my two years in the magazine, and certainly not from me – after all, I did say “partner” above, for those of you playing along at home.

More importantly, though, are the criticisms about what the magazine did or did not cover. During my time on the magazine, I did everything possible to bring about a level of diversity, both in talent and in material, than had been there in any time before me. A simple look at some of the names that popped up in top ten writer and artist lists would show that – Gail Simone moved into the top ten writers for the first time, along with names like Christopher Yost, Greg Rucka, James Robinson, and Dan Slott, to name a few of the writers that never saw the list before, and the artists that made their first appearance in the top ten is far larger: Francis Manapul, Sean Philips, Skottie Young, Doug Mahnke, Terry Dodson, J.H. Williams III, Guillem March, Steve Epting, Amanda Conner. Anyone that says that those artists were like the ones traditionally featured in the magazine are either lying or willfully ignorant.

That is just a few of the artists too, and that does not include the top ten of the decade, which featured Mark Bagley, a name that never made the top ten, ever, at No. 2 – and that was after editorial moved him from the top spot. Was he ever one of the hot, trendy names? No, but he defined Spider-Man for a generation, sold more books than any other artist, and was due for some respect.

This also does not include any of the rising talents that first received a push in the Five on the Rise section that I ran for a while in the guide.

Then there are the features I wrote, such as the one on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a feature I fought for, going against the traditional scorn for all-ages books. Instead of scorn, this is a series, and its sequels, deserving of as much attention as possible, and I showered it on them, and the creators, wherever possible. There was also some love sent towards Terry Moore in another feature from me, talking about his work on Echo.

Then there was the scrapping of the traditional top ten hot books or top ten artist and writer lists later in my tenure for lists inspired by the creators themselves, such as Fred Hembeck’s top ten humor creators of all time, Larry Marder’s top ten indie creators list, Gail Simone’s artist wish list, the ten Bat-artists that inspired David Finch, the top ten most historically significant comics by comic historian Peter Sanderson, the five female talents to watch for by Gail Simone (or as she called it, “Wizard’s She-Beasts of Greatness: Five on the Rise (with Uteruses)”), Mark McKenna’s top ten inkers, and many more.

In other words, I did everything possible to promote new names, under-appreciated talents, and books that Wizard traditionally did not cover. I also did not shy away from criticizing books either, as my sections routinely featured negative critiques. One major writer complained to the Powers that Be at Wizard about my criticisms, and about his no longer being in the top ten. He continued to stay out of the list.

Maybe you never noticed the change in tone, but others did – after not doing any form of interview with the magazine in 224 issues and countless specials, Paul Levitz sat down with me for almost an hour to talk about the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the magazine ended up running a six-page spread on the Levitz Era of Legion, something that would have never happened in the past, both in regards to the subjects the magazine covered as well as the subject interviewed.

I am so glad that everyone is enjoying my, and many others’, misfortune, but having a legitimate gripe would go a long way, folks.

For those looking for more from me, I had my own site before writing for Wizard, CrucialTaunt.com, which unfortunately I let slide while working for the magazine, along with all the extra meetings and appointments my daughter needed and with graduate school work (currently, I am working on my Masters in Psychology, with my goal being to work with underprivileged children with special needs), but with one door closing it opens another door. A few pieces that never found their way into Wizard, for obvious reasons, are either on the site now or going up there over the next few days. Along with comic talk, there is also sports talk over at CT, and there is also a politics section, as I was a political science major at UVM, and my love of politics is a guilty pleasure. I hope that there is something that you can find over there that you enjoy, but if not, so be it.