Saturday, September 8, 2012

R2-D2 Had Only So Much Pizzazz

This was a curious little venture:

Pizzazz Magazine was published by Marvel in the late '70s, and sought to blend its stable of characters with things and people of the time that were popular with the youth culture. Though "blend" is probably being generous--the intent was arguably for the magazine to act as a hook in order to introduce and sell Marvel comics to those younger readers who weren't yet regular readers. But there were a number of things in play to get the magazine to stand on its own. For starters, it relied heavily on the success of Star Wars, which had just been released--its first issue had a full-size picture of R2-D2 and C-3PO on its cover (and little else), while other issues featured "Star Wars" cover captions prominently. It also had a "fun" format throughout, offering cartoons, puzzles, and games--as well as "reviews and previews of movies, TV, records, books, new products, fads and fashions." All of that must have looked pretty good on paper in the Marvel offices. Pizzazz was going to cover all the bases, and bring in new comics readers.

Yet Pizzazz folded its tent after just 16 (monthly) issues, and there could have been any number of reasons for its demise. For one thing, it certainly wasn't the only such magazine in play--there were many more established magazines on the racks aimed at young people, and there was only so much allowance money to go around. Nor was Marvel enjoying the heydey of success and exposure it had a decade ago. Its comics pricing had just recently increased to 35¢--and its competition was growing, so it no longer stood out in the pack. And contrary to Stan Lee's impression, there weren't many young people in pre-1980 America who were going to be drawn to a pop culture magazine just because it drew on the Marvel name and its characters.

Also, many such magazines published weekly issues, rather than monthly--and whatever Pizzazz featured for their current issue had already been devoured elsewhere. There was also something to be said for Marvel's approach, opting for a humorous take on its covers of popular movies and music instead of a more informative one--giving the impression to the magazine browser that there was probably nothing substantive to the content.

So Pizzazz ended in January, 1979, its last cover featuring:
  • A cover photo of Christopher Reeve as Superman
  • Shaun Cassidy--again
  • Hulk's I.Q. Tests
  • Simpleteen Magazine
  • Sci-Fi
  • Puzzles
  • Games
  • Aliens
  • Blobs
  • Nerds

Apparently, R2-D2 didn't have the staying power of Shaun Cassidy.

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