August 19, 2006 8:15 PM |
['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]
Simon recently ran into a few copies of Blip, the video game "magazine" put out by Marvel Comics in 1983, and he excitedly AIMed me about them, assured that he had found something I didn't have. It had been a long week, and my ego needed some assuaging, so I informed him as conceitedly as possible that no, not only have I heard of Blip, but I have all seven issues (the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, until fairly recently, thought there were only four).
Blip's a pretty queer mag in the gaggle of titles that launched and faded away between 1982 and 1984, from boom to bust in the game industry. Edited by Joe Claro (who wrote lots of quickie children's books for Random House all during the 1980s), the title was comic-book sized and printed on plain old comic-book stock, making it the cheapest national video-game mag ever (only a buck an issue!) but also the cheapest-looking, as screenshots and color photographs all tended to be washed out and ugly. As a result of this, Blip concentrates less on game strategy and more on "lifestyle"-type things -- comics about games, jokes, stories, and so forth.
I'd be lyin' if I said Blip was a must-read for all gamers, but then again, the mag never really had a chance to find its niche -- it launched February 1983 and published its final issue in August, thus becoming the first magazine "victim" of the Atari crash. Back issues are pretty easy to come by (if your comic shop has them, they're usually in the 25-cent boxes), so it's arguably the easiest and cheapest classic-era mag to amass a complete collection of.
Here's a quick guide to all seven issues (click through for the full rundown!)
#1 (February 1983) featured TV star Matthew Laborteaux on the cover, opening up a piece on celebrity gamers like Randall Brooks, Grant Cramer, David Wallace, Nicholas Hammond, and Bruce Boxleitner. Bruce I've heard of (he was in Tron), but the others were completely alien to me -- Matthew was apparently on Little House on the Prairie (IMDB claims he did voice work on the .hack series but doesn't mention his role), Grant and David were both regulars on The Facts of Life, Nicholas played the title role in the '70s live-action Spider-Man, and Randall (who's a girl) was playing Little Orphan Annie on Broadway at the time. "I may not ever find [a game] to compare with Space Invaders," she tells Blip, "but how could anything ever compare to bring a Broadway star, either?"
There's also a comic section featuring "Vic Video" interviewing Mario, which is the latter's first-ever appearance in comics. He later got an entire line of comics from Valiant once the NES came along.
#2 (March 1983) has Spider-Man (is that Nicholas inside the body stocking, you think?) and the Green Goblin playing Parker Bros.'s hot new Spider-Man 2600 cartridge. The feature includes tons of photos showing the guys crowding around a 13-inch TV screen in some Marvel office, ending with (for some reason) a shot of Spider-Man diving into someone's swimming pool afterwards.
In the comic section, Gobby is a little angry at this video game (maybe 'cos they used his face without permission) and crashes "the biggest trade show of the season" to beat up our hero, who's demonstrating the game to fans. Imagine having the Spider-Man at E3. The crowds would be even worse than they were in 2005.
#3 (April 1983) is sadly lacking in comics, but does have a profile of Eric Ginner and Mark Robichek, friends and fellow World Video Game Champions. Mark had the world record for Tutankham (244,920), while his pal Eric was top of the charts for Moon Patrol (573,480) "I used to spend 20 or 30 hours a week in arcades when I was in high school," Mark recalls in the article. "Even so, the games never cost me much money. I was always good, and a quarter lasted me a long time. If I spent five dollars a week, it was a lot." Man, the way games were by the early 90s, five bucks wouldn't last me an hour at the arcades.
#4 (May 1983) has a somewhat scary video-hallucination on the cover and a fanciful "exclusive Blip preview" of a possible game based on Laverne & Shirley ("Put caps on bottles! Answer ringing doorbells! Fall asleep on the couch!").
#5 (June 1983) has a cover story on video games "going Hollywood" (I think Video Games magazine had nearly the exact same cover around this time, too) and a bit on computer camps. By this time Claro is already being forced to fill excess pages with full-page comic gags.
#6 (July 1983) is the first issue to have an actual game on the cover -- Imagic's Microsurgeon, a title way ahead of its time in graphics and gameplay. The "Player of the Month" is Mike Zeck, veteran comic artist and (at the time) world record holder in Omega Race.
Finally, #7 (August 1983) features the first full-sized comic in a few issues. In it, the Incredible Hulk is smashing up the city as usual, and the cops decide to refocus his energies by giving him a game where he can smash up cities without actually causing any damage. Sweet.
Sadly, I couldn't tell you what readers got their subscriptions replaced with. Hopefully, though, it was something with a bit more speculator value to it.
[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He owns enough magazines to smother himself with should the need arise, and his secret fantasy is for someone flush with game-publisher stock options to give him a monthly stipend so he can spend a year researching their full history and finishing the site. In his "off" time he is an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]
Categories: Column: Game Mag Weaseling