Technically “going public as a company” as well as transferring to a digital format and publishing plan, the magazine’s had an up-and-down history with comic book culture, being seen by some as a powerhouse of publishing and recognition, while derided by others as pretty much one of the reasons speculation in the 1990’s “ruined” the comic book industry. Accusations of outright theft from Marvel Comics and favoritism towards the Big Two for spotlights and their well-known Top 10 lists have always been floating around. Frank Miller called Wizard bullshit basically.
At the same time though, I’m not going to lie about me and Wizard. I do remember reading the magazine when I was actively trying to get back into reading new comics regularly, as a sort of cheat sheet/catchup. As a very quick and shallow introduction into modern American comics, it wasn’t absolutely terrible a way to get someone looking and thinking about the medium. Not everyone knows to check out The Comics Journal or The Beat or to go to SPX at first.
Also, as several people have noted, it really does suck that so many people who were passionate about comcis and worked at the magazine are laid off (the rumors of just how badly it went down, partially confirmed, are kind of infuriating).
Personally? It’s sort of like the recent demise of the Comics Code Authority, a staple of a particular era of comics and cartooning that’s unfortunately becoming irrelevant thanks to an inability to adapt. While Wizard’s attempt at a transition to digital is a good idea (necessary really, in this day and age), they’ve got some super-stiff competition, and reports like that iFanboy interview I linked to above indicate that the magazine’s plan is kind of lame, at best.
It’s undeniable the impact the magazine’s had, good or ill, on modern American comic book culture. You can’t swing a stick at a convention without hitting someone with a crate full of old Wizard issues for sale or someone whose closet at home is full of back issues alongside old copies of NFL Superpro comics.
Goodbye, Wizard Magazine. I hope it works out online, but fuck you for the way you treated your employees. See you ’round.