PIZZAZZ #1

In the late 1970s, things were not looking good for the comic book industry in general or for Marvel in particular. As “mom & pop” stores were steadily replaced by large chain outlets such as 7-11, the venues for comic book sales continued to dwindle. Comics were a small-margin business, and even those places that did carry them were beginning to realize that they could bring in more money by filling the same space with a video game cabinet or a cigarette machine. It was only the development of the Direct Sales Market of comic book specialty retailers that allowed the industry to survive. But that was only just beginning to happen in 1977–and Marvel’s owners Cadence Industries had brought in a new President, Jim Galton, whose instructions were to ride herd over the demise of the company in its current form while establishing a beachhead in other facets of children’s publishing. This became a non-issue ultimately, but Galton did help to inaugurate a number of projects intended to diversify Marvel’s publishing portfolio, including Marvel Books (dedicated to doing kids books and coloring books and the like), Epic Illustrated, Marvel’s answer to Heavy Metal Magazine, and Pizzazz–Marvel’s mainstream attempt to get in on the kids’ magazine business best represented by Scholastic’s DYNAMITE (which had been created by Jenette Kahn, now DC’s new publisher.)

PIZZAZZ was a bit of an odd duck, and it was an experiment that only lasted for about a year. The earliest issues were only released regionally, until sell-through experiments were able to prove that full national release might be viable. It wasn’t, and PIZZAZZ folded its tent not long after the national issues began their roll-out. Where similar kids’ magazines such as DYNAMITE were being sold direct to kids through Scholastic’s in-school reading programs and book fairs, PIZZAZZ was sold on the same newsstands that carried comic books (though it was more often racked with the other “real” magazines, away from teh comic book spinner rack ghetto.)

The content was an odd assortment of features, comics, puzzles, games and ephemera, most of which wasn’t especially memorable. Probably the best recalled part of teh magazine was the fact that it ran original STAR WARS comics in three-page installments. These were new stories, not reprints from the ongoing Marvel series, and the hunger for all things STAR WARS gave PIZZAZZ a bit of appeal. This first issue opens with a STAR WARS article, and it devotes the first cover to the twin Droids from that star-spanning film as well.

Each issue of PIZZAZZ was 52 pages long and retailed for 75 cents at a time when regular comic books went for 30. Costs were underwritten in part by taking on advertising–the slicker package and kid-focus made it ideal for placement for certain advertisers who wouldn’t be caught dead near regular comic books.

The familiar Marvel super hero characters were used sparingly in the earliest issue, though they became more and more in evidence as time went on.

And occasionally, Marvel creators would contribute something to the pages of PIZZAZZ–such as Jack Kirby illustrating this 2001-themed feature with the Silver Surfer.

We’ll take a further look at PIZZAZZ in the weeks to come.

2 thoughts on “PIZZAZZ #1

  1. I lived in the South when Pizzazz was first launched; thereby, able to purchase the debut run. I grew up on Dynamite, which obviously served as the template for this magazine. While Pizzazz had its moments, it never quite gripped me like those early issues of Dynamite had, and I wasn’t all that surprised when it flamed out less than two years later. Of special note, issues 2 and 8 sported covers depicting the “TV version” of Spider-Man, both of which really popped!

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  2. I was fortunate enough to be able to get in on the ground floor with Pizzazz. 1st grader me thought it was great! I’ve still got all the issues from back then — which are well-loved (worn) — plus a few I picked up much later. I pulled them out last year and inventoried them, discovering I’m only one issue short of having them all. Now I’m just trying to find it at a decent price.

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