Wizard was founded in 1991 by college student Gareb Shamus as a newsletter for his parents' comic book store, estimating the values of "hot" comic books, comics with high demand in the back-issue market. Shamus' interest in the comics market stems from his friendship with comic artist Todd McFarlane and from working in his parents' store.
In issue #7, Wizard became closer to the magazine it is today, with glossy paper and color printing. Unlike other comics publications such as Hero Illustrated or The Comics Journal, Wizard has historically focused on superheroes and the economic side of comic collecting. Wizard strongly supported new publishers Valiant Comics and Image Comics, heavily promoting their new releases.
Wizard Magazine's old website, www.wizardworld.com, was home to a lively internet forum community in the late 1990s. It is generally considered to have been one of the largest and most influential in the small community of internet forums dedicated towards comic books.
The magazine has also spawned several ongoing magazines dedicated to similar interests such as Toyfare for toys and action figures, Inquest Gamer for collectible game cards, Anime Insider for anime and manga, and Toy Wishes for mainstream toy enthusiasts, particularly children and parents. In 2006, the magazine was revamped with a bigger look and more pages, switching from the "perfect bound" or staple free look, to that of a more traditional magazine.
In November 2006, Wizard Editor-in-Chief and co-founder Pat McCallum was fired, after more than a decade with the company. Wizard has declined to say why he was removed. On February 21, 2007, Scott Gramling was announced as the new Editor-in-Chief.
The magazine has gone through an ever-changing line-up of regular and semi-regular features, including
- Book Shelf - Brief reviews of the monthly trade paperback and hardcover collection releases.
- Magic Words - the letters column, which often feature the Wizard Bunny, one of the magazines mascots.
- Top 10 Writers and Artists Lists charting the most popular creators of the month in each category.
Retired Features include
- Casting Call - A feature proposing the "dream" cast for potential film adaptations of various comic books. It has been an on-and-off feature in recent issues.
- Last Man Standing - A dream "faceoff" between two different characters or teams, always of different companies and/or universes. The feature would detail a brief showdown between the two, including the victor and would be accompanied by an exclusive illustration (usually by a high profile artist) depicting the battle.
In addition, both Wizard and Toyfare often feature mail-away offers for exclusive merchandise. Wizard became renowned for their Wizard#1/2 Issue offers—issues of then on-going series which featured in-continuity stories that supplemented the regular series published issues. The issues were numbered #1/2 so as not to disrupt the series ongoing numbering system. Often Wizard would also include free pack-in issues with their magazines, usually numbered as Wizard #0's.
Series that participated include
- Astro City
- The Darkness
- Devil's Reign: Silver Surfer/Witchblade
- Fathom (Both #1/2 AND #0 issues)
- Fire from Heaven
- Magdalena vs. Angelus
- The Maxx
- Midnight Nation
- The Red Star
- Rising Stars
- Tales of The Darkness
- Tales of The Witchblade
- Violent Messiahs
- Witchblade/Tomb Raider
- Witchblade vs. The Darkness
For many, Wizard is the most visible face of the American comics industry, and it encounters a fair amount of controversy. Critics charge that Wizard discusses mainstream American superhero comics to the exclusion of other kinds of comics; however, such comics are the dominant genre among the majority of American comics buyers.
Comic creator Frank Miller had a well-publicized feud with Wizard, initiated by his keynote speech at the 2001 Harvey Awards, during which he ripped a copy of the magazine apart and threw it in a trash can, calling it a "bible written by Satan", a "monthly vulgarity", and a "tree killer (which) regularly cheapens and poisons our field." The two parties have seemingly repaired their relationship (notably, after Miller's successful Sin City film), and Miller was a "Guest of Honor" at Wizard World Chicago 2005.
The magazine received the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Publication About Comics for 1992.
The magazine also gives out its own awards for the comic book industry: the Wizard Fan Awards.