Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TONY'S TIPS #328

Starting this week, “Tony’s Tips” will be a weekly feature here at the bloggy thing. Though I have had a long and happy relationship with Tales of Wonder, I’m bringing my original review column into my own house. While I will continue to review comics, manga, movies and more in the bloggy, my “Tony’s Tips” columns will continue the format I established many decades ago in the sorely-missed Comics Buyer’s Guide: opening comments and a trio of reviews. This is an amicable parting of the ways with Tales of Wonder/InStock Trades. They were great partners and I expect to keep buying way too many books from them in the months and years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has a knack for disrupting one’s plans. For a variety of reasons, none of them health-related, I’d originally planned to take a month off from writing this column. As I watched the world and the entertainment industry (including the comics part of that) get upended by the enormity of this health crisis, my one month off turned into two before I even noticed it. We all had so much on our minds.

I’m not going to dwell on the impact this pandemic is having on us all. At least not in this hopefully back-to-weekly feature. But I will say this one thing:

First and foremost, this is a health crisis. Human beings have to come first before any other concerns. We know how to at least curb the spread and severity of COVID-19. The rules for keeping you and me safe are difficult but necessary. This is not the time for any group or individual to make this about their misguided notions that it’s somehow part of their absurd culture wars.

COVID-19 is a killer. If you don’t remain cognizant of that, you’ll likely not be around to fight another day.

And now on to the fun stuff...

Timely's Greatest: The Golden Age Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett - The Pre-War Years Omnibus [Marvel; $150] may be the most fun I have had reading an omnibus edition. Weighing in at five pounds and nearly 900 pages, these tales from 1939-1942 are as wild and crazy as they come. Even for the dawn of the comic-book industry’s first heroic age. The reader never knows what Namor will do next.

Namor is the surface world’s enemy one story and one of its heroes in the next. When he’s our enemy, he literally kills thousands of mostly innocent people. When he’s our hero, well, he still kills a lot of people but they’re mostly Axis soldiers, so it’s kinda sorta okay. In one book-length epic, and, in the 1940s, that meant sixty pages of story, he tries to take over the entire world and clearly slaughters hundreds of thousands of people by flooding large cities and such. Then, when he gets his keister handed to him by the Human Torch, he apologizes for his mass murdering and promises to be good from now on. And the Torch and the rest of the non-Axis world are all perfectly fine with that.

When Everett is at the top of his game, which deadlines sometimes made impossible, his art and writing are easily among the best of the decade. He introduces interesting new characters - like a man and a woman he kidnaps and turns into air/water breathers like him - that I wish had made it into the Marvel Age of Comics that would start two decades down the road. There’s even one story with police officer Betty Dean’s slightly shady sister.

The comics industry was still figuring out its rules. But, I have a feeling that rules wouldn’t have meant much to Everett. Both he and Namor are unique. Because that’s the essence of the fun and the wonder of these stories from eight decades ago.

The Golden Age Sub-Mariner is my pick of the week. Though the price is steep, you can find bargains. I recommend InStock Trades, which has sponsored my Tony’s Tips columns. They’re currently selling the book at 42% off with free shipping. What a deal!

ISBN 978-1302919351

                                                                                 

Joyce Brabner’s The Courage Party: Helping Our Resilient Children Understand and Survive Sexual Assault [Microcosm Publishing; $27.95] isn’t precisely a graphic novel, though her connection to her late husband Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor GNs makes it an apt fit for the category. With lots of illustrations and even some comic-book-like pages by Gerta Oparaku, the book does whatever will work to tell an important story and convey important information to children. Here’s the back cover pitch:

The Courage Party is a "gently explicit" book about sexual abuse, written for kids to read alone or (better) with a "good grownup." Parental guide included. After escaping a playground predator, a little girl learns to understand what happened and how to carry herself with pride and conviction after five older women organize a "Courage Party" for her and share stories from their own lives. Interactions with police, pediatricians, prosecutors, victim advocates, a community rape crisis center and courthouse are depicted as young Danielle learns she is more than a survivor. She is a "crime fighter," powered by her own truthfulness and courage, able to protect other kids in the park, with many good grownups on her side. Based on a true story, Dani's own good grownup talks in the margins to parents about key ideas: ending conflicting messages ("You didn't do anything wrong. But don't tell anybody!"); understanding the difference between loving adult sexual intercourse and sexual abuse; interacting with authorities; and helping your child deal with malicious gossip, taunts and jeers.

The Courage Party moves me. As a parent myself, I know too well the fear predators are targeting one’s kids. In similar circumstances, I would not have handled this situation anywhere near as well and as smartly as did my friend Joyce. Though I know my kids would’ve been as brave as Danielle.

This is not an easy book for adults. It’s hard facing what is out there. But there’s nothing easy about such situations. That said, while the book might also be scary for kids, Brabner has done well keeping it acceptable and inviting for children.

This is a book that should be in every public and school library. I know money will be tight for libraries and schools as they deal with the economic events of the current pandemic, but, once those places open, I urge you to recommend they purchase this book. Much as I might wish otherwise, there will be a student or parent that  needs it.

ISBN 978-1621067856

                                                                               

One more for this week. Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody with art by Yoshi Yoshitani [$9.99] is a “DC graphic novel for  kids.” It features a young Zatanna just learning about her amazing abilities and heritage.

Zatanna is one of my favorite comics characters, but, depending on the DC mood of the moment, she isn’t always as fun and interesting as she can be. And, of course, if you asked me who she is right now in the main DC Universe, I couldn’t tell you. Magic can’t save us from inconsistent editorial policies.

Yet, even though this graphic novel isn’t part of the regular DCU, it’s a fine take on Zatanna that is consistent with the character’s core values. I recognize this Zatanna, which made the graphic novel enjoyable for me. It even has a key role for Jack Kirby’s Klarion the Witch-Boy.

Zatanna and the House of Secrets is suitable for all ages. Says the 68-year-old comics fan writing this review.

ISBN 978-1401290702

That’s a wrap for this edition of “Tony’s Tips.” I’ll be back next Tuesday with another trio of reviews. In the meantime, I’m working on a variety of bloggy things for the rest of this week. Stay safe, stay sane and keep enjoying the amazing variety of entertainments available to us.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 18, 2020

QUICK UPDATE

Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing will resume tomorrow. Although I have a column ready to go, I pushed it back to accommodate taking my cat to the vet and dealing with some garage sales and household stuff. My only concern with my cat is that she is getting on in years. Heck, she was even pretty calm when I put her in the cage and drove her to the vet.

I'm committed to bringing you the bloggy thing on a nigh-daily basis. Already in various stages of completion are columns titled: Pandemic Life Raids Again; Depression Double Feature, Phantom Friday and Black Lightning Beat. In the near future, you'll see some material discovered in my files and the return of my July 1963 series.

Stay safe and sane, my friends.

Friday, May 15, 2020

I'M STILL STANDING

I haven't abandoned this bodacious, bombastic bloggy thing of mine. However, some household and other personal projects have delayed my posting new columns on a regular basis. I expect to get back to writing on Sunday with an eye towards posting a new bloggy on Monday and, fingers crossed, every day after that. Stay safe and sane, my friends.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

MANGA MANGA MANGA

I read quite a bit of manga. I probably read more manga than I do current super-hero comic books. For one thing, a manga volume has a more satisfying chunk of story than you get in most comic books. For another thing, I like the amazing variety manga offers.

For a third thing, ClevNet, the 100-member-plus organization with which my Medina library system is affiliated, makes it possible, nay, easy for me to read any manga that any of those libraries have in circulation.

Which brings us to today’s manga reviews...

The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition Vol. 1 by Kazuo Umezz [Viz Media; $34.99] is one of the most terrifying comics I’ve ever read. It’s been called “a timeless horror classic” and I’m absolutely on board with that description.

Here’s the back cover copy, which doesn’t go nearly far enough in describing the horror of this series:

Out of nowhere, an entire school vanishes, leaving nothing but a hole in the ground. While parents mourn and authorities investigate, the students and teachers find themselves not dead but stranded in a terrifying wasteland where they must fight to survive.


The school is an elementary school, so the students range from the first to the six grades. Pretty young to have much of a chance of surviving. The teachers? Lacking the imagination of the young, the teachers do not fare well at all and some of them pose a threat to the kids. The supply of drinking water and food is so limited that some adults and students go mad from even the thought of starving. The world outside the school is barren and hostile. In this bleak existence, there is no guarantee that death isn’t waiting for you around the next corner.

The Drifting Classroom is seriously scary stuff. The comparison is not an exact one, but this manga makes Lord of the Flies look like Mary Poppins. Not for the faint of heart.

ISBN 978-1974709373

                                                                          

An ad in a Halloween ComicFest free comic got me interested in Imperfect Girl [Vertical Comics; $12.95]. The three-issue manga is a Mitsuru Hattori adaptation of a novel by legendary mystery writer Nisioisin.

“An author is someone who creates tales, but an aspiring author is someone who lies and nothing more.”

An aspiring author see a young girl do something unthinkable. When almost struck by a vehicle that strikes her friend, she chooses to retrieve the hand-held game she was playing rather than go to her friend. She seems utterly unconcerned about her friend. This chills the would-be novelist. He can’t stop thinking about her.

The girl knows he saw what happened. She shows up at his apartment, assaults him and threatens him. She takes him prisoner, locking him in a closet of her house. If she has parents, they don’t live in the house with her. The aspiring novelist is frightened and intrigued.

The first volume is as unsettling as The Drifting Classroom, but on a more intimate level. Just two characters. One whose actions are inexplicable and the other fascinated by the other.

The second volume takes the story to a different dimension as the imprisoned writer learns more about his captor and even begins to sympathize with her. Is this a “Stockholm Syndrome” situation or is the writer growing as a caring human being?

I’m fascinated by Imperfect Girl and eager to read the concluding volume of the series.

Imperfect Girl 1: ISBN 978-1945054600

Imperfect Girl 2: ISBN 978-1945054617

                                                                            

Not every manga I read clicks with me. I bailed on the Dirty Pair Omnibus [Seven Seas; $18.99] just shy of halfway through the 360-page volume. Here’s the back cover pitch:

Kei and Yuri, known as the Lovely Angels (or the notorious Dirty Pair, depending on who you ask) work as trouble consultants for the galactic Worlds Welfare and Works Association (WWWA). But in their pursuit of space-wide justice, they cause space-wide disaster! The chaotic (and strangely successful) exploits of these interstellar agents come alive in this two-in-one manga omnibus by writer Haruka Takachiho and artist Hisao Tamaki!

I could have lived with the skimpy costumes of the ladies, though I found them as absurd as I find most such costumes. What turned me off was the innocents dying by the thousands being treated as if it were hilarious.

Collateral damage. What a knee-slapper!

I’ve no doubt other manga readers enjoy Dirty Pair far more than I did. It’s considered a classic series by some. If this sounds like something you’d like, then, by all means, read this hefty omnibus edition. It’s a big comics world.

ISBN 978-1-64275-753-8
                                                                           

The edition of Melting Lover by Bukuro Yamada [KUMA; $14.95} I got from the library has a different cover than the one shown here. I assume male paramours were considered too controversial/steamy for library shelves. Here’s how Amazon describes the manga:

A bond of love is a beautiful thing, but what happens when outside pressures force it into forms both strange and strained. A lovesick youth encounters a mysterious shapeshifter with the ability to take on the appearance of his beloved. A hitman forswears pleasure, but cannot shake the fun-loving angel determined to follow him on his assignments. Two circus performers keep explosive secrets from one another while sharing the trapeze. And an android finds himself malfunctioning under the gaze of his pet human.

Melting Lover explores the shadowy territories of love through Bukuro Yamada’s sweet art and gentle literary touch.


What information is not included in the above is that these romance stories all involve same-sex lovers. Which is something I would have included to let potential customers know what they were buying. The library edition I read was marked as a teen graphic novel. I think that’s the right call.

I found the stories quite readable, but they didn’t knock me out. I don’t know if this book falls into the Boys' Love genre, though, admittedly I haven’t read a lot of manga from that genre. Have any suggestions for me?

I think Melting Lover will appeal to some readers more than it did to me...and that other readers won’t like it all. That’s why I like manga so much. There’s so much variety that, if one book or series doesn’t entertain me, there are so many more to choose from.

******************************
Pandemic stuff. It appears the Medina Library and the Usenet system in general will be closed through the end of this month. But I have a lot more manga to read and review, so you can expect another one of these manga columns within the next couple weeks.

Stay safe. Stay sane. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Saturday, May 2, 2020

PANDEMIC CINEMA

The COVID-19 pandemic blues has me watching cheesy monster movies every time my anxiety and depression puts a writer’s block between me and the books, cartoons, columns, comics and pitches I’ve wanted to work on for the past several weeks. It’s taken me a while to get my head back in the game. I’m determined to make amends for all that lost time, even if it’s only to myself.

Since I watched so many cheesy monster movies, some of them for the second or third time, I plan to salvage some of that time by writing about the they-were-new-to-me films for your entertainment and edification. Get the knives and cutting boards out, my friends. We’ve got some slicing to do.

First up is RAGE OF THE MUMMY, a 2018 low-budget movie written and directed by Dennis Vincent, who also plays the title character. I don’t hate the mummy costume, but that might just be me searching for something positive to say about this film. Here’s a brief summary of the film:

Defying an ancient curse, a group of occultists steal thirteen sacred relics from the tomb of Prince Horus-Kan in order to feed their supernatural powers. Now, the three thousand year old mummy prince must hunt down the stolen relics and bring deadly vengeance upon the perpetrators. For Detectives Blake and Crawford, the body count is piling up. Can they stop the mummy from his deadly rampage?

This movie is a clumsy combination of live action and comic-book-style artwork. The art isn’t bad, but it’s obviously used as a way of keeping the budget down. It basically stands in for what would have been special effects.

The unfolding by the plot is utterly predictable. The mummy walks around, often in daylight and without anyone noticing him, visiting the occultists. He kills them and takes back his sacred relics. A few other folks are slain for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even at just ninety minutes, the movie seemed padded. It just goes on and on without any appreciable twists.

For the most part, the acting and the writing are serviceable at best. Scott Croushore, playing Detective Blake, was the standout of the cast. Which I know sounds like more damning with faint praise than I intend. I’d love to see him in something with good writing and a budget higher than pocket change. The movie earned a 4.5 on the Internet Movie Database.

I watched Rage of the Mummy for free on Amazon Prime. All it cost me was the hour-and-a-half I would have otherwise spent feeling the shadow of coronavirus doom drawing ever closer. I don’t regret my decision to watch it.

                                                                        

Sometimes Amazon Prime serves up an unexpected gem. ALIEN TRESPASS [2009] is one of those jewels. Here’s the synopsis:

After crash landing near a desert town, an alien enlists the help of a local waitress to re-capture a monster that escaped from the wreckage of his space ship.

Written by Stephen P. Fisher and directed by R.W. Goodwin, the film channels the sci-fi movies of the 1950s. Its humor comes from its keen imitations of those creature features, but it’s a respectful humor that never denies how much fun those films were. Especially for the kids of my generation.

Eric McCormack stars as scientist Ted Lewis and the alien Urp who possesses his body to track down the human-eating Ghota. You could call the performances wooden, but I give more credit to McCormack. He nailed both personas.

Waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird) longs to leave her tiny town to pursue a career as an artist. Her character is resourceful. Her feelings for Urp and vice versa make for an interesting romantic quadrangle, since the alien is in the scientist’s body. Kudos also go to Jody Thompson. She’s not given as much screen time as I’d have liked, but she’s terrific as the scientist’s sexy wife Lana.

The small town’s skeptical police officers are played by Dan Lauria and Robert Patrick. Both are solid in their roles.

The movie has its chilling moments and tragic deaths. Viewers get to know some of the Ghota’s victims before they meet their deaths, which adds emotional weight to the film. The victims aren’t merely statistics. However, don’t expect too much from the creature suit. It’s interesting, but not compelling.

Alien Trespass is definitely worth watching. If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free.

                                                                            

I could have watched KING COBRA [1999] on Amazon Prime, but I had a DVD of this direct-to-video movie and decided to watch that. Your guess is as good as mine as to when I purchased the direct-to-video DVD. My impulse control is virtually non-existent when it comes to cheesy monster movies. Here’s the IMDb synopsis:
 
A mutated snake escapes from a laboratory and terrorizes the residents of a small California brewery town.

Save for the brewery angle, which I kind of like, that could describe a half-dozen different movies.

Minor spoiler: the town brewery is unveiling its new beer. This is a big festival-type event. Murray Hamilton guests as the mayor who doesn’t want to shut down the festival. Not actually. I made that up for shits and giggles. However, Eric Estrada does make a brief appearance as a gay event planner and, boy howdy, does he give one offensive performance. Someone should call human resources over at the California Highway Patrol.

This is a pretty standard creature on the loose feature that has a few good things in it. There’s a nice human story in young doctor Brad Kagen (Scott Hillenbrand) leaving the small city to pursue a career at a big city hospital and leaving behind his police officer girlfriend Jo Biddle (Casey Fallo).

Pat Morita is good as snake hunter Nick Hashimoto, especially when he makes no attempt to conceal his contempt for mad scientist Irwin Burns (Joseph Ruskin). Courtney Gains is absolutely bizarre as an even madder scientist. Folk singer Hoyt Axton is fun as the town’s mayor and, during the closing credits, sings a very odd ditty about  the title character. Tragically, “Seth is the Devil” never managed to make the Billboard Hot 100.

The giant snake Seth isn’t a masterpiece of special effects. You’re always aware that it’s a mechanical snake, though there are a few nice stare downs with those doomed to die. However, the scene where the town’s senior doctor meets Seth is worth nothing. It’s the best and most chilling scene in the movie.

King Cobra is what it is, a low-budget monster movie made to cash in on the sensation that was Jaws. It was actually started before Anaconda, but production problems saw it released after the bigger budget movie. If you can watch it for free on Amazon Prime, it’ll just cost you 93 minutes of your life. If you live in the area and want to borrow my copy, I’ll put it out on the back porch for you. Social distancing is my jam.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff. Stay safe.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Friday, May 1, 2020

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN APRIL

It has been about forty days (and nights) since Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued his stay-at-home order for our state. I didn’t think all that much of it at first. After all, I spend most of my time at home anyway.

Saintly Wife Barb, as an essential worker, would still be going to work, but the hospital she works at is not set up for and would not be receiving COVID-19 patients. Our daughter Kelly, an analyst for a bank, worked from her home most of the time and would be doing so full-time during the crisis.

Our son Ed, a professional engineer and project manager, could work out of his home with only occasional trips to an empty office. He does visit job sites occasionally - roads still got to be built and maintained - but those are outdoors and he’s firm about practicing safe distancing at those sites.

Yes, I would miss my friends. Once a month, I go out to lunch with one group of friends and go out to dinner with some other friends. I wouldn’t be able to get books from the Medina library, but I have tens of thousands of unread items at home. I wouldn’t be able to go to the movies, which, if I was lucky, I could do a few times each year, but I have hundreds of un-watched movies at home and many more available on streaming services. I could do this.

Funny thing. I constantly find myself going stir-crazy. I can go to the grocery store and other essential businesses, but each trip has to be planned in advance. When I go to these places, I get nervous and angry because so many morons aren’t following the simple safety practices enacted by these businesses and aren’t wearing masks. I get downright infuriated when they make their callous disregard for others part of their Trump-infused culture wars.

But, yeah, stir-crazy. I want to do all of the things I rarely did when I could. Which isn’t the worst of it.

I am depressed most of the time. I become horribly sad when I read how people less fortunate than me are suffering from this crisis. I have tears when I read of someone losing a loved one, including the pets that have provided them some measure of comfort. I raise my blood pressure to perhaps unhealthy levels when I see how badly Trump and his stooges are handling this crisis and always, always, with an eye towards their own financial and political gain over the needs of human beings.

I am crushed by the effects of this pandemic on the comics industry to which I have devoted my professional life. Creators don’t have work. Publishers have suspended operations, which might well mean a suspension of royalty and reprint payments. Diamond Distributors is shut down until later this month. The comics shops, which have always been the backbone of the comics industry are closed and some of them may never open again.

One would think that, if there were a personal “silver lining” to this situation, it would be that I could write a whole bunch of the things that I want to write. Even if I couldn’t get them to the marketplace right away. Think again.

My biggest enemy in that arena is my depression. It has triggered a paralyzing writer’s block in me. With shame, I confess I’ve also disrupted the healthy routines I established for myself when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in December. My numbers are not at all life-threatening, but they are not as stellar as they’ve been.

Okay, by now, you’ve looked back at the title of today’s blog and have asked yourself where’s the freaking “happy” in all this. I’m not going to tell you that hasn’t been a struggle for me. Yet, when I put my mind to it, I can recognize the good things in my world.

First and foremost, neither my wife or my kids have shown symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. That’s also true of my cat Simba and myself. Other things have also brought me joy. 

Here are the things that made me happy in April.

April 1: Timely’s Greatest The Golden Age Sub-Mariner The Pre-War Years by Bill Everett. I’m 200 pages into this massive collection and having a blast. You never know what Namor is going to do next. Edge of your seat suspense.

April 2: MetroHealth, my health care carrier, is being proactive and not just with Covid-19. The pharmacy called to ask if I wanted refills of my various medications. I’m pretty good about this, but it was great for them to make the process that much more convenient for me.
                                                                            

April 3: Super Shark. From 2011, a big goofy movie directed by Fred Olen Ray and suitable for the whole family. Cheese CGI, no gore to speak of, a walking tank and fun performances by John Schneider, Sarah Lieving, and Tim Abell.

April 4: Johnny Malloy’s in my home town of Medina offers a tasty burger and fries for just five bucks. Pull up to the place, turn on your lights and a server comes out to take your order. We fed six people for forty bucks including tip.
                                                                              

April 5: Tiger King. Fascinating reality show trash. Barb and I are watching it remotely with our kids, an episode every other night. We’re currently in heated debate on to whether or not Carole Baskin killed her husband. My theory: the big cats got him and she covered up his death.

April 6: Stumptown. Barb and I have been binge-watching this great show. It’s as if the universe decided we had to fall several months behind so we’d have something to watch during the lockdown.

April 7: Tom Hegeman, my friend of several decades, sent me photos from the 2001 Mid-Ohio-Con. I’ll be scanning and sharing them over the next several weeks.

April 8: Brian Cronin. The best writer at Comic Book Resources and one of the best comics history writers period. He’s been publishing lots of content, which is just what we need in these dire pandemic times.
                                                                               

April 9: The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing. After many of my Facebook friends recommending this series, I’ve now read the first several issues. It takes the Hulk in a scary new direction without blowing up the character’s core values. I love it a lot.

[NOTE: Sadly, my regard for The Immortal Hulk diminished when the series got mystical and then turned into Hulk Team-Up. I continue to read it, but it’s lost the story qualities that made me a fan of those earlier issues.]

April 10: New York. The March 30-April 12 issue is “a handbook for surviving quarantine” filled with great writing, amazing photos and intriguing ideas. I bought a rice cooker.

April 11: Delicious anticipation. I’ve recently learned of a great many cheesy monster movies from China. Sooner or later, when these films are dubbed or subtitled in English, they will find me a most eager audience.
                                                                              

April 12: Harley Quinn’s Kite-Man. I love the show’s take on this D-list Batman villain. In the 1980s, I revealed his real name was Charles Brown and, in case you hadn’t noticed, in this series, good old Charlie Brown got the red-haired girl.
                                                                              

Easter Bonus: When I got the morning newspapers from my mailbox, I found this card from Chase, Gabby and Zac, who are kind of sort of our nephews and niece. It made me smile big time.
                                                                                 

April 13: Kit Kat Lemon Crisp. Saintly Wife Barb gave me a little Easter basket filled with candy. Okay, maybe that’s mixed signals for a Type 2 diabetic, but this new flavor of Kit Kat is to die for. Hopefully, not literally.

April 14: The Tiger King and I. Hosted by Joel McHale, the special interviews “cast members” who aren’t Joe Exotic. Jeff Lowe comes off shady as ever, but there are nice moments with several others. It was a solid bonus chapter to the documentary series.
                                                                            

April 15: Black Canary Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee. This is a fun re-imagining of the Black Canary as a young teenager. Solid comics and much more enjoyable than the recent DCU versions of the character.

April 16: Mystery boxes from comic-book shops. I’ve purchased them online from a couple of shops. It’s a fun way to help those shops in these troubled times. Ah, the suspense!

April 17: Robert Venditti’s Superman stories in Superman Giant #1 and #2 are two of the best Superman stories I’ve read in quite some time.
                                                                           

April 18: Alter Ego #163. A glorious spotlight on Dave Cockrum and his early years in comics. Plus fascinating pieces on Charles Biro, Manly Wade Wellman and more.
                                                                                

April 19: Mega Crocodile. It’s a 2019 Chinese monster movie of the sort SyFy used to show regularly. I watched the English-subtitled version on my wide-screen TV via YouTube and loved it. Even though the monster isn’t as submarine-swallowing “mega” as shown on the poster.

April 20: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). An entertaining movie with a fun script by Christina Hodson, sure direction by Cathy Yan, a great performance by Margot Robbie and an amusing take on the Huntress.

April 21: Rediscovering HGTV. In recent weeks, Barb and I have been enjoying Beachfront Bargain Hunt, Caribbean Life, Celebrity 101, House in a Hurry, My Lottery Dream House and trusty old favorites House Hunters and House Hunters International.

[NOTE: I’ve gotten bored with Beachfront Bargain Hunt and Caribbean Life, but the others are still doing it for me.]

April 22: The USA Network’s Briarpatch wrapped up its ten-episode run in grand style and with a satisfying ending. While watching the finale, I remarked how a story element hadn’t been seen in weeks. It showed up with a vengeance. Kudos to Rosario Dawson and all who worked on the series.

April 23: Some days, it’s enough to know - knock on wood - that my wife, our kids and me aren’t showing any symptoms of the Covid-19 virus. I hope you can say the same.
                                                                            

April 24: “Light’s Out” (the Brooklyn Nine-Nine season finale) was a hilarious masterpiece. Every member of the cast shone. One crazy plot development after another. Give them an Emmy!
                                                                             

April 25: I had a blast watching Snake, a Chinese monster movie, on YouTube. No English dubbing or subtitles, but I was able to follow it pretty decently. I credit that understanding to its similarity to the countless such films that aired on the SyFy Channel back when that channel was fun.

April 26: Human inventiveness in coping with the COVID-19 crisis  and the daily reminders that, for every person being horrible during it, there are many more good people looking out for their neighbors.

April 27: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. We watched the pilot last night and found it charming, funny, heartfelt and satisfying. Barb and I were looking for a new series to watch together. We’ve found it in this show

April 28: “Maggie Dover” by Stan Lynde. Reprinted in Comics Revue #407/408, the final Rick O’Shay daily story is a heartwarming tale of folks mostly at their best. It’s a proper send-off for the strip and a reminder of why I’ve always loved it.

April 29: This is an “off” day. Tens of thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19. Many more will die due to the incompetence of the Trump administration and its allies, even as they make sure the rich get richer. The comics industry I have devoted my professional life to is in dire jeopardy. I miss seeing my friends. And I lost my race for a spot on the Medina County Democratic Party Central Committee. Fortunately, tomorrow is only a day away.
                                                                         

April 30: My son is the new Medina County Democratic Party Central Committee representative in his ward. He ran unopposed, but he got more votes (150) than anyone else in a Democratic Central Committee race. If you include Republicans, he was second. Well done, my son.

That’s all for now. Stay healthy, safe and sane. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

PANDEMIC LIFE

Friends and family know I’m going more than a little stir-crazy as I shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is ironic in that, as a freelance writer, I generally spend most of my time in my house anyway.

I have it much better than most people. Though my Saintly Wife Barb must still go to work at the MetroHealth facility in Parma, Ohio, her building doesn't have any coronavirus patients and, because it’s not set up for such patients, is safe. Knock on wood.

Eddie and Kelly, our wonderful children, work from their own homes. Eddie has to visit his projects on occasion, but, as those are all outside projects, his risk is minimal. Roads still need to be built and maintained.

Kelly is an analyst for a major bank and has been doing that work from her home since long before the current crisis. The only real change is that she used to go into the office occsionally.

We get together once or twice a week for a family dinner. Hugs are rare, but at least we’re in the same place for a few precious hours. To date, none of us have shown any symptoms.

What fascinates me most about this situation is how many things we took for granted are off the table for the foreseeable future. It’s the little things that surprise me the most. Like that I can’t get a bacon and egg bagel at McDonald’s. That, while I used to gas up my SUV and go to Denny’s for a make-your-own-grand-slam breakfast, I can’t do that. That, while I used to, on rare occasions, get ahead on my work and treat myself to an afternoon pizza and a movie at our local Regal Cinemas multiplex, that theater is closed and will remain so for quite some time. It doesn’t surprise me that all of the above have happened. It surprises me that they now mean so much to me.

Of course, the comics industry and the entertainment industries in general have taken major hits during the pandemic. No comic books being distributed by Diamond. Comics writers, artists and staffers being laid off. Many TV shows that will not complete their current seasons as planned. Movies being pushed back to whenever theaters open again as filming on other movies has been halted. Newscasters, pundits and talk show hosts are broadcasting their shows from their living rooms. The technology we used to accuse of keeping us apart from the world is now what connects us to the world.

I’m going to be writing these little slices of pandemic life on a regular basis. I’m going to avoid politics in them because we all know what a partisan shit show our criminal president is performing for his rabid base. And with that...

What you’ll see in this recurring feature are notions that come to me as I work on this and that. Maybe I’ll write about something I see in my neighborhood. Maybe I’ll write about some crazy craving that hits me. Maybe I’ll write about some old and new comic books as I go through my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. I won’t know what I will be writing until I write it.

Please stay safe, my dear friends.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella