I am an angry man as I write today’s bloggy thing, but I will try
not to be ruled by that anger. I’ll start with the most positive
thing I can say about the situation with Ed Kramer, convicted child
molester and co-founder of Dragon*Con and the Dragon*Con culture of
sleaze that allowed Kramer to escape even imperfect justice for so
Nancy A. Collins is a hero.
Let me repeat that.
Nancy A. Collins is a hero.
The author fought for years to make fandom and the public aware of
Kramer’s crimes and how Dragon*Con made it possible for Kramer to
put off his trial for 13 years. She was vilified by friends of Ed
Kramer, who also cast cruel comments at the victims of the man now
known to be a sociopath. She was vilified by the other founders of
Dragon*Con and by the churlish fans of Dragon*Con. If any of those
who vilified her had a molecule of the courage and decency shown by
Collins these many years, she would be receiving and reading their
abject apologies for the next several days. As I write this blog,
I am unaware of her receiving any apologies from those defenders of
My own minor involvement in the righteous outcry against Kramer and
Dragon*Con was inspired by the courage of Collins. She and others
then provided me with newspaper stories and first-hand accounts of
Kramer’s crimes. These led to accounts of other improprieties - to
put it way too kindly - at the convention. Add to these accounts
my own solitary visit to Dragon*Con in the 1980s, a visit that left
me with a unflattering opinion of the event, and it became clear to
me that I had to take a stand.
I’m not going to give you a long recounting of Kramer’s crimes and
his long delay in facing even imperfect justice for those crimes.
I’m not going to give you a long recounting of Dragon*Con’s myriad
ethical and moral lapses, or the event’s indifference to the sexual
harassment and attacks on attendees, or the event’s tacit approval
of disgraceful public displays. But I will give you a handful of
Dragon*Con was a sleazy convention long before Kramer’s predatory
nature became public. That has not changed overmuch, though some
cosmetic changes were enacted in an attempt to improve the event’s
image this past year. I received credible reports that little had
changed from previous events.
Dragon*Con is a cash cow. Kramer’s cut of the take enabled him to
delay his day in court for over a dozen years. Other founders of
the event spoke on his behalf in court and their testimony helped
keep him out of prison and free to commit additional crimes. There
are also credible reports of Kramer’s involvement in the convention
continuing years past the time when the convention claimed he had
no further role in the event.
Dragon*Con’s other founders claimed for years that they could not
legally remove Kramer from their organization and cut off the money
that allowed him to delay justice. Until, of course, they did just
that. Because and only because the event’s bottom line was finally
The allegedly sickly Kramer was somehow well enough to travel out
of state in violation of his bond and subsequently get caught in a
motel room with a 14-year-old boy. That’s when we knew Kramer could
no longer escape his day in court and that’s when Dragon*Con knew
its bottom line would be in deep shit once the trial put the event
squarely in the spotlight.
Kramer didn’t exactly have his day in court. After filing lawsuit
after lawsuit to bend the authorities to his will, Kramer chose not
to face his accusers in court. He agreed to a plea deal and this
is where justice proved most terribly imperfect.
The outcome of Kramer’s non-trial is a disgrace. He did not have
to admit his guilt in court. He received a sentence of five years,
of which he has served two and of which he will spent the remaining
three under house arrest. He has to pay $100,000 each to his three
victims. He will forever be listed as a sexual offender, but that
does not automatically mean his neighbors will be informed there’s
a predator in their midst.
Kramer spend two years in jail for his monstrous crimes, spending
that time wearing down the legal system with numerous lawsuits and
claims of poor health. A member of my birth family will serve at
least twice that many years because he stole over a million dollars
from people who trusted him. I don’t think my relative received an
unfair sentence. I mention him only to point out the unbelievable
leniency of Kramer’s sentence. If you want to get physically ill,
compare Kramer’s sentence to the decades non-violent drug offenders
will serve in prison, mostly for being poor and not-white. Yeah,
that’s American justice.
The prosecution in this matter has coughed up a lot of bullshit in
regard to this sentence. These failed agents of justice go on and
on about how closely Kramer will be monitored or how he’ll go back
to prison for the slightest violation of this plea arrangement and
serve 60 years and blah blah blah. They are convinced Kramer will
not be able to resist his predatory urges.
Let’s look at this a little closer...
The prosecution is expecting Kramer will violate the conditions of
the plea arrangement. That this potentially puts some new victim at
risk is acceptable to the prosecution. Now ask yourself is that’s
a risk you find acceptable.
Kramer is a sociopath. According to some of his former defenders,
they never realized he was a monster. I wouldn’t bet the farm or
a child’s life on Kramer not being able to restrain his urges until
the time when he believes he can strike again and get away with it.
How long will the authorities keep him under heavy surveillance and
supervision before some bean-counter decides these precautions are
Let’s say Kramer does violate the terms of this plea arrangement.
Maybe he’ll go back to prison and maybe he won’t. Maybe the same
co-founders of Dragon*Con who testified that he was too ill to go
on trial and, presumably, go to prison, will step up to defend him
once again. Or maybe some other fool will fill that role this time
around. Given his past delaying tactics, does anyone really have
a realistic expectation that Kramer won’t do everything he can to
stay out of prison? Again?
Let’s say - better case scenario - Kramer does go back to prison.
Given his past history, he will doubtless immediately start filing
lawsuits against the authorities for not meeting his medical needs
or his dietary needs or his security needs or whatever else comes
to his demented mind. These are complaints the state will have to
address at additional expense to the taxpayers. Kramer has nothing
to lose by being a nuisance.
The prosecution failed in their responsibility to punish Kramer for
his crimes and protect the public from his future crimes. In the
battle of wills, they blinked.
What would be my idea of a just outcome? I’d like Kramer to rot in
prison for the rest of his miserable life.
I’d like to see the Dragon*Con founders apologize for their role in
allowing Kramer to delay justice for so long. I’d like to see
these same founders take real steps to change the culture of sleaze
that defines their convention, though I suspect they realize that’s
one of the attractions for some who attend the event.
Most of all, I’d like to see those founders and every one else who
attacked and vilified Nancy Collins make very public apologies to
that heroic woman. I’d like to see that, but I don’t expect to see
that. We’ve already established those folks are lacking in courage
As for those among the readers of this blog who will again leap to
the defense of Dragon*Con and, as per usual, try to land insulting
“punches” on me, you’ll be wasting your time. This blog’s comments
section will not become your venue for defending the indefensible.
Your insults will remain of no consequence or interest to me. You
chose a side and it was clearly the wrong side. All you can do now
is try to rationalize your poor choice.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Here's an email from reader Dennis Donohoe:
I just finished reading your column about holiday gifts. This is not a bad time of year for people to think about our troops deployed overseas. Comic books are a welcome part of care packages that the Red Cross and other organizations put together to send to the troops. Over the last few years I’ve donated over 7,000 comics to the Red Cross for this purpose. The comics get packed in boxes along with tooth paste, snacks and all sorts of other things. I’ve gotten firsthand feedback from a couple friends who spent time in Afghanistan that comics are very welcome. You may want to suggest this to your vast legion of fans and blog buddies.
I read your columns every week. You’ve inspired me to try some new titles (I am currently reading Chew, which I knew nothing about until you wrote about it a few weeks ago). I wish you and your family the best of the holiday season and a wonderful Christmas.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
tenth anniversary with a 100-page issue focusing on the centennial
and other century anniversaries of long-running comic-book titles.
The Dan Jurgens cover of the Justice League of America is a tip-off
that this issue, like most issues of Back Issue, tends to favor DC
Comics over other publishers. Not surprising, since editor Michael
Eury got his comics career start working for the late and sorely-
missed Dick Giordano at DC.
The issue opens with a very nice summation of the comics industry’s
ambivalent attitude towards century issues during the 1940s through
the 1960s. It’s written by Robert Greenberger, who worked for DC,
Marvel, Starlog and Weekly World News. Jim Kingman rounds out the
discussion with a piece on the non-anniversary DC anniversaries of
the Bronze Age of Comics.
Marvel is the subject of but four articles. Jerry Boyd discusses
several 100th anniversary issues. Franck Martine writes about and
interviews writer/editor Marv Wolfman on Amazing Spider-Man #200
and Fantastic Four #200. Darrell Hempel writes about Marvel’s 25th
anniversary (November 1986) and David Suiter covers Avengers #300.
Mark Arnold contributes the only non-DC/Marvel article. He writes
about Casper the Friendly Ghost #200 and Richie Rich #200. Both of
these issues were published by Harvey Comics.
I skipped Larry Tye’s “Off My Chest” column because I’ve had more
than enough of his pro-DC, anti-Siegel and Shuster garbage in other
venues. Of course, what with DC having failed to honor just about
every agreement it ever made with me, I confess to being more than
a wee bit peeved at the company.
DC attempted to do special anniversary issues with mixed results.
I’d give the highest marks to Detective Comics #500 and The
Brave and the Bold #200, followed by Batman #300, Superman
#300 and Superman #400. If I had to list the 100 greatest comic
books of all time, Detective Comics #500 and The Brave and the
Bold #200 would be contenders and Superman #400 would get an
The lowest marks would go to Adventure Comics #400 - for all of the
terrific work he did elsewhere, editor/writer/artist Mike Sekowsky
never got the hang of Supergirl - The Flash #300 and World’s Finest
Comics #300. Adventure Comics #400 was just plain awful while the
other two issues were merely mediocre. World’s Finest Comics after
the departure of editors Julius Schwartz and Murray Boltinoff was
a mess while The Flash never truly recovered from the departure of
Schwartz as its editor.
The other DC anniversary issues are, at the least, fun comic books.
Bob Haney’s stories for Brave and Bold #100 and #150 might not have
jelled with the rest of the DC Universe, but, like his other B&Bs,
they were always interesting. Paul Kupperberg’s Showcase #100 is
notable for his brave and largely successful attempt to include nearly
every previous Showcase headliner.
Wonder Woman #300, Green Lantern #200 and Batman #400 were
decent super-hero stories. Of the three, I’d rank the Wonder Woman issue
I suspect many - and many most - readers of these anniversary comic
books will have their own notions of which are the best and which
are the worst. That’s just part of the ongoing fun of Back Issue.
Here’s hoping the next ten years are as enjoyable as its first ten
years have been.
Happy Marriage!? [Viz; $9.99 each] is a ten-volume series by Maki
Enjoji. In the shojo manga series, 22-year-old office worker Chiwa
Takanashi agrees to an arranged marriage for the sake of her debt-
ridden father. Her husband is Hokuto Mamiya, 28-year-old president
of Mamiya Commerce. This is to be a secret marriage, which makes
no sense to me, save to give Enjoji an element of suspense to play
with. It was one of several things in the series which I’ve found
unconvincing and/or unsettling.
Hokuto is an arrogant creep. He’s cold and tyrannical. On those
rare occasions when he tries to play the part of a loving husband,
his actions seem calculated and selfish. When he refuses to accept
Chiwa’s resignation from his company - she’s been offered a job at
a start-up company where she would be valued - he crosses the line
from cold to utter asshat. In doing so, Hokuto also diminishes my
regard for the guy who offered Chiwa a job. He withdraws the offer
because of Hokuto’s objection. I thought shojo manga was supposed
to appeal to female readers.
The series ponders if these strangers can find their way to a happy
marriage. After reading the first two volumes, I realized I don’t
care. Hokuto is an asshole and Chiwa needs to figuratively grow a
pair. The only good reason for them to be married is to keep them
from making two other people unhappy. I won’t be returning for the
third and subsequent volumes.
I continue to dig through the boxes of comic books, many years old,
loaned to me by a good friend. Here are my quick comments on some
of those comics.
Conan: The Book of Thoth [Dark Horse; 2006] was an impressive four-
issue exploration of the life of Thoth-Amon, one of the Cimmerian’s
deadliest foes. Written by Kurt Busiek and Len Wein with fantastic
art by Kelley Jones, each $4.99 issue had 40 story pages with the
final issue going to 42 story pages. While these comics may have
been short on Conan, they were wonderfully creepy and told with a
lyrical darkness that served the story well. The four issues were
collected in a 2006 trade paperback.
Also from 2006, I read Giant-Size Ms. Marvel [$4.99]. One of the
best things about this one-shot is that it’s 100 pages. I do love
thick comic books, Unfortunately, most of the contents didn’t do a
whole lot for me.
The lead story is the only new story in the issue. It’s set in the
Scarlet Witch-created “House of M” reality in which mutants pretty
much rule the world. As Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was the most
popular super-hero in that altered world. It’s a so-so side story
from a clunky event.
Next up was a reprint of the 1969 Captain Marvel #18 by Roy Thomas,
Gil Kane and John Buscema. It’s the best story in the issue and
significant because it has the genesis of the super-powers Danvers
would later possess as Ms. Marvel.
That’s followed by Ms. Marvel #1 and #2 from 1977. Created/written
by Gerry Conway with an assist from Carla Conway, the series always
struck me as an exercise in throwing everything against the wall to
see what sticks. So we have awkward appearances by Jonah Jameson
and Mary Jane Watson. The second issue ends on a cliffhanger, so
anyone reading it for the first time in 2006 would have to either
search for subsequent issues in the back-issue bins or buy a copy
of the Essential Ms. Marvel. I’d recommend the latter because even
so-so Essential volumes are still cool.
The last reprinted story in this one-shot is by Chris Claremont and
Dave Cockrum. It hails from Ms. Marvel #20 (1978) and is notable
for the introduction of the costume Carol Danvers wore for most of
her super-hero career. It ends on a cliffhanger - that Essential
Ms. Marvel is looking better all the time - and it reminded me how
much I’ve disliked every costume Danvers has worn until recently.
If she had been a Barbie doll, she would have come with a stripper
pole and little dollar bills for Drunk Ken to stick in her costume.
I’m just saying.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Reading Ditko Monsters: Konga [IDW; $34.99] was absolutely the most
fun I’ve had reading comic books this year. Edited and designed by
Craig Yoe, this massive 328-page hardcover collects every issue of
Konga drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko, fifteen book-length tales
in all. You might want to move back a few paces from your computer
screen because I’m going to start gushing soon.
Konga was a not-very-good 1961 British/American movie about a mad
scientist who turns a monkey into a murderous gorilla and then into
an even bigger murderous gorilla. Michael Gough plays the science
guy and he would play Alfred in the first four Batman movies from
1989 on. The giant ape stuff doesn’t happen until the end of the
movie, which does not warrant multiple viewings.
Charlton Comics writer Joe Gill adapted Konga for a 22-page comic
book drawn by Steve Ditko. It’s mostly faithful to the movie save
that it omits the mad scientist’s lust for his beautiful and much
younger student. The comic was published before the movie debuted
in the United States and was sold or given away at some theaters.
In this collection’s introductory material, Yoe describes some of
the other ideas suggested by the movie’s promotional team.
Konga #1 is an okay comic book. Even though Konga dies at the end
of the movie and the comic book, another monkey is experimented on
and becomes the giant ape who would appear in 25 more Konga comic
books, all of them written by Joe Gill and fifteen of them drawn by
Ditko. Within just a few issues, Gill and Ditko would make Konga
a thing of crazy brilliance.
Ditko’s work is terrific, almost as good as the work he did for
better-paying gigs like Amazing Spider-Man and “Doctor Strange” in
Strange Tales. But Gill is rarely given the credit he deserves for
his Konga scripts.
Konga remembers being treated kindly by Sandra and Bob, who worked
with the mad scientist and, unlike in the movie, who lived to appear in
several issues of the comic book. He longs for that kindness and
only fights when he is provoked. A gentle and often goofy giant,
Konga is provoked by criminals, Nazis, Communists, aliens, an array
of comical would-be dictators and, naturally, other giant critters.
He fights to protect innocent humans, especially those who show
Konga contends with many serious threats to those innocent humans
and to the world, yet Gill often included a humorous slant to these
adventures. Humorous? Heck, many of these stories are laugh-out-
loud hilarious and Ditko goes all-in with the farcical flow of the
more wacky issues. I’ve read these stories a dozen times over the
past half-century and they still make me grin with sheer delight.
Ditko Monsters: Konga is a treasure. Buy a copy for yourself, then
buy a couple more copies for holiday gifts to the comics fans and
monster buffs in your life.
When Archie Comics stopped sending me copies of its comics, books
and digest, I looked at my budget and decided I was getting enough
enjoyment from their publications to buy most of them. The notable
exceptions were Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog because I’ve never
been a fan of comic books based on video games.
Over the past month, I read Archie 1000 Page Comics Digest [$14.99]
and Archie 1000 Page Comics Extravaganza ($14.99), as well several
Archie double digests [$3.99, 160 pages] and double double digests
[$5.99, 320 pages]. Now those 1000 page comics digests deliver a
lot of stories for your fifteen bucks. However, I now realize they
are comprised of stories from the recent double digests and double
digests. So, despite how cool they look and feel, I’m dropping the
thousand-pagers. The smaller-size digests suit me better, which is
not to say that the thicker editions aren’t some of the best if not
the best buys in comics.
Speaking of those smaller-size digests, Archie Double Digest #243
[October 2013] has a fun seven-page “Dotty and Ditto” by Katy Keene
creator Bill Woggon. Dotty and her parrot Ditto are reading comic
books before they go to bed and, naturally, those comic books are
various Archie titles of the 1940s and 1950s: Archie, Black Hood,
Pep, Suzie and even Katy Keene. In her subsequent dream/nightmare,
Dotty “meets” Super Duck, the Shield, Jughead, Archie, Wilbur and
others. It’s an amusing and unusual story, especially if, like me,
you enjoy what I call “comics in the comics.”
Kudos and much appreciation to my friend Peter David for his long
and entertaining run on X-Factor from Marvel Comics. Though I may
be hopelessly confused by Marvel’s numbering on this and too many
other titles, the Grand Comics Database tells me the just-concluded
series ran for 114 issues from January 2006 to November 2013...and
what a wild ride it has been.
The premise was terrific:
Founded by Jamie Madrox and staffed by a group of the best mutant
heroes around. When superhumanity needs a detective agency, they
call on X-Factor Investigations.
My favorite stories were the more street-level cases, but, whether
the adventures were set in New York City or Hell dimensions or some
far alternate future, these characters kept me intrigued. I can’t
think of too many other characters or titles that have managed that
in the past decade.
For the past year, David, mostly working with the terrific Leonard
Kirk as his penciller, has been bringing X-Factor to a conclusion.
The completions of the character journeys and the issues themselves
never seemed rushed. They took some unexpected and downright weird
turns. Some journeys ended in a more fitting manners than others,
but the overall conclusion was immensely satisfying.
Really good, satisfying endings are rare in a comics industry that
often simply continues unfinished business into the next title or
mini-series. X-Factor rose above that.
A new life for Theresa Cassidy. Unexpected happiness for Monet and
Darwin. An uplifting path for Rahne. Happiness and a final star
turn for my favorites, Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller.
Well done, sir. Well done.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Monday, December 2, 2013
secular, jack-booted socialism, pagan violation of all that’s held
dear by the devout, heroic, gun-toting, vote-suppressing, callous,
job-creating patriotic real Americans begins this week. It’s like
Hitler and slavery all rolled up into one giant Christmas stocking
of depravity. Heck, it’s worse than Hitler and slavery on account
of I’ll probably say something mean about Sarah Palin this month.
I am the enemy of all that is good.
My war on Christmas will begin with my figuring out everything I
have to do before Christmas. In other words, I will make a list of
everything I have to do before the holidays because that’s half of
the battle right there. Can I hear an “amen?”
That was a trick question because I am a godless heathen.
Once I have my list, I will start knocking items off that list like
I was a Kenyan bent on taking away all your rights. I will get the
perfect gifts for those I love. I will clean the house and try to
keep it clean. I will write and send out those holiday cards. I
will plan my annual holiday gatherings and try to avoid scheduling
more than one such gathering on any given day. I will remain sane
and be an anchor for my Sainted Wife Barb when she starts going a
little Christmas crazy.
I will continue to use “Christmas” and “holidays” interchangeably.
I will continue to mock those who have a problem with this. Either
one is an acceptable expression of good will towards men. If your
God is bent out of divine shape about this, he/she/it ain’t much of
My Lord and Master Godzilla celebrates the season by not stepping
on you. Though Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are asking for it.
I will try to read several heartwarming holiday stories this month
and watch several heartwarming holiday movies or TV shows. I must
know this Christmas on which I make war.
I will disguise my boundless evil by being of a good cheer towards
all men and woman and animals that don’t bite me. You will wonder
if I am one of Santa’s elves sent to rekindle your own love of this
season. Your fate is sealed.
Christmas is doomed.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella