Thursday, March 21, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #275

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...A Fire Story, a powerful account of how cartoonist Brian Fries and his wife Karen lost their home in wildfires that scorched northern California in October, 2017; Garfield Complete Works: Volume 1: 1978 & 1979; and Moteki Love Strikes! 1 by Mitsurou Kubo
                                                                             
                                                                                    


Monday, March 18, 2019

I'M TAKING THE DAY OFF

I'm kind of sort of taking the day off. My online posting of any kind will be limited today as I finish a couple of pressing items on my "to do" list. The bloggy thing will return no latter than Thursday. I'm shooting for sooner, but that depends how long it takes me to finish those pressing items.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

CITIZEN TONY AND 15,000 TROOPS WHO LOVE AMERICA FAR MORE THAN THE DUMPSTER PRESIDENT DOES


The Center Action Network is one of the organizations I contribute to when I get a decent-sized check from DC or Marvel. It enables LGBTQ centers and their constituents to act as effective, powerful champions; protecting social services, health care, programming, and funding within the LGBTQ community. A few days ago, I received this e-mail from them:

In another spiteful assault on the transgender community, the Trump administration instructed the Armed Services to begin discharging transgender service members effective April 12.

“This is another blatant attack on what ultimately makes our military the strongest in the world. Serving our country has nothing to do with race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity; and everything to do with believing in our Constitution, the one thing that makes us all uniquely American,“ said Lora Tucker, CEO of CenterLink.

Today, close to 15,000 transgender troops proudly serve in the military, and President Trump’s ban has been denounced by former military leaders, members of Congress from both parties, and the American Medical Association. This announcement reverses those gains and ignores the progress made. There is no legitimate reason for this action, only hate at its darkest levels, and we must demand that it stop.


This is an exercise in a raw bigotry from a cowardly draft-dodger who received four bogus draft deferments for alleged “bone spurs.” This is policy doubtless made at the behest of his homophobic vice-president and designed to delight the phony Christians who see him as their golden ticket to the end of days. It’s a disgusting insult from the most dishonorable of men to the troops who have served so honorably in spite of having to overcome great obstacles to serve their country.

I am not a fan of what passes for “Christianity” in this country. It ignores the teachings of Jesus Christ as I learned them during my twelve years in Roman Catholic schools. It attempts to enshrine its discriminatory beliefs into the law of our land. It is absurd that these same bigots paranoically rant about “Sharia law” being made law in the United States without recognizing their attempts to accomplish their version of the same. The main difference is Sharia law in the US is a fantasy with no basis in reality and what they are trying to do could become a vile reality. 
 
“Christians” who support the Dumpster Trump and his blatant bigotry are lousy Christians and worse Americans. Their freedom of religion doesn’t constitutionally include the right to impose that religion on all Americans. They are not the law of the land.

I have many dear friends who are transgender. Some I know through our online interactions. Others I know from what we laughingly call real life. I have held them while they cried because of the hatred directed at them and because their dream and their right to be who they are is continually under attack. But I don’t think one needs to know a transgender person to recognize how terrible, how wrong, how un-American the Dumpster’s actions are.

I urge you to stand up for transgender rights, just as I urge you to stand up for the rights of all who are being targeted by Trump and his legion of bigots and racists. Write your elected officials. Donate to LGBTQ organizations. Vote for candidates who will fight for what’s right and decent.

This is not going to be an easy fight. The opposition is stacking the courts with extreme right-wing judges. It is writing districts to hold on to the power it can not keep without such evil tactics. They are clever and determined villains.

We have to be heroes. Every one of us. All of us.

For information on the Center Action Network, visit their website at https://www.lgbtactionlink.org

******************************
This “Citizen Tony” pieces have become the most difficult for me to write. There is not a day that goes by without the Dumpster lying about something or pushing forward his inhuman agenda. There is not a day that goes by without his Republican Party goons or his fellow travelers in the white supremacist movement doing terrible things. And, all the while, he gushes over murderous dictators who are not remotely our allies. It is a scary time for America.

I’m going to try to include “Citizen Tony” in the bloggy’s regular rotation. I’ll try to focus on just one issue at a time. Of course, the hard part will be deciding which issue. There are so many that need to be addressed. But I’m in the fight and I’m staying in the fight as long as I can draw breath.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 16, 2019

NORTH TEXAS COMIC BOOK SHOW: PART TWO OF TWO


The North Texas Comic Book Show (Saturday and Sunday, February 2-3) was held at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. From the outside, the building looks like something you’d see in a Star Trek movie. Inside, its nearly 100,000 square feet make for a facility that can easily hold a major comics event and more.

The convention area was huge. It held over three dozen guests from the world of comics plus dozens of vendors. The aisles between the rows of tables were wide and easy to navigate.

There was plenty of room in my booth and, as a added convenience, the convention took an incredibly comfortable chair from one of the venue’s offices for me. I don’t think my back has ever felt as good after a convention as it did after this one. Other conventions will be hard-pressed to provide me better seating. Which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Hint, hint.

The show provided sandwiches, drinks and snacks during the convention, so I never sampled the concession stand fare. However, from walking by the stand, it seemed like a clean, efficient and tasty operation.

The center’s restrooms were likewise clean and efficient. Yeah, I know most convention reports don’t talk about restrooms, but some of my readers are almost as old as I am. You know what I mean.

I got to the center a little before the start of the convention. As Amy Chu had liked the cheesy Godzilla sketch I did for her son, I did one for her as well. Here it is:
                                                                               

I signed a lot of comics on Sunday, including some late 1960s X-Men issues that contained letters written by me and published in those issues. I’m starting to get more of these. If I can ever get good copies of all of the 50+ letters I had published as a fan, I might collect them in a book. Any equally demented collectors out there want to assist me in this effort?

Everybody has a podcast these days. I didn’t keep track of all the ones I did that weekend, but two stand out. The first was with my friend Elliot S! Maggin, one of the premiere DC Comics writers of the 1960s through the 1980s. I wish the company would put together a volume of his best stories. I’d sure buy it.

The other podcast I remember was with my pal Chandler Rice, who put on the Las Vegas convention I attended last November, who has a huge comics business and who represents a number of great comics writers and artists. We had some technical difficulties and had to tape the podcast twice, but we got it done.

My Sunday panel was “Diverse Characters in Comics" with Amy Chu and Denys Cowan. Again hosted by Moises Chiullan, it was a conversation we need to have whenever comics fans gather at a convention. Lots of great comments from Amy and Denys. Me? I got a pretty good laugh when I spoke of how hard it was to find white male role models in comics when I was growing up.
                                                                                    

Cosplayer Hannah Cortez was back as Wonder Girl. Of course, I had someone take a photo of her in front of my booth.
                                                                                  

I also took some photos of the Black Widow recruiting me to sign up with the Avengers. That’s British Pixie, a professional cosplayer, model and costume builder who was born in Manchester UK and is now based in Houston TX. She does great work and you can see more of it on her Facebook page or her Instagram page.
                                                                               

No disrespect to the ladies, but my favorite cosplay of the weekend was far and away Josh Lee’s “Deadpool on the couch.” If you’ve seen Deadpool 2, you know what scene Lee is recreating. He designed his brilliant costume so he could kneel and have the couch level with the floor. Several fans posed for photos of themselves sitting next to Deadpool. It was unforgettable cosplay.

Former retailer and DC Comics executive Bob Wayne paid a surprise visit to the convention. Bob did me a number of good turns while he was at DC, even after I was unceremoniously bounced from my second Black Lightning series in 1995. He’s a good people and it was nice to see him looking so happy and healthy.

Near the end of the show, I had a nice chat with Neal Adams, one of the people I admire most in the comics industry. We talked about a bunch of stuff, including his past and continuing efforts to make things better for comics creators. I usually see him at a bunch of conventions during the course of a year and always try to at least take a few moments to thank him for all he’s done for me and other comics creators. Nothing but respect for the man and his work.

At the end of the convention, I walked back to my hotel with Larry Hama. He’s another guy it seems like I’ve known forever. We talked about mutual friends and nutty situations in comics. I’m blessed to know and be friends with so many talented creators.

I was too tired to go out that evening, so I ordered pizza from the  hotel restaurant. The women who delivered it to my room was happy to see I was watching The Intern and not the Super Bowl. The only reason to watch the latter would have been if I were sure the New England Patriots would be crushed. Maybe next year.

I had a decent night’s sleep, interrupted only when a “ghost cat” crawled on to the bed and laid down against my leg. It was exactly what my cat Simba (back in Medina) does to me many nights. Okay, I was probably dreaming, but, dream or ghost, it woke me up.

My flight home was uneventful, which isn’t a bad thing for a flight to be. I’ve had some pleasant encounters on airplanes - You will be amazed by one I had flying back from Pensacon. - but uneventful is fine by me.

My overall impression of the North Texas Comic Book Show is that it’s a terrific event for fans of 1970s and 1980s creators. It’s a well-run show that treats both fans and pros well. If my schedule permits, I’d certainly consider a return visit.

I have two more con reports - Pensacon and the Big Apple Comic Con  - in various stages of completion. I’ll probably run a couple other things in between them.

My next convention appearance will be the Great Philadelphia Comic Con, April 12-14, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania. I’ll have more to say about that event in early April.  For now...it looks like a wonderful convention.

On April 27, I’ll be giving a talk and workshop for the Cleveland Public Library. Watch this space for more details.

April is also when I start getting ready for this year’s legendary Tony Isabella Garage Sales. I’ve been buying copies of 1000 Comic Book You Must Read on the secondary market, so I’ll be adding those to my offerings. Sainted Wife Barb wants this year’s garage sales to be the best ever, mostly so she can reclaim parts of our house from the Vast Accumulation of Stuff and maybe reduce our existing storage units from two to one or even none. Exciting times.

Thanks for stopping by the bloggy today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Friday, March 15, 2019

NORTH TEXAS COMIC BOOK SHOW: PART ONE OF TWO

I heard the command “Go west, young man”, so Friday, February 1 saw me board American Airlines Flight 2331 for Dallas/Fort Worth and the North Texas Comic Book Show. The flight was pleasant, save for a flight attendant I’ll tell you about in a bit. I had a great seat (8B) with no one in front of me and no one next to me. So I had no one leaning their seat back into my space and, since my briefcase could go under the seat next to me, plenty of leg room for myself.

Added bonus. The flight was crowded enough for the counter agent to ask for volunteers to have their carry-on bags checked through to our final destination without charge. Since my carry-on was filled with books, I was happy to volunteer. Checking it through earlier would have cost me $40.

The flight attendant? An arrogant jerk in charge of the first class section. He shamed a woman trying to use the first class restroom  and she was so embarrassed she turned back. He was obsessive about trying to close the curtain between his domain and the rest of us. Amusingly, all of the other flight attendants seemed to delight in pushing the curtain to the side.

When the attendant tried to block other passengers who were nearer to the first class restroom than the ones in the back of the plane, they brushed past him. His obvious distress amused me.

When I arrived at the airport, convention promoter Chris Latshaw met me at the baggage claim. He drove me to the Dallas Marriott Las Colinas. The hotel seemed to have been recently renovated and had a very modern feel to it. My room was great and the hotel’s Bistro Fiera restaurant was excellent. I had the same waitress every time I ate there and, by the end of my stay, I gave her copies of some of my books.

The only drawback? A Christian women’s group gathering had filled most of the Las Colinas. Relax. This isn’t some anti-religion rant. My problem was that none of them had inside voices. You could sit the entire restaurant away from them and still couldn’t hear your phone for their volume. If they passed within a floor of my room, I could hear them. It was like sitting next to a deaf relative who
shouts because they think YOU can’t hear them. I’m sure they were very nice people, but the convention was quieter.

I spent a pleasant evening reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story, enjoying a delicious piece of cheesecake and watching Bones reruns. With a good night’s sleep, I  was ready for the Saturday morning start of the event.

The North Texas Comic Book Show prides itself on “putting comics back into comic cons.” There were so many guests from the 1970s and 1980s that it felt like a high school reunion to me, except a whole lot cooler than the high school reunions I never attend.

There was a terrific Tony Isabella banner hanging behind my table. To my right was legendary Superman writer Elliott S! Maggin. To my left was artist Aaron Lopresti, who drew the Star Trek: All of Me graphic album I wrote with Bob Ingersoll. Across the aisle from me were my dear friends Bill and Linda (Lessmann) Reinhold. Linda and I had some great moments reminiscing about the folks we worked with in the Marvel Bullpen at the start of our careers.

During the course of the convention, I also chatted with Mike Zeck, Bob McLeod, Larry Hama, Joe and Hilary Staton, Keith Pollard, Larry Hama, Al Milgrom, Denys Cowan, Larry Stroman and, of course, Neal Adams. As I can’t say often enough, many of the benefits creators receive today are because Neal fought the battles decades ago. He’s a good man and a good friend. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years and I’m still learning from him.

A young man named Fabian was my assistant for the show. Because of him, I was able to spend more time answering questions and signing comics for the fans. I can multi-task if I have to, but it sure is easier to have someone backing me up.
                                                                                    

Among the fans who came to my table were the delightful Veronica Bigio Maupin from the Black Lightning!!! Discussing the TV Show group on Facebook. She came with her supportive and terrific hubby and kids. It was great meeting them. I also did a video shout-out to that group, but neglected to write down the name of the member who filmed and sent it. I’ll try to correct that omission before we get to the end of tomorrow’s bloggy thing. What? You thought I could cover this magnificent two-day event in just one column?
                                                                              
  
Rick Brooks, whose been reading my columns and comics for decades, was also at the con. He gave me a copy of his Battle Lines Undrawn prose novel [Mirror Publishing; $10.99]. Aimed at readers ten to eighteen, this amazing story chronicles a young man’s enlisting to fight our country’s enemies overseas and finding an equally serious threat within our borders. I liked it a lot.
                                                                                

Charlene R. Jones gave me Blackstarr: Birth of a Supernova Part 1. A full-color comic drawn by Cory Thomas, it introduces a new hero and showcases her budding talent as a comics writer. It’s the first project to be launched under her Shugalene Publications company. I don’t have ordering information on the issue, but you can contact Jones via her website.
                                                                               
Hannah Cortez, cosplaying as Ms. Marvel, one of my favorite heroes, graciously posed for a photo for the blog. She’d return on Sunday as a different character.

The panel programming took place in the back of the hall bleacher section. Moises Chiullan moderated a Tony Isabella spotlight panel that was a retrospective look at my 46-year comics career. I don’t remember specifics, but I do remember the panel was well received by the fans who attended. Not for the first time, I wished someone would record these panels for online presentation.

I had a good day at my table with signatures accounting for 60% of the money I made. I was slow to start charging for my signature - I didn’t start until 2018 - but now I can’t imagine not charging. I know it’s an expense for the fans, but, for me, it’s is often the difference between whether or not I can afford to attend a convention or other event. As always, I didn’t charge to sign any items purchased from me.

After the Saturday festivities, I was driven back to the hotel with writer Amy Chu, whose fine work can be seen in Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death and various KISS and Red Sonja series. We chatted about writers being asked to do sketches - she’s better at it than I am - and I quickly did one of my silly Godzilla sketches for her son Adrian.                                                                                

I’ve seen one of these Godzilla sketches listed on eBay for almost $400. Thankfully, no one bid on it. How much would you pay for one of my sketches? I’m actually considering adding created-on-the-spot Godzilla sketches at future conventions. With a new gag for each sketch. Pretty sure I can undercut that $400 price significantly.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for the second and final part of my North Texas Comic Book Show report.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Thursday, March 14, 2019

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

I’m back from the Big Apple Comic Con in New York. Saintly Wife Barb and I had a wonderful time, but it’ll be a while before I get to the full report on that event and our time in the city. Today, as I start sorting my notes for a marathon of convention reports - North Texas, Pensacon and the afore-mentioned Big Apple - I want to talk about some recent books I’ve enjoyed.

Kaiju for Hipsters: 101 "Alternative" Giant Monster Movies by Kevin Derendorf [independently published; $19.99] is one of those great books best read a few chapters at a time. Eschewing writing about well-known stars like Godzilla, Gamera and Mothra, Derendorf goes to the edges of the genre to talk about unsung gems and even some creature features perhaps best left unsung.

Several included films are compilations of episodes of Japanese TV series. Others are low-budget original productions. More than a few are parodies. Some are even non-studio works produced by filmmakers just starting out or just having fun. The variety within the genre will astonish many readers.

Gorgo, a favorite of mine, is written about early in this 418-page tome. For every film I’ve seen, such as Yongary, Monster from the Deep or Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit, there are a dozen movies I’ve never heard of. I plan on seeing some of those in the future. I’ve already watched Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds, albeit on YouTube. I bought the novelization of Gargantua in the hope it’s better than the made-for-American-TV movie I saw so long ago.

Trivia time. Zarkorr! The Invader (1996) took the name of its title from the alien villain of Marvel’s Tales of Suspense #35 [November 1962]. Kraa! The Sea Monster (1998), made by the same filmmakers, got its title from the human-mutated-into-a-monster cover-featured in Tales of Suspense #18 [June 1961}.

Derendorf’s 101 movie reviews...with an occasional bonus film...are  fun and informative. There are additional chapters for honorable mentions, more Ultraman movies, recommended documentaries, X-rated kaiju movies and even Godzilla and Gamera movies for hipsters. I’m in love with this book and recommend it to all of you.

Don’t let the book’s two-pound weight deter you. I also bought the Kindle version so I could take it with me on trips. Bonus: because I bought the physical book first, the Kindle version was free. It’s a monstrous good deal.

ISBN 978-1-98329-377-1

                                                                                 

Michael D. Roberts’ Hot Type, Cold Beer and Bad News: A Cleveland Reporter’s Journey Through the 1960s [Gray & Company; $24.95] was one of last month’s things that make me happy. I wrote:

“A great book about a less-than-great newspaper. I worked at The Plain Dealer for about three years and this book brought back some memories.”

Roberts was at The Plain Dealer when I worked them and I remember him as one of the better people up there. The paper didn’t lack for arrogant pricks, incompetent jerks and worse. When I say worse, I’m thinking of the man who hired me to be a copy assistant and who was later convicted of real serious crimes, including the murder of an elderly woman. Fun place to work. If you believe newspapers should be the tools of the rich and the powerful.

But Roberts was one of the good guys. He always seemed like a class act and, in this autobiography, I learned of the wide and wide-ranging experience that shaped him. The guy reported from Vietnam, the Middle East, Kent State, the Cleveland riots, to name the war zones he covered. It’s an exciting, fascinating unvarnished look at the life of a good reporter. I think anyone interested in what good journalism used to be and can/should be again will enjoy the book.

My only quibble: Roberts repeats the “urban legend” that Superman was based on a classmate of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a man who had a long career as a Plain Dealer big shot. Sometimes I think everyone who knew Siegel and Shuster in school would later claim they were this or that Superman character. And, with the exception of Joanne Siegel, they were all lying.

Don’t let that quibble stop you from checking out this swell book. It’s the real deal.

ISBN 978-1-59851-102-4

                                                                                

Suffer the Children by Lisa Black [Kensington; $26] is the fourth book in the authors Gardiner and Renner series. Maggie Gardiner is a forensics scientist for the Cleveland Police Department. Veteran bloggy thing readers know I have a special fondness for mysteries set in my home state of Ohio. Jack Renner is a homicide detective for the CPD. Gardner knows something about Renner that no one else knows; he’s a serial killer who murders in the name of “justice.” He kills killers who have escaped or who are sure to escape paying for their crimes. Circumstances force Gardiner to keep the secret, but she feels responsible for Renner’s past Cleveland crimes and is always fearful that he will commit more.

This book around, the uneasy pair are investigating the death of a teenage girl found dead at the bottom of a stairwell at a facility for juvenile offenders. Did 15-year-old Rachel Donahue take her own life or perish by misadventure...or was she murdered? When another resident dies...

Black tells a thrilling story, though the novel gets bogged down a  bit when various doctors and other employees “educate” the cops and the readers about the serious problems faced by these children and those who try to help them. Black’s heart is in the right place - you can feel her passion for the subject - but these mini-lectures do slow down the book.

I’m still recommending this novel. A twist in the overall story of Gardiner and Renner has me eager for the next book. Black’s other novels are also worth checking out.

ISBN 978-1-4967-1357-5

That wraps up today’s bloggy thing. I’ll be back on the morrow with my report on the North Texas Comic Book Show. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella