Monday, April 27, 2015

STORY OF A LIFE

I can see myself it's a golden sunrise
Young boy open up your eyes
It's supposed to be your day
Now off you go horizon bound
And you won't stop until you've found
Your own kind of way
And the wind will whip your tousled hair
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair
Great tales of love and strife
And somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life


From “Story of a Life” by Harry Chapin

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I’m writing a book.

That’s the “next big project” I have been hinting at. It’s a book that will seem obvious to many and will worry others. I surprised myself by agreeing to write it.

I’m writing a book about my life. I’m trying very hard not to call it an autobiography. Because that would be crazy. Then again, crazy and surprise go hand in hand when I talk about this book.

I have a healthy notion of my place in the world and in the comics industry. I’m a good writer who does good work and some great work. I’m a much better writer than many of those who make decisions in the comics industry realize. I’m enormously pleased by and grateful to the fans and pros who agree with my self-assessment.

I always give all I can to everything I do.  I come from the clean hands and honest heart school of writing. Like any other writer, I have had my good days and my bad days. But I never tried to take the easy way out and always tried to tell my stories as truthfully as I could. I have had editors who literally thought my taking this approach was insane. You might read about some of those editors in this book.

I have few illusions about my place in the comics industry. I have never considered myself any kind of “superstar” of any magnitude. I get confused and even embarrassed when someone refers to me as a  “legend.” However, now that I’m 63 years old, I would ask that, if  someone must call me a “legend,” they add the word “living” to the compliment. There are days when I need the reassurance. When I die, as we all do, I would prefer to be thought of as an “angry avenging spirit.”

Given my modest standing in the comics industry, one of the crazy and surprising things about my life is how often I’ve been asked to write my autobiography by publishers who are apparently looking for something to offset their profits on their other books. Until now, I have declined all such offers.

Writing a true autobiography would require total honesty.  Because that’s how I roll. When I’ve thought about it, I realized that kind of honesty could hurt many people, including people who, no matter what wrongs they might have done me in the past, I have no desire to hurt in the here and now. I’m not sure I can articulate what has changed for me beyond saying I believe I can write something that’s not an autobiography but which could serve much the same purpose of an autobiography.

What has also changed is this: I was found by the right publisher for the not-actually-an-autobiography I want to write. He asked for an autobiography but was comfortable with something that wasn’t an autobiography. His wasn’t the best offer I have received, but it is  an offer with which I feel very comfortable.

I insisted on sending him a “pitch” for the book I wanted to write. I’m going to share a portion of that pitch with you.

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Tony Isabella learned to read from comic books at the tender age of four. He’s been reading them for sixty years in an ongoing romance that has led him to a long career in comics and a lifetime full of amazing memories. In this new book, the author of the best-selling, award-deserving 1000 Comic Books You Must Read gets more personal. In breezy chapters, he offers a love letter to the medium that has shaped his world. There are chapters on great or just plain weird comic books. There are tales of meeting the creators who inspired him. There are adventures from his years as a comics fan, creator, retailer and commentator. There are secrets behind the comics. All in a book that stresses the fun of comics over the often depressing aspects of that world.

This will not be an autobiography per se, but it will be the story  of my life. None of the chapters will be particularly long. I want this to be a book that can be read a few chapters at a time. Ideal for taking one’s mind off that uncomfortable airplane seat...for riding the train to or from work...for relaxing in your hotel room after a long day of business or vacation...for when you know you’re gonna be in the bathroom for a while.

I will write about how I learned to read from comic books...buying comic books before there were comic-book shops...wanting to grow up to be Batman...making comics pals in those days before fans were cool...how Patsy Walker met Nikita Khrushchev...writing for comics fanzines...going to comics conventions...landing a job at Marvel Comics...my mercifully brief career as a DC staffer...creating Black Lightning...running a comics shop in downtown Cleveland...and much more.

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The contract for the book hasn’t been finalized yet, but it will be finalized soon. I will have a fairly tight deadline on this book, which doesn’t concern me in the least. It’s a book I want to write and which I must write. When my work on the book is completed, I’ll announce the title and publisher.

This is where my friends and readers come in.

I plan to start writing this book next week while also fulfilling all of my other obligations. Between now and then, I would ask that you let me know what subjects you would like to see included in the new book.

If you are a long-time reader of my columns, you already know many of my best anecdotes. Tell me which are your favorites. I’ll spruce them up for this book.

If there are things from my career and life that I’ve never written about, make suggestions. I can’t get everything into just one book, but, hey, that’s what sequels are for.

You can send me your suggestions via email or through the comments section of this bloggy thing of mine or through my Facebook page. Just send them sooner rather than later.

If you’re someone from my life who’s worried about being included in this not-an-autobiography, you’ll be glad to know I am preparing a price list of what it’ll cost you not to be included in my book.

Just kidding. Or am I?

I’ll have more on the book and other Isabella stuff in the coming weeks and months. Keep reading the bloggy thing and all will be revealed.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Sunday, April 26, 2015

UNITY: TO KILL A KING

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the last of my four reviews of the GNs in that box...

Unity: To Kill a King by Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite [Valiant; $14.99] collects the first four issues of Unity from 2013 and 2014. Valiant has a growing super-hero universe and it’s not always easy for an occasional reader like myself to follow all the details in their stories. However, their editors and writers do a decent job bringing such readers into the loop through “what has gone before” bits on the inside front covers and in the stories themselves.

Digression. Do not take my “occasional status” description as any kind of a knock on Valiant’s comic books. I can’t always read comic books and graphic novels as quickly as I would like and it’s not at all unusual for me to be relatively current on one title and years behind on another from the same publisher. End digression.

The situation is that Aric, a fifth century Visigoth, has returned to Earth after being kidnapped by aliens centuries ago. He is the master and wearer of the X-O Manowar armor, which makes him one of the most powerful men on our planet. He has decided that he and his people should have their old lands back, lands which we currently know as Romania. This makes everyone else on Earth really nervous, especially the neighboring Russians. Said Russians are prepared to nuke Aric. Toyo Harada of Harbinger - not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination - has put together a team of heroes to stop Aric and the dropping of the bomb.

Kindt writes an exciting story. He does a good job introducing his cast. The reader doesn’t learn everything about them, but does get enough information to follow the story. There are scenes of violent action that don’t overwhelm the story. There are surprises deriving from this character or that learning some they didn’t know before. I very much like that these characters are able to adjust to these changing circumstances without becoming drama queens over choices they must make. It’s a solid thriller from start to finish.

Braithwaite is a first-rate artist. I don’t think I have ever seen less than a terrific job from him. He tells the story visually, he draws well, he can portray emotion. As far as I’m concerned, those are the artist’s three most important talents. Colorist Brian Reber adds to the art; his hues complement and never overwhelm the story. Dave Sharpe’s lettering is always easy to read and that is what the reader needs from lettering.

Unity: To Kill a King is good super-hero entertainment. If you like super-hero universes but feel lost in the vastness of the ones from DC and Marvel, Valiant could be a good choice for you.

ISBN 9781939346261

Look for more Comic Bento reviews when I receive my next box from them. You can also keep an eye out for forthcoming bloggy things in which I discuss boxes I’ve ordered from other companies.

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I started watching Constantine this month. The series features the DC Comics character and aired on NBC. Though I had recorded all the episodes of the show, it took a while to convince myself to watch them. It wasn’t the show’s fault. It was DC’s fault.

Way back when, Hellblazer - the long-running Vertigo imprint title - had a story in which a love-struck John Constantine used magic to get a woman to fall in love with him. It being a “mature readers” comic and all that meant the two of them had doubtless magical sex. Does this sound familiar to readers of the current Batwoman comics? It should.

Constantine raped the woman he loved. Dress it up anyway you like, but it was still rape. Now Constantine had never been the purest of protagonists. Far from it. He was a right bastard on any number of occasions. However, when he became a rapist - not to save the world from any awful fate but purely for his own pleasure - Constantine  became a character I no longer wanted to read about. I didn’t read another comic book featuring him until DC launched its crappy “New 52" titles and, even then, I didn’t read many of them.

What got me to start watching Constantine was the arrival of Mark Verheiden as an executive producer and writer. Mark is a friend of mine, but, more germane to this review, he’s a writer whose work I have enjoyed for years. That got me to watch the series.

I have now watched seven of the first season’s thirteen episodes. Here’s some quick thoughts on the show with the usual warning that there be

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Constantine is a “demon of the week” show with two ongoing plots. One is some “rising darkness” that alarms even John’s kind of sort of guardian angel. The other is the real identity of Zed, a psychic woman who joined the series in its second episode.

So far, the “rising darkness” thing serves to complicate stories by making things not work as they used to. It wasn’t until the latest episode I watched - “Blessed Are the Damned” - that the uttering of the phrase didn’t make my eyes roll. That episode is also the best of the episodes I’ve watched and indicates we might learn what’s up with Zed very soon.

Matt Ryan plays Constantine. The character's accent was difficult to decipher at first, but Ryan’s toned it down considerably and it’s much better now. None of the acting from any of the ongoing characters or the guest stars has knocked me out, but none of it has been less than decent. If I had to pick the best performance to date, it would be  Jonjo O'Neill’s turn Gary Lester, a survivor of a pivotal screw-up in John’s life.

While “demon of the week” doesn’t allow as much variety as “monster of the week,” Constantine has come up with some interesting change-ups on the concept. In one episode, the “demon” was the soul of a still-living human driven from its human body by the horror of the human’s crimes. In “Blessed Are the Damned,” the big bad turned out to be a duplicitous and murderous fallen angel. I like such variety and hope we see more of it.

Overall, I’d rate Constantine as good enough to continue watching. I’ll be watching the remaining episodes of the first season over the next few weeks.

A second season of the show is far from guaranteed, but, as of this writing, it hasn’t been cancelled. If the series survives for that second season, I’ll keep watching.

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This is the part of today’s bloggy thing where I remind you that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. I’m looking forward to the event. You can get more details here.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with the announcement of my next major project. I think you’ll like it.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Saturday, April 25, 2015

HIT LIST

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the third of my four reviews of the GNs in that box...

Hit List by Ralph Tedesco and Sami Kivela [Zenescope; $15.99] is a sexier-than-the-norm “B” action movie in comic-book form. The back cover synopsis tells you almost everything you need to know about the graphic novel:

As a young boy, Jordan Bale’s life was drastically affected by unthinkable violence few people can relate to. Driven by that anger, Bale grew to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in the country.

Now, a group of hired killers will be brought together to carry out Bale’s intricate plan for vengeance thirty years in the making and it’s a plan that could very easily spiral out of control.


Tedesco’s story and writing are good and flow well, but they aren’t in any way special. Bale’s hired killers have the moral high ground by “virtue” of their targets being completely despicable. Kivela’s drawing and storytelling are good as is the Brian Valenza coloring. The covers and variant covers emphasize the sexy women characters. But that’s sort of Zenescope’s stock in trade, so it didn’t come as a surprise.

Hit List is a perfectly readable graphic novel. I do realize that’s damning it with faint praise. Still, in a marketplace with many above-average comic and graphic novels and too many unreadable comics and graphic novels, faint praise is better than none at all.

ISBN 978-1-939683-48-9

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Other things that have crossed my mind of late...

The 2015 Eisner Awards nominations have been announced. Every year, I look at the list and wish I had the time to take a week or three off and read all the nominated works. That might happen some year in the hopefully near future, but it won’t be this year. When you read Monday’s bloggy thing with its attendant announcement of the next major Tony Isabella project, you’ll understand why reading all the Eisner-nominated works is off the 2015 table.

I’m pleased by the recognition given Ms. Marvel and its creators in this year’s nominations and, generally, by the terrific variety of the nominated works. Just looking at the comics and books on this list that I have read, voters are going to have a lot of very hard decisions to make. Which is, or course, wonderful for the art form and industry I love so much.

Good on you, comicdom.

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Spencer Beck is the president of The Artists’ Choice and has been an original art sales representative for three decades. He’s a good guy, which is one of the reasons his client list is among the most impressive in the field.

Earlier this week, Beck announced his company had been hired by a group of collectors to buy high-quality comics art from the 1960s through the 1990s. His company was given a budget of $1 million to purchase this art.

The announcement was greeted by the now-familiar cries of how true fans were being priced out of the original art market and that this was horrible news for comicdom. Which is, if you’ll excuse my crude language, poppy-cock.

Beck made this public because making it public is how you get key pieces that haven’t been on the market to maybe come on the market for the first time in years and decades. He’s doing right by those new clients of his and by the potential sellers who might consider that now is a good time to let someone else enjoy the original art they’ve been enjoying.

The whole “true fan” thing has always bothered me. How much money someone has to spend on comics or related items isn’t a determining factor as to whether or not their love for comics is “true.” It’s the love that matters. You can spend a million dollars on comics or only read comics you can borrow from your public library. It’s the love that matters.

As far as pricing comics fans out of the original art market, that ship left port a good while back. Key pieces are already commanding prices of tens of thousands of dollars. In a good year, I have the means to commission a small nice piece or two. A nice Jack Kirby page has been out of my reach for more than a decade. Heck, I can’t afford to buy splash pages from stories I wrote. It’s way of things and I don’t fret about it.

The most sought-after pages are already selling for five figures. Some are selling for over $100,000. Taking that into consideration, even with a million dollars to spend, Beck’s company might only end up purchasing ten pages. That’s a minuscule fraction of the comics art market. Unclench already.

Beck’s announcement might not be thrilling news for many and maybe most collectors. It’s good news for other collectors because it may increase the value of pages they want to sell and make pages they have long desired available to them.

If fan rage were energy, it would be the perpetual motion machine of our dreams. Let’s save it for things that really matter and not for something as arguably trivial as this.

I extend my best wishes to Beck and his clients. I hope they find some great art for his efforts and their money.

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We end today’s bloggy thing with the reminder that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. You can get more details here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the last of my Comic Bento reviews and more. See you then.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 24, 2015

GET MORE TONY: MARVEL MASTERWORKS

Just released from Marvel Comics is Marvel Masterworks The Avengers Volume 15 by Steve Englehart, George Perez & George Tuska with Tony Isabella & Don Heck [$75]. This hardcover collection reprints The Avengers #136-149, which includes the two-issue story written by yours truly and Heck. Here's a blurb from Amazon:

Earth's Mightiest Heroes have put out a call for new members and into their ranks come the Beast, Hellcat and Moondragon. With the return of Captain America, Yellowjacket and the Wasp it makes for one of the greatest Avengers teams of all time! And they're going to need every last one of them to overcome the challenges ahead. The cosmic Stranger attacks and in the battle the Wasp is critically injured and the Avengers must save one of their own while struggling to save themselves. Then comes one of the greatest Avengers sagas of all ti me! In a time-travelling adventure they'll team with the Marvel heroes of the old West in a fight to overcome Kang and the Squadron Sinister! 

As I've noted in the past, Marvel actually sends me a check when the company reprints my stories. So, if you buy this book, you're putting a few bucks in the pockets of guys like me and Englehart and the other creators.
ISBN 978-0-7851-9196-4

This has been a Bloggy Thing bonus post.




WEIRD AL TAKES OVER

MAD #533 [June 2015; $5.99] boasts something no other issue of this legendary humor magazine has ever had: “Weird Al” Yankovic as its guest editor. What a wondrously mad notion!

“Weird Al” has been a favorite of mine since I first heard one of his song parodies - 1983's “Ricky” - and it’s a love I have shared with my family. Buying each new Yankovic CD is a given around Casa Isabella. The only question being how quickly can I buy them and the answer to that one is almost always the day each CD is released to the public.

Wikipedia lists Yankovic as a “singer, songwriter, parodist, record producer, satirist, actor, music video director, film producer and author”...and you really should read his Wikipedia entry to get a sense of what an accomplished individual he is. With this issue of MAD, “Weird Al” adds guest editor to his resume.

From this issue’s cover to inside back cover, Yankovic’s presence can be seen and enjoyed. He wrote its introductory page, answered  letters from readers, picked a classic reprint for “The MAD Vault” feature and wrote the amusing “Pages from Weird Al’s Notebook.” He is the subject of Al Jaffee’s special “Weird Al” edition of “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” and artist Tom Bunk’s double-paged visit to a “Weird Al” concert.

Taking a nod from MAD’s popular and always entertaining “Fundalini Pages,” Yankovic recruited several of his famous friends to write bits for “The Weird Al-ini Pages.” The impressive line-up: Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, Chris Hardwick, Kristen Schaal, Rich Blomquist,  Emo Phillips, Thomas Lennon and John Hodgman.

The “Weird Al” material would be enough for me to give this issue my recommendation, but there’s much more. John Caldwell does a fun send-up of ancestry.com. Peter Kuper continues “Spy Vs. Spy” in the proud tradition of Antonio Prohías, the feature’s original creator.  Sergio Aragones takes a look at California. Tim Carvell delivers  a mock-up of a young man’s website in his latest ““Planet Tad!!!!!” spread. “The Strip Club” has comic strips from a selection of cool cartoonists.

Most impressively, writer David Shayne and artist Tom Richmond do a different, surprisingly thoughtful and yet still funny parody of American Sniper. As part of the parody, “Michael Moore” and “Sarah Palin” discuss the movie. It’s a daring take on this MAD tradition and it works very well.
 
MAD has really upped its game in recent years. The magazine took a nosedive with the 1985 departure of legendary editor Al Feldstein, but it’s back as good as ever. I’ve been a subscriber for several years now and its bimonthly arrival is always a treat. If you have not sampled MAD of late, you should. I think you’ll find it worth your “cheap” six bucks.

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Once again, I want to remind you that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. You can get more details here.

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Here’s a SyFy channel programming note.

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda [2015] will debut tomorrow, April 25, at 9 pm. It’s a made-for-television crossover between the Lake Placid and Anaconda movie series. Surprisingly, SyFy has done pretty much nothing to promote this movie. It doesn’t really even have a proper trailer. Just a real short promo clip.

What little I know about the movie comes from Wikipedia and IMDb. The former offers this synopsis:

Killer crocodiles and giant anacondas clash in this thriller about corporate greed and science gone wrong.

Heck, that could be a movie about our political system.

The cast includes SyFy veterans Yancy Butler (likely reprising her role in two previous Lake Placid movies), Robert Englund and Corin Nemec. IMDb includes Nicki Minaj in its cast listing. That could mean the young singer is joining the ranks of music stars who have met their unpleasant demises in SyFy movies at the hands of giant creatures of one kind or another.

Watch for my review in an upcoming bloggy thing.

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This is a shorter-than-planned bloggy thing, following a few days of unexpected distractions. But I’ll be back tomorrow with a lot more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 23, 2015

THE COLDEST CITY

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the second of the four reviews I’ll be writing of the graphic novels in that box...

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart [Oni; $19.99] was published in May, 2012. It was to be the first of a series of spy  thrillers, but, so far, Johnston has not released a second graphic novel in that genre.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is the backdrop for this graphic novel. Lorraine Broughton, a veteran British intelligence agent, is sent to the city on short notice and with little preparation to recover a list naming every spy in Berlin. The claustrophobic and paranoia-inducing setting and tone of the book makes it an interesting and sometimes unnerving read.

The spy play in this book comes in multiple shades of grey. There is the verbal fencing between agents of different and sometimes the same countries. There are dangerous missions carried out under the very noses of the Russians. There are violent confrontations as it becomes clear a secret assassins group is at work. Broughton never knows who she can trust and who is what they claim to be. For the reader, that’s true for every single character in the book.

Johnston’s writing is excellent and he wrings great suspense from both the action sequences and the debriefing sequences between his protagonist and her superiors. However, an unnecessary affectation - having some characters speak in their native language without any English translating - is annoying in the extreme. That was one of those darlings that the writer should have killed...with extreme prejudice.

Hart’s art is less successful. It was so minimal at times I wasn’t sure who characters were or what they were doing. When a comic is  in black-and-white, the artist needs to add sufficient detail and shading to make the storytelling clear.

Overall, I liked The Coldest City and would gladly read another spy thriller from Johnston.

ISBN 978-1-934964-53-8

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Things are getting crazy busy - mostly in good ways - here at Casa Isabella. I’ll likely go into far more detail early next week when I announce my next major project. In the meantime, I’ll be writing odds and ends bloggy things like this one.

First and foremost, I want to remind you that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. You can get more details here.

On another front...

Much to my dismay, I’ve not yet heard from any LGBT advocacy group that wants to share my Indy Pop Con table and provide information about fighting discrimination in Indiana. You can read what I have had to say about this here, here and here.

My back-up plan is asking any such group to provide informational materials I can distribute from my table. As always, any interested parties should email me sooner rather than later.

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The Beat and other news sites are reporting that Valiant and Sony have signed an agreement for five Bloodshot and Harbinger movies. My reading of the new Valiant comics isn’t as complete as I would like - I’m working on it - but I love the idea of an entertainment company going beyond DC and Marvel for super-hero content. This is good for Valiant and good for comics in general.

That said, I hope the comics creators who worked on Bloodshot and Harbinger will be compensated and credited for their contributions to the films. There’s no good excuse for comics publishers and the movie makers they partner with to shut comics creators out of the profit pie or to give them screen credit for their contributions. It’s just the right thing to do.

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I have watched three more episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil TV series: “Cut Man,” “Rabbit in a Snow Storm” and “In the Blood.” I’m still liking this show a lot.

Vincent D'Onofrio is downright chilling as Wilson Fisk. He looks as dangerous as any comics version of the Kingpin and has the acting chops to convey the brutality and intelligence of the character. But, is it just me, or does this Kingpin remind you of a taller and beefier Brian Michael Bendis? Just to play it safe, I’m going to be really nice to Bendis the next time I see him.

One more Daredevil note. As the guy who first drew and presumably designed the Owl, Joe Orlando’s name is appearing on the creators credit card whenever Leland Owlsley appears in an episode. It may just my imagination, but that creators credits card seems to be on the screen a little longer than in the first episode.

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The Internet is buzzing with the revelation that Bobby Drake a.k.a. Marvel’s Iceman is gay. I’m not sure what this means since what I think is the current Marvel Universe has two Iceman. One is Bobby Drake as an adult and the other is Bobby Drake as his teenage self. Judging from the pages I’ve seen online, teen Bobby is definitely gay and adult Bobby is straight, gay or bisexual. I haven’t given this a lot of thought, mostly because I can’t keep all the X-Men titles...err...straight.

I don’t know how I feel about the specific-to-Icemen developments. Before I can form an opinion, I’ll have to read the issues whenever my friend who loans me his comic books loans them to me. But I do have some general thoughts.

Some readers don’t like it when a character who has been portrayed as straight is suddenly gay. Except that, sans the “suddenly,” this does happen in the real world. If it can happen in the real world, then it can happen in the Marvel Universe.

What seems to be missing here is the process. I can’t imagine that it’s easy for a person to come to the realization that they aren’t the straight person they always believed themselves to be. I also imagine it would be just as difficult for a gay person to realize they might be bisexual or straight. We’re not seeing the events or feelings bringing these characters to the realization they are not as they believed themselves to be.

Super-hero comics aren’t known for their subtlety. Northstar outed himself as gay via blast-shaped word balloon in the middle of some battle. An important moment like that should not have made me laugh out loud, but that’s exactly what it did.

I think there’s greater drama and understanding to be had from the process through which characters arrive at such realizations about themselves. I think that would be more realistic. Because what is more real in our lives than human drama?

I might have more to say about this in the future. But, for now, I would love to hear your thoughts on all this.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 65

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 65th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #80 [October 1970] is a key issue, but not for any good reason. Although it has a new cover pencilled by Larry Lieber and possibly inked by Herb Trimpe, the issue reprints stories from issue #56 [February 1967]. From this point on, the title will often feature reprints, shorter-than-usual Lieber stories and fill-ins by other creators. More often than not, the back-up stories will come from various western comics of the late 1950s. The Rawhide Kid #115  [September 1973] will be the last issue to feature any new interior material. This issue is the beginning of the still somewhat distant end.

“Fall of a Hero” (17 pages) is written and pencilled by Lieber with inks by Vince Colletta. “Reno’s Revenge” - the back-up tale - is by Denny O’Neil with art by Al Ulmer. I wrote about these stories in my bloggy thing for May 8, 2013. Surprisingly, neither of the two stories was identified as a reprint.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” takes up less than half a page this issue. In very small type, it heralds Fantastic Four #103, drawn by John Romita and featuring Magneto and the Sub-Mariner and another 36 titles, 37 titles if you count the "just kidding" kidding listing of The Ladies Home Journal #1893.

Gil Kane gets a shout-out for Amazing Spider-Man #89. Herb Trimpe gets a shout-out for Silver Surfer #18, which, though drawn by Jack Kirby, is said to be “the one that paves the way for Herb Trimpe’s new version!”

Red Wolf makes his debut in Avengers #80. Neal Adams gets a shout-out for drawing Thor #180. Sub-Mariner #30 has a guest appearance by Captain Marvel. Spoof #1 is launched with parodies of Marooned, Dark Shadows and the Mod Squad.

Most titles are only mentioned by name and issue number. Fright #1 is on sale this month, one of several horror/monster titles on the list. There are also western titles, Millie the Model titles, two romance titles and Li’l Kids #2. Now free to publish as many comic books as it wanted, Marvel was again venturing into genres that had been successful for the company in the past. Most reprinted older, sometimes updated stories, but some had new material. Eventually, the super-heroes would dominate the company’s output even more than they had dominated it in recent years.

The rest of the page was a “Super Poster Offer” from Marvelmania, the ill-fated fan club which Marvel outsourced to a disreputable entrepreneur. You could get four posters for $1.50 plus half-a-buck postage. The posters were said to be a giant three foot high and in full-color. There was Spider-Man by Romita, Doctor Doom by Kirby, Hulk by Trimpe and Captain America by Steranko. Since I never saw these “in the flesh,” I’d be interested in hearing from any of my readers who did buy them.

There are fewer comics-related ads in this issue, but one of them is a full-page pitch for Monogram’s model kid of Peanuts character Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel. The ad is designed like a comics page and the kit includes a battery-powered propeller “you flip to start like a real plane.”

The issue’s smaller advertisers include back-issue sellers Howard Rogofsky, Grand Book Inc., Passaic Book Center, Comic Sales Co. and Richard Alf. There’s also an ad for Futura, which bills itself as a high-quality fanzines with lots of art and information on comic books of the past. One dollar would bring you a sample copy of the fanzine from publisher D.G. Cassidy.

Also noted...Art Directors Course offered to teach fans to learn  to draw comics at home from experts. A quarter would get you full information from the Manhasset, New York-based company. Did any of my bloggy thing readers ever answer this ad? If you did, I’d love to hear all about your experience with the course.

Today’s bloggy thing doesn’t change my resolve to write about every issue of Rawhide Kid from when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby relaunched the title with a new Rawhide Kid. When an issue features a reprint of a story or stories I’ve already written about, I will include a link to the appropriate bloggy thing. But I will also write about any new-to-the-title reprints and editorial stuff (letters pages, Marvel Bullpen pages and comics ads) found in those issues. Since Rawhide Kid ran until issue #151 [May 1979], we still have a lot of hard-riding ahead of us.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella