Wednesday, October 19, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts; The Big Con Job by Jimmy Palmiotti and Matt Brady with art by Dominike “Domo” Stanton; and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare with art by Natacha Bustos. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The Grand Rapids Comic Con is on Friday, October 21 through Sunday, October 23, at the DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave NW, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This will be my next-to-last convention appearance of the crazy and often wonderful year I’ve been having.

Mark and Jennifer Hodges put on a wonderful show - I was a guest in 2014 - and this year will be no exception. There are comics guests, media guests, literary guests, cosplay guests and what promises to be a bustling artists alley. In addition to a big fat schedule of programming that extends over the main stage and several other spaces within the venue, the convention is hosting a short film festival, an art show, an anime room, a car show and activities for the kids. It’s going to take all my will power to spend most of the show at Booth #539, which is where you’ll find me most of the time.

The comics guests roster for this event is amazing: Kevin Eastman, Jae Lee, Joe Rubenstein, Rodney Ramos, Steve Lieber, Allan Bellman, Greg Wiseman, Dirk Manning, William Messner-Loebs, Arvell Jones, Jason Moore, Thom Zahler and many others. Some are old friends I’ll enjoy seeing again, others are creators I’m eager to meet. I hope to be able to spend a few hours each day exploring the convention and maybe scoring some cool books and comics.

The celebrity guests aren’t as familiar to me, but I really want to meet Denise Crosby. I’ve admired her work for a long time and not just in Star Trek-related shows. She was a highlight of the short-lived (but excellent) Key West and delivered a knockout performance in two episodes of NYPD Blue.

There will be a gaming room offering all kinds of games. There are exhibits from the Hall of Heroes Museum and the private collection of Wes Shank. The latter will include props from sci-fi movies and much more. I’m thinking “much more” should be the overall tag for this convention.

There will be cosplay and cosplay contests. I’m hoping that Black Lightning, Misty Knight, Tigra and Zatanna are well represented. Yeah, I know I didn’t have anything to do with the creation of the Maid of Magic, but a guy never forgets his first comic-book crush.

On Friday, at 5:30 pm in Grand Gallery D-E, I’ll be presenting “Tony’s Tips! Live!” As you can glean from the title, it’s a live version of the column of news, views and reviews I’ve been writing for decades, first in Comics Buyer’s Guide and currently online at the Tales of Wonder website:

Join Tony Isabella, creator of Black Lightning, co-creator of Misty Knight and Tigra, 44-year veteran of the comics industry for a lively discussion of well, everything. We’ll talk comic books, giant monster movies, blogging and anything else that comes to mind. You can ask any and all questions and sometimes the answers might actually match them.

I hope we get a good turn out for this presentation. I mean, I’m no stranger to talking to myself, but if there are other people in the room, I don’t look quite so insane.

When I’m not wandering the convention, I’ll be at Booth #539. I’ll have various Isabella-written things to sign like the recent Black Lightning collection from DC Comics, a few copies of my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read and some of the Garfield comics albums that I have worked on for Papercutz. I’ll have the double-sided Superman poster I helped designed for the 1988 International Superman Expo in Cleveland, Ohio. I’ll have some other items as well.

While I’m at my booth, I will be delighted to sign Isabella-written items. As I’ve noted in the past, I am not charging for autographs this year. That will likely change in 2017.

If you have a great many items for me to sign, and if other folks are also waiting for me to sign their items, I’ll sign a couple of your items and then ask you to go the end of the line until I can sign for your fellow fans. I’ll sign as many Isabella items as you like, but I may not be able to sign them all at once.

I’ll be happy to answering your questions and discuss this and that with you. However, for contractual reasons, I might not be able to answer questions concerning some of those contracts and some of my future projects.

I will not read your scripts or other written materials. That’s for your legal protection and mine.

I will, time permitting, look at your art portfolios. But there’s not much I can tell you if all you have are pin-up shots. I’m not an art expert. My forte is visual storytelling, the proper flow of a comics story from panel to panel, page to page.

The hours for the Grand Rapids Comic Con are:

Friday, October 21, from 2 pm until 8 pm
Saturday, October 22, from 10 am until 7 pm
Sunday, October 23, from 10 am until 5 pm

There will also be late night programming until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday night. 

I’m looking forward to attending Grand Rapids Comic Con. I hope to see you there.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 16, 2016


When I took a cold hard look at my convention, work and personal schedule over the next couple some matters my family and I are dealing some necessary upgrades to my home and my office...I realized something would have to give. Sadly, it's the bloggy thing.

I'll still be posting announcements of my convention appearances during this hiatus. I'll still be writing Tony's Tips for the Tales of Wonder website. I'll still be posting the quick plugs for Sanctum Books and TwoMorrows publications. But the full-scale bloggy things won't resume until Tuesday, November 1. As always, thanks for your understanding.

All the best to my friends and my readers. I'll see you soon.

Tony Isabella

Friday, October 14, 2016


Louis A. Isabella, my father, passed on this date two years ago. I wrote about him here.

A number of people have asked about the dog tags I wear when I travel to conventions and other events. The tags are visible in a few of the photos taken at the Luke Cage premiere last month. They are my father’s dog tags. I wear them to honor him as well as for other reasons.

Dad loved to drive, especially the big old Isabella Bakery delivery truck. He stopped making deliveries when he was needed inside the bakery itself. He sacrificed one of the joys of his life because he was needed elsewhere. In many ways, that selflessness was the story of his life and repeated time and time again.

Dad also loved to fly, which he rarely did even during his service in World War II. I still remember the delight in his eyes the day I was invited to tour an airbase and museum as part of a project I almost did for the Air Force. Dad and my then-young son Eddie came with me. It was one of the best days of my life.

The third part of this story is that, of all the member of my birth family, no one was ever more supportive of my career than Dad. He build an office for me in our family basement. He drove my stuff to New York when I moved there to work for Marvel Comics. He built a  display for me when I was selling comics at conventions. He saved every comic book I ever sent him. I don’t know if he read them, but he did like to see my name in them.

After Dad passed, going through the odds and ends being set aside for a garage sale, I saw his dog tags. No one else wanted them, so I took them. I started wearing them to comics conventions and other events, especially when I was flying to those things.

Dad loved to fly, so now he flies with the son to whom he gave such strong wings. Dad lived to travel, so he comes to conventions with me. I think Dad would get a kick out of the love and respect that I receive at conventions and at events like the Luke Cage premiere. I bring these small reminders of him with me because I am just as proud of him as he was of me.

Dad is my co-pilot, so I wear his tags.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 13, 2016


From Sanctum Books...

Doc Savage #84: The Men Vanished & Death in Small Houses [September 2015; $14.95] reprints two Doc novels by Lester Dent and William G. Bogart, both writing as Kenneth Robeson. Looking at the two novels first...

Dent’s The Men Vanished first appeared in the December 1940 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Doc and Patricia Savage mount a rescue expedition to the unexplored Amazon after seven of the world’s greatest explorers mysteriously disappear!

Bogart’s Death in Small Houses is one of four Doc novels written by the author. The story is from the October 1946 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. From the back cover:

The Man of Bronze seeks to learn why bizarre bearded hermits are stealing portions of postwar model homes and why a lady trucker has been marked for death!

There are several bonus features in the volume. “Doc Savage and His Aides” is a two-page reprint from the original pulp magazines that show head shots of the characters and provide quick information on them. Will Murray’s “Intermission” reveals the back stories of the two reprinted novels.

Publisher Anthony Tollin’s “Nick Carter in the Comics” leads into the 10-page “Nick Carter Accused!” The comics story first appeared in the March 1949 issue of Shadow Comics. It’s drawn by Bob Powell with assistance from his studio and written by Bruce Elliott.

Murray’s one-page article - “The Men Behind Doc Savage” - presents short biographies of Dent and Bogart. Sanctum Books always delivers great bang for your reading buck. I highly recommend their books. Check them out.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence) is the first new Godzilla movie from Toho Studios in twelve years and represents the studio’s third reboot of the character who has now appeared in 29 films from  Toho. There have also been two American-made Godzilla movies with a third one scheduled for 2019.

Via Funimation, Shin Godzilla is having a one-week limited release in the United States and Canada from October 11–18 on 440 screens. It’s being shown in the original Japanese with English subtitles. My son Eddie and I went to the October 11 showing at the Cinemark Theater in Strongsville, Ohio.

The short version of our reaction to it is that we liked it a lot. To learn more, scroll down past the spoilers notice.


Some of Shin Godzilla’s greatest weaknesses are also some of its greatest strengths. No Godzilla movie has devoted as much attention and screen time as this one to the minutiae of figuring out what the menace is and how to combat it. No Godzilla movie has featured as many interesting characters as this one. The weaknesses come from the tedium of the political machinations and the movie’s failure to  develop most of those interesting characters. Also shortchanged in the two-hour movie are scenes of the human tragedies in the wake of Godzilla’s appearance and rampages.

When a Japanese Coast Guard vessel investigates an abandoned yacht in Tokyo Bay, it is nearly capsized by a steaming water spout. The Tokyo-Bay Aqua-Line is flooded and collapses. Theories as to what’s happening are discussed with the Prime Minister and his ponderously large staff. A theory that these events are being caused by a giant monster is dismissed...until the large creature makes landfall and starts destroying everything in its path.

Digression. Writer and Chief Director Hideaki Anno had the actors playing the politicians and bureaucrats speak faster that normal to resemble real politicians and bureaucrats. It’s effective, but it makes following the subtitles of these conversations intense. The effort to do was exhausting.

When Shin Godzilla - “Shin” can have several meanings, such as new, true or God - makes landfall, its initial appearance is a very odd looking worm-like creature. It lumbers/slithers at a slow pace, but not slow enough to allow for anything near a complete evacuation. We get a shot of a family - parents and a young boy - packing some belongings as their building collapses. It’s a frightening moment, but the only such scene in the movie.

Godzilla evolves before he goes back into the sea. He now stands on two legs and more closely resembles past versions, though, in this film, there have been no past versions. He’s more terrifying than any other Godzilla, but I found his tiny hands and arms a wee bit disconcerting. Probably because of the coincidental resemblance to Donald Trump’s unnaturally small hands.

The movie switches back between Godzilla’s rampages and the humans debating what to do about the beast. The scientists, gathered from  the best and the brightest, work feverishly. The rest of the world takes note and alarm...and decide to drop a thermonuclear bomb on Godzilla. The clock ticks as the scientists try to implement a plan to “freeze” Godzilla in his tracks.

Shinji Higuchi, the film’s co-director and head of special effects, used a combination of computer generated images and suit effects for Godzilla. Mansai Nomura, a traditional Japanese comedy theater actor, portrayed the creature in motion capture. Eddie and I were amazed and impressed by the special effects, which I’ll leave for you to discover for yourselves.

There are over 300 credited actors in this movie. The “leads” are Hiroki Hasegawa (as Rando Yaguchi, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary); Yutaka Takenouchi (Hideki Akasaka, Aide to the Prime Minister) and Satomi Ishihara (Kayoko Ann Patterson, who is the Special Envoy for the President of the United States and the daughter of an American senator). These are the only truly well-defined characters in the movie, each of them a dedicated young public servant looking to the future and not without ambitions of their own. The scenes in which Ishihara expresses horror at the thought of a third nuclear device being dropped on her grandmother’s homeland is compelling.

Other characters are less (and perhaps too thinly) developed. The Prime Minister (Ren Ohsugi) struggles with his inability to choose a course of action sans political considerations. He allows others - notably the United States and United Nations - to make decisions for him. There are other intriguing players among the politicians and scientists, but they don’t get enough attention and screen time to truly resonate with the viewers.

None of these implied shortcomings alter my overall view that Shin Godzilla is a magnificient movie. It places Godzilla, the greatest of all giant monsters, in a contemporary setting. Japan’s history plays a key role in the film...from the memories of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to the machinations that must be gone through before Japan can defend itself to the allusions to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami to the political climate in which it finds itself forced to agree with the stratagems of the U.S. and the U.N. The real world is as much a part of this movie as Godzilla.


I loved Shin Godzilla. I love it more the more I think about it and can’t wait to purchase it when it because available. I recommend it without any hesitation whatsoever. I know I’ll be watching it again and again. It’s that great a movie.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


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 90th installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #104 [October 1972] was an all-reprint issue with a new cover pencilled by Dick Ayers with inks by Vince Colletta. I like the basic image. It’s got impact. But, once again, Colletta’s inking flattens the excitement. Vince used to be a better fit for westerns. He inked Larry Lieber’s cover for Rawhide Kid #63 [April 1968] and his work on that one was much stronger.

Both of the Rawhide Kid stories reprinted in this issue were first published in Rawhide Kid #63. I was surprised to see stories less than five years old being reprinted, which makes me wonder if their use was a deadline-doom situation with these tales simply being the closest material at hand.

“Shoot-Out at Mesa City!” (8 pages) was by Ron Whyte with pencils by Lieber and inks by Colletta. The second Rawhide Kid story - “The Gun that Couldn't Lose!” (7 pages) - was written and penciled by Lieber with inks by Colletta. I wrote about them in August, 2013. You can read about them here.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the story. Despite the previous month’s statement that “Stan’s Soapbox” would appear every month, it’s not here this month. The lead item claims new publisher and editorial director Lee was too talked out after last month’s double-length column and would prefer to devote this month’s page to items about “some of the nifty new artists, writers and phantasmagorical features” Marvel has lined up. That’s followed by shout-outs to the just-launched Doc Savage title, Frank Brunner, Barry Smith, Ralph Reese, Billy Graham, Mike Trimpe, Wayne Boring and George Alec Effinger. There is a small lettered box announcing The Claws of the Cat and a larger visual box plugging Doc Savage, The Gunhawks and Man-Thing that runs across the bottom of the page.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” includes Journey into Mystery #1 and The Gunhawks #1. The plug for the former reads: Marvel’s newest voyage into the World of the Weird! And with titles like “Dig Me No Grave!” - “House!” - and “More Than Blood!” - how can any ghostly-tales-aficionado go wrong?

The plug for The Gunhawks #1: Reno Smith and Kid Cassidy - black man and white man - pitted against every owlhoot gun in the wild and wooly West!

Other listings: Fantastic Four #127, Spider-Man #113, Incredible Hulk #156, Conan the Barbarian #19, Fear #10 (with the start of an ongoing Man-Thing series), Thor #204, Avengers #104, Capt. America and the Falcon #154, Hero for Hire #3, Daredevil #92, Sub-Mariner #54, Iron Man #51, Jungle Action #1, Astonishing Tales #14 (with Ka-Zar), Warlock #2, Doc Savage #1, Defenders #2, Spoof #2, Marvel Spotlight #6 (starring the Ghost Rider) and Combat Kelly #3. Since I was still living and working in Cleveland, I could afford to buy them all. The nice couple who owned the convenience store I bought my comic books from used to set aside one of every new comic book for me. Which I could afford when comics cost twenty cents apiece. Imagine what an issue of every new comic book would cost you today. I can’t count that high.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appeared after the second Rawhide Kid story. There were three letters in the column, all of them by Robert A. Gillis of Elmsford, New York, also known as “The Gringo Kid.”

Gillis is a harsh critic. He didn’t think much of The Rawhide Kid #100, taking shot at its cover and inside art. He did like the plot of the anniversary story, which teamed the Kid with his brothers. At the end of the story, Johnny Clay rode off with gambler brother Frank. Gillis was hoping they would ride together for a while, but that was not - ahem - in the cards.

His second (shorter) letter complained about the redrawing of Joe Maneely Two-Gin Kid reprints to make the hero look like the newer super-hero version of the character. Marvel responds that they had already changed that policy.

The third Gillis letter complains about the Kid Colt reprints and, specifically, about Jack Keller’s art. I love the Marvel response to this:

We’ve answered this before, but it seems to us that Jack Keller’s art on KID COLT, far from being poor and simple, is actually a very crisp, clean style that tells a story directly and to the point. As anyone who has sat down to draw a comics story can testify, telling a story is essential. No matter how well you can do figures, horses or whatever - if you can’t make a page coherent, you’re nowhere. The Kid has survived for over 20 years simply because of that, since Jack drew him for the majority of those years. He let nothing stand in the way of making KID COLT stories solid entertainment and that’s what always claim out.

The Gringo Kid got taken to school. I tip my cowboy hat to whoever wrote that response. Maybe Roy Thomas?

The third and final reprinted story in this issue is the five-page “War In Chicamaw County” from  Frontier Western #1 [February 1956]. It was written by Stan Lee with pencil art by Bob Forgione and inks by Jack Abel.


Cattleman Wayne Grannock is a greedy son of a bitch who wants to be the cattle king of Chicamaw Country. He sets his sights on Warren Wilcox’s ranch. Young Don Grannock doesn’t want this because he’s in love with Nancy Wilcox. Started by Grannock, a range war leaves death and destruction it its wake. Though the Comics Code-approved art is wholesome enough, Lee’s captions reveals a staggeringly high body count. This is grim business.

The range war ends when the military arrives to bring law and order to the county. Grannock is shot and, though he will recover, he’ll never walk again. But the greater loss, one he shares with Wilcox,  is that their children have left them:

[Don] left...ran off with Nancy Wilcox...said they were going to California to be married! He’s going to study the law...doesn’t wanna be a rancher!

Grannock realizes his range war was all for nothing. The military governor of the territory confiscates his ranch as a penalty for starting the range war. Unable to walk, Grannock takes a job as the bookkeeper for Warren Wilcox’s ranch. The poignant last panel has the former enemies thinking about what they did.

GRANNOCK: Look at it...acres and acres of land! I used to think I wanted it more than anything...and now I’d rather have my son come home than have all the land in the world!

WILCOX: I guess we both learned a lesson, Wayne...too bad we learned it too late!


This is a terrific story. Stan’s script is tight and to the point. He takes the reader through the violence and then brings the story home with its poignant conclusion. The Forgione/Abel art is tough and equally focused. If I were doing a collection of Marvel’s non-series western stories, this one would make the cut.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with my review of Shin Godzilla. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella