Thursday, March 30, 2017

BLACK LIGHTNING AND ME

Well, now that the rest of you have gotten your first look at actor extraordinaire Cress Williams as Black Lightning...

Within hours of DC’s release of the above image, I was asked what I thought of the Black Lightning suit designed for what we all hope will be an ongoing Black Lightning TV series on the CW. In fact, I was asked this over two dozen times before I posted some quick remarks on Facebook and took the rest of the night off.

First off, please understand, for a plethora of reasons, that I am simply not at liberty to discuss certain Black Lightning things in any detail. That said...

I’m a cheerleader for Salim and Mara Akil...and the CW...and I like this costume. I think it fits the CW super-hero universe perfectly. If it came in “short and chubby,” I’d wear it. Though I would not look nearly as cool as Williams.

Some things I can address...

Black Lightning's powers are natural. He's a metahuman or whatever they call people with natural powers in the CW super-hero universe. Don't worry. Be happy.

I confess I’m getting a wee bit annoyed by fan calls for Static to appear on this show. Now I love Static and the Static Shock cartoon series, but, were it my call (and it isn't), you would NEVER see Static in this series. Black Lightning doesn't need Static. Static doesn't need Black Lightning. They are great characters who can stand on their own.

The Outsiders. I feel the same way about them, though a live-action Metamorpho would be epic. They are terrific characters, but Black Lightning doesn't need them. Every other DC/CW super-hero show has turned into a show about a team of heroes. Again, though it’s not my call, but I think Black Lightning should be different. Variety is a cool thing.

And, please, all you wanna be Black Lightning writers and actors, stop emailing me. I have no power there...and that's fine with me. Comics and TV are not the same thing. I don't know how to do a great TV show. Salim and Mara do.

If the time comes when I do branch out into TV or movies, it'll be when I feel I've mastered the necessary skills to do those things well. For now, I'm concentrating on the things I already do well.

When I can say more about any of the above, I will. For now, please know I am a very happy man. I am all wrapped up in my cuddly new DC Comics blanket and feeling the love.

Addendum...

Black Lightning is getting all sorts of virtual “ink” from several comics and media news websites. With some reservations, I am over the top thrilled with this coverage of my favorite comics creation and character. However, some of the coverage does come up short in areas I consider key. So I have devised a point system to help you judge those websites.

If a site includes the information that Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden, that earns the website two points. Legalese aside, companies don’t create characters. Creators create characters.

If the site gets the credit line correct - it’s officially “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden” - it gets another point. The difference between “and” and “with” may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but it’s the official DC Comics credit. Use it.

If the site spells my friend Trevor’s name correctly - it’s “Eeden” and not “Eden” - it gets another point. Seriously, kids, turn off your auto-correct and look at the actual comic books Trevor’s been drawing brilliantly for decades.

If the site also mentions my friend Eddy Newell’s name and spells it correctly - it’s “Eddy” and not “Eddie” - it gets another point. Eddy drew my second Black Lightning series in the 1990s.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with the first part of my multi-part report on Pensacon 2017. Teaser: little old blogger me had two “hero” moments before I even got to Florida.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 104

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 104th installment in that series.

There would be no more new Rawhide Kid stories in the long-running title of that name. But there would be two more new Rawhide tales by Larry Lieber. One would not see print until 1975. The other one ran in Western Team-Up #1 [November 1973].

Western Team-Up #1 had a cover pencilled by Lieber with alterations by John Romita. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover art was inked by Lieber and Romita.

The cover story was almost certainly intended for Rawhide Kid. At 14 pages, “Ride the Lawless Land” was the same length as the new RK tales that had been appearing in Rawhide Kid. Like those stories, it was written and penciled by Lieber, lettered by June Braverman and colored by George Roussos. The only difference between this one and the previous Rawhide Kid stories is that it was inked by Vince Colletta instead of Roussos. In previous bloggy things, I have been critical of Colletta’s inking on western stories of the 1960s and 1970s, but he did a pretty decent job here.

The Dakota Kid was not an existing Marvel character. I don’t think he was intended to be an ongoing character. He was just one of the many intriguing characters Lieber created during his run.

I also don’t think Western Team-Up itself was anything more than a tryout of sorts and a way to use up an inventory story. Certainly, if the book was intended as a ongoing title, it would have led with a better-known western hero such as Kid Colt or the Two-Gun Kid. This was the only issue of the series.

That’s the prologue. Let’s look at the story.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


“Ride the Lawless Land” opens with the Rawhide Kid taking a break after outdistancing a posse. He hopes he’ll be able to find peace and quiet in the Dakotas. One panel later, someone is shooting at him, though just to get his attention.

That someone is Cliff Morgan, who says people around here call him the Dakota Kid. He has a rep as a fast gun and thinks he can take the Kid. Rawhide refuses to fight without a reason. He just wants to find a job. This impresses Morgan, whose father - the Colonel - is the biggest rancher in the area.

The Colonel wants nothing to do with "gunslinging trash." But Wayde Morgan - Cliff’s brother and clearly the good son - convinces his dad to give Rawhide a chance. Cliff and Wayde have a sister, though she never does more than agree with her brothers and try to put in a good word for the “gunslinging trash” that is Cliff and the Kid. She’s never named in the story, so, as is the case with all of the unnamed women in stories like this, I’m going to think of her as “Tigra” Morgan.

This is a ridiculously plot-heavy story. Some of the pages get real crowded with small panels to move it along. Try to keep up with me as I relate the goings-on.

Rawhide gets a job. The Colonel berates Cliff, saying he should be more like his brother. Rawhide takes to the work. Logan, the foreman of the ranch, plots with owlhoots to rustle the spread’s cattle. Cliff neglects his work to go visit his girlfriend Lily Lamont in town. Wayde has to fill in for him.

In the town saloon, Luke Thompson, a thug-ish saloon customer, gets fresh with Lily. Cliff tells him to leave his girl alone. Thompson calls him out. Thompson gets shot dead:

Holy cow! Morgan let Thompson clear leather...and then he drew and fired before Thompson could squeeze the trigger!

The sheriff arrests Cliff. Even though the sheriff is confident Cliff will be cleared, the Colonel is pissed at “that irresponsible whelp” and wonders when his son will become a man. Meanwhile, the Colonel’s good son is no match for the rustlers when they attack. He’s gunned down by them.

The Colonel is devastated and angry. When the treacherous foreman opines the Rawhide Kid must have tipped off the rustlers, the old man accepts the theory instantly. Rawhide has to flee for his life.

Lily helps Cliff escape from jail so her beau can settle the score for his brother. The sheriff knows Cliff has crossed a line with this reckless action:

Now he’s done it! Before he could’ve beaten the charge against him easy! But now he’s a fugitive from justice! And there’s no turning back!
The Colonel doesn’t welcome Cliff. He says his son belongs in jail awaiting a hangman’s noose. He blames Cliff for Wayde’s death and tells his son to get out of the house and never comes back.

Believing Rawhide responsible for his brother’s death, Cliff hunts him down. Along the way, he gets into several gunfights and his rep as a fast gun grows. When Cliff finally catches up with the Kid, he finds Rawhide has tracked down the rustlers.

Cliff and the Kid see that it was Logan who was working with these rustlers. The gunplay begins and ends a few panels later with only the two young men left standing. Cliff thinks its over, but the Kid knows better.

RAWHIDE: For you it’s just starting! You broke out of jail! Now you’re a fugitive on the run - like me!
 
CLIFF: And there’s no turning back, is there?
 
RAWHIDE: There never has been...for any of us!

Back at the ranch, “Tigra” asks her father if he’ll ever find it in his heart to forgive Cliff.

THE COLONEL: It’s too late! I’ve lost both my sons! One was killed and the other does killin’!

Elsewhere, Cliff and the Rawhide Kid part company. Each to follow their own perilous path in an uncertain world.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


“Ride the Lawless Trail” could have easily been a 20-page story. Though I remain convinced it was a leftover story from the ongoing Rawhide Kid title, I can see why it could pass as an actual team-up between two heroes and a back-door pilot for the Dakota Kid.

Cliff and his family get more “screen time” than the Rawhide Kid. The family dynamic described above was very different from all of Marvel’s other western heroes. If westerns were as prevalent on TV today as in the era of the great Warner Brothers shows, I could see the Dakota Kid being a series I would have watched.

Before we get into the issue’s second story - more proof to me that this issue was meant to be an issue of Rawhide Kid - let’s look at what else was in this comic book.

Marvel comics of this era didn’t have the classiest paid ads. There were several pages in which dozens of classified ads were crammed together on the same page. Here’s a quick rundown of some of what a reader could expect to see:

Prizes or cash for selling greetings cards; iron-on designs for t-shirts; Charles Atlas making you a man; health aids to help those who are “too skinny”; sell the newspaper Grit to earn cash or neat prizes; Corgi toy cars; information on getting a “high pay job in drafting”; learn how to play the guitar in seven days; train at home to be a veterinary assistant; Honor House novelty items like a Raquel Welch pillow; get in a job in conservation; the “genuine Spider-Man medallion coin” discussed in a previous installment of Rawhide Kid Wednesday; “gain weight [to] be muscular and admired”; and attend LaSalle Extension University.

The only editorial page beyond the stories was a half-page “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” topping the usual half-page ad for the fan club FOOM (Friends of Ol’ Marvel). This was the same page that appeared in the all-reprint Rawhide Kid #117 [November 1973].
                                                                           

That brings us the issue’s second story, an untitled six-page story starring the Gunsmoke Kid with art by the legendary Jack Davis of EC and MAD and magazine covers and advertising art fame. Davis drew a bunch of stories for Marvel in the 1950s and came back to do some more in the early 1960s. This one first appeared in Kid Colt Outlaw #87 [November 1959] and was the last Gunsmoke Kid story.

The GCD has a synopsis for this not-very-good story:

Gunsmoke Kid and a prospector turn an Indian tribe allied with a claim jumper against their ally by playing on superstition

The superstitious Piute braves are tricked when the Kid makes them think the claim jumper is a werewolf. That’s a mite hard to swallow these days, but few western comics of the past treated indiginous people with respect. After reading this story, I wondered if some Marvel staffer had added the opening caption to somewhat temper the story. It reads:

The Piutes were a noble tribe, and when a group of renegades tried to convince them to rise against the white man using the old tribal magic and superstition, they were tossed out onto the desert plains to find for themselves against a wild and unruly west.

If any of my bloggy thing readers have the original comic in which this story was first published, I’d love to know if my speculation is correct.

The story doesn’t give much of a sense of who the Gunsmoke Kid was. But the Marvel Wikipedia makes him sound interesting enough to have had his own series:

The Gunsmoke Kid was a gunslinging terror by the time he was seventeen years old. All that changed, however, when his father was shot, robbed, and left for dead. It was too much for his poor mother, a husband dead and a son who was getting into fights all over the territory. She wrote him a letter begging him to give up his gunslinging, but her health was already failing. She was dead by the time her son arrived home.

From that day on, the Gunsmoke Kid was a changed man. He made a promise to his mother that he would mend his ways, and her death just deepened that resolve. He kept her photo near to him to remind himself of that promise. He would still get called into fights as a result of his reputation, but he no longer went for kills. And instead of looking for fights, he looked for people in need. He figured that by saving others, he was also saving himself. He was a gunfighter with a conscience.

He brought in the man who killed his father alive, and found the evidence the law needed to convict him. His other adventures have included helping a man on a gold rush save his claim from a jumper who had a whole tribe of renegade Piutes backing him up. He ended up tricking the Piutes into thinking their friend was a werewolf. Another time, he helped a rancher expose a rival who had been rustling his herd, and defended the herd until he had gotten evidence on the rustlers. The head of the rustlers turned out to be a wanted man, and the law was only too glad to take him in. His subsequent activities are thus far unrevealed.
 
The more I learn about the Rawhide Kid and Marvel’s other western heroes, the more I wish I could read (or even write) new adventures with them. I’ll probably have to settle for coming up with my own new takes on such characters without infringing on Marvel’s claims to them.

Rawhide Kid Wednesday will return next week. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have something else for you.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #202

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I go to the movies to see and review Logan. Plus: Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman "77 and the new super-hero comics Alters by Paul Jenkins and Leila Leiz.

THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY (February 2017)

If you told me I could sleep for two days, I would doubtless clasp you to my bosom in an inappropriate manner. That’s how exhausting, albeit often wonderful, the month of March was for me. We’ll talk about March later this week.

Today, because the bloggy thing has been on hiatus this month, I am just now getting around to posting this list of things that made me happy in February. Life can be challenging and sometimes cruel. That’s the way of things. But, a while back, I decided I would take a few moments out each and every day to mention briefly something that cheered me up, that made me feel good, that lifted my spirits. Because, if we don’t take the time to count our blessings, however large or small they might be, we risk surrender to those who would crush all joy in the name of their own ego, greed or hatred. And I don’t surrender. Ever.

Here is the list of my February delights.

February 1: A hilarious Gotham moment. A revived Jerome asks Leslie who killed Galavan. Her response? “Which time?”

February 2: Bruce kicking Jerome’s ass on Gotham, but not killing him.

February 3: Another terrific Gotham moment. Jim Gordon punching the face off Jerome.

February 4: A hilarious Gotham moment. Jim asks Harvey if he should have killed Jerome. Harvey says, “Nah. He’d probably just come back to life.”

February 5: Barb is home from her cruise. We celebrated with pizza and the two most recent episodes of Bones.

February 6: Kite-Man lives! My favorite goofy Batman villain was in the recent Batman #6.

February 7: Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. Always there to lift my spirits in the hard times.

February 8: Michelle Wolf’s brilliant takedown of Kellyanne Conway on The Daily Show.

February 9: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for his stance on immigration. This is what America should be.

February 10: The official Iron Fist trailer. It looks like Marvel and Netflix have done it again.

February 11: Bob Buethe for posting that “Bruce Wayne’s obnoxious  cousin Van (in NBC’s Powerless) actually came from the comics. His first and only comic-book appearance (1962) was in Batman #148's “The Boy Who Was Robin.” I love obscure comics trivia.

February 12: All the friends who have told me Black Lightning is in the new Lego Batman movie. Giving me an excuse to see a movie that I wanted to see anyway. As it turns out, all my friends were wrong. It was Black Vulcan. But I was still happy so many friends thought of me.

February 13: Getting up every morning and facing the challenges of the day. I win some, I lose some, but I never surrender.

February 14: Teen Vogue. A great place to get political and fashion news. The magazine and the website rock!

February 15: “No one’s just one thing.” Wisdom from Laverne Cox on The Daily Show.

February 16: Fiesta Salons in Medina. Terrific haircut and no wait. Looking good for Pensacon.

February 17: I’m now a card-carrying member of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). I’m proud to stand with that organization.

February 18: Die, Kitty, Die! by Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. It’s an honestly funny and sexy satire.

February 19: Sharing Pensacon 2017 with Sainted Wife Barb. I love showing my family the best parts of my comics life.

February 20: Chuck Rozanski, lord of the Mile High Comics empire, for his unwavering support of the LGBTQ community, the homeless and so many others.

February 21: Pensacon staff, volunteers, fans and guests for being some of the best people I know.

February 22: Maria and the rest of the Pensacon transportation team for taking such good care of Barb and I.

February 23: Being next to comics legend Jose Delbo and his lovely family in Pensacon’s artist alley.

February 24: Seeing Neal Adams at Pensacon and thanking him for all he has done for me and other comics creators.

February 25: Pensacon volunteer Jonathan Jones for being incredibly helpful. He even brought space heaters from his own home for Jose Delbo and myself.

February 26: Seeing old pals like John Dell, Julio Diaz, Mike Grell and so many others at Pensacon.

February 27: Seeing fan friends like Darrell Donell Tai-Pan Ratliff at Pensacon and making new ones like AJ Zipper.

February 28: Appearing on a “Diversity in Comics” panel with Rodney Ramos, Nen and Jeremy Whitley at Pensacon. I like panels that make me think.

Give me a few days to get my bloggy thing thoughts together and I will tell you about Pensacon at length. In the meantime, come back together for another installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday,” which features one of the last new Larry Lieber stories.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 27, 2017

DC AND ME

DC Comics/Entertainment has authorized me to release this statement on the company's behalf and my own:

DC Comics/Entertainment and Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella have reached a mutually-beneficial agreement on Tony’s past and future contributions to the company. DC is pleased it will again have access to Tony's talents and insights. Tony is thrilled to be once again associated with one of the top entertainment powerhouses of our era. This is good news all around.

With my numerous March professional and personal commitments now completed, and the publication of the above statement, I can return to full-scale blogging. Thanks for your patience during my hiatus.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, March 26, 2017

THE BLACK BAT #3: THE BLACK BAT’S SPY TRAIL

The cowled Black Bat is one of my favorite pulp magazine crime-fighters. He’s part Batman and part Two-Face and part Matt Murdock of Marvel Comics fame. Attacked with acid while prosecuting a vile criminal, District Attorney Tony Quinn is known to be scarred from the attack and thought to be blind. But his vision was restored to him and enhanced. Now he fights murderous evildoers with his aides Carol, Silk and Butch.

The Black Bat #3: The Black Bat’s Spy Trail and Captains of Death  [$14.95; March 2016] features two book-length Black Bat adventures from the March 1940 and May 1943 issues of Black Book Detective. These stories are written by the prolific Norman Daniels under the Thrilling Publications house name of “G. Wayman Jones.” Here are the title page blurbs for each of these novels.

The Black Bat’s Spy Trail:

Battling valiantly against sabotage, wholesale murder and espionage, the nocturnal champion of the victims of crime flies into the Valley of Death - ready to fight grim traitors bullet for bullet and blow for blow!

Captains of Death:

When the diabolical Dr, Mars and a sinister crew of saboteurs stalk, the Black Bat and his allies go all out to exterminate the Nazi rats who plot destruction!

In “The Belfry,” author and pulp historian Will Murray’s discusses how the Black Bat proved himself very adaptable, switching from his domestic criminal foes to the Nazis and their ilk. In the earlier of this issue’s two novels, the villains were not explicitly called Nazis. Two years later, that wasn’t a concern.

Publisher Anthony Tollin adds the informative content of this book with “The Mask of Kin Platt,” the writer/artist who took over the Mask comic-book series - the name change was part of a deal struck with DC Comics over the similarities between Batman and the Black Bat - with the July 1940 issue of Exciting Comics. Finishing out this volume is that six-page comics story.

Sanctum always delivers considerable bang for your bucks. It’s why I recommend their books so highly and so often.

ISBN 978-1-60877-201-8

Keep reading the bloggy thing for more information on Sanctum Books publications.




Friday, March 24, 2017

BACK ISSUE #95

Back Issue #95 [April 2017; $8.95] is the “Creatures of the Night” issue of the Bronze Age fanzine edited by Michael Eury. The cover is by Bill Sienkiewicz and Klaus Janson, adapted from the splash page of 1981's Moon Knight #6.

Inside the issue, the “Pro2Pro” column offers a dialogue between Moon Knight creator Doug Moench and Sienkiewicz. An interview by Mike W. Barr, one of the best of the Batman writers, also appears in the issue. Other articles discuss: the Johnny Blaze version of Ghost Rider, Night Nurse, Eclipso, I...Vampire, Batman’s wardrobe, Batman pencil art and Nightcat. The 84-page magazine is filled with history and inside information, side by side with never-before-seen and rarely-seen artwork. It’s the Bronze Age and Beyond!

Keep watching the bloggy for more on TwoMorrows publications.