Saturday, September 10, 2011

I DIED IN 1998

Today’s installment takes some explaining.  Back in the day, Comics
Buyer’s Guide would publish a yearbook in trade paperback format.
Sometimes, editors Don and Maggie Thompson would ask me to write a
special “Tony’s Tips” column for these annuals.  Writing my usual
review column never seemed special enough, so I usually went a
little crazy.  The following reprint comes from the 1993 edition of
the Comics Buyer’s Guide Annual.  If any of the references baffle
you, join the club.  I can’t remember all of them either.


Marvel Comics did eventually take over the entire world.  Not to
mention the Moon, Mars, and several large asteroids.

My name is Tony Isabella and I used to write a humor/review column
for Comics Buyer’s Guide.  I mean, I write a humor/review column
for CBG.  Tense gets confusing when you’re time-faxing material
back across the decades.

Maybe I better start this column over.

I died in 1998 of Neil Gaiman’s Disease, a condition brought on by
years of near unprecedented success in my field.  It was a rare
ailment, but the two years prior to my demise had seen the loss of
such revered colleagues as Neil himself (the first to succumb to
this then-incurable killer), Chris Claremont, Veronique L. Marquez,
and Peter David.

Peter’s funeral was televised on the Image Network.  I said a few
eulogistic words.  A teary Todd McFarlane was the urn bearer.  It
got a 19.3 share.

1998 had been a good year.  I’d made a clean sweep of all the
comics awards for my work on Black Lightning, despite artist Eddy
Newell taking two issues off to paint President Clinton’s official

The Black Lightning television show was winning its time slot week
after week, providing a strong lead-in to Cindy Goff and Rafael
Nieves’ Tales from the Heart. We each had two of the nominations
for “best script” in the Emmy Awards.  The final nomination went to
Mark Evanier’s Crossfire.

My “Tony’s Tips” column was now being syndicated in 3200 newspapers

I didn’t expect to win the Emmy, but I was prepared for that
pleasant surprise.  My short speech thanked my wife Barbara, my
children Eddie, Kelly Rose, and Jerome Joseph, my editors, my
collaborators, and my best friends Bob Ingersoll and Madonna. There
was the usual applause.

What threw me was the second Emmy, a special award for promoting
social responsibility in television.  It was being presented by
Mother Theresa.  There was a standing ovation.  I collapsed in mid-
stage, inches away from accepting the award.

I remember my last moments in fragments.  Black Lightning producer
Don McGregor trying to clear the stage so medical attention could
reach me.  Looking up into Naomi Campbell’s worried face - she was
“Gail Harris” on the series - as she held my hand and cooed words
of reassurance.  Barb’s voice as she rushed to my side.  The dark
falling over me like a warm comforter.  I don’t think I felt cold
until I started to regain consciousness.

That was over 100 years later.

My winning two Emmys in one year had activated a performance clause
in my Black Lightning contract.  Minutes after being pronounced
dead, I was rushed to a cryonics facility to be preserved until a
cure could be found for Gaiman’s Disease. There I lay for long
decades while medical research moved persistently if slowly toward
my eventual reanimation.

A cure was discovered in 2089.  Unfortunately, the prime ingredient
was a substance found only in the conscience of lawyers.  As you
can imagine, this rare enzyme was in exceedingly short supply.
Only one victim of Gaiman’s Disease could be revived every two
years or so.  The Committee for Revivification passed me over for
Woody Allen in 2110, Barbara Bush in 2112, and a left-handed
pitcher in 2114.  The Mets were in a pennant race, their first one
since the franchise moved to Mars.

I owed my revival to Marvel Comics.  My first professional writing
of any note was done for Marvel in the early 1970s: Ghost Rider,
the Living Mummy, and many others.  When the Topps Company bought
Marvel-Fleer in 1999, editorial director and publisher Jim Salicrup
began a series of Isabella Archives books reprinting my stories.
The volumes were kept in print for the next 30 years.  My kids went
to Space College on the royalties.

Under Salicrup’s extraordinary creative mind and savvy management,
Marvel soon became the most successful arm of the cards and comic
books conglomerate.  By 2039, the vast entertainment organization
was known simply as Marvel.  Everyone in the three worlds knew
exactly what that verb cum cognomen stood for.

Marvel’s growing domination of the entertainment field continued in
an unbroken rise year after year, slowing only during the Tobacco
Wars of 2052 and 2055.  Ironically, it was a chemist at a minor
Marvel research facility, acquired when Marvel bought out Image,
Inc. several years earlier, who brought an end to the bloody
conflict with her invention of a non-toxic and ozone-producing
cigarette.  Smoking became socially acceptable once more, despite
attempts by rapacious sun block manufacturers to legislate further
restrictions on it.  The world’s climate, both emotionally and
meteorologically, improved considerably.  This paved the way for
the even greater growth to follow.

Marvel’s main focus remained on their comic books, which had become
a staple in 90& of all households.  Characters were allowed to
reach a natural conclusion to their adventures and lives, their
places in the super-heroic pantheon filled by new characters.  The
classics, the Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four and the Waihee-Saito Spider-
Man, were kept in print and even studied in literature courses as
a matter of routine.

Marvel shared its success by providing grants to individual
creators and competitors as well.  Dave Sim, his life prolonged by
Marvel medical research and a sizeable endowment from the House of
Ideas, was able to complete his 301-issue autobiography in 2067.
He died two years later as the first issue of his collected I Am
the Aardvark, Goo Goo Goo Joob
, hit the top spot on the New Earth
Times bestseller list.

By the turn of the century, Marvel was the most powerful economic
force in the solar system.  The quest for better and better comics
had naturally led the company to acquire assets to further that
goal.  They purchased amusement parks, movie studios, manufacturing
plants, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, and Phobos.

It was in 2098 that a Marvel librarian came across an edition of
The Isabella Archives once more.  The company often reviewed the
160 or so years of comic books in its vaults to find characters
suitable for revival or material deserving of new editions.
Modesty must give way to accuracy when I tell you that, within a
year, It the Living Colossus was being called the seminal work of
1970s comic-book literature.

Researchers soon learned I’d been cryonically preserved some 100
years earlier.  Petitions by the hundreds of thousands flooded the
offices of the Committee for Revivification, some 50 million
signatures in all.  The Committee, not wanting to seem easily
swayed by mere public opinion, did not schedule my revival until
2116.  This despite the offer of several thousand lawyers to
voluntarily undergo euthanasia to accelerate the process of curing
my Gaiman’s Disease.

I awoke to a world more wonderful than I could’ve imagined, a world
where I was...

Well, let’s talk about that after the reviews.


Captain Earth: Legacy of Light by Gideon Vasarian and Susanne
Przhevalski [Marvel; 100 solar credits] brought tears to my eyes.
You see, one of the first things I did on my revival was catch up
with my favorite characters from the 1990s.  Few epics from that
period spoke to me more strongly than Mark Gruenwald’s The Infinity

Captain America, exiled to a distant planet by the omnipotent Red
Skull and stalked by the Skull’s own daughter Brita, actually saves
the murderous miss from a life of unreasoning hatred.  They must
cooperate to survive and their cooperation soon becomes something
far stronger.  Cap and Brita pledge undying love to one another.
Their happiness is short-lived as the Skull appears to seek revenge
on his unfaithful offspring.

It was the final battle between Captain America and the Skull.  Cap
uses the Skull’s own power to transport the pregnant Brita into the
future so that, no matter the outcome of this combat, their vow of
live will survive to inspire others.

Cap, alone save for his courage, his convictions, and his own love
for Brita, gives his life to stop his foe’s evil plan to remake all
existence in the Skull’s twisted image.  The universe is redeemed
through the power of love.

Legacy picks up Brita’s story in own 2118. She has been raising
Steve Rogers Jr. to be every bit the inspiration Captain America
was.  Mankind is moving beyond the asteroids in its never-ending
quest for adventure and knowledge.  These new pioneers will face
incredible dangers and hardships.  They need a living symbol to
remind them of their own proud legacy.  Captain Earth is determined
to be that symbol.

Vasarian’s script is as exciting as it is inspirational.  The art
by Przhevalski brings the story to life with amazing clarity for
line art.  Few writers are willing to work with artists in these
days of cerebro-graphics, but this partnership is seamless.  We may
be seeing the return of teamwork in comics.  We’re certainly seeing
the premiere of a series destined for greatness.  Do not miss this

Also recommended: Don McGregor’s Panther’s Party [Marvel; 50 solar
credits].  This is an oldie that you should not overlook.  First
published in 1996, McGregor’s action-comedy marked a turning point
in his T’Challa series. Both Don and the Black Panther let their
hair down for one heck of a royal birthday bash.  Wakanda is wilder
than ever in this classic collection.  True, some of the jokes will
be incomprehensible to today’s readers, but editor Gove Gowan has
included an easy-to-follow glossary of archaic terms.  Trust me,
faithful ones, this is comics history and it belongs in any Marvel


Waking up in 2116 was wonderful and lonely.  I did miss my family,
but I was so proud of what they had accomplished in their lives.
Barb’s plan for international health care was a boon to the entire
world.  Eddie followed in my footsteps as a writer until he became
the last President of the United States in 2023. Kelly Rose was
elected World President in 2031.  Jerome Joseph colonized Mars that
same year.

Madonna bore me a son through artificial insemination, a testimony
to the friendship she shared with my family.  Anthony Madonna was
an accomplished actor-songwriter who gave his life to save a group
of orphans of the Tobacco Wars in the final month of that conflict.
I’m told he had my eyes and smile.

The adulation I received on my revival was difficult to deal with.
I could have had anything on Earth for the asking.  That I did not
succumb to the many exotic temptations available can be attributed
to the strong family values instilled in me by my natural parents,
Louis and Florence, and affirmed by my revival transition parents,
Woody and Barbara.  I’ve never known two more loving couples.

I still had my writing.  The new cerebro-graphics technology let me
“draw” my own stories.  My first efforts were overly Kirby/Romita,
but I eventually built upon their inspiration to develop a style of
my own.  I won the Eisner again that year.

CHET-6000, the robotic heir to the Krause publishing empire, asked
me to resume my CBG column.  It was the link that completed the
circle of my life.  I even beat out “Oh, So?” in the most recent
readers poll.

I’m at the top of my field.  It’s truly a great feeling, but I’m
going to have to deal with the possibility that my century-spanning
success, unlike Marvel’s, won’t last much longer.

You see, next month, they thaw out Todd McFarlane.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2011 Tony Isabella

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