Friday, December 2, 2011


My inspiration for today’s bloggy meanderings is the short stack of
comics, notes, and other stuff on my desk.  If I write about it, I
can move it off my desk.

One of my few indulgences are the Phantom comic books published by
Frew Publications in Australia.  I’ve been buying/collecting them
since issue #1400 and just read issue #1600.  Jim Shepherd is the
publisher and managing director of the title, which comes out every
three weeks or so and which reprints original Phantom stories from
Egmont (in Sweden) and newspaper strips from across the hero’s 70-
year history.  Published in black-and-white with color covers, some
issues are in the standard 36 pages format found in the USA while
others are hundreds of pages long.  Shepherd is often annoyingly
dismissive of American comics, but exudes enthusiasm for even the
most mediocre of Egmont stories.  Still, it’s hard to stay annoyed
with a guy who loves Lee Falk’s creation as much as I do.

The Phantom #1600 reprints “The Skull Murders” by Claus Reimerthi
with art by Sal Velluto.  An Egmont story, it features the return
of an old Phantom nemesis from another Egmont story and a behind-
the-scenes criminal mastermind taking a long-distance approach to
getting revenge on the Ghost Who Walks.  It’s an entertaining tale
with solid art and storytelling from Velluto.  Egmont’s Phantom art
is never as dynamic as that in American comics, but it always goes
up several notches when they use American artists like Velluto and

The cover price of this issue is $3 in Australian dollars, which
converts to $3.06 in American currency.  I buy these Phantom comic
books in bimonthly batches from Comics Oz.  If you’re interested in
getting the Frew Phantoms from them, go to their website.


The stack contains a two-line note.  The first line is: Two and a
Half Men
.  The second line is: The Big Bang Theory.  For a moment,
I wondered if I had started to jot down an idea for a crossover of
the Chuck Lorre-helmed comedies, But, while it may be kinda
cool to see Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard meet Walden Schmidt,
that wasn’t it.  I have issues with both shows.

I stopped watching Two and a Half Men because, on camera and off,
I’d had enough of Charlie Sheen.  I started watching the show again
this season because Ashton Kutcher’s performances usually
amuse me.  The addition of man-child Walden to the show was a good
one, but it comes at too high a price.  Jon Cryer’s Alan Harper has
become a nasty little creep.  It’s one thing for Lorre to get his
mean-spirited revenge on Sheen, but he and his writers have turned
Alan into a thoroughly unpleasant whipping boy.  There needs to be
some balance in the show.  Soon.

The first time I saw The Big Bang Theory, I didn’t like what I saw:
mean-spirited humor at the expense of comic-book readers and
other fans.  I gave it a second chance and came to look forward to
the show.  But, every now and then, that meanness of spirit rises
again, most recently, in “The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition,” which
aired on November 17.

As played by Mayim Bialik, brainiac Amy Farrah Fowler’s desire for
a physical relationship beyond her mental bond with Sheldon Cooper
was funny and touching.  Her dating comic-shop owner Stuart was a
reach, made possible only because the writers of the episode went
at Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard with the comedic equivalent of
chainsaws.  Stuart’s character has been troubling in any case; it
changes to fit the needs of whatever episode in which he appears.
Lorre and his writers need to suss out who Stuart is and then write
him accordingly.

We fans make fun of each other.  So making fun of fans on the show
isn’t taboo.  It’s when the comedy veers from “yeah, that’s us” to
“beat them up and take their lunch money” that the show loses me.
Working with Charlie Sheen is a traumatic experience, but if Lorre
lets it drive his programs, then Sheen will, indeed, be...winning.
Please don’t let that happen, sir.

I finished reading the first week of the second month of DC’s New
52 titles.  Here’s what I thought:

Action Comics #2: I enjoyed the story by Grant Morrison with art by
Rags Morales and Brent Anderson.  I like this take on Superman.  I
remained as bored with Lex Luthor and Sam Lane as I was in the old
DCU.  I think it’s a dick move for DC to change readers a buck more
for eight pages of self-serving “behind the scenes” stuff.

Static Shock #2: Meh! None of the great characterization and fine
storytelling of the original Static series.  It amazes me that DC
can’t do better by the Milestone heroes.

Stormwatch #2: I liked this issue better than the first one, but I
would like writer Paul Cornell to do a better job introducing the
characters each issue.  It’s not always easy to work the names of
your characters and some indication of who they are and what they
can do into every issue, but that’s part of the job.  It’s so basic
it should be taught in remedial comics writing classes. 

Swamp Thing #2: Writer Scott Synder and artist Yanick Paquette are
still doing a great job on this book.  It’s eerily intriguing and
surprising.  It blends a Vertigo vibe into the DCU and almost makes
it look easy.

That’s all the second month books available to me.  When I get and
read some more, I may or may not write about them.  Life is full of
uncertainty that way.


Black Lightning, the hero I created back in the 1970s and returned
to - all too briefly - in the 1990s, got a shout-out in the October
24 edition of Sports Illustrated.  Attached to a short sidebar on
Seattle super-hero Phoenix Jones and his troubles with the law were
images of four comic-book heroes with a sporting past.  When not in
costume, Jones is Ben Fodor, an amateur MMA fighter and PBA-level
bowler.  The four super-heroes were heavyweight boxer Wildcat, pro
skier Northstar, college quarterback Booster Gold, and, of course,
Olympic decathlete Jefferson Pierce.

Thanks to my Facebook friend Mike Fleming for sending me a copy of
this issue.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.  

© 2011 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. In regard to The Phantom, what do you think of the swedish artist Hans Lindahl?

    It's true that the current episodes of The Phantom produced by Egmont are rather crappy, but I bet your friends enthusiasm has more to do with the episodes produced in the 70's and early 80's, when those comics where superior to anything produced in the states or elsewhere. Stories by Dai Darell and art by Vallve killed most competition.