Wednesday, November 30, 2011


If you are one of my Facebook friends, you were treated on Monday
to an exhibition of full-on Tony grumpiness.  My less-than-perfect
day started out with my being too sick to go to the dentist to take
care of the problem that has been vexing me for weeks. 

I wrote through the nausea and pain, completing most of yesterday’s
bloggy thing before a phone call took me totally out of my game.
It was one of those “issues” call in support of fracking and other
life-destroying mining practices.  The only good thing about it was
that there was an actual person on the other end of the line and I
got to call him a “fuckwad” before hanging up on him.

With my train of thought derailed, I figured I’d watch a bit of TV.
First up was the SyFy original movie Storm Wars.  I expected it to
be awful.  That’s actually one of the reasons I watch these movies.
What I didn’t expect was that the usually spiffy Stacy Keach would
give what might be his worst performance ever.  It was painful to
watch him play a mad scientist - way too much emphasis on the “mad”
part of that - who had learned how to control the weather and was
now killing those who cut his government funding and any poor SOBs
that happened to be within a mile of them.

But what got me screaming “Take the damn shot!” out loud was when
federal agents had Keach in their sights and didn’t take the damn
shot!  Keach had broken into the airwaves to take credit for all of
the weather-related deaths.  He was holding a control device that
looked like a detonator.  And these highly-trained members of the
law-enforcement community didn’t put, oh, I dunno, twenty bullets
in his head.  I don’t blame the government on this one.  I blame an
idiot writer - Paul A. Birkett - who ran out of ideas about halfway
through the movie. 

I know what you’re wondering.  Yes, your grumpy old blogger could
have it done better.  I could have put poor Stacy Keach out of his
misery right then and there and still have had more excitement and
surprises in store for the viewers. 

Gut feeling digression.  I’m thinking all the special effects for
this movie were designed first and the script written around them.
It would have explained the choppy pacing, though not the fantastic
notion that not one, not two, but several power plants were either
unguarded or guarded by comedy relief.  End digression.

The next thing I watched was an episode of Criminal Minds recorded
last week.  Here’s the bad guy - SPOILER WARNING - he kidnapped an
eight-year-old girl and kept her a prisoner in his house for seven
years.  Somewhere during those years, he started raping her and he
got her pregnant.  Unable to stand the thought of bearing the child
of this monster, the now teenage girl killed herself.  The bad guy
then kidnaps the girl’s mother, luring her by telling her that she
can be reunited with her daughter.  Then he rapes or tries to rape
her so he can recreate the girl for whose death he is absolutely
and legally responsible.  If someone dies during the commission of
a felony, the person or persons committing that felony are legally
accountable for that death.

How bad is this bad guy?  He went to the same survivors group the
grieving mom went to - which is how he knew her habits and more -
and talked about his dead “wife.”  Who he said killed herself after
getting pregnant.  In the same group with the mother of that poor
child.  You can call him insane.  I call him a monster. 

When the FBI agents burst into the guy’s house, our monster has a
gun pointed at the mother...and not one of the several agents who
have a good shot takes that good shot.  No, they risk the mother’s
life and the lives of themselves and their fellow agents.  When the
bad guy drops his gun, the mother grabs it and apparently puts him
down like the mad dog he is.  At least they don’t toss the mother
in jail for this.

This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about police officers not
taking the shot.  I stopped watching CSI Miami after the failure of
Horatio Caine and his team to take the good shot - they didn’t want
to kill a murderous drug lord in front of his daughter - resulted
in the drug lord escaping with his hostage and later killing that

TV offered no respite for me on Monday.  I also watched an episode
of House Hunters International where I hated everyone on the show.
The smug Norwegian real estate agent had a smirk on his face whenever
he reminded his clients how they would have to bid on crappy little
apartments.  I hated the buyers because the Norwegian husband had
talked his American wife into moving to Norway because he wanted to
go to school in his home town.  Hey, we have pretty good schools in
the United States as well and we have houses big enough that a fart
won’t blow down the walls. I was a hater on Monday.

Here’s another bit of venom I posted:

Hey, right wing assholes, could you cool it with the lying TV ads
until after Christmas?  You’ve been trying to destroy Obama since
he was elected and haven’t done a damn thing to help our country.
Give it a rest for the holidays.

One more and we’ll call it a blog:

I got a friend request from a guy I know to be one of the biggest
crooks in comicdom.  Does he think I’ve forgotten his grand theft
in 1988?  The statute of limitations might be up on his crimes - he
openly brags about the score these days - but I have a long memory.
Friend? Not in this lifetime.

Anyway, I’m writing this on Tuesday and I am in a much better frame
of mind than I was on Monday.  I’m thinking of calling tomorrow’s
blog something like “Soft Tony, Warm Tony.” 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The weekend before Thanksgiving, I asked my Facebook friends which
of two DVDs I should watch at the end of a workday.  Their choices
were the unaired Wonder Woman television pilot helmed by David E.
Kelley or the 1968 Destroy All Monsters.  Some friends.  They voted
for me to watch the Wonder Woman disaster.

I thought the only really good thing about the Wonder Woman pilot
was how terrific Adrianne Palicki looked in both versions of the
costume.  The pilot’s cast also included the excellent actors Cary
Elwes and Tracie Thoms, but the material didn’t give them a chance
to show how good they are. 

The WW pilot was so awful that I almost immediately watched Destroy
All Monsters
to cleanse my palate.  Though DAM is not a good movie
by any stretch of the imagination, it’s goofy fun for children of
all ages.  The human characters are uninteresting and the monsters
are little more than action figures, but it was still better than
the WW pilot.  DAM recalls a kid playing “war” with those plastic
soldiers I used to have in my own youth. 

Here’s a startling revelation: when I played with those soldiers,
I often used them to act out original stories starring the Justice
League and other DC heroes.  My memory is that these were largely
“fight” stories with no character development or wit.  Pretty much
like many modern super-hero stories.  The most dramatic moment was
deciding which plastic soldier would play Wonder Woman.  Lord knows
what happened when he and his fellow troops were put back in their
cardboard box barracks.  But I digress.

I read a stack of DC Comics last week, one of them dating back to
2007, two to the end of last year, and the rest published a month
or so ago.  The “oldie” was All Flash #1 [$2.99] and, given that it
was written by Mark Waid, one of my favorite comics writers, it was
surprisingly awful.  Wally West returns to avenge the death of Bart
Allen, who had assumed the mantle of the Flash. What little heart
the story has is undone by multiple artists and an extended super-
speed battle between West and some villain named Inertia.  For the
big finish, West exacts a vengeance on Bart’s killer that certainly
ranks as “cruel and unusual” in my book of values.  Was the plan to
bring Wally back just make me dislike him?

The two 2010 comics were DC Comics one-shots showcasing members of
Shadowpact.  Nightmaster: Monsters of Rock [$2.99] was written by
Adam Beechen with art by Kieron Dwyer while Ragman: Suit of Souls
[$2.99] was written by Christos Gage with art by Stephen Segovia.
Both were solid done-in-one stories that established the characters
in fine fashion, told a complete tale, and left me wishing both of
these heroes had gotten their own titles in DC’s “New 52.”  Nicely
done on all counts.

I read six DC comics from the first week of the second month of the
aforementioned “New 52.”  Animal Man continued to overlook every
element that could be interesting in favor of more “Vertigo Lite”
gore and mystical bullshit.  Hawk & Dove was even worse than that
title’s first issue with its grotesque art, poor storytelling, and
turgid writing. I can see where Animal Man might appeal to readers
who like that sort of thing, but what do any readers see in Hawk
& Dove
?  I’m baffled.

The promise I saw in Batwing #1 was pretty much undone in Batwing
#2.  Even if I choose not to take its knockoff of Black Lightning
personally, there’s still the unbelievable resolution to the first
issue’s cliffhanger, the emphasis on brutal killings, the seeming
abandonment of the corrupt police force subplot that could’ve been
interesting, and the boring villain. 

When I reviewed Detective Comics #1, I wrote that I liked it better
than I’d expected given my past disdain for the work of writer and
artist Tony Daniel and that Daniel had shown me something different
with the Joker.  Except that “something different” was basically a
last-page shocker that wasn’t followed up on in any meaningful way.
Instead we got some Bruce Wayne scenes that seemed forced to me, a
group of grotesque-for-the-purpose-of-being-grotesque villains, and
other last-page shocker wherein a member of the supporting cast is
used for, well, shock value.  Disappointing.

Green Arrow #2 was also disappointing.  There’s little emphasis on
the qualities in Oliver Queen that impressed me last time around.
There’s great emphasis on typical super-hero action.  I’ll admit I
got a kick out of the new arrow created for Arrow, but that was the
high point of the issue.  Once again, disappointing.

Justice League International #2 was the one comic book of the “New
52" issues I read that delighted me.  Writer Dan Jurgens continues
to present a solid super-hero book with characters I can relate to
and whose interactions, including disagreements, ring true to me.
I especially love his take on the Batman, who fits into the group
without overwhelming it.  Artists Aaron Lopresti (pencils) and Matt
Ryan (inks) are also doing fine work here.    

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 28, 2011


My Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful, a nice respite from all the
annoying stuff I have been banging into for the past couple weeks.
I visited my parents on Thanksgiving morning, bringing them copies
of Grim Ghost #6 for the family.  Then I had a great Thanksgiving
meal with Sainted Wife Barb, our kids Eddie and Kelly, and our good
friends/neighbors Greg and Giselle. 

Barb and I did a little “Black Friday” shopping and have begun our
Christmas shopping.  We all watched the Ohio State/Michigan game,
which was exciting but also disappointing.  Given the turmoil that
has surrounded the OSU football program this year, I think the team
made a decent showing.  I wish the players and their coaches well
in the years to come.

Eddie and I also watched three Gamera movies from the late 1990s:
Gamera: Guarding of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, and
Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys.  We thought the first two were pretty
good and the third was a disaster.  With some online arm-twisting,
I might write an overview of the entire Gamera series from start to
finish.  We’ll see.

Kelly was a bit under the weather, but it was still fun to have her
home for a few days.  Both her and Eddie had homework.  Kelly had
a paper, which I proofread for her.  Eddie had a huge engineering
project.  Him I couldn’t help. My trying to help on an engineering
project would make as much sense as the Cleveland Cavaliers calling
on me to play center for them.

My master plan was to blame my being lazy and fairly unproductive
all weekend on all that Tryptophan newspapers articles have said is
found in turkey.  It’s supposed to make one drowsy and such.  Alas,
the Snopes Urban Legend website derailed that plan: 

Even without that turkey-centric excuse taken off the table, I have
many others.  I’m still dealing with considerable pain from dental
work that just doesn’t want to leave me alone.  Much to my dismay,
because I don’t like taking medication of any kind, I’ve needed to
take Vicodin on a regular basis.  Which makes me even grumpier than
I normally am.  I’m due back at the dentist this afternoon.  Let’s
hope this situation gets resolved.

All sorts of craziness in the real world as well.  Even beyond the
despicable Grover Norquist apparently trumping the obligations of
Republican senators to serve the American people and to follow the

Closer to my Medina home...

We have Amish gangsters going around cutting the hair and beards of
Amish men who they claim have disrespected their leader, a bad egg name
of Sam Mullet, over the leader’s interpretations of Amish doctrine.
Mullet's doctrines include him sleeping with wives of followers to “purify”
them.  Amish thugs.  What next?

On a more serious note, it appears a serial killer is operating in
and around nearby Summit County, using a Craigslist “help wanted”
ad to lure unemployed men to their deaths.  A suspect and a young
accomplice are currently in custody, but the investigation is far
from over.

On an even more serious note, hardly a week goes by lately without
The Gazette, our local newspaper, reporting another case of sexual
crimes involving underage victims.  My Internet kung fu skills are
sorely lacking, so I can’t tell you if there’s nationwide increase
in such crimes or if it’s a more local phenomena.  Whichever it is,
crimes against kids sicken me more than any other kind.

Real world crimes make comics industry crimes almost laughable in
comparison, but they still affect too many people in our community.
I’m working on blogs about plagiarism and about a scam artist from
another country who has preyed upon older artists.  I’ll bring them
to you as soon as I’m satisfied with my investigations and how I’m
presenting the material. 

It would be a blessing of sorts if all comicdom scam artists were
as moronic as the justly reviled Rick Olney.  If you do a search on
Olney, you will save me the considerable time it would take for me
to summarize his history of bad behavior.  I most recently blogged
about him on August 30 and again on September 15
In case you were wondering, Olney did cancel that convention.  This
surprised no one.  Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston reported this back
on September 18 and I never got around to linking to that article
until now.  My bad.

Johnston, who covers current comics industry misconduct better than
anyone else writing online, has posted an update on Olney’s holding
on to Indiana Jones maps created by artist Matt Busch to be used as
a fundraiser for veterans organizations.  Olney has allegedly tried
to sell these maps himself and has also threatened to burn them in
retaliation for Busch ending his association with Olney and Olney’s
imaginary convention in a very public manner.  Despite being served
with a Lucasfilm cease-and-desist letter, a letter which required
Olney to immediately return the maps to Busch along with any money
collected from Olney’s unlawful sale of any maps - if, indeed, any
maps were actually sold - Olney has not complied with the terms of
the letter.  He’s currently holding the maps “ransom” unless Busch
makes a public apology and exoneration of Olney on the artist’s web
page.  Olney claims he will donate any money made from his sales of
the map to an undisclosed charity.  Given Olney’s history, I think
any number of bad scenarios are possible.  As for the present, if
you want to read Johnston’s latest Olney piece, which includes the
e-mail Olney sent to Busch and Busch’s comments on same, you should
head over to the Bleeding Cool website:

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 25, 2011


This is how much I love my wife:

For the first time in my life, I went shopping on Black 5:30 am!

Wait.  There's more.

We went shopping for poinsettias at the Home Depot.  99 cents each.

I hate poinsettias.

I call them "the Devil's Flower."

I think they are real plants that look fake.

I hate them.

Yet, there I was, way too early in the morning, buying them with my wife.

Godzilla have mercy on my soul.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving to my bloggy thing readers.  I hope you have as much to be thankful for in your lives as I have in mine.

New bloggy things will resume on Monday.


Monday, November 21, 2011


Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook page last Friday night:

Instant Facebook poll. About an hour from now, which of these DVDs
should I watch? DESTROY ALL MONSTERS or the unaired TV pilot of
WONDER WOMAN? The voting starts now!

My Facebook friends kept the voting close, but, when the voting was
over, writer/producer David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman pilot was what
they wanted me to watch.  After watching it, I wasn’t certain they
were actually my friends.

My immediate response, which I posted on Facebook within moments of
watching the pilot was:

Holy crap! I'm not sure even I could fix that mess! It'll make for
an interesting blog.

So here we are...

Unbelievable. If I had to describe the Wonder Woman pilot in just
one word, that would be it.  If you gave me two words, I would add
“utterly” to the description.

Kelley’s script places Wonder Woman smack dab in the real world or
as real as Los Angeles ever gets.  The Patriot Act is mentioned at
one point, so we know we’re in an America that has sacrificed some
civil rights to achieve a false sense of security. We also have a
senator in the pocket of the pilot’s villain and that villain owns
a pharmaceutical company.

The pilot starts with a young black man bleeding from his eyes and
ears as a result of a super-steroid manufactured by Veronica Cale,
played by Elizabeth Hurley whose natural attractiveness is undone
by all the scenery she chews in this pilot.  Then we cut to Wonder
Woman chasing one of Cale’s enhanced henchman down a crowded
city street.  The henchmen has super-speed.

Wonder Woman catches the henchman by throwing her lasso around his
neck and pulling it.  Somehow, she doesn’t break his neck in doing
this.  Then, she takes a sample of his blood to test it for proof
of Cale’s nefarious business plan.

Wonder Woman is described as a vigilante, but everybody knows who
she is.  She’s “Diana Themyscira,” the head of a successful company
that makes Wonder Woman merchandise.  It’s not clear if people know
she’s an Amazon.  Heck, that wasn’t even made clear to the viewers.
In any case, the major concern seems to be that she’s working with
the police or other law-enforcement authorities because that would
be illegal.  Okay, you and I know the stuff Wonder Woman is doing
is already illegal, but she gets a pass on it.  Huh?

Wonder Woman is played by the gorgeous Adrianne Palicki...whose
acting ability isn't at all up to the all.  Which makes it so painful that the
pilot’s cast also includes the terrific Cary Elwes and Tracie Thoms.  Elwes
and Thoms are so much better than everyone else in the pilot that I
felt sorry for them.

It’s damning with faint praise but Palicki does look good in both
the bustier/pants costume and the classic costume.  I’m not sure
why she wore the first for most of the pilot and the second for the
pilot’s climatic fight scene, but both outfits worked for me.

The unbelievable keeps coming.  For no reason other than to include
the name “Diana Prince” in the show, it’s revealed that Themyscira
has a secret identity.  After a hard day of violating civil rights,
making slanderous statements to the news media, and bitching about
the size of her breasts on her action figure, she goes to a small
apartment to cuddle with her cat, a bag of potato chips, and some
weepy chick flick.  Oh, yeah, and there’s a flashback of her and a
Steve Trevor who bears no resemblance to any Steve Trevor we have
ever seen on the night when she breaks up with him so she can move
to Los Angeles and be utterly unbelievable.

Wonder Woman flies a small jet across the skies over Los Angeles.
How many laws does that break?

There are several tedious scenes of Cale threatening Diana with a
lawsuit, of Diana threatening to kill Cale and of the slimy senator
threatening Diana with a federal investigation.  They all blurred
together.  In and around these, Wonder Woman visits the young man
who was nearly killed by Cale’s drugs, learns the drugs are being
tested on other young men and on men kidnaped for experimentation.
Cale is trying to develop a super-soldier drug so she can become a
super-evil Blackwater. 

When the young black man of the opening scenes dies, Wonder Woman
goes to the hospital and tortures the super-speedster to learn the
location of Cale’s secret laboratory.  That’s where Cale tests the
drug, trains her super-soldiers, and imprisons those test subjects
who suffered horrific side effects.

Her friendly neighborhood police detective half-heartedly tries to
convince Diana to wait for a search warrant.  Then he explains what
she can do to make it legal for the cops to enter the place.  Then
he gets the back-up units in place.  Illegal much?  

Wonder Woman invades Cale’s hidden lab, conveniently located under
Cale’s corporate headquarters.  She proceeds to maim and even kill
a number of Cale’s security guards and super-soldiers.  No, really.
Besides lassoing thugs around the neck and pulling them across the
large area or off large freight containers, she yanks them between
the containers and then slams said containers together.  Were this
the 1960s Batman show, we’d see a big red SPLAT!

The worst moment of the climatic battle?  That would be when Wonder
Woman hurls a pipe through the neck of a non-super-powered security
guard.  After she successfully used her bracelets to deflect every
one of his shots.  That’s just wrong.

Wonder Woman bounces Veronica Cale off a wall, then rescues those
test subjects.  The police enter the lab.  The news media applauds
Wonder Woman’s success in bringing Cale down.  There’s a line about
how the unwilling test subjects can be cured. 

Enter the federal investigator.  Except it’s Steve Trevor.  And the
only question he asks about Diana working with the police is along
the lines of “You didn’t do that, did you?” 

Diana responds with something like “Of course not.  Our cases just
happened to overlap.” Which is good enough for Steve.  Because, you
know, toy companies investigate criminal cases all the time.  It’s
just that Mattel is better at keeping that sort of thing out of the
newspapers.  Sheesh!

How could I fix this mess?  If you’re going to have Wonder Woman as
a lawless vigilante, then she should probably not also be the face
of a public company.  And, if she’s going to be working with cops,
they should really do a better job of keeping that quiet.  Make a
show of trying to arrest her now and then or something.

Maybe you could have Wonder Woman as the ambassador from
Paradise Island, but I don’t know if I believe her illegal activities could
be covered by diplomatic immunity.  Unless Paradise Island has lots
of oil.  That’s why Saudi Arabia gets a pass on its participation
in terrorism. 

I’m not comfortable with either of these scenarios.  They stretch
my willing suspension of disbelief.  Not as much as this ridiculous
pilot maybe, but beyond what I find acceptable.  I don’t think this
mess could ever be fixed.

After Steve makes Diana’s federal problems go away, they make goo-
goo eyes at one another until Diana spots the wedding ring Steve’s
wearing.  Yep, he’s married.  Oh, the heartbreak.

Diana goes home to her apartment to cuddle with her cat.  Lucky in
murderous vigilantism, unlucky in love.  So sad.

Maybe Frank Castle should give her a call.

I’m taking a week off to deal with some personal matters, but I’ll
be back next Monday with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Yes, It’s another “me” bloggy thing, but, this time, I’m answering
frequently-asked questions of somewhat recent vintage. For ease of
reading, I’m rewriting these questions, all taken from e-mails and
phone conversations, to make them more direct and shorter. Since
most of these were asked in the course of private communications,
I’m not identifying the person or persons asking them.

If you’ve asked me one of these questions, do not assume you were
the only one asking it. You weren’t. Every question here is one
I was asked by at least three people. That was the number at which
I could say to myself, “Okay, at least three of your readers will
care about the answer to this.”

We begin...

QUESTION: Have you seen 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die?
Are you upset that someone’s doing a book similar to your own 1000
Comic Books You Must Read?

ANSWER: I have seen the book. In fact, I see it every day because
it’s sitting on a box near my desk and I’m reading and enjoying it
in small daily doses. The sucker is over 900 pages and there is a
lot to learn from it.

Beyond the title, I don’t think it’s similar to my book at all. I
wrote a personal history of the comic book with an emphasis on the
American comic book. General editor Paul Gravett and his writers
wrote about comics from a more international viewpoint and covering
more than just comic books. Some readers will prefer my approach,
others will prefer Gravett’s. I think my book is more fun and that
Gravett’s is more educational, but I also think serious students of
comics should have them both.

However, I will confess that an evil part of me hopes Gravett gets
as many “how could you leave out (insert name of favorite comics)”
e-mails and letters as I have. It’d be nice to think someone else
shares that experience with me.

QUESTION: Are you going to read and review the second month of DC’s
“New 52?”

ANSWER: I’ll likely read some of the second month issues. At this
time, I only have the first week of the second month issues and the
good friend I borrowed them from has dropped Men of War, Omac, and
Red Lanterns from his DC buying list. I doubt I would’ve read Omac
or Red Lanterns even if he had bought them. And since DC doesn’t
send me review copies anymore, it’s unlikely I’ll be reading those
DC comics my friend doesn’t buy.

I don’t have much interest in some of the first week books he did
buy: Animal Man, Hawk and Dove, Static Shock, and Stormwatch. On
the other hand, I take a certain perverse delight in actually being
current on so many DC titles. I’ll probably give in and read even
those four comics.

As for reviewing them...unless something’s really good, I probably
won’t comment on them. There are still hundreds of online critics
writing about every blessed/damned issue of these “New 52" titles.
I pity them and I pray for them.

QUESTION: Will you be attending the San Diego Comic-Con next year?

ANSWER: Probably not. As much as I would love to attend the show
and hang out hundreds of friends and tens of thousands comic-book
enthusiasts, I can’t afford or justify the expense of my doing so.
Especially since I would want to go to Los Angeles afterwards and
spend time with other close friends. Frankly, if I could afford to
go to one place or another, I’d choose Los Angeles simply because
it offers the opportunity for more quality time with those friends.

I’m aware that there are people who, every year, suggest Comic-Con
bring me in as a guest. So far, the good people who run the event
haven’t invited me. No foul on them. They probably get hundreds
of suggestions like that. However, if they did offer to bring me
to the show as a guest and pay my basic expenses, I would accept in
a heartbeat. However, short of that, or short of some other party
bringing me to the show, I won’t be there.

QUESTION: Will you be attending the New York Comic-Con next year?

ANSWER: Too soon to say. Despite my misgivings about the venue and
the convention, I had a wonderful time hanging out with old friends
and meeting the Atlas/Ardeen guys. But, when I added up the cost
of attending the show, it was well over $1500. I’m going to have
to carefully consider returning in 2012. The deciding factor will
likely be how much paying work I have next year.

QUESTION: How can I get you to review my book or comic book?

ANSWER: There’s no sure answer to this. I mean, it helps when you
send me a physical copy of your book or comic book because I don’t
review stuff from PDFs or discs or websites, but I can’t guarantee
a review. The best I can do is offer some tips on what to avoid in
your quest for a review here or in my Comics Buyer’s Guide column.

Use a little common sense in what you send me. Don’t send me a few
pages from a book or a comic book. Send me the whole thing. I’m
not going to review fragments.

I’ll review an individual issue of a comic book, but make sure the
issue is one I can read without having read previous issues.

That common sense stuff. Use it before you send me a book or comic
book that isn’t close to being of professional quality. Deep down
inside, you know if what you’ve created is of that quality. Don’t
con yourself and waste my time.

Once you send me something to review, don’t send me e-mail after e-
mail asking me when I’m going to review it. I have a lot of things
to read. It may take me a while to get to your book or comics and,
when I get to it, I may find I have nothing to say about it. Even
if I like it.

Here’s a really important one. Don’t come up to me at a convention
party to bug me about a review. Especially if you’re so stinking
drunk that you’re about to fall on your face. If you do, know that
the only thing on my mind at that moment is getting away from you.
Trying to catch you when you start falling on your face is a real
distant second on my “to do” list.

Don’t contact me to complain about a negative review. I know it’s
personal to you, but it’s not personal to me. My job is to inform
my readers of things they might like or dislike. You’re not going
to change my mind or convince me to issue a retraction. I’m like a
carpenter in that I measure twice so I only have to cut once.

If the above seems overly harsh to you, you probably don’t have the
emotional tools to present your work to the public. There will be
people who love your work and people who hate it. That comes with
the territory and you must learn to deal with it.

Always remember this. The people like myself who review your work
are writing reviews and not commandments. None of us are going to
be the final word on anything. If you enjoy the work you’re doing
and find readers who enjoy it as well, then you’re doing just fine.
Cherish that.

Feel free to keep the questions coming. I’ll be back tomorrow with
more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Today’s blog (and tomorrow’s) are pretty much all about me. On the
bright side, I’m posting them on the weekend when most of you have
better things to do than listen to me anyway.

Several readers and retailers have asked what it means that Diamond
- our friendly comics distribution monopoly - has canceled orders
on Grim Ghost #6 and other Atlas Comics titles. My answer is that
I don’t know what it means. Whatever the problem, it’s my hope it
gets resolved quickly so that those comic shops whose owners read
past the first 200 pages of the Previews catalog and ordered these
books can get them for their customers.

What I can tell you is that Grim Ghost #6 has been printed. I know
this because I have my comp copies. I’m really happy with how the
issue turned out. I think it represents some of my best writing.
I’m eager to hear what the readers think of it. I can also let you
know - readers and retailers alike - that the issue is available at
the Atlas Comics online shop.

On a related note...

If you’re one of my readers who tell me how much you’d like to see
me writing comic books on a regular basis again, I hope that you’re
buying Grim Ghost. If you tell me you’d like to see me writing
comic books and what you really mean is that you’d like to see me
writing for DC or Marvel, you’re spit out of luck.

This isn’t a “line in the sand” sort of proclamation. It’s not me
saying “never” to my writing for DC or Marvel again. It’s just me
giving you my honest appraisal of the possibility. Wisely or not,
neither place has shown any interest in having me writing for them.
Wisely or not, even if such interest were shown, I’m not sure I’d
be able to make anything of that interest.

I write Tony Isabella stories. I think Tony Isabella stories are
pretty good. Even if I weren’t Tony Isabella, I’d buy them and, I
have no doubt, enjoy them. Now look at what DC and Marvel publish.
Do you really think I’d fit into those companies?

Even if I wanted to write some editor’s or other writer’s stories,
I don’t think I’d be any good at it. I don’t want to write small
fragments of universe-spanning stories that strike me as far more
marketing than creativity. I want to write those stories that are
entirely mine. Me, me, me.

My Atlas Comics editors quickly realized that I’m at my best when
I’m allowed to write my stories my way. They were pleased with the
results. I was pleased with the results. The critics and readers
were pleased with the results. Everybody won.

If an opportunity came along at one of the bigger publishers for me
to write my stories under decent working conditions, I would surely
consider it. But, as I said above, I don’t see that happening in
the near or even far future. Which brings me back to what I must
impress upon you:

If you want new Tony Isabella comic books, you have to buy the Tony
Isabella comic books that I’m writing now. I know it sounds crazy,
but, maybe, just maybe, it’s crazy enough to work.


The holidays will be upon us before we know it. If you’re looking
for a gift to bestow upon that special comic-book fan in your life,
might I suggest 1000 Comic Books You Must Read? The book is now in
its second printing and available via Amazon and directly from the
publisher. Not that you’d know this from anything the publisher’s
done since the book was originally published.

Krause Publications has kept me completely out of the loop when it
comes to my book. I only learned about the second printing when I
ordered copies of the book for myself. I was never informed when
Krause decided to offer the book digitally. Add to these slights
the “Hollywood accounting” that came into play with my most recent
royalty statement and you can see why I won’t be writing any other
books for Krause under its current management.

Back to the issue at hand, Krause and F+W Publications have done a
lousy job promoting my book. They failed to send out review copies
in a timely manner or, in several cases, at all. Since the book
was first solicited through Diamond Comic Distributors, they have
never re-solicited it. That my book turned out to be such a great
seller is mostly due to promotion by myself and my comics friends.
Amazon sold a whole bunch of comics, as did the comics shops which
ordered it. I’m very grateful to my friends and the comics shops
for their efforts on the book’s behalf.


I have two confirmed convention appearances on my 2012 schedule at
present. The first of these is the East Coast Black Age of Comics
, Saturday, May 19, 2012, at The Enterprise Center, 4548
Market Street, Philadelphia, PA. As we get closer to this stellar
event, you can learn more about it by visiting the ECBACC website.

My other confirmed 2012 appearance is the Akron Comicon, Saturday,
November 10, at the University of Akron Student Union. Information
on this show can be found at its website.

I hope to add several more appearances to the schedule early next
year. If any convention promoter would like me to appear at his or
her event, they should contact me via e-mail [] to
discuss the details. While I don’t charge an appearance fee, you
will have to cover my fairly minimal expenses.


I turn 60 years old on December 22 of this year. Whenever I think
I’m perfectly fine with that, something happens to make me somewhat
less secure in my dotage. This week, it was receiving my “Golden
Buckeye” card from the Ohio Department of Aging.

On one side of this card is my “Ohio Best RX Prescription Discount
Card,” which is good at 2700 pharmacies if I have no insurance or
if my Medicare Part D formulary doesn’t cover a drug prescribed by
my doctor. This side of the card does bupkis for me: I have good
medical benefits through Sainted Wife Barb’s employer. I won’t be
eligible for Medicare for another five years.

The other side of the card is the “Golden Buckeye” part. It’s my
“pass to discounts and activities” and my “link to elder caregiver
and aging services.” Now that makes me feel old.

I’m cranky at 59.92 and, to be honest, I’ve been cranky for a good
many years. I don’t see me getting any less cranky when I hit 60
or 61 or 62 get the picture.

Maybe I should start interviewing caregivers now.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 18, 2011


When I first started reading Wonder Woman in the 1960s, I found the
title...odd. Sometimes the stories were incredibly imaginative and
sometimes they were unbelievably silly. I always loved Ross Andru
and Mike Esposito’s artwork, though, up until the point when editor
Robert Kanigher decided to take Wonder Woman back to her earliest
1940s roots and have them imitate H.G. Peter’s art, a style I have
never found appealing. After a while, the 1940s vibe was dropped,
but Andru and Esposito moved on shortly thereafter. The title had
fallen on hard times.

When Mike Sekowsky came on board, aided and abetted by the modern-
as-all-get-out writing of Denny O’Neil, Wonder Woman shed all her
Amazon gear and powers to become DC’s version of Emma Peel from the
(British TV) Avengers. This astonishing change in direction was a
big hit with my teenage self. It would be years before it struck
me what a terrible idea the depowering of one of DC’s few heroines
had been. That doesn’t diminish my love for the Sekowsky issues,
but it’s a guilty pleasure.

Sekowsky seemed to get bored easily. During his few years drawing,
writing, and editing Wonder Woman, he changed genres quite often.
That continued when Sekowsky left and Denny O’Neil took change of
the title. I was never quite sure what I thought of Wonder Woman
in the early 1970s.

The new story in DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The ‘70s #1 [$4.99]
starts with Wonder Woman in familiar Amazon garb. Written by O’Neil with
not-quite-right-for-this-story art by J. Bone, “Savage Trials” has
someone ancient being castigating Wonder Woman for abandoning her
heritage and powers. The being depowers Wonder Woman again, puts
her in her Emma Peel outfit, and makes her face several supposedly
redemptive trials to prove her worth. This makes little sense to
me and, frankly, it’s just as offensive as when, in the mid-1970s,
Wonder Woman went through something like a dozen “trials” to “earn”
her way back into the Justice League.

The reprint is better written (O’Neil) and drawn (Dick Giordano),
but it’s all over the place. Sans her powers and wearing the Emma
Peel suit, Diana Prince and I-Ching face foreign intrigue, a tussle
with a Catwoman sorely lacking in personality, and some sword play
that, if I remember correctly, led into a other-dimensional meeting
with Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. All in all, not a
very good issue.

DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The ‘80s #1 [$4.99] was more to my
taste. Both the new story and the old story were written by friend
and mentor Roy Thomas and I am of the opinion that we need more new
comics by Roy. Though the mix-and-match art on the new story was
awkward to say the least, it was great fun seeing the Amazon doing
battle with the Silver Swan and, behind the scenes, Doctor Psycho.
And the Gene Colan/Romeo Tanghal art on the reprinted story is as
sweet today as it was in the 1980s.

Trivia note: Gene’s splash page was a wee joke on the part of Roy
and him. It’s a nod to the very first Iron Man splash page drawn
by Gene back in the 1960s. Fun stuff then and now.

I don’t remember much about Wonder Woman in the 1990s. That decade
saw a lot of pandering to fleeting trends and speculators. I was
dealing with various health issues. And, about midway through the
decade, DC Comics again screwed me over re: Black Lightning. One of
the results of all of the above was that my reading of DC’s super-
hero comics was pretty spotty.

This is why DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The ‘90s #1 [$4.99] was
such a pleasant surprise. I don’t recall reading much - if any -
of writer Bill Messner-Loebs’ run on the title, but, if it was as
good as the new and reprinted stories in this issue, I missed out
on some good comics. It’s probably too much to hope for that DC
has collected his run since then.

“Wonder Girls” has Wonder Woman as a camp counselor for a group of
less-than-athletic young ladies. Drawn by Lee Moder with inks by
Dan Green, it puts me in mind of the girl-empowerment adventures of
Little Lulu. The emphasis is on character interaction with large
doses of humor. It was fun and fun is not something we see from DC
super-hero comics in this modern era.

The reprinted “A Sudden Deadly Leap” wasn’t as much fun as the new
story and wasn’t anywhere near as nicely drawn, but it was a solid
adventure tale. Unfortunately, it was but the first chapter of a
longer story.

I’m thinking I need to track down my friend Bill’s Wonder Woman run
and see what I missed. I’m also thinking, as I did often as I made
my tedious way through the mostly substandard “New 52" that DC and
its readers would benefit greatly from a return to active service
of veteran comics people like Messner-Loebs. Pretend all you want,
DC, but most of your newer writers and artists don’t have what it
takes to tell truly memorable stories.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Several months back, DC Comics published 18 “Retroactive” issues,
These comics continued new stories of Batman, Flash, Green Lantern,
Justice League, Superman, and Wonder Woman written and drawn in the
style of their 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s adventures. Each issue also
featured a reprinted story of those eras. In previous blogs, I’ve
reviewed all but the Superman and Wonder Woman issues. Today, we
check in with the Man of Steel of olden days.

DC Retroactive: Superman - The ‘70s #1 [$4.99] has a new story by
Martin Pasko, one of Superman’s best writers of that decade, with
art by Eduardo Barreto and Christian Duce. For “Death Means Never
Having to Say You’re Sorry,” Pasko brings in a number of Superman
villains. It’s fun to see these characters as they were, back in
the days before brutality and high civilian body counts started to
take the place of actual characterization and storytelling. This
isn’t a great story, but it’s a perfectly good one. Perfectly good
is more than perfectly acceptable these days.

The classic reprint is the done-in-one “Superman Takes a Wife” by
Cary Bates with art by Curt Swan and Joe Giella. This is the tale
that told how the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane were wed. It has
several nice little moments in it. I enjoyed rereading it.

DC Retroactive: Superman - The ‘80s #1 [$4.99] was disappointing.
Years ago, Elliot S! Maggin wrote a great story called “Must There
Be a Superman?” This 1980s special covers much the same ground as
Maggin’s classic tale with much less success. Both the new story -
“New Day, Final Destiny” - and the reprinted one - “Superman’s Day
of Destiny” - are written by Marv Wolfman. Both are readable, but,
again, did not show me anything new. The art is by Sergio Cariello
(new) and Curt Swan inked by Frank Chiaramonte (old), so I have no
problem on the visual front. But neither tale brought home the
question of Superman’s proper role in our society as well as that
Maggin story. Like I said, disappointing.

In all fairness, the surprise ending of the new story didn’t help
my opinion of the new story. It leads into a major DC event of the
1980s, an event which loses favor with me the more I consider its
aftermath. However, I was glad to see Marv and Bernie Wrightson
get creators’ credit for the character of Destiny, which, I assume
and hope, means they also get paid for use of the character when he
appears outside of the comic books.

DC Retroactive: Superman - The ‘90s #1 [$4.99] was another readable
but not spectacular issue. The new Louise Simonson story follows
from the reprinted Louise Simonson story. Both involve clones and
other creations of the Cadmus Project. The new story is drawn by
Jon Bogdanove and looks every bit as good as the reprint, which has
Bogdanove layouts finished by Hilary Barta. It’s not a bad comic
book. It’s just not an exceptional comic book. And, after half a
century plus of reading super-hero comic, it takes exceptional to
get me excited.

Tomorrow: I get retroactive with Wonder Woman. But not in a Herman
Cain kind of way.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


About the same time DC’s Flashpoint event was showing readers how
much the publisher hates its super-heroes and fans of those heroes,
DC also published 18 “Retroactive” issues starring Batman, Flash,
Green Lantern, the Justice League, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The
issues were set in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Each presented a
new story allegedly told in the style of those decades and an old
story from those decades. As you might imagine, the quality of the
new and reprinted stories varied widely.

In previous bloggy things, I reviewed the Batman, Flash, and Green
Lantern issues. Today I start reviewing the rest.

DC Retroactive: JLA - The ‘70s #1 [$4.99] was mostly a mess. Cary
Bates, though the author of many fine comic-book stories, would not
have been my 1970s choice to write the new story. Not when Steve
Englehart and Len Wein are still around. While the appearance of
Julius Schwartz in this tale of Adam Strange being mis-teleported
to Earth-Prime warmed my heart, the writing itself was average at
best. However, I did like the pencil art of Gordon Purcell (inked
by Jose Marzan, Jr. and the full art by Andy Smith. It almost goes
without saying that I didn’t need to see that horrible ponytail and
“look at my breasts” costume of Zatanna ever again.

The reprint? The first issue of a mediocre JLA/JSA crossover with
writer Cary Bates as the villain. What was the thinking here and
on some other Retroactive issues to reprint only the first chapters
of multi-issue?

JLA - The ‘80s #1 [$4.99] was better than the 1970s edition. While
neither of the stories, both written by Gerry Conway, were anything
special, they were readable and mildly entertaining. Ron Randall
did first-rate art for the new story while the team of Chuck Patton
(layouts) and Mike Machlan (finishes) did a decent job on the old
one. The issue also scores a point because its reprint was a done-
in-one adventure. The Detroit JLA never worked for me, so readers
of this blog should take that into consideration when they weigh my
comments here.

JLA - The ‘90s #1 [$4.99] takes us to another Justice League which
got old for me in a short time. I know I speak blasphemy, but the
Keith Giffen, J,M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire Justice League lost
its charm for me when it focused more on how clever and funny the
creators were than on telling exciting super-hero stories. It was
as much sitcom as it was super-hero adventure and it didn’t do it
a tenth as well as Thom Zahler does it in his incredible Love and
. Then again, despite the humor in his book, Zahler clearly
has a lot of respect for his characters. I never got that from the
1990s JL crew, who seemed to revel in mocking their roster. Hate
me if you must. That’s how I feel about it.

Fans of the Giffen crew era will doubtless enjoy the new story in
this issue. It strikes me as being pretty much what ran in Justice
League during that five-year run. As for the reprinted story, it’s
the last issue of that run and consists mostly of the heroes moping
about their fallen fortunes. Neither did anything for me, but I’m
sure that mileage will vary for many of you.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll talk about the Superman issues of this
DC Retroactive event.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I try to write these bloggy things two days before I post them to
give me a chance to rethink them. However, today’s bloggy thing is
more a “seat of my pants” thing. I had a mostly blah weekend and,
very unusual for me, I just didn’t feel like writing anything.

Various events triggered a two-day depression attack. It appears
a comics industry figure who I cherish is guilty of what I consider
serious fraud...which is all I’m going to say about it. My heroes
are not exempt from the feet of clay which inflict the rest of us
at times in our lives. I’m used to it and I’m resigned to it, but
it still hurts when it manifests.

Politics always threaten to bring me down, especially when I see
the willful ignorance of some. A poster to this blog parrots the
right-wing misinformation he’s been given and I know he’s going by
the party playbook because, over the weekend, several letters with
identical wording are printed in local newspapers.

There’s been some sort of glitch in the distribution of Grim Ghost
#6, the final issue of my first story arc for the series. I know
the book has been printed because I have received my copies of it.
But the stores don’t have it yet and that means I can’t learn what
my readers thought of an issue of which I am quite proud.

My closing in on 60-year-old body gave me some unsettling moments.
That’s always enormous fun.

And, while the weather in our Medina area has been quite nice this
week, Casa Isabella is fighting a never-ending battle against all
those damn leaves that have fallen from the two large trees I have
been wanting to take down for over a decade.

On the good side of the life equation, Sainted Wife Barb and I had
a good time raking up the leaves. Lots of jokes, lots of time to
talk about things, and a certain satisfaction in a job well done.
Which - grrr - will likely have to be done again before all those
freaking leaves are down.

On the recommendation of friends, I watched the first two episodes
of BBC’s Sherlock, a modern-day version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s
great detective. They were wonderful and I look forward to seeing
the rest of the series.

The fifth season of Primeval made its debut on BBC America over the
weekend. I’ve been enjoying this series from the start and, while
there were some missteps in this season debut, there was also much
of what I enjoy. A major mystery concerning one of the characters
was revealed and I’m delighted it was not dragged out for episode
after episode as is too often the case with TV shows.

The final score for the weekend: your basic mixed bag. Maybe a bit
more bad than good, but not so much that I didn’t wake up on Monday
morning eager to back to work.

Having finished reading and reviewing the first month of DC’s “New
52,” I’ll return to some other unfinished business on the morrow.
See you then.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 14, 2011


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After two bloggy things talking about politicians and jerks, today
is as good a day as any to write about Jack Kirby’s Satan Six, the
comic book series I developed and wrote a decade ago.  The trigger
for this particular stroll down memory lane was a column by Daniel
Elkin, which you can read here.

I’ll wait while you read it.

Every little bug needs a honey to hug...

[humming tune]

Come on, it’s not that long a piece.

Okay, finally, now we can proceed...

In the 1990s, Topps Comics leased the rights to several Jack Kirby
creations.  One of them was Satan’s Six, a series about five humans
who were deemed not good enough for Heaven and not bad enough for
Hell.  The sixth member of the team was Frightful, a sort of demon
top sergeant.  As these humans were none too bright, they attempted
to “win” their way into Hell by doing bad deeds on Earth.  During
my time with them, things never went as planned.

Kirby created most of the Satan’s Six characters, drew two design
sheets of them, and wrote and pencilled eight pages of a story he
never completed.  My job was to develop the series and figure out
how to use those eight pages in the first issue. 

Satan’s Six has again come into the public eye on two recent
occasions.  The Jack Kirby Collector #57 [TwoMorrows; $10.95] ran
excerpts from a 1999 online column I wrote about the series.  I’d
link to that online column, but it seems to have disappeared into
those darned Internet tubes.  My hard copy of the column is likely
deep within my Vast Accumulation of Stuff and there’s no telling if
and when it will surface.  The other occasion was the piece I just
so kindly linked to.

Edited for space and to remove repetition with the above, here is
a portion of what I wrote in 1999:

When Topps editor Jim Salicrup asked me to develop and write the
Satan’s Six series, those ten pages [by Kirby] were my Bible.
Although I would have been entitled to include “developed by” in my
credit line, as did other creators who worked on the “Kirbyverse”
titles, I chose not to.  Chalk it up to my enduring profound love
and respect for Jack and Roz Kirby.

It was my decision to include those eight pages of Kirby story and
art - rewritten ever so slightly - in the first issue of
Six.  Anything that wasn’t in those eight pages or the two pages of
model sheets was my creation or interpretation.  Everything I added
to the concept, everything I wrote for the series, was all approved
by Jack.  To the best of my knowledge, I was the only “Kirbyverse”
creator who sent Jack and Roz everything I did on the book.  It
wasn’t something I had to do; it was something I felt I should do.
And besides, it gave me the opportunity to talk to Jack and Roz a
couple times a month.

Jack and Roz only asked for two changes in the four-and-a-half
issues of
Satan’s Six I wrote.  The “half” comes from an 8-pager I
wrote for the
Secret City Saga #1 giveaway.)

I had a character called “Bjorn Again” in one story and Jack felt
that might be offensive to some readers; he suggested “Bjorn Happy”
and I made the change

Roz asked that the artwork be brought more in line with the model
sheets; which, unfortunately, was not something over which I had any

All along, Jack told me I should make the book my own.  I think I
did that, but I also think I remained faithful to Jack’s concepts.
Satan’s Six remains one of the best experiences of my comics career
and some of my favorite work.

Elkin posted a link to his review on my Facebook wall.  It would’ve
been nice if he’d asked first, but I was okay with this.  A brief
conversation followed.  Initially, I merely corrected the erroneous
information he took from some Kirby blog and wrote of how generous
Jack was vis-a-vis my putting my own mark on the Six.

Then Elkin asked me a few questions.  I told him I’d answer them in
my own blog. Because I’m a tease.

ELKIN: I have to know if Kirby had any reaction to Cleary's art in
this book? Also, what did you think of it?

As noted above, the only time either Jack or Roz mentioned the art
was, as related above, when Roz asked if it could be brought more
in line with Jack’s original model sheets. 

John Cleary was an awfully nice kid and very enthusiastic.  But I
think his entire approach to the gig was to imitate Todd McFarlane
as much as he could.  Jim Salicrup, who played a major role in Todd
becoming a superstar, liked this approach.  I think maybe Jim was
trying to repeat his earlier editorial success.

I would have preferred a more traditional artist who was equally at
home with both action and humor.  Joe Staton leaps to mind.  Marie
Severin would have been wonderful.  Dave Cockrum could have done it
better than most.  Cleary only had the imitation Todd arrow in his
artistic quiver.  He didn’t have the storytelling chops to handle
this strange little comedy adventure series.

Salicrup insisted I use the Marvel method of plotting the story for
the artist and then dialoguing each issue from the pencils.  That
was the wrong approach for an artist like Cleary.  Though I wrote
my usual panel-by-panel plot, Cleary couldn’t get the pacing right.
There were jokes in the plot that had to be reconfigured to fit the
art.  I still enjoyed writing the book, but the work would’ve gone
easier for me with a more suitable artist.

ELKIN: Did you read my review of Satan's Six #2?  Is there anything
you would like to say in response?

Yes, I did...and of course not. 

I mentioned on Facebook that I got a kick out of it, but I think
it’s a mug’s game to respond to reviews of one’s work...other
than to thank the reviewer if he or she recognized your genius. 

It’s obvious from my earlier comments that I like the issue/series
and my writing on them somewhat more than Elkin does.  That’s
as much of a response as he’ll get from me. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Some of these things I don’t understand are of a serious nature and
some aren’t.  Some of them concern the real world and some don’t.
Don’t confuse them.

I don’t understand...why Penn State students rioted when football
coach Joe Paterno got rightfully fired for his silent approach to
the child molestation crimes committed by his defensive coordinator
Jerry Sandusky.  I don’t understand why every Penn State employee
or executive who knew of these crimes hasn’t been fired.  I don’t
understand how anyone could have sympathy for any of them.  I don’t
understand how any parent of one of those moronic rioters wouldn’t
be horrified at how little compassion, morality, and intelligence
their tuition payments have bought.

Let me make this simple because it really is absurdly simple.  What
Sandusky did was a heinous crime.  If you witness or have knowledge
of a heinous crime, especially a heinous crime against a kid, your
first call is to the police.  Let me say that again.  Your first call
is to the police.

It is not to the football coach.  It is not to the university that
employs you.  In other similar situations, it is not to a church
or a corporation or a political party.

It is a heinous crime. You report it to the police.

Because I guarantee that, if you don’t call the police, if you instead
make the call to any of those listed above, they will spend weeks
and months and even years trying to either cover up that heinous
crime or figure out how to spin it so that they will suffer as little 
negative impact as possible. 

It’s a heinous crime.  It’s a matter for the police.  It does not
get any simpler than that.

I don’t understand...the point of Frank Miller’s Holy Terror.  It
strikes me as all rage and no art, a banal exercise in brutality.
Miller’s heroes and villains are one-dimensional.  Those innocents
who die during the course of this nightmarish scenario are nothing
more than additions to the body count.  Miller’s work has steadily
diminished since he went all Hollywood on us.  He has transitioned
from one of the most interesting creators in comics to an angry and
fearful blowhard.  Holy Terror? More like holy crap!

I also don’t understand...Miller’s ranting against the Occupy Wall
Street movement.  It’s as if he’s become some field hand desperate
to be allowed to serve in the big house.  Sorry, Frank, but you’re
not one of the 1%.  You’re just a loud-mouthed sell-out.

I don’t understand...why the self-checkout machines at the Medina
Library occasionally insist that I must pay a fee of $18,790.086.31
to check out a book.  Exactly $18,790.086.31. The same amount every
time it happens.  The librarians know it’s a glitch of some sort,
but no one knows where this number comes from.  The IT folks can’t
seem to eradicate it for good.  They get rid of it, but it always
comes back.  It even gets printed on our receipts.

I don’t understand...why Herman Cain’s supporters can’t recognize
that his “9-9-9" tax plan actually raises taxes on the middle class
and lowers taxes for the rich.  Now while the 1% will call that “a
good start” to their goal of never paying any taxes, shouldn’t those
Cain supporters who are of the 99% be concerned?

I don’t understand...why anyone would join a remembrance discussion
of a no-longer-with-us comics creator to make snotty comments about
the deceased.  If you’re one of my Facebook friends, you know that
I often start such discussions on my Facebook wall.  I start these
to remember industry friends of mine and sometimes industry figures
whose work meant something to me.

Recently, I hosted one such discussion about Frank Robbins, who was
someone whose work I admired greatly and who was also a friend and
a collaborator on several of the comics I wrote for Marvel in the
1970s.  One poster correctly pointed out that Robbins was a major
part of the retooling of Batman in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The retooling was guided by editor Julius Schwartz and brought to
wonderful heights by some of the best writers and artists who ever
worked on Batman, including Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Irv Novick,
Dick Giordano, Bob Brown, and Frank Robbins.

A few hours into the discussion, some yahoo took extreme offense
that we were talking about anyone other than Neal Adams and made
downright churlish comments about Robbins.  I “politely” suggested
this surly poster shut his pie hole.  He persisted in his insults
against Robbins.  I booted him, deleted him, and un-friended him.
I ignored his private messages which basically consisted of “How
dare I do all of the above?”  I ignored his private messages.  He
had no more claim on any more of my time than he had a right to do
whatever he wanted on my Facebook wall.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this guy’s rude
behavior, just that I hadn’t noticed previously what an utter jerk
he is.  But his worship of Neal Adams - who I think it’s an amazing
talent, a great friend to creators, including myself, and all kinds
of good guy - has a business aspect to it as well.  This poster has
made a career of aping Neal’s style for advertising and non-comics
commercial art.  One wonders if he was “defending” Neal’s assured
place in Batman legend or his own imitative turf.  Either way, as
I close in on my 60th birthday, I see no reason to suffer such an
idiot.  I don’t regret that I have given him decent reviews in the
past, but I don’t plan on giving him another moment of my attention
beyond today’s blog.

So today’s closing moral is...learn to shut your online pie hole.
If someone is praising the late Sidney Scripter or Peter Penciller,
don’t chime in with how much you hated their work.  No one who has
loved that creator’s work is going to slap their forehead and say,
“My God, he’s right!”  They are simply going to wrinkle their noses
at your bad smell and consider you an asshat forevermore.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Saturday, November 12, 2011


This has been a busy and maddening week at Casa Isabella.  Taking
a few days off has enabled me to deal with some odds and ends that
should have dealt with last week.  Though I still have odds, ends,
and actual writing to do, I’m feeling much less overwhelmed than I
was at the start of the week.

Last Tuesday’s election was relatively incident and surprise-free.
Okay, yes, there was a Cleveland poll worker who tried to bite the
nose off a voter, but that’s Cleveland, Jake. 

Amusingly, my brother-in-law was a poll worker at that site.  The
first inkling he had that anything was askew was when he heard the
ambulance arrive.  My mother swears my bro-in-law wasn’t the biter,
but I’ll be exercising caution around him.  Once Republicans gets
a taste for human flesh, you really have no choice but to put them
down.  We should have learned that with Cheney and Rove.

I was most interested in three state and three local issues.  The
big state issue was the repeal of a union-busting bill supported by
Governor John “Creepy” Kaisch and his GOP lackeys.  Not surprising
since Kaisch, a former Lehman Brothers executive, has been trying
to sell off the state to his business cronies.  Nothing like right-
wing billionaires trying to turn working people against each other.
Fortunately, the bill was repealed and by such a huge margin that
it gives me some hope for my home state.

State issue #1 called from raising the mandatory retirement age of
judges from 70 to 75.  Normally, I would have voted in favor of it,
but I recognized its true purpose was to keep some bad right-wing
judges on the bench longer and that it has two extraneous clauses
that had nothing to do with the main issue.  Though I’d certainly
consider voting for an actual one-issue law in the future, I’m glad
this issue was voted down.

State issue #3 was the “I hate everything Obama” issue, an absurd
vote for a constitutional amendment to allow Ohio to opt out of the
national health care laws.  It’s an amendment that won’t stand up
in the courts but will, during that process, put Ohio residents at
risk.  Sadly, it passed by a large margin.  I guess people in this
state prefer the Republican health care plan of “Don’t get sick or
you’re screwed!”

At one of that party's debates, was there anything more chilling than
Republicans cheering the prospect of letting the uninsured - their fellow
Americans -  die?

The local issues to renew levies for the Medina County Home and the
Medina County Health District passed easily.  Both do good work for
the community and I was happy to support them.

The remaining local issue was a proposed income tax for the Medina
City School District.  It failed by a large margin.  In my case, I
voted against it, reluctantly, because I have no confidence in the
district’s partisan hack of a superintendent or in the school board
to look out for all the city’s students and not just the “elites.”
Past cuts have impacted more severely on those who can afford them
least than on the ruling cliques.  That said, I doubt many of those
who voted against it did so for my reasons.

People don’t want to pay more taxes.  They especially don’t want to
pay more taxes towards a state school funding system that was ruled
unconstitutional years ago and has still not been fixed.  I’d like
to think that Governor Creepy’s lust to take funds from the public
schools and give them to charter school operators who have donated
generously to Republicans also has something to do with it.  But I
see too many middle-class people voting against their own interests
for me to assume that’s the case.

Governor Creepy and his followers have tried to spin their defeat
as the voters only disliking some parts of his union-busting bill
while those of us who support universal health care claim, probably
a wee bit more accurately, that voters only dislike some of what’s
included in the current federal law.

In the meantime, Republican attempts to disenfranchise Democratic
voters continue.  The GOP redrew state districts to benefit their
candidates and did this in such an egregious manner that the map is
being challenged and there’s a decent chance said challenge will be

Governor “Must Balance the Budget” Kaisch’s response to this?  For
reasons I don’t quite understand, except I’m sure they are reasons
benefitting Republicans, he and the GOP are planning to split the
2012 primary elections into two primary elections.  This will cost
Ohio taxpayers an additional $15 million. 

If this becomes an issue, except Kaisch to blame the Democrats for
obstructing his total domination of the state.  After all, he has
been quoted as believing things would be better if he could simply
make the laws himself and not have to concern himself with all that
silly democracy stuff.

I was going to end today’s blog on a cheery note.  When I read the
voter participation figures in the newspapers, I was pleased to see
Medina County led neighboring counties with its 51% participation
rate...and then I realized this meant almost half of my county’s
registered voters didn’t vote. Sigh.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the things I don’t understand.
It might turn into a series. 

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 11, 2011


I don't have anything prepared for today, though I have written special Veterans' Day columns in the past.  But what I do have is gratitude for those who have served our country, appreciation for their sacrifices, and my wish that our leaders would learn to put them in harm's way only when absolutely necessary.

Our veterans are in my thoughts and prayers, today and always.

Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 10, 2011


While I'm gearing up for a new run of bloggy things, I wanted to direct you to the following effort to honor legendary comics writer Harvey Pekar in a manner that supports his firmly-held belief that comics are art and literature.  The project is being funded via Kickstarter and you and read more about it here.

I'll have more to say about the project next week...and the project that will follow it...but I wanted to give you the link sooner rather than later.

Regular blogging will resume on Saturday.

Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Following a couple days of what I can only describe as ick-ness, I going to take a day or two off from blogging.  Hopefully, this will give me time to answer all the e-mails that have gone unanswered and take care of the two dozen odds and ends that have gone un-taken care of. See you soon.

Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1684:

Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954 [Fantagraphics;
$39.99] collects the entirety of Toth’s work for Standard, a comics
publisher that closed up shop in 1954.  There will be some readers
of this column who have never heard of Standard, which did a little
bit of this and a little bit of that for about a dozen years or so.
There will some readers, far fewer I hope, who don’t know much or
even anything about Alex Toth.  However, if you fall into either of
those camps, trust your friendly neighborhood Tipster on this one.
Setting the Standard is a major book in our field.

Toth, a thinking man’s artist, approached these anthology stories
in three dimensions.  He would read the scripts - and they weren’t
all gems - over and over again, looking for moments and scenes that
could elevate the emotional and visual content of these stories of
romance, horror, and war. Few artists have ever gotten as much out
of a script as Toth did in these 62 stories, digitally restored and
cleaned for their appearance here.

Edited by Greg Sadowski, Setting the Standard introduces Toth via
Bill Spicer’s legendary 1966 interview with the feisty, opinionated
artist.  It includes the history and notes on every story.  Toth’s
comments and Sadowski’s insights will have great value to artists,
but there are likewise lessons for writers to learn.  There’s one
Toth quote that will hopefully haunt every script I write from here
until they pry my cold dead fingers from my keyboard:

“How do comic book friends and colleagues and lovers, and parents
with their kids, express good and loving feelings?  Think about it
- so rare an event in comic book fare - positive emotions -why so?
Do your characters relate to each other? Touch? In ways other than
the usual punching and pounding superjock jazz wipe-outs?  Is that
the limit? Little things mean a lot - friendly hugs and shoulder
pats and evident body English when two or more characters relate in
a scene or throughout a story - as we do in our own lives.”

Setting the Standard is one of those must-have books for anyone who
is serious about comics and the creation of comics.  It’s a perfect
gift for an artist or a writer.

ISBN 978-1-60699-408-5
I subscribed to Heritage Magazine for the Intelligent Collector on
a whim.  I’d recently signed up on the Heritage site to investigate
the possible value of original art I had rediscovered in my - say
it with me - Vast Accumulation of Stuff.  A subsequent newsletter
offered a three-issue subscription to the magazine for $21 with the
cost of shipping included.  With a cover price of $9.95, I thought
that was a good price and well worth spending to indulge my slight
interest in high-end collectibles. When the Summer/Fall 2011 issue
arrived, I upgrade “good price” to “great price.”

Heritage Magazine is a big [11" by 9"] beautiful publication with
writing that is both entertaining and informative and photos that
are glorious to behold.  I flipped through the magazine excitedly,
then settled down to read those pieces in which I was interesting.
That turned out to be most of them.

The cover feature on John Wayne and the once-in-a-lifetime auction
of items from his personal property offered a fascinating look at
the man behind all those great films.  Because I feel like sharing,
I’m mention that Wayne was the star of my all-time favorite movie,
The Quiet Man, and that no actress ever looked more beautiful than
Maureen O’Hara, his co-star in that classic. My enjoyment of this
section was enhanced by the personal recollections of Ethan Wayne,
the actor’s son, on growing up with a legend, as well as a pull-out
poster of magnificient movie posters. 

The magazine covers auctions and prices over an impressive range of
collecting interest: comics, coins, guitars, history, signatures,
sports memorabilia and more. It’s a great magazine to have around
for reading now and then, perfect for those times when you need a
few minutes off from your busy life.  I think a subscription to the
magazine would be a suitable and welcomed gift for a whole bunch of
people on your holiday shopping list.

Every one knows the Batman.  Not nearly enough people know Michael
E. Uslan, executive producer of all the Batman films from Batman to
The Dark Knight Rises...and they should.  Which is why I recommend
The Boy Who Loved Batman [Chronicle Books; $29.95], Uslan’s breezy
account of a comics fan’s quest to bring his favorite character to
the big screen.  The book is equal parts autobiography, comic-book
history, cultural anthropology, and inspirational guide to hanging
on to one’s dreams and, more importantly, keeping at them until you
make them reality.  It is the saga of a life well spent and a life
far from over.  I don’t know what other triumphs Uslan will achieve
in years to come.  I just know triumphs there will be.

ISBN 978-0-8118-7550-9

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 7, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1684:

“Do you really want to spend two dollars for something that will 
take you five minutes to read?”

- Unpleasant garage sale customer to her son, 2011

When I wrote about my plan for a Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage
sale in last issue’s column and also online, I never expected the
vast number of e-mails and other online comments I received before
and after the sale.  With editor Brent’s kind indulgence, I’ll try
to summarize what happened with the sale and what I’ve learned from
it.  Take notes if you want, but I promise you there won’t be any
quiz at the end of the column.

Although my poor planning torpedoed my hope of having other comics
artists and writers setting up at my sale, the sale itself was an
amazing success.  I was looking to make $500 over the two days of
the sale and made nearly three times that...and I did it with around
30 customers.

The key was social media.  My son Eddie and I placed a classified
ad in the local Medina newspaper.  We put a notice on Craig’s List.
We hung a note on a local supermarket bulletin board.  But we also
talked about the sale on our respective Facebook pages and, in my
case, in my blog and on my message board. 

One person saw the newspaper ad and one saw the Craig’s List post.
A few customers drove by and saw our signs and the Superman poster
we’d hung on a lamppost.  The rest of the customers came because of
our Facebook and other online posts.

The key to the success was our ridiculously low prices.  Two comics
fans drove nearly two hours from Columbus to come to the sale and
were so delighted with their purchases that, on hearing we planned
to restock overnight, decided to come back for the second day.
One comics pal bought boxes of 2000 AD and related titles. At far
less discounted prices, I even sold and signed multiple copies of
1000 Comic Books You Must Read (now in a second printing) and Grim
.  About the only things that didn’t sell well were old VHS
tapes and Shonen Jump

One of the high points of the weekend for me was selling copies of
the suitable-for-all-ages Marvel Adventures to a woman whose kids
love Spider-Man.  She was unsure of buying the “regular” Spider-Man
titles for the boys, which is when one of my online pals directed
her to the Marvel Adventures digests.  She was enormously pleased
with her purchase.

The only sour note was the woman quoted above.  Her son wanted to
buy a trade paperback that was cover-priced at $9.99.  Whether she
was disdainful of comics in general or just try to haggle over the
price, she did eventually let the boy - “It’ll take me at least a
half-hour to read this.” - buy the book.

Several comics fans and industry professionals have requested tips
on running their own garage sale based on my extensive experience
of having held one more garage sale than they have.  I’m happy to
share my meager wisdom.

Don’t be shy about using your “comics celebrity,” however minor in
your advertising.  A few customers came to my garage sale because
they wanted to meet me.

Plan far enough ahead so that you might be able to get some other
comics writers and artists to participate.  Then, use that kind of
semi-carnival vibe to attract the attention of your local media and
get some publicity for your sale.  I utterly failed to do this, but
my pal Chris Yambar succeeded when he held Lawn Con on the
lawn of his Youngstown Ohio home. 

Check with your local government to make sure doing something a bit
more than a garage sale doesn’t violate any local ordinances.  It’s
better to be safe than sorry in this regard.

Recognize the sad fact that, for many people, comic books are still
just kids stuff.  I got some nice comments from customers who were
not themselves comics readers from a disclaimer I had posted at the
entrance to my garage.  It read:

Not all comic books and other items are suitable for all ages.  We
will be happy to answer any questions as to the appropriateness of
the items being sold here. We reserve the right to REFUSE to sell
items to minor age customers if we deem them inappropriate to the
age of the customer.

Here’s the most important advice:

Price whatever you’re displaying to sell.

It’s a garage sale.  You’re not going to be paying off your house
mortgage or putting your kids through college.  Even so, if you’ve
got quantity, variety and insanely low prices, you can do well for
yourself.  While your own Vast Accumulation of Stuff might not be
as vast as my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, you probably have a lot
of stuff you can live without.  Embrace that concept.

Happy selling!


It’s never too early to start your holiday shopping, so, for the
duration of this issue’s column and all of next month’s, I’m making
with the recommendations.  These items would make terrific presents
for avid and casual comics readers alike.

Anyone who has ever read Archie Comics will love The Best of Archie
[$9.99], which reprints over 400 pages of great stories from
the past 70 years of Riverdale wonderment.  Adding to the sheer fun
of this collection, the publishers include historical mini-essays
and comments from Archie creators and fans.

The scope of this book is breathtaking.  Nearly every major Archie
writer and artist is represented, often with stories that haven’t
been reprinted in decades.  Secondary characters like Super Duck,
Ginger, Wilbur, and L’il Jinx get their chance to shine alongside
more major players like Katy Keene, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and
Josie and the Pussycats.  Some of the odder Archie Comics concepts
from the past, like Jughead’s Diner and Faculty Funnies get a nod
in the form of cover reproductions. 

The first Sabrina story by George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo is here,
reprinted from Archie’s Mad House #22 [1962]. There are a pair of
heartwarming Little Archie tales by Bob Bolling.  There is clever
wordplay, laugh-out-loud slapstick, keen characterization, and the
kind of body language and staging that only the very best artists
in comics have ever been able to master.

Knowing something of big projects than span the history of comics
in America, I was impressed by how well the editors of this volume
included so many high points from Archie history.  They might have
left out some of my personal favorites - Cosmo the Merry Martian,
for one - but to get so many incredible material in one book is a
major accomplishment.  I just hope they don’t make me wait too long
for The Best of Archie Comics Volume Two.

ISBN 978-1-879794-84-9

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 6, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1684:

How have I managed to go 48 years without discovering the wonder of
Seymour, My Son [Archie Comics; September 1963]?  Until I saw the
one-shot comic book offered on eBay, I’d never heard of it.  When
I did some quick Grand Comics Database research on it, I discovered
it was written by Frank Doyle, my all-time favorite Archie writer
and penciled by Dan DeCarlo, my all-time favorite Archie artist. I
had to have it.

Seymour is your typical comics teenager, always getting into some
sort of trouble through enthusiasm and klutziness.  However, this
comic book is as much about Seymour’s dad as it is about the title
star.  Indeed, the father is the narrator of this book-length yarn
and he narrates it in verse:

Exactly what is a teenage boy? A small man?  A large child? A tame
pet gone wild?  Gentle reader, don’t go ‘way, ‘till this proud
poppa’s has his say.

Doyle is the comics equivalent of Neil Simon.  He was an absolute
master of timing whose “punch panels” at the end of a story always
give me a chuckle and sometimes a out-loud laugh.  This comic has
them at the end of every page and also the middle of some pages.
It’s classic Doyle all the way.

DeCarlo’s lively drawings are the perfect visuals to Doyle’s wit.
Inking is by the great Rudy Lapick.

Another cool fact about this comic was that it was also published
by Belmont Books as a paperback with the title My Son the Teenager:
A cartoon satire by a celebrated father who prefers anonymity. Add
another item to my “Holy Grail” list. 

More Seymour, a second one-shot with a more traditional format and
not narrated by Seymour’s father, has a publication date of October
1963.  But it’s still a book-length story by Doyle and DeCarlo and
that means it must be mine...someday.

A final fun fact about Seymour, My Son. It was one of two new comic
books launched by Doyle and DeCarlo in 1963.  The other was called
She’s Josie. Wonder if that one amounted to anything?
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella