Friday, December 30, 2011


My kids will go back to Columbus and The Ohio State University on
Sunday and Monday, respectively.  Eddie has to go back a day early
to start a new job and we’ll drive Kelly back the next day.  Then,
on Tuesday, I start my work year.

There are five projects on my desk and none of them comes with any
guarantee of a payday. Two graphic novel pitches.  One long script
for a benefit book.  A second very short script for another benefit
book.  An article for a magazine.  It’ll be a busy month that won’t
pay any bills, but there is a chance a welcome royalty check or two
might appear in the mail.

I’m hoping/planning to put three or four items on eBay every day.
Once I start doing that, you can expect to see a link to my sales
at the end of each day’s bloggy thing.  I should probably put up a
PayPal “donate” link as well.

While I’m not actively seeking “work-for-hire” jobs, I’d certainly
consider any such offers that crossed my path.  My gigs with Atlas
Comics and Tom Batiuk worked out well for all concerned.  I figure
there must be more clients like them out there. 

I still can’t write about some of the not-so-good things making an
impact on my life, but I’m dealing with them well enough and making
my priorities clear.  Barb and the kids come first.  My work comes
second...because it keeps me sane and pays the bills.  Everything
else lines up behind those two priorities.

Bring it on, 2012.  I’ll try to meet you halfway.


In Wednesday’s bloggy thing, I most churlishly maligned my friend
Harlan Ellison by stating that he does not care much for Christmas.
He ever so gently chastised me on his message board:

"I have no problem with “Christmas," a holiday honoring The Christ
Child. My furiousisness, ferociousness and ferocity at the manque
hustle known as "Xmas." I have NEVER liked Xmas, and have written
about this odious tsunami of buybuybuybuy that is slavishly
attended by one and all. Holidays are good; Xmas is not a holiday.

"Peace on Earth, good will to all...otherwise.

"Wise guy."

Let the record be corrected.


Bob Ingersoll took this photo of a Black Lightning cosplayer at the
Baltimore Comic Con and ran it in his apazine.  Seeing my creation
always delights me, but Bob made it even more special with his wry
description of the costume:

“The best feature of Lightning is that the waist-high lightning
bolts wrap around his waist and originate on his ass.  So this
Black Lightning literally eats thunder and craps lightning.”

Bob will be here all week.  Be sure to tip your waiter.


My pal Alan David Doane is one of my favorite comics commentators.
I sometimes disagree with his positions, but two of his most recent
Tweets gave me something to think about.  He wrote:

“I believe superhero comic art has suffered a monumental loss as a
result of pencils/inks/letters no longer being on the same physical

And then:

“There’s no question I read as few superhero comics as I do in part
because technology has turned them into something I can’t see as

On his first Tweet, I definitely agree.  Computer inks and letters
remove those creative elements from the intimacy of collaboration.
This even carries over to my appreciation of original art.  I can’t
connect to a page of original art without on-the-page lettering and
inking.  It looks unfinished to me.  It’s not a sketch, which is a
different appreciation for me, and it’s not the page that appeared
in the published comic book.  It’s not all there.

However, if I read fewer superhero comics than I used to, it’s not
because of the technology.  It’s because the writing in them isn’t
as good as it used to be.  It’s because the characters don’t act in
a manner than draws me to them.  It’s because the characters don’t
look right, even allowing for the artist’s individual style.  The
technology only comes into play because so much of the computerized
coloring is still muddy and overbearing. 

If you want to read more of Alan’s thoughts, you can visit Trouble
With Comics, the blog he writes with Christopher Allen:

And you can follow him on Twitter:



One last note for today’s bloggy thing. 

As of Wednesday, December 28, my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read was
Amazon Kindle’s sixth best-selling item in the category of “Comics
and Graphic Novels.”  The print edition continues to rank high in
those Amazon listings.  Currently, it’s ranked seventh.  Given that
the publisher has done nothing to promote the second printing of my
book, I think that’s pretty spectacular.

I’m pretty happy about the continued success of my book.  I’ll be
even happy if my next royalty check actually reflects that success
and not the “Hollywood bookkeeping” of the last royalty statement
I received.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

I’m taking the three-day weekend off, but I’ll be back on Tuesday,
January 3.  Here’s wishing you the happiest of new years from start
to finish.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 29, 2011


This year is nearly a wrap.  Which means more “best of the year”
and “worst of the year” and “end of the year” blogs than any comics
fan needs.  Here’s mine:

There were some really great comics this year.  There were really
lousy comics this year.  Industry stuff happened.  I had a pretty
good year in 2011 and I’m hoping 2012 will end up better than it’s
looking right now.  Feel free to quote me.

There’ll also be many “New Year’s Resolutions” blogs.  My only New
Year’s resolution is to not write one.  I think I may have a decent
shot at keeping that one.



As mentioned in previous blogs, I’m slowly making my way through
the 41st edition of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.  I hope
to finish before the 42nd edition is published.  The book’s market
reports are of special interest to me because I work in the comics
industry and because I hope to supplement my 2012 writing income by
selling items from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.  I don’t comment
on these reports, but I like to take note of those entries I find
particularly informing.

Today’s Overstreet shout-out goes to Doug Sulipa of Doug Sulipa’s
Comic World.  Running maybe ten pages of two-column small type, his
report covers a lot of ground and reminds readers that this book is
a price guide.  Many comics sell for far over guide prices and even
more sell for far less. 

Not to make this (too much) about me, but Black Lightning, neither
my 1970s run nor my 1990s run, doesn’t seem to get mentioned at all
in these reports.  I receive a good number of e-mails from comics
fans looking for those issues, but the market reports never seem to
indicate the demand I see. 

I recognize that I might be getting so many inquires because I am
the creator of Black Lightning.  Whether that’s the case or not, if
any comics retailers out there have copies of my Black Lightning
issues for sale, I’ll be happy to give their contact information in
a future blog.

On a related note, I have some cool Black Lightning items to share
with you very soon.  Watch for them.


I enjoyed another batch of Archie Comics goodness recently.  Archie
#625 [$2.99] is a special 70th anniversary issue with all proceeds
going to the Ronald McDonald House in New York City.  My pal Alex
Simmons wrote a wonderful heart-warming story for the issue and it
was drawn by Dan Parent (pencils) and Rich Koslowski (inks).  All
three of these guys should be considered for the comics industry’s
various “best” awards.  They have been doing stellar work for many
years and especially in 2011.

Betty #194 [$2.99] is all reprint, but we’re talking really great
reprints.  Cover by Dan DeCarlo.  A Betty story by Frank Doyle, my
all-time favorite Archie writer, with art by Dan DeCarlo, my all-
time favorite Archie Comics artist.  A second earlier Betty story
by DeCarlo and an unknown writer.  A terrific Katy Keene story by
Bill Woggon.  Li’l Jinx by Joe Edwards.  To close out the issue: a
Sabrina story by Doyle and DeCarlo.

Lots of good stuff in the Archie digests as well.  Archie & Friends
Double Digest
#9 [$3.99] reprints a pair of Superteen adventures by
Doyle and DeCarlo, and a Jughead story by writer George Gladir and
artist Samm Schwartz that could’ve been the prototype for Gladir’s
later creation, with DeCarlo, of Sabrina.

Jughead Double Digest #174 leads with an all-new Twilight take-off
by Gladir, Pat Kennedy (pencils), and Mark McKenna (inks).  Backing
up the lead are hilarious Jughead reprints by writer Craig Boldman,
Rex Lindsey, Doyle, Schwartz, and others.

More Archie reviews to come.


Comics strips.  Online and in the three newspapers I get.  I easily
read over a hundred strips and editorial cartoons every day of my
life.  I’ve ghosted some strips for clients in recent years and had
a great time doing it.  Leave it to me find out that I like and am
good at something this late in the game.  Anyway, here’s some notes
on recent comic strips...

Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott stars parents Wanda and
Darryl MacPherson and their three young children. In the strip for
December 18, Wanda takes their youngest child to see Santa Claus.
The child proceeds to climb up Santa’s beard, over his head, and
down his back before getting back to his lap.  When Santa comments
that the kid is a very active child, Wanda responds: “Yeah, to her,
I’m just a set of monkey bars with boobs.”

I think it’s a funny line, but I wonder how many editors censored
“boobs” from the strip and how many readers complained.  Back when
I worked for a newspaper, we used to get angry calls for material
far more innocuous than this.

Dennis the Menace turned 60 this year.  He hasn’t aged, though he’s
not drawn as well as when the late Hank Ketcham created the comic.
I’m wondering if bib overalls work make me look younger.  I think
I already know the answer to that.

Robb Armstrong’s Jump Start seems to be taking inspiration from the
classic Sugar and Spike comic books by Sheldon Mayer.  In Mayer’s
legendary stories, the two infant leads could communicate via their
own baby language that adults couldn’t understand and would try to
figure out an adult world that often seemed crazy to them.  In some
recent Jump Start strips, twins Tommi and Teddy have done much the
same thing.  I’m enjoying these episodes.

Lee Falk’s The Phantom is as good as it’s ever been in the capable
hands of writer Tony DePaul and artist Paul Ryan.  DePaul’s stories
are longer than most modern continuity strips, but well worth the
length.  From time to time, to refresh the memory of his readers,
DePaul presents brief recaps narrated to the reader by...Lee Falk.
It’s a nice tribute to a great comic-strip creator.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


My worst Christmas ever was even worse than I had imagined, but I
got through it with the love and support of my Barb, Eddie, Kelly,
and a few close friends.  The matter in question is one that I’ll
have to deal with for some time to come, but, to a certain extent,
I can deal with it from a distance and keep my blood pressure and
stress levels low.  I’m sorry I can’t be more forthcoming, but know
that I do appreciate your good thoughts and prayers.

Someday I will write about this stuff, likely in the form of a very
disturbing novel.  But that’s a few years away because I don’t want
to add to the suffering of those who requested I not write about it
at all.  Sometimes the right call is to put one’s muse on hold, if
only for a time.

The rest of my Christmas was stellar.  The best material presents
I received were pillows from Costco.  The box reads “Twin Comfort
Memory Foam Comfy Clusters Gusset Pillow 2-Pack.”  They have 100%
cotton covers, the package contains recycled fiber, and the Memory
Foam is made in the USA.  Barb doesn’t remember their exact price,
but thinks it was around $30 for the two pillows.

I only needed one of the pillows Christmas night.  It was the best
sleep I have had in years.  According to the box, the Memory Foam
“conforms to your head and neck for added support” while “Clusters
provide plush softness for deep comfort and a sound sleep.” 

My daughter Kelly “borrowed” the second pillow and I’m betting I’m
never getting it back.  Barb and I are planning to buy several more
sets for future gifts.  The sheer wonderfulness of these pillows is
right up there with sliced bread.


My friend Harlan Ellison doesn’t care for Christmas.  Which is sort
of a shame because he often strikes me as equal parts Santa Claus,
Zorro, V (as in “for Vendetta), and the Terminator.  Harlan could
be the greatest action figure ever.  I mention HE because, a couple
nights ago, I had the most horrific Harlan-inspired nightmare ever.

Two more fun Harlan facts.  Harlan wrote one of the best stories in
the history of the written word - “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the
Ticktockman” - and HE doesn’t much like it when Hollywood mucks up
perfectly fine writing.

In my nightmare, a mega-budget production of “Repent, Harlequin!”
has gone spectacularly awry.  The film is set close to what used to
be Christmas.  The Ticktockman is revealed to be Santa Claus, who
became a heartless stickler for schedules after failing to deliver
all his presents on the last Christmas Eve known to man.  In this
film, the Harlequin is the last of Santa’s elves.  The big payoff
is that the Harlequin restores Santa’s good nature and, together,
they bring Christmas back to the world.

Harlan will rightfully pummel me for this when he next sees me.  I
will not blame him for that.  But, if I didn’t get this nightmare
out of my head, it might come back again and again.  Now all of you
can have sleepless nights over it.


What is it with some online folks? 

On Christmas, on a list that has nothing to do with politics, one
extreme right-winger advertises his anti-Obama bumper sticker drawn
by an artist whose work is arguably racist.

On Monday, after I post a benign “first day of Kwanzaa” greeting on
my Facebook page, one of my FB friends feels the need to post his
negative rant on that celebration. 

Why are they compelled to express every mean-spirited notion that
pops into their heads?  Do they suffer a disease akin to Tourette’s
Syndrome?  Have they so little to occupy their existence that they
go looking for battles to fight on meaningless battlefields?  Have
they no sense of restraint?

I have friends whose politics make me gag.  That we remain friends
is because we don’t shove our politics in each other’s faces.  They
ignore things I write that might offend them.  Sometimes they read
them just because, as they begrudgingly admit, I write pretty good.
In either case, they don’t get in my face about it.  I don’t get in
their faces about their positions. 

We act like adults.  Mankind should embrace this because whatever
genes allow us to behave like adults is quickly being bred out of
the human race.


Thanks to all my friends who sent me and my family Christmas cards
this year...and my apologies for not reciprocating.  I came up with
a cool idea for an original card and even designed/wrote it.  Then
I dropped the ball on hiring an artist to draw it, much less scope
out printing costs.  Once I get through paying for this Christmas,
I’ll pick up where I left off and see if I can’t mail a little bit
of holiday cheer to my friends in 2012.


One more item today.  I finished reading The Best American Comics
.  Add an excerpt from Jeff Smith’s Rasl as definitely worthy
of inclusion in a “best” volume.  Eric Orner’s “Weekends Aboard” is
intriguing, but wouldn’t make my cut.  David Lasky’s “The Ultimate
Graphic Novel (in Six Panels)” made me smile, but it’s not as funny
as it is arrogantly snarky.

The book’s “Notable Comics” listings reenforced my view that this
yearly collection is hopelessly biased against traditional comics
storytelling and values.  There were a few worthy Vertigo stories
on the list and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal.  The rest
was more of the same.  Apparently, not one super-hero story or one
story from Dark Horse, Image, IDW, Marvel, Boom!, or any other
publisher of comics entertainment was good enough to appear amongst
the navel-gazing folderol favored by the clearly biased editors of
this annual collection.

Some other publishers should challenge this woefully lacking annual
colonoscopy.  Maybe as a fundraiser for the Hero Initiative or the
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  Because I don’t believe the ongoing
series editors - Jessica Abel and Matt Madden - speak for a comics
community any larger than their own limited vision.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


It’s still the day before Christmas as I write this bloggy thing.
I’ve finished everything I have to finish for tomorrow and I have
the house to myself for a few hours.  I don’t feel like reading or
watching anything right now, so my choices have come down to two:
sleeping or writing.  And how could I possibly sleep when I am but
hours away from my Worst...Christmas...Ever?


Turok, Son of Stone, the 2008 animated feature, was recommended
to me by one of my bloggy readers.  I put in a request for the DVD
via the Clevenet library system and, within a few days, received notice it
was waiting for me at my local Medina library.  Not bad considering
the entire 100-library system only has two copies.

Based on the long-running Gold Key comic-book series of the 1960s,
Turok barely follows that continuity.  The movie opens on a teenage
Turok competing with his brother for the affections of a beautiful
young woman.  They are attacked by warriors from another tribe and,
consumed by a savage blood-lust, Turok kills all their enemies and,
by mistake, almost slays his brother.  His own tribe fears him and
he is banished. 

Decades later, the other tribe has acquired firearms and launches
a new attack.  Turok arrives in time to save Andar (his nephew) and
to take up pursuit of the warrior who has kidnapped Andar’s mother
(his old flame).  The chase and subsequent events land all four of
them in a lost land of dinosaurs, beast-men, and a tribe that may
be related to them.

Written by Tony Bedard from a story by Bedard and Evan Baily, Turok
runs a tight 73 minutes.  However, despite the use of the Gold Key
logo, the film is not kid-friendly.  There’s considerable blood and
violence and even a quick hint of cannibalism.

Turok is far from a classic animated feature, but it entertained me
for its running length.  Decent writing, acting, and animation.  I
don’t hesittate to recommend it to you.


Les Roberts has a new book out: The Strange Death of Father Candy.
I became a Roberts because of his Cleveland-based Milan Jacovich
private eye novels. Milan’s a working-man P.I. of Slovenian descent
and no stranger to getting clobbered, physically and romantically,
in pursuit of his cases.  Milan has aged during these books and, in
the most recent novel, took on a much younger but no less working-
class assistant.  I’m intrigued by this addition to the cast and am
looking forward to what comes next.

Having read the 15 Jacovich books, I got this newest novel through
the library system.  Set in 1985, the driving force of this story
is the unfathomable suicide of a beloved priest.  Though everyone
seems inclined to mourn large and then get on with their lives, the
padre’s younger brother, who abandoned Youngstown for a government-
sponsored stay in Vietnam and then Chicago, can’t let it go until
he finds out why his brother took his own life and if he actually
did take his own life. 

Dominick Candiotti’s moral code is far more flexible than that of
Jacovich.  Then again, Youngstown is a city where everyone, police
and politician and civilian, plays ball with the two Mafia families
who call the town their own.  The mobs coexist with some difficulty
and the occasional outbreak of bombings and killings. 

The writing is intense from page one.  Candiotti’s barely-checked
rage drives the story up to and through the violence that follows.
The novel reads like a one-off until the final chapter, which could
lead to a sequel.  I’d read it.

If you like the Milan Jacovich, you’ll probably enjoy The Strange
Death of Father Candy
as well.  I did like it and it has heightened
my desire to read Roberts’ other novels.

ISBN: 978-0-312-56633-3


We’re approaching the time when this old blogger mouse should not
be stirring.  I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 26, 2011


I know today is the day after Christmas, but I’m writing this the
day before Christmas and hoping you’ll cut me some slack as I face
what will certainly be my worst Christmas ever.  Got any good will
left over for your friendly neighborhood Tipster?

I have been asked not to write about why this will be such a lousy
Christmas and I am respecting that request for a number of reasons.
The truth is, I’m not sure when or ever I’ll be able to write about
this stuff.  Which makes me a horrible tease, but, again, I count
on your good will.

Lest anyone be concerned, the reasons for my seasonal blues do not
have anything to do with Sainted Wife Barb, Eddie, Kelly, or even that it is of concern to all of us.  We’re good, better
than good with our needs well met, our kids doing terrific at The
Ohio State University - 4.0 for Kelly, just a shade under that for
Eddie - and blessings a’plenty. 

Someone we love is in an extremely serious situation.  That’s all
I can say.  We’re doing what we can for this person and for others
affected by the situation.  But, as a firm believer in prayer, good
thoughts, positive energy, or whatever you want to call the force
of good people caring about one another, please send those prayers,
good thoughts, and positive energy my way.  I’ll forward to them to
those who need them most.  Thank you.


I had a birthday last week and it got off to a rocky start.  Due to
my indecision, someone other than me picked the restaurant for the
“Take Dad to Breakfast” part of the day.  Three out of four of us
walked away from the meal feeling queasy and it’ll be a long time
before I go to Medina’s Eat ‘N’ Park again.  If ever.

Adding insult to injury, a comics pal then reminded me my breakfast
would have been free at Denny’s.  Which I like much better than Eat
‘N’ Park anyway.  So, on December 22, 2012, assuming the world has
not ended, I’m having breakfast at Denny’s on Route 18 in Medina.
If you show up, don’t try to sing “Happy Birthday” to me.  I’ll be
having hash browns and using them lethally is one of the 117 ways
in which the government has trained me to kill.

Adding financial injury to injury, our van’s alternator blew as we
pulled into our driveway after breakfast.  Fortunately, our local
NTB was able to replace it and take care of a couple other problems
before the end of the day.

The rest of my birthday was quite nice.  I got spiffy presents even
beyond those I had bought for myself.

Digression. I’d taken advantage of too many really good buys since
November and was feeling buyer’s remorse.  So I gave a big stack of
DVDs and books to Barb and the kids and told them to give them to
me for my birthday and Christmas.  How did they know exactly what
I wanted?  End of digression.

Joining us that evening were Terry and Nora Fairbanks (Barb’s uncle
and aunt; we met at their wedding), along with neighbors Greg and
Giselle (father and daughter).  We ordered Chinese food, Barb made
an incredible cake, and a good time was had by all.


It’s Q&A time because answering your questions is a wee bit easier
than ranting or reviewing.  Someone who was amused and/or surprised
by my negative reaction to The Best American Comics 2011 asked if
I had found anything noteworthy in the volume.

Yes I have. I’m 231 pages into the book and these are the stories
I consider worthy of inclusion in a collection purporting to offer
the best comics of the year:

“St. Ambrose” by John Pham (2 pages);

“Nov. 3, 1956" by Joe Sacco (33 pages);

“Pet Cat” by Joey Alison Sayers (6 pages);

“Little House in the Big City” by Sabrina Jones (10 pages);

“Domestic Men of Mystery” by Jillian Tamaki (2 pages); and “maybe”
to two other stories:

“Browntown” by Jaime Hernandez, a 12-page excerpt that is less than
satisfying but promising; and,

“Great Gatsbys” by Kate Beaton, a 3-page entry I’m still trying to
make up my mind about.

I’m happier with the book than I was at the 58-page mark, but I’m
still bored by too much self-indulgent, artsy fartsy material that
is woefully lacking in basic craft.  I’ll check in with you again
when I finish reading the collection.


A handful of readers asked if I’ll continue reviewing DC’s “New 52"
titles on a week-by-week basis.  Nope.

The fourth month books are coming out and I’ve only read up through
the first week of the second month.  I’ll read individual titles in
batches of two or three issues.  If I’ve anything new to say about
them, I’ll review them again.  If I don’t, I won’t.

However, once I can organize the most recent comic books loaned to
me by a good friend, I will let you know which “New 52" titles he
gave up on after the first month.


I got several e-mails from readers and one comics editor asking why
I’m not reviewing comics by Image, IDW, Avatar, Dynamite, and other
publishers.  The three simple answers are:

1. The publishers don’t send me review copies.

2. My friend doesn’t buy many comics from those publishers, though
I’ll likely review some IDW and Dynamite books in the near future.

3. My own comics purchasing is limited and, to be honest, I’m much
more likely to buy manga and reprints of classic (and even not-so-
classic) comics than I am new comics.  

If publishers start sending me things to review, I’ll do my best to
read and review them.  If readers want to recommend comics series
and graphic novels for me to review, I’ll try to get them through
my library system.


That’s all for now.  I hope you had a great Christmas or whatever
holiday you celebrate at this time of the year or, if you don’t do
any holiday, that you still had a fun day.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I’m 60 years old today.  Though I often jest about my age, the fact
is that I don’t feel 60.  I think I do most things now better than
I ever did them before.  There are probably things I do worse than
I did before, but, fortunately, I no longer have enough brain cells
left to remember them. 


As are people of any age, I’m looking at a coming year filled with
uncertainty.  Beyond my monthly writings for Comics Buyer’s Guide,
I have no contracted paying work lined up for 2012.  I’ve been in
that situation before and something usually turns up, but it does
make for some stress.

My son Eddie graduates from The Ohio State University this spring
and I’m hoping he can find a good job quickly.  As much as I would
love for that job to allow him to live with us in Medina, that has
to be considered a long shot.

The country I love - that would be the United States for the smart-
ass right wingnuts in the audience - is facing national elections.
I’m hoping my fellow Americans will turn their backs on the GOP and
the Tea Party and choose a more humane and sensible path for this
nation.  If they don’t, this country will become even more mean of
spirit than it has.

On the bright side, I’m still here, I’m still kicking and I’m still
ready and able to write things I care about, to speak truth to my
readers, and to lend whatever meager assistance I can to people and
causes worth helping.  I’m good.

Looking ahead to 2012...

I have a handful of comics projects I hope to complete in January
and February.  Hopefully, one or two of them will make me a couple
bucks.  I would definitely be interested in other projects if the
conditions are acceptable.

I hope to attend a number of comics conventions in the coming year.
Promoters can contact me at:

If no paying work comes my way, you can expect to see me become an
active seller on eBay.  I’ll try to alert you to these auctions in
ways that won’t turn this blog into one big advertisement.  That’s
not what either of us is here for.

There will be more Isabella garage sales starting as soon in 2012 as
Ohio’s mercurial weather will allow.  I’ll announce them here and
on my message board and on Facebook.

That’s all I have for you today.  Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll be
taking some time off for the holidays, but you can expect my next
bloggy thing on Monday, December 26.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Don’t get too excited.  This is just another of my “what I got from
the library” blogs.  But I’ve a perverse desire to see what today’s
headline does to my page views.

If you do a search on “sexy librarian,” you will find many photos
of quite fetching librarians.  I only mention this because I don’t
want any readers to be disappointed that my blog does not have such
photos.  Rest assured, photos are out there and easy to find..


First up is the second edition of Classics Illustrated: A Cultural
by William B. Jones, Jr. [McFarland & Company; $55] is one
wow of a book.  Like every kid of my generation, copies of Classics
passed through my hands on a regular basis.  While I’ve
no recollection of buying issues myself, save for an adaptation of
H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, I’d occasionally receive issues from
adults who knew I liked comics and decided these had to be “safer”
than all other comics.  Except for maybe Treasure Chest, which was
distributed through Catholic schools. 

I would also get issues in trades with other kids.  A Jimmy Olsen
comic book wasn’t worth a Superman or Batman, but deals were often
sweetened with an issue or three of Classics Illustrated.  Probably
given to those kids by adults.

Jones is quite an archeologist.  He covers the creation and history
of Classics Illustrated in detail, but he makes it entertaining and
interesting.  Within a few chapters, I was sharing his fascination
with these high-minded comic books and wishing I could read all of
them.  A Classic Comics/Classic Illustrated series of collections
would be hard to resist. 

The 380-page hardcover is well worth its cover price.  It’s loaded
with information and illustrations examining the work of dozens of
Classics Illustrated artists.  I recommend it highly.

ISBN: 978-0-7864-3840-2


Al Jaffee’s Mad Life by Mary-Lou Weisman (!t Books; $27.99] is the
incredible biography of one of our greatest cartoonists...and it’s
copiously illustrated by the artist himself.  Unlike most books of
this nature, this one spends more time on its subject’s life before
he started creating comics than on his career in comics.  The right
choice, given the “mad” life that resulted in the comic genius that
is Al Jaffee.

Jaffee’s story is often so strange as to make a reader loudly gasp
in amazement.  Born in America, he was uprooted at age six by his
arguably insane mother, separated from his father, and taken with
his three brothers to Lithuania.  It was as if he was transported
back in time a century and to a land filled with peril for himself
and other Jews.  His life in America, then Lithuania, then America
again, then Lithuania again, and then back to the America where his
inventiveness and talent would make him a comics legend is equally
fascinating and heartbreaking.  The chapters on his comics career
are equally riveting.

Like Classics Illustrated: A Culture History, Al Jaffee’s Mad Life
is essential comics history.  And, also like that book, I’ve added
it to my Amazon Wish List.  Which is not so much a wish list as a
reminder of books I want for my personal library.

ISBN: 978-0-06-186448-3


I was disappointed in Locke & Key, Volume 2: Head Games by Joe Hill
and Gabriel Rodriguez [IDW; $19.99].  The three Locke kids continue
to deal with the horrors they know while other horrors loom large.
The first volume was much tighter.  This one read as if Hill were
just throwing elements into the fire to see if they would explode.
The writing and art are still good enough that I’ve requested the
next volume from my library.  I hope that one restores my interest
in the series.


It takes a while for popular movies to show up in my library holds,
but they do show up eventually.  I watched Friends With Benefits in
Blu-ray after a particularly challenging day.  It was a great way
to relieve stress, albeit not in the energetic manner of its stars,
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.

You probably know the plot from the commercials that ran during the
movie’s theatrical release.  Jamie (Kunis) and Dylan (Timberlake),
recovering from a series of bad romances, are the best of friends.
She is a New York City executive recruiter who recruited him from
a small Los Angeles Internet company to be the new art director for
GQ.  They decide to engage in a sexual relationship sans the usual
boyfriend/girlfriend stuff.  That they each have issues that have
torpedoed their romantic relationships in the past doesn’t seem to
be a problem with this new arrangement.  You don’t need to be any
kind of psychic to see where this will lead.

However, predictable as the outcome is from the start, the acting
and writing absolutely sell this movie.  Kunis and Timberlake are
believable and funny.  The dialogue is sharp and often very funny.
Supporting actors Woody Harrison, Richard Jenkins, and Jenna Elfman
are superb.  The movie runs 109 minutes, but it’s so good it never
seems to run that long. It’s definitely worth renting and probably
buying.  My wife and daughter watched it twice.


I’m reading The Best American Comics 2011 [Houghton Mifflin; $25]
as I wrap up today’s blog.  This is my yearly test of endurance as
I find each year’s volume to be increasingly cliquish.  The editors
and guest editors are hopelessly biased towards obscure alternative
comics and seemingly unmindful of the lack of craft exhibited in so
many of the works they select.  I’m 58 pages into the book and only
two of those pages have risen to the level of “best” of anything.
I would love to see a publisher and editors with a less incestuous
vision launch a yearly series in direct competition to this annual
comics colonoscopy.

Tomorrow’s my 60th birthday, but I’ll still be back with more stuff
to amuse, enrage, and inform you.  It’s how I roll.     

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Green Lantern was released on DVD in mid-October, but I had to wait
several weeks before getting a copy from my local library.  Early
on, even before the movie hit the theaters in June, I wasn’t awash
with enthusiasm for the film.  I wanted to see it in the theater,
but it didn’t hang around our local multiplex long enough for me
to do that.

The translated from the comic books plot was familiar to me, even
though there were changes made to various characters for the movie.
I have no problem with that.  Comics and movies are not the same,
no matter how much some comic-book creators and publishers try to
pretend they are.

Hal Jordan is a top-notch test pilot who lives with the fear that
he will die in similar fashion to his test pilot dad.  He’s also an
immature jerk, though he does grow out of that before this movie’s
end.  Romantic interest and boss Carol Ferris is more interesting
than her comic-book counterpart, but not by much.  Hector Hammond
is your typical scene-chewing movie villain, which is indicative of
how little Hollywood thinks of our comics art form.  There are some
decent moments with Sinestro in the movie, but the other characters
- including big bad Parallax - just sort of move around the story
as needed.  They never come to life.   

Green Lantern ran 114 minutes in the version I watched with my son
Eddie, but it seemed a lot longer to both of us.  The first forty
minutes drag, enlivened only by Hal’s first visit to Oa to meet his
fellow Green Lanterns and the Withered Smurfs.  Hal’s whining gets
old real fast.  The acting throughout the film is adequate at best.
The dialogue is just sort of there.

The movie does finish strong.  Some terrific ring-action followed
by Hal going it alone against Parallax.  The closing scenes of Hal
and Carol are a bit maudlin, desperately needing better acting and
writing.  The obligatory sequel teaser would have worked better if
the script had laid its foundation better.

Adding to my less than glowing reaction to the film, not one of the
comic-book writers and artists who created the characters and the
concepts seen in this film are credited.  Geoff Johns gets one of
those ”co-producer” credits that may or may not indicate anything.
It’s Hollywood, Jake.

Green Lantern isn’t a keeper unless you can buy it for five bucks
or if you get it as gift.  I don’t feel bad about spending the two
hours watching the movie, but it’s not a film I would watch again
unless I had some special reason to do so.  DC Comics movies remain
far inferior to their Marvel Comics counterparts.


Eddie and I also watched Batman: Year One.  Adapted from the 1987
comics by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, the animated movie
runs a tight 64 minutes. 

This is more Jim Gordon’s story than it is Batman’s.  That’s fine
with me as Gordon is far more interesting than the mental case into
which DC has so willingly transformed the Batman.  Bruce Wayne is
more rage than icon.  Gordon is an outnumbered hero trying to beat
a system enormously weighed against him.  Gordon stumbles, screws
up, takes his lumps, but, at the end of the day, he achieves more
than does the Batman. 

Bryan Cranston delivers a wonderful performance voicing Gordon.  No
one else in the cast comes close to him, though most of the other
actors do okay in their roles.  The stark animation brings to life
the mean streets of Gotham.  This cartoon feels like a great crime
movie of the 1940s or 1950s. 

A short Catwoman film is included in the package.  It’s good, but
a little too sleazy for my taste.  It’s hard for me to suspend my
belief that characters who appear on children’s clothing should not
appear in strictly adult fare.

That said, Batman Year One is a keeper.  We rented it via Netflix,
but I’ll likely buy my own copy in the near future.

One more item. Entertainment Weekly has published a double-issue in
which it selects the best and the worst of 2011.  It lists the top
10 movies, TV, songs, and books.  The good news comic books
or graphic novels or movies based on comic books or graphic novel
are on their “worst” list.  The bad news...they didn’t make their
“best” list either.  The worse this magazine owned by the
same corporation that owns DC Comics, comics are not mentioned at
all.  Sigh.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 19, 2011


Godzilla often reveals things to me.  This is fitting because I am
the pastor of The First Church of Godzilla (Reform), the one true
church of the Great Scaly One.  That he speaks to me should be no
less fantastic than when your less atomic Supreme Beings speak to
their servants here on Earth.

This is December, which should be a time of good will towards all
men.  Godzilla is unhappy about this.

Let’s be clear about something.  Godzilla isn’t unhappy because of
the “good will towards men” stuff.  He approves of that.  The more
good will, the less likely you are to be such massive dicks to one
another than he has to make with the tough love, the fiery atomic
tough love.

But, unfortunately, too many of you are dicks to each other during
what should be - say with me - a time of good will towards all your
fellow men.  Can you possibly unclench your butts long enough for
me to explain Godzilla’s teachings to you?

Just because some idiot pundit tells you there’s a war on Christmas
or some such does not mean you have to enlist in it.  It’s not like
those Fox News people are even human.  Take away their heat-lamps,
disguised as spotlights, and they will retreat into the alien rocks
that protect their natural worm-like forms.

If someone puts up a “Baby Jesus” display at this time of the year,
you should not take it as a personal affront.  It’s not hurting you
in the least.  It only hurts you if they don’t let you put up your
religious display on your holiday.  Godzilla and his church - The
First Church of Godzilla (Reform) - believe public spaces should be
allowed to be used for such things so long as any religion or even
non-religion has equal access to them.  Set up a damn schedule and
get over it. 

Whether someone wishes you a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”
or any other variant on these expressions of good will, don’t take
it as an insult.  It’s an expression of good will.  Run it through
your universal translator so that it becomes whatever expression of
good will you prefer.  Get over it.

Godzilla is equally accepting of all faiths.  As he once told me in
a vision:

“Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists...all of them feel exactly the
same when they are squished beneath my feet.  Why do they make such
a big deal out of this?  You want to talk about a “big deal,” talk
about the big-as-a-skyscraper mutant dinosaur who can go nuclear on
your ass if you piss him off.”

The message of Godzilla at this time of year is simple:

Don’t be dicks to one another.  Be nice.  Or else you’re gonna get
a “folly of man” beatdown that they’ll feel all the way to Planet
X.  And, while we’re talking, stop building those robot imitations
of the Great Scaly One.  Not really the sincerest form of flattery.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all followers of the one true
Godzilla and all readers of this blog.  I bless you in the names of
Godzilla and Mothra and Rodan.   

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, December 18, 2011


There are joys a’bounding in my life, but there is sadness hovering
nearby as well.  Which is a decent enough description of everyone’s
lives in these contentious, sometimes soul-crushing times.  While
I strive to keep the melancholy at bay, I assure you my occasional
gloominess has nothing to do with my health, my Sainted Wife Barb,
my kids, or, save in small measure, my employment prospects for the
coming year.  The last could be brighter, but, as I’ve mentioned in
other bloggy things, something always turns up.

The 2011 Holiday Herd Gathering took place last Friday.  With best
buddies Bob Ingersoll, Roger Price, and Thom Zahler, I ate at the
Inferno Gourmet Burger Bar here in Medina, Ohio.  Great food, great
prices, efficient and friendly and darned cute waitresses, and, of
course, the excellent company of my friends. In the parking lot, we
were asked about Inferno by a couple who’d seen us exit the place.
We gave it a glowing recommendation and, as we drove off, I saw the
couple enter the restaurant.

I confess I’m not much looking forward to either my 60th birthday
(because this time of year is busy enough for Barb without having
to worry about something that’s not a big deal to me) or Christmas.
I’m feeling the sadness of people I care about who have made awful
decisions and the insanity of the Tea Party Republicans.  I am far
more concerned about the latter than I’ve ever been about foreign
terrorists. Scary times.

But, as noted above, I continue to find joy in so many people and
things in my life. 

Let’s see what I have to write about today.


I fear my Sainted Wife Barb has a Bath & Body Works addiction. She
seems to come home with a bag of hand soap pump dispensers once
a week or so.  I may have to develop a hand-washing compulsion just
to keep up with her purchases.

For example, at this moment, there are four different hand soaps in
our upstairs bath: Blushing Mimosa, Cranapple Crisp, Marshmallow,
and Vanilla Bean Noel.  My son Eddie complains that he just wants
one “normal” hand soap there.  Does Bath & Body Works make a beer-
scented hand soap?

I’m okay with most of the scents, but I’ve never been a marshmallow
fan.  Since I rarely stop and see which of the four scents I use at
any given time, it is a bit disconcerting to wash my hands and end
up smelling like marshmallow.  Maybe they could combine the scent
with chocolate and graham crackers scents.

Since we’re all friends here, feel free to comment on your favorite
hand soap scents.  Don’t worry about being ridiculed.  Somebody who
smells like marshmallow has no right to mock you.


Hosted by Ty Pennington, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was
one of the first and only reality shows I ever watched on anything close
to a regular basis.  The show made its debut in December 2003 and
will end its run next month.  

Three things attracted me to the show.  First and foremost, I liked
the idea that, in every episode, Pennington and his crew would go
to the home of a family or individual going through seriously hard
times and build them a new home.  The homes were designed to answer
specific needs of these families or individuals.  In short, we got
to watch an enormously good deed every week. 

Second...I really liked Pennington and his crew.  They seemed to be
genuinely nice people who did not feign their concern for the folks
they helped. 

Third...Pennington and his crew built some amazing homes.  I would
have happily moved into most of them.

I stopped watching the show after reading too many reports of how
some families couldn’t maintain the homes or borrowed on the homes
to pay other bills or, most sad of all, were stupid with whatever
money and advantages they had been given by the show.  It took most
of the fun and warmth out of the show for me.

At the end of the day, ABC, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and Ty
Pennington’s band of cuddly contractors managed to do a lot of good
in a world that needs all the good it can get.  They couldn’t build
perfection in the lives of imperfect humanity, but they did a lot
of good.  Not a bad way to remember the show.


I don’t apologize for watching cheesy movies on the SyFy Channel.
When I sit down in the dark family room watching the network’s far-
from-classic offerings, it takes me back to my Cleveland boyhood.
Friday and Saturday nights watching monster movies hosted by Ernie
Anderson in his role of Ghoulardi.  I learned to love Godzilla and
other giant movie monsters from Ghoulardi and also, thanks to his
inventive comedy and prop humor, not to take them too seriously.
Some things in life are just supposed to be fun.  If they can rise
to the level or art or even craft, that’s a bonus.  Good movies and
bad, Ghoulardi made them all entertaining.

If I were in charge of the SyFy Channel - And, really, who better?
- I would expand its feature Saturday night movie showing from two
hours to three and add a comical and/or comely host to the evening.
I’d revel in the cheesiness of the movies.  Some things in life are
just supposed to be fun.

One of the many things that amuse me greatly about SyFy’s movies is
how many similarly-themed films it shows.  Yesterday, Saturday, it
had an entire day of storm disaster movies.  It has also aired days
of giant spiders, giant snakes, giant crocodiles and/or alligators,
giant sharks, giant creatures of myth, etc.  Name a cheesy
horror/monster movie theme.  SyFy doesn’t have just one movie of
that theme.  It has a dozen! 
So here’s to the SyFy Channel and all those Saturday evenings when
I can be twelve again.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 17, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1685:

I almost never bought Cracked back in the day.  When I had extra
money after buying my super-hero comics, I’d buy MAD. If there
wasn’t a new MAD, I’d more likely buy something like Ross Andru and
Mike Esposito’s Up Your Nose and Out Your Ear because I hadn’t seen
it before.  It wasn’t that Cracked didn’t have funny stuff within
its pages, but it never resonated with me the way MAD did.

But when Mark Arnold sent me his huge two-volume If You’re Cracked,
You’re Happy
[Bear Manor Media, $34.95 per volume], I was intrigued
enough to go eBay shopping for an early issue of the magazine.  The
one I found was issue #7 [February, 1959]. 

Sol Brodsky, one of my first bosses at Marvel, was editor of that
44-page issue.  Superman creator Jerry Siegel was listed as one of
the writers, though, unfortunately, no credits appear on any of the
features.  The artist roster includes familiar names: John Severin,
Bill McCartney (Bill Ward), Carl Burgos, Syd Shores, Bill Everett,
Richard Doxsee, Bernard Baily, Angelo Torres and Dick Richards.
Not that I’d have known who they were in 1959.

The issue presents a lot of material in 44 pages and, from where I
sit today, it looks like Cracked might have been going for an older
audience than MAD.  Features like “Imaginary Fears and Complexes,”
“Everybody’s Got Something to be Thankful For” and “Our Two Faces”
all seem aimed at older readers. 

There’s also a quite a bit of variety in the issue.  There’s a bit
of cold war humor, a spoof of “The Millionaire” TV show, a strange
piece on how rumors get started, and a neat feature on little known
famous people.  Trying to think of what my reaction to this issue
would have been when I was a kid and a pretty smart kid at that, I
think the material would have gone over my head.  Another reason I
think Brodsky and company were going for older readers.

My memory, backed by Arnold’s books, is that Cracked set its sights
lower in the occasional issues I saw in the 1970s and later.  Much
more emphasis on popular movies and TV shows.  As is, I think the
magazine, which lasted several decades, ran enough interesting and
historically intriguing material to rate a “Best Of” collection or
three.  I’d buy those.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, December 16, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1685:

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in
the living room on Christmas day.  Don't clean it up too quickly.

- Andy Rooney

Every year around this time, editor Brent Frankenhoff asks CBG’s
writers to recommend comics stuff that would make terrific holiday
presents and to name gifts we ourselves would like to receive.  I’m
delighted to do the former, not so keen on the latter.

I have a great life.  I have a loving wife, children, family, and
friends.  Although I’m far from an “A-List” writer, I get to write
stuff I enjoy and of which I can be proud.  I have way more comics
and other stuff than I need, though just shy of what would land me
a star turn on Hoarders.  I’m good.

However, if you really insist on giving me something, I would ask
that you make a donation to The Hero Initiative, the organization
which exists to help comics creators who need a hand in their hours
of need.  In an industry known for treating its creators less than
fairly, the Hero Initiative is doing the work of angels.  To learn
more about this organization, head over to:

Thanks for your generosity.


My mission goal this time around is to recommend as many different
books and comics as possible, the better to assist you in your
holiday gift purchases.  However, if nothing I write about today is
quite what you’re looking for, e-mail me [] with as
much specific info about your intended gift recipient as you are
willing to share with me.  I’ll respond with more suggestions.

That’s me...Tony Isabella, your personal Gift Consultant.


Every month, Anthony Tollin, my friend of four decades, publishes
the pulp-magazine adventures of Doc Savage and The Shadow [Sanctum
Books; $14,94 each] in trade paperbacks that reprint two novels,
the occasional short story, and original articles on the history of
these characters and the men who wrote or drew them.  Several times
a year, Tollin also publishes The Avenger and The Whisperer.  All
reprinted stories appear in their original lengths, except on those
occasions when Tollin has the novels’ longer original manuscripts.
These pulp-magazine characters inspired the first comic-book super-
heroes and, indeed, some of the basic attributes that have remained
part of the super-hero genre.  Even beyond the comics connection,
these books make for exciting reading and a look, warts and all, at
the 1930s and 1940s. 


Until recently, the Marvel comic books of the 1950s - the Atlas Era
- had been overlooked and generally unavailable to readers without
the means to collect the rare back issues. Thankfully, Marvel has
now reprinted almost two dozen hardcover collections of astounding
comic books from that era, including war comics, jungle adventures,
medieval thrillers, horror and suspense, and even some of the rare
super-hero comics of that decade.

Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Venus Vol. 1 [$59.99] is one of the
more recent additions to this list and it turns out to be a series
that defies easy inclusion in any one genre.  It’s a romance comic,
it’s a humor comic, it’s a fantasy comic with mythological heroes
and villains, it’s a horror comic, it’s...simply amazing.  I would
recommend any and all of the Atlas Era volumes - the Battlefield,
Black Knight/Yellow Claw, and Menace books are especially spiffy -
but Venus is so weird and wondrous I think it’d be my first choice
for a holiday gift.


Does your intended gift recipient have a favorite artist?  For many
years now, TwoMorrows, the publisher of Alter Ego, Back Issue, and
The Jack Kirby Collector, has also been publishing Modern Masters,
a series of trade paperbacks spotlighting some of the best artists
of our time. Each book in the series features interviews with its
subject, their career information, and dozens of examples of their
art.  The most recent volumes focused on Bone creator Jeff Smith
[$15.95] and British artist Frazier Irving [$15.95]; other subjects
include Alan Davis, George Perez, Bruce Timm, John Byrne, Walter
Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Kyle Baker, and Ron Garney, just to name a
few.  And while you’re considering these TwoMorrows books, I’ll add
that subscriptions to the magazines named above would also be fine
gifts for the comics lover in your life.


Novels set in my hometown of Cleveland, especially mystery novels
set in Cleveland, are a passion of mind.  It’s why I borrowed Casey
Daniels’ Don of the Dead [Avon; $6.99] via my local library system.
Pepper Martin, the book’s protagonist, is a former socialite whose
father’s shady dealings landed him in prison and her without any of
the family money.  She works as a tour guide at Cleveland’s Garden
View Cemetery (not its real name), resting place of the famous and
not-so-famous.  Following a painful encounter between her head and
a tombstones, she can see and communicate with those buried there
who, for one reason or another, have been unable to move on to the
hereafter.  All these restless spirits have mysteries needing to be
solved and gorgeous Pepper is their plucky detective.  There have
been six additional books in the series: The Chick and the Dead,
Tombs of Endearment, Night of the Loving Dead, Dead Man Talking,
Tomb With a View,
and A Hard Day’s Fright.  I’ve enjoyed them all
and, as long as Daniels keeps writing them, I’ll keep reading them.
Any or all of these books would make a great stocking stuffer for
the mystery buff in your life.


My non-comics reading is generally either detective fiction or non-
fiction.  In the former category, among my favorites are the Nathan
Heller novels by Max Allan Collins, who might be best known as the
author of Road to Perdition and, among comics fans, as the creator
(with artist Terry Beatty) of Ms. Tree.  Heller’s a Chicago private
detective who crosses paths with famous cases and people in the
1930s through the 1960s.  Collins is a stickler for the facts of
these cases, but he also brings his own interpretation to them,
making for an exciting intriguing mix of true crime and could-this-
be-what-really-happened fiction.  At the moment, two Heller books
are sitting on my reading pile and taunting me.
Bye Bye, Baby [Forge; $24.99] finds Heller investigating the death
of Marilyn Monroe.  Chicago Lightning [Thomas and Mercer; $14.95]
collects all the Heller short stories to date.  I think I need to
disappear for a few days so I can read them.  I recommend both (and
the previous Heller books) for the hard-boiled reader on your gift
list.  He or she will thank you for them.


If you’re looking for something different in detective fiction for
gift-giving, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything more uncommon
than John Burdett’s novels of Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai
Jitpleecheep: Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, Bangkok Haunts, and The
Godfather of Kathmandu
[Vintage Books; $14.95]. Sonchai is a devout
Buddhist in a country where police corruption is a given.  His boss
in the police department is also one of the country’s biggest drug
lords, to name but one of his extracurricular enterprises.  His mom
is a former prostitute who now owns one of the city’s top brothels
with his police boss.  His partner is a pre-operative transsexual.
And, in the latest novel, having been informed that he is now his
boss’s consigliere, Sonchai must broker a deal with his boss’ arch-
enemy while solving the murder of an American film director.  It’s
not your typical detective novel, but it’s intriguing from start to
finish...and I haven’t even mentioned some of the truly weird parts
of the book.  It’d make a great gift for the detective fiction fan
willing to venture beyond the norm.


Want a gift with an European flair? I’d recommend any of the four
Little Nothings books by French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim.  Each
volume has over 100 single-page comics taken from Trondheim’s life.
The most recent book is Little Nothings: My Shadow in the Distance
[NBM; $14.95].  Your happy recipient can read a few at a time or a
whole bunch of them. 


Takashi Murakima’s Stargazing Dog [$11.95] is NBM’s first graphic
novel from Japan, where the book is a major bestseller.  Putting it
simply in an attempt not to spoil any of the wonderfulness awaiting
readers of this book, this is the story of a man and his dog.  If
it’s not at least nominated in all the major comics awards, there’s
something wrong with those awards.  It is a magnificient work that
deserves those awards and more.  Buy multiple copies for gifts and
to make sure you get one for yourself.


Archie digests make way cool stocking stuffers.  The title I’m most
fond of is World of Archie Double Digest [$3.99}.  The latest issue
leads with the all-new “Love Me Baby, Mumba!” by writer Tania Del
Rio with art by Bill Galvan (pencils) and Bob Smith (inks).  This
one takes Archie and the Riverdale High gang to Bollywood to help
classmate Raj makes a movie.  Most issues also include a reprint of
a book-length She’s Josie story by Frank Doyle, my favorite Archie
writer, and Dan DeCarlo (my favorite Archie artist).  Reprints from
Archie’s Madhouse also appear frequently.  If you’re not into the
stuffing of stockings, subscriptions to World of Archie Double
come in two quantities: five issues for $16.50, ten for


Magazine subscriptions are good gifts year around.  I assume you’ve
already ordered Comics Buyer’s Guide for all your loved ones, but
my other suggestions would be Life With Archie and, surprisingly,
MAD. I subscribe to both.

Life With Archie [$3.99] is one of the best and most suspenseful
comics in the industry.  Written by Paul Kupperberg with art by a
variety of top artists, it features two alternate futures for the
Archie characters, one in which Archie has married Veronica and a
second in which he married Betty.  You can order a 10-issue sub for
$19.95 or a 20-issue one for $36.

MAD has gone through some rough times, but it’s really getting back
on track these days.  Not every joke hits the mark, but it’s much
funnier than it has been in years.  The $5.99 cover price is high,
but a six-issue subscription is $19.99 cheap.


Manga offers more variety than do American comics, but the material
and its right-to-left reading doesn’t appeal to everyone.  But, if
someone on your gift list is open to manga, I have recommendations
for you.

If your IGR (Intended Gift Recipient) watches TV’s House, he or she
might enjoy Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka [Vertical; $16.95].  Black
Jack is a brilliant but unlicenced surgeon with a mysterious past
and a rep for refusing to patients who can’t afford his enormous
fees.  But there’s much more to the doctor than that, as if often
seen in each volume’s thirteen done-in-one tales, stories which
often cross into science fiction and horror.  Tezuka is known as
the “god of manga” and his numerous creations include Astro Boy,
Princess Knight, Kimba the White Lion
, and various adult works.
Vertical has published 16 Black Jack volumes, with a 17th due in
late November.

With stories by Tsugumi Ohba and art by Takeshi Obata, Bakuman [Viz
Media; $9.95] is the ongoing story of two young men determined to
become manga superstars.  Though I can’t speak to the accuracy of
the manga industry depicted in these books, I am fascinated by this
window into that industry and, like me, your IGR will find it easy
to root for the book’s heroes and for the other manga creators and
editors they meet on their quest.  There have been seven volumes to
date with the eighth due in December.


A final gift suggestion, this one for the aspiring comics artist or
seasoned professional on your shopping list. Colossal Collection of
Action Poses
by Buddy Scalera [Impact; $29.99] is a massive volume
presenting 1,200 facial and body poses.  The male and female models
come from a variety of ages and ethnicities.  Also included in the
book are step-by-step demonstrations showing how artists like Thom
Zahler, Terry Moore, Amanda Conner, Billy Tucci, and a dozen others
use these photo references in their work.  It may be one of those
dreaded “useful” gifts, but it’s way more fun than a package of

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Yes, that is a lame title for today’s bloggy thing.  I could blame
it on SAD (Seasonal affective disorder), but the truth is that I’m
juggling family, holiday, and work matters, neglecting to get much
needed sleep, and wishing my loved ones would stop asking me what
I want to do for my 60th birthday next week.

For weeks, “hookers and blow” has been my answer to that question.
I figured such an annoying answer would get people to stop asking
the annoying question.  Of course, realistically, given my advanced
years, I shouldn’t attempt anything more risque than a Victoria’s
Secret catalog and Metamucil.

Damn.  I should have used “Hookers and Blow” as today’s title.  My
views would have gone through the roof.

Here’s what I have for you today.


Cartoon Network aired a one-hour preview of the CGI-animated Green
series on November 11.  I watched it over the weekend and
was mildly impressed.

“Beware My Power” has Hal Jordan and Kilowog traveling to a distant
galaxy to investigate the deaths of Green Lanterns there.  Though
the killers are from DC comic books, I’m not going to identify them
in what I hope will be a mostly spoiler-free review.

The minuses in this episode were the portrayal of Hal Jordan.  He’s
a jerk and he doesn’t think through his actions before committing
to them.  Alas, the Guardians of the Universe are no better.  Most
of the problems and tragedies that occur could have been prevented
with a little forethought. 

The plus is that writers James Krieg and Ernie Atbacker brought
considerable heart and heroism to the final act of this episode.
So much so that I’ll continue watching the series when it commences
its ongoing run sometimes next year.

I also watched part of the Batman Year One animated feature, which
my son Eddie had rented from Netflix.  I liked what I watched, so
I’ll watch and review the film soon.  If any of my bloggy readers
have other comics-related films or cartoons they want to recommend
to me, now would be an excellent time to do so.


One-season wonder I’m Dickens...He’s Fenster [1962-1963] has been
released on DVD.  I do remember watching and presumably liking this
show, which starred Marty Ingels and John Astin as carpenters, but
I remember nothing else about it.  Not even that Mrs. Dickens was
played by Emmaline Henry, though, on seeing her name, I did recall
she played the perpetually confused wife of Dr. Bellows on I Dream
of Jeannie
.  I’m on the fence re: buying the DVD set of the show,
but, seeing a reasonably-priced copy of I’m Dickens...He’s Fenster
#1 [Dell; May-July, 1963], I bought it.

Drawn by Henry Scarpelli - the writer’s unknown - this first of two
issues is your standard 36-page Dell TV series adaptation.  It has
a photo cover, a one-page gag strip on the inside front cover, a
half-page gag strip on the inside back cover, and a 32-page story
in between. 

In “To Work, Or Not to Work,” Harry Fenster is an amateur inventor.
He and Arch Fenster are hired by a scientist to do some carpentry
work at the scientist’s house/laboratory.  The scientist has built
a robot. The guys activate said robot and then try to program it to
their work.  Scarpelli’s lively drawings deserved a much better and
funnier script.

I don’t know if “Harry as inventor” was part of the TV series.  As
I said, I have no memory of the show beyond knowing who the leads
were.  If I do cave to my nostalgic impulses and buy the DVD set,
aka the tax-deductible DVD set, I’ll review it in a future bloggy
thing.  Because then it’ll be tax-deductible.  It’s another one of
those circles of life situations.


Here’s something I just learned recently:

Jack Sparling, the prolific comic-book and newspaper strip artist
whose career spanned five decades from the 1940s to the 1980s, was
born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  I can’t remember why I was researching
Sparling, but his birthplace was cited on Wikipedia.

When I learned this, I made a quick visit to the website of the Joe
Shuster Awards, which are named for the co-creator of Superman and
which honor Canadian comics artists.

Sparling has not yet been inducted into the Joe Shuster Awards Hall
of Fame and he really does belong there.  The artist drew hundreds
of comic-book stories for publishers like Harvey, Dell, Marvel, DC,
Classics Illustrated, Charlton, and many others.  His work on DC’s
Secret Six and the DC mystery titles was energetic and unlike any
of their other artists.  The older I get, the more I appreciate the
individual styles over the house styles. 

So here’s my tip to the fine folks who administer the Joe Shuster
Awards.  Sparling is a most worthy candidate for your Hall of Fame.
Please make it so.


On my Facebook page, in response to my comments about the Fan/Pro
Bill of Rights, Mike Curry wrote:

Any "outside-of-a-con" rules coming up? If I spot you eating in a
restaurant with your family when is a good time to ask for a
signature? Never? Between courses? When finished? No, seriously!
With Facebook pics, your fans can recognize you on the street and,
if I am coincidentally carrying a copy of Black Lightning #1 and a
Sharpie while passing you on the sidewalk...

Honestly, I’d be so surprised one of my readers recognized me that,
depending on the circumstances and location, I’d probably be happy
to sign something for them.  Just use your best judgment as to the
time and place.  If I’m being carried into an emergency room on a
stretcher, not a good time.  If I’m at a public event, much better.
If I’m eating at a restaurant, not the greatest but not necessarily
a deal breaker. If I’m disarming a bomb, really not a good time or
place.  Use your best judgment.  Just the fact that you’re walking
around with a copy of one of my Black Lightning comic books clearly
establishes you as a person of high intelligence.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Peter David and the fine folks who frequent his
have crafted a “Fan/Pro Bill of Rights” to address various issues
in the sometimes contentious relationships between fans and pros.
You can download a PDF of the Bill of Rights at:

This is my third and probably final commentary on this thoughtful
bill of rights.  However, ten years from now, when you’re thinking
how much you loved these bloggy things, I plan to remake them with
updated special effects and other changes.  My friend Peter will,
of course, be computer-generated in the revised blogs.

Right the Fourth

Fans and Pros have the right to enjoy panels.

Once again, these are common-sense “rules” for convention panels.
Filming and recording permitted unless the con or the guests state
otherwise in no uncertain terms.  If you’re in the front row, don’t
fall asleep and snore loudly.  Knowing some of the snorers I know,
I’d extend that to any row.

Turn off your cell phone ringer during the panel.  Be succinct in
asking and answering questions.  Remember it’s a Q&A thing and not
a debate.  Because if it was a debate, Peter would win. 

The bill of rights says audiences have the right to boo if someone
tries to flirt or hit on a panel member.  I’m not sure about that.
However, I think such flirting and hitting on should not be part of
any panel whose title doesn’t include the phrase “dating game” and
should not be done by any of the people attending the panel or on
the panel.  Keep it in your storm trooper costume.

Don’t be a dick and ask a knowingly provocative question to get a
rise out of a panelist.  However, the panelist’s response should be
something along the lines of “I’m not going to discuss this in this
venue.”  If the question is asked innocently, then the fan should
make a quick apology on realizing that he or see has erred and the
panelist should accept it gracefully.

This section has a paragraph about geeky questions and how actors
should be expected to know the answers as if they were, indeed, the
characters they play.  Agreed.  But, on the other hand, why not be
prepared for such questions with a clever quip that will have the
audience saying, “Wow! Tommy Thespian is really a funny guy.  I’m
going to see all his movies!”

Pros should answer questions honestly or decline to answer them if
they think the answers will be inflammatory.  Yes, they have every
right to be provocative.  First Amendment and all.  But, as Peter
and his crew state, the pros who choose to do this have to accept
the consequences without whining.

This section also raises the question of children at panels.  It’s
tricky and parents have to be, well, parents.  If your child is a
disruption, you should leave.  If you don’t want your kid to hear
Walter Writer utter a string of profanities, don’t bring your kid
to Walter’s panel.  However...

Would it hurt panelists to be a little more temperate if they see
kids in the audience?  Unless you have Tourette syndrome, you can
exercise a modicum of restraint.   

Right the Fifth

Convention-related rights stem from solid organization, and
therefore convention organizers have certain expectations that they
should meet.

If you click on the PDF link above, you know these are more common
sense rules.  Getting checked in quickly and efficiently is always
a great thing.  Having an information booth to answer questions of
fans and pros is also wonderful.

Pro and fan badges alike should have a large enough space so names
can be clearly printed and read.  I meet thousands of fans and pros
at conventions and I’m not as good at remembering faces as I used
to be.  Help a newly-minted senior citizen out, okay?

Convention organizers should be clear on what support they are able
to provide for a guest.  I generally ask for hotel/travel expenses
and a table or two.  I don’t like being restricted to selling just
things I have worked on.  Often, it’s selling the other stuff that
pays my expenses and pays for the time I’m losing because I’m not
at home working.

A big “yes” for the paragraph about the responsibility of the con
to provide access for people in wheelchairs.  I was appalled at how
little the New York Comic Con provided for this, though, to be fair
about it, most of the problems I saw were due to fans being equal
parts rude and clueless.

As someone who was involved with Mid-Ohio-Con for a couple decades,
I’m appreciative of fan volunteers.  But the convention must always
be sure of those fans given positions of authority or working any
kind of security.  A good crew chief will, over time, weed out any

For those volunteers cosplaying as Klingons or storm troopers, you
need to be ready to drop your character whenever you deal with any
real-world situations.  Bony forehead or helmet, you need to deal
with those situations as yourself.

That’s what I got, save to express my admiration for what Peter and
friends have crafted.  Even if you don’t agree with everything in
their Fan/Pro Bill of Rights, you should be grateful for the effort
that went into it.  At the very least, it’s a great start to what
should be an ongoing conversation.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Peter David and some of his friends and fans have crafted  a “Fan/Pro
Bill of Rights” to address various issues in the sometimes contentious
relationships between fans and pros. You can download a PDF of
this Bill of Rights at:

Last Tuesday, I shared my thoughts on the first part of that Bill
of Rights, which offered some smart rules for the getting/giving of
autographs.  I realized I would need a huge sign to explain my own
rules in this area and that, for me, at least, such a sign wouldn’t
be practical.  But I kept thinking about it.

When I’m signing at a convention or other event, I’ll only mention
my rules on what I will or won’t sign when they become pertinent to
a situation.  If they do become pertinent, I’ll explain them in as
concise a manner as possible.  If my rules should prevent one of my
readers from getting the autograph they want on the item they have
brought for a signature, I’ll make sure I can do something else for
them that will, hopefully, leave them with a cherished souvenir of
their brief meeting with “America’s most beloved comics writer and
columnist.” I’ll let you know how this works out.

Getting back to the Fan/Pro Bill of Rights...

Right the Second:

Fans have a right to wear and/or carry whatever they want to a
convention.  But one fan’s right to personal expression ends at
another fan’s right to personal space.

Team Peter offers good common-sense rules of mutual respect here.
I especially liked the one about how being in a costume or wanting
to take a picture of someone in a costume doesn’t confer upon one
any special right-of-way.  If you don’t want me to come between you
and whoever you want to snap a photo of, take your photos someplace
other than the aisle I have to traverse to get where I want or need
to be.  Extra points to conventions that provide designated photo
areas for their cosplayers.

Additionally, though this doesn’t necessarily fall within the realm
of fan/pro relationships, exhibitors should not cause blockage of
aisles with their activities.  In writing about the New York Comic
Con, I applauded DC Comics for designing their convention space in
such a manner that it never, at least on any of the many times that
I walked by it, obstructed traffic.  Such care of design should be
mandatory for exhibitors.

Right the Third:

Pros have as much right to enjoy conventions as anyone else.  Pros
are typically referred to as “guests” and even “guests of honor.”
If you treat guests in an insensitive manner, they will stop coming
to your house.

For the most part, these are more common-sense rights of courtesy.
Even when walking the convention floor, I try to accommodate fans
and their requests when I can.  I discussed this in last Tuesday’s
bloggy thing.

Still, a “right to privacy” paragraph in this portion of the “bill
of rights does give me pause.  If a pro, or a fan for that matter,
wishes to have a private conversation, I don’t think the convention
is where they should have it.  Yes, it is a douche move for anyone
to spy or eavesdrop on such conversations, but you open a door if
you choose to converse where they can spy or eavesdrop on it.  This
part of the bill is reasonable, but, let’s face it, we don’t live
in a reasonable world.

If I’m sitting in a bar and you wish to approach me, and if I don’t
have a comely Zatanna cosplayer sitting in my lap - just kidding,
Sainted Wife Barb - there’s no harm to approaching me and offering
me a drink by way of introduction.  In my case, it’d be some sort
of soft drink.  Too many comics pros and fans embarrass themselves
by drinking to excess.  If I drink too much Pepsi, the worse thing
that will happen is frequent trips to the loo.

If I’m not in the mood for a conversation with someone I don’t know
or don’t know well, it’s up to me to convey that politely.  Don’t
take offense.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Unless “you” is some online
troll who’s annoyed me in the past and the first words out of your
mouth are something other than, “Mr. Isabella, I want to apologize
for being such a dick.”

If, as yet another portion of this part of the bill addresses, I’m
eating at my convention table, you probably should be prepared for
my not being able to accommodate your request for an autograph at
that particular moment.  On the other hand, whenever possible, I do
try to arrange my convention appearance so I don’t have to eat any
meals at my table.

A note for convention promoters: having trustworthy volunteers who
can watch a guest’s table while he attends to meals and any other
necessities earns you bonus points.

A note for pros: exercise reasonable caution in accepting any such
assistance.  The convention probably hasn’t done background checks
on their volunteers.

When I wrote about this bill of rights last week, I commented that
the whole thing could be summed up as “Don’t be a dick.”  The two
final rights in this section strike me as argumentative and, yes,
somewhat dick-ish.

6) Authors are not your bitches (AKA The Neil Gaiman Assertion).

7) Actors are not your performing moneys (AKA The Misha Collins

Of course, authors and actors are neither bitches or performing
monkeys.  But including those rights is overkill.  Treating guests
as you would wish to be treated in their place has been covered in
some detail here.  These two lines seem excessively in-your-face to
me.  You know, like when some online troll seems determined to ask
you the same question over and over again until he gets the answer
he’s already decided he wants. 

Crediting these assertions also strikes me as foolish.  We live in
an imperfect world.  I suspect some creep will see the lovely Neil
Gaiman or the doubtlessly equally lovely Misha Collins at a con and
think to himself or herself, “I’ll show them!”

I’ll discuss the rest of this admirable document in a near future
bloggy thing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 12, 2011


The odd tale of Grim Ghost #6 [Atlas; $2.99] continues to unfold.
When last we discussed the non-appearance of this already-printed
issue at your friendly neighborhood comics shops, we knew Diamond
Comic Distribution had canceled orders on the issue, the conclusion
of my first Grim Ghost story arc.  We also knew the issue could be
purchased at the Atlas website.

Since then, though I still don’t know why the issue was canceled by
Diamond, I have learned that:

Diamond canceled orders on the issue even though they actually had
the issue in their warehouse.

Retailers can obtain this issue from Diamond as a “reorder.”  The
reorder number is: SEP118165

The issue will be re-solicited in early 2012.

Things I don’t know at this time include: when the trade paperback
collection of the first story arc will be published and whether or
not there will be a second story arc.  Even before my appearance at
the Atlas Comics booth at the New York Comic Con, I had agreed to
participate in the production of the trade paperback and to return
for the second story arc if minor conditions could be met.  No one
anticipated any problems with either.

I have one more note on this subject.  On my Facebook page, Michael
Sacal posted this:

I've seen people on FB that publish their own comics say that
Diamond canceled their orders because of DCs relaunch. Something
about allocating their resources to fill orders for those comics or
something like that.

If that’s the case, it strikes me as a class action suit waiting to
happen.  But I can’t forget DC Comics was key to Diamond achieving
its monopoly status.  Payback might well be a bitch...for many of
Diamond’s other publishers.

You could find an Archie Comics gift or stocking stuffing for every
one on your Christmas list.  For the collector of political stuff,
I suggest Archie: Obama & Palin in Riverdale [$12.95], a magazine-
sized reprinting of the Alex Simmons/Dan Parent stories and several
bonus stories and features.  While I have my problems with anything
that treats Palin as an Obama equal, I also understand that she was
the most visible Republican for use in these comics.  But can you
imagine how a Herman Cain appearance would’ve soared in value?

Must be seen to be believed: Dan Parent’s cover sketches parodying
four classic super-hero covers.  Hilarious!

ISBN: 978-1-879794-87-0

As a guy who wrote for dozen of fanzines before I went to work for
Marvel Comics in 1972, imagine my delight when Aquaman Chronicles
#20 showed up in my mail.  Compiled and edited by John Schwirian,
the issue is over a hundred pages of Sea King goodness. 

Behind a striking cover by Cliff Chiang, the issue presents news,
views, and reviews on Aquaman.  Steve Skeates discusses a Superman-
Aquaman team-up he wrote in the 1970s.  Schwirian and my pal Rob
Kelly discusses the Neal Pozner/Craig Hamilton mini-series of 1986
in insanely wonderful detail.  There are news and photos of Aquaman
collectibles.  There’s the first half of a Justice League holiday
story by Andy Luckett, the first fan fiction tale that I’ve read in
decades.  Indeed, were I to be so churlish as to find the slightest
fault with this fanzine, it would be that room should’ve been made
to present Luckett’s entire story.

There’s no price or ordering information on this fanzine, but you
can e-mail John to learn how you can obtain a copy of this and
other issues.  If you’re an Aquaman fan or an old-time fanzine
contributor like me, you’re gonna love this amazing effort.

How the heck did I miss Universal Monsters: Creature from the Black
[Dark Horse; $4.95] back in 1993?  I should’ve been all over
this 52-page, full-color, square-bound adaptation of the original
movie.  With a script by Steve Moncuse with Art Adams (pencils) and
Terry Austin (inks), this is a sensational comic book. The page
count dictated lots of panels on every page, but the size of the
individual drawings actually makes for a more intimate experience.
Aided by colorist Matt Hollingsworth, the art makes the reader feel
confined by the Amazon River nooks and crannies, the protagonists
travel in search of ancient mysteries.  Long as the Amazon is, you
feel trapped in the Creature’s domain.  Chilling.  Exciting.  Just
plain great comics.  Definitely worth looking for.

DC Comics Presents: Batman - Don’t Blink [$7.99] is a hundred-page
one-shot reprinting Dwayne McDuffie’s “Don’t Blink.” The four-issue
tale is a sequel to “Blink.”  Lee Hyland is a blind man able to see
through the eyes of anyone he touches. 

Batman needs Hyland’s help to locate a kidnapped child, but Hyland
has been taken into the less-than-gentle care of the government to
provide information on a variety of persons of interest.  If Hyland
had a Facebook page, he would probably describe the relationship as

McDuffie - and, yes, I miss him and his writing - delivers a tight
exciting script.  His Batman is not a dick.  When you read all four
issues of this story, you get a story worth four issues.  The art
is by Val Semeiks (pencils) and Dan Green (inks) and it’s top-notch
from start to finish.  Recommended.

Two closing notes.  Comments to this blog will remain moderated on
account of the occasional online jerk who lives to troll.  Do not
think this means I don’t love to read your comments.  I do and I’ll
continue to do my best to approve them in timely fashion.

Thank you for visiting this blog.  Last time I checked, the bloggy
thing had been viewed more than 40,000 times.  That’s likely small
change to the superstars of the comics industry, but I’m thrilled.
If you keep visiting, I’ll keep blogging.     
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.   

© 2011 Tony Isabella