Saturday, June 2, 2012


Hopalong Cassidy #62 [December 1951] starred the cowboy hero played
by William Boyd in an incredible 66 films.  Boyd’s Hopalong was a
clean-cut hero, very different from the original Hopalong Cassidy
as created by novelist Clarence E. Mulford in 1904.  That original
Hopalong Cassidy is described by Wikipedia as “rude, dangerous, and
rough-talking.” Mulford wrote 28 Hopalong Cassidy novels and many
short stories.  He would later revise those novels and stories to
bring them in line with his creation’s screen image.

Fawcett published 84 issues of Hopalong Cassidy and, when DC Comics
acquired the property, they continued the numbering for another 50
issues.  Boyd owned the license to the character and, presumably,
the rights to these 134 comic books.

The photo cover features Boyd and his horse Topper.  At present, we
don’t know who wrote the stories contained in the issue, but hard-
working comics fans and historians have identified the artists as
Joe Certa and Max Elkin. 

The Grand Comics Database offers this synopsis of the cover story:
By kidnapping a judge's son, the rustling rancher forces the
judge to rule in his favor.
  In the other Hopalong Cassidy stories,
the cowboy hero is almost fooled by a bandit pretending to be his
own twin brother and contends with an arsonist seeking revenge on
Cassidy for the drubbing he received after Hopalong caught the man
beating a horse. Humorous back-up strips featured “Whitey Whiskers”
and “Black and White.”

More vintage comics to come.


Let’s look at some more Free Comic Book Day giveaways, commencing
with Kaboom!’s Adventure Time with Finn & Jake/Peanuts flipbook. I
wasn’t familiar with the former - I’ve seen ads for the cartoon on
TV - but that wasn’t an impediment to my reading and enjoying the
stories.  It has a gentle charm with a bit of bite.  I could see a
kid going for this comic book big-time.  It’s not something I would
read unless I had a business reason for doing so, but, at 60 years
old, I’m nowhere near the target age group.

The Peanuts side of the flip book was more in my wheelhouse.  The
classic strips by Charles M. Schultz still delight.  The new stuff
by Ron Zorman, Vicki Scott, and Paige Braddock is fun.  I think the
new stuff could use some tuning, but I also think Peanuts fans will
get a kick out of this title.  In terms of attracting new readers
with their FCBD giveaway, Kaboom did well.


Fantagraphics’ Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley by Crockett Johnson is one
of my favorite FCBD offerings.  Maggie Thompson says Barnaby, an
utterly charming strip about a young boy, his fairy godfather and
their odd friends, “may be the best comic strip you’ve never seen.”
Courtesy of a few paperback reprints back in the day, I have seen
it and loved it.  While I’m sure Fantagraphics hopes to make a few
bucks reprinting the strip in five annual volumes, I think bringing
this classic comics work to new and old readers is akin to doing God’s
work.  Yes, Barnaby is that good.


Every time I pick up a DC Comics comic book, I want to love it.  I
want to love every comic book I pick up, but that’s only half the
reason I want to love every DC comic book.  Because, when I love some
DC comic book, I don’t hear from some jerk, often some jerk working
for DC Comics, about how I just don’t like DC.

Truth be told, I don’t much like DC Comics the corporation because
of how it’s treated comics creators, including myself.  And there
are a few specific people at DC I don’t much like because they are
such incredible douche bags.  I also don’t much like what seems to
be too many editors expecting writers to tell the
editors’ stories or, more exactly, what those editors are
deluding themselves into thinking are stories. 

I should consider playing it safe and not review DC comic books at
all, or just review the ones I like.  Which is what DC and, truth
again, most comics publishers would prefer happen with their comic
books as well.  But that would diminish the value of my reviews for
my readers and sully what I consider to be the honorable craft of
reviewing comic books.

I don’t assume my readers follow my suggestions blindly.  I figure
they see what I like and - this is important - what I don’t like.
Then, having compared their likes and dislikes to mine, they make
informed decisions on whether or not they might like something I’ve
recommended to them.

DC Comics - The New 52 FCBD Special Edition is one of several FCBD
books to come out of DC and its various imprints.  It starts with
a preview of something called the “Trinity War,” which is probably
the New 52 Universe’s first major event.  Oh, goody.  You know how
much I love DC and Marvel events.  Whoop-de-doodle!

This event gets off on the wrong foot with me immediately, giving
the Phantom Stranger an origin and a not particularly interesting
one at that, and making the Question a mystical character.  While
I wasn’t thrilled with the Ayn Rand crap that drove Steve Ditko’s
version of his creation, it was intriguing and unique and, though
Denny O’Neil did Ditko a disservice in altering the Question as he
did, those stories were also worthwhile.  I do realize the New 52
characters aren’t intended to be the same as their original selves,
but messing with the basics is off-putting to me.

The long preview is followed by a handful of shorter previews for
other new DC titles.  Some look interesting and some don’t.  Avid
“New 52" fans will doubtless want to read the new titles and there
isn’t a blessed thing wrong with that.  Good for them.  Assuming DC
Comics wanted to preach to the choir with this FCBD giveaway, they

Idle queries.  Are the Thunder and Lightning listed as members of
the Ravagers supposed to be Black Lightning’s kids?  And shouldn’t
comics writers and editors know the definition of “ravage” well
enough to realize it’s a really dumb name for a super-hero team?
Or are these characters supposed to be rapacious villains?  I may
never know.  

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. Tony, regarding DC (or anything else), I appreciate you "telling it like it is" even if the truth isn't pleasant. NuDC sucks. Big-time suckage! The whole Didio regime sucks. It forced me to finally stop buying DC comics — after 44 years of buying nearly every comic book they published! That's a lifelong addiction, and there were some pretty awful comics during some lean times at DC, but the nuDC regime is catastrophically horrible. Since my home is overflowing with almost 150 longboxes, I should be glad, but it's not easy to say goodbye to lifelong friends...

  2. Science Fiction writer and critic Spider Robinson once wrote a column about his approach to reviewing, and one thing he wrote has stayed with me well enough that I can come close to quoting it verbatim, years after reading it:

    "One fellow wrote to me that he buys what I pan and avoids what I recommend like the plague. This pleases me. My column _works_ for him. So I'll tell you not only what I spit out, but _why_ I spit it out. For all I know, you may _like_ Pistachio!"

  3. Something that I think a lot of people aren't aware of-- and reviewers probably should mention it more often but I think we are too close to it, most of the time-- is that every reviewer goes into EVERY review hoping to love whatever's on the docket for that column. Or blog or whatever. Maybe at some major magazines random writers get picked to look at stuff, but I'd think anyone who's specifically a 'reviewer' gets the job because A-- they write well and B-- they LOVE THE FORM. Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert clearly love movies. Betsy Bird loves children's books. You love comics. All of you write with passion about those things, whether it's a good review of the subject at hand or not.

    I want to like DC too. I grew up on DC. It's a first love thing. My first comic ever was a Flash 80-page Giant, my first prose book I bought with my own money was the Aquaman Big Little Book SCOURGE OF THE SEA! and my 'awakening' book was Batman #234, with "Half an Evil" from O'Neil and Adams. I look at the DC books today and I see all sorts of sputtering rage on the net, and I get that. It angers me that the company that publishes SUPERMAN can behave so badly... but really, seeing the the DC books themselves just makes me SAD, like seeing a childhood friend that ends up in jail or homeless or something.

    I got my current gig at CBR because I'd been doing press for Jonah and he knew I could write and hit a deadline, and then Brian saw something I'd written about Steve Gerber and why his DEFENDERS was so brilliant,and he wrote to me and said, "I think you should come work for us on the blog." Having some actual paid credits was good but it was the passion that got me a weekly column thing. And I know it's true for all of us.

  4. IDENTITY CRISIS was when DC lost me. The Didio DC era will be remembered for it's cheap violence purely done for shock value, raping of classic characters fundamental elements, and failed multiple attempted reboots (how many times just for the LSH alone so far?).

    The whole DC 52 thing may have sold a lot of comics (I suspect speculation has a lot to do with it), but after only a few issues, creative teams were already dropping out of their brand new rebooted series, series were cancelled halfway into their first year, and most reviews about the new 52 titles did not generate a lot of excitment for the majority of the brand new line. The only DC title on my pull list right now is ALL-STAR WESTERN, mostly because they pretty much left Jonah Hex as he was back when he was published under his own name before the 52 reboot (with the same writing team). Plus, I love westerns and they aren't that many on the old spinning rack these day... BTW, Rawhide Kid has been my favorite character since I began reading comic books more than 40 years. You have made my wednesdays, my favorite day since you started reviewing the Kid on your blog Tony.

    I am still pissed off at Marvel for wasting John Severin talents on that gay reboot of Rawhide Kid. Mind you, I don't have anything against gay characters in comics. I just wish modern writers would get their fix for media attention by creating their OWN character instead of spoiling it for long time fans of their favorite character. I have a full set of the Silver Age Rawhide Kid (well, the early Kirby issues I have in Masterworks format), and the Kid fell in love with a new girl almost everytime he came in a new town, and I have never seen him make a pass at a single guy!

    The trouble with a lot of new writers these days, is that (aside from being unable to sustain any type of regular schedule on a monthly book), they seem to be unable to create new exciting character on their own. Was it really necessary to destroy 70 years of history of the Golden Age/Alan Scott Green Lantern to introduce a new gay character to the DC universe? With the whole Green Lantern Corps concept (not even going into the Yellow, Black, Red and the rest of the mess of Lanterns), would it have been so hard for even a rookie writer to come with a brand new gay Green Lantern? Ah. But the writer wouldn't have gotten the same cheap main media attention. Media attention for all the wrong reasons: rape and kill Sue Dibny for kicks, change Jean Loring (Atom's wife) and Maxwell Lord into crazy violent homicidal maniacs, kill Batman or Superman (again), ignore a classic character's fundamentals and make him gay... Comic book get more main stream media attention than they use to, but they don't get it for the right reasons. They don't get attention because of their ideas, creativity or qualities. They get it only for pure shock value.

    I haven't read a new Archie comic book in a long time, but I follow them in the media. When Archie Comics decided to introduce a gay character in Riverdale, they did it the right way. They didn't make Archie, Reggie or Moose suddenly become gay. Even Jughead's long history of non-interest for the female genre in general could have been exploited for a cheap gay outting by a lazy writer. Archie Comics did it the right way, by introducing a new character. And you know what? They did get the main stream media attention anyway.

  5. Sorry if I somewhat got off topic there in the end of my post. But today writers and editors need to look back on how new young writers got noticed and appreciated in the past. Just take the Bronze Age, a prolific period of creativity and new ideas. Back then, DC was in sore need of diversity in their whitebread universe of superheroes. Did O'Neil and Adams (who were certainly not afraid to shake the comic book universe) needed to kill/replace or suddenly change Hal Jordan (or Alan Scott for that matter) into a black guy to introduce racial diversity into the DC universe? No, they created an interesting new character named John Stewart and the DC universe was only richer for it. Same goes for your Black Lighting creation Tony. DC's first black character to get his own title would have been cheapened if you had taken the lazy way out by stepping/stomping onto someone else's concepts or legacy to get noticed. You are right to be proud of your creation Tony. You actually built something new, something your own, you CREATED, you added/contributed to DC universe without destroying or ignoring someone else's ideas/concepts. Tip of the hat to you sir.

  6. Four-Color Kid: I'm with ya, brother.

    In today's bottom-line obsessed corporate world, the past isn't as important as it should be.

    The Rawhide Kid being rebooted as gay 5 years ago was a mistake, largely because the writer, a flack for Howard Stern at the time, didn't bother with research and thought that because the character was the Rawhide Kid, that maybe he could find a gay subtext just out of the name alone. Big mistake. The story sucked, and, yeah, I noted this myself in my blog, the late John Severin's artwork was the only selling point I had at the time. People forget he worked for Cracked as well as Marvel, so if they wanted this to be a comedy, he'd oblige. Unfortunately, while the art was great, the story was anything but.

    As for Alan Scott being "outed", wiping away 70-odd years of history, including his marriage and having kids, again, it's a lack of research and/or caring about what older readers might think. James Robinson was the writer who "outed" Obsidian, who now has been retconned out, so Robinson fills the void with Alan. I am so not digging.

    Tony: I was fortunate to find some copies of the New 52 FCBD issue still available yesterday. Linking Phantom Stranger & Question to Pandora? Uh, no, I don't think so. It's one of the reasons I dropped Justice League from my pull list (to Four-Color's point, it's looking like All-Star Western is my only DC book going forward), because Geoff Johns' ideas are just too far off the grid, and this guy, after nearly 15 years at DC, is now an officer of the company?! Mindboggling.

    Would they take the risk of resurrecting Vic Sage as Question after establishing Renee Montoya as the inheritor of that role 4 years ago? Only Dan Dimwit & Johns would. I refer them to the works of Santayana, if you catch my drift.

  7. Hi, Tony. I've got to agree with the above - I've been a lifelong DC fan. I read a few Marvel books, but not nearly as much as the DC stuff I grab each month. When I heard about the New 52, I was a bit nervous, but thought that I needed to go into this with an open mind. So I gave it a shot, and got shot after shot in return.

    Clark and Lois aren't married anymore.

    Barry and Iris aren't married anymore.

    (Forget the fact that the history I've learned over years and years never happened.)

    And now Alan Scott is gay, probably so DC can compete with Marvel in the "Let's grab for headlines" game.

    It's going to be tough for me on Wednesday, because I'm planning to slash my pull list. All of the books that I've been waiting to see if they'll improve have just run out of time. I'll still buy some DC - Wonder Woman and Animal Man are excellent, IMHO. But it's going to feel weird not picking up Superman books anymore.

    Hopefully we'll see something happen behind the scenes and things will turn around. If they do, I'm sure I'll come back. At least I'll have more to spend on back issues now.

  8. I guess this is a minority opinion around here, but I thought the "gay Rawhide Kid" miniseries was hysterically funny. It was an outrageous spoof of Westerns, and it worked - for me, anyway. It's true that they didn't bother to change the character's name like most parodies do. Would people have been less offended if the series had been called "Raw Wide Kid" or some such name?

  9. I think it was that fact that the Rawhide Kid in the mini was supposed to be THE kid that bothered us old timers. I admit to never doing more than glancing at the book in the store, mostly to admire the art.

    I loved Hopalong as a kid, although that was primarily through the movies and TV show. I do recall reading some of the comics, mostly coverless things you could find at Woolworth for a nickel. I was an adult before I read any of the pulp novels and was surprised to discover how different the character was in his initial appearances. I know the one portrayed by Boyd is the one I prefer.

    Already had my say about the new Alan Scott, with whom I don't have a problem. Basically, they have used the character's name and the GL indentity, but gone off in a different direction. Frankly, the more I think about it the more chicken poop it seems. If you are going to make a big deal about making a long-time character gay, than go for it and not go halfway like they have. Take one of the iconic characters that formed the JLA and have them come out. Really, would Wonder Woman really have surprised anyone?