Sunday, September 2, 2012


Today’s not-so-classic comic from my December 1951 birth month is
Charlton’s Lawbreakers #5 [February 1952].  There were nine issues
of this title from March 1951 to October-November 1952.  Then the
title was changed to Lawbreakers Suspense Stories for six issues.
Then it became Strange Suspense Stories and then it gets confusing
or, in other words, business as usual for the ever-wacky Charlton
comics empire.

The cover of this issue has no copy except for the logo and a few
identification marks.  Maybe the editors thought the cover was so
dramatic it didn’t need copy.  Maybe they forget to write copy for
it.  Maybe they wrote copy for it and it fell off.  It’s Charlton.
Don’t think about it too hard.

There are four stories in this issue:

“The Missing Witness Mystery” (7 pages), drawn and signed by Stan

“Crimewave” (8 pages), penciled by Al Tyler, inked by Bob Forgione
and signed “Al and Bob”;

“Scene of the Crime” (6 pages), artist(s) unidentified; and

“The Acme Hi-Jack” (7 pages), penciled by Al Tyler, inked by Bob
Forgione and signed “Tyler and Forgione”.

The writers of these stories have not yet been identified.  I know
I didn’t write them, so that eliminates one name.

Look for more vintage comic-book covers in future bloggy things on
account of I like writing about them.


I’m not quite ready to do the reviews thing, but I do have a list
of other things to write about...

One of the questions I am most frequently asked at my garage sales
is what I think of DC’s New 52 or Marvel’s alleged plans to reboot
its universe in similar fashion.  I’m not a fan of the former and
don’t care to speculate on the latter.  If it happens, I’ll comment
on it after reading some of the rebooted comics.

Listening to others hold forth on the subjects, which many did at
last week’s sale, I realized my own positions on such things have
changed.  One reader wants DC back to where it was before Crisis on
Infinite Earths, but, quite frankly, those were pretty crappy comic
books.  Another calls for more selective reboots.  And we have the
shining example of DC mostly keeping its Batman and Green Lantern
continuities intact because, you know, those were just so perfect
as they were.  Cue the sarcasm font.

If I were called upon to make a profound change in either Marvel’s
or DC’s super-heroic universe, I would blow them into little tiny
pieces and then stomp on those pieces until there was nothing left
of them...and then I would start over.

My philosophy of super-hero comics is that the genre is at its best
when it’s optimistic about the worthiness of mankind as reflected
in its heroes and its average people.  So many heroes have become
borderline psychotics or crossed the line into pure batshit-crazy.
Every villain has become a sociopath.  None of them wants to maybe
just rob a bank and have a little fun doing so.  Every hero goes to
their dark side to combat the villains and, often, it’s not really
to protect the average citizen.  It’s to act out their own issues
or protect themselves from the villains.  The super-hero selfless
call of duty has become a thing of the past.

Me, I think you can tell riveting stories set in a relatively real
world without being unrelentingly dark.  While real people might be
afraid of Superman or the Batman, they might just as easily become
inspired by them. 

So...I blow up the universes.  I instruct the writers and artists
to look for the original core of these classic characters and then
re-imagine that core for today’s world.  I tell them to make these
characters interesting without pandering to the lowest instincts of
the readers and themselves.  Death and horror can be a part of the
life of a modern super-hero.  Indeed, I don’t think that it could
be avoided.  But it doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all for
these characters and their adventures. 

My new super-hero universes would be born of heroism and optimism.
They wouldn’t have perfect worlds; the heroes and people who live
in them wouldn’t be perfect.  But the vast majority of them would
be good people doing things for the right reasons.  If a writer or
artist can’t take that concept and make great comics with it, then
I honestly don’t think they’re good at their jobs. 

In the real world, no one is going to hire me to do the above.  I’m
aware of that.  But this is the question I’m asked and this is my
answer.  Blow it all up.  Start over from the core.  Ignore every
story you’ve ever read about these characters.  We’re creating the
mythology for new generations.


Another question frequently asked at my sales is...have I read all
these comics?  No, I haven’t.

One of the reasons I ended up with more comic books than any sane
man needs is because I kept deluding myself into believing I would
read them all one day.  I have shaken that delusion and now find it
liberating to put huge batches of comic books and trade paperbacks
into my sale boxes.  Perhaps they are unread and unloved by me, but
they are there for the customer who might be able to give them the
love I couldn’t. 

Some of what I now read are comics collections and graphic novels
I get through my local library system.  It’s a fine way to catch up
on terrific material I hadn’t previously read...and read it without
having buy it and add more books to my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.
For example...

I just read Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks.  Originally published in
1998, I knew of it, knew it was beloved by folks whose opinions I
respect, but I never got around to it until now...and it’s a book
that grabbed me and still hasn’t let go.  Wikipedia quotes Horrocks
as saying, “It's a story about comics — their history and poetry —
and also about what we New Zealanders call 'tu-rangawaewae'—having
a place to stand in the world—a kind of spiritual home. Hicksville
is my way of creating such a home for comics."

There’s a surprise element introduced near the end of this graphic
novel that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.  Describing
it would be an unconscionable spoiler, but it makes me think sadly
about what I might have written and all the more eager to take my
writing into the future.  It takes a powerful story to affect me
that deeply.

The time I save not reading the unread comics I’m selling allows me
to read exceptional works like Hicksville, intriguing comics from
Japan and elsewhere, and even the super-hero comics that manage to
soar above the rank and file of the genre.    

I’m 60 years old and I’ve been reading comic books since I was four
years old.  If you want my attention, you have to be at the top of
your game or, at least, show me something I haven’t read a hundred
times before.


I’m only appearing at two conventions this year.  The first of them
is Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, the successor to the Mid-Ohio-Cons
of which I was a part for over two decades.  The event takes place
on September 28-30 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, 400
North High Street in Columbus, Ohio.  Show Hours are 5pm to 9pm on
Friday, 10am to 7pm on Saturday and 10am to 5pm on Sunday.  I’m one
of over 150 guests and will have a table in Artist Alley.

The guest list includes Stan Lee, William Shatner, Neal Adams, Alan
Davis, Eliza Dushku, Dean Cain, Lou Ferrigno, Humberto Ramos, Paul
Jenkins, Mike McKone, Michael Golden and many others.  I’m not sure
any one show can safely hold the awesomeness that is Stan Lee *and*
William Shatner, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

I won’t be selling anything at my table.  I’ll be signing things I
have written and, with rare exception, only things I have written.

If you have a comic book, graphic novel, or anything else you would
like me to review, feel free to give me a review copy at the show.
While I can never guarantee a review, much less a favorable review,
the guilt kicks in when someone’s actually handed me the comic book
or graphic novel in person. 

Hopefully, I’ll also meet with artists and publishers who’d like to
partner with me on upcoming projects.  If you fall into either of
those categories, feel free to email me to set times during the con
when we can get together and discuss such endeavors. 

Finally, if you’re an editor or publisher or anyone else who would
like to hire me to write for them, please feel free to come to my
table or set up a meeting.  I’m not against doing work-for-hire if
the conditions of such employment are fair and allow me to do good
work for the client and the readers.

I’m looking forward to Wizard World Ohio Comic Con and especially
to hanging out with old friends and new friends.  I hope to see you
at the show.  Big fun will be had by all.

That’s all I have for you today.  I’ll be back tomorrow with more

© 2012 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you finally read Hicksville, Tony, and even happier that you enjoyed it. If you like that stuff at the end of which you do not speak, you'd probably like the continuation of the concept in Atlas, Horrocks' follow-up, of which a few issues have been published by D&Q over the past decade. I remember putting Hicksville on my list of five best/favorite graphic novels (original or collected) when you ran such a pol in TOT like a dozen years ago. I had the Karasik/Mazzucchelli adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass on there too, though, something that I think you didn't care for. It's still a great intersection between compelling work on its own merits and formalist exercise in comics storytelling to me.