Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Halloween, 1972. Though I had made a few professional sales before
then, including a short comics story for The Monster Times, October
31, 1972 was my first day as a Marvel Comics staffer and the start
of a comics career that will hit the forty-year mark at the end of
this month. 

I was hired by Roy Thomas to assist Stan Lee and Sol Brodsky on the
new British weeklies that had launched earlier that month.  I don’t
recall why I started on a Tuesday rather than a Monday, but I sort
of recall that Roy was going to be out of the office on Monday and
needed/wanted to be there for my first day.  So it was on Tuesday,
Halloween, that I walked into the Marvel offices.  As I went up to
the receptionist, she said, “Nice costume, kid” and gave me a fun-
size Snickers bar.

Kidding.  What I did was walk up to her, tell who I was, and find
out Roy wasn’t there yet.  So I took a seat in the reception room
and waited.  For what seemed like a very long time.  At one point,
Don McGregor, who was already on staff, came out to say “hi” to me.
He knew me from my fanzine writing.

I’m inexplicably foggy on what happened next, doubtless due to the
combination of anxiety and excitement I felt.  It’s possible Don
took me into the offices and introduced me to Sol Brodsky.  I have
a vague memory of sitting at the drawing board that would serve as
my desk waiting for Roy while Sol accomplished numerous things and
occasionally asked me a question about my background and skills.
I would learn a lot from Sol and, of course, Roy.

Roy arrived.  We talked about my duties and did whatever paperwork
we had to do to get me paid.  I would be paid freelance for a few
weeks to see if I worked out in the job. 

The first thing I did was write a letters page for The Mighty World
of Marvel
.  We only had a few letters and they weren’t very useful.
So I rewrote some of them and maybe wrote a few new ones and wrote
responses to them.  Roy looked over the letters page, had me do a
bit of rewriting and gave it to Sol to be typeset.  After that, I
proofread the stories to be reprinted in the next issue we would be
sending to England.  Thankfully, I had a passing knowledge of British
spelling with its mania for adding “u” to words that were perfectly
fine without the letter.

I met Stan Lee that day and managed not to embarrass myself.  Stan
told me I would also be assisting him with Monster Madness, which
consisted of big photos from monster movies with humorous dialogue
written by Stan and a smattering of prose articles commissioned and
sometimes written by me. 

I met many other people that day, but I couldn’t tell you all their
names if my life depended on it.  They most likely included Frank
Giacoia, Mike Esposito, John Verpooten, George Roussos and others.
All were very friendly to the new kid.

The only unsettling moment during that first week came when someone
came up behind me and smacked me on the back of the head in a less-
than-friendly manner.  It was Jim Steranko, who was peeved with me
for some months-old impropriety.  He growled at me and told me that
he was going to get me fired...and apparently tried to do just that
without success. 

To this day, I regret that impropriety.  My admiration for Steranko
and his work is considerable.  We’ve talked once or twice over the
past couple decades and I think we’re good.  But, man, did I really
not need that encounter during that first week at Marvel and while
trying to adjust to life in New York City.

Four decades later and here we are.  I’m living in Medina, Ohio and
doing very little comic-book writing.  But I’m happily married with
two great kids and content with my life. 

I have said that the history of the comics industry is the history
of creators and freelancers being screwed by comics publishers and
editors.  Yet, despite that, I celebrate my forty years as a comics
professional.  I’ve created some memorable characters, written some
good and even great stories, worked with amazing people, earned an
okay living and entertained a great many readers.  Most folks don’t
achieve even part of their youthful dreams.  I have.

When I realized I was fast approaching my 40th anniversary in the
comics field, I started thinking about what I could do to celebrate
that anniversary.  The answer came from another aspect of my comics
career, that of comics reviewer.

For some time, I have been the lead reviewer for and a contributing
editor of Comics Buyer’s Guide.  I’ve reviewed more comics and more
variety of comics than any other reviewer in that magazines.  I’ve
also reviewed thousands of comics in my online columns and, now, in
this bloggy thing of mine. 

During the boom period of comics, it was not unusual for me to get
300-500 review comics in a single month.  Though that has dropped
off considerably, I still receive a few dozen review items every
month.  I try to read and review as many of them as I can. 

Many creators have thanked me for my reviews of their work and I’m
happy to have helped spread the word about their excellent comics.
Other creators, far far fewer in number, have complained bitterly
when their work has received negative reviews.  That comes with the
territory.  I have always felt it necessary to write about the good
and the bad.  Doing so allows my readers to establish a baseline of
my views and that allows them to gauge my likes and dislikes against
their own and informs their buying decisions.

So, with thanks for your patience as I made my long-winded journey
to this announcement, here’s what I’m doing:

This month, I’ll read and review or otherwise write about the first
40 comics or graphic novels sent to me at:

Tony Isabella
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

I can’t guarantee a favorable review, but I can guarantee that I’ll
read and review or write about each of those 40 comics or graphic
novels.  One stipulation: you must send me a printed copy of these
comics or graphic novels.  No PDFs, no links to online versions of
these works, no discs.

I can read and review comics and graphic novels from advance copies
of these works, but they have to be complete and you have to print
them off and send them to me. 

But, wait, there’s more.

This offer is open to comics creators, freelancers, publishers and
readers.  One per individual.  With the sole restriction being that
I won’t read and review/write about any Black Lightning comic book
that wasn’t written by me.

But, wait, there’s even more.

If you are sending me these comics and graphic novels from within
the United States, I will send you ten randomly-selected comic books
from my garage sale stock and at least one of those ten comics will
be written and signed by me.  Ten comics for the one you send me.
Which strikes me as a pretty good deal.
There are only 40 slots open in this offer.  Obviously, the sooner
you send me a comic book or graphic novel, the better your chance
of getting in on this celebration.  When I’ve received 40 items, I
will make another announcement that the offer is over.

Had I the means, I would throw a 40th anniversary party for all my
readers and comics collaborators.  Since I can’t do that, I thought
this was a decent option.  I hope you agree.

Thanks to all my readers and everyone else who’s been in my corner
over these past four decades.  I appreciate your support and hope
to keep entertaining and informing you for many more years to come.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. So just to be clear: The work sent to you does not have to be created or published by the individual sending it (whether also a comics pro in his/her own right or not)?

  2. You are correct. The work does not have to be by the person who sends it to me.

  3. Do you want stuff that's fairly recent (last month or so) or are you open to stuff from the past few years also?

  4. I'm open to any English language comic book from 1935 to the present day. In case anyone was wondering what to do with their extra copy of Action Comics #1 from 1938.