Tuesday, January 31, 2012


My pal Alan David Doane submitted the above logo within hours of my
announcing the “DESIGN A NEW LOGO FOR TONY” contest.  While I like
it, I think the “A” and “B” are too similar.  Of course, the major
flaw is that, as Sainted Wife Barb knows all too well, no one can
make me presentable.

Keep the logos coming my friends.


I’m as current as I’m going to get on Iron Man comics until I get
the next batch from the good buddy who lends me his comics.  Here
are my notes:

The Mandarin’s origin was more or less told in Invincible Iron Man
#1 [August 2010].  It was unrelentingly brutal, which is a
common trait in many super-hero comics.  Writers get their hands on
a villain and try to make him more insane, more murderous, and more
vile.  The Mandarin was a creature of his era.  I’m not convinced
he needed to be brought back into the Iron Man comics. 

If I were writing Iron Man comics, I would’ve revamped the Mandarin
completely and tied him to the Chinese government.  The deplorable
conditions in the Chinese sweatshops from whence comes the products
Americans so eagerly buy, our massive debt to China, and the sheer
size of their population and resources, all those strike me as far
more scary and filled with story possibilities than what Marvel’s
done with the character.

The “Hammer Girls” storyline in Invincible Iron Man #25-33 wasn’t
bad until the end in which two additional villains were revealed.
Comics writers, even really good ones like Matt Fraction, need to
be more creative.

Invincible Iron Man #500 combined various Iron Man titles to reach
that lofty number and focused on a future version of the Mandarin.
Big yawn there.  But issue #500.1 was just a wonderful little tale
of Tony Stark going to an AA meeting.

It was all downhill from there.  A Doctor Octopus story felt flat,
save for some nice moments with Pepper Potts.  Then we got into the
vile “Fear Itself” crossover issues.  Ugh!

Fear Itself is pretty much everything I hate about big crossovers
and Marvel’s asinine “break the toys again and again” concept of
super-hero storytelling.  In the Iron Man issues, the citizens of
Paris are turned to stone, smashed, and, near as I can tell, wiped
out.  It’s the big body count and violence of Hollywood’s failure
of creativity and imagination.  One of the great cities of Europe
has its people slaughtered and its cultural heart ripped out of its
steaming ruins.  Wanna bet Marvel doesn’t come close to examining
the ramifications of that?  Oh, yeah, and Tony Stark jumps off the
wagon again.  Ick and double ick.

Fraction’s first years on Invincible Iron Man will keep me reading
the title for now, but it’s on notice.


Iron Man 2.0 stars War Machine and is written by Nick Spencer.  If
I had to describe my overall reaction to it, “ambivalent” would do
the job.  It’s a so-so comic book in a world where I don’t have the
time or inclination to read so-so comic books.

The “Palmer Addley is Dead” storyline isn’t awful.  I figured out
what was going on in the first issue, but I’m something of a writer
myself so that’s no big.  However, even taking into account a trio
of dumb “Fear Itself” issues, the story has been running too long.
I think I read somewhere that the title has been canceled, so I’ll
probably stick around through its final issue.  If it hasn’t been
canceled, it would take a stellar conclusion to the “Palmer Addley”
stuff to keep me reading it.


I read some more issues of Action Comics and Batwoman.  Here are my
brief notes on them.

Grant Morrison’s Action Comics is losing its luster for me.  Issues
#3 and #4 didn’t focus on “Superman the Young Rebel” as much as had
previous issues.  If Superman is not the authority-defying champion
of the oppressed and he’s not the big blue boy scout, he’s not
interesting to me.  My preference would be for more down-to-Earth
stuff and what we’re getting are alien monsters. 

Action Comics #3 bugged me because DC charged readers an extra buck
for promo material.  Issue #4 bugged me because the Steel back-up
read like an afterthought.

What bugged me even more about Action Comics #4 is that the story
will be continued in Action Comics #7.  This is why I thought doing
52 new titles at once was a bad idea.  An interrupted story within
the first half year?  That’s pathetic.  I’ve been there, done that,
still feel bad about it.

I enjoyed Batwoman #2-4 with the exception of one plot development.
I’ll get to that after I tell you how much I’m still digging J.H.
Williams III’s art.  From a storytelling standpoint, it’s not what
I generally enjoy, but it’s so moody and powerful that it draws me
in.  I’ll read Action Comics because it’s hard for me to turn away
from a Superman comic book.  I’ll read Batwoman because I want to.

That one thing? Cameron Chase.  I am bored silly with hero-hating
government types.  If I were writing this character, I’d give her
greater super-powers, have her try to use them to help people, and
get hunted down, captured, and tossed in a stateside Guantanamo by
obsessed feds like herself.  It’s probably not healthy to wish bad
things on characters I dislike, but, believe me, she’d be getting
off easy compared to what I do to some others.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 30, 2012


One issue earlier, Amazing Detective Cases had featured stories of
crime investigators.  With issue #11 [March, 1952], the anthology
title had a genre change operation and switched to horror stories.
It would run but three issues beyond this one.

The Grand Comics Database has tentatively identified Carl Burgos as
the cover artist.  There are five interior tales.  Most notable of
these is “The Weird Woman” with art by Joe Sinnott.  According to
comics collector John Kaminski, it’s the first Marvel/Atlas story,
chronologically, to feature mutants.  This one really needs to be
reprinted somewhere.

Near as I can tell, none of the other stories have been reprinted
either.  They are: “The Black Shadow” (drawn by Fred Kida); “Murder
in the Morgue” (tentatively identified by Atlas Tales as drawn by
George Klein); “A Voice from the Grave” (unknown artist); and “It’s
Time to Go, Higgins” (art by Bill Walton).  From the Timely-Atlas
discussion list, information on these stories was provided by Tom
Lammers and Ger Apeldoorn.

Amazing Detective Cases #11 hit the newsstands in December, 1951,
the month of my birth.  It was one of five Atlas horror titles that
month.  Atlas published just as many, if not more, crime, romance,
and war comics that month.

Laid low by illness, I spent most of last week reading comics and
books and watching movies and TV shows.  One of the highlights of
that downtime was Godzilla: The Criterion Collection [$39.95].  For
a presentation so important, I sprung for the Blu-ray version, now
selling for $27.99 at Amazon. 

The cover of the Blu-ray version has a magnificient painting of the
Big G by Bill Sienkiewicz.  It is a wonderful iconic image, boldly
“shot” from behind, of Godzilla surrounded by the utter carnage of
its passing.  I gather some fans have complained because it is not
precisely the original Godzilla of 1954, but this painting speaks
to me.  I love it a lot.

I’ve seen both Gojira (Japanese) and Godzilla, King of the Monsters
(America) many times.  These are the best, cleanest versions ever.
I’ve written about these films many times in the past, so I’ll just
give you a few notes.

The Japanese version is superior.  It makes the historical and the
psychic link between the atomic bombing of Japan during World War
II and this new horror obvious without being too obvious.  It also
makes the love triangle between Emiko, Ogata, and Serizawa a vital
part of the story.  The film does drag in a couple places, but it
remains as powerful as ever.

I should never fail to mention that I get a kick out of the scene
where a feisty woman politician gets in the face of the officials
who want to keep the public unaware of the Godzilla threat.  She’s
got spunk...and I love that in a woman.

The American version is still great fun.  I loved it when I saw it
as a kid and love it today.  Raymond Burr is a commanding presence
and that’s despite how often I have to suppress giggles at how he
conducts his reporting-type business and how government doors fly
open for him.  If Newt Gingrich tried to make Burr’s “Steve Martin”
pay three grand to be on the plane, Burr’s stare would surely make
Gingrich wet himself.

I haven’t watched any of the Criterion special features, but I’ll
get to them eventually.  Right now, I’m blown away by their great
presentation of these classic films.

Via my area library system, I saw Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [Magnolia
Home Entertainment; $15.99] on DVD.  The 2011 film was recommended
by my pal Christopher Mills and it’s quirky humor appealed to me.
It’s sort of a hillbilly comedy of errors.

Tyler Labine (Dale) and Alan Tudyk (Tucker) have bought their dream
vacation home, a lakefront cabin in need of serious TLC.  On their
drive, they meet a group of mostly vacant college students.  When
Dale tries to talk to Allison (played by Katrina Bowden), the kids
are freaked out and think the worst of the two men.  Their unease
is heightened by Chad (Jesse Moss) telling them of serial murders
committed in these woods two decades earlier.

When Allison is injured and Dale rescues her, Chad and the rest of
the students believe their worst fears are true.  After that, it’s
just one unfortunate event after another.  The movie’s too much fun
to be a truly dark comedy, but it has its moments.  It’s an hour-
and-a-half well spent.  I recommend it.


Lots of comics and graphic novels have somehow eluded my attention
in the past decade, but when I hear about something I think I would
enjoy, I turn to my library system.  Which recently introduced me
to Jill Thompson’s Magic Trixie [HarperCollins; $8.99].  This 2008
graphic novel is aimed at young readers, but it will delight every

Trixie is a very young witch who longs to be taken seriously by her
family and school friends.  She’s also dealing with the arrival of
a baby sister, who Trixie sees as getting all the attention of her
parents and other family members.

Trixie’s friends are a pint-size “Who’s Who” of spookiness.  They
include a werewolf, mummy, Frankenstein-type monster, and a pair of
vampires.  Her schoolteacher is a ghost.  In 96 breezy pages, the
amazing Thompson brings them all to life while propelling the story
towards the most eventful of school activities, the dreaded “Show-
and-Tell.”  It’s a terrific book.

There are two more Magic Trixie books to date: Magic Trixie Sleeps
(2008) and Magic Trixie and the Dragon (2009).  I can’t wait
to read them as well.

ISBN: 978-0-06-117045-4


Some quick personal notes:

If you’re sending me a logo for consideration in our “Design a New
Tony Isabella Logo” contest, you must include your permission for
me to use that logo in this blog.  I am neither buying or seeking
any rights to your work beyond the right to include it in my blog
during this contest.  If I want to use your design beyond that, we
will negotiate an arrangement that works for both of us.

Logos aren’t your thing?  Fear not.  I have a second kooky contest
planned for March.

The arrival of a wee bit of paying work will dely the launch of my
“online garage sale” for a week or so.  If you’d like to be on the
mailing list for this sale, e-mail me your own e-mail address and
I’ll make sure you get all pertinent information.

I hope to have twice-monthly garage sales at my Medina home once I
can be reasonably assured of good weather.  That probably means May
or so, but I’m hoping for April.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I’ve been under the weather most of the week and, for that matter,
here in bucolic Medina, Ohio, the weather itself has been lousy as
well.  However, beyond my various ailments, beyond the snow and the
slush, something else has me down.

I don’t have a new logo.

DC Comics has a new logo and it’s ugly, but it’s still a new logo
that they probably spent tens of thousands of dollars on. 

Oni Press has a new logo and, while it’s sort of busy, it’s nice.
Good for them.

Bongo Comics has a new logo for their company and for most of their
wonderful titles.  These are all really nice and I can’t think of
a publisher more deserving of such spiffiness.

But I don’t have a new logo.  Which is where you come in.

Design a new TONY ISABELLA logo.  Or several new logos.  In other
words, enter as many times as you wish.

The logos that impress me or make me smile will be published here.
With your contact information.  That’s the “fame” part of my silly

The best three to five logos will get prizes.  Autographed copies
of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.  Autographed copies of comics I
wrote.  Maybe a few other surprises.  That’s the “prizes” part of
this epic clash of the designers.

Just email a .jpg of your TONY ISABELLA logo to me with permission
to run your design on this blog.  I’m not seeking any rights to the
work beyond that.  If I want to use your logo in the future, we’ll
figure out an agreement that works for both of us.

The deadline for this contest is Saturday, February 18.  Get busy,
have fun, and make me proud!  Or convulsed with laughter.  I’m good
either way.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Today’s comic from the month of my birthday is All-True Crime #49
[Atlas; March, 1952].  Edited by Stan Lee, it’s one of four crime
comic books published by Atlas in December, 1951.  Two of the other
three also claim to feature “true” stories.  My gut tells me that
few if any of the stories were actually based on real criminals and
events and even those stretched the “truth” in a manner that would
do Reed Richards proud.

The cover is by Sol Brodsky, who could do anything related to comic
books or production and do it well.  He was one of my first bosses
at Marvel Comics in the early 1970s.

According to the Grand Comics Database, none of these stories has
been reprinted, though I’ve a vague memory of reading “King of the
Con Men” by Hank Chapman and Bernard Krigstein somewhere.  Artists
on the issue’s other three stories: Vernon Henkel, Jack Keller, and
Marion Sitton. 

I’m getting a kick out of exploring the comics that hit the stands
in the month of my birth.  If you want a display of comics from the
month of your birthday, go to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics


Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man won the Eisner Award for best
new series and that’s a completely creditable victory.  I’m a hard
man to please and, even with my disbelief that Norman Osborn could
ever become the top cop of the United States, I thought issues #8-
24 of the series were sensational.  To jog your memory, those would
be the “Dark Reign” issues and the five-part “Stark Disassembled”
story arc.  There were issues within the run deserving of inclusion
in the disingenuously-titled Best American Comics series of annual
anthologies.  At the very least, the series should have been mentioned
in the listing of comics at the end of the anthology.

Fraction accomplished something I didn’t think possible in a Marvel
comic book.  He made me root for Tony Stark again.  I relished the
delicious irony of Osborn putting Stark in the same hunted outlaw
life into which Stark had previously placed Captain America and the
other heroes who opposed the Superhuman Registration Act.  And when
Stark was risking all and making an incredible sacrifice to protect
the world from Osborn getting Stark’s technology, I was surprised
to find I was thinking of Stark as a hero again.  Well done, sir.
Well done indeed.

Invincible Iron Man #8-24 also got me to thinking that this journey
of Tony Stark’s is something of a conservative fantasy.  Note that
I said “conservative” and not “right-wing.”  That’s because I’m not
sure there are any actual conservatives left in America, though I
also think, if there are, they are just too cowardly to oppose the
ridiculously villainous right as it exists in America today.  Newt
Gingrich as president is only infinitesimally more believable than
Norman Osborn as top cop.

I’ll elaborate.  Government is bad and Stark is a villain when he’s
a key government figure.  Government is still bad when Stark gets
fired and Osborn becomes a key government figure.  But Stark is a
free market super-hero of sorts when he transitions from being part
of the government to opposing it.  It’s possible I’m overthinking
this.  Still, it’s what I came away from the issues thinking and,
despite my liberal beliefs, the notion didn’t keep me from liking
these stories a whole bunch.


I’m still on track to get relatively current on Iron Man by the end
of the month, but decided to hold off reading Invincible Iron Man
and Iron Man 2.0 until I read a bunch of mini-series and one-shots.

The four-issue Iron Man: Legacy of Doom series by David Michelinie,
Bob Layton, and Ron Lim was good comics fun.  It’s an unlikely mix
of Iron Man, Doctor Doom, Mephisto, and a truly creepy otherworldly
creature, but it was entertaining. 

The one-shot Iron Man: The End by Michelinie, Layton, and Bernard
Chang was an excellent sendoff to the character.  One of the best
Iron Man comics of the decade.

I didn’t care for the four-issue Iron Man Vs. Whiplash, but there
was something in it worthy of mentioning here.  The story is driven
by the destruction and slaughter of a Russian village.  One of the
final-issue reveals is that this was ordered by Vladimir Putin, the
prime minister of Russia, to wipe out the anti-Putin citizens who
lived there.  I was surprised to see a sitting political leader who
we are not at war with, not even cold war, characterized as a mass

After I catch up on Iron Man, my next Marvel “target” will be the
Fantastic Four.  Can someone explain to me the difference between
the FF and Fantastic Four titles?


Some old business:

On Facebook, Bill Henley corrected me on the dynamic between the
Trigger Twins.  He wrote:

The premise of the Trigger Twins wasn't that they were equals.  It
was that Walt was a well-meaning klutz while Wayne was a crack shot
and skilled lawman. So guess which one got to be the official
sheriff? This mismatch was one of the few instances where the
fantasy-oriented DC Westerns resembled the real world.

Steven Rowe identified Owen Fitzgerald as the artist of that great
Bob Hope cover I ran this week.  He also says that many early Bob
Hope comics are in the public domain.

Some new business:

Sometime next week, I will be putting together a list of items for
sale.  This is the “online garage sale” I mentioned earlier in the
week.  Some items will be priced ridiculously low and some will be
priced somewhat less ridiculously low.

I’m not going to list the items in this blog because that would cut
into my time getting people pissed at me.  Like the anonymous fan
of Deathstroke who took offense to my characterizing fans of that
odious character as morons.  Of course, by implying I was somehow
suggesting all characters should be based on Bob Hope and Jerry
Lewis, the cowardly troll proved himself more than a typical moron.
He proved himself to be a monumental idiot.  Well done.

Anyway...my current plan is to e-mail this list to anyone who wants
it.  Send me your e-mail addresses at my own e-mail address as I’ll
make sure you get a copy of the list and the subsequent lists that
I hope to put together on a regular basis.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, January 27, 2012


On a day when my spirits were depressingly low, one of four things
that lifted them was the arrival of my Hero Initiative membership
kit for 2012.

The Hero Initiative is the charity closest to my heart.  To quote
from its website:

“The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-
for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book
creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for
yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial
support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying
work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the
people who have given us so much enjoyment.”

From the earliest days in my own 40-year comics career, I have seen
freelancers in peril.  Living check to check.  Unable to get work.
Unequipped to deal financially with the personal tragedies that so
often come with life within and without the industry.

Hero has helped many comics creators, some of them friends of mine,
and often without anyone other than the organization and the person
they’ve helped knowing about it.  Some organizations get to boast
about every success they achieve.  Hero doesn’t.  There aren’t a
whole lot of things in this world of which I’m certain.  That Hero
does God’s work is one of them.

My own financial woes dictated that a bronze membership was all I
could afford this year.  If my next round of royalty statements are
free of the Hollywood accounting that plagued the last round, I’ll
upgrade it.   
What I received for that membership fee was very cool indeed.  In
addition to the tote bag shown at the head of today’s bloggy thing,
I got a membership card signed by John Romita his own jazzy self
and a Volstagg sketch card drawn by Flint Henry.

If you love comics, if you care about the freelancers who brought
you so much fun and joy over the years, I would ask you to join the
Hero Initiative and make regular donations to the organization.  I
know your generosity will be appreciated.

The other three things that lifted my spirits?

Sainted Wife Barb brought me a small and incredibly delicious lemon
cake.  Tony like lemon cake.

I received a Facebook friend request and nice personal message from
a writer whose work I have long admired.

Somewhat past the time when I was expecting any more deliveries on
that day, UPS knocked on my door with my Blu-ray copy of Godzilla:
The Criterion Collection
.  I plan to watch it Saturday evening in
recreation of those wondrous boyhood nights spent watching monster
movies hosted by Ghoulardi on Cleveland television. 

Stay sick, knif!


Digging into my archives, I found a post I made to a mailing list
that might be of interest to my bloggy thing readers.  The trigger
for my post was a member’s delight at seeing the original art from
a 1960s splash page.  His wonderment stemmed from the sad fact that
a lot of original art from that decade was destroyed or stolen over
the years.  Here’s my response:

Back in my Marvel Bullpen days, I heard rumors of an artist who
used to go to the warehouse where this stuff was stored and pose as
a Marvel employee authorized to take art from the warehouse.  He
would take his art and that of others. For himself.

This is what I call hearsay evidence.  Over the years, from several
people, the artist's name emerged.  I could see where a lot of
things that I knew first-hand about the artist - his frequent money
problems, etc. - could make him a likely suspect.

Actually one of my last jobs while working at the Marvel offices -
I was only a part-time editor then and I also assisted Stan Lee and
Sol Brodsky on various special projects - was to try to match
inventory art with the vouchers for the work.  What I found was a
handful of artists who had vouchered and been paid for work they
never completed.  I think the worst offender owed Marvel close to
100 pages.  My likely suspect was one of these artists.

But such conjecture on my part does not an indisputable truth make.
That's what I find faulty in the work of some comics historians.
They don't differentiate between their conjectures and facts that
can be verified.

In the blog that was appearing on my message board, I wrote about
my career.  Rather early on, I found the need to make distinctions

facts which I knew to be true "because I vas dere, bubbie";

items told to me by sources that had proven reliable in the past
and which could be somewhat verified by other unconnected reliable
sources; and,

items which seemed reasonably accurate but which could as surely be
items pulled out of someone's butt.

Comics history will always be a tricky business.  Almost all of
it's hearsay of one sort or another.  I know one professional who
is convinced he was on the scene at events that happened before he
came to work for Marvel.  I know of others who cling to their
version of history even when every other person who was present has
refuted it.

I try to include a healthy number of caveats when I write of comics
history. I might be certain of something that I was present for,
but, beyond that, I realize I might not have the whole story.

Conjecture isn’t truth. I'm just as likely guilty as anyone for my
strong belief in events I can't verify, such as what I consider the
criminal fraud perpetrated on Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson by
his partners.  But I think we could all benefit by not being quite
so sure of that of which we have no personal first-hand evidence.

Here’s an addendum to what I posted:

We are all the heroes of our own stories.

When I write about my own career, history or life, I strive to be
as accurate and honest as possible.  I think I generally succeed on
that count.  Four decades in the comics industry has both worn me
down and empowered me.  I don’t give a rat’s ass what all but a few
people think of me.  This liberates me and allows me to be brutally
honest in my writings.   

I have few illusions about my place in comics history.  I have no
need to insert myself into decisions and events that were not of my
doing, even if I played some minor role in them.  I’m not trying to
convince anyone of my rightful place in comics history.

As I see it, I have done good and sometimes great work over these
past four decades and have done it with clean hands and heart.  Did
I ever screw up?  Did I ever do injury or insult to someone?  It’s
a big old “yes” to the first and a medium-sized “probably” to the
second.  When it comes to life, no one pitches a perfect game and,
when it comes to sports, we can always find a silly sports metaphor
to apply to life. 

I’m in the third quarter of my life and I’m in it to win it.  I’ll
keep playing until the final buzzer.  It’s not over until the fat
lady sinks the final putt.  There’s no “i” in “team,” but there are
two in “insanity.” 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, January 26, 2012


DC Comics published two western comics in the month of my birth, a
mere drop in the bucket in a month that saw 28 different western
titles hit the newsstands.  All-American Western #124, continuing
the numbering of All-American Comics, was dated February-March of
1952 as was All-Star Western #63, which continued the numbering of
All-Star Comics, previous home of the Justice Society of America.
Julius Schwartz was the actual editor of both issues.

Johnny Thunder, a seemingly mild-mannered schoolteacher who fought
crime disguised as the dark-haired hero, was the cover feature of
All-American Western.  His father was the town sheriff, who often
compared his son unfavorably to the dynamic Thunder.  “The Iron
Horse’s Last Run” was written by Robert Kanigher with art by Alex
Toth and Sy Barry. Johnny was backed up by strips that can best be
described as third-stringers: Overland Coach, Minstrel Maverick and
Foley of the Fighting Fifth.  The writers and artists included John
Broome, Gil Kane, Irwin Hasen, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella.
None of these stories, save for a two-page strip by Alvin Schwartz
and Mort Drucker, have ever been reprinted.

Native-American hero Strong Bow was the cover star of this issue of
All-Star Western in a tale by Bill Finger and Frank Giacoia.  He
would eventually lose his spot to the Trigger Twins.

The Twins were Walt and Wayne Trigger.  Walt was a sheriff and his
brother was a civilian.  They were identical twins and equally good
with a gun.  They double-teamed owlhoots who had no idea they were
up against not one, but two heroes.  Their story in this issue was
written by Kanigher with art by Infantino and Giella.  The issue’s
other main strips were Roving Ranger (with art by Toth and Giella)
and Don Caballero (drawn by Kane and Bernard Sachs).

By the time I started reading DC’s western titles, they were down
to just two or three strips per issue. Johnny Thunder and Trigger
Twins were the headline acts, though Matt Savage, Trail Boss, would
eventually knock the Twins off the covers of the relaunched Western

Look for more comics from December, 1951, the month of my birth, in
future bloggy things.


Iron Man is my “catching up on Marvel” reading project this month.
For the most part, I don’t plan to comment on these issues unless
I have something interesting - if only to myself - to write about
them.  Like today.

Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man #1-7 are cover-dated from July,
2008 to January, 2009.  Fraction’s work on the title has received
considerable praise and not without reason.  These issues featured
a chilling global war between Tony Stark and the son of an old foe,
portrayed the complexity of Stark’s life, and even managed to make
him somewhat less of a war criminal in my eyes.

Where these issues didn’t work for me is something I find a common
failing in many of Marvel’s super-hero titles, most usually in the
titles written by the so-called architects of the Marvel Universe.
Sadly, these writers seem far more interested in mass destruction
and enormous body counts that actually building anything of lasting
value.  If I lived in their Marvel Universe, I’d need heavy-duty
anti-depressants just to get out of bed in the morning.

The body counts and destruction are the stuff of Hollywood movies,
not surprising given the comics industry’s financial dependence on
and twisted adoration of that trashy world.  Yet there are seldom
lasting consequences to the body counts and destruction.  It’s as
if New York and other Marvel Universe locales had an eternal supply
of citizens and buildings to be knocked off by the next abominable
villain.  It’s like Whack-a-Mole with victims and structures that
pup back up every time you hit them.

The “Dark Reign” issues of Iron Man are next.  Even though no one
at Marvel ever convinced me that any American government would make
Norman Osborn the top cop of Marvel America - my willing suspension
of disbelief doesn’t go that far - I’m looking forward to reading
what Fraction does with that absurd concept.


As is my habit, I write items on index cards so I can discuss them
in this bloggy thing.  Today’s card has three items on it:

John Rozum
Mars Attacks
“Do the math!”

John Rozum, an extremely talented writer, has gone public with his
reasons for leaving DC’s Static Shock title after working on issues
#1-4 of that “New 52" series.  That’s his story to tell and he does
so with considerable grace on his blog.  I recommend his words to
all fans of the character Static and as a cautionary note to things
that are frequently going wrong at companies like DC.

My own take on this situation lacks Rozum’s grace, but, hey, what
do you expect from a grumpy old man like me?  Unicorns, candy, and
pretty flowers?

I have long contended - and said as much to Dwayne McDuffie several
years back - that DC’s main interest in the Milestone super-heroes
is to keep any other publisher from doing them.  Frankly, I can’t
imagine another publisher treating the characters worse than DC has
these past two decades.

In Static Shock, you had a fair-to-middling artist with the urge to
be a writer being the driving creative force of that book.  That he
exhibited no particular skill as a writer is meaningless.  He read
a book on writing.  One book.

Then you have an editor whose GCD listing shows exactly one eight-
page script to his credit and who chooses to defer to said artist.
No matter how stupid that artist’s plotting, writing, and demands
were.  It’s an absolute perfect storm for the creation of a lousy
comic book.

This isn’t a unique situation.  Editors with little or no creative
chops are micro-managing talented writers.  The favored writers and
artists get to run roughshod over characters, storylines, and their
fellow creators.  I was going to say it was high-school behavior,
but it’s middle-school at best.

It’s time for some adult supervision.


Kudos to IDW for making absolutely inspired choices to write their
new Mars Attacks series.  Chew creator/writer John Layman will be
writing the series and it will be drawn by the great John McCrea.
I am so on board with this.

As reported by Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, the comic will have
55 variant covers, each of them representing one of the 55 original
Mars Attacks trading cards.  There’s no way I can afford to buy 55
copies of a comic book, but I’m hoping IDW will collect all these
covers in some sort of special.  Maybe as a fundraiser for the Hero
Initiative? That would be a very good thing.


My old Bullpen Buddy Scott Edelman tweeted: I dreamt I annoyed all
my friends by coming up with a personal catchphrase and dropping it
into every conversation: "Do the math!"

Which made me think...why math? 

Math is hard.  Why must we keep asking people to do it?  Maybe we
should explore some alternatives?

Do the biology.

Do the geography.

Do the remedial reading.

It’s time to overthrow the tyranny of math.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


All I know about The Adventures of Bob Hope #13 is that it hit the
newsstands in the month of my birth (December 1951) and that it’s
dated February-March, 1952.  I know a bit more about the esteemed
Hope himself.

He was born in England, but spent a good chunk of his youth in my
birth town of Cleveland, Ohio.  He had an incredible career in show
business.  I probably couldn’t remember the names of all the Hope
movies I saw, but I do remember enjoying a lot of them on Cleveland
TV. He maintained a genuine fondness for Cleveland.  His service to
the USO impressed the heck out of me and that was far from his only
charitable activity.

Hope’s charity work is what has me thinking that money that could
be raised for good causes is being left on the table because DC has
apparently never explored reprinting any of their Bob Hope comics.
Or Jerry Lewis comics.  Or Ozzie and Harriet comics.  Or Pat Boone
comics.  Or...you get the idea. 

DC published several celebrity comics and many of those celebrities
were involved in various charitable activities.  Reprinting these
comics to benefit causes the celebrities supported or, in the case
of those still with us, support today, strikes me as something DC
(and other publishers) can and should do.  It’s a matter of getting
in touch with the celebrities or their heirs and cutting the deal,
and it’s a way for DC and other publishers to give something back to
the national and international community.

These celebrity comics are highly collectible and that’s just among
comics collectors.  There are also many collectors of TV and movie
memorabilia that seek these issues.  I think there’s a market for
reprints of celebrity comics.  A large market.  Publishers should
go after that money and turn it to good use.

DC...the ball’s in your court.


Here’s the first of two reader request reviews today:

The Shade #1-3 [DC; $2.99 each] kick off a 12-issue series which is
apparently already in danger of an early cancellation.  That would
be a shame.

James Robinson’s Starman was one of the best super-hero series of
the 1990s.  Heck, it was one of the best series of that decade with
its layered approach to telling an honest-to-gosh saga of families
and traditions.  It deserves every accolade I or any other reader
can heap upon it.

One of the most intriguing characters in that series was the Shade.
Sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, immortal, mysterious, and,
in the long run, more hero than villain.  So a Shade series strikes
me as welcome relief from all this “New 52" nonsense.  And it is,
despite a near-fatal flaw.

Robinson’s writing is first-rate, so much better than what we got
from him in the poisonous Justice League: Cry For Justice.  Cully
Hammer’s art is pretty good, too.  Not as refined as that which
graced the Starman series of the 1990s, but pretty good.

The basic plot is simple enough to allow Robinson and Hammer great
latitude in locales and supporting characters.  Someone mysterious
and powerful is trying to kill the Shade.  Basic, classic, fraught
with opportunities and possibilities.  I approve.

What I didn’t approve of is Robinson including a shlock character
whose fifteen minutes (panels) should have been up a decade or more
ago.  Deathstroke.  A stupid, vicious, juvenile character whose sad
appearance in this otherwise quality series is no more than crass
pandering to morons. 

Oh, I’ll keep reading The Shade for as many issues as the DC powers
allow it to be published.  But, in the back of my mind, diminishing
my enjoyment, will be the worry that there’s more pandering waiting
for me when I turn the pages. 


Each issue of Godzilla Legends [IDW; $3.99 per issue] spotlights an
ally or sparring partner of the Big G.  Two issues in, I’m finding
the series to be enjoyable.  Not breathtakingly brilliant, but fun
comic books nonetheless.

Anguirus was the star of the first issue in a story by Matt Frank
and Jeff Prezenkowski with art by Frank.  Appropriately titled “The
Underdog,” the issue plays up the creature’s tenacity as he takes
on the more powerful Destoroyah.  There’s a human element to this
battle as well which makes it more than monster versus monster and
gives us insight into Anguirus.

The second issue stars Rodan in a story by Jon Vankin with art by
Simon Gane.  Rodan is searching for its stolen egg as an obsessed
scientist schemes to keep it for his studies.  The scientist’s son
is involved in the tale as well, making for a second parent/child
story within the story.  I like the Anguirus issue better, but this
one was also very entertaining.

Titanosaurus is next.  I wonder if the series will run long enough
to get to Jet Jaguar.


A few personal notes to close out today’s bloggy thing:

Sainted Wife Barb, our kids Ed and Kelly, and even yours truly are
all doing well.  I’m still looking for assignments, but that’s just
part of being a freelancer.  So...we’re all good and no one should
take this next bit in any other way.

Because of situations I have alluded to in previous bloggy things,
situations I’m not at liberty to discuss, it has become necessary
for me to cancel all convention appearances through June.  I’ve had
to bow out of some existing charitable commitments as well and I’ll
also be declining all interview requests. I wish this weren’t the
case, but it’s unavoidable. 

Neither my ongoing search for paying work nor these situations are
likely to be resolved soon.  I have to make adjustments to my life
to meet these challenges head on. 


This bloggy thing will continue to appear on a daily basis with the
occasional day off.  I may have to monetize it and put up a “donate
through PayPal” link, but it will continue.  Writing this blog is
better, for me, at least, than any medication or therapy.

As soon as the weather permits, I will be holding one or two of my
legendary garage sales every month.  Keep watching this blog and my
Facebook page for announcements.

I’m trying to come up with a regular “online garage sale” as well.
More on that as I develop it.

That’s all for today, my bloggy readers.  Thanks for stopping by.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Adventures into Weird Worlds #3 was dated March, 1952, but hit the
newsstands in the month of my birthday, December, 1951.  The cover
is by Joe Maneely.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the comics stories in this 36-
page issue have been reprinted.  That’s a shame because I’d really
like to read them.  The descriptions I’ve read of four of the five
tales make them sound like terrific examples of cold war paranoia,
even when “Commies” aren’t specifically mentioned.

“A Shriek in the Night”: A man becomes the victim of underground
creatures who abduct humans in order to study them so as to prepare
for an invasion.

“The Thing That Waited”: Stalin and Soviet troops stand revealed as
shape-shifting alien invaders.

“The Quiet Men”: Martians encounter a 'ghost ship' from Earth which
is a bomber responsible for dropping the bomb that initiated an
atomic holocaust on Earth.

“The Empty City”: A reporter stumbles upon aliens who are taking
the place of humans. He tries to give the story to his editor, but
his editor is one of...them.

The fifth story isn’t “cold war.”  It’s about a weak guy who takes
a serum derived from a gorilla to increase his strength and ends up
turning into a gorilla.  Cold war or not, you can’t go wrong with
a gorilla story.

In the order of the stories as listed above, the artists for this
issue were: Werner Roth, Joe Maneely, Harry Lazarus (not certain),
Bob Fujitani, and Bill Walton.  My most recent copy of Overstreet’s
Comic Book Price Guide
opines a range of $400 for a near-mint copy
of the issue to $30 for a good copy.

The information above was provided by three great websites:
Mike’s Amazing World of Comics,
the Grand Comics Database
and Atlas Tales.
They are invaluable resources.


From cold war horror, we go to gentler times and places, courtesy
of a stack of old comics sent to me by one of my readers.  Archie
#274 [September, 1978] is notable for “Can You Top This?”, a spiffy
story we can all relate to as Archie and pals meet “Brag” Bostwick,
one of those people who has to take anything anyone says and try to
top it.  I’m terrible at guessing writers and artists, so I won’t
attempt that here, but it’s a clever tale worthy of being reprinted
in a “best of Archie” collection.

Archie and Me #104 [September, 1978] has a quartet of stories with
Archie and Principal Weatherbee interacting outside Riverdale High.
Waldo should be a candidate for sainthood.

Archie Giant Series Magazine #472 [September, 1976] has a cover by
Dan DeCarlo and only one interior story that fits the “summer fun”
promised in the title.  But those stories were drawn by DeCarlo and
three of them were written by Frank Doyle, so I can easily overlook
the discrepancy. 

Everything’s Archie #68 [August, 1978] features a scavenger hunt,
a first aid class, hat shopping, and a baseball story.  No classic
stories here, but all are fun.

Going from Riverdale to Duckburg, Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge #137
[February, 1977] reprints “All in Sea” by Carl Barks from 1960 and,
from 1955, the Tony Strobl-drawn “Santa’s Unexpected Visit.”  The
Barks adventure is a delightful Scrooge versus the Beagle Boys on
the high seas story while the Christmas-themed tale is a charming
take on Scrooge’s character.

Yeah, I know I didn’t have much to say about these comic books, but
wasn’t it fun to look at their covers?  My thanks to the generous
reader who sent them my way.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 23, 2012


Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are two of my all-time favorite
TV series.  I’m not going to qualify that with “genre” TV series.
They were must-watch TV for me and, on the rare occasion I watch an
episode these days, I find they have held up and are every bit as
fine and entertaining as I remembered.

The Buffy and Angel comic books have been more of a mixed bag for
me.  Certainly there have been great comics based on these series
and their characters.  But, overall, they have been more miss than
hit for me.

IDW’s license to create and publish Angel comic books expired last
year.  Their comics fell squarely into my hit-or-miss range.  John
Byrne’s Angel: Lorne, a moving tribute to the taken-way-too-soon
Andy Hallett, was one of the very best Angel/Buffy comics.  Should
I ever write a sequel to my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, Byrne’s
tribute is assured a place in it.

Near the end of IDW’s license, they published a Spike series that
had a truly masterful moment in it.  It was when Spike said what we
all knew and never said before.  That, soulless or not, he chose to
mend his evil ways, chose to become a better man, chose to become
a champion.  That he could seek and achieve redemption sans his
soul is inspirational testimony to the power of second chances and
the eternal possibility of redemption.

IDW’s Angel Yearbook [$7.99] was the last of their comics with the
characters from the Joss Whedon-created shows.  The 52-page comic
featured seven stories starring various members of the Angel cast.
All of them are quite readable and one of them - Peter David’s look
into Harmony’s diary - is a prose story worthy of award nomination.
I did find the self-congratulatory summation of the IDW comics that
closed the issue to be a little disconcerting, but I can understand
the urge to take a shot at Dark Horse Comics.

Touching on the above briefly, I also find it disconcerting to see
images of IDW editors and executives and staffers as part of every
IDW solicitation in the Previews catalog.  Mostly because I can’t
believe readers buy comic books based on editors and executives and
staffers.  It’s the comics era in which we live, a time when many
larger publishers are apparently seeking to diminish the visibility
of those who actually write and draw the comics, but I find it very

Maybe it’s not them.  Maybe it’s me.

Heading over to Dark Horse, the last half of the Whedon-conceived
and way too long Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight really stunk
up the place.  It lacked the elements that endeared most of us to
Buffy and her supporting cast, indulged in mystical mush, and even
descended into shock value with the death of a prominent character.
“Stunk” may not be the sort of refined commentary you expect from
me, but nothing sums up those issues better.

Fortunately, Dark Horse and Whedon have apparently recognized where
they’ve gone wrong.  So did they did a story where Buffy and Angel
make a deal with Mephisto to...

Kidding.  What Dark Horse and Whedon have done with Angel & Faith
and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 has been to own up to the
mistakes and use them as doorways into new and so far much better
comic books.

Following Season Eight, the Christos Gage-written Angel & Faith has
the duo living in London.  Angel is dealing not very well with his
role in the Season Eight disasters and Faith is determined to bring
him the redemption she believes he needs.  They have new allies in
their lives, but some of those do not know Angel is in London and
would be murderously unhappy to learn that he is...and likely none
too pleased with Faith for...neglecting...to share that information
with them.  The first four-issue story arc flowed quite nicely and
set up some intriguing situations.  I’m looking forward to what the
future issues will bring and am shamefully pleased with myself for
not spoiling any of the surprises in these issues.

Rebekah Isaacs drew these first four issues and will return after
a single-issue fill-in by Phil Noto.  Isaacs is a good storyteller
who does excellent likenesses of Angel, Faith, and other existing
characters from the Whedon Universe.  Kudos to her and to Christos
Gage who, as I’ve mentioned in previous bloggy things, has become
one of my favorites among current comic-book writers.

I also enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #1-4, though not
as much as the above.  Joss Whedon scripted the first issue and, as
always, his dialogue is wonderful.  Andrew Chambliss scripted the
other issues of this first story arc and also did well.  However,
the Georges Jeanty/Dexter Vines art doesn’t work for me.  While the
storytelling is okay, all the characters look short to me.  It’s as
if the world of Buffy was one in which my 5'3" was average height.
It’s a disconnect from the real world. 

As for the story...we see the consequences of the previous season
on Buffy, her friends, her enemies, and the world they all share.
That’s interesting stuff.  We get a decent villain with believable
motivation.  Both of those are good things.

The I’m not sure it’s a good thing is that the authorities clearly
know who and what Buffy is and there doesn’t seem to be any serious
consequences of that knowledge for either Buffy or the rest of the
world.  That’s something that needs to be addressed.

The I’m sure this is a bad thing because it still makes me go “ick”
whenever I think about it is the Zander/Dawn coupling.  Geez, just
make the one-eyed perv the host of Toddlers and Tiaras and be done
with it.  Okay, I am exaggerating.  Apparently, Dawn is of age and,
after all, she’s a mystical creature of sorts, but it still makes
me go “ick.”  I hear Harmony needs a fella and, really, a hot chick
with a potential for murder and violence would be right in Zander’s
comfort zone.

I did like the first story arc, so I’ll continue reading both Buffy
Season 9
and Angel & Faith.  If you gave up on these characters in
their comic-book versions, it’s worth giving them a second chance.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The comic books that hit America’s newsstands in my birth month of
December, 1951 continue to fascinate me, courtesy of
Mike’s AmazingWorld of Comics
and the Grand Comics Datebase.  I’m afraid you’re
going to get more of these openings than you want.

Adventure Comics #172 [February, 1952] was a 44-page issue selling
for ten cents.  Superboy was the cover feature in a story written
by either Bill Finger or Edmond Hamilton and drawn by John Sikela.
The cover artist is Winslow Mortimer.

Backing up Superboy were shorter tales starring Aquaman (by George
Kashdan and Ramona Fradon), Johnny Quick (by Don Cameron and Paul
Norris), and Green Arrow (by an unknown writer identified only as
“A” and George Papp). 

The title of Johnny Quick’s adventure - “A Super-Spending Spree” -
intrigues me.  Like yesterday’s “The Bank of the Future” (starring
Tommy Tomorrow), it makes me want to write a story with that title.
I’ll write it on an index card and toss it into my idea box.  Maybe
it will rise to the surface some day.

Let’s see if I can short-winded enough to get through the remaining
notes on my desk. 


Comically Vintage is a website that takes comic-book panels out of
context and presents them in all their bizarre glory.  On occasion,
they take a cover or an advertisement.  Anything to get a laugh out
of the readers.  I visit them at least once a day.

Because the creators of this site are clearly nine years old, they
take enormous glee in printing panels in which some weepy romance
comics heroine complains about “Dick.”  She misses Dick.  She has
given up on Dick forever.  Dick hurt her terribly.  One wonders if
Richard was the most common male name of the 1950s.

Because I’m apparently nine years old, all these “Dick” references
make me laugh.  They also make me wonder if the most probably male
writers of those old stories knew exactly what they were writing.

I lied.  I don’t wonder at all.  I’m sure they knew what they were
writing, loudly guffawing as they did so.  What I do wonder about
is whether or not their editors ever realized what these writers
were writing and why the comics critics of those times never picked
up on the double entendres.  These are questions I wish someone had
asked those writers, editors, and critics, knowing that the answers
I seek will likely never come.


Comedians Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart should receive medals for
the “Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super Pac.”
Their humor has exposed what a truly terrible idea it was for our
nation’s lawmakers and Supreme Count justices to allow the creation
of and continued existence of Super Pacs.  These organizations are
answerable to no one and, when they violate the so-called “rules”
governing their behavior, they get slapped with fines that aren’t
even a drop in buckets filled with untraceable cash from unknown
donors.  Colbert and Stewart are American heroes.


Sometimes you just want to watch a bad movie.  Which explains why
I watched The Expendables this weekend.  Written by David Callaham
and Sylvester Stallone, and directed by Stallone, this 2010 action
film is kinda sorta a reunion film of the stars of movies from the
1980s and early 1990s.  Stallone’s co-stars included Jet Li, Jason
Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin,
and others.  There are also cameo appearances by Bruce Willis and
Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The plot? Stallone and crew are jaded mercenaries who haven’t lost
their morality.  They get hired to take out the military dictator
of an island between Mexico and South America, currently a hotbed
of cocaine manufacture and distribution.  Stallone gets smitten by
the dictator’s rebel daughter.  So he and his four-man crew heads
to the island to rescue her.  In the process, they rack up a body
count in the hundreds.  It’s insanely violent and pyrotechnic, and
I blame my friend Chris Mills for putting the movie on my radar in
his Atomic Pulp and Other Meltdowns blog.  But I thank him as well
because The Expendables was 103 minutes in which I didn’t have to
think about anything remotely real.

The good news is that it was a very relaxing 103 minutes.  The bad
news is that there will be a sequel in August.


Some quick political notes:

Felons.  Apparently it’s an issue whether or not they get to vote
after serving their sentences.  Why it’s an issue baffles me.  Have
we utterly turned our backs on the notion of redemption?  Do some
people actually want an entire class of disenfranchised voters who
feel they have no stake in our country?  Or are the Republican mad
dogs so confident the voters they seek are so incapable of thinking
rationally that they’ll hear this nonsense and somehow mistake it
for the candidate being “touch on crime?” 

Gingrich and Santorum.  Wow, these guys are nasty.  I really hope
“Herman Cain” beats them both in South Carolina?

Walker of Wisconsin.  The recall petitions are in.  I also really
hope the voters there send him walking.

I said they’d be quick.


Cartoonist Lynda Barry has been hired as artist-in-residence at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I think this is a terrific idea
and that she’ll be wonderful in the position.

Given my current lack of gainful employment, I would be delighted
to entertain offers from less discerning institutions to become a

Maybe I should contact my alma mater...the South Hampton Institute
of Technology.

That’s all for today.  There must be another bad movie I can watch
tonight.  I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Mike’s Amazing World of Comics is one of the coolest comics sites
online and one of its coolest features is a search engine that lets
you see comic-book covers from any given month.  I recently checked
out the comics published in the month of my birth: December, 1951.
I could’ve gone with comics cover-dated the month of my birth, but
went this way instead.

The covers can be displayed in alphabetical order or by publication
date.  I went with the former. 

After those simple steps, there were 153 comic-book covers shown.
From time to time, I’ll post one of the covers and share whatever
information I have on it.  I’m not sure if anyone other than myself
will be interested in this, but it is my name in the title of the
blog.  Yes, I’m pulling rank on you.

Action Comics #165 [cover-dated February, 1952] was a 44-page comic
with a cover price of ten cents.  Whitney Ellsworth is credited as
editor, but the Grand Comics Database lists Jack Schiff as managing
editor and Mort Weisinger and George Kashdan as story editors.  The
cover was drawn by Winslow Mortimer.

“The Man Who Conquered Superman” (12 pages) was by Bill Finger with
art by Wayne Boring (pencils) and Stan Kaye (inks).  Reprinted as
“The Alien Who Conquered Superman” in a 1962 annual, the man/alien
in the title is actually a robot built by Superman as part of some
plan to foil a criminal.  You wouldn’t think a guy like Supes would
need to go to so much trouble to accomplish that.

This is the only story from this issue that’s been reprinted and
the only one I’ve read.  The other stories feature Tommy Tomorrow,
Congo Bill, and the Vigilante.  In addition to the public service
message on the inside front cover - starring teen humor character
“Buzzy” - there are three pages of gag strips by the prolific Henry

The Tommy Tomorrow story is titled “The Bank of the Future” and I
find that an interesting title.  I bet if such a story were written
in today’s world of banking adventurism and chicanery it would be
very different from this story from sixty years ago. 

While it would be a hoot to own these 153 comics from the month of
my birth, I can't imagine such a collecting goal would ever be within
my financial reach.  But it’s fun to look back through the ages at
them.  Well, for me, at least.


Iron Man is my Marvel reading project this month and I’m somewhere
in the middle of his time as director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Among those
issues I read was the one-shot Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties
of War
from February, 2007.  It was written by Christos Gage, one
of my current favorites.  Nicely done, sir.

A minor revelation has struck me as I’ve been reading Iron Man and
it’s that Tony Stark bears a great deal of responsibility for many
of the disasters that have befallen the Marvel Universe.  It could
and should just have easily been his actions, rather than those of
the New Warriors, that launched the odious Superhuman Registration
Act.  Stark’s political connections saved his metallic ass, but his
draconian administration of the Act led to civil rights abuses and
a series of equally disastrous events, not the least of which was
putting Norman Osborn in a position of great power.

The “Secret Invasion” doesn’t happen without the extreme hubris of
Stark and the other oh-so-superior members of “the Illuminati.”
Osborn’s “Dark Reign” is a direct result of Stark’s incompetence.
Asgard doesn’t fall without Osborn’s machinations.  “Fear Itself”
is at least partially driven by these and other situations in which
Stark played a heavy hand.  The shooting of Aunt May and the mystic
end of Peter Parker’s marriage are only minor casualties of Stark’s
bumbling and conceit.

If Marvel wants a big event that makes sense, it should be one in
which Stark has to pay the price for his arrogance in a major way.
He shouldn’t be wearing the Iron Man armor and he shouldn’t be in
charge of anything bigger than a garden club.  Though, even with a
garden club, he’d probably end up increasing the Plantman’s power
to world-threatening levels.

Stark must go.  Who’s with me?


Being a Cleveland sports fan is challenging.  Cleveland Cavaliers
fans seem to be enormously happy the basketball team is 6-7 at the
start of this shortened season.  Of course, the next 15 games will
be against some of the best teams in the league, so the Cavs might
plummet from the lofty heights of 6-7.

Then there’s the news that Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona
has been arrested for allegedly using a false identity in his home
country of the Dominican Republic.  Seems his real name is Roberto
Hernandez Heredia and, at 31, he’s three years older than listed in
the team’s media guide.  Can’t wait to see how this nutty business
one plays out.

But we Cleveland fans take comfort where we can.  Popular player
Zydrunas Ilgauskas has rejoined the Cavaliers as assistant to the
general manager.  He’ll bring the same dedication and hard work he
brought to playing the game.  In addition, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson,
long an Isabella family favorite, seems to be having a pretty good
year.  We take comfort where we can.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, January 20, 2012


Yes, dear readers, I know you’re reading this on Friday, but I’m
writing it on Thursday.  Normally I write these bloggy things two
days before I post them.  That gives me a little bit of lead time
to reconsider what I wrote.  It’s part of my ongoing plan to exude
the wisdom and restraint that should come with a man of my advanced
years.  No smirking, children.  It’s not nice to mock your elders.

I have alluded to stressful situations in my life, situations that
I’m not writing about and which I may never write about.  I wrote
a bloggy thing on Wednesday about one of those situations and then
thought twice about it as I drifted off to an uneasy sleep.  So, come
Thursday morning, I shelved it and replaced it with the blog I had
written for Friday.  My wife thought this was incredibly mature of
me.  Hot chicks dig smart old men.

A situation I can write about is that I’ve been dealing with back
problems.  These seem to be mostly stress-related, so I have also
been forcing myself to spend more times sitting in comfy chairs and
sofas.  Which, this being America and all, are usually facing one
of our TV sets.  Since I was sitting there anyway, I watched three
new shows and a pilot for a show which I’m guessing isn’t going any
further than that pilot.  If I write about them here, I won’t feel
quite so bad about being such a couch potato.


Three Inches aired on the SyFy Channel in late December.  The two-
hour pilot was described as a sitcom, but, while there were several
comedic moments in the movie, it was more street-level super-hero
drama than anything else.

Walter Spackman (Noah Reid) is a young man still trying to discern
his path in life and still living with his mother (Andrea Martin).
He decides to tell the girl next door, his best friend since they
were kids, that he loves her.  She doesn’t feel the same way and,
to add injury to heartbreak, he then gets struck by lightning and
ends up in a coma.

When he comes out of it, he discovers he can move objects with his
mind.  But only three inches and only if he’s within 17 feet of
the object.  He’s recruited by former government intelligence
specialist Troy Hamilton (James Marsters) to join a team of people
with moderately useful super-powers.

The pilot held together pretty well.  It didn’t shy away from some
darker elements, including a client whose concern for basic civil
rights was nonexistent.  Marsters was completely believable as an
older man who had seen terrible things and was committed to finding
a better way for his second-string heroes.  With the exception of
a non-super squad leader, Walter and his fellow heroes jelled well.
The only jarring note was a surprise familial relationship that didn't
ring true.  All in all, not a bad pilot.

My completely unsupported by any actual real knowledge speculation
is that the SyFy Channel looked at Three Inches and Alphas...and
then went with the latter.  That wouldn’t surprise me.  Alphas is
far more traditional street-level super-heroes and Three Inches is
as quirky as they come.  I don’t make the scheduling calls at SyFy,
but I think there’s room for both shows.


I watched the first two episodes of Alcatraz, the new series from
Bad Robot.  Around 250 inmates and 50 guards disappeared from the
prison before it was closed and now some of the inmates have come
back to commit new crimes.  It cribs from The 4400, but that’s not
a deal breaker for me.

The big whopping pluses that will keep watching a little longer are
Sarah Jones as San Francisco homicide detective Rebecca Madsen and
Jorge Garcia as Dr. Diego Soto.  She’s smart, tough, and a surprise
plot twist involving one of her relatives has her even more highly
motivated than usual.  He’s a PhD. in Criminal Justice, an expert
on Alcatraz, a comic-book writer, and the owner of a comics shop.
He’s our entry into this weird world and his reactions are spot-on.
They are unlikely partners and I love them a lot.

The potential minuses start with two opposing shadowy conspiracies,
which will bore of the snot out of me if they remain mysterious for
too many episodes...and the dubious morality of characters played
by Sam Neill and Parminder Nagra.  Both are terrific in the roles,
but I’m reserving judgment for now.     


The Fades made its U.S. debut last Saturday on BBC America.  It’s
a supernatural series with such a jumbled mythology that I found it
both confusing and tedious.  It’s no secret to bloggy thing readers
that I prefer my storytelling to be straightforward.  If you have
a good story, then tell it.

The Fades are the spirits of the dead who’ve been unable to ascend
to Heaven or whatever.  Teenage protagonist Paul, played by Iain de
Caestecker, can see them and also has visions of an extremely dusty
apocalypse.  Apparently, the Apocalypse is not unlike being trapped
in a huge field of asbestos.  It’s a tiresome visual repeated over
and over again.

“Angelics” like Paul can see the Fades.  The Fades get really nasty
because they can’t cross over.  One of the Fades seems to be able
to touch, hurt, and even kill living humans.  After watching this
first episode and the tepid acting that accompanied it, I’m going
to pass on watching the remaining episodes.


One more from the SyFy Channel.

According to Wikipedia, Lost Girl is a Canadian supernatural crime
drama television series that premiered on the Showcase Television
network in September 2010. The series is developed and produced by
Prodigy Pictures. The series follows the life of a succubus named
Bo, played by Anna Silk, as she learns to control her abilities,
help those in need, and discover the truth about her origins. The
show received positive initial reviews, and was renewed for a
second season two months after its premiere. As of December 2011,
the show has been renewed for a third season.

This one is on the bubble for me.  There are two factions of these
supernatural creatures - the Light Fae and the Dark Fae - who live
among us as a society within the human world.  Neither side seems
to have much regard for humans.

The pilot episode had its moments.  I liked several of the actors:
Silk, Ksenia Solo as her human friend Kenzi, and Zoie Palmer as a
human doctor and researcher working with the Light Fae.  I’ll watch
the show for a few more weeks to see if it can win me over.

The comfy chair - or maybe the comfy sofa - is calling to me.  I’ll
be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, January 19, 2012


It was during Mid-Ohio-Con, watching Thom Zahler work on drawings
for his fans, that I decided it would be very cool to commission a
piece from him teaming up Black Lightning with Darkblade from Love
and Capes
.  I posted that drawing on January 3.

Before Thom finished that piece, I decided it would be cooler still
to have a whole bunch of drawings of Black Lightning with other
characters I love.  So, taking advantage of a hole in my pal Terry
Beatty’s busy schedule, I commissioned him to do the above drawing
of Black Lightning with Ms. Tree.  Created by Terry and writer Max
Allan Collins, this gorgeous hard-boiled detective has been one of
my favorite characters since her 1981 debut. 

Like Thom, Terry did a great job on the commission.  Both of their
drawings will go on my office wall when I renovate my work space in
two years.  Funds permitting - and, alas, they are extremely tight
at the moment - I plan to add more Black Lightning team-ups to my
budding collection. 

Thom and Terry are two of my favorite artists.  Both of them are on
my double top secret “artists I want to work with” list.  If you’d
like to commission work from Thom, go here:


If you’d like to commission work from Terry, e-mail him at:


And, if you want to hire a terrific writer, e-mail me at:


Hey, as long as I was plugging Thom and Terry, I figured I might as
well get in one for myself.


Speaking of wondrous comics team-ups, I recommend frequent visits
to Super-Team Family...The Lost Issues website.  Created by a mad
genius named Ross, it began in 2010 as The Brave and the Bold...the
Lost Issues, switched to Marvel Two-In-One...the Lost Issues for a
spell, switched back to The Brave and the Bold...the Lost Issues,
and is currently doing business under its present name. 

Ross mixes and matches character images from all over the history
of American comic books and, occasionally, other sources, to create
team-up covers that have never existed.  When you see them, you’ll
wish they did exist and that you could read the amazing comic books
they represent.  Whenever I need a smile, I head over to:


You should do likewise.


Several readers have e-mailed me asking for my reaction to what is
apparently the new DC Comics logo.  While I’m still sort of hoping
it’s a prank of some sort, I’ll respond to the requests as if it’s
the real deal.

The new logo looks like it was designed and approved by people who
are both out of touch with their audience and embarrassed to work
in comics.  It’s ugly and it’s stupid.  So ugly and stupid that I
think it should be reserved for those DC titles who best exemplify
ugly and stupid.  I’m thinking Catwoman, Deathstroke, and Red Hood
and the Outlaws
, to name three.

In a doubtless futile effort to stave off the e-mails I’ll receive
in the wake of the above: yes, I’m biased against DC Comics.  If a
publishing company cheated you on royalties and other agreements
for 35 years, you’d be biased against them as well.  But, when my
readers ask me a question, I answer without bias and as honestly as
humanly possible.

I truly hope DC and all other comics publisher flourish.  DC makes
it possible for some talented people to make a living.  Okay, they
also make it possible for many untalented editors, executives, and
freelancers to make a living.  But my point remains.  I want them
to do well.  Because, who knows?  Maybe someday the company will be
run by people with the morality to do right by creators and honor
their agreements with them. 


Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are two of my all-time favorite artists.
You would expect I’d love talking about them with other Kirby and
Ditko fans.  However, increasingly, that’s not the case.  Instead,
I avoid quite a few online conversations.

The source of my discontent is that small but loud group of Kirby
and Ditko fans who mistakenly believe that they must express their
love for these great comics creators by diminishing, disparaging,
and even viciously insulting other comics creators who collaborated
with Kirby and Ditko.  Any word said by Kirby or Ditko in anger or
frustration becomes unquestionable truth to these zealots and woe
befall any who do dare to question.

Larry Lieber is one of the nicest and most modest comics creators
I know.  He has always been unfailingly honest in relating the how
and why of his comics work.  Yet I’ve seen a Kirby zealot call him
a liar because he refused to believe that Larry wrote full scripts
(from Stan Lee plots) for the giant monster stories Kirby drew in
the 1960s.

I’ve seen a so-called comics historian base wild speculation after
wild speculation on an alleged phone conversation with Steve Ditko
decades ago.  A conversation of which he has no recording or
transcription.  In his case, because he once interviewed
me for a book on the direct sales market, and subsequently tried to
twist facts to give himself a pivotal role in the creation of that
market, I tend to disbelieve anything he claims.

One of the worse cases of this comics “idol worship” happened on a
mailing list dedicated to the work of Gene Colan, one of the most
talented artists ever to work in comics and a sweetheart of a man.
Yet one of his fans savaged Don Heck for, as near as I can figure,
the crime of not being Gene Colan.

When admiration turns to zealotry, rational thought seems to vanish
from the conversation.  Everything the idol has ever done or does
today is the greatest thing ever, even when it obviously isn’t the
greatest thing ever or even good.  It’s one thing to avoid making
negative remarks out of respect for a beloved comics creator, but
it’s irrational to loudly proclaim that mediocre work is more than
that.  Who do you think you’re kidding?

I’m all for comics creators making comics for as long as they want
to.  I wish there were countless good-paying opportunities
for them to do so.  I have no problem with their fans buying even
mediocre work out of love for a creator’s past work.  I’ve done it
myself more times than I can count and I don’t regret the expense
in the slightest.

I just don’t want to listen to the zealots anymore.  In their mad
fervor, they do no justice to the memories of Kirby, Ditko, or any
of their other favorites.  Thankfully, their petulant little
rants cannot diminish the greatest of Kirby, Ditko, and all those
other beloved comics creators. 

Those guys made those great comics.  The zealots are just flapping
their gums in the vain hope of being part of that greatness.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Among the 100-plus pages of keen advice, commentary, and reflection
found in bug#uck: The Useless Wit and Wisdom of Harlan Ellison
[Edgeworks Abbey; $10] is one I take as a personal challenge every
time I read it: “The trick is not becoming a writer.  The trick is
staying a writer.”

Often by the blistered skin of my typing fingers, I’ve managed to
stay a professional writer for four decades.  There are times when
it seems there will always be a paying gig on my desk.  There are
times when I wonder if there will ever be another paying gig on my
desk.  The trick - make that THE trick - is one I’ve been trying to
master for years.  I perform it better than many and not nearly as
well as many others.  But I keep working at it.

For my next illusion...


On top of my “things to write about stack” was an index card with
these notes:

Law and Order SVU
Obama merge
Iran scientist
King Kong Blu-Ray
Rick Perry

Five of those items are things I wanted to write about.  “King Kong
Blu-Ray” was just a note to myself reminding me to order that item
and “132/75" is a blood pressure reading.

Last Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons was “The D'oh-cial Network,”
a spoof of Facebook.  There were some truly funny moments in this
episode, but, overall, the pacing seemed odd to me.  I’m wondering
if some jokes weren’t cut for legal concerns.  The episode ran so
short it included a brilliant “Simpsons Short.” Anybody out there
have any thoughts on this?

I should be a detective...or least a TV detective.  Of course, this
would shorten the running time of such programs.  In the episode of
Law and Order SVU that aired last Thursday - “Theatre Tricks” - I knew
from the moment a character first appeared that the character was
the person responsible for the crime du jour.  I even knew why the
character did it.  I’m being non-specific here because I don’t want
to spoil the episode, which is definitely worth watching for a fine
performance by Kevin Pollak and the reactions of the regular cast
members as the case unfolds.

“Obama merge” refers to President Obama asking for the authority to
merge several government agencies to reduce the cost and size of
government.  Which seems to be the kind of thing Republicans could
support...if they really cared about anything other than electing
their candidates.  At first glance, Obama’s plan seems like a good
one to me.  On second glance...

Okay, on second glance, it still looks good to me, but it gives me
some cause to pause as well.  You see, if this plan goes through,
some government employees will be without jobs.  Employees who have
jobs, government or otherwise, buy goods from American stores and
companies and pay sales and other taxes.  Most rational folks think
this is a good thing. 

While you don’t want to have employees on the payroll just so they
have jobs, you also don’t want them to add to our land’s economic
and unemployment woes.  This merging plan needs careful thought and
considerate implementation.  As I once said, and as Harlan Ellison
has quoted me numerous occasions, “Expediency is not heroism.”
Our leaders need to do the right things in ways that don’t create
new problems. 

“Iran scientist” refers to the assassination of an Iranian nuclear
scientist alleged to be working on Iran’s oft-denied plan to build
nuclear weapons.  Our CIA is accused of being behind this murder.
To my surprise, I don’t know how I feel about this.

If whoever did this deed knew for a fact the scientist was building
the bomb for Iran, I don’t know if I’m against it.  Iran is pretty
much the last country in the world I want to have nuclear weapons,
mostly because its leaders keep saying insane things about wiping
their enemies from the face of the Earth.  As distasteful as this
assassination is, it’s less distasteful than bombing the heck out
of Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. 

Think about all the innocent Iraqi citizens who died when Bush and
Cheney launched their fraudulent, illegal, unnecessary war against
Saddam Hussein.  Think about all the American soldiers who died in
that war.  Maybe a more selective approach is the least immoral of
the choices available to us in Iran.

“Rick Perry” made the index card because he’s an idiot.  The latest
example of this is his defense of the American soldiers videotaped
urinating on slain Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.  That foolish
action lowers our moral position in the Middle East and will make
things more dangerous for our soldiers there. 

As near as I can determine with my limited online research skills,
“abuse of a corpse” is, at the very least, a misdemeanor crime and,
in some circumstances, a felony.  It’s possible military penalties
for such crimes are more severe than in civilian courts.  The plain
fact is...crimes were committed by these soldiers. 

These soldiers should be charged with those crimes, face trial, and
receive the appropriate sentences for those crimes.  However, while
I wouldn’t want to see them receive nothing more than a slap on the
wrist, I’d certainly want to see the circumstances of their crimes
taken into account.  They’re young men whose country has asked them
to fight in a hellish conflict against an enemy known for far worse
atrocities.  To me, that represents a mitigating circumstance that
must be taken into account in the name of justice.


One of my readers sent me a beautiful condition copy of the first
paperback edition of Homebodies by the legendary cartoonist Chas
Addams, creator of the Addams Family.  The hardcover edition of the
book was published by Simon and Schuster (September, 1954) and this
Pocket Books edition appeared in March, 1965, just months after the
debut of the Addams Family television series.

This paperback format didn’t do Addams’ cartoons justice.  Many of
the cartoons were printed so small as to obscure necessary details.
But the ones I could read were as hilarious as I remember and left
me hungering for a better presentation.

In this era of amazing collections of classic comics material, I’d
love to see the work of Addams given the same stylish reprinting as
Peanuts, Pogo, and other great works of comics art.  Consider this
a strong hint to my friends at Fantagraphics and IDW.  The Addams
Family and their creator deserve the star treatment.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella