Saturday, March 31, 2012


All I know about First Romance Magazine #11 [February 1952] is that
it was published by Harvey Comics in the month of my birth and that
the cover may have been drawn by Lee Elias.  However, with a cover
LOVED AT ALL?”, I wonder if it might have been the most depressing
romance comic of the 1950s.  I may never know for sure.


I’m bouncing back from my latest go-round with depression.  I can
tell because I found a conversation with a publisher more laughable
than annoying.  It was obvious within minutes that he had no real
ability to hire me or interest in hiring me.  He wanted to pick my
brain for free and, these days, I don’t let anyone pick my boogers
for free.  That sounded much funnier in my head.

I brought some happiness to a small part of the Internet by posting
my first ever Twitter hashtag tweets:

I'm not feeling well. I knew I shouldn't have gone joyriding around
that gamma bomb test. #badcomicbookchoices

Maybe cutting through this alley with my wife and kid wasn't such
a good idea. #badcomicbookchoices

I was pleased and amused by the tweets of the other comics fans and
professionals who posted with that hashtag.

While I’m in good spirits, I figure I’ll tackle some comics-related
subjects I’ve been putting off because I didn’t want to write about
them while I was depressed.  Still staying away from the political
stuff for now, though. #goodmentalhealthchoices

Marvel Comics vs. Gary Friedrich

I’m not going to address the merits of my friend Gary’s case or of
Marvel’s countersuit.  I realize Gary’s version of the creation of
Ghost Rider is disputed by others who were working for Marvel when
Johnny Blaze made his debut.  Some of those others are friends of
mine as well. 

But...the first appearance of Johnny Blaze carries the credit line
“Conceived and written by Gary Friedrich” and that proclaims that
Marvel recognized his predominant role in the creation of the Ghost
Rider and recognized it in print.  What does that credit represent?
I can’t say for certain.  I had a similar credit line on the first
issues of Black Goliath, Champions, and the Tigra feature that
ran in Marvel Chillers.  To me, it meant that I had taken existing
characters and come up with a new way of presenting them to Marvel
readers.  To Gary, the credit line obviously means much more than
that.  I doubt Marvel would have allowed him a “created by” credit.
What appeared was likely the best Gary could get.

I absolutely believe Gary should benefit from the success of Ghost
Rider.  The character has made millions of dollars for Marvel over
the years: comics, movies, toys, and more.  Even if Marvel has no
legal obligation to give Gary a slice of that pie, it would be good
business for it to do so.  If a comics company lets its writers and
artists know their hard work will be rewarded, then they might well
create new characters from which both the company and they would
benefit.  It’s an incentive.  It’s smart business.

Due to Marvel’s countersuit, Gary was ordered to pay $17,000 to the a time when he is in poor health and in dire financial
shape.  Perhaps the judgment has merit, perhaps it doesn’t, but it
would be egregious and vindictive for Marvel to do anything other
than forgive that debt.  Especially given how much money Marvel has
made from the Ghost Rider.

Gary Friedrich may never created another character as successful as
the Ghost Rider.  However, Marvel treating him fairly would be the
moral thing for the company to do - and I think if we’re going to
claim corporations are people then we have a reasonable expectation
that they act humanely - and, as noted above, the smart thing for
the company to do.  Because corporations don’t create characters.
That’s the sole providence of actual people.

Jack Kirby’s heirs vs Marvel Comics.

I have previously discussed my disgust with the “Kirby as auteur”
crowd and their belligerence toward anyone who sees (and remembers)
things differently than they.  They’ve called several professionals
who worked with Jack and/or Stan Lee liars.  They have attempted to
deny fair credit to some of those professionals and, in particular,
demonize Stan.  One of their number has so actively harassed one of
their targets that the miscreant’s Internet service provider took
action against the miscreant.  While I surely don’t claim to have
known Jack and Roz Kirby as well as many, I can’t believe either
would condone such behavior.  It's a disservice to Kirby’s legacy.
I don't see vilifying others as a prerequisite to honoring Kirby.
Never have and never will.

My distaste for the actions of the agenda-driven Kirby zealots has
naught to do with my opinion of the Kirby Estate’s lawsuit against
Marvel.  From the start, I thought the lawsuit was an overreach on
the plaintiffs’ part.  I thought it was a weak case because of that
overreach.  The judge seems to have agreed.

None of the above changes my opinion that Jack Kirby was not fairly
compensated for his pivotal role in the creation of the vast Marvel
Universe.  Stan and Jack, along with Steve Ditko and others, created
a truly amazing reality and all of them should have benefitted from their
acts of creation on behalf of the company...and their heirs should
benefit from it as well.  Beyond Jack’s astonishing creative drive,
he worked because he wanted to provide for his family.  Marvel has
a moral obligation to honor Jack’s wishes in this matter. 

This bares repeating: Corporations don’t create characters.  That’s
the sole providence of actual people.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, March 30, 2012


All I know about Fawcett Movie Comic #14 is that it adapted a 1951
Paramount film starring Ronald Reagan and that it was published in
my birth month of December 1951.  IMDb summarizes the plot of the
movie thus:

Two brothers who are not the best friends because they were
fighting on different sides during the Civil War have to cooperate
in order to defend themselves against an attack of Indians.

The movie also features Rhonda Fleming, Bruce Bennett, Noah Beery
Jr., Hugh Beaumont (Beaver’s dad), and, in an uncredited role, Burt
Mustin.  Leading man Reagan went on to become the President of the
United States and the patron saint of a Republican Party that, were
he alive and running for President now, would likely hate him more
than they hate Mitt Romney. Life’s funny, isn’t it?

The Grand Comics Datebase reports Fawcett Movie Comics was preceded
by seven movie adaptation one-shots, but does not explain why the
ongoing story started with issue #7 instead of issue #8.  The title
would end with issue #20.


The rough patch continues, so I again turned to movies to work my
way through it.  Courtesy of Turner Classic Movies, I viewed three
vintage science fiction slash horror movies: The Magnetic Monster
(1953), X the Unknown (1956), and Die, Monster, Die (1965).  It was
four-and-a-half hours well spent.

Written by Curt Siodmak and Ivan Tors and directed by Siodmak and
Herbert L. Strock, The Magnetic Monster is a surprisingly chilling
film despite its low budget, frequent use of stock footage, and a
tendency towards wooden acting.  A rogue scientist has developed an
artificial radioactive material that absorbs energy and increases
in size.  If the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI) doesn’t
find some way to destroy this “monster,” it will grow large enough
to destroy the Earth in days.

Richard Carlson and Jean Byron are amazing as Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
and his pregnant wife Connie.  Stewart fusses because he doesn’t
think she is getting fat enough fast enough.  She gives him those
“poor simple man” looks that I know so well from my own 28 years of
marriage.  Their performance is completely convincing.

Without showing a single on-screen death until its closing scenes,
the movie nonetheless conveys a rising sense of urgency and dread.
The frequent through-the-microscope shots of the glowing growing
material are actually kind of scary.  That all of this is conveyed
by the actors and not the mostly non-existent special effects is a
remarkable achievement. 

At the end of the film, as the Carlsons prepare to enter the house
they have bought for their growing family, Jeffrey notices Connie
is gaining weight.  Connie replies that she is getting bigger and
bigger.  Jeffrey says something about secrets of multiplication and
when his wife gives him one of those looks and asks him what he’s
talking about, he says:

I'm not sure. Excepting they both seem to have something to do with
multiplication. Done through love, the result is a baby, a... a
lovely thing. But without love, done through hate or... or fear,
the result is a monster, an element that grows.

Roll the eyes and the end credits.

Though The Magnetic Monster drags in places, I liked it.  According
to Wikipedia, it’s the first of three OSI movies and you can bet I
will be looking for the others: Riders to the Stars (1954) and Gog
(also 1954).


Giant radioactive mud emerges from a crevice to absorb energy and
fry anyone luckless enough to get caught in its path.  That’s the
quick summary of X the Unknown.  But the real-life horror of this
Hammer Films production is that it was supposed to be directed by
blacklisted American director Joseph Losey.  However, leading man
Dean Jagger (Dr. Adam Royston) refused to work with a suspected
Communist sympathizer.  Losey was canned and replaced with Leslie
Norman.  I’m glad I didn’t find out Jagger was an asshat before I
watched this movie.  If I had, I would have been rooting for that
mud monster.

Written by Jimmy Sangster, X the Unknown was meant to be the second
movie in the Quatermass series but Nigel Kneale, the writer of The
Quatermass Experiment
, refused the use of Bernard Quatermass in the
film.  X captures the feel of the Quatermass series so much that I
kept wondering when Quatermass would show up.

X the Unknown was good creepy fun.  The monster looks like a shit-
covered rug, but, since we don’t see if until after several scary
and tragic deaths, it’s effective because we know what it can do.
The ending is a bit confusing - Doc Royston doesn’t quite know why
his plan to destroy the monster worked and no one seems concerned
about that - but I enjoyed the film.


According to the credits of this British film, Die, Monster, Die!
is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space”.  It’s been
many years since I’ve read that story, but there were a few broad
similarities: a meteorite from space with mutagenic properties, a
blighted area around the event, and deformities, illness, madness
and death visited on those closest to the area.

In this version, American scientist Stephen Reinhart (Nick Adams)
encounters fear and hostility from the townspeople near the Witley
estate.  He’s come to see his fiancee Susan Witley (Suzan Farmer),
invited by Susan’s mother who wants him to take her daughter away
as quickly as possible.  Letitia Witley has already been infected
by the meteor’s radiation.

Played by Boris Karloff, Nahum Witley, Susan’s father, is using the
meteor to mutate plant and animal life.  His hope is to bring life
to the area and redeem his family name, a name sullied by the mad
obsessions of his own father.  Needless to say, things aren’t going
as planned.

Adams makes a convincing hero.  Farmer is sexy in a cute 1960s way.
The wheelchair-bound Karloff doesn’t really get into things until
his final scenes when he realizes where his obsessions have taken
him.  The special effects are kind of gooey when it comes to human
beings changed by the meteor’s radiation, kind of dumb when plants
attack Susan, and kind of cool when we get a glimpse of not-quite-
human meteor creatures. 

Die, Monster, Die! is a perfectly reasonable movie to pass an hour
and a half with.  It’s not classic - none of these three films can
aspire to that - but it’s entertaining.  I rarely demand more from
movies and that’s working out okay for me.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Famous Funnies is considered by many to be the first true American
comic book and you can include me with the many.  Maxwell Gaines,
a salesman for Eastern Color Printing and Harry I. Wildenberg, his
sales manager, teamed with Dell Publishing for the one-shot Famous
Funnies: A Carnival of Comics
, a 36-page one shot reprinting comic
strips from the newspapers.  Dell declined to continue the title,
so Eastern Color published Famous Funnies #1 [July 1934].  The 68-
page comic book launched an ongoing run that continued until 1955.

I wish I could tell you more about Famous Funnies #198, which hit
the newsstands in my birth month of December 1951.  Alas, I have no
specific information on the contents of that issue.  However, I can
at least mention some of the newspaper strips that were featured in
issues before and after this one:

Scorchy Smith was an adventurous pilot for hire.  He was created by
John Terry in 1930.  Terry passed away in 1933 from tuberculosis.
The comic strip was continued by other artists, starting with Noel
Sickles and then Burt Christman, Robert Farrell, Frank Robbins and
others.  It ended in 1961.

Dickie Dare was the first comic strip created by Milton Caniff.  It
starred a boy who would dream himself into fantastic adventures and
made its debut in July of 1933.  About a year later, Caniff added
freelance writer Dan Flynn to the strip and Dickie started having
real adventures.  When Caniff left to do Terry and the Pirates, the
strip was continued by Coulton Waugh.  The strip ended in 1957, by
which time Dickie was a Navy cadet.

Other Famous Funnies features from this period included Steve Roper
(an adventurous photojournalist), Napoleon (an Irish Wolfhound),
Bobby Sox (a panel and Sunday strip named for the teenage fashion
and starring a young lady named Emmy Lou), Oaky Doaks (a farm boy
in King Arthur’s time who made a suit of armor to seek knighthood)
and Ben Friday (a bodyguard and troubleshooter). 

I await further Famous Funnies illumination from more knowledgeable
comics fans than your humble blogger.  You, my beloved readers, are
doubtless eagerly awaiting more comics from the month of my birth.
You will not be disappointed.


Feeling a bit more depressed than usual as I write this, so, sans
any desire to review anything, I’ll just ramble on a bit about this
and that.  Just stuff that pops into my mind between here and the
end of today’s bloggy thing.

I was a bit premature in wrapping up the local newspaper reaction
to the Doonesbury strips about the insanely intrusive abortion laws
of Texas.  There were more letters in each of my three newspapers:
the Akron Beacon Journal, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and even the
Medina Gazette.  They were split pretty evenly between pro-choice
and pro-life advocates with one of them applauding that the paper
ran the Doonesbury strips.

The only one that bothered me was the Gazette letter and not merely
because it was of the “you’re a murderer if you don’t agree with my
position” variety.  The writer objected to Doonesbury appearing on
the comics page and, indeed, any comic strip appearing on the page
that wasn’t, you know, comic.

Comic strips and comic books have never been strictly comical.  Not
in the entire history of the medium.  The art form has been used to
express political positions, to shine a line on the hardships that
people face in their lives, and much more.  If I had to adhere to
such a rigid “rule,” whether it be that I had to be funny or that
my super-hero stories had to be about good and evil as expressed in
black and white terms, I’d have little interest in writing comics.
The art form is bigger than that and I like to think Tony Isabella
is bigger than that as well.

Moving on...

I’m on a few “comics pros only” mailing lists and just saying that
probably violates Fight Club rules, but if I can’t trust my bloggy
thing readers, who can I trust?  I recently posted the following on
one of those lists and thought it was good enough to share with you
here as well...

With no new writing gigs on the horizon, I'm shifting to a garage
sale and eBay-based economic model.  At least for the spring and
summer.  The theory is that this will allow me to work through my
current go-round with depression while making a few bucks.

I'm not going to turn down any decent gigs or stop writing, but I
am very much soured on the comics industry right now.  I think the
last straw was when a major convention told friends that they won't
invite me to be a special guest because they are afraid I'd attack
one of their guests - someone on this list - on a panel. 

Who can blame them, given all those times in the past when I've
attacked people on panels?  Unless someone would consider that I’ve
never done that.  But, truth is outmoded as a factor in decision-
making or belief systems these days.

Anyway, just to ease your minds, no one on this list has any reason
to fear me.  Unless, of course, I'm wearing a hoodie.

A well-meaning neighbor suggested I find backers and start my own
publishing company.  It's amusing when people think so highly of
one without knowing anything about their business.

Even if there were such backers out there, one of the things I have
come to accept about myself is that, while I might be a terrific
writer, I'm a terrible businessman.  I wouldn't trust me to run
even a small company.  Heck, I barely trust myself to run my garage

It's an interesting life I’ve lived and live.  Most importantly, my
wife and kids are doing great.  That's what’s most important to me
and that I can contribute to helping them in myriad ways.

With that...

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

The Rawhide Kid is one of my favorite comics characters.  Inspired
by Essential Rawhide Kid Vol. 1, which reprints Rawhide Kid #17-35,
I plan to write about the Kid every other Wednesday.  There will be
spoilers ahead.  You have been warned.

Rawhide Kid #21 [April 1961] is a departure from previous issues of
the title.  Instead of two or three Rawhide Kid stories, we get one
19-page adventure, albeit split into four chapters. 

The Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers cover is also something of a departure in
that we barely see anything of Rawhide’s face.  Though he and his
horse are the largest images on the cover, a copy arrow directs the
potential customer’s eye to Grizzly Younger and two members of the
outlaw’s gang.  Within the story, we learn Grizzly and his gunmen
were pals with Blackjack Borden, who the Rawhide Kid fought in the
previous issue.  It’s an unexpected bit of continuity that elevates
this story to a part of a larger saga.

“The Gunmen of Sundown City” by Stan Lee, Kirby, and Ayers is one
of the best of the early Rawhide Kid thrillers.  It’s filled with
surprises.  We’ve seen the Kid draw and shoot his guns faster than
an opponent with weapons already drawn on a couple occasions.  That
doesn’t happen in the first chapter of this tale.  Instead, an old
marshal shoots the guns out of the Kid’s hands and takes Rawhide
prisoner.  On the road, the Kid makes his escape and, during this
escape, the marshal is injured.  The luckless lawman is then taken
captive by Grizzly and his gang.

When Rawhide reaches Sundown City, he finds it under the control of
Grizzly.  He takes out Younger’s men in action-packed Kirby style,
but Grizzly gets the drop on him.  The Kid agrees to join the gang
to save his life.  His first assignment: shoot the bound marshal in
cold blood.  Well, we all know that’s not gonna happen.

Another great fight erupts.  The Kid defeats the owlhoots, but gets
shot in the shoulder.  Rawhide expects the marshal to take him in,
but the lawman decides to retire on the spot.  If he’s not the law,
he doesn’t have to arrest the Kid.

“The West is a big place, Kid...and I reckon some day you’ll find
the justice yore lookin’ for!  You’re no more badman than I am.  So
ride off,’s getting late, and there’s a long trail ahead.”

“The Gunslinger” was this issue’s non-series story.  Stan Lee wrote
it and Don Heck drew it. 

Cattle rustler Grimes shoots cattle rancher Seth Brown because the
latter is trying to prove Grimes is the rustler.  The town sheriff,
unable to prove any of the above, tells Grimes that he best beware
of Bat Brown, the wounded rancher’s brother.  The sheriff says Bat
is “supposed to be the most dangerous gun in the state.”

Refused protection by the sheriff - “I’ll do my duty, Grimes! If he
shoots you, I’ll arrest him!” - Grimes hires gunmen to take care of
Bat.  But when he meets a gunman named Flash, who says he beat the
fastest gun in the territory, Grimes fires his hired killers.  All
he needs is Flash.  Big mistake.

You see..."Flash" is actually Bat Brown.  The terrified Grimes backs
away from Bat and right off a cliff. 

The twist? The sheriff and the rancher’s brother were just messing
with the rustler’s head.  Bat admits he is “just about the slowest
gun in these parts” and is happy to go back to his regular job as
a schoolteacher. 

Yes, you and I can think of several ways in which this plan could
have gone horribly wrong.  But I tend to be charitable towards the
comics of my youth.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Exciting Romances #6 [December 1951] was one of 21 romance comics
that hit the newsstands in the month of my birth.  Six of them were
published by Fawcett, including this one.  The couple on this photo
cover look maddeningly familiar to me, but I can’t identify them.
Whenever I try to study the cover, I get distracted by the heroine
looking so intently at the hero’s nose.  Then I start thinking of
the classic Asterix and Cleopatra graphic album wherein Asterix and
other characters comment on what a lovely nose Cleopatra has...and
then I start giggling.

Inside the issue, there are three comics stories: “In the Name of
Love” (11 pages, drawn by Marc Swayze), “The Fraud (also 11 pages,
artist unidentified at this time), and “Borrowed Moment” (8 pages,
artist unidentified at this time).  The writers of these tales are
likewise unidentified at this time.

You know the drill.  Keep reading my bloggy things for more comics
from my birth month.


I’ve had Captain Britain Vol. 1: Birth of a Legend [Marvel; $39.99]
for a while, but just got around to reading it earlier this month.
It reprints the made-in-the-USA and published-in-the-UK adventures
of the title character.  Chris Claremont was the original writer of
the series wherein college student Brian Braddock is recruited by
Merlin and Roma to become England’s super-hero.  Other writers
in this volume: Gary Friedrich, Larry Lieber, Bob Budiansky,
Jim Lawrence, and Len Wein.  Herb Trimpe was the first artist and
drew 23 episodes of the weekly comics feature.  He was followed by
John Buscema and Ron Wilson.

Though my first job at Marvel Comics was assisting Sol Brodsky and
Stan Lee in putting together British weeklies like The Mighty World
of Marvel
and Spider-Man Comics Weekly, I was no longer working at
Marvel when the company launched Captain Britain.  The only early
stories I ever saw were those reprinted in edited form in the back
of Marvel Tales.  Given my own association with the weeklies, I was
curious about these tales.  So much so that I used a couple Amazon
gift cards to buy both this volume and the second one.

My curiosity has been satisfied, albeit in a disappointing manner.
These 41 stories are, at best, passable generic super-hero tales.
The stories are padded with ill-conceived twists and, by the time
we get guest appearances by Captain America and Nick Fury, we also
get groan-inducing dialogue.  Cap doesn’t sound like Cap, Nick just
barely sounds like Nick, the Red Skull worships Hitler, and there
are numerous soccer references clumsily inserted into Cap Britain’s
speech patterns.  It was a struggle to get through the collection.
It’ll be a while before I crack the second volume.

The most positive thing I can say about this book is that this is
rare material you won’t easily find elsewhere.  If you’re a Marvel
fanatic - and given the importance Captain Britain would eventually
assume in the Marvel Universe - you’ll want to read this book.  I
recommend looking for a bargain price.

ISBN: 978-0-7851-5728-1


Make me “somewhat undecided” on Fatale by Ed Brubaker with artist
Sean Phillips [Image; $3.50].  As with their earlier works, Fatale
is very well-written and drawn.  I’m just not sure this particular
blend of crime and the supernatural is floating my boat.  However,
two issues in and I’m definitely intrigued enough to keep reading.
I’ll check back in with you on Fatale in a few more issues.


Before starting to catch up on the last few years of Spider-Man, I
read Spider-Girl #1-8 by Paul Tobin with art by Clayton Henry and
others.  Anya Corazon is the second Spider-Girl and the first for
the regular Marvel Universe.  I’m not completely clear on how she
got to be Spider-Girl or her background, but I enjoyed these eight
issues.  I got a kick out of her tweeting as Spider-Girl and that
Tobin didn’t ignore the consequences of that tweeting.  I felt the
Marvel Universe did not overpower the stories, but actually worked
with them.  Unfortunately, it seems the title was canceled with the
eighth issue.  Sigh.

Anya also starred in a three-issue Spider Island tie-in series.  I
will read and write about it when I catch up to the Spider Island


Here’s my thoughts on Saturday’s DC Nation hour...

The Green Lantern episode - “Into the Abyss” - was good, not great.
The Kilowog/Razer conflict has become tiresome; Hal Jordan is not
an easy fit for the adult of the team.  But I do like the expanded
role for Aya, their navigation unit.  Maybe she should become the
adult of the team. 

The shorts? The British claymation stuff leaves me cold, much like
much if not most Brit humor.  The Plastic Man short was better than
the first one in that it amused me.  I was pleasantly surprised by
the appearance of the Granite Lady, a Plas villain from the 1940s.

The Young Justice episode - “Agendas” - was the star of the hour.
The “A” story was a terrific focus on Superboy with, remarkable as
it will sound coming from me, a good role for Lex Luthor.  The “B”
story hinted to intriguing conflicts between members of the Justice
League.  I love the idea of a future appearance by Icon and Rocket.
I despise the ugly Hawkman and Hawkwoman costumes.  One of the best
Young Justice episodes to date.


I got $11.26 from Marvel Comics last week and I’m happy about it.
The check represents royalties from two pages I wrote for Vampire
back in the 1970s.  If you an insane Isabella completist, you
can find those pages in Vampire Tales Vol. 3 [$19.99; ISBN 978-0-

These are two of the single-page “fact” features I wrote a bunch of
for the various Marvel black-and-white horror magazines.  I liked
writing them.  They were fast and fun.  The first one was drawn by
Ernie Chan and the second one is uncredited, but it might also be
by Chan.  In addition to these gems, you’ll find stories by my pal
Don McGregor, Carla and Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Larry Lieber,
Doug Moench, Chris Claremont, and John Warner...with art by Mike
Vosburg, Joe Staton, Alfredo Alcala, Tony DeZuniga, Russ Heath,
Virgilio Redondo, Jesus Blasco, Sonny Trinidad, and Yong Montano.
Around 200 pages of black-and-white chillers.

My delight in receiving the small check?  It’s further confirmation
that I never have to chase Marvel Comics for such payments.  Over
at DC, they tend not to pay me for all sorts of stuff they owe me
money on.  When the checks come - and they don’t always come - the
statements often seem to be based in some alien mathematical system
far beyond my earthly understanding.  I’m just saying.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 26, 2012


Dell’s Four Color #375 [February 1952] starred John Carter of Mars,
the hero created by Edgar Rice Burroughs before Tarzan.  Think of
Four Color as a sort of “showcase” title on steroids.  It was where
Dell launched characters, publishing several issues of these stars-
in-the-making under this catch-all series before giving them their
own ongoing titles.  Four Color was also where Dell published its
movie and novel adaptations, holiday specials, and the occasional
one-shot.  Between 1939 and 1962, there were over a thousand issues
of Four Color.  There were three other issues published in my birth
month of December 1951: Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (#373); Susie
Q. Smith (#377), and Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage (#372).

Burroughs wrote 11 Mars books. A Princess of Mars, the first in the
series was serialized as “Under the Moons of Mars” in The All-Story
(February-July 1912) and renamed when it was published in
hardcover in 1917.  The novel is currently believed to have passed
into the public domain, which is why there are John Carter titles
being published simultaneously by Dynamite and Marvel. 

Jesse Marsh, best known for his magnificient work on Tarzan comics,
drew the cover and interiors for this Dell adaptation of A Princess
of Mars
.  For years, the prolific Gaylord DuBois was thought to be
the writer of this comic book but the script isn’t found in DuBois’
account books.  This issue was reprinted by Gold Key as John Carter
of Mars
#1 [April 1964].  Though I’m certain I read it back then,
I don’t remember any specific reaction to it.

I’m also sure I read at least a couple of the original ERB novels
and probably have all of them in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.  If
I live long enough, I may read (or reread) them.  It is somewhat
more likely that I will see John Carter, the new Disney movie that
has been declared a box-office bomb but which it getting very good
reviews from friends whose opinions I respect. 

Keep reading these bloggy things of mine for more comics from the
month of my birth.  They fascinate me.


My current “catching up on Marvel” reading project is the X-Men in
all their wondrous forms.  Last week, I read the “Manifest Destiny”
storyline that started in the fall of 2008.  I read the issues in
order of publication and not by individual title and that was not
the way to go.  Though several titles carry the “Manifest Destiny”
branding, they weren’t otherwise connected.

“Manifest Destiny” is a storyline that came up short.  While there
are two events which struck me as significant - the X-Men moving to
San Francisco and their own “compound” (a former military base) and
the Beast putting together a team of scientists to save the mutant
race from extinction - the storyline seemed more like a prelude to
a major event than a major event.  Which is not to say that there
weren't some entertaining comics in the batch.  As I write about them,
keep in mind that I don’t yet know what happens next in the various
X-titles.  I’m reading in the past.

There will be spoilers.

Uncanny X-Men #500-507 were the best issues of the event.  I liked
the move to San Francisco and the city’s acceptance of the mutants.
I thought the increase in anti-mutant groups and hate crimes was a
logical development.  I was intrigued by the sometimes problematic
romance of Emma Frost and Scott Summers, a romance jeopardized by
their secrets and Scott being a major dick in other X-Men titles of
this era.  I liked Scott better here. 

The Beast forms his science team in these issues and has a run-in
with a creature who is basically Marvel’s version of Godzilla from
the two years when Marvel had that license.  A rift between Beast
and the Angel is also well played. 

Colossus fights his way free from his sorrow over the loss of Kitty
Pryde by facing an old foe and rescuing kidnapped women from a
human trafficking ring. Sometimes punching really bad guys really
good is cathartic and healing. 

Finally, there was Uncanny X-Men Annual #2, a “Dark Reign” tie-in
that made my head hurt.  That’s my usual reaction to “Dark Reign”
in general.  I’m really bored with Norman Osborn’s shit.  I think
Osborn fetishist Brian Michael Bendis and Osborn should just get a
room already and leave the rest of us out of it.

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny #1-4 made it official: Wolverine bores
me.  This is another one of those increasingly tiresome “Wolverine
has been everywhere and done everything” stories.  This time, it’s
revealed he fought a Tong war in San Francisco decades ago, killed
a really bad guy, and then left a vacuum in the community when he
didn’t take that bad guy’s place.  Now he’s back to made amends to
Chinatown.  Oh, yeah, and, by the end of this limited series, he’s
running the gang.  Because Wolverine is a joiner.  I’ve lost track
of how many groups and teams he belongs to.  I’m beginning to think
he’s actually Madrox.  I’m also realizing I don’t care.  If Marvel
asked me what to do with Wolverine, I’d tell them to have him piss
off every other hero in the Marvel Universe and be drummed out of
all those teams...and then let him wander the globe.  He should be
the ultimate Marvel loner super-hero.

X-Men: Legacy #215 and #216 are a meeting of the minds of Cyclops
and Professor X with Emma Frost as the referee.  It ends in a good
place.  I’m betting it didn’t stay that way.

X-Men: Manifest Destiny was a five-issue anthology series.  Iceman
was the only character to appear in all five issues, starring in a
serial wherein he battled Mystique to pretty much the same kind of
non-conclusion Wolverine battled her to last time out.  Apparently,
Iceman and Mystique had some sort of romantic encounter in earlier
issues and, apparently, Iceman is much more powerful than I knew.
Other than those two surprises, there wasn't much meat here or in any
of the other stories over the five issues.  I did kind of sort of
like a Emma Frost tale by Chris Yost, but I’m not sure the epiphany
Emma had at its conclusion has stayed with her.

Then there’s X-Men: Manifest Destiny Nightcrawler #1.  It’s a so-so
one-shot that reads like one of the Dreaded Deadline Doom fill-ins
of the 1970s.  It’s not awful, but it’s not good either.

My final comment on Manifest Destiny is that it was more branding
than an event.  I’m not a fan of either, but I do want to see where
the X-titles went from here. 

That said, I’m taking a break from the X-Men for a week or two. I
sorted out the X-issues I haven’t read yet and they filled a trio
of short boxes.  Before I return for more mutant madness, I’ll be
catching up with Spider-Man and Captain America...and some titles
from DC and other publishers.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, March 23, 2012


Dotty Dripple #20 [Harvey Comics] was published in the month of my
birth.  Having never seen an issue of the comic book of the comic
strip by Buford Tune, all I know is what I learned from visiting my
late friend Don Markstein’s Toonopedia.

Dotty was a domestic comedy, a Blondie knockoff that nevertheless
was entertaining and popular enough to run for three decades from
1944 to 1974.  She was also licensed to appear in comic books and
was published by three different companies:

Magazine Enterprises, where she was one of several features in some
early issues of A-1 Comics and then the star of two issues of her
own title (1944-1946);

Harvey Comics, which continued the numbering from her ME title and
published issues #3-24 (1946-1952) before changing the name of the
series to Horace and Dotty Dripple and running to issue #43 (1952-
1955) and, finally, 

Dell Comics, where a half-dozen issues appeared as part of Dell’s
Four Color Comics between 1955 and 1958 as Dotty Dripple and Taffy.
Taffy was the daughter of Dotty and Horace and her name was a lot
larger on the covers than Dotty’s.

The Grand Comics Datebase doesn’t much have information on Dotty’s
comic-book appearances, but it seems the ME comics were reprints of
the comic strip and that may also be the case for the issues that
were published by Harvey.  However, judging from the page lengths
of the stories, the Taffy-centric issues published by Dell had new
material done for the comic book.

As always, those of you who know more about the Dripple family are
welcome to share your knowledge with me.  For more comics from the
month of my birth, keep reading this bloggy thing. 

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age USA Comics Vol. 2 [$64.99] isn’t for
everyone.  This hardcover volume reprints issues #5-8 of the title
from 1942 and 1943 and the quality of these stories is as uneven as
you’d expect from comics produced on the quick and without a whole
lot of premeditation. 

Timely Comics had but three super-hero stars in the 1940s: Captain
America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner.  They had a number
of intriguing second-stringers, third-stringers, and one-appearance
wonders, but none of them rated with the big three.  Despite this,
it took until USA Comics #6 for Captain America to join the book’s
roster and add newsstand appeal to the covers.  Save for the rather
nondescript Sergeant Dix, none of the strips from USA #5 would make
another appearance in the title.

Unlike Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, who wrote an informative intro for
this volume, I’m not much of a comics historian.  So all I have for
you are some quick thoughts on the characters and stories in this
collection that sparked my interest. 

The Victory Boys (USA #5) are three young kids in ill-fitting long
johns who are apparently living in Germany’s Black Forest and who
trounce Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito in eight very weird pages.
I’m not making this up.

Then there’s the Fighting Hobo (USA #5).  He’s an actual hobo who
rescues a wealthy woman’s pets from dog-snatchers.  I’m still not
making this up.  Honest.

Roko the Amazing is a ripoff of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel.  But the
art by penciler Jack Alderman and an unknown inker is pretty good
for the era.

Then there’s Gypo the Gypsy Giant and Bobby (USA #5).  Gypo is the
least scary giant you could imagine.  Young Bobby offers to pretend
to be frightened to make him feel better.  Add Gypo’s shrewish wife
and his man-faced pet dragon and you gotta wonder if psychedelics
were involved in the production of this story.     

Captain America adds star power to USA Comics starting with issue
#6.  Unfortunately, all three of his adventures (one per issue) are
hopelessly padded and hopelessly tedious.  The art is just as bad,
especially in issue #8's “The Invasion of the Killer Beasts!”  The
art in that one is awful even by the lowest standards of the era.

I got a chuckle out of Jeep Jones (USA #6-8).  Drawn by Chic Stone,
the strip features an insanely inventive enlistee who is compelled
to do things with jeeps and tanks that confuse both the enemy and
our own soldiers.

The whole deal of Jap-Buster Johnson (USA #6-8) is that he really
hates the Japanese enemy.  Nicely drawn by Dennis Neville, Johnson
reminds me of a less psychotic Frank Castle.

Basil Wolverton’s Disk-Eyes the Detective (USA #7) is amazing wacky
fun from a master of amazing wacky fun.  If Marvel did collections
of Wolverton’s comics, I’d buy them.

There are a number of costumed heroes in these issues: the original
Black Widow, the Blue Blade, the American Avenger, the Destroyer,
the Whizzer, Captain Daring, Marvel Boy, and some kid known as the
Secret Stamp.  The stories of that last one have a strange design;
every page looks like a Sunday newspaper strip.

Remember how I said this book wouldn’t be for everyone?  I dig it
because I love to see comics from the 1940s and because the oddball
heroes fascinate me.  However, given the less-than-stellar quality
of the stories and art, you might decline to plunk down your cash
for this volume.  On the other hand, buying the original issues in
merely good condition, assuming you could even find them, would set
you back over $1,700.  By comparison, this book is a real bargain.

Okay, maybe not a bargain, but worth checking around to see if you
can get a deal on it from your friendly neighborhood comics shop,
from an online seller, or from a comics convention exhibitor trying
to reduce inventory.  Sometimes the hunt is half the fun.

ISBN: 978-0-7851-3365-0 

I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Doll Man #38 [Quality; February, 1952] came out in the month of my
birth, which, by now, you probably know as well as I do.  According
to the Grand Comics Database, this issue is the first horror-themed
issue of the title.  Horror comics in the early 1950s were as large
as the “World’s Mightiest Mite” was tiny.

Making his first appearance in Feature Comics #27 [December 1939],
Doll Man was the first shrinking super-hero.  He was Darrell Dane,
a research chemist who came up with a shrinking serum more than two
decades before Hank Pym.  As I recall, he only took the serum once
and could thereafter change his size mentally.  But he only had two
sizes: his normal size and six inches.  The character was created
by the legendary Will Eisner.

Most of the GCD credits for this issue are marked with the question
mark that denotes uncertainty.  Let’s consider them best guesses,
starting with the cover by (maybe) Bill Quackenbush.

There are three Doll Man stories in this issue: “The Druid Death”,
“House of Vampires” and “The Voodoo Master!”  The GCD opines that
the doubtless scary art for these tales was penciled by Chic Stone
and inked by Chuck Cuidera.  The first and third of these stories
were reprinted in black-and-white in publisher Bill Black’s Men of
Mystery Comics
#74 and #82.

Filling out the issue and her revealing outfits was the delectable
Torchy in a five-page story drawn by Gill Fox and perhaps written
by him.  Ah, Torchy, you were truly a honey!

More comics from the month of my birth to come.  It was a good time
for comics publishers and readers.                                                      

Age of TV Heroes by Jason Hofius and George Khoury [TwoMorrows;
$39.95] got swept into my Vast Accumulation of Stuff shortly after
I received a review copy in March 2010 and just resurfaced.  I hope
you can still find a copy because it’s terrific.

The hardcover book covers the history of live-action super-heroes
on American television.  It’s filled with solid research, spiffy
cool photos, interviews with many key cast and creative members of
these shows, and many surprising fun facts.  Like, just to name one
example, that legendary comics creator Sheldon Moldoff originated
the super-hero “roast” idea that became the second of NBC’s Legends
of the Superheroes
specials of 1979.  We lost Moldoff recently and
seeing his name in this book was a nice thing.

The roster of TV super-heroes in this book is impressive: Superman,
Batman, Shazam!, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Doctor
Strange, the Incredible Hulk, Swamp Thing, Superboy, the Flash, the
Tick, and Vampirella.  In addition, the authors included a trio of
“commercial breaks” which covered super-hero movie show hosts like
Cleveland’s Superhost; Sea World’s Salute to the Super-Heroes show,
which I saw with Sainted Wife Barb before we were married; and The
Greatest American Hero
, a great show inspired by the super-heroes
of the comic books.

ISBN: 978-1-60549-010-6


In the wake of the Kirby estate’s devastating if hardly unexpected
loss in its lawsuit against Marvel Comics - and I’ll likely discuss
that in the near future - the anti-Stan Lee zealots are pushing a
new “Kirby as auteur” position.  On one of the few mailing lists I
still frequent, I had this to say about that:

The "director as auteur" stuff always troubles me save when the
director is also the actual writer of the material. 

Of course what bothers me when the notion is applied to comics is
that it's usually applied backwards.  Someone has a agenda and
starts with a conclusion, say, that their favorite creator was
always and in every instance the driving force behind a series or
a story.

From there, they try to make the facts fit their conclusion.  Which
they usually have a tough if not impossible time doing, at least
when someone looks at their work rationally.

So, despite statements, for example, that Stan Lee and Larry Lieber
co-plotted Marvel's giant monster stories and Lieber wrote full
scripts for them, their agenda and already set (if only in their
minds) conclusion has the agenda people claiming Kirby wrote or
rewrote the scripts because they believe he could have,  An agenda-
driven speculation is treated as fact because that's what fits
their flawed conclusions.

I could own comic books worth a million dollars.  Lord knows my
demon-in-law has claimed that when painting me as a selfish monster
suited her agenda.  But I don't have comic books worth a million
dollars.  If I had such books, we wouldn't be struggling to put our
kids through college and there would probably be a “Tony Isabella
Comics” line on the market.

I could own comic books worth a million dollars, but I don't.
That's the fact.

The "Kirby as auteur" stuff is a further attempt to deny credit to
Stan Lee and every other creator who worked with Kirby.  It's as
much a disservice to Kirby as it is to those creators. 

It's born from that agenda, it's born from that conclusion before
evidence thinking. 

It demands that every statement ever made by Kirby - whether made
in anger or frustration or with some interviewer goading him - be
accepted as unvarnished truth and every statement that challenges
that "truth" be dismissed as outright lies.

None of the agenda people were present when Lee and Kirby created
the Marvel Universe.  They have produced no compelling evidence
that Kirby was the sole creator of that Universe.  Indeed, Kirby's
vital role in that creation was most often put forward by Stan Lee
himself in his frequent and effusive praise of Kirby and of Kirby's
participation in that creation. 

Kirby's accomplishments are breathtaking without the embellishments
of the agenda-driven.  I agree Kirby should have been rewarded more
handsomely for his work.  I think, despite the paucity of the Kirby
estate's case, Marvel/Disney should give the estate a financial
representation of what Kirby brought to the Marvel Universe.  But
I feel the same way about Gary Friedrich and many others. 

My happiness that Stan Lee did benefit financially by staying with
Marvel for over a half century without interruption, that he has
become a much beloved figure in most circles, doesn't outweigh my
sadness that Kirby didn’t and hasn’t received his due.  And I don't
see vilifying Stan as a prerequisite to honoring Kirby.  Never have
and never will.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Dick Tracy #48 hit the newsstands in the month of my birth, which
you all know was December 1951.  It was published by Harvey Comics
and, judging from the cover, it reprinted at least a portion of the
Mumbles storyline from the Dick Tracy newspaper strip.  The strips
were likely cut into panels, edited for content, and reconfigured
to look like a traditional comic-book page.  As always, any bloggy
thing readers who know more about the issue than I do - clearly not
a difficult task - is hereby invited to share their knowledge with
me.  Learning is fun!


I did not give Jack Kirby’s Kamandi a fair shot when “The Last Boy
on Earth” debuted in the fall of 1972.  I wasn’t happy about DC’s
abrupt cancellation of The New Gods and The Forever People and the
departure of Kirby from Jimmy Olsen.  It was too easy (and wrong)
to dismiss the new book as just Kirby’s take on Planet of the Apes.
Then, within a few months of the first issue, I was in New York and
starting my own comics career at Marvel Comics.  Back then, I was
sure (and still am today) that Marvel’s 1970s comic books were, for
the most part, far superior to DC’s 1970s comic books.  But when DC
solicited Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth by Jack Kirby Volume One
[$49.99], I immediately put it on my Amazon wish list and, when a
friend gave me the book as a Christmas present, I dived right into
some of the wildest stories of the 1970s.

This hardcover book reprints the first 20 issues of Kamandi.  Kirby
was a creative cyclone in these stories.  From the core concept of
some unknown disaster that upended the food chain of planet Earth,
Kirby spun out wonderful twists and turns that are as thrilling to
me in 2012 as if I’d been smart enough to appreciate them in 1972.
Kamandi’s adventures carry him all over what’s left of the United
States and these future glimpses of Chicago, Las Vegas, and even my
native Ohio are huge fun.  These issues are an astonishing blend of
action, human drama, and satire with scenes that tugged at my heart
and bits that made me chuckle out loud.

The book also features an introduction by Mike Royer, my favorite
Kirby inker after Joe Sinnott.  It’s a breezy and informative piece
that adds to our knowledge of comics history.  Of course, it’s also
a reminder that Kamandi never again looked as good as it did when
Royer was on board.

Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth by Jack Kirby Volume One is a great
collection.  So what if it took me four decades to fully appreciate
the series?

ISBN: 978-1-4012-3233-7


I’m relatively current with Marvel’s Avengers titles, which is to
say I’m probably a month or two behind.  I need to borrow the most
recent issues from my friend who lends them to me.

I enjoyed Avengers #18-21 [$3.99 each] by Brian Michael Bendis with
art by Daniel Acuna (#18-20) and Renato Guedes (#21) more than I’d
anticipated, but I still think Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. have
outlived their fifteen minutes by several years.  With Bendis said
to be departing the Avengers franchise, maybe we’ll get some fresh

Avengers 1959, a five-issue series by Howard Chaykin, was big fun.
Most of the characters have not been overused and it was intriguing
to see them at this stage of their lives.  The issues were priced
at $2.99 each, which makes me wonder why Marvel thinks the above-
reviewed Avengers is worth a buck more per issue.

Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy ($2.99 per issue) is still far and
away the finest of the Avengers titles.  Things happen, characters
mature, and missteps are rare.  I’m delighted to see Tom Grummett
on the pencils as of issue #24, I think he’s a great fit for this

Avengers Solo ($3.99 per issue) is another five-issue series, but
it’s so-so at best.  Neither the Hawkeye lead feature nor the not-
written-by-Gage Avengers Academy back-up is doing anything for me.
Given the number of Avengers comics being pumped out with the hope
of movie-inspired sales, it’s to expected that some of those books
won’t measure up.  Solo is one of those.


The controversial Doonesbury strips about the abortion laws which
recently went into effect in Texas turned out to be a mere blip on
the local radar.  The Akron Beacon Journal, which ran the strips on
its editorial pages and the reruns on the comics page, had nary a
comment on the strips from columnists or readers.

The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer published one reader letter applauding
the paper’s decision to run the strip.  The reader was happy that
there was room for such discussion on the comics page.  There were
only a few online comments to the letter, including the usual one
about anyone supporting choice being a monster and a murderer.  I
think the issues of abortion and choice are far too complicated for
such one-note rancor, but I’m not writing about such things in this
week’s blogs.

Kevin O’Brien, the PD’s resident extreme right-winger, surprised me
by ignoring the strips.  Of course, he was busy defending his idol
Rush Limbaugh and rephrasing the deplorable comments Limbaugh made
into comments only marginally less deplorable. 

The [Medina] Gazette ran a letter from someone of the “you’re all
monsters and murderers” camp.  The reader also believes that every
comic strip must be comic and nothing but.  As anyone with even a
passing awareness of comics history knows, comic strips have never
been comic and nothing but.

As controversies go, the Doonesbury strips were barely noticeable.
I thought they were well done and that they made excellent points
in a fairly sharp manner, but they didn’t strike me as anything out
of the ordinary for the strip.

I could get used to such mild controversy.        

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Diary Loves #20 [Quality; March 1952] was one of 21 romance comics
that hit the newsstands in December of 1951.  That’s a lot of tears
and broken hearts and heaving bosoms. 

As you can see, this issue had a photo cover.  While the gent looks
familiar, I can’t identify him or his lady love nor can I explain
their dour looks.  I would have thought a “Kiss of Ecstasy” would
at least bring a smile to one’s face.

There are four comics stories in the issue: “Winter Carnival Queen”
(penciled by Sam Citron); “Bad Company” (possibly drawn by Gene
Colan); “Terror in My Heart” (penciled by John Forte, inked by Bill
Ward); and “Kiss of Ecstasy: (penciled by Charles Tomsey).  To the
best of my knowledge, none have been reprinted.

The issue’s advertisers included: Broadway Fashions (New Broadway
Fashions); Glen Page Piano Studios (You'll Play Piano With Both
Hands the First Day); Fenway Fashions (5 Gifts in 1 Glamour Set);
and Hartford Frocks (Gorgeous Dresses for You).  All have withdrawn
their ads from Rush Limbaugh’s show.  That’s probably not true, but
it feels true to me.


Edited by Blake Bell, Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives
Vol. 1 [Fantagraphics Books; $39.99] reprints over 200 pages of the
earliest comics work by the creator of Sub-Mariner.  Two notes of
caution: Everett’s genius did not emerge full-blown and some of the
stories contain offensive racial epithets.

Blake’s introduction is informative and strives for accuracy, even
when that means pointing out inconsistencies and outright lies in
Everett’s own descriptions of his life.  The intro is followed by
four “Skyrocket Steele” chapters from Amazing Mystery Funnies and,
short as they were, I still struggled to get through them.  Plots
meander, plot twists emerge from nowhere, stories end for no other
reason that Everett reached their page count.  You’ll find precious
few clues to his genius here.

Everett had a quick learning curve.  His Amazing-Man stories have
dynamic storytelling and terrific ideas.  His Hydroman adventures
are good fun.  Sub-Zero Man has some moments as well, though Bell
is full of baloney when he claims a resemblance to Marvel’s Iceman
beyond similar powers and any similarity between a villain name of
Professor X in these stories and the founder of the X-Men.  I sigh
that such overreaching is becoming far too common among comic-book
historians.  Bell’s better than that.

Amazing Mysteries is fascinating and informative reading.  I look
forward to more Everett collections.

ISBN: 978-1-60699-488-7


The jokes are often corny, but Archie Joke Book Volume One [IDW;
$29.99] is a delight.  This spiffy hardcover book collects nearly
300 pages of gag strips by some of the best Archie artists of them
all.  Among the artists represented are Bob Montana, Samm Schwartz,
Tom Moore, and Dan DeCarlo.  The book will draw you right in, but
try to limit yourself to a few pages per day for maximum benefit.
That’ll give you the chance to admire the art and also the subtle
skill with which the writers set up their gags.

ISBN: 978-1600109584


Brand new in Archie Double Digest #226 [$3.99] is “Archie Gets Some
Tough Love from Dr. Bill” by Hal Lipson with art by Norm Breyfogle
(pencils) and Rich Koslowski.  Lipson’s scripts tend to be bland.
Some of them read like tour guides.  But this one has a little zazz
to it and is his best effort to date.

The best stories in this digest were all written by the great Frank
Doyle.  Penciled by Harry Lucey with inks by Terry Szenics, “Slide
Guide” is hilarious wintery slapstick with Archie and Reggie.  We
also get new Wilbur stories by Doyle with artists Dan DeCarlo and
Rudy Lapick; these tales originally appeared in 1959 issues of Pep
.  The Archie/Reggie tale is also from 1959.


New from Heroic Publishing is Alter Ego #5 [$4.99].  It’s a smart
story by Roy Thomas and artist Ron Harris in which the young hero
inspired by the super-heroes of the Golden Age of Comics suddenly
finds himself in the crime comics of the 1950s.  I got a kick out
of it and, however long it takes, since Thomas and Harris can only
work on this comic in between their day jobs, I’ll be ready to put
down my cash for issue #6.  You can order this full-color comics by
going to the Heroic Publishing website.


Folks keep asking me about Atlas Comics.  I still have nothing to
report about the company or my writing for it in the future.  I’m
simply not in the loop.  All I know is what I read on the Facebook
page for Ardeen/Atlas.

I can tell you I was sent comp copies of Atlas Unified #2, Phoenix
#5, and Wulf #5.  All are 28-page comic books (counting the covers)
and priced at $2.99.  But the decrease in overall page count hasn’t
affected the page count of the stories.  Each of these comics has
22 interior pages of story and art.

Diamond canceled orders on Atlas Unified #2, but the book will be
hitting comic shops in (I think) May and is currently available at
the Atlas Comics website.  The other two books were distributed to
better comic-book shops everywhere.

When and if I have something to report about anything I’ll be doing
for Atlas Comics, I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, sign up for
the company’s Facebook page.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 19, 2012


Detective Comics #180 [February 1952] had a terrific cover by Win
Mortimer and promised readers “another trick-packed duel between
the Crime-Clown and Batman and Robin.”  The 12-page story was drawn
by Dick Sprang and Charles Paris with David Vern identified as its
writer by comics fan and historian Martin O'Hearn.

Veteran readers of my blogs know I have no love for the Joker as he
currently appears in comics.  He’s become an overused caricature,
racking up such large body counts with each appearance that I think it
should be a moral imperative for Batman and/or the authorities to
kill him deader than dead.  I’d put a bullet in the Joker’s brain,
smash his head like an overripe pumpkin, throw those pieces and the
rest of him into a wood chipper, and then dump those tiny bits into
the Mariana Trench.  If there’s a lesson to be learned from all of
those too many modern-era Joker stories, it’s that the Joker will
always escape from Arkham and will always kill many people before
he’s recaptured.  Killing him is simple self-defense.  Killing him
as thoroughly as I’ve described is just for fun.

Oddly enough, when I saw this cover, my first reaction was that I
would like to read that story.  According to the GCD, it has only
been reprinted in Batman Vs. the Joker [Signet Books, 1966].  I’m
sure I had that paperback book at one time, but I’m not sure I ever
read it.  The format was a little awkward for enjoyable reading of
comics, though I didn’t find it so when I read EC horror and sci-fi
stories in said format.

Too much of anything can get boring, but I sort of miss the Joker
of old.  He was only truly murderous early in his career and then
mellowed out, much as did Batman.  The occasional Batman-Joker war
of wits was entertaining.  They weren’t among my favorite stories,
but they were enjoyable nonetheless.

This 44-page issue of Detective Comics also featured:

Impossible But True, which was eventually renamed “Roy Raymond, TV
Detective” to emphasize its star.  Ruben Moreira was the artist of
this and all other stories in the series.

Robotman, probably drawn by Joe Certa.

Pow-Wow Smith, Indian Lawman, drawn by Leonard Starr.

Gag cartoonist Henry Boltinoff is represented by Little Pete, Peg,
and Casey the Cop, three pages in all.

There were a lot of comic books published in December 1951, which,
as we all know, is the month of my birth.  I’ll write about more of
them in future bloggy things.


Charles Schulz’s Peanuts has been one of my favorite comic strips
since I discovered it as a kid.  So I was cautiously delighted when
I heard Kaboom! - a division of Boom Enterprises - would be doing
Peanuts comic books with original material.  I’ve now read the zero
issue [$1] and the first issue [$3.99] of the series.

The new stories are pleasant enough, but, compared to the reprints
of actual Peanuts strips by Schulz, they don’t measure up.  The one
I liked best was “Carnival of the Animals” by Ron Zorman and that
was credited as an adaptation.  If “pleasant” were priced at a buck
cheaper, I’d probably be more enthusiastic about these comic books.
But, at four bucks a pop, readers would be better off saving their
money and buying the Fantagraphics collections of the old strips.

Competing with Schulz is a daunting and maybe impossible quest, so
I have nothing but respect for the creators attempting to do that.
But, so far, the comic book isn’t working for me.  Your mileage may
and I hope does vary.  I think Peanuts comic books in the current
marketplace are a good thing.


“Divided We Stand” was the 2008 X-Men event that followed “Messiah
Complex.”  For the most part, each of the titles included in this
event featured complete story arcs that didn’t cross over with the
other titles.  I read these issues, save for those not purchased by
the generous friend who loans me his comics and lets me keep them
for years at a time.  I’ve requested the pertinent Cable and Young
X-Men trade paperbacks from my library system.  I’ll review those
if anything in them sparks my interest.

Uncanny X-Men #495-499 were written by Ed Brubaker with art by Mike
Choi.  The X-Men have allegedly disbanded.  Cyclops and Emma Frost
vacation in the Savage Land.  Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus
go to Russia.  The Angel goes to a San Francisco that seems to be
re-experiencing the Summer of Love.  These were fun comics, which
is more than I usually get from current Marvel (or DC) super-hero
comics.  Groovy.

Wolverine #62-63 has Logan hunting down Mystique for betraying the
X-Men for the fourth or fifth time.  Writer Jason Aaron reminds us
of that several times while revealing some of the past the enemies
share and, frankly, it makes Wolverine’s anger unconvincing.  The
ending of the arc is equally unsatisfying, just another maintaining
of the status quo.  But you gotta love the Ron Garney art.  I know
I did.

Writer Peter David used X-Factor #28-32 to return to plot threads
from previous tales and move the characters into something of a new
direction.  Even those it’s been years since these comics hit the
comics shops, I’m going to refrain from any spoilers.  If you have
not read David’s X-Factor, you should.  I’m enjoying it more than
any of the other X-titles from these years.

X-Force #1-6 and X-Men Legacy #208-214 were tedious, notable only
for a host of equally tedious villains being raised from the dead
and for Cyclops turning into one of the biggest dicks in the Marvel
Universe.  Really lousy comic books.

X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 and #2 featured several short stories of
various X-Men characters.  As is the way of such anthologies, there
were good stories and less-than-good stories, though none of them
were less than readable.  The best of the bunch were stories with
Cannonball (Mike Carey with art by Brandon Peterson), Nightcrawler
(Matt Fraction with Jamie McKelvie), and, from the second issue,
the Beast (Carey with Scot Eaton and Andrew Hennessy).

Marvel-wise, I’m currently reading more X-Factor and the “Manifest
Destiny” crossover.  I’m also reading other Marvel titles as well
as some from DC and other publishers.  You can expect a whole lot
of reviews this week.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Today’s comic book from the month of my birth is A Date With Judy
#27 [DC; February-March 1952].  The cover of this 44-page issue was
drawn by Bob Oksner while Graham Place did the artistic honors on
Judy Foster’s three interior stories.  Filling out the issue were
gag and feature pages by Martin Naydel and Henry Boltinoff. 

Miss Foster had quite the career.  A Date With Judy started out as
a summer replacement for Bob Hope’s radio show and ran from 1941 to
1950.  I wonder if they ever had a crossover.

Jane Powell starred as Judy in 1948 movie from MGM.  The movie also
starred Elizabeth Taylor, Wallace Beery, Robert Stack and Carmen
Miranda.  I’m picturing Stack’s character from Airplane! as Judy’s
father, but that would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

Between June 1951 and September 1953, A Date With Judy was an ABC
television series.  It started as a Saturday morning show starring
Pat Crowley and moved to prime time with Mary Linn Beller getting
the title role. 

DC’s comic outlasted all the above.  Launched in October-November
1947, it ran 79 issues with the last dated October-November 1960.


Earlier this month, I promised you bloggy things that would upset
a lot of people.  What didn’t occur to me at the time was that I’d
be one of those people.  So, with the hope of your forgiveness, I’m
going to put the following topics on the back burner for a couple
weeks: Marvel Comics versus Gary Friedrich; DC Comics versus Jerry
Siegel’s family; Before Watchmen; Jack Kirby’s family versus Marvel
Comics and, apparently, every one who doesn’t sign a pledge vowing
to uphold their version of history; so-called comics historians who
put their personal agendas ahead of logic and truth; why I won’t be
suing DC Comics anytime soon if ever; why a major convention has,
apparently, blacklisted me as a special guest; why I am and have
always been the sole creator of Black Lightning; and pretty much
all things political.  That may be the longest sentence I have ever

Though none of it is paying work, I have a lot on my plate at the
moment.  Much of it is very depressing and, the nature of the most
depressing thing on my plate prohibits me from writing about it and
thus robs me of the psychological benefits I would get from writing
about it.  Sigh.

As always, I assure you that my woes do not involve my wife or my
kids or even myself beyond my current lack of paying work.  Barb,
Eddie, and Kelly are all doing great.  Our family and home are all
fine.  We’re better than good.

Over the next few days, I need to pull together all our tax stuff,
then hire someone to do them for us.  Hopefully that someone will
advise me what to do about the client who, despite multiple e-mail
requests, never sent me my 1099. 

Once the taxes are finished, I’ll write my next CBG columns - ahead
of schedule - to clear the decks for other projects.  If the nice
weather is with us for good, I hope to start holding twice-monthly
garage sales.  I also hope to start selling items on eBay.

My current plan for the garage sales is to fill the garage with a
whole bunch of stuff.  In addition to the advertised sales, I plan
to give fans and retailers the opportunity to contact me by e-mail
to set up appointments to shop at their convenience.  I hope Barb
will be okay with not being able to park our vehicles in the garage
through the summer.  I really hope I don’t end up sleeping in the
garage.  Comic-book boxes make lousy pillows.

I haven’t abandoned my plan of offering items to my mailing list in
advance of selling those items on eBay.  However, as that mailing
list has less than a dozen addresses on it, it’s not a priority for
me.  If you’d like to be on my mailing list, you can send your info
to me at this address.

New bloggy things will continue to be posted on a nigh-daily basis.
One of the only advantages of not having paying work is that I have
a lot of time to read comic books, graphic novels, and manga.  You
can expect a lot of reviews while I recharge my batteries for more
serious discussions. 

Closing items:

I am available for paying writing gigs.  I’m not holding my breath
waiting for them because I know what the comics market is like and
I know I’m not uppermost in the minds of editors and publishers who
would benefit immensely from my talent.  But I’m putting that out
there all the same.

My only scheduled convention appearance is the Akron Comicon to be
held at the University of Akron Student Union on Saturday, November
10 from 10 am to 6 pm.  I’m not saying this event will be my last
convention appearance, but it could be. 

My enthusiasm for comics conventions is dwindling.  I’m very much
looking forward to the Akron event for many reasons.  After that,
I don’t know.  If I can’t bring my happy “A” game to a convention,
my attending would be a disservice to the promoters of such shows
and the fans who come to them.  I’ve seen guests who clearly didn’t
want to be at shows.  I won’t become one of them.

That’s all I have for you on this hopefully fine Sunday morn.  I’ll
be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 17, 2012


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1688:

Short-lived comics publishers interest me greatly.  Case in point:
Fago Publications.  Al Fago was a comics artist, freelance editor
and packager.  In 1958 and 1959, he published three issues of Li’l
(a kid humor title), an issue of Beanie the Meanie (a Dennis
the Menace knockoff), and two issues each of Atom Age Combat, L’il
, and Tense Suspense.  Ten issues in all.

Tense Suspense #1 [December, 1958] caught my eye because my friend
and former collaborator Dick Ayers drew and lettered all but one of
the ten stories in the issue.  The one he didn’t draw was the text
story.  Ten stories in a 36-page comic book is impressive, though
three of them are single-page stories that ran on the inside front
cover, the inside back cover, and the back cover. 

Approved by the Comics Code, Tense Suspense is a weird combination
of mild fantasy and science fiction.  The body count in these tales
is zero.  Indeed, outside of a few bumps on the head, no character
suffers any serious physical damage.  But what makes this issue so
much fun is the oddness of some of the stories.

Be warned.  There are spoilers ahead.

A thieving archaeologist believes that he has been inflicted with
“the curse of smallness” and cracks when he unknowingly discovers
an enormous ancient city once inhabited by giants.  An advanced
microscopic civilization reaches out to an evil genius planning to
conquer our world.  A time traveler tries to prevent the invention
of the wheel to save the lives of all those people killed in auto
accidents.  I’m talking stories so wacky that it’s near impossible
to guess their endings. 

Though the names of the wordsmiths who wrote these bizarre stories
are unknown to us, the Ayers art is unmistakable.  His storytelling
is, as always, top-notch, and, despite the mildness of the scripts,
his drawings do convey some suspense.  I had so much fun with this
issue that I’ll be looking for the second and final issue at this
year’s convention and online.  Wish me luck! 


After the above appeared in CBG, Mike Gold sent me this brief note:

Much of that stuff was inventory from the recently shuttered St.
John Comics, when Archer (one of my heroes) got out of the comics
racket to focus on his slicks.


A few days ago, BFF Bob Ingersoll commented that my “ability to put
up with movies like
[Shark Night] continually amazes me. Sure the
50s giant monster movies are good cheesy fun, because of their
primitive effects. But these over-rendered CGI movies just never
click with me. Somehow the monsters like Sharktopus look less
realistic than a guy in a rubber suit.

As I’ve explained, part of my interest in such movies are because
they give me pleasant nostalgic memories of watching older cheesy
movies as a kid.  Every one else in my Peony Avenue home would be
asleep, so I’d sit in a living room illuminated only by the light
from our TV set and the antics of Ernie Anderson in his host role
as Ghoulardi.  The volume would be low and I had to concentrate to
hear everything.  Being surrounded by those who loved me and who I
loved, even if they were asleep, made this a safe zone for a kid
often bullied at school.  Being both the smartest and the shortest
kid in my class was like blood in the water for the thuggish sharks
I often dealt with.

But there’s another component to my ability to watch these movies
and even enjoy them.  Basically, it’s because I have little respect
for movies and television.  I think many of the people in Hollywood
are idiots.  I think comic-book creators who lust after Hollywood
don’t truly appreciate the wonder of comics.

I’m harder on comic books than I am on movies and TV shows because
I can write great comic books and am therefore amazed when others
can’t.  But I can’t write movies or TV shows, so I’m somewhat less
judgmental when I write about them.

This is where you can shake your head and decide Tony Isabella is
full of crap.  It’s a fair call.  I think I’ve written some great
comics, but others may not agree.  Certainly, no comics publisher
appears eager to publish new Tony Isabella comics.  But that’s not
something I want to write about today.

When I say I can’t write movies or TV shows, I should add that I’ve
never tried to write movies or TV shows.  That’s something I should
take a shot at sometime, just to see for myself if I can do and do
it well enough to make some money off it.  But, frankly, given my
choice of a Hollywood gig or a regular comics gig, I’d go with the
comics every time. 

Now, for those of you who have expressed concern that I really am
going to watch all four of the SyFy Channel’s Leprechaun movies in
honor of St. Patrick’s Day, that was just a jest.  I thought about
recording them, but decided against it.  If I’m going to watch low-
budget horror or science fiction movies, I have two boxed set of 50
movies in each genre and I’ve been meaning to watch those since I
bought them six or seven years ago. 

Tonight, Sainted Wife Barb will go out with her family.  Eddie and
Kelly will be on spring break with their friends.  But I’ll be on
the couch with movies, snacks and my cat Simba.  It’s a safe zone.
All that’s missing is Ghoulardi. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, March 16, 2012


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1688:

Americus [First Second; $14.99] should have been a far easier sell
to me than it was.  Written by MK Reed with art by Jonathan Hill,
the graphic novel revolves around an attempt by a Christian zealot
to ban a series of fantasy novels from the town library.  Long-time
readers of this publication, back when it was a weekly newspaper,
will recall that my own Medina Library took on and soundly defeated
the area Christian Coalition when the CC attempted to foist its limited
view of what a library should offer its patrons on the rest of us.
The Coalition got so nasty at the time that I began referring to it
as the “Vicious Coalition.”  After its well-deserved dubbing at the
polls, the local branch of the VC faded away, an embarrassment, if
you can imagine such a thing, to the national organization.

So I should have been an easy sell and joined the creators of this
graphic novel and their more enlightened characters in despising
the mother who condemns the books unread and tyrannizes her husband
and kids and sends off her oldest son to military school because he
might be gay.  Yet they made her and her fellows such unbelievable
caricatures that I felt like I was reading one of Steve Ditko’s new
self-published comic books, the ones in which he valiantly battles
and defeats a straw man of his own creation that bears not even the
slightest resemblance to anyone or thing in reality.  Reed and Hill
stacked the deck in the favor of their position.  A gentler touch
would have been more realistic and served their purposes as well.
They basically nuked a mosquito.

I still found much to enjoy in this graphic novel.  The heroes of
the piece - a teenage boy, his single mother, a librarian - are all
admirable.  I share common cause with their defense of these and
similar books.  They had me from the start.

The graphic novel flows well with several moments of honest-to-gosh
human drama.  It likewise had me from the get-go and only lost me,
though never completely, when Reed and Hill launched into their
caricature mode.

Americus is definitely worth reading.  It won’t convince anyone of
the nobility of its position who wasn’t already on the same page.
But, save for what I’ve discussed here, I enjoyed the graphic novel
and would happily read more by these creators.

ISBN: 978-1-59643-601-5
World War 3 Illustrated [$7] is an anthology of social commentary
by some of the world’s most intriguing comics creators.  Issue #42
is the current issue and the theme of its 16 pages is “Liberation
from the Mid-East to the Mid-West.”  Editors Seth Tobocman, Ethan
Heitner and Jordan Worley have gathered dozens of illustrations and
stories in an informative, thought-provoking book.  While the left-
wing political focus of the magazine might turn away some readers
- their loss - the stunning power of these works offer equal parts
dread and hope for the future.

Though not yet successful, the Wisconsin revolt against the anti-
worker policies of that state’s governor is the subject of several
pieces.  The best of these was The Cheesehead Rebellion of 2011" by
Kathy Wilkes and Mike Konopacki with art by Konopacki and photos by
Emily Mills. 

Other subjects discussed and portrayed in this issue include the
revolution in Egypt, Facebook as both a force for change and a tool
of repressive governments, the destruction of the Egyptian town of
Gurna to benefit corporate tourism, the nuclear disaster in Japan,
charter schools, and more.  Among the most powerful pieces are an
interview with revolutionary cartoonist Ahmed Nady, the story of an
artist who enters the boxing ring to exorcize the violence he has
known all his life, and mini-biography of Frederick Douglass, the
American slave who escaped to become a legendary social reformer.
A fun fact: When Douglass was 16, he was sent to the plantation of
a professional “Negro-breaker.”  That plantation is now the summer
home of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

World War 3 Illustrated #42 is mostly black-and-white with several
pages of color.  It is a stunning achievement of cutting-edge comic
art and commentary.  I recommend it to all.

ISBN: 978-1-60309-101-5
Devotees of classic movie monsters and Hammer Films in particular
will get a kick out of Flesh and Blood Book One by Robert Tinnell
and Neal Vokes [Monsterverse; $14.99].  In the spirit of Hammer and
European studios of the 1960s and 1970s without merely aping them,
the initial installment of Flesh and Blood brings together a host
of legendary characters from such films: Abraham Van Helsing, Baron
Frankenstein, Dracula, and the seductive Carmilla.  Not to mention
a monster hunter with a dark secret and star-crossed lovers caught
in a web of horror.  Tinnell’s writing is strong and to the point,
Vokes’ art and storytelling even more so.  They should be the “go
to” team for any publisher who wants to do great monster comics in
the classic tradition.  My only complaint is that Book Two hasn’t
come out yet.

Book One also includes an introduction by Video Watchdog editor Tim
Lucas; a cool historical article by Bruce G. Hallenbeck, author of
The Hammer Vampire; a Vokes sketch gallery; a gallery of pieces by
several artists; and the four-page opening chapter of “Operation:
Satan,” a tribute to the Quatermass movies by Tinnell and artist
Bob Hall.  The last isn’t long enough to be effective, but it did
leave me wanting more.

Buy this book.  Then you can suffer alongside me until the second
volume is published.

ISBN: 978-0-9836405-0-9
 I received a really different gift from one of my readers.  It’s a
Golden Press edition of Shazam! A Circus Adventure [1977] and, yet,
it isn’t.  It’s a journal from Ex Libris Anonymous.  I’ll let the
maker explain it to you:

Not unlike a snowflake, a soft puppy, or a slice of warm pie, every
journal we make here at Ex Libris Anonymous is a one-of-a-kind,
unique, and completely unrepeatable experience.  We use the most
interesting recycled books we can find and salvage the covers and
selected pages of the lucky book, adding around 75 pages of acid-
free paper, perfect for journaling or sketching.  We hope you love
it. Thanks.

This Little Golden Book was written by Bob Ottum and illustrated by
comics legend Kurt Schaffenberger.  The reconstruction is very nice
and, as I look at all those sweet blank pages, I wonder if there’s
someway to fill that would make this special book even more so and
then auction it off for a good cause.  I have a few ideas kicking
around my brain, but I’m open to suggestions.

The Ex Libris Anonymous website is a little difficult to navigate,
but the going price for one of these journals seems to be $14.  If
you buy five, you get a sixth free.  This unusual gift delighted me
and it might well delight friends and family members.  It’s worth
looking into.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella