Monday, April 30, 2012

VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF SALE 1

Starting today and every ten days following, I’ll be selling stuff
from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff to readers of my blog, Facebook
page and message board. Here’s how it works:

First come, first serve. In other words, the quicker you e-mail me,
the better your chance of getting the item or items.  All items are
in very good or better condition unless otherwise noted.

Items will be shipped via United States Postal Service.  Tell me
how you want items shipped and an estimated postage cost will be
added to your total.

Payments can be via check, money order, or PayPal.  My PayPal
address is the same as my email address.  Purchases will be shipped
within a week of checks clearing,  money orders received, or PayPal
payments received.

Whatever doesn’t sell from this list will either turn up on eBay or
in my summer-long garage sale.  Keep watching my blog, Facebook
page, and message board for the most up-to-date information on my
garage sales.

I think that covers everything.  I’ll try to respond to questions
ASAP.  Here’s the first list...


Batman: Hush Unwrapped by Loeb and Lee HC ($20)

bugf#ck: The Useless Wit and Wisdom of Harlan Ellison HC ($5)

Captain Britain Vol. 1: Birth of a Legend by Chris Claremont, Herb
Trimpe and others HC ($20)


Dark Horse Presents #1-8 current series ($30)

DC Classics Library: Batman A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin,
Marv Wolfman, Jim Aparo, and George Perez HC unopened ($20)

DC Classics Library: Justice League of America by George Perez HC
unopened ($20)

Death from the Skies: The Science Behind the End of the World by
Philip Platt Ph.D ($5)

Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America by
David Talbot with illustrations by Spain Rodriguez HC ($7)


Frank Cho: Apes and Babes Book One HC ($15)

Gacha Gacha the Next Revolution by Hiroyuki Tamakoshi Volume 1, 2,
4, 6, 7, 8, 11 ($6 each)

Green Lantern: Sleepers Books One, Two, and Three by Christopher J.
Priest, Mike Baron and Michael Akn HC prose trilogy (all three for
$22)

In Plain Sight: Season One DVD unopened ($20)

Justice League Generation Lost Volume 1 HC ($20)

JSA: Black Reign by Geoff Johns and Rags Morales ($4)

Legion Lost by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Olivier Coipel HC ($20)

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga The Deluxe Edition
by Levitz and Giffen HC unopened ($20)

Losers: Trifecta by Andy Diggle and Jock ($5)

Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy ($5)

Metamorpho #8 [September-October 1966] FINE ($8)

New Teen Titans: Who Is Donna Troy by Wolfman and Perez ($10)

Preacher Book 1-4 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, first two books
unopened HC [$20 each; all four for $60)
   
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Vol. 1-4 plus Codename Sailor V Vol. 1-
2 (all 6 for $32)

Seven Soldiers of Victory Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and others HC
unopened ($20)

Seven Soldiers of Victory Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison and others HC
($20)

Spider Island: Heroes For Hire #1 by Abnett, Lanning and Hotz ($1)

Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls ($5)

Waking Dead Book Two by Kirkman and Adlard HC unopened ($15)

Wonder Woman Archives Volume 5 HC unopened ($25)


Thanks for your patronage.

Tony Isabella

TERROR OF THE GOLDEN CLAW

Tim Tyler’s Luck was a comic strip created by Lyman Young, brother
of Chic Young, the creator of Blondie.  The King Features Syndicate
strip ran 68 years from August 1928 to August 1996.  Tim started
out in an orphanage, but soon left to have adventures with his pal
Spud.  His light adventures became more serious as strips like Dick
Tracy rose in popularity, Eventually, Tim and Spud would spend most
of their time in Africa.

Harvey Comics Hits #54 hit the newsstands in December 1951, which,
as you know, was the month of my birth.  The “Tim Tyler’s Tales of
Jungle Terror” logo emphasizes “Jungle Terror.”  The jungle comics
were still strong sellers in 1951 with horror comics becoming more
popular each month.  The cover - artist unidentified at this time -
reflects both genres.

Inside the issue, “The Terror of the Golden Claw” cover story ran
31 pages.  The Grand Comics Database doesn’t have credits for this
adventure, but I’m guessing it’s reprints from the Tim Tyler’s Luck
comic strip.  Also in the issue was a page introducing the tale’s
main characters, a “Weird Jungle Customs” filler page, a biography
of Lyman Young, and a Tim Tyler pin-up page.

Harvey Comics enjoyed great success with comic strip characters in
the 1950s.  This month also saw comics starring Blondie, Dagwood,
Dick Tracy, Dotty Dripple, Humphrey, Joe Palooka, Kerry Drake, and
Little Max, plus the multi-character Junior Funnies.  I’ve covered
some of these in earlier bloggy things and will get to the rest in
future ones.

Coming later this week will be a self-revelatory bloggy thing on my
anger issues - What...you thought I was a pussycat 24/7? - but, for
today, you get odds and ends from my desk.

******************************

Adam Warren’ Empowered has been just outside my immediate radar for
a couple years now.  Courtesy of my local library system, I’ve now
read Empowered Volume 1 [Dark Horse; $14.95].  The title heroine is
a young woman of courage who, unfortunately, gains her super-powers
from a skintight costume that rips easily, thereby robbing her of
her powers.  She can’t wear anything under the costume - what you
see is what she’s got - and she generally ends up captured and tied
up by the villains. 

I would not have thought Empowered would delight me as much as it
did.  Warren’s writing is very funny and his art most expressive.
Before long, I came to adore Empowered as much as her boyfriend, a
reformed henchman of super-villains.  There are terrific characters
in this series, including a captive alien demon lord who lives with
Empowered.  There is surprising character growth in these stories
and a few unexpected dark moments. 

Empowered is wonderful fun, albeit for adult readers.  I’ve already
requested the next volume from my library.

ISBN 978-1-59307-672-6

******************************

Mildly amusing in a ghoulish way was Punisher Max Vol. 2: Kitchen
Irish
by Garth Ennis and Leandro Fernandez [Marvel; $14.99].  On a
whim, I decided to read this series via trade paperbacks from the
library.  Two books in and there’s already a sameness to them.  We
get odd and violent characters who do incredibly gory and violent
things to one another.  No character growth, no surprises beyond an
occasional “oh, crap” moment, nothing to distinguish these stories
from most other Punisher stories save for the “explicit content.”
Of course, this being the United States and all, “explicit” means
violence and not sex. 

Reading Punisher stories every now and then isn’t bad.  The books
are akin to those bad crime movies one watches for the explosions
and slaughter.  But the Punisher remains a played-out mannequin and
I’m not sure there’s any life left to be found in a character who
was little more than a second-rate rip-off of Don Pendleton’s Mack
Bolan.

ISBN 0-7851-1539-0

******************************

Not the least bit entertaining were issues #2-7 of Savage Hawkman
[DC; $2.99 each].  It’s a ugly comic book series which hasn’t done
anything in seven issues to make me give a rat’s ass about Carter
Hall or care about its convoluted reworking of a classic DC hero.
The book even took the Gentleman Ghost, an elegant and interesting
villain created by Robert Kanigher, and made him as inelegant and
tiresome as everything else in the series.  Indeed, the only thing
I’ve liked about these issues is a decent guest-star appearance by
Static.  From where I sit, this “New 52" series is an utter failure
and, since I can’t imagine it’ll get any better with the arrival of
its new creative team, I’m adding it to my growing list of “New 52"
titles I won’t be reading in the future.

******************************

Turning to newspaper comics, Mary Worth is feeling mighty pleased
with herself because Nola has vowed to forego her treacherous ways
and do good from now on.  This surprising change of life happened
after Nola was confronted by the man she framed in order to get his
job and then comforted by a homeless man.  Nola even confessed her
crimes to her boss and resigned her position.  However, grumpy old
Tony has a problem with this scenario.

Nola committed a serious crime and there’s no mention that she will
be charged with that serious crime, which, to be fair, Mary should
have reported as soon as the meddling Ms. Worth found out about it.
Moreover, there’s no guarantee the man Nola framed will get his job
back or be able to fix things with his family.  Maybe, if he hires
a good lawyer, he’ll be able to sue his former company for wrongful
dismissal and Nola for framing him. 

My preference? Nola earns her redemption in prison.  I’d also love
for someone to explain to Mary Worth that she failed her own moral
duty to report Nola’s crime and was therefore complacent in Nola’s
crime.  Keeping her mouth shut might not have been illegal in this
case, but it definitely wasn’t the right thing to do.

Shame on you, Mary Worth.  Shame on you.

******************************

Later today, I’ll be posting a list of stuff for sale from my Vast
Accumulation of Stuff.  Watch for it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 20, 2012

SURRENDERING TO HIS KISS

The Alex Toth-penciled cover of Girls' Romances #13 [February-March
1952] is not just the most powerful and striking romance cover of
the month.  The art is taken from the splash page of “One Reckless
Moment” and is a contender for the most powerful and striking cover
of any comics genre published that month.  It’s so striking that I
didn’t notice until later that the cover’s upper left corner lacks
the traditional “DC circle.”  DC distanced its romance titles from
the rest of its line back then, but I don’t know why.  Feel free to
enlighten me.

The Grand Comics Database has one-line synopsis for the stories in
this issue and three out of four of them deal with class issues of
one kind or another.  In “Let Me Forget,” a fashion designer whose
hard work and talent took her from her poor neighborhood beginnings
is loathe to commit to the doctor she loves because he has a clinic
in that neighborhood.  In “Love Without Faith,” the heroine loves
a struggling inventor despite others telling her she should marry
a more successful and practical man.  In “One Reckless Moment,” an
impulsive rich girl and a penniless seaman fall in love and, from
what the synopsis implies, it ends badly. 

The story that breaks from class issues is “Castoff Sweetheart!” by
Natalie Krigstein, wife of artist Bernie Krigstein.  The synopsis
for that one:

Carol keeps dumping boring boyfriends and coming back to reliable
Paul each time, but maybe she's waited too long to discover that
it's Paul she really loves.


Krigstein also wrote “Love Without Faith.” Her writing credits on
this issue come from comics historian Robin Synder.  The only
artistic credits are Toth pencils on the cover story and, possibly,
Mike Sekowsky pencils on “Castoff Sweetheart!”

More vintage comics on sale in my birth month [December 1951] will
be spotlighted in future bloggy things.

******************************** 

Kevin Keller [Archie; $19.99] reprints all the Kevin Keller stories
prior to the launch of his ongoing series.  In Kevin, writer/artist
Dan Parent has given Riverdale a positive gay character, but, just
as importantly, he’s made the Archie community the kind of diverse,
welcoming community that realizes the best hopes and dreams of the
American people.  Though the stories largely shy away from showing
the anti-gay bigotry and bullying that exists in our society (The
closest the stories come to this is when Kevin’s opponent for class
president tries to paint Kevin as an unmanly one-issue candidate.),
that’s acceptable in Riverdale as it is and has always been shown
in the Archie comics.  It’s a place where good people generally do
good things.  I wish I could live there.

On several past occasions, I’ve praised Archie Comics, Parent and
inker Rich Koslowski for the excellence of the Kevin Keller comics.
If I had even a minor quibble, it was that Kevin was the only gay
teenager or adult seen in the stories.  As groundbreaking as it is
to have a gay teenager in Archie comic books, it has less impact if
we never see that teenager doing what most of the other teens are
doing: dating someone he finds attractive. 

Kevin Keller #1 [$2.99] breaks that ground for Archie Comics.  It
deals with Kevin’s first date...and his family and friends fussing
over him to make sure said date goes well.  The comedy might not be
as passionate as with Archie, Betty, and Veronica, who, after all,
have been horny teenagers for seven decades, but it’s both amusing
and normal.  That’s a great message to be sending to young readers
and their parents. 

I want to live in Riverdale.  Who wouldn’t?

ISBN 978-1-879794-93-1

******************************

I’m loving the heck out of Dark Horse Presents [$7.99].  In today’s
marketplace, the usual price for a comic is $2.99 or $3.99, which
generally amounts to 20-24 pages of material.  DHP costs $7.99 per
issue for 80 pages of material...and it’s material by some of the
very best writers and artists in comics.

I love anthology comic books, though sometimes more in theory than
actual practice.  I love the variety of creators and material found
in anthology comics, especially when an anthology comic has as high
a standard of quality as does DHP.

As I write this bloggy thing, I’ve read Dark Horse Presents #1-8.
While I’m not feeling the personal need to write an issue-by-issue,
feature-by-feature review of those comic books, here’s my list of
my top ten features to date in chronological order:

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete
Howard Chaykin’s Marked Man
Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder
Harlan Ellison’s “How Interesting: A Tiny Man”
Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia’s The Adventures of Dog Mendon├ža and
Pizzaboy
Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s Resident Alien
Dara Naraghi and Victor Santos’ “The Protest”
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy
Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo
Rich Johnston and Simon Rohrm├╝ller’s The Many Murders of Miss
Cranbourne

While the above are my favorites, almost everything that’s appeared
in DHP has been of well-above-average quality.  I hope to continue
enjoying this anthology title for many years to come.

******************************

Mark Waid’s Daredevil remains one of my favorite current series and
probably my second-favorite super-hero series after Thom Zahler’s
Love and Capes.  I read DD #7-10 last week and especially enjoyed
Waid’s take on the Black Cat.  Very cool and optimistic.

There’s some talk that Matt Murdock may be heading for some sort of
fall, but I’m really hoping that’s idiotic promotional crap.  We’ve
seen Murdock falling for over a decade and it stopped being at all
interesting over a half a decade ago. 

Super-hero readers like super-heroes...and I’m more likely to enjoy
super-hero comics by writers who like them as well.

I’m taking a few days off to work on this and that.  Depending on
how that work goes, I’ll be back next week.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A LIFE IN MANGA

Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life [Drawn & Quarterly; $34.95] is
the cartoonist’s 800-page-plus autobiography of his career in manga
from its beginnings to the signing of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual
Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.  For
all my interest in manga, I had no idea of the early history of the
art form and industry and, because of that, this book fascinated me
from start to finish.

Hiroshi is Tatsumi’s counterpart in A Drifting Life.  He grows up
in a family suffering from Japan’s World War II aggression and from
more internal problems.  His divorced parents still live together
in an attempt to ease the family’s financial burdens.  His brother
is sickly, given to irrational fits of anger and jealousy directed
toward Hiroshi.  Knowing something of sibling jealousy myself, such
scenes rang very true to me.

The manga industry shown in this book is completely different from
the industry we know today.  Hiroshi’s first sales are four-panel
strips.  Somewhat longer works were created for the rental market.
Short story magazines become popular and a steady source of income,
even as Hiroshi longs to create longer stories that expand manga’s
possibilities.  He is encouraged, inspired, and sometimes brought
to despair by the comics he reads and the movies he views.  There
are bad and good decisions to be made and pitfalls to be suffered.
Despite the length of this book, it offers but the merest glance at
the complicated manga industry from 1945 to 1960.  When I finished
it, I wanted more...more manga history and more of Tatsumi’s life
and career. 

I don’t hesitate to declare A Drifting Life to be a masterpiece and
must reading for comics historians and manga fans alike, though I
suspect it will not suit those with a more casual interest in manga
and manga history.  On my end, it has me wondering if someone has
written that great book on manga history that answers the questions
Tatsumi left me with.  Suggestions are welcome.

ISBN 978-1897299746  

******************************

In private e-mails, my readers keep expecting me to be down on 1001
Comics You Must Read Before You Die
[Universe; $36.95], which those
readers perceive as eating my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read lunch.
The only similarity I see is in the names of the books.  I focused
on the history of the American comic book as seen from my personal
history and perspectives while general editor Paul Gravett and his
many writers took a more international approach.  I think my book
is more personable and fun to read, but that hardly negates what I
see as the considerable value of the Gravett book.

I’m reading Gravett’s book at a pace of around five pages per day.
I’m getting exactly what I expected and wanted from it, suggestions
of great comics from a global perspective.  Because of entries in
this book, I’ve read and enjoyed a number of comics works.  Which
is why I bought it.  Well, that and the amusement whenever I read
fans complaining about some favorite comic that’s not in the book.
I feel your pain, brother Gravett.

My reading of A Drifting Life came about as a direct result of the
Gravett book, which, while it doesn’t include A Drifting Life among
its entries, does include Tatsumi’s Black Blizzard, a comparatively
short thriller about convicts on the run, bound to one another by
handcuffs.  The entry in the Gravett book includes a short list of
other Tatsumi works and, having enjoyed Black Blizzard, I requested
A Drifting Life from my library system.

Just as some comic books will please some readers more than others,
some books on comics will please some readers more than others.  As
I’m finding the Gravett book enjoyable and informative, it makes me
uneasy that anyone finds it offensive on my account.  I’m as good
as good can be with the book. 

ISBN 978-0-7893-2271-5

******************************

Speaking of manga...

I am amused by the similarities between two manga series currently
on my reading pile.  Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina is about a struggling
student (Keitaro Urashima) trying to get into Tokyo University and
working as the landlord of an all-girls dorm.  Hilarity ensues in
this romantic comedy that involves much accidental viewing and even
groping of attractive female tenants.

Then there’s Kouji Seo’s Suzuka, named for a beautiful track-and-
field star who has transferred to a Tokyo school.  The hero of this
series is struggling student Yamato who is living in the all-girl
housing complex owned and operated by his aunt and where he earns
his keep by doing some landlord duties.  Hilarity of a moderately
more explicit nature ensues in this romantic comedy that involves
much accidental viewing and groping of attractive female tenants.

The similarity became even more amusing to me when both Keitaro and
Yamato came down with debilitating colds at the same time.  It was
in the second volume of Love Hina and the first of Suzuka, which,
as coincidence would have it, I read back to back.

Love Hina came first by several years.  Suzuka has far more alcohol
consumption and nudity.  I’m enjoying both series.  I wouldn’t rank
them among the great manga works, but they are fun.  And sometimes
that’s all I need from comics.

******************************

VAOS (Vast Accumulation of Stuff) NEWS

Bumps in the road that is my life often interfere with my reaching
my desired destinations.  This has become the case with my garage
and online sales.

I had hoped to start my summer-long garage sale this month.  That
will likely not happen until the first weekend in May.  My plan is
still what it was: at least two open garage sales per month while
allowing fans and retailers to make appointments to shop whenever
it’s convenient for both me and them.

My online sales start today.  Here’s how they will work:

Those who signed up for my mailing list will get the first crack at
the items on each week’s list.  They will have received the first
list this morning.

Come Monday, unsold items will be listed here, on my message board
and on my Facebook page.  Anything that doesn’t sell by the end of
the week will go up on eBay or into my garage sales.

Don’t expect garage sale prices on online sale items.  These online
sales require more work than selling stuff out of my garage.  The
prices will be good, but not insane.  If you want insane, you will
need to come to my garage sales.  Either way, your patronage will
be appreciated.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RAWHIDE WEDNESDAY 7

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 write about the Kid every Wednesday.  There are spoilers ahead.
You have been warned.

After presenting two issues in a row of one long Rawhide Kid story,
The Rawhide Kid #23 [August 1963] featured two stories...and one of
them is a true comics oddity. 

The Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers cover pictures a scene from “No Place to
Hide!”, the longer of the two stories.  According to the wondrous
Grand Comics Database, the cover was colored by Stan Goldberg and
lettered by Artie Simek with cover copy written by editor Stan Lee.
Yet the issue leads with the 7-page “The Origin of the Rawhide Kid”
by Lee, Kirby and Ayers.

Though this version of the Rawhide Kid was introduced just a year
prior, the splash page proclaims this retelling of his origin tale
with big bold copy and double exclamation points: “Here it is!! The
story you asked for!! The story you demanded...”


What makes this story such an oddity is that the script is almost
entirely the same as the script for the original origin story from
The Rawhide Kid #17 [August 1960] with Kirby redrawing the panels
differently than he did in the original.  It’s fun comparing these
two stories side-by-side. 

From the script standpoint, Lee omitted a large block of copy and
one word balloon from the splash page, another word balloon from an
interior panel, and a block of copy from the story’s final panel.
From the art standpoint, Kirby added a panel of the Kid tossing a
gun behind his back and catching it. 

I like the second version of the splash better than the first.  If
I were to keep score, my interior panel preference between the two
stories would probably end in a draw.  Pun intended. 

“A Place to Hide!” (11 pages) mixes some by now familiar elements
of Rawhide Kid stories.  We start with the Kid on the run from the
law.  He flees to the “spooky-lookin’ town” of Sagebrush where no
one recognizes him.  Sagebrush is dominated by bully Luke Stokes,
but, though he itches to take Stokes down a peg, the Kid pretends
to be a coward rather than lose this relatively safe haven.  This
is a disappoint to pretty Nancy Stokes, who had hoped someone had
come along who could stand up to her brother. 

Like Popeye in one of those cartoons where he promises Olive that
he will not lose his temper, the Kid keeps himself in check until
Montana Joe and his henchmen - Ox and Weasel - hit town.  Montana
tries to force himself on Nancy.  When Luke learns who his sister’s
new admirer is, he turns tail: “Don’t be a fool, Nancy! Suppose he
wants to be friendly--what’s wrong with that? Montana Joe’s a big
man! Yuh--you oughtta be proud!


You can practically see the steam coming out of Rawhide’s ears as
he faces down Montana Joe and his goons for two pages of punching
and shooting.  He finishes up by slapping around Luke for a couple
panels while explaining life to him: “There comes a time when a
hombre can’t stand by and let jaspers annoy a woman--while her
spineless brother looks the other way.”

Words to life by as the Rawhide Kid rides off into the sunset...on
account of all of these story-ending battles take place late in the
afternoon:

“And so the Rawhide Kid rode on--leaving a girl behind who had just
lost a bit of her heart which would never be replaced--leaving a
town which would never forget him--and leaving another episode in
the ever-growing legend of the Rawhide Kid--the most colorful
gunfighter the west has ever known!”


Stan Lee and artist Paul Reinman conclude the issue with the non-
series “They Called Him Outlaw!” The five-page story starts with a
pair of owlhoots surprising a third man at his campfire.  The man
has nothing worth stealing, but convinces them to let him join them
in their next criminal enterprise.  Their plan is to rob an elderly
couple who live in a secluded cabin and who keep their money under
a loose floorboard in the bedroom.  Say what you will about these
lowlifes, they know surveillance.  The funny thing is...that third
man is not only a lawman, but he’s also the son of the elderly
couple. Imagine the embarrassment of those unlucky owlhoots as they
are battered and disarmed by the deputy. 

My memory on this isn’t as sure as I would like, but it seems to me
Marvel published several short western tales in which a lawman was
mistaken for a outlaw by outlaws and then turned the tables on his
new “friends.” If any one can cite other examples, I reckon I would
appreciate the information.

Look for more Rawhide Kid recollections every Wednesday.  I will be
back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BRIDE WITH THE BROKEN HEART

This bloggy thing of mine seems to pick up new readers on a daily
basis, so, for those of you just joining us...

I am fascinated by the comic books that hit the newsstands in the
month of my birth, December 1951.  More often than not, my bloggy
things begin with an examination of one such comic book.  If these
comics don’t interest you, just skip past them to the news, views
and reviews that follow them.

Today’s comic book from the month of my birth is Girl Confessions
#13 [March 1952], continuing the numbering of Girl Comics.  The
wonderful Atlas Tales website opines that Al Hartley drew the cover.
Thanks to the same site, I’ve seen the splash pages of the issue’s
four stories and read the entire final story.

“The Bride With the Broken Heart” (6 pages) is signed “Jurist and
Pike.”  That probably means Ed Jurist wrote the story and Jay Scott
Pike drew it.  The “Bride” seems deliriously happy on the splash,
so the breaking of her heart must come later in the tale.

“The Awakening” (6 pages) is drawn by Ogden Whitney.  Judging from
the first page, a wealthy socialite turned social worker falls for
a guy with a bad reputation. 

Two sisters love the same man in “I Can’t Get Married” (5 pages).
The story is drawn by Morris Weiss.

SPOILER AHEAD

“Fatal Error” (6 pages) appears to be the high point of the issue.
Fashion photographer falls in love with beautiful woman and makes
her the 1950s equivalent of a super-model.  A shady Hollywood guy
lures the lady away from the photographer with his promises of love
and movie stardom.  But a screen test reveals the model is not at
all photogenic; it’s the photographer’s love for her that made her
shine in all those fashion shoots.  The woman realizes her mistake
and rushes back to the man who truly loves her, giving up modeling
to become his wife.  Aside from that sadly of its time conclusion,
it’s an above-average story drawn by the great Bill Everett.

There were many great artists drawing non-series romance, horror,
crime, war and western stories for Marvel in the 1950s.  I’d love
to see a whole bunch of “Best of” collections showcase the work of
Everett and others.

******************************

You can’t have a Marvel Comics event without tossing one-shots and
mini-series into the mix and, unfortunately, that was the case with
“Spider Island.”  Some of them worked, more of them didn’t.  There
will be SPOILERS AHEAD.

The now-tiresome Mr. Negative played a major role in Spider Island:
Cloak and Dagger
, a three-issue series.  At the end of the series,
Cloak and Dagger have switched powers, Mr. Negative has revealed he
is fated to die at Dagger’s hands, and the concluding pages appear
to be a promo for some future Cloak & Dagger series.  This would be
one of the spin-offs that didn’t work for me.

Spider Island: Deadly Foes was a one-shot with solo stories of the
new Hobgoblin and the Jackal.  These tales reveal those characters
are really evil.  Yawn.

Spider Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu was three issues of fighting
pretty much inconsequential to the over-all event.  I did chuckle
at how most of the kung fu moves used by the combatants were named
in captions, partly because they were really silly names and partly
because, for this reader, they brought the action to a halt every
time they were named.  When that nonsense is the most notable thing
about a mini-series, it didn’t work.

Spider Island: Heroes for Hire by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with
art by Kyle Hotz and Bob Almond was another one-shot.  This story,
revealing unspoken feelings of two characters, worked for me.  It
may not have meant much to the overall Spider Island story, but did
move those characters forward.

Spider Island: New York City was a one-shot anthology showing what
happened to a handful of citizens during the event.  It was great
fun and I recommend it.

Spider Island: Spider-Girl was a three-issue mini-series picking up
elements of (I assume) earlier Anya Corazon stories and forcing her
into an alliance with the Kingpin.  It did have some bearing on the
overall event, but it never rose above the level of adequate.  Not
bad comic books, but not particularly good ones.

Spider Island: Spider-Woman fell into the same adequate range, but
I was amused/impressed that one of its plot elements stemmed from
a 1970s issue of Marvel Two-In-One.  That was some serious digging
through the archives.

Spider Island: The Avengers was another one-shot.  It featured an
appearance by Frog-Man and babysitting fun with Squirrel Girl and
the spider-powered child of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. How could
I not love this comic book?  Kudos to writer Chris Yost and artist
Mike McKone for a very entertaining issue.

******************************

Spider-Man is an active member of the Avengers, not to mention his
work with the Future Foundation, his job at Horizon Labs, and his
solo adventures.  That stretches my willing suspension of disbelief
to the breaking point. 

So you can imagine how the opposite of thrilled I was at the launch
of Avenging Spider-Man, an ongoing series teaming Spidey with his
fellow Avengers.  The first three issues have Spidey and Red Hulk
battling some ugly guy who conquered the Mole Man and it’s drawn by
Joe Madureira.  I know Madureira has many fans, but, for the life
of me, I can’t understand why.  That initial story was followed by
somewhat better one-offs with Hawkeye and Captain America, but I’m
not seeing any burning creative need for this new title.  Beyond,
of course, Marvel’s clear desire to make a few more comics-selling
bucks from this year’s release of Avengers and Spider-Man movies.

******************************

The convoluted history of Kaine, originally an unstable Spider-Man
clone created by the Jackal, makes my brain hurt.  Fortunately, it
doesn’t impact that heavily on Scarlet Spider, an ongoing series in
which Kaine is the principal character. 

Set in Houston, Scarlet Spider has Kaine changing his original plan
to lead a peaceful life in Mexico, far from all the madness of the
Marvel Universe.  Instead, he finds himself drawn into events that
require his great power and, somewhat ruefully, accepts the great
responsibility thrust upon him.

Though I never cared for Kaine previously, writer Christopher Yost
has me interested in the guy and rooting for him.  I also like the
look of the book, courtesy of penciler Ryan Stegman.  I’m sticking
with the title.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 16, 2012

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

It’s been several days since I’ve kicked off this blog with a comic
book from my birth month [December 1951], so today I give you one
issue starring singing cowboy Gene Autry and a second one starring
his horse.  Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Orvon Grover Autry (September 29, 1907–October 2, 1998), better
known as Gene Autry, was an American performer who gained fame as
The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television for
more than three decades beginning in the 1930s. Autry was also
owner of the Los Angeles/California Angels Major League Baseball
team from 1961 to 1997, a television station and several radio
stations in Southern California.


Although his signature song was "Back in the Saddle Again," Autry
is best known today for his Christmas holiday songs, "Here Comes
Santa Claus" (which he wrote), "Frosty the Snowman," and his
biggest hit, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."


He is a member of both the Country Music and Nashville Songwriters
halls of fame, and is the only person to be awarded stars in all
five categories (Film, Television, Music, Radio, Live Performance)
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Dell’s Gene Autry Comics #60 [February 1952] was a 36-page issue
with a photo cover.  In the 24-page “Double-Trouble,” Autry is on
the trail of missing Wells Fargo gold shipments and the killer who
shot two messengers.  The story is drawn by Nicholas Firfires, who
drew many western comics for Dell. 

The Grand Comics Database doesn’t identify the writer of this tale,
but writers who worked on the title during this time would include
Gaylord DuBois, Philip Evans, Paul Newman and Eleanor Packer. Evans
also wrote for the Gene Autry newspaper strip.

Gene Autry's Champion #5 [February-April 1952] had a cover painted
by Sam Savitt and three Champion stories, all drawn by Mo Gollub.
The GCD has not yet identified the writer or writers of these three
stories.

Keep reading this blog for more comics from the month of my birth.
There were a lot of them.

******************************

I’ve been reading Amazing Spider-Man and related titles and seem to
be just about current with those.  I’m also reading Doctor Who and
have quite a ways to go before I’m current with those IDW comics.
Thirdly, I’m reading various pre-2009 X-Men mini-series and am only
up to those whose titles start with the letter “M.”  Along with the
other comics, books on comics, graphic novels, and manga I’ve been
reading.  Being underemployed has some minor advantages.

While I won’t be writing issue-by-issue reviews of the older comic
books, I will have some notes on most of them.  First up is Amazing
Spider-Man
#651-682 and there are SPOILERS AHEAD...

Dan Slott’s doing a good job writing the title.  He doesn’t hit it
out of the park or even get on base all the time, but, most of the
time he delivers an enjoyable story.

I like Peter Parker’s new job with Horizon Labs.  It makes perfect
sense to have him use his scientific smarts to earn a real healthy
paycheck.  Slott thinks bigger than I do.  Back when Jim Salicrup
was editing Spider-Man, I suggested Parker become a science writer
for the Daily Bugle.  I like the Horizon bit better.  Sadly, since
readers can’t possible relate to a successful scientist any better
than they could relate to Peter being married to a actress/model,
it’s only a matter of time before Mephisto returns to offer our
hero a new deal of some sort.

I hate Phil Urich as the Hobgoblin.  I actually liked Urich’s too-
brief time as a heroic Green Goblin and I don’t recognize that guy
in this new evil guy.

The Spider-Slayer’s insect army?  Really dumb looking.

The death of Marla Madison? Cheap shock value made even more so by
Jonah not learning a damn thing from it.  His hatred for Spider-Man
now reaches insane proportions.  He’s acting irrationally and it’s
time to retire him from the series.  Or have him move in with his
dad and Aunt May.  Let the hilarity ensue.

Also not wild about Spider-Man’s memberships in both the Avengers
and the FF.  Too much, even given Horizon’s loose work arrangement.

Did I mention how much I like Peter working/succeeding at Horizon
Labs?  Because I really do.  Don’t want that lost in the negative
comments.

I also liked Slott’s handling of Peter’s relationship with Carlie
Cooper and its hopefully not permanent dissolution.  She’s a gutsy
and smart character and Peter was an idiot for not being more open
with her.  Some things never change.  In any case, her reasons for
breaking up with him made perfect sense for her character.  I like
her as much as I like Mary Jane.

Flash Thompson as Venom? I’m keeping an open mind.

Following the death of Marla Madison, Spider-Man vowed that, while
he was around, which I take to mean in the vicinity of whatever was
going down, no one dies.  It’s a unrealistic vow, but, you know, I
like it a lot...and since writers can write whatever they want to
write, more or less, I’d love to see Spidey keep that vow.  There
has been enough collateral death in Marvel comic books of late and
way too much mass killing of civilians.  Let’s encourage Slott and
other writers to be clever enough to figure out how to make certain
no one dies on Spider-Man’s watch.  Slott has already done really
good stuff with this premise.  He should keep it up.

Spider-Man lost his spider-sense for a while.  Because he acted in
a heroic and self-sacrificing manner.  That made for some exciting
moments, but I’m glad his spider-sense was restored.  Spidey just
isn’t really Spidey without it.

While I might not like Spider-Man being a member of the FF (Future
Foundation), I like his being part of the FF family.  Sometimes the
families we build for ourselves are better and more loving than the
ones we’re born into.

In a similar vein, while I might not like Spider-Man being such an
active Avenger, his two-issue team-up with the students of Avengers
Academy in issues #661 and #662 was great fun.  It reminded me of
the Chris Claremont and John Byrne run on Marvel Team-Up way back
in the day.

“Spider Island” was a decent big-ass story.  It delivered a whole
bunch of fine moments along the way, most notably Carlie Cooper’s
stepping up to the plate in a major way.  However its multiple and
not particularly interesting villains became tedious quickly and,
counting the mini-series and one-shots, the story ran around twice
as many issues as it should have.  I’ll write about some of those
mini-series and one-shots tomorrow.

Following “Spider Island,” Slott wrote a fine two-issue story with
the Vulture.  It was a somewhat different take on the long-flying
villain and I thought it was terrific.

My jury of one is still out on the Doctor Octopus and Sinister Six
stuff that has dominated Amazing Spider-Man of late.  I still wish
the Sandman had remained reformed, but that’s not a deal-breaker.
Earth-threatening peril goes beyond what I believe is Spider-Man’s
natural story territory, but the beauty of smaller stories has been
lost on editors, readers and writers suckled on an unhealthy diet
of Hollywood eye-candy and video games.  It’s true, young ones, I
am that cranky old man who turns the water hose on you whenever you
drunkenly pass out on his lawn.  Now in my day...

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Sunday, April 15, 2012

SURVIVING AT 60

One of my dearest friends phoned me the other day, deeply concerned
over my blog of April 3.  He told me what a creative and witty guy
I was.  He told me what a terrific writer I was.  Then, as kindly
as humanly possible, he suggested that, contrary to what I claimed
in the column, I did have an agenda in writing about some subjects
and that I was sort of playing the “victim card.”

This dear friend of mine is all of the praiseworthy things he said
about me and, without question, smarter and more respected than I
am.  So, even though I didn’t agree with his suggestion, I took it
very seriously and thought about the things I’ve written about my
career in comics.  Here’s what I concluded:

If I have agendas, they aren’t entirely personal.  I want to tell
the truth about my career, so the half-truths and un-truths that
are too often repeated don’t stand as the record of my career. I’ve
long since lost count of how many times I’ve had these, let’s call
them lies, reported to me.  I am far from the only comics pro who’s
been lied about.  If I write about the times I’ve been lied about,
I’m using myself as an example. 

When I got into comics, I pretty much thought the vast majority of
comics people were absolutely wonderful people that I could always
trust.  In truth, there are an awfully lot of wonderful people in
comics, but there are also many not-so-wonderful people who I and
so many others would have been better off not trusting.  When I
write about those folks, I consider it a cautionary tale for people
just getting started in comics or wanting to get into comics.

Have I been cheated, slandered, stolen from during my forty years
in comics?  Yes, I have.  I suppose on some level that does make me
a victim.  But here’s the catch, my dear friends, I never think of
myself as a victim.  I think of myself as a survivor.

Much more importantly, I think of myself as so blessed to have the
life I have.  With a loving wife and children.  With good friends
around the world.  With a body of work I’m proud of.  With the sure
knowledge that I go about my life and my writing with clean hands,
honest intentions and a hope for the future that usually borders on
certainty.  Things can get better and they will.

Do I wish I hadn’t been cheated, slandered, and stolen form?  Do I
wish I was able to write more of the things I want to write and be
treated fairly by those who publish them?  Of course...but never at
if it would come at the expense of the great life I have.

At a convention last year, a friend of mine was surprised to see me
in conversation with a person who, by my friend’s reckoning, was a
person who had done me considerable wrong.  My friend was surprised
that I felt bad for this person because of some unpleasant changes
in the person’s life.  But, in truth, despite the person’s amazing
success in the comics industry, I felt bad for him...because I knew
I had more of the really important things in life than that person
had.  Call me delusional if you must, but any animosity I might’ve
held towards that person was gone.  On my scorecard, I was the one
who had come out ahead.

The comics industry isn’t a paradise on Earth.  Just as in any, oh,
let’s make that every other industry on the planet, those who work
in it will not all be wonderful people.  Many of them will only be
in your corner when it benefits them and they will be just as quick
to kick you to the curb when that benefits them.  Even if you self-
publish your own work, you will still have to deal with some folks
who are not wonderful.  It is what it is.

But, if comics is what you want to do, and it’s really all I have
ever wanted to do professionally, you will have to learn to contend
with those who are not wonderful.  You will need to be careful and,
as much as possible, make sure that you receive fair compensation
for your work and respectful treatment for you as a comics creator.
Additionally, if you want to be one of those truly wonderful folks
in comics, you must treat others as you want to be treated.  Make
that golden rule your standard.

Me? I’ll keep writing about things I believe I should write about.
I’ll keep reviewing comics and other items and strive to do so as
fairly and honestly as I can.  Some things I write about will make
some of my readers angry.  Some reviews I write will displease some
creators.  Neither unfortunate outcome will keep me from writing or
reviewing.  I am what I am.

Will I write more comics and books?  Will I achieve great success
in doing so?  Will I be invited to comics conventions?  The answer
to all of those is...I certainly hope so.

If I don’t write more comics and books, if I do not achieve great
success in doing so, if I am not invited to comics conventions, I
still have the terrific life I have now.  No one, at least no one
in the comics industry, can take that from me.

I appreciate my friend’s concern.  I know he cares deeply about a
great many people and I admire him all the more for that.  But he
doesn’t have to worry about me.  I’m good.  Oh, what the hell...I’m
grrrrreat!      

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Saturday, April 14, 2012

WORST SHARK MOVIE EVER

This has been a weird and challenging week for me, though, as ever,
I am sustained by my real family: Sainted Wife Barb, our kids and
my closest friends.  I also got some welcome paying work this week,
though it’s nothing I can write about.  It falls into the realm of
assisting and consulting, but it’s fun and interesting work for a
client for whom I’ve always enjoyed working. Just the projects to
jumpstart my creative juices for my own next projects, when and if
I can make those happen.

I hope you enjoyed the CBG reprints this week.  I generally post my
CBG writings a month after they appear in print.  Given the afore-
mentioned weird week, that timing could not have been better.  I’m
working on a somewhat personal piece for Sunday and have dozens of
comics to review starting on Monday, but, for today, you get random
ramblings on this and that.

******************************

When I stumbled across Psycho Shark [Cinema Epoch; $19.99] while
researching titles at the Internet Movie Database, I was astonished
I’d never heard of this 2009 Japanese movie which is also known as
Jaws in Japan.  After getting the DVD from my local library system
and watching it, I’m even more astonished I’d never heard of this
movie.  It’s the worst shark movie ever!

Psycho Shark claims to run 70 minutes, but I feel like it drained
several hours of my life.  According to its website, “Cinema Epoch
is a U.S. based distribution and production company specializing in
international cinema.” It’s acquired 200 or so movies and, clearly,
its standards are microscopically small.

Spoilers ahead.

Here’s the plot: Two young Japanese women vacation on a desolate,
remote beach.  If the guy running the place wore a t-shirt reading
“crazy murderous pervert,” it would be redundant.  If the somewhat
handsome younger guy who chats up one of the women wore that same
t-shirt, it would also be redundant...and the dimly-lit woman would
probably still go off with him to even a more remote part of that
beach where he could cut her with a knife and then try to feed her
to an enormous shark.  As he’s done before, he plans to videotape
the feeding frenzy.  He and his partner have regular sick bastard
customers for these videos. 

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s pretty much the plot of
Shark Night (2011).  Though Psycho Shark came first, the makers of
Shark Night spend a lot more money on their crappy movie. 

The big finishes of both Psycho Shark and Shark Night have a giant
shark who only appears for a few seconds.  In Shark Night, it’s big
enough to eat a boat.  In Psycho Shark, it’s big enough to swallow
a reef and the four people on it with the video camera miraculously
escaping digestive destruction.

As much as I hated Psycho Shark, I find myself intrigued by Cinema
Epoch.  All those movies.  Many of them have great titles.  Their
single-paragraph descriptions sometimes sound kind of cool in a “I
could write the shit out of that premise” kind of way. But, burned
once, I must assume these are all pretty bad movies.  I’ll let you
know if I work up the courage or depression to watch another of the
company’s offerings.

******************************

Speaking of things Japanese, my son Eddie Isabella is blogging on
anime and manga in his Blog of the Rising Sun.  In recent years, he
has become an avid anime/manga fan and he’s even recommended some
enjoyable works to me.  Most recently, he’s reviewed GTO: 14 Days
in Shonan
, creator Toru Fujisawa’s sequel to Great Teacher Onizuka.
GTO is a favorite of mine.  I just finished the first volume of the
sequel and started reading the first volume of Shonan Junai Gumi,
also known as GTO: The Early Years.  Fujisawa’s Ekichi Onizuka is
a terrific character, a biker gang leader who becomes a remarkable
teacher despite his highly unorthodox methods.  Read the original
series for starters and, if you like it as much as I did, you will
want to read the prequel and sequel as well.

You should also check out Blog of the Rising Sun.  At least Eddie’s
inherited some of my more useful genes. 

******************************

How conservative is the National Cartoonist Society?  All three of
its nominees for Editorial Cartoons - Lisa Benson, Mike Lester and
Mike Ramirez - are right-wingers.  Indeed, they are not only right-
wingers, they frequently parrot Republican Tea Party talking points
and often resort to blatant falsehoods in their cartoons.  I can’t
imagine them being considered the best in their field.  “Appalled”
best describes my reaction to their nominations.

I ask again...how conservative is the National Cartoonist Society?
And, as a follow-up, whatever happened to that “liberal media” the
right-wing keeps crying about?

****************************** 

Rich Johnston’s Bleeding Cool reports that the vile Rick Olney has
apparently created a new thing called All Aces Entertainment.  The
logo for the new company appears to be cribbed from several other
non-related companies.  Typical.

In the initial report, Johnston described Olney as “one of the most
pilloried names in comics” and a quick Google search reveals just
how well deserved is Olney’s bad reputation.  Previous to All Aces
Entertainment, Olney claimed to be hosting something he called “the
Adirondack ComicFest,” but that event was canceled as guest after
guest pulled out on investigating Olney’s history.  Still ongoing
from that event is Olney’s apparently illegal possession of Indiana
Jones maps created by Matt Busch as a fundraiser for charities who
never agreed to be associated with Olney or his show and whom don’t
seem to have received any maps money from Olney.

A Bleeding Cool update reports Olney is planning a “Fine Arts Show”
for September.  Given Olney’s history, I don’t think it is at all
unreasonable to assume this show won’t happen and that someone is
going to get screwed over because they trusted Olney. 

Which brings me to the advice I keep giving and which I’ll continue
to give from time to time...

Google them.

If someone contacts you wanting your creative services, check them
out online.  For example, Busch could have saved himself a world of
grief if he had checked out Olney prior to entering into any sort
of agreement with him.  In my less charitable moments, I sometimes
think that anyone who fails to check out Olney or thinks that Olney
won’t screw him or her deserves the misery that will always follow
in the wake of such a bad decision.

This advice doesn’t just apply to Olney.  It’s a precaution to be
taken whenever someone contacts you.  This isn’t an 100% guarantee
against being screwed, but it’s a really simple safety precaution.
Don’t get taken in by a con artist’s game. 

Google them.

******************************

Sometimes the shit I say makes my Sainted Wife Barb laugh.  While
I can’t recall what we were talking about the other night, at one
point, I said I was so stupid a zombie would starve if he tried to
eat my brain.  It would be a meal, it would be a snack.  It would
be a Brain McNugget.  Barb found this hilarious.

Brain McNuggets.  At Zombie McDonald’s everywhere.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 13, 2012

TO BE A COLLECTOR 2: THE VAOS STRIKES BACK

Comics Buyer’s Guide #1689 came out a few months back. Most issues
of CBG are built around a cover theme and most of the time I poke
good-natured fun at editor Brent Frankenhoff about the themes or,
as he might put it, give him grief.

I confess I don’t much like writing around themes, especially when
the themes repeat year after year. Like the New Year’s Day issue
and the Valentine Day’s issue and the Holiday Gift Guide issue. As
a proud member of the 99%, I believe CBG sometimes concentrates too
much on the elite 1% of holidays and ignores “lesser” celebrations
like Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day (April), International
Nurses Day (May 14) and, of course, Go Skateboarding Day (June 21).
I’ve been working on my kickflip since last June.

Despite my aversion to theme issues I didn’t come up with - Where’s
my Godzilla issue? - I loved the notion of devoting an issue of CBG
to collecting or, as my daughter Kelly calls it, hoarding. When I
and other CBG contributors were asked to answer questions about our
collecting habits and history, I responded with as much enthusiasm
as I can manage without breaking something. I’m still a little bit
sore from last June’s ill-conceived “hippie jump” and still paying
the legal bills from it. How could I know the trick didn’t require
the use of actual hippies? I am so sorry, Moonbeam.

Here are questions asked by Brent Frankenhoff, hereafter referred
as Most August Kind Editor, and answered by yours truly, hereafter
referred to as Yours Truly...

MOST AUGUST KIND EDITOR: Where do you buy your back issues? Online,
at shops, at antique stores, flea markets...

YOURS TRULY: With two kids in college, I don’t buy many back issues
these days. In the past, eBay was my main source for back issues
and remains so.

MAKE: What's your favorite find? Doesn't have to be a comic book,
but should be comics-related; toy, poster, shirt, autograph, piece
of art, etc.

YT: I don’t have one favorite find. I was delighted when I came
across original art I’d accumulated over the years, as well as a
bunch of original plots and scripts from stories I’d written. A
few of them date back to before I went to work for Marvel in 1972.

Back when I could afford more back issue shopping, I was pleased to
complete my collections of Cosmo the Merry Martian and the Presto
Kid issues of Red Mask. Other delights were back issues of Gorgo,
Konga, Reptilicus/Reptisaurus, and, from Quality Comics, Candy and
The Barker. I also loved getting the Alan Class reprints from the
U.K. when I could find them at reasonable prices.

If I had to narrow it down to just one, it would probably be Stan
Lee’s Secrets Behind the Comics. I found at copy at the first New
York Comic-Con I attended. A few years later, I was working with
Stan and got him to autograph it for me.

MAKE: What's your holy grail, the one item you're in search of?

YT: I don’t have a holy grail per se, unless you want to count my
wild fantasy of my parents finding a box with all the copies of
Treasure Chest I got while attending Sts. Phillip and James grade
school in Cleveland. Back then, I didn’t truly appreciate the
great artists and writers who worked on those comics.

MAKE: If you sell or have sold comics, where have you sold, how do
you sell, what advice would you give to a seller starting out?

YT: In recent years, I have had some success selling comics and
original art at conventions, on eBay, to private collectors, and at
a garage sale. At my garage sale and at conventions, I shoot for
volume sales with ridiculously low prices. In the other venues, I
got for fair prices that work for both me and the buyers.

My advice to new sellers would be to do their research online and
elsewhere, and to have realistic expectations for what their comic
books and other items will sell for. Depending on where you are,
you can’t expect to get top dollar unless you have truly rare stuff
in amazing condition.

MAKE: What's your biggest regret in either buying or selling comics
or both? Can also cover a trade deal you made at some point in your
collecting career.

YT: My biggest regret is not closing my comics store about three
years before I did. The last years were defined by dishonest
employees, terrible landlords, disappearing customers, an poorly-
conceived charity venture, and a now-disbarred lawyer, who remains
the absolute worst person I ever met in my life. Had I closed the
store earlier than I did, I would have avoided all of the above and
walked away with money in my pocket and tons of inventory. Sigh.

Not to worry. I won’t end today’s blog on that depressing answer.
Shortly after CBG #1689 was received by subscribers, a reader
sent me a box of rare old Treasure Chest issues. Just his way of
thanking me for my columns and comics stories.

He had put together a complete collection of Treasure Chest and had
the issues bound into hardcover volumes. The comics he sent to me
were his duplicates from that endeavor. I was truly surprised and
delighted to receive such a generous gift.

There are some exceptionally nice and wonderful people out there in
comicdom. I think those people would be a great theme for a future
issue of CBG. I’d vote for that over the National Ice Cream Month
(July) issue.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TONY’S BACK PAGES: THE BARKER


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1688:

Sometimes the comic books I find in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff
surprise even me.  Though I have no memory of buying The Barker #1
[Quality; Autumn 1946] and three other issues of this title, there
they were when I unearthed and opened yet another long-buried comic
box.  I was simultaneously delighted and frightened.

Created by Joe Millard (writer) and Jack Cole (artist), the Barker
made his debut in National Comics #42 [Quality; May 1944].  Carnie
Callahan is the barker for Colonel Lane's Mammoth Circus and a pal
to the performers of that circus: the plentiful Lena, Major Midge,
strong man Tiny Tim, and the four-armed Spudo.  When not pitching
the wonders of the circus to potential customers, Callahan handled
the criminals who either tried to rob the circus or use it as cover
for committing other crimes.

The four stories in this issue - one is a solo story featuring the
spider-limbed Spudo - are drawn and possibly written by the great
Klaus Nordling, whose style contains elements of both Cole and Will
Eisner.  Nordling worked with Eisner on the weekly Spirit sections
and other features. 

All four stories are good goofy fun, but the tour de force is the
14-page finale in which the larcenous fortune teller Adou Ben Hafiz
joins the Mammoth Circus.  The shiek brings along his servants and
his nine gorgeous wives.  He’s taking Colonel Lane and the circus
customers for a fortune when Callahan’s suspicions and Adou’s own
jealousy - he catches Major Midge flirting with one of his wives -
exposes his scheme and kicks off a slapstick brawl.  A highlight of
this wacky tale is a two-panel sequence in which Spudo searches for
a pickpocket by checking the pockets of four unsuspecting customers
at once.  That thing on my face after reading this issue?  It’s a
really big grin.                                         
 
If those other three issues of The Barker I have are as much fun as
this first issue, it could be the start of a beautiful collection.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 6

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.

The giant monsters who appeared on the covers of Tales of Suspense
and other Marvel fantasy comics of the early 1960s must have been
decent draws.  How else can one explain the Rawhide Kid’s encounter
with “The Terrible Totem” in Rawhide Kid #22 [June 1961]?

Jack Kirby penciled and Dick Ayers inked the cover of that unusual
issue, which, like the previous issue, shows Rawhide from the back.
In another similarity to the previous issue, the 19-page “Beware!!
The Terrible Totem!!” is the only Rawhide Kid story in the issue.
By the way, that’s not a typo in the title of the story.  As seen
on the title splash of the first chapter, writer Stan Lee actually
doubled up on the exclamation points.

The Totem looks silly, but there are lots of neat touches in this
adventure.  The Kid is on the run from a posse and tries to hide by
working as a miner.  The boss of the mine doesn’t give a whole lot
of thought to the safety of his employees, which would likely earn
him an obscenely large bonus in today’s world.  We never find out
where the sentient Totem comes from, only that he was “slumbering”
for ages and seeks to conquer the human race.  For the big finish,
Rawhide, the miners, and the posse join forces to fight the Totem
with the Kid being the guy who sends the creature plummeting into
a “bottomless canyon.”

Keeping a promise made in the heat of battle, the Kid surrenders to
the lawman leading the posse.  But the sheriff says he’ll have his
hands full taking the mine boss back to town for mining deeper than
the law allows.  Darn those job-destroying liberals!

The sheriff adds:

“As for the Kid, I had a feelin’ he was a criminal!  This hombre
ain’t no criminal...he’s a man!

That’s the Rawhide Kid, making new friends whenever his lonely road
takes him.

The Rawhide Kid story is followed by a text story.  Which I didn’t
read and which I rarely read back in the day.  I would read letter
columns darn near religiously, but I could never get into the text
stories.  Surprising when you consider I usually read two or three
prose novels each and every week.

Stan Lee teams up with Don Heck to finish out the issue with “Slap
Leather, Lawman!”  It’s a mediocre four-page short wherein an aging
sheriff has a gun duel with a much younger cattle-rustler.  Though
the young man draws first, the sheriff doesn’t go down and disarms
the rustler with a shot to the shoulder.

The sheriff faces his wife: “I reckon it was only, fittin’, Marcy!
I spent my whole life fightin’ for this tin badge...”

His wife finishes her hubby’s thought: “And now it’s paid you back,
dear...by saving your life.  By stopping Rand Crass’s bullet”                                           
Marvel did two other cowboy/monster stories in the 1960s.  In Two
Gun Kid
#58 [February 1961], the blond and sometimes singing cowboy
Clay Harder who had the name before the masked hero, came face-to-
face with “The Monster of Hidden Valley” in a story by Lee, Kirby,
Ayers.  However, the “monster” was nothing more than a really big
buffalo disguised by a bad guy...and he would have gotten away with
it if it weren’t for that meddling cowboy!
                                                 
Then, in Kid Colt Outlaw #107 [November 1962], the title hero met
“The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley!” in a story by Stan Lee with
art by Jack Keller.  This monster is a friendly alien, but I can’t
remember how the adventure ended.  The cover of the issue was drawn
by Kirby and Ayers...because when better monsters are drawn, Kirby
and Ayers would draw them!

I’ve always wondered what effect these monsters had on the sales of
these issues.  From what I’ve learned of Goodman, if the sales had
been really good, there would have been a lot more giant monsters
in these westerns.  When the super-heroes took off, we did get the
western comic equivalent of super-villains, some of them costumed.
I got a kick out of those comics, but, eventually, all of the three
titles - Kid Colt Outlaw, Rawhide Kid, and Two Gun Kid - went back
to more traditional western tales.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

MO’ COMICS, MO’ REVIEWS

From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1689:

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby brought the romance comics from the pulps
and confessionals to comic books.  They brought the same sense of
the dynamic to these tales as they did to Captain America, the Boy
Commandoes, and their other comics triumphs. Young Romance: The
Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics
[Fantagraphics; $29.99],
edited by Michel Gagne, celebrates their landmark work in a genre
that changed the face of comics for a time.

The title isn’t precisely accurate.  Some of the very best Simon
and Kirby romance stories aren’t collected in this hardcover volume
because Gagne made the decision not to duplicate the stories found
in Richard Howell’s out-of-print Real Love: The Best of the Simon
and Kirby Romance Comics
. It was the right call, but I would love
to see that earlier volume back in print in hardcover and in color,
and with Gagne’s wonderful restorations.
 
Gagne’s selections are first-rate.  These stories are fiery fare.
Lovers clash like storm-tossed waves on rocky shores.  They battle
misconceptions and social injustices.  Tales like “Her Tragic Love”
and “Fraulein Sweetheart” are a punch-to-the-gut.  The heroes and
heroines of “The Town and Tony Benson,” “Kathy and the Merchant of
Sunset Canyon,” and “Sailor’s Girl” are complex and determined as
they fight against and then find romance.  “Norma, Queen of the Hot
Dogs” made me smile.  Even stories created under the constraints of
the Comics Code pack a wallop.  In the skilled hands of Simon and
Kirby, love is most definitely a battlefield.

The book’s special features are also top-notch.  CBG’s own Michelle
Nolan provides an introduction.  Dozens of covers are reprinted to
give readers a even greater feel for the era.  Gagne adds his own
thoughts to the mix and also leads the readers through the how of
his restoration process.

Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics belongs
in the personal library of all Simon and Kirby fans and all serious
students of comics art and history.  It’s a prime example of what
I mean when I say this is the true golden age of comics.

ISBN: 978-160699-502-0

******************************
 
Richard L. Graham’s Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-
2000s
[Abrams Comicarts; $29.95] is a fascinating look at the comic
books produced by the United States government to educate soldiers,
promote the military, teach about job opportunities, get citizens
involved in their government, and, often, promote lifestyles that
the government approved of.  It’s filled with remarkable examples
of these comic books, which were drawn by some of the great names
in our field: Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Joe Kubert, Walt Kelly,
and even Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as beloved storyteller
Dr. Seuss.  It’s so filled with cool stuff that you’ll return to it
time and time again.

Graham’s historical commentary takes a back seat to the comics, but
it is no less keen for that.  I relish such odd reflections as the
government continuing to publish comic books at a time when comic
books in general were under attack by Congress and desperate social
reformers looking for something to blame for a sea of woes.  One of
the most successful ploys of hack politicos has always been to get
the people afraid of something and then tell them who to blame for
that manufactured fear.  You’ll see it over and over again during
this year’s campaigns.

If your interest in comic books is strictly for their entertainment
value  - and there’s not a blessed thing wrong with that - you may
not love this Graham’s book as much as I do.  However, if, like me,
you are enthralled by all the uses and the variety inherent in the
American comic book, you’ll appreciate this tome.

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0078-1

******************************

Fly Volume 1 [Zenescope; $15.99] collects the first five issues of
the intense series created and written by Raven Gregory with art by
Eric J. It’s the tale of a new drug that gives its users the power
to fly and the chaos that use visits upon the lives of the series
protagonist and his girlfriend. There’s a world-outside-your-window
reality to this scary and suspenseful series, not surprising given
that it’s inspired by the author and his wife’s own addictions to
and battles with meth.  My favorite “super-hero” comics have always
melded the fantastic with the real.  Fly does that.

If you’re bored with how DC and Marvel do super-heroes, this series
could be right up your dark alley.  I’ll be astonished if Hollywood
doesn’t come around looking to get movie rights to this one.  I’d
go see it on the big screen and I don’t make that effort for more
than a couple films a year.

Fly. You’ll be talking about it soon.

ISBN: 978-1-937068-95-0
******************************

It took Batman a while to recover from the campy (but fun) version
of the character that appeared on millions of TV sets in the 1960s.
Writer Dennis O’Neil, artist Neal Adams, and editor Julius Schwartz
generally receive the lion’s share of the credit for that comeback
and not without cause.  Still, there were other talented creators
who served Batman well and, alongside O’Neil and Adams, they shine
in Showcase Presents: Batman Volume 5 [DC; $19.99], over 500 pages
of clever criminology and spooky suspense. 

Frank Robbins wrote most of the tales reprinted in this black-and-
white tome.  His Batman is a very human crime-fighter, not yet the
completely cold mastermind who can dispatch a dozen thugs without
breaking a sweat.  This Batman has to work hard for his victories.
I like this Batman better than the psychotic who shows up in many
of today’s Batman comic books.

Robbins often allowed supporting players take the center stage in
these years (1969-1971).  Artists Bob Brown and Irv Novick, solid
pros who knew their drawing and storytelling, always did a terrific
job bringing these characters to life.  Throw in a handful of fine
short stories by writer Mike Friedrich and several sublime efforts
by O’Neil and Adams and you have a big thick collection of comics
that will entertain you for hours. 

My only complaint is that, for no good reason I can see, DC omitted
“Shutdown on York Street,” a nine-page story by Friedrich, Novick,
and inker Mike Esposito that originally appeared in Batman #225
[September, 1970].  I hope DC remembers to include it in Showcase
Presents: Batman Volume 6
.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 9, 2012

TO BE A COLLECTOR

From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1689:

“To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of
a dope fiend with those of a miser.”


- Robertson Davies, Canadian journalist and author, 1913-1995.

“Comics collecting” is the theme of this issue.  There was a time
when I considered myself a collector, then, almost two decades ago,
my life got busy/complicated/stressful and I suddenly found I was
more of an accumulator than a collector. 

Before that “change of life,” there were comics I collected.  For
a while, I wanted to collect every Batman and Superman comic book.
I made a pretty good start with Batman.  At one time, I owned the
first hundred issues of Batman.  Granted, most of them were little
more than reading copies and I sold them when there were bills to
be paid, but, for a while, I actually had a complete collection of
Batman.  Since then, what with DC making Batman insane and really
unlikeable, my interest has waned.

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen was another favorite of mine.  I owned
and still own quite a few issues of that title and other Superman
and/or Batman titles.  They are buried deep within my now-infamous
“Vast Accumulation of Stuff” and will eventually come to light as
I unearth boxes from my storage unit.

The downfall of much of my “comics collection” was owning a comic-
book shop in the late 1970s through the 1980s.  Whenever the store
needed cash and/or stock, I would sell it comic books from my own
collection at ridiculously low prices.  The effectiveness of this
was diminished by considerable employee theft.  My trusting nature
has generally worked against me.

After I closed my store and during periods when good-paying writing
gigs were frequent, I started collecting certain titles that either
caught my interest or which I remembered fondly from my fan days.
The former category included Candy, a teen humor title published by
Quality Comics, and the black-and-white reprints of American comic
books published by Alan Class in Britain.  The latter included Bob
White’s Cosmo the Merry Martian (Archie Comics) and Gorgo, Konga,
and Reptisaurus from Charlton.

These purchases were made in the years B.C., which, in this case,
stands for “before college” or before Sainted Wife Barb and myself
sent our children Eddie and Kelly and most of our money to The Ohio
State University.  Eddie graduates this spring, but that’s unlikely
to change my collecting habits or lack thereof.

My focus these days is on selling off about 80% of the comics and
books I own.  I did complete my “Presto Kid” collection, managing
to find good condition copies of the four issues of Red Mask that
featured the magician cowboy. 

With the goal of someday having wall space to hang them on, I have
also commissioned a pair of drawings from friends of mine who are
also among my favorite artists.  The theme of these and any future
commissions is “Black Lightning and some other character I really
like.”  So Thom Zahler teamed Jeff Pierce with Darkblade from his
Love and Capes, and Terry Beatty teamed him with Ms. Michael Tree.
Of everything I created or wrote in comics, Black Lightning remains
my proudest accomplishment.

What would I collect if I had the funds, space, and time to indulge
that habit again?  I don’t know if my current habits would change
all that much.  I’d probably collect hardcover reprints of comics
from the 1940s through the 1970s.  I’d start collecting Alan Class
comics again.  I’d complete my collections of Gorgo and the other
Charlton monsters.  It might be fun to gather all the comic books
published in the month of my birth.  But my basic plan of reducing
the amount of stuff my wife and kids will have to deal with when I
shuffle off this mortal coil would curb my accumulating impulses.
It could take me a decade or two to read all the books and comics
I own right now.  By the time I hit 80, moving around comics boxes
might not be the fun exercise it is now.

Will the collecting of old comic books survive the digital future?
I’m confident it will, at least through my hopefully long lifetime.
Beyond that, who knows? 

For now, I relish living in what I consider the true golden age of
comics.  It’s a era when readers can buy classic and not so classic
reprints from the whole history of the American comic book, as well
as great new comics and graphic novels from all over the world.  I
may not care for much of what is produced by industry giants DC and
Marvel, but there are still new DC and Marvel titles I enjoy very
much.  In any given month, there are dozens of comics and graphic
novels worth reading.  Indeed, though my minuscule budget doesn’t
allow me to purchase many of them, my local library system provides
me with dozens of collections and manga volumes every month.  It’s
a good time to be even a financially-challenged comics aficionado.
It may even be the best of times to be one.

Here’s to the comics collectors of the world.  Just remember: lift
with your knees.

******************************

Sainted Wife Barb occasionally enables my collecting/accumulating
in spectacular fashion, like when she and our kids gave me The MAD
Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010
by Al Jaffee [Chronicle Books; $125]
for my 60th birthday.  The boxed set contains four hardcover books
reprinting all of Jaffee’s amazing fold-ins for those years.  I’ve
been enjoying them a year at a time.

Early on, Jaffee explains how he conceives and constructs the fold-
ins and makes it seem so simple.  He draws the final image first,
cuts it in half, and fills in the middle.  It’s about as simple as
brain surgery.  Jaffee makes it look easy, which is ever the way of
the true genius.

What both impresses and saddens me is how many of the problems and
woes Jaffee used as fold-in fodder are still with us today.  From
1972, we get concerns about FBI wire-tapping, industrial wastes in
our air, China, prisons, medical expenses, and a comparison between
politician promises and the porcelain throne.  I wish more of our
leaders had read and learned from MAD.

This boxed set is a treasure.  You get the original fold-in on the
left side of each spread and the folded-in version on the right.
Which saved me the heartache of having to fold the pages of these
magnificent books.

Even if you take advantage of the bargains to be found online and
elsewhere,  The MAD Fold-In Collection isn’t cheap.  But, man, does
it deliver a lot of bang for your bucks.

ISBN: 978-0811872850

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

YOU CAN’T BEAT THE LAW

Gang Busters was a licensed title based on the radio show than ran
21 years (1936-1957).  The program actually debuted a year earlier
as G-Men, but changed its name on January 15, 1936.  There was also
a 1942 movie serial and a 1952 TV series.  Episodes of the latter
were edited into two movies.  The DC Comics title lasted for 67
issues [December 1947-January 1948 to December 1958-January 1959].
It was an anthology title with no continuing characters.

Published in my birth month of December 1951, Gang Busters #26 has
a cover date of February-March 1952. Ruben Moreira drew the cover
of the 44-page issue.  Inside, there were four comics stories and
a variety of features.  The stories:

“The Big Heist” (10 pages, drawn by John Lehti);

“Heroes of the Highway” (6 pages, penciled by Curt Swan with inks
by Stan Kaye);

“The Case of the Dazzling Diamonds” (4-page Casebook Mystery drawn
by Bernard Bailey); and,

“Carnival of Crime” (10 pages, drawn by John Prentice).

While the Grand Comics Database has not yet identified the writers
of these stories, DC editor Jack Schiff said writers for this title
included France Herron, Bill Finger, Dave Wood, Alvin Schwartz, and
others.  Let’s hope that someday these and other writers will get
full and proper credit for their work.

******************************

Diving into the reviewing pile...

Batman #2-5: I don’t dislike the “Court of Owls” storyline, but I’m
also not completely sold on it.  Part of my problem is the notion
of such a major criminal conspiracy operating for so long in Gotham
City without Batman being convinced of its existence.  Another part
is that Batman, having failed to uncover it as a young man, never
undertook a second investigation using his greater skills and more
modern technology.  Yet a third part of my problem is Batman being
trapped and tortured by the Owls.  While I like a more human Bats,
his foes playing mind-games on him is getting a little old for me.
Despite all those concerns, I’m still intrigued by the story.  I’m
hoping writer Scott Synder wins me over.

Batman and Robin #2-5: This book still leaves me cold.  The  Damian
Wayne in this one is more of a little prick that he is in the other
Bat-titles.  The new villain is yet another add-on to the already
extensive history of Bruce Wayne and the Batman; he's the son of
one of the men who trained Wayne.  He’s also a murderous vigilante,
but that’s sort of par for DC’s New 52. 

I’d like to see a consistent and redeemable Damian in this book and
the other Bat-titles.  I could rattle off the names of at least a
half-dozen writers capable of that, but I don’t hear DC asking for
my suggestions, so I’ll leave it at this...Batman deserves better
than he’s been getting from the current management.

Batman, Inc.: Since the Batman continuity was left mostly intact in
the switch to DC’s New 52 Universe, I read Batman, Inc. #1-8 plus
the Leviathan Strikes one-shot.  I actually love the concept of an
international league of Batman-inspired heroes.  I’m not enamored
of the execution.  Bruce Wayne as the public face and patron of the
organization puts a big dent in my willing suspension of disbelief.
Additionally, I’d much rather see the international heroes having
their adventures sans Wayne in either of his identities.  Let him
write the checks secretly and off stage.  Despite my misgivings on
those matters, I haven’t yet kicked Batman, Inc. to the curb.  I’m
hoping the title improves when it relaunches in the second wave of
the New 52.

******************************

DC Nation on Cartoon Network: Here are some quick thoughts on last
weekend’s episodes...

Written by Jennifer Keene. “Heir Apparent” was the best episode to
date of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, even if I figured out
the identity of the killer of a Lantern early on.  Queen Iolande is
a good character and I hope we see her again.  The Razer/Aya team
is a fun new element of the series.  Nicely done.

I’m enjoying the DC Nation live-action shorts wherein the weapons
of the DC heroes are tested to see if they would work in real life.
It might be nice to see a longer special - no more than a hour - of
this concept.

The “Superman of Tokyo” character made its second short appearance.
It’s a little bit creepy and a lot stupid, but in a good way.  If
a short makes me laugh, it gets thumbs up from me.  The Teen Titans
short...not so much.

Peter David wrote the Young Justice episode that finished off the
hour.  “Insecurity” was a neat little episode focusing on Artemis
and revealing the identities of her parents.  Red Arrow continues
to be a dick, but his issues with Artemis - and vice versa - were
convincing and well played.  A strong episode.

In other cartoon news...

Ultimate Spider-Man launched on the Disney XD channel last weekend,
but I missed the first episode.  Fortunately, the episode will be
shown several times during the week.  The DVR is set to record one
of those showings and, once I’ve seen the episode, I’ll write about
it here.

******************************

A few more bumps in the road of life have delayed the start of my
online sales and twice-monthly garage sales, but I hope to be able
to get those straightened away and ready to go within the next two
weeks.  Wish me luck.

My “read lots of comic books” plan is going somewhat better.  I’m
currently catching up with Spider-Man and reading “Spider-Island.”
I’m reading (and sometimes just skimming) X-Men titles from before
the Manifest Destiny event.  I’m reading IDW’s Doctor Who comics,
of which there are many.  Watch for reviews of these and many other
items in future bloggy things.

However, I think I can resist the urge to review the SyFy Channel’s
Seattle Superstorm, which made its debut last weekend.  Coming up
on SyFy: Alien Tornado and Space Twister.  I swear to Godzilla I’m
not making that up.

I’m taking a few days off, but I will be back next week with more
news, views, and reviews.

© 2012 Tony Isabella