Monday, September 30, 2013


I appreciate those of my friends and readers who like to keep me informed if folks are talking about me online.  However, if it's not good talk, don't bother. 

One of the hardest learned lessons is to NOT go after every punk on the Internet who thinks he's got a faster draw than I do.  My time is valuable.  I have a lot I want and need to do.  Nothing I say would convince these detractors of my wonderfulness anyway.

I confess I'm amused when people get all perturbed over things I write in my own venues or on my own Facebook page.  Don't they have anything better to do with their time?  I sure have better things to do than respond to them.

Here's the thing. I'm good with my life and how I conduct myself here and elsewhere.  For heaven's sake, if the stuff I write and the no comment zones and such bother you that much, then don't follow me.  Unfriend me.  Don't read my blog.  With truly rare exception, I don't want anyone's head to explore because they don't like what I write or how I behave.

It's an awfully big Internet. Just find other stuff to engage you.


It should not surprise my veteran readers that the new TV series I
was most looking forward to this fall season was Marvel’s Agents of
The show is a spinoff from Marvel’s The Avengers, the
best super-hero movie of all time.  It was created by Joss Whedon,
Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen...and the elder Whedon gave us
some of my favorite TV shows of all times, treasures like Buffy the
Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly
and Dollhouse.  It stars Clark Gregg
as Agent Phil Coulson, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who could be one of
my neighbors.  I was all aflutter with expectation.

The pilot episode did not disappoint in any way, except that I was
sort of hoping J. August Richards was playing Luke Cage.  He played
an unemployed father struggling to raise a young son and willing to
be a test subject pig for scientists messing around with their own
version of the super-soldier serum.  Richards was great in the role
and really deserves to headline a show of his own.  It’s too bad I
don’t currently own all the rights to Black Lightning.

Coulson has put together a team of non-super-powered agents to deal
with the new superhumans showing up in the wake of all those cool
Marvel super-hero movies.  My favorite is the computer hacker who
gets recruited instead of arrested.  My second favorite is the lone
wolf Black Ops agent who is already making a terrific foil for the
far more optimistic Coulson. 

The series has wonderfully underplayed connections to Marvel’s film
universe. Cobie Smulders does a guest turn as Maria Hill from the
Avengers movie. The pilot doesn’t ignore that Coulson was killed by
Loki in that movie, but makes a delectable mystery of how the guy
is still alive.  I was already loving this show madly when, in the
last scene, Coulson’s car Lola turned into the flying car designed
by Jack Kirby in the very first “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
comic-book story.  I squealed in delight.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby get creator credits in the opening credits.
In the closing credits, Jim Steranko and Bryan Hitch were listed.
I think other comics creators were listed as well, but I couldn’t
make out all the names. 

I will not yield.  I will back S.H.I.E.L.D. every week for what I
hope will be several years to come.


My TV viewing is as sporadic as my comic-book reading, but I have
managed to keep up with several shows even as the unwatched episode
count rises on other series.  Here are some brief comments on the
shows I have watched.

Broadchurch aired on BBC America.  The eight-episode series dealt
with the shocking murder of a young boy in a small coastal town and
the search for the killer.  It starred David Tennant as a big-city
detective who had failed to convict another child killer and is now the
head inspector in Broadchurch.  Olivia Colman plays his partner, a
married woman with two children who was up for the position Tennant
got instead.

The story played out in chillingly slow and incredibly suspenseful
manner.  Viewers got to know the characters: the leads, the family
of the victim, Colman’s family, journalists, suspects and several
of the townspeople.  These were complicated characters and most of
them had secrets of one kind or another.  When the identity of the
killer was revealed, it was a shocking moment, the kind that makes
a viewer’s eyes widen in disbelief.  The acting and the writing of
the series was superb throughout the eight episodes.

Amazingly - and, if you’ve been watching the series, you know why
I use that adverb - the producers have announced a second series of
Broadchurch, which will begin production in 2014.  I’m truly looking
forward to what comes next.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a half-hour comedy about a detective squad in
a remote precinct adjusting to a new by-the-book boss.  A little of
Andy Samberg goes a long way with me - he plays the lone wolf and
comically rebellious top detective of the precinct - but his antics
are nicely moderated by the amazing presence of Andre Braugher as
the new boss.

My initial skepticism towards this new series vanished after I saw
the first two episodes.  The detectives did actual police work and
did it well.  The laughs didn’t come from just the Samberg/Braugher
mismatch.  The supporting characters are interesting and quirky.
The show will be compared to Barney Miller, but I don’t see that as
a bad thing.  I think Brooklyn Nine-Nine has the potential to reach
and surpass its classic predecessor.


Criminal Minds seems posed to jump the shark this season.  Though
this series about the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit has had a good
run, the emphasis now seems to be on coming up with a serial killer
whose crimes are more gross and horrific than those of the previous
episode’s serial killer.  Attempts at character development of the
agents have been non-existent or unbelievably clumsy.  Now in its
ninth season, the show may have run out of steam.  It’s possible I
won’t be watching it much longer.


I caught up with Elementary last week.  This modern-day take on the
great detective has recovering drug addict Sherlock solving crimes
in New York City with the assistance of his “sober coach,” a former
surgeon.  Leads Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are great as Holmes
and Watson.  The writing has been excellent throughout the series’
first season and the show has given us some surprising takes on the
Sherlock Holmes mythology.

The most impressive episodes were the two final ones of the first
season.  A storyline that had been building for many episodes was
resolved in splendid and satisfying manner and without resorting to
the “cheesy cliffhanger” gambit of too many shows.  With a series
this good, I didn’t need a cliffhanger to get me back for a second


Then there’s The Glades, a moderately entertaining series about a
Chicago homicide detective who relocates to Florida.  The series’
third season ended on a satisfying note as the detective proposed
to his girlfriend and she accepted.  When I watched that episode,
it felt like a series finale to me and I would have been good with
that.  I was also good with The Glades being renewed for a fourth
series.  I was good all the way up to the season finale.

It’s the wedding day.  The detective has solved his latest case and
has secretly bought his wife-to-be’s dream house for them to spend
their wedding night in and then, after their honeymoon, to make it
their home.  On his way to the wedding ceremony, he makes a stop at
the house to prepare the wedding night ambiance...and gets shot in
the back by an unknown assailant.  End scene.

I yelled at the flat screen.  If the show doesn’t come back for a
fifth season, the series has ended with the hero being murdered and
his killer getting away with it.  Not a feel good scenario.

I loathe season-ending cliffhangers.  A show doesn’t have to tie up
every dangling plot thread at the end of a season, but it should
leave viewers with a satisfying conclusion to the main story.  Do
that and those viewers will come back.


To end today’s bloggy thing on a more positive note...

Hot in Cleveland is a fun comedy about three friends who move from
Los Angeles to the Mistake on the Lake, reinventing themselves to
some degree.  It has one of the most solid casts of any comedy on
TV: Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, the incredible
Betty White and, in a recurring supporting role, Georgia Engel.  I
adore these very funny women.

This season’s penultimate episode was a reunion of the female cast
members of The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Moore, Valerie Harper and
Cloris Leachman.  Despite obvious physical ills, Moore and Harper
were terrific.  Leachman was unpredictable, but that added to the
fun of the reunion.  There were nods to The Mary Tyler Moore show -
the title of the episode was “Love Is All Around You” - and lots of
warmth.  Amazingly, the reunion didn’t push Bertinelli, Leeves and
Malick out of the episode.  They had as many great moments as the
visiting stars. 

Hot in Cleveland is usually very entertaining.  This episode raised
the bar.  It’ll be tough to match.

I’ll be back as soon as possible with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 27, 2013


Fangasm made its debut Tuesday night on the Syfy Channel.  Here’s
the “about” entry from the channel’s website:

From the producer of Jersey Shore comes Fangasm – a six-part
docuseries that celebrates the incredibly unique, often
misunderstood, and infinitely fascinating fan girl and fan boy
culture. The show follows seven pop culture-obsessed fans (whose
passions range from comic books and collectibles to science fiction
and fantasy) living together in an LA apartment complex and working
together at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo. The seven must contend with
each others oversized personalities and conflicting fandom as they
vie for an opportunity to work within Lee's organization. Because
when different passions come together, you get a real big bang.

Fangasm promotional ads ran frequently on Syfy prior to the show’s
debut and I found them disturbing.  The promos weren’t celebrations
of fans and fan culture.  They were mocking vignettes showing the
cast members in the worst possible lights.

I recorded the first episode and watched it the following day.  I
had to take a break after 20 minutes.  Here’s what I posted on my
Facebook page and Twitter during that break:

I'm 20 minutes into FANGASM on Syfy. I'm afraid my jaw will never
come up from the floor. This may be the scariest thing that's ever
been on Syfy.

Cast member Molly McIsaac responded on Twitter:

It's a shame you feel that way! Most people really seem to love it.

I visited McIsaac’s Facebook page before returning to the show and
saw many complimentary comments.  Which is what I expected.  Check
out my Facebook page.  Everybody loves me there, too.  Well, almost
everyone, but I kill anyone who doesn’t so it pretty much amounts
to the same thing.

After I finished watching the debut episode, I posted this comment
on my Facebook page and on Twitter:

How could a show so terrible at the start end with great stuff? The
last scenes won the show a second chance from me.

Let’s turn the clock back four decades...

When I was first hired by Marvel Comics, I was determined to be as
professional as possible.  I didn’t wanted to be dismissed as some
mere fanboy.  I wanted to do my work to the best of my ability and
be taken seriously. 

The one thing I regret about my decision is that I missed countless
opportunities to interview the comics creators whose work inspired
me as a reader. Magazines like my pal David Anthony Kraft’s Comics
and Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego picked up many of the balls I
dropped.  All the same, whenever I think about some dearly departed
creator I could have interviewed and who was never interviewed, it
makes me sad. 

I made the same mistake when working at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Ray Osrin, who worked with Joe Shuster, Matt Baker and others, was
the newspaper’s editorial cartoonist.  We talked a few times and,
since he knew I was a comics fan, he would often ask me questions
about creators he had known, but I never pressed him on his comics
career.  I got the sense he didn’t much like talking about it and
I didn’t want to annoy him.  In retrospect, I should have at least
asked him if he’d be willing to talk about his time in the comics
trenches. Another lost opportunity.

What does this have to do with Fangasm? Good question.

I took pride in trying to conduct myself in a professional manner
at Marvel Comics, though I’m sure I didn’t succeed as well as I’d
have liked.  Comics fans were coming into the industry in greater
numbers than ever before - oh, those glorious 1970s - and I didn’t
want to screw things up for those who would follow me. 

So, during those first 20 minutes of Fangasm, I watched the seven
interns conduct themselves in an incredibly unprofessional manner.
They were so gosh-wow about their new gig they didn’t concentrate
on their professional obligations.  They tanked the first job they
were given. 

CEO Regina Carpinelli did the interns no favor by soft-pedaling how
badly they screwed up.  Besides forgetting the petitions they were
to be collecting their signatures, the interns didn’t do the small
bit of online research that it would have taken to discover their
choice of venue for the signature-gathering would be “entertaining”
its patrons with gyrating pole dancers. The venue was an exploitive
embarrassment to fan culture. 

Points to McIsaac for rightfully pointing out this was demeaning to
fan culture.  Negative points to the male interns who sat drooling
over the dancers in clueless lust as they embraced perhaps the most
persistent of fanboy stereotypes.  

One other thing bothered me during those first 20 minutes and that
was Stan Lee - my inspiration, my former boss and mentor, my friend
of many years - playing “Stan Lee” once again.  I love Stan madly.
Anyone who’s been reading my columns knows that.  I even love the
exuberant showman part of his personality and I saw that during my
time in the Marvel offices.  But I wanted to see the serious Stan,
the one from whom I learned so much.  He’s the Stan these interns
can learn from. He’s the Stan they need.

Reality shows are, by their very nature, manipulative.  They show
us the scenario they want to show us.  Sometimes they push people
into behaving in a certain way.  Sometimes they edit to achieve the
scenario they want.  This is why - disclaimer - I can only comment
on the show I watched and not speculate on whether or not any cast
member is other than they appeared to be on the show.

Back to Fangasm...

After my break, I was still mostly appalled by the show.  The fans
couldn’t figure out how to turn on a grill or a hot tub.  Really?
I’m a dinosaur and I can do both those things.

When Carpinelli asked if a couple of the fans could work on their
day off,  but McIsaac and Kristen Hackett were the only interns
to accept the extra work.  If I were their boss, I’d take note of
that and how the other interns weren’t interested in going an extra
mile for the company.

Andrew Duvall was especially quick to turn Carpinelli down.  That’s
not how someone responds to a request like that if he really wants
this internship to lead to a steady job.  Duvall’s appearance and
manner is already working against him.  He needs to step up to the
demands of the job.

Digression. Don’t expect a critique of every cast member today.  If
I continue to write about the series, I’m sure I’ll get to each and
every cast member. That said, Duvall’s speculating on which interns
would hook up with other interns was creepy.

McIsaac was the first intern to show me something more than these
fanboy and fangirl cliches.  When she talked about why she likes to
cosplay, she hit all the right notes.  When she talked about body
image, I recognized young women I know in her.  Yeah, it could be
taken as manipulative - on the part of the producers, not McIsaac -
but it was also real.

Given I’m old enough to be McIsaac’s moderately young grandfather,
there’s no way this next comment has a chance of not coming off as
creepy.  I thought she looked terrific in her Black Widow outfit,
far more attractive than the pole dancers.  I wish she had been in
Heroes of Cosplay as she represents the “cosplay for the fun of it”
cosplayer that series lacked. 

The next great moment in this first episode came when the interns
who didn’t volunteer to work went to a comic-book store to compete
in a contest to win dinner with George Takei.  The challenge was to
hold up a phaser longer than the other fans.

Mike Reed quit so that he could hit on another losing contestant.
Andrew wasn’t up to the challenge and this clearly broke his Star
Trek-loving heart. Dani Snow couldn’t go the distance either.  That
left Paul Perkins - as big a Star Trek fan as Andrew - competing
against intern Sal Fringo and another female contestant.  When the
female contestant dropped out, Sal threw the contest so Paul could win
the grand prize. That’s a mensch and a friend worth hanging on to.

Paul has dinner with Takei and gets some good advice from the actor
and social activist.  After dinner - and this was obviously set up
in advance - Takei returns to the intern house with Paul and meets
the other interns.  This was a strange and surreal moment, but it
was also a lot of fun to watch.

After Takei leaves, Andrew talks about his love for Star Trek and
it’s manipulative as Hell.  It’s manipulative as Hell and I don’t
care.  You’d have to be a complete jerk not to be moved by Andrew’s
story and I always aspire to not be a complete jerk.

This also rang very true to me because I’ve been on the creator end
of conversations with fans telling me how much my work has meant to
them.  Those conversations stay with me and inspire me to always do
the best work I can possible do on every gig. 

Fandom shouldn’t be a way of life.  But it can be a good part of a
well-rounded life.  Molly’s cosplaying comments.  Sal throwing the
contest so Paul could win it.  Andrew’s love for Star Trek.  I see
the best parts of fandom in these scenes.

Fangasm showed me some great stuff in its second half of this first
show, so I’ll keep watching the series for now. What I want to see
in future episodes is the interns taking this gig more seriously.
Rocky as the road can be, I can attest that doing what you love for
a living can be very rewarding.  I hope some of these cast members
get to experience that.

Today and tomorrow, I will be at the Mix 2013 comics symposium at
the Columbus College of Art and Design.  Look for the bloggy thing
to return on Monday.   

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 26, 2013


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder: a biography of Robert Ripley of Believe It Or Not fame plus the Hulk and the Golden Age Sandman.


Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters [2013] got my attention because its
trailer made the movie look fun.  Making decisions based on movie
trailers doesn’t always pay off, but this time it did.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the kids from the classic
children’s spooky tale, now grown up and hunting witches wherever
they find them.  The job seems to pay well enough to keep them in
their not-actually-archaic-but-very-cool weapons.  Famke Janssen is
the leader of the evil witches they seek to destroy.  As the movie
progresses, the siblings pick up a few other allies, including the
deputy of a mayor who has hired them, a courageous teenager, a good
witch and one other who is best left for viewers to discover when
they watch the movie.  They also pick up an enemy in the sheriff of
the town, who is pissed at them for not letting him kill the good
witch. Not every small town cop is Andy Taylor.

Renner made this movie before The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy.
He’s been in at least one movie on the Syfy Channel as well.  Big
budget or not-so-big budget, he’s become one of my favorite action-
movie heroes.  Who’s up for a Hawkeye movie?

Atherton and good witch Pihla Viitala are excellent in their roles.
In fact, there are no bad performances in this movie.  I even got
a kick out of the cackling witches.  They were fun in, of course,
a totally evil way.

The movie maintains a good pace, but breaks from the action stuff
to give us nice character development and some surprises about the
witch hunters.  The special witch-killing weapons are delightful.
The special effects are well done.  I recommend this movie without
hesitation.  I’ll probably end up buying it so I can easily share
it with friends.


Several other Hansel and Gretel films were released around the same
time as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  My occasionally obsessive
nature took hold of my brain and I requested all three of them from
my local library via the 100-plus-strong Clevenet system.  Clearly,
no one else was requesting these movies.  All three of them showed
up at my local library on the same day.  I watched them all within
a week.  It was a bumpy ride.

Witchslayer Gretl (2012) was a Syfy Channel original movie starring
Shannen Doherty as the title character.  Except she spends most of
the movie possessed by the evil witch who captured her when she and
her brother were children.  Thinking she was dead, Hansel grew up
to be a witch-hunter and witch-killer.  His ally in this endeavor
is a memory-challenged former witch played by Sarain Boylan.  She
gave the best performance of any of the actors, but that’s just not
saying much when it comes to this movie.

You have the big bad witch sending her witches and creatures out to
kidnap young women in the hope one of them will be strong enough to
host her nasty essence.  You have a laughably incompetent warlock.
You have one of those young woman who Hansel and his partner saved
from the bad witches.  You have a computer-animated gargoyle that
pops up every now and then to distract the viewers from how awful
this movie is.  Alas, the gargoyle is not successful in that ploy.
You have the screen go black every twelve minutes or so, which is
where the Syfy Channel put the commercials.  They should have left
the commercials in.  They were probably more entertaining than the
movie.  In short...

Terrible movie. I mourn the loss of the ninety minutes I spent with
this film. Damn my obsessive compulsions!


The award for the worst of the Hansel and Gretel movies I watched
goes to Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013). The film is
set in modern times with the adopted teenage siblings being sent to
a private school after surly Hansel gets expelled.  I’m calling on
IMDB to help me get through this review with this summary:

Twins discover a coven of witches. The brother is recruited to join
while the sister uncovers their heritage as witch slayers. When the
brother is supposed to sacrifice his sister they instead team up to
destroy the Witch of the Woods.

The movie has only two name actors: Eric Roberts and Vanessa Angel.
Roberts lurches through his role as school principal and trainer of
witch-slaying warriors as if he were drunk.  Angel, who I adored in
the TV version of Weird Science, is so terrible that she’s ruined
all the fantasies I used to have about her.

The private school is supposed to be small, probably to explain why
it looks like a motel.  Yet, when we see a long shot of the place,
it’s a much bigger school.  And we see that long shot over and over
again.  I could recognize one colorful backpack after the second
use of this stock footage and lost count of how many times it was
used after the sixth time.

The special effects are laughable. What’s the use of hunting down
witches if you can’t kill them with some zazz?
If you played this movie as a double feature with Witchslayer Gretl
and then used it as an advanced interrogation technique, terrorists
would be singing like canaries.


The Asylum went for horror with its take on Hansel & Gretel (2013).
IMDB called it a modern-day retelling of the tale and, except for
the title heroes being teens, it follows the original story closely
with some contemporary twists.

The widower father of Hansel and Gretel has married a younger woman
and plans to sell their family home so he can travel the world with
her.  It’s not exactly leaving the kids lost in the woods, but it
serves to get them into the scary woods where the wicked witch and
her freakish sons live.

Dee Wallace plays said wicked witch.  She runs a bake shop in the
small town and serves up a mean meat pie.  The meat in those pies
comes from the teenagers she captures and fattens up in a secluded
cabin in the woods.  Wallace chews the bucolic scenery like it was
one of her tasty pastries, but it works for her here.

Wallace sees Gretel as a surrogate daughter and wants to train her
in the ways of cannibal cuisine.  As for Hansel, he’s on the menu.
Gretel is a vegan.  Conflicts arise.

This is a solid horror B-movie.  It’s got its fair share of gore,
but nothing too outrageous.  The acting is decent or better.  The
special effects are convincing.  The story moves at a good pace and
delivers many scary and satisfying moments.  I wouldn’t watch this
one a second time, but it was fun the first time around.

There’s one more Hansel and Gretel movie out there: Hansel & Gretel
Get Baked
.  This film’s modern-day wicked witch lures teenagers to
her house by offering them primo weed.  The Clevenet system doesn’t
have it, but I’ve got a used copy on order.  Look for my review of
it in the near future. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Alter Ego #120 [TwoMorrows; $8.95] celebrates the 50th anniversary
of the X-Men.  This landmark year for Marvel’s merry mutants makes
me feel positively ancient.  I started buying X-Men with its fourth
issue and remember getting the three earlier issues via mail order
for around a buck apiece.

Looking at the great Jack Kirby/Chic Stone cover of the X-Men and
Ka-Zar - it was a “rejected” cover for X-Men #10 - and the heroic
young heroes of that era, I think the X-Men have aged poorly.  The
current Marvel continuity confounds me on a regular basis, but I’m
thinking that, as of the most recent issues I’ve read, Jean Gray is
dead, Hank McCoy is dying, Cyclops has turned terrorist, the Angel
doesn’t know who he was and Iceman is making kissy-face with Kitty
Pryde.  I make no claim to the accuracy of what I just wrote as I’m
going from my frequently befuddled memory.  I am the CNN of comics

Editor Roy Thomas has done a terrific job recalling the Silver Age
of the X-Men.  Will Murray does his usual wonderful job summarizing
the first sixty or so issues of the title with all sorts of crazy
behind-the-scenes details.  The X-Men were never my favorite Marvel
title - though the series was in the running during the magnificent
Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run - but I always enjoyed how unpredictable
the series could be.

Roberto Guedes adds a fascinating article on the over 100 pages of
original X-Men stories created in Brazil during the 1960s.  I was
amazed to learn that one of those stories guested starred a super-
hero named Raoi Negro, which translates to Black Lightning.  That
makes three Black Lightnings that predate the super-hero I created
in 1976.  There was a horse by that name that starred in a silent
movie and the horse rode by Johnny Thunder in the DC western comics
of the late 1940s through the early 1960s.

There’s lots of other great reading in Alter Ego #120 from Richard
Kelsey writing about the Merry Marvel Marching Society to pieces on
Harvey Kurtzman, comics writer Ed Silverman and Mac Raboy assistant
“Red” Mohler.  Check out this latest issue and you’ll see why Alter
remains my favorite comics magazine.


I read a bunch of old and new comics over the weekend with the most
recent being about three months old.  What can I say? I’m not the
most timely of comics reviewers.

I read eight Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shots from late 2010.
They all had pretty much the same basic plot.  Having made his way
back from the past - Darkseid sent him there at the end of one of
those interminable DC crossover events - Wayne has kept his return
secret from his closest allies and is now testing them to see how
they fit in with his new Batman agenda.  I find it hilarious that
the near-psychotic Batman is testing anyone.  I guess time travel
doesn’t make a dick less of a dick.

The individual one-shots were readable and occasionally more than
that.  They featured Red Robin, the Outsiders, Batgirl, Catwoman,
Commissioner Gordon, Oracle, Ra’s al Ghul and Batman (Dick Grayson)
and Robin (Damian Wayne).  The best of these one-shots was the one
starring Commissioner Gordon, written by the criminally underrated
Adam Beechen.  The worse was the one starring Ra’s al Ghul, one of
those villains I don’t need to see anymore because he and daughter
Talia have become quite tiresome.

The easily-entertained, sadly undemanding Batman readers of today
would be appalled by what I’d do with the Bat-books in the unlikely
event I was in charge of them. Many of their favorite overused bad
guys would be sent to their final “rewards” and I’d ignore almost
everything done with Batman and his cast for the past two decades
or so.  Aunt Harriet would return as the secret ganglord of Gotham
City.  I’m only half-kidding about that last one.


Dark Horse has published a whole lot of Conan comic books as well
as reprints of Conan/Robert E. Howard material published by Marvel
back in the day.  Since a little Conan goes a long way with me, I
have been reading the Dark Horse issues just a few at a time.  The
least of them is still entertaining, the best of them...well, when
I come across the best of them, I’ll mention it in this and future
bloggy things.

Conan #18 [July 2005] is one of the best of them.  The lead story
is “Helm” by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza with spectacular art by
John Severin.  This tale spans many years and stars Conan’s helmet
as it passes from owner to owner. Change-of-pace stories tread on
unfamiliar ground, but this one worked very well.

Backing up the lead was “Conan’s Favorite Joke,” a four-page tale
by Kurt Busiek with art by Bruce Timm.  Conan has a very dark sense
of humor.  I almost felt guilty about laughing.


Criminal: The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
is a four-issue series from 2011.  It’s filled with dark betrayals
and darker secrets.  I can’t write much about it without revealing
story elements you’d be ever so much better discovering yourself.
But it’s available in trade paperback as Criminal, Vol. 6: Last of
the Innocent
[$14.99] and I recommend it.

ISBN 978-0785158295


Mark Waid is one of the best and most prolific writers in comics.
That’s really starting to piss me off.  I’m sure there’s some sort
of explanation for his ability and success, but the understanding
of that explanation is probably as much out of my mental mastery as
quantum physics.

I’ll show him.  I’ll barely mention Daredevil won an Eisner Award
for best continuing series.  I’ll scarcely note that, having read
Daredevil #21-26, I find Waid’s explanation for all the weird crap
Matt Murdock’s been going through makes satisfying sense to me and
leaves me eager for the finale to that storyline.  I’ll only state
in passing that the real-life drama of Foggy Nelson’s situation is
as riveting as the super-hero stuff.  Take that, Waid!

However, I will mention how astonishingly terrific the art of Chris
Samnee is on these issues, combined with equally wonderful coloring
by Javier Rodriguez.  Because, for me, being envious of an artist
and a colorist, skills I could never possess, would be akin to my
being jealous of LeBron James’ jump shot. Of course, if either of
them ever starts writing stories as good as Waid’s, then all bets
are off.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


My penultimate public appearance of 2013 will be MIX 2013 at the
Columbus College of Art and Design, Friday and Saturday, September
28 & 29.  The event is held on the campus of the CCAD. 

From the event Facebook page:

MIX 2013 is Columbus College of Art and Design’s second-annual
symposium and exhibition dedicated to the diverse art form of

Jeff Smith, award-winning creator of Bone and RASL, will present
the keynote on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. Smith's keynote event is a
conversation with Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter.

MIX 2013 features panels, roundtables, and workshops with scholars
and artists from across the country as well as Columbus' thriving
comics scene.

I’m a participant in the following Saturday event:

1-2 pm: Film Screening

White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic
Books, presented by the filmmaker, Jonathan Gayles, Ph.D., Canzani
Center auditorium

2-3:30 pm: Post-screening panel

Filmmaker Jonathan Gayles, Ph.D., with Victor Dandridge and Tony
Isabella, Canzani Center auditorium

For ticket prices and the rest of the schedule, go here:

I’ll be arriving in Columbus sometime on Friday and staying through
Saturday night.  I’ll be visiting daughter Kelly at The Ohio State
University sometime during the weekend.  The rest of the time, I’ll
either be hanging out at MIX 2013 or meeting with any comics folks
who want to meet with me.  My schedule is very open, so, if you’d
like to get together, send me an e-mail.

My final public appearance of 2013 will be at The Akron Comicon on
Saturday, November 9, at the University of Akron.  I’ll talk about
that appearance sometime in October, but you visit the convention’s
website here:


My Facebook friends know most of the following stuff, but I want to
bring the rest of you up to date on recent happenings in my world.
After today, I’ll try to avoid the “me me me” stuff for at least a
few weeks.

There will be no more Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales this
year.  My recent bout with the gout and other matters forced me to
rethink my schedule and buy myself some times to work on a number
of projects near and dear to me.  Sure, I could have tried to throw
together some garage sales that wouldn’t have been up to my usual
standards, but that didn’t sit right with me.  Look for the sales
to return better than ever in 2014.

About the seems to be under control.  I’m very concerned
about a preventative medication I’ll be taking once the current
outbreak has run its course, but plan to give it a chance.

About the projects near and dear to me...I’ve signed an agreement
that will allow me to spend the next six to eight months working on
my bucket list of things I want to write before I kick the bucket.
There are literally dozens of cool concepts on that list.  Indeed,
it’s going to be extremely difficult deciding which ones to work on
first.  When these projects are ready for an artist or to bring to
the marketplace, I’ll have more to say.

About that has a confidentiality clause so I really
can’t tell you anything about it. But it's really good news.

About freelancing...I’m still accepting assignments from clients.
I’m just going to be more selective about them.  I already have one
such assignment on my desk and another one should be landing this
week.  If you have something you think I’d be right for, send me an
email and we can discuss it.

I’m already blessed with a great family and friends...and with work
that excites me.  All of the above just adds to a life that makes
me happy each and every day.  I’m a lucky man.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 23, 2013


A disclaimer.  I don’t know any of the people who appeared on this
show.  Costume maker Jinyo has posted comments to the bloggy thing,
but that’s as close as I’ve come to meeting any of the participants
of the show.  My comments are almost entirely based on how the show
portrays the various cosplayers and their friends and, as should be
obvious, the producers of reality shows can manipulate the footage
to focus on what they want the show to be about. 

The season (series?) finale of Heroes of Cosplay aired last week on
the Syfy Channel.  Surprisingly, the channel’s website recap of the
show has no mention of what I thought was the coolest single moment
of the series.  

Called up to the Planet Comicon stage by Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew),
Jinyo proposed to Victoria in front of their fellow fans. Though I
think Jinyo might have missed a bet by not stating the proposal in
a more appropriate to Star Wars manner - I’d have gone with “Marry
me, you will?” - Victoria accepted the ring to thunderous applause.

This omission points out what I think has been the telling failure
of the series.  Time and time again, the producers went with very
exaggerated drama and ignored the heart and warmth of the cosplay
community.  That said, this sixth and final episode was the best of
the series.

Team Atlanta (Yaya, Riki, Monika) could have been the villains of
the episode, which seemed to be what the show was setting up last
week.  Yaya’s incessant whining about her brand and reputation was
as hard to take as ever, but she seemed generally concerned about
the health of one of her teammates and the bad behavior of another.

Riki took seriously ill during the preparation for the competition
and proved to be a trooper.  However, it appeared the competition
was a means to an end for her.  She wanted to raise her profile in
professional circles.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it
shouldn’t be the only thing.

Monika? Well, what can be said about a young woman who apparently
embraced her role as the nastiest cosplayer on the series.  In an
earlier episode, she was cruel and rude to Becky.  This time out,
she makes one of those non-apologies we often see from politicians
- “I’m sorry if YOU were offended!” - and the only lesson she had
learned from being called out for her behavior was to remark that
she should think about what she says before she says it.  In other
words, don’t let them see how nasty you are.

Team Los Angeles (Holly, Jessica, Becky) had similar drama on their
end.  Becky slept wearing her performance contact lenses.  She woke
with blurred vision and other related problems.  After making sure
Becky went to the hospital, Holly and Jessica considered changes to
their planned performance so that they could still compete.  These
two cosplayers combine professionalism with fun and compassion in
all of their appearances. 

Planet Comicon had a solo competition on its first day - which was
shown in the previous episode - with a group competition following
on the second day.  This group competition created some drama that
was more realistic than most of what we’ve seen on Heroes to date.
More on that in a bit.

Team Atlanta was portraying characters from some video game called
Alice the Madness Continues.  Their costumes and their performances
were nothing short of amazing. 

Team Los Angeles was portraying characters from How To Train Your
.  Their skit included a foam dragon that, like the rest of
their performance, was lots of fun. 

The Planet Comicon judges? Worst judges ever...even if they managed
to get the grand prize right.  At the prejudging, the three judges
declined the opportunity to check out the Team Atlanta costumes up
close.  How the heck can they judge craftsmanship if they fail to
do that?  

The drama of which I spoke above came when an audience member and
then a group of rude women cosplaying as all the many incarnations
of Doctor Who began verbally attacking Team Atlanta for being out-
of-town professionals.  One woman even called them “carpetbaggers.”
Another took to her blog to decry that Heroes of Cosplay made her
out to be a villain. Uh-uh, Doctor Boo, your rude behavior and your
whining managed that all by itself.

Let’s talk illogic here. The Doctor Clueless group complained that
they were competing against professional cosplayers in a costuming
contest that included decent-size cash prizes.  Oh, boo, fucking,
hoo.  Maybe the convention should have had a competition for such
non-professional cosplayers, but that’s on Planet Comicon and not
at Team Atlanta or Los Angeles.  No reasonable person could assume
they would not be competing against cosplayers with better skills.
Not to mention that the out-of-town cosplayers spent thousands of
dollars on their costumes and skit while they went with costumes of
a decidedly store-bought quality. 

Maybe Heroes of Cosplay exaggerated the rude behavior of the Doctor
Who group, but the show could not have done that if the Doctors had
not provided them with the raw materials for that.  Don’t blame the
show or the professional cosplayers for your poor sportsmanship and
manners.  That’s entirely on you.

There was a surprise bit of drama during Team Atlanta’s skit when
Yaya’s crown fell off her wig.  I was afraid the judges would focus
more on that than the exceptional costumes and skit.  Fortunately,
they didn’t.  As negative as I have been about Yaya and her crew,
they were clearly the best of the show by a wide margin. 

The other choices of the judges were ridiculous.  They awarded the
Doctor Who group the prize for “craftsmanship,” which was patently
absurd.  My speculation would be that they wanted to give some kind
of award to these disgruntled cosplayers to appease the Kansas City

The judges also gave an award for best individual performance to a
member of a “fairies” group.  Unless the young woman’s routine was
a heck of a lot more involved than what was shown on the program,
this was another poor choice.  From what I saw, it was more or less
typical dance class stuff without the hideous child abuse of Dance
.  Again, I’m speculating this award was given to curry favor
with the locals.

Digression.  If the second-day competition was for groups, why is
there even an award for best individual member of a group?  I was
baffled by that notion.

Digression question. Is the up-to-the-last-minute costume making a
typical thing for cosplayers?  Do they really leave this important
element for the last minute time and time again? Could that be part
of the thrill of competition for them?

So Heroes of Cosplay comes to an end.  If it returns for a second
season, I’d like to see less exaggerated drama and more of the fun
of cosplaying.  I’d like to see more with the floor costumes.  I’d
like to see the cosplayers whose costumes might not be of the most
high quality but are just having a great time dressing up as their
favorite heroes and villains. 

Fangasm is next from the Syfy Channel and debuts tomorrow night at
10 p.m. Several fans are living together as they compete for a job
with Stan Lee’s company.  The promotional ads for the new show are
mostly awful, but I’m going to give the series a chance.  Look for
my comments in a near-future bloggy thing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 22, 2013


The bloggy thing returns tomorrow with my comments on the final episode of Heroes of Cosplay,

Friday, September 20, 2013


This week in "Forgotten Gems" at the Tales of Wonder blog...Robin Hood in "The Knight Who Hated Chivalry" from Quality's Robin Hood #6 (December 1956).  Check it out!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Medical issues have sidelined the bloggy thing for a few days.  It's nothing serious, but it will be a few days before I can get up and running again.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Ghost Shark [2013] got lots of love from the Syfy Channel, but it’s
no Sharknado [2013].  Ghost Shark was too consciously aware of how
wild and wacky it was and, before long, the movie’s main attraction for me
was guessing where Ghostie Jaws would appear next.  But I’m getting
ahead of myself.

Ghost Shark has a brilliant premise.  This shark gets tortured and
killed by an unsavory couple trying to win a fishing contest.  Its
corpse drifts into a spooky cave where its spirit is unleashed to
prey anywhere there’s water.  Of course, water is everywhere, even
inside you.  Is that a bad burrito rumbling in your stomach or is
it Ghostie Jaws?

The story is by Eric Forsberg and director Geoff Furst with Paul A.
Birkett writing the screenplay.  One doesn’t want to think about a
movie like this too carefully, but, I kept asking questions which
were never answered.  The shark gets revenge on its killers and on
the captain of the ship they chartered within the first 15 minutes
of the movie.  What does it want after that?

Digression. The movie needed a ghostbuster who could have explained
that the shark was angry and lost, incapable of understanding its
new existence and striking out randomly on account of it couldn’t
find the peace of the grave or some such.  Just some sort of quick
pseudo-explanation would have suited me fine.

The ghost shark special effects are decent, but nothing we haven’t
seen in other Syfy movies.  I applaud the return of the half-eaten
human stumbling around on its lower half until it falls bloodily to
the ground - that was the highpoint of  Basilisk: The Serpent King
[2006] - but it loses something when the victims are members of the
least scary street gang in the history of movies.

Something that baffled me was the scene where the ghost shark shows
up in the bathtub of the heroine’s kid sister and doesn’t eat her.
He nibbles a little bit, but she survives the attack.  Later, when
it has a shot at the heroine in the spooky cave, it passes through
her with no effect.  Maybe the sisters use nasty-tasting body wash
or something.

Ghost Shark misses a major bet once we learn the crazy lighthouse
keeper played by Richard Moll murdered his wife and placed her body
in the spooky cave.  He then claimed that she drowned in the cave
when the tide came in.  How could you miss having Mrs. Lighthouse
Keeper show up to get in on the mayhem?

Finally, for some stupid reason, Syfy posted Twitter tweets on the
screen during the film.  The channel tried way too hard to make the
premiere an event, desperate to repeat the amazing success that it
had with Sharknado.  That annoyed the crap out of me and it wasn’t

Ghost Shark was already goofy fun.  It didn’t score any points for
its mediocre acting, but it followed through on its insane premise
in an entertaining manner.  That was good enough for me.  It’s not
a movie I’d watch again, but I have no regrets about spending two
hours with it.

Writing this review left me parched.  Hey, is that a blue glow in
my pop? What new flavor is Pepsi trying now?


I first saw Ice Road Terror (2011) on the Syfy Channel a few years
back.  For some reason, I ended up requesting a copy of the movie
from my library and figured - what the heck - I’d give it a repeat
viewing.  It held up the second time around.

The man-crunching monster is a dinosaur about the size of a truck.
When diamond miners open a new shaft in their operation, it takes
that to mean “come on and eat all the folks you can” and commences
to do just that.  Not a bad looking creature, lots of blood, lots
of body’s Saturday night in Syfy Town.

Two ice road truckers are making a last run of the season to bring
the miners more boom-boom stuff.  Riding with them is a government
inspector.  They get to the camp in time to rescue two survivors of
the monster’s buffet.  If you watch this movie, don’t get attached
to those survivors or the trucks.

Our three heroes make their way to the only truck stop for hundreds
of miles. It’s run by an older couple that’s so cantankerous and cute
you will take them to immediately.  If I were writing this movie,
I would’ve surprised viewers by letting them be the ones who kill
the monster and survive.  Their deaths are predictable, as is the
death of one of the heroes.  Points off for that.

Still, Ice Road Terror isn’t a bad little creature feature.  It’s
got some decent characterization and suspense.  The blood and gore
isn’t excessive, but it’s not absent either.  It’s not a movie I’d
plan to watch a third time, but I could see myself coming across it
while channel surfing and watching it for a bit.


One more. When I decided to review Invasion Roswell [2013], all I
could remember about the movie was how utterly forgettable it was.
I had to go to the Internet Movie Database to refresh my memory of
the film.  Which is a shame because the basic premise of the movie
wasn’t a bad one.

Here’s the rough plot.  When the alien spacecraft landed in Roswell
in the 1950s, the government created a team of special soldiers to
battle extraterrestrials.  The years fly by, the aliens don’t come
back, the soldiers get older, the unit is retired.  That’s when the
aliens come back and catch mankind off guard.

Invasion Roswell borrows a great deal from Independence Day because
that’s how movies like Invasion Roswell roll.  Most of the acting
is terrible, though Denise Crosby and Greg Evigan bring some game
to the proceedings.  The special effects are very far from special;
we’ve seen them all many times before. If this movie shows up on
the Syfy Channel again, give it a pass.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more movie madness.  After all, all of
those Hansel and Gretel movies aren’t going to review themselves.
To say nothing of Robo Croc.   

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 15, 2013


The sharks have been getting all the love on the Syfy Channel, but
Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators [2013] is as wonderfully weird as any
creature feature on that glorious network.  It’s got moonshiners,
feuding families, a Romeo and Juliet romance, mutant alligators and,
so help me Godzilla, were-gators.

Fresh from key roles in Ghost Shark [2013] and Leprechaun's Revenge
[2012], Thomas Francis Murphy is the moonshine-making patriarch of
one of the families.  He’s been adding a chemical to his shine to
speed up the manufacturing process, but the result is really lousy
tasting moonshine.  So his sons dump these failed experiments into
the swamp and the result of that is giant mutant alligators capable of
shooting spikes from their tales.  Like most of these Syfy movies,
the monsters make the scene early in the movie.

Jordan Hinson, who played Zoe Carter in Eureka, has returned to her
hometown for a family celebration, her family being the other half
of the feuding families part of the plot.  She’s become a vegan and
goes to school in the big city.  She doesn’t want any part of the
family gator-hunting business, but she’s still the apple of father
Ritchie Montgomery’s eye.

Hinson is in love with the eldest son of the moonshiner.  Her beau
loves the swamp.  She wants to leave it behind forever.

The gator effects aren’t original - we’ve seen them in many other
Syfy movies - but they do the job.  I thought the close-up scenes
of the gators, which may have been models in some cases, were well
done.  Though the Cajun caricatures are a little hard to take, the
movie has plenty of gator-eating-man and man-eating-gator action.
Alas, there’s the catch.

If you eat meat from a moonshine-mutated gator, you transform into
a mutant gator.  Before long, Hinson’s the only member of her large
family who is still human.  Also worth noting, if you get bitten by
a mutant gator or a were-gator and survive, you also change into
a mutant gator.

There are some nice touches in the movie.  Murphy doesn’t shy from
taking responsibility for the horror he has created and does what
he can to make it right.  Hinson must reluctantly join the battle
against her gator-ized kin.  And the final scene of the movie is,
well, crazy wonderful in its own way.

You know the deal with the Syfy movies.  They aren’t great movies.
But if you watch them in the right frame of mind, they can be great
fun. Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators is great fun and that’s all I ask
from any movie.


The action heroes of cinema past have become the much older action
heroes of cinema present.  While I admire how amazingly bad-ass
these actors still look given their ages, I wish there were some newer
action heroes to pick up the slack.

A few months back, I reviewed The Last Stand [2013] starring Arnold
Schwarzenegger.  He played an action-weary retired federal agent,
now working as the sheriff of a peaceful town that, unfortunately,
stands between the leader of a drug cartel and freedom.  The film
was an entertaining way to spend a couple hours.  I decided I like
old Arnold more than I ever liked young Arnold.

I would almost say that same about old Bruce Willis if he was more
selective in his choice of movies.  A Good Day to Die Hard [2013],
the latest in the John McClane series, was not a good way to spend
a couple hours.

McClane is in Russia, trying to do something to help his estranged
son who is on trial for murder.  He doesn’t know his son is a CIA
agent whose mission is to spring a political prisoner and get him
to the United States.  Nothing is what it seems, well, except that
I could tell nothing was what it seemed early in the film.  After
that, the only suspense was when the “surprises” would be revealed
to the clueless McClanes.

The movie has the usual shoot-em-ups and blow-em-ups one has come
to expect from the series.  Willis is his usual charming self, but
he works too hard to achieve that.  No one else in the main cast is
at all likeable or, for that matter, interesting.  The helicopter
hijinks at the end of the movie were sort of fun, but they were too
little too late.

Maybe RED 2 will be better.


Sylvester Stallone rocked the aging action hero better in Bullet to
the Head
[2012]. Based on a French graphic novel that I’d like to
read someday, the film stars Stallone as a hitman in uncomfortable
alliance with a Washington D.C. detective.  Each man has seen their
partner murdered and both want to bring down the arrogant developer
whose agents are responsible for these deaths.

Bullet to the Head is dark stuff with the occasional bit of action
movie comedy.  Stallone’s morality seems limited to fatherly love
for his daughter and loyalty to his partner.  Sung Kang’s detective
is high-minded, but quickly bends his standards when he realizes
police corruption is part of the badness being perpetrated by the
developer...and when he becomes fond of Syl’s daughter.

The movie has its moments, but suffers from the usual cliches that
come when the main protagonist isn’t a good guy but the film still
wants audiences to root for him.  The climatic mano-a-mano battle
between Stallone and the developer’s psychopathic killer served to
do little beyond wrapping up the movie.

Bullet to the Head is better than A Good Day to Die Hard, but not
really worth watching.  I’d give it a pass.


One more quick review.  Sexy Evil Genius [2013] is dark comedy and
great fun.  The movie stars familiar beloved actors Katee Sackhoff,
Michelle Trachtenberg and Seth Green.  Sackhoff is the title star.
She plays the quite possibly insane Nikki Franklyn.  Trachtenberg
and Green are ex-lovers of Nikki's who she's summoned to a  Los
Angeles bar.  Also in attendance: another former lover and the wealthy
but sleazy lawyer handling Nikki’s case.  She is recently released
from a mental institution after she was convicted of murdering yet
another ex-boyfriend.  Nikki and the lawyer are engaged to be wed.
This barroom gathering is one of Nikki’s scary strange schemes and
none of her guests is sure where it’s going.  As the plot unfolds,
writer Scott Lew and director Shawn Piller sustain the suspense in
a quiet, underplayed manner.  Indeed, the conversations around the
barroom table are more riveting than the flashbacks or the flurry
of action and explanation at the movie’s end.

Sexy Evil Genius has great writing, terrific acting and an wholly
satisfying ending.  I recommend it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more movie madness.   

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Historically...Comics fans, science fiction fans, Star Trek fans
and other fans of fantastic and horrific entertainment haven’t been
looked on kindly or accurately by the mass media.  For every movie
like The Good Humor Man (1950), whose hero reads the comic-book
adventures of Captain Marvel and is inspired to heroism by them, we
have many more movies like Artists and Models (1955), which treats
working in comics books as the dredges of employment and portrays
comics readers as mentally deficient and prone to delinquency and
worse.  You probably won’t have to stretch your memories to recall
other examples of fans being treated with disrespect.

The first time I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory, now one
of my favorite shows, I had an immediate negative reaction to it.
I no longer remember what episode it was, but I didn’t give the TV
series another chance until numerous friends whose opinions mean a
lot to me convinced me to try it again.  The second time around, the
show worked for me. Yes, the four male leaders were obsessive fans,
but that wasn’t the extent of their characterization.  They might
have their quirks and shortcomings, but they have achieved success
in their fields and, with the exception of poor Raj Koothrappali,
their personal lives.  I might not want to be part of the extended
family they’ve created for themselves, but I’d be quite amenable to
hanging out with them at the occasional convention.

One of the several things I like about the Syfy Channel’s Heroes of
is that, however fleetingly, we do get see great numbers of
fans enjoying themselves at the show’s featured conventions.  One
of the several things I love most about the conventions I attend is
seeing fans having a great time.  Fandom might not be a way of life
for me, but it’s definitely a part of my life.

This brings us to Fangasm, a new “reality show” scheduled to make
its debut Tuesday, September 24 at 10 pm on the Syfy Channel.  The
network has been running Fangasm promotional spots excessively and
seemingly incessantly...and they are hideous to view.

From Syfy’s website:

From the producer of Jersey Shore comes Fangasm – a six-part docu-
series that celebrates the incredibly unique, often misunderstood,
and infinitely fascinating fan girl and fan boy culture. The show
follows seven pop culture-obsessed fans (whose passions range from
comic books and collectibles to science fiction and fantasy) living
together in an LA apartment complex and working together at Stan
Lee's Comikaze Expo. The seven contend with each others’ oversized
personalities and conflicting fandom as they vie for an opportunity
to work within Lee's organization. Because when different passions
come together, you get a real big bang.

Each of the Fangasm promotionals focuses on one of the show’s seven
fans.  All have been pretty repellant, none more so that those with
Andrew Duvall.  This guy is the worst geeky fan caricature you can
imagine.  It’s hard to picture him functioning in society at large.
In one of his spots, there appears to be actual snot on his upper
lip.  Duvall also appears in a spot where another fan talks about
telling his girlfriend that they have to wait to get romantic until
he’s done watching a Star Wars movie he has already watched dozens
of times. I have a bruise where my jaw hit the floor.

I won’t completely write off Fangasm until I see an episode or two.
Reality show producers generally being scum, it’s possible they ran
ads designed to show the cast members at their worst.  But I can’t
say I’m optimistic.

Movies and TV aren’t the only media that disrespect fans.  You can
find it in the comics world as well.  I recently bought and read a
comic book every bit as repellant as the Fangasm ads.  Making this
worse, I bought two copies of the comic by mistake.

Two bloggers whose recommendations have generally paid off for me
praised The Adventures of a Comic Con Girl by writers Dana Braziel-
Solovy and Matthew Spradlin with art by David Beauchene [Antarctic
Press; $9.99].  The back cover blurb reads:

Follow Dana on her misadventures in and around the comic convention
scene.  It’s a fast and furious look at the quirky characters of
the comic community and their rivalries, where the battles are so
bitter because the stakes are so small.  Dramatic license has been
taken with the con goings-ons, but the content will still have you
nodding in ruthless agreement.

Or not. In my case.

I found Dana to be an unpleasant protagonist.  Even when she tries
to make amends for her bad behavior, I felt she was far more sorry
that her bad behavior didn’t get her what she wanted.  And when she
interrupts a convention panel to make what I suppose was meant to
be an uplifting speech, she still came off as an arrogant and self-
absorbed dick.  Nor did I find any solace in the supporting cast.
None of them were as remotely as interesting as Dana and, as noted,
I didn’t like her. The writing and the art of this graphic novel
were adequate, but “adequate” didn’t save if for me.

The only elements that made me smile were a cameo appearance by my
pal Justin Chung, whose World Famous Comics website used to host my
“Tony’s Online Tips” and my old message board, and the two pin-ups
Justin contributed to this collection.  On the negative size, the
center pages detached from the copy of the book as I read.  When I
sell the copy in my garage sale, I’ll bag with a notation to that
effect.  At my usual $2 for trades, maybe these copies will find a
home with someone who will enjoy the book more than I did.

One last note. If any of my bloggy thing readers can offer examples
of movies or TV shows that have treated comics fans and other fans
in a positive manner, please send them my way.

I’ll be back tomorrow with movie reviews on account of I’ve watched
a whole lot of movies since I last reviewed movies.  I’m sure you
will be amazed and astonished by my capacity for cheesy cinema and
cantankerous creatures.    
© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 13, 2013


My scheduled Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale for September 20 and 21 has been cancelled.  My latest bout with gout has left me unable to prepare for the sale.  The October 4 and 5 garage sale is still schedule and will be extended to October 6.  That will be my final garage sale of the year.


Regular readers of this bloggy thing of mine know I am addicted to
Syfy’s Heroes of Cosplay.  The six-episode “reality show” follows
a group of professional cosplayers as they compete for fame, cash
prizes and career opportunities at conventions across the nation.
I’m fascinated by what goes into making these costumes and how the
cosplayers “perform” the characters their costumes represent.  I’m
far less enamored by the cheesy and sleazy “reality show” gimmicks.

The penultimate episode of Heroes of Cosplay is a two-part episode
set at Planet Comicon in Kansas City, a wonderful event I attended
when it was much smaller.  It was great fun then and I’m sure it’s
great fun now.

Planet Comicon is a two-day show with two costume competitions.  On
the first day, there is a solo cosplayer competition.  The second
day has a group competition wherein the cosplaying teams must put
on skits of one kind or another.  In this first of two episodes, we
see the solo cosplayer competition and some of the preparation for
the group competition.

Disclaimer.  I don’t know any of these cosplayers personally, so my
comments are based on how they appear on the show.  A few of these
cosplayers strike me as extremely unpleasant individuals, but, for
all I know, that’s at the direction of the people making the show.
“Reality” shows don’t actually reflect reality, no matter how much
hype the producers of these shows put on the screen.

Jessica, Holly and Becky continue to be my favorite cosplayers on
this show.  At the front of the episode, Jessica and Holly throw a
cosplaying party.  They will be teaming with Becky for the Planet
Comicon group competition.  More than any other cosplayers on the
show, though the delightful Chloe comes close, these three ladies
bring the fun of cosplaying to the series.  They have fun with the
costumes and enjoy teaching and working with others.  They support
one another.  Despite YaYa Han’s yammering about her “brand,” Holly
and Jessica have the only truly impressive credit on their resumes.
They created a monster for the movie Pacific Rim.

For this episode, the producers have given us heroes and villains.
The villains are YaYa, Riki and Monika.  YaYa comes off as so full
of herself that, were there a Heroes of Cosplay drinking game with
every mention of her brand or her reputation calling for a drink,
we’d all be blind drunk by the first commercial break.  YaYa does
not bring fun to the show and neither do Riki and Monika.  Even
the sometimes extraordinary craftsmanship they bring to their
costume creations seems only to be important to them as a
stepping stone to their imagined fame and fortune.

Monika, the youngest of the cosplayers, is the “mean girl” found so
often in bad movies and soap operas.  She’s almost as arrogant as
YaYa, which is quite an accomplishment given her relatively tender

Riki is more accomplished, but exhibits no joy as she works on her
costume and performance.  Maybe its producer manipulation, but I’m
repelled by these three cosplayers.

Jesse, the only male cosplayer is easy to root for, but he’s also
rocking the drama queen tune.  He acts as if his whole future will
depend on every costume, every competition.  It’s a shame because
his craftsmanship and hard work are marvelous to behold.  How can
I not root for a guy who swims in a cold ocean wearing his pirate
costume so it will look properly worn for the competition?  I was
thrilled to see him place in the solo competition.

Chloe also entered the solo competition as a character from a video
game and accompanied by her robot.  The robot was made by her dad,
who did special effects for Star Wars.  That seems a little unfair
to me.  However,  since she’s such a proponent of the fun of cosplaying,
I couldn’t get too upset over her winning an award.

Becky also entered the solo competition.  Her costume was lovely,
her performance good and the special effect created by her roommate
Lance was nicely made.  I wouldn’t call it an award-winner, but it
was both fun and professional.

This episode didn’t show too much of the heroic trio of Jessica and
Holly and Becky, but there was a fine scene where the girls called
on some friends to help them with a prop.  The friends didn’t have
any experience.  I love the idea of the ladies enjoying teaching new
skills to their friends and sharing this experience with them.  This
might be producer manipulation, but I really really want to see the
nice girls beat the mean girls in the group competition.

I saved Victoria and Jinyo for last because finally, at long last,
this is the Victoria I’ve wanted to see in this show.  She came up
with a really clever idea - a comic book hero whose paper costume
was made of colorful strips cut from comic books - and clearly had
fun with it.  When asked what her powers were, she got a big laugh
with “Paper cuts.”  Okay, sure, her and Jinyo were still working on
the costume at the hotel and had to make a last-minute change from
the original design, but they handled it with only a small bit of
drama.  That’s progress.

If Heroes of Cosplay gets a second season, the scene I most want to
see is Victoria and Jinyo having fun the night before the costume
competition because they finished her costume days before traveling
to the convention.  That last-minute stuff gets less dramatic with
each new crisis.

Heroes of Cosplay concludes its initial six-episode run on Tuesday.
I’ll write about the finale next week.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.  
© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 12, 2013


This week in "Tony's Tips" at the Tales of Wonder site...Steve Ditko, the Rocketeer and Barnaby.  


This is going to be my final word on a certain matter and I fear I will come off more than a little dick-ish in making the following statement.  I guess I'll have to live with that.

Do not send me requests to review your book or comic book or movie by going online to download a copy of it or read a PDFs of it.  From here on in, those requests will be ignored and go unanswered.

When I read or view something, I find it awkward to do so on the computer.  So I don't do that.

When I review some printed matter, I keep it on my desk to the left of me while I write the review.

When I review some movie or TV show, I have a pad of paper next to me so I can make notes.

This is how I write my reviews.  This is how I have written my reviews for decades.  This is how I will continue to write my reviews.  Until the comet comes and wipes out my kind.

If you want me to review something - and I make no guarantees that I will review it or review it positively - you must send it to me at:

Tony Isabella
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

Besides, it's hard for me to use the computer with these tiny clawed arms of mine.



There was no bloggy thing on Wednesday.  I ended up not doing much
of anything yesterday, save for nursing a sore back after my office
chair collapsed on me.  My biggest accomplishment was going out and
buying the new chair I should have bought months ago.  I was just too
cheap and stubborn to get rid of the chair I've been writing from
for the past several years. 

I get attached to the strangest things.  I have a vial of bread
crumbs from the bread-slicing machine from the Isabella Brothers
bakery co-founded by my grandfather (after whom I'm named) in the
1920s.  My father worked there until he retired and I worked there
as a teenager.  The bakery has been closed for decades, but I keep
the vial in my top desk drawer.  Lord knows what anyone will make
of it when I'm gone and they clean out my desk.

The old chair will be put out for the trash pick-up on Monday.  The
new chair has a sturdy back that should serve me well.  And I'm
back at work.

For the past three days, I have been struggling to write a bloggy
thing about the situation in Syria.  I am deeply concerned that my
country might be entering into yet another war in a region where we
have already spilled so much blood, that of our soldiers and that
of innocent civilians caught in the grinding engines of war, but I
haven’t been able to come up with the opening for such a commentary
that wasn’t overly dramatic or preachy.  For a moment, I actually
considered posing holding my vial of bread crumbs in mimicry of the
shameful moment when Colin Powell and the Bush administration lied
the United States and the world into unnecessary war against Iraq.
My better angels steered me away from trivializing that dark strain
on the American conscience.

When is comes to Syria, I have few answers and many questions.  I
don’t know what national interest would compel us to take sides in
a conflict where both sides hate us.  I don’t see the exceedingly
fine line between one method of slaughtering innocents and another.
I don’t see how we protect innocents by bombing the innocents who
would certainly be killed by our misguided attempt to protect them.
I don’t understand elected officials whose positions change based
solely on their mad obsession to take the opposite position taken
by President Obama on every issue...though I suppose “madness” is
a fairly decent explanation of their behavior.

I don’t doubt that Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for
using chemical weapons against his own people or that he is a very
bad man.  But if “bad man murdering innocents” is our standard for
military action, then why haven’t we launched bombing attacks on a
great many other countries?

That last one was a rhetorical question.  I know we don’t have the
manpower, the resources or the will to be Superman to every people
suffering the harsh heel of an oppressor.  Nor the moral standing
when our history is littered with our support of men every bit as
bad as and worse than Assad.

I don’t think we should go to war against Syria and, no matter how
anyone attempts to frame the situation, dropping bombs on a country
is going to war against that country.  Even if the evidence, which
is indefinite but compelling, shows Assad did, indeed, use chemical
weapons against Syrian civilians.  Even if the diplomatic efforts
for the United Nations to take control of Assad’s chemical weapons,
which he admits exist, and dismantle them fail because we won’t be
able to verify that all the weapons have been seized and destroyed.
We still have several perfectly awful wars we are still fighting.
We don’t need another one.

Here’s what I believe is a common sense approach to engaging in war
that also address other pressing needs.  Unless the United States
is directly attacked by another country or an organization harbored
by another country, neither President Obama or any other president
gets to go to war until we take care of all the veterans created by
our past and existing wars.

This means no more wars until the Veteran Affairs’ unconscionable
backlog of unfilled claims is reduced to zero.  No veteran should
have to wait more than a couple weeks to get the help he/she needs
and is entitled to for their service to our country.

This means no more wars while veterans are getting sick and dying
from Legionnaires Disease and other diseases that have been covered
up by VA administrators.  Especially not while such administrators
are receiving bonuses of $63,000 and more.  Especially not while we
are paying almost $100 million dollars a year in VA bonus.  We can
talk bonuses after our vets are cared for properly.

This means no more wars while our veterans are struggling to return
to the civilian work force, while they are dealing with mental and
physical problems related to their service on our behalf and while
any of them lack a safe and warm place to live.

We have unfinished business with our veterans.  That trumps Syria
and any other conflict that doesn’t involving defending our nation
from immediate and verifiable threats...and I have a high threshold
for what constitutes immediate and verifiable threats.

In other vital news...

My new office chair offers me great back support.  I’m liking it a
whole lot.  When the sales person at Staples asked me what kind of
work I do, I told him I was a writer.  When he asked me what kind
of writing I did, I told him I used to write comic books.  Which is
when he asked me the question that always comes next:

“Do you know Stan Lee?”

I have to remember to share that with Stan.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.  
© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Tony Isabella is a jerk...because he’s not writing a second “Tony
Isabella is a jerk” column like he promised he would in last week’s
award-resistant blog.

I had fun writing that “jerk” column and you had fun reading it.  I
was several hundred words into the sequel when I realized I wasn’t
having any fun writing it.  Which made me wonder if you would have
any fun reading it.  So I ditched what I wrote and started writing
today’s bloggy thing.

After reading the “jerk” column, some of you gave me online hugs to
make me feel better.  They were nice, but unnecessary.  The trolls,
anonymous or otherwise, who occasionally unleashed their unskilled
venom on me amuse me.  I find them hilarious.  While I could mock
them all day long, there’s no challenge to that.  Their own words
mock them far more than anything I could write.

If I address any of these poor benighted souls in the future, I’ll
do so because I’ve uncovered new information on a past bloggy thing
topic and want to share that information with you.  For example, I
may write a new Ghost Rider column in the near future on account of
I found some old notes in my files and had a conversation with one
of my editors on the series.  Given I wrote my run on Ghost Rider
four decades ago, these old notes and new conversations will help
help me clarify the facts further.

Comments to this bloggy thing need to be approved by me before they
appear on the blog.  That keeps the trolls under the bridge where
they belong.  But never doubt that I appreciate your comments and
do my best to approve them in a timely manner.

Let’s see what else is on my mind today.


I have a friend who lends me his comic books after he’s read them.
He has been doing this for over a decade and, though he’s not the
least concerned about my holding on to them for so many years, I’m
embarrassed that I now have 20 short boxes of his comics stacked up
in my son’s room, next to the two large windows facing Damon Drive.

My fall resolution is to get current with my friend’s comics before
this time next year.  Of course, if I achieve that goal, I’ll have
to replace his boxes with 20 of my own boxes.  His boxes have been
stacked to form a staircase which my cat climbs so she can lounge
on the top of the boxes and watch the neighborhood.  Day or night,
this is one of Simba’s favorite spots. 

Sainted Wife Barb rolls her eyes when I explain to her why I must
have boxes by the windows.  She doesn’t understand the bond between
a man and his cat.  She fears I am one bag of delicious cat treats
from becoming a crazy cat-person.  But I digress.

I read Steed and Mrs. Peel #0-8 [Boom! Studious; $3.99].  A devoted
viewer of The Avengers back in the day - the 1960s British TV series -
I wanted to love these comics.  Unfortunately, the most I can manage is
to kind of like them and I’m not sure that's not mostly because I like the
idea of a Steed and Mrs. Peel comics series.

Writers Mark Waid and Caleb Monroe do a good job mimicking the TV
show, which is one of my problems.  Comic books aren’t TV shows and
you have to make allowances for their difference besides making use
of an unlimited visual budget.  The dialogue echos the characters
well, but it also comes off as trying too hard.

The most memorable episode of the TV series was the one wherein our
intrepid British heroes contended with the Hellfire Club.  The look
of the legendary episode was so memorable Chris Claremont and John
Byrne lifted it wholesale for their X-Men comics way back in 1980.
Terrific as that episode was, I don’t need to see the Hellfire Club
in darn near every issue of this Boom comic-book series and I don’t
need to see Emma in her “Black Queen” outfit over and over again.
Enough with the fan-service already.

Visually, Steed and Mrs. Peel looks stiff to me.  Were I a gambling
man, I’d wager the Boom artists have only a handful of photo head
shots of the main characters and are constantly struggling to not
make that as obvious as it is.  I appreciate accurate drawings of
the delicious Diana Rigg and the immaculate Patrick Macnee, but not
at the expense of fluid storytelling.

These issues of Steed and Mrs. Peel leave me yearning for a writer
and artist who will do the series justice.  These are two wonderful
characters with a unique style of adventuring and an unmistakable
rapport.  When I think of all that could be done in the Boom comic
books, it makes me sad such potential is so far from being realized
in them.  As much as Steed needs Mrs. Peel, this series needs some
fresh thought.


Conan is one of the classic characters in fantastic fiction, but a
little Conan goes a long way with me.  I love the original Robert
E. Howard stories and enjoyed much of the L. Sprague DeCamp
and Lin Carter follow-ups to those stories.

When it comes to Conan comics, my favorite writers are Roy Thomas
and Kurt Busiek.  They often brought a lyrical quality to Conan’s
adventures lacking in most other interpretations.  Additionally, I
don’t think any comics writer has matched the epic scope of some of
Thomas’ extended storylines.  That said, I am enjoying the current
Conan material written by Brian Wood.

In reading my friend’s Conan comics, I came across what may be the
most chilling sequences I’ve ever seen in Conan comics.  Conan #4-6
[Dark Horse; May-July 2004] saw Conan captured by Hyperboreans and
taken to a city ruled by pale sorcerers who live exceedingly long
lives and are bored unto death by their unending years.  So, from
time to time, one of these ghastly beings ends his life by throwing
himself off a high cliff and into the arms of the “gods” who dwell
below...preceded by his mesmerized servants.  It’s as scary as any
horror in any previous or later Conan adventure.  Conan’s rage came
across and figuratively boiled within me, thanks to the exceptional
writing by Busiek and equally powerful art by Cary Nord and Thomas
Yeates.  If I ever do a sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read,
these issues will be included.

That's all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.  
© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 9, 2013


Heroes of Cosplay earned “jeers” from TV Guide in that magazine’s
September 9-15 edition.  Under the heading “Facebook Jeer” and with
a factoid claiming “56% of fans jeer it,” the magazine published a
Facebook quote from a Kirsten Catie:

It’s one of the worst shows.  It disgusts me as a cosplayer.  It’s
a misrepresentation, and these cosplayers need to get their egos in
check.  The show is nothing like how cosplay really works.  It’s

Though I remain interested in the six-episode series, I find myself
watching the show and wondering why its producers haven’t seen the
screaming flaws I’ve been seeing.  The main problem is that there
is too much - hopefully phony - reality show crap woven into every
new episode. 

The fourth episode took place at Anime Matsuri in Houston, Texas.
Monika, the young cosplayer who, in her previous appearance, went
with sex over substance, teams with Victoria to compete as a team.
Monika came off as an arrogant bitch and Victoria came off as just
plain needy, wanting to impress Monika while still being unable to
budget her and boyfriend Jinyo’s time to complete her own costume
in a successful and timely manner.  Part of Victoria’s costume fell
off during pre-judging. 

But the Monika nastiness that left a lingering bad vibe came when
Becky, the cosplayer who portrayed Merida from Pixar’s Brave in the
show’s first episode, visited Monika and Victoria’s hotel room to
ask about teaming up for Planet Comicon.  From the episode summary
on the SyFy website...

Monika's response: they're not friends and Becky's "the last
person" she would think to pair up with. Becky mouths the same
"wow" we do as Monika goes on that she doesn't think much of
Becky's craftsmanship, so what would Becky contribute? Becky leaves
in tears, as Victoria shrugs that Becky's being a baby.    

I don’t recall Victoria saying that, but I couldn’t bring myself to
watch the scene again to confirm it.  It was a hateful moment and
I’d really like to believe Monika was performing at the behest of
a director.  If the show was looking for a villain, it found one.

Online fans seem to be responding to this series with the churlish
and personal insults that are far too typical of fan interaction on
the Internet.  They crap on the cosplayers and they crap on those
cosplayers whose body types aren’t exact matches for the characters
they portray.  Even on the show’s Facebook page, the commentary is
ugly.  No one is covering themselves in glory...with the possible
exception of Becky and cosplaying partners Holly and Jessica.  I’d
watch these three ladies anytime.

What I like about Holly and Jessica is their strong friendship and
a dedication to their craft that doesn’t rule out having fun doing
what they do.  YaYa Han might talk about her own brand and how she
makes a living from cosplaying, but these two women did a monster
for Pacific Rim.  To me, that trumps anything the other cosplayers
have accomplished by a factor of one million.

Additionally, and maybe I’m falling for reality show manipulation,
it warmed my heart to see Holly and Jessica being so supportive of
Becky and, in doing so, expressing both the fun and camaraderie of
cosplaying.  The professional aspects of cosplaying are intriguing,
but the heart of the hobby doesn’t lie with them.

YaYa disturbs me more with each episode.  It was painful to watch
her squeeze into a too-tight corset for her calendar shoot.  That
was insanity, though, to be fair, Holly wearing a material she was
allergic to, was equally insane.

In YaYa’s case, and at the risk of sounding as nasty as some of the
commentators I decried earlier, her too-tight Jessica Rabbit outfit
and her action figure shoot of the previous week sadly emphasized
that her breasts aren’t original issue.  They look grotesque to me. 
YaYa comes off as less genuine each week.

If I were called upon to do so, I would give Heroes of Cosplay low
marks overall.  The reality show aspects are a major turn-off for
me.  I don’t want to think any of the regulars are as unpleasant as
they have been portrayed.

Male cosplayers are crazy under-represented on the show.  We have
the largely absent Jesse, the weary Jinyo and various boyfriends,
husbands, and roommates.  I think more balance would be beneficial
to the series.

Where are the cosplayers who do this for fun and not because they
want to advance their careers by winning prizes?  I want to see a
lot more floor costumes.  I want to see interviews with cosplayers
who might not be body doubles for Captain America or Zatanna, but
are just enjoying themselves dressing up like beloved characters.
I want to see the pleasure non-cosplayers like me get seeing these
representations of such characters.  To me, these omissions are Heroes
of Cosplay
’s biggest failure.

Tomorrow, SyFy airs the first part of Heroes of Cosplay’s two-week
finale.  It takes place at Planet Comicon in Kansas City.  Look for
my comments on week five of the series later this week.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.  
© 2013 Tony Isabella