Friday, February 28, 2014

REQUEST

Can anyone out there direct me to or even send me scans of Kirby/Colletta romance stories from Marvel's Love Romances #97-102? I need them for one of my bucket list projects.  Thanks.

Tony

SUPERMAN’S SERVICE TO SERVICEMEN

Superman: The Golden Age Sundays: 1943-1946 [IDW; $49.99] answers the question, “What did you do during the war, Superman?” with 170 full-color, full-page Sunday newspaper strips written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and “DC Comics.”  I’m not quite sure what the “DC Comics” credit is all about.  Maybe other Superman writers were involved, maybe some DC editor or executive was grabbing some credit for himself, maybe DC was just screwing with either Siegel or the Siegel estate.  I tend to think the worst of DC, so I will leave further speculation to you.  Besides, I’d rather write about the sheer coolness of this collection.

Reality in the form of World War II intruded rather harshly on the amazing world of Superman.  Here you had a super-hero who, based on his previous adventures, was more than a match for all the armies of the Axis powers.  Yet, since Superman wasn’t real, he couldn’t be shown winning the war single-handed, nor could he simply ignore the conflicts around the world.  The problem was solved in classic Superman style...with a wink and a smile.

Superman constantly assured his readers that our American soldiers and sailors and airmen didn’t need his help to defeat the Nazis and their allies.  Oh, he might blow up a submarine here and there with the enemy’s own torpedoes, but that was just to pass the time while on his way to his more important missions: answering the requests of the American servicemen who were serving their country.  It was an outlandish notion, but it made for entertaining adventures that doubtless put smiles on the faces of those men and women and their families back home.

Siegel was a master of this kind of humorous adventure. I’ll wager most of the stories were written by him.  After a somewhat tedious tale of Nazi agent Eyeglasses trying to discredit an American pilot in training, Siegel has Superman put himself at the beck and call of American servicemen with Lois Lane helping him sort through the stacks of letters.  Most of these “service” missions last but a few weeks. Many deal with matters of the heart. Some address the other forms of loneliness faced by these soldiers.  A few have Superman providing entertainment or some super-service so that our boys in uniform can get a break from their more mundane tasks.  There’s a spirit of national unity in this collection that reminds us of our country’s better angels.

Artists Wayne Boring and Jack Burnley were equally adept at action and comedy.  Their visuals were able to make even the wildest tales believable.  I mostly love this book.

What I don’t love about it is something that was common for the era in which the strips were produced and published. The Japanese, far more than the Nazis, are written and drawn as cruel caricatures of themselves.  Because of the historical importance of these strips, I would never suggest they be omitted or altered.  However, as Mark Waid does in his introduction to the volume, we shouldn’t let the not-at-all-subtle racism go unmentioned.

Superman: The Golden Age Sundays: 1943-1946 is another production of Dean Mullaney and The Library of American Comics.  If they have ever done a book that wasn’t spectacular, I haven’t seen it.  This book is super-spectacular.  I recommend it to one and all.

ISBN 978-1613777978

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Archie Double Digest #247 [$3.99] weighs in at 164 pages of comics with a minimum of house ads.  The issues features reprints of funny stories by Frank Doyle, Harry Lucey, George Gladir, Stan Goldberg, Craig Boldman, Bob Bolling and others.  It has also a trio of more unusual stories:

A.R.C.H.I.E. as the Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.: “Drums of Despair” by Doyle with art by Bill Vigoda and Jon D’Agostino from Life With Archie #57 [January, 1967];

B.E.T.T.Y. as the Girl from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.: “Flight of the Fiend!” by the same creative team and from the same issue; and

Pat the Brat: “Reign of Terror,” written and penciled by Bob White with inks by Terry Szenics. I was unable to track down the original publication information for this story.

That’s plenty of good reading at a very reasonable price.  As I’ve done in the past, I recommend Archie digests as a welcome change of pace from the grim and gritty comics of today.

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An entertaining mini-series from several years ago:

Dracula: Lord of the Undead [Marvel] was a three-issue mini-series by writer Glenn Greenberg with art by Pat Olliffe (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks).  All three issues are dated December, 1998, so this series probably came out around Halloween of that year.

Greenberg attempts to channel Marv Wolfman in this honestly scary tale. Dracula finds his castle in Transylvania has been ransacked and stripped of what he treasures most, a portrait of his beloved second wife Maria.  This is a prelude to a far more serious matter, a newly-developed serum that, administered to people, makes their blood poisonously fatal to vampires.  The unexpected side effect is that it also kills those injected with it.  Worse yet, the man-made plague is contagious. Both the human race and the vampire race are equally doomed.

While Greenberg can’t match Wolfman’s genius and skill in writing Dracula, he does capture the character at his most villainous. He likewise does a fine job covering Vlad’s back story and that of the mysterious foe behind the attacks on the Count.  The Olliffe/Palmer art is as good as any Dracula art not by Gene Colan. This series is deserving of wider appreciation.

Near as I can determine, Dracula: Lord of the Undead has not been reprinted in trade paperback or hardcover.  At 69 pages in length, it would make for a pretty slim volume. On the other hand, at that length, it would fit nicely into a 80-page comic book for Halloween release.  In the meantime, the series is definitely worth seeking out at your friendly neighborhood comics shop, at conventions and
via online sellers.  It’s a good one.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.              

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Thursday, February 27, 2014

FRIDAY NIGHT FRIGHTS

I wrote about Halloween (1978) and Prom Night (1980) in yesterday’s edition.  At the end of the blog, I asked...What long-running and successful horror movie franchise came about as an indirect result of Prom Night?

Via Wikipedia, here’s the answer...

“Once the film [Prom Night] was shot, Paramount expressed interest in distributing the movie. However, they only wanted to open it in 300 theaters whereas Avco Embassy Pictures offered to release it in 1200 theaters. Avco released Prom Night. Paramount released another independent slasher film, Friday the 13th.”

Friday the 13th beat Prom Night to movie theaters by approximately six weeks.  Watching the movie in its entirety for the first time, I’m not surprised by this.  It’s a terrible film and it screams quickie mediocrity in every scene.

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Friday the 13th has the usual similarities with Halloween.  A bad thing from the past spawns modern terror...and young people having sex are doomed to die.

The setting for the movie is Camp Crystal Lake. The bad thing from the past is the 1957 death by drowning of a boy left unattended bu horny camp counselors.  A year later, two horny camp counselors are brutally murdered.  The camp closes.

Come 1978, Camp Crystal Lake is to reopen and the grounds have been restocked with horny camp counselors on whom the killer can prey. A crazy old coot - hmm, maybe I should take up acting - warns the new kids that they are doomed, but, of course, they dismiss him as a crazy old coot.  Been there, my brother coot.

Nothing in this movie - not the writing, directing, special murder effects, or acting - rises above the mediocre.  The only memorable performance - and not in a good way - is Betsy Palmer’s crazy turn as Mrs. Voorhees, the murderous mother of the drowned boy Jason.  When she finally appears to explain the plot of the movie to Alice, the only survivor of her bloody rampage, Palmer nearly consumes the entire forest with her scenery chewing. Alice and Mother Voorhees  do battle all over the campground. They fight, they bite, they bite and fight and bite, bite, bite, bite, fight, fight, fight and then Alice decapitates Mom with an ax.

Near the end of the movie, having given Mom Voorhees the chop and taking shelter in a drifting canoe, the in-shock Alice is spotted by police officers.  As they move to rescue her, she is pulled into the water by...Jason.

She wakes up in a hospital bed and learns that no one else saw the boy.  They all think she imagined him.  She softly says, “Then he’s still there.”  I sense the movie-makers were hoping for a sequel, even at this early date.

Shown on a convention panel, Palmer states she thought the script was crap and that she only took the gig for the check.  She never expected the movie to do more than disappear. Looking at the film, that was a reasonable expectation.

But Friday the 13th seems to have hit the big screen at the right time.  The slasher-movie genre was exploding. The “horny teens in peril” bit resonated with young audiences.  Despite it not being a good film, Friday the 13th made a lot of money.

Making Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) was a no-brainer. The sequel also did very well at the box office. Yet, even with the repeat success, I doubt anyone could have predicted the longevity of the franchise or that Jason Voorhees would rise to horror-movie icon.

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I warned you yesterday that I am a B-movie junkie who doesn’t even hold himself to the relative high standard of only watching the “B” movies. Over the next few months, I’ll be watching all the movies in the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises as well as way too many other films from the slasher-movie genre. If there’s even the slightest saving grace to my madness, it’s that I tend to avoid the modern gore-filled torture porn movies...and almost anything with zombies.  If I want to watch mindless creatures who feed on humans without remorse, I’ll go watch Fox News.

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Jason gets to do his own killing in Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) and he starts by dispatching the three actors who survived Friday the 13th. Two months after the first movie, Alice is living on her own while working her way through the horror of her experiences at camp. Ignoring all the warning signs that someone is in her house, she finds Betsy Palmer’s head in her refrigerator before she gets her throat cut by Jason.

Five years later, another dumb-ass decides to open up a camp very close to Crystal Lake. Jason takes exception to this. Do I really have to give you the details?

Within the first third of the movie, the crazy old coot and the cop from Friday the 13th are killed.  Other victims follow until we’re down to Paul, the guy who trains the horny young camp counselors, and his girlfriend/assistant Ginny.

Ginny finds the makeshift shack in which Jason lives.  In it, he’s created an altar with Betsy Palmer’s now-mummified head and a few bodies of his victims.  Ginny puts on Momma Voorhees’ sweater and confuses Jason enough for Paul and her to distract the disfigured killer.  Ginny grabs a machete and sinks it into Jason’s shoulder. Jason looks totally deceased to anyone who’s never watched a horror movie. Hold that thought for a moment.

Hmm...Machete Vs. Jason. I would pay to watch that movie.

Okay. Feeling all triumphant and all, Paul and Ginny take shelter in a nearby cabin.  Jason bursts in. They fight, they bite...oh, I did that joke already. Ginny is knocked unconscious and wakes up as she’s being put into an ambulance.  There’s no sign of Paul.

The final scene shows the head of Mrs. Voorhees on the altar.  This ending - according to Wikipedia - is a matter of contention among Friday the 13th fans. Here’s what Wikipedia states:

The film's ending has been a source of confusion for fans. Writer Ron Kurz has stated that Jason's window jump [into the cabin at the end] was intended to be set in reality and that Paul was killed off-screen. However, the beginning of Part III, in replaying the end of Part 2, instead showed Jason pulling the machete out of his shoulder and crawling away as Ginny and Paul leave him for dead in the shack. This arguably retcons the scene of Jason's window jump into a dream. In addition, near the beginning of Part III, a news broadcast reports the body count at eight, thus excluding Paul from this count.

Except...

That final shot of Mama Voorhees’ mummified mug looked so odd that I played back the scene and paused on it.  It looks to me like her face has been removed from her skull and placed on another, perhaps living skull/person. Did Jason take Paul prisoner and turn him into a fresher object of worship than his mother’s remains? That would have been an incredible creepy ending to the film.

Friday the 13th Part 2 is better than the first movie.  The writing and acting are improved and, because of that, at least some of Jason’s victims are decently developed and more likeable than their doomed counterparts from the original. When they are killed, we can mourn their deaths. While the whole “promiscuous young people get slaughtered” cliche bores the crap out of me, I found this sequel easier to watch than the original and even moderately entertaining. Not enough to watch it a second time, but good enough that I didn’t wail in despair over the 87 minutes of my life that I would never get back.  That’s another improvement over the original.

Keep reading my bloggy thing for more cheesy B-movie reviews.  I’ll be back tomorrow with some other stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

I DON'TKNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING LAST BLOGGY THING

Man, when I screw up...

In my bloggy thing on Halloween and Prom Night, I wrote this:

"When I caught Kelly up on the film’s plot, she said it sounded like a rip-off of I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).  I told her - incorrectly - that Prom Night had come first.  I’ve repeated this erroneous claim since.  My penance will be to watch I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) and the direct-to-DVD I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006). I am an obsessive old coot..."

I blame the lingering effects of whatever crazy flu has been attacking me for a couple weeks now.

While it's true that the Lois Duncan novel on which the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer was published in 1973 and thus came out before Prom Night, the movie was not made until nearly two decades later.  Moreover, according to Wikipedia, the movie was very different from the novel, which was not a slasher novel.  The movie owes far more to the campfire legend of "the Hook," which I first heard on a weekend camping trip when I was eight or nine years old.

Sorry for my confusion and my thanks to reader Dave Ziegler for pointing this out.  Unfortunately, my penance for this error will still be to eventually watch all three movies in the I Know What You Did Last Summer series.  Because I'm insane.

Be thankful they keep sharp objects away from me.

© 2014 Tony Isabella 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BLOGGY TONY UPDATE

I'm still fighting the lingering flu bug or whatever the heck it is that has laid me low for over a week now.  I'm working and writing, but I'm behind on answering my e-mail.  If you're waiting patiently for a response or anything else from me, thank you for that patience.  I'm clearing my desk as fast as possible.

THE NIGHT HE CAME HOME

My name is Tony Isabella and I’m a B-movie addict.  Heck, I am so hooked I’ll often watch C-movies, D-movies and F-movies.  I tend to gravitate towards horror, monster and science fiction films when I feed the movie monkey on my back, but, when I need that fix, I’ll mainline a cheesy comedy, a cheap cop or detective movie, an action flick whose stars are not merely showing their age but broadcasting it louder than the old fart who screams at you to get off his lawn. Yeah, I’ve got it bad.

How bad? I’m watching every damn shark movie I can get my hands on and branching out into Christmas-themed horror movies and - today’s subject - slasher movies. There’s some hope for me, though.  When I seek out slasher movies, I go for the older ones before excessive gore and torture porn became standard for the genre. 

My first love will always be giant monster movies and I have little doubt I’ll eventually get to binge-watching vampire, werewolf and Frankenstein Monster chillers.  In the back of my mind, a nagging voice tells me I have not watched nearly enough Sasquatch and Yeti thrillers. But, for this bloggy and the next one, I’m concentrating on those slash-happy killers who jump-started the genre in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I never saw the original Halloween (1978) in the movies.  At that time, my craving for horror was being fulfilled nicely by Stephen King and other prose masters.  When I finally watched the movie, it was on a small-for-2014 television screen via rented VHS tape or on some dawn-of-cable channel.  I can’t remember which.

The plot is simple and the more terrifying for it.  Michael Myers, six years old, brutally kills his older sister with a butcher knife on Halloween. The boy, who never speaks and whose violence defies explanation, is sent to a mental hospital with the intent he will *never* be released.  Fifteen years later, on Halloween, he escapes and returns home. 

Michael stalks teenager Laurie Strode [played by Jaime Lee Curtis] while killing her friends and anyone else who comes between him and his intended victim.  He is pursued by Dr. Samuel Loomis [Donald Pleasence] and the town sheriff (Charles Cyphers), but, for fear of inciting panic and warning Michael, the town isn’t alerted to the threat walking its streets.

I liked Halloween when I first saw it.  I was most impressed by how director John Carpenter showed us often-subtle glimpses of the now-adult Michael, always wearing a greyish-white mask.  I thought such unsettling moments built the suspense of the killings to come and the inevitable attack on Laurie. Compared to the torture porn gore of later films, Halloween shows restraint. By allowing the audience to imagine rather then see every bloody violation, the movie is all scarier. It’s a genuine chiller.

I adore Jaime Lee Curtis.  I especially love her in this film where she plays a beautiful and perky young woman who senses something is off in her town but doesn’t realize the magnitude of the situation until very late in the movie.  Once forced to accept the horror of that situation, she strives to keep her own fear under control to protect the children she is babysitting and to protect herself from
Michael.  As the haunted Loomis, Pleasence delivers a performance just over the top enough to work.

This time around, I watched Halloween on Blu-ray on our large flat screen TV. That’s the way to watch this classic movie.  While they are still subtle, those glimpses of the stalking Michael were much more effective than on my original viewing. I got the movie through my library system, but I’m going to put this version of Halloween on my Amazon wish-list.  It’s a keeper.

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Two years after Halloween, Curtis starred in Prom Night [1980], an American/Canadian slasher film with more than a few similarities to Halloween.  In Halloween, the bloody murders begin begins with six-year-old Michael Myers killing his older sister and returning for more slaying fifteen years later.  In Prom Night, the ten-year-old sister dies when she tries to join the “murder game” being played by four slightly older children.  The girl’s murder is blamed on a known rapist who is horribly burned in a car crash trying to escape from the police.  The older kids make a pact to never tell anybody what really happened.  Six years later, those four kids are marked for death.

The occasion is the high school prom.  Kim [played by Curtis] and her brother Alex [Michael Tough] are attending.  This prom would have been the first for their sister.  Kim and her date Nick [Casey Stevens] have been voted prom queen and king.  Unknown to Kim, her date is one of the kids who caused her sister’s death.

Directed by Paul Lynch and written by William Gray and Robert Guza, Jr., Prom Night makes something of a mystery of who is stalking and killing the kids and - shades of Halloween - anyone else who gets in the way of the stalker’s vengeance.  There are a number of good suspects, including the recently escaped rapist and Kim’s parents. There are some decent clues/tipoffs to the killer’s identity, but the revelation is still jarring.

Unlike Halloween, the murders in Prom Night are devoid of suspense. Viewers can pretty much tell who is going to die and when and how. The best leading-up-to-murder scene comes when uber-bitch Wendy is hiding from the killer in the school auto shop.  I’ll come back to that auto shop in a moment.

Curtis gives her usual fine performance, but, given my adoration of this actress, I might be mildly biased.  I even watch her Activia commercials.

Leslie Nielsen and Antoinette Bower give leaden performances as the parents of Kim and Alex. Equally unimpressive are Anne-Marie Martin  as Wendy, David Mucci as the thug she recruits to get vengeance on Kim for “stealing” Nick from her and virtually everyone else in the movie with two notable exceptions.

Sheldon Rybowski plays Seymour "Slick" Crane, an underclassman with a van, an unending supply of pot and a personality that’s cocky and charming.  Joy Thompson plays Jude, another of the four kids marked for death.  Desperate for a prom date, Jude brings Slick to the big event. The off-beat couple has more chemistry than any of the other couples in the movie and were fun to watch.

My daughter Kelly, who graduates from The Ohio State University in May, came home as I was watching Prom Night’s auto shop sequence. The first comment she made was...why wasn’t Wendy setting off the car alarms to alert people who might come and help her.  I had to explain that car alarms weren’t common in 1980. 

Prom Night was worth watching once. I don’t think it would hold up to repeat viewing.  Still, even though Prom Night isn’t very good, even though it never spawned a true sequel - there was a “re-imagining” in 2008 - the film led indirectly to one of the longest-running and most successful horror movie franchises.  Before we discuss that,  let’s go back to my daughter.

When I caught Kelly up on the film’s plot, she said it sounded like a rip-off of I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).  I told her - incorrectly - that Prom Night had come first.  I’ve repeated this erroneous claim since.  My penance will be to watch I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) and the direct-to-DVD I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006). I am an obsessive old coot...and a terrible tease.

What long-running and successful horror movie franchise came about as an indirect result of Prom Night? For that answer, you’ll have to come back tomorrow. See you then.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Monday, February 24, 2014

TONY'S TIPS #44

Today in "Tony's Tips" at the Tales of Wonder blog...Tarzan by Russ Manning, Silver Age Superman Dailies by Jerry Siegel, Captain Easy by Roy Crane. Check it out!

COMMENT APPROVAL

Just to remind you...

All comments have to be approved by me before they can appear.

Just to state the obvious...

If you insult me in your comment, it likely won't get approved.




MONDAY MEANDERINGS


I’m on a roll with these wandering bloggy things, so I’ll continue in that vein today.  I get a cheap high crossing items off my topic list. Let’s start with the casting of the new Fantastic Four movie, which seems to have raised some hackles.

If I have any concerns about the new movie, it’s my fear that the people making the movie might fail to understand who the Fantastic Four are: family.  More than any other iconic super-hero team, the Fantastic Four are, first and foremost, a family.  If you lose that aspect of this greatest of all Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creations, then you are not making a Fantastic Four movie.

I also have a problem with the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch and it has everything to do with race, just not in the way others appear to have a problem with it.  I’m not bothered by Johnny and Sue Storm being of different races.  The American family of 2014 doesn’t look like that of 1961.  I can’t think of a single good reason why the current Storm family couldn’t be a mixed-race family.  It’s the family that counts, not the color of their skins.

So what’s my problem with Jordan as Johnny Storm? It’s the idea of setting a black man on fire.  Yeah, I know this casting is not the same as racists murdering blacks in that manner. But that horrible history exists.  Jordan and the movie makers will have to go above and beyond if they want me to overlook that history.

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Dynamite will be publishing a new series of Doctor Spektor comics based on the character created by Don Glut for Gold Key Comics in the 1960s.  Mark Waid is writing the title, which means I’ll read it.  I’ve enjoyed almost everything Waid’s written. Indeed, some of his recent work - Daredevil, Indestructible Hulk, Incorruptible and Irredeemable, to name just four - ranks among the best comic books of the new millennium. That said...

I’d rather see Don Glut writing this incarnation of his creation. Even if he created the character under a work-for-hire arrangement, Glut should have been given the opportunity to write this title for Dynamite.  The publisher might not have had any legal obligation to have him write it, but I believe a case can be made that there was a moral obligation, a basic fairness demanding they not ignore the
creator without whom there would not have been a Doctor Spektor for Dynamite to publish and Waid to write.

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The disgraced and ever-repugnant Tom DeLay dropped this nonsense in a recent interview:

“I think we got off that track when we allowed our government to become a secular government, when we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that He wrote the constitution, that’s based on biblical principles.”

It should go without saying, but here I am to tell you God didn’t write the Constitution.  It was written by men.  For that matter, God didn’t write the Bible, the Koran, the Torah or anything else. Those were all written by men.

Men (and women) are not unbiased creatures.  When they write stuff, be it laws, religious tomes, textbooks, novels, comic books, poems, plays, screenplays, political manifestos, you name it, they write from their own bias and self-interest.

I don’t discount the charitable or high-minded intentions of those who wrote any of the works named above.  I’m sure many of them had the best of intentions and sincerely wanted their works to elevate mankind and lead us to our best angels.  I’m also certain many were mostly looking to protect attitudes and institutions that brought benefit and power to themselves.

People ain’t perfect.

My modest proposal is we stop treating holy books as holy. Demote them to perhaps useful guides to a better life.  I’d also propose we stop equating legislation with holiness.

Most of all, I think we should stop blaming God, whether we see him as an impossibly white Jesus, an angry All-Father, or a radioactive dinosaur that cautions us against the folly of man and occasionally protects us from extraterrestrial invaders, for what we write and how we behave.  That’s all on us.

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Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat recently ran an article on the amazing philanthropy of Ike Perlmutter, describe as a “billionaire, CEO of Marvel and one of Disney’s largest stockholders.” In a fascinating piece, MacDonald wrote about Perlmutter’s background, his legendary cheapness and he and his wife Laura’s “initial” gift of $50 million to Advance Cancer Research and Treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Perlmutter is regarded with hatred and terror by many in the comics industry, perhaps deservedly so. Yet this donation will be used to fight one of the deadliest diseases known to man.  Is he a hero or a villain? Maybe he’s both.

Stan Lee used to tell me and others that no hero is entirely good and no villain is entirely evil.  That bit of creative wisdom has always struck me as exactly right.  The best stories are those told in the grey, the spaces between good and evil.  That is where truly  human struggles have always taken place. That is where intriguing characters and situations are born.

Maybe Perlmutter deserves condemnation for actions he has taken at Marvel Comics.  This would not surprise me.  But he also deserves credit for his role in elevating Marvel to the entertainment power it has become and for his charitable donations.  Hero and villain.  Just like all of us.

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Last week, I started reading a well-respected graphic novel.  I was a hundred pages into it when I asked myself why I was reading a graphic novel I wasn’t enjoying.  I put it aside to be returned to the library unfinished.

I don’t have to watch movies or television programs because others think they’re great.  I don’t have to read books or comics because others believe they are essential reading.  I’m not on the clock. I can read and watch what I want to read and watch.  Even if I live to be 100 - which is the plan, by the way - I won’t be able to read and watch everything I’d like to read and watch.  So it has become amazingly easy to cast aside that which others consider classics.

In the case of this particular graphic novel, I think there was a decent story underneath all of the creator’s self-indulgences.  He switched scenes without those scenes reaching any actual meaning. He had unreadable balloons that I suppose were meant to represent mumbled speech.  What he didn’t do was tell the story.

That’s where I come from.  If someone has a good story, one which addresses important aspects of life, one which presents intriguing characters, one which excites me whether it’s about just getting by in the real world or saving a universe, tell the story.

Don’t go artsy-fartsy for the sake of snobby academics and critics too dishonest to accept their love of comics without resorting to the absurd obstructionist bullshit they once used to sell to their equally pretentious high-school teachers.

Just tell the damn story. You’ll fell better if you do.

I know I will.
 
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Sunday, February 23, 2014

MORE WEEKEND WANDERINGS

I had a great time Friday afternoon telling stories and imparting - cough, cough - wisdom to Roman Macharoni and other members of the Cleveland State University comics club.  The club meets at the way spiffy CSU Student Center.  The photo above is from the end of the meeting.  I’m so old.

How old am I? I couldn’t remember where I had packed my van.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  I did remember where I packed my van and would have found it with no problem whatsoever if someone had not put cones across the exit I used when walking over to the Student Center.  This confused me enough that I ended up checking out two or three other garages until I realized the cones had messed me up. Now I’m only confused as to why the cones were there.  The exit I used led only to the outside parking with no way to drive down to the street.  There was plenty of parking inside the garage and even more outside the garage.  I remain befuddled.

Once I got out of the garage, driving in Cleveland proved pretty much like driving through the Hellmouth mentioned in the final TV episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I completely believe such a thing exists and that it exists in Cleveland.

Road construction kept me from getting on the highway, so I drove down Lorain Road into my childhood neighborhood.  The streets were a minefield of potholes large enough to swallow tires whole.  Yeah, I know it’s been a long hard winter, but the city of Cleveland has got to do better for its citizens.

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I forgot to mention that yesterday’s opening illustrations was from the OPUS-One Panel U Submit blog wherein individual comics panels are posted to hilarious effect.  That smooching Legionnaires shot was posted by Tom Peyer, a fine comics writer himself.  I like the idea of using random panels as opening illustrations for the bloggy thing and will be doing more of it.

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In the current Mary Worth continuity, Mary has invited her friend Iris and her son Tommy to dinner.  Tommy, recently released from prison after serving his sentence, doesn’t want to go.  He says to his mother, “It isn’t normal to have my past! I won’t be able to bear them looking down on me.”

The sad truth, as I’m sure the wise Mary will tell her guests, is that having a family member who has been or who is in prison, keeps getting more “normal” every day.  I’ll wager that a large majority of Americans will shake their heads in agreement since our country imprisons more people than any other country on Earth.

We have corporate prison management that makes a lot of money from our unending supply of convicts.  We have mandatory sentencing laws that put non-violent offenders away from insanely long sentences, often longer than those served by violent offenders.  We have the hack “tough on crime” politicians who prey on the fear of voters to get elected and then enact foolishly Draconian laws.  Worse of all, we have a “war on drugs” that targets poor and middle-class neighbors and gives a pass to more affluent offenders.  Jim Crow takes on new forms with the ease of a Skrull shapechanger.

I didn’t think it was “normal” to know anyone who has served time in prison or was currently incarcerated.  It shouldn’t be “normal,” but I have a relative currently serving a too-harsh sentence for a non-violent white collar crime.  Other family members and in-laws have done time.  This situation has become “normal” to Americans. It’s a national shame that needs to be addressed sooner than later. We must find a better way.

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Adam Baldwin.  He’s an actor who delivered performances I greatly enjoyed in Angel, Chuck and Firefly.  He’s also kind of an asshole. Baldwin is an extreme right-wing parrot.  I tried to engage him in a debate on Twitter once - I was young and foolish, okay, younger and foolish - and found him incapable of expressing even a remotely original thought.  All he did was quote other right-wing assholes or link to columns by right-wing assholes.  I quickly realized he simply wasn’t worth the effort.  He’s a dinosaur waiting for that next comet to vaporize him and his slow-witted kind.

Bleeding Cool reported recently on Baldwin’s tweeting a veritable jerknado of anti-gay comments.  The ones quoted in the article are much what I expected, though Baldwin tends to get crudely insulting when responding to those who disagree with him and, yes, I realize I’m being dismissively insulting to Baldwin.  But I’m not sure Baldwin has a clue as to the image he projects.

I haven’t seen Baldwin in anything that I recall since the shows I mentioned earlier.  If he were in something new, I’d probably watch it. He’s an entertaining if somewhat limited actor and I’d love to see him so busy he doesn’t have time to post nonsense on Twitter. Maybe my good feelings towards Baldwin the actor will change when (if?) I ever see him acting again.  I hope not.  Because as vile as his Twitter comments were, I can’t believe that anyone outside his own doomed to extinction mindset could possibly take him seriously. His is the bleating of an impotent sheep.

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I’ve answered this question a few times now, but readers who have not seen those answers keep asking me if I have or will be getting one of the Superman license plates now being offered in the state of Ohio.  The short answer is...no and no.

I have nothing but the highest regard for those Superman fans who labored so hard to get Ohio and then DC Entertainment to create and approve this license plate design.  But I’ve reached the point in my life where I simply could not bear to drive around town with a symbol owned by DC on my vehicle.

No entity has ever treated me as badly, as dishonestly as DC has. I can’t/won’t wear any article of clothing featuring DC characters. I have fond memories of Superman, Batman and other former favorites published by DC.  But, outside of any merchandise featuring Black Lightning, I won’t buy any of it...and I only buy those items with Black Lightning for legal reasons.

Am I absolute in my feelings towards DC? I wish I could say I was, but I still watch shows like Arrow and I still buy the occasional collection of DC material.  Most of the collections feature comics stories from before I entered into my Black Lightning partnership and did any work for the company. I still read or, more accurately, try to read new DC comic books, but I never buy them.  I read the copies loaned to me by a friend.

As I go through my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, there will doubtless be various DC items that once meant a lot to me.  I’ll be selling those with some regret.  But not much.

DC has always had it within its power to make things right with me. I have always been far more reasonable in my dealings with DC than DC has been with me.  For all the joy of creating and writing Black Lightning and a few other features at DC, for all the pride in my work and its positive effects on readers, it’s impossible for me to consider DC and not feel a twinge of pain.

One of the only difficult moments for me at last year’s Comic-Con was listening to my wife Barb explain to a friend how an individual who had greeted us at a hotel restaurant had visited so much grief and loss on me and mine.  My wife is an incredibly generous loving person.  Until that evening, I had only heard her speak ill of two other comics people.  While I wish that individual no ill, I will never understand why he acted as he did for so long.

Pain is part of life. As I get older, I get a few aches and pains that I didn’t have the year before.  That’s life.  But I don’t go seeking pain and that, as much as anything, is why I don’t have a Superman license plate on my car.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Saturday, February 22, 2014

WEEKEND WANDERINGS

I have a list of items I want to write about in these bloggy things of mine.  I’ll start with one that really bugged me a few days ago, then jump around my list to see how much trouble I can get myself into within 1000-1500 words.

I am a huge fan of Comic-Con International.  I feel so lucky that I was a special guest last year and so grateful for how wonderfully my family and I were treated by the convention workers.  No human endeavor is perfect, but Comic-Con does a remarkable job creating unforgettable events year in and year out.

When Comic-Con announced 20 additional guests for this year’s show on its Toucan Blog, I congratulated the guests and posted the link to the announcement on my Facebook page.  I was happy for them and I knew they would have a great time at the event.  The last thing I expected was snarky comments from two women complaining that only four of the additional guests were women...with one demanding that the convention do better.

I consider this willful ignorance. Clicking on the link included in the Toucan Blog announcement reveals that, of the 60 special guests announced so far, 16 of them are women.  My limited math skills are sufficient to determine 26.66% of these invited guests are women. I suspect that percentage compares very favorably to the percentage of women currently working in comics.

Here’s my second Facebook post on the matter:

I posted a link to the list of most recently announced Comic-Con guests and I got snarky comments because there are only four women on that list. Because, apparently, we have to keep count. I added up all the female guests announced so far for this year and it came out to 16. Next I'm going to add up all the Italian-American guests and all the left-handed guests and all the guests with one leg shorter than the other and all those...who am I kidding? I'm just going to be happy for all these guests, knowing they will have a wonderful time. I'll leave counting to others.

Interestingly enough, Heidi MacDonald's The Beat had a story about the latest guest announcements and she didn't get any comments about there being “only” four women on the list. Wonder why that was?

What percentage of working comics professionals are women? How does that percentage compare to the percentage of women invited to be special guests at this year's Comic-Con?


If you say we need more diversity among comics creators, I'm with you all the way. But snarking at Comic-Con, which gets more diverse every year? You lose me there.

Not too long ago and very close to one another, there were two news stories about two male creators who either acted badly toward women or said awful things on a panel.  I found the former behavior more alarming than the latter, but both behaviors were shameful and both deserved condemnation.  Up to the point when some commentators put pretty much all men into the same neanderthal category.  At best, men could never understand what the women in these stories had gone through.  Because we’re just stupid unfeeling men.

Every time one of these stories come out, I shudder at the thought that somewhere in my long career in comics I might have in some way acted badly towards a female coworker.  I don’t think I did because I tend to obsessively remember bad stuff I have done.  I still feel terrible I teased a girl in the third grade.  But the simple fact is that I don’t know for sure.

Secondary to my I hope irrational fear that I may have acted badly at sometime in the past is the slightly less irrational fear that, if I did act badly, I will never be forgiven for it. In the case of the two recent reports, both men apologized.  The sincerity of the apologies was called into question immediately.  If any one of the male persuasion thought the apologies were sincere, he was usually
treated as if he were part of the problem.

The thing is...we’re all part of the problem.  Human beings often act badly.  Male, female, all of the 50 different Facebook choices,most and probably all of us have acted in ways we now regret.  In some cases, we might have acted badly at a time when those actions were not regarded the same as in these far more enlightened times. In other cases, we might have been clueless, insensitive and plain stupid. Human beings will never be perfect.

I’ve written an awful lot of redemption stories in my career, so I am clearly a firm believer in redemption.  I think we diminish our humanity if we never allow for the possibility of redemption from those who have wronged us or others. Like almost anyone in either the comics industry or the world at large, I have been wronged by others.  At the risk of sounding all parable-ly on you, few things delight me more than when someone who has wronged me can get his or her shit together and at least try to make amends.

When someone behaves badly, they should be called on that behavior. It should be made clear that their actions were unacceptable.  But we should not go looking to take eternal umbrage at our offenders and write them off for all time. People can change for the better. Otherwise, what would be the point of living?

Never automatically assume malice where ignorance is every bit as good an explanation for bad behavior.  For many, those additional Facebook choices have been unsettling and, as humans do, some have responded with nervous humor. These are new concepts for many and they might need a little extra time to wrap their heads around all of them.

Every human being deserves to be afforded the same dignity that we all want for ourselves.  Be clear on how you identify yourself and be firm in insisting on others identifying you with the preference or preferences you have determined for yourself.  Just give those confused others a little - a little - breathing room while they are being dragged into the future.

I think it will be a great future.  The dustbins of history are and continue to be filled with those who cannot adjust to the equality of all their fellow humans.  In my sixty-plus years of life, I’ve seen more acceptance of our blessed diversity than I ever dreamed I would see.  I look at my children and their friends and I’m sure that acceptance will only grow.

I identify as a not-nearly-as-grumpy-as-he-would-have-you-believe white male of the liberal/progressive persuasion. I’m quite happily married and have no particular use for organized religion beyond my recently-formed First Church of Godzilla.

I also identify as “cute as a button,” but, alas, that’s not one of the new Facebook choices. I call upon all my fellow “cuties” and my legion of Facebook friends to protest this injustice.
 
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Friday, February 21, 2014

A DEVIL AND HER LOVE SONG

Miyoshi Tomori’s A Devil and Her Love Song [Viz Media; $9.99 each] is a 13-volume shojo manga series about Maria Kawai, a devil with the voice of an angel.  Maria isn’t really a devil, of course, but her blunt honesty and difficulty relating to fellow students stand between her and the happiness she seeks.

Shojo manga center on young female protagonists. These heroines are usually in their teens, youngsters on the verge of becoming adults. Many of these series are like unto soap operas and sometimes they involve steamy situations.  A Devil and Her Love Song is rated “T” for teens and I think that’s the right call.

I think A Devil and Her Love Song is better written and ”performed” than any of the garish teen and 20-something crap we inflict on TV viewers in this country.  While the pretty boys and girls of bilge like Beverly Hills 90210 and Gossip Girl are jumping in and out of beds while dealing with problems of their own arrogant, privileged behavior, Maria and her classmates must contend with real troubles.
Emotional conflicts. Families and, in the case of Maria, incomplete  knowledge/understanding of exactly who her family is and the why of her present circumstances.  Bullying teachers. The confusion that comes with deep friendships and love.  This story of young people in Japan, this comic book series about young people in Japan, seems so much more realistic to me than its counterparts on American TV.

Tomori’s characters are interesting.  Her art, while conforming to shojo sensibilities not always conducive to sure storytelling, is compelling and filled with emotion.  Ultimately, I look back on the 13 volumes of this series and I see a story of growth, redemption, struggle and triumph.  I found myself eagerly awaiting each volume of the series and finally delighting in Tomori’s somewhat open but  satisfying conclusion to her story.

A Devil and Her Love Song is great comics.  I’ll be looking for the next Tomori project.

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

When someone on the Fans of Syfy Original Movies page recommended The Day the Earth Stopped [The Asylum; 2008], I requested the film  from my library system.  I received the Blu-ray version and watched it a couple nights ago.

This movie is an Asylum mock-buster and does have similarities to the 20th Century Fox remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still that came out the same year.  It also has similarities to various movies and science fiction stories that came out both before and after the first The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). 20th Century Fox made the usual legal threats, but, near as I can determine, no further actions were taken.

Judging the Asylum knockoff on its own merits, I enjoyed it.  It’s more quiet and thoughtful than I expected with only a few instances of scary destruction.  Indeed, I think some of those scenes might have come from other Asylum movies.

The movie is directed by and stars C. Thomas Howell, a fine actor who always brings a reality to the characters he plays.  I’d much rather watch Howell in a movie than any pretty boy scenery-chewer like Keanu Reeves.  In this movie, Howell plays a soldier who must choose between his orders and saving the world from the judgmental aliens preparing to preemptively strike us into drifting molecules. Most of the other actors are so-so, but I must give kudos to Darren Dalton as Howell’s commanding officer, who must also make a tough decision in the climax of the film, and Judd Nelson in a small but pivotal role.  Though her role as the alien Sky didn’t lend itself to great acting, Sinead McCafferty is so strikingly beautiful that she makes the part work.

The Day the Earth Stopped is well-written and well-directed with a few good performances and some genuine suspense.  It’s definitely worth watching.

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

Dark Horse Presents [$7.99] has and continues to be a fine comics anthology.  Like most anthologies, there are features and stories I like a lot and some I don’t like a lot.  But 80 pages gives Dark Horse a lot of room to work with and I’m quite satisfied with the bang for buck I get from the title.

Dark Horse Presents #32 is the latest issue I’ve read.  It has the conclusion of a wild Hellboy story by Mike Mignola with art by Mick McMahon.  It has the latest chapter of an action-packed Nexus tale by creators Mike Baron and Steve Rude, a chapter which carries some real emotional punches.  It has the first chapter of new story in the darkly-comedic Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne by Rich Johnston  and Simon Rohrmuller. Also worth noting: Monstrous by Steve Horton and Ryan Cody, Kill Me! by Chad Lambert and Christine Larsen and Saint George: Dragonslayer by Fred Von Lante and Reilly Brown.

I’ve heard Dark Horse Presents will be ending and then relaunching. As someone who enjoys anthologies and who enjoys writing for them, I hope the title will be back.  While we’re waiting, here’s a bit of advice:

Change the design of Dark Horse Presents to give new readers a leg up on understanding stories they may be discovering midway through said stories.  This will also be helpful to returning readers who, like a certain Tipster, read an awful lot of comics.  I’d suggest moving Mike Richardson’s fine editorials to the inside back covers and including brief synopsis for each feature on the inside front cover contents page.  Don’t get artsy-fartsy with the design.  Just put the necessary information there.

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Geoff Johns has written one of the best runs on Aquaman ever.  It ranks with the cool Bob Haney/Nick Cardy comics of the go-go 1960s and the Steve Skeates/Jim Aparo adventures that followed that run. Combined with stunning artwork by Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons, I even like it better than Peter David’s fine work on the Sea King. Overcoming DC’s generally putrid “New 52" devolution, Aquaman has been one of the very few consistently enjoyable comic-book titles from that woefully mismanaged company.

Sadly, not even Aquaman is immune to a marketing stunt I well and truly loathe.  Aquaman #25 is cover-touted as “the epic finale of  Death of a King”...and it ends with a cliff-hanger.  The story ran seven issues. The readers deserved an actual conclusion.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Thursday, February 20, 2014

LAST DAY IN LOS ANGELES

Previously:

January. Tony is in Los Angeles with Bob Ingersoll.  They have been staying at the Hilton/Universal City.  After failing to sleep on a freezing Thursday night, Tony paid an early Friday morning visit to the front desk to complain about their room’s heating/cooling woes. The problem is fixed on Friday, leading to a pretty good night’s sleep that evening.  Early Saturday morning, two things are slipped under our door.  Both are surprises.

Our story continues...

The pleasant surprise was an envelope from Brian Apodaca, the night manager who I’d spoken to regarding the problems with our room.  It contains a letter from Brian and the first two issues of Zombie Outlaw, his self-published comic book. After expressing his hope the problems  had been taken care of, he wrote:

I wanted to say I’m a fan of your writing and I also write comic books, though I’ve yet to draw a paycheck for the endeavor. I have  enclosed the first two issues of my book in case you want to read something on your flight out of town.  I recognized you the other night, but given the issue at hand, I didn’t feel it appropriate to bring it up at the time.  I sincerely hope you’re not offended by this token of appreciation for your contribution to comic books and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

This is one of the many reasons it truly does not suck to be Tony Isabella.  Though I think my ego is mostly safely under control, I do get a kick out of being recognized by my readers, especially if they like my work.  And who doesn’t like free comic books?

Since I was up anyway, I went down and caught up with Brian before his shift ended.  We had a pleasant conversation and, a bit later, Bob also went down to the lobby to say “hi.”

I can’t say Zombie Outlaw knocked my socks off.  I’m a real tough sell when it comes to zombies of any kind.  But, as soon as I can get a little breathing room on my workload, I’ll drop Brian a note with what I hope will be useful advice/tips for him.

The second and unpleasant surprise was our hotel bill.  The charges weren’t the problem.

We had erred in making the hotel reservations.  We were leaving Los Angeles on Sunday morning, but we didn’t have a hotel for Saturday night. More on that later.

Our last Saturday in Los Angeles was always going to be a relaxing day.  If I remember correctly, we had breakfast at Charlie’s in the Farmers Market and then went to Blastoff Comics at 5118 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.  Harlan Ellison was doing a signing with his 7 Against Chaos cohorts Paul Chadwick and Ken Steacy.  I’d never met Paul and hadn’t seen Ken in years, so there were already three good reasons to go to Blastoff.

The signing turned out to be a cool event.  Store owners Jud Meyers and Scott Tipton have a great selection of old and new comic books and other items.  With his brother David, Scott has written titles like Angel, Doctor Who, Star Trek and others for IDW.  I very much enjoyed talking to the three of them...and was happy to sign a few Isabella comics for eventual sale to their customers.

Barbara Kesel, one of my favorite editors, popped in to say “hi.” I loved working with her at DC (Hawkman) and would gladly work with her again.  It amazes me that such a talented editor and writer is not working regularly in comics.

Also on hand: Chris Ryall, the chief creative officer and editor-in-chief of IDW and also fine writer...demon photographer Steve Barber, who I know from Harlan’s website and from my own Facebook page...Joel Cotter, another Facebook friend...and the ever-radiant Susan Ellison.  The signing just barely managed to stay below the legal limit for coolness in one place at one time.

Eventually, Bob and I ended up at Mark Evanier’s house.  Mark had graciously allowed us to hang out with him until he had to head to the airport.  We had a great meal at Fu’s Palace where the owner, the lovely Margaret, insisted on buying drinks for Mark’s out-of-town friends.  I only claim to be the most beloved guy in comics. Mark is the real deal.

Mark, Bob, and I spent the evening talking about many things while I kept dozing off.  I just can’t keep up with the youngsters these days.  Around 3 am or so Sunday morning, Bob and I said goodbye to Mark and headed for the airport.

Where nothing was open.

There was no one working at the United check-in desks.  Once someone did open for business, there was no one from the TSA to check the passengers through to their gates.  The United Club, where we had thought we could wait comfortably, wasn’t open.  The powers that be weren’t going to make it easy for us to leave L.A.

Let’s talk about the TSA for a moment.  You know, the agency that has been given ridiculously intrusive powers because my country is filled with frightened paranoids. Near the start of this nonsense, I once saw an old woman with a walker pulled out of the line because she was selected at random for further scrutiny.  She was in line in front of swarthy Mediterranean me who no one gave even a second glance to.  Yeah, she was totally a terrorist threat.

The TSA has evolved.  Oh, I’m sure they still pull passengers out of line randomly, but, in recent months, they have started giving pre-premiere access to passengers at random.  Bob Ingersoll, that distinguished former attorney and upstanding citizen, did not get a pre-premiere access pass.  I did.

It’s not that I want to be perceived as a terrorist threat by these government stooges.  But, come on, little old lady or terrified-to-be-flying me?  Which would you be more worried about?

Bright-eyed Bob Ingersoll or cranky old coot me? Which would you be more worried about?

I’m embarrassed for my fearful countrymen.  It’s time that we start wearing our big boy and big girl underwear when we consider taking reasonable precautions to guard against threats.  I suggest wearing sexy underwear to give the TSA agents something to really get all hot and bothered about.

We flew from Los Angeles to Chicago on the first lap of our journey back to Ohio.  It was even more pleasant that our first-class trip to Los Angeles.  Alas, our flight from Chicago to Cleveland would be on the tiniest commuter jet I have ever been on.  I think this plane was constructed by StarKist.

The best thing about the flight was that it was short.  The second best thing about the flight was that whenever the jerk in front of me tried to recline his seat, I pushed back and prevented him from doing so.  After a while of this, he took a look back at me.  What we saw convinced him not to challenge me further.  You might think this made me a dick.  On the other hand, I was pre-cleared by the TSA, so I was a government-approved dick.

The final TSA hilarity came after Bob and I landed in Cleveland and discovered that, according to United baggage claim, TSA agents had flagged Bob’s luggage and kept it off the flight so that they could search it.  Of course, it’s possible the United baggage folks were just trying to blame the TSA for their mistake.  But, if they were telling the truth...

Sainted Wife Barb picked me up the airport.  I had a lot of great times with great people on my Los Angeles vacation, but it was just a little too long for me.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford to do this trip every year, but I’d sure like to.

My sincere thanks to all my Los Angeles friends.  I love you madly and I hope to see you again soon.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
 
© 2014 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UPS AND DOWNS IN L.A.

Previously:

Last month, accompanied by my best friend and the master of travel Bob Ingersoll, I was in Los Angeles from January 9 through 18. My trip report resumes on Thursday, January 16...

This is going to sound like a weird thing to include in a vacation report, but, decades ago, I was diagnosed with severe depression. It has been a lifelong struggle and, in my case, medications just made things worse.  Eventually, I found ways to fight back and, for the most part, depression has become just one of those things that I keep in the back of my mind unless and until I recognize one of the warning signs of a reoccurrence.  Sometimes it takes a couple days, usually just a few hours, but once I recognize the onset of a reoccurrence, I can beat it back into the darkest regions of my brain. So, fuck you, depression.

This is important.  Don’t take my own experience with and struggles against depression as indicative of whatever you are going through or have gone through in the past. I’m sure of two things.  The first is that everyone’s experience with depression is different.  The second is that you should take control of your own treatment.  I eventually went the do-it-myself route because that’s what worked for me.  That might not work for you.  Listen to your doctor, try the various recommended strategies, but, ultimately, make your own decisions for yourself.

Despite all the great times I had been having in Los Angeles, when I woke up on Thursday morning, I was having a tough time.  I hadn’t been sleeping well.  The temperature shifts between the very chilly mornings and the pleasantly warm afternoons and then the once again chilly evenings were playing heck with my internal thermometer. It didn’t help that the thermostat in our hotel room was a sick joke and the hotel lobby was always cold.

I wasn’t sleeping well.  I was missing my Sainted Wife Barb and my cat Simba.  I was missing my comfortable Medina home.  I was really having withdrawal pains over not writing.  I was a grumpy puss and a friend less patient than Bob would have thrown me down an empty elevator shaft and been done with me.

I shook off my depression to join Bob and his friend Eugene Son for lunch.  Eugene is an animation writer and story editor who’s worked on Ultimate Spider-Man, Ben 10, the Super-Hero Squad Show and many others.  Since returning to Medina, I’ve watched and enjoyed Son-written episodes of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Avengers Assemble.  He’s a fine writer and a nice guy.  It was great meeting him.  That was a rare “up” moment that Thursday.

Lunch was at The Counter on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.  It’s a fine burger joint that serves up delicious fresh food and which offers “options that are only limited by your imagination.”  Since my imagination was running on near-empty that afternoon, I ordered the Purist. Burger. Bun. Yummy.  Best burger I had the entire trip. The french fries were very tasty as well. 
 
Bob’s daughter Laura was flying in to join her husband, but had the evening free.  I declined Bob’s invitation to join them and stayed in the hotel.  Which didn’t help my depression.

My room service pizza was too big and too terrible to eat much of. I paid way too much to watch a movie, even though I thought it was an entertaining and even heartwarming movie.  I’ll likely review it in a future bloggy thing.

The worst thing is that the room that had been too hot most of the time was now getting colder and colder.  I’m taking “fully dressed and under the covers and still freezing” cold.  I had a miserable night.  How the returned Bob managed to sleep soundly, I don’t know though I might wager alcohol had something to do with it.

Finally, at 3 a.m. on Friday morning, I left the room to confront the night manager about those deplorable conditions.  I’d already resigned myself to not getting any sleep.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t facing the same thing Friday night. To the night manager’s and hotel’s credit, they sent someone to the room in the morning and actually put enough of a band-aid on the problem that the room was pleasantly warm throughout Friday evening.

Teaser. My early morning journey of the bitching led to one of the coolest moments of the trip.  But you’ll have to wait a little bit before I get to that part of the story.

Bob and I kicked around on Friday until it was time for me to go to Meltdown Comics and Collectibles on Sunset Boulevard.  It’s a very cool store that has a lot of room and a lot of stuff.  The former makes it easy to shop the latter.

I was there to be interviewed for the Nerdist podcast by my friends Adam Beechen and Len Wein.  Adam and I have been online pals for a good many years, but had never met face-to-face until last year’s Akron Comicon.  Len and I go back four decades or so and, like so many of my old chums in this business, we almost never get a chance  to hang out. Seeing Len for the first time in years was wonderful and I hope we can do it again sooner rather than later.

The podcast? We talked about Black Lightning, the Champions, Ghost Rider and a bunch of other things.  I could tell you all about it, but, instead, I’ll just direct you to the podcast so you can listen to it at your convenience.

As I said earlier, Friday night in our hotel room was pleasant.  I got a good night’s sleep, though, as is my habit, I woke up early Saturday morning.  When I walked to the bathroom, I was surprised to see two things had been slipped under the door.

One was our hotel bill, which was a bit of a surprise for reasons I’ll go into later.  The other?

Oh, look, I’ve run out of time for today’s edition of the bloggy. I guess I’ll have to tell you about the other thing when you come back tomorrow.

Ain’t I a stinker?

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

KID STAN OUTLAW

Previously:

Tony and best friend Bob Ingersoll spent ten days in Los Angeles. They went to Disneyland, they hung out with friends, they went to cool places.  Their adventures resume...

It was Tuesday, January 14, and we were heading for the offices of Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment for a visit with the man who was and remains one of the biggest influences on my career, my writing and, indeed, my life.  Stan was one of my first bosses at Marvel Comics. Prior to my going to work for the company in late 1972, I studied his comics and learned a great deal about making wonderful comics. I learned even more working for and with him during my way-too-few years at Marvel.  We’ve kept in touch over the years, a handful of e-mails every year, and we’re long-distance friends.

Stan was one of the reasons I wanted to make this January trip to Los Angeles.  It’s been years since I’ve seen him and even that was in the middle of a convention.  Though he’s one of the busiest guys I know - I wish I knew how he does it - I hoped he could squeeze me and Bob into his schedule.  He did.

The first thing we saw when we walked into the POW! Offices was a framed enlargement of the cover of Black Rider #8 [March 1950] with a photo of a masked Stan portraying the “Mystery Man of the Western Plains.” After being greeted by Stan and answering his questions as to what I was doing these days, I mentioned the cover and told him he should have been a movie star. Stan chuckled and told us a story of his outlaw youth.

Stan used to walk through Central Park on his way to work at what was then Timely Comics.  He often passed the stables where people could rent horses to ride through the park, albeit on the approved riding trails.  One day, Stan rented a big beautiful horse by the name of Redman.

Stan yearned to let this gorgeous animal go full-tilt in violation of the law and the stable rules.  He gave in to the temptation and they were off.  The duo were spotted by a mounted police officer, who immediately gave chase.

Now Stan could have slowed down, but he was having too good a time. He and Redman kept going full-speed.  Consummate actor that he is - you’ve seen all his great cameo appearances - Stan pretended that he didn’t have control of his steed.

The officer bought it. He followed the racing Stan and Redman all the way back to the stables, constantly shouting out encouragement to Stan that he wouldn’t let him get hurt.  When they were back at the stables, the officer kept asking Stan if he was okay and Stan kept thanking the officer for looking out for him. And you wonder why Stan was so good at writing the comic-book adventures of such misunderstood outlaws as Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid.

Normally, I don’t share other comics people’s personal stories with my bloggy readers.  I’m making an exception this time because it’s such a great story and because I’m pretty sure that the stature of limitations on this “crime” has expired.  If it hasn’t and if the New York police come after Stan, he can hide out in Medina, Ohio. Back in the day, my town did a thriving business in moving escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad. I’m sure we could hide Stan from the authorities.

No matter how short the visit, I always feel energized after seeing Stan.  He’s one of the great men I have been privileged to know and work with during my career. He was a true mentor and his friendship means more to me than I can express.

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Bob and I continued to hobnob with celebrities that evening.  Mark Evanier invited us to join him for the monthly meeting of Yarmy’s Army.  To quote Mark, it’s “a club of comedians and comedy writers, mostly veterans in their field. Founded by the late Don Adams in honor of his brother, Dick Yarmy (Don's real name was Don Yarmy), Yarmy's Army is a place where folks in the business of funny sit around and tell stories and provide general support for one another and select charities.”

We met up with Mark at an undisclosed location (his house) and he drove us to another undisclosed location which served fine Chinese food for the meeting.  Among those in attendance: Budd Friedman, John Rappoport, Thom Sharp, Steve Stolier, Pat Harrington, and Mike Preminger.  If you don’t think you know these gentlemen, hit IMDB. You’ll likely discover you’ve enjoyed their writing and other work over the years.

I couldn’t keep up with the lively conversation, what with all the jokes and terrific stories.  I wish I could have sat next to every person at that meeting.  If someone were to stick them in front of a camera to share their stories, talk about their work and dish a little about the great and not-so-great entertainers who they have met and worked with, I’d buy that movie in a heartbeat.

My hero of the evening was Budd Friedman, specifically for his tale of giving the hook to a performer appearing at Budd’s Improv comedy club. The guy’s entire set consisted of material he had “borrowed” from other comedians.  The performer was a serial offender in this regard, so Budd pulled the plug on his set.  Well done, sir.  Well done.

My thanks to Mark Evanier for inviting Bob and I...and my thanks to the soldiers of Yarmy’s Army for extending such a warm welcome to a couple Ohio boys. I hope this is far from the last meal I get to share with such good company.

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Bob and I went to an even more secret location on Wednesday night. We were invited to dinner at Harlan and Susan Ellison’s Lost Aztec Temple of Mars. It is the most fun and interesting house I’ve ever visited and, on each repeat visit, there are more wondrous things to be seen in it.  We had great conversations with two people who we love madly and forever.  We had great food.  Most importantly, I learned new stuff.  I don’t think I’ve visited Harlan and Susan or spoken to them without learning new stuff.  I am not nearly as smart as I should be, but I get smart the more I get to hang with these fine folks.

I am being very deliberately circumspect in reporting what we saw and what we talked about.  The secrets of the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars must be guarded.  What I will tell you is this:

It seems to me that there is not a corner, not a wall, not an inch of the Temple which has not been conceived by great minds and then executed with the great of skill.  Harlan’s creativity extends far beyond his writing.  He is a true visionary.  Like many before me, I urged him to put his house with all its fixings on camera with his own erudite self narrating the story behind all of the wonders to be found within.  Not in our lives, but this house and its stories should be preserved and recorded to inspire future generations of architects, dreamers and visionaries.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more of these adventures in Los Angeles.  See you then.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Monday, February 17, 2014

TONY'S TIPS #43

This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder...When Spider-Man went cosmic, actual good Superman stories that were published recently and Jonah Hex in modern times.

UPDATE 2/17/14

There will be a new bloggy thing for Tuesday.  I'm hoping I will be able to resume a daily schedule, but there may be some missed days here and there.

Why the absence? Illness followed by some new paying gigs demanding my attention.

I'm behind on answering e-mails. I will try to get caught up on them by the end of the week.

Not to be come off as too grumpy, but people can help me out like this:

Don't tag me on Facebook threads that have nothing to do with me.  A so-called friend tagged me in a thread that basically amounted to him asking his FB buddies to gang up on someone he was having a problem with.  Next thing I know, I have 80 message notifications in my e-mail.  This because of a guy who has NEVER done me a good turn, but who has asked for and received numerous favors from me.  He's not exactly dead to me, but I think I can go a good six months before hearing from him again.

Don't ask me to contribute to or publicize your Kickstarter project.  My funds are limited and my time even more so.  If you want to hire me as a publicist, it'll cost you $100 a hour.  Because I really don't want to be your publicist.

Don't send me a friend request and then, within minutes, ask me to like your project page, promote your work, find you work, etc.

Don't sign me up your Facebook group.  I don't have time.

Don't send me event invitations unless you plan on paying my expenses to attend the event.

Don't send me games apps.  I will think poorly of you and likely unfriend you.

Don't poke me.

Do understand that I have more stuff on my plate than you can possible know about.  I love you all madly, but I can only stay awake so many hours in any given day.

Tony


Sunday, February 16, 2014

NERDIST COMICS PANEL WITH ME

If I weren't sick this weekend, I'd be listening to the Nerdist Comics Panel with Len Wein, Adam Beechen and me.  Regular blogging will resume on Tuesday.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

THE COMPLETE FUNKY WINKERBEAN VOLUME 3

Tom Batiuk, friend of the bloggy thing and fellow Medina resident, came over the other day to bring me a copy of The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 3 1978-1980 [Kent State University Press; $45], which collects the daily and Sunday strips from those years.  This volume's introduction is by Joe Walsh of the Eagles.  It'll be a while before I read and review this book, but I wanted to let you know it was available.  Go for it!

Friday, February 14, 2014

TONY AND BOB’S L.A. ADVENTURES

Previously:

Guided by Bob “Travel Yoda” Ingersoll, your bloggy correspondent journeyed from the Ice Planet Ohio to Disneyland and Los Angeles. I have told you of our weekend in Disneyland.  The saga now resumes as we depart the realm of the Mouse...

Los Angeles in January, at least this January, meant mornings and evenings that could become quite chilly.  Surrounded by mountains, the city would heat up quickly once the sun came up.  By the time Bob and I left Disneyland on Sunday morning (January 12), it wasn’t  too cool or too hot.

The plan for the week was to relax and visit friends we just don’t get to see often enough.  The gossip-lovers among you will likely be disappointed by my refusal to relate conversations, business or otherwise, of a personal nature.  Too bad.  I know and have always known stuff that would turn Rich Johnston’s hair white with horror. People tell stuff because I can keep a confidence.  It’s one of the reasons my friends love me and my enemies, if I actually have any enemies worth noting, quake with fear at the mention of my name. I chuckle menacingly and move on.

We stopped for breakfast at Swingers on Beverly Boulevard.  Great food, reasonable prices, cute waitress who look just edgy enough to be sexy.  Thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have remember how good the food was.  I would just have remembered the waitresses.  Even so, I had a dream that night that our waitress had moved to Medina to sell real estate, become besties with Sainted Wife Barb, and was at one of our cookout talking available properties with neighbors. All while wearing what she wore at Swingers.  I have no idea what this dream means.

We stayed at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, which was one hideous hilly walk or one comfortable shuttle ride away from City Walk.  Bob had worked his travel mojo to score us a virtually free hotel room for the week with free continental breakfast and happy hour drink/appetizer each day.

I love Universal City Walk.  It has lots of cool shops and places to eat.  We ate at Pink’s twice because, even though this was not *the* famous Pink’s location, they still served a damn spiffy hot dog.  I had Betty White’s Naked Dog, named after the show-business legend.  Amazingly, the Pink’s staff did not know Betty’s birthday was January 17 until we told them.

Among the many shops in Universal City Walk is Things From Another World, a comics store which I believe is owned by Mike Richardson, president and publisher of Dark Horse Comics.  The shop is a little too cozy for my comfort, but it’s immaculately clean, filled with cool items and well-staffed.  I wonder what kind of clientele the store attracts. Does it have loyal customers who show up every week on new comics day? Does it do a lot of tourist business? It didn’t seem appropriate for me to ask these questions of the workers who were in the store while I was there, but I might ask Richardson if we cross paths at a convention.

I did quite a bit of shopping at Upstart Crow, which specializes in fun souvenir items.  I wanted to bring back something for Sainted Wife Barb, but I couldn’t find that one special item at Disneyland. Instead, I got her several cool gifts from Upstart Crow.  We know Barb is easy to please - she’s stayed married to be for just under 30 years and counting - but she definitely seemed to get a kick out of the Upstart Crow knickknacks I gave her.

Sunday night, Bob and I headed over to Mark Evanier’s house for an evening of amazing stories from maybe the most knowledgeable guy I know who doesn’t work for the NSA. We talked about It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Garfield, old projects, new projects, friends and a whole lot more.

For dinner, we went to Canter's Delicatessen on Fairfax.  This is Mark’s favorite deli, which he’s written about it several times in his “News From Me” blog.  Canter’s lives up to the boasts found on its website:

Canter's offers an authentic deli-style experience, unparalleled anywhere on the West Coast. Our endless menu is full of breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items available 24 hours a day. Fresh baked goods are available from our bakery. A full bar and Cocktail Lounge is open 10:30 am-1:40 am.

The website also makes these claims:

Canter’s Deli has been a Los Angeles landmark since 1931! Over the years, Canter's has sold over:

2 Million Pounds of Lox
10 Million Pounds of Corned Beef
7 Million Pounds of Pastrami
10 Million Matzo Balls
24 Million Bowls of Chicken Soup


I had the chicken soup, which was truly wonderful, and an egg salad sandwich, which was only so-so.  But the rye bread on the sandwich was terrific.  I could probably live off the various fresh breads and other baked goods Canter’s offers.  I’d double my weight in two months, but I would be a happy lump.

Bob and I did a lot of kicking around Los Angeles and a lot of just taking it easy at the hotel.  We went to the Farmers Market a few times.  The esteemed Evanier describes it as “a touristy assemblage of stores, eateries and markets.” It was a huge dairy farm in the 1880s, a sports stadium around the turn of the century, an actual farmers’ produce market in the early 1930s, a baseball stadium in 1939 and started becoming the Farmers Market as we know it in 1948. It’s a popular tourist attraction and has been declared a “Historic Cultural Monument.”

I love the place, which is located at 3rd and Fairfax.  It has so many cool places to eat that, were I ever to relocated to L.A., I’d want to live within walking distance of it. I recommend Charlie’s Coffee Shop, which serves up great meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I think Bob and I ate there twice during our week in Los Angeles. 

Another favorite place was Westfield Century City Centre, which is an enormous mall with the biggest and nicest food court I’ve ever seen in a mall.  On our visits there, I ate at Joe’s Pizza and The Juicy Bird.  Yeah, those were obvious and risk-free options, but I was literally dazzled and confused at how many great choices were available to me.  I’m far from a “foodie” of any kind and I need to avoid spicy foods, but, if I were ever in Los Angeles for a longer stay, I’d try to work my way through every restaurant and vendor at both the Farmers Market and this mall.

What would get me to Los Angeles for an extended stay?  Maybe if I were working on a movie or TV show of my dreams. I’ll leave it to your imaginations as to what those might be.

One last restaurant recommendation before I wrap this up for today. Mark Evanier thinks Vito’s Pizza at 846 North La Cienega Boulevard has the best pizza in the world.  He’s immortalized it in many of the Garfield cartoons he’s written and produced.  Bob and I knew we had to check it out.

Vito’s Pizza may not be the best pizza in the world.  I can think of some pizza places I’ve liked more.  But it’s a contender.  I’m not surprised Garfield loves it so.

For some reason, I’m really hungry now.  Come back on Tuesday and I promise there will be much less talk of food and much more talk about visiting Stan Lee and other celebrities.  See you then.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

Thursday, February 13, 2014

THE LAW IS A ASS RETURNS!

From ComixMix...


THE LAW IS A ASS On ComicMix Bob Ingersoll Joins Columnist Roster

Can a super-villain be tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity? How does one legally define sanity when talking about a person who dresses up in ridiculous costumes and spends a fortune on weapons just to steal money?

These and other questions have been asked and answered for decades by Bob Ingersoll,in his weekly column, “The Law Is a Ass.” Starting Friday, February 14, 2014, Ingersoll brings his wit and expertise to ComicMix.

Bob was already a licensed attorney with the Cuyahoga County Public Defender Office in Cleveland when he first started to write about how the law works in comic books for The Comics Buyers Guide. He has also written comics, including House of Mystery, The Green Hornet, Moon Knight, Mickey Mouse, and Star Trek, and his prose work includes several short stories and novels.

Why does he do this? As he says in his first ComicMix column, “I think those who write comic book stories should research how the law works, so that they can portray it as accurately as possible in their stories. And that’s why I write my column, the raison d'ĂȘtre of my column.”

ComicMix publishes a line of graphic novels by some of the best new and established talent in the industry. In addition, it runs one of the Internet’s most popular pop culture news sites.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

TONY'S TIPS #42

This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder...I review Day Men, The Best of Comix Book and an issue of Back Issue starring the Hulk.

TAKING A FEW DAYS OFF

It's a frigid February in Medina, Ohio. I have a couple of paying gigs on my desk, various odds and ends that need attending to and the seasonal aches and pains that beset an old fart like me from time to time.  I'll be back with new bloggy things before the end of the week.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

BIG ASS SPIDER

Director Mike Mendez had to fight for the name Big Ass Spider! The  original screenplay for this 2013 movie was titled Dino Spider and the distributors wanted to call it Mega Spider because they didn’t think Mendez’s preferred title was marketable.  Mendez was right. I wanted to see Big Ass Spider! from the moment I heard that title. I didn’t really care if the movie was good or not.  I just had to see any movie titled Big Ass Spider!  Fortunately, it turns out to be a solid and solidly entertaining B-movie.

The basic plot is a familiar one. Crazy military men and scientists mess around with an alien spider.  It escapes, ends up in the body of a victim sent to a Los Angeles hospital by mistakes and escapes from there.  It gets bigger and bigger.  The head scientist wants to capture it alive.  Eventually, though not until Old Big Ass has racked up many victims and done a King Kong climb on a skyscraper, the military parts philosophic company with the scientist.

Greg Grunberg plays Alex Mathis, an exterminator who’s very good at his job and not so good at running a business.  One elderly client pays him in fruitcakes.  When he gets bitten by a non-alien spider, he goes to the hospital where the alien spider was sent.  At this point, no one at the hospital knows the true nature of that spider.  Alex barters his exterminator services against his emergency room bill. The deal is struck.

With security guard Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar), Alex tracks down the spider.  He has a decent shot at getting it when the military shows up and allows the creature to escape into the sewer system.  The most notable members of the military are the great Ray Wise as Major Braxton Tanner and Clare Kramer as Lieutenant Karly Brant.  You may remember Kramer as “Glory” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t normally comment on the physical appearance of actors, but Kramer, who was gorgeous as Glory, looks beautiful, fit and feisty as Karly. She owns the part of a tough soldier.

You can probably see where this plot is going. Spider gets bigger. People die. Alex and Jose are heroic.  Sparks fly between Alex and Karly.  Things get so bad the military is considering bombing Los Angeles.  In this movie, the excitement starts early on and seldom slows down enough for the viewer to take a breath.  It’s one of the best B-movies I’ve seen in recent years.

Mendez directs the hell out of this picture, which more than lives up to my pre-viewing anticipation.  Grunberg and Kramer are great in their roles.  Boyar drifts into stereotype every now and then, but his character is such a brave sidekick I could overlook that. This is a honestly thrilling adventure with a good sense of humor, right up to the hilarious punch line Wise delivers at the very end of the movie.

Big Ass Spider! is a keeper.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys giant monster movies even half as much as I do.

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Diving back into less-than-classic shark movies...

The sharks aren’t the scariest things in Shark Attack (1999).  In fact, they barely make my list of the top three scariest things in the made-for-TV movie.  Here’s the scoop:

Sharks are going wild near an African coastal town.  The frequency of the attacks have driven away tourists and devastated the local fishing industry.  The only going concern is a scientific research center researching...sharks.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD

Hero Casper Van Dien comes to the South African town to look into the death-by-shark of his friend.  Jenny McShane is the sister of his friend.  Bentley Mitchum is Dr. Miles Craven - really, that’s the character’s name - a mad-not-all-bad scientist breeding mutant sharks in the hope their cells will lead to a cure to cancer.  He’s so driven to succeed and reap the fame and wealth of this discovery that he tests his drug on human patients.

Ernie Hudson is the scariest thing in the movie.  He’s the mayor of the town, but secretly plotting to ruin it and buy up the property of his impoverished constituents so he can sell the whole kit-and-caboodle to investors.  He chews more scenery than the sharks chew people.

Two corrupt policeman are the second scariest thing in the movie. They do Hudson’s dirty work, whether its setting up devices which drive the sharks crazy with hunger or feeding anyone who threatens Hudson’s plans to said sharks.

The sharks come in a distant third.  While there is one genuinely scary and realistic attack on a tourist dangling her foot over the side of the boat, most of the close-up shark attacks betray their rubber origins.  Though these sharks appear often enough to remind viewers they exist, human evil drives this story. Not that it’s a particularly riveting story.

Unless you’re on an insane quest to watch every crappy shark movie you can find - I’m well aware of my mania, thank you - Shark Attack isn’t worth watching.  Yet, somehow, someone looked at this movie and said, let’s make Shark Attack 2.

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Shark Attack 2 (2000) was a direct-to-video production.  I suspect it wasn’t conceived as a sequel to the first Shark Attack and that it may have started out as a different film that what it eventually became.  There’s a single mention of Doctor Craven’s mutant sharks and that the sharks in this movie might be their offspring, but the conversation strikes me as a afterthought.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD

Shark Attack 2 starts out with one big shark that eats the sister of Samantha Peterson (Nikita Ager) while the siblings are diving. Samantha manages to stab the shark in the eye before it has her for dessert, but can’t kill the beast.

The shark heads for a resort area and threatens the opening of the area’s Sea World knock-off.  Marine biologist Nick Harris (Thorsten Kaye) captures the shark. Against Nick’s better judgment, the shark becomes a live exhibit at “Water World” and promptly eats a worker in front of an audience before escaping. Harris manages to tag the shark with a GPS tracker, but keeps that information to himself on account of he’s a dumbass.

Though the Water World owner caused this debacle by ignoring Nick’s instructions, he puts the blame on Nick, fires him and hires Roy Bishop (Dan Metcalfe), a dick-ish Crocodile Dundee type to kill the shark. Nick and Samantha team up to get the shark first. The mayor doesn’t want to close the beaches.  At this point, we only have one shark and a movie alarmingly close to Jaws sans likeable characters like Brody and Hooper.

Well into the movie, it’s discovered there are a school of sharks  living in an underwater cave and hunting as a pack.  As there was no evidence or suspicion of this in the shark’s earlier attacks, I think this is where the movie shifts gears. In time for the sharks to eat Roy’s cameramen.  The mayor still doesn’t want to close the beaches. The Water World owner assures the mayor that patrols and a shark net can keep the beaches safe for the big surfing contest. What could possibly go wrong?

One theft of a Jaws scene and several gory deaths by laughable prop sharks later, Nick, Samantha and Roy team up to kill the sharks in their cave.  The trio develop the mutant power to talk underwater, which certainly helps ratchet up the suspense when things go wrong and the one-eyed shark wants another taste of the Peterson family. The good guys win, another Jaws scene gets ripped off, Samantha and Nick makes plans to fornicate.

Shark Attack 2 might be worse than Shark Attack, but it must have made somebody a few dollars because it gave birth to two sequels, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002) and Shark Zone (2003). Yes, I will eventually watch and review those movies as well.  Why can’t any of you see this is a pathetic cry for help?

I’ll be back tomorrow to resume my Los Angeles report with name-dropping guest appearances by Mark Evanier, Stan Lee, and others.

© 2014 Tony Isabella