Saturday, December 5, 2015


Here’s what I’ve been reading in recent weeks...

Cleveland TV Tales: Volume 2 by Mike and Janice Olszewski [Gray & Company; $15.95] features more behind-the-scenes stories from back in the days when Cleveland only had a handful of stations. Besides the major network affiliates - ABC, CBS, NBC - there were just two or three others. Though no New York City or Los Angeles, Cleveland was a major Midwest market. A lot of interesting news reporters and performers made their presence known on our TV screens.

The Olszewskis are friends of mine. I’ve worked with Mike, a true veteran of Cleveland radio and television, on a number of projects over the years. He knows Cleveland as well as any one you can name and it’s great fun to see him memorializing the great broadcasting stories of our city in print.

The book opens with a subject dear to my heart: Ghoulardi aka Ernie Anderson, the horror movie host who ruled Cleveland during his time here. Ernie was covered in the first volume, but, this time around, Mike and Janice talk about the hosts who followed him in Cleveland and neighboring cities. Superhost. The Ghoul. Son of Ghoul, who was sued by the Ghoul for stealing the same act the Ghost had stolen. The Ghoul lost that lawsuit. Son is still around. And then there’s the horror host who means even more to be than Ghoulardi, though I didn’t know about this aspect of that host's life until I read this book.

The Baron. Who appeared on Mansfield television and whose civilian identity was Roger Price, the creator and promoter of Mid-Ohio-Con for over twenty years and one of my closest friends. Neither of us can believe I didn’t know about the Baron, but now I am hoping to convince Roger to host B-movie showings at my house. I’ll let you know if I succeed.

Besides Roger and the other horror hosts, Cleveland TV Tales stars some fascinating, fun and even tragic characters. The news anchors of the 1970s through the 1990s, which included more than one Miss America contestant. The daytime host who took his own life at the start of a sex scandal and whose guilt or innocence has never been proven. A weatherman who was hazed at virtually every station that he worked at. A reporter who interviewed a notorious gangster just hours before the gangster was blown up. Tales told in short breezy chapters that make for entertaining reading.

Every large city has its own television personalities that mean so much to the viewers, but the ones in this book are my television personalities. If you watched Cleveland TV during these key years, you’ll get a kick out of this collection of unforgettable stories with unforgettable protagonists.

ISBN 978-1-9384-4175-2


Right this moment, my favorite manga is Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui [Viz; $9.99 per volume]. I’ll hard to explain in just a few sentences, but I’ll give it a try...

Koro Sensei is a supremely powerful, octopus-like alien who blew up 70% of the Moon. He’ll do the same thing to Earth next year if we don’t find a way to destroy him first. To pass the time and give us a fair crack at him, Koro decides he wants to be a schoolteacher. The authorities agree because who in the right mind who say “no” to a creature who just blew up 70% of the moon.

Koro becomes the lead teacher of Kunugigaoka Junior High’s despised Class 3-E. These are the worst students in the school and treated like crap by the principal and their fellow students. Adding to the fun, the governments of the world have offered the 3-E students a billion-dollar bounty if they can kill Koro.

Koro. Who turns out to be a great teacher and motivator. Who seems to care about these students. Who even gives them tips on how they might be able to kill him.

Assassination Classroom is laugh-out-loud funny. Koro Sensei is one of the great characters of manga. I’ve read the first six volumes in the series, am getting ready to read the just-arrived seventh volume and love it madly. If you’re a manga reader, you will love this series. If you’re not a manga reader, give this series a shot and you will become, at least, a reader of Assassination Classroom.
It’s the manga you didn’t know you needed.

Assassination Classroom Volume 1:

ISBN 978-1-4215-7607-7


I’m kind of sort of on the fence when it comes to Komomo Confiserie Vol. 1 by Maki Minami (Viz; $9.99]. This manga series is engaging with interesting leads and lovely art. Lifted from the back cover, here’s the premise:

As a little girl, Komomo Ninomiya delighted in picking on Natsu Azumi, the son of her family’s pastry chef. Ten years later, when the family fortune is lost and she has no place to live, Komomo encounters Natsu again in her hour of need. Now that Natsu is a master pastry chef in his own right, he’ll help Komomo—but only if she works for him at his new confiserie!

Komomo goes from clueless to considerate during this first book in the series. She comes to understand and regret her past behavior. She’s kind to everyone she meets in her new and greatly diminished circumstances. Working as an assistant in Natsu’s new confectionary shop, she tries very hard to be a good worker. She’s excellent with the customers. She is a genuine boon to the shop. My “kind of sort of” problem with the series is that Natsu may or may not be a dick. Sometimes he seems to be considerate and sometimes he seems to be torturing Komomo simply because she teased him when they were both very young. I’m not sure I can put up with the kind of interaction for too many additional volumes.

As Don Thompson used to say in his reviews, “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.” I’m trying to decide if I do, indeed, like this sort of thing. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

ISBN 978-1-4215-8139-2


Lion Forge/IDW sent me a trio of advance review copies. That means it’s time for...a lightning round!

Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven [$14.99] is the authorized comics biography of legendary wrestler in promotional partnership with the estate of Andre Roussimoff. Written by Brandon Easton with terrific art by Denis Medri, the book is less sensational than another recent Andre the Giant comics biography, but its more emotional and kind toward Andre than that work. It doesn’t gloss over his vices or the distance between him and his daughter, but it presents what I think is a balanced picture of the man and the legend. If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ll love this graphic biography. If you’re just a comics reader like me, you’ll find it an engaging story of a man who was one of a kind.

ISBN 978-1-63140-400-9

Knight Rider Vol. 2: Knight Strikes [$17.99] features a sextet of adventures based on the classic TV series. The line-up of writers is Shannon Eric Denton, Adam Warren, Chuck Dixon, Frank Hanna, Joe  Pruett and B. Clay Moore. The stories are all entertaining and move smoothly from one adventure to the next.

The artists are Brian Denham (two stories), Jason Johnson (three) and JB Bastos (one). The drawing and storytelling are good on all counts.

Fans of the various Knight Rider TV series will enjoy this book. I never watched the show, but I did enjoy this book.

ISBN 978-1-6314-0485-6

Punky Brewster by Joelle Sellner with art by Lesley Vamos [$12.99] is based on another TV show I never saw and I don’t know how close this graphic novel is to that show. What I do know is that this is a charming, funny, heartwarming story of a homeless eight-year-old girl, abandoned by her mother, and the long-lost relative who she thinks should adopt her and her puppy sidekick. Its one little girl against foster homes and adoption lawyers and judges and maybe even the uncertain dad she has chosen for herself. I liked it a lot and would recommend it to comics readers of all ages and, especially, anyone who did see the original TV series and liked it.

That’s a wrap for today, my friends. Hug your loved ones and keep them close. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

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