Monday, April 25, 2016


What Has Gone Before:

Aging comic-book fan and “industry legend” Tony Isabella drove to Dayton, Ohio to be a guest at the Gem City Comic Con on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. The first day of the show was mega-swell. The delights of the day included a joyous reunion with his old friend Mark Waid aka “that really terrific writer who does all those really terrific comic books.” However, little did Tony know that Sunday - the second and final day of Gem City - would see him do battle with Waid. Our con report continues...

Sunday morning started out poorly. I packed early and began taking my suitcase and other items to my Artist Alley table. This simple task was complicated by the Crowne Plaza Dayton having, apparently, decided I’d checked out just after midnight Saturday. I was locked out of my room, had my room key re-computerized, was locked out a second time when it still wouldn’t work and, ultimately, had to get the front desk to open my room for me. I couldn’t wait to check out of that place. I didn’t even want to leave my van in their parking lot, which, thanks to Gem Con, I didn’t have to.

Gem City had some of the best and most friendly volunteers of any convention I’ve done in recent years. If I may be churlish enough to pick my favorite, the delightful Amanda Gilliam was a treasure. Efficient, smart and cute as an incredibly cute button. Within just a few minutes of my asking her if it would be possible to move my van to the loading area, I was pulling my van into the prime spot of the loading area. Right next to the exit gate. Between that and Paul Carbonaro - my handler - assisting me later in the day, I was on the road back to Medina about fifteen minutes after the close of the convention.

Back to Gem City itself...

Sunday is usually the slowest day of a convention, but I signed a dozen or so Isabella-written items in the first hour and continued to sign whenever I was at my table. I even did, at a foolish fan’s request, one of my terrible Godzilla sketches in his heavily-signed copy of the Roy Thomas-written book-in-a-suitcase also known as 75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen. I could barely carry that book from my back porch to my office. I can’t imagine someone lugging it around a convention. But, when a fan wants me to deface his book, I’m there for them.

While I was signing books, I was asked if I would be willing to go up against Mark Waid in Gem City’s annual “Fan Boy Family Feud.” My first inclination was to decline. I had been on trivia teams with Mark and, like all other sensible people, was in awe and terror of his mastery. However, as this contest would not depend entirely on Mark knowing...everything...I agreed to give it a go. More on this in a bit.

At noon, I took a break from my table to attend Paul’s “Name That Writer” panel. During this event, Paul puts a page of a comic book up on the screen, gives a few hints as to the writer’s identity and then ask the contestants to write down their answers. The winner of the competition gets a Silver Age comic book and the runners-up get comic books from the Bronze and Modern age. Though I didn’t play in the game - professional discretion - I had a great deal of fun as a spectator. However...

I take issue with my friend Paul’s identification of Jack Kirby as the writer of Silver Surfer #18 [September 1970]. The page shown in the game was the issue’s final page, a dramatic full-page image in which an angry Surfer declares war on mankind. While I suspect Jack plotted and pencilled the story with minimal input from scripter Stan Lee - my speculation is that the ending was mandated by Stan - both the words shown and the Grand Comics Database entry for this issue correctly identify Stan as the scripter. Sorry, Paul, but I knew I was right on this one.

After a quick bite to eat at my table, I was ready to play the “Fam Boy Family Feud” game. This game is played like the still-running Family Feud game show on TV. Team leaders Mark Waid and myself had to pick teams from the fans in attendance. Our teams would try to guess which were the top five answers to questions as determined by surveys of comics fans. The questions would be along the lines of “Name an alien who came to Earth and became a super-hero” and “Name super-heroes whose powers can be duplicated by the Super-Skrull.” It’s a contest of both knowledge and strategy.

My initial strategy was to mess with Mark’s mind by picking Christy Blanch, his significant other, as my first team member. My second pick, made at Christy’s suggestion, was to select the game’s host for our team. He declined. Stupid rules.

Mark countered by picking Paul Carbonaro for his team. Once we had our teams in place, the game began.

Christy was actually my co-captain for the game. She was very good at the strategy part, the result, no doubt, of watching Mark’s team  lose every year in all the years as Gem City had included the game. Mark wanted this win bad, but I wanted to be Lucy to his Charlie Brown. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Team Tony held its own through the entire game up until the double-points finale. This despite neither Christy nor myself feeling very comfortable not being on Team Cap.

It was the Super-Skrull question that tripped us up. The first four answers would be the easy ones: the members of the Fantastic Four. You may remember the Fantastic Four comic book was once published by Marvel Comics. The fifth answer would be the tricky one. We did the exact opposite of what we should have done. We passed to Team Mark, which meant we had to come up with the fifth answer. Which we couldn’t do. Mark earned his first and well-deserved victory in the Gem City “Fan Boy Family Feud.”

This isn’t over. I’ll be back next year with Team Lightning to take on the reigning champ. Expect a lot of mutual trash-talking between now and next year’s Gem City Comic Con.

The elusive fifth answer to the final question?

Iron Fist.

Which I would have gotten if I could remember any comic books that were published after I got into the business.

I had a blast at Gem City Comic Con and, despite the unworthiness of the convention center and the host hotel, I would recommend it to one and all. If promoter Jesse Noble wants me back in 2017, I’ll definitely be there.


I’ll be making two appearances next month. On Saturday, May 7, aka Free Comic Book Day, I will be at Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Two weeks later, Saturday, May 21, I’m a special guest of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia. I would be pleased to see some of my bloggy thing readers at these events.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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