Wednesday, January 27, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 72

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 72th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #87 [May 1971] is an all-new issue with a cover by writer-penciler Larry Lieber and inker John Tartaglione. If you’ve been reading my Rawhide Kid columns, you know I think Tartaglione was one of Lieber’s best and most compatible inkers. Tartaglione is also the inker of this issue’s story.

“When the Spoilers Strike” (19 pages) is the equivalent of a rare off day for Lieber. It’s a by the numbers tale that doesn’t really take full advantage of a somewhat unusual setting: a possible gold mine being worked by a old man and his pretty granddaughter.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Rawhide is just passing through when he is bushwhacked by Charlie and his never-named-in-the-story granddaughter. They think the Kid is a claim jumper, but give him the benefit of the doubt. He rides away and heads for a town just a couple miles away.

There’s no warrant out for me in this territory! So it’ll be safe for me to rest up here in town a few days before I push on!

Yep, once again, Rawhide is in a place where he’s not wanted by the law. Once again, he doesn’t even think about settling down in the place. The boy just ain’t right.

Charlie and Goldilocks - she’s a blonde - come into town to pick up some supplies. A couple of hooligans taunt Charlie and lay hands on his granddaughter. When Charlie fights back, they knock him around enough to break his arm.

Rawhide intervenes, taking both thugs down in five panels. Because Charlie won’t be able to work his mine for a couple weeks, the Kid offers to help out. Goldilocks likes the idea and accepts. That’s the closest thing to a romantic spark we see in the story.

They strike gold. Charlie goes to town to celebrate with the Kid. The oily Bret Claymoor decides to take the mine for himself. With several gunman in tow, the villain follows Charlie and the Kid back to the mine. Though they are spotted, they open fire on Rawhide and friends, forcing them to take cover in the mine.

Bret grabs some dynamite from Charlie’s and tosses it on the rocks above the mine. The explosion traps Rawhide, Charlie and Goldilocks inside the mine. Charlie is concerned:

We’ll never be able to dig our way free before we run out of air! We’re goners!

Rawhide isn’t about to call it quits. He searches every inch of the mine until he sees:

That water -- it ‘pears to be coming from under the wall! This may be our answer! I’m gonna try to break thru the wall!

Charlie pitches in. They break through to a cavern and follow the air to the entrance. Now it’s time to settle a score.

Charlie wants to ride with Rawhide, but the Kid says:

I do this kind of chore better on my lonesome!

Rawhide rides into the town and it’s time for a gunfight. He takes out two killers - one of them on a roof - by firing at them at the same time. A third killer wings him and gets dead for his trouble. Claymore jumps on his horse and rides.

Claymore realizes his horse isn’t as fast as Rawhide’s. He shoots at the Kid. Rawhide shoots back. It’s the last page of the story, so one bullet is all the Kid needs to kill the villain.

It’s all over! I’ll head back to the mine and tell Charlie that the score is settled! The claim jumpers are finished!

I’ll patch up my shoulder and mosey on...to another place...and another day.


Because God forbid the Rawhide Kid stay in a territory where he’s not a wanted man and where he probably stands a pretty good chance with the hot and soon-to-be-rich blonde. Oy vey!

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


The half-page “Mighty Marvel Checklist” appears following page six of the story. My pick of that long-ago month is Amazing Spider-Man #96, which brought back the Green Goblin and lead to the anti-drug stories that were so pivotal in changing the Comics Code to reflect the more modern sensibilities of the 1970s. Other listed titles included Fantastic Four #110, Thor #187, Avengers #87, Hulk #139, Captain America and the Falcon #137, Daredevil #75, Iron Man #37, Sub-Mariner #37, Amazing Adventures #6, Conan the Barbarian #5, Creatures on the Loose #11, Sgt. Fury #87, Where Monsters Dwell #9, Western Gunfighters #5, Where Creatures Roam #6, Kid Colt Outlaw #153, Fear #4, Two-Gun Kid #98, Ringo Kid #9 and My Love #11.

Last week, I was premature in announcing the demise of Marvelmania. This month, the organization was pitching its Marvelmania Official Stationery Kit consisting of a 40-sheet scratch pad, 10 envelopes and 10 letter size sheets featuring 10 super-heroes. The cost was $1.75 for the package and included a free club catalog.

The issue’s paid ads are for the usual comics dealers and a sample issue of The Comicollector fanzine. New is an offer for Snoopy and Red Baron cloth emblems for only a dollar each. They are said to be colorfully made and durable.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page is back. The lead item announces Savage Tales #1, Marvel’s first R-rated publication. Other items: a documentary on Herb Trimpe, Stan Lee featured in a nationally televised interview on CBS, the launching of a new title starring Robert E. Howard’s King Kull. I remember being pretty excited about all of the above.

The “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” was another one I almost certainly rewrote a bit and used in Marvel’s British weeklies a few years later. It talks about Marvel mentioning real-life issues in its comics...and how whatever they wrote angered about half the readers. Which, as Stan saw things, was how it should be.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page is also back this month. Reader Craig Ashley of Makanda, Illinois wanted to see new material in all the western reprint titles.

Melissa Nasser of Danville, Illinois wanted to see the Rawhide Kid go to Hawaii. I thought that was a great idea, but, sadly, it never  happened. Karen Henry of Henryetta, Oklahoma won a no prize for pointing out that the cover scene of a recent issue showed a somewhat different action scene than was in the story. Ask me that’s setting a pretty low bar for earning that most coveted of non-awards.

The best letter was from Rene Garcia of Tucson, Arizona:

I enjoy all the Westerns you guys put out. But I feel that you’re leaving out the bravest men in Western history. The Negroes of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” I further feel that Blacks played a far greater role in taming the West than the white man.

I am Mexican-American myself, and I’ve done a lot of research on the Negro Cavalry in the West. Someday, I’d like to see a mag about these brave men. Maybe you could call it TOP SOLDIER, or maybe have it feature one man and call it CAPTAIN BUFFALO, after a Negro who was the supreme fighting soldier. Thanks for reading my comments.

                                                                          

The final editorial material of the issue was the full-page “2 More Triumphs from Marvel” ad pitching The Ringo Kid #9 and Two-Gun Kid #98. Both had May 1971 cover dates.

The Ringo Kid #9 had a terrific new cover by Herb Trimpe. Inside, there are three Ringo Kid stories drawn by John Severin, originally published in The Ringo Kid Western #8 [October 1955]. Filling out the issue was “It Happened In Gunsmoke” (4 pages) by Stan Lee with art by Vic Carrabotta. This tale first appeared in The Outlaw Kid #11 [May 1956].
                                                                                 

Two-Gun Kid #98 had another great new cover by Trimpe. Inside, the Two-Gun Kid stories were just a few years old. “Six-Shooter Jury” (9 pages) was written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Ogden Whitney.  Whitney wrote and drew “Revenge Rides the Rails” (8 pages). These tales were from Two-Gun Kid #92 [March 1968]. As someone who’d been reading the title for several years, I recall being a little miffed. over these reprints. But I likely got a kick out of “The Man Who Wouldn't Fight” (5 pages) which came from The Outlaw Kid #5 [May 1955] and which featured art by John Romita.

Look for another Rawhide Kid Wednesday next week and some different bloggy thing stuff before then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 25, 2016

CAVE WOMEN ON MARS

Cave Women on Mars (2008) is one of an entire series of movies by Christopher R. Mihm in which the director/writer emulates the low-budget science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s. I was kind of sort of aware of Mihm, but never actually watched one of these films until a bloggy thing reader sent me this one. Wretch than I am, I cannot find or recall the name of that generous individual. If he contacts me again, I will tell him personally what I tell all of you today. I owe him for 73 minutes of big gooey nostalgia with a heaping side order of chuckles and guffaws.

The movie is set in the far future of...1987! Mars-1 is mankind’s first visit to Mars. The spacecraft is commanded by Captain Jackson (Josh Craig). The other crew member is Lieutenant Elliott (Daniel Sjerven). On landing, they find Mars is so Earth-like they can do without breathing devices. They split up to cover more ground.

Elliot makes an even more astounding discovery. The area of Mars in which they have landed is ruled by two warring matriarchal warrior societies. The dark-headed women treat their captive men as slaves. The blondes treat their men like children. Elliot is unlike any man they have ever seen.

The copy on the front of the DVD case nails the excessive hype of the 1950s. It proclaims the viewer will see...

INTERSTELLAR ADVENTURE!
PRIMITIVE MARTIAN BEAUTIES!
RAMPAGING ALIEN BEASTIES!
OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD ROMANCE!
WONDERS NEVER BEFORE SEEN ON THE SILVER SCREEN!


The reality? Not so much. But if you’re expecting me to rag on this movie, you’re going to be disappointed. I loved it.

Yes, the dialogue made me grit my teeth in pain a few times. Yes, the acting was somewhat less than Oscar-worthy. Yes, the beastie - there was only one - looked like a man wearing a particularly worn rug. Yes, the other “special” effects were comical in their utter lack of impressiveness. I don’t care about any of that.

Mihm is clearly my brother from another mother. If you had told me Cave Women on Mars was an actual low-budget flick from the 1950s, perhaps one that only played in the theaters of backwater villages in which indoor plumbing was a luxury, I would have believed you. If you had told me this was the lowest budget film imaginable, I’d have bought that as well. I don’t care about that.

What I care about is that Cave Women on Mars is a film I could have seen being hosted by Ghoulardi on Cleveland TV when I was not quite a teenager. Mihm watched these kinds of films with his late father and that’s the ambiance he seeks and finds in his own productions. I feel like he’s opened a doorway to a part of my childhood that I never knew existed before this.

Do not mistake the above for my telling you Cave Woman on Mars is so bad it’s good. That’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is that this is a fine little film that brought me pleasure. It wrapped me in its low-budget cinematic arms and made me feel good. If you have seen Cave Women on Mars and have snark to share, save it for someone else.  I love this movie with absolutely no reservations...

...and it will not be the last Mihm film I watch.

For more on Mihm and his movies, visit his official website. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, January 24, 2016

ALTER EGO #137

Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego is my favorite magazine bar none, but I would be less than forthright with my beloved readers if I didn’t report that pages 3-31 of issue #137 [January 2016] were problematic for me. Those pages feature an interview with Jim Shooter and Shooter’s alternate reality view of his career and character.

Long-time readers of this bloggy thing are well aware that I have taken issue with Shooter’s version of comics history. Indeed, for  years, one of my most viewed blog entries was “Jim Shooter's Pants Are on Fire.” It has only recently dropped to tenth place on that list, kicked down a few spots by recent entries on Black Lightning and The Best American Comics.

As I’ve written on several occasions, we are all the heroes of our own stories. I’m not particularly surprised that Shooter attempts to relate past events in a manner designed to cast him in the best possible light. It’s when he outright lies that I take notice and exception to his retelling of history. I find no fault with ace interviewer Richard J. Arndt. He asked the questions, but Shooter is responsible for the answers.

Without mentioning yours truly by name, Shooter characterizes me as “a Christian {who was] writing Christian comics instead of super-hero comics.” This is undoubtedly a reference to his tampering with the ending of my two-year run on Ghost Rider, a story designed to remove the supernatural elements from the title and make it more of a super-hero title. Shooter has been trying to either justify that action of his or blame it on someone else for years. He comes up short both ways. Read my earlier blog for the details.

I wrote super-hero comics, as anyone familiar with my Marvel work in the 1970s can attest. Heck, I added super-villains to the Living Mummy strip and made other super-villains Hydra department heads in Daredevil. Some of those moves might not have been the best ideas, but I think they are proof of my super-hero leanings.

As for whether or not I was a Christian...I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, but hadn’t been a practicing Catholic since before I moved to New York to work for Marvel Comics. I did take a run at a more evangelical Christianity, but I found it as wanting as I did the Roman Catholic faith. In any case, my adding of a Jesus Christ figure to Ghost Rider had nothing to do with my religious beliefs. It had everything to do with believing there should be some sort of supernatural opposition to Satan and all the Satan-like figures in the Marvel Universe and my recognizing people of faith were seldom represented in our comics. Diversity includes a broad spectrum of human beings. Comic books should represent that.

The part of the Shooter interview that gave me the most pause was his cowardly attempt to diminish the late Sol Brodsky, a fine man revered by just about everyone who ever worked with him. Shooter’s characterization of Brodsky’s history with and worth to Marvel is a fiction. That Brodsky’s department was largely beyond Shooter’s reach and a haven for creators who didn’t much care for Shooter or his methods may account for Shooter's dismissal of the man. 
 
Take a shot at me and it’s no big deal. Take a shot at people I love and you’re asking for it.

The saddest thing about Shooter is that his actual history includes some stellar achievements, some real benefits to creators and more than a few humanitarian actions. He has every right to be proud of those. Yet, such is his character that he can’t live with even the slightest blemish to his concept of his history. So he lies and, because he's been caught in so many lies, I find myself questioning everything he relates. Thus, he does himself the greatest disservice.

No one of us is perfect. Stan Lee, who taught Shooter and virtually every other writer of our generation how to do it, used to tell us that no villain is 100% bad and no hero is 100% good. The same is as true for human beings as it is for fictional characters. Maybe someday Shooter will recognize that truth and learn to accept it. He’ll be a better person for it.

There’s lots of other good stuff in Alter Ego #137. The conclusion of Alberto Becattini’s study of legendary comics creator Dan Barry is a balanced examination of the man. Michael T. Gilbert gives us a look at some of his earliest comics work...and he’s a much braver man than I am.

Bill Schelly reports on the fiftieth anniversary panel of survivors of the very first comicon. There are heartfelt remembrances of the late Herb Trimpe that will make you feel the loss of this wonderful comics artist and man all over again. There’s a fascinating article on the British magazines that reprinted Captain Marvel and other Fawcett comics in the 1940s through the 1960s...and an informative and lively letters column.

My problems with the Shooter interview aside, I can’t imagine not recommending any issue of Alter Ego to my readers. I think it’s the very best magazine on comics being published today. If you have an interest in comics history, you should give it a try.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 71

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 71th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #85 [April 1971] was an all-reprint issue, save for the new cover by Herb Trimpe. Despite my love of Trimpe’s art, this cover didn’t and doesn’t work for me. It’s only now, 45 years after I first bought this issue, that I realize why it doesn’t work for me. From a visual standpoint, it’s extremely claustrophobic...and that feeling of unease is increased by the three dialogue balloons crowding the logo and the top part of the action. However, my main problem with the cover has nothing to do with the art.

This issue reprints the first three stories of the Rawhide Kid as recreated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in issue #17 [August 1960] of the title. Since the first of those stories tells how young Johnny Bart - he didn’t assume his real name of Johnny Clay until several years later - became the Rawhide Kid and the third explained how he became an outlaw, the issue reprints the origin of the character. How did that probably sales-boosting information not make it onto the cover? Sheesh!

Inside the issue, the three stories were printed out of sequence. “Beware! The Rawhide Kid!” (seven pages) is followed by the 5-page “When the Rawhide Kid Turned...Outlaw” The second story from issue #17 - “Stagecoach to Shotgun Gap” (six pages) - follows the outlaw story. Go figure.

I discussed these stories in my very first “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”  bloggy thing on February 1, 2012. If you click on that date, you’ll be whisked away to that column.
                                                                              
    
Following the three Rawhide Kid stories in the issue, we get “Where Larrabee Rode!” The four-page story was originally published in The Ringo Kid Western #13 [August, 1956]. It was written and signed by Stan Lee and drawn and signed by Al Williamson. However, as would have been usual for the era, Williamson likely got some help from artist friends. I think I see Angelo Torres in there, but I’m far from a comic art detective. Here’s a summary of the Larrabee tale... 

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


From the hills overlooking a small ranch, two owlhoots are casing the place and planning to rob it. Jeb is nervous about this scheme and explains why:

This is the county where Marshal Lightnin’ Larrabee used to ride.

Ben, his partner and clearly the dominant member of their dastardly duo, is not worried:

How many times I got to tell you that Lightnin’ Larrabee ain’t marshal no more?! He ain’t been marshal fer years! Ain’t nothin’ to stop us from lootin’ that there ranch...

As the looters ride toward the ranch, the older couple who own the ranch spot them. Lucy doesn’t like the hard look of them. Martin, her husband, says she knows better than to judge a man by the way he looks. Sorry, Martin, but Lucy nailed this one.

The two outlaws push their way into the ranch house with their guns drawn. They want cash, which the couple says they don’t have. They talk about their itchy trigger fingers and scoff when Martin says there’s law and order in these parts.

Ben says the only lawman they were afraid of was Lightnin’ Larrabee and the marshal ain’t around any more. Then he repeats his demand for money. Martin reckons there’s a only one thing to do and, oh, heck, you know where this is going.

Martin jumps Ben and sends him to the floor with one punch. Then, grabbing Ben’s gun, he shoots the gun out of Jeb’s hand.

Martin tells Lucy to ride down the road and get the town’s current marshal. Jeb never saw an old man move so fast. Ben berates Jeb for letting an “old jasper” outdraw him. Martin gets the closing speech balloon of the story:

Tweren’t his fault, Ben! I could outdraw a dozen like yuh! You shoulda asked muh name afore yuh barged in! It’s Martin Larrabee. Some folks called me ‘Lightnin’” before I retired.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


The half-page “Mighty Marvel Checklist” appears following page six of the first Rawhide Kid story. My choice for pick of that long-ago month is Conan the Barbarian #4 with the Roy Thomas/Barry Smith adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “The Tower of the Elephant.” Other listed titles included Fantastic Four #109, Amazing Spider-Man #95, Avengers #86, Thor #186, Captain America and the Falcon #136, Hulk #138, Iron Man #36, Sub-Mariner #36, Daredevil #74, Astonishing Tales #5, Sgt. Fury #86, Monsters on the Prowl #10, The X-Men #69,  Marvel’s Greatest Comics #31, Mighty Marvel Western #13, Outlaw Kid #5, Millie the Model #189 and Our Love Story #10.

Marvelmania is now gone for good, so the other half of the page has the covers of the “now on sale” Fear #3 and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #18. Both issues are 52-page reprint issues priced at a quarter apiece.
                                                                             

The cover of Fear is a reprint of the Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko cover of Strange Tales #88 [September 1961], featuring “Zzutak the Thing That Shouldn't Exist!!” The 13-page story was so exciting it had to have two exclamation points in its title.

The stories are written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber. Sometimes, as with the short Ditko-drawn stories, Stan went solo. Other times, he plotted and Larry scripted. The artistic line-up for these stories is impressive: Kirby, Ditko, Paul Reinman, Joe Sinnott and, inking a Kirby-drawn monster tale, Dick Ayers.
                                                                             

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #18 has a new cover drawn by Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe in some combination. It reprints the Fury stories from Strange Tales #142-144. The Grand Comics Database has Kirby plotting most of the stories and doing pencils or layouts for them as well. Lee does all of the dialogue. Howard Purcell finishes the pencils on two stories and Mike Esposito does all the inking on them. This is the last issue of the title, ends on a cliffhanger, and, when S.H.I.E.L.D. reprints resumed a few years later, Marvel inadvertently skipped the conclusion of the serial.

Nothing new with the paid ads this issue. Just the same ad from the Monster Fan Club offering an “absolutely free, giant, life-size MOON MONSTER” poster and the same mail order comics dealers who had been advertising for months. Gone is the ad offering information on how “you can learn to draw comics at home from experts” and “earn big money.”

Also missing this time around: both the “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page and the letters page. However, by virtue of some rearrangement of panels on the last page of “Stagecoach to Shotgun Gap,” Marvel  includes the annual and, at the size it’s printed here, extremely hard to read “Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.” The average paid circulation of Rawhide Kid was 207,498 per issue. Sigh. Those were the days, my friends.

That’s all for this week’s edition of Rawhide Kid Wednesday. I’ll have another Rawhide Wednesday for you next week, but I’ll be back even sooner with other stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 18, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #143

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Groot by Jeff Loveness & Brian Kesinger, John Carter Warlord of Mars by Ron Marz and Americatown by Bradford Winters and Larry J. Cohen.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I AM MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Regular readers of my “Tony’s Tips” column over at Tales of Wonder and this bloggy thing of mine know how much I love the “Ordinary People Change the World” series of children’s books by Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos. Using speech balloons and text, not to mention charming and dynamic drawings, these talented individuals tell inspirational stories of people who did remarkable things in their lives.

I am Martin Luther King, Jr. [Dial Books; $12.99] is the latest in the series and the best. In a presidential election season that has the Republican frontrunner openly espousing racism and drawing not-unfair comparisons to Hitler, in an election season that sees many  Republicans either joining him or refusing to speak out against his un-American positions, we need to be reminded of the very real pain that comes from bigotry and the very real moral and even commercial benefits that come from opposing it. Forgive me for dragging my soapbox into this review of a wonderful book. We are all better when we speak out against injustice together.

The scenes where the young Martin plays with his white best friend and then is told - by the boy - that they can no longer be friends because King is black almost make my heart stop from the sadness of those times. Martin’s courage in opposing racism, his humbleness in minimizing his role in achieving civil rights victories and his nothing-short-of-glorious refusal to stay down when the work to be done demand he rise are as inspirational to this senior citizen as I hope they will be to younger readers.

I love this book. I love this series and I hope it goes on forever. Previous volumes include Jackie Robinson, Abraham Lincoln, Lucille Ball, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and Amelia Earhart. They are all wonderful. They would all make wonderful gifts to the youngsters in your lives. They all belong on the shelves of every library and elementary school in the country.

ISBN 978-0-525-42852-7

P.S. I respectfully request the Eisner Awards judges consider the previous volumes in this series. I think there are sufficient word balloons in them to consider them eligible for comics awards.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 70

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 70th installment in that series.

The Grand Comics Database credits the cover of The Rawhide Kid #85  [March 1971] to Larry Lieber, who wrote and penciled the interior story. But it also opines that Marie Severin made some alterations on the cover and that Bill Everett might have inked it. I can see another artist’s touch on the faces of the bad guy grabbing the Kid from behind and maybe the woman watching the melee. I think Marie is definitely a possibility for those alternations. But I don’t see anything that screams Everett on the inks. Your mileage may vary on this, so I’m posting a larger-than-normal image of the cover here. Just click on it and it’ll get bigger.

“Ride the Savage Land” (20 pages) is inked by John Tartaglione, who was always a good match for Lieber’s pencils and lettered by Jean Izzo. Pages 12 and 13 are half-pages, so the story is really only 19 pages long.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The story opens with Rawhide applying for a job as a shotgun rider on a stagecoach. He is recognized by one of the line’s workers, but owner Dawson doesn’t believe in holding a man’s past against him:

An hombre seekin’ honest work ought not to be denied...no matter who he is ir what he’s done.

The Kid appreciates Dawson’s faith. His first week’s wages aren’t much, but he came by the money honestly and that makes it “mighty attractive” to him.

After some time, Dawson tells Rawhide he’ll be picking up a special passenger on the next run. Tom, Dawson’s son, is coming home from back east after attending the best schools the boss could afford.

...learning things that a widowed old roughneck like me couldn’t teach him...things that his mother would have wanted him to know. And now muh son is comin’ home, educated and cultured.

Father and son haven’t seen one another since the latter was a boy,  but there’s so mistaking the old man’s pride in and love for Tom. The Kid figures Tom is one lucky hombre.

Unfortunately, Tom is an arrogant jerk with a superiority complex. Unhappy with his meal - This mess isn’t fit for human consumption! - he treats the restaurant staff like servants and sweeps the food  off the table. Rawhide intervenes before Tom gets a well-deserved beatdown. Of course, to the imperious Tom, the Kid is nothing more than an underling.

Tom proclaims he can take care of himself, insisting the stagecoach leave immediately. He notes the only other passenger with disdain:  
 
That sleeping lout looks like he hasn’t shaved in a week!

The stage is also carrying a money shipment for the freight office. The driver hopes that no owlhoots know about the shipment, but, of course, they do.

The Fargo gang blocks the road and the sleeping lout, one of them, pulls his gun on Tom. They tell the driver to throw down the money box or the dude buys it.

The driver reaches for a hidden gun. Tom sees him and, in fear for his life, shouts to the driver not to do it. Alerted, the leader of the gang shoots and kills the driver.

With no possible play open to him, Rawhide surrenders his guns. The gang knows who he is and get a big laugh out of knowing people will  assume the Kid was in on this robbery. They take the guns and the horses, leaving the Kid and Tom tied up.

The Kid frees himself by rubbing the ropes against a pointed rock. He then frees Tom, who figures they will head for the nearest town and telegraph his father for help.

The Kid has another plan. He will track the gang before their trail gets cold. He figures he has to get the money back to keep people from thinking he was part of the gang. Tom is not happy with this plan. Why should he risk his neck?

If you don’t know, I can’t tell you!

Tom is the complaining sort, but a close encounter with a rattler helps move him along. He and the Kid reach a relay station and get  horses. They find an outlaw town hidden in the hills. Rawhide tells Tom to lay low. He’s riding in alone.

The Kid feigns wanting to join up with the Fargo Gang. They aren’t buying it. After having Rawhide do some chores, they give him his guns back so he can join them on a bank robbery. The Kid draws on them, only to discover his guns are empty.

Tom sees the gang ride off without Rawhide. Figuring something is wrong, he sneaks down to the outlaw town:

I’m taking a chance coming here! But I don’t care!  My fear has already cost one man his life! I don’t want another death on my conscience!

Tom releases Rawhide from a locked storeroom. He and the Kid switch clothes, which lets them get the drop on one of the gang members. They switch back. This time, the Kid is facing the gang with loaded guns and makes short work of three of them.

Fargo himself is about to shoot Rawhide in the back when Tom jumps the outlaw leader. He slaps Tom upside the head with his gun. His subsequent attempt to shoot the Kid doesn’t go so well for Fargo. The outlaw pays for his murder of the stage driver.

The Dawsons reunite. Tom says he wouldn’t have made it without the Kid. His dad asks Tom how he stood up under the ordeal. Rawhide is quick to respond:

He’s new to the ways of the west! It was a rough experience for him! But, when the chips were finally down, your son was all man! You can be right proud of him, Mister Dawson.

The story ends on the Kid’s signature and more than a little stupid move. He rides off, leaving behind a good job and a life with folks who respect him.

I’m heading away from the sound of gun play and death...maybe I’ll find a more peaceful tomorrow...somewhere over the horizon! Adios!

Endings like this - and there were several of them throughout this title’s run - make me want to slap some sense into the Kid.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


This is another solid and never reprinted in the USA adventure by my man Larry. It wasn’t one of his best, but it showed the Rawhide Kid using his brain as much as his lightning-fast draw. It had an interesting supporting character in Tom. The action flowed smoothly and worked with the story. I enjoyed it.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” follows page six of the story. From what I remember, my pick of that month in 1971 would have been Amazing Adventures #5 with Roy Thomas and Neal Adams coming on to the Inhumans and also featuring a Black Widow story. The runner up would have been Tower of Shadows #10 with a King Kull tale adapted from a Robert E. Howard story by Thomas and artist Berni Wrightson. Other listed titles: Fantastic Four #108, Amazing Spider-Man #94, Avengers #85, Thor #185, Hulk #137, Sub-Mariner #35, Iron Man #35, Daredevil #73, Sgt. Fury #85, Special Marvel Edition #2 and another dozen-and-a-half titles of super-hero reprints, monster and spooky reprints, western reprints, romance reprints, a new issue of Conan the Barbarian, the last new issues of Nick Fury and X-Men...and a "new" issue of Millie the Model with old stories redrawn by Stan Goldberg in the style aping current Archie comic books.
                                                                           

The other half of the page had a Marvelmania advertisement offering six, black-and-white self-portraits of Marvel artists Jack Kirby, John Buscema, John Romita, Gene Colan, Herb Trimpe and Steranko. The self-portraits were a “large” 8.5 by 11 inches. The cost of the set was $1.25 including postage and handling. These were published, but I didn’t see any being offered on eBay.

In a full-page ad, the Monster Fan Club was offering an “absolutely free, giant, life-size MOON MONSTER” poster with one’s membership in the club ($1.25 including postage and handling). There were also classified ads from comics dealers Howard Rogofsky, F.L. Buza, Doug Van Gordon, Passaic Book Center, Brain Laurence, Robert Bell, Grand Book Inc. and Comic Sales. For a quarter, you could receive full information on how “You can learn to draw comics at home from experts” and “earn big money.”

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page consists mostly of the writer of said name-dropping just about every one working for Marvel back then, some notes on where some of them went for vacation and a plug for Steranko’s The History of the Comics. This month’s “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” is a reworked piece on how, though Marvel’s comics are set in the United States, they belong to the world. I likely reprinted this one during my time as editor of The Mighty World of Marvel and other British weeklies.

The letters page features three reader missives. Wayne Manbleau of Concord, Massachusetts has a bug up his butt about every one of the western heroes being a “kid.” Apparently, the final straw was The Outlaw Kid. The unidentified Marvel staffer answering the letters says it’s kind of a tradition, which is less interesting than the truth. Publisher Martin Goodman thought putting “Kid” in the name of a western hero meant better sales.

James Rubina of Hollywood, Florida wants a Rawhide Kid annual, new stories of Kid Colt and Ringo Kid, a Kid Colt annual, the returns of Ghost Rider, Two-Gun Kid and the Black Rider, and new westerns drawn by Steranko, Kirby, Trimpe and Gil Kane. The letter answerer directs him to new Ghost Rider stories in Western Gunfighters.

David Kalis of Clayton, Missouri praises Rawhide Kid #79, quibbles about how Rawhide wears his hat and expresses his enthusiasms for  Werner Roth’s art and the new Gunhawk strip in Western Gunfighters. The answerer directs him to a Western Gunfighters story featuring both the Ghost Rider and Gunhawk.
                                                                                
     
The letters page is followed by a full-page house ad for Kid Colt Outlaw #152 [February 1971]. The issue has a new Herb Trimpe cover  and contains four Kid Colt reprints from 1959 and 1960. The stories were written by Stan Lee, pencilled by Jack Keller and inked by Joe Sinnott (two stories) and Christopher Rule (one) with the remaining tale possibly inked by Doug Wildey. That speculation seems shaky to me, but I don’t have the issue to make my own determination.

That’s all for today’s edition of Rawhide Kid Wednesday. Look for another Rawhide Wednesday next week. I’ll also be back soon with all sorts of other stuff.

Let the bloggy thing be with you!  

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 11, 2016

BLACK LIGHTNING TP

Black Lightning Volume One [DC; $19.99] is available for ordering in the current Previews catalog. Since before the catalog came out, I have been receiving e-mails asking me if I knew about this book and if I’m okay with it. Though I’ve covered all this in previous bloggy things, on Facebook and elsewhere, let see if I can sum up the situation:

I am very much okay with this book.

If I were smarter than we all know I am, I would probably leave it at that.  But I know there will be other questions and I might as well answer them all today.

DC Comics and I are still working out an agreement that encompasses all sorts of stuff. We’re not there yet. I expect we will get there before too much longer. During the “working out,” DC has shown its good faith and I’ve shown mine.

I was consulted on what this book would contain. Originally, it was just going to reprint my stories from the initial Black Lightning run. But my third-proudest creation - I have two children I adore more than I can say - is bigger than just Tony Isabella. So, with my blessing, the book will also contain the two issues written by Denny O’Neil after I left the first series.

I am asked if I will get my fair cut on this book. I will. DC has been terrific about such things in recent months. The more copies of this book sell, the more money I’ll receive, as will Denny and artists Trevor Von Eeden and Mike Nasser. As I told DC, I’ll never stand in the way of artists and other writers get their pieces of the Black Lightning pie.

Indeed, if this first volume sells well enough, it will be followed by Volume Two and Three. Originally, DC and I were discussing just one additional volume reprinting my second Black Lightning series. I thought about all the stories that were published between my two series and suggested we do a “middle volume” collecting those tales and some Batman and the Outsiders material. I don’t love all those tales, but what matters is that they will be available for the fans who want them.

The third volume would collected the entire second Black Lightning series, including the issues not written by me. Obviously, I think my stories are the best of that run, but, this way, the folks who worked on the book after my departure will get a few bucks. Working in comics is hard enough without my ego getting in the way of some writer or artist getting a check.

One more thing. I wrote the introduction to this first volume and, if they are published, will likely write the introductions to the second and third volumes as well.

In short...okay, maybe that ship has already sailed...I don’t see how I could be more okay with this book. If you’re a fan of Black Lightning, if you’re a fan of my work, then order Black Lightning Volume One. Maybe even order multiple copies because they would be great birthday and holiday gifts.

When DC and I have finalized our agreement, there will most likely be some brief joint announcement. Before and beyond that, I won’t have much to say. But I'm optimistic that, very soon, I will be to wear that new Black Lightning shirt I bought.

Feel free to share as much as you want of today’s bloggy thing with your Facebook and Twitter friends. If you have a blog or a website, you can share it there as well. 

Thanks for having my back on this for so many years.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

TONY'S TIPS #142

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The new Jughead by Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson, Bloodshot Reborn by Jeff Lemire and Butch Guice, and Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee with Peter David and Colleen Doran.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

HOW I DO IT


One of the things I do on my Facebook page that gives me great joy is posting birthday greetings and remembrances of comics creators and others who mean something to me. Over the years, many friends have expressed astonishment over, not just my doing this, but how on Earth I am able to do it. Today’s bloggy is where I lay all my secrets bare.

Let’s head back to 1975 when Roy Thomas handed off the writing and editorial duties on The Mighty Marvel Bicentennial Calendar to me. This is probably the strangest Marvel calendar of them all in that it featured gorgeous original drawings of Marvel characters taking part in key events of 1776. Someday I’ll need to write a bloggy on the making of that calendar.

What you need to know for today’s bloggy is that the calendar, like the calendar that preceded it, included the birthdays of a bunch of Marvel creators and staffers. After I left New York City and moved back to Cleveland, I made use of the birthday information because I wanted to stay connected to the many great people at Marvel with whom I had worked. I started sending out birthday cards to anyone I had worked with. If I didn’t have their home address, I sent the cards c/o the Marvel offices.

Early on, I got a note back from Gene Colan. He was so delighted to have received that card. He said it was the first time he had ever received a birthday card from anyone in the comics industry. I was thrilled to have brought some small joy to someone whose work had given me such pleasure over the years. I don’t know what became of Gene’s note - it may turn up in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff one of these years - but I have never forgotten how happy he was to get that card and how happy it made me to send it.

Sending birthday cards wasn’t terribly expensive or time-consuming circa 1976. Cards could be bought for well under a buck. A first-class postage stamp was around fifteen cents. My birthday list had less than fifty names on it. I only stopped sending them because my career and my life got more complicated.

I moved back to New York and then back to Cleveland. I moved from Marvel to DC to no regular work. I made some good decisions and I made more bad decisions. Money was extremely tight, barely covering food and rent and an occasional book or comic book. I had to sell chunks of my comics collection to make ends meet. Sending out the birthday cards didn’t fit into my budget.

Things picked up for me after a year or so. I bought Cosmic Comics, one of Cleveland’s first such stores, with financial help from my father. I resumed writing for comic books and other publications. I was doing alright. I didn’t resume sending birthday cards because I found another means of spreading joy to my fellow comics creators and my long-distance friends. That means was called...the Internet. You may have heard of it.
                                                                        

There was another key component in the creation of my birthday and events list, one predating my initial involvement with the wondrous world of the Internet. Around 1992, the late Don Thompson and the living legend Maggie Thompson began asking comics professionals to fill out information sheets giving their names, address, birthdays, education, influences, past projects, current projects and things like that. These were collected in Comic-Book Superstars, published in 1993 by Krause Publications.

I added the information from Comic-Book Superstars to the database I had started to create for myself. Then, in a stroke of genius, I suggested to the Thompsons that they run a weekly list of birthdays in Comics Buyer’s Guide. They thought it was a good idea. As their listings grew, so did my database. As the years went on, I started adding birthdays and other events from the Grand Comics Database, from Facebook, from Wikipedia and from anywhere else I found them. My database continues to grow.

There’s your answer as to how I am able to post all those birthdays and other events on my Facebook page. I don’t possess a superhuman memory. I just have a list I check every day.

As to why I do it...

The history of comic books in this country is largely a history of hardworking talented creators getting screwed over by publishers, editors and even their fellow creators. Yes, things have gotten and continue to get better for many current creators. But our history is what it is. I want to do what I can to make sure comics creators are not merely remembered but celebrated. While they are living and beyond their lifetimes. That’s why I do what I do.

In recent years, I have added birthdays and events to my database that do not directly involve comics. These additions are personal. They are individuals who have entertained or influenced me in some way. Often, they are individuals who get on my list simply because I enjoy or respect what they do.
                                                                            

I have a fascination with history and historical trivia, so I have been adding “historical notes” to my database. These additions are also personal, sometimes insanely so. Is it important to remember the great London Beer Flood of 1814? I think so. There have been two recent changes in my birthday and events posts. The first is that, using the resources of the Lambiek Comiclopedia, I’ve begun adding comics creators from Italy and other countries. I have a desire to know more about comics creators from the land of my ancestors...and creators from other countries are coming along for the ride when I find their stories or work interesting.

The second is that Facebook changed my access to my previous posts. Previously, I could go back and look at all my posts from a given date. Then I’d copy my birthday/events posts, re-posting them with just a quick tweak or two. This saved me quite a bit of time each and every day. So, naturally, some tech asshat decided that feature had to go. Right now, I’m managing the extra work, but, depending on my future workload, I may not have time to post all the birthday and remembrance and historical items I’ve been posting. We’re not at that point yet, but it could happen.

Looking toward the day when, for whatever reason, I am unable to do all this posting, I am willing to share my 113-page list with a few worthwhile comics historians and websites. There won’t be a charge for this, but I will be selective about who I share this list with.Contact me privately and we’ll talk.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, January 9, 2016

COMING TO YOU FROM THE 1990S

It was an impulse buy. I hadn’t purchased Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus [$125] because I hadn’t enjoyed many of the Marvel comics I had read during the 1990s. Even the solicitation for this giant,  1288-page hardcover refers to the 1990s as “comics' most divisive decade...”

But it was being offered on Amazon Marketplace for under $50 and I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my virtual pocket and I had all the other “Marvel Firsts” collections and...I am so very weak at times like that. I ordered it.

Though I immediately began weight lifting training after ordering the seven point three pound volume, I was still surprised by just how damn big it was when it arrived. It made my concrete-enforced mailbox sag. Oh, wait, not the mailbox. That was me as I carried it into my house and upstairs to my office.

Having thus established how mentally/physically puny your bloggy thing buddy is, I was now faced with the knowledge that I had spent fifty dollars on this volume and should read it. Albeit not all at once. I decided to read a story here and a story there...and then write about them in mini-bloggy things. This allows me to amortize the cost of the book over many bloggy things and write off the cost of the book as a business expense.

“Amortize” - a word I didn’t always know the real meaning of - is defined as: “to liquidate or extinguish (a mortgage, debt, or other obligation), especially by periodic payments to the creditor or to a sinking fund” and “to write off a cost of (an asset) gradually.” You would be surprised what an epic fail the line “Baby, I want to amortize you all night” turns out to be, even spoken in an utterly convincing Barry White voice. But I digress.

Here’s my first “Marvel Firsts: The 1990s” mini-bloggy...

Ghost Rider #1 [May, 1990] was a relaunch of the successful 1980s title with new protagonist Danny Ketch taking the place of Johnny Blaze. The cover was penciled and inked by Javier Saltares, who was also the interior penciler.

Written by Howard Mackie and inked by Mark Texeira, “Life's Blood”  (46 pages) reeks of creative and editorial desperation. Everything rightly or wrongly considered “hot” at the start of the 1990s was shoved into this origin tale. Here’s a quick summary from the Grand Comics Database:

Dan and his sister go to visit Houdini's grave on Halloween Eve and run into a fight between Deathwatch's assassins and Kingpin's men; Barb is shot; Dan is hiding with his wounded sister when he finds a motorcycle with a glowing gas cap and transforms into Ghost Rider; A local gang ends up with the Kingpin's briefcase which Deathwatch was trying to steal.

Dan is a pathetic wuss, so not a lot of love for him from me. I’m fairly sure that later issues explained why he was chosen to be the new Ghost Rider, but, in this story, it seems like just plain dumb luck. I suspect that’s why this was a done-in-one-issue series for me. I need interesting characters in my comics.

Everything else is by the 1990s numbers. Chains on leather costume. Skeevy drug dealers. Ninja assassins. Generic villain Deathwatch, who could’ve been named Bloodwatch or Doomwatch or Spleenwatch or any of the other meaningless-but-tough-sounding names that became part and parcel of the decade. The Kingpin. This was a very long 46 pages to read through.

I was probably in the minority re: not liking the new Ghost Rider. Before long, he was a frequent guest-star in other Marvel titles. He was up there with the equally overused Wolverine and Punisher. However, after a while, according to comics retailers I know, his presence in other titles seemed to hurt sales. Indeed, this title took such a nosedive near the end of its run that it ended midway through what would have been its final story arc.

But, hey, I’m grateful to this Ketch kid. The success of his book led Marvel to launch Ghost Rider spin-off titles, including one in which my 1970s Ghost Rider stories were reprinted. I was paid more for the reprints that I was for writing those stories in the first place. Those checks were very useful at the time.

I’m well aware that every comic book is someone’s favorite. No one should feel disrespected because they liked this Ghost Rider more than I did. For some comics readers, the 1990s were as magical as the 1960s were for me. That’s as it should be.

I’ll be have more from Marvel Firsts: The 1990s over the next few months. I’ll also be back soon with other stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, January 8, 2016

TONY TOUR 2016

Here is my still-in-progress appearance schedule. My plan is to do two appearances each month from February to November. This doesn’t rule out a December appearance, but such an appearance would have to be too darn cool for me to refuse.

How do you get me to your convention or library or school or store? You invite me. You cover my hotel and travel expenses. If you want me at a convention, you also provide me with a booth or table where I can sign stuff I’ve written and sell stuff. Since I’m usually all by myself on conventions, I will need convention volunteers to help me from time to time. In return, I’ll promote my appearance in the various venues available to me. I’ll appear on or even host panels at your event. I’ll even make myself available for pre-convention publicity. I think I represent good value for your money.

Not all the details of these appearances have been finalized, but I am reasonable confident most of them will happen. Pulpfest 2016 is very tentative at this point, falling on the same dates as San Diego’s Comic-Con International and between two other conventions. I don’t expect to be attending Comic-Con this year, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that I could be a surprise guest.

Here’s the schedule so far...

Friday, February 19: Pensacon (Pensacola, Florida)

Saturday, February 20: Pensacon (Pensacola, Florida)

Sunday, February 21: Pensacon (Pensacola, Florida)

Friday, February 26: Wizard World Cleveland

Saturday, February 27: Wizard World Cleveland

Sunday, February 28: Wizard World Cleveland

Friday, March 4: Cleveland State University Comics Club

Saturday, April 2: Gem City Comic Con (Dayton, Ohio)

Sunday, April 3: Gem City Comic Con (Dayton, Ohio)

Saturday, April 16: Fantasticon (Toledo, Ohio)

Sunday, April 17: Fantasticon (Toledo, Ohio)

Saturday, May 7: Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

Saturday, May 21: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Friday, June 17: Indy PopCon 2016 (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Saturday, June 18: Indy PopCon 2016 (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Sunday, June 19: Indy PopCon 2016 (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Friday, July 15: G-Fest (Chicago, Illinois)

Saturday, July 16: G-Fest (Chicago, Illinois)

Sunday, July 17: G-Fest (Chicago, Illinois)

Thursday, July 21: PulpFest (Columbus, Ohio)

Friday, July 22: PulpFest (Columbus, Ohio)
              
Saturday, July 23: PulpFest (Columbus, Ohio)
                
Sunday, July 24: PulpFest (Columbus, Ohio)

Friday, July 29: Monsterfestmania (Akron, Ohio)

Saturday, July 30: Monsterfestmania (Akron, Ohio)

Friday, October 21: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Saturday, October 22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Sunday, October 23: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Saturday, November 5: Akron Comic Con (Akron, Ohio)

Sunday, November 6: Akron Comic Con (Akron, Ohio)

I’ll be updating this schedule near the start of every month. I’ll be promoting each individual appearance as we get within a month of them. Once we hit April, I’ll start adding in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff Garage Sales...which might include a “VAOS Con 2016" with special guests and panels. It’s going to be a crazy busy and very exciting year.

If you want to contact me about any of the above, my email address is: tonyisa AT ohio.net

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2016 Tony Isabella

HEADS UP

There will be several new bloggy things posted this weekend, They will include my final comments on Best American Comics 2016, my 2016 convention schedule and more.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

COMMENTS POLICY

This should go without saying, but...

All comments must be approved by me before they are published.

Personal insults directed toward me?

Probably not going to be approved.

Unless they're hilarious.

Which they weren't.

I'll have some more comments on the comments in the near future and perhaps some thoughts on the absurdity of an opinion column being treated as actual news.

Monday, January 4, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #141

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz, Garfield Volume One and Jack the Ripper by Francois Debois and Jean-Charles Poupard.

SPY

I’m writing this on Monday, January 4, and quite relieved that the holidays are over. I’m not such a grumpy old man that I’ll claim I didn’t enjoy the holidays. I had fun times with family and friends. I was able to give gifts that delighted those I love and received gifts that delighted me. It was the holly jolliest of times, but I needed to get back to work.

Spy is the only movie I’ve watched since my last movie review.  I got it from the library and I couldn’t tell you why I requested it. I’ve never been a fan of Melissa McCarthy, but maybe some preview stuck in my head and whispered “this might be fun” as I was putting in my various library requests.

Here’s the fast summary of the film from the ever-wondrous Internet Movie Database:

A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster.

The movie was written and directed by Paul Feig, which may be why I requested the movie. I’ve seen Feig on several talk shows and he seems like a funny and pleasant guy. In any case, here’s where we activate the usual cautionary note...

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


CIA agent Susan Cooper (McCarthy) watches agent Bradley Fine’s back remotely. The Bond-like agent is played by Jude Law. There are all sorts of nods to the Bond films and they were all amusing. There’s lots of good people in the cast: Miranda Hart as Susan’s friend and co-worker Nancy, Rose Byrne as bad girl Rayna Boyanov, Allison Janney as Susan’s boss, Morena Baccarin as a gorgeous CIA agent, Jason Statham as rogue agent Rick Ford, Peter Serafinowicz as CIA agent Aldo, 50 Cent as 50 Cent and Bobby Cannavale as a really bad guy. It’s especially fun to see Statham as comedy relief, but it’s McCarthy and Byrne who command the movie.

Susan’s in love with Fine, who isn’t near clever enough to figure that out. When Fine is killed by Rayna, who inherited a suitcase nuke from her late father, the Agency learns their top agents have been compromised. Susan volunteers to go undercover to locate and track the bomb. It turns out Cooper was top of her class, but has been relegated to “the basement” by the men who used to run things at the CIA. Susan’s boss has concerns, but still gives Cooper the mission. Agent Ford quits in protest.

After that, things quickly spiral out of control. Yet Cooper keeps her eyes on the prize and does pretty well. She gets a little help along the way, but, really, it’s the women who keep the plot moving and who achieve the greatest success. With lots of not-very-subtle digs at the male of the species. Annoying as that could get once in a while, it was worth to see the blossoming Susan kick ass and take names. McCarthy was a joy to watch in this role.

Byrne rocks as the bad girl. She’s petty and murderous. She looks like something out of a 1960s mod fashion catalog. It was hard for me to boo this particular villain because her back-and-forth with McCarthy was comedy gold. In fact, and Sainted Wife Barb does not disagree with this, if there was any sexual tension between any of the characters, it was between Susan and Rayna.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


Maybe it was the spirit of the holidays, but I enjoyed this movie. I’m still not a Melissa McCarthy fan, but she was terrific in this movie. She’s no longer an automatic deal-breaker for me.

My recommendation...watch this movie with someone you love and who doesn’t mind you predicting plot twists. It’s the curse of being or being married to a writer.

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

While taking breaks for parties and the work I managed to do during the past week, I did watch a few TV shows. My son Eddie and I saw the TV’s Funniest Animated Stars special, which was heavily slanted towards Fox shows. We also watched a “Bar Rescue: Back to the Bar” special, but that show is wearing a little thin with me.  More than ever, it feels completely staged. I caught up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Criminal Minds and Elementary. I watched multiple episodes of CSI Cyber, Limitless and Scorpion, but I’m not quite current on those last three.

My TV pick of the week was Sunday night’s episode of The Simpsons. “The Girl Code” did a top-notch job of tying the “A” plot and the “B” plot together. Marge posts a photo that gets Homer fired. Homer goes back to work at the only job he ever loved: the dishwasher in a Greek diner. Lisa comes up with an app that would prevent people from posting stuff unwisely by showing them the future consequences of their posting. It’s the best Simpsons of the season.

That’s all for the moment, my friends, but I’ll be back soon with lots more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, January 2, 2016

CARTOONISTS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD

For my birthday, I got Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World by Monte Beauchamp [Simon & Schuster; $24.99] from my friends Terry and Nora Fairbanks. I had previously read and reviewed this book via my local library system. This copy is signed by Gary and Laura Dumm who drew and colored the chapter on Hugh Hefner.

Here’s my review of the book from October, 2014:

If you’re a comics history enthusiast or a comics fan just starting to explore that tapestry of creativity, Monte Beauchamp’s Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World is a must-have volume. The hardcover book features sixteen graphic biographies of the giants of the comics art form: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Chas Addams, Winsor McCay, Herge, Charles M. Schulz, to name but six of the entries.

These compact biographies are a great starting point to anyone who wants to know more about these creators. They fanned my interest in Addams, early graphic novelist Lynd Kendall Ward and Edward Gorey. I’ve already requested works by these men from my local library and will likely buy others.

The range of subjects is impressive, including Walt Disney, Robert Crumb, Al Hirschfeld, Osamu Tezuka and Dr. Seuss. The artists and writers telling the stories of these creators is also impressive: Peter Kuper, Drew Friedman, Arnold Roth, Dennis Kitchen and others. I was particularly knocked out by Beauchamp and Gary Dumm’s look at Hugh Hefner’s cartooning career and lifelong interest. That piece also boasts striking colors by Laura Dumm.

ISBN 976-1-4516-4919-2


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

I’ll be posting more than one bloggy thing every day for the next couple weeks. The idea is to post a bloggy thing for every day that I missed in December. Once I “catch up,” I’ll drop back to just one per day.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, January 1, 2016

WHERE TONY WILL BE IN FEBURARY

My convention and appearance schedule for 2016 is filling up fast. I hope to get it largely squared away by the end of the month as I am living in fear of double-booking myself.

Here’s my February schedule:

I’ll be at the Pensacola Comics Con on Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 21. The convention will be held at the Pensacola Bay Center, 201 E Gregory St, Pensacola, FL 32502.

The Center sounds like a great venue:

The Pensacola Bay Center is a 10,000-seat arena with over 20,000 square feet of exhibition space and 12 versatile meeting rooms with 13,000 square feet of meeting space. The Pensacola Bay Center continues to be one of the busiest facilities in Florida. Recently, the venue was ranked #1 in Florida and #16 in the world for ticket sales for locations with seating capacities between 5,001 – 10,000. At the Bay Center, badge holders can visit the vendor floor, meet our guests for autographs and photos, and attend panels and workshops.

The show hours are:

Friday, February 19, 2016: 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Saturday, February 20, 2016: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday, February 21, 2016: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

The show has a wonderful guest list which includes some old pals I haven’t see in years, some online friends I’ve never met, and some favorite actors and actresses I would love to meet. You can check out the entire guest list at the event’s website.

What will I be doing at Pensacon? I’ll be signing stuff that I’ve written, answering your questions about this and that, talking to people who might want to work with me and vice versa. Because the convention is covering my expenses, I will not be charging for my signature. I figure that’s fair.

I expect I’ll be appearing on some panels over the weekend, but I don’t have that schedule at this time. I’ll update you as I receive more information.

Since I’ll be flying to the convention, I won’t be bringing stuff to sell at my table. But I may have some fliers for upcoming Tony Isabella books and such.

I’m really looking forward to attending Pensacon. It sounds like a terrific event. I want to thank Mike Ensley for inviting me.

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My other February appearance will be at the Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland 2016, Friday through Sunday, February 26-28. The event is the second Wizard World event at the Cleveland Convention Center, 300 Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113.

Show hours are:

Friday, February 26: 3pm-8pm
Saturday, February 27: 10am-7pm
Sunday, February 28: 10am-4pm

The first Wizard World Cleveland (last year) was a spectacular event. The show dominated the local media and the great attendance caught everyone by surprise. I expect this year’s show will draw even more fans to the Convention Center.

Pretty much everything I said about Pensacon applies to this event as well. The main difference is that, instead of flying. I’ll just be making the short drive from Medina to Cleveland every day...and heading home at night.

Once I know what my panel schedule is, I’ll post the times I’ll be at my artist alley table signing stuff. Because, Cleveland is where I was born, my signature will be free at this event as well.

For information on guests and other things Wizard World Cleveland, go to the convention website.

I’m working on the rest of my 2016 appearance schedule and hope to be able to give you more dates soon. I look forward to seeing old friends and new at these February conventions.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

STILL NOT THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS

I knew I was going to have to write this bloggy thing. I knew there would be some blowback from what I wrote about the so-called “Best American Comics” a few days ago. I knew because I’ve been blogging a long time, well before we started calling it blogging.

Welcome to the rodeo. Welcome to where I live.

Over at The Beat, a wonderful comics website, Heidi MacDonald, who I love, wrote this about what I wrote...

Here’s is a great throwback post as Tony Isabella goes on a tirade about how awful the comics in Best American Comics are because they don’t include Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, etc. I do love Tony, but this attitude is right out of the 80s play book.


She quotes me:

“In the past when I’ve raised these issues, apologists for The Best American Comics have claimed they were unable to obtain rights to use mainstream material. It’s a lie revealed by the book’s “Notable Comics” listings, which include nary a mainstream story. No Usagi Yojimbo. No Lumberjanes. No Chew. No Ms. Marvel. No Daredevil. No Saga. No The Fade Out. No Fables. No Resident Alien. No any of the dozens of other mainstream comics that are better written and better drawn and more meaningful that 95% of what Kartalopoulos and Letham did include. Fuck them.”

Heidi’s comment makes me sad because it represents precisely what I find so “awful” about the annual collection. She is dismissive of my views and the non-included comics I listed. She mentions only the three leading mainstream publishers  and, in doing so, she has selectively edited what I wrote. She finishes by relegating me to the 1980s.

Here’s my entire quote about the non-included publishers:

“Series editor Bill Kartalopoulos makes his contempt and disdain for mainstream comics clear from his foreword. Letham reinforces that contempt and disdain in his introductions. Neither has any use for any of the well-told, beautifully-drawn comics stories from Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel, Oni or any of a dozen publishers, large and small, I could name.”

That “large and small” is an important part of my arguments against this anthology representing the best American comics.

As for my attitude being mired in the 1980s, that is demonstrably false. Let me ask you a question.

How many of the comics I mentioned in that paragraph could or would have been published in the 1980s? Usagi Yojimbo first saw print in 1984, so that one’s an affirmative. Daredevil by Frank Miller was cutting edge in the 1980s, so that’s another one.

The others? I think not, though I’m sure some will disagree with me on that score.

Here’s another paragraph Heidi neglected to comment on:

“We need an annual anthology that recognizes great comics by great creators ranging from Derf Backderf and Carol Tyler to Stan Sakai and G. Willow Wilson. And I think we all know I could list over a hundred such worthy creators.”

Is there anything in The Best American Comics 2015 that compares to Trashed or Soldier’s Heart? Neither of those great graphic novels were published by Marvel, DC or Dark Horse.

Take a look at my weekly “Tony’s Tips” columns for Tales of Wonder. Besides Soldier’s Heart and Trashed, I wrote very favorable reviews of

Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love with a Famous Cartoonist
Minimum Wage: Focus on the Strange
Louise Brooks: Detective
Killing and Dying
Religion: A Discovery in Comics
The New Deal
 
That’s just from November and December of this year. The list of non-Marvel, non-DC and non-Dark Horse titles would be much longer if I had the time to go back and reread all of 2015's “Tony’s Tips” columns and all of the year’s bloggy things.

If you need any further evidence my comics tastes are far more expansive than MacDonald claims, check out the last two chapters of my award-deserving 1000 Comic Books You Must Read. Lots of variety on those pages.

Here’s another question. Compare the artsy-fartsy stuff lauded in Best American Comics 2015 to the artsy-fartsy stuff published back in the 1980s. I’m not seeing any growth there. It’s pretty much the same stuff.

Now compare recent Hawkeye comic books with Hawkeye comics from the 1980s. Or the current Ms. Marvel comics with the Ms. Marvel comic books from the 1980s. Better writing, most interesting characters, more distinctive art, bolder storytelling.

Confession. I went to Marvel for those examples because monolithic Marvel is the boogyman of the elitists.

I’ll put my commitment to diversity in comics on the line against the Best American Comics crowd any day. I enjoy and will continue to enjoy comics of all kinds, from all over the world and focusing on all sorts of subjects. My blogs and my columns support this claim.

The derision of those who disagree with me doesn’t change my firm belief that we need a better representation of great comics than Best American Comics delivers. As I wrote a few days ago:

My pledge. Right here and right now. I will buy such an [inclusive] anthology every year without fail. I will promote it in every venue available to me. I will do whatever I can do to make this concept a reality.

It’s not just time for such an annual anthology.

It’s way past time.


I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

WELCOME TO 2016

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” 
 
- Oprah Winfrey

Seeing that quote from Oprah reminded me of what I wrote here back on January 1, 2014:

My personal mantra is one I shameless appropriated from the title of a fine book by Andrew Vachss on the potential of parenting.  In a sense, I am my own parent and the best advice I can give myself is to treat each new year, each new day, as another blessed chance to get it right.

For me, getting it right means that I do my work with clean heart and hands.  That I show my love for those I love and do whatever I can for them.  That I try to educate, entertain and help my fellow travelers on our life journeys.  That I recognize my limits, both physical and financial, and don’t beat myself up when I just can’t do everything I’d like to do.

For me, a day when I’ve gotten it right is a day when I have done the work I planned for the day and finish it early enough to spend a few hours with my family and friends.  It’s a day when I’ve given someone a laugh or a smile, shared information that helped them in some way, even if it’s only to look at the world in a more sane and humane way.  It’s a day when I’ve been able to do something for a friend or even a stranger.

Getting it right doesn’t mean rolling over to avoid conflict.  When I see idiocy and injustice, I’ll fight it to the best of my meager abilities.  I wear the disparagement and the rage of those who hate me for my views like fucking medals of honor.  I mock them at will for their inability to lay a glove on me, especially when they do their “fighting” under anonymity or pseudonym.  I have no idea what they see when they look in the mirror.  When I look in the mirror, I see a man who has earned every one of his 62 years and who does not flinch from the image he sees.

That angry paragraph not withstanding, I am amazingly happy as we commence 2014.  I have my family and friends.  I have my writing. I have an audience for my writing.  I have a comfortable if modest lifestyle. I’m in pretty good health, both physically and mentally. I get the bear more often than the bear gets me.


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Those sentiments still hold true for me on this first day of 2016. There are challenges ahead, but there are always challenges ahead of us. There will be disappointments and successes. I hope that the disappointments are of the minor variety. I hope the successes lead to better and more joyful times for those I love, for the comics community, for my country and the world.

When I look in the mirror today, I see a 64-year-old man. But I am still amazingly happy as we commence 2016.

Happy new year, my friends. Let’s get it right.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2016 Tony Isabella