Wednesday, June 29, 2016

STILL FIGHTING

Okay...my family and I are dealing with some serious stuff right now. We (Barb, Eddie, Kelly and myself) are fine. But one of my in-laws is in a really bad situation...someone is leeching off our WiFi signal and downloading illegal material...and our upstairs AC system is leaking into a downstairs family room. The first situation is the big problem and we don't know how it will be resolved. The second will hopefully be handled by a new router with stronger security, though I'll probably have to call in someone to install it. The third is awaiting someone to look at the situation and confirm what we think is the cause. If we're right, we'll be demanding the company that recently repaired the AC come out and make it right at its expense. 

There are other things going on with me personally. Legal matters that need to be resolved. Work that needs to be completed. What is certainly a temporary cash-flow problem. And so on. I may have to reconsider some of my planned convention and other appearances. Stress is my co-pilot.

I post this not to garner sympathy. I have ample evidence of how much my Facebook friends and readers love me. I just wanted to make sure nobody panics if my online presence ebbs and flows over the next several days.

I'm still here, still fighting the Bear, still pushing my way through Crap Mountain. See you on the other side.

Be well. Be kind. Live large.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

UPDATE

There will be new bloggy things this week. Likely more than one per day. I just can't say exactly when theu will commence. It depends on how long it takes me to finish a couple of things that can't wait. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

GARAGE SALE SATURDAY

TONY ISABELLA’S 2016
VAST ACCUMULATION OF
STUFF GARAGE SALE
840 Damon Drive
Medina, Ohio 44256
Saturday, June 25 (9 am to noon)

Friday, June 24, 2016

GARAGE SALE TODAY

TONY ISABELLA’S 2016
VAST ACCUMULATION OF
STUFF GARAGE SALE
840 Damon Drive
Medina, Ohio 44256
Friday, June 24 (9 am to noon)
Saturday, June 25 (9 am to noon)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

GARAGE SALE UPDATE

TONY ISABELLA’S 2016
VAST ACCUMULATION OF
STUFF GARAGE SALE
840 Damon Drive
Medina, Ohio 44256
Friday, June 24 (9 am to noon)
Saturday, June 25 (9 am to noon)
 
My one and only garage sale of 2016 is taking shape today. The tables have been arranged.

A dozen or so short boxes of quarter comics (5 for $1) have been placed on the table.

There are four $5 mystery boxes, all of which will likely sell in the first hour of the sale.

I have the double-sided Superman posters I helped design for Cleveland's International Superman Exposition in 1988. Less than two dozen of these remain.

I'll have a couple dozen copies of the Black Lightning trade for sale.
 
These is a box of Isabella-written comic books.

There will be magazines at a quarter each.

There will be mass market paperbacks at a quarter each .

There will be hardcovers and trade paperbacks at a buck each.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to put my huge outdoor Superman sign together to draw the attention of garage sale customers.

A smaller "Comic Books Garage Sign" is missing, but I'm hoping it turns up today.

The bad news is that I will not be able to accommodate customers who want to come to the sale on Sunday. It's my son's birthday. 

The maybe not bad news is that I will try to accommodate customers who want to come to the sale on Friday or Saturday afternoon or evening. No promises here, but I will try. You must email me to set up your visit.

The good news is that there will be no charge for my autographs on Isabella-written items you buy from me or Isabella-written items you already own. 

That's the update. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Tony

DELAYS

I will be commencing my Indy Pop Con 2016 report as soon as possible, but I have to deal with some business, family, garage sale and household matters before I can get back to writing. Thanks for your patience. I hope to have something for you this evening.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #162

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000 by Charles M. Schulz with an introduction by President Barack Obama, Divinity II by Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine (Valiant) and Hyperion by Chuck Wendig and Nik Virella (Marvel)!

JULY 1963: ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE #28

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part series on comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Archie’s Madhouse launched with an issue dated September, 1959. The cover logo usually split “Madhouse” into two words, perhaps to make uninformed readers think the comic book had some connection to the wildly-successful MAD magazine. I don’t think the readers were ever fooled into believing that, but I do think the publisher might have hoped they would be. Because after he success of the original MAD comic and then magazine in the 1950s, several comics publishers launched similarly-named titles, including Cracked, Crazy, Zany and others. Label my conjecture in this case as informed speculation.

Originally, the title starred Archie characters in bizarre stories. However, a few years into the series, the comic switched to mostly one-off stories with science fiction, monster and super-heroes with an emphasis on then-current fads. If a character proved popular, such as George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Joe Edwards’ Captain Sprocket  and others, they would continue to appear.

Archie’s Madhouse #28 [September 1963] is cover-to-cover fun with no paid advertisement and only two house ads. The cover features a cube-headed teenager with an open umbrella holding out his hand to check for rain while he’s underwater. The character is similar to Squarehead, who appeared in one-page gag strips in Archie’s Cosmo the Merry Martian. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover was drawn by Bob White. It denoted the indexer’s uncertainty with the usual question mark.

The GCD is uncertain about most credits in this issue. I thought I could identify some writers and artists, but lacked confidence in my identifications. When the original version of this bloggy thing appeared a few years back, I posted several pages in the hope some of my readers could offer more definitive identifications. Comics historian and master detective Martin O’Hearn responded to my call for assistance:

The Sabrina story: Dan DeCarlo and Rudy Lapick.

The cover, contents page, and section intro pages: Samm Schwartz. He did most MADHOUSE covers around this time, although DeCarlo did the Sabrina cover of #27. I think the GCD’s reflexively crediting Bob White places him a few issues past his last work on the title, but I'm open to argument. The art on single pages can be harder to ID than on full stories.

All the rest of the art, and on his art, the lettering is by Joe Edwards.

The writer from cover to cover, apart from those two ads, is George Gladir.


The inside front cover is a contents page that denotes this as the “special weightless issue.” The illustration shows teenagers Les and Ches, along with Hilda the witch and the Pink Martian. Les is wearing shades, Ches is the teenager from the cover and Hilda is, of course, Sabrina’s aunt from when she was drawn as the standard hag, a couple decades before the Sabrina TV series turned her into the delightful Caroline Rhea.

The first page of the comic has Les and Ches introducing “the teen-age section” with girlfriends Bess and Tess.

Sabrina appears in “Tennis Menace” (7 pages) by George Gladir with art by Dan DeCarlo (pencils) and Rudy Lapick (inks).  The GCD had this synopsis: Sabrina is determined to seduce handsome Bruce Van Klood away from her rival Rosalind without the use of magic potions until Rosalind begins beating Sabrina at her own game.
                                                                              
                                                                                
The early Sabrina is my favorite version of the character. She is not evil, just selfish and thoughtless in the manner of many young people then and now. She was originally drawn with a devilish mien about her, a dangerously sexy look. Alas, her appearance was soften over the years, but I’m posting a page of this story so you can see what I’m talking about.

King Neptune stars in the one-page “Something Fishy.” The sea king thinks he needs glasses and goes to an optometrist. The doctor’s eye chart doesn’t have letters on it. It has different kinds of fishes.
                                                                              
                                                               
The Pink Martian is the host of the issue’s Space Section.

In “Brainy Footwork” (2 pages), Professor Von Dummkopf has problems with a candy machine and his new rocket. He solves both problems by kicking the devices.

                                                                               

“The Lanolites” (5 pages) is a funny tale of visiting aliens with mathematical formulas to predict everything. The one equation they can’t solve is love. I’m still trying to work out why the female of their kind is a gorgeous blonde while the males are half her size and bald with pointy ears.

The Pink Martian has a toothache in the one-page “The Teeth Feat.”
                                                                               

“Space News” (2 pages) has headlines and brief copy for the stories in a futuristic newspaper. Uranian robots are on strike and the Parisian hat designer Pierre Hotairre has just unveiled his latest space-helmet designs.

“Power Struggle” (6 pages) stars Captain Sprocket in a super-battle with the villain Dynamo Man.
                                                                                  
                                                           
Hilda introduces the “Monster Section” in a full-page gag. Hilda is making her witch’s brew using test tubes and a Bunsen burner.

The “Monster Section” consists of Hilda gag strips. In “The Broom Boom” (2 pages), a broom shortage is caused by the new witch craze of broom surfing. In “Property Predicament” (1 page), Hilda settles a mad scientist dispute over which of them created a monster. In “Trick Stick” (1 page), she makes a goof while conducting her band. On the inside back cover, “Boo! Boo! (1 page) has Hilda scaring a man out of his shadow.

The last page of the issue is a full-page house ad for Archie Giant Series Magazine #22: Archie’s Jokes. The back cover is a full-page house ad for Archie Giant Series Magazine #23: Betty and Veronica Summer Fun.

Archie’s Madhouse wasn’t a title I bought regularly, but I’d grab an issue whenever there was one at the barber shop. I used to get comics in exchange for sweeping the hair from the floor and into a series of holes in the floor. There were probably trash containers down below, but I always liked to think it was just a massive pile of hair that could come alive at any moment.  I was a weird kid and I grew up to be a weird adult.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the first part of my report on the 2016 Indy Pop Con.

© 2016 Tony Isabella                                                                                                       











Tuesday, June 21, 2016

JULY 1963: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part series on comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics. Today’s addition to the series is running out of sequence on account of I accidentally skipped over it. For the retentive among you - and I am one of you - it should’ve run between Alvin #5 and Aquaman #11.

Amazing Spider-Man #5 [October, 1963] is one of the mere 15 Marvel Comics titles that came out in this pivotal month.  Nine of those issues were super-hero comics, one was a western, one a war comic and the rest “girl’ comics: Modeling with Millie, Patsy Walker, Patsy and Hedy and the 1963 Patsy and Hedy Annual.

This is the month Amazing Spider-Man goes monthly and he goes mano-a-mano with Doctor Doom.  It’s the month when The Avengers and The X-Men have their debut issues. The Fantastic Four meet Rama-Tut and have their first annual. Thor faces Merlin for the first and last time. The Human Torch, Iron Man, and Ant-Man battle, respectively, the Plantman, the Crimson Dynamo and the Porcupine. In a clever bit of continuity that would become problematic a couple decades later, Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos #3 featured a guest appearance by a young Reed Richards, who, as Mister Fantastic, would become the leader of the Fantastic Four.

It was an exciting time to be a Marvel fan, but the only one of the  issues I bought off the stands was the Fantastic Four Annual.  In retrospect, it took me a few months to shift my allegiance from DC to Marvel.  I didn’t buy my first issue of Amazing Spider-Man until #9 [February 1964].  However, once I was well and truly hooked, it didn’t take long for me to buy (via mail order) or trade for these and other back issues.

The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #5 was penciled and inked by Steve Ditko. His style and storytelling skills grabbed me from the start and, for several years, Ditko was my favorite Marvel artist, even over Jack Kirby. Though the issue’s cover logo reads “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the indicia lists the title as “Amazing Spider-Man.” The title is said to be published by Non-Pareil Publishing Corp., one of a number of companies listed in the Marvel indicia of that time. Since I don’t want to get into the “why” and “what the heck” of this “whatever it was,” your homework assignment for the night is to learn all about it on the Internet. Extra credit if you find a website that has both this information and adorable kittens doing adorable things.

The inside front cover is a full-page ad for Mike Marvel’s “secret new Dynaflex method,” which he claimed “can build you a magnificent new he-man muscled body in just ten minutes a day.” I would’ve paid it no mind back in 1963, but, looking at it in 2016, I wondered if “Mike Marvel” was for real and not just a knock-off of the Charles Atlas ads of the era. I wondered if “Mike Marvel” was just the name used in Marvel comic-book advertisements. Maybe there was a “Chuck Charlton” at another comic-book company.

Doing a search, I found Mike Peterson’s World of Physical Culture,  which had this to say:

Mike Marvel’s Dynaflex course was popular from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, and was the first course to teach Isometric Power Flex Contractions—which are featured in John Peterson’s own Isometric Power Revolution.

Often compared to the Charles Atlas course in terms of its advertising style, the Mike Marvel’s Dynaflex course did contain some of the Dynamic Self-Resistance exercises or Power calisthenics that Charles Atlas taught.

Nonetheless, the Dynaflex course provided a great workout with a distinct twist on Isometrics that was later repackaged and promoted by Mike Dayton in his “Chi Mind Control” course.

Mike Marvel was probably not the bodybuilder’s given name, but he was apparently for real and his method wasn’t without benefits. The whole kit cost $1.98 and it included a free copy of the “Secrets of Attracting Girls.”


“Marked for Destruction by Dr. Doom!” (21 pages) was, according to the credits, written by Stan Lee, drawn by Ditko with lettering by Sam Rosen. Because I was not in the room when this tale was created by Lee and Ditko, I will make no assumption as to how the tale was created. Did Stan write an actual plot? Did he and Ditko work out the plot verbally? I don’t know and, quite frankly, neither do you unless you’re Stan or Steve.  Maybe not even then.  For this comic book and the other Marvel comics of the era, I’m going to go with the published credits.

Since this story has been reprinted a dozen or more times, I’m not going to present my usual blow-by-blow recounting. The Grand Comics Database has this synopsis:

Dr. Doom tries to trick Spider-Man into helping him defeat the Fantastic Four. When Spider-Man turns him down, he decides to capture Spider-Man. Flash Thompson dresses up as Spider-Man for a prank and Dr. Doom mistakes him for the real Spider-Man and captures him instead, and Flash has to be saved by the real Spider-Man.

Lee and Ditko always included action, character moments, drama, and humor in their collaborations. Doctor Doom isn’t as imposing as he would become in later years - that he was the ruler of Latveria had yet to be revealed - but he challenges Spider-Man with lethal device after lethal device over the course of the story. The wall-crawler is lucky to escape from their first encounter and, though he fares better in the second, it’s the appearance of the Fantastic Four that causes Doom to retreat from the battle.

Peter Parker is very human in this tale. When he learns high-school bully Flash Thompson was captured by Doom while wearing a Spider-Man costume, he’s sort of happy about it for a beat. Of course, he then realizes he has to rescue Flash. In other human moments, Peter pokes the bear that is Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson and reads quite a bit into a few kind words from Betty Brant, Jonah’s secretary.

Spidey’s supporting cast is kind of sort of realistic in a comic-book way. Jameson claims he’s attacking Spidey because the attacks sell newspapers. Aunt May is a lovable worry wart who treats her nephew Peter like a child. Parker’s fellow high-school students are eager to follow their leader no matter how much of an idiot their leader might be.  Speaking of Flash Thompson...

He’s a bully whose cowardice is exposed when he’s captured by Doom. But, in typical fashion, the tale he tells after he’s been rescued paints himself in a much more heroic light. It’s as I’ve said many times...we’re all the heroes of our own stories.

The Fantastic Four are enough of a presence in the story to make it clear they live in the same world as Spider-Man. However, they are used so sparingly they steal none of Spidey’s thunder.

Then and now, “Marked for Destruction by Dr. Doom!” is a terrific story. Stan’s writing is amazing and so is Ditko’s art. It’s very sad their creative partnership would come to such a bad end a few years later.

Looking through the issue for the first time in decades, it’s clear Marvel books were not as attractive to advertisers as DC’s titles. Even the ads look cheap.

Centre Coin Company would give you a free Lincoln Penny album with any purchase from $1 to $4.50. You could record your own voice at home for $6.98. Lifeland Coin Company would give you a free coin catalog while the Bargain Company would seel you “Instant Live Sea Animals” (brine shrimp) for a dollar.

“Mother Hubbard” was offering 10 king-size latex toys for a buck. These inflatable ranged from a foot to almost three free in height and featured “America’s most beloved characters from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World.” Best Values Company offered a reward of $11,750 for a coin and, for a dollar, they would send you their catalog of coin prices.

Western World Products would sell you “Grog,” a dinosaur who could grow his own plant-tail, for a buck and a quarter. Grit told boys they could make $1 to $5 weekly in their spare time by selling the newspaper. Apparently, girls were excluded.

Next in this issue was a full-page house ad for Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes #3. The blurbs are classic: First, the Fantastic Four! And now, in the same inimitable style, by the same writer and artist...another group of fabulous characters!

And: Battle Action!! Fighting Men!! As only the Marvel Comics Group can present them!

The next page of paid advertising offers stamps and novelties. The page has 35 tiny ads of the type that used to be the pain in Tony’s editorial ass when I was working on Marvel’s black-and-white mags of the 1970s. By then, the largely useless ad agency would sell an one-sixteenth-of-a-page ad and expect editorial to fill the rest of the page with house ads and public service messages.  These people were the same ones who tried to convince Roy Thomas that we should have paid advertising on the full page of every Marvel comic book.

Following the Spider-Man adventure, we get a full-page house ad for  Fantastic Four Annual #1, Strange Tales Annual #2 (teaming Spider-Man with the Human Torch) and X-Men #1. All that is shown of that last title is its logo.

Stan Lee knew the value of making readers feel like they were part of the company. Marvel’s letters page, along with those published in the DC comic books edited by Julius Schwartz, were the building blocks of comics fandom.

The “Spider’s Web” letters column ran two pages and featured eight letters from readers and a “Special Announcement Section” to close out the column. I’ll get to that section in a bit.

Richard Cohen of Brooklyn, New York concludes that “Dr. Octopus is the most original villain I’ve seen in my four years of comics reading.” He then goes on to criticize Marvel for having too many atomic scientist villains, too many words in the captions, villains using formal language and heroes “giving the inexperienced reader the impression that they are inhuman roughnecks.” Just imagine what he would have written if he didn’t like the comics!

Dan Fleming of Ottawa, Kansas, also liked Amazing Spider-Man #3. He would prefer two stories per issue.

Paul Moslander of San Mateo, California loves the comic, hates how Ditko draws feet.

Richard Jankowski of Dunkirk, New York thinks Doctor Octopus is a terrific villain. Sid Wright of Worchester, Massachusetts has high praise for Amazing Spider-Man #1, Fantastic Four #12 and Strange Tales #106.

The next letter is from Steve Perrin of Santa Barbara, California. Perrin was a founding father of comics fandom, a prolific fanzine contributor, the writer of the role-playing game Runequest and is active in gaming and comic books.  In his letter, he expresses his preference for gimmick villains like the Vulture.

Cory Reed of Johnstown, Pennsylvania wants a regular page listing on-sale dates for coming issues. Avid super-hero fan Dave Coleman of Rochester, New York, opines that Spider-Man is the best of all costumed heroes.

In the “Special Announcement Section”:

Spider-Man is guest-starring in both the Fantastic Four and Strange Tales annuals. The first issues of X-Men and Avengers are plugged. There are also plugs for Fantastic Four #19, Tales of Suspense #46 (Iron Man), Tales to Astonish #48 (Ant-Man/Wasp) and Journey into Mystery #96 (Thor).

The last of the four items:

A final word from Stan and Steve:

We want to thank you for making Spider-Man the smash success of the year! We promise to do our best to continue to merit your loyalty and to keep Spider-Man the greatest, most original, most exciting super-hero of all!


An editor’s note at the bottom of the column says Amazing Spider-Man #6 will go on sale approximately August 8.

There are three more interior pages of paid advertising following the letters column. If you give Palmer-Jones Publishing one evening and $1.98 (refundable if you’re not satisfied), you can be taught to hypnotize people.

Commercial Trades Institute has an “Amazing New Home Training Plan in Auto Repairing” and will send you free brochures. Of, for just $1.25, you could buy 100 Toy Soldiers, made of durable plastic on their own bases and that measure up to four-and-a-half inches tall.

The back cover is the familiar Wallace-Brown pitch to make money by selling their Christmas cards. These folks were all over the comics map in 1963. I don’t know if anyone ever made any real money from selling the cards, but they’re now considered vintage collectibles. It doesn’t appear the company is still in business.

Before closing today’s bloggy thing, I want to give a shout-out to Tim Hartin and Brent Frankenhoff for supplying with the non-Marvel pages of Spider-Man #5. I’m pleased to award them the honorary rank of B.B.B. (Boisterous Bloggy Buddies). If you see either of them at a convention, give them a snappy salute.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF GARAGE SALE (June 24-25)

TONY ISABELLA’S 2016
VAST ACCUMULATION OF
STUFF GARAGE SALE
840 Damon Drive
Medina, Ohio 44256
Friday, June 24 (9 am to noon)
Saturday, June 25 (9 am to noon)

It’s been a busy year for me and it’s going to remain busy right to the moment when 2016 becomes 2017. My original intentions for this year’s Vast Accumulation of Stuff Garage Sales were to pull out all the stops and fill the Casa Isabella garage with wondrous goodies at terrific prices. That isn’t happening.

In late April, my son Eddie and I went to the Fortress of Storage for what we assumed would be many trips to those strongholds of my accumulation. We brought back over twenty boxes of comic books and  other items from previous garage sales.

The plan was to put together dozens of five-buck mystery boxes of well over a hundred items each, then bring out all manner of stuff that I had never previously offered at my garage sales. However, as my “writing to do” list grew with new assignments, as I committed to over a dozen appearances at conventions and libraries and such, nothing was getting done re: the garage sales. For the second year in a row, I had to pull the plug.

Still, with a garage filled with boxes, albeit not as many boxes as I had hoped, and with area fans and friends expressing their great disappointment at yet another year of no VAOS garage sales, I made the decision to do one garage sale. This weekend.

My one and only Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale will be on Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25, from nine in the morning to noon each day. If you email me or private message me on Facebook requesting later hours on either of those days or hours on Sunday, June 26, I will do my level best to accommodate you.

Here’s what you will find at this garage sales:

Black Lightning Volume One. This complete collection of my first series of Black Lightning and a pair of stories written by Denny O’Neil is priced at $20. No extra charge to get my signature.

Other Isabella-written items at various prices.

The double-sized Superman poster created for the 1988 International Superman Exposition in Cleveland. I helped design this poster which has art by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Dick Giordano. My supply of this rare poster is limited. Maybe 20-30 left in all. The cost of a poster is also $20.

There will be boxes of comic books and magazines priced at a mere quarter each. There will be mass market paperbacks also priced at a quarter apiece. There will be hardcovers and trade paperbacks at a buck apiece. There will be 3-6 $5 mystery boxes.

I will be on hand throughout the garage sale to answer questions, entertain/inform/regale you with my adventures in and knowledge of the comics industry and sign Isabella-written stuff free of charge. Even Isabella-written stuff you already own.

This garage sale is only going to be advertised in the bloggy thing  and on Facebook and Twitter and Craig’s List. I’m not taking out my usual newspaper ads. This is a low-key sale being done on account of I didn’t want to disappoint my customers completely and because the boxes are already in the garage. I hope to do much better for you in 2017, but more on that at a later date.

I’m looking forward to seeing my dear customers and friends this weekend. Come on by, buy some stuff, have some conversation. We’ll have some fun.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, June 20, 2016

WHAT A WEEKEND!

I'm going to be running behind schedule, so today's bloggy thing won't be written or posted until this evening or so, but...

I had a wonderful weekend at Indy Pop Con 2016 and will be writing about the show later this week in what will probably be a four-day convention report. I can't thank the show, the promoters, the fans, the volunteers and my fellow guests for all the fun!

So there was this basketball game last night and I'll be writing about it this week. It was literally a dream come true for myself and many other Cleveland sports fans.

My one and only garage sale of the year will be this weekend and details will be in the blog I'll be writing and posting later today.

More to come.

Tony

Thursday, June 16, 2016

UPDATE: INDY POP CON 2016

Later today, my son Eddie and I will hit the road for Indianapolis and Indy Pop Con. I wrote about this convention about a week ago, so I’ll direct you that bloggy thing before I start making with the updates. I’ll wait while you check it out.

All caught up? Good.

I’ll be at Booth #824 during the convention...except for when I am wandering around having fun or visiting people or buying old comic books or buying new comics or...you get the picture.

However, you need not worry about being unable to find me. I’ll be at my booth most of the time because a) my stubby little legs will keep from wondering too long and b) I don’t have a lot of money to spend on old comic books and new comic books and other stuff that catches my eye.

I’ll be appearing on two panels during the convention.

On Friday (June 17), I’ll be on the “Making Comics That Get Read” from 4-4:50 pm in Panel Room 116-117. Here’s the description from the Indy Pop Con website:

Learn about the comics industry from established comic professionals, emerging independent creators, and retailers. Join us for a conversation about comic book production & publishing, building a creative team, reaching readers, and leveraging new technologies to bring your story to life. Panelists: Mark Waid, Creator & Owner Aw Yeah Comics Muncie (Marvel, DC Comics); Lee Cherolis, Artist & Creator - Little Guardians; Jackie Crofts, Artist - Nutmeg (Action Lab); Grizz Chapman – Actor & Owner of The Lair (Bronx NYC); Brian Wyrick, Co-Creator & Publisher - Henchmen (Robot Paper).

The sharp-eyed among you will notice the above does not list me as being on the panel. The schedule I was sent by the convention does list me. I probably won’t know if I’m actually on it until I arrive at the panel. If it turns out that I’m not on it, the best advice I can offer young creators is to become Mark Waid’s friend. Because he’s a pretty smart guy.

On Sunday (June 19), I’ll be on the Classic Comics panel from 10-10:50 am in Panel Room 116-117. Here’s the description of the panel from the convention website:

Join veteran creators Joe Rubenstein, Steve Rude, Mike Baron, Tony Isabella, and Scott Shaw as they discuss the history of comics.

I’m looking forward to see how many of us are awake for this early Sunday morning panel. I’m guessing two out of five.

In addition to the panels and the guests and all the other stuff I wrote about before, Indy Pop Con will be holding something called The Geeky Spelling Championship that sounds like it could be huge fun. These spelling bees will be held all weekend long.

Indy Pop Con is also hosting showings of several cult or soon-to-be-cult classic movies and its annual Fan Film Festival. I hope to sneak away from my booth to see some of these.

That’s all for today’s updates. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new friends, answering questions, signing comics, enjoying the cosplay and more. If you haven’t come to Indy Pop Con before, it’s not too late to make plans to attend. You will have a wonderful time. For more on the convention, visit the Indy Pop Con website.

The bloggy thing will be taking a break while I’m at Indy Pop Con, but will return on Monday, June 20, with an announcement of my one Vast Accumulation of Stuff Garage Sale for 2016. It’ll be held on Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25, from 9 am to noon on each of those days. I’ll have more details for you on Monday.

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you again soon.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 80

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 80th installment in that series.
 
The Rawhide Kid #94 [December 1971] saw the title drop back down to 36 pages and go up in price to twenty cents. As the issue contains neither a Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page or a letters page, there’s no explanation for the sudden change in size/price.

The cover by Larry Lieber (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks) shows a black man shooting at the Kid, who doesn’t want to shoot back at him. Though it would be a slow and sometimes painful process, the comic books were featuring more black characters. It was a start. As for the cover art, Giacoia was a great inker for any penciller and Lieber was no exception.
 
“Day of the Outcast” (14 pages) is written and drawn by Lieber with inks by George Roussos, who would continue on the series right to the end of the original stories. Roussos was a excellent fit for Lieber’s pencils. He kept the dynamism of the figures while adding an old west grittiness. On occasion, since I shared an office with George and several others, I got to listen in when he would discuss the pencilled pages with Larry and, on rarer occasion, watched him ink a panel here and a panel there. Inking being a skill beyond me, I marveled at how smooth George made the process appear.

Comic books with social relevance were becoming more frequent in the 1970s. This tale is Lieber’s initial foray into that territory. It marks the first time a black man played a major role in one of the Kid’s adventures, but it did not mark the beginning of greater ongoing diversity in the series. 

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When the Rawhide Kid sees a galloping horse stumble and throw his rider, he rushes to help the unconscious man. He’s surprised to see the man - Rafe Larsen - is black. Larsen comes to and, recognizing the Kid, thinks Rawhide is trying to rob him. They exchange punches until Rawhide backs off and asks Larsen why it’s so hard for him to believe the Kid only wanted to help him:

Because you’re white -- and I’m black! The war ended slavery -- not oppression! You whites still treat us like we’re less than human! I’ve been freed -- but not from hate, bigotry and cruelty!

Larsen talks about being bullied by whites, but adds that won’t be happening again. He has guns and he learned how to use them. From now on, no one will push him around:

From here on our, men will call Rafe Larsen “Mistuh!

The Kid gets it. Learning Larsen is heading to Paradise Flats, just as he is, Rawhide suggests they ride together. Larsen declines. He accepts maybe the Kid was on the level about helping him, but he’s still a white man and Rafe doesn’t trust white man.

A trio of owlhoots take considerable offense to Larsen riding into town wearing guns. They tell him only white men wear irons in this neck of the woods and order Rafe to disarm. Larsen tells them that if they want his guns they will have to take them.

Though it’s three against one, Rafe kills one of the men and wounds the other two. The sheriff arrives and wants Larsen to put up his guns. Rafe says he was called out by the trio and defended himself. A witness backs him up. The sheriff isn’t thrilled:

But when a black man wears guns in a white town, he’s asking for trouble! If I were you, I’d stash those irons away.

Larsen responds:

But you ain’t me, sheriff – not by a long shot!

The two surviving gunman start plotting revenge.

When Larsen go to the town hotel, the desk clerk tells him that he doesn’t rent to black men. Rafe gets the clerk to change his mind by sticking a gun in his face.

The vengeful owlhoots kill and rob the lucky-at-cards Sam Walker. They keep the cash, but plant Walker’s monogrammed watch in Rafe’s room. They then tell the sheriff they saw Larsen gun down the dead gambler. The sheriff finds the watch in Rafe’s room. The framed Larsen jumps out a window to escape.

Apparently having taken the scenic route to town, Rawhide shows up in time to shoot the guns out of Larsen’s hands and turn him over to the sheriff. Rafe is fast. The Kid is faster.

The real killers get a lynch mob going. They knock the sheriff out, but Rawhide sends them packing by shooting the hats off every man in the mob. One of the killers asks the Kid while he’s helping the man he just captured. The Kid says:

Every man, white or black, is entitled to his day in court. It’s just as simple as that.

The sheriff thanks the Kid for his help. He doesn’t know the Kid’s name, but Rawhide says that’s not important. He tells the sheriff he thinks Larsen has been framed. He suspects those two gunman who drew on Rafe and survived. The sheriff needs proof.

Rawhide tracks one of his suspects to a shack outside town. He has the frightened man ready to talk when the other gunman shoots his own partner in the back to keep him from talking.

Rawhide chases and takes down the remaining killer. He gives him a righteous beating and the killer confesses everything. The sheriff tells Larsen he’s free to go.

RAFE: Yeh, free...but only until the next town and the next passle of haters!
KID: It won’t always be like this. Times will change!

RAFE: Sure they will! Long after I’m dead!

As Larsen gets on his horse to leave, the Kid thinks to himself. He sadly admits:

He’s right! Bigotry and hate will end, but not in our lifetime!

Given the Republicans have chosen a stone racist (and worse) to be their presidential candidate, there are times I despair it will not end in my lifetime either.

We close with the sheriff watching Rawhide ride out of town. He’s tearing up a wanted poster. He figures there’s a lot more to a man  that you can write on a sheet of paper.

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I like this story a lot, but I can’t recall if Lieber ever used the Rafe Larsen character again. I hope he did.

This story was reprinted in The Rawhide Kid #146, which was cover-dated July, 1978. Tony DeZuniga drew the cover for the issue.

Marvel went to the 1950s for the pair of four-page reprints filling out this issue. Both tales were originally published in Rawhide Kid #10 [September 1956]. The title hero of that title is not the same Rawhide Kid of this current series, though Marvel’s production department attempted to make the readers think they were the same.

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“Man On the Run” was written by Stan Lee with art by Vic Carrabotta (pencils) and Joe Giella (inks). Stagecoach robbers Hunk Grogan and Clem Mace have stolen a thousand dollars in bonds. This was when a thousand dollars was real money.

Hunk is the alpha male and slaps Clem around and makes the weaker man angry enough to steal the bonds. Nothing goes right for Clem. Hunk wakes up and comes after him. He runs into a posse searching for them. He gets attacked by Apaches. He surrenders to the posse, which didn’t know he was one of the stagecoach robbers until Clem babbled on about the bonds.

Fate’s final trick on the hapless Clem and Hunk? They couldn’t have cashed in the bonds because they are non-negotiable.

Did the young readers of 1956 understand what bonds, non-negotiable or otherwise, were. I wouldn’t have.

The original Rawhide Kid then appears in “Blind Justice,” which was penciled, inked and lettered by Dick Ayers. His clothes have been redrawn to look like the more famous Kid’s garb. His blonde hair is now red. But it’s still not convincing.

In a town with a lawman, an owlhoot tries to steal the Kid’s horse out of sheer cussedness. The Kid has his stallion throw the man, and shoots the man’s guns out of his hands before dragging him to the vacant sheriff’s office. The townspeople laugh at the notion of the man being arrested, but direct the Kid to “old Judge Parker,” who I want to consider an ancestor of the comic-strip judge of the same name. Just because.

Judge Parker confirms what the Kid has been told as he releases the would-be horse thief. There’s no law save for the district marshal who visits twice a year.

The judge is morose. His son, who was back East studying to be a lawyer, is arriving in town today. The judge is ashamed at what his town has become.

Rawhide offers to break the news to the judge’s son. The son dumps his law books in his case and pulls out a pair of guns. He says he will explain the guns to the Kid later.

In a handful of panels, the Kid and the judge’s son stroll through the town taking out criminals. The owlhoots surrender.

The judge’s son quit studying law and was, instead, appointed to be the town’s new lawman. He felt he was better suited to enforce the law. Father and son are now a team. Says the Rawhide Kid who isn’t our Rawhide Kid:

The judge will dispense law and you will back it up. Justice isn’t blind after all.

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I am often amazed and impressed by how much story Stan Lee and his other writers were able to fit into these four-page stories. One of these years, I think I’d like to write an entire issue of four-page genre stories just to see if I can master that skill.

That’s all for this week’s edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with am Indy Pop Con update before I take several days off to travel to and attend the convention. I’d be thrilled to see some of my bloggy thing readers at the event.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

AGAIN

Sunday morning. I woke to the unspeakable. Again. As the day went on, the horror and the tragedy grew. I didn’t know what to say. I knew I had to say something. This is what I posted to Facebook and on Twitter:

We are all gay. We are all Muslim. Don't let hate define our nation or ourselves.
 
I’ve been around the Internet long enough to avoid the comments on the domestic terrorist attack that left 50 innocent people dead at the Pride nightclub in Orlando and more than 50 others wounded and, in too many cases, fighting for their lives. I know how bigoted and vile the comments from the anonymous cowards can be. Empowered by right-wing politicians and pundits, sanctified in their tiny minds by so-called Christian speakers and, overwhelmed by the fear that has been implanted in their souls, holding nothing more dear than the profits of the sacred gun lobby.

What I didn’t expect were some of the comments from a few Facebook friends. People who should have known better.

The first comment to my post started with “We are all people” and, though I have no doubt it was well intentioned, it was every bit as absurd and wrong a response to my words as “All Lives Matter” is to “Black Lives Matter.” It is the response of someone who just does not understand the problem and speaks from a position of authority and security not enjoyed by black lives, gay lives or Muslim lives. Of course, we are all people. Of course, all lives matter. You’ve missed the point.

I didn’t delete that comment. As I said, I felt the poster, though somewhat clueless, was well intentioned.

I did delete a comment from another poster because, quite honestly, it made me so furious I screamed at my screen. It read:

I’m neither gay or Muslim. I don’t mind if others are, as long as they don’t force their views on others.

I have never had a gay person try to force their views on me. I’ve never had a Muslim try to force their views on me. You know who has tried to force their views on me?

Christians who think their religious beliefs should be the law of the land and the politicians who pander to them. They spout hatred toward gays and try to enact laws discriminating against gays. They demonize gays with fantasies of transpersons going to bathrooms to molest children. And, when these so-called Christians don’t succeed in their malevolent schemes, they rend their clothes and wail that they are the ones being discriminated against.

Jesus weeps at their bigotry and dishonesty.

You know who else has tried to force their views on me?

Right-wing Politicians fostering fear to get votes and amass power. None of them sought laws against Christians when a Timothy McVeigh blew up an office building. None of them even wanted the government to investigate the right-wing, generally white supremacist militia movement that fueled McVeigh.

None of them blame all Christians for murderous acts by those who profess to Christianity.

But...Muslims? Fair game for the fear-mongers.

As the day went on, more of my Facebook friends posted. There were those who had experience such terror in their own lives and talked of how this new grief and horror triggered their memories of those fearful incidents.

One deeply religious friend requested prayers for a family who lost a son in the Orlando attack. Compassion without judgment. Which should always be the response of a true person of faith.

Others wondered if the madness would ever end. One poster wrote the battle was lost with Sandy Hook. Because if the killing of innocent children didn’t bring change, nothing would.

Then there was the post from a friend who lives in Canada, a post that made my stomach feel like I had just swallowed a basketball of despair:

This happens in your nation almost every single day.

How do you live with any peace of mind in your country?

After Sandy Hook, how do you have any more tears?
 
Tears I have.

Answers are more elusive because implementing them would require so many of my fellow Americans to make radical changes in their way of looking at these situations. I don’t know how to convince them to do that.

What I do know is that I won’t allow myself to be defined by fear or hate. What I also know is that I will never stop hoping that my country will not be defined by them either.

Tears I have.

But I also have hope.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, June 13, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #161

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Marvel's All-New Inhumans, Dear President Johnson: Kids’ Letters to LBJ and Cold War Coloring: Political Adult Coloring Books of the Kennedy Era!

ANOTHER POOR SON OF A BITCH

Yesterday in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

I did some whining about some insurance woes, but things got better when I switched to writing about The Black Scorpion, a 1957 movie about giant scorpions in Mexico. I wrote about the Mexican military man, his identity known but to God, who died one of the most tragic and senseless deaths I’d ever seen in monster movies. I’ve viewed the movie and his demise around a dozen times and, each time, his fate makes me shake my head and softly remark “that poor son of a bitch.”

Today I will speak of another poor son of a bitch who bites the big one in another horror film. His name was Byron, the movie was Beast from Haunted Cave and it runs 75 minutes at what I’m guessing was a budget of about eleven dollars and seventy-two cents per minute. Here’s how the Internet Movie Database summarizes it:

A group of gold thieves pull of a heist and flee into the snowy wilderness, only to be pursued by a horrible, spider-like monster.

SPOILERS AHEAD
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We start with stock footage of people skiing. Then we meet sturdy ski resort owner Gil [played by Michael Forest], ruthless criminal Alex [Frank Wolff], tough-as-nails-but-not-really Gypsy [Sheila Noonan] and bank robbers Marty [Richard Sinatra] and Byron [Wally Campo]. Alex’s master plan is to blow up a cavern and, while the authorities rush there, rob the unguarded town bank. Having already booked a cross-country trip with Gil, the thieves will hold up at Gil’s remote cabin and wait for a plane they’ve arranged to fly them to Canada to spend their ill-gotten gains.

Things go awry when Marty, whose job is to set the timed explosives  at the cave, takes barmaid Natalie [LinnĂ© Ahlstrand] with him for some making out. Unsuspecting Natalie waits outside the cave while Marty plants the alarm clock...excuse me...bomb. Marty sees some sort of egg fragments, which is about as close as we’re gonna get to the origin of the title creature. He and Natalie lock lips until the Beast [Chris Robinson] attacks. Marty escapes. Natalie doesn’t.

Back at the resort, Gypsy flirts with Gil, Alex gets angry, Byron goofs around and the bartender [Chris Robinson doing double duty] wonders where the heck his barmaid is. Marty is pretty shaken when he returns, but the play...bank heist...must go on.

Alex’s plan goes off with one unexpected hitch. An inspector was in the cave when the alarm clock exploded. The murder doesn’t concern the criminals. But, later, at Gil’s cabin, when she hears about it on the radio, it gets to Gypsy.

The Beast follows Gil and the others on their way to the secluded cabin. Only Marty sees the spider-like creature and alarms everyone when he fires at it. There’s a chilling moment when Marty sees (or imagines he sees), a still-barely-living-Natalie spider-webbed to a tree. It’s honestly frightening when she opens her eyes and you can sense her mind has been shattered.

Gil’s cabin is tended to by a stout Native American woman. She and Byron take a mutual shine to one another. We’re getting closer to our “poor son of a bitch” moment.

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This pause is to allow you to reconsider not reading the spoilers thus far. If you want to get up to speed on the movie, go read them now. I’ll give you a few minutes.

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The cabin fever report. Gypsy drinks and flirts with Gil. She wants out of her life with Alex, which causes Alex to smack her around a bit. When Gil tries to stop him, Byron pulls a gun on him. Things have reached a breaking point.

Marty goes out hunting the Beast. He finds a cave entrance near the cabin. Alex and Byron figure they will have to kill their unstable companion. Gil and his housekeeper are also on their hit list with Gypsy also becoming a more likely addition to said list.

Gil has figured it all out. He plans to sneak away and ski back to town to alert the authorities. He gives Gypsy a chance to go with him and she agrees. Outside the cabin, Gil’s housekeeper distracts Byron from alerting Alex with some amorous advances. Byron gets all amorous right back. He really does care for the woman.

The Beast attacks Byron while the criminal is in passion mode. The housekeeper fights the creature off with fire, but is taken by the creature. Byron is not a good person, but he goes after the monster hoping to save the woman. His good deed does not go unpunished as he is also taken by the Beast.

In the movie’s most chilling moment, Byron wakes up to discover he has been spider-webbed to the cavern wall between the barely-alive Natalie and the housekeeper. He watches the Beast drain the last of Natalie’s blood before the creature turns its appetite to Byron’s new girlfriend. Byron struggles valiantly to try to save the woman, but the Beast kills both of them.

Byron. That poor son of a bitch. He was a bad man, but, attempting to do good, he meets a horrible fate. I confess I have more than a little sympathy for him.

A storm forces Gil and Gypsy to hold up in the cave. Alex and Marty follow them. Gil shoots at the Beast with no effect. The creature goes after the criminals and kills them, but not before Marty gets off a shot with the flare gun he conveniently found at the cabin. The monster dies in flames. The movie ends abruptly.

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Beast from Haunted Cave is a movie that improves the more I think about it. It has a tight story with interesting characters. Though Alex is pretty much one-dimensional, there are levels to the other players. Marty feels responsible for Natalie’s fate. Byron tries to save the housekeeper and pays for his singular act of decency and even nobility.

The movie was directed by Monte Hellman, who was mentored by Roger Corman, directed a number of other movies, including the direct-to-video Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989). He’s currently teaching in the Film Directing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.

Hellman was an amateur director when brothers Roger and Gene Corman hired him. Working on a low budget with a rehashed screenplay, the young man did a remarkable job.

Screenwriter Charles B. Griffith was a Corman regular. He rewrote his earlier Naked Paradise for this movie. According to Wikipedia, "a third version of this story line appeared as the comedy film Creature from the Haunted Sea.”

There’s a story behind the monster as well:

The monster...was designed and portrayed by Robinson, who’d later star in General Hospital. According to Robinson, the design of the beast, which he nicknamed "Humphrass", was based on a wingless hangingfly. In order to create the creature's skeletal form, Robinson added aluminum stripping to a plywood base, then covered the frame with chicken wire before wrapping it in sheets and muslin. He then soaked the frame in vinyl paint in order to waterproof the design, since it had to be used in the snow. The creature's head was fashioned out of quarter-inch aluminum wire, which was then encased in steel wire and wrapped in muslin. The creature's fangs and teeth were also constructed with aluminum wire. Robinson then placed putty and patches of crepe hair onto the design before adding spun glass in order to give it a cobwebby appearance.

We don’t get many clear shots of the Beast, but, when we do, they are fairly striking. Because the movie exposes its minuscule budget at nearly every turn, it’s easy to dismiss it. However, once I set aside my less-than-favorable first impressions, I could appreciate it for what it was. A remarkable film that was much better than it had any realistic right to be. I’d watch it again.

That’s all for our two-day coverage of poor sons of bitches in the monster cinema. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, June 12, 2016

THAT POOR SON OF A BITCH

The title of today’s bloggy thing does not refer to the slobbering creature above, who many of you will recognize as the title beastie of The Black Scorpion, a 1957 Mexican-American horror monster movie made by Warner Bros. It refers to a minor character in that movie. It also refers to a more important character in Beast from Haunted Cave, a 1959 monster/heist film. To a lesser extent, it also refers to me, the guy what writes this bloggy thing on a nigh-daily basis. I hope to tie all of the above together.

Let’s start with me. A few days ago, I wrote of the frustration my family and I were facing on different fronts. That frustration has not dissipated. We continue to deal with it. We will get through it all. We always do.

There’s not much I can or want to say about the various causes of the frustration. But the pigeon of bad tidings dumped another load on us on Friday. That’s when I learned Barb, Kelly and I would be losing our health insurance at the end of the month.

Before the right-wing nitwits start dishing out their usual crap, let me state without hesitation that our losing our insurance has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. The ACA is a wonderful thing for millions of Americans and, if its opponents were not such bigoted morons, they would see this and work to make it even better for everyone. I do not expect the nitwits to understand this. Instead, they will send me emails vowing they will never read anything that I write ever again. They will miss out on my telling them to blow me, which is not to be taken in the literal sense because...well, because...ewww!

Our current dilemma is entirely on Barn’s former employer, which is  tied to the Catholic Church and which doesn’t seem to have clue one as to what Jesus would do. That misbegotten company is closing its doors completely by the end of the year. It already closed all of its medical facilities and laid off all its medical workers. It’ll  be shutting its insurance business on December 31. If the company exists after that, its future efforts will likely involve clubbing baby seals and drowning kittens. What would Jesus do?

Barb started working for a new company the day after her last day with her old employer. We expected we would be able to continue our existing insurance through 2016. This was important because, among other things, it meant we could get more of our expensive, ongoing dental needs taken care of before we lost access to the dentist we have been going to for over 25 years. Not so.

We have asked our soon-to-be-former insurance carrier to continue to carry us through the dental work. I’m not expecting the Church of the Bottom Line will grant our request.

We should be able to sign on with Barb’s current employer by July 1. It won’t be as good as what we had, but it’s decent. But, unless we come up with the money to pay for the dental work out of pocket, we may have to forego or, at the very least, greatly postpone the work for the immediate future. This depresses me.

If you’re still with me - and I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve left this page to read Mark Evanier’s blog, look at sexy men and women or watch kitten videos - this is where today’s bloggy thing starts to lighten up. Because, no matter how depressed and frustrated I am at the moment, I’m much better off than the poor son of a bitch of our title. Let’s go to the movies.

Turner Classic Movies relieved some of my pain. Friday afternoon, it aired four monster movies. I recorded two of them. I have seen The Black Scorpion somewhere between a half-dozen and a dozen times since I first saw it as a kid when Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) ran it on his weekend movie show in Cleveland. I’d also seen Beast from Haunted Cave, but as an adult and only once.

The Black Scorpion is a movie of which I never tire, so recording it was a no-brainer. As for Beast, well, I didn’t remember much of it, so I figured I’d give it another go as well.

The Black Scorpion’s poor son of bitch doesn’t show up until near the end of the movie. It’ll be a while before I get to him. Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

Volcanic activity frees giant scorpions from the earth who wreak havoc in the rural countryside and eventually threaten Mexico City.

SPOILERS AHEAD
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That pretty much covers it. Richard Denning, who was one of those sturdy heroic types and who appeared in several other monster films and lots of other movies, is geologist Hank Scott. He has come to study the volcano with fellow scientist Artur Ramos (Carlos Rivas). They come across scenes of destruction and an seemingly abandoned baby and a dead policeman. They hear strange sounds. They are both smart enough to make tracks out of there.

The next day, they resume their driving around the volcano-scarred region and rescue beautiful ranch owner Teresa Alvarez, played by Mara Corday, after her horse throws her. They drive her back to her ranch and accept her hospitality. They meet the annoying Juanito (Mario Navarro), who crushes on Hank and almost gets Hank and Artur killed a couple of times later in the film.

After dinner, everyone is having a fine time smoking cigarettes on account of they didn’t know about that whole cancer thing in 1957. Then the scorpions come, including the big one who this movie takes its name from.

Destruction. Dead cattle. Dead villagers. A trip to the area around the volcano to find where these ancient creatures are coming from. A trip down into a vast underground cavern where the scientists and stowaway Juanito get attacked by a giant trap spider and worm recovered from the King Kong cutting room floor, but given a second chance at cinema fame here. The scientists get a key photo that will play a major plot role soon. They survive. Juanito survives.

Blow up a mountain. Bury the scorpions. They find their way out and go to Mexico City where they wreck a Lionel train and eat a bunch of passengers. Blood lust seizes the biggest scorpion who kills all the others by stabbing them in that one vulnerable spot on their necks captured in the afore-mention photo.

Hank and Teresa go on a date. They both look exceptionally pretty. Hank wears an almost tuxedo. Teresa is in an evening gown with fur wrap. If this had been the era of free love, I think I would have done them both.

The military lures the Black Scorpion to a sports arena by loading meat onto a truck and driving it there. That’s when the master plan to off that big bug is supposed to go down.

SPOILER PAUSE
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I’m about to reveal the identity and the fate of the poor son of a bitch of our bloggy thing title. I wanted to give you a chance to reconsider not reading the spoilers and get up to speed before I do this next part.

SPOILERS RESUME
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Since bullets and tanks can’t stop the giant scorpion, the military plans to shoot a metallic arrow missile into that vulnerable spot and send 600,000 volts of electricity through the missile. It’s not a bad plan. Not really.

A Mexican marksman is manning the gun. Hank and Artur are next to him because they are the heroes, especially Hank. The arrow misses,  but sticks a bit in the creature’s shoulder. The military turn on the juice. The missile falls from the scorpion.

Okay, because we all know science, we know that much voltage would cause one heck of a spark and fry everything it its path. But this missile doesn’t do that.

The marksman pulls the missile back by its wire and picks it up to put it in the gun for a second shot. Except nobody thought to turn off the electricity. So the marksman, hereafter known as that poor son of a bitch, gets fried. Whoops!

Hank yells for the power to be turned off, reloads the missile and fires it into the scorpion’s weak spot. The big bug dies. Hank and Teresa walk away to have what I am sure was steamy and mutually satisfying sex.

The death of that poor son of a bitch haunted me as a kid. It was such a senseless and unexpected death. In all the decades since I first saw the movie, that’s the scene I recall perfectly whenever I think about this film. That guy. Just doing his job. Facing off against a giant man-eating scorpion. He bites the big one because he and everyone else forget to turn off the juice. It’s one of the most tragic monster movie deaths of them all.

SPOILERS OVER
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The Black Scorpion was directed by Edward Ludwig. He was an actor in silent films and a writer. He directed a bunch of shorts, some John Wayne movies and a bunch of TV shows. He did not have a large budget, which is obvious in the scenes where the scorpions appear as totally black silhouettes. IMDb explain: It was because the money ran out when only the black backing for those composites (to prevent "bleed-through") had been accomplished.

The legendary Willis H. O'Brien was supervisor of special effects, assisted by Pete Peterson. Wah Chang was the uncredited creator of the scorpion puppet shown at the top of today’s bloggy. The shot of the scorpion with drool coming out of its month appears many times throughout the film. Eating peoples can get messy.

Despite my snarky comments, I have a fondness for this movie that overcomes any deficiencies in its production. The story ain’t bad. The actors are good. The monsters are kind of frightening. There’s a thrill to seeing creatures originally designed to appear in King Kong. It’s 88 minutes of fun. You could do a lot worse.

Since I’ve blathered on for something like 1700 words today, we’re going to discuss Beast from Haunted Cave tomorrow. However, on the bright side, I can guarantee I won’t be whining about my insurance problems when we resume.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, June 11, 2016

JULY 1963: ARCHIE’S JOKEBOOK MAGAZINE #73

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part series on comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my own career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Archie's Jokebook Magazine was launched with an unnumbered issue in 1953 and continued until #288 [November 1982] for a total of 277 issues. That’s not a math mistake. The title skipped issues #4-14. I have no idea why.

Archie's Jokebook Magazine #73 [September 1963] is not indexed on the Grand Comics Database.  Fortunately, I own this issue and can write about it. However, since I’m not very confident in my ability to identify its writers and artists, I won’t be able to put names to those talented creators. What I can do is scan some of the pages in the hope someone out there will be able to fill in the gaps re: our knowledge of this issue.

The cover logo splits “jokebook” into two words, but it’s one word in the indicia. The book is mostly composed of gag strips of either one page or half a page. Only four strips or features run more than a page and none of them runs more than two pages. Unless otherwise noted, Archie is the title star of these strips.

“Do You Need Extra Money?” The inside front cover is a full-page ad from the Cheerful Card Company of White Plains, New York. You could make $75 if you sold a hundred boxes of Christmas cards.

“Fashion Passion” (1 page) has Archie and Reggie digging the lovely chicks on the beach while waiting for Betty and Veronica. When the girls apologize for keeping them waiting, the boys reward them with a couple of ice-cream cones.

Gosh, Ronnie! How can you ever figure boys out?

Archie, Berry, Veronica and Jughead visit an ancient Aztec temple in “Mexican Vacation” (2 pages). Here’s that story:
                                                                                    
                                                                               

Jughead stars in “Stage Door Johnny-Come-Lately” (1 page). The boys are shocked to see Jughead wearing a suit and buying flowers. They never knew he was interested in girls. He enters the stage door of a theater advertising “Follies!” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!” Jug is there to give flowers to his Aunt Jenny, the cleaning woman of the theater.

Dilton Doiley stars in “Swell Yell” (1 page). This one is too good not to share with you.
                                                                                     

In “Swing It, Man!” (half-page), Archie and Reggie are playing on Leroy’s swing to the amusement of the girls. What the girls don’t know is that, when they swing high enough, they can ogle the sun-bathing beauty in the next yard.

Veronica stars in “Auto Know Better” (half-page). She was driving and got into an accident. Her father isn’t worried about the car, just that she left the scene of the accident. She says she didn’t, pointing to the fence, hat and sign stuck to the front of the car. She brought the accident with her!

“Billy Wins with Bendix” is a full-page comic strip advertising the Bendix automatic gear.

“Archie Wind-Up Dolls” (2 pages) features a selection of said dolls based on Archie characters. If you wind up the Archie doll, it dates the nearest girl doll. Don’t bother to wind up the Jughead doll because it doesn’t do anything.

Next is a page featuring half-page ads for the Task Force war game and the Convoy of Terror naval war game, which have been discussed in previous July 1963 bloggy things.

Veronica stars in “Fulfilling Future” (1 page). She’s using summer to plan her future, which includes going to the beach to meet new boys she can date in the fall and winter.

“Profiles in Courage” (half-page) has Mr. Lodge showing Archie the portraits of the Lodge military hero ancestors. One painting shows a man peeping out from the border. That ancestor was a spy for the Confederate army.

“Figuratively Speaking” has reporter Archie asking Coach Kleats how the team is shaping up. The coach says they can’t field or hit too well and probably won’t win a game all season. The last panel shows the team is a girls team and both Archie and the coach think these girls are shaping up just fine.

Jughead stars in “A Zest for Rest” (1 page). He loves tiddlywinks because it’s the only sport he can play lying down.

Moose stars in “Placement Service” (1 page). Veronica asks Moose to keep an eye on her young cousin Leroy. When Leroy refuses to stay put, Moose sticks him to the beach by putting a beach umbrella pole down the lad’s swimming trunks.

Betty and Veronica star in “Nile Nillies” (1 page). Betty’s friend Alice has a Cleopatra hairdo inspired by the movie. This is a funny and even sexy page:
                                                                                  

“Archie’s Scrambled Jokes” (1 page) has five animals and five gag lines. Your job is to match the animal to the correct gag.

There’s a full-page house ad for Archie’s Jokes #22, which is part of the Archie Giant Series Magazine run. For a quarter, Archie will send the issue to you hot off the presses.

“Gumming up the Works” (1 page) has Jughead searching for his gum at a bowling alley.

“Slick Hicks” (1 page) has Archie and Jughead not wanting to look like beginners with the surfing crowd. The life preservers around their waists blows their cover.

“Our Inquiring Photographer Asks: What Do You Think of Television Commercials?” (1 page). The photographer isn’t a regular member of the Archie cast of characters. The page has Jughead, Dilton, Moose, Betty and Reggie.

Reggie stars in “Delightful Eyeful” (1 page). Resting under a tree, Reggie isn’t fazed as a two-headed dog, an outer-space alien, a man so tall you only see half of him and Frankenstein’s monster. What gets his attention is a sexy brunette wearing a beret and a tight little black dress.

Pop Tate stars in “It Pays to Advertise” (1 page). When business is slow, Pop goes to woods full of trees carved with lovers hearts and messages...and carves an ad for his store on one of them. Why must he be so cruel to nature?

U.S. Royal Bike Tires and Popsicle share the next page. I bet it’s been decades since I’ve had a Popsicle.

“Archie Club News” is two pages of stories from kid reporters like Daniel Williams of Clarkston, Michigan. He writes about diamonds and wins $5. Ellen Weinberg of Chicago wins $3 for sharing jokes. Membership in the Archie Club costs fifteen cents and gets you an official club button and a snappy press card.

The Wilson Chemical Company of Tyrone, Pennsylvania wants readers to sell White Cloverine brand salve and earn premiums and/or cash. They have a half-page ad with small print. The rest of the ad page offers 100 Toy Soldiers for a buck and a quarter.

Jughead stars in “Man of Action” (1 page). Sitting in a hammock, he explains why he’s too tired to go swimming. It’s because his heart beat 102,000 times today, his blood traveled 169,000 miles, he took breath 22,000 times, he spoke 4,700 words, he moved 748 muscles and used 7,100,000 brain cells. No wonder he’s exhausted.

“Moose Speaks Up” (2 pages) is one, two or three panel gags about how dumb Moose is. I hope he beat up the writer when he saw them.

Betty and Veronica star in “Feminology” (1 page). Dilton is showing the girls “the smartest electronic machine ever constructed!” The machine fills up an entire wall because, you know, it was 1963 and all. Here’s that page:
                                                                                  

Betty and Veronica star in “Repeat Treat” (half-page). When Ronnie tells Betty she shouldn’t repeat gossip, Betty replies:

“Yes, I know! But what else can you do with it?”

Veronica stars in “Operation Rescue” (half-page). She beseeches a lifeguard to save Archie...from Betty!

On the last interior page, Wallace Brown once again seeks to have  boys, girls, men and women sell their Christmas cards.

The inside back cover offers a free lucky piece if the reader joins the Archie Comic Book Club by subscribing to one or more of eight titles: Archie, Pep, Laugh, Jughead, Betty & Veronica, Archie’s Joke Book, Life with Archie and Archie’s Mad House. The cost of a ten-issue subscription is one dollar.

The back cover exclaims “Give Me Just One Evening and I’ll Teach You to Hypnotize Easily!” It’s an ad from Palmer-Jones Publishing. Thankfully, the ad is no longer valid because I have a weird urge to send them $1.98.

That’s it for another JULY 1963 bloggy thing. The next installment in the series will run after I return from Indy Pop Con 2016, but I’ll have something else for you on the morrow. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, June 10, 2016

GOING TO INDY POP CON 2016

Indy Pop Con 2016 is my next convention appearance. It takes place Friday through Sunday, June 17-19, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. This will be my second guest appearance at the event in as many years. You can read about my first time at the show here, here, here and here. I am that long-winded old man you try to avoid at parties.

Pop Con is like a smorgasbord of conventions, celebrating all kinds of pop culture. Comics, cosplay, gaming, anima, movies and TV, art and music, fantasy, science fiction and the Internet in all of its geeky wonder. The show has a large and varied guest list with both an events schedule and a vendors area to match.

Not to take anything away from the other comics guests, but I am so looking forward to seeing Scott Shaw again. My old pal was supposed to be at last year’s convention but had to cancel due to personal reasons. He’ll be here this year and doing his epic “Oddball Comics Panel Live!” presentation on Saturday at 5 pm.

The other comics guests - and I’m mentioning only some guests who have done comic books - include Mark Waid, Steve Rude, Mike Baron, Diana Leto, Sam Ellis, Andy Price, Mark Bernardin, Scoot McMahon, Christina Blanch, Franco, Ronald Wimberly and Joe Rubinstein. This will be a great weekend for comics fans.

There are guests connected to comics in other ways or not connected to comics at all. In keeping with Pop Con’s mission of introducing members of one fandom to others, I’m hoping to meet some of these guests. They include Kevin Smith, Karen Gillan, Tara Strong, Grizz Chapman, Princess Rap Battle (a fun YouTube series), Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Whitney Avalon and so many more. I’m really forward to again seeing award-winning podcaster Kevin Bachelder and the always fun Lloyd Kaufman, producer, director and actor of his own Troma Entertainment.

There are lots of panels and activities scheduled throughout Indy Pop Con. From Thursday night’s “Night of the Comet” party/screening  at the Historic Artcraft Theater to some educational/interactive exhibits to cosplay workshops to gaming to panels and presentations to after hours events. There’s something called a “Geeky Spelling Bee” that was just announced and which sounds like fun. For times and locations, check the Indy Pop Con website.

Though it’s not unusual for me to be drafted to appear on panels, I’m only scheduled for one panel at the moment. It’s the “Classic Comics” panel on Sunday at 10 am. The description:

Join veteran [comics creators] Joe Rubenstein, Steve Rude, Mike Baron, Tony Isabella, and Scott Shaw as they discuss the history of comics. 

What else will I be doing at the convention? I’ll have a table in the exhibitors area. With my son Eddie along to help me out and do the heavy lifting, I’ll be selling and signing copies of the Black Lightning collection that hit the comics shops, online sellers and bookstores in April. I will also be signing other Isabella-written items at no charge. However, on the off chance that there is a line when you bring me a lot of Isabella items you want signed. I’ll do a couple signatures for you and then ask you to step to the back of the line while I sign for those fans with fewer items. I don’t want to delay fans from experiencing all the wonders of the convention. There are some items I won’t sign for various reasons, though fewer than in previous years. I’ve mellowed with age.

While I’m at my table, I’m happy to answer your questions and talk about stuff in general. Because various negotiations are still in progress and because I’m not at liberty to discuss some projects I am working on, I won’t be able to answer all your questions. But I will try to accommodate you.

Photos of or with me, like my signature, are free. That remains my pledge to the fans for 2016. However, this will likely change come 2017. I won’t have set policies for all my 2017 appearances, but I will announce the policies in advance of any event.

If you want to interview me for an article or a podcast, I’ll do my best to accommodate you. That becomes much easier for me when you e-mail me in advance and let me know what you’d like to talk about in those interviews or podcasts.

I’ll also be selling some additional things at my table. I’ll have a box of Isabella-written stuff. I’ll have a box of comics priced at a dollar each. I’ll have the rare double-sided Superman poster which I helped design for Cleveland’s International Superman Expo of 1988. I’m down to my last 20 or 30 of these posters - priced at $20 each - so, if you want one, I wouldn’t put off buying it when you see me at this or any other convention.

When I’m not at my table, I’ll be trying to see as much of the con as I can and visit with as many guests and vendors as I can. I’ll still be more or less “on duty,” so you needn’t be shy about saying “hi” to me. Just please don’t interrupt any conversation I may be having or get between me and the restroom. I’m there for you and the convention, but let’s not get crazy about it.

Indy Pop Con 2015 was an amazing event. I expect Indy Pop Con 2016 to be even better. I hope to see you there.

Come back tomorrow for yet another installment of my epic 136-part “Will I live long enough to see it all?” series on the comic books that came out in the pivotal-for-me month of July, 1963. I love the smell of nostalgia in the morning.

© 2016 Tony Isabella