Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #176

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Batman: Bad Blood (the animated feature), Camp Midnight by Steven T. Seagle and artist Jason Adam Katzenstein from Image Comics and Roy Thomas Presents Captain Science from the UK’s PS Artbooks and reprinting .all seven issues of the title from November 1954 to July 1955!

ALTER EGO #143

Of all the fine books and magazines published by TwoMorrows, Alter Ego is far and away my favorite. Editor Roy Thomas always presents informative, even surprising comics history in every issue of the magazine.

Alter Ego #143 [November, 2016; $8.95] cover features an interview with Don Glut, one of the most underrated comic-book writers of the 1970s. I’m talking “deserving of the Bill Finger Award” underrated. My full review of this issue will come after I’ve actually read it, but I’m excited about it.

Also in the issue, Thomas presents a comprehensive article on ACBA (The Academy of Comic Book Arts). Just skimming through the photos of comics friends and legends from the 1970s got me a little dewy with my memories of the era.

In addition...Michael T. Gilbert writes about his early beginnings as a comics artist while the “Comic Fandom Archive” covers one of the best-known (but not well-known) fan groups of the 1960s-1970s. There’s a memoriam to artist Jesse Santos, a lively letters column and, of course, the Fawcett Collectors of America section.

Alter Ego is always terrific. Check it out.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

TONY WATCHES TELEVISION

Most of what I watch on TV these days comes from comic books: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, Daredevil, Gotham, Guardians of the Galaxy, iZombie, Jessica Jones, Legends of Tomorrow, Lucifer, Preacher, Supergirl, The Flash, Ultimate Spider-Man and whatever the current season of the Avengers cartoon is called. I should also mention the coming Luke Cage. I think the only comic-book TV I’m not watching is The Walking Dead (because I want to get caught up on the comic books first) and the reality show Kevin Smith is on. That’s a lot of television.

In celebration of fans like me who watch too much damn television, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the above shows. If there are major spoilers, I’ll warn you beforehand.

I was intrigued by the season premiere of Agents of SHIELD. As has become usual for this series, the events of the last Marvel movie weigh heavily on the agents. SHIELD has a new director and, though he’s not in this premiere, I don’t like or trust him. The Sokovia Accords limit the super-powered help the agents can call on. Daisy is still hunting the Watchdogs and the various criminals who work for them...and she’s being hunted by the government. The members of the core team from last season are scattered throughout the agency. And then there’s the Ghost Rider.

The Ghost Rider is the Robbie Reyes version of the character. He’s the most intriguing part of the show. He strikes me as more violent and lethally vengeful than his comic-book counterpart, but he’s got my attention.

The reader/viewer in me who wants to see heroes both triumphant and happy hopes the core team gets back together. If that happens, it probably won’t happen until near the end of the season. However, based on this first episode, I’m in for the long ride.

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Ultimate Spider-Man has been playing in the Spider-Verse with Miles Morales becoming something of a sidekick to our Spider-Man. The episodes have been entertaining with Spider-Gwen showing up in the season finale. Though the show is aimed at younger fans, it doesn’t dumb down the alternate universes stuff or the pseudo-science. I get a kick out of it.

Marvel's Avengers Assemble has a similar feel. This season, we’ve seen Ultron, the Inhumans, Ms. Marvel and the Vision with Captain Marvel and the Black Panther due to appear in the finale I haven’t watched yet. It’s an entertaining series.

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The first season of Jessica Jones told a gripping story of a hero with PTSD and a villain who was as terrifying as any I have seen on the big or small screen. The introduction of Luke Cage was played just right. The brief appearance of Claire Temple from Daredevil likewise. That said, I had three problems with the show.

The first was its pacing. It took thirteen episodes to tell a story that wasn’t a thirteen-episode story. To stretch out over so many episodes, it had to...

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...fall back on having smart people do really stupid things. When Jeryn Hogarth freed Kilgrave so that he could force her spouse to drop her divorce demands, my son Eddie gave up on the series. Being older and wiser (or, at least, having read and watched a lot more stories than him), I merely rolled my eyes painfully.

The third problem is more a problem with me than the show itself. I am bone-tired of heroes who fail to make the moral choice to end a threat that can’t otherwise be contained. I don’t see the whole “heroes don’t kill” thing as being absolute because sometimes that is the only moral choice. Nothing short of killing Kilgrave could have ended the clear and present danger he presented to Jessica and  all others. He was a sociopath who reveled in death. He needed to be put down.

I never bought that a Kilgrave confession was the only way to get justice for the imprisoned Hope Shlottman. With Kilgrave dead, any number of witness could have testified to the villain’s power over them. In a world that has seen Avengers and Asgardians, Hope could have gained her freedom in a court of law.

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Those problems aside, I have nothing but love for the performances of Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Rachael Taylor (Patsy Walker), Mike Colton (Luke Cage), David Tennant (Kilgrave) and the rest of the cast. They were magnificent.

There will be a second season of Jessica Jones. I’ll be watching.
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Technically, Better Late Than Never is not a comic-book show. What it was: the four-episode story of Henry Winkler, William Shatner, George Foreman and Terry Bradshaw traveling through Asia. What it was: delightful, funny, informative. I hope the show is released on DVD with lots of extras. I hope the series will return for another travel adventure with these gentlemen.

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Eddie and I have watched the first four episodes of Daredevil Season Two on Netflix. I assume these episodes were the first Punisher story arc and that Frank Castle will be back before the end of the season. Elektra has shown up as well.

I’m loving this season as much and maybe even more than I loved the first season. I’m a little put off by the Punisher’s use of deathly torture, but that’s hardly out of line with how he’s been portrayed in various comics in recent years. Elektra seems a little off to me as well. But, as I said, I’m loving this season. If Eddie and I can manage to be free at the same time, we’ll likely binge-watch the rest of the episodes.

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Gotham kicked off its third season and, with that season opener, I have developed a theory:

Gotham takes place in a world that will never have a Batman. There will be no Dark Knight to keep the monsters at bay. That task will fall to flawed heroes like Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne and others. They will all have to make tough decisions. Gotham may never run out of monsters.

That makes Gotham a pretty gloomy show. What keeps me watching is the great acting and writing. This isn’t my Batman. It is a series that intrigues and entertains me.

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Lucifer kicked off its second season. There’s so much going on in just the first episode that I need to warn you...

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Despite the fact this his mother has escaped from Hell and might be up to enormous no good, Lucifer really has his shit together by the end of the second season premiere. His relationship with Detective Chloe Decker now makes sense for both of them. He and his brother Amenadiel are mending their relationship. Demon Maze is redefining her relationship with Lucifer. Even Dr. Linda Martin, his shrink, is finally getting through to him. I’d like to see Lucifer keep his shit together because this improved state of mind hasn’t lessened his sarcasm or swagger one whit. I like character growth like this. We don’t see if often enough in TV shows or comic books.

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High marks to actors Tom Ellis (Lucifer Morningstar), Lauren German (Chloe Decker), D.B. Woodside (Amenadiel), Lesley-Ann Brandt (Maze) and Rachael Harris (Dr. Linda Martin)...and to the Lucifer writers. Who would have thought that a show about the devil would become a cheerful followup to Gotham?

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My daughter Kelly and I binge-watched the last ten episodes of the second season of The Flash over the past week or so. It was quite the ride to the finale. A few missteps, to be sure, but, overall, very satisfying. As for those few missteps, an appearance by King Shark in all his CGI glory plus the spectacle of a metahuman army gathered by Zoom balances the scales. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for season three.

My goal for the next three to four weeks is to stay current on all of the above series while catching up on Arrow, Daredevil, iZombie and Legends of Tomorrow. I love a challenge.

The bloggy thing will be going on hiatus until Monday, October 3. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 23, 2016

CITIZEN TONY: IDOLATRY IN AMERICA

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick respectfully took a knee during the playing of the national anthem, he did it to protest oppression against minorities in this country. It did not surprise me that the PINOs - Patriots in Name Only - totally lost their shit. Idolatry is strong in our country as we have foolishly deified such things as the national anthem and our flag and ignored what they stand for.

Confession. I’m not really sure what “The Star-Spangled Banner” stands for. It’s a frankly terrible song written by a racist and a slave-owner who may not even have been a first-hand witness to the events he was writing about. I can ruefully ignore the racist and slave-owner tags, if only in part, because, at the time “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a racist or a slave-owner. For the record, I do not condone the swinging of cats, dead or alive. However, the awfulness of our national anthem remains as does the seeming dishonesty of its writer. If he were alive today, he would probably be the official musician of Fox News. But I digress.

Kaepernick meant no disrespect to our veterans. The claim that he did is more absurd perceived victim-hood from the usual right-wing politicians and pundits.

The PINOs lose their shit over our flag as well. If a politician isn’t wearing a flag lapel pin, they can count on their patriotism being questioned. When someone burns a flag in protest, which I see as one of the highest expressions of the freedom our country stands for, the politicians and the pundits and our low-information fellow citizens demand said protestor be arrested and suffer gulag-level “justice” for the act of protest. Because these politicians and the pundits and low-information fellow citizens haven’t the first clue as to what the flag stands for. Nor do they have the desire to see our country live up to those standards.

At times like this, I am reminded of the greatest political speech ever to appear on screen. The speaker is President Andrew Shepherd [Michael Douglas] in The American President:

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

The flag is not important. What is stands for is.

The national anthem...well, it’s not important because it doesn’t seem to stand for much beyond celebrating a battle instead of what our country means to us and to all those millions of people around the world who look to us for hope in these most desperate of times. I’d like to see “The Star-Spangled Banner” discarded and replaced with a better anthem...or maybe even a rotating number of anthems that better express our country’s highest ideals, the ideals which we should constantly strive to achieve instead of retreating into jingoism and fear of those who are not exactly like us.

I admire Kaepernick and all who have joined his protest against the undeniable oppression of black people and other minorities in this country I love. That’s what America stands for.

I’m Citizen Tony and I approve this message. 

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 22, 2016

THURSDAY WITH TONY

Some random thoughts on this sunny Thursday in Medina, Ohio, home office of this bloggy thing of mine...

Marvel Comics invited me to attend the premiere of Netflix’s Luke Cage series in New York on Wednesday, September 28. Misty Knight, a heroine I created with artist Arvell Jones during our run on Iron Fist, is a supporting character on the show. Of course, I accepted Marvel’s invitation on account of...this is so cool!

Unfortunately, all of the stuff going on here in Medina and with my career means I can’t linger in New York. I’ll be arriving there on Wednesday and flying home on Friday. I’m not sure what will be on my schedule for Thursday, but I’m hoping to at least share a meal with some old friends while I’m in town.

Naturally, you can expect full bloggy thing reports on the premiere and whatever other adventures I have in the Big Apple. Maybe even pictures if I upgrade my phone before I leave.

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A year ago today, I posted this on Facebook:

I’m home from my dental surgery, which did not go as well as hoped. There was more bone to remove than anticipated. I won't be getting even temporary dentures for at least three more weeks. Until then, I'll be eating soft foods. Had things gone as planned, I 'd have temporary dentures right now.

I am groggy and uncomfortable, but not in any real pain. That will come. Once the swelling goes down, I should be doing much better. I hope to be at the keyboard again soon. Back to bed.


Today, I am again terribly under the weather without the excuse of dental surgery. If I were to self-diagnose, I would attribute this current excruciating pain in my stomach to a combination of eating something that didn’t sit right with me and the stress of dealing with everything going on in my life. I’ve hinted about the latter, but I want to share a few more details...

The biggest concern here at Casa Isabella is for my mother-in-law Rose. She has Alzheimer’s and dementia. Her much younger than her husband has left her and she is currently living in a care facility that she doesn’t realize is her new home. We’re trying to do what is best for her, but it’s often difficult to determine what “best” is in situations like this. We’re trying to proceed without anger, but there is considerable anger involved.

Barb has power of attorney in these matters. Fortunately, Rose’s house is in her name. Unfortunately, though the bones of the house are very good, it is in need of serious cleaning and repair work. It’s also filled with all kinds of items and papers that need to be gone through. At some point, the house will go to the government to cover the cost of my mother-in-law’s Medicare.

Barb is being helped by family members, our kids, and me. But it’s a tough time for her and that makes it a tough time for me. We’re all working together to find a new and safe normal.

On my career front, I am far more busy than I ever expected to be at this stage of my life. At present, I can’t discuss everything I am doing, but it’s all very exciting and interesting for me. It’s taking effort to put myself on an even keel, but I’m getting there.

With the news about Black Lightning getting a pilot commitment from Fox, all sorts of “friends” and strangers who want to collaborate with me have appeared out of nowhere. This was something I’ve never experienced before, but I have been able to navigate these strange waters with advice received from actual friends who have been where I am now. I thank those real friends for having my back.

The next couple weeks will see me working away on all fronts while also paying more attention to my health. My blood pressure has been going up and, while I’m not in the danger zone, that’s something I need to keep an eye on. Your good wishes are appreciated, but your fretting about me is unnecessary. I have survived much more hectic periods in my life. I’ll survive this stuff as well.

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I’ll leave you today with something I posted on Facebook this very date in 2009:

My smile of the day. Held open a door for a woman wearing a Winnie the Pooh shirt. She wished me a "a sunny honey day."

May all of you have a sunny honey day today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 88

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 88th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #102 [August 1972] has a cover by Larry Lieber that illustrates “Guns of the Comancheros” (14 pages). Lieber wrote and penciled the story with inks and likely colors by George Roussos. Before we get to that story, a little history lesson, courtesy of a quick visit to Wikipedia.

The Comancheros were primarily Mexican traders in northern and central New Mexico Territory who made their living by trading with the nomadic Great Plains Indian tribes, in northeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Comancheros were so named because the Comanches, in whose territory they traded, were considered their best customers. They traded manufactured goods (tools and cloth), flour, tobacco, and bread for hides, livestock and slaves from the Comanche. As the Comancheros did not have sufficient access to weapons and gunpowder, there is disagreement about how much they traded these with the Comanche.

Save for an outlaw who refers to this issue’s damsel in distress as  “seƱorita” one time, the comancheros in Lieber’s story don’t seem to be Mexican or traders. They are a criminal gang who don’t really show up until page eight of the story.

SPOILERS AHEAD
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The Rawhide Kid is resting by his campfire when he sees a girl who has apparently lost control of her horse. He rides after her. But, when he stops what he thought was a runaway stallion, he feels the lash of Cathy Cameron’s ire.

CATHY: My horse was under control...and I was perfectly safe!

KID: You mean you were deliberately riding at breakneck speed?

CATHY: Of course! I always ride fast!
 
KID: Fast? Lady, you were riding that horse into the ground!
CATHY: I was not! And it’s none of your business what I do with my horse!

KID: Wow! You’re a real charmer!

CATHY: And you’re an ill-mannered and offensive oaf, whom I hope I’ll never have the misfortune to run into again!

KID: I’ll miss you, too!

Later, the Kid comes across a railroad construction site and gets a job lying track. It’s tough work, but a lot safer than fighting gunslicks and dodging posses.

Cathy’s dad is the railroad president. Spotting the Kid among the workers, she tells her father he’s rude and impossible. Dad thinks he seems like a nice sort.

You know who’s not a nice sort? The comanchero who’s watching Cathy from a nearby hillside. He’s waiting for the moment when Cathy is not with so many people. This is foreshadowing, your sign of quality comics writing.

At the end of the day, with the workers planning to go to town and have some fun, one slimy fellow name of Frank decides Cathy will be his fun. He puts hands on her, despite her protests. The Kid tells  Frank to back off. Frank punches Rawhide, knocking our young hero to the ground.

Frank wants more. Rawhide obliges him, head-butting the roughneck in the gut. The Kid then throws three punches and knocks Frank to the ground. According to Frank, nobody knocks him off his feet and lives. He draws his gun and fires.

Rawhide ducks under the shot, drawing his gun at lightning speed. He shoots Frank in the bully’s shooting arm. Mr. Cameron, who saw the whole thing, fires Frank on the spot. But the Kid’s identity is now revealed:

Only one man can dodge gunfire and toss back lead that fast! Y-you’re the Rawhide Kid!

Digression. Depending on what marvelous western comic book you were reading, this same claim could have been applied to Kid Colt or the Ringo Kid or the Outlaw Kid or...you get the idea.

Cathy is now interested in the Rawhide Kid. Chicks always dig those bad boys. The Kid spurns her breathless advances. All he wants is peace and quiet. The young woman does not take this well.

Cathy decides to make Rawhide pay for humiliating her publically by framing him for stealing a diamond brooch, She hides the brooch in his bunk, which is the first one searched because the Kid is known to be an outlaw. Rawhide returns to the bunkhouse right after the brooch is found.

Knowing he’s being framed and also that there’s no way to prove his innocence, Rawhide leaps through a window. He jumps and his horse and rides away. Cameron sends his men after him.

Cathy gloats to herself. She’s fixed the Kid good and proper. She is a horrible person.

Who know who else are horrible people? The comancheros who, seeing the crew ride after the Kid, realize Cathy is only guarded by her father. They grab the still-gloating Cathy, knocking her dad to the ground. She sure could use a coincidence right about now.

The Rawhide Kid has shaken his pursuers. Just in time to see Cathy being held hostage by the comancheros. Realizing she’s the one who framed him, the Kid knows he has to rescue her so she can clear his name. But he can’t attack the kidnappers head on or they might kill her. He comes up with a plan.

We get a few panels of Cathy being harassed by the bad guns and a shot of her dad reading the ransom note. The kidnappers want fifty grand for Cathy. My inflation calculator only goes to 1913, but, in  today’s money, that would be probably be over two million dollars. Dad doesn’t hesitate to wire for the money.

The Kid rides into the comanchero camp and is instantly recognized because:

That outfit! Those twin colts! He’s the Rawhide Kid!

We pause to contemplate what the Kid’s life might have been like if he only owned a second pair of clothes.

The Kid joins up with the comancheros. Scullery maid Cathy thinks he will rescue her, but he says he wouldn’t lift a finger to help her. Of course, it’s all a ploy.

That night, Rawhide knocks out Cathy’s guard and frees her. Spotted by the kidnappers, he must shoot it out with them. He outguns the entire gang, but the gang leader grabs Cathy from behind. He tells the Kid to drop his guns or Cathy buys it. The gang leader aims his gun at the disarmed Rawhide. Cathy bites her kidnapper on the wrist, forcing him to drop his gun. The gang leader dies of rabies.

Just kidding. Rawhide leaps at the gang leader. They fight on the edge of a convenient cliff. The gang leader falls to his death and Cathy learns an important lesson:

CATHY: I was spoiled and spiteful! I’ll never deliberately hurt anyone again! I know how it feels to be a victim! I just learned it the hard way.

KID: I reckon sometimes that’s the only way! 

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This was an entertaining story. Like many of Lieber’s Rawhide Kid yarns, it has never been reprinted. This is where I make my nigh-weekly plea for Marvel to publish The Best of Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid. I would buy two copies right from the get-go.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the above tale. There’s no “Stan’s Soapbox” this time around because Stan Lee was on vacation in Miami Beach. The lead item teases that the next Bullpen Bulletins will herald a new era for Marvel.

In other items...the current issue of Marvel Spotlight debuts the new, modern-day Ghost Rider by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog. The “mad, mod, mystic hero who straddles both the world of motorcycles and the supernatural” takes the place of Werewolf by Night, which is graduation to its own ongoing title.

Marvel writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart addressed a comics course at Indiana University and appeared on TV there. A few months earlier, Stan spoke at the “prestigious” University of Puget Sound in Washington and visited the local zoo. This is where he got the idea for the Gibbon, the somewhat less than prestigious Spider-Man villain.

The news section wraps with The Defenders and Warlock getting their ongoing titles and the launch of Doc Savage in comic-book form. It was, indeed, an exciting time for Marvel fans.

Close to thirty titles are listed in “The Mighty Marvel Checklist,” a roster that includes a great many super-hero titles like Spider-Man and Avengers, sword-and-sorcery (Conan), war (Combat Kelly and Sgt. Fury), monsters (Fear), westerns (Kid Colt), romance (Our Love Story), teen humor (Harvey), kid humor (Li’l Kids), and, of course, Millie the Model and her frenemy Chili. What with most comic books costing twenty cents and me having a decent-paying newspaper job, I bought them all.  

The second story in this issue was “The Man Who Couldn't Be Killed” with art by John Romita. The six-page story originally appeared in  Western Outlaws and Sheriffs #70 [December 1951]

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Rotten person Lem Clyde sells guns and ammunition to the Wahnooki tribe, which appears to be a fictional tribe created by the as-yet-identified writer of this story. I couldn’t find any reference to it online.

Clyde incites the tribe to violence against the white man. Though the townspeople fight them off, Clyde keeps selling more guns and ammo to the Wahnooki. He figures on taking over after all the white men have been killed. But he doesn’t much care who dies. He sells blanks to the Wahnooki to increase his profits. The unsuspecting chieftain is so pleased with the “good white man” that he’ll make Clyde a tribe idol.

The sheriff comes after Clyde, but is caught by the Wahnooki. The lawman is tied to a post to be executed by a tribal firing squad. But, no matter how many times the braves shoot at him, the sheriff is unharmed. They’ve been shooting him with blanks.

The Wahnooki kneel before this new white god, renouncing the false leader they had worshiped. The sheriff calls for peace between the tribe and the white man. The chief agrees, but refuses to let the lawman have Clyde:

Wahnooki cannot give Lem Clyde! Him belong to tribe now! Him behind great father!

The sheriff looks at the top of the totem pole behind him:

Grinning down hideously from the top of the Wahnooki totem pole was the shaven head of Lem Clyde! By ancient Wahnooki custom, the honored place on their totem pole was reserved for the head of an idol! Thus, Lem Clyde’s dream of playing “god” to an Indian nation was all too ironically realized!

Today, on a government reservation in western Oklahoma, stands the musty skull...a grisly symbol of one man’s untamed greed...and the costly price he paid for it! 
 
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I found this story less believable than Marvel creating a gibbon-based super-villain. Clyde’s plan doesn’t seem to make much sense once he impedes the Wahnooki’s chances of wiping out the white men by selling them blanks. The Wahnooki are offensively stupid. Plus: I can’t write “Wahnooki” without giggling.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appears after the first page of the Wahnooki story. Six readers were represented on the page.

Robert K. Gillis of Elmsford, New York, didn’t like George Roussos’ inking and wanted to see John Tartaglione back on the Rawhide Kid. He didn’t get his wish.

Howard Leroy Davis of Pitman, New Jersey commits on the Rawhide Kid and Two Gun Kid reprints in The Mighty Marvel Western #17. The old Rawhide Kid stories featured the pre-Johnny Clay version with some editing and redrawing. Davis was ok with that. But the editing and redrawing on the Two Gun Kid reprint was jarring. That story came from the pre-masked hero version of Two Gun, a yarn in which no one seemed to notice the hero was wearing a mask. Honestly, that’s what made those reprints fun for me and why I’ve just started collecting The Mighty Marvel Western. In any case, Marvel said they would stop adding the mask to Two Gun Kid reprints from that time.

Dennis Sellers of Huntingdon, Tennessee wanted to see more of the characters introduced in the originally all-new Western Gunfighters title. After a plug for the new Ghost Rider, Marvel said it would try to use them as guest stars in titles like Red Wolf and Outlaw Kid. The Gunhawk did appear in that month’s Outlaw Kid.

Arnold Brown of Taylorsville, Kentucky had nothing but praise for the Dick Ayers art in Rawhide Kid #96. Marvel responded that there would be more Ayers in the upcoming months, though Lieber would be the regular writer and artist.

Steve Kahn of Sudbury, Massachusetts didn’t like Rawhide Kid #96. He also didn’t want to see the Kid meeting other gunfighters. As he saw it, the comic should be about the Rawhide Kid and just the Kid. Marvel asked the readers what they thought. This is Letter Column Answers 101. When you don’t have a good answer, toss the question to the readers.

George K. Wagner of Memphis, Tennessee thought Rawhide Kid #96 was one of the best issues ever and praised the characterization. He promises to keep buying Marvel’s western until “they start showing Gene Autry and Tim Holt movies at the local theater on Saturday afternoons.” In Marvel’s response, John Wayne and Johnny Mack Brown are also mentioned.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #175

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Black Lightning, Garfield, DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis and World of Archie Double Digest!

CAPA-ALPHA: THE END OF AN ERA

Though I am not a current member of CAPA-ALPHA, the long-running comics apa, I wanted to share this announcement...

ANNOUNCEMENT

The last paper edition of CAPA-Alpha will be December 2016.  Gaff isn't able to handle the physical CM work. I have decided with increased costs for postage and printing and  and my desire to spend the CM time on other things, that I do not want to be CM after December.  Since no one has offered to take over CM duties, and Gaff and I have been the only CMs since 2002, this effectively closes the books. All things remain the same, as far as page requirements and dues, until the December mailing is sent.

Gaff will be in charge of an electronic version of K-a, starting in January.  He's working out the details at the moment. There are lots of options and he's deciding what will work best. I'll be printing the e-mail suggestions that were sent this month and I encourage members to comment on the situation in their contribs.

I know this will disappoint those who wish to see the paper version continue, but sometimes we just have to roll with the changes.  K-a has had a 52-year run, through ups and downs, which is an impressive accomplishment.  Let's close out the run with three solid mailings.

best -- Merlin Haas

MARVEL 1990s: CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #9

Previously in Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing...
 
I’m working my way through Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus - all 1288 pages of it - a story at a time. I was not a big fan of Marvel during the 1990s, but I figured it was time to take another look at the characters and comics launched in what has been called “comics' most divisive decade.”

Only one story from Captain America Annual #9 [1990] is reprinted in the 1990s omnibus: a 10-page Nomad tale by writer Fabian Nicieza with artists Don Hudson (pencils) and Tom Morgan (inks). “Walking the Line” set the stage for the Nomad limited series which would, in turn, be followed by an ongoing series. The woefully inadequate Grand Comics Database summary is one line long:

Nomad gets a new costume.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


There is more to the story than that. Jack Monroe, former sidekick to Captain America, quietly attends the funeral of Patty Joplin, a young woman who was his informant. She was also a drug addict whose habit was fed by drug dealer Umberto Safilos. Nomad is astonished to find Safilos at the funeral, invited by Patty’s parents. We get some tough guy action between Nomad and Safilos’ henchmen. Safilos suggests Monroe talk to the Joplins.

This is not your average gritty story. Though Nomad thought Safilos was Patty’s pimp, the situation is somewhat more complicated than that. Safilos is the father of the child Patty turned over to her parents to be raised. There is a stalemate between the Joplins and the drug dealer. Safilos knows of serious improprieties in Patty’s father’s business. The Joplins are raising his child.

“Life goes on.”

Nomad isn’t sure what to do next, but he knows he has to change how he operates. The new costume is part of that.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


I enjoyed this dark story of a dark world. I recall enjoying both the Nomad limited and ongoing series as well. If Marvel collected those issues in a trade paperback or two, I would more than likely buy them.

The annual also has two Captain America stories. The first - “You Are What You Eat” (23 pages) - launches “The Terminus Factor.” The five-part serial ran through this and four other annuals. I have no memory of this serial whatsoever.

This story was written by Roy Thomas with art by Jim Valentino and inker Sam de la Rosa. The GCD summary:

Cap is helping investigate a live volcano when a strange luminous substance escapes the lava and inhabits the local pond. When the villagers (and Iron Man) eat the tainted fish, they go berserk and attack Cap.

Tainted fish? Was this a remake of Airplane?

The second Captain America story - “ A Soldier's Story” (22 pages) is written by Randall Frenz with art by Mark Bagley (pencils) and Mike DeCarlo. The GCD summary:

Reb [Ralston] is shot and dreams of an adventure where Cap and the [Howling Commandoes] saved the Starks from the Red Skull.

I have no memory of this story either.

Since I liked the Nomad story, the 1990s have tied the score 2-2 in  this series of Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus reviews. I’ll be doing more of these reviews in the future.

Tomorrow is “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” with our straight-shooting hero going up against the “Guns of the Comancheros!” See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 19, 2016

MARVEL 1990s: THE NEW WARRIORS #1

So here’s the deal: I’m working my way through Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus [$125] a story at a time. All 1288 pages of it. I was not a big fan of Marvel during the 1990s, but I figured it was time to take another look at the characters and comics launched in what has been called “comics' most divisive decade.”

The New Warriors #1 [July 1990] should have been in my wheelhouse. I was no stranger to writing super-hero teams comprised of members who had no business being teammates and had grown somewhat fonder of my work on The Champions in the 1970s.

Writer Fabian Nicieza was someone whose work I enjoyed in a number of other Marvel titles. Penciler Mark Bagley was also a favorite, a solid storyteller who kept the characters on model. Back in the day, we used to care about stuff like that. Bagley was inked by the legendary Al Williamson. At the Grand Comics Database, this concise summary of the issue can be found:

Night Thrasher invites a select group of young heroes to form a new super team which he is funding. When a group of scientists accidentally unleash Terrax from his underground stasis, the New Warriors defeat him and are born as an official fighting unit.
  
That’s only partly accurate. Night Thrasher does, indeed, recruit  Kid Nova, Marvel Boy and Firestar, but Namorita and Speedball just happen to be at the scene of Terrax’s return. Thrasher’s concept of recruiting includes throwing Kid Nova off a roof to see if he still has his powers and essentially blackmailing Firestar. Yeah, Night Thrasher is a dick. Probably a charter member of the Charles Xavier Fan Club. But I digress.

Thrasher became a super-hero after his parents were murdered by a robber in an alley and a skateboard crashed through his window. I only made up a part of that. His parents were murdered and he has decided to devote his life to fighting crime. As I recall, the New Warriors did not fight a whole lot of what I would consider crime. They battled the usual super-villains and would-be conquerors. I can relate to this because - back in the 1970s - I never actually managed to achieve my goal of turning the Champions into the heroes of the common man. Maybe next time.

This issue pushed a lot of my “ugh” buttons. Besides Thrasher being a dick, Captain America and the Avengers are dicks in this issue. Kid Nova is a horny jerk. Marvel Boy is a cold fish. And, just to get this team off to a “good” start, Thrasher and Marvel Boy trick their teammates into killing Terrax. Though there was some pseudo-science mumbo jumbo that claimed this Terrax was not really alive,  I didn’t buy it then or now.

This first run of The New Warriors lasted 75 issues. I think I may have read it sporadically, but I don’t have any strong memories of anything beyond the Sphinx making a multi-issue appearance. There were some other New Warriors series along the way, but I’m not sure if I read those.

What I do remember is the team was sacrificed on the altar of Civil War, yet another cumbersome and unsatisfying event driven by heroes getting killed off for shock value and the Marvel Universe getting a little less marvelous. Very sad.

If you are keeping score, the 1990s are trailing 1-2 in my Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus reviews. I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss another story from the volume. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 18, 2016

THE MLJ COMPANION

TwoMorrows is one of my favorite publishers.  Their magazines and books expand my knowledge of comics history in an entertaining and lively manner.  Though I’m not always able to read and review their works in a timely fashion, I’ll do my best to let you know whenever new books and magazines are released by the company.

The MLJ Companion [$34.95] is a magnificently hefty softcover book that will haunt me until I make time to read it, which I expect to do very soon. Written by Rik Offenberger, Paul Castiglia and Jon B. Cooke, the 288-page volume cover promises “The Complete History of the Archie Comics Super-Heroes!”

Covering the Archie super-heroes from the 1940s to the Dark Circle titles of today, the book includes: 60 pages of classic Golden Age adventures; over 20 creator interviews; rare looks at the Web by Neal Adams and The Hangman by Kelley Jones; the day the Fly almost made it to the silver screen, the time the Riverdale gang became super-heroes, plus looks at Super Duck, Thunder Bunny and more! I can’t wait to see how they got all of the over into less than 300 pages. But I won’t be waiting long!

ISBN 978-1-60549-067-0

MARVEL 1990s: DEATHLOK #1

What Has Gone Before: Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus [$125] was an impulse buy 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...”

Though I’d gotten a deal, I was faced with the knowledge I’d spent fifty dollars on this volume and should read it. I decided to read a story here, a story there and write about them in mini-bloggy things. This allows me to amortize the cost of the book over many mini-bloggy things and write it off as a business expense.

Here’s my second “Marvel Firsts: The 1990s” review...

Deathlok #1 [July 1990] was the first issue of a four-issue series that was one of my favorite comics series of the year. Here’s the Grand Comics Database synopsis of the 52-page issue:

Michael Collins, a Cybertek employee, uncovers evidence of the Deathlok project and he confronts the company's head, Harlan Ryker. Ryker has Collins drugged and then puts his brain in the Deathlok cyborg. While the cyborg is on a mission for Roxxon putting down guerillas in the South American nation of Estrella, Collins' mind unexpectedly awakes and gains some control of the cyborg which is quickly recalled to Cybertek. At Cybertek, Collins achieves full control of the Deathlok cyborg and escapes.

Writers Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright pushed all my buttons in this first appearance of their new Deathlok. From the get-go, this series confronts and dismantles the concept of a hero being little more than a man with a big gun. It shows a strong black family and a man whose sense of morality remains intact even when he’s trapped in an artificial body. It showcases the horror of the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about back in 1961. Corporations aren’t people. Too often, corporations are monsters and that’s certainly the case in Deathlok.

For me, this was a breakout series for Jackson “Butch” Guice, whose pencils conveyed both the humanity and the horror, both the man and the machine with uncommon grace and power. Inker Scott Williams was on point with his contribution to the issue. Small wonder they are both favorites of mine.

The coloring (Wright, Paul Mounts, Brad Vancata) and the lettering (Richard Starkings) strike me as uneven when I look at this story with my 2016 eyes, but both are better than most of what we saw in the comics of the era. The use of the computer in these areas was still relatively new.

Joe Jusko’s cover has a sort of “Mars Attacks” trading card vibe to it. It’s good, but not great.

This being a 1990 comic, there were no credits for Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, who created Deathlok in  Astonishing Tales #25 (August 1974). Mike Peterson, a new incarnation of Deathlok, now appears  on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. He’s played by J. August Richards, a favorite of mine from his role as vampire hunter Charles Gunn on Angel.

Deathlok: The Living Nightmare of Michael Collins [2012] reprints all four issues of this series in hardcover. As one of my picks for the 1000 Comic Books You Must Read (currently available on Kindle), it gets my highest recommendation.

If you like this “Marvel Firsts: The 1990s” series of mini-bloggy things, you’re in for a treat. I’ll be posting new installments on Monday and Tuesday this wee. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, September 17, 2016

SINISTER SQUAD

The Asylum is best known for Sharknado and its three sequels, but the company has made well over a hundred films in just about every genre you can imagine. Because of its ability to make movies quickly, Asylum is also known for producing “mockbusters.” Wikipedia defines the term thus:

A mockbuster is a movie created with the intention of piggy-backing on the publicity of a major movie with a similar title or subject or both. Mockbusters are often made with a low budget. Unlike films which are produced to capitalize on the popularity of a recent release by adopting similar genre or storytelling elements, mockbusters are generally produced concurrently with upcoming films and released direct-to-video at the same time the mainstream film reaches theaters or video outlets.
 
Sinister Squad [2016] is the Asylum’s “mockbuster” of DC’s Suicide Squad, but from a modern “fairy tales” sensibility. It’s similar to last year’s Avengers Grimm, which I enjoyed enough to suggest to my friends at the Asylum that they make a sequel. They should listen to me. I thought Sharknado would be huge before anyone else did. From the back cover of the DVD:

When a violent supernatural cult known as Death’s Messengers reigns [sic] terror on Earth, a team of malevolent storybook villains is captured and coerced into fighting in the modern world, but these baddies must learn to keep their true wickedness at bay if they want any chance at freedom.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Alice aka Mad Alice [Christina Licciardi] is this movie’s Amanda Waller counterpart. Her experience in Wonderland has unhinged her, but she is as clever and conniving as she is cracked. Her team is a mix of heroes, villains and creatures somewhere in between those nomenclatures. She controls the true villains by means of exploding wrist bands. How Waller-like of her.

The team roster:

Rumpelstiltskin [Johnny Rey Diaz]. He’s created the situation the world faces by stealing and accidentally breaking the Magic Mirror which allowed travel between worlds. Death [Nick Principe] wants to rule this world, but he can only exist in it for brief periods by possessing the bodies of his slain cultists. Rumpelstiltskin is the trickster type; you never know which side he’s playing on or if he is playing both sides for his own benefit.

Goldilocks [Lindsay Sawyer]. She looks a little like Harley Quinn. Though human, she can fight as well as the supernatural creatures she encounters. She can control the Big Bad Wolf [Joseph Michael Harris], a man-beast who doesn’t want to kill people in his rage. There’s a Black Widow/Hulk vibe to their relationship.

Gelda [Talia A Davis] is a not-unfriendly witch, mostly in this on account of she and Rumpelstiltskin are lovers. Wears too much makeup.

Bluebeard [Trae Ireland] is the vicious wife-murderer of historical fame. He has magic knives, which he refers to as his “wives.” When he kills someone with these knives, he becomes stronger.

Piper [Isaac Reyes] is the Pied Piper. He’s good with a flute that shoots darts and is a nimble combatant.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum [Aaron Moses] are the custodians of “The Looking Glass,” the office building slash warehouse where Mad Alice keeps her prisoners and where most of the action takes place. You save a lot on sets that way.

Hatter [Randall Yarbrough] is the Mad Hatter of Alice adventures. He’s stoned out of his mind throughout the picture and occasionally has visions. Sometimes those visions are helpful.

Carabosse the Cannibal Witch [Fiona Rene] is insanely in love with Death and wants them to be together forever. She’s like Thanos, but with hideous makeup that utterly disguises the otherwise attractive Rene. Her every scene is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


I spent this much space talking about these characters to emphasize that there was a good movie hidden underneath this not-good movie. The acting ranged from tolerable to really clumsy, though Diaz’s Rumpelstiltskin was intriguing. The story dragged in places...and its convoluted plot twists took it off the rails in other places. The camera work was sometimes bizarre and shaky, as if the film was partly one of those “found footage” cinematic nightmares I loathe. The low budget shows throughout the movie.

To its credit, Sinister Squad delivers a satisfying conclusion that works very well for me. So many horror/monster movies end on a dumb “oh, you’re boned, after all” note that I was surprised to see this one avoid that cliche. That alone would raise it above the dismal 20% audience rating it currently has from Rotten Tomatoes.

My recommendation? This 90-minute movie is worth watching once for the character and story concepts. I wouldn’t recommend buying it. Try to get it from your local library - as I did - and watch it for free. If you can’t get it through your library system, rent it for the lowest price you can find.

On a scale of zero to five bowls of porridge, I give Sinister Squad two bowls that have cooled a little too much and need to go back in the microwave for a bit.

My intended bloggy thing schedule has been upended by the demands of my oh-so-thrilling life, but I’ll return on the morrow with more stuff. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 16, 2016

AN AUDIENCE OF ONE

So what if I gave a library talk and no one came? To be fair, it’s not as if no one was in the room when I gave a talk at a library in one of Cleveland’s eastern suburbs. My Sainted Wife Barb was there. The library employee who had arranged the talk was there. A trio of young women came into the room about ten minutes into the talk and left about ten minutes later. One older woman stayed for the entire talk and said she enjoyed it. But that was it.

These things happen. Okay, not to a Stan Lee or a Tom Batiuk or a Katy Perry, but, to people on my level of “celebrity,” they happen. It’s usually not something for which blame can be attributed to any one thing. Maybe the weather kept people inside their homes or out doing fun stuff. Maybe the promotional efforts didn’t reach people who would have been interested. Maybe I should have changed my name to Ryan Reynolds.

Whatever the reason for the ego-shattering attendance, I was going to give my talk. Which I think was a pretty good talk. I spoke on the history of comics for well over an hour with a slide show of my comics in the background. I gave a pretty good abridged lecture on the subject. I answered the enthusiastic questions of the one person in the audience who wasn’t Barb or me or the library employee. The show must go on.

After leaving the library, Barb and I drove home. During the drive, we talked about the talk. One of these days, I think I’ll write out a script for a filmed version of this talk. I would find a better narrator for the talk - maybe Katy would be interested - and expand the images beyond my own work. Maybe I’ll launch a Kickstarter or another crowd-funding campaign to finance the project. I’m mulling that over even as we speak.

My ego recovered quickly from this library appearance. But it might be a while before I agree to do another such talk.

As for Katy Perry, I have no idea if she gives library talks. But, if she did one around here, I would go to it. I suspect she might draw a somewhat larger audience than I did.

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

My family and I are living in those proverbial interesting times. While dealing with some employment and family matters, we are also dealing with the incredible good turns my career has been taking in recent months. Because of the demands all the above have placed on me, I canceled all of my remaining convention appearances save for two of my favorite shows:

Grand Rapids Comic-Con (October 21-23)

Akron Comicon (November 5-6)

I’ll have more on those events as we get a little closer to them. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to them and hoping to see some of my bloggy thing readers and Facebook friends there.

Tomorrow’s bloggy thing will have another convention report. That will be followed by a new “Citizen Tony” column and four columns on comic books of the past. I’m also working on a piece on annoyingly bad and rude behavior at some of the conventions I’ve attended this year. I’ll post that one when I’m comfortable with it.

Thanks for stopping by today. I’ll see you tomorrow.
 
© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MONSTERFESTMANIA (July 29-30, 2016)

Monsterfestmania was held on Friday night and Saturday, July 29-30, at the Quaker Station in downtown Akron, Ohio. The event organizers were Robert Jenkins, Michael Savene and Jesse Noble, the same fine folks who put on the Akron Comicon. Despite some problems outside the control of the guys, this inaugural event was a great success and a whole lot of fun.

The head liners of the guest list were Felix Silla (Cousin Itt) and Lisa Loring (Wednesday) from The Addams Family. Silla, of course, is also known for playing Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and many other roles in movies and on TV.

Silla is among the most friendly celebrity guests I’ve ever seen at a convention. He was energetic and personable, engaging with fans and posing for pictures even when he wasn’t at his table. He seemed to be having a great time and he was a definite assist to the show.

Basil Gogos, the renown painter whose classic works graced so many covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland, was scheduled to appear at Monsterfestmania. Unfortunately - and this was one of the problems I mentioned earlier - his traveling companion was unable to fly due to an eye ailment. I was looking forward to seeing Basil as I had enjoyed talking to him at a convention earlier in the year. We’re hoping he’ll be able to attend the next Monsterfestmania.

Horror host-orian Michael Monahan was on hand to moderate a number of panels. The convention wasn’t shy on horror hosts. Among those  attending were Fritz the Night Owl, Ivonna Cadaver, Misty Brew and the Son of Ghoul.

Authors Mike and Jan Olszewski were guests as well. These friends of mine are experts on Cleveland television in all its often-wild wonderment. Other guests included film maker J.R. Bookwalter, propmaster Tim Shockey, special effects artist David P. Barton, Ted Sikora of Hero Tomorrow and Apama the Undiscovered Animal, artists Jay E. Fife and Dan Gorman and others.

The exhibitors room had an impressive roster and this is even more impressive when you consider this was a first-time event. Fellow convention promoters Cinema Wasteland, Ghoulardifest and Monster Bash were in the house. My friends from WBNX-TV/The CW were there giving out all kinds of great swag. Other exhibitors included Toys That Time Forgot, the Northeastern Ohio chapter of Ghostbusters, Cleveland Memories, artist Robert Kraus of RAK Graphics and the USS LaGrange Star Trek club of which I’m an honorary member. Those are just a few of the fantastic exhibitors at the show. If I hadn’t put myself on a very strict budget, I would have spent much more money than I made at the show by a factor of about a hundred. This was, on my part, an impressive display of will power.

After bringing my boxes of stuff to my table on Friday afternoon, before I set up my display, the next thing I did was go hunting for the Famous Monsters of Filmland 1964 Yearbook. I needed the issue for my “July 1963" feature in which I write about comic books and related items that came to newsstands the same month as Fantastic Four Annual #1. As regular bloggy thing readers know, it was that annual that made me want to write comic books. Unfortunately, though there were lots of other cool monster magazines to be had, none of the vendors had the yearbook I wanted. However, I eventually find it on eBay. But I digress.

Friday’s events included panels on horror hosts, the Jungle Bob’s Animal Show that appears on the Son of Ghoul program and how the Internet has birthed new horror hosts. In the “Shock Theater” room, fans got to view Misty Brew’s Creature Feature, a Fritz the Nite Owl presentation of Plan 9 from Outer Space, and J.R. Bookwalter’s The Dead Next Door.  

I spent the evening at my table selling stuff, signing stuff I had written and answering questions. At various times I was assisted by Jesse Noble and his crew of volunteers. I would remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to the always-ready-to-help Denine. Calling her a treasure is no exaggeration.

Most of the few problems at Monsterfestmania were due to it being held in a terrible venue. The Quaker Station was no great shakes in previous years. Under new management, it’s gotten worse. Example: two years ago, I’d reported a broken lock on the door of the only handicapped stall in the main men’s room. Two years later, it had not been repaired.

In addition, the Quaker Station would not allow food to be brought into the event for the guests and would not allow the food trucks which had filled that void in previous years, There was a terrific restaurant across the parking lot from the Station, but that place had closed. The new management also has an insanely inflated notion of what its rental space is worth. Since both the Akron Comicon and Monsterfestmania will be moving to a better and bigger venue, I’ll be pleased to see the Station devoid of human activity most of the time. Their failure will be on them.

Saturday was a fun-filled day. I chatted with old friends and made some new ones. I talked to two artists who will be creating prints for me. I sold some more stuff, signed some more Isabella-written stuff and answered some more questions. The Saturday panel program kicked off with Mike and Jan Olszewski spoke on “Cleveland TV Memories.” Nobody has better Cleveland TV stories than Mike.

That was followed by a “Ghoulardi Tribute Panel” honoring the late great Ernie Anderson. Michael Monahan hosted the panel. This was my one panel of the weekend. The other panelists were Mike Olszewski and the Son of Ghoul.

I spoke about being a Cleveland kid growing up watching Ghoulardi in the still of the night on a black-and-white TV set. Because my dad had to get up in the wee hours of the morning to get the bread started at the family bakery, I had to keep the sound so low that the only way I could hear Anderson and the movies was by lying on the floor right in front of the set. This is probably why I needed glasses at a young age. Totally worth it.

Ivonna Cadaver hosted an Addams Family Panel featuring Lisa Loring and Felix Silla. A “Tribute to the Son of Ghoul” in celebration of his thirty years on TV followed. Wrapping up the panel program was the Costume and Makeup Contest.

In the Shock Theater room, the day kicked off with “TV Spook Show: The Crypt of Clips!” That was followed by the William Castle Film Tribute with co-hosts Misty Brew and Fritz the Nite Owl. The final presentation was a showing of Destroy All Planets (1968).

I had a great time at Monsterfestmania. In 2017, the convention is merging with the Akron Comicon. The two-shows-for-the-price-of-one event will be held October 28 and 29 at the spiffy John S. Knight Convention Center. I’m looking forward to it.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for a report on my latest library talk, sad reflections on bad behavior at some recent conventions I attended and information on the two 2016 conventions remaining on my schedule. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 87

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 87th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #101 [July 1972] has a Gil Kane cover illustrating the 14-page “I Shot Jesse James!”  It’s a fill-in story written by Gary Friedrich with Dick Ayers (pencils) and George Roussos (inks). Lettered by Jean Izzo, the yarn was likely colored by Roussos. We are still a ways from Marvel crediting the colorists of its comics on a regular basis.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The Rawhide Kid rides up on a lynch mob getting ready to hang Bob Ford (“that dirty little coward”) for shooting Jesse James in the back. Not realizing who Ford is, the Kid rescues him from the mob. Rawhide and Ford makes for the hills, specifically a secret cavern hideaway that Jesse had set up before he retired from his life of crime and became “Mr. Howard.”

Rawhide ain’t thrilled to be sharing the cave with a back-shooter, but he’s not about to turn Ford over to the mob. Distasteful as he finds Ford’s treacherous act, the Kid knows James was wanted dead or alive and Ford was within his rights to gun him down. The law of the West was not a forgiving one.

Ford tries to explain himself. James was the brains of the gang. Without him, half of its members were killed and the rest weren’t succeeding in their chosen criminal profession. Ford begged James to return. When James refused, Ford shot his former friend in the back for the reward.

Surprise! Some of the unhappy gang members figured Ford would show up at the cave sooner or later and have been waiting for him. They plan to shoot Ford down. Rawhide again saves Ford. But the only way out of the cavern is past the very angry gentlemen whose guns were shot out of their hands by the Kid.

Surrounded once again, Ford clubs Rawhide with a rock. He tells the gang members they can turn the Kid in for a big reward and retire from their lives of crime. Their response:

That’s your trouble, Bob! The only code you got is money! And all the money in the world won’t bring Jesse back!

The Rawhide Kid responds:

And neither will all the killin’!

Rawhide sends the gang members packing, warning them to hightail it out of there before that earlier posse that wanted to execute Ford decides they would be acceptable substitutes for hanging. The gang members take the Kid’s advice.

Ford was shot in the fracus, but will survive. He wants to team up with Rawhide being as how they are both outcasts and all. The Kid sets him straight:

How long would that last, Ford? Until the next time I turned my back on you?!...I feel sorry for you, ‘cause there’s no place big enough for you to hide!

Maybe you’ll make it...maybe you won’t...but you’re gonna spend the rest of your days wonderin’ when somebody’ll gun you in the back the way you gunned Jesse!

So long! I’d wish you good luck...but somehow the words’d stick in my throat!


SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


I didn’t care much for this story in 1972 and I care for it less in 2016. Though Jesse James is already dead by the start of the yarn, Friedrich characterizes him as some kind of Robin Hood-type outlaw. History says you’re wrong if you believe that.

There’s no evidence that James ever gave away any of his ill-gotten gains to the poor. Wikipedia describes him as an “American outlaw, guerrilla, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer.” 
 
James was a Confederate guerrilla/bushwhacker during the Civil War. After the war and the end of the Confederate States of America, he robbed banks, stagecoaches and trains. He was part of an army
fighting for a vile union of depreciable slave owners and he became a murderous outlaw. He was no hero.

As for Ford, who murdered James on April 3, 1882, he lived ten more years. With his older brother, he performed paid re-enactments of his killing of James at publicity events. He drifted around the Old West, operating dance halls and saloons.

According to Wikipedia, on June 8, 1892, “Ford was shot to death at the age of 30 in Creede, Colorado, by Edward Capehart O'Kelley, who attacked him in Ford's temporary tent saloon. Ford was first buried in Creede. His remains were later moved and re-interred at Richmond Cemetery in Richmond in Ray County, Missouri.”

On his grave marker: The man who shot Jesse James

The Rawhide Kid was born in 1850. That would make him roughly 32 at the time of this story.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the above story. Half of it is devoted to a glowing report on the “A Marvel-ous Evening with Stan Lee” presentation that was held on January 5 at Carnegie Hall and to the “Stan’s Soapbox” column that apologizes for not being able to tell comic-book readers about it beforehand. This was a legendary event, but there are differing opinions as to whether it was good legendary or bad legendary. I wish it had been recorded so that I could make my own judgment.

The rest of the month’s announcements are shoved into about a sixth of the page. Dr. Strange by Stan Lee and Barry Smith.  Ant-Man by Mike Friedrich and Herb Trimpe. Teases about ongoing titles for The Defenders and Warlock. Kull the Conqueror returns with art by Marie and John Severin. Conan the Barbarian is back to monthly again. Harlan Ellison plotted an issue of The Avengers drawn by “Marvel’s newest star artist” Rich Buckler. The story was originally pitched to Julius Schwartz for Hawkman.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” includes stuff like Spider-Man versus the Gibbon in Amazing Spider-Man; The Hulk on trial; Capt. America and the Falcon battling Scorpion and Mr. Hyde; Daredevil fighting Electro and Killgrave...and Sgt. Fury #100. By this time, thanks to my having a full-time job and minimal living expenses, I was able to buy every mainstream comic book being published. I was determined to write for comic books and wasn’t picky about what kind of comic book and which company would accomplish that.

There were some unusual ads in this issue of The Rawhide Kid. There was a two-page centerfold spread for the Record Club of America. However, the centerfold effect was compromised by the glossy four-page insert attached to the center of the comic.

This insert contained a full-page ad for a “Peace Officer Training  Service followed by a centerfold spread for National Diamond Sales. The final page of the insert offered sexy lingerie from someplace called the California Gift Center. The dainties shown included the “Leapin’ Leopard” ($11.95), the “Magic Moment” ($12.95}, the “Peek-a-Boo” ($13.95), the “Playmate” ($11.95) and the “Coming Home” at $12.95. The last was described as a “lacy, dainty sheer nylon short nightie set to display her charms. Matching bikini panties. White, black or red. Small, medium, large.” Hubba hubba.

The second story in this issue was “Ambush” by Stan Lee with art by Fred Kida. The six-page story originally appeared in Quick Trigger Western #17 [April 1957]. 

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Shotgun guard Pecos Rork is doing that guarding thing for a wagon train heading to Texas. He bemoans the fact that the wagon train is filled with tenderfeet. Not a lot of able-bodied men among them and that could spell trouble down the trail.

Rork takes a dislike to the quiet man who spends his time reading books. Rork tries to pick a gunfight with the man, but the man is having no part of it. That’s about when the wagon train is attacked by Comanches.

Rork and the settlers try to hold off their attackers, but they’re outnumbered. The quiet man tells Rork to take the women to cover. He’ll handle the Comanches:

The trouble is you men have been wastin’ yore shots...there’s only one Injun yuh have to hit...Sequota, the war chief!

The quiet man shoots and wounds Sequota. By Comanche custom, these braves won’t attack again for 24 hours after their chief has been wounded. Rork asks how the man knew this:

Shucks, it wuzn’t so much! I aim to be a frontiersman someday, so I done a lot of readin’ on it, that’s all!

The man’s traveling companion adds:

Yep, someday yuh’ll all be hearing of young Dan’l Boone...I promise yuh that!


SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


Stan clearly loved stories where the main character turns out to be a historical figure. He didn’t seem to love doing the research to get the history of those figures right. Sometimes these stories are fun. This one? Not so much.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appears after the first page of “Ambush!”. This letters page has one very long letter by Robert A. Gillis of Elmsford, New York...and the almost-as-long response from the Marvel staffer who put together the page. Gillis wrote a title-by-title rundown of all of Marvel’s westerns. It’s an interesting exchange, so let’s see if I can manage to scan it for your edification:
                                                                               

Although The Rawhide Kid wouldn’t end until issue #151, we are just a year or so away from the last new story to appear in the title. By my count, we have eleven new stories to come. Once I’ve written about all of the new stories, I’ll cover the all-reprint issues two or three issues at a time. After that...?

That’s it for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #174

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives Volume 6, A+A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #5 and Scarlet Witch #8!

ALL THE COMICS WERE VALIANT

The Valiant Comics universe is a complex one, but its writers and editors are skilled at crafting comics that are accessible to new and old readers alike. Most of their titles summarize “The Story So Far” on their inside front covers. Most of their writers manage to smoothly include character names and sufficient background info in their scripts.

My favorite Valiant title is Faith. Super-heroine Zephyr - Faith is her real name - has appeared in other Valiant titles. She starred in a successful, well-received mini-series. She now has an ongoing title and it’s as terrific as the mini-series.

Faith #1 and #2 [$3.99 each] were written by Jody Houser. The main artist is Pere Perez with fantasy and flashback sequences drawn by Marguerite Sauvage and Colleen Doran. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse and letterer Dave Sharpe complete the creative team. Tom Brennan is the editor with Lauren Hitzhusen his assistant editor. I give all the credits when something is my favorite title of a company.

In her civilian life, Faith poses as mild-mannered content writer  Summer Smith. She is a fan of the same stuff we love and one of the most relatable characters in comics. In these issue, as Zephyr, she gets her first arch-enemy super-villain. I’m not going to tell you anything about him other than his reason for becoming a villain is freaking brilliant and that he is, indeed, deadly and smart enough to be a proper arch-enemy.

Whether you read other Valiant titles or not, Faith is a title you need to be reading. You will thank me for this recommendation.

                                                                             

I am not typically a fan of stories set in the future of a title’s or a comic-book universe’s future. I like them better when they are presented more as a possible future than *the* future. My interest in the Legion of Super-Heroes began to fade once the “Adult Legion” stories became *the* future for that series. It felt like many of the present-day stories were being plotted by checking off boxes on some “here’s the future” list.

I enjoyed Valiant’s four-issue 4001 AD [$3.99 per issue] more than those old Legion stories for three reasons. The first is that I’ve decided all such future stories are possible futures no matter how their publishers frame them. What do they know? They’re only making the comic books. I’m doing the heavy lifting by reading them.  Second and more seriously, 4001 AD is written by Matt Kindt, whose Valiant work has always been first-rate.

Third and even more seriously, 4001 AD is a great story in which the fate of New Japan, an airborne and incredibly advanced nation controlled by a despot A.I. name of Father, is decided. Rai, spirit of the nation, leads a rebellion against Father and the stakes are as dire as they get.

Told in these four issues, the Rai title and four one-shots, 4001 AD has heroic freedom fighters, gripping war sequences and enormous tragedies. However, unlike so many comic books and movies where the high body counts are eye-candy special effects, Kindt’s writing and Clayton Crain’s art made me feel the agony and the horror and the loss of New Japan citizens caught in this struggle.

Valiant’s Rai title is also set in 4001. That title dovetails with the mini-series. But a reader can read 4001 AD and follow the story without reading Rai or the one-shot spin-offs.

There were four one-shots: Bloodshot, Shadowman, War Mother and X-O Manowar ($3.99 per issue]. All were entertaining, but my favorites were Shadowman by writers Jody Houser and Rafer Roberts with artist Robert Gill, and War Mother by Fred Van Lente and Tomas Giorello. Both are set after the events of 4001 AD and explore what became of Earth in later times.

                                                                             

My second favorite Valiant title is Bloodshot Reborn. Ray Garrison was turned into “the perfect living weapon” via billions of nanites injected into his body. His past is uncertain, but his present has him fighting to retain his humanity in spite of what’s been done to him and the forces who continue to seek to use him. Written by Jeff Lemire and currently drawn by Mico Suayan with colorist David Baron does a remarkable job with the hues, the title is a compelling read for me. Though I usually read comics alphabetically - yes, I’m that retentive - it’s Faith and Bloodshot Reborn that rise to the top of my Jenga-like stack of comics whenever Valiant sends me its recent issues for review.

Bloodshot Reborn #14 [$3.99] kicked off “Bloodshot Island,” which is an action-packed and downright terrifying storyline. Our hero’s trapped on an island with several other nanite-infused combatants. They are hunted and killed every day by Deathmate, who may or may not be someone who was important to Ray. The warriors come back to life every morning to be hunted again, all part of an experiment in turning entire populations into nanite-soldiers. For me, this story arc is as chilling as the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of the scariest movies of all time.

If you tried Faith and loved it, take my word on Bloodshot Reborn as well . They are very different series, but they deliver great writing and art in every issue.

                                                                             

One more for the road. Divinity II #4 [$3.99] wraps up the second mini-series about Russian cosmonauts who return from being lost in space with incredible and world-challenging powers. It’s written by Matt Kindt with art by Trevor Hairsine (pencils), Ryan Winn (inks) and David Baron (colors). Both mini-series have been terrific and, like the first one, this one delivers a very satisfying conclusion. Divinity III launches in December. I’m looking forward to it.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for the latest installment of our fast-shooting, hard-riding “Rawhide Kid Wednesdays” feature. It’s western action as you like it!

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 12, 2016

CITIZEN TONY IS NOT CONFLICTED

There’s this virtual meme running through the media that Americans are wholly conflicted and disgusted about the upcoming Presidential election. It’s one of those persistent falsehoods that damage and will continue to damage our political discourse.

While it is certainly true that some and perhaps even many of our fellow citizens are conflicted and disgusted, it is unequivocally  true that a great many Americans are solidly behind one candidate or another. My own decision this year is clearer than it has ever been, I’ll cast my vote without the slightest hesitation.

The media loves its falsehoods, even about itself. There isn’t any overwhelming “liberal media” in this country. The most watched of the 24/7 TV news networks is Fox News with its umbilical cord-like ties to the Republican Party. Most leading newspapers are right-of-center at best. But these falsehoods and memes are insultingly easy substitutes for actual journalism or thoughtful commentary. Media counts on us not having the time or patience to research candidates and issues thoroughly.

I hadn’t planned on discussing the presidential candidates in these “Citizen Tony” columns, or at least not at great length or with any regularity. I had many reasons for this.

First, my choice for President has to be obvious to anyone who’s read my political commentary in the past. Second, I am determined to refrain from indulging in the insults that have come to dominate such discourse. Third, there are so many ongoing issues to discuss in the “Citizen Tony” columns. Indeed, I have already made the decision to continue them after the election, regardless of the outcome of that election. I would be remiss in my responsibility as an American citizen if my involvement ended with the election. However, since we are here, let me state the obvious and, perhaps, the not-so-obvious.

I am voting for Hilary Clinton because I think she is, by far, the most qualified candidate for the office and because the platform of the Democratic Party has more elements I can wholeheartedly support than the platform of any other party. I don’t find her unlikable or untrustworthy, possibly because I consider the totality of her career and life...and because, having researched both, I recognize the attacks on her honesty and integrity as the net result of the decades the right has spent demonizing her. Those attacks, for the most part, simply do not hold up when examined in a truthful and a non-partisan way.

Am I happy with Clinton’s every action and position? Of course not. To the best of my recollection, I have never been “happy” with any candidate’s every action and position. Hell, if “Citizen Tony” were to ever become “Candidate Tony,” I probably wouldn’t be happy with every one of my own actions and positions.

I don’t see myself voting for the lesser of two evils, even though I think that’s an understandable and even commendable choice. I am voting for the best candidate for the job. 

I confess I have no respect for those who say their conscience will not allow them to vote for Hilary Clinton, even though their voting for a third party or abstaining from voting might well put Donald Trump in the White House. They claim they don’t want Trump to win, but they are going to show us by not voting for the candidate with the best chance of beating him, the candidate who is most likely to pursue the progressive policies they claim they support. That makes no sense to me.

About those third parties...

I have never cared much for the Libertarian Party because it always strikes me as being Republican Lite, and not all that “lite.” The party claims to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but I’ve seen a shift to the right on social issues. For that matter, the party’s fiscal conservatism doesn’t seem to address the wealth disparity in this country, how that disparity hurts the majority of Americans or how their so-called “fiscal conservatism” impacts Americans who are most in need.

Gary Johnson seems like a nice fellow, but he has not impressed me with his campaign. I’m not going to knock him for not knowing what a presidential candidate should know about the situations in Syria. Libertarians aren’t about being global policemen and, while I have sympathy for that position and don’t entirely dismiss it, I think we must recognize that we are, indeed, part of a global community. For our own well-being as much as the world’s well-being, we must engage with the rest of the world. I just want us to be a whole lot smarter about how we engage.

The Green Party’s Jill Stein seems more capable than Johnson. She has anti-vaccination comments in her past, but, as I see it, these have been overly emphasized and somewhat exaggerated by the media and her opponents. The media loves its quick sound bites. Nuance is not what it does. 
 
Of course, my main problem with third parties is they usually want to start at the top. They want their candidates to be President, even though they’ve rarely demonstrated their ability to work with other parties, something that would be crucial if they were to be elected. I’d like to see third parties that start from the bottom and work their way up. Show me they can govern effectively on the local and state levels before I give them serious consideration for the national stage.

One of the goals I set myself in writing my “Citizen Tony” pieces has been, as noted above, to refrain from insults. That becomes a near impossible task when it comes to Trump. Is it an insult when I say he is the most unqualified presidential candidate of my life? Is it an insult to point out how many of the things he says or that he says he would do as president are, firstly, repulsive to me and, secondly, beyond the scope of a president’s powers as I understand them? The thought of a Trump presidency terrifies me.

I don’t understand how anyone can support Trump for President. The best I can come up with is that, for most of his supporters, there is one thing Trump says or one position he advocates that resonates with their darkest corners. Like Curly in the movie City Slickers, they focus on that one thing. That one thing.

I don’t want to believe the worst of my fellow Americans. I don’t want to believe they are any of the horrible things represented by Trump. I don’t want to believe they are so adamant about allowing Trump a pass on his constant untruths and his refusal to disclose the things our presidential candidates routinely disclose. I don’t want to believe they will embrace even the most absurd and already discounted conspiracy theories. But what I want to believe may no longer be the reality of my country. Maybe it never was.

Commenting further would cross the line even more than these last few paragraphs already have, so I will leave you with an anecdote from last week...

I was at the deli counter of a local grocery store. An older woman was buying small amounts of lunch meat and sliced cheese because she wanted to make sandwiches for her husband and her to eat when they went to a Trump event in the area.

After she left, the counter women, who have always been friendly to me, started talking about their support for Trump. Which basically amounted to...they hate Hilary Clinton.

The next customer in line was this well-dressed young woman in her early to mid 30s. As the deli women prepared her order, she asked them why they would vote for Trump. When they responded with “Why not?,” the customer responded back with a litany of reasons no one should vote for Trump. I’ll not repeat any of the litany because, accurate though the various characterizations of Trump were, some might consider them insults.

The deli women were flustered. They had no counter arguments. The customer was incredibly right. I believe, on some level, they knew she was right. But they looked imploringly at me, that nice man who comes to their counter once or twice a week, and asked:

“What do you think?”

I hooked my thumb toward the other customer and said:

“I’m with her.”

“Citizen Tony” will return with more commentary in the near future. Feel free to suggest topics. In the meantime, I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella