Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CANCELLED: JULY 28-29 GARAGE SALE

My July 28-29 Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale has been cancelled. 

Between my trips to Burbank to meet with the Black Lightning writers and then Chicago for G-Fest, I've fallen behind on my writing schedule. 

With dentist and doctor appointments scheduled for next week and August, I have to catch up on that schedule and get ahead on it. 

Something has to give. That "something" is the extensive preparation I need to do before my garage sales. The next one is scheduled for August 11-12. If I get far enough ahead on stuff, I'll extend the hours of those garage sales and maybe even add Sunday hours.

I'll do my best to make my August garage sales truly special. Thanks for your understanding.

I'll be back on Friday with a new bloggy thing. See you then.

Tony Isabella

 

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 117

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 117th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.  
                                                                                 

The Rawhide Kid #130 [November 1975] has a cover penciled and maybe even inked by Larry Lieber with alterations by John Romita. It’s a reprint of the cover of The Rawhide Kid #58 [June 1967]. As you can see, Romita did considerable work on the figure of the Kid, on the orange-clad bad hombre on the balcony and on several other figures. I’ve included the cover to issue #58 here so that you can compare the two covers.

“When a Gunfighter Faces...the Enforcers” [17 pages] was written by  Gary Friedrich, penciled by Lieber and inked by Vince Colletta. I  wrote about this issue in June of 2013 and you can read my comments on the story here.

As with the previous few issues, the story was reprinted in order. It was the standard length tale for Marvel comic books of that era and that meant no pages had to be cut to make it fit. In the place of what would’ve been a letters page in Marvel comics featuring new  material, we got “A Marvel Masterworks Pin-Up” of the Rawhide Kid being punched by an Apache warrior. It was taken from the cover of issue #74 [February 1970] and had previously been used as a pin-up in issue #126 [May 1975].

There are a dozen “classified” ads from mail-order comics dealers with none of them particularly noteworthy. There are three pages of Marvel house ads, a Bullpen Bulletins page and a comic-book style ad for Hostess Fruit Pies that stars the Hulk.

The first Marvel house ad is the full-page “Poster Pandemonium” ad we’ve seen before. Including 25 cents for postage and handling, you could get any of the six posters - Spider-Man, Conan, Dracula, the Hulk, Captain America or Deadly Hands of Kung Fu - for a buck and a quarter and any three for two bucks and a quarter. Residents of New York and New Jersey also had to add 8% for sales tax.
                                                                                    

The second Marvel house ad was a full-page announcing and offering MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz. Written and edited by Roy Thomas with art by John Buscema, Tony DeZuniga and the Tribe, the 10 by 14-inch treasury edition was a joint venture by Marvel and DC.

Legend has it that DC publisher Carmine Infantino out-foxed Marvel by claiming DC was working on an adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel on which the movie was based when, in fact, DC hadn’t begun such a project. DC agreed to shelve its project and share costs and profits on the Marvel version. I don’t know if I believe “legend” in this case, but I don’t entirely disbelieve it either.

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” led off this issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page. Our fearless leader announced Marv Wolfman would be the new editor-in-chief of the color comics with Len Wein writing several titles and serving as consulting editor. Archie Goodwin would take over as editor of the black-and-white magazines. Additionally, Stan plugged the Marvel-designed Slurpee cups (60 in all) that would be available at 7-Eleven stores in the summer...and a visit from Terry Gilliam of Monty Python’s Flying Circus...and a surprise that was being cooked up by Angela Bowie and husband David...and the coming of Marvel’s Celebrity, a publication not unlike the smash hit that was People Magazine. As I recall, the Bowie surprise had something to do with Angela wanted to star in a Black Widow movie.

Sidebar. I would move back to Cleveland for several months before returning to New York to take a staff job with DC Comics. My idea was that leaving New York would ease my problems with Marv and Len who seemed to think of me as a rival instead of an asset. Anyway, during that summer, Barb and I would go to 7-11 often and collect those Marvel cups. I don’t think we got all 60, but we got a lot of them. One of these days, they might turn up in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. End of sidebar.

The lead news item reported that Marvel’s softball team got beaten by teams from Sports Illustrated and Time, but defeated John Wiley and Sons by a score of 18-7.

The next item plugged the Marvel Special Edition treasury editions which would reprint stories of Marvel super-heroes titles...and the Queen-Size Millie the Model special, which I’m pretty sure was not a treasury edition.

Several quick notes comprised the third, final and long item. They were:

Marvel staffers crowding around production chief John Verpoorten’s office to get a look at Jack Kirby’s new Captain America pages.

Letterer Irv Watanabe returning to the comics business.

Don McGregor appeared on WHBI-FM’s “The Big Sim Power Hour” to talk about comics in general and “Night Figure,” his own upcoming weekly radio drama series.

Jim Mooney and wife Anne announced the arrival of their “bouncing baby girl” Nolle.

Steve Gerber was said to be in hiding after he finished editing the special “Paranoia” issue of Crazy Magazine.

Len Wein would be writing Iron Man and Thor in addition to Spider-Man and Hulk.

Herb Trimpe was moving from Hulk to Iron Man.

The new editors of the seven-title British weeklies line were Duffy Vohland and Michele Brand.

Bonnie Smith was taking over the managing of the Marvel’s fan mail from Michelle Wolfman who was pursuing a career as Marvel’s newest colorist.

An item about some fellow named Tony Isabella combined three items into one with a small degree of accuracy. I didn’t break my leg in the softball game with Wiley and Sons. I broke my ankle. I didn’t return to a staff position. At the request of Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky and John Verpoorten, I took an office at Marvel so I would be near at hand for emergency copy writing and other projects. However, I did get engaged to future wife Barb Kepke, even if that very first engagement didn’t take. About a decade later, we did get married. Best day of my life.

This Bullpen page ended with shout-outs to Irene Vartanoff, Scott Edelman and Roger Slifer who were said to have threatened to attack if they weren’t mentioned. Though I never saw this with my limited connection to the Bullpen staff, I have since been told that said staff became quite territorial in demanding freelance assignments go to their own favorites and fellows. I’m not sure I believe this, but, as I didn’t have much contact with the staff outside of Stan, Sol and John, I wouldn’t have noticed this.
                                                                               

Next to the Bullpen page was “The Incredible Hulk and the Twins of Evil,” a Hostess Fruit Pies ad by artist John Romita and an unknown (for now) writer, though said writer was likely one of the Marvel editors or staffers. In the one-page ad, the Hulk gets a beat down at the hands of the Abomination and the Wendigo. Two hikers revive the Hulk with delicious Hostess Fruit Pies. The Hulk then punches out trees on his way to settle the score with his foes. Beware of fruit pie rage, my friends.
                                                                            
                                                                                

The afore-mentioned Rawhide Kid pin-up appeared on the second last interior page of the issue. That was followed by the half-page FOOM ad we’ve seen and a half-page ad for Marvel sweat and tee shirts. The Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and Hulk tee shirts came in man sizes for $4.45 each (included postage and handling) and boy sizes for $3 each. Sorry, girls, no tee shirts for you. The Captain America and Spider-Man sweat shirts were $5 each.

“Rawhide Kid Wednesday” will be back next Wednesday. For tomorrow, I’ll have something else for you.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, July 13, 2017

15 SHOCKING STATEMENTS FROM TONY ISABELLA

When I started considering what kind of bloggy thing I could post today that would keep you bloggy readers satisfied until I return from G-Fest, I looked at blogs and websites I visit on a frequent basis to determine the secrets of their success and how to do the same thing. The answer came to me swiftly.

Click-Bait! It’s the online equivalent of sleazy reality TV shows. You know it’s bad for you, but you get drawn into it. So, when you could be researching the vital issues of the day, you are instead consumed by the “15 Spider-Ham Recipes That Will Make You Not Care That You Are Eating a Sentient Being” or “The 15 Times Male Writers Had Comics Heroines Use the Word ‘Dick’ in a Sentence and Giggled Uncontrollably” or “15 Reasons Comic Book Resources Can’t Count Any Higher than 15.”

How could I not want part of that action? We begin...

1. I have a mild, self-diagnosed and a bit unique case of Obsessive Compulsion Disorder. Before the invention of the personal computer, I used to self-justify my articles and scripts. Editors would tell me I didn’t need to do this. I still did it. Mostly automatically, but, sometimes, to make the spacing work, I would misspell a word on purpose.

2. I don’t like Krazy Kat. Yes, I know it’s a work of genius, but it leaves me cold. When I’ve mentioned this to trusted friends, a number of them have told me they feel the same way but are afraid to admit it publically. Strangely enough, though Krazy Kat leaves me cold, I am very interested in Geo. Herriman, the creator of the strip. He was a fascinating individual.

3. The most hurtful (to me) thing I ever read online was at a site devoted to female cartoonists of color. I visited that site daily. Until one writer, discussing Black Lightning and the importance of my creation, added she knew I “was a white man who probably didn’t think he was a racist.” I’ve never been able to visit that website since.

4. We are the heroes of our own stories. When people write or talk about their history, they inevitably slant things so they come off better in the retelling than they did in the actual. When I write about my history, I get a little crazy intense trying to verify my memories so that I do this as little as possible.

5. For years, I have been dragging my heels on a major interview with me for one of my favorite magazines because I’m paralyzed by my dual desire to tell the truth and not hurt anyone needlessly. Even those who hurt or tried to hurt me over the years. As soon as I finish my current comics project, I’m determined to find the gumption to do that interview.

6. I forgive you. If you’re one of those people who did me wrong, I forgive you. It doesn’t mean I’ll forget what you’ve done or that I would trust you in the future or that I have any desire to hang out with you. It means I forgive you and I’m only going to think about you in the context of telling my story. Even then, I’m going to be as charitable as possible.

A while back, one of the worst human beings I had ever known died. He was my ex-lawyer and, before long, he became an ex-lawyer period as his crimes caught up with him. He tried to cause me serious trouble on numerous occasions. He never succeeded. I beat him time and time again.

He supposedly went to AA and turned his life around and became some sort of drug counselor. I wasn’t happy for him, just relieved that he probably wouldn’t be coming after me any more. Maybe he figured he'd paid too dear a price for that. But...

I never really believed he had changed. Because one of the twelve steps of every AA program I had heard of involved making amends to those you had wronged. A simple apology would have done that with me, but I never got even that.

If he didn’t think he’d wronged me, he was in denial. If he knew he had wronged me and didn’t care to make amends, then he clearly had not changed. And he died.

I felt nothing. I wasn’t relieved because he hadn’t ever been able to do more than inconvenience me and cost me some money to pay for my lawyers. Just disappointed that his redemption story was every bit as false as virtually everything else he did or said.

That’s when I realized. I didn’t need his apology. I didn’t need an apology from any of those who had wronged me. Because, ultimately, my very good life is not dependent on or hurt by them. They have no power over me.

So why not forgive them? Which I have done.

7. I really don’t like Mystery Science Theatre 3000. If I want to listen to churlishly snarky comments from people who think they are comedy geniuses, I’ll start reading the comments on comic strips. I’d rather just watch the movies, good, bad, or really bad. I can make my own jokes in my mind. Even the presence of Felicia Day, a geek goddess if ever there was one, can’t convince me to check out the new version of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

8. The official Black Lightning credit is: “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden.” I wrote that new credit. I agreed to that new credit. DC agreed to that new credit. I think Trevor Von Eeden is okay with that new credit, but I now realize I have never asked him, even though we e-mail each other on an almost daily basis. Anyway...

Why is it so hard for comics news sites to get this right? This is the official credit. It recognizes my role as the primary creator of Black Lightning - it’s fact that I created everything important to the character before I brought him to DC - while recognizing the key role played by Trevor Von Eeden in contributing to the costume design of the original version and, working from the descriptions in my scripts, visually designing the supporting cast and villains. I expect mainstream media sites to get it wrong, but I expect more from the comics sites.

9. I’m looking for a comics news site I can call my own. Because I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the four I visit daily. Some ignore large areas of the comics art community while focusing on their particular favorites. Some seem to relish sensationalism more than actual news or commentary. Some seem to live and die by their click-bait. I’m not naming names here, but I trust there will be speculation as to which ones I’m talking about.

Have fun.

The older I get, the more my interest in all kinds of comics grows. I’m interested in the big publishers. I’m interested in small press creators. I’m interested in Asian and European comics and graphic novels. I’m interested in comics by creators of color and creators who represent the vast diversity of both our creators and our readers. I’m interested in comics history. I’m interested in what creators of my generation are doing. I’m interested in creator rights. I’m interested in comics that address real-world issues. I’m interested in the whole wonderful world of comics in print and in movies and anywhere else they appear. I’m interested in the art and the craft and the entertainment of comics.

If you know of a comics news site that comes remotely close to the above, please send me the link. I could stretch my Patreon budget to help support it.

10. I confess part of my disillusionment with those comics sites is that they don’t seem interested in my work. I thought it was very cool that I was invited to speak with the writers of the new Black Lightning show coming to the CW. I didn’t think respect like that had become commonplace in our industry.

I also have this new book out - July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella - that I think is a fun read even if you are not intensely interested in the comics of that era. My Sainted Wife Barb is enjoying it and she doesn’t read comics at all. Okay, she might be biased on account of she loves me.

11. Outside of my personal venues, I feel uncomfortable promoting myself. I wonder if I need to be sending out press releases, but I fear that would make me come off as needy.

12. I need an assistant. By the time I finish writing the six-issue comics series I’m currently working on, I want to have my stuffed-to-the-rafters office turned into a more functional space that can include an assistant. What holds me back is time and money. If I’m writing, I don’t have time to renovate my office. As for the money, I don’t know if I can afford to pay an assistant a wage I would be comfortable paying. I believe in the $15 per hour minimum wage. That just strikes me as the right thing to do.

13. I have pretty much lost all patience with comics readers that only like one kind of comic book or only comic books like the ones they read when they were twelve. I love the comic books I read when I was twelve, but if they were the only comics out there, I know my passion for comics would wither and die.

Besides...you old fogeys make me look bad. Editors and publishers see this 65-year-old dwarf and they think I can’t keep up with the young pups. I reject that stereotype.

14. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s good. I don’t have one set of standards for traditional comics and one for alternative works. No matter which group your comics fall into, I look for clear and expressive storytelling in both the writing and visuals. I look for interesting characters and situations. I’m not going to praise something just because it’s different. It has to be good, too.

15. I believe news stories about comic books becoming movies or TV shows should always mention the creators of those comic books. I’m not naive enough to think that mainstream media news outfits give a rat’s ass about those creators, but it’s sad most of the comics news people don’t care either.

It’s my hope that what I’ve written here today gets some readers to think. It’s my expectation that some who read today’s bloggy thing will be pissed about what I’ve written and hurl insults my way from their anonymous bunkers. But I’m gonna be at G-Fest for the next four or five days. So nah, nah, nah, I can’t hear you. At least until I return to my office late Monday or early Tuesday.

This has been my first venture into knowing click-bait. Should it bring me fame and fortune...or a butt-load of new views...I might take another crack at it. Feel free to send suggestions for click-bait articles you’d like me to write. Now scoot along while I finish reading “15 Comic-Book Pros Who Are Bad in Bed.”

See you next week, my friends.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #217

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Hogan's Alley #21, "The Magazine of the Cartoon Arts; The Flintstones Volume 1 by Mark Russell and artist Steve Pugh; and Civil War II: Gods of War by Dan Abnett with artist Emilio Laiso.

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 116

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 116th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.  

The Rawhide Kid #129 [October 1975] has a cover by Larry Lieber and inker John Tartaglione. It’s an altered reprint of the cover of The Rawhide Kid #57 [April 1967]. Most of the alterations were done to confirm to the current Marvel trade dress. Others were editorial in nature. Dialogue was added and the coloring was somewhat brighter.
                                                                                

“When the Scorpion Strikes” was written and penciled by Lieber and inked by Tartaglione. I first wrote about this issue in June, 2013, and you can read my comments here.

At this time, Rawhide Kid was almost editing itself. The reprinted stories were being reprinted in order. They were the 17-page length then standard for Marvel comic books, which meant no pages had to be cut to make them fit.    

There is a slight increase in comics-related “classified” ads. Last issue had twelve. This issue has fourteen. Because the ad-selling agency Marvel uses was slightly more successful this time around, there were fewer Marvel house ads. Only two.

The Marvel Treasury Edition ad we saw last time out is exactly as it was last time out with the same six issues. The subscription ad that has appeared before is back and offering the following titles:

Amazing Adventures
Amazing Spider-Man
Astonishing Tales
Avengers
Captain America
Captain Marvel
Chamber of Chills
Champions
Conan the Barbarian
Crypt of Shadows
Daredevil
Dr. Strange
Fantastic Four
Fear
Ghost Rider
Guardians of the Galaxy
Incredible Hulk
Iron Fist
Iron Man
Inhumans
Invaders
Journey into Mystery
Jungle Action
Ka-Zar
Kid Colt Outlaw
Man-Thing
Marvel Chillers
Marvel Double Feature
Marvel’s Greatest Comics
Marvel Premiere
Marvel Spectacular
Marvel Spotlight
Marvel Superheroes
Marvel Tales
Marvel Team-Up
Marvel Triple Action
Marvel Two-In-One
Master of King Fu
Mighty Marvel Western
My Love
Our Love Story
Power Man
Rawhide Kid
Scarecrow
Son of Satan
Strange Tales
Supernatural Thrillers
Super-Villain Team-Up
The Defenders
The Human Torch
The Outlaw Kid
The Mighty Thor
Tomb of Darkness
Tomb of Dracula
Two-Gun Kid
Uncanny Tales
Vault of Evil
Weird Wonder Tales
Werewolf by Night
Western Gunfighters
X-Men
Marvel Treasury Edition
Savage Sword of Conan
Planet of the Apes
Marvel Movie Premiere
Thor the Mighty
The Legion of Monsters
Marvel Super Action
Starlords
Sherlock Holmes
Doc Savage
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu
Crazy
Science Fiction
Marvel Preview
Kull and the Barbarians

If some of those titles don’t look quite right to you, you are not alone in that. The Scarecrow never got his own title, but appeared in some other title for an issue or two.

On the magazine side, Science Fiction was actually Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. Thor the Mighty, Starlord, and Sherlock Holmes never got their own titles, but appeared in Marvel Preview. There was a Legion of Monsters title, but it ended up being a one-shot. Times were tough.

The only other editorial page in this issue is the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page which kicks off with the usual “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” feature. Stan’s lead is Jack Kirby’s return to Marvel, commencing with the Marvel Treasury Edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey and King Kirby’s return to Captain America, which I was writing at the time. Stan also plugged Son of Origins of Marvel Comics and teased about a Silver Surfer graphic novel reunited him and Jack on their first comics project in years. Jack joined Stan on a panel at the Mighty Marvel Con and a good time was had by all.

Much to my surprise, the first item after Stan’s piece was a plug for the Champions series I was launching with Don Heck. The new comic was called the “grandest, goofiest and possibly greatest guest-star extravaganza of all”...“featuring five of our most far-out fightin’ furies ever to cross the pages of a comic mag.” There was no mention of how editors Len Wein and Marv Wolfman had shaped the roster of Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Hercules and Iceman. Instead, this was the “brainchild of TONY (the Tiger) ISABELLA.” It almost made me blush.

The second item announced the new Howard the Duck series written by Howard creator Steve Gerber and drawn by Frank Brunner.

The third item was all about the black-and-white magazines. Savage Tales was gone, but was being replaced by Marvel Super Action and Sherlock Holmes. Dracula Lives and Monsters Unleashed were kaput, but being replaced by The Legion of Monsters, Masters of Terror, Marvel Movie Premiere and Star-Lord.

Masters of Terror was edited by me and contained reprints of prose story adaptations previously published in various Marvel comics and magazines. It lasted two issues, but I’m pretty proud of those two issues. I’d hoped it would continue with a budget that would have allowed me to commission new adaptations.

Don McGregor got a shout-out for the completion of the “Panther’s Rage” serial in Jungle Action. The item also mentions that handsome artist Billy Graham has been appearing in TV commercials.

The final item told readers what a grand time by those who attended the Mighty Marvel Con. Those who didn’t attend could look forward to a con report and lots of photos in FOOM Magazine #10.   

That’s all for today. If all goes well, I’ll have something special for you tomorrow that I hope will tide you over until I return from G-Fest. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

G-FEST XXIV IS COMING!

G-Fest XXIV is being held from Thursday, July 14 through Sunday, July 16, at the lovely Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare hotel, which is right across the street from the Rosemont Convention Center. This event is said to be “the largest regular gathering of Godzilla and Japanese monster fans in the world,” attracting thousands of avid kaiju buffs from the United States, Canada, and distant parts.

This will be my second time at the convention for myself and my son Ed. I’m listed as a “special presenter.” Now you might quibble with the “special” part of that, but I’ll be presenting like a monster. More on that in a bit.

From the G-Fest website:

G-Fest is a family-oriented convention which caters to a wide variety of interests within the kaiju genre. G-FEST features presentations and Q & A sessions by actors and crew from the Japanese Godzilla films, fan presentations on topics of interest, contests and gaming, new and classic kaiju movies, the western world’s largest kaiju-oriented dealers room, and lots of fun and camaraderie.

This year’s special guests include composer Michiru Oshima; veteran designer/illustrator Yuji Kaida; director/special effects director Shinji Higuch, who recently worked on Shin Godzilla; actor and suit actor/stuntman Ryuki Kitaoka; assistant film director and writer Kazuhiro Nakagawa; Robert Scott Field, the star of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and a personable expert in things Japan; and J.D. Lees, the force of nature behind the great G-Fan Magazine, G-Fest itself, and the G-Tour, which brings Godzilla fans to Japan to see the world of the King of the Monsters. You can learn more about the guests by going here.

G-Fest has a three-tier schedule of panels and events, spread out over the Kennedy Room and two large ballrooms. One of my favorite events is the G-Pardy game show, presented in both adult and kids editions. Besides the interviews with the special guests, you will be able to attend panels on such topics as Kong: Skull Island, The Mysterians, Son of Godzilla, Mothra, Gappa, Hollywood Kaiju, kaiju writing, yokai, Gamera, Ultra Seven and more. On Saturday at noon, Godzilla artist Matt Frank will be discussing drawing and offering some basic instruction and tips therein.

I’m doing three panels during the convention...

Friday, July 14

MARVEL MONSTERS (3-4 pm, Ballroom 2)

Before the Avengers and Spider-Man, Marvel Comics published giant monster comics. A lot of them! And many of those monsters, like Fin Fang Foom and Groot, have become a part of the modern Marvel Universe. Come hear a lively discussion of these wacky but loveable creatures from writer Tony Isabella (Black Lightning, Ghost Rider, and more) and artist Mark Maddox. With Tony Isabella, Mark Maddox, and Andy Matzke.

Saturday, July 15

GORGO, KONGA AND REPTILICUS (3-4 pm, Ballroom 1)

Gorgo. Konga. Reptilicus. These were far more than just standalone films! A panel discussing the movies, the novel adaptations and the comic books. With Tony Isabella and Mark Maddox.

Sunday, July 16

SYFY MONSTERS (1-2 pm, Ballroom 2)

Culture critic Tony Isabella takes a look at some of the high entertainment but low budget creations that have screened on Syfy.

For all the panels, besides the hopefully amusing and informative commentary by the participants, we’ll also have a monster parade of comics covers, movie stills and more. I also expect will have some lively interactions with the audiences.

From my G-Fest experience last year, your biggest problem will not be finding interesting panels and other stuff. It will be deciding which of the many wondrous attractions you want to see most. The dealers room and the artist alley are packed with terrific stuff to buy. There are exhibits throughout the hotel. When you want to kick back and relax, the hotel has devoted one of its TV channels to a continuous showing of kaiju movies and TV shows.

Feeling competitive? G-Fest offers an amateur video contest, an art contest, a costume contest, a model contest, a music video contest and a video game competition. In addition to the G-Pardy game show panels I mentioned earlier.

Want to see swell movies on a big beautiful screen? The G-Fest double double feature film festival returns this year to the gorgeous Pickwick Theatre with one pair in the afternoon and the second pair in the evening. There will also be the regular Friday and Saturday night features. For more information, go here.

I will not be set up in either artist alley or the dealers room at G-Fest. This is my fan fist convention. However, I will be carrying around copies of July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella with me. A copy will run you $18.

If you want to get me to sign something, you will need to track me down. I’m not scheduled to do any signings. However, as long as you can find me where my signing your books or comics won’t impede the stuff happening around us, I’ll be happy to sign stuff for you. I will not be charging for signatures at G-Fest.

That’s my G-Fest XXIV preview. I look forward to expressing my love for Godzilla and other giant monsters over the weekend and, to be sure, spending time with my fellow kaiju fans.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of my fast-shooting, hard-riding “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

DELAYED JET LAG

My quick trip to Burbank took more out of me than I anticipated. Look for today's bloggy thing preview of G-FEST XXIV later today.

Monday, July 10, 2017

JULY 1963: BLACKHAWK #188

Welcome to what I’m considering “Volume Two” of my 136-part series on the comic books that arrived on the newsstands in July 1963. As I’ve explained in previous installments of this series, that month was pivotal to my own comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

I’m thinking in terms of “Volume Two” because the previous columns in this series have been collected in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. The columns that appear in that softcover book were rewritten as needed with bonus material added to the mix. The book is available from Amazon in two formats: Kindle and actual print.

Today we’re looking at DC’s Blackhawk #188, dated September 1963. The cover - pencilled by Dick Dillin with inks by Sheldon Moldoff - illustrates “The Petrified Giant of Blackhawk Island,” one of the two Blackhawk adventures in this issue. Neither story has ever been reprinted in this country nor are they likely to be reprinted any time soon. So we’re dispensing with the usual SPOILER WARNINGS and giving you the details.

The inside front cover of this issue is a full-page advertisement for “the amazing MADE SIMPLE Self-Teaching Encyclopedia.” I wrote about this in a previous “July 1963" installment, which, amazingly,  you can read in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I would promise that’s the last plug for my new book today, but the odds of that are slim.

The Blackhawks were a hit when they debuted in Military Comics #1 [Quality; August 1941]. Led by the mysterious Blackhawk, they were a team of ace pilots from different countries. They had their own title as well. When Quality got out of the comic-book business, DC bought the Blackhawks and other features and titles.

“Mr. Justice, the Blackhawks' Ally” (11.67 pages) was written by the prolific Dave Wood with Dillin on the pencils and Chuck Cuidera on the inks. After years of fighting the Axis powers during World War II and Communists after World War II, the seven Blackhawks were now little more than crime-fighters who spent much more time on the ground than in the air.

This time around, the Blackhawks are on the trail of the Scavenger Gang, a well-organized criminal organization. Captured members of the gang refuse to talk but Chop-Chop, the not-as-racist-but-still racist sidekick of the Blackhawks, discovers strange green clay at the scene of his team’s first encounter with the Scavengers. Taking a page from Batman’s casebook, Blackhawk recognizes the clay comes from the banks of a river in Emeraldville, fifty miles upstate from where they are.

Hendrickson asks Blackhawk:

Himmel! Vot causes such coloring?

Such dialects were common in Blackhawk tales, especially with such members as Andre, Hendrickson, Olaf and Stanislaus.

Blackhawk responds:

Years ago the waste disposal from a chemical plant dyed clay pit deposits there –- which pinpoints the spot this
[Scavengers] plane came from!

A second team of Blackhawks has already encountered other members of the Scavengers trying to rob a small-town carnival. Confronting the gang, the Blackhawks are assisted by Mr. Justice, a costumed crime fighter who himself looks like a carnival performer.

Hearing of the green clay, local hero Mr. Justice tells Blackhawk the Scavenger hideout can only be in one of two places. The heroes split into two teams.

The first team - led by Mr. Justice - finds a trap and a deserted headquarters. Somehow the crooks knew they were coming and managed to escape with their records and possessions. All the Scavengers left behind was a short-wave radio. The heroes are amazed the bad guys were able to move so fast.

The second team - led by Blackhawk - finds the Scavenger Gang, but are outnumbered and captured. When the first team tries to rescue  them, they are also captured and we discover that Mr. Justice is the secret leader of the criminals. His super-hero role was a cover for his true activities.

That’s when one of the Scavengers notices that there are only six Blackhawks. They are missing one. The math genius is rewarded for his counting skills by being socked in the face by...Mr. Justice?

It’s Chuck, who was suspicious of Mr. Justice as the first team of heroes approached the second headquarters. He slugged Mr. Justice and then discovered the shortwave radio in the costumed man’s car was operating on the same frequency as the shortwave radio set in the deserted hideout. He posed as Mr. Justice to trick the rest of the Scavengers into unlocking the cell where they were keeping the other Blackhawks. The freed heroes punched out the Scavengers just in time to hear Chuck’s exposition and check out the Tootsie Roll  ad that occupied the bottom third of the final page of this rather tepid adventure.
                                                                            

A house ad for Giant Superman Annual #7 and Giant Batman Annual #5 runs after page 8 of the above Blackhawks story. The Superman comic celebrates the silver anniversary (1938-1963) of the Man of Steel. The Batman issue features “The Strange Lives of Batman and Robin.” Eighty pages of vintage thrills in each annual.

“The Archers of Yesteryear” is a one-page text feature that follows the first story. It relates that bow-and-arrow weapons seem to have sprung up independently all over the world, tracing the different styles of the weapons. Of course, it also throws considerable shade on Native Americans:

“Surprisingly enough, the American Indian was not a particularly skilled bowman, despite the fact that the bow and arrow was his chief hunting and fighting weapon.”

The author of the text page is unknown.
                                                                                 

The text page is followed by “Little Pete” (2/3 page), a gag strip by master cartoonist Henry Boltinoff. Every time I read one of his strips, I wish DC would publish a big thick collection of them. I like his work more with each passing year.

“The Petrified Giant of Blackhawk Island” (12.67 pages) is also by Wood, Dillin and Cuidera. This cover story is much better than the first story and guest-stars Lady Blackhawk.

Blackhawk Island is shaken by a violent volcanic eruption. From a fissure, the giant Tarn emerges from a suspended animation sleep of a hundred years. He doesn’t attack the Blackhawks. He runs off into the jungle. He builds a giant raft, hews a paddle out of a tree and then starts paddling across the ocean.

Finding a giant war club in the fissure, Blackhawk recognizes it as having designs used by the Taleekans, whose island lies 300 miles south of the Blackhawk base. The heroes split up. Blackhawk, Lady Blackhawk, Andre and Hendrickson fly to the other island. All the others follow Tarn in a submarine.

Surprisingly, Tarn is swimming west and not to his home island. On the island of the Taleekans, the Blackhawks learn the story of this giant warrior.

A century earlier, the Taleekans lived in peace with the Marnos on a different island. Until they were driven off the island by that other tribe and had to relocate to another island. A great Taleekan witch doctor created a brew that would transform one warrior into a giant. Tarn was the chosen warrior.

Tarn was sent to their old island home to drive the Marnos from it. But the giant warrior was caught in the fury of a volcanic eruption and entombed underneath Blackhawk Island. Revived, he’s determined to complete his original mission.

The Taleekans plan to follow Tarn to their old home and join in the battle with the Marnos. The Blackhawks want to prevent that battle. What with having jets, the Blackhawks reach the island first. The Marnos don’t believe them and move to seize the intruders. Which is when Tarn shows up.

Blackhawk and his men distract Tarn. Lady Blackhawk startles Tarn with the reflection of the sun off her hand mirror on account of girl heroes always use girly things to fight both giants and run-of-the-mill menaces.

The Blackhawks from the submarine further distract Tarn by hurling phosphorous grenades. Meanwhile, the Marnos chief and witch doctor have concocted a deadly potion to use against the giant. The smoke fumes from the potion fell Tarn.

The sympathetic Lady Blackhawk, on account of girls are kinder than boys, gives Tarn water. The giant is still dying, but he plans to use what strength he has left to crush the Marnos.

The Taleekans and the Marnos are facing off for battle. Blackhawk and his men try to keep the two sides apart. Uprooting a tree, Tarn is about to use it against the Marnos when Lady Blackhawk beseeches him to choose a better path:

No, No, Tarn! You mustn’t! Listen to me...I am your friend! No good will come of this useless war! You must prevent this battle!

Tarn sees the wisdom of her words: 
 
You are right, little one! Bloodshed will not solve our tribal problems!

He addresses both tribes:

Heed well the advice of these strangers and end the hatred that exists between us...live...in peace...together...o-oh!

Tarn collapses. His body falls between the warring tribes. Even in death, he tries to prevent the fighting.

The Taleekans and the Marnos accept the giant’s dying wisdom. There is enough room on the island for both tribes. Just as there was in ancient days.

The Blackhawks get the final words...
 
It’s rather ironic that the giant who was created to wage war brought everlasting peace to his tribe!

I wasn’t a big Blackhawk fan growing up. It was one of those comic books I would get as an add-on in trades or from the neighborhood barber shop where I would sweep hair for comics. When I was living on a pretty small allowance, I only bought an occasional issue of the title. Usually when Lady Blackhawk was prominently featured on the cover. She was pretty hot, even to a pre-teen.

That’s all for now, my beloved bloggy pals. I know you're eager to head over to Amazon and order  July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I will be back tomorrow with my G-Fest preview. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, July 9, 2017

LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL

Now it can be told! Well, some of it can be told. You’ll see what I mean as you read this digest version of why I was gone from the Internet for a few days. A longer version will follow after I get back from G-Fest next weekend and have time to elaborate.

Early Thursday morning, my son Eddie drove me to the Akron-Canton Airport to board a flight to Detroit and there board a connecting flight to Los Angeles. I had been asked to come to Burbank to meet with the writers of the Black Lightning TV series which will begin filming in Atlanta in August.

I was treated with great generosity and respect at every stage of this trip. I flew first class to Los Angeles and, on my return, to Atlanta and back to Akron-Canton. At LAX, a car was waiting to take me to the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. This was going to be a quick trip, which is why I only spent one night at the Ace. But it was a memorable stay.

The Ace Hotel is in the running for the weirdest hotel in which I have ever stayed, but it was weird in a wonderful way. The once-classic hotel is being refurbished along with much of the surrounding area. The room was full of surprises, including a cool turntable and a stack of vinyl albums to play on said turntable.

When I was settled in the room, I called Mark Evanier who is, in order of importance, one of the finest people on our planet, one of my best friends for going on half a century, and one of my favorite writers. Mark sent his assistant John to pick me up and drive me to Mark’s house. I had a terrific couple of hours with Mark before jet lag hit me hard. He drove me back to the Ace.

There was a lot of construction going on around the Ace. The sounds of trucks woke me up early. When I explored the area a bit, most of the people I saw were construction workers. Back at the Ace, I had one of the best room service breakfasts ever with the absolute best scrambled eggs I had ever had in life.

I checked out of the hotel and another limo drove me to Burbank and the Black Lightning writers room. Jamon Brown, assistant to show runners Salim and Mara Akil, was one of several people who planned my trip/visit and took great care of me. I got nothing but love and respect the whole time I was there.

Pause to contemplate this amazing situation with me. After years of what we will describe as friction between myself and DC Comics, I was invited to Burbank to meet with the writers and staff crafting a TV series based on my proudest comics creation. There are moments in my life when I fear I am in a coma somewhere hallucinating what my life has become and is becoming. That’s how unreal all of this feels to me sometimes.

Walking into the writers room and seeing a white board mapping out the first season of Black Lightning was an experience I will never forget. Looking at the opposite wall where another white board had the names of characters, several of which I created with Trevor Von Eeden or Eddy Newell, who might appear on the show added to my joy, as did the placards with characters who are appearing as they were originally drawn by Trevor, Jim Aparo and others. I don’t have the words to express what I felt without quickly descending into happy and nervous babbling.

And then...spending a couple of hours answering questions from the writers, talking to them about the characters, listening to them, well, that was equally indescribable. They know Jefferson Pierce. They know Anissa and Jennifer. They know Jefferson’s world and the challenges and conflicts he faces. And when I was asked questions about things from individual comic books I had written, I realized they knew and respected my work.

Comic books and TV shows are not the same. There are elements that work in the former that won’t work in the latter and vice versa. To know that and then to discover how much of my work will be represented in the TV series as translated by show runners Salim and Mara Brock Akil, the writers and the actors, I literally can’t tell you what raced through my mind during this meeting. I would sound like one of the bubbly Minions of Despicable Me.

I was shown the full Black Lightning presentation piece created for the CW. The trailer you saw is the definition of awesome. The full piece adds even more weight to that awesomeness. Though I suspect I might be somewhat biased, I think Black Lightning is going to be a huge hit when it debuts early next year.

I am constantly in awe of how important Black Lightning is to more people than even I have realized. I was stunned into silence when I looked at the schedule board in Salim’s office. I’m a comic-book writer. I thought I knew how much bigger an undertaking creating a TV series had to be. Then I saw that schedule. Wow.

Salim gave me a Black Lightning ball cap, which came in handy just a few minutes later. I signed a copy of Black Lightning #5 (second series) for him. It’s my favorite issue and his as well.

If you’re waiting for me to spill details about what I know about the TV series that you don’t know, you’re going to be disappointed. Even if I were at liberty to tell you these things, I wouldn’t. I want you to experience the TV series without any conceptions that are filtered through my perceptions. When you do see the show, you will be almost as thrilled as I was in the writers room. In other words, don’t ask because I ain’t telling.

I will have much more to say about the writers when I can write a more comprehensive report on this visit. The kindness and respect they showed me was incredible. I feel so confident that they will knock this series out of the park week after week.

Salim thought the session was very helpful and productive. I hope so because, as I said several times, I will do anything I can to be of assistance to the show and the people making it. Because Black Lightning is more important than my contributions to the character. He means too much to too many people. He deserves to be a star.

We also covered a lot of ground quicker than had been anticipated. I was originally scheduled to be in the writers room until seven. So I ended up getting a tour of DC Comics/Entertainment, which is located just a block away. Jamon walked me over to DC. It was a blistering hundred degrees in Burbank that afternoon. Thankfully, I had my Black Lightning cap.

Those DC offices, which occupy multiple floors, are kind of like Oz and Starfleet HQ rolled into one. Because it was Friday afternoon, which operates on flex-time, the officers were relatively quiet as my guides Renee and Mike showed me around.

For this bloggy thing, I’m not going into detail about this tour, but the wonderful art on the walls, the statues, the memorabilia, the ever-present spinner racks stocked with free-for-the-taking comic books and the brightness of the place was astonishing. It exceeded anything I ever thought the DC offices could be. And I got great swag.

I also got to meet with Jim Chadwick, my editor on the mini-series I am writing for DC that hasn’t been announced but which you know a bit about because several people, most definitely including me, are too excited about it to keep their mouths shut. Today, I will be uncharacteristically circumspect. Save to say what I have told many of my friends: Chadwick is one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with. He has been letting me tell my story and helping me tell it as best as I possibly can. If you love the series as much as I think you will, he gets a good share of the credit.

Look. Most of you have been with me a long time. You know most of my history and, in particular, my history with DC Comics. None of that is going to be rehashed here. I love the folks I have worked with at other publishers. I am happy to continue to be associated with Marvel in minor ways and am treated extremely well by Marvel.

However...

I have never been treated with greater respect than I am receiving from DC these days and on more levels than I ever imagined. I feel honored to be working with the company again and I think they kind of like having me on board as well. I get dizzy when I look at how things are now. At how far we’ve come.

People have been telling me my life is about to change in ways I’ve never imagined. That opportunities will be coming. And, since I’m not exclusive to DC, that these opportunities might come from many different directions. If my life stays exactly as it is now, I’d be blessed beyond my previous expectations. If it gets even better and more exciting, I would relish what ever comes my way. I'm ready to ride the lightning, as it were.

I am blessed. I hope I can share those blessings with others in my industry and with the fans. My life is an adventure.

Okay, before I burst with happiness, let me get through the rest of this not-as-detailed-as-it’s-going-to-be trip report.

I didn’t want to have people trying to find ways to entertain me when they had work to do. So Jamon called the car service to take me to the airport early. My flight wasn’t leaving for six hours, but I figured I could hang around the airport as easily as anywhere else. My driver, hating what he’d seen of the expressways that day and knowing we had plenty of time, took me to the airport via land routes. So I got to see all sorts of cool architecture and scenery. I think we made better time than we would have had we taken the expressways.

A minor glitch in my return tickets omitted the pre-check status I have purchased from the TSA. So I had to go through the bothersome removing of my shoes and belt while dealing with an obnoxious TSA agent. But Delta had a first class line, so the experience wasn’t too long for me.

The airport terminal was packed. I realized hanging out there was not going to be as relaxing as I had hoped. So I did something that surprised me. I walked up to the Delta Air Club and bought a one-day membership. Relatively quiet and relaxing large room. Free food that was excellent. Free drinks. Free magazines and newspapers. Pristine bathrooms. Hey, at 65 years old, a man has priorities. 
 
If I hadn’t checked my suitcase, I could have taken a shower and changed out of the clothes I would end up having worn for over 24 hours before I got home. I ate. I drank. I relaxed. It was well worth the 59 bucks I paid for the one-day pass. If I end up doing a lot more traveling in 2018, I might spring for the yearly membership.

I was very pleased with Delta on the flight from LAX to Atlanta. We had a friendly pilot who chatted with passengers before the flight. The flight crew was terrific. I even managed a couple hours sleep, albeit in increments of fifteen to thirty minutes, before we landed in Atlanta and my three-hour layover before my flight back to Ohio. I spent a lot of time in the various airports and on airplanes this trip. Still incredibly worth it.

Things didn’t get dicey until we were close to boarding our plane to Akron-Canton. The pilots felt there were problems with the plane and that it needed maintenance. We would have to go to a different plane at a different gate. I was 100% good with this. If the pilots thought there were problems, I was not going to suggest we roll the dice and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of confusion and even some anger at the new gate. Two flights would board at close to the same time. Some vocal passengers were bitching about the order in which we’d board our plane. A grumpy old man who was in the premium line - not this grumpy old man, mind you - started arguing with them. He sat in front of me during the flight to Ohio and never stopped being a grumpy old man.

There were technological problems with switching the luggage from the first plane to the second plane, which extended the departure delay. Finally, there was some sort of water warning at the airport with the result that our flight would not be able serve coffee or tea. Not a problem for me. I was good with bottled water and soft drinks. But other passengers were less than thrilled.

All in all, I give Delta a solid “B” on the four flights I was on this trip. I enjoyed flying with them.

I was picked up at the airport by Sainted Wife Barb. Eddie ordered pizza from our new favorite local pizza place and we picked it up on our way home. I changed out of the clothes I had worn too long and they walked themselves over to the laundry basket. I unpacked,  shared quality time with my family, did some online stuff, watched The Gong Show and Battle of the Network Stars, and finally relaxed enough to sleep.

It was a great couple of days. I look forward to telling you about them in more detail and even showing you some photos. Come back on the morrow and we’ll talk a little about the upcoming G-Fest, the Godzilla convention heard around the world. Roar.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #216

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder: John Stanley: Giving Life To Little Lulu, Eisner Award-winning writer Bill Schelly's latest comics biography; the Big Moose one-shot from Archie Comics; and Worlds of Fear Volume One, reprinting five issues of the Fawcett Comics horror title.

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 115

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 115th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #128 [September 1975] has a spiffy cover penciled and inked by Gil Kane. A master of western action, Kane excelled at these covers. From the few times I worked with him on them, I can tell you they came easy to him.
                                                                                 

This issue reprints the 17-page “Fall of a Hero” from Rawhide Kid #56 [February 1967]. The story was written and drawn by the great Larry Lieber and inked by Vince Colletta. The Rawhide Kid figure on the original cover was penciled by Lieber and inked by Sol Brodsky.  The vignettes surrounding that figure come from the interior art. I wrote about this story in May 2013 and you can read my comments on it here.

There are a dozen comics-related “classified” ads in the issue, but only two are notable. Collectors Showcase of Hollywood, California sold “Original Comic Art” featuring “100s of full color paintings and drawings by famous artists.” The 72-page catalogue costs $4.95. Did any of my bloggy readers ever order from them? I’d love to find out what art they had and what happened to the company.

The more notable of the two ads was Marvel superstar artist John Buscema announcing he was accepting a limited number of students for his course in comic book art with the workshop located in New York City. I know this has been written about and, if any of those articles are online, I would love to share links to them with the readers of this blog.
                                                                               
                                                                                 

With a mere 17 pages of actual story in its comics and a dwindling number of paying advertisers, Marvel started running a whole lot of house ads in its comics. This issue had a full-page ad for Marvel Treasury Editions across from another full-page ad for “The Hulk on the Rampage” Treasury Edition.
                                                                                    

The Marvel Comic Con was held earlier that year. Working with the late Phil Seuling, the company put on its on comics convention. I remember Stan Lee being taken aback when some artists and writers wanted to be compensated for their appearances at the event. Stan  didn’t see the convention as any different from the fan conventions we attended.

Stan had a point. The fan-ran conventions were profitable or, at least, intended to be profitable. How was that different from the Marvel-run convention?

While I can’t remember how much we were paid for our participation in the Marvel Comic Con, we did get paid for it. I never knew how much Marvel made from the event or even if it made a profit at all. But there was convention swag to be had and a full-page ad to let true believers know about it.

The program book cost $2.25 (including postage). The event poster also cost $2.25. A button was seventy-five cents. Bumper stickers were two for a buck and a quarter. A convention tee-shirt cost $3 for boys sizes and $4.45 for man sizes. You could order all of the above for $7.74 and get a free Marvel Con shopping bag and events list in the deal.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page was almost all plugs. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” plugged the Marvel-Ous Wizard of Oz treasury edition, the sequel to Origins of Marvel Comics, and the forthcoming Nostalgia Illustrated Magazine.

The rest of the Bullpen page plugged forgettable and mostly short-lived new features and titles with the notable exceptions being the Invaders and the X-Men. The former got close to fifty issues before it was cancelled, the latter has published hundreds and maybe even thousands of issues in various incarnations.

There were also items about writers and artists switching over to new assignments. Roy Thomas was writing Thor. Len Wein was taking over Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up. Marv Wolfman was the new writer on Daredevil, replacing yours truly. Doug Moench was writing Ka-Zar and George Tuska was returning to Iron Man. Inker Mike Esposito was reuniting with long-time friend and partner Ross Andru on the main Spider-Man title.

Amazing Spider-Man #149 would be revealing the startling secret of the Jackal. Spoiler alert. The Jackal was a crazy college professor with a crush on the dead Gwen Stacy. The startling part is that the character would come back time and time again and that the clones he created would change the Marvel Universe forever.

The final news item was the launching of the new, black-and-white Marvel Movie Premiere. The first issue would feature The Land That Time Forgot as adapted by Marv Wolfman and Steve Gan.

The final item was the sad news that ace letterer Artie Simek had passed away on February 20, 1975. He was one of the best letterers in comics and someone I had worked with from time to time. He was not the first comics pro I’d worked with to pass, but that didn’t make it any easier. It hasn’t gotten any easier since.
                                                                               

The last editorial page in the issue had two half-page house ads. The first was for the FOOM fan club, which would cost a fan $2.50 to join. The second was for the upcoming Doctor Strange Treasury. It ran on the last interior page of the issue.

That’s all for today and for the next several days. I’m leaving in the wee hours of Thursday morning to fly to...well, that would be telling. But it’s a pretty exciting trip and I’ll tell you as much about it as I can when the bloggy thing resumes on Monday or maybe Tuesday of next week. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN JUNE

Sorrow and ugliness hang over the United States these days like a toxic cloud of right-wing flatulence. The struggle to restore our country to one where decency reigns over bigotry and greed will be a long and hard one. As honorable folk fight for a better America, I take strength from the many people and things that bring joy to my life in my daily “Things That Make Me Happy” posts on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s my list for June...

June 1: National Geographic Magazine. Endlessly fascinating. Find the truth and print it. 6-1-17.

June 2: Canoe Cops vs. The Mummy by my pal Stephen D. Sullivan. A monstrously hilarious novel. 6-2-17.

June 3: Homicide: Life On The Street: The Complete Series. Coming my way on July 4th. 6-3-17.

June 4: Barb, Kelly and I cleaned the garage for my summer sales. They did the heavy thinking and lifting. I did whatever they told me to do. It’s a system that works for us. 6-4-17.

June 5: Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin. I like Esther, Susan and Daisy and I’m a tough sell when it comes to comics about college students. 6-5-17.

June 6: Rough Riders by Adam Glass and Patrick Olliffe. Think Teddy Roosevelt leading the 19th Century Avengers. 6-6-17.

June 7: Wonder Woman. The best DC super-hero movie ever. It hit all the right notes for me. 6-7-17.

June 8: Gotham’s two-hour season finale. Big moments in every act. I’m looking forward to next season. 6-8-17.

June 9: The cast of Lucifer has been knocking it out of the park, especially Lesley-Ann Brandt as Maze. 6-9-17.

June 10: The rise of moderate Republicans in Kansas. Still a long way to go, but it’s a start. 6-10-17.
                                                                             

June 11: Gorgo. I watched the 1961 movie again as prep for a G-Fest panel. I enjoyed it as much as when I was a kid. 6-11-17.

June 12: Watching The Secret Life of Pets with Barb, Eddie and Kelly. A rare family movie night. 6-12-17.

June 13: Jason Klepper Solves Guns. Funny, informative, insightful. Kudos to Comedy Central. 6-13-17.

June 14: Allison Janney will voice Goldie O’Gilt in the Duck Tales revival. If that’s not cause for geeking out, I don’t know what is. 6-14-17.

June 15: Assassination Classroom Volume 16. What a game-changer for one of my all-time favorite manga series. 6-15-17.

June 16: Learning cool Monopoly stuff from a Monopoly collector who came to my garage sale. 6-16-17.

June 17: I’ll be returning to the wonderful Pensacon in 2018. Might have a few surprises for you then. 6-17-17.

June 18: Barb and Kelly made a spectacular breakfast for Father’s Day. And for lunch: donuts! 6-18-17.

June 19: Fiesta Jalapeno takeout for Father’s Day dinner with Barb, Eddie, Kelly and Giselle. 6-19-17.

June 20: Putting great stuff at great prices into my next garage sale. Looking forward to happy customers. 6-20-17.
                                                                                      
    
June 21: Adam West’s guest appearance on Powerless. He nailed each and every joke. 6-21-17.

June 22: Snapple’s Takes 2 to Mango Tea. By the way, an ostrich's brain is smaller than its eye. 6-22-17.

July 23: My pal Marlie. He’s been helping me get ready for the next garage sales. When you see all those great Batman and other comics, thank Marlie. 6-23-17.

July 24: The Gong Show on ABC. It’s not the classic Chuck Barris series, but it was still good goofy fun. 6-24-17.

June 25: G.L.O.W. Kelly and I watched the first two episodes. They were fun. Now we have a new show to share. 6-25-17.

June 26: My son Ed, who is 29 years old today. He’s a fine man and our future President. Though he’ll have to disavow that crazy dad of his. 6-26-17.
                                                                                

June 27: Ed’s birthday dinner with Barb and Kelly at the Longhorn Steakhouse. My salmon was amazing! 6-27-17.

June 28: The exhilarating moment when you have a breakthrough on a difficult script and a scene turns out better than you could have imagined. 6-28-17.

June 29: Mark Evanier’s Cuter Than You series on his News from Me blog. It always makes me smile. 6-29-17.

June 30: Thanks to my new phone, I can play theme music whenever I walk into a room. Some members of my family do not find this quite as awesome as I do. 6-30-17.
      
I’ll be back tomorrow with the latest installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday!” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, July 3, 2017

DOUBLE MONSTER MONDAY

With G-Fest just a little over a week away, I have now finished my assigned reading and viewing for the Gorgo/Konga/Reptilicus panel I’ll be doing at that most glorious of American events celebrating Godzilla and his fellow kaiju.

Reptilicus [1961] was a Danish-American film featuring an enormous dragon-like monster that has always looked like a pissed-off sock puppet to me. Wikipedia says the movie was produced by American International Pictures and Saga Studio, and separate versions were released in Denmark and in the United States. I have no idea which version I’ve been watching all these years. That’s right. Despite my disdain for this movie, I watch it every now and then. I can’t explain why. Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

After copper miners discover part of the frozen tail of a prehistoric monster in Lapland, scientists inadvertently bring it back to life.

Reptilicus was released in the United States in January of 1963. As was the case with Gorgo and Konga, the novelization and the comic book came out long before the movie. The novelization by the quite prolific Dean Owen was published in June of 1961. The first issue of the comic book is dated August of 1961. From here on in, we’re letting you know there are

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The novelization adds a whole lot of hanky-panky to the movie, even more so than in the Gorgo and Konga novelizations. Svend Viltorft, the miner who discovers the tail of Reptilicus, has had an affair with the wife of his boss. Which he breaks off when he realizes her true identity. Neither the wife nor her husband are in the movie.

As in the movie, Professor Otto Martens had two gorgeous daughters. Outside of being very lovely, neither character is notable in the movie. In the book, older sister Lise is coming off a love affair that ended badly and is also being tormented by her younger sister Karen. Because of lies told to her when she was growing up, Karen thinks she is the child of her mother and an illicit lover. She competes with Lise for the affections of Svend. Karen boasts that she’s done the deed with Svend first and, later, that she had another round of sex with the hunky miner on Lise’s bed. However, by the end of the novel, the professor sets Karen straight. On Lise’s part, she gets inexplicably rescued from a trio of would-be rapists by the lover who left her. Turns out said lover wasn’t the married man he’d claimed to be. He just got cold feet.

In other salacious goings-on, grumpy American General Mark Grayson gets it on with UN scientist Connie Miller in the office of his makeshift command center. In the movie, all Mark and Connie get to do is have a night out in Tivoli, chaperoned by Captain Brandt of the Danish military. In one unforgettable cinematic scene - I know it’s unforgettable because I’ve tried to forget it. Lord knows I’ve tried to forget it - the trio are serenaded by a perky chanteuse in a nightclub. Once you’ve heard “Tivoli Nights”...

Enough with the sex. The novelization makes the monster stuff much more chilling and exciting than the movie. In the book, Reptilicus actually flies before his wings are destroyed and is much scarier all around. In the American version of the movie, hapless victims die horribly as they are covered over by the monster’s sickly green phlegm. It’s an incredibly hokey special effect.

In the novel, when characters we know die, the impact of the deaths is far greater than in the movie. The same holds true for the fear that almost overwhelms Grayson, Martens and the other Reptilicus-fighting forces. The novel also lacks the comedy stylings of the custodian Petersen, who comes off like a member of a really awful Three Stooges tribute band.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


Owen’s novelization follows the plot of the movie closely, adding the sex scenes and spending more time developing Grayson, Martens and the other characters. It’s far better than the movie and even better than the comic book.

The comic book only ran two issues before Charlton Comics changed the name to Reptisaurus a full year before Reptilicus was released in the United States. Reptisaurus was canceled before the film was released in the U.S., though, decades later, in 2009, a Reptisaurus movie was made by monster master Christopher Ray. The movie, never released in this country, bears no resemblance to either Reptilicus or the Charlton comic book on which it claims to be based. You can read my review of Reptisaurus here.

                                                                                

Within days of watching Reptilicus for the umpteenth time, I also watched Yongary: Monster from the Deep [1967] for the first time. It’s a South Korean kaiju film whose original version was lost when its negatives were shipped to American International Pictures to be edited for distribution in the United States. Perhaps someday that original version will surface. If it does, I’ll do my best to watch it and write about it in a future bloggy thing.

Here’s the quick Yongary summary from the IMDb:

Earthquakes in central Korea turn out to be the work of Yongary, a prehistoric gasoline-eating reptile that soon goes on a rampage through Seoul.

KIND OF SPOILERS AHEAD
KIND OF SPOILERS AHEAD
KIND OF SPOILERS AHEAD


The film is so forgettable that, just a few days after watching it, I have trouble remembering details. It opens with a small wedding. Driving off, the couple begins to itch painfully because Icho, one of those typical-for-monster-movies mischievous boys, is firing an “itch ray” at them. The ray was invented by Icho’s brilliant if shy with women uncle.

It takes a good twenty minutes before we get the vaguest glimpse of Yongary. Maybe the intent there was to build suspense, maybe it was to delay showing the audience the full Yongary suit. Said suit is well below the quality of Toho Studios kaiju movies, even though it was built by the same guy who built Godzilla and Kong suits for earlier movies.

Politicians, scientists and military men are all familiar with the legend of Yongary. They take learning the creature really exists in stride. Not so much their failure to stop him. In an explicable scene, Icho uses the itch ray on Yongary and the two of them dance to generic pop music. 

Icho stumbles on a way to incapacitate the monster. His uncle takes it from there. In the end, Yongary is destroyed.

Icho is sad but philosophical. He knows Yongary had to be killed, but wishes the adults could’ve seen the monster dancing so happily. Icho’s uncle gets the remaining single girl.

KIND OF SPOILERS OVER
KIND OF SPOILERS OVER
KIND OF SPOILERS OVER


The movie’s human characters are likeable, even the annoying Icho. There are scenes of the politicians, scientists and military folks discussing possible courses of action in a manner done much better in 2016's Shin Godzilla.

Yongary was kind of sort of remade in 1999 as Yonggary, released in the U.S. as Reptilian. The remake is a decent giant monster film that casts the title monster as a Godzilla-like hero-villain. It’s a real stretch to seriously consider it a remake of the original.

The bottom line is Yongary: Monster from the Deep is simply not a very good film. The only reason I’d ever watch it again would be if the original uncut version surfaced, giving me a chance to compare the two. I’d recommend the existing version only to those monster movie fans who have to see every giant monster movie.

That’s all for today’s bloggy, my friends. Come back tomorrow for a recap of the things that made me happy in June.

© 2017 Tony Isabella