Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NOT MY RIVERDALE

A few days ago, I posted this on my Facebook page:

Fifteen minutes of Riverdale was all I could stomach. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to try to watch the entire episode and write about it. I wasn't expecting much - the writer's seeming hatred of the Archie characters has been well established and it still baffles me that the company employs him in an executive position - but this was even worse than I imagined. Utter crap.

That began a very long thread with my friends going back and forth on the first episode’s merits or lack thereof. At one point, I was considering watching the entire episode before writing about this re-imagining of the Archie Comics signature series. To be honest, I decided against this. I have no reasonable expectation that I would like the remaining 45 minutes of the episode any more than I liked the first 15 minutes. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say about the show today.

First and foremost, I owe an apology to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the chief creative officer of Archie Comics, the writer of this first episode and the show runner of the series. I don’t like this guy’s writing. I don’t like his versions of these classic characters. But I was out of line to suggest he hates them, even though I used the “seemingly” qualifier. He may love these characters, though he has, to me, an unfathomable way of showing it.

I’m not going to apologize for not liking the portion of the show I watched. Not every TV show or comic book is going to be to every viewer or reader’s liking. Despite some decent acting, my reaction to Riverdale was that it was, at very best, One Tree Hill Lite and that it did a considerable disservice to the Archie characters in the name of sordid shock value. I believe it’s fair conjecture to suggest that was the intent, given all the click-bait promotional articles teasing that sordid shock value.

“Utter crap” was an exaggeration. There were a few elements in the fifteen minutes that I thought were interesting. I’ll discuss the good and the bad in a bit.

Riverdale reminds me of my own home town of Medina. My town is way too white and way too knee-jerk “Christian” and way way too right-wing. But there are a lot of good souls in this city who have done their best to raise kids who are not bigots and racists, who don’t dismiss facts and science that challenges their partisan beliefs, who don’t approve of the manner in which Peepee Cheeto and his GOP thugs are perverting our democracy and our national acceptance of and generosity towards those who are not like us.

Traditionally, the Riverdale of the comic books has always been a safe place where the kids are basically good kids and the parents are loving and supportive of them. It took a long while before we saw non-white characters in the Archie comics and even longer to see even one gay character. But the Riverdale of the comic books remains a safe place for all its citizens. Call it a fantasy if you insist, but I think it a fantasy worth pursuing. I don’t see that Riverdale reflected in the TV show.

I am a believer in “core values” of comic-book characters. I don’t expect Agents of SHIELD or Arrow or The Flash or Gotham or Lucifer or Preacher or Supergirl or any of the many other comic-book shows I watch to be exactly like their comic-book counterparts. Comics, movies, TV...these are all different mediums. But, when I focus on the driving sensibility of these shows, I want to recognize those core values. I don’t see those in Riverdale and I don’t see them in Aguirre-Sacasa’s Afterlife with Archie, a comic-book series driven by shock value.

The episode opened with Cheryl and Jason Blossom going for a boat ride. Only Cheryl comes back alive. There’s a hint of an incestuous relationship between the twins. This appears to be a favorite theme of Aguirre-Sacasa because it’s also in Afterlife with Archie. The TV show doesn’t make it clear whether or not Cheryl murdered Jason, but that was shown in Afterlife. The TV show seems to be portraying Cheryl as evil incarnate, which is disappointing considering what a layered character she was in the non-Afterlife comics.

Archie is still that all-American good kid, at least that’s what my friends who like the show have tried to tell me. Of course, there is that whole business of sleeping with Ms. Grundy - albeit a hot teacher version of the character - which, even at the tender age of 15, the lad should know is a wrong thing to do.

You read that right. Grundy is a pedophile. The show clearly states  that Archie and Betty are sophomores. Which makes them 15 years old or so. Even if you want to say Archie got left back a year at some point and is 16 or older, that still makes Grundy a sex offender. And Archie still should have known he shouldn’t be having hot sex with her in the back of her car. Even if, as I’m told, the hot sex was not consummated.

Archie does have a nice conflict in that his father wants him to be part of his construction company and the teenager wants to pursue a career in music. Which brings us to the next thing that I hated about the portion of the show I watched.

Seeking advice, Archie goes to local high-school music super-stars Josie and the Pussycats. He wants them to look at the songs he has written. Josie and her band mates are the only black characters I saw in the opening minutes of the show and they are all arrogant, insulting mean girls. Really. Riverdale’s only black characters - that I saw - are horrible people.

In Afterlife with Archie, the only black characters that I recall are Chuck Clayton and his girlfriend Nancy. In that series, Chuck is figuratively emasculated by his girlfriend. Nancy is having an affair/romance/whatever behind Chuck’s back. With Ginger Lopez. On account of shock value rules. In the real Archie comic books, Chuck is one of my favorite characters. In Afterlife, he is reduced to a pathetic loser.

In Riverdale, Betty is still a really nice girl with a secret crush on Archie, with whom she has been friends all her life. Her mother is an angry perfectionist who demands the same from her daughter and has her on prescription meds.

Alice Cooper is, at best, an unpleasant character in this series. Apparently, something went on between Jason and her other daughter, and it must have gone badly since Mrs. Cooper openly expresses her wish that Jason is dead and not just missing. I’m told Jason’s body is found by the end of the episode.

Kevin Keller? That landmark character created by Dan Parent? That fine young man who was the first gay character in the Archie comic books and who defied all the usual flamboyant stereotypes? Not to fear. He’s so flaming in this TV series that he could be a member of the Fantastic Four.

There were two characters whose new circumstances were intriguing and who seemed to be pretty nice people. Veronica Lodge has moved to Riverdale with her now-divorced mother. Apparently, Hiram is in or heading to prison. All they have left is the one house that was in Hermione Lodge’s name. Smithers the always-faithful butler is on hand as well, but I’m not sure who’s covering his paycheck. Maybe he’s working for room and board.

I like Hermione because she’s willing to do whatever she has to do for her daughter, but doesn’t seem to be criminal like her former husband. She goes to old boyfriend Fred Andrews hoping to get a job as his accountant. Fred seems a little bitter about her going with the rich guy over him way back when, but his excuse for not hiring her is valid. What would his firm’s clients think of him hiring the ex-wife of the crooked Hiram Lodge?

I like Veronica because she carries herself with dignity despite her diminished circumstances. She quickly bonds with Betty, Archie and Kevin. She appreciates their friendship and returns it. Which is a ray of sunshine in this gloomy series.

Even while writing today’s bloggy thing, I was still considering watching the entire first episode of Riverdale. However, the more I wrote what I had seen, the more I realized I was already soured on the series. That said...

I watched fifteen minutes of the episode. Some of my friends said it got better. I would say maybe I’m right and maybe they’re right, but there might not be a right or wrong here. I didn’t like it and they did. You might like it or you may not. Reviews, even a partial review like this one, especially a partial review like this, aren’t  carved on stone tablets. It is a guide. It is an opinion. Only that and nothing more.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. See you then.
  
© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 30, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #194

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder... The Complete Peanuts: Comics & Stories Volume 26; Shaft: A Complicated Man by David F. Walker and artist Bilquis Evely; and Punisher Max: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 by Garth Ennis with Darick Robertson, Lewis LaRosa, Tom Palmer and Leandro Fernandez.

TONY! TONY! TONY!

This is another one of those Tony-centric bloggy things that cross your online path from time to time. One of the many reasons I write these columns is to allow me to assess where I am at any given time through my writing. And also to provide you with information that you might find useful if you’re a fan of my work.

The “State of the Tony” is strong, but not as strong as it should be. I am heartsick at what my country is becoming in these opening weeks of the GOP Apocalypse. The America of Trump and his cronies is not an America I recognize. It’s sad...and not the dismissive “sad” of an egomaniac who refuses to accept that being president is not the same as being king and who can’t comprehend why he is not universally loved.

My writing is going pretty good. I’m working on the second issue of a comic-book series for a major publisher. I’m working with a great editor with the freedom to do a comic book that reflects my vision. I’m stunned by how well it’s going.

I’m putting together a non-fiction book that’s not either of the two other non-fiction books I’ve been working on. My publisher on these books needed a book I could deliver quickly and, between us, we came up with something we both like a lot.

I’m writing an eight-page pilot episode for a new comics character I hope to launch. The overall plan is to write three stories that will appear in a self-published comic book that will come out just as often as I can fill it. One such story is already written and, for that matter, drawn.

Add my nigh-daily bloggy things, my weekly “Tony’s Tips” column at Tales of Wonder and an introduction for a collection of cool comic books from the 1970s and my February dance card is full. This could be one of the most productive years of my career.

On a personal level...

Sainted Wife Barb is dealing with all sorts of tsuris involving her mother. Barb’s mom has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. She’s in a care facility and that’s expensive. Once her mom’s house is sold, we should be able to get her on Medicaid. In the meantime, we are dealing with her mom being divorced by her much-younger-than-her husband and the carnage he’s left in his wake. This stuff is mostly on Barb and it’s soul-crushingly difficult. I do what I can, but it never feels like enough to me.

On a better note...

A relative of mine who had been serving time in a federal prison, albeit a very low-security, federal prison, was released last week after serving his sentence. He’s not really free and clear yet. He has to spend six months in a halfway house and, at this time, I’m not sure how free he will be come and go from the place. But it is much closer to my Medina home than the prison, which means we will get to see him and maybe help him a bit.

I could say more about the above, but my birth family is insanely private. I have actually been threatened with a lawsuit if I write about one member of the family, which is a laughable notion. People should never make threats when they don’t know what those threats would entail. Needless to say, black sheep of the family or not, I can write about my life however and whenever I want, bound only by the usual libel/slander laws.

Moving on to even better notes...

I have a bunch of convention and other appearances coming up this year. Here’s the schedule to date:

February 17-19: Pensacon (Pensacola, Florida)

February 24-25: Great Lakes Comic-Con (Warren, Michigan)

March 11-12: Fantasticon (Toledo, Ohio)

April 1-2: Gem City Comic Con (Dayton, Ohio)

April 29-30: Fantasticon (Lansing, Michigan)

May 6: The Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

May 19-20: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (Philadelphia)

July 14-16: G-Fest (Chicago)

August 20: NEO ComicCon 3.0 (North Olmsted, Ohio)

October 20-22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

November 4-5: Akron Comicon/Monsterfestmania (Akron, Ohio)

There may be a few additions to this schedule. I’m waiting to hear from one convention I’ve attended in the past. I have agreed to go to a library in another state if they can come up with the funding for what they have planned. There’s a small press convention that I would like to attend if my schedule allows it. Finally, there is always the possibility that one of my publishers will want me to be at some convention or other event.

When I look at all the above, all the writing, all the convention and other appearances, I really wish I could afford “people” to get me where I need to be and make sure I do everything I need to do. This is not what I was expecting from my life as a senior citizen.

Getting back to conventions...

I will not be attending Wizard World Cleveland this March. I have nothing against Wizard World and have enjoyed their shows in other cities and years. I wish them well.

I’m on the fence when it comes to PulpFest 2017 in Pittsburgh this July. In years past, I went to PulpFest to see old friends and to stay at a downtown Columbus hotel I really liked in an area of the city I really liked. Moving the convention to Pittsburgh eliminates half my reason to attend. It will probably be a while before I make up my mind on this year’s event.

Several area fans have asked if I’ll be resuming my far-famed Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales this summer. That is, indeed, my plan. I’m just working out the logistics. For now, I’m taking what was left over from previous garage sales and putting it into value-packed mystery boxes.

Honestly, I don’t know what form these garage sales will take this go-round. My biggest organizational needs are to clear stuff from my office, my future reading room and my basement.

There’s also a possibility that we will expand the garage sales to include items from my mother-in-law’s house. Among the things that we took from there were around a hundred collectible and factory-sealed Monopoly games. I’m not sure what other things were taken to the three storage units I’m currently renting. I do know I’d love to get those down to one before the end of the summer.

I have gotten several requests to hold another VAOS convention at one of my garage sales. A couple years back, special guests Mike W. Barr, Tom Batiuk and myself actually did a convention-style panel in my driveway. A few comics industry pals from more distant parts have said they’d love to come to Medina to participate in another such event. I’ll do my best to make that happen.

That, my friends, is the current “State of the Tony.” We are living in interesting times and, though that phrase is usually thought of as a curse, I don’t think it has to be a curse.

Stay strong. Never give up. Never surrender. Remember we are stronger together.

Forward. Always forward.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, January 27, 2017

THE SHADOW #104: DOUBLE DEATH

The Shadow #104: Double Death and the Robot Master [February 2016; $14.95] involves the Dark Avenger in cases with a science-fictional vibe. The first of these two novels is by Theodore Tinsley and the second is by Walter B. Gibson, both writing as Maxwell Grant.

Double Death was originally published in The Shadow Magazine dated December 15, 1938. From the title page of that magazine:

They each died twice - and now it was The Shadow’s turn to face Double Death!

Remarkably, the novel was adapted for Whitman’s Big Little Books. Titled The Shadow and the Living Death, it was published in 1940.

The Robot Master was first published in the May 1943 issue of The Shadow Magazine. From the back cover:

The Shadow battles an eight-foot man of steel controlled by The Robot Master.
 
In his informative “Interlude” essay, writer Will Murray describes this adventure as “a revisitation of a story that was rare in The Shadow Magazine. That earlier story was titled Charg, Monster and  appeared in the July 1, 1934 issue.

Sanctum Books always delivers terrific bang for your bucks. Besides these two novels, this volume also has “The Case of the Mechanical Monster,” a radio script by science-fiction writer Max Ehrlich that was broadcast on January 17, 1943.

Rounding out the issue is “Iron Munro the Astounding Man,” a six-page comics story adapted by Theodore Sturgeon from a prose story by the legendary John W. Campbell. The story is drawn by Jack Farr and comes from Shadow Comics #6 [August, 1940]

The front cover painting for this volume is by George Rozen. The back cover art is by Rozen, Modest Stein and Jack Farr. Interior illustrations are by Edd Cartier and Paul Orban. It’s another fine offering from Sanctum Books.

ISBN 978-1-60877-202-5

Keep reading the bloggy thing for more information on Sanctum Books publications.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

SMUGGLER’S BOUNTY AND OTHER STUFF

There is no overriding theme to today’s “this and that” bloggy. I have a list of potential subjects and I’ll pick them out at random until the column gets close to 1500 words or so.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the DC Comics Legion of Collectors  box from Funko. I also subscribe to Funko’s Marvel Collectors Corps and Stan Lee boxes. To thank me and other subscribers, Funko sent us all a present: the Star Wars Smuggler’s Bounty box.
                                                                             

The box contained two Pop figures - Captain Phasma (Chrome) and Tie Fighter Pilot - a Captain Phasma t-shirt, a TIE pilot patch, a Kylo Ren pin and a lanyard with a First Order Stormtrooper Pop pictured throughout. Like the other Funko items I’ve received, these looked great and were well-made. If this gift box had any failings, it was the lack of any material describing/explaining its contents...and any material on how to subscribe to future Star Wars boxes.
                                                                            
                                                                               

To be honest, I won’t be subscribing to the Star Wars boxes. While I like Star Wars quite a bit, I’m more into Star Trek. I’m more a science guy than a mysticism/religion guy. But, even though I like Star Trek better, I wouldn’t subscribe to any Star Trek box either. My true passions lie with comic books and comics creators. Though if Funko launched Godzilla and other kaiju subscription boxes, I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

I have no idea of the financial basis for these subscription boxes. Could they profitable if the subjects weren’t so vast as Star Wars and Star Trek and DC Comics and Marvel Comics and Stan Lee? Could something like a Big Bang Theory box sell enough units to make some money? Or boxes devoted to The Asylum, home of Sharknado and other fun features? I’m sure my bloggy thing readers could come up with dozens of other ideas without breaking a sweat.

Those three bimonthly boxes I’ve subscribed to represent a cost of  $500 a year plus shipping. It’s not an inconsequential expense for me, but the boxes bring me great joy and joy is something I know I will need in Peepee Cheeto’s Amerika. For me to subscribe to more boxes, well, they would have to be pretty darn special.

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Speaking of subscription boxes...

As I was putting away the Legion of Collectors box, I saw a label on the box I hadn’t noticed before:

Content Origins: China, Vietnam,
USA, Canada
and Pakistan
Assembled in Mexico


Now I’m wondering if I’ll still be able to get my boxes once Peepee Cheeto builds his wall on the U.S./Mexican border.

Just kidding. I’m not actually worried. However, I do think anyone who voted for President Cheeto should hold their breath until the wall is built and Mexico has paid for it. Because that would make America great again. For real.

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Next Tuesday, The Flash will introduce the TV show’s version of the DC Comics heroine Gypsy. Thankfully, the character doesn’t share the stereotypical “gypsy” look of her comic-book counterpart. Which hasn’t stopped some folks from complaining about the use of a name that some consider a pejorative.

I confess I never thought of “gypsy” as an insult in and of itself. I got “woke” on this issue when, at a convention, a fan of Romani descent complained about the depiction of his people in comic books and was answered (by a writer of comics) with a horribly bigoted tirade against his people. I was both shocked and saddened by the incident.

I did some research on my own. I had known the Romani had suffered harsh discrimination in the past and learned such bigotry was not “in the past.” It exists today and continues to cause anguish and suffering and harm to the Romani people. If the Romani think of the word “gypsy” as an insult, I’m with them on the matter. Except in a historical context, I won’t use the word...and I certainly won’t dress a modern-day Romani character in the stereotypical outfits.

I love DC’s TV series. The people who make them are big fans of the comic books, so I understand why they would use the name “Gypsy” in 2017. I understand it, but I think they made the wrong call there. If the character turns out to be a recurring one, her name should be changed at the earliest opportunity.

I’m sure the alt-right Nazis who read comic books and watch these TV shows and occasionally visit this blog will decry my comments. They will call me a “social justice warrior.” But, as I posted on my Facebook page and on Twitter a while back:

I love how you call me a social justice warrior and are too dumb to realize that's not an insult.

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A fan asked what languages I read and/or speak. Sad to say, I have a relatively good command of English and that’s it. I’ve never been good at learning languages. In high school, Latin was easy but, ya know, a dead language. In my exceedingly brief time in college, all I recall from my French classes is that the teacher looked like Sue Storm as drawn by Gil Kane.

If I could learn another language, my first choice would probably be Japanese. Which I would use for trivial pursuits like Godzilla movies and anime and manga.

The most useful languages that I could learn would be Chinese and Spanish. The former because China could yet be our new master and the latter because so many Americans speak it.

For the reading of comics and graphic novels, I’d consider French, Italian and Swedish. For the ability to insult Peepee Cheeto in the language of his masters...Russian.  It might also be good to learn whatever language it is that Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer have been speaking.

Never mind all of the above. What I’d really like to be able to do is talk with the animals of the land, sea and air. If these animals were willing to help stop President Cheeto and the Republicans, I would promise to never dress them in “cute” outfits and even stop eating them.

Because you should never eat your allies. Unless, of course, you’re a Republican. Then, by all means, dig in.

Yes, I did receive the memo about finding common ground with these fellow Americans of ours. But, like the NRA and its flunkies keep saying whenever there’s a mass shooting, I don’t think this is the proper time to discuss the tragedy of Cheeto’s election.

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Quick quiz. Off the top of your head, name twelve favorite captains from popular fiction. In alphabetical order, mine would be...

Captain America (before he went Nazi on us)
Captain Cold (Legends of Tomorrow)
Captain Easy (newspaper comic strip)
Captain Susan Ivanova (Babylon 5)
Captain James Kirk (Star Trek the original series)
Captain Klutz (Don Martin’s character)
Captain Marvel (the original)
Captain Marvel (the android who split off body parts)
Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)
Captain Maggie Sawyer (DC Comics)
Captain John Sheridan (Babylon 5)
Captain Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space Nice)

Feel free to post your quick quiz results in the comments section of the bloggy. It’s a game that’s fun for the whole family!

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Another quick quiz. Off the top of your head, name twelve favorite doctors from popular fiction. In alphabetical order, mine would be...

Doctor Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)
Doctor Doom (Marvel Comics)
Doctor Frankenstein
Dr. Bob Hartley (The Bob Newhart Show)
Doctor Leonard Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory)
Doctor Leonard McCoy (Star Trek the original series)
Doctor Octopus (Marvel Comics)
Doctor Hawkeye Pierce (M*A*S*H)
Doc Savage (from the pulp magazines)
Doctor Daisuke Serizawa (as played by Akihiko Hirata in the first Godzilla movie)
Doctor Strange (Marvel Comics)
The Doctor (but don’t ask me to pick just one of the space-and-time travelers from Gallifrey)

I may throw a few more of these quick quizzes at you in the future. If you have suggestions for them, please send them to me via e-mail or post them as a comment to today’s bloggy.

All comments have to be approved by the Master of the Bloggy Thing  before they appear, but I’ll review and post them as swiftly as possible. I love hearing from you and I love sharing those comments with your fellow bloggy thing readers.

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Here’s one of those free ideas I occasionally throw out to you, my beloved readers...

IT’S YOUR BLOG, CHARLIE BROWN!

What would a blog written by the Peanuts character be like? Could you do it as an animated special or graphic novel?
                                  
I would surely follow such a blog, watch such an animated special, buy such a graphic novel. Because the world can always use a little bit more Peanuts magic.

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That’s all for now. I’m taking the weekend off, but I’ll be back on Monday with one of my “State of the Tony” reports that will update you on my convention and other appearances...and also talk about some of the other stuff going on in my “interesting” life. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, January 26, 2017

MARVEL 1990s: DARKHAWK #1

I’m working my way through Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Omnibus [$125] - 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.”

Last time out, I wrote in some detail about the ups and downs of my life in the 1990s. Detail which I won’t repeat today. I’ll give you a moment to quietly express your relief.

The 1990s. The comics publishers, big and small, flooded the comics shops (and the gaming and sports cards shops that were dabbling in comics) with so much product that no one I knew could keep up with all those titles. As a freelancer writer who sometimes did well and sometimes did not do well, I was very selective about the comics I bought. Most of the titles from Marvel didn’t entertain me as they once had. Most of the DC Comics titles didn’t entertain me as they once had. Most of the super-hero comics that imitated one or both companies didn’t entertain me.

I read Darkhawk #1 [March 1991] when it came out. I read or skimmed some of the later issues. All I remember is that the back story of the title character got more and more convoluted as it went along. “Went along” translates to fifty monthly issues, which wasn’t a bad run back in the 1990s.

Darkhawk was created by then-editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco and artist Mike Manley. “Dawn of the Darkhawk” (24 pages) was written by Danny Fingeroth, drawn by Manley, colored by Joe Rosas and lettered by Joe Rosen. Howard Mackie was the editor.

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


This story starts with a symbolic splash page describing Darkhawk as “the greatest hero of the Nineties.” He’s not.

We get a full-page shot of the Hobgoblin in the usual over-the-top style of the decade - everyone wanted to draw like the guys over at Image - before learning the costumed villain is seeking some object of power. It’s not clear if the more human gangsters in the story are working for Hobgoblin or he’s working for them.

The gangsters question a homeless man named Saint Johnny at a soon-to-be-demolished amusement park. They hand the seeming alcoholic a wad of cash to help him recall where he might have seen the aforementioned object of power.

Another wad of cash is offered to District Attorney Grace Powell if she backs off prosecuting a gangster. This takes place in a hallway  of the New York County Courthouse. Not in a closed room. Not in a deserted parking deck. In a public hallway in the courthouse. This is where Darkhawk’s debut starting losing me.

Grace refuses the payoff. She goes home to her three kids: teenage Chris, younger brother and brainiac Jonathan and even younger bro Jason. Then husband Mike, who’s a police officer, also comes home. Points to Fingeroth for naming the characters clearly, something not always a given in the 1990s or since.

We learn Mike wanted to be a hero and is frustrated by how little he has been able to do to stop crime. The younger kids want to go to the amusement park before it’s torn down.

Mike has to pull an overtime shift and so does Grace. Chris has to babysit. He leaves to hang out with his friends and, with big bro gone, the Jonathan and Jason decide to go to the amusement park by themselves. Grace is pissed. Chris says he knows where they went. He’ll bring them back home.

At the park, Saint Johnny tells Chris the kids are at the funhouse. Chris finds the boys and all three of them see their dad getting a wad of cash from the criminals we saw earlier. A gangster insults Mike and a fight breaks out. Mike gets clubbed from behind and is about to be shot. That’s when Chris leaps into action.

In the melee, Chris and his brothers fall through the floor. The gangsters pursue them. Chris tells his siblings to hide while he distracts the bad guys.

COINCIDENCE ALERT. Chris stumbles across the object of power that the Hobgoblin was seeking. It’s an amulet and, when he grabs it, he turns into Darkhawk. This is where this story lost me completely.

Darkhawk fights back. One gangster dies. The new hero ties up the other two. He changes back to Chris. He confronts his dad. His dad ups and runs away. He retrieves his brothers.

Chris goes back to the amusement park to see if he can learn more about the amulet, but the place has already been demolished. Saint Johnny mumbles to him:

Power’s got to be used...not abused...by a Darkhawk.

It’s not as cool as having a bat fly through your window, but it’s how Chris gets his name. Because he’s decided to use the amulet to be the hero his father never was.

The gangsters continue to threaten Grace and her kids. Meanwhile, Hobgoblin vows to get the object of power and kill anyone who gets in his way.

Wikipedia has the convoluted story of the rest of Darkhawk’s career and - warning - it will make your eyes glaze over.   

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


None of the characters in “Dawn of the Darkhawk” ever became more than just characters in a story in this issue. Neither the writing nor the art rose above journeyman. I found it forgettable, but, as I’ve often said, my reviews are just reviews and not commandments carved in stone. I know from having had a table next to Fingeroth at a convention that there are readers who really love Darkhawk and his work on the series. I’m absolutely cool with that.

If you’ve been keeping score on this series of reviews, we are now at 3-3 with stories I liked tied with stories I didn’t like. I know I’ve neglected this series of columns and I know many of you really enjoy them. In this new year, I’ll do my best to bring them to you on a much more regular basis.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 99

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 99th installment in that series.
 
The Rawhide Kid #113 [July 1973] has a fine dramatic cover penciled by Larry Lieber with inks by George Roussos. Inside, the all-new “A Gunman No More” (14 pages) is written and penciled by Lieber with Roussos inks, Linda Lessmann coloring and June Braverman lettering. Roy Thomas is the editor.

SPOILERS AHEAD
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The Rawhide Kid rides into a town and, not seeing any sign that it has a sheriff, figures it will be safe to pick up supplies before moving on. He’s recognized by young Billy Binns who has a bunch of questions for him. When asked how many men he has killed, Rawhide responds:

More than I wish I had! But none who didn’t deserve it!

At the general store, the elderly shopkeeper is being roughed up by five “galoots” and the Kid won’t stand for that. The galoots draw on the Kid. Rather than kill them, he wounds them. But one of the men moves to catch Rawhide in a crossfire.

Just then, Billy’s dog runs into the street. Billy tries to catch up, but ends up getting shot. No one knows if the bullet came from the Kid or one of his opponents.

The gunfight is over. The Kid takes Billy to the doctor. The boy is hurt bad, but the doctor says he’s young and strong. He’ll survive. Outside of town, Rawhide’s guilt over the boy’s injury leads him to a decision:

I drew iron to protect a shopkeeper who was being bullied. And now an innocent boy’s life hangs in the balance!

I’m no fool! I never figured that gunfighting as a game. I always knew it was a deadly business!

But, who knows what the next shoot-out may cost in human suffering! Well, there won’t be another shoot-out...at least not for me!

Because I’m taking off my guns...and putting them away...for good! From now on, come what may, I’ll face my problems without hardware! My days as a gunslinger are over!


His guns stored in his saddlebags, Johnny Clay (aka you-know-who) finds a nice peaceable town with no sheriff’s office. The general store has a “clerk wanted” sign in its window. Since he’s clerked before and seems “a clean sort,” he gets the job. He also catches the eye (and vice versa) of the shopkeeper’s lovely daughter Nan. Romance blossoms in this peaceful setting:

Know what I like most about you, Johnny? The fact that you don’t pack a gun! I hate ruthless men who swagger around with death on their hips! You...you’re different! You’re kind and gentle!

Coincidentally, back in my disco-dancing days, women often told me I had death on my hips. Which, now that I think about it, might not have been a compliment.

Cut to a nearby town where the nasty Cheeno Yates is gunning down another gunslick. One witness says Yates is the fastest gun he has ever seen. Another witness says he once saw one faster. Confronted by the angry Yates, the second witness says he was thinking of the Rawhide Kid.

Yates is sick of hearing about the Kid. He’s going to find him and put him in the ground.

Back to Johnny and Nan. The Kid can’t believe how happy he is and worries it won’t last. They kiss.

A few days later, Yates comes to town and demands the townspeople tell him where to find the Rawhide Kid. He’s tracked the Kid here. No one knows who or where the Kid is, but gossip spreads throughout the community...

CITIZEN A: Whut in tarnation would the Rawhide Kid be doin’ in our town?

CITIZEN B: Mebbe he’s reformed! Mebbe he’s trying to make a new life for himself!

CITIZEN A: Every hombre’s entitled to a second chance! If the Kid has turned over a new leaf, let ‘im be!

Johnny figures on laying low. Nan is curious about the notorious outlaw and wonders who he is. Johnny says:

Maybe he’s an a hombre who’s trying desperately to buy peace and quiet.

Yates is “plumb out of patience.” He vows to burn down the town if the people don’t tell him who the Rawhide Kid is.

Davy, the son of the blacksmith and someone who we’re seeing for the first time in this story, straps on his guns. Though he is not a gunsmith, he “dearly loves this town.” He plans to pretend to be the Rawhide Kid and face Yates.

Johnny stops Davy. He goes back to the store and straps on his own guns. Nan is shocked, but she understands that he can’t allow Yates to threaten an entire town. The townspeople are just as surprised.

CITIZEN A: Look! It’s Johnny Clay...totin’ iron!

CITIZEN B: Look how natural he wears those guns...and the slow deliberate way he moves!

CITIZEN C: Like no storekeep that I ever saw before!

Yates gets the gunfight he wanted...and a quick trip to Boot Hill. Nan and Johnny both know their romance is over.

Johnny wanted to spare Nan any hurt, but that wasn’t in the cards. He says goodbye to her and rides out of town. He doesn’t know where he’s going. Just somewhere where he can forget what was nearly his and start over again.

Nan and her dad wish him good luck. Nan reflects:

So long, Johnny! I’ll remember you always! You and the life...that almost was ours!

SPOILERS OVER
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“A Gunman No More” is an outstanding story. Lieber was at the top of his game, which makes it all the sadder that there will only be two more new Rawhide Kid stories in this series.

This is also another story that has never been reprinted. Cue my usual statement that Marvel really needs to publish a collection of The Best of Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid.
                                                                               

Next up is “Man with a Star” (5 pages) by Stan Lee and George Tuska with new coloring by Linda Lessmann. The non-series tale originally ran in  Frontier Western #2 [April 1956].

SPOILERS AHEAD
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Wade Thompson is appointed sheriff of Carson County. The mayor, who is apparently mayor of the entire county, cautions him:

Remember one important thing, Wade...you’ve always been a rough and tumble cowboy...but now you represent the law! You’ve got to keep that temper of yours in check...no fights...unless they’re to keep law and order!

Thompson commits himself to his new job 24-hours-a-day. He quickly makes Carson County the most lawful area in the state.

Some folks think Thompson is doing too good a job. They think he’s taking the fun out of the place. That maybe he should take his job a little less seriously.

Thompson gives a big “hell, no” to that suggestion, but the moment is interrupted when he’s told the dreaded Utah Kid just busted into the bank.

Thompson confronts the Utah Kid, but the outlaw shoots the gun out of the sheriff’s hand. The Kid makes Thompson walk out of the bank in front of him. He tells the townspeople he’s riding out of town with the sheriff. If any follows him or tries to stop him, he will shoot the sheriff.

Thompson gives another “hell, no” speech...

There’s only one of him...and a dozen of you. In five seconds, I’m gonna reach for the Kid’s gun! When he shoots me, one of you can get him! If he doesn’t shoot me, I’ll get him!

When I took this job, I swore to uphold the law...that don’t mean lettin’ killers escape...


The Kid says he’ll shoot the sheriff first! The townspeople beg to differ. They’ll plug the outlaw if he shoots their lawman!

The profusely-sweating Utah Kid gives up. The sheriff had something worth dying for. The outlaw didn’t.

The townspeople apologize to Thompson. He’s the best lawman they’ve ever had or ever will have. As long as he wants the job, no one is going to run against him.

SPOILERS OVER
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Another terrific short story with a clearly-defined hero, a just-as-clearly-defined villain, a crisis, suspense, and a satisfying ending. All in five pages. This is where I make my usual statement that Marvel also needs to do a collection of Stan Lee’s best non-series western stories.

There’s no letters column in this issue, probably due to the issue have 19 pages of stories. The usual story count during this period of Marvel history was 18.
                                                                            

There’s a full-page ad for “the second sanguinary issue” of Dracula Lives!" [1973] with “the terrifyingly true origin of the master of the undead,” “The Vampire and the Voodoo Woman,” and “The Thing That Stalked Castle Dracula!” The origin tale was by Marv Wolfman and Neal Adams. The second story, set in New Orleans, was written by Roy Thomas with art by Gene Colan and Dick Giordano.

The third story was set in World War II and holds a special place in my still-beating heart. It was plotted by Steve Gerber, laid out by Jim Starlin, finished by Syd Shores and scripted by yours truly. I loved working on it and, to the best of my recollection, never turned down a chance to write a Dracula story. However, I did have to pass on writing a Blade series because I was just too busy with my other Marvel assignments.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page is only a half-page and it just don’t got that zing. It’s mostly plugs for existing stuff and hints about stuff in the works.

There are also some staff announcements. Johnny Romita is the new Art Director. Marie Severin is overseeing all Marvel’s coloring. Marv Wolfman is the new and chief assistant editor, the start of his meteoric rise to fame and fortune, great power and even greater responsibility.

The bottom half of the page is an ad for the Friends of Old Marvel fan club. Otherwise known as FOOM.
                                                                              

Finishing up the editorial content this month is a full-page house ad for Worlds Unknown #2 [July 1963]. The cover is by Alan Weiss with extensive revisions by John Romita. Inside the issue are two stories...

“A Gun for Dinosaur” [14 pages] is from the story by L. Sprague deCamp. Scripted by Roy Thomas, it’s drawn by Val Mayerik (pencils) and Ernie Chan (inks).

“Doorstep” (7 pages) is from the Keith Laumer story. Gerry Conway is the writer with art by Gil Kane (pencils} and Tom Sutton (inks).

That’s all for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be jumping ahead two decades for tomorrow’s new installment of “Marvel 1990s!” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

LEGION OF COLLECTORS

I love a mystery and I love getting cool stuff in the mail. Thus, I was a prime potential customer for the various subscription boxes  offered to comics and other fans. I think Loot Crate was my first.

Subscription boxes aren’t unique to comics, gaming, horror/sci-fi fandoms or pop culture in general. There are or have been boxes for groceries, snack foods, alcohol, educational stuff, fashion, make-up, pets, sex toys and much more. What they all have in common is that they physically deliver niche and often exclusive products to their buyers.

Loot Crate was my first, but, after a while, I decided the contents of those boxes were more miss than hit with me. Too many gaming and anime items. I needed to get more specific to be passion for comic books and related items.

I currently subscribe to three bi-monthly subscription boxes: The Marvel Collector Corps Box, the DC Legion of Collectors Box and the just-launched Stan Lee Box. I’ll be writing about all these boxes in the next few weeks, but, for today, we’re looking at the January “DC Legacy” box.

I have a “Sidekick Membership” in the Legion. Every other month, I am automatically billed $25 plus postage and handling and receive a box containing “$50 of value in exclusive, high-quality DC Comics and Funko collectible products. No fluff, no filler!”

There is no set commitment with this membership. I can cancel this subscription at any time. I don’t see myself doing this because I have been delighted with each of the boxes I’ve received.

My favorite item this time around was the set of Batman and Robin salt and pepper shakers that pay homage to the classic TV series of the 1960s. Funko figures make me smile; these had me grinning from ear to ear as I showed them to my family.                                                                                 
                                                                       
My second favorite item was the Krypto the Superdog t-shirt with a ringer collar. My son Eddie cast envious eyes on this shirt when he saw it. But, once I put it on and found it to be very comfortable, there was no chance of my giving it up. Some boxes got an alternate shirt: Ace the Bat-Hound. The Ace shirt looked pretty cool and, if I ever find it sold separately in my size, I’ll doubtless buy it.
                                                                                 
Other items included a Plastic Man figure with one stretchy arm. It looks great. When I first started ordering these subscription boxes from DC and elsewhere, I figured I’d sell some of the items to help defray their cost. Except that now that I’m in love with the Funko figures, I don’t think I’ll be able to part with any of them.
                                                                              

The box had a comic book as well: Funko #6: Adventure Comics 452. It had a Funko variant cover by Adam Archer. Inside, it reprinted “Dark destiny, Deadly Dreams” by David Michelinie (writer) and Jim Aparo (artist) with Jerry Serpe (colorist). This 1977 story was a momentous one with the return of Black Manta, a revelation on the villain’s identity and a rift between Aquaman and Aqualad. It also had the murder of Aquaman’s toddler son, a development with which I was not happy back in the day and still despise. Had I remained writing for DC and accepted the company’s offer to become the new Aquaman writer, I would have undone that sensationalistic death in my first issue.

Here’s what I wrote about my plans over a decade ago...

I accepted the Aquaman assignment for one major reason: I was pissed that Aquababy had been killed off. I thought it was a cheap and cruel story development and, rightly or wrongly, I believed it was done because parenthood was not considered a "hip" thing for a super-hero. Carl Barks had shown us just how many good stories you could get out of a parent/child relationship in his wonderful Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories. I saw no reason why good stories, albeit probably not as hilarious, couldn't be derived from the same relationship in super-hero comics.

Digression. In my original series plan for Marvel's “It, the Living Colossus,” Bob O'Brien was married to his actress-girlfriend with two teen or nearly-teen children. Anyone in the family could have projected their consciousness into the Colossus and controlled it.  Marvel wanted to go in a different, more traditional super-heroic direction. End of digression.

I wanted to write Aquaman just so I could bring Aquababy back to life. The kid was the product of a marriage between the mixed-species Aquaman and an other-dimensional queen. As I saw it, we only thought he was dead when he was actually going through a metamorphosis.

While the revived Aquababy would still have been a very young child, his mental development would be that of a child in his early teens. Moreover, he would be a genius. I'm talking Reed Richards in Huggies here.

This would freak out the Atlanteans big-time. These were not, as I saw them, the most forward-thinking of people. I mean, they used to boot children out of their city just for having purple eyes or some such. A baby who came back from the dead and was now much smarter than they were, well, that would have to be the work of the devil or their undersea equivalent thereof.

Aquaman would put his family first. He'd renounce his throne, leave Atlantis, and shortly thereafter become a nautical power unto himself. While the stories would always revolve around Aquaman and his family, I also planned to have him put together and lead a team of adventurers and heroes.

Aquaman's new team would be like unto an oceanic Blackhawks. I figured it would include Aqualad, Dolphin (who had, at the time, appeared in but one issue of Showcase), a couple of mer-people from the Superman/Lori Lemaris version of Atlantis, at least one of the nearly-forgotten Sea Devils, and other characters to be announced later. I planned to create new heroes and pick E. Nelson Bridwell's brain for any existing DC characters who might well fit into these demented plans of mine.

I figured Aquaman's activities would annoy and anger a whole bunch of people. His former subjects. Some of the surface world's governments if he opposed their interests. Maybe even some of his Justice League buddies. Lots of possibilities.

That's as far as I got with my plans. I never worked out any plots, never wrote even one page of script. I left DC and didn't write for them again for several years. I rarely read any Aquaman comic books after that.

I wish this mini-memoir has a more interesting ending, but it doesn't. But it does give you some idea of what I would have done with Aquaman in 1977.

                                                                      
                                                                                 

There were two more small items in the “DC Legacy” box. One was a Green Arrow patch. The other was a Swamp thing pin.

That was a lot of wonderful stuff for my $25 plus shipping. You can count me as a very satisfied consumer.

I’ll talk more about subscription boxes at some time in the future. However, tomorrow, I have another installment of our “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY'S TIPS #193

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Angel Catbird Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood with artist Johnnie Christmas; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad by Dennis Hopeless; and Unfollow: 140 Characters by Rob Williams, Mike Dowling and R.M. Guera!

Monday, January 23, 2017

LOVE IS LOVE

Love is Love [IDW; $9.99] is “a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting.” It is beautiful and sad and anger-inducing and life-affirming and, in an industry known for its generosity, and its sometimes stumbling forward movement, it’s one of the most remarkable outpourings of support I've ever seen in my forty-four years in the industry. That it hit and remained at the top of The New York Times bestseller list and other such lists fills me with pride for the comics creators and publishers who came together to make this loving statement for a community so unfairly targeted by small minds and unconscionable violence.

My admiration and love for this anthology is getting in the way of this review. I think I can manage to stick to the facts for a few sentences, so here I go...

After hearing of the 49 lives lost in the shooting, Marc Andreyko was feeling gut-punched and helpless. He was not alone. He posted a comment on Facebook suggesting the comics community had to do something, anything, in the wake of such violence. This anthology nigh-spontaneously grew out of his post as dozens of other creators  came forward to offer their services...and a book like this became inevitable...and IDW got involved as publisher...and DC Comics and other publishers got involved...and here we are.

“Here” is an anthology that feels spontaneous but which must have taken incredible coordination on some many levels that the thought of so many hearts and minds and talents and business savvy united in common cause makes me dizzy and, as previously noted, so proud. From the gorgeous cover by Elsa Charretier with Jordie Bellarie to an introduction by Monster and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, though 140-some pages of comics and other images to the afterword by Andreyko, this is a collection that speaks to the reader’s mind and heart and soul. 

I’m stalling. In a book containing dozens of one and two-page contributions, it seems wrong to mention only a few. The one that brought tears to my eyes was writer James Robinson and artist Sagar Fornies' tale of a career Marine giving a wedding dinner toast to his son and his son’s new wife. I thought of a woman not unlike the heroine of this story, a woman who found happiness after a long struggle and who brought joy to the life of a good man and comfort to the lives of others. I’m getting sniffly and teary writing about the effect the sequence had on me. Comics that powerful do not cross my field of vision every day. Love is Love is filled with such moments.

You know, I’m going to leave it at just that one example of all the great writing and art in this anthology. There are appearances by DC Comics characters and other existing characters. There are expressions of  anger. There is fear. There are calls to action, even if the call is for something as simple and glorious as dancing. As I said earlier, In an industry known for its generosity, Love is Love is perhaps the most amazing outpouring of love and support and righteousness that I have ever experienced.

Love is Love has gone through at least three printings as I write these comments. When I checked its Amazon listing just now, it was “temporarily out of stock.” But copies will be available there and from other vendors. I hope it never goes out of print. Because we need to be reminded of both the tragedy and the love. Because this book needs to be in the hands of every comics reader, especially those whose hearts and minds have been closed by the bigotry of the right. Because it needs to be in every public and school library. Because, despite being suggested for mature readers, it is a book that needs to be read by young people at risk. To tell them that, even in times like this, they are not alone and that there are good and decent people who will be there for them and who will work to make things better for them.

In my mind, this started out as one of my usual review columns in which I would discuss several comics and related items. That plan got changed a few paragraphs back. For today, Love is Love is the only comic book I want to talk about.

Love is love. Never give up, never surrender. Always forward and, for life’s sake, keep on dancing. Not me, of course, because no one wants to see this old white guy dancing, but keep on dancing.

The bigots and the killers can and will be beaten. They will end up in the dustbin of history. Good people can and do come together to make this a better world. Because we are always, forever, stronger together.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, January 19, 2017

KING KONG VS. TARZAN

Look at that amazing Joe DeVito cover! Is there any doubt why this new Will Murray novel is one of the books I wish I could reading right now? Soon, my precious, soon.

King Kong Vs. Tarzan [Altus Press; $24.95] is part of two ongoing series: “The Wild Adventures of King Kong” and “The Wild Adventures of Tarzan.” From the back cover:

BEAST-GOD VERSUS APE-MAN

The year was 1933. Filmmaker Carl Denham had captured the stupendous monster he had dubbed "King" Kong. But that was only the beginning. Denham was determined to get the dethroned ruler of Skull Mountain Island back to America, and cash in on the greatest wild animal capture in human history.

The saga of how Kong was taken in chains from his Indian Ocean kingdom to New York City has never been told. In order for the cargo freighter Wanderer to make the long transit to the Atlantic, she is forced to circumnavigate Africa—jungle home of the legendary Tarzan of the Apes!

Here is the long-anticipated clash between the Monarch of Skull Island and Lord of the Jungle. When the largest anthropoid who ever lived encounters the savage superman raised by the great apes, will they make peace—or war?


ISBN 9781618272812

I’m a huge fan of Murray’s fiction and non-fiction. He’s one of the best popular culture historians out there and one heck of a great guy to boot. Keep watching the bloggy thing, adventure-lovers! I’ll have more Murray books to tell you along the way.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DOC SAVAGE: EMPIRE OF DOOM

In the category of books I wish I could be reading right now:

Doc Savage: Empire of Doom by Will Murray and Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson [Altus Press; $24.95]. This latest in “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage” teams up two of the pulp era’s greatest heroes. From the back cover:

It began with the hijacking of a destroyer from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The stolen warship struck midtown Manhattan with its mighty guns, then vanished far out to sea.

Who were the strange raiders wearing the golden uniforms of no known power who pulled off the daring highjacking? And who was their mysterious leader, a being of seemingly supernatural abilities?

Doc Savage did not know. But The Shadow did! Combining forces, the Man of Bronze and the Dark Avenger follow the trail of a superfoe from The Shadow’s past.

But can they learn to trust one another? From fog-shrouded New York to a futuristic underground kingdom in the heart of Asia, the battle sprawls—with the world’s fate at stake!


ISBN 9781618272850

Keep watching the bloggy thing, adventure-lovers! I’ll have another Will Murray book to tell you about soon.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 98

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 98th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #112 [June 1973] has a cover by Larry Lieber with inks by Herb Trimpe. Inside, the all-new “Frontier Fury” (14 pages) is written and penciled by Lieber with George Roussos inking, June Braverman lettering and Corey Adams coloring. The editor of record is Roy Thomas.

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of the story, let me answer a question from a regular reader of this blog. She asked if I’ve read these Rawhide Kid stories since their original publications. Nope. When I reread a tale like this one. I’m doing so for the first time in 44 years. Now, as I reread them, I may recall things I liked or didn’t like about them. However, for the most part, I’m rereading and rediscovering them anew.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The story opens Cole Jessup, “a gunhawk on the run,” ducking into a saloon to avoid the Fargo Boys. He killed one of their own when the man called him out, but he’s not fast enough to outshoot four gunslicks. But, once in the saloon, he recognizes the Rawhide Kid enjoying a bowl of stew.

Jessup joins the Rawhide at his table. The two hit it off. Which is when the Fargo Boys show up.

Cole points out he’s with the Rawhide Kid, making the Fargos think the two men are partners. The Kid has no choice but to back Jessup when the shooting starts. This does not go well for the Fargo Boys. The wounded owlhoots limp away from the saloon.

Fiery rancher Nora Evans storms into the saloon and slaps the face of Cragstone, another rancher. The man wants her land. She accuses him rustling her cattle and killing off her ranch-hands. He laughs and tells her to prove it.

Getting to slap Cragstone was a bonus. Nora came to the saloon to hire men who aren’t afraid of Cragstone or his guns. Only two men sign on: Cole Jessup and the Rawhide Kid. Both are smitten with the pretty young rancher.

Cragstone isn’t worried;

Two young firebrands and a shapely wench are a mighty interestin’ combination! Could be we won’t have to do anything but wait until the fur flies! 

Back at the ranch, the Kid and Cole are enjoying their new jobs and “havin’ a boss lady whose easy on the eyes.” Their romantic rivalry is friendly enough, but Cragstone still thinks they will fall out, leaving the ranch to be easy pickings for him and his goons.

Sure enough, when Cole gets too fresh with Nora, Rawhide steps in and a fistfight ensues. The Kid wins that, but then Cole challenges him to a gunfight. The Kid doesn’t have a choice, but, rather than hurt or kill Jessup, he shoots the gun out of the man’s hand. The angry Cole leaves, telling Rawhide that he can fight Cragstone all by himself.

Unfortunately for Jessup, the Fargo Boys spot him and ambush him. Leaving him for dead, they ride off to sign up with Cragstone. The old man is paying plenty for gun hands.

Cragstone is delighted Jessup is out of the picture. He tells the Fargo Boys they can write their own ticket if they can kill Rawhide as well.

Cragstone’s men cut one of Nora’s fences and make off with cattle. The Kid sends Nora back to the ranch and trails the rustlers. Right into an ambush. He’s outnumbered and pinned down behind some rocks.

Returning to her ranch, Nora sees the fallen Cole. He’s not dead. She hugs him. She does care about him.

Cole deduces Rawhide is heading into a trap. He rides to the rescue and arrives in time to take out a killer who was preparing to shoot the Kid in the back. Between the two of them, Cole and the Kid make short work of the bad guys. Cragstone pulls a hidden gun on his foes. It’s the last bad move he’ll ever make.

I love the last two panels of this story. Cole and Nora kiss. The Kid decides to push on.

COLE: Wal, honey...Cragstone and his boys are out of business! Our troubles are over!

RAWHIDE: From here it looks like your troubles are just beginnin’ ma’am! In any case, I wish you two lots of luck! With your tempers, you’ll need it! What you won’t need, is havin’ me around! So I’ll just push on!

NORA: Adios, kid!

Cole and Nora were fun supporting characters and I wish we had seen them again. Alas, there would only be three more new Rawhide Kid stories in the title’s run.

SPOILERS OVER
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SPOILERS OVER

                                                                        

This is one of those stories that deserves to be reprinted...and it was. With a new cover by Gil Kane, it was reprinted in issue #144 [March 1978].

This issue has one of those marketing things that annoyed the heck out of me as a reader and as a Marvel staffer. Across the bottoms of the story pages were these one-line plugs. Like:

Mighty as the Hulk! That’s the macabre Man-Thing...in every fright-filled issue of Fear!

I might have written some of these. I definitely wrote some of the even more absurd topper lines for the British weeklies that Marvel was producing around the same time, the result of our frequently clueless UK partners thinking we should make our weeklies look like every other British weekly. I should write a bloggy thing on this sort of disconnect between the Marvel offices and the folks across the ocean.

Marvel was still running pages of classified ads at this time and there were always ads from comics dealers. In this issue: Steve Keisman (Flushing NY), Comic Sales Company (Brooklyn NY); Passaic Book Center (Passaic NJ); Grand Book Inc (Brooklyn NY); David T. Alexander (Hollywood, CA); Howard Rogofsky (Flushing NY); J. Hunt (Kenmore NY); Robert Bell (Hauppauge NY); and Ken Mieno (Northfield IL). There was also an ad for GB Love’s ComiCollector fan magazine.

There were also lots of non-comics ads. The one that caught my eye this time around was: 
Wear the Badge of the Future in Conservation. Get FREE FACTS about exciting outdoor careers. You could send away for a “free conservation career kit”.
                                                                               

Also in this issue is “ A Man and His Gun!” (5 pages) by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. It’s from Kid Colt Outlaw #95 [December 1960]. It’s one of the best of the non-series stories with amazing Kirby/Ayers art and top-notch writing from Lee.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Three masked riders threaten Ben at gunpoint. They ask “Where are yore irons?”

Ben doesn’t carry guns. The lead rider doesn’t believe him because  “everybody totes a gun in these parts!”

The men unmask. It’s the Collins brothers, Ben’s neighbors, come to play a prank on him. They didn’t believe Ben doesn’t believe in gun play. They wanted to see if he had a hidden gun and knew how to use it. Ben reiterates that he doesn’t believe in gun-fighting.

Red, one of the brothers, expresses his belief that Ben is “yella!”

Ben turns his back and goes inside his cabin.

RED: Well I’ll be switched! We sure got ourselves a chicken-livered neighbor, boys! He won’t fight for nothin’ nohow!

Inside, we meet Ben’s father, a man of the cloth. He realizes that the boys have been riding his son. Ben’s father opines “it’s mighty difficult being the son of a minster at times.”

BEN: Don’t say that, Dad! I’m proud to be your son! And some day I aim to be just like you!

The Collins brothers see smoke coming from their ranch and ride to the scene. Ben and his dad also see the smoke and ride after them.

The main barn is burning like tinder. Impulsive Red grabs a bucket of water and rushes into danger, thinking the barn can be saved. A wall crumbles and Red is trapped inside.

While the other Collins watch helplessly, Ben says they can’t just stand and do nothing. He rushes into the burning barn. Ben’s father and the Collins brothers fear the worst...until Ben comes running out of the fire with Red.

In the final panels, the Collins boys apologize to Ben. They know he has more courage than the three of them put together. He thanks them, but says he has to go. Asked where, he responds:

I’m off to Boyneville to study for the ministry...just like my dad! I’m gonna spread the word thruout the West that the day of the gun has ended! At long last the West has come of age

Sadly, in 2017, we know that the day of the gun is still with us.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


I love Kirby-drawn westerns, especially when they are accompanied by great writing and inking. I’d love to see Marvel collect some of the best of these stories. Combined with historical annotations of the people and events featured in them.

Next up is a full-page house ad for Dracula Lives! It’s “more than a comic book...a giant-size 76-page magazine masterpiece filled with story strips, features and a treasury of photos!”

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page has no “Stan’s Soapbox” because Marvel has so many “goodies” to be tossed at readers in the coming weeks. There are pitches for Dracula Lives and Monsters Unleashed. There are teasers for Tales of the Zombie and Vampire Tales.

The bulletins page plugs the current issue of Spider-Man, “one of the greatest, most important issues ever...spotlighting perhaps the most momentous turning point yet in the career of our wondrous wall-crawler!” Yeah, it’s the issue when Gwen Stacy was killed by the Green Goblin and a failure of creative imagination.

The half-page bulletins section ends with an item on The Haunt of Horror, the prose-fiction digest edited by Gerry Conway. Even with stories by Fritz Lieber, Harlan Ellison and R.A. Lafferty, HOH will only last two issues.

The rest of the page is an ad for FOOM (Friends of Old Marvel), the new Jim Steranko-produced fan club. For $2.50, a member would get a poster, a membership card, stick-ons, a full year’s subscription to the FOOM magazine and a special surprise envelope. Four issues later, Steranko would leave and I would end up as the next (but far from the last) editor of FOOM Magazine.

The “Riding the Trail with Rawhide” letters column also got cut to half-a-page of really tiny type. Denny Tolmund of Kansas City asks how old the Kid is. He was confused by the difference in how some artists draw him. The answer:

It’s been several years since the fateful gunfight that caused Johnny Clay to be falsely branded an outlaw. At the time of the gunfight, Johnny was approximately nineteen years old. We’d guess his “present” age is about twenty-three.

David Miller of Brooklyn, New York liked that Rawhide Kid #107 had a full-issue adventure, but wasn’t thrilled it was a reprint. He wants all-new, full-length adventures.

David M. Kalis of Clayton, Missouri didn’t like Rawhide Kid #107. He couldn’t buy the “human gorilla” angle.

The bottom half of the page was an ad for Monsters Unleashed, which instructed readers to...

Be on the look-out for:

*Awesome authors like Robert (Psycho) Bloch and Robert E. (Conan) Howard!

*Art and script by the Bullpen’s best!

*Fabulous features on far-out fright films!

*Plus: a treasury of terror-laden photos!


It was an exciting time to be a Marvel Comics reader and also to be a fan working in the Marvel Bullpen.

I'm taking a few days off, but I'll be back soon with more stuff!

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #192




This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...My reviews of Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq by Sarah Glidden; Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan, the first book in Shigeru Mizuki’s four-book series on his nation's history through 1989; and The Amazing "True" Story of a Teenage Single Mom by Katherine Arnoldi!

CITIZEN TONY WANTS TO PAY YOU FIVE DOLLARS

I’ll keep this brief.

In a few days, one of the worst people in the world will become the President of the United States. The country I love will be plunged into darkness. We will be in for some very bad years in which the bullies and thugs of the right and "alt-right" will hurt a great many people and enrich those who are already obscenely wealthy. Don’t bother trying to convince things will be okay. They won’t be okay. Maybe someday they will be okay again, but that will take a great deal of work from those of us who prefer the light.

I realized a few days ago that I will never be able to call this horrible man my president, our president or even the President. My throat would burn if I try to speak the name of the office together with his name. My finger bones would crack and break if I try to write the name of the office together with his name.

My dilemma is that, with the great responsibility that comes with being Citizen Tony, and with my commitment to commenting on important issues in our country, I might have to mention this stinking orange dung-heap in the course of my writings. Since I won’t speak or write the name of the office together with his name, I needed to find an alternative name for him. My Facebook friend L. Zane Pinnock came to my rescue without even knowing he was doing that.

Pinnock, in a comment he posted to a threat on my Facebook page, referred to this rancid peel of a human being as...

PeePee Cheeto.

I responded that name must be a Secret Service’s codename for this soon-to-be-blight on the highest office in our land. It will also be how I refer to the blight in my “Citizen Tony” columns from now until our country comes back into the light.

Here’s where you cartoonists reading this can make a little money and, when I say “little,” I ain’t lying.

I don’t want to run any more photos of this guy in my blog. What I want are cruel drawings of him. I don’t want violent or obscene or threatening or otherwise inappropriate drawings. I want you to use your art to mock and demean this clearly illegitimate president-elect poised to become the clearly illegitimate president.

E-mail them to me.

Whenever, wherever and every time I use one of your drawings in my blog or anywhere else, I will pay you five dollars. Which, by the way, is exactly five dollars more than I get paid for writing this blog or posting all the stuff I post on Facebook.

E-mail your drawings to me. Your cover e-mail should include your permission for me to use your drawings.

That’s the deal. You draw. I post them. You get paid.

Once again, my thanks to Pinnock for service above and beyond his duty to this bloggy thing.

I’m Citizen Tony and I approve this message.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 16, 2017

BACK ISSUE #94

“Indie Superheroes!” is the theme of Back Issue #94 [January 2017; $8.95]. The Neal Adams cover of Ms. Mystic kicks off an examination of such fan favorites as the Justice Machine, Captain Paragon, the 1980s versions of the Mighty Crusaders and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Steven Grant’s Whisper, the super-heroes from Adams’ own Continuity Studios and much more. Among the creators interviewed for the issue were Adams, Grant, Bill Black, Norm Breyfogle, Rich Buckler, Mike Gustovich, Bill Reinhold, Jerry Ordway and even some writer by the name of Isabella. The 84-page magazine is filled with history and inside information, side by side with never-before-seen and rarely-seen artwork. It’s the Bronze Age and Beyond!

Keep watching this bloggy thing for more alerts to new TwoMorrows publication.

OLD COMICS: LASSIE #56

Welcome to “Old Comics” where I write about random comic books from my legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff. For the most part, I’ll be talking about issues that predate my entry into the professional comics industry in late 1972. However, if I come across comics from the 1970s through the 1990s that I find interesting enough to write about, I’ll write about them.

Today’s old comic is Lassie #56 [Dell; January-March 1962]. It’s a standard ten-cent comic book of the period, 36 pages in length (if you count the covers and I do) with almost all of those pages going to editorial material. The indicia does not list an editor.

The photo cover shows Lassie and Timmy [Jon Provost] with the lad holding binoculars with which he is spying on the sexy cheerleader camp below. Just kidding. Come on, this was the 1960s and this was a press photo from a beloved and suitable for all ages TV series.

Lassie was created by Eric Knight in a short story that he expanded to the novel Lassie Come Home. The novel was filmed by MGM in 1943, which led to six additional movies. The TV series made its debut in 1954 and ran for 19 years.

Young Tony Isabella was not an avid Lassie viewer, though others in my family were. Since we only had one TV set, I’d watch whatever was on or go to my room to read. I didn’t seek out Lassie, but it didn’t drive me from the living room. The writing was good enough to keep my interest, the dog was cool, June Lockhart was lovely and Jon Provost’s Timmy seemed like a pretty nice kid.

I met Jon and his wife Laurie Jacobson at Roger Price’s Mid-Ohio-Con and the three of us hit it off famously. I love them madly and wish I saw them on a regular basis. As kind of a lark, I began to collect Lassie comics with Jon on their covers. In typical Isabella fashion, I have no idea how many of these issues I have or how many I still need. Someday I’ll be organized enough to complete my run of the title...and have Jon sign at least some of them.

The prolific Gaylord DeBois wrote the two Lassie comics stories in this issue. This confirmed by his own meticulously-kept records. He also wrote just about everything else in the issue. The two Lassie stories were drawn by Bob Fujitani and lettered by Ben Oda.

The plots of these stories aren’t complicated and they are squeaky-clean. That doesn’t mean they are dull. DeBois didn’t stint on the suspense and tension in writing these tales.

Since these stories have not been reprinted in the United States, I’m going to give you fairly detailed accounts of them. Which means I have to let you know there are...

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


“Enemy Country” (13 pages) is the first of the two Lassie stories. From the issue’s cover: Lassie and Timmy brave a bear’s slashing paws to rescue an unfriendly neighbor.

The longer version. Timmy is fishing when he meets Williston Tice, a clearly well-to-do youngster who has never gone fishing. Timmy lets him use his fishing pole and “Bill” catches a fish. Their fun is interrupted by Bill’s snobbish mom:

Williston! Williston Tice! Get away from that dog! You know you are allergic to animal fur!

Mrs. Tice calls Lassie a “wretched dog” and tells Timmy that he is trespassing. She bought all the land on that side of the river and will not allow strangers to engage in fishing, hunting or trespassing. She brandishes some sort of long thin walking stick at Timmy and Lassie.

Thinking Mrs. Tice means harm to Timmy, Lassie growls at her. She threatens to have Lassie shot if she ever sees the dog on her land again. Nice lady.

Timmy’s parents tell him that Mrs. Tice is within her rights when it comes to keeping people off her property. Timmy feels sorry for her son, who he thinks is a pretty good sport.

Later that week, Mrs. Tice takes her son fishing. To be accurate, she takes him to watch her fish. From across the river, Timmy and Lassie watch them. Timmy spots a bear behind them.

Mrs. Tice tells Bill to run for the house and tries to fend off the bear with her fishing pole. The bear gets tangled in the fish line. Lassie crosses the river to help them.

Timmy yells that the bear wants their fish and tells Mrs. Tice to drop her basket. But the bear keeps coming.

Mrs. Tice trips on a tree root. Timmy yells for the mother and son to play dead, which stops the bear long enough for Lassie to get to them. Timmy is on his way as well.

Lassie barks at and bites the bear. The collie trees the bear. Timmy and Bill help the injured Mrs. Tice to their home.

Mrs. Tice has mellowed considerably, but still doesn’t understand how things work around those there parts. She wants to give Timmy a cash reward. Timmy declines:

Neighbors don’t take money for helping one another...not in our part of the country! Don’t you see? Lassie or any one of us would take a risk to help someone in trouble without expecting any special thanks!

Mrs. Tice asks Timmy and Lassie to return tomorrow. If Bill doesn’t get an allergy from playing with Lassie, she will let her son have a dog. Lassie barks in approval.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


See what I mean about DuBois? This story has a human conflict and real danger. It resolves both in an exciting manner while offering a solid moral code to its young readers and allowing an unpleasant character to find redemption. I love this story.

Next up is “Blaze Makes a Goal” (4 pages). Written by Debois with art by Till Goodan, it’s a slight story about a college student and his horse. Ted plays polo, so, from the get-go, I have absolutely no affinity for him. He and his horse are recruited to search for a bank robber. It’s a yawner.

Dell (and Gold Key) included ongoing features like Blaze in order to qualify for second-class mailing privileges. Apparently, comic books need to have some feature unrelated to the title feature to  get this coveted designation. Sometimes we lucked out and got gems like Brothers of the Spear (in Tarzan). Other times we got Blaze.

The centerspread of this issue, coming smack dab in the middle of the Blaze story, was a house ad for the Dell Trading Post. One of the dumbest promotions ever.

Readers had to cut off the top strip of their Dell Comic covers and send them in - with some cash - to get “outstanding premium values” from the trading post. A regulation football would set you back $2 and five cover strips. For an “initialed slave bracelet” - I am not making this up - you sent three cover strips and fifty cents. Just thinking about it horrifies me!

Did comics fans really go for this promotion? Were countless comic books destroyed in the process? I’d really love to hear more about this. If you have information, please send it my way.

Before we reached the second Lassie story of the issue, we got “Not So Dumb” (1 page). Judging from the uncredited illustration on this uncredited prose tale, a dog digs up some roses with a hoe-wielding man and his friends some distance away. I didn’t read it. I never read these prose stories. I bought comic books for comics stories. If I wanted to read prose, I went to the library. Which I did with such regularity that librarians finally stopped questioning me when I checked out a half-dozen or more books at the time.

“The Prairie Wolf” (11.5 pages) is the second and final Lassie tale in this issue and it’s terrific.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


When a college pal of Mr. Martin’s stops by for a visit, Timmy and Lassie take his son Randy on a hike. Randy admires Lassie’s skills at flushing out birds. On their Arizona ranch, his dad raises game birds and trains dogs for hunting them.

Lassie is alarmed when snowflakes start to fall. Before long, the boys are caught in a heavy snowfall. Knowing they can’t make it to his home, Timmy has Lassie lead them to “Old Lige Bailey’s cabin.” As they arrive, they see a coyote enter the cabin through a hole in the bottom logs. They also see that there’s no smoke coming from the stovepipe.

They enter to find the old man deliriously sick in bed. The coyote is by his bedside with her three young pups. There’s a dead but still warm bird on the bed. The coyote was trying to help the old man, who, apparently, raised her like a pet dog.

The boys start a fire and get the old man some water. Timmy writes a note calling for help, which Lassie will carry back to his folks. Meanwhile, the collie has made friends with the coyote.

Lassie takes off to deliver the note. The boys make some hot soup for the ailing Bailey. The old man knows he must go to a hospital, but is concerned that Spunky - the coyote - will think she didn’t take good care of him.

Bailey is also concerned that Spunky will be shot when she is out hunting for food for her pups. Not all the landowners around there are fans of coyotes.

The next day, the boys see Spunky being chased by hounds. They try to hide her in a barrel, but the hounds keep coming until Lassie and Mr. Martin chases them away. They secure Spunky and put her in a grain room. They will also bring her puppies there.

Lige Bailey has a long recovery before him. The question is: what to do with the coyotes until the old man can return home?

Randy’s dad has an idea. He thinks he can train the coyote pups to act as hunting dogs. He’ll take Spunky and her young to his ranch in Arizona...and bring Spunky back in the spring. It’s a solution that works for Old Man Bailey.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


This Lassie story has considerable menace for the boys and for the title character. There’s a subtle message about supposedly natural enemies making friends. It has a satisfying ending. Comics writers can learn from this and other DuBois comics.

What else is in this issue? The inside front cover has the black-and-white “Breeds of Dogs: Boxer” by DuBois and Fujitani. The five-panel comics page offers facts about boxers:

The boxer was named for his habit of using his forepaws to begin a fight...must as a human boxer uses his hands.

The inside back cover is “Breeds of Dogs: The Newfoundland,” also by DuBois and Fujitani.

The last page of “The Prairie Wolf” is only half-a-page. The rest of the page is an advertisement for “Tubble,” described as “the new fun bubble soap.” Its spokescreature is Tubby the Whale.

The back cover is a full-page advertisement for the Schwinn 5-Speed Corvette, “the most thrilling new bike you’ve ever seen!” The bike has a suggested price of $79.95. It also has a coupon you can clip and mail to get a free bike catalog. How many innocent comic books had to die for stuff like this?

I hope you enjoyed this look at a fun comic book from the distant reaches of time. I’ll have more of these flashbacks in the future. Come back tomorrow for something different.
 
© 2017 Tony Isabella