Saturday, March 3, 2018

TONY’S BIG CLEVELAND ADVENTURES

The old year brought some changes in attitude for me. I made peace with New York City and found I actually enjoy hanging out in my old neighborhood. The one I could never afford to live in today without a significant lottery win.

I embraced the reality that, though things are better today for a great many creators, it’s not universal. For eighty years, comics publishers have not treated comics creators with either fairness or respect. I believe that’s changing, but it’s going to be a steep learning curve. This is new territory for publishers. The line on the chart will go up a bit, then it will level out or even drop a bit, then will go up a bit further. We should never be complacent about the slights, but we should never go nuclear on them. We need to recognize that basically decent people work at these companies and help them move that line up.

I’m certain that, when I die, I’ll return as a vengeful spirit who will make the Spectre look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. I have started making my list, but there’s still time for alt-right Nazis to repent...and to pray I don’t die before they do.

One of the biggest changes of 2017 is I’m starting to appreciate my birth city of Cleveland again. It’s still a terribly flawed city. It still serves the rich and the powerful at the expense of those who are neither. But it’s got some good stuff in it and I took the time to experience some of that over the past two months.

Here are my recent Cleveland adventures.
                                                                              

My biggest Cleveland adventure was being named one of the city’s most interesting people of 2018 by Cleveland Magazine. This is an enormous deal in the city. Apparently, I’ve been considered for the honor for a few years now and, with the news of the Black Lightning TV series, I made it to the final list.
                                                                               

On November 6, 2017, Sainted Wife Barb and I went to the Cleveland Magazine party at the Burklehagen Photography Studio. The studio is best known for photographing food for advertisements, magazines and websites. It’s located in a terrific old building on the near east side of downtown Cleveland. Barb was especially impressed by their room of dishes used in their work. I was impressed by how good the party food was.
                                                                               

Thirty people were selected for the most interesting people list. Some of them weren’t there. I really wanted to meet Savannah James (LeBron’s wife) and ask her to see if LeBron would like to appear in a Black Lightning comic in the future. I also would have liked  to meet Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Korver of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of other cool people to talk with.
                                                                                  

Author David Giffels is someone whose work I’ve followed for many years. He used to write for the Medina Gazette. Archie Green is a rapper who raises awareness of mental health issues. Natasha and Alex Pogrebinsky are restaurateurs working to develop Cleveland’s East 55th and St. Clair area. Giovanni Santiago is a transgender advocate. Najeebah Shareff is the CEO of Inspiring Lives Forever Transportation. Shaun Yasaki is the brew master/owner of the Noble Beast Brewing Company.

Sharita Taylor is a figure skater who competed in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. She’s also a big fan of the CW/DC super-hero shows, which makes me think someone at the CW and DC should have her do a cameo in one of their shows. In a room full of delightful people, she was Barb’s and my favorite.

Photographer Angelo Merendino was at the party to take the photos for the article. He must have taken fifty shots of me before asking me to strike “a super-hero pose.” After I did as he asked, I told Barb that one would be the photo used in the magazine. She didn’t believe me. The other photos were so much nicer. Well, look below and you can see which of us was correct.
                                                                                     

The Most Interesting People Party was great fun. It’s the kind of thing that never used to happen to me. I am grateful to Cleveland Magazine for this honor and also to Jefferson Pierce. My pal Jeff has been changing my life since we first met.

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In mid-November, I was to meet with some business acquaintances in downtown Cleveland. The less said about that “meeting” the better. It was a major disappointment in all but three ways.
                                                                                         

The first of these positive moments was booking a room at the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade. From 1978 through 1989, my Cosmic Comics shop was in arcades across the street from this classic and legendary location. After closing Cosmic Comics, I spent a handful of months working for the most despicable person with whom I have ever been associated in a comics shop located in The Arcade. That’s a story for my in-progress memoirs.

In the intervening years, The Arcade has been transformed into one of the most gorgeous hotels in the area. Its style has endured for decades. Its former offices and shops have been turned into stately rooms. What had once been a place that reminded me only of one of the worst periods of my life. My return there as a hotel guest did more than banish the horrors of my past experiences in The Arcade. It’s become, as a dear friend said it, a “place of power” for me as I reclaimed what I once lost.
                                                                                  
The second positive moment was dining at Lola Bistro at 2058 East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland. Owned by chef Michael Symon, this “is the crown jewel of Cleveland's vibrant culinary scene.” It has the inventive and terrific menu you would expect, coupled with an  intimate setting, a great drink menu and impeccable service. Some day soon, I want to take Barb there.

The third positive moment was taking leave of my so-called business acquaintances and joining a group of 20-something comics fans I’d met in recent years. It was a chance encounter, but great fun as I found myself playing the role the older comics fans had played for me when I was barely out of my teens. I was the wise old man, they were the eager young minds. It felt like my early days in fandom in the late 1960s when I was welcomed and guided into the mysteries of the fandom of the era. I had a ball.

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Just before my 66th birthday, I treated myself to another night at The Arcade. I checked into my room in early afternoon and then went across Superior Avenue to visit the “Superman: From Cleveland to Krypton” exhibit at the amazing main branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The exhibit opens on May 6, 2017 and, its run extended by popular demand, will close after March 31 of this year.
                                                                                 

From the library’s website:

Follow Superman’s journey from his creative birth in Cleveland to his growing international popularity, his connection to social justice issues, his influence on the current superhero craze, and the pride our community maintains for its homegrown superhero.

Three floors of exhibits in the Main Library will feature memorabilia, art and artifacts from the Mike Curtis Collection of Superman Memorabilia and other prominent collectors.


Superman was created by Clevelanders Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the 1930s and has been a source of pride for the community ever since. This exhibit was a reflection of that pride and, much to my surprise, I found myself represented therein. It includes:

The two-sided Superman poster I helped designed for the ill-fated Neverending Battle organization that attempted to honor Siegel and Shuster in the late 1980s.

A display of Cleveland comics creators said to have been inspired by the Man of Steel. My name was up there with Harvey Pekar, Brian Michael Bendis, Tom Batiuk and others.

A display on the social progressiveness of Superman that included Black Lightning.

If all goes as planned, my next stay at The Arcade will be with my Sainted Wife. I’ll show her the Superman exhibit and take her out for dinner at Lola’s. Am I the geeky romantic or what?

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My 2017 Cleveland adventures concluded with hockey and super-heroes at the Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Monsters. From Wikipedia...

The Cleveland Monsters are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League (AHL). The team began play in 2007 as the Lake Erie Monsters and, since 2015, has served as the top affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Monsters play home games at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland and have one Calder Cup championship, after winning their first title in 2016.
                                                                              

On December 30, the Monsters held a Marvel Super-Hero Night. They wore Captain America-inspired jerseys which were auctioned off to benefit the Monsters Community Fund. By dint of my having written for Marvel Comics in the 1970s, I was invited to take part in the evening’s fun.

There was special Marvel & Monsters co-branded merchandise at the Team Shop. Iron Man was on the concourse before the game. Monsters cheerleaders wore Captain America-inspired outfits. You could be a super-hero at a virtual reality zone. Encouraged to wear costumes, you could be photographed in front of a green screen. There were a number of gaming consoles with Marvel games throughout the arena.  There was a super-hero costume parade.

My participation?

Local comic book writer Tony Isabella will be signing copies of his Daredevil and Luke Cage covers from Section 121 on the concourse during the 1st intermission and the 2nd intermission.

There was no charge for my signature on the mini-posters created by the Monsters promotions department. I signed hundreds of them and was thrilled to see the happy faces of the Monsters fans, young and old, who got these posters. I even took advantage of the signing to promote the Black Lightning TV series and my Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands comic-book series.

It was a terrific evening all around. Well, almost all around. The Monsters provided myself and my kids - Eddie and Kelly - with some choice seats. That was great.

The Monsters lost to the Grand Rapids Griffins. That was not great. I can only assume the Monsters came back to beat their opponents in the next issue.

That’s all for today’s bloggy thing. I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you about my first 2018 Cleveland adventure and much more. See you then, my friends.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

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