Tuesday, November 19, 2019

UNIVERSAL YUMS: GREECE

Our second Universal Yums snack box arrived a while back, this time filled with treats from Greece. If you missed my earlier bloggy on Universal Yums, here’s a quick explanation:
 
Every month, Universal Yums sends me a box filled with snacks and candies from a different country. Inside each box is a multi-page booklet with information on the snacks, the nation I’m “visiting” and additional fun and games.

Last month’s box was from Turkey. Universal Yums polled customers on the contents. Best went to the Lush Cocoa Creme Mosaic Cookies, which were mosaic cookies with chocolate cream filling. Chocolate has not been predominant in the region until recently, so this type of snack is just coming into its own in Turkey. I found the cookies to be tasty, but noted we have similar cookies in the United States just as good or better.

Second best was the Ulker Krispi Tirtikli Kraker Baharatli cracker chips, my favorite snacks from the Turkey box. They are seasoned with baharat, a blend of spices that’s insanely popular all across the Middle East. They are crispy and the flavor is wonderful. If I could buy bags of them here in Medina, they’d replace most of the other chips and crackers that show up at Casa Isabella.

For the worst, customers voted for the Toffix Mastic. The nastiest snack in the box, this was a soft chewy candy with flavor derived from the gum-like sap of mastic trees. It tastes like how I imagine jackal ass would taste. Both Barb and I spit out the one bite we took. If I ever have to torture someone to give them information, I will make them eat this candy.

On to the snacks from Greece...
                                                                              

The Oriental Saragli is a “syrupy phyllo dough pastry with almonds and walnuts. It’s one of the many varieties of baklava available in Greece and elsewhere. I found it tasty but very sticky. The kind of treat where you have to turn on the faucet with your elbows to wash your hands afterwards and we’re talking a proper washing, not just running the water over your hands. I liked it, but it isn’t going to be a snack I seek out in the future. There were two of the small pastries in the package. The second one awaits the Isabella fam
ily member who wants to try it.

The package of Kritsinaki basil-pesto-flavored breadsticks was too small. Some might call it “fun size,” but that’s a damn lie. If you like a treat, you’ll have more fun eating more of it...and I liked these crunchy little bread bites a lot. I call them “bites” because they ain’t near long enough to be called “sticks.” Whatever happen to truth in advertising?
                                                                                  
Serenata Finger is “milk chocolate coasted wafer with cocoa cream filling.” Not really different from the wafer treats that we have in the U.S., this pastry was as good as any of our homegrown ones. Four crispy wafers covered in cocoa cream, coated in chocolate and drizzled with more chocolate. Fun fact:

Greece is where wafers were invented. Greeks started cooking them in 146 BC.

“They would pour batter between two hot plates attached to wooden sticks, cook the wafers to perfection, and top them with herbs and cheese.”

Tottis-Bingo created the Serenata wafer in 1970. It quickly became a beloved household name across the country.
                                                                               
Tottis Chips Oregano are simply potato chips paired with oregano. They’re delicious and it’s taking great will power for me to save some of them for my wife and kids.
                                                                                

Moustokouloura are soft wheat cookies with grape must flavor. Must is a thick mixture containing freshly pressed juice, skins, seeds and stems of the grape, usually part of making wine. I thought this would be a winner, but it’s too heavy a cookie for me.
                                                                                 

The Serenata Triple Hazelnut is a milk chocolate coated, hazelnut topped wafer with cream filling. It was delicious and is definitely in the running for my favorite snack of the box.
                                                                              
The Bruschettini Pizza bread crisps are a hit with me. It’s crunchy bead with cheese, tomato and basil seasoning. This is another Greek oldie. Its distant ancestor is Paximadia, the beloved twice-baked bread. Originally made for Greek sailors out to sea before 400 BC, it was such a hit that, by that year, there were over 72 different and unique types of it. These would be great on a salad.
                                                                                 
  
Another hit is the Kings Soft Cookie with Dark Chocolate Chunks. This is made with dark Belgian chocolate with a wisp of salt and vanilla. Universal Yums boasts these are better than any similar product you’d find in a domestic grocery story and specifically call out Pepperidge Farm. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the latter, but I’m giving my vote to the Greek delight. Of course, if Pepperidge Farms wants to send me a case of cookies, I would be willing to reconsider.
                                                                                   

I only ate two small bites of the Minor Peanut & Honey Nut Bar on account of it was so hard I feared for my teeth. I liked the taste a lot. However, after spending a fortune on dental implants several years back, I opted for caution.
                                                                                         
                                                                     
The Tsourekaki with Cocoa Cream is a traditional Greek sweet bread with incredibly rich chocolate cream filling. It’s a plump pastry that was deceptively light and sweet at first time. Halfway through the bread, it became too heavy with an unpleasant aftertaste to the chocolate cream.
                                                                                

Corn Flake Bread Rings. White and corn bread stick rings with corn flakes. This is Greek street food and it’s delicious. This is the flavor that came in my box, but there are other flavors, including cheese and sesame.
                                                                                

Lemona Potaki. This soft pie with lemon filling is in the running to be my choice for best of the box. If you order a pita in Greece, this is what you get on account of, in Greek, pita means a pie or a pastry. It’s a fairly crumbly pastry, but a combination of sweet and tart that made my mouth happy.
                                                                                  

Elite Mediterranean Crackers. Crackers with feta cheese and oregano flavor. This a nice crunchy cracker. However, I’ve never been a fan of feta cheese. If you are, you’ll like these crackers.
                                                                             

Minos Soft Nougat. Soft nougat with orange and peanut. This tasty bar is the Greek great grandfather of Snickers, Milky, and Three Musketeers. The orange flavor really pops. The peanuts not so much. This is a contender for my best of the box.
                                                                                     

Tottis Sea Salt Chips. Tottis does potato chips right. The family loved the oregano chips mentioned earlier in this blog and the sea salt chips are just as good.
                                                                                     

Serenata Max Croissant with Apricot Filling. Breakfast for Greeks is usually coffee. Just coffee. However, they do have mid-morning snacks like this. The apricot filling was okay, but the croissant surrounding it was not. It left an unpleasant aftertaste after just two bites. I’ll pass.
                                                                               

Every month’s box contains “The Yum Bag” filled with two or three candies with multiples of each. The Greece bag started with Frugeli Pomegranate Jelly (flavored jelly candies) and these were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

That was followed by Kokus Ouzo (Ouzo flavored hard candy). There was a heavy licorice taste to this candy. Not a fan.

The third candy was Kokus Honey Toffee. The honey flavored chew has the consistency of a softer Tootsie Roll. Not awful, but any candy that requires I brush my teeth immediately after eating it is not going to be a winner with me.

It was hard to pick my favorites from this box. After a great deal of deliberation and tasting of leftovers, I went with the Tottis Chips Oregano for first place and the Frugeli Pomegranate Jelly in the runner-up position. My pick for the worst of this box was that Kokus Ouzo hard candy.

When Universal Yums polled their customers, the Frugeli Pomegranate Jelly won “best.” The Serenata Triple Hazelnut was “second best.”  Deemed the worst of the box was the Kokus Ouzo hard candy.

My next Universe Yums box has already arrived, filled with treats from Austria. I’m going to start on that box tomorrow.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella




Monday, November 18, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #320

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder: Some comic convention thoughts plus my reviews of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts (recently the bestselling book in America); Mickey Mouse: The Quest for the Missing Memories; and The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television! 
                                                                                
                                                                              

HALLOWEEN COMICFEST 2019 REVIEWS #1

What is Halloween ComicFest? Let’s go to the Halloween Comicfest website for the answer:

Halloween ComicFest...the comic book industry’s premiere fall event – a single day when participating comic book specialty shops across North America and around the world give away specially published comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops. HCF is the perfect event to experience comic shops as destinations for Halloween and horror-themed comic books, collectibles and other merchandise! In other words, Halloween ComicFest is the Spooky Free Comic Book Day!

Every year, on the last Saturday in October, the industry comes together to give away free comics and encourage both curious, first-time comic book readers and seasoned comic book fans to flock to the best place in the comic book community: local comic shops. Each one is unique in its community, with a style and personality all its own, and each one carries a full line of spooky comics, graphic novels, toys and related products. Local comic shops are the hubs of our community, where fans can come together to discover new comics, make lifelong friends, and find a sense of commonality.
 
I read and reviewed the Free Comic Book Day comic books sent to me by my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. I’m going to do the same thing with the Halloween ComicFest free comic books they sent me. As with the FCBD comic books, I will be looking at three areas.

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want and be able to buy more of the same?

I score FCBD offerings on a scale of zero to ten. Each category is worth three points with the tenth point coming from my interest in seeing more of what’s ever in the book.

Let’s get started...
                                                                                   

Archie’s Madhouse Magic [Archie Comics] is a slightly over 5" by 8" comic book. Sixteen pages in all, it reprints two stories. Sabrina stars in “A Monstrous Halloween” by Bill Golliher with art by Dan DeCarlo and Jon D’Agostino. Archie stars in “Night Spirit” by Frank Doyle with art by Harry Lucey and Chic Stone. It’s a near perfect model of what these giveaways should be: small enough to be tossed in a trick-or-treat bag and suitable for all ages.

QUALITY: The Sabrina story is a funny Halloween party tale with a hilarious ending. The Archie story is more of an adventure story, but also contains humor. I liked them both.

ACCESSIBILITY: Almost every one knows the characters already, but, even if they didn’t, the comics are easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: The inside front cover has a ad for several “Archie” trade paperback collections. Except for the Riverdale ones, these are suitable for most ages. Alas, there are few new Archie comics featuring the classic versions of the characters as seen in the two reprints in this giveaway comic.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                             

Blastoaurus [Golden Apple Books) is another 16-page digest with a 10-page story that relates to the title character but doesn’t focus on him at all.

QUALITY: I liked this year’s Free Comic Book Day issue featuring this character enough to give it ten points. This one literally didn’t do a thing for me.

ACCESSIBILITY: I like that the inside front cover gave a succinct summary of who Blastosaurus is. Alas, it wasn’t useful in terms of this issue’s story.

SALESMANSHIP: No ads for the ongoing Blastosaurus comics, but the inside front cover does mention they exist.

SCORE: Three points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                              

DC Superhero Girls at Metropolis High [DC Comics] is also a 16-page digest. It has a 12-page excerpt from the graphic novel of the same name. The “girls” are late for class because they are doing their “superhero” stuff. As punishment, each of them have to join one of the school’s clubs.

QUALITY: This is written by Amy Wolfram and illustrated by Yancey Labat. Both of them deliver the goods.

ACCESSIBILITY: Just a touch confusing for me. In most stories from this series, the characters are attending a superhero high school. This seems to be of a different continuity. A new reader shouldn’t have any trouble following this excerpt, but they might be thrown if they pick up other books in the series.

SALESMANSHIP: Okay. The inside back cover advertises the Metropolis High graphic novel. The back cover advertises Teen Titans Go! PVC dioramas.

SCORE: Eight points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                              

Just Beyond: The Horror at Happy Landings [kaboom!] is another 16-page digest. It features a 12-page excerpt from the title-mentioned graphic novel. It’s written by bestselling author R.L. Stine with art by Kelly and Nicole Matthews.

Sidebar. My son Ed loved Stine’s Goosebumps books as a kid. Many of his friends did as well. One of my proudest moments was Ed nailing a class assignment to write a short story. He wrote a “Goosebumps” story about a boy whose scientist father turns into a killer plant monster who must be destroyed. This story frightened a little girl in his class so much that, when I came to pick up Ed at the end of the day, the teacher wanted me to assure the girl that it was just a story and I was still alive.

QUALITY: So-so at best. It’s not that Stine’s comic-book writing is awful. It’s just that it’s kind of blah. I liked this one better than others he’s done in recent years, but it seems way too tame. The art is decent, but not spectacular.

ACCESSIBILITY: It’s easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. The inside front cover is just a credits page that could have been done in half the space. There are no ads for the full graphic novel beyond a small blurb at the excerpt’s end.

SCORE: Five points out of a possible ten points.

That’s it for now. I’ll have more Halloween Comicfest reviews for you in the near future.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

NEW BLOGS COMING

It's taking me longer to bounce back from doing back-to-back conventions than I anticipated, but I hope to have some new blogs up by the end of the week.

Monday, November 4, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS COMIC CON (November 8-10)

My final convention appearance of 2019 is Grand Rapids Comic Con. This is also one of my favorite conventions so I’m closing out the year in...ahem...grand fashion. The event takes place Friday thru Sunday, November 8-10, at the DeVos Place, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The convention hours are...

Friday, November 8, 12-7 pm
Saturday, November 9, 10 am-7 pm
Sunday, November 10, 10 am-5 pm

For folks with more lasting power than me, there will be after-hours  programming as late as midnight on Friday and Saturday nights!

Grand Rapids always has in great comics, media, literary, cosplay and YouTube guests. This year’s comics guests include Gail Simone, Heather Antos, Jim Shooter, Christopher Jones, Graham Nolan, David Nakayama, Ty Templeton, Thom Zahler, Dirk Manning, William Messner-Loebs, Robert Pope, Scott Rosema, Golden Age legend Vic Carrabotta and more.

The media guest list is also impressive. Attending the convention: Patrick Warburton, my friend Jennifer Riker (Black Lightning), Tony Todd, Jason Marsden, Greg Weisman, Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris Karloff), Ann Robinson (War of the Worlds) and more. There will be guests from Power Rangers, Star Wars, Star Trek, horror, anime and superhero media.

In addition to the guests, Grand Rapids always has cool cosplayers, exciting exhibits and pulse-pounding panels and programming. Did I say “pulse-pounding?” Clearly, I just had a momentary flashback to the years I spending writing copy for Marvel Comics.

I will be doing two panels/presentations this year.

For all the fans who have told me they wished they could have seen my CHEESY MONSTERS RAID AGAIN presentation at this year’s Godzilla-centric G-Fest, your wish is being granted. On Friday, at 3 pm in Grand Gallery E-F, I will be doing an encore presentation of that event. For those who can’t make it to Grand Rapids Comic Con, you will get another chance at an early 2020 convention. If you still can’t make it to that one, fear not. I’m writing a kind of sort of novelization of the panel with an eye towards publishing it early next year. The cheese is strong within me.

Then, on Saturday, at 2:30 pm in Grand Gallery A-C, Jennifer Riker, who plays the deliciously evil Dr. Helga Jace on Black Lightning, and I will discuss my favorite TV show, dance around what you can expect from this gripping current season and talk about Jennifer’s other work. You’ve all heard my routine before. Come to the panel to listen to Jennifer.

When I’m not doing panels, taking breaks, wandering the vendor hall looking for cool stuff or visiting friends at their booths, I will be at my booth.

What will I be selling? I’m bringing these books, some of which are in short supply:

1000 Comic Books You Must Read
Black Lightning Volume One (reprinting my 1970s run)
Black Lightning Volume Two (stories not written by me)
Black Lightning: Brick City Blues (reprinting my 1995 run)
Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands (reprinting my most recent Black Lightning comics from 2017-2018)
July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One (which defies description)

I’m bringing copies of an exclusive-to-me variant edition Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, which reprints the first appearance of Misty Knight in the Iron Fist series. This signed, numbered edition is limited to 1000 copies.

I’ll have Black Lightning pins from Fansets. The pins cost $6 each  and my supply is limited.

Posters? I’ll have a number of different posters and mini-posters: Black Lightning (three different posters), Daredevil, Hawkman, Luke Cage and a Misty Knight/Tigra team-up.

I’ll sign any item purchased from me at no additional charge. I’m happy to sign any Tony Isabella or Tony Isabella-related items not purchased from me for a nominal fee of $5 per signature. That goes up to $10 per item if you’re having my signature witnessed by any grading company representative.

Cosplayers? If you’re cosplaying as a character I created or that I’ve written, please stop by my booth. With your permission, I’d love to take your photo for use in my blog and other online venues.

Photos with me? I’m happy to pose with you or for you. There is no charge for these photos.

Interviews? Depending on how busy I am at the convention, I’ll do my level best to make time to talk with you for your print/online articles or your podcasts. However, at this point, I'm working the event by myself and might not be able to accommodate you.

Are you an editor, publisher or filmmaker who would like to hire me for a project? We probably won’t be able to take a long-ish meeting during show hours, but I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Failing that, you can always contact me via e-mail.

Two more things.

Don’t be shy about asking me questions. Non-disclosure agreements mean there are questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try to give you answers to all other questions.

Should you ever feel threatened/uncomfortable at this or any other convention, know that my booth will always be a safe spot for you. You can hang with me until we can talk to con personnel able to help you with whatever and whoever is causing your concern.

I’m truly looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at this wonderful convention. If you want more information on all Grand Rapids Comic Con has to offer, visit its website.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 1, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #319

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The secret origin of how Tony Isabella was hired by Marvel plus reviews of Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas, Aki Irie’s Go with the clouds, North-by-Northwest 2 and the (sob) final issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up!
                                                                                
                                                                              

Thursday, October 31, 2019

KNOXVILLE FANBOY EXPO PART TWO

What Has Gone Before:

I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee for Fanboy Expo 2.0. It’s nearly 5 pm on Friday night and the event is about to open.

Occupying the location of the US Pavilion of the 1982 World's Fair, the Knoxville Convention Center is 500,000 square feet with 120,000 square feet of exhibit space. It’s an enormous and mostly very well maintained facility. Some of the restrooms did leave something to be desired, but others were fine.

Fanboy Expo 2.0 was only using a third of its summer event space, but that was still an enormous area. My booth was across from the Charles Bond Comics tables with lots of great old comics and very reasonably-priced hardcovers and trades. Charles and I have known each other for years and it was great to catch up with him. Kudos also to Jimmy, his assistant at the show, who always kept the comics conversation flowing.

Just before the show opened, a bulky, squirrel-y looking character walked close to my booth, which, as you probably figured out, had a great deal of Black Lightning material on sale. Posters, pins and trade paperbacks. He stopped in front of my table and...

...flashed a white power symbol at me.
                                                                               

I realize some dispute the “okay” hand symbol is a racist symbol. In this case, there was no mistaking the intent of this individual or the terrified look on his face when he realized I knew exactly what he was doing. I shot him an angry look and he scurried away. I didn’t see him again that weekend. 

Everyone else I met in Knoxville, whether they were associated with the convention or working at the hotel, were wonderful, welcoming  people. I didn’t let this one guy occupy my brain for more than it took to write about the above incident.

These Friday night previews are interesting. Sometimes they set the tone for the convention. Other times they reveal nothing about what to expect on Saturday and Sunday. If a promoter asks me to do them, I do them.
                                                                                   

My sales at my table were about what I expected. My biggest seller was Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, reprinting the first appearance of Misty Knight. This is an exclusive variant that is only available from me. It’s signed and number and the print run was 1000 copies. I sell them for $10 each. I brought ten copies. I had sold them all before noon on Saturday.

I do charge a modest $5 per item for my signature. (I sign comics and other items purchased from me for free.) Over the weekend, the signatures amounted to 52% of my take for the convention. In case you were wondering why I charge for signatures.

Besides people telling me how much love Black Lightning and the TV series, I think the line I heard most often was:

“Tony Isabella? I read some of your comics when I was young!”

Tempering the anguish of being so freaking old, I was delighted by how many fans, including many not born when I was writing comics in the 1970s, said they felt my stories hold up as well today as they must have when first published. I have always given everything I had to every assignment I’ve taken. It pleases me to know all of that hard work was worth it.
                                                                                     

One of my all-time favorite convention vendors was at Fanboy Expo 2.0: Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda Company. I’ve enjoyed their root beer at many conventions, but the mix was off at the last one I attended. The heavenly brew was back to its usual incredible at this convention. I bought a mini-mug with free refills.

Were there legendary burps? There were.

I’m cutting today’s bloggy thing short so I can spend time with my Saintly Wife Barb. I will be back tomorrow with a brief interlude to this report. I hope you’ll be entertained and intrigued by what I’ll be writing about. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

KNOXVILLE FANBOY EXPO PART ONE

After several delays, I’m finally getting around to writing about my recent weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, as a featured guest at David Heynen’s Fanboy Expo 2.0. The event took place Friday through Sunday, October 18-20, at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Those of you have enjoyed (endured) my previous convention reports know I always discuss more than just the convention. The journeys are often as noteworthy.

My journey started Thursday morning. An American Airlines flight to Charlotte on a plane only big and comfortable in comparison to the baby American Eagle plane that took me from Charlotte to Knoxville. The only saving grace was that neither flight was long. The flight to Charlotte was around a hour and change, the flight to Knoxville was less than an hour. The convention picked me up at the airport and took me to my home for the weekend.

The Holiday Inn World's Fair Park was originally built for the 1982 World's Fair. Some of that fair’s iconic structures remain open to tourists in the hotel’s back yard. As I would later learn, the park is the city’s largest public green space. Unfortunately, because of a lingering stomach flu, I had to curtail my explorations of this area. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance in the future.

My room was fairly large. I could’ve fit two American Eagle cabins in it. The bed was exceptionable comfortable and the reading chair likewise. On the minus side, the cooling/heating system was erratic and there wasn’t a room safe. I spent a little of my leisure time during the convention working out a grading system for hotels. If you manage to stay awake during this series of Fanboy Expo reports, I’ll share it with you.

Quick clarification. The Fanboy Expo was exciting and fun. Mister Tony was less so.

Here’s something weird that was in my hotel room. Over the controls for the AC was a card reading:

Insert your room key card into the illuminated wall slot located at the entry door.

This illuminated wall slot did not exist. I checked every part of every wall in the room. I checked around the outside of the room. No illuminated wall slot. I think it’s particularly cruel to mess with a tired old man’s head that way.

I had lunch at the hotel’s Brew Burger restaurant. I was seated at a table with a gorgeous view of the park. I ordered the Park Club sandwich, which was both tasty and large enough that the leftovers (kept in my room refrigerator) made for terrific snacks on Friday and Saturday nights.

My room view wasn’t as nice as the restaurant view. I looked out at a large YMCA building. At least, I quipped in a text to a friend, I knew where the fun would be.

My Thursday evening was restful. After watching MSNBC for a while, I talked myself off the ledge via Young Sheldon and The Unicorn. I worked on my October Previews order and read several chapters of Ohio author Andrew Welsh-Huggins’s third book in his “Andy Hayes” mystery series. Hayes is a disgraced Ohio State University football star turned private investigator after a stint in prison. If you’ve been reading the bloggy thing, you know I’m a sucker for mysteries and police novels set in my home state.

I woke up early Friday morning because my cat Simba has trained me to wake up early to feed her. But it gave me a chance to plan for the day, watch some morning news, and have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The Brew Burger served a pretty standard buffet, but the food was well prepared and the service was excellent.

On the local ABC morning show, I caught a very nice report on the convention that would be starting at 5 pm that evening. I did wince when they announced a few guests, leading off with an actor who had cancelled his appearance because he had to work. I hope any of his fans who were disappointed by his absence found comfort in all the other terrific guests and programs who appeared over the weekend at the Fanboy Expo.

The Convention Center was across the street from the hotel. I went over there to get my badge, receive a nice gift bag and set up my table. I was delighted to see the charming, talented artist Robert Pope was around the corner from me. We would frequently poke our heads Laugh-In style through the curtain between us.

For lunch, I walked three-tenths of a mile upstream to Knoxville’s Market Square. It was a bit of a hike, but it’s a really nice part of the city. Lots of interesting looking restaurants, most of them not open until the late afternoon.

I ate at a place called Ruby Sunshine. They did a great burger and fries, which was all I needed. At the table next to me was a fan I have met at several shows. He told me he had a bunch of books for me to sign.

After he left, another group of fans came to my restaurant table. Feeling so much charitable than I usually am, I was going to invite them to join me. But they just wanted to know when I would be set up at the convention and if I would be doing any panels and signing comics there. They were very polite, so polite they missed out on my buying them lunch.

Just before the Fanboy Expo opened, I sort of met the one terrible person I would meet the entire weekend. But since that’s the kind of hook that will get you to come back tomorrow, I’m not going to tell you about until tomorrow.

I’m such a tease!

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THE AKRON COMICON (November 2-3)

My penultimate convention appearance of 2019 is The Akron Comicon. This year, the event has new ownership, a new venue, and all sorts of cool add-ons.

Akron Comicon will be Saturday and Sunday, November 2-3 at Emidio’s Event Center, 48 E. Bath Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Show hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday.

Part of the convention’s mission statement is emphasizing what they call “Comics Future.” They keep the show affordable for families to give adults a chance to pass on their love of comics to kids. The ticket prices reflect this:

Adult (weekend): $15
Adult (one day): $10
Child (weekend): $10
Child (one-day): $5

One child 13 or younger will be admitted to the event free with a paid adult ticket. I have seldom seen a convention, even a regional one like this, with better prices.

This year’s headline guest is Cleveland broadcasting legend Marty Sullivan, who created the character of “Superhost” for kids shows and monster movie airings. While most area monster-movie hosts took their cues from the immortal Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson, Sullivan was inspired by Superman, the character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster while they lived in Cleveland. It was a gentle parody of the Man of Steel and it made me smile. I’m definitely looking forward to meeting Sullivan at the convention.

Besides yours truly, comics guests include Bob McLeod, Ron Frenz, Tom Batiuk, Don Simpson, Craig Boldman, Ted Sikora, Bob Ingersoll, Mike W. Barr, Matt Horak, Mark Sumerak, Thom Zahler and many other artists and writers.

Media guests include Star Trek actor Sean Kenny, Rottentail actor Tank Jones, horror host Son of Ghoul, pop culture authors Jan and Mike Olszewski, and actors Matt and Tracey Penfound, the children of Captain Penny, arguably the greatest of the Cleveland kids show hosts.

The Akron Comicon was founded by Bob Jenkins and Michael Savene, who established the Comicon’s “fans first” credo. Led by local creators Dan Gorman and Jason Miller, Altered Realm Productions purchased the event this year and plan to expand it in a number of interesting ways. Look for the official Comicon poster, a limited edition Rottentail trade and an exclusive limited edition print by Enrique Lopez.

The convention programming features a Marvel play, toy collecting, fan film fight sequences and safety, Batman’s 80th anniversary, Rottentail, cosplay, Superhost, the state of retail comics and voice over acting.

Slow down, Tony, you say. What’s this Rottentail you keep talking about? It’s a hit indie film available on Blu-Ray. On Friday night, at the historic Highland Theater (826 West Market St., Akron, OH), you can see Rottentail on the big screen. Writer David Hayes and actor Tank Jones will be signing copies of the Blu-Ray and talking with fans. Festivities start at 8 pm. Get there early and see a the premier of Johnny K Wu’s fan film Parker at 8:30 pm. Admission is a mere five bucks, but you’ll have to buy your own popcorn and any other concession snacks you crave.

Besides offering the above program the night before the convention, the Akron Comicon will also have an after-party on Saturday night. Come hang out at The Empire Concert Club (1305 E. Tallmadge Ave., Akron OH). Sponsored by Source Point Press, the $10 admission gets you in to see five live bands, hosted and MC’d by Marty Sullivan.

As for me, I’ll be available at my booth throughout the show, save for when I take breaks for meals and such.

What will I be selling? I’m bringing these trade paperbacks:

1000 Comic Books You Must Read
Black Lightning Volume One (reprinting my 1970s run)
Black Lightning Volume Two (stories not written by me)
Black Lightning: Brick City Blues (reprinting my 1995 run)
Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands (reprinting my most recent Black Lightning comics from 2017-2018)
July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One (which defies description)

I’m bringing copies of an exclusive-to-me edition Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, which reprints the first appearance of Misty Knight in the Iron Fist series. This signed, numbered edition is limited to 1000 copies.

I’ll have Black Lightning pins from Fansets. The pins cost $6 each  and my supply is limited.

Posters? I’ll have a number of different posters and mini-posters: Black Lightning (three different posters), Daredevil, Hawkman, Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Tigra and the rare two-sided Superman poster from 1988's International Superman Exposition. I’m running low on most of these, so this might be your last chance to get them from me.

I’ll sign any item purchased from me at no additional charge. I’m happy to sign any Tony Isabella or Tony Isabella-related items not purchased from me for a nominal fee of $5 per signature. That goes up to $10 per item if you’re having my signature witnessed by any grading company representative.

Cosplayers? If you’re cosplaying as a character I created or that I’ve written, please stop by my booth. With your permission, I’d love to take your photo for use in my blog and other online venues.

Photos with me? I’m happy to pose with you or for you. There is no charge for these photos.

Interviews? Depending on how busy I am at the convention, I’ll do my level best to make time to talk with you for your print/online articles or your podcasts. However, at this point, I'm working the event by myself and might not be able to accommodate you.

Are you an editor, publisher or filmmaker who would like to hire me for a project? We probably won’t be able to take a long-ish meeting during show hours, but I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Failing that, you can always contact me via e-mail.

Two more things.

Don’t be shy about asking me questions. Non-disclosure agreements mean there are questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try to give you answers to all other questions.

Should you ever feel threatened/uncomfortable at this or any other convention, know that my booth will always be a safe spot for you. You can hang with me until we can talk to con personal able to help you with whatever and whoever is causing your concern.

Assuming you’re still with me after this long-winded bloggy thing, I would love to see you at the Akron Comicon. It’s been a terrific show in the past and I’m certain it will be terrific this year. If not, we can blame do-nothing government officials who have failed to create a Department of Comics. Shame on them.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 28, 2019

CITIZEN TONY FIGHTS FOR AMERICA

On two separate occasions last week, I sent the Medina Gazette, our local newspaper, information on the extremist, un-American views of Ward 2 City Council candidate Michael Ryan. On each occasion, the paper declined to run stories on this.

I sent them a letter on the subject. They have also refused to run that letter. In the interest of informing voters of Ryan’s complete unsuitability to serve on City Council, I am sharing my letter in today’s bloggy thing. I urge my fellow Ward 2 voters to share this blog with their neighbors and in whatever social media venues they have.

Here’s my letter:

A hundred years ago, the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution enacted into law that the federal government and states could not prohibit women from voting. Disturbingly, Ward 2 Council candidate Michael Ryan expresses support for the antiquated notion women should be subservient to men. Despite our country being founded by people seeking freedom to practice their religion, he also believes some religions should be vilified. These are among the extreme positions he advocates for on his social media.

Ryan is a two-issue candidate, entering the race to overturn what our bipartisan Council achieved earlier this year: insuring equal protection under the law to our LGBT citizens. Cut past the various code words and what is exposed is the bigotry of Ryan and the other candidates who have emerged to challenge all of the incumbents who voted for the equality that is at the center of American democracy. It is unfortunate some people believe equal rights for all somehow means less rights for them. It doesn’t.

The above is reason enough for me to urge Ward 2 voters to return Dennie Simpson back to Council. As for Ryan’s other issue...

He wants to kill more deer. Because they eat his flowers. Now one might think an alleged Christian such as Ryan would see the beauty in all God’s creations, including deer. Since he seems unable to do that, I would suggest he build a fence around his property. Maybe even a wall.


Here are the scans of things on Ryan’s social media that I sent to the Gazette and which they ignored.
                                                                               
                                                                                 
                                                                                 
                                                                                    

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 25, 2019

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019 REVIEWS #12

What Has Gone Before:

I’m reading and reviewing the Free Comic Book Day comic books sent to me by my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. When I read and review FCBD comics, I look at three areas.

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want and be able to buy more of the same?

I score FCBD offerings on a scale of zero to ten. Each category is worth three points with the tenth point coming from my interest in seeing more of what’s ever in the book.
 
Little Lulu [Drawn & Quarterly] stars Lulu Moppet, indisputably one of the greatest characters in comics history. Created by magazine cartoonist Marge, Lulu moved into brilliant comic books written and sometimes drawn by the legendary John Stanley. Drawn & Quarterly has launched a reprint series restoring those original comics to vibrant full color. This FCBD sampler includes several stories, gag pages and even a “Lulu’s Diary” text feature.

QUALITY: Great characters. Great writing. Great art. The quality is most definitely there.

ACCESSIBLE: Little Lulu is a pretty basic concept. Lulu versus the boys. Kids versus adults. Occasional flights into fantasy. Though the stories are from many decades ago, I think they hold up well, albeit for older readers.
 
Sidebar. On my list of things I wish I could create, a modernized Little Lulu would be high. Whenever I mentioned this, people have reacted in horror. Some because they hate the idea of Little Lulu stories that are not *exactly* like the old ones. Others because no man should write such a feminist icon. I hold the belief that any good writer can write any character. If I can only write characters like myself, then I’m stuck with short lumpy senior citizens with high blood pressure and occasional gout. That would be fine for one series or story, but story after story? I think not.
 
SALESMANSHIP: Excellent, though it’s a bit jarring to see clearly adult material being pitched side-by-side with more all ages fare. That said, Drawn & Quarterly did one of the best jobs of showcasing
their vast variety of publications.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                             

From Random House Graphic, we get Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: Big and Bolder. Written and drawn by Jeffrey Brown, the title characters are siblings in the Stone Age who have met and become friends with a human family. Their adventures have the kids enjoying their mild adventures, playing and pulling pranks on one another. Educational information is included in most of these tales.

QUALITY: I thought the stories were fun and well-done. They weren’t really to my taste, but I enjoyed them.

ACCESSIBILITY: Could have been a little better. There was plenty of room for a “What Has Gone Before” piece on the inside front cover, especially since it was blank. As were the last page of the issue and the inside back cover.

SALESMANSHIP: Decent. There were eight pages of house ads for the Lucy and Andy series and other graphic novel series from RHG. The  information about the books in the ads could have been much better. Instead, we got many laudatory quotes from cartoonists whose works are also published by Random House Graphic.

SCORE: Five points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                                       

Several times, I moved Our Favorite Thing is My Favorite Thing is Monsters [Fantagraphics] lower on my Free Comic Book Day reading pile. Previously, after reading several dozens pages into the Emil Ferris graphic novel, I gave up it on. The reasons for that aren’t important at this time. So many folks whose opinions I respect have praised the book. It’s won some awards. I figured I owed it another chance. After reading this FCBD collection of Ferris shorts, I do plan to have it again.

QUALITY: High. One of the reasons that I found My Favorite Thing is Monsters hard going was what I recall as script lettering to mimic the style of its 10-year-old protagonist. The lettering was better here and the stories were excellent.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very good. Between the first page introduction and the writing, I had no trouble following the stories.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The inside front cover has advertises My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Three other house ads were scattered through the issue. One was for James Warren: Empire of Monsters, a biography I’ve read and highly recommend. Another was for a graphic novel that intrigues me. Three out of four ain’t bad.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                                 

Witch Hat Atelier [Kodansha Comics] features excerpts from a trio of manga series: Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahamai, Cardcaptor Sakura Collector’s Edition by Clamp, and Magus of the Library by Mitsu Izumi.

QUALITY: Each excerpt left me wanting to read more. Though some of the storytelling is hard to follow, the basic premises were good.

ACCESSIBILITY: Each excerpt was preceded by a text page giving some background that was of considerable help in getting into them.

SALESMANSHIP: The introductory text pages served as compelling ads  for the three titles. There was also a back cover ad for a fourth manga series.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.

This concludes my reviews of this year’s Free Comic Book Day comic books. I’m awaiting the arrival of this year’s Halloween Comicfest giveaways. When I receive these freebies, I’ll commence reading and reviewing them.

I’m running this column sooner than I had anticipated on account of it was finished and ready to go. Next up with be a series of blogs on my trip to Knoxville for Fanboy Expo 2.0.   

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

CITIZEN TONY VOTED

Right off the bat - no spoiler warning necessary - let me state the obvious. I’m a proud progressive liberal. I like being on the right side of history and morality. I realize this will annoy and anger some of my readers. I’d like to think that, if they stick around, they will recognize that my positions are good for the country and the world. Failing that, I hope they will, at least, accept there is a legitimate other side and that we don’t hate America or want to destroy it. I don’t even want to take away all your guns.

I have written several “Citizen Tony” bloggy things over the years. The first one was in August 2016 and, from that column, I’ve lifted today’s opening paragraph. I am not as naive today as I was when I believed there could be respectful common ground that would lead us to good decisions. Trump got elected president and my country went to Hell. I’m still hopeful we can repair the damage willingly inflected on the United States by the Republican Party, but it will be a long hard struggle.

The most important thing we can do to truly make out country great again is to vote and not vote Republican. I’m not going to proclaim there are no decent Republicans out there. However, let’s face the indisputable fact that most of them have lost any claim to personal decency and honor by backing Trump no matter what awful things he does, by actively working to discriminate against those not like them, by trying to game our elections via voter suppression, by passing laws to benefit the 1% over all others, by refusing to take action against gun violence in our land, by neglecting to protect our environment, by neglecting our military and, gee whiz, it would take a dozen bloggy things to cover all the sins that can be laid at the doorstep of the Republican party.

I used to vote on Election Day at the Medina Recreation Center just a block away from my house. I stopped doing that after many years of being harassed by a Republican who worked there. For years, he would do his best to get my goat. The last time I voted there, I’d had enough. I told him to cut the crap and just do his job without commenting.

He exploded in rage. He yelled that I shouldn’t even be allowed to vote. One of his fellow workers dragged him away from his station.As he left, I looked him in his wild eyes and told him that, after I voted, my next job would be to get him fired.

Which I did. I called the Board of Elections and they canned him. I’m told they later reinstated him and moved him to another polling place. Stupid as it was, it didn’t matter to me. I had already decided to go to the Board of Elections and vote early from then on.

In my way too Republican city, I’m rarely proud of Medina’s office holders. However, I was very proud when Medina City Council, by a bipartisan vote, approved anti-discrimination protections for our LGBT fellow citizens. Medina is a Trump town, complete with all of that disgusting individual’s bigotry and racism.

Almost immediately after that anti-discrimination law was voted on, the forces of bigotry hit the street. They went door to door trying to get signatures to put killing the law on the ballot. I screamed at the bigot who came to my door and, when said fucking bigot tried to claim she wasn’t a bigot - she only wanted to let people vote on it because that’s the right way to do it - I threatened to call the police on her for trespassing after she’d been told to get the fuck off my property. 

Much to my delight and even surprise, the bigots didn’t get enough signatures to make it to the ballot. They did ask they be allowed more time than allowed by law to get more signatures because, you know, Jesus.

Their Plan B was to run unqualified candidates against the Council members who voted for the anti-discrimination legislation. What a pack of jackals they put on the ballot!

The bigot running against my councilperson has but two items on his platform. The first is to overturn the legislation. The second is to kill more deer.

Medina does thin the herds from time to time, using trained hunters to do so. Since the deers roam areas in backyards and in woods that back up to schools and sports fields, we need professionals to do that thinning. There are those non-professionals who want to get in on the fun of killing deer. What could go wrong?

When I voted, I voted for Bill Lamb for Member of Council at Large and Dennie R. Simpson, to represent my Ward 2 in Council. Both of them courageously backed the non-discrimination legislation. Lamb, in particular, has served Medina well for many years.

There are three candidates running for two open spots on the Medina Board of Education. I voted for Keith A. Rasey, the only Democrat among those running. I could have voted for a second candidate, but it’s important to get Rasey on the board. I only voted for him this time around.

There were three tax levies on the ballot. I voted for all of them. I had to grit my teeth to do so. The levies will provide valuable services to some of Medina’s most in need citizens. My dismay comes from knowing we wouldn’t need these levies if Medina didn’t spend stupid money on things like a excessively splendid new courthouse and other eye candy for the elites who run our city.

I have more “Citizen Tony” columns in the works, but next up will be my reports on the Fanboy Expo 2.0 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and what the fans, guests and promoters should expect from convention venues and hotels. 

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #318

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Comics in the news plus my reviews of Avengers: Loki Unleashed by Roger Stern and Ron Lim; Pre-Code Classics: Space Action and World War III; and The Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 8 by Stan Sakai!
                                                                               
                                                                                 


Monday, October 14, 2019

FANBOY EXPO 2.0 (October 18-20)

Hey, gang! My next convention appearance will be Fanboy Expo 2.0, Friday-Sunday, October 18-20, at the Knoxville Convention Center, 701 Henley Street, Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s the state’s largest pop culture event with over 30,000 fans attending the summer event. Look for celebrity guests, comic industry pros, cosplay, vendors, live entertainment and more!

Show hours are 5-9 pm on Friday, 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, and 11 am to 5 pm on Sunday. The VIP ticket holders can get into the show thirty minutes earlier on each of those days. I’m excited about being a guest at the expo. It has probably been well over a decade since I did any event in Tennessee.

I’ll be available at my booth throughout the show, save for when I do a question-and-answer session on Saturday at 10:30 am and when I take breaks for meals and such.

Full disclosure. “Such” will likely include my wandering the guest and vendor areas to get my own fanboy on. My goal for the weekend is to buy fewer items than I sell.

What will I be selling? I’m bringing these trade paperbacks:

Black Lightning Volume One (reprinting my 1970s run)
Black Lightning Volume Two (stories not written by me)
Black Lightning: Brick City Blues (reprinting my 1995 run)
Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands (reprinting my most recent Black Lightning comics from 2017-2018)
July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One (which defies description)

I’m bringing copies of an exclusive-to-me edition Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, which reprints the first appearance of Misty Knight in the Iron Fist series. This signed, numbered edition is limited to 1000 copies.

Posters? I’ll be bringing three different Black Lightning posters, a Hawkman poster and mini-posters of Daredevil and Luke Cage. I’m running low on most of these, so this might be your last chance to get them from me.

I’ll be bringing as many copies of these items as I can fit into my suitcases. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to bring enough of these books, comics and posters to last the weekend. That’s one of the drawbacks of my having to fly to a convention.

I’ll sign any item purchased from me at no additional charge. I’m happy to sign any Tony Isabella or Tony Isabella-related items not purchased from me for a nominal fee of $5 per signature. That goes up to $10 per item if you’re having my signature witnessed by any grading company representative.

Cosplayers? If you’re cosplaying as a character I created or that I’ve written, please stop by my booth. With your permission, I’d love to take your photo for use in my blog and other online venues.

Photos with me? I’m happy to pose with you or for you. There is no charge for these photos.

Interviews? Depending on how busy I am at the convention, I’ll do my level best to make time to talk with you for your print/online articles or your podcasts.

Are you an editor, publisher or filmmaker who would like to hire me for a project? We probably won’t be able to take a long-ish meeting during show hours, but I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Failing that, you can always contact me via e-mail.

Two more things.

Don’t be shy about asking me questions. Non-disclosure agreements mean there are questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try to give you answers to all other questions.

Should you ever feel threatened/uncomfortable at this or any other convention, know that my booth will always be a safe spot for you. You can hang with me until we can talk to con personal able to help you with whatever and whoever is causing your concern.

Enough of me. Two other comics guests have been announced for this show. Animator and comics artist Robert Pope will be there. He has worked on such wonderful properties as Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Animaniacs, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Powerpuff Girls, Scooby-Doo, Johnny Bravo, Peanuts and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Looney Tunes  and Peanuts.

Comics artist Don Kramer  has drawn great stuff for both Marvel, DC and independent projects. At DC, he did a Doctor Fate miniseries with Chris Golden, JSA with Geoff Johns, Detective Comics with Paul Dini, Nightwing with Peter Tomasi, JSA vs Kobra with Eric Trautmann and J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Wonder Woman.

Expect some comics guests surprises as well.

Moving over to the celebrity media guest roster, you will be able to see actors and voice actors from some of the most beloved films and TV shows ever. Here’s a quick list:

Christina Ricci
Carel Struycken
Rose McGowan
Skeet Ulrich

Camren Bicondova
Nick Stahl
Susan Egan
Noel MacNeal
Kirk Acevedo
Rick Gonzalez
Jyoti Amge
Erika Ervin
Rob Paulsen
Townsend Coleman
Cam Clarke
Barry Gordon
Tracee Cocco

I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to meet any of them at the event, but the above list includes some favorites of mine. I know the fans will have a great time with them.

For more information on Fanboy Expo 2.0, visit the event’s website. It will have the answers to your questions about tickets, autographs and fan packages, photo ops, schedules, parking and hotels.

As per usual, Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing and my online presence in general goes bye-bye when I’m traveling and at any conventions. I should be back online sometime on Monday.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella