Sunday, September 27, 2020

RUTH BADER GINSBURG

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the greatest Supreme Count justice of my lifetime. Many others have eulogized her far better and more eloquently than I could ever hope to do. But I did want to share a kind of sort of RBG story from a convention I attended five years ago this month.

I was a guest of the 2015 Indy Pop Con in Indianapolis. I had been told by many fans and professionals that this was a truly wonderful  convention. I didn’t doubt them. However, even with those glowing recommendations, I turned down the convention when I was first invited to it. Because it was held in Indiana.

Indiana, you see, had this bigot of a governor who was trying hard to discriminate against his state’s LGBTQ citizens. He looked like an evil Race Bannon cosplayer. I speak of Mike Pence, one of those faux-Christians who preaches hate with a bible in his hand. He was and remains a crap human being.

What changed my mind was the convention’s immediate and strong show of support for the LGBTQ community and diversity in general. I felt it was important to stand up for the rights of my fellow Americans by showing up where those rights were threatened. I wish I had the means, time and energy to do this all over the country and, indeed, the world. Because this fight is just starting.

It was Friday, June 26, 2015. While I was setting up my booth, I heard the welcome news that the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. My immediate thought was how wonderful it was to be at this convention in this state when the announcement was made.

There was a palatable wave of positive energy and joy that washed over the hall as the news spread.  I was glad to be in Indiana that day. It felt good, real good.

On Saturday, a Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cosplayer walked through the convention. She looked the part, so much so that fans rushed up to her to thank her for the ruling. My delight at that was audible.

I have a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure among my Social Justice League figures. Right now, it’s sitting on the mantle in our family room. I wanted her to be in a prominent place as we mourn the loss of such an outstanding American.

May her memory be a blessing to our country and the world.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 20, 2020

THE LAST OF NEW FUN #1


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

New Fun #1 [February 1935], promoted as “The Big Comic Magazine,” was the first DC Comics publication. That 10" by 15" launch issue was 36 pages (including covers) and published by National Allied Publications, Inc. The president of the company was former career soldier and pulp magazine writer Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and the editor was Lloyd Jacquet. The official name of the company changed to National Periodical Publications, but DC Comics was the name most knew it by and that name would become official in the 1970s.

DC Comics recently published a handsome oversized hardback reprint edition of New Fun #1, which contains the entire first issue plus a selection of educational material. I have written three blogs on that edition. Going page-by-page, those three columns discussed the introductory material, the front cover, the inside front cover and pages 1-28 of the issue. You can read those earlier installments here and here and here.

We commence with “Fun Films” by Adolphe Barreaux. The idea behind this feature was to take the panels of the story and turn them into a movie. The directions:

Cut out stage and make slits on the screen. Then cut out films on dotted line. Paste end to end and run through screen.

Tad, a young boy who lives near the New York harbor, is playing on the docks. He sees and follows a couple of pirates to their pirate ship.  Something in the hold of the ship catches his interest, but, as he looks down into the hold, he falls in.

As I wrote in the first installment of this look at New Fun #1, Barreaux is arguably the first Black creator to have appeared in a comic book. He had a long and interesting career. He created “Sally the Sleuth,” who appeared in spicy pulp fiction magazines and had a habit of losing her clothes in the pursuit of criminals. Barreaux ran a comics art shop, contributed to many comics and pulp magazines and was an editor at Trojan Magazine and at a branch of Fawcett Publications.
                                                                               

                                           
“Bubby and Beevil” make their debut on page 30. Written and drawn by Dick Loederer, whose “Caveman Capers” I praised in my previous New Fun column, this strip has two very opposite lead characters. Bubby is a nice guy who loves to help people. Beevil is a sinister little creep who lives to mess up Bubby’s good deeds. They seem to be supernatural creatures of some sort.

In this first strip, Bubby gets up, does his exercise and looks for his next good deed. A nice young boy falls sleep while doing his homework. Bubby completes it for him. Beevil pours ink all over the  homework while a horrified Bubby watches from the window.

I like this strip. I could even see updating it for 2020. I had a bit of success when I did that with Everett True back in the day. Maybe I should give it a shot.

Note: Beevil also makes an appearance in a house ad that runs along the bottom of page 31. The gloomy gnome is being, well, gloomy when a stray wind blows a copy of New Fun into his hands. He reads the comic and laughs out loud.                                                                                                                                             
Page 31 introduces Pelion and Ossa by John Lindermayer. Pelion is a young penguin, Ossa is a young bear and they live in the Arctic. The kids are named after mountains in Greece. After a frigid mishap with a sled, they seek shelter and warmth in an cabin. The cabin is empty, but, in the final panel, they look through a window and see someone flying toward the cabin. “Who can it be?” asks the final caption. We’re still a few years away from the first appearance of Superman, so I’m gonna guess Santa Claus.  

Lindermayer drew the “Oswald the Rabbit” comic strips that ran at the bottom of several comic strips in the earlier pages of New Fun #1. He also worked for several comic-book shops.

[NOTE: I guessed wrong. I sneaked a look at the second Pelion and Ossa from issue #2. The house belong to a Mr. Walrus. However, the second strip doesn’t mention anything about him flying through the air. I wonder if there was a change of plans for the strip after the first issue was completed.]
                                                                                    


2023: Super-Police by Ken Fitch (writer) and Clem Gretter (artist) debuts on the last interior page of New Fun #1. Rex, obviously the hero of the series, and Professor Shanley take off in Shanley’s new invention, a stratoplane-submarine called the Hi-Lo. They’re going to the Galapagos Islands to investigate five missing U.S. ships. As they leave, they are boarded by two unwanted passengers: Shanley’s daughter Joan and the cab driver who brought her to the airfield. Despite its science fiction premise and decent writing and art by Fitch and Gretter - they would be all over the Golden Age of Comic Books - this strip is dull. Hopefully, it got more interesting in subsequent installments.

The inside back cover is a full-page advertisement for the Ideal Aeroplane and Model Company, sellers of model airplane and ships. The prices range from 50 cents to six dollars. In 2020, allowing for inflation, that range would be from $9.49 to $113.83. I doubt many kids of 1935 had that kind of disposable income.
                                                                               


The back cover ad is a comic-strip advertisement starring “Tom Mix and His Ralston Straight Shooters” by an unknown writer and artist. One of the straight shooters saves the day by using a “Zyp Gun” to send a message to Mix. That’s followed by the cowboy hero telling readers how Ralston wheat cereal keeps his young friends strong and healthy. The back cover also contains a coupon. If a reader sent in a Ralston box top, they would get a Zyp Gun “exactly like the one Jimmy used to save your life.” Such a deal.

This “Famous 1st Edition” has additional material after the New Fun #1 reprint. “The Major Who Made Comics” is a wonderful short bio of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, his granddaughter. The writers and artists of the material in the first issue get mini-bios in another text piece. To conclude this great presentation, editor Benjamin Le Clear has a short piece about the preparation of this volume and the other “Famous First Edition” tabloid books of the 1970s. Le Clear is also the manager of the DC Comics Library Archives. I visited the DC offices a few years back and the company’s library is amazing.

That’s a wrap on our four-part discussion of this important first for DC Comics. I hope you enjoyed it.

I’ll be back with more bloggy fun as soon as possible. Until then, stay safe, stay sane and be kind to one another.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 18, 2020

ONE MORE GARAGE SALE FOR 2020

My final Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale of 2020 will take place tomorrow, Saturday, September 19, at Casa Isabella, 840 Damon Drive in Medina, Ohio. The hours are 9 am to noon, though I’ll keep the garage door open and the sale going as long as there are still customers waiting to shop.

This has not been a great summer for my garage sales. The pandemic has kept many of my regulars from coming to them, even when offered  by appointment shopping.

This week started out the same as all the other sale weeks. I had three appointments, but the sales weren’t as good as with previous weeks. I think I know why that happened.

I only have so much room in my garage. In order to add new items to the sales, I have to sell items already in the garage. Therefore, even though there was and is an enormous amount of terrific stuff at insanely low prices, it was stuff these regulars, for the most part, had already seen. But...

Today’s garage sale earnings were excellent. Indeed, when you add them to the sales from earlier in the week, I’m currently standing at 40% of my pre-pandemic goal for a weekend. I’m extremely happy about this.

I’m even happier that I had some first-time customers today. Some hope to return on Saturday. Others snapped pictures of what I was selling and sent them to their friends who haven’t been to my sales before. I’m guardedly optimistic that tomorrow’s final sale could get me closer to my usual weekend goal than I’ve been this entire garage sale season.

If you check out Wednesday’s blog, you’ll get a good idea of what I have for sale and the precautions I take to keep my customers and myself safe. In addition to what’s in that blog, I’m offering one more incentive.

For every $50 you spend at the garage sale, you can get $10 worth of great posters for free! Black Lightning, Hawkman, Misty Knight and Tigra, Daredevil, Luke Cage and the rare, double-sided Superman poster created for the 1988 International Superman Exposition that was held in Cleveland! That last one is normally $20, but, if you spend $50, you can get it for $10. If you spend $100, you can get it for free.

That’s all for this quick update. I’ll be back on Sunday with the conclusion of my four-blog series on New Fun #1, the very first DC Comics comic book. See you then.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

MY LAST GARAGE SALES OF 2020

This has not been a successful summer for my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales. However, you will have two last chances to shop them and pick up some great comics and other items at prices that my regular customers tell me are insanely low.

My last garage sales of the year will be held on Friday, September 18, and Saturday, September 19, at 840 Damon Drive in Medina, Ohio. That’s the corner of Damon Drive and Bradley Court. The hours are 9-noon each day. However, if there are customers still waiting to shop at noon, I’ll extend the hours of the sale.

What can you expect to find at the garage sale? Let’s take a trip around my garage. There are boxes of dollar comics. Including many very recent issues. There is a box of magazines and magazine-size trade paperbacks, priced to sell. There are hardcovers and trades, generally priced at 30% of their original prices. There will be a few boxes of comic books priced at a quarter each. There will be a small number of $10 mystery boxes, filled with much more than $10 worth of stuff. That more than $10 worth of stuff is more than $10 worth of stuff at my ridiculously low prices.

There’s a spinner rack of small trade paperbacks, again priced at 30% of original price or less. There’s a table filled with manga at a buck a book. There are Comic-Con tote bags, which you don’t see often around these parts, at just $10 each. There will be two free items on the table and a box lid filled with free Japanese candy and other snacks.

I have several boxes of bargain-priced hardcovers and trade books. I have a couple boxes of older comics priced to sell. I also have two bookcases of DVDs, Blu-rays, VHS tapes (including some Godzilla movies from overseas) and CDs at a buck each.

Looking for Tony Isabella books and comics? I have all the recent Black Lightning trades, a few copies of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, my July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella, a box of older Isabella-written comic and the exclusive-to-me, limited edition, signed and numbered reprinting of the first appearance of Misty Knight. There’s also a comics rack with other Isabella-written items.

[Any Isabella items you buy from me will be signed for free. That also holds true for any Isabella items that you didn’t buy from me. Because I’m that nice a guy.]

Finally...there is a table of Isabella-related posters featuring Black Lightning, Misty Knight, Tigra, Hawkman, Daredevil and Luke Cage. Also for sale...the rare 1987 two-sided Superman poster that I conceived for the 1988 International Superman Exposition that was held in Cleveland. Whew!

Common safety sense means I will only allow two shoppers into the sale at any given time. I’ll have socially distanced chairs set up in my driveway so you can wait until the current shoppers are done and you can enter the garage. Don’t worry about getting in. I will keep the sales going each day until every customer who arrived by noon has had a chance to shop.

There are some important rules for my customers:

YOU MUST WEAR A MASK.  If you absurdly find this to be some sort of infringement on your freedom, don’t come to my garage sale. I will not make an exception for you.

MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING AT ALL TIMES. Try to keep six feet away from any other customer. Most of my tables are six feet long, which will give you a good idea of what that distance is.

USE THE HAND SANITIZER OR WIPES. I’ll have hand sanitizer and wipes as you walk into the garage sale. I’ll have also have a few extra masks in case you forgot yours at home.

CASH ONLY. At some point in the distant future, when the world is a little safer and conventions are again possible, I will be able to take credit cards. Not this year.

NO WEAPONS. Unless you are an on-duty police officer or member of the armed service, you will not be allowed to bring any gun, rifle, bazooka, sword, bow and arrows, etc. onto my property. Don’t try to “outfox” me trying to bring something not included on this list as I have a wide range of what I consider “etc.”

NO RACIST GEAR. No Confederate paraphernalia, no white supremacist paraphernalia, no Trump or MAGA related stuff. It’s a garage sale, not a platform for your political, religious or social bullshit. My property, my rules. Don’t test me on this. You’ll fail.

[I’ll be removing my political lawn signs during these sales. So I’m not asking anyone to do what I’m not already doing for these garage sales.]

After this weekend, there will be no more garage sales until 2021. Assuming we’re all still alive.

Honestly, as much as I’d love to see lots of stuff to comics fans and others, I’m not expecting much from these final sales. I have terrific stuff for sale, but it don’t get sold if the customers are not there. But I wanted to give you all one last chance to get in on these bargains.

That’s all for now. Stay safe. Stay sane. Be good to one another. I’ll be back as soon as possible with more bloggy fun.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 13, 2020

COMMANDO CORNER

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Commando is a black-and-white UK war comics digest that publishes four issues every two weeks. Two of those issues feature reprints, two feature new stories. It launched in July 1963 and, as of this writing, the most recent issues I’ve received up are issues #5359-5362. Though I am about eighteen months behind in my reading of my subscription copies, it remains one of my favorite comics anywhere in the world.   

My last “Commando Corner” was well received, so let’s take another look at some issues I’ve read recently. First up is Commando #5214, which is dated March 23, 2019. I told you I was behind in reading these action-packed and character-driven stories.

Ian Kennedy is the cover artist for “Hunt That Gun!” The story, which was first published in 1993, was written by Alan Hemus with art by Gordon C. Livingstone. Second Lieutenant Jed Dodds has his own “white whale” in a Wehrmacht’s K5 railway gun that can fire a shell almost forty miles. At the start of the story, it kills one of Jed’s fellow American officers from across the English channel. Dodds is determined to get that gun and the arrogant German captain who commands it.

Dodds’ quest takes him all across Europe. Hemus keeps Jed’s several close (but not close enough) encounters with Hauptmann Franz Jost and the railway gun exciting and believable. I’d rank this story as one of my favorite Commando tales.

Hemus (1925-2009) was a prolific writer of both comics and prose. He wrote over 80 issues of Commando and continued writing up until his death. You can read more about him here.

Livingstone (August 17, 1934 - June 19, 2017) was Commando’s most prolific artist. He drew over 360 issues of the title. He was also one of the artists for the publisher’s educational center spread  “The Falklands File” (1982-1983). Appearing in DC Thomson's weekly war comic Warlord, the feature covered the 1982 Falklands conflict between Britain and Argentina.
                                                                                 

Commando #5215 [4-6-2019] has a striking cover by Keith Burns, his second for the title. An award winning aviation artist and commercial illustrator, Burns has drawn comics for the past decade. He was the artist on the Titan Comics revival of Johnny Red from the Battle Picture Weekly Star and has worked on The Boys.
 
“A Matter of Honour” is a World War I “Air War” tale of two pilots - Pierre Lafitte and Gustav Von Brunner - who are evenly matched in skill, dexterity and cunning. Lian McLaughlin, who we discussed in our previous “Commando Corner,” is the writer. It’s a well-crafted story, albeit a familiar one. It’s the “honor among airmen” trope that has worn thin for me. As you expect, honor is almost never an absolute for the enemy, but I did get a kick out of the final duel between Lafitte and Von Brunner.

Artist Khato does a nice job on the visuals. The name is familiar to me, but I can’t recall where I’ve seen his work before. My usual online searches haven’t been very productive. I keep thinking he’s been a contributor to 2000 AD, but, if he is, those credits aren’t showing up on the Grand Comics Database.
                                                                                    

Commando #5217 [4-6-19] presents “Lady Death” by Andrew Knighton and artist Manuel Benet. The cover painting is also by Benet. The title character is Private Svetlana Ivanovna, sniper extraordinaire and the deadliest shot in the Russian army. The tale reveals the tragedies that led Ivanovna to take up arms during World War II and the further tragedies she experiences during the war. Her goal is vengeance against the Germans and, in particular, a German sniper who may be her equal. It’s a terrific story, one of many Commando adventures showcasing women warriors.

Knighton is a writer of stuff: speculative and historical fiction, including comics, novels and short stories. He’s done over a dozen issues of Commando and has also been published by Top Cow.

Benet was born in Spain in 1946. Here’s what Lambiek Comiclopedia has to say about him:

Manuel Benet Blanes was born in Valencia. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, he studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in San Carlos, the Escuela de Maestría Industrial and at the Academia de Pintura Vicente Barreira. As a comic artist he has drawn for several foreign publishers, including DC Thomson (Scotland), Fleetway (England), Bastei (Germany), Anaya (Spain), Semic Press (Sweden) and Universo (Italy), as well as the British daily The Sun. Mainly a fine artist, he has been exposing his work in galleries since 1976.
                                                                                 

Commando #5219 [4-20-19] features “To Wear the Uniform,” a desert war story by Lian McLaughlin with a cover painting by Ian Kennedy and interior art by Klacik. When I searched for information about the artist, I came up empty. I found another artist with that last name, but it doesn’t seem to be the same person. I did like the art in this issue, especially the distinctive faces and the emotions he drew into those faces.

The hero of this story is German Jew Jakob Rosenbaum. While he and his family escaped from Germany, Jakob wants revenge for the loss of their homeland. He joins the British army where he does not meet with universal acceptance. Not unexpectedly for a Commando story, the young man proves himself and then some.
                                                                                   

Commando #5222 [4-20-19] reprints “The Last Nazis” from 1994. The story was written by Anthony Knowles, another creator I have little information on. He wrote at least a half-dozen issues of Commando and some children’s books. The cover painting and interior art are by Gordon C. Livingston.

This thriller is set near the end of World War II. Germany has been defeated, but some die-hard Nazis are trying to make their way to safety with military secrets, plans for weapons and vast wealth. Working with the Japanese, they care nothing for their own German seaman and less for the prisoners of war at a Japanese camp where they stop. This suspense story is filled with surprises and has a very satisfying ending.

Going forward...

While I’m writing my next book, I won’t be attempting to post new bloggy things every day. I’m writing a number of columns a piece at a time. When one is finished, I’ll post it.

Stay safe, my friends. Stay sane. If you are an American citizen, vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Our country can’t take four more years of the criminal Trump and his Republican gangsters. If you’re not an American citizen, please send us your good thoughts. A lot of us trying to once again place our nation on the right side of history.

I’ll be back as soon as possible with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 11, 2020

EVEN MORE NEW FUN #1

New Fun #1 [February 1935], promoted as “The Big Comic Magazine,” was the first DC Comics publication. That 10" by 15" launch issue was 36 pages (including covers) and published by National Allied Publications, Inc. The president of the company was former career soldier and pulp magazine writer Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and the editor was Lloyd Jacquet. The official name of the company changed to National Periodical Publications, but DC Comics was the name most knew it by and that name would become official in the 1970s.

In July, I wrote two blogs discussing the issue on a literal page-by-page basis. I got through the first 21 pages of the comic book before I was side-tracked by other work and the various miseries of our pandemic lives. If you want to read those earlier installments, you’ll find them here and here.

We return to this discussion with “Cap’n Erik” by Robert Weinstein. The Captain and his crew are leaving for Kilitook Island and hope to get underway without sinister competitor Butch Ramsey learning of their plans. Mention is made of seals, presumably the killing of seals, so I’m not rooting for either of these guys. Ramsey sends one of his men to wreck Erik’s ship and the sabotage is successful. Nevertheless, Cap’n Erik vows to get to the island before Ramsey.

Cap’n Erik would only appear in one more issue of New Fun. In the second issue, he has repaired his ship and discovered a stowaway. The lad has no family, so the Captain gives him a chance to earn a position on the crew. The youngster discovers Ramsey’s man trying to weakening the ship’s hull, but is knocked unconscious before he can report the looming disaster. For closure’s sake, I’m going to assume the following:

Cap’n Erik went down with his ship. The saboteur, realizing he was going to go down with the ship as well, soiled himself. Meanwhile, one of Erik’s men sabotaged Ramsey’s ship and the vessel also went down. The seals were not clubbed to death and lived long and happy lives. Don’t you love a satisfying ending?

Next is “Buckskin Jim” by unknown hands. Lambiek Comiclopedia says Tom Cooper drew the feature, but that information can not be found at the Grand Comics Database. The GCD has this synopsis:

Jim Kenyon, en route to California, arrives in New Orleans. Trying to catch up on foot with the departed wagon train, he hears cries for help and rescues a trapper from quicksand. Riding on the trapper's horse after the wagon train they are waylaid by Indians.

The young frontiersman had good fighting skills and was armed with a knife and a handgun. He appeared in New Fun #1-6 and the re-named More Fun #7-18. I thought this initial strip was well done for the era, but, like most popular entertainments of the era, its handling of the indiginous people was racist.

Pages 24-26 is filled with text articles and paid advertisements. The “Popular Science” column discusses streamline trains,and, in a rather odd add-on, magic tricks. “Stamps and Coins” offers some helpful information for new collectors. “Young Homemakers,” which indicates to me that New Fun was looking to attract female readers as well as males, discusses setting up a kitchen so that everything  necessary to making a meal is near at hand.

The first ad in this section is for correspondence courses in the “big pay fields” of “electricity” and “radio, television, talking pictures.” The second page announces the advertiser will pay cash for old coins, bills and stamps, and offers an Illustrated Coin and Stamps Folder for four cents. That would be 76 cents in 2020 money. There’s also a small ad offering the chance to make $40 to $50 per week selling soap. You could get seven big bars for a quarter.

The final advertisement is from the Wilson Chem Co. They’d send you 12 beautiful art pictures with 12 boxes of White Cloverine Salve. The idea was to sell the boxes for a quarter each while giving an art picture with each purchase. Among the items offered if someone sold enough salve were Iver Johnson safety rifles, electric radios, guitars, banjos and a streamline wagon.

[NOTE: I would love to read article about people who took part in these sales programs, especially if they were successful doing so. I’ll share the stories in a future bloggy thing.]

The “After School” comic, featuring a pair of rough-and-tumble kids and the toddler “uncle” of one of them, was written and drawn by Tom McNamara. The strip would appear in a 1940s issue of Action Comics as well.

“After School” looks more professional than many of the strips in New Fun #1, which isn’t surprising when you look at McNamara’s long and varied career. He was a vaudevillian for a number of years. His “Us Boys” strip was syndicated from 1910 to 1928. He wrote scripts for and directed “Our Gang” shorts.

He did quite a bit of work for other comic books. He wrote and drew short (generally one to five pages) humor strips for DC’s All Funny Comics, Batman, Boy Commandoes, Buzzy, Detective Comics, Leading Comics, Superman and World’s Finest. At Fawcett, his work appeared in America’s Greatest Comics, Bulletman, Captain Marvel Jr. Captain Midnight, Don Winslow of the Navy, Master Comics, Minute Man, Nutty Comics, Spy Smasher and Whiz Comics. From other comics publishers, his work appeared in Champ Comics, The Comics Magazine, Detective Picture Stories, Funny Picture Stories and Western Picture Stories.

There’s more to McNamara’s life and career, but, for that further information, I direct you to his 2011 “Ink-Slinger Profile” at the Stripper’s Guide.

[NOTE: I have a sort of personal connection to McNamara. He was a “bosom companion of Damon Runyon.” During my time working on staff at Marvel Comics in the 1970s, I lived in a hotel “penthouse” where Runyon had lived. It was across the street from the Brill Building, which, as per Wikipedia, was famous for housing music industry offices and studios where some of the most popular American songs were written. It was considered to have been the center of the American music industry that dominated the pop charts in the early 1960s. Though the hotel was far from the trendy address it had been, it was cool living in an apartment where Runyon had resided. According to the desk clerk, one of the writers of the musical Hair had also lived in my apartment, which came with a working player piano. No one could tell me which former tenant had left it there.]
                                                                                  
We’ll do one more page today. Written and drawn by Dick Loederer, “Caveman Capers” is equal parts adventure, pre-history and humor. A family of cave people are huddled together in a dark cave. They are worried about Ur, a young man, who hasn’t yet returned to the cave. Fearful of encountering a dinosaur, the lad is almost struck by lightning. When he realizes a burning branch is providing heat and light, he runs back to the cave with it. As the family rejoices in these new sensations, the dinosaur pops his head in their cave.

Loederer did another strip and several illustrations in this first issue of New Fun, but “Caveman Capers” is my favorite comic strip in this debut outing with terrific art and writing. Though he also served as an editor and art director for the title, Loederer seems to have left the comics industry by the time the name of the comics was changed to More Fun. That’s too bad.

One more installment will wrap up my look at New Fun #1. Look for it sometime next week.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 10, 2020

TONY TALK II




I started writing this blog for last Saturday, then decided to take a couple days off from blogging so I could enjoy some time with my wife and kids. I also wanted to finish the pitch for a comic-book project I’m developing for a famous friend of mine.

As I said in Friday’s bloggy thing, this is an update on the things going on in my life. This is the most efficient way of getting my information out. I thank you for your indulgence.

CONVENTIONS. This year goes into the books as the year in which I only attended one convention, the always wonderful Pensacon. If I could only attend one event this year, I’m happy it was my favorite convention. I’m even happier that Saintly Wife Barb was also able to attend. I’m hoping there will be a Pensacon 2021. If they build it, I will come.

Akron Comicon was the only remaining convention on my schedule and that was cancelled last year. The show promoters are putting on a one-day show at the request of their vendors, but, after thanking them for thinking of me, I passed on their invitation to be one of their guests. I hope there will be an Akron Comicon 2021.

I have accepted a couple convention invitations for 2021, but I’m not going to talk about them until January or thereabouts. We are still a long way from reaching the point where I think conventions are safe for fans, guests and vendors.

I’m concerned about air travel. At the best of times, the airlines cram passengers into small spaces, charge us for everything but the recycled air we breathe and treat us like dog droppings. Come 2021, I’m considering driving to every convention I attend, even if those events are across the country.

Barb has been circling retirement for a while and, if she pulls the trigger, we could make vacations out of my convention travels. We would take our time getting to them, doing vacation stuff along the way, and do the same on our return trip. Should Barb not be able to accompany me, I’ll find friends who can put up with me for several days in a row and bring them to the events.

If you are a promoter or anyone else who wants to book an Isabella appearance, e-mail me and we can discuss the details.

DON’T CALL ME MAYBE. If the only phone number you have for me is my land line, you’re not going to be able to get through to me on it.I’m unplugging all of our land lines until well after this year’s election...and it’s not even the election with its inevitable flood of candidate come-ons that has prompted this decision.

Since the start of September, I have been bombarded with all manner of annoying and usually fraudulent phone calls. Health insurance. Warranty renewals. Credit card deals. Warnings that the government has found criminal social security fraud on my account. Pleas for donations, including bogus police organizations. Even sales pitches in Spanish, which I don’t speak or understand.

I know why I get these calls. I’m 68 years old so many scammers are assuming I’m easily fooled. I live in a mostly white city, so the fake cops assume I’m okay with police murdering people of color and getting away with it. My last name derives from a Spanish name and so they assume I can speak Spanish. I should get a DNA test; I may be more Spanish than Italian.

Enough.

There are lots of other ways to get in touch with me. Many of these bloggy things include links to my e-mail. I can be reached  through Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve ever been given one of my business cards, my cell phone number is on them. Use any of those. You’ll make my life a wee bit easier.

FACEBOOK. Speaking of Facebook, I have four different pages and/or groups going at present. Let me tell you about them.

My Tony Isabella page is my personal page. It’s where I post more content than can possibly be good for me. Every day, there will be birthdays and remembrances of comics people and folks from history and popular culture. There will be historical notes from comics and entertainment and...um...history. There will be links to articles, comic strips and videos I find amusing or interesting. There will be news of my latest projects. There will be posts on things I feel compelled to comment on. And, every day, you’ll see an installment of “Things That Make Me Happy.” Not everything I post will interest everyone, but I believe you’ll find a daily visit well worth your time.

Caution. I am a proud and loud progressive liberal. If your drinks of choice are GOP guzzlers or Trump coolers, you won’t enjoy some of what I post. You’ll also find my page isn’t a forum for right-wing rhetoric. You’re welcome to check out what I post, but leave your nonsense on your own pages.

I’m closing in on that 5000 friends limit, but the page is open to the public. If you’re not one of my Facebook friends, you won’t be able to post on my page. However, unless I’ve blocked you for being a jerk, you’ll be able to see my content.

The Official Tony Isabella Message Board group was created by fans who used to hang out at the old World Famous Comics message boards. It currently has 545 members.

This is a mostly non-political group. The only exceptions are links to the occasional political bloggy thing, the occasional mention of something political in my daily “Things That Make Me Happy” posts and links to editorial cartoons in Bob Ingersoll’s “In the Comics” feature. The group’s main rule on political posts is...unless your name is part of the name of the group, you’re not allowed to post political content.

Members requests need to be approved by me. I approve those as soon as I see them.

Kaiju Cathedral is the new incarnation of the old First Church of Godzilla page I had. Friends of mine remade the page into a group that’s easier for me to moderate and easier for the members of the group to post comments and content.

This is where you’ll find Kaiju-oriented birthdays, remembrances, historical notes, news items, article links and even video links. Posts to this group must be approved by the moderators, but we do our best to approve them as soon as possible.

This growth of this group has been slow. As I write this, we have 73 members. If you are interested in Godzilla and other giant monsters, Japanese or otherwise, I think you’ll have fun with this group. New member requests will be processed as soon as I see them.

Tony Isabella’s Authentic Black Lightning Group was launched last September. This group is dedicated to authentic portrayals of Black Lightning, the iconic super-hero created by me. At present, you can only find authentic portrayals of Black Lightning in my own comics stories and the TV series airing on the CW. This doesn’t mean the group won’t discuss other aspects of the character, but the focus will always be on the portrayals noted above.

Anyone can see who’s in this group and what they post. However, if you want to post, you have to be a member.

We have just over 400 members as I write this blog. We will always be more interested in quality than quantity. There is new content in the group every day. There are things I post here before I post them anywhere else. I also post exclusive content to this group, which, in the past, has included live question-and-answer sessions. I’ll be resuming those sessions as soon as I finish the book I am currently writing. Probably mid-October.

As with my other groups, I approve content and new members as soon as I can. When I’m not around, my magnificent moderators will do the job for me.

TWITTER. “Tony Isabella, Creator of Black Lightning” is my Twitter account. My address there is @thetonyisabella. I have around 4,700 followers, but I assume they only check what I’m posting every now and then.

Truthfully, I don’t post that much on Twitter. I repost some of my Facebook stuff. I plug my bloggy thing and anything else I’ve done that has recently been published. The latter is usually reprints of stories I wrote for Marvel, DC and other publishers.

Sometimes I respond to tweets from folks I follow. I try to follow people who follow me and who seem legit, but I’m sure I don’t see all of their tweets.

I often get direct messages from people I’ve just followed and they respond with a private message sales pitch for whatever they’re up to. It’s like they were a salesperson who managed to get their foot in my front door before I could close it. I almost never respond to such messages.

Twitter has its interesting tweets. I like being part of it. But I enjoy my Facebook pages more.

That covers everything I want to say today. I’ll be back as soon as possible with more stuff. See you then.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 4, 2020

TONY TALK

About once a week, I’ll be updating my beloved bloggy readers on things going on in my life. It’s the most efficient way of getting news out. I thank you for your indulgence.

GARAGE SALES. I’ve learned that a pandemic isn’t the best time to hold my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales. While some of my regular customers have bought a lot of cool stuff at great prices, I’m not getting the traffic I need to sustain the sales any longer. Here’s what the finale of my 2020 sales will look like.

I will not be scheduling individual garage sale appointments until  Monday, September 14. I’ll schedule appointments that week through Saturday, September 19. Appointments will be scheduled from 9 am to 7 pm on those days, with the exception of 9-noon on that Friday and Saturday. To make an appointment, e-mail me.

My final open-to-the-public sales will be on Friday, September 18, and Saturday, September 19, from 9 am to noon. Masks are required. Only two shoppers at a time will be allowed. However, if anyone is still waiting to shop at noon, I’ll extend the sales beyond noon.

My final by appointment garage sales will be scheduled from Monday, September 21 through Friday, September 25, from 9 am to 7 pm. After that, I’ll be packing the garage sales away until April or May of 2021. Depending on the weather and the state of the nation.

If you’ve been holding off expecting some enormous blow-out sale at the end of my garage sale season, don’t do that. While I have done that in past years, I’m not doing it this year. Right now, there is so much terrific stuff at ridiculously low prices in my garage and almost no one has seen it. I’ll take my chances that next year will be a better year for my sales.

As it is, I am confident that anyone who comes to my garage sales this year will be able to get a lot of comics, books and more for their money. Though I can’t spend hours each day adding new stuff to the sale, I will be doing some restocking every day until these sales have ended for the year.

Now let’s get to the more interesting stuff...

TONY WANTS TO HELP COMIC-BOOK SHOPS. Comic-book shops are our first responders and still the backbone of the comics industry. They’ve supported us even when publishers have not acted in their own best interests. Unfortunately, my own limited resources have prevented me from taking part in things like the original art sale organized by Gail Simone. I can’t donate what I don’t have and haven’t been able to afford for many years now. Almost all the original art that I had was sold the last time I went years without any comic-book writing assignments.

When I sign at conventions or by mail, I charge a modest $5 for my signature. At conventions, if you bring a witness from one of the fine grading companies, I charge $15 per signature because, let’s be honest, you’re looking to increase the value of that comic book or other item.

From now until the end of the year, if you’re a comic shop owner or manager, I will sign comic books for your customers for free. I will sign Isabella-written comics that you have in stock for free. Here’s how that will work.

You send the comics to me at 840 Damon Drive, Medina, Ohio 44256. They must come with detailed instructions as to where they are to be signed and with return postage-paid packaging for their return. I’ll sign these comics and get them back to you as fast as humanly possible.

I know this isn’t as impressive as selling original art, but it’s what I can do at this moment. It’s also not all I’m going to do to help support comic-book shops. I plan to roll out two other things in late September or early October. Keep watching the bloggy thing for information on those.

WRITER FOR HIRE. I’m currently preparing a book collecting some of my countless shark movie reviews while adding additional material on those movies and writing several new reviews that will appear in this book for the first time in print or online. This project will keep me busy until early October. It's the first of a series of books collection my horror/monster movie reviews; each book will have a different theme.
Around mid-October, I’ll be available for new paying assignments. Comic book scripts, comic panel and strip writing and pretty much anything else that interests me. I’m not looking for projects that have to be crowd-funded before I get paid. I’m not looking for any back-end deals. I won’t say never because maybe someone will come along who I really want to work with or with characters/concepts I really love. But, honestly, I have literally hundreds of things of my own that I want to write. If you’re not guaranteeing me a good paycheck, you’re gonna have to sell me on working with you.

Among the things I'll certainly avoid going forward are signing a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) without any real knowledge of a project and then having the  publisher refuse to put their brilliant ideas on paper. No, they wanted to talk about them. Which could lead to confusion about who created what. No thanks. On the time-tested theory of “hope for the best, expect the worst,” I want a solid paper trail. And, yes, this happened to me a few months back. Fortunately, I refused to agree to this demand. The NDA I signed is worthless because I was never shown anything I could disclose.

If you have a project that’s challenging and fun, I could get into that. If you have a tight deadline, I’m not into that. When I was a young and foolish writer, I often took on jobs that bailed out an editor or publisher...and ended up compromising my own schedule of commitments. I’ll be 69 in December. I’m not going without proper rest because you’re in a schedule bind.

Yeah, I know I sound like a grumpy old writer here. I’m all three of those things. But I’m also a guy who will do great work for you, who will promote the great work for you and who will never lie to you about my ability to meet your deadline or my interest in doing your project at all.

I do prefer to conduct most of our business via e-mail. While it’s sometimes pleasant to spend two hours on the phone being told your life story, that’s two hours of my life and your life that we will never get back. Let’s save it for the work.

There are things I can’t do anymore. For example, unless an editor gives me a copy of Mutants for Dummies, I doubt I could write the X-Men as they exist in the current Marvel Universe. I’ll never tell you I can ride a horse when I can’t.

I work best and most successfully without a lot of editorial input. I want to write my stories, not yours. If you want your stories, I encourage you to write them yourself. Conversely, if you want me to write something in a vast and convoluted universe, I would want your help in crafting stories that please both of us.

Don’t be shy about contacting me. I’ll be friendly and honest as we discuss whatever project for me you have in mind. I won’t hold it against you if it’s wrong for me or I’m wrong for it.

I do ask you make at least the initial contact by e-mail. In these unnerving times, I’m just a day or so away from unplugging the Casa Isabella land lines. I’m very easy to reach via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Begging your indulgence, there are other bits of Tony business that I couldn’t squeeze into today’s bloggy. Come back tomorrow for Tony Talk II. In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane and try to be good to one another.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 3, 2020

COMMANDO CORNER

Commando is a black-and-white UK war comics digest that publishes four issues every two weeks. Two of those issues feature reprints, two feature new stories. It launched in July 1963 and, as of this writing, I’ve received up to issue #5342.

Received? That is correct. I subscribed to Commando several years back. Each issue features a 63-page story of generally one to three panels per page. I have described them to friends as being somewhat like the non-series stories that used to run in the back of DC war comics titles like Our Army at War, albeit much more involved than the typical non-series war tales. Those DC stories rarely exceeded eight pages.

Commando covers all manner of warfare, occasionally venturing into science fiction and the supernatural. Most issues feature military adventures set in relatively modern times, assuming you’re willing to allow me to stretch “modern” back to World War I, but tales have been set in more ancient eras.

Ongoing themes are part and parcel of the title. The themes of the next issues on my towering Commando reading pile are: War in Italy, The Eastern Front 1941-45, War in Greece, Desert War 1940-43, War in the East 1941-45, World War 2 and War at Sea. As you’ll see in today’s reviews, there are very occasional recurring characters and some equally rare stories that continue over multiple issues.

Commando #5197 [1-26-19] had an all-new adventure of the recurring characters Ramsey’s Raiders. Who are they?

Led by the roguish Captain James Ramsey, the Raiders are a motley bunch: two Scotsmen, an Englishman, a Welshman, an Irishman, and an Australian. They play by their own rules and are very good at their missions. The Germans have ample reason to fear Ramsey’s Raiders!

The Raiders have fought the Germans in North Africa, Germany and Sicily. In “Race Against Time,” their mission is to find the Nazi scientists who are working on a deadly nerve agent. Ian Kennedy is the cover artist. Ferg Handley is the writer and Keith Page is the artist.

Kennedy is renowned for his cover paintings and his interior work for comics as varied as 2000 AD and Buster. Handley has written over 250 stories for Commando and was a contributor to Marvel’s UK titles. Page has drawn for a variety of British comics, including over 150 issues of Commando.
                                                                                 

Commando #5198 [also 1-26-19] reprints “Operation Eclipse” from a 1994 issue. Written by Alan Hebden with art by Denis McLoughlin, this one has a familiar theme. A wrongly disgraced young officer and a crew of convicts must rise above expectations when they go up against Germany’s strongest submarine base. The cover is again by Ian Kennedy.

Hebden got his start writing Commando and has contributed to other UK comics as well. He’s written close to 300 scripts for Commando. The late McLoughlin was a prolific artist for eight decades. His credits include over a hundred hard-boiled detective illustrations and much more. He’s now best known for his comics work and, at this time, 171 issues of Commando have been identified as containing his powerful art.
                                                                                

Commando #5200 [2-9-19] features a reprint from 1965. “Sky Blitz” is written by E. Hebden and drawn by Sostres with a cover painting by Scholler. This “War in Greece” story revolves around ruins in Crete that may have inspired the legend of the fearsome Minotaur. There is treasure, Nazis with poison gas and rockets who seek the treasure, an archaeologist torn between doing his military duty and preserving this bit of history and British and Cretan guerrillas. The Minotaur element is what makes the story interesting, that and the wavering British archeologist/soldier.

Hebden (1912-1990) was Eric Noel Hebden, career soldier of 25 years and the father of the afore-mentioned Alan Hebden. After retiring from the military, the elder Hebden, who had always written as a hobby, wrote comics for Commando, Battle Picture Library, Lion and Battle Picture Weekly. He wrote 17 issues of Commando and, in the 1960s, was Executive Officer at the National Army Museum. Pretty great resume for a war comics writer.

Sostres is Spanish artist Ferran Sostres. Besides Commando, he drew for other British comics, including the girl comics, and also drew several stories for the American comics publisher Skywald on horror titles Psycho, Nightmare and Scream. As for cover painter Scholler, I have been unable to track down any information on the artist.
                                                                             

Commando #5203 (2-23-19), 5207 (3-9-19) and 5211 (3-23-19) combined to form a three-part “War Across Europe” series. That was something else unique about this trilogy, but I’ll let writer Ian McLaughlin explain it to you. Taken from his opening caption in the first of the three issues:

This Commando is not quite a true story. It is, however, heavily influenced by the life of my uncle. When he died a few years ago, at his funeral we heard about his war service. For most of us, that was the first time we had heard the details of his war. He was a young man working on his father’s farm in Poland when the Germans invaded. He set off on a journey across Europe so that he could fight to free his homeland and eventually wound up in France working with the Resistence. Like many who saw action, he rarely spoke of those times and it wasn’t anything I had ever discussed with him, but what I heard at his funeral stuck with me. This Commando isn’t an exact depiction of my uncle’s war but it is influenced by it and I hope it can be this nephew’s tribute to a much loved uncle and an immensely brave man, as well as the men and women who fought alongside him.
 
This is a gripping story, made all the more so by the reality which inspired it. Artists Morhain and Defeo drew all three of these issues: “Rebel!,” “Resist!” and “Revenge!” The cover paintings were by Neil Roberts. The visuals suit the stories, bringing home the seriousness and tragedies of this journey across Europe and into the heart of the war.

Stories like these are why I subscribe to Commando at no small cost and despite the occasional damaged or missing issues. These comics are consistently entertaining and like nothing being published here in the United States. I’m sticking with the title as long as I can afford it and they can still be sent to the United States.

[NOTE: Publisher D.C. Thomson and Company has been terrific about replacing damaged and missing copies. They’ve also worked to make their packaging more secure. A great outfit.]
 
While I figure few of my readers are interested in my columns about comics from overseas, you can expect to see more on Commando and on other such titles in the months to come. That’s one of the perks of this blog. I write about whatever I want to write about.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff. Until then, stay safe and sane in these dangerous and mad times.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN AUGUST

That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry.

Bruce Banner said that in The Avengers [2012]. Back then, I felt I could relate to that sentiment. Today, in 2020, I understand that feeling better than ever.

I could give the usual long litany of Trump and the GOP’s criminal behavior, their bigotry and racism, their arrogant flaunting of laws they took an oath to uphold, their lack of compassion toward the citizens they are supposed to represented and their disloyalty to their country and democracy itself. But you’ve read me express all those things many times before. If you don’t feel the same way that I do, odds are you stopped reading this blog a long time ago. If you do, I don’t need to go into detail about all the stuff that makes me angry.

Yet, as always, because I remain optimistic and retain my faith my fellow citizens will eventually do the right thing, I try to find something - a book, a comic, a movie, a neat collectible, a decent person doing kindness to others, a uplifting occurrence in my own life - to overcome, no matter how briefly, the sadness of the world around me.

Here are the things that made me happy in August...

August 1: My son Ed is the new president of the Medina County Young Democrats. Like I needed another reason to be so proud of him that I could burst.

August 2: Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project. Defeated opponents of Ultraman are sent to another world and transformed into high school girls. Now do you see why I love manga so much?
                                                                            

August 3: My Social Justice League grows weekly. My latest member is Kamala Kahn aka Ms. Marvel. The G. Willow Wilson run on Kamala’s comic was one of the best ongoing super-hero titles of the 2010's!

August 4: Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love. True-Life Divorce! Soul Love! Dingbats of Danger Street! Unpublished ‘70s stories I never thought I’d get to read. TwoMorrows Publishing makes comics history!
 
August 5: Misty Volume 3. I’m wild about Rebellion’s collections of wonderful material from classic UK “girls” comics weekly. This one has “Wolf Girl,” a child literally raised by wolves. I would love to write a weekly comics serial.

August 6: New York AG Letitia James filed lawsuits to  dissolve the NRA for wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing. Our Second Amendment deserves more honorable representation that Wayne LaPierre and his fellow criminals.

August 7: Washington, D.C. AG Karl Racine has also filed a lawsuit against the NRA Foundation, accusing the charity of diverting funds to the gun advocacy group to help pay for improper spending by top NRA executives.

August 8: My home town of Medina has been providing boxes of masks for small businesses in our city. These are for customers who come into the businesses without one.

August 9: I found relatively reasonably priced copies of the first two volumes of The Phantom: The Complete Dailies on eBay. The third volume still eludes me. I’m willing to barter my writing skills for that and other volumes.

[NOTE: No one has taken me up on this offer. I’m going to leave it out there and see what happens.]
                                                                              

August 10: My new “Godzilla is My Spirit Animal” shirt. Since I am the pastor of the First Church of Godzilla at Kaiju Cathedral, this was an essential purchase.

[NOTE: One of my Facebook friends told me he was told referring to a “spirit animal” was a form of cultural appropriation. Obviously, I have not used the term disrespectfully and don’t consider it to be forbidden. To the best of my recollection, I’ve used the phrase twice. While wearing a shirt showing an angry Donald Duck, I said he was my spirit animal. See the dialogue I ran at the start of today’s blog. The other occasions have all been in reference to Godzilla, who I certainly love and respect.

I’m willing to change positions on word usages. For example, I no longer refer to Black Lightning’s insulting role in Batman and the Outsiders as my creation being reduced to Batman’s “support Negro.” That term is commonly used in movie criticism, but it does offend some readers. So I have dropped it.

I don’t use “spirit animal” often, but, when I think it’s the right phrase, I will use it.]   

                                                                                  

August 11: Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris to be his running mate. A spectacular choice that shows the high character of both of these fine people.

August 12: Ilhan Omar won her Democratic primary in Minnesota. We need such courageous progressive women in Congress. Here’s wishing she wins the general election in a landslide.

August 13: The amazing Stargirl season finale. All the right notes. Many terrific unexpected moments. Cool foreshadowing of the second season. A beautiful hour of television.

August 14: Country singer Margo Price covering Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I laughed so hard I had tears in the corner of my eyes.

[NOTE: Margo Price liked this on Twitter. That was cool.]
                                                                                

August 15: Our new Godzilla lawn flag. People will know our house is protected by the Great Scaly One.

[NOTE: It’ll be a while before this goes up. I need the thing that it hangs on. Also, there will be several political signs appearing on my lawn soon. I don’t want to overdo it.]

August 16: Having met and sometimes worked with so many incredible comics creators in my five decades in the industry. The downside is feeling their loss more keenly when they leave us. But I’ll always be grateful that I knew them.

August 17: I bought a pair of 64-gallon trash cans to replace the beat-to-heck ones we’ve been using. These are big enough to hold a body. Which is not an admission of guilt or intent.

August 18: DC Goes to War. The collection has many classic stories. And a few problematic stories that make me think about how far we still have to go as an art form and society. I’ll be writing about this in the future.
                                                                                 

August 19: The Marvel Comics Mini-Books Collectible Boxed Set has arrived. I’m absolutely giddy with anticipation. I remember pumping a great many coins into machines trying to get them all.

August 20: Black Lightning got a nod on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Discussing the media using code words for racism, a Black journalist mentioned the phrase “racially changed” and referenced my creation, complete with lightning blast visual effect.

August 21: Joe Biden’s acceptance speech was masterful as it laid out the difference between a nation of light and the dark country Trump has fostered. I’m riding with Biden all the way.
                                                                                

August 22: Constitution Illustrated by R. Sikoryak. A spiffy way to brush up on the rule of law with delightful pop culture pastiches from all eras of comic art. Trumpers will be disappointed that it includes those parts of the Constitution they don’t believe applies to him.

August 23: The Return of Godzilla (1984). The emotional scene where the Japanese representative talks about his nation’s refusal to use nuclear weapons against Godzilla. You can see the pain on his face and know he is thinking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

August 24: I woke up this morning, checked the news, found horrible stories. I thought about going back to bed until 2021. I didn’t. I stayed up and got to work. Some days, that’s the best you can hope for...
                                                                               

August 25: Jaws. 45 years after its debut and many viewings since, it’s not merely the greatest shark movie of all time. It’s one of the greatest movies period. Acting, directing, writing, every scene a part of the whole. I love it more every time I watch it.

August 26: Blaha’s Landscaping did a great job taking down a giant tree that threatened our next door neighbor’s house. I recommend them to all my Medina friends.

August 27: A Medina resident made me a Godzilla 1985 DVD. I had the movie, but only on VHS. Now I can write a column discussing it and The Return of Godzilla, the original Japanese version of the film.

August 28: The NBA, its players, its owners and the players, owners and teams from other sports for showing true leadership against police brutality, systemic racism and voter suppression. Positive celebrity in action. 
                                                                                   

August 29: The Asylum’s Monster Hunters [2020]. It’s not remotely a great movie, but it’s entertaining and reminds me how much I’ve enjoyed Asylum films over the years. If they make them, I’ll watch them.

August 30: My son Eddie brought me yard signs for Biden/Harris and other Democratic Party candidates. Now I get to negotiate with my Saintly Wife Barb over how many I can put up. My starting point is all of them and then some.

August 31: I’ve had a very productive couple days. Two chapters of my next book and two columns for a total of over 6000 words. Three gags for John Lustig’s Last Kiss. I feel like I finally have a grip on these pandemic times.

Keep looking for joy, my friends. Stay safe. Stay sane. Be loving to one another. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

TONY’S TIPS #333

When my “Tony’s Tips!” columns began appearing in the weekly Comics Buyer’s Guide, I was prohibited from reviewing actual comic books. That was co-editor Don Thompson’s domain. I had to get creative to find non-comics but comics-related items to review each week. I’m not sure when the prohibition was lifted, but, at some point, with Don’s blessing, I was allowed to review comics books. I think Don was a much better reviewer, one of the best in comics history. By way of a sports analogy, which I know Don would have hated, if you are Babe Ruth, you don’t mind if someone else gets their at bats.

Don and co-editor Maggie gave me incredible leeway in what I wrote about it. I did several columns berating lawyers. I did a six-part series detailing the Vicious Coalition - my name for my home town’s branch of the Christian Coalition - churlish and dishonest attempts to take down our award-winning library because it didn’t conform to its narrow view of what was appropriate for our city. We beat the VC so bad at the polls that the branch crumbled.

My favorite memory of that time was hearing that the VC picketers would leave their unsupervised children in the library while they marched around the library. Faux-Christian hypocrites.

Just as a side note, the VC have recently re-branded themselves as the equally phony Concerned Citizens of Medina County. Bigots one and all, they’ve been working to overturn a Medina City LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinance. They ran one-issue candidates against the council members who voted for the ordinance and lost every one of those races, mostly by large numbers. They’ve been trying to get a referendum on the ballot in the hope fellow bigots would overturn that ordinance. Because of numerous problems with the signatures on the VC petitions, the Ohio Supreme Court just shot them down again. I’m sure they’ll be back - haters gotta hate - but it won’t be in this election cycle.

When Comics Buyer’s Guide switched to its monthly magazine format, I adopted a regular format for “Tony’s Tips!” Each column started with a little something like the little something you’ve just read, followed by three reviews. When CBG was cancelled and the columns moved to online publication for various websites, I kept the format intact. I think it works for this feature.

Moving on to this week’s reviews...

My top pick of the week is Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love: Unpublished ‘70s Stories by the King of Comics [TwoMorrows; $43.95]. This was a book I knew I needed to have on my bookshelf. As fascinated as I was by Kirby’s work on Jimmy Olsen, Mister Miracle, Forever People, The New Gods and his other DC Comics creations, I was bowled over by his efforts to create magazines that would appeal to the general reading public.

In the Days of the Mob and Spirit World may have been modern takes on time-tested comics genres, but, even in formats that didn’t live up to Kirby’s expectations, they were amazing and riveting. Die-hard comics buff than I am, I still think there’s a place for new crime comics in today’s marketplace. Just look at the plethora of “true crime” shows on TV and streaming services. And, though Kirby never got to see his new romance comics in print, there are entire TV networks devoted to romance stories.

The big attraction for me in this book was the material from True-Life Divorce and Soul Love. Kirby had one of the happiest marriages in the history of comics. He wasn’t Black. But, as great creators have always done, he found a way to do characters and stories that could have resonated with the readers of the ‘70s. Yeah, maybe his actual scripting was a bit quirky, but what I love about it is that is unmistakably his voice. I prefer that kind of individuality to the cookie-cutter writing of too many 2020 comics.

TwoMorrows presents this material beautifully and includes ground-breaking history on their creation. For the Soul Love stories, they even cobbled together a facsimile of what that magazine might have looked like. Wonderful presentation.

I don’t mean to give the two unpublished Dingbats of Danger Street stories the short end of this review. The Dingbats were a grittier take on the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Newsboy Legion comics of the ‘40s. I enjoyed these tales and was mightily impressed by all the TwoMorrows crew had to do to collect all the pages and bring them to their readers. But it was the romance material that brought me the greatest delight.

Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love is a must-read book for so many different groups of comics readers and scholars. I recommend it to everyone who loves comics and the masterful work of Kirby.

ISBN 978-1-60549-091-5

                                                                             

As my interest in interminable event-driven super-hero comic books continues to wane, I’m having a great time exploring other kinds of comics from all around the world. I’ve been taken by British comics since before I was hired to work on The Mighty World of Marvel in 1972. I have longed to write for a British-style weekly magazine, though that seems unlikely given that the British market seems to have been reduced to just 2000 AD and The Beano. Nevertheless, I’m loving the reprints of material from classic British weeklies that are being published by Rebellion.

Misty Vol. 3 [$16.99] features “Wolf Girl” by artist Eduardo Feito and an unknown writer. This 64-page serial explores the young adult life of Lona. As a baby, when your parents died, Lona was literally raised by wolves. When discovered a few years later, she was taken from the wolves and adopted. Several years later, the call of the wild and the things she learned from the pack threaten to destroy her otherwise normal life. It’s a gripping tale in which Lona tries to leave human life behind, only to face challenges with the wolf pack she has joined and now leads. The ending is bittersweet, but satisfactory. I could see a movie from this one.

Backing up “Wolf Girl” are four short comics stories with similar themes. The writers are unknown, but two of the tales are drawn by Jordi Badia Romero. There are also some classic Misty covers and a prose piece on werewolves.

Misty won’t be to every comics reader’s taste, but I’ll keep buying the books as long as Rebellion keeps publishing them. And if they ever decide to revive this weekly, I know a Yank writer who would love to contribute to the magazine.

ISBN 978-1-78108-651-3

                                                                          

My final recommendation today is the most educational and hilarious Constitution Illustrated by R. Sikoryak [Drawn and Quarterly; $14.95]. It’s educational because it presents the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the other amendments to the Constitution in an easy-to-read format, complete with additional notes, chronology and a selected bibliography.

It’s hilarious because Sikoryak, a master of comics pastiche, has illustrated every clause and amendment with send-ups of legendary cartoonists ranging from Alex Raymond to Gene Luen Yang with dozens of other favorites in between. John Romita. Marie Severin. Chester Gould. Carl Barks. Amanda Conner. Jack Kirby. Steve Ditko. Marge. Just to name a handful. I had a blast trying to identify all of the artists. I got most of them, but, thankfully, the digest-book also has a “Comics Index” that names the artists and the works spoofed.

I recommend Constitution Illustrated to one and all. Let’s brush up on the law of our land before Trump and his totalitarian henchmen  start ripping pages out of it.

ISBN 978-1-77046-396-7

That’s all for today’s bloggy. I’ll be back soon with the list of things that made me happy in August.

© 2020 Tony Isabella