Friday, December 15, 2017

HALLOWEEN COMICFEST #4

Hey, kids! It’s time for another look at the free comic books given out for Halloween ComicFest.

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics will be available, along with the chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!

Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from his pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these individual issues on three criteria:

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 to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

Casper the Friendly Ghost Halloween ComicFest [American Mythology] is a 16-page, digest-size comic book reprinting Casper and Spooky stories from what I’m guessing is the 1960s. There’s a Casper tale and a Wendy the Good Little Witch gag page by Marty Taras, a Spooky story by Howard Post and a Ghostly Trio gag page by Ernie Colon.

QUALITY: These all-ages stories are fun and well-crafted. Casper’s “Helpful Uncle Fuzzy” is a delightful take of the friendly ghost’s kind but forgetful uncle. The Spooky story is particularly suited for Halloween. I give them high marks.

ACCESSIBILITY: I’m not sure I can actually judge this category for this comic book. To readers of my generation, these characters are so well known they require no introduction. Is that the case with younger readers? There have been many cartoons and even some Casper movies. Do they still air on TV?

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. If a reader enjoyed this stories as I did, that reader will get no information about where to find more like them. American Mythology should have lost the last gag page and replace it with an ad for their Casper comics.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.

                                                                                 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Halloween ComicFest Edition #1 2017 [Archie] is the one Halloween ComicFest comic book that I refused to read. I have judged this book by its back cover, the one which explains in loving detail how Sabrina’s dead father has come back from the dead in the body of her resurrected boyfriend and  arranged a romantic rendezvous with his unknowing daughter. When did Donald Trump get into comics?

QUALITY: Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has one trick in his Archie bag. He takes these classic characters and he twists them into sad reflections of themselves. He demeans them at every turn as if he were performing in some modern-day Hellfire Club fetish theater. I hate his writing. Passionately.

ACCESSIBILITY: The back cover copy lets readers know what they are getting into. One can only hope they have the good sense not to get into this particular comic book.

SALESMANSHIP: This 36-page, full-size black-and-white comic has an ad for a Sabrina trade paperback on its inside front cover, tucked into a corner following the very large credits.

SCORE: Not applicable, mostly because I never thought to allow for negative scores.

                                                                                 
Choose Your Own Aspen Adventure [Aspen Comics] is a 32-page, full-size black and white comic book. It is basically an activity book tucked inside a story of sorts.

QUALITY: I didn’t do the activities included within the story, but they look like great fun for kids. The story is thin. This isn’t a comic book for me, but I applaud the obvious care and craft that went into its making.

ACCESSIBILITY: Some introductory material would have been helpful. I’m still not sure who these characters are.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. The inside back cover has an ad for a bunch of Aspen graphic novels, but they don’t seem age-appropriate for the kids who might be enjoying this free comic book.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                                  

Malika: Dragon Trials [YouNeek Studios] is a 32-page, full-color, full-size comic book featuring a 24-page story of the warrior queen created and written by Roye Okupe. Art is by Chima Kalu. The story appears to be an excerpt from the second Malika graphic novel and takes place almost entirely in her mind. I have written favorably about the character on two earlier occasions this year. I reviewed Malika’s Free Comic Book Day issue and the first volume in her series of graphic novels.

QUALITY: Very high. Malika must fight four dragons to prove worthy of wielding a powerful mystical sword.

ACCESSIBILITY: This excerpt needed some background. A text page on “The Divine Ones” gives background on the supernatural entities at the art of this excerpt, but doesn’t really help a new reader learn anything about Malika.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The issue has a house ad for the first of the Malika graphic novel, a second house ad for other YouNeek GNs and a back cover ad for the second Malika GN. If a reader enjoyed this comic book, they will be made aware of other graphic novels of this nature.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                                

Runaways Halloween ComicFest 2017 #1 [Marvel] is a 32-page, full-color, full-size comic book reprinting the 24-page origin story of the title characters. Written by Brian K. Vaughn with art by Adrian Alphona, David Newbold and Brian Rebar. First published in 2003, the story involved a group of teenagers learning a shocking truth about their parents.

QUALITY: This was one of the best debuts of the new Millennium. We get to meet the kids and learn something about them. The build to the last page reveal is amazing.

ACCESSIBILITY: It’s a well-done opening story that should pose no problem to a new reader.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There’s an ad for a new Runaways title and another for the collections of the previous comics. There are also ads for some other Marvel titles.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

                                                                           

Star Wars: Darth Maul Halloween ComicFest 2017 #1 [Marvel] is a 32-page, full-color, full-size comic book reprinting the first issue of the five-issue series by Cullen Bunn with artist Luke Ross and
colorist Nolan Woodard.

QUALITY: Very good. Bunn’s story captures the rage that drives his protagonist and ends on a scene that makes me want to read the rest of the series. Luke Ross does a fine job on the art.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Star Wars Universe is a little complicated for my aging brain, but the opening page sets up what I needed to know. The rest of the story is straightforward.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are ads for the collection of this Darth Maul series and for other Star Wars comics collections. There are also ads for other Marvel titles.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

I have one more installment of these Halloween ComicFest reviews. It will run before the end of the year.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll have something else for you. It could be a piece on online comics news sites or it could be a column of comics reviews. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 14, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #237

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Batman and "“The War of Jokes and Riddles”; Bonfire, the first novel by Jessica Jones actress Krysten Ritter; and Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast!

TONY’S CLICK BAIT 15: DC COMICS

When an online blogger doesn’t have anything of substance to write about, they fall back on that most Pavlovian of concepts, a click-bait list. This time around, I give 15 answers - “15" is a sacred number for the purveyors of click-bait - to one of the questions I most frequently asked.

I’m currently finishing writing the six-issue Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands series. Now the clear answer to the question of what DC Comics book I’d like to write next would be...more Black Lightning. I created the character. He’s my favorite character. And, if I may be so immodest, I think my new version of the character is making for some really great comic books. But, as that answer makes for a really short bloggy thing, today I’m going to give you 15 other answers to the frequently asked question:

What would I most like to write next for DC Comics?

In no particular order...

1. NEW ACTION COMICS

This takes some explanation. It would be a 64-page monthly comic book featuring a modern-day Superman in the style of the original 1930s champion of the oppressed. The secondary features would all be updated versions of the original Action Comics line-up of Chuck Dawson (contemporary western), Zatanna (because I like her better than her dad) and the rest. I would write the entire first issue to set up all the characters and features and then, after that, write the Superman lead every issue.

2. THE MAN WHO KILLED THE JOKER

The premise of this graphic novel is the Joker poses such an ever-present threat that it would be self-defense to kill him anytime in any circumstances. The Joker has killed thousands of people...and that’s probably a low estimate. He can’t be held in Arkham Asylum or any prison. He always escapes and he always kills more people. This is the story of the man who kills him and the legal and public consequences of that act. I’ve been wanting to write this graphic novel for two decades.
                                                                                

3. METAMORPHO

The original Metamorpho comics by Bob Haney and Ramona Fradon were a revelation to teenage Tony. Unlike virtually everyone else at DC,  Haney understood the appeal of the Marvel comic books of the 1960s and put his own spin on them. Larger-than-life characters. A hero who rarely gave in to the tragedy of his situation. (I thought of Rex Mason as DC’s Ben Grimm but happier.) Combined with my youthful fascination with the elements. I want to write Metamorpho as he was in his early days, slightly updated to fit in with our modern era.
                                                                                  

4. MULTI-MAN AND MULTI-WOMAN

Here’s where I get strange. Multi-Man was the arch-enemy of the Challengers of the Unknown. He had magic potions that would allow him to change his form, though his main form was a dwarf with a huge head. Somewhere along the line, he built a giant Multi-Woman to be his bride. I loved the heck out of this wacky idea. Which has me wondering...if they weren’t always fighting the Challengers and being imprisoned or destroyed, what would married life be for these crazy kids? I love to tell their stories.

5. BOY COMMANDOS

I have a hankering to write a World War II series. I also love the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby kid gangs. Do I have to say more.

6. THE NEWSBLOG LEGION

In the spirit of the Simon and Kirby kid gangs, but updated for our modern times. Young bloggers speaking truth to power while trying to navigate the offline world.

7. COLONEL SANDERS

Okay, the Colonel isn’t really a DC Comics character and I’m not a big fan of KFC food. But I get a kick out of these yearly specials and would love to try my hand at one.

8. APES ON THE CASE

Congorilla. Detective Chimp. Angel and the Ape. A rebellious young citizen of Gorilla City. They’re apes. They’re detectives. Except for Angel O’Day, but we’ve got to have something in this book for the male hairless apes in comics fandom.
                                                                               

9. SPACE CABBY

Most comic-book science fiction goes big. I’d like to tell smaller stories and who better to make that possible than a fun character from the 1950s and 1960s.
                                                                                 

10. THE MANIAKS

They were a hip happening mod sensation in the 1960s. They’re back together and back on the road, trying to recapture their glory days while competing with Maniaks tribute bands.
                                                                                                       
11. THE GLOBAL GUARDIANS

Writer/editor E. Nelson Bridwell has never received his due for all he brought to the DC Universe. He should get a Bill Finger Award. In the meantime, his team of super-heroes from around the world is worthy of a revival and an update. I’d keep them realistic to our times, but I’d also keep them as genuinely good and noble super-heroes. We can never have too many of those.
                                                                                

12. THE WITCHING HOUR

When this title was first published by DC Comics in 1969, each of its three witch-narrators had her own style of story. That concept was lost rather quickly, but I liked it. I would love to bring the title back as an all-ages spooky stories anthology and restore the original concept. It would be a challenge to come up with the three different stories per issue, but meeting that kind of challenge is fun for me.

13. JOHNNY EVERYMAN

Johnny Everyman was an American civil engineer who roamed the world promoting harmony and understanding. Though well-intentioned, his adventures lacked any real excitement or suspense. I’d change the title to Everyman and give him the ability (or curse) to change his gender, nationality, race and so forth. To experience the lives of  human beings from every corner of the world. Not unlike the War Is Hell series I created for Marvel in the 1970s and which predated the TV series Quantum Leap.

14. STRANGE SPORTS STORIES

I love the way that title rolls off the tongue. I see this as a 64-page anthology with contemporary stores covering every sport around the world. Besides the drama of competition, sports today involve  health issues and social issues and more. A mix of the modern with the macabre would be intriguing.

15. HEART THROBS

Though I was editor of Young Love for a hot minute in the 1970s, I never got to do “my” romance comic book. This title would feature the diversity of the human condition in stories that could break your heart or lift your spirits.

Wanna know a secret? Though one or two of the above comics titles have been on my mind for some time, I came up with most of them on the fly as I was writing this column. That’s 15 titles in under two hours. If there’s anyone out there with deep pockets who would want to hire me to create a new comics company for them, they can e-mail me with their offers. I could use a signing bonus right about now.

Do you enjoy my click-bait columns? Feel free to send suggestions for future installments. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for a new batch of Halloween ComicFest reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 130

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 130th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns. 
 
The Rawhide Kid #143 [January 1978] has another terrific cover by Gil Kane. Like his previous covers, it doesn’t illustrate a scene from the story reprinted in this issue.
                                                                               

This issue reprints “Gunman’s Quest” (17 pages) from Rawhide Kid #45 [April 1965]. The original and still very much classic cover for that issue was penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Chic Stone. I always liked that artistic combination.
                                                                                  

Written and drawn by Larry Lieber, “Gunman’s Quest” is an expanded origin story for the Rawhide Kid. It also introduced the brothers he never knew he had. I wrote about this landmark story on January 23, 2013. You can read my comments here.

The Johnston Smith companies with its endless supply of cheap-ass novelty items has an ad on the issue’s inside front cover. A little further in is a full-page ad for “Super Sea Monkeys.”
                                                                                    

Simon & Schuster has a full-page ad for their complete collection of Marvel books. New to their roster is The Superhero Women, which features stories of Medusa, Red Sonja, the Black Widow, Ms. Marvel and others.

There are the usual three pages of classified-style ads with 22 ads for mail-order dealers selling old comics. In addition, the pages have ads for comic bags, a “Learn Cartooning” course and a Creation comic convention scheduled to be held November 25-27 at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan.
                                                                                

There’s a half-page ad for Slim Jim meat snacks with werewolf art by Jack Davis and a half-page ad recruiting entrepreneurial kids to sell the newspaper Grit.
                                                                           

The Superhero Shop of New Jersey changed its name to Heroes World and continues to sell comics merchandise. For $5.55, you could have bought a Spider-Man Utility Belt featuring a Spidey watch, Spidey handcuffs, Spidey Grappler (rope and hook), Spidey web and a Spidey communicator. Did any of that stuff actually work?
                                                                               

Poster Bonanza - with a mailing address in my home town of Medina, Ohio - would sell you five 11-by-17 posters for $2.75. Group A had Farrah Fawcett, John Travolta, Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman, Lee Majors as the Six Million Dollar Man, and Osmond siblings Donny and Marie. Group B had Kiss, the Hardy Boys, Grizzly Adams, Kristy McNichol and Baretta.

This poster ad didn’t surprise me as much as you might think. I had a post office box in Medina for a decade or two and discovered Medina Ohio was a popular address for such offers and for coupon redemptions. There was a processing center somewhere in my city. I discovered this when some coupon offer mistakenly printed my P.O. Box number and I started receiving literal boxes of envelopes. It took a couple months to fix that mess.
                                                                                

A half-page Marvel subscription ad ran in this issue, offering six titles for the price of five. The bottom half of the page pitched mail-order locksmith lessons. The Pizzazz (magazine) ad that ran on the inside front cover of the previous issue ran as an interior ad in this one. It was followed by half-page ads for Clark candy bars and a half-page ad for “Strong Arms” from bodybuilder Mike Marvel.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page listed Archie Goodwin as editor; Jim Shooter as associate editor; Roger Stern, Ed Hannigan, Ralph Macchio, Jo Duffy as assistant editors; Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Steve Gerber, Jack Kirby as consulting editors; John Romita and Marie Severin as art directors; John Verpoorten as the production manager; and, of course, Irving Forbush as unindicted co-conspirator.

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” had the Man plugging The Superhero Women, the forthcoming How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and the second issue of the Marvel Special Edition reprinting of Marvel’s adaptation of Star Wars. Having grown up on meatier soapboxes, I was not enamored of this never-ending parade of plugs.

In other news...

Marvel colorist Don Warfield and his wife Gayle Landers announced the birth of their daughter, Ellen Kelly Warfield.

Marvel would be publishing Man From Atlantis, starting with an 80-page issue selling for a buck. The page also hinted at a “colorful” surprise for the readers of The Savage Sword of Conan. This likely involved reprinting black-and-white stories in color.

Ernie Chan would be drawing a Marv Wolfman-written issue of Marvel Two-In-One wrapping up loose ends from Marv’s short-lived Skull the Slayer title. Carmine Infantino would guest-pencil two issues of The Defenders with inks by Klaus Janson. After that, Janson will remain to ink new regular penciler Ed Hannigan.

Danny Fingeroth was taking over as assistant editor of the British weeklies as Bob Budiansky turned his attention to penciling comics. British department staffers Dave Wenzel and Duffy Vohland were doing a Solomon Kane story for The Savage Sword of Conan.

While Jack Kirby finished the Silver Surfer graphic novel he was working on with Stan Lee, and working on some new creations, the new Captain America creative team would be writer/editor Roy Thomas, penciler Sal Buscema and inker Joe Sinnott.

John Byrne and Terry Austin were the new X-Men art team. Delightful Dave Cockrum was drawing an issue of John Carter, Warlord of Mars. Tony and Mary DeZuniga are back in New York City after their long-time residence in the Philippines.

And that wrapped up this month’s Bullpen Bulletins.
                                                                               

Next...Thor starred in “The Ding-a-Ling Family!” Weird hill-folk end up in orbit around Asgard and attack Thor and his fellows. They are subdued when Sif gives them Hostess fruit pies. I’m fairly certain John Buscema penciled this one-page comics story.
                                                                                   

The “Mighty Marvel Gallery of Western Heroes” pin-up series kicks off with Red Wolf by Neal Adams. This is a reprint of the cover of Marvel Spotlight #1 [November 1971].

There are three more full-page paid ads in the issue:

“To All Who Want Powerful Muscles Fast!”, Olympic Muscle Builders of Rockaway, New Jersey had your back. If you sent them fifty cents for handling and mailing charges, they would send you the first lesson free.

The inside cover advertised “50 Mile Power Binoculars” from Foster-Trent of Larchmont, New York. With shipping and handling charges, the cost was four bucks for one set or seven bucks for two sets. If you lived in New York, you would also have to pay the appropriate sales tax.
                                                                                  

The back cover had an ad for the talking “Patty Prayer” doll, which could kneel and say a bedtime prayer. Niresk Industries of Chicago was selling the doll for $11.95. That price included two bucks for postage, handling and insurance. The doll was said to be almost 20 inches tall, non-allergenic, soft, cuddly and lifelike. Now that’s an evil doll movie just waiting to be filmed.

That wraps up this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” We have eight more issues to go until the end of the trail for this title. Look for the next guns-a’-blazing installment in just seven short days.

As for tomorrow’s bloggy thing, mosey on by and we’ll both see what I came up with.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 12/12/17

The big news this time around is that I have now seen the premiere episode of the Black Lightning TV series. I don’t have the words to express the emotions that went through me as I watched my favorite creation brought to life. Early in the episode, there’s voice-over dialogue that made my heart swell with pride. Obviously, I can’t reveal plot details from the episode. What I saw was the not-quite-finished version. It was the entire episode, but without the title and credits. It was an amazing experience.

After I watched it, I wrote Salim Akil, the director of the episode and the show runner of the series:

The show looks great. I love the writing and the performances. It is everything I could have hoped for and more. I turn 66 on the 22nd, but seeing this has made this the best birthday/Christmas of my life. My thanks to everyone involved in the show.
                          
Cress Williams is Jefferson Pierce and, even when he’s operating as Black Lightning, he’s Jefferson. Even in the first trailer, China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams as Jennifer and Anissa Pierce had won me over and convinced me I had to find a way to include those characters (albeit not as Jeff’s daughter) in my comic-book series. Christine Adams as Lynn (Stewart) Pierce has also had an effect on how I write the character in my comic-book stories.
                                                                               

When I visited with the Black Lightning writers in Burbank, Salim joked that I should play Peter Gambi. I think James Remar is a much better choice. Indeed, there isn’t a false note in the casting of this show.

After seeing this episode, I am more confident than ever that Black Lightning will be a huge success. My own involvement with the show has been limited and long distance, but, at every step of the way, I saw dedication, imagination and determination from every one who is working on the series. If my career never gets better than this, I will have had a career more fulfilling and successful than I ever dreamed possible.

I hope you will join me in watching the official premiere of Black Lightning on Tuesday, January 16, at 9:00 pm, on the CW. I will be watching with my family and a few friends.

                                                                                  

One of my friends at the CW asked me about Peter Gambi, who hasn’t been seen in Black Lightning comic books since my 1970s series and, in other media, has only appeared in one of the fun Black Lightning animated shorts done by my friend Lynell Hakim Forestall. This is what I told her:

Peter Gambi is another character I created. I don't know if the TV series will use all of his background from my 1970s Black Lightning comic books, but the writers asked a lot of questions about him. Comics-wise...

Peter is the brother of Paul Gambi, who made the costumes for the Flash's villains. Paul was the tailor to super-villains. They all came to him for their costumes.

Peter was a gangster who made bad choices in his life and accidentally shot and killed Jefferson's father. Jefferson did not learn this until several issues into my original series.

Peter left the mob and devoted the rest of his life to taking care of Jefferson and his mother. He was a second father to Jeff. Though no longer a gangster, he knew gangsters and other criminals.

Ultimately, Peter sacrificed his life to save Black Lightning from Tobias Whale. He left behind a letter for Jefferson, which Jefferson received at Peter's graveside funeral.

Jeff never read the letter. He figured Peter's life after he left the mob and his sacrifice of that life to save Jeff spoke more truly of the man than his criminal past. It'll be interesting to see how much of this makes it into the TV show.

                                                                                

As usual, there are more Black Lightning articles online than I can possibly cover in enough detail. But I can at least give you links to some of the better ones.

Pierre Arnette of Comic Book Corps gave a very favorable review to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2. You can read it here.

D. Ivester gave the issue an even more favorable review at the Geek WorldWide website. You can read that one here.

Jideobi Odunze of Geeked Out Nation reviewed Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 for that website. You can the review here.

In writing about the Black Lightning trailer for The Mary Sue site, Marykate Jasper focused on the “superhero dad” aspect of the show. As someone who has long put forth that superhero parents can be as exciting as any other superheroes, I applaud her position. You can read her article here.

At SYFYWIRE, a Josh Weiss article has several photos from the Black Lightning TV series. Unfortunately, it also has a whopping error of fact. For the record, DC Comics did not hire me to develop the character of Black Lightning. They hired me to write multiple assignments. Among those assignments was punching up the two Black Bomber scripts they had bought and then taking over as the title’s writer with the third issue. I refused because these were the two most offensive comic-book scripts I’d ever seen. I talked them into dumping their plans, promising to bring them a new black super-hero of my own creation. I wasn’t hired to develop Black Lightning for the simple reason Black Lightning didn’t exist until I brought him to DC Comics.

You can read the Weiss article here.

Jacquelyn Byrd of the Newburgh Gazette wrote about the CW’s newest Black Lightning trailers - there are a few of them - and should be commended for getting the actual creator credits correct. For those of you just joining us - and for the dullards at Bleeding Cool and Comic Book Resources who have apparently made it policy to always run incorrect credits - that official creator credit reads “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden.” You can read Byrd’s article here.

If you’re not as tired of the sound of my voice as I am, head over to YouTube where you can see Kiku of Neek! The Podcast interviewing me at Pensacon 2016. This interview was filmed before we knew the new Black Lightning comic-book series and the TV series were going to happen. You can view the interview here.

Allen Thomas of Comicosity wrote the most favorable review of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 to date. It’s so gratifying to see a reader recognize and appreciate the hard work all of us working the comic book are putting into it. Read the review here.

Lucas Fashina wrote on Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 for Geekery. It wasn’t a completely favorable review, but it did make me think about a couple of elements of my story. Though I might not agree with all Fashina’s comments, I’m not going to complain about any review that makes me think a little harder about what I’m doing in this series. You can read his review here.

That’s all for this edition of “Black Lightning Beat.” When I next post one of these, assuming I don’t have big news to announce, I’ll start the annotations to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2. The bloggy readers have asked for more, so I’ll do my best to give them more. That’s just how I roll.

Come back tomorrow for another fast-shooting, hard-riding edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesdays.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 11, 2017

HALLOWEEN COMICFEST #3

Hey, kids! It’s time for another look at the free comic books given out for Halloween ComicFest.

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics will be available, along with the chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!

Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these individual issues on three criteria:

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 to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

Baby Teeth #1 Halloween Edition [AfterShock] has the first issue of a scary new series created by Donny Cates (writer) and Garry Brown (artist). Teenager Sadie gives birth to a child who might either be the Anti-Christ or the hope of the world. Comments from an unseen character in this 20-page story indicate the former, but I’m unsure about that.

QUALITY: Very good. Cates could do a better job of putting names to some of the characters and giving us a little more information on them, but the writing is excellent. Likewise the art.

ACCESSIBILITY: Also very good. Since the book is cover-blurbed as being “for mature readers,” those readers will be able to get into and follow the story easily.

SALESMANSHIP: Pretty good. There are seven pages of house ads for AfterShock and its titles. The one missed opportunity is that there is no such ad for Baby Teeth.
 
SCORE: Nine out of then points.

                                                                               

Gao Halloween Special #1 [Antarctic Press] is a digest-size comic of 16 pages. Gao is “the world’s cutest kaiju” and stars in a 12-page story by Alfred Perez.

QUALITY: The writing and art are just okay. Gao wants to go trick-or-treating, so his fairy godmonster sends him to the surface world where he meets a couple kids. King Korn, a giant monster who looks like candy corn, attacks the city. It’s a cute story, but doesn’t impress.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very easy to follow.

SALESMANSHIP: Non-existent. There is no indication where a reader could go for more Gao stories and no house ads for other Antarctic Press publications.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                             

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953 - The Witch Tree & Rawhead and Bloody Bones - Halloween ComicFest [Dark Horse] is a 36-page, full-sized comic book reprinting two complete-unto-themselves Hellboy stories by Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck.

QUALITY: Excellent. As the Hellboy saga got too complicated for my tastes, I stopped reading the various Hellboy titles. However, the two tales in this issue - 18 pages and 6 pages - are entertaining and straightforward. I got a kick out of them.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very good. When dealing with done-in-one tales such as these, you don’t need detailed back story. In three sentences on the inside front cover, a reader learns everything they really need to know to follow these stories.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are four pages of Hellboy and Mike Mignola-centric house ads, including one for a series proclaimed to be the beginning of the final chapter in the Hellboy Universe.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

                                                                              

Thor by Simonson Halloween Comic Fest 2017 #1 [Marvel] is a full-size, 32-page comic book. It contains two Walter Simonson reprint tales - “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” (19 pages) & “Tales of Midgard” (3 pages) - as well as the cover of Journey into Mystery #102 and that issue’s 5-page “Tales of Asgard” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman.

QUALITY: Excellent. Unfortunately, the Simonson stories are mostly concerned with tying up loose ends from a longer story and checking in on various characters. The Tales of Asgard story is complete-unto-itself.

ACCESSIBILITY: Not so good. Readers might recognize the character names from the movies and such, but they won’t have a clue what’s going on in the Simonson stories. These were bad choices for this giveaway comic book.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. The inside front cover has a house ad for Thor #700 with no information as to what it’s about. The inside back cover advertises Hulk: Planet Hulk Omnibus which nods to the world of gladiators seen in the new Thor movie. The back cover is an ad for Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #1, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Thor. It’s a disappointing use of space. I would have replaced either the Hulk or Phoenix ad with one for collections of Simonson’s Thor.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                                    

The Tick: Halloween Comicfest 2017 [New England Comics Press] is a 32-page, full-sized comic book. It features a 27-page story which guest-stars “Clark Oppenheimer,” an invulnerable reporter with an editor named Perry.

QUALITY: Poor. The story meanders all over the place and the humor is not the least bit subtle. The art is so-so. I remember enjoying the Tick cartoon series and its first live-action series, but I’ve never warmed up to the actual Tick comic books.

ACCESSIBILITY: So-so. To be fair, though, the Tick’s back story is limited. He’s insane and he has super-powers. If there’s more than that to him, I’m not recalling what it is.

SALESMANSHIP: There are ads for Tick comics and t-shirts. All are said to be “available at your favorite comic book shop.” I have my doubts about that. Maybe a website where readers could order this stuff would be helpful. Just saying.

SCORE: One out of ten points.

                                                                                  
The Witch Boy [Scholastic] is a 16-page, digest-size comic. It features a 12-page excerpt/preview of a graphic novel by Molly Know Ostertag about a family of shapeshifters (males), witches (females) and a boy who seeks to break that tradition.

QUALITY: Intriguing. I realize that’s not a measure of quality per se, but I’m intrigued by what appears to be a story about a young person challenging their traditional identity within this fantasy setting. I liked it and want to read more.

ACCESSIBILITY: The inside front cover tells the reader everything they need to know to get into the excerpt.

SALESMANSHIP: The last page of the story has a note as to where the story continues and when it will be available.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

Look for my next Halloween ComicFest reviews in a few days. That will be preceded by a new “Black Lightning Beat,” another hard-riding installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” and maybe a surprise or two. See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 9, 2017

TONY NOTES 12/9/17

"Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing" will resume on Monday. That column is already written. With a wee bit of luck, there will be no more skipped days through the end of the year.

Because of the press of my work and the holidays, I will not be available for any interviews of any kind until early next year. When I resume doing interviews, I prefer to do them via e-mail. I can be flexible, but know that I really dislike Skype.

The only exceptions to the "no interviews in December" thing will be if the request comes from DC Comics, the CW or the great people making the Black Lightning TV series.

I may do one more personal appearance before the end of the year. I've been talking with a Cleveland sports team about doing an appearance and signing at one of their games. Because, clearly, if I'd not gotten hooked on writing, I would have been a professional athlete and you'd be buying Tony Isabella athletic shoes. In really small sizes.

I am not signing any comics mailed to me until after the first of the year. After the first of the year, I will resume offering that service to my readers and to retailers. When I'm ready to start doing that again, I'll post all the pertinent information.

Here's my 2018 convention schedule to date...

February 18: Action (St. Clair College; Winsor)

February 23-24: Pensacon (Florida)

March 9-11: Cleveland ConCoction

April 27-29: East Coast Comicon (New Jersey)

May 5: Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

May 18-19: ECBACC (Philadelphia)

July 13-15: G-Fest (Chicago)

July 19-22: Comic-Con International (tentative)

August 17-18: TerrifiCon (Connecticut)

August 19: NEO Comic Con (North Olmsted, Ohio)

November 3-4: Akron Comicon (Ohio)

November 9-11: Grand Rapids Comic Con (Michigan)

November 17-18: Great American Comic Convention (Las Vegas)

If you're an event organizer or promoter, you can contact me after the first of the year to talk about my appearing at your convention or other event.

That's all for today. See you in Monday.