Friday, December 7, 2018

MAGAZINES FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Whenever Christmas and other winter holidays are on the horizon, a great many people ask me for gift suggestions for the comics people in their lives. Those comics people are avid fans, casual readers and even comics professionals. I generally recommend comic books, graphic novels, manga, movies on DVD/BluRay, television series sets on DVD/BluRay, action figures and items of clothing. Something that I don’t recommend often enough are magazine subscription, the gift that keeps on giving for as long as the subscription you have paid for lasts. For today’s bloggy thing, I’ve cobbled together a list of some of my favorite magazines. Perhaps one of them might be the perfect gift for the comics person you love.

I have been subscribing to MAD for several years now. I liked the magazine before it was relaunched with a new first issue and like it even more under new executive editor Bill Morrison.

The new MAD is a cool blend of the classic and fresh. Issue #4 had a nothing-short-of-brilliant send-up of horror host Svengoolie by Ian Boothby (the best of the writers of the Simpsons comic books) and artist Tom Richmond. It had a clever lesson in “art history” by Maria Bamford and Scott Marvel Cassidy. It had a clever homage to Edward Goree by Matt Cohen and Marc Palm. It had a double-page Tom Bunk spread bursting with funny details. Its new “Wisenheim Museum” feature profiles noted artists explaining their love for MAD. All those plus Sergio Aragones, Spy vs. Spy, an Al Jaffee fold-in and more. It was well worth the $5.99 cover price.

Issue #5 cover-featured “The Mad 20 Dumbest People, Events & Things of 2018,” which is always a highlight. The issue also had the new “The Lighter Side Of...” by Tammy Golden and Jon Adams. That was a favorite of mine when the late Dave Berg did it and I think the new kids are doing right by him.
                                                                               

A one-year (six issues) subscription to MAD costs $19.99. However, if you order a two year or three year subscription, you’ll pay just #29.99 or $44.99 and get a free Alfred E. Neuman mini Tiki mug. I think that’s one heck of a buy.

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All by itself, TwoMorrows could probably solve most of your gift-giving needs. The publisher has been creating the best magazines for comics fans for over a decade and is still going strong, having just added the swell Retro Fan to its roster.
                                                                              

Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego remains my favorite of the TwoMorrows bunch. Every 100-page issue delves into the comics and comics creators of the 1940s through the 1970s. If its articles were in alphabetical order, it would be the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica of comics. The most recent issue [#155] cover-features the legendary Norman Maurer, who worked on Crimebuster, the original Daredevil, Crime Does Not Pay, (with Joe Kubert) the first and best 3-D comics and all manner of Three Stooges comic books and movies. After all, he was the son-in-law of Moe Howard. Other recent issues have spotlighted my friend Allen Bellman and the glorious Flo Steinberg.

Six issues: $65
                                                                            

Moving to the Bronze Age of Comics and beyond, editor Michael Eury helms Back Issue. The latest issue [#109] was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Superman the Movie. I don’t think I’ve seen a more impressive coverage of that classic film.

Eight issues: $76
                                                                              

Draw bills itself as “The Professional “How-To” Magazine on Comics, Illustration and Animation.” Edited by the amazing Mike Manley, who also draws the daily Phantom newspaper strip and the daily/Sunday Judge Parker newspaper strip, the magazine is interesting reading if you’re not an artist. Great interviews. Wonderful tips by Jerry Ordway. The “Comic Art Bootcamp” feature. Jamar Nicholas reviewing the tools and tricks of the trade. Writers like me can learn a lot from seeing what artists face in doing their work.

Individual issues: $8.95
                                                                                  

Retro Fan, also edited by Michael Eury, is the journal of all the things that we loved as kids. Saturday morning cartoons. TV heroes. Bubble gum cards. Slurpees.  Action figure and toy sets. In short, all the stuff that made the 1960s and the 1970s and even the 1980s so much fun for us and which are still eagerly collected by us old folks and fans who weren’t even born when these items were found in stores across the country.

Four issues: $38
                                                                                 

The flagship of the TwoMorrows fleet is The Jack Kirby Collector, which has been honoring the King of Comics on a quarterly basis for decades. Each issue is loaded with art, history and interviews on the man who inspired generations of comics creators.

Four issues: $46

If you go to the TwoMorrows website, you can order subscriptions to all of the above magazines and also find dozens of terrific books on comics and comics creators. Classy magazines for classy comics fans. I love them all!

                                                                                   

One of my favorite mainstream magazines is National Geographic [$39 per year, but special offers can bring that down to as low as $12]. Entertaining educational articles on the world around us. Brilliant photographs and graphics. At least a dozen items on my bucket list of things I want to write before I kick the bucket made it to the list after I read an article in National Geographic. I consider it an indispensable resource for writers.

                                                                                

The New Yorker [subscriptions as low as 12 issues for $12 and most offers include a tote bag] is another favorite of mine. Though the content of the weekly magazine is NYC-centric, its articles cover a wide range of national and international subjects. It boasts some of the best fiction, non-fiction and review writing in magazines. It presents fantastic graphics and hilarious/quirky cartoons. Its covers are stunning. The only drawback is that, from time to time, it makes me want to move back to New York City. Which can’t happen unless I suddenly start making much more money than I make now or become the boytoy of someone who makes much more money than I make now. Sigh.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at some other magazines suitable for holiday gift-giving. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

           

Thursday, December 6, 2018

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 12/6/18

Make no mistake about it. I know how blessed I am. Black Lightning, my proudest creation, has done very well by me. My Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands was everything I wanted it to be, save that it has not, at this time, led to an ongoing series written by me. I think it’s the best Black Lightning writing I’ve ever done and the best comics writing I’ve ever done. If another twenty years passes before I write my next Black Lightning series, I hope my 86-year-old self will be up to the challenge.

The Black Lightning television series is a weekly delight. I love the series. It has a lot of me in it and a lot of great stuff added by the writers. The actors knock me out every time out. I hope to visit the set this season and personally convey my admiration and thanks to everyone who works on the show.

The Black Lightning love that comes to me from the folks who work on the series, from the fans and from my fellow professionals has been heartwarming. To be part of something so important to so many people would be enough, but I also get to witness that importance at conventions, interviews and TV appearances.

Make no mistake about it. Black Lightning is DC’s most iconic black hero. Fans have hugged me with tears in their eyes because one of my Black Lightning comics was the first time they saw themselves in a comic book. I’ve been known to tear up myself.

Creating Black Lightning carries with it a great responsibility to do right by the character. It’s not an ego thing with me. It’s that sense of responsibility that drives me.

You know I think it’s a mistake and even something of an insult to reduce Black Lightning to yet another Batman sidekick because you liked Batman and the Outsiders in the 1980s. I also liked that book. But it’s 2018 and Black Lightning is a headliner.

Folks keep asking me what I think of the Black Lightning comics by others that have come out this year. The kindest thing I can say in response to that is...if I read a Black Lightning comic book true to Jeff Pierce and his core values...if I read a Black Lightning comic book I feel is well written and adds to the character...then I’ll tell you about it right here.

Do I have a beef with DC Comics? It’s actually more that I am very disappointed that they are again underestimating both my creation and myself. Though The Other History of the DC Universe #1 has been heavily promoted and got the cover of Previews, DC failed to make mention that there were two other new Black Lightning publications solicited that month...and that’s not counting the now-delayed BATO #2 or the re-solicitation of two previous-published Black Lightning collections.

Sidebar. Imagine if DC had put Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 on the cover of Previews. Imagine if they had done variant covers for every issue. Imagine if they had done second printings when the early issues sold out quickly. But I digress.

Black Lightning: Brick City Blues reprints my 1995 Black Lightning title with magnificent art by Eddy Newell. Up until my most recent Black Lightning series, that was the best work I had done with the character. I’m proud of what Eddy and I did there.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #46 will feature Black Lightning. This wondrous team-up title is my favorite ongoing DC series. Writer Sholly Fisch has a knack for telling hilarious and still respectful stories that work for younger readers and even somewhat older fans like me. I’m looking forward to this issue.

Four Black Lightning publications in a single month. Had DC also re-solicited Black Lightning Volume One and Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, they could have promoted eight different comics or trades featuring their most iconic black hero. That would have been quite the worthy event.

Sidebar. There’s a hunger among Black Lightning fans for more Black Lightning merchandise. It’s not as bad as it was for Static Shock, but it’s not anywhere near the amount of product that should be out there for the fans.

Sidebar. I am always on the look out for Black Lightning stuff. I am trying to maintain as complete an archive as possible. When I’m gone, all my Black Lightning materials will be donated to either a museum or a university.

Sidebar. I don’t plan on being gone any time soon.

To their credit, DC Entertainment has honored its various financial commitments to me. I have no complaints on that score. There are a few other areas when they could and should do better, but I’m sure those involve simple human error.

I would love to continue writing Black Lightning stories until the day they pry my keyboard from my cold dead hands. That might never happen. That makes me sad. Just know my not writing Black Lightning stories is not my choice. My personal commitment to telling great stories with this great character has not changed. I have many more Black Lightning stories to tell. I hope I get the opportunities to share them with you.

I am currently writing Black Lightning and My Road to Diversity, a book that chronicles how I came to work with so many characters of color, how I created Black Lightning and the growing inclusion of diverse characters in comics. I hope to have the book available by the spring of 2019.

“Black Lightning Beat” will continue as an ongoing feature in this bloggy thing of mine. It will be a while before I resume my blow-by-blow commentary on the TV episodes and a while longer before I launch annotations columns on all of my Black Lightning stories to date. I have to save my energy for my book. But I will be posting new “Beat” columns with as much Black Lightning news as I can come up with. Oh, I have stories to tell, my friends.

Thanks for coming by today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a bunch of holiday gift suggestions.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

TONY'S TIPS #285

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Monsters Volume 1: The Marvel Monsterbus by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby; Crosswind Volume One by Gail Simone and Cat Staggs; and DC's World’s Greatest Super-Heroes Holiday Special #1!
                                                                               
                                                                                


Sunday, December 2, 2018

FURTHER UPDATES

UPDATES. If you are waiting to do an interview, podcast or such with me, I will not be able to accommodate you until January. I'm trying to keep my schedule as clear as possible so that I can finish the two non-fiction books I'm writing. As always, thanks for your cooperation and understanding.

THREE DAYS OFF

UPDATES. The bloggy thing will be taking a three-day break so I can attend to other things. No cause for alarm. I just looked at my schedule and realized I need to build some preparation time into said schedule. If all goes as planned, Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing will be back on Thursday.

BLACK LIGHTNING IN TOKYO

When I started writing today’s column, it was going to be a “Black Lightning Beat” column full of news and commentary. The photo above was going to be my lead item, showing the enormous Black Lightning poster at this weekend’s Tokyo Comic-Con. The photo was taken by my friend Sean Kelly and includes his daughter Nora.

Sean attended the convention with his wife Katherine. He posted a number of fascinating photos from the event on Facebook and on my Official Tony Isabella Message Board group page. The above photo is the only one directly concerning Black Lightning, but many of the others were just too good not to share with you...with the hope Sean won't be upset with me for my larceny. I guess I’ll have to write that “Black Lightning Beat” column later this week.

Side note. I’m not sure what the Japanese lettering under the Black Lightning logo means, so I’m just going to assume it says something like “Creator Tony Isabella is Stud-God of Comics.” You’re all cool with that, right?

Here’s Nora again, this time with the biggest Captain America Funko figure I’ve seen. I can only imagine the size of the Godzilla Funko figure. If a giant Godzilla Funko figure exists, I will launch some sort of funding campaign so I can purchase one for my First Church of Godzilla.
                                                                                  

Marvel had a presence at the Tokyo Comic-Con with two lovely young woman cosplaying as Captain Marvel. Their smiles alone could defeat Thanos.
                                                                                

Not a young lady to play favorites, here’s Nora posing with a giant Flash Funko figure. I wish I owned a Flash Museum.
                                                                            

I don’t know what this is, but I assume it’s one of the dozens of alien creatures defeated by Ultraman. Or maybe a giant Funko figure of Donald Trump before his stylist makes him look semi-human in the morning.
                                                                                

Speaking of Godzilla...
                                                                                    

Side note. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to watch all of the Godzilla movies from the first to the most recent anime and films. I’m shooting for one or two every weekend that I’m not attending at some convention or other event.

This DC Comics display creeps me out. I don’t know if these scary masks are available in the United States, but, on seeing this shot, I envisioned a horror film wherein a serial killer paints the faces of his victims to look like DC characters and then gently removes those faces for trophies.
                                                                                    

That’s the last of the photos I’ve stolen from my dear friend Sean for your amusement today. The Tokyo Comic-Con looks like a terrific event. Maybe, someday, I’ll be invited there. If so, I promise to
avoid causing any international incidents.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 1, 2018

GET MORE TONY: Tomb Of Dracula: Complete Collection Vol. 2

Two of my Dracula stories from the Dracula Lives! black-and-white magazine of the 1970s are included in Tomb of Dracula: The Complete Collection Volume 2 [$39.99].

From the back cover:

Open the tomb once again for tales filled with bloodsuckers, cultists and things risen from the grave! When Dracula attempts to feed on Jack Russell's friend Topaz, its time for a vampire versus Werewolf-by-Night showdown -with the Darkhold as the prize! Blade the vampire hunter closes in, but will the Lord of Darkness be burned by Doctor Sun? It's stakes on a plane when Drac's fl ight is hijacked -and the Montesi Formula might spell doom for all vampires! Discover the beginnings of Dracula's feud with the wizard Cagliostro, and meet Lilith - his devastating daughter! Plus: Spider-Man! Hannibal King! And tales from Dracula's centuries-long life, including a clash with Frankenstein's monster!

COLLECTING: TOMB OF DRACULA (1972) 16-25, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (1972) 15, GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN 1, GIANT-SIZE CHILLERS 1, GIANT-SIZE DRACULA 2, FRANKENSTEIN 7-9, DRACULA LIVES 5-7

My first of my two stories is "Night Flight to Terror!" from an idea by Marv Wolfman and with art by Gene Colan and Pablo Marcos. 

The second is "Shadow over Versailles" with art by John Buscema and Pablo Marcos.

I'd rank these stories among the best of my 1970s work.

ISBN 978-1-302-91396-0