Tuesday, July 16, 2019


What Has Gone Before:

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

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

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

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

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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [IDW] has an 8-page story by multiple writers that leads into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #94 and a 12-page story by multiple artists that is little more than a recap of confusing continuity.

QUALITY: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, at its core, a truly fun concept that works best when it is basic and suitable for all ages. It loses something when its stories get too complex and its action gets too graphic. Those are faults on full display in this issue. The “car chase” in the first story is well done. The recap is tedious.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are very well-known outside the world of TMNT comic books, but I don’t think their mass audience will recognize the characters as portrayed in this issue. The recap left me feeling like catching up on the continuity would be the equivalent of studying for a master’s degree.

SALESMANSHIP: If this version of TMNT interests a new reader, that reader can make use of ads offering literally dozens of volumes of TMNT comics. There are also house ads for Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Vader’s Castle, Sonic the Hedgehog and Usagi Yojimbo. The back cover of the issue, which should be prime ad real estate, has nothing but the TMNT logo on a black background. That is about as utter a waste of space as I can imagine.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.


Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship [Boom! Box] features a 14-page excerpt from the forthcoming graphic novel of the same name and a second eight-page story. The former is by writer Lilah Sturges with artist Polterink; the latter is written by Kelly Thompson with art by Savanna Ganucheau.

QUALITY: Lumberjanes is not a book I have any particular interest in, which does not stop me from recognizing the quality of both the writing and the art. Not every comic book has to be for every comic book reader. I wish more online fans could accept that.

ACCESSIBILITY: The basics can be gleaned from the stories, but I’d have liked to have seen all the characters named. I think rosters of characters, especially with head shots and a few words about the characters are something more comics should embrace.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Besides a house ad for a Lumberjanes book, the issue promotes eight other titles.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.


Ghost Hog [Oni Press] presents two stories of the title character by creator/writer/artist Joey Weisner and a brief excerpt from Pilu of the Woods by author/illustrator Mai K. Nguyen. Ghost Hog is as the title suggests, the ghost of a hog who was killed by a hunter and is trying to get a handle on this whole “being a ghost” thing.

QUALITY: The Ghost Hog stories are exceptional. They are funny and thoughtful. I want to see more of this. The Pilu excerpt was just too short for me to get interested in it.

ACCESSIBLE: The Ghost Hog stories are easy to get into. The excerpt from Pilu of the Woods isn’t easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. There’s a full-page house ad for Weisner’s Ghost Hog. There’s a house ad for Pilu. Other house ads pitch four books by Eisner Award winner Katie O’Neill, Weisner’s Mermin books and, on the back cover, nine other Oni comics for kids.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.


Brenna Thummler’s A Sheets Story [Lion Forge/Caracal] presents a thoroughly charming 25-page story about the friendship between a teenage girl and a ghost. It also features a brief interview with Thummler.

QUALITY: High. Thummler’s work is realistic and spritely. I’ll be looking for more by her.

ACCESSIBILITY: This was a breeze to follow. The story itself told me everything I needed to know about the characters.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are full-page house ads for Sheets and another graphic novel by Thummler. There are also house ads for several other comics by this publisher.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

Look for more Free Comic Book Days reviews in the weeks to come. I hope to review them all before the Halloween ComicFest free comics arrive at my house.

It’s good to be back, but I’ll be leaving again. I wrote this blog entry to post on the one full day I’m back in Medina before flying to the San Diego Comic-Con.

Attending G-Fest and Comic-Con back-to-back is going to be far more grueling than my usual convention adventures. I don’t how some of my fellow creators managed to do conventions weekend after weekend and remain relatively alive and relatively sane.

I’ll be back in Medina late Monday, July 22. I figure it’s going to take me a day or two to recover. If all goes well, I’ll be writing bloggy things by Wednesday, July 24, not to mention preparing for two conventions and two Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales in August. I am a crazy person.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, July 15, 2019


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder, I review the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Dynamite's Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1-5 and IDW's Swamp Monsters. am anthology of marshland horror comics edited by Steve Barnes and Craig Yoe!

Thursday, July 11, 2019


Friends and family members are frequently horrified by what seems to be my insatiable desire to watch as many cheesy horror/monsters movies as I can. When I’m too exhausted to write or otherwise use my time wisely, I’ll pop one of my vast accumulation of un-watched movies into the Blu-Ray player or all-region DVD. This is always a crap shoot, the closest I come to a gambling addiction. But there’s an upside to my mania.

Sometimes I find movies I really enjoy and I can’t wait to tell you about them. Sometimes I find movies that make my eyes go wide with how truly awful they are. I can’t wait to write about those movies either. In the case of the latter, the end result will usually be a blog entry like this one.

Drowning Echo [2019] is not listed under that title at the Internet Movie Database, though that was the title on the DVD I got through my local library system. The official title seems to be Nereus and that’s the name under which it’s listed. The mythological Nereus was a sort of Triton prototype. Neither of those titles is as good as the original working title: The Complex.

Here’s the IMDb storyline summary of this movie:

During a visit to friends, Sara begins having visions and is attacked by an unearthly creature in her friend's swimming pool; she soon discovers that anyone who comes into contact with the water is in danger and she is driven to confront the mystical and malevolent creature lurking in the depths.


Sara [played by Itziar Martinez] visits childhood friend Will at a motel-type complex with a few permanent tenants. At various times of the year, it does a good tourist business. However, Sara’s visit doesn’t come during one of those tourist times.

There’s a pool at the complex. A young woman vanished from it and her body was never found. Two residents saw the woman taken by some creature who appeared in the pool and then vanished. They saw more than the viewers did. All we see is a spooky gill-man kind of face and some water tentacles. The awesome tentacles you see on the DVD? They aren’t in the movie.

Sara starts investigating. Some residents reveal themselves to be bad people. Others become victims. One of them seems to be the host for the creature, but that’s not made real clear. Sara and another resident - the only one left alive - defeat the creature. But then we get one of those “oops” endings wherein Sara discovers she’s the new host for the creature.


Let’s cut right to the chase. This movie is a 108 minutes of sheer tedium. It seemed longer. The acting isn’t awful, but that doesn’t make up for the tedium. Drowning Echo is boring with no satisfying payoff for the two hours of my life it stole from me. I recommend giving it a very wide pass.

Today’s blog entry is shorter than usual because, a few hours after I post it, I’ll be on my way to G-Fest, the amazing annual Godzilla convention. The legendary kaiju event runs from Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14, at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel. On Friday, I will be giving a presentation called “Cheesy Monsters Raid Again!” It’s the second in a series of similar presentations I’ll be giving until I run out of cheesy horror and monster movies to share with the audience. In other words...forever.

The bloggy thing will be on hiatus while I’m traveling, save for an entry on Tuesday, July 16. On Wednesday, July 17, I’ll be flying to San Diego for Comic-Con International. You won’t see another blog entry until I return and recover from that event. I’m shooting for Wednesday, July 24.

I’ll be back sooner or later with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Digging into the comics waiting to be reviewed pile...

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki with artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell [First Second; $17.99] tells of a young woman whose toxic relationship with her girlfriend takes a toll on not just her, but on her friends. I’m not going to lie here. This is an incredibly difficult graphic novel to read. We all know folks who stay in relationships long past any reasonable expiration date, suffer horribly because of them and yet still return to them time and time again. In this story, it’s a romantic relationship. But it has applications for other kinds of relationship as well. Hell, I should write my own graphic novel called DC Comics Keeps Breaking Up with Me.

Frederica Riley is someone who is easy to like, which makes it all the more painful when her dream girl turns out to be a nightmare. A recurring nightmare. Laura Dean is manipulative and totally self-centered. She expects more from Frederica than she is ever willing to give of herself.

Tamaki writes these characters with obvious insight. They and the supporting players are more than fictional constructs. I wouldn’t be surprised to meet them in real life. Valerio-O’Connell captures all the myriad emotions brilliantly. I’ll be very surprised if this graphic novel doesn’t land a bunch of nominations in the next batch of comics awards. Definitely recommended.

ISBN 978-1-62672-259-0


Mysteries of Love in Space #1 [$9.99] is one of those wacky one-shots DC Comics publishes from time to time. The quality of the material is often uneven, but I’m a pushover for anthologies with weird-ass themes. I wish I’d be invited to participate in them because I can be as weird as the next creator.

There are some first-rate stories in this anthology. Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Max Dunbar do a heartwarming sweet Bizarro story in which the character encounters someone who really gets him. Nice coloring by Paul Mounts and lettering by Dave Sharpe add to the joy I received from this story.

Space Cabbie, who used to appear in short stories in the DC sci-fi comics of the 1950s and 1960s, is a longtime favorite of mine. I’m not sure what his deal is in the ever-changing DC Universe, but I got a kick out of “GPS, I Love You” by Aaron Gillespie with artist Max Raynor, colorist Hi-Fi and letterer Sharpe. The story is kinda on the freaky side, but I liked it. Needless to say, I could write the heck out of a Space Cabbie series.

The best story in the issue is Lois Lane and Superman in “Glasses” by writer Dennis Hopeless, penciller Tom Grummett, inker Cam Smith, colorist Adriano Lucas and letterer Tom Napolitano. The tale has a nice take on the Lois and Superman relationship. It should receive a nomination in next year’s comics awards. It won’t because most of those awards ignore the mainstream, but it should.


From 2018:

Avengers Back to Basics by Peter David with artists Brian Level and Juanan Ramirez [Marvel; $14.99] is the first time in print for the graphic novel that was originally published digitally. It’s a time travel story that gets its heart from Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan as she gets swept up in and into Avengers history...and it’s a history that could be rewritten to dire effect.

Though I’m not generally a fan of time travel tales, I thought this story played to David’s strengths. He got to write the Avengers at various points in their lives while playing with some key events in Marvel Universe history. He did an excellent job with Kamala Khan, which is important to me on account of she has become my favorite Marvel Comics character. There are some shocking twists in the GN, all leading to a satisfying ending.

The art and storytelling are first-rate. The styles of the artists are similar enough that I didn’t even realize which of them had done which “issues” until I checked the credits for this review. Color artists Jordan Boyd and Erica Arciniega used their hues to tell the story without overpowering either the writing or the drawings. Letterer Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft did good work as well.

All in all, Avengers Back to Basics is a solid super-hero thriller and plenty of personality. I enjoyed it.

ISBN 978-1-302-91263-5


You already know I’m going to G-Fest this week and Comic-Con next week. I have some other conventions and garage sales scheduled for the rest of the year:

July 26-27: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale (9 am to 1 pm on each of those days)

August 4: NEO Comic Con (North Olmsted, Ohio)

August 9-10: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale (9 am to 1 pm on each of those days)

August 16-18: New Mexico Comic Expo (Albuquerque)

August 23-24: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale (9 am to 1 pm on each of those days)

September 21: Flaming River Con. I’m not a guest of this Cleveland event. I’m going to show my support for the LGBTQ+ comics community in my old home town. If I can get my hard-working wife to take some time off, I might even make a downtown Cleveland weekend of it.

November 2-3: Akron Comiccon

November 8-10: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Michigan).

I may try to squeeze in one more Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale in early September. I’d also be available to be a convention guest in September, October and December. If you’re a show promoter who would like to book me for one of your shows, e-mail me for my appearance requirements.

If you’d would like me to speak at your college, library, school or other venue, the same holds true. I can talk about modern comics, comics history, diversity in comics or my career in comics. E-mail me for my appearance requirements and availability.

I’ll be hitting the road for G-Fest tomorrow morning, but I should be able to write and post a short bloggy thing before leaving. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Being a gathering of short comments and item on the comics we love so dearly and maybe even those we don’t.

On June 6, I wrote about Conan e Kazar #27, a 1976 Italian comic that reprinted one of my “It! The Living Colossus” tales in between reprints of Conan and Kull stories. After discussing the stories in the issue, I turned my attention to the back cover:

The back cover of this issue is an advertisement for L’Uomo Ragno [Spiderman] #153. My first thought was that this reprints an issue of Marvel Team-Up, but I was able to pin the cover to any specific issue. If any of my bloggy readers can identify the cover/issue, I will say wonderful things about them in a future bloggy.

John Sink came to my rescue. I don’t know how I managed to miss it, but that’s the cover of Marvel Team-Up #22 [June 1974]. The cover is pencilled and inked by John Romita. In that story by writer Len Wein, penciller Sal Buscema and inkers Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt, Spidey and Hawkeye must stop Quasimodo from taking over all of the computers on Earth. I’m not sure they succeeded. I mean, how else can we explain Comicsgate and the ongoing Russian interference in our elections?

Thanks, John. For your efforts, you get a no-prize, not redeemable anywhere in the known universe.


Marvel has reprinted thousands of vintage comics over the years in packages ranging from the traditional 36-page comic book to $100+ omnibus additions. However, with the exception of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run of Rawhide Kid, Marvel has not delved into its vast backlog of western comics. When I can pick them up for one or two bucks, I buy these Marvel western books, read them and then resell them in my garage sales.

Red Wolf #5 [January 1973] with its Gil Kane cover was one of those purchases. It’s a Gil Kane cover, always a good thing, with a new-at-the-time, 20-page story by Gardner Fox with artists Syd Shores and Chic Stone. It’s a decent enough story - Roy Thomas rewrote a lot of the dialogue - with pretty good art. Yet, reading it with my 2019 eyes, I’m thinking it’s a bit tone-deaf when it comes to its portrayals of indigenous peoples, though, in all fairness, it’s far less tone-deaf than some other Marvel western comics of the 1960s and 1970s.

I doubt we’ll ever see a collection of the original Red Wolf comics of the 1970s. The western version of the character was introduced in an issue of Marvel Spotlight and his own title ran nine issues. I'd buy it, especially if it also an introduction that addressed the tone-deafness of the stories and provided a more accurate history of indigenous peoples. I’m not sure anyone else would buy it. Which is too often the case with old comics I love.


I’ve written about Commando, the British war comics digest, several times in the past. This time out, I wanted to draw your attention to Commando #5155 [9/6/18].

Commando has gotten more inclusive over the years. The protagonists of “The Pact” and Indian Army soldiers battling the Japanese army in World War II. On the final page of the tale, writer Heath Ackley writes:

“The Indian Army was the largest volunteer force in history with over two and a half million soldiers in its ranks. They did not only serve in the Burmese campaign, but in Italy, North Africa, South Asia and France. Often overlooked, the Indian Army played a valuable role in gaining victory.”
A major book publisher’s representative once told me his company never lost money with books about World War II. It’s not something I wish to pursue, and I realize the book market has changed considerably since I owned a book store, but I wonder if a graphic novel about the Indian Army would succeed.


Sometimes I read something that comes highly recommend and, after reading it, I wonder why it came highly recommend. I usually decide it’s a case of “your mileage may vary” and leave it be. Sometimes I have something more to say. Albeit not a lot more.

I got four issues into The Long Con Volume 1 [Oni Press; #19.99]. Five years ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed everything within a 50-mile radius of a stand-in for the San Diego Comic-Con. Outside the radius, the government has quarantined the area. A reporter who survived the event goes back to report on what happened. He finds a great many fans and guests have survived. Indeed, those survivors think zombies rule the outside world. It’s the scoop of the century and not a bad premise.

My problem is that, four issues in, I don’t like any of the cast. They represent the worst of multiple fandoms and close to the worst of humanity. What some call lovingly written and drawn, I saw as an exercise in self-loathing. Ugh.

The Big Bang Theory was criticized on the same grounds on which I’m giving a thumbs down to this book. I contend there was almost more humanity in the Big Bang cast that I see in The Long Con. Which is why it was such a delight to see those characters change and grow over the run of the series.

Maybe that will happen with The Long Con. But I’m just not feeling it. If you enjoy the book, that’s terrific. Really. Not every comic book has to be to my taste. The comics world is big enough for all of us.

Just some reminders.

I will attending G-Fest - the world’s best Godzilla convention - on July 12-14, Friday through Sunday, at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hara Hotel. Following that, I will be at the San Diego Comic-Con from July 17-21, Wednesday night through Sunday, at the San Diego Convention Center. If you want to get together with me at either of these events, e-mail me as soon as possible. I will not be able to receive or send e-mail after tomorrow night until late Monday or Tuesday. After that brief window when you can reach me by e-mail, I will again not be able to receive or send e-mail from July 17-21. I will return from Comic-Con on July 22, albeit fairly late in the day. It’ll take me a day or two to recover from attending two big conventions back-to-back.

Whether at these events or afterwards, I’m always willing to talk to people who might want to hire me for comics or other creative endeavors...or who want to book me as a guest for their events. I’m also available for talks about comics, comics history and diversity at colleges, libraries and schools.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2019 Tony Isabella


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019); Nurses Monsters and Hotrodders; and Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter!

Monday, July 8, 2019


Comic-Con International: San Diego, also known as San Diego Comic-Con, happens July 17-21 at the San Diego Convention Center. July 17 is the preview night. I’m a firm believer in mission statements for such events, so here’s this one:

The SAN DIEGO COMIC CONVENTION (Comic-Con International) is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation organized for charitable purposes and dedicated to creating the general public’s awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms, including participation in and support of public presentations, conventions, exhibits, museums and other public outreach activities which celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

You can find out about attending the convention, the exhibit halls, the incredible programming, the equally incredible special guests, directions to the event, publications and exclusive items sold at the convention by going to the Comic-Con website. I won’t attempt to duplicate the Herculean effort that goes into providing all that information. No one does it better than Comic-Con itself.

What I will be doing today is letting you know about my Comic-Con plans. That’s probably the only area of knowledge in which I know more than the Comic-Con website.

I’m not being brought to Comic-Con by any publisher or by the event itself. Like most attendees, I’m coming in on my own dime, joined by my Saintly Wife Barb, my daughter Kelly, Kelly’s roommate Lauren and my goddaughter Vanessa. I am forever surrounded by capable and beautiful women. It’s my special gift.

My family and I can get into Comic-Con every year because, back in 2013, the convention gave me its coveted Inkpot Award and has not asked for it back yet. To get it, they would have to pry it from my cold dead hands. Not happening. However, I would remiss if I failed to mention and thank the Comic-Con staffers and volunteers for the many courtesies and kindnesses done for me and my family. They have made my journey much easier for me.

I have few concrete plans during Comic-Con. I will be appearing on just one panel:

That '70s Panel
Friday July 19, 2019 10:00am - 11:30am
Room 8

It was a time of change in comics, with a new generation intermingling with the old and taking command. Hear what the comics industry was like in the 1970s from Mike Friedrich (Iron Man, Justice League of America), Tony Isabella (Black Lightning, The Champions), Trina Robbins (Wimmen's Comix, Wonder Woman), Arvell Jones (Marvel Two-in-One, Iron Man), Louise Simonson (Creepy, Power Pack), Walt Simonson (Manhunter, Thor), and moderator Mark Evanier (Groo the Wanderer, Blackhawk).

Although I’ll certainly be attending other panels as well, the one I am most interested in is this one:

Black Lightning Special Presentation and Q&A
Saturday July 20, 2019 5:00pm - 5:45pm
Ballroom 20

Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) and his family return to the small screen this fall! At the conclusion of season 2, Lightning (China Anne McClain), along with her father Black Lightning, had seemingly taken down Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III), as he's exiled to a black site for lockdown. Lynn's (Christine Adams) desire to save the pods almost costs her her life, while Khalil's (Jordan Calloway) and Jennifer's (McClain) relationship seemingly comes to an end once Tobias pulled his coattail-or shall, we say, spine? And we can't forget Anissa, a.k.a. Thunder (Nafessa Williams), who continued to fight her way through Freeland's corruption. Hear from some of the series stars for a lightning round of a season 2 review and a tease of what's to come for season 3! In addition, this supercharged series stars Damon Gupton and James Remar. Based on the characters from DC, Black Lightning is from Berlanti Productions and Akil Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti, Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, and Sarah Schechter. Black Lightning returns this fall to The CW on Mondays (9/8c), with the last two seasons available for streaming on Netflix. Black Lightning: The Complete Second Season will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 1.

Beyond those panels, my plans are to catch up with old friends and make new friends. I hope to meet with someone from the publishing house who has bought the contract to my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read with an eye towards convincing them to do a new and expanded edition of that classic volume or, failing that, give the contract back to me so I can find another way to publish that edition.

I am not scheduled to do any signings at the convention. I would be available to do such signings for charitable organizations at the event. I would also be willing to do them at the booths of comics publishers I’ve worked with, though it’s unlikely I’ll be asked to do that. Not everyone loves me as much as you do.

I am always willing to meet with any publisher or producer that would like to explore working with me. I’m a friendly, hardworking, and frankly terrific writer. A meeting isn’t a contract or even a promise. Maybe we can work together, maybe we can’t. I will never be less than honest with you about what I can do and what I would be willing to do.

Here’s a tip. I can do a lot.

If you would like to meet with me for that or any other reason, you should e-mail me as soon as possible. I don’t take a computer with me when I travel. I’ll be home through Wednesday of this week - I’m attending G-Fest in Chicago - and return sometime on the following Monday. I’m home on the Tuesday before Comic-Con, but flying to the event early Wednesday morning.

The best way of reaching me during the convention is by cell phone text message. If you don’t have my cell phone number, e-mail me and let me know why you want to get together with me. I will e-mail my number to you. Better yet, if you send me your cell phone number, I will send you a text message giving you mine.

My Comic-Con dance card is very open. If I can help you with some advice based on my 47 years working in the comics industry, answer some questions about my career, look at your latest published work or other such things, don’t be shy about contacting me. I will try to make time for you in between looking at old (and new) comic books and other cool items I can’t afford.

For several reasons, I’m thinking this could well be my last Comic-Con. I want to make it as fun and productive as possible.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella