Wednesday, October 10, 2018


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...On the convention trail with Tony plus my reviews of Die Kitty Die: Hollywood or Bust by Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz; Howard Chaykin's Hey Kids! Comics! and I am Neil Armstrong by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos!


The Syracuse NY Comic Con is my next convention appearance and the only one I’m making this month. It takes place this Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm at the Center of Progress Building, 581 State Fair Boulevard in Syracuse.

Besides yours truly, the event’s other guests include Brian Johnson and Mike Zapcik from AMC’s Comic Book Men; actors and voice actors Kirby Morrow, J.G. Hertzler and Dana Synder; and comics creators Steve Geiger, Tom Peyer, Charles Barnett III, Mike Garland, Ken Wheaton and Joe Orsak. But we’re only the tip of what looks to be a big fun iceberg.

Besides the usual artists and vendors selling comics, there will be actual comics (as in comedians). The announced line-up: Makenzi Burke, Jarrett Mayo, William Hughes, Joanna Elsie, Andy McDermott and David Britton. The comedy show will begin at 6 pm.

There will also be video game tournaments, video game free play, toys, collectibles, anime, horror, pinball, table top games and, of course, cosplay to the tune of $2000 cosplay contest cash. I don’t know if there are panel presentations on the day’s schedule, but, if there are, I’m probably on one of them.

What can you expect from me at the convention? For one thing, I’ll be on my best behavior on account of Saintly Wife Barb is joining me at the event. Gasp in wonderment as you behold the most patient woman in the universe!

I’ll be selling the individual issues of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1-6 while my dwindling supplies last. Black Lightning Volume One and Volume Two will also be on my table, along with some Black Lightning, Daredevil and Luke Cage posters. I’ll have copies of my script for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 and, for the history buffs among you, a few replica copies of the famous “green books” that guided black travelers across our country. I might have a few surprises as well.

If you have questions about Black Lightning, my comics career and other subjects, I’ll do my best to answer them. Keep in mind that I may not be able to answer certain questions due to non-disclosure agreements I have signed or simply because I don’t want to answer certain questions. If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll do my best to make up something cool.

I will be signing Isabella-written stuff at my table and only at my table. My signature policy:

Any items purchased from me: no charge.

Any one item not purchased from me: no charge.

Additional items: $5 each.

Items signed in front of a grading company witness: $10 each.

Photos are free.
General admission to the Syracuse NY Comic Con is $12 per person, $16 for VIP costumers who will be able to get into the convention an hour earlier. If you are an active college student with ID, you get $2 off the price of your ticket. Kids 14 and under get in for free, as do active members of the military and military veterans. There is free parking at the event.

I’ve enjoyed my rare trips to this part of New York in the past and I’m looking forward to this convention as well. I hope to see you there.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 6, 2018


John Zakour is a writer of just about everything. I first saw his name on the wonderful Working Daze comics panel, which is drawn by my friend Scott Roberts. It was a no-brainer that John and I would become friends when we met. Which is when I found out John writes everything. Science fiction novels. Young adult science fiction and fantasy. Interactive works. Humor. Computer games. Short stories. Comic books.

Diary of a Super Girl Book 1: The Ups and Downs of Being Super [KC Global Enterprises; $7.50] is by Katrina Kahler, John Zakour and an uncredited Tayah Payne. The book is aimed at girls nine to twelve, but it’s fun for male and older male readers as well. I mean, how could a still-a-kid-at-heart guy like me not respond to a super-heroine who has to worry about farts that could knock out a hundred people in an instant?

I love the construction of this first in a series of books starring just-turned-thirteen Lia Strong. As she finds out on her birthday, she hails from a centuries-old line of women with amazing powers. The powers may vary from generation to generation, but all of them activate on the thirteenth birthday.

Besides the usual learning how to control her strength, Lia has to contend with the effects of exercise on her body odor, which is, of course, greatly magnified because of her super-powers. She has to watch what she eats because certain foods leads to dangerous levels of bad breath and flatulence. Uncooked broccoli is definitely off her menu. None of which stops her from performing amazing and heroic feats on her first day with super-powers.

Lia’s mom shows great trust in her daughter to do the right thing judiciously. Lia’s best friend is a comic-book fan thrilled to be her confidant and her go-to guy for information on all things super-heroic. It’s a likeable supporting cast.

There are an increasing number of super-hero prose books out there. Many of them are suitable for all ages. However, if you’re looking for something not as well known as the various DC and Marvel books, I think this book would make a terrific gift for a young girl who loves super-heroines and would appreciate a book that’s not yet as well known as it should be. Highly recommended.

ISBN 978-1-5431-7908-8

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 5, 2018


Iceman #6 [January 2018] was one of the comic books donated to the Flaming River Con - the Midwest's first LGBTQ comics convention - by Carol and John's Comic Shop. It's a variant cover by Michael Ryan and Nolan Woodard, based on the original cover to Champions #1 (1975) by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins. As most of you know, I was the originator of that original Champions series.

Sina Grace's story has the original members of the Champions coming together to honor the Black Widow, who was, apparently, dead at the time of this issue. I hope she's gotten better since because I love the character. It's a well-written tale with good art by Robert Gill.

Here's my only problem: 

What the heck was Bobby Drake thinking when he dressed for this cover? 

He's the Iceman. He doesn't need a costume like this, especially one that could conceivably limit the use of his powers. All he needs - in the interest of propriety - is some indication that he's wearing trunks underneath the ice. Even that might not be necessary as we all know what cold does to a man's private parts. 

Bobby Drake is today's comics fashion nightmare.

From time to time, when I can't write a full-size bloggy thing for you, I'll be writing one of these fun-size bloggy things.

I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Batman was my favorite super-hero when I was a kid. TV’s Superman (played so well by George Reeves) may have been my introduction to the super-hero genre, but, once I began buying actual comic books, it was Batman all the way.

Even before I decided I wanted to write comic books, I wanted to be Batman. I was even training myself. I had this shoe box containing weather maps I had clipped from the newspapers and envelopes filled with dirt samples from around our neighborhood. If the bully down the street committed a crime and left dirt behind, I would be able to prove it came from his yard. I don’t know what happened to that crime-lab in a shoe box. I’d like to think it will turn up someday and completely confound whoever finds it.

My appreciation for Batman extended into other media. As crude and as racist as it was, I was captivated by the movie theater revival of the original 1943 Batman serial in movie theaters. I watched the second 1949 serial as well. I’m pretty sure - I can’t be 100% certain given the state of my vast accumulation of stuff - that I own both those less-than-stellar cinematic efforts.

When Batman debuted on TV in 1966, I felt insulted by the series playing my hero for laughs. I still watched every episode and went to the movie released that summer. It was only in the past decade or so that I have come to appreciate the series was great fun and, in many ways, faithful to Batman and his comic-book mythos.

I enjoyed the modernization of Batman in the mid-1960s through the 1980s. Indeed, when DC Comics recruited me away from Marvel in 1976 or thereabouts, one of the main carrots dangled in front of me was writing Batman. Just one of the agreements with me that previous DC managements failed to honor. Thankfully, for me, it’s been a lot better dealing with the present-day management.

I started parting ways with Batman when - I assume - someone at DC read a book on aberrant psychology and decided my once-favorite hero was insanely obsessive. To further the madness, they retconned away his bringing the killer of his parents to justice. They didn’t stop there.

DC made Batman distrustful of every other hero. They made him manipulative and scarily secretive, devising plans to defeat every other hero if he deemed them to be threats. He refused to kill the Joker, even in “clean shot” situations, and even, on occasion, went to extreme lengths to keep the clownish killer alive. DC turned my once-favorite hero into a madman, as much a menace as his murderous foes. He deserved better.

There have been a few bright spots here and there, but the darkness had surrounded Batman and remains. Even when he seems to be playing nice with the other heroes and treating his otherwise abused “sons” with some modicum of respect, I keep waiting for him to snap. From what I’ve heard, that may not be too long. The current plan seems to be to send him crashing to rock bottom in an extended story arc. If rock bottom weren’t the character’s default setting - we’ve seen it again and again - I might be more interested.

I don’t hate Batman per se. I don’t care for what DC has done with him and I really don’t care for how they have diminished all their other super-heroes  while doing it. Batman has become the center of the DC Universe. All other DC super-heroes must revolve around him. As one astute reader put it, every other hero is Batman’s sidekick.

My latest beef with Batman concerns Black Lightning. I originally planned to write an entire bloggy thing about this, but I realized I can sum it up in one paragraph.

Black Lightning is a headliner with a hit TV series. He should not be regressed into yet another Batman sidekick. It is disrespectful to the character, to his creator and to his fans.

I loved Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo’s Batman and the Outsiders. That was 35 years ago. My motto for myself and my own Black Lightning work is “Always forward.” My Jefferson Pierce would never abandon his family, students, community and city - which is Cleveland, no matter what DC thinks - to answer “How high?” when Batman commands “Jump!” You either get that or you don’t, and it’s pretty clear not everyone at DC gets it.

Who is “my” Batman?

My Batman is a good man who suffered a horrible loss when he was a mere child. That loss drove him to fight crime and evil however he could. He was driven by those childhood horrors, but he still had a code of honor and a generous spirit. He even took in a young boy who had suffered a similar loss and helped that young boy bring the killer of his parents to justice. In doing so, Batman freed the boy of the demons that haunted Batman.

Then my Batman brought the killers of his own parents to justice. He exorcized his own demons in doing this.

Then he decided to keep being Batman. To keep battling so that no other innocents would suffer the loss he had suffered. In my mind, that’s when Batman went from avenger to hero. When he chose to stay in the dark to save others. I like my grim-but-sane Batman better than their Batman.

We’re not likely to see my Batman anytime soon. He would be too big a transition from the current Batman. However, when asked what I’d do with the current Batman, this is what I came up with:

Batman is logical and smart enough to realize he has a problem. He goes into rehab/therapy/treatment/whatever to help him handle his self-defeating issues. As part of his treatment, he starts working a version of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous tailored to his unique situation.

There is still a need for the Batman, but he can’t walk away from those who need his help. He chooses to stay in the darkness to help those who need his help. However, he would act in a more measured manner, striving to maintain his “sobriety” without giving into the darkness. It would be a constant struggle, but it is a sacrifice he makes for the good of others.

Batman would seek to make amends to those he has wronged. Not all of them would allow this. There are those who have been damaged too much by his manipulations and obsessions. He will fail from time to time. He will not give up or descend completely into the darkness. This is a battle worth fighting and, in committing himself to that battle, Batman could, once more, become my hero.

Not my favorite hero, mind you. That would be Black Lightning. But you probably figured that out already.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...A mini-report on the Flaming River Con, the first LGBTQ comics convention in the Midwest, plus reviews of the Hercules: Adventures of the Man-God Archive, Border Town #1 and Casper’s Ghostland #1!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


September was a crazy busy month for me. It started with my first ever night-club performance and continued with the Hall of Heroes Convention in Elkhart, Indiana, a week-long trip to Los Angeles, an evening spent learning something about raising money in Cleveland and the Midwest’s first LGBTQ comics convention. It wrapped up with the Baltimore Comic*Con, one of the best and best-run conventions anywhere.

The price of attending all those events was paid for by this bloggy thing. I’ll do my best to bring you nigh-daily bloggy things this month, starting with the list of the things that made me happy in September. We begin.

September 1: The Tap Dance Killer’s Comic Book Cabaret. Ted Sikora, a man of frighteningly multiple talents, put on a great show. I had a wonderful time in one of the classic Cleveland clubs. We’ll not see their like again.

September 2: I had an absolute blast reading/performing scenes from Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 at The Tap Dance Killer’s Comic Book Cabaret. I’m going to do things like this at some of the many comics conventions I attend.

September 3: Snozzberries. They did a terrific set of cartoon and TV theme songs at The Tap Dance Killer’s Comic Book Cabaret. If I ever get my own talk show or podcast, I want them for my house band.

September 4: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Mass. This excellent young adult novel pairs Catwoman with Batwing. It’s an intriguing new take on both characters.

September 5: Rubber City Comics of Akron, Ohio. Thanks to them, I was able to help out a Black Lightning fan who got cheated when he ordered a BL statue online. A statue is on its way to him.

September 6: Preacher Season Three. Great character development and interesting new characters. Unsettling events leading to a pretty satisfying season finale with a eye-opening cliffhanger. One of my favorite TV series.

September 7: The people in my life who make my life better just by being in it. You know who you are.

September 8: The Hall of Heroes Comic Con 2018, Elkhart, Indiana. A fun-filled show with great fans, guests, vendors and volunteers. I hope to return every year.

September 9: Elkhart, Indiana. It struck me as a very nice place to live...and how cool that Mayor Tim Neese was at the Hall of Heroes Comic Con every day. He even helped some guests and vendors bring their wares into the show.

September 10: Receiving the second annual Hall of Heroes Hero Award at the Hall of Heroes Comic Con, an honor made all the more special because the first one went to my dear friend Allen Bellman.

September 11: I have the best friends ever. Bob Ingersoll picked me up at LAX, got us a great price on a hotel and did all the driving during my time there. Then we had a great dinner with Mark Evanier and Maggie Thompson.
September 12: Galco’s Soda Pop Emporium. I’d always wanted to see this store, which is filled with rare beverages, candy and more. It didn’t disappoint. I bought a dozen bottles and several candy bars I hadn’t seen in decades.

September 13: On Hollywood’s Avenue of the Stars, a costume actor saw my Black Lightning shirt, told me how much he loved the show, asked if I worked on it. When I told him to Google “Tony Isabella,” he did so. He was so excited I thought he was going to rip my arm off shaking my hand. Then he asked if he could take a selfie with me. I charged him ten bucks. (I didn’t.)

September 14: I met Amber, the absolutely darling and stunningly beautiful girlfriend of Mark Evanier. As great a wordsmith as he is, Mark has not done her justice.

September 15: I had a wonderful visit to the DC Comics offices. My thanks to all there for their courtesy and respect. I hope things work out so there are many more visits to come.
September 16: BlacKkKlansman. An amazing movie on so many levels. Hard-hitting with frequent moments of hilarity. This should win a whole bunch of Oscars.

September 17: Lunch with Bob Ingersoll, Elliot Maggin, Ken Penders and Larry Houston. So much talent at one table in a terrific Thai restaurant.

September 18: A pleasant cruise of the Long Beach harbor. Besides seeing sea lions and a Russian spy submarine, I learned a way cool Disney fact. I'll tell you about when I post my trip report.

September 19: Dinner with goddaughter Vanessa Hudak in Long Beach. She is a remarkable woman and it was a blast to catch up with her and share crazy stories.

September 20: Surprise visits to the Golden Apple and Mega City One comics shops on Melrose. Signed Black Lightning books and comics at both. Shop owners beware. I plan to do more of this on my travels this year.

September 21: The Harlan Ellison Memorial Party. It was a wonderful celebration of my friend’s life and the friendships that surrounded him. He loomed large in my life and continues to do so.

September 22: My daughter Kelly’s 27th birthday party. It was much fun and I got to see her new car. I’m so proud of the woman she has become.

September 23: The Cleveland Browns won a game! They came back from behind, which made it even more exciting. Their winning quarterback was making his first NFL appearance. Free beer was given out sans rioting. A good day for my home town.

September 23: The Flaming River Con was the Midwest’s first LGBTQ comics convention. It was an inspirational event, made more so by its venue: West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church. That’s what I call and admire as faith in action.

September 25: Another WolfCop. The 2017 sequel to the original was 82 minutes of good goofy nonsense with a guest appearance by Kevin Smith, a glimpse of WolfCop penis and an eight-breasted catwoman. Sometimes that’s what I need from a movie.

September 26: The increasing number of comics pros and fans who are take public stands against the anti-diversity gang. Inclusion makes for better comics.
September 27: Roger Price. My dear old friend was an enormous help in getting us to the Cleveland airport for our flight to Baltimore. He was even more help during the convention itself as my booth babe and money bunny.

September 28: Being interviewed on Baltimore’s Fox 45 morning news program and then shooting some promos for their sister CW station. Black Lightning’s back on October 9.

September 29: Going out to dinner with longtime online pals Steve Olle, Neil Ottenstein and Sam Tomaino. We saw the murder board from Homicide and the building that “played” the police station.

September 30: Seeing so many friends. Maya Crown Williams, Scott Edelman, Bob Greenberger, Carla Speed McNeil, Paul Storrie, Andrew Pepoy, and so many others.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella