Thursday, August 24, 2017

DELAY

Today's bloggy thing is delayed while I finish a comic-book script. As soon as that script is finished, which will be early this morning, I'll write today's blog.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 119

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 119th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #132 [March 1976] reprints the Dick Ayers and Frank Giacoia cover of The Rawhide Kid #61 [December 1967]. The changes to the original cover are the white background, which I find more effective the original red background, and re-lettering and moving the two original cover blurbs. Marvel wasn’t expending much effort on this reprint title at this time.
                                                                                    

“Shotgun to Deadwood” (17 pages) is reprinted from issue #61 sans any cuts or editorial alterations that I could spot. The adventure features Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The story was written by Gary Friedrich, penciled by Ayers and inked by Vinnie Colletta. I wrote about this story here.

There are 15 “classified ads” in this issue, 13 from mail-order comics dealers, one for a Spider-Man record and one for cartooning lessons. There are four pages of Marvel house ads, a Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page, a Hostess ad starring Spider-Man, and a pin-up page that also includes the annual “statement of ownership, management and circulation.” There are paid ads as well and we’ll talk about them today as well.

The inside front cover was a Johnson Smith ad offering a whole lot of different items: kung fu lessons, a Planet of the Apes mask, an automatic hypnotizer, a vibrating shocker and more. I’d love to see someone create a super-villain whose arsenal consists of souped-up novelty items from Johnson Smith.
                                                                                 

Another full-page paid ad sold “10 Super Great Iron-On Transfers” for $1.35 with postage. These badly-drawn transfers were offered by “Super Values,” which had the same 575 Madison Avenue address that Marvel had. Sharing another full-page ad were Slim Jim (smoked beef snacks) and Grit (“America’s Greatest Family Weekly Publication”).
                                                                                 

“Put the Hulk under Someone’s Christmas Tree!” proclaimed the first Marvel house ad of the issue. The suggested gift items: t-shirts of Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor Fantastic Four, as well as covers of Marvel Double Feature and Captain Marvel. Adult sizes were $3.99 each and kid sizes were $4 each. Sweat shirts of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America were $5 each.

Half-page paid ads offered lessons on how to customize cars, vans and more - the brochure was free - and how to become “a master of  karate.” You could get the martial arts book and a “giant life-like karate practice dummy” for $1.98. I’m guessing the practice dummy was just a poster.
                                                                               

Marvel’s next full page house ad divided between subscriptions for Marvel comic books and magazines and a FOOM fan club ad heralding the return of Jack Kirby to Marvel. Jack was back, if only for a couple memorable years. That page was followed by another full-page house ad, this one split between Crazy Magazine and the Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man treasury edition.
                                                                               

Joe Weider - “The World’s Most Famous Muscle Man” - was shilling 16 muscle-building courses for a buck. You would get four issues and a $5 gift certificate that could be applied against the purchase of any of Weider’s doubtless much more expensive muscle builders.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page again opens a window as to what was happening at Marvel at this time. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” talked about upcoming conventions in Miami and New York...asked readers to entreat their newsstand dealers to order more copies of the Marvel comic books...and hinted at a third collection of classic stories to follow the very successful Origins of Marvel Comics and Son of Origins of Marvel Comics.

The first news item reported that Fantastic Four and cover artist Rich Buckler had moved back to New York, that Ghost Rider writer Tony Isabella had moved back to Cleveland and that Steve Englehart had just gotten married.

The next item announced the debuts of the Guardians of the Galaxy series in Marvel Presents and the Tigra series in Marvel Chillers. Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom were noted as the Guardians team, but neither myself nor artist Will Meugniot were so much as mentioned for the Tigra feature.

Item three was all about the sword-and-sorcery heroes and heroine. Frank Thorne was drawing Red Sonja in Marvel Feature. John Buscema was penciling Conan with inks by Steve Gan. Kull the Destroyer was waiting in the wings.

The final item lauded George Perez and his love for drawing super-hero teams. Mentioned were Fantastic Four, Avengers, Inhumans and Sons of the Tiger.

The Bullpen page ended with a teaser image of Icarus from Kirby’s new Eternals series. No names. Just the image.
                                                                                 

Next to the Bullpen Bulletins Page, we get the one-page “Spider-Man and the Cupcake Caper” ad for Hostess Cup Cakes. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are about to enjoy the tasty treats when our hero spots a rampaging Man-Mountain Marko on the street. He tells MJ he must buy milk, stops Marko and then returns to find she’s eaten all the cupcakes. I’m not sure who drew this page. I see some Jim Mooney, I see some Ross Andru, I see some John Romita and I see some Frank Giacoia inks. If anyone can give a more definitive identification, I’d be thrilled to include that information here.
                                                                                  

The final editorial page is “A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up” taken from the cover of The Rawhide Kid #74 [February 1970]. The same pin-up had appeared just two issues earlier, but, here, it’s been reduced in size for the title’s annual “statement of ownership, management and circulation.”

As best I can tell with the ad of a magnifying glass, the average total paid circulation of The Rawhide Kid was 143,972 per issue. For the single issue nearest to the filling date, the title sold 129,305. It has widely been suggested that these numbers were often made up on the spot. I wouldn’t doubt it.

That’s all for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll have another one for you next week.

As for tomorrow, I hope to present a fuller report of my July trip to Burbank to meet with the writers of the Black Lightning TV show. Because of the increasing interest in all things Jefferson Pierce, you can probably expect at least one Black Lightning bloggy thing every week and sometimes more than one.

If you have questions, e-mail them to me. I’ll do my best to answer the ones I’m allowed to answer in a timely fashion.

See you tomorrow, my friends.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TO BLACK LIGHTNING, WITH LOVE

This is not the Black Lightning bloggy thing I was expecting to write for today. With the official announcement that, in addition to the forthcoming live-action series, DC Comics would also be publishing Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, a six-issue series written by me and drawn by superstar artist Clayton Henry, my plan was to answer a bunch of the many questions asked by fans and other interested folks. That bloggy thing is on hold for a day or three. There are other things I have to say about Black Lightning today, including the big thing that, more and more, strike me as the truest things I can say about my proudest creation.

Black Lightning is bigger than me. He is bigger than me and anyone else who works on the character. Despite his so-called second-tier standing, he is important to so many people on so many levels and he has been so since his debut in 1977.

This bigness. This importance. It has become more of my awareness of Black Lightning with each new day. It is a humbling awareness, one that has been the core of my belief in the character and how I approach him in all of his glory.

Readers have come to me at conventions and told me Black Lightning #1 was the first comic book they bought for themselves because it was the first comic book in which they saw themselves. I tell you without any hesitation that there have been tears of joy on a few of those occasions.

When I state the above, I’m not trying to elevate Black Lightning above other characters of color. I have absolutely no doubt that, for other readers, that first hero who looked like them was Black Panther or the Falcon or Luke Cage or Icon or Static or any number of other creations. Even today, I’m certain there are readers who say that about Ms. Marvel or Moon Girl. That today’s comic books are more diverse than ever makes me more proud of the art form and my industry than at any other time in my 45-year career.

Digression. No reader has yet told me Devil Dinosaur or Groot were the first heroes that looked like them, but, oh my Godzilla, would I love to meet such readers. End of digression.

I’m proud of my work on Black Lightning and, even more importantly, Jefferson Pierce and what he has always stood for. But I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to have been there at the exact right time to create the character and, how despite all the cards stacked against him, through market conditions and through executives who didn’t see the power and promise of the character, he remained in the hearts and minds of his readers. I have so many people to thank for bringing him to this moment.

It started with legendary creators like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Billy Graham, Don McGregor, Rich Buckler who bucked the odds and an antiquated distribution system that seldom looked kindly on characters of color. It continued with well-intentioned creators who somehow didn’t realize their Black Bomber character was one of the most offensive notions of all time. It continued with whatever combination of DNA made me too crazy stubborn to let that character become DC’s first major black super-hero.

It continued with Jenette Kahn, Joe Orlando, Jack C. Harris and my friend Trevor Von Eeden. Here was Trevor, a young guy thrown into the deep end of the pool, who knocked himself out drawing the first Black Lightning series. Trevor and I exchange emails several times a week and, like me, he is well aware of what a defining moment our work on Black Lightning has been for both of us. Because Trevor is a black artist and an outspoken one at that, he bears - and he bears gladly - the added responsibility of being a role model for other artists.

Special thanks must go to my friend Mike W. Barr, who has written more Black Lightning stories than anyone, albeit in Batman and the Outsiders. He kept Black Lightning before the public in those fine comic books.

Indeed, every creator who has worked on Black Lightning, even those who have done stories of which I am not personally enamored, have brought something to the character. They gave me building blocks to consider and use or discard as my own vision demanded.

I will always and forever be grateful to Eddy Newell for his work on my second Black Lightning series. He brought a passion to that work that equaled my passion and Trevor’s passion. My second run is what made me realize that I would be happy writing Black Lightning stories for the rest of my life. That remains my dream.

I will always and forever be grateful to the fans who kept both me and Black Lightning alive in their expectations for the character. There were those who would have preferred my name not be so linked with Black Lightning...or linked at all. I feel very fortunate they didn’t get their preference.

I will always and forever be grateful to the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. They invited me to their gatherings and gave me a greater realization of how much Black Lightning meant to them. As I’ve said, it was and remains a humbling reminder that I’m part of something so much bigger than I am.

Geoff Johns. He reached out to me and started this new journey for all of us. From our first conversation, I knew things were going to change for the better. He’s a hero to me and my family.

Michael Lovitz, my attorney, and DC’s attorneys. I’m not going to discuss details because I can’t and because I wouldn’t, but every one was working towards the same basic ends. Everyone wanted this to work.

Digression. If this is sounding like an acceptance speech, believe me, it’s not. It’s my heart being so full as I write this bloggy. If I ever give an acceptance speech, it won’t be anywhere near as long and I’ll probably be all fumble-mouthed. My main concern will be to remember to thank my wife and kids for sticking by me through the good times and the bad times. End of digression.

Dan DiDio, who has been an absolute joy to work with and determined to help me make the new Black Lightning series the best it can be. Our conversations about the first Black Lightning trade paperback - still available from better comics and book sellers everywhere - shaped my thinking on that and future collections.

Paul Santos should be mentioned and honored for his dedication to these collections. I can’t wait to tell you what’s coming up in the near future.

David Wohl, who was briefly the editor of the new Black Lightning series before he was abducted by others who recognized his talent, gave me wings to develop the new series as I saw fit. I’m looking forward to answering your questions about that process and what I was thinking as I worked through that process.

Jim Chadwick, one of the best editors I have ever worked with. He gives me great notes that make my scripts better. He doesn’t try to make them his scripts. He wants them to be the best Tony Isabella scripts they can be. His associates Rob Levin and Harvey Richards are important parts of the team, though Rob will moving on to some other great DC projects.

Jim Lee, who brought his design sense to the long search for both the right costume and the right artist for the series. Jim remains key to the creation of our covers.

Clayton Henry. He’s knocking it out of the park with every page he pencils and inks. He’s amazing. He brings the characters to life. He makes me proud that my scripts have generated such astonishing pages. He holds his own with Trevor and Eddy.

Okay, if I go on any longer today, I’m gonna burst. Because I have so much love still to share for Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti, Salim and Mara Brock Akil, the Black Lightning writers, the amazing Cress Williams, Christine Adams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain and so many other folks working on the TV series. That’s going to take another bloggy to cover, one I hope to write within the next couple days or so.

Some closing notes for today.

Even though the new comic-book series and the TV series are not in the same continuity, I have been influenced by what I’ve seen from the actors and the writers. One of the cast members has changed my thinking on a character so completely - and I’d be amazed if any of you figure out which character - that it feels like I’m creating an entirely new character. I’ve seen my influence on the TV series and I want the TV team to know they are influencing me as well.

More than ever, I would love to write new Black Lightning stories rest of my life. But, if and when circumstances dictate otherwise, I’m confident there will be others who will carry on in a fashion that will honor my work. There are great comics writers who could bring themselves and their stories to my creation...and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next great Black Lightning comics writer comes from the TV series writers room.

Black Lightning is bigger and more important than me. He’s bigger and more important than everyone who has worked or currently works on his stories. He’s the real deal.

Me? I’m the blessed and lucky writer who was at the right place at the right time. It is good fortune I will never take lightly.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, August 21, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #221

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Pre-Code Classics: Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Volumes One and Two, collecting all 14 issues of the legendary media star's comic books; from Papercutz, Gumby Vol. 4 #1; and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 #1-7 by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs.

SHARKNADO WEEK 2017: PART THREE

Circumstances delayed this third and final entry in my coverage of Sharknado Week 2017. But here I am to sink my teeth into the last two movies that aired on the Syfy channel. Let’s get right to them.

Empire of the Sharks aired on Saturday, August 5. Made by the fine folks at the Asylum, it had a lot going for it. Set in a future era where global warming has turned most of Earth’s surface into ocean, it has a sort of “Mad Max on the high seas” vibe going for it. However, despite a claim by the Internet Movie Database, it’s not a sequel to last year’s Planet of the Sharks. It’s similar in tone, but both bigger and more deliciously cheesy in scope.

It was directed by Mark Atkins, who directed over two dozen other movies, including Planet of the Sharks, 2012's fun Sand Sharks and the goofy-but-still-fun Snakes on a Train [2006]. He also wrote the movie. I like his work enough that I plan to check out other Atkins works in the near future.

Empire stars John Savage as the ocean dictator Ian Fien, Jonathan Pienaar as Mason Scrim, Fien’s scenery-chewing second-in-command, and several earnest performers as the movie’s hero, heroine, and a rag-tag bunch of outsiders who band together uneasily to rescue the heroine and prevent Fien/Scrim from wiping out her people. There’s a little “Magnificient Seven” in this one as well.

The IMDb summery gives away much of the plot, so I’ll activate our usual warning right now...

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On a future earth where 98% of the surface is underwater, a Warlord who controls an army of sharks meets his match when he captures the daughter of a mysterious shark caller.

Fien and Scrim demand tribute from the floating villages they rule in exchange for the fresh water only they can provide. The villains get this water through a tedious process that demands the labor of slaves. When a village fails to provide sufficient tribute, Scrim takes people instead. The captives literally slave until they drop and are then fed to the sharks the bad guys control.

It’s not a complicated plot. The hero is working on a way for his village to produce its own fresh water. The heroine, who he loves, is a pacifist whose power to control sharks naturally is triggered during her captivity. The hero and a friend recruit their rag-tag commandos. Some will live, some will die, and it all boils down to a fairly epic battle between Fien’s man-made control of the sharks and the heroine’s natural ability.

Thanks to the IMDb summery above you know how it ends.

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Empire of the Sharks is a solid “B” action thriller. The heroes are sufficiently heroic if not always competent. The villains are very hiss-able. There is considerable shark fu and the special effects are up to it. Of the movies that led up to the Sharknado 5: Global Swarming finale, I’d rank it a close third behind the excellent Mississippi River Sharks and the pretty good Toxic Shark. I would watch this movie again.

                                                                              

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming had me giddy with expectation - I love the franchise - and a wee bit pensive because it would be the first movie in the series not written by Thunder Levin. Instead, the film was written by Scotty Mullen. I’ve not seen any of Mullen’s other six films, but he has many credits as a casting director and a few as an actor. So, as with many of the fine folks who work with the Asylum, he’s well-rounded. Based on this Sharknado screenplay, I’m going to be checking out his other work.

Returning as director is the wonderfully mad Anthony C. Ferrante, along with the fighting Fin Shepard family. Here’s the quick IMDb summary, corrected for content and grammar:

With much of America in ruins and the rest of the world bracing for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop the toothy storms.

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This may be the silliest Sharknado movie of them all, but, except for some incredibly shocking surprises, I never stopped smiling and even laughing out loud as I watched. It’s a family saga, a series of hilarious sketches and cameos and an international thriller all rolled into one.

Nova [played by Cassandra Scerbo] has joined a secret sisterhood of sharknado fighters. They have learned that such storms happened in the distant past and that mankind defeated them. In a Indiana Jones riff, she and Fin [Ian Ziering] discover one of the hiding places of a powerful gem and, in doing so, accidentally trigger the most deadly sharknado of all. It can create portals that allow it to go all over the world.

With android/robot wife April [Tara Reid] and their son Gil [Billy Barratt] fight against this unstoppable menace. They’re assisted by Nova’s sisterhood and a very Q-like British scientist [Clay Aiken, if you can believe it]. In an inspired performance, Chris Kattan is the Prime Minister of England. There are lots of other great cameos as well, but, with one exception, I’m going to let you experience them on your own. That one exception is Fabio as the Pope. That’s right. Fabio. As. The. Pope. The brilliance of that casting had me laughing so hard I cried a little bit.

The jumping from locale to locale and the sketch nature of the film throws the actors somewhat. I still loved Ziering and Reid in this movie, but they were a little off their game. I have no doubt they will be back on the mark for the next movie.

The movie has a very depressing ending. Except...just when you’re convinced you’ve seen the last Sharknado, which, in itself, would be a crime against nature in my book...that’s when you get another inspired development that will lead into Sharknado 6. I’m excited, so much so that I’ve already sent suggested titles to my friends at the Asylum.

Sharknado Week 2018 can’t come soon enough for me.

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If you’ve been keeping track of the score, Sharknado Week 2017 ends on a score of 4-2. While I’d like to see some variety next year - it’s been a while since Syfy has graced us with any giant reptiles or other creatures - this week of premieres is my favorite annual television event. Keep them coming!
In other news...

My life continues to be crazy busy and crazy exciting. I’ve got so much to write and write about. Obviously, with the news of both the Black Lightning TV series and a new written-by-me Black Lightning mini-series, I’m getting asked all sorts of questions about these things. I’ll do my best to answer them - or, to be accurate, answer those I can answer without violating my agreements with DC Comics - in a timely fashion. You can expect a lot of Black Lightning stuff in this blog in the weeks and months to come.

There’s also a lot of other things I want to write about here and that you have asked me to write about here. I’ll get to it all as soon as possible. This blog means a lot to me and your enthusiasm for it means even more. We’re gonna have a lot of fun here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, August 19, 2017

ASK ME YOUR QUESTIONS

ASK ME YOUR QUESTIONS AND I'LL TELL YOU SOME LIES, BUT MOSTLY I'LL ANSWER THEM HONESTLY.

Here's the deal. Tuesday's bloggy thing will answer questions about Black Lightning. It'll probably have one of those click-bait titles because I love to make fun of Comic Book Resources and its obvious limits as a news site. So, we're talking 15 questions because CBR can't count any higher than that.

DO NOT post your questions here. E-mail them to me at

tonyisa at ohio dot net

This will be a prologue to a regular weekly bloggy thing feature that will cover Black Lightning news past, present and future within the confines of the NDAs I've signed. So, I can't tell you everything, but I can tell you a lot.

One more thing. If websites and podcasts want to interview me on Black Lightning, I'll do my best to accommodate them. But writing my stuff comes first.

If it's a website that has consistently refused to use the correct current Black Lightning creator credit line, they'll have to get it right three times before I'll agree to their request.

Bleeding Cool finally got it right in yesterday's story, even if the anonymous Jude Terror was snarky about it. Amateur snark doesn't bother me. Getting the facts wrong does. Two more to go, BC.

Not being a dick to me or my creation is also essential.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to work I go...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #220

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I saw The Defenders before you did and here's what I thought of it!