Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I'LL RETURN IN MARCH

Some quick updates:

I'm very excited about returning to Pensacon for my fourth year in a row. Be sure to check out my previous bloggy thing for the skinny on that fantastic event. I'm spending today and tomorrow getting ready for what I know will be a fun weekend.

Full-size bloggy things will return on or about March 1. It's no secret I've been struggling with stuff for the past few months. I am dealing with a variety of issues, which include incredible anger at the Dumpster President and his vile followers, more than a few concerns/hassles with the comic-book  industry, and a couple personal matters. 

Don't fret. I'll get it all sorted out. I always do.

I am making some changes to my schedule in the hopes of getting myself and my life on a more even keel. I'm not canceling any convention or other appearances. Indeed, I'll be adding some events very soon. 

Things like interviews and podcasts are on the back burner for now. I'm committed to doing some of these in March. 

I have all sorts of "odds and ends" to handle over the next few weeks. These are things I want to get off my "to do list" by the end of March, clearing the decks for new projects. Whatever those projects turn out to be.

If you're waiting on something from me, I'll try to contact you either before I leave for Pensacon or shortly after my return from Pensacon.

If you want to contact me about anything, the best way to do so is via e-mail. Not via Facebook or Twitter or even comments to this blog. E-mail me. It helps me keep track of stuff.

Thanks for your continued patience and support. Always forward.

Tony Isabella

Sunday, February 17, 2019

PENSACON: PENSACOLA COMIC CON 2019

I’m so excited! My next convention appearance is Pensacon, one of my favorite annual events and also one of the best-run shows in the country. This will be my fourth year in a row and, this year, I’ll be accompanied by my son Eddie. One of the great joys of my current “fame” is that I get to share the best parts of my career with my family. Because any success I’ve achieved is due in no small part to their love, patience and support.

Pensacon runs from Friday, February 22 (starting at 1 pm) through Sunday, February 24 (ending at 6 pm). Spread out over the Pensacola Bay Center, Pensacola Grand Hotel, Rex Theatre, Pensacola Little Theatre and the Saenger Theatre, the convention features a terrific roster of guests, events, gaming, cosplay and much more. Here’s the Pensacon mission statement:

To create the best multi-genre convention that is unique to the Pensacola community and that is a safe and welcoming environment for all types of fans.
 
Pensacon has an equally lofty vision statement:

Pensacon strives to be all inclusive by seeking out popular artists, actors, writers, and creators that all contribute to their respective fandom and allow fans to interact with them as well as to create events that cater to all types of fans. Pensacon creates a safe environment for all types of fandom to express themselves, free from bullying or harassment. Pensacon provides a place for fans to form a community in which they have the best experience possible. Pensacon endeavors to be a unique event in Pensacola by reaching out to the local community to create an environment that we would never be able to achieve by ourselves.

If you’ll pardon me continuing in this vein as a prelude to writing about the event itself, Pensacon’s values could be a model for all such conventions:

Pensacon was created with the idea of making a convention where people of all types of fandoms can enjoy interacting with popular representatives of those fandoms and with each other. As such, we are guided by a set of principles in every decision we make.

Pensacon will create a safe, fun, and welcoming environment for all types of fandoms.

Pensacon has a strict non-discrimination policy regarding gender, sexual identity, age, race, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, physical appearance, veteran status, or interest in any specific fandom.

Pensacon will act with integrity and honor in all manners of business with guests, vendors, sponsors, attendees, venues, partners, and community at large.

Pensacon will promote a sense of community in Pensacola and foster open and honest communication between all guests, citizens, and businesses.

Pensacon will always abide by all federal, state, and local laws.

Pensacon expects anyone representing Pensacon, be they staff, volunteers, vendors, sponsors, or venues to abide by these values.
 
One of the things I love most about Pensacon is the way the city takes part in the event. When you land at the airport, you’ll find the “gates” are now “stargates” and there are dozens of images and quotes from comics and science fiction on the walls. Several restaurants will adopt genre themes during the weekend. In previous years, that has included super-heroes, super-villains, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and others.

The guest list is so large that I couldn’t possibly list everyone  who will be at Pensacon. In fact, when I started making a list of just some of the guests, I realized even that truncated list would run to several dozen names. There are over 150 guests from comics, movies, television, cartoons, fantasy, science fiction, wrestling, cosplay and more. The only thing making me sad about this amazing list of people is that my being behind my guest table and appearing on a number of panels will prevent me from meeting and spending time with most of them.

Pensacon has a great program of panels, games and movies. It has an amazing team of volunteers to keep everything running smoothly. It has a huge vendors area featuring all sorts of cool collectibles. The convention also offers after hours events. I get dizzy thinking about all the things I want to do and maybe a little depressed when I realize I won’t have time to do them all. But it won’t be for lack of trying.

I’m scheduled to appear on four panels over the weekend. Here’s the skinny on them:

FRIDAY

Civil Rights and Social Justice Movements as Reflected in Comic Books


4-4:45 PM

Grand Hotel 1st Floor Room C

Artists and writers create art that is a reflection of the world and the times that they lived through. We will examine comic books that were created during the civil rights movements, the stonewall riots, World War I and II, and countless other periods of strife in the world in an effort to see how these periods and movements were represented in the pages of our comics. We will pay particular attention to the Civil Rights movement, the women's movement, and LGBTQIA fight for equality and how they have been represented.

The panel is run by Thomas Strange, Mike Manning, Thomas Boucher and Joshua Opper from Outside the Long Box. I’ll be appearing with Kevin Grevioux of comics and other media fame. It’s been too long since I’ve had a chance to sit down with my friend Kevin.

SATURDAY

Marvel Monster Comics


2:45-3:30 PM

Grand Hotel 1st Floor Room C

Join Tony Isabella and stellar artist Mark Maddox as they take a look at monsters published by Marvel Comics in the late 1950s and the 1960s.

[I’m putting together the scans for this presentation even as you read today’s bloggy thing. I’m especially pleased to be able to cut through the less-than-accurate conventional history and talk about the instrumental roles Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby and others played in this monstrously fun era of Marvel Comics.]

SUNDAY

Writing for Comic Books


2:45-3:30 PM

Saenger Theatre 2nd Floor Room A

How does one write for comic books? Join this panel of professional comic book writers as they discuss their craft and careers.

Guests: Tony Isabella, Barry Gregory, Kevin Grevioux, Steve Horton, Ande Parks

Attack of the Cheese Monsters

5:15-6:00 PM

Grand Hotel 1st Floor Room B

What’s your favorite cheesy movie? Our panelists will discuss their favorites, digging into the past with classic bad sci-fi flicks. Hosted by Anthony Taylor, the panel includes yours truly, Mark Maddox and artist Mitch Byrd.

I’ll be spending much of my non-panel time at my table. Pensacon’s “Artist Alley” is on the top floor of the Pensacola Bay Center. From there, you can see the vendors area on the main floor. Just outside the Artist Alley is a very nice food court filled with all sorts of stuff to eat and drink. I have a vague memory there were also some food trucks outside the Bay Center last year.

Because I’m flying to Pensacon, I’m limited in what I can bring to sell. The Isabella items will likely include Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, Black Lightning, Black Lightning Volume Two, July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella and an assortment of posters and prints. If I can get to Mail Boxes Etc. before I leave for Florida, I'll also have copies of my script for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. I do charge for my signature, but I think my prices are very reasonable:

Any items purchased from me: no charge.

All other items: $5 each.

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

Photos are free.


If you’re cosplaying at Pensacon, especially if you’re cosplaying as a character I created or wrote, please stop by my table so I can get a photo with you for my blog, my Facebook page, my Twitter feed and just to show my family and friends the cool people I hang out with at conventions.

If you want to interview me at Pensacon, I’ll do my level best to accommodate you.

That’s all I got for this Pensacon preview bloggy thing. For more, go to the Pensacon website.

In other news...

I’ve been going through some stuff this year, none of it anything you should be concerned about. However, it has put me off my bloggy thing game. I hope I’ll be able to resume regular blogging in the very near future. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and your many messages of love, respect and support. Comic books ain’t a game for the weak, but it’s my fans and friends who have always kept me going. You’re the best!

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, February 11, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #292

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The Unknown Anti-War Comics, edited by Craig Yoe and featuring comics by Steve Ditko, Joe Gill, Denny O’Neil and more; The Con Artist, a murder mystery by Fred Van Lente that's set at Comic-Con; and Supers: A Little Star Past Cassiopeia by Frédéric Maupomé with art by Dawid: http://blog.talesofwonder.com/?p=1361
                                                                                  
                                                                                

Sunday, January 27, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #291

New in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder: Superman: The Golden Age Dailies: 1944-1947 by Alvin Schwartz and Wayne Boring; Voyage to the Deep with art by Sam Glanzman; Luke Cage: Everyman by Anthony Del Col and Jahnoy Lindsay: http://blog.talesofwonder.com/?p=1354

                                                                                 
                                                                             


TONY GOES TO FREELAND: PART THREE

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

I flew to Atlanta/Freeland to attend the Black Lightning season two wrap party. It was sensational, which you already know from reading previous installments of this series. Sunday was a day of rest for the fine folks who work on the show. Now it’s Monday, January 7, and I’m heading to the Black Lightning set in Decatur.

One caveat before I begin in earnest. I did not take notes while on the set. I took few photos. I figured I could either experience my time on the set or record it. Because we never know where life will take us and I can’t know for certain if I will ever again have the opportunity to visit the set, I chose to experience over record. We continue...

Amber was my Lyft driver. She’s an aspiring actress and singer who has done some background work on various things filmed in Atlanta. She has friends who have been extras on Black Lightning. We had a great conversation on the way to the studio. I arrived there a bit after nine in the morning.

We got to the studio gate. The guard asked me what I was there for and I told him “Black Lightning.” He asked what I was doing on the show and I told him I created the character. He smiled. Apparently, people knew I was coming. The guard directed me to a single-story office building on the other end of the small parking lot.

It was the Freeland Gazette building seen in the series. Probably used for exterior shots. Inside, the office struck me as space that could be used for the newspaper or Freeland police station if needed. Which I thought was pretty cool.

Jamon Brown, assistant to show runner Salim Akil and the co-writer of “The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Three: Angelitos Negros,” came the office to greet me. He’d been on the set where he’d been working since eight that morning.
                                                                               

Jamon made my trip to Freeland possible. He recommended hotels. He gave me addresses for the wrap party and the studio. He guided me to and through the set where we’d be filming that day. He directed me to an office to use while I was at the studio. That’s right. I had an office. Not that I spent more than five minutes in it during the two days I was there. The office was nice; the sets were where the cool stuff was happening.

Sidebar. When I use the “we” during this bloggy thing, as in “where we’d be shooting,” it’s usually inaccurate. I had no role in the work of the finale episode. I was a spectator. Yet everyone on the set made me feel so welcome it was if I was part of their team. I cherish that kindness more than I can express.

My first impression of the set was that it was enormous and dark. There were two of these buildings. The one I spent most of my time in on Monday also had a large construction area where the sets and related props were build. The one across from that first building held more sets and the large lunch room.

Jamon set me up with a chair right behind Salim Akil, the director of the finale, and the bank of monitors on which we would watch the scene being filmed. There were two monitors in front of him. Over on his right side, the script supervisor was keeping track of the scenes and the takes. Over to his left was a monitor which showed what was on four different cameras. On the other side of this bank of monitors, there were too more monitors for what seemed to be the lighting of the scenes. I’m probably getting some of this wrong on account of I was fascinated to the point of being dazzled. I never realized how complicated even the simplest take could be.

Sidebar. When Mara Brock Akil came to the set later in the day, she asked me if watching all of this had stripped the magic away from the show for me. I said it only made me realize how much work goes into every part of the show. It will always be magic to me.

Here’s a short version of how scenes were filmed. There would be a very brief rehearsal. Stand-ins would be placed on marks to determine the camera angles and lighting. With the actors (or their stunt doubles) on set, the scenes would be filmed over and over again. Different angles, close-ups, far shots, maybe a slightly different reading of a line, maybe a flub, maybe marking tape on the floor that was visible to the camera. I was amazed at how the actors could do their thing over and over again and maintain the same energy. All the different takes give the editors what they need to create the final version of each scene.

If I was wide-eyed by what the actors were doing, I was in awe of all the different elements which Salim and his crew had to keep track of during the filming. Sometimes a take would be just a couple of lines. Sometimes it would involve more action. Sometimes it would involve stunt work. All of which would then be brought together for our entertainment when the episodes airs.

That Monday, I saw three actors at work. Marvin Jones (Tobias Whale), Kearran Giovanni (Cutter) and a third actor whose name I’m not going to reveal because it would give away a surprise coming in an episode which has not yet aired.

There were three Tobias Whales on the set. Besides Marvin, we had a stunt double and a stand-in. This would also be the case with the other main cast members on Tuesday.

Sidebar. Monday was Kearran’s last day of shooting. Her character had a stunt and she did it herself. Very impressive.
                                                                                

During breaks, I got to hang out with Marvin quite a bit. As I’ve told him before, I like his Tobias Whale better than any of those I’ve written in the comics. His Tobias is arguable the most scary villain on TV, but Marvel is the nicest guy in the world.

Sidebar. Tobias Whale is not an albino in my Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands series. I made the change because it seemed to me that just about every albino in comic books was a villain. When I heard Marvin was dismayed by this change, I promised him I would create an albino super-hero. Had DC allowed me to continue writing Black Lightning, that character would have been introduced as one of several young heroes being trained by Amberjack and Jefferson.

With DC showing no interest in my writing Black Lightning comics in the future, I decided to retool this supporting character into a headliner. On the set, after Marvin told he hoped he would get the chance to play this character, my new hero’s age went from around 17 to approximately Marvin’s age. This demands further retooling of my original concept and it’s one of the things I’m working on right now. I don’t yet know how I’ll bring this new character to readers, but I’ll deal with that when I’m ready. End of sidebar.
                                                                                

Oz Scott, a co-executive producer and director for Black Lightning, took me on a tour of the various sets. I’m going to be a little bit limited in what I can tell you about because I don’t want to give away of the surprises awaiting you in the remaining episodes of the second season.
                                                                                   

Gambi’s Tailor Shop was one of the first sets we visited. It has a secret door and stairs leading to the sanctum. This is where Gambi and the team do their intelligence-gathering and store the suits. On the back lot, there’s an outside storefront for Gambi’s tailor shop. Though the back lot sets look very real, they are basically props and have to be covered and protected during inclement weather and between seasons.
                                                                               
                                                                                 
The Club 100 set was where some of the crew, stand-ins and others would hang out. Almost every time I walked into the set, somebody was resting in one of the booths. The nightclub in Luke Cage is a show palace. Club 100 has that lived-in look.

Across the way, I saw the Pierce family house, which is gorgeous. I also saw the house Jefferson inherited from his dad. Other sets: the entrance to Garfield High, complete with metal detectors; some Garfield classrooms/halls/offices; the laboratory where Lynn cares for the suspended animation metahumans; the meeting room where Lynn had so many tense discussions with Agent Odell; some secret tunnels I can’t talk about; Khalil’s bedroom and Grace’s bedroom. The art in Grace’s bedroom is lovely and helps define her character.

With filming for the second season concluded, all of the sets will be put into storage of one kind or another. Some will be moved to other areas of the enormous buildings. Some will be covered to keep them safe for next season. Props will be removed from the sets and also put into storage. Honestly, it was difficult for me to think about this too much. I can’t imagine a sadder job then closing up the sets for such a wonderful show and turning out the lights as you leave. But, then again, I get a little weepy whenever I watch  the Babylon 5 station get decommissioned and destroyed on that fine series. I’m an emotional kind of guy.

Throughout the day’s shooting, crafts services did an amazing job of providing lots of drinks, healthy foods and some not precisely healthy pastries for us. It took great will power for me to resist drinking and eating too much on the set.

Lunch was in the building opposite the one where we were shooting. The caterers put out a great spread. I ate with Christine Adams, who wasn’t filming that day but was on set to check on her shooting schedule and hang out a bit. Digital Imaging Technician and comics fan Justin Paul Warren also sat with us. I’d heard about the family and friends vibe on the series and can confirm that it’s there and it’s beautiful.

Sidebar. I had something interesting planned for Lynn Stewart had DC Comics allowed me to write an ongoing Black Lightning series. I told Christine about it at the Washington D.C. premiere of the show last January. She liked it a lot. Well, fortunately, I never even hinted at those plans in the actual comic books - though they were part of my numerous pitches for an ongoing series - so I’m free to develop them in other ways. Keep watching.

Justin is one of us. I loved talking with him on the set and hope to spend more time with him in the future. While most of the folks working on the show are not comic-book fans per se, a great many of them are. I signed a few dozen comics and books during my two days on the set.

After lunch, it was back to the scenes being filmed with Tobias and Cutter. I got to chat with Kearran a bit between takes. She loves being part of the series and was excited about her upcoming stunt. I chatted with countless other crew members as well. Okay, I guess I could have counted them, but I was in awe from the moment I came on to the sets to the moment I left on Tuesday. It was a blessing to be there and a greater blessing to have so many members of the cast and crew thank me for creating Black Lightning and, because of that, creating their jobs. I thanked them as well...for making my long held dream of a Black Lightning TV series come to reality in such a spectacular fashion.

The Black Lightning team worked a very long day. For many of them, the day started at 8 am and didn’t end until 10:30 pm. I didn’t do any of the work and I was exhausted.

Jamon arranged for studio transportation to drive me to my midtown Atlanta hotel. I had a late-night phone conversation with Saintly Wife Barb and then hit the sack. I’d been warned Tuesday was going to be an even longer day on the set.

I’ll be back soon with the next part of this report.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

           

Friday, January 25, 2019

NORTH TEXAS COMIC BOOK SHOW (UPDATED)

The North Texas Comic Book Show is my first convention appearance of the new year. It will be held on February 2 and 3 at the Irving Convention Center, 500 West Las Colinas Boulevard in Irving, Texas. This event prides itself on “putting comics back into comic cons” and will host a fantastic roster of comic-book writers and artists. That guest list includes a “Kraven’s Last Hunt” reunion of writer J.M. DeMatteis, penciler Mike Zeck and inker Bob McLeod. “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is one of the most renown Spider-Man sagas of all time. The story is available in several different volumes, which should make getting a copy of one of them before the convention a pretty easy task.

Neal Adams leads the rest of the guest list. Currently scheduled to appear are Joe Staton, Larry Hama, Keith Pollard, Al Milgrom, Randy Emberlin, Graham Nolan, Denys Cowan, Aaron Lopresti, John Beatty, Rudy Nebres, Larry Stroman, Scott Koblish, Michael Golden, Arthur Suydam, Tim Vigil, Amy Chu, Bill Reinhold, Linda Lessmann Reinhold, Elliot S! Maggin and Arthur Mangum. Also in attendance will be ace cosplayers British Pixie and Doctor Cosplay.

I’m scheduled to do two panels during the weekend. On Saturday, at 11 am, I’ll be appearing on a “Diversity in Comics” panel. This is a subject dear to my heart. I’m excited about the new creators and characters who have been coming into the comics industry as it embraces inclusion to a greater degree than ever before.

At high noon on Sunday - this is Texas, after all - the convention will host a hopefully lively conversation focusing on my life-long love of comics and my 46 years in the industry. Save for where I’m restricted by non-disclosure agreements, I’ll do my level best to answer your questions in a honest, straightforward manner.

The rest of my time at the event, when I’m not chatting with the many old friends on the guest list, I’ll be sitting behind my table signing Tony Isabella stuff and selling the Tony Isabella items I was able to fit into my suitcase. These items will likely include Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, Black Lightning, Black Lightning Volume Two, July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella and an assortment of posters and prints. I do charge for my signature, but I believe my prices are quite reasonable:

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.


As always, I can make myself available to be interviewed by local media and others. The same goes for comics editors or publishers who want to work with me. I ask you e-mail me well before the con to schedule any interviews and meetings.

The general admission hours of the North Texas Comic Book Show are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Two-day tickets are $35. One-day tickets are $20 per day. Kids twelve and under are free. On Sunday, active military, police and firefighters get a $5 discount.

If you want to take advantage of the show’s early-bird admission on Saturday with entry between 9:15 and 9:45 am, that ticket will be $55 (including general admission). You can get the Saturday early-bird admission with two-day general admission for $65. Barring any unexpected circumstances, I should be at my table in time for the early-bird crowd.

This is my first appearance in Texas in decades. How many decades? I can’t remember. Maybe sometime in the 1980s? Your guess is almost certainly as good as mine. I’m looking forward to this event and to meeting my readers. Hope to see you there.

For more information on the event, go to the official North Texas Comic Book Show website: https://www.comicbooksdallas.com

******************************
Life’s little annoyances have been getting between me and my bloggy thing. However, at this time, I’m well into the continuation of my series on my visit to the Black Lightning set. I hope to bring you that next installment tomorrow. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

           

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

UPDATE

The bloggy thing will return with new posts, but I don't have a definite return date at this time. Since returning from Atlanta, my life has been insane. Minor medical issues. Scheduling appointments for those minor medical issues. Dealing with insurance issues over the damage done to my SUV when a clueless person backed into it. Scheduling repairs to my SUV. Plus a host of other of little and large   annoyances. 

I am not cancelling any February convention appearances. I will be postponing or cancelling some other things that were under discussion. 

Essentially, I need to get my house in order so that I can move on to exciting new projects.

Thanks for your continued patience.