Friday, January 21, 2022

GEORGE PEREZ

 

George Perez is the best of us.

When I say “us” in the above sentence, I am referring to all of the people who make up “comicdom.” The creators, the fans, the editors and publishers, retailers and their staffs, convention promoters, historians, filmmakers, performers and so on. Our little thing has certainly grown since Superman first leaped some tall building in pursuit of justice. It’s a big tent, but I don’t lightly single out my friend George as the best.

I spent a couple of days convincing myself that today’s opening was justified. That sentence came to me the moment I decided to write about George. I spent those couple of days trying to come up with another comics person who could hold that title and, though there were certainly some worthy candidates, it still came down to just George. The best of us.

George is beloved by his fans and loves them right back. He’s shown that over and over again. His love of comics shows in everything he has ever done, even his earliest works. He has always been the very model of a modern major creator: supremely talented, dependable and generous as all get out. He is a wonderful collaborator who earned the respect of everyone he’s teamed with. He’s contributed to many charities and gifted countless fans with terrific sketches. He’s freely given of his time and expertise to aspiring creators. Now, as he faces what none of us want to think about, the incredible regard with which his fans and fellow professionals hold him is becoming manifest.

I wish I could say I was a close friend of George’s. I didn’t do a lot of socializing within the industry when I lived and worked in New York City. I still don’t do a lot of that when I’m a guest at conventions. I’m kind of awkward and even shy when I’m not playing Tony Isabella. 

I’m told George is a fine actor. I suppose I’m an actor as well, who benefited from watching my boss, friend and mentor Stan Lee in action. I play a confident and hopefully entertaining Tony Isabella at public events. It’s a sham, but I’m coming clean before anyone figures it out for themselves. I’m not faking my love for my fans and comics in general. It’s the presentation that calls upon whatever meager acting skills I have.

George is an aspirational role model. I wish I was more like him.  I’m not sure I have ever seen him without a warming smile on his handsome face. I’m more sure that I’ve never heard or read of him having an unkind word for anyone. That’s a bridge too far for me, but I admire George for it.

One of my claims to fame is that I was there at the start of this great man’s career, although the first time we worked together was a thankless nightmare of a job. For history’s sake...

As editor of Monsters Unleashed, I plotted a Gulliver Jones story to be drawn by Rich Buckler. The plot was not one of my best, but, knowing Rich liked to involve himself in the stories beyond drawing them, I figured he would help me make the story better. Instead, with a deadline looming, he turned the job over to this young man he’d been working with.

George was saddled with a flawed plot and a crazy deadline. He did make the deadline, but the job wasn’t going to be a showpiece for him. I asked Doug Moench to script the story because he could do it so much faster than I could have. Feeling the looming deadline and not having access to stronger inkers, I gave that assignment to Duffy Vohland, a swell guy but not the inker George needed at that stage in his career. I don’t think I’ve looked at the story since I did the proofreading on it prior to publication.

I have a vague memory of someone approaching me at a convention and asking what I thought of George’s work. Exhausted after what was a very long day, I probably mumbled something less than complimentary about the work. The unkind comment got back to George.

I have another vague memory of, a couple years later, George asking me about the comment and asking me why I kept giving him work. My response was a flip “Well, I could tell you weren’t always going to suck.” I have less faith in this memory. Maybe my mind was trying to convince me that I was less of a dick than I probably was.

But I did give George more work, assigning him to “The Sons of The Tiger” feature in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. The series was a hot mess. I plotted the first story George drew and hired Bill Mantlo to script it and then continue as the regular writer.

The rest is history. Bill and George did amazing things with this series. They created the White Tiger, who may have been the first Puerto Rican super-hero in comics.

I got to work with George one more time before I fled from New York to move back to Ohio. Not the best career move I could have made, but it may well have saved my life.

                                                                                  



Roy Thomas had launched Unknown World of Science Fiction, a black-and-white magazine. He showed me a Michael Kaluta cover of a robot soldier and gave me the title - “War Toy” - and a line - “You don’t pin a medal on a tank!” I went to work.

Inspired by that cover, the line and my love of Robert Kanigher’s war stories over at DC Comics, I wrote my by-then-usual panel by panel, page by page plot. I didn’t not know Roy would give George that plot until I started getting the pencilled pages to script. I was blown away by those pages. I couldn’t script them fast enough. That’s how excited I was by what George had done.

                                                                             


George made a robot created for war so damned human. The military might have programmed courage into FM-1, but George programmed in all the humanity and tragedy I could have hoped for. His artistic
storytelling was right on the money and, of all the stories I did for the black-and-white magazines, “War Toy” remains my favorite.

I have never had the opportunity to work with George again. I wish I had. I have followed his career along with his many fans and have been amazed at all he’s done. His work alone earns him the rank of “comics legend” and the manner in which he has lived his life makes him the best of us all.

I’ve seen George at a few conventions here and there. Talked to him a bit. Not the long conversations I would have enjoyed, but I am glad for them. I was and am in awe of him.

George Perez is the best of us. I wish I could be more like him. I hope to be more like him in the future. Even if it’s just a little. Because even a little more George Perez, reflected in his life and the lives of those he has touched, can only be good for comics and good for the world.    


© 2022 Tony Isabella

Sunday, January 16, 2022

THINGS THAT PISSED ME OFF IN FEBRUARY 2016

When I first started doing the "Things That Make Me Happy" feature on my Facebook page, I would alternate it with "Things That Piss Me Off." I only did this twice. 

Here are the entries for February, 2016:

February 1: Editorial cartoonists commenting on the shapes/styles of the new Barbie dolls and using transsexuals as the punch lines. Pardon the expression, but you’re being dicks.

February 2: Opening the pre-viewed copy of A History of Violence I bought from Blockbuster a long time ago and finding there’s no disc in the case. I have too many unwatched DVDs. 

February 3: Supporting Kickstarter projects that take too long to get finished and sent to backers. Enough. I’ll buy this material when/if it’s finally published. 

February 4: Bongo Comics is canceling Bart Simpson with issue #100. They should replace it with an ongoing Lisa Simpson title.

February 5: Magazines and organizations that send “final” renewal notices on a weekly basis. I suspect they don’t know what the word “final” means.

February 6: Bernie/Hilary supporters who savage the candidate they don’t support. Either one would make a better President than their Republican opponents. If you think otherwise, you haven’t done your homework.

February 7: People who post “prison rape” comments or jokes on my Facebook page threads. Such posts are NEVER acceptable on my page.

February 8: Cyborg wearing a Black Vulcan shirt in his mini-series. He’s now my least favorite member of the Justice League.

February 9: Plumbing problems. This time, it’s two hot water valves that can’t be completely shut off. So it’s a double whammy. First, we pay the plumber. Then, next month, we pay the much higher than usual water bill..

February 10: The “bully” contingent of the Republican presidential field: Trump, Cruz, Christie. Not an ounce of decency or humanity in any of them.

February 11: Athletes and entertainers blessed with talent, wealth and fame who abuse such gifts via debauchery, drunkenness, drug use and other bad behavior. 

February 12: The disgustingly obscene amount of money squandered on political campaigns. Imagine all the good uses such money could be put to instead. 

February 13: People who believe in “religious freedom” but only for their religion.

February 14: People who claim to be pro-life when they are clearly only pro-fetus.

February 15: Bigots who try to position their bigotry as “religious freedom.” God and Godzilla both find you loathsome.

February 16: Sick days. I consider any illness an affront from the universe because of how it limits what I can accomplish that day.

February 17: Comic strips that run sideways, especially online. It is a major pain to turn my monitor so I can read them.

February 23: Advertising that wraps around a newspaper’s front page and obscures it. I have to remove the sheet before I can read that front page.

February 24: John Kaisch. He’s no moderate. His record on women’s health issues is ghastly and he undermines public education to benefit his charter school donors.

February 25: Getting poked on Facebook. It’s annoying and not even remotely cute. I deeply resent even the second it takes to ignore such nonsense. Poke me at the wrong time and you get un-friended.

February 26: Republicans who think the late Antonin Scalia should vote on pending Supreme Court cases from beyond the grave. I wish I was making this up.

February 29: Concrete floors at conventions. Yeah, I know they come with the venues, but, man, are they hard on my back, feet and legs. 

Hope you enjoy this blast from the past. I'll be back soon with new content.


Friday, January 14, 2022

WORKING MY WAY BACK TO YOU

I've had some medical issues since just after my December 22nd birthday. I'm hoping to get back to blogging soon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

THE BLOODTHIRSTY BEES

 

 

This is my round two with The Bloodthirsty Bees, a Chinese monster movie distributed by Youku and which I watched on YouTube a couple days ago. Writing about it is difficult because there’s nothing on the Internet Movie Database about the film. It had English-language sub-titles, but they were terse and not very helpful.  

Youku is a video hosting service in Beijing, China. It distributes a wide range of mostly Chinese movies around the world. These would include comedies, romances, historical action films, fantasies and what you and I would recognize as monster movies not unlike which used to be a regular feature on the Syfy Channel.

The Bloodthirsty Bees made its YouTube debut on December 1. Youku has come to realize there is a decent English-speaking audience for such films and included English-language subtitles. As I said, they weren’t the best subtitles, but they did help me figure out a lot of what was going on in the movie. There will be...

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Let’s start off with the best summary I can manage given the terse subtitles. A scientist has develop a way to breed bigger and better bees. Him being a benevolent man of science and all, I’m assuming he wants to feed the world.  But the bees turn out to be literal man-eaters, capable of stripping humans right down to the bones. They like their blood and beef.

The scientist’s boss is cool with the obvious military benefits of this development. Of course, they need to find a cure for the bee strings. Their soldiers will have the cure, but the enemy soldiers won’t. Does the Geneva Convention cover killer insects?

The secret laboratory is in a forest or jungle of some kind. After the bees escape, the scientist is hiding in the woods surrounding a small village. He doesn’t want his boss to get his notes and use them to weaponize the bees.

The hero of the story is a young man who becomes smitten with the scientist’s daughter. But there’s a riff between them because she is half-Japanese and the Japanese are definitely portrayed as very evil in this movie. It feels like the Chinese government may have had something to do with that propaganda, even only to the extent that the movie makers wanted to score brownie points.

The scientist’s daughter and his former student go looking for him with a few dozen soldiers and thugs. The daughter is a good person, the former student is a rotter. The villagers are good people who just want to live in peace, but they will fight to protect the ones they love.

The bees are two or three times the size of normal bees. Scary but mostly because of their numbers. For some unexplained reason, the queen bee is bigger than a large man and, unlike most queen bees, she doesn’t just stay at home and make baby bees.

The first fifteen minutes of the film are action-packed. The bees escape and kill some lab assistants before heading for the village. Many of the villagers are injured, but the body count appears to be low. But those who’ve been bitten by the bees come down with some sort of virus that is killing them. They then argue about getting vaccines for the virus and how that violates their freedoms. I’m just kidding. These are just simple villagers who know the value of medicine and science. They aren’t right-wing morons.

There’s a lot of filler between those opening minutes and the final battle between the bad guys and the villagers. We see the skeletons of some of the mercenaries and scientists, who must be more tasty than villagers.

We get the philosophical discussion of using the bees to produce food or using them for war. In that discussion, the people with the guns win and set out to find the queen bee’s nest. They need their special to make a cure, which they will test on the villagers and then kill them.

A familiar bit in these Chinese monster movies is for the bad guy to kill a couple of characters we don’t get to know well to force the lead good guys to do what the bad guy wants them to do. Which is find the nest for him.

The good guys escape. They find the nest. The bad guys track them to the nest. Fighting breaks out. An explosion takes out the queen bee and some of the bad guys. That surprised me. There was only one giant queen bee and there was still a lot of movie left.

However, more bad guys showed up to battle the villagers and grab the good scientist’s notes. Which include information on how these bees can be restored to normal. The villagers fight valiantly, but they don’t have guns or fancy swords.

The hero and the former student go at it a couple times. The former student tries to shoot the hero, but the scientist saves the hero by taking the bullet and dying. Slowly enough to solve the romantic problem by informing his daughter that she is really 100% Chinese. I admit the anti-Japanese propaganda was disturbing.

Though the queen bee is still dead, a horde of other killer bees descend on the village to dine out on the former student while the villagers make it to safety. It is now obvious disgusting villain meat tastes much better than decent villager meat. I’ll pass that cooking to Gordon Ramsey.

Using the scientist’s notes, the cure heals the villagers from the bee virus. The notes also reveal how to turn these man-eating bees back into friendly vegan bees. We learn this in a title card just before the credits roll.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
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SPOILERS OVER


I’m afraid The Bloodthirsty Bees represents around ninety minutes of my life I’ll never get back. I enjoy this type of a movie, but this one never clicked for me. The special effects were mediocre.  There were too many dull moments. I never felt I really got to know the characters. I can deal with bad special effects and bad pacing, but I need relatable human characters to make these movies work for me. I didn’t get them here.

I’ve got more news, views and reviews on tap as I work to get this blog back to the nigh-daily status it once had. Your comments are part of the process, so please let me know what you think of what I’m doing here.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.


© 2022 Tony Isabella

Saturday, January 1, 2022

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN DECEMBER

 

 

These monthly columns usually begin with my bemoaning the terrible stuff in my life and our country. However, it’s a new year and I’m changing that up. Less doom and gloom and more positivity.

I’m determined to hit the ground running in 2022. I’ll be finishing a consulting project, wrapping up some household business, writing Last Kiss cartoons, preparing for the online launch of some sort of Tony Isabella Store and starting work on the Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales that will launch in the spring if the weather permits.

There will be the usual “resolutions” that many people make. I’ll try to exercise and lose weight. My health is good for a man of my age, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. I’ll be downsizing all year long with the notion that, maybe a few years from now, I can move to an area somewhere better suited to my beliefs. I’ll try to be careful with money, assuming I actually make some this year. This includes not buying back issues of Candy, Gorgo, Kathy, Konga, Reptilicus or The Barker until I have figured out which issues of these titles I already have.  

I am in the process of working out an agreement with an agent who will manage my convention appearances and speaking engagements and pretty much any other appearance that involves my going somewhere to thrill both civilians and comics fans. In addition, I definitely want to explore acting as a side gig. Even if Stargirl showrunner Geoff Johns doesn’t cave to the millions of demands (pretty much all from me) that I play Al Pratt, the Justice Society member that the same millions are demanding to appear on that series. Anyway, once that agent/client agreement is fully in place, I’ll give you her contact information.

I’m going to launch a YouTube channel with my son Eddie. We’re not 100% sure what that will be about, but we think we can have fun and share that fun with you.

I’ve set myself the goal of writing three books in the first third of 2022. The first is a kaiju-themed children’s book. The second is the second volume of July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella. The third is the first in a series of books of my movie reviews with each volume having its own theme. I’ll be rewriting old reviews and writing new ones.

A further goal is to write the 48-page introductory issue for the new super-hero universe I’m creating. It’s unlike any super-hero universe you’ve ever seen. Once the issue is written, I’ll look for artists and publishers. If I win the lottery, I’ll self-publish it. I’ve set myself a July deadline for this.

I’m definitely open to paying comics writing gigs. On my schedule for the first few months of 2022 are several short horror stories. I will only be selling comic-book publication rights to these tales and retaining all other rights. I’ll also be seeking additional compensation should the publisher reprint my stories and, if said publisher should go out of business, the comic-book rights revert to me. That’s only fair.

Also in the first half of 2022, I’ll be writing the bible for this new TV series I’m creating for one of my Black Lightning friends. I’m know the chances of my selling such a series are low, but it’s something I think is worthwhile. I’ll also be following up on the pitch I wrote for a Black Lightning spin-off that’s...here is that phrase again...unlike any super-hero series you’ve even seen on TV or in the comics. If that pitch doesn’t get the green light, I’ll switch out the proprietary elements and develop it as a comic-book series or graphic novels.

I also be switching out proprietary elements from rejected pitches sent to DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I’ll work these pitches into their own things and see what I can do with them.

I know this sounds like an insane amount of work, but I’m tired of taking a back seat in the comics industry. If nothing else, when I pass, my heirs will have a trunk load of great ideas they sell to companies that like me better dead.

That was mostly positive, right?

Here are the things that made me happy in December...

December 1: The MAD Stocking Stuffer. This 96-page collection was a Giant Eagle impulse buy, but I’m enjoying the holiday heck out of it. Reprints or not, MAD continues to delight me.

December 2: Some Funko Christmas cheer for our mantle. It’s Batman as Ebenezer Scrooge. And now I know what I’d write if DC asked me to write a Batman Christmas story.

                                                                                 

 

December 3: Our other Funko holiday mantle piece is Wonder Woman with a string light lasso. Saintly Wife Barb has incorporated this figure and the Batman as Ebenezer Scrooge figure into our Christmas fireplace mantle display.

December 4: Despite my disturbing lack of funds, I’m further ahead on my holiday shopping than in any recent years within memory. If you don’t get a gift, it’s because you were naughty. If you do get a gift, you were really naughty. Cheers to all.

December 5: Saturday night monster flicks. I watched The Crawling Eye with my pal Svengoolie, followed by The Giant Gila Monster with Leopold and Lenore on The Big Bad B-Movie Show.

December 6: From Amazon, at around 9:45 this morning, I ordered a gift for a family member. It arrived at my front door three hours later. Does Amazon have a replicator and transporter? Is this Star Trek? What color shirt am I wearing?

                                                                           



December 7: From Funko Pop!, we have a new Christmas fairy for our mantle. Tinker Bell has long been one of my favorite Disney ladies. She deserves her own movie or, at least, a comic-book written by yours truly.

December 8: Medina’s The Exchange is part of a retail chain for new & used CDs & vinyl, plus movies, games & related collectibles. It has lots of cool stuff with a friendly and helpful staff. I think I’ll be visiting them more often.

December 9: Just call me Booster Old. I received my Moderna booster shot. My new vaccine nanobots are already making friends with my original vaccine nanobots, making my magnetic personality even more so. Science rules! Ignorance drools!

                                                                            


                                                                   

December 10: Jeffrey Brown’s Batman, Robin and Howard, a delightful DC Kids graphic novel. Brown portrays the two boys in a manner that rings true and Batman as a competent but sometimes befuddled dad. Great fun for all ages.

December 11: My 2022 New Year’s Resolutions are already in place. Three books in three months. I’ve started work on all three, but, having decided their order of completion, will concentrate on one a month starting in January.

December 12: Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. On December 22, I’ll be 70 years old. I never tire of people telling me I don’t look 70. Because most of the time I don’t feel 70. Especially when farts are involved. Then I’m 12.

                                                                               



December 13: Doubling as both host and musical guest, Billie Ellish was terrific on the December 11 Saturday Night Live. There were a number of great sketches on the show. Mark me down as entertained in Medina.

December 14: We’ve reached the semifinals of the two-week Jeopardy! Professors Tournament and the competition has been amazing from the start. I usually do pretty good playing at home, but these brainy contestants are leaving me in the dust.

December 15: Praise for comics artist Ron Garney from Keanu Reeves on the December 13 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.Garney is drawing the actor’s BRZRKR comic, which is co-written by Matt Kindt.

December 16: Malachi of Medina’s Holiday Hair. I’ve always gotten great haircuts from this fine establishment, but Malachi has kicked it up a notch for me. And given what he’s had to work with, he is remarkable. Thanks, sir.

                                                                                



December 17: The annual Holiday Herd Gathering. It’s always great to lunch with my brothers Bob Ingersoll, Roger Price and Thom “The Young One” Zahler, but especially near Christmas. May we enjoy many more of these.

December 18: For its last show of 2021, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert presented the animated cartoon “A Conspiracy Carol” wherein “Scrooge-Anon” - led by Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Green - tried to “Stop the Sleigh.” It was brilliant and hilarious.

                                                                                



December 19: Spider-Man: No Way Home is a deep dive into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its story is complicated but compelling with amazing performances and surprising humor that offsets dark drama.Too intense for wee kids, but recommended to all others.

December 20: Saturday Night Live’s 2021 Christmas show. Paul Rudd, a couple cast members and guests, pre-taped sketches, some classic sketches, two musicians, limited crew, no audience. It was still a wonderful celebration of the holidays and SNL itself.

December 21: My transgender friends inspire me. Their courage. Their determination to live as their true selves. Their resilience. Their kindness to and support for one another. Knowing them makes me better.

                                                                                 

 

December 22: The Isabella Family now has the 2021 Disney Holiday Funko Pop! It’s Donald Duck, captured here before he’s discovered the Christmas tree lights are tangled and some of the bulbs aren’t working. Hilarity will ensue.

December 23: On my 70th birthday, which was yesterday, I was again reminded how many terrific friends I’ve made through my comics and online activities, and from all walks of life. It remains the best present I could have received.

December 24: I wasn’t happy to go to the Brecksville MetroHealth ER yesterday with an inflammation of my right knee, but I did receive excellent care from the nurses and techs there. We’ll speak of the physician’s assistant another time.

December 25: Christmas at my brother Ernie’s. My goddaughter/niece Kara got married three weeks ago in Copenhagan and we finally got to meet her husband Nik. She’s terrific. He’s terrific. They make a terrific couple.


                                                                             



December 26: Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider has continued 2021's run of truly incredible contestants. She’s fun, inspirational and relatable. My wife and I are definitely on Team Amy.

December 27: Groo Meets Tarzan by Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier and Thomas Yeates. Lots of laugh out loud moments in these four issues. Downside. I can’t get invited to Comic-Con even when it’s fictional and in a comic book by friends of mine.

                                                                                



December 28: Stan Lee. The characters he created or co-created. His stories. His amazing dialogue. The conversations we had over the years. The things I learned from him. I believe I owe more to him than any other person in my life. Excelsior!

December 29: Fly Me to the Moon by Kenjiro Hata. In this manga’s fourth book, the romance between married virgins Nasa and Tsukasa is even cuter and sweeter on the road and in the borrowed apartment they must live in when their building burns down.

December 30: Amazon Customer Service Representative Melanie. There was a problem with a gift card I had purchased last month. It took just ten minutes from when I began chatting online with her for her to resolve the problem. Well done.

December 31: CSI Vegas delivered a mostly satisfying ending to its first revival season. I say “mostly” because I wanted the villain to suffer more. Great performances all around and I’m now invested in the new regulars.

Here’s wishing all of my readers a happy and prosperous 2022. May you and yours be safe.

May those trying to destroy democracy meet defeat in all their vile attempts. As Jor-El said, “They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way.”

May we all be that light. I’ll be back soon.

© 2022 Tony Isabella




Friday, December 31, 2021

GROO MEETS TARZAN...AND I WASN'T INVITED.

 

 

 

The four-issue Groo Meets Tarzan by Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier and Thomas Yeates [Dark Horse; $3.99 each] is the most awkward Groo crossover to date. It bounces back and forth between the adventures of Sergio and the title concept. All Groo adventures are somewhat unreal, but this one seems more so than usual.

We open at the non-existent 2021 Comic-Con in San Diego. I’m such a pro at not being invited to Comic-Con I can’t even get invited to  fictional Comic-Cons invented by friends of mine. I’m not even in any of the complex crowd scenes drawn by Aragones. I have a speech all ready if I win any awards, but I’m thinking I should run it in an upcoming blog so people can “enjoy” it while I’m still among the living. Anyway...

Sergio is excited about the Groo-Tarzan project, so much so that he goes to the dilapidated Chula Vista Jungle Safari to study animals there. This will lead to considerable hilarity, but I don’t want to give away any of the gags. Meanwhile, Mark is hosting dozens of panels while trying to find time to search for the missing Sergio.

We also get what I assume are Sergio’s dreams of what the Groo and Tarzan meeting will be like. The frequently cut to Groo being Groo and Tarzan being Tarzan before they meet. All of the Tarzan scenes and images are drawn by Yeates and they are pretty darn gorgeous.When the two characters meet, Groo is clueless and Tarzan is very confused. But the Lord of the Jungle does manage to accomplish his mission with some insane help from Groo.

I’m not a big fan of crossovers. Several times during these issues, the script makes light of crossovers. This crossover works for me because it’s knowingly silly. The next time DC or Marvel decides to launch one of their massive crossover events in their respective universes, events which will inevitably turn out to me dumb, they should hire Sergio and Mark to do them. Heck, Sergio is fast enough to do the crossover and its spinoff issues and Mark...just needs a shove like this to go completely mad.

I got a kick out of Groo Meets Tarzan. Groo fans will love it and Tarzan fans will be entertainingly confused. My wife and kids will be sad that I wasn’t invited to Comic-Con 2021, but they should be used to that by now.

Groo Meets Tarzan [$19.99] will be collected in a trade paperback, scheduled to be published in March, 2022.

ISBN 978-1506722375  

                                                                           



Tales from Harrow County Volume 1: Death's Choir by Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook and Naomi Franquiz [Dark Horse; $17.99) brings us back to Harrow County. In the original 32-issue Harrow County series, eighteen-year-old witch Emmy Crawford discovered how fraught with supernatural beings and forces her county was. She fought the evil, protecting innocent humans and creatures alike. Then Emmy Crawford left the county.  This trade collects the initial spin-off story arc. From Amazon:

Ten years have passed since Emmy exited Harrow County, leaving her close friend Bernice as steward of the supernatural home. But World War II is in full swing, taking Harrow's young men and leaving the community more vulnerable than ever--and when a ghostly choir heralds the resurrection of the dead, Bernice must find a solution before the town is overrun.

Bernice has grown into her own heroine and drives this story. She is compassionate and courageous as she fights for her loved ones.As with the original series, there is serious supernatural peril. There are moments of often-bittersweet love and longing. There is a feeling that this has happened for real in the past, a reality enhanced by Bunn’s moody writing and Franquiz’s drawings. It has a satisfying ending that definitely opens the door for more Harrow County tales. I want to read them all.

ISBN 978-1-50671-681-7


                                                                                   



Marvel’s Savage Avengers is coming to an end and I will miss this goofy series, which has basically consisted of Conan teaming with other “Avengers” to fight sorcerers and such in our modern times. I’m not even sure if Conan is actually an Avenger or if the title was chosen for sales appeal. I’m not even sure if his teammates are Avengers. I am sure I don’t actually care.

Savage Avengers Vol. 4: King In Black [$17.99] is written by Gerry  Duggan with art by Kev Walker and Patch Zircher. It collects issues #17-22. It’s part of the “King in Black” event, but, since one of the members of the team is a symbiote, it doesn’t bother me as much as other parts of the event. From the back cover:

Conan is imprisoned on Ryker’s Island — but he promptly breaks out with the help of Deadpool! The taciturn barbarian and the Merc with a Mouth make for a very odd couple of warriors — but a very effective one as well, as they prove when the King in Black and his symbiotes invade Earth! Meanwhile, Conan makes a surprising discovery that may help him overcome another dark threat — the sorcerer Kulan Gath! But what part of the barbarian’s plan involves a heist of the Hellfire Club? Prepare for Conan and Deadpool to set sail…with the Marauders! Then, a riotous team-up between Conan and the Rhino goes wrong — when Spider-Man threatens to ruin their good time! The legendary barbarian continues his savage rampage across the Marvel Universe!

Conan robbing and then claiming possession of the Hellfire Club is pretty funny stuff. In fact, much of Conan’s trips through our times are amusing. We’re not talking Groo-level silliness, but it frequently makes me smile.

That’s what I’m going to miss. The outlandish premise and team-ups. That the book is largely self-contained and, while doling out lots of action, doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think the industry can use more titles like this.

For reasons unknown to me, this trade volume seems to be in short supply and expensive. I borrowed a copy I read via my local library system. It’s also available on Kindle. There may be some reasonably priced copies on the secondary market, but a cursory search didn’t turn up any. Good luck hunting one down.

ISBN 978-1-302-92629-8


                                                                                



Sometimes I really enjoy Silk and sometimes I don’t. When Silk is doing down-to-earth adventuring and crime-fighting and living and working for a more benign than usual J. Jonah Jameson, I like her series. When it goes to alien dimensions and clones, I’m very much less enthusiastic.

For those of you who haven’t masted the variety of Spider-heroes in the Marvel Universe, Silk (Cindy Moon) is a young Korean-American woman who was bit by the same radioactive spider that bit our pal Peter Parker. She got somewhat different powers than Peter, had a bit of trouble controlling them, picked up a mentor who protected her from an enemy by putting into a bunker for several years. When she emerged, her family was missing, she had various adventures and ended up working for both S.H.I.E.L.D. and JJJ’s Fact Factory news site. She’s a likeable young hero.

Silk Vol. 3: The Clone Conspiracy [Marvel; $17.99] was published in 2017. Written by Robbie Thompson with art by Irene Strychalski and Tana Ford, this volume collects issues #14-19. Most of the stories involve clones of dead people and some awkward interactions between Cindy and her family. Her parents were in another dimension and her brother is recovering from health issues he acquired when he drank a form of the Green Goblin serum and joined a criminal gang.

Sigh. Clones and alien dimensions. I liked Thompson’s writing. I liked the art as well. But those killer tropes made reading this volume a chore. All the same, I’d be up for more Silk collections if Marvel publishes them.

ISBN: 978-1-302-90593-4

That’s all for this time. I’ll be back soon with more news, views and reviews. Have a Happy New Year!
 
© 2021 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

BATMAN THE WORLD...IS NOT ENOUGH

 

 

If you’re a devoted of nuance-challenged rumor and gossip websites, you may well believe I hate Batman. Except Batman was my favorite comics hero when I was a kid and what I hate is how DC’s shock-and-awe editorial directions have turned my childhood icon into one of the most toxic characters in comics. Well that and DC’s foul habit of making Black Lightning subservient to Batman.

Reality is me reading more Batman comic books than almost any other mainstream headliner. Because I’m always hoping for DC to finally figure Batman out. Because I’m always looking for Batman material I’ll enjoy, such as Batman and Robin and Howard, an excellent kids graphic novel by Jeffrey Brown.

Batman the World [$24.99] is a collection of fourteen stories from fourteen countries and fourteen creative teams. The countries are the US, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia,  Turkey, Poland, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea, China and Japan. Some of the writers and artists have worked in American comics. Others are new to our nation’s comics industry. The US offering is by far the weakest story in the hardcover anthology, but the other tales are, at the very least, interesting.

While I won’t go story by story, the ones I found most intriguing and entertaining were those that most firmly embraced their nation of origin in style and subject matter. When I say Batman the World is not enough, it’s because I want to see more from these global  creative teams.

Since there is apparently no limit to how many Batman comics DC is willing to publish, I’d like to suggest an ongoing Batman the World title. Maybe a series of 48-page issues that would give the various creators more room to work with. Maybe, as with the Legends of the Dark Knight series of the past, an ongoing title that would devote multiple issues to a Batman story by a creative team. I think such an effort would sell well around the world. Even someone like me, who reportedly hates Batman, would buy that title.

I can hear you thinking, “Tony, why are you giving terrific ideas to DC Comics for free?” Well, you may have noticed that I am often critical of DC Comics. It’s subtle, but it’s there. I feel I should balance that with suggestions to make the company better. To lead them out of their self-imposed darkness.

What can I say? I’m a giver.

ISBN 978-1-77951-227-7


                                                                        


Via my local library system, I’m catching up on the recent Batman series. Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey [$24.99] collects Batman #106-111 as well as material from Infinite Frontier #1. It’s not the most accessible of runs, but I’m managing.

The things I liked included Batman being somewhat better than he’s been; Barbara Gordon having her cake and eating it too by operating  as both Oracle and one of three Batgirls; and Tynion navigating the
uncomfortable notion of Harley Quinn as former murderer and current would-be hero. As much as I love redemption stories, Harley’s has been tough to swallow. But there’s something about the character, most definitely including that she is also a victim, that allows me to enjoy her journey.

The things I didn’t like included yet another evil politician with his own brutal agenda for Gotham City and the extreme brutality of these stories. I’m not wild about the Ghost-Maker, mostly because I think he represents another bad choice by a Batman who still does not have his act together. I’m just a bit less not wild about the Unsanity Collective...because in a real world that includes QAnon and other offshoots of the criminal Republican Party, the idea of a group trying to convince Gotham’s citizens to alter their basic perceptions of reality doesn’t seem that outlandish.

I don’t love these current Batman comics. I find them readable at best. But I’m hoping the series and the title character are moving towards a better version of my old favorite.

ISBN 978-1-77051-198-0

                                                                           


  

I’m also using my library to catch up on various Marvel comic-book series. I’ve been enjoying Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky, even though elements of it confuse and frighten me. Mike Murdock is an actual person? The Kingpin is mayor of New York? Elektra is rich enough to outbid Tony Stark and essential buy Hell’s Kitchen?

I just read Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Vol. 6: Doing Time [$15.99], which collects Daredevil #26-32 from the series that began in 2019. Here’s the Amazon summary, which does contain some spoilers:

A new Daredevil rises to protect Hell’s Kitchen! Matt Murdock is in jail — but while he’s serving his time in his masked guise, his home is left without a guardian devil. That is, until Elektra Natchios takes it upon herself to protect Murdock’s neighborhood — and his legacy — and dons a new look as the Woman Without Fear! But the new Daredevil has her work cut out for her: Wilson Fisk remains seated as New York’s mayor, with Typhoid Mary, the Owl, Hammerhead and other lethal villains at his beck and call…and that’s before Knull, the terrifying King in Black, plunges the world into darkness! Elektra may be in over her head for the first time in her life — while Matt must find the strength to continue the fight as all hell breaks loose in prison!

I like most of what is going on the book. Matt is trying to make a point by serving time for killing an innocent man, but that might not have been his best course of action. Elektra is trying to live by Matt’s code of honor regarding killing people and that has been fun and a little inspirational.

The series does get upended for an issue or so by the monumentally moronic “King in Black” event. I’m not a fan of such events as they tend to derail even terrific titles. I prefer Daredevil and other titles to stay in their own lines. However, these silly things do seem to create temporary sales spikes for Marvel and, much as I’d like to see them go away, we’ll almost certainly keep seeing two or three of them a year. Sigh.

ISBN 978-1-302-92609-0

That’s all for tonight. I’ll be back as soon as possible with more news, views and reviews.

© 2021 Tony Isabella