Wednesday, August 31, 2011


When I resumed writing this blog, I fell into my bad old habit of
looking at something or reading something and thinking, “I should
write about that in the blog.”  This is a sure recipe for creating
an unsightly pile of stuff.  However, this time, unlike all those
other times - yeah, right - I’m determined to whittle down the pile
to a manageable size. Starting today.

With the occasional break for longer pieces and longer reviews, I’m
going to chop away at the “I should write about that” pile of stuff
until it surrenders or, at least, becomes a much smaller pile of
stuff.  Wish me luck.


Courtesy of the Cleveland area library system, I’ve been reading an
awful lot of wonderful comics material written by Warren Ellis.  On
rare occasion, I come across a work that’s too mean-spirited for my
taste.  However, for the most part, I am entertained and slightly
in awe of the things Ellis does really well.

Ellis’ command of science, real and imagined, impresses me much the
way a cigarette lighter would impress a fearful Neanderthal. Comics
like Ocean, Orbiter, and The Ministry of Space are among the Ellis
works I’ve enjoyed of late.  If someone were to make the statement
that Ellis is the best science fiction writer in comics, I’d likely
nod in agreement.

Sometimes it’s the storytelling that excites me.  Fell and Global
are among my favorite Ellis comics both for their stories
and how those stories are told.  Quick, to the point, but including
every bit of information the reader needs.  I’m currently awaiting
the third volume of Freakangels, which is giving me a lot to think
about as I consider a web-comic series of my own.

I don’t have a clever ending for this item. But I will continue to
request Ellis books from the library.  I suspect it will me a long
time before I get through all of them.


The Avengers has been filming in Cleveland, Ohio for several weeks
with comics guy Mike Sangiacomo and fellow Plain Dealer reporters
doing an excellent job covering the shoot.  I don’t know when I’ve
had so much fun reading a series of newspaper articles.

What I didn’t know until this week is that a second movie has been
filming in my birthplace as well.  Two weeks into a six-week shoot,
I, Alex Cross will be the third movie based on the James Patterson
novels about a detective/psychologist who works with the police and
the FBI.  Cleveland is standing in for Detroit where the film was
originally supposed to be shot until Michigan Governor Rick Synder
- a Republican, of course - screwed things up big time.  I feel bad
for Detroit and Michigan, both of which deserve better, but pleased
that Cleveland got the gig.

One unfortunate note.  While the cast and crew of Avengers got
along wonderfully with Cleveland and its people with nary an unkind
moment, that hasn’t been the case with the Alex Cross movie.  Actor
Matthew Fox was arrested, accused of assaulting a woman bus driver
while intoxicated.  Sigh.

Shooting on I, Alex Cross has been quiet for the most part, but The
Plain Dealer
reports a car-flipping and stuntman-on-fire scene will
be filmed in front of City Hall.  That’s barely worth noting in the
wake of the large-scale Avengers pyrotechnics.  All the same, I’m
looking forward to seeing both movies.


Before she was one of Josie and the Pussycats, Josie was the star
of She’s Josie, one of the greatest teen humor comics of all time.
Written by Frank Doyle and drawn by Dan DeCarlo, who created Josie,
the earliest issues featured full-length stories filled with laughs
from start to finish.  Doyle was a master of timing, the comic-book
equivalent of Neil Simon. DeCarlo matched the writer beat for beat.
I love these issues.

Alas, my readers, I have been grievously remiss in failing to tell
you that World of Archie Double Digest has reprinted several of the
early issues of She’s Josie.  These classic tales have appeared in
issues #2, 4, and 7.  Whatever it takes to track them down, it’ll
be well worth the effort.


From a history standpoint, Archie Archives Volume One [Dark Horse;
$49.99] is a welcome addition to my vast accumulation of stuff.  It
collects selected stories from Pep Comics #22-38, Jackpot #4-8, and
the first two issues of Archie Comics.  That said, the book wasn’t
as much fun as I’d hoped.

The Archie characters are not as keenly, surely developed in these
early stories as they would be in later years.  The writing lacks
the cleverness that would likewise come with time.  Even the art is
less compelling than it would become.  The stories are interesting,
but not terribly entertaining.

Another aspect of two of these inaugural tales also gave me pause.
Two of the stories feature racial stereotypes that I found nothing
short of disturbing and unsettling.  I don’t for a moment suggest
they should’ve been altered or excluded.  History is history, warts
and all.  But these stories should have had introductory copy that
takes note of the shameful stereotypes.  Dark Horse has done this
with Little Lulu reprints; there’s no good reason for not doing it
in this volume as well. 

Whether or not Archie Archives Volume One is for you depends on the
magnitude of your interest in comics history.  For me, this volume
is a must-have.  Your mileage may vary.

ISBN 978-1-59582-716-6


Comics artist Mike DeCarlo (Marvel, DC, Disney, Simpsons, Cartoon
Network, Archie, etc.) has set up a website for fans who would like
to commission special pieces for him.  He does all the usual head
shots, body shots, group shots, etc., but he also does “specialty”
art: drawings for all occasions, celebrity art, “morphing” clients
into comic settings, and cover recreations.  Then there’s what he
calls the “crazy stuff”: light-hearted fantasy pictures, somewhat
“naughty” drawings, and other imaginative commissions.  I enjoyed
my visit to his site and I think you will, too.  You can check out
for yourself here:

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Rick Olney’s at it again.  Because I’m convinced this vile person
gets some perverse pleasure from his name being mentioned in even
the most unflattering of terms, I hate writing about him.  But, in
a comics community that includes too many good and trusting souls,
guys like him have to be exposed.

I’ve been writing about Olney for several years, but I don’t need
to refresh your memories as to his many past assaults on comicdom.
You can learn everything you need to know about him by just doing
a Google search on him.  I can pretty much guarantee that you will
be horrified by what you find.  He’s been doing bad stuff for too
long and people haven’t been shy about reporting it.

Google Rick Olney.  In fact, do Google searches on anyone who wants
something from you or to do business with you or who seems to be
offering you the opportunity of a lifetime.  Now that we live in an
era where such information is found easily, doing Google searches
should be considered simple due diligence for anyone who considers
themselves a comics industry professional.  I have dodged several
bullets through such due diligence.

Olney currently claims he will be putting on a comics convention on
Veterans Day weekend.  It’s called the Adirondack ComicFest.  He’s
constantly changing the details of this almost certainly imaginary
event, but his claims have included partners he’s never identified;
charities that have not given him permission to use their names and
good reputations; and, of course, the usual threats to sue those of us
who warn prospective guests about Olney’s past transgressions. 

Digression.  I never kept track of when Olney first threatened me
with legal action or physical violence, but in all the years that
he’s being making these threats, he’s never been able to pull the
trigger on either threat.  There’s two reasons for this. One, he has
no legal representation; he’s lost a number of lawsuits with nary an
attorney in sight. Two, he has no balls.  He’s a bullying coward.
I stopped being afraid of his kind in grade school.

End of digression.

Olney has signed several guests to his alleged convention.  He had
them sign a contract he found online and which he tried to alter to
fit his needs.  It’s a contract created by a band for the venues in
which they perform.  It’s almost totally one-sided in favor of the
band. There are no penalties if the band fails to live up to its
various obligations.  The only obligations carrying any weight are
those of the venue to the band.  The band can pretty much walk away
when they choose. Surprise, surprise, as some of Olney’s announced
guests learned more about his past, they canceled their appearances
at his imaginary convention.

Equally imaginary is the company/corporation/organization/whatever
which is named in these contracts.  Just as no one has been able to
find any evidence of Olney’s partners in this convention, there is
no evidence that Olney’s supposed company - one of its recent names
was “Adirondack, LLC” - actually exists.  There is no record of any
filing for the company within the state of New York.

In typical Olney fashion, he has refused to remove from his guest
list those who have canceled their appearance.  He’s trying to use
their good names and reputations to lure others into his imaginary
convention.  However, given the contract itself, the dubious status
of the alleged organization running the event, and the likelihood
that Olney still doesn’t have any actual legal representation, the
guests are not only within their rights to withdraw from the event
but risk no penalties for doing so.

Rick Olney.  Legal genius.

By the way, lest my readers assume I make any claim to such legal
genius, let me set me you straight.  Some of the guests and some of
us who warn folks about Olney have had these contracts evaluated by
actual lawyers.  What I’ve reported above is based on the summaries
we’ve received from these good people.

How is Olney recruiting guests for this alleged event?

Olney is offering his guests a sometimes hefty appearance fee along
with airfare, hotel, and meals.  It would be a good deal for these
guests if Olney’s long and unpleasant history didn’t put the smart
money on his inability or unwillingness to deliver on his promises.
His debts are considerable and he expresses no sincere interest in
paying these debts.  Indeed, he often mocks those to whom he owes
money, even when they’ve won judgments against him. 

Olney is also appealing to the desire of his guests to do something
for our military veterans.  However, as with previous Olney events,
real and imagined, he doesn’t contact legitimate charities to get
their permission to raise money for them nor is there any evidence
that the various charities, whose good names and reputations he has
used, have ever received money from him.  In the case of this new
convention, he’s named several veterans organizations as recipients
of his largess.  So far, not one has verified that he has contacted
them or that they have given him permission to use their names and
symbols.  He currently claims his event will benefit “non-specific”
veterans charities.  I’m not buying it.  Are you?

At this time, the venue where Olney claims his convention will take
place doesn’t show his event on their calendar, though there is one
conference room booked for one evening of the alleged convention at
another venue and by a different company name: Olney Enterprises.
More reasons to be wary.

I’ll end by repeating a warning I’ve given often:

If you’re approached by Rick Olney or a representative of this man,
if you are approached by Olney or anyone else representing entities
known as The Mighty Mini-Con, TightLip Entertainment, ORCA, or any
other Olney event or organization named in this blog, I strongly urge you
to run in the other direction.

Run like the very wind.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, August 29, 2011


The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention is one of my favorite
comics events.  Earlier this year, I made my third visit to the con
and had a wonderful time.  I wrote about it here..

...and here...

...and here.

I condensed those three blog entries into the opening segment of my
“Tony’s Tips” column for Comics Buyer’s Guide #1681.  The rest of
that issue’s column featured reviews of some comics I had bought at

With three Glyph wins to its credit and a “Best Writer” nomination
for Geoffrey Canada, Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of
[Beacon Press; $14] was the first book I bought at ECBACC.
Adapted by Jamar Nicholas, this graphic novel is a true account of
Canada’s boyhood in the South Bronx.  Raised by his single mother,
Canada began to learn the “rules” of the street when he was only 4
years old.  The lessons were often brutal, but the rules united the
children of the block.  You knew what you could/should do and what
you couldn’t/shouldn’t do.  Still, the rules that could keep a kid
relatively safe could go south very quickly when guns were added to
the neighborhood climate.

Canada and Nicholas do more than tell an authentic story of life in
the South Bronx.  They also successful convey the true emotions of
the residents: the fear, the friendship, the support, and even the
pride.  At the end of the day, their tale is a plea to “study war
no more.”

Certainly, Canada has lived his adult life following that goal.  He
is the president and CEO of the Harlem’s Children Zone, a nonprofit
community-based organization which the New York Times hails as “one
of the most ambitious social experiments of our time.”  He himself
has been called an authentic New York hero and an angel from God.
That last bit of praise came from Oprah Winfrey, who surely knows
something of angels.

In telling Canada’s story so vividly, Nicholas more than earned his
Rising Star award.  The drawings are fluid, the expressions right
on the money.  I can’t wait to see what Nicholas does next.  In the
meantime, check out Fist Stick Knife Gun. A graphic novel of this
quality should have received a lot more coverage than it got from
a comics press clearly overly concerned about Hollywood movies and
super-hero universes.

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4449-0

Afrodisiac by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca [Adhouse Books; $14.95] is
a dangerously brilliant combination of social satire and good old
comics nostalgia.  It was nominated for five Glyph Awards: Story of
the Year, Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Male Character, and Best

A hero of multiple origins, each found in the 1970s Marvel Comics-
style recap at the start of each story, the Afrodisiac is a super-
pimp who takes on villains while taking care of business with his
stable of high-class ladies of the evening.  The pop culture gags
are hilariously on target and the book’s several stories are told
in a creditable pastiche of those 1970s Marvel comics.  I felt like
I was watching my past through a fun house mirror.

Delightful in its fondness for and skewing of Black exploitation
movies and other pop culture signposts, Afrodisiac brings a lot of
smiles and more than a few out-loud guffaws. I loved it.

ISBN: 978-1935233060

Jerry Craft’s Mama’s Boyz: The Big Picture [Mama’s Boyz Ink; $9.95]
is the third collection of his weekly comic strip.  Distributed by
King Features Syndicate, the strip follows the lives of single mom
Pauline and her teenage sons Tyrell and Yusuf. The reprinted strips
are charming and very funny, but this collections places them into
a “bigger” story filled with excellent advice for teen readers and
neat between-the-strips asides from Craft.

Craft’s characters are likeable and visually compelling.  Extras in
the book include lessons on how to draw comics and a glimpse into
the cartoonist’s childhood.  I confess I was pleasantly surprised
to learn that my short-lived Black Goliath series for Marvel made
quite an impact on Craft.  As I learn every day, and especially at
events like ECBACC, one never knows how far the ripples might reach
when you place your stories into the sea.

Mama’s Boyz: The Big Picture is great for readers of all ages.  I’d
call it a must-have for school and public libraries.

ISBN: 978-0-979-61321-0

Ray Billingsley’s “Curtis” is also syndicated by King Features as
a daily/Sunday comic strip.  Curtis is an 11-year-old boy living in
the inner city with his parents and his kid brother.  Billingsley
was across the aisle from me at ECBACC and, as a fan of the strip,
it was a pleasure to meet him and too buy his first self-published
collections of the strip: A Boy Named Curtis [$16.95] and Living on
Sponge Cake

Curtis comes from a long tradition of good kids who still manage to
get into all sorts of trouble due to their individual outlooks on
life.  School, girls, his parents, and the neighborhood bullies are
all mysteries Curtis is solving day by day.  The strip is edgy but
still suitable for all ages.

One of the most compelling ongoing subplots involves Curtis trying
to get his dad to stop smoking.  It’s a very serious subject, but
Billingsley handles it with humor. 

Billingsley also offers fun change-ups with Curtis daydreams that
involve the mighty “Supercaptaincoolman” and the occasional “real”
adventures that border on fantasy and science fiction.  The latter
stories usually involve Gunk, Curtis’ best friend.  Gunk hails from
the fictional Flyspeck Island, can talk with animals, and possess
knowledge of strange island science that Curtis usually manages to
misuse in some way.

Since none of my local newspapers carry “Curtis” - even one “Black”
comic strip seems too much for some of them - I read the strip at:  I think you’ll get
a kick out of Billingsley’s strip and these books.

ISBN: 978-0-984-19460-5

ISBN: 978-0-9841946-1-2

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The second and final day of “Garage Con 2011,” my glorified garage
sale, was another success.  I can’t say it exceeded expectations,
but that’s only because the first day exceeded my expectations for
the entire sale.  The total sales over the two days were just under
three times the goal I had hoped to reach.

My hard-working son Eddie and I never had more than a handful of
customers at any time during the sale.  We didn’t have three dozen
customers over the two days.  But we had the customers I had hoped
for, avid comics readers who took full advantage of our low prices
on comic books, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers. 

The customers came from Facebook, Twitter, this blog, Craig’s List,
and even the classified “garage sale” ad I placed in The Gazette,
our daily (Monday through Saturday) local newspaper.  They came to
the sale from as far away as Columbus.  Some of the those who came
on Friday e-mailed me Friday night to ask if we would be restocking
for Saturday.  I couldn’t say “no” to such enthusiasm, so Eddie and
I prepared another 14 boxes of comic books, trade paperbacks, and
hardcovers for Saturday.

Scott and Brian, our Columbus heroes, made the round trip both days
and bought vast quantities of cool stuff.  When an area mom came in
looking for Spider-Man comic books appropriate for a seven-year-old
boy, they even directed her to the Marvel Adventures digests that
we had on sale. 

For my part, I tried to be entertaining without distracting anyone
from the important business of handing me cash.  I told stories of
my four decades working in comics and also answered questions.
Important comics issues of the day were discussed.  I even told my
Bozo the Clown story, which is something you have to look forward
to later this week...along with my blogs on notorious villains Rick
Olney and Jim Shooter.

At one point, I went back down into the bowels of my basement and
another storage area to look for more books.  Alas, I was only able
to add maybe three-fourths of a box to the sale.  To uncover more
books will be a semi-major excavation...with the ever-present fear
that, if I don’t move a box correctly, a huge honking boulder will
come rolling down on me. 

While “Garage Con 2011" wasn’t everything I’d wanted it to be - my
poor planning didn’t allow enough time for area artists to be part
of the event - I was very pleased with the results.  There seems to
be considerable interest in my doing more garage sales.  I’ll try
to accommodate that interest as soon as possible.  In the meantime,
here are a few notes from Saturday...

The best advice I didn’t take: lift with your legs, not your back.
I’m feeling the pain today.


A couple local customers were surprised I had posted a disclaimer
at the entrance to the garage sale.  It read:


Not all comic books and other items are suitable for all ages.

We will be happy to answer any questions as to the appropriateness
of the items being sold here.

We reserve the right to REFUSE to sell items to minor age customers

if we deem them inappropriate to the age of the customers.

All sales are final.

Thank you for shopping with us today.

One customer said she appreciated the disclaimer and being directed
to items suitable for her child.


The saddest thing I heard: an avid Superman fan who, though he buys
every issue of Superman, has only read one issue in over a decade.
He doesn’t think these comics are worth reading and, by and large,
while I have enjoyed a number of Superman comic books in that time
frame, I find it difficult to disagree with him.  The character is
deserving of better stories than he’s been getting.   


Comic books, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers were the big sellers
on Saturday.  One father and son bought over a thousand comic books
from me.  DC, DC/Vertigo, and Marvel were our best-selling trades
and hardcovers.

We sold a handful of VHS tapes on Saturday.  Based on the advice of
one of my blog readers, I’m going to hold off putting these tapes
in the trash.  He says such tapes are “gold” on eBay and I want to
explore that before dumping what I have.

We didn’t sell a single copy of Shonen Jump during the sale.  That
came as a surprise.  I’m hoping they sell when I offer them online
in the future. 


A number of friends and readers, including some from the comic-book
industry, have requested my sage advice on holding their own garage
sales.  While I doubt holding one garage sale makes me any kind of
an expert, I will be writing a future blog outlining what I did and
what I should have done.  But I need some time to digest this first
sale of mine before I can write that blog.


The bottom garage sale was a success.  I made more money
than I expect and my customers were delighted with their purchases.
It’s a win-win.

I will be doing more garage sales. Doing one as early as September
depends on how well my writing goes this week and if I’m able to do
any meaningful excavation of my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.  Keep
watching this blog...and my Facebook page...for information on any
future garage sales.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I usually prepare my bloggy things several days before I post them,
but this has been a busy week at Casa Isabella.  So it’s Friday and
I’m at my keyboard just minutes after closing my garage door at the
close of the first day of Garage Con 2011.  It was an exceedingly
good day and well worth the effort.

My son Eddie and I did not have a large number of customers.  What
we did have were people who decided to come to my garage sale after
reading about it on Facebook, Twitter, and this very blog.  Some of
them drove hours to come to my sale.

My biggest fear was that my online friends would make the trip to
Medina and be disappointed. The comic books and other items on sale
represented about half of what had piled up in my office and maybe
about a dozen boxes from the basement.  The oldest items in my Vast
Accumulation of Stuff remain buried deep in a storage unit.  It’ll
be years before the oldest stuff sees the light of a garage sale or
even an eBay auction.

I’m delighted to report those online friends who came to the first
day of Garage Con 2011 went away happy and with hundreds of comic
books, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers at ridiculously low prices.
I was just as pleased.  I had a sort of bottom line figure I hoped
to make over the two days of the sale.  We have already passed that
figure.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

A few more garage sale notes...

Sometimes it’s just the luck of putting the right customer together
with the right items.  I sold hundreds of copies of 2000 AD and
related British comics to one customer.

On the other hand, I don’t think anyone even looked at back issues
of Shonen Jump, though most of them were bagged with a collectible
gaming card and never opened. 

Not at all surprising...we didn’t sell any VHS tapes, even though
we priced them at a quarter each or five for a dollar.  I suspect
these tapes will be heading for the dump on Monday.

Tom Batiuk of Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean fame - those are two
of my favorite comic strips - stopped by to snap a couple photos of
my sale.  I would tell you to keep an eye out for the use of these
reference photos in Funky except that Tom works about a year ahead
on his strips.  When the strips using these reference photos run in
2012 or so, I’ll point them out to you.


Besides writing this bloggy thing, I’m putting together some more
boxes of comic books and trade paperbacks for the second day of the
sale.  I think I’m gonna need a bigger garage.

In the future...

I’m seriously contemplating another garage sale for a Friday and a
Saturday in September.  I might also leave half the garage set up
with boxes of stuff and sell to customers by least
until November when I’ll want to move my van back into the garage.

There will be eBay and other online sales in the future.  It seems
to me that eBay would be the logical place for the more expensive
items, including original art...and that my message board would be
the better place to sell the insanely cheap items I’m selling this
weekend.  I’ll keep you posted on my plans here, on Facebook, and
on my message board.

I’m putting together my convention schedule for the rest of 2011.
Depending on the event, I might bring boxes of the insanely cheap
items I’m selling this weekend.  What I bring will depend on what
kind of space I have at the conventions.

I’ll be back tomorrow with either a report on the second day of my
garage sale or with something that will probably get me into some
kind of trouble.  If I go with the garage sale, you’ll have to wait
another day or two for me to jump gleefully into the line of fire.
But it’ll happen.  That’s just how I roll.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, August 26, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1681:

In yesterday’s bloggy thing, I wrote of my love of Godzilla and how
I came maddeningly close to writing Godzilla comics for Marvel.
Tragically, Marvel wasn’t able to come to terms with Toho Studios
during my time with the company.

It was the summer of 1977 before Marvel, having finally reached an
agreement with Toho, began publishing what would be a two-year run
of Godzilla adventures.  Writer Doug Moench and artist Herb Trimpe
faced challenges I had, in my naivete, never considered when I was
making my own Godzilla plans.

The cinema Godzilla of the late 1970s was a big-eyed cuddly toy in
comparison to the nightmare figure that had thrilled audiences in
1954 and 1955.  His last appearance had been in 1975's Terror of
and he would not receive a much needed makeover until
1984's The Return of Godzilla, better known to American audiences
as Godzilla 1985

The late ‘70s Godzilla would have looked silly in the comic book.
Instead, Marvel went with a more generic Tyrannosaurus Rex for its
basic model, adding the signature row of back fins.  It was a good
workable model, but, even in the hands of Trimpe, who did a great
job handling the storytelling demands of a giant protagonist, this
Godzilla lacked the personality of the original and the cinematic
versions to come.

Moench and Trimpe sent Godzilla on a two-year trip across the USA,
though they skipped over most of the Midwest.  Unable to use any of
Godzilla’s friends and foes from the movies, they had to create an
army of other opponents for the Big G.  I can’t say many of these
monsters impressed me.  I would have preferred to see Moench go to
the Marvel monster comics of the early 1960s; those giant beasties
would have been more worthy opponents for Godzilla.

Godzilla was placed firmly in the Marvel Universe from the get-go.
SHIELD - along with agents Dum-Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, and Jimmy Woo
- were regular cast members.  There were guest appearances by the
Champions, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and even cameo spots
for J. Jonah Jameson and Spider-Man.  Not to mention a wacky-but-
wonderful team-up with Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy. 

Borrowing from other Japanese movies and cartoons, Moench added an
elderly Japanese scientist, his beautiful assistant, and his scary
smart grandson.  The grandson was more concerned for the safety of
Godzilla than his own and, for several issues, hijacked Red Ronin,
a giant robot created to battle Godzilla. 

These Godzilla comics aren’t classics, but they were a creditable
take on my favorite giant lizard.  Three decades later, they remain
great fun.  Marvel reprinted the entire 24-issue run in their 2006
black-and-white Essential Godzilla [$19.99; ISBN 978-0785121534].
Near-mint copies of the original color comics have gotten pricey in
recent years, but you can still find lesser condition copies for a
couple bucks each. They are well worth the search.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, August 25, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1680:

I love Godzilla.  I’ve loved that big lizard since the first time
Cleveland monster movie host Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) brought him
into my boyhood home via grainy black-and-white TV.  I loved giant
monsters in general, but Godzilla was something special.  It didn’t
matter if some of the first series of Godzilla movies were kind of
sort of awful.  It didn’t matter than tracking down the later and
much better ones was often difficult.  I watched them all and, when
my kids were around, they watched them, too.

If I thought for a moment that Toho Studios would let me get away
with it, I would launch the First Church of Godzilla.  Because my
scaly lord and master protects us all with his fiery atomic love.
Sure, it can sometimes be a tough love, but, more often than not,
we’re asking for it.  Alas, unlike L. Ron Hubbard, I will never get
rich by starting my own religion...even though mine makes a heck of
a lot more sense than his.

Godzilla and I almost crossed paths back in the 1970s.  Even before
Roy Thomas hired me to work at Marvel Comics, I had pitched him on
doing Godzilla comic books.  Roy thought the idea had merit and, by
the time I was on staff at Marvel Comics in late 1972, the company
was negotiating with Toho Studios with an eye towards launching a
black-and-white Godzilla magazine to go along with Dracula Lives,
Monsters Unleashed
, and Savage Tales.

Had the Godzilla magazine come about, I would have been its writer.
What few notes I can find from that period indicate I was planning
to start our new stories shortly after the events of the very first
Godzilla movie, the one which ended with Big G being disintegrated
by the Oxygen Destroyer. 

What looked like disintegration was actually teleportation by some
friendly aliens who knew Godzilla would be needed by Earth in the
near future.  Our planet would be facing some major intergalactic
threats and Godzilla would be our first and best line of defense.
The under-negotiation contract permitting, I would add other Toho
monsters (Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah) as our comics series progressed.
As you can imagine, I was a happy Bullpen Buddy!

I remember two more things about this project.  Dave Cockrum wanted
in on it in some way; I would’ve been delighted to have worked with
him.  Also, legendary comics fan, fanzine publisher, and sometimes
DC staffer Mark Hanerfeld was equally excited about the project and
offered me ideas and suggestions whenever our paths crossed.  Mark
was a really good guy.  He passed away a while ago, but I remember
him fondly.

Alas, the Godzilla magazine fell through.  There was some call from
the agent who was negotiating with Toho Studios to the effect that
he had lost face with Toho.  I never did find out what that was all
about and likely never will.

A few years later, Marvel did successfully get comic-book rights to
Godzilla.  I had left the company and moved over to DC by then, so
Doug Moench got to write the series.  He did a pretty good job with
it, which I know because I’m currently rereading the series for the
first time in a couple decades.

We’ll talk about Godzilla and Doug tomorrow.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Concluding my column from Comics Buyer’s Guide #1680:

Chew has been nominated for multiple awards: Best Continuing
Series, Best Writer (John Layman), and Best Artist (Rob Guillory).
It got my vote in one of those categories, but, as to which one, I
am pleading the Fifth.

Published by Image, Chew features the adventures of Tony Chu, a
special agent in the special crimes division of the US Food and
Drug Administration.  He’s a cibopath who gets psychic impressions
from anything he ingests.  This is not a comic book for readers who
are easily grossed out.

In Chu’s America and in other parts of the world, chicken has been
outlawed.  The FDA is vigilant and way harsh in prosecuting
poultry-related crimes, but there’s a conspiracy behind these new
laws waiting to be exposed.

I’ve been reading the series in trade paperbacks.  In recent
chapters, we’ve seen the blossoming romance between Chu and writer
Amelia Mintz.  She’s a saboscrivner, who writes so accurately about
food her readers can taste it.  You don’t want to read her negative
reviews.  We’ve also spent quality time with Tony’s family and his
partner.  It’s a fun trip that seems to get wilder with every new
chapter.  I love this series.

There are three Chew books to date:

Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice ($9.99) 

ISBN 978-1-60706-159-5

Chew Vol. 2: International Flavor ($12.99)

ISBN 978-1-60706-260-8

Chew Vol. 3: Just Desserts ($12.99)

ISBN 978-1-60706-335-8


My friend Bryan Talbot picked up a nomination in the category of
“Best Short Story,” but it’s his terrific Grandville Mon Amour
[Dark Horse; $19.99] I want to write about here.  The graphic novel
is a sequel to Talbot’s Grandville, first in a series of adventures
starring Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard.  As I
mentioned in my review of the first GN, LeBrock’s steampunk world
is one in which France was victorious in the Napoleonic Wars and
conquered England.  It’s also a world of anthropomorphic animals
with humans occupying a somewhat lower rank in the social order. 

This second book has LeBrock on the trail of a serial killer, but
the conspiracies and political intrigues of the first book are part
of the mix as well.  The story is riveting, the art is nothing
short of gorgeous, and the comfort I take from Talbot’s genius is
I know how crazy hard he works on these books.

The Grandville graphic novels are books you’ll read again and
again.  Each reading reveals new details...and there’s a third one
in the works.

ISBN 978-1-59582-574-2


Reviewing a second war comics collection this month might seem at
odds with my cheery summer reading theme, but Showcase Presents Our
Army at War Volume One
[DC; $19.99] delivers so much for your money
I can't resist recommending it to you.  At the ridiculously low cost
of a buck an issue, this book reprints the first 20 issues of the
classic DC war title.

Sgt. Rock was the star of Our Army at War, but didn’t show up for
the first several years of the title’s existence.  Instead, readers
enjoyed four anthology tales per issue with settings that ranged
from the entire history of U.S. warfare.  While not as hard-edged
as the stories published by EC or Atlas, these DC stories were
solidly written with equally solid art.  The latter may have been
subservient to the sometimes bland DC house style of the early
1950s, but the great artists - there were many of them - overcame
that limitation.  Standout artists included Gene Colan, Russ Heath,
Bernie Krigstein, Irv Novick, Jerry Grandenetti, Joe Kubert, Ross
Andru and Mike Esposito, and others.

Reading this collection was a historical adventure for me as I
discovered several writers and artists I’d never heard of before.
Besides stories by such DC and comics veterans as Robert Kanigher,
Ed Herron, William Woolfolk, Dave Wood, and Robert Bernstein, there
were tales by David Kahn, John Reed, Nat Barnett, Art Wallace, and
Joseph Daffron, whose script in Our Army at War #20 [March, 1954]
is the only Daffron story to be found on the Grand Comics Database
[].  Was Daffron a one-shot writer or are there other
scripts by him awaiting future discovery?

The book contains many stories by Hal Kanter, a writer whose name
I instantly recognized, just not from comic books.  DC misspelled
Kanter’s name in the credit, but, in addition to his comics work,
he has been a prolific writer (and producer and director) of many
TV shows and movies.  You’ll find his name on All in the Family and
Julia, as well as films like Dear Brigitte, My Favorite Spy, Road
to Bali, and, fittingly, 1955's Artists and Models, a Dean Martin
and Jerry Lewis movie in which Martin played a fine artist slumming
as a comic-book artist and Lewis an impressionable young man hooked
on comic books.  I wonder if he ever wrote any of DC’s Bob Hope or
Jerry Lewis comics.

On the artistic end, I was amazed to see how many stories Gene
Colan drew in these issues.  There are 20 Colan-drawn tales herein,
sometimes two of them in an issue.  The inking isn’t always suited
to Colan’s style, but his flair for facial expressions and figures
in motion still comes through in each tale.

I also found a great new-to-me artist in Eugene Hughes.  There are
just six stories by him in this book, but his gritty style and sure
storytelling made an impression on me. 

This bargain-priced, black-and-white behemoth of a book gives you
over 500 pages of comics for $19.99.  That should cover a few good
afternoons kicking back in the summer sun.  I’d recommend it on the
basis alone, but I have an ulterior motive.

I want to encourage DC Comics to publish more collections of its
non-character titles.  It well and truly floats my boat to get to
read so many comic books I’d never even seen before.  If books like
Showcase Presents Our Army at War Volume One sell well, I suspect
DC will bring us more of them.  They win, you win, and, of course,
I win.

ISBN 978-1-4012-2942-9

See you tomorrow.
© 2011 Tony Isabella  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1680:

“But that’s only one grim chapter! The Reds have written many more
with their guns and their bayonets to make up the shameful atrocity

- Hank Chapman, “Atrocity Story” (Battlefield #2)

Summer is almost upon us.  Even now I can see myself sitting on the
balcony of my Italian villa, can feel the cool breeze from the
mountains, can almost reach out and touch the majestic stack of
reading material awaiting my pleasure.  Then I realize I’ve again
fallen asleep watching House Hunters International.

Whether in Calabria or my back patio in Medina, summer reading
conjures up warm and fuzzy memories.  As a kid, summer was when I’d
read those Dennis the Menace vacation specials, giant Superman and
Batman annuals, and every science fiction book I could find at my
local library.

Will I be taking a vacation this summer?  Will I be going on a
vacation that allows me to kick back with great books and comics?
At this writing, I don’t know.  However, in the spirit of my bygone
summers, here are my suggestions for your own majestic stack of
vacation reading.


Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Battlefield Vol. 1 [$64.99] is the
most interesting 1950s collection to come from the publisher.  The
title’s 11-issue run featured outstanding art and writing, not to
mention an intriguing hint of the political and social pressures
faced by the company in 1952 and 1953.

The volume begins with a lengthy introduction by noted comics
historian Dr. Michael J. Vassallo.  There’s some good coverage of
the general history of Atlas war comics, but the intro gets bogged
down with issue-by-issue recitation of artists credits, information
available in the contents pages.  In doing so, Vassallo omits the
most significant element of this collection: the dramatic change in
story tone between the fourth and fifth issues.

The first four issues of Battlefield are some of the very best war
comics of their time.  The stories are gritty little gems that do
not assume the superiority of every American fighting man; there
are some major foul-ups in these tales and their actions cost them
or their fellow soldiers dearly.  There are stories with lessons to
deliver, sometimes in tragic manner.  There are stories deserving
of being dubbed propaganda, but, some of those are among the most
powerful in the collection.

There are three unforgettable stories in those first issues. Hank
Chapman’s “Atrocity Story” hammers the reader with reports of
Communist and historical brutality.  Artist Paul Reinman responded
to the script with equally notable visuals.  It’s propaganda, but
it’s also a classic.

Two other tales from these first issues haunt me as well.  In “A
Waste of Time,” a soldier lies dying in desperate need of blood.
Stateside, his wife can’t be bothered to donate blood because she
would rather write a letter to him.  In “Code!,” a slacker soldier
fails to memorize the radio code that could alert his fellows to an
enemy advance.  Two stories, two bad choices.

With issue #5, Battlefield takes a turn.  The writing and art
remain excellent - I’m constantly amazed at how much these creators
were able to put into their limited page counts - but the tone of
the title is more typical of the era.  Heroic American soldiers who
defy all odds to defeat the enemy. Non-combatants who discover what
a friend they have in the U.S.A. The occasional enemy combatant who
ends up condemning Communism.  There’s nothing intrinsically wrong
with stories like these, but the earlier issues had more of an edge
to them and a more realistic atmosphere.

The America of the early 1950s was no stranger to paranoia and
politically-motivated witch-hunts, even if the witches wore Commie
red.  With comic books on the defensive, I wonder if Atlas simply
took what its publisher and editors considered the safe path with
Battlefield. I wish this question had been raised and addressed in
the introduction.

Whichever kind of story you prefer, Battlefield is worth its hefty
price tag.  Chapman, Paul S. Newman, Carl Wessler, and other sadly
uncredited writers are represented by dozens of fine scripts. The
title’s roster of artists is legendary: Gene Colan, Russ Heath, Joe
Maneely, Bill Everett, Joe Sinnott, Dave Berg, and many others. I
recommend it highly and I applaud Marvel for stepping outside its
usual fantasy and super-hero comfort zones to present these great
blasts from the pasts.

ISBN 978-0-7851-5010-7


My buddy Anthony Tollin has been publishing the classic pulp
adventures of The Shadow, The Avenger, The Whisperer, and The Doc
Savage for several years now.  Each Sanctum Books publication has
two unabridged full-length novels with the original illustrations
and an assortment of other spiffy material.  Now, in commemoration
of The Shadow’s 80th anniversary, Tollin has brought us The Shadow
#47: “The Living Shadow” & “The Black Hush”
($14.95) with the first
reprinting of The Shadow’s debut adventure in decades and a second
early thriller.

The opening chapter of “The Living Shadow” is one of the best hero
introductions of all time.  The mysterious man in black saves a
suicidal Harry Vincent and gives the despondent man a new purpose
in life.  We learn just enough about the Shadow in those pages to
hook us but good and author Walter B. Gibson keeps us guessing and
reading throughout the adventure.  I see why The Shadow so quickly
became a pivotal figure in pulp fiction and how he inspired so many
of the comic-book super-heroes to come.

From just two years later, Gibson’s “The Black Hush” continues the
mystery and combines it with an incredible invention turned to
sinister use.  We might know more about The Shadow in this novel,
but the surprises never stop coming.

Along with the novels, The Shadow #47 also has engaging historical
essays by Tollin and Will Murray.  The two of them are living
titans of pulp magazine and old-time radio knowledge with a knack
for presenting that information in concise and entertaining manner.
You can’t go wrong with any of the nearly 100 books that Tollin and
Sanctum Books have published to date.

ISBN 978-1-60877-048-9


There are some Eisner Awards nominees on this month’s review pile.
The most notable of them is Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
[Vertigo/DC; $19.99], which got your Tipster’s vote in the category
of “Best Limited Series.”

Daytripper is the story of the lives and deaths of Bras de Olivia
Domingos, son of a famous Brazilian writer and, in some of these
poignant tales, himself a writer.  It’s a story about life in all
its wonder and uncertainty.  I read it as an inspirational tale of
life’s possibilities, others may react to it differently.  That the
series can hold various meanings for its readers is the reason I
voted for this splendidly-written, magnificently-drawn series.  I
recommend to anyone who loves great comics and especially to any
public or school libraries whose patrons include anyone who loves
great comics.

ISBN 978-1-4012-2969-6

Since it’s always summer somewhere in the world, I’ll be back on
the morrow with more vacation reading recommendations. 

See you then.

© 2011 Tony Isabella  

Monday, August 22, 2011


Remember (all the way back to Friday) when I said GARAGE CON 2011
might just be my dumbest idea yet?  Well, while I still think it’s
a pretty spiffy idea, I have come to realize my execution of this
blows chunks.

My two major mistakes were not announcing the dates early enough so
that my comics industry buddies would be able to come to the event;
and not realizing how difficult it would be to get any interest or
publicity from the area media.  I’ll try to do better if there’s a

Only one guest artist has confirmed his appearance and, given the
likelihood of fewer customers and fans that I had hoped for, I am
going to suggest he not undertake the several-hour trip to Medina,
Ohio and Casa Isabella.  If he still wants to come, I’ll be happy
to have him.  But, unless he’s as deranged as I am, the only comics
“guest” at GARAGE CON will be yours truly.

GARAGE CON 2011, my glorified garage sale, is still going to happen
on Friday and Saturday, August 26 and 27, from 10 am to 5 pm.  It
will still have thousands of comic books and other items on sale at
ridiculously low prices.  I can’t imagine any fan coming to my sale
and not walking away with a stack of cool stuff without spending a
lot of money for said cool stuff.

To entice you further, here’s a quick price list:

Comic books and comic-book digests at a mere quarter apiece or five
for a dollar.

Magazines at a quarter apiece or five for a dollar, including back
issues of British imports 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine.

Movies and cartoons on VHS tapes at a quarter apiece or five for a

Manga and trade paperbacks at two bucks a pop.

Hardcover books at five bucks each.

I haven’t yet priced the calendars, fast food toys, and other items
yet, but, like almost everything else at this garage sale, I will
be pricing them to sell and sell quickly.

In addition to the above, I’ll also be selling 1000 Comic Books You
Must Read
(first printings) at $20 each and, while supplies last,
copies of The Grim Ghost at three bucks each.  I’ll be delighted to
autograph my book or the Grim Ghost comics free of charge at your
request.  I’ll also sign any other Isabella-written items you bring
to the event.  Also free of charge.

And who knows?  I might come up with a few more surprises between
now and the start of the sale. 

If you have any questions about the sale, feel free to e-mail me at
the usual address:

One more time.  GARAGE CON 2011 will be held at Casa Isabella, 840
Damon Drive, Medina, Ohio on Friday and Saturday, August 26 and 27,
from 10 am to 5 pm each day.  Feel free to alert the media.  Maybe
you can get them more excited than I did.

See you tomorrow.

© 2011 Tony Isabella  

Sunday, August 21, 2011


This week has been a rough one for your friendly online Tipster.
I’m slowly working my way through a bout of depression triggered by
a virtual avalanche of familial, household, mechanical, medical,
political, and professional woes.  No, don’t stop reading.  I won’t
be talking about any of those current problems today.  We all have
problems and, ultimately, we all have to deal with them as best we

That I suffer from depression is not something I particularly like
to write about, but I make no secret of it either.  I survived two
half-assed attempts at ending my life, have learned how to handle
my depression, and am comfortable sharing that doubtless imperfect
knowledge with my readers, especially those who might also suffer
from depression.

I’m not a medical doctor.  I don’t play one on TV.  And there’s no
truth to the vicious rumor that I own a “Naughty Nurse” costume and
have the fabulous legs for it.  I’m just a guy who’s heading toward
60 years old and am not as stupid today as I might have been when
I was a strapping youngster of 45.

It’s my belief/opinion/whatever that depression is not the same for
any two people.  Some things work for some people and some don’t,
If there’s a commonality beyond the various symptoms of depression,
it’s that frustration that this demon comes back to have another go
at you over and over again.

After my second half-assed suicide attempt, where I was pulled back
from the brink by thoughts of how my kids would grow up if I wasn’t
there to act as a counter to dangerous and downright evil in-laws,
I sought psychiatric help.  For about six months, I talked with an
psychiatrist every other week or so.  I needed this outlet because
I couldn’t talk to any one else about my destructive thoughts and
my greater fears.

I must digress. Those in-laws were only part of the problem.  I was
dealing with being screwed over by those bastards at DC Comics.  I
was having trouble getting work because some of those bastards were
actively slandering me.  I couldn’t even get jobs at movie rentals
stores and fast food restaurants.  I felt like I was a drain on my
family.  I never doubted that depression could kill me, but I did
often wonder how soon. End of digression.

Anti-depressants were prescribed.  Not surprising given that I am
the poster child for pharmaceutical side effects, they didn’t work.
Indeed, they made me feel worse.  They made me sluggish and unable
to write or do much of anything.  After two months, I just stopped
taking them and never regretted that decision.  I’m not suggesting
for a moment that these drugs don’t work for some patients, but I
was not one of them.

Eventually, I learned how to deal with depression by taking control
of my treatment.  I made a list of the warning signs of depression
and checked it regularly to see if I was heading into any dangerous
territory.  I found ways to overcome the debilitating effects of my
depression.  My methods weren’t as convenient or as quick as some
mental on/off switch, but they worked for me.

One of the methods that works for me, corny as it will sound, is to
concentrate on things that give me joy.  It can be a particularly
hilarious insightful commentary on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
or The Colbert Report.  It can be the entertaining coverage of the
filming of The Avengers in Cleveland by comics writer and reporter
Mike Sangiacomo and his colleagues at The Plain Dealer.  To enjoy
Mike’s articles and the other fun pieces, you’ll have to search the
paper’s website, but I think it’s well worth the effort.

It can be watching my son Eddie’s growing interest in comics over
the past year and wondering if I can talk him into writing a guest
blog in the near future.  It can be a kind word from a Grim Ghost
reader.  It can be a column on my second Black Lightning series so
uplifting writer Brian Cronin should have charged me for airfare.
You can read it here.

It can even be something as simple as the relief I felt when my pal
Terry Fairbanks figured out that the problem with one of the Casa
Isabella toilets was an easy fix that would not require the service
of an expensive plumber.  It’s not up there with meeting my Sainted
Wife Barb at your wedding all those decades ago, but it’s a solid
My methods work for ME.  I stress that.  You must be the master of
your depression.  Find what works for you.  Stick with it.  Talk to
people - family members, friends, medical professionals - whenever
you think your depression might be gaining ground.  Take charge of
your depression.  It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

See you tomorrow.

© 2011 Tony Isabella  

Saturday, August 20, 2011



From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1679:

Linda Carter, Student Nurse ran for nine issues between September
1961 and January 1963.  Published by Marvel Comics, it was written
by editor Stan Lee and drawn by Al Hartley.  My search through my
VAOS (Vast Accumulation of Stuff) recently turned up a copy of the
young lady’s third issue, dated January 1962.

There is another - or maybe the same - Linda Carter who starred in
four issues of a 1970s title called Night Nurse and who currently
appears in Marvel Universe continuity as an underground doctor to
super-heroes.  And, if you’ll excuse me while I slap my forehead,
it just hit me Lynda Carter (just one letter off) was the wonderful
actress who played Wonder Woman in the fondly-remembered TV series
based on the DC Comics character.  As this never occurred to me in
the 1970s, I can’t even blame my advanced years on my memory lapse.
However, neither Night Nurse or Wonder Woman interest me at this
particular moment.  I’d much rather write about an odd little comic
book that fascinates me today.

In both art and writing, the original Linda Carter, Student Nurse
is a cross between teen humor comics like Patsy Walker and Archie,
and the career-oriented romance comics published by Charlton Comics
in the 1960s and later.

Like most teen humor comics, you have your doppelgangers of Reggie
and Veronica from Archie.  Linda’s “Reggie” is young doctor Jackson
J. Jangle and her “Veronica” is fellow student nurse Gwen Glitter.
Both scheme to separate Linda from her romantic interest, another
young doctor named Steve Stuart.  Yet while the romantic rivalries
are similar to other humor comics of the era, this issue’s stories
all have a harder edge to them.  In this issue...

When a doctor suffers a nervous breakdown, his wife’s laments have
Linda reconsidering her romance with Steve. 

An abundance of patients has the hospital shorthanded.  The nurses
are asked to work double shifts without additional pay until money
can be raised to hire additional nurses.

At a party, a loudmouthed boor calls the doctors and nurses “dull”
and “nobodies”...until his own life is in jeopardy.

A filthy rich socialite tries to bully the hospital’s staff to get
priority treatment for her son, there to have his tonsils removed.

Every one of these stories is a mere five pages in length, yet they
deliver drama, humor and satisfying endings without seeming crowded
or rushed.  If the other issues of Linda Carter are as good as this
one, I would be downright eager to have a hardcover collection of
the entire series.

Two more related notes:

This issue also contains three paper doll pages of Linda, Gwen, and
JJJ.  The last stands for “Jackson J. Jangle” and not - shudder -
J. Jonah Jameson.  There’s also a two-page text story, but, since
I never read those as a kid, I see no good reason to start reading
them now.

Even this Linda Carter is part of the Marvel Universe.  Millie the
Model guest stars in the final issue of the series and Linda made
an appearance in Patsy Walker #99 [February 1962], a classic comic
book which also featured Nikita Khrushchev.

Keep watching for another journey into the deepest corridors
of my VAOS.  Indiana Jones ain’t got nothin’ on me!


After this article ran in CBG, I received this informative e-mail
from reader Tim Markin.  He wrote:

"I especially enjoyed the article on Atlas's Linda Carter comic, as
I've owned three of the nine issues for many years, and nobody ever
acknowledges it. I was fascinated to learn Linda could possibly be
the current Night Nurse. Didn't former Cleveland resident Brian
Michael Bendis reintroduce her into the Marvel Universe during his
run on Daredevil?

"The use of the initials “JJJ” is very funny, given Stan used them
again in Spidey. I'm also surprised Stan also used the name “Gwen”
years before the name was used in Spider-Man. I always thought the
name had been Steve Ditko’s contribution because studio mate Eric
Stanton had used the name in “Sweeter Gwen,” one of his bondage

"One bit of trivia that would have been cool to include was that
Linda Carter, Student Nurse was likely canceled to make room on the
schedule for Amazing Spider-Man. I'm sure you know about Marvel's
16 bi-monthly titles restriction (eight titles per month), so the
bi-monthly Carter book's ninth issue, dated January 1963, made way
for Amazing Spider-Man #1 dated March 1963. Only speculation, but
the most likely scenario. We know the low-selling Incredible Hulk
ended with #6 (March 1963) to make room for Sgt Fury #1 in May of
that year.

"And look at the strange case of Amazing Adult Fantasy. It was a
monthly with #14 dated July 1962. It became Amazing Fantasy with
#15, COVER dated August 1962. However, the indicia of the issue
states SEPTEMBER 1962, so it secretly became  a BI-monthly. Then it
was canceled to make room for the relaunch of the BI-monthly Two-
Gyn Kid
...with issue #60  cover dated November 1962). Very sneaky.
But I digress.

"I would be curious to know what final issue was dated July, 1961 to
make room for Linda Carter #1. Why isn't there a complete list of
Atlas/Marvel's output from 1957 to 1968 during the company's eight
title-a-month period? It would be neat to see what was getting
canceled to make room for what new title.

"Thanks for listening to my rambling missive."

Thanks for writing, Tim.  As your best bet for a time line of DC,
Marvel and select other publishers, I recommend “The Newsstand” at
Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics. 

See you soon.

© 2011 Tony Isabella  

Friday, August 19, 2011


You’re invited to GARAGE CON 2011, which may turn out to be one of
the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had. I’ll tell you up front that it’s
a glorified garage sale of thousands of my comic books, books, and
related items.

GARAGE CON 2011 will be held on Friday and Saturday, August 26 and
27, from 10 am to 5 pm, in and around my garage at 840 Damon Drive,
Medina, Ohio.  Besides the aforementioned thousands of items being
offered at incredibly low prices, I’ll also be selling copies of my
acclaimed 1000 Comic Books You Must Read (first printings) at $20
each and (fingers crossed) copies of The Grim Ghost #1-3, my first
comic-book writing in over a decade.  If you want, I’ll sign these
Isabella books and comics as well as and any other Isabella-written
items you bring to the sale. Admission is free...because it really
is just a garage sale with a few quirks.

Hoping to have pleasant people to hang out with if nobody comes to
GARAGE CON 2011, I have also invited several of my comics friends
to sell their work at the event.  I’m really hoping lots of comics
fans come to my garage sale because I’d like to stay friends with
the friends I’ve invited.  I am a mass of insecurity at this point.
Just like most of the time.

GARAGE CON 2011 is inspired by two forces of nature.  If I figured
out how to add images to this bloggy thing, you’ll see some photos
of one of those forces in today’s installment.

Nearly two decades in the making, my “Vast Accumulation of Stuff”
(aka “the VAOS”) is the main inspiration.  My stuff - comic books,
books, files, and more - currently occupies my office, a downstairs
bedroom, half of a large basement, almost all of a large off-site
storage unit, and small portions of other rooms.  It’s my goal to
reduce this accumulation by 80% over the next five years, sooner if
at all possible. 

With son Eddie, I cleared out about half of my office.  The yield
from this massive effort was:

over 25 boxes of items for the garage sale;

over 25 boxes of items I’m keeping for the time being until I can
look through them more carefully;

dozens of VHS tapes, mostly anime;

McDonald’s and other fast food restaurant toys;

12 bags of trash, consisting of old files, old letters, and ancient
newspaper clippings I thought I might write about in my nigh-daily
online blogs of the past; and,

dozens of empty boxes I was holding on to because “they’re perfect
for shipping whatever I sell on eBay.”

Every day, I try to go through at least one of the remaining boxes
in the office...and a box apiece from the basement and downstairs
bedroom.  By GARAGE CON 2011, I will have added another thousand or
so sale items.  It’s my sincere belief that anyone who comes to my
garage sale will find lots of things they want at ridiculously low

The other inspirational force of nature is my friend Chris Yambar.
Simultaneously existing in Youngstown, Ohio and a number of other
mystical dimensions, Chris is a cartoonist, a fine artist, and an
all-around good guy.  Last year, he held LAWN CON on his own front
lawn, bringing together comics people and other creative types to
sell their work while hanging out with one another.  I’ve invited
Chris to GARAGE CON 2011; he’s invited me to LAWN CON 2011.  Once
either of us is sure we can attend the other’s events, I’ll let you
know here and on Facebook.

I’ll try to keep everyone informed of GARAGE CON 2011 news here, on
Facebook and the Tony Isabella Message Board.. 

If you need to contact me more directly, e-mail me at:

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella  

Thursday, August 18, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1679:

“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?

- Captain Oveur, Airplane! (1980)


This issue’s theme is Green Lantern.  Unfortunately, I don’t care
about Green Lantern. Oh, sure, I’ll probably see the movie at some
point.  Maybe at the theater, maybe when it comes out on DVD.  But
the current 7000+ Green Lanterns and the several dozen flavors they
come in don’t do anything for me.  God bless you if you enjoy them.
There’s no law, nor should there be, that says you have to share my
interests and opinions.

I wasn’t always so ambivalent about Green Lantern.  Way back in the
1960s, when I discovered the Marvel comic books of Stan Lee, Jack
Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others, Green Lantern was one of the five
DC titles I kept buying regularly.  The others, because I know
you’re curious, were: Adventure Comics with the Legion of Super-
Heroes, Challengers of the Unknown, Doom Patrol, and Justice League
of America.
  But where legendary editor Julius Schwartz made sparse
use of all those other GLs, making their occasional appearances
something special, the current version of the franchise is guided
by the notion that, if one GL is exciting, then seven thousand more
with the same exact power would be even more exciting.  I yawn in


Though I’m more interested in actual comic books than comic-book
movies, the latter do hold some fascination and interest for me.
Recently, the website “A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists”
[] posted a list of “17 Films and TV Shows
Inspired by Comics and Graphic Novels that Often Get Mistaken by
Non-Comic Fans as Films and TV Shows that Weren’t Inspired by
Comics and Graphic Novels.”  On the list:

Red (2010)
A History of Violence (2005)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Wanted (2008)
30 Days of Night (2007)
Ghost World (2010)
V for Vendetta (2006)
From Hell (2001)
Monkeybone (2001)
The Walking Dead (2010)
The Rocketeer (1991)
The Losers (2010)
Whiteout (2009)
Constantine (2005)
Bulletproof Monk (2003)
Human Target (1992, 2010)
Surrogates (2009)

Looking over the list, I have read the source material for 11 of
the movies and seen nine of them.  Seeing a list like this sort of
brings out the “completist” in me.  I’ll likely try to read and
watch the ones I haven’t yet read or watched.


A while back, I did spend a weekend with a quintet of comic-book
movies on DVD.  First up was Red, loosely based on the Warren
Ellis/Cully Hammer series about “retired, extremely dangerous” CIA
agents.  I found it great fun, which was not unexpected for a movie
that starred Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John
Malkovich, and Helen Mirren, all favorites of mine.

Less enjoyable was The Losers.  I’d read the first two issues of
the comic-book series, but didn’t much like them. I thought the
movie was better than the comic book, but couldn’t really rate it
any higher than “barely watch-able.”

Iron Man 2 was an okay sequel to the first film, which, at the
time, I considered one of the best of the comics movies.  But, the
sequel failed in two areas. First, none of the characters, save for
Happy Hogan and Agent Coulson, were likeable.  Tony Stark was a
jerk, Rhodey was a jerk, Nick Fury was a jerk, the Black Widow was
a jerk, even Pepper was, for all her physical charms, someone I’d
probably avoid at a party.

The other area that disappointed me?  Let me put it this way: the
“big bad” in the first Iron Man was basically another Iron Man. In
this second movie, the “big bad” commanded an army of unmanned Iron
Man robots and turned them against Iron Man and “War Machine.”  I
don’t like multiple Iron Men anymore than I like multiple Green
Lanterns.  Here’s hoping the inevitable Iron Man 3 manages to come
up with a different kind of foe for Stark...and that we don’t see
the “War Machine” armor again.

One more Iron Man 2 note.  I was absolutely tickled to see how many
comic-book creators were listed in the end-credits.  Besides Stan
Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck, who worked on the very
first comic-book appearance of Iron Man, it looked like over a
dozen other creators got a mention.  I couldn’t catch all of the
names - something I hope to do on a second viewing - but writer
Robert Bernstein was among them. As “R. Berns,” Bernstein scripted
the Iron Man story that introduced Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan in
Tales of Suspense #45 [September 1963].  A month later, in Tales of
#46 [October 1963), he scripted the first appearance of
Anton Vanko a.k.a. the Crimson Dynamo.

Up next was Jonah Hex, a film that was pretty much universally
panned.  I started making “uh-oh” sounds when I realized the origin
of Hex was being told in drawings and voice over narration.  Was it
an artistic decision or a budgetary one?

The plot of Hex was too close for comfort to that of the 1999 Wild
Wild West, a movie not fondly remembered by me.  You have your
crazy murderous Confederate general still fighting the Civil War,
planning to destroy the United States with a super-weapon.  Points
to Hex for having the less silly weapon.

One thing I did like about Hex was a change from the comics. In the
movie, due to his near-death experience and mystical restoration to
life, Jonah can revive dead people temporarily and learn what they
know about anyone they were involved with in their lives.  It was
nicely creepy and effective in moving the film along, a particular
blessing with this film.

The acting in Jonah Hex wasn’t as bad as many critics made it out
to be, but it wasn’t good either.  All in all, I would rare the
movie “watch-able.”  I liked it better than The Losers. 

The final comics movie in my marathon was Solomon Kane, even though
it’s not technically a comics movie.  Robert E. Howard created the
character in a prose story that first appeared in the pulp magazine
Weird Tales in 1928.  The character and the original pulp stories
have been adapted to comics, sometimes quite well, but Kane himself
isn’t original to the comics.

Solomon Kane was made by Czech, French, and British companies, and
filmed in the Czech Republic.  The Kane of this movie, though he
does covert to the Puritan faith after being rescued by a kind and
pious family, isn’t the steadfast warrior of the REH stories. The
movie Kane is not nearly as certain of what God demands of him as
his prose and comics counterparts.

Solomon Kane was released overseas in 2009, no theatrical release
in this country.  I think it may be available on DVD, but I can’t
state that for certain.  I was sent an “advance” copy of the movie
for my comments.

Though I would have preferred the Solomon Kane of the stories and
comics, I enjoyed this movie almost as much as I enjoyed Iron Man
and Red.  It has big bloody spectacle, convincing monsters, and
intriguing human characters and conflicts.  While I think it would
be underappreciated by American movie theater audiences, I likewise
think that a Blu-Ray/DVD release would be extremely well received
by fans of REH and the comics based on his creations.


I should probably keep better track of comics-related movies than
I do.  Fortunately, my friend Bill Thom regularly posts a list of
future film release dates at his “Coming Attractions” website,
which offers the latest news on pulp-related publications, comics,
films, and TV shows at:

It’s thanks to Bill I knew Thor, which I really want to see on the
big screen, is being released on May 6.  I might be less interested
in X-Men First Class [June 3] and the afore-mentioned Green Lantern
[June 17], but I’ll likely see those two at my local multi-plex
theater as well.

Almost as high as Thor on my personal interest chart would be The
First Avenger: Captain America
[July 22].  But how did Marvel miss
the sure bet of opening this movie on July 4?

Upcoming films I’ll likely watch on DVD include Cowboys & Aliens
[July 29] and Conan [August 19].  I’m on the fence when it comes to
John Carter of Mars [March 9, 2012].

Also being released in 2012, The Avengers [June 8, 2012] is another
gotta-see-it-on-the-big-screen movie for me.  Some parts of the
production are being filmed in nearby Cleveland.  I tested for the
Stan Lee cameo, but I was told I was too old to be convincing as my
beloved former boss.  Damn his unnatural vigor!


Writing about comic-book movies usually leads me to thinking about
comic-book movies, live-action TV shows, and animated series that
haven’t been made yet. 

From the pages of various Marvel comic books, “It! The Living
Colossus” would be a natural for the SyFy Channel.  My face goes
all goofy-happy when I think of all those great Lee/Kirby monsters
that could be pitted against the Colossus. 

My Black Lightning/Jeff Pierce character would translate well to
movies or, my own preference, live-action TV.  Over the years, a
number of legitimate producers have expressed interest in this
character, but nothing has ever come of it.

My musings go beyond the characters and title I’ve worked on in the
past.  The TV networks clearly want to do super-heroes, but their
recent attempts - Heroes, No Ordinary Family, and The Cape -
haven’t satisfied me.  Were I one of those mega-powerful Hollywood
potentates, I would green-light my pal Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes
faster than a speeding bullet. 

Love and Capes is definitely about something: the very human, very
real romance between the world’s mightiest super-hero and the
terrific woman he falls in love with.  It’s both a sitcom and a
sensational super-hero tale.  I’d love to see such a suitable-for-
all-ages program on TV.

Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper might be a challenge to
translate to the big or even the small screen.  That’s because it
packed so much story, so much brilliant story, into its ten issues.
When I think about how amazing this Vertigo series was and when I
think how cool its international settings would look on the screen,
there’s no doubt in my mind that I would happily hand over my hard-
earned cash to see such a movie.

I could see Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Stuntman as the basis for a
super-hero comedy/adventure/musical.  Consider all the press that
has come with the ill fortunes of the Spider-Man musical that may
or may not ever have an official opening on Broadway.  Add some
malice aforethought to those ill fortunes, the comical detecting of
pompous actor Don Daring, and the two-fisted abilities of stuntman
Fred Drake - a ringer for the dim-witted Daring - and you’d have an
exciting and hilarious film.

I’ve often said Mark Crilley’s Akiko, his epic adventure of a pre-
teen girl on the planet Smoo, would be wonderful fun for movie-
goers of all ages.  It has so many great characters just waiting to
be come to life in either animated or live-action form.  This would
be a movie that could and would bring the action and the funny in
equal measure.

Want to talk another kid-friendly potential blockbuster?  Jake
Bell’s The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks, short novels about a
comics-reading middle-school student who becomes an adviser and a
sidekick to actual super-heroes, are crying out to be introduced to
a larger audience.

Based on the comics of Carl Barks, Disney’s DuckTales toons were
pretty sweet.  However, it’s 2011 and time is right for a big-
budget animated thriller starring Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and
the Junior Woodchucks in a story as close to the genius of Barks as
humanly possible.  No sugar-coating of characters and their comical
flaws.  No softening of villains like the Beagle Boys and Magica De
Spell.  The original Barks stories are just as terrific today as
they were when “Uncle Carl” first created them. A new movie could
catch that lightning.

My above suggestions barely scratch the surface of comics that
would make great life-action movies, animated features, or TV shows
We need to see Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest on the big screen.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fighting American could be an apt venue
for action-packed political satire. Max Allan Collins and Terry
Beatty’s Ms. Tree would be a fantastic role for a number of modern
actresses.  I could do this all day if I wasn’t running out of this
month’s allotted space.  But I have.

This is a game any fan can play.  I’d love to see what suggestions
you come up with.  Until then...

I’ll see you at the movies!

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, August 17, 2011



Yesterday’s bloggy thing appeared on a commercial website recently.
I ordered the website to take it down for one simple reason: they
wouldn’t pay me the agreed-upon amount for the article unless and
until I signed the ridiculous contract they sent me AFTER the piece
was written and sent to them.  I ran the article here yesterday to
establish my ownership of the piece and use it to discuss some of
the absurd contracts I’ve been offered in recent years.

Prior to writing the article, in my four decades as a professional
writer, I had written tens of thousands of things for dozens upon
dozens of clients.  To me, freelance contracts should be as simple
as possible.  All they really need to contain are:

What the client is buying.

What rights the client is buying.

What the client is paying for those rights.

The author’s pledge that the work is original and not plagiarized
from other works.    

Depending on the work being done, other clauses might be necessary.
If it’s a major book or series, the client might want to have the
writer do publicity of one sort or another and the obligations of
the writer and the client might have to be established as part of
the contract.

If royalties are involved, that should also be established in the

Things like rewrites, corrections, and other editorial matters are
other things that might need to be established in the contract, as
would the author’s rights in regard to the look of the work or how
it’s promoted or similar concerns.

That brings us up to two or three pages of contract.  It’s been a
while since I signed any contracts from DC or Marvel Comics, but I
remember their work-for-hire contracts as being no more than one or
two pages.  Short, simple, clear.

What the website asked me to sign for yesterday’s article was a 15-
page contract.  It made my head spin.

There were clauses concerning their proprietary info...of which I
possessed none and of which I wished to possess none.  It was just
a one-off assignment, not an ongoing relationship. All I knew from
the site was what I learned reading a few articles on it to gauge
their audience and style. 

There were clauses that could have restricted my writing for other
websites.  I have little interest in an exclusive contract with any
client, much less one that would make it a condition of payment for
already completed work and with no additional compensation for me.

Their contract also seemed to call for a complete list of my past
employers and works.  As noted, I have been writing professionally
for four decades.  It would take me a month to put together such a
list.  Why would I do that for this or any client?

A phrase in one of my e-mail conversations with a representative of
the site kept coming back to me.  It’s the one where someone tells
you that everybody signs this contract.  Well, if everybody signs
the contract they sent me, every one of those “everybodies” is an
idiot of the highest magnitude.

This latest absurd contract is freshest in my thoughts, but I can
tell you about a couple others.  Like the contract that read as if
I were contracting for the client’s services and not the other way
around. Or the one that would have held me financially responsible
for any screw-ups by anyone else working on the project.  Or those
that didn’t specify deadlines, payment or payment schedules.  I’m
not fond of contracts that essentially leave me at the mercy of a
client’s perhaps fleeting goodness of heart.

It’s always been my plan to keep writing until the day I die.  More
than anything other than my wife and kids, writing is what I live
for. However, if these absurd one-sided contracts are now the norm
for freelance writers, I have to reconsider my desire to continue
writing comic books and other things.  There needs to be a balance,
a fairness, to the agreements between clients and writers.  Just as
there needs to be a balance, a fairness to the economic, political,
and social agreements that should be uniting those of us who live
in the United States instead of dividing us.

There’s an old song that claims what the world needs now is love,
sweet love, the only thing, intones the song, that there’s just too
little of it.  To be sure, love is a wonderful thing.  But, right
at the present moment, I’d settle for fairness.

© 2011 Tony Isabella