Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween, my bloggy fiends.  Though I find myself somewhat
lacking in the Halloween spirit this year, I did spend much of the
weekend reading or viewing scary fare.  Of course, nothing was more
scary than when I checked out a book at one of my local library’s
self-checkout machines and it informed me I owed a library fee of

Okay...I don’t actually owe the library nearly 19 million dollars.
This is a glitch that shows up on the checkout machines every few
months.  The first several times it happened, the librarians were
as amused as I was.  The comedy has worn off for them as it happens
again and again.

My reading material this Halloween weekend consisted of two Sanctum
Books volumes published by my pal Anthony Tollin: Doc Savage #51:
“The Land of Fear” & “The Fiery Menace”
and The Shadow #53: “Garden
of Death” & “The Vampire Murders”
[$14.95 each].  The reprinted
pulp magazine tales in these two books were chosen to go along with
this Halloween season.

The Land of Fear [June 1937] is by Harold A. Davis, who authored a
dozen Doc Savage novels before becoming the first managing editor
of Newsday. The “skeleton death” utilized by the story’s villains
is sufficiently eerie to justify its inclusion in this Halloween-
themed volume, but, as a modern reader, I found another element to
be equally scary.  Davis writes glowingly of a community in Africa
formed by Southerners fleeing to that continent after the Civil War
with what are said to be their “faithful retainers.” Even today, of
course, there are some who would honor as some proud heritage a way
of life built upon the enslavement of others.  Given the acceptable
racism of the 1930s, it’s somewhat less scary in a Doc Savage yarn
than in modern politics.  My discomfort aside, Davis still spins an
exciting thriller.

Written by Lester Dent, The Fiery Menace [September 1942] is much
more to my taste.  Unlike most Doc Savage stories, this one finds
the Man of Bronze and his aides at odds with the police, a leftover
from a previous novel.  The book’s “vampire” killer is gruesome and
mysterious. “Frenemies” Monk and Ham are in especially fine form in
this one.  Also, Pat Savage, Doc’s beautiful and feisty cousin, has
a major role and that’s always a good thing. 

ISBN 978-1-60877-062-5 

My energy levels were sort of low over the weekend, so I watched a
lot of television.  Besides channel-surfing between various horror
movies - AMC was showing Halloween and all its sequels, Antenna TV
was airing a selection of Hammer Films movies, Comedy Central had
Shaun of the Dead, Turner Classic Movies had chilling classics like
Them and In the Good Old Summertime, to name a few - I watched the
first episodes of three different fantasy and/or horror series and
caught up with Supernatural.

Re: Supernatural. For me, the jury’s still out on this “Leviathan”
story arc, but the three episodes I watched were of my preferred
“monster of the week” variety.  They included a star turn by Jewel
Staite as “The Girl Next Door” from Sam’s past, a ancient Egyptian
god who was less holy and more ass-holey, and the marvelous reunion
of James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter as married witches going
through a rough patch. The Staite episode promises to have serious
consequences for the Winchester brothers.  Good stuff.

ABC’s Once Upon a Time stars Jennifer Morrison as Rose Swan, a skip
tracer who is drawn to a village whose inhabitants are transformed
fairy tale characters largely unaware of their true natures.  Yes,
it’s uncomfortably close to Bill Willingham’s Fables in some ways,
but the pilot episode was intriguing enough for me to add the show
to my Sunday recording schedule.  However, right from the get-go,
I’m seeing this as a one-story series that shouldn’t run more than
12 or 13 episodes.  Unless ABC is looking for something as boring
as Lost quickly became. 

On Friday nights, NBC’s Grimm also attempts to dine on Willingham’s
lunch.  A police detective discovers he is the last in a long line
of monster-hunters with the ability to see these creatures as their
true selves when they let their guard down.  Now I love me my cop
shows, especially when they have a quirk to them, and I’ll continue
watching this for a while.  However, it does bother me more than a
little that the Big Bad Wolf - an accountant who has disavowed his
wicked ways - is the hero’s unwilling informant and sidekick.  Too
close to Fables for comfort.

On Wednesday nights, BBC has Whitechapel.  Rupert Penry-Jones plays
a stuffy and inexperienced police inspector whose rise through the
ranks is politically motived.  His first case with detectives who
have little regard for his finery is the brutal slaying of a young
woman, but, by the end of the first episode, it’s clear some modern
mastermind and monster is duplicating the Jack the Ripper murders.
Absolutely gripping television.

Getting back to Sanctum Books...

I’m only about 70% through The Shadow #53: “Garden of Death” & “The
Vampire Murders,”
but I have finished the first of the two novels
it presents.  Garden of Death [September 1, 1942] is now one of my
favorite Shadow yarns, a terrific thriller with a truly diabolical
villain, all sorts of clever bits and great roles for the Shadow’s
supporting cast.  In the hands of author Walter B. Gibson, the
“Garden” itself becomes a fascinating character.  Wonderful stuff.

The Vampire Murders [September 8, 1946], which I’ll finish today,
has a sprawling “haunted” house, a gathering of would-be heirs to
a family fortune, sinister servants, and a prowling vampire.  The
vampire is likely not the real deal, but the fun this yarn has been
delivering is genuine.

Backing up the two novels is “Vampires Prowl by Night,” the script
to a Shadow radio thriller from 1946.  It’s written by Gibson Scott
Fox.  Extras like this and the historical essays by Tollin and Will
Murray make Sanctum’s Doc Savage and Shadow books must reading
for fans of the characters, of the pulps, and of old time radio.
I recommend them all.

ISBN 978-1-60877-061-8

If all goes as planned, I will be handing out candy here in Medina
tonight with Sainted Wife Barb.  I hope your own Halloween is safe
and full of frightening fun.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Back from two conventions, I’m again diving into the first month of
DC’s “New 52.” Let’s see what I find.

Mister Terrific #1 [$2.99] is the third of these new DCU titles to
star an African or African-American hero.  That’s a welcome trend.
While my reading of the old DCU titles has been sporadic, I knew a
little about Mister Terrific and liked the character.

Writer Eric Wallace covers the basis well enough.  Michael Holt is
an atheist but not really.  Science is his god and, after his wife
dies, he is talked out of taking his own life by an apparition who
claims to be his future son.  His blind faith in science leads him
to lend his support to a Republican candidate simply because said
candidate isn’t as anti-science as most of the GOP.  That struck me
as an intriguing character flaw. 

The writing is somewhat uneven, but there are some good moments in
this issue.  An unseen menace turns a man into a murderous genius.
Holt’s friendship with Karen (Power Girl) Starr causes some tension
between her and a black woman.  It’s a seriously awkward scene and
not entirely believable, but it was clearly meant to be an awkward
moment.  The cliffhanger is intriguing, but it’ll only work for me
if Holt extricates himself from the peril.  I really don’t want to
see him rescued by Power Girl next month.

Were I buying and not borrowing these comics from a friend, Mister
is one I’d keep buying.  For now.

I liked Resurrection Man #1 [$2.99]. Mitch Shelley can’t die and,
each time he is “killed” and returns to life, he has a new power.
His continued presence offends what appears to be an organization
of demons.  Spooky stuff.

This first issue could have read and flowed better visually, but I
was delighted that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are writing their
creation once more. Having never himself created anything worth
note, Dan DiDio has a history of disrespecting creators.  However,
with Abnett/Lanning back on Resurrection Man and Paul Levitz doing
a Huntress mini-series, perhaps DiDio has found religion of sorts.
In any case, Resurrection Man is another title worth sticking with.
I find myself enjoying more “new 52" titles than I expected when I
started reading these initial issues.

If I had to use but one word to describe Superboy #1 ($2.99), that
word would be...leaden.  The entire issue takes place in one lab or
another.  There was only one character - not Superboy - with whom
I could even mildly relate. There were the usual cliche corporation
or government - who can tell - authority figures who were, at best,
callous bastards.  There was a silly mystery about who supplied the
human portion of Superboy’s DNA. (Could his name rhyme with “Tex”?)
There was a last page foreshadowing of Superboy’s role in the Teen
Titans, a series that stopped being interesting decades ago.  This
first issue gives me no reason to come back for a second.

Batman #1 [$2.99] was a pleasant surprise.  Scott Snyder’s script
did a fine job introducing the cast - facial recognition software,
I love it - and giving us a creditable Bruce Wayne, someone who’s
not just a mask for Batman.  Damian was so less evil and obnoxious
that, for once, he didn’t make me want to hand the Joker a crowbar.
There was a nice political/social subplot and the introduction of
an intriguing mystery.  The Greg Capullo/Jonathan Glapion art was
quite nice as well.  If this book continues to portray a Batman who
is not a dick, I’ll keep reading it. 

Birds of Prey #1 [$2.99] was just kind of...there.  The characters
(Black Canary and Starling) didn’t hook me.  The shadowy villains
didn’t intrigue me.  Neither the writing nor the art struck me as
more than journeyman at best.  This series doesn’t work without a
strong lead (Oracle) overcoming a major handicap at its core. That
was what gave the former Birds of Prey its compelling emotion and
its heart.  I’ll pass on a second issue.

While I tried to avoid reading reviews of “The New 52" books before
I read them myself, it was impossible to avoid all the online talk
about them.  Even so, I tried to approach these comics with an open
mind and believe I succeeded.

Catwoman #1 [$2.99] was a disappointment.  Here’s a great character
and writer Judd Winick managed to avoid all the great elements of
her past appearances.  The entire issue read like a set-up to that
absurd and undignified scene when Batman and Catwoman have sex on
a rooftop.  It’s exploitation sexuality and just plain lousy comic
books.  Whether it’s ego or simply a lack of talent, Winick doesn’t
write other people’s creations well.

As for Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 [$2.99], it’s a vile companion
to such sludge as the New 52's Deathstroke and Suicide Squad.  The
characters are either pathetic or unlikeable.  If Starfire creators
Marv Wolfman and George Perez dragged writer Scott Lobdell into an
alley to beat the crap out of him, I’d not only look the other way,
I’d say they were having lunch with me at the time. 

Okay, I’m not seriously encouraging violence towards Lobdell or any
other comics writer.  But Red Hood and the Outlaws, like Catwoman,
is an awful comic book.  I can’t think of a single reason why I’d
ever buy or read another issue of either.

Paul Jenkins writes Deadman in DC Universe Presents #1 [$2.99] and
it’s the best portrayal of the character since his original run in
Strange Adventures.  With terrific art by Bernard Chang, Jenkins
tells us everything we need to know about Boston Brand, establishes
his character and purpose, avoids bringing in extraneous elements
like the League of Assassins, and gives us a cliffhanger I did not
see coming.  For however long Deadman headlines this title, I’ll be
reading it. 

Green Lantern Corps #1 [$2.99] was another “blah” debut.  The only
element I found interesting was the attempt by John Stewart and Guy
Gardner to mix real lives with their Green Lantern duties.  I would
love to see more of that, but, of course, what we will get is more of
the same old “7000 Green Lanterns in space” stuff that marked this
title in its previous incarnation.  Been there, didn’t enjoy that,
won’t be back for more.

I wanted to like Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [$2.99].  When that book
is good, it’s great and it’s been good many times in its decades of
publication.  But this debut issue had too much back story and too
little of the grandeur that is the Legion at its best.  Because, at
its best, the Legion is a bright shining future which reveals that
mankind survives our turbulent modern times.  The uneven Francis
Portela art added to the failure of this first issue to entertain
me.  The title is written by Paul Levitz, which earns it a second
chance with me, but I need better from this series.

Nightwing #1 [$2.99] is yet another “blah” first issue.  There’s an
obligatory fight scene at the beginning of the issue that goes on
too long.  There’s a scene I liked with Dick Grayson visiting the
traveling circus that used to be his home.  There’s the arrival
of a hitman who dispatches two cops in bloody fashion and is about
to do the same to Grayson for the issue’s cliffhanger.  Not enough
good stuff to make me want to come back for the next issue.  Once
again, I question why DC decided to launch with 52 first issues in
a single month instead of taking the time and effort to make sure
their relaunches were good comic books. 

The theme of Supergirl #1 [$2.99] appears to be big explosions and
the hitting of people and things.  It may be the most boring issue
yet of DC’s “New 52.” It’s definitely a ridiculous approach for a
first issue.  No second issue for me.

Wonder Woman #1 [$2.99] was intriguing. Writer Brian Azzarello’s
horror/mythology take was certainly different from previous takes
on the series, albeit a little gory for my tastes.  Cliff Chiang’s
art was excellent.  Though I would like to see Wonder Woman emerge
as a symbol of hope and inspiration - two things we need more of in
our entertainment and our world - I’m sticking with this title for
the immediate future.  A fine first issue.

That takes us through the third week of “The New 52.” Give me a few
days to read the fourth week and we’ll pick this up again.  In the
meantime, I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The above photo shows me nanoseconds after my eyes popped back into
their sockets after I first saw my friend Mike Maloy in his Black
Lightning costume.  Scary, huh?

As much as I enjoy most conventions, especially Mid-Ohio-Con, it’s
always nice to get back home.  My wife and my cat are both glad to
see me, though only one of them follows me everywhere for the next
two days to make sure I’m not leaving again.

There’s always e-mails and newspapers to catch up on.  The latter
can be stressful.  It’s bad enough reading about the latest right-
wing craziness on a daily basis.  Getting up to speed on many days
of their antics makes me almost as crazy as they are.  Which is not
to say that the left wing is without its nuttiness; it’s just not
remotely as insane as that of the right.

The e-mails can be frustrating, especially when someone informs me
of something that would have been really useful to know if I’d read
it before leaving my house sans computer.  I suppose I’ll have to
buy some sort of laptop or computer-like device to take on the road
in the future.  Sigh.  I do enjoy being disconnected from time to

One e-mail that was waiting for me on my return from the New York
Comic Con calls for a public answer...with names redacted because
it’s my blog and I can do what I want.  The e-mailer was surprised
to have seen me in friendly conversation with someone he thought I
would never want to talk to ever again. 

I don’t believe in letting go of all anger.  There are people who
have done things to me and to others that can never be forgotten or
forgiven.  There are politicians who have done such awful things to
our country that I will never stop wanting to see them rotting in
prison cells.  There are criminals who should never see the light
of day.  One order of cold revenge please.

But, the older I get, the more selective I get when it comes to the
anger I choose to keep.  Sometimes I recognize people made mistakes
and that those mistakes do not define them.  Sometimes I think the
universe has balanced the scales for me.  Sometimes I just remember
the good times and weigh them more heavily than the bad.  Sometimes
I just think “what the hell” and let go of the anger.

I have an industry friend who was so grievously wronged by a former
editor and suffered so terribly as a result that he can never let
go of his anger.  Nor should he.  Especially since the editor never
tried to make amends beyond “we should put that behind us.”  It’s
just plain stupid for the editor to think that’s possible without
considerable effort on his part.  At present, he remains clueless
as to how heinous his behavior was all those years ago.  Or, more
likely, can’t face up to what an utter shit he was.

I’m repeating myself, but I’m in a very good place right now.  I’ve
got family, friends, and work I enjoy.  We’re making ends meet with
only an occasional bump in the financial road.  I’m not dependent
on DC or Marvel.  No one in the comics industry can hurt me.  They
can anger me, they can annoy me, and, God knows, they can cheat me,
but they can’t lay a glove on what’s important to me.  They have no
power over me.  A good place.

By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, I get somewhat thoughtful
after conventions.  Post-convention syndrome.

Moving right along...

Posted on October 2, “1996: A Comic-Book Manifesto” is the second
most viewed blog since I launched this new blog.  It was linked to
in a number of other blogs, for which I am grateful. 

When it ran, I posted that I would send an autographed comic book
or trade to writers of the best five comments on my 1996 manifesto.
Well, there were seven comments and all their authors are going to
get a prize from me.  Their names:

Darryn R
Dave Potts
Ray Sablack  
Nick Marino
The Pushers
Terry Bosky

All the winners need to do to claim their prizes is e-mail me with
their mailing addresses.  I’ll ship out the prizes as swiftly as my
schedule allows.

What’s next? I’ll finish reading/reviewing the rest of DC’s first
“New 52" issues.  Yeah, I know the second issues are already coming
out.  But I’m never going to be one of those bloggers who rushes to
the comics shop every Wednesday and then rushes home to read the
comics so he/she can blog about them before the other bloggers on
the block.  I like to take my time, read the comics carefully, and
reflect on them...before pulling my reviews out of my ass like the
rest of the bloggers.  Take them for what you think they’re worth.
These are reviews, not commandments.


Another blogger wrote a hilarious review of an issue of Satan’s Six
I wrote back in the day.  It raised several interesting questions.
Okay, maybe more humorously smart-ass than interesting. Still, his
piece tickled me, so I’ll be writing something about Satan’s Six in
the next few days and include a link to his blog.

So...expect the usual mix of news, views, and reviews with the odd
trip into my past and/or my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.  I’ll even
take requests.  I may not do anything with them, but I will accept
them with a smile.  That’s all for now.  I’ll be back tomorrow with
more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 28, 2011


Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-Con is not a name that rolls trippingly
off one’s tongue.  Changing it to Wizard World Mid-Ohio-Con would
be my suggestion, along with the show creating a role for founder
Roger Price.  As much fun as this first Wizard event was, it would
have been better with Roger along for the ride.

However, that’s one of my very few “complaints” about the con.  I
have noted with dismay that the knives came out early, fueled by a
store owner objecting to both the price of a booth at the show and
quite possibly too aggressive behavior by a Wizard World salesman.
I’ve read the remarks, watched the video, and I think this matter
has been blown considerably out of proportion to its actual impact
on anything.  Maybe I’m getting mellow in my dotage.

Once the first knife came out, I noted with greater dismay that the
best one anti-Wizard poster could come up with was something that
happened over 15 years prior.  At the time, it was a lapse of both
courtesy and judgment by a Wizard staffer.  What the poster failed
to note was that Wizard made good on this lapse the very next year
of their Chicago show. 

All I can do is repeat what I’ve been saying all week long.  I had
a fine time at the Mid-Ohio show and thought Wizard World did
honor to the convention’s proud heritage.

I signed a lot of Isabella-written comic books during the show and
I hope I didn’t freak out the couple fans who innocently asked me
to sign the unclean thing that is Black Lightning Year One.  I’ve
given my reasons for my refusal to sign copies of this before, but
it probably bears repeating.

I have not read Black Lightning Year One, nor is it likely I will
read it in the future.  Dan DiDio issued a decree that I could not
be hired to write the series.  Then he tried to omit my creator’s
credit for the series.  Then he used the wrong version of my name
when he was forced to include my credit.  Insult and injury piled
on top of insult and injury, especially galling coming from such a
mediocre writer and editor as DiDio.  I’m generally a “never say
never” kind of guy, but it’s hard for me to imagine how DiDio and
DC could make amends for this specific example of their disrespect
towards me.  Not to mention decades of similar disrespect and, of
course, failure to honor agreements with me.

But I digress into areas of unpleasantness when I would much rather
share the good times with you.  And there were no shortage of good
times at Mid-Ohio-Con.

Max Ink asked me to contribute to a small press anthology intended
to benefit the Hero Initiative.  The theme so tickled my fancy that
I came up with a story on the spot.  I’ll keep you posted on when
this anthology will be published and how you can obtain copies of
it when it is published.

Continuing this fall’s trend of my seeing comics people I haven’t
seen in a decade or more, Bill Sienkiewicz was at Mid-Ohio-Con this
year.  Bill is one of the most individual comics creators I know.
Even when I don’t get his work completely, it never fails to catch
my interest and demand my attention.  He’s a terrific artist and a
nice guy.  However, I am alarmed and incredibly envious that Bill
still looks like a teenager.  I am consoling myself by assuming he
has a horribly aging self-portrait in his attic.

As with the New York Comic Con, I picked up a nice stack of comics
and books at Mid-Ohio.  Once I get past a few upcoming deadlines,
I look forward to reading and possibly reviewing some of them here.
Every year, at the end of this show, I kick myself for not checking
out more of the Artists Alley tables for new stuff.  There might be
gold in them there aisles!

I donated a couple signed copies of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read
to the Hero Initiative and one to the USS Lagrange.  The latter is
a chapter of Starfleet based not too far from my Medina home.  In
years past, I was an honorary member of the crew, appearing at the
Star Trek conventions they used to host.  The crew is still active
and involved in all sorts of community service, so I’m planning to
reenlist in 2012.  As long as they don’t make me wear one of those
red shirts. 

Though he spoke up too late in the convention for it to do be any
good this year, Thom Zahler offered me a suggestion that will make
writing convention reports much easier for me.  Thom always has a
small notebook with him and - surprise - makes notes in it during
the convention.  It’s so simple it might just work.

If there’s been an overriding theme to this week’s bloggy things,
it’s simply this: I had a wonderful time at Wizard World Mid-Ohio
Comic-Con.  So did a lot of other fans and professionals.  Whatever
our doubts going into the show, these were quickly dispelled by the
amazing attendance, the great fans, the terrific venue, and Wizard
World’s friendly and skilled staff.  I got to spend time with some
of my favorite people in the world.  It was a fun weekend.  If you
were there, you know this as well as I do.

Once again, I want to thank Wizard World for inviting me to their
show and treating me so well.  If they want me back next year, they
have only to ask.  If they ask me to any of their other shows, I’m
sure we’ll be able to work something out.  They earned my good will
this year.  Kudos to them.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-Con was the first convention I’ve done
in years where I felt comfortable within myself.  Beau Smith, that
wise old man of comics, once remarked that one’s convention persona
is most successful when you are yourself ramped up to “11" or so.
You can be more cheerful/effusive/outgoing than you are the other
days of your lives, but I think your convention persona still has
to  You can fake anything else.  However subtlety, your
fans and fellow professionals will sense that something isn’t quite
honest about you.

Writing Grim Ghost showed me and others that I could still write
some damn fine comic books.  Heading towards 60 has taught me what
is and isn’t important in my life.  I’ll need to devote an entire
blog to this discussion in the near future, but, in my own life, I
am a happy man.  The destructive actions and positions of the Tea
Party Republicans and the other Republicans they’ve so thoroughly
cowed concern me and my hope for my nation’s future, but, my life
is still a mighty good one.

I am concerned about what’s going on at DC and Marvel, especially
for the friends I have working at those companies.  But my interest
in working for those companies again is virtually nil and there’s
really nothing either company can do that can actually hurt me in
a meaningful way.  They can anger and annoy and even cheat me, but
they can’t lay a glove on the real me and my life.

I have my medical issues, including the need for some expensive and
deservedly painful dental work, but I’m in pretty decent shape for
an overweight dwarf racing towards 60.  I feel an urgency to deal
with these medical issues, but not a crazed obsession.  They will
be dealt with and I will be around to annoy those deserving of such
for many years to come.  Bwah. Ha. Ha.

So Mid-Ohio-Con 2011 began for me with the inner knowledge that I
knew and liked myself...and that the convention was already my most
financially successful convention ever.  I could kick back and have
a great time with my many friends in comics, some of whom I would
be meeting for the first time.

As good fortune would have it, my Artists Alley table was next to
that of my good friend Thom Zahler, the superhumanly-talented guy
who writes and draws Love and Capes.  Which is, of course, one of
the best comic books being published today.  I love watching Thom
interact with potential customers and regularly marvel at the lad’s
time-management skills.  This old dog picked up a few tips watching
this young master at work.

Mike Grell, another old friend, was at the show.  Mike is editor-
in-chief of Atlas Comics, but you probably know him best for such
great comics as Jon Sable Freelance, Warlord, Green Arrow, and
Legion of Super-Heroes.  We talked some Atlas business and we are
hoping some good things come out of those talks.

Digression.  The previous weekend, at the New York Comic Con, I had
a number of business-type discussions that I’ll be following up on
the rest of the year.  I hadn’t expected to do much of that at Mid-
Ohio-Con.  Much to my delight, I had a number of similar talks in
Columbus.  While there’s no guarantee anything will come out of any
of these discussions, I’m guardedly optimistic that some excellent
things will come out of them.  End digression.

Chuck Rozanski and his Mile High Comics were at the show, selling
great comics at bargain prices.  I always enjoy talking to my pal
Chuck.  He’s one of the smartest and best businessmen in the comics
industry and, as importantly, he’s never lost his love of comics.
I always learn something when I get together with Chuck.

I wasn’t the only person from my Medina neck of the woods that came
to the show.  Not far from my home is the Medina Antiques Mall, a
permanent garage sale of all sorts of stuff, including comic books.
So, over a hundred miles from Medina, for the first time, I met the
fellow who sells comics in the mall. 

I also met Joe Dombi and his daughter, whose name I’ve unforgivably
forgotten.  They live pretty close to me in Medina and she’s a
sophomore at Medina High School, which is less than two blocks from
my house.  That was fun.

Bob Hoskins of Stormwatch Comics (West Berlin, New Jersey) was set
up at the convention with his assistant Laura Guzzo.  I have been
doing business with Bob for years, but have only met him a couple
times in those years.  This year, I got to spend more time with him
and lovely talented Laura and, as a natural consequence of that, I
had great fun with them.

When I say Laura is lovely and talented, I’m not just kidding.  She
is a terrific artist and one of the five finalists in the category
of art in the 2011 Raw Philadelphia competition.  You can see her
work at her website.

A few years back, James and Bill Henry bought Mid-Ohio-Con from my
pal (and show founder) Roger Price.  They did a great job with it,
then sold it to Wizard World last year.  They remain involved with
the convention and, on Saturday night, they threw a way cool after-
con party for creators and volunteers.

How much fun was it?  It was so much fun this old guy stayed at it
until sometime after 1 am in the morning.  I hung out with some of
the best people I know: Bob Ingersoll, Thom Zahler, Paul Storrie,
Scott Smith, Renee Witterstaetter, Bob Hoskins, Laura Guzzo, Sarah
Gray, Emily (whose last name I don’t know, but who was charming as
all get out), Ron Frenz, Max Ink, Michael Golden, and others whose
names are lost in my feeble memory.

There was much humor, ribald and otherwise.  There were scandalous
goings on of which I shall never speak.  There were amazing stories
of days past and present.  Disparaging “nerd” barbs aside, comics
people bring the fun wherever they go.   

Come back tomorrow and I will tell you more of this wondrous thing
called Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-Con, a moniker I was unable to
pronounce by the time I left the party.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Here’s the second part of my Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-Con report
and I’m leading with the most personally mind-blowing moment of the
two-day show.  It’s the moment when my friend Mike Maloy showed up
in a Black Lightning costume. 

Mike comes to every Mid-Ohio-Con in a great costume.  I’ve seen him
as Luke Cage, the John Stewart Green Lantern, and the black Captain
America.  He works with an immensely talented designer and he just
never fails to astonish the crowd.  That he’s a fan of my work and
a friend is something that pleases me greatly. 

I’m told there is a photo of the very moment when I first saw this
Black Lightning costume.  If it comes my way, I’ll share with you
here.  I’m betting my eyes are extended several feet from my head
as if I were an old cartoon character.

Back to the beginning...

The state of Ohio decided it would be giggles to close the freeway
ramps to the Greater Columbus Convention Center and, of course, the
Grand Battelle loading dock.  I gather this kind of luck is par for
the course for the Wizard World crew.  In Boston, President Obama
once decided to give a speech where their con was being held and,
in support of Obama, James Taylor decided to give a free concert.
Secret Service agents literally prevented comics fans from getting
into the convention.  Closed entrance and exit ramps?  Hardly worth
mentioning in that context.

Since I was driving in from The Ohio State University after picking
up my son, assistant, and booth babe Eddie, getting to the Center
wasn’t a problem.  But it took us a couple of tries to navigate the
closed ramp to get to the Battelle loading zone.  While the zone
was small, we had no trouble unloading.

Normally, when I attend a convention, I sell bargain-priced stuff
from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff to meet my expenses and, most of
the time, make a profit.  However, Wizard World’s rules for Artists
Alley specify that you can only sell comics and things on which you
have worked.  That limited me to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read and
Grim Ghost.  Sort of.

Since I wasn’t competing directly with the retailers at the show,
I was able to deliver a box of comics to a dealer friend of mine.
So I made my first sale on Friday afternoon.  That more than paid
for Eddie’s and my late lunch at the amazing BD’s Mongolian BBQ, a
short walk from the hotel.  When you come to Mid-Ohio-Con, you must
eat at this place.  I know of guests who agree to come to the show
just so they can eat there.

This next part is a bit of a digression.  In going through part of
my Vast Accumulation of Stuff this summer, I found a nice stack of
original art from comic books I had worked on.  My original intent
was to sell it myself.  I did sell two of the pieces to an original
art dealer I knew and trusted because I had a specific use for the
money.  It worked out to his and my satisfaction...and not so much
to some other original art dealers who said they wanted a crack at
it when they really meant they wanted me to sell to them and only
them.  It was an education.

The education led me to decide I didn’t really want to be selling
original art myself.  But, determined to make the most out of Mid-
Ohio-Con financially, I brought a bunch of art to the convention.
Knowing I would be meeting up with another original art dealer who
I liked and trusted.  Long story short: before the convention even
opened, I sold all the art I brought and assured myself of having
my most profitable show ever.

Selling original art effectively requires more effort and time than
I’m willing to devote to it at a time when I have plenty of writing
work.  I’d have to invest in a much bigger, better scanner than the
one I currently own and use.  I’d have to research prices to a much
greater degree than when I’m selling books and comics.  I’d have to
take greater pains in the packaging and shopping of the art.  I’ve
no problem with hard work, but, given my choice of hard work, I’d
rather stick with the writing.

The dealer who bought my art will, I hope, sell it for more than he
paid me for it.  Far more, I hope, because he’s a good and honest
guy.  Me?  I got what I considered a good price and the money will
go to another specific use I had for it.  I’m happy.  He’s happy.
There’s a benefit to not trying to blow smoke up my ass, a lesson
some other original art dealers should take to heart.

When more original art rises to the surface of my VAOS, I’ll offer
it to these two dealers with whom I’ve already done business.  I’m
comfortable with them.  They’re comfortable with me. 

I haven’t sold all of the original art I own.  There are a number
of pieces I’m holding on to because, someday, they will be hanging
on the wall of my renovated office.  Along with some commissions I
hope to acquire in the next few years.  All paid for by sales from
the VAOS.  Godzilla willing. digression ran longer than I’d anticipated when I started
writing it.  I have more to say about Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-
Con.  So let’s adjourn for today and come back tomorrow when, as is
the habit around here, I’ll be back with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


No one, especially me, knew what to expect from Wizard World Mid-
Ohio Comic-Con
, the first such event since Wizard World bought the
third longest continuously-running American comic convention from
James Henry who had, a few years earlier, bought the show from its
founder, Roger Price. I have often called Mid-Ohio-Con my favorite
convention.  I’ve only missed two of them over the decades the show
has existed.  Heck, for more than half of the convention’s life, I
was its panel programming director.  So many years, so many great
Mid-Ohio-Con memories and, after this year’s show, I have even more
great Mid-Ohio memories.

Wizard World did an outstanding job.  I watched their staff handle
several problems in swift satisfying manner the afternoon before
the show and several times during the show.  I confess I was one of
those problems - a revised floor plan had my Artist Alley table so
far back in the hall that I was barely in the convention - but they
resolved the situation efficiently.  I thanked them then for their
kind consideration and I thank them again here.

This year’s event was held in the Grand Battelle Grand Ballroom of
the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Several years back, Roger
Price used this ballroom for one of his Mid-Ohio-Con.  Back then,
it was a big cold room also used for basketball games with a very
unsightly scoreboard hanging overhead.  The floors were concrete.
The overhead lights didn’t quite make the place look as bright as
the fans, the guests, and the show deserved.  It was still a great
show because Price was a master of putting on great shows.

This year, we saw Battelle after over a year of extreme renovation.
At the far end of the wall were enormous floor-to-ceiling windows
that made the convention look as bright as I’ve ever seen a comics
convention look.  Sure, some guests and fans burst into flames when
the sun’s rays touched them, but is that such a high price to pay
for such an airy feel?

The overhead ceiling is an array of changing colored lights.  It’s
got a cool Logan’s Run feel to it.  Thankfully, my palm crystal
hasn’t started to glow yet.

The floor of the hall was carpeted from stem to stern.  My feet and
the feet of the large crowd of comics professionals, media guests,
and fans owe thanks to the Convention Center for this upgrade.  My
feet might still have hurt a bit at the end of the day, but it was
nowhere near as bad as the burning-leg sensations of the New York
Comic-Con I’d attended last weekend.  I’d rate the new Battelle one
of the most comfortable convention venues of them all.

Sticking to the physical layout of Mid-Ohio, the Batmobile and the
media guests were all at the front of the hall.  This might need a
bit of rethinking for next year as this sometimes caused gridlock
when people were trying to enter or exit the hall.  However, most
of the time this wasn’t a huge problem.

The retail exhibitors came next.  There was lots of comics dealers
and a variety of other exhibitors.  There were also insane bargains
to be found at nearly every booth.  I thanked Godzilla - my scaly
lord who protects us with his fiery atomic love - that I am years
away from being able to put together a want list.  So much terrific
stuff at truly eye-popping low prices.

There were nearly 200 artists, writers, and organizations heading
back towards the floor-to-ceiling windows.  I don’t think I managed
to see more than a quarter of them and, often, it was a quick “Hi!
How are you?” so as to not get in the way of the paying customers.
There was an astonishing array of talent and just as much variety
in the work they were doing.  Impressive.

By way of suggestion, Artists Alley could use some rethinking next
year.  It could get cramped behind those tables, especially when a
rude neighbor would take more than half the width behind their own
table...or block the entrances to the rows by stacking their things
in said entrances.  We’re all in this together, my friends, so let
us be respectful of one another. 

Attendance?  Even the Wizard World folks were caught by surprise by
how many people came to the show and the kind of distances they had
traveled to get there.  Mid-Ohio has never been just an Ohio event.
It draws people from several states in every direction.

The Battelle Grand hall was packed all day Saturday and still drew
a good crowd on Sunday.  Several dealers told me they had already
hit their target goals for the entire convention within two hours
of the show opening on Saturday. A number of artists told me this
was their best show of the year and that was certainly true in my
own case. 

Though smaller than New York’s Javitz Center, the home of the New
York Comic Con, the Greater Columbus Convention Center is way more
user-friendly.  For one thing, there were plenty of clean and well-
maintained restrooms.  Even given that guys are essentially slobs,
the center workers kept the restrooms functional and cleaner than
most other venues of this nature.

The Javitz Center has too few food choices and way too few places
to sit once you bought your food.  Not so the Greater Columbus
Convention Center.  Besides the restaurants at the connected Hyatt
Regency Hotel, the center has a large food court with a dozen or so
different restaurants.  The prices are reasonable, the food is good
to excellent, and the seating is sufficient for most times of the
day.  Indeed, the chicken fried rice is so good at one of the food
court restaurants that, in years past, I’d buy extra to take home
and reheat.  Yummy!

A quick word about the Hyatt.  The hotel also underwent renovation
recently.  My room was one of the nicest I’d ever had in a hotel of
this level.  And, unlike the hotel where I stayed in New York and
where more than half of the workers were surly creeps, the Hyatt’s
employees are always friendly and efficient.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll give you more details on my Wizard World
Mid-Ohio Comic-Con experience.  For now, I’ll just say that it was
a wonderful convention in the tradition of past Mid-Ohio-Cons and
I’d recommend it to any and all of you for next year. 

If Wizard invites me for next year, I’ll be back next year.  And,
if their other shows are this good, I’ll do as many of them as they
ask me to do.  I had a blast!

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 21, 2011


A few hours after I post today’s blog, I’ll be driving to Columbus
for the Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-Con, October 22 and 23, at the
Columbus Convention Center.  But, at the moment, I’m remembering my
New York Comic Con experiences of last weekend. My notes on that
event are unorganized, but my heart is pure. 

Activate random memory cells.

Signing at the Atlas Comics booth was a blast.  While I was there,
two folks from DC Comics stopped by to talk to me.  The first just
wanted to say “hi” and the second...well, he seemed to be exploring
whether I wanted to write for DC again.  If he had actually asked,
I’d have told him “probably not, but that’s not carved in stone.”
Never say never and all.

If I could do it my way, I’d likely be interested in writing Black
Lightning again.  I created the character and I still have much to
say through him.  But, honestly, to write for DC again, I’d have to
be convinced I wouldn’t be nibbled to death by editors and be able
to write my stories and not some editor’s stories.  I’d also have
to be convinced the company wouldn’t screw me over again.  And, to
complete my impossible demands, DC would have to offer me a project
I really wanted to write with an artist I really wanted to work
with.  I don’t expect such a perfect storm to ever occur during my

Several friends and readers asked me if I were writing a sequel to
my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.  The short answer is...not any
time soon.  There are a few other books on comics I want to write
first.  However, since I do not intend to write any more books for
Krause Publications, I need to find a new publisher or publishers
for these books.  Once I get these other books under my belt, then
I’ll start working on the sequel.  On a more positive note, I spoke
briefly with two different publishers at the convention and will be
talking more with them in the near future.

Whenever possible, I hung out with my friend and former editor Jim
Salicrup at the NBM/Papercutz booth.  Paul Levitz dropped by and we
had a nice chat.  Before the end of the show, I would get together
with a number of comics pals from the 1970s, including Bob Rozakis,
Jack C. Harris, Paul Kupperberg, Marty Pasko, Michael Uslan, John
Workman, Naomi Basner, and others. I also paid my respects to Neal
Adams, a creative and philosophical mentor to myself and many other
comics creators who entered the industry in the 1970s.

This blog could turn into a phone book if I mentioned every friend
and comics creator I spent time with during the convention.  One of
the high points was finally meeting my good buddies Barry Pearl and
Doctor Michael Vassallo. Barry is the ultimate Marvel Comics fan of
the 1960s and 1970s.  Doc V is an expert on the artists and comics
of the 1940s and 1950s.  I’ve exchanged e-mails with these guys for
years and it was great to be able to talk with them face-to-face.

Robin and Elayne Riggs were set up in Artist Alley.  Comics artist
Robin was selling an incredible “Dinosaurs in New York” print that
he drew and it’s a stunning piece of work.  I traded him a copy of
1000 Comic Books You Must Read for one and said print will have a
place of honor on my office wall once I renovate that space.  I’m
sure the above image doesn’t do the art justice, but you can order
the print at Robin’s website.

Also in Artist Alley was Ron Randall, who inked a memorable Hawkman
Special back when I was writing the character.  Preparing for new
stories, Ron is reprinting his Trekker series online.  You can read
it here.

Visiting the Archie Comics booth during the show was always great
fun.  Thanking me for my support of their comics in my columns, I
was very warmly received by Victor Gorelick, John Goldwater, Mike
Pellerito, and Alex Segura.  After the convention, I told Alex how
impressed I was by the friendliness of everyone at Archie...before
asking him if Archie Comics was really in the same comics industry
as the rest of us.  Good people there.

It’s taking all my will power to resist going the phone book route
with this column.  So many wonderful meetings and reunions: Chris
Claremont, Danny Fingeroth, Don McGregor. Jeff Krell (whose Jayson
is one of my favorite indy comics books), Joe Sinnott, Tom DeFalco,
Vincente Alcazar, Joe Staton, Dwight Zimmerman, Al Davison, Keith
DeCandido, Renee Witterstaetter, Steve Scott, Will Murray, Peter
Kuper, Peter David, Herb Trimpe, Bob McLeod, Arvell Jones, Spencer
Beck, Mike Burkey, Alex Saviuk, and...must stop here and apologize
to anyone whose name I left out. 

Con swag?  I got me some.  I bought the musical “Soft Kitty” plush
toy from StylinOnline.  Brendan Deneen hooked me up with a stack of
Ardeen comics.  Jason Goodman gave me a Grim Ghost statue and a t-
shirt.  I bought a CSI NY cap because I decided I need more crime
lab clothing, whether it’s from real or fictional crime labs.  Any
actual CSIs among my readers should contact me.  I will trade for
your gear.

I’m already planning to return for next year’s New York Comic Con.
I had a fantastic time this year and expect to have an even better
time next year.  I hope to see you there.

This bloggy thing is taking the next three or four days off while
I go to and recover from Mid-Ohio-Con.  But I’ll be back next
week with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Yes, I’m hopped up on Amoxicillin and Vicodin as I write this blog.
Yes, root canal surgery is in my future. But will I let that stop
me from writing about the New York Comic Con and my adventures
at that event?  I say thee...nay!

For the record, I rarely say “thee” or “nay” when I am not hopped
up on Amoxicillin and Vicodin.  On the other hand, I’ve been known
to toss off a “verily” now and then.

The New York Comic Con was held October 13-16 at the Javitz Center.
That venue was less than adequate for the event’s crowd of over one
hundred thousand attendees.  It was often difficult to get around
the convention, though this was equally the fault of the promoters
putting the aisle-blocking electronics and video game exhibitors in
locations too small for them. Such exhibitors should be spread out
in the future.  That said, one of these exhibitors had an enormous
display and presentation area next to Artist Alley and designed it
perfectly.  It was definitely a good neighbor.

DC Comics did a great job keeping their considerable traffic within
their space.  I passed by their area several times - a restraining
order prevented me from actually entering it - and it never caused
any traffic jams outside its space.

Marvel? They managed their space well, but their pumping up of the
volume and their constant exhortations to their audience to shout
at their stage was annoying and borderline dick-ish.  Honestly, the
“cocky bad boys of comics” routine is wearing thin.

The further area one got from Marvel and the video games, the more
interesting the convention became.  Lots of merchandise variety.
Lots of terrific comic book and original art dealers.  Lots of book
and comics publishers.

Archie Comics had a nice display and, though I never got the chance
to visit them, Dark Horse and Image were looking mighty good, too.
Organizations like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Prism Comics,
and the Hero Initiative were also on hand.

Artist Alley was amazing.  I’m told it was much bigger than the one
at San Diego, which tends to pander to its Hollywood exhibitors at
the expense of the comics crowd.  There were literally hundreds of
comics and other artists in the hall.  I could’ve spent the entire
convention there, visiting with old friends and checking out some
new talents.

Overwhelmed as I was by the size of the convention, I never got to
any panels or screenings.  Even worse, though I never made it up to
the anime-centric fourth level of the show.  Next year, and there
will be a next year for me and this convention, I’m going to plan
my schedule in advance and try to see more of this impressive con.
It’ll be good practice if I get to San Diego again.

Moving on to a few more complaints...

Though I love cosplayers - note to self: buy a digital camera - I
was appalled by two costumes.  As best as I can determine, one
was a pair of hairy testicles and the other was a vagina.  I saw them
three times during the show, usually in the passageway leading to
Artist Alley.  Each time, there were kids in the vicinity of these
two morons.

I don’t know if these crude idiots were trying to make a statement
of some sort.  I don’t know if they were promoting something.  But,
in either case, I don’t care.

Their costumes were monumentally inappropriate for the convention
and the younger attendees.  Were I the promoter of the convention,
I would have booted them as soon as they were spotted.  As long as
a convention is open to fans of all ages, including children, there
is no place for louts like these. 

Moving right along...

While there were many food choices in the center, there weren’t
enough food places and there wasn’t near enough seating.  I don’t
know how the convention or the venue can correct this deficiency.
I don’t know if they can correct it.  I hope they can come up with
some solution.  In the meantime, packing one’s lunch seems like a
good way to go.  

The restroom situation was far worse.  There weren’t enough of them
and they were poorly maintained during the convention.  Heck, some
of them were downright filthy.  Even back in 2003, the last time I
was at the San Diego Comic-Con, that show was much larger than this
one.  I never had any trouble finding clean restrooms and I never
had to stand in line to use them. 

I think parts of the Javitz Center were being renovated during the
New York Comic Con.  Hopefully, those areas will be open next year
and lessen some of the food and restroom problems.

Digression. This has nothing to do with the New York Comic Con, but
the Vicodin makes my attention wander from time to time.

I have just now experienced profound disappointment.  A Federal
Express truck pulled up to the front of my house.  From my office
window, I saw the driver bringing some boxes to the front of said
truck.  I went downstairs to see what wonders were being delivered
to me.  Alas...

He was only rearranging packages for his next stop.  I got bupkis.
Bummer.  End of digression.

That’s the big picture New York Comic Con stuff. Come back tomorrow
and I’ll talk more about my own con experiences while dropping more
names than a drunken census taker.  

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The plan was to wake up Tuesday morning, organize my New York
Comic Con notes, business cards, and swag, and write the first of three
more bloggy things about the event. 

The reality was that I woke up Tuesday morning with a toothache of
Godzilla proportions.  I haven’t been able to concentrate on that
organization, much less write anything coherent for you about the

I’m off to the dentist in less than two hours.  Hopefully, he will
be able to fix me up this afternoon.  If not, he’ll doubtless send
me home with wonderful painkillers.  I may not be able to operate
heavy blogging while taking them.

So all you get today is this...and a reminder that I'll be attending
Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic-Con on Saturday and Sunday,
October 22 and 23, at the Columbus Convention Center.  You
can get all the pertinent information at:

When I return from the dentist, I’ll see if I’m able to continue my
New York Comic Con report for Thursday and Friday’s blog.  My
rough estimate is that it will take me at least three more blogs to tell
you everything I want to tell you about the event.

I’ll be off Saturday through Monday for the Wizard World Mid-Ohio
Comic-Con.  Then I’ll be back again on Tuesday.  Since that show is
my last of the year, there should be no further blog interruptions
through the end of the year.

After the convention reports - New York and Columbus - I’ll resume
reviewing the first issues of “The New 52" from DC Comics.  After
that, you can expect more of a mix of news, views, and reviews from
all over the comics industry and the world.

Fingers crossed, I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


As I write this Monday afternoon, I haven’t even unpacked from the
New York Comic Con.  I don’t even know how I’m conscious, given I
got home at 4 am Monday morning and am working on around two hours
of sleep.  But I missed writing this blog and didn’t want to miss
any more days than absolutely necessary.

Today you get the big picture.  Tomorrow, after I have unpacked and
found my notes, you’ll get more details.

The center of the big picture is that I had a wonderful time.  Yes,
the Javits Center and the organization of the convention were both
inadequate for the size and scope of the convention.  That both the
venue and the organizers fell somewhat short of my expectations is
something to be addressed later.  Their failings did not diminish
the wonderful time I had.

Here are some of the high notes of my New York Comic Con.  In some
cases, I’ve redacted the names of individuals and other identifying
elements of these stories.  Because, while I often share personal
stuff, I don’t always feel it’s proper to share the personal stuff
of other people.

I finally got to meet Jason Goodman, Brendan Deneen, and others of
the Atlas/Ardeen crew.  Knowing what I know of how some of the big
comics companies occupy, I am so grateful to have fallen in with a
lot who get me as a person and a writer and, because of that, are
making it possible for me to do what I consider a pretty terrific
comic book.  If you like what I’m doing on Grim Ghost, much of the
credit must go to the people who let my style and vision shine in
that title.  I hope to be working with them for many many years to

I saw so many old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades,
some I’ve never met, but, who, through the wonders of the Internet,
have become good friends.  I’ll mention some of them by name as the
week progresses.  For now, imagine the high school reunion of all
time...where you actually liked all your classmates.

I met many people for the first time, though, sometimes, they were
people whose work I’ve enjoyed for years and decades.  One meeting
sticks out for me. 

I’m signing comics at the Atlas booth.  A gentleman starts telling
me how much he liked comics I wrote back in the day, comics based
on a property that was not original to comic books.  He told me his
name.  I had a total fanboy moment.  He had written episodes of and
novels of the same property...and his stories are all favorites of
mine.  Plus he’s written other books and stories that entertained
me just as much.  And he liked the comic books I wrote.  If all the
hot air coming from the Marvel booth - across from the Atlas booth
- wasn’t taking up all the available oxygen in the area, I would’ve
floated into the Javits Center rafters.

Another notable moment was when a good friend told me how a simple
act of kindness I did for him was instrumental in bringing him out
of a crippling depression.  He’d been waiting years to meet me so
he could tell me that in person.  It was a humbling moment because
it made me realize how even a simple kindness can be pivotal in a
life and how often I had been the recipient of such kindnesses in
my own life.  If I’m a good guy, I’m just following the examples of
the professionals I learned from at the start of my career.

I was frequently appalled by the unthinking thoughtlessness of NYCC
attendees who pushed through the crowds there and blocked/impeded
the progress of fellow attendees who were in wheelchairs or pushing
child carriages.  At one point, I was so angered by this behavior
that I thrust out my arm to clear the path for a parent struggling
to get through the crowd.  Much to my amazement, this worked and,
much to my further amazement, when one of the discourteous masses,
a very large member of said masses, angrily asked what I thought I
was doing, I simply held up my pro pass and told him I was clearing
a path for the parent.  The large man actually backed down from me
holding up my pass.  Now I know how Axel Foley got away with that
sort of nonsense in all those Beverly Hills Cop movies.

That seems like a pretty good place to stop with the blogging and
start with the unpacking.  I’ll be back tomorrow with more of this
New York Comic Con report.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 17, 2011


Hey, kids...

I'm back from the New York Comic Con and hope to resume blogging tomorrow.  I've also changed the settings so that your comments won't require approval before they are posted.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I read more of DC’s “New 52" issues.  Let’s see how many I can talk
about before I run out of steam.

Batwoman #1 [$2.99] had a nice spooky quality to it, but it got off
track with too much of Kate Kane’s family and social life right off
the...bat. It’s not that those elements won’t make for interesting
bits in the future, but, combined with sub-plots about Chase, the
DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations), and a proposition from
Batman, it made for an unfocused debut.  However, I did get a kick
out of co-writer/artist J.H. Williams III’s eye-catching layouts
and was intrigued enough by the story that, had I bought Batwoman,
I’d likely come back for the second issue.

Digression. I spotted the mysterious cowled purple woman in one of
the crowd scenes.  On the other hand, I’ve decided playing “Where’s
Waldo” with her bores me.  So, unless she actually does something
in a story, I won’t be tracking her appearances.

I didn’t like Batman and Robin #1 [$2.99].  From his first story -
a laughably wretched Mongul story many years ago - Peter Tomasi’s
writing has been more miss than hit for me.  His Batman strikes me
as bland and, while it’s not Tomasi’s fault, Damien Wayne is more
of a dick than Batman on his worst days.  Mike W. Barr, who would
be a better choice to write any of the Batman titles than whoever
is currently writing them, had the right idea when, in Batman: Son
of the Demon
, he had Talia planning to send the kid away from the
brutality of their lives.  The art - Patrick Gleason pencils, Mick
Grey inks - is good, but it can’t overcome the sheer unpleasantness
of the characters.

I’m intrigued by Swamp Thing #1 [$2.99], especially the mystery of
what’s the deal with Alec Holland and Swamp Thing.  Scott Synder’s
script is a reasonable blend of the spooky and the super-heroes.
Yanick Paquette’s art is excellent.  This title would make my “buy”
list if I actually had a “buy” list.

I wanted to like Stormwatch #1 [$2.99].  In the past, Paul Cornell
has written stuff I’ve enjoyed.  I thought the idea of putting the
Martian Manhunter on the team was interesting.  But, at the end of
the day, I didn’t like or care about these characters.  I thought
J’onn J’onzz came off like a duplicitous prick.  I remembered all
the secret teams in comics that were much more fun and interesting
than this one.  Maybe the title will improve, but, at the moment,
it’s just another secret super-team book that doesn’t fill any need
in the marketplace that I can fathom.

Deathstroke #1 {$2.99] was vile. The book’s overused protagonist is
vile.  Everyone who works on or reads this book does so at the risk
of their immortal souls.  Is Deathstroke still a pedophile in the
new DCU?  No matter, what’s really upsetting to me is that, vile as
this title is, it’s not the most vile title of “The New 52.”  That
would be Suicide Squad #1 [$2.99].  I shall not speak of these two
blights on humanity again.  

Remember two paragraphs back when I said Paul Cornell has written
stuff I’ve enjoyed.  Demon Knights #1 [$2.99] is one of the things
I was talking about. It’s sort of Justice League Medieval, which,
while not wholly accurate, was still fun to say.  The team members
- if you can call this a team - are intriguing in a darkly humorous
way.  This debut story flowed well with solid art by Diogenes Neves
(pencils) and Oclair Albert (inks). I’d buy this title.

The more I read of “The New 52,” the more I’m enjoying the oddball
titles.  Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 ($2.99) was stuffed
to the covers with goofy monster action.  Jeff Lemire wrote a very
entertaining script with lots of neat touches.  Father’s new body
was funny, the appearance of Ray Palmer was a nice touch, and I’m
liking the Creature Commandoes.  Alberto Ponticelli’s art was well
suited to the story.  I’d buy this title.

I liked Green Lantern #1 [$2.99] better than I’ve liked any of the
Green Lantern comics in years.  The emphasis on just two Lanterns -
Hal Jordan sans ring and Sinestro with a ring he doesn’t want - is,
to me, vastly preferable to reading about seven thousand Green
Lanterns and a few thousand more in other colors.  Hal was kind of
a jerk in Geoff Johns’ script, but, given that Hal is kind of lost
due to his change in station, that sort of worked for me.  I very
much like Sinestro reacting to situations he can’t control.  It’s
an interesting conflict.  With decent art by Doug Mahnke (pencils)
and Christian Alamy, this is another “New 52" book I would buy as
long as it maintained this level of quality.

Grifter #1 [$2.99] was a mess. The art was bland, the pacing less
than clear, and the story so poorly written that I never got a real
handle on the characters and situations.  This comic book bored me.
Not a good selling point.

I feel much the same about Legion Lost #1 [$2.99].  And if there’s
any logical reason for DC to be publishing Red Lanterns, it eludes
me completely.

Sadly - because I think the characters have potential - neither Blue
#1 [$2.99] or Captain Atom #1 [$2.99] clicked with me.  They
were just a couple more mediocre super-hero titles in an industry
that’s over saturated with mediocre super-hero titles. 

“The New 52" should be DC’s best chance to revitalized their super-
heroes.  But titles like the live I trashed in the above paragraphs
are just bad in different minuscule ways from the super-hero titles
they are replacing.  Maybe “The New 52" should have been “The New
20" with DC doing more quality control on the relaunches. Yeah, some
of these titles will stick to the wall, but that wall is going to look like
someone threw a plate of linguine at it.


I’ll be taking the next five or six days off to travel to, attend,
and recover from the New York Comic Con.  There will also be a wee
hiatus when I attend Mid-Ohio-Con.  After that, it should be blog
after daily blog for the next several months.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


In its mad quest to reprint every story I ever wrote for the place
and sometimes reprint them multiple times, Marvel has reprinted two
more of my stories in Marvel Ghost Stories [$19.95].  Included in
this trade paperback are War Is Hell #9 - conceived and plotted by
me with welcome input from editor Roy Thomas and scripted by Chris
Claremont - and Ghost Rider #12 - which is all mine save for some
airplane moves suggested by artist Frank Robbins.

As artist Dick Ayers likes to remind me, War Is Hell was basically
Quantum Leap years before there was a Quantum Leap.  The “hero” of
the title is a man who makes a poor decision at the start of World
War II, dies, and then comes back in the bodies of others dead or
soon-to-be-dead people.  As I’ve said in interviews, I didn’t think
I was a good enough writer to actually write this series that I’d
created.  Which is how Claremont got the gig and, yes, he wrote
it much better than I could have at that time.

The Ghost Rider story was my first of several Isabella tales drawn
by the great Frank Robbins.  I was a big fan of Frank’s work and I
loved working with him.  When we were both living in New York, I’d
hand-deliver my panel-by-panel plots to Frank and we’d talk about
them.  He never changed the plots per se, but he would come up with
little bits of business that made them better.

Frank got me from the start.  So much so that he would place word
balloon and caption shapes in the pencils.  With rare exception, he
knew exactly how much space I would need for the copy.  Sometimes,
he’d scribble an off-color but pertinent joke in a speech balloon.
Once or twice, I would clean up the joke and use it.

We did several issues of Ghost Rider and Captain America together.
We fell out of touch when I moved back to Ohio and I regret that to
this day.  I left New York because Marvel never felt “right” to me
after Roy Thomas stepped down as editor-in-chief.  It didn’t feel
like “home” anymore, so I moved back to Cleveland.

In addition to my stories, Marvel Ghost Stories features the Silver
Surfer by Stan Lee and John Buscema; Tomb of Dracula by Marv
Wolfman and Gene Colan; Captain America by Mark Gruenwald and Paul
Neary; West Coast Avengers by Tom DeFalco, Ralph Macchio, and Tom
Morgan; and Hellstorm by Rafael Nieves and Leonardo Manco.  It’s a
nice suitable-for-Halloween collection.

ISBN 978-0-7851-5609-3

Just as I’m not shy about speaking out when a comics publisher is
acting badly, I like to commend them when they do right by creators
past and present.  Marvel is really good about sending me a copy of
any reprints of my work.  They don’t always send me the expensive
hardcovers, but, in those cases, the royalty payments they send me
are large enough for me to buy the books on my own.

If one of these reprints makes a profit, Marvel sends me a royalty
check reflecting that profit.  Sometimes the checks are small and
sometimes they are larger.  Besides the always welcome money, what
I like about this system is that I never have to chase Marvel for
my money.  In fact, I don’t always know they’ve reprinted something
I wrote until I get the checks.  They send the checks out in a very
timely manner and don’t hold on to the money for six months or more
in service of schedules convenient to them.

By contrast, if I were to collect everything DC Comics owes me, I’d
have to hire someone just to keep track of it.  Even then, DC might
just decline to pay me.  But, of course, this is the company that
decided Watchman watches they were selling for 25 bucks each were
“promotional items” and that they didn’t have to pay Alan Moore and
Dave Gibbons anything on them.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 10, 2011


Grim Ghost #5 [Atlas Comics; $2.99] will be on sale in most comics
shops this week.  It might be lost in the midst of “The New 52" and
various fearful Marvel titles, but it will be there and I certainly
hope you buy and enjoy it.

I haven’t written much about Grim Ghost in this blog, but, having
finished the sixth and final issue of the first story arc, I wanted
to share a few things today.  When the gig was offered to me, I had
four reasons for accepting it.

It was a decent-paying job, which is always welcome to a freelance
writer whose two kids are attending The Ohio State University and
who also has the not inconsequential expense of maintaining Casa
Isabella.  That wasn’t the main reason, but it certainly figured in
my decision.

I was amused at the notion of returning to a character I’d written
exactly once and that over 35 years ago.  That’s close to the last
thing I would have expected.

I was intrigued by several elements of the story, especially those
I felt I could make my own.  The Atlas brass has been generous in
allowing me to write the book my way.  More editors and publishers
should take a cue from them.

I wanted to prove to myself that I could still write terrific comic
books after being away from that discipline for over a decade.  I’d
written some newspaper strips in that decade, but it’s really not
the same thing. While certainly some readers or reviewers might
disagree with my assessment, I believe I did prove that...and I’ll
be doing more comic-book writing in the very near future.

I’m proud of Grim Ghost and very appreciative of Atlas.  That’s why
I’ll be making the long drive to attend the New York Comic Con come
mid-week.  I’ll be signing Grim Ghost and other Isabella stuff at
the Atlas Comics booth (659). 

Though I’ll doubtless be at the Atlas booth at various random times
throughout the convention, my official signing times are:

Friday (Noon),

Saturday (11 AM),

Sunday (2 PM).

Please visit the booth during those times to show your support for
my work and for Atlas Comics.  I’d love to see you there.

When I’m not at the Atlas booth, I’ll be wandering the convention,
visiting friends, taking a few meetings, that sort of thing.  Since
this is a huge convention - I assume I’ll be terrified the moment
I enter the building and remain that way all weekend - it might be
hard for you to find me.

If you’re a friend...if you’re an artist, editor, or publisher who
would like to work with me...if you’re an industry person who wants
to talk with me...if you’re one of my legion of readers...if you’re
a cosplayer dressed as one of the characters I created or that I’ve
written...and you would like to get together with me, please send
me an e-mail or a message.  I’ll respond with a cell phone number
that you can use to contact me at the convention.

Digression. At the convention, you’ll likely have to text me.  I’m
sure I won’t be able to carry on a phone conversion in the middle
of a big and presumably noisy convention. 

I’m nervous as all get out, but I am very much looking forward to
the New York Comic Con.  See you there.


Public service announcement.  If you’re having a tough time finding
Grim Ghost or any of the Atlas titles at your local comics store,
you can order them directly from the publisher at:


In between reading issues of “The New 52,” I’ve been reading DC’s
“Retroactive” series, which combines new stories allegedly told in
the styles of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s with reprinted tales from
those decades.  I liked the Batman issues, didn’t care much for the
Flash issues, and thought the Green Lantern issues were as good as
the Batman issues.

The new story in DC Retroactive: Green Lantern The ‘70s [$4.99] is
written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Mike Grell.  It was actually
two stories starring, respectively, Green Lantern and Green Arrow,
that didn’t have much in common.  But they were entertaining tales
in that “heavy, man” 1970s style and I was amused that Grell was
the artist.  Amused because the Green Arrow story had the Emerald
Archer still trying to get past his accidental slaying of a young
criminals and it was Grell who, some years later, transformed the
Arrow into a more bloodthirsty hero than he was here.

The reprint was “No Evil Shall Escape My Sight,” the famous story
which established the Lantern/Arrow team and put social relevance
in the comics on the map.  There are parts of the story that make
me wince today, but there’s no denying how influential this tale,
drawn by Neal Adams, was for myself and virtually every comics
writer of the decade.

DC Retroactive: Green Lantern The ‘80s [$4.99] featured stories by
Len Wein, one of the best comics writers of that and several other
decades.  “The Big Betrayal!” is drawn by Joe Staton (pencils) and
Andy Owens (inks) and stars John Stewart.  Wein shows what happens
when a super-hero’s identity is exposed.  He also delivers a great
moment between Stewart and Sonar.  Good stuff.

Drawn by Dave Gibbons, “Judgment Day” finds Hal Jordan petitioning
the Guardians to allow him to return to Earth after a year’s exile
in space.  Another solid tale with a chewy human center. 

Kyle Rayner and writer Ron Marz take the stage for DC Retroactive:
Green Lantern The ‘90s
[$4.99]. The early Rayner wasn’t a terrible
character, but he had the misfortune of being the guy who replaced
Hal Jordan after Hal was savaged/twisted in one of the worst super-
hero stories of all time.  The stories in this issue - “Hothead” by
Marz, with art by Darryl Banks (pencils) and Terry Austin (inks),
as well as “A Beginning” by Marz, Banks, and inker Romeo Tanghal -
showcase Rayner’s new hero trying to fill some large boots and the
character’s imaginative use of the power ring.  These are fun and
solid super-hero stories.


No review per se, but I wanted to note for the record that Avengers
remains my favorite Marvel Comics title.  Writer Christos
Gage is doing a superlative job with this mix of seasoned veterans
and at-risk newcomers.  There was even much to enjoy in the “Fear
Itself” issues and that’s saying something considering the, well,
sheer awfulness of the latest Marvel crossover event.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Holy cow! This is my 52nd installment of “Tony Isabella’s Bloggy
Thing” in this venue.  The blog passed 20,000 page views a couple
days ago.  I’m pleased and thankful for your support.  Save for the
occasional convention breaks, I’ll keep doing my best to bring you
new content every day of the week.

So...wanna talk about some more about “The New 52"?

Justice League International #1 [DC; $2.99] was another one of the
good ones.  Writer Dan Jurgens did a nice job bringing together a
mostly “C” list roster of super-heroes, especially in covering the
behind-the-scenes negotiating between United Nations countries in
agreeing to the team.  The Batman in this book was cool, defiant,
and much less of a dick than in other DC titles.  First-rate art by
Aaron Lopresti (pencils) and Matt Ryan (inker) made me like it even
more.  Were I buying the comics and not borrowing them from a pal,
Justice League International is one I would buy.  It might not be
an award-winner, but it’s a solid super-team book.

Digression: one of my Facebook friends asked me what I thought of
the “mysterious cowled woman” who, apparently, has been showing up
in all of the new 52.  I hadn’t noticed her, so, at least at this
point, she’s not crucial to any of the stories.  Now that I realize
she’s in all these comics, I’ll look for her.   But only after I’ve
read and reviewed them.  If I do have any thoughts about her, I’ll
share them with you.

I also liked Men of War #1 [$3.99], though I wish I knew where the
action was taking place in the “Joseph Rock” feature by writer Ivan
Brandon and artist Tom Derenick.  The introduction of the grandson
of the original Sgt. Rock was convincing.  I’m intrigued that there
are super-people on the field of combat.  All in all, a fine start
to the series.  I was equally pleased by the “Navy Seals” back-up
by Jonathan Vankin (writer) and Phil Winslade (artist).  A modern-
day war comics might be a hard sell to DC’s overwhelmingly super-
hero readers, but I hope this one makes it.

Digression: I didn’t see the “mysterious woman” in this comic book
unless she was that flash of purple speed trails visible in two or
three panels.  Maybe she’s a female Waldo.

O.M.A.C. #1 [$2.99] was a mildly entertaining Jack Kirby imitation
by Keith Giffen (co-writer and artist), Dan DiDio (co-writer), and
Scott Koblish.  The Kirby creations and artistic style are in every
panel of every page.  Which makes it particularly egregious that
the issue contains no recognition of Kirby as the creator of Omac,
Brother Eye, the Cadmus Project, Dubbilex, and other characters and
concepts.  DiDio has never been respectful of the actual creators
of characters published by DC, but this takes that disrespect over
the top.  Bad Dan.

Even with proper credit for Jack Kirby, I likely wouldn’t buy this
title.  There’s nothing special about it.  Without the credit, not
a chance in Hell.

Digression: I spotted the purple lady in a crowd scene. 

Static Shock #1 [$2.99] was a disappointment.  It didn’t compare to
either the Milestone version of the character or the suitable-for-
all-ages animated series.  It was pretty much a generic teen hero
comic, a real shame considering Static is such a great character.
Even given the last-page shock ending, I wouldn’t come back for the
second issue.

Digression: The purple lady is peeping into one of the windows of
Static's home.  Maybe she’s a super-hero groupie.  Maybe she’s
a stalker.  One thing she isn’t, at least not yet, is interesting.
Unless that was her I saw in my back yard.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 8, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1683:

I have a fondness for small short-lived comics publishers and they
don’t come much smaller or more short-lived than Sterling Comics.
In 1954 and 1955, Sterling published just 18 issues combined of
five titles: After Dark, Captain Flash, The Informer, Mr Secret
Confession, Surprise Adventures,
and The Tormented.  I also have a
fondness for cop stories on TV, in movies, books, and, especially,
comic books. After Dark is right up my doubtless dark alley.

After Dark ran three issues.  The only one I own is also the only
one I’ve ever seen: After Dark #8 [September 1955].  Three of its
four stories, all pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Mike Roy,
star Detective Sergeant Mark Fabian. At this time, the writer(s) of
these tales have not been identified.

Fabian is a good-looking guy who looks a bit young to be the senior
partner in these cases.  Pat Polo, his partner, is a head shorter,
a bit wider, and somewhat rumpled.  They could almost be prototypes
for David Caruso and Dennis Franz from NYPD Blue, the best TV cop
show of all time. 

Their three cases are fairly down-to-earth: a pretty teenager who
runs away from her strict father and ends up playing piano in a mob
club; a destructive juvenile gang; and a bank officer whose money
woes has him working with ruthless criminals.  I liked that Fabian
and Polo close the cases without any outlandish heroics.  They are
simply skilled cops doing their job.

The issue’s fourth story is a non-series tale. “The Cop” is veteran
beat cop Kenny Coogan. Disappointed in and feeling neglected by his
hard-working mechanic dad, a young boy fixes on Coogan as his hero.
Coogan takes an interest in the lad and helps bring father and son
back together. It’s a nice little human drama in a mere six pages.
Neither the artist nor the writer of the story have been identified
at this time.

I would love to read the other issues of After Dark and the other
15 Sterling comics.  If I track any of them down, I’ll write about
them here.  

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 7, 2011


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1683:

I’m breaking format with this month’s edition of “Tony’s Tips” on
account of I’m hot, grumpy, and overwhelmed. The first comes from
July being the second hottest July in the verifiable record of my
area.  It was hot and it was mega-muggy.  Walking to get the daily
newspapers and mail was like pushing through an ocean of steamy wet
towels. Even with air conditioning, I had a persistent headache and
a desert-dry throat.  Weather wizards are predicting August will be
more of the same. That’s just swell.

My grumpiness level has been further exasperated by too many e-mail
requests that I write about the pressing issues of comicdom.  The
ones that everyone else online is writing about.  Because, y’know,
without me, there are only 999 other people writing about the same
damn things. Still, I always try to give my readers want they want,
so, before I get to the larger “overwhelmed” portion of my column,
it’s time for a lightning round of issues I really don’t want to
write about.  The things I do for you.

Question: What did you think of this year’s Comic-Con International
in San Diego?

Response: I wasn’t there.

Q: What do you think of (insert news) announced at the Comic-Con?

R: Anything I “think” would be mere speculation.  I’d rather wait
and comment on (insert news) when it happens or is published.  If
at all.

Q: What do you think of the DC Comics reboot of its main super-hero

R: I haven’t read any of the 52 first issues, so anything I “think”
would be mere speculation.  I know I wouldn’t want to be any other
comics publisher competing with 52 first issues coming out in the
same month.

Q: Will you read and review those 52 first issues?

R: Yes, I’ll read them.  But, given that 999 other people will be
reviewing them, I’ll probably take a pass unless any of the issues
surprises me in a good way.

Q: What do you think of the judicial ruling against the Jack Kirby
estate in its lawsuit against Marvel Comics?

R: I think current judicial acumen and laws have not kept pace with
the very real and wholly addressable inequities in the comic-book
industry.  I also think, regardless of the ruling, that Marvel owes
an enormous debt to Jack Kirby. Paying royalties to Kirby’s heirs
would be the right and honorable thing to do here.

That said, I am dismayed that some Kirby supporters feel they must
denigrate the contributions of Kirby’s many collaborators and even
disparage the character of those collaborators.  They do no honor
to Kirby with such behavior. 

Q: Holy ratbag, Tony! I never knew So-and-So was such a So-and-So.
How can I protect myself from being screwed over by guys like him?

A: Google them.

Comicdom is not immune from unsavory characters. Wannabe publishers
who owe writers and artists tens of thousands of dollars. Wretches
selling forged art. Con men claiming to represent artists.  Bogus
convention promoters cheating pros, retailers, and even charities.
It can be dangerous out there and you need to be smart when you
walk those mean streets.

Doing a search doesn’t take a great deal of time.  It’s helped me
dodge a few bullets in recent years and, when I’ve had knowledge of
comicdom predators looking for new prey, I make this suggestion to
their would-be victims.

I don’t give details, I just suggest they Google the individual or
individuals. That’s usually all it takes to keep them from wasting
their time, money, or effort...and they usually thank me for making
this suggestion.

Use the Google. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it will save you grief
down the line. Have fun, but be careful out there.


Now we arrive at the “overwhelmed” portion of this month’s column.
I’ve written of my - cue ominous music - V.A.O.S.  That stands for
“Vast Accumulation of Stuff” and its physical form consists of tens
of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands comic books, books,
and other items. 

There was a time when these items could be found in nearly every
room in my house.  In recent years, with much help from family and
friends, I’ve confined them to my office, a former playroom, half
of a very large basement, and a big honking storage unit.  It has
long been my intent to divest myself of 80% of this looming menace
to my sanity.  Last month, my son Eddie and I took our latest steps
in this ongoing war with the V.A.O.S.

In preparation for a garage sale that will hopefully have happened
by the time you read this column, we cleared out approximately half
of my office.  I can hear you scoff.

“Half of your office? Talk about your labors of Hercules.”

Scoff no more, my sarcastic friends.  My office measures around 165
square feet.  The half that we cleared out added up to:

25 boxes of items for the garage sale;

10 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;

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

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

The above falls far short of qualifying me for a guest appearance
on the “Hoarders” TV show, but the realization of how much stuff I
had in just that relatively small space was overwhelming.  I had a
literal anxiety attack as the items to be sorted filled our living
room from end to end.

I was thankful I had planned this assault on the V.A.O.S. for when
Sainted Wife Barb and daughter Kelly were on vacation.  It took a
few days of just putting my head down and ramming through all that
stuff, but Eddie and I managed to clear the living room and start
setting up the garage sale. 

I also grateful for the “DrawerBoxes” boxes I had received from the
Collection Drawer Company a couple years back.  Their sturdy boxes
allowed Eddie and I to sort the comics and books I’m keeping in an
organized fashion.  Organizing all the stuff I want to keep will
take years, but that job will go a great deal smoother thanks to
these boxes.  If you want to check out these terrific storage boxes
for yourself, head over to:

Going through all that stuff from my office wasn’t without perks.
I “discovered” many wonderful items that had been lost to the Vast
Accumulation.  Since you’ve been so amazingly patient with me while
I’ve venting, I’ll share them with you.

I found several “Alan Class” comics, which I actually collect when
I come across them.  These are black-and-white British reprints of
American comic books containing stories from the 1950s and 1960s.
The American publishers from which Class bought material include
Marvel, Charlton, ACG, Tower, Archie, and a few I can’t identify.
The one shown here is Sinister Tales #129 and has stories drawn by
Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, John Forte, Joe Sinnott, Steve Ditko, Gray
Morrow, Paul Reinman, and Al Williamson.

I found my original file copies of Astonishing Tales #21-24 [1973
and 1974] starring “It! The Living Colossus!” Those will be sold on
eBay, complete with a certificate of authenticity and the eventual
buyer also getting the right to ask me three questions, impertinent
or otherwise, about the short-lived series.

I confess I got a little choked up when I came across an envelope
from the late Dave Cockrum, a friend from my comics fanzine years
who was one of the best artists ever to draw the Legion of Super-
Heroes, the X-Men, and every other series on which he ever worked.
Inside the envelope was a drawing of Nightcrawler in a wheelchair
with his foot bandaged and bleeding slightly.  I hope we can do it
justice with its publication here.

The story behind the picture? Dave was a guest at a Mid-Ohio-Con.
He had come to the show despite the myriad medical problems he had
been experiencing in those years before his death.  The night after
the convention, while in his hotel room, Dave’s foot began bleeding
heavily.  He had to be taken to the hospital.

The next morning, Bob Ingersoll cleared out Dave’s hotel room and
packed up his stuff.  He and I then took everything to the hospital
and waited for Dave to be discharged.  Meanwhile, Mid-Ohio-Con show
promoter Roger Price was burning up the phone lines changing Dave’s
flights back home. Before we left for the hospital, Roger also gave
us cash to give to Dave for additional expenses Dave might have on
his way home.  Is it any wonder decades of Mid-Ohio-Con attendees
love the cute and cuddly Price?

Bob and I took Dave to the Columbus airport and made sure all his
tickets were in order.  We then wheeled him to his departure gate
and would have wheeled him all the way to his seat if the airline
employees hadn’t remembered that we didn’t actually work for their
airline.  Ingersoll looks official wherever he goes.

A couple months later, both Bob and I received drawings from Dave.
I was thrilled when I opened my package and even more thrilled to
discover the drawing again while cleaning half my office.  Once I
clean the entire office, the drawing will be framed and hung on a
wall.  It’s a good memory of a dear friend.

I found a stack of comic books from the 1960s, probably purchased
via eBay over a decade ago.  They included: The Detectives, based
on a TV series starring Mark Goddard, Adam West, Tige Andrews, and
Robert Taylor; two issues of Johnny Jason, Teen Reporter; Suspense
#1, a 1949 Marvel comic based on the “gripping CBS radio-television
series”; and a personal Isabella favorite, Reptisaurus #4 (Volume
2) with its classic “Reptisaurus gets busy” story and, no, I’m not
kidding about that last bit.

Pencilled by Joe Sinnott with inks by Vince Colletta, “Reptisaurus
Meets His Mate” displays the usual miliary/monster hijinks until,
on page 17 of the meandering tale, Reptisaurus meets his bridezilla
to be.  Rather than interfere with this monster romance, the Army
stands down and lets the amour commence:

“They were courtin', that's all! Every time that big one slammed
the smaller one, that was sayin' 'I love you!' monster style! Right
now, I'll bet they're billin' and cooin' like a couple of

While this was clearly way too much information for a Comics Code-
approved comic book in 1962, goofy stories like this one continue
to be great fun even four decades after their initial publication.
As overwhelmed as I am by how much of the V.A.O.S. remains largely
unexplored, I’m sort of psyched by the thought of what other comics
treasures await me.

One more discovery before we get to the moral of this month’s “very
special” edition of “Tony’s Tips!” A decade ago, I commissioned the
noted action-figure afficionado Dale Roberts to customize a pair of
figures for me: Black Lightning in his original costume and Tobias
Whale, my creation’s most murderous foe.  Roberts did a great job
on the figures and they, too, will be displayed prominently when I
renovate my office.

When I had my anxiety attack over my “Vast Accumulation of Stuff,”
it took me several hours to recover.  Part of that time was spent
beating myself up, albeit only figuratively, for letting the stuff
get out of control.  However, unless I come across a Tardis in one
of my storage areas, I can’t change the past. 

What I can do is take small steps every day to go through boxes and
piles, bookcases and shelves, whittling away at the V.A.O.S. along
the way.  Maybe I can only go through one box or one shelf on most
days.  Maybe I’ll miss a day here and there.  But I am choosing to
believe that slow and steady wins the race, especially when I have
a supernaturally patient wife and, God willing, years to conquer my
enemy.  I’ll be 60 this December.  I’m shooting for winning the war
by the time I turn 65.

Between now - my now, not yours - and my garage sale, I’ll continue
going through boxes.  Some of the comics will go right into the
garage sale boxes, others will be set aside for sale on eBay.  A
little bit every day in between writing comic scripts and other
things.  Slow and steady.

From time to time, I’ll let you know how the war is going.  If I’ve
any advice to offer you, it’s this:

Don’t let your V.A.O.S. get as bad as mine did. Don’t wait until it
gets completely out of control to deal with it.  Someone will want
the comics you don’t want or don’t have room for, even if you have
to sell them for a dime apiece or even give them away. Decide what
amount of stuff you’re comfortable with and let that be your guide.
Stay calm. You can win your own war.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella