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


  1. Tony, thanks for sharing the Dave Cockrum drawing and the story behind it. He was one of a kind.

  2. did not know who Dave Cockrum was, as i am "new again" to comics, but recognized his list of accomplishments- thanks for sharing, am learning by leaps & bounds