Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

The Rawhide Kid is one of my favorite comics characters.  Inspired
by Essential Rawhide Kid Vol. 1, which reprints Rawhide Kid #17-35,
I plan to write about the Kid every other Wednesday.

“A man on the run is like a haunted beast! He runs, he hides, he
fights, but with each passing minute he knows that sooner or later
someone, somewhere will recognize him, will shout the warning, will
cause his undoing!  So it was with the Rawhide Kid!”

There are plot elements that appear frequently in the Rawhide Kid’s
adventures and even in the five-page non-series tales that also ran
in these issues.  Each of the three stories in The Rawhide Kid #19
[December 1960] has at least one of those elements.

Because of his diminutive stature, the Kid was seen to be an easy
target for the many bullies found in Marvel’s westerns.  In the 13-
page “Gun Duel In Trigger Gap!” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and inker
Dick Ayers, a weary Kid feigns timidity to avoid a saloon shoot-out
with the brutish Bill Corbett.  But when Corbett tries to force his
unwanted attentions on pretty Nancy Clark, the Kid gives the lout
a two-fisted beatdown.  Within days, Nancy and the Kid have fallen
in love. 

Violent events rapidly put an end to the romance.  Nancy’s dad is
the town sheriff and he recognizes the Kid...and the dreaded Garson
Gang is coming to town to rob a gold shipment.  The sheriff takes
a shot at the Kid and the Garson Gang takes Nancy prisoner.  The
Kid rescues her, but then pretends he was after the same shipment.
He flees, leaving Nancy behind in tears.

The sheriff pursues the Kid, but Rawhide gets the drop on him.  Our
misunderstood hero then returns the gold to the lawman, asking him
to tell his daughter Nancy that, though the sheriff recovered the
gold, the Kid escaped.  Rawhide knows Nancy could never have a good
life with an outlaw.  As the sheriff watches the lonely young man
ride off, he realizes what kind of man Rawhide really is...and how
much the Kid loved his daughter.  In future issues, we’ll see more
bullies and more of the Kid pretending to be a badman to spare the
feelings of others.

“The Rip-Snorter” is a five-page non-series story by Lee and artist
Paul Reinman.  The first panel introduces us to two 18-year-olds.
Joe is the “rip-snorter” of the title.  He doesn’t like anyone to
tell him what he can do and, within a few panels, we see that his
hard-riding, hard-fighting lifestyle has put him on the wrong side
of the law.  His friend Chris is quiet and thoughtful.  He becomes
a frontier scout and then an “Injun agent.”

When the paths of the former friends cross, Joe expects to have no
trouble dispatching Chris.  Chris easily out-draws Joe and arrests
him.  Then we get the last-panel surprise and it’s another “theme”
we’ve seen before and will see again.

Chris is actually Kit Carson, “one of the most famous names in the
  Yep, it’s another one of those stories in which a character
turns out to be a western legend.  Stan must’ve loved this gimmick
because he used it again and again.  However, one thing he didn’t
seem to love was researching the historical figures.

Carson wasn’t exactly the “white hat” hero depicted in this tale.
To quote from Wikipedia:

Carson was a courier and scout during the Mexican-American war from
1846 to 1848, celebrated for his rescue mission after the Battle of
San Pasqual and his coast-to-coast journey from California to
deliver news of the war to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C..
In the 1850s, he was the Agent to the Ute and Jicarilla Apaches. In
the Civil War he led a regiment of mostly Hispanic volunteers at
the Battle of Valverde in 1862. He led armies to pacify the Navajo,
Mescalero Apache, and the Kiowa and Comanche Indians. He is
vilified for his conquest of the Navajo and their forced transfer
to Bosque Redondo where many of them died. Breveted a general, he
is probably the only American to reach such a high military rank
without being able to read or write, although he could sign his

The comic books of the 1960s didn’t often show such shades of gray
in depicting heroes or villains.  The hero of several dime novels,
Carson was a man of his times.  Unfortunately, those times saw all
manner of atrocities committed against Native Americans and Carson
was an active participant in some of those atrocities.

Lee, Kirby, and Ayers return for “Fight or Crawl, Kid!”  The five-
page story starts with gunslinger Crow Mallon calling the Kid out
in, yes, another saloon.  Mallon wants to make his rep by beating
the Kid in a gunfight and tries to intimate Rawhide with some keen
shooting.  In a scenario that will be repeated in other tales, the
Kid exhibits gun skills so far beyond Mallon’s that Crow virtually
takes flight as he rides out of town.

Sayeth the Kid:

“Well, he wanted a rep, and I reckon he’ll get it after all...Crow
Mallon, the loudest-mouthed four-flushin’ bully in these parts!
Just like all blusterin’ bullies, their nerve turns to water when
they pick on the wrong hombre!”

Thus endeth the lesson. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Today’s comic from my birth month of December, 1951 is Four Color
#376 [February-March 1952] starring Bugs Bunny. This long-running
title launched in the early 1940s and continued into 1962.  It was
essentially a “try-out” venue for Dell Comics.  Various characters
and concepts would get their start in this anthology series before
graduating, if successful, into their own titles.  The Four Color
series also included holiday specials, movie adaptations, and one-

In The Four-Color Four Color Index, Gary Brown and Alan Hutchinson
identify Ralph Heimdahl as the cover artist of this issue with the
26-page cover story being written by Don R. Christensen and drawn
by Tony Strobl.  The issue also has a six-page Bugs Bunny tale and
a trio of one-page Bugs Bunny strips.


Sainted Wife Barb and I had a just the two of us Oscar party Sunday
night.  We try to have at least one evening like this every week to
keep ourselves from rattling around in different parts of stately
Isabella mansion.  It’s gotten a little easier to plan these since
I stopped getting any work, so at least something good has come out
of my severe underemployment.

We cooked a nice dinner of chicken, red-skinned potatoes, and mixed
vegetables, then say down to watch the Oscar red carpet stuff and
predict which one of us would fall asleep first.  We’re crazy wild,
aren’t we?

The fashion stuff and red carpet interviews were less than engaging
for me. However, by the third or fourth time someone was asked who
they were wearing, I was making Ed Gein jokes to amuse myself and,
yes, I had to explain who Gein was to Barb.  The woman loves me in
spite of my twisted sense of humor.

Though I hadn’t seen any of the nominated films and performances,
I was still able to predict the winner in the 24 categories a bit
more than half the time.  I would’ve done better if I’d more faith
in Hugo and The Artist.  Both films are on my list of movies I want
to see when they become available for home viewing.

The show itself was perfectly pleasant.  Billy Crystal didn’t break
any new ground with his routines, but they were somehow comforting
in these scary times.  Most of the presenters were fine, though I
think Robert Downey was playing “drunk Tony Stark” when he was at
the dias.  Emma Stone pushed it as well, but she’s just so cute and
charming that she got a pass from us.  Some nice emotional moments
reminded me that these awards do occasionally change the lives of
those who receive them. 

It was a nice evening with the woman I love...and we both managed
to stay awake until the final credits.  “Nice” has a lot going for
it.  I recommend it.


Mark Waid’s Irredeemable and Incorruptible are coming to a close.
The titles represent one of the best dark super-hero sagas of the
decade and I hope their collected editions remain in print for many
years to come.  Comics readers have been talking about these books
since they were launched at Boom! Studios and I think new readers
will be talking about them for those aforementioned many years to
come.  They represented their creator’s singular vision of a super-
hero world gone mad.

In Irredeemable, the Plutonian, Earth’s most beloved and powerful
super-hero, suddenly turns into the greatest mass murderer in all
history.  His former teammates fall to his rampages as don entire
cities and countries.  He will kill every living thing on Earth if
he’s not stopped.

In Incorruptible, in the wake of the Plutonian’s murderous rage,
super-villain Max Damage, a despicable monster on so many levels,
decides he needs to balance things.  He disavows his life of crime
and all its ill-gotten gains and becomes a hero. 

From the start, Waid has thrown surprise after terrible surprise at
readers of these titles.  Yet, in the midst of all the carnage, he
has never extinguished hope or the notion that there are brave and
good people who will fight to protect others.  This is a dark saga,
but there is light within the darkness.

I don’t know how this saga ends.  I do know I’ll be reading it when
it does.  In an industry with so many mediocre super-hero titles,
Irredeemable and Incorruptible show us how much life remains in the
genre that built the comics industry.  Well done, Mark.


My Avengers reading hit the extremes over the weekend.  I started
a four-issue series called Avengers & The Infinity Gauntlet, but it
was so poorly written and drawn that I abandoned the effort halfway
through the first issue. 

On the end of the spectrum, I read Avengers Prime, a rather spiffy
five-issue series by Brian Michael Bendis with Alan Davis (pencils)
and Mark Farmer (inks) on the art.  The core purpose of the series
was to get the friendships of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor
back on track.  This imperative was wrapped around a tale wherein
Hela, Goddess of Death, has gained great power and must be defeated
to restore the Nine Realms.  I used to know the names of all nine
realms back in school, but now I can only remember Asgard, Midgard,
and Muni-Mula.

Avengers Prime was a fun mini-series.  Exciting action, interesting
character play, and beautiful art.  Kudos to Javier Rodriguez for
the colors and Chris Eliopoulos for the lettering and production.

The only annoying note was Bendis frequent lapsing into adolescent
sexual humor, such as when the heroes banter about which of them
may have slept with Patsy Walker.  It came off as pandering to the
too many men-children who read and work in comics.  Bendis should
be and is a better writer than that.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, February 27, 2012


Cowboy hero Bob Steele was born Robert Adrian Bradbury in Portland
Oregon (January 23, 1907) and was renamed when he began his acting
career.  From the late 1920s through the 1940s, he starred in “B”
westerns for small film studios.  When his cowboy career faded, he
took supporting films in films major and otherwise.  He appeared on
TV’s F Troop as a trooper who claimed to have fought side-by-side
with Davy Crockett at the Alamo.  Maybe not so coincidentally, the
actor appeared in the 1926 movie With Davy Crockett at the Fall of
the Alamo
.  He is said to have been the inspiration for the often-
mentioned “Cowboy Bob” in Dennis the Menace.

Fawcett Comics published Bob Steele Western from December 1950 to
June 1952.  Issue #7 hit the newsstands in December, 1951, which,
as we all know by now, is the month of the birth.  This represents
my entire knowledge of the actor and the comic named for him.  Feel
free to tell me more.


I’m working on two or three longer pieces of the type that always
elicits mixed reactions.  Many friends and readers will praise them
and express admiration for my honesty.  Some professional buddies
will furtively do the same: “Of course, you'll have the good taste
not to mention that I spoke to you.”

The usual online cretins will get foamy at the mouth and assume I’m
writing about them in an attempt to “call them out” because, you
know, I’m apparently not a good enough writer to figure out to call
them out without ambiguity.  I think the desire to receive some
attention is such a driving force in their lives that they don’t
even care if it’s uncomplimentary attention. 

If I grin in amusement as I write this, it’s because I’m well aware
your blogger here is writing it for a blog that carries his name,
also writes a column for Comics Buyer’s Guide carrying his name and
has a message board named for him.  I am not without ego, though I
like to think, perhaps delusionally, my ego doesn’t drive me as the
egos of the aforementioned cretins drive them.

When I choose not to name someone of whom I write negatively, it’s
because I’m not interested in them.  They serve as examples for the
greater wisdom I am trying to impart.  In most cases, these unnamed
subjects have no accomplishments worth noting beyond their posting
of ridiculous theories on the Internet...or their behaving in rude
manner...or their outright lying in their comments.  They get the
anonymity they deserve.   

But, as I often say, we are all the heroes of our own stories and
that holds as true for me as anyone else.  I try to be as accurate
as possible. I attempt to present my readers with numerous caveats
to help them decide the truth of what I write.  I work with clean
hands and honest heart.  Or so I strongly believe.

So, when I write those pieces sometimes next month, I will write of
absurdities and dishonesty and tragedies.  I will write of things
that disturb me.  I will write of things that delight me.  I will
explain why I have not and will likely never sue DC Comics over the
wrongs the company has done me.  I will share with you what I see
as the path my life will take in the future.  I’ll name names when
I feel the names are germane to the conversations and withhold them
when I feel they are not.  It’ll be fun and scary and maybe even a
wee bit therapeutic.  I know I’m excited.


My comics reading continues as ever, sometimes erratic, sometimes
organized.  Having read the “Siege” issues of The Mighty Avengers
back in the day, I’m finished with that title.  Writers Dan Slott
and Christos Gage did fine work on “The Unspoken,” a five-issue arc
with a big ass menace and lots of neat characterization.  Henry Pym
as Earth’s “Scientist Supreme” and the explanation of why the title
didn’t go to Reed Richards or Tony Stark made me squeal with child-
like joy.  What an amazing concept!

I’m also finished with Wolverine for the time being.  I’d already read
(and probably reviewed somewhere) the Mark Millar and “Civil War”
issues.  Shout-outs to writer Stuart Moore and artist C.P. Smith
for “The Package” in Wolverine #41 [June 2006] and to Rob Williams
and artists Laurence Campbell (pencils) and Kris Justice (inks) for
“Better to Give...” in issue #49 [February 2007].  The latter tale
tickled my fancy.  Like my son Eddie, I consider Die Hard to be one
of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.

Dark Avengers? That was a chore to get through.  As I’ve said, the
ascension of Norman Osborn to the position he holds in “Dark Reign”
was never convincing.  Add characters I dislike and, in some cases,
believe are terminally overused to the mix and you can see why this
title became the hardest of sells for me.


Futurama Comics #59 [Bongo; $2.99] sports the new design for this
publisher’s titles, which actually goes beyond the spiffy new logos
on this and other title.  Besides the issue’s story, we get three
pages of Bongo news and readers letters.  It’s a friendly and good-
looking package that pleases the eyes.

Ian Boothby’s “How to Secede Without Really Trying” is a fun tale
wherein New New York secedes from the planet.  There are hilarious
moments, some of them involving classic and modern popular culture
elements, and good art and storytelling by John Delaney (pencils)
and Dan Davis (inks).  Equally solid coloring by Robert Stanley and
lettering by Karen Bates makes the story as attractive as the rest
of the package.  Good stuff.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Blondie Comics Monthly #39 and Chic Young’s Dagwood Comics #15 are
further evidence of how little I really know about the comic books
published in December, 1951, the month of my birth.  I had assumed
these Harvey Comics titles were reprints from the Blondie newspaper
comic strips.  But the Blondie cover promises “all-new stories” and
the Dagwood cover does the same, adding that “Dagwood is a riot of
fun in his very own comics.”

The Grand Comics Datebase only has the cover for these two issues.
Were they reprints from the newspaper strips and only new to comic
books?  Or were all-new stories created especially for these comic
books?  If anyone can enlighten me on this matter, I would love to
hear from them.  E-mail me whenever you’d like.

Super Shark [Retro Media; $19.99] was one of two shark movies I was
saving for a special occasion.  My lingering bout with some sort of
flu turned out to be that occasion, but I can’t blame my cinematic
selection on illness.  I love cheesy monster movies, especially of
the giant monster variety.  If I were in perfect health, I’d still
watch Super Shark with a smile on my face.

Written and directed by Fred Olen Ray, Super Shark kicks off when
illegal oil drilling methods at sea trigger an earthquake which, in
turn, releases an enormous prehistoric shark that can use its fins
to walk on land.  It’s super-strong, impervious to bullets and can
leap high enough to bring down a fighter plane, albeit a low-flying
fighter plane.

Ray has been making low-to-medium-budget films since the 1980s or
so.  Super Shark shows his ability to make the most of a smallish
budget.  There’s no mistaking the film for a Hollywood extravaganza
or anything, but it’s a fun 86 minutes of man versus shark with a
touch of social commentary.  It makes me want to see if my library
system has any other Ray films available.

With the exception of John Schneider and Jimmie JJ Walker, the cast
does a decent job with some players rising above and beyond.  Sarah
Lieving’s fired federal investigator with a grudge against the oil
companies and a flexible view of the law is tough and vulnerable as
she tries to bring down Schneider’s sleazy oil exec.  Tim Abell is
equally good as the divorced and cynical charter boat skipper who
she hires.  I wouldn’t mind seeing their characters in some future
giant monster movie.

Schneider sleepwalks through the movie.  His lack of enthusiasm is
evident in every scene.  Walker is an annoying stereotype, but I’m
not going to be as hard on him.  He didn’t look well in his scenes
and I suspect that affected his performance.

The CGI effects are what they are; we’ve all seen worse.  The fight
between “Super Shark” and a walking tank were the hardest to take.
There are surprises in the movie and an only slightly implausible
ending that still manages to be satisfying. 

The social commentary?  Lieving’s comparing oil companies to sharks
is quick enough to work for me.  Schneider’s quoting of Sarah Palin
- “Drill, baby, drill!” - is too much.

Super Shark gave me what I asked for: an hour-and-a-half of movie
fun.  I recommend it to fellow devotees of cheesy monster movies.
Because they know where I’m coming from.


I wasn’t expecting as much from 2-Headed Shark Attack [The Asylum
Home Entertainment; $14.95].  Though I’ve enjoyed several of the
low-budget, swiftly-produced monster movies from The Asylum, this
one’s admittedly catchy title was  its strongest element. But, as I always
do with cheesy monster movies, I was open to being entertained.  As
sometimes happens with cheesy monster movies, not even that
modest goal was met.

The basic plot...without explanation, the giant (but not as giant
as Super Shark) two-headed shark makes its appearance and lunches
on several people.  We cut to a ship carrying a teacher and several
students, a “semester at sea” kind of thing.  The monster damages
the ship and the students head to a nearby deserted atoll to await
repairs.  Things get worse.

The creature eats the pilot of the ship when she tries to patch
a hole in the hull.  The students on the atoll experience a quake
caused by the creature busting up the coral reef on which the atoll
sits.  They find a couple small boats and get them running.  Then
it’s just the sharks dining on kids and sailors during trips back
and forth to the boat.  Oh, yeah, the atoll starts sinking, which
means everyone will be on the menu soon.

Four positives.  Brooke Hogan is actually pretty compelling playing
a common sense student who hasn’t been in the water since she was
a kid and came face to face with a shark.  As two of her fellow
students, David Gallegos and Ashley Bissing give good performances.
Fourth and final, the “trapped on a sinking atoll” is a nice scary
twist to the usual shark movie scenarios.

Negatives?  The title monster never looked good.  Not in the CGI
shots and not in the shots when the life-sized rubber heads of the
creature(s) were chewing up victims.  If your title monster looks
dumb, then everything else has to be terrific and almost nothing in
the film was even adequate.

Carmen Electra and Charlie O’Connell, the other two stars billed on
the DVD cover, were so inadequate as to be sleep-inducing.  Electra
did more posing and sunbathing than acting and even managed to make
that uninteresting.  O’Connell acted as if he were on sedatives and
that was even before his character got injured. 

I had more fun doing research for this review than I did watching
the movie.  Did you know that The Asylum has produced 100
movies in just 15 years?  To quote from Wikipedia:

The Asylum work schedule is typically four months from decision to
create a title to finished product, with the script finished within
four to six weeks. Pre-production is afforded only a few weeks,
production is "a couple of weeks. In the case of Mega Piranha, it
took longer because it was shot in Belize. Filming takes an average
of 12 to 15 pages of the script a day.

Then there was this coincidence: 2-Headed Shark Attack was directed
by Christopher Ray, son of Fred Olen Ray.  He also directed Mega
Shark vs Crocosaurus
and Reptisaurus, a 2009 movie said to be based
on the Charlton comic book of the 1960s.  I’ve only seen a preview
of the latter.

2-Headed Shark Attack will almost certainly show up on SyFy sooner
or later and, when it does, all you’ll miss from the version I saw
will be four naked breasts before they get eaten with the fetching
young ladies sporting them.  This being the Internet and all, I’m
sure any one wishing to see naked breasts won’t have too difficult
a time finding them online. 

Even by my “cheesy monster movies” standard, 2-Headed Shark Attack
doesn’t make the grade.  Take a pass on it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Blackhawk was still published by Quality Comics in the month of my
birth, December, 1951.  That’s when issue #49 [February, 1952] hit
the newsstands with its Reed Crandall cover showing the Blackhawks
facing “super-sonic planes from the depths of the Earth.” But the
question I asked myself on reading the issue’s cover copy was “Can
something actually dive up?”  Because that’s what these super-sonic
puppies are doing.

Inside the issue, Crandall drew the 10-page cover story.  The other
two Blackhawk stories - “The Death Cloud” (8 pages) and “The Waters
of Terrible Peace (7 pages) - were drawn by Bill Ward.  Filling out
the issue was a humorous Chop Chop story - “Are You Full of Zing?”
(5 pages) - which was likely written and drawn by Paul Gustavson.
There was a text story, but who reads those?

If you want to see the comics that were published in the month of
your birth, head over to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, one of my
favorite places on the Internets.


I’ve been under the weather for several days now, which is one of
the reasons my bloggy things have been all over the place.  I think
I have the attention span of...what was I saying?

Rather than fight this mental malady today, I’m going to allow my
rambling thoughts to take me where they will and just try to keep
up with them. Let’s roll.

Black History Month is almost over, so two out of the three daily
newspapers I read each day will drop their BHM features.  The third
one - The Gazette - never had any BHM features on account of
its coverage of black history usually amounts to reporting on that
one courageous white resident whose Medina home was a safe haven on
the Underground Railroad.  But The Gazette only mentions that every
few years.  Don’t want to overdo it or anything.

The Akron Beacon Journal pieces are usually more interesting than
those in  The Plain Dealer (Cleveland).  The ABJ recently ran a story
about the Matthews Hotel Monument, a neat little structure honoring
George Washington Mathews who owned and operated a rooming house
converted into a hotel, barber, and beauty shop.  The hotel was in
business from 1925 to 1978.  While the owner spelled his last name
with one “t,” the name of the hotel was often spelled with two and
the discrepancy has carried over to the monument.
The monument consists of the hotel doorway and a pair of plaques.
One honors Mathews and the other honors the famous African-American
entertainers (Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab
Calloway and others) who performed in the area’s nightclubs back in
the day. I love the look of this monument, which is located in the heart of
what was the African-American business and entertainment district
on North Howard Street.  To see what the monument looks like, check
out Jim Carney’s article.


Another of my favorite stops on the wild ride that is the Internets
is Jacque Nodell’s Sequential Crush.  SC is “devoted to preserving
the memory of romance comics and the creative teams that published
them throughout the 1960s and 1970s.”  Jacque knows those romance
comics better than anyone I can think of and her insights into them
delight and inform me on a regular basis.

In a recent blog, Nodell wrote of "Love, Love, Go Away...Come Again
Another Day!" [Falling in Love #120; January 1971], a story which
featured an African-American woman as the heroine’s longtime friend
and, in a sense, substitute mother.  As she always does, Jacque was
able to give her readers a full sense of the story and plot in but
a handful of entertaining panels and paragraphs.  Then, she took a
step further with the following brilliant analysis:

Last year I discovered a pattern surrounding the depiction of many
African-American women in romance comics which involved the curious
injection of the "mammy archetype." Though this story posits
Felicia as belonging to an upper middle class family and integrates
her into a typical enough romance story, she is still depicted as
being the caretaker and charge of motherless Jackie. Once again, I
don't think that this mammy characterization of Felicia was
necessarily purposeful on behalf of the authors, it does go to show
how ingrained the notions and stereotypes associated with slavery
and the Jim Crow era were, even into the 1970s.

Jacque has the keen eye and intellect of a museum curator with the
true heart of a comics fan.  I’m constantly learning stuff from her
blog and having a great time doing it.  In response to my comment
that she should write a book on romance comics, she replied, “Funny
you should say that...”

If she writes that book, I’ll buy it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, February 24, 2012


Actress Linda Turner became the Black Cat to fight Nazis and other
assorted villains amidst a backdrop of Hollywood splendor.  But you
won’t find her in Black Cat #33 [Harvey; February, 1952], another
of the comics that hit the newsstands in December, 1951, the month
of my birth.  What you will find are a quartet of pre-Comics Code
horror stories.

The chilling contents:

“Corpses from the Sea” (8 pages, written and drawn by Bob Powell
with inks by Howard Nostrand);

“Army of Scorpions” (4 pages, possible drawn by Rudy Palais);

“Grave on the Green” (7 pages, art by Vic Donahue); and

“Man Made Monster” (4 pages, art by Palais).

The Powell tale was “reprinted” in Eerie Publications’ Terror Tales
Volume 5, #3 [June, 1973], albeit redrawn by A. Reynoso as "Hidden
Horror.” Publisher Myron Fass and editor Carl Burgos stole quite a
few pre-Code horror stories from various sources, often redrawing
them to add additional blood and gore and sometimes, as seems to be
the case here, redrawing them entirely from the original stories.

I’ve wondered why Harvey Comics never sued Fass for such blatant
thievery.  It would have been an afternoon’s work for Richie Rich’s
army of high-priced attorneys.  Maybe the Rich family didn’t want
anyone to know they made a fortune off garish and gory horror comic
books in the 1950s.

I’m still under the weather today, so expect me to bounce all over
the place in today’s bloggy thing.


Sainted Wife Barb’s radio turns on at 5:30 am.  I’m usually already
up by then, reading through the day’s bloggy thing before posting
it and promoting it on my message board, Facebook, and Twitter.  On
most mornings, I crawl back into bed and, with Barb, listen to the
radio until about 6:30 am.

I don’t much like radio hosts...and not just the vile Rush Limbaugh
radio hosts.  Judgmental asshat that I am, I think they are mostly
gasbags with microphones.  All I really want from radio is music -
with artists and song titles identified, thank you - news, weather,
traffic conditions, and sports.  If the hosts must go beyond that,
maybe a sociable comment about some game or movie or book is okay.
But they shouldn’t go beyond that because they are no more capable
of cogent commentary than turkeys are of flight.

This particularly morning, the hosts of “Cleveland’s New 102" - no
relation to DC’s “The New 52" - were properly disgusted that some
lowlife creep had snapped a photo of Whitney Houston in her coffin
and sold it to The National Enquirer.  I shared their disgust until
they matched the photographer’s heinous act with a disgusting act
of their own.  I literally got out of bed, walked across the hall
to my office, went to their website and sent them this:

You know what’s every bit as disgusting as someone taking a photo
of a celebrity in a coffin?  A radio host speculating on who did it
without anything resembling factual evidence!  This is why I often
leave the room when my wife’s radio goes off in the morning.  Inane
chatter from talking heads.  You know what I’d like from radio?
Music, news, weather, traffic conditions, etc. without the crass
commentary that lowers your own conversation to the level of the
Enquirer.  Try to raise the level of your discourse.  It’s possible
to entertain and inform without being jerks.

After sending that, I went back to the bedroom and read it to Barb.
She then turned off the radio because she feared my e-mail would be
read on the air.  I’d bet against that.

But it was nice to get back under the warm covers and not have to
listen to those radio people. 


Diamond Comic Distributors has canceled orders on Atlas Unified #2-
5 from Atlas Comics.  However, I have received comp copies of the
second issue of the series as well as the fifth issues of Phoenix
and Wulf.  It is my sincere hope Diamond doesn’t delay distributing
these comic books as the company did with my Grim Ghost #6, having
canceled orders on that issue at a time when it was already in the
company’s warehouse. 

Atlas fans might not be as numerous as those of DC or Marvel, but
they are just as avid as those of the Big Two.  Diamond shouldn’t
be responsible for any lateness from publishers, but, once issues
are published, especially since the publishers take responsibility
for any returns of the late issues, the distributor should not delay
shipping the issues to their retail customers.


In addition to catching up on Marvel this year, I’m trying to stay
current on DC’s “New 52" by reading the titles in batches of two to
four issues.  Of course, that only holds true for the titles still
being purchased by the generous friend who lets me borrow his comic
books.  The others will have to wait until they are collected into
trade editions and if my library system purchases them.  In either
case, I won’t have much to say about these DC titles unless they’re
really good or really bad. 

Green Lantern isn’t really good, but it’s good and definitely worth
reading.  Writer Geoff Johns has me interested in the truly tangled
inner workings of the minds of both Hal Jordan and Sinestro.  I’m
especially delighted SPOILER WARNING that Johns seems to be coming
around to my own long-held position that the Guardians are one evil
bunch of Smurfs. SPOILER ENDS.

Beyond the writing, the rest of the book is solidly crafted.  Good
storytelling and dramatic drawing by penciler Doug Mahnke.  Inking
by Christian Alamy and Keith Champagne that fits the pencils well.
David Baron’s coloring enhances without overpowering the art while
Sal Cipriano’s lettering is always easy on the eyes.  Whatever the
editors - Brian Cunningham and assistant Darren Shan - are doing on
Green Lantern, they’re doing it right.


Speaking of DC Comics...

TV Guide for February 20-March 4 reports that Black Lightning will
be one of the “second-tier characters” appearing in shorts during
the DC Nation programming block on Cartoon Network.  The item also
says the shorts will have a humorous tone.  How nice.

Around two dozen online friends have asked me how I feel about this
and the only answer I can give is a standard one:

How I feel about it depends entirely on whether or not my creation
is treated with respect and whether or not DC pays me for this use
of my creation.  The ball is entirely in DC’s court, though, sadly,
the company does have a history of committing flagrant fouls when
it comes to both Black Lightning and myself.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Bill Boyd Western #20 came out in the month of my birth, December,
1951.  Published by Fawcett Comics, it featured the “famous star of
the Hopalong Cassidy movies.”  That’s everything I have for you on
this comic book, save that Boyd’s shadow looks sort of weird to me.

Moving right along...

I have been very ill for several days now, but I seem to be on the
mend.  At one point during that period, while experiencing painful
vomiting and other unpleasant bodily symptoms, I cracked wise on my
Facebook page and said I hoped some Republican or Tea Party asshat
would come a’soliciting to my door.  The implication being I would
then hurl on them.  Oh, the offense taken by a handful of asshats.

Put on your big boy pants, you babies.  The right-wing has tried to
turn “liberal” into a curse word since the years of Ronnie Reagan,
who, though he has become something of a saint in their ridiculous
rhetoric, is someone they would hate if he were running for office
today.  I haven’t given you an ounce of the venom you’ve spewed on
liberals for decades.

I make an effort not to use the word “conservative” in referring to
the right-wing in this country because, though the robo-calls that
come thrice a day to my house keeping talking about “conservative
Republican candidates,” I don’t believe such creatures exist in our
time.  Surely real conservatives would link their arms with their
liberal fellow Americans to oppose the agendas of the evil clowns
who have usurped the GOP.

Sidebar. I keep hearing about how liberals have all the money and
use it to “steal” elections.  If liberals have money, and some of
them surely must, they aren’t using it here in Medina, Ohio.  I’ve
not received one Democratic mailing or robo-call in longer than my
illness-wracked brain can recall.  I was going to say that I hadn’t
received one in this election cycle, but I don’t believe there’s an
election cycle anymore.  The GOP started running against President
Obama before he was sworn into office.

I’ll be talking more about politics in the weeks to come, but I’ll
give you one more example from my Facebook thread.  That would be
the numb-nut whose response to my frivolous post was something like
“And I suppose you think all Democrats are swell fellows?”  Which
I didn’t remotely suggest in my comment.

Heck, I didn’t even say I wanted to throw up on all Republicans or
Tea Party members.  I singled out “Republican or Tea Party asshats”
who came to my door soliciting.  If you aren’t an asshat and don’t
knock on my door, you need not fear my noxious discharge.  The only
thing you have to fear is the malignant agenda you’ve bought into.
I suggest a good laxative.

If you’re still with me, your reward is that I’ll now start talking
about comics again.


This is my year of catching up on Marvel Comics.  This involves a
lot of skimming when I hit really bad runs on titles, but there are
also entertaining and even enlightening runs.

Case in point: Wolverine #1-19 [July, 2003-November, 2004].  Greg
Rucka was the writer and I’ve enjoyed enough of his work elsewhere
that skimming these issues was never an option.  All these issues
were well written with terrific art by Darick Robertson and Leandro
Fernandez.  I liked the first two arcs - “Brotherhood” and “Coyote
Crossing” - more than Rucka’s third and final story, “Return of the
Native” and, with the reading of these issues, came that little bit
of enlightenment noted above.

Wolverine works best without the rest of the Marvel Universe.  The
brief cameo appearance of Nightcrawler fit it well with the issues,
but the Sabertooth and Weapon X stuff in the third story arc was a
letdown for me.

Now I may change my mind on this as I get more current with the X-
Men titles - it should be noted that I am only reading Wolverine up
to the “Divided We Stand” X-event.  After that, I’ll try following
the X-books in their more or less publication order.  However, I’ve
also been reading The Mighty Avengers from just before the “Secret
Invasion” and “Dark Reign” events and Wolverine is not a good fit

For me, the sad thing with The Mighty Avengers is that those issues
are very forgettable.  There is the occasional interesting chapter,
but most of them are either padded or come off like a kid playing
with his popular action figures.  Even when Dan Slott comes on the
book, the stories strike me as filler waiting for the next “real”
story to come along.  I don’t dislike the Slott issues, and I have
several more to read, but they just aren’t capturing my interest as
Avengers Academy, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four have done.

More Marvel commentary to come.


The glorious life of a freelancer.  As of this writing, two clients
are late with royalty checks/statements, though they will probably
both cheat me when they finally get around to sending those to me,
and two other clients are late with my government-mandated 1099s.
How come clients are almost never as professional and/or honest as
they expect freelancers to be? Sigh.


One of the cool things about my life.  Getting a phone calls from
one of the best writers of our time and chatting about an obscure
comics character I wrote once.  Makes me smile.


Weird health question that is probably obvious to anyone who knows
anything about health or isn’t do lazy to Google it.  Does illness
retard hair growth?

I shaved this morning for the first time in five days.  I had less
beard growth than I normally do after a single day.

Is this a common thing or was I abducted by aliens who then erased
my memory?  I’m sort of hoping for the latter because I don’t get
out of the house as much as I should.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Dave Bennett emerges victorious in our DESIGN A NEW LOGO FOR TONY
ISABELLA contest with the spiffy keen piece shown above.  He wins
a prize package of autographed copies of 1000 Comic Books You Must
and Grim Ghost #1-6.

In alphabetical order, our riotous runners-up are Alan David Doane,
Mark Evanier, Robert Lloyd, and Christopher Mills.  Their entries
have appeared in previous bloggy things.  They receive their choice
of either an autographed copy of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read or
Grim Ghost #1-6. 

To claim their prizes, these fine crafters of logos need to send me
their preferred mailing address and, in the case of the runners-up,
their choice of prize.  Once I receive this information, I’ll get
the prizes out as soon as possible.

I’m kicking around an idea for another contest.  When it’s ready,
I’ll announce it here.


With no paying gigs on my desk or in my immediate future, I’ve been
reading many of the comics loaned to me by a friend.  My February
reading project in what will be a year-long effort to get current
with Marvel Comics titles, was Fantastic Four and FF, both written
by Jonathan Hickman.  I say “was” because I’m now current with the
titles and pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them.  They
rank with Avengers Academy and Daredevil as some of the best super-
hero comics I’ve read in recent months.

Hickman’s Fantastic Four is very imaginative with new ideas and new
plot twists coming along on a nigh-monthly basis. While I’ve heard
complaints that the Four aren’t in character, I disagree.  Not only
do I recognize Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny in these comics, I find
their reactions to circumstances that even they must find daunting
to be logical and consistent.

The temporary - Aren’t they all? - death of the Human Torch worked
for me.  His “demise” was courageous and affecting.  His return to
life was, well, more than a little gross but still believable in the
context of this current series of adventures.

I like the addition of Spider-Man as an honorary member of the FF
family and the amazing number of “foster children” now residing at
the Baxter Building.  Reed and Sue are very busy working parents,
the kind of parents I recognize in my own community, albeit without
all the alien and interdimensional invaders.  The feeling of family
is coming through in Hickman’s work.

There are still some high body counts in these issues, an overused
element of Marvel super-hero stories, but there’s more of a sense
the heroes are accutely aware of these and trying to minimize the
lost of lives and property.  There’s a scene in which the horrified
heroes realize that debris from a space battle is falling on their
city and their emotional pain is evident.

Another positive for these titles was the lack of tie-ins to that
horrible Fear Itself event.  It happened, but it didn’t impact or
slow down Fantastic Four and FF.

The FF/FF negatives are few.  Doctor Doom as some sort
of noble monster isn’t ringing true for me because I can’t forget
his slaughter of innocents while Marvel was dismantling everything
that was really cool about the Black Panther and Wakanda.  I might
never see Doom in an even slightly more positive light because of
that just plain dumb story, something editors and writers should
consider before going forward with such game-changing developments.
Good change is good, dumb change isn’t.

Even more minor...I don’t like the Juan Bobillo/Marcelo Sosa art on
FF.  All the characters look stunted to me and the European flavor
seems out of place for a distinctly American comic.  The Fantastic
Four are American super-heroes and an American family; the art in
their comics should reflect that.

Lots of positives, few negatives.  Fantastic Four and FF are both
well worth reading.


My side February reading project is Wolverine.  The five years or
so before Greg Rucka came on the title in mid-2003 were close to a
total train wreck.  Some good and even outstanding art on occasion,
but truly lousy writing. 

Two pre-Rucka stories deserve comment.  Matt Nixon’s “The Shadow
Pulpit” [Wolverine #117-118, August, 2002] were a literally ungodly
mess featuring a secret murderous faction of the Catholic Church
plotting to mind-control New Yorkers into becoming Catholics.  I’m
a lapsed Catholic of many years - I’ll consider returning as soon
as I see the Pope doing the perp walk for his role in covering up
child molestation and protecting pedophile priests - and even I was
offended by this nonsense.

However, Daniel Way’s “Good Cop, Bad Cop” [Wolverine #188-189, May-
June, 2003] was much more to my liking.  Logan plays a supporting
role in a tale about a good cop trying to bring down a murderously
bad cop. Penciler Staz Johnson did a fine job on the visual end of
things.  Good storytelling with strong emotional content.  I think
I like Logan more the less he’s involved with the rest of Marvel’s
super-hero universe.  He doesn’t play well with others and most of
his interactions seem forced to me.

I’m almost done with the Rucka run and, when I finish it, I’ll have
stuff to say about it.


I caught up with two of DC’s “New 52" titles as well: Green Arrow
and All-Star Western.  Sad to say, the former has not lived up to
the promise of its first issue.  It’s heavy on mindless action and
is failing to keep its title hero or his supporting cast interesting.
Maybe incoming writer Ann Nocenti will be able to turn this series
around, but, as I never cared for her stint on Daredevil, it will
be a hard sell for me.

All-Star Western is still readable, but that’s several notches down
from the wonder that was Jonah Hex.  The team of Jimmy Palmiotti
and Justin Grey who impressed me so mightily on the earlier series
are still writing this one, but the stories aren’t as strong as I’d
come to expect.  That’s sad. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Saturday, February 18, 2012


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1687 [March 2012}:

Of all the old comics I’ve written about in this featurette, Iron
#51-52 [Marvel; April-May, 2002] are the most recent.  Slowly,
surely, I have been trying to catch up on my reading of key Marvel
titles.  Currently, I’m reading Iron Man from when Kurt Busiek and
Sean Chen relaunched the Golden Avenger in late 1997.

Sometimes written with Roger Stern, Busiek and company produced a
solid super-hero title.  It was entertaining, but not exceptional.
Busiek was followed by first Joe Quesada and then Frank Tieri.  To
put it as kindly as possible, those runs were pretty awful.

Then came a most unlikely choice to write Iron Man.  Mike Grell had
made his writing bones on Warlord and Green Arrow at DC, and on Jon
Sable Freelance
at First Comics.  He not only brought a strong real
world atmosphere to Iron Man, but he also brought genuine humanity
to Tony Stark and his supporting cast.

The two-issue “Jane Doe” story moved me.  Iron Man and Tony Stark
do things more commonly associated with Batman and Bruce Wayne in
these issues, which revolve around the Haven, a safe house for kids
living on the street.  Stark not only funds the place, he’s shown
rescuing kids and bringing them to the Haven, as well as involving
himself in helping them build new lives. 

The story ranges from the streets to high society and the intrigues
of politics.  Artists Michael Ryan and Sean Parsons did an amazing
job depicting all the real world elements and the super-hero stuff.
Grell’s characters rang very true to me through these two issues,
even to the shocking end pages. 

Iron Man #51-52 were more or less the start of a terrific series of
comic books that ran about a year-and-a-half.  Grell presented his
readers with a variety of different types of stories.  He put Tony
and his friends through some emotional, heart-wrenching, and above
all, believable situations.  To find a previous Iron Man I liked as
much, I’d have to go back to the David Michelinie/Bob Layton issues
of the 1970s and 1980s and the Archie Goodwin issues of the 1960s.

Unfortunately, the Grell issues have never been collected in either
trade paperback or hardcover.  That’s a shame.  I’d buy such books
in a heartbeat.    

I’ll be back on Wednesday with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Friday, February 17, 2012


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1687 [March 2012}:

My old pal Paul Kupperberg has published three ebooks: The Same Old
Story, In My Shorts
, and Two Tales of Atlantis.  Each of them are
available on Kindle for 99 cents each.  I have only the vaguest of
notions on how this works, but Paul sent me PDFs of the books and
I’ve managed to read the first of them without causing any apparent
damage to the Internet tubes.  I plan to read the others soon, but
I didn’t want to hold off recommending The Same Old Story to you.
It’s a hoot and a half.

It’s the comics industry’s darkest days.  Two freelancers working
for the same publisher are murdered within days of each other and
writer Max Wiser, the son of a NYPD homicide detective, is driven
to find out who done it and why.  Cue to the beautiful blonde who is
also involved.

Comics fans and historians will have a ball trying to identify the
book’s versions of actual comics legends.  Detective fiction fans
will enjoy the pulpy goodness of Kupperberg’s writing.  Guys like
me will bug Kupperberg for a second Max Wiser book.  Getting this
much for a buck is a real bargain.

In My Shorts: Hitler’s Bellhop and Other Stories collects six short
stories.  Two Tales of Atlas features two longer tales that might
remind you of Kupperberg’s run on Arion, Lord of Atlantis, a hero
he created for DC Comics back in the day.  I might have to buy one
of those Kindle machines to read them.  Do they run on batteries or

For information on ordering these books and all things Kupperberg,
you should visit his blog.

It’s worth visiting just for the photos of Paul sitting jauntily in
the Batcopter. 


What happens when that really popular high-school girl gets busted
in a cheating scandal not of her doing?  For Becca Norman, it means
spending her summer at a creepy boarding school and going from the
cool girl to the new girl.

Readers young and old will enjoy All-Ghouls School by Marc Sumerak
with artist David Bryant [IDW; $19.99].  Becca quickly learns she’s
the only ordinary human in a student body of vampires, demons, and
werewolves.  The devilish headmaster wants to bring diversity into
his school to better prepare students to interact peacefully with
the human world.  His daughter is determined to make Becca’s summer
a living, well, you know.

This graphic novel, the first in what I hope will be a long-running
series, checks off all the boxes: great characters, humor, a bit of
dread, challenges, satisfying solutions, and surprises throughout.
Indeed, I think the series has the potential to make the transition
to TV as an alternative to the steamy teen angst fantasies usually
found on the small screen.  But, while you’re waiting for Hollywood
to get a clue, check out All-Ghouls School.  It’s a terrific book.

ISBN: 978-1600109928

Marvel Firsts: The 1960s [Marvel; $29.99] is a joyous ride through
the beginnings of the Marvel Universe established by Stan Lee with
collaborators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and
so many others.  In nearly 500 full-color pages, this chunky wonder
of a book lovingly collects the first appearances of the heroes who
made the comics world their own in that decade.

The line-up includes the “A” listers and the barely-remembered “D”
listers: Rawhide Kid, Dr. Droom, the Fantastic Four, Henry Pym, the
Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, the Human Torch (in Johnny Storm’s initial
solo appearance), Two-Gun Kid, Iron Man, Sgt. Fury and the Howling
Commandoes, Dr. Strange, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Wasp telling
a tale, the Watcher telling another tale, Daredevil, Capt. America
in the start of his 1960s solo feature, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD,
the Sub-Mariner in the start of his 1960s solo feature, the Ghost
Rider (the western version), Captain Marvel (Kree version); Capt.
Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders (You are allowed to say “Who?”
here.), the origin of the Silver Surfer, and pivotal stories of Ka-
Zar and Doctor Doom.  But, wait, there’s more.

Marvel Firsts: The 1960s also includes several pages of covers of
the other books Marvel was publishing during that decade.  You get
romance, war comics, giant monsters, westerns, Patsy Walker, Millie
the Model, Monsters to Laugh With
, and dozens of other nods to the
past.  Makes me wish Marvel would reprint all of those comic books
as well, but, hey, when it comes to the 1960s, I’m a Marvel maniac
through and through.

I was a pre-teen and a teenager in the 1960s.  DC and other comics
publishers would not have been able to keep me excited about comic
books.  It’s not that they published bad comic books because they
all published some very fine comic books.  But they didn’t have the
excitement, the spark, the compelling nature of even minor Marvels.
I’m writing this column today because of Stan, Jack, Steve, Larry,
Don, Dick Ayers, and all of those other Marvel writers and artists.
Years have passed since I last shouted “Make Mine Marvel,” but my
admiration for and appreciation of the terrific comic books Marvel
published before I went to work for the company has not diminished
even slightly. 

Enough personal digression. Marvel Firsts: The 1960s is another of
those books that every comic-book fan, certainly every Marvel fan,
needs to have.  It’s a treasure!

ISBN: 978-0-7851-5864-6

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Thursday, February 16, 2012


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1687 [March 2012}:

“Love and marriage, love and marriage,
It’s an institute you can’t disparage.
Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.”

- “Love and Marriage” by Sammy Cahn (lyrics) and Jimmy Van Hausen
(music), introduced by Frank Sinatra in 1955

It’s our February issue, which means that CBG editor Brent “Cupid”
Frankenhoff has once again asked me to do a Valentine’s Day theme.
Maybe some February he’ll surprise me and ask for something about
Black History Month, Presidents Day, or maybe even Groundhog’s Day.
Hope springs eternal.

It’s not a good time for love in the comic books, unless, you count
sleazy rooftop sex.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Batman and Catwoman.
Well, actually, I turned away when I saw you getting busy on that
rooftop.  Get a room.  Or a Batcave.  Or something.

I believe that love and marriage go together like, I dunno, a horse
and carriage.  You younger readers can Google “horse and carriage”
to find out what that is.  However, marriage has taken a huge hit
in today’s comic books.

Marvel made a deal with the devil to erase the marriage of Spider-
Man and Mary Jane as if it never happened.  Reed and Sue Richards
of the Fantastic Four are still wed, as are Luke Cage and Jessica
Jones.  The Black Panther bailed on Wakanda in one of the dumbest
stories in ages, but he’s still married to Storm.  Matt Murdock and
his wife divorced a while back, but I’m not sure about other Marvel
couples. Medusa and Black Bolt?  Hawkeye and Mockingbird? Shanna
and Ka-Zar? Is there a Marvel marriage counseling website where I can
go to learn the status of those other couples?

DC’s “New 52" has definitely undone the marriages of Clark Kent and
Lois Lane and Barry Allen and Iris West.  Hawkman was revived in a
most savage manner and without a Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman.  It doesn’t
look like Alec Holland is presently Swamp Thing or married to Abby
Arcane.  I think Aquaman and Mera are still wed, but what about the
Midnighter and Apollo? I should know these things.  Clearly I’ve
been removed from DC’s social registry.

Comic strip marriages seem to have more staying power.  Blondie and
Dagwood.  Dick and Tess Tracy. Rex and June Morgan. The Phantom and
Diana. Hagar the Horrible and Helga.  Hi and Lois.  Alice and Henry
Mitchell, the parents of Dennis the Menace, and many others.  Heck,
even Spidey and MJ are still married in the newspapers.
For all their big talk about comic books being enjoyed by readers
of all ages, DC and Marvel still tailor their comics for adolescent
males and unmarried man-children.  Maybe not exclusively, but too
much for their own good.  Call out their editors and publishers on
this and they’ll give you some well-rehearsed line about how kids
don’t find parents interesting and don’t want to read about married
couples in comic books.  I don’t buy that argument.

Sainted Wife Barb and I have been married for nearly 28 years and,
though we hardly live the life of super-heroes, those 28 years have
been filled with drama, excitement, surprises, and, fairly often,
the triumph of good over evil.  Maybe it’s not that kids don’t want
to read about married couples.  Maybe it’s that the writers aren’t
good enough to bring out the excitement of two people making a life
for themselves and their children in a marriage.  The writers and
editors and publishers blame the readers for their own inability to
tell great stories with such characters.

That’s my Valentine’s Day bit, Brent.  Next year, I think our theme
should be National Bird-Feeding Month!


The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime [Titan Books; $49.95] reprints
nearly three dozen tales of con men, gangsters, and killers by the
legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  As odd as it may seem
in reference to crime fiction and kinda non-fiction, these stories
are big fun.  Where the more successful Crime Does Not Pay
used huge blocks of copy to drive home the moral expressed in its
title, the Simon and Kirby approach put storytelling before detail
and preaching.  They portrayed crime and its perpetrators as true
blights on society, but their writing was more bold and Kirby’s art
was more action-packed than that seen in other crime comic books of
the era.  Characters move across the stage and emotions are shown
in an in-your-face manner that’s like watching a 3-D movie. 

Included in this 320-page, full-color collection are a handful of
stories starring recurring characters: the mysterious Gunmaster and
special investigator “Red Hot” Blaze. There are tales of criminals
past and present, some of them “true” in the sense that they only
play slightly loose with actual facts.  There are character studies
of criminals who, sometimes too late, regret the bad choices they
made.  Some of these characters even seek to make amends for their
crimes beyond serving their prison sentences.

Like every other book in Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library, Crime is
worthy of award consideration.  I treasure my copy and recommend it
to all fans of the legendary team and also to all serious students
of American comic books.

ISBN: 9781848569607


If we’re talking about comics every comics reader should have - and
I like to talk about that more often than not - we can’t overlook
the Amelia Rules! series by Jimmy Gownley.  It’s funny, it’s real,
and, if these books don’t tug at your heartstrings you need to find
yourself a heartstrings donor STAT.

Amelia McBride lives with her divorced mom, misses her dad and her
old friends, sticks by her new friends through thick and thin, and
tries to navigate through life’s mysteries as best she can.  Just
like the rest of us.

Gownley’s The Meaning of Life...and Other Stuff [Atheneum; $10.99]
is his newest Amelia book.  At various times during my reading of
the book, I felt my heart sink and then rise.  We’ve all had times
when we haven’t been a good friend and we’ve all had times when our
friends prove why they’re our friends.  We’ve all had to deal with
authority figures who are cruel and unreasonable for no good reason
other than they can be cruel and unreasonable.  We’ve all had those
moments when a friend is hurting and we don’t know what we can do
about it.  I love these characters and this book because its heart
pumps through my life as much as it does Amelia’s.  It’s one of the
best and most moving comics ever.

ISBN: 978-1-4619-8612-6

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

The Rawhide Kid is one of my favorite comics characters.  Inspired
by Essential Rawhide Kid Vol. 1, which reprints Rawhide Kid
#17-35, I plan to write about the Kid every other Wednesday.
In the first part of this ongoing series, I wrote about the Kid’s
debut/origin. We continue...

Rawhide Kid #18 [October, 1960} finds the Kid “At the Mercy of Wolf
Waco” with cover and interior art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers and
writing/editing by Stan Lee.  As this Rawhide Kid discussion moves
forward in this and other installments, I won't speculate on who did
what as far as the original story concepts and plots unless something
screams out at me as uniquely Kirby or uniquely Lee.  I love both of
those guys - and Dick Ayers as well - and I don’t feel I must denigrate
either Jack or Stan to express that love.  Anyway...

The Kid fled the scene of a crime last issue and became an outlaw
in the eyes of a nearsighted lawman.  However, as we will see, the
Kid will continue to make bad choices, sometimes for the noblest of
reasons, that add more weight to his “outlaw” status.  In this 13-
page story, tired from being on the run, the Kid reluctantly joins
Waco’s gang.  Outnumbered, he knows they’ll kill him if he doesn’t
join them and he also believes there is no place else he can go.
But, when ordered to dynamite a train during a robbery, he instead
turns the tables on Waco and his killers.  In a typical last panel,
the Kid doesn’t seek a reward or even thanks from the men he just
saved.  He rides off, his body language expressing the weariness of
his outlaw life.

“The Midnight Raiders” is the non-series story of the issue.  It’s
drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito and written by Stan Lee.
The five-pager falls neatly into another standard western plot often
used by Lee.  Four raiders think a town will be easy pickings because
its sheriff is an elderly man.  Unfortunately for these bad guys, the
sheriff is...

SPOILER WARNING...Wild Bill Hickok.  The thugs end up
behind bars, bemoaning their lousy luck.

“Hundreds of towns in the West and you haveta pick on the one 
with Bill Hickok for sheriff!” 

Hickok was gunned down in a saloon in Deadwood in what is now South
Dakota.  It was 1876 and he was only 39 years old, hardly the old
man shown in this story.  But Stan clearly loved stories in which
the surprise ending was that some character was a famous historical
figure and would go there often.  His history was shaky, but it was
all in good fun. SPOILER ENDS.

Of all the great stories featuring the Rawhide Kid, the second Kid
tale in this issue is my favorite.  “A Legend is Born!” is also one
of my favorite Lee/Kirby collaborations.  In five masterful pages,
Stan and Jack show their understanding of human nature, delivering
action and one of the best “punch lines” ever.

The Kid is trying to have a peaceful meal when a bully, not knowing
the identity of the young man, tries to push the Kid around.  Five
panels is all it takes for Rawhide to show that bully and everyone
else in the bar the folly of such behavior. 

Rawhide escapes before the sheriff arrives.  The witnesses proceed
to describe the Kid to the lawman.  They claim he was a giant with
four guns the size of cannons and fists the size of sledgehammers.
They say his voice was like the growl of a caged lion.  The sheriff
is thrilled to have such a good description. 

The last panel captions make the story...

For the record: The Rawhide Kid had an unusually low, mild voice!
He was five feet, three inches, in his stocking feet, and had never
in his life weighed more than one hundred and twenty-five pounds!
His hands were normal size, a mite on the small side, maybe, and he
carried no more than two regulation Colt .45's!

But human nature is what it is, and men will always color what they
say!  That is why none of the records really agree about the
Rawhide Kid – that is how legends are born! 


Comments to this blog are moderated because I simply don’t have the
time or inclination to spar with trolls.  Such sparring matches may
give their lives meaning, but they do nothing for the quality of my
life or the lives of my readers.  You don’t like what I’ve written?
Ignore it.  For the most part, I ignore you - I speak only of the
trolls here and not my beloved readers - except on the exceedingly
rare instances when I feel there may be benefit from my discussing
something a troll has sent me. 

On this occasion, the troll in question asked what my problem was
people who like Jack Kirby, but don’t like Stan Lee.  He blathered
on a bit more, but, basically, he wanted me to defend his right to
hate on Stan Lee.  Which I think it already pretty much covered by
the First Amendment.  Which also doesn’t require me to give him a
forum for his nonsense.

On my end, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t love both Jack Kirby
and Stan Lee, two of the greatest comics creators there have ever
been.  I know there are some fans who feel the full expression of
their love for Jack must include hatred and vile statements about
Stan.  That I do have a problem with.

The current troll seems to think there are Stan Lee fans who hate
on Jack Kirby.  The law of averages tells me there likely are some
Stan fans who have behaved in such churlish manner, but I certainly
haven’t come across any that I can recall.

The bottom line for me is that I love Stan and Jack.  My world has
been much richer because of them.  I think Stan deserves everything
he’s gained from his work in comics and I wish Jack had received as
much.  I’ll never criticize either the Kirby family or Kirby’s fans
for seeking to get Jack the recognition he deserves, save for when
they, and I speak here of a tiny but vocal group of so-called fans,
denigrate those who worked with Jack. 

I support the Kirby family’s quest to get those financial rewards
which, no matter what Marvel claims or any court rules, Jack Kirby
deserves.  So what if Jack and Roz aren’t still around to benefit
from those rewards?  Jack worked for his family and his art.  He’d
want his family to benefit.

When I see trolls bitching about how the heirs of Jack Kirby, Jerry
Siegel, and others don’t deserve to get compensated for the great
creativity and hard work of such creators, I get pissed off at the
trolls.  I want to smack them around until they cower in a corner
wetting their pants. 

Not one of those online creeps would have had the nerve to go up to
Jack at a convention and tell him his family didn’t deserve to get
paid by Marvel.  Okay, Jack would have probably shrugged and just
walked away from them.  Roz would've knocked their heads off and
kicked them across the convention.  At least that’s how I like to imagine
it would play out.

You don’t love Jack Kirby?  You’re an idiot.

You don’t love Stan Lee?  You’re an idiot.

Take your crap somewhere else.

For the record: Tony Isabella has an unusually low, mild voice!  He
is five feet, three inches, and hasn’t weighed 125 pounds since he
was a teen!  His hands are normal size, maybe a mite on the small
side, and he has never carried a firearm!  Yet! 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Battle #7 [March, 1952] came out in December, 1951, which, as you
are doubtless tired of reading, was the month of my birth.  I did
think about going with a Valentine’s Day opening of some sort, but
since love is a battlefield...

There aren’t too many certain credits for this issue.  Atlas Tales
suggests Carl Burgos as the cover artist and he did do many covers
for Marvel during the 1950s.  There are four stories:

“P.O.W.” (6 pages, drawn by Al Hartley);

“The Sniper” (6 pages, probably drawn by Bill Savage, a great name
for a comic-book artist);

“Over the Hill” (5 pages, probably drawn by Bill LaCava); and,

“Cavalry Charge” (6 pages, drawn by Joe Maneely).

I haven’t read any of these stories, but it’s only matter of time
before some obscenely wealthy Tony Isabella fan decides to
buy me every comic published in the month of my birth.  I think
Cupid’s arrow is lodged in my brain.  The one above my neck.


This is Fantastic Four Month on my master “catching up with Marvel”
plan.  I read a bunch of FF mini-series and special and didn’t care
for most of them.  But a few of them were pretty good and worth a
comment or two.

Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four: Big Town [2001] had a very cool
premise.  How would New York and the rest of the world have changed
if Reed Richards had made his advanced technology available to all?
Pencilled by Mike McKone, the answer unfolded in four issues that,
near as I can tell, have never been collected in trade paperback.
That’s too bad because this is fun stuff driven by serious thought
and featuring dozens of heroes and villains.

SPOILER WARNING. If I have any quibble with this mini-series - and
I just have one - it’s that the original X-Men are featured as some
sort of street gang.  Even without the guidance of Professor X, I
can’t completely buy the notion that these five kids went all rebel
on the world.  Bobby Drake and Hank McCoy came from decent middle-
class families.  So did Jean Grey.  Warren Worthington might have
come from wealth, but his family looked pretty solid, too.  Maybe
Scott Summers would have had a rough go of it, but even that one’s
a stretch for me.  It’s too bad there wasn’t a follow-up series to
delve into the mutants.  SPOILER ENDS.

Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure [2008] is a terrific comic book,
if only from a fascinating historical perspective.  It collects two
stories.  One is “The Menace of the Mega-Men,” the lost adventure
of the title.  Scripted by Stan Lee decades after it was originally
drawn by Jack Kirby, it is an amazing reconstruction of a tale from
just before Kirby left Marvel to create New Gods and other titles
for DC.  It’s backed up by “The Monstrous Menace of the Nega-Man,”
a story which included several pages of art from the earlier tale.

Neither story is particularly memorable, though both are far more
readable than many recent Marvel comics.  The first version holds
together better, but it seems lightweight for an FF adventure.  The
second version ups the ante, but you can see the seams.  Quibbles
aside, I enjoyed the heck out of this issue.  With one exception.

Between the two stories we get a text feature by John Morrow, the
publisher/editor of The Jack Kirby Collector and publisher of some
other terrific comics magazines.  Sad to say, the feature comes off
as sort of snotty, belittling the efforts of every one who worked
on Fantastic Four who wasn’t Jack Kirby.  I doubt that was Morrow’s
intent, but that’s how it read to me.  Tom Brevoort, the one-shot’s
fair-minded editor, is to be commended for including this feature,
but, were I in his place, I would have sent it back for a rewrite.

Fantastic Four: The End [2007] is a six-issue mini-series written
and drawn by Alan Davis with inks by Mark Farmer.  Set in a future
some years after the tragic deaths of Franklin and Val Richards, it
shows us a world of tremendous achievement and unspeakable personal
tragedy.  The Four have gone their separate ways, but their heroism
has led to a better and more peaceful world.  Which is not to say
it will remain peaceful. 

Other than to tell you this is an immensely enjoyable, satisfying
series, I don’t want to say too much about it.  I want you to read
it.  It’s been reprinted in a trade paperback collection in 2008,
but the original comics shouldn’t be too hard to track down either.

However, there is one question I must ask of Davis:
Why is Luke Cage still wearing that golden tiara?  In the future?
Man, that’s just embarrassing!

My thoughts on the more recent Fantastic Four and FF issues written
by Jonathan Hickman will be coming soon.


Wolverine is my side “catching up on Marvel” project of the moment.
I sort of read issues from 1999-2001 last weekend.  I say “sort of”
because I ended up doing more skimming than actual reading.  Those
issues didn’t even rise to the level of mediocre.  Poorly written.
Pointless slugfests.  Brutality for brutality’s sake.  Some decent
art here and there, but wasted on the material.  Wolverine may be
the best there is at what he does, but these issues definitely do
not show the character at his best.

On a more modern note...

Having received another box from the friend who lends me his comics
after he reads them, I am now current with Invincible Iron Man and
the canceled Iron Man 2.0

Invincible Iron Man #509-512 again failed to entertain or impress
me.  A tiresome “Fear Itself” issue followed by more boring stuff
with the Mandarin and his underlings doing more terrible things and
killing many innocent people.  Writer Matt Fraction has gone stale
on this book.  It needs new ideas, new villains, and perhaps even
a new writer.

Iron Man 2.0 #10-12 finally wraps up the Palmer Addley storyline.
It’s a decent finish to a too-long serial.  Though I like Rhodey as
a character, this title wasn’t a good venue for him.  It’s time for
him to be something more than “that other Iron Man.”  He deserves
the chance to be a star on his own terms.      
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

Monday, February 13, 2012


Gary Friedrich created the modern-day Ghost Rider.  The character
made his debut in Marvel Spotlight #5 [August 1972].  Ghost Rider
has starred in hundreds of comic books and two big-screen movies.
There are countless toys and other merchandising items based on the
character.  Friedrich was paid $25 per page or less for writing 11
Ghost Rider stories.  After that, he was gone from the series due
to demons of a far more personal sort.

Several years back, Friedrich sued Marvel Comics and other related
companies seeking to regain his creation or, at the very least, be
fairly compensated for the millions Marvel and those companies have
made from his creation. 

The first Ghost Rider movie cost $110 million to make.  It took in
$228.7 million worldwide.  While movie theater owners got half of
that, the figure does not include DVD sales, television showings,
movie rentals, toys, etc.  Friedrich did not receive a dime of that
money.  At best, he’s received royalties when Marvel reprinted his
original Ghost Rider stories.

In recent years, Friedrich attended comics conventions rightfully
promoting himself as the creator of Ghost Rider.  It’s a claim that
some dispute, but the evidence as I read it says he was, at least,
the primary creative force behind the character.  In a far better
world and comics industry in which we live, Marvel would have long
ago acknowledged this, compensated Friedrich financially, and made
sure his name was on the Ghost Rider movies.

Friedrich has lost his court case against Marvel, though he is free
to appeal the decision.  Unfortunately, he has also lost Marvel’s
counterclaim against him.  The court has ordered Friedrich to pay
$17,000 to Marvel for his sales of Ghost Rider materials at those
conventions.  Adding insult to financial injury, the court likewise
ordered that Friedrich not promote himself as the creator of Ghost
Rider for financial gain.

“Blog not in anger” is the intent of what I write today and it is
as hard a thing as you can imagine.  No doubt that anger will come
later.  I blog today to ask you to help Friedrich, a good man who
I consider a good friend.

Gary and his wife are broke.  He is unemployed and in poor health.
Because of his health, he is unlikely to get gainful employment in
the future.  In addition to these challenges, the $17,000 judgment
also weighs heavily on him.  I expect he will appeal that judgment,
but I don’t know the status of his current legal representation and
whether or not he will be able to put forth an appeal.  Let’s put
that on the back burner for the moment.

Steve Niles, another good man, has started a fund to help Gary in
his time of need.  I urge you to go to his Donate to Gary Friedrich
page and give as generously as you are able.

Over the weekend, I made a donation of $100.  I don’t usually make
something like that public, but I’m making an exception this time
as a prelude to a challenge of sorts.

I would ask everyone who ever got paid to write or draw or work on
a Ghost Rider comic book, or got paid to work on either of the two
Ghost Rider movies, or who got paid for working on the Ghost Rider
action figures, toys, and other merchandise, to make a donation to
the guy without whose act of creation they would not have got paid
because there wouldn’t have been a Ghost Rider comic book or movie
or action figure for them to work on.  It would be wonderful if you
could match or top my donation, but I understand that many of you,
like myself, are dealing with economic issues.

Outside of the small check I get each month for my Comics Buyer’s
, I haven’t had a paying gig in several months.  Not looking
for sympathy here.  That’s the way of the freelancer, the price I
pay for trying to earn a living doing what I love...and it’s why I
so firmly believe that the comics community should come together to
help comics creators in need, especially when that need is made so
much more desperate because of Marvel and other corporate entities.

Following that line of thought would lead to the anger I’m avoiding
today.  Instead, let me tell you about Gary’s own generous nature.

I was the second regular writer on Ghost Rider.  I didn’t know at
the time why Gary was no longer writing the book.  Still dazzled by
working at Marvel Comics, it never occurred to me to ask the why of
my good fortune.

I didn’t write Ghost Rider as Gary had done.  I was smart enough to
recognize that I could not match his strengths so I went with my own.
It became a different comic book.  Yet, years later, when Gary and
I had connected online and were together at a Mid-Ohio-Com, he was
exceedingly generous in his praise of what I had written with his

Think about the hundreds of people who have worked on Ghost Rider
in comics, movies, and elsewhere.  If all of them made even a small
donation to the fund started by Steve Niles, it would make a huge
difference in Gary’s life. 

There is more to be said about this and similar situations on some
near-future day when I will again blog in anger.  Today is not that
day.  Today is for Gary Friedrich.

Gary Friedrich.  The creator of Ghost Rider.  The writer of stories
enjoyed by millions.  A good man.  My friend.

I thank you for your support in his time of need. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella