Tuesday, December 31, 2013


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder: From a great many years ago, a look at a wondrous Christmas present.  Happy holidays, my friends.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Recently published by Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books is The Spider
#2: The Devil’s Paymaster & The Benevolent Order of Death
The volume features two pulp magazine adventures of the “Master of
Men” by Norvell W. Page, writing as Grant Stockbridge.  Though the
two connected stories have been reprinted before, this is the first
time they have been collected in a single volume.

“The Devil’s Paymaster” was first published in the May 1941 issue
of The Spider. From the back cover:

The Devil’s Paymaster deals torturous radioactive death, and only
the Spider can restore honor to the Statue of Liberty.

“The Benevolent Order of Death” appeared in the June 1941 issue of
magazine.  From the back cover:

Nita infiltrates the supposedly patriotic Benevolent Order of
Americans, and a new Spider arises after Richard Wentworth is shot
in the back.

This volume’s extra features are extra special.  Will Murray’s “The
Web” discusses Spider supporting characters and the letters column
that ran in the magazine.  Then Anthony Tollin writes of faithful
fan Virginia “Nanek” Combs and how Norvell Page wrote a short story
for her.  That story tells of “A Certain Meeting” between Richard
Wentworth (The Spider) and Nita van Sloan.  The story, previously
published only in the 1978 Xenophile #40, is also reprinted in this

As with the other Sanctum Books series - Doc Savage, The Shadow
and others - these Spider adventures are entertaining journeys into
the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made books
and I regularly despair that I might never get around to reading
them all.  But what I can do is let you know about the new releases
as they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the way.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Recently published by Sanctum Books, The Shadow #78: The Circle of
Death and The Sledge-Hammer Crimes
[$14.95] features two classic
novels of the Shadow by Walter B. Gibson, writing as Maxwell Grant.
“The Circle of Death” was published in the March 1, 1936 issue of
The Shadow Magazine. From the back cover:

The Shadow enters The Circle of Death to uncover the strange secret
behind a savage series of Times Square killings

“The Sledge-Hammer Crimes” comes from the magazine’s August 1, 1936
issue.  From the back cover:

The murder of a museum curator by an ancient Aztec stone hammer
triggers an inexplicable wave of crimes.

Also in this book: “Fuel for Murder,” a short Whisperer thriller by
Alan Hathway writing as Clifford Goodrich.  It was first published
in the May 15, 1940 edition of The Shadow Magazine.

Rounding out the book are the usual informative historical essays
by Will Murray and Anthony Tollin.

As with the other Sanctum Books series - Doc Savage, The Whisperer
and others - these Shadow adventures are entertaining journeys into
the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made books
and I regularly despair that I might never get around to reading
them all.  But what I can do is let you know about the new releases
as they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the way.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


Full-size bloggy things will resume on January 1, 2014, though there will be some material posted here before then. 

Monday, December 23, 2013


Today is the day after my birthday.  I received much love from my
family and friends, wonderful phone calls from other friends and,
much to my amazement, over a thousand online birthday greetings via
email and on Facebook.  I had such a great birthday that I didn’t
even start writing today’s bloggy thing until today...which is why
it’s posting so late in the morning.  Thank you one and all.

The downside of having way more birthday than I anticipated and way
more birthday fun than was likely good for me is that my blogging
tank is on empty.  I don’t have what it takes to continue my four-
part “Unsavory Tales” series today or for the next several days...and
I still have quite a bit of pre-Christmas stuff to do.

In the interest of health and sanity, I’m going to take some time
off from the bloggy thing while I do my holiday thing.  I expect to
return next Monday to thrill and/or outrage you anew.

Here’s wishing all my friends the happiest of holidays and the most
merry of Christmases.  Naughty or nice, you have made 2013 a very
special year for me.  I love you all madly.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Sunday, December 22, 2013


It’s my birthday. I’m 62 years old. ‘Nuff said.

I’ve little love for so-called “reality shows.”  Outside of Fangasm
and Heroes of Cosplay, which I watched because they touched on my
world, the only such programs I watch even occasionally are House
and House Hunters International. 

I loathe most reality shows.  If I come across them while channel-
surfing or if I walk into a room where a loved one is watching one
of them, I find myself wishing a flaming meteor would fall from the
sky to flatten Jon and Kate...or the sister wives and their creepy
“husband”...or the teen moms...or, well, you get the idea. I know
there must be a special hell reserved for each and every adult who
is involved in making pedophile TV programs like that Toddlers and
abomination. I’m a hater and I cannot lie.

In my defense, I hate such TV shows because they are terrible shows
and because they suck the intelligence out of viewers and promote
a sordid voyeurism.  Firefly didn’t last a year, but they have made
how many seasons of The Real Life and Big Brother?

If you want to see true hate and ignorance, gentle readers, I give
you Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty, who, in an
interview with GQ magazine, paraded his bigotry and racism for all
to see.  My Facebook and Twitter response to him:

Fuck Duck Dynasty and the bigot it rode in on.

Elegant it wasn’t, but it expressed my long-established disdain for
so-called “Christians” who wrap themselves in their soiled bibles
and embrace a hatred the Savior they claim to worship would never
condone, a hatred He never stated in the precious book they believe
comes from God and not from fallible men who were products of their
ancient unenlightened times and likely pursuing their own agendas.
Any wonder I now revere a giant radioactive lizard?

One of the more common responses to this Facebook/Twitter rudeness
of mine boiled down to...he’s entitled to his opinion.

Technically, that’s absolutely correct, though I’ll never see such
bigotry and racism as a legitimate opinion.  I consider it to be a
mental illness and a moral deficiency.  Even more so when it’s put
forth as some sort of affirmation of one’s religious beliefs.  If
your God actually requires such intolerance from His followers, I
respectfully suggest you need a better God.

Speaking of intolerance, I saw this “tweet” coming ten miles away
because this bilge always surfaces when I write about bigotry and
my unswerving opposition to bigotry.  An anonymous fellow who goes
by the name “Old Comic Smell” posted this:

Because the guy has an opinion that differs from yours? How very
tolerant of you.

It’s true.  I am intolerant of intolerance. This fellow exposed me
as a hypocrite to all six of his followers.  My reputation has now
been destroyed and my career is over.  It’s a shame the heroic “Old
Comic Smell” apparently can’t reveal his real name.  I’m guessing
that would put his loved ones in jeopardy.

If you want to talk actual hypocrites, you need go no further than
the ninnies of the right.  When Martin Bashir made unkind comments
about one individual, the perpetually toxic Sarah Palin, on MSNBC,
the Fox News crowd exploded with frothing rage.  Bashir apologized
for his remarks and resigned from MSNBC.

No one called this a First Amendment issue, probably because most
educated people understand that the First Amendment only applies to
government censorship.  Some called it a freedom of speech matter,
though, again, educated people do understand that while a person is
perfectly free to say almost anything, said person is not and has
never been guaranteed freedom from the consequences of what he
or she has said. 

The ninnies of the right were incensed by Bashir’s comments about
an individual.  They were perfectly fine with Robertson’s horrible
comments about all homosexuals...and they seem to think it’s some
terrible violation of basic decency and the Constitution that A&E,
the network which airs Duck Dynasty, has suspended or maybe fired
Robertson from the series.  Because consequences should only apply
to those who disagree with the hypocrites of the right.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the third installment of this “unsavory
topics” series.  Collect them all.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Two days ago, I was enjoying the holiday Herd Gathering with best
friends Bob Ingersoll, Roger Price and Thom Zahler.  You know their
names because yea, verily, all of them are inscribed in the annals
of heroes and legend that inspire mankind to this day.  Sharing a
meal and good fellowship with them is, in itself, a honor only the
chosen few have known.  To translate into terms more recognizable
to my younger readers...it rocked.

Yesterday, my daughter Kelly spent a fun morning doing all manner
of pre-Christmas errands and then had a terrific lunch with Sainted
Wife Barb.  It also rocked.

The last thing in the universe I want to do in today’s bloggy thing
is discuss that which is neither fun nor heroic.  But I also don’t
want these unsavory topics to linger on my “write about this” list.
Please bear with me.


Most days, on my Facebook page, I post links to a few articles from
The Maddow Blog.  I like the adult, even-handed manner in which the
site reports on the follies of politicians and pundits.  It’s true
the majority of the follies are from the right, but that’s because
facts and morality both have a liberal bias.  Of course, my saying
stuff like that makes some people sad and even angry.

On December 17, I posted this:

If you've noticed the absence on my Facebook page of links to
stories about Republicans saying stupid stuff and doing terrible
things, it's not because they've stopped saying stupid stuff or
doing terrible things. I'm just busy right now. Rest assured, they
are still as horrible as ever.

That same day, I received a private message from someone I’ll call
“Peggy Noonan” because the tone of the message reminded me of that
passive-aggressive Republican pundit.  If you’ve ever heard Noonan
comment on anything, she’s always seems disappointed that liberals
won’t accept the correctness of Republican talking points and are
determined to hurt our country, by which she means the Republican
notion of the country.  I’d feel terrible about letting her down so
often if I didn’t enjoy her suffering so much.

Anyway, my “pen pal” said she much preferred when I wrote about the
comic books and the movies and other pop culture stuff and didn’t
upset her with my political and social views which were so removed
from our country’s values as she saw them.  The truth is I prefer
writing about comics and movies and pop culture stuff.  But that’s
only part of who I am and I think my connection to and commentary
on the stuff she doesn’t want me to write about informs everything
else I write, be it fiction or non-fiction. 

If you aren’t able to accept the entire magnificent package that is
Tony Isabella, then you should probably go elsewhere for your pop
culture fixes.  I might take brief breaks from the political/social stuff,
but it’s always going be here.  Writing about it is how I figure it
out for myself...and how I get it out of my system before I develop
what I can only assume is the chronic sour stomach of Peggy Noonan.

Sidebar.  As I said, I like the adult, even-handed manner in which
the Maddow Blog reports on the follies of politicians and pundits.
But I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit I also enjoy the
raucous, sarcastic offerings of Wonkette. Maddow is who I aspire to
be when I grow up. Wonkette is who I am now.

Color me Grinch-green because, in the self-centered interest of not
having to write a novel-length bloggy thing, I’ve decided to write
four much shorter bloggy things.  I’ll opine about unsavory things
over the next three days and then I can get back to writing about
subjects I find much more enjoyable.

I fully expect that, on Christmas Eve, I will be visited by three
ghosts and then awake on Christmas morning with a desperate
need to buy a giant turkey for Tiny Tim and his family. 

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, December 20, 2013


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder...Iron Man, the Black Beetle, Swamp Thing.  Check it out.


As we barrel towards my birthday, Christmas and the year’s end, I’m
trying to write about as many items on my “write about that” list
as possible.  There will probably be spoilers ahead.

All-New X-Men continues to be an intriguing title.  In one of those
stupid moves super-smart Marvel characters make so often, the Beast
brought the original teen X-Men from the past to remind their older
selves what they used to be and what they used to stand for.  The
kids are shocked by what they’ve become as adults, especially Scott
“I grow up to murder Charles Xavier?” Summers.

After the ten-issue Battle of the Atom crossover, it seems the teen
X-Men have been changed so much by their experiences in the present
that they can’t be sent back to their own time.  They are trapped
in the present.  In case you wondered, that was the big finish of
the crossover event and, yeah, it actually did take ten issues and
two different teams of future mutants to get there.

Regardless of whether or not too many storylines take way too many
issues to tell - they do - All-New X-Men is, as I said, intriguing.
Good writing by Brian Michael Bendis.  Good art and storytelling by
mostly Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger.  I’m enjoying this
title, especially when it stands on its own.


This past Wednesday was International Darkstar Day.  This holiday
was created by Steve Morris of The Beat.  He writes:

Darkstar Day is here again! Once a year we gather to celebrate this
character, first created long back in the 1970s by Tony Isabella
and George Tuska and which has weaved in and out of Marvel’s

 comics irregularly for the last thirty-odd years.

While I created Darkstar, I once wrote her in my final issue of The
.  I can’t recall if Tuska designed her costume or if one
of the Bullpen elves designed it.  I came up with her powers, which
I intended to be roughly equivalent to Green Lantern’s but natural,
and established she was a Russian super-agent.  But all the heavy
lifting on her character development was done by Bill Mantlo when
he followed me on the title. 

Until I read the Wikipedia entry on Darkstar, I didn’t realize she
had been killed and that there were two other Darkstars before she
(the original) came back from the dead.  If I ever write for Marvel
again, I’m gonna need a tutor to help me learn all the “history” I
have missed over the year.

Anyway, Morris and other Darkstar fans celebrate this special day
by posting drawings of the character online.  I think that’s neat.
I’m delighted to see one of my creations honored by fans who really
love her.  I should try to come up with something special for next
year’s International Darkstar Day.


If this blog isn’t enough Isabella edification and entertainment
for you, you should check out my Facebook page.  In any given day,
you’re likely to find birthday greetings or remembrances for comics
professionals, messages from the First Church of Godzilla (I’m the
pastor) and other fun stuff. Sometimes I make a comment on my page
and then expand upon it for the bloggy thing.  I also post links to
online items I found interesting. 

However...I’m coming awfully close to the 5000 friends limit that
Facebook imposes on personal pages.  Please be patient if I can’t
accept your friend request immediately.  It’s going to take a while
for me to open up some spots on the friends list.


My First Church of Godzilla commemorates the releases of Godzilla
and other movies, and also the births and deaths of the actors and
filmmakers involved in these productions. Steve Atwell, a Facebook
friend, recently asked me:

Will the First Church give consideration to the various writers and
artists who’ve worked on the various Godzilla comics and cartoons
over the years?

Clearly, Atwell has received a divine inspiration from our Lord and
Master, the Great Scaly One who protects us from evil and our own
folly with his fiery atomic love.  The initial information for my
daily notices came from the 2013 calendar published by the terrific
G-Fan magazine, which did not include the mentions Atwell requests.
However, his question makes me realize this is a remembrance gap I
need to close. 

It will certainly take me a while to add this sort of information
to the First Church of Godzilla’s sacred files, but I’ll be working
on doing just that in the new year. 

Thanks for the idea, Steve.  The blessings of Godzilla and Mothra,
his trusted wing-maiden, be upon you.


I posted this on Facebook a week ago:

In between the dozens of odds and ends I accomplished today, I have
been reading Batman comics from 2012. I'm almost through the “Death
[of] the Family” shitfest. What a vile exercise in torture porn. Is
this really what readers want or is it just what the numbnuts at DC
think they want?

The above was not an exaggeration.  These comics mostly consist of
the Joker torturing and murdering innocent people with many of them
related through blood or friendship to Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl,
etc. “Repugnant” is the adjective that best describes them.

I did come across a few recent Batman comics that I enjoyed.  John
Layman’s run on Detective Comics was fine until it crossed into the
“Death of the Family” event. Steve Niles wrote a terrific done-in-
one story for Legends of the Dark Knight #3.  But those were pretty
much the only good Batman comics in the bunch.

Batgirl. Batwoman. Birds of Prey. Catwoman.  All the other “New
52" Batman titles.  Not just bad, but largely unreadable.  Management
and editorial malfeasance? Writers who have simply given up trying
to write good comics for a company that seems to have no clue what
good writing is?  I don’t know.

Worse, I no longer care.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 19, 2013


My quest to cover and update bloggy topics now swings back around
to Medina and the Medina Schools Board of Education.  When last we
left the bumbling board, it had celebrated the successful passage
of a school levy by acting like the victory was an endorsement of
its leadership.  Which it wasn’t remotely.

The first thing the board did was schedule a nigh-secret meeting in
Columbus, a hundred miles south of Medina, to work on an extension
of Treasurer Jim Hudson’s contract.  Apparently, it never occurred
to the board that this is exactly what got them in trouble earlier
this year...when they tried to extend the contract of now-disgraced
Superintendent Randy Stepp. 

When the board held its next Medina meeting, it was ready to vote
to extend Hudson’s contract...despite refusing to release a copy of
the contract as required by law.  Including the public in matters
such as this is just so beneath the board.

There was more public outrage and the embattled board decided they
would postpone voting on the contract.  They were ready to vote on
it, but Hudson asked them to delay the vote for a few weeks so that
the public could get involved.  Some foolish citizens praised the
treasurer for this, but I saw it for the self-serving bullshit it
turned out to be. 

The Medina job was the equivalent of Hudson’s safety school.  You
see, he was negotiating with another school district and accepted
a position with them.  He didn’t even fulfill his existing contract
with the Medina schools, which was supposed to run until August of
2014.  It was two weeks notice and out the door.

I’m not sure I’m still capable of being outraged by the arrogance
and malfeasance of the Medina school board, its executives and the
oh-so-connected “Medina Elite.”  It’s more like I’m becoming weary
of always being proven right when it comes to them.

In other Medina school board news...

President Karla Robinson, arguably the most arrogant and unyielding
of the school board members, had announced her resignation from the
board for May of 2014.  Citing the toll of being exposed for what
she is, although she may have worded that differently, she will now
be leaving her position next month alongside long-time board member
Susan Vlcek.  Good riddance to both.

Vlcek’s farewell comments were only mildly humble, the comments of a
person who didn't truly realize she screwed up badly and must pay the
price for that.  Robinson’s speech was one of her typical arrogant
and condescending lectures, including negative comments about the
citizens who have and continue to demand full transparency from the
school board.  So bothersome having to deal with the little people.

The Medina Board of Education will be appointing new board members
to fill the seats of the departing Robinson and Vlcek.  They have
terrific candidates in Angie Kovacs and Ron Ross, who each received
nearly 4000 votes in last month’s election and who are not part of
the Medina Elite.  Kovacs and Ross are who we need on the board and
I would love for the board to recognizes this.

My expectation is that the board will instead appoint two of their
well-connected cronies and attempt to return to the secrecy of the
recent past.  I state this expectation with the heaviest of hearts.
I really want to be wrong this time.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Sigh. It’s way too close to Christmas for me to be outraged about
anything, but I wanted to write about a recent event before we got
any closer to the day.  Then, again, as previously noted, outrage
is sort of my default setting, so letting it go for an entire week
or two really an option for me.

Atlanta. Less than a week after receiving one of the most obscenely
lenient sentences in recent memory, Ed Kramer, Dragon*Con founder
and convicted child molester was already trying to game the system
for more leniency.  I guess a guy can get cocky when he manages to
delay his trial for thirteen years and still find time to molest or
attempt to molest additional victims during those thirteen years.
Dragon*Con must be so proud of him.

To bring you up to speed and bring you the latest news, we turn to
an excerpt from a Gwinnett Daily Post story by Tyler Estep that ran
on December 11:

Kramer, the co-founder of sci-fi convention Dragon Con, entered a
negotiated guilty plea Monday, Dec. 2, ending a child molestation
case that had dragged on for more than 13 years. As part of the
conditions of his plea — and the product of his alleged litany of
medical ailments — the 52-year-old was essentially sentenced to 34
months of house arrest to be followed by 15 years of probation.

The plea granted Kramer the ability to leave for court-approved
actions like medical appointments, religious services and grocery
shopping. Within four days, though, his attorney had filed an
emergency motion requesting even more latitude.

“It is requested a procedure be established whereby the monitoring
service of the Defendant’s GPS ankle monitor be notified when the
Defendant’s (sic) is to participate in the specified permitted
activity,” attorney McNeill Stokes wrote.

In English, the motion basically asks that Kramer be able to leave
his home on Duluth’s Honeycomb Way by alerting the private company
monitoring his movements — not through any approval by the courts
or probation system.

The idea of Kramer being allowed to leave his house for medical
appointments, religious services and grocery shopping is repugnant
to me.  Without supervision by the police, each of those exceptions
to house arrest would give this monster access to children.  Even
if you are so naive as to believe Kramer’s health is as poor as he
has claimed, even if you are so asinine as to believe his desire to
attend religious services is anything more than a sham, why let him
do his own grocery shopping?  Make him use a delivery service and,
by doing so, further limit his contact with potential new victims.

The idea of Kramer getting to leave home for medical appointments,
religious services and grocery shopping without prior approval by
the courts or probation system is even more repugnant to me.  He’s
a vicious predator who should be locked in a cage - the smaller the
better - for the rest of his life.  He shouldn’t be able to prowl
the streets freely by making a simple phone call.

The District Attorney says Kramer’s plea agreement doesn’t give the
sex offender the “de facto freedom” to leave his house for any of
the stated purposes only that such permission might be granted in
certain circumstances.  Unfortunately, the District Attorney went
on to describe the various means by which Kramer might be allowed
to leave his house and not one of them strikes me as even remotely
a good idea.  Whether it’s because the District Attorney fears new
frivolous lawsuits by Kramer or whether Kramer has the “friends in
high places” many believe he has, any freedom granted this monster
is simply more proof of Kramer’s ability to manipulate the system
to his own perverted benefit.

Kramer lives half a mile from an elementary school and a mere two
miles from a park.  While “his computer and other electronics are
subject to search,”
Estep’s story states Kramer’s Internet activity
“will not be monitored directly.”  

The District Attorney keeps saying Kramer is a sure bet to violate
his plea agreement and be sent back to prison for several decades.
Put aside the certainty that sending Kramer back to prison would
trigger new lawsuits.  What the courts have done with this lenient
sentence, what the courts may do if they grant Kramer more freedom,
amounts to their rolling the dice and placing children in jeopardy.
That would be stupid and just plain wrong.

In other Dragon*Con-related outrage...

I’m still waiting to hear the other founders of Dragon*Con or any
of Kramer’s defenders make public apologies to Nancy Collins.  They
were quick to vilify Collins when she spoke out against Kramer and
the culture of Dragon*Con sleaze that enabled Kramer to avoid even
imperfect justice for so many years.  Yet, somehow, they just can’t
find the time, the courage and the decency to apologize to Collins.

That’s often the case with a true hero like Collins.  She did the
right thing for the right reasons.  She wasn’t expecting to receive
accolades for doing the right thing.  She wasn’t even expecting any
apologies.  She did the right thing because it was the right thing.

The founders of Dragon*Con and the defenders of Kramer look mighty
small next to Collins.  That’s why they have no choice but to look
up to Collins.

The rest of us look up to Collins because her courage and passion
inspired us to stand with her.  It was and remains one of the best
decisions of my life. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I’ll be leaving on a jet plane on Thursday, January 9 to fly to Los
Angeles for a trip I’ve been promising myself for years.  Whenever
I’ve been in L.A. over the past two decades, it’s always been the
week after Comic-Con.  Which usually meant the people I was coming
to the city to visit were catching up on the work that they didn’t
do the previous week because they were also at Comic-Con. 

While my friends were glad to see me and we had some terrific times
together, I felt I was imposing on them.  Especially since I wasn’t
the only friend coming to see them after Comic-Con.  The week after
Comic-Con is like fan/pro tourist season in Los Angeles. Thanks to
fortuitous recent circumstances in my life, 2014 is the year I can
finally make my long-desired off-season visit.

Bob Ingersoll, my best buddy and sometimes collaborator, and I will
be flying into Los Angeles on January 9 and leaving the morning of
January 18.  We’ll be at Disneyland for the first two full days of
our visit and then head into Los Angeles for the rest of our stay.
I’m excited.

This is not a “work” trip.  I have no business reasons for making
this trip.  I’m just coming to hang out with dear friends and spend
a week away from chilly Ohio in January.  If you’re a friend who’d
like to see Bob and me while we’re in Los Angeles or even, for that
matter, Disneyland, e-mail me and we can make plans.

Though this is not a “work” trip, I’m not adverse to meeting with
people for business reasons while I’m in Los Angeles.  There have
been job offers and possibilities over the decades, but I’ve never
wanted to relocate from my beloved Ohio for more than a few weeks
at a time.  I’m quite happy at Casa Isabella.

However, if you’d like to “take a meeting” with me while I’m in Los
Angeles, e-mail me and we can set up something.  With the serenity
of my advanced years, I’m interested in hearing about whatever cool
project for which you think I might be a good fit and will approach
the meetings with no expectations whatsoever.  At the least, these
meetings would allow me to deduct part of my vacation as a business
expense. Note to casting directors: I won’t do nudity unless it’s
essential to the script. 

Seriously - I think it’s important I start the next paragraph with
“seriously” whenever the previous paragraph raises even the distant
unlikely specter of my doing anything in the nude - don’t hesitate
to contact me if you’d like to meet with me professionally.  Being
offered opportunities to do things that I haven’t done before keeps
my life exciting and fulfilling. Have your people call my people.
My people being me.  I couldn’t fit an entourage in the budget for
this Los Angeles vacation.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 16, 2013


I have this birthday thing coming up next Sunday and my loved ones
are determined to make a deal out of it.  To answer the obvious

I will be 62. I don’t feel 62.  I don’t mind being 62.  I’ve earned
every one of those years.  I expect to have many more birthdays.
I don’t need any birthday gifts because I have everything I need in
my wife, my children, my friends and my work.  On the other hand,
if you must get me something...

I would love to see someone post a clip of George Takei singing the
theme song from Fireball XL-5.  That catchy tune has been running
through my brain since Anthony Tollin sent me a link to it about a
week ago.  I think the universe needs to hear George Takei sing it.
However, in the interest of making this a touch easier for you, I
would also accept a clip of any cast member of any of the many fine
Star Trek shows singing the Fireball XL-5 theme song.  You’ve got
a week to make this so.

Don’t know anybody from any of the Star Trek shows? Here’s another
suggestion.  Photos of cosplayers as characters I have created over
my 41 years in the comics industry.  Black Lightning, Tobias Whale,
Misty Knight, Tigra, Darkstar and any others who tickle your fancy.
Please include permission to run these photos in this bloggy thing
and elsewhere.

Okay, I’ve reconsidered the Fireball XL-5 theme song singing clip
and would also accept clips of the song being sung by cast members
of Babylon 5, Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hill Street Blues,
NYPD Blue and The Big Bang Theory.  I’m trying to make this really
easy for you.

One more suggestion.  I’m way better off than many comics industry
folks of my generation and previous generations.  If you would like
to celebrate my birthday with a token of your esteem, donate to The
Hero Initiative.  This non-profit organization is there to assist
comics professionals in their hours of need.  Hero does its amazing
work quietly, but it has made and continues to make an impact on
the lives of those professionals.

What’s that? You’re still hung up on the Fireball XL-5 theme song
clip.  Okay, I’ll also accept clips of the theme being sung by the
following individuals: Jon Stewart, Jon Oliver, Stephen Colbert,
Katy Perry, Rachel Maddow, Bill Clinton, Clark Gregg, Lucy Liu,
Andre Braugher, Nathan Fillion, Kirsten Vangsness, Harlan Ellison,
Stan Lee, Robin Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Welker, Michael
Bolton, Sergio Aragones, Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio.  However, all
things considered, I think making a donation to the Hero Initiative
is still your best choice. Happy birthday to me.


My Christmas preparation is going very well.  With daughter Kelly
home from The Ohio State University and helping me out, I should
cruise into Christmas Eve just fine.  It’s getting to the new year
that could be a problem for me.

I have a bunch of topics I want to cover in the bloggy thing before
the end of the year.  I have updates on topics I’ve covered in my
previous bloggy thing.  I have little slips of paper with cryptic
notes like “Monster Shark Mystery Science Theater” written on them.
I have six Valiant Comics trade paperbacks to review.  I have many
other comics and books to review.  I have wonderfully cheesy movies
to write about.  I have several political issues I’d rather ignore
because I’m already more productive than Congress.

That’s just the blog.  I have to deal with some financial matters.
I have to prepare for some legal matters.  I have to decide which
of over a hundred personal projects I want to work on first in the
new year. I have to plan my January trip to Los Angeles, a trip of
which I will write more tomorrow.

It’s good to have goals.


Alter Ego #122 [TwoMorrows; $8.95] is like unto a reunion of fine
folks who have published, edited and contributed to Comics Buyer’s
over the decades.  I’ll be writing about this special issue
at greater length in my “Tony’s Tips” column at the Tales of Wonder
website.  It should appear before the end of the year.

I’m represented in Alter Ego #122 by edited material from my bloggy
thing and elsewhere.  Part of that material comes from the January
25 edition of this blog, a piece I wrote shortly after learning of
CBG’s demise.  Something I wrote back then has concerned some of my
friends and readers, so I want to clarify the difference between
then and now.

This was then:

Top all of the above [my great sadness over CBG’s end] with the
realization that, for the first time in my four decades in comics
that I can remember, I have no paying gig on my desk.  If nothing
else, I always had my next column for CBG to write.  If only by a
matter of degrees, this is sort of new territory for me.

This is now:

The “no paying gig” on my desk lasted less than a week.  One of my
newspaper strip clients called with an assignment.  Other jobs came
my way.  At the moment, I have two paying gigs on my desk and will
have at least one more coming in before the holidays.  Don’t worry
about me, my friends.  I’m doing okay.

I’m in a weird but wonderful position at the moment.  Because of a
legal matter I am not at liberty to discuss, I don’t need any work
at the moment.

However, while I am not looking for work, I’m also not NOT looking
for work.  I am able and ready to take on assignments that are of
interest to me for clients I either enjoy working with or believe
I would enjoy working with.  If an assignment strikes me as fun and
challenging, if it will generate a decent paycheck, I’ll put aside
my personal projects for it.

I have a healthy regard for my abilities, but I also understand I
am not on too many editor and publisher “must get” lists.  That’s
often the nature of the comics industry.  However, if these editors
and publishers are under the mistaken impressions that I don’t take
work-for-hire gigs or I can’t still write great stories, I invite
them to contract me to discuss their misconceptions.

If said editors and publishers don’t contact me, they don’t contact
me.  I’ll still have more than enough work in and outside of comics
to keep me busy, happy and sassy.  One of the terrific things about
having reached my advanced years and present state of grace, wisdom
or whatever you want to call it is that I no longer sweat the small
stuff...and most everything is the small stuff.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Now that we’ve reached the point where approximately 70% of
all editorial cartoonists have done a cartoon about Amazon’s
plans to use drones to deliver their packages even faster than the
company delivers them now, I feel compelled to weigh on in on
this important issue.  Once my eyes stop rolling.

I admit it’s a funny idea.  I laughed at the first couple cartoons I
saw of Santa Claus and/or his reindeer being all worried about
the Amazon drones and the first ones that compared the Amazon
drones to government drones.  Real knee-slappers they were.

The thing is...I can’t envision how the Amazon drones would be the
least bit affordable for regular use, at least not for 99.9% of us.
I’m thinking the cost would be comparable to a flight by a really
tiny private jet.  I considered teaming up with a bunch of friends
to use an Amazon delivery drone - once and only once - and realized
even that would be a ridiculous waste of money.  The stuff I order
from Amazon already arrives faster than I can read it.

Then there’s the environmental and safety concerns.  Exhaust fumes,
noise, the many objects also in the sky that could be struck by the
Amazon drones, the many objects that could be struck by the Amazon
drones on their way down.  It’s a non-starter.

I predict the Amazon drones will never get off the ground.  Just to
be clear, though, I am not giving up my dream of someday having a
flying car like we were promised in all the science fiction comic
books and cartoons of the 1950s and 1960s.  Because a flying car,
even it looked as if it came from a Jetsons cartoon, would still be
awesome cool.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Earlier this week at his Bleeding Cool website, Rich Johnston ran
the incredible report of a guy who stole expensive comic books from
a Missisauga (Canada) comic-book shop.  The store has the thief on
camera spending close to two hours selecting his ill-gotten booty.
You can and should read the entire story at Bleeding Cool, but I’ll
give you the short form:

The thief was pissed because he had been turned down by a bank for
the loan he needed to open his own shop.  He decided to acquire the
desired funds by robbing an existing shop.  He got caught when he
put one of the stolen comics up for sale on eBay.  He isn’t just a
crook.  He’s a stupid crook.

That’s where the story took a truly bizarre turn.  The idiot thief
began posting about his criminal acts and the aftermath on Twitter.
He wasn’t sorry about the theft.  He was sorry that he got caught.
He couldn’t grasp why no one understood why he had to do what he
did and why he was angry.  He couldn’t understand why he might go
to jail for these crimes.  After all, he gave his word - his word -
that he would never steal again.  Man, did that part of the story
bring back some memories of my own dozen years owning and
operating a comics shop.

Digression. The mention of my old comics shop will almost certainly
trigger another absurd and vile outburst from an anonymous coward
who attempts to post to this blog at least once a month.  He’s as
predictable as the sunrise.

In many of Fraidy Cat’s attempted posts, he bleats about the awful
injustices he believes I did to several Cleveland-area individuals
during that time.  What all the people he names have in common is
that they were all thieves who stole from me or others and who were
subsequently caught by me or others and who paid a price for their
crimes.  Poor babies.

I’m not going to name names because, in the long run, things turned
out pretty good for me and not so good for them.  I don’t need to
gloat.  They were the architects of their own fates.  I took some
mostly minor lumps as the result of their crimes, but those lumps
haven’t prevented me from achieving the incredibly full and happy
life I now enjoy.  End of digression.

The delusional thief from Canada reminds me of three of the people
who stole from me.  Their rationales for what they did or why they
shouldn’t have been punished for what they did are, viewed from two
decades or more distance, hilarious.  In relating these histories,
I’ll withhold all but the most pertinent facts.

There was the individual who embezzled a few thousand dollars from
a new business and almost prevented that business from meeting its
payroll and supply obligations.  I came to realize he was a guy who
would rather make a dishonest dollar than an honest dollar, a guy
who saw himself as a master con artist.  When he got caught, when
he was forced to sell his stock in the business - stock he had not
yet paid for - when he was dismissed from the business, he claimed
it wasn’t really stealing because he was an owner of the business.
He escaped jail as a result of the above, was paid for the stock he
had never paid for and was even given severance pay he surely did
not deserve.  For the next decade or so, he tried a number of dumb
schemes to try to get revenge on me.

But it wasn’t really stealing, right?

Then there was the employee who admitted he had been stealing comic
books from my store on a weekly basis.  I made it pretty easy for
him because my employees were on the honor system.  They got their
comics at my cost and were expected to pay for them when they got
their weekly paycheck.  I never checked on this because, as I have
said in other bloggy things, I was a lousy businessman.

When the store hit a rough patch, this guy was laid off.  I had to
cut expenses and he was my least reliable employee.  He got angry,
threatened me and, later, by way of apology, admitted he had been
stealing comics from me.  When I told him his theft contributed to
the store’s financial woes, he was dumbfounded.  He assumed I had
figured employee theft into my budget.  I didn’t hire him back when
the store’s finances improved.

I should have expected him to steal from me, right?

Then there’s the former employee who wanted to start his own comics
shop.  I had turned down his offer to take over my store and pay me
out of the doubtless greater profits he would make from the store.
But, though the guy had issues like you wouldn’t believe, I wanted
him to succeed and even helped him open his store.  I even vouched
for him with the local distributor and guaranteed his first orders.
Because, as noted, I was a lousy businessman.

On a quiet Labor Day weekend - it was a Sunday morning - I drove to
my store to pick up some paperwork.  The door was unlocked.  When
I turned on the lights, there was my former employee.  As I later
learned, he had made copies of the store keys before he opened his
own store.  He made weekly clandestine trips to the store to stock
his store from my store.  When maintenance people from the arcade
where my store was located saw him in my store, they assumed he was
still working for me.  I’ll never know how much stock he stole from
me during the several weeks this went on.

He was arrested and charged.  He pled guilty.  He was sentenced to
probation and ordered to pay what amounted to a token restitution.
Generous fool that I am, I offered to take the restitution in comic
books and asked the judge to cut the amount of restitution in half.
The judge was amazed by my generosity. 

The judge also ordered my former employee to pay (in cash or check)
for the three hundred dollars it had cost me to change the locks in
my store.  My former employee objected to this and pissed off the
judge by doing so.  He ended up having to write me a check on the
spot.  He was glaring at me the whole time.

The judge offered me the chance to withdraw my earlier generosity,
but I declined.  I was a lousy...oh, you know the drill.

This is building to a punch line.  Just be patient.

It was agreed I would go my former employee’s store on a Sunday to
select a thousand dollars worth of merchandise.  The choice of day
and time - when his store was closed - was so his customers would
not be aware of what he’d done. This was at my suggestion because
I was...you know.

When I arrived at the store with a friend, the store was closed and
there was no sign of my former employee.  When I called my former
employee, he informed me he wasn’t going to come to the store and
allow me to select my court-ordered restitution.

Remember the embezzler from earlier? He was sitting in a car across
the street from the store.  As he often did whenever he thought he
might have a shot at me, he had flocked to the side of my thieving
former employee.  These two geniuses expected I would lose my cool
and vandalize the comics shop.  I didn’t.  I may have been a lousy
businessman, but I wasn’t that stupid.

Facing his probation being revoked, my former employee did finally
fulfill the court-ordered restitution.  Generous idiot that I was,
I actually took him out to dinner afterwards and even invited the
embezzler along.  Because...you know.

My former employee’s rationale for stealing from my store was that
his own store was a money pit from the day he opened it.  He felt
he could turn that around.  Not having to pay for stock would help.
He swore he planned to confess eventually and pay me back for all
the merchandise he’d stolen.  He had a one-year lease.  His store
closed exactly one year after he’d opened it.

Here’s the punch line I promised...

Several reputable sources told me my former employee often bitched
about my having pressed charges against him.  As he would explain
it, he had his late father’s Army knife with him when I caught him
in the store that Sunday morning.  I saw the knife on a counter and
it was a truly nasty piece of cutlery.  Had the prosecutor chosen,
he could have added a weapons charge to the case.


My former employee would tell people he could have killed me in my
store that morning.  I should have been grateful for his not killing
me and given him a pass on the charges for not killing me.

Because it would have totally been justified for him to have killed
me, right?

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder...I show love for Fearless Defenders and Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde and not at all for Black Bat.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Here's a press release from my pal Ted Sikora...

Cleveland stars as itself in the new globally-distributed superhero comic series, APAMA!

The creators of the series, Ted Sikora and Milo Miller, have signed a deal to be delivered worldwide digitally via Comixology, the same service that delivers downloadable comics of Spider-Man, Bat-Man, Walking Dead, and another Cleveland creation, Super-Man!

In three recent superhero movies, Cleveland served as the setting for New York, Washington DC, and even Germany, but now Cleveland portrays itself in a new ongoing superhero comic book series titled Apama - The Undiscovered Animal.

The title launches Wednesday December 11th on www.comixology.com

Miller and Sikora, who’ve lived in this region their entire lives, said that having the story take place here was a natural, but in developing the series, they realized what an incredible narrative opportunity Cleveland provided. Said Sikora, “Why does almost the entire Marvel Comics Universe reside in New York? Cleveland has provided us with a visually rich yet somehow blank canvas for this type of series.”

Apama is the story of Cleveland-born Hungarian ice cream truck driver Ilyia Zjarsky who discovers an ancient scroll that allows him to gain the powers of the most savage beast man has never known. Zjarsky resides in the Gordon Square Arts district, shops at the West Side Market, and from time to time even gets his costume fixed by Project Runway star Valerie Mayan.” 

The book is illustrated by Spaniard, Benito Gallego (guh-JEH-goh) who brings a timeless vintage style to mix. “When we first saw Benito’s submission we were absolutely blown away - it made us think of the art we grew up with back in the 70s,” said Miller.  But how is someone in Spain who has never set foot in C-town going to get the look and feel of the city?’   “I started scouting and shooting photos all over the city, and upload specific images for Benito to accompany the scripts.” Sikora said.  Gallego is currently putting the finishing touches on issue 7. "It's a very mature approach to the superhero genre, It goes from comedy to horror passing through romance. There are references to spiritual knowledge, ethnicities, culture, religion, and mythology," says Gallego.

Residents of Northeast Ohio may find the character Apama (uh-PAH-ma) familiar looking as he has been on display over the last three years in two local art installations. The first, a giant one at 811 Prospect Avenue, and more recently in a public art display at East 9th and Superior. 

Comixology, the iTunes of comics, recently passed 200 million issue downloads in September.   “With digital delivery, our project will be instantly available all over the planet. It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Miller. 

And while the Cleveland flavor is an extra treat for Northeast Ohio residents, critics and industry insiders throughout the U.S have lauded the initial preview of the series.

‘I dug it — real Buscema feel to the art, and I liked that it had a mix of being a serious origin, like in the 70s, and yet started lifting off into Steve Gerber territory. Old school Marvel with a modern twist.’
– Derek McCaw, Editor in Chief FANBOY PLANET
‘Apama is great! A wonderfully fresh work –
Gallego’s artwork is nothing short of iconic. A great mix of social commentary and fun adventure.
It’s a very professional package, full color, top-notch art, and a very entertaining story. Plus this has to be one of the best looking superhero costumes ever.’
‘I can’t recommend this comic enough. I read it three times.’
‘Great fun, which nicely captures the Bronze Age spirit.’
‘It is a full-on carbon copy of the look of your standard Bronze-Age Marvel Comic right down to it looking like it was drawn by John Buscema himself…  Perfectly blends the experience of reading an old-style Marvel comic with the digital age — worth checking out.’


The man who knows where evil lurks walks like an Egyptian in The
Shadow #77: Temple of Crime and The Curse of Thoth
[$14.95], which
was recently published by my friend Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books.
Both of these classic pulp tales were written by Walter B. Gibson,
writing as Maxwell Grant.

“Temple of Crime” was published in the November 15, 1941 issue of
The Shadow Magazine. From the back cover: Gods of Ancient Egypt
walk again when murder strikes within the Temple of Crime.

“The Curse of Thoth” ran in the magazine’s May 1946 issue.  From
the back cover:

A violated tomb and The Curse of Thoth pit the Shadow against an
ancient deity.

Ye Gods, but it looks like The Shadow will be up against some very
powerful foes in this double novel.

Adding to the Egyptian theme, Tollin includes Gibson’s radio script
for the Nick Carter adventure “Murder in the Crypt” or “Nick Carter
and the Jackal God.”  The script is illustrated by panels from the
comic-book adaptation of this story.

Naturally, there’s also a new historical essay by the knowledgeable
Will Murray.  What a deal.

As with the other Sanctum Books series - Doc Savage, The Whisperer
and others - these Shadow adventures are entertaining journeys into
the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made books
and I regularly despair that I might never get around to reading
them all.  But what I can do is let you know about the new releases
as they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the way.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


Full-size blogging won't resume until Monday, December 16.  I have a bunch of holiday and other odds and ends to get off my desk.  However, there will be mini-blogs posted between now and then whenever I have a free moment. Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


There are three distinct levels of wrongdoing to this story, only
two of which Rich Johnston discussed when he posted his
coverage a few days ago.  We’ll work from back to front.

When the folks putting on the Steel City Con were informed a dealer
at their convention was selling bootleg copies of prints by artist
Jeff Carlisle and others, their response was immediate.  They did
nothing.  They didn’t see it as a problem and they certainly didn’t
see it as their problem.  I wasn’t at that Monroeville Pennsylvania
convention but, as a comics professional who has often spoken out
against my fellow creators being screwed over by publishers and far
too many others, the show’s indifference to what seems to me to be
a clear case of wrongdoing by a dealer would make it impossible for
me to ever attend said show in the future.  That’s one.

Reel Imports is the vendor that was named in Johnston’s article and
in the quotes included in that article.  Focusing on the Carlisle
piece - there were others - Reel Imports was selling bootleg prints
of Carlisle’s drawing of an impressive number of Doctor Who actors
and characters.  It’s a spiffy piece of art, but, according to the
artist, Reel Imports had appropriated the piece for its posters and
had not enter into any agreement to compensate the artist for this
use and had not paid him for this use.  That’s two.

A close reading of the Johnston article and a visit to Carlisle’s
website reveals no evidence that Carlisle had licensed the right to
sell prints of his Doctor Who art.  Reel Imports is selling bootleg
prints of Carlisle’s work, but Carlisle seemingly has no right to
sell these prints himself. Without a licensing agreement, Carlisle
is ripping off the owners of the Doctor Who franchise and perhaps
even the actors portrayed on his prints.  That’s three.

Comics publishers and other creative organizations have seemingly
overlooked artist prints of their characters and property for about
as long as the technology has existed for artists to mass-produce
their drawings in this fashion.  Attend large or even medium-sized
conventions and you will many artists selling prints of characters
they do not own and for which, apparently, they have not obtained
a license from the owner of the characters or any other permission
to create and sell these prints.

This is troublesome on multiple levels.  If a publisher decides to
crack down on this sort of thing, the artists will get their heads
handed to them in a court of law.  Whatever profit they have made
from the sale of their illegal prints will go to their legal costs
and to the owner of the characters they appropriated to create their
prints.  Even if they are lucky enough to avoid punitive damages,
the legal actions will cost them money, time and perhaps even any
future opportunities to work for these publishers.

Most of these mass-produced prints feature characters well known to
the fans, characters from Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Disney,
Marvel, DC and so on.  Some fans don’t care when a large company or
publisher is ripped off.  Maybe they figure those entities already
have lots of money and don’t need the money they might receive from
an artist selling prints of their property.  I have a real problem
with that way of thinking.

How would these fans feel about artists drawing and mass-producing
prints of creator-owned properties? I’m talking Elfquest and Savage
and Groo and Usagi Yojimbo and Astro City and others. 
Would it somehow be more wrong for the print-sellers to appropriate
these characters for their own profit than it is for them to appropriate
characters from larger entities? I see no logic in that.  If it’s
wrong to steal from “the little guys,” it’s just as wrong to steal
from the big guys.

If only because she posted to my Facebook page, I know exactly how
Wendy Pini, co-creator of Elfquest, feels about this:

“If Warp Graphics were to discover that a piece of Elfquest fan
art, with no copyright or trademark info, had been bootlegged and
was being sold as prints, Warp would have no sympathy for either
party involved. For both would be in the wrong.”

The only legitimate way for artists to sell their mass-produced art
featuring characters they do not own would be if they entered into
an agreement with the owners of those characters.  If they haven’t
made that agreement, they are stealing from those owners, just the
same as Reel Imports is stealing from Carlisle and others.  I don’t
see this as a remotely grey area.  Stealing is wrong.

Leave us speculate for a moment that Tony Isabella, creative dynamo
that I am, owns characters beloved by fans.  What would I do if I
saw an artist selling prints of those characters at conventions or

I would tell the artist to stop selling them and destroy whatever
unsold prints he has.  I would insist on the artist giving me the
original art to the print to make it more difficult for the artist
to continuing appropriating my property. 

If the artist didn’t honor my demands, the artist would be served
with a cease-and-desist order.  If that still didn’t do the trick,
I would file a lawsuit against the artist.

Or maybe it could and should go like this...

Andy Artist wants to produce a print of one of my characters that
he can sell at conventions or through his website.  Like a mensch,
Andy contacts me. 

First and foremost, I would insist on approving the art Andy plans
to use to protect the integrity of my character.  Mensch that Andy
is, this is no problem for him.

Andy and I enter into an agreement whereby he produces the print.
We work out exactly how many copies of the print he will be allowed
to produce.  He gives me five signed copies of the finished print
and a reasonable percentage of his profits from selling the print.
Andy makes some money without any worries about legal action from
me.  I get my five prints and a little bit of money.  Andy’s happy.
I’m happy.  Our fans are happy.

Because it’s just Andy and me cutting this deal, mensch to mensch,
I don’t see any problems with this business model.  While it might
be more difficult for bigger companies to do the same thing, it’s
not rocket science.  The company earns some good will, some money
and spreads some joy to the fans who buy these prints.  The artists
make some money, feel good about doing the right thing, and maybe
attract the notice of future clients.

Appropriating the creative property of others is wrong.  There’s no
middle ground there.  That said, there is a way to make such usage
beneficial to all. 

If the owners of the characters an artist wishes to use in creating
prints refuse permission, there’s another route the artist can and
should take.

Create his or her own characters and use them.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 9, 2013


I am an angry man as I write today’s bloggy thing, but I will try
not to be ruled by that anger.  I’ll start with the most positive
thing I can say about the situation with Ed Kramer, convicted child
molester and co-founder of Dragon*Con and the Dragon*Con culture of
sleaze that allowed Kramer to escape even imperfect justice for so
many years. 

Nancy A. Collins is a hero.

Let me repeat that.

Nancy A. Collins is a hero.

The author fought for years to make fandom and the public aware of
Kramer’s crimes and how Dragon*Con made it possible for Kramer to
put off his trial for 13 years.  She was vilified by friends of Ed
Kramer, who also cast cruel comments at the victims of the man now
known to be a sociopath.  She was vilified by the other founders of
Dragon*Con and by the churlish fans of Dragon*Con.  If any of those
who vilified her had a molecule of the courage and decency shown by
Collins these many years, she would be receiving and reading their
abject apologies for the next several days.  As I write this blog,
I am unaware of her receiving any apologies from those defenders of
the indefensible.

My own minor involvement in the righteous outcry against Kramer and
Dragon*Con was inspired by the courage of Collins.  She and others
then provided me with newspaper stories and first-hand accounts of
Kramer’s crimes.  These led to accounts of other improprieties - to
put it way too kindly - at the convention.  Add to these accounts
my own solitary visit to Dragon*Con in the 1980s, a visit that left
me with a unflattering opinion of the event, and it became clear to
me that I had to take a stand.

I’m not going to give you a long recounting of Kramer’s crimes and
his long delay in facing even imperfect justice for those crimes.
I’m not going to give you a long recounting of Dragon*Con’s myriad
ethical and moral lapses, or the event’s indifference to the sexual
harassment and attacks on attendees, or the event’s tacit approval
of disgraceful public displays.  But I will give you a handful of
brief observations.

Dragon*Con was a sleazy convention long before Kramer’s predatory
nature became public.  That has not changed overmuch, though some
cosmetic changes were enacted in an attempt to improve the event’s
image this past year.  I received credible reports that little had
changed from previous events.

Dragon*Con is a cash cow.  Kramer’s cut of the take enabled him to
delay his day in court for over a dozen years.  Other founders of
the event spoke on his behalf in court and their testimony helped
keep him out of prison and free to commit additional crimes.  There
are also credible reports of Kramer’s involvement in the convention
continuing years past the time when the convention claimed he had
no further role in the event.

Dragon*Con’s other founders claimed for years that they could not
legally remove Kramer from their organization and cut off the money
that allowed him to delay justice.  Until, of course, they did just
that.  Because and only because the event’s bottom line was finally
in jeopardy.

The allegedly sickly Kramer was somehow well enough to travel out
of state in violation of his bond and subsequently get caught in a
motel room with a 14-year-old boy. That’s when we knew Kramer could
no longer escape his day in court and that’s when Dragon*Con knew
its bottom line would be in deep shit once the trial put the event
squarely in the spotlight.

Kramer didn’t exactly have his day in court.  After filing lawsuit
after lawsuit to bend the authorities to his will, Kramer chose not
to face his accusers in court.  He agreed to a plea deal and this
is where justice proved most terribly imperfect.

The outcome of Kramer’s non-trial is a disgrace.  He did not have
to admit his guilt in court.  He received a sentence of five years,
of which he has served two and of which he will spent the remaining
three under house arrest.  He has to pay $100,000 each to his three
victims.  He will forever be listed as a sexual offender, but that
does not automatically mean his neighbors will be informed there’s
a predator in their midst. 

Kramer spend two years in jail for his monstrous crimes, spending
that time wearing down the legal system with numerous lawsuits and
claims of poor health.  A member of my birth family will serve at
least twice that many years because he stole over a million dollars
from people who trusted him.  I don’t think my relative received an
unfair sentence.  I mention him only to point out the unbelievable
leniency of Kramer’s sentence. If you want to get physically ill,
compare Kramer’s sentence to the decades non-violent drug offenders
will serve in prison, mostly for being poor and not-white.  Yeah,
that’s American justice.

The prosecution in this matter has coughed up a lot of bullshit in
regard to this sentence.  These failed agents of justice go on and
on about how closely Kramer will be monitored or how he’ll go back
to prison for the slightest violation of this plea arrangement and
serve 60 years and blah blah blah.  They are convinced Kramer will
not be able to resist his predatory urges.

Let’s look at this a little closer...

The prosecution is expecting Kramer will violate the conditions of
the plea arrangement. That this potentially puts some new victim at
risk is acceptable to the prosecution.  Now ask yourself is that’s
a risk you find acceptable.

Kramer is a sociopath.  According to some of his former defenders,
they never realized he was a monster.  I wouldn’t bet the farm or
a child’s life on Kramer not being able to restrain his urges until
the time when he believes he can strike again and get away with it.
How long will the authorities keep him under heavy surveillance and
supervision before some bean-counter decides these precautions are
not cost-effective?

Let’s say Kramer does violate the terms of this plea arrangement.
Maybe he’ll go back to prison and maybe he won’t.  Maybe the same
co-founders of Dragon*Con who testified that he was too ill to go
on trial and, presumably, go to prison, will step up to defend him
once again.  Or maybe some other fool will fill that role this time
around.  Given his past delaying tactics, does anyone really have
a realistic expectation that Kramer won’t do everything he can to
stay out of prison? Again?

Let’s say - better case scenario - Kramer does go back to prison.
Given his past history, he will doubtless immediately start filing
lawsuits against the authorities for not meeting his medical needs
or his dietary needs or his security needs or whatever else comes
to his demented mind.  These are complaints the state will have to
address at additional expense to the taxpayers.  Kramer has nothing
to lose by being a nuisance.

The prosecution failed in their responsibility to punish Kramer for
his crimes and protect the public from his future crimes.  In the
battle of wills, they blinked.

What would be my idea of a just outcome?  I’d like Kramer to rot in
prison for the rest of his miserable life.

I’d like to see the Dragon*Con founders apologize for their role in
allowing Kramer to delay justice for so long.  I’d like to see
these same founders take real steps to change the culture of sleaze
that defines their convention, though I suspect they realize that’s
one of the attractions for some who attend the event.

Most of all, I’d like to see those founders and every one else who
attacked and vilified Nancy Collins make very public apologies to
that heroic woman.  I’d like to see that, but I don’t expect to see
that.  We’ve already established those folks are lacking in courage
and decency.

As for those among the readers of this blog who will again leap to
the defense of Dragon*Con and, as per usual, try to land insulting
“punches” on me, you’ll be wasting your time.  This blog’s comments
section will not become your venue for defending the indefensible.
Your insults will remain of no consequence or interest to me.  You
chose a side and it was clearly the wrong side.  All you can do now
is try to rationalize your poor choice.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Here's an email from reader Dennis Donohoe:

I just finished reading your column about holiday gifts. This is not a bad time of year for people to think about our troops deployed overseas. Comic books are a welcome part of care packages that the Red Cross and other organizations put together to send to the troops. Over the last few years I’ve donated over 7,000 comics to the Red Cross for this purpose. The comics get packed in boxes along with tooth paste, snacks and all sorts of other things. I’ve gotten firsthand feedback from a couple friends who spent time in Afghanistan that comics are very welcome. You may want to suggest this to your vast legion of fans and blog buddies.

I read your columns every week. You’ve inspired me to try some new titles (I am currently reading Chew, which I knew nothing about until you wrote about it a few weeks ago). I wish you and your family the best of the holiday season and a wonderful Christmas.




Blogging will resume on Monday.  I'm on a secret mission for...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Back Issue #69 [TwoMorrows; $9.95] celebrates the magazine’s
tenth anniversary with a 100-page issue focusing on the centennial
and other century anniversaries of long-running comic-book titles.
The Dan Jurgens cover of the Justice League of America is a tip-off
that this issue, like most issues of Back Issue, tends to favor DC
Comics over other publishers.  Not surprising, since editor Michael
Eury got his comics career start working for the late and sorely-
missed Dick Giordano at DC.

The issue opens with a very nice summation of the comics industry’s
ambivalent attitude towards century issues during the 1940s through
the 1960s.  It’s written by Robert Greenberger, who worked for DC,
Marvel, Starlog and Weekly World News.  Jim Kingman rounds out the
discussion with a piece on the non-anniversary DC anniversaries of
the Bronze Age of Comics.

Marvel is the subject of but four articles.  Jerry Boyd discusses
several 100th anniversary issues.  Franck Martine writes about and
interviews writer/editor Marv Wolfman on Amazing Spider-Man #200
and Fantastic Four #200.  Darrell Hempel writes about Marvel’s 25th
anniversary (November 1986) and David Suiter covers Avengers #300.

Mark Arnold contributes the only non-DC/Marvel article.  He writes
about Casper the Friendly Ghost #200 and Richie Rich #200.  Both of
these issues were published by Harvey Comics.

I skipped Larry Tye’s “Off My Chest” column because I’ve had more
than enough of his pro-DC, anti-Siegel and Shuster garbage in other
venues.  Of course, what with DC having failed to honor just about
every agreement it ever made with me, I confess to being more than
a wee bit peeved at the company.

Moving along...

DC attempted to do special anniversary issues with mixed results.
I’d give the highest marks to Detective Comics #500 and The 
Brave and the Bold #200, followed by Batman #300, Superman
 #300 and Superman #400.  If I had to list the 100 greatest comic
books of all time, Detective Comics #500 and The Brave and the 
Bold #200 would be contenders and Superman #400 would get an
honorable mention.

The lowest marks would go to Adventure Comics #400 - for all of the
terrific work he did elsewhere, editor/writer/artist Mike Sekowsky
never got the hang of Supergirl - The Flash #300 and World’s Finest
#300.  Adventure Comics #400 was just plain awful while the
other two issues were merely mediocre.  World’s Finest Comics after
the departure of editors Julius Schwartz and Murray Boltinoff was
a mess while The Flash never truly recovered from the departure of
Schwartz as its editor.

The other DC anniversary issues are, at the least, fun comic books.
Bob Haney’s stories for Brave and Bold #100 and #150 might not have
jelled with the rest of the DC Universe, but, like his other B&Bs,
they were always interesting.  Paul Kupperberg’s Showcase #100 is
notable for his brave and largely successful attempt to include nearly
every previous Showcase headliner.

Wonder Woman #300, Green Lantern #200 and Batman #400 were
decent super-hero stories.  Of the three, I’d rank the Wonder Woman issue
the highest.

I suspect many - and many most - readers of these anniversary comic
books will have their own notions of which are the best and which
are the worst.  That’s just part of the ongoing fun of Back Issue.
Here’s hoping the next ten years are as enjoyable as its first ten
years have been.


Happy Marriage!? [Viz; $9.99 each] is a ten-volume series by Maki
Enjoji.  In the shojo manga series, 22-year-old office worker Chiwa
Takanashi agrees to an arranged marriage for the sake of her debt-
ridden father.  Her husband is Hokuto Mamiya, 28-year-old president
of Mamiya Commerce.  This is to be a secret marriage, which makes
no sense to me, save to give Enjoji an element of suspense to play
with.  It was one of several things in the series which I’ve found
unconvincing and/or unsettling.

Hokuto is an arrogant creep.  He’s cold and tyrannical.  On those
rare occasions when he tries to play the part of a loving husband,
his actions seem calculated and selfish.  When he refuses to accept
Chiwa’s resignation from his company - she’s been offered a job at
a start-up company where she would be valued - he crosses the line
from cold to utter asshat.  In doing so, Hokuto also diminishes my
regard for the guy who offered Chiwa a job.  He withdraws the offer
because of Hokuto’s objection.  I thought shojo manga was supposed
to appeal to female readers.

The series ponders if these strangers can find their way to a happy
marriage.  After reading the first two volumes, I realized I don’t
care.  Hokuto is an asshole and Chiwa needs to figuratively grow a
pair.  The only good reason for them to be married is to keep them
from making two other people unhappy.  I won’t be returning for the
third and subsequent volumes.


I continue to dig through the boxes of comic books, many years old,
loaned to me by a good friend.  Here are my quick comments on some
of those comics.

Conan: The Book of Thoth [Dark Horse; 2006] was an impressive four-
issue exploration of the life of Thoth-Amon, one of the Cimmerian’s
deadliest foes.  Written by Kurt Busiek and Len Wein with fantastic
art by Kelley Jones, each $4.99 issue had 40 story pages with the
final issue going to 42 story pages.  While these comics may have
been short on Conan, they were wonderfully creepy and told with a
lyrical darkness that served the story well.  The four issues were
collected in a 2006 trade paperback.

ISBN 978-1593076481

Also from 2006, I read Giant-Size Ms. Marvel [$4.99].  One of the
best things about this one-shot is that it’s 100 pages.  I do love
thick comic books, Unfortunately, most of the contents didn’t do a
whole lot for me.

The lead story is the only new story in the issue.  It’s set in the
Scarlet Witch-created “House of M” reality in which mutants pretty
much rule the world.  As Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was the most
popular super-hero in that altered world.  It’s a so-so side story
from a clunky event.

Next up was a reprint of the 1969 Captain Marvel #18 by Roy Thomas,
Gil Kane and John Buscema.  It’s the best story in the issue and
significant because it has the genesis of the super-powers Danvers
would later possess as Ms. Marvel.

That’s followed by Ms. Marvel #1 and #2 from 1977.  Created/written
by Gerry Conway with an assist from Carla Conway, the series always
struck me as an exercise in throwing everything against the wall to
see what sticks.  So we have awkward appearances by Jonah Jameson
and Mary Jane Watson.  The second issue ends on a cliffhanger, so
anyone reading it for the first time in 2006 would have to either
search for subsequent issues in the back-issue bins or buy a copy
of the Essential Ms. Marvel.  I’d recommend the latter because even
so-so Essential volumes are still cool.

The last reprinted story in this one-shot is by Chris Claremont and
Dave Cockrum.  It hails from Ms. Marvel #20 (1978) and is notable
for the introduction of the costume Carol Danvers wore for most of
her super-hero career.  It ends on a cliffhanger - that Essential
Ms. Marvel
is looking better all the time - and it reminded me how
much I’ve disliked every costume Danvers has worn until recently.
If she had been a Barbie doll, she would have come with a stripper
pole and little dollar bills for Drunk Ken to stick in her costume.
I’m just saying.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder...I want these books for Christmas.  The catch is...none of them exists.


Reading Ditko Monsters: Konga [IDW; $34.99] was absolutely the most
fun I’ve had reading comic books this year.  Edited and designed by
Craig Yoe, this massive 328-page hardcover collects every issue of
Konga drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko, fifteen book-length tales
in all.  You might want to move back a few paces from your computer
screen because I’m going to start gushing soon.

Konga was a not-very-good 1961 British/American movie about a mad
scientist who turns a monkey into a murderous gorilla and then into
an even bigger murderous gorilla.  Michael Gough plays the science
guy and he would play Alfred in the first four Batman movies from
1989 on.  The giant ape stuff doesn’t happen until the end of the
movie, which does not warrant multiple viewings.

Charlton Comics writer Joe Gill adapted Konga for a 22-page comic
book drawn by Steve Ditko.  It’s mostly faithful to the movie save
that it omits the mad scientist’s lust for his beautiful and much
younger student.  The comic was published before the movie debuted
in the United States and was sold or given away at some theaters.
In this collection’s introductory material, Yoe describes some of
the other ideas suggested by the movie’s promotional team.

Konga #1 is an okay comic book.  Even though Konga dies at the end
of the movie and the comic book, another monkey is experimented on
and becomes the giant ape who would appear in 25 more Konga comic
books, all of them written by Joe Gill and fifteen of them drawn by
Ditko.  Within just a few issues, Gill and Ditko would make Konga
a thing of crazy brilliance.

Ditko’s work is terrific, almost as good as the work he did for
better-paying gigs like Amazing Spider-Man and “Doctor Strange” in
Strange Tales.  But Gill is rarely given the credit he deserves for
his Konga scripts.

Konga remembers being treated kindly by Sandra and Bob, who worked
with the mad scientist and, unlike in the movie, who lived to appear in
several issues of the comic book.  He longs for that kindness and
only fights when he is provoked.  A gentle and often goofy giant,
Konga is provoked by criminals, Nazis, Communists, aliens, an array
of comical would-be dictators and, naturally, other giant critters.
He fights to protect innocent humans, especially those who show
him kindness.

Konga contends with many serious threats to those innocent humans
and to the world, yet Gill often included a humorous slant to these
adventures.  Humorous?  Heck, many of these stories are laugh-out-
loud hilarious and Ditko goes all-in with the farcical flow of the
more wacky issues.  I’ve read these stories a dozen times over the
past half-century and they still make me grin with sheer delight.

Ditko Monsters: Konga is a treasure.  Buy a copy for yourself, then
buy a couple more copies for holiday gifts to the comics fans and
monster buffs in your life.

ISBN 978-1613775981


When Archie Comics stopped sending me copies of its comics, books
and digest, I looked at my budget and decided I was getting enough
enjoyment from their publications to buy most of them.  The notable
exceptions were Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog because I’ve never
been a fan of comic books based on video games.

Over the past month, I read Archie 1000 Page Comics Digest [$14.99]
and Archie 1000 Page Comics Extravaganza ($14.99), as well several
Archie double digests [$3.99, 160 pages] and double double digests
[$5.99, 320 pages].  Now those 1000 page comics digests deliver a
lot of stories for your fifteen bucks.  However, I now realize they
are comprised of stories from the recent double digests and double
digests.  So, despite how cool they look and feel, I’m dropping the
thousand-pagers.  The smaller-size digests suit me better, which is
not to say that the thicker editions aren’t some of the best if not
the best buys in comics.

Speaking of those smaller-size digests, Archie Double Digest #243
[October 2013] has a fun seven-page “Dotty and Ditto” by Katy Keene
creator Bill Woggon.  Dotty and her parrot Ditto are reading comic
books before they go to bed and, naturally, those comic books are
various Archie titles of the 1940s and 1950s: Archie, Black Hood,
Pep, Suzie
and even Katy Keene.  In her subsequent dream/nightmare,
Dotty “meets” Super Duck, the Shield, Jughead, Archie, Wilbur and
others.  It’s an amusing and unusual story, especially if, like me,
you enjoy what I call “comics in the comics.”


Kudos and much appreciation to my friend Peter David for his long
and entertaining run on X-Factor from Marvel Comics.  Though I may
be hopelessly confused by Marvel’s numbering on this and too many
other titles, the Grand Comics Database tells me the just-concluded
series ran for 114 issues from January 2006 to November 2013...and
what a wild ride it has been.

The premise was terrific:

Founded by Jamie Madrox and staffed by a group of the best mutant
heroes around.  When superhumanity needs a detective agency, they
call on X-Factor Investigations.

My favorite stories were the more street-level cases, but, whether
the adventures were set in New York City or Hell dimensions or some
far alternate future, these characters kept me intrigued.  I can’t
think of too many other characters or titles that have managed that
in the past decade.

For the past year, David, mostly working with the terrific Leonard
Kirk as his penciller, has been bringing X-Factor to a conclusion.
The completions of the character journeys and the issues themselves
never seemed rushed.  They took some unexpected and downright weird
turns.  Some journeys ended in a more fitting manners than others,
but the overall conclusion was immensely satisfying.

Really good, satisfying endings are rare in a comics industry that
often simply continues unfinished business into the next title or
mini-series.  X-Factor rose above that.

A new life for Theresa Cassidy.  Unexpected happiness for Monet and
Darwin.  An uplifting path for Rahne.  Happiness and a final star
turn for my favorites, Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller.

Well done, sir.  Well done.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella