Thursday, April 25, 2013


If I had realized growing up that I would someday be fascinated by
my own history, I would have taken better notes.  If I had realized
so many of my beloved readers would also appear to be fascinated by
my history, I might have burned those notes.

My Vast Accumulation of Stuff has yielded boxes of file folders I
hadn’t seen in decades.  As I recently posted, one of these folders
was marked EARLY SCRIPTS and contained a number of script fragments
and completed scripts done in the two-column format I learned from
Stan Lee’s Secrets Behind the Comics.

I had long recalled, erroneously as it turns out, that I purchased
my now well-read copy of Secrets Behind the Comics at one of Phil
Seuling’s New York Comics Conventions in 1971 or 1972.  The scripts
in this newly uncovered file folder put the lie to that.  Some of
them were written while I was still in high school, which means I
owned Stan’s book earlier than I had previous realized.  Which, in
turn, means that I got it at either the 1966 World Science Fiction
Convention in Cleveland or the Detroit Triple Fan Fare I attended
in 1968. I’m leaning towards the former.

What pegs the earliest of these scripts to my high school years is
that three of the completed ones were written for characters that
my friends Terry Fairbanks and Mike Hudak and I had created for our
limited-edition Marvel Madhouse comic book.  When I say “limited,”
I mean “really limited,” as in we sent our originals to the actual
Marvel Bullpen every other month.  Marvel would then return them to
us with a friendly note thanking us for our mania.  The one note I
have found in the VAOS so far was written by Fabulous Flo Steinberg
“for Stan Lee.”

Light Wave was my creation.  He was a Russian cosmonaut who got his
powers on a failed space mission and defected to the United States.
A caption on the second page of the 20-page script reads:

The closed doors of the Kremlin hold many secrets. Let’s look in on
one of them.

The first-page credits indicate the story was to be drawn by Gary
Lunder, who, like me, was a student at St. Edward High School.  I
think Gary drew some pages and I may have them somewhere, but they
haven’t turned up yet.  We lost touch after high school and briefly
reconnected several years back.  Gary passed away from cancer, but
I was able to get him to a Mid-Ohio-Con and introduce him to Herb
Trimpe, his favorite Marvel artist.

The Gladiator was created by Terry Fairbanks.  The splash page of
my 20-page script describes the character as “America’s unofficial
agent, dedicated to preserving the American way of life.”
He was a
Kirby-esque hero without any super-powers per se.

Vibra was created by Mike Hudak as “Sound Wave,” but I changed the
name and some other aspects of the character for the script.  This
hero got his super-powers when he was locked in an experimental
sound booth by spies from Red China.  I was quite the cold warrior
in my youth.  The credits on this 20-page script read:

Whimsically written by Tiptop Tony Isabella
Dextrously drawn by Slick Mick Hudak

I think you can understand why I haven’t worked up the courage to
read more than a page or two of these scripts.

The commie-bashing continued in the 11-page Newsboy Legion script
I wrote.  The title caption:

Taking advantage of the evils of the Suicide Slum environment, the
Red Truth-Bender tries to turn Suicide Slum into a communist
satellite.  But he failed to take into account the intense loyalty
of four boys and a man who, with all the skill and courage at their
command battle to stop “The Red Truth-Bender of Suicide Slum!”

Oddly enough, despite it featuring DC Comics characters, this story
was supposed to appear in an issue of Marvel Madhouse.  Thanks to
an older collector who was constantly selling low-grade comics to
supplement his disability checks, I actually owned a few issues of
Star Spangled Comics from the 1940s while in high school and before
DC reprinted any Newsboy Legion stories in Jimmy Olsen.

Another completed script in this folder is a 22-page Challengers of
the Unknown/Phantom Stranger tale titled “The Stranger Who Walks
the Night.” The story involves the Challs trying to recover papers
that could jeopardize the Czechoslovakian revolt against the Soviet
Union in the late 1960s.  The only “unknown” element of the story
is the Stranger.  On the other hand, there is a scene in which Red
Ryan reveals some sordid details of his past and that he is or was
a Roman Catholic.

I can accurately date when I wrote this story - March or April of
1969 - because I submitted the script to Challengers editor Murray
Boltinoff and he responded in a letter dated April 28, 1969.  He’d
only read a few pages of the script before he got sidetracked and,
while he was encouraging, he stressed that he always discussed any
scripts with writers before they wrote them, that DC usually only
worked with writers who had proven themselves and that DC did not
solicit material from outside sources.  I didn’t make a sale then,
but Murray was always terrific about answering my questions about
the comics business.

There was one more completed script in the folder and that one was
actually published.  We’ll talk about it and the script fragments
in tomorrow’s bloggy thing.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. I really enjoyed the Bob Brown and Jack Sparling issues of Challengers when I was a kid. And the fact that I can't remember was I was doing fifteen minutes ago but can pull those names out off the top of my head is a little scary.


  2. If I had realized growing up that I would someday be fascinated by my own history, I would have taken better notes.

    This line has immediately become one of my favorite things that you've ever written. And that's not a backhanded compliment — it's probably one of my favorite insights of anyone's, period — nor is it intended to ignore the humor in the following sentence.

    I was a precocious comics-maker myself. While I sold my original-and-only copies to family members, friends, and on at least one occasion a total stranger, they pretty much always found their way back to me. At 8 years old I gave a few to Jim Shooter at a Creation convention in Philadelphia. He asked if he could look them over later, apologizing, because of the length of the line that I guess was for professional critiques/submissions and probably autographs; Mom, always supportive of my reading and writing and drawing, was there with me and told me it was okay to surrender the copies. A month or so later a package arrived returning my handiwork with a letter from Shooter on Marvel Comics Group stationery — not a form letter in the least, mentioning parts of the comics specifically and encouraging me to keep it up. For all of the vilification to which Jim Shooter has been subject over the years, often quite convincingly, I have always been and will always be incredibly grateful for that act of kindness. I think it's a reminder of how we're all human, many of us terrible (in the sense of "considerable" or "extreme" as well as perhaps that of "revolting") contradictions.