Thursday, October 31, 2013


Some bloggy thing readers have said that this blog site won't let them sign their names if they don't have an account.  While that's true for the automatic signatures that appears at the top of comments, there's nothing stopping you from signing your name in the body of the comment.  I just ran a test and that works just fine.

Not signing your name doesn't automatically mean I won't approve your comment.  However, if you're an anonymous troll or even a run-of-the-mill jerk who's proud to sign his name to his or her comments, odds are your comment will not be approved.

I prefer when posters sign their names.  But it's not a deal-breaker in and of itself.

Tony Isabella


The final episode of Fangasm aired at midnight on Tuesday, October
22.  Midnight is the end of one day and the beginning of the next,
which is a decent metaphor for this episode.

The finale focused on the launch party for Stan Lee’s Comikaze and
the last chance for the seven interns to impress company CEO Regina
Carpinelli before she made her decision as to which intern would be
offered a full-time position.  From where I sat, every one of the
interns stepped up to get the party set up and to make sure it ran
smoothly.  The only blip was that the party started a little late,
but I blame that on the show’s producers manufacturing phony drama
by giving the interns a ridiculously tight deadline.  They should
have been prepping the party area from the start of the day and not
mere hours before its start.

The most impressive interns were Dani Snow and Sal Fringo.  Given
a chance to party at the party, Dani kept her eye on the Tardis and
the guest gifts contained within.  Sal shone on two occasions, the
first when he figured out how to change a tire and the second when
he figured out where a missing piece of equipment was and made sure
it got to the party on time. 

Molly McIsaac was a dynamo of energy, albeit a little pushy.  Paul
Perkins didn’t stand up for himself during a dispute about how to
place party elements, even though he had experience with parties
of this nature.  Andrew Duvall, Kristin Hackett and Mike Reed all
worked hard with Mike proving himself to be an effective greeter
for the event.

After the party, the interns went back to the house for their last
night and morning there.  Bittersweet moments with some drama from
Molly, some cuddling between Dani and Sal and an sense that these
seven had become friends through this shared experience.  The next
day would be their last at Comikaze and they would learn which of
them would be offered a full-time job with the company.

Before I get into that part of the show, I want to talk a bit about
Molly.  She hasn’t come off well in these commentaries of mine, but
I got the feeling she wasn’t well liked by the show producers...and
that they tried to show her in the worst light whenever possible.
That anti-Molly vibe is definitely present in the episode summaries
found on the Syfy Channel website.  Maybe she is as hard to take as
she appeared on the show, but she was clearly passionate about most
of the work and, in her own, perhaps sometimes misguided way, tried
to push herself to be the best intern.

Regina does an individual interview with each of the interns.  Dani
is first up. For most of the series, she’s been the one I thought
was the best of the bunch.  She’s personable, hard-working, ready
to learn and not overly distracted by celebrities.  When asked who
should get the job if she doesn’t, Dani names Kristin.

Sal started out as a goofball, but he improved considerably by the
end of the series.  He needs to spruce up his attire - says the old
guy who works in his pajamas - but I think he’d have been a decent
hire.  His choice for the job: Dani.

Kristin describes herself as organized and driven.  I think if she
had been able to come out from Molly’s shadow more and show off her
strengths, I would have rated her higher.  If Regina had a second
opening, Kristin would get my vote.  Her choice: Molly.

Mike, Andrew, and Paul aren’t particularly impressive in the one-
on-one.  Paul mentions his attention to quality in the work he had
done and I think it’s a plus.  But he had some social awkwardness
around some celebrities and I think that hurt his chances.  Their
picks for the job, respectively, were Molly, Dani or Paul, and, of
course, Kristin.  I think the interns got to see more of Kristin’s
abilities than the viewers did.

Molly was the last interview and, unfortunately, didn’t handle it
well.  She bad-mouthed the other interns, though Regina saw herself
in Molly.  Her choice for the job: Dani.

Regina picks Dani, which I think was the right call.  Molly wanted
the job badly and reacts emotionally, though I think she was glad
for Dani.  I also think Molly is determined to make the most out of
the next opportunity that comes her way...and I don’t doubt there
will be a next opportunity.

I want nothing but the best for all these young people.  I laughed
out loud at the little we were shown of Andrew’s standup routine.
I’ll repeat my early suggestion that Syfy put together some sort of
“Comedians of Fandom” special with comics doing routines based on
comics, anime, cosplay and the like. 

Molly and Dani both had swell ideas for comic-book heroines and I
hope they pursue those projects.  Mike’s teen mom super-hero would
make for a good comic book if he could come up with some original
stuff around the concept.

I hope Sal pursues his love of building props and such.  I see him
as a better fit in the workshop than in an office.

I don’t have any specific notions for Kristin, Mike and Paul, but
I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

At the end of the day, or, as it turns out, the series, I like all
seven interns.  I’d be happy to meet them at a convention down the
road and I hope they keep viewers informed on their post-Comikaze
lives.  As Stan Lee would say...excelsior!

I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Since I started writing about the Syfy series Fangasm, a number of
my readers have weighed in on my commentaries and the show in both
public and private messages.  If you’re a new reader to this bloggy
thing of mine...

Fangasm is a “reality” show in which seven fans are given temporary
positions as interns for Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo, a yearly event
that includes comics, anime, gaming and more.  The inters were said
to be extreme pop culture fans.  These fans were Andrew Duvall, Sal
Fringo, Kristin Hackett, Molly McIsaac, Paul Perkins, Mike Reed and
Dani Snow.

CEO Regina Carpinelli runs the company.  In the finale of this six-
episode series, she would offer one of the interns a full-time
position with Comikaze.

Some of my bloggy thing readers called Fangasm little more than “an
infomercial for Comikaze” and sent me links to articles and blogs
taking that position.  Others told me they were inspired to watch
the show because of what I was writing. Some really loved the show
and some hated it.

I think it’s a fair assumption that Fangasm did not do particularly
well for Syfy.  The third episode was knocked out of prime time by
a rerun of an episode of Ghost Hunters and the remaining episodes
all aired at 11 pm or later.  The last two episodes were shown in
the same evening.

“Reality” shows are easily manipulated by their producers.  These
producers can choose to show some participants at their best or
at their worst.  In commenting on the show, I was obviously limited
to what was broadcast each week.  Still, by the end of the finale,
I was thinking I’d probably get along fine with these interns and,
of course, wished them all well in the future endeavors.  I think
they’re a good bunch of kids and I can call them kids because I’m
this grumpy old man who could be their somewhat young grandfather.

In the fifth episode, there was some drama to be had.  Regina came
to visit the company house where the interns were living.  She was
rightfully appalled by how messy it was.  That reflected badly on
all the interns.

Regina also had harsh words for Molly and Kristin who had failed to
hand out their assigned number of fliers at the E3 electronics and
gaming convention.  Molly burst into tears.  From the start of the
show, the producers have emphasized her overly dramatic reactions
to events.  Kristin was characteristically quiet.  She’s generally
been portrayed as Molly’s silent and unassuming sidekick.  Neither
portrayal likely tells the whole story about the ladies.

Mike scuttles his chances of getting the internship by confronting
Regina about making Molly cry.  Everyone else cringes.  Because it
wasn’t Regina who made Molly cry.  It was Molly overreacting to a
common workplace situation, that of the boss firmly telling someone
when they’ve messed up. 

It’s a week before the Comikaze launch party and Regina has to go
out of town.  Some of the interns will have to go to the office and
the rest will go to a storage unit to clean it out, find a needed
display item for the party and then organize the unit.  Molly, Mike
and Kristin quickly claim the office assignment; it’s clear none of
them what to get their hands dirty.

The other interns do an incredible job with the storage unit while
puzzling over all the Elvira memorabilia they come across.  Though
all acquit themselves well, Dani stands out as the intern who takes
charge and organizes the unit.  I realize Medina isn’t as glamorous
as Los Angeles, but if any of these kids want to go to work on my
twin Fortresses of Storage...

The mystery of the memorabilia is revealed when Cassandra Peterson
arrives at the unit.  She created and plays Elvira, is an executive
with Comikaze and a close friend of Regina’s.  She’s so impressed
by what the interns have accomplished she takes them out to dinner.

The second cringe worthy moment of the episode comes when Paul, a
capable young man who is often socially awkward, insults Elvira’s
movies.  It’s not intentional, but the stupid questions keep coming
out of his mouth.  I felt terrible for him.

The rest of the episode features non-business personal moments as
Sal reads a bedtime story to Dani and kisses her.  It’s weird, but
neither a deal-breaker or a game-changer.

Molly suggests live-action role playing in a nearby park as a way
to blow off steam.  It gets a little serious when Mike gets way too
aggressive.  It gets wonderful when Paul, pissed at Mike’s actions,
literally tackles him to the ground.  Mike isn’t happy, but accepts
that he went too far. Paul comes off as the hero.

The episode ends with the interns sitting at a cave formation that
was the entrance to the Batcave in the Batman series of the 1960s.
They share thoughts about their experiences, they bond, they swear
eternal friendship.  It’s a nice moment before their final episode
and their last chance to impress Regina.

A few Fangasm blogs back, I started rating the interns and see no
reason to stop.  As of episode five, here’s how I see their chances
of getting the permanent position with Comikaze:

1. Dani
2. Sal
3. Paul
4. Andrew
5. Kristin
6. Molly
7. Mike

I’m happy to say that all the interns shine in the final episode of
the series.  I’ll be back tomorrow with that big finish.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Concluding my report on the Mix 2013 comics symposium, which was
held Friday and Saturday, September 27-28, at the Columbus College
of Art and Design...

Black Lightning and Misty Knight are the two comics characters I’m
most asked about.  It used to be just Black Lightning but, as Misty
has grown in popularity, she’s right up there with him.  Here are
some recent thoughts on them, mostly derived from questions asked
of me at Mix 2013.

Black Lightning, as I have often stated, was never a work-for-hire
creation.  If you want more details, do a search on the character’s
previous mentions in this blog.  DC Comics and others have spread
quite a bit of misinformation about the character, his creation and
such, but, from me, you get the real story. 

Black Lightning was the result of my building towards what I wanted
in an African-American super-hero.  I wanted a positive character
who was neither a foreign king or an ex-criminal.  I wanted a hero
to whom young readers could relate.  That’s why I made Jeff Pierce
a schoolteacher.  Every child know what a schoolteacher is and the
lucky ones have had great ones.

I’ll defend the name “Black Lightning” until the day I die.  It’s
a strong name and it represents the pride Jeff Pierce has in who he
is and where he comes from. 

Every now and then, someone makes a big deal out of Black Lightning
having been an athlete.  That has become something of a cliche with
black heroes, but, if I wasn’t there first, I was there long before
it became a cliche.  If you have a couple days to spare, create a
list of all the super-heroes who were athletes.  I’ll guess-timate
it would run would run into the high hundreds...because it was and
is a convenient way to give a super-hero a skill-set necessary to
the physical demands of being a super-hero.

Every now and then, someone makes a big deal out of Black Lightning
fighting crime in the ghetto or, in the case of the second series,
the inner city of Cleveland.  That’s on me and I don’t apologize.
When given my druthers, I have always been more of a ground-level
super-hero writer.  I like the juxtaposition of super-heroes with
more down-to-earth, realistic settings.  Those are the stories in
which I was most interested.  Those are the stories that I wanted
to write.

Traditionally, super-heroes had secret identities to protect their
families, friends and even acquaintances.  When Jeff Pierce first
opposed criminals in Suicide Slum, one of his students died and his
body was hung on a basketball hoop as a warning to anyone else who
might stand up to the criminals.  So, more than most super-heroes,
Jeff knew from the get-go the necessity of a secret identity.  He
also blamed himself for that young man’s death, but Jeff has always
had a tendency to beat himself up over his mistakes and even over
events that aren’t his fault.  Anyway...

This proven necessity of fighting the criminals in another identity
is why, in the first Black Lightning series, Jeff Pierce wore that
Afro-mask and talked in street slang.  At the time, I thought this
was very clever.  But, even in my mind, it didn’t stand the test of
time and was ditched for the second and far superior in every way
Black Lightning series I wrote.

I have only one creative regret when I comes to Black Lighting.  I
wish I hadn’t introduced him as a divorced man.  I missed a chance
to make him a strong black man in a stable marriage with a strong
black woman, something we still don’t see often enough in the comic
books of today.

Which brings me to Misty Knight...

I created Misty in an issue of Marvel Premiere starring Iron Fist,
though I readily admit that the heavy lifting on this character was
done by Chris Claremont and those who followed him.  I only wrote
Iron Fist long enough to wrap up a story line.  Though I would’ve
liked to stay on the series, my other Marvel obligations wouldn’t
permit that.  Sigh.

Misty was not created to be a romantic interest.  She was created
to be his partner, someone to talk to, someone who could hold her
own in any fight, someone who wouldn’t take any nonsense from the
often-naive Danny Rand and let him know in no uncertain terms when
he was being stupid.  But, mostly she was created so that I would
never have to write those asinine second-person captions that had
become the standard narration for the series.

You are Iron Fist and, as you gaze at the silly Frenchman leaping
at you, you wonder why your writer has a fondness for such a dumb


Instead of those captions, if Iron Fist had any observation of any
importance to the reader, he would be able to tell it to Misty and
spare me writing in the second-person, which is my least favorite
literary person. 

I even had a scene in mind that, alas, I never got to write into an
Iron Fist story.  Iron Fist would have been lost in second-person
thought, Misty would notice his distraction and read him the riot
act over such foolishness.  If I were writing it today, it would go
something like this:

You’re doing one of those internal monologues, aren’t you?  That’s
just not right.  You do that again and I will slap you so hard the
letterer will feel it.

Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

I love Misty Knight.  Her original appearance was based on actress
Pam Grier, who I also love. I am delighted so many comics readers
have come to love her as well.


While I was signing at the Mix Store, I got to chat for a bit with
Carol Tyler, the award-winning cartoonist and a fellow Ohioan.  Her
You’ll Never Know is a great autobiographical graphic novel series.
If I had read it before I wrote 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, it
would have been included in that book.

Carol had a spotlight panel.  I stayed and signed for a bit longer,
than settled up with the Nix Store.  With my kids both going to the
Ohio State football game that evening, I decided to forego spending
another night in Columbus and drive back to Medina.

Even with buying over fifty bucks worth of stuff at the Mix Store,
I would have come out almost fifty bucks ahead on the weekend from
the sales of my book.  Columbus had a different idea.

Had I left my van in the Abigail Apartments parking area, I would
have been fine.  It’s a private parking area.  However, because I
thought it would be more convenient, I had moved my van to a meter
outside the Canzani Center.  Always the cautious sort, I made sure
I put enough money into the meter to cover me a hour beyond when I
expected to leave. 

What I didn’t expect was that Columbus would give me a ticket for
not having a license plate on the front of my van.  This is one of
those laws that makes little sense given how many modern vehicles
don’t have a place for front license plates.  Yet it’s still on the
books and Columbus demanded $45 in tribute from me.

Oh, well, at least I broke even on the weekend.


Earlier in this extended Mix 2013 report, I expressed my unease with the
union of comic books and academia.  But, in my short time at this
symposium, I didn’t see the laborious and ponderous pontification
of my previous experiences with comics academia.  That may be hope
for me...or for comics academia.

If I’m invited to Mix 2014 and my schedule allows, I’ll return to
the symposium.  Maybe we could discuss all the religious overtones
and redemption elements that keep showing up in my work.  Or maybe
we’ll just talk about the social-political meanings behind the DC
Comics go-go checks of the 1960s. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 28, 2013


Recently published by my pal Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books is The
Shadow #75: “The Golden Master” “Death’s Bright Danger” & 

“Reign of Terror” [$14.95]. These three classic pulp stories were
written by Walter B. Gibson, Theodore Tinsley and Bruce Elliott (all
writing as Maxwell Grant).

“The Golden Master” first appeared in the September 15, 1939 issue
of The Shadow Magazine and introduces the classic Shadow nemesis,
Shiwan Kahn.  It’s written by Gibson.

Tinsley’s “Death’s Bright Danger” has never before been reprinted.
It appeared in the May 15, 1942 issue of the magazine and pits The
Shadow against...the Light.

Elliott’s “Reign of Terror” ran in the June-July, 1948 issue of the
magazine.  It, too, has never been reprinted.

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


Continuing my report on the Mix 2013 comics symposium, which was
held Friday and Saturday, September 27-28, at the Columbus College
of Art and Design...

There was a screening of White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black
Masculinities in Comic Books
on Saturday at 1-2 pm.  You may have
seen clips of this Jonathan Gayles documentary online, but viewing
the entire 52-minute film is an experience, especially if you are
the guy representing those white scripts.

I met Gayles, an associate professor of African-American Studies at
Georgia State University in Atlanta, at an East Coast Black Age of
Comics Convention.  He wanted to interview me for the documentary.
We did a second interview at my home in Medina some months later.
That’s the footage that appears in the film.

The documentary covers Black super-heroes introduced in the 1960s
and 1970s.  From the back cover of the DVD box:

In a serious, lively and humorous manner, the film examines the
degree to which some of the first Black superheroes generally
adhered to and were burdened by stereotypes about Black men.
However we also witness how some images shifted - often clumsily -
to reflect the changing times.

Featured commentary by scholars and cultural critics (Jeloni Cobb,
Mark Anthony Neal, Sundiata Kieta Cha-Jua), producers, writers and
artists (Reginald Hudlin, John Jennings, Tony Isabella and the late
pioneer Dwayne McDuffie) provides tools for critiquing all media as
they introduce and analyze the leading Black comic book superheroes
of the late 60s to late 70s, including Black Panther, the Falcon,
John Stewart (the Green Lantern), Luke Cage and Black Lightning.

The post-screening panel was moderated by writer Victor Dandridge
and featured Gayles and myself.  It was a serious and thoughtful
discussion, but not so serious that there wasn’t room for laughter
as we discussed the film and some of the comics industry missteps
in its portrayal of Black heroes.

After the panel, I did a signing at the Mix Store and continued to
answer questions from several panel attendees.  We covered a lot of
territory on the panel.  I could write several bloggy thing trying
to summarize the film and the panel.  Instead, at least for today,
you’ll just get an incredibly short version of my involvement with
characters of color in comics.

I grew up in all-white neighborhoods on the west side of Cleveland,
Ohio.  My first Black friends were friends I met through our mutual
love of comics and, even then, I recognized how unfair it was that
there were almost no Black super-heroes.  I decided then and there
that, if I ever got into the comics industry, I would do my best to
rectify that.  I was motivated by my sense of fairness.

I was not a deep thinker back then and some would say I still have
not mastered that today.  I was thrilled when Black heroes began to
appear at Marvel and DC, but it took a while before I realized how
many aspects of these characters were problematic.

Digression. “Problematic” became one of my favorite words after I
saw it used to such great effect in the Gayles documentary.  What
a kind way to designate such indisputably offensive notions as all
the Black people on Krypton living on their own separate island.
It was science fiction for KKK members.

Second digression. “No pants” became one of my favorite phrases as
the documentary and panel discussion pointed out how many heroes of
color wore shorts.

Much as I liked Luke Cage when he made his debut, I never got the
tiara or the chain around his waist.  The tiara looked silly from
the get-go.  The chain? Why would a “Hero for Hire’ want to carry
around that extra weight?  I knew it was supposed to be symbolic,
but sometimes symbolism has to give way to common sense.

Third digression.  Former Marvel editor-in-chief Len Wein used to
claim Luke Cage did not have super-strength.  I ignored that when
I was writing the character, but I wish I had thought to point out
the chain thing all those years ago.  That would have settled the
dispute for any rational person.

In my excitement over Cage’s debut, it didn’t occur to me that the
first African-American hero to headline his own Marvel Comics title
was some mercenary who had to be paid to be a hero.  On the other
hand, I don’t think Cage ever actually collected a paycheck while
I was writing him.

Had I stayed on the renamed Luke Cage, Power Man, I was planning to
clear him of the crimes for which he had been framed and for him to
become a part-time college student.  I wanted him to be more than
who he was at the time.

When I decided scientist Bill Foster would become a super-hero and
use the size-changing powers developed by his colleague and friend
Henry Pym, I wanted him to be called Giant-Man.  That was vetoed on
account of Giant-Man had apparently sold badly in Tales to Astonish
back in the day.  Just calling him Goliath didn’t seem quite strong
enough, so, taking a cue from the movies I was watching at theaters
with artists like Arvell Jones and Ron Wilson, and to my later
regret, I went with Black Goliath.

To my credit, when a white artist submitted costume designs for the
new Goliath, I was appalled that one of his designs featured Foster
wearing a leopard skin.  The “humor” was lost on me.

I was enraged when Steve Englehart revealed that the Falcon was an
actual criminal, brainwashed by the Red Skull into behaving like a
good guy.  During my brief stint on Captain America, I wrapped up
that storyline to the best of my ability.  The Falcon went on trial
and was given probation with Nick Fury as his parole officer.  Had
my stint on Cap been longer, I would have never again mentioned any
of that.  Sometimes the best you can do with idiotic continuity is
to ignore it and pretend it never happened.

Two of my creations made a recent list of fan picks for the top 30
Black super-heroes.  At Mix, I was asked many questions about those
characters.  Come back for tomorrow’s bloggy thing for some history
about and reflection on Black Lightning and Misty Knight.
© 2013 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 27, 2013


The Akron Comicon is on Saturday, November 9, 10 am to 6 pm, at the
Quaker Square complex of the University of Akron.  This event is my
last public appearance of the year.  I have not scheduled any other
appearances at bookstores, comic-book shops, libraries, schools or
conventions.  It’s your last chance of the year to ask me questions
face-to-face or have me sign any Isabella-written books or comics.

The convention has an outstanding guest list, including Brad Ricca,
the author of Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel
and Joe Shuster--the Creators of Superman
.  I’ve called this book
the best comics biography of all time and, if you haven’t read it,
you’re missing a compelling story and an important piece of comics
history.  There are great guests coming to the Akron Comicon, but
Ricca is the one I’m most looking forward to meeting.

Other Akron Comicon guests include Tom Batiuk, Jon Bogdanove, Ron
Frenz, David Aikins, Darryl Banks, Mike W. Barr, Tom Batiuk, Adam
Beechen, Andy Bennett, Craig Boldman, Sean Forney, Mike Gustovich,
Bob Ingersoll, Jon Judy, Dirk Manning, Mike Sangiacomo, Tom Scioli,
Chris Sprouse, Mark Sumarek, Chris Yambar and Thom Zahler.  Also on
hand will be representatives of such fine organizations as the Hero
Initiative and Help for Heroes, which helps raise funds for comics
professionals battling cancer.  There are also panel discussions,
though I’m not appearing on any of them.

The Akron Comicon will be featuring a “Costumes for Charity Event”
with the Hero Initiative and Help For Heroes as the recipients of
said charity.  There were 52 cosplayers at last year’s first Akron
Comicon.  I can’t wait to see this year’s participants.

As always, I’m happy to sign any and any number of Isabella-written
comics and books.  There is no charge for my signature.  There are
no limits to how many copies I’ll sign for you.  In the unlikely
event I have a long line, I will limit the number of items I sign
at one time.  If that happens, just get back in line at the end of
the line.  I will sign all your Isabella-written items.

I will only sign Black Lightning items for which I have been paid
my contracted royalties.  I can be flexible on this, but expect to
make a donation to The Hero Initiative or Help for Heroes if I sign
anything I’ve been stiffed on by DC Comics.

I will not sign Black Lightning Year One, that unclean abomination
published by DC a few years back.  I’m not as flexible on this one.
If you must have it signed by me, it will cost you fifty bucks per
copy with that money going to The Hero Initiative. 

Questions? I’m happy to answer them if they are asked politely and
if answering them doesn’t violate any agreements I have with past
or present clients. 

Interviews? I only do interviews by e-mail, the better to make sure
I answer them in the most accurate manner.  I can be flexible about
this, but, if you show up at my table with your camera or recorder
without having arranged an interview in advance, you’re not going
to get one.  Unless you really have a good pitch.

Writers? I’m sorry, but I can’t read or listen to your unpublished
ideas.  That long-standing policy protects both you and me from my
inadvertently stealing your idea years from now when my aging brain
won’t remember where it came from.

Artists? If you have samples to drop off, I’d love to get them.  In
2014, I will be writing projects from my long bucket of things I’d
like to write before I kick the bucket.  I’ll be looking for artist
partners for some of these projects.

Review copies? I’ll gladly accept them as long as you realize that
I can’t guarantee I’ll review every item given to me.  Sometimes,
I just don’t have anything to say about something. 

I think that covers everything, probably in greater detail than was
necessary.  I confess part of that is because I wanted to get these
things down in writing for future reference. 

The Akron Comicon is a terrific event.  I’m excited to be returning
to it and I hope to see you there as well.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.       

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Recently published by Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books is Doc Savage
#68: “The Crimson Serpent” and “The Exploding Lake”
[$14.95]. The
former was written by Harold A. Davis and Lester Dent and first saw
print in the August 1939 edition of Doc Savage Magazine.  The novel
was adapted for the second Doc Savage comic-book story and appeared
in Shadow Comics #2 [1940].  From the back cover:

A series of corpses bearing the bloody mark of the Crimson Serpent
leads Doc Savage to an ancient castle, modern-day conquistadors and
the Fountain of Youth.

“The Exploding Lake” was also written by Davis and Dent, appearing
in the September 1946 edition of Doc Savage Magazine:

The Man of Bronze journeys to South America to investigate the 
bizarre mystery of The Exploding Lake.

Comics writer Mike W. Barr provides the foreword to this volume and
Will Murray and Katrina Tollin add historical essays.  The Tollin
piece is “Elmer Stoner, Comic Book Pioneer” and it’s a fine look at
the life and career of one of the first African-American artists to
work in comic books.

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

© 2013 Tony Isabella


Regular blogging with resume on Monday with the continuation of my
Mix 2013 comics symposium report.  Until then, you get this update
today and, tomorrow, you get an update on my last public appearance
of the year. 

Things have been crazy busy at Casa Isabella lately, but mostly in
a good way.  While this has played havoc with my daily blogging, I
think - okay, hope - I’ve got a handle on it.  Here’s what you can
expect through the rest of the year.

My Mix 2013 comics symposium report will continue and conclude on
Monday and Tuesday.  I was asked some really good questions at and
after the panel discussion on White Scripts and Black Superman, so
I want to share my answers with you. 

Wednesday and Thursday will feature my commentary on the final two
episodes of Fangasm on the Syfy Channel.  Spoiler alert: I thought
those were the best episodes of the series and they left me feeling
good about all the interns.  Indeed, if any of the interns wish to
update viewers on what they’ve been doing since the show, they are
welcome to do so here. 

Starting Friday on, I’ll be posting reviews of comic books, graphic
novels, movies and TV shows...with special emphasis on cool stuff
I think might make good holiday gifts.

Occasionally, I’ll throw in a blast from my past or commentary on
something going in the comics world or the “real” world.  There’s
a Jim Shooter sycophant joining old Flaming Pants in attempting to
rewrite history with Shooter as the hero.  Since he is spreading,
let’s be kind and call it “misinformation,” I may decide to correct
the record once again.  In going through the Vast Accumulation of
Stuff, I have found some boxes of paperwork, plots and scripts from
that period in my life.  I’m hoping some of it will have a bearing
on Shooter’s “misinformation” about me.

Between now and the end of the year, I will be involved in a huge
undertaking which involves going through every damn box of my Vast
Accumulation of Stuff.  Job one is to locate some documents I need
for a legal matter, but I’m also hoping to organize all that stuff
to make next year’s garage sales easier on me and more exciting for
my customers.  Godzilla willing, I’ll also make some real progress
on renovating my office and creating a reading room and library in
another room of Casa Isabella.

Several of you asked if I’ll be doing any mail-order sales between
now and the start of next year’s garage sales.  That depends on how
well the above undertaking goes.  I’d like to do some mail-order,
but I can’t say if and when that will happen.

As for garage sales, I hope to have one in April, one in May, then
two a month through September and maybe even into October.  You can
expect updates here and on my Facebook page.

If you miss the Rawhide Kid Wednesdays and the vintage comic-book
covers, those will return in the new year.  I may have a few other
surprises for you as well.

That about covers what I have to say today. If you have questions
about any of the above or my other writings, feel free to e-mail me
and I’ll try to respond.  If you want to know if I’m available to do
some project for you, you can also e-mail me.  I’m concentrating on
my long bucket list of things I want to write before I go kicking
that bucket, but I’m not adverse to gigs that are challenging, fun
or both. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.       

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 25, 2013


Regular blogging with resume on Monday with the continuation of my
Mix 2013 comics symposium report.  In the meantime, I have a trio
of updates for you that will be posted today, Saturday and Sunday.

The Medina school board voted unanimously to begin what will be a
long and likely tedious process to fire Superintendent Randy Stepp.
This action follows a state auditor’s finding that Stepp “illegally
expended” over four thousand dollars of public money.  There is an
ongoing audit and investigation of another nearly million dollars
in spending.  Stepp is in deep shit.

Because the firing process is so long, as required by state law, I
don’t believe it will be completed before the November 5 election
of new school board members and voting on the 5.9-mill school levy.
However, the near-certainty that the incompetent unlikeable Stepp
will be terminated, along with the announced resignations of the
two remaining school board members whose own arrogance and
lack of oversight made Stepp’s pillaging of public money possible,
does improve the levy’s chance of passing.  I have already cast my
vote in favor of the levy.

This news has pleased most participants on the “Medina City School
Outrage Page” Facebook Page.  However, two posters stated they will
still not vote for the levy.  This didn’t surprise me.  There are
always voters who will not vote for any levy that doesn’t directly
benefit them.  It also didn’t surprise me that, when I checked the
Facebook pages of the two posters, I discovered they were hardcore
Republicans whose “likes” included some of the most ignoble pundits
and politicians of the right.

I know that many Republicans in this district do support the levy.
Good for them.  But, given the attitudes and policies of the GOP,
I continue to scoff at the naive notion that electing school board
members is a non-partisan matter.  Such attitudes and policies can
and do have a negative effect on our schools, our communities and
our country.

I want to thank all the Medina residents who have visited my bloggy
thing this week.  If you have any interest in comic books, cheesy
monster movies or my fascinating life - that last is slightly more
compelling than watching paint dry - please continue to visit from
time to time. I’ll do my best to entertain, inform and occasionally
infuriate you. 

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I started writing today’s bloggy thing nearly a month ago and then
my October got crazy busy and chaotic, resulting in an hiatus from
my usual daily blogging.  Clinging desperately to the hope my dear
readers will buy my argument that “later” is better than “never,”
here’s the first half of my two-day report on the Mix 2013 comics
symposium, which was held on Friday and Saturday, September 27-28,
at the Columbus College of Art and Design.  However, if you desire
a more detailed and less “me, me, me” account of this spiffy event,
I direct you to The Comic Reporter where Tom Spurgeon crosses the
T’s and dots the I’s.  You’ll see why Spurgeon won an Eisner Award
for “Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism” and I got a rock.

I haven’t been a fan of comics-related academia.  On occasion, I’ve
read ponderous books and thesis papers on comics and have usually
come away thinking the authors have sucked the joy out of the thing
I love in an effort to make it palatable to those who do not “get”
comics as wonderful entertainment first...and an art form second.
Such books and papers usually bore me.

Yet Robert Loss, whose email signature notes that he is “Visiting
Full-Time Faculty, English Dept” at CCAD and “Mix '13 Programming
Coordinator,” was kind enough to invite to the symposium.  Knowing
the trip would give me a chance to visit with my daughter Kelly, a
student of The Ohio State University, and my son Ed, who would be
in Columbus for the OSU/Wisconsin football game, I said I would be
happy to attend the event and participate in a panel discussion on
Doc Jonathan Gayles’ documentary White Scripts and Black Supermen:
Black Masculinities in Comic Books
.  Those of you who have seen the
film know I play the role of “White Scripts” in it.

If you haven’t seen White Scripts and Black Supermen, the film is
an amazing piece of history and reflection.  In the near future, I
need to devote an entire bloggy thing to this documentary.  I’m so
glad Dr. Gayles asked me to be part of it.  It has most definitely
given me new perspectives on my own work.

Mix 2013 started on Friday.  My Friday morning turned out to be a
more complicated than I’d have liked.  I got up at 2:30 am to drive
my wife Barb to the airport so she could visit a friend in Denver.
I woke to a painful reoccurrence of my gout which I needed to hide
from Barb.  There was some confusion with the neighbor who watched
my cat for me...and that was entirely on me.  I left Medina hours
later than I originally planned.  My lunch plans with Kelly became
dinner plans.  Life’s little adventures.

I drove directly to CCAD’s Canzani Center Auditorium for my badge,
information package and the key to the “Visiting Artist” quarters
at the nearby Abigail Apartments.  I knew I didn’t have time to do
any Mix-related activities before my dinner and visit with Kelly,
so I headed over to the Abigail.

I gotta gush about the Abigail.  The one-room apartment was huge.
It had a comfortable bed, a sofa with coffee table, a large chair,
a flat-screen TV, a table with four chairs, a large refrigerator,
plenty of kitchen cabinets, a stove, a dishwasher, a microwave, a
large wardrobe, lots of closet space, a washer, a dryer, and a big
bathroom.  Despite the apartment being on the first floor and right
next to the sidewalk, no street sounds ever disturbed me.  It would
be perfect for a longer stay, just a few minutes away from all the
college stuff and from a terrific gourmet grocery store.  It made
me wish I was staying longer.

Once I was settled, I drove to Kelly’s house to take her out for an
early dinner and some grocery shopping.  Then, shortly after I got
back to the Abigail, my son Eddie stopped by to visit with me for
a short while.  Just a short while, of course, because, you know,
Ohio State football demands dedication.  He had to meet up with his
old college buddies for the serious meditation and reflection that
precedes these sporting events...or at least that’s what I choose
to believe at such times.

After Eddie left, I looked over the Mix 2013 event program, read a
couple comics, and watched the first two episodes of The Michael J.
Fox Show
.  The show was a pleasant diversion and I enjoyed seeing
Fox wring self-deprecating laughs from his Parkinson's disease.  It
was funny but it was also dignified in its own raucous way.  If I
catch up on all the shows I already record/watch, I’d probably be
a regular viewer.

One good night’s sleep later and I was ready to head to the Canzani
Center for the second day of Mix 2013.  My first stop was to stop
by the Mix Store to chat with Ken Eppstein, who was selling my 1000
Comic Books You Must Read
and books and comics by other comics
creators attending the symposium.

Unlike comics conventions, Mix 2013 didn’t have a dealer’s room or
an artists alley.  It didn’t really have any place where attendees
could just hang out the way I would at a comics convention.  It was
all panels and papers and workshops.  I confess I felt more than a
little out of place, but, at age 61, I like to challenge myself in
a variety of ways.  I would wrap my head around academia and make
it my friend.

Seeing a couple of old friends on the “Creative Methods” panel that
was scheduled for 10-11:30 am, I figured I’d go to that panel and
even take honest-to-gosh notes like I almost never did when I was
actually in school.  Maybe this old dog of a writer could learn a
few new tricks.

The panelists were Matt Feazell (The Amazing Cynicalman), Max Ink
(Blink), Terry Eisele (With Only Five Plums), Alex Heberling (The
), Talcott Starr (Iguanodon Cheese) and Valerie Starr (Octopus
).  The moderator was Canada Keck, who has written and self-
published comic books and appeared in several anthologies, edited
other anthologies and curated exhibits of comic art. I’ve read and
enjoyed Feazell and Ink’s comics for decades, but I was unfamiliar
with the others.

My earlier trepidations aside, I found myself in familiar ground in
attending this panel.  Each participant introduced themselves and
talked about their work.  I didn’t learn any new tricks, but I was
surprised that newspaper strips were the initial inspirations for
these artists and writers.  I wasn’t a big newspaper reader when I
was growing up because my hard-working father only brought home a
paper on Saturday, the one day of the week he had the time to read
it.  My own formative inspirations were the comic books from which
I learned to read by the time I was four years old.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes was the most cited inspiration.
Other inspirations were as varied as the super-hero comics of Stan
Lee and Jack Kirby to the autobiographical stories of Harvey Pekar
to Sailor Moon, Star Wars, Kabuki, Fun Home and webcomics.  While
my first comic books were Superman and Casper the Friendly Ghost,
my ongoing inspirations have included every kind of comic book and
graphic novel you can imagine.

A few questions occurred to me while listening to these panelists.
They were mostly self-publishing, so what was their aim in creating
comics?  What were they trying to accomplish with their comics or
was it just their natural way of expressing themselves?  What was
their end game?  I came to creating comics because I wanted to be
an entertainer, a storyteller.  Other than creating comics as long
as I am physically able to write and, secondarily, earn a living
from my writing, I’ve no particular end game.  Indeed, I never even
considered what my end game might be until recently and, even now,
it’s only a vague notion that I want to return to writing comics of
all kinds and find a way to present those comics to as many readers
as possible. Career planning may not be my strong suit.

After the panel, I hit the Mix store to pick up comics by all the
participants.  I’ll be reading and writing about those comics over
the next few weeks.  After bringing my purchases to my van, I had
lunch with Ken Eppstein.  Then it was time for the Mix 2013 showing
of White Scripts and Black Supermen and the panel discussion which
would follow it.

I’ll be writing about the documentary and the panel discussion in
my next exciting bloggy thing, as well as meeting a comics creator
whose work I admire, reflecting on my past writings and having an
unexpected brush with the law as I left Columbus. Did I fight the
law and did the law win? Find out tomorrow.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


WARNING. There won’t be any comics or pop culture in today’s bloggy
thing.  It’s another case of my having to write something to get it
out of my head before I can move on to more enjoyable discussions.

I went to the Medina County Board of Elections on Monday morning to
cast my votes on a fairly short ballot.  Ever since I was harassed
verbally by an asshat Republican poll worker who loudly proclaimed
I shouldn’t be allowed to vote, I prefer to vote before the usual
Election Day. It’s less stressful and much quicker.

Three of the five items on this short ballot were uncontested races
for the City of Medina’s mayor, director of finance, and member of
council at large.  The fourth race was to select three members of
the Medina City School District Board of Education from the field
of seven candidates.  The remaining item was to vote on a proposed
tax levy for the school district.

Veteran readers of this bloggy thing will recall that, after never
voting against a school levy for most of my life, I voted against
the past two school levies.  My reason for voting against them was
a complete lack of faith in the school board and, most especially,
Superintendent Randolph Stepp.  This time around, the situation has
changed somewhat.

Stepp is a bad guy.  An arrogant and egotistical but nonetheless
clever man, he was clearly fast-tracked for the superintendent gig
by the local elites who pretty much run everything in Medina.  He
and I butted heads several times when he was the principal of the
high school. 

I objected to Stepp giving military recruiters better access to the
students than any other “employer,” even allowing them into one of
my son’s classrooms without prior parental knowledge or approval.
Nothing like trapping kids in a military sales pitch at a time when
President Bush needed more troops for his illegal war against Iraq
and his increasingly mismanaged war in Afghanistan.  I complained
and Stepp’s response was insufficient.  He said this would not be
done in the future, but refused to put that in writing.  He said I
would have to take him at his word.

Stepp also refused to address, even half-heartedly, my complaints
about a troll-like math teacher who had verbally abused my son when
he was in her class and who physically laid hands on my daughter
for an accidental violation of the school dress code.  This woman
was known for her lurking in hallways and at the bottom of stairs
to catch girls in such infractions.  She was so notorious for this
unsettling pattern of behavior that, when I was telling a grocery
store cashier, a former teammate of my daughter, about the teacher,
the woman in line behind me joined the conversation.  Even though
I had not mentioned the teacher by name, the customer knew exactly
who I was talking about.    

Then there was the time the Move*On organization scheduled a silent
non-partisan candlelight vigil to honor the first Medina citizen to
die in the new Gulf Wars.  The high school announced the vigil as it did
other local events.  Then the local Republicans objected and then
Stepp went to the media to complain he’d been “tricked” by Move*On
into publicizing the vigil.  Like those Republicans, he made this
unifying event into a one-sided political fight.

Stepp was superintendent when President Barack Obama addressed the
nation’s students via a live broadcast shortly after his historic
election.  Stepp wouldn’t allow the broadcast to be shown in Medina
schools.  To put this in perspective, when mere candidate George W.
Bush came to town, students were bused to our town square to hear
Bush speak.  Somehow, it was permissible to take the students from
school to listen to a Republican presidential candidate and spend
district funds to do that, but it was not permissible for students
to spend an hour listening to a Democratic president at no expense
to the district.  Yeah...and people around here keep trying to tell
me educational issues are non-partisan.

Stepp gave the commencement speeches at the graduations of my son
and my daughter, or, more accurately, the commencement speech.  It
was the same speech and all about what an amazing person Stepp was.
My neighbors have had to listen to the speech three times so far,
but, hopefully, they’ll be spared having to listen to it when their
youngest graduates next year.  I knew Stepp was an arrogant creep,
but that speech forever cemented my opinion of him. 

Stepp and the current school board have been on the hot seat this
election cycle.  The district hasn’t passed a levy in years and was
in the middle of contract negotiations with the remarkably patient
and even generous teachers union when some alarming facts came out
about Stepp, his compensation and his spending of district funds.
For more complete background on this, you should visit the Medina
City Schools Outrage Page on Facebook.

Here’s the short version. Stepp got paid a lot of money while the
district was bleeding cash and not passing levies.  The board made
questionable cuts while Stepp kept getting incredible perks.  The
board violated state sunshine laws to extend Stepp’s contract and
give him a $83,000 “signing bonus.” The latter was classic Medina
elitism at work.  The elite got to get paid, sometimes with money,
sometimes with power, always at the expense of others.

The shit really hit the fan when it was learned Stepp had received
a quarter million dollars reimbursement for college and continuing
education loans and tuition...and he himself had cut these checks
from school district funds.  Amazingly, the terms of his generous
contract allowed this...and it also called for the district to pay
the taxes on these fringe benefits.

The school board’s initial response was to defend these astonishing
benefits in its usual arrogant manner.  When that didn’t work, the
board members then pleaded ignorance of the terms of the contract.
The designation “wankers” comes to mind.

There were resignations and calls for resignations.  Some demanded
criminal investigations into Stepp’s actions.  More information of
possible misuse of school funds became known.  Stepp would be put
on paid administrative leave while an audit of the school accounts
was conducted. That audit has since found illegal use of school district
funds by Stepp.

The board’s extension of Stepp’s contract clearly violated sunshine
laws and the board rescinded that extension.  Stepp’s response was
to file a lawsuit against the district and the school board while
continuing to draw his salary.

A May levy was taken off the ballot because it didn’t have a prayer
of passing.  The November levy was clearly in jeopardy as well with
the public calling for the resignation of every school board member
who had been a party to this infamy.  One declared he wouldn’t run
for election.  Two others arrogantly refused to accept that they’d
done anything wrong.

My response was to state publically that I would not vote for the
November levy if those two board members did not resign and that I
would vote for the levy if they did.  Those two members are still
on the board, but have announced their resignations for January and
May of next year.

After much soul-searching, I decided I would vote for the levy on
those terms.  The two new board members appointed to fill existing
vacant positions have been willing to address the public in a more
open and transparent fashion.  The board appointed Dave Knight, a
terrific guy who was the principal of Sidney Fenn Elementary School
when my kids went there, as acting superintendent.  Knight quickly
determined and made public what cuts would have to be made if the
November levy doesn’t pass.  Despite my continued misgivings about
the board and Medina elitism in general, I could not vote against
this very necessary levy.

On Monday morning, I voted in favor of the levy.  However, there is
no guarantee the levy will pass.  At a time when a certain faction
of our country is openly hostile to all government, there are those
who will never vote for the common good.  Indeed, in this time of
Tea Party madness, there are those who will vote against their own
best interests and those of the country.

Some of the no-voters claim the school board must earn back their
trust before they’ll vote for a levy, even though all the offending
board members will be gone by May.  Others point to Ohio’s broken
and unconstitutional laws concerning property taxes and the funding
of public education.  While that is certainly a disgrace, it’s not
something the school board can fix. 

One numb-nut took offense at my statement that I thought no public
money should ever go to charter or religious schools as his excuse
for voting against the levy.  That makes perfect sense.  Because one
fellow voter doesn’t agree with you, you’re not going to vote for
the levy.  You can find similar childish whining among Republican
members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The one question I would have liked the school board candidates to
answer was what is your political party affiliation and, if you’re
claiming to be an independent, who your Presidential candidate was
in the previous national election?  Of course, whenever I bring
up this question, people will pout and whine that being a member of
the school board is non-partisan.


Almost nothing in this country is non-partisan.  In my view, what
the Republican Party has come to stand for is bad for this country.
The attitudes I seen reflected in the right-wing are similar to the
attitudes I see in the Medina elites, not surprising given how damn
Republican my city is.  Given a choice, I’d be more likely to vote
for a Democratic or a board candidate who supported President Obama
than a Republican, a Tea Party nutbag, or someone who misguidedly
voted for Mitt Romney.  Sadly, I was denied what I consider vital
candidate information.

I rolled up my sleeves - figuratively, as my home office attire is
a t-shirt and pajama bottoms - and researched the candidates to the
best of my ability.  The only decision I had made prior to this was
that I wouldn’t vote for both of the current members who had been
appointed to fill vacant seats by the board members in whom I had
no confidence or trust. 

There were candidates I felt were too connected to the very Medina
elites who had so injured our school district.  There were others
I could not get a good sense of.  One candidate was eliminated from
consideration because of his affiliation to an organization I knew
practiced discrimination.

I cast my votes based on several factors.  Did I have a sense that
the candidates understood the situation on a non-elite level?  Did
I agree with the comments they had made and the positions they had
taken?  Did their lives suggest to me they have what it takes
to fix the school district and give our Medina kids the education
they deserve and need?  

I cast my votes for...

Tom Cahalan
Angie Kovacs
Ronald Ross  

I’m confident that, if elected, they will do right by the students
and the community.  If they don’t, well, I expect to do a landmark
business selling pitchforks and torches. 

Okay, that last line was a joke.  Lord knows we needed one of those
after almost two thousand words of my venting which, hereafter, I
will refer to as reasoned commentary.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


This was not the blog I intended to write for today.  It’s the one
I had to write, much as I wish otherwise.

Monday was to have been a day of errands and writing.  I left the
house around 8 am, voted on the upcoming school board and levy, did
some grocery shopping, went to the library and the gas station.  I
mucked around doing some odds and ends and posting some stuff on my
Facebook page.  Then I got a message from my friend Scott Galloway:

I'm afraid I have some very bad news. I wanted to let you know that
Brian died in the middle of the night. It was very sudden. It looks
like it was a heart attack.

Brian is Brian Auler.  He and Scott were regular customers of the
garage sales I hold each summer, driving two hours from Columbus to
do so.  When they couldn’t make it to the sales during the normal
sales hours, I let them coming when they could.  I didn’t do this
for anyone else.  I did it because I really enjoyed seeing them and
talking with them.

The news of Brian’s death - he was younger than me, but that’s true
of virtually everyone who comes to my garage sales - hit me hard.
I asked Scott what I could do and he responded:

No, but thank you. I wanted to let you know how much he enjoyed
knowing you and talking with you and how much he LOVED going to
your garage sales. Thank you for all of those things that you have
already done.

That really me feel very good and very sad.

It’s not uncommon for customers to become friends in this business.
I couldn’t tell you exactly how old Brian was or his home address
or the name of the company where he worked, but I knew that he was
interested in all kinds of material and had an especially fondness
for the books and magazines published by TwoMorrows. 

Brian and Scott and I talked about all sorts of stuff whenever they
came to my garage sales.  Brian would call me on my cell phone from
time to time and we’d talk about all sorts of stuff.  Comics, his
family, my birth family, and stuff.  There aren’t too many people
I talk to on the phone.  I’m a solitary guy more often than not, my
mind filled with whatever projects I’m working on at any given time
and I don’t let too many people take me away from that.  Brian was
one of the few.

Brian was an accountant, as was a relative of mine who is currently
serving time in a federal penitentiary for stealing an incredibly
large sum of money from clients who trusted him.  Brian was one of
the very few people I could really talk to about that and who could
help me wrap my brain around that unthinkable situation.  I wish I
had known Brian as well as he knew me, though his advantage there
is probably because of my obsessive blogging.  That he enjoyed my
blog makes me a little happy in this time of sadness.

Brian was a fun guy to talk to.  When I’d write about new “finds”
for the garage sale, especially when he and Scott wouldn’t be able
to come to the next sale, he’d chide me about how I was killing him
with the notices.  When Sharknado, which I’d been talking up online
and at the garage sales prior to its first airing, turned out to be
an unexpected sensation, he phoned me to tell me I was clearly some
sort of powerful tastemaker. 

I couldn’t tell you the exact last times I saw or talked to Brian
because I never know they were going to be the last times.  I had
lunch with Scott and him during PulpFest.  They came to at least one
of the last garage sales I had this summer.  I probably talked to
him on the phone or exchanged e-mails with him.  I wish I had more
time with him.  He was a truly good guy.

Brian and Scott were the best of friends.  When I think how much I
will miss Brian, I cannot begin to conceive of how much more Scott
will miss him.  The world is never more cold and cruel than when it
takes those we love from us.  I’m at an age when this is no longer
an uncommon occurrence and it always hurts like a son of a bitch.
There’s not much I can do about that.

What I can do is remember that Brian Auler was a good man and that
I enjoyed the time I had with him.  It doesn’t seem like much, but
it’s all I’ve got.

I’m going to miss you, Brian.  My thoughts are with you and Scott
and everyone else who loved you.   

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 21, 2013


I’ve been writing about the new TV season because I’m addicted to
the wide-screen teat.  I think it of it as a blessing.  Were it not
for TV, I might be roaming the streets twerking.  I think we can
all agree no one wants to see that.

Thursday is a big sitcom night as I record The Big Bang Theory, The
Crazy Ones
and Two and a Half Men.  Barb gets a kick out of The Big
Bang Theory
, so we usually watch that together.  I know some find
the show offensive in its portrayal of fans, especially male fans,
but sitcoms are seldom kind to their lead characters and, for the
most part, I laugh as much with the characters as I do at them.  I
think comparing Big Bang to a minstrel show is as stupid as saying
the Affordable Care Act is as bad as the Fugitive Slave Act.  Get
a sense of perspective, people.

In The Crazy Ones, Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are a
father-daughter team of advertising geniuses.  The show is uneven,
but every episode has had a handful of laugh-out-loud moments and
those are what have been bringing me back every week.  Some of the
moments are in the outtakes which end each episode.  The best one
of those came in the aftermath of an argument Williams and Gellar’s
characters had with another father and daughter.  When asked by how
she learned to stand up and be tough that way, Gellar responded:
“Sunnydale.” I have learned not to eat or drink during this show.

Two and a Half Men is a guilty pleasure, filled as it is with the
most sophomoric of sex jokes.  I am ashamed I enjoy this series as
much as I do, but the actors perform this sleazy comedy with such
skill and earnestness that they win me over week after week.  The
addition of Amber Tamblyn as the lesbian love-child of the dearly
departed Charlie Harper has been fun. 

Elementary continues to entertain and impress me.  Clever writing,
great acting, wonderful chemistry between the regular cast members.
It may now be my favorite cop show.

On the Syfy Channel, Haven changes the rules of the show and adds
new characters every season...and it still works.  The saga of this
small town in Maine and its many citizens with unpleasant powers is
loosely based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid.  I don’t usually
enjoy shows that have a lot of convoluted back story, but I don’t
think Haven is married to any of that.  The writers mix things up
in surprising ways and the talented cast pulls it off brilliantly.
I’m so in to this series that I’ve been tempted to write a series
finale for it.  Just for fun and because I totally know how to end
it on a high and satisfying note. 

These aren’t all the shows I watch, but I’m behind on some others.
When I catch up with them, I’ll likely write about them.  Because
my name is Tony and I’m an addict.


Moving on to other stuff...

I continue to read comic books months and even years after they’ve
been published and doubtless thoroughly discussed by online comics
reviewers.  This does not concern me.  As much as I sometimes wax
nostalgic about the thrill of riding my bike to the drug store to
get the new comics every Tuesday and Thursday when I was a lad, I
don’t really miss those days...and I especially don’t miss my years
as a comic-shop owner unpacking boxes of comics every week.  Those
comic-shop owners who faithfully serve their customers are genuine
treasures and, if I weren’t such a grumpy old man, I’d probably go
in search of one near me.  As it is, I borrow comics from a friend
of mine who buys a lot of them, buy some comics online and receive
others as review copies.  When I find something worth writing about
in these comics, I write about them.

This past week, for example, I read and enjoyed Captain Marvel #9-
12 [March-June 2013] by writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Christopher
Sebela with art by Filipe Andrade. There is some fine writing and
drawing in these issues.

Carol Danvers, one of the more powerful Avengers, has an odd tumor
in her head that could kill her.  She has a hard time accepting the
limitations this puts on her super-hero stuff, especially not being
able to fly.  Anyone who has ever had things their bodies would no
longer allow them to do can sympathize with that.  How Carol deals
with this is the best thing about these issues, followed closely by
her interesting supporting cast.  I’m looking forward to seeing how
her situation plays out.


Remember my long-standing position that every Marvel title occurs
in its own separate universe? Uncanny Avengers certainly makes the
case for my view.  I can’t see any way of reconciling this series
with what’s going on in Captain America, Thor, or any of the seven
or eight ongoing Wolverine titles. 

Written by Rick Remender, Uncanny Avengers has an excellent notion
in the forming of a “unity team” to ease tensions between Avengers
and X-Men and between mutants and non-mutants.  I was also pleased
by Havoc’s little commentary on the “M” word, which, as I recall,
did not play well with online fandom.  Too many mutants might have
embraced the designation to roll it back to any meaningful degree,
but I can see where some mutants wouldn’t like it.

A memorable-but-gross development has the Red Skull body-snatching
the late Charles Xavier and using Chuck’s lifeless brain to control
minds.  Have I mentioned that I’m official tired of the Red Skull
and would love to see him dead for good?  I seek relief from those
overused villains that come back again and again.

I’m not sure what to make of the return of the Scarlet Witch, her
being referred to as Captain America’s girlfriend, Rogue’s enmity
towards her and the Wasp being all bitching towards mutant ladies
and cougar-ish towards Havoc.  I didn’t enjoy those parts of issues
#1-8 [December 2012-July 2013].  In fact, overall, I’m not fond of
Uncanny Avengers.

Two closing questions...

Is it some sort of federal regulation that Wolverine is a member of
seemingly every team?  I think Marvel should loan him out to DC and
let him join the Legion of Super-Pets.

Is there no end to “Age of Ultron” special issues? They’re like the
comic-book equivalent of herpes!

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Sleep does not come easily to me on many nights, the result of the
blood pressure and gout medications I take.  Fortunately, when I’m
too tired to write, I can watch the TV shows I’ve recorded. Which
are far too many than can possibly be good for me.

Veteran readers know I’m a big fan of cop shows.  I love the idea
of justice being served in under an hour.  But I watch other stuff
as well, including several fantasy/horror/sci-fi shows and sitcoms.
As I write this bloggy thing, I am just “not tired” enough to make
some quick comments on things I’ve watched recently. 

Bones has gotten off to a rocky start.  Part of that is due to the
previous season ending on one of those dumb cliffhangers that some
dumb-ass producers think will increase interest in their shows.  In
this case, master villain Pelant was messing with Bones and Booth’s
marriage plans.  When this cliffhanger was finally resolved in the
fourth episode of the season, it was about as anti-climatic as one
could have imagined. 

The season to date as been one ill-conceived subplot after another.
Psychiatrist Sweets has a crisis of confidence.  Cam is a victim of
identity theft. The government wants the team to use some idiotic
profiling computer.  None of them rang true.

The high point to date has been “The Cheat in the Retreat” wherein
Bones and Booth went undercover at a couples retreat and which had
witty performances by guest stars John Ratzenberger and Millicent
Martin. Next up is the long-awaited wedding of Bones and Booth.  I
am not optimistic.

Sleepy Hollow is my favorite new show of the season.  Ichabod Crane
wakes up after 200 years to team with a police detective in a wild
battle against the forces of evil.  The chemistry between Crane and
Abbie is wonderful with a delicious side order of mutual sarcasm.
The Headless Horseman is shown to be one of the Four Horseman of
the Apocalypse.  While considerable back story has been laid
out over the several episodes to date, there is also a satisfying
“monster of the week” vibe. 

Castle is also off to a rocky start.  Beckett’s stint with the FBI
was awkward and neither her nor Castle seemed comfortable with the
season opening two-parter that followed last season’s cliffhanger
ending.  It took four episodes and a Hail Mary pass to get Beckett
back on the NYPD where she belongs.  Add to this the inane subplot
with Castle’s daughter shacking up with the boyfriend from Hippie
Hell and the series has fallen considerably in my estimation.  I’m
hoping it gets back on track soon.   

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t again hit the heights of its premiere
episode, but it’s still a very entertaining show.  Clark Gregg is
outstanding as Agent Coulson.  I love the nods to the larger Marvel
Universe beyond the show.  I give good marks to Brett Dalton (Grant
Ward), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May) and Chloe Bennett (Skye).  But I’m
not feeling the love for the Fitz-Simmons scientists played by Iain
De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge. The writers haven’t given
those characters anything exceptional in the scripts.  They should
take a look at what shows like Bones and CSI have done with their
science geeks.

Supernatural always seems to be making it up as it goes along, but
manages to pull that chaos off well.  Jensen Ackles is the driving
force as Dean Winchester and Mark Sheppard is brilliant as acting
master of Hell Crowley.  Jared Padalecki often appears as if he’s
still figuring out Sam Winchester, but considering all the writers
put his character through, that works for me.  I get a kick out of
this series and always look forward to it.

Arrow has gotten off to a great start.  Last season’s finale called
for serious consequences and the show is delivering on them.  I’m
liking Stephen Amell’s portrayal of Oliver Queen more each episode.
He’s trying to make a better city.  He’s trying to be a better man.
And shit keeps getting dumped on him.  Amell is underappreciated as
an actor.  David Ramsey’s Diggle is still a very cool character and
I love Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak.  Also on my “like this”
list: the prospect of more DC Universe elements like Black Canary.

What I’m not liking much is Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance.  Neither
the actress or the character adds to the show.  Laurel’s switch to
the anti-Arrow side, even as her demoted father has come to accept
the vigilante’s efforts as a necessary evil, rings hollow.  She’s
never going to add anything to this series, so maybe it’s time for
her to move on to some other city and make a fresh start.  I like
her better as an advocate for the little guys than the driven-by-
hatred-and-grief district attorney she’s become.

Criminal Minds is struggling.  The writers are going more for the
gross-out than the compelling.  New chief Esai Morales has bupkis
chemistry with the cast and his past relationship with A.J. Cook’s
character, whatever the writers eventually decide it was, makes my
flesh crawl...and this comes from a viewer who thought Morales was
first-rate in NYPD Blue. If things don’t pick up, this will be one
less show I watch.

CSI had a season-ending cliffhanger and, as is typical of such dumb
gimmicks, dealt with it quickly and messily.  The hooker daughter
of Captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) turns out to be some sort of
murderous criminal mastermind? I hope the writers have the dignity
to be embarrassed by such nonsense.

However, past the season opener, CSI seems to be in good shape and
continues to entertain me.  Elizabeth Harnois is knocking it out of
the park as the quietly traumatized and vulnerable Morgan Brody. An
uncomfortable subplot involving David Hodges (Wallace Langham) and
his wildly improbable Italian fiancee has been resolved.  The rest
of the cast is terrific.  About all I could ask for is more screen
time for Marc Vann as Conrad Ecklie.  That character has come into
his own over the past few seasons.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more television talk.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 19, 2013


“Zombie Fanpocalypse” aired on October 15.  In yesterday/s bloggy
thing, I forget to mention Fangasm was bumped out of prime time by
a rerun of Ghost Hunters. That probably wasn’t a good thing.  This
week’s episode also aired at 11 pm. 

In the previous episode, the interns pitched super-hero concepts to
Stan Lee.  Not surprisingly, Stan isn’t going forward on any of the
ideas, but Regina Carpinelli, the CEO and Co-Founder of Stan Lee’s
Comikaze, seemed pleased with their efforts.

Molly talks up a “drink and draw” event at an Irish pub and talks
the others into going there with her.  The event has a zombie theme
and Regina offers to have a friend of hers do their zombie makeup.
However, before that happens, the interns have some actual work to
do.  They have to help make a huge octopus tentacle for the company
booth at Comikaze.  Sal and most of the others think this will be
a cool experience.  Molly and Kristin, not so much.

Molly has a press pass to E3, an electronics and gaming expo, and
asks Regina for the time off to attend.  Regina allows this on the
condition that the ladies pass out Comikaze fliers and talk up the
convention.  Regina seems less than thrilled with this arrangement
and I think Molly and Kristin lost some points there.

Molly gets easily distracted at E3.  When she and Kristin attempt
to hand out the Comikaze fliers, it doesn’t go well.  Eventually,
Molly just starts “hiding” the fliers on exhibitor tables.  Which
probably won’t do Comikaze much good. 

Observation. Kristin doesn’t seem to be more than Molly’s shadow.
She seems capable, intelligent and nice, but has yet to distinguish
herself.  She needs to do that.

Sal, Paul, Dani and Andrew totally rock the tentacle-making.  Mike
does the work in his usual half-assed manner.  Sal has an affinity
for props and thinks he would like to work in the field.  Andrew,
who lives in the area, offers Sal a place to stay if Sal chooses to
pursue that calling.
SFX makeup master Eric Fox comes to the interns’ place to create
their zombie makeup.  Dani is interested in makeup work and helps
with the work.  She takes advantage of the situation to learn from
Fox.  She’s personable, smart and talented.

On to the personal stuff...

Before the zombification of the interns, Andrew gets a visit from
his girlfriend Lisa.  She’s terrific and has a laugh eerily similar
to Andrew’s.  Save for Molly, the other interns are impressed with
Lisa.  Molly makes a crude joke about the couple’s sex life.  I’m
hoping the producers are churlishly selecting scenes to make Molly
appear unpleasant and that this isn’t who she really is.  Alas, I
can only go by what shows up in the episodes.

Having had a gelato date with Dani, Sal wants to take things to the
next level.  Dani seems to want to keep Sal securely in the dreaded
“Friend Zone,” but there does seem to be a glimmer of interest on
her part.  I like both of these kids.

The zombie drink and draw event is great fun for most of the cast.
Mike comes off as a major douche.  He flirts with one girl while he
waits for the arrival of another girl he invited to the event and
while he claims to be interested in Molly.  For her part, Molly is
pissed at Mike and upset that no guys are hitting on her.  I felt
bad for both of them.  That said, if this is who they are in real
life, I wouldn’t want to hang out with them.

After four weeks, here’s how I rate the interns and their chance of
landing a steady job with Comikaze:

1. Dani
2. Paul
3. Sal
4. Andrew
5. Kristin
6. Molly
7. Mike

Look for my comments on week five sometimes next week.


In other things that have crossed my mind of late...

Doc Savage has been one of my favorite heroes since those long-ago
days when I would travel into downtown Cleveland to buy well-read
used copies of the Bantam paperbacks from the formidable Mrs. Kay
of the legendary Kay’s Books.  She could be a terror if you got on
her bad side, which is why I stopped going to her store with some
friends of mine who would never see any other side of her.  I would
go by myself and, for some reason, Mrs. Kay liked me.  Knowing that
I was a Doc Savage fan, she would put aside any Doc books for me to
see before she put them on sale.  More than once, she even gave me
a break on the price.  I was as beloved then and I am now.

I hated DC’s most recent Doc Savage comics.  They were written by
a writer who has proven to have no concept of or connection with
actual heroic fiction.  Even when he was replaced, the improvement
was minuscule.  As with so many other great characters, DC Comics
dishonored the Man of Bronze.

That said...I am very much looking forward to Dynamite’s new Doc
Savage series by writer Chris Roberson.  While it probably won’t be
Doc exactly as he appeared in the best of the old pulp novels, I’m
hoping it will be far more entertaining than the DC dreck and more
respectful of Doc’s legacy.  I’m not always such a font of optimism
when it comes to revivals of treasured characters, but I’m getting
a good feel about this revival.

I’m just a Doc-eyed optimist.


Within an hour of President Obama signing the bills to fully reopen
the government and raise the debt ceiling, I received an annoying
Republican robo-call asking me to answer some survey questions.  I
only listened to the first one and I wish I had written it down on
account of, however I would have answered it, the survey was rigged
to make it seem like I was against the Affordable Care Act and my
president.  So, naturally, I didn’t answer it.

The popular position is that the Republicans didn’t gain anything
from their shutdown of our government.  I don’t see it that way at
all.  They gained extra time to air lying commercials disparaging
Obama and the ACA.  They gained extra time to plan the next fiscal
crisis fight. They still haven’t accepted that they lost the last
presidential election and lost seats in Congress.  They still don’t
understand that, when you removing the disingenuous false rhetoric
from the conversation, the ACA is a damn good thing for Americans.
I’ll be amazed if the insane House Republicans don’t hold another
vote to abolish the ACA and/or impeach our President.

I believe the single biggest threats to American democracy are the
Republican attempts to disenfranchise voters and their redrawing of
congressional districts to give them greater representation in a
House of Representatives they have already paralyzed with all
their nonsense.  I think Republicans who engage in these behaviors
are criminals and traitors. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 18, 2013


This is the second of three bloggy things discussing Fangasm, the
Syfy Channel show in which seven fans are interning at Stan Lee’s
Comikaze with the hope of winning an ongoing job with the company.
If you’ve been wondering why I’m writing about every episode of the
series - as I did with Heroes of Cosplay - it’s because I find the
show fascinating.  Though Fangasm is of my “comics world,” it’s far
removed from the “comics world” of my youth.

I don’t know any of the Fangasm interns.  My comments are based on
what’s been included in the show and, like all reality shows, it’s
a safe bet that we only see the characters as the producers of the
show want us to see them.  I suspect I’d like these young people if
I met them.  I’m not as sure they’d be thrilled with Grumpy Old Man
Isabella, but it is what it is.  I present my views as honestly as
possible.  I do my work with clean hands and heart.

The Fangasm “character” I do know is Stan Lee.  I worked with him
at Marvel Comics while I was on staff there and we exchange e-mails
a few times a year.  I love the guy and I loved working with him.
Is there an age limit on Comikaze interns?

“Take Me to Your Lee-Der” aired on October 8.  It gets my vote for
best episode of the show so far because the main story features the
interns pitching super-hero concepts to Stan.  Having created a few
super-heroes myself, it’s a process I understand and it gave me a
chance to look at the interns from a somewhat shared perspective.
How did they do?

Molly’s “Supervillain Is The New Black” concept was one of three
pitches I thought had potential. An admitted fan of villainy, Molly
apparently had already been working on a comic book about two young
villains.  Though she exaggerated Stan’s positive reaction to the
concept, her series was one I would check out if it were published.

Dani’s “Cicada” was a young scientist with physical handicaps who
survives an attack from a villain and, because of her work, gains
super-powers.  But she only has these powers for a 17-day cycle and
then reverts back to her normal self for 17 days.  The cycles would
make for interesting story challenges while the heroine would fit
comfortably into the “super-hero with human problems” bit that has
served Marvel so well since the 1960s.

With his presentation, Mike finally showed me something other than
his tedious “I’m a player” routine.  His character was a teen mom
with super-powers.  While nothing else in his presentation clicked
with me, the “teen mom” concept is something worth exploring in an
ongoing series.

Kristin’s magical girl character left me on the fence.  It might’ve
been worth consideration, but the pitch scene focused mostly on
how nervous Kristin was meeting Stan Lee.

Paul’s character had a solid visual, but the concept and back story
struck me as complicated and convoluted.

Andrew and Sal’s characters came up woefully short.  I didn’t find
anything interesting in either of them.

Getting back to Stan Lee...

I got a kick out of the interns being so awe of my former boss.  I
remembered how excited I was to meet and work with him during those
early years of my comics career.  I pretty much kept my cool in his
presence, but, if a camera had been filming me outside the office,
the result would have been similar to what the interns expressed in
this episode.

Moving on to the secondary stories...

Andrew showed something very special in this episode.  In addition
to his regular job and his internship, he’s a stand-up comedian and
he’s got chops.  I wished the episode had included all of his set
because I enjoyed what I saw. 

Digression.  Hey, Syfy, how about a “Comedians of Fandom” special
featuring Andrew and other comedians doing sets about comic books,
sci-fi, fantasy, horror, cosplay, gaming, and other fan delights?
I’d watch that. End digression.

Sal takes Dani out for gelato, which is a safe “first date.”  He’s
more into her than vice versa, but they seem to enjoy hanging out
with each other.  Sal sees sparks where I don’t, but I understand
dating is much different from the days of my youth when courting a
lady meant killing a sabertooth tiger and presenting her with the
carcass.  Good times.

After three weeks, here’s how I rate the interns and their chance
of landing a steady job with Comikaze:

1. Dani
2. Paul
3. Molly
4. Kristin
5. Andrew
6. Mike
7. Sal

These ratings will change after I discuss the fourth episode of the
series, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to see those changes.


In other items...

Whenever there’s a Cleveland area comics convention, I get a bunch
of e-mails asking me if I’ll be there.  The answer is almost always
going to be “No, they didn’t invite me.” 

Not being invited to these conventions isn’t a concern for me.  It
puzzles me because my proximity to the events makes me a relatively
inexpensive guest and because I’m well received by the conventions
that do invite me.  But it doesn’t concern me. 

I only attend a handful of conventions a year.  That isn’t going to
change in the immediate future.  However, when a convention invites
me...and if I’m interested in attending...and if my schedule allows
me to attend...I let the promoter know what I need to be a guest at
the convention.  If he can accommodate my needs, I’m in.

My “needs” are fairly basic.  Travel expenses. Hotel expenses.  A
table for selling and signing comics and books.  These expenses can
add up, so I don’t take offense if a promoter can’t manage them on
his budget. I understand budgets.

If you’re a promoter and would like me to be a guest at your event,
just e-mail me.  That’s all it takes to get started.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella