Wednesday, August 6, 2014


The Gazette is published Monday through Saturday in my home town of Medina, Ohio. Every ten years or so, the newspaper “discovers” the city is home to a - gasp - comic-book writer and decides it should run an article about me.

These discoveries often follow on the heels of my getting involved in some godless activity like routing the local Christian Coalition when they tried to mess with our library or infringing on the right of paranoid narcissists to carry assault rifles into establishments patronized by sane people.

When The Gazette or one of its freelance writers asks if they can interview the comic-book writer, I almost always agree. I can’t let my ever-so-much-more-famous-than-me friend and neighbor Tom Batiuk get all the ink. The only time I refused was when the request came from a freelancer who was, to be blunt, an asshole. That guy might be worth an entire bloggy thing all to himself, but I may save him for one of the novels on my bucket list of things to write before I kick the bucket.

This time, the Gazette freelancer was Nifty Nancy Johnson.  She’s incredibly friendly and considers herself the “feel-good” writer. I’m happy to report that spending an hour or two talking to me did not change her sunny outlook on life.

Nancy called me a couple days after interviewing me to read me the rough draft of her article and check facts with me. I am not used to such diligence. In the past, I have considered it a victory when reporters get most of the names I’ve carefully spelled out for them correct. Nancy got everything right.

Nancy also interviewed Tom Batiuk. The idea was the articles would run together, but she didn’t know when. I found out when they would run on the morning of Monday, July 21, when I walked to the mailbox to get my morning newspapers and saw my own chubby self - and that Batiuk guy - on the front page of The Gazette.

Did I say front page just then? That’s an understatement. Tom and I took up just over two-thirds of the front page with our articles continuing on an inside page.

The headline screamed:

Comic book men drawn in different directions

“Tony Isabella and Tom Batiuk have a lot in common. As children, they both remember a family member reading the comics to them. As teenagers, they both had a fascination with comic books and spent long hours creating characters and writing comic book storylines. They both published comic strips, magazines and books. These are the stories of two Medina County residents who followed the same passion down two very different paths to national success.”

Wow. I hadn’t even gotten to the actual articles and I was already impressed. That sounds like the introduction to a movie or maybe aclassy cable drama. I’d probably be played by Danny DeVito.

Johnson’s article might just be the best article ever written about me. Her piece on Batiuk was just as good. But my pleasant surprises in that day’s paper weren’t over.

The interior page continuations of the articles included a big fat sidebar about my July 25-26 garage sale. Taken from one of my blogs about the event, the sidebar would draw many local residents to the sale. My reaction was...I’m gonna need a bigger boat.

There’s more.

In his Funky Winkerbean strip, Batiuk had been running an extended storyline in which mom Holly Winkerbean is trying to complete her son Cory’s collection of Starbuck Jones comics while Cory’s serving in Afghanistan. She was down to the rare remaining issue he needed, but she wasn’t able to find that issue despite going to San Diego’s Comic-Con International with comic-shop owner John Howard, another regular in the strip. Holly probably used up all her remaining luck just getting a ticket to Comic-Con.

Back in Westview - Tom’s fictional version of Medina - John tells Holly that there’s one more place she can look for the elusive last Starbuck Jones issue she needs:

“My friend Tony’s garage con.”

That first of six “garage con” strips ran on the same day as those articles about Tom and myself. The strips continued throughout the week. John described my garage sale to Holly. He salted my quarter comic boxes with the Starbuck Jones issue Holly had been trying to find and enlisted my thespian skills to make it seem that Holly had lucked out big time. My garage sale was depicted accurately, but I look like DeVito as the Penguin in Batman Returns.

That week’s worth of strips running the same week as my July 25-26 garage sale was a wild coincidence. Batiuk is way ahead of schedule on Funky Winkerbean. He doesn’t like anyone to know exactly how far ahead of publication he at any given time, but I think he probably wrote this sequence while George W. Bush was still the president. Which would have been years before I decided to have a garage sale on the weekend of July 25 and 26. That Nostradamus fellow ain’t got nothing on my pal Tom.

I posted a short version report on the real-life Driveway Con 2014 on July 28.  You’ll get the full story tomorrow.  

© 2014 Tony Isabella


  1. How much would it cost for your fans to buy the original art for those strips, then give them to you?


  2. // Wow. I hadn’t even gotten to the actual articles and I was already impressed. //

    Same here. I'm glad you — and Tom, and the world of comics by extension — were done justice. Nice photo, by the way; you're lookin' good.

    I've been enjoying Holly's hunt in Funky. The appearance by you was a fun little surprise.