Thursday, April 30, 2015



This Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, the comics industry holiday during which great comics shops across the country celebrate comic books and those who read them.

On Free Comic Book Day this year, I’ll be joining Curt Griffin and his staff at Curt’s Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be appearing from 11 am to 4 pm.

Heroic Adventures will be giving out free comic books prepared by a host of comics publishers. These comic books aren’t free to the stores that give them out.  As a former comics retailer myself, I ask that you also take some time to check out the comic books and related items Heroic Adventures and other stores have for sale. Spending a few dollars at these generous shops is a terrific way to thank retailers for keeping comics so easily and readily available. I know the stores will appreciate your business.

What will I be doing at Heroic Adventures?

First and foremost, I will be signing Isabella-written comics and books free of charge. I’ll sign as many items as you like. Always free of charge.

I’ll be happy to answer your questions about my comics career and comics in general. If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll do my best to make up an entertaining lie. Making up stuff is what comics writers do for a living.

Time permitting, like if I’m not busy signing comics and answering questions, I’ll be happy to look at your art portfolio and tell you what I think of your work. Sorry, writers, but, for legal reasons that are obvious if you think about this for a minute, I will not read your plots, proposals or scripts...or even listen to whatever ideas you have. The last thing in the world you or I would want is for me to inadvertently steal one of your ideas because, months or years later, I don’t remember that it came from you.

I’ll be happy to post for pictures with you, especially if you’re cosplaying. All I ask is that you send me the photo via e-mail with permission to use it in a future bloggy thing.

I think that covers everything you need to know about my appearance at Heroic Adventures. I’m exciting to be part of that fine store’s Free Comic Book Day. See you then and there!

I’ll be back soon with updates on Isabella projects and the usual mix of news, views and reviews.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I review Garth Ennis' War Stories, Zander Cannon's Kaijumax and the first two issues of The Creeps!


I need to take a few days off from blogging to attend to some personal stuff. There is no cause for alarm. I just need to organize what promises to be am extremely busy summer for me. I should be back here on Friday.

Monday, April 27, 2015


I can see myself it's a golden sunrise
Young boy open up your eyes
It's supposed to be your day
Now off you go horizon bound
And you won't stop until you've found
Your own kind of way
And the wind will whip your tousled hair
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair
Great tales of love and strife
And somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life

From “Story of a Life” by Harry Chapin


I’m writing a book.

That’s the “next big project” I have been hinting at. It’s a book that will seem obvious to many and will worry others. I surprised myself by agreeing to write it.

I’m writing a book about my life. I’m trying very hard not to call it an autobiography. Because that would be crazy. Then again, crazy and surprise go hand in hand when I talk about this book.

I have a healthy notion of my place in the world and in the comics industry. I’m a good writer who does good work and some great work. I’m a much better writer than many of those who make decisions in the comics industry realize. I’m enormously pleased by and grateful to the fans and pros who agree with my self-assessment.

I always give all I can to everything I do.  I come from the clean hands and honest heart school of writing. Like any other writer, I have had my good days and my bad days. But I never tried to take the easy way out and always tried to tell my stories as truthfully as I could. I have had editors who literally thought my taking this approach was insane. You might read about some of those editors in this book.

I have few illusions about my place in the comics industry. I have never considered myself any kind of “superstar” of any magnitude. I get confused and even embarrassed when someone refers to me as a  “legend.” However, now that I’m 63 years old, I would ask that, if  someone must call me a “legend,” they add the word “living” to the compliment. There are days when I need the reassurance. When I die, as we all do, I would prefer to be thought of as an “angry avenging spirit.”

Given my modest standing in the comics industry, one of the crazy and surprising things about my life is how often I’ve been asked to write my autobiography by publishers who are apparently looking for something to offset their profits on their other books. Until now, I have declined all such offers.

Writing a true autobiography would require total honesty.  Because that’s how I roll. When I’ve thought about it, I realized that kind of honesty could hurt many people, including people who, no matter what wrongs they might have done me in the past, I have no desire to hurt in the here and now. I’m not sure I can articulate what has changed for me beyond saying I believe I can write something that’s not an autobiography but which could serve much the same purpose of an autobiography.

What has also changed is this: I was found by the right publisher for the not-actually-an-autobiography I want to write. He asked for an autobiography but was comfortable with something that wasn’t an autobiography. His wasn’t the best offer I have received, but it is  an offer with which I feel very comfortable.

I insisted on sending him a “pitch” for the book I wanted to write. I’m going to share a portion of that pitch with you.

Tony Isabella learned to read from comic books at the tender age of four. He’s been reading them for sixty years in an ongoing romance that has led him to a long career in comics and a lifetime full of amazing memories. In this new book, the author of the best-selling, award-deserving 1000 Comic Books You Must Read gets more personal. In breezy chapters, he offers a love letter to the medium that has shaped his world. There are chapters on great or just plain weird comic books. There are tales of meeting the creators who inspired him. There are adventures from his years as a comics fan, creator, retailer and commentator. There are secrets behind the comics. All in a book that stresses the fun of comics over the often depressing aspects of that world.

This will not be an autobiography per se, but it will be the story  of my life. None of the chapters will be particularly long. I want this to be a book that can be read a few chapters at a time. Ideal for taking one’s mind off that uncomfortable airplane seat...for riding the train to or from work...for relaxing in your hotel room after a long day of business or vacation...for when you know you’re gonna be in the bathroom for a while.

I will write about how I learned to read from comic books...buying comic books before there were comic-book shops...wanting to grow up to be Batman...making comics pals in those days before fans were Patsy Walker met Nikita Khrushchev...writing for comics fanzines...going to comics conventions...landing a job at Marvel mercifully brief career as a DC staffer...creating Black Lightning...running a comics shop in downtown Cleveland...and much more.


The contract for the book hasn’t been finalized yet, but it will be finalized soon. I will have a fairly tight deadline on this book, which doesn’t concern me in the least. It’s a book I want to write and which I must write. When my work on the book is completed, I’ll announce the title and publisher.

This is where my friends and readers come in.

I plan to start writing this book next week while also fulfilling all of my other obligations. Between now and then, I would ask that you let me know what subjects you would like to see included in the new book.

If you are a long-time reader of my columns, you already know many of my best anecdotes. Tell me which are your favorites. I’ll spruce them up for this book.

If there are things from my career and life that I’ve never written about, make suggestions. I can’t get everything into just one book, but, hey, that’s what sequels are for.

You can send me your suggestions via email or through the comments section of this bloggy thing of mine or through my Facebook page. Just send them sooner rather than later.

If you’re someone from my life who’s worried about being included in this not-an-autobiography, you’ll be glad to know I am preparing a price list of what it’ll cost you not to be included in my book.

Just kidding. Or am I?

I’ll have more on the book and other Isabella stuff in the coming weeks and months. Keep reading the bloggy thing and all will be revealed.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the last of my four reviews of the GNs in that box...

Unity: To Kill a King by Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite [Valiant; $14.99] collects the first four issues of Unity from 2013 and 2014. Valiant has a growing super-hero universe and it’s not always easy for an occasional reader like myself to follow all the details in their stories. However, their editors and writers do a decent job bringing such readers into the loop through “what has gone before” bits on the inside front covers and in the stories themselves.

Digression. Do not take my “occasional status” description as any kind of a knock on Valiant’s comic books. I can’t always read comic books and graphic novels as quickly as I would like and it’s not at all unusual for me to be relatively current on one title and years behind on another from the same publisher. End digression.

The situation is that Aric, a fifth century Visigoth, has returned to Earth after being kidnapped by aliens centuries ago. He is the master and wearer of the X-O Manowar armor, which makes him one of the most powerful men on our planet. He has decided that he and his people should have their old lands back, lands which we currently know as Romania. This makes everyone else on Earth really nervous, especially the neighboring Russians. Said Russians are prepared to nuke Aric. Toyo Harada of Harbinger - not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination - has put together a team of heroes to stop Aric and the dropping of the bomb.

Kindt writes an exciting story. He does a good job introducing his cast. The reader doesn’t learn everything about them, but does get enough information to follow the story. There are scenes of violent action that don’t overwhelm the story. There are surprises deriving from this character or that learning some they didn’t know before. I very much like that these characters are able to adjust to these changing circumstances without becoming drama queens over choices they must make. It’s a solid thriller from start to finish.

Braithwaite is a first-rate artist. I don’t think I have ever seen less than a terrific job from him. He tells the story visually, he draws well, he can portray emotion. As far as I’m concerned, those are the artist’s three most important talents. Colorist Brian Reber adds to the art; his hues complement and never overwhelm the story. Dave Sharpe’s lettering is always easy to read and that is what the reader needs from lettering.

Unity: To Kill a King is good super-hero entertainment. If you like super-hero universes but feel lost in the vastness of the ones from DC and Marvel, Valiant could be a good choice for you.

ISBN 9781939346261

Look for more Comic Bento reviews when I receive my next box from them. You can also keep an eye out for forthcoming bloggy things in which I discuss boxes I’ve ordered from other companies.


I started watching Constantine this month. The series features the DC Comics character and aired on NBC. Though I had recorded all the episodes of the show, it took a while to convince myself to watch them. It wasn’t the show’s fault. It was DC’s fault.

Way back when, Hellblazer - the long-running Vertigo imprint title - had a story in which a love-struck John Constantine used magic to get a woman to fall in love with him. It being a “mature readers” comic and all that meant the two of them had doubtless magical sex. Does this sound familiar to readers of the current Batwoman comics? It should.

Constantine raped the woman he loved. Dress it up anyway you like, but it was still rape. Now Constantine had never been the purest of protagonists. Far from it. He was a right bastard on any number of occasions. However, when he became a rapist - not to save the world from any awful fate but purely for his own pleasure - Constantine  became a character I no longer wanted to read about. I didn’t read another comic book featuring him until DC launched its crappy “New 52" titles and, even then, I didn’t read many of them.

What got me to start watching Constantine was the arrival of Mark Verheiden as an executive producer and writer. Mark is a friend of mine, but, more germane to this review, he’s a writer whose work I have enjoyed for years. That got me to watch the series.

I have now watched seven of the first season’s thirteen episodes. Here’s some quick thoughts on the show with the usual warning that there be


Constantine is a “demon of the week” show with two ongoing plots. One is some “rising darkness” that alarms even John’s kind of sort of guardian angel. The other is the real identity of Zed, a psychic woman who joined the series in its second episode.

So far, the “rising darkness” thing serves to complicate stories by making things not work as they used to. It wasn’t until the latest episode I watched - “Blessed Are the Damned” - that the uttering of the phrase didn’t make my eyes roll. That episode is also the best of the episodes I’ve watched and indicates we might learn what’s up with Zed very soon.

Matt Ryan plays Constantine. The character's accent was difficult to decipher at first, but Ryan’s toned it down considerably and it’s much better now. None of the acting from any of the ongoing characters or the guest stars has knocked me out, but none of it has been less than decent. If I had to pick the best performance to date, it would be  Jonjo O'Neill’s turn Gary Lester, a survivor of a pivotal screw-up in John’s life.

While “demon of the week” doesn’t allow as much variety as “monster of the week,” Constantine has come up with some interesting change-ups on the concept. In one episode, the “demon” was the soul of a still-living human driven from its human body by the horror of the human’s crimes. In “Blessed Are the Damned,” the big bad turned out to be a duplicitous and murderous fallen angel. I like such variety and hope we see more of it.

Overall, I’d rate Constantine as good enough to continue watching. I’ll be watching the remaining episodes of the first season over the next few weeks.

A second season of the show is far from guaranteed, but, as of this writing, it hasn’t been cancelled. If the series survives for that second season, I’ll keep watching.


This is the part of today’s bloggy thing where I remind you that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. I’m looking forward to the event. You can get more details here.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with the announcement of my next major project. I think you’ll like it.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the third of my four reviews of the GNs in that box...

Hit List by Ralph Tedesco and Sami Kivela [Zenescope; $15.99] is a sexier-than-the-norm “B” action movie in comic-book form. The back cover synopsis tells you almost everything you need to know about the graphic novel:

As a young boy, Jordan Bale’s life was drastically affected by unthinkable violence few people can relate to. Driven by that anger, Bale grew to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in the country.

Now, a group of hired killers will be brought together to carry out Bale’s intricate plan for vengeance thirty years in the making and it’s a plan that could very easily spiral out of control.

Tedesco’s story and writing are good and flow well, but they aren’t in any way special. Bale’s hired killers have the moral high ground by “virtue” of their targets being completely despicable. Kivela’s drawing and storytelling are good as is the Brian Valenza coloring. The covers and variant covers emphasize the sexy women characters. But that’s sort of Zenescope’s stock in trade, so it didn’t come as a surprise.

Hit List is a perfectly readable graphic novel. I do realize that’s damning it with faint praise. Still, in a marketplace with many above-average comic and graphic novels and too many unreadable comics and graphic novels, faint praise is better than none at all.

ISBN 978-1-939683-48-9


Other things that have crossed my mind of late...

The 2015 Eisner Awards nominations have been announced. Every year, I look at the list and wish I had the time to take a week or three off and read all the nominated works. That might happen some year in the hopefully near future, but it won’t be this year. When you read Monday’s bloggy thing with its attendant announcement of the next major Tony Isabella project, you’ll understand why reading all the Eisner-nominated works is off the 2015 table.

I’m pleased by the recognition given Ms. Marvel and its creators in this year’s nominations and, generally, by the terrific variety of the nominated works. Just looking at the comics and books on this list that I have read, voters are going to have a lot of very hard decisions to make. Which is, or course, wonderful for the art form and industry I love so much.

Good on you, comicdom.


Spencer Beck is the president of The Artists’ Choice and has been an original art sales representative for three decades. He’s a good guy, which is one of the reasons his client list is among the most impressive in the field.

Earlier this week, Beck announced his company had been hired by a group of collectors to buy high-quality comics art from the 1960s through the 1990s. His company was given a budget of $1 million to purchase this art.

The announcement was greeted by the now-familiar cries of how true fans were being priced out of the original art market and that this was horrible news for comicdom. Which is, if you’ll excuse my crude language, poppy-cock.

Beck made this public because making it public is how you get key pieces that haven’t been on the market to maybe come on the market for the first time in years and decades. He’s doing right by those new clients of his and by the potential sellers who might consider that now is a good time to let someone else enjoy the original art they’ve been enjoying.

The whole “true fan” thing has always bothered me. How much money someone has to spend on comics or related items isn’t a determining factor as to whether or not their love for comics is “true.” It’s the love that matters. You can spend a million dollars on comics or only read comics you can borrow from your public library. It’s the love that matters.

As far as pricing comics fans out of the original art market, that ship left port a good while back. Key pieces are already commanding prices of tens of thousands of dollars. In a good year, I have the means to commission a small nice piece or two. A nice Jack Kirby page has been out of my reach for more than a decade. Heck, I can’t afford to buy splash pages from stories I wrote. It’s way of things and I don’t fret about it.

The most sought-after pages are already selling for five figures. Some are selling for over $100,000. Taking that into consideration, even with a million dollars to spend, Beck’s company might only end up purchasing ten pages. That’s a minuscule fraction of the comics art market. Unclench already.

Beck’s announcement might not be thrilling news for many and maybe most collectors. It’s good news for other collectors because it may increase the value of pages they want to sell and make pages they have long desired available to them.

If fan rage were energy, it would be the perpetual motion machine of our dreams. Let’s save it for things that really matter and not for something as arguably trivial as this.

I extend my best wishes to Beck and his clients. I hope they find some great art for his efforts and their money.


We end today’s bloggy thing with the reminder that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. You can get more details here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the last of my Comic Bento reviews and more. See you then.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 24, 2015


Just released from Marvel Comics is Marvel Masterworks The Avengers Volume 15 by Steve Englehart, George Perez & George Tuska with Tony Isabella & Don Heck [$75]. This hardcover collection reprints The Avengers #136-149, which includes the two-issue story written by yours truly and Heck. Here's a blurb from Amazon:

Earth's Mightiest Heroes have put out a call for new members and into their ranks come the Beast, Hellcat and Moondragon. With the return of Captain America, Yellowjacket and the Wasp it makes for one of the greatest Avengers teams of all time! And they're going to need every last one of them to overcome the challenges ahead. The cosmic Stranger attacks and in the battle the Wasp is critically injured and the Avengers must save one of their own while struggling to save themselves. Then comes one of the greatest Avengers sagas of all ti me! In a time-travelling adventure they'll team with the Marvel heroes of the old West in a fight to overcome Kang and the Squadron Sinister! 

As I've noted in the past, Marvel actually sends me a check when the company reprints my stories. So, if you buy this book, you're putting a few bucks in the pockets of guys like me and Englehart and the other creators.
ISBN 978-0-7851-9196-4

This has been a Bloggy Thing bonus post.


MAD #533 [June 2015; $5.99] boasts something no other issue of this legendary humor magazine has ever had: “Weird Al” Yankovic as its guest editor. What a wondrously mad notion!

“Weird Al” has been a favorite of mine since I first heard one of his song parodies - 1983's “Ricky” - and it’s a love I have shared with my family. Buying each new Yankovic CD is a given around Casa Isabella. The only question being how quickly can I buy them and the answer to that one is almost always the day each CD is released to the public.

Wikipedia lists Yankovic as a “singer, songwriter, parodist, record producer, satirist, actor, music video director, film producer and author”...and you really should read his Wikipedia entry to get a sense of what an accomplished individual he is. With this issue of MAD, “Weird Al” adds guest editor to his resume.

From this issue’s cover to inside back cover, Yankovic’s presence can be seen and enjoyed. He wrote its introductory page, answered  letters from readers, picked a classic reprint for “The MAD Vault” feature and wrote the amusing “Pages from Weird Al’s Notebook.” He is the subject of Al Jaffee’s special “Weird Al” edition of “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” and artist Tom Bunk’s double-paged visit to a “Weird Al” concert.

Taking a nod from MAD’s popular and always entertaining “Fundalini Pages,” Yankovic recruited several of his famous friends to write bits for “The Weird Al-ini Pages.” The impressive line-up: Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, Chris Hardwick, Kristen Schaal, Rich Blomquist,  Emo Phillips, Thomas Lennon and John Hodgman.

The “Weird Al” material would be enough for me to give this issue my recommendation, but there’s much more. John Caldwell does a fun send-up of Peter Kuper continues “Spy Vs. Spy” in the proud tradition of Antonio Prohías, the feature’s original creator.  Sergio Aragones takes a look at California. Tim Carvell delivers  a mock-up of a young man’s website in his latest ““Planet Tad!!!!!” spread. “The Strip Club” has comic strips from a selection of cool cartoonists.

Most impressively, writer David Shayne and artist Tom Richmond do a different, surprisingly thoughtful and yet still funny parody of American Sniper. As part of the parody, “Michael Moore” and “Sarah Palin” discuss the movie. It’s a daring take on this MAD tradition and it works very well.
MAD has really upped its game in recent years. The magazine took a nosedive with the 1985 departure of legendary editor Al Feldstein, but it’s back as good as ever. I’ve been a subscriber for several years now and its bimonthly arrival is always a treat. If you have not sampled MAD of late, you should. I think you’ll find it worth your “cheap” six bucks.


Once again, I want to remind you that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. You can get more details here.


Here’s a SyFy channel programming note.

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda [2015] will debut tomorrow, April 25, at 9 pm. It’s a made-for-television crossover between the Lake Placid and Anaconda movie series. Surprisingly, SyFy has done pretty much nothing to promote this movie. It doesn’t really even have a proper trailer. Just a real short promo clip.

What little I know about the movie comes from Wikipedia and IMDb. The former offers this synopsis:

Killer crocodiles and giant anacondas clash in this thriller about corporate greed and science gone wrong.

Heck, that could be a movie about our political system.

The cast includes SyFy veterans Yancy Butler (likely reprising her role in two previous Lake Placid movies), Robert Englund and Corin Nemec. IMDb includes Nicki Minaj in its cast listing. That could mean the young singer is joining the ranks of music stars who have met their unpleasant demises in SyFy movies at the hands of giant creatures of one kind or another.

Watch for my review in an upcoming bloggy thing.


This is a shorter-than-planned bloggy thing, following a few days of unexpected distractions. But I’ll be back tomorrow with a lot more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the second of the four reviews I’ll be writing of the graphic novels in that box...

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart [Oni; $19.99] was published in May, 2012. It was to be the first of a series of spy  thrillers, but, so far, Johnston has not released a second graphic novel in that genre.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is the backdrop for this graphic novel. Lorraine Broughton, a veteran British intelligence agent, is sent to the city on short notice and with little preparation to recover a list naming every spy in Berlin. The claustrophobic and paranoia-inducing setting and tone of the book makes it an interesting and sometimes unnerving read.

The spy play in this book comes in multiple shades of grey. There is the verbal fencing between agents of different and sometimes the same countries. There are dangerous missions carried out under the very noses of the Russians. There are violent confrontations as it becomes clear a secret assassins group is at work. Broughton never knows who she can trust and who is what they claim to be. For the reader, that’s true for every single character in the book.

Johnston’s writing is excellent and he wrings great suspense from both the action sequences and the debriefing sequences between his protagonist and her superiors. However, an unnecessary affectation - having some characters speak in their native language without any English translating - is annoying in the extreme. That was one of those darlings that the writer should have killed...with extreme prejudice.

Hart’s art is less successful. It was so minimal at times I wasn’t sure who characters were or what they were doing. When a comic is  in black-and-white, the artist needs to add sufficient detail and shading to make the storytelling clear.

Overall, I liked The Coldest City and would gladly read another spy thriller from Johnston.

ISBN 978-1-934964-53-8


Things are getting crazy busy - mostly in good ways - here at Casa Isabella. I’ll likely go into far more detail early next week when I announce my next major project. In the meantime, I’ll be writing odds and ends bloggy things like this one.

First and foremost, I want to remind you that, on Free Comic Book Day, I’ll be at Heroic Adventures Comics & Pop Culture Store, 126 Gnau Ave SW, Unit A in Massillon, Ohio. I’ll be there from 11 am to 4 pm. You can get more details here.

On another front...

Much to my dismay, I’ve not yet heard from any LGBT advocacy group that wants to share my Indy Pop Con table and provide information about fighting discrimination in Indiana. You can read what I have had to say about this here, here and here.

My back-up plan is asking any such group to provide informational materials I can distribute from my table. As always, any interested parties should email me sooner rather than later.


The Beat and other news sites are reporting that Valiant and Sony have signed an agreement for five Bloodshot and Harbinger movies. My reading of the new Valiant comics isn’t as complete as I would like - I’m working on it - but I love the idea of an entertainment company going beyond DC and Marvel for super-hero content. This is good for Valiant and good for comics in general.

That said, I hope the comics creators who worked on Bloodshot and Harbinger will be compensated and credited for their contributions to the films. There’s no good excuse for comics publishers and the movie makers they partner with to shut comics creators out of the profit pie or to give them screen credit for their contributions. It’s just the right thing to do.


I have watched three more episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil TV series: “Cut Man,” “Rabbit in a Snow Storm” and “In the Blood.” I’m still liking this show a lot.

Vincent D'Onofrio is downright chilling as Wilson Fisk. He looks as dangerous as any comics version of the Kingpin and has the acting chops to convey the brutality and intelligence of the character. But, is it just me, or does this Kingpin remind you of a taller and beefier Brian Michael Bendis? Just to play it safe, I’m going to be really nice to Bendis the next time I see him.

One more Daredevil note. As the guy who first drew and presumably designed the Owl, Joe Orlando’s name is appearing on the creators credit card whenever Leland Owlsley appears in an episode. It may just my imagination, but that creators credits card seems to be on the screen a little longer than in the first episode.


The Internet is buzzing with the revelation that Bobby Drake a.k.a. Marvel’s Iceman is gay. I’m not sure what this means since what I think is the current Marvel Universe has two Iceman. One is Bobby Drake as an adult and the other is Bobby Drake as his teenage self. Judging from the pages I’ve seen online, teen Bobby is definitely gay and adult Bobby is straight, gay or bisexual. I haven’t given this a lot of thought, mostly because I can’t keep all the X-Men titles...err...straight.

I don’t know how I feel about the specific-to-Icemen developments. Before I can form an opinion, I’ll have to read the issues whenever my friend who loans me his comic books loans them to me. But I do have some general thoughts.

Some readers don’t like it when a character who has been portrayed as straight is suddenly gay. Except that, sans the “suddenly,” this does happen in the real world. If it can happen in the real world, then it can happen in the Marvel Universe.

What seems to be missing here is the process. I can’t imagine that it’s easy for a person to come to the realization that they aren’t the straight person they always believed themselves to be. I also imagine it would be just as difficult for a gay person to realize they might be bisexual or straight. We’re not seeing the events or feelings bringing these characters to the realization they are not as they believed themselves to be.

Super-hero comics aren’t known for their subtlety. Northstar outed himself as gay via blast-shaped word balloon in the middle of some battle. An important moment like that should not have made me laugh out loud, but that’s exactly what it did.

I think there’s greater drama and understanding to be had from the process through which characters arrive at such realizations about themselves. I think that would be more realistic. Because what is more real in our lives than human drama?

I might have more to say about this in the future. But, for now, I would love to hear your thoughts on all this.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 65th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #80 [October 1970] is a key issue, but not for any good reason. Although it has a new cover pencilled by Larry Lieber and possibly inked by Herb Trimpe, the issue reprints stories from issue #56 [February 1967]. From this point on, the title will often feature reprints, shorter-than-usual Lieber stories and fill-ins by other creators. More often than not, the back-up stories will come from various western comics of the late 1950s. The Rawhide Kid #115  [September 1973] will be the last issue to feature any new interior material. This issue is the beginning of the still somewhat distant end.

“Fall of a Hero” (17 pages) is written and pencilled by Lieber with inks by Vince Colletta. “Reno’s Revenge” - the back-up tale - is by Denny O’Neil with art by Al Ulmer. I wrote about these stories in my bloggy thing for May 8, 2013. Surprisingly, neither of the two stories was identified as a reprint.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” takes up less than half a page this issue. In very small type, it heralds Fantastic Four #103, drawn by John Romita and featuring Magneto and the Sub-Mariner and another 36 titles, 37 titles if you count the "just kidding" kidding listing of The Ladies Home Journal #1893.

Gil Kane gets a shout-out for Amazing Spider-Man #89. Herb Trimpe gets a shout-out for Silver Surfer #18, which, though drawn by Jack Kirby, is said to be “the one that paves the way for Herb Trimpe’s new version!”

Red Wolf makes his debut in Avengers #80. Neal Adams gets a shout-out for drawing Thor #180. Sub-Mariner #30 has a guest appearance by Captain Marvel. Spoof #1 is launched with parodies of Marooned, Dark Shadows and the Mod Squad.

Most titles are only mentioned by name and issue number. Fright #1 is on sale this month, one of several horror/monster titles on the list. There are also western titles, Millie the Model titles, two romance titles and Li’l Kids #2. Now free to publish as many comic books as it wanted, Marvel was again venturing into genres that had been successful for the company in the past. Most reprinted older, sometimes updated stories, but some had new material. Eventually, the super-heroes would dominate the company’s output even more than they had dominated it in recent years.

The rest of the page was a “Super Poster Offer” from Marvelmania, the ill-fated fan club which Marvel outsourced to a disreputable entrepreneur. You could get four posters for $1.50 plus half-a-buck postage. The posters were said to be a giant three foot high and in full-color. There was Spider-Man by Romita, Doctor Doom by Kirby, Hulk by Trimpe and Captain America by Steranko. Since I never saw these “in the flesh,” I’d be interested in hearing from any of my readers who did buy them.

There are fewer comics-related ads in this issue, but one of them is a full-page pitch for Monogram’s model kid of Peanuts character Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel. The ad is designed like a comics page and the kit includes a battery-powered propeller “you flip to start like a real plane.”

The issue’s smaller advertisers include back-issue sellers Howard Rogofsky, Grand Book Inc., Passaic Book Center, Comic Sales Co. and Richard Alf. There’s also an ad for Futura, which bills itself as a high-quality fanzines with lots of art and information on comic books of the past. One dollar would bring you a sample copy of the fanzine from publisher D.G. Cassidy.

Also noted...Art Directors Course offered to teach fans to learn  to draw comics at home from experts. A quarter would get you full information from the Manhasset, New York-based company. Did any of my bloggy thing readers ever answer this ad? If you did, I’d love to hear all about your experience with the course.

Today’s bloggy thing doesn’t change my resolve to write about every issue of Rawhide Kid from when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby relaunched the title with a new Rawhide Kid. When an issue features a reprint of a story or stories I’ve already written about, I will include a link to the appropriate bloggy thing. But I will also write about any new-to-the-title reprints and editorial stuff (letters pages, Marvel Bullpen pages and comics ads) found in those issues. Since Rawhide Kid ran until issue #151 [May 1979], we still have a lot of hard-riding ahead of us.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


This is important work to be done in Indiana, but I’ll need a great deal of help to get started on it. I need to connect with a LGBT advocacy group in that state. Before I get into any further detail on my plans, some background...

I’ll be a guest of Indy Pop Con, Friday through Sunday, June 26-28, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. If you read this bloggy thing of mine regularly, you know I cancelled my appearance at one point in response to the so-called “Religious Freedom” bill pass by Governor Mike Pence and his fellow Republican bigots. The bill would have protected discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers. It was a vile bill, written with the assistance of “religious” groups so virulent in their hatred of gays that one of them is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. I think they all should be listed, but that’s another bloggy thing for another day.

Pence got hammered for this bill. Businesses started threatening to pull out of Indiana. His popularity rating dropped 20 or so points overnight as he vowed this law would stand. Which it did until it didn’t. Which is when Pence and his GOP goons changed the bill just enough to pass muster with those not paying close attention.

The sad fact remains that Indians still allows LGBT discrimination in a variety of areas. Many other states also allow these kinds of discrimination. So, when I changed my mind about attending Indy Pop Con, it was because I thought I could do more good traveling to the state and supporting its LGBT community.

Here’s what I posted earlier this month...

Ultimately, I decided I could do some good if I did attend Indy Pop Con. I told the promoters that I wanted to share my table with some local LGBT group or progressive organization which would inform the fans of the issues and real freedoms at stake. I would ask fans who wanted me to sign their Isabella-written items to make a donation to the fight against discrimination.

Indy Pop Con was completely cool with what I wanted to do and was already working on something similar. It’s too early for me to talk about these in-the-works ideas, but they will satisfy my desire to make my Indy Pop Con appearance a positive force, however small, in these matters.

The further details I mentioned above...

This kind of activism isn’t completely new to me, but the last time I was remotely this hands on was when I joined the fight against the Medina, Ohio branch of the Christian Coalition when it tried to impose its values on our award-winning library. We won that one at the polls. But that happened close to two decades ago and I’m not as young and feisty as I was back then.

So, as I said up top, I want to share my table with an LGBT group that can provide information for those who want to end the kind of discrimination we see in Indiana and elsewhere.

I am not bringing anything to sell at Indy Pop Con. I’ll be there to sign your Isabella-written items and answer your questions and talk about this and that. I have never charged for signing and I’m not charging at this convention either. However, if you’re inclined to donate to the cause of ending discrimination against your fellow Americans, your donation will be accepted gratefully.

Indy Pop Con may have something else in the works that will tie in to what I’m doing. If it does, I will almost certainly be a part of their effort. But the above is what I hope to do at my guest table. To accomplish what I want to accomplish, I need some LGBT advocacy group to join me.

If your group is interested, email me with whatever credentials you think would be helpful to me and a link to your website. I’d like to have a partner in place as soon as possible.

I am not looking to be confrontational here. But my firm belief is that, constitutionally and morally, the United States of America in 2015 cannot allow the kind of discrimination we see in Indiana and elsewhere. Working to end that discrimination is important and I’m happy to lend whatever small celebrity I possess to that cause.

There’s important work to be done in Indiana and I need your help to do it. Please join me.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 
© 2015 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 20, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I write about the Black Hood, Creature Cops and Strange Sports Stories.


Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, Avengers Assemble, Beware the Batman, Constantine, Daredevil, Gotham, Hulk and His Agents of SMASH, iZombie, The Flash, Ultimate Spider-Man. I knew I watched a lot of TV shows based on comic books, but this is the first time I made a list of the shows I’ve been watching over the past couple of years. Okay, technically, I haven’t watched iZombie yet, but I have the first five episodes waiting for me on my DVR. I’ll be writing about all of them over the next several weeks.

Today, under a “spectacular” cover created for the bloggy thing by the sensational Shawn Williams, I’m going to look at four current or concluded series from DC Comics.


Oliver Queen is a self-centered prick in the earliest flashback to his misspent youth. He’s dating Laurel Lance, but sneaks her sister Sara onto his father’s yacht for sexy fun times. The yacht doesn’t survive, neither does Oliver’s father or Sara. Though, as it turns out, Sara did survive. Oliver is stuck on an island for five years, developing the skills that will serve him well when he returns to Starling City on a mission to save it. Though, as it turns out, he wasn’t on the island for the whole five years of his absence from his city and family.

Flashbacks play a major role in Arrow. I found them annoying in the first year of the show. Now I find them fascinating. The back story on this series is pretty cool.

The Arrow, as Oliver is known in his hooded vigilante identity, is a killer. I’ll argue self-defense the first time we see him kill in Starling City, but it’s a thin line he crosses. He is redeemed by Felicity Smoak and decides he must be better than a killer if he’s to save his city. He takes the “no killing” rule too far because there’s at least three villains he should have put away for keeps: Slade Wilson, Malcolm Merlyn and Ra's al Ghul. Especially Ra's al Ghul, who has become as tiresome in this series as he has become in the comics. By the way, that “tiresome” part can be applied to just about every one of  DC’s overused comic-book villains.

The best part of the show is the regular cast. Stephen Amell plays Oliver as a conflicted hero who sacrifices his personal happiness time and time again. David Ramsey is John Diggle, his ex-military second. Emily Bett Rickards is a wonder as Felicity, whose respect for Oliver turns into unrequited love. These three are the heart of the show.

I wasn’t impressed by Katie Cassidy as Laurel for the first couple seasons, but the actress has come into her own now that she’s had assumed her sister’s identity as the Black Canary. Paul Blackthorne has been very good as Detective (now Captain) Quintin Lance, but, of late, his character is caught in an unappealing storyline that has him going after Oliver and company like a mad dog. The writers may have dug Blackthorne into a hole they won’t be able to get him out of. John Barrowman is terrific as Malcolm Merlyn, but that is not sufficient reason to keep that played-out character around.

Brandon Routh did not impress as Clark Kent and the Man of Steel in the 2005 movie Superman Returns, but he’s become a bright spot in Arrow as Ray Palmer aka the Atom. Despite personal tragedy, he has become one of the most upbeat characters in the series and “upbeat” is something the show needs. I still think Felicity jumped into bed with him too quickly, but, hey, cheerful, handsome, rich, smart as all get the right circumstances, I might jump into bed with him. That being more than enough sexy talk for one review, I won’t discuss the brilliant Charlotte Ross as Felicity’s mother.

Arrow has been ramping up the dire situation - Ra’s wants Oliver to take his place as head of the League of Assassins - and seemingly making it impossible for the Arrow and friends to continue to live in Starling City, much less save it. With just four episodes left in this season, I’m well and truly hooked.

The writing and acting on Arrow are rock solid good. The villains, when not overused, are decent takes on the DC Comics originals. The cast and recurring characters need a bit of trimming, but I think that’s coming. Overall, if I were to rate Arrow, I would say that the show’s quiver is 90% full.


This animated series started circling the drain from the moment it made its debut. It was bounced around the schedule and, ultimately, its final episodes were burnt off in a late-night Cartoon Network marathon that received no promotion that I ever saw. I liked this series better than most, but that’s faint praise. My thoughts on it come down to these:

I stuck with the series through the end to note which episodes used Tobias Whale, a character I created during my initial run of Black Lightning. Honestly, Tobias was why I kept watching the series and I didn’t like how he was portrayed. To no one’s surprise, DC Comics has yet to pay me for the use of this character.

While I didn’t mind the show’s odd animation style - the handful of comments I saw indicated most fans hated it - I didn’t think it was ever particularly effective.

I kind of sort of liked Alfred and Katana in the series, though I thought giving Katana high heels in her costume was just about as stupid a visual as I could imagine. I loved the use of Metamorpho and Man-Bat in the series.

Batman was a prick in the series, but then most of the characters were less than their best selves. I thought the show did a terrific job with Barbara Gordon.

The villains? It was as if the show decided to use some of the very worst villains in the Batman archives. Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad were particularly annoying.

This isn’t a show I would ever watch again. The only valid reason I can think of for its existence is to pay me for its use of Tobias Whale. Since DC hasn’t paid me for that use, fuck them and the dead horse they rode in on.

My rating: If this were a cup, it would be 90% empty.


This is a brilliant show in so many ways. The writing is top-notch. The acting is often among the best on TV. The characters are either appealing or interesting and sometimes both. I like the show a lot, but, as its first season comes to its finale, I fear the series is more about blight and corruption than anything else. There is not only no hope in Crime Alley, there is no hope anywhere else in this series. In this, the show mimics the worse aspects of DC’s current comics while maintaining a higher quality than most of those comic books could ever aspire to.

Gotham strikes me as being almost solely about innocence lost. The parents of Bruce Wayne wanted better for the city and were murdered for it. Their wealth is largely in the hands of corrupt corporate executives who consider murdering their son as easily as they might discuss what to have for lunch.

Detective Jim Gordon wants to reform the police department, but is more than willing to bend the rules to accomplish whatever good he sees as priority at any given moment. His one success seems to be Harvey Bullock, who, complaining all the way, often does manage to protect and serve the people of Gotham.

Selina Kyle, the future Catwoman, is an engaging young thief. Up to the moment when she kills a man by pushing him out a window to his death. That he was a bad man does not minimize the callousness of her act. It was a sad moment for this viewer.

Ben McKenzie (Gordon), Donal Logue (Bullock) and, especially, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot are all deserving of awards for the work they do in this series. Conversely, Jada Pinkett Smith ("Fish" Mooney) has become an embarrassment, trapped in a sub-plot notable only for its “ick” factor.

The women of Gotham are a mixed bag. Camren Bicondova is terrific as Selina. So are Zabryna Guevara as Capt. Sarah Essen and Morena Baccarin As Dr. Leslie Thompkins. However, in the eye-rolling bad division, we have Erin Richards (Barbara Kean), Victoria Cartagena (Renee Montoya) and, sad to say, Carol Kane as Cobblepot’s mother.

The male cast members fare somewhat better. John Doman as Carmine Falcone, David Mazouz as the kinder, gentler, younger, not yet bat-shit insane Bruce Wayne, Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma are all doing decent work. However, Smith is getting a little hard to take. Truth be told, I’d really like to see the series depart from the comic books in regard to the Riddler. Nygma is a smart if strange man. I’d like to see him face a real choice between good and evil...and go with the good. Gotham needs more hope.

Gotham is a great show. It might be the best of the DC Comics shows to date. I give it nine-and-a-half out of ten batarangs.


This is my favorite of the DC Comics shows for two reasons. First, it really does have the feel of a comic book and a fairly fun one at that. Second, my darling daughter Kelly likes it and we watch it together. One of the perks of fatherhood.

While there are certainly grim moments in The Flash - Barry Allen is driven by the death of his mother and the subsequent conviction of his father for the crime...and Barry’s mentor is a stone killer from the future...and some of the other villains are damn lethal - it has plenty of fun moments as well.

Grant Gustin is wonderful as Barry Allen. Just as good are Jesse L. Martin (Det. Joe West), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon) and Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells). I do like Candice Patton as Iris West and Rick Cosnett as Eddie Thawne, but those actors are handicapped by the current storylines. Iris is the only regular who doesn’t know Barry is the Flash while Eddie keeps having to re-figure his world as events unfold around him. But it’s a great cast.

Some other notes:

The villains, almost all drawn from the Flash and other DC comics, are very cool. I get a huge kick out of Cisco and other characters trying to outdo each other with the naming of these villains...and that they show no embarrassment over the comic book names they come up with.

The crossovers with Arrow have been delightful. I get a real sense that the two casts enjoy working with each other.

Firestorm is a recurring character. I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of the comic-book versions, but seeing how well the character was used here has me rethinking that. At this point, if DC did a Showcase Presents Firestorm volume, I’d buy it.

I’m a bit concerned over Barry cutting a deal with Captain Cold in a recent episode. The deal is basically that the villains won’t be killing or revealing Barry’s identity to the world while the Flash will not make them a high priority. This sketchy deal needs to be revisited, but I doubt it will happen this season.

I was also dismayed by the throwaway murder of Simon Stagg in one of the earliest episodes. Seems like a waste of a potentially good character. When I heard Stagg’s name, I was hoping it would lead to a down-the-road appearance of Metamorpho.

On my special Grodd scale of zero to ten, I give The Flash the full ten out of ten intelligent gorillas. Clearly, I have gone bananas for this series.

DC has more shows on the air and coming up. Look for my reviews of Constantine and iZombie sometime in the next couple months and of the new shows when they debut.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 
© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 17, 2015


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Comic Bento is “A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!” I’m currently on the automatically renewable one-month plan which costs $25 with shipping and handling.

I received my first Comic Bento box earlier this month. Here’s the first of the four reviews of the graphic novels in that box...

The Shadow Volume One: The Fire of Creation is by Garth Ennis and Aaron Campbell [Dynamite; $19.99]. Set in 1938, the story sends The Shadow on a trip across the world to gain materials vital to the interests of the United States in those dangerous years before my country’s entry into World War II.

The adventure takes The Shadow out of the big-city settings I prefer, but the exotic backdrops and the monumental nature of the intrigue surrounding the mission allows Ennis to portray the mysterious hero at his arrogant and manipulative best. It made this reader glad The Shadow is on our side.

I use the present tense because who among us can be sure The Shadow isn’t still with us. I can think of a couple dozen matters I’d like him to look into, fully half of them located right here in the United States of 2015.

This graphic novel contains several scenes of brutal fighting and torture. Ennis is known for his command of history and he doesn’t hesitate to show the horrors the invading Japanese army inflicted on the Chinese people. There is bloody carnage, the consequence of the evil lurking in the hearts of The Shadow’s enemies. The reader should be prepared for a tale as grim as it is exciting.

Artist Aaron Campbell is a suitable partner for the excellence of this script. His certain storytelling is matched by his ability to draw explosive action and expressive faces. Colorist Carlos Lopez and letterer Rob Steen fulfill their roles just as well. This is a good-looking graphic novel.

Bonus material? The original Garth Ennis script for the first issue leads off the end section. That’s followed by an art gallery of all the covers and variant covers for the six-issue series, 14 sketch covers by Alex Ross and one sketch cover by Jae Lee. That adds up to a solid package and a decent value for your graphic novel bucks.

I recommend The Shadow Volume One: The Fire of Creation to comics readers who enjoy The Shadow and adventures set in this turbulent era of modern history.

ISBN 978-1-60690-361-2

Look for more Comic Bento reviews soon. I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.   
© 2015 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 16, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I review King: Prince Valiant #1, Big Man Plans #1 and, from Valiant, Divinity #1-2.

HERB TRIMPE 1939-2015

Herb Trimpe passed away on Monday night. He was a great man and a great artist and most remembrances like this will preface his name with a well-deserved “legendary.” I’m beginning to hate that word a lot because, when I see it online, it too often means that I have lost a friend and the comics industry has lost another incredible talent. Both are true in this case.

I first met Herb when I went to work for Marvel Comics in the fall of 1972. I knew his work from his long run on Incredible Hulk and other things, including the one-shot Phantom Eagle story he did in Marvel Super-Heroes #16 [September, 1968]. I loved his art because it had a Jack Kirby power without overshadowing Herb’s own terrific style. I was a Trimpe fan before I met Herb.

After meeting Herb, I knew one thing and hoped another. I knew he was a good man, as friendly to the new kid as if we had known each other for years. I hoped everyone I met in the comics industry would be as nice as Herb. Many, especially in the Marvel offices, were as nice as Herb. No one was nicer.

My aging memory fails me when I try to recall what in-house stuff I might have done with Herb. I did script two issues of Incredible Hulk which he pencilled and, pun intended, I marveled at how easy it was to write to his art even when I didn’t have an actual written plot to guide me. Herb’s storytelling chops and the few words he’d written next to each panel were all I needed.

Herb almost drew one of my own plots. Remember how I wrote I liked the Phantom Eagle? I plotted an issue of Ghost Rider in which that  World War I character returned as a vengeful spirit. Sadly, one of the scheduling problems that were a nigh-daily occurrence at Marvel in those days prevented Herb’s drawing the issue.

The last time I worked with Herb was probably when I was the writer and editor of the 1976 Marvel Bicentennial Calendar. I asked Herb to draw the Hulk at Valley Forge. That he didn’t look at me like I was crazy, unlike just about every other artist who worked on the calendar, speaks to just how nice a guy Herb was.

Comic-book friendships are generally long-distance friendships. I moved back to Ohio and didn’t visit the Marvel offices on any kind of regular basis. I would see Herb at the occasional convention and enjoyed talking with him. He was always as friendly at those shows as he had been in the Marvel offices.

The comics industry isn’t often kind to creators whose styles fall of favor or who simply, regardless of their styles or talent, just get older. When Herb stopped getting regular work from Marvel, he went into teaching. He did commissions for his fans, of which there were many, and he drew the occasional cover or interior story for several publishers. He was a guest at conventions and, no surprise to anyone who knew him, he was a wonderful guest.

Herb was ordained a deacon by the Episcopal Diocese of New York. After the tragedies of 9/11, he spent eight months as a chaplain at Ground Zero. He wrote about his experiences in The Power of Angels: Reflections From A Ground Zero Chaplain [Big Apple Vision; 2004]. When I reviewed the book in 2006, I wrote: an amazing book on every level. It's a record of faith and doubt and miracles and humanity at its best. I got teary several times while reading the book and was never sure if they were tears of sorrow or of joy for the good work Herb and others like him were doing at the site of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. I won't "rate" this thoughtful book, but I will strongly recommend it to one and all.

The Power of Angels was a direct inspiration for the backgrounds of  key characters in the six-issue Grim Ghost series I wrote back in 2010. The book - and Herb - have never been far from my thoughts. If you haven’t read The Power of Angels, I urge you to seek it out on the secondary market.

When I think of Herb, I also think of my late friend Gary Lunder. Gary and I went to St. Edward High School. He was one of the very few students there who also loved comic books. He also introduced me to Doc Savage, for which I am forever grateful.

When Gary and I reconnected about a decade ago, he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But I got Gary and his family to one of Roger Price’s Mid-Ohio-Cons where he got to meet and spend a few moments with his favorite comics artist...Herb Trimpe.

Herb was, well, he was Herb. He was friendly and generous and kind. For those few moments, Gary could forget about what was coming and just bask in the presence of a childhood hero.

Herb was Herb. That’s why I’ll always remember him with gratitude and love. As much as I miss him today and will miss him for all the tomorrows to come, I am so glad I got to know him. His great comics work was a reflection of the great man he was.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 64th installment in that series.

Larry Lieber both pencilled and inked the cover of The Rawhide Kid #79 [August 1970} and signed it as well. However, that’s his only contribution to the issue.

“Legion of the Lost” (17 pages) was written by Archie Goodwin with art by Werner Roth (pencils) and John Tartaglione (inks). From the first time I saw Goodwin’s name on a story, I knew I could always count on him for a solid story. This one is no exception, though  the script doesn’t have the lyrical and profound qualities Lieber often brought to his Rawhide Kid yarns.

“Legion of the Lost” starts with Rawhide escaping from a posse and into the hands of a gang of outlaws. Outnumbered by “every hardcase and wanted man in the territory,” the Kid is taken for a face-to-face with the gang’s leader:

Colonel Travis Ramm, of the Confederacy!
Ramm refuses to accept Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and, indeed, considers Lee and all who surrendered to be traitors who sold out his beloved Confederacy:

But I’ve kept the faith! Spending the years rebuilding a new army, preparing to launch a new war!

The cray-cray Colonel has gathered the worst owlhoots and gunslicks he could find. He calls them his “Legion of the Lost.” He offers a choice to Rawhide. Join or die.

Trapped in a natural fortress with only one pass out from it, the Kid still refuses to join. He breaks free, grabs the guns from one of the bad guys and commences to shooting the guns out of the hands of other bad guys. This impresses Ramm. He wants Rawhide alive and at his side:

You’re a fighter, suh, and a fine one...of the calibre my legion needs! As Quantrill had Jesse James, so I could use you! Why die for nothing? Reconsider.

Playing for time, Rawhide walks with the Colonel into a cave packed with enough guns and ammunition for an army. The Kid doesn’t think Ramm can recruit enough men to use all that firepower. That’s when Ramm directs our hero to look who is coming through the pass even as they speak.

Apaches. Ramm is offering to supply with arms any braves willing to fight their mutual enemy. Knowing this would unleash a blood bath, Rawhide fires his own guns at the ammunition and blows up the cave. Ramm is pissed. He wants the Apaches to slay the red-haired one” for robbing them “of the chance to retake the land that is yours!
The Kid tells the Apaches Ramm is a madman who would goad them from the path of peace. Ramm still wants the Apaches to kill our young hero real good. Rawhide counters with a demand of his own: a trial by combat to prove who is the more trustworthy man.

Ramm, who, by the way, is insane, goes for this idea. Since he was challenged, the Colonel’s choice of weapons is sabers on horseback. The Kid is nervous: The only experience I’ve had in this line is carvin’ a steak! But the Apaches will be on me in a second if I try to crawfish or complain!

Ramm has the experience with this sort of duel, but the Kid has the reflexes that made him an unbeatable gunfighter. He keeps doing the unexpected, even after he is knocked from his horse. Rawhide pulls the Colonel to the ground and punches him out. He snaps his foe’s sword in two to put the finish to this mad plan:

His war was over years ago...let it stay that way!

The Apaches won’t let Ramm’s men harm Rawhide and, by the way, they want those mother-fucking owlhoots off their mother-fucking plain. The bad guys make tracks.

Going a mite further on the crazy trail, Ramm starts waving around his magically-healed saber and starts to rant as the Kid rides off  through the pass.

You people come back here! I command it! I’ll have you shot as deserters! Didn’t you hear me, suh? I must be obeyed! My legion will conquer the territory, conquer the whole west! Come back here! Come back!

Followed by a caption:

Slowly, the Kid rides on...and soon the commands of Colonel Ramm reach only the vast, empty sky...

The Roth/Tartaglione art for this story is outstanding. The splash page truly conveys both the excitement and desperation of a man on the run. There is no colorist credit, but the lettering is credited to “Sherigail,” a pseudonym of Morrie Kuramoto combining the names of his daughter and wife. “Legion of the Lost” was reprinted in The Rawhide Kid #138 [March 1977].

I get the feeling this issue was rushed through production a little faster than usual. The half-page “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” is the same as the one that ran in the previous issue. The Marvelmania International membership pitch is the same as well.

The half-page ad for Steranko’s History of the Comics runs again. The line-up of comics-oriented advertisers is also the same: Grand Book, Comic Sales, Howard Rogofsky, Richard Alf, F.L. Buza, Passaic Book Center, Robert Bell and a young Gary Groth’s Fantastic Fanzine Special.

This issue also has a non-series story. “Inside the Cave” by Stan Lee and Al Williamson is a four-page reprint from Kid Colt Outlaw #59 [April 1956].

Prospectors Jeb and Abner are looking for gold. A pair of men who watch them head out wonder why Jeb is willing to partner with the younger man:

That young no-good is as shiftless as a rattler!

Abner is a wanted outlaw who is using this prospecting gig to hide out from a posse. He doesn’t believe Jeb will find gold.

Days later, while Jeb digs in a cave, Abner sees a smoke signal in the distance. His criminal partner Ben is letting him know that the coast is clear. The posse has given up its search for him. Now it’s safe for Abner to leave the county.

Abner knocks Jeb on the head and drags him into the cave, thinking he can seal the cave and no one will find Jeb for years. But, when he moves a boulder, the cave wall collapses and kills Abner on the spot. Jeb has better luck. There’s enough room for him to crawl out of the cave. Talking with a lawman, Jeb feels sorry for the man who tried to kill him.

JEB: He’d have been rich, just like he always wanted. It was his discovery, too...because he told me to look in the cave!

LAWMAN: And you found the biggest gold pocket ever seen in these  parts! Well, that’s life, eh, old-timer.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page finishes off this issue. There are three letters and responses.

Aaron Potter of Roxbury, Massachusetts commented that, in every one of Marvel’s western comics, the title character is said to be the fastest gun alive. He wanted to know which of them was the fastest. In responding, the anonymous Marvel letter-answerer countered with the fact that, in the Old West, reputations grew and shrunk at the latest rumor. The only way to know for sure which Marvel gunslick is the fastest would be for them to face each other in a shoot-out and, not surprisingly, Marvel didn’t want to do that.

Tim White of San Leandro, California wanted to know why the Rawhide Kid always seem to get out of fights without a mark on him. Not a black eye or anything. Leandro also suggested a scenario in which the Kid, pursued by Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and the Long Ranger, wires the Ringo Kid, the Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt and the Ghost Rider to help him out. Marvel’s response:

That fight would be so hot, it would probably burn the pages right out of this here magazine! Now, you wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?

Finally, David Lomazoff of Philadelphia deemed Rawhide Kid #75 to be, at most, average. But he had lots of suggestions:

Have the Kid head out East.

Meet some of the grandfathers of some of Marvel’s modern-day super-heroes.

Publish some tales of the Kid’s early life.

Bring back costumed villains like the Scorpion.

Lomazoff also asked what happened the Ghost Rider, whose comic book had been cancelled. Marvel responded the Ghost Rider would return in Western Gunfighters #1.

That’s all for today’s bloggy, pardners. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



There’s only one original Ghost Rider and his earliest adventures are being reprinted in The Original Ghost Rider Volume 1 by writers Ray Krank and Gardner Fox, artist Dick Ayers and occasional cover artist Frank Frazetta [Canton Street Press; $49.99]. The 192-page hardcover will be released on June 24. Here’s what Amazon says about the book:

This hardcover volume collects Ghost Rider #1-5 and the Ghost Rider stories from Tim Holt #12-14, originally published by Magazine Enterprises from 1949-1951. Ray Krank created and wrote Ghost Rider in Tim Holt #12. The remaining stories are attributed to Gardner Fox. Interior art was handled by Dick Ayers with covers by Ayers and Frank Frazetta. The Ghost Rider would continue its adventures through 1954. Magazine Enterprises would soon close its doors, but the company's most popular character would live on by inspiring a similar character in the 1960s. The art has been fully restored and in keeping with the original coloring of the stories. The hardcover binding is Smyth Sewn with dimensions of 7.25 x 10.25 inches. The introduction is by Tony Isabella.

Did I forget to mention that I wrote the introduction to the book? Oops! I suppose it could be true that memory is the first...what was I saying just then?

I wrote a 1500-word introduction to this initial volume and, while it may not be worth the price of the book all by itself, I think it turned out pretty good. Of course, because that introduction is in the book, I can’t repeat any of it here. You’ll have to check out this collection to learn all sorts of fascinating facts and cagey conjecture about the original Ghost Rider.

What I can do is remind you how many Ghost Riders followed the one and only original Ghost Rider. The long line of pretenders to the name was begun in 1967 when Marvel Comics, under circumstances some might consider somewhat suspect, launched a new Ghost Rider title. Plotted and drawn by original GR artist Ayers...and written by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich...the new Ghost Rider was schoolteacher Carter Slade. This short-lived series ran a mere seven issues, but the character showed up in Western Gunfighters where he died and, presumably, became a real ghost.

Sidekick Jamie Jacobs was the next Ghost Rider, but he didn’t last long. Following Jamie’s death, Marshal Lincoln Slade, the brother of Carter, became the next Ghost Rider. I stopped caring about the Ghost Rider lineage after that, but a visit to Wikipedia reminded me the character’s name was changed to Night Rider - an incredibly ignorant choice, given that moniker was used in the Southern United States to refer to Ku Klux Klan members - and then Phantom Rider. There were apparently four different Phantom Riders or other-named characters with some ties to the Slade family. Some were heroes and some were villains. Some were alive and some were not. None of them was anywhere near as interesting as either the original Ghost Rider or Carter Slade.

Why did Marvel change the name of its western Ghost Rider? Because,  by some sort of comics eminent domain, it wanted to use that name for a new modern-day Ghost Rider. The new Ghost Rider was created by Gary Friedrich with editorial input by Roy Thomas and a spooky visual by artist Mike Ploog.

The new Ghost Rider was Johnny Blaze, who sold his soul to Satan to protect his adoptive father. Satan cheated. Johnny got cursed and became the flaming skull-headed, motorcycle-riding new Ghost Rider. There’s much more to the story than that, but this Ghost Rider was a pretty spiffy character. I was the second regular writer on the title and worked on it for two years or thereabouts.

Johnny Blaze was only the first modern-day, motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider. He was followed by Daniel Ketch, a Nicaraguan woman named Alejandra, and, in 2014, young Latino Robbie Reyes, whose method of transportation was a demon-fueled muscle car. I thought the first modern-day Ghost Rider series and the most recent one were good and sometimes great. The others...not so much.

There were also a few alternate universe versions of Ghost Rider, but just thinking about them makes my brain hurt. If I read any of them, I don’t remember them. Sometimes an inconsistent memory can be a blessing.

Getting back to today’s main topic, The Original Ghost Rider Volume 1 is available for pre-order from Amazon. You should order it. Not just because I think you’ll enjoyed those wild western adventures, but also because if this volume sells well enough, there will be a second volume.

Help me out here. I want to read more stories of the original Ghost Rider. Is that so much to ask?
That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 13, 2015


Marvel’s Daredevil premiered on Netflix last Friday. All thirteen episodes of the first season are currently available, but I didn’t have the desire or time to binge-watch them. As a former writer of the character and a fan of many (but not all) incarnations of Matt Murdock, I want to enjoy these episodes over the next two months. The hardest part about that decision will be avoiding spoilers on the episodes I haven’t seen yet.

My son Eddie and I watched “Into the Ring” - the debut episode - on Saturday night. We both liked it a lot. I have some notes to share with you with the warning that will almost certainly be a spoiler or two included with them.


I love the confined nature of the series. Daredevil defends Hell’s Kitchen. There are nods to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe in which big chunks of New York were trashed in Marvel’s The Avengers, but those nods do not distract from the street-level intensity of this series.

I like Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, the good and often charming man with a devil inside him. Cox does a terrific job with the duality of his character.

I love Eldon Henson as Foggy Nelson. He is near perfect as Matt’s best friend and partner. His easy and sarcastic manner adds needed levity to the show without turning Foggy into a clown.

I’m cool on Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. Maybe it’s the fault of the writing, but she hasn’t made the character interesting. Maybe she’ll improve in future episodes.

The opening scene of the show was an emotional kick to the gut. I was impressed by the heart-rending drama that young Skylar Gaertner and John Patrick Hayden brought to the moment when Matt loses his sight while in the arms of his father.

Cut to the present with Matt in a confessional seeking forgiveness for what he’s about to do. In a brilliantly-written and performed monologue, we learned everything we needed to know about Matt and Jack Murdock. Kudos to Cox, writer Drew Goddard and director Phil Abraham for a great scene.

Next came Daredevil’s battle with human traffickers. This was the best action sequence of the episode. A later one-on-one fight with an assassin wasn’t as impressive.

The easy banter between Foggy and Matt is another highlight of the episode. Jokes that would be off limits to almost anyone else are, instead, indicative of how well these two men know each other and the strength of their friendship.

The episode introduces us to an assortment of criminals and crooked cops. Most aren’t as interesting as Daredevil, but I think they are mere placeholders for the coming of the Kingpin.

I was disappointed with Bob Gunton’s performance as the Owl (Leland Owlsley). His delight in his evil enterprises was too off-the-top for my liking.

Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley, who I presume is the Kingpin’s right-hand man was a little excessive as well. However, it worked better for that character than for Owlsley.

There are two truly chilling scenes in an end-of-episode montage of the criminals going about their business. A college student comes home to find that her prison guard father, who has been blackmailed into trying to kill Karen Page, has apparently committed suicide. In another scene, the scary Madame Gao (played by Wai Ching Ho) is supervising a warehouse-full of blind workers preparing cocaine for sale. These end scenes show the magnitude of what Daredevil will be battling as the series continues.

Daredevil’s opening credits featured a welcome “created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett” credit and a dozen “executive producer” credits. Apparently, Hollywood hands out that particular credit like it was Halloween candy.

There was a credit card thanking comics creators who have worked on Daredevil and other contributory titles: Brian Michael Bendis, Gene Colan, Archie Goodwin, Klaus Janson, Alex Maleev, Roger McKenzie,  David Mazzucchelli, Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., John Romita Sr. and George Tuska.

There were dozens of easter eggs in this episode. I caught the name Crusher Creel, who is the Absorbing Man in the comic books and the Marvel’s Agents of  S.H.I.E.L.D. show. An online friend pointed out the “Atlas globe” that could be found on Marvel comic books of the pre-hero era of 1940s and 1950s. There were many other easter eggs I missed, but Simon Gallagher of What Culture graciously compiled a list of them. You can read his piece here.

Daredevil was very well-written and mostly well-acted. The look of the series felt right to me. I liked this first episode a lot and I look forward to watching the rest of the first season episodes in the weeks to come. I’ll probably write about them from time to time in future bloggy things.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella