Sunday, May 31, 2015


90210 Shark Attack [2014] hooked me with its title and its DVD box art. The title made me think this might be a silly shark movie that would be fun to watch. The box art with a giant shark knocking over a Beverly Hills sign made me chuckle. So I ordered the movie from Amazon and watched it within days of its arrival.

90210 Shark Attack has a decent story swimming around in its brief 75-minute run time, but it never comes remotely close to turning the story into an entertaining film. Let me give you the Tony Isabella version of the story:

One of the students in a special oceanic anthropology session has a secret. Her professor and classmates know her missing father was both a scientist and a con man who often cheated and stole from the people he studied. He got his hooks into a tribe that worshiped a shark god and they showed him the waters in which their god lives. He then brought a group of wealthy “sportsmen” to the place so they could hunt and kill the shark.

The tribe was angry and cursed the scientist’s young daughter. She can turn into a great white shark. She may have killed her father. She definitely has issues with her cruel classmates...and with her professor, who she learns is planning to exploit the girl’s tragic life story for a book and movie.

That could have been a good movie, but it’s not 90210 Shark Attack. I’ll get to that in a moment.

The horror began as soon as the DVD started, even though the actual movie was close to two dozen trailers away. In a moment of madness, I decided to watch those trailers before the movie...and almost all of those movies shared the same elements.

All the movies were from Rapid Heart Productions, which I assume is a name derived from the artery-stopping fear a viewer experiences on realizing this viewing session will not end well.

Most of the movies were filmed in and around the same house, which I assume is because it was either owned by someone from the company or an abandoned property that the filmmakers could sneak into for the no more than a day-and-a-half of shooting these movies likely needed. Two days tops.

Most of the movies shared the same stock footage of the house, a city, a beach, a dock and so forth. 90210 Shark Attack would have been ten minutes shorter without all the repetitious stock footage. By the way, not one scene of 90210 Shark Attack took place in the city or on a beach or on that dock.

All of the movies were directed by David DeCoteau, who used to work for Roger Corman. DeCoteau has a impressively long history in “B” and lesser grade movies. It appears he made these Rapid Heart films from 2011 to 2014. He is kind of sort of like my beloved The Asylum if The Asylum was just one strange man who made lousy amateur movies for only his own pleasure.

Almost all these movies have elements which, in DeCoteau’s clumsy hands, become fetish tokens. You have handsome and muscular young men who are often bare-chested, who often wear tighty-whities, who are often tied to beds, who are often ogled by cougar women and who sometimes make out with said cougar women. One reviewer said these movies were exercises in homo-eroticism.

I don’t usually ascribe personal issues to a creator’s work, but I found myself wondering if DeCoteau was a deeply closed gay men, a very lonely gay man, or a man who wants to be a cougar woman. I would tell him it gets better, but I’m not sure it will get better if he keeps making movies as lousy as 90210 Shark Attack.

Which brings us back to the movie itself...

Donna Wilkes plays the predator professor. She played a young woman in Jaws 2 (1978) and also appeared in other movies and TV shows up to 1991. Then she took two decades off from acting. She makes her marks and performs her lines, but it’s a decent performance only by comparison to the terrible performances of her cast mates.

Stephanie Shemanski plays shark-girl Alyssa. Her head and shoulders transform into the CGI head of a great white shark who then bites off the heads and necks of her victims. The same CGI effect is used for every killing.


Alyssa’s victims are the entire rest of the cast, who were surely grateful for an end to the misery of being in this movie.

Most of the victims are killed in or near a hot tub. We don’t see any actual shark-on-head-and-neck violence. The camera always cuts away. We see a little blood spatter and one conservatively framed headless torso. You could see more blood in a koi pond.

The movie ends abruptly as the final victim is about to get head-chomped. Alyssa confronts the deceiving Pamela and asks her to give her a kiss as she summons the CGI effect.

Why does the movie end so abruptly? It could be because there were no more cast members to kill. It could be because the film used up its budget of $377.19. I admit I’m just estimating the budget, but, to DeCoteau’s credit, you can see the whole $377.19 right up there on the screen.


Let’s talk for a moment. If you skipped the paragraphs between the SPOILERS AHEAD and END SPOILERS, go back and read them. Because the only way my buying and watching this movie isn’t a colossal waste of my money and time is if I saved you, my beloved bloggy readers, from that dire fate. I do it for you.

I do it all for you.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Avengers Grimm [2015] is a recent direct-to-video release fro, the fun folks at The Asylum, makers of such cinematic goodies as Nazis at the Center of the Earth, Mega Piranha and, of course, Sharknado and its sequels. If one can love a movie studio, then I’m deeply, madly in love with The Asylum.

The Asylum’s spirited movies may not have the biggest budgets and stars, but they capture the wonderfulness of the “B” movies that enlivened my childhood. When I watch one of their movies, I feel like that 12-year-old boy who huddled close to his family’s black-and-white TV set in Cleveland with the sound turned down low so as to not disturb the rest of the family.

Ghoulardi aka Ernie Anderson was my guide to monstrous movie mayhem in those bygone years. He was the king of Cleveland TV and taught me the ways of Godzilla and the Black Scorpion and that crazy tree monster that came from Hell. Just saying “Hell” out loud back then would have been grounds for going to confession at Saints Philip and James Church.

If I want to be honest and I always try to be honest with my bloggy thing readers, that black-and-white TV was my real church and the beatnik-like Ghoulardi was its pastor. Small wonder I grew up and became the founder and pastor of the First Church of Godzilla, now holding services on Facebook. But I digress.

In Avengers Grimm, five fairy-tale heroines are whisked from their magical world to our more mundane world by the evil machinations of Rumpelstiltskin. Here, they must use their magical powers and their well-honed natural skills to keep “Rumpy” from conquering our world as he seeks a way back to their world. Yes, I called him “Rumpy.” I’m not typing “Rumpelstiltskin” more often than I absolutely have to. I wouldn’t do that to my Spell Checker.

The premise of this movie delights me. Some have called it a mash-up of Marvel’s Avengers and Once Upon a Time - not without some justification - but this movie doesn’t feel like either the super-hero movies or the TV series to me. It has flaws which kept it from being as good as it could and should have been, but, though I will mention them here today, didn’t keep from spending an enjoyable 87 minutes with Snow White and her posse.

The "Avengers Grimm" are Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and the outsider Red (as in riding hood). The first three have magical powers, Rapunzel has weaponized hair and Red is just hella good at archery and other fighting skills. Working with the villain are the Wolf (of course), Iron John (a gangster forced to work with Rumpy to protect his neighborhood), an extremely corrupt police force and a legion of transformed and mind-controlled human beings who got on the wrong side of Rumpy.

Lou Ferrigno gives a terrific performance as Iron John. Casper Van Diem is a little chewy as Rumpy. The fairy-tale fighters - Lauren Parkinson, Milynn Sarley, Marah Fairclough, Rileah Vanderbilt and Elizabeth Peterson - are a little shaky with their performances, but look and move well. With a little work, I think they could all be much improved in any sequel.

Briefly seen is Jonathan Medina as “Jack,” who could be either Jack Be Nimble or Jack the Giant Killer. He has a great “don’t blink or you’ll miss it scene” where’s he helping a girl and her little dog to safety. I assume the magic mirror portals open to more than one fantasy world.

Avengers Grimm was written and directed by Jeremy M. Inman. I think this is his first major writer and director gig, though he worked as a digital imaging technician on nearly two dozen other movies. He’s also been an actor, producer, editor, second unit director and filled other roles as well. It’s a good first effort. I hope to see more of his work in the future.

Avengers Grimm isn’t a great movie. It is a fun movie with obvious potential to become a series of movies. That’s all I ask from “B” movies and The Asylum rarely disappoints me.

Forget about Disney and Universal and all those other movie-making places. When I grow up, I want to be in Asylum pictures.

Come back tomorrow for my review of a non-Asylum movie that may be one of the worst movies I ever have seen and reviewed.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, May 29, 2015


I read another batch of the free Free Comic Book Day comic books I got from my pal Bob Hoskins and the cool crew of Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Let’s get right to it...

There were three contenders for my Best FCBD Issue of the Week, but I had to go with Terrible Lizard #1 from Oni Press. Written by Cullen Bunn with art by Drew Moss and colors by Ryan Hill, this is an all-ages series about a girl and her tyrannosaurus.

The two of them meet cute. Dad is a scientist working on a temporal displacement project for the government. Jess is a lonely girl who has no friends because of the demands of her father’s work. Wrex is the tyrannosaurus who bonds with Jess because she’s the first human it meets when it’s dragged growling into our time and also because she’s the only human not trying to kill it.  After reading just the one issue, I love this series.

So...does Terrible Lizard meet my criteria for a good Free Comic Book Day issue? It sure does. It features quality material, it is complete accessible to new readers and, judging from my reaction to it, it will entice new readers to buy the comic book. My reaction was to immediately order the trade paperback.


The first runner-up was Mercury Heat from Avatar Press. Launching in July as a monthly, this sci-fi series is set on Mercury in the future. It’s written by Kieron Gillen with art by Omar Francia and, yes, I did say it was set on Mercury, which isn’t generally thought of a great planet for human life. Gillen explains it all in the 19 pages of notes that follow the 11 pages of story that leads off the giveaway. Now I’m not a scientist, nor am I a right-wing science-denying dickweed, but what I read was more than enough for me to willingly suspend my disbelief and enjoy this and any future issues of Mercury Head I might read.

Luiza Bora is the protagonist of Mercury Heat. She’s a tough woman who wanted to be a cop on Earth but was told she wasn’t suited for such work. Mercury isn’t nearly as picky.

Mercury Heat isn’t an all-ages book, but it’s perfectly accessible for teen and older readers. Luiza is a good character and she could be a great character. The writing and art are first-rate.  I’m not an avid reader of science fiction these days, but I saw enough in this free comic book that I want to read more. Let’s score this as a win for Avatar Press.


The second runner-up this week is Tales of Honor #0 from Top Cow. This issue features the 17-page “Bred to Kill” by Matt Hawkins and artist Linda Sejic. The story is set in something called the Honor Herrington Universe and, while a text page preceding the story does give a new reader a bit of a leg up into this universe, it doesn’t offer enough information. I had to turn to Wikipedia:

Honor...Harrington is a fictional character invented in 1992 by writer David Weber as the heroine of the eponymous "Honorverse", a universe described in a series of best-selling military science fiction books set between 4003 and 4025 AD.

Harrington is an officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy (RMN), the space navy of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, an interstellar monarchy that counterbalances its relatively small size with superior space combat technology and capability. She has a genius for tactical command, often overcoming significant odds in critical battles and frequently finding herself at the centre of significant military actions. Her dedication to duty and uncompromising performance results in receiving numerous awards and promotions, earning the respect of interstellar empires, and accumulating implacable enemies. She is a skilled martial artist and through her association with her treecat companion Nimitz, develops an empathic sense that assists her in understanding the emotions of those around her.

Even though Tales of Honor #0 didn’t meet all my criteria for what a FCBD issue should be, the story was sufficiently well-told and entertaining enough that it got me to seek out more information on the series myself. As with Avatar’s Mercury Heat, I’m interested in reading more of this character and her universe.


Moving right along...

The Legendary Comics 2015 Preview is little more than a catalog of upcoming and existing titles. Some of those titles might interest me, but the nature of this preview doesn’t allow more than a quick sales pitch and a cover for most of the titles...and not much more for others. In my case, my interest comes from either familiarity and appreciation for the creators - Chris Robertson, Steven Grant, Mark Waid and others - or an existing regard for a property being turned into a comic book, such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. I don’t know if a new reader would have that same level of interest. I have to write this giveaway as less than sufficient for the job at hand.


As always with FCBD giveaways, there are comic books which simply hold no or little interest to me. I can’t judge those with the same confidence I review other titles.

Boom! Studios Ten Year Celebration 2015 is a thick comic that has come-ons for ten different titles. Most of those are adaptations of cartoons or movies which I’ve never seen and will likely never see. Things like Adventure Time and The Regular Show. I know these are popular, but they have no attraction for me. I am familiar with and enjoy Mouse Guard, Peanuts and Garfield. Because I’ve heard great things about it from folks whose opinions I respect, I have a copy of Lumberjanes on its way to me. But I don’t think the two to four pages of each of these features offers enough of a come-on to get a new reader to check them out.

I’ve never been able to get into Sonic the Hedgehog or Mega Man, so this Archie giveaway comic did nothing for me. I also didn’t find it accessible to readers who aren’t already fans of the games or comic books, nor did I find the material included in the issue to be of high quality. As I have it previous years, I would have to rate this giveaway issue a fail.

I feel the same about the Street Fighter Super Combo Special from Capcom and Udon Entertainment. I don’t care about the video games. I didn’t find the material accessible or good. It may well delight those readers who are already into Street Fighter, but I can’t see it enticing any other readers.


I have never watched an entire episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, but I did enjoy reading SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies 2015 from United Plankton Pictures and Bongo Comics. The 22-page lead story was fun, as were the short back-up strips. I don’t see myself watching the cartoon or buying the comic book as a result of reading this issue - time and money are the issues here - but I could see a reader who had a passing interest in the show being won over by this giveaway comic. This FCBD comic succeeds.


I really wanted to like the Drawn & Quarterly FCBD 2015 SuperMutant Magic Academy/Step Aside Pops Combo more than I did. The premise of Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy seemed like it would be right in my wheelhouse, but the execution of the short gags left me unimpressed. The Step Aside, Pops gags from Hark! A Vagrant creator Kate Beaton were better but a very strange companion to the Tamaki pages. Ultimately, I think this FCBD giveaway would be confusing to most new readers. It’s not a complete fail, but it’s some distance from being a success.

That’s all for this edition of Free Comic Book Day Friday. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about a new release from The Asylum. See you then.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 28, 2015


My new normal is writing and researching until either I can’t think straight or various body parts start hurting. Then I read or watch TV. Writing about the stuff I read and the stuff I watch makes me feel less like I’m goofing off. I am a little touched in the head.


I have almost the entire second season of Agents of SHIELD sitting unwatched on my DVR. I hope to start watching those episodes soon. When I get to the end of the season, I’ll write about the series. I’ve already written about Agent Carter.

Sainted Wife Barb and I watch Castle together. The previous season ended on a stupid cliffhanger which was resolved in a manner only slightly less stupid. If we didn’t love Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic and the rest of the cast so much, we might have dumped the series right then and there. However...

The season picked up nicely with several solid episodes and a plot development that had writer Richard Castle bounced from his working relationship with Detective Kate Beckett and opening up a private detective firm. It was a crazy wonderful notion and, to my delight and surprise, the show didn’t let it go on too long.

That was followed by more solid episodes, a resolution to two old foes, a dumb resolution to the previous season cliffhanger’s final questions and an intriguing look at what drove Castle to become a mystery writer. However, in usual dumb TV style, the season ended on a couple of silly plot developments that are supposed to make us believe...everything will change.

Beckett has taken the Captain’s test, which, of course, would take her off the streets. She is also being recruited by serious people within the department to run for the state senate, which makes as little sense as me running for Miss America.

End-of-the-season cliffhangers are a mug’s game. I wish they hadn’t become a staple of scripted dramas and, for that matter, scripted comedies. A pox on them!

Also from ABC...I was the only member of my family to sit through the entire first season of the musical comedy Galavant. I found it amusing and especially enjoyed Timothy Omundson as King Richard. I am amazed the show got renewed for a second series, but I’ll be on board for it.

Cancelled by ABC...Forever was about a seemingly immortal New York City medical examiner. It was very well acted with decent writing, but I just stopped watching it at one point because it didn’t seem to be moving forward at all. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had that experience with the series.

Looking at the new ABC shows that have been announced, The Muppets is the only one that interests me. Because it’s the Muppets...and that’s good enough for me.


I like my cop/detective/forensics shows, so I watch a lot of CBS’ shows. Since I’m several episodes away from current on Criminal Minds, CSI: Cyber and Scorpion - Barb watches that last one with me - I’ll save those for another column.

Elementary has been excellent this season. The show often stresses that Sherlock Holmes is a drug addict, but he has always managed to resist falling off the wagon. The season finale isn’t explicit as to whether or not Holmes takes that fall, but it presented one of the most horrifying evil plots against the great detective that we have seen. The source of that evil is so petty its revelation might well have been the most frightening thing I have seen in scripted television this season. Well done.

CSI has been cancelled after an uneven season. Ted Danson was not enough to hold the show together. Elizabeth Shue and other recent additions never jelled. Veteran actors seemed to be off their game all season and the show never recovered from the loss of the great  Paul Guilfoyle at the end of last season. Whatever the show needed to make it as good as it had been, the current show runners couldn’t find it.

CSI will have a two-hour finale next season. After that, Danson’s character is moving over to CSI: Cyber. That looks like an awkward move to me, but I’ll keep an open mind.

The Big Bang Theory continued to make me laugh with and not at its quirky characters. There are comics fans who hate the show and take every joke personally, but I don’t haven’t seen jibes half as cruel as those I read online from actual fans.

Two and a Half Men has ended, well past its time. I kept watching it because Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer, Conchata Ferrell, Melanie Lynskey and Courtney Thorne-Smith were still very funny performers. But the show had been getting more and more mean-spirited over the years and its finale was a textbook example of a creator just being a dick. I won’t miss it.

CBS has three new shows that interest me. Supergirl looks like so much fun. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders will star Gary Sinise and I’ll give any show he does a good look.

The third series is a summer show. Zoo is based on a book by James Patterson about the animal kingdom turning on mankind. While I am not sure which side I’ll be rooting for, I will say it looks to be a pretty exciting and scary show.


The only show I watched on NBC this season was Constantine, based on the DC Comics character. I had been watching Grimm, but stopped about midway through the second season for no other reason than I was trying to cut back on my TV viewing. I recall the show fondly, so I may well catch up on it one of these years.

Constantine started out disappointing, but got better as the first and only season progressed. I was enjoying the show, but, alas, in its final episode, it fell prey to stupid cliffhanger syndrome with a revelation that made no sense whatsoever.

If the show does return - and that seems unlikely - it should waste no time “fixing” the absurd cliffhanger and introducing more of DC’s supernatural characters into the mix. The show was already hinting at the Spectre. He’s a good place to start.

As far as new NBC shows, I haven’t come across any that interest me enough to watch them. Maybe in 2016-2017.

That’s all for this edition of “Television Thursday.” I’ll be back next Thursday with more TV reviews and I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of “Free Comic Book Day Friday.” See you then.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, May 27, 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 68th installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #83 [January 1971] could have been billed as “the story you demanded!” Because, as the cover by Larry Lieber and John Tartaglione shows, after countless reader requests, the Kid becomes a lawman!

“The Rawhide Kid, Lawman” (20 pages; but pages 12 and 13 are half-pages) was written and penciled by Lieber and inked by Tartaglione. In the lawless town of Deadrock, the Kid is making a quick stop to pick up supplies. He knows a town like this spells trouble that he can live without.

When reckless trail hands ride into town and almost run over a boy and his dog, Rawhide rescues the boy and then confronts the galloping lunkheads. They draw down on the Kid and he disarms four men with three shots. Because he’s that good and because there wasn’t room for a fourth sound effect.

The townspeople recognize the Rawhide Kid, but the mayor says that he doesn’t care if the Kid was Jack the Ripper. He thanks Rawhide for standing up to the cowpokes. Another citizen asks the Kid if he would consider hiring on as the town’s sheriff. No one but Rawhide is concerned the Kid is an outlaw with a price on his head.

MAYOR: Other gunmen of questionable character have become mighty fine peace officers!

CITIZEN: This could be a way to square yourself with the law!

CITIZEN: Besides, there’s no warrant out on yuh in this county! Yuh kin settle down here and still do what you do best...gunslingin’! Only now it’ll be to keep law and order!

The Kid accepts the job. The townspeople are thrilled they have “a first-rate peace officer who’ll make it safe for decent folks to walk the streets!"

The Kid vows to do his best and wonders if this marks the beginning to a new life for him:

What an ironic twist of fate! After all these years of dodging tin stars, I end up wearing one!

But maybe this badge will buy me the decent, respectable life that I’ve hankered after for so long! Maybe my days as a fugitive are ended forever!

The lawman job suits the Rawhide Kid. Within three pages, the Kid has become a popular figure in the town:

For the first time in years...folks are smilin’ at me...instead of eyeing me suspiciously and fearfully! It sure feels great!

The story cuts to Luke Clanton, who’s about to complete a five-year sentence for armed robbery. It was the Rawhide Kid who caught Luke and brought him to justice...and it’s revenge against the Kid that has obsessed Clanton all those years.

Normally, a Luke Clanton, even with a gang out of owlhoots, would not be much of a problem for the Rawhide Kid. But, as that bastard fate would have it, Nightwind, our hero’s horse, gets a roof caught in a gopher hole. The Kid does a header into the hard ground. When he comes to, his vision is blurred and he can hardly see anything.

The town doctor says Rawhide’s eyes are undamaged. His vision will return to normal in a few days. The Mayor tells the Kid he can stay with him and the missus while he heals.

Meanwhile, Clanton finds out the Kid is the lawman of Deadrock and heads there with his gang. The outlaws terrorize the townspeople. If the people don’t hand over the Kid within the hour, Clanton and his goons will level the entire town.

The Mayor says they can’t turn the Kid over to Clanton because the outlaws will kill our blinded hero. The townspeople says it’s the Kid or the town. Rawhide begs to differ:

Your only chance is to stand up to these gunmen! You can do it! You far outnumber them. I can’t see, but I can draw upon my own experience to tell you how to fight them! Together, we can win!
The townspeople don’t share Rawhide’s confidence. They give him to Clanton. But Luke doesn’t think his revenge will be complete if the Kid doesn’t know who he is...and the Kid doesn’t remember someone who was just one of the guns he’s tangled with all over the west. Clanton decides to take the Kid with them. He’ll hold him prisoner until Rawhide’s sight returns and then kill him.

Blurry of vision or not, Rawhide isn’t going to go out that easy. He attempts to escape, knocking over one outlaw only to be tripped by another. Fortunately, the fall restores the Kid’s sight. So he grabs a gun from one of his captors and, clearly not feeling very kindly, kills every last one of them.

The Kid reflects on the carnage: His name was Luke Clanton...and his thirst for vengeance is quenched at last! The ironic thing is that I don’t even remember him! He’s just another forgotten face from the turbulent past!

That soliloquy reveals so much about the life the Rawhide Kid has led that the reader can actually feel the young man’s pain.

Deadrock is jubilant over the Kid’s return and his taking out the Clanton gang. Until Rawhide tosses his badge to the ground:

I’ll defend folks who are worth defendin’...but not you!

The measure of a town is how it weathers a crisis! Some towns stand tall and proud when the goin’ gets rough! But, when trouble came to Deadrock, you folks looked the other way...and left a blind sheriff to the tender mercies of armed killers!

And so, I’ll just be pushin’ on! There’s nothing here for me any more! Nothing but a shattered a town of shame.

Like so much of Lieber’s excellent work on this title, “The Rawhide Kid, Lawman” has never been reprinted in the United States.


As has become the norm, this issue’s “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” takes up less than one half of a page. Once again, there were no standout issues on the list this go-round. Sharing the newsstands with Rawhide: Fantastic Four #106, Amazing Spider-Man #92, Avengers #83, Thor #183, Captain America #133, Hulk #135, Daredevil #71, Sub-Mariner #33, Iron Man #33, Amazing Adventures #4, Tower of Shadows #9, Sgt. Fury #83, Ka-Zar #3, Marvel’s Greatest Comics #30, Where Monsters Dwell #7, Where Creatures Roam #4, Nick Fury #17, Fear #2, Kid Colt Outlaw #151, Ringo Kid #7, Two-Gun Kid #96. Mad About Millie #17, Mighty Marvel Western #12 and My Love #9.

The rest of the page is a Marvelmania advertisement for “104 Marvel Art Masterpieces” from Marvelmania. The pictures are said to be of “favorite super-heroes, villains, best covers, comic art pages” and come in a variety of sizes from 2.5" x 4" to 8.5" x 11". The cost for the set, including postage and handling, was $2.

I never ordered or saw these items. If you bought them back in the day or acquired them since, I’d love to hear all about them. Send some scans if you can and I’ll share them with your fellow bloggy thing readers.

On the classified ad pages, the pitch for “100 stick-on stamps of the scariest Movie Monsters” is gone, but the usual comics dealers were still on hand: Howard Rogofsky, Passaic Book Center, Robert Bell, Grand Book Inc. and Clint’s Books. One dollar would still get you a sample copy of The Comiccollector fanzine.


The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page is back this month. The lead item tells of a visit to the Bullpen by Marvelmania’s Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman. I’ve clearly confused my time line on this because I thought Mark and Steve (and myself) were all long gone from that organization by then.

Other items include impressionist Will Jordan entertaining at the first open meeting if the Academy of Comic Book Arts; Sol Brodsky leaving Marvel to start his own comics company (Skywald, though it wasn’t mentioned by name); John Verpoorten being promoted to Marvel production manager; Joe Sinnott returning to Fantastic Four as the title’s inker; Roy Thomas and then-wife Jeanie going to Rutland for the Vermont city’s annual Halloween parade; kudos for Marvel’s new Conan comic series from Harlan Ellison, Don and Maggie Thompson, Dick Lupoff, Glenn Lord, Ted White and August Derleth; and Bullpen welcomes to then-young artists Berni Wrightson and Rich Buckler. The last item reported Buckler working on a new strip by the name of Man-Wolf. Anyone know anything about that never-published strip?

In “Stan Lee’s Soapbox,” the Man talks about Marvel trying to stick to its every-story-complete-in-one-issue policy and not being very comfortable with it. The fans are asked for their thoughts.

The bottom of the Bullpen page has a small ad for Marvel Tales #29 and Daredevil Annual #2. The former has a new cover by Sal Buscema with inks by either Buscema or Verpoorten. It reprints Amazing Spider-Man #39 and #40 by Stan Lee, John Romita and Mike Esposito along with a Doctor Strange adventure by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee from Strange Tales #141.

Daredevil Annual #2 also has a new cover by Sal Buscema with inks by possibly Buscema or Herb Trimpe. Ths issue reprints Daredevil #9 by Wally Wood (script, finished art) and Bob Powell (layouts) and #10 by Stan Lee (script), Powell (pencils) and Wood (inks).

This issue also features a full-page ad for Kid Colt Outlaw #151 with a new cover by Trimpe. Inside are three Kid Colt reprints from 1958 by Stan Lee, Jack Keller and Christopher Rule; Keller and an unidentified writer; and Lee and Joe Maneely. A fourth, non-series story is by artist George Woodbridge and an as-yet-unidentified writer.


The issue’s finale is its “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page. Rozina Jaworski of Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts wants to see the return of the Lynx from issue #76 and suggests the villainess go after the Kid with all-woman band of outlaws.

Roland Rangno (no address given) is a big fan of the “Tales of Fort Rango” series in Western Gunfighters. He suggests:

Why not have a cavalry attack squad like Sgt. Fury and the Howlers except in the eighteen hundreds? You could have Major Brett Sabre as the commanding officer and some of the men of the fort as his detail. They could be telegraphed from Washington to do special assignments such as chasing border bandits, breaking up a spy-ring which consists of deserters and stopping Indian raids on small villages. Also, once in a while, you could have them defending a small outpost. How are these for ideas?

Finally, Diane Nagura of San Francisco believes “it’s time for the fairer sex to be heard from in Western comics” and adds:

Rawhide Kid has the cool combination of action, suspense and a little romance which every girl needs.

That’s a wrap for this week’s “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” feature. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new “Television Thursday” column.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The true Golden Age of Comics is right now. It’s a time when fans can read many of the great and not-so-great comic books of decades past in print or electronic form. It’s a time when great new comic books and graphic novels are being created in every genre you can imagine and from all around the world. It’s a time when dedicated comics historians are working tirelessly to discover and preserve the history of the art form and its creators.

TwoMorrows Publishing of Raleigh, North Carolina is a treasure in this most golden of comics ages. The company publishes some of the best magazines of comics history - Alter Ego, Back Issue, The Jack Kirby Collector - and the informative Draw! (The Professional “How-To” Magazine on Comics, Cartooning and Animation). The publisher’s catalog include books on comics history and comics creators. In a competitive field, TwoMorrows more than holds its own with all of the other publishers doing such great work in this area.

I’m currently reading Will Eisner: A Spirited Life (Deluxe Edition) by Bob Andelman [$39.95]. Andelman’s original book was a treasure. This hardcover deluxe edition is the Scrooge McDuck money bin of Eisner history and memorabilia.

Andelman spent three years interviewing Eisner for the first book.This edition adds hundreds of black-and-white and full-cover images to that work. There are new interviews with Drew Friedman, Howard Chaykin, Darwyn Cooke, Sergio Aragones, Michael Uslan and others, interviews “which clear the air on topics left unfinished by the first edition and add depth to the reader’s knowledge of Eisner’s body of work. There’s an introduction by Michael Chabon, followed by a foreword by Neal Adams.

What truly makes this expanded edition, just as it made the first edition, is Andelman’s quest to present a complete picture of Will Eisner, his works, his business savvy, his creative genius, and all the other elements and factors that made up the life of one of the greatest comics men of all time. I’m a little over a hundred pages into the book, savoring every chapter and interview, but I didn’t want to wait to recommend it to you. If you’re interested in comics history, if you’re a fan of Eisner’s work, this is a book you must add to your personal comics library.

I don’t know if an expanded edition of an existing work will still be eligible for next year’s comics industry awards, but, if it is, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life will get my votes. Why did it have to come out in the same year as the first in my series of kind of sort of memoirs? I knew I saw Joe Btfsplk hanging around my neighborhood last week!

Keep reading the bloggy thing for the latest on my kind of sort of memoir. Buy Andelman’s book today.

ISBN 978-1-60549-061-8


Modern Masters Volume 30: Paolo Rivera [$15.95] is a recent entry in the long-running TwoMorrows series of books focusing on some of the best and brightest artists working in comics today. Each book in the series offers a lengthy interview with its subject covering their background, career, inspirations and working methods, as well as enough examples of their work to fill an art gallery.

Rivera grew up in an art store. He paints, he pencils, he inks, he colors and he sculpts. Though I’m a story guy first and foremost, I was fascinated by how he goes about creating his amazing single images and his comic-book pages. It’s illuminating to see how much thought he puts into his work.

Eric Nolen-Weathington has written dozens of books like this one. He is one of the best interviewers in comicdom and his skills makes each of these books a keeper. You’ll not go wrong buying this book or any of the other volumes in the series.

ISBN 978-1-60549-060-1


Alter Ego is my favorite magazine about comics and Back Issue, its companion magazine, is high on the list as well. The May issues of these titles were a crossover celebrating 75 years of Green Lantern and the Flash.

Alter Ego focuses on the Golden and Silver ages of comics. Issue #132 [$8.95] kicks off with Kurt Mitchell’s entertaining and informative article on Flash, Green Lantern and a third super-star of the Golden and Silver Age, Hawkman. Those familiar with my own comics writing will recall I’m somewhat fond of the Winged Wonder. That’s followed by a remembrance of artist Arthur Peddy and a few more fragments of the missing Justice Society of America story that Alter Ego has been restoring bit by bit.

Michael T. Gilbert concludes his two-part article on Bob Powell’s The Man in Black Called Fate, piecing together the details on that character’s own lost issue. The issue also features an interview with Al Dellinges (the ultimate Joe Kubert fan), a memoriam for the great Al Feldstein of EC and MAD renown and a few pieces on Captain Marvel and other Fawcett Comics characters.

In Back Issue #80 [$8.95], comics historian John Wells picks up the adventures of the Flash and Green Lantern in the Bronze Age. There are several other articles on the two heroes, including one by Mark Waid and another by Paul Kupperberg. Closing out the issue is one final stroll though the various New York offices of DC Comics, now located in the Los Angeles area. I definitely don’t share any dewy nostalgia for DC or its offices - I generally refer to my time as a DC staffer as my “six months in Hell” - but most fans will enjoy the remembrances.

Alter Ego and Back Issue are must-reads for any fan or professional interested in the history of comics. Even as I strive to reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I know my runs of these magazines will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands.


The five artists named on the cover of Draw! #30 [8.95] read like a wish list of artists any writer would be thrilled to work with: Chris Samnee, Butch Guice, regular columnist Jerry Ordway, editor-in-chief Mike Manley and Bret Blevins. The magazine’s audience is aspiring artists, but, as with the Modern Masters series, a writer can learn a lot from this publication about working with artists.

Leading off the issue, managing editor and designer Eric Nolen-Weathington interviews Samnee on cartooning in a field increasingly driven by photo-realism. Ordway writes about taking an image from your mind-s eye to the finished page. Manley interviews Guice about his latest work. Blevins and Manley offer a “Comic Art Bootcamp” on the drawing of the human ear. Columnist Jamar Nichols reviews the tools of the trade.

Draw! might not interest the casual student of comics. However, if you’re an artist or a writer looking to understand the artists he will be working with, it’s a valuable magazine.


The Jack Kirby Collector
#64 [$10.95] is a “Kirby at War” issue and the most intense exploration of the artist’s life as a soldier and the comics which drew on those experiences I’ve ever seen. From the opening feature - a comics story visualization by Jean Depelley and artist Tom Scioli based on the often brutal combat Kirby saw during World War II - to interviews with people who knew Jack or some of his fellow soldiers to rare World War II art by Kirby to overviews of Kirby’s war comics, this issue is sometimes shocking, sometimes terrifying and always interesting. The best Kirby scholarship puts its emphasis on his incredible work and a life that mirrors so much of the American experience. That’s what this fantastic issue of The Jack Kirby Collector does and why I give it my recommendation.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back here tomorrow with another rip-roaring installment of our “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 25, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I write about DC's Convergence event!


Today is Memorial Day. We are at war. We are always at war. Maybe we always will be at war. Maybe that’s our new normal as a nation and as a world.

Mostly old and mostly rich and mostly white men prattle endlessly as to how much we should be at war. They debate how to fight our wars du jour. They debate how many mostly young and mostly not rich men and women they are willing to put in harm’s war to serve our neverending wars. They prattle and they debate and they rage from their safe podiums so far from the realities of war.

Today is Memorial Day. A day when we honor those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our wars.

I used to write about Memorial Day almost every year. I don’t know why I stopped.

I think I need to write about Memorial Day every year. I long for the year I can write about it when we are not at war.

Here some of my Memorial Day thoughts from past years.


From 2004...

Memorial Day. It's a day to remember those who have died in service to our nation, those whose sacrifices should be honored on each and every day.

Today's column had to reflect this day, but it was hard for me to focus on our slain heroes through my anger at the administration which has so recently and fraudulently sent more than 800 young men and women to their deaths. This current war is driven by the greed of the rich and the powerful and not by any imminent danger to the American people.

Of course and sadly, there *are* wars that need to be fought. Our country was attacked; we must respond to that attack and defend against future attacks. Neither of those goals explains why we're in Iraq or why our soldiers are dying there. Still, this is not a day for such a conversation.

Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Dick Feagler, in that paper's Sunday edition, wrote of a young man who died in Iraq and joins the dead of earlier wars. His column concluded thus:

In the morning, there's a parade. Many of us sleep through that. We lie in bed and hear the thump of the drums from a high school band marching us to a place where some vets will tell us about the kids who have died for us. Somebody is sure to say that a lot of kids have given their lives for us. But my limited experience in war is that kids don't give lives for us. They give lives for each other. They are trained, our children, to try to save each other from the cauldron into which we have sent them.

All bravery really comes from that. When the Iraq kid gets to heaven, most of his friends are young men. He can search as he may, but he will seldom find anybody over 40. And he will never find a politician of the stripe that sent him there.

When we play taps tomorrow, even if some old guy is playing it, keep in mind that it's played for a kid. It always has been. The old folks wipe their tears, but maybe they ought to be more careful...more careful of the kids from the Marne and Anzio and, tomorrow, Iraq.

I can't say it better than that.

Memorial Day.

We honor those who have given their lives for our country by remembering their sacrifice. I think we also honor them by making sure we don't ask today's soldiers--or tomorrow's--to make similar sacrifice for anything less than the defense of this nation or to safeguard its most precious ideals.

If there be fault to be found in our military, I think it lies more with elected officials who don't embrace those ideals or even understand what they are...and those unwilling to adequately arm and compensate our troops...than with the men and women who serve in its ranks. That, too, is a subject we will discuss here in the weeks to come.

But, today is for remembering our war dead and thanking them for that sacrifice. It seems so utterly inadequate to express with words my admiration and gratitude for their acts. I owe them much, and, yet, this, too, is what they fought and died for.

Make War No More. We have to try harder.

For all of them. For the Iraq kid.

And for tomorrow's kids.


From 2006:

Memorial Day is a day for commemorating the U.S. men and women who died in military service to this country, although it has also become known for cookouts and the running of the Indianapolis 500. I get the "cookouts" part of it, such gatherings are reflective of the fellowship, ideals, and way of life for which our honored dead made the ultimate sacrifice. It's the cars racing around a track at absurd speeds and at great risk to their drivers that throws me. Then again, I also don't get the whole "climbing a mountain because it's there" stuff. Some sports are just stupid.

Though I make light of some of the ways we Americans celebrate Memorial Day, don't think for a moment that I would ever make light of the tremendous debt we owe those who died in our name. When we stand humbly before their graves, concepts like "good war" or "bad war" are insignificant. These men, these women, died for us, died for our nation. It was a debt we can never truly repay.

Which doesn't mean we can't try.

Now and always, we must equip our soldiers with the tools and equipment they need to complete the tasks we set before them and to complete them safely. We must make sure their personal needs and those of their families are met.

We must give them clear and moral justification for the tasks we set before them. We must not send them into combat unless the danger to our country is clear and imminent. We must not send them into combat in the name of commerce or expediency. Their lives are far more precious than the bottom line or some political advantage. And we must absolutely hold our leaders responsible for failures to command our troops justly and wisely.

I am not an isolationist. There are innocent people suffering in many lands. I can accept our soldiers being deployed to provide humanitarian aid and protection to those innocents. But, always, always, with the highest regard for the safety of the men and women sent on these missions.

Those we honor on Memorial Day gave us the very best they had to offer. We owe them no less than ours.


From 2008:

Memorial Day is one of those holidays I don't entirely get. Now before anyone accuses me of not supporting the troops, I will quickly add that I most definitely do appreciate the sacrifice our fallen soldiers made on behalf of all of us and honor them for it, and I haven't even once threatened to veto legislation that would give our living veterans a college education and the other benefits anyone with a conscience would readily see they deserve.

Dozens of cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. President Lyndon B. Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace some four decades ago, but the notion of honoring one's fallen soldiers really seems to have originated in the South. Which was sort of problem for me, since the Confederate ladies were placing flowers and flags on the graves of Civil War dead, men who died trying to protect slavery. But, as we have now seen thousands of American soldiers die for President George W. Bush's despicable agenda, it becomes manifest that we can not and never should blame soldiers for the wars our leaders inflict on them.

It also bothers me that Memorial Day has been transmogrified into "Memorial Day Weekend," a celebration of cookouts and other entertainments and pleasures. There's been a bill hanging around Congress for a decade which would do away with the "last Monday of May" celebration and switch the holiday back to its traditional May 30 date. The traditional date would make for a more solemn day and I can see the value in that.

However, I can also see the value in celebrating the sacrifice of our fallen by doing some of the more positive things that define our way of life. We can have those cookouts and other pleasures of the day because of their sacrifice.

Conflicted as I may be, I'm certain our soldiers, both living and dead, deserve our respect and our thanks. We should remember them every day of the year, but most especially on the days when we vote for the leaders who will hold the fates of present and future soldiers in their hands.


From 2009:

Memorial Day.

This is the day we honor our American men and women who have died in military service. The first Memorial Day was for soldiers who died during the Civil War. It now honors American casualties of all wars and military actions.

There will be speeches and parades. There will be visits to the local cemeteries where our fallen lay. At national cemeteries, volunteers will place flags at each soldier's grave. Flags will be flown half-mast until noon with a moment of remembrance at 3 in the afternoon. All these gestures are fitting and proper.


The best way to honor our war heroes is, as a nation, to live up to the sacrifice they made for us.

They died for their buddies next to them, for their families, and for America at its best. They sure as anything didn't die for politicians or political agendas, or for bloated corporations and equally bloated CEOs.

Some of those buddies, some of those buddies who died and some who lived because of the sacrifices of their buddies, were gay. It isn't even a matter of debate. It's fact. Gay men and women have served in our military, have served honorably in our military, and have died in the service of our country.

It's obscene that the United States of America, the nation by which all other nations are judged, does not allow gay Americans to serve openly in the military. Their blood and their lives, their commitment and their sacrifice, only differ from those of their fellow soldiers by dint of their being forced to deny who they are to serve. If not this Memorial Day then by the next, our President and our Congress must end the military's discrimination against gay Americans. We need their service and skills more than ever as we face enemies radically different from any enemies we have faced in the past.

They fought and died for their families. It's equally obscene that many members of those families have seen their jobs lost due to corporate greed, have seen their jobs leave our country and go overseas, have watched the architects of these deplorable practices earn enormous paychecks while their corporations crash and burn and ask for billions from the citizens they have failed.

They fought and died for our better angels. For the America that educates its children, works to ensure decent health care and housing and nutrition to its citizens, labors to treat all of our people with fairness and justice, does not demonize Americans for their race, religion, or sexuality, and certainly doesn't demonize them for media ratings or political gain.

Honor our fallen heroes on Memorial Day. Honor them with the lowered flags and the parades and the speeches and, of course, with our prayers. And then...

Honor them every other day by building and sustaining the kind of America for which they made the ultimate sacrifice.



The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 ended the DADT policy and allowed gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces. It was signed into law on December 22, 2010 by President Barack Obama. As of September 20, 2011, following certification and implementation of repeal, DADT was no longer U.S. policy. Neither our country nor the world came to an end.

The Act survived two filibusters attempts by Republicans. When it came to a vote in a Senate, every one of the “no” votes was cast by a Republican. No Democrat voted against the act.

It gets better. It gets better because it has to get better if we are to make our world a better place.

It needs to get better faster. Especially for those men and women who serve in our armed forces, no matter their race, gender, creed or sexual orientation, it needs to get better.

Honor our fallen heroes. Help make things better.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Remember my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales? I sure do and I wish I could tell you they will be resuming soon. But that would be a lie. The earliest I can start them this summer will be July 24 or July 31...and that’s if everything else I have to do in June and July gets done. It’s going to be a busy couple of months for your friendly online Writer-Man.

My most important project over these next two months is writing the “memoir” I’ve mentioned in recent bloggy things. Figuring out what will fit in this book has been a frustrating endeavor. There’s no chance I can include everything I’d like to include. I don’t think I’ll even be able to include all the comics and other things I have written in my 43 years as a working professional.

In addition to writing this book, I am determined to fulfill all of my other professional commitments. I’ll still be writing the weekly “Tony’s Tips” column for Tales of Wonder. I’ll still be doing some work for the one comic-strip client I kept on account of I really enjoy working with him and his characters. When Papercutz sends me  the next album of The Garfield Show, I’ll do the script restoration on that. Because I am a mighty man of comics.

I also plan on posting a new bloggy thing almost every day of the week. The only exception to this will be when I’m traveling to and being a guest at IndyPopCon (June 26-28). Someday I may have both the energy and the technical capability to post bloggy things from the road, but I’m not there yet.

I keep thinking I’m missing something in this litany of things I’m doing over the next two months...and I just remembered what it is. But it’s a TOP SECRET project that’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before. My success isn’t guaranteed, but, if things go as I hope, I may have some very interesting news for you before the end of the year. More I dare not say.

The good news I have for those of you who want to buy items from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff is that I’ll be resuming my online sales in June. Keep reading my Facebook page and the bloggy for details on those sales.

I still have my legendary bucket list of some 200 things I want to write before I kick the bucket. I hope to commence chipping away at that list in August or thereabouts. I’ll also be available for new assignments at that time. Retirement is a myth.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Saturday, May 23, 2015


My goal for 2015 was to make two appearances a month, commencing in February. Most of these would have been convention appearances and others would have been at comic shops, libraries and schools. As with many plans, it went awry.

I had some health concerns with which I am currently dealing. You needn’t fret about them. I’m not. But, given those concerns and an unexpectedly heavy work load, I figured it prudent to scale back my original appearance strategy.

Though adding another appearance or two before the end of the year isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility, here’s the list of my confirmed appearance at this time:

June 26-28: IndyPopCon (Indianapolis)

August 13-16: PulpFest (Columbus)

October 16-18: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

October 24: Cleveland Comic Con

November 7-8: Akron Comic Con

If you’ve been reading the bloggy thing this year, you’ll remember that the passage of anti-LGBT legislation in Indiana, legislation posing as being enacted in the name of “religious liberty,” caused me to initially cancel my IndyPopCon appearance. I changed my mind because the convention expressed its support for inclusion for all in the most powerful of terms...because the still-terrible law was softened somewhat...and because I felt I could use my appearance at the convention to increase awareness of the issues facing those in Indiana and elsewhere who believe in equal rights for all.

With the blessing and encouragement of the IndyPopCon management, I offered to share my table with any local LGBT group interested in coming to the event to promote the ongoing battles in Indiana and elsewhere against discriminatory laws. I wanted to use my celebrity standing - small though it might be - to help in that fight. Much to my disappointment, no group has contacted me to take advantage of my offer.  With IndyPopCon a month away, I don’t expect that to change. Sigh.

Since it’s unlikely any advocacy group is going to come forward at this late date, I’m currently figuring out what I’ll be doing with the table space. What you’ll probably see are items for sale that will include Isabella-written items, the two-sided Superman poster I developed for Cleveland’s International Superman Expo of 1988 and  whatever boxes of fun stuff I can put together between now and when I hit the road for Indianapolis.

I can change these latest plans if an advocacy group comes forward. I’m not expecting that to happen. Since I’d still like to promote an end to discriminatory laws, I’ll now extend an offer to include information on the ongoing fight on my table. E-mail me a sample of the flier or other material you’d like to place on my table. If I find it acceptable, I’ll tell you where you can send the material for inclusion in my IndyPopCon packing.

During the con, I’ll be doing at least two panels or presentations. What these will be and when they will be scheduled during the show hasn’t been determined yet. As soon as I know, I’ll share the news with you here and on my Facebook page.

IndyPopCon has some terrific guests this year. I’m looking forward to meeting Gila director Jim Wynorski...and more of the fine folks from The Asylum. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends like Joe Corroney and Scott Shaw! I’m looking forward to seeing friends and readers I haven’t seen in years or who I’ve never met face-to-face. Please don’t be shy about stopping by my table.

I’m always happy to sign Isabella-written stuff for both fans and retailers. I never charge for my signature. However, on the chance I have a long-ish line and you have a whole bunch of comics for me to sign, I may have to sign just some of your items and ask you to go back to the end of the line for the rest. If you have less than a dozen items, I can sign them all without making that request of you. That sound fair to you?

Here’s what I won’t sign...

I will not sign comic books I didn’t write or edit, even if Black Lightning or other Isabella creations appear in them.

I will not sign Black Lightning merchandise unless DC Comics paid me royalties on the merchandise. Sadly, that includes all but a few action figures and trading cards.

I will not sign “DC history” books because those books are filled with knowing misinformation about myself and others.

I will not sign articles of clothing for reasons I won’t get into at the present time. Besides, my signature always looks terrible on these. Even more so than usual.

I will not sign body parts. Being asked to sign a fetching young lady’s breast in Dallas over three decades ago was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience...and it wasn’t unpleasant. However, as I have been happily married for 31 years and am now 63 years old, I think my signing body parts would just be creepy.

Moving right along...

I’m happy to answer questions at my table and on my panels. I’ll do my best to answer them all, though, on occasion, the answer might be “You’ll have to buy my new book.” Heh, heh, heh.

I love cosplayers, especially those appearing as characters I have created or have written. I’m delighted to pose for photos with you. All I ask is that you send me a scan of the photo with permission to use it in this bloggy thing or my Facebook page.

As we get closer to IndyPopCon and, indeed, the other conventions on my schedule, I’ll have more to say about them. Keep reading the bloggy thing for those updates.


Looking ahead to 2016...

Unless my income takes a dramatic upswing before the end of 2015, I’ll probably only be able to attend conventions willing to pay all my hotel and travel expenses...and provide a table where I can sell and sign things. I understand it’s a tough market for conventions and that some events won’t be able to meet these requirements for me. Trust me, I’ll take no offense if that’s the case with a show or other event.

Obviously, I would love to go to Comic-Con in 2016 and every year after that. I’ve even offered to be Mark Evanier’s PA at the show. Maybe DC Comics will fly me out so they can announce that they have decided to honor their agreements with me. In the unlikely event of that happening, I’ll be the guy on stage with the grin four times than my head.

I would sure like to attend G-Fest XXIII in 2016. It’s the largest regular gathering of Godzilla and Japanese monster devotees in the world. I’m not sure how I can make that trip work for me, but I’ll do some thinking on it.

Other dream trips would be to England or Japan. As dreams go, they would be much better than the one in which my son Eddie and I were working for a coroner’s office. Our job was to put together “body boxes” that looked like comic-book boxes, fill them with personal belongings and remains, and then ship them to someplace or another.  I told Eddie about this dream and he came up with his own somewhat morbid spin on it. When I die, we could have someone make a coffin that looked like a comic-book box and seal me in a Mylar bag. The only thing I could add would be to line the coffin with acid-free backing boards.

But I digress...

The dream trip that I believe is within my reach is the one I hope to take when I finish writing my new book. I envision going to some secluded cabin and spending a week reading and relaxing. If there were a decent-sized TV and a DVD or Blu-ray player, I would bring along a stack of movies as well. Odds I could handle three or four days of such relaxation - a week at most - before I’d be chomping at the bit to get back to writing.

That’s all for today. If you’re a convention or event promoter who would like be to be a guest at your convention or event, e-mail me with the details.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, May 22, 2015


Every year, my friend Bob Hoskins and the sensational staff of his Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey, send me a box filled with every Free Comic Book Day free comic book. Every year, I plan to review all of those free comic books. Every year so far, I have come up ridiculously short of that goal. Let’s see if this year is any different.

The 2015 plan is to read a bunch of FCBD books and write about them every Friday. I’ll lead each of these weekly bloggy things with my choice for the best FCBD of the week’s bunch.

When I look at a FCBD comic book, I look for more than the quality of the material contained in the issue. I consider whether or not it’s accessible to a first-time reader of that material and whether or not that first-time reader is likely to seek out the comic books and books showcased in the free issue. In the best case scenario, that first-time reader does seek out the comic books and buys them from the generous comic-book shop where he or see scored the free comic book. That said...

Rabbids [Papercutz] is my choice for the best Free Comic Book Day comic book of the first batch, even if my dear friend and Papercutz editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup stubbornly insists on writing “comic books” as one word. I’m thinking of staging an intervention.

This comic book contains several pages each of Rabbids, Ariol, The Smurfs and The Garfield Show. Rabbids was the only one of these I hadn’t read before. Written by Thitaume and drawn by Romain Pujol, the rabbids are weird-looking rabbits who star in single-page gag strips that are every bit as weird as their stars. The strips are infectiously funny and sometimes sneak up on the reader.  Several times, they made me literally laugh out loud. I would say I planned to seek out every Rabbids book there is, but, to be honest, I plan on begging Jim to send them to me.

The handsome and witty Salicrup does a good job introducing all of the issue’s features in his inside front cover editorial. Even if you rush past those paragraphs of perfection - I’m laying it on way too thick, aren’t I? - all of the strips are new-reader friendly.

Ariol is a young blue donkey who, among other youthful pastimes,  collects comic books and related items. In this issue’s story, he’s trying to get the final sticker he needs to complete his “Thunder Horse Super Collection” album. Most of the action takes place at a comics shop and, as a guy who owned such a shop back in the day, I could relate to the owner and his disgruntled adult customer. The story by Emmanuel Guibert and artist Mark Boutavant is funny with a satisfying ending.

Who doesn’t know The Smurfs? In a story by creator/writer/artist Peyo, we meet the nice twin brother of evil wizard Gargamel. It’s another fun story and I especially enjoyed the “Smurf Notes” trivia that ran below each page of the story.

Finally, we have an amusing science fiction adventure adapted from an episode of the wonderful Garfield Show and originally published in a French comic album. This calls for some full disclosure on my part. Though Salicrup did the dialogue restoration for this story, I’ve been handling that enjoyable task for the albums published by Papercutz. I love the show and these albums, but I figure I should tell you I work on them.

Rabbids is everything a FCBD issue should be. The stories are fun and well-done. They’re very accessible to a new reader. They stand a good chance of enticing that new reader into seeking out more of the same. Well done, Papercutz. Well done.


I also read...

Divergence #1 [DC Comics]. DC gets points for presenting satisfying chunks of three stories: Batman, Superman and Justice League. If I hadn’t read so very many better stories starring those characters, I might be more interested in them.

“The Rookie” by Scott Synder and Greg Capullo introduces the silly notion of the former Commissioner Gordon becoming some kind of Iron Batman. It made me giggle, but I’m on record of not being fond of Synder’s run on Batman.

“Exposed” by Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr. has good writing and terrific art, but it chips away a few more of the elements I’ve always thought were essential to Superman. Sometimes it seems as if DC Comics likes everything about Superman except everything about Superman.

The Justice League fragment is “prologue two” to something called “Darkseid War.” I find Darkseid as tedious as the Joker. I am not entertained by brutality for the sake of brutality. As much as I’ve enjoyed Geoff Johns' writing in the past, this does nothing for me. I’ll take a pass.


Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace #5 [Gemstone] features mostly short and always well-written articles on comic books and various related matters. However, the magazine lacks a statement of purpose which could have explained its raison d'etre to comics newcomers. This was a decent FCBD offering, but an friendly introduction would have made it more inviting. That would be an easy fix for the 2016 edition of CBM.


The Phantom [Hermes Press] has a couple introductory pages by the late great Don Newton and a couple more by the equally great and, thankfully, still with us Sal Velluto that introduce the Phantom to new readers. Those pages are followed by two complete stories: one drawn by Bill Lignante from the Gold Key run and one drawn by Jim Aparo from the Charlton run. It’s a nice FCBD offering, but falls short when it comes to promote Hermes Press’ new Phantom series by Peter David and Sal Velluto. As David is well known in a number of fandoms (comic books, fantasy, Star Trek), I think Hermes missed a bet by not giving him some play here.


I am not the audience for Pokemon [Perfect Square], which featured fragments from three different Pokemon manga series. I couldn’t get  a handle on what these series were about. There was no editorial presence to guide me through what I was reading. I was hopelessly lost from start to finish.

On the other hand, Pokemon fans probably already knew enough about the series to be entertained and possibly enticed to seek out the manga volumes of those series. As I said, I’m not the audience for this stuff, but that doesn’t mean this comic book wasn’t effective with the demographic being targeted by Perfect Square.


I also don’t think I’m the audience for Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon Legacy [Image], though I do buy and usually enjoy the title. Like the ongoing title, this FCBD issue is mostly big and frantic fight scenes with a page here and there of nice character interactions. Larsen has gotten quite good at the latter and it’s a strength that he should play to more frequently.

The other drawback for me is the vastness of the Dragon back story. Literally hundreds of characters set amidst reality-altering tales. It makes me dizzy sometimes.

Savage Dragon Legacy #1 gives the new reader all the information he or she needs to decide if they want to follow the title. Which is not a bad thing for a FCBD comic book to do.


I have somewhat mixed feelings about the Scooby-Doo! Team-Up/Teen Titans Go! [DC Comics] flip book. Writer Sholly Fisch does a great job with a Scooby-Do/Super Friends team-up, but the 10-page segment ends on a cliffhanger that directs the reader to Scooby-Do! Team-Up Volume 1. Nothing takes the fun out of a free comic like having to plunk down $12.99 to get the rest of the story.

The Teen Titans story is complete unto itself and nicely captures the craziness of the current cartoon series. Also included in this comic book and game pages for each half of the comic.

DC gets high marks for the material, but loses points for the bait-and-switch.


One more FCBD offering for this go-round.

Secret Wars #0 [Marvel] has a story by Jonathan Hickman and artist Paul Renaud that sets up the next big Marvel Universe(s) event. I’m not a fan of Hickman’s writing. His Avengers “world is ending” run became tiresome more than a year ago. I don’t expect I’ll be more enamored of his Secret Wars. The second story in the issue is a strange Avengers/Attack on Titan mash-up that didn’t do much for me. As with some other FCBD comics, I’m simply not the audience for this one.

I think the issue will have a “wow” factor for some new readers who only know the Marvel heroes through the movies, but I also believe those new readers will be utterly baffled by the intricacy of this epic event. I’d rate it a FCBD fail.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Of late, my days are full. I work on my “memoir” and I write other stuff. I deal with minor aches and pains. When the aches and pains drive me from my keyboard, I read or watch TV. I eat and I sleep, as little of the former as I can manage without lapsing into food withdrawal and as much of the latter as my often-guilty conscience will allow. I mean, why am I sleeping when I have all those pages to write?

When my memoir is completed, I plan to find some quiet and secluded place close enough to civilization that I can get to town in case of a supernatural serial killer outbreak but far enough away that  not even Rachel from Cardholder Services will be able to find me. I see myself sitting in a chair on a shady porch reading a modest stack of books I’ve been meaning to read.

I probably watch too much TV, but I am honestly entertained by the shows I watch. However, sometimes madness overtakes me and I watch some show which, in my right mind, I would have realized would not suit me. Thus was the case with TLC’s Retro Wives and Submissive Wives' Guide to Marriage, which aired this past Sunday. When I saw the listings for these shows, I posted this:

Odd programming options. This evening, on The Learning Channel, there are two back-to-back specials: Submissive Wives' Guide to Marriage and Retro Wives.

The description for the first: "Submissive wives who serve and submit to their men; Autumn and Eddie are from multi-generational submissive families; submissive wife Tara helps her friend Kristen become submissive."

The description for the second: "A group of women trades modern conveniences to become the ``perfect'' 1950s housewives."

My love for 1950s fashions notwithstanding, this is truly a WTF moment. I think what we're learning here is that The Learning Channel needs a new name.

Facebook friend Jonathan Andrew Sheen was quick to inform me that the network doesn’t use “The Learning Channel” as its name anymore. It just goes by TLC. Jim MacQuarrie, another Facebook pal, then won the Internet by posting:

TLC stands for "Too Late, Civilization.”

Altruistic fool that I am, I decided to watch these two programs so that you wouldn’t have to. It was a decision I came to regret, but not until after I’d wasted an hour and twenty minutes of my life I will never get back.

Retro Wives seems to have started out as Wives with Beehives. The name change was one of the few not-entirely-terrible things about this special which could become a series. This show was basically The Real Housewives of Pretending to Live in the 1950s. One of the women was a total bitch, another was shy and innocent. A third was something of a control freak, but at least tried to be nice to the new girl and others. The fourth was arrogant and entitled, making a joke about her maid:

“I have a dishwasher. Her name is Maria.”

I was hoping for some 50s elegance from this show. What I got was mostly 50s tacky: boisterous outfits, hairdos and makeup designed to drew attention to these women.

There were some amusing moments, such as when a somewhat flamboyant exercise instructor was merciless in poking fun at the two “retro wives” who came to one of his sessions. Still, for all the talk of these women and their happy husbands embracing a 1950s lifestyle, their existence came off as an extended cosplay routine with their shoulder-less dresses revealing garish, large and very modern tattoos.Ultimately, their shtick wasn’t believable...which is not uncommon for TLC’s so-called reality shows.

I could only stomach twenty minutes of Submissive Wives' Guide to Marriage. Despite a character’s claim that it takes a strong woman to be a submissive wife, this program was faux-Christian propaganda with the aim of diminishing women. In its own American way, it was as anti-woman as the Islamic regimes that treat women as even less than second-hand citizens.

Submissive wife zealot Tara barely blinked her eyes when she was on screen. She looked brainwashed. Her friend Kristen was a lazy slob, who, laying in bed until 10:30 am, resented being expected to clean up after her husband and kids...after he got the kids up and ready for school and then drove them to school before going to his job. Her resentment seems even less sympathetic when it becomes obvious she doesn’t clean up anything. Vowing to become a submissive wife, which is her idea and not her husband’s, Kristen falls down on the job immediately. She pushes around a few mountains of laundry and then, exhausted, takes a nap.

Then we get Autumn and Eddie, both of who come from families where the wife was submissive. Autumn’s mother and father make with their “Christian” bullshit when they visit. Eddie is your basic imperious jerk. Both seem bent on brainwashing their five-year-old daughter into following their repressive lifestyle. I think I might dislike Autumn and Eddie most of all.

Twenty minutes of this crap was all I could take. I fear there is much truth in Jim MacQuarrie’s online quip:

TLC stands for "Too Late, Civilization.”

Not to worry, though, I’m sure the network is preparing a new show for 2016: Submissive Housewife Survivalists. Gun-toting housewives build ramparts and other defenses for husbands too busy preparing for Obama’s sending the Armed Forces to impose Sharia Law on their backwoods community to actually do any of the building themselves.

Don’t worry. These women can take it because they are strong enough to be submissive. They’ll build those ramparts, keep the ammo dry, cook up a fine squirrel stew and then make like bunnies with their husbands to increase their numbers.

At least actual zombies don’t have babies.

Look for more TV reviews as I make my way through the hours of fine programming waiting for me on my DVR. If I write about these shows, I can convince myself I wasn’t just goofing off when I was watching them. Denial can be your friend.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


When I finish writing my "memoir" later this summer and go into hiding at some secluded cabin with my stack of books I really want to read, this one will be at the top of the pile.

Dancing with the Squirrels: Tales from Comics Fandom and Beyond is a collection of stories by my dear old friend Dwight Decker [CreateSpace; $14.95]. We met through the fanzines when we were mere teenagers and have been friends for closing in on half a century. Dwight has written all sorts of interesting stuff over the years, but I have a special love for his tales of comics and science-fiction fans. I always hoped he would publish a collection like this and now he has.

Here's the Amazon pitch for the book:

Long before any theories about oversized detonations… there were funny stories about comic book fans! A long time ago, a certain aspiring author realized that he didn’t know much about what real-life detectives, spies, cowboys, or starship captains actually do, so it would be hard to write stories about them. But what he did know was what kind of trouble his fellow comic-book fans got into. So, taking the old advice to new writers, “Write what you know,” a little too much to heart, he instead wrote real fan fiction — stories about fans. This book collects some of his best, new and old, all as fresh and funny as when they were first written. In the title story, destiny strikes like lightning at a comics convention — but its aim is a little off. In the other stories, teenage comics fans hunt for rare and valuable old comic books in unlikely places while trying to live down the damage done to their reputations by the Batman TV show. The fictional locales range from a small town in Illinois to Los Angeles and even England, but the strangest story of all is set in Cincinnati — and happens to be perfectly true! Whether you’re a comics fan or a science-fiction fan, know some fans, or just have some idea of what comic books and science fiction are, Dancing with the Squirrels will introduce you to a world you may have never known existed. The fanboys — and even a fangirl or two — are on the move!

Even unread, I recommend this book to you...based on how much I enjoyed the writing of a somewhat younger Dwight Decker. I have to wait a few months to read it, but you don't. 

Tony Isabella


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 67th installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #82 [December 1970] has a new cover by Herb Trimpe, but, inside this issue, we get a reprint of “A Man Called Drako” (17 pages) by writer Denny O’Neil with art by Dick Ayers and Vince Colletta. The story originally appeared in Rawhide Kid #59 [August 1967]. Even back in 1970, I thought it was way too soon for Marvel to reprint a story barely three years old. Makes me wonder if the issue was running late and the editorial/production staff grabbed the first set of photostats they could lay their hands on. Anyone know for sure?

I want to spend a bit more time on that Trimpe cover, which I like a lot. It’s an exciting image with lots going on. There’s plenty of room for the Kid’s two word balloons and the arrow-caption warning him about Drako. The bright yellow background makes the cover pop. It’s a swell cover on all fronts.

“A Man Called Drako” isn’t identified as a reprint, a practice that Marvel would eventually abandon. You can read my comments on this story by going to my bloggy thing for June 19, 2013.


The issue’s second story is also an unidentified-as-such reprint. “The Badlands” (4 pages) was first published in Kid Colt Outlaw #80 [September 1958]. Drawn by Ayers, this is a clever little tale of an aging sheriff who rides alone into the badlands on the trail of a killer named Brad Gower. The story is narrated by a ballad-singing cowboy. I admire the unidentified writer who actually made that difficult device work.

No one from the town of Chemung will accompany Sheriff Frank Carter on this manhunt. Dozens of outlaws are hiding out in those badlands and the townsmen don’t have the stones to risk their lives bringing Gower to justice.

The outlaws laugh at Carter when he tries to enter their badlands after Gower. They taunt Carter and fire their rifles into the air. They think they spooked the sheriff’s horse, but it was all part of the lawman’s plan. He has tricked them into revealing exactly where they are.

Carter pulls the main log from a damned-up river. Nature does its part, flooding the outlaw hideout. Their guns and ammo soaked and useless, the outlaws surrender to the sheriff.

Carter herds up the outlaws and marches them into Chemung, much to the amazement of the townsfolk. The angry Gower demands the ballad-singer include him in the song.

SINGER: And to think the end of Brad Gower was brought by Frank’s man-made shower!

GOWER: Aw, shut up!


This issue’s “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” takes up less than one half of a page. There are no standout issues on the checklist this go-round. Sharing the newsstands with Rawhide: Fantastic Four #105, Amazing Spider-Man #91, Avengers #82, Thor #182, Captain America #132, Incredible Hulk #134, Daredevil #70, Sub-Mariner #32, Iron Man #32, Astonishing Tales #3, Conan the Barbarian #2, Chamber of Darkness #8, Sgt. Fury #82, Special Marvel Edition #1, Marvel Tales #29, Marvel Super-Heroes #28, X-Men #67, Daredevil King-Size #2, Western Gunfighters #3, Outlaw Kid #3, Our Love Story #8, Harvey #2 and Millie the Model #187.

The rest of the page is a Marvelmania advertisement for 6-inch tall “molded and unbreakable 3-D statues of your favorite super-heroes, each with its own base [and] no assembly required.” There are two sets of three heroes each. Set A has Spider-Man, Hulk and Iron Man. Set B has Captain America, Thor and Daredevil. Including postage, each set costs $2. Order both sets and the cost is $3. This statue pitch suggests you “paint ‘em or just set ‘em around to form your own super-hero museum!”

Marvelmania had a deservedly shady reputation. By this time in its existence, I wasn’t buying anything from the fan club. So, having never seen these models back then, I ask if any of my bloggy thing readers did order and receive them. I’d be interested in learning what you thought of these mini-statues.

Various back-issue dealers bought space on this issue’s classified ads pages: Howard Rogofsky, Passaic Book Center, Robert Bell, Grand Book Inc. and Clint’s Books. A sample copy of The Comiccollector could be yours for a dollar. If you still had another dollar left after buying all those Marvel comics, you could get “100 stick-on stamps of the scariest Movie Monsters!”


There was no “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page this issue, but we did get a “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page...and it’s just now occurred to be that “Riding’ the Range with Rawhide” would’ve been a better name for the column. Am I slow or what?

Reader Jackie Brannan of Memphis, Tennessee is having a hard time tracking down issues of Ringo Kid and has never read a Ghost Rider story. He or she would also like to see Rawhide team with Ghostie, Kid Colt and the Two-Gun Kid. Brannan also caught a goof, spotting that a character drew his gun with his left hand, but it was the man’s right holster that was empty.

Marvel’s response:

Would you believe it was a fancy cross-draw, Jackie? How ‘bout if we tell you it was a good? That’s what it really was, most likely. About our splendiferous spook of the plains, the galivanting Ghost Rider, you’ll find him, along with some pretty rough hombres in Western Gunfighters.
Mike Francis of Manhattan beach, California, who was published in Rawhide Kid #74, suggested in that earlier letter that the Rawhide Kid should meet some modern-day villains like Doctor Doom. At that time, Marvel said that decision would be made by readers. Francis asks how that worked out and Marvel answers with an evasive “still waiting for comments on your suggestion.”

Geoff Gibbs of Ontario, Canada thought Rawhide Kid #79 was great. He’s been collecting Rawhide Kid for two years and has 131 12-cent comics and 3 25-cent comics. He’s looking forward to buying Western Gunfighters. In its response, Marvel says Western Gunfighters #1 has received more letters than any other currently-published Marvel western comic.

Michael Nesmith of Hopewell, Virginia wants to know how the Rawhide Kid and Kid Colt became outlaws. He also wants a gunfight between Rawhide and the Ringo Kid.

That’s it for this issue. Look for another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” next week.

I’ll be back tomorrow with other stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella