Sunday, January 10, 2016


One of the things I do on my Facebook page that gives me great joy is posting birthday greetings and remembrances of comics creators and others who mean something to me. Over the years, many friends have expressed astonishment over, not just my doing this, but how on Earth I am able to do it. Today’s bloggy is where I lay all my secrets bare.

Let’s head back to 1975 when Roy Thomas handed off the writing and editorial duties on The Mighty Marvel Bicentennial Calendar to me. This is probably the strangest Marvel calendar of them all in that it featured gorgeous original drawings of Marvel characters taking part in key events of 1776. Someday I’ll need to write a bloggy on the making of that calendar.

What you need to know for today’s bloggy is that the calendar, like the calendar that preceded it, included the birthdays of a bunch of Marvel creators and staffers. After I left New York City and moved back to Cleveland, I made use of the birthday information because I wanted to stay connected to the many great people at Marvel with whom I had worked. I started sending out birthday cards to anyone I had worked with. If I didn’t have their home address, I sent the cards c/o the Marvel offices.

Early on, I got a note back from Gene Colan. He was so delighted to have received that card. He said it was the first time he had ever received a birthday card from anyone in the comics industry. I was thrilled to have brought some small joy to someone whose work had given me such pleasure over the years. I don’t know what became of Gene’s note - it may turn up in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff one of these years - but I have never forgotten how happy he was to get that card and how happy it made me to send it.

Sending birthday cards wasn’t terribly expensive or time-consuming circa 1976. Cards could be bought for well under a buck. A first-class postage stamp was around fifteen cents. My birthday list had less than fifty names on it. I only stopped sending them because my career and my life got more complicated.

I moved back to New York and then back to Cleveland. I moved from Marvel to DC to no regular work. I made some good decisions and I made more bad decisions. Money was extremely tight, barely covering food and rent and an occasional book or comic book. I had to sell chunks of my comics collection to make ends meet. Sending out the birthday cards didn’t fit into my budget.

Things picked up for me after a year or so. I bought Cosmic Comics, one of Cleveland’s first such stores, with financial help from my father. I resumed writing for comic books and other publications. I was doing alright. I didn’t resume sending birthday cards because I found another means of spreading joy to my fellow comics creators and my long-distance friends. That means was called...the Internet. You may have heard of it.

There was another key component in the creation of my birthday and events list, one predating my initial involvement with the wondrous world of the Internet. Around 1992, the late Don Thompson and the living legend Maggie Thompson began asking comics professionals to fill out information sheets giving their names, address, birthdays, education, influences, past projects, current projects and things like that. These were collected in Comic-Book Superstars, published in 1993 by Krause Publications.

I added the information from Comic-Book Superstars to the database I had started to create for myself. Then, in a stroke of genius, I suggested to the Thompsons that they run a weekly list of birthdays in Comics Buyer’s Guide. They thought it was a good idea. As their listings grew, so did my database. As the years went on, I started adding birthdays and other events from the Grand Comics Database, from Facebook, from Wikipedia and from anywhere else I found them. My database continues to grow.

There’s your answer as to how I am able to post all those birthdays and other events on my Facebook page. I don’t possess a superhuman memory. I just have a list I check every day.

As to why I do it...

The history of comic books in this country is largely a history of hardworking talented creators getting screwed over by publishers, editors and even their fellow creators. Yes, things have gotten and continue to get better for many current creators. But our history is what it is. I want to do what I can to make sure comics creators are not merely remembered but celebrated. While they are living and beyond their lifetimes. That’s why I do what I do.

In recent years, I have added birthdays and events to my database that do not directly involve comics. These additions are personal. They are individuals who have entertained or influenced me in some way. Often, they are individuals who get on my list simply because I enjoy or respect what they do.

I have a fascination with history and historical trivia, so I have been adding “historical notes” to my database. These additions are also personal, sometimes insanely so. Is it important to remember the great London Beer Flood of 1814? I think so. There have been two recent changes in my birthday and events posts. The first is that, using the resources of the Lambiek Comiclopedia, I’ve begun adding comics creators from Italy and other countries. I have a desire to know more about comics creators from the land of my ancestors...and creators from other countries are coming along for the ride when I find their stories or work interesting.

The second is that Facebook changed my access to my previous posts. Previously, I could go back and look at all my posts from a given date. Then I’d copy my birthday/events posts, re-posting them with just a quick tweak or two. This saved me quite a bit of time each and every day. So, naturally, some tech asshat decided that feature had to go. Right now, I’m managing the extra work, but, depending on my future workload, I may not have time to post all the birthday and remembrance and historical items I’ve been posting. We’re not at that point yet, but it could happen.

Looking toward the day when, for whatever reason, I am unable to do all this posting, I am willing to share my 113-page list with a few worthwhile comics historians and websites. There won’t be a charge for this, but I will be selective about who I share this list with.Contact me privately and we’ll talk.

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

© 2016 Tony Isabella


  1. Thank you. I always enjoy your birthday/historical postings.


  2. // Someday I’ll need to write a bloggy on the making of that calendar. //

    Please do.

    // I want to do what I can to make sure comics creators are not merely remembered but celebrated. While they are living and beyond their lifetimes. That’s why I do what I do. //

    Amen. You might find some more birthdates to add in my awkwardly titled 1995 collection ProMotion: How Today's Creators Broke into Comics... And Their Advice to You!, by the way. Then again you may already have done so and it's quite possible that Maggie added any not already in the CBG calendar when she got copies back in the day. I'd be happy to send one from my small stash along if you can't find yours, although it'll be awhile before the box is unearthed in my own slow accounting of archives.

  3. I, for one, would love to hear the story behind the Bicentennial calendar.