Monday, October 31, 2016


From Sanctum Books...

Doc Savage #85: The Pharaoh’s Ghost and The Man Who Was Scared [October 2015; $14.95] reprints two Doc thrillers by Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson.

The Pharaoh’s Ghost first appeared in the June 1944 issue of Doc Savage Magazine until the misspelt title “The Pharoah’s Ghost.” For the hilarious story behind that misspelling, read Will Murray’s informative essay in this volume. Here’s what the back cover blurb has to say about this novel:

After Johnny Littlejohn disappears in Cairo, Doc Savage journeys to the Land of the Sphinx to discover the strange secret behind The Pharaoh’s Ghost.

The Man Who Was Scared comes from the July 1944 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. It’s a sequel to the first novel:

The Man of Bronze is accused of murder when The Man Who Was Scared is killed in Doc’s own offices!

This issue’s bonus feature is “Scourge of the Skies,” a Bill Barnes adventure by Charles S. Verral. The Bill Barnes, Air Adventure pulp magazine made its debut in 1934. The first six Barnes stories were written by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, who was the founder and original owner of what became DC Comics. The magazine was cancelled and plans for a revival never materialized.

In the meantime, Barnes was appearing in Street and Smith’s Shadow Comics. Stories prepared for the unsuccessful revival appeared in Doc Savage Magazine. This story  appeared in Bill Barnes Comics #1. It was a hybrid issue that featured comics stories, model airplane building instructions and this last prose adventure of the famed aviator.

Sanctum Books delivers fine entertainment at a reasonable price. I recommend their books to one and all.

ISBN 978-1-60877-188-2

© 2016 Tony Isabella


My second experience with Grand Rapids Comic-Con, held October 21-23 at the DeVos Place in that fine Michigan city, was even better than my first wonderful experience with the event two years ago. In just a few years, Mark Hodges and his partners and volunteers have made this convention a must-attend event for me. I’ll come back as often as they want me to. But I’m getting ahead of my story, which will take a day or two to tell.

Thom Zahler, famed writer/artist of Love and Capes, Long Distance and My Little Pony, was my boon traveling companion for this trip. He arrived at Casa Isabella on Thursday night, put his stuff into Monty (my trusty van) and set himself behind the wheel. My driving skills are still intact, but they aren’t as good as they once were. So when I get a younger driver to take the helm, I am quite happy to give him or her the captain’s chair.

It’s a five-hour drive to Grand Rapids. The hours were filled with pleasant conversation about our lives, comics, movies, TV shows and more. As long drives go, this was a good one.

We arrived at the Amway Grand Plaza, which is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids and but a short walk from the DeVos Place. I was immediately struck by what a beautiful hotel this was. It’s easily the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in this year.

My room was huge. Two large window views, each looking out on the Grand River and the many bridges which span it. The city’s beauty was obvious, even in those light-night hours.

Two queen-sized beds. A comfortable chair. A spacious desk with a comfortable desk chair. A large flat-screen TV. Plenty of storage space. A clean and very nice bathroom.

Great staff. Great service. Great food. The only thing that would have made my stay even more pleasant would have been in my Sainted Wife Barb had been able to join me for the weekend.

My late-night dinner was a delicious pizza. Big enough to take care of my immediate needs with slices left over for snacks during the weekend. It was a good start.

After a good night’s sleep, Thom and I met in the lobby. Retrieving Monty, we drove to the DeVos Place. Loading our convention stuff into the show was easy. Two quick trips via the freight elevator. We drove the van back to the hotel, strolled to the nearby Atwater Brewery for lunch and then head back to the convention to prepare our next-to-each-other booths for the event’s 2 pm opening. Things were going so well, one would almost have to expect a “but.” Here it is:

There was no “but.” The Grand Rapids Comic-Con was a sheer delight from start to finish. The show promoters, staff and volunteers took great care of us. The venue was clean and well-maintained with some of the friendliest and most competent workers I have even seen at a convention.

Right from the 2 pm start, Friday was filled with old friends and excited fans and creative cosplay. On the corner of the aisle where my booth was artist Stuart Sayger with a huge stunning display of his prints and posters. He’s one of those guys who makes me wish I had a lot more wall space in my home.

Down the aisle from Thom and me were comics artist Joe Rubinstein, who I have known since the 1970s, and writer Dirk Manning, who I’ve seen at so many shows I can no longer remember when we first met. Of course, being writers, we can probably come up with incredible “origin” stories of how we first met if the need ever arises.

Within sight of my booth was the booth shared by J. David Spurlock, whose Vanguard Publications has published works by some of the all-time great comics creators, and animator/cartoonist Bob Camp whose won awards for his work on The Ren & Stimpy Show. David and I have known each other for years - before the show ended, he gave me this very cool Wally Wood t-shirt and I gave him a copy of DC’s recent Black Lightning collection - but this was my first time meeting the very talented and amiable Camp.

Another first time meeting was Luke Daab, a friend of Thom Zahler. He’s a professional artist working in promotions, creating designs and illustration for McDonald’s, Kellogs, Dreamworks, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and others. He’s also the sole proprietor of Daab Creative, an independent design and illustration agency.

Luke is a swell guy who was way too excited to meet me. I was very happy to make his acquaintance. Before the end of the convention, he gave me this swell Black Lightning drawing:

There were lots of great costumes throughout the weekend. I tried to write down the exceptional ones. My Friday list included a cute Raven and Beast Boy couple, Doctor Strange and Batman villain Croc. Cosplay is a big part of conventions for me and, starting in 2017, I’m going to run special promotions to award and honor some of the cosplayers who visit my tables at these events. I’ll have details on these promotions as soon as I work out the details. I’m looking to creating something fun and moderately silly.

My “Tony’s Tips Live!” panel was scheduled for 5:30 pm on Friday. That was pretty early in the convention and, sad to say, I didn’t draw as many fans as I had hoped for. Those that did come learned more about some of my upcoming projects than I should’ve revealed. They also heard some outrageous stories of my comics career. It was a fun forty-five minutes.

Hosting my panel was Allen Stewart, the founder of the amazing Hall of Heroes Museum of Elkhart, Indiana. It was my first time meeting Allen. After my panel, as I walked back to my booth, I stopped by his display, which included such wondrous things as an autographed shield from Captain America: The First Avenger, a car destroyed by Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, the Green Lantern ring worn by Ryan Reynolds in that 2011 film, the motorcycle prop driven by Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider and many smaller but equally amazing items of comic-book memorabilia. I hope to make an appearance at the museum sometime in 2017.

Attending my panel was Brent Clark Rogers, the author of the Guide To The DC Universe. It’s an epic resource that Brent continues to update every few years. He’s a devoted fan and a good guy.

Back at my booth, I answered questions and signed a whole bunch of Isabella-written stuff. With the questions, the greatest areas of interest were Black Lightning, Misty Knight, my current excellent relationships with both DC and Marvel and what new projects are on my desk. Autograph-wise, the most frequent items signed were comics featuring Black Lightning and Tigra, the Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist and, somewhat surprisingly, Satan’s Six, the series created by Jack Kirby and developed by me (with Jack’s full blessing and support) for Topps Comics in the 1990s. I would love to return to Satan’s Six someday, but that’s probably not going to happen. But I did enjoy working on the book and, during that time, calling Jack and Roz Kirby on a regular basis.

Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the justly beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was set up across the aisle from me. He was easily the biggest draw of the convention and I’ll have more to say about that when this report continues tomorrow. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 30, 2016

AKRON COMICON (November 5-6)

The Akron Comicon is moving to a new venue for this year’s event. We’ll be at the John S. Knight Convention Center, 77 E. Mill Street  on Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6. The show runs from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. General admission tickets are a extremely reasonable $15 per day or $25 for a two-day pass. There is free admission for children 13 or younger. There’s also free parking. This is one of the best comics convention deals I have seen all year long.

This will be my final convention or any other public appearance of the year. I’ll be at Table #98 between my pals Tom Orzechowski and Marc Sumerak. And that’s merely the start of an amazing guest list which includes...Alan Davis, the second of only two international appearances this year...Alan Grant, his first U.S. appearance in seven years...Jason Moore...John Totleben...P. Craig Russell...the wondrously crazy Craig Yoe...Aaron Archer...TV Captain America Reb Brown...Allen Bellman, Golden Age artist from Timely Comics...TV Captain Marvel Jason Boswick...Mike Curtis and Joe Staton from the Dick Tracy newspaper strip...Addy Miller and Tim Proctor from The Walking Dead...the legendary Mike W. Barr...the even morelegendary Tom Batiuk of Funky Wonkerbean and Crankshaft...Craig Boldman...Arvell Jones...Dirk Manning...Bob Ingersoll...Thom Zahler...Jay E. Fife...Dan Gorman...Paul Storrie...Mike Gustovich...the always effervescent George Broderick...Darryl Banks...and many others.

I’ll be appearing on a panel or two or three, but that schedule is not final at this time. I’ll probably be doing my award-deserving “Tony’s Tips Live!” wherein I offer news, views and reviews, tell you outrageous stories of my comics career and answer those of your questions I can legally and safely answer.

At my table, I’ll be selling copies of the Black Lightning volume published earlier this year, my last available copies of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, some of the Garfield comics albums on which I have worked, various Isabella-written comics, the rare, two-sided Superman poster I helped design for the 1988 International Superman Exposition in Cleveland and an assortment of dollar comics. I will also do my best to answer any questions you were too shy to ask at my various panels.

Akron Comicon is the last guaranteed convention where I will sign Isabella-written stuff for free. In 2017, depending on the support I receive from the conventions I will be attending, I will charge a nominal fee for my signature. Details will be posted in advance of those conventions.

However, this year, the signatures are free. If you have a lot of stuff for me to sign and there’s a line - which doesn’t happen all that often - I’ll sign a few and ask you to move to the end of the line so I can sign for the other fans in line. But I will sign all the Isabella-written stuff you bring me to sign.

I’m excited about returning to Akron Comicon. My good buddies Mike Savene, Robert Jenkins and Jesse Vance always put on a great event. The motto is “Fans First” and they mean it.

I’m also excited about planning next year’s convention appearances. If you’re a promoter who would like to sign me up to be a guest at your event, e-mail me and we’ll get things started.

This has been a rocky year for me and the comics industry. We have enjoyed great success and too many tragic losses. But I can’t think of a better cure for the blues or a better place to share good news than the Akron Comicon. A great time will be had by all.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 29, 2016


I went to the Medina County Board of Elections on Friday morning to cast my votes in the 2016 election. I have been a firm believer in early voting for years, ever since that very special Election Day when a Republican poll worker harassed me - as he had done before - and loudly proclaimed people like me shouldn’t be allowed to vote. He was elderly then and, for one reason or another, is certainly no longer able to harass voters, but the sting of those encounters is as fresh in my mind today as it was at the time.

Ohio is one of the too many states where the Republican-controlled state government redrew districts to benefit party candidates.  Our despicable Secretary of State - Jon A. Husted - has time and again used his office in sometimes successful attempts to suppress votes of those not likely to vote Republican.

The full-year workers at The Medina County Board of Elections have always been both personable and professional, regardless of their political affiliations. You get the occasional “election special” who wears his or her Republican party loyalty on their sleeve, but that’s not unexpected in a community as Republican as my home town of Medina.

Voting was a quick process because I studied the ballot, candidates and issues beforehand. I voted for two local Republicans on account of I knew them personally, I considered them good and qualified for their positions and neither one was in a position to vote on bills and laws that will hurt people. I still consider Donald Trump and pretty much all Republicans in general to be a major threat to our nation. I feel about them the way I feel about police officers. Clean up your own house, stand with decent people against the bad elements in your party or occupation, and you will have a chance to earn my respect and support.

There weren’t as many Trump signs on Medina lawns as you would have expected in Republican Medina. Some lawns only showed support for local candidates. Some lawns which had signs in previous elections did not post any this time around. It gives me hope that, for some Medina Republicans, Trump and the party have finally gone too far for them to stomach.

There were far more Hilary Clinton lawn signs that I had expected. Despite her faults - and she is not without faults - she is clearly and overwhelmingly the better choice to be our next President than  her opponents. Sorry GOP Lite, excuse me, I mean Libertarians, you are a laughable lot. Sorry, Green Party, though I respect you and have voted for Green Party candidates running for offices down the ballot. You’re still decades away from being Presidential material, but keep working toward that goal.

Mark Evanier has been keeping a tally of friends he has lost due to his anti-Trump comments. The last time I checked, that tally stood at four. As Mark is a much better blogger and nicer guy than I am, I’m sure I’ve lost many more friends than he has. Except I usually refer to them as “friends” and, more often than not, I pushed them out the door and not the other way around.

I think anyone who supports Trump and the Republican Party of 2016 has something seriously wrong with them. Maybe it’s a sickness in their brains. Maybe it’s a sickness in their souls. Maybe both of those vital human components have been corrupted by the bigotry and racism, the misogyny, the obstructionism, the delusional inability to accept proven facts, the fear-mongering and the slavish devotion to the rich and the powerful that fuels their party. I don’t like them, but I do pity them. What a tragic waste of human potential.

The other day, my son Eddie told me about an article he’d read on the election. The writer’s explanation for why people had made the mad choice to support Trump was because those people had become so frustrated with “the system” that they just wanted to blow it all up. Trump is their bomb of choice.

I understand frustration, but I know the cause of my frustration is not the government. It’s the Republican politicians and pundits who obstruct the proper business of our government and who put forth a false narrative of that government and of reality in general. As I see it, you would have to be insane to give those Republicans the power to continue their destructive ways.

I hadn’t expected to write another of these “Citizen Tony” pieces until well after the election, but the stakes are terribly high for my country. I want to encourage readers not to become so frustrated with the excesses of this election that they don’t vote. Your not voting is what Trump and his party want. 

I expect to lose a few more “friends” today. I expect I’ll receive another screed from the anonymous coward who’s so terrified of this five foot three overweight senior citizen that he fearfully hides (or thinks he hides) his identity from me. I’m okay with reactions like that. I don’t write this blog to be safe.

I write it to entertain and inform. I write it to do my small part to elevate human intelligence and morality. I write it because of my belief that I have a gift and should use that gift. And, truth be told, I write it because, yes, I do think I’m a better smarter person than my detractors. I am not immune to the siren call of my ego. I just try to manage that ego enough so that my head doesn’t  explode into a bigly mass of orange puke.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume 3 featuring Japanese takes on Batman stories of the 1960s; Kim W. Anderson’s Alena, the award-winning graphic novel from Sweden; and Huck Book One: All-American by Mark Millar with artist/co-creator Rafael Albuquerque, “the feel-good super-hero book of 2016!" 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


The Shadow #100: The Death Triangle, The Crimson Death and The Seven Deadly Arts [September 2015; $15.95] celebrates an incredible  milestone for my friend Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books. For this extra-size Centennial Edition, Tollin has collected three novels of The Shadow by the three writers who wrote under the house name of Maxwell Grant.

The Death Triangle is by Walter B. Gibson, one of the most prolific writers of all time. It was first published in the October 15, 1933 issue of The Shadow Magazine:

Death strikes, again and again. Mystery covers the affairs of the Wycliff household. Then The Shadow plays his hand against this scheme of death.

The Crimson Death by Theodore Tinsley first appeared in The Shadow Magazine for August 1, 1941:

Murder struck in a dizzy dance of death that drew even The Shadow into its arms.

The Seven Deadly Sins by Bruce Elliott is from The Shadow Magazine dated October 1946:

A mysterious cult murmuring eerie incantations..death occurring in the wake of an ancient curse. It was more than black magic and superstition–it was the clever plot of mortal men--and only The Shadow sensed the danger...

Also included in this volume is the original interior art for these novels by Tom Lovell, Paul Orban and Edd Cartier and historical commentary by Will Murray. Another great book for fans of classic pulp adventure.

Keep reading the bloggy thing for more information on Sanctum Books publications.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts; The Big Con Job by Jimmy Palmiotti and Matt Brady with art by Dominike “Domo” Stanton; and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare with art by Natacha Bustos. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The Grand Rapids Comic Con is on Friday, October 21 through Sunday, October 23, at the DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave NW, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This will be my next-to-last convention appearance of the crazy and often wonderful year I’ve been having.

Mark and Jennifer Hodges put on a wonderful show - I was a guest in 2014 - and this year will be no exception. There are comics guests, media guests, literary guests, cosplay guests and what promises to be a bustling artists alley. In addition to a big fat schedule of programming that extends over the main stage and several other spaces within the venue, the convention is hosting a short film festival, an art show, an anime room, a car show and activities for the kids. It’s going to take all my will power to spend most of the show at Booth #539, which is where you’ll find me most of the time.

The comics guests roster for this event is amazing: Kevin Eastman, Jae Lee, Joe Rubenstein, Rodney Ramos, Steve Lieber, Allan Bellman, Greg Wiseman, Dirk Manning, William Messner-Loebs, Arvell Jones, Jason Moore, Thom Zahler and many others. Some are old friends I’ll enjoy seeing again, others are creators I’m eager to meet. I hope to be able to spend a few hours each day exploring the convention and maybe scoring some cool books and comics.

The celebrity guests aren’t as familiar to me, but I really want to meet Denise Crosby. I’ve admired her work for a long time and not just in Star Trek-related shows. She was a highlight of the short-lived (but excellent) Key West and delivered a knockout performance in two episodes of NYPD Blue.

There will be a gaming room offering all kinds of games. There are exhibits from the Hall of Heroes Museum and the private collection of Wes Shank. The latter will include props from sci-fi movies and much more. I’m thinking “much more” should be the overall tag for this convention.

There will be cosplay and cosplay contests. I’m hoping that Black Lightning, Misty Knight, Tigra and Zatanna are well represented. Yeah, I know I didn’t have anything to do with the creation of the Maid of Magic, but a guy never forgets his first comic-book crush.

On Friday, at 5:30 pm in Grand Gallery D-E, I’ll be presenting “Tony’s Tips! Live!” As you can glean from the title, it’s a live version of the column of news, views and reviews I’ve been writing for decades, first in Comics Buyer’s Guide and currently online at the Tales of Wonder website:

Join Tony Isabella, creator of Black Lightning, co-creator of Misty Knight and Tigra, 44-year veteran of the comics industry for a lively discussion of well, everything. We’ll talk comic books, giant monster movies, blogging and anything else that comes to mind. You can ask any and all questions and sometimes the answers might actually match them.

I hope we get a good turn out for this presentation. I mean, I’m no stranger to talking to myself, but if there are other people in the room, I don’t look quite so insane.

When I’m not wandering the convention, I’ll be at Booth #539. I’ll have various Isabella-written things to sign like the recent Black Lightning collection from DC Comics, a few copies of my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read and some of the Garfield comics albums that I have worked on for Papercutz. I’ll have the double-sided Superman poster I helped designed for the 1988 International Superman Expo in Cleveland, Ohio. I’ll have some other items as well.

While I’m at my booth, I will be delighted to sign Isabella-written items. As I’ve noted in the past, I am not charging for autographs this year. That will likely change in 2017.

If you have a great many items for me to sign, and if other folks are also waiting for me to sign their items, I’ll sign a couple of your items and then ask you to go the end of the line until I can sign for your fellow fans. I’ll sign as many Isabella items as you like, but I may not be able to sign them all at once.

I’ll be happy to answering your questions and discuss this and that with you. However, for contractual reasons, I might not be able to answer questions concerning some of those contracts and some of my future projects.

I will not read your scripts or other written materials. That’s for your legal protection and mine.

I will, time permitting, look at your art portfolios. But there’s not much I can tell you if all you have are pin-up shots. I’m not an art expert. My forte is visual storytelling, the proper flow of a comics story from panel to panel, page to page.

The hours for the Grand Rapids Comic Con are:

Friday, October 21, from 2 pm until 8 pm
Saturday, October 22, from 10 am until 7 pm
Sunday, October 23, from 10 am until 5 pm

There will also be late night programming until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday night. 

I’m looking forward to attending Grand Rapids Comic Con. I hope to see you there.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 16, 2016


When I took a cold hard look at my convention, work and personal schedule over the next couple some matters my family and I are dealing some necessary upgrades to my home and my office...I realized something would have to give. Sadly, it's the bloggy thing.

I'll still be posting announcements of my convention appearances during this hiatus. I'll still be writing Tony's Tips for the Tales of Wonder website. I'll still be posting the quick plugs for Sanctum Books and TwoMorrows publications. But the full-scale bloggy things won't resume until Tuesday, November 1. As always, thanks for your understanding.

All the best to my friends and my readers. I'll see you soon.

Tony Isabella

Friday, October 14, 2016


Louis A. Isabella, my father, passed on this date two years ago. I wrote about him here.

A number of people have asked about the dog tags I wear when I travel to conventions and other events. The tags are visible in a few of the photos taken at the Luke Cage premiere last month. They are my father’s dog tags. I wear them to honor him as well as for other reasons.

Dad loved to drive, especially the big old Isabella Bakery delivery truck. He stopped making deliveries when he was needed inside the bakery itself. He sacrificed one of the joys of his life because he was needed elsewhere. In many ways, that selflessness was the story of his life and repeated time and time again.

Dad also loved to fly, which he rarely did even during his service in World War II. I still remember the delight in his eyes the day I was invited to tour an airbase and museum as part of a project I almost did for the Air Force. Dad and my then-young son Eddie came with me. It was one of the best days of my life.

The third part of this story is that, of all the member of my birth family, no one was ever more supportive of my career than Dad. He build an office for me in our family basement. He drove my stuff to New York when I moved there to work for Marvel Comics. He built a  display for me when I was selling comics at conventions. He saved every comic book I ever sent him. I don’t know if he read them, but he did like to see my name in them.

After Dad passed, going through the odds and ends being set aside for a garage sale, I saw his dog tags. No one else wanted them, so I took them. I started wearing them to comics conventions and other events, especially when I was flying to those things.

Dad loved to fly, so now he flies with the son to whom he gave such strong wings. Dad lived to travel, so he comes to conventions with me. I think Dad would get a kick out of the love and respect that I receive at conventions and at events like the Luke Cage premiere. I bring these small reminders of him with me because I am just as proud of him as he was of me.

Dad is my co-pilot, so I wear his tags.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 13, 2016


From Sanctum Books...

Doc Savage #84: The Men Vanished & Death in Small Houses [September 2015; $14.95] reprints two Doc novels by Lester Dent and William G. Bogart, both writing as Kenneth Robeson. Looking at the two novels first...

Dent’s The Men Vanished first appeared in the December 1940 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Doc and Patricia Savage mount a rescue expedition to the unexplored Amazon after seven of the world’s greatest explorers mysteriously disappear!

Bogart’s Death in Small Houses is one of four Doc novels written by the author. The story is from the October 1946 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. From the back cover:

The Man of Bronze seeks to learn why bizarre bearded hermits are stealing portions of postwar model homes and why a lady trucker has been marked for death!

There are several bonus features in the volume. “Doc Savage and His Aides” is a two-page reprint from the original pulp magazines that show head shots of the characters and provide quick information on them. Will Murray’s “Intermission” reveals the back stories of the two reprinted novels.

Publisher Anthony Tollin’s “Nick Carter in the Comics” leads into the 10-page “Nick Carter Accused!” The comics story first appeared in the March 1949 issue of Shadow Comics. It’s drawn by Bob Powell with assistance from his studio and written by Bruce Elliott.

Murray’s one-page article - “The Men Behind Doc Savage” - presents short biographies of Dent and Bogart. Sanctum Books always delivers great bang for your reading buck. I highly recommend their books. Check them out.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence) is the first new Godzilla movie from Toho Studios in twelve years and represents the studio’s third reboot of the character who has now appeared in 29 films from  Toho. There have also been two American-made Godzilla movies with a third one scheduled for 2019.

Via Funimation, Shin Godzilla is having a one-week limited release in the United States and Canada from October 11–18 on 440 screens. It’s being shown in the original Japanese with English subtitles. My son Eddie and I went to the October 11 showing at the Cinemark Theater in Strongsville, Ohio.

The short version of our reaction to it is that we liked it a lot. To learn more, scroll down past the spoilers notice.


Some of Shin Godzilla’s greatest weaknesses are also some of its greatest strengths. No Godzilla movie has devoted as much attention and screen time as this one to the minutiae of figuring out what the menace is and how to combat it. No Godzilla movie has featured as many interesting characters as this one. The weaknesses come from the tedium of the political machinations and the movie’s failure to  develop most of those interesting characters. Also shortchanged in the two-hour movie are scenes of the human tragedies in the wake of Godzilla’s appearance and rampages.

When a Japanese Coast Guard vessel investigates an abandoned yacht in Tokyo Bay, it is nearly capsized by a steaming water spout. The Tokyo-Bay Aqua-Line is flooded and collapses. Theories as to what’s happening are discussed with the Prime Minister and his ponderously large staff. A theory that these events are being caused by a giant monster is dismissed...until the large creature makes landfall and starts destroying everything in its path.

Digression. Writer and Chief Director Hideaki Anno had the actors playing the politicians and bureaucrats speak faster that normal to resemble real politicians and bureaucrats. It’s effective, but it makes following the subtitles of these conversations intense. The effort to do was exhausting.

When Shin Godzilla - “Shin” can have several meanings, such as new, true or God - makes landfall, its initial appearance is a very odd looking worm-like creature. It lumbers/slithers at a slow pace, but not slow enough to allow for anything near a complete evacuation. We get a shot of a family - parents and a young boy - packing some belongings as their building collapses. It’s a frightening moment, but the only such scene in the movie.

Godzilla evolves before he goes back into the sea. He now stands on two legs and more closely resembles past versions, though, in this film, there have been no past versions. He’s more terrifying than any other Godzilla, but I found his tiny hands and arms a wee bit disconcerting. Probably because of the coincidental resemblance to Donald Trump’s unnaturally small hands.

The movie switches back between Godzilla’s rampages and the humans debating what to do about the beast. The scientists, gathered from  the best and the brightest, work feverishly. The rest of the world takes note and alarm...and decide to drop a thermonuclear bomb on Godzilla. The clock ticks as the scientists try to implement a plan to “freeze” Godzilla in his tracks.

Shinji Higuchi, the film’s co-director and head of special effects, used a combination of computer generated images and suit effects for Godzilla. Mansai Nomura, a traditional Japanese comedy theater actor, portrayed the creature in motion capture. Eddie and I were amazed and impressed by the special effects, which I’ll leave for you to discover for yourselves.

There are over 300 credited actors in this movie. The “leads” are Hiroki Hasegawa (as Rando Yaguchi, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary); Yutaka Takenouchi (Hideki Akasaka, Aide to the Prime Minister) and Satomi Ishihara (Kayoko Ann Patterson, who is the Special Envoy for the President of the United States and the daughter of an American senator). These are the only truly well-defined characters in the movie, each of them a dedicated young public servant looking to the future and not without ambitions of their own. The scenes in which Ishihara expresses horror at the thought of a third nuclear device being dropped on her grandmother’s homeland is compelling.

Other characters are less (and perhaps too thinly) developed. The Prime Minister (Ren Ohsugi) struggles with his inability to choose a course of action sans political considerations. He allows others - notably the United States and United Nations - to make decisions for him. There are other intriguing players among the politicians and scientists, but they don’t get enough attention and screen time to truly resonate with the viewers.

None of these implied shortcomings alter my overall view that Shin Godzilla is a magnificient movie. It places Godzilla, the greatest of all giant monsters, in a contemporary setting. Japan’s history plays a key role in the film...from the memories of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to the machinations that must be gone through before Japan can defend itself to the allusions to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami to the political climate in which it finds itself forced to agree with the stratagems of the U.S. and the U.N. The real world is as much a part of this movie as Godzilla.


I loved Shin Godzilla. I love it more the more I think about it and can’t wait to purchase it when it because available. I recommend it without any hesitation whatsoever. I know I’ll be watching it again and again. It’s that great a movie.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


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 90th installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #104 [October 1972] was an all-reprint issue with a new cover pencilled by Dick Ayers with inks by Vince Colletta. I like the basic image. It’s got impact. But, once again, Colletta’s inking flattens the excitement. Vince used to be a better fit for westerns. He inked Larry Lieber’s cover for Rawhide Kid #63 [April 1968] and his work on that one was much stronger.

Both of the Rawhide Kid stories reprinted in this issue were first published in Rawhide Kid #63. I was surprised to see stories less than five years old being reprinted, which makes me wonder if their use was a deadline-doom situation with these tales simply being the closest material at hand.

“Shoot-Out at Mesa City!” (8 pages) was by Ron Whyte with pencils by Lieber and inks by Colletta. The second Rawhide Kid story - “The Gun that Couldn't Lose!” (7 pages) - was written and penciled by Lieber with inks by Colletta. I wrote about them in August, 2013. You can read about them here.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the story. Despite the previous month’s statement that “Stan’s Soapbox” would appear every month, it’s not here this month. The lead item claims new publisher and editorial director Lee was too talked out after last month’s double-length column and would prefer to devote this month’s page to items about “some of the nifty new artists, writers and phantasmagorical features” Marvel has lined up. That’s followed by shout-outs to the just-launched Doc Savage title, Frank Brunner, Barry Smith, Ralph Reese, Billy Graham, Mike Trimpe, Wayne Boring and George Alec Effinger. There is a small lettered box announcing The Claws of the Cat and a larger visual box plugging Doc Savage, The Gunhawks and Man-Thing that runs across the bottom of the page.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” includes Journey into Mystery #1 and The Gunhawks #1. The plug for the former reads: Marvel’s newest voyage into the World of the Weird! And with titles like “Dig Me No Grave!” - “House!” - and “More Than Blood!” - how can any ghostly-tales-aficionado go wrong?

The plug for The Gunhawks #1: Reno Smith and Kid Cassidy - black man and white man - pitted against every owlhoot gun in the wild and wooly West!

Other listings: Fantastic Four #127, Spider-Man #113, Incredible Hulk #156, Conan the Barbarian #19, Fear #10 (with the start of an ongoing Man-Thing series), Thor #204, Avengers #104, Capt. America and the Falcon #154, Hero for Hire #3, Daredevil #92, Sub-Mariner #54, Iron Man #51, Jungle Action #1, Astonishing Tales #14 (with Ka-Zar), Warlock #2, Doc Savage #1, Defenders #2, Spoof #2, Marvel Spotlight #6 (starring the Ghost Rider) and Combat Kelly #3. Since I was still living and working in Cleveland, I could afford to buy them all. The nice couple who owned the convenience store I bought my comic books from used to set aside one of every new comic book for me. Which I could afford when comics cost twenty cents apiece. Imagine what an issue of every new comic book would cost you today. I can’t count that high.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appeared after the second Rawhide Kid story. There were three letters in the column, all of them by Robert A. Gillis of Elmsford, New York, also known as “The Gringo Kid.”

Gillis is a harsh critic. He didn’t think much of The Rawhide Kid #100, taking shot at its cover and inside art. He did like the plot of the anniversary story, which teamed the Kid with his brothers. At the end of the story, Johnny Clay rode off with gambler brother Frank. Gillis was hoping they would ride together for a while, but that was not - ahem - in the cards.

His second (shorter) letter complained about the redrawing of Joe Maneely Two-Gin Kid reprints to make the hero look like the newer super-hero version of the character. Marvel responds that they had already changed that policy.

The third Gillis letter complains about the Kid Colt reprints and, specifically, about Jack Keller’s art. I love the Marvel response to this:

We’ve answered this before, but it seems to us that Jack Keller’s art on KID COLT, far from being poor and simple, is actually a very crisp, clean style that tells a story directly and to the point. As anyone who has sat down to draw a comics story can testify, telling a story is essential. No matter how well you can do figures, horses or whatever - if you can’t make a page coherent, you’re nowhere. The Kid has survived for over 20 years simply because of that, since Jack drew him for the majority of those years. He let nothing stand in the way of making KID COLT stories solid entertainment and that’s what always claim out.

The Gringo Kid got taken to school. I tip my cowboy hat to whoever wrote that response. Maybe Roy Thomas?

The third and final reprinted story in this issue is the five-page “War In Chicamaw County” from  Frontier Western #1 [February 1956]. It was written by Stan Lee with pencil art by Bob Forgione and inks by Jack Abel.


Cattleman Wayne Grannock is a greedy son of a bitch who wants to be the cattle king of Chicamaw Country. He sets his sights on Warren Wilcox’s ranch. Young Don Grannock doesn’t want this because he’s in love with Nancy Wilcox. Started by Grannock, a range war leaves death and destruction it its wake. Though the Comics Code-approved art is wholesome enough, Lee’s captions reveals a staggeringly high body count. This is grim business.

The range war ends when the military arrives to bring law and order to the county. Grannock is shot and, though he will recover, he’ll never walk again. But the greater loss, one he shares with Wilcox,  is that their children have left them:

[Don] left...ran off with Nancy Wilcox...said they were going to California to be married! He’s going to study the law...doesn’t wanna be a rancher!

Grannock realizes his range war was all for nothing. The military governor of the territory confiscates his ranch as a penalty for starting the range war. Unable to walk, Grannock takes a job as the bookkeeper for Warren Wilcox’s ranch. The poignant last panel has the former enemies thinking about what they did.

GRANNOCK: Look at it...acres and acres of land! I used to think I wanted it more than anything...and now I’d rather have my son come home than have all the land in the world!

WILCOX: I guess we both learned a lesson, Wayne...too bad we learned it too late!


This is a terrific story. Stan’s script is tight and to the point. He takes the reader through the violence and then brings the story home with its poignant conclusion. The Forgione/Abel art is tough and equally focused. If I were doing a collection of Marvel’s non-series western stories, this one would make the cut.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with my review of Shin Godzilla. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Comics collections I want to see and would pay cold hard cash for. Check out my wants and feel free to mention your own in the comments.


This will be the last “Citizen Tony” column before Election Day and maybe the last one until Hilary Clinton is sworn in as our new President. I’m trying to keep a good thought here.

One of my goals for these columns was to discuss important issues without insulting those who don’t see things as I do. That became increasingly difficult as Donald Trump broke every rule of civility and probably created some new rules that he could break. I couldn’t keep from laughing out loud when evil Race Bannon cosplayer Mike Pence accused Clinton of running an insult-driven campaign. ‘Twas almost as ridiculous as all those times Pence claimed Trump didn’t say things the Donald is on tape saying.

Pence’s comment came from Clinton referring to some Trump supporters as “deplorables.” I think she should have referred to deplorable actions and not people. I’m going to give you a few examples of what I mean...

Racism is...deplorable.

Voting for a man who often says racist things and proposes racist policies is...deplorable.

Misogyny is...deplorable.

Voting for a man who often says crude things about women, a man who demeans women, a man who makes insulting comments about a woman’s body is...deplorable.

Not having a clear understanding of the civil rights we learned in school, especially for a man running for President is...deplorable.

Voting for that man is...deplorable.

Praising dictators is...deplorable.

Voting for a man who praises dictators is...deplorable.

I could offer many more examples of deplorable behavior. I started with a list of fifty such examples and that was before all of the October revelations about Trump and all of the outrageous things he said at the two presidential debates. But those of you who decided long among that Trump is the most awful candidate ever to run for President are already aware of those things. I don’t think there is anything I could write that would sway his supporters from casting what will be the worst vote they have ever cast in their lives. They don’t seem to care about any of that.

I can only attempt to understand why they support Trump and it is not pretty. Many part of Trump’s message resonates with them. Maybe some of them like being able to openly proclaim their racist views. Maybe some of them are so terrified by the fear-mongering of the right - Trump is far from original in this - that they support him out of terror. Maybe they have been convinced that their station in life has been stolen by the dreaded “others.” Maybe they foolishly hope that Trump will make them wealthy, even though his tax policy would almost solely benefit the rich. Maybe they are already rich and want to become even more so. Maybe they are simply people who refuse to take the time to learn the truth about Trump’s character and suitability for the presidency.

I have clearly said some insulting things today. I don’t know how to discuss deplorable actions, policies and rhetoric without taking a strong stand against deplorable actions, policies and rhetoric. I understand those who embrace those deplorable things will surely take offense because, as logic dictates, these deplorable things, these terrible affronts to the American dream and ideal, are coming from people like Trump and his supporters and from those Republicans who put their party over their country.

I think any vote for Trump or vote that doesn’t help Clinton beat Trump is illogical and immoral. I can’t express it any more plainly than that.

I am with Clinton because, having done the homework every voter should have done by now, I find her to be the most worthy candidate in this race. I find her inclusive policies resonate more closely with my views of what our country should and must be. Trump wants to divide us. I believe we are, indeed, stronger together.

If you’re on the fence - I have no illusions whatsoever about being able to turn Trump supporters - I hope my words today can convince you to vote for Clinton. I think a Trump presidency would do great damage to our country and bring shame upon us all for many years to come.

This is where I thank you for reading these “Citizen Tony” columns. They will return...because American citizenship is not a part-time thing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 10, 2016


One would think the nightmare notion that our next President could be a rotting orange racist would be all the horror and monsters a person could need. Yet here I am writing about a trio of movies I viewed last week. Compared to a Trump presidency, even the worst of these could be considered a “feel good” movie.

Pig Hunt [2008} was the best film of the three, which surprised me. I figured it for a typical “man-eatng monster versus mostly doomed to die characters in the woods” movie. It does have the man-eating monster in the form of a giant wild pig known as “the Ripper.” It does have a bunch of characters who you know aren’t going to make it to the closing credits. It does take place in the woods. Then it  ups the ante in entertaining ways.


John [Travis Aaron Wade] takes his idiotic friends for a weekend of camping and hunting at his uncle’s cabin in the redneck backwoods area where he grew up. His girlfriend Brooks [Tina Huang] isn’t at all happy with his plans and invites herself on the trip, thereby elevating the intelligence of the group.

John’s friends are mostly assholes. They make fun of the locals and think they are great hunters and woodsmen. They’re like the dollar menu at the monster McDonald’s.

The locals are a seemingly inbred family of hunters and trappers. As a kid, John was boyhood friends with two brothers, who are even bigger assholes than his friends. There’s also a hippie community that grows marijuana  in large quantities and not for just its own use. The family and the hippies will prove to be as big a threat to John and his group as the legendary wild pig that killed his uncle and remains in the background for most of the movie. Normally, I would feel cheated by a movie’s sparse use of such a creature, but this movie has so much other menace going for it that waiting for the Ripper didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

The city friends and the brothers go hunting. It ends baldy for one of the brothers. The redneck family vows vengeance on John and his friends. Some of the city friends prove to be better fighters than you would have expected. The hippie commune turns out to have more going on than naked hippie chicks and enough weed to supply Cheech, Chong, Harold, Kumar, Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson for ten years. The Ripper makes its presence known as well, even if we won’t see it clearly until the final scenes of the movie.


Pig Hunt is a genuinely suspenseful movie. Beset by peril on every side, John and his friends are in a seriously bad situation. While none of the actors deliver great performances, all of them do the job well enough that they never push the viewer out of the movie. The often fatal surprises never seem forced. The final battle with the murderous “Hogzilla” is worth the wait.

Neither the director [the late James Isaac] nor the writers [Robert Mailer Anderson and Zack Anderson] have extensive resumes in this kind of movie or, for the matter, movie making. Yet they delivered a pretty good horror/monster movie that makes me wish for more from them. Sadly, we won’t see any new work from Isaac, but I hope the writers take another shot at the genre.

On my just-invented rating scale of tasty barbeque, I give Pig Hunt four out of five slabs of succulent baby back ribs.

KillerSaurus [2015] is maybe 10% as exciting as its DVD cover art. Here’s the back cover copy:

When a scientist runs short of funding for his life-saving medical research, he accepts an investment from a shadowy military organization to finish his work. But, in return, he is forced to use his new technology to create the ultimate battlefield weapon - a full size Tyrannosaurus Rex, who is ready to break free and start the ultimate battle with the human race.

That summary isn’t even close enough for government work.


Written and directed by Steve Lawson, this 75-minute movie has one good character and performance, but little else. When it ends, it seems like it ended one reel short of the actual ending. My guess is that ran out of money. A $60 budget doesn’t go as far as it used to...and yes I’m being snarky.

Professor Peterson [Steven Dolton] has developed a 3-D Bio-Printing technique that, when successful, will allow him to create working human organs for transplants. He is highly motivated because he has a daughter waiting for a transplant and not likely to survive long enough to work her way up the list. His daughter dies on the night of the fateful experiment that creates a T-rex. This ends badly. Workers are killed. His research facility is shut down. Those who survived are laid off without severance pay.

The professor is the one good character, which makes Dalton the one good actor. He succeeds in making Peterson a basically decent but morally shaky man. It’s a good job in a bad movie.

Nagged by her investigative reporter boyfriend, researcher Amy goes back to the facility to talk to the professor. In short order, the boyfriend ends up locked in the holding area for the guess-what’s-still-live dinosaur. The head of the shadowy organization shows up to claim the result of his investment. A soldier gets gene-spliced with T-Rex cells, killing his boss before the large-scale model of the real T-Rex bites his head off. Amy and the Professor escape and decide not to save their research and then...

Nothing. That’s it. No T-rex escaping from the research complex for that ultimate battle with the human race. Nope. The movie ends as the Professor proclaims some research isn’t worth saving in such a calm voice that I expect he then invited Amy for a nice cup of tea. Not even a “sorry about your boyfriend.”

The T-rex is a joke. It looks like a giant model being pushed from behind by stage hands. Its only movement is when it lowers its head to eat the gene-spliced soldier.

The research facility is the usual warehouse with bad lightning so the viewers won’t realize they are seeing the same stairwell over and over again. I did realize this.

Outside of Dalton’s performance, the only other interesting element of the film is the shadowy organization wanting to create dinosaur-human hybrids for use in combat. That could make for a fun movie.


On a scale of 3-D printed body parts, KillerSaurus rates one out of  five middle fingers.
The Crooked Man is a 2016 TV movie that made its debut on October  1 on Syfy to kick off that network’s 31 Nights of Halloween. Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

While at a slumber party, twelve-year-old Olivia is blamed for the horrific and mysterious death of her friend after singing a song, created by a reclusive mastermind, Milo [Michael Jai White], which summons a demonic figure known as “The Crooked Man.” Returning to her hometown six years later, a string of unusual deaths lead Olivia [Angelique Rivera] to believe that she's still being haunted by whatever she saw that fateful night. Once you sing the rhyme, everyone in the house is cursed to die by his hands.


White doesn’t have much of a part in this movie. Most of the movie centers on the efforts of Rivera and Cameron Jebo, playing a young police officer who was also on the scene of the earlier murders in that he was peeking into the windows of the house. Being near the house also counts.

Olivia was blamed for the murder of a friend in the first killing. Released from the sanitarium where she was sentenced until turning 18, she returns to a town that hates her. Her return releases the Crooked Man to continue what he started. It takes a few murders to convince her former friends that the supernatural killer has come back to kill them anew.

“The Crooked Man” is a shaky special effect that gets old because the movie doesn’t get very creative with it. The best use is when the hands of a musician (the babysitter during the slumber party) are broken in front of us. The end scene with the sudden appearance of a crooked house in the woods also works well.

The spookiest thing about the movie are moms Amber Benson and Dina Meyer. Benson is the mother of the girl slain at the slumber party. Her pain defines and unhinges her. However, she is the very model of sanity next to Meyer’s character.

Meyer’s character is living in the past, like the past a decade or two prior to the slumber party. She dresses like a 1950s housewife. She dresses her 18-year-old daughter, who was also at the slumber party, as if the young woman was twelve years old or even younger. She won’t let her daughter leave the house unless she’s with her. You could have made another scary movie with just Meyer’s deranged character. Someone should.


Directed by Jesse Holland, written by Peter Sullivan with co-story credit going to Jeffrey Schenck, The Crooked Man is pretty much your standard “Bloody Mary” horror movie. It’s quite watchable, but not entertaining enough for repeat viewing.

On a “names you shouldn’t say out loud” scale, I give The Crooked Man a respectable “Candyman Candyman Candyman” out of a possible “Candyman Candyman Candyman Candyman Candyman.”

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 9, 2016


“New York is made up of millions of different people, and they all come here looking for something.”
- Lindsey Kelk, I Heart New York

When I left Medina on Wednesday morning, September 28, to start my journey to the Luke Cage premiere that evening, I knew I would be facing two things I dislike: air travel and New York City. By the time I returned home, I only disliked one of those things. I’m not going to say I love New York, but, for the first time in too many years, I think I can coexist with it.

Air travel is, of course, a pathetic joke in this country. We have let airlines reduce service to a pittance of what it was once upon a time. We have let fear and xenophobia turn rational security into a mix of absurdity and authoritarianism. On my flight to New York, I was so thrilled to have been randomly selected to be pre-checked that I called my wife at work. I was so excited I never noticed the baggage clerk had handed me a receipt for the $25 baggage fee, but failed to give me the baggage claim ticket.

My flight was a Delta flight operated by Shuttle America. Tight as it was, we did make good time to JFK Airport. I even lucked into a ride from the gate to the baggage claim area, which was roughly two states away from said gate. I jest.

What wasn’t funny was when my luggage didn’t snow up on the baggage carousel. It had gotten stuck in the conveyor system and it took me over an hour and a half to convince someone to knock it loose from wherever it was stuck. This was not helped by my not having my claim ticket, though, to the credit of a helpful Delta agent, my number was found via computer.

While I was waiting, on two separate occasions, passengers on other flights were informed their bags were on a different carousel than shown on the overhead screens. Passengers arriving from Los Angeles were told their luggage had been split between two carousels...and I took no joy from watching them run back and forth between the two carousels searching for their bags.

Had I not been delayed at the baggage claim, I would have made my scheduled Air Link ride into Midtown Manhattan. As it was, I waited 45 minutes for the next van. Which took over two hours to deliver me to my hotel because I was the last passenger to be dropped off.

Here’s a “rolling my eyes” note. Once I got my land legs back and reconnected with the area - I used to live two blocks from where I stayed on this trip - I realized the driver passed within a block of where I was staying on three separate occasions. Had I known, I would have asked him to let me off earlier.

Before I can stop bitching about my pre-premiere day, I must tell you about the Econo Lodge Times Square. When I checked it, the desk informed me they could not make a room key for me. The key machine was broken. So, every time I returned to my hotel, a staff member would have to take me to my room and use the master key to let me into my room. In a pretty loud voice, I proclaimed how much I love New York. At least New Yorkers understand sarcasm.

The room? It was the smallest hotel room I have ever been in. The door was missing its chain. The instructions for the room safe did not match the actual room safe. A cloying sweet smell from whatever cleaner had been used on it permeated the room. As I learn later,  the television set only got half the channels listed in the hotel information book. Arrgh!

My niece Kara arrived at the hotel about fifteen minutes after me. I had time to brush my teeth, swig some mouthwash, change into my evening attire (casual though it was) before we were uber-ing our way to the Luke Cage premiere. Which, as you know from my past two bloggy things, was magical.

After the after-party, a pleasant cab ride got me back to the Econo Lodge and a surprisingly deep sleep. I say “surprising” because my room was on the second floor and the window didn’t do much to cut any outside noises. Basically, I was exhausted after a hard day and an amazing evening.

All I remember of my dreams was that I was at the back of a double-decker bus with Chris Claremont and a gaggle of elderly women. The ladies were fascinated as Chris and I discussed how something he’d once said influenced my most recent script for the better. Part of my dream was more or less true. My dreaming self acclimated to New York faster than my waking self.

I woke up after a solid four hours sleep. I am naturally an early riser, both by nature and because I have a cat who feels I should always be up before dawn. I skipped the hotel’s sparse breakfast set-up for a Subway breakfast sandwich. I wanted to hit the streets and regain my New York land legs.

I easily found the hotel whose “penthouse” I used to occupy. It was on 49th and Broadway, across from the Brill Building, so famous for housing music industry offices. The hotel itself is long gone and the much larger and nicer Crowne Plaza hotel is in its place. The Brill Building is undergoing extensive renovations, but I could see the bare bones of the vast Sam Goody’s music store that used to be on the structure’s ground level. When I lived there, I spent many an evening hour perusing what had to be tens of thousands of vinyl record albums featuring every kind of music you could imagine. Of course, back in the 1970s, I didn’t think of them as vinyl records. They were just records.

The Chinese laundry I used back then was also long gone, but Neil Simon’s Eugene O’Neil Theater was still there. There was a second theater across the street from it that I don’t remember being there in the 1970s. Then again, the Times Square area that used to be my home isn’t remotely like it used to be. Things change and, in New York, judging from all the renovations I saw while strolling around my old digs, they change constantly.

My relationship with New York was brief, intense and ended badly. There was chaos in the comics industry. I was robbed and mugged in my “penthouse” apartment. I had met the girl I would later marry at the wedding of some Cleveland friends. I missed her and I thought the relative calm of Ohio better suited me. With the bloom off my New York relationship, I was finding the city and the people in it rude and unpleasant. I didn’t so much move away from New York as escape from it.

The comics industry called me back to New York for a time. I was no longer writing for Marvel and a brief staff job at DC Comics turned out to be a disaster. I made a few business trips back to New York, but never felt comfortable in the city.

My most recent visit was in 2011 to attend the New York Comic Con and promote the Grim Ghost title I was writing for the unfortunate revival of Atlas Comics. I was proud of the work I did with artist Kelley Jones and delighted to see a great many old friends, but the badly-run convention was disrespectful to comics creators and held in the steaming dump that is the Javitz Center. The hotel I stayed in was only marginally better; a room service tray lay outside my room for two full days before I sent it down to the lobby via the elevator. I found New Yorkers to be even more rude and unpleasant than I remembered. I was not eager to return.

This visit was different. Maybe I was still on the emotional high from the Cage premiere. For whatever reason, I was rediscovering some of what I once loved about New York and especially this area in which I had lived.

I loved walking down a street and hearing six different languages within a single block. I loved the diversity of people, fashion and street vendors. I loved knowing that, at any time, day or night, I could find a good meal and an open shop. There was something to be said about being in a city that never sleeps. Even for a guy whose 20s are well behind him.

I love where I live in Medina. I love a lot of things about Medina. I don’t love that Medina is way too Republican white. I feel that the right-wing zombies could turn on me in an instant. I believe my fear is reasonable given their party’s choice for President is an a racist, misogynist, xenophobic con man and liar whose pick for his Vice President is an equally misogynist (and homophobic) evil Race Bannon cosplayer. I’m just saying.
I didn’t have a lot to do on my one day in New York. Because I do not travel with a laptop or any device more intelligent than a dumb phone, I missed invitations from people at Marvel to come by their offices. This is something I intend to correct before my next trip out of Medina.

I had hoped to get together with Larry Lieber, but the quick nature of my trip made that impossible. We spoke on the phone before and during this visit. We hope to get together soon.

I was taken to lunch by my dear friend Barry Pearl, who drove all the way into the city to take me to lunch at Gallagher’s, a great restaurant on 52nd just off Broadway and within walking distance of my hotel. What a swanky and yet unpretentious place!

Barry and I spent two hours enjoying Gallagher’s wonderful food and remarkable service while talking about comics and a whole bunch of other stuff. Barry is one of those A-plus gents you’re really lucky to know. He’s always there to help a friend. I love the guy. If you do a good turn for Barry, you’re doing a good turn for me.

When I got back to my hotel, I learned they still hadn’t received their new key machine. It was coming by mail. That’s right. In the city that never sleeps, the city where you can get anything at any time, they had to have the machine mailed to them. It was absurd. But I just laughed it off.

I walked around Times Square and my old neighborhood for the rest of the afternoon. I marveled at all the sidewalk food vendors and wished I had the time and appetite to try them all. Which is much more gastronomically daring than I usually am.

I smiled at all the character players on Times Square. There were seven Spider-Men at one corner. Frozen, Hamilton, Mickey, Minnie, Hulk and Elmo were all well represented. Come evening, there would be some sexier costumes, a distance remnant of the bawdy Broadway I remembered and even kind of sort of loved. I could tell you tales of those days, but I don’t want to embarrass my kids. I figure on saving that for my memoirs.

For my evening meal, I got a delicious rotisserie turkey sandwich  from Carve’s Unique Sandwiches & Pizza on the corner of 8th Avenue and 47th Street. I took it back to my hotel, planning to unwind and go to bed early. To ease my concern over making my return flight, I rescheduled my Air Link ride for 5:30 on Friday morning. I would rather get to the airport hours before my flight than wonder if I would get there on time.

Restless, I didn’t stay in my room for long. I walked down to the  lobby, chatted with two hotel workers. Their frustration with the lack of a key machine was much greater than mine and that was true for the entire staff. Despite that, the entire staff was efficient and courteous, even friendly. I was regretting my check-in sarcasm.

The Econo Lodge was on 47th between 8th and 9th. I walked down the street, noting the old-school residential buildings as well as the stores and services that marked it as a neighborhood. People lived here. They probably lived in ridiculously expensive apartments, but they lived here. I will never again be one of them, but that notion no longer strikes me as a Hell sentence. Progress.

I headed back to Times Square, walking past theaters where I used to see plays and failing to remember which plays I had seen where. On a whim, I stopped into a restaurant, bellied up to the bar and had a beer with some locals. I was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers polo shirt and we talked some sports and politics. I won respect by preferring the Mets over the Yankees, and a baboon’s ass over the Donald. Stay strong, New York.

I didn’t sleep much that evening because New York never sleeps and it makes you fight for however many hours you get. If I had stayed a few more days, the street sounds would have roughly lulled me to sleep. Next time, I will stay longer.

The ride to the airport was uneventful. The TSA security line was insulting and tedious, the latter revealed only by the sad sight of an airport worker screaming at a young Arabic woman. Apparently, he didn’t like how she looked and demanded she leave the area outside the security checkpoints. She was wearing jeans and recording the aggressive man with her phone. Two other airport workers showed up to calm the situation. None of us watching the spectacle would ever know what happened after that.

I didn’t get selected for pre-check this time. Shows and belt and coat and briefcase all went into a container while I walked through an x-ray machine with my arms up and hoping my pants wouldn’t drop. The machine examining my briefcase triggered my Fitbit’s stopwatch function. It took me a bit to figure out how to set it to rights. For about a hundred bucks, I can get automatic pre-check status and never have to go through this again. Which makes so much sense on account no terrorist could afford that kind of money. I literally just shook my head and sighed as I wrote that sentence.

I wasn’t able to get a ride to my gate, but I had time for the long walk. I was amused at the sight of an attractive Spanish-speaking young lady, dressed in skirt and heeled boots as she might wear to a classy office, making her way to the gate via skateboard. She was graceful and lovely and, to me, so very New York.

I got a seat on the single-seat side of the Shuttle America plane, which made for a more comfortable flight back to Cleveland. I even dozed off for a few minutes.

When I got to Cleveland and the baggage claim, my suitcase was on the carousel waiting for me. I suspect it had come in on an earlier flight. I retrieved my van from the valet and drove back to Medina.  It was good to be home. It was also good to have so many pleasant memories of this trip to New York.

I don’t love New York, but I think we could be friends. The kind of friends who are glad to see one another once a year or so.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Netflix held its Luke Cage TV series premiere at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem on Wednesday, September 28. It was followed by an after party at the Cecil Restaurant. I was invited to these events by virtue of having co-creating Misty Knight, who appears in this series and who will be appearing in other Marvel/Netflix series as well. If you read yesterday’s bloggy thing, you know this was an amazing evening for me.

My niece and goddaughter Kata Isabella was my “plus one” for these events. She took a bunch of great photos and I’ve been using them on my Facebook page. All of the photos in today’s bloggy thing were taken by Kara.

Inside the theater:

The ticket:

Me with photos of much more impressive people:
The premiere red carpet:
My too comfortable seat:

The “Special Thanks” card:
Misty co-creator Arvell Jones and me:

Arvell and Wanda Jones:

Simone “Misty Knight” Missick with her comic-book dads:

And another:

A selfie of Kara and me:
I love this shot, but I don’t know who I’m being introduced to in it. Can anyone enlighten me? I ask this knowing I’m going to feel really stupid when you tell me.

The after party:

Mike “Luke Cage” Colter with Arvell, Wanda, and the shortest man in comics:

Arvell and me:

Comics artist Shawn Martinbrough with Arvell and me:

Not to put even the slightest damper on this great evening, but I am disappointed that none of the comics news sites appear to have covered it. This was a classy event. Luke Cage is a very important show. I think it should have been covered.

I flew in to New York on Wednesday, barely getting to my hotel in time to leave for the premiere. I flew back on Friday morning. I’ll be writing about the rest of my trip in tomorrow’s bloggy. See you then, my friends.

© 2016 Tony Isabella