Wednesday, November 30, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Mark Crilley’s Brody’s Ghost Collected Edition; Tarzan: the Beckoning by Thomas Yeates; and Misty by Pat Mills and others, a look at the influential girls horror comic published in the U.K.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Well, it looks like it's time for me to go away and never inflict myself on decent people again. I mean, I'm writing a new comic-book series and more. Characters I created are showing up on TV. My bloggy thing has reached a million views. I have a wonderful family and friends. My Facebook page is always busy. I am invited to be a guest at a great many conventions. Not a day goes by without someone telling me how much something I've written or done has meant to them. Yet, it's all for naught. My eyes have been opened by the anonymous truth-bearer who attempts to post his wisdom to my bloggy thing every day. His latest:

"Isabella you are a midget physically and mentally. You were a loathsome boor when I knew you in the seventies. Now you are a delusional, self-righteous and loathsome boor."

So I guess that's it. I'm out of here. Sorry to have bothered everyone for all these decades of my professional life. I only wish I could find that anonymous soul a job since, apparently, he hasn't been able to find even seasonal work this year.

No, I can't do that to him (or her). I'm going to keep going on, if only to give him a reason to get up in the morning. I'll keep blogging and writing, my secret friend. You keep attempting to post to my blog. I treasure your every communication. It's why I keep them to myself. They are too precious to share.

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays!

Monday, November 28, 2016


My library here in Medina is affiliated with a hundred libraries in Northeast Ohio through ClevNet. If I request a book or a movie and any of those libraries have it, the item is sent to my library for me. My library sends me a recorded message to let me know items I have requested are in...and I go pick them up. This is one of the best systems and best things ever.

I have a long list of requested items. Sometimes it takes a while for an item to become available, sometimes they seem to be ready as soon as I request them. When Chopping Mall, the 1986 horror movie about killer robots on an after-hours rampage in a shopping mall, became available mere days before Thanksgiving, I knew destiny had delivered the perfect Black Friday film unto me.

Right from the get-go, before we get to the spoilers, let me tell you that, my criticisms aside, I enjoyed this movie. It was roughly 77 minutes of fun entertainment and that’s all I ever ask of a “B” horror/monster/science fiction movie. Indeed, now that I have learned its original release ran 92 minutes, I want to find and watch that version as well. More on that in a bit.

Chopping Mall (also known as Killbots) was directed and co-written by Jim Wynorski, co-written by Steve Mitchell and produced by Julie Corman, wife of Roger Corman. The movie’s budget was $800,000, but Corman always keep his budgets lean and mean. It was filmed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria and the Beverly Center, both in Los Angeles.

The movie stars Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet) as mall pizza parlor waitress Alison, Tony O’Dell as furniture store assistant manager Ferdy, Russell Todd and Karrie Emerson as a young married couple, assorted actors and actresses as horny young people who are just asking for it and the always fun Dick Miller as a mall worker in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Here’s the IMDb summary:

Eight teenagers are trapped after hours in a high tech shopping mall and pursued by three murderous security robots out of control.


This is a “by the numbers” movie. It starts with some sort of press conference introducing the mall’s new security robots. I assume the audience are mall business owners, but that’s never made clear. In the audience are the always annoying Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, who roll their eyes while making “clever” comments. I wondered if their presence in the movie is because they owed Corman a day from some other movie.

The mall audience watches a film in which a robot incapacitates a robber. The criminal isn’t really harmed, says the mall spokesperson, just held long enough for actual police to come and arrest him. Mall workers will have badges that will identify them to the robots. Oh, yes, and, at a certain time each night, big metal doors will seal all the entrances and exits until morning. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, eight 20-somethings have a party in the furniture store because the store has beds and couches and they have beer. If you want to bet that the most slutty members of this gathering will die first, you would win that bet.

Wondering what could possibly go wrong? I mean, what would be the odds of lightning striking the mall and messing up the programming of the robots?

I’ll end the suspense. Lightning strikes. The robots’ technicians are the first to die. Then Dick Miller gets electrocuted by one of the robots while mopping a floor. Then the robots go for the horny young people.

Despite the title Chopping Mall, there isn’t any actual chopping of anything going on. Amusingly, the trailer shows a severed arm still holding a shopping bag and the shadow of a robot carrying a head. Neither scene is in this movie. Which isn’t near as disappointing as Bartel and Woronov not sticking around the mall to get killed. Those two...they had it coming.

The furniture party crowd doesn’t realize they are trapped in the mall until the jerkiest of the males disappeares and his girlfriend gets her head exploded by laser fire from a robot. That’s the most graphic death in the movie. By the way, I correctly guessed the order in which the party people would die. It wasn’t even a challenge.

On the plus side, the final four party people are very resourceful in trying to escape from and then bring the fight to the robots. Maroney’s character is especially clever. The explanation is that her father was a Marine. Which works for me.

Also on the plus side, there’s a nice feint wherein you think that a character has died but he hasn’t. That’s the only plot element I didn’t guess ahead of time.


Being able to figure out what would happen in Chopping Mall didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the movie. I’ve been a professional writer for over four decades. It’s not surprising that I might figure out such things. That’s part of the fun for me. I drive Sainted Wife Barb crazy when I beat the heroes of such shows as Bones and Castle to the identity of whatever killer they’re hunting that week.

Though the robots show the low budget, they were fairly effective. In some ways, their clunky appearance made their deadliness all the more shocking.

The background music is definitely of the 1980s, albeit a bit too lively for a horror movie. Still, I got a kick out of it. Dance to your dooms, party people!

There are lots of references to other Corman and Wynorski movies. During the party, while everyone else is fornicating, Alison and Ferdy watch Attack of the Crab Monsters on a small black-and-white TV set. Some people know how to have fun.

To repeat what I said above, I enjoyed Chopping Mall. I would like to see the longer version and would watch this version again if I could find a DVD made from a better print. Apparently, some sort of legal matter kept the film’s negative in limbo with this DVD coming from a Lightning Video DVS master.

Chopping Mall was my 2016 Black Friday movie. Any suggestions for next year?

I’ll be back on Thursday with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 27, 2016


From Sanctum Books...

Doc Savage #86: The Sea Angel & The Devil Is Jones [December 2015; $14.95] is the penultimate volume of publisher Anthony Tollin’s reprinting of all the Doc Savage pulp novels. This volume’s novels are both by Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson.

The Sea Angel was first published in the November 1937 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. It was heavily edited, but, for this publication, it has been restored to its original length. Will Murray gives the full background for this novel in his informative essay.

The back cover blurb:

Just as evidence of their evil deeds materializes, unscrupulous Wall Street financiers disappear, victims of a vengeful monster called The Sea Angel.

Evil Wall Street financiers? Was this 1937 or 2016.

The Devil is Jones comes from the November 1946 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. The back cover blurb:

An urgent plea from a powerful politician lures Doc Savage to Kansas City to unmask the diabolical Mr. Jones.

In addition to this issue’s historical essay, Murray also gives us “Airwaves, Inc.” The piece tells how Dent gave up writing for a bit to launch and run a business involving airplane photography. Just as in his writing of Doc Savage stories, Dent was ahead of the rest of the world with this venture. It’s a fascinating article.
Sanctum Books delivers fine entertainment at a reasonable price. I recommend their books to one and all.

ISBN 978-1-60877-194-3

© 2016 Tony Isabella


If Emperor-Elect Donald Trump does manage to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, he’ll be doing so for the wrong reasons. The racist orange goop wants to keep out Mexican immigrants, which he so famously and falsely characterized as being mostly drug dealers, rapists and other criminals. But there is a far worse danger from Mexico and he has never addressed this peril. I speak, of course, of poinsettias.

Wikipedia describes the poinsettia aka “The Devil’s Flower” as “a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family. The species is indigenous to Mexico. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.”

A government official brought the poinsettia to America. As I see it, that’s treason. As a result of Poinsett’s criminality, on each and every Christmas, my Sainted Wife Barb insists we go to the Home Depot in Medina, Ohio, at six-[censored]-o’clock in the morning to buy two dozen of the only natural plant that looks like it’s made of plastic. And evil plastic at that.

I have agreed to this infamy in years past for three reasons. Barb likes these plants and, though I question her sanity and taste, I wouldn’t want to make too big deal of her choice. After all, Barb also likes me enough to have kept me for over 32 years. If she were to start questioning her buying of poinsettias, who knows what else she might start questioning.

Barb likes me to go to Home Depot with her for these hell plants. It’s a holiday tradition. I like to make Barb happy because...see the previous paragraph.

The third reason is...I go for the donuts. In previous years, Home Depot has laid out a very nice spread of tasty pastries for their  earliest Black Friday customers. My intake of donuts is way down on account of my daughter Kelly thinks they will kill me. She thinks a lot of things will kill me, but she’s probably right about those donuts. Still, on a holy day like Black Friday, she would not deny me such a small lapse in my diet.

However...this is 2016.

This is the year when our world was turned upside down by American voters who left their brains and their souls at home when they went to the voting booths. In electing Trump, they have damaged the very fabrics of reality and sanity. The ripple effects from their awful choices are already spreading.

Barb could not go to Home Depot on Black Friday morning. She had to go to work earlier than she has had to do in years past. So I went in search of those ninety-nine-cent poinsettias with our children Eddie and Kelly. I accepted this. Change is part of life.

When we got to Home Depot, there were no donuts. Instead of a vast display of assorted treats, there were little tiny oranges and some sort of granola bars. What the [censored]!

When we got into Home Depot, we discovered that the store was only selling red poinsettias at the ninety-nine-cent price. If you were to buy white or yellow poinsettias, you would have to pay at least three times as much. That’s just plain racist.

Well played, Satan. Well played.

End times or not, I will continue to battle evil. Whether it be a soulless pile of orange goop or a flower from the depths of Hell. No offense intended to Mexico.

You might have won the Black Friday Poinsettia Battle, you cloven-hooved fiend, but the war goes on!

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Back Issue #93 [November, 2016; $8.95] is the “All-Captains Issue" of the TwoMorrows publication that focuses on Bronze Age comics and more. The Captain Marvel cover drawing is by the late Dave Cockrum, a fan drawing he did in 1970, just prior to his breaking into comics and becoming a fan favorite.

The cover blurbs the following: Shazam! in the Bronze Age, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, Captain Mar-Vell, Captain Storm and the Losers, Captain Universe and Captain Victory. The issue is also said to feature C.C. Beck, Pat Broderick, Jack Kirby, Scott Shaw!, Jim Starlin, Roy Thomas and more.

I’m ridiculously behind in my reading of this magazine, which won’t stop me from recommending it to you. If you a fan of the comics of the Bronze Age or comics history in general, you’ll love it. And, with the holidays closing in on us, a subscription to Back Issue or even a nice stack of back issues of Back Issue would be a wonderful gift for that comics fan you love.

Keep watching this bloggy thing for more alerts to new TwoMorrows publication.


My friends...are you bloated from Thanksgiving? Are you battered and bruised from Black Friday? Welcome to Small Business Saturday, the day when you spend whatever money you didn’t spend yesterday on the neighborhood businesses whose workers will smile at you and pretend they don't know you did most of your shopping at Big Box Express.

Here’s my suggestion. Move Small Business Saturday to the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I mean, stores are already putting on their Christmas finery before Halloween. Why not give a leg up to the little guys?

I would be the best emperor ever.

Moving on...   
I have this thing about giant crabs. I have been fascinated by them ever since, as a wee lad, I saw Attack of the Crab Monsters [1957] on TV. In April of this year, I reviewed and said nice things about a low-budget movie name of Queen Crab.

Via my Kindle Fire, I’ve been reading Night of the Crabs and all of the other giant crab novels by Guy N. Smith. There are seven such novels, the prose equivalent of cheesy monster movies. I can’t say they are terrific novels, but they amuse me for the two hours that it takes to read one of them. I’ll doubtless be writing about them in the bloggy thing once I finish them all.

Island Claws [1980] was erroneously described as an adaptation of a Smith novel. Outside of the bigger-than-normal crabs plural and one giant crab, there are no similarities. I figured this out before watching the movie, so I wasn’t disappointed on that score. Here’s the IMDb synopsis of the movie, also known as Giant Claws:

A biological experiment in Florida goes awry. The result: 8-foot long land crabs which roar loudly and kill everything in sight.

That isn’t precisely accurate, but it’s close enough for government work. Especially in Trump’s America. While scientist Barry Nelson is experimenting with growth hormones to make crabs and other food bigger, there’s an equal chance that the enormous crustaceans are the result of runoff from the local nuclear power plant. Take your pick. It’s still “folly of man” stuff.

The low-budget movie is set in a seedy Florida town that is kind of fun to experience. Robert Lansing plays a bar owner with an accent that defies description. Some of the bar regulars are equal parts creepy and fun and, when a few meet their death at the hands of the crabs, it carries some emotional weight.

The gore is minimal. The special effects are laughable, though the giant crab is fun in a low-budget kind of way. The acting is okay. A subplot about Haitian refugees adds some heart to the story. I don’t regret either the ninety minutes I spent watching this movie or the seven or eight bucks I spent buying it. It’s a satisfyingly cheesy snack.


Looking for something to help me relax after a full day of writing and household stuff, I happened upon Alligator II: The Mutation (1991) on YouTube. I’d seen the movie many years ago and decided to give it another viewing.

The original Alligator (1980) was a terrific movie. Not quite a “B” movie classic, but entertaining and smart. Alligator II isn’t near as good, but still pretty watchable. From IMDb:

A giant alligator runs riot in a small town with a lake connected to a sewer/drainage system. Typical plot; nobody believes the sightings until lots of people have been killed.

Close enough, but the small town seemed more like a small city to me, what with having a large police force and enough lakefront to attract a murderous developer. The sleazy Woody Brown (Rich Harmon)  is looking to build his own empire once he buys up all the land he needs. That he has mob ties is implied.

The movie’s greatest strength comes from the performances from such veterans as Joseph Bologna, Dee Wallace, Richard Lynch, Bill Daily and Brock Peters. The story moves too leisurely at the start with the alligator remaining unseen. When the creature does appear, its best scenes are lifts from the first Alligator. Yes, the movie is more than a little corny and more than a little by the numbers, but it’s entertaining and worth its 92-minute running time. It suited my needs at the time I watched it and, considering it didn’t cost me anything but those 92 minutes, I’m good with it.
Several times a year, I’ll receive a request from someone who wants to interview me for their PhD research or some such. I can’t agree to all of these requests, but, sometimes, when they reach me at the right time and grab my interest, I’ll do my best to answer their questions. I especially enjoy answering questions about stuff that I don’t usually get asked about. Here’s one such question:

QUESTION: You wrote a moving text in War is Hell #9, launching the series. Until #8, war “was not hell” at all, soldiers were heroes. Your approach was very different. Why did Marvel and you publish a series so pacifist and so great when Vietnam War had already ended for the U.S.A.?

ANSWER: I don’t know if I’m a pacifist per se. I do know I believe that, if you’re going to go to war, it should be for right reasons. World War II...the right reasons. Bush II’s War on Iraq...not the right reasons.

With War is Hell, I wanted to do something different from previous war comics. I wanted to show the brutality of war in a way that had not really been done since the war comics of the 1950s and Archie Goodwin’s Blazing Combat. I also wanted to show the cost of war to the men who fought it and the civilians caught in its wake. That’s why I had John Kowalski condemned to live out the war in the bodies of others.

This should not be considered an open invitation to every PhD candidate or student out there. I’ll do as many as I can, but only when they fit into my schedule.

When I do accept them, I post the questions into a work file. Then I answer a question a day until I answer them all. It’s not a fast process, but it’s one that works for me.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another “odds and ends” bloggy thing. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 25, 2016


Eating lots of turkey on Thanksgiving makes you no more drowsy than eating lots of anything would make you. So, since gluttony is off the table as an excuse for not writing today’s bloggy thing, I’ll try the “odds and ends” option.


If you happen to live near or are passing through Manhattan Beach or Culver City, California, you should check out “Black Lightning Friday” at the Comic Bug stores in those cities. Apparently, this is something the shops have been doing for a few years now and it looks like they have some fun stuff planned for the events. If you do visit them, tell them Black Lightning’s daddy says hi.


To the Republicans in the audience, please spare me your ridiculous claim that President-Elect Donald Trump stands opposed to the alt-right Nazis. As long as Steve Bannon is part of his administration, Trump is just lying. Again. #dishonestdonald


The recent-released Doctor Strange movie is pretty darn sweet. For being part of the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe, it gave us a mostly self-contained story of a hero’s journey from self-centered egotist to selfless hero. Even when he’s playing a jerk, it’s easy to like actor Benedict Cumberbatch, but, by the end of this movie, it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. Again.

Rachel McAdams deserves credit for her understated but all the more wonderful for it performance as Christine Palmer. She holds her own with such heavyweights as Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo).

I don’t play to do a full-on review of this movie, but I did want to make this comment. The special effects are spectacular and fill so much of the screen and running time that I was exhausted when I walked out of the theatre. The filmmakers did a great job bringing Strange co-creator Steve Ditko’s imaginative drawings to cinematic life. But, without the flawed and yet glorious humanity that comes from co-creator Stan Lee’s contributions to the original comic, the movie would’ve been little more than a big light show. An awesome light show, to be sure, but just a light show. As always, it’s the human elements that make for a great super-hero comic book, movie or TV show.


People have asked me about Black Lightning t-shirts. While I don’t have a license to make these, there are a couple of online sources I can direct you to.

Black Action Tees has a Black Lightning shirt with an image of my character taken from the cover of Black Lightning #9 (1978). They also have a multi-character Soul Power Heroes and Heroines t-shirt, which is also very nice.

Stylin Online has a couple of different Black Lightning shirts that feature a more modern version of the character. They come in a few different styles.

Given that 2017 is the 40th anniversary of Black Lightning’s first publication, I think it would be a wonderful thing if lots of you bought Black Lightning shirts and wore them at conventions across this great land of ours. No, I’m not the least bit biased on this. And if you believe that, you probably voted for #dishonestdonald.

Don Thompson, my late friend and mentor, used to have this line he used when he didn’t like a comic book but didn’t want to come out and say that. I’m going by memory, but I think It was “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.”

Which brings me to...

The Crackpot and Other Twisted Tales of Greedy Fans and Collectors by John E. Stockman [Ramble House; $20]. Amazon offers this brief pitch for the collection:

Doomed fans, obsessed collectors, crooked dealers - they’re all here in some of the wildest and wackiest yarns ever typed on a mimeograph stencil. Written by John E. Stockman and published in his only too aptly named fanzine Tales of Torment between 1963 and 1979, the stories were centered around the pulp magazine and comic book collecting subculture of the period but are still fresh and funny today. Utterly unique, a little twisted, and taking place in a timeless world of their own that even non-fans can appreciate, the stories have been largely unseen since their original publication. This collection includes eight of Stockman’s best, selected by editor Dwight R. Decker, as well as notes and an introduction to explain it all.

If you like this sort of thing...

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m no Don Thompson.

These are hideous stories featuring awful men-children who behave in loathsome and even violent manner. These are misogynist screeds that demean women at every opportunity. In one story, a sociopath trades his wife for a stack of magazines. I couldn’t read all eight tales. I skimmed my way through the last two chapters of the sixth and never even started the last two.  If you’re looking for good or even decent writing from Stockman, you won’t find it.

“Old Man Teeverberg” is the only story that didn’t make my stomach churn. It’s a sweet little story of a lonely old man who loves his comic books and who, when fortune favors him, spreads good will to others. Stockman didn’t think much of it. Which speaks volumes as to Stockman’s own mental and moral character.

Outside of the one story, the only redeeming value in this book is the scholarship of editor Dwight Decker and foreword-writer Richard A. Lupoff. Both open a door to an examination of a fandom that may or may not still exist.

So...if you like this sort of thing...I would really appreciate it if you stepped away from me. Way way away from me.

ISBN 978-1605438511


Rick Oliveras did a really terrific interview with me and you can read it here. However...

There’s one statement he made - I hope I didn’t give him the wrong impression in our back and forth emails - that I feel I must clarify to a certain extent. He wrote:

Although the 64-year old Isabella is done with his writing monthly books, he remains a respected voice in the industry as he still writes in his blog, Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing.

I can’t deny that I’m 64 years old, though I will be hitting 65 on December 22 of this year. I would never dream of denying that I am a respected voice in the industry, though that may be more a case of my wanting to believe that than actual fact.

However, for that record, I am not done with writing monthly comic books. I’ve started writing a six-issue series for a pretty major publisher. The first issue’s script is done and I’ll be starting on the next one right after Thanksgiving. I’m hoping to have all six issues written before I start hitting the convention trail in mid-February. I’m hoping to be able to tell you about it before then.

I don’t envision myself writing two or three monthly comics titles. There are too many other things I want to write. But my hope and my plan is that I will be spending a portion of every month from here on in writing comic books or graphic novels.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another “odds and ends” bloggy thing. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 24, 2016


I don’t think I’ve ever been as conflicted about a Thanksgiving as I am this year. Many things in my life are going better than I ever expected they would. My writing career has taken off in a big way with opportunities and accolades I can scarcely believe have come my way. This year’s conventions have brought such joy to my world. For every anonymous coward or troll, there are literally thousands of fans and even fellow professionals who’ve told me how much they appreciate my work. Financially, this is the best year I’ve had in decades. For Tony the writer, life is sweet.

For Tony the family man...and when I say “family,” I mean my wife and kids, my friends and neighbors, my colleagues and has also been a terrific year. Family is what you make for yourself and not an accident of birth. Mine is a blessing to me day in and day out.

Yet 2016 has not been a year without challenge and loss. My mother-in-law is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, leaving it up to my Sainted Wife Barb to handle her mother’s affairs. There is more to the story than that, but it will be some time before I can write about it. If ever. It kills me to see the strain this situation is putting on the woman I love. I do what I can. I do what she’ll let me do. But it never feels like enough.

Loss? I would be here all day if I tried to list all the good and creative people who have been taken from us this year. The comics industry, the entertainment business, the world is so much poorer for these losses. It sometimes seemed like we couldn’t go even one week without being punched in the gut. The pain sometimes seems unending.

Then there’s the elephant in the room. That arrogant, bigoted,  dishonest, homophobic, misogynist, racist, xenophobic, cancerous elephant in the room.

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

How can I be thankful for my own gains and joys when so many other Americans are being targeted by these soulless creatures? How can I be thankful when Trump brings an actual white supremacist Nazi into his inner circle? How can I be thankful when the old straight white men of the GOP are again posed to crush the rights of women, gays, blacks, immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims and anyone who won’t fall in goose step with their hideous agenda? How can I be thankful when the freedom of the press is threatened? When the freedom of my country is threatened?

I can’t. That’s not how my America is supposed to be.

There are those who make ridiculous excuses for Trump’s actions and words, part and present, and try to tell us we have nothing to fear when we so obviously have much to fear. There are those who try to “normalize” the unspeakable. They aren’t alt-right. They are Nazis and their “Heil Trump” shouts confirm that. You shouldn’t be making excuses for them or trying to tell us they aren’t the evil we know them to be. Stop lying to us. Stop lying to yourselves.

Here’s what I wrote in this space last year:

I am thankful for my wonderful family and friends and readers. Sainted Wife Barb, Eddie and Kelly are three of the best people I know. They bring me great joy every day. My friends and readers are right up there as well.

I am thankful for my continued employment as a writer. Any creative career has its ups and downs, but the ups are worth it.

I am thankful for the many forums available to me, this blog highest among them. I hope that I can continue to amuse and inform you.

This isn’t a normal Thanksgiving in these United States of America. I don’t feel normal. But I will.

I’m determined to work my way back to normal in an America that has become anything but normal. We will endure. We will fight. We will win. Never doubt that.

I hope all of you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

As ever, I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 23, 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 92nd installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #106 [December 1972] was pencilled by Larry Lieber, who wrote and penciled “The Range Riders” (14 pages). At the Grand Comics Database, comics art detective Nick Caputo opines the inker is either Jack Abel or George Roussos. I can’t identify which, but Roussos is the credited inker of the interior tale. After this one, only seven more new Rawhide stories will appear before the series  goes entirely reprint.


Two strangers come to town. One is the Rawhide Kid, newly arrived to yet another territory where he’s not a wanted man. The other is, well, as the Kid notices:

That’s a mighty cute filly who just got off the stage!

Before the first page is over, the Kid has saved the filly from an assassination attempt. She’s Laura Prescott, who has inherited the cattle ranch from her murdered uncle. The gunman escapes before the Kid can reach the hotel room from which he fired.

Rawhide and the sheriff have words. The lawman throws shade at the Kid over his reputation. The Kid is somewhat sarcastic when he asks the sheriff if he’s found “the hombre who murdered Miss Prescott’s uncle.”

Ranch foreman Ed Tanner is there to take Laura to her ranch. When the young woman offers Rawhide a job, the Kid accepts. Tanner isn’t happy about this, but Miss Prescott won’t be swayed.

Cut to mustache-twirling bad guy Bart Calhoun, who ordered the hit on Laura, just as he had her uncle murdered. He wants the Prescott ranch no matter what it takes, but doesn’t reveal why he wants it.

He rides over to the spread and offers Laura twice what the place is worth. She loves the ranch and refuses to sell.

Calhoun’s subsequent veiled threat against Laura is interrupted by the Rawhide Kid. Calhoun backs down and rides off.

That night, Calhoun meets with Ed Tanner, who has been working with him all along. The plan is to rustle part of the Prescott herd and call in all the wranglers to fight them off. The rest of the herd will be left unprotected.

Calhoun’s plan works. While the Prescott men are protecting part of the herd, his other rustlers make off with forty cows.

The Rawhide Kid rides after them and tries to turn the herd around. The rustlers open fire on him. A shot grazes him and knocks him off his horse. He manages to avoid being trampled. As soon as the dust clears, the rustlers find out how deadly the Kid can be. Two shots and two less Calhoun gunslicks.

Calhoun and his men kidnap Laura. Tanner stays behind to lead the Kid into a trap. The trap is sprung, the Kid is taken and we learn why Calhoun wants the ranch. After Laura is dead, he plans to buy the land dirt cheap at public auction...and sell it to the railroad when they start laying track. Sounds like someone’s been doing the Old West equivalent of insider trading.

Things look bad for Laura and the Kid, until the sheriff opens fire on Calhoun and his men. The Kid gets to his guns and things are now looking bad for the owlhoots.

The sheriff had more on the ball than Rawhide realizes. He’d been staking out Calhoun and his gang, just waiting to get the goods on them.

The sheriff and the Kid get the gang, but Calhoun hightails it out of there. The Kid catches him and beats the crap out of him with a couple well-placed punches:

It never fails! When their heart’s made of stone...their jaw’s made of glass!

That could be one of the Phantom’s old jungle sayings.

The Kid returns to the ranch to say farewell to Laura. He realizes that, when word gets out that he beat Calhoun and his men, every fast gun in the territory will be itching to take him on. He clears out to avoid more bloodshed:

Maybe over the next horizon, we’ll find peace, quiet and a chance to grow old!


“The Range Riders” is a terrific story. It’s action-packed with a nice human drama center. The sheriff emerges as a pretty intriguing character in his handful of panels. If I were writing new Rawhide Kid stories - and, gee whiz, would I love that - I’d probably use the lawman again.

“With Guns Slung Low” is this issue reprint. The six-page tale was drawn by George Tuska and originally appeared in Western Outlaws #6  [December 1954}.


Clay Brand is a feared gunslinger. As a younger man, he rode with such outlaws as the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and others. When the Gang was wiped out, Brand disappeared for a while and became a gun for hire. From time to time, he took ranch jobs under assumed names. However, inevitably, someone would recognize him and there would gunplay. Even when an employer didn’t care what Brand had been and wanted him to stay, Clay would move on. He knew other gunslingers would come looking for him.

Now 30, Brand’s path takes him to Carson City, “one of those kind of towns [where] the toughs [are] on one side of the street and the decent folks on the other.” When the town sheriff takes to take him in, Brand disarms the lawman without hurting him. This draws the attention of Talas Pride, a powerful man and one of the leaders of the decent citizens. Or so it seems.

Pride wants to hire Brand to be the new marshal of Carson City and drive out the toughs. He’ll even pay Brand a handsome bonus. But he has an ulterior motive:

Because once you sweep out the toughs, I’m taking over the saloons myself! The railroad’s going to come through here and make this a cattle shipping point. I’ll make a fortune.

Brand accepts the job. The daughter of the sheriff slaps him across the face. The townspeople are terrified of him. But he gets the job done. Then Clay does the unexpected.

He gives the badge back to the old sheriff:

Sheriff, I cleaned up your town! I did it for you, and the other decent folks like you! I’m riding out now!

The sheriff is surprised:

I reckon most of us had you wrong, son! A man can change!
Talas Pride ain’t happy that Brand has called their deal off. The big man calls Clay a dirty polecat and says that, if Brand wasn’t wearing those guns, he would give him what-for. Okay, not in those precise words, but you get the idea.

Clay beats Talas to a fair-thee-well. Then he tells Pride to get on his horse, ride away and don’t come back.

The sheriff says Clay should stay in Carson City. The town would be proud to have him as marshal and a citizen. The fear has left the eyes of the townspeople. This could be Brand’s chance to honestly start over. Except...

A would-be gunslinger calls Clay out. Brand shoots the gun out of the man’s hand. He realizes this is how it will always be. He won’t bring that to these good people.

So Clay Brand rode away from Carson City and disappeared into the legends of the west! Rumor placed him in many states during the passing years! Wherever gunsmoke floated, it was said that he had passed! But the last time he was definitely seen was the day he rode out of Carson City...


Now that’s one heck of a story, one of the best non-series stories to appear in Marvel’s western comic books. Like so many of Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid works, it really deserves to be reprinted for a new audience.

Next is the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page with “Stan’s Soapbox” as the lead item. Stan Lee uses the space to plug two projects of his own. The first is Origins of Marvel Comics, which he says will cost a buck. When it finally came out in 1974, it cost $5.95. The other is Monster Madness, which, when it came out, would consist of lots of big photos from monster movies with Stan writing humorous word balloons on them. Corny, yeah, but I always got a kick out of it. I even ended up working with Stan on the third and final issue of the title.

The second item welcomes Steve Gerber to Marvel. Gerber adds some additional dialogue to Shanna the She-Devil, helps Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart with various editorial duties, and teams with Rich Buckler for a Man-Thing story in Fear #11. Gerber will remain the regular writer on Man-Thing with the solitary exception of a Man-Thing story written by me for Monsters Unleashed. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of how I came to be asked to write that tale.

Supernatural Thrillers is still being called Gothic Thrillers in the next item, which plugs the Roy Thomas/Marie Severin adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon’s “It!” and mentions the “eye-popping cover” by Jim Steranko. The item adds that Steranko will be doing covers for several Marvel comics, including Doc Savage.

The final item plugs the adaptation of Robert Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” by Ron Goulart and Gil Kane. It runs in Journey into Mystery and it’s a classic!

The “Mighty Marvel Checklist” lists two-dozen issues, among them Fantastic Four #129 (The Human Torch quits!), Thor #206 (in battle with the Absorbing Man), Captain America #156 (Captain America vs. Captain America) and the now-monthly Hero for Hire #4

Running across the bottom of the page is an ad for the forthcoming Frankenstein comic with a spot illustration by Mike Ploog.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page had three missives from readers. Jimmy Peavley of Richmond, Kentucky collects all the Marvel westerns. He wanted to see more of the Gunhawks and was told they have their own mag. Except I think he was probably thinking of the Gunhawk (singular) who appeared in Western Gunfighters during the brief period when that title had new material.

Referring to issue #102, Peavley also thought Rawhide should have set the spoiled Cathy Cameron over his knees and whipped her. The anonymous letters answerer said Cathy’s father probably did that to her. I’m thinking this whole spanking conversation makes me pretty uncomfortable.

Richard “the Kid” Roder of Pine Plains, New York didn’t like that most of the Marvel western heroes have “Kid” in their names...and requested new names for them. Like Rawhide Kid could become...the Gunner. Other suggestions:

Outlaw Kid could become...the Bandit or the Outlaw.

Two-Gun Kid could become...Gunman.

Western Kid could become...Mr. West or Mr. Wild West.

The letter answerer responded that the existing names were already established and changing them would confuse readers.

Finally, Mike Francis of Manhattan Beach, California praised Marvel Spotlight #5 with the new motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider, but added that he wanted to see the horse-riding Ghost Rider return. Marvel had answered this request before and repeated that answer: Lincoln Slade (the latest western Ghost Rider) would return, but they did not know when.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with something appropriate for Thanksgiving. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Craig Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes: Outrageous But Real! (over 300 pages of crazy champions of justice); Love Addict: Confessions of a Serial Dater by Koren Shadmi; and writer/artist Renae De Liz’s The Legend of Wonder Woman!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The Shadow #102: King of the Black Market & Crime Caravan [November  2015; $14.95] reprints two wartime thrillers plus a classic Shadow script from the Golden Age of Radio. Both novels are by Walter B. Gibson (writing as Maxwell Grant). The radio script is uncredited.

King of the Black Market was first published in the October 1943 issue of The Shadow Magazine:

The King of the Black Market endangers the future of our nation at the time of its greatest peril.

Crime Caravan is from The Shadow Magazine for April 1944:

Coast-to-coast car hijackings sabotage the war effort until The Shadow shuts down the subversive Crime Caravan.

The front cover art is by Modest Stein. Back cover art is by Stein and George Rozen. Interior illustrations are by Paul Orban. And, as always, this volume also includes an informative historical essay by Will Murray.

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

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 21, 2016


Today’s bloggy thing has been kicking around my brain for months. The more I thought about it, the more its scope widened. I’m still not sure where it will take me, but I needed to have a go at it and today seemed as good a time as any.

The genesis of today’s bloggy thing was apazine comments made by an old friend of mine. For those of you who only know online fandom, I should explain what an apa is. It stands for “amateur press association” and consists of individual zines created by people who share a common interest. In this case, we’re talking comic books and related subjects. The print runs of the zines corresponds, more or less, to the number of members in the apa. Each member sends the required number of copies to a central mailer who bundles all these zines together and mails them to all the other members. I’ve been a member of several apas in my life, but find online communication, such as this blog, far more satisfying.

My old friend wrote about how he was really enjoying the Supergirl TV show and then went into a rant about not warming up to the idea of “Affirmative Action Jimmy Olsen.” He continued with complaints about “Affirmative Action Pete Ross” in the Smallville series of years past and “Affirmative Action Iris West” in the current Flash series.

“Affirmative action” is a code phrase frequently used by right-wing zealots in unsuccessful attempts to mask the racism that has become a cornerstone of their politics. As much as it pains me to accept this, my old friend is one of those zealots.

In all fairness, comics fans who aren’t racist have also expressed their dislike of such revamped characters. Not necessarily because the characters are black, but because they aren’t the same as the characters they liked when they were twelve years old. They believe  new characters should be created to serve roles played by classic characters like Jimmy and Pete and Iris.

Here’s my take on this...

I don’t want to see the bow-tie and green jacket-wearing Jimmy on Supergirl. I love those often-wacky comic-book stories as much as anyone, but their time has passed. I don’t want to see Jimmy drink strange potions just for the heck of it. I don’t want to see Jimmy dumped on by Lucy Lane every other issue. I don’t want to see that guy on TV or in the movies...because neither of those mediums are likely to capture the full Jimmy Olsen. The brave and loyal friend who, despite his many mistakes, did a lot of good in his roles as reporter and sidekick.

I like the new James Olsen. I like his strength and style. I like that he has mixed feelings about being a sidekick all of his life and wants to become something more. That he’s black doesn’t enter into at all, save that I am a proponent of more diversity in comic books and movies and television.

Jimmy Olsen could not have been a black man when he was created in the 1940s and turned into a star in the 1950s. Sadly, America was not ready for that. It may not be ready for that today, but, screw that. TV’s James Olsen is black. TV’s Pete Ross is black. TV’s Iris West is black. Because it’s 2016.

My personal preference is for original characters just because I’m fond of original characters. But I completely understand why legacy characters have changed their race, sex or sexual preference when they are reinvented for today’s comics audience and comics-related movies and TV shows. In the comics series I am currently writing, I changed a male character to a female character because I wanted to have a strong woman character in the book.

My definition of diversity is this...all of our audience should be reflected in our comics and movies and TV shows. That means black characters, women characters, gay characters, disabled characters, liberal characters, conservative characters, Christian characters, Muslim characters, Jewish characters, atheist characters, straight white male characters and characters of every race and nationality. Because they are our readers and that is our world.

Not every such change works for me. Will Smith is an amazing actor, but I don’t buy him for an instant as government agent James West in post-Civil War America. It defies logic.

Conversely, Perry White or Commissioner Gordon can be black without upending the willing suspension of disbelief required by super-hero comic books and such. You would not have seen a black editor of a major metropolitan newspaper or a black police commissioner when these characters were created. You do see them now.

There’s also a bottom line component to my embrace of diversity in movies and TV shows inspired by comic books. Our best-selling comic books maybe move a couple hundred thousand copies of some special issue...and we wouldn’t reach even those numbers if we didn’t make those comics inviting to all kinds of readers.

If a movie or TV series only attracted an audience of two hundred thousand, it would be the biggest financial disaster in the history of movies and television. Movies and TV shows cost a lot more money to make than comic books. Of necessity, they have to reach a much larger audience than comic books.

Diversity is not just the right thing to do. It’s a smart business decision. I came to the “cause” because I thought it was the fair thing to do. I came to realize it was also the best way to increase the audience of the comic books and comics-related movies and shows I love. We are stronger together.

The old comic books you loved with their almost exclusive Caucasian casts of characters are still there. If you’ve held on to those old issues, you can read and enjoy them whenever you like. If your mom threw them away - and it’s time to stop giving moms a bad rap for that because not all of them did that - then you can find many of them in handsome hardcover and trade paperback editions. For that matter, you can buy them for your Kindle and other devices.

Yes, I know the notion of non-paper books and comic books horrifies some of the same people who are upset by revamps of old characters. I feel their discomfort, but we are living in a future only partly predicted by those comic books of our youth. As I see it, you can cling to a past that will never return no matter how much some may wish for that...or you can embrace the world as it is and the world as it will be. I choose the latter.

As the Netflix incarnation of Marvel’s Luke Cage would say, “Always forward.” That doesn’t mean you can’t look back at something with fondness. That doesn’t mean you can’t take something of value from the past. It just means what it says.

Always forward.

My own journey continues. I’ll be back on Wednesday with more.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 20, 2016


OC stands for Old Comics and what I have for you today is my second installment of an occasional series of bloggy things. Going through my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I often come across old comic books I want to write about. I don’t always remember from who or where I got these comics. I just have them. So, I figured, why not write about them?

Although I’ll concentrate on old comic books in this new series, I won’t always be writing about them. Sometimes I’ll write about old books, magazines, movies, TV shows or anything else that strikes my fancy. The one rule...I’ll only write about comics and stuff that came out prior to Halloween, 1972, the day I started work at Marvel Comics.

Today’s OC is Our Love #1 [Marvel; September 1949]. The next issue was published four months later. Those were the only issues, though Marvel would launch Our Love Story in 1969.

The identity of the model on this cover of this issue is unknown to me. Since the cover was also used on Bell Features’ Movie Life #9, a circa 1950 issue reprinting Quality Comics romance stories, I’m guessing the photo came from one of the New York studios that made such images available to publishers.

The inside front cover advertised Tex Smith’s “famous” A-B-C simple course on how the play the harmonica, which includes a free 10-hole harmonica. The cost was $1.69 plus C.O.D. postage or just $1.69 if you paid with your order.

There are three stories in this issue. We don’t know the writers of any of them, but comic-book art detectives are confident they know who penciled them.

“I Bet My Heart!” (9 pages) was drawn by Mike Sekowsky, who is best known for his 1960s work on DC’s Justice League of America and many  titles from DC and other publishers, including Archie, Gold Key and Tower. Sekowsky’s speed and versatility were legendary. He could draw any kind of comic book and draw it faster than most artists.

All the comics stories in this issue share the same layout on their first pages. A teaser panel followed by a title panel followed by the first four panels of the story. All subsequent pages have six panels on them. Why did many of Marvel’s comics of the era go with this layout formula? I haven’t a clue, but I’m hoping one of your fellow bloggy thing readers will have the answer.

“Guilt!” (7 pages) is penciled by Gene Colan and possibly inked by him. Colan was another speedy and versatile artist who could draw any kind of comic book.

“Tortured by Love” was a two-page text story that was stretched to three pages to make room for a pair of half-page ads for fireworks. The Rich Brothers Fireworks Company of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, offered over 550 pieces for $4.95. Banner Fireworks Manufacturing Company of Toledo, Ohio, promised over 1000 pieces for $4.95. I’m going to guess the implementation of the Comics Code put an end to fireworks ads in comic books.

“Love Letters Can Go Astray!” (7 pages), the third and final tale, was penciled by Marion Sitton and possibly inked by him. Sitton had a short career in comic books (1949-1953). At Marvel, he did crime, romance, spy and western comics.

Since I’ll be describing this issue’s three stories in some detail,  let’s throw up the standard warning...


“I Bet My Heart” (9 pages) is my favorite of the three stories in this issue. Diane and her beloved Dan are equal partners in the purchase of a racehorse. Diane holds her own where their dreams of success are threatened by an old flame of hers - a crooked racer - and Dan is never less than supportive of Diane. To save the day, she overcomes her fear of riding while Dan is openly proud of her courage.

“Guilt” (7 pages) is  a dark, more typical of the times tearjerker.  Soon-to-be-wed Nan is bored because fiancĂ© Fred is out of town. She agrees to drive out to the lake with George Ross, husband of her friend Marcia. Though she doesn’t particularly like George, Nan is looking for something to enliven her weekend. George puts the moves on her while driving and the car crashes. George is killed. Nan leaves the scene of the accident.

At Nan’s wedding reception, Marcia is consumed by bitterness. She hates Nan’s happiness as much as she hates “the women who robbed me of my husband.”

Nan is equally consumed by guilt, which causes problems between her and the unsuspecting Fred. When Marcia learns it was Nan in the car with George, the crazed widow pulls a gun on Nan. Fred is there to save Nan and forgive her for her indiscretion. Fred forgives her, saying “anything is easy when you love a person.” This happy finale came off as too easy for me.

“Love Letters Can Go Astray” (7 pages) is a strange tale of assumed identities. When Monica receives a letter from would-be suitor Steve, she dismisses the notion of responding to the letter. Her friend Janine is moved by the letter and starts to correspond with Steve while posing as Monica. The young woman is more than a little torn by this deception. Then she meets handsome Bob Martin and they fall in love. When Bob uses a phrase Steve used in one of his letters, Janine knows she must confess her deception to Steve. In person. Surprise, Steve and Bob are the same person. Bob tells Janine he knew she wasn’t Monica all along. They embrace and live happily ever after. They have two kids and, presumably, never tell them their parents met through fraud. It’s a weird story and I keep thinking that sometime, perhaps in one of Marvel’s crime or horror comics of the era, things eventually ended badly.


The advertisements in comic books of the late 1940s and 1950s are often fascinating. Besides those already mentioned, Our Love #1 has pitches for...

“Fireworks for All Occasions” from the Acme Sales Company, Atlanta, Georgia. Five different assortments that ranged from $4.50 to $10.

“Hot Water from your Cold Water Faucet!” Only $4.98 for the Little Marvel Water Heater, an electric device that attached to any sink or water faucet and plugs into the nearest outlet.

Sent in a plain wrapper, “How to Get Along with Boys” cost a mere 98 cents and was said to allow women to put psychology to work from getting “him to date you” to getting “him to propose.”

A multi-ad page offered an “Amazing 16mm Movie Projector Bargain” for $6.98; a unit that would allow you to “Make Your Own Records” at home for $8.49; and a “Home Radio Mike” (only $1.98) that would let you talk, sing and play through your own radio.

If you gave fitness guru Charles Atlas 15 minutes a day, he would give you a new body. The book “Everlasting Health and Strength” was the free come-on to the Dynamic Tension” system created by the man who held the title of “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man.”

Readers were told “Now you can have daring newest look beauty with all-in-one tri-lette,” which was an uplift bra, a waist nipper and a garter belt in one. For $5.95, they could have the “tiny waist - full bosom figure” of their dreams from the Wilco Company of New York, New York.

The inside back cover of Our Love #1 told readers that they could “Reduce Fat Up to 5 lbs. A week” by buying and taking “Kelpidine tables” from the American Healthaids Company of Newark, New Jersey. Only two dollars for a month’s supply. You know, if someone wrote a book investigating these old-time comic-book ads and the outfits who sold this stuff, I’d buy it.

The back cover sold relief from “Foot Itch Athlete’s Foot.” Gore Products of New Orleans, Louisiana would send you a bottle of the liquid “H.F.” on free trial to ease your suffering. If it worked, you sent them $1 in ten days.

The Overstreet Comic-Book Price Guide lists Our Love #1 at $290 in near-mint down to $22 in good. As I write this, there are a couple copies being offered on eBay, a “Good+”at $79 and a “Very Good” at $50. Mile High Comics has a “Fair” copy listed for $18.

That’s all for today, my beloved bloggy thing readers. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Today’s bloggy thing resumes my 136-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Augie Doggie #1 [October 1963) was a one-shot starring the Hanna-Barbera cartoon canine and his doting dad. Though the Grand Comics Database doesn’t have writer or artist credits, we know from Jerry Bails’ Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999 that this issue was likely drawn by Harvey Eisenberg and written by Carl Fallberg. Eisenberg was an animator who worked for Hanna-Barbera and who also drew a great many comic books featuring the company’s characters. Fallberg was a writer/cartoonist of animated features and TV cartoons for Disney Studios, Hanna-Barbera, and Warner Brothers. He wrote comics for Disney Comics, Dell Comics, Western Publishing  and Gold Key Comics.

The inside front cover of the issue has a “Keys of Knowledge” page on “Domestic Animals,” specifically “The Cocker Spaniel.” The GCD identifies it as a text page, but that’s wrong. It’s a comic page consisting of a title panel and five panels drawn by Jack Sparling. Most of the information on the page concerns Flush, a dog owned by the invalid poetess Elizabeth Barrett.

I’ll be describing this issue’s comics stories in detail, so let’s throw up this warning...


Augie and Doggie Daddy pay a visit to “Dear Grandpa” in “Frontier Fracas” (8 pages). They have to enter through a window because the front door is blocked by a pyramid of milk bottles. Inside, a note informs them that the absent-minded Grandpa has left to become the  sheriff of Bushwack...without telling them or canceling his milk delivery. That absent-mindedness is key to this story.

By train and then really slow stagecoach, Augie and Daddy travel to Bushwack. Their stage is held up by an owlhoot, but Grandpa manages to capture the bad guy despite his absent-mindedness.

Scared for Grandpa’s safety, father and son tie up the sheriff and his guns...just as a bank robber hits town. Worse, Grandpa didn’t remember to lock the cell he put the stagecoach robber in or check the bad guy for hidden guns. But...

The bank and stagecoach robbers are enemies. They start shooting at each other. When they run out of bullets, the townspeople capture them easily.

Entering the sheriff’s office, the citizens are not pleased to see Grandpa tied up:

CITIZEN ONE: We like the way his absent-mindedness works!

CITIZEN TWO: Things always end up peachy keen-plus!

DADDY: Hmmm...come to think...just since we’ve been observing, justice has been victorious!
Daddy and Augie apologize for interfering. Grandpa forgives them. As they leave, he runs after them:

Oops! I just now remembered...Howdy, fellas!

In the next story, Daddy has a job as a “Night Watchdog” (6 pages) and has hired the energetic Mrs. Harf to babysit Augie. The older woman can match Augie beat for beat, save that he’s able to remain awake longer. Sneaking out of the house, he goes to visit Daddy at the Boxa-Bones warehouse.

Augie arrives just after crooks have broken into the warehouse and tied up Daddy. Daddy tells Augie to take the phone of the work to alert the operator, but the phone rings before the lad can do that. Mrs. Harf has awoken and, discovering Augie gone, called Daddy at his job. The crooks hear the phone and spot Augie.

Mrs. Harf goes to the warehouse to retrieve Augie, bringing along the toy gun she carries. She thinks she’s getting the drop on the lad, but, instead, she startles the crooks long enough for Augie to bury them in boxes.

Daddy and Augie are mightily impressed by the babysitter. In fact, when Daddy gets home, Mrs. Harf is handcuffed to a chair.

MRS. HARF: I can’t go home! He likes me so much, he’s handcuffed me!

AUGIE: Terrific, huh, dear dad? And she only charges 75 cents an hour!

DADDY: *Ulp!*

In 2016 dollars, seventy-five cents would be just under six bucks. Good luck finding a babysitter who works that cheap!

Augie and Daddy come across a dog with a big problem in “The Last Lap.” As the dog explains:

I was raised as a lap dog, and a lap is the only place I can sleep! But I’ve outgrown most laps!

Father and son try to find the dog a suitable lap. A man waiting for a bus has too skinny a lap. A carnival fat lady has no lap when she’s sitting down. Three men on a bench have enough combined lap space, but proclaim:

We’re not a flophouse for a flea bag!

Finally, success. A statue of Sitting Bull proves just right. But all three dogs are now so tired that they all decided to sleep on the statue’s lap.

Next up is “Champion Sugar-Bowlers,” a one-page text story starring mice Pixie and Dixie and the feline Mr. Jinks. I almost never read text stories in comic books and didn’t read this one either.

Second-class postage regulations meant most comic books had to have more than one feature. So this issue presented “Will the Real Yakky Doodle Please Stand Up” (6 pages).

Fibber Fox is practicing with a Yakky Doodle dummy in the hopes he will be able to catch the real duckling. Yakky coats the dummy with invisible hot sauce and the race is on. It ends with Yakky seeking refuge in Chopper’s doghouse. Fibber turns tail and runs away.

However...Chopper isn’t there. Yakky goes to a costume shop to get a Chopper costume to fool Fibber.

Fibber sees Yakky in the protective arms of “Chopper” and sees that the dog - who he thinks is the real Chopper - isn’t wearing a dog license. Fibber reports this to the dogcatcher. When the man tries to grab the fake Chopper, he is not amused by his discovery that it ain’t Chopper. He bops Fibber with his net.

Yakky returns, but Fibber is between him and the doghouse. A chase ensues. Chopper returns to his doghouse, sees his double and thinks it’s cute. He puts it in the doghouse and then takes a nap outside same. You know what happens next, right?

Yakky eludes Fibber and heads for the protective arms of the napping Chopper. Fibber bops the dog on the head. Chopper wakes up and he’s not happy. POW!

With stars spinning around his head, Fibber asks Yakky where he got the Chopper costume. He promises not to use the information against the duckling...and he keeps his word.

What Fibber does is get a Fibber costume. The story ends with Fibber kicking his dummy because “As long as I’m going to kick myself, I might as well do it the painless way!”

“Autograph Hound’ (6 pages) is the last story in the issue and it’s a wild one. Augie has collected “autographs of all the most famous people in the world, except one!” That one is Tidewater Tycoon, the zillionaire. Daddy says that will be tough. Augie is well aware of that: “Nobody has ever been able to get his signature! I’d be the first one!”

Daddy is there to help his ambitious offspring. A direct visit to Tycoon’s office gets them a printed copy of Tidewater’s name. It’s not a real autograph.

Augie and Daddy pose as window washers and learn Tidewater doesn’t even sign business papers. He uses a stamp. Discovered, father and son are thrown out of the office.

The undaunted duo take things way too far when they go to Tycoon’s house and gain entrance by digging under the stone wall surrounding the place. They trigger alarms and are caught by a shotgun-holding Tidewater. He locks them in a storage room while he goes to phone the police.

DADDY: This room must contain every document, deed and letter Tidewater has ever had! I’ll bet his signature is here someplace!

AUGIE: Gee! There’s even a little box filled with his old school papers! He saves everything!
Including a letter from a former teacher:

Dear Mrs. Tycoon:

We’ll have to expell Tidewater. He’s so busy buying and selling marbles at a profit that he never studies. He can’t even write his name.

Sincerely, Miss Teachum

[Yes, I know “expel” is spelled wrong. Makes me wonder if part of Tidewater’s problem was that he had a lousy teacher.]

Confronted with the truth, Tycoon cancels his call to the police. He thinks Augie and Daddy want to blackmail him, but all they want is the man’s autograph. But he says they know he can’t even write his own name.

Augie says that doesn’t make a difference as he shows Tidewater the autograph of actor Rock Mudson. The zillionaire explains that you can’t even read it. The lad explains: "The more famous people are, the less you can read their autograph!" 

Since Tidewater is very famous, he realizes a wiggly line would be enough for his autograph. He’s very happy because he always wanted to sign his name. Augie is thrilled because he now has the rarest autograph in the world.

The story ends with Tidewater Tycoon sitting behind a booth on the sidewalk giving out his autograph to anyone who wants it. Augie and Daddy are understanding about this.

AUGIE: Gee, my Tidewater’s autograph is practically worthless! He gives out so many these days!

DADDY: Heh-heh! But you’ve made him happy and that’s the best sign of all!


The inside back cover is another “Keys of Knowledge” page drawn by Jack Sparling. It’s the tenth installment of “Fish” and it focuses on the Sea Horse.

The back-cover is a repeat of the cover art sans the comic’s logo, trade dress, price and other copy. It’s designated as “Augie Doggie Pin-Up No. 1".

A quick closing thought...

Augie Doggie and Daddy Doggie were a funny and heartwarming pair. In these days when single parents are common, I think they deserve another shot at stardom. The key would be to find the right balance between their relationship and today’s often crude world, fraught as it is with challenges that would have never seen the light of a 1963 comic book.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 18, 2016


Every year, my friends at Stormwatch Comics send me a box of Free Comic Book Day issues. Every year, I vow to read and review every one of them. Will 2016 be the year I finally keep that vow? Well, here, at least, is a start...

When I review Free Comic Book Day giveaways, I look at a number of things. Is the material in the comic well-written and well-drawn? Does it present a good enough chunk of the comic or graphic novel to entice a reader into buying the comic or the GN showcased? Is it sufficiently reader-friendly to welcome rather than confuse a new reader?

Marvel’s Greatest Collections #1 isn’t labeled for FCBD, but, since it was in the Stormwatch box, I’m including it. It’s an extremely well-designed 64-page catalog of Marvel’s many comics collections. There are pages/sections devoted to various characters, events and teams from Civil War to Guardians of the Galaxy to Howard the Duck.
While it’s just the thing for a new Marvel reader introduced to the Marvel Universe through the movies, it may be a bit intimidating to that fledgling reader. There are just so many hardcovers and trade paperbacks...and this catalog make them look and sound appealing. Even for a veteran Marvel reader like yours truly, this catalog is useful. I’ll be requesting many of the listed volumes from my local library. I may even buy a few.

FCBD RATING: Excellent. While there are no stories included in this giveaway, each section tells you enough about the character, event or team to give you a decent idea what they are about. If I were a store owner, I suggest customers use it as a personal checklist and all as a handy way to tell loved ones which of these books they’d like to receive as gifts.

2000 AD Free Comic Book Day Prog 2016 was a welcome sight to this long-time fan of the British weekly. I haven’t read the magazine in several years because keeping up with just got too expensive for my limited comics-buying budget. I’m hoping to increase that budget in the near future.

Rebellion, publisher of 2000 AD and lots of other cool things, has packed this 52-page comic book with wonderful material. It starts with a Judge Dredd story about once-married actors who are starring in rival super-hero movies. Other features include: Fiends of the Eastern Front (vampires in Vietnam); The Order (a mix of science-fiction and fantasy set in thirteenth-century Germany); the quite unexpected return of Bad Company (Earth soldiers fighting an alien enemy); Strontium Dog (a classic strip about bounty-hunting mutants in the future); Tharg’s Terror Tales (one-off horror stories with a sci-fi vibe); Ratfink (a degenerate killer in the Cursed Earth of Dredd’s era); and, for good measure, a couple of the Judge Dredd strips that ran in newspapers. I love this stuff, but it might not be for all readers.

FCBD RATING: Excellent. The inside front cover gives readers a bit of background on each feature. The stories themselves are a decent representation of the weekly magazine. New readers will be able to decide if 2000 AD is right for them.


I have failed this blog. While I managed to read almost all of the FCBD comics, these are the only reviews I actually wrote. My best intentions aside, I failed to complete the task I’ve been setting for myself for years.   

Lucy pulled the football away. I should have seen it coming because she always pulls the football away. But, optimistic fool that I am,  I thought this time I would get to make that kick.

I started writing this blog entry in June, figuring I would write enough reviews to make a proper column and then post it. The plan was to repeat that as often as it took to review all of the comic books. Worse, I’m running this incomplete column today to buy me a bit of time on my crazy schedule.

I have truly failed this blog.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get my sorry act together enough to read and review an entire Free Comic Book Day’s worth of free comics and stuff. I don’t know if I have the will to try again. But...

What’s that, Lucy? This time you won’t pull the football away from me when I try to kick it. All right, then!

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 17, 2016


As my schedule permits, I’ll be attending conventions in any state - red or blue - that invites me and which meets my terms for such appearances. I’m putting that at the front of today’s bloggy thing  because it’s part of the conversation I hope to have with readers and fellow comics professionals today.

Like most people with brains and souls, I am utterly devastated by the election of Donald Trump, a racist, misogynist, xenophobe with a complete disregard for truth and decency, to be the President of my country. And when he says he will bring us together, I’m certain his definition of “us” isn’t near as inclusive as mine. And when he claims we should not be frightened of his Presidency, he is being absurd. Glance at the anti-Semitic, homophobic, woman-hating white supremacists who have positions in his Administration. Consider how many of them want America ruled by Sharia, excuse me, “Christian,” Law. Those who are frightened have reason for their fear. Even as a so-called privileged white straight male, I share that fear. The America of Donald Trump and his followers is not my America...and it never will be.

I was horrified by how many states went red for Trump. It’s small consolation that Hilary Clinton won the popular vote because that isn’t how our system works at present. Our nation elected a monster to its highest office. That’s hard to comprehend. Sadly, that’s the world we will be living in...for now.

Some of my fellow comics professionals have declared that, as soon as they fulfill existing commitments, they won’t attend conventions in red states. I salute and support all those who made that tough call. I despise those online jerks who have attacked them for the decision. Yes, in your hate-filled minds, the election of Trump has given you license to let fly your bigoted, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, ignorant neo-Nazi flags. But, no matter what you post on the Internet, you remain pathetic losers. Your online hate is merely an outward sign of your inner self-loathing.

I have decided on a different path than those comics professionals who are boycotting the red states. This is partly because of that popular vote - there are an awful lot of decent people who didn’t support Donald Trump - and partly because I think I can do a whole lot more good by showing up in “enemy territory” as the proud and unbowed liberal progressive I am.

I am empowered by the courage shown by professionals such as George Perez, Humberto Ramos, Gail Simone, Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn and so many others. I am filled with joy seeing so many standing strong against right-wing racism, misogyny, xenophobia and lies, even when that hate comes from other comics pros.

So I will come to red states. I will attend conventions that include charitable events as part of their programs because caring for our fellow Americans and citizens of the world is a concept cherished by liberals like me. I will be happy to talk comics and fun stuff with anyone who comes to my table. I will sign Isabella stuff for fans regardless of how they voted. I will sell them stuff without prejudice. I will stand before them, striving to be an example of common decency and sense. I will not shame them. If they voted for the monster, their shame will eventually bubble up within them and, when they finally realize the monstrous thing they have done and can show their willingness to work for a better nation and world, I will be there to welcome them to the right side of history.

I am not going anywhere. I will be here. I know George and Humberto and Gail and Brian and Mark and all the others will be here, too. None of us are going anywhere.

Waid has declared that his booth will be a “safe zone” for anyone who feels threatened by right-wing louts. He’s also said, albeit in less dramatic words than I am using, that he will unleash righteous fury on those louts. I believe he said something about tipping over tables and such. While I would certainly pay good money to witness that, it is not behavior I encourage nor behavior I would imitate.

Here’s what Waid posted on Facebook:

"As a straight white male, I carry with me a certain amount of privilege. That doesn’t mean I’m diving through a money bin. Privilege doesn’t mean I snap my fingers and women come running. What it means is that I was born with a pigment and a nationality that makes me safe from hate crimes, from bigotry, from the kind of fear-mongering our President-elect spewed in all fifty states these last 16 months.

"So I’ve decided to use that privilege on the convention trail. I respect and agree with my friend Humberto’s decision, but I’m in a different place, and after talking to my friends who are Not Like Me, I think it’s a better use of my privilege to go to shows everywhere and help create safe spaces, as many of you already do (and thank you). It is pretty literally the least I can do.

"I’m not hard to find at shows. If you’re a fan or creator and are ever, ever made to feel uncomfortable on a convention floor, come find me. If it’s a fleeting thing, just come hang out. If, on the other hand, you can point out the aggressors, I will rain HELLFIRE on your behalf, I PROMISE you. Ask anyone. They’ll tell you that I’ll flip tables on bullies and creeps, and I'll have your back. And while I’ve never had to use it, I've got enough clout to have hate mongers flat-out thrown out of shows, and I am not above those sorts of nuclear options.

"It’s very easy on social media to say you're an ally. Give me the chance to prove I'm yours and I won't let you down. It may not be much, but it’s a start, and I'm willing to listen if you think there's more I can do."

My response:

I don’t have Waid’s clout. But I will make my booth or table one of those safe spaces. I’ll ask convention organizers to put my booth or table among like-minded professionals, the better to create the most bigly safe spaces we can.

I will carry your complaints of harassment and other inappropriate behavior to the show organizers and ask them to take swift action against the perpetrators. If the harassment or other behavior violates the law, I will do whatever I can to help you report the crimes to  local law enforcement. Do not be silent. We have to hear you before we can speak out for you.

Never give up. Never surrender. We are stronger together. We have to be.

I am a citizen of the United States of America. I cherish the true principles of our country. And I approve this message.

© 2016 Tony Isabella