Tuesday, December 27, 2016


There has been a slowdown in a family matter that was occupying so much of my time, which means I can return to full-scale blogging a few days earlier than I had anticipated. When last we chatted here, I’d promised to answer a frequently-asked question:

Which character or series that you’ve never written would you like to write?

Keeping in mind that I will undoubtedly forget some characters and series, here are the ones that leap to mind. I’m presenting them in alphabetical order because sometimes I have to surrender to my OCD.

87th Precinct. This outstanding series of over 40 police procedural novels were written by Evan Hunter under the pseudonym Ed McBain. Detective Steve Carella is the “star” of the series, but the cast includes many other intriguing characters and, in the form of “The Deaf Man,” even a super-villain or sorts. I was introduced to these books by legendary comics writer Don McGregor, who read passages of the book out loud during lunch breaks in the Marvel Bullpen. Though Don says he doesn’t remember this, I owe him a life-long debt for acquainting me with the cops of the 87th.

The series has given birth to several movies, including one made in Japan, a television series and two issues of a comic book published by Dell in 1962. I’d probably have to fight my dear friend Don to the death to write a new comic-book series with these characters, but it would be his own fault for sharing these treasures with me. If I couldn’t write 87th Precinct comic books, I would be just as interested in writing comics based on two of my all-time favorite TV series: Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.

The Avengers. Not the Marvel super-team, but the British TV series starring secret agents who never seemed to be able to save victims of heinous schemes but were aces at avenging those poor souls. When I think of the Avenger, I think of John Steed and Emma Peel because they are two of the most awesome heroes ever to appear on the small screen. However, some of the previous and latter team members would doubtless make occasional appearances if I were writing an ongoing Avengers title.

Babylon 5. Created, produced and written by J. Michael Straczynski, this was simply the greatest science fiction TV series ever. It was conceived as a five-season “novel” and accomplished that lofty goal in brilliant fashion. Although the stories of some characters were completed, there are stories to be told in and around the existing stories and, likewise, stories to be told with the characters whose stories weren’t finished. I’m not a science fiction writer per se, but I’d bust my hump to do right by Babylon 5.

The Barker. Old-time circuses and traveling carnivals fascinate me, though I’ve never pursued that fascination. This 1940s series from Quality Comics, created by writer Joe Millard and artist Jack Cole,  revolved around barker Carnie Callahan and the sideshow performers of Colonel Lane's Mammoth Circus. Continued by Klaus Nordling, the series is a favorite of mine. Writing new Barker stores, still set in the 1940s, would give me an excuse to research old-time circuses and traveling carnivals.

Batman ‘66. In recent years, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Batman television show that kind of sort of embarrassed me when it first aired. I think it’s because many current Batman comics have gone too far in the other direction, making Batman almost as brutal and deranged as his foes. The gentler “Citizen Batman” of the show is now a refreshing take on the classic character and could be fun to write.

Batman and the Joker. I loathe the Joker. He’s terribly overused. He should have been put down by the Batman years ago because he can never be kept behind bars and always escapes to kill innocent folks by the dozen. I have exactly one Batman/Joker graphic novel I want to write and it’s a story no one has ever come close to telling in any medium.

Beetle Bailey. Creator Mort Walker is a comic-strip genius. There is a reason this feature has remained popular for so many decades. But it’s in serious need of updating. Sorry, but Sarge brutalizing Beetle isn’t funny. It’s a serious crime, punishable by military tribunal and prison time. The challenge of bringing Camp Swampy and his soldiers into modern times, including service overseas, while keeping it funny, would be one I’d relish.

Blonde Phantom. This 1940s Marvel heroine did everything the male crime-fighters did while wearing an evening gown and high heels. I find her both sexy and ludicrous. I could write the heck out of a new Blonde Phantom series set in her original time period.

Cosmo the Merry Martian. Created by Bob White for Archie Comics in the era of Sputnik, this short-lived series had the title hero and his odd interplanetary friends traveling the solar system on their erratic journey to Earth. It was bizarre and clever and hilarious. The character has appeared occasionally in more recent Archie comic books, but no writer has done him justice.

Godzilla. As pastor of the First Church of Godzilla on Facebook, I was a fan of the classic kaiju since before I found that spiritual calling. My dream Godzilla comic project would be a 12-issue series adapting/combining the original Japanese Gojira with the American Godzilla, King of the Monsters and including additional background on the main characters and on Godzilla’s original assault on Japan.

In a similar vein, I’d love to write new comics stories featuring Gorgo and Konga. The Charlton comics of those characters, even the ones not drawn by Steve Ditko, are also favorites of mine.

Herbie Popnecker. I was introduced to this ACG character created by writer/editor Richard E. Hughes and artist Ogden Whitney by one of the comic-book fans I knew in elementary school. Coincidentally, this fan looked kind of like a taller Herbie. Anyway, what’s not to love about Herbie? From Wikipedia:

Herbie is an antithetical hero: short, obese, unstylish, and young. Deriving some of his powers from genetics and some from magical lollipops from "the Unknown," Herbie can talk to animals and sometimes even inanimate objects (who all know him by name), fly at high enough speeds to quickly travel to other galaxies (by walking through the sky), become invisible, cast spells and summon spirits from other dimensions, quickly dispatch his enemies with apparent ease, and (once he got his own title) travel through time. Herbie is emotionless, terse, irresistible to women, consulted by world leaders, and more powerful than Satan.

Writing Herbie in modern-day America would be bigly fun for me and allow me to satirize so many aspects of our world. Which leads me to a character who could be Herbie’s soul brother.

Howard the Duck. I knew Howard creator Steve Gerber. I worked with Steve Gerber. I, my friends, am no Steve Gerber. But I still think I could do credit to his greatest creation. Fair warning. If Marvel did ask me to write Howard the Duck, I’d move the character back to Cleveland. The city has been lacking something since the too-soon passing of American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar.

Judge Dredd. Since I first saw him in the British weekly 2000 AD, I’ve been a huge fan of this character. You can write any kind of story with Judge Dredd from high adventure to police procedural to satire to horror to science fiction to political intrigue to social commentary. So many entertaining ways to go.

Kitaro. This one-eyed monster boy created by manga legend Shigeru Mizuki is the last surviving member of the Ghost Tribe of yokai (or spirit creatures). He uses his powers to fight evil yokai, of which there are hundreds. The series is a wonderful mix of action, comedy and horror. My tentative take on it would be to have Kitaro pay an extended visit to the United States. Because you know Trump and his family are yokai.

Koro Sensei from Assassination Classroom, my favorite of the manga I’m currently reading. The series follows the daily life of Koro and his middle school students. Koro is an octopus-like alien who, having destroyed the moon, has promised to do the same to Earth in a year. In the meantime, he has become a teacher. His students, the manga equivalent of Welcome Back Kotter’s sweat hogs are tasked with assassinating Koro. It sounds grim, right? But it’s anything but grim. It’s funny and even heartwarming as Koro’s quirks provide big laughs and as he proves to be a downright inspirational teacher who brings out the best in his students, even when they’re working  on assassination skills. I’m two-thirds of the way through the series and have no idea if Koro Sensei survives the final volume. But, if he does, I want to write him someday.

Magicman and Nemesis. In addition to Herbie, American Comics Group editor/writer Richard E. Hughes created two costumed heroes in the 1960s. Magicman was the son of the 18th century wizard Cagliostro. He inherited his dad’s mystical powers and, apparently, retained his youth throughout the decades. Magicman appeared in Forbidden Worlds for a couple years, ending his run just before ACG stopped publishing newsstand comic books.

Nemesis was a police detective who, murdered by gangsters, went to “The Unknown,” a version of the afterlife. The current Grim Reaper had also been killed by the same gangsters and gave the detective permission to return to Earth as a costumed hero, using his ghost powers to avenge their killings. The new super-hero did that, then got to stick around to fight criminals and other evil beings. His adventures ran in Adventures into the Unknown for about two years, ending just before the title was cancelled.

Magicman and Nemesis were pleasantly weird features. I would have a good time writing them today.

We’re halfway through my “Characters I’d Like to Write” list. For tomorrow’s bloggy thing, I have another installment of our popular “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. Then, on Thursday, I’ll be back to share the rest of my “Characters I’d Like to Write” list with you. You won’t believe some of the characters who are on that list. I made the list and I don’t believe some of them. See you tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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