Sunday, July 23, 2017


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

Defend Comics is this year’s Free Comic Book Day offering from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, educators and readers. The issue presents seven short comics stories, most with some connection to freedom of expression.

QUALITY: There’s not a bad story in the issue. “Rock Stars” is an excerpt from Jeffrey Brown’s Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: The Stone Cold Age involving music as an early form of communication. “Secret Message” by Ryan North with artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb covers toy electronic typewriters with an encryption function. In “Babymouse” by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, readers can write their own speech balloons. “Wide Opinions” by Mike Lawrence discusses how we must defend even speech with which we disagree. In “Free Speech for Arachne,” George O’Connor casts a mythological tale as a right of expression conflict. In Falynn Koch’s “The Pryomancer,” magic is the stand-in for freedom of expression.

My favorite story of the issue is “Delia’s Lucky Book” by Matthew Loux. The book is the first book its young heroine truly loved and it was a book banned by her school until she and others protested that decision.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly excellent. “Rock Stars” was a bit confusing, but everything else was new reader-friendly.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. The message of the CBLDF comes through in this comic and a couple of house ads leads readers to comics by the contributors.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess [Viz Media] has excerpts from two Zelda manga series: the title series and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Both are written and drawn by Akira Himekawa using styles so different from one another that I thought they were done by two different artists. These comics are based on the popular and seemingly endless video game.

QUALITY: The “Twilight Princess” excerpt is very well done. Not so the “Ocarina of Time” excerpt, which suffers from poor storytelling and an art style that doesn’t really work with the material.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly poor. Though the “Twilight Princess” excerpt is easy to follow, the “Ocarina of Time” excerpt is nigh-impossible to fathom.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There are house ads for the manga series and a back cover with both of them and a third book.

SCORE: Five out of ten points.


Drawn & Quarterly Presents Guy Delisle Hostage presents a 14-page excerpt from the Delisle graphic novel and 13 pages from Brigitte Findakly’s Poppies of Iraq as drawn by Lewis Trondheim. There are also many ads for other D&Q publications.

QUALITY: Excellent. Delisle’s account of Christophe Andre’s time as a hostage is brilliantly tedious, conveying that tedium and Andre’s ever-present fear and discomfort. The Findakly/Trondheim excerpt is a fine first-person account.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. My only quibbles are that background on Andre would have been helpful - the excerpt doesn’t convey how he came to be a hostage - and that the lettering in the second story gets a little wonky and hard to read.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Readers are directed to the graphic novels from whence the excerpts were taken. Other ads promote a wide range of other Drawn & Quarterly titles.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.


This year’s edition of Bongo Comics Free-For-All reprints several stories from Bart Simpson Comics. The best of the bunch is “Leader of the Backpack Pack” by Max Davison with artists Rex Lindsey and Dan Davis. When a skateboard accident - i.e. “male showboating” - forces Bart to use a wheelie backpack, he teams with and inspires other students who use them.

QUALITY: All the stories are amusing with Mike W. Barr’s “The Todd & Rodssey” being both amusing and very clever. I’m a big fan of the Simpsons and Futurama comics from Bongo.

ACCESSIBILITY: After 28 seasons, The Simpsons are such a popular culture landmark most readers will be familiar with the characters even sans any particular introductory material.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. There are house ads for two trade paperbacks collecting stories from the comics, but absolutely no indication of the ongoing comics series. That costs this FCBD issue some points.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.


Underdog [American Mythology] has one of the coolest covers of any of the FCBD issues. Kudos to Bill Galvan. Inside: a new Underdog story by James Kuhoric and Adrian Ropp, a one-page strip by Kuhoric and Galvan, a reprint of a 1977 Underdog story by Steve Skeates, a coloring page or two and previews of other titles coming from the publisher.

QUALITY: The comics stories are fun. Not brilliant or anything, but fun. I enjoyed them and it was especially cool to read an Underdog story by my friend Steve Skeates.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. Underdog is a classic character, which means you don’t need a lot of background to enjoy his adventures.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. In addition to Underdog ads, we get some nice reviews for The Friendly Ghost Casper and Rocky & Bullwinkle. Other ads include the Pink Panther and the Three Stooges. That is a solid, suitable-for-all-ages roster.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.
The Free Comic Book Day edition of Betty and Veronica #1 [Archie Comics] reprints the 23-page story from the Betty and Veronica #1  that wasn’t free. Written and drawn by Adam Hughes, it stars a pair of mean girls who have clearly abducted the real Betty and Ronnie and stolen their identities. I hated it when I first read it and it hasn’t improved with age. The issue also includes that photogenic Riverdale (TV show) character guide that ran in the FCBD Riverdale one-shot.

QUALITY: Well...the art is nice. To quote Don Thompson once again, if you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.

ACCESSIBILITY: Shaky. Hot Dog (Jughead’s dog) narrates the story. If a new reader gets past that, they will find the story more than a little disjointed and unsatisfying. Especially when they get to the two pages that consist of a single image with dozens of speech balloons. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.

SALESMANSHIP: Several decent ads for Archie comic books and trade paperbacks. Noting that some of them are “Classic Archie” is good.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.


Spongebob Freestyle Funnies [United Plankton Pictures] features 28 pages of comics, including “The Great Funnybook Getaway,” a 21-page epic by Jay Lander (story and layout) and Jacob Chabot (pencils and inks) wherein the Krusty Krab crew and friends go in search of free stuff on No-Charge Funnybook Day. The other seven pages are short stories of one to four pages.

QUALITY: “The Great Funnybook Getaway” is hilarious with some very pointed barbs at aspects of the comic-book industry. I enjoyed the heck out of it. I think Patrick’s response when asked if something hurt - “Yes, but the pain tells me I’m alive” - may become my own response to so many of life’s questions.

ACCESSIBILITY: There’s no background information on Spongebob and his friends. I’ve never seen an episode of the cartoon. Yet, maybe though the osmosis of popular culture, I somehow knew just enough to follow and enjoy the lead story. However, that didn’t help with the back-up strips.

SALESMANSHIP: The inside back cover has an ad for two collections of Spongebob comics, but gives no indication of the ongoing title. That costs this issue points.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

That’s a wrap for our weekend of Free Comic Book Day reviews. I’ll be back tomorrow with something different.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I was fascinated by Hostage and hope to pick up the complete novel. I'm assuming that the full story and background will be revealed there. I do agree that there knowing a bit more might have been helpful. Still a good demonstration that comics don't have to be all action all the time.

    In regards to Betty & Veronica, I agree with you and with Don. Not my cup of tea, but some folks will like it.