Monday, August 21, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #221

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Pre-Code Classics: Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Volumes One and Two, collecting all 14 issues of the legendary media star's comic books; from Papercutz, Gumby Vol. 4 #1; and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 #1-7 by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs.

SHARKNADO WEEK 2017: PART THREE

Circumstances delayed this third and final entry in my coverage of Sharknado Week 2017. But here I am to sink my teeth into the last two movies that aired on the Syfy channel. Let’s get right to them.

Empire of the Sharks aired on Saturday, August 5. Made by the fine folks at the Asylum, it had a lot going for it. Set in a future era where global warming has turned most of Earth’s surface into ocean, it has a sort of “Mad Max on the high seas” vibe going for it. However, despite a claim by the Internet Movie Database, it’s not a sequel to last year’s Planet of the Sharks. It’s similar in tone, but both bigger and more deliciously cheesy in scope.

It was directed by Mark Atkins, who directed over two dozen other movies, including Planet of the Sharks, 2012's fun Sand Sharks and the goofy-but-still-fun Snakes on a Train [2006]. He also wrote the movie. I like his work enough that I plan to check out other Atkins works in the near future.

Empire stars John Savage as the ocean dictator Ian Fien, Jonathan Pienaar as Mason Scrim, Fien’s scenery-chewing second-in-command, and several earnest performers as the movie’s hero, heroine, and a rag-tag bunch of outsiders who band together uneasily to rescue the heroine and prevent Fien/Scrim from wiping out her people. There’s a little “Magnificient Seven” in this one as well.

The IMDb summery gives away much of the plot, so I’ll activate our usual warning right now...

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On a future earth where 98% of the surface is underwater, a Warlord who controls an army of sharks meets his match when he captures the daughter of a mysterious shark caller.

Fien and Scrim demand tribute from the floating villages they rule in exchange for the fresh water only they can provide. The villains get this water through a tedious process that demands the labor of slaves. When a village fails to provide sufficient tribute, Scrim takes people instead. The captives literally slave until they drop and are then fed to the sharks the bad guys control.

It’s not a complicated plot. The hero is working on a way for his village to produce its own fresh water. The heroine, who he loves, is a pacifist whose power to control sharks naturally is triggered during her captivity. The hero and a friend recruit their rag-tag commandos. Some will live, some will die, and it all boils down to a fairly epic battle between Fien’s man-made control of the sharks and the heroine’s natural ability.

Thanks to the IMDb summery above you know how it ends.

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Empire of the Sharks is a solid “B” action thriller. The heroes are sufficiently heroic if not always competent. The villains are very hiss-able. There is considerable shark fu and the special effects are up to it. Of the movies that led up to the Sharknado 5: Global Swarming finale, I’d rank it a close third behind the excellent Mississippi River Sharks and the pretty good Toxic Shark. I would watch this movie again.

                                                                              

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming had me giddy with expectation - I love the franchise - and a wee bit pensive because it would be the first movie in the series not written by Thunder Levin. Instead, the film was written by Scotty Mullen. I’ve not seen any of Mullen’s other six films, but he has many credits as a casting director and a few as an actor. So, as with many of the fine folks who work with the Asylum, he’s well-rounded. Based on this Sharknado screenplay, I’m going to be checking out his other work.

Returning as director is the wonderfully mad Anthony C. Ferrante, along with the fighting Fin Shepard family. Here’s the quick IMDb summary, corrected for content and grammar:

With much of America in ruins and the rest of the world bracing for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop the toothy storms.

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This may be the silliest Sharknado movie of them all, but, except for some incredibly shocking surprises, I never stopped smiling and even laughing out loud as I watched. It’s a family saga, a series of hilarious sketches and cameos and an international thriller all rolled into one.

Nova [played by Cassandra Scerbo] has joined a secret sisterhood of sharknado fighters. They have learned that such storms happened in the distant past and that mankind defeated them. In a Indiana Jones riff, she and Fin [Ian Ziering] discover one of the hiding places of a powerful gem and, in doing so, accidentally trigger the most deadly sharknado of all. It can create portals that allow it to go all over the world.

With android/robot wife April [Tara Reid] and their son Gil [Billy Barratt] fight against this unstoppable menace. They’re assisted by Nova’s sisterhood and a very Q-like British scientist [Clay Aiken, if you can believe it]. In an inspired performance, Chris Kattan is the Prime Minister of England. There are lots of other great cameos as well, but, with one exception, I’m going to let you experience them on your own. That one exception is Fabio as the Pope. That’s right. Fabio. As. The. Pope. The brilliance of that casting had me laughing so hard I cried a little bit.

The jumping from locale to locale and the sketch nature of the film throws the actors somewhat. I still loved Ziering and Reid in this movie, but they were a little off their game. I have no doubt they will be back on the mark for the next movie.

The movie has a very depressing ending. Except...just when you’re convinced you’ve seen the last Sharknado, which, in itself, would be a crime against nature in my book...that’s when you get another inspired development that will lead into Sharknado 6. I’m excited, so much so that I’ve already sent suggested titles to my friends at the Asylum.

Sharknado Week 2018 can’t come soon enough for me.

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If you’ve been keeping track of the score, Sharknado Week 2017 ends on a score of 4-2. While I’d like to see some variety next year - it’s been a while since Syfy has graced us with any giant reptiles or other creatures - this week of premieres is my favorite annual television event. Keep them coming!
In other news...

My life continues to be crazy busy and crazy exciting. I’ve got so much to write and write about. Obviously, with the news of both the Black Lightning TV series and a new written-by-me Black Lightning mini-series, I’m getting asked all sorts of questions about these things. I’ll do my best to answer them - or, to be accurate, answer those I can answer without violating my agreements with DC Comics - in a timely fashion. You can expect a lot of Black Lightning stuff in this blog in the weeks and months to come.

There’s also a lot of other things I want to write about here and that you have asked me to write about here. I’ll get to it all as soon as possible. This blog means a lot to me and your enthusiasm for it means even more. We’re gonna have a lot of fun here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, August 19, 2017

ASK ME YOUR QUESTIONS

ASK ME YOUR QUESTIONS AND I'LL TELL YOU SOME LIES, BUT MOSTLY I'LL ANSWER THEM HONESTLY.

Here's the deal. Tuesday's bloggy thing will answer questions about Black Lightning. It'll probably have one of those click-bait titles because I love to make fun of Comic Book Resources and its obvious limits as a news site. So, we're talking 15 questions because CBR can't count any higher than that.

DO NOT post your questions here. E-mail them to me at

tonyisa at ohio dot net

This will be a prologue to a regular weekly bloggy thing feature that will cover Black Lightning news past, present and future within the confines of the NDAs I've signed. So, I can't tell you everything, but I can tell you a lot.

One more thing. If websites and podcasts want to interview me on Black Lightning, I'll do my best to accommodate them. But writing my stuff comes first.

If it's a website that has consistently refused to use the correct current Black Lightning creator credit line, they'll have to get it right three times before I'll agree to their request.

Bleeding Cool finally got it right in yesterday's story, even if the anonymous Jude Terror was snarky about it. Amateur snark doesn't bother me. Getting the facts wrong does. Two more to go, BC.

Not being a dick to me or my creation is also essential.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to work I go...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #220

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I saw The Defenders before you did and here's what I thought of it!

Monday, August 14, 2017

NEO COMIC CON (AUGUST 20, 2017)

NEO Comic Con 3 is my next convention appearance. It will be held on Sunday, August 20, at the Soccer Sportsplex, 31515 Lorain Road in North Olmsted, Ohio. The convention runs from 10 am to 7 pm with a low admission of $7 for the day. Kids under 12 and attendees in costume get in free. A portion of ticket sales will go to charity. Kids under 12 and attendees in costume get in free.

This is NEO’s largest venue ever. It’s over 25,000 square feet or roughly half the size of a football field. There’s more space and more free parking. There will be are more artists, special guests and vendors. There will be cosplay, contests, panel discussions, a gaming tournament and other special events.

My fellow guests include Kevin Nowlan, Bob Hall, Marc Sumerak, Ted Sikora, Gary Dumm, Don Simpson, Matt Horak, Darryl Banks, Chris Yambar, Aaron Archer, Mike Gustovich and others. Marc and I will be doing separate panels - Marc on “The Craft of Comics” and me doing the legendary “Tony’s Tips Live!” - and there will also be a performance by The Confused Greenies, a devised and improvisational comedic performing troupe.

NEO Comic Con will have over 40 vendors and over 125 tables selling comic books, collectibles, toys, action figures and more. Based on my dropping a bundle of cash at last year’s event, I am confident fans attending the convention will find all kinds of treasures to delight them.

Getting to the Tony Isabella stuff...

I will be at tables 117 and 118, right across the aisle from those fine folks from WBNX aka the CW in Northeast Ohio. They always have free cool swag and, this year, they will have Black Lightning mini-posters from the forthcoming TV series based on my creation. Meet my WBNX friends, get a poster and then bring it over to my table. I’ll be delighted to sign them without charge. As regular readers of this bloggy thing know, I’m not charging for my signature at any of the conventions and events I am attending this year.

What will I be selling at my tables? I’ll have copies of both Black Lightning Volume 1 (collecting my first run on my creation and two stories written by Denny O’Neil) and July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I’d explain what the latter book features, but typing that long title always wears me out.

In addition to those books, I’ll have boxes of great comics priced at a mere dollar each. I’ll have a box of Isabella-written comics at various prices. I will have a couple boxes of hardcovers and trade paperbacks at approximately 30% of their original prices. I’ll also have a box of my few remaining double-sided Superman in Cleveland posters from 1988, priced to sell at only $25 each.

I’m looking forward to attending Neo Comic Con 3, seeing old pals and making new friends. I’ll do my best to answer your questions, assuming doing so doesn’t violate any of the non-disclosure things I have signed. No alternative facts or fake news from me. Just the honest-to-Godzilla truth!

If you’re going to be anywhere near this convention, you definitely need to check it out. It’s gonna be a blast!

That’s all for now. This is going to be a too busy week for me as I finish a comics script, have some dental surgery and prepare for NEO Comic Con. But the bloggy thing will return on Monday, August 21. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #219

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 7 by Stan Sakai, the world's greatest living cartoonist; Archie Comics and Marvel Comics team up for Marvel Comics Digest #1; and the new Youngblood series from Image Comics!

GET MORE TONY: THE GARFIELD SHOW #7

With script restoration and additional dialogue by me, The Garfield Show Vol 7: Desperately Seeking Pooky [Papercutz; $12.99] is due to be released on September 5. Confusing as it may sound, this latest volume is both bigger and smaller than its predecessors. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, the back cover copy:

DON’T CRY OVER SPILLED LASAGNA!
That’s Garfield’s Favorite Seventh Lunch
Everyone loses things sometimes. But right now, it seems like “sometimes” means “all the time” for Garfield. In “High Scale,” Garfield receives a terrible ultimatum from the vet: lose two pounds in a week or get sent to Maggie’s Cat Spa, where lunch is a single pea. Then, in “Freaky Monday,” Garfield gets a dose of karmic justice as he and Odie switch bodies and he’s forced to watch the helpless pup-turned-cat eat the cheesy treat that rightfully belongs to him. Finally, in “Desperately Seeking Pooky,” tiny but terrible forces conspire to cost Garfield his favorite food and his best friend!
 
Sidebar. I worked on all three of these stories and, until I read this back cover copy, it never occurred to me that they shared that common theme. Sheesh!

This volume of The Garfield Show has more pages than the previous ones. The raw material for these stories [screen captures from the show turned into comic-book stories] is now coming from China and not France. The Chinese are not abridging the stories in the manner of the French, who would sometimes reduce an episode to a mere five pages. So each of the stories is a full 23 pages in length, adding up to 69 pages of feline fun. That’s the bigger.

The smaller? This volume measures 5 x 6.5 inches. That concerned me when I first saw a copy, but, on looking through the book, it’s as easy to read as ever. Plus, the more compact size makes it perfect as a stocking stuffer or other small gift.

Papercutz gives me a lot of room to exercise my own sensibilities as I translate the stories from their original televised scripts to the comics format. I have a ball working on Garfield and I’d like to think that fun is contagious.

Kudos to all the fine people who make this fun possible. Editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup hired me. The show itself is written, produced and voice-directed by Mark Evanier, my dear friend of nearly half a century. Letterers Tom Orzechowski and Wilson Ramos Jr do a terrific job making my copy look good. Dawn Guzzo is the production coordinator. New editor Alexander Lu came up with a schedule I could handle and supported my efforts. The bottom line is that I’m proud of this book.

Do yourself (and us) a favor and check it out.

ISBN 978-1629917450

The bloggy thing will be on hiatus until August 14. I’m heading to New York tomorrow for a special screening of Marvel’s new Defenders TV series. The eight-episode show will be available on Netflix starting August 18.

When I return, I’ll have all sorts of cool stuff for you. More on Black Lightning. More Sharknado Week reviews. Reports from G-Fest. I’ve got so much material I could write two bloggy things a day and not cover it all.

Be happy and safe while I’m gone. See you soon.
 
© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, August 7, 2017

SHARKNADO WEEK 2017: PART TWO

Today I’m looking at the two movies that premiered in the middle of Sharknado Week 2017 on the Syfy channel. First up is Trailer Park Shark, which aired on Wednesday, August 2.

Trailer Park Shark hooked me with that great title and then lost me within in the first five minutes of the movie. Privileged city boy that I am, I was still put off by the film’s offensive portrayals of its trailer park residents. Dehumanizing the characters we’re supposed to care about as a great white shark dines at the redneck buffet? What genius came up with that notion?

Director Griff Furst has an impressive resume as a director, actor and writer, but he was off his game in this film, co-written with four other writers: Nathan Furst, Marcy Holland, Matt Muschamp and Xander Wolfe. Way too many cooks.

The movie stars Thomas Ian Nicholas as Rob, whose curly hair looks pretty much the same as when the actor starred in 1993's Rookie of the Year. Recognizing the grown-up Nicholas was the very few good moments I had while watching this movie. Also in the movie: Lulu Jovovich as hot girlfriend Joline, Clint James as Rufus the Cowboy, Elise Berggreen as the overly-made-up Daisy, Josh Whites as creepy thug Bruno, Dennis Haskins as the cliched boss of the trailer park and everything that supplies it and, in an absolutely wasted short part, Tara Reid as Billie Jean. Tara, baby, you’re better than this movie. Next time, if you’re sitting around waiting to star in the next Sharknado movie, e-mail me. I can write you a much better part in a much better monster movie.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

A tropical storm floods Soggy Meadows trailer park and forces a hungry shark upriver.

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It’s not just a tropical storm that floods the trailer park. It’s that their landlord ordered Bruno to dynamite a levee so that the storm would flood the trailer park. We don’t see the flooding and I’m guessing that’s because you can only stretch a ridiculously low budget so far. The hungry shark is a great white who doesn’t know it can’t live in fresh water, though a character tries to cover for that by saying it came inland to give birth. That doesn’t happen and is never mentioned again. Oh, yeah, and the shark is already in the area before the levee goes boom.

By the time we get to the flooded camp, most of the trailers are mostly underwater and some of them have been swept to other parts of the area. The shark eats Rob’s uncle when the two of them are trying to hook up the trailer park to a wind turbine and get free electricity. The turbine will show up for the climax.

Rob gets video of Bruno fleeing the scene of the explosion, but the shark eats the video. Boss Deconnard, who has plans for the trailer park land, tells Bruno and his goons to make sure no one survives the flooding and, especially, to make sure Rob doesn’t expose their murderous actions.

As the movie progresses, the shark eats almost all of the trailer park residents and all of the bad guys. It also eats a horse, which struck me as pointlessly cruel. That horse might still have had a career after this movie.

Sometimes the shark jumps out of the water to eat someone standing on a mostly sunken trailer. Sometimes it just waits for them to go into the water. Once it plows into a trailer to eat the only black character in the film and - Do you have to ask? - that character is horribly offensive.

Rob and Joline catch the shark, but it breaks free and, trailing a cable, gets caught by the wind turbine blades, pulled up to the top of the wind turbine, and sliced into a great many gooey chunks of shark. I have an enormous capacity to willingly suspend my belief when watching movies like this. This was beyond even that capacity.

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Trailer Park Shark was not worth watching beyond that this review will prove to my family that I don’t love every cheesy shark movie that comes my way. I strongly recommend that you not toss away the ninety minutes it will take you to watch it.

                                                                                 

The week got back on track with the Thursday, August 3 premiere of Toxic Shark. Directed by first-time director Cole Sharp, it was a fun shark flick with a nice mix of likeable characters and at least one who really deserved to get eaten by the title shark. The movie stars the delightful Kabby Borders as college student Eden, come to a secluded island “resort” for a singles fitness event in the hope of putting a broken romance behind her. Unfortunately, ex-boyfriend Sam [played by Bryce Durfee] has come to the island for pretty much the same reason. Both give good performances.

The movie has lots of good performances. Eric Etebari is the owner of the resort. Michelle Cort├ęs and Christina Masterton are Eden’s friends. Sean Samuels and Owen Saxon are Sam’s friends. Quinn Bozza plays the resort’s medic. Other resort employees include Cristina Jayo and Jaime Wallace. I’m not talking any Oscar nominations here, but the overall acting is better than in your typical shark movie. Kudos to the casting director.

Here’s the IMDb summary:

A tropical singles retreat takes a terrifying turn when guests realize a poisonous shark is infesting the surrounding water. Not only will it rip apart its victims, but it also uses projectile acid to hunt - in and out of the water.

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The shark is a pretty cool monster. It’s been mutated by chemicals in the water. It spews a corrosive bile. Its merest scratch causes a super-rabies that turns its victims into crazed pseudo-zombies. The CGI effects are a little repetitive, but they work fine in this suspenseful and sometimes fast-paced film.

You know how in some of these movies the victims-to-be have no one but themselves to blame because they made bad decisions? That’s not the case here. The resort owner’s lack of funds are the reason he hasn’t kept the place up to snuff. The shark eats the communication cable that would allow them to call for help. None of the island’s boats are in good shape. Also, though we viewers see the shark very early on, by the time the characters know what they’re facing, they are already in dire straits.

Once the menace is known, everyone actually tries to come up with ways to escape the island, get help or kill the shark. The deck is stacked against them, but they do their best and show some courage as they proceed. None of the deaths is laughable. These characters are basically good people in a terrible situation.

There’s nothing original in how the characters fight the shark and ultimately defeat it. But their reasoning is good and the director plays fair with the viewers. No lucky break comes out of nowhere. And, yes, it’s got one of those cheesy “oh, no” endings I’m not at all fond of, but which I shook off by realizing that the characters were in a much better situation in that last scene. What happened on the island does not have to repeat itself on the mainland.

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Toxic Shark was exciting and fun. I’d watch it again. I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD.

If you’ve been keeping track of the score, Sharknado Week 2017 is  2-2. Empire of the Sharks would have aired on Saturday, August 5, and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming on Sunday, August 6. Naturally, I plan to watch both of those movies, though I won’t be able to post my reviews of them until I get back from my quick trip to New York City. Look for those reviews next Monday.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, August 4, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #7

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.
 
I Hate Image [Image Comics] has what appears to be a new 22-page I Hate Fairyland story by writer/artist Skottie Young with colorist Jean-Francose Beaulieu. Protagonist Gert is an battleaxe-wielding moppet who is slaughtering her way across the Image Comics titles in a quest to escape from Fairyland.

QUALITY: Pretty good. The over-the-top belligerence and brutality  got tiresome, but the snarky comments on various Image characters and titles made me chuckle.

ACCESSIBILITY: Needed work. I had to wait for a house ad to figure out what Gert’s name and deal was. There was more than enough room on the inside front cover credits page to have included some brief background on the series.

SALESMANSHIP: If you liked the new story, a house ad lets you know what I Hate Fairyland trades are available. There are three other Image house ads, but they are so general as to be ineffective. This free comic book missed so many opportunities.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.

                                                                                

Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #0 [IDW] leads with a 12-page story and five additional pages of behind-the-scenes stuff introducing the Next Generation component of the Mirror Universe seen in various Star Trek TV episodes and comic books. Written by David Tipton and Scott Tipton with art by J.K. Woodward, the story focuses on the character Barclay. Also included in this FCBD issue are excerpts from Star Trek: Boldly Go, Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds and Star Trek: Waypoint.
 
QUALITY: High. The lead feature has me wanting to see more. The Waypoint excerpt intrigues me, but there wasn't enough of it to hook me. I wasn’t bowled over by the other two excerpts.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly good. The lead feature is easy to follow. We get decent background on the other features.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Each of the four features includes decent information on where to find more of the same.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                                    

Doctor Who [Titan] is one of the most delightful of the Free Comic Book Day giveaways I’ve read. It features the 16-page, done-in-one “The Promise” by Alex Paknadel and artists Mariano Laclaustra, Pier Brito and Nico Selma. It’s clever and thoughtful tale that manages to include four different incarnations of the Doctor.

QUALITY: Top of the line. When I finally get around to reading the dozens of Doctor Who comic books awaiting my attention, I’ll look for Paknadel’s name in the credits.

ACCESSIBILITY: Between the inside front cover copy and information smoothly inserted into the story, I believe any new reader will be able to enjoy this story.

SALESMANSHIP: A double-page house ads direct readers to the ongoing Doctor Who titles. There is also an ad for the BBC Doctor Who shop and Titan’s Sherlock and Torchwood collections.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

                                                                                

Via Wikipedia, Rick and Morty [Oni Press] is an “American adult animated science-fiction sitcom created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Cartoon Network's late-night Adult Swim.” The issue has an 18-page excerpt from “The Wubba Lubba Dub Dub of Wall Street” by Zac Gorman and artist C.J. Cannon and a 4-page excerpt from “Pocket Like You Stole It” by Tini Howard and artist Marc Ellerby. On the cover, a Newsarama pull quote proclaims “Bottom line, if you love the show, you’ll love the comic.” That wasn’t much comfort to me. I’ve never seen the show.

QUALITY: Although this isn’t a comic book I enjoyed, I thought the writing and art of the lead story were good and suited each other. I didn’t think the second story was nearly as good.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor, based on my position that Free Comic Book Day issues should be accessible to readers who have never seen or read the series. I had to go to Wikipedia to learn “The series follows the misadventures of cynical mad scientist, Rick Sanchez, and his fretful, easily influenced grandson, Morty Smith, who split their time between domestic family life and interdimensional adventures.”

SALESMANSHIP: Two house ads point readers who liked this comic book to where they can find more of the same. In addition, Oni promoted Zander Cannon’s terrific Kaijumax and several other titles. That’s the way to go.

SCORE: Five out of ten points.
                                                                                   

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [IDW] presents a 20-page TMNT story by Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz and Cory Smith. It appears to be the first part of an arc running in the ongoing TMNT series and a spin-off Dimension X one-shot or series.

QUALITY: Okay. The story is pretty much by the numbers. There’s the equivalent of a sewer Danger Room session, a tedious recapping of a bunch of old villains, a set-up to the trial of one villain and a creature sent to keep witnesses from testifying. It’s a readable story but doesn’t rise above that in any way.

ACCESSIBILITY: No background information outside of the villainous roll call, but the Turtles are so well and widely known that I can cut IDW some slack here.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There are four house ads directing readers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and collections and additional house ads for IDW’s amazing Artist’s Edition books, Transformers, Star Trek, Locke and Key and March.

SCORE: Five-and-a-half out of ten points.

                                                                                   

World’s Greatest Cartoonists [Fantagraphics] features 50+ pages of new material by some of the world’s greatest cartoonists and some whom this reader wouldn’t elevate to that category. This is comics and not an exact science. Still, I can’t help but be impressed by the publisher offering work by 16 of its authors in a free comic. Fantagraphics is committed to its mission of publishing diverse and intriguing creators.

QUALITY: I enjoyed some of the contributions quite a bit. I didn’t care for others. Some readers will have the opposite reactions to them. My preference is for more straightforward storytelling with witty dialogue. Some readers will like the artsy-fartsy stuff more. That’s the beauty and challenge of an anthology.

ACCESSIBILITY: This comic is rated “M” for “Mature” and I suspect most readers will be able to follow at least some of these comics.

SALESMANSHIP: Following the comics, there’s a three page section on where you can find more work by these cartoonists. That’s a great idea. The back cover shows two dozen other Fantagraphics books and comics. So...high marks in this category.

SCORE: Eught out of ten points.

That’s all for now. I’m taking a couple days off from blogging to finish another project, but I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, August 3, 2017

CANCELLED: AUGUST 25-26 GARAGE SALE

My Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale of August 25-26 has been cancelled. I'm getting very tired of posting this message.

The reasons for this latest cancellation are much as they have been in the recent past: my busy writing schedule, upcoming business trips, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, lawyer stuff, comics conventions, interview requests, and so on.

I'm in this place where I really need to hire an assistant/office manager but am not yet at the point where I can afford to hire an assistant/office manager. There are some wonderful candidates out there. But I won't have them work for free.

I'm not giving up on September yet. Keep watching the bloggy thing for updates.

Tony Isabella

SHARKNADO WEEK 2017: PART ONE

Sharknado Week 2017 got off to a weak start with the Syfy channel’s July 30 premiere of 5-Headed Shark Attack. Directed by the first-time director Nico De Leon and written by too many writers - Jacob Cooney, Bill Hanstock (story); Stephen Meier, Daniel Lawlor, Sean P. Hale (screenplay) - it’s an embarrassment to the earlier 2-Headed Shark Attack and 3-Headed Shark Attack. It stars TV veteran Chris Bruno as shark-hunter Red and Nikki Howard as Dr. Angie Yost, a scientist with a degree in rocking a bikini top. The inaccurate Internet Movie Database summary:

Shaped like a demented starfish, a monster 5-headed shark terrorizes the open ocean before invading the beaches of Puerto Rico, endangering the once peaceful island paradise.

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First off, forget that starfish stuff. It would have been a pretty cool look for the monster, but it’s not in this movie. What we get are four heads up front and a fifth head on the tail. I’ll credit the CGI folks for doing an excellent job with the four heads, but that tail-head never doesn’t look silly.

So much wrong with this movie. 2-Headed Shark Attack has many good moments. 3-Headed Shark Attack was a very good movie. This one is a fail on every level with so many characters making dumb choices over and over and over again. You could predict who was gonna die from where they stood on the various boats or what they did or said before becoming shark food. I won’t dwell on the stupid “black guy dies first” cliche, though, to be fair, the shark actually eats a boatload of nameless models and photographers first.

None of the characters are engaging. None of the acting is anything other than journeyman. The one bit of character growth comes when the head of the aquarium pushing these people to go after the shark so he can exhibit it risks his own life to save two members of the team. Of course, because he didn’t notice his foot was tangled up in the rope attached to the life-saving spear he gets dragged off the boat and into the multiple mouths of the shark.

There’s no explanation given for this creature, other than multiple heads have been known to occur in nature. A reference to Cerberus of Greek mythology describes the three-headed hell hound as a two-headed hell hound. 3-Headed Shark Attack laid the cause of that monster’s mutation on the garbage and pollution in the ocean and then cleverly used that to dispatch the beast.

Even the climax is anti-climatic. The shark gets blown up, but you don’t see anything other than an explosion from under the water and some blood in the water. Bruno’s character survives hooking the big fish with explosives and being taken for a ride, but we don’t see how he survives. Did the filmmakers run out of money?

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I have an admittedly low standard for recommending cheesy monster movies, mostly because almost any cheesy monster movie can be fun if you watch it in the right frame of mind. There is no right frame of mind that would make 5-Headed Shark Attack worth watching even once. Avoid it.

                                                                             

Sharknado Week picked up considerably with the July 31 premiere of Mississippi River Sharks, the third shark movie from director Misty Talley. Her previous films were Zombie Shark (aka Shark Island) and Ozark Sharks (aka Summer Shark Attack). In just these three movies, I’ve become a big fan of Talley. Writer Marcy Holland also wrote Ozark Sharks. Here’s the IMDb summary:

Sharks attack a fish rodeo on the Mississippi River, and it is up to a group of locals to stop them.

Before we go any further, let me state I’m not 100% certain which cast members played which characters. The IMDb doesn’t have all of that information, but I’ll do the best I can. If I get any of them wrong, let me know and I’ll edit in the corrections.

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The CGI sharks show up early in a great scene I would have loved to have been longer. The sharks attack a riverboat singles cruise by getting onto the boat via its paddlewheel. That’s one of the most clever shark movie bits I’ve seen.

The sharks are said to be bull sharks, who can live in fresh water. So...science. The shark effects range from adequate CGI creations to what appeared to be some kind of puppets to really awful video game-like effects when the sharks swim underwater. This would be a concern if the characters weren’t so much more interesting than the sharks, always something I like to see in these movies.

College student Tara Mitchell [played by Cassie Steele], who was the science whiz kid in high school, has now changed to a business major to help run the family hardware store. Which is not what her dad Ray [Miles Doleac] wanted for her. Her fear of failure plays well against her father’s desire that she follow her dream and not be stuck in their small town. This is very believable drama and the two actors run with it.

Among the other positive characters are Eric [Tahj Vaughans], who had a unrequited crush on Tara when they were in school; Eric’s friend [?], a devotee of the Shark Bite movies mentioned in this movie; plucky TV reporter Alison Harting [Michelle West]; and the town lawman [Nathan O'Neil Smith]. All perform heroically in spite of their understandable fear of getting eaten.

Less positive characters include Jason London [Jason London] as the star of those Shark Bite movies come to town to sign autographs and promote his next film; Big Bill Braddock [Marco St. John, who chews  the scenery as the southern-fried fish rodeo promoter]; and Possum [Kevin J. McGrath], the two-time winner of the rodeo who’s willing to cheat to hold on to his title.

The action and tension are fairly constant. Whenever they slow a bit, it’s for solid character scenes. The solution to the shark attacks involves courage, ingenuity and luck. Bonus points for the cameo appearances in the first and last scenes. They had me laughing in sheer delight. Well played. Well played.

If I have any quibble with Talley’s work to date, it’s that every one of these three movies has a death I would categorize as “just plain mean.” Only in one of these movies did I feel the death was dramatically justified. The other two deaths were simply pointless exercises in gratuitous misery and bloodletting.

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Look for the second part of my Sharknado Week reviews once I’ve had a chance to see and reflect on Wednesday’s Trailer Park Shark and Thursday’s Toxic Shark. Part three will cover Saturday’s Empire of the Sharks and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. I think I’m gonna need a bigger blog.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of Free Comic Book Day Friday. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #218

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The Complete Sabrina the Teenage Witch: 1962-1972 featuring classic tales by George Gladir, Dan DeCarlo and other Archie Comics legends; All-New, All-Different Avengers by Mark Waid, Jeremy Whitley and Adam Kubert; and Victor LaVelle’s Destroyer with a fresh take on the Frankenstein Monster!

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 118

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 118th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.  

The Rawhide Kid #131 [January 1976] is the cover from The Rawhide Kid #60 [October 1967], somewhat altered to work with the then-current Marvel cover format but without any obvious retouching. The cover was pencilled by Dick Ayers with inks by Herb Trimpe.
                                                                                

“Massacre at Medicine Bend” (17 pages) was by Gary Friedrich and Denny O’Neil with art by Ayers and Trimpe. The story is unaltered from its original appearance. I wrote about it on July 3, 2013 and you can read my comments here.
                                                                                 

Replacing what would have been the letters column in a Marvel comic book featuring new  material, we got “A Marvel Masterworks Pin-Up” of the Rawhide Kid by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers with retouching by Marie Severin. The image came from the cover of The Rawhide Kid #20 [February 1961]. The original cover is shown below.

There are many comics-related ads in this issue. Some of them are even paid advertisements. There are 15 “classified ads” from mail-order comics dealers, a pair of “how to draw cartoons” pitches and a mysterious ad aimed at fans of Conan the Barbarian:

**CONAN FANS**
Free information on valuable collector’s item concerning R.E. Howard’s Conan. Free gift. Send name and address to Moondance Productions, Dept. M, Box 425, Wilmington, Vt. 05363


My quick online search revealed Moondance produced dramatizations of REH’s Conan stories. I couldn’t find any evidence the company is still in business.
                                                                             

The first of the Marvel house ads is a full-page ad advertising Son of Origins of Marvel Comics and the nigh-legendary Mighty Marvel Bicentennial Calendar, which was written and edited by yours truly. The 12-month calendar featured mash-ups of Marvel heroes with the events of that pivotal year in American history. I’m pleased to say none of the artists I contacted for this calendar thought I was out of my mind. They had all worked with me before so they knew I was out of my mind.
                                                                                

There was a full-page paid ad for Big Jim’s P.A.C.K. (Professional Agents/Crime Killers). Produced by Mattel, the “Big Jim” brand was originally used for sports action figures. This new incarnation was possibly inspired by Doc Savage and definitely enlivened by Mattel hiring Jack Kirby to design the characters. I’m fairly sure Kirby did the art for this advertisement.
                                                                               

The next house ad was a full-page pitch for two Marvel Treasuries: The Mighty Avengers and The Savage Fists of Kung Fu. That Kung Fu special reprinted a long story conceived and edited by me. That story featured Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and the Sons of the Tiger sans any actual meeting between the heroes.

Not shown here is a full-page ad for The Zane Grey Library. If you joined you would received three matching volumes containing Riders of the Purple Sage, The Thunder Herd and Wild Horse Mesa. Each of these hardcover books were only $4.39 each. Once you signed up, if you were happy with the books, you would receive additional novels at the same price. I mention this paid advertisement here because it struck me as brilliant for the publisher to promote their Zane Grey western novels in a western comic book.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page was nearly 100% pitches for Marvel publications. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” plugged Celebrity, a new non-comics magazine and Son of Origins of Marvel Comics. Stan also talked about a live-action Spider-Man movie and his upcoming speaking engagement at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. Though we didn’t get a Spider-Man movie back then, we’ve gotten a bunch of them in recent years.

As for the rest of the Bullpen Bulletins page, so many plugs that I’m just going to list the titles and features: Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, Iron Fist, Son of Satan, The Liberty Legion, Wood-God, Moon Knight, Vision, Nighthawk, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Guardians of the Galaxy, Tigra, Bloodstone, Modred the Mystic, Marvel Presents, Marvel Chillers, Red Sonja, Invaders, Conan, Fantastic Four, Marvel Two-In-One, a Dracula/Doctor Strange team-up, a Thing/Hulk/Fantastic Four continuity of some sort and Werewolf by Night. Whew!

The next-to-final item on the Bullpen page promised the return of the Mighty Marvel Checklist in a month or three. I’ll let you know if that turns up in future issues of Rawhide Kid.

The final item was about the Fantastic Four radio show then airing on stations across the country. The item lists just over two dozen stations, including Philadelphia, Boston, San Diego, Grand Rapids and Columbus, Ohio. Bill Murray did the voice of the Human Torch. There were 13 episodes of the series.
                                                                                 

Next to the Bullpen Bulletins Page, we get the one-page “Spider-Man and the Kidnap Caper” ad for Hostess Twinkies. Ross Andru pencilled the page. My guess for the page’s inker would be Mike Esposito or Frank Giacoia or them working in tandem as they sometimes did. The identity of the page’s writer is not known to me, but the safe bet is that is was a Marvel editor or staffer.
                                                                                  

Following the end of the Rawhide Kid story and the afore-mentioned pin-up page, we get a Superhero Merchandise ad. Offered on the page are seven different Mego dolls at $4.28 each. That price includes postage and handling. The Color a Comic Kit is $5.44 and the Super-Giant Spider-Man Puzzle is $4.67. I’ve seen the Mego figures, but not the color kit or the puzzle.
                                                                                      

The inside back cover ad is for Hudson’s Spider-Man vitamins. The vitamins without iron cost $2.49 for 60 tablets and $3.59 for 100 tablets. The vitamins with iron cost $2.79 for 60 tablets and $3.99 for 100 tables. If you ordered the vitamins, you got a free Spider-Man poster.
                                                                                 

I’m including the back cover ad for various Evel Knievel toys here because I kinda sorta see Murphy Anderson’s touch in the drawings. But I’m not married to my identification and would welcome comments from far better art detectives than myself.

That’s all for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll have another one for you in two weeks.

I’ll have something else for you in tomorrow’s bloggy thing, but I won’t know what until I write it. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN JULY

July was, like most months, a mix of the good and the bad. I spent a wonderful day in Burbank visiting with the writers of the forthcoming Black Lightning television series, followed by a tour of the beautiful DC Comics offices. My son Ed and I had a monstrously terrific time at G-Fest XXIII, the convention for fans of Godzilla and other kaiju. On the down side, health issues slowed me down and, of course, the Dumpster President and his fellow right-wing vermin are still working hard to make America horrible.

That’s life. I embrace the joys and do what I can to fight the very real evil. What helps in that ongoing struggle is to take a moment each day to remember the people and things that make the struggle worthwhile. As posted on Facebook and Twitter, here are the “Things That Make Me Happy” from July...

July 1: Elizabeth Banks. She makes me smile every time I see her, especially in her Realtor.com ads.

July 2: Comics historian Bill Schelly, whose book on John Stanley is simply magnificent.

July 3: The thing I can’t tell you about until next week. [This was my trip to Burbank to visit with the Black Lightning writers. I’ll be writing about this again soon, but the two biggest thrills for me were seeing how much of me will be in the show and how much the writers are adding to that. If the day comes when I can no longer write Black Lightning for the comic books, I think the next great Black Lightning comic-book writer might have been in that room.]

July 4: The Resistence. I admire and support all those who oppose the Dumpster President and the villainous GOP.

July 5: The other thing I can’t tell you about for another month or two. [I still have to remain a tease about this. It’s actually two things, but the word might already be out on them.]

July 6: Flying first class. I’m a nervous flier and having a little more room and care helps me cope.

July 7: The Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It’s weird in a very good way. Would like to explore it further. [The only drawback is that it’s not near anywhere I’d likely be going to in Los Angeles. I’d still consider staying there again.]
                                                                               

July 8: My fifty years of friendship with Mark Evanier. Anyone who doesn’t like Mark has a screw loose.

July 9: The DC Entertainment offices. If they rented rooms, I would stay there on my next visit.

July 10: Delta Sky Club. My one-day pass was worth the cost for the food, drink and relaxation I got.

July 11: Dominic’s. My new favorite pizza place in Medina. I want to try other items on their menu soon.

July 12: “Walk Through the Fire” from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. Rousing, sad and character defining all at once. Always brings a lump to my throat.

July 13: Astro City #44 by Kurt Busiek, Rick Leonardi & Andy Parks. Buy an extra copy for your cat. Seriously.
                                                                               

July 14: Pam and Martin Arlt. If it wasn’t for them, I would have kept putting off attending G-Fest. [Next year, I need a photo with both Martin and Pam.]

July 15: J.D. Lees and the G-Fest directors. They make me and every one else feel like they are an important part of this most wondrous of kaiju conventions.

July 16: G-Fest fans. So wonderful to see whole families enjoying the event together.

July 17: The Syfy Monsters panel I did at G-Fest. It was more fun and more successful than I could have imagined.

July 18: Artist extraordinaire Mark Maddox, just one of the nicest guys and best artists I know.

July 19: Holy carp! Black Lightning is on the cover of TV Guide! I have no words.

July 20: Holy carp! Black Lightning is on San Diego Comic-Con bags! I still have no words.
                                                                               

July 21: Johnny Hazard by Frank Robbins. I’m on volume four of the daily strips and loving them.

July 22: Ice cream. Do I have to explain why?

July 23: So much wonderful Comic-Con interest in and love for the  Black Lightning TV show.  

July 24: My cool custom Lego Black Lightning Minifig has arrived. Say hello to my little friend.

July 25: Those DC/Looney Tunes specials. They are both strange and hilarious. I’m loving them!

July 26: Seeing my name in the TV Guide Comic-Con issue. Something else I never would have expected a few years ago.

July 27: NBC’s Midnight, Texas. The pilot was both entertaining and intriguing. I’m in.

July 28: The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films by John LeMay. Big, giant fun.
                                                                                     

July 29: Final Girls by Riley Sager. Incredible thriller that kept surprising me.  

July 30: I’ll be returning to New York City on August 8 through the 11. Hotel and flight are booked.

July 31: Sharknado Week. Five new movies leading up to Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. I’m watching them all.

August will be a crazy busy month, but I hope to post a new bloggy thing every day I’m not on the road. Look for more on my quick trip to Burbank, my G-Fest fun and an updated convention schedule in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday!” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella