Thursday, November 30, 2017


Hey, kids! It’s time for another look at the free comic books given out for Halloween ComicFest.

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics are available, along with a chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!

Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from his pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these 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. I award the elusive tenth point when I deem a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

Black Betty [Action Lab] is a 36-page full-sized comic book with 21 pages of comics and other editorial matter. Black Betty is a woman with a mysterious past who fights monsters. The Danger Doll Squad are four weird heroines who have their own titles, but who’ve been brought together to fight alien/supernatural hybrids.

QUALITY: Black Betty is great! Written by Shawn Gabborin with art  by Michela Da Sacco, she’s a beautiful and tough broad who doesn’t confirm to the usual comic-book standards of beauty. I really like this character and will be looking for more of her comics.

The Danger Doll Squad is mediocre at best. None of these heroines, who I’ve seen in other comic books, have ever appealed to me. The writing and art are little more than serviceable.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very good. The Black Betty excerpt sets up her and her world. The Danger Doll Squad excerpt isn’t as well done in this regard, but there are handbook-type pages that go into more detail as to who they are.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The inside front cover lets you know the publisher has books for age groups from “every reader” to “mature.” There are several pages of house ads that direct readers to where they can find more of these characters.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

Donald Duck’s Halloween Scream! #2 [IDW] is a 16-page, digest-size comic book. The very cool cover is by Daniel Branca. Inside, we get the 12-page “Kid Stuff!” by William Van Horn.

QUALITY: Donald’s first job as a house painter is to paint a house he doesn’t know is said to be haunted. His nephews decided to mess with him. This low-key story is fun and filled with twists. Were I not already reading IDW’s Disney comic books, this free comic book would make me want to read more.

ACCESSIBILITY: Donald and his nephews are known around the world, so their accessibility is a given.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. There’s not a single house ad for IDW’s Disney comic books. What a wasted opportunity!

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

Ghostbusters Halloween ComicFest [IDW] is a full-sized comic book. The 36-page issue features “Day of the Dead” (21 pages) by writer Erik Burnham with art by Dan Schoening.

QUALITY: Good. A supernatural excursion tries to hijack the Day of the Dead in Brooklyn, New York. The original four Ghostbusters are well-played. The two new-to-me female characters are interesting. The done-in-one story has some funny lines and nice action with a satisfying but mildly open ending.

ACCESSIBILITY: First rate. There’s a cast of characters page just prior to the story. The story itself is easy to follow.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are several ads for the Ghostbusters comics - multiple series, it seems - published by IDW. If a reader likes this comic, they will learn about many more like it.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.


Lady Mechanika HCF 2017 [Benitez Productions] is a full-size comic book of 36 pages. The title heroine is the sole survivor of a mad scientist’s experiments. She has mechanized limbs, no memory of who she once was, and has made a new life for herself as an adventurer and private investigator. She’s a terrific character and this comic book presents the 23-page first act of her latest tale: La Dama de la Muerte.

QUALITY: I’ve praised the work of creator/writer/artist Joe Benitez in the past. For this adventure, he teams with writer M.M. Chen and artist Martin Montiel. The quality is high, the story intriguing.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. What a reader doesn’t pick up from the story itself, they can learn from the several ad for other volumes in this series.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. If a reader likes this comic book, they’ll be able to find more of the same.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.
Moonlighters [Space Goat] is a 16-page, digest-size comic. Nine of those pages feature the introduction to the title stars by writer Katie Schenkel with artist Cal Moray. A quick synopsis: a college student gets bitten by a werewolf, seeks the help of a group that says it can help with monster problems and finds out they are more about helping monsters.

QUALITY: I love this series. The characters are extremely likeable. This initial story is clever and funny. It’s got a hint of mystery on the final page. The storytelling is solid and the art is lively.

ACCESSIBILITY: This is an all-ages book. I don’t think any reader will have any difficulties getting into the story.

SALESMANSHIP: There’s a ad for a “backpack edition” of the series that’s coming in 2018. I’m sold.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

Wrapped Up [Cub House] is a 16-page, digest-sized comic that may or may not be associated with Lion Forge Comics. My confusion stems from an indicia that identifies this free comic book as Care Bears: Rainbow River Rescue. That’s a pretty serious error.

QUALITY: Written by Dave Scheidt and drawn by Scott McMahon, this comic’s 12-page story introduces young mummy Milo, his step-sister Jill, his divorced parents (who appear to be on good terms) and his adventurous archaeologist stepdad. It’s a funny story, though two key characters - a wizard and a gorilla - show up without a bit of explanation as to who they are. Still, I got a kick out of the tale and would read more of the same.


SALESMANSHIP: Lousy. This comic doesn’t give the slightest hint as to where I could find more of the same. That’s as bad as printing the wrong indicia. Proofreading is an important skill. Publishers, old and new, should embrace and master it.

SCORE: Five out of then points.

There will be three more installments of these Halloween ComicFest reviews. I hope to post them all before the end of the year. Come back tomorrow for a list of things that made me happy in the month of November. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


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 129th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #142 [November 1977] has yet another terrific cover by Gil Kane. Like the previous two covers, it doesn’t illustrate a scene from either of the two tales reprinted in this issue.

“Duel of the Desperadoes!” (13 pages) is written and drawn by Larry Lieber with inks by Herb Trimpe. It first appeared in Rawhide Kid #64 [June 1968] with a Lieber/Trimpe cover. I wrote about the tale on March 5, 2014. You can read my comments here.

The inside front cover of this issue announces Pizzazz, the newest Marvel magazine. From Wikipedia:

Pizzazz was a magazine published by Marvel Comics from 1977 to 1979, for a total run of 16 issues. Aimed at youth culture, Pizzazz mostly contained articles about popular movies, rock stars, et cetera, as well as comic strips and puzzles.

There were three pages of classified ads in this issue of Rawhide Kid with nineteen ads from mail-order dealers selling old comics. In addition to these, there was an ad offering 3 mil comics bags at a hundred for three dollars; an ad for George Olshevsky’s Marvel Comics Index; and an ad for The Magnificent Superheroes of Comics’ Golden Age, a “collectors bonanza” reprinting eleven stories from the Golden Age and costing five bucks.

Superhero Merchandise of Dover, New Jersey had its usual full-page ad. This time around, it offered “Super School Supplies.” The main items were theme books, portfolios, paper with free iron-ons, book covers and a loose-leaf binder. Also available: Marvel t-shirts, Marvel wrist radios and Marvel watches.

Howard the Duck was the host of this issue’s subscription ad with art that may or may not have been drawn by Mirthful Marie Severin. I think I see a lot of her in there, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Feel free to chime in with your own observations.

The second Rawhide Kid story was “The Birth of a Legend!” by Stan Lee and Jack Davis. The five-page tale was originally published in Rawhide Kid #35 [August 1963], though this reprint erroneously has it coming from issue #64. This is a vastly inferior rehash of the classic “A Legend is Born!” by Lee and Jack Kirby that appeared in issue #18 [October 1960]. Here’s what I wrote about this rehash on August 15, 2012:

In a saloon, Rawhide is enjoying a meal while unknowing barflies discuss how big and fierce the Rawhide Kid is.  Town bully Crusher Cragg storms in and takes offense at anyone thinking anyone is tougher than he is.  He attempts to bully the Kid, but, as you can imagine, ends up on the losing side of that encounter.

Our hero pays for the damage to the saloon, identifying himself as the Rawhide Kid before he rides out of town.  Having heard gunfire, the sheriff goes into the tavern and learns he’s just missed seeing the Kid.  When the barflies give him Rawhide’s descriptions, their impressions are just as outrageous as they were before they saw the real thing.  It’s truthiness...Old West style.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page lists Archie Goodwin as editor; Jim Shooter as associate editor; Roger Stern, Ed Hannigan, Ralph Macchio, Jo Duffy as assistant editors; Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Steve Gerber, Jack Kirby as consulting editors; John Romita and Marie Severin as art directors; John Verpoorten as the production manager; and, of course, Irving Forbush as unindicted co-conspirator.

This issue’s “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” takes up a third of the page and talks about a variety of things. The Superhero Woman is coming out in October. Though Stan doesn’t reveal its contents, I’ll tell you it collects the first appearances of several Marvel heroines. In other news...

Stan will be a guest at “the great new Chicago Con” on August 6th and the Houston Con on August 19th.

Marvel’s 1978 calendar will be a Spider-Man calendar. It will go on sale at the end of August.

“The great new live-action CBS-TV prime-time Spider-Man made-for-television movie” should premiere in September. Stan says to watch for announcements “about the whole kaboodle of Marvel movies which Universal Pictures is working on right now!”

There’s a quick mention of the Howard the Duck newspaper strip and then a teasing plug for Pizzazz. Clearly, at the time he wrote this soapbox, Stan didn’t realize the inside front cover of this month’s  Marvel comic books would advertise the new magazine.

The rest of the Bullpen Bulletins page:

ITEM! Rick Parker joins the Bullpen to do lettering corrections. Jim Salicrup returns to Marvel to helm the American reprint comic books. One of the reasons I love reading these old Bullpen pages is to see the comings and goings of friends and other professionals.

ITEM! Congratulations are extended to Roger Stern and Jo Duffy on their promotions...with a mention of Ed Hannigan and Ralph Macchio because, everyone loves to see their name on the Bullpen Bulletins page. I know it was always a thrill for me.

ITEM! Black-and-white magazine editor Roger Slifer teamed writer Doug Moench with artist Carmine Infantino for the adaptation of The Deep. The movie was based on the best-selling novel by Jaws author Peter Benchley.

ITEM! The summer annuals are coming! Incredible Hulk by Len Wein, David Anthony Kraft and Herb Trimpe. Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard. Avengers and Marvel Two-In-One by Jim Starlin. In addition, the item plugs the Marvel Classic Comics adaptations of Kidnapped and The Pit of the Pendulum; Hanna-Barbera comic books starring Yogi Bear and Dynomutt; and black-and-white magazines The Rampaging Hulk and The Savage Sword of Conan!

The final item discusses the increase of price on Marvel’s regular  color comics to thirty-five cents and the double-length comics to sixty cents. Those prices look real good today.

Next...Spider-Man appears in the one-page “Legal Eagle,” a Hostess cup cakes comics advertisement in which criminal lawyer Ralph G. Fake transforms himself into a winged villain who looks a lot like the Vulture. His plan is to steal the Bill of Rights and take over the Supreme Court. How prophetic of the writer of this silly page to have predicted the current administration. I’m pretty sure this ad was penciled by Sal Buscema.

The back cover is a Jack Davis-drawn ad for Spalding autographed basketballs that features then current stars Rick Barry and Dr. J. The balls have a rubber cover that allows players to get a really good grip on them. Other basketballs feature the signatures of Wilt Chamberlain, Pistol Pete and Ernie D. It’s a repeat of the ad that appeared on the back cover of issue #140 [July 1977].

That wraps up this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” We only have nine more issues to go until we get to the end of the trail for this title. Look for the next guns-a’-blazing installment next Wednesday. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for another round of “Halloween ComicFest” reviews. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


This week in TONY'S TIPS! at Tales of Wonder...The Complete Peanuts Family Album: The Ultimate Guide to Charles M. Schulz’s Classic Characters by Andrew Farago; Disney Comics: The Whole Story by Alberto Becattini; and Marvel's new Champions series!


Starting this past Sunday and concluding today, I've been writing about Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 and presenting annotations to my script for that issue. I think you’ll be amused and surprised by some of today’s notes.

Our opening image is a photo of my father Louis Isabella a little before he married my mother. It’s my favorite photo of him and the next page of the story explains why I chose it to start off today’s bloggy thing.

However, before we get to that next page, I must go back to pages two and three to give you an annotation that I forgot to include in yesterday’s column.

The overall title of this series is “Cold Dead Hands” and I figure that gives you some idea the real-world issue that looms large in our story. Each chapter title also has meaning.

Consider the chapter titles to be Jefferson Pierce’s play list. As you will see, each of these chapter titles also bears some relation to the individual issue.

“Ready To Do It All Over” is from Ludacris’ “New Beginning Intro.” Here are the first four lines:

Yeah, ahh~! I'm ready to do it all over
My heart colder, hip-hop I'm part owner
Southern rap specialist, verses intelligent
Elegant, it's Ludacris, don't EVER question my relevance

This issue is a new beginning for both Jefferson Pierce and myself. Can a 65-year-old comic-book writer be relevant in the comics world of 2017? Ultimately, the readers will answer that question.

The “Press Club thing” for Jeff’s father is held at McGregor Hall. That’s a nod to my dear friend Don McGregor. Don is a one-of-a-kind writer who was working to include diverse characters in his comics stories before almost everyone else. His stories grow richer with each re-reading. His passion for the stories is inspirational. We need more McGregor comic books.

Louis Pierce is named after my father. The “Cash Bar” on the sign in the second panel harkens back to my three years working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Maybe it was just the PD editors/reporters, but they consumed vast quantities of alcohol. Some of the reporters even had a bottle in their desks. I once watered down the booze of a reporter I thought was an arrogant ass. One of my co-workers had wanted to use a different liquid.

I asked Clayton to draw a young Louis Pierce on a motorcycle using my father’s photo as a guide. We also learn of the prejudice Louis faced as a black newsman. The line about Jeff’s mom hating the bike is based on reality. My grandmother and my mother nagged Dad until he sold his bike.

This page introduces retired police sergeant Ernie Colavito and his daughter, Tommi Colavito. Ernie and Louis were best friends. Jeff and Tommi were like brother and sister. Tommi’s a police detective. These are two of the most important people in Jeff’s life.

The remaining panels on the page give more information. Jeff was an Olympic gold medalist. I’ll reveal in what sport when I need that for a story. Tommi is Cleveland’s finest detective and, as you’ll see, is a high-ranking member of the department. We get another jab at TV65. We get another mention that Black Lightning has not been active for a couple of years.

Tommi refers to Black Lightning as “Sparky,” a nod to the Tommy Colavito who appeared in my 1990s series.  Jeff is not fond of that nickname. This brings us to another astonishing revelation.

When I first wrote this script, Tommi was Tommy Colavito. After I sent it to DC, I realized I didn’t have a positive woman character in the story. So I did a quick and surprisingly simple rewrite to change Tommy into Tommi. Since Jeff and Tommi are not romantically involved - and never will be - it wasn’t hard to make the changes.

Though it has been reported often, I don’t know if legendary Marvel Comics writer Chris Claremont actually ever asked the question “Why can’t this character be a woman?” But that was the question I asked myself before changing Tommy to Tommi. Props to Chris for being way ahead of the crowd in the 1970s.


The first three panels of this page sum up the problem with modern police work as I see it. I want to believe the good cops are in the majority. However, until those good cops take a stand against the bad cops, the already tense relationship between police and citizens, especially minority citizens, will continue to deteriorate.

No one, police or civilian, should accept this as any kind of new normal. I worked with police in the 1990s when I was researching my second Black Lightning series. Yes, there were some bad cops then, but those bad cops didn’t have the automatic and unwavering support of their fellow officers. That’s what has changed between now and then. That’s what needs to change again.

My script for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 was originally 20 pages. Because that was what the book’s original editor told me was standard for DC super-hero titles. Imagine my surprise when I was told the book was actually budgeted for 22 pages.

The additional pages, which were written after I had turned in my revised 20-page script, gave me a chance to add a brother/sister scene with Jeff and Tommi. Surprisingly, I've never written such a scene in my 45 years of writing comic books. It was a fun page to write. A few funny lines. A cautionary note. A warm human moment. A mention of the Flash. So now you know Black Lightning has met a second super-hero in his new existence.

The second additional page allowed me to introduce Detective Denise Simms, Tommi’s partner, sooner than I’d originally planned. I have  more to tell you about Denise and about creating Denise, but I don’t want to spoil what you’ll be learning over the next few issues. At some point in the future, I’ll devote an entire installment of “Black Lightning Beat” to the formidable Detective Simms.


Panel two is the first time we mention “alien guns” in this series. That’s a big deal. It also reinforces Tobias Whale’s involvement in the appearance of these weapons in Cleveland.

Panel three reveals each member of the Weathermen will get $50,000 if they kill Black Lightning. That should give you an idea how much money is involved in this operation.

Panel four shows the divide among the cops. One of them hates Black Lightning’s presence in the city. The other recognizes they might need him.


Black Lightning mentions Batman in the second panel. So now we know he’s met Batman. I haven’t found the right place to put it into a script, but, just so you know, in this rebooted continuity, Black Lightning only worked with Batman for a hot minute. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like Batman.

Likewise, I’m on record saying that, as long as I’m writing Black Lightning, the days of him being subservient to Batman or Superman or any other hero are long gone. Jeff is and will always be his own man. Bet on Black Lightning.


The second panel introduces a cop named Casey. He doesn’t care for Black Lightning. I didn’t think I’d have much use for him. He has since proven me wrong.

This is the page where I realized my original ending was, to put it mildly, crap. Desperation can spark a great idea, especially when you have a villain like Tobias Whale who is both really crafty and utterly merciless. I should have figured he would have some sort of contingency plan if the Weathermen failed.

So...we have Tommi clearing the way for Black Lightning to make an exit by ordering Casey to help push back the perimeter of the crime scene. Her excuse is that she doesn’t want the citizen reporters of uWitness News to interfere with this bust.

This is followed by Miss Pequod activating her boss’s contingency plan. She doesn’t hesitate.

Sudden death. Caught on dozens of cell phones. Horror in the eyes of Black Lightning, Tommi and everyone else witnessing the picture Tobias has painted for them. The cops react in anger, but I don’t think their actions are inappropriate given what they think they’ve just seen.

I love the last two panels of this issue. Black Lightning runs down an alley, utterly alone. Tobias gets a killer last line.

The next issue blurb? That’s a reference “Every Hand Against Him,” the title of the third issue of my original 1970s series.

Sometimes these stories do write themselves.

I hope you found these annotations enlightening and entertaining. If enough of you liked them, I’ll certainly consider doing them for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2. That issue should be hitting the comics shops in a week or two.

In the meantime...

Come back on the morrow for another installment of our hard-riding “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 27, 2017


For the first time in my career, I am doing annotations for one of my comics scripts. In yesterday’s bloggy thing, I wrote a prelude to my annotations for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. Today, I’m starting the actual annotations.

The idea is to give you a window into the behind-the-brain making of this first issue. For copyright reasons, I will not be posting every panel and page of this issue. You’ll need to have a copy of the issue to follow along with the annotations.

If you don’t have this issue, go to your neighborhood comics store and buy one. If you’re following the annotations with friends as a fun and educational exercise, make sure you buy enough copies for the entire class. I’m just saying.

Six panels of people using phones to record an in-progress robbery at King’s Cleveland Casino. I wanted to establish that this wasn’t a flashback story. It was happening in the here and now.

Cleveland TV65 is my fictional conduit for snarky comments on the news media. Most real-life Cleveland stations are pretty decent, though they do have a tendency to kowtow to the rich and powerful. That’s been an ongoing thing with the Cleveland media for as long as I can remember.

TV65 has the lowest budget of any non-public-access news program in the area. That’s why it pushes its uWitness news. That said, I’m a fan of citizens who use their devices to become part of the news-gathering process. They play an important role and it’s one likely to become more vital in the future.

King’s Cleveland Casino is not the name of the real-world casino in downtown Cleveland. This series takes place in Cleveland as it is in the DC Universe. It’s not intended to be an exact replica of the real Cleveland. Some local landmarks will retain their real names and some won’t.

For a hot minute, I considered changing the name of the Cleveland  Indians to the Cleveland Spiders. I abandoned that idea because I felt the change would take away from the realism I was going for in the series. For the record, I would absolutely support changing the name of the team in the real world. Also for the record, as long as I’m writing Black Lightning, you’ll never see the offensive Chief Wahoo image in my stories.


The opening copy leads to the logo. I love doing a basic background mini-synopsis to give even the newest reader an opening into these stories. If I work on other titles, you’ll see them there as well.

The first caption reveals Jefferson has not been operating as Black Lightning for a while. My internal timeline would put his hiatus at about two or three years, but I didn’t specify that because I may decide otherwise at some later date. As I said in yesterday’s blog, I don’t like to lock in information when it’s not necessary to the story that I do so.

“Pops” is his late father. These first-person caption are usually Jeff talking to his dad. They were very close, especially during the last years of his father's life.

The “math skills” caption was to further emphasize that Jeff is a teacher. I knew I wouldn’t be able to show him in a classroom this issue, so I included lines like this one.

The dialogue of the two police officers further emphasize that our hero is not a known quantity to them. The “our side” line is sort of an ongoing theme. Individual officers aren’t always going to be sure Black Lightning is on their side.


Who the heck is Amberjack? That was a cookie I threw in because I wanted the fans to wonder about Jeff’s unseen trainer. Mentioning Amberjack got his ass kicked by the Red Bee is a further nod to the character’s background. But it’ll be another issue before you meet him and another issue after that before you get a fuller picture of who he is. I’m sort of disappointed this caption didn’t generate any online discussion that I’ve seen.

The “Von Miller” reference is courtesy of my sports-loving son Ed. I asked Ed for the name of a football player who hits really hard. He suggested Miller, the Pro Bowl outside linebacker of the Denver Broncos. Given that Jeff himself was an athlete, I figured sports metaphors and references would come naturally to him.

In an amusing sidebar, this and another sports reference caught the attention of an ESPN commentator. Who may be doing a story on Black Lightning and me. When I told Ed about this, his response was “Shut the fuck up!” But, yes, my life has gotten exciting and more than a little weird with Black Lightning’s greater visibility in comics and on television. You’ll get more examples of my new fame in future installments of the bloggy thing.


There were two things I wanted to accomplish here. I wanted to show Jeff is always learning how to do new things with his powers and be a better hero. When I say he’s smarter than other versions of Black Lightning I’ve written, that’s what I’m talking about.

The Cyborg reference was also very deliberate. Black Lightning has worked with other heroes. I just don’t want to name them all until I have a story reason to do so. In the case of Cyborg, since both he and Jefferson are 20-something black men, I figured they would relate to one another more than they would some other super-heroes.

Also, what with Cyborg being really smart, I knew he would come in useful in science situations. Even when he’s not physically on the scene. I pays to have smart friends.


One of Black Lightning’s captions reads “Even with my strength...” That’s to establish that he’s stronger than the average person of his age and size. How much stronger? You don’t need to know that. This is a story and not a DC Who's Who or a Marvel Handbook.


Tension between Black Lightning and the cops. This isn’t any kind of anti-cop thing as I see it. Lightning is a vigilante. The cops don’t know him. Even so, these cops don’t automatically open fire on the scary black man.


Lots of important information in Jeff’s monologue. We learn he is about to start a new school term as a teacher. We learn why he was in downtown Cleveland. We see a photo of his father and learn the two of them came back to the city - their home - so his dad could pass among family and friends. The mention of Reverend Andrews is a way of establishing Jefferson as a man of faith. The mention of Grammy Henderson establishes his mother’s side of the family while indicating his dad and his dad’s mother-in-law maybe didn’t always get along. The mention of the Press Club lets you know Jeff’s dad was a member of the fourth estate.

Most importantly, this “dialogue” between Jefferson and his father shows the strong bond between them. It’s a bond that still exists after his father’s passing.


The first panel is an establishing shot of Tobias Whale’s primary headquarters. It’s at the corner of Newell and Trevor. I wanted to show respect for Eddy Newell and Trevor von Eeden, my previous Black Lightning artists and friends.

Miss Pequod is Whale’s executive assistant. Knowing I would need a character to convey information to Tobias and the readers, I wanted her to stand out. This exchange, particularly Whale’s comments on family, was meant to highlight how, in so many ways, he and Black Lightning are polar opposites.

The reference to “test subjects” - the Weathermen - shows Cleveland is a testing ground for whatever larger operations are being played out here. As the series progresses, we will learn more.

Here’s our first look at the “new” Tobias Whale. I described him as having the body of LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. When I wrote the script, well before Clayton Henry became the artist for the series, I offered to provide reference on James. This amused Clayton greatly. As a resident of Florida, home of the Miami Heat basketball team for which James played for several years, Clayton knew what the star player looked liked.

Why such a drastic change in appearance for Black Lightning’s “big bad?” When I first created Tobias Whale in the 1970s, he was meant to be my version of Marvel’s Kingpin. I felt the Marvel writers of the era had softened Wilson Fisk. They gave him a wife and a son. He teamed up with Captain America and the Falcon to battle Hydra. My version would be irredeemably evil.

The original Tobias Whale was an albino because I was calling him “the White Whale” at first. It was a clumsy designation that I soon abandoned. Although Tobias was always a black man, albeit one who suffered from albinism, that didn’t register for all of our 1970s readers. Given the opportunity to remake Tobias, I moved away from anything physically resembling his original “that’s not fat, it’s muscle” look. As drawn by Clayton Henry, there’s no doubt Tobias is black and all muscle.


The conversation between Whale and his sister allowed me to fill in  readers on how Tobias operates. His matter-of-fact relating that he killed his own nephew shows how ruthless he is. In the back of my mind, though the Black Lightning/Blue Devil team-up of the new 52 isn’t part of my new continuity, a reader so inclined could assume Whale’s nephew was the inane “Tobias Whale” who appeared therein. However, make no mistake, this new Isabella/Henry Tobias Whale is the real deal.


This was a key page. If readers had any doubt how mercilessly evil Tobias Whale is, this page brings it home.

The third panel on the page mentions Queequeg, a Whale employee we don’t see in this issue. Besides establishing Tobias has read Moby Dick, Pequod’s dialogue offers a clue to a future plot revelation. Feel free to speculate.

That brings us a wee bit beyond the halfway mark of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. We’ll continue the annotations tomorrow. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 26, 2017


We move into scary new territory for me today. I’ve never before done annotations for a comic book I’ve written. However, I thought the readers of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 might find some value in a behind-the-brain examination of why I did what I did in the first issue of my return to my proudest creation.

We’ll start with some general background. The decision to present Jefferson Pierce as a relatively young man of 28 was not something mandated by Dan DiDio or anyone else. When I was asked to write a new Black Lightning series, cognizant of the fluid continuity that had been visited on the character since I last wrote him, I asked DC which version of Black Lightning they wanted me to use. It was a question asked before I had any solid information on what the TV series would be doing.

Using this younger version of Jeff Pierce was entirely my call. I could have attempted to reconcile the oft-confusing continuity or I gone with the Black Lightning I wrote in the 1970s or the 1990s. I could have used the Black Lightning of Black Lighting: Year One, a series I disliked, or even the Black Lightning introduced in the new 52. None of those appealed to me, though parts of them seemed like something I could work with.

What I decided...was to do stuff with Jeff and Black Lightning I had never done before. He would be younger than I had ever written him before. He would have an actual family as opposed to the families he tended to build around himself. He would not have been a married man in his past. And he would be explicitly based in my home town of Cleveland. All my decisions.

Note. My 1990s Black Lightning book was also set in Cleveland, but I was so coy about it that many people thought he was operating in some place called “Brick City.” For the record, I always referred to it as “The Brick City” in my 1990s scripts. It wasn’t the name of the city. It was the name of the more-or-less real-life Cleveland neighborhood in which Black Lightning was operating and where Jeff Pierce lived.

When I started writing the first issue of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, no artist was attached to the series. Several artists were considered to draw the series with one being formally attached. That artist’s busy schedule eventually precluded him doing the series. We had the same problem with one or two artists. When Clayton Henry became available, it was a most joyous day for Team Lightning. We had an artist who could knock it out of the park whether drawing the super-hero action or the human moments which have always been so vital to the dual worlds of Jefferson Pierce and Black Lightning.

Black Lightning’s suit - we don’t call it a costume around here - was also a development problem. The first designs that came in were not remotely right for the character. Other designs were closer to what we wanted, but not close enough. My suggestion of using some elements of existing Black Lightning suits was rejected. The top brass felt we needed a new look for the relaunch.

If memory serves - and it may not - I suggested we use a modified version of the Black Lightning suit from the TV series. By then, we had all seen Cress Williams looking all electrically bad-ass in it and had liked that image.

We had to simplify the TV series suit for the comic books. It’s one thing to construct such a suit for a live-action show. It’s there and, outside of occasional maintenance, you’re good to go whenever the director shouts “Action!” But, with comics, the artist is going to have to draw the suit in panel after panel. Drawing the suit as it looked in the TV series would have driven the most diligent artist insane. We all agreed it was important to keep our talented artist from ending up in an institution.

Some thoughts on my “method” as it were.

I wrote a synopsis of sorts of the entire six-issue story. I also write a synopsis of sorts for each individual issue before I begin writing it. Remember what German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke said about no battle plan surviving contact with the enemy? Welcome to my method.

I write full script. I worked Marvel style - writing a plot for the artist and writing captions and dialogue after the artist penciled the story - at the start of my professional career and for a great many years thereafter. Ultimately, I discarded that style. Since I generally wrote panel-by-panel plots anyway, it made more sense for me to switch to full script.

The great advantage of not being locked into a synopsis or a plot is that it allows me to surprise myself. It allows me to take the characters or the stories in unexpected directions. Some of what I think are the very best moments of my 1990s Black Lightning series and this one are the result of those surprises. The characters and the story take on lives of their own.

Cold Dead Hands editor Jim Chadwick has generously allowed me to go this route. Halfway through the six issues, he did ask me to write an overview of the remaining issues for him and associate editor Harvey Richards. He wanted to make sure the overall story did what it needed to do to tell a complete story in our six issues. Every step of the way, he and Harvey have worked to help me write my best stories. I've had editors who wanted me to write their stories. You could probably figure out I prefer the Chadwick/Richards approach to the editor/writer dynamic.

Some further thoughts on my modus operandi...

In ancient times, the primary audience for comic books were young boys and girls around ten or twelve years old. Those days are gone and they ain’t coming back. Even if they did, the ten and twelve-year-olds of today are smarter than we were at that age.

So I don’t feel I have to spell out every single fact about Black Lightning or other characters or situations in my scripts. I trust readers to fill in the gaps themselves. Indeed, speculating seems to have become a natural components of comics reading in this time of online fandom.

You know what? Speculating is fun for those who participate in it. It gets them more involved with the comic books they are reading. I encourage it. These readers might look at a panel or some line of copy in my scripts and think they know what’s coming. Even if they are wrong, it does no harm to my work. That said...

Everything in my scripts is carefully thought out. Even the scenes that surprise me as I’m writing them. I have a reason for whatever I write. A method to my seeming madness.

That’s the point of doing these annotations. I’m opening a window to my process in the hope of entertaining you, of astounding you, of helping you better appreciate what writers, artists and editors do to bring you your favorite comic books.

When you’re reading a comic book, you don’t need to see the “math” that leads to that comic book. You just need to see the end result, which is - fingers crossed - a comic book that entertains you and perhaps makes you thinks and then gets you back for the next issue.

I am as focused on what I leave out of scripts as what I include. During a recent editorial give-and-take, there was a suggestion of adding some background information for a character. I had two good reasons to not do that and my editors agreed with or were at least okay with my reasons.

Adding background information into that particular action sequence would have slowed the action at a crucial point. Just as important to me, it would have locked me into that background information on the character in question.

Why lock myself into that when it wasn’t necessary for the scene?  By not including the suggested background information, I have left myself open to perhaps go a different direction with the character when and if I see fit.

Some final notes for today...

To those readers/reviewers who seem amazed that a comic-book about a black super-hero called Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands includes contemporary real-world content...

What did you think would be in a comic called Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands?

To those alt-right morons calling for a boycott of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands on the basis of it being “anti-cop,” which is their shorthand for “a black guy is the hero”...

I have nothing to say to you. You’re racist morons.

To others...

There are good cops in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. There are bad cops in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. There are cops still trying to figure themselves out in a city that has a reputation for police violence without just consequences for the perpetrators of that violence. We do not live in simple times and this is not a simple comic book.


Do not call this a “mini-series” when I’m around. I consider it to be the first six-issue series of a series of Black Lightning series or maybe the first six issues of a series that will resume with a Black Lightning #7.

In these six issues, I introduce characters who, while they may not have large roles in this first series, will have greater impact on Jefferson Pierce in future stories. Indeed, I have plans for maybe two years of future Black Lightning comic books...

...and counting.

If enough of you buy Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, if you let the good people at DC Comics know you are eager to buy more Black Lightning comic books, DC will publish more Black Lightning comic books. Maybe even written by me. 
DC Comics would love to publish more Black Lightning comic books. The current management are big fans of the character. They see potential in this character that escaped previous administrations. I wouldn’t be working with them if they didn’t.

In my 45 years in the comics industry, I have never worked with a more dedicated, exceptional creative team than the Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands team. Every member of the team - Dan, Jim, Harvey, Clayton, Jim Lee, colorist Pete Pantazis, letterer Josh Reed, Tomeu Morey, Ken Lashley, Juan Fernandez, the cover approvals folks, the DC Entertainment publicity folks, even standards and practices - is knocking themselves out to make this the best possible comic book they can. We may butt heads every now and then, but it’s in common cause.


The astute among you will have noticed that I haven’t actually done any annotations in today’s bloggy thing. Surprise.

However, now that I’ve written this long-winded prelude, you will get the first batch of annotations in tomorrow’s bloggy. I have no idea how many columns it will take to get through the entire first issue. We’ll find that out together. See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, November 25, 2017


When I was a guest at this year’s Akron Comicon, I was kept so busy behind my table that I barely got a chance to walk around the show and had no time whatsoever to shop. That doesn’t mean I came away from the event empty-handed.

My dear friends from WBNX-TV, Cleveland’s CW station, were on hand with their usual booth full of swag. They are really excited about the soon-to-premiere Black Lightning TV series and brought hundreds of posters they had printed for this and other events. I signed a great many of those posters and came home with a stack of them to bring to my 2018 convention appearances.

Hanging next to the WBNX poster is a poster created by Lee Smith. Lee is the Columbus-based publisher/creator of The Ohio Chronicles, a swell series of digest-sized comics on our state’s history. As a surprise gift for me, Lee designed an incredible Black Lightning poster that features all the copy from Black Lightning #1 (1977), overlaid on the cover of that first issue. The photo above doesn’t begin to do this print justice.

Lee gave me a framed copy of the poster and 499 additional copies of the image. For contractual reasons, I can only sell one hundred of these at my future convention appearances. The others will be signed and either donated to comics-related charitable efforts or  given out as gifts to stellar individuals who go the extra mile to keep Black Lightning riding high.

Sometime in the near future, I’ll get a better image of this poster to share with you. For now, take my word that it’s truly a groovy collectible. Keep watching this bloggy thing for more information on where you might be able to acquire one.

My friends Mike and Janice Olszewski gave me Cleveland Radio Tales [Gray & Company; $15.95]. This is their third book on local media, following their Cleveland TV Tales and Cleveland TV Tales Volume 2. While the book, by its very nature, is Cleveland-centric, I think anyone who has either worked in radio or who grew up listening to radio stations not unlike our home-grown wonders will enjoy all the great anecdotes Mike and Janice present herein.

The back cover touts the talk show host, astrologer and “vampire” who performed an exorcism live on-air. A host who did his show in the nude. A host who made up live big-band concerts, some of which featured long-dead performers. The tale of how the not-yet-famous Jack Paar almost lost his job saving the city from an invasion from Mars. The courageous DJ who broke FCC rules to stay on the air and report on the 1968 Glenville riots. There’s even the story of how Gene Simmons of KISS came to town and was interviewed in full KISS regalia at the Cosmic Comics comic-book store I owned and operated in downtown Cleveland from 1978-1989. And so much more.

The Olszewskis have a knack for this kind of book. It’s filled with great stories told in conversational style and accompanied by rare photographs. The chapters are short enough to be read and enjoyed whenever a reader has a few spare moments. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ll be picking up a few of these to give out as Christmas gifts to area friends and family members. It’s a swell collection of amazing blasts from the past.

ISBN 978-1-938441-90-5

The first time I met Matthew K. Manning, he was a kid excited to be attending one of Roger Price’s legendary Mid-Ohio-Cons and doubtless excited to meet the Tony Isabella. Some many years later, Manning is an accomplished comics writer and historian with many dozens of books and comic books to his name. He’s also a friendly guy and I enjoyed chatting with him during the Akron Comicon.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures [DC/IDW; $19.99] is the trade paperback collection of the six-issue comic-book series that teamed up those classic defenders of the night. Drawn by Joe Sommariva, the story features a legion of Batman's and the Turtles’ greatest villains as well as Batman allies Batgirl, Nightwing and Robin. When Manning graciously gave me a copy of the book, he said it was one of his favorite gigs ever. I can see why. These stories are fun from start to finish.

The “but we live in different realities” situation is handled via portals that show up unexpectedly in both Gotham and in the NYC of the Turtles. The portals mean that any villain can and does appear, much to the consternation of the heroes. The interactions between the Batman family members and the Turtles are simply wonderful. I hope this team-up isn’t a one-time thing.

The back cover blurbs of this collection praise it for its thrills, its all-ages accessibility and classic properties. I’m absolutely on the same page with all of them. I enjoyed the heck out of this book, got caught up in the “who’s next” fun of which villain would appear next and was even surprised by the identity of the “big bad” behind it all. I loved it.

We’re close enough to Christmas and other winter holidays for me to recommend this book as a gift for younger comics readers. Anywhere from five or six years old to seventy or eighty years old. Because fun doesn’t have an age limit.

ISBN 978-1-63140-909-7
After going through some serious medical issues, the one-of-a-kind Chris Yambar is making new comics again. The one-of-a-kind designation is a federal regulation. Or so I’ve been told.

Yambar’s The Fire-Breathing Pope [Moordam Comics; $5.95] is a older Yambar creation and I predict big things for the diminutive, fiery man of the cloth. Here’s the inside front cover copy:

Everybody loves the Fire-Breathing Pope! In a world of anger, destruction and dogma, the Fire-Breathing Pope appears as a ray of sunshine. He’s all about love, hope, peace, hot peppers and cigars. These days, everyone had an addiction. He is addicted to fun and whimsy. This follow-up to the creation of Mr. Beat is more enlightening than a holy day of obligation. If you’re looking for a good time, you have genuflected in the right direction. This collection contains some of the best and blessed for those new to the Fire-Breathing Pope cult. It’s okay to laugh. I am Chris Yambar and I approve this message.

I like the Fire-Breathing Pope more than Mr. Beat, and I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Beat. In a less sensitive era, I could see the FBP being a major hit on the newspaper comics pages. Open your heart to him and you’ll agree.

In addition to the FBP, Yambar gave me Mr. Beat: Automatic Refills [$5.95}, a collection of choice riffs with the beatnik coffee guru, and the “gross, creepy, evil fun” that is Zombie BBQ [$5.95]. The latter is not for the faint of heart.

Look for Yambar and his comics at a convention near you, if you’re near a convention near him. Otherwise, for information on getting his comics, write him at:

Moordam Comics
23 S. Hartford Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44509


Though my pal George Broderick, Jr. says his biggest ambition is to become one of the most beloved characters in American Folklore, it should be noted that I think of his as the best cartoonist you’ve never heard of. George does it all. He writes. He draws. He colors. He letters. He edits. He publishes. His Holy Cow Comics are among the best all-ages comic books being produced today, though they’re also filled with material older readers will appreciate as well. His annual Christmas comics are always a delight. If I were a big-time publisher, I would have collected his Christmas comics and his Holy Cow Comics a long time ago. I think they would be huge with mainstream audiences. In short, I’m a fan. Even if I were tall, I’d be a fan.

Broderick’s most recent offerings were Holy Cow Comics #12 ($4.95; featuring part three of The Quack Quack Diaries), Holy Cow Comics #13 ($4.95; featuring the adventures of Captain Awesomesauce) and The Saga of Julbock, The Christmas Goat ($8.95).

“The Quack Quack Diaries” are told in chapters of two pages each. The prose captions have has a child-like quality mixed with a bit of commentary and sass. Holy Cow Comics #12 follows Quack Quack to college and then into the job market. As always, the plucky duck’s path through life is filled with pitfalls and twists.

Captain Awesomesauce (Holy Cow Comics #13) is a gentle spook of the super-hero comics of the 1960s with a science geek who turns into a powerful hero. His billionaire employer’s daughter is crazy for the scientist, but her father despises him. Yet if our hero should reveal how he gained super-powers, his boss would claim all of the research for his company. That’s not something that should end up in the hands of the unworthy.

The Saga of Julbock is a clever Christmas adventure involving the title goat, whose life was changed when he was present at the birth of Jesus. Now sort of a self-appointed guardian of Christmas, the courageous young goat does battle with Krampus and the demon’s plan to destroy the holidays.

For information on how you can buy George’s wonderful works, visit his website
That’s all for today, my bloggy readers. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of Black Lightning Beat, the first in a series of annotations on Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. I hope you’ve read that issue because there will be spoilers.

See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 24, 2017


From the Halloween ComicFest Facebook page:

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics will be available, along with the chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!
Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these 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.

We begin...

Batman Halloween ComicFest Special Edition #1 reprints “Night of the Monster Men: Part One” from Batman #7 [November 2016]. Plotted by Steve Orlando and Tom King, scripted by Orlando, pencilled and inked by Riley Rosario, this 20-page installment was the kick-off to a six-issue serial which ran through issues of Batman, Detective Comics and Nightwing. This full-size comic book also included ads for a variety of DC graphic novels and other items.

QUALITY: When I reviewed this story arc in my “Tony’s Tips!” column at Tales of Wonder, I called it “good creepy fun,” adding:

Batman’s new “Bat-Squad” of Batwoman, Clayface and other heroes and would-be heroes is another attraction for me. More than ever, Bats has a family and, like every real family I know, they don’t always do what “dad” wants them to do. And, of course, with Clayface, we are getting a redemption story and veteran readers of my writings know what a sucker I am for them.

ACCESSIBILITY: So many characters means quite a bit of back story. While some readers who haven’t been following Batman recently may be a little lost, I thought Orlando’s script gave them enough of a leg up to enjoy the story.

SALESMANSHIP: Mostly excellent. There are 13 pages of house ads for everything from a DC Universe exhibit as part of the Warner Bros. studio tour to a selection of graphic novel to the Justice League movie. There’s even a text piece on “The Music of DC” which plugs the Wonder Woman soundtrack the two-volume “The Music of DC.” I’m adding the latter to be my holiday wish list. If there’s a blip in the salesmanship, it’s that the issue lacks an advertisement for the Monster Man graphic novel while running the ad for a different Batman graphic novel twice.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.


Boom! Box’s Some-En-Haunted Evening 2017 (digest-size; 16 pages) has an 11-page team-up of characters from Misfit City, Giant Days, Goldie Vance, Hi Fi Fight Club, Coady and the Creepies, Slam! and Lumberjanes. The story was written by Liz Prince and illustrated by Kat Levin with colors by Sarah Stern and lettering by Jim Campbell.

QUALITY: This is an entertaining story, even if I didn’t know all of the characters. They gather for a “Murder Mystery Party” which revolves around the death of a comic-book publisher.

ACCESSIBILITY: Low. I knew some of the characters, but not all of them. A new-to-these-characters reader wouldn’t have a clue as to who they all are.

SALESMANSHIP: It’s a nice treat for those readers who do know all these characters, but I don’t think there’s enough to entice a new reader into buying these comics. Even with all the logos appearing on the inside front cover. A full-page ad for Hi Fi Fight Club does not offer any helpful information as to what that comic is about. The inside back cover is an ad for Free Comic Book Day and the back cover is an ad for the second season of Stranger Things.

SCORE: Four out of ten possible points.


DC Super Hero Girls 2017 Halloween ComicFest Special Edition #1 is a full-size comic book featuring a chapter from the Past Times at Super Hero High graphic novel by Shea Fontana with artists Yancey Labat and Agnes Garbowska. The issue also features several pages of  character pin-ups and facts.

QUALITY: The DC Super Hero Girls brand is one of the best brands of the past couple decades. It’s a fresh take on classic characters, kid-friendly and, especially, girl-friendly adventures that can be enjoyed by all ages. This excerpt finds students of Super Hero High traveling into the past to study dinosaurs. The lesson does not go as planned. So far, it’s a fun story. I got a kick out of Batgirl and Harley Quinn arguing over which of them is the biggest dinosaur buff. Well written and well drawn.

ACCESSIBILITY: These classic characters are well known. Fontana’s script tells you everything you need to know to follow this story. The character-based fact pages add more back story.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. From the inside front cover ad for Build-a-Bear versions of Harley and the Joker to interior ad pages on DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels and Super Hero High prose novels, this free comic book can lead readers to more great entertainment. If they like this comic book, they’ll want the graphic novels and the prose novels. The back cover has an ad for the Justice League- themed “Battle for Metropolis” ride at Six Flags amusement parks.

SCORE: The full ten out of ten points.


Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom [Arcana] presents a new, 9-page prologue to the title story. It’s written by Bruce Brown and Sean Patrick O’Reilly with art by Renzi Podesta. O’Reilly is the CEO and Founder of Arcana, an entertainment company that produces comic books and animated cartoons and features. The earlier Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom is available on Blu-Ray and STARZ On Demand.

QUALITY: Less than I would have liked. The problem is that we don’t see young Howard until the last page of the prologue and, on that page, he’s having a restless sleep. So there’s no meaningful scene with the hero of the story.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. The inside front cover of the digest-size giveaway tells you what you need to know about Arcana and the new story. A three-page, heavily-illustrated article brings you up to speed on this version of Lovecraft and his world.

SALESMANSHIP: Decent. It does a great job selling the first Howard Lovecraft feature and this sequel, but comes up short in promoting Arcana’s other ventures.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.


The Mortal Instruments [Yen Press] is a full-size comic featuring the 32-page opening sequence from the first volume of the graphic novel adaptation of “Cassandra Clare’s bestselling urban fantasy.” The art and adaptation are by Cassandra Jean. Besides the excerpt, the only other material in the comic book is the inside back cover indicia material, which stretches out over a full page, and a back cover ad for the first volume of the graphic novel. For no reason that I can see, the inside front cover is blank.

QUALITY: Fair-to-middling. There are some decent expressions and a few nice action panels, but the storytelling is unclear during some key moments. The writing is equally lacking.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor. I had to go to Wikipedia to learn this series “follows Clary Fray, who interacts with a group of nephilim known as Shadowhunters) while discovering her own half-angel heritage. The Shadowhunters protect the world of mundane people who are also called ‘mundies’ from dark forces from beyond their world.”

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. Apparently, The Mortal Instruments consists of six very popular young adult novels (not advertised in this comic), a 2013 movie that didn’t perform well and a TV series which has run for two seasons and been renewed for a third (also not advertised in this comic book). That blank inside front cover could have been used to give new readers a leg-up into what seems to be an ongoing story of some complexity.

SCORE: Two out of ten points.


Stitched by creator/writer/editor Marian McCourt with artist Aaron Alexovich is the first of two Papercutz comics that were available for Halloween ComicFest. The digest-size book features the first 12 pages of Stitched: The First Day of the Rest of Her Life, the first graphic novel in the series.

QUALITY: McCourt’s writing is good. Alexovich’s art is quite fluid and interesting. In this excerpt, we meet patchwork girl Crimson. Between the inside front cover background of the series and these pages, we learn enough about her to want us to learn more.

ACCESSIBILITY: Top marks for editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup’s inside front cover remarks. He gives readers the basics on both Stitched and Hotel Transylvania in a breezy, inviting style. For me, it is always fun to see a fellow “son of Stan Lee” utilizing the skills we learned at the feet of the Man.

SALESMANSHIP: Salicrup’s opening remarks to double duty here. Not only do we learn a lot about Stitched, but he makes us interested in buying the full graphic novel.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

There will be four more installments of these Halloween ComicFest reviews. I hope to post them all before the end of the year. Come back tomorrow for a look at the swag I picked up at the 2017 Akron Comicon. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella