Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands has completed its six-issue run. In this kind of  exit interview, I’m answering questions  that have been sent to me by the readers.

First up is Peter Crighton. He asks:  

Do you believe that the big comic-book companies are treating their writers and artists better today than in decades past?

Confining my answer to the Big Two (DC and Marvel), I believe that, overall, those publishers are treating creators better today than in the previous history of the comics industry. They don’t always get it right, but I think the folks in charge honestly want to do better by the creators. They don’t always know how.

The history of the comics history is a sad history of the creators being screwed over by publishers, editors and even fellow creators. Fixing that is going to be a long and slow learning curve. Of late, I try to avoid getting angry and, instead, poke, mock and attempt to tell the companies when they fail and how they can do better in the future.

I believe this is smart business. You’ll get better work out of the creators when they feel properly compensated and respected. Sadly, this may not be the case for all creators. But the goal should be to treat all creators better.

Jon Johnson asked:

Given your druthers, would you prefer to write the earlier, pre- New 52 version of Black Lightning or the current redo?

That’s easy. The current version, which shouldn’t surprise anyone as I was the guy who developed it. My aim was to create a modern version of the Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce that still had the same core values as my earlier versions...and to use that as a way of doing things I had never done with the earlier versions. I know a few readers object to my recasting his daughters as his cousins. Since my new version has never been married, that was a necessary change. If I get to write more Black Lightning comics, you will see the cousins grow and mature into characters as laudable as their TV counterparts.

Cathy Sullins asked:

What will be Jennifer's super-hero name? I hope it’s not Lightning. I hope it’s something else, something more original.

I have never given this a moment’s thought. In my mind, her super-hero name will, indeed, be Lightning. I like the legacy aspect of that. I like how it looks and sounds with her sister’s super-hero name. Thunder and Lightning. If it’s up to me, she’ll be Lightning.

This reminds me of when a comics artist got on my case about Black Lightning’s name. He wanted to change it to Bolt. Which I thought then and still think now is a really dull name compared to the name Jefferson has used so proudly for four decades.

Jason Simpson wrote:

I thought Cold Dead Hands was one of the most nuanced and balanced examination of gun violence in fiction while still being a great superhero story.  Did you do a lot of research into gun violence or talk with police about dealing with guns?

Thanks for the kind words, Jason.

I have been researching gun violence for years and also researching police violence towards minorities. When I wrote my second Black Lightning series in 1995, I was given amazing access to the police of that time. The majority of them were good cops who truly wanted to serve the people. I learned a lot from them.

This time around, I had no such access. Over the past two decades, many police officers - including good cops - have bought into the destructive “them versus us” mentality. Good cops do not hold bad cops accountable...and that’s something that needs to change if we are have any chance of improving the current situation.

The usual alt.right morons have tried to frame Cold Dead Hands as an “anti-cop” comic and gone to ridiculous lengths to make a case for that. They have failed miserably because the series is exactly what I intended it to be in this regard.

There are good cops and there are bad cops. There are cops trying to figure out who they are. And, contributing to the violence on all sides, soulless gun manufactures use the National Rifle Association as a means to ratchet up both civilian and police fear and thus increase their blood-stained profits.

Naresh Sundaraman gets the last question:

If DC Comics asks you to write another Black Lightning series, who will be the villain?

That’s not a question I can answer simply. If DC wants me to write more Black Lightning series, my choice of villain would depend on the format. Is it another mini-series? Is it an ongoing series? Is it a one-off graphic novel?

In my pitch for an ongoing series, I have story lines involving existing villains, re-imagined villains and brand-new villains. I hope I get the chance to use them all.

That’s it for the Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands questions. Now that the first season of the Black Lightning TV show has concluded in such magnificent fashion, I will start taking your questions on that. I prefer you e-mail your questions to me, but you can also private message them to me on Facebook and Twitter.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

JULY 1963: CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? #7


Fantastic Four Annual #1 hit the newsstands in July, 1963. It was that extraordinary issue that inspired me to write comic books as my career. In honor of that pivotal moment in my life, I’m collecting, reading and writing about every one of the 136 issues released in that month. My first twenty columns in this series are available in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One [Pulp Hero Press; $17.95]. The trade paperback contains revised versions of the columns that appeared in this bloggy thing as well additional material giving readers a glimpse into the world of 1963. My quest continues...

Car 54, Where Are You? #7 [September-November 1963] was yet another licensed comic book published by Dell. The most successful licenses - Bugs Bunny and friends, Mickey Mouse and friends, Little Lulu, Lone Ranger, Tarzan and others - remained with Western Publishing, Dell’s former partner, who continued publishing them under the Gold Key label.

Car 54, Where Are You? was a sitcom on NBC from 1961 to 1963. Its lead characters were  New York Police Department officers Gunther Toody [played by Joe E. Ross] and Francis Muldoon [Fred Gwynne]. They were assigned Patrol Car 54 in the fictional 53rd precinct of the Bronx. I remember watching the show, albeit not faithfully. I have a vague memory my father enjoyed it, which is probably why it was on our family’s black-and-white TV set. Obviously, the cover is a publicity photo from the show with Gwynne on the left and Ross on the right.

The inside front cover of this issue presents “Maid to Measure,” a single page gag strip in which a meter maid asks Muldoon and Toody for assistance. Impressed by the woman’s attention to detail, they are quick to help...to their chagrined regret. The Grand Comics Database credits the pencils and inks on this page to the prolific Tony Tallarico. The writer has not yet been identified.

Tallarico’s work was inconsistent from job to job, which, perhaps, is the result of his being so prolific. But his art for this issue is solid throughout. Good storytelling, nice action and excellent likenesses of Ross and Gwynne.

“Memories” (27 pages) by writer Don Segall with art by Tallarico finds partners Toody and Muldoon demanding transfers after a spat about who made who late for work. Segall wrote for both radio and TV while also writing comic books for Dell. He wrote stories for a few other publishers as well, but the vast majority of comics work was for Dell.

Toody’s wife and Muldoon’s friends try to bring the partners back together by reminding them of the good times they’ve had together. Those good times include Toody going on an exercise binge; Toody’s wife playing matchmaker for Muldoon; the boys trying to get out of cleaning Toody’s living room; and their nervous investigation of a haunted house that reveals a crooked card game. That’s the extent of their policing in these memories: they bust a crooked card game. But, you know, it’s a fun story with lively art and funny writing. It makes me want to read the other issues in the series.

“The Jealous Cat” was a one-page prose story, author unknown. The story tells of pampered cat Jupiter whose life is upended when his family gets a puppy: Vincent. Before long, Vincent is getting more of the table scraps. When Vincent gets bigger, he gets the really nice space under the steps. Jupiter is unhappy. He spends most of his time in the backyard, coming into the house only for food and warmth. Until the day when Jupiter is surrounded by invading dogs and Vincent comes to his rescue. The two have finally bonded and walk into the house side-by-side.

Tommy Trouble is the back-up this issue. As has been mentioned in previous chapters, to qualify for second-class postage, Dell has to run a feature not related to the title feature. Tommy is “a normal, active boy who lives in the city and city children are sometimes very cramped for playing room. So Tommy is always getting himself into some thing of difficulty while trying to have fun. And that’s how he got his nickname.”

“The Delivery” (4 pages) was by Segall with art by Tallarico. We’re shown an example of his trouble - his bicycle hits a garbage can, knocking into a passing automobile - and then get down to the main story.

Hired by Miller’s grocery to make deliveries, Tommy does amazingly well at the job. Given a key to Mrs. Korp’s apartment to deliver groceries while she’s out, he unknowingly interrupts a burglar in the middle of robbing the place. The robber hides in the closet and that’s when the “trouble” starts.

Tommy tosses a ball for Tiger, Mrs. Korp’s dog. The ball goes into the closet, but Tommy thinks it rolled under the bureau. He moves the bureau and traps the burglar in the closet.

Mrs. Korp comes home and hears the burglar trying to get out. She tells Tommy to keep the bureau in place while she calls the police. Grocer Miller shows up as the cops are taking the burglar away and praises Tommy as the best delivery boy he ever had. Tommy gets the last line:

But I sure never expected to deliver a burglar!!

This seems to have been Tommy Trouble’s only appearance. But, like the rest of this issue, it was fun. Car 54, Where Are You? is most definitely an underrated title of the era.

The inside back cover is “147 Famous Automobiles” ad we’ve talked about previously. The back cover is Wallace Brown trying to recruit salespeople for its Christmas cards.

Batman’s back in the next installment of “July 1963,” which will be posted soon. In the meantime, please come back tomorrow for more cool bloggy thing stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


This weekend, I’ll be appearing at the East Coast Comicon, April 27-28, at the Meadowlands Convention Center in New Jersey. You can read about it in this recent bloggy thing and then get more details at the event’s website.

Much to my regret, I have dropped G-Fest, the annual Godzilla event, from my schedule. It’s one of my favorite shows, but, financially, I just can’t swing it this year. I hope to return in 2019 and many years afterwards.

I’m not listing San Diego's Comic-Con International as even tentative this year. That show is just too expensive for me to do unless my expenses are covered by a client, the convention or I win an award. None of those are likely to happen.

Here’s the schedule as it currently stands. I’ve added a couple of my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales to the schedule and will doubtless add more as the summer progresses.

Friday, April 27: East Coast Comicon

Saturday, April 28: East Coast Comicon

Sunday, April 29: East Coast Comicon

Saturday, May 5: Toys Time Forgot (FCBD)

Friday, May 11: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Saturday, May 12: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Friday, May 18: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Saturday, May 19: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Saturday, May 26: Cherry Capital Comic Con

Sunday, May 27: Cherry Capital Comic Con

Friday, June 1: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Saturday, June 2: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Friday, June 8: Fingerlakes Comic Con

Saturday, June 9: Fingerlakes Comic Con

Sunday, June 10: Fingerlakes Comic Con

Friday, June 15: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Saturday, June 16: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Friday, June 22: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Saturday, June 23: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Friday, June 29: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Saturday, June 30: Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale

Friday, August 17: TerrifiCon (Connecticut)

Saturday, August 18: TerrifiCon (Connecticut)

Sunday, August 19: NEO Comic Con (North Olmsted)

Saturday, September 8: Hall of Heroes Museum

Sunday, September 9: Hall of Heroes Museum

Friday, September 28: Baltimore Comic Con

Saturday, September 29: Baltimore Comic Con

Sunday, September 30: Baltimore Comic Con

Saturday, November 3: Akron Comicon

Sunday, November 4: Akron Comicon

Friday, November 9: Grand Rapids Comic Con

Saturday, November 10: Grand Rapids Comic Con

Sunday, November 11: Grand Rapids Comic Con

Saturday, November 17: Great American Comic Convention (Las Vegas)

Sunday, November 18: Great American Comic Convention (Las Vegas)

The astute among you will see I have only one convention appearance in June, none in July, one in August and none in October. I would be willing to add events in those months.

If you’re a convention promoter who’d like to have me as a guest at their event, e-mail me. I’ll e-mail you back with the requirements for making me part of your convention.

That’s all for now. I’m working on several different bloggy things at once. As each is finished, it will be posted.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 23, 2018


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Black Lightning Season One on Blu-ray and DVD; Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay; The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl ; and a special issue of Roy Thomas' Alter Ego!

Sunday, April 22, 2018



In going through my files, I have started coming across a variety of pitches I sent to publishers over the years. Some date back to before I start working in comics professionally. I thought my bloggy readers might enjoy seeing these concepts that didn’t go any further than my initial pitches. Since “never say never” is kind of a mantra of mine, I won’t entirely rule out by revisiting them in the future, but, for now, I have no plans for them.

COUNT VARGA, VAMPIRE was an idea I pitched to my dear friend Larry Lieber during the brief existence of Atlas Comics in the 1970s. I loved working with Larry, but, alas, both Atlas and my time in New York came to a close before the end of 1976.

Here’s the pitch, which was written in 1974:

One of Marvel’s most successful books is TOMB OF DRACULA. One of the more successful monster movies of late was a film called COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE, featuring a modern-day blood-stalker on the loose in Los Angeles.


Count Varga is at once a traditional vampire and a departure from  previous depictions of the vampire. He’s a very modern-day vampire. While Marvel’s Dracula looks archaic despite its modern setting, Count Yorga will be set in downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and other 1974 locales.

Count Varga is a youngish vampire, between 25-30 years old. An American, he becomes inflicted with the curse of the vampire while visiting his ancestral home in Transylvania. His greedy purpose in visiting the site was to prove his claim on the ancient family fortunes, having squandered away a similar fortune in the United States. He’s bitten, dies and returns as a vampire. But he is not at all displeased with this.

Varga sees his vampiric condition as a chance to gain greater power and wealth than he’d ever thought possible. He plans to use his powers towards this end.

That’s the departure. As for tradition:
Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Varga will be able to appear during the day. He just doesn’t have his powers during the daylight hours. He’ll have all the traditional powers of the vampire during the night, including several Dracula doesn’t use over at Marvel. Such as the ability to become a rat or a wolf, control of the elements, etc. In short, he’ll be more than a match for the world he will be plotting to conquer.

As far as supporting characters go, we’ll have a variety of people in exciting professions to choose from. California is full of cool jobs and cool people. I would think our Count would have several regularly featured servants and friends. Maybe some of his friends would not know he’s a vampire. These can be created when we begin actual work on the series.

Protagonists for Count Varga?

I can think of several. A detective investigating some vampire-inflicted deaths. A cult of witches who oppose Varga because they want to gain power themselves. A reporter snooping into Varga’s past. And so on.

With the right artist and mood, we can have a top-seller.
My hazy memory is that I wrote the above pitch and then brought it to Larry. We spent a couple late hours in the Atlas offices during that period. Sometimes I’d help him with cover copy. Sometimes we would talk over ideas and Larry would sketch them out. He drew the Count Varga sketch shown above.

Though Count Varga is clearly derivative, that was something comics publishers always looked for. Few of them wanted to be the first to publish a successful concept. They wanted to be the second. A year later, while I was at DC, I sold the company on several new titles by framing them as “DC’s version of fill in name of Marvel title." I didn't stick around DC long enough to do them for reasons you can probably figure out.

In the case of Varga, I was a great admirer of Marv Wolfman’s work on Tomb of Dracula. I had written some Dracula stories for Dracula Lives! I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could hold my own working Marv’s side of the street.

I own Count Varga, Vampire. Maybe I’ll...excuse me...revamp him for another shot at the big time someday. Only time will tell.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff, but I have no idea what that stuff will be. I’ve got several bloggy things in the works and it will depend on which is closest to completion. But, whatever shows up here, I hope you’ll stop by to check it out.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Saturday, April 21, 2018



In going through my files, I have started coming across a variety of pitches I sent to publishers over the years. Some date back to before I start working in comics professionally.

I thought my bloggy readers might enjoy seeing these concepts that didn’t go further than my original pitches. Since “never say never” is a mantra of mine, I won’t entirely rule out by revisiting them in the future, but, for now, I have no plans for them.

That’s probably a good thing in the case of today’s first attempt. Near as I can figure, this story synopsis is from 1971 or 1972. I had been corresponding with and chatting on the phone with Roy Thomas. At the time, I was working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a copy assistant who very occasionally wrote something for the newspaper. Roy invited me to pitch a Conan plot, which, if it met his liking, he would buy and then script.

I was neither a Conan expert nor a big fan of sword-and-sorcery. I had read the Conan paperbacks published by Lancer. I had enjoyed a few of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. I was a big fan of Roy’s Conan comic books.

This was during the “social relevance” phase comics went through in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Somehow, I convinced myself that I could do “social relevance” in Conan. Now I absolutely believe that is possible. It just wasn’t something I could do back then.

I give you the Conan story I moronically called...


A flash of mortal lightning crosses the Hyborean plains, some hell-bound warrior off to meet his destiny. Dressed in the silver and silk and gold of far Hyrkania, the rider pushes his whimpering mount beyond its endurance. Yet it continues. The rider seems to be unfeeling, as if he had no soul. And, indeed, he does not!

What is friendship in the barbaric era between the sinking of fables Atlantis and the dawning of recorded history? The man that wields a strong sword and does not run it through you when the act would benefit him is, indeed, a friend. And also a fool.

But even a fool deserves proper honors on his death. And the Cimmerian youth Conan has paused in his travels along the Hyborean  highways to pay his late Gunderman companion his due respects. In the inn of Balik along the Road of Kings, Conan quaffs his ale and feasts on roasted pig, giving proper respect to Nestor even as his memory floats away.

Conan’s gluttony angers a Kothian thief who, no doubt, covets the barbarian’s rich purse, the gift of a grateful Corinthian aristocrat. Though unsure whether he fights one foe or many - Conan is not used to strong Hyborean brew - the young barbarian thinks he must teach these civilized dogs proper respect for the dead and for fine Brythunian steel.

Conan rises from his table and stares through the clouded ale he has been drinking. His foe and all the other customers of this inn, as well as the inhabitants, are unmoving as statues. A curse escapes from Conan’s lips as a devilishly cold breeze barely lands on his broad shoulders. He turns...

A man stands before Conan. He is elderly, but the man’s form leaves no doubt as the power of those old limbs. He is garbed in the finest silk, embroidered with ancient symbols. The man has but to glance at Conan’s arm and Conan finds himself lowering that fine sword of his.

The newcomer is a wizard from far-off Khitai. That Conan can grasp through his intoxicated stupor. The wizard wishes to hire the young Cimmerian for a single mission and he offers a bag of gold besides which Conan’s own pales into nothingness. Conan, confused by that fine beverage of Balak’s and tempted by the wealth that the wizard offers, forgets his natural aversion to sorcerers and accepts. As he does so, he is struck by strange images. The wizard’s voice is forming these images into a tale of sorcery and of doom.

The wizard’s story:

In far-off Khitai, two powerful wizards live. Unlike wizards elsewhere, they do not battle for each other’s lands. The wizards, Philcon and Marcon, are father and son. They are content to exist in this world without exercising their great powers except to provide for themselves and occasionally aid a mortal towards a well-deserved prize or an equally deserved doom. They have existed for longer than either of them can remember.

But Philcon feels the weight of the ages creeping up on a mortal frame that should have broken centuries ago. He does not fear death, but can not bear for life to go on without him. Perhaps he has been driven mad by the weight that crushes him, but he has put into operation a plan to doom the world in the near future.

Philcon has exacted a frightening payment for past favors from a young Hyrkanian noble. He has intertwined their souls and given the young man a fearsome mission. Placed on a beast that will not stop galloping until the mission of completed, the young Hyrkanian sets off for the Western Sea. When he reaches that world-spanning body of water, he will pour a mystic potion into it.

The vile potion will immediately begin its grim work. It can poison the tiniest forms of life in the sea almost immediately and these will, in turn, poison the larger forms of life, including Man! The floating dead will poison the actual waters. The dead waters will poison the land wherever it touches it. And, in turn, these poisoned lands shall cover the entire earth. Within a mere matter of a hundred years, the earth will be dead.

The wizard’s story concludes with a final image of the purple sunset over the Hyborean plains and the grim rider who speeds ever closer to the Western Sea.

Conan, a simple man, can not understand this talk of destruction coming from an ocean he has never seen. He can not quite get the notion of men living hundreds of years into his skull. But he can understand the gold that the wizard offers him. For such gold, he could kill a thousand men. The wizard asks that he but stop one man. Conan agrees.

The inn fades from view. Conan finds himself on his own strange steed and with the bag of wealth tied around his belt. He notices, somewhat incredulously, that he is traveling the same plain that the rider was crossing in the visions Marcon showed him. And, lifting his eyes, he sees the rider about a thousand yards ahead of him.

The race. Conan’s mount travels faster the Cimmerian is willing to accept as possible. Conan notes in passing that he can no longer feel the effects of the large quantities of alcohol he’d consumed, but dismisses it almost immediately to concentrate on the problem at hand. Any wizard worth his salt can cure a hangover. The problem at had seems much more serious. Conan is hard pressed to catch up with the rider of Philcon.

Spotting a fork in the road and remembering that it will gain him precious time when it again intersects the plain, Conan pushes his mount down it. When he emerges, he is racing neck and neck with the rider of Philcon. There is no way for Conan to half the other horse. Taking a moment to gauge the distance, Conan leaps off his horse, taking the young Hyrkanian to the ground with him. The rider and Conan both jump to their feet almost immediately, hands on their sword hilts.

The young Hyrkanian looks at Conan in puzzlement. Then, as powerful Philcon correctly assesses the situation, the young noble grasps his sword to kill the barbarian. The sword of Conan is also quick to enter the fray. The Cimmerian does not want to kill this young man, but the battle has come down to a basic point. One of them is to die if the other is to live. Conan, his mind his own, quickly gains the advantage and deals the Hyrkanian a mortal blow.

The Hyrkanian lies slumped against a tree and whispers a single name - Noree - into the wind before life departs.

In Khitai, Philcon lies dead, his body rapidly decaying.

From his own castle in Khitai, Marcon looks upon all this and shrugs his shoulders. His father was dead and that was indeed the major tragedy of this episode. The young Hyrkanian was also to be mourned, but such was the fate of all mortals. As for Conan...

Conan has saved the future, though he did not know it. As he would have never saved the future without Marcon's help - and Marcon notes Conan would have a particularly bright future - the wizard decides he deserves the gold more than the barbarian.

Surveying the scene, Conan grunts and feels for the wealth he had tied around his waist. It was gone. He cursed. He should have known better than to trust a wizard. The Cimmerian decides to rummage through his foe’s possession for something saleable. All he finds is a small vial of some liquid. He sniffs at the vial and finds it noxious stuff indeed. Cursing again, he hurls it at a tree. And his heart freezes.

For the minute the liquid had touched the tree, the tree withered and decayed.

Having retyped the above for today’s bloggy thing, I find I like it more than I remembered. Oh, it still has some pretty dumb stuff in it - like the names of the wizards - but it also has a couple of interesting moments and visuals. Maybe I will do something with it someday. What do you think?

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. Most likely some reviews. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


My next convention appearance will be at the extraordinary East Coast Comicon, Friday through Sunday, April 27-29, at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in New Jersey. This will be my first convention anywhere close to New York City in nearly a decade.

The hours of the show are Friday, 2-8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 6 pm. There is free parking at the exposition center.

Though there will be cosplay at the convention, the event asks that you do not bring any weapons real or fake to proceedings. Do not bring spears, bats, knives, swords, staffs, or any other items blunt or pointed.

The brainchild of Cliff Galbraith, East Coast Comicon prides itself on being focused on comics. From its website:

We make comics, collect comics, and deal in rare underground comix, so we thought we’d like to make a con that embodied our sensibilities. As the major conventions grow exponentially, but focus less on comics, we felt a good old-fashioned con with a strong emphasis on comics was needed.
The comics (and media) guest list is impressive. Listing them all would make today’s bloggy way too long, but I am looking forward to seeing old friends like Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Larry Hama, Jim Salicrup, Larry Lieber, Joe Sinnott, Jim Starlin, Billy Tucci and Wendy and Richard Pini. There are also a bunch of comics guests I know in passing and whose work I admire. I’m hoping to meet them and get to know them better.

Among the media guests: animator and artist Kevin Altieri; Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees and Mega-Python Versus Gatoroid, appearing with the Monkee Mobile from the former; actress Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie and is appearing with the 1966 Batmobile; producer and director J.J. Sedelmaier; and Larry Storch from F Troop. For a complete list of the guests, comics and media, check out the East Coast Comicon website.

There will be panel discussions throughout the weekend. On Saturday at 3 pm, you can attend “Tony Isabella, Black Lightning and More.” From the convention website:

Black Lightning is currently the star of the hit CW television series starring Cress Williams, but the story behind his 40-year journey to primetime might be even more exciting. Created by writer Tony Isabella with artist Trevor Von Eeden in 1977, Black Lightning was DC Comics’ first black character to headline his own book. Isabella will discuss creating Black Lightning in the 1970s, reviving the character in the 1990s, and returning to him today in the miniseries Cold Dead Hands. What’s next for Black Lightning? Find out here! Moderated by John Trumbull, writer for BACK ISSUE magazine and atomicjunkshop.com.

I will do my best to answer questions entertainingly and honestly, but keep in mind that there will be questions I can’t answer due to non-disclosure agreements and just plain common courtesy and sense. Trust me; it’ll still be a fun and informative hour.

In addition to the panel discussions, East Coast Comicon fans will find an exhibitors room packed with great stuff, cosplay, gaming, meet and greets, photo ops and more. I’m hoping to see as much of this as humanly possible.

I’ll have a booth or table somewhere at the convention. Since I’m flying to the convention, that limits what I can bring to sell at the event. Currently, I’m planning to bring Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1-6; the Black Lightning trade paperbacks; July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume 1; two special Black Lightning posters; and mini-posters of Daredevil and Luke Cage. I will be charging for my signature and some photos at this convention, but you can still get one free signature from me, free signatures on any item you buy from me, and free photos as long as they are not of me signing or holding up an item that I’ve signed. For more details, read my signature policy.

I’m looking forward to meeting the fans at the East Coast Comicon. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 19, 2018



Fantastic Four Annual #1 hit the newsstands in July, 1963. It was that extraordinary issue that inspired me to want to write comic books as my career. In honor of that pivotal moment in my life, I’m collecting,  reading and writing about every one of the 136 issues released in that month. My first twenty columns in this series are available in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One [Pulp Hero Press; $17.95]. The trade paperback contains revised versions of the columns that appeared in this bloggy thing as well additional material giving readers a glimpse into the world of 1963. My quest continues...

Brain Boy #6 [September-November 1963] was published by Dell, just another short-lived comics title from the company after its split with Western. The bulk of the profitable licensed features remained with Dell’s former partner, who continued publishing them under the Gold Key label.

Brain Boy first appeared in Dell’s Four Color Comics #1330 in 1962. Created by Herb Castle and Gil Kane, the title continued with issues #2-6. In 2013, Dark Horse revived the character for an even more short-lived run.

Brain Boy is Matt Price. His mother was pregnant with him when she and his dad crashed into an electrical tower. Dad died. Mom birthed a mutant with powers: telepathy, levitation, mind-control. He was recruited by another telepath and went to work for one of the many secret government agencies found in comic books from probably every comics publisher there ever was.

Vic Prezio painted the cover of this issue. The prolific Prezio did covers for Dell’s comics, a few for Warren’s black-and-white horror magazines and a great many for what we used to call men’s adventure magazines. The woman in the water would have been at home on one of the men’s adventure mags, though she would likely be menaced by a Nazi torturer or some such.

The inside front cover has “Escape,” a single -page science-fiction  drawn by Frank Springer. A man who wanted to get away from people crash lands on Mars. He figures that, at least, he won’t have to be around people. When he steps from the space ship, he cries out in horror, “No...no...people...the whole universe is full of people! There’s no escape...” Someone needs a hug...or not.

Brain Boy stars in “The Mindless Ones” by Castle with art by Frank Springer. The 27-page story has Matt’s boss ordering him to go on vacation after handling five of their agency’s most difficult cases over the past two years. Matt is totally on board with this order. He drives to the little town of Bondocks in the Canadian backwoods for fishing, hiking and sleeping.

Things get weird as soon as he gets close to the town. Asking a man for directions to the Blue Lake Lodge, he gets a rave review of the lake with the entreaty that he swim in said lake. The man speaks in a dull voice and shows no expression

When Matt asks the same of a pretty young woman and her younger brother, he’s answered with the same dull voices and the same lack of expression. But the woman offers to show him how to get to the lake in exchange for a ride.

A fallen log blocks the road. Then Matt watches as a weird funeral in the woods goes by. Grabbed by two pallbearers, he learns they’d blocked the road on purpose. Adopting the dull manner and voice of these odd people, he convinces them that he’s on his way to swim in the lake. They clears the way for him.

Once Matt gets to the Lodge, everyone is most interested in getting him in the lake as soon as possible. He puts them off and meets the loutish Carl Cherman, also a stranger to this place. The beautiful young woman Matt had met earlier has no trouble getting Cherman to join her for a swim in the lake.

Swimming in the lake turns out to be more of a demand than a polite suggestion. Cherman quickly becomes like the others and tries to pull Matt into the lake. Matt decks him.

Trying to row away, Matt is confronted by the unsettling sight of the entire town in the lake. He barely escapes, but they soon catch him and force him to go swimming. Something in the lake attempts to take control of Matt’s mind. He resists, but pretends to be under the control of that something.

That something are microscopic aliens who arrived in a meteor-like ball of metal. They need the townspeople to take them to the lake as part of their plan to conquer the Earth.

After trying dozens of poisons on the lake water, Matt lucks into the answer. Electricity kills the aliens. All it takes is a radio and an absurdly long electrical cord. The townspeople wake up from the mind control with no idea of why they are all at the lake or who Matt is.

Going back to the spaceship, Matt knows he must destroy the rest of the aliens before they can infect any other humans. Sensing Matt is near them, the aliens all leave the ship in a thick spray only to miss Matt entirely. Since they can’t live outside of water or the human bloodstream, they all die. An exhausted Matt falls asleep and vows to take no more vacations.

This is a quietly chilling story, made all the more so by the mind-controlled humans and settings being so mundane. With or without Brain Boy, it would have made a terrific horror movie in the 1960s.

“The Devil Worshiper” is a single-page prose story by an unknown writer. A young man comes to a German village near the Black Forest wanting to buy land for a store. An old man tells him the location he wants is cursed and explains his comment:

Many years prior, a ambitious but poor young man made a deal with the devil for the land and the money to open a store. On the man’s chest, the devil seared the words “Mr. Devil” and “Till Death Us Two Join!”

The young man built a fabulous store and became rich. Worried about the fate of his soul, he burned the store to the ground and threw away all his money. The old man is that young man. The would-be entrepreneur laughs:

“And if I examine your chest, I’ll see the name is gone and you’re free of the Devil, right? How stupid do you think I am to believe a child’s fairy tale!”

The old man opens his shirt and offers to sell his land. Which is when the visitor runs away and never returns to the village.

There’s a good reason I never read many of these prose stories back in 1963. The vast majority of them were as bad as this one.

The Strange Mr. Ozimandias was a back-up series unrelated to Brain Boy. These short comics stories were included in Dell and Gold Key comics to qualify them for second class mailing. “Devil’s Acres’ is drawn by Springer, but the writer of this four-page story has not been identified at this time.

Mike Ozimandias studied at a Tibetan lamasery and earned a red dot on his forehead, said to be the sign of the master. Vacationing at the remote backwoods summer home of a friend, Mike - that really is his name - sees a neighbor performing “the fertility rite of blood and growth” to turn his barren land into lush prime land. If this works, the man will buy every cheap piece of desert he can and do the same with them.

Mike warns him of the danger. The neighbor doesn’t care and pulls a gun on Ozimandias. Before their startled eyes, foliage begins to burst through the barren soil.

Mike races to the city to find a counter-spell. He succeeds, but, when he returns to the backwoods, the primitive foliage has grown to deadly proportions. The neighbor dies before the deadly plants are destroyed.

“Devil’s Acres” is has an incredibly wordy script. Even with all of that dialogue, the story still feels crammed into its four pages. As for Mike Ozimandias, he comes off like a third-rate imitation of Ibis the Invincible and other turbaned magicians of the comics and movies. Not a great piece of work.

The inside back cover ad offers 147 Famous Automobiles for $1.98. Made of pure plastic styrene, the cars come in a special garage box for easy storage. Buyers would get three each of 49 models, among them a 1915 Buick, a 1930 Cord, a 1943 Nash, a 1949 Hudson, a 1958 Ford Thunderbird and more.

The back cover was a Wallace Brown ad seeking salespeople to sell their Christmas cards and more. If you know 20 people, the company claims, you can make at least $50 and more likely $100 to $200 in your spare time. Gee, I have nearly 5000 Facebook friends. I could become a millionaire!

I hope you’re enjoying my “July 1963" bloggy things as much as I’m enjoying tracking down these old comes, reading them and writing about them. Look for another installment of this series in the very near future. 

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I post today’s bloggy thing with some trepidation. But, this being the age of anonymous trolls and downright silly rumormongers, and having heard some shit several times over the past couple weeks, I want to make something as clear as I possibly can.

I’m not under exclusive contract to any client or publisher. I've made no secret of what I’d most like to write next, but, while I am hoping/wanting for that to happen...


If you're an editor or publisher who has read Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands and who doesn't think I would be a great hire...

If you're an editor, publisher, movie or TV maker who's seen the  Black Lightning TV series, a terrific series that would not exist without me, and who doesn't think I would be a great hire...

If you're an editor, publisher, movie maker, TV maker, convention organizer or educator who has read what I’ve written over the past 45 years, seen my tireless dedication to promoting terrific stuff, doing publicity for terrific stuff, entertaining fans and educating students and who doesn't think you want me on your team...

...I literally don't know what to say to you. You leave me utterly baffled.

I have a whole lot of productive years ahead of me. There is much more in the creative well that birthed Black Lightning. Yes, I have hundreds of personal projects I’m working on. I may even make those projects available to editors, publishers, movie and TV makers if I’m offered acceptable terms. But most of these projects won't pay off for a while. Hence this message.

I'm available for and interested in accepting paying work that’s challenging, fun or worthwhile. All three would be wonderful.

For those of you out there would mock this message from underneath the bridges you call home or call me crass/desperate for putting it out in public, save it. I'm guessing that, in almost every case, I have accomplished much more while entertaining many more readers in my career than you have in your lifetime of delusional fantasies of having such a career.

I do great work with clean hands, a good heart and a dedication to my craft. I would love to work with someone like me. 
This bloggy thing is a “no bullshit” zone. Always has been. Always will be. That’s all I have to say today.

Interested parties should e-mail me. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible and, with me, a lot is possible.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Werewolf by Night Omnibus, nearly 1200 pages of 1970s comics and features by Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Don Perlin, Mike Ploog and others; Bingo Love by Tee Franklin with artist Jenn St-Onge; and Rashomon: A Commissioner Heigo Kobayashi Case by Victor Santos!

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands has concluded. While I’m waiting to see if I’ll be writing more Black Lightning comic books, I thought  I’d do a kind of sort of “exit interview” with my readers. For the foreseeable future, I won’t be doing any interviews, live chats or podcasts - maybe not even at conventions - so I wanted to give you a chance to ask me questions about the six-issue series. I put out the call for questions on Facebook.

We begin with this from Alex Harsani:

There was an Anissa in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. She wasn’t Jefferson’s daughter but a student. What made you do this huge change of her character and do you plan to use her in possible second volume, maybe even as Thunder? Or maybe this is not even THE Anissa but only a random girl with the same name?

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands is a reboot of the character. Told I could do whatever I wanted for this series, I decided I wanted to do things with the character I’ve never done before. For example, this Jeff is much younger than previous versions and isn’t married. That ruled out him having a daughter.

However, I like the characters of Thunder and Lightning. So I made them Jeff’s cousins. I mentioned or showed that they have powers, but also made it clear they are not ready to become super-heroes at this time.

I do have plans for the young ladies if I get to write new stories of Black Lightning. Though my Anissa and Jennifer are younger than those on the TV series, I’m inspired by the magnificent portrayals of them by China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams.

Next up are multiple questions from Brock Brisbane:

Has Bryan Hill contacted you regarding his interpretation of Black Lightning in his coming Detective Comics arc and presumed spin-off Outsiders series?


Has anyone mentioned reintroducing Jefferson’s daughters into the DCU, though neither Flash's Vibe or Supergirl's Martian Manhunter had any comic appearances?

No. But, as I answered above, in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, Anissa and Jennifer are his cousins. At this time, I’ve no reason to believe Cold Dead Hands doesn’t represent the new continuity for my creation.

Have you outlined a subsequent mini series arc?

I have pitched an ongoing Black Lightning series, though it could be split into various mini-series if that’s what DC decided would work best with its publishing plans.
Our next batch of questions come from Adam Holmberg:

Do you have a single favorite issue? Why is it a favorite?

Every issue has at least some favorite things in it. Some days, I think issue #3 is the best because it emphasized so many important personal (for the characters) and social issues. The scene in that issue where we learn so many surprising things about Usagi is one of my favorites, possibly because it literally came out of nowhere. I was writing the page and - boom - all of a sudden I saw Usagi in a different light and rolled with it.

Overall, whenever I got the chance to show how smart Jefferson was, those were favorite moments for me. I’d been telling people that he was the smartest Black Lightning ever. Those scenes - when he lets the cops handle the drug dealer on the school football field, when he shows he’s as smart or smarter than Tobias Whale - those scenes are a large part of why I wanted to throw out the past continuity and do new things with the character.

How much input did you have into the selection of Clayton Henry as artist? What did he bring to the series you liked most, especially in contrast to Trevor von Eeden and Eddy Newell?

We considered a lot of artists, but I think it was Jim Chadwick who recruited Clayton. I was familiar with his work and thought he was a great choice. What he brought to the series was the ability to do both the action stuff and the human drama stuff. Only an artist who could do both would have been right for this series.

It’s unfair to compare Trevor with Eddy or Clayton. He was a young and experienced kid. He had enthusiasm and talent, which is why we got such good work out of him. But, back then, he wasn’t really in the same league as Eddy or Clayton. Today, well, he was the first artist I suggested for Cold Dead Hands. That didn’t happen because there was bad blood between DC and him. Maybe someday he and I will get a chance to work together again.

Eddy was and remains one of my favorite artists. We were in sync on what my 1990s series should be. Eddy’s art played a big part in my stories. We didn’t discuss plots or anything. He got full scripts. But he defined the feel and the look of the Brick City. That gave me a clear direction for my writing.

Why bring Jefferson back to Cleveland?

The series I did with Eddy was actually set in Cleveland. The Brick City is an actual neighborhood in Cleveland. I spent a lot of time there when I was developing that 1990s series.

For Cold Dead Hands, since I was trying to do new things with Black Lightning, I decided to leave no doubts that the series was set in Cleveland. I figured the city that gave birth to Superman deserved a super-hero of its own. It added a certain realism to my stories. If I write more Black Lightning comic books, the city will plan an even larger role in the stories I tell.

My long-time pal Chris Gumprich hadn’t finished reading the entire six issues of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, but it didn’t stop him from asking a question that a great many interviews have sort of danced around:

Considering how bad things got between you and DC, did you ever think you would be writing Black Lightning again?

I had accepted for years that it would take a change of management at DC Comics for me to ever have a shot at writing Black Lightning again. I knew that, for this reunion to ever happen, DC would have to have new management that loved my creation and respected me and my work. Given a long litany of wrongs against both Black Lightning and myself, I had no realistic expectation of that happening. But I wasn’t going to slink away into the night. I was going to demand what was due me, figuring that, even if I didn’t get that, my story could be a learning moment for other creators and possibly prevent them from getting screwed over.

Imagine my delight when the old management went away - I will not speculate on how that welcome turn of events came about - and the new management saw the potential in Black Lightning, accepted that I had been treated badly for decades, and set about making things as right as they could. Whatever happens going forward, I will be eternally grateful to Geoff Johns for reaching out to me and also for the opportunities and respect I’ve received from other members of the DC Comics community.

Stacie Taylor e-mailed me this:

Peter Gambi is my favorite character on the TV show. Did you create Gambi to be like Alfred Pennyworth or is that just how he seems on the show? Did you know there are Role Players like me who role play characters like Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning? We come up with our own plots, storylines and such. I'm playing both Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning and Peter Gambi in games on Facebook.
When I created Jefferson Pierce and his world, I knew he would need someone savvy about crime to help him. In the original 1970s comic books, Gambi was the brother of Paul Gambi, the tailor who made the costumes for the Flash’s rogues gallery. I knew Jenette Kahn, who was the publisher at the time, wanted more connections between the various DC super-hero titles. My Peter Gambi was a former criminal who was trying to make amends for his bad choices and the misery he caused by those choices. He knew a lot about criminal enterprises and was a pretty good engineer/inventor to boot.

Salim Akil and his terrific team of writers expanded on what I had laid down for Gambi. The basics of my original creation are still evident, but they modernized the character and his relationships while also bringing in social issues that date back to experiments our government performed on black soldiers. I like the television Gambi better than I like my version.

I didn’t know there were Black Lightning role players, but, having read your comments, this doesn’t surprise me. These are wonderful characters. I could see where fans could have fun playing them in such games. It’s not something that interests me...and, for legal reasons, I don’t want to hear about the plots and such...but I am delighted fans are enjoying my creations in this way.

There are more Black Lightning questions waiting for me to answer them, but this is all for today. If you have additional Cold Dead Hands questions, feel free to e-mail them to me.

Once the Black Lightning TV series concludes its first season this coming Tuesday, you can start sending me questions on the series as well. The best way to send them is, again, by e-mail.

The bloggy thing will be off for a day or two. Tomorrow morning, my Sainted Wife Barb is having surgery. We’ve been assured that it’s routine surgery, but she’ll be recovering at Casa Isabella for 4-6 weeks under my loving care. I’m amazed at how well I rock the sexy nurse look. My butt and legs look fabulous!

Now that I’ve put an image in your heads that you will struggle to un-see, I’ll bid you adieu. I’ll be back soon.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Saturday, April 14, 2018


I’m a happy subscriber to Commando, the British comic book devoted to war stories. Commando has been published continuously since July 1961 in a distinctive 7 by 5-2/3 inch, 68 page format. Four issues are published every month with two of them being original stories and the other two being reprints. The black-and-white tales remind me of the non-character back-up stories from the DC Comics war mags of the 1960s. Figuring two panels per page, that’s the equivalent of a 21-page story. That length allows for a greater attention to accuracy and more substantial character development. I enjoy these comics and have somethings thought about writing a story utilizing this format and pacing. Add that to the bucket list.

From time to time, I’m going to write about Commando in this bloggy thing of mine. Most likely several issues at a time. 

Commando #5052 features “Steeds of Steel” by C.G. Walker with art by Bielsa. The cover is by Sanfeliz. The upper-right corner of the cover designates this as a “Desert War 1940-1943" story and, under the logo, there’s a further “The Gold Collection” designation. As near as I can figure “The Gold Collection” means a story is on its third printing while “The Silver Collection” means a story is being reprinted for the first time. This issue’s story previously ran in 1969 and 1977.

In India before the Second World War, fighting Afghan tribesman, a British lancer commander foolishly sends his troops into a combat sure to prove disastrous. Wounded by a sniper, the commander does not heed the advice of the officer who will actually lead the men. The officer is killed. The commander claims the dead officer acted on his own, thereby saving his career. Come World War II, the sons of the commander and the officer are assigned to a unit under the command of the commander. Though British soldiers are usually seen in the best light in Commando, the stories have their fair share of cowards, traitors and ruthless officers.
Commando #5053 has “Fatherland,” a terrific original story by Lain McLaughlin with art by Rodriguez and Morhain. The cover painting is by Ian Kennedy. The upper-right corner of the cover designates this as an “Espionage” story.

Lisa Fischer and her mother flee Germany to escape the tightening grip of the Nazis and the cruelty of Lisa’s S.S. father. But they are forced to flee without Lisa’s brother. She grows up in England and joins the British army. Her brother Kurt joins the German army and serves under the command of his father. When Lisa takes on an undercover mission in France, she is reunited with her father and brother. This is an intense story with great characters and tense situation. I’d rank it as one of the best Commando tales I’ve read to date.

Commando #5054 reprints “Safety First” by Ian Clark with both cover ans interior art by Manuel Benet. The story previously appeared in 1993. This issue is designated “Air War 1939-45.”

Two R.A.F. fighter pilots Johnny Lees and Nat Rankin have different approaches to combat. Johnny is a relative rookie determined to do whatever he has to do. Nat is more of a “survive at all costs” kind of soldier. Their uneasy friendship is at the heart of this tale.

Commando #5055 has the new “Falsely Accused,” is written and drawn by Jaume Forns with cover art by David Alexander. It’s designated “War in Europe 1939-45.”

The protagonist of this story is Private Bill Wilson, who’s falsely accused of looting. His sergeant finds him outside this deserted, devastated French village with a bag of treasure. The sergeant does not believe Wilson recovered the treasure from two dead looters and was trying to figure out who to hand it in to. Wilson is a likeable guy trying to do the right thing in the middle of the war. I took to him right away. A fine story.

Petty Officer Gordon Laker is facing a “Dangerous Dawn” in Commando #5056. Written by Lister and drawn by Gonzalez, this “War at Sea 1939-1945" tale first appeared in 1969 and was previously reprinted  in 1977. The cover is by Lopez Espi.

Laker is the only survivor of the H.M. Submarine Scorpio. Forced to surrender to a Japanese patrol boat, the plucky sailor soon unites his fellow prisoners, leads an escape and launches commando attacks against his former captors. It’s a fine story with a surprise twist at the end.

We’re still in the Pacific theater for Commando #5057. The all-new “Jungle Heat” is set in the jungles of Japanese occupied Papua New Guinea. The story was written by Colin Wilson and drawn by Manuel Benet, who also did the cover. This is designated as a “War in the East 1941-1945" tale.

The heroes of this issue are squabbling R.A.A.F. [Royal Australian Air Force] pilots Dave Keating and Roger Smith. Conflict like this is not uncommon in Commando stories. Crashed in the jungle, the duo must work together to survive the dangers of the region. The danger includes a brutal Japanese officer determined to kill them. It’s a solid story and, while its portrayal of the brutal Japanese officer is unrelenting, it treats another Japanese character with respect.

Commando #5058 reprinted “Escape Line” from 1993. Designated as an “Adventure” tale, the story was written by Alan Hemus with interior art by Garijo and cover by Ian Kennedy.

Weary from the Spanish Civil War, correspondent Marcel Dupont must escape the country for his native France. With him are war-weary soldiers. Their only path is through the rugged Pyrenees, but their guide doesn’t appear to be trustworthy and they end up in a prison camp. A few years later, as the Nazis move across the land, Dupont tries another escape. But there’s something frighteningly familiar about their guide this time around. Some plot twists make this tale one of the better Commando adventures.

Commando #5059 has “Target: Armageddon,” a new Cold War adventure by Lain McLaughlin with art by the Rodriguez-Morhain team. Janek Matysiak is the cover artist. This story starts in Germany at the end of Hitler’s regime and continues to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. McLaughlin has a knack for shaking up the Commando formulas and writing outstanding stories.

For U-Boat Kriegsmarine Kapitan Heinrich Kessler, Germany’s defeat and surrender betrayed his belief in the supremacy of his nation. He escapes to South America with his submarine, his crew and Nazi fortune. Decades later, with the submarine still very operational, Kessler schemes to use his secret silent killer to push the United States and Russia. Like “Fatherland,” this is one of the very best stories to have run in Commando since I started subscribing to the title a few years back.

Subscriptions to Commando are relatively inexpensive. At present, a 52-issue subscription will cost U.S. subscribers around $121 or about $2.33 per issue. A 104-issue subscription will run $213.57 or about $2.05 per issue. If you like war comics suitable for all ages and yet still gripping, I recommend Commando.

You can visit the Commando website here.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella



Fantastic Four Annual #1 hit the newsstands in July, 1963. It was that extraordinary issue that inspired me to want to write comic books as my career. In honor of that pivotal moment in my life, I’m collecting, reading and writing about every one of the 136 issues released in that month. My first twenty columns in this series are available in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One [Pulp Hero Press; $17.95]. The trade paperback contains revised versions of the columns that appeared in this bloggy thing of mine as well additional material giving readers a glimpse into the world of 1963. My quest continues...

Bozo the Clown #4 [October-December 1963] came from Dell Publishing after that company split from Western Publishing. Western kept the bulk of the licensed features and continued publishing them as Gold Key Comics. Dell acquired some licenses, but also published a great many original titles such as Brain Boy and Kona. The cover artist of this issue has not yet been identified.

Some background from Wikipedia:

Bozo the Clown is a fictional clown, created and introduced in the United States in 1946, and to television in 1949, whose broad popularity peaked locally in the 1960s as a result of widespread franchising in early television.

Bozo was created by Alan Livingston and portrayed by Pinto Colvig for a kids’ storytelling record album and illustrative read-along book set in 1946. The character became popular during the 1940's and served as the mascot for Capitol Records.

Harmon, one of several regional Bozo performers, formed a company and bought the licensing rights (excluding the records). His name become synonymous with Bozo; that’s why his name appears above the logo of this comic. Capitol Records held the copyright on Bozo with other characters copyrighted by Larry Harmon Pictures.

Bozo’s previous comics appearances were all from Dell. Five issues of the publisher’s long-running Four Color series. A couple issues of his own title in 1951 and four more in 1952.

Bozo the Clown #4 was the final issue of this 1963 run. The writers of these stories haven’t been identified. As for the artists, the Grand Comics Database speculates this issue was drawn (pencils and inks) by the prolific Tony Tallerico. I have no guess of my own here, but will note that Tallerico often hired other artists to pencil comics for him. He didn’t always credit these artists.

The inside front cover is a single-page gag strip. Bozo can’t hit the target at a carnival shooting gallery. Then he comes back and gets a bullseye with every shot because he uses his “four-barreled never-fail-to-pop-a-quail Bozo gun attachment!” Then Bozo laughs. Probably the only one.

In “High Noon Balloon” (8 pages), the circus train is struggling to get to the next town to get the permit it needs to set up in said town. Spy-Guy Bly, who looks like a miniature version of legendary gangster actor Edward G. Robinson, is determined to stop them so he can buy the circus cheap. When the villain causes the train to jump the tracks, Bozo uses the circus balloon to fly to the town.

When Bly fails to shoot the balloon down with a remote-controlled plane, he tricks the army into thinking the balloon is an invading enemy. The military shoots the balloon down, but Bozo uses what’s left of the balloon as a glider to get to town on time. One of the balloon’s sandbags clobbers Bly, who is subsequently arrested for trespassing on the base and as a possible enemy agent.

Kids...don’t try this at home. In real life, Bly’s skull would have been crushed by the sandbag. If he somehow survived, he would spend the rest of his days in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Also...clowns are not your friends.

“Splish-Splash Ka-rash” is three pages of skydiver Grando the Great playing tricks on Bozo. While Bozo washes an elephant named Irving, Grando switches the water to cold. The clown narrowly missed being crushed. Then Grando tricks Irving into inhaling sneezing powder. Bozo goes airborne when Irving sneezes. Grando nails Bozo’s shoes to the floor and uses him for a punching bag.

The last laugh is on Grando as he prepares to dive 150 feet into a mere five gallons of water. Except the thirsty Irving drinks it as Grando plummets to his death. Klank!

Okay, the comic doesn’t explicitly state Grando dies, but there’s no scene of him leaving the water barrel alive. I’m going to assume Grando died because, really, he was a jerk.

Kids...don’t try this at home.

Also...clowns can get an elephant to kill you.

“Battling Bluzard” (8 pages) finds Bozo and Belinda, a precocious young girl, trying to capture a “bluzard,” a rare bird said to be a cross between a blue bird and a buzzard. The circus is in need of a new attraction. Attempting to beat them to the bird and not above murdering Bozo to do it, Kookie Koyote sets all sort of traps for the clown.

Bozo manages to stay alive and reach the top of Pancake Plateau, which is where the bluzard lives. But, when he sees the bird diving towards Belinda, Bozo loses his focus enough for Kookie to send him over the edge of the plateau. Kookie ends up trapped in the cage he had set up for the bird.

Bozo cheats death once again, this time by using the bluzard’s nest as a parachute. When he gets to the ground, Belinda has tamed the bluzard with lollypops. As long as they give the bird sweet treats, it’s willing to join the circus.

Kids...don’t try this at home.

Also...don’t go out into the desert with clowns.

In “The Bombastic Plastic Man” (8 pages), Bozo pays a visit to the secret laboratory of the Professor, a friend of his. The scientist has created a plastic suit that’s impossible to penetrate. With the clown wearing the suit, the Professor fires a gun at Bozo. The suit protects Bozo for harm.

The secret laboratory has a not-so-secret window. Looking into the place, criminals Short Biggy and Big Shorty witness the experiment. They break into the lab and steal two of the plastic suits. Chased by Bozo and the professor, still wearing the suits, the crooks take refuge in a studio filming a science-fiction movie.

Bad luck for the size-defined crooks. The studio lights melt their plastic suits, sticking them to a bridge on the movie set. The real actors are so upset they kick the two off the bridge. Shoeless, the now-barefoot duo are falling toward what appears to be futuristic-looking razor-sharp foliage. Bozo laughs.

Kids...don’t try this at home.

Also...clowns will laugh at you being slashed to ribbons.

“Waldo’s Magic Space Bike” (1 page) is a prose story. A kid enters a cross country bicycle race with his old bike. Along the way, he meets a lost little green man. Waldo helps the alien find where he wants to go and offers him a life. The alien makes it possible for the bike to fly, albeit temporarily. The kid takes the alien where he wanted to go. His bike flies just long enough for him to win the race. The citizens chalk up the reports of a flying saucer to the summer heat.

Kids...don’t try this at home.

Also...aliens who can make your bike fly are still a whole lot less terrifying than clowns.

To qualify for second class mailing privileges and make more money from subscriptions, Bozo the Clown and other comics had to carry a feature unrelated to the title feature. In this issue, that feature was Wacko Wolf.

I don’t know much about Wacko. He was an animated character created (or, at least, owned) by Larry Harmon. Though drawn as some sort of western desperado, and sporting an occasional western-style speech pattern, in this issue’s “Wacko's Wacky Bowling Ball” (4 pages), he seems to be a cross between a con man and an inventor.

Wacko invents a magnetic bowling ball, which he can use to become a world champion. The ball is a wonder, until interference from the bowling alley owner causes it to go out of control. It chases our lupine grafter into the street. The ball bowls over some innocent bystanders. Wacko ends up in a gutter while the ball lands on his head and his foot. The hilarious punch line is:

I guess that’s the way the ol’ bowling ball bounces! Ouch! Oooh-oooh-oh! Oh! Oh! Ah!

Kids...don’t try this at home.

Also...you can suffer head trauma and disablement just from being in the same comic book as a clown.

You might have the impression I don’t think much of this Bozo comic book. You are correct. I never liked Bozo on TV, so I never read a Bozo comic book until now. And now I know I don’t like Bozo comics either. But I really don’t like the franchised Bozo who was on TV when I was a lad in Cleveland.

True tale. My Cub Scouts troop, which was based out of Sts. Phillip and James church/elementary school, was brought to what I remember was a live presentation of the Bozo show. We weren’t the only kids at the presentation.

There was a competition during the show. We were all given balloons and the object was to blow them up until they burst, thus risking eye and other injuries.

Members of my Cub Scouts troop, good Catholic boys, tried to cheat to win the competition. They blew up the balloons just big enough that they could put them between their knees and pop them. This did not amuse Bozo.

Bozo pulled out a knife and cut off the hands of the cheaters. No, wait, that was the nightmare I had that night. Instead, on live TV, Bozo chastised our troop for cheating.

How embarrassing is it to be chastised by a clown?

I stuck with the troop through the Cub Scouts years and joined the church/school Boy Scouts troop.  I quit within six months. Because, with little adult supervision, the school bullies pretty much ruled the troop. Now they were bullies in uniform. No thanks.

In later years, I hired my own clown to hunt them all down and kill them. The last thing they saw as they lay on the ground gasping out their last breath were the big red shoes.

Clowns make me weird.

The inside back cover of the issue is the famous 132 Roman Soldiers advertisement drawn by Russ Heath. For only $1.98, you received:  4 generals mounted, 24 cavalrymen with spears and armor, 4  cavalrymen with banners, 16 spearmen with shields, 16 archers with bows, 16 slingers, 4 chariots with drivers, 4 working catapults, 16 pieces of ammunition (harmless) for catapults, 24 foot soldiers with broadswords and shields and 4 buglers. These were made from molded plastic and came with their own bases.

The back cover ad was Wallace Brown’s usual pitch for suckers, ah, I mean, entrepreneurs to sell the outfit’s name-imprinted, personal  Christmas cards. You could earn between $50 and $200 in your spare time. No, really, would they lie to you? Go ahead, just pull Bozo’s finger.

Clowns. Why did it have to be clowns?
I’ll have another “July 1963" column for you in the near future. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for other stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella