Monday, September 23, 2019


Black Lightning fans. I've just launched TONY ISABELLA'S AUTHENTIC BLACK LIGHTNING GROUP on Facebook.

This group is dedicated to authentic portrayals of Black Lightning, the iconic super-hero created by Tony Isabella. At present, you can only find authentic portrayals of Black Lightning in Tony’s comics stories and the TV series airing on the CW. This doesn’t mean the group won’t discuss other aspects of the character, but the focus will always be on the portrayals noted above.

This group will always be in progress. We will add new features as inspiration and time allows. There will be many opportunities for you to participate. Only members will be allowed to post. 

While we develop our membership rules, no one will be booted from the list except in extreme circumstances. However, posts that are deemed inappropriate will be deleted by our administrators.

Keep watching for posts from Tony and the administrators. We hope to add material daily. Thanks for joining.

Friday, September 20, 2019


I can’t believe how crazy busy I have been this week. We celebrated my wondrous daughter Kelly’s birthday Monday evening. Tuesday, I drove to downtown Cleveland’s Idea Center to be interviewed for a forthcoming documentary/podcast. On Wednesday, my first Last Kiss gag was posted. Thursday was all about writing columns and getting ready for Flaming River Con. Today will be more of the same.

REMINDER: Flaming River Con 2019 is Saturday, September 21, from 10 am to 6 pm in the Louis Stokes Wing of the Cleveland Library’s main branch, 525 Superior Avenue. This is the second annual edition of the Midwest’s first LGBTQIA+ queer geek convention. At noon, I will be on a panel about “Masculinity in Comic Book Media. That evening, I’m doing a meet-and-greet at the Side Quest, 17900 Detroit Ave in nearby Lakewood Ohio. I’ll be at this on-its-way-to-being-legendary geek bar from 8-10 pm or thereabouts.

There are a whole bunch of topics I want to write about, with none of my thoughts being extensive enough for an entire bloggy thing on their own. Thus, for the next few days, I’ll be writing multi-topic bloggy things. We begin...


My last Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale was a huge success. I set myself a more ambitious sales goal than usual and, when all the sales were added up, I had achieved 106% of that goal.

I sold thirty $10 mystery boxes and had people emailing me after my sales asking if I had any left over. I sold all but one collectible phone. The one that didn’t sell was a spiffy Enterprise phone and I’m amazed it didn’t sell.

The hardcovers and trade paperbacks were priced to sell; only six remained at the end of the sale. I had eight short boxes of quarter comic books and more than half of those books sold. I sold several Isabella-written books and related posters.

I had great conversations with many friends new and old, including a fan from Australia. Finally, someone to geek out with over Frew Phantom comics and British comics weeklies. I even did a cameo for a local filmmaker. My Oscar, please.

Breaking down the garage sale went faster than ever before. By the next day, Saintly Wife Barb could again park her car in the garage. Half the garage is set up with tables so I can start preparing for my 2020 garage sales throughout the fall, winter and early spring. Tina Fe (my Hyundai Santa Fe SUV) will remain in the driveway, but she’s a feisty lady who has proven she can take it.

One big lesson I learned was...don’t waste any more money running ads in the Medina Gazette. I spent nearly a hundred bucks on my ad for this sale and didn’t get a single customer for my dough. I’ll do fine sticking to Craig’s List, Facebook, Twitter and the local Next Door message board. I might also see if I can put notices on community billboards at some of the local supermarkets.

In related news, we may be down to one Fortress of Storage unit by the end of the month. Barb and our neighbor Sue were the Amazons of consolidation. Only a few items remain in the second of our units. I hope to empty the remaining unit in early 2020.

To all my garage sale customers, thank you for coming to my sales. I hope to thrill you anew next year.


Marvel Comics has reprinted some of my horror-oriented stories in the massive 1328-page Marvel Horror Omnibus [$150, but you can get it much cheaper at InStock Trades]. This collection thrills me on account of, for the first time, it reprints all four of my It! The Living Colossus tales. It collects my Living Mummy run as well as what was supposed to be the Simon Garth Zombir finale by Chris Claremont and myself. I haven’t gone through this tremendous tome from start to finish yet, but there are probably other stories I worked on during my time as editor of various Marvel black-and-white magazines.

A few days after I received the above book, I received another comp copy from Marvel: X-Men Epic Collection: It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn [$39.99]. I have one story in this one, an Incredible Hulk battle with the Juggernaut I scripted pretty much overnight from a plot by Steve Englehart when the usually prolific Steve was running behind on his deadlines. My reaction to seeing the issue again was a mix of amazement and nostalgia that there was a time in my life when I could write a comic book overnight and show up at the office the next morning.

Even beyond the paychecks, I’m thrilled whenever Marvel reprints my old stories or asks me to write introductions or even invites me to premieres. While it’s true that Marvel hasn’t asked me to write any new comic books of late, I feel happy whenever I have dealings with them. I feel respected by the Marvel folks. I never have to chase them for money. Indeed, often the first I know Marvel is reprinting my old comics is when I receive a check for it and a complimentary copy. Marvel makes me feel like part of its legacy. Yes, it’s good business practice for them, but, in my experience, it’s a sincere reflection of how they honor creators past and present.

Variant covers. That’s a topic that comes up occasionally when I’m talking to fans and friends. Older fans tend to hate them a whole lot. Younger fans seem to take them as a given.

I’m on the fence. When variant covers are clever or truly special, I get a kick out of them. Examples that leap to mind are when Neal Adams redrew several of his classic DC Comics covers with different characters, or when Marvel published covers with great cosplayers on them. I loved all of those covers.

On a personal professional level, I was sorely disappointed when I learned Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands would only be granted one variant cover during its six-issue run. Since variant covers would have helped us sell more copies of each issue, I was surprised by this DC Comics decision. Most of their titles have variant covers every issue. It was only when I learned DC had already planned to its own out-of-character thing with Black Lightning that I saw the why of that solitary variant cover.

That still bugs me. I had wanted to do at least one variant cover each issue. I wanted to see former Black Lightning artists Trevor von Eeden and Eddy Newell each do covers. I wanted to see variant covers by artists who’d never or rarely drawn Black Lightning, top artists like the afore-mentioned Neal Adams and Bill Sienkiewicz. I wanted to see some of today’s multi-media artists do covers and, yes, I would have been thrilled to see a Black Lightning cosplayer on a cover. Alas, these weren’t my decisions to make.

From a personal fan level, I’m puzzled by how many variant covers are being done and how decidedly not special so many of them are. I’m astonished by how many variant covers Marvel and other outfits do for “important” issues. For every delightful variant Bettie Page or Elvira cover I see from Dynamite, I see scores of lesser covers. As an industry outsider, this makes me curious.

So I’m reaching out to those who make the variant covers decisions to shine a light on how they make those decisions. Why does this issue get a variant or multiple variant covers and not that other one? How do you decide which artists will do these variant covers? Do they have a positive effect on sales? If you wish to answer my questions but don’t want to do so publicly, you can respond to me via e-mail and your identity will remain confidential.

Fans? I suspect you’ll want to weigh in on these questions as well. You’re welcome to do so. I’ll include the best responses when I revisit this topic.

One last thought. I would love to see some collections of variant covers in comic-book format. I would have bought collections of the Marvel cosplay covers, those Neal Adams covers, the covers teaming super-heroes with cartoon characters, the Bettie Page and Elvira covers and so many others. Consider that a request from a old fan who buys an alarming number of comic books every month. Why do you think I have a vast accumulation of stuff?

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 16, 2019


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I write about how I read DC and Marvel super-hero comics and review Superman Year One #1 by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.; MAD magazine #9; and the Tammy & Jinty Special 2019, a modern take on the classic British girls weeklies. 

FLAMING RIVER CON 2019 (9/21/19)

Flaming River Con 2019 takes place on Saturday, September 21, from 10 am to 6 pm in the Louis Stokes Wing of the Cleveland Library’s main branch, 525 Superior Avenue. This is the second annual edition of the Midwest’s first LGBTQIA+ queer geek convention. Founded by Brittney Orcutt, this event focuses on “queer vendors, art, comics books, zines, podcasts, panels, and workshops.”

I attended, albeit briefly, last year’s inaugural event because I wanted to show my support for the LGBTQIA+ comics community. I was warmly received by everyone I spoke to, including a touching shout-out from one of the panels. This year, I wanted to contribute to the convention in a somewhat larger role. We’ll get to that a bit down the line.

Flaming River Con is a family-friendly event. It’s free to attend, though the convention suggests a $7 donation to help finance this and other related events during the year. The library is completely accessible for all.

A recent article on the convention quoted Orcutt: “This year’s con is going to be bigger and queerer than ever. We feel very honored to spotlight our more marginalized persons within geek and LGBTQIA+  communities.”

The convention will be spread out over three floors. Not to worry. There are three elevators and stairs. I’m not sure if levitation is permitted in the library.

The lower level auditorium will host eight presentations. I’ll be appearing on a “Masculinity in Comic Book Media” panel from noon to 12.45 pm. The panel will feature Flaming River Arts Vice President Logan Dorado and be moderated by Cyrano Patton. Here’s some stuff I borrowed from the convention’s Facebook page.

Through the lenses of creator and consumer, respectively, the two will discuss the negative repercussions of toxic masculinity in the comic book world, how representations of different types of masculinity can reframe the popular narrative and what both artists and readers can do to reshape the culture they have immersed themselves in.

Logan Dorado (he/him pronouns) is a queer Filipino-American currently residing in Lakewood, Ohio. Dorado holds a Bachelor of Special Studies in Gender & Sexuality and Creative Writing from Cornell College. In his spare time, he draws comics, is vice president of Flaming River Arts and enjoys debating the intricacies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Cyrano Patton is a Queer n.b. licensed clinical psychologist in NY and CA and a founding member and director of Flaming River Arts. They currently reside in California, where they are a professor of psychology and private practitioner.

Not for the first time, I’ll be the dumbest, most clueless person on a panel. Such is my lot.

Other auditorium panels/presentations will include Drag Queen Story Time; Comics and the Clinic: History of the Comic Book and Mental Health; Afrofuturism 2.0; Children of the Night and Other Bloodsuckers: Coded Queer Representation of LGBTQ+ Folx in Vampire Cinema; LGBTQ+ Graphic Memoir: Book Recommendations and Interactive Writing and Drawing Exercises; Cosplaying While Black; and the Cosplay Contest. I’ll be one of the judges for the cosplay contest. During the day, there will also be photo ops with the cosplayers of Heroes Unites in the auditorium area.

The street entrance first floor will have non-profit tables and the  games room. Presentations in the latter: Basic Figure Drawing; D&D 101; Jeopardy! Spongebob Squarepants Edition; and Versus in 30: Speed Drawing Game. There will also be demos by the Null Space Burritos.

The second floor will hold the vendor hall, panel rooms 1 and 2, and a quiet room. I assume the quiet room is where they’ll send me if I get too rambunctious.

The vendor hall features 53 different vendors from My Baby Hippo to Northcoast Softball. While I recognize the names of some artists, most of these vendors are new to me...which means I’ll have great fun checking out what they’re all about.

The panel rooms have a dozen presentations scheduled. In the first room: Voice and Body Acting for Table Top RPGs; Towards a Typology of Queerbaiting; The Science of Pokemon Presents: Real World Pokemon; Name Change Clinic with TransOhio; Asian Representation in Geek Culture; and Games: Gender Diversity, Troubleshooting, and Difficult Players, Oh My! In the second room: OhioSMART presents: The Flaming River CONsent Panel; Screenwriting 101; Working with Crystals: The Basics and Techniques; Coping at the Con: Managing Mental Illness; Shameless Self-Promotion Superpowers with Ken Schneck; and Crash Course: Competative Battling in Pokemon.

Most of the above information comes from my liberally borrowing the information from the Facebook page and website. This convention is not my typical venue. While I can’t describe it as well as I would like, I am excited to be part of it. I hope you’ll check out this event for yourself.

One more thing. As my regular readers know, I usually charge for my signature at conventions. That won’t be the case here. If you have something for me to sign and can find somewhere for me to sit and sign it, said signature is free. Sure, I would love for you to make a donation to the convention or some related charity/organization, but that’s not required.

Saturday evening, the convention will have a meet-and-greet at the Side Quest, located at 17900 Detroit Ave in nearby Lakewood Ohio. I’ll be there from 8-10 pm or thereabouts.

From the Side Quest’s Facebook page:

The Side Quest is Lakewood's Geek Bar, we are the bar that celebrates pop and geek culture best. The Side Quest is place for everyone, no matter how nerdy, to enjoy the things they love while having a few great craft beers with friends. With an extensive selection of ciders, meads and geeky cocktails, there is something for everyone.

The Side Quest focuses on all things geek & beer. Theme Nights, Geeks Who Drink Trivia, Lectures, Dungeons &  Dragons, Board Games and Live Television Programing are common events.

The Side Quest is a 21+ Venue.

As you’ve probably figured out, I’m truly excited to be part of the Flaming River Con. I hope to see many of my local fans and friends there. We’ll have a blast.

That’s all I have for today, but, as always, I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 15, 2019


What Has Gone Before:

I’m reading and reviewing the Free Comic Book Day comic books sent to me by my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. When I read and review FCBD comics, I look at three areas.

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 and be able to buy more of the same?

I score FCBD offerings on a scale of zero to ten. Each category is worth three points with the tenth point coming from my interest in seeing more of what’s ever in the book.

Street Fighter: Sakura Vs. Karin #1 [Udon Entertainment/Capcom] presents a 20-page story of two young women battling each other via a video game and then physical combat. It’s tied into some video game, but it has lively characters and “fight” scenes. There is a sub-plot involving one of the young ladies trying to prove herself to her father and an ending which was doubtless hilarious to those who know the game and such.

QUALITY: Good. This isn’t a comic book I would seek out again, but I think those who enjoy the combination of comics and video games will find it entertaining.

ACCESSIBILITY: Okay. I could follow the story, but I never felt I had a firm grasp on its world.

SALESMANSHIP: Decent. While there’s no information on where to find more Sakura/Karin adventures, there are several pages of house ads for other Street Fighter and Udon comic books.

SCORE: Seven points out of a possible ten points.


My Hero Academia [Viz Media] features two stories. The first story is an excerpt from My Hero Academia Volume 14 by Kohei Horikoshi. It is set in a world where 80% of the human population has super-powers and those who would be heroes go to a special school where they can learn to use their powers. The second story presents the opening of The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai (story) and Posuka Demizu. That one involves a mysterious orphanage that seemingly treats its young charges well, but which also seems to have a dark side.

QUALITY: The My Hero Academia excerpt is little more than a yawn-inducing fight scene with a tiny dollop of characterization. The Promised Neverland excerpt is better written and drawn with a nice build to its mystery. I’d be far more likely to follow this manga series over the other one.

ACCESSIBILITY: Okay. There’s a house ad between the two stories in which some vital information is provided.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. Readers are directed to where they can follow the two series showcase in this issue. There is also a back cover house ad that includes four other series.

SCORE: Seven points out of a possible ten points.


Vampirella Vol. 5 Issue #0 [Dynamite] opens with several pages of a new Vampirella series written by Christopher Priest with art by  Ergun Gunduz. The second story is a Vampirella reprint from 1993, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Arthur Adams.

QUALITY: As I’ve tried to explain in the past, sometimes, though I recognize the quality of writing and art, the story itself doesn’t do anything for me. That’s the case with the first Vampirella tale in the issue. As for the reprint, well, Busiek wasn’t at his best here and the art made the characters look like they were all five feet tall tops. It just didn’t work for me.

ACCESSIBILITY: I felt lost while reading the first story. I needed more information to get into that world. I could follow the second story much better.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Lots of house ads for Vampirella and Red Sonja projects. I’m trying to catch up on Red Sonja, but, much as I like the character, there are so many books. From time to time,
I feel the same way about Vampirella, but I’ve yet to read a modern Vampirella story that hooks me.

SCORE: Four points out of a possible ten points.


Zagor the Alien Saga [Epicenter Comics] features a 30-page excerpt from the full graphic novel of that name. Zagor is a character I’ve only recently discovered; he is an adventure hero in the mold of Tarzan whose adventures - crime, horror, science fiction are set in the western world in the first half of the 19th century. Written by Guida Nolitta and drawn by Gallieno Ferri, this particular graphic album involves invaders from outer space who have allied themselves with Zagor’s deadliest and most persistent enemy.

QUALITY: First-rate. The writing, the characters, the situations, the art are all terrific.

ACCESSIBILITY: Also first-rate. Between the inside front cover and the story itself, a new reader will learn everything they need to enjoy this excerpt.

SALESMANSHIP: Readers are directed to the full graphic novel at the end of the excerpt. A back cover ad shows the covers and titles of all available Zagor graphic albums.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.


Blastosaurus Annual #1 [Golden Apple Books] has a trio of connected stories about an evil-fighting dinosaur who wears a suit and tie. His origins are unknown. These crazy, incredibly entertaining tales are written by Richard Fairgray and Paul Eiding with lively art by Fairgray. I loved them.

QUALITY: I probably gave it away in the above paragraph, but these 22 pages of stories have top-notch writing and art.

ACCESSIBILITY: I was able to get into these stories and their world with no difficulty whatsoever.

SALESMANSHIP: There’s a front cover editorial that defines Golden Apple Books’ mission statements. There are house ads directing the reader to more Blastosaurus and to Adventure Van, a second series from Fairgray and this publisher.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.

I’m moving right along on my quest to read and review all of this year’s Free Comic Book Day comic books before the 2019 Halloween ComicFest issues arrive. With just nine more comics to go, I think I’m in good shape.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 12, 2019


My last Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale took a lot out of me, but I'm back at work. I expect to start posting new bloggy things within the next few days.

In the meantime, I want to remind you that, while your comments are incredibly welcome, I have to approve them before they appear on the blog. That eliminates spam and the churlish remarks from the usual online trolls. 

I try to approve them as soon as I see them, but, since I'm not online 24/7, they won't always get the green light the same day you post them.

Thanks and keep watching the skies!

Friday, September 6, 2019


Recently, I subscribed to the Universal Yums snack boxes. Every month, they will send me a box filled with snacks and candies from a different country. Inside each box is a multi-page booklet with information on the snacks, the nation I’m “visiting” and additional fun and games. I thought this would be an amusing diversion for my family. This month: Destination: Turkey!

The first thing we saw when we opened the box was a map of sorts. It didn’t have a lot of detail, but it did show several key cities and include a bit of trivia about them. On the flip side, there’s a scoring chart for you to rate this box’s snacks, a secret puzzle and a description of “Bes Tas” (five stones). The game ios basically Turkish-style jacks.

An informative booklet comes in the box. It has some information on Turkey, a trivia quiz, a picture of and note on each of the snacks in the box, a “meze” game showcasing various Turkish meals, a page on Turkish coffee, another page on Turkish attractions, the recipe for Kofte (Turkish meatballs) and the answers to the trivia quiz. The booklet is fascinating.

On to the snacks themselves...

The Crunch Tako & Hardal Aromali Cips are mustard and taco flavored chips. Turkey and Mexico are great trading partners and this snack evokes both countries. They aren’t bad, but they don’t compare to our own flavored chips here in the United States.

Ondule Kebob is a corn snack with grilled kabob flavor. The kabob flavor didn’t come through, making for a tasteless snack not unlike
our own Bugles.

Torku Enjoy Kek is a chocolate and vanilla sponge cake with orange filling. It was tasty, but the orange flavor was lost in the other flavors.

The Ulker Krispi Tirtikli Kraker Baharatli cracker chips are among my favorite snacks from this box. They are seasoned with baharat, a blend of spices that’s “insanely popular” all across the Middle East. They are crispy and the flavor is wonderful. If I could buy bags of them here in Medina, they’d replace most of the other chips and crackers that show up at Casa Isabella.

Keyofce Fistikli Cezerye was described as a “Turkish delight with carrot, pistachio and coconut. It’s like a spongy candy bar. None of the flavors dominate. It’s not bad, but the texture is a turnoff for me.
Lush Cocoa Creme Mosaic Cookies are just that: mosaic cookies with  chocolate cream filling. Chocolate has not been predominant in the region until recently, so these are just coming into their own in Turkey. They are taste cookies, but we have similar cookies in the United States that are as good or better.
Mevlana Sekeri. These sugar candies look like after-dinner mints, but they melt in your mouth quickly. Possibly because they are 90% sugar. I felt one of my arteries harden as I consumed one of these candies. There are three flavors. I got strawberry, which was quite delicious. The others flavors are orange and bergamot, the citrus oil that gives Earl Grey tea its flavor. These candies are made in Konya, the sugar center of Turkey.

Tatsan Soft Nougat is a soft chocolate nougat bar with hazelnuts. Things I learned from this snack include that Ordu is the hazelnut capital of the world, producing 40% of the world’s supply, and that another 40% comes from other parts of Turkey. That adds up to 80% of the world’s hazelnuts. I found this candy tasty, but the chewy texture didn’t appeal to me.

Tatkrak Cubuk Acili. These spicy cracker sticks are delicious, but they sneak up on you. The more you eat, the more the spices explode in your mouth. This particular flavor of the sticks combine a blend of spices with a hint of cheese.

Today Cherry Donut. This chocolate donut with cherry jelly knocked me out. It’s delicious and very rich. I ate half the donut because the richness was making my head spin. Another fun Turkey food fact: the country is the biggest cherry producer in the world to the tune of over 800,000 tons. The United States comes in second with just around 500,000 tons.

Ulker Krispi Peynir Sogan. These are like the cracker chips I discussed above, but with different flavors: cheese and onion. They’re tasty, but the baharat flavor is the clear superior.

Assorted Turkish Delight. These little cubes are sugar syrup with starch, cooked for several hours and infused with flavors. In this sample package, the flavors were rose, lemon and orange. They were too chewy for me and the flavors just didn’t pop the way I thought they should.

Tomby Ketcap Aromali Misir Cipsi. These ketchup flavored sticks are inspired by similar European snacks. They are small and delicious.They came in a larger bag than most of the treats in the box. I’m happy about that. Another item I’ll be trying to find online or in some area grocery store.

Keyifce Antep Fistikli. The package contained two triangles. The leathery skin tasted like boot. The filling was largely flavorless. This treat is said to showcase three uniquely Turkish components: pestil (fruit leather), pekmez (a molasses-like fruit syrup) and crumbly ground antep (pistachio). Saintly Wife Barb and I couldn’t even finish one of the triangles between us.

Torku Gofret Cifte Lezzet Karamelli Findik. This was a huge block of caramel and hazelnut cream wafers. I believe I’ve consumed more hazelnuts from this box of snacks than in all of my life previous to this Turkish adventure. It’s a light snack, but that might just because there is so little flavor to the wafers or their filling. 
Lush Tahina. These were sesame paste filled cookies and they were delicious. Barb thought they would be great with coffee. The handy guide book says they are “essentially the Turkish equivalent of a Nutter Butter - except maybe a tahina bit better.”

Ulker Susamli Cubuk Kraker. Damn, these are delicious. Sesame seed coated cracker sticks. Kind of like hard mini-breadsticks. I used to buy something like these, but haven’t seen them around of late. I’m going to look harder.

Today Goldies Milk & Honey. Sponge cake with milk and honey. Both Barb and I thought this was especially tasty.

The last item in our Turkey box was the “Yum Bag” filled with two different kinds of small wrapped candies. The bag held about half a dozen pieces of each.

The Toffix Mastic was the nastiest snack in this box. It’s a soft chewy comedy with mastic flavor, derived from the gum-like sap of the mastic tree. It tastes like I imagine jackal ass would taste. Both Barb and I spit out the one bite we each took. If I ever have to torture someone to give them information, I will make them eat this candy.
On the other hand, the Toffix Melo Melo was very nice. It’s a soft milk candy with pear and orange flavor. It’s a little too chewy for me - I’ve never liked gum - but it has a refreshing taste. Show me a candy or pastry that has the same flavor and I’m sure I’d love it a lot.

We didn’t eat all of the Turkey snacks in this box. We had a taste of them and put the rest in bags. We have invited guests to sample them and I might make the same invitation to friends who come to my garage sale this weekend. The next Universal Yums box we’ll be receiving will contain snacks from Greece. Given the proximity of the two nations, I’m wondering if their snacks will differ greatly from one and another. I’ll let you know what I discover.

Since I will be spending eight hours a day at my garage sale today and tomorrow, I’ll likely have to skip a few days of blogging. But, I assure you, I will be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 5, 2019


I greeted the arrival of Back Issue #114 [TwoMorrows; $8.95] with a combination of sincere interest and more than a little wariness. The issue was devoted to “Black Super-Heroes of the 1970s” and, as I knew from past experience, that meant I would have to comment on and correct  misinformation that would surely be present on the magazine’s pages.

I don’t fault Back Issue entirely. In the case of Black Lightning, past executives and employees of DC Comics spread scandalous lies and slander concerning me and my creation of their most-iconic black super-hero...and their broken agreements with me...and much more. It is a continuing tragedy that the company has never really appreciated or understood Black Lightning and my work on the character who now headlines a terrific TV series.

To their credit, the current management of DC Comics has treated me better than the previous managements, though that is an exceedingly low bar to meet. They might not understand how insulting it is to reduce Black Lightning to Batman’s support Negro, but, at least, I got a chance to show today’s comics fans who Black Lightning truly is in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. And, despite my issues with DC Comics, the company has kept its financial agreements with me.

Which brings us to Back Issue #114 and this not precisely a review of that issue. Overall, the issue is excellent. I have recommended the magazine in the past and I expect I’ll continue to recommend it for many years to come. All that keeps it from being my favorite comics magazine is Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego, also published by TwoMorrows. If I ever actually retire, I plan to reread the entire runs of both of these fine journals.

On to my comments and corrections...

Let's start with a minor quibble with editor Michael Eury's editorial in which he wrote "Creators of color, including the late Billy Graham...also began to find employment in the business."

Creators of color were working in the comics business almost from the start. The first story in Detective Comics #1 was both written and drawn by a black man. There have always been at least some creators of color in the field, including Matt Baker and Cal Massey. The latter drew many 1950s stories in various genres for Marvel. He went on to become a world-famous sculptor.

To be sure, creators of color began to work in comics in far greater numbers than previously during the 70s. Eury didn't include that distinction. Hence, the need for this correction.

“Luke Cage, Hero for Hire: The Bronze Age Adventures of Power Man” by Dan Hagen was a fine piece. On page six, Roy Thomas was quoted: “It was always intended that [Cage] would be exceptionally strong.”

A couple years later, when I was writing Power Man, then-editor Len Wein told me Luke Cage didn’t have super-strength. When I pointed out Cage had literally punched his way through a concrete wall to escape from Seagate Prison, Len said Luke was invulnerable and, as such, could keep punching the wall until it broke. I estimate that punching through such a wall with normal strength would take  decades. Luke did it in a matter of panels.

My admiration for Len’s writing knows no bounds. He was one of the best and an influence on my own writing. He was also a dear friend. Unfortunately, Len was also what I called an “editor savant.” He’d proclaim rules for characters and stories that truly only existed in his mind. In the case of Cage and the particular action that Len objected to, I made a silly change to appease him and then ignored his proclamation going forward.

Focusing on Black Goliath, “Brains and Brawn” by Dan Tandarich was another excellent article. In retrospect, I’m wondering what I had against happy marriages. First, I broke up the hitherto unrevealed marriage of Bill Foster and Claire Temple. Then, I did the same with Jefferson Pierce and Lynn Stewart. Though, in all fairness, I  always intended Jeff and Lynn to remarry.

Not surprisingly, I have no quibbles with “Lightning Strikes Three Times (and Counting!)”. The esteemed John Trumbull interviewed me on Black Lightning and my long history with my creation during the East Coast Comicon on April 28, 2018. Given that I have an ego the size of a planet, it will also not surprise anyone that this is my favorite feature in this issue.

In his “Gone But Mercifully Forgotten: How the Black Bomber Bombed Out”, Trumbull wrote about the unbelievably offensive super-hero I talked DC Comics out of publishing. In this article, my friend Mike Gold is quoted saying: “DC didn’t need Tony to be motivated to write off those scripts. They just wanted to see if anything could be salvaged. They probably knew better, but what the hell. Give it a shot.”

My opinion differs from Mike’s because I have been seeing DC’s tone-deafness on characters of color since the beginning of my experience with them. Once I stopped writing Black Lightning in the 1970, the company began to diminish my creation. I’d like to think this was unintentional. But the facts...

When Black Lightning started appearing in Detective Comics, he had been stripped of his electrical powers. When he appeared in Batman and the Outsiders, with his electrical powers back, he was stripped of his super-strength. When Black Lightning’s daughter Thunder was introduced, there was at least one editor who suggested she be the daughter he didn’t know he had, turning the most principled hero in the DC Universe into a baby daddy. Even now, with his own TV show, my creation was reduced to Batman’s support Negro, a kept super-hero who, after abandoning his family, students and community, now lives in an apartment paid for by Batman. Who I presume leaves the money on the night stand when he leaves.

Let’s also consider the historical aspects of DC’s earlier comics. Krypton had black people; they lived on an island separate from the white Kryptonians. Which is a racist dream. When Tyroc appeared in the Legion of Super-Heroes strip, his people lived on a Brigadoon-type island that only appeared in the world every few decades. Yet another racist dream.

DC as a corporation has frequently been tone-deaf when it comes to character of color. I don’t think it was acting any differently in the case of the Black Bomber.

It will take several comments to discuss Ed Lute’s “Black Lightning Beyond Isabella”. This shouldn’t be taken as a slight against Lute. His sources gave him incomplete or incorrect information.

Right out the gate, I suggest you take Trevor von Eeden’s various pronouncements with the proverbial grain of salt. In this article, he claims to have been insulted when I asked him to channel Carmine Infantino in a story I had written specifically with the intent of invoking the Silver Age. If he was insulted, it’s not something he voiced to me or anyone else at the time. I thought he did a great job on this issue.

Sidebar. In recent years, Trevor has stated that he thought it was insulting for Black Lightning to wear the Afro-Mask, something he never expressed while working on the book. He has also made claims that he was DC’s first real black artist - he wasn’t - and that he was the first to make Black Lightning fly in an unpublished story written by Tom King. He wasn’t. And, despite telling me to my face that he didn’t consider himself a co-creator of Black Lightning, he now makes that claim from time to time when it suits him.

These are public matters. My other issues with Trevor, who I will always honor as the first artist on the Black Lightning comics, are more personal and will not be discussed here. End sidebar.

Re: Black Lightning’s cancellation. I was told that it was one of three titles on the bubble. Clearly, the bubble burst. I was also told the person directing the Implosion cancellations didn’t take into account that the comic books now cost more than they used to and were not necessarily less profitable. I was gone from DC Comics by this time, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of what I was told.

Re: The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes comic strip. Believing that DC was still operating under our partnership agreement, I was close to landing a Black Lightning newspaper strip with a syndicate. When I informed DC of this, they killed the project, saying the Chicago Tribune had exclusive rights to all their super-heroes. I have no way of judging the accuracy of their statement. However, I do know it took me an extremely long time to get DC Comics to admit that they owed me money for Black Lightning’s appearance in their strip and about as long to finally get paid for it.

As I said up top, Back Issue #114 is an excellent issue of a truly fine magazine. However, when it comes to Black Lightning, writers who fail to come to the creator of this iconic super-hero for their information will inevitably publish misinformation. It happens time and time again.

My career and those of other creators has suffered because of such misinformation. Sometimes the falsehoods are born of actual malice. Sometimes it’s an uninvolved employee or former employee sticking to a publisher’s talking points. Sometimes it’s because someone is accepting as truth a story they heard second or third hand. Whatever the driving force behind the misinformation, it does damage to the writers and artists who create the comics you love.

There are companies and publishers who would prefer that creators are neither seen nor heard. One of the reasons I post all of those birthdays and remembrances on my Facebook page is because I don’t want these creators to be forgotten.

As for me, I’ll not be disappeared. I will not go quietly into any night, good or otherwise. When it comes to me and my work, I will forever speak my often inconvenient truths.

Vicious falsehoods and absurd speculations be damned. You know who I am. You know my work. You know what I stand for.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...some end of summer musings plus my reviews of Dear Justice League by Michael Northrop and Gustavo Duarte, Malaka Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir, and Alter Ego #159


I’m recovered from the New Mexico Comic Expo in Albuquerque, a city I now know much more about and which I’d rank as one of the nicest cities I’ve visited. Bugs Bunny should not have taken any kind of turn there. He should’ve settled there. Though he might be more comfortable in nearby Santa Fe, which boasts the fantastic Chuck Jones Art Gallery. But I digress.

The New Mexico Comic Expo was a phenomenal event, made all the more so because it was a first-time convention. I’ll be writing about it after I finish my reports on the San Diego Comic-Con International and the NEO Comic Con.

In the meantime, just before I headed to New Mexico, I watched a ridiculously entertaining cheesy monster movie that’s now available on DVD. I feel a divine calling to tell you about this soon-to-be cult classic.

The VelociPastor [2018] was written, directed and co-produced by Brendan Steele. It stars Greg Cohan as the title character, Alyssa Kempinski as a hooker with mad martial skills, and Daniel Steere as Father Stewart, Cohan’s mentor.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. At first horrified by this new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime. And ninjas.

The death of young Father Jones’ parents in a car explosion is more horrifying than I can imagine. That’s because we don’t actually see it. We hear it, but all we see is a title card...VFX: CAR ON FIRE. I assume this was a budget matter. As in...this movie didn’t have much of a budget. Does anyone reading this know the going rate for blowing up a car? I’m just asking for a friend.


His faith shaken, Father Jones goes on walkabout in China. There he encounters a young woman fleeing from assassins. He fails to save her, but, before she dies, she gives him an ancient dragon’s tooth. Accidentally scratching himself with the tooth, the priest gains a hideous/hilarious power. He can turn into a dinosaur.

Of course, he doesn’t discover his power right away. He first turns into a raptor when he rescues Carol from an attacker. He passes out and wakes up in her bed. Thinking they had sex, he tells her this can never happen again. It takes a few amusing moments before she realizes what he thinks happened and she tries to explain that he turned into a dinosaur.

The conversation is too much fun not to share.

Carol: Last night was...amazing.

Doug Jones: Oh. Oh, I see. Let me be fair and say this can never happen again.

Carol: So it was just a one-time thing?

Doug Jones: Yes, honestly it never should have happened at all.

Carol: That's for sure.

Doug Jones: Oh. Was it bad?

Carol: It was...weird.

Doug Jones: Oh.

Carol: Honestly, it all happened so quickly. I was very scared, I think I even peed myself.

Doug Jones: Oh. Was it your first time too?

Carol: Yeah.

Doug Jones: As I said, I'm a priest, so we can never say...
Carol: What, what are you talking about?

Doug Jones: What are *you* talking about?

Carol: That time you turned into a dinosaur and ate someone.

Doug Jones: Wait - what? What?


Doug Jones: I don't believe you. Dinosaurs never existed, and even if they did, I don't transform into one.

And perhaps my favorite part...

Doug Jones: You're a hooker?

Carol: And premed/law, but people aren't surprised as much by that one.

You will not see Doug’s dinosaur persona in full until near the end of the movie. Prior to that, we see the dinosaur padre’s rather goofy head and somewhat scarier clawed hands. I think that was for the best. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Having met cute, Carol wants Doug to use his power to kill really bad people. He’s horrified by the suggestion. However, he unleashes the beast while hearing the confession of Frankie Mermaid. Frankie is Carol’s obnoxious pimp and a hit man for the mob. In fact, ‘twas he who killed Doug’s parents, though we never learn why he did it. For penance, Frankie gurgles to death through his slashed throat.

Dinosaur Doug starts slaughtering drug pushers and other really bad folks. Carol and Doug get closer. Father Stewart, Doug’s boss and mentor, is alarmed by this. After some Bible quotes, Father Stewart takes Doug to an exorcist. This does not go well.

Father Stewart is nearly killed by the rampaging VelociPastor. He wakes up in the tent of Wei Chan, another priest. Chan is the boss of a group of Roman Catholic Ninjas with a plan to hook the entire city on a special kind of cocaine. When they stop the supply of the drug, the crazy users will turn to the church for help and become an unstoppable army of Christ. When Father Stewart refuses to join this plan, Wei Chan kills him.

Sidebar. Wei Chan’s right-hand man is Doug’s previously unmentioned brother Sam. They laugh together maniacally. A lot.

Wei Chan sends his ninjas to kill Doug. He and Carol, who are now lovers, are in their undies. They defeat the ninjas while providing some welcome eye-candy for the audience.
It’s final battle time. Everybody is king fu fighting. Carol seems to be mortally wounded. Doug goes Full Dinosaur and he’s almost as goody as Barney. He rips off some arms and kills his brother before Wei Chan shoots him with an arrow coated with an antidote to Doug’s transformation.

Wei Chan gloats about global domination. However, for some reason, Doug’s arms are not affected by the antidote. He rips Wei Chan’s head, which might be the worst fake head I have ever seen, from the madman’s body. And then...

Surprise happy ending. Carol lives. Doug quits the priesthood and the Roman Catholic Church. I can relate to that even without seeing my girlfriend sliced by a ninja priest.

Doug and Carol realize one defeat in one city won’t stop the Roman Catholic Church from seeking to rule the world. They will continue to seek out really bad people and kill them.


Will there ever be a sequel to The VelociPastor? I kind of sort of doubt it, but I also kind of sort of hope there is.

In the meantime, I want Brendan Steele to know that I could write the heck out of an ongoing VelociPastor comic-book series. This is right in my wheelhouse. A religious vigilante who battles villains in socially relevant stories.

Brendan...have your people call my people.

Also...I am basically “my people” all by myself, so you can e-mail me directly.

I’ll be back soon with more bloggy fun.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


The short answer to our title question is...probably not. I still have this vast accumulation of stuff I want to sell before Saintly Wife Barb retires and we can start fighting about where we want to move. In alphabetical order, my current top choices:

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Carson City, Nevada
Hershey, Pennsylvania
Pensacola, Florida

My final garage sale of the year will be held  Friday and Saturday, September 6-7. It will be held at 840 Damon Drive, Medina, Ohio. Because this is my final garage sale of the year, I’m extending my usual hours. I’m determined to make it easier for as many fans as possible to take advantage of this sale.

Friday, September 6: 9am to 1pm, and 3pm to 7pm.

Saturday, September 7: 9am to 1pm, and 3pm to 7pm.

By appointment, I am also willing to open on Sunday, September 8. The same appointment policy holds true for Monday through Thursday, September 9-13. To set up these appointments, you have to e-mail me or text me via my cell phone number. If you already have my cell phone number, you will be able to text me. If not, you’ll need to e-mail me. If you have my old land line number, it won’t do you any good. I unplugged that line due to excessive scam and spam callers.

This last garage sale of 2019 is going to be somewhat different than previous sales. I am determined to sell as much of my existing stock as humanly possible. So I’ll be making more $10 mystery boxes than I have ever made before.

If you’ve come to my sales, you know I always have had from seven to ten boxes of comic books priced at a dollar. You won’t see those dollar boxes at this last sale because I’ve magically transformed them into quarter boxes. Even I can’t believe the amazing bargains to be found in these quarter boxes.

However, I must caution you. I already have an out-of-state offer for these boxes that includes shipping charges. If you don’t scoop up these books at this final garage sale of the year, you will not be able to buy them from me next year. My plan is to have all new dollar boxes in 2020.

I’ll have my usual Isabella-associated books and posters available. As always, I sign Isabella stuff for free at my garage sale. For those of you who can’t make it to my garage sale, I hope to launch a Tony Isabella store before the end of the month.

I’ll be lowering the prices on most other items for this last sale of the year. I may not get to the older comics, but there is a way for you to cut the price on those as well. Basically, you need to buy a bunch of stuff.

For every fifty dollars you spend, not including the mystery boxes, you’ll get five dollars off. Spend a hundred bucks and you get ten dollars off. You can do the math yourself for larger amounts. Not to worry, there won’t be a quiz.

Will there be new stuff at this garage sale? Though my priority is to sell what’s already there, I will have some new stuff. How much depends on how quickly I can get all the above in place. My son Ed and I did make a trip to the Fortress of Storage this weekend. I’m going to try to price as much of what we brought back as possible.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be back soon with more bloggy thing news, views and reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 2, 2019


What Has Gone Before:

I’m reading and reviewing the Free Comic Book Day comic books sent to me by my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. When I read and review FCBD comics, I look at three areas.

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 and be able to buy more of the same?

I score FCBD offerings on a scale of zero to ten. Each category is worth three points with the tenth point coming from my interest in seeing more of what’s ever in the book.
Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! [Viz] has a 16-page excerpt by Ryo Takamisaki from the title feature and a 14-page Pokemon Adventures by Hidenori Kusaka (story) and Mato (art). The latter seems to be based on the Pokemon video games.

QUALITY: I thought both of these stories were very entertaining. I have a minor quibble in that the first read like it was missing an introductory page or two, but I enjoyed both excerpts.

ACCESSIBILITY: If I had no trouble following the action - I didn’t - then getting into this material should be a breeze for all those young readers who are already Pokemon masters.

SALESMANSHIP: Decent. Editorial material directs readers to where they can find more of these features.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.


The Overstreet Guide to Collecting [Gemstone Publishing] isn’t the standard Free Comic Book Day offering. While it does have 16 pages of comic-book content by writer J.C. Vaughn and artists Brendon and Brian Fraim, those pages aren’t a story. They are a tutorial into comics collecting. In addition to the comics, the issue has a nice tribute to Stan Lee and short prose articles on the Overstreet Hall of Fame and collecting comics by their creators.

QUALITY: The comics material is great fun, though, in exploring the diversity of the current industry, it ignored comics that weren’t adventure-oriented.  

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent, but I can’t let it pass that it ignored the vastness of the comics industry.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. It has house ads for Previews, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and the Overstreet Price Guide to Star Wars Collectibles.

SCORE: Seven points out of a possible ten points.


The Dark Age [Red 5 Comics/Motor] features a 16-page excerpt from the title feature and an 8-page excerpt from Afterburn. The former is set in a near-future world where all metal has been reduced to  “worthless piles of rust and dust.” Afterburn is set in a different near-future world where a solar flare has wiped out most of Europe, Africa and Asia.

QUALITY: The Dark Age excerpt is interesting in its depiction of a new feudal age, but it had no truly interesting characters for me to hang my hat on. The Afterburn excerpt starred a couple thieves trying to steal the remaining Faberge eggs. It was so-so at best. The art was solid on the Dark Age excerpt, muddled on the Afterburn segment.

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent, but not to the extent I that I think these Free Comic Book Day issues need to be.

SALESMANSHIP: Meh. While there are house ads for the two features, they simply don’t excite.

SCORE: Three points out of a possible ten points.


Go Fish! [Arcana] has a 19-page prequel to an animated film that,  near as I can determine, was never made. It also has four pages of related material of an educational nature and several ads for other Arcana product.

QUALITY: Disappointing. The prequel material is heavily inspired by Finding Nemo and is neither as exciting or witty as that animated film. The prequel ends abruptly in an unsatisfying manner. However, I did like the educational pages.

ACCESSIBILITY: Good. I had no trouble following the story.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. Nowhere in this issue are readers directed to any comics continuation of the story, just to the animated feature that hasn’t been made yet. (Though an editorial does say that Mark Hamill and Megan Edwards are involved. The six house ads for other comics give no more than the titles and what I assume are covers to those titles.

SCORE: Four points out of a possible ten points.


Grumble vs. the Goon [Albatross Funnybooks] features a complete 22-page title story by Rafer Roberts and Eric Powell with art by Mike Norton and Powell. There’s also a six-page story written and drawn by Powell. Albatross is Powell’s publishing company, dedicated to creator-owned works.

QUALITY: These are well-written and well-drawn tales with humorous action and monster mayhem. The stories aren’t to my taste, but I don’t deny their quality.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor. I never felt I had a true understanding of the characters and their worlds.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There’s a inside back cover ad that promotes a number of Albatross titles.

SCORE: Six points out of a possible ten points.


Bob’s Burgers [Dynamite] has three stories featuring the children of Bob and Linda Belcher. Created by Loren Bouchard, Bob’s Burgers has been renewed for its tenth season on Fox with a movie coming in 2020. The 27 pages of comics stories will likely entertain fans of the animated series. Me, I’ve never managed to watch an entire episode. Different strokes.

QUALITY: Each of the three stories has something going for it. An interesting premise. A witty line. A funny scene. But, overall, I was not taken by the characters or the writing. The first story had unpleasantly stiff art. The second story’s art was intriguing. The third story’s art was less stiff than the first’s. In scoring this category, I tried to look at this FCBD comic book from the view of a fan of the show.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor. Readers who watch the show probably don’t need a leg up on getting into its world, but I never got a clear idea of who these characters were and what their deals were.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. There were five house ads for this title and four other Dynamite titles.

SCORE: Five points out of a possible ten points.


Casper’s Spooksville [American Mythology Productions] presents two new stories and two reprints, one of them a single-page gag strip. “Blow Off Some Scream” by Pat Shand and Eric Shanower finds Casper trying to console Spooky after the Tuff Little Ghost has a falling out with his girlfriend Poil. “The Big Switcharoo” by Mike Volker and Shanower deals with a body-swapping magical spell gone awry. “The Man From Mars” from 1953 is a sweetly humorous tales of Casper helping a sad kid. The one-pager makes no sense.

QUALITY: Shanower’s art is spot-on wonderful, but the writing could be better. It’s not bad. It just doesn’t have the spark I’d like to see in new Casper stories. The reprint story is fun.

ACCESSIBILITY: Solid. These characters are very well-known, so you don’t need a lot of explanation of their world.

SALESMANSHIP: Also solid with five house ads promoting the ongoing Casper’s Spooksville and four other AMP titles.

SCORE: Eight points out of a possible ten points.

Look for more Free Comic Book Day reviews to come. I have a little over a dozen remaining issues to read and review.

© 2019 Tony Isabella