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


  1. Tony, just wanted to thank you for the issues of Commando you sent me. They are everything you said they were in your reviews.
    My favorite of the current variant covers are all the Adam Hughes covers on Superman. I rarely buy the regular cover on that title.

  2. I am sure I speak for lots of fans when I say I am very happy to know that the It stories have been collected.