Thursday, October 31, 2019


What Has Gone Before:

I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee for Fanboy Expo 2.0. It’s nearly 5 pm on Friday night and the event is about to open.

Occupying the location of the US Pavilion of the 1982 World's Fair, the Knoxville Convention Center is 500,000 square feet with 120,000 square feet of exhibit space. It’s an enormous and mostly very well maintained facility. Some of the restrooms did leave something to be desired, but others were fine.

Fanboy Expo 2.0 was only using a third of its summer event space, but that was still an enormous area. My booth was across from the Charles Bond Comics tables with lots of great old comics and very reasonably-priced hardcovers and trades. Charles and I have known each other for years and it was great to catch up with him. Kudos also to Jimmy, his assistant at the show, who always kept the comics conversation flowing.

Just before the show opened, a bulky, squirrel-y looking character walked close to my booth, which, as you probably figured out, had a great deal of Black Lightning material on sale. Posters, pins and trade paperbacks. He stopped in front of my table and...

...flashed a white power symbol at me.

I realize some dispute the “okay” hand symbol is a racist symbol. In this case, there was no mistaking the intent of this individual or the terrified look on his face when he realized I knew exactly what he was doing. I shot him an angry look and he scurried away. I didn’t see him again that weekend. 

Everyone else I met in Knoxville, whether they were associated with the convention or working at the hotel, were wonderful, welcoming  people. I didn’t let this one guy occupy my brain for more than it took to write about the above incident.

These Friday night previews are interesting. Sometimes they set the tone for the convention. Other times they reveal nothing about what to expect on Saturday and Sunday. If a promoter asks me to do them, I do them.

My sales at my table were about what I expected. My biggest seller was Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, reprinting the first appearance of Misty Knight. This is an exclusive variant that is only available from me. It’s signed and number and the print run was 1000 copies. I sell them for $10 each. I brought ten copies. I had sold them all before noon on Saturday.

I do charge a modest $5 per item for my signature. (I sign comics and other items purchased from me for free.) Over the weekend, the signatures amounted to 52% of my take for the convention. In case you were wondering why I charge for signatures.

Besides people telling me how much love Black Lightning and the TV series, I think the line I heard most often was:

“Tony Isabella? I read some of your comics when I was young!”

Tempering the anguish of being so freaking old, I was delighted by how many fans, including many not born when I was writing comics in the 1970s, said they felt my stories hold up as well today as they must have when first published. I have always given everything I had to every assignment I’ve taken. It pleases me to know all of that hard work was worth it.

One of my all-time favorite convention vendors was at Fanboy Expo 2.0: Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda Company. I’ve enjoyed their root beer at many conventions, but the mix was off at the last one I attended. The heavenly brew was back to its usual incredible at this convention. I bought a mini-mug with free refills.

Were there legendary burps? There were.

I’m cutting today’s bloggy thing short so I can spend time with my Saintly Wife Barb. I will be back tomorrow with a brief interlude to this report. I hope you’ll be entertained and intrigued by what I’ll be writing about. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


After several delays, I’m finally getting around to writing about my recent weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, as a featured guest at David Heynen’s Fanboy Expo 2.0. The event took place Friday through Sunday, October 18-20, at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Those of you have enjoyed (endured) my previous convention reports know I always discuss more than just the convention. The journeys are often as noteworthy.

My journey started Thursday morning. An American Airlines flight to Charlotte on a plane only big and comfortable in comparison to the baby American Eagle plane that took me from Charlotte to Knoxville. The only saving grace was that neither flight was long. The flight to Charlotte was around a hour and change, the flight to Knoxville was less than an hour. The convention picked me up at the airport and took me to my home for the weekend.

The Holiday Inn World's Fair Park was originally built for the 1982 World's Fair. Some of that fair’s iconic structures remain open to tourists in the hotel’s back yard. As I would later learn, the park is the city’s largest public green space. Unfortunately, because of a lingering stomach flu, I had to curtail my explorations of this area. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance in the future.

My room was fairly large. I could’ve fit two American Eagle cabins in it. The bed was exceptionable comfortable and the reading chair likewise. On the minus side, the cooling/heating system was erratic and there wasn’t a room safe. I spent a little of my leisure time during the convention working out a grading system for hotels. If you manage to stay awake during this series of Fanboy Expo reports, I’ll share it with you.

Quick clarification. The Fanboy Expo was exciting and fun. Mister Tony was less so.

Here’s something weird that was in my hotel room. Over the controls for the AC was a card reading:

Insert your room key card into the illuminated wall slot located at the entry door.

This illuminated wall slot did not exist. I checked every part of every wall in the room. I checked around the outside of the room. No illuminated wall slot. I think it’s particularly cruel to mess with a tired old man’s head that way.

I had lunch at the hotel’s Brew Burger restaurant. I was seated at a table with a gorgeous view of the park. I ordered the Park Club sandwich, which was both tasty and large enough that the leftovers (kept in my room refrigerator) made for terrific snacks on Friday and Saturday nights.

My room view wasn’t as nice as the restaurant view. I looked out at a large YMCA building. At least, I quipped in a text to a friend, I knew where the fun would be.

My Thursday evening was restful. After watching MSNBC for a while, I talked myself off the ledge via Young Sheldon and The Unicorn. I worked on my October Previews order and read several chapters of Ohio author Andrew Welsh-Huggins’s third book in his “Andy Hayes” mystery series. Hayes is a disgraced Ohio State University football star turned private investigator after a stint in prison. If you’ve been reading the bloggy thing, you know I’m a sucker for mysteries and police novels set in my home state.

I woke up early Friday morning because my cat Simba has trained me to wake up early to feed her. But it gave me a chance to plan for the day, watch some morning news, and have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The Brew Burger served a pretty standard buffet, but the food was well prepared and the service was excellent.

On the local ABC morning show, I caught a very nice report on the convention that would be starting at 5 pm that evening. I did wince when they announced a few guests, leading off with an actor who had cancelled his appearance because he had to work. I hope any of his fans who were disappointed by his absence found comfort in all the other terrific guests and programs who appeared over the weekend at the Fanboy Expo.

The Convention Center was across the street from the hotel. I went over there to get my badge, receive a nice gift bag and set up my table. I was delighted to see the charming, talented artist Robert Pope was around the corner from me. We would frequently poke our heads Laugh-In style through the curtain between us.

For lunch, I walked three-tenths of a mile upstream to Knoxville’s Market Square. It was a bit of a hike, but it’s a really nice part of the city. Lots of interesting looking restaurants, most of them not open until the late afternoon.

I ate at a place called Ruby Sunshine. They did a great burger and fries, which was all I needed. At the table next to me was a fan I have met at several shows. He told me he had a bunch of books for me to sign.

After he left, another group of fans came to my restaurant table. Feeling so much charitable than I usually am, I was going to invite them to join me. But they just wanted to know when I would be set up at the convention and if I would be doing any panels and signing comics there. They were very polite, so polite they missed out on my buying them lunch.

Just before the Fanboy Expo opened, I sort of met the one terrible person I would meet the entire weekend. But since that’s the kind of hook that will get you to come back tomorrow, I’m not going to tell you about until tomorrow.

I’m such a tease!

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THE AKRON COMICON (November 2-3)

My penultimate convention appearance of 2019 is The Akron Comicon. This year, the event has new ownership, a new venue, and all sorts of cool add-ons.

Akron Comicon will be Saturday and Sunday, November 2-3 at Emidio’s Event Center, 48 E. Bath Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Show hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday.

Part of the convention’s mission statement is emphasizing what they call “Comics Future.” They keep the show affordable for families to give adults a chance to pass on their love of comics to kids. The ticket prices reflect this:

Adult (weekend): $15
Adult (one day): $10
Child (weekend): $10
Child (one-day): $5

One child 13 or younger will be admitted to the event free with a paid adult ticket. I have seldom seen a convention, even a regional one like this, with better prices.

This year’s headline guest is Cleveland broadcasting legend Marty Sullivan, who created the character of “Superhost” for kids shows and monster movie airings. While most area monster-movie hosts took their cues from the immortal Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson, Sullivan was inspired by Superman, the character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster while they lived in Cleveland. It was a gentle parody of the Man of Steel and it made me smile. I’m definitely looking forward to meeting Sullivan at the convention.

Besides yours truly, comics guests include Bob McLeod, Ron Frenz, Tom Batiuk, Don Simpson, Craig Boldman, Ted Sikora, Bob Ingersoll, Mike W. Barr, Matt Horak, Mark Sumerak, Thom Zahler and many other artists and writers.

Media guests include Star Trek actor Sean Kenny, Rottentail actor Tank Jones, horror host Son of Ghoul, pop culture authors Jan and Mike Olszewski, and actors Matt and Tracey Penfound, the children of Captain Penny, arguably the greatest of the Cleveland kids show hosts.

The Akron Comicon was founded by Bob Jenkins and Michael Savene, who established the Comicon’s “fans first” credo. Led by local creators Dan Gorman and Jason Miller, Altered Realm Productions purchased the event this year and plan to expand it in a number of interesting ways. Look for the official Comicon poster, a limited edition Rottentail trade and an exclusive limited edition print by Enrique Lopez.

The convention programming features a Marvel play, toy collecting, fan film fight sequences and safety, Batman’s 80th anniversary, Rottentail, cosplay, Superhost, the state of retail comics and voice over acting.

Slow down, Tony, you say. What’s this Rottentail you keep talking about? It’s a hit indie film available on Blu-Ray. On Friday night, at the historic Highland Theater (826 West Market St., Akron, OH), you can see Rottentail on the big screen. Writer David Hayes and actor Tank Jones will be signing copies of the Blu-Ray and talking with fans. Festivities start at 8 pm. Get there early and see a the premier of Johnny K Wu’s fan film Parker at 8:30 pm. Admission is a mere five bucks, but you’ll have to buy your own popcorn and any other concession snacks you crave.

Besides offering the above program the night before the convention, the Akron Comicon will also have an after-party on Saturday night. Come hang out at The Empire Concert Club (1305 E. Tallmadge Ave., Akron OH). Sponsored by Source Point Press, the $10 admission gets you in to see five live bands, hosted and MC’d by Marty Sullivan.

As for me, I’ll be available at my booth throughout the show, save for when I take breaks for meals and such.

What will I be selling? I’m bringing these trade paperbacks:

1000 Comic Books You Must Read
Black Lightning Volume One (reprinting my 1970s run)
Black Lightning Volume Two (stories not written by me)
Black Lightning: Brick City Blues (reprinting my 1995 run)
Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands (reprinting my most recent Black Lightning comics from 2017-2018)
July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One (which defies description)

I’m bringing copies of an exclusive-to-me edition Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, which reprints the first appearance of Misty Knight in the Iron Fist series. This signed, numbered edition is limited to 1000 copies.

I’ll have Black Lightning pins from Fansets. The pins cost $6 each  and my supply is limited.

Posters? I’ll have a number of different posters and mini-posters: Black Lightning (three different posters), Daredevil, Hawkman, Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Tigra and the rare two-sided Superman poster from 1988's International Superman Exposition. I’m running low on most of these, so this might be your last chance to get them from me.

I’ll sign any item purchased from me at no additional charge. I’m happy to sign any Tony Isabella or Tony Isabella-related items not purchased from me for a nominal fee of $5 per signature. That goes up to $10 per item if you’re having my signature witnessed by any grading company representative.

Cosplayers? If you’re cosplaying as a character I created or that I’ve written, please stop by my booth. With your permission, I’d love to take your photo for use in my blog and other online venues.

Photos with me? I’m happy to pose with you or for you. There is no charge for these photos.

Interviews? Depending on how busy I am at the convention, I’ll do my level best to make time to talk with you for your print/online articles or your podcasts. However, at this point, I'm working the event by myself and might not be able to accommodate you.

Are you an editor, publisher or filmmaker who would like to hire me for a project? We probably won’t be able to take a long-ish meeting during show hours, but I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Failing that, you can always contact me via e-mail.

Two more things.

Don’t be shy about asking me questions. Non-disclosure agreements mean there are questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try to give you answers to all other questions.

Should you ever feel threatened/uncomfortable at this or any other convention, know that my booth will always be a safe spot for you. You can hang with me until we can talk to con personal able to help you with whatever and whoever is causing your concern.

Assuming you’re still with me after this long-winded bloggy thing, I would love to see you at the Akron Comicon. It’s been a terrific show in the past and I’m certain it will be terrific this year. If not, we can blame do-nothing government officials who have failed to create a Department of Comics. Shame on them.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 28, 2019


On two separate occasions last week, I sent the Medina Gazette, our local newspaper, information on the extremist, un-American views of Ward 2 City Council candidate Michael Ryan. On each occasion, the paper declined to run stories on this.

I sent them a letter on the subject. They have also refused to run that letter. In the interest of informing voters of Ryan’s complete unsuitability to serve on City Council, I am sharing my letter in today’s bloggy thing. I urge my fellow Ward 2 voters to share this blog with their neighbors and in whatever social media venues they have.

Here’s my letter:

A hundred years ago, the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution enacted into law that the federal government and states could not prohibit women from voting. Disturbingly, Ward 2 Council candidate Michael Ryan expresses support for the antiquated notion women should be subservient to men. Despite our country being founded by people seeking freedom to practice their religion, he also believes some religions should be vilified. These are among the extreme positions he advocates for on his social media.

Ryan is a two-issue candidate, entering the race to overturn what our bipartisan Council achieved earlier this year: insuring equal protection under the law to our LGBT citizens. Cut past the various code words and what is exposed is the bigotry of Ryan and the other candidates who have emerged to challenge all of the incumbents who voted for the equality that is at the center of American democracy. It is unfortunate some people believe equal rights for all somehow means less rights for them. It doesn’t.

The above is reason enough for me to urge Ward 2 voters to return Dennie Simpson back to Council. As for Ryan’s other issue...

He wants to kill more deer. Because they eat his flowers. Now one might think an alleged Christian such as Ryan would see the beauty in all God’s creations, including deer. Since he seems unable to do that, I would suggest he build a fence around his property. Maybe even a wall.

Here are the scans of things on Ryan’s social media that I sent to the Gazette and which they ignored.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 25, 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.
Little Lulu [Drawn & Quarterly] stars Lulu Moppet, indisputably one of the greatest characters in comics history. Created by magazine cartoonist Marge, Lulu moved into brilliant comic books written and sometimes drawn by the legendary John Stanley. Drawn & Quarterly has launched a reprint series restoring those original comics to vibrant full color. This FCBD sampler includes several stories, gag pages and even a “Lulu’s Diary” text feature.

QUALITY: Great characters. Great writing. Great art. The quality is most definitely there.

ACCESSIBLE: Little Lulu is a pretty basic concept. Lulu versus the boys. Kids versus adults. Occasional flights into fantasy. Though the stories are from many decades ago, I think they hold up well, albeit for older readers.
Sidebar. On my list of things I wish I could create, a modernized Little Lulu would be high. Whenever I mentioned this, people have reacted in horror. Some because they hate the idea of Little Lulu stories that are not *exactly* like the old ones. Others because no man should write such a feminist icon. I hold the belief that any good writer can write any character. If I can only write characters like myself, then I’m stuck with short lumpy senior citizens with high blood pressure and occasional gout. That would be fine for one series or story, but story after story? I think not.
SALESMANSHIP: Excellent, though it’s a bit jarring to see clearly adult material being pitched side-by-side with more all ages fare. That said, Drawn & Quarterly did one of the best jobs of showcasing
their vast variety of publications.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.


From Random House Graphic, we get Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: Big and Bolder. Written and drawn by Jeffrey Brown, the title characters are siblings in the Stone Age who have met and become friends with a human family. Their adventures have the kids enjoying their mild adventures, playing and pulling pranks on one another. Educational information is included in most of these tales.

QUALITY: I thought the stories were fun and well-done. They weren’t really to my taste, but I enjoyed them.

ACCESSIBILITY: Could have been a little better. There was plenty of room for a “What Has Gone Before” piece on the inside front cover, especially since it was blank. As were the last page of the issue and the inside back cover.

SALESMANSHIP: Decent. There were eight pages of house ads for the Lucy and Andy series and other graphic novel series from RHG. The  information about the books in the ads could have been much better. Instead, we got many laudatory quotes from cartoonists whose works are also published by Random House Graphic.

SCORE: Five points out of a possible ten points.


Several times, I moved Our Favorite Thing is My Favorite Thing is Monsters [Fantagraphics] lower on my Free Comic Book Day reading pile. Previously, after reading several dozens pages into the Emil Ferris graphic novel, I gave up it on. The reasons for that aren’t important at this time. So many folks whose opinions I respect have praised the book. It’s won some awards. I figured I owed it another chance. After reading this FCBD collection of Ferris shorts, I do plan to have it again.

QUALITY: High. One of the reasons that I found My Favorite Thing is Monsters hard going was what I recall as script lettering to mimic the style of its 10-year-old protagonist. The lettering was better here and the stories were excellent.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very good. Between the first page introduction and the writing, I had no trouble following the stories.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The inside front cover has advertises My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Three other house ads were scattered through the issue. One was for James Warren: Empire of Monsters, a biography I’ve read and highly recommend. Another was for a graphic novel that intrigues me. Three out of four ain’t bad.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.


Witch Hat Atelier [Kodansha Comics] features excerpts from a trio of manga series: Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahamai, Cardcaptor Sakura Collector’s Edition by Clamp, and Magus of the Library by Mitsu Izumi.

QUALITY: Each excerpt left me wanting to read more. Though some of the storytelling is hard to follow, the basic premises were good.

ACCESSIBILITY: Each excerpt was preceded by a text page giving some background that was of considerable help in getting into them.

SALESMANSHIP: The introductory text pages served as compelling ads  for the three titles. There was also a back cover ad for a fourth manga series.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.

This concludes my reviews of this year’s Free Comic Book Day comic books. I’m awaiting the arrival of this year’s Halloween Comicfest giveaways. When I receive these freebies, I’ll commence reading and reviewing them.

I’m running this column sooner than I had anticipated on account of it was finished and ready to go. Next up with be a series of blogs on my trip to Knoxville for Fanboy Expo 2.0.   

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Right off the bat - no spoiler warning necessary - let me state the obvious. I’m a proud progressive liberal. I like being on the right side of history and morality. I realize this will annoy and anger some of my readers. I’d like to think that, if they stick around, they will recognize that my positions are good for the country and the world. Failing that, I hope they will, at least, accept there is a legitimate other side and that we don’t hate America or want to destroy it. I don’t even want to take away all your guns.

I have written several “Citizen Tony” bloggy things over the years. The first one was in August 2016 and, from that column, I’ve lifted today’s opening paragraph. I am not as naive today as I was when I believed there could be respectful common ground that would lead us to good decisions. Trump got elected president and my country went to Hell. I’m still hopeful we can repair the damage willingly inflected on the United States by the Republican Party, but it will be a long hard struggle.

The most important thing we can do to truly make out country great again is to vote and not vote Republican. I’m not going to proclaim there are no decent Republicans out there. However, let’s face the indisputable fact that most of them have lost any claim to personal decency and honor by backing Trump no matter what awful things he does, by actively working to discriminate against those not like them, by trying to game our elections via voter suppression, by passing laws to benefit the 1% over all others, by refusing to take action against gun violence in our land, by neglecting to protect our environment, by neglecting our military and, gee whiz, it would take a dozen bloggy things to cover all the sins that can be laid at the doorstep of the Republican party.

I used to vote on Election Day at the Medina Recreation Center just a block away from my house. I stopped doing that after many years of being harassed by a Republican who worked there. For years, he would do his best to get my goat. The last time I voted there, I’d had enough. I told him to cut the crap and just do his job without commenting.

He exploded in rage. He yelled that I shouldn’t even be allowed to vote. One of his fellow workers dragged him away from his station.As he left, I looked him in his wild eyes and told him that, after I voted, my next job would be to get him fired.

Which I did. I called the Board of Elections and they canned him. I’m told they later reinstated him and moved him to another polling place. Stupid as it was, it didn’t matter to me. I had already decided to go to the Board of Elections and vote early from then on.

In my way too Republican city, I’m rarely proud of Medina’s office holders. However, I was very proud when Medina City Council, by a bipartisan vote, approved anti-discrimination protections for our LGBT fellow citizens. Medina is a Trump town, complete with all of that disgusting individual’s bigotry and racism.

Almost immediately after that anti-discrimination law was voted on, the forces of bigotry hit the street. They went door to door trying to get signatures to put killing the law on the ballot. I screamed at the bigot who came to my door and, when said fucking bigot tried to claim she wasn’t a bigot - she only wanted to let people vote on it because that’s the right way to do it - I threatened to call the police on her for trespassing after she’d been told to get the fuck off my property. 

Much to my delight and even surprise, the bigots didn’t get enough signatures to make it to the ballot. They did ask they be allowed more time than allowed by law to get more signatures because, you know, Jesus.

Their Plan B was to run unqualified candidates against the Council members who voted for the anti-discrimination legislation. What a pack of jackals they put on the ballot!

The bigot running against my councilperson has but two items on his platform. The first is to overturn the legislation. The second is to kill more deer.

Medina does thin the herds from time to time, using trained hunters to do so. Since the deers roam areas in backyards and in woods that back up to schools and sports fields, we need professionals to do that thinning. There are those non-professionals who want to get in on the fun of killing deer. What could go wrong?

When I voted, I voted for Bill Lamb for Member of Council at Large and Dennie R. Simpson, to represent my Ward 2 in Council. Both of them courageously backed the non-discrimination legislation. Lamb, in particular, has served Medina well for many years.

There are three candidates running for two open spots on the Medina Board of Education. I voted for Keith A. Rasey, the only Democrat among those running. I could have voted for a second candidate, but it’s important to get Rasey on the board. I only voted for him this time around.

There were three tax levies on the ballot. I voted for all of them. I had to grit my teeth to do so. The levies will provide valuable services to some of Medina’s most in need citizens. My dismay comes from knowing we wouldn’t need these levies if Medina didn’t spend stupid money on things like a excessively splendid new courthouse and other eye candy for the elites who run our city.

I have more “Citizen Tony” columns in the works, but next up will be my reports on the Fanboy Expo 2.0 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and what the fans, guests and promoters should expect from convention venues and hotels. 

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Comics in the news plus my reviews of Avengers: Loki Unleashed by Roger Stern and Ron Lim; Pre-Code Classics: Space Action and World War III; and The Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 8 by Stan Sakai!

Monday, October 14, 2019

FANBOY EXPO 2.0 (October 18-20)

Hey, gang! My next convention appearance will be Fanboy Expo 2.0, Friday-Sunday, October 18-20, at the Knoxville Convention Center, 701 Henley Street, Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s the state’s largest pop culture event with over 30,000 fans attending the summer event. Look for celebrity guests, comic industry pros, cosplay, vendors, live entertainment and more!

Show hours are 5-9 pm on Friday, 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, and 11 am to 5 pm on Sunday. The VIP ticket holders can get into the show thirty minutes earlier on each of those days. I’m excited about being a guest at the expo. It has probably been well over a decade since I did any event in Tennessee.

I’ll be available at my booth throughout the show, save for when I do a question-and-answer session on Saturday at 10:30 am and when I take breaks for meals and such.

Full disclosure. “Such” will likely include my wandering the guest and vendor areas to get my own fanboy on. My goal for the weekend is to buy fewer items than I sell.

What will I be selling? I’m bringing these trade paperbacks:

Black Lightning Volume One (reprinting my 1970s run)
Black Lightning Volume Two (stories not written by me)
Black Lightning: Brick City Blues (reprinting my 1995 run)
Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands (reprinting my most recent Black Lightning comics from 2017-2018)
July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One (which defies description)

I’m bringing copies of an exclusive-to-me edition Marvel’s Greatest Creators: Tony Isabella #1, which reprints the first appearance of Misty Knight in the Iron Fist series. This signed, numbered edition is limited to 1000 copies.

Posters? I’ll be bringing three different Black Lightning posters, a Hawkman poster and mini-posters of Daredevil and Luke Cage. I’m running low on most of these, so this might be your last chance to get them from me.

I’ll be bringing as many copies of these items as I can fit into my suitcases. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to bring enough of these books, comics and posters to last the weekend. That’s one of the drawbacks of my having to fly to a convention.

I’ll sign any item purchased from me at no additional charge. I’m happy to sign any Tony Isabella or Tony Isabella-related items not purchased from me for a nominal fee of $5 per signature. That goes up to $10 per item if you’re having my signature witnessed by any grading company representative.

Cosplayers? If you’re cosplaying as a character I created or that I’ve written, please stop by my booth. With your permission, I’d love to take your photo for use in my blog and other online venues.

Photos with me? I’m happy to pose with you or for you. There is no charge for these photos.

Interviews? Depending on how busy I am at the convention, I’ll do my level best to make time to talk with you for your print/online articles or your podcasts.

Are you an editor, publisher or filmmaker who would like to hire me for a project? We probably won’t be able to take a long-ish meeting during show hours, but I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Failing that, you can always contact me via e-mail.

Two more things.

Don’t be shy about asking me questions. Non-disclosure agreements mean there are questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try to give you answers to all other questions.

Should you ever feel threatened/uncomfortable at this or any other convention, know that my booth will always be a safe spot for you. You can hang with me until we can talk to con personal able to help you with whatever and whoever is causing your concern.

Enough of me. Two other comics guests have been announced for this show. Animator and comics artist Robert Pope will be there. He has worked on such wonderful properties as Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Animaniacs, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Powerpuff Girls, Scooby-Doo, Johnny Bravo, Peanuts and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Looney Tunes  and Peanuts.

Comics artist Don Kramer  has drawn great stuff for both Marvel, DC and independent projects. At DC, he did a Doctor Fate miniseries with Chris Golden, JSA with Geoff Johns, Detective Comics with Paul Dini, Nightwing with Peter Tomasi, JSA vs Kobra with Eric Trautmann and J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Wonder Woman.

Expect some comics guests surprises as well.

Moving over to the celebrity media guest roster, you will be able to see actors and voice actors from some of the most beloved films and TV shows ever. Here’s a quick list:

Christina Ricci
Carel Struycken
Rose McGowan
Skeet Ulrich

Camren Bicondova
Nick Stahl
Susan Egan
Noel MacNeal
Kirk Acevedo
Rick Gonzalez
Jyoti Amge
Erika Ervin
Rob Paulsen
Townsend Coleman
Cam Clarke
Barry Gordon
Tracee Cocco

I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to meet any of them at the event, but the above list includes some favorites of mine. I know the fans will have a great time with them.

For more information on Fanboy Expo 2.0, visit the event’s website. It will have the answers to your questions about tickets, autographs and fan packages, photo ops, schedules, parking and hotels.

As per usual, Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing and my online presence in general goes bye-bye when I’m traveling and at any conventions. I should be back online sometime on Monday.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...So much comics stuff on TV plus my reviews of Harryhausen: The Lost Movies by John Walsh; The Death-Defying Devil by Gail Simone and Walter Giovani, and the wild and wondrous Sham Comics from Source Point Press! 

Wednesday, October 9, 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.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Firefly [Boom! Studio] has a rating of “T” for teens. It contains an eight-page Firefly excerpt by Greg Pak and Ethan Young; a nine-page Buffy excerpt by Jordie Bellaire, Dan Mora and Serg Acuna that leads into a Buffy/Angel crossover; and a five-page preview to Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 by Bellaire and Mora. There are also house ads for these and other Boom titles.

QUALITY: Okay. I confess Boom’s take on the Buffy and Angel comics doesn’t excite me in the least. The Firefly excerpt was well-done, but I haven’t followed Firefly since the TV series ended. I’m just not feeling it anymore.

ACCESSIBILITY: So-so. I haven’t a clue what the back story of the Firefly excerpt is. I kind of sort of have a clue what the Buffy material is about, but more information would have been helpful for me and other readers.

SALESMANSHIP: Okay. Lots of house ads, but most of them don’t tell you much if anything about the various titles.

SCORE: Four points out of a possible ten points.


H1 Ignition [Humanoids] certainly has a lot of high profile comics creators associated with its Free Comic Book Day offering. The top billing goes to Mark Waid, followed by John Cassaday, Carla Speed McNeil and over two dozen other creators following them. The issue leads with an 11-page excerpt from Ignited. There are articles on six other titles, a couple of them including some pages from those titles.

QUALITY: High. I would have liked more pages for the lead feature and the other six, but what was there was enough to make me want to at least check out the Humanoids titles.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. The Ignited excerpt had enough info to give me a fair idea of its universe. The other features had enough to make me want to know more. I never felt lost.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. As I said above, I want to know more about all seven titles. Mission accomplished.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.


Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika [Benitez Productions] is a steampunk saga set in turn of the century England and other lands. Its title heroine is the lone survivor of mad science experiments that left her with mechanical limbs. Lacking any memories of her life before and during her captivity, the courageous young woman has become a private investigator. If that sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote it the last time I reviewed a Free Comic Book Day issue featuring this character.

Like that earlier issue, this issue leads off with “The Demon of Satan’s Alley,” a prelude tale to Mechanika’s adventures. The issue also has excerpts from two other Mechanika books: The Clockwork Assassin and La Bells Dame Sans Merci. My earlier comments on this series still apply.

QUALITY: I’m not a steampunk afficionado, but the stories represent some first-class comics storytelling. I like the lead character and the mysteries surrounding her. I like the setting and the gorgeous art and colors. I think I need to read more.

Addendum: I’m embarrassed to confess I have not read more of this series. This time around, I hope to change that. I’ll be checking ClevNet, a consortium of around a hundred of area libraries, to see if any of those libraries have the series.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. The back cover gives a concise history of  Lady Mechanika and the prelude story and the excerpts are easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are a lot of Lady Mechanika comics and graphic novels available right now. A series of house ads could serve as a Lady Mechanika checklist.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.

Treasury of British Comics Presents Funny Pages [Rebellion] appears to be a collection of one-to-four-page reprints from the British comics weekly Buster. That’s just a guess on my part since that’s never made clear in this FCBD issue.

QUALITY: I get a kick out of the quirky British humor weeklies. I thought most of the strips were pretty good, though some were too small to be read easily. The typical British comics weekly of years past was magazine size and the pages didn’t reduce as well as I’d have liked.

ACCESSIBILITY: If you don’t know anything about the British comics weeklies, you’ll probably be confused by the stories in this issue. There’s no appreciable background information on any of the strips.

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. There is a one-page house ad that plugs some of Rebellion’s collections of older comics, but it doesn’t give much information on what they are and how to get them.

SCORE: Three points out of a possible ten points.

I have one more Free Comic Book Day column to write. Not only will I accomplish my goal of reviewing all this year’s offerings before I receive the Halloween giveaway comics, but it will mark only the second time since I started this blog that I actually got through all the FCBD issues. Woo to the hoo!

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 7, 2019


My Tony Isabella’s Authentic Black Lightning Group has launched on Facebook. Here’s the basic description:

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.

The third season of the Black Lightning TV series starts on Monday, October 7 at 9 pm EST. Right now, the Facebook group has 129 members. I would love to double that number by the end of the week. The more members we have, the more we can do with the special features we’re planning to add to the page. For example: the group is currently compiling a list of Black Lightning appearances in DC Comics comics books and graphic novels. More such lists will follow, along with departments for art, merchandise and photos.

By the way, when I use the word “we” here, it’s not the editorial “we”. My dear dear friend Dionne Stallworth is the chief administrator of the group. Kendall Mathis is our dynamic designer. Other administrators include: Adam Holmberg, Herb Kinney and Neil Ottenstein. We’re all working to make the group a safe and welcoming place for fans and pros to discuss Black Lightning. I hope you’ll join us.

Do I ever run out of things to write about? Apparently not.

When I look at my “bookmarks,” I find links to several subjects I want to comment on. When I look at my desk and/or the piles of stuff on/around it, I see books, comic books, e-mails, magazines and slips of paper on which I have jotted down possible topics. My goal for today is to write about some of these topics until I reach 1500 words or so. Let’s see how I do.

Twitter is alive with a great many posts by and about Andrew Rev’s Terrific Productions. There has been the usual online kerfuffle on the initiatives and policies posted by Rev’s social media team. I am asked about Rev and Terrific a few times a week. I don’t really have any answers. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude with the hope - optimism springs eternal from the well that is my soul - that all of this turns out to be good for comics fans, comics professionals and the industry itself.

I met Rev but once many years ago. I think it was at a Heroes World convention. My vague memory is he had just bought Comico and was trying to get me to write for that company again, promising me love and low rates. I’m being needlessly snarky. I don’t think we hit it off and, at the time, I wasn’t interested in signing back on  with Comico in any form. I bear him no ill will and I’m assuming he bears me none.

I had a Twitter exchange with whoever handles their Twitter account and took the discussion private to answer their questions about my original Black Lightning agreement with DC Comics in 1976. I didn’t add any information you haven’t seen in past bloggy things on that subject. Save for this:

As good as that deal would have been in 1976 had DC honored it, I wouldn’t sign that deal today.

I'm 67 years old and in decent shape financially and physically. So while I'd certainly love to be writing comics again, I don't need comics to live a good life. I'm currently writing a whole bunch of different things. I get paid for most of my convention appearances. I feel I can be particular about what I do in comics and who I work with. Not that the industry in general has been calling me of late. We’ll talk about that in the near future. Anyway...

I hope Terrific delivers on its promotions and promises. I hope any bad feelings that have emerged in the mix get sorted out to the benefit of all parties. Beyond that, I won’t have anything further to say about the company until they start soliciting and publishing comic books. I hope those comic books are as swell as we all want them to be.

A while back, someone asked me what I thought of the portrayal of Black Lightning in DC Comics’ Injustice: Gods Among Us adaptation of the popular video game. In these stories, the Joker murders Lois Lane, hers and Superman’s unborn child, and nukes Metropolis to a fare-thee-well. In response, Superman rips out the Joker’s heart. Superman follows that up by becoming a murderous tyrant unlike any the world has ever seen. He claims he’s doing it to create a safe world. He enlists other super-heroes in his mission and often keeps them in check by threatening them. Essentially, he becomes an even bigger monster than the Joker and on an even larger scale.

This is not the kind of comic-book series I would normally enjoy. But original writer Tom Taylor told a compelling story and told it well enough that I could accept Superman and all these other folks acting insanely out of character. This is not Superman. This is not Wonder Woman. This is get the picture. They are twisted dopplegangers of their traditional portrayals. There are heroes and even villains that oppose the Super-Tyrant. The lure of this series of stories is hoping/waiting for them to end Superman.

I just read Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Five Volume 3. If Black Lightning appeared earlier in the series, he didn’t make any real impression on me. He did in this volume.

Black Lightning swears allegiance to Superman. He does it to help the people who have been forgotten in Superman’s war to consolidate his rule. As with the other characters, this is not Black Lightning as we know him. When I say “as we know him,” I am speaking of my  work on my creation and the character as seen in the hit TV series developed by Salim Akil. Our Black Lightning possess core values I don’t see in this Injustice version.

Again, all of the characters in Injustice are twisted versions of their comic-book counterparts. So it doesn’t concern me overly that Black Lightning isn’t right here. But it doesn’t please me either and I’d be happy if he didn’t appear again in these stories.

That’s the answer to the question asked so long ago that I’ve quite shamefully forgotten who asked me. My apologies.

Alter Ego is my favorite comics magazine. Edited by the legendary Roy Thomas, each issue is filled with comics history I didn’t know or didn’t know as clearly as I thought I did. Two letters in issue #159's letter column were of particular interest to me. I’ll only get to one of them this time out.

The also legendary Neal Adams wrote about false information on the sales of current comic books in the late 1960s and 1970s. Neal discussed a comics/distribution industry practice called “affidavit returns” and it was as pernicious as he says.

General distributors didn’t want to go to the time and expense of shipping unsold comic books back to the publishers, who would not have had any place to put them anyway. They didn’t even want to pay for someone to strip the covers or logos from the unsold comics as proof the comics didn’t sell. What they were willing to do and eventually allowed to do by publishers, was report the number of unsold comics to the comics publishers and promise (with fingers crossed) those unsold copies would be destroyed.

I was a comics retailer from 1976 to 1989. The local distributor from whom I bought magazines and comic books was fairly honest when it came to destroying the unsold comics, though likely not honest when it came to accurately reporting the number of unsold comics. Many such regional distributors were not.

As Neal accurately reported, these supposedly destroyed comics were sold to comics dealers as the same time and very often before the comic books were distributed to drug stores, newsstands, supermarkets and other outlets. The dealers and distributors were stealing from the comics publishers.

There was another element to this wholesale larceny. In my neck of the woods - and I’m talking woods large enough to encompass my own Ohio and its neighboring states - boxes of comic books would “fall off the truck” at the printers. This became a real problem for Cleveland area comic shops when a comics dealer set up at comic book flea markets on Sundays, before the comic shops even got the new comics. This guy would sell the comics at considerable discounts. Sometimes at discounts as high as 50% off. Whenever the dealer hit the Cleveland area, all the local shops would take a massive hit in their sales. Thankfully, someone dropped a dime on him with a comics publisher or two and put an end to his business. I’m not going to say who that someone was, but he threatened me at Mid-Ohio-Con a few months after he was put out of business. I must have lost a whole second of sleep over that.

I’m aware of one other way “affidavit returns” made their way into the marketplace. Distributors, even some who stripped the covers or logos off unsold comics to send to publishers, would then sell the comics to jobbers for as little as a quarter-cent per comic. These comics would be bagged, usually by threes, and sold to convenience stores and other outlets. If memory serves, the going price for the comics packs was a quarter.

I have no way of knowing how much harm this wholesale theft did to titles like Green Lantern/Green Arrow. But it certainly didn’t help them stave off cancellation.   

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Thursday, October 3, 2019


Downsizing my Vast Accumulation of Stuff often means parting with comics that have meant a great deal to me. Such is the case with my collection of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy Olsen is one of my favorite comics characters, both the goofy Silver Age version who was, nonetheless, brave, clever and loyal and the Jack Kirby take on the character who was all those things but also feisty and two-fisted. Later versions of Jimmy Olsen have sometimes pleased me as well.

I’m selling my Jimmy Olsen collection at my garage sales. But, as I was bagging, boarding and pricing those issues, I held back a few so I could write about them in the bloggy. Welcome to the first installment of that series.

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #57 [December, 1961] was published long before I got into the comics industry, but it has special meaning for me because of my comics career. The cover was penciled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. I still get a kick out of that smile on Supergirl’s face as she flies in to rescue her intended.

“Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl!” was written by Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, penciled by Swan and inked by Kaye. In this classic “imaginary” story, Supergirl is exposed to red kryptonite. She loses her powers and her memories of being Supergirl, but I am getting ahead of myself.

At the time this story was published, Supergirl has been adopted, but her existence had not yet been revealed to the world. She and Jimmy meet at the orphanage where she lived as Linda Lee after her arrival on Earth. Attracted to the sweet pretty girl, Jimmy gives her one of his Superman souvenirs. Yep, it’s the Red K. He thinks it’s harmless because it can’t affect Superman a second time. Jim doesn’t know there’s another Kryptonian on Earth.

Linda is attracted to Jimmy as well. They go out on a date and he proposes to her. She accepts. When Jimmy introduces his bride-to-be to Superman, the Man of Steel figures out what has happened. When he sees how happy Linda and Jimmy are, he decides not to interfere in their wedding. Outside of financial issues - that tightwad Perry White won’t give Jimmy a raise - the young couple’s marriage gets off to a great start.

Then the effects of the Red K wear off. Linda/Supergirl remains in love with Jimmy, but is unsure where they go from here. When Linda secretly prevents an airliner from crashing, Jimmy gets the scoop and earns a raise.

Linda decides to introduce her husband to Supergirl, then get him to fall in love with her super identity. Yes, her genius plan is to make Jimmy fall in love with Supergirl. Even though he’s married to her civilian identity. I’ll let you count all the ways this plan is wrong and all the ways it can end in tears.

Jimmy does fall in love with Supergirl, but he is loyal to Linda. Back at their home, Linda is crushed at her failure to make Jimmy cheat on her. Jimmy confesses he’s met another girl. He says that he loves Linda, but, when he’s with the other girl, he can’t help thinking about what a swell wife she would be. Jimmy feels like a skunk for feeling that way.

A deliriously happy Linda strips down to her Supergirl costume in front of Jimmy. He faints. One panel later - the last panel of the story - he’s conscious and over the moon thrilled that his wife is a Supergirl. Honestly, as twisted as this is, it’s more of a happy ending than poor Jimmy usually got in the 1960s.

Here’s where my personal connection comes in...

The summer of 1976. I’d been hired by DC Comics as a full editor. I was looking forward to perhaps liberating some talented artists and writers from Marvel Comics. I was looking forward to creating new titles which I’d launch and turn over to other writers. I was looking forward to working with DC’s talent. I went to Cleveland to close out my apartment. When I returned to New York to start my new job, it all went to shit.

Other than DC’s habitual inability to keep its agreements with me - and don’t take that as a knock on today’s DC which has, at least, honored the letter of its agreements with me - I don’t know exactly what happened. When I returned to the DC offices, I was informed I wouldn’t be a “full” editor but a “story” editor. Indeed, I would not be allowed to speak with the artists drawing the comics in my charge. I would have to give the scripts to new art director Vince Colletta and he would give them to the artists. If I had notes for the artists, I would have to give them to Colletta who might pass them along to the artists.

Comics being the sweet mixture of writing and art, I found this to be an absurd situation. I had learned how to work with artists from the likes of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. I knew how to motivate weaker artists into exceeding their usual skill levels. I’d done the whole job of being an editor. It made no sense to me.

Colletta couldn’t have cared less about the quality of the comics. To him, as near as I could tell, the art director’s gig was just a dodge. He’d assign himself as much inking as he and his assistants could handle and knock it out as quickly as he could. Behind the closed door of his office - we lesser beings were told our office doors must always be open - he was doing his freelance. Everyone at DC knew this. No one ever called him on it.

If my demotion and the wall set in place between me and the artists drawing my titles weren’t demeaning enough, a middle management guy treated me like I was an assistant editor. He would interrupt my meetings with my writers - I was allowed to talk to them - and command me to drop everything to proofread letters columns or write cover copy on titles other than my own. I didn’t mind pitching in. I’d done that at Marvel. But it rankled me that he was treating me and my writers so disrespectfully. My writers came to my office to work out plots and go home with an assignment. Instead, they would have to wait until I finished whatever task I’d been given by the middle management guy.
That’s how I became involved with “Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl!” or, more accurately, its reprint publication in The Superman Family #181 [January 1977]. That was the last issue of the title before it switched to the new “Dollar Comics” format. The editor of record was Murray Boltinoff. While it’s possible Murray might have asked me to help out on this issue - we were friends - it’s more likely the middle management guy barged into my office and ordered me to pick some reprints and write the cover copy for the already-drawn cover.

Writing the cover copy was quick work. Looking back, it’s not the most inspired cover copy, but it did fit in with what was usual for the company. Picking the reprints was even easier.

I’d always liked “Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl!” Using that story meant I’d only have to come up with one reprint. Especially since I quickly confirmed it would fit the allotted page count. But I had another reason for wanting to run it.

I had been assigned to write the Supergirl and Jimmy Olsen stories for Superman Family. I think my stories were scheduled to start in the second or third issue of the revamped title. I’ve a good memory for most things involving my DC Comics career, but I was so unhappy during my time on staff that I’ve pushed some of it out of my head.

Inspired by the reprint, I pitched incoming editor Denny O’Neil on Supergirl and Jimmy becoming romantically involved. I don’t recall the details, but there would’ve been a situation where Jimmy would work with a powerless Supergirl to stop a villain. Jimmy would be impressed by Supergirl’s courage even without her powers. Supergirl would see why her cousin Superman considered Jimmy his best friend. The Superman/Jimmy relationship would change as Olsen’s romantic relationship with Kara developed.

Supergirl and Jimmy would try to keep their romance secret. Which given that Lois Lane and Clark Kent are two of the world’s greatest reporters clearly wasn’t going to happen.

No one was happy about the Supergirl/Jimmy pairing. Superman felt Supergirl was putting Jimmy and her secret identity at risk. Lois was pissed because her sister Lucy had wanted to get back together with Jimmy. Perry White was pissed because reporters should report the news and not make it.

Things got worse when the world learned of Supergirl and Jimmy were in a relationship. I hadn’t decided how that would happen. Maybe it would be the work of a villain. Maybe Superman tried to “teach them a lesson” and things went awry. Maybe a jealous Lucy dropped a dime on the couple. In any case, once word got out, Perry fired Jimmy’s ass...and Jimmy’s life got a whole lot more dangerous. Even so, the young lovers would stand by one another and try to build some sort of life together.

That’s about as far as I got in writing whatever pitch I pitched to Denny. There was some hesitation about taking these characters in such a radical direction. I probably mumbled something about this being the “illusion of change” and that we could break them up at some point in the future.

“Illusion of change” was the furthest thing from my mind. My plan was to write the bejabbers out of this relationship to the extent the fans would demand it continue and grow. I wanted Supergirl and Jimmy to get married...and I loved the idea of Supergirl and Jimmy being estranged from the Superman family.

I ended up not writing either Supergirl or Jimmy Olsen. I wasn’t in a good place during my not-brief-enough-time as a DC Comics “story editor.” I was disrespected and angry about being disrespected. It messed with my head to the point where I found it difficult to do any comics writing.

Joe Orlando was in my corner. Some of the editors were also there. It wasn’t enough for me to overcome my anger and, yes, my shame at having let DC Comics screw me over on multiple fronts. I quit the DC staff job and stayed in New York for a month or so afterwards. Then I moved back to Cleveland and an extremely uncertain future.

Someday I’ll write about my return to Cleveland. Working in comics for nearly half a century means I have a lot of untold stories just waiting to be told. Stick with me and, hopefully, I’ll get around to tell you most of them.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Veteran readers of this bloggy thing of mine know I get a bunch of cool stuff from my local public library. The Medina County District Library is a member of ClevNet, an organization of about 100 area libraries. I can go online, request items and, if any of ClevNet’s members have the item, they send it to my library. In turn, I get a record message informing me the item awaits my picking up at my library. The recorded message mispronounces “Medina.” I find this amusing, most likely more so than the fine people working for the District. I’ve seen their eyes roll when some other patron informs them of this mistake. Because, of course, that patron must be the first person who ever reported this to them.

Leading off this batch of library booty is The Institute by Stephen King [Scribner; September 2019]. King is no stranger to stories of  children with incredible powers and sinister government projects. What makes The Institute as fresh as his earliest works are King’s knack for creating unforgettable characters good and evil, a plot that seems utterly believable when held up against the greedy and the true believers of today’s extreme politics, and an attention to detail that convinces the reader every place and location is real, and that every situation follows naturally from the situations that preceded it.

For heroes, we have Luke Ellis, taken from his home by operatives of the Institute who murder his parents as well. He have his fellow captives, children with modest telekinetic or telepathic abilities  cruelly subjected to “tests” designed to grow and weaponize those abilities. Then there’s former police officer Tim Jamieson, moving from place to place after his dismissal from one police force and ending up as the “night knocker” in a small town. Not really an officer, just the guy who checks doors for signs of breaking and entering. He has no gun or authority to act beyond calling the station to let them know there might be some problem. His and Luke’s stories seem disconnected until, of course, they connect in a suspenseful manner.

The villains? What would you call those who see children as weapons to be used and used up for motives ranging from greed to zealotry. When this novel makes it to the screen, there are going to be many choice roles for actors.

If I ever retire, one of my pleasures will be reading/re-reading every Stephen King novel, anthology or work of non-fiction. He has never disappointment me since I read an early edition of Carrie. I don’t expect he’ll start anytime soon.

ISBN 978-1-9821-1056-7


I love reading mysteries and police procedurals set in my native Cleveland or other Ohio locations. Before I recognized this as a passion, I never thought there would be at least two such series of books set in my state’s nearby Amish communities, not to mention a series about a debutante turned cemetery guide who sees ghosts and solves mysteries for them. From time to time, I’ll be writing about these and other Ohio-based novels.

Fourth Down and Out: An Andy Hayes Mystery by Andrew Welsh-Hughes [Swallow Press; $16.95] was originally published in 2015. It’s the kickoff of the author’s ongoing series about a disgraced Ohio State University football star turned private investigator. Hayes lives in Columbus and is reviled by anyone who knows who he is. He threw a big game and the Buckeyes fans will never forgive him for that. I originally thought such enmity was far-fetched, but my son Eddie, the most devoted OSU football fan I know, tells me that continuing hatred is not just possible but likely. Lest you think Hayes is a masochist for staying in a city that so hates him, he stays because his two sons live there with their respective mothers. He might not be the best dad - his job causes him to cancel many outings with his boys - but he tries. His ex-wives hate Hayes only slightly less passionately than the Buckeyes fans.

In this first book, Hayes is hired to retrieve a laptop and erase a tape of his married client canoodling with a barely legal young woman. After he retrieves the computer, his house is broken into. Later, the computer having not been in the house, Andy gets beaten badly by crooks who steal the laptop from him. Things really start getting interesting when the FBI shows up. They don’t like Andy any better than anyone else. Indeed, with rare exception, including a young teacher caught up in this mess, no one likes Andy much. I’m not sure I like him, but I do admire his bouncing back from life’s dumping on him and his persistence in keeping going until the job is finished.

Minor spoiler. Lots of people are interested in the laptop for many reasons that do not overlap. The plot unfolds with more coincidence and convenience than I prefer, but the story moved well and kept me  reading. Decent writing and good characters are why I’ll be reading the next book in the series.

ISBN 978-0-8040-1153-2


Manga unfolds at a more leisurely pace than American comic books. That’s fine when the characters, situations, story and writing are compelling. Sadly, Tsukumizu’s Girls’ Last Tour [Yen Press; $15 per volume] didn’t hit any of those buttons for me. Here is the summary from the back cover of the first volume:

Civilization is dead, but Chito and Yuuri are still alive. So they hop aboard their beloved Kettenkrad motorbike and aimlessly wander the ruins of the world they once knew. Day after hopeless day, they look for their next meal and fuel for their ride. But as long as the two are together, even an existence as bleak as theirs has a ray or two of sunshine in it, whether they're sucking down their fill of soup or hunting for machine parts to tinker with. For two girls in a world full of nothing, the experiences and feelings the two share give them something to live for.

Save for a third human who briefly shares their travels, Chito and Yuuri’s journey is fairly mundane. Every so often, they find some source of food or fuel, or maybe some interesting ruins. Never are we given a real explanation of why their devastated world has come to be. The characters and the conversations aren’t very compelling. The series seems like an endless road trip with no payoff in sight. No past. No future.

I got through three chapters of the second volume before my “Lost” sense was triggered. Though somewhat shorter than the infamous TV series - six volumes in all - Girls’ Last Tour afforded me the same nagging sense that I would get neither illumination or satisfaction if I continued reading. So I bailed. I didn’t need to read further in this series.

Girls' Last Tour, Volume 1:

ISBN 978-0316470629

Girls' Last Tour, Volume 2:

ISBN 978-0316470643

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

© 2019 Tony Isabella