Friday, May 1, 2020


It has been about forty days (and nights) since Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued his stay-at-home order for our state. I didn’t think all that much of it at first. After all, I spend most of my time at home anyway.

Saintly Wife Barb, as an essential worker, would still be going to work, but the hospital she works at is not set up for and would not be receiving COVID-19 patients. Our daughter Kelly, an analyst for a bank, worked from her home most of the time and would be doing so full-time during the crisis.

Our son Ed, a professional engineer and project manager, could work out of his home with only occasional trips to an empty office. He does visit job sites occasionally - roads still got to be built and maintained - but those are outdoors and he’s firm about practicing safe distancing at those sites.

Yes, I would miss my friends. Once a month, I go out to lunch with one group of friends and go out to dinner with some other friends. I wouldn’t be able to get books from the Medina library, but I have tens of thousands of unread items at home. I wouldn’t be able to go to the movies, which, if I was lucky, I could do a few times each year, but I have hundreds of un-watched movies at home and many more available on streaming services. I could do this.

Funny thing. I constantly find myself going stir-crazy. I can go to the grocery store and other essential businesses, but each trip has to be planned in advance. When I go to these places, I get nervous and angry because so many morons aren’t following the simple safety practices enacted by these businesses and aren’t wearing masks. I get downright infuriated when they make their callous disregard for others part of their Trump-infused culture wars.

But, yeah, stir-crazy. I want to do all of the things I rarely did when I could. Which isn’t the worst of it.

I am depressed most of the time. I become horribly sad when I read how people less fortunate than me are suffering from this crisis. I have tears when I read of someone losing a loved one, including the pets that have provided them some measure of comfort. I raise my blood pressure to perhaps unhealthy levels when I see how badly Trump and his stooges are handling this crisis and always, always, with an eye towards their own financial and political gain over the needs of human beings.

I am crushed by the effects of this pandemic on the comics industry to which I have devoted my professional life. Creators don’t have work. Publishers have suspended operations, which might well mean a suspension of royalty and reprint payments. Diamond Distributors is shut down until later this month. The comics shops, which have always been the backbone of the comics industry are closed and some of them may never open again.

One would think that, if there were a personal “silver lining” to this situation, it would be that I could write a whole bunch of the things that I want to write. Even if I couldn’t get them to the marketplace right away. Think again.

My biggest enemy in that arena is my depression. It has triggered a paralyzing writer’s block in me. With shame, I confess I’ve also disrupted the healthy routines I established for myself when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in December. My numbers are not at all life-threatening, but they are not as stellar as they’ve been.

Okay, by now, you’ve looked back at the title of today’s blog and have asked yourself where’s the freaking “happy” in all this. I’m not going to tell you that hasn’t been a struggle for me. Yet, when I put my mind to it, I can recognize the good things in my world.

First and foremost, neither my wife or my kids have shown symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. That’s also true of my cat Simba and myself. Other things have also brought me joy. 

Here are the things that made me happy in April.

April 1: Timely’s Greatest The Golden Age Sub-Mariner The Pre-War Years by Bill Everett. I’m 200 pages into this massive collection and having a blast. You never know what Namor is going to do next. Edge of your seat suspense.

April 2: MetroHealth, my health care carrier, is being proactive and not just with Covid-19. The pharmacy called to ask if I wanted refills of my various medications. I’m pretty good about this, but it was great for them to make the process that much more convenient for me.

April 3: Super Shark. From 2011, a big goofy movie directed by Fred Olen Ray and suitable for the whole family. Cheese CGI, no gore to speak of, a walking tank and fun performances by John Schneider, Sarah Lieving, and Tim Abell.

April 4: Johnny Malloy’s in my home town of Medina offers a tasty burger and fries for just five bucks. Pull up to the place, turn on your lights and a server comes out to take your order. We fed six people for forty bucks including tip.

April 5: Tiger King. Fascinating reality show trash. Barb and I are watching it remotely with our kids, an episode every other night. We’re currently in heated debate on to whether or not Carole Baskin killed her husband. My theory: the big cats got him and she covered up his death.

April 6: Stumptown. Barb and I have been binge-watching this great show. It’s as if the universe decided we had to fall several months behind so we’d have something to watch during the lockdown.

April 7: Tom Hegeman, my friend of several decades, sent me photos from the 2001 Mid-Ohio-Con. I’ll be scanning and sharing them over the next several weeks.

April 8: Brian Cronin. The best writer at Comic Book Resources and one of the best comics history writers period. He’s been publishing lots of content, which is just what we need in these dire pandemic times.

April 9: The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing. After many of my Facebook friends recommending this series, I’ve now read the first several issues. It takes the Hulk in a scary new direction without blowing up the character’s core values. I love it a lot.

[NOTE: Sadly, my regard for The Immortal Hulk diminished when the series got mystical and then turned into Hulk Team-Up. I continue to read it, but it’s lost the story qualities that made me a fan of those earlier issues.]

April 10: New York. The March 30-April 12 issue is “a handbook for surviving quarantine” filled with great writing, amazing photos and intriguing ideas. I bought a rice cooker.

April 11: Delicious anticipation. I’ve recently learned of a great many cheesy monster movies from China. Sooner or later, when these films are dubbed or subtitled in English, they will find me a most eager audience.

April 12: Harley Quinn’s Kite-Man. I love the show’s take on this D-list Batman villain. In the 1980s, I revealed his real name was Charles Brown and, in case you hadn’t noticed, in this series, good old Charlie Brown got the red-haired girl.

Easter Bonus: When I got the morning newspapers from my mailbox, I found this card from Chase, Gabby and Zac, who are kind of sort of our nephews and niece. It made me smile big time.

April 13: Kit Kat Lemon Crisp. Saintly Wife Barb gave me a little Easter basket filled with candy. Okay, maybe that’s mixed signals for a Type 2 diabetic, but this new flavor of Kit Kat is to die for. Hopefully, not literally.

April 14: The Tiger King and I. Hosted by Joel McHale, the special interviews “cast members” who aren’t Joe Exotic. Jeff Lowe comes off shady as ever, but there are nice moments with several others. It was a solid bonus chapter to the documentary series.

April 15: Black Canary Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee. This is a fun re-imagining of the Black Canary as a young teenager. Solid comics and much more enjoyable than the recent DCU versions of the character.

April 16: Mystery boxes from comic-book shops. I’ve purchased them online from a couple of shops. It’s a fun way to help those shops in these troubled times. Ah, the suspense!

April 17: Robert Venditti’s Superman stories in Superman Giant #1 and #2 are two of the best Superman stories I’ve read in quite some time.

April 18: Alter Ego #163. A glorious spotlight on Dave Cockrum and his early years in comics. Plus fascinating pieces on Charles Biro, Manly Wade Wellman and more.

April 19: Mega Crocodile. It’s a 2019 Chinese monster movie of the sort SyFy used to show regularly. I watched the English-subtitled version on my wide-screen TV via YouTube and loved it. Even though the monster isn’t as submarine-swallowing “mega” as shown on the poster.

April 20: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). An entertaining movie with a fun script by Christina Hodson, sure direction by Cathy Yan, a great performance by Margot Robbie and an amusing take on the Huntress.

April 21: Rediscovering HGTV. In recent weeks, Barb and I have been enjoying Beachfront Bargain Hunt, Caribbean Life, Celebrity 101, House in a Hurry, My Lottery Dream House and trusty old favorites House Hunters and House Hunters International.

[NOTE: I’ve gotten bored with Beachfront Bargain Hunt and Caribbean Life, but the others are still doing it for me.]

April 22: The USA Network’s Briarpatch wrapped up its ten-episode run in grand style and with a satisfying ending. While watching the finale, I remarked how a story element hadn’t been seen in weeks. It showed up with a vengeance. Kudos to Rosario Dawson and all who worked on the series.

April 23: Some days, it’s enough to know - knock on wood - that my wife, our kids and me aren’t showing any symptoms of the Covid-19 virus. I hope you can say the same.

April 24: “Light’s Out” (the Brooklyn Nine-Nine season finale) was a hilarious masterpiece. Every member of the cast shone. One crazy plot development after another. Give them an Emmy!

April 25: I had a blast watching Snake, a Chinese monster movie, on YouTube. No English dubbing or subtitles, but I was able to follow it pretty decently. I credit that understanding to its similarity to the countless such films that aired on the SyFy Channel back when that channel was fun.

April 26: Human inventiveness in coping with the COVID-19 crisis  and the daily reminders that, for every person being horrible during it, there are many more good people looking out for their neighbors.

April 27: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. We watched the pilot last night and found it charming, funny, heartfelt and satisfying. Barb and I were looking for a new series to watch together. We’ve found it in this show

April 28: “Maggie Dover” by Stan Lynde. Reprinted in Comics Revue #407/408, the final Rick O’Shay daily story is a heartwarming tale of folks mostly at their best. It’s a proper send-off for the strip and a reminder of why I’ve always loved it.

April 29: This is an “off” day. Tens of thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19. Many more will die due to the incompetence of the Trump administration and its allies, even as they make sure the rich get richer. The comics industry I have devoted my professional life to is in dire jeopardy. I miss seeing my friends. And I lost my race for a spot on the Medina County Democratic Party Central Committee. Fortunately, tomorrow is only a day away.

April 30: My son is the new Medina County Democratic Party Central Committee representative in his ward. He ran unopposed, but he got more votes (150) than anyone else in a Democratic Central Committee race. If you include Republicans, he was second. Well done, my son.

That’s all for now. Stay healthy, safe and sane. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. It is fun to see so many of the thimgs that make you happy made me happy as well - Stumptown, Immortal Hulk (also agree with your additional comment), Birds of Prey, Zoey's Estraordinary Playlist, Brian Cronin and Harley Quinn.

    Al ways enjoy your columns. Am already awaiting the next one.