Tuesday, October 27, 2020
LOVING MY LIBRARY
The Medina County District Library system, coupled with the Usenet consortium of a hundred other Northeast Ohio library systems, has been terrific during this pandemic. As my anxiety over the election and some health issues have slowed me down, the books I’ve gotten though the library have provided a welcome distraction from 2020'a craziness. Let’s see how many of those books I can write about in today’s bloggy thing.
Wonton Terror: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien [St. Martin's Paperbacks; $7.99] is the fourth novel in the series. There are a couple of things I’ve learned from reading this books. Lana Lee, the manager of the Ho-Lee Noodle Shop, has never met a murder she didn’t want to investigate, even though her investigations are sure to put her in mortal jeopardy. That’s the first thing. The second is that not even murder stops Cleveland’s Asian Market from whatever events the business community has planned.
In this book, the Asian Night Market starts with a bang as Wonton on Wheels explodes, killing its owner. Lana and her chef Peter are not seriously injured, but Lana is determined to uncover who killed the competition and why. Naturally, this concerns Detective Adam Trudeau, but, to his credit, the man accepts that this is part of who the woman he loves in.
In addition to the murder mystery, we get some Lee family drama as Lana’s aunt comes to visit. Her mom and her aunt have been picking at one another all their lives. It almost makes risking one’s life seem like the safer option.
Wonton Terror is an enjoyable read. I’m wondering how long it will take for some television studio to realize these books would make a great series.
Back to back with the above novel, I read Chien’s Egg Drop Dead [St. Martin's Paperbacks; $7.99]. This one starts with Lana and the family noodle shop going into catering for the first time. It’s an impressive yet intimate dinner party hosted by Donna Feng, one of the super powers of the Asian Market community. Things go well up to the moment when the nanny of Feng’s daughters is found dead. Do I have to tell you it’s a murder?
Chien’s characters continue to delight me, though, in this novel, I think Lana made some really bad choices. That’s part of who she has always been, but it’s a fine line between her determination to get to the bottom of things and not thinking her actions through. She doesn’t wear “women in peril” well.
Egg Drop Dead is a solid mystery. Outside of Lana’s foolhardiness, it had a satisfying ending. I also learned something new about one of the ongoing “characters” in the series. I’d been assuming that the Asian Market was in downtown Cleveland, a nod to the Chinatown area of the city. I was wrong. It’s apparently on the far West Side of the city. I used to spend a lot of time on the far West Side of my birthplace. How did I miss it?
Next up in the series is Killer Kung Pao. Naturally, I’ve requested it from my library.
DC's Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Super-Villains [DC Comics; $39.99] is a fun collection that comes just short of being a book I have to have for my home library. I’ll get to why that’s the case in a bit.
This hardcover collects Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Super-Villains #1-9 from the 1972-1973 and adds a bonus issue #10 to the package. The original series was (in reality) edited by the forever under-appreciated E. Nelson Bridwell. Nelson’s knowledge of all things DC and, for that matter, just about everything else, was joined to his love of the old comics reprinted in this series.
Alongside the big names like Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash and others, Wanted also featured lesser lights like the Vigilante, Kid Eternity and Dollman. I looked forward to every issue because you never knew what forgotten hero or villain Bridwell would include. I had a fine time re-reading these issues. The “new” bonus issue, featuring Catwoman, Black Canary and Wonder Woman was pretty swell as well.
What keeps me from buying this book is that it failed to include DC Special #8 [July-September 1970] and #14 [September-October 1971]. Those two issues introduced the Wanted concept, apparently selling well enough to lead to the ongoing title. I think this book in its current form is worth buying, but, at a time when money is tight, I’m holding out for a more complete collection. Yeah, I know it’ll cost more, but I think it’s worth it.
Showing my characteristic generosity towards DC Comics, despite how often they disrespect me and screw me, I suggest the publisher consider doing Wanted collections to tie into their upcoming films. The nice thing about the original appearances of Batman and Wonder Woman villains is that they are done-in-one stories that don’t need a reader to have read some convoluted villain origin that stretches out over a year’s worth of issues or more to know what’s going on. Still thinking along these lines, I think a Suicide Squad-centric Wanted collection would be spiffy. Especially if such collections were put together by someone whose knowledge of DC Comics goes back more than a few years and who can put the original origin thrillers into context.
Yes, I know. I am far too kind to DC Comics in light of my history with them. What can I say? I’m a giver.
I don’t know how any decent human being can read Guantanamo Voices: An Anthology: True Accounts from the World's Most Infamous Prison [Harry N. Abrams; $24.99] and not experience the emotions of anger at the injustice perpetrated by our country, sadness for all those we abused, and frankly rage that there are still those who defend one of the greatest national sins of our time. Edited by Sarah Mirk from interviews she conducted and with art by ten exceptional artists, this anthology exposes what Guantanamo has been, what it remains and cries out for the war criminals who created it to face justice.
Every story is shockingly informative. Many are heartrending. It’s the kind of journey that leaves one exhausted and concerned for the soul of our nation. I was numb after reading of one prisoner, who was kidnapped by bounty hunters with no credibility. He has spent years in Guantanamo and, though he was finally cleared for release, he remains there still. I don’t think I could endure such anguish.
Mirk’s journalism is first-rate. The variety of art in this volume is stunning. The human tragedies are not sensationalized. Because the truth is shocking enough.
This anthology is a damn tough read. However, I think it’s one of those graphic works that needs to be read. I strongly recommend to comic art devotees and libraries alike.
That’s all for now, my friends. I’ll be back soon with more views and reviews.
© 2020 Tony Isabella
Saturday, October 24, 2020
PANDEMIC HOME THEATER
Bloggy Tony has been going through a rough patch lately. It’s not the Covid-19, but it is a frequent state of anxiety and exhaustion. It’s as if I was some kinda 69-year-old overweight man with type 2 diabetes or something. When I’m only 68 years old. Well, at least for one more month.
Last Saturday, I was more useless than usual. I slept in fitfully until noon. When I dragged my ass out of bed and onto the couch in our dining and entertainment room, I watched three movies on Amazon Prime. I decided I would feel less slothful if I wrote about them for today’s bloggy thing.
First up was Moose aka Moose the Movie, a 2015 comedy that was made in Alaska by Alaskans and starred Alaskans. In fact, it was shot in Wasilla where Sarah Palin served as mayor and on the city council. Palin does not appear in the film, which had an estimate budget of $100,000. According to the Internet Movie Database, $64,000 of that was raised by a Kickstarter campaign.
The film was directed by G. Logan Dellinger. It was written by Chad Carpenter, creator of the syndicated comic strip Tundra, and Darin Carpenter. Several better known cartoonists are thanked in the end credits. Here’s the IMDb summary of the movie:
In the small town of Gangrene Gulch, Alaska, the new Park Ranger, Zach, arrives at his post just in time to investigate a string of suspicious deaths. He teams up with Mike the veteran ranger and Sam the beautiful and determined young coroner's assistant to solve the murders. The hilarious residents of the rural Alaskan town must turn to the rangers to save them from the half-man half-moose, moosataur.
The movie starts with an “animated” sequence showing the legend of the moose monster. It’s a series of comic-strip images, that sure sign of a very low budget. Kept in the underworld by a mystic totem pole, the creature is released when a couple of hunters burn said totem for a campfire. Let the ketchup and cherry juice flow!
Zack Lanphier plays the new park ranger. He looks like exactly the kind of sad sack who would end up in an insane small town where the mayor is am actual chicken and where puppets work as the town diner waiter, the town diner cook and the coroner. Those puppets work almost as hard as the slovenly brothers who are clean-up crew for the victims of the moosataur, tow-truck drivers and ambulance drivers, all from the same beat-up truck. It’s that kind of town.
Chantel Grover is Samantha the coroner’s assistant. She gets some great moments in the film. She constantly reminds the clean-up crew that they should not field-dress the victims before bringing them to the morgue. Near the end of the film, when her and Zack make a last stand against the monster, she recoils in amazement that the ranger tries to kiss her. It’s all about the timing.
Tom Gammill, who plays the veteran ranger, is the most accomplished of the actors. His matter-of-fact acceptance of all the nutty folks in Gangrene Gulch sells the movie. This is not surprising when you look at his writing credits: Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, It’s Gerry Shandling’s Show, Seinfeld, Monk and The Simpsons.
The revived moose monster racks up a large number of victims as he rampages across the woods. The monster suit isn’t terrible, though some of the lead-ins to the victims made me grit my teeth. Notable among the scenery chewing is a group of “hippies” who get ripped to shreds. Don’t do drugs, kids.
Zack and Sam research the moosataur legend and find the only way to destroy the creature once and for all. However, how that happens is a delightful surprise.
My reaction to the film, which I started twice because of the less-than-compelling opening scenes, is that I didn’t hate it. It’s not something I’d watch a second time, but it was entertaining. Maybe a bit long at 104 minutes, but goofy fun nonetheless.
Far and away, Uncaged  was the best movie of the three. This Dutch horror film was written and directed by Dick Haas. Here’s the IMDb summary:
A zoo veterinarian gets caught up in a grisly adventure as she finds herself leading the city-wide hunt for a monstrous lion terrorizing the Dutch capital of Amsterdam.
On the surface, this movie is not dissimilar to Jaws. You have your man-eating creature. You have authority figures who don’t want to close the parks and create a panic. You have a trio of interesting characters who have a damn lion to catch. I don’t deny those Jaws tropes. However, I’ve seldom seen a movie that uses them as well as does this one.
We don’t get to see the lion right away, but it gets right down to slaughtering a family: oldest daughter, her boyfriend, husband, wife, a second very young daughter. We’re spared the gory details, but it’s gut-wrenching when the police find the bloodied nightgown of the little girl.
Lizzy [Sophie van Winden] is summoned to the scene by a policeman she’s worked with before. She confirms his fears. Before long, the lion has struck again and again. Some of those attacks are pretty surprising, so I’ll let you discover them for yourselves.
Also involved is Lizzy’s estranged boyfriend Dave [Julian Looman], a cameraman for a TV newscast, and Jack [Mark Frost], a once-famous hunter and Lizzy’s former paramour. Initially, the chief of police passes on hiring Jack in favor of bringing in his brother-in-law. Bro-in-law has hunted lions on safaris, albeit lions who were doped to the gills to make killing them easier and safer. Unfortunately, our lion has said “no” to drugs.
Jack has a multitude of problems. He’s in a wheelchair because he lost a leg to a lion. To Jack’s credit, he shot the lion smack dab between the eyes while the lion was eating him. He has more than a bit of a drinking problem and he’s dying of cancer. Yet his jungle smarts are way beyond anyone else trying to bring down this lion. Even Dave takes a liking to him.
As in Jaws, we have three likeable heroes. Far from infallible. But courageous and inventive when they need to be. I was on the edge of my seat, especially during the final confrontation between the good guys and the lion in a spooky morgue.
I won’t tell you about that confrontation or its aftermath. Trust me. This is a movie you want to see.
Some quick trivia:
No concrete explanation is given as to how the lion ends up making Amsterdam its feeding ground. One expressed possibility is that it escaped or release from a secret private zoo owned by a drug dealer or some other millionaire.
Though the lion was intended to be CGI, that would’ve cost a third of the film’s budget. A detailed, manually operated animatronic lion was used for close-up scenes with a CGI lion used for the few scenes showing the entire lion.
The movie’s original title was Prey and that’s the name it appears under on the IMDb. On Amazon Prime and on the DVD released earlier this year, it’s Uncaged.
I enjoyed the bejabbers out of Uncaged. It’s one of the best Jaws-inspired movies I’ve seen and, as my regular readers of this bloggy thing know, I’ve seen an awful lot of Jaws-inspired movies. Check this one out. You won’t be disappointed.
Last and least of my movie marathon was Llamageddon . It was also the shortest of the three films with a running time of just 69 minutes. How short is that? During the end credits, the entire film is speeded up and shown again. The. Entire. Film.
Llamageddon was directed by Howie Dewin; it’s his only credit as a director or an actor. You’ve never heard of any of the other actors either. Here’s the IMDb summary:
A killer llama from outer space crash lands on Earth and brings death and destruction to everyone in its path.
The back story of how the alien llama got to earth is told through comic-book pages that are worse than those in Moose. There’s what seems to be a mass llama migration. This llama’s spaceship, which looks like a common horse trailer, is knocked off course and lands on Earth. It starts killing people by stomping on them or blowing them up with some sort of explosive eye beams.
Our main characters are a brother and sister. She’s a popular girl and he’s an awkward nerd. They are watching the home of their dead grandpa. She throws a party. Before long, there are lots of horny young people for the llama to slaughter.
By the time the kids figure out they need to run for their lives, there are only five of them left. One of them is a guy transformed into a semi-llama. The alien llama has non-consensual sex with the guy and, before long, the guy is popping out llama eggs. As if one alien killer llama wasn’t enough.
We’re down to three kids - the brother, the sister and the layer of llama eggs - for the final confrontation at Grandpa’s barn. Enter the father of the siblings. A military man who quickly assesses the situation and takes action. He’s the only kind of sort of likable character in the movie.
The movie is filled with gross attempts at humor and drunken sex. The only thing I liked about it was that the means dear old Dad uses to end the llama threat was in place early in the film. Yes, I called it from the moment I saw it, but I was still glad to see even this merest example of decent storytelling.
I know that, even if I tell you not to watch this movie, you will still watch it. I mean, how many fans of horror/monster movies can resist a film called Llamageddon? Just remember that I warned you.
That’s it for today’s bloggy thing. I’m started to get my writing mojo back, so I hope to be back soon with more stuff.
© 2020 Tony Isabella
Sunday, October 11, 2020
THE 30 FOOT BRIDE OF CANDY ROCK
I always thought Costello was the more talented member of the duo. I felt he was at his best when he did scenes without Abbott. There was more to the little guy that was shown. I wish he had started a solo career sooner.
Which brings is to The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock . This was Costello’s first starring movie without Abbott. Tragically, it was his last film. The movie was released five months after his death from a heart attack.
Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:
In one of his rare performances without Bud Abbott, Lou Costello plays a rubbish collector and inventor. When radiation in a nearby cave turns his girlfriend into a giantess, antics ensure as he tries to shrink her using one of his inventions.
Emmy Lou [Dorothy Provine] is in love with trash collector Artie [Costello] and wants to marry him. Artie wants to wait until one of his inventions is a success. Opposing any such match and, indeed, any relationship whatsoever is Emmy’s uncle. Rossiter [Gale Gordon] is the town mayor and the richest man in town. He pretty much owns every business in town, save for Artie’s. Rossiter is also hungry for glory and more power. He’s brought a TV newsman to town to film a show about himself.
Artie and Emmy Lou go to the mysterious Dinosaur Springs to take readings for Artie’s work. Emmy Lou gets angry when Artie isn’t as ready to wed as she is. She runs into a foggy cave where radiation
causes her to grow into a giant.
Hearing that his niece has gotten together with Artie and thinking they have been intimate, Rossiter insists they get married and go to a secluded barn he owns. He doesn’t want the newsman to find out about his secret shame. He sends a nearsighted preacher to marry them. The mayor doesn’t know what the real situation is.
What follows is a series of pretty funny scenes, all deriving from Emmy Lou’s condition. For one thing, it’s not easy to feed a giant wife. The hungry bride heads for town and, before long, is hunted by the military. They think she’s an alien from a UFO.
These are some pretty zany scenes, some of them involving humorous time shifts. Yet Artie does cure his new wife. I assume they have a long and happy marriage with Artie as a successful scientist and Emmy always encouraging him and, yes, all manner of weird science stuff to enliven their small-town existence.
The 75-minute movie is tied together by a string of funny scenes, but they all do lead to the conclusion. Some scenes are very broad in their humor, but the movie is quite delightful.
Costello is playing a somewhat more dynamic and intelligent version of his Abbott and Costello character. It would be nice to see him develop in subsequent films, but, alas, there would be no more such movies. That’s a loss.
One trivia note. This is not Costello’s only movie without Abbott. In the 1920s, before he teamed with Abbott, he appeared in several movies as a stuntman or an extra.
I enjoyed The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. It was fun. It had some nice contemporary-for-their-time bits. It wasn’t an award-winning production, but it was pleasant and relaxing. Especially in these troubled times, that’s enough for me to recommend it to you.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2020 Tony Isabella
Friday, October 9, 2020
HARSH REALITIES: THE SUPREME COURT
This started out as a much longer article about the harsh realities in the comics industry and in the outside world that I must learn to accept and deal with. Needless to say, even the rough outline of that longer piece was too depressing for me. Instead, I’m breaking it up into smaller bits. It’s still depressing as Hell, but, this way, I can perhaps avoid curling up into a fetal ball and moaning piteously until my soul dies.
The Supreme Court lost its greatest member with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Naturally, Trump’s nominee to replace her is just about the worst choice one could imagine. This should not come as any surprise. If you look at the list of terrible people Trump has nominated or appointed to positions during his disastrous time in office, this was inevitable.
What’s also inevitable is that there’s not a blessed thing we can do about it. He has the votes to get Amy Coney Barrett approved as a Supreme Court judge with the certainty that she will be able to do awful things to our country for decades to come.
Mitch McConnell is about one thing: raw power and the hypocritical use of that power. His Republican senators are completely under his control. Don’t look for any of them to exhibit the smallest shred of decency and integrity that would prevent them from confirming a woman who believes her religious beliefs supersede the law of the land. I am heartsick at what this means for America and especially those most in need of the law’s protection: women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, legal immigrants and immigrants being denied a chance to enrich our country with their cultures, hard work, skills and desire to live the American dream. In McConnell’s world, dreams are only for rich and powerful white men.
Even if, by some miracle, Barrett is not confirmed in time to help Trump steal the election, even if he loses by such a large margin that he can’t stay in power, even if the Republicans lose control of the Senate, don’t doubt for a second that Trump, McConnell and the GOP will put Barrett on the Supreme Court before their control is ended. The last two months of the Trump administration are going to be a nightmare for this country.
What can we do in the aftermath of such treachery? Keeping in mind that the Republicans have stacked the courts with horrible right-wing zealots on every level of the judiciary. Sadly, there isn’t a silver bullet.
The Democrats would certainly have the power to add judges to the Supreme Court. It wouldn’t be unique in our history, but it would set a precedent that might not always work in the best interests of justice and our country. Mind you, I am not opposed to this plan. As I see it, the bad faith of the Republicans over the past fifty years plus justifies this action.
I suggest adding four more judges to the Supreme Court as a kind of stopgap measure to protect the rights of those the Republicans are already targeting. But I would also suggest a law that allows the Supreme Court to get back to nine justices through attrition. When a member of the thirteen-justice court leaves their position due to retirement, death or criminal conviction, they are not replaced on the bench unless the total number of judges dips below nine.
I’m not concerned about there being an even number of justices on the Supreme Court. They will just have to work harder to hand down rulings that a majority of them can agree with. Honestly, I never want to be able to tell in advance how any of them will rule on any case that comes before them. Their allegiance should be to the law and not to political ideologies or parties.
Wait a minute. Did Tony write something about “criminal conviction” up there? Yes, he did.
The other thing that can be done to minimize the damage that will be done by a Trump-ian Supreme Court is for obviously unfit judges like Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas to be thoroughly investigated for criminal activity. I don’t believe Supreme Court justices have “get out of jail” cards. If found to have committed crimes, they can be charged and removed from the bench.
Despite Trump and his gang’s piteous moaning about being targets of “fake news,” the sad fact is the media has been way too easy on all of them. They allowed Trump to create a new “normal” that has been anything but normal or moral. Go after them. Show the country the strength of a free press that champions the people over the wealthy and the powerful. Take away their immunity and their privilege. Be Clark Kent and be our new super-heroes.
I wish I could be optimistic about things being okay once Trump is gone. They won’t be and, because they won’t be, we’re going to see a lot of good people suffering needlessly. I expect a lot of tears in the years to come. I’ll try to be a shoulder for those people, but it’s gonna be bad.
I have an entire list of harsh realities I intend to write about in the days and weeks to come. Some will be political and some will be personal. They won’t be easy for me to write and they won’t be easy for you to read.
When you see “Harsh Realities” in the title, know what you will be getting into. I’ll have other more entertaining content in between those HR installments, but the HR topics are things I need to work through for myself.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2020 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Desert Wind Comics is saddened to announce that today we have lost our great leader, Chandler Rice. I can never live up to his amazing, albeit lengthy, Facebook announcements. But here’s a try. He was the biggest teddy bear we knew, he never met a stranger, and could talk to you for hours about his passion for comics and collectibles. He paved the way for things to be done bigger and better at conventions. He wanted to give the fans every bit of enjoyment he felt from being surrounded by the creators and artists. When shows resume, we know that the floors will be a little quieter without him here. His laughter and chatter could be heard isles away. He passed away peacefully with Sharon by his side. DWC’s team and Sharon are grateful for all of the love and prayers that are being sent.
Chandler was a convention friend, which means that I did not get to see him often but that every time I saw him it was a true joy. we would talk about comic books and our mutual friends in the crazy comics industry. I would sign comics for him and his clients, though not on as formal a basis as his truly amazing list of comics creators. I don’t think I was ever not smiling when I was with Chandler for those too few moments at conventions.
Others will have more to say about him because they were fortunate enough to know him better and spend more time with him than I did. I do know Barb and I had a ball at his convention. I did one of my better local television appearances at his convention, something he had set up.
He brought Trevor von Eeden to the con and thus Barb got to meet the talented artistic collaborator with whom I’ll always be linked. Black Lightning show runner Salim Akil put it best when he introduced us to the cast and crew of the show:
“Tony created Black Lightning and Trevor showed us what he looked like.”
From a character and story standpoint, everything important about Jefferson Pierce and his world was created before I pitched Black Lightning to DC Comics. But, even now, when I think of Jeff, Peter, Lynn and Tobias, it’s the early Trevor images that come to mind. I know Trevor enjoyed the convention as well. He and Barb hit it off immediately. We both like him a lot.
The convention was filled with people I liked and who Barb got to meet for the first time. That was Chandler at work. He brought together some of the best in the business.
Chandler did so many good things for so many people. I’m sure the Las Vegas community and other communities remember him for his many charitable works. I remember how he made it possible for my friend and mentor Roy Thomas to visit with Stan Lee, another friend and mentor of mine, before Stan passed. I know that visit meant a lot to Roy. I was honored to participate in a memorial for Stan which Chandler organized at the Las Vegas event.
I didn’t know Chandler as well as I would have liked. I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. That’s often the way it is in comics. I did know him well enough that we spoke about him arranging for me to attend other conventions. I usually handle those bookings myself. Chandler was one of just three people I’ve ever trusted enough to represent me in that manner.
I didn’t know Chandler as well as I would have liked. But I’m going to really miss seeing his smiling figure - yes, some people smile with their whole body - at conventions. He was a truly bright light in comics. His memory remains bright.
Rest in peace, my friend. My condolences to his family and friends and everyone else whose lives he made better and happier and just plain more fun.
© 2020 Tony Isabella
Monday, October 5, 2020
CITIZEN TONY: TOLERANCE NO MORE
Teaching Tolerance is one of my favorite magazines. Published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the magazine’s mission is to help teachers and schools educate children to be active participants in a diverse democracy. The most recent issue focused on “Democracy in Action.” Yet a reader comment in the magazine represented an idea that had never occurred to me before.
The reader wrote: Please rethink using the word “tolerance.” Do you realize it implies tolerating the other? It implies that the other is lesser than you? In its use, you are saying we must TOLERATE the difference in others like we tolerate a trouble child or like we tolerate a troublesome aunt who has a different perspective. PLEASE change the word “tolerance” to a more positive (and not offensive, especially to POC) word like RESPECT or APPRECIATION.
The magazine’s staff agrees the word “tolerance” is insufficient to convey the work it does. It has started what will surely be a long and difficult process to change the magazine’s name.
I’m also going to strive to find a different way of expressing my beliefs of not just respect and appreciation for people different from myself, but to express the inclusion I feel is necessary for my country and my world to survive. As we have faced the terrors of climate change disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of white supremacists in our country and government and the stark horror of four years of the worst president in our history, it’s vital that we all come together against these threats.
That said, I recognize I have serious anger issues when it comes to trying to respect the views of Donald Trump, the Republicans, and those who support them. I can’t and never will respect racism. I can’t and never will respect a political philosophy that denies women the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, that does everything in its power to suppress the votes of Blacks and other minorities, that persecutes those minorities in countless ways and that strives to make the wealthy more powerful and wealthy at the expense of all others. I can’t and never will respect those views and the people who espouse them.
But I can work to end the hate I have for these people as I work to remove them from their positions of power. I can work to regain my belief that their supporters can be redeemed. Whenever they go low, I can try to go high. It won’t be easy. As Bruce Banner once told Captain America, “I'm always angry.”
Stay safe, stay well and be excellent to one another. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2020 Tony Isabella
Thursday, October 1, 2020
THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN SEPTEMBER
Something that didn’t make happy in September, something that made me sad was when I was going over my 2019 financials. I was on the road a lot that year. Here’s the summary I wrote for our financial advisors:
I attended thirteen conventions or events in 2019. I traveled to Atlanta to attend the Black Lightning wrap party and visit the set. I ran a comics creation workshop for the Cleveland Public Library. I was a Free Comic Book Day guest in Akron, Ohio.
The conventions: North Texas Comic Book Show (Dallas); Pensacon (Florida); Big Apple Comic Con (New York City); Great Philadelphia Comic Con; G-Fest (Chicago); Comic-Con International (San Diego); NEO Comicon (North Olmsted); New Mexico Comics Expo (Alburquerque); Flaming River Con (Cleveland); Fanboy Expo 2.0 (Knoxville); Akron Comicon; Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Michigan).
There is a huge amount of paperwork involved in reflecting all the conventions and events in my taxes. Hundreds of receipts. Mileage multiplication. It usually takes me two solid days to get all of it in order for the accountant.
This year - 2020 - is going to be a breeze by comparison. I went to Atlanta to appear in the third season finale of Black Lightning and then went to the set in Decatur for the last day of shooting. Then Saintly Wife Barb and I attended Pensacon 2020. That turned out to be the only convention I’ll attend this year.
This makes me sad. I should be able to break those trips down for the accountant in two hours tops. Yet I would much rather have gone to more conventions. Hung out with more old friends. Talked to more fans of Black Lightning and my work.
I’m already accepting invites for 2021 conventions and such. Barb and I want to drive down to Atlanta so I can take her to the Black Lightning set and do some vacation stuff on the way there and the way back. Who knows if any of that will happen?
There are no miracle cures for COVID-19 or a country devastated by Republican misrule. We can only hope for the future and, while we wait, try to find joy every day of our lives.
Here are the things that made me happy in September...
September 1: Comics Revue is always a great read. The August 2020 issue had full stories of Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician. Plus lots of other great strips include Tarzan by Archie Goodwin and Gil Kane.
September 2: MAD #15 is a “Super Spooferheroes Issue” with features new and old on that theme and some fun new pieces on our pandemic world. Surprises: the Kurtzman/Wood “Bat Boy and Rubin” from 1953 and a 2008 piece on working at home. How did they know?
September 3: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. How can a new graphic novel by Adrian Tomine not make me happy? He has a genius for telling down-to-earth stories in a more relatable way that most graphic novelists who walk this path.
September 4: No one blinked an eye when a Wheel of Fortune player mentioned her wife and that her large family was cheering her on. That’s my America. The one in which love is love is just how it is.
September 5: Notzilla is, far and away, the best Kaiju movie ever made in Cincinnati. Its budget was low but the filmmakers spent it on affable actors, deliciously corny gags and a very cute monster. Well worth the Amazon Prime rental fee.
September 6: I am forever amazed at just how many shark movies are out there...and I say to myself what a wonderful world.
September 7: Comet TV’s Labor Day Godzilla Marathon. I don’t have time to watch the movies, but I have it on in another room and it’s nice background noise for today’s writing.
September 8: Tom Brevoort. His blog about The Superman Family #189 revealed the one-panel Black Lightning appearance I’d been hunting for years. I want my Black Lightning archives to be as complete as possible when I leave them to a college or library.
September 9: Early morn, driving to the grocery, I saw a beautiful family of deer (two adults, three little ones). Some folks consider them a nuisance, but seeing them always makes me smile. I think we need reminders that the world is larger than just us.
September 10: From World’s Finest The Collection, the Retro Wonder Woman box was one of the nicest I’ve gotten from them. It’s filled with wonderful things for me and the Wonder Women in my life.
September 11: Ayami Kazama’s I Don’t Know How to Give Birth is an adorable autobiographical manga detailing the author’s journey to motherhood. Recommended for all.
September 12: Rex Morgan’s Pandemic Comics. Terry Beatty has spent several weeks visiting his cast of characters in these quarantining times. Entertaining, funny, and true-to-life. One of the very best newspaper strips published today.
September 13: Bleeding Cool. No, this isn’t The Onion. But I want to take note the site has been good about using the official Black Lightning creator credits - Created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden - when they write about the character.
September 14: I’m winding down my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales. The last ones are this weekend. It’s been disappointing this summer, but I’m excited about my plans for next year’s sales. Hope to see many of you there.
September 15: The new seasons of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy have begun. They’ve made some pandemic era changes, but these wonderful shows, their hosts and their contestants are as much fun as ever.
September 16: Black Lightning Seasons Two and Three will get Blu-ray releases. They will be MOD (manufacture on demand) releases, so you won’t see them in stories. I’d prefer a general release, but, at least, this is a step in the right direction.
September 17: Andy Mangels. He gets me interested in things I was never interested in before. Like with his Saturday Morning Preview Specials articles in Retro Fan.
September 18: Comic-book collector and teacher Dan Moroaica was the big winner on the 9-16-20 Wheel of Fortune. He owns eight thousand comics. Way to represent, sir!
September 19: Brett Dakin’s American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason. This is a wonderful biography of a comics legend by his great nephew. I think Gleason and I would’ve gotten along well.
September 20: Stage Mother. This is a funny and heartwarming movie about a mother who reconnects with her drag performer son after his death. I literally laughed and got teary while watching it with my Saintly Wife Barb. Highly recommended.
September 21: Tyler Perry's inspirational acceptance speech after he was awarded this year's Emmy Governors Award. I was near moved to tears by the speech and what I could learn from Perry’s amazing achievements.
September 22: Unexpected delights. Barb and I loved the Filthy Rich pilot, which aired on Fox Monday night. It’s funny, occasionally heartwarming and filled with insane twists and turns. Think Dallas or Dynasty on a crack/steroid cocktail.
September 23: The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock. From 1959, this was Lou Costello’s last movie. It’s nice silly fun and, while living in the shitstorm that is 2020, sometimes silly is what a body needs.
September 24: Gamera: The Complete Collection. A thing of beauty. All 12 uncut Japanese versions of the movies. A 120-page hardcover of Gamera comics including a Matt Frank story never been published in English. An 80-page book with even more cool stuff. The nicest Kaiju film collection ever!
September 25: Dulce Sloan and The Daily Show did an amazing piece on police brutality and how much it costs taxpayers. It’s not just morally wrong to let police get away with brutality, it’s fiscally unsound.
September 26: Superman, the first of four Breast Cancer Awareness Funko Pop! figures, has joined my Social Justice League. The others are Batman, Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman. Fun stuff for a really good cause.
September 27: Enola Holmes. After a monumentally crappy day, this movie set me back on track. Delightful characters and performances. Solid story. I want more!
September 28: Marauders by Gerry Duggan Vol. 1. I bailed on almost all things X-Men, but a friend praised this. I enjoy the political aspects of the mostly self-contained series. I’ll be requesting the second volume from my library.
September 29: Atlas at War! Edited by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo with art restoration by Allan Harvey, this amazing hardcover collects 50 stories from the Marvel Comics war titles. Some of the best artists and writers of the 1950s.
September 30: Unpresidented by Kieron Dwyer. The star artist of so many Marvel and DC super-hero comics turns his considerable talents to “cartoons of chaos” that will delight and rattle you. Definitely not for the right-wing snowflakes.
October will be a busy month for me. I’m finishing a collection of my shark movie reviews. Once that book is off my desk, I hope to take a few days off at a secluded beach house, cabin or tree house. Then it’s clearing out two rooms so we can rip up the carpeting and install wood floors.
Those are only the biggest items on my schedule. I have a bunch of medical appointments to schedule. Don’t be concerned. They are all routine things that were delayed by the pandemic.
My health and time permitting, I hope to move forward on some new projects, including the long-awaiting second volume of July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella. I guess I’m feeling ambitious.
I can’t commit to daily blogging, but I do have a number of pieces in various stages of completion. I hope to bring those to you on a steady basis.
My best wishes to my bloggy thing readers. Stay safe, stay well and be good to yourselves and others. I’ll be back soon.
© 2020 Tony Isabella