NEO COMICON 2021. I am excited to be returning to one of my favorite events. I'm bringing a great selection of Isabella-written books to the show. I'm bringing some unique items you would not ordinarily see at my convention tables. I'm putting together two terrific auction packages which I am donating to the convention. And I'll be seeing some of the most amazing creators, cosplayers and fans for the first time in close to two years.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Third time’s the charm? I hope so.
After being forced by often annoyingly stupid circumstances to cancel two weekends in a row, my second Vast Accumulation of Stuff comics and pop culture garage sales are this weekend: Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31. The hours of these sales are 9am to noon and then 2-5 pm each day. I’m adding those afternoon hours in an attempt to make up those missed sales.
If you’re still buying stuff at noon or 5 pm, don’t worry. I won’t chase you out of my garage at noon or 5 pm on the dot. The location of the garage sales is Casa Isabella, 840 Damon Drive in Medina, Ohio. There will be signs in the front yard and a big Tony Isabella banner sign next to the garage itself.
The question I am most frequently asked about these sales is “What will you be selling?” The most honest answer I can give is “I don’t know.” I add hundreds of items to these garage sales every weekend. My goals are to make some money, make my customers happy and reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff to the point where, at some distant time in the future, it can be called a collection again. I want to know what I have as much as you do.
I know what the garage sale will have in general. Isabella-related posters. Isabella-written comic books and books. Hardcover books.Softcover books. The ever-popular $10 mystery boxes. Manga volumes. Comics and pop culture related clothing and backpacks. Comics and pop culture related collectibles. Magazines. Comic priced at just one buck each. All at bargain prices. Indeed, I’ll even be reducing prices on some items from my first garage sales of the summer.
One of the perks of coming to my garage sales, besides hearing my wondrous stories of my nigh-half-century working in comics, is that I don’t charge for my signature. Whether you buy an Isabella item from me or bring it to my garage from your own collection, I will sign any and all Isabella items for free.
I won’t have any quarter comics this time around. Ditto other items priced at a quarter. Most of those will be going into those mystery boxes. At my last sales, fans were disappointed I only had a couple of those boxes. I’ll have at least seven mystery boxes this time out. Quarter comics will return when I can acquire more of them
NOTE: I am buying comic books, though not in great bulk. I’ll pay $15 for a short box of good condition comics and $30 for a long box of good condition comics. Generally speaking, a short box will hold a little over 150 issues and a long box around 300 issues. The only restrictions: I don’t want too many copies of the same issues. I don’t want adults only comic books. I won’t be able to buy dozens of boxes at one time.
If you can’t attend my sales at their stated hours of operation, I can arrange a private showing for you at some other time that will be more convenient for you. I would be able to schedule these for most Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. To arrange such a showing, you need to email me. I’ll do my best to accommodate you.
I publicize the sales on Craig’s List, Facebook, Next Door, Twitter and Yard Sale. Obviously, I welcome you telling your friends about them as well. The more I sell at these sales, the more cool stuff I can put out at the next ones. Not to mention that the funds make it easier for me to produce new comics and content for my readers. It’s the circle of life.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Some of my earliest comics writing was in black-and-white magazines like Marvel’s Dracula Lives!, Monsters Unleashed and Vampire Tales, and even that weird-but-cool little tabloid newspaper The Monster Times. What I remember most from the last one was that I only got paid when I went to their offices to ask for whatever payment they owed me. That got easier when I moved to New York City to work for Marvel Comics.
For the purposes of this bloggy, I am defining “comic magazine” as a magazine-format publication that contains mostly comics stories. So MAD would be a “yes” and The Monster Times, which only ran two or three pages of comics, would be a “no.”
Manuscript Press’ Comics Revue is my favorite comics magazine currently being published. Edited by Rick Norwood, each double-size issue presents over 125 pages of some of the greatest comic strips that have ever been seen in the United States. Issue #421-422 is the latest issue I’ve read and will suffice for this revue.
Tarzan by John Celardo and Dick van Buren is the cover feature of this issue. “The Inca Treasure,” a 12-page daily newspaper story from 1957, is a well-drawn adventure told in the once-classic style of captions with no speech balloons. Author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Lord of the Jungle also appears in a more modern 1980 tale by Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin. In this case, the jungle is New York City with its magnificent bridges and skyscrapers.
My favorite story in the issue is 48-page Mandrake the Magician thrillers by Lee Falk and Phil Davis. From 1939, it’s a epic tale of royal intrigue and a hero’s fight for the woman he loves. I am frequently amazed at how often Falk (and the Phantom, his second classic creation) from sealing the matrimonial deal with the great loves of their lives. These romances went on for decades, multiple stories seemingly leading up to matrimony, only to have something delay them once again. What is truly remarkable is that, no matter often Falk did this, the result was always a terrific story.
As with any anthology, there are some features I like better than others. R&D Hackney’s medieval/contemporary satire Sir Bagby is a favorite of mine. Call me a heretic, but I have never warmed up to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. But I enjoy almost everything else in the magazine: Casey Ruggles, Flash Gordon, Alley Oop, the Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Buz Sawyer, Garth and Steve Canyon.
Side note. This issue starts another of Milton Caniff’s flights of fancy in which a sleeping Steve Canyon imagines himself in another period of American history. This time, it’s the Revolutionary War or thereabouts. When I was a ghost-writer for a couple more recent newspaper strips, I pitched “Steve is sleeping” sequences for lead characters in those strips. Alas, my boss wasn’t interested. But, if I ever go back to ghosting newspaper strips like those, I will pitch such stories again.
Second side note. The main reason I’m not doing writing for syndicated strips, beyond John Lustig’s great Last Kiss feature, is because I couldn’t get credit for my work. I don’t expect to have my name on those tiny strips as they are currently presented, but I want to be able to let my fans and friends know what I’m doing. Something any potential clients should understand from the get-go.
Comics Revue is published every other month. A single issue costs $20. A subscription is $59 for one year.
The Creeps (soon to end and replaced with a title called Shudder) and Vampiress Carmilla are two more recent comics magazine launches that I’ve been enjoying. From the Warrant Publishing Company, the black-and-white magazines are ongoing homages to similar magazines published by Warren Publishing in the 1960s through the 1980s more or less. Indeed, when The Creeps first came out I was a jerk to its editor, accusing the company of doing cheap knock-offs of the great magazines edited by Archie Goodwin and others. I didn’t get it back then. I do get it now.
If you’re expecting the kind of quality Archie Goodwin brought to Creepy and Eerie with legendary artists like Reed Crandell, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and others, you won’t find that in Vampiress Carmilla and The Creeps/Shudder. What you’ll find are charming love letters to Creepy and Eerie and Vampirella with covers similar to the covers of those magazines. With mostly “shock ending” stories by veterans Don Glut and the late (and sorely missed) Nicola Cuti plus less well-known writers. With art by Benito Gallego, a favorite of mine from Apama the Undiscovered Animal, and several serviceable artists who occasionally reach greater heights. All wrapped around features that are likewise reminiscent of the old Warren magazines. I get warm nostalgic feels from these titles.
These magazines aren’t “the best in illustrated horror” as claimed by the blurb over The Creeps logo. They aren’t likely to win comics awards. But they are entertaining and fun and well worth the cover price of $5.95 per issue, less if you subscribe. As I’ve been doing for a couple years now. If you have fond memories of those Warren magazines, I think you’ll enjoy these as well. And I’m really, really sorry I was such a horse’s ass when I first laid eyes on them.
Less entertaining is Eyrie [$7.95 per issue] from writer and artist Mike Hoffman. Priced at two dollars more than the Warrant titles, it does have better paper. While I generally like Hoffman’s art, I haven’t been able to warm up to this magazine.
The stories aren’t as well-written as the ones in The Creeps. For the most part, the individual pages have very large panels. Which serve only to highlight the sparse plots. I realize that Eyrie is meant to be Hoffman’s personal creative expression, but I think it needs better writing and more variety in the art.
I gave Eyrie three issues, but don’t plan to buy any issues beyond those first three. Your mileage may vary and, for many of you, I’m sure it will, but the magazine isn’t working for me.
Since I first edited a bunch of Marvel’s black-and-white magazines back in the 1970s (and once turned down an offer from Jim Warren to leave Marvel and edit the actual Eerie for his company), I’ve grown increasingly fond of the format. If the opportunity ever arose, I would love to edit such a magazine again. I was pretty okay at it back then, but I’d be much better at it today.
I have come across some older black-and-white comics magazines and collections of British comics inspired by or reprinted from that country’s old weekly comics newspapers. So you’ll be seeing more of my comments and reviews of comics magazines in the hopefully near future.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
My next Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale won’t be until the end of the month. I have projects I must complete this week, which include making that end-of-the-month garage sale as epic as I can possibly make it.
At the moment, it’s looking like I won’t have any boxes of quarter comics for sale. Indeed, unlike my first sales, I also won’t have three tables of other items priced at a quarter.
Quarter comics and other quarter items are the foundation of my $10 mystery boxes. Then I add other more expensive items to make sure the boxes buyers get a lot more than ten bucks worth of stuff. In all the time I’ve been selling these boxes, and I’ve sold close to 200 of them, I’ve only received one complaint.
I only had two mystery boxes at my first 2021 garage sales. I got more than one complaint about that. I have four mystery boxes out in the garage as I write this bloggy thing. I hope to add quite a few more. So I’m using what I have left of the quarter comics and other items for that purpose.
I want to offer quarter comics at my next garage sales. Given the nature of my excavations through the VAOS, there’s no guarantee I will come across boxes of comics I’m willing to put into a quarter boxes or a mystery box. My solution to this dilemma?
I AM BUYING COMIC BOOKS BY THE BOX.
I am buying comic books, though not in great bulk. I’ll pay $15 for a short box of good condition comics and $30 for a long box of good condition comics. Generally speaking, a short box holds a little over 150 issues and a long box 300 issues. I am allocating $300 for such purchases, but that’s not a hard and fast limit.
The restrictions: I don’t want too many copies of the same issues. I don’t want adults only comic books.
If you have such comics and want to sell them, send me an e-mail. I’ll arrange a time when you can bring them to me. You’ll get paid once I’ve examined the boxes and I plan to do that on the spot. If you want to be paid in cash instead of a check, I’ll need two days' notice to accommodate you.
Because of the afore-mentioned projects, I won’t be able to come to you unless you live within fifteen minutes of Casa Isabella, 840 Damon Drive, Medina, Ohio. I’m dealing here with both a shortage of quarter comics and a shortage of time.
Be sure to put QUARTER COMICS in the header of any e-mails you send me. I’ll be able to spot them more quickly among the hundreds of e-mails I receive every day.
I’m considering extending my usual 9 am to noon garage sale hours to include additional hours from 2-5 pm on each of the two days of the event. I’ll have more information on that soon. It’ll be posted here and on my other social media.
If you have questions, e-mail them to me. I’ll do my best to answer them as quickly as possible.
That’s all for now. I have two or three other bloggy things almost finished, so I’ll be back here sooner rather than later. Thanks for your patience and support. You’re appreciated.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Monday, July 19, 2021
My next VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF garage sales have been pushed back yet again, this time to Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30. Hours to be announced. However...I am strongly considering having both morning and afternoon hours on those days.
I have a lot of stuff going on right now and I have to make time for it. Pushing back the garage sales (and making them better than ever) is one way I'm doing that. Reducing my online presence this week is another.
My plans for the week include blogging, writing Last Kiss gags and completing a consulting project. I'll still be checking the comments awaiting approval as often as possible.
I'm going to be much more cautious in approving some comments. If you haven't signed your comment and it strikes me as someone trying to cause controversy for controversy's sake, your comment will not be approved. I've had enough of the whole "Let's you and he fight" crap that has become the driving force of some lowlife "news and rumor" websites. Peddle that shit elsewhere.
Have a great week and I hope to be back up to speed next week.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
All comments from readers must be approved by me before they appear in the blog. This is to prevent spam and trolling. It sometimes takes me a few hours to approve a comment. Please be patient and refrain from posting your comment multiple times. That just confuses me. I do appreciate your comments and honestly wish more readers would respond to my bloggy things. I ask for your patience when it comes to my approving them. Thanks.
Friday, July 16, 2021
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Friday, July 9, 2021
Sleeping Beauties Volume 1 [IDW; $19.99] is based on the novel by Stephen King and Owen King. It’s being adapted to the graphic novel form by Rio Youers with artist Alison Sampson, colorist Triona Tree Farrell and letterers Christa Miesner and Valerie Lopez. Because I was intrigued by the premise, I’d been thinking of requesting the novel from my local library system but decided to read the comics adaptation first. Is this the modern-day equivalent of reading the Classic Illustrated version of something for the book report that’s due tomorrow?
The premise: A bizarre sleeping sickness, called Aurora, has fallen over the world. Its victims can't wake up. And all of them are women. As nations fall into chaos, those women still awake take desperate measures to stay that way, and men everywhere begin to give in to their darkest impulses.
This is scary stuff. Aurora victims appear to spin cocoons around their sleeping bodies. In fearful debate, men wonder if the women are actually alive or about to spawn something horrible. When such women are removed from their cocoons, they turn violent. Some men try to protect their loved ones while others are determined to burn the sleepers. And there’s this mysterious woman who walks out of a forest and who can fall asleep without spinning a cocoon and wake up from the slumber normally. If anything can be considered normal in a book by King and his youngest son.
I liked this graphic novel adaptation quite a bit. The question on my mind is...do I wait for the second volume of the graphic novel adaptation or do I switch over to the actual novel? I’m not going to put it to a vote or anything, but feel free to express opinions in the bloggy thing comments.
Friend of the Devil by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips [Image Comics; $24.99] is the second book in their Reckless series. Somehow, I’ve managed to overlook the first book, something I will correct very soon. Overlooking the first book in the ongoing series of hardcover graphic novels didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this one in the slightest. It stands alone quite nicely.
Ethan Reckless is described as one part repo man, one part private eye and one part wrecking ball. His life isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough when he’s drawn into a woman’s search for her missing sibling, a would-be Hollywood actress who disappeared in the 1970s. Several of the more seedy sides of show business drive Reckless’s search, made the more personal because he has become romantically involved with his client.
Brubaker is known for his significant contributions to the Marvel Comics and Cinematic Universes, but, as I well know, creators like him never receive the acclaim and monetary rewards from those key contributions. Brubaker has spoken out about this and cited it as a reason he now chooses to concentrate on projects like Reckless. Of course, he’s also well known for his crime comics and, in that genre, I think he’s the current best we have.
Teamed with the amazing art and storytelling of Phillips, Brubaker delivers an engaging tale. My reader’s satisfaction lingers after I finished the book with scenes and, in particular, the conclusion visiting my thoughts from time to time. Kudos should also go Jacob Phillips, the colorist of this graphic novel.
I recommend Friend of the Devil to older readers who love the genre or who love great comics, regardless of their genre. Now excuse me while I request the earlier Reckless book from my local library.
It took me a while to warm up to DC Comics’ “Black Label” imprint, mostly because my first exposure to it was the crap-tastic Batman: Damned. That one combined two things I disliked: yet another grim
and soul-crushing Batman story and a writer I believe should not be allowed within a solar system of super-hero comics. Later releases of the imprint won me over.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall by writer Tom Taylor with artist Darrick Robertson and color artist Diego Rodriguez was one of the efforts that won me over. I’ve genuinely liked most of Taylor’s writing. Robertson is one of the very best artists and storytellers - not often the same thing - in comics. While I’m not as conversant with colorists, but I think Rodriguez did a bang-up job on this three-issue series. Here’s a quick synopsis:
A wealthy man plummets from the sky and is gruesomely skewered on a church spire. Bizarrely, angel wings are attached to his back. More deaths follow until, hallelujah, it’s raining businessmen. Detective Aisha Bukhari is stumped by this strange phenomenon, until she’s visited by her childhood friend, occult investigator John Constantine, who discovers a link between the falling elite and a shocking moment in his and Aisha’s misspent youth. How are these killings tied to the first death on John’s hands? How does this involve heaven and hell? Even if this is kind of John’s fault, will Constantine be happy to let a few more rich bastards fall from the sky, like a vindictive Robin Hood?
First off, the version of John Constantine in this story strikes me as being well within the core values of the character. I haven’t a clue if its faithful to whatever Constantine continuity holds sway in the DC Comics Universe these days, but it was a Constantine that I recognized as being the guy who appeared in so many stories I’ve enjoyed in the past. The story did seem to be a different take on John’s “origin” as a dark magician with a number of really awful screw ups in his past, but the essence of an arrogant protagonist whose hubris causes him and others grief is there. Indeed, one of those past mishaps is what drives this story.
The story unfolds nicely. The supporting cast, especially a rather dapper Lucifer, is terrific. The tale’s “big bad” is sufficiently scary enough to give the devil concern. The conclusion to the story is satisfying. It’s a above-average Hellblazer effort, which says a lot given how many great Hellblazer stories have been published. DC got it right this time.
The three issues have been collected in Hellblazer: Rise and Fall [DC; $24.99], a hardcover book released in April of this year. I think it’s suitable for adults and older teens. I recommend it to those readers.
That’s all for today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Thursday, July 8, 2021
June was an exercise in endurance for me. Our Tardis-like house is so big that we have two distinct air conditioning system. With the temperature rising into the high eighties and occasionally playing with the low nineties, our upstairs system gave up the ghost. That was very bad for my health and sanity.
My home office is upstairs. The temperature in my office generally hovered around 85 degrees or more. Trying to work in my office for more than a half-hour gave me splitting headaches and worse. This impacted everything I was working on...from my online publications to my comics and other writing to my garage sale preparation. I was about as miserable as I’ve been in a long time.
We had to wait several weeks for our heating and cooling company to have an opening in its schedule, but we finally got a new upstairs air conditioning system installed. Unfortunately, this new system cost thousands of dollars. Fortunately, we were able to cover that expense. I mean, it hurt, but we survived.
Even with the extreme discomfort, there were many good things in my life in June. How can a month in which we celebrated Saintly Wife Barb’s and my wedding anniversary, Father’s Day and our son Eddie’s birthday not have considerable joy in it?
Here are the things that made me happy in June...
June 1: I was interviewed by Seth Everett for his terrific Hall of Justice podcast. He thinks it went great and who am I to question such an astute journalist. You can listen to it here.
June 2: Jeopardy. Mayim Bialik is doing a fine job as guest host of Jeopardy! She’s been professional and personable. She wouldn’t be my first choice for permanent host, but I could see her winning the gig.
June 3: Jeopardy. Every so often a contestant comes along who makes the popular game even better. Enter quirky Brooklyn New York lawyer Julia Markham Cameron, whose reactions to answers right and wrong were delightful to behold.
June 4: DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration has a Grace Choi story featuring Black Lightning. Jefferson Pierce is not precisely on model, but it’s close enough for me to send kudos to writer Alyssa Wong for an entertaining tale.
June 5: Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. It has Patton Oswalt, Melissa Fumero, Aimee Garcia and Fin Fang Foom. It’s goofy, silly and surprisingly heartfelt. And I now want to write a Super-Adaptoid comic starring the straight Marvel Universe version.
June 6: DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration. I enjoyed this 100-page comics anthology. I’m even more thrilled that there were so many Asian characters getting a chance to shine. I’ll have more to say about this in a near-future blog.
June 7: Cult of the Cobra (1955) is an absurdly low budget horror movie from Universal International, but its cast included so many familiar actors I had a blast just figuring out where I’d seen them before.
June 8: I’m enjoying the heck out of Jerry Siegel’s The Syndicate of Crime, comics serial from the pages of the British comic Lion. Whoever owns the rights to The Spider, I would love to write a new serial starring that magnificent villain.
June 9: Samantha Stevens had been added to my Funko collection. I never intended for this to happen, but I must admit I have become a Funko collector. I find them delightful. But, just in case, I’m going to look for a Funko Anonymous meeting near me.
June 10: The Other History of the DC Universe #1 by John Ridley and Giuseppe Camuncoli, which stars Black Lightning, has been nominated for “Best Single Issue” in the 2021 Eisner Awards. This is what can happen when my creation is written by someone who both respects and understands the character.
June 11: Marvel’s Loki. Not the easiest concepts to grasp, but you can’t beat the chemistry between Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson. I’m already wishing for more than six episodes.
June 12: The Lost Films Fanzine and Movie Milestone by John LeMay. One of my favorite movie commentator/historians is now publishing two great magazines. Definitely recommended.
June 13: I’m getting excited about the amazing and unexpected stuff I’ll be offering in this summer’s Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales. Opening dates are June 25-26, but I may do an advance sale before then. Watch my social media.
[Sigh. My opening dates turned out to be July 2-3, but that first weekend was big fun and a financial success.]
June 14: Across the Tracks: Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre and Black Wall Street by Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson is an amazing entry-level introduction to vital history...and a reminder that we must preserve even the worst of our history.
June 15: At my summer garage sales, I’ll have (among other things) tables of comic books, DVDs, VHS tapes, CDs, manga and more at just a quarter per item.
July 16: Saintly Wife Barb and I celebrated 37 years of marriage at the Amuse European Bistro on Medina’s Public Square. The food was delicious and so plentiful that we got four more meals out of it.
July 17: Andy Runton’s Owly The Way Home. Charmed by its Free Comic Book Day excerpt, I borrowed this kids graphic novel from my local library. Owly wants to help and this world would be so much better if we followed his example. Great fun for all ages.
July 18: Pride Month. With Republicans continuing their assaults on the LGBTQ+ community, and especially on trans kids, it’s wonderful to watch that community and its allies unite to stand against the vile bigots who oppose common decency and respect.
June 19: Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. That’s a nice start, but we still have to deal with the systemic racism in this country and the racist Republicans who promote it.
June 20: In the Heights. A wonderful musical about a community and the dreams that grow there. I watched it on Netflix, but I want to see it on the big screen, too.
June 21: I had a nice stay-at-home Father’s Day with Saintly Wife Barb, our kids Eddie and Kelly and our cat Simba. I had a terrific salmon and broccoli dinner from the local Longhorn and, of course, a fun time with my family.
June 22: Curse of the Undead. Shown on Svengoolie, this 1959 horror western seems to be a standard Universal-International movie. What elevates it above most such films is its truly intriguing vampire. I’d love to adapt it to comics.
June 23: Comics Revue #421-422. The 48-page Mandrake story from 1939. I can’t tell you how often creator/writer Lee Falk delayed the wedding of Mandrake and Narda (and the Phantom and Diana), but the master storyteller made it work every time.
June 24: Boys Run the Riot by Keito Gaku is a heartwarming manga of three high school outsiders bonding over their own fashion brand. Human drama and humor. I love it a lot.
June 25: Saintly Wife Barb unearthed some incredibly rare comics jackets and shirts in one of our closets. Possibly worth hundreds of dollars. I’m going the eBay route on these and will let you know when the auctions launch.
June 26: Celebrating my son Ed’s birthday at Los Cantaritos Mexican Grille and Fiesta Jalapenos. Our home town of Medina doesn’t lack for fine Mexican dining.
June 27: The Mitchells vs. the Machines. A delightful film wherein a dysfunctional but loveable family is mankind’s only hope when the robots take over. One of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
June 28: My first Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale (Friday & Saturday, July 2-3, 9am-noon) is coming together nicely. There’ll be lots of great items at incredible bargain prices with more added every day through the summer.
June 29: Vivian Ward joins my Funko Pop collection. When I ordered it, I assumed “Pretty Woman” referred to Saintly Wife Barb. But it was the movie. Which is also cool.
June 30: After enduring over a month of an office temperatures that hovered near 90 degrees, our new upstairs air conditioning system has been installed. This is a boon to my health, productivity and sanity.
With my office habitable once more, I’m moving ahead on all sorts of cool stuff. Keep watching this bloggy thing and my social media for regular updates.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Welcome to Tony’s Tips! As I mentioned in the previous installment of this column-within-the-bloggy thing, I’ve narrowed the focus of the material reviewed here to those items I believe worthy of being nominated for industry awards. Sometimes, the items will have moved beyond their awards expiration dates. That’s unfortunate, but what matters to me is writing about some of the best material produced in the comics industry and beyond.
A couple years back at the Tales of Wonder website, I wrote about Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett’s Skyward:
Skyward Volume 1: My Low-G Life by writer Joe Henderson, artist Lee Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela [$9.99] takes place in a world where gravity has weakened to the point where people and objects fly up into the sky to be lost forever. It’s a world where storms float above the ground in huge masses and pose a deadly threat to anyone who enters one. It’s a frightening world, but Henderson and company go beyond the horror to show us the matter-of-fact life of their new world.
Courier Willa Fowler is trying to find her way in this new world. She lost her mother on G-Day. Her father hasn’t left his home since that day. Dad has secrets. One of the most powerful men on Earth, a former associate of Willa’s father, wants those secrets. Willa is caught in an intrigue she had no idea existed.
Skyward has humanity and horror in equal doses. Henderson’s writing and character play is first-rate, as I might have expected from the show runner of the great Lucifer TV series. Garbett’s art is sheer wonderment. Fabela’s colors accentuate the humanity and the wonder well. I’m really loving this series.
Skyward is recommended to comics readers, especially those who like stories starring interesting female protagonists. This is a great time to be a comics fan.
That’s what I wrote in 2018. I’ve since read and thoroughly enjoyed Skyward [Image; $39.99], a beautiful hardcover volume that collects all fifteen issues of the series plus a brand-new epilogue and all kinds of bonus material.
Skyward fulfills the promise of that first trade paperback I read three years ago. It expands the low gravity world in truly wondrous and scary ways. It develops Willa and her interesting supporting cast. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. Published in March of this year, it’ll be eligible for various 2022 awards. The comic-book series was nominated for an Eisner Award. Next time out, it should not only be nominated but should be a serious contender for winning the Eisner. I expect it will do well in other awards as well. Consider my previous recommendation for the series and double it for this collection.
Two books for younger readers fill out this installment of “Tony’s Tips!” The first is Owly: The Way Home by Andy Runyon [Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic; $22.99]. Aimed at readers 7-10, this tale of a young owl who only wants to help others and make friends has all the feels you could ask for.
Owly, the worm Wormy and hummingbirds Tiny and Angel might appear like unlikely pals, but they just fit together. Owly is a godsend to his three smaller friends and they clearly value him as much as he values them. Maybe we all can get along.
The Way Home was published in early 2020, so this was its year of eligibility. It didn’t get an Eisner nomination, but maybe some of the other industry awards will be more perceptive. While we wait to see if that happens, I recommend this graphic novel to all readers young and old. It belongs in every public and school library and it would make a great gift for the budding comics fans in your lives.
After a century of being a deliberately buried part of the shameful violent history of racism in the United States, we’re talking about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre. It’s difficult for many adults to wrap their heads around that event. How do you even begin to teach children about it?
Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre [Harry N. Abrams; $15.99] is one answer to that question. Written by Alverne Ball with art by Stacey Robinson, this hardcover graphic novel is aimed at readers 12 years of age and up. Its 64 pages include a prose preface, a timeline of event leading to the Massacre, an essay and end notes.
The main attraction is, of course, the comics part of this volume. The history of Greenwood is written in an easy-to-follow manner. The art captures both the glory of Black Wall Street and the grim attacks that leveled it. If I have a complaint, it’s that the creators of this work seem to have toned down the horror of the events. Much like a movie trying to avoid an “R’ rating. I understand their choice, but part of me wishes they had not held back. Today’s students, as well as woefully ignorant adults, need to be aware of how bad these things were. The better to impress readers that we must never soft-pedal such atrocities. .
My complaint does not diminish the importance and quality of Across the Tracks. Published this year, it deserves to be considered for comics industry and other awards. It should be a standard textbook for the teaching of systemic racism in America. It definitely has a place in every public and school library. Kudos to Ball and Robinson, and all those who strive to teach even the most difficult truths. They are heroes.
That’s it for this installment of the new “Tony’s Tips!” I will be back soon with more award nomination deserving comic books, graphic novels and books.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Hey, kids. Normally I would write a hilarious account of my upcoming garage sales. However, with our upstairs air conditioning system dead and a new system not yet in place, my home office has been hitting temperatures close to 90 degrees. I can't work for long in this kind of heat. But I did manage to post the following notice on Craig's List and will tell you just about everything you need to know.
In case that link doesn't work, try this one: https://cleveland.craigslist.org/gms/d/medina-tony-isabellas-comics-and-pop/7343715141.html
The new AC system is going to be installed tomorrow. I hope to get back to regular blogging and other online content by the end of the week.
All the best,
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Let’s start the week with comics from across the world. Unless, of course, you live in Japan. In that case, we’re starting this week with comics from around the corner.
I’m not quite sure I understand Asadora! Vol. 1 by Naoki Urasawa [Viz Media; $14.95], but I’m definitely enjoying it. Urasawa is the creator/writer/artist of such landmark series as 20th Century Boys and Monster. The latter is a particular favorite of mine.
This first volume opens with what appears to be a kaiju attacking Tokyo in 2020, then goes back in time to 1959 to introduce a pair of unlikely heroes. Asa is a spunky young girl, the youngest in a family so large that it barely notices her. She is kidnapped by a World War II pilot who prided himself on always bringing his crew back alive. But he despairs of ever being a hero again. He’s fallen on tough times and, when she catches him stealing, he kidnaps her. His hope of collecting a ransom dies when he learns Asa’s family probably won’t even realizing she’s missing. That’s when something happens. Or maybe two somethings.
A massive storm hits the area. There might also be a giant monster doing some destruction. Asa and the pilot switch from adversaries to allies, trying to find her family and help people caught in the storm. The characters are well-written, including some fierce women who help the unlikely partners, and the art is simply magnificent. Urasawa did most of the backgrounds himself and they feel like you could reach out and touch them. Great stuff.
The English-language editions of Asadora! are being published on a quarterly schedule. The second is due any day now and the next two will be published this year. Highly recommended.
[Since I wrote the above review, I’ve read the second volume, which is even better than the first. We get a deeper understanding of Asa and the pilot, and the story jumps ahead several years with very intriguing consequences for the duo.]
Asadora! Vol. 1:
Asadora! Vol. 2:
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Volume 1 by Koyoharu Gotouger [Viz; $9.99] is a manga and anime series recommended to me. There are 23 volumes in the series - I haven’t checked out the anime yet - and I’m not sure if I have the staying power to stick with it until the end. Currently, my taste in manga does not run to battle manga or the supernatural, though Demon Slayer does have a human core I find interesting.
Tanjiro Kamado is a kindhearted kid from a struggling family. He works hard selling charcoal to help support them. While he’s away doing that, a demon kills his entire family. The only survivor is his young sister Nezuko, who has been turned into a demon herself. Tanjiro’s new driving force is to learn how to kill demons and find a way to cure his sister.
What I find most interesting about this series is the love between brother and sister. Even though she’s become a demon, Nezuko has a connection to her brother. Those who would train Tanjiro have some sense of this and do not slay her. Of course, it helps that Nezuko can apparently sleep for years at a time. It also puts what I find most interesting off to the sidelines while Tanjiro learns how to kill demons and commences killing them.
The writing and art are very good. The main characters are fairly well-defined. The training sequences don’t drag. The demon battles are well-paced. That this first volume ends on a cliffhanger with Tanjiro facing off against a monster that has already killed over a dozen of his teacher’s best students is one of the reasons I’ve already requested the second volume from my local library. Once I get further into the manga, I’ll check out the anime.
Manga fans will enjoy Demon Slayer. However, given how many books are in the series, I suggest getting them from your local library is at all possible.
An old concern came to mind as I read Cutie and the Beast Volume 1 by Yuhi Azumi [Seven Seas Entertainment; $12.99]. Before I discuss that concern, here’s the back cover summary of the manga:
Most of her friends like pretty boys, but Momoka only has eyes for Kuga: a huge pro wrestler who plays a villainous heel on TV. But in real life, this tough guy has a softer side. Momoka's fan mail touches him in ways neither of them expected! In this lighthearted romantic comedy, a fangirl crush just might grow into something more.
What the summary leaves out is that Momoka, though 18 years old, is still in high school and Kuga is ten years her senior. While that isn’t as problematic an age difference as in other manga series I have read and enjoyed, it still disturbs me a bit. Especially since I’m developing a new super-hero universe in which the significant other of the lead hero is a third his age. I’ll be sending private messages to some women friends of mine to get reactions to what I have in mind. The age difference isn’t the whole thing going on in that relationship. But I digress.
Cutie and the Beast has a clever title, which is what lured me in. The writing and the art are excellent. Most characters are clearly defined in their dialogue and appearances. Momoka and Kuga are very likeable characters. I’m rooting for them and also looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops. The second volume of the series has been published with the third coming in July.
Cutie and the Beast Volume 1:
Cutie and the Beast Volume 2:
Keep watching the bloggy thing for more manga reviews. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Thursday, June 17, 2021
This is the latest in a series of bloggy things trying to justify how much time I spend watching movies and TV shows. I’m not sure if I’m convincing anyone that all that viewing is a necessary part of discussing popular culture, but, at least, I can claim my cable and streaming costs as business expenses.
We start today with some cancellations and concerns. Surprisingly, I find myself feeling unconnected from the Arrowverse with the end of Black Lightning. I decided to drop Legends of Tomorrow because just reading episode descriptions convinced me to drop the series. I dropped Batwoman because I had enough of heroes standing by while Alice tortures and murders people. Though I saw some promise in the first two episodes of Superman and Lois, I found I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the series. However, I’m looking forward to the return of Stargirl. I loved the first season and am still hopeful Geoff Johns will cast me as Al Pratt.
My interest in most scripted network dramas has also taken a nose-dive as well. Goodbye to Debris, Kung Fu, Law and Order: Organized Crime and Law and Order: SVU.
I’m dropping The Masked Singer because the endless parade of dumb gimmicks has become annoying. Also, as so many clueless people are refusing to receive the Covid-19 vaccines, thus reducing the chance of my country reaching herd immunity and returning to a semblance of normalcy, my dislike of anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg is greater every week. I despise this ignorant individual and grieve for those who have suffered illness or death because of her insane proclamations.
The show I’m concerned for is The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The host needs to get back in the studio and the show needs more time with the correspondents. Noah’s new routine of bad impressions and multiple interviews has become boring. Except for Jaboukie Young- White, I find every correspondent funnier than Noah. I think Young-White is very talented, but his clueless young person sketches have become tiresome. He needs to grow beyond that niche.
The United States of Al gets better every week. When it started, I thought it would just be another “fish out of water” sitcom. Man, was I wrong about that. The quick summary:
A Marine combat veteran struggling to readjust from Afghanistan to civilian life in Ohio becomes friends with his unit's former interpreter, who is starting a new life in America.
With a cast headed by Adhir Kalyan (Al) and Parker Young (Riley), plus supporting cast Dean Norris (Riley’s dad Art) and Elizabeth Alderfer (Riley’s sister Lizzie), this series is a combination of comedy and contemporary drama. It tells us about the over 17,000 interpreters living in danger in Afghanistan waiting to be allowed into the United States (as they were promised by our government). Their plight will only worsen when our military leaves the country to the merciless Taliban. The recent episode “Fundraiser/Baspana Towlawal” highlighted that desperate situation while also showing Riley’s heartbreaking inability to come to terms with his wartime experiences. That was an episode worthy of being nominated for and winning an Emmy award.
On a personal note, since the show is set in Ohio, I get a kick out of the many references to Ohio, the Ohio State University and the various Ohio sports team. I think Art must have t-shorts for every sports team in the state.
If you haven’t been watching The United States of Al, watch a few episodes. Consider this my high recommendation.
The Nevers [HBO Max] has been an intriguing series, which sometimes makes me wince. Created by the rightfully disgraced Joss Whedon - it’s disgusting when people one has admired reveal their vile true selves - the series is kinda sorta the X-Men in Victorian London. People, mostly women, have manifested powers and transformations. They are known as the Touched and, as one would expect, are feared and hated. Mostly by wealthy white men who will do what it takes to stay on the top of their society.
The lead characters include the commanding and feisty Amelia True, who receives brief glimpses of the future, and her bestie Penance Adair, a brilliant inventor. They live in a sanctuary set up by a wealthy benefactor and provide a haven for others who have been touched. There are allies and intrigues in the Nevers world, as well as enemies who bear them murderous ill will.
What makes me wince about The Nevers is the preponderance of brutal violence against women. It’s not necessarily out of place in that era and this situation, but I find myself wondering how much of it
is simple Whedon’s misogyny being expressed on the screen. I kept watching the series because it’s really good, because the acting is excellent and because I knew Whedon was removed from the series by the halfway mark of this initial season. I await keenly the second half of that season.
Despite my concern for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, it seemed like the June 14 episode was made for me. The opening story was the latest DC Comics debacle: censoring an episode of the adults-only Harley Quinn animated series because of a scene in which the Batman performed oral sex on Catwoman.
DC’s reasoning: “Heroes don’t do that!”
Said no woman I have ever dated in my entire life.
I’m enjoying this latest mockery of DC Comics, whose decision has been said to be merchandise-based. At the same time, I understand the concerns of those long-time readers who object to super-heroes being shown in such adult situations while also being marketed to children. But that ship sailed a long time ago.
DC was okay with the Joker crippling Barbara Gordon in the forever vile The Killing Joke. When they turned that into an animated film, they were okay with Batman having sex with Barbara and getting her pregnant...and, of course, with the Joker crippling her and killing her baby. But that’s just one example of DC allowing all manner of brutality and perversity into their comics and media adaptations of their comments. The publisher is okay with unimaginable bloodshed and violence, but draw the line at two consenting adults having a little down under pleasure.
I offer DC my services as Vice-President in Charge of Keeping Them from Looking Stupid. I will want a corner office.
Getting back to the Daily Show, that night’s opening segment also had a Godzilla reference. Which was followed by Ronny Chieng’s very sharp takedown of an idiot writer who thinks the key to achieving a happier life is for victims of Donald Trump and other criminals to forgive those who have wronged them, our country and the world. Hey, Poindexter, there can be no forgiveness without accountability and just punishment.
Noah’s guest was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the most interesting people on the planet. A legendary basketball player. A thoughtful writer. A social justice activist. It was a great interview and it made me wish Abdul-Jabbar had his own show.
Look for more movie and TV commentaries in the near-future. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Sometimes It seems I’ve been writing “Tony’s Tips,” in one form or another, forever. When I started writing it for the dearly missed Comics Buyer’s Guide, back when it was still a weekly newspaper, my extremely narrow mandate was to review comics-related things that weren’t actually comic books. CBG had Don Thompson, arguably the best comics reviewer ever, walking that beat. Somewhere along the line, my narrow mandate was widened. With Don’s blessing. Because, really, he had no competition in that arena.
When my friend and mentor Don left us way too soon, I became CBG’s lead reviewer. By default. I couldn’t replace Don, but I could try to be the best damn second-place reviewer possible as CBG went from weekly newspaper to monthly magazine to the stuff of legend. It’s a pretty rare week when someone doesn’t tell me how much they miss CBG. I miss writing for CBG. I miss receiving literally hundreds of comics, graphic novels and magazines for review each and every month. I especially miss working with editors Maggie Thompson and Brent Frankenhoff.
This online version of “Tony’s Tips” has undergone a new narrowing of focus. The format has remained as it once. Opening statements, followed by a trio of reviews. However, now and for the foreseeable future, each of those three reviewed items will be something I see as being worthy of award nomination. Books and comics rising above their peers. I don’t keep close tabs on awards of any kind, but, if I need, these are the kinds of works I’d expect to find among them. Consider them all highly recommended.
J. Michael Straczynski’s Becoming Superman [Harper Voyager; $28.99] is author’s amazingly detailed, extremely human, often chilling and ultimately uplifting autobiography. While it may not be exclusively about comics, for me, the role of Superman in Straczynski’s life makes it worthy of comics industry awards for non-fiction works. Indeed, I think it would be tough to beat in those categories.
JMS - I’ll be using his initials because my spell-check will go on strike if I keep trying to write his name from memory - is famously known for creating and writing Babylon 5, my pick for the best damn
science fiction television show of all time. He had an exciting and controversial run on Amazing Spider-Man and wrote a whole bunch of other pretty terrific comic books, movies and TV shows. He also was a great friend to the late Harlan Ellison, which cemented my regard for JMS the man as much as JMS the writer.
The sub-title of the book is “My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood with Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths and War Crimes.” If you’re thinking that’s hype, think again. JMS delivers on all of that and more in a story that, though non-fiction, reads like an unfolding mystery in worlds most of us will never experience.
The presence of and inspiration provided by Superman should remind us all of the importance of that classic super-hero creation. The core values of the Man of Steel are strong even when egotistical comics writers bend them temporarily to their own sensibilities or when DC Comics editors, publishers and movie makers fail to understand the precious gem of which they are fleeting custodians. Even feeling as I do about the glory of Superman, I am in awe of the effect Kal-El had on one of my favorite writers.
Becoming Superman should have a honored place in the home libraries of all Superman fans. It belongs on the shelves of every public and school library. I cherish my copy of this book and recommend it to everyone reading these comments.
Satoko and Nada [Seven Seas; $12.99] is a four-volume manga series written and drawn by Yupechika with script advisor Marie Nishimori. Here’s the quick summary:
Satoko, a Japanese student studying in America, has a new roommate: a Saudi Arabian woman named Nada! They might have different customs, but through mutual respect and the hilarious adventures of their daily life, Satoko and Nada prove that friendship knows no borders.
This manga is many things. Told in one-page segments, it a terrific comedy that is respectful of all cultures. It is informative with the lead characters learning more about each other’s countries and the United States where they attend college. It is heartwarming in its tale of friendship.
The final volume covers the last days of their time together with Satoko returning to Japan. Their parting is sad, but their bond is strong and life-affirming. If there’s not a live-action adaptation of Satoko and Nada, there really should be. It’s a wonderful story that should be experienced by millions of viewers.
Publisher Seven Seas rates this manga as being for teens. I think it’s suitable for younger and older readers as well. It’s one of my favorite manga series and I recommend it to all.
Satoko and Nada Vol. 1:
Satoko and Nada Vol. 2:
Satoko and Nada Vol. 3:
Satoko and Nada Vol. 4:
Our third book for this edition of Tony’s Tips is Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $24] sneaks up on you. It’s said to be “Bechdel's graphic memoir of her lifelong love affair with exercise,” but it goes much deeper than that. The examination of the cartoonist’s participation in various fitness and self-improvement methods is often hilarious and always layered with historical and cultural connections to literary giants and the societies in which they lived and loved. That alone would make it worth reading.
What makes this graphic memoir deserving of awards consideration is the deeper emotional core of the work. Bechdel’s fitness regimens wrap around her life with its personal and romantic ups and downs,
the highs and lows of her professional efforts and her connecting with members of her family in changing circumstances. Like Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, The Secret to Superman Strength assures her place as one of our best and most revealing storytellers. This is a book that should be in the home library of all comics fans and every public and school library.
That’s a wrap for this edition of Tony’s Tips. Keep watching this bloggy thing of mine for reviews of award-worthy publications and a whole lot more.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
The scientific term for the harsh weather we’ve been experience in Medina, Ohio, and, especially, in my garage and office, is “hot as balls.” The air conditioning system that cools the top floor of our Tardis-like home went kaput a couple weeks ago. I would reveal how much the replacement AC system will cost, but I pass out whenever I think...
I’m back. Outside of the price...
Gosh darn it! The new AC system won’t be installed for another week or two. During this “hot as balls” weather front, the temperature in my office routinely reaches the upper 80s. Even with an overhead fan and a tall floor fan, I can only work an hour or so at a time before I have to cool down. Fortunately, the AC system that services the main floor of our house is working just fine.
Along with a spate of new lawn maintenance equipment that needed to be stored in our garage, the heat also slowed preparation for this summer’s long-awaited Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales. I’m weeks behind where I wanted to be with those sales.
The good news...the lawn stuff has been stowed and the garage sale displays and tables have been arranged. I can start going through the sales items from last year and then begin adding all manner of wondrous books, comics and stuff for this year’s sales. As with my previous garage sales, this will be an ongoing process. I will add new items to the sales virtually every day until the garage sales conclude in late September.
What can you expect in this year’s VAOS sales? I’ll be talking more about that as we draw closer to my Friday, June 25, and Saturday, June 26 opening dates. The sale hours will vary from time to time, and private scheduled visits can be arranged for other times after June 25, but the plan is to hold these sales every weekend when I’m not appearing at a convention.
One thing I do know is quite a bit of stuff from last year’s sales will be reduced in price to a mere quarter. My posters and prints will be 50% of their original prices because I’m discontinuing them as I prepare to create brand new prints for my Golden Anniversary Tour that launches in February 2022. I’ll even be reducing prices on select Black Lightning trades. And those of you who have come to my garage sales in the past know my prices on just about everything I offer are already ridiculously low. Bring lots of cash. You are going to need it.
Let’s move on to my convention appearances. I recently posted this clarification on my Facebook page:
When I am asked if I'm attending a convention, I've been answering honestly by saying I wasn't invited. I never meant that as a slight to any convention. So, from here on, I'll just say I'd love to attend the convention you're asking me about. It doesn't mean it will work out for me to attend, but my not being invited should never be taken as a slam on any convention.
Those of you who know the hundreds and thousands of details that are involved in putting on a convention know there are just as many factors that determine the event's guest list. I worked with my dear friend Roger Price on the blessed Mid-Ohio-Con for two decades or so. I know all the balls Roger had to juggle to make those events as excellent as they were.
Recognize all the hard work that goes into putting on a convention. Sure, if you know the promoters and would like to see me at one of their shows, let them know. If they contact me, I'll work with them to make it possible for me to appear at their event.
Having had a absolute blast at last month’s terrific Pensacon 2021, I am currently scheduled to appear at three conventions this year. Two are in August and one is in November. I’ll have more details on these events in a near-future bloggy thing.
I am not looking to add any 2021 conventions to my schedule until October. I’m devoting my summer to my garage sales and to writing the graphic novel I’ll be financing via Kickstarter. Alas, because of the difficulties of crowd-funding a 96-page graphic novel, I’ll be running campaigns for each of the four standard-size comic books it will take to tell what I believe to be an exceptional story. My goal is to challenge your perceptions of some super-hero tropes and my own writing in that genre. Look for further announcements on my Kickstarter campaign later this year.
February 2022 will see the launch of my Golden Anniversary Tour, a celebration of my half-century in the comics industry. Technically, my actual golden anniversary is Halloween, 2022, but I’m starting the tour early so that it can launch at Pensacon 2022 and conclude at Pensacon 2023.
Inbetween those two sure-to-be-incredible conventions, I hope to do eleven other events. Three of those appearances are already booked. I’d like to space these conventions out so that I’m only doing one a month from March 2022 through January 2023, but I’m not going to rule out mixing it up to achieve my overall goal.
There are some world-class comics conventions I’d love to attend. I don’t want to put them on the spot by naming them. Obviously, I’d like to do some of the biggest events as well as well as smaller regional shows on what will likely be my last major convention push. I still intend to do conventions, but I doubt I’ll do as many as I’m attempting to do for this tour.
If you’re a convention promoter, e-mail me to learn what I need to be able to attend your event. If you’re a fan who would love to see me at conventions you attend, politely request to the promoters of those events that you would like them to bring me to your neck of the woods. I’ll do my best to work with them.
That’s all for now. If you have any questions you’d like to ask me, or subjects you’d like me to write about, please e-mail me at your convenience. You can also comment on this blog. Any comments must be approved before they appear, but I do try to get to them ASAP. Just be patient.
Thanks for stopping by today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
Monday, June 14, 2021
Welcome to yet another installment of my 2020's Free Comic Book Day reviews. My pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey send me these FCBD comics so I can read and write about them in the bloggy thing. Only twice have I actually reached my goal of reading and writing about all the FCBD comics available in a given year. Maybe this time I’ll three-peat that achievement. I think I can do it, but it’ll take me until sometime in mid-2021 to complete this particular mission.
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.
We start this time with Owly: The Way Home [Graphix/Scholastic], a truly exceptional FCBD issue. Written and drawn by Andy Runton, it features a 28-page excerpt from the graphic novel.
QUALITY: Superb. The phrase “Owly just wanted to help” appears a number of times in the opening pages. When he rescues a young worm from drowning, the story can’t help but give you feels. Runton is a gifted storyteller.
ACCESSIBILITY: Everything you need to know about Owly and his good character is in this excerpt. What I read made me want to get the full graphic novel.
SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The inside covers are house ads for other graphic novels for all ages. The back cover is a house ad for Owly: The Way Home.
SCORE: The full ten points out of a possible ten points.
Power Rangers: The Road to Ranger Slayer [Boom! Studios) features a 24-page excerpt from what appears to be some alternate universe Power Rangers series. Full disclosure: though I am aware of Power Rangers, I don’t really know anything about the franchise beyond it being various Japanese TV series reworked into various American TV series. I’m pretty sure this was the first Power Rangers comic book I’ve ever read.
QUALITY: Mediocre. The art isn’t terrible, but it ain’t very good either. There are a few nice dialogue exchanges along the way, but the writing isn’t very good either.
ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty much non-existent. I’m not even sure how the story segments go together.
SALESMANSHIP: Good. Five pages of house ads for Power Rangers and other Boom! Products.
SCORE: Four points out of a possible ten points.
The Resistance [AWA] is a 48-page comic book containing the entire first issue of J. Michael Straczynski’s Resistence and previews of two other AWA comic books: Byte-Sized and Eratic. The title feature sets the stage for a shared universe with a global tragedy leaving the world in dire straits and with the emergence of super-powered beings. Byte-Sized is about sentient “toy” robots. Eratic is about a teen super-hero whose powers can only be used for ten minutes at a time. Resistance is drawn by Mile Deodato, Jr. Byte-Sized is by Cullen Bunn and Nelson Blake II. Eratic is by Kaare Andrews.
QUALITY: The Resistance is an smart, well-written and well-drawn story about a global pandemic, the political implications of that pandemic and the supers who emerge when the virus inexplicably goes dormant. The Byte-Sized preview doesn’t give me much of a taste of that series. The Eratic preview has just enough to win my interest.
ACCESSIBILITY: The Resistance story and the Eratic preview are 100% accessible to a new reader. Byte-Sized? Not so much.
SALESMANSHIP: Poor. AWA opted for more story pages over house ads. I can’t say that was a bad decision, but there were other pages I think could have been replaced with an ad for the company’s line-up of titles by top creators.
SCORE: Eight points out of a possible ten points.
Spider-Man/Venom [Marvel Comics] features Spider-Man and the Black Cat in a 10-page, complete-unto-itself adventure by Jeb MacKay with artist Patrick Gleason. A second 10-page tale starring Venom is by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman with inks by JP Mayer. Editors Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis contribute a two-page editorial.
QUALITY: I thought the Spider-Man/Black Cat story was first-rate. It even has me thinking I should catch up on the Cat via whatever collections are available. The Venom story wasn’t nearly as good. Its saving grace is that it give me a leg up on understanding the never-ending Knull crossover event, mostly understanding that it’s nothing I’d be interested in.
ACCESSIBILITY: Very good. I found both stories accessible, though I’m not a newer Marvel reader would.
SALESMANSHIP: Good. There were six pages of house ads for a variety of Marvel Comics publications.
SCORE: Eight points out of a possible ten points.
Stepping Stones/Max & The Midknights [Rhkids] is a double-feature comic book. Stepping Stones is by Lucy Knisley, whose more adult works I’ve enjoyed immensely. Max & The Midknights is by Lincoln Pierce, best known for his fun Big Nate books.
QUALITY: Both stories are well done. Stepping Stones is a 22-page excerpt from the graphic novel. Max & The Midknights is a four-page original story.
ACCESSIBILITY: The Stepping Stones excerpt needed more background to properly introduce the characters. The Max & The Midknights could have used another page. It’s easy enough to get into the stories, but it could have been easier.
SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Six pages of house ads for these and other books from the publisher.
SCORE: Seven points out of a possible ten points.
That’s all for today. I’ll have more Free Comic Book Day reviews in the near future.
© 2021 Tony Isabella