Monday, March 29, 2021



I’ve read several reviews of Brett Kelly’s 2020 movie Konga TNT and every one has been brutal. My theory is that these reviewers are all humorless snobs. True, this movie looks like it was made on a budget of $700 and a case of beer, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying myself during its 73-minute running time. Before I share my reactions, here’s the usual IMDb summary:

After becoming injected with a formula derived from an alien ship, a lab gorilla escapes from his containment and befriends two young boys. The alien formula causes the gorilla to grow to gargantuan size and rampage throughout the city and the boys must find a way to save their simian friend before the army takes him down.


Konga TNT started out as a short meant to occupy Chance and Grayson Kelly, the director’s young sons, during the Covid-19 pandemic. They’re adorable and at least as good as the adult actors in the movie. I especially like the scene where one of them has dressed up like a hot dog to lure Konga to safety. Cute kids making comedy fun? If you don’t get a kick out of that, then you’re the monster.

Konga is “played” by an stuffed toy, some sort of puppet, a man in a gorilla suit that looks like the gorilla suit from Trading Places and perhaps a smidgen of CGI. Honestly, I wasn’t paying that close attention to the mechanics. I was too impressed by the audacity of Kelly and the cast, and how much I was enjoying this silly little movie.

I really got into the “silly” elements of this movie. A conniving Indiana Jones knockoff and his comely assistant. A tribe of women warriors in the Amazon jungles. A mad scientist and a mad general, both played by the same actor. That actor, John Migliore, also wore the gorilla suit. Jennie Russo as the “Fay Wray-type blonde” whose “stunt double” was a Barbie doll. A whole lot of stock footage. Off-color jokes. Characters and events of import kept off screen during “key” scenes. I flat-out reveled in this movie’s courageous acceptance of its low budget.

A highlight for me was the very brief scene of Janet Hetherington,  my dear friend of many decades, playing “Scared Woman” and running away from an off-screen Konga. She could play scared convincingly because she’s worked in the comics industry.

[NOTE TO SELF: Write a horror/monster movie set in the comic-book industry. Think of all the horrible comics people I could parody in such a script.]

Konga TNT isn’t a great movie. It’s probably not even a good movie. But it’s definitely a fun movie and what the heck’s wrong with that as we navigate the second year of a pandemic?


Konga TNT was written by Trevor Payer, who also played the “Major Bummier” character. The opening credits state the film was “loosely inspired by the public domain Konga books by Charlton Comics.” That is an exaggeration, but not completely so. Charlton comics writer Joe Gill could get pretty silly with his Konga scripts and artists Steve Ditko and others weren’t adverse to taking that plunge with him. The results were always hilarious.

So count me as recommending Konga TNT to those of you with a good sense of the absurd. Life is too damn serious in 2021. You know what kind of ride this is. Just enjoy it.

© 2021 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 27, 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.

First up today is Marge’s Little Lulu by John Stanley from Drawn & Quarterly. The delightful Miss Moppet is a classic comics character and Stanley did her justice in story after story. This comic book has thirty pages of Lulu stories. I’ll have some further comments about Lulu in a bit.

QUALITY: Excellent. Some of the best and funniest kids comics ever created.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. Even if the stories are from times past, I think most readers will quickly understand the characters and the dynamics of their interactions.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Four pages of house ads for other Drawn & Quarterly publications and those ads give a good sense of what the books are about.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.

COMMENTARY: I love Lulu, but I don’t know if today’s young readers can relate to her. I’d like to think there’s a timeless quality to the ongoing battle between the boys and girls, and that the various fantasy elements still work. I’m not certain. Which makes me wonder about a couple of things, creative challenges if you would.

Can Lulu be updated with new stories for today’s young readers and can this be done without losing the essence of the character?

Is there a modern comics character starring in her own series that is a 2021 equivalent of Lulu?

I’d really like to hear from my readers on these questions. Please make use of the comments section and please be patient as I have to approve every comment before it appears. That keeps out the trolls and the scammers.



The Loud House [Papercutz] features 26 pages of comics stories from various graphic albums.  The Loud House is an animated television series that airs on Nickelodeon. Lincoln Loud is the middle child and only boy in a family of eleven children. The series debuted in May, 2016, and has been greenlit for a sixth season. A spin-off series titled The Casagrandes premiered on October 14, 2019, with those characters also appearing in this free comic book.

QUALITY: Pretty good. The short stories are funny, though the large cast of characters sometimes gets in the way of those stories. The art reflects the animated series and is appropriately...animated.

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. Editor Jim Salicrup provides a concise guide to the Loud kids on the inside front cover, though it doesn’t help much with the comic’s other characters. Then again, someone buying these graphic albums because they love the show probably wouldn’t have that problem.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There’s a full-page house ad for the Loud House books and a second full-page ad for other Papercutz books.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible nine points.


Lumberjanes: Farewell to Summer [Boom! Box] presents seven stories of comicdom’s favorite campers. It’s a prelude to the series finale that will begin in issue #77.

QUALITY: Despite seven different creators/creative teams, the tales were all enjoyable. No side-splitting humor, but moving stories of a wondrous summer coming to an end. I need to read Lumberjacks from start to finish.

ACCESSIBILITY: It was somewhat difficult for this occasional reader to remember the various characters. A “roster” page with pictures and a few words of description would have made for a more inclusive experience.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. There are two house ads for other titles, but nothing for Lumberjanes itself.

SCORE: Six points out of a possible ten points.


Manhwa: Contemporary Korean Comics [Drawn & Quarterly] presents a quartet of excerpts from graphic novels, a short editorial by Tracy Hurren and an informative article on translating Korean comics to English by Janet Hong.

QUALITY: I had an emotional reaction to each of the excerpts, but found the storytelling, writing and art much less compelling than the situations could have garnered.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor. There’s not enough “what has gone before” to give the reader a clear understanding of what they’re reading. The publisher should’ve included short synopsis for each excerpt.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There’s a house ad that lists all of the Korean  comics translated by D&Q, but it’s visually dull. There are a pair of house ads promoting other D&Q titles.

SCORE: Five points out of a possible ten points.


Mean Girls Senior Year [Insight Comics] features a 21-page excerpt from a graphic novel sequel to the popular 2004 movie. It’s written by Arianna Irwin and illustrated by Alba Cardona

QUALITY: So-so at best. The characters needed more definition and background. Scenes ended and shifted abruptly. For some reason, all of the characters have the same nose.

ACCESSIBILITY: Since I’ve seen the source material movie, I had no clue what was going on. There was a bit of “what has gone before” exposition later on in the excerpt, but, by the time I reached it,
I’d lost interest in this comic.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are several house ads for a number of Insight titles with copy that gives readers at least some clue as to the nature of the titles.

SCORE: Five points out of a possible ten points.

That’s all for now. Keep watching the bloggy thing for more of my Free Comic Book Day reviews.

© 2021 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 23, 2021



I’m trying to read more Marvel Comics and DC Comics of late, trying to get a feel for what those leading publishers are doing. For the most part, I’m eschewing single issues in favor of trade paperback editions and other collections. I’m also skipping over entire runs of some of the titles I’m reading because of my steadfast belief that editors and writers should make comic books accessible for new or returning readers and that enjoying a comic-book series shouldn’t have to mean reading every issue that preceded whatever collection you have in your hands. Take from that what you will.

First up this time around is Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Vol. 1: Know Fear {$15.99] with artist Marco Checchetto, colorist Sunny Gho and letterer Clayton Cowles. It reprints the first five issues of this Zdarsky run.

A barely visible paragraph on the credits page informs the reader that “Matt’s life almost came to an end after a traumatic collision left him clinging to life. Now, after weeks of intense physical therapy, he has returned to Hell’s Kitchen...”

This is a pretty grim take on Daredevil and Matt Murdock. He’s not ready to go back out on the streets in his heroic identity, but he is too arrogant/driven/stubborn to realize that. Early on, he picks up a woman in a bar, which seemed off-brand to me. He’s hurting bad and, on one of his nighttime patrols, he miscalculates and kills a criminal. Hubris has led to homicide.

SIDEBAR: Is this really the first time Daredevil has killed? When he was leader of the Hand or going down other equally dark paths, did he never kill? Curious me wants to know.

In the aftermath of the killing, his hero buddies try to convince him he shouldn’t beat himself up over a mistake because sometimes friends say dumb things. The Punisher thinks Daredevil has finally come over to the Frank Castle way of fighting crime and is pretty disappointed when he learns that’s not the case. Adding to the mix are cops who look the other way because Daredevil has always been on their side and a hand-nosed detective from Chicago who sees the hero as just another killer, albeit more dangerous because of DD’s skills and reputation of being one of the good guys.

I found this first collection intriguing, even though I know where it will eventually end up because my not reading Daredevil doesn’t mean others aren’t reading the title, writing about it and naming key events in the headlines of their articles and reviews about it. I accept this as one of the things in the comics industry I can do nothing about. I have requested the second volume in this run from my local library system.

This isn’t my favorite take on Daredevil, but it’s well-written and well-drawn. I’m not sure I agree with the notion that it’s suitable for readers 13 and up, but today’s 13 isn’t yesteryear’s 13. I’ll leave it to the parents of those kids to decide.

ISBN 978-1-302-91498-1

Dr. Strange Surgeon Supreme Vol. 1: Under the Knife by Mark Waid and Kev Walker [Marvel; $17.99] is a whole lot of fun. Somewhere in a story I didn’t read, Stephan Strange’s hands were healed and he is back to being the world’s greatest surgeon. Which is a very cool concept, especially since it likewise brings back a somewhat milder form of the doctor’s arrogance. As character flaws go, it’s a good one. We might root for a hero like this, but we also get that weird thrill when his hubris causes him problems.

Strange is juggling his medical career and his mystic hero career, which often causes anxiety among the hospital staff he works with. Adding to the fun...Anthony Druid is the new head of the hospital. As Doctor Druid, Anthony had been a hero and a villain. He seems to be on the side of the angels, but you know what the scorpion says about himself.

If I have any complaint about this collection and the six issues it reprints, it’s that the mystical stuff got more “screen time” than the medical stuff. I was fascinated by the medical stuff because it was something we never saw much of from Doctor Strange.

I do have one other complaint. There were only six issues of Doctor Strange Surgeon Supreme before it was shut down during the opening months of the pandemic. There has not been any news of its return. That’s a shame because the six issues were wonderfully written and drawn. I hope Waid and Walker get to pick up where they left off.

ISBN 978-1-302-92105-7


Very slowly catching up on comics borrowed, gifted and purchased, I read The Orville: Launch Day #1-2 [Dark Horse; $3.99 per issue] by writer David A. Goodman, artist David Cabeza and colorist Michael Atiyeh. My only previous exposure to The Orville has been the first season of the TV series created by Seth MacFarlane. I enjoyed that season, but somehow never got around to watching the second season. I plan to correct that this spring.

The Orville is basically Star Trek with a bit more comedy. I don’t think that’s a bad thing because good Star Trek, even when it’s not actually Star Trek, is a good thing. Alas, the comic book is more serious than the Orville TV series.

Goodman is the Executive Producer of The Orville and has worked on Futurama and Star Trek: Enterprise. His sci-fi credentials are on point as he delivers an adventure in which the good guys (Orville) must investigate a mysterious device in the middle of a conflict between a not-so-friendly alien race and a more primitive society that seeks to remove itself from all outside contact. The tension is entertaining and the conclusion is satisfying.

My only quibble with this two-issue series is that I could’ve used a cast of characters list to identify the TV series characters. In the dawn of history when I started writing comics, ancient prophets like Stan Lee and Roy Thomas used to hand down the wisdom that each and every comic book is some reader’s first exposure to a series. They would teach us to (as smoothly as our skills allowed) write captions and dialogue that named the characters and explained their roles in the series. Alas, that skill seems to be less cherished in these modern times. Alas, indeed.

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

© 2021 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 15, 2021



The above is how I normally look, at least on a good day. I won’t be showing you a picture of how I look today because, in a moment of insanity, I made myself hideous beyond belief.

I shaved off what one of my online friends has called my “iconic” mustache. I have had that mustache since sometime in the 1970s. I may or may not have shaved it off once in the 1980s, but, befuddled as I clearly am, I don’t recall doing that.

This was not remotely a good decision. My son shouted in horror on realizing what I had done, albeit after he’d been at our house for two hours without noticing it. My daughter requested I wear a mask until it grows back. She's not wrong.

My saintly wife dealt me the most serious mental blow when she said I now looked like a relative who did time in a federal prison on a felony conviction. That gave me a very literal nightmare of being arrested by the FBI. Who thought I was him. It also dashed my last  remaining hope that I had been kidnapped from a wealthy family as an infant and would someday inherit enough money to buy DC Comics.

I would like to keep cracking jokes about this, but, unfortunately, my sudden impulse to de-mustache is indicative of what are sadly larger mental health problems. We’re talking the depression that’s plagued me my entire life, as well as a self-esteem that ping-pongs from low to high and right back again. When you add the frustration of dealing with the pandemic and my under-employment in the comics industry I love and top it off with the sheer madness of those on the political right...I’m a right mess, I am.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m working my way through these problems and expect to come out in a better place. In the meantime, I’ve got to monitor myself constantly so that I don’t make other bad decisions that might have greater consequences than having to put a bag over my head when I’m around people. I need to watch what I eat. I need to exercise more. I need to be more careful with my money. I need to be more patient with all those fucking idiots who vex me and my country on a...okay, I’ll dial it back now.

People, even dearest friends, have asked me to post a photo of my terrifying countenance. This is something I will not do. Think of the children.

Until that day when I can again show my face, it’s nice to have a friend like Jo Duffy, who compared my stache to those worn by Walt Simonson and Archie Goodwin. It’s likely the only time my name will be in the same sentence with such true comics legends, but I’m not proud. I’ll take it.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2021 Tony Isabella

Thursday, March 11, 2021


Most of the comics I read these days are from publishers who aren’t DC or Marvel Comics or are manga. I’m not reading much from DC or Marvel because I find it difficult to follow their universe-busting storylines and because their writers and editors don’t seem to be very concerned about making their comics accessible to readers who have neither the time or energy to juggle the constant barrage of  “epics” they publish. The concept of character core values seems to have been dismissed along with the notions of beginnings, middles and ends.

I’m going to try to read more Marvel and DC comics in the future. That’s a recognition of my nostalgia for their characters and their prominence in the current marketplace. In the meantime, let’s see what other comics I’ve read recently.

Last October, I named Be Gay, Do Comics [IDW Publishing; $24.99} as one of the things that made me happy. I described it as “a fun and informative softcover collection presenting dozens of comics about LGBTQIA+ experiences.”

Compiled by The Nib and edited by Matt Bors, the 256-page softcover volume provides a forum for many voices across the spectrum. There are plenty of one-page comics and others of varying lengths. As I recall - it’s been a while since I read the book - the longest runs 15 pages. Among my favorites: “The Life of Gad Beck: Gay. Jewish. Nazi Fighter” by Levi Hastings and Dorian Alexander; “I Came Out Late in Life and That’s Okay” by Alison Wilgus; “Queer Uprisings Before Stonewall” by Hazel Newlevant; “When You’re Invisible in Pop Culture” by Bianca Xunise and Sage Coffey”; “The Wondefully Queer World of Moomin” by Mady G” and “Jussie Smollett Doesn’t Negate the Reality of Hate Crimes” by Mariah-Rose Marie”.

I read Be Gay, Do Comics over two weeks, a few stories at a time, which is what I recommend, the better to appreciate the individual comics. The Library Journal found the book suitable for readers in eighth grade and up. I agree.

ISBN 978-1-68405-777-1

Let’s put this in terms very familiar to super-hero fans. Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir with artist Sarah Andersen [Ten Speed Press; $14.99] teams up Dorothy Gale, Alice Liddell and Wendy Darling in an adventure that has them fighting for their lives against Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch.  

Following their well-know-to-fantasy-fans trips to Oz, Wonderland and Never Never Land, the three young ladies are considered, well,  not quite right by their families. Sent to Cheshire Crossing, the titular boarding school, they meet each other and find themselves in a environment where their otherworldly travels are recognized. This doesn’t diminish their aversion to authority.

Before long, the girls are bouncing across their mystical worlds, getting into dire danger at the hands of familiar villains, and, somewhat begrudgingly learning to work together. It’s a fun story and pretty much self-contained, save for a closing scene that keeps the door open for future adventures.

Good writing and art. Great characters. I’m definitely up for more Cheshire Crossing adventures.

ISBN 978-0-399-58207-3


The afore-mentioned Sarah Andersen is the writer and artist of the delightful Fangs [Andrews McMeel Publishing; $14.99], the New York Times bestselling graphic novel story of love between a vampire and a werewolf. “Darkly charming and heartwarming” is how I’d describe this 5.2" x 7.9" hardcover.

Three-hundred-year-old vampire Elsie meets the considerably younger werewolf Jimmy. After deciding she’d rather date him than eat him, Elsie finds herself in a relationship. It’s really sweet how they accommodate one another as they share horror movies, fine dining, romantic strolls and the like. Their story unfolds in a series of one-page scenes. The humor of their lives isn’t so much dark as not bright. I like these two characters a lot and hope that we haven’t seen the last of them.

If I were writing this before Christmas, I would suggest this book could be a pretty great stocking stuffer for your mildly macabre paramours. As it is, I’m thinking I might buy a few of them now and save them for Christmas 2021. Highly recommended.

ISBN 978-1-5248-6067-7


After reading the “Wayneocchio” story from Batman Tales: Once Upon a Crime by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen [DC Comics; $9.99] in a Free Comic Book Day issue, I requested the trade paperback from my local library system. That story is one of the four fairy tales-inspired stories in this anthology.

“Wayneocchio” is my favorite story in the book, but the other three were fun as well. “The Princess and the Pea” features the Joker and several of Batman’s female foes. “Alfred in Wonderland” stars our favorite comics butler. Mr. Freeze and his wife Nora are the stars of “The Snow Queen.” While I wouldn’t want an ongoing “fairy-tale” series, an occasional special would be welcome.

ISBN 978-1-4012-8340-7


The other half of the afore-mentioned Free Comic Book Day offering was Batman: Overdrive by Shea Fontana with art by Marcelo DiChiara [DC Comics; $9.99]. This is what I wrote about the 12-page excerpt from that freebie issue:

Young Bruce Wayne is on the verge of getting his driver’s license and restoring his father’s prized 1966 Crusader. The kid is also investigating the murder of his parents, sure the official report of their deaths is wrong. He goes to a junkyard for parts, meets a new friend and gets his first glimpse of the future Catwoman. It’s a well-told excerpt with only one element with which I must raise objection. The movie Bruce attends with his parents on that tragic night is...Captain Carrot? No, that’s just wrong.

Due to my dissatisfaction with whatever the heck current DC Comics continuity is supposed to be, I cherish all the different takes on the company’s classic heroes. I dread the moment when some genius decides to bring them all into continuity, but, for now, it’s fun to see these classic heroes presented in stories that don’t rely on a dozen other titles to be understood but less enjoyed.

Overdrive has solid writing and art. It’s a believable look at an alternate universe Bruce Wayne and it’s entertaining. That’s all I need from most comic books. The suggested reading level is grades 2-4, but it’s suitable for older readers as well.

ISBN 978-1-4012-8356-8

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella

Sunday, March 7, 2021


We’re sixty-six days into 2021. I wish I could say it feels like a brand new year, but we’re still dealing with so much of the trash left behind by Trump and the Republican Party. We’re also dealing with the additional garbage they are tossing into our government, media, social media and streets. I can’t even begin to understand how someone can consider themselves a decent human being and still support those vile people. Perhaps the real viruses plaguing us are the diseases of bigotry, greed and ignorance.

There’s a pattern to these monthly “happy” columns of mine. I talk about what’s making angry, anxious, depressed and frustrated. But, perhaps it’s my learning so many of values from the core values of the greatest comics characters back when they were actually great comics characters and not the twisted versions of themselves produced by folks who don’t understand heroism and that the super-hero genre is, by its very nature, supposed to lean towards optimism.

I long for that day when I can start one of these monthly “happy” columns by telling you how my country and my industry and my world are being their best selves. Until that day, I hold on to my hopes for the future. Until that day, on every day, I seek something that makes me happy.

Here are the things that made me happy in February...

February 1: God Country by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw. Fantasy is a hard sell with me, but this tale of an old man, his family and an alarmingly powerful sword touched my feels. A done-in-one graphic novel that I recommend most highly.

February 2: I’m being name-dropped Pab Sungenis’ New Adventures of Queen Victoria comic strip. I have no idea where this storyline is going, but I am...quite amused.

February 3: I appear ever so briefly in the official trailer for Marvel’s Behind the Mask, a documentary debuting exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, February 12. I was flown to NYC a few years back to be interviewed for the feature.


February 4: Cowgirls Vs. Pterodactyls. Currently streaming for free on Amazon Prime, this low-budget movie is 73 minutes of good goofy fun. Feisty heroines, stop-motion pterodactyls and narration by the legendary Martine Beswick.

February 5: Casa Isabella Renovation. We’ve started clearing out my son’s old bedroom. Needs painting, carpet removal and new floors. It will become my new and more efficient home office.

February 6: All-Father Tony has decreed that my son Eddie is worthy to wield the power of...the Marvel Thor Mjolnir Meat Tenderizer! I imagine his future grilling will be the stuff of legend!

February 7: Saintly Wife Barb signed me up for a Covid-19 vaccine shot at Discount Drug Mart in Medina. Now the wait begins.

February 8: The Black Scorpion. I watched it again on Svengoolie. Budget woes aside, it’s a fun feature starring Mara Corday. Yes, I have a crush on her. Yes, I’d love to do an expanded graphic novel adaptation of this movie.


February 9: Black Lightning’s back. No spoilers, but the fourth and final season premiere made Saintly Wife Barb and I gasp. Can’t wait to see where this leads.

February 10: Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku Volume 2. Rereading one of my favorite manga series, I’m struck by how much individual chapters rank with our best sitcoms. If there’s an anime or, better yet, live-action version, I need to watch them.

February 11: Getting a fan message from a 13-year kid from Dublin, Ireland. So nice to know my dedication to my craft has impacted a young man across an ocean. I hope I get to meet him and his father someday.


February 12: Raspberry creme Kit Kat miniatures. Early Valentine’s gift from Saintly Wife Barb. Do not read anything sinister into her giving a bag of candy to her (type 2) diabetic husband. Just think about the deliciousness.

February 13: Switching gears thanks to a link from Bob Ingersoll’s daughter, I’ve an actual appointment for my first Covid-19 vaccine shot at the local Rite Aid pharmacy. Next Wednesday starts my road to someday attending conventions again.


February 14: Marvel’s Behind the Mask (Disney+). A fine documentary that covers a lot of ground in its slightly over an hour running time. My thanks to the filmmakers for including me. It was a true
privilege to be a part of it.

February 15: Marvel’s Behind the Mask. I enjoyed seeing the foreign translation credits for the actors who did my voice in their own languages. It’d be cool to connect with them in the future.



February 16: Clarice. Rebecca Breeds was great in the first episode of this series, which picks up the story of FBI Agent Starling a year after Silence of the Lambs. Looking forward to more.

February 17: I got my first Moderna vaccine shot at our Rite-Aid in Medina. Quick process. Sore arm. Nasty side effects showing up late in the day. Still a lot better than getting the Covid-19 virus or, y’know, dying from it.

February 18: Houston’s Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, sheltering and feeding people without power and head at his furniture store. He’s even providing entertainment for the kids.


February 19: “Yardi Gras” in New Orleans. Since the pandemic made holding the usual street parade and celebrations unwise, folks took to decorating their homes in the style of those wonderful floats. Creativity and determination rule the day.


February 20: The Phantom is the newest addition to my ever-growing Social Justice League of the World. For adding one of my favorite comics character to its line, I thank Funko Pop!


February 21: Cool Beans CafĂ©. Medina’s annual Ice Festival is going on this weekend and this popular eatery has one of the greatest ice sculptures in the history of the festival.

February 22: This Twitter wisdom from Heather Antos: “Men need to stop seeing therapy as emasculating, or else the people closest to them are going to bear the brunt of their trauma.” I responded: “A thousand times this. Even indirectly.”

February 23: Sgt. Clean Car Wash in Medina. This veteran-owned and operated business isn’t the least expensive car wash in the city, but they do great work quickly. Tina Fe (my Hyundai Santa Fe SUV) has never looked better.


February 24: Mike Richards, executive producer of Jeopardy and its current guest host. He’s doing a great job. As much as Saintly Wife Barb and I are Team Ken Jennings, we’d have a tough time choosing between these two hosts for the permanent spot.

February 25: On The Daily Show for February 23, Roy Wood Jr did a fascinating segment on groundbreaking Black journalists. I’ve got to learn more about these writers.

February 26: Fly Me to the Moon by Kenjiro Hata. Boy meets girl. Boy gets hit by truck. Girl saves boy, then shows up at his home with a marriage contract. Three volumes in, I’m totally loving this funny and heartwarming manga series.


February 27: Flash Facts. Edited by Mayim Bialik, PhD, this spiffy book offers ten tales of science and technology in comics form and narrated by DC Comics characters. Fun and informative for all ages.

February 28: Rediscovering an old favorite in David Hine’s District X. The early 2000s series was a police procedural with Bishop and a non-mutant detective investigating crimes in a NYC neighborhood with a high mutant population. Great stuff that should be adapted for television.

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

© 2021 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 6, 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.

John Patrick Green’s InvestiGators Take the Plunge Sneak Peek [01: First Second] presents the first three chapters of a graphic novel aimed at kids 7-10. In a story replete with puns and corny jokes, we learn the title characters work for S.U.I.T. (Special Undercover Investigations Teams), wear vests that are actually Very Exciting Spy Technology, are prone to mistakes and have an arch-enemy who is a mix of crocodile and saltine cracker. The arch-enemy’s name is Crackerdile.

QUALITY: Pretty good. Neither the writing nor art is sophisticated, but young readers will enjoy this goofy series. This giveaway comic include a handful of puzzle pages.

ACCESSIBILITY: Between the inside front cover test and the writing, no one should have difficulty getting into this series.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. While there aren’t a lot of ads for this title and other First Second books, the ones that appear will be useful for readers who enjoy the issue and want more of the same.

SCORE: Nine points out of a possible ten points.


Invincible #1 [Image/Skybound] reprints the inaugural issue of the “coming soon to Prime Video” super-hero book from way back in 2003. It’s written and lettered by Robert Kirkman, drawn by Cory Walker and colored by Bill Crabtree. Here’s the Wikipedia summary of the series:

Invincible is the son of Omni-Man, an extraterrestrial superhero of the Viltrumite race. Invincible inherited his father's superhuman strength and ability to fly and he has sworn to protect the Earth. As a teenager he had trouble adjusting to his newfound powers and coping with the reality of his origins.

QUALITY: The issue is well-written and well-drawn. Not spectacular, but mostly fun and quite entertaining. I qualify the “fun” part of it because it opens with the young hero killing a villain. Though that might be justifiable from time to time, it didn’t seem to be  so here.

ACCESSIBILITY: Being a first issue, a reader gets in on the start.You get just enough background to get into the series. There will be more information down the line.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There’s a page listing the various Invincible collections, plenty of cool information on the animated series, and a back cover ad for another Kirkman creation.

SCORE: Eight points out of a possible ten points.


Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli [Ten Speed Press] features a 21-page excerpt from a graphic biography of the legendary creator. Scioli makes no secret of his respect for Kirby, citing Kirby’s work as how he learned to do comics himself. The excerpt is choppy, but fun.

QUALITY: The excerpt is very Kirby-centric, minimizing the creative role Joe Simon played in some of their joint creations, but still very well done.

ACCESSIBILITY: Between Scioli’s loving introduction and the story excerpt, this comic book is easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Impressive. Ten Speed Press is an imprint of Random House. This issue has several pages of house ads pitching graphic novels and other books.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.


Lady Mechanika FCBD 2020 [Benitez Productions] is the annual Free Comic Book Day offering from creator, writer, artist and publisher Joe Benitez. The title character is the sole survivor of an insane scientist’s experiments, horrific experiments that left the woman with mechanical limbs. This issue features 25 pages of excerpts from three different Lady M series.

QUALITY: Every year for as long as I can remember, I have praised the quality of the Lady Mechanika art, stories and writing. Every year, I vow to read the whole series from start to the most recent. Every year, I fail to fulfill that vow. I really hope I can fulfill the vow this year. It’s not like I’m going to any conventions for the next several months.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. Now I may not be the best judge of this because I’ve been reading these FCBD Lady Mechanika comics for more than a few years, but I recall being able to follow the character from the first one without any problem.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Four pages of house ads will direct you to all of the Lady Mechanika series.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by Akira Himekawa (Viz) was always going to be a hard sell for me. I generally don’t like comic books based on role-playing games or video games. I especially do not like comic books that try to emulate these things and make the asinine assumption that making characters more powerful is somehow the equivalent of interesting character development. And, yes, I am thinking of DC Comics’ most recent abysmal examples of how much the publisher and its writers neither appreciate or remotely understand my creation Black Lightning.

This FCBD issue starts with an 18-page excerpt that starts with the protagonist proclaiming how powerful he has become and doesn’t get any better from there. That’s followed by 14 pages of intended-to-be-humorous “Special Weapons Training” gags.

QUALITY: Minimal at best. The art isn’t bad, but the writing never becomes interesting.

ACCESSIBILITY: Almost non-existent. After reading this comic book, I still had no clue who the characters were or what it was about.

SALESMANSHIP: Two pages of house ads for comics/products relating to the featured excerpts. They weren’t convincing.

SCORE: One point out of a possible ten points.

That’s all for this session of Free Comic Book Day reviews. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 2, 2021



It’s been several months since I’ve returned to my signature review column. Blogging in general became more difficult for me in 2020, a sad situation that has continued into 2021. I’m hoping to get my head back in the game.

I’m making some changes to this feature. While it will maintain its format of an introduction and three reviews, from here on in, those three reviews will be of books I feel are worthy of winning or at least being nominated for comics industry awards. The best of the best, so to speak. While I’d be ecstatic to present a new “Tony’s Tips” every week, that will be determined by the number of award-deserving books I read.

Let’s get right into the first of today’s reviews...

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf [Abrams ComicArts; $24.99] was named one of the best books of 2020 by the New York Times, Forbes, NPR, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and probably other prestigious publications. It’s also a 2021 ALA/YALSA Alex Award Winner for Teen Readers and Adult Books. It is deserving of all those honors and more.

This 250-page graphic novel is an amazingly-researched and verified account of state-sanctioned murder. I was working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when this went down and, even so, I was chilled to the bone as I learned things I hadn’t known back then, things covered up by the authorities and the newspaper.

This is a work that demands your full attention. Backderf unfolds the story in incredible detail. He brings that detail to all these characters: students, university authorities, National Guardsmen and state authorities. He cuts through the misinformation spread by the authorities and the media. He brings the horror home, backing up his graphic novel with 25 pages of additional notes. In 1971, I suspected there was something off in the reporting I was reading. In 2021, I now know there was.

Kent State is a must-have for comic art afficionados, for readers interested in contemporary American history and for students from middle school, high school and beyond. It should be in every home, public and school library. It should be taught in history classes. That it deserves comics industry recognition goes without saying. Kudos to a cartoonist who always goes above and beyond my expectations.

ISBN 978-1419734847


I don’t think there’s a comics industry awards category for comics-related novels, but I do believe there should be. Some incredible comics-centric stories are being told in prose and they should be recognized as such.

Hench [A Novel] by Natalie Zina Walschots [William Morrow; $27.99] would be one of my nominees for such an honor. This is the starting point for this character-driven story:

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

When Hench opens, she’s a temp. Her first promising assignment puts in the middle of a super-hero/super-villain battle that leaves her seriously injured and without a job. She uses her downtime to look at the effect of super-hero activity on the world. Her conclusions are that the heroes are worse than the villains, and she makes one heck of a case for that.

This leads Anna to a new job working for a villain considered one of the worst. It leads her to new responsibilities for an employer who values her. It’s an intriguing story that challenges the usual “hero good, villain bad” dichotomy. If, indeed, any of the book’s characters can be considered good.

Hench has difficult sequences. If you’re preferred super-hero tales are all black and white with no shades of grey, you probably won’t like this novel. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something edgier that doesn’t debase existing super-heroes, you might enjoy this book as much as I did.

ISBN 978-0-06-297857-8


Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger’s, Adulting and Living a Life in Full Color by Mademoiselle Caroline and Julie Dachez [Oni Press; $19.99] is the first English translation of a entertaining, informative and remarkable story. In this autobiography, we see the day-to-day life of a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Marguerite isn’t aware of her Asperger’s until she’s already on her own and in a relationship with a boyfriend who is as clueless as I fear many of us would be in such circumstances and without knowing his girlfriend’s condition and confusion. I didn’t find him to be likeable, but I did find him to be relatable. Many of us don’t know how to react to things that don’t affect us directly.

Marguerite, on the other hand, emerges as someone much more than is apparent as she begins to find her story and her way. Maybe this is a SPOILER WARNING, but I loved reading how she made changes to make her life what she needed it to be.

The overall question Invisible Differences asks is why people don’t understand autistic people. As with so many things, the answer to that question is a lack of knowledge and, in too many cases, a lack of empathy. Knowledge you can get from this uplifting, wonderful comics work. Empathy is something we have to find within ourselves. Both goals are well worth pursuing.

ISBN 978-1-62010-766-0

I hope you enjoyed this new installment of “Tony’s Tips!” While I don’t have a regular schedule for new installments, I will try to do them at least once a month.

I’ll be make with more bloggy stuff soon. Stay safe, stay sane and keep reading comics. After all, for the most part, they’re good for you. See you soon.

© 2021 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 1, 2021



Manga is as large a part of my comics reading as any other kind of comics or graphic novels. I’m currently re-reading Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi in Collector’s Editions ($24.99 per volume) from Viz Media. I’m discovering anew why the series continues to be one of my comics series of all time. Here’s a brief synopsis of Maison Ikkoku from Amazon:

Yusaku Godai didn’t get accepted into college on the first try, so he’s studying to retake the entrance exams. But living in a dilapidated building full of eccentric and noisy tenants is making it hard for him to achieve his goals. Now that a beautiful woman has moved in to become the new resident manager, Godai is driven to distraction!

Maison Ikkoku is a romantic situation comedy with a slightly crazed cast of characters. Manager Kyoko Otonashi is a widow who was much younger than her late husband. She’s remained close to his family. They own the apartment building. She’s just a bit older than Godai. As the series opens, her only serious relation is with a dog named after her husband.

The tenants are the proverbial wacky neighbors. A noisy mother with a young son. A flighty young woman. A creepy neighbor who cuts an opening into the wall between his apartment and Godai’s, mostly so he can steal Godai’s food.

Godai is smitten with Kyoko from the start. She is also developing feelings for him, though she’s not quite ready to realize that is what’s happening. Godai has a rival for her affections in the form of a handsome older tennis instructor. There’s also a young woman who sees Godai as marriage material.

The individual stories have hilarious situations and quite a bit of heart. In one of my favorite episodes, an inebriated Godai agrees to take care of a friend’s dog for a few days. This is against the building rules, so he has to do it on the sly. Coincidentally, the dog is named Kyoko. When the dog gets loose, Godai and his neighbors go looking for him. Whenever they call the dog by name, the manager thinks they’re calling for her. No exaggeration, I was laughing out loud as I read this story.

I recommend Maison Ikkoku to...everyone!

Maison Ikkoku Collector's Edition Vol. 1:

ISBN 978-1974711871

Maison Ikkoku Collector's Edition Vol. 2:

ISBN 978-1974711888

Maison Ikkoku Collector's Edition Vol. 3 (due in mid-March):

ISBN 978-1974711895                                                        


Masao Otake’s Hinamatsuri is a seinen manga series, which means it is marketed toward young adult males. The series follows a yakuza member name of Yoshifumi Nitta who is a kind of sort of “father” to  Hina, a young girl with telekinetic powers who inexplicably showed up in his apartment. It’s eventually revealed that Nina is a girl from the future when other powered girls from the future show up to bring her back or terminate her. It’s a crime family comedy which changes gears at Otake’s fancy.

I got Hinamatsuri Volume 5-7 [One Peace Books; #11.95 each] from my local library system. In Volume 5, Anzu, one of the powered girls from the future, has ended her mission to kill Hina and is unable to return to the future. She’s taken in by a homeless man and much of this book concerns her efforts to make a good life for him and the other people who live in a homeless camp with them. In Volume 6, Hitomi, Hina’s middle school classmate, befriends her. Hitomi is ridiculously kind-hearted, never turns down a request for help and is a natural at whatever she attempts. Which somehow leads to her working as a bartender after school. That she’s amazing at that job does not prevent hilarity from ensuing.

One never knows where Hinamatsuri will go next. Volume 7 ends with a change in the relationship between Hina and Nitta that caught me completely off-guard. I can’t wait to see what happens as a result of this change.

There are a dozen volumes in Hinamatsuri. I’m looking forward to enjoying the second half of this fun manga.

Hinamatsuri Volume 5:

ISBN 978-1642730319

Hinamatsuri Volume 6:

ISBN 978-1642730326

Hinamatsuri Volume 7:

ISBN 978-1-64273-056-2


Kenjiro Hata’s Fly Me to the Moon [Viz; $9.99] does not proceed at a lightning pace. Newlyweds Nasa and Tsukasa have been together for the three volumes I’ve wed and they’ve not gone beyond the cuddling and the kissing. Yet that’s part of the charm of the series, seeing these innocents grow together as a couple. From Wikipedia:

On a snowy winter night, Nasa Yuzaki, a boy with a peculiar name, encounters a beautiful girl after he received his practice exam grades for high school. When he tries to talk to her, he gets hit by a truck. After the girl saves him, Nasa miraculously follows her at a bus stop and he confesses his love for her. The girl, Tsukasa Tsukuyomi, agrees to become his girlfriend, but only if they are married first. When Nasa, who had previously decided to not go to high school in order to look for Tsukasa, reaches his 18th birthday, he is still thinking about the promise he made on that night. Suddenly, Tsukasa shows up at his doorstep with a marriage form, starting their relationship and their marriage.

Tsukasa is a woman of mystery. She has strange understated powers. She might be some sort of moon goddess or royalty. Yet she’s happy with the simplest of accommodations. When Nasa meets some members of her family (or perhaps her royal retinue?), the mystery deepens. Of course, as we see in the third volume of the series, Nasa’s own family is a little off as well. I’m enjoying the gentleness, humor and romance of this series.

Fly Me to the Moon won’t be for every manga reader. But, if you’re looking for something different than action and battle manga, this series might make for a nice change of pace.

Fly Me to the Moon Volume 1

ISBN 978-1974717491

Fly Me to the Moon Volume 2

ISBN 978-1974717507

Fly Me to the Moon Volume 3

ISBN 978-1974717514

That’s all for today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff as I work my way back to more regular blogging.

© 2021 Tony Isabella