Tuesday, June 29, 2021

VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF GARAGE SALES: July 2-3, 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,

Tony Isabella


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

NO GARAGE SALES THIS WEEKEND

 Just a quick reminder that there are no Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales this weekend. This summer's first VAOS garage sales will be Friday, July 2 and Saturday, July 3. Keep checking my social media for more information.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

MANGA MANGA MANGA

 

 

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:  

ISBN 978-1-9747-1746-0

Asadora! Vol. 2:


ISBN 978-1-9747-2010-1


                                                                            



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.

ISBN 978-1-9747-0052-3


                                                                      



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:

ISBN 978-1-64505-642-3

Cutie and the Beast Volume 2:

ISBN 978-1-64505-949-3

Keep watching the bloggy thing for more manga reviews. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2021 Tony Isabella

GARAGE SALE UPDATE

 My first VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF garage sale will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 2 and 3, from 9 am to noon each day. Details will follow soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

 

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.

Moving on...

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

TONY'S TIPS #335


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.

ISBN 978-0-06-285784-2

                                                                    



 

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:

ISBN 978-1626929098

Satoko and Nada Vol. 2:

ISBN 978-1626929852

Satoko and Nada Vol. 3:

ISBN 978-1642751000

Satoko and Nada Vol. 4:

ISBN 978-1645055259

                                                                         




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.

ISBN 978-0-544-38765-2

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

LET'S TALK WITH TONY

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

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2020: Part Eight

 

 

 

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

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN MAY


 

May had its good moments and its bad. The good moments included a light at the end of the tunnel concerning the Covid-19 pandemic in America and Pensacon 2021, my first convention since Pensacon 2020 in February of that year. The bad things involved Republicans and racism, pretty much par for the course in my country.

The easing of pandemic restrictions made it possible for my son Ed and I to see Godzilla vs. Kong on a big screen. It made it possible for us to go to Pensacon 2021. It makes it possible for those of us who are fully vaccinated to go without masks to grocery stores and the like. I’m kind of amazed what a relief that has turned out to be. Not that I go anywhere all that often.

Air travel is still pretty lousy, but it was lousy before Covid-19. I know our decent politicians, not Republicans, have a lot of hard work to do as they try to overcome the insanity virus visited on my country by future convict Donald Trump and his demented followers. But, if they get a free moment, could they do something about the airlines constantly shrinking the size of the expensive seats they sell us and maybe give us bathrooms bigger than my ass?

Going forward, I hope to become productive, both as a writer and as a human being. I’ll be a little more thoughtful when it comes to my work and my life. I didn’t survive four years of Donald Trump and a pandemic to give up now. I’m doing Godzilla’s work here.

I’ll be writing about Pensacon 2021 in detail very soon. For today, here are the things that made be happy in May...

May 1: Twitter friend Eva Webb came up with this marvelous phrase for referring to bad people groups: [placeholder for very specific and personal bad thing]. I love it a lot.

May 2: Fatal Fried Rice, the seventh Noodle Shop mystery by Vivien Chien. Restaurant manager and amateur detective Lana Lee is a great character with a great supporting cast. The series gets better with
each new book.

May 3: Preparation for my summer Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales begins. I’m scheduling the first one for Friday and Saturday,  June 4-5, 9 am to 1 pm. Other dates and hours will be announced as soon as possible.

NOTE: I should never ever predict when my garage sales will start  because something unexpected always happens. Right now, my target dates are Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19. If I’m ready before then, I’ll give you a chance to schedule one–on-one visits. After the first open-to-all garage sale, I hope to have them every week. Great stuff. Great prices. I want to put a major dent in the Vast Accumulation of Stuff.

                                                                                  


                                                            

May 4: Medina councilperson Jessica Hazeltine. She’s everything we could ask for: compassionate, hard-working, progressive. I’m not fond of elitist Medina politicians in general, but Hazeltine would be a star wherever she served.

May 5: Russell Stover’s Lemon Pucker lemon candy with a kick. For the purpose of today’s thing that makes me happy, I am living in an alternate universe where incredibly delicious lemon candy does not pose a risk to a Type 2 diabetic.

May 6: JoĆ«lle Jones and Jamie S. Rich’s Lady Killer, a comic-book series I have praised on numerous occasions, is being adapted for feature presentation by Blake Lively and Diablo Cody. Start popping the corn because I’m totally there when it opens.

May 7: Black Comix Returns by John Jennings and Damian Duffy. It’s a gorgeous coffee-table book showcasing some of the most exciting talents in Black comics today.

May 8: Mark Millar. I don’t have to like everything he does - but I do like a lot of it - to be impressed by the business savvy this comics creator shows in all he does. I wish I’d been even a quarter as smart in my own career.

                                                                                         



May 9: Damon Gupton conducting the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in an evening of great film scores. The music was wonderful and my friend Damon was an engaging and fun guest conductor and host. Barb and I watched the concert on YouTube.

May 10: Saintly wife Barb had a nice Mother’s Day at Casa Isabella. Our kids are grown and have their own houses, but we get together for family dinner once a week. Yesterday was very special, but, you know, they all are.

May 11: Michael Northrop’s Dear Super-Villains is even better than his earlier Dear Justice League. The writing is witty and Gustavo Duarte’s art is wonderfully amusing. It’s a DC Kids book, but great fun for even us older kids.

                                                                                



May 12: The May 6 episode of The United States of Al was worthy of Emmy nomination. It spotlighted the plight of Afghan interpreters waiting for visas, gave us a realistic depiction of PTSD and still managed to be very funny.

May 13: For the first time in over a year, Barb and I were able to see my mother in her apartment. We had a wonderful visit. Thanks to Emerald Village for keeping her and the other residents safe enough to allow this.

May 14: I was happy to see my friend Dave Cockrum and my frequent collaborator Don Heck on this year’s Eisner Hall of Fame ballot. I voted for them, and Max Gaines and Gaspar Saladino.

                                                                                   



May 15: I ordered Zorro Flights #1, a new comic book written by the legendary Don McGregor. Buying a new McGregor comic is something I haven’t done in too long a time and I hope it’s the first of many more to come.

May 16: Cassidy’s Secret is a new comics series written by Charles Holland, Head Writer and Executive Producer of the Black Lightning TV show. If he writes comics as well as he writes TV scripts, this is gonna be amazing.

May 17: My anxiety about flying for the first time in over a year was alleviated by seeing three bomb-detecting dogs being trained as we waited to board. It was a cool thing to witness.

May 18: Seeing Mike Ensley, Julio Diaz and Maria Landy when Eddie and I arrived at Pensacon’s base camp. Though the event had to deal with Hurricane Sally damage and the pandemic, they and the rest of the team were magnificent.

                                                                                 



May 19: Pensacon Transportation Coordinator Maria Landy is also an incredible artist. Knowing of my love for Godzilla, she made this  and gave it to me on my arrival.

May 20: Taylor’s Breakfast and Lunch in Pensacola. Home of the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. It’s a ten-minute drive from the usual Pensacon hotel, but I’m pretty sure I need to eat there again in 2022.

May 21: Pensacon. My Creators Alley spot couldn’t have been better. Legendary monster artist Mark Maddox was on one side, world-class comics artist John Dell was on the other. It was great hanging out with two of my favorite people.

May 22: Pensacon. For the second year in a row, I was honored to be a judge of the Pensacon Short Film Festival. There were some truly excellent entries this year. Kudos to fellow judges Corin Nemec and Mark Maddox. 

                                                                                 




May 23: Pensacon. Getting to spend several moments with the great James Remar, who played Peter Gambi on Black Lightning and is one of the best actors of our time.

May 24: The series finale of Black Lightning was almost everything I could have asked for. A fitting end to one of the finest super-hero series ever to air on television. My profound admiration for and thanks to all who worked on it.

May 25: Salim Akil called to chat about the finale and thank me for creating the character. I thanked him for the show’s adherence to my creation’s core values. We’re staying in touch with the hope of working together someday.

May 26: Pensacon panels. I had a blast talking about stupid super-villains and horrible comic-book stereo types with the Long Box’s Thomas Strange and fellow panelist Emily Whitten. Looking forward to more fun like this in 2022.

May 27: More Pensacon Panels. I did panels on Star Trek and Super Heroics with Melinda Snodgrass, Peter David, Keith DeCandido, Barry Gregory and Marion G. Harmon. Such distinguished panels...and me.

                                                                                     



May 28: Pensacon. My Godzilla Hawaiian shirt was a hit. Even so, I think I have to seriously consider that I own way too many Godzilla shirts. I’ve got to downside a bit.  

May 29: Marv Wolfman and George Perez voicing characters named Marv Wolfman and George Perez on Teen Titans Go! Sometimes the world is both crazy and wonderful.

May 30: Pensacon 2021 was a wonderful event. Old and new friends. Terrific crew and fans. Great restaurants. And the best thing about it was sharing it with my son. You’re the man, Eddie.

May 31: My Golden Anniversary Tour, celebrating my fifty years in comics. It starts at Pensacon 2022 in February, ends at Pensacon 2023, with eleven other cons in between. Two of those eleven spots are already booked.

Coming next in the bloggy is my Pensacon 2021 trip report. I don’t know how long it will run because sometimes, when I love something the way I love this convention, I just go on and on.

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

© 2021 Tony Isabella



Monday, June 7, 2021

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2020: Part Seven


 

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.
                                 
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic [IDW] presents two stories of the popular series and an interview with Jeremy Whitley, the writer of the first of those stories. The Whitley story is drawn by Trish Forstner. The second and shorter story is by Christina Rice with  art by Tony Fleecs.

QUALITY: This comic book isn’t made for me. I recognized that going into reading it. That said, Whitley’s writing was quite good and Rice’s was decent. I liked the Forstner art better than the Fleecs art, but each was fine. My favorite feature of the issue was that interview with Whitley. It was very informative.

ACCESSIBILITY: I have no idea who these characters are and what the heck their world is about. That likely isn’t a problem for readers who are big fans of the television series and that’s who the comic books are aimed at.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Three full-page ads for My Little Pony. Additional ads for Care Bears, Sonic the Hedgehog, Canto and IDW’s Marvel Action titles.

SCORE: Six points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                                




Naruto [Viz Media] features a 15-page excerpt from Naruto Vol. 1 by Masashi Kishimoto and a 16-page excerpt of Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru by Kishimoto and Akira Okuba. The latter excerpt comes from the first volume of that manga series. Here are summaries of the two series:

Naruto is a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He’s got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world’s greatest ninja!

Becoming a samurai seems like an impossible dream for Hachimaru, a boy who can’t even survive without the help of his father. But when a samurai cat appears before him, his whole life changes! The legendary creator of Naruto and a rising manga star come together to bring you this science fiction samurai epic!

QUALITY: Naruto is the better of the two series and this excerpt is well written and drawn. The Samurai 8 excerpt isn’t as well done.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Naruto excerpt is a pretty good introduction to the cast of characters. The Samurai 8 excerpt is less clear and, as such, didn’t really interest me

SALESMANSHIP: Sparse but very good. Between the two excerpts is a one-page ad for the first volumes of both series. Two-thirds of the  back cover advertises six other shonen manga series from Viz.

SCORE: Seven points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                             




Only a Matter of Space-Time by Jeffrey Brown [RH Graphics] tells of two young kids in an astronaut training program created by Earth’s first extraterrestrial visitor. Also included in the issue: a look at Brown’s first take on the idea, done when he was a kid himself, and t-shirt designs by himself and other artists.

QUALITY: Brown’s writing was pretty clever and that won me over. I was less enthusiastic about the art and lettering, but they didn’t stop from enjoying the story excerpt. The add-ons were interesting.

ACCESSIBILITY: The 16-page excerpt from the series’ first volume has all you need to know to get into the story.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Five pages of house ads for several other graphic albums from RH Graphics. But they missed a bet for more by having blank inside covers.

SCORE: Eight points out of a possible ten points.

                                                                                 




The Overstreet Guide to Collecting [Gemstone Publishing] was one of the best FCBD giveaways of 2020. It starts with a terrific cover by Billy Tucci. There are three comics stories inside. The first is by writer J.C. Vaughn with artists Brandon & Brian Fraim. It has the basics of comics collecting with a page five gag that made me laugh out loud. The second story is by the same team; it discusses horror comics collecting and is also very funny. Mike Oeming contributed the third story, a somber piece on the Hero Initiative and how it helped him and his wife Taki Soma. There’s also an prose article on caring for your comics and two pages of cosplay photos.

QUALITY: Top honors. The writing and art are excellent and convey information in an easier-to-follow manner.

ACCESSIBILITY: The material is welcoming to even the newest comics collector. Well done.

SALESMANSHIP: Amazing. Six full-page ads for Overstreet projects. One for the Hero Initiative. One for Usagi Yojimbo.

SCORE: Ten points out of a possible ten points.

Keep watching this bloggy thing for more reviews of the 2020 Free Comic Book Day issues. Place your bets on whether or not I’m able to read and review them all before Free Comic Book Day 2021.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
 
© 2021 Tony Isabella

Sunday, June 6, 2021