Tuesday, October 25, 2022



I’m sure Ohio’s current secretary of state is a very busy man. He’s a Republican and part of the GOP’s unconstitutional redistricting in my state, as well as that vile criminal organization’s attempts to disenfranchise those unlikely to vote for them.  Still, someone in his office should have had the time to come up with a better and clearer sticker for voters.

Though I’m not 100% back up to speed, I got up this morning, made myself presentable and went to vote at the Medina County Board of Elections. As I was pulling out of my driveway, I noticed someone had vandalized my Tim Ryan sign. From a distance, it looked as if someone had punched it.

Ryan is running to be reelected to the Senate. His opponent is the truly creepy J.D. Vance, who, after being against Trump in 2016, is now a loyal Trump ass-kisser. Of the several signs on my lawn, the only one vandalized was for a candidate whose opponent was endorsed by Trump. That it was singled out for vandalism does not surprise me. We know Trump’s followers are violent.

I’ve been voting at the Board of Elections for a couple decades or so. I used to vote at the local high school until I had enough of being harassed by an obnoxious Republican poll worker who, knowing I was a proud and relentless liberal, tried to get my goat election after election. When I complained about his behavior to his face, he loudly exclaimed “people like you shouldn’t be allowed to vote.” Which was enough for me to get him removed from his position as a poll worker. You fuck with the tiger, you get the claws.

Those who work at the Board of Elections are efficient and friendly as they carry out their duties. They seem to be pretty good when it comes to prohibiting campaigning within a certain distance of the polling place. They’re also excellent at accepting drop box ballots from drivers who would otherwise have a difficult time getting out of their cars to vote. I assume many of the workers are Republican,
but I think they can be redeemed someday.

There was a small line to vote, but it moved fast. I was in and out of the place in ten minutes. Part of that was because of the aforementioned efficiency of the workers. The other part was that I had downloaded the ballot and made my choices in advance.

Voting for Democrats over Republicans was easy. There were a couple of judge races which were ridiculously considered “non-partisan,” but I knew which candidates were Democrats.

There were two issues on the ballot. One concerned bail, the other voting. Both were race-baiting Republican garbage. I voted “no” on them.

There was also a proposed tax levy renewal for the Medina County Health District. It doesn’t cost voters more than they are already paying. The Health District does fine work. I would’ve vote for an increase if they needed it.

Here’s my voting advice for those of you haven’t yet voted. Three simple guidelines.

Don’t vote for Republicans.

Don’t believe in the myth of “non-partisan” positions. Find out who Democrats support and vote for them.

Make sure you know what the issues actually mean. The two issues I voted against would have led to unequal “justice” for low-income, non-white suspects and an easier path for Republicans to deny the vote to those not likely to vote for them.

Now go out there and make your Uncle Tony proud.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2022 Tony Isabella

Monday, October 24, 2022




Deep Sea Mutant Snake is another of the seemingly endless Chinese monster movies I’ve been enjoying on YouTube. They are seldom very good, but, frankly, I’m easily entertained by such films, even when they aren’t in English and lack English subtitles. Most of them are similar to the movies the Syfy Channel used to air every weekend before the channel replaced them (and much of its other content)  with relentless showings of Harry Potter, The Fast and the Furious and other franchises. Boo on them.

Even without subtitles, I can generally figure out the basic plots of these movies. However, in this case, I found a synopsis online:

Qin Yu’s fiancĂ©e died while investigating the sinister Cass group. In order to successfully testify against this group in court, Qin Yu followed Jason, who had evidence of the group’s crimes, on a cruise, but was suddenly attacked by a group of mutant snakes.

By mistake, they visit the island where the Cass Corporation conducts illegal experiments. The strange ecological environment of the island and the re-emergence of giant snakes put Qin Yu and others in a desperate and deadly situation...


The movie doesn’t spare the CGI slaughter. We see the title snake, a large (not as large) snake and thousands of more normal-size snakes escape from the research facility and make damn short work of the folks who work there.

They next show up attacking the cruise ship, swarming the ship and making equally short work of the crew and passengers. The big snake wraps itself around the cruise ship. The next largest snakes goes through the corridors killing people, as do the normal-size snakes. Just one more reason I’ll never go on a cruise. Unless my Saintly Wife Barb insists on it.

Naturally, there are the usual plucky survivors: besides Qin Yu and Jason, we get a comely photographer, a young girl, an old warrior type trying to protect the young girl, a somewhat shady comedy relief fat guy, a scientist type and a woman who I think is a high-priced escort. These eight people escape in a large lifeboat as the cruise ship blows up and, apparently, takes all the snakes with it.

When the lifeboat reaches an island - the Cass Corporation island - there are suddenly three more people in it than when it left the cruise ship. This trio exists for one purpose only: to be killed by giant man-eating plants. The only explanation I have for this is: the special effects crew created these plants and wanted to use them and the director forgot to add the “red shirts” to the lifeboat when it left the cruise ship.

Okay, I’m being a wee bit facetious here. The plants are important to the movie. The equivalent of Anton Chekhov’s “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” Keep reading.

Having created three characters/victims out of nowhere, the movie adds a fourth such character when they need someone to be killed by a monstrously giant spider. This unlucky fellow wasn’t even on the lifeboat when it landed. He just showed up as the survivors trudged through the forest to the Cass research facilities. Alas, we also lose the old warrior who gives his life to save the little girl he had been protecting.

The research facilities are creepy as hell, filled with many dead scientists and staff as well as scattered documents and such. What the documents mean is anyone’s guess given the lack of sub-titles, but, as someone who’s watched many movies like this, I assume they were up to no good.

In short order, we learn the scientist type was affiliated somehow with the Cass Corporation and that the title snake has made its way back to the island. The title snake kills Jason (I think) because Jason acts as a decoy to allow Qin Yu to escape. I can’t remember what happened to the scientist because, by this time in the two-hour movie, I was just anxious to get to Chekhov’s next act. Which played out exactly as I expected.

Qin Yu lures the title snake to the beach where the plants eat the shit out of it. Anton would be proud.

By the way, a similar ending, albeit with snakes instead of killer plants, was the conclusion of another Chinese giant monster movie. I don’t remember which one because my brain can only hold so much
silly trivia at any given time.  

The movie ends with the survivors waiting to be rescued by a boat we see in the distance. They are joined by Gilligan, the Skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and, of course, Mary Ann.


Would I recommend Deep Sea Mutant Snake to be discerning readers? Not really. The extreme carnage at the start of the movie, both in  the research facility and on the cruise ship, is ridiculously fun, but that’s just eye-candy. Lacking subtitles, the film never truly invested me in the characters. The sinister corporation trope has become boring. I need new reasons for the monsters created in these movies. If I get access to a subtitled version of the film, I will watch it again. Otherwise, let my sacrifice in watching it save you two hours of your lives.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2022 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 21, 2022




Categorizing Bring It On: Cheer or Die (2022) as a “B-movie” is a kindness I’m not sure the low-budget film deserves. All the same, when I viewed it on the Syfy Channel, I found it both kind of fun and inexplicably fascinating. It’s the seventh installment of the Bring It On series of cheerleading movies. The last one was 2017's Bring It On: Worldwide Cheersmack.

I have not seen any previous Bring It On movies. I think one of my daughter Kelly’s friends, who was a cheerleader herself, was a fan of the series. Only the first movie, which actually featured some name actors, was a theatrical release. The rest were all direct-to-video. By the time we get to this Halloween release, the acting is adequate at best, though the transition to slasher movie is sort of brilliant in its own way.


Cheer or Die is rated PG-13 for violence, language, sexual material and some drug content. All of those are quite mild, but, it being  2022, I’m sure some religious zealot is calling down the wrath of God on the movie and all who made it. I mean, though it comes very late in the film, two cheerleaders share a sensitive kiss and are later shown to be in a relationship. The school mascot is someone in a devil costume with a pitchfork and the team name is Diablos. Yep, the mark of Satan is all over this one and probably my sarcasm as well.

The Wikipedia synopsis: When Abby and her Diablos teammates are forbidden from doing any risky cheer stunts by their overly cautious school, they fear that they will be laughed out of the upcoming regional cheer competition. The squad comes up with a plan to choreograph a winning routine in secret at a nearby abandoned school. Once at the school to rehearse, one by one, the cheerleaders begin to disappear. By the time they realize they're locked inside with a killer, it may be too late for any of them to survive. They must use their skills to fight off a killer who gives them only one choice: Cheer or die!   
The reason for this restriction is, a few decades prior,  a Diablos cheerleader fell from the top of a high formation, broke her neck and died. A flashback shows pretty clearly that another cheerleader
deliberately pushed the girl’s foot to cause the fall. The killer was then signed by the Cleveland Browns to the largest cheerleading contract in football history. Which is not true, but I like to take shots at the immoral Browns ownership whenever I can. She doesn’t get a contract, but, apparently, no one saw her murderous move and she got away with it.


Despite the restrictions, the Diablos cheerleaders are competing in a tournament away from their school. Since their principal has made it clear how much she despises them, they don’t figure she’ll show up at the tournament to...ah...cheer them on. But they need to find someplace to practice their forbidden routines in secret...and what better place than an abandoned high school? What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

One of the cheerleaders knows a guy who knows a guy and gets them a bus for the trip. She also gets them a bus driver who does a bad impression of Otto Mann from the Simpsons.

I’m willing to cut the teenagers some slack. They don’t know they are in a slasher film. So they don’t know there’s a killer stalking them. Several uninteresting characters are killed in the first half of the movie. But, to their credit, once the kids realize someone is slaughtering them, they manage to avoid most of the dumb moves characters in horror movies make. Sadly, not before the body count rises by two other students who come to the high school because one of them is horny and the other is sincerely worried about the cheer captain.



I’m going to cut to the chase here. Someone wearing the costume of the school mascot is killing the cheerleaders. The surprise turn of events comes when one of the surviving cheerleaders puts a knife to the throat of another cheerleader.

The person in the costume is the niece of the cheerleaders who died decades earlier. The cheerleader with the knife is her twin sister..The principal is their mother and also the kid sister of the dead cheerleader from decades earlier. From the time her twin daughters were toddlers, Principal Nasty brainwashed them into believing they had to avenge their aunt’s death...and sent them to survivalist and other training camps to develop their murderous skills.

This is where the movie actually gets enjoyable. The twins demand the cheerleaders perform certain moves or die. I’d been wondering how they were going to work the title into the film.

The cheerleaders, encouraged by their team captain, all succeed in the cheering. They also manage to get the drop on the twins for a fight scene in which said captain directs her team’s attacks with cheerleading moves. The surviving cheerleaders get away from the twins and, despite the twins having chained all the abandoned high school’s doors shut, manage to escape using various cheerleading skills. The movie commits to the cheerleading team.


As her team makes it to a roof, the captain faces one of the twins.We learn it was the captain’s mom who killed their aunt all those years ago. But, since the twin seems determined to visit the sins of the parent on the child, the captain kills her in self-defense.

Using their cheerleader powers, the captain and her team drop from the roof to the school grounds. They reach their bus and their stoned bus driver. Before the bus driver can fully come out of his buzz, he gets an arrow through the chest, courtesy of the surviving twin. And she’s got more arrows.

The cheer captain ain’t taking this shit no more. Yanking the dead stoner out of the driving seat, she guns the engine and attempts to run over Cheer Arrow. The murderous young lady manages to lie down between the tires and taunts the cheer captain, who promptly backs over the killer and ends her.

A year later, the greatly expanded cheer team is at the tournament they missed and win big. The captain gives an acceptance speech in which she sends love to their late teammates and all those who’ve shown them support.


We pan to the crowd where a woman wearing a large-brimmed hat and  dark sunglasses does not join in the standing ovation. She leaves and...surprise surprise...it’s the principal. Is there a sequel in the franchise’s future?


Here’s my alternative ending...

The principal is followed by several crowd members. She might have escaped the police, but not the parents of the students murdered by her daughters. They hired private detectives to track her down and then watch her movements, such as when she entered the tournament school.

One of the parents hits her with a pom-pom and knocks her cold. We see the pom-pom concealed a lead weight. When the principal comes to, she’s bound to a chair in the old abandoned high school. Which is about to be demolished by explosives.

She’s forced to watch a tape of the Diablos cheer team’s victory. Which ends with several explosive booms. Each one getting closer to the principal. Fade to black as the ceiling starts coming down on the woman.

In a world where it often seems there are no fitting consequences for doing evil in reality or fiction, I’m becoming bloodthirsty when it comes to such villains. Real or fictitious. I’m making a list for when I die and come back as a vengeful spirit.

© 2022 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, October 11, 2022


September? All I want to note this time around is that “crazy” is now the official default setting of the United States and most of the world. I say “most” because I will always be hopeful there is someplace on Earth that doesn’t feel like Arkham Asylum has opened its door and let the inmates escape into our streets and halls of government. On the good news front, my “mute” skills are on point. I can silence political ads as soon as they start.

I’m spending most of October doing odds and ends and deciding what my next projects will be come November. Will it be a book, fiction or non-fiction? Will it be some comic book stories? I’ll know the answer by the end of the month?

While we’re waiting for that, here are some of the way cool things that made me happy last month...

September 1: This weekend’s garage sales are looking pretty great. I’ll continue restocking right up to the moment when the door goes up on another tsunami-like blast of comic books and pop culture bargains.

September 2: Kloe. On Netflix. A Russian assassin betrayed by the Stasi seeks answers for said betrayal and, of course, vengeance on those who betrayed her. It’s true. I love “righteously vengeful women” stories.

September 3: Big Ethel Energy by writer Keryl Brown-Ahmed with art by Siobhan Keenan. I’m so-so on the “new” Archie comics, but this first collection of the Web Toon soap opera is interesting. I’ll be reading future volumes.

September 4: Learning two of my garage sale customers are making a big difference in the life of a young person. These gentleman truly understand the core message of the super-hero genre and are living that message.

September 5: From Adventures into the Unknown #88, “The Strangeness of Mr. McGillicuddy” by Richard Hughes and Kurt Schaffenberger is an utterly charming tale of a guy from Ireland seeking his fortune in the Old West. The 1957 story is reprinted in Adventures into the Unknown Volume 15 from PS Artbooks.



September 6: Samaritan is a surprisingly nuanced super-hero movie starring Sylvester Stallone with a stellar performance by the young Javon “Wanna” Walton. Great characters, gritty action, unexpected twists and a whole lot of heart.

September 7: Anything’s Possible. Currently on Amazon. Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali are exceptional in this film about a trans girl navigating her senior year of high school. Funny, heart-moving and very real. Recommended for all.

September 8: Delayed by abject racism, the great official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are finally hanging in the White House where they belong. Few people have ever deserved the honor more.

September 9: Bunny Mask by Paul Tobin and Andrea Mutti. I read the first book and while I’m not 100% sold on the series, I thought it  was intriguing enough, different enough and creepy enough to keep reading.

September 10: Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme Wong is getting his own series on Disney+. This studly master of magic has evolved into one of the best MCU characters. I hope Patty Guggenheim’s Madisynn will be in the new series.

[NOTE: Sadly, this turned out to be a rumor. But I hope Marvel does add such a series to its schedule.]   
September 11: Last night’s lovely dinner with my “other daughter” Giselle, her boyfriend, her father and his girlfriend, my daughter Kelly and several of her friends. Beautiful weather and great food.
Nights like that are rare and should be appreciated.


September 12: Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. Saintly Wife Barb and I were well  entertained by this 2018 Netflix special. Two comedy legends at the height of their talents.

September 13: Thom Zahler, my dear friend of several decades, has been nominated for two Ringo Awards: Best Cartoonist and his Love and Capes: In the Time of Covid for Best Humor Comic. Well-deserved nominations for an outstanding creator.

September 14: The new seasons of Wheel of Fortune (40) and Jeopardy (39) have begun. It’s great to test both my brain and dexterity by answering questions and being fast on the mute button when moronic political ads are aired during the shows.

[NOTE: I no longer watch Wheel of Fortune. While I was aware host Pat Sajak was a Republican, it took a photo of him posing with two of the worst of that vile breed to make me realize his views were as bad as theirs. Time for him to go.]

September 15: Last night’s episode of Stargirl featured wonderful shout-outs to the late great Irwin Hasen and the great still-with-us Don McGregor. Stargirl remains the very best super-hero series currently airing on television, network or otherwise.

September 16: The All Nighter by Chip Zdarsky and Jason Loo. While “different” takes on vampires are common in comics, this one worked for me. Vampires living a subdued life running an all-night diner, one of whom wants to be a super-hero.

September 17: Friday night was my daughter’s birthday and huge fun was had my all. Barb, Eddie and I drove to her house and consumed terrific food from Marsella's Pizza and equally delicious ice cream from Lumpy’s. Happy birthday to Kelly!  


September 18: Troublemaker, Malcontent, Desperado: A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Harlan Ellison at the Cleveland Public Library. I love talking about my friend with fellow travelers. It was a wonderful event.

September 19: Run on Your New Leg by Wataru Midori. Kikuzato lost his leg, but the high school athlete will run again on a prosthetic leg, striving to reach his athletic goals. Manga forever impresses me with its wide range of subject matter.



September 20: My Funko Pop! collection increased by this impressive Ms. Marvel figure. I long for the day when the company releases a Tony Isabella Pop!

September 21: Tails of the Super-Pets. An amusing title for a fun collection of DC Comics stories from the 1950s and 1960s. Includes the first appearances of Krypto, Streaky, Comet, Super-Monkey and the Legion of Super-Pets.

September 22: Quantum Leap 2.0. I enjoyed the premiere episode and several cast members, notably old favorite Ernie Hudson and Mason Alexander Park, most recently seen as Desire in HBO’s The Sandman. I’m on board for now.                                                                      

September 23: Not sure “happy” is the right word, but Profiles in Ignorance: How America's Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber by Andy Borowitz is must-reading if you want to understand how our country got to this point.


September 24: Rhys Nicholson: Live at the Athenaeum. I found this special on Netflix. Recognizing Nicholson from The Imperfects, I watched and spent the next hour laughing. This hilarity is highly recommended.

September 25: Abbott Elementary. I just started watching the first season on Hulu and I’m loving it. But where’s the guest appearance by Jefferson Pierce? Or my cameo for that very special “Bring Your Grandparent to Work” episode?

September 26: Celebrity Jeopardy. The season premiere presented an exciting competition with unexpected (even by himself) winner Simu Liu’s reaction being priceless. Fellow contestants Ego Nwodim and Andy Richter were likewise terrific.

September 27: The slimmed-down and looking great Billy Gardell, who stars in the much-beloved Bob Hearts Abishola. He’s an inspiration to us men of a certain age.



September 28: This week’s Bob Hearts Abishola featured remarkable performances by Billy Gardell (Bob) and Joel Murray (as his late father). Talking to a dead parent is a common TV trope, but these fine actors took it to another level.

September 29: I’m starting to get e-mails about possible convention and other appearances in 2023. I’m hoping they pan out and that I get more. I’d like to do many events in 2023 while I’m still young enough to handle them.


September 30: Sally Forth. Gosh! Sally and Ted have new neighbors who find them interesting and actually like them. Thanks to writer Francesco Marciuliano and artist Jim Keefe for an exciting and fun development.

We’re well into October and it seems like I’m always playing catch-up. But I’m working on increasing the frequency of these bloggies of mine and hope to be back with more content soon. More to come, my friends.

© 2022 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, October 5, 2022




One of my ongoing goals for this bloggy thing of mine is to report on my appearances, conventions and other trips in a far more timely manner than has been the case over the past few years. I’m treated very well by the fans and promoters and I want to acknowledge those kindnesses as soon as possible.

Troublemaker, Malcontent, Desperado: A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Harlan Ellison was held Saturday, September 17, 1:00 pm at the Cleveland Public Library’s Louis Stokes Wing, 525 Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland. It was a busy Saturday in “the Land.”

Both the Cleveland Guardians and the Cleveland Browns had games at their respective stadiums. An Alice in Wonderland event saw several cosplayers roaming outside the library. The African-America Writers of Greater Cleveland were meeting and displaying their works inside the library, one floor below our Harlan event. Pickle Fest, which billed itself as “Cleveland’s premiere food festival,” was holding court on nearby Mall B.

According to a friend of mine, there was also a porn film festival in Cleveland that day. I never saw any publicity for the festival, but those who wanted to attend had no problem finding it. Here’s a quick tip: never ask a friend what their favorite kind of porn is.You really don’t want to know.

September 17 was the 15th anniversary of our friend Harlan’s last public appearance in his hometown of Cleveland when he participated in the 2007 Midwest premiere of the biographical documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth in the auditorium of Cleveland Public Library. I was asked to speak at the event by Harlan his own bad self. Maybe “asked” is somewhat inaccurate. Let’s say “demanded.” Not that I’d ever refuse to say a few words in honor of a man who was a friend, an inspiration and the finest writer of our times.

Don Boozer, who wears many hats at The Ohio Center for the Book at the Cleveland Public Library, asked me to speak at this new event. My response: My friend Harlan would haunt me from the afterlife he never believed existed if I denied your request.

Also speaking at the event...

Mark Dawidziak. This man is a Cleveland legend. Author, journalist, scholar and a dear friend of Harlan’s. He’s written books on The Night Stalker, Columbo, Mark Twain and more. He’s currently writing a book on Edgar Allan Poe.


I followed Mark at the podium, but I’ll tell you about what I said there in a bit. Unfortunately, a plan to video the event went awry. Which is a shame since it was an interesting hour.

Cleveland State University faculty members Dr. Jeff Karem and Dr. James Marino were the only two speakers who had never met Harlan. They brought a different perspective as two people who came to know Harlan strictly from his writings and their teaching of his works to their students. Most of us agreed that the golden age of finding Ellison was around 12 or 13, but I loved hearing about how they and their students came to appreciate his works.

The final speaker was Ellison’s niece, the delightful Lisa Rubin, who shared memories of her uncle and his interactions with family members. This was followed by a brief question-and-answer session. All in all, though the attendance was small, this was one of the best remembrances of Harlan I’ve attended. Knowledgeable speakers, attentive fans and great questions and remembrances.

As for what I spoke about, well, this is a greatly expanded version of my comments about our friendship...

I first met Harlan at the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland in 1966. I wasn’t even 15 years old at the time. It was a memorable convention for me. I met my life-long friends Don and Maggie Thompson. I met Fred Cook, the editor of the Bronze Shadows fanzine and the first adult to ever ask me to write an article for his publication. And I met Harlan.


I became a fan of Harlan Ellison before I read a single work he’d written. I thought he was one of the coolest people I had ever met. The epitome of the hip serious writer I hoped to become once I got out of high school and college. As it turned out, I didn’t wait to finish college. After less than a year, I bailed on the arrogant Jesuits of John Carroll University to take a job with a rare books dealer and then the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

When I went to work at Marvel Comics fifty years ago, I lived in a cold and gloomy basement apartment in Brooklyn. The landlords had somehow managed to divert most of the head from that apartment and even showering was a frigid experience. On more than one occasion, I moved my small writing table into the small kitchen. I turned on the stove, opened the door and took what heat I could from the old appliance. Harlan was with me in those challenging times.

I didn’t have room in my luggage - a suitcase and a typewriter - to bring many books. I brought two books with me: Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions. Cheap book club editions of two great anthologies edited by Harlan. During my moments of crippling doubt, it was those books, specifically Harlan’s introductions to each and every story in the anthologies, that kept me going. Because what I got from Harlan and those introductions was the inherent nobility of being a writer and sharing my truth, both real and spun from the corridors of my mind. Without Harlan, I doubt I would have survived that crappy basement apartment until I was flush enough to move to a much better dwelling.

It wasn’t until 2007 when Harlan learned how important he was to my early days as a comics professional. The Cleveland Public Library held an event and, since we were good friends by time, Harlan made a request to have me as one of the speakers. He also asked that I speak as long as possible so he wouldn’t have to speak as much. He was kidding himself. The man loved to speak and he was so much more interesting than any other speaker I knew.


I didn’t meet Harlan again until I was working at Marvel. My first  interaction with him was when the first issue of Marvel’s The Haunt of Horror digest royally fucked up the story he had written for it. Editor Gerry Conway got the brunt of Harlan’s justifiable ire, but Sol Brodsky and I got involved as well. This is when Gerry asked me to become an assistant editor of the title. My friend Gerry and he is a friend obviously saw my value as cannon fodder.

Our solution to this problem was to reprint Harlan’s story in the second and final issue of the digest. I don’t know how many times Gerry read the proofs of the reprinted stories and how many times I did, but we managed it to get it right.

After that, I would see Harlan at the occasional convention party. I remember we once discussed my adapting “Along the Scenic Route” for either Marvel’s Worlds Unknown comic book series or the Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction black-and-white magazine. I’d loved the story since it appeared as “Dogfight on 101" in one of the science fiction digests edited by Ted White. I never got to do that story, but, years later, it appeared elsewhere with remarkable artwork by Al Williamson.



An unexpected encounter with Harlan happened during my mercifully brief time as a DC Comics staffer. I was editing Young Love, which I enjoyed despite a limited budget, and decided to run an inventory story written many years earlier by a writer who had since become a top name in the industry. As what I assume was meant to be some sort of inside joke, the script had a character say “Thank you, Mr. Ellison.” The panel included a shot of an envelope with the unseen Mr. Ellison’s address on it. It struck me that I knew that address.

Sure enough, it was Harlan’s actual address. I had that removed and replaced. When asked why I changed it by production boss Jack Adler - I liked Jack but I often felt he was second-guessing me because of my age and Marvel origins - I explained it was a real address and could get DC Comics sued. No further explanation was needed.

After I moved back to Cleveland, I attended an Ellison event that I think took place at Cleveland State University. After Harlan’s talk, I went up to say hello and was amazed he remembered me. I wasn’t working in comics at the time - I was running Cosmic Comics in downtown Cleveland - and he asked if I was writing anything. He has happy to hear I was getting back into it and added that he had always thought I was a pretty good writer. It was flattering, but  what cemented that we were actually friends was when a former business partner - a swine of a human being - tried to make a short joke at my expense. I can’t remember exactly what Harlan said to him, but he shut him down in a manner reminiscent of a puppet falling down with its strings cut.

I got back into comics writing and started attending the San Diego Comic-Con on a regular basis. Where I would sometimes spend a bit of time with Harlan and Susan Ellison. When I was involved with the 1988 International Superman Exposition in Cleveland, I invited him to be a guest at that both glorious and financially ruinous event. Where we had more time together and where he jokingly expressed his astonishment to my very pregnant Saintly Wife Barb that she would willingly have my child. Yenta that he was, Harlan also accosted me periodically to make sure I ate regularly while juggling dozens of jobs during the event. His concern for my health would continue as long as I knew him.

Harlan was concerned for the health of many of his friends. At the one Mid-Ohio-Con he attended, while appearing on something called Comic-Book Squares, he literally grabbed a cheeseburger out of the hands of Kurt Busiek. Not quite as dramatic as when Harlan jumped across a table at Perkins to seize the extra butter I’d ordered for my pancakes, but with a much bigger audience.

There was a time when I was at a particularly low point in what I still considered my comics career. I had been unjustly fired from  my second Black Lightning series by Pat “the Rat” Garrahy. Knowing Garrahy was a jerk, DC people above him who had sworn they’d have my back if he pulled any shit on me. They didn’t. Including a guy I had thought was one of my closest friends until time revealed he  had been screwing me over for decades. That my Saintly Wife Barb, one of the kindest people I know, hates this man with a passion is all you need to know about how vile he is and how good he has been at following people for his entire career by carefully doing right by some people. But I’m getting off topic.

Harlan started calling me frequently during this time. Checking up on me. Making sure I was hanging in then. On one such occasion, he started the conversation with “Isabella. I just finished a story. Want me to read it to you?” That’s right, a private presentation of his latest work. Just as his Dangerous Visions introductions were so inspiring to me at the start of my writing career, his kindness and respect for my own work made me feel valued. I was blown away. To my chagrin, I was so blown away that, outside of remembering the  story was amazing, I don’t remember which story he read me on that chilly morning.


Harlan continued to check up on me and speak on my behalf. It was hard to overcome the back alley slander being spread by some of the people who had done me wrong at DC Comics and further spread by a few people spreading that slander though they had, in many cases, never even met or worked with me. Harlan remained my champion and even asked me to adapt one of his tales for Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor, the wonderful anthology series published by Dark Horse.

Harlan said I could name any story I wanted to do and was delighted when I chose “Opposites Attract,” one of his 1950s crime stories in which a bomber encounters a slasher and, as it will, romance blooms between them one. It is a darkly silly story and, as drawn by Rags Morales, colored by Marie Severin and lettered by Clem Robbins, it remains one of the best and favorite things I ever did. Perhaps my most cherished memory of that collaboration was when I told Harlan what I planned for the final panel. He literally laughed out loud. I like making my heroes laugh. I did it with Stan Lee several times and I did it with Don Thompson.

My too infrequent visits to Ellison Wonderland continued, always in the company of our mutual friend Bob Ingersoll. Always a good time and always full of wonderful discoveries.

Harlan had plaques containing quotes that spoke to him mounted on the wall next to his writing desk. Much to my surprise, one of my quotes - “Expediency is not heroism.” - was among them. Harlan did me the honor of using that quote and another of mine - “Hell hath  no fury like that of the uninvolved.” - in two of his stories. He mentioned my name in one, characterizing me as a great philosopher. Whenever I think of that, it brings a smile and a tear to my face.

I loved Harlan Ellison and, of course, his brilliant wife Susan. I could have saved myself writing two thousand words and just started and finished with that. Those of you who were also lucky enough to be their friends would have nodded in agreement.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t read something by Harlan. As I organized by Harlan Ellison collection, it’s my intention to live long enough to reread every book, every essay, every screenplay and every story. I can think of few more worthy efforts.

Thank you, Harlan.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2022 Tony Isabella