Friday, March 24, 2023
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
MY PENSACON 2023 REPORT PART ONE
Pensacon is my favorite convention. That won’t come as news to my bloggy readers. It’s an event that brings together fans and guests from virtually every pop culture medium you can name. It treats its fans and guests like honored friends. It’s a convention darn near the entire city supports in one way or another.
But getting from Cleveland, Ohio to Pensacola, Florida isn’t always as stress-free as it could be. There are no direct flights between the two cities. Your choices for flight times are pretty much “way too early” or “arriving late at night.” Flying back to Cleveland? That also falls into the “way too early” category. If you’ve read my convention reports, you know it sometimes takes a while for me to get around to the actual convention.
Thursday, February 23
Our American Airlines flight from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. was scheduled to leave at 9:58 am. The connecting flight from D.C. to Pensacola would leave at 11:24 am and (with a time difference) get us to the renamed-for-the-weekend Pensacola Intergalactic Airport at 2:32 pm.
I have nothing but good things to say about American Airlines. The crews were unfailingly friendly and helpful. The flights themselves were non-eventful and on time. Which is not to say there wasn’t a bit of drama before we left Cleveland.
We booked our own flights for this trip. In doing so, we neglected to put my TSA Known Traveler Number on the tickets when we bought them. Had I noticed this when we checked our luggage, it would’ve been a simple fix at the ticket gate. When I got to the Pre-Check entrance, I was denied entrance and pretty much made to feel like I was trying to scam the TSA check-in guard. I was told I had to go to the regular check-in station.
Had I not been so taken aback by the turn of events and not already tired from the early hour and getting about using a cane, I could have simply gone back to the ticket agent and gotten a new ticket with my Known Traveler Number and Pre-Check. But I didn’t think to do that. Instead, I lumbered to the regular check-in. With the rest of the peasants.
Peasants? Am I being harsh? Not really. Because that’s how the TSA agents at the regular check-in made me feel.
Those agents were rude. Despite my age and the obvious discomfort I was in, they made me remove my jacket, my shoes and my belt. They replaced my cane with a ratty old stick. I had to hold my pants up while balancing on the stick through the X-Ray machine. Asked if I had anything in my pockets, I said I’d put my ID and boarding pass there. Midway through the X-Ray machine, I had to pull them out to show them. Then they said to put them back in my pocket. Past the X-Ray machine, I had to juggle my belongings, including my belt, briefcase, cane, carry-on bag, jacket and shoes as the still-rude agents encouraged me to move faster.
We pause here for a mini-rant.
Two decades ago, because of a failed shoe-bomb attack, we have flat out disgraced ourselves by removing our shoes and belts and other things. We have allowed TSA agents to pat us down or remove us from the line for random closer inspections.
How random? On one flight a decade or two ago, I was waved through while they pulled a little old white-haired lady with a walker for a closer inspection. I ask you...who looked more like a terrorist? Mediterranean Tony Isabella or Mrs. Santa Claus?
I appreciate the important work of the TSA. But I don’t believe it is disrespectful to ask them to consider updating how they do what they do. And to get some fucking manners.
I have never been treated rudely in the Pre-Check line. Indeed, I have seldom been treated rudely even before I started getting Pre-Check on all of my flights. However, on that particular morning in that particular airport, the TSA agents were dicks to me.
End of mini-rant.
The rest of the trip went well. When I needed them, I got rides to the gates. The flights were on time with plenty of time to make out connecting flights. The American Airlines folks were aces. Since I have a credit card through the airline, one that bestows some nice perks, I plan on flying them whenever I can.
It’s always a thrill to land at the Pensacola Intergalactic Airport where the gates are renamed stargates and walls are covered with Pensacon-related posters. The convention volunteers are extremely efficient in helping guests with our luggage and transporting us to our hotels. Every year, coming to this convention is like coming to visit family. Our Pensacon family.
Since the wondrous Grand Hotel closed - it was directly across the street from the Pensacola Bay Center - Pensacon has been boarding its guests at several hotels, including some right on the beautiful Pensacola Beach. On our ride to the Hampton Inn, Eddie and I got to spend a bit of time with the delightful Danny Pintauro.
Pintauro is known for his acting on As the World Turns, Who’s the Boss...and for playing the son of Dee Wallace’s character in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Cujo. He’s appeared in various stage productions before retiring from acting. Which is a shame on account of he’s young enough to play a variety of roles.
Danny and I talked about the screenplay he’s writing and writing in general. He’s a nice fellow and I very much regret not being able to get away from my table long enough to visit him at his table on the celebrity level. Which also meant I didn’t get a chance to meet Ms. Wallace. I really need to balance my convention table time with my personal enjoyment of these events.
The Hampton Inn is a cool place to stay. Eddie and I had a fourth floor room with a great view of the beach. It was foggy that first night, looking like something out of The Mist, another Stephen King movie adaptation.
For dinner, we walked over to Crabs, one of the many fine seafood restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. I didn’t want to eat a huge meal, so I ordered a chicken fingers basket. The chicken was good, but the real treats were the creamy pineapple cole slaw and the homemade honey buns.
Crab isn’t a favorite of mine - given my oft-grumpy nature, it’s be a little like cannibalism - but if you are a fan of the versatile food, you’ll find a huge menu to choose from.
Crabs on the Beach is a pleasant place to dine with a great staff. Also, for such an upscale restaurant on the beach, its prices were quite reasonable. I recommend it.
Having managed to write today’s bloggy thing without getting you to the convention, I want to let you know I’ll be covering the first day of Pensacon in my next bloggy thing. See you then.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Friday, March 10, 2023
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Friday, March 3, 2023
THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN FEBRUARY
It’s March and that means it’s time for me to write a little about the previous month - good and bad - and then present my compilation of things that brought me joy in February.
The big good included being invited to conventions in Singapore and Spain. The former looks like it’s definitely going to happen with events in April and September. The latter is somewhat up in the air at the moment as I figure out how to make it work.
Then there was Pensacon 2023, my favorite convention and one that celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. I’ll be writing a few bloggy things about the convention, but you’ll get a few highlights near the end of this column.
The bad? The growing cruelty and insanity from the Republican Party on local, state and federal fronts. It’s the cruelty that concerns me most. Just as Rotten Ronnie Reagan made up the “welfare queens” to serve up as “villains” for his base, so today’s GOP monsters are going after the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans kids. As part of that community, I take this personally. But, even if I weren’t, I’d be horrified just on the basis of common decency.
The Republican Party is the biggest threat to the United States and democracy in general. I am at a loss to understand why anyone who considers themselves a good Christian or person would support them.
All of the above said, let’s take a look at the daily things that made me happy in February...
February 1: Love and Capes: Home for the Holidays is Thom Zahler’s latest special and it’s completely delightful. Christmas joy with Mark, Abby, their kids, family and friends plus wonderful turning points for several members of the cast.
February 2: The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore. What a crazy fun novel. I loved it, laughed out loud while reading it and am looking forward to reading more of Moore’s books.
February 3: Celebrity Jeopardy 2023 Finals. I have never watched a more exciting game of Jeopardy. Winner Ike Barinholtz, Wil Wheaton and Patton Oswalt were funny and gutsy players, showing great love and respect for one another.
February 4: Naoki Urasawa’s Asadora. A mysterious kaiju threatens Japan. A high-school girl who lost several family members to this creature works with the authorities to stop it. That’s just part of the drama in this series. Six great books and counting.
February 5: Lockwood and Co. I heard good things about the Netflix series and decided to watch an episode. Then another and another. Binge-watched all eight episodes of the first season and hope we’ll be getting a second season soon.
February 6: Lockwood and Co. One more thing about this fine show. I got a kick out of the references to 2000 AD comics via George’s choice of reading material and shirts. It’s been ages since I had a subscription to the weekly, but I remember it fondly.
February 7: Daily Show guest host Chelsea Handler totally rocked it in her first episode. Edgy, enthusiastic and funny, her back-and-forth with the always delightful Dulce Sloan was hilarious. She’s my favorite guest host to date.
February 8: A good visit to the doctor. My heart and lungs and most everything are fine. My blood pressure is a minor concern. I got a handicapped sign for when my knee is having a bad day. On track to outlive my enemies and dance on their graves.
February 9: The Composite Superman, a favorite DC Comics character from the 1960s, has arrived as a terrific Funko Pop! Though he only appeared twice back then, his image, story and heroic redemption left a real impression on me.
February 10: Funko’s new Darkwing Duck figure has arrived. While I kind of like seeing a cheerful “terror that flaps in the night,” it does take some getting used to. Is it possible for Funko to create a grimmer version of this character?
February 11: Extraordinary. Stumbled across on Hula, this TV comedy is about a young woman in a world where everyone gains a superpower at the age of 18. Except her. Some of the powers are truly bizarre and the show itself is quite entertaining. Recommended.
February 12: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. It’s quite likely that I never stopped smiling while watching the double-length episode of this new Disney animated series. Fun characters and graphics mixed with an uplifting story. I loved it!
February 13: Spontaneous joy. Loud music from a car parked across the street. Looked out my office to see two young woman dancing in the street to said music. Rocking, bopping, laughing. How could I not smile at such an expression of joy?
February 14: Your Place or Mine. Barb and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with Dairy Queen Blizzards and this amusing rom-com starring Renee Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher and an amazing supporting cast. I recommend the movie and the Very Cherry Chip Blizzard.
February 15: Errand morning with Barb. We got the SUV e-checked and took it through a car wash. We got stickers and handicapped cards at the DMV. We got coffee, a egg sandwich and a free cup of soup at Panera. It’s a good start to the day.
February 16: Quantum Leap. The episode “Let Them Play” focused on the discrimination against trans teens, especially those who want to be athletes. It was riveting television that moved me deeply. I need to get back into this series.
February 17: It’s our annual celebration of my Saintly Wife Barb’s birthday. We’ll be getting together with Eddie and Kelly later this afternoon and a good time will undoubtedly be had by all. My wife is a blessing to all who know her.
February 18: Pensacon 2023. My fifty years in comics tour wraps up at my favorite convention. Pensacon has the best fans, guests and staff. The local support is delightful with restaurants featuring related themes. I love it madly.
February 19: The Death of Doctor Strange by Jed MacKay, Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela. This had a lot going for it. Cool villains from the 1960s, a solid story that would not confuse a casual reader and a satisfying ending. I’ll be seeking out more by MacKay.
February 20: I’m thrilled beyond words to be a guest at Singapore’s Cosfest: Legend of the Floral Guardian on April 8, 2023 at Gardens By The Bay. This is my first convention outside of North America in decades. I can’t wait to meet the fans there.
February 21: Batman The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1. This was the era that introduced me to the character who would be my favorite until I created Black Lightning...and it was a surprise gift from one of my readers. How cool is that?
February 22: Button Pusher by Tyler Page. In this informative and moving graphic auto-biography, the cartoonist discusses his ADHD, his behavior before and after his diagnosis and his experience with his prescribed Ritalan. Lots to learn here.
February 23: I’m reading Friday Book Two by Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. When I hit a “I didn’t see that coming” moment, I knew this was definitely a comic book that mad me happy and that I would recommend it to you.
February 24: Pensacon. My private signing with Certified Guaranty Company was terrific. Thanks to CGC and Luis for giving fans of my work who might never get to meet me a chance to have me sign their comics. I hope we can do it again.
February 25: Maria Landy, Pensacon’s Transport Wizard, always gets us where we need to go. She’s also an amazing artist who gifts me with her work every year. These two pieces are always right next to my keyboard as I write. Thank you, Maria.
February 26: Amazing food in Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Between Pensacon’s own incredible green room and so many great restaurants, many of whom adopted themes in connect with the pop culture event, wonderful meals were the rule. Yummy in my tummy.
February 27: Pensacon. I chatted with actors Erik Estrada and Eric Roberts. Both were very friendly. Naturally, I mentioned Chupacabra vs. the Alamo (2013) and Sharktopus (2010). Because that’s what you would expect of me.
February 28: Pensacon. The Long Box Guys hosted a panel on my fifty years in the comic-book industry. We didn’t pack the room, but we had a great time and those who attended learned many things which they did not know previously.
I post new “Things That Make Me Happy” on my Facebook page and on Twitter every day. Watch for them.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Monday, February 20, 2023
THE ROAD TO PENSACON 2023
Pensacon 2023 is almost upon us. It’s my favorite convention and I can’t wait to be there again. The event treats guests better than almost any other con. The Pensacon fans, my fellow guests and staff are delightful and friendly and just fine people. Across all of the many years I’ve been attending Pensacon, I have only run into one jerk. Even a guest who I have a bad past with it had the decency to keep his distance from me last year. It’s a magical convention and I recommend it to one and all.
Details? Pensacon takes place February 24-26 and the Pensacola Bay Center. It’s a large building, but not large enough to contain all the fun that comes with this show. That’s why panels and some other programming events are held elsewhere in Pensacola. Not to worry, Pensacon’s free trolley service will get you to any of these events you wish to attend.
The Pensacola Bay Center is three tiers of tremendousness. On the ground floor level, you’ll find a large vendors area, some guests and photo ops. On the next level up is where the media celebrities
are available to sign stuff and take photos with the fans. On the third floor, which is a circle that overlooks the vendors area, you will find the comics guests and a variety of booths selling books,
cool crafts and great artwork. That’s where you’ll find me during show hours.
Pensacola itself really kicks it up several notches for the event. The airport becomes the Pensacola Intergalactic Airport with gates transformed into “stargates.” You’ll see a lot of posters promoting
the fantasy and science fiction stuff we love.
Many of the restaurants adopt themes related to the convention. In years past, I’ve dined at places devoted to Marvel heroes, Suicide Squad, Star Wars, Star Trek, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and more. If these establishments offer themes drinks, I usually have one or two of them. I have drunk to Captain America, Katana and the Hulk.Such speciality drinks are my weakness, though I never imbibe more than two per evening.
As always, this year’s Pensacon guest list is amazing. Doctor Who fans will be thrilled at what may be the largest gathering of folks from that series ever. Indeed, there are guests for every fan that comes to the convention. Comics creators and cartoonists. Stars of movies and TV shows. Musicians. Voice actors. Wrestlers. There are too many guests for me to even attempt to name them, but you will be able to see the entire list of celebrities by downloading the Pensacon app. It’s a great guide to the show.
I always enjoy seeing old friends at the convention, especially my fellow comics creators like Larry Hama, Pat Broderick, John Dell, Robert Pope, Barry Gregory, Jenni Gregory, Derec Donovan, Keith DeCandido, Guy Gilchrist, Karl Moline, Kelly Yates, Michael Golden, Renee Witterstaetter, Roland Paris, Rodney Ramos, Steve Butler and Thom Zahler. Not to mention - okay, I’m mentioning him - the amazing and glamorous artist known as Mark Maddox.
There are, of course, some non-comics guests I want to meet at the convention. Topping that list is Eric Roberts, who has appeared in what seems like dozens of the cheesy monster movies I love. In my wildest dreams, I write a cheesy monster movie for him to star in. I may be a guest of Pensacon, but I’m as giddy as any fan when I’m anticipating the good times I’ll have there.
What will be happening at my booth on the third level? Because DC Comics has allowed my work to fall out of print, I won’t have much to sell there. What I will have is a special poster that shows all the Marvel Comics monster characters I wrote in the 1970s. Drawn by “Demonic” Dan Gorman, this neat poster is selling for the insanely low price of ten bucks per poster. If you wish, I will sign these posters free.
If you bring other things for me to sign, I charge ten dollars per item. I have been planning to raise that rate, but I’m holding off for now.
Got questions about my work? I’m happy to answer them. There will be questions I can’t answer because I’ve signed NDAs or because I feel it would be inappropriate to answer them, but I’ll do my best to enlighten and entertain you. You can even ask me about that one jerk I mentioned above.
I will be appearing on some panels at the show. One will be a kind of reflection on my fifty years in the comics industry. The other will be a panel on writing comics.
That’s all I have for you today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff and that will include a multi-chapter convention report on Pensacon 2023. See you then.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Friday, February 17, 2023
Sunday, February 12, 2023
A TALE OF TWO CONVENTIONS
I have a long list of things I want to write about, but, instead, I’m writing about an online comment that’s been bugging me greatly since I first learned about it. A friend copied me on an anonymous comment that was posted to the Classic Comics Forum a while back. It read:
Okay, my Tony Isabella signature story. There are a dozen or so comics that make up the foundation of my comic book collection and essentially kickstarted my love of specific characters. Four of them happen to be The Shadow War of Hawkman mini-series. I still have my childhood copies of the series, so when I saw that Tony Isabella was going to be at the New Mexico Comic Expo I was incredibly excited. Whenever I have taken comics to have creators sign, I generally like to have them sign ones that mean something to me (like my first issue of Uncanny X-Men was #245 and that was the one I had Claremont sign when I met him). I suppose that perhaps I had too high of expectations, but I was really hoping for some sort of reaction, and all I got was him complaining about his rental car, hotel and the city of Albuquerque. I have held that series in such high regard all my life as a keystone of my comics fandom, so I have always held Isabella (perhaps unjustly) in a similar high regard because of my love for it and the emotional connection I feel towards it.
My initial reaction to the above - mild anger came a little later - was that this fan attended an entirely different convention than I remembered. When I responded to my friend, I gave him permission to post my response on that forum. I wrote:
I have no idea what he's talking about. Barb and I loved our time in Albuquerque. It was a wonderful convention. Our rental car was great, though it was a little scary when we drove up this mountain to get a view of the whole area. Our hotel room was great with the desk clerks giving us tips for restaurants and such.
If this guy had asked me specific questions about the issues, I would have happily answered them. I don't generally go into long stories about the comics I sign unless asked. A lot of fans just want a signature, not a routine. Though I do great routines with funny slices of my comics career and comics history in general.
But the bottom line is...I remember the convention very differently than he claims. I'm sorry if he was disappointed, but, without him asking even something as simple "How did you like writing this series?" or "What inspired your take on it?", I don't think I was under any obligation to go into the whole history of my work on the title.
Albuquerque is why I want to drive Route 66 from start to finish. The city made a real impression on me. Heck, a dear friend of mine lives there part of the year and I would love to go back there to spend some time with her.
Near as I can tell, there were no further comments on the original post or any on mine. Which is fine by me. I said my piece and had no desire to continue the conversation.
I do want to emphasize how much I love attending conventions. If I have any regrets in this area, it’s that I can’t afford to do them unless my expenses (and, often, an appearance fee) are paid by the convention. Outside of my social security check, I have no steady income. I do get paid for my Last Kiss gags. I do get some reprint and royalty checks from my past writings, but those amounts are far less than most fans (and some professionals) realize...and one of the major publishers is always behind on paying me. Hint: it’s not the one with the incredibly successful cinematic universe and that invites me to premieres where I get to chat with amazing folks like Michael Douglas and Lawrence Fishburne.
I’m not in dire financial straits. Barb and I have a fairly modest lifestyle. I make okay money holding my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales and charging for my signature at the conventions I do attend. I’ve plans to create additional revenue streams this year. But I can’t afford to spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to go to conventions on my own dime.
My next convention will be the always wonderful Pensacon, February 24-26, in the beautiful city of Pensacola, Florida. I’ll have more on that event in a near-future blog.
I have some other conventions scheduled. I’m currently talking to comic events in Singapore and Spain. I’m very excited to meet fans and pros in other countries.
If you are a convention organizer and would like to invite me to be a guest at your event, just e-mail me with the details and I’ll get back to you with my appearance requirements. I’ll work with you as much as possible.
If you’re a fan of my writing and you see me at a convention, don’t be shy about coming to my booth. I’m happy to answer questions and chat with you and sign (for a fee) your comics. I generally have Isabella items to sell and, if you buy those directly from me, I do sign them for free.
But don’t be like the New Mexico fan who inspired today’s bloggy. Talk to me. Ask those questions. Give me a leg up on doing what I can to give you a good “Tony Isabella Experience.” I can’t always answer every question because I have signed some NDAs along the way and because, sometimes, I feel the need to be discreet, but I think I can entertain and educate you.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Friday, February 10, 2023
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
A BRIEF REFLECTION ON...MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE
Comic-book fans got a bit of a giggle seeing the ever-dysfunctional Marjorie Taylor Greene cosplaying as the X-Men’s White Queen at The State of the Union address. Maybe she was hoping to catch the eye of Kevin Feige. That said, I think we should take a closer look at her attire and what it might actually mean.
Like most Republicans, Greene is a bigot and white supremacist. (You can spare me your wounded outcries on account of you keep voting for these candidates.) Anyway, I believe Greene’s costume was meant to put an early claim on the title she craves...the White Queen of the far-right. She wants to be the regent of racism.
She wants to rule over those pesky malcontents who believe in such “woke” concepts as democracy, decency, equality, common sense gun laws, protecting the environment, making the wealthy pay their fair share of funding the government, convicting insurrectionosts (of which she is one), providing health care for all Americans, continuing our tradition of welcoming immigrants (a tradition which built America and keeps it strong), stemming those systemic injustices in law enforcement and our justice system, teaching accurate history, teaching accurate science, protecting free expression, stemming the violence against the LGBTQ+ community (especially trans kids) and more. She wants to be impervious to being held to even the smallest standards of decent behavior.
She’s bad people.
On a related note, her White Queen cosplay completely overshadowed Kyrsten Sinema’s portrayal of a giant sunflower. I would feel worse for Sinema if she didn’t sit with the Republicans. Seriously, girl, no amount of sunshine could penetrate the bleak darkness of those lost souls.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Saturday, February 4, 2023
THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN JANUARY
Welcome to February. Last month was more stressful than I would’ve liked for a number of reasons. I had some difficulty getting going on various projects. I had some minor health issues. I’m working on
knocking off various appointments before I make a pair of trips to DeSantis-crazed Florida. And, as any decent moral person would be, I am horrified by the violent criminal organization calling itself the Republican Party.
One of my favorite speeches in one of my favorite movies comes to mind at times like this. In writer Aaron Sorkin’s and director Rob Reiner’s The American President (1995), President Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas) drops the mike on a slimy Republican senator played by Richard Dreyfuss:
“Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it.”
That perceptive quote is the Republican party in a nutshell. From Ronald Reagan’s fake “Welfare Queens” through decades of dishonest attacks on other people, the Republicans have targeted some of the most vulnerable people in the United States and the world and made their immoral base hate them.
Republicans aren’t the least bit interested in helping anyone save for their wealthiest and most powerful masters. Why work on solving real problems when they can investigate the scientists who fought COVID, those who want to teach accurate history and science, those who simply want to be kind to and supportive of people who are not like themselves, those investigating dangers to our democracy and, of course, Hunter Biden’s laptop?
What raises my anger to nuclear levels are the current Republican attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and, especially, on trans kids who were already have a tough time navigating a country full of people who would gladly wipe them from existence. Is that the American you want to be? Is that the Christian you want to be? I hope not and I invite you to join me on the right side of history.
Here are the things that made me happy in January:
January 1: Miley's New Year's Eve Party. Barb and I channel-surfed between the specials, but my favorite was this, co-hosted by Dolly Parton (Cyrus’ godmother) and with amazing guests and a wide range of music. Two-and-a-half wonderful hours of celebration.
January 2: Out by Rob Williams, Will Conrad and Marco Lesko. Set near the end of World War II, this chilling tale of monstrous evil in a German POW camp is one of the very best graphic novels of the previous year. Highly recommended.
January 3: Streaming-surfing for a lunch break led me to Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery. I’d been avoiding this NetFlix series because I’m not a Will Arnett fan, but it turned out to be
good silly fun. I’ll likely watch more episodes.
January 4: Today is the 46th anniversary of the release of Black Lightning #1 in 1977. My creation changed my life and will always be my proudest and most cherished comics achievement because of how it has inspired fans and professionals alike.
January 5: Published by Ablaze, Friday Foster The Sunday Strips by Jim Lawrence and Jordi Longaron is an amazing collection of one of the most interesting comic strips of the 1970s. I wish it included the daily strips, but it’s still highly recommended.
January 6: Received my final birthday/Christmas gift of 2022: The Batman Complete Silver Age Daily and Sunday Newspaper Comics 1966-1972 boxed set. I’ve never read all of these strips and can’t wait to dive into them.
January 7: Wild Cards: The Drawing of Cards by Paul Cornell, Mike Hawthorne and Antonio Di Benedetto reminded me how much I enjoyed the Wild Cards anthologies. The four issue Marvel Comics series has inspired me to revisit those works.
January 8: Elected the U.S. Representative for California's 42nd district and a self-described “comic book nerd,” Democrat Robert Garcia will be sworn in on, among other things, a copy of Superman #1. We need more comics fans in Congress.
January 9: Svengoolie has expanded to two-and-a-half hours. He can show longer movies without editing them and include more Sven bits. Saturday’s interview with Rob Paulsen was longer than usual and one of the best he’s done. More Sven? Yes, please.
January 10: Reading Avengers Epic Collection: Kang War, I read the Tony-written issues #145-146 for the first time in decades. Several fans have said the story is among their favorites and I was pleased
to see how well it holds up today.
January 11: Stephen Colbert interviewing Prince Harry on The Late Show. Colbert was at his best in a talk that was funny, honest and incredibly moving. I like and was impressed by the “Spare” and will be reading his book of that title soon.
January 12: I appeared on New Day Cleveland where I was interviewed by Cleveland broadcast legend David “Mossman” Moss. It was a thrill and, on air, he requested I do the show again. If they ask me, I’ll come because it’s a great show!
January 13: Shin Ultraman. My son Eddie and I saw this on the big screen on Wednesday. It’s a fun movie with relatable characters and decent man-in-suit monsters. It wasn’t a great movie, but it held up well and made us laugh several times.
January 14: Funko Pop’s She-Hulk in Gala Dress with Glitter is the gorgeous new addition to my collection. I’ve never liked any of the She-Hulk super-hero outfits Jen has worn. She looks best when she wears suits, gowns and other normal outfits.
January 15: The late Lou Mougin’s “Ms. Frankenstein” in Vampiress Carmilla #12 was a great “pilot” episode for an ongoing series with a lot of potential. I hope the Warrant Publishing Company continues
it in this magazine or its own.
January 16: Showing lives unlike our own, Malaka Ghario’s It Won’t Always Be Like This is a sometimes sad, sometimes wondrous look at the author’s summer vacations in Egypt with her father and his new family.
January 17: Finding this wonderful photo of me and my son Eddie. He was two. It was Halloween. The Vast Accumulation of Stuff continues to yield treasures. I found a few more photos I’ll be sharing soon.
January 18: Another Vast Accumulation of Stuff discovery. Eddie is four and Kelly is one. In a difficult week like this one has been, finding photos like this give me a lovely break from the troubles I’m dealing with.
January 19: One more photo find from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.Saintly wife Barb, our son Eddie and me taking a quick break at the International Superman Expo in Cleveland in June of 1988. Eddie was born about a week later.
January 20: I now own all 27 issues of Stan Lee and Stan Goldberg’s Kathy, albeit as photocopies. The series is a favorite of mine, but issues in good condition are expensive. I’ll be selling the ones I have and writing about Kathy in my blog.
January 21: A remastered print of the classic Ray Harryhausen movie 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH is now available for viewing on YouTube. It looks incredible and, even with ads, it’s well worth watching. Highly recommended.
January 22: Good neighbors. Saintly wife Barb and I had breakfast at Griddles in Medina. When we left, I forgot to grab my legendary Godzilla ball cap. Our neighbors, also at the restaurant, retrieved it and brought it to our house.
January 23: Dreaming Eagles by Garth Ennis and Simon Coleby. It’s an intense graphic novel that looks at the first African-American fighter pilots and how they fought valiantly against the enemy and
January 24: What a amazing ride! Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume 1 (1966-1967) encompasses outrageous camp adventures and surprising brutal deaths that Dick Tracy would have applauded. Two more volumes to go and I’m loving it!
January 25: Ever have one of those days when you had to run a bunch of errands and your timing was perfect at every stop and you were able to do them far quickly than expected? I had two days like that in a row. Life’s little victories?
January 26: ABC’s Will Trent. The police procedural drama is based on Karin Slaughter's series of novels. Great characters overcoming their personal demons while solving often-terrifying cases. I love it a lot and think you will too.
January 27: Celebrity Jeopardy. Fan favorite Patton Oswalt scored a come-from-behind win to capture the third spot in the upcoming finals. He will play Ike Barinholtz and Wil Wheaton. My problem? Do I root for Patton or Wil? Sorry, Ike.
January 28: The Pez Outlaw. Currently on Netflix, this occasionally chilling documentary tells of a man who earned the wrath of Pez by bringing thousands of foreign versions of the candy dispensers into the United States. Highly recommended.
January 29: Svengoolie’s showing of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I first “met” Godzilla when I was but a wee lad seeing him on our family’s black-and-white TV with the lights off. Watching Sven last night, I felt the presence of my younger self.
January 30: A Righteous Thirst for Vengeance by Rick Remender and Andre Lima Araujo. A chilling, suspenseful and violent story of a good man seeking justice against overwhelming odds. Two volumes of edge-of-your-seat comics. I want the movie now!
January 31: I was perfectly normal before I got my Moderna booster shot. Now I’m shaking like bacon, speaking in tongues and much more attractive to women and men alike. Hey, the sun just came out. I’m a big fan of getting boosted. You should, too.
My 2023 convention season begins at Pensacon from February 24-26 in Pensacola, Florida. This is the official end of Tony Isabella’s 50 Years in Comics Tour. Besides the usual terrific guests and big fun of the show, it could mark the end of something else. I’m seriously considering shaving off my legendary mustache after this Pensacon. Feel free to weigh in on this in the comments.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Friday, January 27, 2023
LAST KISS FOR 1/27/23
From John Lustig's LAST KISS, here's this Friday's installment of "The Loves of Abby Amour" by Tony Isabella and Frank Frazetta.
Friday, January 20, 2023
Thursday, January 12, 2023
NEW DAY CLEVELAND
Earlier this week, I was a guest on New Day Cleveland, a terrific morning show airing on Fox 8 from 10 am to noon weekdays and hosted by Cleveland broadcast legend David Moss and the charming Natalie Herbick. It was a honor to be interviewed by Moss, who I’ve watched for decades on Cleveland media. If you’d like to see the interview, which ran five and a half minutes, you can find it here.
At the tail end of the interview, the show posted my blog address. Since that might attract some new readers to the blog, I figure I should introduce myself to those new visitors. Here’s the short bio I send to conventions and other venues that invite me to appear at and speak to their attendees:
creator and writer of Black Lightning; creator of Misty Knight and Tigra; writer Captain America, Champions, Daredevil, Dracula, Ghost Rider, Grim Ghost, Hawkman, Iron Fist, the Living Mummy, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Star Trek and many others.
TONY ISABELLA, like Superman, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. The 50-year comics industry veteran was an editor and writer at Marvel and other publishers. At DC, he created Black Lightning, the company’s first prominent African-American super-hero. With Bob Ingersoll, he wrote the prose novels Captain America: Liberty’s Torch and Star Trek: The Case of the Colonist’s Corpse. He’s the author of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, one of the most successful books of comics history and nostalgia ever, and the odd-but-strangely-cool July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume 1. He was the lead reviewer and a contributing editor of Comics Buyer’s Guide for two decades. He was a comics retailer and distributor for twelve years. He has done ghost-writing for several syndicated newspaper comics strips. He received the Inkpot Award at the 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego, a Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia in 2017 and became the second Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Elkhart Hall of Heroes Museum in Elkhart, Indiana in 2018. Cleveland Magazine named him one of that city’s most interesting people of 2018.
Tony’s most recent mainstream comics work was the six-issue Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, marking his return to his creation. He writes on a variety of subjects for “Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing”. He also speaks at colleges and libraries on comics history, comics writing and diversity in comics. Of late, he has been writing gags for John Lustig’s Last Kiss, which runs on the Go Comics website.
Most notable...Black Lightning was a weekly, live-action series on the CW for four seasons. The show drew much of its inspiration from Isabella’s work on the character. He made a cameo appearance on the show’s third season finale.
While developing new projects for comics, TV, movies and more, he is also writing a ground-breaking graphic novel that will challenge superhero tropes as well as prose books that include a “memoir-of-sorts” and compilations of his writings on comic books and his beloved B-movie monsters.
Tony has heard of something called “retirement,” but it is an alien concept to him. His all-grown-up children Ed and Kelly having left the nest, he lives in Medina, Ohio with his saintly wife Barbara and their cat Simba. Except for Simba, they all have much better and saner jobs than Tony. The cat doesn’t need a job. She has Tony.
I have two Facebook pages. My personal page is Tony Isabella and, for fans of Black Lightning who are interested in depictions of my creation true to the hero’s core values, we present Tony Isabella’s Authentic Black Lightning Group.
My Twitter account is @thetonyisabella.
Circling back to this blog, you can expect a variety of topics. I write about comic books, magazines, often-cheesy monster movies and prose non-fiction and novels. I write about comics history and my own experiences in the comics industry. I write about politics and social issues from my progressive liberal viewpoint.
I post a lot of cool content on Facebook and Twitter, including birthdays, historical notes, remembrances and more. I’m thinking of doing some “Better Know Tony” blog entries to explain my borderline obsession with what I post online.
During the summer, roughly May through September, I do garage sales at my home in Medina. As will happen when one is a life-long fan of comics and such, I have a Vast Accumulation of Stuff that needs to be downsized. I hold the garage sales twice a month on Fridays and Saturdays. Follow my social media for scheduling information on the garage sales.
Here’s my still evolving appearance schedule for 2023:
February 24-26: Pensacon (Pensacola, Florida)
May 20: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (Philadelphia)
July 30: NEO Comicon (North Olmsted, Ohio)
October 13-15: Monster Bash (Pittsburgh)
November 4-5: Akron Comicon (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio)
If you’re a convention promoter, someone who books guests for radio or TV or someone who books speakers for libraries and schools, and would like to have me appear at your venue, you can e-mail me for information on my appearance requirements. I truly do love talking about comics and will do my best to accommodate you.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Wayward Son by Steve Goble [Oceanview; $27.95] is the second novel in the author’s Ed Runyon series. Runyon is a former NYC detective who moved to rural Ohio after a case involving a missing teenager ended horribly. In the first book, working as a sheriff’s deputy in a Trump-loving county, Runyon was involved in another missing teen case that ended horribly. His uncovering of the killer didn’t sit well with many of the locals.
This new mystery find Ed reinventing himself as a private eye who specializes in missing children cases. He’s dealing with his often severe PTSD over the cases mentioned above plus his uncertain love life plus the scarce need for his services in his rural community.He’s getting by on background checks and divorce work.
Here’s the dust jacket come-on:
A PI goes hunting for a missing boy—and ends up being prey
Ed Runyon, a former sheriff's deputy haunted by past missing child cases that went horribly wrong, is struggling to launch a PI agency and still live in the Ohio farm country he loves. His love life is in shambles, too, as his partner turns to someone else. His best friend got roughed up by a rogue cop, so Ed is in a fighting mood.
Ed finds a new focus when he is hired to find a runaway chess aficionado who is keeping secrets from his homophobic, religious parents. Finding kids is the reason he became a PI, so Ed is determined to succeed and put the demons and other problems behind him. But Jimmy Zachman made a bad move and ran into far more trouble than he was already in, and the hunt for him leads Ed to a deadly and desperate confrontation. Everything comes down to determination and one very risky move. Ed must find Jimmy at all costs.
Ed Runyon is a troubled hero, though his dwelling on his failures keeps him from seeing himself as a good man who’s very good at his job. Most of his former sheriff’s colleagues dislike him, but he’s got some good friends who help and support him.
The missing boy’s father is a piece of work, but, though his views rankle Ed, the only important thing for the detective is that there is a missing kid in probable jeopardy. The procedural parts of his investigation are solid and presented in a clear and entertaining fashion. What’s even more entertaining and exciting is watching Ed switch gears to handle the obstacles and twists that make his job more difficult and much more dangerous.
I enjoyed City Problems, the first Runyon novel. This second one is considerably better. As soon as I finished reading, I went online to see if a third was in the works. In the author’s own words from his Facebook page:
I just turned in my last-chance proofreading notes for my upcoming detective novel GO FIND DADDY, the third novel in my Ed Runyon series. I think this is my best book yet, which is good, because you always want to keep getting better.
In this book, a woman hires Ed to find her husband, who has gone on the run and off the grid after being accused of killing a cop. Everyone wants to find this guy — cops, bounty hunters, reward seekers. Why does Amy Blackmon hire Ed? Because her little girl is dying, and her husband doesn’t know.
Of course, Ed finds a whole lot of trouble as he tries to track down Donny Blackmon, because that is just how Ed’s luck runs.
I can’t wait for this one to hit the shelves. Look for it in July!
Goble is an interesting fellow. According to the Oceanview website, he’s a lifelong Ohio resident and a former journalist. He works for a digital investigations firm. At present, he lives in rural Ohio with his family and their two dogs.
He also has a blog, of which he writes:
Other things you might see me write about here include: beer, Godzilla, politics, James Bond, comic books, movies, music, zen, science, pop culture and just plain weird stuff. Most of the time, I’ll try to relate these topics to the writer’s craft — but every once in while I’m just going to go off on a rant of some kind.
Getting back to my review...
Wayward Son is a page-turner with a satisfying ending that could’ve unfolded in several different ways. I can usually see these coming.I couldn’t this time.
For all the reasons given above, I recommend Wayward Son to those of you who love this kind of mystery. There are several excellent mystery series set in my native Ohio. Goble and this book does them all honor.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Friday, January 6, 2023
While it’s been hilarious watching the cowardly Kevin McCarthy get dick-punched several times a day and oddly soothing to day-dream about Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries getting votes from enough semi-adult Republicans to become the Speaker of the House, there are some negative real-world consequences to the House being without leadership. The paralyzed GOP hasn’t been able to commence its ridiculous investigations, but some actual government business that benefits actual citizens is also on hold. One representative-elect has spoken of not being able to help one of his constituents with a tax problem because the IRS can’t discuss the matter until he’s been sworn in.
Eventually, there will be a Speaker of the House. I’m guessing it won’t be McCarthy, but that’s mostly because I want to see him get evicted, preferably by force, from the Speaker’s offices in which he has currently and illegally has taken residence. As for when there will be a Speaker, my bet is that the 101st vote will be the charm.
How chaotic is this process? I received three votes in the last go-round. Some representatives relate to my proposed constitutional amendment allowing me to legally punch anyone in the face I believe deserves such violence. If you can’t trust a comic-book writer with that important duty, who can you trust?
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN DECEMBER
Happy New Year! 2022 is firmly in the rear view mirror, save for my usual monthly list of wondrous things that brought me joy. 2023 is starting to form in front of us and, while we hope for the best, we recognize the dangers of a foolish optimism. This was the new year message I posted on my Facebook page:
HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope to bring hope, fear, justice and lightning to the world in 2023.
One of my dear friends responded:
How strange to hope to bring fear... especially in these times.
One. It's a reference to Black Lightning's mantra. Two, there are people in this world who deserve to be fearful.
There are evil people in our country and in the world. You know who they are...or you should know. We do ourselves no credit to refuse to recognize evil exists. Evil needs to be called out. Evil needs to be challenged at every step. Evil needs to be defeated at every stage. I want evil people to be fearful. I want them to spend every waking moment afraid the justice they deserve, the punishment they
deserve is just outside their door.
We also must celebrate the good in our country and the world. It’s the good that fortifies us for the battles ahead and reminds us we can find happiness and victory in our lives. Here are the things that made me happy in December...
December 1: Moon Knight has been good to me. Marvel’s reprints of the two issues I wrote have amounted to several nice checks. Which is how I justified purchasing the Funko Pop figure with cover now looming over the other figures on my desk.
December 2: I came across a thick folder containing fanzines I had contributed to before I went to work at Marvel in 1972. Expect to see some of my ancient contributions in future installments of the bloggy thing. You have warned.
December 3: Troll. This just released Norwegian giant monster movie delivered more than expected. Great creature and solid story. Many familiar yet well-played monster movie characters. Some surprising moments. Highly recommended.
December 4: Science marches on. As of December 12, Hot Pockets, in association with the Columbus Fashion Alliance, will start selling limited-edition cargo shorts with insulated pockets to keep your Hot Pockets hot. What a world we live in.
December 5: Weird Al Yankovic is one of my favorite performers and someone I keep insisting be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As an early birthday gift to myself, he now stands above my computer screen.
December 6: Georgia’s Raphael Warnock was reelected to the Senate. It’s terrifying that his opponent, arguably the worst candidate in the history of modern politics, got almost as many votes as he did, but we celebrate the victory of a very good man.
December 7: Kudos to the Late Show for “Red, White & Greenland: A Tour of Thule Air Base: Stephen Cold-Bear is Lost in Space Force.” A fun and informative tribute to our country’s most northern line of defense. You can watch it on YouTube.
December 8: The Stargirl series finale was everything I hoped for. An incredibly satisfying conclusion with lots of action, emotion, heroism and surprises. Huge love for the cast, crew, writers and directors and, of course, Geoff Johns.
December 9: Britney Griner is back in the U.S.A. with her wife and family, following her unjust arrest and subsequent imprisonment by Russia. Anyone who complains about her return is dead to me. Kindly choke on your own noxious bile.
December 10: It’s a Godzilla-mas miracle! I now own the Mezco Toyz 5 Points XL Godzilla vs Hedorah 1971 Three Figure Boxed Set. It has Godzilla, Flying Hedorah, Final Form Hedorah, replica buildings and more. Save the Earth!
December 11: Saintly Wife Barb and our friend Jess were fine after a deer ran head on into Barb’s car. There’s some damage to the car that we’ll cover out of our pockets, but it could have been a lot worse for Barb and Jess. Thank you, Universe.
[The biggest damage to the car was the loss of the Toyota symbol on the front grill. Happily, Barb’s aunt Nora works at a dealership. For Christmas, she gifted Barb with a new front grill symbol that was identical to the original. The excited look on Barb’s face was unforgettable.]
December 12: I started writing a prose story, the first in a series starring a new creation and set in Dinah County, Ohio. My goal is to spend 30 minutes each day on this spooky mystery. Not sure where it will appear, but appear it will.
[I haven’t reached my goal, but work on the story is progressing. I hope to finish the first draft this month.]
December 13: The Stretcher Bearers by Reid and Ryan Beaman. In this graphic novel of World War I, an underage soldier is assigned to be a stretcher bearer. It’s a powerful tale of brotherhood, horror, hopelessness and surprising hope.
December 14: Netflix’s The Curse of Bridge Hollow. Watched on a whim, this Damon Wayans vehicle was a fun Halloween romp suitable for all ages and with several fine comedic performances. A sequel was hinted at and I’d be down with that.
December 15: Talented area artist Emily Szalkowski was featured on Thursday’s New Day Cleveland. I always get a kick out of her work on Facebook and at conventions. Inspired by Tim Burton but clearly her own vision, her art never fails to make me smile.
December 16: It seems like there’s a new Chinese monster movie on YouTube every week. Some of them are even dubbed in English. While they’re not great movies by any stretch of the imagination, I find them a fun way to spend an hour-and-a-half.
December 17: Cleaning out a desk drawer, I found an envelope filled with gift cards for Target, Subway, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Taco Bell and Regal Cinema. It looks like I won’t starve to death in the immediate future...and I’ll get to see a movie.
December 18: The Justice Society has become my favorite DC Comics group, due in no small part to Stargirl and the Black Adam movie. It’s time for the boring, dysfunctional Justice League to go away and leave the super-teaming to the adults.
December 19: Cicely Strong. This multi-talented performer has long been one of my all-time Saturday Night Live cast. I’m going to miss her there, but look forward to seeing her star rise in whatever she does in the future.
December 20: Chewy. Two neighbors had problems, neither the fault of the company, with items. The company gave them full refunds for their purchases and asked them to donate the items to local animal help places. Wagging my tail in appreciation.
December 21: I took my old friend Terry Fairbanks and three of his grandkids (Chase, Gabby & Zack - to The Asylum’s 2025 Armageddon at the Hickory Ridge Cinema. We had the theater to ourselves, we had a blast and the movie...ran an hour-and-a-half.
December 22: Happy birthday to me! My friends tell me 71 is only a number, but it’s a damn big number. I’m glad I’m still fighting the good fight, cherish all those who fight with me and remember all those no longer with us. Always forward.
December 23: My dear pal Laurie Jacobson was wonderful on Morning Joe talking about her book Top of the Mountain: The Beatles at Shea Stadium 1965. Gee, do I miss seeing her and husband Jon Provost on the convention trail.
December 24: Movie Night with Saintly Wife Barb. We watched Ticket to Paradise on Amazon. The George Clooney/Julia Roberts comedy was fun with beautiful backgrounds and great respect for the Balinese people who make up most of the cast.
December 25: Christmas Eve dinner with Barb, Eddie, Kelly, Barb’s Aunt Pat and Terry and Nora Fairbanks. Great people and food with a nice gift exchange. Plus, afterwards, I stayed up to watch Glass Onion, a veritable feast of a movie!
December 26: Anthony Reynolds, who played a crooked cop during the first season of Black Lightning, was chilling on FBI: Most Wanted, playing a right-wing judge turned serial killer. I hope I get the chance to work with someday.
December 27: Ronny Chieng: Speakeasy. I found this Netflix special while streaming-surfing. Chieng was funny, personable and offered some informative thoughts on the nature of comedy. I enjoyed this and think you will, too.
December 28: ABC’s Homeward Bound: A Grammy Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon. An absolutely wondrous tribute to one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Moving acknowledgments of Simon’s impact and performances of his works.
December 29: I had a joyful lunch at Max & Erma’s with old friends Jim, Joe, Marty, Mike, Ted, Terry, my goddaughter Vanessa and her mom (former Cosmic Comics manager) Angela. Great company, good food and very reasonable prices.
December 30: Malachi Bell, the talented guy who cuts my hair, was cover-featured on Medina Weekly. With his business partner, Malachi recently opened Studio MD Hairstyling to service Medina’s growing diversity. Recommended to all my local friends.
December 31: Wayward Son by Steve Goble. The second Ed Runton novel finds the Ohio police detective turned P.I. searching for a missing teen. It’s a contemporary mystery with solid character development and surprising twists and turns.
I hope your December holidays were wondrous and that your new year will be even more so. Onward.
© 2023 Tony Isabella