Friday, November 29, 2013


This year has been filled with amazing comics biographies and other
books of comics history.  You can add The Secret History of Marvel
Comics: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting Artists at Martin Goodman's
by Blake Bell and Dr. Michael J. Vassallo [Fantagraphics;
$39.99] to that non-fiction bounty.

Before and during his comics publishing career, Goodman maintained
a mostly robust line of magazines and other periodicals.  Bell and
Vassallo explore the “other” Goodman and draw links to the comics
for which the publisher would be best known.  This is a fascinating
story, but not an unusual one.

Goodman, like most of his competitors in the first wave of American
comic-book publishing, was not an ethical businessman.  He grew up
in a tough time in our history and didn’t hesitate to cut corners
to make a buck.  Only on rare occasions did he show any regard and
respect for the creators who filled his magazines and comic books
with material.  It can be said Bell and Vassallo judge Goodman in
their book, but they do this by providing hard facts, remembrances
from Goodman associates and employees and well-reasoned conjecture.
Indeed, the only place in this book where they allow their opinions
to wrongly steer their conclusions is when they discuss the current
Marvel Comics publishing program with facts not in evidence.  There
and only there do they stray from being the diligent researchers of
the rest of this wondrous tome.

If Secret History were merely an indictment of Martin Goodman, it
would have value as a comics history.  Bell and Vassallo provide so
much more.  Their examination of Goodman’s publications, how those
publications were produced, their comparisons to what was going on
elsewhere in the pulp field and the many ties between the pulps and
comic books enrich our knowledge of the company that would become
Marvel Comics.

In addition to the history itself, the authors provide hundreds of
pulp covers, interior illustrations and photographs of key players
of their narrative. They include over two dozen artist profiles of
comics creators who also contributed to Goodman’s magazines.  The
book is literally packed with information and, at that, surprising

Fantagraphics also deserves praise for its role in Secret History.
The volume boasts solid editing, brilliant design and remarkable
restoration of aged pulp illustrations.

In any other year, The Secret History of Marvel Comics would be a
shoo-in to win the big comics industry awards.  This year, it must
compete with several other equally find books.  But it is a serious
contender and, win or lose, it’s a book that belongs in the library
of anyone passionate about comics history.

ISBN 978-1-60699-552-5


Comics legend Roy Thomas celebrated his mumble mumble birthday last
week.  Discounting a couple of small and small-paying earlier gigs,
my career in comics began when Roy hired me to assist Stan Lee and
Sol Brodsky in putting together weekly reprints of Marvel material
for Great Britain.  Not only was I working in comics - which was a
huge deal in 1972 - I was learning from three of the smartest guys
in the business in Roy, Sol and Stan.

As I usually do on Roy’s special day, I sent him an e-mail thanking
him for hiring me, for his decades of friendship since and for all
I learned from him.  Modestly, Roy usually tells me I didn’t have
that much to learn and that my success came from my own talent and
hard work.

Sometimes, Roy mentions that one of the few things I had to learn
was not to criticize Planet of the Apes in a magazine licensed from
and devoted to Planet of the Apes.  He is being too kind.  I did a
great many things dumber than that during my few years working in
the Marvel offices.

Respectfully, Roy is wrong about how much I learned from him, but
he may not realize why he’s wrong.  I’m not sure I ever explained
it to him as I’m about to explain it to you.

Before I ever stepped foot in the Marvel offices, I studied comics
writers who I felt had much to teach me.  I studied Stan Lee, Roy
Thomas, Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart, Len Wein and Robert Kanigher.
I learned how to construct a story so that a new reader could get
swept up into it and follow it without necessarily having read all
the previous issues of a title.  I learned how to bring the power
to a sequence when it needed it.  I learned how to choose words to
give my scripts a more lyrical quality than what was the norm for
the industry.  I learned to be fearless when it came to portraying
real emotion in my work.  How well I succeeded in any of the above
is up to readers to determine, but it was from these writers that
I learned and from which my own style developed.

If you’re wondering about my other influences, both before I went
to work in comics and since I’ve been working in comics, that list
is slightly longer.  Shakespeare, O. Henry, Harlan Ellison, Lester
Dent, Neil Simon, Ed McBain, Dave Barry, Max Allan Collins.  There
are a few others, but those are the main ones.

When I think about my influences, I wonder who is influencing the
current comics writers and the comics writers of the future.  I’m
not coming up with a lot of names.  Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek are
among the few current comics writers who have mastered the various
arts mentioned above.  I can see learning things from Alan Moore,
Neil Gaiman and Harvey Pekar.

Overall, though, a lot of what I read in modern mainstream comics
strikes me as cribbed from movie and TV writing.  I see an ongoing
failure to make it easy for a new reader to get into long-running
series and even some creator-owned series.  Forgotten is the idea
that every comic book is some reader’s first issue of that series.
It’s as if writers seem to expect the reader to know the characters
and situations as well as they do.

I see enormous body counts and destruction taking the place of real
drama and emotion.  I read dialogue that doesn’t reflect who these
characters are.  I see company-wide, shock-driven “epics” instead
of real and meaningful stories.  It’s comics as blockbuster movies
and violent video games.

It’s not my intention to belittle all of the current comics writers
and attribute the same failings to all of them.  If you have been
reading my bloggy things and review columns, you know I find great
merit in many modern comic books.  But I’d be less than honest if
I didn’t express my belief that the art and craft of comics writing
isn’t as developed as it should be...or as skilled as it must be.

Not in the mainstream comics.  Not in the alternative/independent
comics.  Not in the comics from other countries.

Your thoughts?

I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Thanksgiving seems redundant to me if only because, in the
wisdom of my years, I am thankful every day of my life.  With
darn good reason.

I have a better and happier life than I ever seriously believed I
would have.  I have a great wife, great kids, great friends and so
much more.  I live in a comfortable house in a good neighborhood.
I have a sweet cat who’s not too terribly demanding and, on those
increasingly rare days when I am ill, will not leave my side save
to eat, poop or run up and down the stairs and all around the house
for no reason I can discern.

I am in good and improving health.  I am overcoming physical woes
and getting stronger every day. 

I look at my country and I see hope.  Racism and bigotry are still
around, but they are being beaten back on a daily basis.  The tide
is slowly turning against those who would enrich the very powerful
and very wealthy at the expense of the 99% of the American people
who represent the rest of us.  Why, some folks are even embracing
the obvious truth that an economy that enriches the 1% so much more
than the rest of us is not sustainable.  There are still battles to
be fought, but the tide of history favors the 99%.

I look at our brave soldiers and firefighters and police officers
and public workers and know they will always be there for us, even
when we are not always there for them as much as we should be.  I
am hopeful that someday soon we will reward these good people in a
manner consistent with their great service. 

I am thankful for the blessings and teachings of my Lord and Master
Godzilla, the Great Scaly One who protects us with his fiery atomic
love.  It can be a tough love, especially give the often recorded
folly of man and all, but it is a just love.  As the pastor of the
First Church of Godzilla, I welcome all to share in the bliss I’ve
found from my new faith.  If I can figure out how to cash in on it
the way L. Ron Hubbard did with his made-up religion, I’ll be even
more thankful.

I look back on my years in the comics industry and I am as content
as I can be in an field whose history is basically the history of
villainous executives and corporations cheating creators.  Even so,
I have found that there are clients who can and do act in an honest
and honorable fashion.

I have an appreciative audience for my writings.  I still manage to
find work that is challenging and fun. 

The blessed Internet has allowed me to reconnect with old friends,
keep in touch with my friends and readers, and make new friends and
readers.  Since my blogs about being a special guest at Comic-Con,
my bloggy thing readership has increased considerably and continues
to increase.

I am thankful that some remarkable and wonderful circumstances have
aligned to make it possible for me to start working on my extremely
long bucket list of things I want to write before I kick that old
bucket on my way to my Monster Island Heaven reward.  I expect to
start on several projects in January.

I’m thankful those same remarkable and wonderful circumstances will
allow me to spend a week in Los Angeles visiting old dear friends
and perhaps making new ones.  I don’t have the exact dates beyond
“sometime in January,” but I’m excited.

Several hours after I posted this blog, we’ll be having what I am
sure will be a wonderful Thanksgiving gathering and meal.  Friends
and family will be converging on Casa Isabella and I will doubtless
consume far too much turkey and stuffing.  I will go to bed a happy
bloated man.  I’ll be thankful for the day.  Just as I am thankful
for every day.

I hope all of you have reason to give thanks as well. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


For B Movie fans, if Roger Corman didn’t exist, we would have had
to invent him.  While there were plenty of B movies before Corman
started making them and there are plenty of B movies made without
the Corman touch, he is and remains B Movie royalty.  Which makes
Chris Nashaway’s terrific Crab Monsters, Teenage Caveman and Candy
Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman: King of the B Movie
[Harry N. Abrams;
$35] must-reading for devotees of the famed independent producer,
director and writer.

My admiration for Corman stems from my love of the monster movies
that would air on Cleveland television in my youth.  I could list
a dozen-such thrillers but I’ll go with the one that resonated with
me more than most: Attack of the Crab Monsters.  I loved that movie
so much that, when Corman briefly became involved with comic-book
publishing, I pitched an ongoing Attack of the Crab Monsters series
to his editor.  The pitch didn’t sell, but, when it turns up in my
Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I’ll take another whack at it.  Think
Isabella channeling Steve Gerber and Gerry Trudeau with giant crab
monsters.  I might have been ahead of my time.

Nashaway’s book unlocks the keys to the Corman kingdom.  It’s a big
book - not quite coffee table - filled with stunning movie posters
and stills.  It covers Corman’s career in great detail and places
a well-deserved emphasis on all the movie-making legends who acted
in Corman movies and whose association with Corman moved them into
greater triumphs.  Corman certainly deserves the many tributes paid
to him over the years.

Though I may not be the average reader of Crab Monsters, I think it
would be difficult for almost any reader to make their way through
this tome without making a list of the Corman movies they want to
see or see again.  Even as I write this review, I am jones-ing big
time for another Attack of the Crab Monsters viewing...and that’s
just one of over a dozen Corman productions on my list.

I recommend this book for Corman and B Movie buffs, for students of
modern movie-making and as a gift for anyone you know who is in any
of those groups.  It’s a treasure.

ISBN 978-1-4197-0669-1


Moving on to some movie reviews with the warning there will almost
certainly be spoilers ahead...

The long-delayed Stonados (2013) finally aired on the Syfy Channel
last weekend and talk about your ill wind.  I spent the rest of the
weekend apologizing to my Sainted Wife Barbara because I talked her
into watching it with me.  She won’t admit it, but she got a kick
out of Sharknado.  But, that classic aside, I should have known she
wouldn’t enjoy this movie.

Here’s the bare bones plot. Tornados full of rocks attack Boston.
Our heroes are a scientist turned school teacher mourning his late
wife, his kids, his cop sister and his friend scientist turned TV
weatherman.  Also in the cast is the Cigarette Smoking Man from The
and several other characters you know are doomed to die as
soon as they show up in the movie.

Paul Johansson is okay as the school teacher scientist, manfully
struggling against the awful script.  Sebastian Spence is quite fun
as his friend.  Miranda Frigon, who was wonderful in the less than
wonderful Primeval spin-off, is pretty good, too.  The CSM is okay
in a kind of doomed to die sort of way.  And would it have been so
awful to drop rocks on the children?  I don’t think so.

Barb and I watched the tail end of Space Twister while waiting for
Stonados.  When Stonados was over, her immediate reaction was that
it had the same ending as Space Twister...and she was right.  Then
I realized it Sharknado had the same ending as well.  Apparently,
the way to stop most freakish and windy acts of God is to blow them
up real good.  Useful to know.

Barb was amazed at my uncanny knack for pointing out who
was doomed to die in Stonados.  I’ll take it.

Stonados started out promising.  After watching the doomed to die
tour guide die, I thought the Plymouth Rock thing - it gets sucked
out of the ground and dropped on a basketball player several miles
away - might play a bigger part in the movie.  It didn’t.  Too bad.

If the stonados had been the revenge of the indigenous people who
were cheated, brutalized and slaughtered by the Pilgrims and other
Europeans, the way the stone-flinging storms acted would have made
more sense.  As it was, the stones dropped however the movie wanted
them to drop regardless of physics.  A nasty fortune teller at the
Boston harbor gets smashed into a wall by a boulder that comes in
sideways and at ground level.  Lame.

I’m not expecting works of art from Syfy original movies.  But the
network can and should do better than this.

P.S. Giant monsters are more fun than weather conditions.


Robocroc (2013) aired on Syfy in September.  The basic plot wasn’t
awful.  Experimental government nanites land in an aquatic park and
make a large crocodile their bitch, slowly transforming the beast
into a robot crocodile that still has the killer instincts of its
original self.  The military swoops in to take command and manage
to make things even worse, at least partially because the scientist
in charge of the projects is murderously insane.

Corin Nemac delivers his usual fine performance as the movie’s and
the park’s resident croc expert.  Nemac was born to star in these
movies.  Dee Wallace is entertainingly over the top as a government
scientist determined to see out how many civilians and soldiers the
more robot than natural croc can eat...though it doesn’t really eat
any one because of the whole now-a-robot thing.

Pretty much everyone else in the cast, whether they die or not, is
there to be chomped on by the monster and perish in scenes that are
surprisingly bloodless and gore-less.  The only real suspense here
is waiting for Wallace to get hers.

Robocroc drags.  It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not very good
either.  It’s not a keeper and not worth a second viewing.  Sadly,
it’s only worth a first viewing for Nemac and Wallace.

I don’t think I’ve become more demanding of Syfy original movies.
I think the network is coasting.  It needs to serve its viewers a
tastier cheese.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Midnight Secretary [Viz Media; $9.99 per volume] is a seven-volume
shojo series by Tomu Ohmi.  Originally published in the Petit Comic
magazine from August 8, 2006 to May 8, 2009, the manga is about the
relationship between executive secretary Kaya Satozuka and her boss
Kyouhei Touma.

Kaya is beautiful with something of a baby face.  She dresses in a
severe manner so she will be taken seriously.  Kyouhei is a jerk.
He disdains most humans, which is something of a problem since his
father is a human.  Vampires cannot have children with vampires and
the children of human/vampire pairings produce offspring who are
one or the other.  Kyouhei’s brother, likewise an executive at the
family corporation, is a human.

Kaya is a compelling protagonist.  She accepts the job as Kyouhei’s
secretary even though he has a reputation for being an impossible
boss.  She does this to protect her mother’s job and because she’s
determined to the best secretary at the company.  This isn’t some
wild hope on her part.  She really is excellent at what she does,
which, once she finds out what her boss is, includes scheduling
“dates” with the women he feeds off of.

Kyouhei doesn’t kill his meals.  He brings them exquisite pleasure
and this makes their blood more satisfying to him.  But, when his
exposure to sunlight makes him dangerously weak, Kaya freely offers
him her own blood.  Thus begins a relationship that, though each of
them tries to keep the other at a distance, becomes closer and more
romantic in nature.  Of course, as of the second volume, Kyouhei is
still an enormous jerk.  At least he has five more volumes in which
he can improve his rotten personality.

Ohmi is a fine storyteller.  She lets readers know what they need
to know to follow these characters and understand the nature of the
vampire in the world of this series.  She draws gorgeous women who
are honestly sexy.  So sexy that the series is quite rightly rated
“M” for mature readers.

Manga and especially shojo manga isn’t for everyone.  But if you’ve
an interest in this type of story, I recommend you give it a try.

Midnight Secretary Volume 1:

ISBN 978-1-4215-5944-5

Midnight Secretary Volume 2:

ISBN 978-1-4215-5945-2


Random musing.  I don’t attention to online chatter about DC’s “New
52" stuff because those comics mostly suck.  I’m something like a
year behind in reading issues loaned to me by a pal, so I haven’t
reached the “Year Zero” issues of the Batman titles.  Which brings
me to this...

Is there really some indication in these comics that Dick Grayson
was not the first Robin?  I’m still unclear on whether or not Tim
Drake was ever Robin in this awful new continuity or if Stephanie
Brown ever existed.  But to have someone other than Dick Grayson be
the first Robin just seems terribly wrong to me.

Don’t worry about spoilers.  That ship already sailed.


Another random musing.  So I’m reading the excellent The Secret
History of Marvel Comics: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting Artists
at Martin Goodman's Empire
by my pals Blake Bell and Dr. Michael J.
Vassallo [Fantagraphics; $39.99], which I’ll be reviewing at length
in the near future.  While reading, I suddenly find myself totally
fascinated by and curious about Snafu, a magazine-size imitation of
MAD Magazine.

Three issues of Snafu were published in 1955 and 1956.  Edited and
mostly - if not entirely - written by Stan Lee, each issue was 68
pages counting covers.  Artists known to have contributed to Snafu
include such legendary talents as Joe Maneely, John Severin, Russ
Heath, Howie Post, Bill Everett and Marie Severin.  Naturally, I’d
like to read and own these issues.

So let’s add The Complete Snafu to my list of books I really wish
existed so that I could buy them.  Reprinting the three issues from
cover to cover would run 204 pages, a respectable page count for a
hardcover collection or trade paperback.  Come on, Marvel Comics,
I don’t ask you for much.


I let an important anniversary pass without comment because I had
already written my blog for that day.  I want to acknowledge that
anniversary today.

Friday, November 22, was the 50th anniversary of the assassination
of President John F. Kennedy.  He was the first president of whom
I was profoundly aware because, like my family - and myself at the
time - he was a Roman Catholic.  That was a huge deal for my family
and the Sts. Philip and James parish of which we were members.

A common right-wing paranoid fantasy of the time was that Kennedy
would be taking orders from the Pope.  Things have changed little
in that regard.  The right wing always goes to the crazy fantasies
to attack any President who’s even a little bit different from the
standard white Protestant model.  Sigh.

I remember the announcement coming over the public address system
at my school.  It was maybe the only time I ever saw the nuns who
were our teachers cry or visibly express sorrow.  So, in addition
to trying to process the unthinkable, we had to process the sight
of those scary black-clad women being human.

We were sent home early, no big deal in those days when most kids
had a stay-at-home mom.  My dad got home a little bit earlier, but
that wasn’t unusual.  His work day ended by four in the afternoon
or so because it started at four in the morning.

I have no memory of what we had for dinner.  We didn’t have a wide
menu and, in retrospect, I think my mother made the same meals on
pretty much the same days of the week.  Mom and Dad would have sat
on either end of the table, my older sister and I on the side that
was in front of the window that looked out on our back yard, my two
younger brothers across from us.

We didn’t talk a lot at dinner.  Mostly it was the kids telling our
parents what happened at school or what homework or projects that
we had to do.  My father might tell my mother something about the
folks from our old neighborhood.  If we spoke at dinner at all that
evening, it was less than our usual conversation.

None of our regular TV programs were on.  Both of my parents were
in the living room watching the news reports.  I did my homework in
the living room, but I’m not sure any of my siblings were there on
that night.  My sister tended to stay in her own room, my brothers
might have been in the upstairs room we shared.

If I didn’t need a desk, I did my homework while sitting in a very
comfortable rocking chair.  I did what little homework I had - our
teacher hadn’t given us much - and I maybe worked ahead in my math
workbook.  If my teachers didn’t keep an eye on me, I would finish
the workbooks months ahead of the class.  Grade school was not very
challenging for me.

I do remember the comic book I read a couple times while my parents
watched TV.  It was Adventure Comics #314 [November 1963], which I
think I got in a trade with a neighborhood kid and not by buying it
at the drug store.

In a story I now know was written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn by
John Forte, the Legion of Super-Heroes battled “The Super-Villains
of All Ages!”  A rejected Legion applicant steals one of their time
machines and brings Nero, Dillinger, and Hitler to the future era
of the Legion.  He puts their minds into the bodies of Superboy,
Mon-El and Ultra-Boy.  Saturn Girl pushes the treacherous trio into
turning on each other.  I barely remember the Superboy solo story
that followed the Legion adventure.

I do remember not liking the story much, which might be why I read
it more than once that night.  With the TV reports about Kennedy’s
killing filling the room, comic-book villains, even villains based
on real-life villains, didn’t seem remotely real to me.  Though I
tried, I was unable to lose myself in my comic book.

I don’t have any particular deep thoughts on the anniversary.  It
has been called the day America lost its innocence, but fifty years
of life and study since then has convinced me we never really had
such blessed innocence, that we were simply better at covering up
the bad things of our country and our world.

Fifty years of conspiracy theories have not convinced me that Lee
Harvey Oswald was part of any organized plot against the country.
Fifty years of watching politicians, corporations and organizations
in action have not allowed me to rule out that there was some sort
of conspiracy.  Fifty years have convinced me that some people will
believe anything, no matter how outlandish, rather than accept the
most simple, obvious and proven truths.

But Kennedy was the first President I could truly call my own and
I say that holding nothing against President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
I liked Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, but I never felt
that connected to them either.  I could manage extreme dislike for
Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the second Bush and very little
emotion of any kind for Gerald Ford or the first Bush.  I can call
Barack Obama my own, but it’s a respect tinged with the now usual
disappointment I feel towards most politicians and public figures,
even the ones I vote for.

Did I lose my innocence or did I just get older?

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 25, 2013


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder, your elf-like columnist gives you holiday gift suggestions for the special fans in your life.


Courtesy of my local library system, I’ve been having a ball these
past several weeks reading IDW’s gorgeous Rip Kirby by Alex Raymond
volumes ($49.99).  They are four volumes of Raymond’s work on this
modern detective strip and they are part of the wondrous Library of
American Comics series edited and designed by Dean Mullaney.

I have very little history with Rip Kirby.  I’m pretty sure he was
in one of the local newspapers, but our house only got a newspaper
on the one day of the week my father could read it because it was
the only day he didn’t have to get up early to either make bread at
the legendary Isabella Brothers bakery or deliver it to the stories
who sold said bread.  That made it hard to get attached to or even
follow strips, though somehow I still got hooked on Lee Falk’s the
Phantom during this period.  But I digress.

Raymond is best known for Flash Gordon, but, when he came back from
his World War II service, the syndicated had hired another artist
to draw Flash.  Rip Kirby followed thereafter.

Flash Gordon was a gorgeous strip with fantastic elements, but it
never hooked me the way Rip Kirby did once I could read the strip
on a regular basis.  Yes, Raymond had died tragically by then and
I was actually reading the strip as drawn by John Prentice, but it
still caught and kept my interest.  Reading Raymond’s run has made
me realize Prentice had been following an insanely tough act.  As
much as like the later Rip Kirby strips, these Raymond stories are
even better.

I like the Rip Kirby cast of characters.  Rip is this cool
detective who plays piano, is crazy smart, gets involved with some
of the most beautiful women ever to grace the comics pages and has
adventures that take him all over the world.  Butler Desmond, who
is a reformed criminal of some sort, is feisty and loyal and very
clever himself.  Girlfriend Honey Dorian is trouble-prone and too
understanding of Kirby’s involvements with other women - Hey, Rip,
just because they throw themselves at you doesn’t mean you always
have to catch them - but she’s one of the more likeable beauties to
grace the strip.

Rip Kirby is a tough strip.  For all the glamor and there’s a lot
of glamor, there are also some truly despicable villains. Killers,
kidnappers, blackmailers and con men.

The Mangler is Kirby’s most persistent foe.  He’s as brutish as Rip
is skilled and with a predatory animal’s cunning.  He’s the perfect
counterpart to the suave detective.  I’m not big on villains coming
back again and again, but every Mangler appearance in these books
has been exciting.

Auto enthusiast Raymond died in a car crash.  He was at the height
of his artistic chops when he died too young.  Prentice came on to
finish Raymond’s last story and stayed around for four decades and
change.  IDW has published two volumes of the Prentice work and I’m
looking forward to reading those.

General recommendations. Rip Kirby is a great strip and well worth
reading.  The Library of American Comics is a tremendous publishing
program and awards should be heaped on Mullaney, IDW and everyone
else who makes it possible.  Books like these are why our present
time is the real Golden Age of Comics.

Rip Kirby Volume One (1946-1948):

ISBN 978-1-60010-484-8

Rip Kirby Volume Two (1948-1951):

ISBN 978-1-60010-582-1

Rip Kirby Volume Three (1951–1954):
ISBN 978-1-60010-785-6

Rip Kirby Volume Four (1954–1956):

ISBN 978-1-60010-989-8

Rip Kirby Volume Five (1956–1959):
ISBN 978-1-61377-356-7

Rip Kirby Volume Si (1959–1962):

ISBN 978-1-61377-710-7


The Tony Isabella Message Board was part of the World Famous Comics
website for many years.  It was the best and the most classy of the
message boards hosted at that site by the amazing Justin Chung.  It
was a place where lifelong friendships were formed.

Somewhere along the line, the message boards became known as Comics
Community and were hosted/sponsored by Kevin Smith’s “View Askew”
website.  This was not a good fit.

When I objected to the crudity found on Kevin Smith’s website - I
recall the logo being a crap-filled toilet - I added a disclaimer
to my message board telling my visitors that the presence of such
material and whatever advertising appeared on my message board was
not approved or endorsed by me.  One of Smith’s employees went into
hissy fit mode fit about my comments, but I stood my ground and
changes were made.

Well over a year ago, Comics Community shut down and it hasn’t been
back since.  I spoke to Justin about removing my message board from
that website, but the people who run Smith’s website have not yet
responded to Justin’s request for the coding he needs to move the
message board back to World Famous Comics.  I was willing to foot
the bill for my message board, but it’s been so long since then, I
have decided to just accept that Kevin Smith and View Askew don’t
care about Tony people. 

The Tony Isabella Message Board that launched at World Famous and
was done in by Comics Community is dead.  It won’t be coming back.

The new Official Tony Isabella Message Board, launched by my good
friend Jim Guida, can now be found on Facebook.  Yes, the message
board is now a Facebook group with all the benefits and occasional
unpleasantries attendant with being a Facebook group.  But it’s a
pretty nice place and getting nicer all the time as old pals find
their way to it and new pals sign up.  I invite you to sign up for
the new message board, enjoy the content being posted there and add
appropriate content of your own.

While I’m at it...

I want to thank the good people at The League of Extremely Nostalgic
for hosting their “Tony Isabella and Friends” forum while I was trying to
suss out what I wanted to do with my message board.  Having made my
decision, that forum has closed.  But I appreciate all they did to make the
Tipster feel welcome.  Please visit their other forums.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 22, 2013


Coming soon from Hard Case Books in the first publication anywhere
of The Wrong Quarry by Max Allan Collins [$9.95].  This is Collins’
tenth novel featuring the professional killer.

From the back cover:


Quarry doesn’t kill just anybody these days.  He restricts himself
to targeting other hitmen, availing his marked-for-death clients of
two services: eliminating the killers sent after them, and finding
out who hired them...and then removing that problem as well.    
So far he’s rid the world of nobody who would be missed.  But this
time he finds himself zeroing in on the grieving family of a
missing cheerleader.  Does the hitman’s hitman have the wrong
quarry in his sights?

No matter the series, I’ve never read a Collins crime, detective or
mystery novel I didn’t enjoy.  He’s one of my favorite writers and
I hope to read - and, in some cases, reread - all of his books in
2014 and 2015.  Except more mentions of his books in future bloggy

Hard Case Books published some of the best and best-looking books
in the field.  The Wrong Quarry is scheduled for release January 7,
2014.  Look for this novel and other Hard Case books wherever cool
books are sold and from online sellers.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


The Best* American Comics 2013 [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $25] is
this year’s edition of the anthology series that purports to offer
readers the best* of American comics.  Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
are the series editors, though this volume is their farewell to the
series.  Jeff Smith is this year’s guest editor.  The asterisk that
follows the word “best” in reference to the series and volume is my
doing for reasons that will soon be clear.

I buy and read The Best* American Comics every year.  The anthology
always leaves me angry and more than a little sad.  Because though
the series proclaims its offerings to be the best, the editors are
and have always been entirely in the tank for alternative comics,
independent comics and generally any comics that do not come out of
the mainstream of comics.  It’s a hipster country club that denies
membership to brilliant and skilled comics creators because their
work doesn’t conform to the editors’ artsy-fartsy notions of great
comics.  I’d be thankful for the departure of Abel and Madden if I
didn’t fear their replacement will be of the same mind set.

In his introduction, Smith implies contempt for the mainstream and
seems to ignore even the possibility that good comics can come from
the collaboration of a writer and an artist.  Only “cartoonists” -
those who both write and draw their own comments - are welcome at
The Best* American Comics country club.  However, in the interest
of accuracy, I mention that, despite Smith’s introduction, three of
the 30 comics in this volume are writer and artist collaborations.

Nothing from Marvel and DC is represented in this volume, though I
would make the case there were Marvel comics by creators like Mark
Waid and Matt Fraction that are as good as the stories selected by
Smith and company.  I suspect my readers could name several tales
from other mainstream publishers that were also worthy of appearing
in any collection of best American comics.  Again, in the interest
of accuracy, Dark Horse Comics has five entries in this anthology.
However, the overwhelming impression is that mainstream comics are
not welcome in the country club.

There is, as always, some amazing work in this year’s anthology.
Alison Bechdel, Brandon Graham, Craig Thompson, Eleanor Davis, Derf
Backderf, Terry Moore, Laura Park, Jeremy Sorese, Evan Dorkin, Paul
Pope, and others certainly deserve to be in this book.  In a couple
other cases, excerpts from graphic novels were too poorly selected
to convey the quality of those graphic novels.  Yet, interspersed
with the genuine gems, were entries whose writing was clumsy, whose
visuals were crude and unconvincing, whose storytelling was murky
for the sake of murkiness and whose lettering was of such slapdash
fashion that it made the reading of the entries painful.  These are
the undressed emperors of this anthology, darlings of those artsy-
fartsy types who want to believe their senses are so refined they
can see quality where little or none exists.

Every year, I keep hoping for a more inclusive edition of The Best*
American Comics
.  Every year, I am disappointed.  Every year, I say
to myself “never again” and then I come across those creators I’ve
never read before, those creators who stun me with the heart, the
skill, the honesty of their work.  This time around, those creators
were Laura Park and Jeremy Sorese. Next time around, I’m sure it’ll
will be other creators.

Yes, I will buy and read The Best* American Comics 2014.  Because
there’s always the chance that next year’s anthology will be what
I think it should least until Lucy or whoever next year’s
editor is pulls the football away from me.

ISBN 978-0-547-99546-5


Mark Waid is my favorite current super-hero writer except on those
days when a new issue of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City makes its way to
me.  Waid has a knack for taking characters who are part of a vast
universe - like Daredevil or the Hulk - and making them seem fresh
and new again without dumping the work of previous writers.  He’s
also created some terrific super-hero titles of his own, like, for
example, Incorruptible and Irredeemable.  In short, Waid is one of
the best in the comics industry.

The best baseball player in the world doesn’t bat 1.000.  Even so,
it was with considerable sadness that I read and called six strikes
on the first six issues of Dynamite’s Waid-written The Green Hornet
[$3.99 per issue].  Drawn by Daniel Indro and Ronilson Freire, the
series is set in 1941 before the United States entry into World War
II.  Classic characters. Classic setting.  What went wrong?

What went wrong is that Britt Reid, the Green Hornet, is a dick in
this series.  And not just a dick.  Britt Reid is a colossal dick.
He’s arrogant.  He’s callous.  He makes stupid decisions.  He takes
his “super-criminal” act so far that he actually becomes a criminal
without ever truly acknowledging that.  He’s not as bad as the foes
he fights - they’re freaking Nazis after all - but he’s pretty bad.
He’s unpleasant as Reid and vicious as the Hornet.  His moment of
realization that he was a colossal dick and that he had gone well
off the rails, that never really comes in the six issues.  Reading
them became a chore.

The other supposedly positive characters aren’t much better.  Some
are cranky zealots.  Most make bad choices.  I kept looking for one
character to hang my hat and hopes on, but I never found one.  For
the first time in years, Waid disappointed me.

My comics doctor, concerned about this sudden bout of depression,
told me to read three issues of Indestructible Hulk and call him in
the morning.


The Fox #1 [Red Circle; $2.99] is Archie Comics’ latest venture in
the super-hero genre.  The Fox is photo-journalist Paul Patton who
is carrying on in the mystery man tradition of his father.  He has
a wife and a son and, unfortunately, super-hero shticks that scream
“We’ve seen these before!”  Yeah, today has really turned out to be
my day of disappointment.

Plotter and artist Dean Haspiel is a tremendous talent.  In one of
the issue’s several text features, he talks about the Fox being a
great visual and he’s right.  Just looking at the character gives
me lots of ideas for images and storytelling.  However, beyond the
visual possibilities, there’s not much going on here.

The stories - there are two - have a dated feel to them.  Dated as
in old “Pop Art” Batman.  Dated as in the craziness of the Mighty
Crusaders comics from the 1960s.  The art pops from the comic book,
but it doesn’t pop with any substance.  Even with Mark Waid doing
the scripting, the comic book feels lightweight.

The Fox describes himself as a “freak magnet,” which was the Blue
Devil’s thing when that character was written by his creators Dan
Mishkin and Gary Cohn.  Here, the notion seems out of place for an
otherwise street-level super-hero.

Maybe I’m just a grumpy puss today, but The Fox didn’t do anything
for me.  The MLJ/Archie super-heroes have a spotty, decades-long
history that has seen just about everyone get a crack at them and
do them badly.  The bright spots have been few and far between.  I
was hoping Haspiel and Waid would pull it off.  Sigh.

I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Kathy by Stan Lee and Stan Goldberg is one of my guilty pleasures.
As much as can be said that I collect an old comic-book series, I look
for and occasionally buy old issues of Kathy.  There were 27 issues
published from October 1959 to February 1964.  I have three, maybe
four issues of the series.  I’m pretty sure there’s a first issue
somewhere in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff and, as of this week, I
also own Kathy #5 [June 1960].

The Kathy stories in this issue run from a single page to 4 pages.
There are a couple pages of half-page gags.  There’s a Kathy paper
doll page with three dresses designed by readers.  There’s a black-
and-white “Design Your Own Patterns” page.  There’s a pin-up page
that’s also in black-and-white.  There’s a two-page prose story of
the kind I never read.  All in all, readers got 25 pages of comics
and features for their dime.

It wasn’t until this moment that I thought about why I like Kathy.
I enjoy Stan Lee’s teen humor writing, but I can’t say this is his
best work in the genre.  I love Stan Goldberg’s art of this period.
It’s freer than his later work for Archie Comics.  Kathy and the
rest of the cast aren’t blindingly original or anything.  Somehow,
the sum of these parts adds up to a very enjoyable whole.  Whether
I can explain it or not, I just like this title a lot.

One more thing about this issue.  There’s a bit of corny dialogue
that, filtered through our modern sensibilities, made me just a bit

KATHY’S MOM: Kathy has been reading that one letter all afternoon!
Do you think she feels all right, dear?

KATHY’S DAD: I dunno...I haven’t felt her lately!



This week, I read Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1-007 plus Guardians
of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers
#1.  What with Marvel publishing
so many Avengers titles, I’m seriously consider changing the name
of my blog to Tony Avenger’s Bloggy Thing.  I think my line-up of
heroes would consist of Misty Knight, Tigra, the "Friend" from Ghost
Rider and It the Living Colossus.

Both GOTG: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1 [$4.99] and GOTG #0.1 [$3.99]
lead into GOTG #1 [$3.99].  The first has solo stories of Drax the
Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora and Groot.  The Groot story was
kind of fun, the others not so much.

GOTG #0.1 was a much better comic.  Written by Brian Michael Bendis
with art by Steve McNiven (pencils) and John Dell (inks), it covers
the birth and childhood of Starlord Peter Quill.  Getting all that
background before the regular series worked for me.  It gave me a
good sense of the main protagonist.

Written by Bendis with art by McNiven, Dell, Sara Pichelli and a
few others, the ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy title is fun. Iron
Man is hanging out with the Guardians and it’s amusing to see the
usually smartest guy in the room Tony Stark struggling with being
something of a cocky yokel.  The banter between Stark and Quill is
generally entertaining, but it does get old on occasion.  What is
already incredibly old and annoying - besides me - is the frequent
Murdered you” exclamation of Rocket Raccoon.

In other GOTG stuff...Earthlings messing around with time travel is
the equivalent of leaving a steamy poop on the nice white carpet of
the other civilizations in the universe and they’ve ruled Earth is
off limits and in need of extreme punishment.  Quill’s father turns
out to be a complete jerk and has nefarious plans for the universe.
Thanos is back and Angela has crossed over from the world of Spawn
and various lawsuits to appear in the series.  Groot continues to
be wonderful in so many ways.

Personally, I’ll never forget when Groot looked at me and said “I
am Groot.
”  Words to live by, my friends.  Words to live by.

I’m enjoying Guardians of the Galaxy.


Bela Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave #4 [Monsterverse; $3.99] packs
a lot of story and talent into its 32 pages.  Published and edited
by Kerry Gammill, the mostly full-color issue has scary tales that
don’t descent into mindless gore or depravity, as well as some cool
features for fans of classic horror and monsters.

The best stories of the issue were “The Evil Eye” by Lowell Isaac
and “The Monster” by writer Ed Polgardy with artist Rob E. Brown.
Both are tales of childhood cruelty and the consequences thereof,
but are different enough that I didn’t notice that until I started
writing this review.  The latter story employs a duo-tone coloring
more effective than full color would have been for the tale. I was
also impressed by Gammill’s poetic “Prince Vlad’s Banquet” with
stunning art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Bela Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave seems to be an annual release,
timed to hit the comics shops just before Halloween.  I’m looking
forward to next year’s issue.


A reader asked why I haven’t reviewed any of the new Valiant comics
titles, which he enjoys very much.  There’s nothing nefarious about
this omission, just economic and personal realities.

Valiant hasn’t sent me any review copies of its titles, which isn’t
surprising.  Few publishers still do that.

The good friend who loans me his comics after he reads them doesn’t
buy any of the Valiant titles.  So I don’t see and read them that
way.  I’ve probably read and maybe even reviewed a Free Comic Book
Day offering from the publisher, but I honestly don’t recall having
done that this year.

My own limited comics buying budget goes mostly to collections of
classic (and not so classic) comics, old comics, some manga and an
assortment of titles that generally don’t include series that are
part of some fictional universe.  For example, I don’t buy any DC
“New 52" titles.  I prefer self-contained titles.

What I can do is look into to whether or not Valiant has released
any collections of its current titles and see if those collections
are available through my local library system.  If they are, then
I’ll start requesting them.  That doesn’t guarantee reviews - that
depends on whether I like or hate them a lot and if I have anything
interesting to say about them - but it’s the best I can offer that
disappointed reader.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


If you came here looking for our usual mix of comic books and pop
culture, I have some bad news for you.  Today is another a column
on the Medina City Schools Board of Education and how that arrogant
group has once again proven itself utterly unworthy of our trust.

For a “what has gone before” summation of the Medina situation, I
direct you to my bloggy things of October 23 and November 7.  Those
should bring you up to speed.

Pretty much the first thing the school board did after the school
levy passed was to hold a nigh-secret meeting in Columbus, some 100
miles south of Medina.  Yes, they announced the meeting as they are
required to do by law.  Yes, they claimed this was just a matter of
convenience since they would all be at an educational conference in
Columbus.  No, I wasn’t buying those excuses.  You don’t hold any
board meeting out of town unless you’re up to no good.

It’s such a burden to be proven right again and again when it comes
to the Board of Education.  Among the matters the board discussed
at their Columbus sleepover was giving a new, five-year contract to
the district treasurer.  Which is what they almost gave disgraced
former superintendent Randy Stepp until their Medina Elite cronyism
was exposed by our vigilant teachers union.

There’s more.  The role of Treasurer Jim Hudson in the ethical and
financial malfeasance of the former superintendent and the school
board has not been fully investigated.  There remains somewhere in
the neighborhood of a million dollars that may have been improperly
spent in recent years. 

There’s even more.  Apparently, the school board has been talking
about this extended contract in their executive sessions, which are
closed to the public, for several months with nary a word about it
to the public.

There’s even more.  By law, even draft contracts are supposed to be
available to the public.  However, the board refused the request of
The Gazette, a local Medina newspaper, for a copy of the contract.
It refused the request of the Medina City School Outrage Page for
a copy of the contract, It refused the request of various private
citizens for a copy of the contract.  On the other hand, the board
did give a copy of the contract to very-connected Robert Skidmore,
who, though he won election to the school board earlier this month,
has not yet been sworn into office.  Him, they give a copy of the
contract to.  Incredible.

From the Medina City Schools Outrage Page:

“They’ve drafted a contract, and they have a copy available to all
the board members, I assume. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be
available to the public.” -- Tim Smith, professor emeritus at Kent
State University, expert in media law, arguing that the contract
should be public under Ohio law, even if board members had not yet
voted on it.

So, a mere two weeks after the successful passage of the levy, the
school board was still engaging in the illegal activities that put
the levy passage in jeopardy.  Though the contract was finally made
public yesterday, it’s no wonder posters to the Medina City Schools
Outrage Page are saying they regret having voted for the levy and
will never do so again.  

There’s more. Doug Adamczyk and Tom Cahalan were appointed to the
board earlier this year to fill spots vacated by board members who
resigned early on.  Initially, they seemed to be open to engaging
with the voters and to represent a departure from the usual secrecy
of the board.  That turns out to have been a sham.

Adamczyk and Cahalan kept the treasurer contract talks secret from
the community.  They were the first to call for the contract to be
voted on earlier this week, despite the board’s refusal to provide
copies of the contract to the public as required by law.  They are
as dishonest as the rest of this disgraced board.  Sadly, they both
won their elections to remain on the board.

Who has been pushing for the extended contract big time? That would
be Bill Grenfell, another disgraced board member who chose not to
run for reelection because he knew he would never retain his seat.
He was also the fellow who thought it was perfectly fine to allow
Randy Stepp to extort an exaggerated salary and ridiculous perks
and even a signing bonus.  When the board voted to rescind Stepp’s
contract extension on the basis that granting it violate Sunshine
laws, Grenfell voted to honor the illegal contract.  Yeah, there’s
a piece of work for you.

In a secretive executive session, the board members voted to reduce
Treasurer Hudson’s new contract to a three-year-deal.  They wanted
to vote on it with virtually no discussion.  Hudson requested the
matter be tabled for a month.  It’s a meaningless gesture and the
treasurer knows that.

In December, the same five board members who were ready to vote on
and approve the contract will still be there.  Adamczyk, Cahalan,
Grenfell, the arrogant and intolerable Susan Vlcek and the even
more arrogant and intolerable Karla Robinson.  They were all ready
to approve the new contract.  What do you figure are the odds they
will have changed their minds a month from now? 

Vlcek and Robinson have said they will resign their board positions
in January and May.  At this point, I can see them rescinding the
resignations.  They and the other board members have been shown to
have no shame.

Even if they do resign - and I don’t think they should be allowed
to determine the date of their departures - I suspect the remaining
board members will simply appoint other well-connected members of
the Medina Elite.  They’ll overlook the candidates who received
3877 votes and 3831 votes (roughly 14% of the votes each) and pick
the same old same old. 

Meet the new school board, same as the old school board.   

Almost every day, someone on the Medina City Schools Outrage Page
posts that they feel duped and that they regret having voted for
the school levy.  Almost every day, someone posts they will never
again vote for a levy.  That’s on the school board.

The passage of the levy was not a vote of confidence in the board.
At best, it was a vote to give the board a chance to earn back the
trust it squandered years ago.  It took all of two weeks for this
board to blow that chance.

The school board members have broken the Medina City Schools.  I
wonder if anyone will ever be able to repair the damage they have
done to the system. 

The only thing I’m sure of is that, in their colossal arrogance,
they really don’t care.  Their claims to the contrary are without
merit.  They reveal their true natures by their actions.

Shame on them.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


If I had to describe myself in just two words, those words would be
“happy” and “overwhelmed.” Maybe that will change in a week or two,
but it’s where I am at this moment in time.

I’m happy for all the reasons I’ve expressed in the past - a great
wife, great kids, great friends, great home, great life - and some
I literally cannot express.  Recent good happenings will allow me
to finally get to work on some of the hundred or so projects on my
bucket list of things I want to write before I kick the old bucket.
It looks like they will also allow me to visit friends in both Los
Angeles and New York in early 2014.

The overwhelmed part comes because I have all sorts of stuff that
has to be handled before I can hit the writing and the road.  But
I get up every morning and chip away at the tasks that lie between
me and my plans.  My goal is to enter 2014 with my desk cleared and
my ducks in a row.  I’m a man on a mission.

Last week, Heidi MacDonald posted “Comics have hit puberty...and
it’s not pretty” at The Beat.  The article and the heated responses
to it discuss sexism in the comics industry, citing several examples
of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and dick-ish behavior
that, while not illegal, was certainly skivvy.

Articles like this make me terribly sad because the teenage Tony
who wanted to work in the comics industry more than anything else
he could imagine would be crushed to discover the industry is prone
to the same ills as other businesses.  The much older Tony doesn’t
handle the concept any better than his younger self would have back
in the day.  It hurts my soul when I hear of or witness incidents
of sexism, racism, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, racial
discrimination, racial harassment and the by now expected corporate
cruelty, dishonesty and general douchebaggery.

Whenever I read an article on this or related subjects, I respond
neurotically.  Did I ever see behavior like this and fail to offer
assistance? Did I ever commit such behavior? After four decades in
the comics industry and a few serious thumps to the head before I
got the hell out of New York, the answers to such questions aren’t
always at my command.  I’m fairly certain I’m a reasonably evolved
male, but maybe I committed offense at some past time without being
consciously aware of it.  I don’t think I have, but forty years is
a very long time.

I tried to write on this subject last week, but I ended up with a
lot of anecdotes that weren’t really on point.  I haven’t worked in
the offices of a major comics company since 1976.  I haven’t even
written for a major comics company in two decades.  All I can do is
react to the reports being shared by comics industry people who are
more active in the field that I am.  My shock and horror at these
things come from my soul and not any recent experience.

I may get around to sharing my semi-related anecdotes with you at
some time in the future.  But, right now, I’d rather listen to the
reports of those more recently involved in these things.


Validation is a terrific online comic by writer Christian Beranek
and artist Kelci Crawford.  Ally, the strip’s lead character, is a
transgender girl who is a comics fan and cosplayer.  In the latest
strips, Ally and a friend have found themselves at odds with comics
writer Gary Howard.

Howard proclaims cosplayers are not “real fans” and that they only
cosplay because they want attention.  He seems to think only people
who actually make comic books can decide if someone is a real fan
or not.  Don’t worry.  I’m not gonna debate a fictional character
here, but I will take issue with the real life inspirations for Howard.

No one I can think of gets to decide who is or isn’t real fan and
I say that having expressed the opinion in the past that fans who
support corporations over creators aren’t real fans.  I withdraw my
earlier comments.  Fans who support corporations over creators can
be real fans.  But they are also colossal douche bags.

I love cosplay and cosplayers.  They make me smile, even when their
costumes might not be the best choice for their body types.  Heck,
I’m a short and tubby old man.  What do I care if someone wants to
be Wolverine or Wonder Woman for a day?  Why should Howard
and his real-life ilk deny them their fun?

And what’s a “real fan” anyway?  I don’t recognize half or more of
the costumes I see at conventions because I don’t play video games
or watch much anime.  I don’t always recognize some of the variant
versions of DC and Marvel characters.  Some cosplayers might never
have read a comic book featuring the characters they portray.  Big
freaking whoop.  If they love the character in whatever form they
encountered the character, that’s fan enough for me.

The moral of this story is:

Cosplayers good, arrogant asshats bad...and you should be reading


If you weren’t absolutely charmed and thrilled by the adventures of
Batkid in San Francisco last Friday, then you are dead to me.  I’m
sure some of the usual online idiots made various cruel jokes about
five-year-old Miles, but their souls were long ago sucked away by
the video games they play in their parents’ basement.  The rest of
us...we love Batkid.

Don’t tell the Penguin or the Riddler, but Batkid was five-year-old
Miles, who has battled leukemia for three years and who recently
completed his treatment.  Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he
was able to achieve his dream of being Batman for a day.

Several blocks of San Francisco were turned into Gotham City for a
day.  Batkid was driven around in a Batmobile, stopping the Riddler
from robbing a bank and the Penguin from kidnapping the mascot of
the San Francisco Giants.  At the end of his crime-fighting shift,
the Diminutive Detective received the key to the city.  He was got
recorded thanks from President Barrack Obama and the cast of Arrow.
Oliver, Felicity and Diggle thanked Batkid for making the criminals
of Starling City law low and allowing them to actually go out for
lunch.  I can’t even express how cool all this was.

Veteran bloggy thing readers know how little I care for how Batman
and other characters are currently portrayed by DC Comics.  Classic
characters have been turned into sadists and the essential optimism
at the core of the super-hero genre has been eroded by editors and
writers who insist on bringing super-heroes into their own twisted
dark fantasies.  But...

Look at Batkid.  Look at the joy these characters, hero and villain
alike, brought to him and all the volunteers who made his dream a
reality and all of those who witnessed the day from afar.  That’s
what DC Comics and Marvel Comics should be tapping into for their
comic books and their movies.  

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Monday, November 18, 2013


Here’s another new book from Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books.  Under
the Kenneth Robeson byline, Lester Dent wrote both the Doc Savage
adventures reprinted in Doc Savage #70: The All-White Elf and The
Wee Ones
[$14.95].  From the back cover:

The All-White Elf’s blinding light inflicts severe illness on Monk
and Ham.


Reports of a strange miniaturized woman set Doc on the trail of The
Wee Ones.

The novels first appeared in, respectively, March 1941 and August
1945 issues of Doc Savage Magazine.

Besides the usual great historical essay by Will Murray, the volume
also features an eight-page comic-book story of Cap Fury from the
short-lived pulp magazine The Skipper.  The comic story was adapted
by Jon L. Blummer, an early artist on the Long Ranger comic strip
and the creator of Hop Harrigan.  The story comes from Doc Savage
#5 (1941).

As with other Sanctum Books editions - The Avenger, The Shadow and
others - these Doc Savage double novels are entertaining journeys
into the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made
books and I regularly despair I might never get around to reading
all of them.  But what I can and will do is let you know about the
new releases as they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the

© 2013 Tony Isabella


This week in "Tony's Tips" at Tales of Wonder...I talk about conventions, a great behind-the-scenes book about Walt Disney and his creations, a huge Archie digest and Life With Archie.  Check it out!


Recently published by Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books is Doc Savage
#69: “The Munitions Master” and “The King of Terror”
[$14.95]. The
first of the two novels is written by Harold A. Davis and saw print
in the August 1938 edition of Doc Savage MagazineFrom the back
cover: With the world on the brink of global war, its leaders order
the arrest of Doc Savage when The Munitions Master frames Doc for
the “Burning death.”

“The King of Terror” was written by Davis and Dent and appeared in
the April 1943 Doc Savage Magazine.  The back cover blurb: After
narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Doc Savage is abducted
to the South Pacific where a bizarre plot is being hatched by The
King of Terror.

Rounding out this volume is another great historical essay by Will
Murray.  Even when I don’t have time to read the Doc Savage novels,
I always read Murray’s intriguing commentaries.

As with other Sanctum Books editions - The Avenger, The Shadow and
others - these Doc Savage double novels are entertaining journeys
into the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made
books and I regularly despair I might never get around to reading
all of them.  But what I can and will do is let you know about the
new releases as they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Sunday, November 17, 2013


From my pal Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books comes The Avenger #11:
The Happy Killers, The Black Death & Cargo of Doom
[$14.95]. The
novels were written by Paul Ernst and Emile Tepperman under the
Kenneth Robeson house name. Ernst wrote the novel-length stories
and Tepperman did the shorter adventure.

The Happy Killers first ran in the March 1942 issue of The Avenger.
From the back cover: A stolen formula transforms ordinary people
into superhuman murder machines.

The Black Death is from the May 1942 issue of the magazine.  Again
from the back cover: Targeted with The Black Death, The Avenger
must unmask the satanic mastermind behind the Black Wings Cult
before his own life is forfeit.

Cargo of Doom originally saw print in the May 1943 edition of Clues
Detective Stories
.  From the back cover: A child makes an appeal
for help to Richard Henry Benson, leading The Avenger along the
deadly trail to a Cargo of Doom.  

The historical essay by Will Murray goes beyond offering insight
and information into these stories.  In it, Murray writes how MLJ’s
Zip Comics plagiarized The Avenger’s origin story for a short-lived
character called “The Scarlet Avenger.”  MLJ would abandon most of
its adventure and super-hero features as Archie, the company’s most
famous and successful character, pretty much took over the place.
MLJ even changed its name to...Archie Comics.

As with the other Sanctum Books series - Doc Savage, The Shadow and
others - The Avenger double novels are entertaining journeys into
the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made books
and I regularly despair I might never get around to reading all of
them.  But what I can do is let you know about the new releases as
they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the way.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Recently published by my pal Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books is The
Shadow #76: “Death Ship” & “The Black Dragon”
. These classic pulp
tales were written by Walter B. Gibson, writing as Maxwell Grant.

“Death Ship” was first published in the April 1, 1939 issue of The
Shadow Magazine
. From the back cover:

With his alter ego compromised, The Shadow rises from the Pacific
Deep to confront Japanese agents and retrieve the U.S. Navy’s top-
secret Death Ship.

“The Black Dragon” ran in the March 1, 1943 issue, one year after
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  From the back cover:

At the height of World War II, The Shadow and Myra Reldon combat
the treacherous plots of the Black Dragon and his sinister secret

Of course, no Sanctum Books release would be complete without the
historical essays and insights of Will Murray.  In this volume, he
gives us background information on the stories in “Interlude” and
follows that with “The Man with The Shadow’s Face” wherein Murray
discusses the model for the famed crime-fighter.

As with the other Sanctum Books series - Doc Savage, The Whisperer
and others - these Shadow adventures are entertaining journeys into
the heroic fiction of the pulp era.  They’re wonderfully made books
and I regularly despair that I might never get around to reading
them all.  But what I can do is let you know about the new releases
as they appear.  More Sanctum Books news is on the way.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Friday, November 15, 2013


Marvel Comics sent me a copy of Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection:
Cosmic Adventures
[$39.99] on account of the full color, just-over-
500-pages volume reprints four of my stories.  This is one of the
things I love about Marvel.  When the company reprints my work, it
sends me a copy of the reprint.  If the reprint sells well enough
to earn royalties, the company sends me a check.  Not only have I
never had to chase Marvel for my money, but, on several occasions,
the first time I’ve learned of the reprint is when I get the book
or the check.

Contrast that with DC Comics.  Its policy is...if a creator catches
them doing something they owe the creator money for, the creator
has to fill out paperwork and maybe, if DC happens to be feeling
like not being a dick that day, then maybe DC will pay the creator
at one of the two times a year the company deigns to send out such
checks.  How super of them.

The Marvel checks? They get sent more than twice a year.  Indeed,
as near as I can determine, Marvel writes the checks whenever they
have money for creators.

I wasn’t aware of Marvel’s Epic Collections series until I received
Cosmic Adventures.  From the inside front cover:

The Epic Collections feature the best characters and stories from
Marvel’s vast history.  Volumes are not published in chronological
order - so start your collection today with this edition.

Cosmic Adventures is Volume 20 in the series.  The “cosmic” comes
from a story arc in which Spider-Man was given the power of Captain
Universe.  Other Spider-Man stories in this volume feature Venom,
the Punisher, Psycho-Man and more.  The reprints come from Amazing
#326-333 and Annual #24, Spectacular Spider-Man #158-160
and Annual #10 and Web of Spider-Man #59-61 and Annual #6.  Those
annuals are why I got a copy of this book, but I’ll get to that in
another paragraph or so.

The talent in this book is incredible.  Writers: David Michelinie,
Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Dan Cuddy,
Glenn Herdling and Peter David.  Pencilers: Colleen Doran, Sal
Buscema, Alex Saviuk, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Gil Kane, Steve
Ditko, Rich Buckler, Mike Zeck, Eliot R. Brown, Ross Andru, Alan
Kupperberg and June Brigman.  Original editors: Jim Salicrup with
Bob Budiansky.  And there are about two dozen other credits on the
first page as well.  Whew!

My stories? In 1990, Salicrup asked me to write four short stories
for the Spider-Man annuals.  “Amazing Fantasy” was a five-page Ant-
Man tale with art by Steve Ditko.  It appeared in Amazing Spider-
Man Annual
#24.  Veteran bloggy thing readers will recall I posted
my original plot and script pages for the tale - as well as Ditko’s
pencils - in September of 2011.

I had two stories in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #10.  The first
was a 12-page Sandman story continuing from the Sandman story that
ran in the Amazing Spider-Man Annual.  Penciled by Ross Andru and
Alan Kupperberg with inks by Mike Esposito, the story starred the
then-reformed Flint Marko being put on the spot by former teammates
the Wizard and the Trapster.

The second story was the first of four Rocket Racer stories I wrote
for Marvel in 1990 and 1991.  “What I Need on My Summer Vacation”
was penciled and inked by Kupperberg.  In this 10-page story, the
Racer, then in the employ of Silver Sable, is sent to my own Medina
County to recover stolen tech from the Pack Rats, scientifically-
inclined rednecks on a secret mission of their own.  I had fun with
the Racer, but I never topped the scene where he goes fishing with
Sheriff Andy Taylor. Really.

Medina was also the setting for “Child Star” in Web of Spider-Man
#6.  In this seven-page story, a toddler receives the powers of
Captain Universe to save the world from demons.  Steve Ditko drew
the story and the toddler was based on my own son Eddie.  I think
this story has been reprinted more than any other story I’ve ever
written...with the possible exception of the Tigra origin story in
Giant-Size Creatures #1.

It’s been years since I’ve read the stories in Cosmic Adventures,
but I’m looking forward to rereading them soon...and not just the
ones I wrote.  I think you might enjoy them as well.

ISBN 978-0-7851-8789-9


Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil is coming to an end and this makes me
sad.  I read issues #27-31 [$2.99 each] this week and that made me
even sadder.  This run is among the very best Daredevil runs in the
character’s half-century of publication.

In these five issues, we saw the conclusion of Daredevil’s battle
with the mysterious villain who has been plaguing him for much of
Waid’s run.  We saw Foggy Nelson battling cancer and it was so real
it hurt.  We saw the return of the Sons of the Serpent at the very
time when the excesses of the right are giving racists license to
express their abhorrent views.  And we got a one-issue team up with
the Silver Surfer.  Yeah. Silver Surfer.  And Waid actually made it
work.  The man must be juicing with some sort of writer steroids or
something.  He knocks it out of the park time after time.

What else do I like about Daredevil? Beautiful art and storytelling
by artists Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez.  The mix of dark and
light in Matt Murdock.  Maybe the best recap pages in all of Marvel
Comics with its clever use of Daily Bugle front pages.

How good is Daredevil? When Marvel publishes one of those big-ass
omnibuses collecting the entire Waid run, I’m gonna buy that book
even if I have to go back to pole-dancing at bachelorette parties.
I just hope my spine holds out.

Daredevil is that good.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 14, 2013


New York City has long been considered the city of comic books and
with good reason.  However, two other cities are also noteworthy in
the history of the American comic book.  One, of course, is Sparta,
Illinois where the majority of comic books were printed for several
decades.  The other is Derby, Connecticut.

Derby was the home of Charlton Comics.  Despite being known for its
low rates and poor production values, despite existing to keep the
parent company presses rolling in between magazine runs, Charlton
published a whole lot of comic books and, within those many comic
books, quite a few good and even great comic books.

Charlton Spotlight [Argo Press; $9.95] explores the history of that
plucky little comics outfit from Derby.  Edited by Michael Ambrose,
the magazine has just released its eighth issue.  Its 56 pages are
filled with Charlton lore and more.

The cover feature is a long interview with writer and editor Nicola
Cuti, co-creator of E-Man and one of the great unsung comics men of
the 1970s and beyond.  Cuti talks about working at Charlton and the
talents whose paths he crossed: Wally Wood, Joe Gill, Bill Pearson,
Steve Ditko, George Wildman, Joe Staton, Wayne Howard, Sanho Kim,
Pat Boyette, Don Newton, Mike Zeck and others.  It’s an informative
interview and Nick’s friendly, thoughtful nature shines through in
every page of it.

Charlton Spotlight #8 also features an unpublished Doomsday+1 tale
written and drawn by Tom Sutton, Paul Kupperberg on the handful of
stories he wrote for Charlton and Ron Frantz on his friendship with
the legendary Alex Toth.

Charlton Spotlight is available through Diamond Comic Distributors
and here’s the ordering numbers on the most recent issues...

Charlton Spotlight #7 NOV131440 (1-29-14)
Charlton Spotlight #8 NOV131441 (1-15-14)

If you can’t get these fine issues through your regular supplier,
contact Michael directly at the Charlton Spotlight site.  I’m a big
fan of the magazine and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.


I read Captain America #4-12 [Marvel; $3.99 per issue) recently and
enjoyed the issues.  Cap has been trapped in Dimension Z for over
a decade, the prisoner of Arnim Zola.  During the first ten issues
by Rick Remender with artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson,
he’s been experimented on, escaped, defended the natural denizens
of the dimension, kidnaped/raised Zola’s son, met/fought Jet Black
(Zola’s daughter) and taken more punishment than I would’ve thought
even a super-soldier could survive.  It was a thrilling serial with
Cap battling to prevent Zola from turning “our” world into a world
of his clones.  The writing was great, the dynamic art was furious
and breathtaking.  Indeed, the only bump in the exciting road was
the seeming gratuitous death of a supporting character from “our”
world.  For reasons I won’t mention, I have no doubt the character
has somehow survived and will return, but the death struck me as
cheap shock value.

Cap and Jet Black are back on our world as of issue #11 and Carlos
Pacheco has replaced Romita Jr. as penciller.  Though only a short
time has passed on “our” world, Cap lived every one of those dozen
years in Dimension Z.  He’s more of a man out of time than ever as
he attempts to adjust to being back in his old life and to helping
Jet adjust to what is, for her, a brand new world.  I haven’t seen
evidence of his ordeal in any of the other Marvel titles he appears
in, but that doesn’t bother me.  I treat each and every Marvel book
as if it takes place in its own universe.  Please don’t hate me for
not wanting to deal with confusing continuity.

Nuke (from the classic “Born Again” arc of Daredevil) appears to be
the next big bad for Cap.  I’m looking forward to seeing how that
conflict plays out.


Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault #1 [$2.99] was published in
2011.  But this Roger Stern story was originally plotted in 1998.
It was pencilled by Neil Vokes and inked by Jay Geldhof, but never
scripted until twelve years later.  Already, this gives the issue
a certain coolness for me.

“This Old House” is set earlier in Stephen Strange’s career as the
master of the mystic arts.  It’s the tale of how he found the house
he has lived in since then and how he kind of sort of “tamed” it.
It’s almost like a Marvel Universe version of HGTV’s House Hunters
but with more supernatural menace.  I got a kick out of it.  It’s
worth hunting down in the back issue bins.

Over the decades, Marvel was published a lot of interesting one-off
stories.  Fill-in issues that were as good or better than a book’s
regular issues.  Guest stories by unexpected writers and artists.
Maybe it’s time for a  series of Marvel One-Shot Wonders books
that would reprint these forgotten gems.  I’d buy it.


Another candidate for Marvel One-Shot Wonders would be Incredible
#82 [August 2005].  In “Dear Tricia” by Peter David with art
by Jae Lee, Bruce Banner meets a minor sorceress minutes before her
murder in an exploding car.  In astral form, she asks him to find
her killer before her spirit dissipates so she can rest in peace.
It’s a brilliantly told tale with an ending that will stick to your
soul long after you’ve finished the story.  Like that Doc Strange
one-shot, it’s worth seeking out.


I’m still running a year behind on the Batman titles and just read
Batman Incorporated #0 [November 2012].  It’s a not unpleasant tale
of the start of the organization.  The story is credited to Chris
Burnham and Grand Morrison and the script to Morrison.  The art is
by Frazier Irving.  Morrison delivers a decent enough script with
some humorous bits.  Irving, whose work I generally like, appears
very much out of place with the material.

I love the idea of Batman Incorporated.  I love the idea of Bruce
Wayne using his fortune to mentor and train and sponsor heroes all
around the world.  I love the idea of Bruce Wayne being more than
just some disguise the Batman wears.  And, naturally, DC being DC,
the whole thing becomes undone in a “Who’s Who in the New 52" fact
page that describes the organization as “Batman’s army.”

Quoting: “But rarely is anything quite what it seems when it comes
to Batman’s strategies, and soon it was revealed that Batman Inc.
was part of a much larger against Talia al Ghul and
her counter-organization, the destructive force known as Leviathan.
A war is coming between Batman and Talia, with Batman Inc. and
Leviathan as their armies.”

BAM! We’re back into “Batman is a colossal dick” territory with the
revelation that Batman wasn’t creating heroes.  He was recruiting
unwitting soldiers for his ex-lovers war with Talia.  What a waste
of a great concept!

If Talia is a threat of global proportions, why doesn’t Bats call
in the Justice League and all the other existing heroes he’s worked
with in the past?  Take her off the map once and for all.  Move on
to the next threat.

But, no, DC’s Batman is an obsessive dick who’s not interested in
actually making the world a better place.  He’s only interested in
working out his issues as he sees fit and at considerable risk to
those around him.  What a wanker!

Other media has managed to portray Batman was something other than
a dick, at least on occasion.  Other media has portrayed him as an
actual hero and not a deranged sociopath.  But DC’s default setting
on the character always appears to be “colossal dick.”

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The second annual Akron Comicon took place on Saturday, November 9,
at the University of Akron’s Quaker Station.  I think it was held
in a TARDIS because it was way too big and way too much fun to be
a one-day convention.

My son Ed was my booth babe at the convention.  We sold a bunch of
books, comic books and a pair of Superman Underoos in its unopened
package.  Ed bought a Godzilla poster, a couple of volumes of Scott
Pilgrim, and a volume of a manga series.  I bought the above shown
Godzilla print by accomplished sketch card artist Daniel P. Gorman.
The blessings of the Great Scaly One be upon him.

The day was blur of good friends and terrific cosplayers.  The most
striking costume was a guy in an enormous Death outfit that had his
own music.  He came over to my table and I told him I was in good
health.  He shrugged his giant shoulders in disappointment.  I felt
bad for him so I pointed how pasty Bob Ingersoll was looking behind
his table.  With friends like me...

Among the other cosplayers was a sensational Wonder Woman with just
slightly gray hair and a great Catwoman from Batman Returns (1992).
I’m not a fan of the Michelle Pfeiffer fetish look for Selina Kyle,
but this cosplayer pulled it off.  Attorney Harvey Birdman was
also on hand; that was one of my favorite costumes.  I didn’t get
a count on how many cosplayers came to the Comicon, but my estimate
would be well over two dozen of all ages.

Akron native Mike W. Barr was at Akron Comicon, having received a
special award from the convention the night before the event.  He
was honored - and I’m going from memory because I didn’t take notes
when he showed me his award - for three firsts.  He wrote the first
Batman graphic novel.  He wrote the first ongoing Batman team book
in Batman and the Outsiders.  He wrote the first DC maxi-series in
Camelot 3000.  Mike or the convention can and should correct me if
I got any of these wrong.

Mike is a close friend and a terrific writer.  In fact, every time
I see him or talk to him, I wonder to myself why he isn’t writing
a couple of ongoing titles for DC Comics, the home of many of his
greatest successes.  He’s better than 95% of the writers currently
writing for DC and he can give the other 5% a run for their money.
I shake my head in characteristic bafflement at how DC Comics makes
its editorial decisions.

Tom Batiuk, creator of the popular Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft
newspaper strips, was also at the convention, selling and signing
The Complete Funky Winkerbean and other collections of that long-
running strip.  He’s my friend and neighbor here in Medina, Ohio,
so it’s not as if I don’t see him often, but, even so, it’s good to
see him receiving the adulation of his many fans.

Cartooning genius Craig Boldman was one of the convention guests.
Though he’s probably best known for writing a whole bunch of the
best and funniest Jughead comics of all time, Craig is one heck of
an artist as well.  We talked about comics we liked and comics we
didn’t like and I realized I need to figure out a way to team with
Craig for a project.

Ron Frenz, who has been drawing dynamic heroes since the 1980s, was
also on hand.  We only chatted briefly, but it’s always good to see
him sketching away.  He hasn’t lost an artistic step since he first
started working in the business.

I got a chance to talk with Mike Gustovich for the first time in a
couple decades.  I used to write his Justice Machine series at the
late Comico.  It was good to see Mike again.

Dirk Manning was there and he’s always a pleasure to see and talk
with.  This time around, we spoke of relative success in the comics
field.  He’s done terrific creator-owned project, but his mom was
most impressed by a work-for-hire Wizard of Oz comic book he wrote.
I’ve worked with legends like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but I think
what impressed my mom most was that I was friends with Jon Provost
of Lassie renown and that Sainted Wife Barb and I once took Jon and
Jay “Dennis the Menace” North to dinner.

My pal Michael May, who was a volunteer at Mid-Ohio-Con many years
ago, was also a volunteer at the Akron Comicon.  He told me about
the newest addition to his household: a pet skunk.  In fact, it was
his second pet skunk.  He then proceed to astound even more when he
told me he got the skunk from a skunk shelter.  Which is, believe
it or not, a real thing.

The shelter Michael described cares for well over a hundred skunks
with most - but not all - of them being descented.  In all the time
this shelter has been open, even when its still scented residents
would have their little spats, no skunk has ever released its toxic
spray.  The whole idea of a skunk shelter fascinates me.  I might
have to check it out in person.

Getting back to the guests...

Brad Ricca was at the convention.  He’s the author of Super Boys:
The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--the
Creators of Superman
[St. Martin's Press; $27.99], the best comics
biography ever written.  I reviewed this book in my “Tony’s Tips”
column at Tales of Wonder and recommended it to every comics buff
I know.  It was pleasure to finally meet the man who told Jerry and
Joe’s story better than anyone ever has.

Other old friends at the Comicon: Mark Pengryn, Mike Sangiacomo,
Gerry Shamray, Ted Sikora, Marc Sumerak, a furry ball of love known
as Chris Yambar and the insanely multi-talented Thom Zahler.  These
pals and the other great folks at the event made the Akron Comicon
a very special day for me.

The Akron Comicon is becoming a highlight of my convention travels.
Promoters Robert Jenkins and Michael Savene have learned a lot from
the many conventions they’ve attended and they are applying those
lessons to their own event.  Their biggest problem is how fast this
amazing convention is growing.

My prediction is that the Akron Comicon will keep having to move to
bigger venues as it continues to grow.  I can easily see the show
becoming a two-day event.  Finally, within five more years, I could
see this show being considered the real successor to Roger Price’s
Mid-Ohio-Con.  I’m looking forward to that time.

The next Akron Comicon will be on Saturday, November 8, 2014.  I’m
not sure where it will be held, but I’m already marking that date
on my schedule.  I’ll be there and, if you want to spend a fun day
with other comics fanatics, you should be there, too.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella