Tuesday, September 29, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Marvel and I are taking a time out. It's me, but it's also them.


There may be some SPOILERS AHEAD, but none you haven’t already seen on the Internet. Welcome to 2015.

Scream Queens stars Jaime Lee Curtis and that was reason enough for me to watch the two-hour series premiere. The premise is slasher movie basic: On the 20th anniversary of a horrible crime, an unknown killer is seeking vengeance by eliminating Kappa House sorority members one by one.

The execution - groan - of the show is darkly hilarious. From the seeming revenge motive of the devil-garbed killer to the absolutely awful sorority girls, it’s a funny love letter to those who love these movies.

I have a couple of concerns about the series. The slaughter mixed with satire was almost overpowering spread out over two hours. We might see a better balance when we’re only watching the series one  hour at a time.

The series has yet to give us a single character we can root for. To be sure, there are degrees of unpleasantness among the players, but every one of them has committed an actual crime or covered up a crime. Even if it’s a hero who must seek redemption,I need at least one hero  to emerge from the pack.

Will I continue to watch this series? The show scored points with a final scene I didn’t see coming...and that doesn’t happen often with me. Plus...there’s always the chance there will be scenes of Curtis in enticing stages of undress. Yes, I know that sounds more than a little creepy, but my feelings for the actress are genuine. Back when Curtis was a product spokesperson, I would even watch her Activia commercials.

Okay...a lot creepy.

Limitless is based on a Bradley Cooper movie I never saw. Despite that, I decided to check out the pilot of the TV series. Here’s the premise:

Brian Finch [played by Jake McDorman] is a musician who has drifted through life without achieving any success. Given a mysterious drug by an old friend, he’s suddenly able to access 100% of his brain. When that friend is murdered, Brian becomes the leading suspect. He ends up working with the F.B.I. to find the real killer. Since the drug eventually kills all its users and since Brian seems immune to that serious side effect, the Bureau decided to keep him around as a special consultant. He works with Special Agent Rebecca Harris, who is played by the very special Jennifer Carpenter. I love this actress, so this strikes me as excellent casting.

What I like about the series is Brian’s obvious love for his family and his eagerness to do good things to help people. Like comics, I think TV could use more “white hat” heroes like Finch. What I’m not as keen on is that usual vast conspiracy behind this drug and that the late father of Agent Harris might have been part of it. We are a sad country filled with scary conspiracies in our fiction and in our political discourse. Paranoia is the new black.

Limitless has earned my interest for now. If future episodes have as much going for them as this pilot did, I’ll be a regular viewer.

The Muppets is the newest TV show starring the beloved characters created by Jim Henson. The series is a behind the scenes look at a late night talk show starring Miss Piggy with Kermit as executive producer. It’s a more adult take on the former couple and the rest of the Muppet gang and, as such, it has generated its fair share of controversy...even beyond being deemed “perverted” by the moronic, math-challenged One Million Moms. A few thousand pseudo-Christian right-wing zealots do not a million make.

I understand the disappointment of the more reasonable Muppets fans who see the characters as strictly family fare. I think the series might be a more natural fit for HBO or Netflix. Still, even though there are jokes about drug use and sex, I found the material mild compared to most sitcoms.

The Muppets is just that: a sitcom starring comical characters who aren’t actually human but, like the ducks in the comics stories of Carl Barks and Don Rosa, to name two great creators, are generally treated as human. Fozzy is a bear and a concern to the parents of his girlfriend, but, in the world of this series, he’s just another kind of human being.

I found The Muppets funny and, at times, bittersweet. It really is sad that Piggy and Kermit aren’t a couple. It’s sad Fozzy and human girlfriend Riki Lindhome are forced to cope with the intolerance of her parents. But, woven into and around the drama, are funny lines about the band’s drug use, a catty rivalry between Piggy and guest Elizabeth Banks and the comical disrespecting of Tom Bergeron from Dancing with the Stars. I thought the show was fun. I’ll continue watching it as long as it remains fun.

Rosewood was an impulse watch. I happened to be in our living room with nothing to do but try not to think about how much I hurt from my dental surgery and decided to give it a chance.

The title character is a brilliant independent pathologist-for-hire with a congenital heart condition that could take him at any time. But he clearly lives a productive life to the fullest, is driven to find answers and help people, and takes a liking to a Miami police detective. The odd couple solve crimes together.

I thought the pilot episode was well-written and well-acted. I love that the leads [Morris Chestnut and Jaina Lee Ortiz] are people of color and thus more reflective of the United States as my country really is. Given my natural affinity for cop shows, I’m sticking with Rosewood to see how it develops.

The Simpsons received quite a bit of advance press for their season opener via their “leaked” storyline about Homer and Marge splitting up. That wasn’t exactly what happened in “Every Man's Dream,” but the episode was almost psychedelic in its shifting points of view. I found it amusing but uneven.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine launched its third season with a literal bang as detectives Peralta and Santiago finally gave in to their attraction for one another. It’s a heartwarming pairing and I hope the series keeps it going. There were other laughs from Captain Holt trying to endure the machinations of arch-enemy Madeline Wuntch and still more laughs from the precinct’s new captain. This is a well-acted ensemble show that makes me laugh week after week.

Look for more TV talk later in the week. I’ll be back soon with some other stuff. Probably comics, maybe politics, definitely not Cleveland baseball or football. I’m already in enough pain from my dental work.
© 2015 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 28, 2015


Back when there was but one new TV season per year, that new season was more of an event. Young Tony would study the “Season Premiere” issue of TV Guide thoroughly and try to determine which of the three channels he would try to watch at any given time. Of course, these days, I have more than three channels available to me and new shows and/or season launch throughout the year.

There does remain a certain excitement for the new “fall season” of television. Because of my painful and painfully slow recovery from last week’s dental surgery, I have watched a lot of the new season. If I write about it, I can delude myself into believing I wasn’t just goofing off. I was working.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

WARNING! There will be some spoilers ahead, but only when necessary for the discussions of some shows.

The Late Show with Stephan Colbert has brought this viewer back to the traditional late night talk show. Colbert - the real Colbert, not the right-wing pundit he played on The Colbert Report - is an appealing and talented host. His bouncy dance entrances have grown on me. His opening monologues - one standing, one sitting behind a desk - are well done with at least a few killer lines every night. Bandleader Jon Baptiste and Stay Human are terrific. Every after a couple weeks, the show’s opening graphics are impressive.

Colbert fans who are disappointed in the talk show appear to have expected that this show would be the liberal version of The Colbert Report. Instead, though Colbert is a thoughtful progressive in most ways, he quickly proved himself to be the best interviewer in late night. He has presented an interesting range of guests, some of them very serious people, and shown a knack for letting them reveal themselves. In the cases of guests like Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the revelations have not helped those individuals.

Colbert doesn’t score with every comedy bit, but he succeeds more often than not. His musical guests don’t do much for me, but they didn’t do much for me on his previous show either. However, just as with his previous show, The Late Show is must-record television and a great companion to my morning meals.

I had to watch Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris. NPH is not just one of my favorite entertainers. He is someone I admire as an entertainer and a force for good in the world. His opening show was a bit too frantic and uneven, but it did make me smile most of the time. In a world where I had more leisure time than I have at the moment, I’d be a regular viewer.  But...

There is a lot of work on my desk of late. There are a lot of shows and some sporting events I watch with family members. There are a great many “B” movies I want to watch as I contemplate and prepare for getting involved in the making of such movies. Best Time Ever just didn’t make the cut.

On the other hand, Best Time Ever is available “on demand.” It is likely I’ll watch at least some future episodes.

Two quick cuts. I lasted around five minutes each on Moonbeam City (Comedy Central) and We’ve Got Issues (E!). Comedy Central needs to be airing reruns of The Critic and creating new episodes as well. As for E!, it should launch another weekly series like The Soup to mock its own programming. The network needs to do much more penance for putting the Kardashians on the air.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

The Big Bang Theory kicked off with the welcome wedding of Leonard and Penny and the honestly heartrending breakup of Sheldon and Amy. Unfortunately, it then took the former into sitcom and soap opera cliche, failed to elicit any actual comedy or drama from the latter and made the recurring character Stuart even more pervy unsettling than he already was. I expect more from this series.

Gotham’s second-season premiere had me shaking my head. It zoomed from dark to can’t-see-my-hand-in-front-of-my-face-pitch-blackness in the first few scenes. Despite some great acting, this was tough to watch. Are there any heroes in Gotham? Are those characters redeemable at this point? I suspect I’ll be recording this series once Supergirl makes her debut.

Scorpion’s premiere moved too fast as well. The series has always demanded a high suspension of disbelief, but watching Walter [Elyes Gabel] and Paige [Katharine McPhee] cling to a weather balloon with the lives of ten million people in their hands was too over the top for me. The Walter/Paige and the Toby/Happy romantic relationships also moved too fast to be convincing. This show has fun characters and situations, but it needs to bring it down several notches lest it become a Mission Impossible parody.

Blindspot stars the wonderful Jaimie Alexander as an amnesiac woman covered with tattoos that predict future crimes and possessing mad secret-agent skills. Alexander is great in the show. The supporting characters less so, but still adequate to their roles. I like this one a lot.

In this debut episode, we learn Alexander’s Jane Doe agreed to the procedure that left her without memories of her past. The viewers learn this via flashback. The show’s characters don’t learn this. But there’s the problem with that as I see it. With a huge reveal like that, I will need to have a satisfying ending to this series. By the end of the first season. You can’t put that forward in the first episode and not deliver a satisfying payoff by the end of the season. Unless the writers have a great new direction for a second season, Blindspot should be one and done.

One more for today.

The season premiere of Castle came off like a homework assignment thrown together at the last minute. When the previous season ended, the series hasn’t been renewed. Beckett - aka Mrs. Castle - had two choices before her. She could become a captain or she could run for political office. Early in this season premiere, we learn that she is now the captain of her former precinct.

Instead of exploring the new dynamic between the lead characters, the show immediately sends Beckett off into some secret conspiracy crap that has her on her own, hunted by assassins and wanted by the police. Just a shade less silly than sending her and Castle off in a weather balloon.

Meanwhile, Castle has decided to go back into the private eye biz in a big way. He’s renovated his office into such a garish man-cave that Donald Trump would look at it and say “too much.” Daughter Alexis has taken it upon herself to join the private eye operation and, while actress Molly C. Quinn is usually up for any plot twist, she seems confused about this one.

The rushed nature of the season premiere is even more pronounced in supporting player Javier Esposito [Jon Huertas] who is noticeably heavier than in the previous season. Far from Tubby Tony to dwell on an actor’s appearance, but it’s a jarring change from the buff detective viewers had gotten use to.

Also...no appearance by the delightful Susan Sullivan as Castle’s mom. That just ain’t right.

Castle, usually so brilliant and entertaining, has disappointed me in the past. This time around, it feels like the series has begun a long, slow circling of the drain.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 27, 2015


PS Artbooks, a United Kingdom-based company, has been reprinting a vast assortment of public domain comics from the 1940s and 1950s in hardcover editions. Some of these volumes are excellent and others not so much. However, the collections are always interesting. Maybe I’m a comics history junkie, but I’ll always leap at the chance to read even lousy comics from those decades.

Growing up in the 1960s as a comics fiend, I never knew that these publishers, excellent and otherwise, even existed. When I learned of them, I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to buy and read entire runs of such titles. Which brings us to Pre-Code Classics: Weird Tales of the Future [$47.99], which collects all eight issues of that science fiction and horror series.

Weird Tales of the Future was originally published by Stanley P. Morse, whose comics were published under several different company shell names. The quality of these comic books was never high, but some talented artists appear in them. Those artists include Basil Wolverton, Ross Andru, Mile Esposito and, on some covers, Bernard Baily.

Wolverton is the star of the title. His “Jumpin’ Jupiter” stories are clever and honestly funny. His serious stories have an insane quirkiness and a distant kinship to the underground comics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. As for the other stories, there isn’t a standout in the bunch. At best, they are journeyman space opera and horror tales.  

Ironically, these inferior tales had a life beyond their original publication. Many were reworked - with added gore and viscera - for 1970s black-and-white magazines like Tales from the Tomb. Side by side comparisons of such stories would be interesting.

Pre-Code Classics: Weird Tales of the Future is for comics history fanatics like me. Just don’t pay full price for it.

ISBN 978-1-84863-811-2


The Simpsons remains one of my favorite TV series. While not every one of each season’s 22 episodes hits the mark, the show amuses me far more often than not. The same can be said for Simpsons Comics [Bongo Comics; $2.99 per issue), its Bart Simpson spin-off series and its various one-shots and specials.

While recovering from extensive dental surgery, a recovery that is, sadly, still ongoing. I read Simpsons Comics #220-223. I liked them a lot. Even when the execution of the basic concepts didn’t quite come together, those concepts were inventive enough to maintain my interest in the issues.

Issue #220’s “Drinker, Failure, Bowler Spy” has Ned Flanders going to Moe’s in search of a social life and being so appalled by said drinking den of despair that he opens his own bar. It’s written by Max Davison with art by Nina Matsumoto (pencils) and Andrew Pepoy (inks).

Issue #221's “Yellow is the New Black” sends both Marge and Homer to the Springfield Women’s Correctional Facility.” The script is by Eric Rogers with art by Phil Ortiz (pencils) and Mike DeCarlo (inks).

Writer Ian Boothby delivers the best of this latest batch with “Now You Wiggum, Now Your Don’t” in issue #222. Homer bonds with Ralph Wiggum in a touching story drawn by Matsumoto and Pepoy.

Simpsons Comics #223 has the most inventive story with “The Book of Jobs” by Max Davison. Homer is discovered to be a sort of nexus of Springfield job creation with hilarious results. The art is by Rex Lindsey (pencils) and Dan Davis (inks).

Simpsons Comics delivers fun and good value in every issue. If you haven’t checked out the Bongo titles in a while, I recommend you do so soon.


I’m not big on sword-and-sorcery comic books, but I always like to have at least one ongoing series in the genre on my reading pile on account of I love variety. Of late, that series has been Conan the Avenger [Dark Horse; $3.50]. Writer Fred Van Lente usually delivers solid adventure tales with entertaining daring-do, comely wenches of sometimes suspect morality, sinister sorcerers and cool creepy creatures. Though, on rare occasion, Conan doesn’t seem quite right to me and though the visuals are sometimes uneven - I like Eduardo Francisco better than Brian Ching or Guiu Vilanova - I continue to enjoy this title. I’ll keep reading it.


The Valiant Universe is getting a little complicated for my taste - that’s true of most super-hero universes these days - but, between helpful “The Story So Far...” summaries on the inside front covers of most Valiant issues and the writers of the issues doing a good job bringing and keeping their readers in the loop, I seldom feel lost in the stories. Even so, my preference is for more narrowly-focused stories that show me an angle I haven’t seen in dozens of other super-hero comics. That’s the case with Dead Drop [$3.99 per issue], a four-issue series in which some extraordinary “ordinary” young people hold their own with the super-humans.

There’s an alien virus on the market. The organization running the super-heroes wants it. But it’s been stolen by a thief and passed along from place to place through a dead drops scattered throughout New York City. X-O Manowar and Archer are called in to retrieve the virus. Things don’t go as planned.

Writer Alex Kot keeps the scenario believable. There’s a good deal of humor in these issues. Seeing ordinary protagonists run circles around far more powerful opponents speaks to my soul. I’m not sure what further meaning this limited series will have in the Valiant Universe’s future, but it was an enjoyable tale. It didn’t deliver a complete sense of closure, but it did offer a satisfying ending. Increasingly, satisfying endings to stories are becoming a rarity from the big universe publishers.

Kudos to artist Adam Gorman whose lively storytelling and drawing tickled my fancy. Additional kudos to coloring Michael Spicer for doing what colorists are supposed to do, bring hue and mood to the story without overpowering it.

As I said, my personal reading tastes are moving away from the big universe comics. Still, I like the Valiant books enough that I am  kind of sort of collecting them with an eye towards getting myself completely up to speed on them in 2016.

That’s my Sunday with comic books. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Saturday, September 26, 2015


In the beginning, at least for the purposes of this bloggy thing, there was Reptilicus, a 1961 Danish/USA film about a reptilian sock puppet that attacked Copenhagen and featured a toe-tapper of a song called “Tivoli Nights.” Audiences looked upon this movie and saw that it was goofy fun.

Reptilicus the movie begat Reptilicus the comic book, two issues of which were published by Charlton Comics, which was also publishing  ongoing Gorgo and Konga titles. With the third issue, probably because this title wasn’t selling nearly as well as the other two, Reptilicus the comic book begat Reptisaurus the comic book. It took anither issue or two before Reptisaurus stopped looking like Reptilicus. It took a few more issues for the renamed title to get cancelled. However, this was not the end of the begatting.

Reptisaurus the comic book begat Reptisaurus, a 2009 monster movie that has not yet been released in the United States. After viewing a YouTube preview of the film which include a blurb stating it was based on the Reptisaurus the Terrible comic book. At that moment, I knew I had to see this movie. My desperate quest began.

My desperation was born of my love for giant monsters in movies and comic books. I own Gorgo, Konga and Reptilicus on DVD. I have nigh-complete runs of their comic-book series. I tracked down and bought the novelizations of these movies, though I haven’t yet read those garish and sexed-up prose adaptations.

But the quest to see Reptisaurus (the movie) was a challenging one. As near as I can determine, it was never shown in theaters in the United States, it never aired on American television and it never got a U.S. release on DVD. Every now and then, a DVD of the movie would show up on eBay, but never in a version playable on American machines. My quest seemed doomed...

...until I discovered an online seller offering a DVD from Thailand that included the English version of the movie at a most reasonable price. I was a happy little monster child.

Much to my delight, the DVD would play on my machines. I did get a wee bit nervous when all the trailers were in a language I assume was Thai and without English subtitles, but the English version of the movie itself played without a hitch. The only downside was that it’s not a very good movie.

Here’s the quick plot summation:

On a remote island, military scientists have created Reptisaurus, an enormous, monstrous hybrid of a bat and a snake. The creature escapes from the lab, killing all the soldiers stationed there and all but two scientists. One scientist flees by boat, the other is presumed dead, but has taken shelter in the bombed-out remains of the island laboratory.

A two-man team is sent to eliminate Reptisaurus and cover up this ill-conceived operation. They are joined by four young survivors of a shipwreck. Commence the snacking on humans.

Reptisaurus does bear some physical resemblance to its comic-book inspiration, but the comics version was a prehistoric creature and not a man-made one. The CGI is so-so, but the movie doesn’t stint on showing Reptisaurus in action. Unfortunately, as is common with many CGI monsters, the creature’s size changes depending on what’s happening in a scene. It’s bigger than a fighter jet in the opening scenes, smaller when interacting with humans.

Directed by Christopher Ray, who has directed and produced a number of much better movies, Reptisaurus tends to follow plot development similar to many films of this sort. There’s the military guy whose only concern is for the cover-up and not for any soldiers or even civilians who would end up as collateral damage. There’s the usual characters you know are doomed to die from the moment you see them on the screen. There’s the same bloody body parts you’ve seen many times before.

The acting is sub-par. Gil Gerard plays the nasty military guy and, cinematically and figuratively, never leaves his office. Bernard Fredericks plays Major Dawson, the leader of the two-man team, and he’s not convincing when he’s being deceptive, sympathetic or hard-ass. Yahaira Love is leaden as the scientist left behind and She-Who-Must-Explain-the-Plot. The movie’s best performance comes from Frank Forbes, who plays the scientist who escaped the island and is willing to accept the consequences of letting the world knows what is going on there.

Sidebar note. According to his bio at the Internet Movie Database, Forbes “has recently created a comic book series.” I have not been able to find any additional information about that.


After Reptisaurus is destroyed, leaving Gerard disappointed by the inconvenient human survivors, Forbes springs the oldest plot twist in the world on him. Reptisaurus wasn’t the only monster created on the island. Cut to large eggs starting to hatch.


I’m glad I own Reptisaurus because I am an insane completist when it comes to Gorgo, Konga and Reptilicus/Reptisaurus. If the price I had to pay for owning this movie was having to watch it, I’m okay with that as well. But the best recommendation the film gets from me is that, if you love this kind of movie, it’s 83 minutes of this kind of movie. You’ve seen worse. So I have I.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 25, 2015


Raiders of the Lost Shark [2014] is, above all else, infectiously fun. I was either giggling or smiling throughout most of it, which made the whole “good movie/bad movie” thing moot for me. The low-budget film entertained me and that’s all I ever ask of any movie  I see. Here’s the somewhat exaggerated back-cover come on:

Four friends set out by boat for an idyllic vacation on a private, remote island. But unknown to them, a weaponized shark has escaped from a top secret military lab nearby, a shark that was genetically engineered with hate in its blood, and programmed to hunt any human within range. Now, these friends must band together to battle an all new brand of predator who will stop at nothing to remain at the top of the food chain.

Remember how I said this was a low-budget movie? It’s so low-budget that there are actually only three friends who set out on the boat. That’s one less sandwich multiplied by however many lunches the cast had during the shooting of the movie.

Raiders stars a bunch of actors you never heard of, but I loved how they embraced the silliness of this movie. As the grizzled sea dog  Captain Stuben, Scott McClelland had me on the floor when he tells his college student passengers that a shark took his hand. When one  young woman points out he has two hands, McClelland just stares at the hand like it was something unearthly. There is a great deal of humor in this film, some of it corny and some of it just cray-cray enough to work. The cast of characters includes a professor haunted by the death of her shark-eaten sister, a ruthless businesswoman, a mad scientist, lazy security guards, a lunatic sheriff and his suffering deputy, as well as the victims of both sexes and with a refreshing variety of body types.

Raiders was directed by Scott Patrick and written by Brett Kelly, David A. Lloyd and Trevor Payer. Brett Kelly Entertainment turned to Indiegogo for the necessary funds to complete the shark puppet used in the movie. Hooked by the title of the movie, I donated to the cause. For my contribution, I got “special thanks” recognition in the end credits.

Raiders has another comics connection as well. Comics artist-writer Janet Hetherington is one of the associate producers of this movie. Her secret cinema life also includes credits as an actress, writer and producer.

If you’re in the right frame of mind when you watch Raiders of the Lost Shark, as I clearly was, then you’ll probably get a kick out of it. As I did. If you’re not in that frame of mind, you won’t get that kick out of it.

I’m glad I rolled the dice on this one.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Boy Meets Girl is a 2014 romantic comedy/drama that won a bunch of awards from a bunch of LGBT film festivals as well as rave reviews in what I assume are LGBT magazines, newspapers and media. That’s a natural audience for this coming of age film about a transwoman in a world where my spell checker doesn’t recognize “transwoman” as a word. Since my taste in independent movies generally runs to those that debut on the SyFy Channel or are direct-to-video releases, I hadn’t heard of it until it was recommended to me by a friend

Directed and written by Eric Schaeffer, the movie is described thus at the Internet Movie Database:

Boy Meets Girl is a funny, tender, sex positive romantic comedy that explores what it means to be a real man or woman, and how important it is to live a courageous life not letting fear stand in the way of going after your dreams.

Robby [Michael Welch] and Ricky [Michelle Hendley] are best friends who live in a small town. Robby is a nice guy who has dated quite a few ladies. Ricky [Michelle Hendley] is a young transwoman who, though accepted by most of the people in her life, hasn’t been as  active in the romance department. Their friendship rings very true and that is the underlying story of the film.

When Ricky is befriends and romantically pursued by rich socialite Francesca [Alexandra Turshen], Robby finds himself in getting both confused and concerned. Francesca is engaged to be married to David [Michael Galante], a Marine who tormented Ricky when they were kids and teens. Things come to a boil when David returns home from the Middle East after completing his last of multiple tours of duty in that neverending war zone.

Hendley is compelling and radiant as Ricky. She has sorrows no one knows about, but she is also has a loving father [Randall Newsome] and a kid brother [Joseph Ricci] to whom she has been more than a big sister in the absence of their departed mother. Hendley’s Ricky can be funny normal, funny nervous and heartbreakingly vulnerable. She’s the standout member of an excellent cast.

I might not have been the precise target audience for this movie, but I am and always have been a sucker for happy endings. Pretty Woman [1990] is a fairy tale about prostitution that ignores that profession’s horrors, but it was saved by compelling performances laced with humor and one of the best closing lines of any movie I have ever seen: 
“She rescues him right back.” 
It’s not a movie that works on any logical or realistic level.

Boy Meets Girl is a movie that desperately strives for and achieves a happy ending. It doesn’t ignore the doubts, drama and rough going of going up transgender in a small town that has its fair share of cruel people. The coincidences and surprises that lead to its happy endings are only semi-believable. But the movie won me over because we all want a happy ending in our life and most of us want the same in the lives of other people. The LGBT community may always have to deal with bigots like Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee and hate groups like Liberty Counsel, but I think most Americans are coming around to the understanding that the pursuit of happiness applies to those who are both unlike and yet much like themselves.

I love movies with likeable characters and I love to watch as those characters overcome obstacles to find their happy endings. I like  spending time in a cinematic world where things do work out the way I wish they would work out in the real world.

Boy Meets Girl is a compelling and funny and even informative movie that will tug at your heart. Its gets my highest recommendation. It even has a killer line, spoken by Newsome but actually a quote from Hendley’s real father:

“That kid of mine has been throwing me curve balls my whole life. But luckily, I played baseball."

I look forward to Hendley’s next role. She is an amazing actress.


After viewing a television add for Hotel Transylvania 2, which is opening tomorrow at US theaters, I was mildly interested in seeing Hotel Transylvania [2012]. Giselle, my “other daughter” by virtue of being my daughter Kelly’s best friend since they were children, told me I’d like it. She was right.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database blurb:

Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and written by a bunch of writers, the animated feature stars Adam Sandler as Dracula. Normally I flee in terror when I hear the name “Adam Sandler,” but, in this case, he submerged himself so completely into the role that I honest-to-Godzilla didn’t realize it was Sandler voicing the Count. He did a great job. Kudos to him and to fellow voice actors Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James and Steve Buscemi.

I liked most everything about this suitable-for-most-ages movie. The character designs were wonderful. There was comedy and even some drama. It was an hour-and-a-half well spent and, if some savvy comics publisher were to get the license to do Hotel Transylvania  comic books and show the further savvy to hire me to write them, I could write the heck out of them.

I give high marks to Hotel Transylvania. If I can get enough stuff done over the weekend, I’ll likely go see Hotel Transylvania 2 at a weekday matinee.

Coming up over the next week or so, I’ll have two more reviews of monster movies...some comic book reviews...a think piece on Batgirl...another think piece on Archie Comics...another “Angry American" column...my report on Pulpfest 2015...and whatever else pops into my head in the days to come.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Dripping with Fear (the new Steve Ditko Archives), Will Murray's Tarzan Return to Pal-ul-don, and bold new manga hero Inuyashiki!


Readers of my Facebook page and my Twitter account know that I have taken to posting an item a day from “my other bucket list.” This is not the same as “my bucket list of things I want to write before I kick the bucket.” It is a list of other life goals, silliness and wisdom. If you haven’t been reading them, you won’t miss anything. Near the start of every month, I’ll do a bloggy thing of all those items from the previous month, sometimes with a little more content added to some items.

This is what I posted on Monday:

Accept that I will disappoint some people. Strive to disappoint as few people as possible.

There are things I have promised fans and friends and readers and would-be colleagues that I have failed to deliver on. Without even remotely excusing my fault in this, these failures come from having to concentrate on my personal and professional obligations first, on over-committing myself and on the unfortunate ups-and-downs of my lifelong battle with depression.

Aside. If they gave out 30-day chips and 60-day chips and etc-day chips for overcoming depression, I would get them all because I am just that obsessive.

This brings me to a statement that will disappoint those of you who have requested interviews with me for magazines or online venues. There’s no way to soft-pedal this.

I WILL NOT BE GIVING ANY INTERVIEWS FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE.  Even those I have previously committed to.

There are three reasons for my decision. The first is that the vast majority of requests are from people who want to talk about Black Lightning. DC Comics/Entertainment and I are talking. Their lawyer and my lawyer are talking. I remain guardedly optimistic that these talks will go well and that DC and I will be issuing some sort of joint statement in the hopefully near future. In the meantime, I prefer to say as little as possible.

The second reason is that I have undergone extensive dental surgery and will be undergoing more dental treatment over the next several months. That’s why I also cancelled my appearances at all but one convention - The Akron Comic-Con - for the remainder of this year. While I came through the initial surgery remarkable well, there is the possibility that other treatments will slow me down more than this one did. I’ll be at the Akron convention if they have to wheel me into the place ala Hannibal Lecter, but I had to cancel on all the others. I will make it up to those events in 2016.

The third reason is that I have several personal and professional commitments I do not want to fall behind on. I’m already terribly behind in sending out the orders from my last Vast Accumulation of Stuff sale. I don’t want to fall behind on anything else.

That’s my short and not very sweet bloggy thing for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of a terrific movie that I suspect many of you have never heard of.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


See that really cool cover art for Jurassic Prey [2015]? Then you have just seen the best thing about this movie. In fact, it might be the only good thing about this movie. How bad is it? It’s so bad that there will be no spoiler warnings in today’s bloggy thing on account of not telling you about this movie completely would make me an accessory to cinematic crime.

Jurassic Prey was directed by Mark Polonia, who has been involved in many low-budget movies like this one. It was written by John Oak Dalton, who has fewer prior offenses on his record. The movie runs 87 minutes. Some of those minutes will make you laugh. You will not be laughing with this movie. You will be laughing at it.

Here’s a quick plot outline from the back of the DVD:

After a botched robbery, a group of thieves clash with police and others while trying to hideout at a remote lake cabin, but unknown to them all, a recent mining explosion has unearthed a prehistoric T-Rex beast, who is the perfect hunter, and is very hungry.  Now, they must all band together and fight to stay alive as the Jurassic predator hunts them down one by one, piece by piece.

That’s reasonably close to the plot of the movie, but some details are exaggerated or omitted. Besides the group of thieves, we have a young woman who stole a bag of money from her criminal boyfriend. We have the various people chasing the bank robbers and the woman. We have a few people unlucky enough to wander into the dino’s kill zone and appear in this movie.

Missed bet. One of the robbers is the former child star of a dawn-of-television science fiction show who has turned to crime because he can’t make enough money doing conventions. You could have done a lot with that in a real movie.

Second missed bet. It should have been fracking that unleashed the T-Rex. Then you could made this both a dinosaur on the loose film and a political satire.

Enough with the missed bets.

The T-Rex in this movie is not a perfect hunter. It’s some guy in a suit or possibly just parts of a suit. The suit isn’t convincing, but apparently the dinosaur it represents has mutant stealth powers because nobody ever sees it until its rubber head and stubby rubber arms are right on top of them. Blood spatter and rubber human parts indicate the hungry T-Tex has dined and that it is a sloppy eater.

The people in this movie do not actually band together. They just go off on their own to make it easier for Rubber Rex to tear them into little rubber body parts.

The movie could not afford CGI for the dinosaur. However, for the final battle between man and T-Rex, they switch to really amateur stop-motion animation. The stop-motion dinosaur doesn’t look at all like the rubber suit dinosaur.

Jurassic Prey is not a keeper. It’s garage sale merchandise.  Who am I kidding? It’s mystery box merchandise which some unfortunate garage sale customer will get stuck with until he or she can pass the curse on to someone else.

But how ‘bout that cover art?

I’ll be back tomorrow with a short bloggy thing on the meaning of life or some part of life. That will be followed by a review of a movie that doesn’t feature dinosaurs or any other monsters, but is a wonderful film nonetheless. That will be followed by at least two more monster movie reviews.

Have a great day.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 21, 2015


Bug (1975) is about prehistoric cockroaches that emerge from deep below the surface when an earthquake strikes a small desert town in California. The ancient bugs can start fires by rubbing their legs together as they fart methane gas. Neither the movie nor the book the movie is based on explicitly mentions fire-farts, but someone had to and it might as well be me.

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc, who directed and continues to direct a stunning number of episodes of some of my favorite televison shows, Bug makes the most of its miniature menaces and claustrophobic setting. The roaches are genuinely scary and, when they are about to do their fire-farting business, the world around their victims seems to close in on the viewer. This is very unsettling in a most entertaining way.


Bradford Dillman is the stand-out member of the cast as Professor James Parmiter. You think Dillman’s character is the hero who will save us all. You then watch in horror as he turns into a crazy-ass megalomaniac who imperils the world further. When the cockroaches are dying off because they weren’t constructed to survive above the surface of the earth, Parmiter breeds them with regular cockroaches and creates a new breed of fire-farting roaches that can also fly.

Parmiter’s experiments, more so in the novel than the movie, also reveal the roaches are intelligent enough to understand language and communicate with him. It’s terrifying to see the roaches lining up a wall to create words like “Parmiter” and “We live” and “More  Doritos please.” Because I am a scamp, I made up one of those.

Parmiter comes to the expected bad end. In the movie, we are left with the feeling the peril has not really passed. In the novel, where our nutsy scientist does at least try to make amends for the countless deaths and massive destruction caused by his creations, it seems the cockroaches are content to live below the quake crater from which they came.


Bug is the last film worked on by producer William Castle, who is deservedly a “B” movie icon with such favorites as The Tingler and 13 Ghosts among his credits. He was also known for adding special effects to theaters showing his films. According to The Internet Movie Database, Castle wanted to install brushes on theater seats. The brushes would rub against the legs of the audience to simulate bugs crawling on them. Castle’s idea was turned down.

Bug is based on The Hephaestus Plague by Thomas Page, who co-wrote the screenplay with Castle. Page would also write the documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story [2007]. The novel has a lot of scientific jargon, but is an enjoyable read and slightly better than the movie made from it.

I enjoyed Bug and recommend it to you. It might be ever be worth a second viewing. Caution: even without the brushes, you might feel like bugs are crawling up your legs from time to time.

I’ll leave you with a final bit of Bug trivia from the informative  IMDB...

The interior of the Brady home from the ABC series The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) was used for Parmiter’s home. The series was cancelled a few months before filming on Bug got started. Because The Brady Bunch is more popular in syndication than during its initial run, the Parmiter house is recognizable to Brady Bunch fans.

Mom! Peter threw a fire-farting cockroach at my face! These burns clash with my prom dress!

I’ll be back tomorrow to get Jurassic on you.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I have seen the immediate future and it is filled with monsters of the most heinous sort. But enough about the Republican candidates. This week, while I prepare for some intense dental surgery and have that surgery and recover from that surgery with the assistance of a variety of pharmaceuticals, I’m going to be reviewing “B” movies. Because the critters preying on mankind in these films are so much more believable than the afore-mentioned candidates.

Today, I’m looking at Amphibious [2010], also known as Amphibious 3-D and Amphibious, Creature of the Deep. Directed by Brian Yuzna, who is also one of the film’s four writers, it’s a often-chilling, sometimes surprising examination of the life and times of a giant  prehistoric scorpion who terrorizes a fishing rig in the middle of the ocean. I’m just kidding about that whole life and times part. Though “Scorpy” does look pretty damn cool when we finally get to see him, the human characters and the unique setting are what drive this picture.

Jack Bowman [played by Michael Paré] is a charter boat captain who owes too much money to the movie’s more unsavory characters. He’s hired by marine biologist Skylar Shane [Janna Fassaert] to help her find prehistoric life forms. Her future depends on the success of this expedition and she’s desperate enough to twist the truth a wee bit when she feels she must. There’s no perfect heroes or heroines in this movie.

The villains, on the other hand, are pretty much perfect villains. The guy who owns the fishing rig [Francis Bosco] has two kinds of employees: brutal adults and enslaved children who will grow up to become either brutal adults or dead.


The most sympathetic of the kids is Tamal [Monica Sayangbati], an orphan sold into slavery by a sorcerer uncle [Bambang B.S.]. Tamal reminds Shane of her lost daughter Rebecca and she is determined to rescue the child from the fishing rig.

We don’t learn Tamal is a girl until well into the movie and that is one of those surprises I mentioned above. There’s a connection between Tamal and the scorpion monster, but I’m going to leave that one for you to discover yourselves.


The best part of this movie might be the fishing rig. Even before we get any creature action, the place is so oppressive it made me want to take a shower after every scene in which it appeared. You know from the moment you first see the rig that there are many ways to die there. The giant scorpion is just one of them.

Some reviewers have written the movie drags, but I think it builds to its climax. The final battle with the scorpion is both exciting and surprising. However, the biggest surprise comes in the movie’s incredibly creepy final moments. I didn’t see that ending coming, but it’s not going to leave me any time soon.

Amphibious is a solid monster movie thriller. The acting is shaky in parts, but the film holds together well and delivers some real gut punches. It may not bear repeated viewing, but it is definitely worth watching once.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more scary cinema.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Saturday, September 19, 2015


This is the concluding chapter of my Indy Pop Con 2015 report. As was the case with the second and third chapters, my Star Wars title has zilch to do with the events of Sunday, June 28. My only defense is that the titles seemed like a good idea when I wrote the opening chapter of this report. I am clearly not a very good Jedi.

Despite being kept awake for much of Saturday night by the rowdies across the hotel hallway, I was up and about my business early in the morning. I went to Steak ‘n Shake for breakfast and discovered the restaurant was out of...eggs. No, really, whoever was ordering supplies for the place had screwed up royally.

This distressed the wait staff as much as it did their customers. These friendly ladies love comics and media conventions. They told me that whenever there’s an event like Indy Pop Con at the Indiana Convention Center, they do great business. Fans appreciate a decent meal at a good price...and are generous tippers.

At least one of the waitresses was one of us. As soon as her shift was over, she was going to the convention. She was trying to figure out if she would have time to go home and get into costume. Like I said, one of us.   

I’ll start my con report proper with a shout-out to BlueMoon Comics of Lafayette. The store had the booth across the aisle from my own booth and seemed to do a bustling business throughout the weekend, offering a variety of sales and specials for the fans.

Of course, it would be hard to walk by the BlueMoon booth without Jennifer Otto-Lahr (seen above) catching your eye. She cosplayed as Batwoman on Saturday, Maleficent on Sunday. She is also a Godzilla fan which makes her, after my own Sainted Wife Barb, pretty much the most perfect woman on the planet. It was fun chatting with her over the weekend.

Attendance was solid on Sunday. The convention had gotten a lot of great press from the local media. Nuvo, an alternative newspaper, featured the event on the cover of its June 24-July 1 edition and devoted eight pages to the event, to local artists, and to some of the featured guests of the convention. I was one of the guests writer Emily Taylor interviewed.

NUVO: You knew pretty early on what you wanted to do.

ISABELLA: Oh yeah. It was 1963...I didn’t know for sure if I could get that job [writing comic books] but my full back position was to be Clark Kent and work for a newspaper.

NUVO: What was the story behind Black Lightning?

ISABELLA: I created Black Lightning...The first black friends I ever made were comic fans. Very early on it struck me as off that there weren’t more comic characters that my friends would relate to. So while I was working at Marvel I worked on a number of their black characters. Black Lightning was the process I was working towards. He was created because I wanted a very positive character, someone the younger readers could get into. In Black Lightning, I was able to address some of my own political and social issues involving inner city communities and racism and things like that.

We are living in a very diverse age. Comic book characters don’t have to be all white. More and more we are getting a whole range of comic book characters. The comic books in America are beginning to reflect the diversity of own country. I am proud to be somebody who was involved in that very early on. I’m very happy to be continuing that kind of work. Originally, when I was first asked to come to this convention, I turned it down because of your asshole governor and representatives. Then I became convinced I could do more for the cause by attending the convention.

One of the few disappointments of the weekend was that Scott Shaw! had to cancel his appearance for medical reasons. Scott and I have known each other for decades. He’s a funny and talented cartoonist with a love for oddball comics. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with him. Since Scott wouldn’t be at the convention to put on his hilarious “Oddball Comics” panel, I filled in with my not remotely as hilarious “Tony’s Tips Live!”

I’ve done “Tony’s Tips Live!” at many conventions and it’s pretty much what the title indicates: a live version of the columns I’ve been writing for decades. I talk about comics old and now, share a few crazy stories from my career, drop a little political wisdom on the audience and answer questions. I didn’t draw a big crowd with this late addition to the schedule, but I think those who did come to it left sufficiently entertained by my nonsense.

On Saturday, Wil Brendel, the artist who drew my sensational Indy Pop Con trading card, gave me the latest issue of The Redeemers, a creator-owned comic he does with writer Eric Rampson. I had read this issue that night and waved Wil over so we could talk about it.

The Redeemers are a Chicago-based rock band with a recently-outed secret. One of their three members is part-angel. The others are a sorcerer and a werebeast. The band has decided to use their powers to help as many people as possible while seeking their own kind of redemption. As readers of my own comic-book writing know, I love a good redemption story.

I liked The Redeemers #4 [Lonely Robot; $3,99] quite a bit. Between the “previously in our story” summary on the inside front cover and the story itself, I found it very easy to get into and follow the three-tiered tale. (Each of the band members has his own back story and storyline.) Kudos to Rampson for his writing and to Brendel for his storytelling. I’m hoping to see these guys do many more issues of The Redeemers.

If you’d like to order this issue, you can do so at the Lonely Robot website. If you’d like to see more of Wil’s wonderful work, you can visit his online portfolio.

My final panel of the weekend was the “Comic Creator Panel” which I moderated on account of I had seniority. There’s something to be said for doing comics while surviving the frequent dinosaur attacks that were common in the old days. The other panels were Tony Moore of Walking Dead and Fear Agent fame; Brooke A. Allen, whose lively art on Lumberjanes delights me issue after issue; and writer Troy Brownfield, who I mentioned in Wednesday’s bloggy thing. It was a terrific panel with the participants sharing all kinds of wisdom. If you’re an aspiring comics creator, you should never pass up an opportunity to hear working comics creators discussing their craft and the business of making comics.

With a five-hour drive ahead of me, I left the convention shortly after my last panel. My friend and handler Stephan Friedt recruited a few volunteers to help me break down my booth and load my car for the journey back to Medina, Ohio.

I had a fantastic time at Indy Pop Con 2015. I hope to attend next year’s event as well. Whether I manage that or not, I do recommend the event to one and all. There will be entertainments for fans of all interest and you can count on the show runners and volunteers to keep everything running smoothly.

Thank you, Indy Pop Con. I had a blast!

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Friday, September 18, 2015


Welcome to the third chapter of my report on Indy Pop Con 2015. Despite the title, it contains no dancing with Ewoks. I still have the scars, physical and emotional, from the last time I went to one of their parties.

The joint was jumping on Saturday, June 27, the first full day of the convention. I know it was a busy day because the event journal I kept over the weekend was far less detailed than on Friday. Let’s see if I can turn those sparse notes into coherent sentences and - Dare I dream? - paragraphs.

My first note for the day reads: anime girl pillows. I actually knew what that was even before I saw an Indy Pop Con exhibitor vendor selling anime girl pillows or maybe just anime girl pillow cases. I first saw one of these on 30 Rock, the television sitcom starring Tina Fey. Guest-star James Franco had one and, yes, it was just as creepy as you think.

According to a website that sells these: An anime hugging pillow is very popular in Japan and other Asian countries: over-sized pillows designed to be extremely huggable. These are security objects and usually never leave the grasp of sleeping Japanese children. So addictive is the comfort provided that many older men and women still use them. Snuggle up with their favorite Anime characters at night!

The website offers hundreds of anime girl pillow cases and around 40 anime boy pillows. Some are called hugging pillows and some are called love pillows. My son Eddie was horrified that I visited the website so that I could write about these things. I’m afraid these images will, once seen, never leave my brain. It is just one more burden I carry to save you, my beloved readers, from having to go research this sick shit yourselves.

On the other hand...I wish I would’ve made the time to have a meal at the Neko Wu Kabura Maid Café. Based on the maid cafes so popular in Japan, it featured “lovely butlers and maids who will serve you one of several dishes while tending to your needs and performing entertaining dances.”

Over the course of the day, I walked by the room where the Café was located and was impressed by the costumes and demeanor of the guys and gals, and by a musical number they performed outside the Café for customers waiting to get in. They looked and sounded great. I won’t miss out on this when I return to Indy Pop Con.

I appeared on three panels over the weekend. The first was “Movie Blogging: Tales from the Trenches” with Kevin Bachelder, podcaster supreme and the founder of the Fans of Original Syfy Movies group on Facebook. Kevin is crazy knowledgeable about the “B” movies we both love. Next to writing about comic books, reviewing such films is one of my favorite things. The panel went very well and makes me what to do more movie reviews in the future. If you’re a film maker looking to spread the word about your movies, feel free to send me screeners of same. I can’t guarantee a positive review, of course, but my affection for the movies is such that I can enjoy even less than sensational productions.

Bill Dever is the host and main writer for the great B Movie Nation website, which features hundreds of articles on the films. Though he didn’t make the panel, he was involved in other events and was another guy I enjoyed meeting.

I also enjoyed chatting with Lloyd Kaufman of Troma. We know each other through our mutual friend Jim Salicrup. Hearing of my desire to attend more monster and horror conventions in the coming years, he graciously invited me to hang out at his tables whenever we were at the same convention. Talk about being friendly and savvy. He knows I won’t be able to resist buying his movies if I’m looking at them for hours.

I talked about the Indy Pop Con cosplay a few days back, but I want to again praise the quality and the variety of the costumes I saw during the weekend. There was a great Godzilla costume, which made me realize that the world and particularly the conventions I attend need much more kaiju cosplay.

One of the most fun cosplaying groups were a mom dressed as Wonder Woman with three young boys dressed as Batman. I made a note that I need a better phone so I can take pictures of cosplayers for my future convention reports.

As I also mentioned earlier, my convention journal includes ideas that come to me during the event. One of those ideas is for a low-budget movie with a wonderfully crazy title and a concept I don’t think has ever been done in horror movies. I’ll add that one to my bucket list of things I want to write before I kick the bucket.

It’s also gratifying to chat with readers who have enjoyed my work over the years. Several Comics Buyer’s Guide readers expressed how much the newspaper/magazine meant to them. They were very happy to hear my “Tony’s Tips” column still appears every week at Tales of Wonder and that Bob Ingersoll’s “The Law is a Ass” can be found at the ComicMix website.

I spoke with many fans of Black Lightning as well. There were older African-American fans who told me how much the character meant to them when they were kids. One such fan said he felt Black Lightning was a significant contribution to diversity in comics well before diversity in comics was a thing. I am humbled by the love readers have for my creation and I am determined to do everything I can to keep Black Lightning not just in the public eye but in a prominent role in the comics and entertainment industries.

There was also considerable love for my and artist Richard Howell’s work on Hawkman in the 1980s. At the risk of sounding immodest - if  that ship hasn’t already sailed - I believe what Richard and I did deserves to be collected and soon. If only to give me the chance to write an afterword in which I explain how the series was supposed to go if a shortsighted editor hadn’t decided to end the Shadow War saga prematurely.

I was tired when I returned to my hotel, but sleep eluded me most of the night. It was hard to shake off the adrenalin rush from my terrific Indy Pop Con day. It was also hard to sleep when loutish remnants from a wedding held at the hotel had loud arguments in the hallway. Between the convention rush and the outside turmoil, your weary blogger ended up watching a Scream marathon on some channel or another. When the arguing louts continued into the wee hours of the morning, I began to sympathize with Ghostface.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the final part of my Indy Pop Con 2015 report. See you then.  

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


This is the second chapter of my report on Indy Pop Con 2015 and the first chapter in which my title makes no sense. Yesterday’s “A New Hope” worked because I mentioned the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. But, for today’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” I got nothing. Maybe some appropriate tie-in will emerge sometime during this bloggy thing.

Indy Pop Con was Friday through Sunday, June 26-28, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. I had a great time at the show. One of the coolest moments was when artist Wil Brendel came over to my table to present me with the Tony Isabella trading card he had drawn for the convention. I was amazed, delighted and surprised. I hadn’t known Indy Popcon was doing this.

Various local artists were called upon to created a set of 32 cards featuring Indy Pop Con guests or events. The cards were available at the tables of the artists who drew them. The idea was for fans to try to collect the entire set by visiting these artists at the tables. What a great idea!

Whenever I could get away from my own table, I went hunting for the cards. My friend Stephan Friedt, who was also my “handler” for the show, helped me fill in some gaps. Alas, by the end of the event, I was still missing a few cards.

I need Indy Pop Con cards #1, 3, 18, and 23. If anyone has extras of these cards, let’s talk purchase or trade.

Brendel is a terrific artist. He gave me a crazed “manga” look that tickled me. It made me consider a new career as a character in an anime. Maybe Peter Spellos, who I wrote about yesterday, could do the voice for the character. Interested studios should contact me. I work cheap.

I told the convention promoters how surprised I was at being carded in this manner. They were surprised that I was surprised. Someone was supposed to have contacted me for permission to use my image. They began to apologize profusely. I told them they had nothing to be concerned about. I loved being on a trading card. What kind of jerk wouldn’t be thrilled to be honored thus?

One of the random entries I made in my convention notebook suggests I have a large Black Lightning poster made to serve as a backdrop for my future convention booths and tables. But, since Brendel gave me a large print of my trading card, I think I’m going to go with that instead. I’ll have more to say about Wil tomorrow.

Moving right along...

It was great to finally meet my Facebook friend Kevin Bachelder. He  founded and runs the Fans of Syfy Original Movies group, which is one of my favorite places on Facebook. We would be appearing on a panel together on Saturday.

Indy Pop Con offered fans a wide variety of entertainments during the course of the event. I counted over 80 panels or presentations in the areas of anime, comics, cosplay, fandom, gaming, movies and more. Not included in my rough tally are the dozens of full-length movies, shorts and fan films that were screened over the weekend. There were celebrity and fan gatherings. There was a vast exhibitor hall filled with artists, celebrities and vendors offering comics, crafts, movies, original art and all manner of astonishing items. Whatever your fan interests, you could find it represented at this convention.

It takes more than fantastic guests, interesting presentations and wondrously cool stuff to make a great show. It takes a village of volunteers to put it all together and keep all the diverse elements working in concert. At every turn, I found the Indy Pop Con staff to be unfailingly friendly and helpful. The more conventions that I attend, the older I get, the more I appreciate the dedication and hard work of such volunteers.

The exhibitors room was open from 2-8 on Friday night. During that time, my booth was visited by old friends I hadn’t seen in years, as well as online friends I had never met in person. I answered a whole bunch of questions about my past work while being annoyingly coy about my future projects.

I signed hundreds of comic books and other items over the weekend. As always, I signed more copies of Black Lightning than any other Isabella comic books, but I also signed quite a few issues of the Champions, Ghost Rider, Hawkman, Justice Machine and others. I sold a copy of Black Lightning #2 (the 1970s series) to a gentleman who  had originally bought that issue off a spinner rack when he was a youngster. It’s always humbling to hear how much my creation meant to readers, especially readers of color.

Another of my random entries in my convention journal details the concept for and a working schedule for a book of essays I want to start work on once I finish writing my forthcoming memoir-of-sorts. The concept will almost certainly go through some changes before I complete my current book, but I think this other book has the potential to get people talking and thinking about the world of comic books and the worlds beyond comic books.

At one point, a bagpipe player made his way through the aisles of the exhibitors and artists hall. He played beautifully, just one of those odd convention moments that stays with you.

I found Waldo, though it could have been a Waldo cosplayer. I told him I had been looking for him for years. Because I’m sure he never heard that before.

I met comics writer Troy Brownfield, whose work has appeared in a bunch of titles from Dynamite and Zenescope. He and I would talk on several occasions during the weekend and, when there was an opening on a panel I would be moderating, I added him to it. I look forward to reading some of Troy’s work in the near future.

I had a long conversation with a Dan DeCarlo fan. DeCarlo was, of course, one of the great comics artists of our time. Working with Stan Lee, DeCarlo did charming, funny and sexy work for Millie the Model and other Marvel comics of the 1950s and 1960s. At Archie, for decades, he set the style for Betty and Veronica and the rest of the Riverdale teens. Also at Archie, he created Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch with writers Frank Doyle and George Gladir. He was a legendary comics creator and, as anyone who ever met him at a convention will readily attest, such one heck of a nice guy. I miss him to this day, but I’m happy to know he is remembered by his fans.

On Friday, I also had a conversation with a publisher who wants to reprint Justice Machine in its entirety. It’s not common knowledge, but I never signed away any rights to the stories I wrote for that title. I am somewhat conflicted about my work on the title. I think I did some good work, but it was in service of a ridiculous concept that never really made sense to me on those occasions when I slowed down enough to think about it. However, I’m gratified to know that fans think kindly of my work and, rest assured, I’m not standing in the way of my stories being reprinted. With a handshake, I gave the prospective publisher permission to include my work in the volumes he’s planning. As much as possible, I believe in giving the comics fans what they want.

I did close my booth an hour early so I could attend “A Tribute to the Asylum” panel on the main stage. Asylum founders David Michael Latt and David Rimawi were on the panel, along with actress Ciara Hanna, who was great in Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys, and Casper Van Dien, who has starred in such favorites as Starship Troopers, Avengers Grimm and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf.

As I wrote yesterday, I have been mightily impressed with every one I’ve met from The Asylum. They’ve all been down-to-earth people with business savvy, creative chops and energy and without any of the pretensions so common to the movie business. I haven’t loved a company this much since I discovered Marvel Comics back in the day. 
This panel affirmed my regard for the studio and its common-sense approach to movie making, which includes giving actors and others a chance to advance and try new things. They gave Van Dien a chance to direct. He succeeded so well he’s directed a number of films for them and other studios.

I’m still working on coming up with a battle cry/catch phrase for the Asylum, their version of “Make Mine Marvel!” So far, I came up with and rejected “Asylum Assemble!” But I’ll continue to work on this in my spare time.

Maybe David and David could shout:


Okay, I’ll keep working on it. In the meantime, come back on Friday for more of my Indy Pop Con report with another Star Wars-inspired  chapter title that won’t make a lick of sense.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Indy Popcon was Friday through Sunday, June 26-28, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. This con report should have been posted months ago, but my other obligations - personal and work - kept getting in the way of my writing it. Given how enjoyable my Indy Pop Con weekend was, I’m opting for “better late than never” and starting my three-or-four-blog report today. 

My Thursday afternoon drive from Medina was a long one, complicated by my unfamiliarity with the GPS unit in my Sainted Wife Barb’s car and the frequent areas of road construction I encountered. I missed turns, but course-corrected with ease. The entire drive took close to five hours.

My first stop was at the La Meridien, which is on South Illinois Street within an easy walk to the con. The small hotel was great, but a little too swanky for my tastes.

After checking into the hotel, I drove to the convention center to unload my show stock (Archie digests, comic books, Isabella-written stuff and Superman posters) at my exhibition hall booth. I also got the lay of the center, which was quite nice. It reminded me of the Columbus [Ohio] Convention Center in its cleanliness and utility.

Digression. Almost everybody in Indianapolis was great to me, but there was one major asshole. He was the attendant for the parking lot behind the convention hall. He decided it would be hilarious to tell the guy from Ohio that there was no convention at the center. Because you know the guy who’s been on the road for five hours is going to think that’s a hoot and a half. When I suggested he call his supervisor, he finally admitted he was having me on. I smiled, more out of exhaustion than anything else, and was directed to the unloading area. Ha. Ha. Ha.

The unloading went well. Since the convention wouldn’t be starting until two on Friday afternoon, I decided to leave the actual set-up of my booth for my return. I drove back to the hotel to relax and get some dinner.

The staff at the hotel were terrific. It was nice to be greeted by name whenever I entered or left. But my room was way too high end for my simple tastes. It was hipster modern with fixtures like fine art prints on the bathroom walls and a weird toilet paper holder that didn’t actually hold the roll in place. I felt like I was in a catalog showroom. I am a man of simple tastes.

The hotel restaurant’s menu was too much for me as well. I’m about as far away from a foodie as you can get without eating my meals on all fours and from a bowl. Fortunately, there was a Steak ‘n Shake across the street from the hotel and it was open all day and night. There also a big wonderful mall a block from the hotel and it had a great food court. My dietary needs were met.

According to my notes, I started Friday with breakfast at Steak ‘n’ Shake. Later that morning, as I was leaving the hotel to walk over to the convention center, I was introduced to David Michael Latt, one of the founders of the Asylum. I would chat with David several more times during Indy Pop Con and, later, meet and chat with David  Rimawi, another of the studio founders.

Spoiler alert: I have been mightily impressed with every one I’ve met from The Asylum. They have all been down-to-earth people with great business savvy, creative chops and energy and without any of the pretension so common to the movie business. I haven’t loved a company this much since I discovered Marvel Comics back in the day. I’d come up with a catch-phrase like “Make Mine Marvel” for them, but, thus far, the best I’ve been able to come up with is “Asylum Assemble!” I’ll keep trying.

I was pretty good about taking notes during the convention, though those notes often contain random thoughts that occurred to me and which I wrote down in my show journal out of convenience. Seeing one of my neighbors in the exhibition hall had a old-time comics spinner rack made me wonder if those things are still being made. Outside of some used comics spinner racks priced in the hundreds of dollars, my quick online search in recent days hasn’t located what I’m looking for.

While I was setting up my booth, I heard the welcome news that the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. My immediate thought was how wonderful it was to be at this convention in this state when the announcement was made. Veteran readers of this bloggy thing might recall that I had originally decided against attending the convention in protest of the anti-LGBT legislation passed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence  and his fellow Republicans.

What changed my mind was the convention’s immediate and strong show of support for the LGBT community and diversity in general. I felt it was important to stand up for the rights of my fellow Americans by showing up where those rights were threatened. I wish I had the means, time and energy to do this all over the country and, indeed, the world. But I was glad I was in Indiana that day. It felt good, real good.

Sidebar. On Saturday, a Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cosplayer was walking around the convention. She looked the part, so much so that fans came up to her to thank her for the Supreme Court ruling. My delight at that was audible.

There were lots of terrific cosplayers at Indy Pop Con. There was an impressive Ghostbusters group, as well as Nightwing, Marvel’s Black Cat, Captain Jack Sparrow, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, a Bombshells version of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Ms. Marvel, a drag Power Girl, a couple of Agent Carters, a “Sailor Deadpool,” and Aquaman and Aqualad crossplayers.

The most audacious and therefore amusing costume was a woman made up as a pregnant Predator. Her husband walked the floor with her, often pointing at her large belly as if to say “Look what I did!” If I wore a hat, it would be off to the man so fearless and suave that he could romance and mate with one of the deadliest killers in the known universe. Truly a man among men.

I met the lovely and talented Peter Spellos, an actor who has lent his live action and vocal talents to well over a hundred cartoons, movies and TV shows. He was such a nice guy that I’m tracking down as many of his appearances as I can find. That I already own a DVD of Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold says more about me than Peter.
I met Jim Wynorski, who has directed and written a hundred films, including such Isabella favorites as Gila!, Piranhaconda and Camel Spiders. Coming not soon enough to suit me will be CobraGator and  Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre.

In between meeting celebrities and dropping their names, I came up with a series - A SERIES - of at least six books of commentary and pop culture and a movie concept.

All of the above came before Indy Pop Con opened to those fans who had purchased VIP tickets. I could already tell this was going to be a terrific event.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you more.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 14, 2015


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Felicia Day's You're Never Weird on the Internet, Superman Earth One and Zoo The Graphic Novel!


When I first heard about a recent Quinnipiac poll, the inflammatory headline announced that 71% of Americans are angry. My reaction was to write a joke:

“A poll says 71% of Americana are angry. That makes me angry.”

A spot of research revealed the poll actually found that 71% of the voters polled in the survey were dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States with about 27 of those being classified as angry. My next attempt at a joke:

“A poll says 71% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States. The other 29% spend all day viewing cat videos.”

When I found an editorial cartoon on the poll, I posted a link to the cartoon on my Facebook page and wrote:

“I am angry much of the time. I would like not to be angry much of the time. Of course, for that to happen, people have to stop saying and doing terrible things. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that, even though, ironically, that would eventually result in my being much less angry.”

A great many things make me angry. If I started listing them all, today’s bloggy thing would go on and on, costing all of us valuable cat video-viewing time. On my Facebook page, I often post links to articles on a great many things that make me angry. I’ve decided to continue posting such links. However, for the most part, I will not comment on them. I wrote:

“I’ll not be commenting on stories like this while I work on other things. When I comment, it will generally be in my bloggy thing after my initial anger has subsided.”

Though I think of myself as a cheerful and happy person, blessed as I am with a loving wife and children, devoted friends and readers, steady employment and a comfortable lifestyle, there is always an anger hiding just behind all those good things. It would take the Grand Comics Database to record all my anger issues.

A little anger is healthy. A lot of anger is not. I’m working hard to change “a lot” to “a little” in my life and thereby insure I’ll be here to make some of you angry for decades to come.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis makes me angry. Bigotry is one of my anger triggers and this arrogant woman holds on to her bigotry with so much pseudo-Christian zealotry that it’s a wonder she does not explode. You all know the ongoing story, but I want to see if I can summarize it in a paragraph or two.

Davis is currently on her fourth marriage. She cheated on her first husband and had kids with her third husband. She married her second husband and then divorced him to marry her third husband. When she dumped her third husband, she remarried her second husband. At some point, she became a born-again Christian.

As a born-again Christian, or, at least, in her interpretation of what that means, she decided she could not carry out the duties of her office or follow the law by issuing marriage license to same-sex couple. Faced with this conflict between her conscience and her job, she, of course, resigned from her job.

Just kidding.

She refused to issue any marriage licenses to same-sex couples and then to any couples whatsoever, though she did, at one point, issue a license to a couple she thought was opposite-sex, not realizing one of them was transgender. She also refused to allow any of the clerks working under her to issue marriage licenses.

Couples who were denied marriage licenses sued her and won over and over again.  Federal district judge David L. Bunning ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses. Represented by the Liberty Counsel,  which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Davis kept appealing the order and kept losing. She left the judge with no choice. Changed with contempt of court, Davis was sent to  the Carter County Detention Center

Which is when the hate hullabaloo really start jumping.

Mike Huckabee leaped into the fray with his usual mix of bigotry and misinformation. Ted Cruz tried to get a piece of that action, but Huckabee cock-blocked him from getting into the key photo op when Davis was released from prison. Liberty Counsel went on and on with legal opinions derived from their asses. Even Fox News called them on that bullshit.

With Davis in jail, her office started doing the people’s business again. Five of the six clerks agreed to issue marriage licenses to all couples who met the state of Kentucky’s requirements for same.  The notable exception was Davis’ son because nepotism runs as deep as bigotry in that Davis family.

Since the Rowan County Clerk’s office was now doing its job, Judge Bunning released Davis from prison last week. She is under a court order not to interfere with her clerks issuing marriage licenses. She returns to work today, My prediction is she’ll be back in prison by the end of the week.

Judge Bunning gave Davis every chance to avoid jail. She refused to honor her oath of office. There was a compelling need to put an end to her denying the rights of people, gay and straight, to obtain a marriage license in Rowan Country. Davis’ too-short stay in custody accomplished that.

Judge Bunning showed great compassion in releasing Davis from jail.  If I were he and if the law allowed such a condition, I would have left her there until she resigned her office. Because her conduct and that of her lawyers gives us no reasonable assurance that Davis will not resume her illegal obstruction.

At one point, the lawyers said all Davis wanted was for the license form to be changed to remove her name. At the same time, from her cell, Davis was saying marriage licenses without her signature were not valid. Her supporters have also claimed it is no inconvenience for those seeking marriage licenses to go to another county to do that. Those arguments carry no legal weight.

People who want to obtain a marriage license in Rowan County have the legal right to obtain those licenses. They have the right for those licenses to bear the name and signature of legal authority. Even the smallest inconvenience to obtain a signed license is more than those people should have to bear.

Deceit has been the demeanor of Davis, her lawyers and her “fans” all along. There is no war on Christianity; there never has been. There is a woman and an organization who, under the guise of their pseudo-Christianity, are attempting to deny basic human rights to those they deem unworthy of such rights.

Davis is no Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. She is not a freedom fighter. She is a freedom-denier.

Davis has not been denied the freedom to practice her religion. She wants far more than that. She wants the right to force other people to abide by her beliefs. That is not her constitutional right, nor is it her moral right. Her religious freedom legally and morally stops at precisely that point where it encumbers the legal freedoms of others. Every statement Davis made before, during and since her release from prison indicates she has no intention of obeying the law and fulfilling her oath of office.

At least one of Davis’ clerks is on the record saying that he will continue to issue marriage licenses despite his boss’ objections to same. The clerk has indicated he will inform Judge Bunning if Davis attempts to interfere with his issuing marriage licenses. Given the media fascination with this situation, I don’t think the clerk will actually need to inform the judge of any Davis interference. That  interference will doubtless be captured on camera.

If Davis interferes with the legal rights of those who come to the clerk’s office seeking marriage license, she should be sent back to prison immediately. She should remain in prison until she resigns from the office whose duties she is unwilling to fulfill. If Davis refuses to resign, Kentucky’s legislators should come back to work  and remove her from office. As an elected official, Davis can not be fired. She must be impeached.

Davis, the Liberty Counsel, Huckabee and all the other haters who have flocked to the clerk’s side are on the wrong side of history and the law. Their lies do not change the essential wrongness of their actions and positions.

In the end, love will win.

As it always does.

Love will win. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Today marks the return of regular bloggy things. I’m aiming to post six new columns a week, taking one day off each week to write my weekly TONY’S TIPS column for Tales of Wonder. I’ll also take a day off whenever I post a new Vast Accumulation of Stuff online sale. Life sometimes tosses surprises my way, but the bloggy things for Monday and Tuesday are close to completion even as I write today’s “catching you up” entry.

My life is both challenging and exciting these days. I can’t tell you everything that’s going on, but, if all comes to fruition as I am guardedly optimistic it will, I’ll have all sorts of cool news to share with you.

Some announcements...

My next Vast Accumulation of Stuff sale will be in October. I ask the forgiveness and patience of those of you who bought stuff from the current sale. I had planned to package all the orders last week and mail them on Saturday. That did not happen for a multitude of reasons involving life’s little challenges. I should be able to get them all out by the end of this week and will be tossing a bonus or two into your packages to make up for the delay.

With the exception of the Akron Comicon in early November, I have cancelled all my remaining 2015 appearances. I’m undergoing dental work that includes serious surgery and a whole lot of medication. The latter will limit my ability to drive long distances and, on some days, at all. I hope to make up for my absences in 2016 when, if my writing progresses as hoped, I will be a somewhat bigger draw than in 2015.

I was very much looking forward to attending my friend Teddy Hanes’ comics shows on October 3 (Rochester) and October 4 (Buffalo). It’s been way too long since we’ve gotten together. For the latest info on Ted’s shows, contact him via Facebook.

I was also looking forward to returning to both the Cleveland Comic Con and the Grand Rapids Comic-Con. I had a wonderful time at these events in 2014 and recommend them highly.

Some personal stuff...

The Isabella family has said farewell to the house at 11203 Peony Avenue where I grew up and from which I wrote all those letters to comic books and all those articles and stories for comics fanzines. With the passing of my father last year, the house was just too big for my mother and sister, even with the dog and too many cats for me to count. But that’s only part of the story.

The deciding factor in my mom moving to a very nice senior assisted living facility and my sister moving to a suburb of Cleveland was what had become of our old neighborhood. When Sts. Philip and James Grade School and Sts. Philip and James Church were going concerns, it was a pretty nice middle-class neighborhood. Then, as families moved from the area, the school closed. The church followed maybe a decade or so later. The Catholic Church in general had and has a shortage of priests. The Church also has enormous legal bills and payouts stemming from the sexual abuse committed by some priests and the Church’s cover-up of those crimes. Sts. Phillip and James was closed in a wave of cost-cutting.  

The closing of the school and the church were major events, but the leading cause of the neighborhood’s deterioration was the city of Cleveland’s record of ignoring its middle-class and poorer citizens to bankroll the downtown play palaces of the wealthy and powerful, and to bolster gentrification of trendy neighborhoods within close access to those play palaces.

In the last six months that my mother owned the 11203 Peony house, there were eight shootings in the area. Resulting in six fatalities. In the early 1970s, when I was working the late shift at the Plain Dealer, I used to walk home from my Lorain Avenue bus stop at 2 am or so. Just a brisk ten-minute walk down Bosworth Avenue to Peony Avenue. I couldn’t make that walk now. I would be killed or, at the very least, beaten and robbed.

Few things have made me happier in recent months than the sheer joy I hear in Mom’s voice when she tells me she goes for walks around her new digs. Even in broad daylight, it would not have been safe for her to do that in our old neighborhood.

This is what happens when people allow the rich and the powerful to control our cities, our states and our government. Please consider that when you cast your future ballots.

My online presence...

As mentioned above, I write a weekly TONY’S TIPS column for Tales of Wonder. These mostly review columns continue the feature I did for Comics Buyer’s Guide for decades. Most weeks, you get a trio of reviews of comics and collections of comics. Occasionally, you get comics history or more extensive comics commentary. I’m proud of my TONY’S TIPS work and, if you’re not already a regular reader, check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

When I first got on Facebook, I did so because I thought it would be a good promotional tool for my work. It had been that, but it’s evolved into so much more. It’s a community of nearly 5000 online friends who visit the page to enjoy my remembrances of comic-book creators and other people important to me, to celebrate birthdays of comics creators and others, to read a historical fact or three, to nod in agreement or get peeved at my political/social commentary and links. It’s where I ask my friends for research assistance on occasion or try to make them chuckle. It’s a place where my friends can promote their own endeavors.

I spend a lot of time on my Facebook page. It’s still an excellent promotional tool for my work, but it’s also a friendly place where I can go and where everybody knows my name. It’s become a hobby and my neighborhood bar. I love it a lot.

Facebook only allows 5000 friends on a personal page. I’m usually pretty close to that, but I do accept friend requests when I have openings and when I can learn something about the potential friend from their own page. If your page doesn’t contain sufficient open-to-the-public information, I’ll deny your request.

However...my page is open to the public. So, even if you aren’t an official “friend” and can’t comment on my posts, you are still very welcome to visit the page and enjoy the content there.

I maintain two other Facebook pages.

The Official Tony Isabella Message Board is a continuation of the board from World Famous Comics. Many of my friends from that board are members of this board.

The most major difference between the message board and my personal page is that the message board is pretty much politics-free. So, if my political positions on my personal page make you see Republican red, you can join the message board instead.

My third and final Facebook page is The First Church of Godzilla. This page celebrates the Great Scaly One who protects us from alien invaders, giant monsters and Man's own folly with his fiery atomic love. It’s devoted to Godzilla and kaiju from all around the world. It is my dream to sometime hold an actual First Church of Godzilla service at a convention.

I also have a Twitter account - @thetonyisabella - though I haven’t yet figured out how to make the best use of it. As you could probably guess from these long-winded bloggy things of mine, it’s difficult for me to express myself in 140 characters or less. I’m working on it.

Somebody spends too much time online. In the fairly near future, I hope to have some pretty great news to share with you. In the meantime, I’ll keep on writing these bloggy things of mine. Thanks for reading them.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella