Thursday, December 14, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #237

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Batman and "“The War of Jokes and Riddles”; Bonfire, the first novel by Jessica Jones actress Krysten Ritter; and Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast!

TONY’S CLICK BAIT 15: DC COMICS

When an online blogger doesn’t have anything of substance to write about, they fall back on that most Pavlovian of concepts, a click-bait list. This time around, I give 15 answers - “15" is a sacred number for the purveyors of click-bait - to one of the questions I most frequently asked.

I’m currently finishing writing the six-issue Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands series. Now the clear answer to the question of what DC Comics book I’d like to write next would be...more Black Lightning. I created the character. He’s my favorite character. And, if I may be so immodest, I think my new version of the character is making for some really great comic books. But, as that answer makes for a really short bloggy thing, today I’m going to give you 15 other answers to the frequently asked question:

What would I most like to write next for DC Comics?

In no particular order...

1. NEW ACTION COMICS

This takes some explanation. It would be a 64-page monthly comic book featuring a modern-day Superman in the style of the original 1930s champion of the oppressed. The secondary features would all be updated versions of the original Action Comics line-up of Chuck Dawson (contemporary western), Zatanna (because I like her better than her dad) and the rest. I would write the entire first issue to set up all the characters and features and then, after that, write the Superman lead every issue.

2. THE MAN WHO KILLED THE JOKER

The premise of this graphic novel is the Joker poses such an ever-present threat that it would be self-defense to kill him anytime in any circumstances. The Joker has killed thousands of people...and that’s probably a low estimate. He can’t be held in Arkham Asylum or any prison. He always escapes and he always kills more people. This is the story of the man who kills him and the legal and public consequences of that act. I’ve been wanting to write this graphic novel for two decades.
                                                                                

3. METAMORPHO

The original Metamorpho comics by Bob Haney and Ramona Fradon were a revelation to teenage Tony. Unlike virtually everyone else at DC,  Haney understood the appeal of the Marvel comic books of the 1960s and put his own spin on them. Larger-than-life characters. A hero who rarely gave in to the tragedy of his situation. (I thought of Rex Mason as DC’s Ben Grimm but happier.) Combined with my youthful fascination with the elements. I want to write Metamorpho as he was in his early days, slightly updated to fit in with our modern era.
                                                                                  

4. MULTI-MAN AND MULTI-WOMAN

Here’s where I get strange. Multi-Man was the arch-enemy of the Challengers of the Unknown. He had magic potions that would allow him to change his form, though his main form was a dwarf with a huge head. Somewhere along the line, he built a giant Multi-Woman to be his bride. I loved the heck out of this wacky idea. Which has me wondering...if they weren’t always fighting the Challengers and being imprisoned or destroyed, what would married life be for these crazy kids? I love to tell their stories.

5. BOY COMMANDOS

I have a hankering to write a World War II series. I also love the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby kid gangs. Do I have to say more.

6. THE NEWSBLOG LEGION

In the spirit of the Simon and Kirby kid gangs, but updated for our modern times. Young bloggers speaking truth to power while trying to navigate the offline world.

7. COLONEL SANDERS

Okay, the Colonel isn’t really a DC Comics character and I’m not a big fan of KFC food. But I get a kick out of these yearly specials and would love to try my hand at one.

8. APES ON THE CASE

Congorilla. Detective Chimp. Angel and the Ape. A rebellious young citizen of Gorilla City. They’re apes. They’re detectives. Except for Angel O’Day, but we’ve got to have something in this book for the male hairless apes in comics fandom.
                                                                               

9. SPACE CABBY

Most comic-book science fiction goes big. I’d like to tell smaller stories and who better to make that possible than a fun character from the 1950s and 1960s.
                                                                                 

10. THE MANIAKS

They were a hip happening mod sensation in the 1960s. They’re back together and back on the road, trying to recapture their glory days while competing with Maniaks tribute bands.
                                                                                                       
11. THE GLOBAL GUARDIANS

Writer/editor E. Nelson Bridwell has never received his due for all he brought to the DC Universe. He should get a Bill Finger Award. In the meantime, his team of super-heroes from around the world is worthy of a revival and an update. I’d keep them realistic to our times, but I’d also keep them as genuinely good and noble super-heroes. We can never have too many of those.
                                                                                

12. THE WITCHING HOUR

When this title was first published by DC Comics in 1969, each of its three witch-narrators had her own style of story. That concept was lost rather quickly, but I liked it. I would love to bring the title back as an all-ages spooky stories anthology and restore the original concept. It would be a challenge to come up with the three different stories per issue, but meeting that kind of challenge is fun for me.

13. JOHNNY EVERYMAN

Johnny Everyman was an American civil engineer who roamed the world promoting harmony and understanding. Though well-intentioned, his adventures lacked any real excitement or suspense. I’d change the title to Everyman and give him the ability (or curse) to change his gender, nationality, race and so forth. To experience the lives of  human beings from every corner of the world. Not unlike the War Is Hell series I created for Marvel in the 1970s and which predated the TV series Quantum Leap.

14. STRANGE SPORTS STORIES

I love the way that title rolls off the tongue. I see this as a 64-page anthology with contemporary stores covering every sport around the world. Besides the drama of competition, sports today involve  health issues and social issues and more. A mix of the modern with the macabre would be intriguing.

15. HEART THROBS

Though I was editor of Young Love for a hot minute in the 1970s, I never got to do “my” romance comic book. This title would feature the diversity of the human condition in stories that could break your heart or lift your spirits.

Wanna know a secret? Though one or two of the above comics titles have been on my mind for some time, I came up with most of them on the fly as I was writing this column. That’s 15 titles in under two hours. If there’s anyone out there with deep pockets who would want to hire me to create a new comics company for them, they can e-mail me with their offers. I could use a signing bonus right about now.

Do you enjoy my click-bait columns? Feel free to send suggestions for future installments. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for a new batch of Halloween ComicFest reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 130

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 130th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns. 
 
The Rawhide Kid #143 [January 1978] has another terrific cover by Gil Kane. Like his previous covers, it doesn’t illustrate a scene from the story reprinted in this issue.
                                                                               

This issue reprints “Gunman’s Quest” (17 pages) from Rawhide Kid #45 [April 1965]. The original and still very much classic cover for that issue was penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Chic Stone. I always liked that artistic combination.
                                                                                  

Written and drawn by Larry Lieber, “Gunman’s Quest” is an expanded origin story for the Rawhide Kid. It also introduced the brothers he never knew he had. I wrote about this landmark story on January 23, 2013. You can read my comments here.

The Johnston Smith companies with its endless supply of cheap-ass novelty items has an ad on the issue’s inside front cover. A little further in is a full-page ad for “Super Sea Monkeys.”
                                                                                    

Simon & Schuster has a full-page ad for their complete collection of Marvel books. New to their roster is The Superhero Women, which features stories of Medusa, Red Sonja, the Black Widow, Ms. Marvel and others.

There are the usual three pages of classified-style ads with 22 ads for mail-order dealers selling old comics. In addition, the pages have ads for comic bags, a “Learn Cartooning” course and a Creation comic convention scheduled to be held November 25-27 at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan.
                                                                                

There’s a half-page ad for Slim Jim meat snacks with werewolf art by Jack Davis and a half-page ad recruiting entrepreneurial kids to sell the newspaper Grit.
                                                                           

The Superhero Shop of New Jersey changed its name to Heroes World and continues to sell comics merchandise. For $5.55, you could have bought a Spider-Man Utility Belt featuring a Spidey watch, Spidey handcuffs, Spidey Grappler (rope and hook), Spidey web and a Spidey communicator. Did any of that stuff actually work?
                                                                               

Poster Bonanza - with a mailing address in my home town of Medina, Ohio - would sell you five 11-by-17 posters for $2.75. Group A had Farrah Fawcett, John Travolta, Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman, Lee Majors as the Six Million Dollar Man, and Osmond siblings Donny and Marie. Group B had Kiss, the Hardy Boys, Grizzly Adams, Kristy McNichol and Baretta.

This poster ad didn’t surprise me as much as you might think. I had a post office box in Medina for a decade or two and discovered Medina Ohio was a popular address for such offers and for coupon redemptions. There was a processing center somewhere in my city. I discovered this when some coupon offer mistakenly printed my P.O. Box number and I started receiving literal boxes of envelopes. It took a couple months to fix that mess.
                                                                                

A half-page Marvel subscription ad ran in this issue, offering six titles for the price of five. The bottom half of the page pitched mail-order locksmith lessons. The Pizzazz (magazine) ad that ran on the inside front cover of the previous issue ran as an interior ad in this one. It was followed by half-page ads for Clark candy bars and a half-page ad for “Strong Arms” from bodybuilder Mike Marvel.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page listed Archie Goodwin as editor; Jim Shooter as associate editor; Roger Stern, Ed Hannigan, Ralph Macchio, Jo Duffy as assistant editors; Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Steve Gerber, Jack Kirby as consulting editors; John Romita and Marie Severin as art directors; John Verpoorten as the production manager; and, of course, Irving Forbush as unindicted co-conspirator.

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” had the Man plugging The Superhero Women, the forthcoming How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and the second issue of the Marvel Special Edition reprinting of Marvel’s adaptation of Star Wars. Having grown up on meatier soapboxes, I was not enamored of this never-ending parade of plugs.

In other news...

Marvel colorist Don Warfield and his wife Gayle Landers announced the birth of their daughter, Ellen Kelly Warfield.

Marvel would be publishing Man From Atlantis, starting with an 80-page issue selling for a buck. The page also hinted at a “colorful” surprise for the readers of The Savage Sword of Conan. This likely involved reprinting black-and-white stories in color.

Ernie Chan would be drawing a Marv Wolfman-written issue of Marvel Two-In-One wrapping up loose ends from Marv’s short-lived Skull the Slayer title. Carmine Infantino would guest-pencil two issues of The Defenders with inks by Klaus Janson. After that, Janson will remain to ink new regular penciler Ed Hannigan.

Danny Fingeroth was taking over as assistant editor of the British weeklies as Bob Budiansky turned his attention to penciling comics. British department staffers Dave Wenzel and Duffy Vohland were doing a Solomon Kane story for The Savage Sword of Conan.

While Jack Kirby finished the Silver Surfer graphic novel he was working on with Stan Lee, and working on some new creations, the new Captain America creative team would be writer/editor Roy Thomas, penciler Sal Buscema and inker Joe Sinnott.

John Byrne and Terry Austin were the new X-Men art team. Delightful Dave Cockrum was drawing an issue of John Carter, Warlord of Mars. Tony and Mary DeZuniga are back in New York City after their long-time residence in the Philippines.

And that wrapped up this month’s Bullpen Bulletins.
                                                                               

Next...Thor starred in “The Ding-a-Ling Family!” Weird hill-folk end up in orbit around Asgard and attack Thor and his fellows. They are subdued when Sif gives them Hostess fruit pies. I’m fairly certain John Buscema penciled this one-page comics story.
                                                                                   

The “Mighty Marvel Gallery of Western Heroes” pin-up series kicks off with Red Wolf by Neal Adams. This is a reprint of the cover of Marvel Spotlight #1 [November 1971].

There are three more full-page paid ads in the issue:

“To All Who Want Powerful Muscles Fast!”, Olympic Muscle Builders of Rockaway, New Jersey had your back. If you sent them fifty cents for handling and mailing charges, they would send you the first lesson free.

The inside cover advertised “50 Mile Power Binoculars” from Foster-Trent of Larchmont, New York. With shipping and handling charges, the cost was four bucks for one set or seven bucks for two sets. If you lived in New York, you would also have to pay the appropriate sales tax.
                                                                                  

The back cover had an ad for the talking “Patty Prayer” doll, which could kneel and say a bedtime prayer. Niresk Industries of Chicago was selling the doll for $11.95. That price included two bucks for postage, handling and insurance. The doll was said to be almost 20 inches tall, non-allergenic, soft, cuddly and lifelike. Now that’s an evil doll movie just waiting to be filmed.

That wraps up this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” We have eight more issues to go until the end of the trail for this title. Look for the next guns-a’-blazing installment in just seven short days.

As for tomorrow’s bloggy thing, mosey on by and we’ll both see what I came up with.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 12/12/17

The big news this time around is that I have now seen the premiere episode of the Black Lightning TV series. I don’t have the words to express the emotions that went through me as I watched my favorite creation brought to life. Early in the episode, there’s voice-over dialogue that made my heart swell with pride. Obviously, I can’t reveal plot details from the episode. What I saw was the not-quite-finished version. It was the entire episode, but without the title and credits. It was an amazing experience.

After I watched it, I wrote Salim Akil, the director of the episode and the show runner of the series:

The show looks great. I love the writing and the performances. It is everything I could have hoped for and more. I turn 66 on the 22nd, but seeing this has made this the best birthday/Christmas of my life. My thanks to everyone involved in the show.
                          
Cress Williams is Jefferson Pierce and, even when he’s operating as Black Lightning, he’s Jefferson. Even in the first trailer, China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams as Jennifer and Anissa Pierce had won me over and convinced me I had to find a way to include those characters (albeit not as Jeff’s daughter) in my comic-book series. Christine Adams as Lynn (Stewart) Pierce has also had an effect on how I write the character in my comic-book stories.
                                                                               

When I visited with the Black Lightning writers in Burbank, Salim joked that I should play Peter Gambi. I think James Remar is a much better choice. Indeed, there isn’t a false note in the casting of this show.

After seeing this episode, I am more confident than ever that Black Lightning will be a huge success. My own involvement with the show has been limited and long distance, but, at every step of the way, I saw dedication, imagination and determination from every one who is working on the series. If my career never gets better than this, I will have had a career more fulfilling and successful than I ever dreamed possible.

I hope you will join me in watching the official premiere of Black Lightning on Tuesday, January 16, at 9:00 pm, on the CW. I will be watching with my family and a few friends.

                                                                                  

One of my friends at the CW asked me about Peter Gambi, who hasn’t been seen in Black Lightning comic books since my 1970s series and, in other media, has only appeared in one of the fun Black Lightning animated shorts done by my friend Lynell Hakim Forestall. This is what I told her:

Peter Gambi is another character I created. I don't know if the TV series will use all of his background from my 1970s Black Lightning comic books, but the writers asked a lot of questions about him. Comics-wise...

Peter is the brother of Paul Gambi, who made the costumes for the Flash's villains. Paul was the tailor to super-villains. They all came to him for their costumes.

Peter was a gangster who made bad choices in his life and accidentally shot and killed Jefferson's father. Jefferson did not learn this until several issues into my original series.

Peter left the mob and devoted the rest of his life to taking care of Jefferson and his mother. He was a second father to Jeff. Though no longer a gangster, he knew gangsters and other criminals.

Ultimately, Peter sacrificed his life to save Black Lightning from Tobias Whale. He left behind a letter for Jefferson, which Jefferson received at Peter's graveside funeral.

Jeff never read the letter. He figured Peter's life after he left the mob and his sacrifice of that life to save Jeff spoke more truly of the man than his criminal past. It'll be interesting to see how much of this makes it into the TV show.

                                                                                

As usual, there are more Black Lightning articles online than I can possibly cover in enough detail. But I can at least give you links to some of the better ones.

Pierre Arnette of Comic Book Corps gave a very favorable review to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2. You can read it here.

D. Ivester gave the issue an even more favorable review at the Geek WorldWide website. You can read that one here.

Jideobi Odunze of Geeked Out Nation reviewed Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 for that website. You can the review here.

In writing about the Black Lightning trailer for The Mary Sue site, Marykate Jasper focused on the “superhero dad” aspect of the show. As someone who has long put forth that superhero parents can be as exciting as any other superheroes, I applaud her position. You can read her article here.

At SYFYWIRE, a Josh Weiss article has several photos from the Black Lightning TV series. Unfortunately, it also has a whopping error of fact. For the record, DC Comics did not hire me to develop the character of Black Lightning. They hired me to write multiple assignments. Among those assignments was punching up the two Black Bomber scripts they had bought and then taking over as the title’s writer with the third issue. I refused because these were the two most offensive comic-book scripts I’d ever seen. I talked them into dumping their plans, promising to bring them a new black super-hero of my own creation. I wasn’t hired to develop Black Lightning for the simple reason Black Lightning didn’t exist until I brought him to DC Comics.

You can read the Weiss article here.

Jacquelyn Byrd of the Newburgh Gazette wrote about the CW’s newest Black Lightning trailers - there are a few of them - and should be commended for getting the actual creator credits correct. For those of you just joining us - and for the dullards at Bleeding Cool and Comic Book Resources who have apparently made it policy to always run incorrect credits - that official creator credit reads “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden.” You can read Byrd’s article here.

If you’re not as tired of the sound of my voice as I am, head over to YouTube where you can see Kiku of Neek! The Podcast interviewing me at Pensacon 2016. This interview was filmed before we knew the new Black Lightning comic-book series and the TV series were going to happen. You can view the interview here.

Allen Thomas of Comicosity wrote the most favorable review of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 to date. It’s so gratifying to see a reader recognize and appreciate the hard work all of us working the comic book are putting into it. Read the review here.

Lucas Fashina wrote on Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 for Geekery. It wasn’t a completely favorable review, but it did make me think about a couple of elements of my story. Though I might not agree with all Fashina’s comments, I’m not going to complain about any review that makes me think a little harder about what I’m doing in this series. You can read his review here.

That’s all for this edition of “Black Lightning Beat.” When I next post one of these, assuming I don’t have big news to announce, I’ll start the annotations to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2. The bloggy readers have asked for more, so I’ll do my best to give them more. That’s just how I roll.

Come back tomorrow for another fast-shooting, hard-riding edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesdays.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 11, 2017

HALLOWEEN COMICFEST #3

Hey, kids! It’s time for another look at the free comic books given out for Halloween ComicFest.

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics will be available, along with the chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!

Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

Baby Teeth #1 Halloween Edition [AfterShock] has the first issue of a scary new series created by Donny Cates (writer) and Garry Brown (artist). Teenager Sadie gives birth to a child who might either be the Anti-Christ or the hope of the world. Comments from an unseen character in this 20-page story indicate the former, but I’m unsure about that.

QUALITY: Very good. Cates could do a better job of putting names to some of the characters and giving us a little more information on them, but the writing is excellent. Likewise the art.

ACCESSIBILITY: Also very good. Since the book is cover-blurbed as being “for mature readers,” those readers will be able to get into and follow the story easily.

SALESMANSHIP: Pretty good. There are seven pages of house ads for AfterShock and its titles. The one missed opportunity is that there is no such ad for Baby Teeth.
 
SCORE: Nine out of then points.

                                                                               

Gao Halloween Special #1 [Antarctic Press] is a digest-size comic of 16 pages. Gao is “the world’s cutest kaiju” and stars in a 12-page story by Alfred Perez.

QUALITY: The writing and art are just okay. Gao wants to go trick-or-treating, so his fairy godmonster sends him to the surface world where he meets a couple kids. King Korn, a giant monster who looks like candy corn, attacks the city. It’s a cute story, but doesn’t impress.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very easy to follow.

SALESMANSHIP: Non-existent. There is no indication where a reader could go for more Gao stories and no house ads for other Antarctic Press publications.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                             

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953 - The Witch Tree & Rawhead and Bloody Bones - Halloween ComicFest [Dark Horse] is a 36-page, full-sized comic book reprinting two complete-unto-themselves Hellboy stories by Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck.

QUALITY: Excellent. As the Hellboy saga got too complicated for my tastes, I stopped reading the various Hellboy titles. However, the two tales in this issue - 18 pages and 6 pages - are entertaining and straightforward. I got a kick out of them.

ACCESSIBILITY: Very good. When dealing with done-in-one tales such as these, you don’t need detailed back story. In three sentences on the inside front cover, a reader learns everything they really need to know to follow these stories.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are four pages of Hellboy and Mike Mignola-centric house ads, including one for a series proclaimed to be the beginning of the final chapter in the Hellboy Universe.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

                                                                              

Thor by Simonson Halloween Comic Fest 2017 #1 [Marvel] is a full-size, 32-page comic book. It contains two Walter Simonson reprint tales - “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” (19 pages) & “Tales of Midgard” (3 pages) - as well as the cover of Journey into Mystery #102 and that issue’s 5-page “Tales of Asgard” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman.

QUALITY: Excellent. Unfortunately, the Simonson stories are mostly concerned with tying up loose ends from a longer story and checking in on various characters. The Tales of Asgard story is complete-unto-itself.

ACCESSIBILITY: Not so good. Readers might recognize the character names from the movies and such, but they won’t have a clue what’s going on in the Simonson stories. These were bad choices for this giveaway comic book.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. The inside front cover has a house ad for Thor #700 with no information as to what it’s about. The inside back cover advertises Hulk: Planet Hulk Omnibus which nods to the world of gladiators seen in the new Thor movie. The back cover is an ad for Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #1, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Thor. It’s a disappointing use of space. I would have replaced either the Hulk or Phoenix ad with one for collections of Simonson’s Thor.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                                    

The Tick: Halloween Comicfest 2017 [New England Comics Press] is a 32-page, full-sized comic book. It features a 27-page story which guest-stars “Clark Oppenheimer,” an invulnerable reporter with an editor named Perry.

QUALITY: Poor. The story meanders all over the place and the humor is not the least bit subtle. The art is so-so. I remember enjoying the Tick cartoon series and its first live-action series, but I’ve never warmed up to the actual Tick comic books.

ACCESSIBILITY: So-so. To be fair, though, the Tick’s back story is limited. He’s insane and he has super-powers. If there’s more than that to him, I’m not recalling what it is.

SALESMANSHIP: There are ads for Tick comics and t-shirts. All are said to be “available at your favorite comic book shop.” I have my doubts about that. Maybe a website where readers could order this stuff would be helpful. Just saying.

SCORE: One out of ten points.

                                                                                  
The Witch Boy [Scholastic] is a 16-page, digest-size comic. It features a 12-page excerpt/preview of a graphic novel by Molly Know Ostertag about a family of shapeshifters (males), witches (females) and a boy who seeks to break that tradition.

QUALITY: Intriguing. I realize that’s not a measure of quality per se, but I’m intrigued by what appears to be a story about a young person challenging their traditional identity within this fantasy setting. I liked it and want to read more.

ACCESSIBILITY: The inside front cover tells the reader everything they need to know to get into the excerpt.

SALESMANSHIP: The last page of the story has a note as to where the story continues and when it will be available.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

Look for my next Halloween ComicFest reviews in a few days. That will be preceded by a new “Black Lightning Beat,” another hard-riding installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” and maybe a surprise or two. See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 9, 2017

TONY NOTES 12/9/17

"Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing" will resume on Monday. That column is already written. With a wee bit of luck, there will be no more skipped days through the end of the year.

Because of the press of my work and the holidays, I will not be available for any interviews of any kind until early next year. When I resume doing interviews, I prefer to do them via e-mail. I can be flexible, but know that I really dislike Skype.

The only exceptions to the "no interviews in December" thing will be if the request comes from DC Comics, the CW or the great people making the Black Lightning TV series.

I may do one more personal appearance before the end of the year. I've been talking with a Cleveland sports team about doing an appearance and signing at one of their games. Because, clearly, if I'd not gotten hooked on writing, I would have been a professional athlete and you'd be buying Tony Isabella athletic shoes. In really small sizes.

I am not signing any comics mailed to me until after the first of the year. After the first of the year, I will resume offering that service to my readers and to retailers. When I'm ready to start doing that again, I'll post all the pertinent information.

Here's my 2018 convention schedule to date...

February 18: Action (St. Clair College; Winsor)

February 23-24: Pensacon (Florida)

March 9-11: Cleveland ConCoction

April 27-29: East Coast Comicon (New Jersey)

May 5: Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

May 18-19: ECBACC (Philadelphia)

July 13-15: G-Fest (Chicago)

July 19-22: Comic-Con International (tentative)

August 17-18: TerrifiCon (Connecticut)

August 19: NEO Comic Con (North Olmsted, Ohio)

November 3-4: Akron Comicon (Ohio)

November 9-11: Grand Rapids Comic Con (Michigan)

November 17-18: Great American Comic Convention (Las Vegas)

If you're an event organizer or promoter, you can contact me after the first of the year to talk about my appearing at your convention or other event.

That's all for today. See you in Monday.

 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #236

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Mandrake the Magician the Complete King Years: Volume One and Two (reprinting all the stories from the mid-1960s); Fighting American #1-2 by Gordon Rennie with artist Duke Mighten; and The Green Hornet ‘66 Meets the Spirit #1-5 by Fred Van Lente and artist Bob Q!

Monday, December 4, 2017

LO, THERE SHALL BE REVIEWS!

A sad fact of life is that I will never review everything sitting in my review box or the two piles of books, comics and other items that couldn’t fit into the review box. Nevertheless, let’s see how many of them I can cover in today’s bloggy thing.

I get a kick out of David Avallone’s Bettie Page [Dynamite; $3.99 per issue]. This series about the iconic pin-up queen has a set-up introduction on the inside front cover of each issue:

People can be forgiven for thinking they know all there is to know about Bettie Mae Page. She was, after all, a public figure in every sense of the term. Even so, Ms. Page kept much of her life private, and with good reason. Recently, a secret diary was discovered hidden among her possessions. Its contents were well known to the Federal Government, though they had remain highly classified since 1951. In the present day, the Bureau felt that sufficient time has passed, and that Ms. Page’s service to her nation, indeed, to the world, could now be revealed. Despite Mr. Avallone’s questionable reputation, he was chosen to adapt this diary to the form you hold in your hands. It is our hope that with this, the heroism of Ms. Page can be appropriately enshrined in the hearts of her fellow countrymen.

I was hooked from that introduction. Having now read five issues of the title and thrilled to its Cold-War adventures involving sinister plots and flying saucers and mad scientists and secret agents and - be still, my kaiju-loving heart - giant scorpions, I’m recommending  this series to any comics fans who love sassy heroines with a 1950s vibe. Avallone’s scripts are entertaining. The multiple artists do vary in quality, but even the least of them does a decent job. The covers - regular and variants - are wonderful. This is just plain fun. We need more of that in comic books.
                                                                               

Having read The Divided States of Hysteria #1-6 by Howard Chaykin [Image; $3.99], I find I have almost as much to say about the fan reaction to this edgy series as I do about the actual comic books. I’ll start with the comics.

Extrapolating from the current chaos in the country, though, to be truthful, it’s a chaos that existed long before the inauguration of the Worst President Ever, Chaykin gives us a world where the United States has been sundered by the worst terrorist attack ever. It’s a truly diabolical plot with a horrific body count that leaves the country with even more inadequate leadership that we’re accustomed to. And, because we must always have someone to blame, we blame all the usual minorities as well as the government agent who failed to prevent the attack. In these issues, that agent is given a second chance of sorts. He recruits a team of terrible people serving life sentences to hunt down and kill the planners of that attack. It’s a dense thriller with lots of shocking moments that lead to a very satisfying conclusion.

Online comics fandom went crazy when this series launched. Chaykin was accused of every “phobe” you could think of as if the very act of writing about the awful things human beings do to one another someone made him guilty of those things. He was especially accused of being transphobic in regards to the team member who ended up in prison because she fought back and killed her attackers. Obviously, I’m not in agreement with these online commentators.

Chaykin has made a career of stretching the boundaries of comics in both content and storytelling. Readers should have known what they were getting into. Almost every character in this series is a bad person. A couple are marginally better than others. Two are protagonists I found myself hoping would find their way into the light. Here’s where I activate the spoiler warnings.

SPOILERS AHEAD
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The government operative in charge of this revenge mission cheats on his wife with a mistress. He fails to do his job while juggling these affairs. He pays a terrible price for these shortcomings when his wife, his children and his mistress all die in these terrorist attacks. He seeks some kind of justice.

The transgender character refers to a bad thing she did when she was sixteen. She is a prostitute, which, like it or not, is not something unusual in our world. She kills her attackers brutally, but what she does to them is no different from what they would have done to her.

The planners of the terrorist attack are a mixed bunch of horrible people, mostly united by their love of power and profit and their hatred of Jews. That some of them walk in the circles of government power is horrifying.

The government operative and the transgender character grow beyond their past lives in the course of this story. I don’t know that I’d want to hang out with them, but the operative is dedicated to his mission and loyal to his team. The transgender character shows him kindness before they become involved physically. That involvement is another moment of change for the operative.

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Bad things do happen to good and bad people in this story. All of these bad things are in service of a story that is clearly not for the faint of heart.

The Divided States of Hysteria is an outstanding series. It’s what I have to come to expect from Chaykin and why he’s one of a handful of comics creators whose new work will always warrant a look from me. It might not be a series for you.

In January, Image will collect The Divided States of Hysteria in a trade paperback [$16.99]. I recommend it.

ISBN 978-1534303836

                                                                                 
Faith is one of my favorite super-heroes. Writer Jody Houser does a terrific job with her adventures. Even so, the four-issue Faith and the Future Force [Valiant; $3.99] was a tough sell to me. This was a time travel tale, my least favorite kind of science fiction. My fondness for DC/CW’s Legends of Tomorrow not withstanding, time travel is too messy for me.

In Future Force - written by Houser; drawn by Cary Nord with Brian Thies - time-traveling physicist Neela Sethi has journeyed through the centuries doing this and that. Some of what she did or tried to do has been problematic. This time out, she’s trying to prevent a robot from erasing human history.

She recruits Faith and other heroes. It does not go well for those heroes. It didn’t go well for me either. I wasn’t liking this story at all. Until the fourth and final issue.

Without giving much away, Faith does something so Faith, so darned perfect, it made up for the three-issue set-up to this satisfying conclusion. Even as it made her ask a question whose answer might weigh heavily on her in the future.

Here’s what I’m going to recommend. If you see a comic or a trade paperback collection starring Faith, buy it. You don’t need to be a Valiant completist to enjoy these stories. The individual stories have all the information you need to enjoy them. Just buy any and every Faith book you see. You’ll thank me.

The Faith and the Future Force trade paperback will be released in late December at a reader-friendly price of $9.99.

ISBN 978-1682152331

                                                                                   
 
Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances #1-2 [Charlton Neo Media; $6.99 each] are not steamy stories of the longtime comic writer’s amorous adventures. Suggested for mature readers, they are what my friend calls “postmodern 21st Century love comics.”

Right up front, I’ll let you know that I loved some of the tales in the first issue and hated some of them. I suspect most readers will have a similar reaction. A story about two police officers sort of made my skin crawl. A story about two people meeting in person after they made a match online moved me, as did a story about love in a senior citizens home. A satirical story had what struck me as too obvious a conclusion. The second issue didn’t have the heights of the two stories I loved in the first, but there wasn’t a bad story within its pages.

Kupperberg’s artistic roster is excellent. The covers are by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dean Haspiel. The interior art is by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Jeff Austin, Rob Kelly, Angel Gabriel, Daerick Gross, Bob Smith, Barb Kaalberg, Kevin Tuma, Mort Todd, Joe Staton and Fernando Ruiz. Solid from cover to cover.

Charlton Neo Media is an odd publishing outfit, built on the mostly public domain ruins of the original Charlton Comics. But I’ve been enjoying their books and will continue following them, If you are looking for something different, this might be exactly the comics you have been wanting.

I'm taking several days off from the bloggy thing to complete my next Black Lightning script and some other work, but I'll be back next week to thrill you anew.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, December 3, 2017

15 SHOCKING STATEMENTS

It’s time for my latest adventure into “click-bait” writing. I have 15 shocking statements for your low-attention-span entertainment, every one of which is guaranteed, albeit not in any legal sense of the word, to ignite online angst and enmity.

Why 15? No one has been able to explain that to me. My best guess is that Comic Book Resources and other websites who go to this well on a daily basis came up with the number by counting their fingers and toes.

Wait a minute, you ask. Wouldn’t that add up to 20? Trust me, you don’t want to know what these pseudo-journalists are doing with one of their hands. Or with one of their feet if they are particularly dexterous. No wonder they are so bad at their jobs.

Consider the above shocking statements as a bonus.
                                                                             

1. I once used an Asian pseudonym on a comic-book script.

After firing me off my second Black Lightning series in the 1990s, editor Pat “The Rat” Garrahy tried to not pay me for my completed ninth-issue script. When I fought and won that battle, he butchered my script via the Scab From Down Under he had hired to replace me. I demanded my name be removed from the script and that my credit be changed to “Lane Shiro.” That name was derived by rearranging the letters in the phrase “Slain Hero.”

2. I have been trying to recall if I have ever acted inappropriately with anyone. It’s harder than it sounds.

I remember being a little shit to a British exchange student at the elementary school I attended. After being picked on as the odd kid out, I went and picked on her. To this day, I feel terrible about my behavior. I wish I could find and apologize to her. Watch this bloggy thing for further recollections.

3. It annoys me when fans talk crap about “the great unwashed” or “the mundanes.” How is that any different from the derision we used to face and, to some extent, still face?

Grow up. We won. Hollywood comes to us for its movies and TV shows. Our comics and graphic novels are no longer immediately dismissed as trash. We are an incredibly large demographic. Every one wants us, even if it’s only for our money or because we totally rock our cosplay. If someone doesn’t love what we love, that’s their loss. At least when it comes to entertainment, print and otherwise, we’re doing more than okay.
                                                                            
4. I like Captain America: Sam Wilson more much than I like Falcon, the current Sam Wilson series.
 
As moronically awful as Secret Empire was, Sam Wilson shone in his own concurrent title. This new series makes me roll my eyes in utter disbelief. First, we have a demon fomenting violence in Chicago’s streets instead of addressing the issue realistically. Next, we’re expected to believe that an educated man like Sam doesn’t know the meaning of the word “moxie.” That’s two strikes in two issues.

5. I’m done with Christians. With an asterix.

I now feel about Christians the way I feel about the police. Just as there are bad cops and good cops, there are good Christians and bad Christians. Good Christians who follow the actual teachings of Christ do not engage in bigotry. They do not attempt to force their views on non-Christians. They do not support pedophiles for office. They don’t support sexual predators for office. They don’t support politicians and political parties who place increasing the already obscene wealth of their wealthy donors over the needs of the other 99.9% of Americans.

6. Good Christians and good cops may not be good.

If they were good, they would oppose bad Christians and bad cops to the full extent of their abilities and positions. Standing by and doing/saying nothing. That’s not my definition of good.

7. Evangelicals are supporting Trump and his ilk because they want to speed up the end of days.

I have read what I assume is the same Bible that they read. If you ask what Jesus would do, there’s nothing in that book that suggests he would support a senatorial candidate who stalked teenage girls, a racist presidential candidate who admitted to being a sexual predator, or policies that take from the poor and middle class to enrich the wealthiest people in our nation.

8. I scream at the TV when law-enforcement officers put someone at risk while they try to talk down the armed suspect threatening that someone.

I think law-enforcement officers in real life are too quick to use deadly force. I think law-enforcement officers on TV should study up on what a “clean shoot” is.
                                                                            

9. I’m enjoying a BDSM comic book.

A dear friend gave me a copy of Stjepan Sejic’s Sunstone Volume 1 [Top Cow/Image; $14.99]. I was immediately taken by the appealing main characters, the sensuality of their relationship and the truly lovely artwork. I’m not asking Santa to bring me leather goods for Christmas, but I do plan to read the rest of the series.

10. My “Citizen Tony” columns are on hiatus because I’m too damned depressed about the United States to write those columns.

I experienced crippling hopelessness when I tried to write about my country. It’s horrifying to realize there is no rock bottom for the Dumpster President and the Republican Party. I miss being confident that tomorrow will be better.
                                                                               

11. I wonder at what point do the greedy and treasonous actions of this administration and the GOP allow people to take action against them in self-defense.

Theoretically, we have a chance to at least partly get our country back in the 2018 elections. However, the Republicans show no sign of abandoning their rigging of our elections through redistricting,  voter suppression and the like. If the elections don’t offer decent people a fair chance to turn out Republican monsters and traitors, what recourse is available to us?

12. A fine young person of my acquaintance suggested that part of the problem with our country is that people of my generation aren’t dying fast enough. I agree with him.
 
How much do I agree with him? I stop just short of wanting Trump, every Republican who voted for the GOP tax bill, every person who voted for Trump and every sanctimonious person who refused to vote for Hilary Clinton to die quickly and in pain, disgrace and abject poverty. I’m not proud of feeling that way.
                                                                               

13. I have a bad habit of buying books of essays on things I love and regretting it immediately.
 
I’m currently reading a book of essays on Godzilla and other kaiju. It’s full of boring academics. You know the saying about how those who can’t do something...teach. We should add an amendment to that to the effect that they also do their best to drain every atom of fun out of the things they can’t do.

14. When we fail to recognize degrees of wrongdoing, we might also be destroying any possibility of redemption.

Sexual harassment is wrong. Not every instance of sexual harassment deserves the death penalty. Many people have done terrible things and then turned their lives around to the point where they benefit humanity. We should never diminish the feelings of those who have suffered from sexual harassment. We should always support them as they speak out against inappropriate behavior. But not every crime of this nature is equal.

I’m a sucker for a good redemption tale. I hate to envision a world in which those are no longer possible.

By the way, as I’ve been going through my aging memory, I am sure I never acted inappropriately with women when I was in high school. However, to be honest, I don’t recall going on a more than a half-dozen dates while in high school. More to come.
                                                                                
15. I have a policy. I don’t read comments on online articles about me, my work or other things I love. I keep falling off the wagon.

It’s a good policy. It’s an intelligent policy. The vast majority of those comments are posted by anonymous jerks who have little to no understanding of comics creation. What they have is a computer, a lonely room somewhere and an abiding envy of those who do what they can’t. I can learn from intelligent well-considered criticism.  The other kind of comments are just a waste of my time.

The scariest thing about writing one of these “click-bait” things is I always think of four other “click-bait” things I could write. I may need a support group.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 2, 2017

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 12/2/17

I received my advance copies of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 a few days ago. That amazing cover is by Clayton Henry with inker Mark Morales and colorist Tomeu Morey.

When the cover was first previewed, I was amused by a comment from some comics pundit complaining it was too political. If someone is looking for a project, I'd love to see a compilation of all the comic-book covers where super-heroes are in conflict with police. That compilation would likely number in the hundreds.

Anyway, I read the issue and rather enjoyed it. There are a couple places where I’m not happy with the captions or dialogue, but that is a common thing with me. Overall, I remain thrilled to be working on a series starring my favorite character/creation and with great creative partners like Clayton, colorist Pete Pantazis, letterer Josh Reed, associate editor Harvey Richards and group editor Jim Chadwick. I’m proud to be part of Team Lightning.

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 should be available from your friendly neighborhood comics shop next week. I hope you’ll continue to support and enjoy this series.

                                                                             

Before we get into the latest news and notes, I have an addition to the Cold Dead Hands #1 annotations. This actually dates back to my 1990s Black Lightning series, which is why it slipped my mind. But Rob Allen reminded me that Ernie and Tommi Colavito are named after legendary Cleveland Indians baseball player Rocky Colavito.

Colavito was my favorite ballplayer as a kid. It was devastating when he was traded to another team. So I wanted to honor him in the 1990s series. However...

Colavito isn’t the only person being honored here. Ernie and Tommy are the names of two of my uncles on my mother’s side. Uncle Ernie is usually called “Uncle Peppy” after his youthful nickname. He’s still with us.

My Uncle Tommy passed away several years ago. He taught me and my brothers how to play chess and used to supply us with all sorts of pads of paper from his job. In addition to this, he served in WWII with actor/war hero Audie Murphy. They exchanged Christmas cards up to Murphy’s passing.

There are other members of the Colavito family who are also in law enforcement, but I haven’t used them in any stories yet. They might not all appear in DC comic books. They’ll turn up when I need such fine upstanding officers of the law.
                                                                             

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 got a mostly favorable review from Comic Book University. The amiable fellow had a problem with the final panels in which Tommi whispers to Black Lightning - after he has been framed for murder - to make it look good as he escapes from her. He wondered why Tommi didn’t just throw her rank around as she did elsewhere in the issue. Well, I think the obvious answer there is that these were more extreme circumstances. The police had just seen - or thought they saw - Black Lightning kill a bunch of gang members. Her rank would not have allowed her to order them to not arrest him.

On a more minor note, the reviewer seemed to think Tommi was Jeff’s girlfriend. Given earlier pages made it clear their relationship is basically brother and sister, I don’t know where he got that idea. While I’m sure the “shippers” will weigh in sooner or later, just know that, on my watch, there will never be a romantic relationship between Jeff and Tommi. Besides, Lynn Stewart is mentioned in our second issue and will be seen in our fifth.

                                                                                  

Craig Byrne of Black Lightning TV has a spiffy article on the first episode of the TV series - “Dark Matter Of My Brain” - accompanied by some photos from the episode. Check it out.

Byrne is a journalist who always gets the Black Lightning creator credit correct. It’s “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden,” though it might be somewhat different on the TV series. Both versions were approved by DC and me.

Many comics news sites never mention Trevor and myself, though it would only take one additional sentence to do so. At least one of these insists on replacing “with” with “and” because they feel they shouldn’t be bound by the official credit line. They know they are getting it wrong every time. They just don’t care. Sigh.

From Heroic Hollywood, Michael Mistroff has a short piece on the TV series and its short “Power Up” teaser promo. You can read this and watch the teaser promo here.

Spencer Perry of Super Hero Hype also wrote a short piece on the teaser promo. I recommend you skip the comments. Just the usual online fools who think they are creative and/or funny. 
 
Quick tip. If they were creative and/or funny, they would be creating new work and signing their real names to it.

The original preview trailer premiered last year seems to be showing up all over YouTube again. I’ve watched it about a hundred times. You can see it here.

The music used in the trailer is “vertigo” as performed by Raphael Lake. Listen to it here.

Smitha Nambiar wrote about the Black Lightning TV series for Pursue News. You can read the article here.

http://pursuenews.com/new-black-lightning-teaser-trailer-makes-its-way-to-the-internet/

At 2016's Indy Pop Con, I was interviewed on camera for the League One podcast. The subjects were Black Lightning and Misty Knight. That interview is available on YouTube.

For those of you who have asked when and where you can meet me, ask me questions and have me sign your Isabella-written comic books and books, here’s my 2018 appearance schedule so far:

February 18: Action (St. Clair College; Winsor)

February 23-24: Pensacon (Florida)

March 9-11: Cleveland ConCoction

April 27-29: East Coast Comicon (New Jersey)

May 5: Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

May 18-19: ECBACC (Philadelphia)

July 13-15: G-Fest (Chicago)

July 19-22: Comic-Con International (tentative)

August 17-18: TerrifiCon (Connecticut)

August 19: NEO Comic Con (North Olmsted, Ohio)

November 3-4: Akron Comicon (Ohio)

November 9-11: Grand Rapids Comic Con (Michigan)

November 17-18: Great American Comic Convention (Las Vegas)

I’d like to keep my schedule down to no more than two appearances a month. However, as you see from November’s schedule, that isn’t carved in stone. I’ve never done a show in Las Vegas and wanted to visit the city again. Simple as that.

If you’re a promoter who would like to have me as a guest at your convention or other event, e-mail me and we can discuss terms. I’m not a cheap date, but I’m a fun one.

I try to keep up with all the Black Lightning news and reviews and previews, but that could easily turn into a full-time job. I have one of those already. So, if you see some Black Lightning-related item online, send me an e-mail with the relevant link. As always, I thank you for your support.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a list of 15 “click-bait” comments from me. How much trouble am I asking for? Find out tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella