TONY’S TIPS #312

Conventions seem to take a lot more out of me than in years past. I was exhausted after doing G-Fest and the San Diego Comic-Con back to back. But I expected to be exhausted.

On Sunday, I was the guest of honor at the NEO ComicCon. It was a one-day show half an hour from my home in Medina, Ohio. It was held at an indoor soccer complex carpeted with artificial turf. It’s the one convention I attend where my feet don’t hurt during and after the convention. I was looking forward to the event.

NEO did not disappoint. I got to hang with a bunch of old friends, make some new ones, see some amazing cosplay and contribute to the Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana Organization. It should have been a relaxing convention and it was. I still came home exhausted.
Maybe I should start taking naps during conventions.

One of the high points of NEO for me was giving my Black Lightning Beat presentation. I told the audience what had been happening with me and Black Lightning this year – my visit to the set and several other things – and then answered questions. Here’s my takeaway from my presentation:

The fans love the TV show and my writing. They don’t like the new Batman and the Outsiders book. They love BL crossing over into the Arrowverse. They really want more BL merchandise, especially toys for children, especially Thunder and Lightning action figures and dolls. I got a good laugh when I said I would buy Thunder’s Dream House and a even bigger one when I described an inappropriate- -for-kids Freeland playset, complete with drug dealers and other vices. I don’t think that playset should be made, but if it was, I would buy it. For my Black Lightning archives, of course.

In this column, I’m reviewing my usual three items. There won’t be a pick of the week because I thought them all worthy of the honor. We begin with a graphic novel that is getting lots of press and is already a bestseller.

George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy [Top Shelf; $19.99] is a moving and often shocking graphic memoir revisiting the actor, author and activist’s childhood in a succession of U.S. concentration camps for Japanese-Americans. With exceptions so rare, they are virtually non-existent, these people had committed no crimes against the U.S. Over 60% of them were American citizens, a good number of them born in our country. And, if you want to quibble about my characterizing the camps as concentration camps, let’s glance at The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 9 of the document says “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

Written by Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott with art by the wonderful Harmony Becker, They Called Us Enemy details a dark time in our ethical history. Stirred by politicians campaigning on fear and hate of the other – Sound familiar? – the American people went from standing by these victimized Japanese-Americans to supporting this manifestly immoral policy. Over 130,000 people, many of them children, suffered mightily as a result of the forced relocations.

Takei and his collaborators show how much internees lost when they were ripped from their homes and businesses. They depict the often squalid conditions in which those taken lived. But it also reveals the resiliency of the people and how they came together to create communities within their confinement. It also reveals the attempts to disrupt those communities and the continued hate-speech directed at them. It is not lost on me that such hate-speech still infects our country from the White House on down.

Lest I be accused of presenting a political screed, let me make my case that the most compelling part of this graphic memoir is how inspirational it is. Look at the love and unity of the people who were unfairly incarcerated. Look at the Takei family living their lives with grace and kindness and righteousness. Look at Takei himself, successful in his chosen field, happy in his personal life and always ready to stand by others in need. He’s an American hero.

I love They Called Us Enemy, difficult as reading it could be. I’m proud of a comics industry that can produce a work of art and heart as fine as this one. It’s a book I recommend to every comics fan, library and school. I’ll be buying additional copies for giving out as gifts.

ISBN 978-1-60309-450-4

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Kaiju Girl Caramelise

If a comics creator were thinking “What off-beat manga would Tony Isabella totally fall in love with?”, they couldn’t do better than Kaiju Girl Caramelise by Spica Aoki [Yen Press; $13]. Shy teenager Kuroe Akaishi turns into a kaiju whenever romance enters her life. Sometimes it’s her hands, other times it’s her awkwardly emerging tail and, when things really get out of control, she turns into a full-blown giant creature named Harugon.

This is a delightful series. Kuroe is likeable and relatable. Arata Minami, class idol and the object of her romantic yearnings, is a very decent guy. However, my favorite character might the girl who Kuroe mistakes for Arata’s girlfriend but who is actually in love with…Harugon? This wondrously demented young lady dresses up in a Mothra larva and yearns for Harugon to smash her flat. It doesn’t get more wacky than that!

Kaiju Girl Caramelise is rated for teens, but I think it’s suitable for all ages. It’s big fun and I recommend it to all.

ISBN 978-1-9753-5705-4

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Batman Giant 12

Even though DC Comics’ formerly Walmart-exclusive titles will soon be  available from comic shops, albeit on a two-week delay, I still plan to buy them from my neighborhood Walmart. This is nostalgia, pure and simple. I haven’t “haunted” a convenience store or a drug store for the new comics since before there were comic-book shops. I get a little anticipatory thrill wondering if the new DC giants will be on sale and a sense of victory when they have. As demented behavior goes, it could be worse.

Batman Giant is my favorite of the titles. Brian Michael Bendis and artist Nick Derington do the original lead story which has Batman traveling through time and space. It reminds me of the Jack Schiff-era Batman with its emphasis on sci-fi stuff, yet with modern-era writing and art.

The reprint features are Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl. All of them are from excellent runs of the characters, especially Gail Simone’s Batgirl. Add it up and you get roughly three-and-a-half comics for just five bucks. The title is one of the most entertaining bargains in comics. Welcome to Walmart!

Don’t mind me. I’m practicing for my inevitable job as a Walmart greeter. The new comics are by the first self-checkout aisle, just past the initial cluster of self-checkout machines.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #311

I remain in awe of the San Diego Comic-Con. I’m writing this week’s  column after returning from the 50th anniversary of the convention  and the requisite-at-my-age several days of recovery from that most stellar of events.

Comic-Con has its detractors but there is truly nothing like it in the United States. It has more comics and comics-related panels and personalities than any other comics convention in the country, but it boasts considerable programming featuring animation, movies, TV shows, gaming, collectible toys and more. One morning, my Saintly Wife Barb attended a panel presentation on creating cakes that was standing room only. Not to mention all the events held outside the convention center, which I’m mostly not mentioning because I never got the chance to see any of them on account of I was always busy with comics stuff inside the convention center.

I got to hang out with friends who either worked in comics or were avid comics readers or were cast members of Black Lightning. I got to meet new friends. I felt the Black Lightning love from fans and pros and convention center employees and even one of the convention shuttle drivers. I ate at great restaurants, scored great stuff in the exhibitors area and watched some excellent panels. I never for a moment felt like this was not America’s best comics convention. If you thought there wasn’t enough comics at Comic-Con, you weren’t looking very hard.

I came home exhausted and wondering if this was my last Comic-Con. I hope not. While I’m trying to figure out how to make it to next year’s most sensational of all comics events, let’s move on to this week’s reviews…

Regular “Tony’s Tips” readers know I am fascinated by PS Artbooks’ hardcover collections of 1950s horror comics. Though the material is often substandard, I love delving into the history of the books.

Mysterious Stories Volume One [$44.99] reprints issues #2-7 of the title, issues cover-dated December 1954 through January 1956. The original publisher was Premier Magazines, a short-lived company whose entire output amounted to 41 issues of six titles in as many genres. They had a funny animal title, a MAD imitation, a western title, a crime title, a romance title, and this “horror” title. At eleven issues, the romance title was the most successful.

Horror from the Tomb was Premier’s first horror book, hitting the newsstands in 1954, just before the start of the Comics Code. There was just the one issue. Premier’s comics were distributed by Kable News. After seeing the comic, Kable president George B. Davis axed the title. In that same year, Davis gave testimony in the Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency.

Mysterious Stories took over the numbering with issue #2. The now Code-approved issues would have three six-page stories and a five-page horror-themed take on some classic fairy tale. Early on, some of the stories were introduced by the Keeper of the Graveyard, the Gravedigger and, for the fairy tales, Granny Gruesome. The art is by the usual 1950s comics workhorses with some pleasant surprises: Al Hollingsworth, George Woodbridge, Angelo Torres, Cal Massey and a gem of a job by Kurt Schaffenberger.

The stories are readable, but a few of them rise to a much higher level. “Fate Plays the Violin” is an insane tale of a violin that must have fresh strings made from living creatures to remain at its peak performance. “Dark Valley” is a haunting supernatural romance story drawn by Schaffenberger.  “A Dog’s Best Friend” is about the bond between a blind woman and her guide dog. “The Pipes of Pan” has a young girl befriended by the mythological creature.

Mysterious Stories has me eager to check out other Premier titles. I suspect you have to be into the 1950s horror comics to enjoy this book as much as I did. However, if you are into those comics, let me direct you to InStock Trades, which sponsors this weekly review column. They offer the volume at a 20% discount.

ISBN 978-1-78636-488-3

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Bad Company

Bad Weekend by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips [Image; $16.99] is my pick of the week, despite it triggering all sorts of bad memories of creators being screwed over by industry publishers, editors and even fellow creators. In many ways, that is the overriding history of the comics business, even if conditions have gotten better over the decades. There is still a long way to go.

Brubaker and Phillips state, in a matter of fact way, that comics won’t just break your heart. Comics will kill you. That sentiment is the driving force in this hardcover collection of two issues of the team’s bestselling title Criminal.

Hal Crane is a reluctant guest at a comics convention, but his dark side, born of years of frustration, takes hold of him. He goes on a dangerous quest to recover something precious to him. Though his story is not without humor – I enjoyed trying to recognize actual comics creators in their Bad Weekend counterparts – this is not a happy story. What makes it my pick of the week is brilliant writing and art. Great work often comes from pain.

Bad Weekend is rated “M” for “Mature” and that’s a fair assessment. I recommend this graphic novel to older readers, especially those interested in the often unsavory history of comics.

ISBN 978-1-5343-1440-5

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I Married My Best Friend

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up is a “Girls’ Love” – aka “Yuri” – manga by Kodama Naoko [Seven Seas Entertainment; $12.99]. The lengthy title pretty much explains what this manga is all about.

Morimoto is a young professional. Her parents constantly badger her to marry a man, have children and settle down. Enter Hana, her best friend from high school, who suggest the two of them marry to get Morimoto’s folks off her back. Though this was supposed to be a sham marriage, Hana has actual romantic feelings for her friend and strives to be a good wife for her. This marriage is more real than either of them expected.

There’s a lot of good in this manga, which appears to be a single volume. Naoko’s art is lovely and her writing conveys character and situations well. Because of Hana, Morimoto becomes more ambitious in her job and achieves successes. Because of Morimoto, Hana does well in her freelance career. It’s a supportive marriage, which is always nice to see in comics of any kind.

I have one problem with this manga. Hana’s physical advances toward Morimoto are a bit aggressive in a couple places. Nothing violent. More in the realm of invading personal space. This isn’t unusual in Japanese comics, but I’m more sensitive to such things than I was when I first started reading such romantic comedies.

Naoko’s I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up is suitable for older teens and adults. I liked it well enough to hope there’s more volumes coming.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #310

I’m writing this week’s column two days before I leave for the San Diego Comic-Con, the crown jewel of American comics conventions. On Friday, July 19, from 10 am to 11:30 in Room 8, I’ll be appearing on “That ’70s Panel” with Mike Friedrich, Trina Robbins, Arvell Jones, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson and moderator Mark Evanier. In typical Comic-Con fashion, there are at least two other panels I would attend if I weren’t on this panel. If you think there isn’t enough comics at Comic-Com, you’re not looking very hard.

On Saturday, I’ll be in the audience for a “Black Lightning Special Presentation and Q&A” from 5-5:45 pm in Ballroom 20. I’m sure there are other fine panels going on at the same time, but, once I saw the announcement for this, I didn’t look further in the schedule. The Black Lightning TV series cast and crew are like family to me. I love them all madly.

Other than those two presentations and at least one signing at the Marvel Comics booth, I’ll be wandering around Comic-Con hanging out with old friends, making new friends, attending panels, talking a bit of business and such. If you catch me on the fly and I’m not heading somewhere specific, I’ll be happy to answer questions and chat with you for a spell.

The only way to reach me at Comic-Con will be via text message to my cell phone. I don’t bring a computer with me when I travel and, being an unfrozen caveman comic-book writer, I don’t know how to access my e-mail, Facebook or Twitter on my cell phone. If you have my cell phone number, you’ll be able to contact me. If you don’t, try to track down a friend of mine and have them text me your name and number.

Moving on to this week’s reviews…

My pick of the week is Bob Ingersoll’s The Law Is a Ass Volume One: All Rise [Pulp Hero Press; $14.95]. This is a collection of Bob’s first twenty columns of his long-running column for the grand old Comics Buyer’s Guide. In the interest of full disclosure, Bob is my bestie. In the interest of fuller disclosure, I was the guy who suggested he write an article on the law as it is seen in comics. In the interest of even fuller disclosure, when Bob ignored all my doubtless annoying attempts to push him into writing the article, I pitched the basic idea to editors Don and Maggie Thompson at CBG and then told Bob they were waiting on his writing those columns. Am I terrific friend or what? Decades later, Bob is still writing The Law Is a Ass for ComicMix, a fine entertainment website. And,  now, we have the first of hopefully many volumes reprinting Bob’s legal criticisms and explanations. Life is good.

Bob has a sometimes quirky and sometimes snarky style of writing. His puns are only barely legal. On the other hand, he is so solid on comics and the law that I consider this series of books to be required reading for current and aspiring comics writers. We deal with so much of the fantastic in our stories that we should get the real world stuff right and thus make those stories more believable for our readers.

Bob doesn’t just point out errors in these columns. He also gives examples of how to fix those errors. One of these reprinted pieces covers Superman and it’s nothing less than brilliant in explaining how Superman could make the world a better place working with us. If someone wrote these Superman stories, I would buy them.

The Law Is a Ass Volume One: All Rise is a fine book. I recommend it to comics fans and professional alike.

ISBN 978-1-68390-191-4

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Tokyo Tarareba Girls

A while back, I reviewed Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume One by Akiko Higashimura [Kodansha; $12.99], the creator of Princess Jellyfish. The girls are three women in their 30s who spend many evenings in each other’s company, drinking and complaining about their chances of finding a great husband. One of them is involved with a married man. Another is the side woman for an ex-boyfriend. However, it is screenwriter Rinko that has captured my interest.

In Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume Three and Four [$12.99 each], Rinko is the focus. Her screenwriting career is going badly. She seems to have made an enemy of the popular young actor with whom she had a one-night stand. On the other hand, though he is an abrasive man, he actually does her some good turns.

In these two volumes, Rinko is still having trouble getting work. When she gets a job to fill in for a younger writer, her emotional flare-ups cause her to miss her deadlines. Her protégé, who has a spec script ready, gets the job. Her determination to focus on her writing, even if she must put thoughts of romance aside, works to her advantage when she is hired to write a project for a small town trying to draw attention to itself. She is treated with respect by the townspeople and her colleagues. She goes the distance and wins a small victory.

I can relate to Rinko in many ways. Even at her young (to me) age, she faces agism. She has to kill some of her darlings, the kinds of scenes that used to be her go-to scenes. She must regain her self-worth. I’ve been there more than once myself.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls has heart and humor. It has wonderful art and storytelling. If you’re searching for something different in your comics reading, this series could be what you’re looking for. It’s terrific and I recommend it.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume Three

ISBN 978-1-63236-687-0

Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume Four

ISBN 978-1-63236-688-7

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Lazarus Risen

Last up is not exactly a review of Lazarus Risen #1 by Greg Rucka with Michael Lark [Image; #7.99]. The 68-page saddle-stitched issue is a pretty good jumping on point for the extremely dense saga that is Lazarus.

Lazarus is set in a future world where the world is not divided by countries, but by corporations. This world has a three-tiered caste system in which wealthy ruling families are at the top of the existence chain. The second level are “Serfs,” those who provide a service to the ruling families. All others are considered “Waste.” Each family has a champion. These champions are known as Lazarus.

I’ve been reading Lazarus sporadically, which isn’t a good way to read this complicated but intriguing comics series. After reading this issue, I decided I’ll read the Lazarus series from the start and give it the concentration it deserves. In the meantime, if you like thoughtful science fiction action, I’m certain you will enjoy Lazarus. Image rates it “M” for “Mature.”

I’m off to Comic-Con. Whether you’re attending the event or staying home, I wish you a fun week/weekend.

I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #309

This week’s column will appear sometime between when I return from G-Fest in Chicago and when I leave for the San Diego Comic-Con. The former is the biggest and best convention devoted to Godzilla and all things kaiju. The latter is, well, what the latter is depends on who you ask. I think of Comic-Con as a huge and terrific comics convention bundled with a half-dozen other pop culture conventions. As my ancient and wise friend Mark Evanier has often said, whatever your interests, be it comics or other media, you can definitely find your convention within the sprawling wonder that is Comic-Con. I’m looking forward to returning to San Diego for the first time in six years.

In honor of G-Fest, I’m starting this week’s “Tony’s Tips” with my review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. My son Ed and I watched  it the night it was released. He called it “the most expensive fan service movie ever made.” I’ll explain that reference a little bit further down in this review.

Keeping this as spoiler-free as possible, this movie features just about everything a Godzilla fan could ask for in a Godzilla flick. Godzilla is awesome throughout. There are equally awesome takes on Mothra, Rodan and, of course, Ghidorah. There are human stories in the midst of the monster battles and, for me, such stories are what separates the great Godzilla movies from the okay Godzilla movies.

Besides the monsters, we have two opposing forces deeply involved in this movie. We have the monster-hunting Monarch, which is kind of like Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. with kaiju instead of Hydra and with more part-of-the-action scientists. Then we have bat-guano-insane “environmentalists” who look on humanity as just another oil spill to be cleaned up. Or stomped into the ground. Or flame-broiled by Ghidorah. Or, if a monster isn’t handy, shot to death by the army  following the chief mad tree hugger. I’m as much for repairing our damaged environment as anyone, but I’d like to do it in a way that doesn’t require humanity’s mass extinction.

Question: Who follows a villainous lunatic like Jonah Alan [played by Charles Dance]? Talk about self-loathing.

The acting is terrific throughout the film. Kyle Chandler is great as a scientist father trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter [the wondrous Millie Bobby Brown] and save us all. Vera Farmiga is less terrific as his estranged wife and enemy; her character acts sans any semblance of logic and with a callousness that, while not close to Alan’s evil, is still not the stuff that makes me want to root for her. Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford and some of the other good scientists are well played.

Of course, the big stars are the monsters. They look great in the film. They are sometimes shot darker than I would have liked, but they will make your eyes open wide with delight.

Then there’s the fan service my son mentioned. If you’re a Godzilla fan tried and true, you will see so many nods to previous Godzilla movies. We may not see Mothra’s “Little Beauties” in the film, but Ziya Zhang plays the duel role of twin sister scientists who are stationed at different Monarch bases. I really hope we get to see the ladies together in a subsequent film. Maybe they could sing a bit of karaoke for us.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is my pick of the week. As soon as it’s available on Blu-ray, I’m buying it.

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Peter Cannon

Pete Morisi’s original Peter Cannon Thunderbolt has always been a favorite of mine. The storytelling was direct, the art was elegant in its own way. Others have tried to carry on the character in one form or another. For Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons turned him into the arrogant Ozymandias. Now come writer Kieron Gillen and artist Casper Wungaard to have their own go at this quietly classic super-hero.

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1-5 [Dynamite; $3.99 per issue] comes off like an alternate universe version of Watchmen. Or maybe I should say alternate multiverse since the story involves an evil version of Peter Cannon trying to escape his reality by whatever murderous means necessary. “Our” Peter Cannon is the hero.

The Watchmen overtones were off-putting at first. I read Watchmen decades ago and a few times since then. But this mini-series was able to find its own voice by the midway point. It was exciting to see the good Peter pitted against his more powerful and decidedly evil parallel self. The ending was satisfying with a hint of more to come. I’m looking forward to what comes next.

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One more quick comment. Tabu, ever-faithful aide to Peter Cannon, is gay and in love with his friend. Peter doesn’t reciprocate those feelings until the end of the series. I was reading Peter as being asexual, a type of character we rarely see in super-hero comics of any kind. The “I love you, too, Tabu” struck me as an unsuccessful  attempt to simplify the relationship. Because Gillen had done such a great job with the characterizations, I was disappointed that he took the easy way out at the end.

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A hardcover collection of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt [$29.99] will be published in September. I recommend it.

ISBN: 978-1524112790

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Swamp Monsters

One more for the road, especially if that road goes through a murky swamp. Edited by Steve Barnes and Craig Yoe with an introduction by comics creator and historian Stephen R. Bissette, Swamp Monsters [IDW; $24.99] collects fourteen tales of marshland horror and some
equally unnerving covers from pre-Code horror comics.

Bissette’s introduction runs fifteen pages. It’s exhaustive, but I got the feeling Stephen could write an entire book about all those comic-book swamp creatures. If he does, I’ll buy it.

The stories are goofy and scary and often both. You’ll see a pair of women who turn into hungry gators. You’ll see science gone mad. And don’t even get me started on the butterfly story, which may be unique in the annals of swamp monsters.

Swamp Monsters is good goopy fun. If you’re into pre-Code monster and horror comics, you’ll love this collection.

ISBN 978-1-68405-453-4

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That’s all for now. I’m heading off to the San Diego Comic-Con, but I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #308

Saintly Wife Barb and my wedding anniversary hit on the same day as Father’s Day this year. I took Barb to dinner on the night before. Our kids Eddie and Kelly came over to our house on the actual day. The day could have gone better.

We ate at a pretty nice restaurant in our home town of Medina. The food was good and the service was slow. I was going to describe it as “glacially slow,” but, in these sad days of climate change, that isn’t as slow as it once was. Because of the slow service, we were unable to hit a primo donut and pastry shop just a few doors down from the restaurant before said shop closed.

We decided to go for ice cream at a once-beloved ice cream stand in the area. Another fail as the stand has gone downhill since we were last there. Fortunately, our evening’s entertainment turned out to be fun if somewhat disturbing. We watched Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019). It’s “Rated PG-13 for fantasy violence” and you need to take that rating seriously if you’re planning to watch it with younger children.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

Batman, Batgirl and Robin forge an alliance with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to fight against the Turtles’ sworn enemy, Shredder, who has teamed up with Ra’s Al Ghul and The League Of Assassins.

I want to reiterate this is a very violent feature. Decapitation, dismemberment and a very graphic scene in which one of the Turtles gets his arm broken. I don’t like giving you a spoiler like that, but I need to stress this film is not for younger viewers.

The movie is written by Marly Halpern-Graser, based on the comic by James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II. The story is a solid one with a number of gripping moments. The “versus” part of the title is well-played. Stubborn heroes with little knowledge of each other and their own ways of dealing with situations. I enjoyed how both sides learned to work with one another and to respect one another. That was one of the most satisfying parts of the film.

Directed by Jake Castorena, the movie has terrific voice work and animation. Troy Baker is excellent as both Batman and the Joker. I’m not as familiar with the actors who voiced the Turtles, but I felt their performances worked well. It was a treat to hear Rachel Bloom as Batgirl, John DiMaggio as Mr. Freeze, Brian George as the ever-faithful and sarcastic Alfred, Tom Kenny as the Penguin and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.

After getting over my shock at the violence level in the movie, I did enjoy it. However, I was disappointed that neither April O’Neil or Splinter appeared in the film.

Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was worth the $4.99 rental fee (Amazon Prime) and the 87 minutes I spent watching it. I don’t expect I’ll watch it again, but I do recommend it to fans of Batman and the Turtles.

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Nurses, Monsters, Hotrodders

Some of my creative contemporaries made their professional debuts in the Charlton comic books of the 1960s and 1970s. Others, myself included, simply enjoyed those quirky efforts with lousy printing and the lowest rates in the industry. Of late, some of those pros have launched Charlton Neo Media.

Neo Media’s initial offerings were original anthologies created in the spirit of Charlton and sometimes featuring Charlton characters considered to be in the public domain. Those comics might not have been classics, but they were fun. I’m okay with fun.

Of late, Neo Media has been publishing a series of “Charlton Comics  Silver Age Classic Cover Gallery” books. Courtesy of Rob Jones, an assistant to the legendary editor and artist Dick Giordano, these gallery editions feature vintage covers shot from the actual stats used to print those covers. Printed in black-and-white, the covers look better than in their original publication. Which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see them re-colored.

I ordered Nurses Monsters and Hotrodders [$7.99] on a whim. In its 64 pages (counting covers and the inexplicably blank pages at the end of the book), the square-bound comic book had an introduction, information on the various titles, 31 covers and a list of how to read these comics and more online for free. The covers shown are from such titles as Blue Beetle, Cynthia Doyle Nurse in Love, Drag-Strip Hotrodders, Doctor Tom Brent Young Intern, Gorgo, Hot Rods and Racing Cars, Konga, Konga’s Revenge, Nurse Betsy Crane, Three Nurses and The Young Doctors. Besides Giordano, the cover artists are Bill Fraccio, Vince Colletta, Pat Masulli, Jack Keller, Steve Ditko and Charles Nicholas.

I got a kick out of this cover gallery collection. Indeed, I have bought three more since: Teen-Age Love Confessions, Outlaws of the West and Strange Space Mysteries. I’m planning to buy any others I come across as well. These books won’t be for every one, but they will delight Charlton fans and comics historians. I recommend them to anyone who fits into either of those groups.

ISBN 9781545367865

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Six Days

DC Comics made its bones in the general book markets with Vertigo volumes. To ditch that strong brand for DC Black Label, a moniker better suited to lousy beer, is one of those nonsensical decisions corporations make from time to time. I didn’t love everything that was published under the Vertigo brand, but so much great material was published that comics fans and historians will be talking about Vertigo for as long as there are comics and graphic novels. If they remember Black Label at all, it will probably be that the brand’s signature move was to show Batman’s privates in an execrable mini-series.

The recently-released Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter [$24.99] proves there was still creative life in the Vertigo brand. Written by Robert Venditti and Kevin Maurer with art by Andrea Mutti, this hardcover graphic novel tells the remarkable story of American soldiers dropped too far into enemy territory on D-Day and how they were joined by the people of a French village in holding back the advance of the German army.

Six Days is history, grim and heroic. The cast of characters is a large one, but we get to know many of them. When one of them falls, it’s a pain we readers can share with the characters. I was moved by this gripping story. It’s my pick of the week and I recommend it to comics readers in general and war comics readers in particular.

ISBN 978-1-54012-9071-9

I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #307

Here’s wishing my “Tony’s Tips” readers a summer filled with fun, adventure and relaxation. For me, the next few weeks are all about getting ready for my July conventions and holding garage sales to give myself some extra spending cash for those events.

First up is G-Fest XXVI, Friday through Sunday, July 12-14, at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare. This is the largest annual gathering of Godzilla fans in the world. This year’s special guests include actor Akira Takarada; director Shusuke Kaneko; actress Peggy Neal; director Yoshikazu Ishii; modeler Takuji Yamada; Sonoe Nakajima, the daughter of Haruo Nakajima; animator Philo Barnhart and little old me. I’ll be doing a presentation titled “Cheesy Monsters Raid Again!” Expect cheesy monsters and corny jokes with a few surprises along the way.

Two days after I get home from G-Fest, I’ll be boarding a flight to San Diego for Comic-Con International (July 17-21). I’m attending because my wife and daughter want to return to the event at which they had such a good time in 2013. I’m not an invited guest of the convention. I have no actual business reason for being there. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself there.

I do expect to see old friends and maybe make some new ones. I will be doing a couple of panels with Mark Evanier, my friend of close to fifty years and one of the best human beings I know. I hope to speak with the publisher who bought the contract for my sadly out-of-print 1000 Comic Books You Must Read. Other than that, my dance card is open. If you’d like to get together with me, maybe discuss my working for or with you, maybe have me do a signing for a worthy charity or organization, don’t be shy about contacting me as soon as possible.

This being a review column and all…

My pick of the week is Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe [Lion Forge; $17.99]. This is an autobiographical graphic novel written and drawn by a creator who identifies as nonbinary and asexual and tells eir’s story with often painful honesty. Gender identity isn’t as simple as some would have it. There’s a scale and even that can be fluid. For creators like myself, creators who want their comics to be as inclusive as possible, works like Gender Queer can assist us in learning about those we wish to include. Gender Queer didn’t answer all my questions. Gender identity is a complicated study, even for we who identify as cisgender. But the more we know, the more we’re able to embrace the wondrous diversity of humanity.

A couple of notes:

Kobabe’s preferred pronouns are “E (subject), Em (object), Eir (possessive adjective), Eirs (possessive pronoun) and Emself (reflective). They are pronounced “ee, em, air, airs and emself.”

The Library Journal recommends this graphic novel for grades nine and up. This is deep stuff, which I think requires some maturity to even begin to understand. And, of course, one of the questions of mine that wasn’t answered was how to deal with younger children who
might be confused about their gender identity.

Gender Queer should pick up some award nominations next year. It’ll almost certainly be a book the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and like organizations will have to defend. But it’s worth defending. I recommend it for high school and older readers.

ISBN 978-1-5493-0400-2

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Conan the Barbarian 1

Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian is back at Marvel Comics and my most major and virtually only gripe about the new comics is that Howard’s name should be on the covers. He does receive the creator credit inside the comics.

Conan the Barbarian #1-6 [$4.99 for the first issues, $3.99 after that] are written by Jason Aaron with art by Mahmud Asrar, colors by Matthew Wilson and lettering by VC’s Travis Lanham. Mark Basso is the editor with Ralph Macchio listed as consulting editor. It’s good to see Macchio in Marvel credits again.

“The Life of Death of Conan” deals with a decades-spanning conflict between Conan and the Crimson Witch, a sorceress who seeks Conan’s blood to resurrect her death god. The more a warrior cheats death, the more his blood gains the power needed for this resurrection. As you know, Conan cheats death about twice a week.

This is a clever way to show the scope of Conan’s life. I like how the various times are tied together by the Crimson Witch. Aaron’s story fits in nicely with the Conan saga. Asrar’s art has the grit and gore which has always been part of the barbarian’s adventures. I enjoyed these comics and look forward to reading the conclusion of this tale. In addition to the comics, each issue also contains a chapter of an all-new Conan novella by John C. Hocking. I can’t review those because I’m waiting until I can read the entire prose story at one time.

These first issues will be collected in Conan the Barbarian Vol. 1: The Life and Death of Conan Book One [$19.99]. If you’re a fan of Conan, I know you’ll enjoy this trade paperback.

ISBN 978-1302915025

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Injection

The mind of Warren Ellis awes me. I’m your basic Unfrozen Caveman Comic-Book Writer. My stories tend to be down-to-earth and set in a “real” world gone somewhat askew because of the inclusion of the super-heroes and the supernatural and whatnot. Ellis goes places I
will likely never go to and, no matter how fantastic they are, he makes them seem real.

My local library kindly supplied me with Injection Deluxe Edition Volume 1 by Ellis, artist Declan Shalvey and color artist Jordie Bellaire [Image; $49.99]. The lettering and book design was done by Fonografiks with Heather Athos as managing editor.

In Injection, five insanely brilliant insane people fear that human progress in the 21st Century is stagnant. To kickstart progress, they create something born of magic and science. Then they split up and don’t realize what they made could flat-out destroy humanity. Time to get the band back together, not that its members are eager to do so.

Injection is downright scary science-fiction. Almost every one of the eighteen issues collected in this gorgeous hardcover book has an “ulp” moment that chilled me. Those moments are just as likely to come from one of the graphic novel’s human protagonists as from their creation.

Injection is a keeper. You’ll want to loan it out to your friends looking for something more intense (and on a personal level) than the latest overblown super-hero universe epic crossover. Incredible stories like Injection are among the reasons I believe this is the true Golden Age of Comics. Don’t let the price tag turn you away. InStock Trades, who sponsors “Tony’s Tips” here has the book at a generous discount. I have been a very satisfied customer of theirs since shortly after I discovered fire.

ISBN 978-1-5343-0862-6

I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #306

I was invited to give a talk on comics during a lunch gathering of the Twelve High Club at the Western Reserve Masonic Community in my hometown of Medina, Ohio. I was impressed by the size and beauty of this retirement community. Though my own retirement home will most likely be a secluded cabin where I will surely be eaten by bears or wolves or scientologists, I did try to picture what my life would be like in such a place, which still involved my eventual demise by bears or wolves or scientologists. I’m not well.

This was an unusual audience for me. Most of the people in the room were older than me by a decade or more. The younger attendees were the guy who invited me to speak, his wife, a police chief, a fire chief and a surgeon. The only one who had read anything I’d written was, again, the guy who invited me to speak.

Given that everyone in the room had lived through a lot of history, I talked about comics history. The audience was interested when I told them comic books have almost always been socially progressive, that the industry was founded by Jewish businessmen barred from the more elegant levels of publishing. I talked about the diversity of talent that has always been at least part of comics and how today’s much greater diversity is making comics as good or better than at any time in the past.

I talked about my career and my travels during that career. When I solicited questions from the audience, I was asked about Stan Lee, the amount of research I do for my stories and how much of what I write is based on my own life. At the end, I got a nice certificate and round of applause. Not a bad way to spend a couple hours on a sunny afternoon.

Here are this week’s reviews…

My pick of the week is Superman: The Golden Age Newspaper Dailies: 1947-1949 [Library of American Comics; $49.99]. These stories were written by Alvin Schwartz, edited by Jack Schiff and drawn by Wayne Boring and, later, Win Mortimer. This handsome hardcover collection features the strips from April 28, 1947 through September 3, 1949. If you’re a reader used to the Superman of 2019, you will be amazed at how different the character and his newspaper strip adventures were seven decades ago.

Schwartz was writing for an audience much larger and older than the kids who read the Superman comics of that era. I knew him during his last years of life. We met at a Mid-Ohio-Con and bonded almost immediately. He was one of the most thoughtful of comics writers, which is why he could place Superman and his cast into situations of all kinds.

A millionaire – back then, a million bucks was real money – falls in love with the voice on the other hand of a wrong number. To earn a large donation for charity, Superman must figure out how to use his powers in a new and different ways. Schwartz was as inventive as any writer who ever worked in comics.

The perfect woman decides she must have Superman for her mate. A man gets the power to predict crimes, but ignores his visions when he falls for a beautiful gun moll. Clark Kent inherits one million dollars – real money, remember – and gets fired from his reporter job because Perry White doesn’t want to employ someone who doesn’t need the job. A Luthor-type mad scientist creates a weapon that can stop Superman in his tracks. The effects of the weapon linger into Superman’s next adventure. Superman works as a male escort – clean thoughts, chums – to help out a man trying to earn enough to start his own business. Adventures that were both outlandish and down to Earth. I love them a lot.

My favorite story of this book was the 1948 “Return of the Ogies.” These are invisible beings, normally confined to their island home,  who delight in following Superman everywhere. In this return, they become visible and, in doing so, shown to be two of the loveliest woman imaginable. Were I writing Superman, I’d find a way to bring the Ogies into the comic books. An occasional light adventure would be good for today’s teeth-clenching super-heroes.

Don’t let the high cover price deter you from adding this book to your collection. You can get a great deal on it from InStockTrades, the sponsors of this column.

ISBN 978-1-68405-437-4

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Cool Japan Guide

I’m always finding great comics and comics-related books through my local library system. Published in 2015, my most recent discovery was discovery was comics creator Abby Denson’s Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen [Tuttle Publishing; $14.95] wherein Denson takes us on a personal tour of Japan. Given that visiting Japan is high on my bucket list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket, I started reading the book as soon as I brought it home from the library.

Japan is endlessly fascinating. Even with all the manga I read and all the kaiju movies I watch, I learned new things from this book.

It starts with pre-trip preparation tips. It moves on to what you should expect when you land in Japan, where you can get great food at reasonable prices, how to conduct yourself if you’re staying at a friend’s home and so much more.

Temples and shines were not high on my list of things I would like to see in Japan, but Denson convinced me they are places I must see on my dream trip. She reinforced my desire to visit the impressive manga and toy stores to be found in Japan. I was maybe four or five chapters into her book when I ordered a copy for my home library.

About the only things I want to experience in Japan that she didn’t write about were baseball and Godzilla. As long as I’m dreaming, I would love to be an invited guest at a Japanese comics convention. I recognize that would be a comics industry equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle.

If you have any interest in visiting Japan, I think you will get a lot from this clever book. I recommend it highly.

ISBN 978-4-8053-1279-7

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Crypt of Shadows

I love special events. Earlier this year, Marvel did a six-issue celebration of “80 Years of Marvel Greatness.” If I were a cynical person, I might describe the event as a way for Marvel to renew its trademarks on six long defunct titles. Either way, I bought every one of the six issues.

The original Crypt of Shadows was an all-reprint title that ran for 21 issues from January 1973 to November 1975. Crypt of Shadows #1 [January 2019; $3.95] is the first issue of the title to have new material. The writer is the prolific Al Ewing. The artists on the three connected stories are Garry Brown, Stephen Green and Djibril Morissette-Phan. It’s not an award-winner, but it’s a solid horror story. I enjoyed it.

The event’s other issues are: War is Hell, Journey into Unknown Worlds, Ziggy Pig/Silly Seal, Love Romances and Gunhawks. I bought the individual issues, but I’m guessing the six comics will get a trade paperback collection ere long.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #305

June promises to be a productive month for me. I have launched my nigh-weekly Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales wherein I hope to dramatically decrease my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. If I manage that, I’ll be able to buy more stuff. But, please, don’t share that information with my Saintly Wife Barb.

I’m not attending any conventions in June, but I will be speaking at a private lunch of local Masons. It’s going to be a short talk, so I’ll likely concentrate on Cleveland connections to the history of comics. This is a pro bono talk because I was invited to speak by the brother-in-law of a neighbor who has helped me on the afore-mentioned garage sale.

It’s been suggested I sign up with various agencies and land some paying speaking gigs. It’s certainly something I should consider. In the meantime, feel free to recommend me to your local colleges, libraries, organizations and schools.

While I’ll still be writing several hours every day in June, my not being on the road should afford me more time to read comic books and other things. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on all the comics-based movies and TV series on which I’m woefully behind. Maybe I’ll even watch a butt load of cheesy monster movies. Or maybe take the occasional nap. The possibilities are endless.

Summer is, traditionally, a great time to read comic books. When I was a kid, I could spend hours every day doing just that. I don’t have the kind of time as an adult, but I love reading comic books, graphic novels and books on comics history and sharing the best of those with the readers of this column.

Last week, I binged-read several issues of three different titles, two current and one going back a few years. Here’s what I thought of those comics…

If for no other reason that it changed the face of super-hero comic books as they had been known, Fantastic Four deserves to be known as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” Sure, the title has seen some weak runs in its long history, but, overall, it’s been pretty good and sometimes amazingly great. If this were a book instead of a column, I would comment on those amazingly great runs. Instead, I’ll talk on Fantastic Four #1-9 and Fantastic Four Wedding Special #1 of the current run. These issues were written by Dan Slott (with a few guest writers) and drawn by artists including Sara Pichelli, Stefano Caselli, Aaron Kuder and others.

The issues have pretty much all the stuff you would expect from any new run of Fantastic Four. There’s the family atmosphere. There’s a wedding. There’s Doctor Doom and Galactus. There are super-hero pals. There’s the “never surrender” and “always find a way” mantras that have been the heart of so many epic stories. In a sense, Slott is reinventing the wheel. I’m good with that.

Keep in mind that the original Fantastic Four wheel was invented in 1961, almost six decades ago. Many and probably most of today’s FF readers weren’t alive when that wheel hit the road. They deserve to see the basic design in action. It may be updated a bit from time to time, but, when a current creative team embraces the team’s core values, the wheel delivers an entertaining ride.

For me, it was good seeing the family back together with so little of the overwrought interpersonal drama that has marred some recent runs. We’ve seen the Four at odds with one another. Who needs any replay of that? These characters are at their best when they work together. Save the dysfunctional family crap for the cheaper seats.

The long-awaiting wedding of Alicia Masters and Ben Grimm was fun. No invasions of super-villains. No Skrulls in disguise. Just fun, albeit from a super-hero standpoint.

Really evil Doctor Doom is back and that feels very right. I got a kick out of the Infamous Iron Man redemption story, but it always felt like an alternate universe story to me. Doom’s machinations in this new run were beautifully diabolical. This is why he’s the FF’s most dangerous foe.

There have already been a couple of collections of Dan Slott’s run. Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 1: Fourever ($15.99] reprints the first four issues. Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 2: Mr. and Mrs. Grimm [$15.99] has issues #5-8 plus the wedding special. Both get my recommendation, especially for long-time fans of Fantastic Four who have been awaiting their return to glory.

Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 1: Fourever

ISBN 978-1302913496

Fantastic Four by Dan Slott Vol. 2: Mr. and Mrs. Grimm

ISBN 978-1302913502

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Hawkman 1

I wrote Hawkman in the 1980s, working with the incredible Richard Howell, one of my all-time favorite artistic collaborators. It was an assignment I enjoyed and was very well received until an after-the-launch editor decided to upend my original five-year plan which had gotten me the assignment in the first place. I left the title and – here’s a big surprise – sales plummeted.

Since then, with a few notable exceptions, most of what DC has done with Hawkman is to make him unpleasant and to make his back story indecipherable. The New 52, the Death of Hawkman mini-series – talk about telegraphing the ending – and Metal made things worse. It was painful to see my old friend suffer.

Imagine my delight after reading the first ten issues of the latest Hawkman ongoing series by writer Robert Venditti and artist Bryan Hitch with its elegant solution to the continuity nightmare. While I’m not wild about the idea that Hawkman is seeking redemption for truly horrific crimes in one of his past lives, I’m always willing to give redemption stories a chance.

I’m enjoying this series. I love seeing Hawkman connect with some of his old friends in positive ways. I am thrilled by the amazing twists and turns. The writing and art are excellent. It has become one of my favorite super-hero titles.

Hawkman is my pick of the week. The first six issues are collected in the just-released Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening [$16.99]. A second volume is scheduled for December. My guess is that, after you read the first volume, you may start searching for the individual issues that follow. Highly recommended.

Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening

ISBN 978-1401291440

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Hell House

My third review is for a mini-series you’ll have to work to find. In 2004 and 2005, IDW published a four-issue adaptation of Richard Matheson’s Hell House [$6.49 per issue]. Adapted by Ian Edginton, drawn by Simon Frasier, it well and truly did justice to one of the most frightening stories by one of the greatest horror writers of all time. I mention it this week because IDW (or whoever owns the rights) should put this series back into print in a collection as classy and stylish as the adaptation.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, you can find issues of the series on the secondary market. On eBay, I’ve seen the occasional single issues offered at cover price. More commonly, a set of the  entire mini-series runs $50. If you can find the series at a price you’re comfortable with, I recommend it highly.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #304

Tim Conway was one of us and, by us, I mean one of so many creative people who were born in Ohio. He was born on December 15, 1933, in  Willoughby, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. He grew up in nearby Chagrin Falls. He went to Bowling Green State University. After serving in the military, he returned to Cleveland where he worked in local TV with his dear friend Ernie Anderson. Locally, Anderson is revered for his hosting of monster movies as Ghoulardi. Nationally, he was the voice of ABC.

Most people probably remember Conway for playing Ensign Parker on McHale’s Navy or as the guy who constantly cracked up Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show. He was one of the funniest people in the known universe. A writer and producer, he starred as Dorf in sports comedy films. He voiced Barnacle Boy in SpongeBob SquarePants. In his career he won six Primetime Emmy Awards, four were awarded for The Carol Burnett Show, including one for writing.

Conway was a brilliant performer and, judging from everything I’ve seen, a wonderful human being. He appeared in comic books, such as adaptations of McHale’s Navy and the short-lived Rango. Some of the movies he appeared in were also adapted for comics. It’s the comics connection that has me thinking about something today.

Adaptations and continuations of movies and TV series have never been completely absent from the comic books. These days, there are several dozen such comic books, albeit mostly featuring movies and TV series that fall into the general categories of fantasy, horror and science fiction. DC Comics has even done comics based on shows based on their characters. Ouroboros in action.

Where are the cop shows, the legal dramas, the medical dramas and the life-action situation comedies? Would The Big Bang Theory have succeeded as a comic-book series? Law and Order Special Victims Unit? The Good Fight? Grey’s Anatomy? Have the logistics for doing
such adaptations gotten too complicated?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. Heck, I don’t even know if I’d want to read or write such comics. Okay, I could sort of see myself writing Adventures of Trevor Noah or Adventures of Rachel Maddow in modernized versions of what DC Comics used to do with Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis. But, as you’ve surely realized by now, I’m not entirely right in the head.

So I’ll leave it at this. Tim Conway brought a lot of entertainment to a lot of people, myself included. I thank him for that.

Moving on to this week’s reviews…

Zagor

I was just blown away when an online friend sent me the signature edition of Zagor: The Lost World by Mauro Boselli with artwork by Michele Rubini [Epicenter Comics; $29.99]. Weighing in at over 250 mostly black-and-white pages, this hardcover book is a bargain at its thirty-buck price tag.

Zagor is an adventurer and a protector whose stories take place in  the first half of the 18th century. His nom de guerre comes from a tribal name meaning “The Spirit with the Hatchet.” His strength is superhuman, as are his agility, endurance and speed. He could give Doc Savage and Tarzan the fight of their lives.

Patrick Welling is his real name and, although he’s considered to be a western hero, his daring deeds usually involve science fiction and horror. Popular in Italy, Zagor is even more popular in Serbia,  Croatia and Turkey.

The Lost World is an exciting adventure involving a hidden plateau  filled with cavemen and dinosaurs. Yes, you’ve heard that before. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote it back in the day. Inspired by that Doyle thriller, Boselli makes this more a quest to find a missing friend and a tale of survival. It’s filled with action, danger and humor. Rubini is a master at drawing all those things.

Though The Lost World isn’t the earliest Zagor adventure, or even the first to be published in the U.S., it’s a good starting point for the series. I recommend it highly.

ISBN 978-1-942592-25-9

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Imperfect

My pick of the week is Imperfect: A Story of Body Image by Dounya Awada with art by Miralti Firmansyah, colors by Fahriza Kamaputra and lettering by Tyler Smith. Just published by Zuiker Press, this hardcover graphic novel retails for $12.99.

Formed by the husband-and-wife team of Michelle and Anthony Zuiker,  the press publishes graphic novels that bring the personal stories and voices of its young authors to the forefront so that they might share their life experiences with their peers. Awada’s tale is the fourth in the series and the best one to date.

Body image issues plagued the young woman, leading her to unhealthy eating habits on both ends of the disorder. When she relates what she went through and how she nearly died, it hits home harder than the previous books in the series. Indeed, some of the things Dounya goes through are terrifying. Awada has a distinctive and powerful voice. Comics could use more of her voice. I hope Awada has more to offer our art form and other stories to tell.

Firmansyah’s art and storytelling are as powerful as the writing. Kamaputra’s colors are lovely, never distracting from the story and adding a greater reality to it. Smith’s lettering is easy to read, which is what lettering should be. This is a great-looking graphic novel and worthy of consideration for next year’s awards.

ISBN 978-1-947378-07-0

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Uncle Scrooge

IDW’s Disney comic books are inconsistent. Sometimes, they are kind of blah. Sometimes, they are merely readable. But, sometimes, and these are the Disney comics I live for, they are crazy, exciting and wildly imaginative.

Fausto Vitaliano’s Uncle Scrooge: My First Millions, which I read as four individual issues, was a hoot and a half from the story of how the title character made his first million to the tale of how he made his fourth. Grandma Duck’s enormous and doubtless delicious pie prevented us from learning how Scrooge made his fifth million. I would have skipped dessert for that adventure.

Those four issues have been collected in a just-released softcover edition [IDW Publishing; $17.99]. Scrooge makes his first million as a prospector. After that, it gets insane. Trading in eggplant and peppers futures. Building a coast-to-coast railroad. Hosting a super bowl. Making movies. Building cities. It may not be history as we know it, but it’s hilarious.

Vitaliano’s saga bounces across incredible and ridiculous twists in Scrooge’s path. It takes four terrific artists: Marco Mazzarello, Paolo Mottura, Stefano Intini and Giampaolo Soldati. Each of these artists brings vibrant movement and personality to their artwork. Kudos must also go to Disney Italia for the coloring, Tom B. Long for the lettering and Erin Brady for the translation and dialogue.

My First Millions is recommended for all ages.

ISBN 978-1684054572

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #303

Convention season is upon us. However, your tipster is staying at home May and June to concentrate on various projects. I’m writing a book about Black Lightning and related subjects, which I hope to have available for purchase by the start of Black Lightning Season Three on the CW. Hint: there’s an excellent possibility you’ll see a familiar face during that season.

I’m also reducing my Vast Accumulation of Stuff with weekly garage sales at my home in Medina, Ohio. This is the year I want to put a major dent in all those too many boxes I have in my house and in a rented storage unit. My aim is to be able to get completely out of that storage unit by the end of the year. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for dates and times.

July will see me at the Godzilla convention G-Fest in Chicago (July  12-14) and San Diego’s Comic-Con International (July 17-21). More on those events as we get closer to them.

Comic-Con means this year’s Will Eisner Awards will be announced. This week’s reviews feature a comics anthology whose stories span centuries, a moving autobiographical graphic novel and a legendary magazine, all of which have been nominated for that most coveted of honors.

Edited by Shelly Bond, Femme Magnifique: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World [Black Crown; $29.99] is an comic-book anthology of game-changing women throughout history. It’s filled with concise pieces on women I already knew and admired (Nellie Bly, Margaret Sanger, Octavia Butler, Joan of Arc, Rumiko Takahashi and Harriet Tubman) and amazing women I was being introduced to for the first time. That latter group includes scientist Mary Anning, the pharaoh Hatshepsut, archaeologist Kristy Miller and others.

Each of the mini-bios was created by a different team of creators. It’s an all-star roster: Gail Simone, Marguerite Sauvage, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Elsa Charretier, Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen, Dan Parent, Lucy Kinsley, Kieron Gillen, Annie Wu and too many others to name in this review.

This beautifully-made book is perfect for those times when you only have a few moments to read something. I enjoyed it over a number of days, reading two of three stories here and there.

This anthology is just plain inspirational and, as such, belongs in every home, public and school library. Want to encourage the young women in your lives? This would be a great gift. What to show the young men why our world is better with gender equality? This book will do that as well.

Femme Magnifique is my pick of the week. It’s been nominated in the category of “Best Anthology,’ earning my vote in a very tough field of nominees.

ISBN 978-1-68405-320-9

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One Dirty Tree

One Dirty Tree by Noah Van Sciver [Uncivilized Books; $19.95] has been nominated for an Eisner Award for “Best Reality-Based Work.” The title refers to the dilapidated house in which Van Sciver lived with his large and very poor Mormon family.

Van Sciver weaves his present-day life and relationships with often unsettling vignettes of his youth in the house his brothers named “One Dirty Tree.” It does not surprise me that those long-ago days impact his contemporary life. It does surprise me that he came out of his challenging background as a far more together adult than he gives himself credit for. This isn’t a story with a wildly joyous  ending, but it’s not a depressing ending either.

I have seen very little of Van Sciver’s work over the years. He’s a terrific storytelling and equally skilled at drawing his stories. I felt a connection to him, probably more due to his talent than my belief we all have a dirty tree in our pasts. This book inspires me to look for his earlier works.

One Dirty Tree is, as I see it, suitable for younger teens and up. I recommend it to public and school libraries. If your interest in  comics form is as widespread as mine, you may want a copy for your own home library. As with Femme Magnifique, I also voted for this book on my Eisner Awards ballot.

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MAD 7

Edited by Bill Morrison, MAD magazine [E.C. Publications; $5.99 per issue) has been nominated for “Best Humor Publication.” I voted for it in a heartbeat.

Under Morrison, who has been sadly and quite frankly absurdly, been let go by parent company DC Entertainment, MAD has managed the very difficult trick of updating its contents while holding on to what was best in its previous incarnation. Issue #7 is the most recent issue I’ve read and it was delightful.

Desmond Devlin with artist Tom Richmond, delivered “Awkward, Man!”, a send-up of one of DC’s best movies. On the other end of the mag, there was “Mad Predicts Avenjerks: Is This Ever Gonna End-Game?” by Ian Boothby with artist Gideon Kendall. A perverse part of me hopes the surprise crossover ending is actually something in the future of the various universes owned by Disney.

Not everything in MAD clicks with me, but much of the contents do. Peter Kuper’s Spy vs. Spy. Teresa Burns Parkhurst’s “Let’s Have Fun with Your Staggering Debt!” Sergio Aragones. Potrzebie Comics with contributions by Kerry Callen and Luke McGarry. “The Lighter Side of Fear” by Tammy Golden and Jon Adams.

Even though I’m chopping magazine and newspaper subscriptions that no longer give me joy, I just renewed my MAD subscription. Because it makes me laugh and alleviates the worries of the day. Except for fretting about what the post-Morrison MAD will look like. DC should  stand outside Bill’s window with a boom box and begs him to return.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella