Our first item is something I never thought I’d see as a Batman fan in the 1960s. Indeed, it’s something I never even knew existed in that magical decade. Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume 3 [DC Comics; $14.99] completes the reprinting of Batman comics stories created and published in Japan in 1966. The three volumes mark the first time all 18 of these stories have been presented in English. My sense of wonder was tingling from the moment I learned of these collections.

The started point for Kuwata’s interpretations of Batman, a global television sensation in the 1960s, were comics stories originally published in the United States. These stories were written by such renowned American writers as Gardner Fox and Robert Kanigher with art by Carmine Infantino, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella. Kuwata then re-imagined and retold them in manga style for magazines like Shonen King and Shonen Gabo. Some tales are instantly recognizable to me and others not so much.

Readers will find a Batman and Robin who appear willing to kill in self-defense or who are, at least, indifferent to the deaths of the villains. Batman even uses a gun in one story. With one exception – “Ghost Batman” based on a story by Fox, Moldoff and Giella – the seven stories in this final volume predate the editorial reign of the legendary Julius Schwartz. One – “Robot Robbers” by Bill Finger and Charles Paris – dates back to 1947. Japanese takes on villains Planet Master, Clayface and Catman are among the foes faced by the Caped Crusaders.

If one can be nostalgic for stories one has never read before, that is what these Kuwata Bat-interpretations do for me. I am fascinated by their other-ness while remembering fondly the simpler and less complex Batman of my youth. I have no problem with a more grim and gritty Batman when today’s writers keep him firmly sane, but those old stories have a charm and a quality of their own. It’s nice to know they traveled overseas so successfully.

I recommended the Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga volumes for all kinds of readers. Avid Batman and manga fans will enjoy them. Those readers just dipping their toes into manga will find them a decent enough stepping stones to the entirely Japanese manga. Students of comics history will likely be as fascinated by them as I am. And with the holidays coming, these books would be great and relatively inexpensive gifts for the Batman or comics fan in your life. I know I had a terrific time with them.

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume 1:

ISBN 978-1-4012-5277-9

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume 2:

ISBN 978-1-4012-5552-7

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume 3:

ISBN 978-1-4012-5756-9



Kim W. Anderson’s Alena [Dark Horse Comics; $17.99] is your basic slasher movie in comics form. It’s the English language edition of an award-winning Swedish graphic novel that has also been made into a movie. Lifted from the back cover blurb:

“Alena’s life is a living hell. Since starting at the snobbish boarding school Alena’s been harassed every day by Philippa and the girls on the lacrosse team. But Alena’s best friend Josephine is not going to accept that anymore-not from the counselor or principal, not from Philippa, and not from anyone at that horrid school. If Alena does not fight back then Josephine will take matters into her own hands. There’s just one problem: Josephine has been dead for a year.”

I came to my appreciation of (some) slasher movies later in life as I watched the multiple additions to such franchises as Halloween, Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp. This graphic novel embraces the genre and, though, such things aren’t always part and parcel of the genre, is well written with truthful characters, mounting suspense and a satisfying (if somewhat predictable) ending. I don’t know if I’d considered it award-worthy, but it was pleasant entertainment, not unlike the often cheesy horror and monster movies I enjoy. In a world of many disappointments in many areas, sometimes “good” is enough to make a book or movie worthwhile. Not everything has to be great to be entertaining.

This edition of Alena also features information and photos from the movie. It’s a book that would make a good gift for a fan of either European graphic novels or slasher movies.

ISBN 978-1-50670-215-5



My pick of the week is Huck Book One: All-American by Mark Millar with artist/co-creator Rafael Albuquerque and colorist Dave McCaig [Image; $14.99]. If I had to describe it in a sound byte, I’d call it “the feel-good super-hero book of 2016.”

Huck is a gas station attendant in a small town. He has incredible powers and uses them too secretly perform a good deed every day of his life. It’s his way of honoring his mother and the townspeople who have taken him in and shown him nothing but love and kindness. Oh, and about that “secretly perform” thing, let’s just say small-town people aren’t stupid. They know what Huck can do and does, and they respect his privacy. This 160-page book really gets going when Huck’s secret is exposed to the world and he faces the consequences of that revelation.

If you’ve got an ounce of super-hero love in you, you’re going to love Huck. He’s a great character and, despite his similarity to an iconic comics character or two, he has a freshness about him that made me smile. With outstanding writing and art, Huck would be one of the best gifts you could give a friend or family member in this coming holiday season. They don’t even have to be a comics reader. They will enjoy this book.

ISBN 978-1-63215-729-4

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


I pity the next batch of Eisner Awards judges. Lately, it seems as if a new award-deserving comic book or comics collection or graphic novel is crossing my path on a weekly basis. If i weren’t so busy, I could happily retire to a life of reading one great comics work after another.

Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts [GRAPHIX; $24.99 in hardcover, $10.99 in softcover] is a sure contender for the next round of comics awards. Teenager Catrina and her family move to Bahia de la Luna, a small town on the Northern California coast. They make the move because the climate with be better for Maya, Catrina’s little sister, who has cystic fibrosis. It is a friendly town that cherishes its past and its past relationships. Because Bahia de la Luna is also home to ghosts. Lots of ghosts.

There are so many terrific elements in this 256-page graphic novel. Sisters Catrina and Maya are very real, both in their love for one another and Catrina’s desire to have a life of her. The town itself is a character with its often spooky atmosphere moving the story to its hopeful and satisfying conclusion. The ghost tour and the Day of the Dead are both magical and scary. The supporting characters are supportive in the lives of the sisters. Midway through Ghosts, I was thinking how wonderful it would be to spend a few weeks or a retirement in Bahia de la Luna.

Telgemeier is a masterful storyteller. Her storytelling and story flow are impeccable, carrying the reader through the real world and the fantastic world with equal skill. Her characters are animated and the dialogue that comes from them always rings true. Colorist Braden Lamb adds vibrancy to an already vibrant story.

Ghosts is a graphic novel you can fall in love with. It’s a graphic novel you’ll return to many times. I got it through my library and, on finishing it, bought a copy for myself. I think I’ll be buying more copies to give out as gifts.

Kudos to Telgemeier. Ghosts is my pick of the week.


ISBN 978-0-545-54061-2


ISBN 978-0-545-54062-9



The Big Con Job by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Matt Brady with art by Dominike “Domo” Stanton and colors by Paul Little (Boom Studios; ($19.99] is a fun concept that loses points in its execution. The setting is the convention circuit and the protagonists are “flabby action heroes, sex symbols and sci-fi bit players” eking out their increasingly smaller living at those conventions. Though all of the characters in this graphic novel are original creations, we’ve all seen them at various conventions.

The C-lost celebrities are recruited into a scheme to rob the Sam Diego Comic-Con. Yep, this is a caper story and the stakes are the millions in dollars the convention holds for dealers and autograph agents. I suspect more than a few dealers and autograph agents are not going to see the humor in this story. Me, I’m of the mind that entertaining stories can be told starring very good people and very bad people and all the people in between those extremes.

Over the years, I’ve gotten to know and even work with some of the celebrities channeled for The Big Con Job, and even more comic-book artists and writers in much the same circumstances. I’m sympathetic to these characters, even recognizing how many things can go wrong with a scheme like this. Indeed, that’s one of the attractions of a good heist story.

In The Big Con Job, the writing and the art are good. There are a few places where I think more character or plot development would have made the graphic novel better. Overall, though, I had a good time with this story and I think you will, too.

ISBN 978-1-60886-850-6



One of the reasons I read as many comics collections and graphic novels as I do is because I can get them through my library system. Another is because I have a generous friend who loans me his comic books after he reads them. This friend reads a lot of comic, but he doesn’t get everything. So Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur flew under my radar for a long spell. Until the first trade paperback of the series became available through my library.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF by writers Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare with art by Natacha Bustos and colors by Tamra Bonvillain [Marvel; $17.99] collects the first six issues of this very cool, very fun series. Moon Girl is Lunella Lafayette. She’s a preteen genius who is one of the smartest people – and maybe even the smartest person – in the Marvel Universe. As someone who does not really fit into the normal world, she’s terrified the Inhuman gene inside her will change her into something that’s even more at odds with that normal world. That fear is an amazing notion I have not seen articulated as well in any other Marvel title.

Devil Dinosaur is, of course, the clever saurian created by Jack Kirby in the 1970s. Devil has stuck around the Marvel Universe for decades and, when last seen, was having adventures with Moon Boy in the Savage Land. These names will mean nothing to readers who are not familiar with their Marvel Comics mythos, but, trust me, every one of those names from Devil to Savage Land says “Marvel magic” to us long-time Marvel afficinados.

Devil ends up in Mew York City, pursed by the caveman-like Killer Folk and taking a liking to Lunella. They have adventures, meet the odd Marvel hero, and protect one another. A girl and her dinosaur. How could I not love this well-written, beautifully-drawn series?

Though this volume ends on a cliffhanger, it delivers a satisfying chunk of excellent reading that has me eager for the next volume in the series. Suitable for all ages, I recommend this spiffy series to readers of all ages.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF (available now):

ISBN 978-1-302-90005-2

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 2: Cosmic Cooties (available in January):

ISBN 978-1-302-90208-7

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


You would think I would be satisfied. I mean, we live in a comics world where classic and not-so-classic comic books of the past are collected into nice hardcover and softcover volumes. It’s a world where reprints of classic newspaper comic strips are also readily available. Don’t even get me started on the collections of current comic-book stories, the original graphic novels from all over the world and in every genre imaginable, the amazing manga that comes to us from Japan. This, as I have said so often, is the true Golden Age of Comics. And yet…I want more!

About once a year, I throw together a list of comics collections I would dearly love to read and own. These books represent money in the bank – my money – to whoever publishes them.

This year’s list came to me during a restless night. I wasn’t able to sleep. I keep thinking of collections I wanted. I grabbed a pen and a notepad and started writing them down. Most of them are new to this list. Some have appeared before, but, since they came to me during those small hours between sleep and full awakening, I figure the universe wants me to include them again.

In the order they came to me…

DC’S DANGEROUS CREATURES. See what I did there? With the title that has the same initials as DC Comics? This would be a collection of the creature stories that appeared in just about every DC title of the 1950s and 1960s, save for maybe Young Romance. Batman and Robin versus the Rainbow Creature. The Faceless Creature who appeared in a couple of Strange Adventures stories. Superman tangling with Titano the Super-Ape. The Challengers of the Unknown being put on the hot seat by the Volcano Men.

MARVELOUS MONSTERS OMNIBUS. I want every pre-Fantastic Four giant monster thriller collected in hardcover. Fin Fang Foom. Groot. The Colossus. Grottu. Goom and Googam. All of them because I was and I remain a monster-loving kid.

COSMO THE MERRY MARTIAN. This short-lived Archie Comics title only lasted six issues, but it left an indelible imprint on the brain of a young Tony Isabella. Created by Bob White, it featured a planet-hopping Martian and his pals from all around our solar system. It was clever and imaginative. Though I own all the original issues, I feel this series should be preserved for the ages. I also feel I should be hired to write new Cosmo stories, but who listens to me?

THE BARKER. Created by writer Joe Millard and artist Jack Cole, and continued by the great Klaus Nordling, this feature starred Carnie Callahan, the barker for Colonel Lane’s Mammoth Circus. Carnie and his supporting cast of colorful carnival folks made their debut in Quality’s National Comics #42 [May 1944}. Their amusing adventures appeared in that title for years and also in the fifteen-issue run of The Barker. I love these stories and, even though almost all of them are public domain and available online, I would still love to have actual books of them.

CANDY was Quality’s star performer in the teen humor genre. Created by Harry Sahle, Candy was an all-American small town girl who had a regular feature in Police Comics, her own long-running title and her even longer running newspaper strip. I think she held her own with Archie and Patsy Walker.

KATHY by Stan Lee and Stan Goldberg. The “teen-age tornado” ran for 27 issues between October 1959 and February 1964. It was Goldberg’s first major assignment and he did amazing work on it. Lee’s scripts were a little corny, but still very funny. I collect Kathy, though good condition copies are tough to come by at prices I can afford. I’d miss a few meals to have all these Lee/Goldberg gems gathered into two or three trade paperbacks.

THE BEST OF MILLIE THE MODEL and THE BEST OF PATSY WALKER. We will likely never see Marvel Masterworks volumes of these classic comics heroines. Maybe if I ask Marvel real nice, the company will publish anthologies that present the best of these characters from all over their long and successful careers.

THE BEST OF LARRY LIEBER’S RAWHIDE KID. I love the Lee/Kirby/Lieber version of this classic western hero. The Lee and Kirby issues have all been reprinted, but almost none of Larry’s decade-long run on the character. A “best of” volume is long overdue.

Looking at DC Comics again, THE BEST OF THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE and THE BEST OF THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS have long been on my wish list of reprint collections I’d love to see. Both featured an amazing array of great artists and writers. Jerry’s title even had several crossovers with DC super-heroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. I suspect the rights situation might be complicated. However, knowing that both Lewis and the Hope estate are involved in all sorts of charities, I bet something could be worked out that would benefit the charities and introduce a new generation of fans to some terrific comics stories.


THE BLONDE PHANTOM. My favorite evening gown-wearing super-heroine. My standing joke is that the Blonde Phantom did everything the male heroes did, but backwards and in heels. I can’t explain why she had such appeal for me, but she does. If Marvel reprints her comic, they have a guaranteed buyer in me.


THE BEST OF TREASURE CHEST. This was a Catholic-oriented comic book distributed in Catholic schools from 1946 to 1972. It was created by publisher George A. Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio. I had a subscription to Treasure Chest during my years at Sts. Philip and James School on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio.

My parents and the nuns who taught me loved Treasure Chest because it always ran comics stories about saints and such. But, for me and most kids, the attractions were the adventure and historical and even speculative history serials. These were often drawn by great artists like Frank Borth, Reed Crandall, Dick Giordano, Joe Sinnott and others. My all-time favorite was “Pettigrew for President,” a serial about the race to become the Presidential candidate for that high office. In addition to the saints and serials, Treasure Chest also had gag strips, puzzle pages, craft pages and more. It was a fine comic book and remains a favorite of mine.

Almost all of Treasure Chest is available online for free. Greedy old Tony would like a series of “best of” collections as well. We should draw much attention to the really excellent comics than ran in Treasure Chest and give them much-deserved praise.

ARCHIE HEROES OF THE SWINGING SIXTIES. They were corny and a pale imitation of what Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others were doing over at Marvel Comics. But I have a soft spot in my heart for the goofy adventures of Fly-Man, the Mighty Crusaders, Steel Serling, the Web and the rest of the crazy super-heroes published by Archie Comics at the height of the Batman on TV craze.

Modesty forbids me from mentioning that I would also like to see at least two more volumes of BLACK LIGHTNING, the Isabella and Richard Howell THE SHADOW WAR OF HAWKMAN, and THE COMPLETE IT! THE LIVING COLOSSUS. Modesty becomes me, don’t you think?

I’ll be back next week with the usual reviews of comic books, books and anything else that tickles my fancy. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


The Black Bat #1: Brand of the Black Bat and Murder Calls the Black Bat [Sanctum Books; $14.95] kicks off a new series of pulp magazine reprints staring a hero who was very nearly Batman before Batman. As explained in a historical essay by Will Murray, the Black Bat debuted in Black Book Detective less than thirty days after Batman appeared in Detective Comics #27. Coincidental though they were, the similarities between the two characters almost led to a lawsuit between DC Comics and Thrilling. Instead, the two publishers worked out a truce. Batman wouldn’t appear in pulp magazines and the Black Bat wouldn’t appear in comic books.

Created by prolific pulp writer Norman Daniels (writing as G. Wyman Jones) and with considerable input from Thrilling’s editor-in-chief Leo Margulies, the Black Bat is the darkly-costumed persona of Tony Quinn, a former district attorney blinded in a courtroom attack. If you’re thinking Two-Face, well, there’s a good chance that Batman villain was inspired by Quinn. Unlike Harvey Dent, the terribly- scarred Quinn doesn’t go insane and turn to crime.

Carol, a beautiful stranger, takes Quinn to a mysterious surgeon. Quinn’s sight is more than restored. He can now see in the dark as easily as in light. Before long, he becomes the Black Bat and, with Carol, a reformed con man named Silk, and a brawler named Butch, he declares war on criminals like those who blinded him. Indeed, his first case is to bring those very criminals to justice.

This book reprints the first two Black Bat novels with the original illustrations by Harry Parkhurst. They are exciting adventures in the general style of The Shadow and The Whisperer, also published by Sanctum Books. Quinn is an admirable hero who inspires loyalty from his team. In public, to protect his other identity, he keeps up the pretense that he is sightless. Even so, Police Commissioner Warner suspects his friend Quinn is the Black Bat (but chooses not to pursue his suspicions). Detective McGarth, a bulldog of a cop, also suspects the truth, though he keeps failing to prove Quinn is the Black Bat. The ongoing duel between McGarth and Quinn adds some welcome humor to these sometimes grim thrillers.

By the way, Thrilling didn’t entirely keep up its part of the deal. As “The Mask,” the Black Bat began appearing in Exciting Comics. The first of these comics stories, adapted by Raymond Thayer from Brand of the Black Bat, is also included in this book.

Sanctum Books always delivers great bang for your bucks. I’m a big fan of their books and recommend them to all readers interested in pulp adventure heroes.

The Black Bat #1: Brand of the Black Bat and Murder Calls the Black Bat is my pick of the week.

ISBN 978-1-60877-183-7



I’ve always liked Marvel’s Hercules. It’s why I chose him to be the “strong man” of the Champions in the 1970s. He was bold and brash and a whole lot of fun. However, in Hercules #1-6 [$3.99 each], we see a different Hercules.

Writer Dan Abnett gives us a hero weary with being the super-hero frat boy of the Marvel Universe, bone-tired of being laughed at for his many peccadilloes. He’s on the wagon as part of his desire to clean up his act and restore his reputation. It’s moving to see a hero who is at once so powerful and yet also so vulnerable. I like this more sober Hercules.

Unfortunately, this Hercules also has to contend with the Uprising Storm: new gods for today’s world who want to sweep away the myths of the path. To oppose them. Hercules gathers together an unlikely alliance of friends and former foes. Yet even their combined might may not insure victory. The new gods are both mighty and ruthless. Even with his knowledge of modern times and technology, Hercules is in for the battle of his life.

All six issues of this mini-series have been collected in softcover as Hercules: Still Going Strong [$17.99]. I caution you that this collection ends on something of a cliffhanger. The story continues in Civil War II: Gods of War [$15.99], which will be released this November. I recommend the first book and I’m looking forward to the second.

Hercules: Still Going Strong:

ISBN 978-1-30290-033-5

Civil War II: Gods of War

ISBN 978-1-30290-034-2



Mickey Mouse Shorts: Season One #1 and #2 [IDW; $3.99] surprised me in a good way. I hadn’t seen any episodes of the Disney animated television series, so I didn’t do what to expect. Disney Mickey Mouse executive producer Paul Rudish is as much a fan of Disney comics as anyone. The show tries to bring us the sillier side of the courageous, feisty, resourceful Mickey while maintaining his adventurous side. The result is some of the wildest Mickey cartoons since his black-and-white days and these comics adaptations of the cartoons are just as wild.

In just the first issue of the comics series, we see Mickey trying to win a dog show, commuting in Japan, dealing with Donald Duck’s comical foot injury, attending a soccer match and striving to have a romantic evening with Minnie. In the second issue, in addition to stories involving pandas, a fish and a double date with Donald and Daisy, we get “Potatoland,” a hilarious road trip tale that speaks to how much Mickey’s (and Donald’s) friends mean to them. It’s my favorite of these “shorts” stories to date and one I think worthy of, at least, a nomination in next year’s awards.

Pulp adventure, god-like heroes and villains, the most famous mouse of all. The variety available to today’s readers is nothing short of staggering. What a great time to be a fan.

That’s all for this column. I’ll be back next week with something a little different. I think you’ll enjoy it.

© 2016 Tony Isabella