TONY’S TIPS #241

There are those who venomously decry the appearance of characters of color, creators of color, strong women characters, strong women creators, gay characters, gay creators and, indeed, any characters and creators who are not straight white males. They cling to their straight white male privilege. They spit on the idea of diversity in today’s comic books and other entertainments. They are dinosaurs waiting for the comet to hit, certain to be reduced to the merest of flotsam, doomed to swept into the dustbin of history. Their time is passing. They rage against their inevitable fate.

I’m their polar opposite. I look with admiration and excitement at the great characters and comics coming our way as a result of the increased and increasing diversity of my beloved comics art form. The only thing I decry is that it’s taken so very long to get here.

I adore Riri Williams, the black teenager who is crazy smart and is filling in for Tony Stark in the pages of Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man. She calls herself Ironheart. Trying to make the world better and safer, she is more likely to use her compassion and intellect than her superior firepower and technology. In recent issues, Riki conquered Doctor Doom’s Latveria, named herself queen and started the nation on the road to democracy. That was one of 2017’s finest comic-book “wow” moments.

Brian Michael Bendis breathed new life into the Iron Man franchise, even if Stark himself has been absent-but-not-totally-absent from Invincible Iron Man and Infamous Iron Man. The latter title stars a repentant Victor von Doom donning Iron Man armor and doing good. Yeah, I know, but Bendis makes it believable.

Stark? Well, he’s in some kinda self-induced coma but an artificial intelligence version of him is a mentor of sort to Riki. I’ve long been impressed by how well Bendis has captured Robert Downey, Jr.’s voice and used it for the comics version of Tony. Adding to the fun is Mary Jane Watson who is kinda running Stark Industries with the assistance of yet another artificial intelligence. Adding even more fun to the mix is the inclusion of Stark’s birth mother, a former rock-and-roll star.

If you had described the above to me, I would have thought Marvel had lost its editorial mind. But Invincible Iron Man and Infamous Iron Man work. They are well-written. They are well-drawn. They are entertaining and exciting. They are definitely worth reading. They are my picks of the week. Here’s a list of the various recent Iron Man collections:

Invincible Iron Man/Ironheart Vol. 1: Riri Williams ($24.99)

ISBN 978-1302906719

Invincible Iron Man/Ironheart Vol. 2: Choices ($24.99)

ISBN 978-1302906733

Infamous Iron Man Vol. 1 ($17.99)

ISBN 978-1302906245

Infamous Iron Man Vol. 2: The Absolution of Doom ($17.99)

ISBN 978-1302906252

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Roots

I would be lying if I didn’t admit the eye-catching cover of Tara O’Connor’s Roots [Top Shelf; $19.99] was what attracted me to her autobiographical graphic novel. Redheads aren’t my Kryptonite. They are evidence of my excellent taste in women. Ever since I watched Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man. But even the most eye-catching cover won’t earn a creator a good review if they don’t deliver the goods. O’Connor delivers.

What starts out as our heartbroken heroine’s journey to Ireland to discover her roots quickly becomes a romantic comedy wrapped in a coming-of-self story wrapped in a travelogue. I would have liked to have seen more of her family history – that turned out to be harder for her to find than herself – and more travelogue – I fell hard for both Maureen O’Hara and Ireland watching my all-time favorite movie – but I can’t complain about the finished work. The writing and the art are terrific. It kept me turning pages. It delivered a totally satisfying ending…and it made me want to see more from this very talented comics creator.

Roots is also my pick of the week…and would make a pretty nifty Valentine’s Day gift for your special someone.

ISBN 978-1-60309-417-7

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Wake Up

Megumi Morino’s Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty Volume 1 [Kodansha Comics; $12.99] is a supernatural romance with a down-to-earth hero who is unexpectedly noble. Tetsu Misato is a high school student at odds with his domineering father. Tetsu wants to join the work force on graduation. His dad wants him to go to college – which Tetsu can’t afford – and calls him a spoiled snowflake who’s never even worked a part-time job. To determine his own destiny, Tetsu juggles school and a job with his father’s housekeeping agency. I faced a similar conflict when I left John Carroll University after less than a year there. I didn’t want to be saddled with college debt. I didn’t like the arrogant Jesuits who ran the place. Most importantly, I wanted to pursue a career as a writer. That worked out for me.

Back to Tetsu. He gets a part-time job at a mansion on a hill with a mysterious outbuilding separate from the estate. The building is the home of the owner’s even more mysterious daughter. Tetsu falls from the daughter, but Shizu isn’t always the one in change of her own body. What her family thinks is a multiple personality disorder is actually Shizu’s possession by several spirits.

Tetsu’s devotion and loyalty to Shizu informs this initial volume. He’s a truly admirable friend. Shizu is a frail heroine, but also a young woman capable of strength. The spirits seem to be a benign bunch, but I suspect we haven’t met all of them yet. I’m intrigued by this series and plan to continue reading it.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty should appeal to shojo manga readers and I recommend it to them.

ISBN 978-1-63236-519-4

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #240

This is my first “Tony’s Tips” of 2018, but I’m writing it about a day after my last column of 2017. This year will be crucial for the comics industry on multiple fronts. Actual comic books and graphic  novels will have to maintain their own creative identities even as comics-based movies and TV series continue to flourish. We will be dealing with the same harassment issues that face entertainment and media. We’ll be dealing with the unfortunate tax cuts giveaways to the wealthy and their collateral damage to our customers. It will be harder for many of our readers to come up with the discretionary income that allows them to buy what we create.

Much of the above is out of the hands of the talented writers and artists and editors working in comics. The best plan I can come up with is to work even harder to make comic books and graphic novels as good as we can. I have been amazed and delighted by the efforts of every member of the Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands creative team to make that six-issue series as good as it can possibly be. I see that same drive in other books from many other creators and publishers. I believe that if we make better comics then they – our readers – will come. That’s my New Year’s resolution.

This week, as a change of pace, I’m not going to have reviews per se. Instead, I’m going to give you a glimpse into what Tony reads in preparation for this column and all the other things I create.

I tend to bounce around from book to magazine to comic and back as I go through my day. Because I need to look up from my screen and stopping typing every so often during my day, I take many breaks to rest my brain and fingers.

I generally read two or three local newspapers per day. These are, by no means, good newspapers. But they give me a sense of the world immediately around me. I also read well over a hundred comic strips and editorial cartoons each day, but prefer to read those online on account of they are bigger in that platform. I used to ghost-write for a number of comic strips and like to keep current with what’s being published.

I read magazines, often because I fell for the cheap subscriptions that are gifts when you fill out a survey. These would include: New York, New Yorker, Real Simple, Essence, TV Guide, People, National Geographic, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, MAD, and, from the U.K., Beano (a weekly kids humor comic) and Commando (a weekly war comics digest). I probably forgot a few magazines. Often I just skim the issues, but I always do that because I never know when something in them might spark an idea.

Other things I’m currently reading:

Dan Gearino’s Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us a New Geek Culture [Swallow Press; $26.95] is a breezy, informative study of the comic shop culture and how it came to be. The first 150 or so pages offer a history enlivened with personal stories with the remainder of the book covering individual stores. I was involved in comic shops and distribution for close to a dozen years in the late 1970s and 1980s. Gearino’s accounts ring true to me. I’m enjoying his book greatly.

ISBN 978-0-8040-1190-7

I’ve reading two different manga volumes simultaneously. Princess Jellyfish Volume 7 by Ahiho Higashimura [Kodansha Comics; $19.99] continues the story of Tsukimi, a shy young woman who tried to save her home (and that of several like women) by designing and selling dresses. Desperate circumstances have led her to make the ultimate sacrifice by leaving her home and friends, moving to Singapore to work for a major fashion company. The series has humor, romance and a cross-dressing hero that never fails to entertain, inspire and surprise. Once I’ve finished the manga, I plan to watch the anime and the live-action movie inspired by the manga.

ISBN 978-1-63236-505-7

Don't Meddle

Nozomu Tamaki’s Don’t Meddle with My Daughter Volume 2 [Seven Seas; $12.99] is a raucous and risque super-hero series about a retired super-heroine named the Eighth Wonder and the daughter following in her mother’s footsteps. Much of the humor is titillating and even embarrassing for a refined older reader like myself. But it’s just so crazy and so much fun that I keep reading it.

ISBN 978-1-626925-85-4

Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego [TwoMorrows; $9.95] is my undisputed favorite magazine of comics history. Issue #150 celebrates 95 years of Stan Lee, my former boss, a mentor and my friend. I’m currently reading Ger Apeldoorn’s terrific article on Stan’s attempts to get out of comics in the challenging 1950s. The issue is filled with wonderful articles and artwork. The Eisner Awards judges should start marking their ballots now.

From the same publisher, Back Issue [$8.95] covers the Bronze Age of Comics and beyond. Editor Michael Eury is a child of that era; he and his writers are passionate about those comic books. Issue #102 is a “Mercs & Anti-Heroes Issue” with articles on Deadpool, Deathstroke, Vigilante and more. I’ll start reading that issue as soon as I finish Alter Ego #150.

Squirrel Girl

I’m two issues into The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’s ridiculously fun visit to the Savage Land. In issue #22 [$3.99], writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson have Doreen and Nancy win a programming contest that lands them an all expenses paid visit to said Savage Land. Other winners include teams from Wakanda and Latveria. They learn the contest was more than it seems. The Savage Land is facing destruction and its guardians are hoping these whiz kids can save it. From the laugh-out-loud online exchange between Doreen and Tony Stark that kicks off the issue, this story arc is entertaining and exciting. Great stuff.

It looks like the entire story will be collected in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 7: I’ve Been Waiting for a Squirrel Like You [$17.99]. It’s scheduled to be published in March.

ISBN 978-1302906658

My immediate reading pile also has some free comics from Halloween ComicFest. I’ve been reviewing these in my Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing [http://tonyisabella.blogspot.com] and these are the last few issues I haven’t written about.

One of my not remotely guilty pleasures is reading the PS Artbooks hardcover collections of classic and not-so-classic comics from the 1940s and 1950s. I always have one of these volumes on my reading pile and, at present, that volume would be Planet Comics Volume Ten [$69.99], reprinting issues #42-47 [May 1946 to March 1947]. I like to read these volumes a story at a time. They make for a nice break from all the other stuff I read.

ISBN 978-1-84863-896-9

The above answers the question of what Tony is reading right now. Just reading this long list makes me wonder where I find time to do anything else.

Here’s wishing all my friends and readers a happy new year. I will be back next week with more reviews.

© 2018 Tony Isabella