TONY’S TIPS #294

As this week’s column posts, I’m traveling back to my Medina, Ohio home after spending the weekend attending the Big Apple Comic Con in New York City. My mystic powers tell me I had a wonderful time introducing my Saintly Wife Barb to my friends there.

If I’m reading my schedule correctly, I won’t have to hit the road for another event until the Great Philadelphia Comic Con on April 12-14. An entire month of staying at home, writing, watching movies and TV shows and, of course, reading cool stuff so I can tell you about it right here in “Tony’s Tips!”

First up this time around and my pick of the week is The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom by David F. Walker with illustrators Damon Smith and Marissa Louise [Ten Speed Press; $19.99]. After escaping from slavery, the brilliant Douglass became many things. He was a social reformer, a crusading abolitionist who fought for women’s rights as well as for the freedom of slaves, a riveting orator, a compelling writer and a statesman whose services were requested by presidents and other powerful men. He broke barriers in many ways, including being praised by a history-challenged president who thought he was still alive.

Walker does a magnificent job capturing Douglass in this narrative. Readers will feel the degrading horror that was slavery and revel in how Douglass overcomes his past to become a beacon of hope for many, even today. There are parts of this book that are difficult to read. Yet, at its conclusion, despite all the parts of his life that Douglass could never know, there is triumph. Even knowing we as a nation face challenges born of the past and not yet conquered, there is triumph.

Artist Smith and colorist Louise provide visuals that are dramatic and fluid and real. Several prose articles throughout the book add a greater understanding of Douglass and his world.

The Life of Frederick Douglass is a graphic novel that should be in every personal, public and school library. It should be nominated for every comics industry award for which it is eligible. It is a work to be cherished.

ISBN 978-0-399-58144-1

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Moved to Los Angeles

I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation by Natalie Nourigat [BOOM! Box; $9.99] is more than the story of a woman who left her life in Portland to pursue a new career. Nourigat had been making her own comics and working as a commercial artist in Portland. But, as I’ve been hearing from comics friends who lived there, Portland has become more expensive with each passing year. Los Angeles isn’t cheap, but opportunities there can come with good pay and benefits.

Nourigat takes her readers through her journey, showing all of the many steps it takes to build a reasonably stable career in TV and movie animation. Though the book is a slim 96 pages, she includes copious advice toward pursing such a career. Finally, she brings in several other cartoonists to give their perspectives on working in Los Angeles and in animation.

I Moved to Los Angeles is a mightily useful book. Nourigat relates her life and her advice in clear and humorous style. You get a good feel for her and her work. I liked this book a lot.

As graphic works go, this is fairly inexpensive. I’d recommend it to fans who are interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff and also, especially, to students who are contemplating an animation career. Kudos to Nourigat for sharing her knowledge.

ISBN 978-1-68415-291-9

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Sally the Sleuth

I call right now the real Golden Age of Comics because of the vast availability of so many different kinds of comics from all over the world and from every era of comics history. Addressing the latter, we are getting collections of great old comics and comics that are perhaps not so great but which are just plain fun or of historical interest.

Sally the Sleuth [Bedside Press; $20] clicks off both my fun and my historical import boxes. Created by Adolphe Barreaux, Sally got her start in 1934 in two-page, black-and-white comic strips that ran in Spicy Detective Stories. Sally’s adventures were compact and, for the era, quite salacious. The feisty lady rarely remained clothed past the first page of any story. She was tied up by the villains in many tales and, occasionally, whipped while being held captive. Even so, the criminals were always brought to justice, fatally in some cases, and Sally was always part of that justice.

Though Sally worked for a “chief” who also seemed to be her lover and he rescued her most of the time, she solved many cases on her own and rescued him on occasion. She was sassy and sexy. What Doc Savage would have called a “brick,” though the Man of Bronze would have blushed at her nudity and her suggestive dialogue.

Just from a storytelling standpoint, I am impressed by the ability of the writers to tell a fairly complete story in just two pages. Later in her career, the stories would run four pages.

In 1950, Sally left the Spicy Detective Stories pulp magazine for Crime Smashers. Her adventures ran in the first fifteen issues of that comic book. The stories were longer and in full color. Also, Sally kept her clothes on. I found that a little bit disappointing. Don’t hate me.

Editor Hope Nicholson did a terrific job with this collection. The introduction by Tim Hanley is fascinating.

At just under 300 pages, Sally the Sleuth delivers a lot of fun for a very reasonable price. I recommend it.

ISBN 978-1-98871-5223

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

© 2019 Tony Isabella

TONY’S TIPS #293

Whew! This year got off to a busy start, what with my trip to the Black Lightning set in Atlanta, a couple comics conventions and a few personal matters. I’m back in the saddle and will once again be bringing you tips on great comics on a weekly basis.

My second 2019 convention was Pensacon in Penascola, Florida. It’s my favorite convention, partly because the whole city embraces the event. The airport changes its gates to “stargates.” Several of the city’s best restaurants adopt themes appropriate to the convention. My son Ed and I had a great meal at the Fish House, which was all decked out as Hogwarts. I barely noticed the dementor that hovered over me while I dined. The restaurant even took a photo of me for its Wall of Fame. When I dine there next year, I’ll be able to see myself hanging among presidents, astronauts, entertainers, sports stars and others. I’ll be the photo people will be pointing at and asking “Who the heck is that?”

On to this week’s reviews…

Let’s make it official. Scooby-Doo Team-Up is my current favorite ongoing series. Sholly Fisch writes brilliantly funny stories that work on multiple levels, making the book accessible to and fun for readers of all ages. Dario Brizuela delivers instantly recognizable visuals for the Scooby Gang and their guest stars. His storytelling skills are just good.

Scooby Doo Team-Up Volume 6 [DC; $12.99] collects issues #31-36 of the series. We get team-ups with the Atom, Atom Ant, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Birds of Prey (Batgirl, Black Canary, Huntress], Yogi Bear and Angel and the Ape. The Birds of Prey story has a line that made me laugh out loud. Asked why she isn’t traveling around the country with Green Lantern and Green Arrow, Ms. Lance replies “Sometimes I need a break from Green Arrow’s constantly talking about ‘hideous moral cancer’ and ‘failing this city.’” Fisch draws from all the incarnations of the characters as he crafts adventures that are both funny and thrilling.

The afore-mentioned Angel and the Ape adventure includes more than a dozen characters from DC humor titles of the 1960s. Fisch gives us alternate takes on Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis while guest-starring the Inferior Five and many others. The final character reveals of the story had me cackling with delight.

I recommend Scooby-Doo Team-Up for comics readers of all ages. I’ve been reading them through my local library system, but I have just now purchased all six volumes. They deserve a place in my personal comics library.

ISBN978-1-4012-0576-0

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Marie Kondo

My office is a mess with books and DVDs and Godzilla knows what all over the place. The same holds true for my son’s old bedroom, now the repository of boxes of comics…and a corner of my wife and my master bedroom…and half of our downstairs family room…and what I laughingly call my reading room…and half our basement. My great plan to reduce and finally organize my Vast Accumulation of Stuff has clearly not survived contact with the enemy. And so I turn to the East for wisdom.

Marie Kondo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the star of Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Drawn by Yuko Uramoto, The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story [Ten Speed Press; $14.99] distills Kondo’s methods into a fun story of a young woman who, with Kondo’s guidance, transforms her messy apartment, her unorganized work and her love life. I’m doing okay with my love life, but, geez, could I use help with the other stuff!

I got a kick out of this manga. Watching Chiaki get her, err, stuff together was enjoyable. I considered Kondo’s methods with far more interest than I would have imagined at the start of the book…and started thinking about which of her methods would be useful to me.

Keeping the possessions that spark joy is a key element of Kondo’s methods. This manga certainly sparked joy in me. I would recommend to anyone who likes comics that are outside the usual. I would also recommend as a gift for friends and other loved ones who might not be avid comics readers, but would enjoy this comic.

Now to start tackling my clothes closets. Because old clothes that no longer look good on me definitely do not spark joy.

ISBN 978-0-399-58053-6

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Comic Book Killer

Originally published in 1988, The Comic Book Killer by Richard A. Lupoff [Borgo Press; $16.99] is the first in the author’s Lindsey and Plum series. Lindsey is a white suburban bachelor who works for an insurance company and who takes care of his invalid mother. Plum is a black detective. Forced to work together on a case involving the theft of a half million dollars worth of comics and the murder of the comics store owner putting the pricy collection together for a client, they are as different as two people could be.

The intricate plot stretches back to World War II. Comics history plays a key role, as does the history of the faux-comics that are part of the pricy collection. Unsuspected connections arise as the case progresses, as does romance between the insurance investigator and the beautiful detective. I don’t want to spoil this novel any further, but I will add that those connections elicited more than one “Wow!” from me when revealed.

This Borgo edition was published in 2012 and it’s the edition that I recommend to you. In addition to the prose novel, it contains 20 pages of faux-comics from Gangsters at War. One of the stories is drawn by Trina Robbins.

The Lindsey and Plum series runs to nine books. All of them involve collectors of one sort or another. This is the only one featuring comic books. But I liked this debut novel so much that I’m reading the entire series.

ISBN 978-1-4344-4520-9

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My next convention appearance is the Big Apple Comic Con, March 9-10, at The Penn Plaza Pavilion, Pennsylvania Hotel, 401 7th Avenue in New York City. Guests include William Shatner, Mike Colter, Jim Steranko and many others. I’d love to see you there.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella