A friend recently asked me if I actually enjoyed any of the recent DC and Marvel super-hero books. Such questions are difficult for me to answer because I don’t read comic books in the same way I assume a majority of readers read them. I generally read them in batches of issues or in collections, but that isn’t the biggest difference between myself and those presumed most readers.

When I read super-hero titles, I read them as if each title was its own universe. Years ago, I recognized I can make neither heads nor tails of the convoluted continuities of the Big Two. Popular heroes generally appear in multiple titles at once. Company-wide epics are common and usually universe and even multiverse extinction events. Indeed, it often seems to me that every DC and Marvel series puts existence as we know it in grave peril. Everyone who lives in the DCU or the MU must suffer from perpetual traumatic stress disorder. How could they not, given reality as they know it is threatened in every DC or Marvel super-hero comic book?

Rather than attempt to make logical sense out of these storylines, I choose to believe that what happens in a title stays in a title. Tony Stark Iron Man offers an interesting take on equal rights for artificial intelligences. I’m not sure if it’s mentioned in other Marvel titles, but that doesn’t concern me. I’m enjoying what’s on display in this title.

When my friend asked me this question, I mentioned Tony Stark Iron Man and the recent Super Sons title by Peter Tomasi. I had read the latter in one of the DC/Walmart titles. My friend responded that he couldn’t stand Damien Wayne.

In Super Sons, I saw Damien as a young man striving to be a better person than he was when he was, you know, an assassin. I’m almost always a sucker for a redemption story plus I liked the friendship between Damien and Jon Kent. My friend said Damien was different in the Batman books and not in a good way.

That didn’t surprise me. Given the excesses of the various Batman books, I would not have been surprised to see Damien throwing his foes into a wood chipper. In those Batman books. Damien was fine in Super Sons, which is the only book that mattered to me at the time I was reading it. And thus I maintain a semblance of sanity while I read DC and Marvel super-hero comics.

Moving to this week’s reviews…

Superman Year One #1 [DC Comics; $7.99] came up during the afore-mentioned conversation. With story and art by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr., it’s yet another retelling of Superman’s early years. This time around, it’s part of the “DC Black Label” imprint, which means it’s an oversized comic book intended to appeal to the mature readers. You know, like those who get the giggles when DC shows us Batman’s Batawang.

This premiere issue was okay. I was pleased Miller didn’t include the xenophobic bile that has marked some of his work. My friend was put off by the attempted rape of Lana Lang. It was an ugly scene, to be sure, but the preponderance of unreported rapes that we have since learned about makes that scene more about justice, albeit a somewhat brutal justice, than titillation. I was a bit disturbed by the physical injury Clark Kent visited upon the would-be rapists, but, since the young man was just learning about his powers and the extent of them, I decided that was acceptable. As I said, I found the story okay. Which ain’t bad when you take into account how very weary I have become of origin retellings. Much better than okay was the Romita art, inked by Danny Miki, the Alex Sinclair color art and the John Workman lettering.

Miller is far from a “sure thing” for me these days, but I enjoyed Superman Year One #1 enough to keeping reading the series. Maybe there is hope for a DC imprint named after a lousy beer, after all.


MAD died for me with the first issue not edited by Bill Morrison. The drop in quality when DC made one of its pound-foolish decisions to cut him from the payroll was immediate and obvious. A few more issues later, things haven’t improved.

MAD #9 [$5.99] is billed as a “Special Tarantino Time Warp Issue.” The first several pages are in black-and-white and designed to look like the MAD magazine of the 1960s. It has a spoof of a fictional TV western mentioned in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as well as retro versions of “Spy Vs. Spy” and “The Lighter Side.” Then comes a return to color and a mixed bag of other features. A few made me laugh. Batman fans will enjoy Kerry Cullen’s one-page “Batman Funnies” and the longer “What If Batman Were Actually 80 Years Old” by writer Arie Kaplan and artist Pete Woods. The latter made me moderately nostalgic for those old DC Comics covers which showed their super-heroes as decrepit senior citizens. I got over that nostalgic feeling rather quickly.

Sidebar. Writing the above paragraph, I typed “The Lightning Side” by mistake. Now I’m trying to figure out what such a feature would look like. Making Black Lightning a comedian wouldn’t be the worst thing DC’s done to him lately.

MAD as we have known it will be going bye-bye. From what I’ve seen in the media, it will likely have new covers and interior reprints. There may be some occasional new material and maybe even some all-new specials. However, given how badly DC misjudged the brand value of MAD, I think it’s a decent bet to return to something similar to its old self. I just hope that happens sooner rather than later and that the magazine signs an editor as savvy as Morrison.

Tammy Jinty

British comics weeklies have been an interest of mine since before I started my professional comics career as the editor of The Mighty World of Marvel, Spider-Man Comics Weekly and Avengers Comics Weekly. When funds permitted, I was an avid reader of 2000 AD, the still-going-strong weekly starring Judge Dredd.

Back in the day, girls weeklies were big in the United Kingdom. One of the most popular was Tammy. Whenever sales on other girls titles took a dive, they would be merge with Tammy. There have been a few – too few – collections of these comics in recent years.

Earlier this year, Rebellion published the Tammy & Jinty Special 2019 [roughly $5 in US dollars]. The 52-page, full-color magazine featured nine all-new stories. The least of them was entertaining. The best of them made me want more. If someone published a weekly comics magazine like this at an affordable price – because postage can be a killer – I’d subscribe today.

There are supernatural strips like “Justine: Messenger of Justice” and “In the Cold Dark.” There are sports-themed strips like “Rocky of the Rovers” (kid sister of Roy of the Rovers), “Speed Demons” and “Bella at the Bar.” The magazine is a mix of multiple genres. This was five bucks well spent.

The Tammy & Jinty Special 2019 has me wanting to work in a weekly format in the near future. While I figure out how to achieve that goal, I recommend this magazine and the other Rebellion magazines featuring girls comics old and new.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella


Summer 2019 is drawing to a close. Students have returned to their classrooms. The high school one block away from my house continues its tradition of hiring the shrillest marching band conductors that it can find and making sure they can be heard for miles. The local library has switched to its “winter” hours. Grocery stores are less crowded and pizza delivery times have improved.

Comics-wise, company-wide crossovers have diminished little. This now seems to be an eternal marketing strategy. Conventions continue to be held every weekend across the United States, but the smaller shows now have a chance to compete with larger ones. I enjoy both.
I’ll be doing a panel and a signing at the Flaming River Con, the Midwest’s first LGBTQ comics convention, on Saturday, September 21, at the downtown branch of the Cleveland Public Library. In October, I’ll be a guest at the three-day Fanboy Expo Comics Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee. The dates: Friday through Sunday, October 18-20 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Right now, I’m preparing my last Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale of the year, writing a couple prose books showcasing my love of cheesy monster movies and starting a new gig that I can’t tell you about yet. I’m also taking naps with the windows open and the gentle breezes swirling around me. Odd as it may seems, I am both well-rested and incredibly productive.

I also read some exceptionally spiffy stuff last week. Let me tell you about it.

Dear Justice League by Michael Northrop with art by Gustavo Duarte [DC Zoom; $9.99] is part of the new DC Comics imprint for readers seven and up. Wrapped around a story involving invading Insectoids, each chapter has a member of the League answering a letter from one of their young fans. Does Superman ever make mistakes? Does Aquaman smell like fish? The charming and sometimes funny answers tie into the heroes’ past adventures. Northrop’s writing is first-rate and so is Duarte’s art.

A while back, I read a Free Comic Book Day offering that presented two chapters from this book. I was on the fence after reading that issue. However, now that I’ve read the entire book, I’m on the side of the fence that says “This was entertaining” and “This would make a terrific gift for a young reader.” This book also features excerpts from two forthcoming books: Dear Super-Villains by Northrop and Duarte, and Superman of Smallville by Art Baltazar and Franco. I plan to read both of those as soon as they become available.

ISBN 978-1-4012-8413-8

American Dream

A secret to no one is that I’m a big fan and proponent of diversity in comics. We live in a big world filled with many different kinds of people. If we’re going to survive to join the United Federation of Planets, we need to know about one another and, hopefully, get along with one another. Comics from diverse creators can smooth our way in that regard.

Malaka Gharib’s graphic autobiography I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir [Clarkson Potter; $16.99] tells how the Egyptian-Filipino cartoonist grew up in three cultures: her father’s and her mother’s and our own American culture. It’s wondrous to see all of this through her words and drawings. The awkward moments she lives through are relatable because we’ve all lived through awkwardness in our own lives.

The Washington Post has named this one of the best graphic memoirs of 2019. It’s “a reminder of the thousands of immigrants who come to America in search for a better life for themselves and their children.” Again, it will come as no surprise to my readers that I believe such immigration is my country’s greatest strength and best chance to reach our Federation of Planets future. This is a funny and honest look at Gharib’s journey.

I recommend I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir for young teens and older. It should be in every public, middle school, high school and college library. Indeed, I’d love to see such places, as well as comic-book shops and traditional bookstores start putting together displays of such graphic novels. The only way to fight the hate born of ignorance is by sharing knowledge.

ISBN 978-0-525-57511-5

Alter Ego 159

Alter Ego #159 [TwoMorrows; $9.95] is another outstanding issue of my favorite comics magazine. Editor Roy Thomas consistently brings us amazing comics history showcasing some of the finest writers and artists our art form and history has known.

In this issue, AE devotes over forty pages of material to the man known for years as “P.A.M.” in such classic comic books as Peter Cannon…Thunderbolt, Kid Montana and Johnny Dynamite. Because his comics work was created while moonlighting from his regular job as a policeman, Pete Morisi didn’t use his real name for most of his comics. But, early on, I became a huge fan of his work. He was a great storyteller, a fine writer and a artist whose images were deceptively simple. If I saw his work, even when money was tight in my teen years, I bought it.

In addition to the Morisi material, this issue of Alter Ego gives us Thomas’ first-hand account (with photos) of his day on the set of Daredevil. He played a prisoner, complete with orange jumpsuit. When I saw the photos, I e-mailed Roy: “We should have realized that working in comics would lead to such a thing.”

Alter Ego is an absolutely indispensable publication for serious students of comics history. If you buy only one magazine of comics history, it should be this one.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella