Fans of Black Lightning and the other DC/CW super-hero shows have received good news to kick off the new year. All of those terrific shows have been renewed well before the end of the current season. Okay, sure, Arrow per se has concluded its eight-season run, but it will live on as a spin-off series tentatively titled Green Arrow & the Canaries.

The new Arrow series is set twenty years in the future of whatever the DC/CW universe looks like after the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. The title hero is Oliver Queen’s daughter Mia. I don’t want to speculate and give away any possible spoilers for the new show, but I have to wonder, given Oliver’s new role in Crisis, if he might still be around in 2040.

As I write this column, I’m just three episodes of Supergirl away from being caught up on the DC/CW shows. It’s a small victory for me. If we start talking about all the other comics-related series on TV and steaming services, I probably have well over 200 episodes to watch. Not to mention dozens of comics-based movies and animated features. It’s sometimes hard to remember when all comics fans had to watch was The Adventures of Superman in the 1950s and Batman in the 1960s. Our universe has expanded.

Quite a few fun comics and collections have crossed my path lately.

Let’s get to the reviews…

Pre-Code Classics: Atomic War & Captain Courageous [PS Artbooks; $51.99] is yet another intriguing collection of vintage comic books from this British publisher. It reprints Atomic War #1-4 [November 1952 – April 1953] and Captain Courageous #1 and only [March 1942]. These titles were published by Ace, a pulp magazine publisher that  also produced comic books from the 1940s to 1956. Over a dozen of its 48 titles reached double digits and, in all, Ace published 668 comic books. Several of them were cited for “violent and gruesome imagery” in Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent and during government hearings in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Atomic War is especially fascinating because, in an earlier PS book incorrectly titled as Pre-Code Classics: Space Action & Captain Courageous, World War III #1-2 [March 1952-May 1953] were included. Both titles – Atomic War and World War III – have essentially the same premise. During seemingly successful negotiations to end the Cold War, the Russians launch a treacherous attack. Major U.S. and other foreign cities are destroyed in a blink of an eye, followed by America launching equally devastating attacks on Russian cities and military bases. The theme of both titles is that only a strong American can prevent atomic war.

Atomic War has decent stories by unidentified writers and artwork by talents like Ken Rice, Lou Cameron, Bill Molno, Jim McLaughlin, Chic Stone and maybe Sol Brodsky.

The one-shot Captain Courageous Comics #6 (formerly Banner Comics) features the title character plus The Sword, Lone Warrior, Typhoon Tyson, Kay McKay and Paul Revere Jr. With the lone exception of the Lone Warrior, all would appear in other Ace comics titles. None of these are stand-out characters, but I’m thinking it might be fun for me to put a modern spin on them one of these days.

As always, these vintage comics collections from PS Artbooks should please comics historians and fans of little-known offbeat comics. I enjoy them a great deal.

ISBN 978-1-78636-515-6


Bettie Page 1

Everything I’ve read about the real-life Bettie Page leads me to believe the iconic pin-up girl was a genuinely good person. She had some hard knocks in her life, but they didn’t darken her character. I hope, from whatever afterlife there is, that Ms. Page is enjoying Dynamite’s Bettie Page Unbound [$3.99 per issue] as much as I am.

Written by David Avallone, Unbound imagines Bettie as an unofficial government agent of sorts. She’s brave, capable, feisty, funny and gorgeous. That latter is due to the inspiration of the real Bettie and the talented artists, including Julius Ohta, Moy R, Kewber Baal and others, who draw Avallone’s scripts.

In this series, Bettie takes on Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones who are seeking to return to and conquer our world. On a quest for the magical devices that can prevent this, Bettie takes on a variety of new forms. These include warriors not unlike Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris and Tinker Bell. The stories are terrific fun, the art is wonderful and the myriad variant covers are amazing. The series delivers satisfying entertainment in every issue.

Bettie Page Unbound is one of my favorite current comics titles and my pick of the week. Though I’ve been faithfully buying individual issues of the series, I’m upgrading to the trade paperbacks. These comics are keepers. And, hey, just saying here, if Dynamite put out a trade collecting those variant covers, they could get even more money from me.


Amazing Mary Jane 1

Another legendary beauty takes center stage in Marvel’s The Amazing Mary Jane [$3.99 per issue] by writer Leah Williams, artist Carlos Gomez, color artist Carlos Lopez and letterer Joe Caramagna. This series has a wild premise that won me over from the get-go. Forgive me, but there will be some MILD SPOILERS ahead.

Mary Jane Watson has a starring role in a Hollywood movie. But the director of the biopic about the supervillain Mysterio is actually Mysterio. Seeing the cast and crew full of “newcomers, rejects and outsiders” looking for their first break or the chance to get back in the game, Mary Jane keeps Mysterio’s secret. But the threats to the production are daunting: a lack of funding and the ire of the Vulture’s new Savage Six.

I love this series. With a Marvel Universe so complicated that it often loses me in its intricacy, this is a story I can enjoy sans the encyclopedic memory other MU comics demand. Williams’ writing blends comedy with a sometimes violent soap opera drama. Mary Jane is a fierce mother hen protecting the production. Mysterio is an actually sympathetic character. I love it.

The Amazing Mary Jane is the Mary Jane comic I’ve been waiting for and didn’t know it. I recommend it to all fans of MJ and her role as our eyes on the Marvel Universe.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2020 Tony Isabella


The new year is upon us. Columnists will be flooding their readers with their looking back at 2019, looking ahead to 2020, predictions for 2020, fears for 2020 and so on. If you tried to read them all, it might take you into 2021.

For my part, I’ll concentrate on comics. Creators will be dealing with the changing realities in the comics industry and, not always voluntarily, reassessing their place in it. Editors and other staff workers will, not always voluntarily, come and go. Sometimes one or two at a time, somethings more as publishers trim their payrolls. I’ve heard of one creator who, after a meeting where they discussed projects with someone, came home to a phone call telling them that someone was no longer with the company.

There will be many great comics from all around the world. Even if the traditional comic book falters, we’ll still have graphic novels and manga and even self-published works that look like traditional comic books. Creators will need to master new markets in 2020 and going forward.

Comics sellers will experience the same challenges and turmoil as other small business in a “booming” economy that only booms for the largest corporations and the richest individuals. Online retailers will thrive if they offer good prices, service and variety. At the risk of being accused of bias, I am a delighted customer of InStock Trades, who sponsors this column.

The comics shops, still the backbone of our industry, will open and close. Having been a shop owner for over a decade in the 1980s, I know they have a tough path ahead of them. But those comics shops that treat their customers with respect and make themselves part of their fan and public communities will have a leg up over the shops that emulate the Android’s Dungeon from The Simpsons.

I hit 68 a week prior to writing this. I face the same challenges and insecurities as all of the above. However, perhaps because I grew up reading the comic-book adventures of courageous and decent heroes, I am more optimistic than pessimistic about the future of comics, my country and our world.

Happy New Year. Now let’s do some reviewing…

Mac Raboy Master of the Comics by Roger Hill [TwoMorrows; $39.95] is another worthy addition to the publisher’s outstanding library of comics history books. This one focuses on a revered Golden Age artist, who broke the mold for the artists of that era.

Creating comic books in the 1940s was very much a volume business. Artists and writers had to work fast to fill the needs of editors and publishers, and to make a living. And then we have Raboy, who was brilliant, who was dedicated to making the best art he could, who was painstaking in creating that art and, who as a result, was far slower than his contemporaries. Yet his art sold comic books.It’s hard to imagine Captain Marvel Jr. without picturing Raboy’s work. Hill’s book details the lengths Fawcett Comics reached to get as much Raboy art in their comics as possible.

TwoMorrows calls this the definite book on the life and art of Mac Raboy. That’s a claim that should stand the test of time. Hill has always been one of our best comics historians and his attention to detail in his interviews with Raboy contemporaries and his telling the story of Raboy’s life is as painstaking as the approach Raboy took to his work.

If you’re interested in comics history, you need to own this book. If you’re judging any kind of comics awards, you need to strongly consider this book for nomination in those awards. I recommend it to all of you.

ISBN 979-1-60549-090-8


Operation Peril

Operation Peril Volume One [PS Artbooks; $51.99] is one of the most fun comic-book collections yet from the UK publisher. Published by the American Comics Group from October/November 1950 to April-May 1953, Operation Peril was an anthology title that featured a trio of ongoing series and a one-off story in each issue.

The ongoing characters were Typhoon Tyler, a famous adventurer; The Time Travelers, a scientist and his significant other crossing time to fight spies and aliens; and hard-boiled private detective Danny Danger. The one-off story was usually a horror tale. Four different genres in one comic-book title.

The stories were possibly written by Richard E. Hughes, who wrote many ACG comics. The art included such notables as Ogden Whitney, Ken Bald and Leonard Starr. This first PS Artbooks volume reprints the first four issues.

Operation Peril Volume One is great fun, earning my recommendation. As with many comics of the 1940s and 1950s, there are problematic portrayals of non-white characters. Such portrayals are tamer than most, but they are there.

ISBN 978-1-78636-510-1



Zuiker Press’ “Teen Topics” series is on a roll. Last time out, I praised Brother: A Story of Autism. This time out, I’m recommending the hard-hitting, hopeful Activist: A Story of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting by Lauren Elizabeth Hogg [$12.99] with art by Don Hudson and Jose Marzan Jr., colors by Monica Kubina and lettering by Jimmy Betancourt and Tyler Smith for Comicraft.

School and other mass shootings are a clear and present danger that our leaders need to address with more than their empty thoughts and prayers. Blah blah blah second amendment blah blah blah can’t stop all of them so we won’t try to stop any of them blah blah blah. I want to slap their meaningless responses out of their lying mouths. Fortunately, Hogg is far more temperate than me.

Hogg, a survivor of the shooting whose two best friends were killed in the event, tells her story with emotion and conviction. She is fierce in taking a stand and demanding action. If I have hope for the future, it’s because young people like her will eventually put the aging political monsters of Washington out to pasture and take their places.

The “Teen Topics” series started out just a little too “Afterschool Special” for me. But, as it’s continued, it has added some bite to its messages. Every public and school library needs to make these books available to patrons and students.

ISBN 978-1-947378-21-6

Happy New Year to my Tony’s Tips readers. I will be back soon with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella