TONY’S TIPS #164

Hero Comics small

Hero Comics [IDW; $19.99] is an anthology of comics stories and art created to benefit the Hero Initiative, an non-profit organization, which, in turn, gives financial and other help when comics creators are in dire need of assistance. While the Comic Book Legal Defense gets more donations and press – and does good work protecting the First Amendment rights of cartoonists and other creators – it’s the Hero Initiative that speaks more deeply to me.

The Hero Initiative treats the comics creators it helps with great respect, as well they should. Many of those they have assisted are the very writers and artists who inspired subsequent generations of creators. Increasingly, those in need of their help are creators of my own generation and those that followed us. These are my people and I love Hero for having their backs.

That great respect I mention includes respecting the privacy of the creators helped by the Initiative. This is one reason why the fans don’t always realize how much good work Hero does. Confidentiality does not get headlines in the comics press.

While some comics creators don’t want their circumstances revealed, others have come forward to become champions of the Hero Initiative and their fellow comics creators. Mike Grell wrote the introduction to this collection. Russ Heath contributes a poignant single-page comics story that encompasses how comics artists have not received fame and appropriate fortune for their work and how a simple act of kindness, giving Heath a bottle of wine along with the more vital help he needed, can foster self-esteem in creators beaten down by the industry. Not that tough guys like Russ and my friend Mike are ever beaten down.

So here we have this benefit book. It is 120 pages of outstanding comics creativity by the likes of Howard Chaykin, David Lloyd, Bill Willingham, Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, Sam Kieth, John Layman, Richard Starkings, Kevin Eastman, Kurt Busiek, Dave Sim, Gene Ha, Gerry Conway, Phil Hester, Mark Stegbauer, Bill Messner-Loebs, J. Scott Campbell, Ralph Reese and many others. These are stories and images that tugged at my heart, contributions from those who are no longer with us: Josh Medors, Gene Colan, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Simons, Alan Kupperberg, Stan Goldberg and Robert Washington. These are my people. They will always be my people.

Hero Comics is my pick of the week. When you buy it, you’re helping comics creators. I urge you to buy this book, to become a member of the Hero Initiative and to donate as generously to the organization as your own circumstances allow. You can be a hero, too.

ISBN 978-1631406089

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Superman Adventures

DC’s Superman Adventures was set in the continuity of Superman: The Animated Series. It ran for 66 issues from 1996 to 2002. It was a companion title to The Batman Adventures and Justice League titles, also based on animated series. DC has started reissuing the trade paperbacks collecting these stories. Superman Adventures Volume 2 [$19.99] is the latest reissue.

This book collects Superman Adventures #11-16, Superman Adventures Annual #1 and Superman Adventures Special #1. The writers line-up is impressive: Scott McCloud, Mark Evanier, Mark Miller, Hilary J. Bader and David Michelinie. Likewise the pencilers and inkers: Rick Burchett, Neil Vokes, Joe Staton, Terry Austin and others. Not one of these suitable-for-all-ages tales is less than entertaining and most are far more than that.

There’s no writing down to a young audience in this book. McCloud kicks things off with a two-issue story about a dying Superman and the world’s attempt to save him, then follows that with a clever, funny tale about aliens challenging Superman to a sporting contest. Evanier draws a contrast between traditional print journalism and modern media that also shows their similarities. His second story in the book features the always-fun Bibbo.

I loved the Superman cartoons this comics series drew its tone from and I love these comic books. They would make wonderful gifts for the young and the old Superman fans in your lives.

Superman Adventures Volume 1 [$19.99]:

ISBN 978-1401258672

Superman Adventures Volume 2 [$19.99]:

ISBN 978-1401260941

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Usagi 154

I’ve been re-reading Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo from the start of that exceptional comics series, but I’m also reading new issues as they are published. There is no such thing as too much Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo #154 [Dark Horse; $3.99] is a done-in-one adventure. “Kazehime” is a bat-like ninja whose life Usagi saves. Her clan of ninjas has featured prominently in other tales. When our wandering samurai’s journey leads him to a job protecting a merchant, he once again crosses path with her.

The issue is completely accessible to new readers. The inside front cover gives sufficient background to Usagi’s world and situation. Sakai’s clear storytelling, both in the writing and in expressive black-and-white art, bring a reader into the story and keeps them there.

Besides Kazehime, we also meet sword-for-hire Yamaguchi, who was on the opposite side from Usagi when they met years ago. Yamaguchi commands the merchant’s less-than-professional guards. He recruits Usagi so he can have at least one dependable sword at his side. He is an interesting character who works well with Usagi.

Sakai delivers a fine story with a satisfying conclusion. It’s one more reason Usagi Yojimbo has been and remains one of the very best comic books being published today.

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My July weekends are going to be busy and fun. I’m attending three conventions in as many weekends.

First up is G-Fest, the annual Godzilla convention held in Chicago. I’ll be doing a “Kaiju in the Comics” presentation at this event, showcasing giant monsters in said comics. This convention will take place on July 15-17.

PulpFest is devoted to pulp magazines like Doc Savage, The Shadow and many others. It takes place July 22-24 in Columbus, Ohio. I’m not a featured guest at this convention. I go there to see old pals I don’t see anywhere else.

My July schedule wraps up with Monsteramafest, a brand-new event in Akron, Ohio. Put on by the same folks who do the wonderful Akron Comic-Con, it will take place on July 30-31. I’ll be appearing on a panel devoted to Cleveland’s own Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson), the monster-movie host who ruled Cleveland when I was a kid.

I love to see my readers at these and other events. If you are at the same convention as me, don’t be shy about coming over to chat with me. I enjoy that a great deal.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella