Logan [2017] is the most grim and violent of the Marvel movies. It is not my favorite of the Marvel films, but I would not hesitate to list it as one of the best comic-book movies of them all.

Directed by James Mangold, who co-wrote it Scott Frank and Michael Green, Logan is set in the year 2029. It is a dark era for mutants. There have been no mutant births in a quarter-century. Mutants are near extinct. They have been and continued to be hunted by “black ops” and artificially-enhanced Reavers. Mutant DNA is harvested to be used in the creation of new mutants, children and clones looked upon as things rather than human beings.

Logan, played one last time by the brilliant Hugh Jackman, is one of the last remaining mutants. He is old. As his healing abilities weaken, he is dying from adamantium poisoning, his own body killing him. He works as a chauffeur, trying to make enough money to take to the seas with Charles Xavier.

Xavier, played by the even more brilliant Patrick Stewart, must be hidden away from the world. His physical deterioration makes him a threat to all, human and mutant alike. He is cared for by Caliban [Stephen Merchant], a mutant seeking atonement for his former role as a mutant hunter. On the high seas, Xavier will have peace from the voices that scream in his mind day and night. He is a man whose illness led to a terrible tragedy he can never forget or forgive himself for. Yet, such is Stewart’s art, that Xavier is also a man who refuses to abandon hope for the future.

Into this bare bones of an existence come two forces. One is Laura [Dafne Keen], a child created from Logan’s own DNA. The other force are those who hunt her: Zander Rice [Richard E. Grant], a soulless scientist who plays God with Laura and those like her; and Donald Pierce [Boyd Holbrook], the leader of the Reavers.

Without revealing too much more than I have already revealed, let me say that watching Logan was an emotional experience for me. It is not an easy movie to watch. It is grim and it is violent, but it is also heroic and thoughtful and ultimately satisfying. It speaks to me of parenthood and responsibility. It is, at its end, the end of Logan’s lifelong struggle to be more man than beast. There are moments, especially in the final scenes, that had me crying on the inside. Which is where the real tears live.

One such moment has nothing to do with the movie itself. For what I believe is the first time in a non-Marvel Studios production – Logan is a 20th Century Fox film – there are acknowledgments of at least some of the comic-book writers and artists whose comic books contributed to the movie. The special thanks don’t include all the creators they should have included, but their presence in the end credits is a good start for 20th Century Fox.

Logan is a great film. I recommend it to older viewers. Trust me. The “R” rating is accurate. Keep the young kids away from it until they’re older. But, for adults, prepare to experience a super-hero movie that can be dark without abandoning light. This one is truly a masterpiece.


Batman Wonder Woman 1

Batman ‘66 is among my favorite super-hero comics of recent years. I’ve also enjoyed the more serious Wonder Woman ‘77. No surprise I have been looking forward to the six-issue Batman ‘66 Meets Wonder Woman ‘77 [$3.99 per issue]. Having now read the first two issues, I’m not in the least bit disappointed.

Written by Jeff Parker and Marc Andreyko, the series doesn’t have as much humor as the Batman ‘66 title. But it’s a solid start with Batman and Robin first opposing Catwoman and Talia – the former is stealing a rare book for the latter – and then flashing back to a World War II era auction in which Thomas and Martha Wayne donated the tomes to raise money to find the Nazis. A young Bruce Wayne has his first meetings with Ra’s Al Ghul, Talia and Wonder Woman. The League of Shadows want the books. The Nazis want the books. Young Bruce isn’t of a mind to let that happen.

The art is by David Hahn (pencils), Karl Kesel (inks) and Madpencil (colors). The Catwoman in the story is the Eartha Kitt version, my favorite Catwoman after Julie Newmar. Gotham’s Camren Bicondova has not yet become Catwoman in that TV series, but, when she does, she will definitely be a contender.

With the next issue, Batman and Robin ‘66 will be connecting with Wonder Woman ‘66. Which makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing Batman ‘77 before the end of the series. I hope so.

Batman ‘66 Meets Wonder Woman ‘77 is solid super-hero adventure. It gets my recommendation.



Alters [AfterShock; $3.99 per issue] is the story of people and a world in transition. Charlie/Chalice is transitioning into her true self at the same time her super-powers have activated. The growing number of “Alters” has changed the world forever with a murderous sociopath trying to force them to serve him while a team of heroes tries to rescue them. The non-super characters are watching their world and their lives change around them.

Alters is the tale of a journey, both within and without its pages. Writer Paul Jenkins has created an intriguing character in Chalice, but his stories reflect his own journey as he strives to create a positive protagonist who is unlike himself and as he discovers the many ways in which he can tell her story. His editorials, starting in the second issue, reflect and illuminate that journey in these scariest of times for the United States and the world.

Artist Leila Leiz is doing a first-rate job with both the drawing and the storytelling. Drawing comics is more than drawing a series of pictures. Those pictures have to relate to one another and move the writer’s story forward from panel to panel and page to page. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain adds additional weight to the art and the story with her work. It’s a great-looking comic book.

Of course, as my veteran readers know, I am a story guy first and foremost. Jenkins gets high marks from me for giving me a character I can cheer for and relate to. Charlie herself, of course, but also her brother Teddy, who has cerebral palsy. I’m also quite enjoying the slow growth of Charlie’s father. Jenkins put some work in on a character who could have easily become a stereotype.

Alters ties with Logan as my pick of the week. It’s super-heroics in a fantasy world that feels real. It delivered some extraordinary surprises in its first four issues. It’s a keeper and I recommend it to one and all.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


Rick Norwood’s Comics Revue [Manuscript Press; $19.95 per issue) is one of my favorite magazines. Every issue is packed with a terrific selection of some of the best newspaper comic strips of all time. For me, the main attraction of the magazine has long been Modesty Blaise by creator/writer Peter O’Donnell and artist Enrique Romero. However, there are so many great strips in each issue that I never skip to the back of the issue to read Modesty first.

Modesty is the retired leader of a benign criminal organization – no drugs, no prostitution, no murder for hire – who disbanded the organization when she retired. With Willie Garvin, the right-hand man she rescued from a downward spiral, she misses the excitement of her past. She meets and becomes of considerable service to Sir Gerald Tarrant, a top official of the British Secret Service. She and Willie deal with old enemies on a frequent basis and also help friends and strangers in need. I love Modesty and Willie, who are, simply put, two of the best characters ever created and, push comes to shove, will name their strip as my favorite adventure strip of all time.

Comics Revue’s current Modesty adventure has a vacationing Tarrant troubled by a woman who sells arms to terrorist. It turns out the woman is one of those old enemies mentioned above. Halfway through the story and I’m already ranking Granny Smythe as one of the most interesting adversaries Modesty and Willie have faced.

On the road to Modesty Blaise, Comics Revue presents over a dozen other remarkable strips. “Tarzan’s Double” by John Celardo and Dick van Buren takes us into a hidden land with a beautiful ruler who’s smitten with the Lord of the Jungle. Sir Bagby by brothers Rick and Bill Hackney is a brilliant albeit little-known comic strip about a bumbling knight serving a bumbling king with the dubious aid of a bumbling wizard. The hilarious strip has only been reprinted in the pages of Comics Revue.

The rest of the line-up: The Phantom (1969) by Lee Falk and artist Sy Barry; The Phantom (1950) by Falk and Wilson McCoy; Krazy Kat by George Herriman; Rick O’Shay, a western strip with action, humor and heart by Stan Lynde; Flash Gordon (1959) by Harry Harrison and Mac Raboy; Flash Gordon (1969) by Harrison and an unnamed artist; Tarzan (1977) by Russ Manning; Alley Oop (1940) by V.T. Hamlin; Gasoline Alley (1982) by Dick Moores; Steve Canyon (1974) by the legendary Milton Caniff; Steve Roper (1956) by Allen Saunders and William Overgard; and Buz Sawyer (1965) by Roy Crane. All of these great strips add up to 132 pages of classic entertainment.

Comics Revue is my pick of the week. It’s available at fine comic-book stores everywhere or you can order it directly from Manuscript Press at P.O. Box 336, Mountain Home TN 37684. A single issue will cost you $20 with $59 for a one-year subscription and $118 for two years. With the quality of the newspaper strips and the magazine’s high production values, I think it’s a bargain.


Black History

Image Comics continues to surprise in delightful ways. The latest such surprise was Ronald Wimberly’s Black History in Its Own Words [$16.99], a hardcover collection of his illustrations of important black figures with “the words that defined them and their times.” Wimberly is an artist, cartoonist and designer who has worked with DC/Vertigo, Marvel, Dark Horse and other publishers. He also wrote and drew the cartoon essay “Lighten Up,” which is something worth looking up online.

Wimberly portrays 39 historical and pop culture figures. The roster includes Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali, Ice Cube, Laverne Cox, James Baldwin and Lena Horne. Each illustration is prefaced by a bit of biographical information and, within the drawing, has a quote from the figure. Two quotes that hit me hard were Cox’s “When you put love out in the world it travels, and it can touch people and reach people in ways we never expected.” and Baldwin’s “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” For me, the first quote represents hope for our sad country and world…and the second represents the reality for too many of my friends and fellow Americans.

Black History in Its Own Words is an important, vital collection. It belongs in public and school libraries. I recommend it highly.

ISBN 978-1-5343-0153-5


Movie Comics

Confession. Books about comic books that come out of academia are real tough sells to me. It often comes down to the vast difference between someone – me, for example – who actually knows about making comic books and someone – them – who thinks they know about making comic books and surround their conversation with convoluted mumbo jumbo. But, hey, I couldn’t even last a full year of college before I ran screaming into the real world.

In the case of Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page by Blair Davis [Rutgers University Press; $27.95], I went for it because the subject matter was one of keen interest to me. It turned out to be a good decision on my part.

Davis keeps the mumbo jumbo to a bare minimum as he discusses the relationship between comic strips and comic books, and the movies, cartoons, TV shows and even radio programs based on them. Then he sweetens the informative pot by also covering the reverse: how the comics adapted movies and TV shows to their medium. The result is a fascinating overview of the relationship from the beginnings of the American comic strips and comic books through the 1960s.

Movie Comics is a solid piece of work. I approve.

ISBN 978-0813572253

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


This being my 200th “Tony’s Tips” column in this venue, I figured I should do something different for it. Since I have been telling anyone who would listen that right now is the true “Golden Age of Comics” – with great new comics and graphic novels from all over the world, collections of classic newspaper strips, and countless reprints of classic and perhaps-not-so-classic comic books from the 1940s to the present day – this week’s column discusses a comics weekly some of you have never heard of and most have never seen a copy of. It’s all about the discoveries, my friends.

I’ve been fascinated by British comics weeklies since before I was hired by Marvel Comics to work on New York City-produced weeklies such as The Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly. Fittingly, the first British weekly I ever bought was an issue of Fantastic, which combined British strips with reprints of Marvel’s 1960s super-hero features. I got it from the legendary Jerry Bails, the father of comics fandom, at a Detroit Triple Fan Fare.

These days, I buy 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine from a friendly neighborhood comics shop two states away from my Medina, Ohio home. I sometimes buy back issues of the reprint comics produced by Alan Class in the 1960s and 1970s. Class published material from Marvel, ACG, Tower, Charlton and other American outfits, albeit in black-and-white. The odd issue of Commando, which features original war stories, has also made its way into my Vast Accumulation of Stuff.

Beano 3871

Allow me to digress a moment. When you’ve been in the comics biz as long as I have, you sometimes receive “found money.” This can be a reprint check for long-forgotten work. It can be a surprise find of a comics rarity that can be sold quickly. It can even be repayment of a loan to another comics professional made years or decades ago. In short, it’s money I wasn’t expecting.

When found money comes my way, half of it will go to worthy causes like the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood. The other half is used to treat myself to something fun. Most recently, that “something fun” was a year’s subscription to the long-running The Beano, a British kids comics weekly that has been published by DC Thomson since July of 1938.

What sparked my interest in The Beano were columns by Lew Springer, a contributor to Beano, in his indispensable blog Blimey! wherein he writes about the British comics of the past, present and future. You can read Blimey! at:

Beano 3872

The stars of The Beano are kids. Mostly rotten kids. Some of them just short on impulse control. Some of them given to pranks. Some of them with a skewered sense of justice. And even one super-hero in the form of Bananaman, a youngster who gains super-powers when he eats a banana.

I’m only a few issues into my subscription, but most of the strips seem to be tied into “The Bash Street Kids” in one way or another. We have Dennis the Menace – no relation to the comparatively saint-like character created by Hank Ketcham – and his nasty dog Gnasher. We have Minnie the Minx, said to be tougher than all the boys. We have future con man Roger the Dodger. We have Tricky Dick, supreme prankster. While the behavior of these characters is often immoral, I must note that the adults who usually end up as their victims are no paragons of virtue either.

Each 36-page issue of The Beano is in full color and measures a bit over eleven-and-a-half by eight inches. It has comics stories than run from one to six pages long. It has half-page strips. It has a variety of games and puzzles and joke pages. It has contents, one of which allows a lucky kid to become the “Beano Boss” of an issue. I want to know what the age limit is on that one.

Beano back cover

The back page of each issue is a “Make Me a Menace” strip in which readers e-mail their “menace name” and a photo to the magazine. In the most recent issues, we’ve seen Magic Matthew, Animated Aiden, Victor the Viking. I think Beano is due for a Tony the Tiger or a Terrible Tony. After all, at 65 years old, I can make the case that I’m in my third or fourth childhood.

Though I was warned the humor might be too British for my American tastes, I have had no problem getting into the fun of these comics and understanding the uniquely British slang and touches. I think there’s a reason England rates high on my list of countries in which I could see myself living. The other places on my top three list in that regard are Japan and Monster Island.

Are the comics and jokes a little archaic? Frankly, as long as they make me laugh, I don’t care. Examples:

What makes Mickey Mouse fall over?

Disney spells!

What do boats look for on a date?


What do you get when you cross a snake with a builder?

A boa constructor!

Okay, maybe not comedy gold, but good inexpensive laughs even for age-challenged readers like myself.

My year-long subscription to The Beano cost me approximately $135 in U.S. funds, which comes out to around $2.50 per issue, including shipping. Which is a pretty good deal as I see it. If you’d like to check out The Beano – you can also subscribe to the digital version of the weekly – head over to the DC Thomson website:

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


Goodnight Batcave by Dave Croatto with pictures by Tom Richmond [MAD; $14.99] claims to be “a 100% UNauthorized parody! (We’re MAD Magazine. What did you expect!?). Well, while I don’t expect “the usual gang of idiots” to be math whizzes, I feel I must point out that Batman and MAD are owned by the same corporation. So, at the very best, this hardcover is “a 50% UNauthorized parody!” For that matter, considering how many “Goodnight Moon” parodies I have seen over the years, I don’t think the 50% puts MAD in actual jeopardy. But I digress.

For I have not come to bury Goodnight Batcave, but to praise it to all who read this column. It is one of the funniest books I’ve read all year. I read it aloud to myself and I had to stop several times when my laughing prevented me from reading it. I have ordered both of my children to get married and start giving me grandchildren to whom I can read this book. I want those moppets to love it as much as I do. I long to hear “Read it again, Granddad,” which I will do no matter how much their parents want them to go to sleep. Because it’s not me who will have to deal with kids who didn’t get enough sleep the night before. It’s the circle of life!

Croatto’s hilarious words are perfectly supported by the drawings of the most excellent Richmond. You could frame almost every page and put it on a wall and you would laugh whenever you passed these works of art. Which is why I recommend you not hang these drawings on stair walls. You could laugh and miss a stair and fall to some injury. Such a mishap is only hilarious when it happens to someone else, so be sure to take a selfie and send it to me before you hit.

Goodnight Batcave is my pick of the week. As soon as my kids tell me how many grandchildren they are giving me, I’m going to order a whole mess of copies.

ISBN 978-1-4012-7010-0



So much English language manga has come out over the past couple decades I was not remotely able to keep up with it. Which is why, from time to time, through the fine service of my local library, I often request manga from years past. This week, I want to tell you about a three-book series that came out in 2005 and which is only available on the secondary market. Which I’m doing because Dramacon Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova [TOKYOPOP; October 2005] just charmed the heck out of me with its story of young manga creators who meet at an anime convention.

Barely legal fledging writer Christie is set up in artist alley at her first convention ever. She’s selling the comic which she wrote and which her boyfriend Derek drew. Already tense from the newness of it all, Christie is taken aback by Derek’s flirting with pretty cosplayers and other fans. She flees from their table and, having a tough time navigating through her tears, runs into a mysterious, handsome young stranger. Which is all the summary you’re getting from me.

Chmakova told a story that held my interest. For the most part, I found her characters well-developed, the notable exceptions being friends of Christie and Derek. She does a terrific job capturing the drama, comedy, insanity, hustle and bustle of a decent-sized convention. There is even a brush with greatness that struck me as very true to life. There is also one very dark scene that earns the book its teens and up rating.

Dramacon is worth searching for. I’ve requested the remaining two volumes from my library and will be looking for my own copies when I’m at conventions this spring and summer. If you have any regard for shojo manga, I think you’ll like this series.

ISBN 978-1598161298


Harrow County Family Tree

Harrow County Volume Four: Family Ties by writer Cullen Bunn with artist Tyler Crook [Dark Horse; $14.99] gathers issues #13-16 of the “southern gothic fairy tale” and adds fifty pages of background art and features.

The ongoing story of Emmy, descendant of a witch who once brought ruin to the county, continues as she does her best to protect people who both rely on her and frequently fear her. It is a solitary life for the young woman, sweetened by the company of a precious few friends.

In this volume, which might be the scariest one to date, Emmy meets her “family” and it’s not a joyous event. These others, as powerful as Emmy, have their rules which would spell doom for those Emmy has been protecting and perhaps for the young witch herself. There is considerable dread to be pushed aside and boundaries to cross along the way. I may be the black sheep of my birth family, but I never had to deal with creatures as terrifying as these.

Bunn excels at giving life to Emmy. The young woman is caring and formidable and likeable. She has a steely courage and determination that puts steel in the reader’s spine as well. Crook’s art is down to earth and still moody as all get out. Nothing is exactly normal in Harrow County. There are dark corners everywhere.

I’ll continue to recommend Harrow County to all those who desire a different take on the horror genre. There are four volumes in the series to date with two more scheduled for June and October of this year. Here’s the list…

Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1616557805

Harrow County Volume 2: Twice Told ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1616559007

Harrow County Volume 3: Snake Doctor ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1506700717

Harrow County Volume 4: Family Tree ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1506701417

Harrow County Volume 5: Abandoned ($14.99)

ISBN 978-1506701905

Harrow County Volume 6: Hedge Magic ($15.99)

ISBN 978-1506702087

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2017 Tony Isabella