Whew! My 2019 convention season is over. My final appearances were at the Akron Comicon in Ohio, followed a weekend later by the Grand Rapids Comic Con in Michigan. Both were fantastic events, but I’m looking forward to spending the next three months at home.

There are a dozen books I want to write. I’ve set myself the lofty goal of finishing three of them before my first appearance of 2020. Can the market support that many Isabella books at once? I hope we get the chance to find out.

At both of those conventions, I had fans tell me my review columns here and elsewhere introduced them to some of their favorite comics and graphic novels. I never tire of hearing that. If these columns have a mission, it’s just that. Bringing comics readers to amazing comics they may not have heard of before I reviewed them. Let’s see if any of this week’s three subjects fit that bill…

For a week in late October, and perhaps longer as I don’t check the lists frequently, Raina Telgemeier’s Guts [Graphix; $12.99] was the bestselling book in America. I’m not talking just the bestselling graphic novel. I’m talking bestselling period, even topping Stephen King’s The Institute. When I checked the book’s Amazon listing, I learned it was currently ranked #1 in Children’s Biography Comics, Anxiety Disorders Books and Children’s Difficult Discussions Books. All of these honors are well-deserved.

In Guts, the New York Times bestselling author and multiple Eisner Award-winning creator, Telgemeier tells the true story of her bout with an anxiety-triggered stomach disorder. From the back cover of this softcover book:

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Having suffered similar disorders in my life, Guts was difficult to read at times. Telgemeier relates her story with courage, humanity and humor. It’s aimed at readers eight to twelve years old, but I wouldn’t hesitate to hand it to a younger child and would darn near force it upon an older reader. Especially a delusional older reader who thinks comics are dead or dying. Comics are so much bigger than superhero crossover sagas and dark interpretations of superheroes twisted because comics publishers lack imagination.

I’m not going to proclaim Telgemeier is the future of comics, but I’ll put forth the undeniable truth that she is definitely a future of comics. Quality and sales are the proof of that.

Consider Guts and all other Telgemeier original graphic novels as highly recommend by this comics veteran. You’re in for a whole lot of great reading.

ISBN 978-0-545-85250-0

Mickey Mouse

I was not a Mickey Mouse fan in my youth. I liked the serials that ran in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories okay, but it was hard for me to find every chapter of them. I also found them tame compared to the other comics I was reading. Then, as an adult, I discovered Mickey comic stories from overseas. These were more action-packed than what I’d read previously. I related to this feisty adventurer, short in stature but big on bravery. I particularly liked the great Italian creators who worked on these stores.

Mickey Mouse: The Quest for the Missing Memories [IDW; $14.99] is a particular treasure. Written by Francesco Artibani, this eight-part saga starts with Mickey defeating the Phantom Bolt at the cost of his memories. With chapters drawn by eight top Disney artists, he tries to live his life while reconnecting to character traits he can’t actually access emotionally.

One by one, teaming with a amazing cast of friends and heroes, our Mickey does recover all the missing pieces of his personality. It is an exciting thriller filled with friendship, heart and dangerous villains. This is my Mickey. More please.

Mickey Mouse: The Quest for the Missing Memories is suitable for readers of all ages. I know Mickey might not be first and foremost among kid favorites today, but I think this trade paperback would make a splendid gift for a youngster in your life. As well as for older friends and family members who would love to catch up with an old friend.

ISBN 978-1-68405-485-5

Twilight Man

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television [Life Drawn; $22.95] is a comics biography of the man who revolutionized television and became a beloved guide to millions of “tourists” as they journeyed into the realms of the fantastic and the future and the supernatural. The sign post he showed us directed us to some of the best acting and writing ever broadcast on television.

Writer/artist Koren Shadmi uses a storytelling style that fans of The Twilight Zone will recognize to show us the life of a man who was driven to expand television as he knew it. From his time in the military to the end of his life, Sterling experienced triumphs and losses. In short order, Shadmi brings him to vibrant life, making at least this reader wish he’d met Sterling and spend an afternoon with him. I know I would have come away smarter from the encounter.

Sterling lived his life with intensity. Shadmi allows us to share that life, albeit from a distance. If you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone, this book definitely belongs in your home library. Me? I just took a mid-paragraph break to order the complete series on DVD. I can’t wait to see and follow those signposts.

ISBN 978-1-64337-571-7

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella


This is my comics industry origin story as I have always known it. I was working at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The newspaper was your basic tool of the rich and powerful. We went on strike. The owner of the paper called his pal the mayor. Mounted policemen attacked our picket line. I was knocked to the sidewalk and watched as the hoof of a horse hit the sidewalk inches from my face. I had a fear of horses for years afterwards.

I got up, dusted myself off, walked away from the PD building, went home to my apartment. Once there, I called Roy Thomas, newly-minted editor in chief of Marvel Comics. I asked my friend Roy if there were any jobs at Marvel, even an entry-level job. He offered me a job assisting Stan Lee on The Mighty World of Marvel British weekly and other projects. I accepted the job that night, even though it’d mean taking a pay cut.

The Plain Dealer settled the strike. I gave the newspaper two weeks notice and got bitched out for not giving them three or four weeks notice by a man later convicted of murder.

My first day at Marvel was Halloween, 1972, and the rest, as they say, is history. Or so I’d believed for 47 years.

In August, Roy and I were both guests of the New Mexico Comic Expo. We did a panel on the Marvel Bullpen of the 1970s. That’s when Roy told me something I’d never known before. I was already on his and Stan Lee’s radar when I made that fateful call.

Stan had asked Roy to find a “copywriter” to assist him with this and that. Roy mentioned I knew Marvel well, worked for a newspaper and wrote well. Stan okayed my being hired. Of course, once I was on staff, other opportunities, including writing comics and editing comics magazines came my way. To this day, I know my relationships with Roy and Stan as the two most important in my career. My joy in them is only enhanced by the new knowledge that, even if I hadn’t almost got face-smushed by a police horse, I would have ended up at merry olde Marvel.

How I got over my fear of horses also has a Marvel connection. Val Mayerik, who did the Living Mummy with me back in the day, was on a polo team in my native Ohio. He invited Saintly Wife Barb and I to one of his matches. When I stood next to Val’s beautiful well-trained mount, my fear of horses just evaporated. I haven’t had any equine-related night terrors since.

Moving to this week’s reviews…

Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas [$34.99] is a fitting salute to one of the best comics writers of them all. Weighing in at 352 pages, this softcover volume collects nineteen done-in-one stories with a bit of commentary from Thomas.

The book leads off with Modeling with Millie #44, the first story Thomas scripted for Marvel. I was particularly delighted to see it here because, somehow, I’ve never read it. Indeed, I haven’t read more than a few of Roy’s stories for Millie and other like titles.

The rest of the contents brought back a lot of memories of how much I was influenced by Roy’s writing. The Avengers stories wherein we first met the Vision. The Sub-Mariner/Thing battle with one of the most poignant final scenes ever. Captain Marvel in “The Mad Master of the Murder Maze,” a Thomas/Gil Kane story I read over and over again in my self-taught study of how to write comic books. And, of course, Avengers #100, drawn by Barry Smith, a textbook example of how to use a great many heroes in a story and still give them all their special moments. Entertaining and educational.

Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas is my pick of this week. No Marvel fan’s library should be without it.

ISBN 978-1-302-91840-8

Go with Clouds 2

I never reviewed the first volume of Aki Irie’s Go with the clouds, North-by-Northwest. I did list it as one of the “Things that Make Me Happy” in my daily series of Facebook posts by that name. Here’s the Amazon pitch for that debut volume:

The story takes place in Iceland, at land’s end, 64°N. Kei Miyama is a 17-year-old with three secrets: he can talk to cars, he can’t handle pretty girls, and he works as a private investigator. One case has him searching for a beloved dog, another involves reuniting a woman with a man she fell for at first sight. And then comes a case that strikes close to home — searching for his own little brother.

I found Kei intriguing, the story and writing compelling, the art gorgeous. I ordered the second volume immediately.

Go with the clouds, North-by-Northwest 2 [Vertical Comics; $12.95] sort of takes off in an entirely different direction. Kei isn’t on any cases in this book. He’s on vacation with his little brother in Iceland. He still gets flustered around pretty girls and women. His connection with cars is mentioned briefly. An older character makes his debut in the series, though his past history with Kei is left almost entirely unspoken. But, really, what this volume delivers is a virtual vacation guide to Iceland…and it’s fascinating.

Irie made all the facts and scenery shots work as a terrific travel adventure. His art is more gorgeous than ever here. If Iceland were not so cold, he could have convinced me to vacation there. Just a different and quite wonderful book. I don’t know what path the next volume will take, but I’m on board.

ISBN 978-1-947194-68-7

Scooby Doo Team Up 50

Scooby-Doo Team-Up became my favorite DC Comics title. Naturally, it’s been cancelled. Curse you, DC!

Issue #50 [$2.99] features “Crisis on Infinite Scoobys” by writer Sholly Fisch, artist Scott Jeralds and colorist Silvana Brys. It’s a delightful send-up of the alternate realities concept that’s now seen so frequently in super-hero comics from DC, Marvel and other publishers of spandex-clad protagonists.

As with Fisch’s other writing for this title, it’s a loving send-up that never gets crude or snarky. It guest-stars Batman and Robin, Bat-Mite and Scooby-Mite, and more versions of the Scooby-Doo gang than I knew existed. I laughed out loud frequently.

Farewell, dear Scooby-Doo Team-Up. I’ll always cherish the amazing fun you brought me. We may never see your like again, but I really we hope we do.

I’ll be back next week with more reviews.

© 2019 Tony Isabella