Saturday, May 27, 2017

ECBACC 2017 OPENING RECEPTION

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Sainted Wife Barb and Tony drove to Philadelphia for the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. After a day of sightseeing, a quick meal and freshening up, they are leaving the Courtyard Mariotte to go to the TECH Freire Charter School for the ECBACC reception and kick-off, which will include the presentation of the Glyph Comics Awards...
                                                                               

Barb and I decided not to pull our car out of the hotel parking. What with TECH Freire being a short drive from our hotel and what with the Courtyard’s friendly bellmen happy to hail us a taxi, we figured that was the way to go.

The reception was starting at 6:30 pm. We knew we had enough time to get there and probably get there early. Unfortunately, the cab ride was a little longer than we had anticipated. Because, when we were just a few blocks from the school, our cab driver decided he should make a phone call and not pay attention to our destination.

So the driver is on the phone trying to make some sort of deal with some other guy who clearly doesn’t want to do business with him. We knew this because the driver’s phone was loud enough for us to hear both ends of the conversation.

When we realize we’re just about to arrive at the school, we tell the driver our stop is just ahead. He doesn’t stop because he’s arguing with the guy on the phone.

When we pass the school, we start telling him loudly he has passed the school. Four blocks further, we start yelling at him that he’s  passed the school. He finally hears us and makes a U-turn, almost hitting another car in the process.
                                                                            
We still got to the school early, which gave me time to introduce Barb to ECBACC friends like Yumy Odom, Akinseye Brown, Professor  William Foster, Gretchen Foster, Maurice Waters, Dionne Stallworth, Stephanie Brown, Bill Johnson, Shenkar Davis and others. I also got to introduce Barb to Don and Marsha McGregor and to meet Marsha for the first time. We repeated that with our pal Frank Lovece and his wife Maitland McDonagh. It was my first time meeting Maitland. Other pleasant surprises were seeing Brian Saner-Lamkin, my friend of many years, and Alex Lu, who’s my new editor on the Garfield books I do for Papercutz. I’m leaving out a whole lot of other people here, but I’d like to keep today’s bloggy down to a reasonable length. 

In case you're wondering, the above photo shows Don, Yumy, and me.

The reception opened with refreshments and conversation. ECBACC had a nice spread of food and snacks. If Barb and I hadn’t eaten just a few hours earlier, we could have made a meal out of the goodies provided by the convention.

ECBACC President Yumy Odom made the welcoming remarks, followed by Glyph Comics Awards Chairperson Shenkarr Davis and GCA Host Jamar Nicholas. My friend Jamar always does a terrific job in his role as host. Then it was time to hand out some well-deserved awards.

This year, I didn’t get a chance to read as many of the nominees as I would have liked. No matter, the nominees will serve as a reading list for the rest of the year. You can find the nominees via this link. Here are the winners...

The Glyph Awards are voted on by a distinguished panel of judges. Except for this first award, which is decided by online voting of all interested readers.

Fan Award for Best Work

M.A.S.K. – MOBILE ARMORED STRIKE KOMMAND; Brandon Easton, writer, Tony Vargas & Tommy Lee Edwards, artist

Best Reprint Publication

E.X.O. – THE LEGEND OF WALE WILLIAMS PART ONE; YouNeek Studios

Best Comic Strip or Webcomic

TUSKEGEE HEIRS: FLAMES OF DESTINY; Marcus Williams & Greg Burnham, writers, Marcus Williams, artist

Rising Star Award

TUSKEGEE HEIRS: FLAMES OF DESTINY; Marcus Williams & Greg Burnham, writers, Marcus Williams, artist

Best Female Character

Lily Brown; MALICE IN OVENLAND VOLUME #1; Micheline Hess, writer and artist

Best Male Character

Matt Trakker; M.A.S.K. - MOBILE ARMORED STRIKE KOMMAND; Brandon Easton, writer, Tony Vargas & Tommy Lee Edwards, artists

Best Artist

Brian Stelfreeze, artist; BLACK PANTHER

Best Writer

Congressman John Lewis & Andrew Aydin, writers; MARCH: BOOK THREE

Best Cover

BLACK #1; Kwanza Osajyefo, writer, Khary Randolph, artist
                                                                     

Story of the Year

MARCH: BOOK THREE; Congressman John Lewis & Andrew Aydin, writers, Nate Powell, artist

I was asked to present the award for Best Artist. In years past, I have generally written my own remarks. This year, I went with the remarks prepared for me:

Art is, in the simplest of terms, magic. It is the creatively displayed visualizations of beauty, with properties of psycho-emotional magnetism. It excites us. It invigorates us. It empowers us. I believe art is magic because from a single blank page, comic panel or computer screen, the viewer can be totally drawn in and immersed into the world the artist created. When art is able to work in tandem with great writing, the spell is complete and what is concocted becomes worthy of praise and recognition. I’ve been working in the comics business for a long time. I can remember a number of artists whose work I thought was magic. I am honored this evening to add new names to my long list of talented magicians.

Brian Stelfreeze, artist; BLACK PANTHER
Jamal Yaseem Igle, artist; BLACK
Jerome Walford, artist; GWAN ANTHOLOGY
Micheline Hess, artist; MALICE IN OVENLAND VOLUME #1
Nate Powell, artist; MARCH: BOOK THREE


I opened the envelope and announced the winner:

LA LA LAND

I’d come up with that joke the day after the Oscar Awards mix-up, figuring I’d use it at the Glyph Awards. I was on the fence about using it right up to the moment I opened the envelope. Fortunately, it got a good laugh.
                                                                             

The other presenters were: Brittany Marriott, Regine Sawyer, Eric Battle, Len Webb, Sheeba Maya, Naseed Gifted, Mshindo Kuumba I, N. Steven Harris and Professor William H. Foster III. That's Sheeba, Len and Regine in the above photo.
                                                                         
This year was the second for the Heruica Character Creation Awards which provide “a venue for graphic artists (character creation) to be placed in the spotlight.” This year’s winner was Queen Malika, created by Roye Okupe.
                                                                                

The awarding of the Heruica award was followed by an “In Memoriam” moment of silence for actor Ron Glass (July 10, 1945 – November 25, 2016), best known for his roles as Detective Ron Harris on Barney Miller (1975–1982), and as Shepherd Derrial Book on Firefly (2002) and its sequel film Serenity.

Next would be the Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Awards presentation. I need to take a breath before writing about that, so we will pick this up again in tomorrow’s bloggy. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, May 26, 2017

THE ROAD TO ECBACC 2017

There’s only one thing I don’t love about the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention...and that’s the seven-plus-hour drive across Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. Naturally, I’ve considered flying to the event, but I’m trying to limit my air travel these days. I have grown weary of the connecting flights that extend the time it takes to get from A to B. A nervous flier at best, I’m uncomfortable in those cramped seats. I’ve seen too many examples of bullying and incompetence from airlines and government agencies. Thus is the sad example of a President Donald Trump.

In the past, I've left my home in Medina Ohio at some ridiculously early hour on Friday to get to my Philadelphia hotel early enough to relax and freshen up for that evening's ECBACC reception. This year, because Sainted Wife Barb, who is much smarter than I am, was traveling with me, we planned to drive about two-thirds of the way on Thursday night and finish the trip the following morning.

We left home about four Thursday afternoon so Barb could put in a full day at her job and I could finish a column. We also had to deliver laundry to the care facility where Barb's mother now lives. We got on the Ohio Turnpike around five.

There are three constants about driving to Philadelphia. There is always going to be construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There will be traffic jams and slowdowns once you get within twenty or so miles of Philadelphia. It will cost you fifty bucks in tolls both on the drive to Philadelphia and on the drive back.

Our Thursday night destination was the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in more or less Harrisburg. The place was actually located in New Cumberland. We made decent time on our drive there, but we didn’t arrive until after the hotel restaurant closed. That and the lack of room service were minor annoyances.

The major annoyance was when we walked into a room and it was less a room and more a sauna. The heat was oppressive and we could not get the thermostat to respond to our desperate need to not have our blood boil in our bodies and emerge through our ears and elsewhere as steam. I went to the phone to call the front desk and ask them to save us before we melted.

The less major annoyance was that there was no house phone in the room. I have never been in a hotel room that didn’t have a phone in the room. We had to walk - a wee bit of a hike - to the front desk to inform said front desk of our predicament.

Speaking of annoyance, that was the immediate reaction of the front desk clerk when we told him about the problems. He said he could come to the room and adjust the thermostat, adding that the person in the room before us wanted it set for heat. And, yes, I’ve never heard of a hotel thermostat that could only do one or the another. I also asked the clerk is he was going to install a phone in that room. With a final flourish of annoyance, he gave us another room. There was much rolling of eyes on my part.

Despite this introduction to the hotel, it was a very nice place. The bed was comfortable. The grounds were attractive. There was a free hot breakfast buffet that was outstanding. I complimented the woman who was keeping it well stocked.
                                                                              

We made decent time driving the rest of the way to Philadelphia and the Courtyard Marriott where we would be staying. Located on North Juniper Street, the hotel is one of three Marriott hotels in a row. Talk about owning the block...or three.

The Courtyard was a beautiful place with nice rooms. Not only was it relatively close to where the ECBACC events would be held, but it was across the street from the wondrous Reading Terminal Market and in close proximity to the Philadelphia City Hall (shown at the top of today's blog) and many other areas of interest.

Once we were unpacked, Barb and I decided to do some sightseeing. Barb has never been to Philadelphia before and I had never visited long enough to see any of the sights.
                                                                                 
                                                                            
Our first destination was the Liberty Bell Center at 6th and Market Streets, just a short walk from our hotel. Admission to the center is free, though we did have to wait a reasonable amount of time before we could enter the center. However, there were exhibits we could check out while we were waiting and a special performance.

Right behind us in the line was a group of students. They had their own tour guide, an African-American man who seemed to be around my age or maybe a tad older. He was animated, funny and informative as he related facts and stories about the dawn of American democracy. The man was a natural storyteller. I don’t know if those students appreciated him, but Barb and sure did. Inside the Center, after we’d seen the Liberty Bell, I went up to the man, told him he was a delight and thanked him. This pleased him greatly.

From there, we went to the Independence Visitor Center. It was just across the street and filled with exhibits. However, as we only had a limited amount of time, we only stayed long enough to buy tickets for the Big Bus Philadelphia Tour.
                                                                                

The “Big Bus” was a double-decker bus that made 27 stops along its route. You could get off anywhere on the route and then get back on when the next bus rolled to the stop. The stops included the Betsy Ross House, the United States Mint, Ben Franklin’s Grave, the great Chinatown area (which we definitely want to visit on some future visit) and the “Rocky Steps” made famous by the Sylvester Stallone movie. Our tour guide was personable and presented facts and trivia in an entertaining manner. He even pointed out the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department, which was often filmed for Cold Case, a TV show Barb and I used to watch.

The only negatives to the bus tour: we hit traffic jams more than once...and we were sitting on the top of the bus in temperatures that never dropped below ninety degrees. That second one was all on Barb, but, despite the brain-boiling heat, I had to admit the views were spectacular.
                                                                                 

We stayed on the bus through the 27 stops and beyond, getting off at the Reading Terminal Market. The Reading Railroad opened this  Philadelphia landmark in 1893. Back then, the place had nearly 800 spaces for vendors and was praised as the greatest food market in the world.

The Market suffered when the Railroad went bankrupt in 1971. By the end of the decade, only 23 merchant stands were opened. This would not be the case for long.

The Market turnaround started in the 1980s. It has been rebuilt to strict historical preservation standards. It is now home to nearly eighty independent small businesses featuring bakeries, beverages, books, crafts, dairy and cheese, housewares, meats and poultry, produce, restaurants and specialty foods. You could spend days in the Market and only begin to sample all it has to offer. Honestly, everything looked delicious, even foods I would never ever think of eating like lobsters and pigs feet.

Barb and I had a late lunch that Friday afternoon. She enjoyed the Philly cheesesteak from Spataro’s Cheesesteaks while I dined on a cheeseburger from Hunger Burger. The latter donates part of every sale to community programs. On our way out, we bought bananas and grapes from Iovine Brothers Produce. All in all, great food at very reasonable prices.

We went back to our hotel room to relax for a bit and get ready for the ECBACC reception and kick-off at the TECH Freire Charter School on nearby North Broad Street. The evening event included the 2016 Glyph Comics Awards and the presenting of several Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Awards. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about that exciting evening.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 25, 2017

RICH BUCKLER (1949-2017)

Comics creator Rich Buckler passed away last Friday morning. That evening, just before the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention reception in Philadelphia, Don McGregor pulled me aside to give me the sad news. It wasn’t our place to announce Rich’s death at that event, but we talked about our friend privately more than once over the weekend.

It’s been difficult for me to decide what I want to say about Rich. Don was much closer to him and more recently than I was, so I know Don will have so much more to tell you about Rich than me. I also know there are fans of Rich’s that will be able to relate all the things he did in comics and beyond comics and, again, do so better than I could. But Rich was one of the first friends I made when I moved to New York to work for Marvel and made me feel welcome there and elsewhere. I’m just going to start writing now and see where it takes me.

I knew Rich’s work before I met him. I probably first saw that work in one of DC’s mystery comics or in one of the black-and-white mags published by Skywald. I particularly remember his work on “Rose and the Thorn” in several issues of Lois Lane...and on “Butterfly” in Hell-Rider #2 [Skywald; September-October 1971]. Butterfly was the first African-American super-heroine in comics, which is something that probably deserves further comment in the future.

Rich’s work had a strong Neal Adams influence in those early days, but Adams was only one of his influence. He was an admirer of Jack Kirby and that showed in his work as well. But, even though Rich’s influences might’ve been obvious, he always brought something else to the table, something uniquely Buckler. His work with McGregor on Black Panther and other features and stories are stand-outs in that regard, as is Deathlok, his own creation.

When I first went to work at Marvel, I was in a large office helmed by Sol Brodsky. I didn’t have a desk per se. My typewriter was on an artist’s table, which I’m sure has a name I can’t remember, and I had a kind of end table with drawers, which I’m sure also has a name I can’t remember. I do remember George Roussos, hidden behind file cabinets, shared the office with Sol and I, and there were a couple other artist’s tables in the office for when artists might need a place to work. Rich often used one of those other tables, which is how we met.                                                                           
The first stuff we worked on together was a bunch of covers for The Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly. These titles were weekly reprint comics produced in New York, but published in the general vicinity of Great Britain and for the British market. Our United Kingdom partners were forever switching printers on us and, in doing so, constantly forcing us to push up our deadlines. I never did get the hang of the scheduling, but Sol kept our merry little ship afloat.

Rich and I did two dozen of these covers in a fairly short amount of time. Because these were reprint books and I was working pretty far ahead of schedule, I already knew what would be in each issue. We worked on quick sketches - sometimes Rich would come up with the idea, sometimes I would - and then Rich would flesh them out a bit. The sketches were okayed by Stan Lee or Roy Thomas, usually without any changes. My memory is that Rich turned in the final pencils on all the covers within a week, two weeks tops. Mike Esposito inked them. They looked pretty good to me.

Rich did layouts for the second of the two issues of Doc Savage I wrote for Marvel. I’m sure we did some other Marvel stuff together - probably not full stories - but I never kept track of all those little odds and ends. I wish I had.

Later on, Rich and I did the one and only Man-Monster story for the brief return of Atlas Comics in the 1970s. I plotted, Rich drew and Gary Friedrich scripted. It’s a terrific looking comic book cover and story.
                                                                                

During my mercifully brief time as a DC Comics staffer, Rich did at least one Challengers of the Unknown cover for me. It’s one of my favorite things to come out of those few months.

That’s the comics stuff. Rich and I didn’t hang out a lot, but we had some meals together and saw some movies together. With Rich’s first wife, we saw The Omen. There was a Spanish-speaking woman in front of us who kept crossing herself while saying “Madre de Dios” (Mother of God) at the scary parts...and there were a whole lot of scary parts in that movie.

Rich’s first wife apparently thought I was marriage material. She arranged a double date with her and Rich and a friend of hers. She then took me shopping to make sure I looked nice for what I thought was just a casual date and ended up feeling like an audition to see if I was worthy to court the young woman. It wasn’t a comfortable evening for me, but I appreciated Rich and his wife making such an effort on my behalf.

Rich brought me over to Warren Publications editor Bill Dubay’s apartment for a game night. Bill was married to Rich’s sister. Bill wanted to get me to write and maybe edit for Warren, but, even though I liked him and thought it was a nice offer, I was too happy at Marvel to even consider a move. Later, when I wasn’t quite as happy, and probably at Bill or Rich’s suggestion, I had a meeting with Warren publisher Jim Warren. Jim offered me both the editorship of Eerie and all the writing I wanted. I was tempted, but turned it down. I had too many ties at Marvel. After the meeting, I ended up on better terms with Warren than ever. He’s one of the few comics folks that didn’t get angry at me when I turned down job offers from them.

I know the above stories might seem like they’re more about me than about Rich, but I’m working my way around to a point here. Besides being remembered for his great comics stories and art, Rich should be remembered for being a good friend to an awful lot of people in the comics industry.

Rich opened the door to careers in comics for many young artists, among them Denys Cowan, Arvell Jones, George Perez, Keith Pollard and more. He hired them as assistants, taught them the things he’d learned, often threw them into the deep end of the deadline pool and helped them become comics professionals. Rich was appreciative of the kindnesses done to him by the previous generation of comics artists and he paid it forward.
                                                                          

Someone close to Rich wanted to make sure he was never forgotten. He won’t be. His fans - like me - will remember their favorite Rich Buckler work. For me, that would include All-Star Squadron, Black Panther, Avengers and many others. During his career Rich drew just about every super-hero - major and minor - from DC, Marvel and a few other publishers. For those young artists he championed, Rich will be remembered for the knowledge and the opportunities he gave them. For his friends - like me - Rich will be remembered for those good times we had with him. Rich will be remembered and he will be missed. By the fans, by his students, by his friends.

Let’s raise a flagon of Asgardian ale for our friend Rich Buckler. He joins the hosts of comics talents who inspired him and he’ll be there for those who he inspired.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

IF IT’S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE TONY

It’s been an interesting - mostly in good ways - several weeks for me. The news of the Black Lightning TV show being picked up by the CW was quickly followed by the release of that incredible trailer. I received a cherished Pioneer Life Achievement Award from the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia, which was a joy magnified because Sainted Wife Barb was with me and because my dear friend Don McGregor also received that great honor. However, all that joy was tempered by the usual insane and vile actions of Donald Trump and his goons and, especially, by the passing of Rich Buckler, legendary comics creator and old friend. I’ll be writing about Rich on Thursday and about ECBACC over the weekend.

Folks often ask me how I’m doing in the midst of all the above. The most honest answer I can give is...I’m not sure. I’m incredibly happy about everything Black Lightning and my new relationship with DC Comics/Entertainment. I’m in a state of perpetual dizziness over everything on my desk. I’m excited by what looms in my future. But I’m also sad because some of my friends aren’t doing as well and my ability to help them is limited.

I’m trying to be many things to many people, but, especially, to my Sainted Wife Barb. Her pharmacist job, which involves her making chemo for cancer patients and working very long hours on behalf of those and other patients, is challenging at the best of times. In addition to that, Barb is also handling her mother’s complicated situations. Her mom has Alzheimer’s disease and is living in a care facility while dealing with her divorce from a scumbag ex-husband.  There are financial and legal matters to be sorted out in a manner that will help her mom during these final stages of her life. It’s frustrating and time-consuming and I think it’s a wonder Barb has been able to keep her wits about her with only occasional bouts of screaming. I try to do as much as I can to help Barb, but I never think it’s enough.

When asked about my hopes for the future, a question usually asked in conjunction with the Black Lightning stuff, the truest response I can give is...I want to ride the lightning as long as I can in the hope of creating new opportunities for myself and other comics creators. It’s a lofty goal and I’m not certain it’s a reachable goal. I still have to try.

Anger is my constant enemy. Not so much my anger, though I surely have given in to anger on too many occasions, but the anger of the friends I hope to help. I listen to and understand their anger and would never claim they don’t have a right to that anger. But I know it’s going to get in the way of my being able to help them at some point down the line. I still have to try.

Before anyone starts humming “First World Problems,” rest assured I do know how fortunate I am. I recognize how much love, respect and support I have received and continue to receive. I often feel overwhelmed by how much I have to do and my apparent inability to balance it all. I still know I’m a lucky, lucky man.

Which brings us to today’s bloggy thing, a compilation of odds and ends that have been bouncing around my head over the past several days. Some of it is personal, some of it isn’t. I’m just trying to figure it all out while that “it” is getting bigger all the time.

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My best-laid plans don’t always work out. A while back, I asked for my artistic readers to send me cruel caricatures of Donald Trump. I planned to use these caricatures whenever I wrote about “Peepee Cheeto” and pay the artists five bucks every time I used their art in this bloggy thing. One of my readers thought it was such a great idea he donated $25 to the cause.

My e-mail box was flooded with...two submissions.

Two. Submissions.

I’m posting both of them today. The first one is by Brian Wingrove of Bear Butt Comics. The second one is by Rick Brooks. As soon as I post today’s bloggy thing, I’ll send them $12.50 each.

After that, I’m out of the “cruel caricatures” business. Honestly, I think real photos of Trump are hideous enough.

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Speaking of the Dumpster President, I saw and read some brouhaha on how his First Lady Melanie didn’t wear a head scarf in Saudi Arabia on their recent visit there. Apparently, when First Lady Michelle Obama didn’t wear a head scarf in Saudi Arabia, Trump said that was disrespectful or some such. Of course, Trump said one thing when it was the black president’s wife and didn’t say anything when it was  the racist white president’s wife. This wouldn’t have raised my ire in the slightest because it’s what I expect from him. But it does give me a chance to say this:

Fuck Saudi Arabia. The country is a key sponsor of terrorists and  should have been attacked by US forces before any of the countries we did invade. They are a repressive nation that got the free pass after 9-11 because they were sleeping with the Bushes and because they were wealthy and because they had oil. Good for Michelle and Melanie and any other woman who chooses not to kowtow to the Saudis penchant for restricting the rights of women in this and in so many other ways.

Naturally, Trump couldn’t stick his orange nose up Saudi butts fast enough. He’s the lapdog of despots.

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On a more cheery note, one of the things I love about my Facebook page is that I’m always learning new things. Yesterday was Herge’s birthday. He was the creator of Tintin, one of the greatest graphic album series of all time. When I posted a remembrance of Herge, I got a comment from my friend Lonni Susan Holland. She wrote:

[Herge] often drew himself into his stories, just as a passerby or face in a crowd.
I did not know that...and now I do. I’ll have to reread my Tintin albums and look for Herge in those wonderful stories.

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I can’t recall where I saw the original discussions, but I recently came across comment threads asking comics fans and professionals to name their favorite Flash villain and who they considered the arch-enemies of other 1960s super-heroes. The term “arch-enemies” always brings a smile to my face. I picture evil fiends who force heroes to wear uncomfortable shoes. Inevitably, I also remember people I once thought of as my “arch-enemies” and chuckle at my ridiculous sense of drama.

My favorite Flash villain was always Captain Cold because he looked so...uhh...cool. His super-weapon was pretty basic and even easier to understand. Cold. I know what cold is. I don’t like cold. What else could the Captain be other than a villain. It took the X-Men’s Iceman to get me off the notion that cold was always bad.

Now, if you had asked me the most dangerous Flash foe, I would’ve answered Grodd. Because the Grodd of the comic books was one deadly monster. Physical strength. Scientific mastery. Mind control. The perfect mix of the seeming primitive with the terrifying advanced evolution.

As for the arch-enemies of the super-heroes and other adventures of the 1960s, that’s probably good for an entire bloggy thing or two. Sticking to the comics I read as a kid or a teenager, I’ll limit myself to a dozen characters or teams this time around.

Superman: Lex Luthor
Batman: The Joker
Green Lantern: Sinestro
Aquaman: The Ocean Master
The Atom: Chronos
Challengers of the Unknown: Multi-Man
Sgt. Rock: The Iron Major
Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom
Spider-Man: Doctor Octopus
Thor: Loki
Sgt. Fury: Baron Strucker
Daredevil: The Owl
The X-Men: Magneto

There were characters who, as far as I was concerned, didn’t have arch-enemies. For me, Wonder Woman didn’t have an actual arch-enemy  until editor/writer Robert Kanigher did that run of stories meant to look like the stories of the 1940s. The Martian Manhunter didn’t have an arch-enemy unless you wanted to count fire. The best that Ant-Man could do was the Porcupine, though I confess I love the Porcupine.

I’ll revisit this topic in the future. In the meantime, feel free to send your own choices and comments. I’ll include them the next time I do one of these “odds and ends” columns.

I’ll be back on Thursday with a remembrance of Rich Buckler. I hope you’ll join me.  

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 22, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #210

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Forbidden Worlds Volume Twelve, reprinting issues #71-76, cover-dated October 1958 to March 1959; Escape from Monster Island.and Marvel's Civil War II!

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 111 (PART THREE OF THREE)

Previously in “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”...

We’ve been looking at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 [January 1975], a 68-page comic book that featured Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid in a new 15-page adventure written and drawn by Larry Lieber with inking by Vince Colletta. In part one, we discussed that team-up story and a few other odds and ends. In part two, we covered four of the seven reprinted tales that followed the new. Six of them starred Kid Colt and the seventh was a non-series story by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. For this final installment, we’re looking at the last three of the reprinted stories, all starring Kid Colt. It’s best to assume that there will be SPOILERS AHEAD...

The remaining reprint stories are from Kid Colt Outlaw #62 [July 1956]. The cover of that issue (as shown above) was by Joe Maneely. There were four Kid Colt stories in that issue, but, surprisingly, only one of them was drawn by Jack Keller.

“Duel To the End” (5 pages) was drawn and lettered by Dick Ayers. The writer of this story and the remaining two reprints in Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 has not yet been identified.

The story:

A casino is abuzz with the news Charro Dance has come to town. He’s a noted gunslinger who was double-crossed by Rock Gavin. When Rock tries to have his men come with him, Kid Colt gets in the way. If there’s gonna be gunplay, it’s be a fair fight. Despite the Kid’s interference, Gavin already has a man in place on a roof to shoot Dance. Then something unexpected happens.

“Charro Dance” walks right by Gavin. When Gavin calls him out, the man seems puzzled. He’s got no argument with Rock. Gavin draws on him anyway, but Kid Colt shoots the cylinders out of Rock’s guns. Then Colt rides out of town with the befuddled stranger.

The stranger’s last name is Dance, but he’s no gunslinger. He came to town to open a print job and, stubbornly, he still intends to do just that.

A week later, in another town, Colt sees the stranger again. This time, though, the stranger has no idea who the Kid is. Because it’s not the guy who wanted to open a print shop. It’s the real Charro Dance.

Once Charro hears Colt’s story, he reveals that the printer is his twin brother, who he’s been separated from since they were kids. He would have found his brother before this, but Charro was ashamed of his gunslinger reputation. Colt and Charro ride back to the town.

They find the smouldering ruins of Johnny Dance’s print shot. The fire was set by Rock Gavin, who then left Johnny half-dead. It was a bad move on Gavin’s part.

Charro and Colt make short work of Gavin and his gang. They sort of have to make short work of them because this story is a mere five pages long. After the gunplay, the brothers are reunited.

CHARRO: We’ll make it a twosome from now on, Johnny! You’ll get that print shop an’ I’ll help you run it!
 
COLT: And I’ll drop by every so often to see you’re not runnin’ out of ink!  

Kid Colt, Seller of Printing Supplies!

This was a fun story, though I think it could have used a few more pages to expand on the multiple befuddlements.

“Beware the Gunman!” (4 pages) was drawn by John Severin. It’s the only one of this issue’s reprints that specifically mentions that Kid Colt and the law “don’t exactly see eye to eye!”

The story:

A youngster sneaks up on Kid Colt’s campfire with guns drawn. The Kid tells the lad he has no money. The lad says he’s after grub on account of the law is on his tail and he can’t travel on an empty stomach. Colt offers to share his food.

The young man weaves quite the tale of being a ruthless outlaw on the run. When asked his name:

They call me...er, K-Kid Colt! Yep! Kid Colt, that’s me! You can call me Kid if you got a mind to!

Covering his mouth to stifle a laugh, the actual Kid Colt suggests they team up. The youngster agrees readily.

The fake Kid Colt says they should find some rich casino, jump the place and then get out. The real Colt is aghast:

You mean just an ordinary everyday robbery? I always heard Kid Colt never robbed cold! I thought you played it straight and square!

Fake Colt says he was just testing Real Colt’s nerve. They ride into town. Fake Colt is amazed that everyone is ducking for cover. Real Colt explains:

They know better than to stand in the open when a gunslinger like you rides into town, Kid!

The young man responds:

I reckon you’re right! These weasels better not cross me or I’ll brace the whole town!
 
The smiling real Kid Colt says:

It’s mighty comforting riding with a big caliber hombre like you, Kid!

Inside the town’s leading “den of gambling,” Spade Reed, who has faced the real Kid Colt before, orders one of his men to tell the Kid to come into the saloon ready to swap lead. The real Colt tells his imposter Reed is a mighty rough customer.

Making yet another bad choice, the fake Kid Colt enters the casino for the showdown. Reed laughs at the lad and knocks him down. Which is when the real Kid Colt walks in. One panel later, the real Colt is shooting guns out of the hands of Reed and all his men:

This is the second time you talked me into a gunfight, Spade! The third time will be the last...for you!

The last panel takes this story into “afternoon special” territory as the Kid Colt impersonator comes clean:

I’m s-sorry, K-Kid! I ran away from home figurin’ to find adventure an’ danger, so I picked your name because...well, because you’re top gun in the west!

Colt responds:

Well, go back home and forget it! You’ll find more adventure in books...and a lot safer kind, too!
 
I love this goofy little story. It could have used another page or two, but I love it. With the right actors, I could even see it as a short film. It’s my favorite story in this issue.

“The Dam!” (5 pages) is Giant-Size Kid Colt #1's final story. It’s drawn by Jack Keller, the artist most associated with Kid Colt in the 1960s. The tale is a rather grim one.

The Kid comes across the smoking remains of a sheep rancher’s home and spread. It appears to be the result of an ongoing war between sheep ranchers and cattlemen. The one survivor is a very young boy who witness his father being taken away by the men who did this to their home.

Colt takes the boy to town and makes it clear he’s planning to hunt down the men who killed the sheep rancher:

This lad was orphaned by some hyenas who massacred a flock of sheep and burned his house! Maybe those saddle tramps are here, an’ maybe not.

Every man’s got a right to earn wages an’ enjoy life as he sees fit! Some polecats denied those rights to this boy an’ his dad!

I’m going to find the buzzards who did this, and when I do, they’ll be bait for Boot Hill!


Outside the saloon, Colt is approached by Jeff Cantrell, who is a cattleman. He says he and his fellows are fed up with these feuds and swears none of them has anything to do with attacking the dead sheep rancher.

Colt believes Cantrell and asks him to keep on an eye on the young boy. The cattleman promises the boy will have a home. He also says the men in the valley will help Colt in his quest.

The Kid declines the latter offer. He’s used to playing a lone hand in such matters.

Colt comes across some sheep ranchers. Impossibly, their lands have dried up. The Kid knows this valley is fed by headwaters from the Sierras and they never dry up. He decides to investigate.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who, you know, read the title of this yarn, but a dam has been built to block the valley’s water. It was built by the polecats who killed the sheep rancher. Their plan is to make the sheep ranchers think the cattlemen are to blame and then buy up the cheap grazing land that will inevitably come on the market in the aftermath of a range war.

Colt goes after the killers, shooting the guns out of their hands and forcing them to blow up the dam. They set off the explosions prematurely, figuring Colt will be blown to bits and they’ll swim safely to shore. They aren’t good with this figuring stuff.

Colt makes it to safety. The bad guys get swept to their deaths in the surging waters that had been held back by the dam.

This isn’t a bad story, but, like so many of these short Kid Colt adventures, it could’ve used more pages. Colt’s personality is that of an avenger, but, beyond that, there’s not much to set this hero apart from the other Marvel western heroes. I always liked both the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid better.

That wraps up this look at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1. There were too more issues in the series and I’ll get around to both of them down the road. I hope you enjoyed the extended coverage of this comic.

Coming up next - because I’ll be skipping “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” this week - are most likely three days of this and that, followed by my report on the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention.

Thanks for following the bloggy thing. See you tomorrow.     

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 18, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 111 (PART TWO OF THREE)

Previously in “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”...

We were looking at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 [January 1975], a 68-page comic book featuring Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid in an original 15-page adventure written and drawn by Larry Lieber with inking by Vince Colletta. In yesterday’s installment, we discussed that story and a few other odds and ends. Today, we’re going to talk about the some of the seven reprinted tales backing up the cover story. Six of the reprints tarred Kid Colt; the seventh was a non-series story by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. As I write about these stories, it’s probably best to assume that there will be SPOILERS...

The first three Kid Colt stories and the non-series tale all come from  Kid Colt Outlaw #52 [September 1955]. The cover of that issue (as seen above) was by Joe Maneely. The Kid Colt stories from that 1955 issue did not have titles, so I’ve come up with my own.

“Stockton” (6 pages) was written by an as-yet-unidentified writer and drawn by Jack Keller. The story:

Stockton was a neat, clean town when Kid Colt last passed through it. Since then, gold was discovered nearby and gambling houses have been built to take the money of the hardworking miners. The town is in dire straits with no future for decent people.

Those decent people ask Colt for his help in cleaning up the town. With his help, they campaign for a better town and show the miners how they get bupkis for the money they lose to gamblers. Taking the message to heart, the miners stop gambling and donate to a fund to build up the town.

The gamblers take offense to this. They try to stop Colt by force. But they can’t stand against a united townspeople and must flee the  town. The good people of Stockton then burn the gambling houses to the ground.

It’s an unbelievable story which left me shaking my head. Burn down the gambling houses? I mean, they couldn’t find some other use for those buildings? Sheesh!

The story is followed by full page ad for such Marvel merchandise as Spider-Man and Hulk model kits, a Spidey squirt gun, a Spider-Mobile, Spidey Foam and more. Nothing on the page was priced higher than $5.98 (the Spider-Mobile). The other items ranged from $1.25 to $2.98. What bargains!

“Silver Valley” (6 pages) is also drawn by Keller and, once again, the writer has not yet been identified. The story:

Kid Colt rescues am older man from a hungry bear and then has bacon and coffee with the man. Colt is on his way to “pressing business” in Culver County and asks for directions to the shortest trail to Silver Valley. The old man tries to steer Colt clear of the valley, but the Kid is in a hurry.

The road trip is harrowing. Colt is attacked by an unfriendly band of Native Americans and only escapes because they respect him as a warrior enough to let him pass in peace. He encounters a blizzard and hungry wolves in a mountain pass. He is blistered by the sun in the lowlands. He fights and captures murderous stagecoach robbers. Despite all these distractions, Colt reaches his destination: the place of his friend Jim Wyatt.

Why did Colt have to get to the Wyatt spread so quickly? Because he wanted to be there for young Jody’s birthday and give the lad the silver spurs Jody wanted. When Jim asks the Kid how his trip there went, Colt says there was nary a ripple.

I love this story. It’s action-packed with a wonderful punch line. The writer did his job exceedingly well.

“The Ramrod” (5 pages) by Stan Lee and Gene Colan was a non-series story. A wild-eyed man in a Confederate uniform rides into Pawnee, shooting into the air. He charges into the saloon, demanding Dixie music. He insults brave men who fought on both sides of the war. He goads a man into a duel and, fortunately, only shoots the guns out of that man’s hands. When he tries to buy the house a drink, he’s told his Confederate money is now worthless. He proclaims he will rob the bank, but then sits down at a table and waits for the town sheriff to come and face him.

The town wants to know why Sheriff Alf Durand hasn’t done anything about this man. Durand walks into the saloon alone. He faces the wild-eyed man and speaks:

Men have always fought for causes and died for them! The world has gone ahead! You’re no different! It’s over now and the nation is stronger for it!

You taunted brave men who had fought on both sides! They want to forget, but you won’t let them! Gray and blue...they’re hear to make a new life! But you won’t let them!

Stand up, Ramrod! Get on your feet, because I am to make you a man! On your feet, you selfish, bawling cry-baby! Get up!


Durand shoots the gun out of Ramrod’s hand, then proceeds to beat the crap out of him. The sheriff tells Ramrod he’ll be a better man now. To forget the past and live for the future.

The twist ending? Ramrod knows the sheriff, but thought Durand was killed at Vicksburg. But Alf was only wounded and recovered from his injuries.

Durand tells the townspeople to get Ramrod to a doctor and assures them the man will be all right now. The sheriff should know. He was Ramrod’s commanding officer...and his brother!

“The Ramrod” is a well-written and well-drawn story, but it hails from a time when foolish people were more forgiving of the slavers of the South. We can now longer afford such forgiveness. Not when our President is a racist who has placed other racists in important positions. Not when vile white supremacists march and protest while waving around torches. Today, this well-written and well-drawn tale makes me sigh in sadness and disgust.

“Bad Blood” (6 pages) is the third and final story reprinted from Kid Colt Outlaw #52. The writer is unknown at this time, but Jack Keller is once again the artist.

The story:

Riding into an unnamed town, Kid Colt stops a gunfight by shooting the guns out of the hands of both men. The feud between the Dawson and Moore families has been going on so long that no one remembers what started it. But it has heated up because Ed Moore believes his brother was murdered by Dawson.

Hearing the story from Dawson, Colt believes the man is innocent. Moore’s only living kin is his half-cousin Clyde Hanson, so Moore has taken the death of his brother real hard and vowed to kill Dawson. Hence, the attempted gunfight.

Colt does some deducting. When the death of his brother, the whole of the Moore ranch went to Ed. Dawson is shocked at the idea that Moore himself is the killer, but agrees to join the Kid to do some investigating. They ride to the spot where the younger Moore was shot in the back. An unseen shooter tries to bushwack them, but he misses and rides off.

Colt rides to the Moore spread to confront Ed. The Kid tells Moore he thinks he knows who killed his brother. Moore doesn’t believe it was anyone other than Dawson. But Colt tells him he’ll be waiting at the entrance of Wolf Canyon with the proof. This is where Ellery Queen shows up and tells you that you have all the clues you need to solve this murder that I solved back on page two.

Just kidding about the Ellery Queen part...

Colt and Dawson ride to the canyon. There’s no sign of Moore. Then Cousin Clyde gets the drop of them. Clyde figured that, if Ed was killed in a gunfight, the ranch would be his.

Colt didn’t have this figured out all the way. He thought telling Moore he had a hunch who the killer was would make the back shooter come out in the open.

Clyde says Colt and Dawson will never tell anyone what they know. But he whirls at a voice from off-panel.

Ed Moore, who had come to the canyon to kill Colt and Dawson, heard everything. Colt keeps Clyde from shooting Ed.

Moore feels low, but is glad Clyde will pay for his crime. He then shakes hands with Dawson. The feud is finally over...and that’s all the reward Kid Colt needs.

This was a good little story. I want to point out that none of the three Kid Colt reprints make much if anything of his being a wanted outlaw. He’s just a wandering cowboy helping people out wherever he goes. It’s a nice change of pace from the “man on the run” stories that are so prevalent in most Kid Colt and Rawhide Kid comic books.

That’s it for part two of this extended installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be absent from the bloggy thing for a few days to attend The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia, but will return on Monday for the third and final part.

See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella