Friday, November 24, 2017

HALLOWEEN COMICFEST #1

From the Halloween ComicFest Facebook page:

Halloween ComicFest is the celebration of Halloween and comics! The event takes place October 28th at participating comic shops. FREE Halloween themed comics will be available, along with the chance for fans to participate in "The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever!" It’s a great event for comic and Halloween fans of all ages! Come and celebrate Halloween this year with FREE comics!
 
Like Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest happens but once a year. Every year, I get all the issues from my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Some are digest-size comics and some are full-size comics. After receiving them - there were thirty comics this year - I read and review them. I judge these individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

We begin...

Batman Halloween ComicFest Special Edition #1 reprints “Night of the Monster Men: Part One” from Batman #7 [November 2016]. Plotted by Steve Orlando and Tom King, scripted by Orlando, pencilled and inked by Riley Rosario, this 20-page installment was the kick-off to a six-issue serial which ran through issues of Batman, Detective Comics and Nightwing. This full-size comic book also included ads for a variety of DC graphic novels and other items.

QUALITY: When I reviewed this story arc in my “Tony’s Tips!” column at Tales of Wonder, I called it “good creepy fun,” adding:

Batman’s new “Bat-Squad” of Batwoman, Clayface and other heroes and would-be heroes is another attraction for me. More than ever, Bats has a family and, like every real family I know, they don’t always do what “dad” wants them to do. And, of course, with Clayface, we are getting a redemption story and veteran readers of my writings know what a sucker I am for them.

ACCESSIBILITY: So many characters means quite a bit of back story. While some readers who haven’t been following Batman recently may be a little lost, I thought Orlando’s script gave them enough of a leg up to enjoy the story.

SALESMANSHIP: Mostly excellent. There are 13 pages of house ads for everything from a DC Universe exhibit as part of the Warner Bros. studio tour to a selection of graphic novel to the Justice League movie. There’s even a text piece on “The Music of DC” which plugs the Wonder Woman soundtrack the two-volume “The Music of DC.” I’m adding the latter to be my holiday wish list. If there’s a blip in the salesmanship, it’s that the issue lacks an advertisement for the Monster Man graphic novel while running the ad for a different Batman graphic novel twice.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

                                                                                   

Boom! Box’s Some-En-Haunted Evening 2017 (digest-size; 16 pages) has an 11-page team-up of characters from Misfit City, Giant Days, Goldie Vance, Hi Fi Fight Club, Coady and the Creepies, Slam! and Lumberjanes. The story was written by Liz Prince and illustrated by Kat Levin with colors by Sarah Stern and lettering by Jim Campbell.

QUALITY: This is an entertaining story, even if I didn’t know all of the characters. They gather for a “Murder Mystery Party” which revolves around the death of a comic-book publisher.

ACCESSIBILITY: Low. I knew some of the characters, but not all of them. A new-to-these-characters reader wouldn’t have a clue as to who they all are.

SALESMANSHIP: It’s a nice treat for those readers who do know all these characters, but I don’t think there’s enough to entice a new reader into buying these comics. Even with all the logos appearing on the inside front cover. A full-page ad for Hi Fi Fight Club does not offer any helpful information as to what that comic is about. The inside back cover is an ad for Free Comic Book Day and the back cover is an ad for the second season of Stranger Things.

SCORE: Four out of ten possible points.

                                                                                

DC Super Hero Girls 2017 Halloween ComicFest Special Edition #1 is a full-size comic book featuring a chapter from the Past Times at Super Hero High graphic novel by Shea Fontana with artists Yancey Labat and Agnes Garbowska. The issue also features several pages of  character pin-ups and facts.

QUALITY: The DC Super Hero Girls brand is one of the best brands of the past couple decades. It’s a fresh take on classic characters, kid-friendly and, especially, girl-friendly adventures that can be enjoyed by all ages. This excerpt finds students of Super Hero High traveling into the past to study dinosaurs. The lesson does not go as planned. So far, it’s a fun story. I got a kick out of Batgirl and Harley Quinn arguing over which of them is the biggest dinosaur buff. Well written and well drawn.

ACCESSIBILITY: These classic characters are well known. Fontana’s script tells you everything you need to know to follow this story. The character-based fact pages add more back story.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. From the inside front cover ad for Build-a-Bear versions of Harley and the Joker to interior ad pages on DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels and Super Hero High prose novels, this free comic book can lead readers to more great entertainment. If they like this comic book, they’ll want the graphic novels and the prose novels. The back cover has an ad for the Justice League- themed “Battle for Metropolis” ride at Six Flags amusement parks.

SCORE: The full ten out of ten points.

                                                                            

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom [Arcana] presents a new, 9-page prologue to the title story. It’s written by Bruce Brown and Sean Patrick O’Reilly with art by Renzi Podesta. O’Reilly is the CEO and Founder of Arcana, an entertainment company that produces comic books and animated cartoons and features. The earlier Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom is available on Blu-Ray and STARZ On Demand.

QUALITY: Less than I would have liked. The problem is that we don’t see young Howard until the last page of the prologue and, on that page, he’s having a restless sleep. So there’s no meaningful scene with the hero of the story.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. The inside front cover of the digest-size giveaway tells you what you need to know about Arcana and the new story. A three-page, heavily-illustrated article brings you up to speed on this version of Lovecraft and his world.

SALESMANSHIP: Decent. It does a great job selling the first Howard Lovecraft feature and this sequel, but comes up short in promoting Arcana’s other ventures.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.

                                                                                 

The Mortal Instruments [Yen Press] is a full-size comic featuring the 32-page opening sequence from the first volume of the graphic novel adaptation of “Cassandra Clare’s bestselling urban fantasy.” The art and adaptation are by Cassandra Jean. Besides the excerpt, the only other material in the comic book is the inside back cover indicia material, which stretches out over a full page, and a back cover ad for the first volume of the graphic novel. For no reason that I can see, the inside front cover is blank.

QUALITY: Fair-to-middling. There are some decent expressions and a few nice action panels, but the storytelling is unclear during some key moments. The writing is equally lacking.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor. I had to go to Wikipedia to learn this series “follows Clary Fray, who interacts with a group of nephilim known as Shadowhunters) while discovering her own half-angel heritage. The Shadowhunters protect the world of mundane people who are also called ‘mundies’ from dark forces from beyond their world.”

SALESMANSHIP: Poor. Apparently, The Mortal Instruments consists of six very popular young adult novels (not advertised in this comic), a 2013 movie that didn’t perform well and a TV series which has run for two seasons and been renewed for a third (also not advertised in this comic book). That blank inside front cover could have been used to give new readers a leg-up into what seems to be an ongoing story of some complexity.

SCORE: Two out of ten points.

                                                                                

Stitched by creator/writer/editor Marian McCourt with artist Aaron Alexovich is the first of two Papercutz comics that were available for Halloween ComicFest. The digest-size book features the first 12 pages of Stitched: The First Day of the Rest of Her Life, the first graphic novel in the series.

QUALITY: McCourt’s writing is good. Alexovich’s art is quite fluid and interesting. In this excerpt, we meet patchwork girl Crimson. Between the inside front cover background of the series and these pages, we learn enough about her to want us to learn more.

ACCESSIBILITY: Top marks for editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup’s inside front cover remarks. He gives readers the basics on both Stitched and Hotel Transylvania in a breezy, inviting style. For me, it is always fun to see a fellow “son of Stan Lee” utilizing the skills we learned at the feet of the Man.

SALESMANSHIP: Salicrup’s opening remarks to double duty here. Not only do we learn a lot about Stitched, but he makes us interested in buying the full graphic novel.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

There will be four more installments of these Halloween ComicFest reviews. I hope to post them all before the end of the year. Come back tomorrow for a look at the swag I picked up at the 2017 Akron Comicon. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 23, 2017

THANKSGIVING 2029

Today, a dozen years later, there was still no explanation for what actually happened on Thanksgiving, 2017. No compelling, convincing rationale for what began in such a small way and grew so large that it changed the world.

The scientists admitted they could not explain it. They could not even figure out how to try to explain it. Many looked inward, saw this as a sign that they were but children in a universe too vast to be understood. Most determined to work even harder to explore what they had some small chance of understanding and to use their new knowledge to, simply put, make things better. The cure for cancer was found in 2021. Other benefits to mankind would follow.

The evangelicals were astonished that there was no Rapture despite their efforts to support candidates and policies that would surely hasten the End of Days. Some cursed the brightness. Others turned inward and found it within their hearts and minds to fully embrace the divine love that was supposed to be at the core of their faith. Other religions took similar paths.

In every human endeavor - education, energy, entertainment, health care, manufacturing - the arrogance of the powerful and the greed of the obscenely wealthy - began giving way to actions and policies based on embracing their great responsibilities for the benefit of all. A new age had begun.

The politicians had it the roughest. Few could hold themselves to the new standards of this new age. Some would simply walk away from their offices. Others would try to make amends for the evil they’d done. There were many confessions in the halls of government. There were men and women who begged for a chance to make things right and redeem their souls. There would come greater appreciation for all three branches of government and their individual responsibilities to the common good. There would be new political parties and many, many new faces.

This change was not exclusive to the United States. Forgive me, but as the smells of today’s Thanksgiving dinner drift up to my office, I want to finish today’s column and join the family and friends who have gathered in our home. I can write about Europe and England and Russia and the Middle East and Asia and North Korea and the rest another day.

It started on Thanksgiving morning, 2017. There was an audible pop heard round the world. There was a bright warmth that washed over the entire planet. It was hope and it was love and it was kindness and it was fellowship and it was knowledge and it was happiness and it was a sudden certain realization that we had not gone too far. That we could change. That we could do much better. That we had to do much better. That it would be glorious.

The pop and the light lasted but a few short seconds. Some people felt different immediately. Others denied anything had happened at all. Most just wondered and, from time to time, reflected on what it would be like to feel that way all the time.

The phenomenon went largely unreported. If mentioned at all, it was a paragraph or two relegated to the back pages of the newspapers or amusing banter on an early am morning mid-morning noon afternoon early evening late night news program. There was just so much news. Except for the occasional celebrity guest on a talk show, it wasn’t something anyone was talking about. At first.

The first concrete evidence that something had happened to us all. The first realization that something had happened. The first sign that something had changed. That came when the head of the Federal Communications Commission refused to gut internet neutrality. With defiant demeanor and words, he said the ability of the people to be heard could not be lessened in the name of bigger profits for the communications industry giants. After a barrage of vile tweets from the President, he was fired.

His hastily-appointed replacement also refused to do the bidding of the President. His hastily-appointed replacement turned out to be just as steadfast. As was her replacement. And his replacement. And his replacement. And her replacement.

Realizing how precious their rights of expression were, the people responded with more expression, more speech, more determination to be heard. While the President ran out of appointees, the scientists joined the struggle. Within months, there were alternatives to the government-controlled internet.

No one would be silenced. No one could be silenced.

Things continued to change. The formerly powerless demanded power. They embraced all the “others” the President and his supporters had tried to demonize. They had their fill of politicians playing them off against one another. They embraced the American dream and were determined to make it reality.

The members of the American Rifle Association ran their bought-and-paid-for-by-gun-manufacturers leadership out of the organization. They demanded the politicians enact the common sense laws they had always favored.

The true Christians, the true Muslims, the true atheists, the true practitioners of the Jewish faith opened their doors and hearts to one another. They proclaimed that while their paths to the goal might differ, the goal was the same for all of them.

Love would trump hate. It might take decades for bigotry and racism to be fully swept away into the dustbin of history, but there was little doubt of that unstoppable outcome.

People joined together for the common good of their nation. Nations joined together for the common good of their world. There was still misery in the nation and the world, but it no longer felt like it the intended consequences of schemes meant to make the rich richer and the powerful more powerful. There might always be misery, but the inevitability of misery was no longer acceptable. If it could be fought - and it could - it would be fought.

Seconds. An audible pop heard round the world. A brightness in the sky and in our hearts. A warmth that lifted our souls.

Seconds. The world changed. We changed.

The family is calling for me. They will expect me to say something profound before the meal. “You’re the writer,” they will say and I know that they know my truest self.

So I will express my thanks for human imagination. For our shared ability to imagine a better world and make it so. Tomorrow starts with an idea. The day after tomorrow, that’s when we start working to make that idea reality.

If we can imagine it, we can create it.

This has been a good year. Next year will be a better year.

With a pop and a brightness and a warmth.

Happy Thanksgiving, 2029.

See you tomorrow.
              
© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 128

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 128th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #141 [September 1977] has another great new cover pencilled and inked by Gil Kane. Like the previous issue’s cover, it doesn’t illustrate a scene from either of the two Rawhide Kid tales reprinted in this issue.
                                                                               

The first of those stories is “The Deadly Draw of Mr. Lightning!” by Stan Lee and Jack Davis from Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963] Here’s what I wrote in my bloggy for August 8, 2012:

“The Deadly Draw of Mister Lightning” (10 pages) is a plot-by-the-numbers story.  It begins with the Kid fleeing a small posse; this is the only time in the issue his outlaw status is mentioned.  He hides out in the crowd at a traveling carnival where he watches the fastest juggler in the world and reckons it’s good the performer is not a gunfighter because no one could out-draw him.  Foreshadowing in the days of the Old West.

Mister Lightning is dissatisfied with his meager earnings.  Another carnival worker suggests he takes up gun play.  The juggler is swift to master that art and becomes a gun-for-hire.  Spotting Rawhide in a town where the Kid is apparently not wanted, Lightning calls him out. The Kid doesn’t want to engage in gun play for no reason and that, along with his foe’s speed, allows the former juggler to out-draw and wound our young hero.

Rawhide figures this is his lucky break.  Now that he’s no longer the fastest gun around, he thinks people will leave him in peace. Alas, building on his rep at the guy who outdrew the Rawhide Kid, Lightning has turned to crime.  With only four pages to go, an old Native American chief and friend of Rawhide tracks him down to tell him of Lightning’s reign of terror.  The Kid figures he has to do something about this.

Mister Lightning and the Kid face off at the bottom of page eight. Lightning is still faster, but Rawhide’s steely-eyed courage makes the juggler nervous.  He out-draws the Kid, but his shot misses by a mile.  He fires a second time, but, this time, the Kid fires as well and aims so expertly that the two bullets collide in mid-air. Mister Lightning soils himself, at least that’s how I see it, and vows never to use a gun again.  The local lawman takes the juggler into custody and leads us out of the story with the mini-sermon of the day:

“There are many ways to use a gun, but the Kid’s is best of all - not in anger, not for gain, just to help the cause of justice!”

Mutant gun skill is not new to the Rawhide Kid’s adventures, but I think this pushes it. I’m fairly confident we saw this amazing feat again in other Marvel westerns of the era.

An artistic note: Maybe it’s me, but the horses look pretty tiny in Davis-drawn Rawhide Kid stories.  Their human riders appear larger than the steeds in places.  Was Davis rushed or was he reacting to the low Marvel rates of this era?  Though his storytelling works just fine and his facial expressions and figures are dramatic, the small horses kept taking me out of the stories.

As has been the case with the Marvel comic books of this time, they didn’t attract the most high profile advertisers. Not counting the back cover - which we’ll discuss later today - the biggest names in the paid ads were Daisy (rifles) and Hostess with an ad offering three free baseball cards with specially marked boxes of Suzy Q’s, Twinkies, Cup Cakes and other snacks. In other words, no comic-book style, single-page story in which the Man-Thing defeats the Swamp-Drainer with a delicious treat.
                                                                            

Pacific Comics of San Diego took out a half-page ad offering their 100-page catalogue for a buck. There were two pages of “classified” ads, down from the usual three. On those pages, we got ads for 19 mail-order comics outfits, down from last issue’s 24. Also on one of the pages was an ad for John Buscema’s New York class in comic-book art and a new course on comics writing with Stan Lee as guest lecturer.
                                                                               

Superhero Merchandise of Dover, New Jersey had its usual full page advertisement, offering “Mighty Marvel Book Specials!” The only new book was The Superhero Cookbook which sold for $4.45 including the usual postage and handling.
                                                                              

Next up was “Shoot-Out with Rock Rorick!” from The Rawhide Kid #31 [December 1962]. The seven-page story was written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby and inking by Dick Ayers. I wrote about the tale in my bloggy thing for June 20, 2012:

Rorick is a rancher who has blocked the water to other ranchers to force them to sell their land to him.  When Rorick’s thugs harass the ranchers in the saloon, Rawhide sends the bullies packing.  A highlight of the fight is when one thug exclaims in disbelief: “You can’t be the Rawhide Kid! From what I heerd tell of ‘im, he must be most ten feet tall and wide as a barn!”

The ranchers beseech the Kid to help them against Rorick, but he’s busy enough just keeping one step ahead of the law.  But when his path out of town takes him past the ranch of an elderly couple who have been targeted by Rorick, Rawhide sees red.  He takes the fight - and what a wild fight it is - to Rorick’s spread and takes down the rancher and all his thugs.  He forces Rorick to sell all of his land to the Kid, who promptly restores it to its rightful owners.  Rorick’s pleas to the townspeople fall on deaf ears.  The tale ends with Rawhide relaxing in the saloon.  Obviously, the Kid can’t stay there for long, but he gets a momentary respite from the life of a wanted man.

In the middle of the above story, we got a half-page ad for a trio of Marvel annuals - Amazing Spider-Man, Invaders, Howard the Duck - topping the usual subscription ad.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page leads with a long “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” in which the Man talks about his recent appearance at the University of Alabama, heralds the return of the legendary Carmine Infantino to Marvel (which is a stretch given Infantino had not drawn anything for Marvel since the 1950s), and announces the debut of the Howard the Duck newspaper strip. This was followed bu the usual news items.

ITEM! Marvel would publish bonus-size, one-issue movie adaptations of movies, timed to hit the newsstands about the same time as the movies. First up was The Island of Dr. Moreau by Doug Moench with artist Larry Hama.

ITEM! Other movie adaptations in the world included The Deep, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also hinted at: a James Bond adaptation.

ITEM! Jack Kirby was developing an exciting new feature. Was that really news? I mean, the King was always developing new features!

ITEM! Summer annuals! Besides the already-announced Amazing Spider-Man, Invaders and Howard the Duck, there would be annuals for Thor, The Eternals, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Many of these would feature short back-up stories said to showcase new Marvel talents.

ITEM! The final item announced the premiere of The Human Fly, based on a real-life daredevil, and a Conan Treasury Edition filled with stories by editor/writer Roy Thomas that had never previously appeared in color. Artists included John Buscema, Barry Smith, Neal Adams and Gil Kane.
                                                                               

There was one more editorial page in this issue and came as quite a surprise. It was a pin-up of the Rawhide Kid by Gil Kane that is thought to have been an original illustration. Cool.
                                                                               

The back cover of this issues advertised Dino De Laurentiis’ Orca. An angry thunderbolt of terror explodes out of the ocean’s depths! In the 1977 movie, a hunter battles a killer whale seeking revenge for the death of its mate and child. Starring Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling, the film was originally panned by critics and fans due to both its crass similarities to Jaws and its less than stellar performances. Oddly enough, it has attained something of a cult following in more recent times.

That’s it for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” We’ll have another for you next Wednesday.

Come back tomorrow for either a special Thanksgiving bloggy thing  or some other stuff. It’s hard for me to be thankful for the many blessings of my own life when so many people are being harmed and persecuted by the Dumpster and its vile allies in the Republican Party and the alt-right Nazi movements. Which alt-right movements are Nazis? All of them. So you can see where I might have a little difficultly with the whole “thankful” business.

See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #234

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Pre-Code Classics: Jet Powers/Space Age Volume One with art by Bob Powell and Al Williamson; Marvel's Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters; and Fresh Romance Volume 2!

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 11/21/17

                                                                             
The Black Lightning TV series debut on Tuesday, January 16, on the CW at 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. On Friday, January 19, there will be an encore presentation. After that, the show will air every Tuesday night until its 13-episode first season is completed. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Though Sainted Wife Barb will be off on a cruise - and believe me when I tell you she feels terrible about that, but her plans can’t be changed - our kids Eddie and Kelly want to have a watch party at Casa Isabella. We’re still figuring out the logistics of that. I’m also thinking I might have some sort of encore watch party at some other location. We’ll see.

Some cool news also announced last week is that Cress Williams, the fine actor who plays Jefferson Pierce in the series, is getting a statue from DC Collectibles. Sydney Bucksbaum from The Nerdist website wrote:

Months ahead of his onscreen debut, the star of The CW’s upcoming superhero drama Black Lightning is already getting immortalized as a collectible statue, and Nerdist has your exclusive first look at the 12-inch figure from DC Collectibles. Modeled off of Williams’ titular hero Jefferson Pierce from Greg Berlanti’s next big DC TV series, the statue is dressed in the full Black Lightning super suit, mask and all. It’s so badasshe’s even got blue lightning bolts coming right out of his hand. Talk about being battle-ready!
 
Williams told Nerdist:

“Wow that is amazing! I’m excited and extremely honored to have a statue in my likeness. It’s very surreal and a bit overwhelming at the same time.”

The statue is available for pre-order at Dccollectibles.com and it will officially go on sale July 2018 for $130.

My thanks to Bucksbaum for the above information and for including in the piece that Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden. It really only takes one more sentence for such stories to credit the comic-book writers and artists who created characters. It’s a simple way to show respect for those creators. I applaud The Nerdist for getting this.

There have been so many articles, news stories and reviews on the Black Lightning TV series and Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 that I can’t link to them all, much less comment on them all. I’ll get to as many of them as possible today.

Author Ed Gosney wrote about Black Lightning and the Akron Comicon on his page. He gives good commentary and shares some photos of the event with his readers. Speaking for myself, though I’m sure Trevor von Eeden feels the same way, I enjoyed talking to Ed and wish I’d been able to appear on his comics nostalgia panel. You can read his convention and comics report here.

Vaneta Rogers interviewed me for Newsarama. I thought it was a good and honest interview, though, of course, it raised the hackles of a few readers. This is why I must resist reading comments even more than I do now; they seldom offer any constructive criticism or anything positive. My suggestion is that you ignore the reader comments and just read the interview.

Chancellor Agard of Entertainment Weekly interviewed artist Clayton Henry and me for the magazine’s website. I thought it was a really good interview. You can read it here.

Jordan C. of Mass Appeal interviewed me for that website. All these reporter are making me look good. I especially liked answering his question as to who were my top five female comic-book characters. I wish he had asked for six because I didn’t include a character I really should have included. Here’s the link.

Eric Cline reviewed Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 for the Adventures in Poor Taste website. Cline was less than enthusiastic than most reviewers - he gave the issue a six out of, I presume a possible ten - and inspired several jokes about the website’s name. But, though I disagree with some of his statements, I’m not going there. Instead, I’ll suggest you read his review here.

Aaron Young of Comicsverse was a lot more positive about the issue, but wrote that “the reader never gets a great idea of who Jefferson Pierce is.” Personally, I feel I gave the readers everything they needed to know about Jeff for this issue. I figured today’s readers are able to fill in the minor details, based on how much said fans speculate about what’s going to happen in the comics, in the films and on the TV shows. Each issue will give you a little more info on Jefferson Pierce, his super-hero identity, his allies and the city in which he lives. Having him explain every single part of who he is was never going to be on the table for me. I find a plethora of introspection slows down the story. Heck, you’re not even going to get a new origin story in these six issues. Though, if the series sells well enough to continue, that’s one of the future stories I want to write. But I do appreciate Aaron giving the issue so much thoughtful coverage. You can read his review here.

Over at SyFy Wire, Adam Pockross gave some nice coverage to Black Lightning’s January CW debut and mentioned the six-issue comic-book series as well. Just for the record though, the official credit is “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden.” There might be a slightly different credit on the show itself, but it’s also a credit I signed off on. You can read Pockross’s piece here.

And because I never get tired of this.

Here’s a long podcast/radio show I did. I haven’t listened to it, but I had great fun doing it:

Brad at Graphic Policy recorded and posted on YouTube what might be my favorite review of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. Though Brad says at the beginning of the review that he doesn’t know much about Black Lightning, he nails what I was trying to accomplish in that issue. Watch his review here.

Charles Pulliam-Moore of io9 interviewed me. If you’re realizing I did a bunch of interviews in the lead-up to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1, you are correct. I think this one is one of the best ones I did. You can read it here.

Comic Chronicle interviewed me and you can listen to it here.

This has nothing to do with Black Lightning, but I feel we need a bit of variety. Prepare to have your heart melt when you watch this Macy’s commercial.

One more link. Corrina Lawson has this cool article at the GeekMom part of GeekDad. Read it here.

Whew! I don’t think I’ve ever included so many links in one of my bloggy things. I probably missed a few articles and reviews, but I tried to avoid too much repetition.

When next “Black Lightning Beat” appears, it will have annotations for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. You’ll get to see what I was thinking as I wrote the script and maybe discover some cookies and Easter eggs you missed. I expect the annotations on the issue to run maybe two or three installments. I hope you enjoy them.

Tomorrow is Wednesday and that means “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” as we ride like the night wind towards the end of the Kid’s long-running comic-book series. See you when the sun comes up.
   
© 2017 Tony Isabella


Monday, November 20, 2017

IN MEMORIAM

Three men whose work meant a lot to me when I was a kid and, later, when I was a young man in my 20s, passed in August and September. I’ve been meaning to write something about them, but one thing or another got in the way of that. Fortunately, I finally have a few minutes to express my thanks for what they did in their lives and how that enriched my life.

Haruo Nakajima (January 1, 1929 – August 7, 2017) played Godzilla in the original Gojira (1954) and went on to play him in a dozen consecutive movies, up to and including Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). He also played other giant monsters in other kaiju films. He was a noted stunt actor who had small roles in many other movies as well.

When I first saw Godzilla on the small screen TV in my Peony Avenue home in Cleveland, I already knew the differences between the stop-motion animation of King Kong and the “man in suit” performance of Godzilla. What I didn’t grasp until I was older was how much acting was involved in portraying those giant monsters. These days, when I watch those old favorites, I am frequently impressed by how much actors like Nakajima were able to bring to their roles despite having no dialogue and with their own features completely obscured within their costumes.

Nakajima’s other monster roles included Rodan, Moguera (the robot from The Mysterians), Varan, Mothra’s larval form, Maguma (Gorath), Baragon, Gaira (in War of the Gargantuas), King Kong (in King Kong Escapes) and various monsters in various Ultraman episodes. That’s dozens upon dozens of hours of entertainment.

From the moment I saw Godzilla for the first time, I was hooked on the big guy. A good share of that is due to Nakajima. I honor his memory and thank him for the joy he brought to me.
                                                                                   

Watching TV legend Ernie Anderson hosting late-night monster movies as his character Ghoulardi lifted those monster movies to my next passion after comic books. From January 13, 1963 through December 16, 1966, Anderson’s Shock Theater was what almost every Cleveland kid would be talking about on Monday. It was not a huge step from watching Ghoulardi to buying Famous Monsters of Filmland as often as I could scrape together some extra money after buying the comic books I loved.
                                                                                 

Basil Gogos (March 12, 1929 – September 13, 2017) painted the best Famous Monsters covers in the 1960s and 1970s. His Gorgo portrait is one of my all-time favorite giant monster images, but he never painted a cover that was less than excellent. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can see those covers. If I then open my eyes at a cool enough convention, I might see big displays of prints and t-shirts with those same images. Gogos lives on through his art.

I met him once - briefly - at a Pensacon. He was a gracious man and appreciative of how much his fans loved his work. I wish I had been able to spend more time with him. He was scheduled to appear at an Akron Comicon - where I would have interviewed him for the fans - but had to cancel because his traveling companion came down sick. And then Gogos was gone. He lived a full life for sure and did so much great work, but, with a talent as amazing as his, you always want just a little more.

There are many great monster illustrators and I love their work as well. But Basil Gogos will always be special to me.

                                                                                  

Playboy publisher and editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner (April 9, 1926 – September 27, 2017) is someone whose work became very important to me in many ways. While recognizing that some people consider him to have exploited women and profited from their sexy images, I have a more nuanced and complicated view of him.

I was not one of those horny kids who would take every opportunity, when an issue of Playboy came into their hands, to lust after the centerfolds and other models. The women were gorgeous, but I found it uncomfortable listening to the crude remarks of my classmates. They weren’t my friends, but I had to learn to survive being short and smart and a favorite of most of my teachers. I moved among them and they accepted me, especially when they desperately needed some tutoring.

The first time I ever read anything in Playboy was when I asked my father to buy me an issue that had a Jules Feiffer article about Golden Age super-heroes. Dad bought the issue, cut out the article (which was all I wanted) and that was my introduction to the fine writing that could be found in the magazine.

When I was old enough to buy Playboy myself - most stores would let me buy it at 18 - I bought it from time to time. I’m not going to claim I didn’t enjoy the photos, but I actually did buy Playboy for the articles and cartoons.

Hefner’s role as a social activist was commendable. His support of cartoonist and other worthy causes pleased me. That he was also a playboy with multiple sexual partners didn’t mean anything to me. It wasn’t the sort of lifestyle that appealed to me. Before I was married, I rarely dated more than one woman at a time. I liked the one on one relationship. However, since I may run for office before long, I’m not going to tell you how many consensual relationships I have had in my life. Vote for me.

The writing in Playboy knocked me out. At times, I aspired to write something for the magazine. I was always so busy with the writing I was already doing that I never had the time to devote to trying to sell to Playboy. I regret that.

I subscribed to Playboy for many years because the renewal fee was always incredibly cheap. But the unread issues became a pile and, with my kids and the neighborhood kids hanging around the house, I felt uncomfortable having the magazine around. Sometime long before that, the models went from being my age or older to all being much younger than me. So I stopped getting the magazine.

In his older years, Hefner creeped me out a little with his dalliances with multiple women decades younger than him. But I never lost my respect for what he had accomplished, the stands he took, the good causes he championed and the quality of the writing and the art in his magazine.

I never got to meet Hugh Hefner. I wish I had. For me, Playboy was a positive influence. The handful of Playboy models I have met over the years share that opinion. I don’t question the truth that, for some women and men, it was not a positive influence. Sometimes you just have to go with what you think.

Haruo Nakajima. Basil Gogos. Hugh Hefner. Today’s bloggy thing is dedicated to them with admiration and respect. I’m glad they were part of my life.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ON THE ROAD AGAIN IN 2018

Black Lightning - the TV series - will make its debut on the CW on Tuesday, January 16, at 9 pm EST. I suspect I’ll be asked a whole lot of questions about it at my convention and other appearances in 2018. Before we get to that list of appearances, let’s talk a bit about what it takes me to get to a convention.

In 2018, most conventions I drive to will have to provide me with the following: travel expenses, hotel expenses, a per diem of some sort for meals and an appearance fee. If a convention is flying me in, it will have to provide airfare for me and a companion. I’m not a cheap date, but I am a fun-within-reason date.

When a convention meets my conditions for an appearance, I will not charge for either photos or signatures. Unless the convention wants to hold some sort of special event to recoup some of the expense of bringing me to its show.

I’m always happy to do panels and presentations at conventions as long as they aren’t back to back and have been cleared with me in advance. There are panels I won’t do simply because I have seen how easily they can degenerate into unpleasantness.

Obviously, there will always be conventions exempt from paying my appearance fee. You don’t know to need which ones they are. That’s between me and them.

However, I have announced that I will not charge an appearance fee for conventions in New York City proper. My goddaughter Kara lives in New York and my “other daughter” Giselle - my daughter Kelly’s best friend since kindergarten - is moving there later this year. There’s been some confusion about this and there are conventions in locations that are not exactly New York City that might get a pass because of the confusion. Still, going forward, the "no appearance fee" thing will only apply to conventions in New York City proper.

On the other hand, if your convention is in some city I really want to visit, if it’s in a warm place when my home town isn’t warm and if you’ll cover a few extra days of lodgings so I can actually have a mini-vacation, I’m open to waving my appearance fee.

There will be those who criticize me for charging this appearance fee. There will be conventions who won’t have me as a guest because of this. I’m not going to be debate this over and over again. But, just this once...

I’ll be 66 years old on December 22. I’m in relatively good health and intend to keep writing until they pull my keyboard from my cold dead hands. However, in my field, there is never a guarantee of a next job after the job you’re working on. I’m working to put money aside for my retirement or any health problems that arise. So, yes, I am charging an appearance fee. Indeed, in the unlikely event I end up at some convention that hasn’t met my conditions for my appearance, I will be charging a nominal fee for autographs.

We live in a convention world where “Zombie #3" gets paid to come to conventions. I’m not asking for the kind of money a convention will pay for a bonafide movie or TV actor. But the money they would pay “Zombie #3"? Yeah, they can pay me that, too.

If you’re a convention promoter I haven’t scared off, or somebody who would like me to speak at a library or school, you can e-mail me to start the process going. I do hope to keep my appearances to two a month, but that’s not carved in stone.

One more thing. There’s always a slim chance that I will be needed elsewhere on a weekend when I have scheduled an appearance. My first loyalties are alays going to be to Black Lightning, DC Comics/Entertainment and the CW. If I do have to cancel an appearance - something that most conventions are familiar with because they deal with actors whose schedules can change quickly - I will do my best to make it up to that convention as soon as possible.

That said, here is my still-in-progress 2018 convention schedule. I’m looking forward to all of these events:

February 18: Action Windsor

February 23-25: Pensacon

March 9-11: Cleveland ConCoction

April 27-29: announcement pending

May 5: The Toys Time Forgot (for Free Comic Book Day)

May 19: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

July 13-15: G-Fest

July 19-22: Comic-Con International (This one is just a maybe right now, but I’m leaving the dates open.)

August 17-18: TerrifiCon

August 19: NEO Comic Con

November 3-4: Akron Comicon

November 9-11: announcement pending

If you would like to see me at a convention or other event in your area, please have the promoter of that event contact me directly. I’ll respond as quickly as possible.

My regular bloggy things will resume on Monday.

© 2017 Tony Isabella