Thursday, March 22, 2018


I spent the morning talking to elementary school students and their teachers. Here's what I posted on that when I got home a little while ago...

BLACK LIGHTNING! This morning, I spoke to grades 5-8 at the East Clark Elementary School on the east side of Cleveland. What an amazing bunch of engaged students and teachers. My experience there reinforced something I have been thinking about a lot of late.

Black Lightning isn't your typical super-hero. Like the Black Panther, he means so much to so many people. We owe it to the new generation of fans to present them with contemporary versions of these characters. Taking several steps back to present the 1970s version of Black Lightning to indulge the nostalgic whims of older readers or creators are the wrong steps to take.

If I do more Black Lightning comics - and I certainly would like to - I'll do my best to present the contemporary hero you see in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands and on the TV series. On my watch, you will never again see a Black Lightning who asks "how high" when a Batman tells him to jump. Making him subservient to Batman or other characters is a disservice to Black Lightning and his contemporary fans.

And if I don't do more Black Lightning comics, I'll do my best to find another way to continue the work I started over four decades ago.

As a wise man once said to Luke Cage, "Always forward."

I'll be speaking more on the above subjects soon.

I'm going to take the next couple days off to think deep thoughts, figure out my plans going forward and goofing off. I'll be back soon with more bloggy things.

Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Tomorrow's bloggy thing will likely post late in the day. I had an exhausting schedule of errands and phone meetings today and, first thing tomorrow, I'll be heading to a Cleveland public school to speak to students from grades 5-7 on Black Lightning and comics in general. I only hope I can live up to the sterling example set by Jefferson Pierce.


This is it! The Last Gunfight!

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 138h installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #151 [May 1979] has a new cover by Dave Cockrum and inker Bob Wiacek. The issue reprints “The Manhunters” from Rawhide Kid #99. The cover to that May 1972 issue was by Larry Lieber with George Roussos on the inks. Lieber wrote and draw the 14-page take and Roussos inked it.

For this printing, Marvel cut a panel from the story’s fourth page to make room for the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation. Here’s the original page:

And here’s the reprinted page:

I wrote about “The Manhunters” on August 31, 2016. You can read my comments on it here.

The total paid circulation for the previous year was a mere 98,978 per issue with the issue nearest to the filing date coming in at a lower 96,378. According to the current year’s statement...

...the total paid circulation per issue had dropped to 89,414 with the issue nearest to the filing date dropping to 83,582. If a comic did the lower of those numbers today, it would have been the fifth best-selling direct market comic book. However, back in 1979, those numbers were a ticket to cancellation.

This issue’s paid advertisements were so-so. There were full-page ads for the Sales Leadership Club, the Fun Factory’s novelty items, Fruit Stripe Gum, Aurora’s AFX racing cars, lessons on customizing cars, 100 toy soldiers for $1.75, and the Olympic Sales Club. There were also half-page ads for drafting careers, Grit newspaper sales people, a “deluxe quality movie viewer” for $29.95 and training on becoming a police officer.

There’s the usual two-and-a-half pages of classified ads. They had 23 ads from comics sellers, down five from last issue. There was also the now-standard ad selling 3 mil comics storage bags at three bucks per hundred.

This issue’s full-page Heroes World ad was for Marvel posters. The posters were $3.25 each, including postage and handling. Ordering quantities would get you better individual prices. For example, six posters would cost $12 plus a buck for postage and handling.

A full-page ad offered a year’s subscription to Shogun Warriors and The Micronauts for nine bucks combined. If you ordered the titles, you got a free Battlestar Galactica super special.

The Fantastic Four cartoon, the one that replaced the Human Torch with a robot name of Herbie, was the subject of a half-page ad. The stories were by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, The designers were by Jack Kirby.

This issue’s Outlaw Kid reprint is from Outlaw Kid #13 (September 1956). The cover is by Joe Maneely. This is the fourth appearance of “Bully’s Bluff” (4 pages), which also ran in Outlaw Kid #7 [August 1971] and #25 [December 1974]. The story was drawn by Doug Wildey.

This story is the by-now-incredibly-familiar morality play wherein the Kid mixes it up with some bullies. Said bullies try to ambush him, but are attacked by a cougar. The Kid rescues their asses and the bullies vow to change their ways. As I’ve said before, someone - and it may have to be me - should take this concept of a hero who seemingly specializes in reforming bullies and use it for a modern-day super-hero.

The “Bullpen Bulletins” page starts with Stan Lee using his “Stan’s Soapbox” column to encourage Marvel fans to write to the networks airing Marvel live-action and animated shows to tell those networks how much they enjoyed those shows. He also plugged his forthcoming appearance at Miamicon 2.

The rest of the page has a drawn-out item on an editorial meeting on Spider-Woman, an item plugging current issues of Daredevil, Thor and Micronauts and the revelation that Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter is the author of everything on the page not written by Stan Lee. That explains my disinterest in this era’s Bullpen Bulletins. I wasn’t a fan of Shooter’s Marvel writing or his management of the company. Somehow, I must have sensed his presence on these pages.

Iron Man was the star of this issue’s single-page Hostess thriller. “Brains over Brawn” has the hero defeating criminals breaking into Stark Industries with repulsor rays and Hostess Fruit Pies. Guess even bad guys get a big delight from every bite of these so-called treats. Maybe an occasional salad would have kept these guys from their misspent lives of crime.

The back cover is a full-page ad for Battlestar Galactica t-shirts, a steal at $4.99 each. A buck for postage and handling covered the buyers no matter how many shirts they ordered.

That was all she wrote for The Rawhide Kid series that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby rebooted almost two decades previously. No announcement of the cancellation is in the comic book itself, only that telling “The Last Gunfight!” title blurb on the cover.

With this bloggy thing, “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” rides off into the online sunset. But you’ve not seen the last of my writing about the Marvel westerns.

After I catch up on some other bloggy things I want to write, I’ll be launching either “Marvel Western Wednesday” or perhaps “Western Wednesday.” The former would feature a variety of Marvel westerns; the latter would expand that coverage to include westerns from the other comics publishers as well. Either way, I will include some of the Rawhide Kid appearances that happened outside of his own book or in the odd sequels to his own book.

Give me some time to burrow through my unsorted comics boxes and we’ll see what western comics I come across. For that matter, I’ll gladly accept donations of western comics, for which I will repay the sender with various Isabella swag.

My mailing address is:

Tony Isabella
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

Thanks for riding this often dusty trail with me. I’ll be back on the morrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


My fondness for British weeklies led me to subscribe to The Beano. Published by DC Thomson, it’s the longest running British kids comic. It first appeared on July 30, 1938. Each new issue comes out on Wednesday.

My shorthand description of The Beano, which is aimed at pre-teens, is that it features a number of one-to-four-page stories about the Bash Street Kids and their neighbors im Beanotown. Most of the kids are mischievous bordering on maniacal. Some of them have developed skills (like dodging work) to a nigh-super degree. One or two have actual super-powers. Most of the adults in these strips are worst than the kids.

A typical issue of Beano will have Dennis the Menace (not the Hank Ketchum character, but one who made his debut almost simultaneously with the Mitchell lad) and his dog Gnasher; Minnie the Minx, who’s said to be tougher than all the boys; Billy Whizz, the fastest boy in the world; Calamity James, the unluckiest boy in the world; Bananaman, a youngster who turns into a super-hero whenever he eats a banana; Tricky Dicky, a prankster; Roger the Dodger, a juvenile con artist and others.

Beano all has giveaway contests, joke pages, puzzles, games, reader participation pages and a cool back cover feature. If a kid sends their “menace name” and photo to the comics weekly, said kid could be chosen to appear in their own back cover comic. In the issues I have before me, the spot went to Festive Finn (who’s excited about Christmas), Monday Morning Minnie (she hates Mondays); and Chilly Charlie (who’s always cold). I should send Beano a photo of me as a kid and see if I can land that coveted back cover.

Beano #3914 [December 9, 2017] is one of three issues I set aside because I wanted to write about them today. Most of the issue’s comic strips are part of a larger story about Beanotown being invaded by giant sentient bruessel sprouts during the Christmas season. What makes this tale even more special is its guest star...
That’s right. Peter Capaldi, the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, appears in this issue as himself. Which should send Doctor Who completists scurrying to find a copy of that issue for their collections.

Beano #3915 [December 30, 2017] has a Star Wars parody with Gnasher in the lead and other Beano characters playing the other roles in the classic original movie.

There was a hilarious nod to the 1966 Batman movie in Beano #3918 [January 20, 2018]. In the Bananaman strip, the title hero has to get rid of a bomb. Yeah, they went there.

Much to my child-like delight, my Beano subscription came with a Christmas gift. The Merry Prank-Mas Kit was a little dented when it arrived, but I had more fun with its contents that an old guy like me should be allowed to have. My favorite prank was a “snake in a tube.” The others: joke ketchup, fake pencil through finger, gross teeth, cockroach sweet, fake poo, trick snot and joke gift tags. The kit was one of my favorite Christmas presents.

Two more notes. Because I’m trying to reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I’m not saving my issues of The Beano. You’ll find them in my VAOS garage sale, which I hope to commence before the end of April. Watch the bloggy thing for more news on them.

I would like to create an American magazine with the same sense of mischief that I see in The Beano. Depending on what my schedule is like this year, I may be starting on that soon.

As always, if you want to discuss convention or other appearances or my doing a project for you, you can email me. I’ll respond just as quickly as I can.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for the final installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Then, starting on Thursday, I’ll have a bloggy or two on the Marvel Legacy and my going to New York to be interviewed on camera for a Marvel documentary.

Thanks for visiting.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Mine!, the ComicMix anthology that celebrates “liberty and freedom for all” and benefits Planned Parenthood; the delightful Bettie Page #6-8 from Dynamite; and Ant Wars, reprinting the classic 2000 AD serial from 1978!

Monday, March 19, 2018


My only remaining open-to-the-public appearance this month will be a workshop that’s part of the Cleveland Public Library and the Ohio Center for the Book’s Coffee and Comics program. These workshops are hosted by Rising Star Coffee and allow attendees to join comics creators for free coffee and instruction at the Rising Star Coffee Roastery.

I’ll be at the Roastery on Saturday, March 24, from 10-11:30 a.m. This workshop will focus on creating and developing characters in comic books and strips, including my thoughts on the importance of establishing core values for primary characters.

My workshop will be open to all ages and skill levels. Bring your drawing materials and sketch pads because there will be a test of sorts. You’ll be given a character description I wrote for one of the characters in Black Lightning: Cold Dark Hands and be invited to sketch your own version of that character.

While you’re drawing - I hope you’re prepared to multi-task here - I’ll be talking on the other topics included in this lesson plan. Will I rise to the teaching level of Gabe Kotter or Jeff Pierce? I guess we’ll find out together.

If there’s time, I will be happy to answer questions outside of the lesson plan. Likewise, if the Roastery hasn’t had enough of me by the time the workshop ends, I’ll sign one (and only one) Isabella-written item for any attendees who request this. There will be no charge for that one signature.

The Rising Star Coffee Roastery is at the Hildebrant Building, 3617 Walton Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. For more information, call the literature department at 216-623-2881.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a new bloggy thing.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

August, 2017. Marvel Comics has brought Tony Isabella to New York City for a special screening of The Defenders series that will soon debut on Netflix. His adventures continue...

I arrived at the ABC Building on West 66th Street and was directed to the 22nd floor. The screening was a special event for creators and families of creators who contributed to the show. Among those present were Arvell Jones and his wife Wanda, Larry Hama, Michael Gaydos, Martha Thomases and the wife and family of the late Archie Goodwin. I also met and chatted with Marvel’s Tom Brevoort, David Bogart and Brian Overton. Good people one and all.

The screening room was on the small side. My estimate was that it could hold less than a hundred people. We saw the first episode of The Defenders.

My initial reaction to that first episode was only slightly mixed. I thought almost all the principals - Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Mike Colton - were at the high level set by their star turns on Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. I thought Finn Jones (Iron Fist) wasn’t on the same level, but he did get better later in the later episodes of the eight-episode series, especially when he was interacting with the other leads.

Overall, having watched the entire series, I think Defenders was a good but not a great show. Sigourney Weaver was real scary as the “big bad” until she wasn’t the “big bad” anymore. Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao delivered a better and more nuanced performance than her fellow Hand members. Supporting players Jessica Henwick, Rosario Dawson, Eldon Hensen, Simone Missick, Rachael Taylor and Deborah Ann Woll were all excellent.

Where the show faltered was when smart characters did really dumb things to advance the plot and where the Hand hierarchy overplayed the melodramatic villain stuff. I know there are those who contend that bad choices make good stories - and I don’t necessarily find fault with that - but dumb choices infuriate me.

After the screening, Arvell, Wanda and I went to the Europan Café, which was just around the corner from the ABC Building. The Jones couple are among my favorite people, so I was glad for the chance to spend some additional time with them.

I would be flying back to Cleveland early Saturday morning. On my own for the rest of Friday, I decided to return to the AMC 25 and see another movie I had been wanting to see Spider-Man Homecoming. As with Atomic Blonde, the theatre showing it was on the top floor of the six-floor multiplex.

As I rode the escalator to the sixth floor, two young women ahead of me kept looking at me with puzzled expressions on their faces. When we got to the sixth floor and when they saw me heading to the Spider-Man showing, they figured it out.

THEM: You’re that comic-book guy!

ME: Huh?

THEM: You’re Black Lightning!

ME: He’s darker and taller than me.

THEM: No, you’re Tony Isabella! You created Black Lightning!

They were pretty excited to meet me, but I was just as excited to have been recognized by two young women who were probably a third of my age. They were avid comics fans and were looking forward to Black Lightning. We talked for maybe fifteen minutes - I try to get to my appointments early - and then took our seats.

Spider-Man Homecoming was nothing short of terrific. Tom Holland did a fine job as Peter Parker. Michael Keaton was even better as the Vulture than he had been as Batman. Marisa Tomei was a little unnerving as the hottest Aunt May of all time and because Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark was perving on her, but I have enjoyed the actress’ work for many years.

Director Jon Watts and six other writers delivered a solid story. The interactions between Peter and Tony were great. Peter’s making mistakes due to inexperience and youth worked for me. I’m already eager to see the next Spider-Man movie.

After the show, I chatted with the young ladies again. They liked the movie as much as I did. Then they invited me to hit some bars with them and did so in a provocative manner. This is what went through my head.

If you combined their ages, they were probably still twenty years or more younger than me. If you combined their ages, they wouldn’t have been on this planet more than three years more than my happy marriage to Sainted Wife Bath has lasted. And, in all probability, they might have been looking for someone to buy drinks for their very likely underage selves. The suspense builds.

What did I say about choices? If you haven’t been paying attention to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, I’ve not only been writing a younger Black Lightning than any other incarnation, but he’s also smarter than any other Jefferson Pierce. That’s right. He’s smarter than my original 1970s version. He’s smarter than my 1990s version. He’s smarter (though perhaps not as inspiring) than the CW’s version of the character. Some of my new Jeff rubbed off on me as I was writing the six-issue series.

I made a lame (worthy of Clark Kent) excuse that I had a very early flight in the morning. The young ladies were disappointed, but we parted as friends we’ll probably never see again.

I went back to the Econo Lodge and changed into a more comfortable t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt was one of my Pop’s Barber Shop t-shirts, based on the Luke Cage series. I wasn’t full meal hungry, nor was I ready to go to bed. So I went to one of the neighborhood bars. That was a good choice.

One of the other customers recognized my t-shirt. He and his pals and I talked comics, politics and sports. They liked several of the comics I liked. They were interested in Black Lightning. They were pretty much in sync with my own politics, which didn’t surprise me in New York City. They were impressed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most importantly, they were Mets fans. Damn Yankees!

I dined on bar food while drinking a beer and several soft drinks. This was a new experience for me. I seldom go to bars and usually don’t go to them unless I’m with friends. I blame the corrupting influence of Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer.

I got a decent night’s sleep. After a day or two, the constant New York background noise doesn’t keep me awake. I got up in plenty of time to pack and catch a cab to the airport. My uneventful flight left on time. Before long, I was back in Medina.

I want to thank Marvel Comics for bringing me to New York for the screening. I cherish my relationship with the company. Maybe I’ll write comic books for them again someday and maybe I won’t. But I love being part of the Marvel legacy. Which will be the subject of my next trip report.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a short bloggy thing on my next public appearance. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella