Sunday, February 26, 2017

MARCH MADNESS

Here's the story...

I am entering crazy deadline mode. Unfortunately, that means the bloggy thing is taking a hit for the coming week and throughout the month of March.

The bloggy thing will be on hiatus until Monday, March 6.

After that, the bloggy thing will post every other day throughout the rest of March. 

I love writing the bloggy thing, but I'm pretty sure my friends and readers will enjoy all the stuff I'm writing instead of the bloggy thing.

I haven't made a decision about the April bloggy things yet. I'm waiting to hear when I need to be on set for something near and dear to my heart. You can probably figure out what. 

Thanks for your amazing support of my blog. I love you all madly.

Tony Isabella

Thursday, February 23, 2017

OLD COMICS: PORKY PIG #38

Welcome to “Old Comics” where I write about random comic books from my legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff. For the most part, I’ll be talking about issues that predate my entry into the professional comics industry in late 1972. However, if I come across comics from the 1970s through the 1990s that I find interesting enough to write about, I’ll write about them.

Today’s old comic is Porky Pig #38 [Gold Key; October 1971]. It’s a standard 36-page, 15-cent comic book of that time. The managing editor was the legendary Chase Craig.

Porky Pig was first published in comic-book form by Dell, but went to Western (Gold Key) when the two companies split in 1962. There were 27 Porky Pig comics published in Dell’s Four Color series. But Dell only counted them as 24 issues when Porky got his own title, which ran for 57 issues from #25-81. Weird numbering followed Porky wherever he went.

Gold Key published 108 issues of Porky Pig from #1-109. But, wait Tony, you ask, shouldn’t that be 109 issues? No, my wondering pals, because, somehow, Gold Key never published Porky Pig #99. The material prepared for that issue ran in issue #103.

Almost all the comics content in this issue is reprinted from Dell issues. The cover, penciled by Tony Strobl, originally ran as the cover of Dell’s Porky Pig #71 (July-August 1960). The inker of the cover has not yet been identified.

With the unlikelihood of the stories in this issue being reprinted any time soon, I’m going to forego the usual SPOILER WARNINGS and just tell you about them.

“Powerhouse Petunia” (10 pages) is from Dell’s Porky Pig #58 [May- June 1958]. It’s written by Don R. Christensen and drawn by Phil de Lara. Porky and Petunia run out of gas while driving through what seems to be a Western desert. No, it’s not Porky wanting to make bacon. His gas gauge is broken. Seeing a train in the distance, he takes off to flag it down.

On the train are two bank robbers. Knowing the lawmen have boarded  the train to search it, they throw the bag with their stolen cash off the train. It hits Porky in the face.

Porky and Petunia figure out this is stolen money which the crooks will be coming back for. They have to get to town and the police.

Porky gets around the “no gas” problem by lassoing a grazing steer. He ties the rope to the car. The steer pulls the car, albeit not on the road. It’s following the rest of the herd.

The crooks have left the train. Now on horseback, they are searching for Porky. They follow the steer-drawn tracks to the now-abandoned car.

Porky and Petunia have found a cabin, While Petunia hides the cash, Porky disguises himself as old recluse, but the crooks see through the ploy. They don’t realize Porky isn’t alone.

The robbers light a fire in the cabin fireplace, threatening to use hot coals on Porky if he doesn’t give them the loot. Petunia goes up to the roof and, using her butt, tries to create smoke signals. She hopes to attract attention to their plight.

What Petunia does is fill the cabin with smoke. The crooks rush out and see her on the roof. They try to lasso her, but, instead, catch the chimney and pull it down on them. One crook is clobbered, but one still stands.

Petunia falls down the chimney and into the fire. Her dress catches on fire. She runs out the door and into the stomach of the second bank robber, knocking him down and out.

Porky and Petunia tie the crooks up. They know the horses will be able to pull their car and their captives to town.

A bunch of unfortunately stereotypical Native Americans are running to the cabin. They got Petunia’s message. Porky asks what it said. The new arrivals pull out bowls and yell:

Soup’s on!

I thought this was a good story. Porky and Petunia show bravery and cleverness throughout. The bad guys aren’t pushovers, so it’s not a one-sided clash. Sans the stereotypes, the punch line is funny. Thumbs up on this tale.

Cool Cat stars in “The Pollution Plot” (6 pages). Penciled by Pete Alvarado, maybe inked by Tony DiPaola and lettered by Bill Spicer, this is the only new story in the issue.

Cool Cat appeared in six Warner Bros. theatrical cartoons. He was kind of a knock off of the Pink Panther and Snagglepuss. This tale is set in the jungle where a character referred to as “the Hunter” finds man-made pollution is interfering in his hunting. However, as he pursues jungle creatures, he ends up polluting their homes and habitats. The animals send him fleeing up a tree, but allow him to come down safely so that we can be put to work undoing the damage he did to their environments. It’s a lightweight “social justice” story, but still unusual for the Gold Key comic books of the era.

Mary Jane and Sniffles star in “Happy Landing,” a single-page text story. The author is unknown, but the title illustration is by Tony Strobl (pencils) and John Liggera (inks). It’s also from the Dell Porky Pig #58.

The second and final comics story of the issue is an untitled Porky Pig story (8 pages) by Don R. Christiansen with artists Ken Champin (pencils) and Vic Lockman (inks). It originally appeared in Dell’s Porky Pig #34 [May-June 1954]. It stars Porky, Petunia, Cicero Pig,  Sylvester, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

Petunia plans to go to a costume party as Little Bo Peep, but her lamb would rather follow Porky. When Porky yells at the lamb, the little guy runs away. They follow him to Elmer’s farm. Fearing for his “whubarb” crop, Elmer chased the lamb away. It ran off into the woods where, according to Bugs Bunny, a wolf has been hanging out  of late.

Fearing for the lamb’s safety, Porky, Petunia, Elmer and Elmer’s “twusty shotgun” follow the missing lamb. Bugs is in the woods in a wolf costume. He made up the story about the wolf figuring that his costume would then “wow” everyone at the party.

Elmer spots the “wolf” and starts shooting. Bugs hides behind some brushes and tells Porky that it’s him. While Elmer is catching up to them, a real wolf appears and chases Bugs up a tree.

Porky and Elmer think the real wolf is Bugs in a terrific costume. Until Bugs shouts a warning from the tree. They climb up the same tree. The three of them fall on the wolf, but with insufficient force to stop the bloodthirsty creature.

They run for a cabin. They lock the door, but the wolf is outside huffing and puffing. The three friends decide to trick the wolf into climbing down the chimney and into a roaring fire. Apparently, pigs have a thing for chimneys. This time, it’s Porky who climbs up the chimney to lure the wolf. The wolf ain’t buying it.

However...Porky goes super-salesman and convinces the wolf that it needs the costume worn by Bugs:

Think of it! This beautiful new wolf suit can be yours! You can be the only wolf with a complete change for special occasions! All you have to do is let us go!

The wolf goes for this “deal” and quickly finds himself tied into the much bigger than him costume. Petunia arrives on the scene with her lamb and asks what the boys are going to do with the wolf they caught. Porky has a notion:

Well, he’s in costume...and it’s a costume party!

Tearing up an old red blanket, Porky, Elmer and Bugs wear the cloth like hoods. They’ll go to the costume party as a trio of Little Red Riding Hoods...complete with a wolf. They figure this is just for laughs, but that night, the grand prize goes to the wearer of “that  unusual two-headed wolf costume.”

Petunia is not pleased.

Porky isn’t much in control of the events of this story, but it’s still an amusing tale. I’m not sure if anything in this comic book would appeal to today’s younger readers, but I enjoyed reading it. It was a nice change of pace from the contemporary drama and humor of today’s typical comic book.

That’s all for today, my friends. I’m taking a couple days off for the Great Lakes Comic-Con in Warren, Michigan, but I should be back on Tuesday with more stuff.

Have a great weekend!

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 103

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 103rd installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #117 [November 1973] has a cover by Jack Kirby with Dick Ayers on the inks. Both the cover and “The Masked Maverick!” (18 pages) are reprinted from Rawhide Kid #44 [February 1965]. The story plot was by Stan Lee, the writing and art were Larry Lieber, and the lettering was Artie Simek. However, to make room for this reprint’s indicia - the earlier issue had the indicia on the inside front cover of the comic book - the first page art was cut off just below Lieber’s credits. I wrote about this story in January, 2013, and you can read that bloggy thing here.

This was the second time the story had been reprinted in under four years. It also ran in The Mighty Marvel Western #5 [June 1969]. As I recall, when Rawhide Kid first went all-reprint, there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to the title by the editorial and production departments. Which is why, looking through the issue for the first time since its original publication, I was surprised to see it had a brand-new letters column.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” column is a half-page of teeny-tiny type. Paul Cipriano of Southbury, Connecticut really loved my pals Larry and George Roussos’s art on Rawhide Kid #112. Gringo of Elmsford, New York had lots to say: some compliments and some not-remotely-compliments. Matt Mitchell of Clyde, Texas wanted to know how Larry got started and the steps involved in drawing the western heroes. Marvel’s responses to these questions included a entreaty to readers to write to the title, which was downright cruel given the new all-reprint status of Rawhide Kid. Except...

I’m guessing this letter column was originally put together for an issue with a new Rawhide Kid story, probably the one that appeared in the one-shot Western Team-Up that came out in the same month as this issue. Considered that informed speculation since I was not involved in the production of these issues.
                                                                                

The bottom half of this page featured a house ad for Supernatural Thrillers #6. In that issue, “The Headless Horseman Rides Again!” (20 pages) was a modernization of the classic spooky icon by Gary Friedrich, George Tuska and Jack Abel. I don’t remember the actual story, but I do remember reflecting, during my stint writing Ghost Rider that this new Horseman might make an interesting opponent for Johnny Blaze.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” run half a page and, for the first time in several months, again include the “Mighty Marvel Checklist” of “color comics now on sale!” The first item plugs new black-and-white titles Savage Tales and Crazy...Brother Voodoo in the pages of Strange Tales...the Son of Satan in Marvel Spotlight...Satana in Vampire Tales...The Thing in Marvel Feature...and the Black Panther in Jungle Action.

The second item is interesting in that it plugs a new color comics title called...Fu Manchu. Obviously, this morphed into Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Someone should interview Roy Thomas about what went on between the original concept for the series and what ended up in Marvel Special Edition.

The third item is more plugs. The Avengers/Defenders cross-over in those titles. Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog on Kull the Destroyer. And some dramatic changes in Sub-Mariner.

The Mighty Marvel Checklist mentions 27 different issues. Fantastic Four #140 has “more of the startling secret of Franklin Richards.” Spider-Man #126 has Spidey versus the Kangaroo. Avengers #117 pits the Vision against the Silver Surfer. Marvel Team-Up #15 has Ghost Rider for Spidey’s guest star of the month. Marvel Feature has the Thing duking it out with Iron Man. There’s also a plug for Western Team-Up #1, which I’ll be writing about next week.

The bottom half of the page is the usual house ad for FOOM (Friends of Ol’ Marvel), the official Marvel Comics fan club run by Jaunty Jim Steranko. You could sign up and get a subscription to the club magazine for $2.50 including postage and handling.

This is followed by a full-page paid ad for “A Genuine Spider-Man Medallion-Coin” from Hallmark Minting Service. With its “three-dimensional sculpted image of the world’s favorite web-swinger,” the coin costs two bucks. The price would double with the next few years and, though I have found no completed sales for this item on eBay, I did see auctions starting at $75.
                                                                                     

The final interior page is a Rawhide Kid pin-up. The basic image is by Jack Kirby, but the final pin-up seems to be been re-inked and slightly redrawn. My best guess for the second artist is Mirthful Marie Severin who a) could do anything and b) could have run Marvel if she had to. That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with some more stuff. Then I’ll be taking another few days off while I attend the Great Lakes Comic-Con. Always forward.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

GREAT LAKES COMIC-CON PRELUDE

Pensacon Comic-Con was almost certainly a wonderful weekend, but, since I’m writing this three days before the start of that event, I’m making an educated guess. You can look forward to my full con report in the next week or so. If all went according to plan, I returned home from Pensacon late yesterday afternoon and started getting ready for my next convention appearance.

Bloggy old Tony will be a special guest at the Great Lakes Comic-Con, Friday/Saturday, February 24-25, at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan. The convention runs from 5-9 pm on Friday and 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday.

Here’s the quick take on the event from its website:

The Great Lakes Comic-Con, or GLCC, is a comic, toy, and collectible event that runs annually in the Metro-Detroit Area (Michigan). The goals of GLCC are to provide a venue for collectors and dealers to get together, buy/sell some of their favorite collectibles, and support children’s literacy, as well as other child-related charities.

For The Great Lakes Comic-Con, we will be supporting Reading is Fundamental. Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit organization in the United States. The goal is a literate America in which all children have access to books and discover the joys and value of reading.


There over 5000 people at last year’s GLCC and those who attend the convention this year will find a pretty spiffy guest list including such luminaries as Nicholas Hammond, the star of the Spider-Man TV show of the 1970s, and WWF Hall of Fame wrestler Jack “the Snake” Roberts. Hmmm...I wonder if we could convince them to react that  classic “masked Peter Parker” wrestling scene from Amazing Fantasy #15. I’ll just stand back here when you ask them.

Three other media guests. Paul Soles was the voice of Spider-Man in the 1967-1970 cartoons and Hermey The Elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Tom Cook was an animator and director at Hanna-Barbera and Filmation and has worked on any many other films and projects as well. Movie and TV actress Lydia Graber will also be there. Her fascinating resume includes being an Ewok in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

The comics guests: Jim Shooter (Saturday only), Alex Saviuk, Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard, Greg Land, Angel Medina, Thom Zahler, William Messner-Loebs, Ryan Stegman, Randy Zimmerman, Paul Storrie, Jason Moore, Tony Gray, Dirk Manning and Seth Damoose. And yours truly, “America’s most-beloved comic-book writer and columnist,” on hand to regale you with tales of my career, hints about my latest projects and assorted comics and real-life wisdom. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In addition to dozens of great comics dealers and other exhibitors, the convention will also feature: panel presentations, cosplay, fan organizations, face painting, balloon sculpture, free board gaming, free arcade gaming, a Magic tournament and, on Friday only, the amazing Squirrel's Creations.

I’ll be appearing on two panels during the event:

“Tony’s Tips Live” (Friday, 7 pm) is a live-action version of the bloggy things and columns I’ve been writing for decades. I’ll have some of those afore-mentioned tales with which to regale you; talk about comic books, the real world and more; and answer those questions I can answer without violating any of the seeming dozens of contracts I have signed in recent years.

"Misty Knight, Iron Fist, and Netflix" (Saturday, 3 pm) will team my collaborator and long-time friend Arvell Jones for a panel that will cover the above and more. We might even argue about which of us Simone Missick likes best. Hint: it’s me.

When I’m not on panels or roaming the convention looking for great stuff to buy, you can find me at Table 901. I’ll be selling Black Lightning Volume One and other Isabella-written items, along with a selection of other comics and books and what-have-you.

Want me to deface your Isabella-written item with my signature? I can do that for you. There will be no charge for my autograph and no limit on how many items I’ll sign. However, on the off chance I have a line of fans waiting for me to sign their comics and you’ve brought me more than ten items to sign, I’ll sign the first ten and then ask you to step to the end of the line so I can sign for your fellow fans and get them on their way.

If you’re too shy to ask me questions at my panels, I’ll be happy to answer them for you at my table. There are some questions I can’t answer at the present time, but I’ll do my level best to accommodate your quest for knowledge.

I’m really looking forward to attending the Great Lakes Comic-Con, seeing so many old comics pals and making new ones. I hope you get a chance to attend the convention and see me. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY'S TIPS #197

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Mickey’s Craziest Adventures by Lewis Trondheim and Nicolas Keramidas; the thoroughly wonderful Die Kitty Die! by Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz; and We Can Never Go Home Volume 1 by writers Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon with art by Josh Hood and Brian Level!

Monday, February 20, 2017

BACK FROM PENSACON

Hey, kids...

Sainted Wife Barb and I are back from Pensacon 2017. We had a wonderful time at one of the best conventions in the country and with some of the nicest people (fans, fellow guests, and especially everybody who worked to make this show so great). 

I'll be writing about the convention soon, but, in the meantime, thanks to everyone who took care of us and made us feel so loved.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

SIGNING OFF UNTIL TUESDAY

Hey, kids!

I'm heading to Pensacola, Florida and the wondrous Pensacon.

I'll be offline until I return on Tuesday.

Please note that, since comments have to be approved by me before they appear, that your comments won't be posted until I'm back.

Have a great weekend!

Tony Isabella