Sunday, July 23, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #6

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those 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.


Defend Comics is this year’s Free Comic Book Day offering from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, educators and readers. The issue presents seven short comics stories, most with some connection to freedom of expression.

QUALITY: There’s not a bad story in the issue. “Rock Stars” is an excerpt from Jeffrey Brown’s Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: The Stone Cold Age involving music as an early form of communication. “Secret Message” by Ryan North with artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb covers toy electronic typewriters with an encryption function. In “Babymouse” by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, readers can write their own speech balloons. “Wide Opinions” by Mike Lawrence discusses how we must defend even speech with which we disagree. In “Free Speech for Arachne,” George O’Connor casts a mythological tale as a right of expression conflict. In Falynn Koch’s “The Pryomancer,” magic is the stand-in for freedom of expression.

My favorite story of the issue is “Delia’s Lucky Book” by Matthew Loux. The book is the first book its young heroine truly loved and it was a book banned by her school until she and others protested that decision.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly excellent. “Rock Stars” was a bit confusing, but everything else was new reader-friendly.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. The message of the CBLDF comes through in this comic and a couple of house ads leads readers to comics by the contributors.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.
                                                                                 

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess [Viz Media] has excerpts from two Zelda manga series: the title series and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Both are written and drawn by Akira Himekawa using styles so different from one another that I thought they were done by two different artists. These comics are based on the popular and seemingly endless video game.

QUALITY: The “Twilight Princess” excerpt is very well done. Not so the “Ocarina of Time” excerpt, which suffers from poor storytelling and an art style that doesn’t really work with the material.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly poor. Though the “Twilight Princess” excerpt is easy to follow, the “Ocarina of Time” excerpt is nigh-impossible to fathom.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There are house ads for the manga series and a back cover with both of them and a third book.

SCORE: Five out of ten points.

                                                                             

Drawn & Quarterly Presents Guy Delisle Hostage presents a 14-page excerpt from the Delisle graphic novel and 13 pages from Brigitte Findakly’s Poppies of Iraq as drawn by Lewis Trondheim. There are also many ads for other D&Q publications.

QUALITY: Excellent. Delisle’s account of Christophe Andre’s time as a hostage is brilliantly tedious, conveying that tedium and Andre’s ever-present fear and discomfort. The Findakly/Trondheim excerpt is a fine first-person account.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. My only quibbles are that background on Andre would have been helpful - the excerpt doesn’t convey how he came to be a hostage - and that the lettering in the second story gets a little wonky and hard to read.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Readers are directed to the graphic novels from whence the excerpts were taken. Other ads promote a wide range of other Drawn & Quarterly titles.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

                                                                            

This year’s edition of Bongo Comics Free-For-All reprints several stories from Bart Simpson Comics. The best of the bunch is “Leader of the Backpack Pack” by Max Davison with artists Rex Lindsey and Dan Davis. When a skateboard accident - i.e. “male showboating” - forces Bart to use a wheelie backpack, he teams with and inspires other students who use them.

QUALITY: All the stories are amusing with Mike W. Barr’s “The Todd & Rodssey” being both amusing and very clever. I’m a big fan of the Simpsons and Futurama comics from Bongo.

ACCESSIBILITY: After 28 seasons, The Simpsons are such a popular culture landmark most readers will be familiar with the characters even sans any particular introductory material.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. There are house ads for two trade paperbacks collecting stories from the comics, but absolutely no indication of the ongoing comics series. That costs this FCBD issue some points.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                                  

Underdog [American Mythology] has one of the coolest covers of any of the FCBD issues. Kudos to Bill Galvan. Inside: a new Underdog story by James Kuhoric and Adrian Ropp, a one-page strip by Kuhoric and Galvan, a reprint of a 1977 Underdog story by Steve Skeates, a coloring page or two and previews of other titles coming from the publisher.

QUALITY: The comics stories are fun. Not brilliant or anything, but fun. I enjoyed them and it was especially cool to read an Underdog story by my friend Steve Skeates.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. Underdog is a classic character, which means you don’t need a lot of background to enjoy his adventures.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. In addition to Underdog ads, we get some nice reviews for The Friendly Ghost Casper and Rocky & Bullwinkle. Other ads include the Pink Panther and the Three Stooges. That is a solid, suitable-for-all-ages roster.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.
                                                                              
The Free Comic Book Day edition of Betty and Veronica #1 [Archie Comics] reprints the 23-page story from the Betty and Veronica #1  that wasn’t free. Written and drawn by Adam Hughes, it stars a pair of mean girls who have clearly abducted the real Betty and Ronnie and stolen their identities. I hated it when I first read it and it hasn’t improved with age. The issue also includes that photogenic Riverdale (TV show) character guide that ran in the FCBD Riverdale one-shot.

QUALITY: Well...the art is nice. To quote Don Thompson once again, if you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.

ACCESSIBILITY: Shaky. Hot Dog (Jughead’s dog) narrates the story. If a new reader gets past that, they will find the story more than a little disjointed and unsatisfying. Especially when they get to the two pages that consist of a single image with dozens of speech balloons. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.

SALESMANSHIP: Several decent ads for Archie comic books and trade paperbacks. Noting that some of them are “Classic Archie” is good.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                              

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies [United Plankton Pictures] features 28 pages of comics, including “The Great Funnybook Getaway,” a 21-page epic by Jay Lander (story and layout) and Jacob Chabot (pencils and inks) wherein the Krusty Krab crew and friends go in search of free stuff on No-Charge Funnybook Day. The other seven pages are short stories of one to four pages.

QUALITY: “The Great Funnybook Getaway” is hilarious with some very pointed barbs at aspects of the comic-book industry. I enjoyed the heck out of it. I think Patrick’s response when asked if something hurt - “Yes, but the pain tells me I’m alive” - may become my own response to so many of life’s questions.

ACCESSIBILITY: There’s no background information on Spongebob and his friends. I’ve never seen an episode of the cartoon. Yet, maybe though the osmosis of popular culture, I somehow knew just enough to follow and enjoy the lead story. However, that didn’t help with the back-up strips.

SALESMANSHIP: The inside back cover has an ad for two collections of Spongebob comics, but gives no indication of the ongoing title. That costs this issue points.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

That’s a wrap for our weekend of Free Comic Book Day reviews. I’ll be back tomorrow with something different.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, July 22, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #5

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those 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.


Secret Empire [Marvel] presents a 10-page excerpt from the latest and possibly worst “Let’s break toys we didn’t create” event fail as well as 10 pages from Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 by Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira.

QUALITY: Maybe it’s because I still have a soul, but I’m just not down with this tedious “Captain America is the leader of Hydra and a totalitarian dictator who betrays his friends and lets loose all kinds of Hell on the America he once loved” epic. Taken out of the context of the terrible story, the writing and art aren’t terrible. But they are in service of an awful story. As for that Spider-Man excerpt, Zdarsky is trying way too hard to be funny and, because of that, he’s not. But I did like the upgrades to the Vulture and the introduction of the new Trapster. Did I miss something happening to the old Trapster?

ACCESSIBILITY: The Secret Empire excerpt goes for faux-poignant in the writing and fails to provide new readers with the background information they would need to know what the heck is going on with this story. The Spider-Man excerpt is much better in that regard.

SALESMANSHIP: Ten pages of house ads feature a lot of Marvel stuff, including the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. Sadly, the ads don’t offer much in the way of information. They might remind an existing reader what’s available, but they don’t entice the new reader. Which is the point of Free Comic Book Day.

SCORE: Three out of ten points.
                                                                                

Kid Savage [Image] presents a 30-page chunk of the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and artist Ilya. Set on an uncivilized alien world, the segment shows the title hero fighting nasty creatures to survive. He, in turn, meets a family that has crashed landed on his world. There’s also a brief excerpt from Gregg Schigiel’s Pix, which I’ve praised recently.

QUALITY AND ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. The story is fast-paced, but in speeding from scene to scene, it doesn’t slow down to provide any background. Nor does Ilya’s art always convey what’s happening in a clear manner. Ultimately, I had to do an online search to find an article that gave me a handle on who these characters were and what was happening, The Pix excerpt is much better in this regard, but is all talk and no action.

SALESMANSHIP: The last panel of the Kid Savage excerpt lets us know there’s a graphic novel. There’s a nice ad for the Pix books preceding the Pix except. There’s an ad for other Kelly-written GNs and also a general “Image Classics” page. Neither of those two ads offers any real information on the titles being advertised.

SCORE: Three out of ten points.

                                                                                 

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy has a 10-page Guardians story and a 10-page Defenders story. The Guardians tale is written by Gerry Duggan with art by Aaron Kuder. The Defenders intro is written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez.

There’s a similarity between these two stories. In the Guardians, the Nova Corps has returned to intergalactic law enforcement, only to be challenged by the Shi’ar Empire’s Fraternity of Raptors. In the Defenders, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist are taking pre-emptive action against anyone trying to fill the crime vacuum left by the Kingpin moving into the mainstream.

QUALITY: The Guardians story is functional, but doesn’t really have the feel of either the movies or the previous Guardians comic books from Marvel. The Defenders story is much better, but its attempt to mesh the various Netflix series with the Marvel comics universe is not a smooth transition, asking us to believe its seeming “big bad” is actually as dangerous as the story would have him be. However, I liked it well enough that I’ll be following the ongoing Defenders series and giving Bendis more time to make his case.

ACCESSIBILITY: All of these characters are pretty well known to an audience larger than that of the comic books. I don’t think a new reader would have any real problems getting into the stories. But a little introductory copy would have gone a long way.

SALESMANSHIP: Nine pages of Marvel house ads, including a double-page spread of Guardians trades and separate full-page ads for the first issues of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy and the Defenders, do the job pretty well. However, the other ads seem to be targeting existing Marvel readers instead of new ones. I’m out of the ad copy business myself, but Marvel could sure use someone like me to bring an outsider perspective to these ads.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                               

Colorful Monsters [Drawn & Quarterly] is a 68-page comic book with solid chunks of four graphic albums: Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War, If Found...Please Return to Elise Gravel, Anna & Froga, and Moomin and the Brigands. That’s pretty impressive for a free comic  book, but doesn’t change the fact that three of the four features do nothing for me. I do like a wide variety of comic, but nobody I know of enjoys every comic book there is. It’s what I have started calling “The Krazy Kat Konundrum” wherein I can recognize something has merit but which doesn’t appeal to me at all.

QUALITY: Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War is the only one of these features I liked...and I liked it a bunch. Which should come as no surprise to those of you who have seen my glowing reviews of this manga series. I struggled to get through the other strips, my eyes glazing over as I did so. Once again I must quote Don Thompson and say “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.”

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. Introductory comments to Kitaro and If Found should give a new reader a leg up into those strips. But there was nothing similar for Moomin or Anna & Froga.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. This giveaway comic book has ads telling  readers about the other volumes in these four series.

SCORE: Five and a half out of ten.

                                                                               

Animal Jam [Dynamite] is based on some online playground. Over 70 million fans think it’s perfect for kids of all ages. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

[National Geographic] Animal Jam takes place in fictional Jamaa.  [The area contains] various biomes and cartoon player-created animals. Players can create an animal with an anonymous 3-part name, such as "Crashing Magicshark", dress it up with virtual clothing, and control it in the gameplay environment. The original six virtual animals that could be created were the panda, rabbit, tiger, wolf, koala, and monkey. Many more animals have been added following the six, letting players have the possibility of seeing one of their favorite animals in the game. Players can also customize their dens with furniture, chat with other players, adopt pets, play mini-games, buy additional furniture, clothing, and dens with gems and diamonds as a method of payment, attend parties, and go on various RPG-style adventures. There is a membership feature available costing real money. Members get access to exclusive dens, pets, animals, and adventures, among other things.
This FCBD issue has a 20-page Animal Jam story written and drawn by the prolific Fernando Ruiz. It also has a dozen pages of house ads for other Dynamite titles.

QUALITY: New animal Clover comes to Jamaa where she’s given a tour of the place and introduced to many animals, including the “Alphas” who protect the animals from the Phantoms who would harm them all. We get an amusing travelogue, a concise history of how the place works and some action/drama when Clover accidentally opens a portal to the realm of the Phantoms. It’s a solid story with lively art. Definitely one of the best FCBD issues.

ACCESSIBILITY: If a doddering old senior like me can follow Ruiz’s story with ease, anyone can.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Besides Animal Jam, we get ads for several Grumpy Cat titles, Boo the World’s Cutest Dog, Betty Boop, Bob’s Burgers and Doodle Jump Comics.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back with more reviews of Free Comic Book Day comics tomorrow. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, July 21, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #4

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those 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. 
 
Attack on Titan [Kodansha Comics] contains an original, all-new,  20-page story by Jody Houser with artist Emi Lenox and colorist Lee Loughridge. It’s from the Attack on Titan Anthology, which features a roster of Western comics creators offering reinterpretations of Hajime Isayama’s hit anime and manga series.

QUALITY: “Truth” is an excellent story of a young woman after her brother has been killed by the giants and what she discovers about her sibling and the world outside their city’s protective walls via  the drawings he illegally made. In the city, such art is banned and considered treason.

ACCESSIBILITY: Though this story stands on its own, unless a reader already knows the Attack on Titan anime or manga, they wouldn’t be able to get any background on the series. The inside front cover, which does a good job of promoting the anthology, doesn’t offer any “what has gone before” information on the series itself. There is a three-page excerpt from Attack on Titan: The Anime Guide, but it, too, neglects to include background information.

SALESMANSHIP: Besides the inside front cover, this FCBD issue also has several pages of house ads for several other Kodansha books and series. Some of these ads offer enough information that the reader could be tempted to give them a closer look.

SCORE: 8 out of 10 points.
                                                                            

Buffy: The High School Years [Dark Horse Comics] teams a 12-page, complete-unto-itself Buffy the Vampire Slayer story with a 12-page, also-complete-unto-itself Plants vs. Zombies tale. The former is, of course, based on the epic TV series, and the latter is based on a hit video game.

QUALITY: The Buffy story, much of which takes place in a comic-book shop, is fun. The Plants vs. Zombies, much of which takes place in a decidedly odd town in the Old West, is amusing.

ACCESSIBILITY: Writer Kel McDonald includes just enough background in his Buffy script to give a new reader an entry into that world. Paul Tobin’s Plants vs. Zombie story lacks background information. A better designed inside front cover would have made room for that kind of “what has gone before” information.

SALESMANSHIP: I suspect most readers will already be familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some fewer readers will know about the Plants vs. Zombie video game. The former doesn’t need a hard sell. The latter is entertaining enough that a reader might be tempted to look for more PvZ comic books.

Dark Horse includes lots of house ad for their other titles in this issue. If a reader liked the Buffy story, they will learn there are three original graphic novels featuring the Slayer in high school. The back cover does the same for Plants vs. Zombie. In between, we get four ads for other Dark Horse graphic novels and collections. Some of the items shown look interesting.

SCORE: 7.5 out of 10

                                                                              

Riverdale One-Shot [Archie Comics] is based on the hit TV series on the CW. I don’t care for that TV series and care even less for the writing of Chief Creative Officer Roberta Aguirre-Sacasa, so take that into account when you read my comments.

This issue has two stories, each of them ending with a last-panel “To Be Continued” caption. The Archie story goes into more detail on the events that took place in the first episode of the TV series and leaves little doubt that Archie and Ms. Grundy did, indeed, do the deed and likely more than once. The Veronica story shows what her life in New York was like before her dad was arrested for fraud and embezzlement. Apparently, these tales will be continued in the ongoing Riverdale comic book, which will feature untold tales set in the world of the TV series.

QUALITY: It’s not that Aguirre-Sacasa is a terrible writer or that the art is bad. But his stories here are typical teen angst opera that doesn’t fit the Archie characters. At least, these characters have some redeeming value. In his Afterlife with Archie, virtually every character with the exceptions of Archie and Betty are really terrible people.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. A new reader should be able to follow these two stories easily. There’s also a character guide from the show with additional background information.

SALESMANSHIP: Also pretty good. If a reader likes what they see in the issue, the several house ads will direct them to where they can find more comics like this one.

SCORE: Well, as my friend and mentor Don Thompson used to say, “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.” I don’t like this sort of thing, but I’m still giving this Free Comic Book Day issue 7.5 out of 10 points.

                                                                              

Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika [Benitez Productions] is a steampunk saga set in turn of the century England and other lands. Its title heroine is the lone survivor of mad science experiments that left her with mechanical limbs. Lacking any memories of her life before and during her captivity, the courageous young woman has become a private investigator.

This issue features “The Demon of Satan’s Alley,” the prelude tale to Mechanika’s adventures, as well as excerpts from The Tablet of Destinies and The Lost Boys of West Abbey. Mechanika is created, written and drawn by Benitez with colors and logo design by Peter Steigerwald.

QUALITY: I’m not a steampunk afficionado, but these stories represent some first-class comics storytelling. I like the lead character and the mysteries surrounding her. I like the setting and the gorgeous art and colors. I think I need to read more.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. The back cover gives a concise history of  Lady Mechanika and the prelude story and the excerpts are easy to get into.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. There are a lot of Lady Mechanika comics and graphic novels available right now. A series of house ads could serve as a Lady Mechanika checklist. The issue also has a two-page ad for Wraithborn Redux, an intriguing urban fantasy by Benitez.

SCORE: The full 10 out of 10 points.

                                                                                      

Tex: Patagonia [Epicenter Comics] features a 28-page excerpt from the graphic novel of the same name. Tex Willer has been appearing in comics stories for nearly 70 years. He’s an agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a Ranger and a leader of a Navajo tribe. He’s a steadfast hero who hates bigotry of any kind and, in this excerpt, is fighting alongside a small army of gauchos and vaqueros to hunt down and punish hostile raiders. Also fighting alongside this army is Tex’s son Kit.

QUALITY: Excellent. Written by Mauro Boselli with art by Pasquale Frisenda, the excerpt has the look of a spaghetti western but with true “white hat” heroes in Tex and Kit. One of the better moments in the excerpt has Kit seeking assurances that innocent tribesman will not be punished for the crimes of the renegades.

ACCESSIBILITY: A two-back text feature after the excerpt gives you everything you need to know about Tex and the character’s history. I think it would have worked better appearing before the excerpt, but Boselli is pretty good at conveying information via dialogue.

SALESMANSHIP: The comic book does a great job leading the readers to the full graphic novel, but not so well with two other graphic novels: Zagor and Magic Wind. I have no clue what either of those is about.

SCORE: 8.5 out of 10 points.
 
                                                                                    

DC Super Hero Girls [DC] features a chapter from Summer Olympus, a new graphic novel by Shea Fontana with art by Yancey Labat. Wonder Woman is invited to spend her summer break with her father Zeus on Mount Olympus. She is allowed to bring her friends, but almost all of them have plans. So it’s her and Bumblebee. Not to worry. This chapter features all of the other Super Hero Girls before Wonder Woman and Bumblebee leave, as well as a nice selection of villains on their way to the hoosegow.

QUALITY: Excellent as always. I love this series in both comics and prose. It’s got action, laughs and a modicum of teenage problems. It’s suitable for all ages and, as I see it, that includes the 65-year-old guy who writes this blog.

ACCESSIBILITY: These are teen versions of classic DC characters and most people will know them. Fontana smoothly integrates background information into the dialogue. There are also several bio pages on the stars of the comic.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. There are lots of ads for Super Hero Girls books, comics, games and toys. There are also ads for other Cartoon Network series.

SCORE: 10 out of 10 points.

That’s a wrap for today. However, since I fell behind in reviewing all the Free Comic Book Day issues, I’m going to devote Saturday’s and Sunday’s bloggies to them as well. Free Comic Book Friday on Saturday and Sunday? I’m a wild man!

See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CANCELLED: JULY 28-29 GARAGE SALE

My July 28-29 Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale has been cancelled. 

Between my trips to Burbank to meet with the Black Lightning writers and then Chicago for G-Fest, I've fallen behind on my writing schedule. 

With dentist and doctor appointments scheduled for next week and August, I have to catch up on that schedule and get ahead on it. 

Something has to give. That "something" is the extensive preparation I need to do before my garage sales. The next one is scheduled for August 11-12. If I get far enough ahead on stuff, I'll extend the hours of those garage sales and maybe even add Sunday hours.

I'll do my best to make my August garage sales truly special. Thanks for your understanding.

I'll be back on Friday with a new bloggy thing. See you then.

Tony Isabella

 

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 117

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 117th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.  
                                                                                 

The Rawhide Kid #130 [November 1975] has a cover penciled and maybe even inked by Larry Lieber with alterations by John Romita. It’s a reprint of the cover of The Rawhide Kid #58 [June 1967]. As you can see, Romita did considerable work on the figure of the Kid, on the orange-clad bad hombre on the balcony and on several other figures. I’ve included the cover to issue #58 here so that you can compare the two covers.

“When a Gunfighter Faces...the Enforcers” [17 pages] was written by  Gary Friedrich, penciled by Lieber and inked by Vince Colletta. I  wrote about this issue in June of 2013 and you can read my comments on the story here.

As with the previous few issues, the story was reprinted in order. It was the standard length tale for Marvel comic books of that era and that meant no pages had to be cut to make it fit. In the place of what would’ve been a letters page in Marvel comics featuring new  material, we got “A Marvel Masterworks Pin-Up” of the Rawhide Kid being punched by an Apache warrior. It was taken from the cover of issue #74 [February 1970] and had previously been used as a pin-up in issue #126 [May 1975].

There are a dozen “classified” ads from mail-order comics dealers with none of them particularly noteworthy. There are three pages of Marvel house ads, a Bullpen Bulletins page and a comic-book style ad for Hostess Fruit Pies that stars the Hulk.

The first Marvel house ad is the full-page “Poster Pandemonium” ad we’ve seen before. Including 25 cents for postage and handling, you could get any of the six posters - Spider-Man, Conan, Dracula, the Hulk, Captain America or Deadly Hands of Kung Fu - for a buck and a quarter and any three for two bucks and a quarter. Residents of New York and New Jersey also had to add 8% for sales tax.
                                                                                    

The second Marvel house ad was a full-page announcing and offering MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz. Written and edited by Roy Thomas with art by John Buscema, Tony DeZuniga and the Tribe, the 10 by 14-inch treasury edition was a joint venture by Marvel and DC.

Legend has it that DC publisher Carmine Infantino out-foxed Marvel by claiming DC was working on an adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel on which the movie was based when, in fact, DC hadn’t begun such a project. DC agreed to shelve its project and share costs and profits on the Marvel version. I don’t know if I believe “legend” in this case, but I don’t entirely disbelieve it either.

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” led off this issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page. Our fearless leader announced Marv Wolfman would be the new editor-in-chief of the color comics with Len Wein writing several titles and serving as consulting editor. Archie Goodwin would take over as editor of the black-and-white magazines. Additionally, Stan plugged the Marvel-designed Slurpee cups (60 in all) that would be available at 7-Eleven stores in the summer...and a visit from Terry Gilliam of Monty Python’s Flying Circus...and a surprise that was being cooked up by Angela Bowie and husband David...and the coming of Marvel’s Celebrity, a publication not unlike the smash hit that was People Magazine. As I recall, the Bowie surprise had something to do with Angela wanted to star in a Black Widow movie.

Sidebar. I would move back to Cleveland for several months before returning to New York to take a staff job with DC Comics. My idea was that leaving New York would ease my problems with Marv and Len who seemed to think of me as a rival instead of an asset. Anyway, during that summer, Barb and I would go to 7-11 often and collect those Marvel cups. I don’t think we got all 60, but we got a lot of them. One of these days, they might turn up in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. End of sidebar.

The lead news item reported that Marvel’s softball team got beaten by teams from Sports Illustrated and Time, but defeated John Wiley and Sons by a score of 18-7.

The next item plugged the Marvel Special Edition treasury editions which would reprint stories of Marvel super-heroes titles...and the Queen-Size Millie the Model special, which I’m pretty sure was not a treasury edition.

Several quick notes comprised the third, final and long item. They were:

Marvel staffers crowding around production chief John Verpoorten’s office to get a look at Jack Kirby’s new Captain America pages.

Letterer Irv Watanabe returning to the comics business.

Don McGregor appeared on WHBI-FM’s “The Big Sim Power Hour” to talk about comics in general and “Night Figure,” his own upcoming weekly radio drama series.

Jim Mooney and wife Anne announced the arrival of their “bouncing baby girl” Nolle.

Steve Gerber was said to be in hiding after he finished editing the special “Paranoia” issue of Crazy Magazine.

Len Wein would be writing Iron Man and Thor in addition to Spider-Man and Hulk.

Herb Trimpe was moving from Hulk to Iron Man.

The new editors of the seven-title British weeklies line were Duffy Vohland and Michele Brand.

Bonnie Smith was taking over the managing of the Marvel’s fan mail from Michelle Wolfman who was pursuing a career as Marvel’s newest colorist.

An item about some fellow named Tony Isabella combined three items into one with a small degree of accuracy. I didn’t break my leg in the softball game with Wiley and Sons. I broke my ankle. I didn’t return to a staff position. At the request of Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky and John Verpoorten, I took an office at Marvel so I would be near at hand for emergency copy writing and other projects. However, I did get engaged to future wife Barb Kepke, even if that very first engagement didn’t take. About a decade later, we did get married. Best day of my life.

This Bullpen page ended with shout-outs to Irene Vartanoff, Scott Edelman and Roger Slifer who were said to have threatened to attack if they weren’t mentioned. Though I never saw this with my limited connection to the Bullpen staff, I have since been told that said staff became quite territorial in demanding freelance assignments go to their own favorites and fellows. I’m not sure I believe this, but, as I didn’t have much contact with the staff outside of Stan, Sol and John, I wouldn’t have noticed this.
                                                                               

Next to the Bullpen page was “The Incredible Hulk and the Twins of Evil,” a Hostess Fruit Pies ad by artist John Romita and an unknown (for now) writer, though said writer was likely one of the Marvel editors or staffers. In the one-page ad, the Hulk gets a beat down at the hands of the Abomination and the Wendigo. Two hikers revive the Hulk with delicious Hostess Fruit Pies. The Hulk then punches out trees on his way to settle the score with his foes. Beware of fruit pie rage, my friends.
                                                                            
                                                                                

The afore-mentioned Rawhide Kid pin-up appeared on the second last interior page of the issue. That was followed by the half-page FOOM ad we’ve seen and a half-page ad for Marvel sweat and tee shirts. The Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and Hulk tee shirts came in man sizes for $4.45 each (included postage and handling) and boy sizes for $3 each. Sorry, girls, no tee shirts for you. The Captain America and Spider-Man sweat shirts were $5 each.

“Rawhide Kid Wednesday” will be back next Wednesday. For tomorrow, I’ll have something else for you.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, July 13, 2017

15 SHOCKING STATEMENTS FROM TONY ISABELLA

When I started considering what kind of bloggy thing I could post today that would keep you bloggy readers satisfied until I return from G-Fest, I looked at blogs and websites I visit on a frequent basis to determine the secrets of their success and how to do the same thing. The answer came to me swiftly.

Click-Bait! It’s the online equivalent of sleazy reality TV shows. You know it’s bad for you, but you get drawn into it. So, when you could be researching the vital issues of the day, you are instead consumed by the “15 Spider-Ham Recipes That Will Make You Not Care That You Are Eating a Sentient Being” or “The 15 Times Male Writers Had Comics Heroines Use the Word ‘Dick’ in a Sentence and Giggled Uncontrollably” or “15 Reasons Comic Book Resources Can’t Count Any Higher than 15.”

How could I not want part of that action? We begin...

1. I have a mild, self-diagnosed and a bit unique case of Obsessive Compulsion Disorder. Before the invention of the personal computer, I used to self-justify my articles and scripts. Editors would tell me I didn’t need to do this. I still did it. Mostly automatically, but, sometimes, to make the spacing work, I would misspell a word on purpose.

2. I don’t like Krazy Kat. Yes, I know it’s a work of genius, but it leaves me cold. When I’ve mentioned this to trusted friends, a number of them have told me they feel the same way but are afraid to admit it publically. Strangely enough, though Krazy Kat leaves me cold, I am very interested in Geo. Herriman, the creator of the strip. He was a fascinating individual.

3. The most hurtful (to me) thing I ever read online was at a site devoted to female cartoonists of color. I visited that site daily. Until one writer, discussing Black Lightning and the importance of my creation, added she knew I “was a white man who probably didn’t think he was a racist.” I’ve never been able to visit that website since.

4. We are the heroes of our own stories. When people write or talk about their history, they inevitably slant things so they come off better in the retelling than they did in the actual. When I write about my history, I get a little crazy intense trying to verify my memories so that I do this as little as possible.

5. For years, I have been dragging my heels on a major interview with me for one of my favorite magazines because I’m paralyzed by my dual desire to tell the truth and not hurt anyone needlessly. Even those who hurt or tried to hurt me over the years. As soon as I finish my current comics project, I’m determined to find the gumption to do that interview.

6. I forgive you. If you’re one of those people who did me wrong, I forgive you. It doesn’t mean I’ll forget what you’ve done or that I would trust you in the future or that I have any desire to hang out with you. It means I forgive you and I’m only going to think about you in the context of telling my story. Even then, I’m going to be as charitable as possible.

A while back, one of the worst human beings I had ever known died. He was my ex-lawyer and, before long, he became an ex-lawyer period as his crimes caught up with him. He tried to cause me serious trouble on numerous occasions. He never succeeded. I beat him time and time again.

He supposedly went to AA and turned his life around and became some sort of drug counselor. I wasn’t happy for him, just relieved that he probably wouldn’t be coming after me any more. Maybe he figured he'd paid too dear a price for that. But...

I never really believed he had changed. Because one of the twelve steps of every AA program I had heard of involved making amends to those you had wronged. A simple apology would have done that with me, but I never got even that.

If he didn’t think he’d wronged me, he was in denial. If he knew he had wronged me and didn’t care to make amends, then he clearly had not changed. And he died.

I felt nothing. I wasn’t relieved because he hadn’t ever been able to do more than inconvenience me and cost me some money to pay for my lawyers. Just disappointed that his redemption story was every bit as false as virtually everything else he did or said.

That’s when I realized. I didn’t need his apology. I didn’t need an apology from any of those who had wronged me. Because, ultimately, my very good life is not dependent on or hurt by them. They have no power over me.

So why not forgive them? Which I have done.

7. I really don’t like Mystery Science Theatre 3000. If I want to listen to churlishly snarky comments from people who think they are comedy geniuses, I’ll start reading the comments on comic strips. I’d rather just watch the movies, good, bad, or really bad. I can make my own jokes in my mind. Even the presence of Felicia Day, a geek goddess if ever there was one, can’t convince me to check out the new version of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

8. The official Black Lightning credit is: “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden.” I wrote that new credit. I agreed to that new credit. DC agreed to that new credit. I think Trevor Von Eeden is okay with that new credit, but I now realize I have never asked him, even though we e-mail each other on an almost daily basis. Anyway...

Why is it so hard for comics news sites to get this right? This is the official credit. It recognizes my role as the primary creator of Black Lightning - it’s fact that I created everything important to the character before I brought him to DC - while recognizing the key role played by Trevor Von Eeden in contributing to the costume design of the original version and, working from the descriptions in my scripts, visually designing the supporting cast and villains. I expect mainstream media sites to get it wrong, but I expect more from the comics sites.

9. I’m looking for a comics news site I can call my own. Because I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the four I visit daily. Some ignore large areas of the comics art community while focusing on their particular favorites. Some seem to relish sensationalism more than actual news or commentary. Some seem to live and die by their click-bait. I’m not naming names here, but I trust there will be speculation as to which ones I’m talking about.

Have fun.

The older I get, the more my interest in all kinds of comics grows. I’m interested in the big publishers. I’m interested in small press creators. I’m interested in Asian and European comics and graphic novels. I’m interested in comics by creators of color and creators who represent the vast diversity of both our creators and our readers. I’m interested in comics history. I’m interested in what creators of my generation are doing. I’m interested in creator rights. I’m interested in comics that address real-world issues. I’m interested in the whole wonderful world of comics in print and in movies and anywhere else they appear. I’m interested in the art and the craft and the entertainment of comics.

If you know of a comics news site that comes remotely close to the above, please send me the link. I could stretch my Patreon budget to help support it.

10. I confess part of my disillusionment with those comics sites is that they don’t seem interested in my work. I thought it was very cool that I was invited to speak with the writers of the new Black Lightning show coming to the CW. I didn’t think respect like that had become commonplace in our industry.

I also have this new book out - July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella - that I think is a fun read even if you are not intensely interested in the comics of that era. My Sainted Wife Barb is enjoying it and she doesn’t read comics at all. Okay, she might be biased on account of she loves me.

11. Outside of my personal venues, I feel uncomfortable promoting myself. I wonder if I need to be sending out press releases, but I fear that would make me come off as needy.

12. I need an assistant. By the time I finish writing the six-issue comics series I’m currently working on, I want to have my stuffed-to-the-rafters office turned into a more functional space that can include an assistant. What holds me back is time and money. If I’m writing, I don’t have time to renovate my office. As for the money, I don’t know if I can afford to pay an assistant a wage I would be comfortable paying. I believe in the $15 per hour minimum wage. That just strikes me as the right thing to do.

13. I have pretty much lost all patience with comics readers that only like one kind of comic book or only comic books like the ones they read when they were twelve. I love the comic books I read when I was twelve, but if they were the only comics out there, I know my passion for comics would wither and die.

Besides...you old fogeys make me look bad. Editors and publishers see this 65-year-old dwarf and they think I can’t keep up with the young pups. I reject that stereotype.

14. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s good. I don’t have one set of standards for traditional comics and one for alternative works. No matter which group your comics fall into, I look for clear and expressive storytelling in both the writing and visuals. I look for interesting characters and situations. I’m not going to praise something just because it’s different. It has to be good, too.

15. I believe news stories about comic books becoming movies or TV shows should always mention the creators of those comic books. I’m not naive enough to think that mainstream media news outfits give a rat’s ass about those creators, but it’s sad most of the comics news people don’t care either.

It’s my hope that what I’ve written here today gets some readers to think. It’s my expectation that some who read today’s bloggy thing will be pissed about what I’ve written and hurl insults my way from their anonymous bunkers. But I’m gonna be at G-Fest for the next four or five days. So nah, nah, nah, I can’t hear you. At least until I return to my office late Monday or early Tuesday.

This has been my first venture into knowing click-bait. Should it bring me fame and fortune...or a butt-load of new views...I might take another crack at it. Feel free to send suggestions for click-bait articles you’d like me to write. Now scoot along while I finish reading “15 Comic-Book Pros Who Are Bad in Bed.”

See you next week, my friends.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #217

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Hogan's Alley #21, "The Magazine of the Cartoon Arts; The Flintstones Volume 1 by Mark Russell and artist Steve Pugh; and Civil War II: Gods of War by Dan Abnett with artist Emilio Laiso.

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 116

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 116th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.  

The Rawhide Kid #129 [October 1975] has a cover by Larry Lieber and inker John Tartaglione. It’s an altered reprint of the cover of The Rawhide Kid #57 [April 1967]. Most of the alterations were done to confirm to the current Marvel trade dress. Others were editorial in nature. Dialogue was added and the coloring was somewhat brighter.
                                                                                

“When the Scorpion Strikes” was written and penciled by Lieber and inked by Tartaglione. I first wrote about this issue in June, 2013, and you can read my comments here.

At this time, Rawhide Kid was almost editing itself. The reprinted stories were being reprinted in order. They were the 17-page length then standard for Marvel comic books, which meant no pages had to be cut to make them fit.    

There is a slight increase in comics-related “classified” ads. Last issue had twelve. This issue has fourteen. Because the ad-selling agency Marvel uses was slightly more successful this time around, there were fewer Marvel house ads. Only two.

The Marvel Treasury Edition ad we saw last time out is exactly as it was last time out with the same six issues. The subscription ad that has appeared before is back and offering the following titles:

Amazing Adventures
Amazing Spider-Man
Astonishing Tales
Avengers
Captain America
Captain Marvel
Chamber of Chills
Champions
Conan the Barbarian
Crypt of Shadows
Daredevil
Dr. Strange
Fantastic Four
Fear
Ghost Rider
Guardians of the Galaxy
Incredible Hulk
Iron Fist
Iron Man
Inhumans
Invaders
Journey into Mystery
Jungle Action
Ka-Zar
Kid Colt Outlaw
Man-Thing
Marvel Chillers
Marvel Double Feature
Marvel’s Greatest Comics
Marvel Premiere
Marvel Spectacular
Marvel Spotlight
Marvel Superheroes
Marvel Tales
Marvel Team-Up
Marvel Triple Action
Marvel Two-In-One
Master of King Fu
Mighty Marvel Western
My Love
Our Love Story
Power Man
Rawhide Kid
Scarecrow
Son of Satan
Strange Tales
Supernatural Thrillers
Super-Villain Team-Up
The Defenders
The Human Torch
The Outlaw Kid
The Mighty Thor
Tomb of Darkness
Tomb of Dracula
Two-Gun Kid
Uncanny Tales
Vault of Evil
Weird Wonder Tales
Werewolf by Night
Western Gunfighters
X-Men
Marvel Treasury Edition
Savage Sword of Conan
Planet of the Apes
Marvel Movie Premiere
Thor the Mighty
The Legion of Monsters
Marvel Super Action
Starlords
Sherlock Holmes
Doc Savage
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu
Crazy
Science Fiction
Marvel Preview
Kull and the Barbarians

If some of those titles don’t look quite right to you, you are not alone in that. The Scarecrow never got his own title, but appeared in some other title for an issue or two.

On the magazine side, Science Fiction was actually Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. Thor the Mighty, Starlord, and Sherlock Holmes never got their own titles, but appeared in Marvel Preview. There was a Legion of Monsters title, but it ended up being a one-shot. Times were tough.

The only other editorial page in this issue is the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page which kicks off with the usual “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” feature. Stan’s lead is Jack Kirby’s return to Marvel, commencing with the Marvel Treasury Edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey and King Kirby’s return to Captain America, which I was writing at the time. Stan also plugged Son of Origins of Marvel Comics and teased about a Silver Surfer graphic novel reunited him and Jack on their first comics project in years. Jack joined Stan on a panel at the Mighty Marvel Con and a good time was had by all.

Much to my surprise, the first item after Stan’s piece was a plug for the Champions series I was launching with Don Heck. The new comic was called the “grandest, goofiest and possibly greatest guest-star extravaganza of all”...“featuring five of our most far-out fightin’ furies ever to cross the pages of a comic mag.” There was no mention of how editors Len Wein and Marv Wolfman had shaped the roster of Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Hercules and Iceman. Instead, this was the “brainchild of TONY (the Tiger) ISABELLA.” It almost made me blush.

The second item announced the new Howard the Duck series written by Howard creator Steve Gerber and drawn by Frank Brunner.

The third item was all about the black-and-white magazines. Savage Tales was gone, but was being replaced by Marvel Super Action and Sherlock Holmes. Dracula Lives and Monsters Unleashed were kaput, but being replaced by The Legion of Monsters, Masters of Terror, Marvel Movie Premiere and Star-Lord.

Masters of Terror was edited by me and contained reprints of prose story adaptations previously published in various Marvel comics and magazines. It lasted two issues, but I’m pretty proud of those two issues. I’d hoped it would continue with a budget that would have allowed me to commission new adaptations.

Don McGregor got a shout-out for the completion of the “Panther’s Rage” serial in Jungle Action. The item also mentions that handsome artist Billy Graham has been appearing in TV commercials.

The final item told readers what a grand time by those who attended the Mighty Marvel Con. Those who didn’t attend could look forward to a con report and lots of photos in FOOM Magazine #10.   

That’s all for today. If all goes well, I’ll have something special for you tomorrow that I hope will tide you over until I return from G-Fest. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

G-FEST XXIV IS COMING!

G-Fest XXIV is being held from Thursday, July 14 through Sunday, July 16, at the lovely Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare hotel, which is right across the street from the Rosemont Convention Center. This event is said to be “the largest regular gathering of Godzilla and Japanese monster fans in the world,” attracting thousands of avid kaiju buffs from the United States, Canada, and distant parts.

This will be my second time at the convention for myself and my son Ed. I’m listed as a “special presenter.” Now you might quibble with the “special” part of that, but I’ll be presenting like a monster. More on that in a bit.

From the G-Fest website:

G-Fest is a family-oriented convention which caters to a wide variety of interests within the kaiju genre. G-FEST features presentations and Q & A sessions by actors and crew from the Japanese Godzilla films, fan presentations on topics of interest, contests and gaming, new and classic kaiju movies, the western world’s largest kaiju-oriented dealers room, and lots of fun and camaraderie.

This year’s special guests include composer Michiru Oshima; veteran designer/illustrator Yuji Kaida; director/special effects director Shinji Higuch, who recently worked on Shin Godzilla; actor and suit actor/stuntman Ryuki Kitaoka; assistant film director and writer Kazuhiro Nakagawa; Robert Scott Field, the star of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and a personable expert in things Japan; and J.D. Lees, the force of nature behind the great G-Fan Magazine, G-Fest itself, and the G-Tour, which brings Godzilla fans to Japan to see the world of the King of the Monsters. You can learn more about the guests by going here.

G-Fest has a three-tier schedule of panels and events, spread out over the Kennedy Room and two large ballrooms. One of my favorite events is the G-Pardy game show, presented in both adult and kids editions. Besides the interviews with the special guests, you will be able to attend panels on such topics as Kong: Skull Island, The Mysterians, Son of Godzilla, Mothra, Gappa, Hollywood Kaiju, kaiju writing, yokai, Gamera, Ultra Seven and more. On Saturday at noon, Godzilla artist Matt Frank will be discussing drawing and offering some basic instruction and tips therein.

I’m doing three panels during the convention...

Friday, July 14

MARVEL MONSTERS (3-4 pm, Ballroom 2)

Before the Avengers and Spider-Man, Marvel Comics published giant monster comics. A lot of them! And many of those monsters, like Fin Fang Foom and Groot, have become a part of the modern Marvel Universe. Come hear a lively discussion of these wacky but loveable creatures from writer Tony Isabella (Black Lightning, Ghost Rider, and more) and artist Mark Maddox. With Tony Isabella, Mark Maddox, and Andy Matzke.

Saturday, July 15

GORGO, KONGA AND REPTILICUS (3-4 pm, Ballroom 1)

Gorgo. Konga. Reptilicus. These were far more than just standalone films! A panel discussing the movies, the novel adaptations and the comic books. With Tony Isabella and Mark Maddox.

Sunday, July 16

SYFY MONSTERS (1-2 pm, Ballroom 2)

Culture critic Tony Isabella takes a look at some of the high entertainment but low budget creations that have screened on Syfy.

For all the panels, besides the hopefully amusing and informative commentary by the participants, we’ll also have a monster parade of comics covers, movie stills and more. I also expect will have some lively interactions with the audiences.

From my G-Fest experience last year, your biggest problem will not be finding interesting panels and other stuff. It will be deciding which of the many wondrous attractions you want to see most. The dealers room and the artist alley are packed with terrific stuff to buy. There are exhibits throughout the hotel. When you want to kick back and relax, the hotel has devoted one of its TV channels to a continuous showing of kaiju movies and TV shows.

Feeling competitive? G-Fest offers an amateur video contest, an art contest, a costume contest, a model contest, a music video contest and a video game competition. In addition to the G-Pardy game show panels I mentioned earlier.

Want to see swell movies on a big beautiful screen? The G-Fest double double feature film festival returns this year to the gorgeous Pickwick Theatre with one pair in the afternoon and the second pair in the evening. There will also be the regular Friday and Saturday night features. For more information, go here.

I will not be set up in either artist alley or the dealers room at G-Fest. This is my fan fist convention. However, I will be carrying around copies of July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella with me. A copy will run you $18.

If you want to get me to sign something, you will need to track me down. I’m not scheduled to do any signings. However, as long as you can find me where my signing your books or comics won’t impede the stuff happening around us, I’ll be happy to sign stuff for you. I will not be charging for signatures at G-Fest.

That’s my G-Fest XXIV preview. I look forward to expressing my love for Godzilla and other giant monsters over the weekend and, to be sure, spending time with my fellow kaiju fans.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of my fast-shooting, hard-riding “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

DELAYED JET LAG

My quick trip to Burbank took more out of me than I anticipated. Look for today's bloggy thing preview of G-FEST XXIV later today.

Monday, July 10, 2017

JULY 1963: BLACKHAWK #188

Welcome to what I’m considering “Volume Two” of my 136-part series on the comic books that arrived on the newsstands in July 1963. As I’ve explained in previous installments of this series, that month was pivotal to my own comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

I’m thinking in terms of “Volume Two” because the previous columns in this series have been collected in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. The columns that appear in that softcover book were rewritten as needed with bonus material added to the mix. The book is available from Amazon in two formats: Kindle and actual print.

Today we’re looking at DC’s Blackhawk #188, dated September 1963. The cover - pencilled by Dick Dillin with inks by Sheldon Moldoff - illustrates “The Petrified Giant of Blackhawk Island,” one of the two Blackhawk adventures in this issue. Neither story has ever been reprinted in this country nor are they likely to be reprinted any time soon. So we’re dispensing with the usual SPOILER WARNINGS and giving you the details.

The inside front cover of this issue is a full-page advertisement for “the amazing MADE SIMPLE Self-Teaching Encyclopedia.” I wrote about this in a previous “July 1963" installment, which, amazingly,  you can read in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I would promise that’s the last plug for my new book today, but the odds of that are slim.

The Blackhawks were a hit when they debuted in Military Comics #1 [Quality; August 1941]. Led by the mysterious Blackhawk, they were a team of ace pilots from different countries. They had their own title as well. When Quality got out of the comic-book business, DC bought the Blackhawks and other features and titles.

“Mr. Justice, the Blackhawks' Ally” (11.67 pages) was written by the prolific Dave Wood with Dillin on the pencils and Chuck Cuidera on the inks. After years of fighting the Axis powers during World War II and Communists after World War II, the seven Blackhawks were now little more than crime-fighters who spent much more time on the ground than in the air.

This time around, the Blackhawks are on the trail of the Scavenger Gang, a well-organized criminal organization. Captured members of the gang refuse to talk but Chop-Chop, the not-as-racist-but-still racist sidekick of the Blackhawks, discovers strange green clay at the scene of his team’s first encounter with the Scavengers. Taking a page from Batman’s casebook, Blackhawk recognizes the clay comes from the banks of a river in Emeraldville, fifty miles upstate from where they are.

Hendrickson asks Blackhawk:

Himmel! Vot causes such coloring?

Such dialects were common in Blackhawk tales, especially with such members as Andre, Hendrickson, Olaf and Stanislaus.

Blackhawk responds:

Years ago the waste disposal from a chemical plant dyed clay pit deposits there –- which pinpoints the spot this
[Scavengers] plane came from!

A second team of Blackhawks has already encountered other members of the Scavengers trying to rob a small-town carnival. Confronting the gang, the Blackhawks are assisted by Mr. Justice, a costumed crime fighter who himself looks like a carnival performer.

Hearing of the green clay, local hero Mr. Justice tells Blackhawk the Scavenger hideout can only be in one of two places. The heroes split into two teams.

The first team - led by Mr. Justice - finds a trap and a deserted headquarters. Somehow the crooks knew they were coming and managed to escape with their records and possessions. All the Scavengers left behind was a short-wave radio. The heroes are amazed the bad guys were able to move so fast.

The second team - led by Blackhawk - finds the Scavenger Gang, but are outnumbered and captured. When the first team tries to rescue  them, they are also captured and we discover that Mr. Justice is the secret leader of the criminals. His super-hero role was a cover for his true activities.

That’s when one of the Scavengers notices that there are only six Blackhawks. They are missing one. The math genius is rewarded for his counting skills by being socked in the face by...Mr. Justice?

It’s Chuck, who was suspicious of Mr. Justice as the first team of heroes approached the second headquarters. He slugged Mr. Justice and then discovered the shortwave radio in the costumed man’s car was operating on the same frequency as the shortwave radio set in the deserted hideout. He posed as Mr. Justice to trick the rest of the Scavengers into unlocking the cell where they were keeping the other Blackhawks. The freed heroes punched out the Scavengers just in time to hear Chuck’s exposition and check out the Tootsie Roll  ad that occupied the bottom third of the final page of this rather tepid adventure.
                                                                            

A house ad for Giant Superman Annual #7 and Giant Batman Annual #5 runs after page 8 of the above Blackhawks story. The Superman comic celebrates the silver anniversary (1938-1963) of the Man of Steel. The Batman issue features “The Strange Lives of Batman and Robin.” Eighty pages of vintage thrills in each annual.

“The Archers of Yesteryear” is a one-page text feature that follows the first story. It relates that bow-and-arrow weapons seem to have sprung up independently all over the world, tracing the different styles of the weapons. Of course, it also throws considerable shade on Native Americans:

“Surprisingly enough, the American Indian was not a particularly skilled bowman, despite the fact that the bow and arrow was his chief hunting and fighting weapon.”

The author of the text page is unknown.
                                                                                 

The text page is followed by “Little Pete” (2/3 page), a gag strip by master cartoonist Henry Boltinoff. Every time I read one of his strips, I wish DC would publish a big thick collection of them. I like his work more with each passing year.

“The Petrified Giant of Blackhawk Island” (12.67 pages) is also by Wood, Dillin and Cuidera. This cover story is much better than the first story and guest-stars Lady Blackhawk.

Blackhawk Island is shaken by a violent volcanic eruption. From a fissure, the giant Tarn emerges from a suspended animation sleep of a hundred years. He doesn’t attack the Blackhawks. He runs off into the jungle. He builds a giant raft, hews a paddle out of a tree and then starts paddling across the ocean.

Finding a giant war club in the fissure, Blackhawk recognizes it as having designs used by the Taleekans, whose island lies 300 miles south of the Blackhawk base. The heroes split up. Blackhawk, Lady Blackhawk, Andre and Hendrickson fly to the other island. All the others follow Tarn in a submarine.

Surprisingly, Tarn is swimming west and not to his home island. On the island of the Taleekans, the Blackhawks learn the story of this giant warrior.

A century earlier, the Taleekans lived in peace with the Marnos on a different island. Until they were driven off the island by that other tribe and had to relocate to another island. A great Taleekan witch doctor created a brew that would transform one warrior into a giant. Tarn was the chosen warrior.

Tarn was sent to their old island home to drive the Marnos from it. But the giant warrior was caught in the fury of a volcanic eruption and entombed underneath Blackhawk Island. Revived, he’s determined to complete his original mission.

The Taleekans plan to follow Tarn to their old home and join in the battle with the Marnos. The Blackhawks want to prevent that battle. What with having jets, the Blackhawks reach the island first. The Marnos don’t believe them and move to seize the intruders. Which is when Tarn shows up.

Blackhawk and his men distract Tarn. Lady Blackhawk startles Tarn with the reflection of the sun off her hand mirror on account of girl heroes always use girly things to fight both giants and run-of-the-mill menaces.

The Blackhawks from the submarine further distract Tarn by hurling phosphorous grenades. Meanwhile, the Marnos chief and witch doctor have concocted a deadly potion to use against the giant. The smoke fumes from the potion fell Tarn.

The sympathetic Lady Blackhawk, on account of girls are kinder than boys, gives Tarn water. The giant is still dying, but he plans to use what strength he has left to crush the Marnos.

The Taleekans and the Marnos are facing off for battle. Blackhawk and his men try to keep the two sides apart. Uprooting a tree, Tarn is about to use it against the Marnos when Lady Blackhawk beseeches him to choose a better path:

No, No, Tarn! You mustn’t! Listen to me...I am your friend! No good will come of this useless war! You must prevent this battle!

Tarn sees the wisdom of her words: 
 
You are right, little one! Bloodshed will not solve our tribal problems!

He addresses both tribes:

Heed well the advice of these strangers and end the hatred that exists between us...live...in peace...together...o-oh!

Tarn collapses. His body falls between the warring tribes. Even in death, he tries to prevent the fighting.

The Taleekans and the Marnos accept the giant’s dying wisdom. There is enough room on the island for both tribes. Just as there was in ancient days.

The Blackhawks get the final words...
 
It’s rather ironic that the giant who was created to wage war brought everlasting peace to his tribe!

I wasn’t a big Blackhawk fan growing up. It was one of those comic books I would get as an add-on in trades or from the neighborhood barber shop where I would sweep hair for comics. When I was living on a pretty small allowance, I only bought an occasional issue of the title. Usually when Lady Blackhawk was prominently featured on the cover. She was pretty hot, even to a pre-teen.

That’s all for now, my beloved bloggy pals. I know you're eager to head over to Amazon and order  July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I will be back tomorrow with my G-Fest preview. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella