Monday, June 26, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #215

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Commando, the long-running British war comic book plus Occupy Avengers and Savage!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF GARAGE SALE June 30-July 1

For information on my upcoming garage sale...

https://cleveland.craigslist.org/gms/6172152208.html

And keep watching this bloggy thing, my Facebook page and my Twitter tweets for more details.

Tony

Thursday, June 22, 2017

THINNING THE HERD

My first real garage sale in two years achieved 110% of my modest goals for it. The Monopoly games sold well, but there are around three dozen plus games left. The dollar comics sold well as did some of the more expensive hardcovers; the latter were 70% off their cover prices. Every one of the dozen five-buck mystery boxes I had made for this first sale sold.

Some customers were disappointed I didn’t have more quarter boxes of comics, magazines and books - hardcover and softcover - at this sale. Hey, everyone loves that price, but the number of those boxes will likely go down with each sale. That’s the natural result  of my goals for this summer’s sales.

This summer’s garage sales are all about reclaiming my office and bedroom from the too many boxes and stacks of stuff that loom too large before me. I desperately need to make my office a whole lot more efficient because the arc of my current career is heading to the near-future time when I will need to hire at least a part-time assistant to help me cope with the clerical part of my business. At the moment, there’s no room for an assistant in my office. I need to fix that.

The bedroom? My Sainted Wife Barb continues to be the most patient woman on the planet, but we need to get moving on our years-delayed renovation of our master bedroom and bathroom suite. I’d like to be able to move all the boxes and DVDs out of there by the end of the summer. That’s going to take some doing.

Friends have asked me about my “thinning the herd” as it were. They see some of the great comics and books going into my garage sales. I’m not going to claim all of my decisions on what to sell and what to keep are easy, but the desire to seriously reduce my legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff went into overdrive as I witnessed all the stress Barb and her friends had to go through to empty out her mother’s house.

Digression. Barb’s mom has Alzheimer’s Disease and is currently in a care facility. There’s more to the story than that, but it’s too soon for me to write about it in detail. But clearing out just the stuff Barb wanted to keep took months and has resulted in me paying for a third storage unit for it. I want to get rid of one of my other storage units by Christmas. End of digression.

Though I am in good health for a chubby little man of 65 years old, I would be foolish to ignore the possibility I might not be around ten or twenty years from now. I do not want to burden my wife and our kids with cleaning out my VAOS. I want to accomplish most of that myself within the next five years. Even sooner if my career slows down, something that doesn’t appear likely at present. I am living a good and very interesting life.

Some decisions were easy to make. Since my son Ed is a big fan of the Simpsons TV show - as am I - I was keeping my Simpsons comics because I thought he might want them. As it turns out, he doesn’t. Any Simpsons fans who come to my next garage sale are going to have a couple hundred different issues that they can buy at just a buck each. And those are just the ones from my office or future reading room. In the fullness of time, more issues of Simpsons Comics, Futurama Comics and others will emerge from the VAOS.

There are comic books I love, such as The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Invincible Iron Man, that are in the dollar boxes. I’m not likely to reread them and, though I think the writing in the titles is terrific, it’s not writing I’m going to look at when writing my own stuff. Squirrel Girl is hilarious, but not my personal kind of hilarious. As for the Riki Williams Iron Man, though I have played around with Brian Bendis-style writing for my own amusement, it’s not my thing either. I gotta be me.

I love the Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge comic books being published by IDW. But, with a bucket list of over 300 things I want to write before I kick the bucket, I’m more likely to go to that personal list when I have an opening in my schedule. Which is not to say I wouldn’t be tempted if someone came to me and asked me to write my “ultimate” Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse or Uncle Scrooge adventure.

Marvel’s Star Wars titles are entertaining, but I’m not likely to seek a play date with that complicated universe. I mean, I’ll never say never. Just unlikely.

Batman? He was once my favorite comics hero, but I’ve read way too many terrible Batman comic books and seen too many lousy movies to make me want to keep many Batman comic books. There is one Batman story I want to write, but it’s one I doubt DC would let me write and one in which Batman is little more than a supporting character. My garage sale customers are going to find a whole bunch of Batman comics in my dollar boxes...and many other Batman comics at higher but still low prices. I'm talking comics from before and after killing "Robin" became a thing.

I just came across a run of Amazing Heroes. I’ll go through those issues of that great magazine for any thing written by or about me. Issues that don’t have Isabella content will go into the sales.

Some decisions are more difficult, especially when it comes to some once-treasured hardcovers and trade paperbacks. The general rule is that if I need them for my own writing, if I think I might want to read them again, if I want to keep them around to give to others as an example of how diverse and wondrous comics can be, they will remain in the VAOS. If not, I’m sure they’ll find good homes with my customers.

I don’t know exactly what’s in the plethora of boxes in my office, bedroom, future reading room and basement. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about this downsizing process. Going through every box is an adventure in itself.

If you’d like to share the adventure, by which I mean, if you would like to exchange your money for my stuff, my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales are held approximately every other weekend at Stately Isabella Manor, 840 Damon Drive in Medina, Ohio.

Here’s the 2017 schedule...

Friday, June 30
Saturday, July 1

Friday, July 28
Saturday, July 29

Friday, August 11
Saturday, August 12

Friday, August 25
Saturday, August 26

Friday, September 8
Saturday, September 9

Friday, September 22
Saturday, September 23

Friday, October 6
Saturday, October 7

Keep watching my Facebook page and this bloggy thing for details on these sales. I’m hoping to have special guests and other fun events at some of them. More to come.

******************************

One last bit of bloggy business before I put today’s bloggy thing to bed. I have looked into the abyss that is my ridiculously busy schedule and it has looked back at me with a stern admonition that something had to give. 

The bloggy thing will be going on hiatus until Monday, July 3. As much as I love writing it, this blog has to take a back seat to my paying work and some other cool things happening in my life. When the bloggy thing returns, it will resume its seven-days-a-week schedule...with some exceptions.

I’ll be on the road in July, once to an undisclosed location and then on to Chicago for G-Fest. Later in the year, I’ll be a guest at NEO Comic Con, Grand Rapids Comic Con and Akron Comicon. I won’t be posting new blogs during those conventions.

I’m getting dental implants this year, starting as soon as humanly possible so that I don’t dwell on the expenses of the procedures. Odds are there will be days when this process leaves me unable to write anything. 
 
On occasion, the deadlines on my paying work might necessitate taking a few days off her and there. I'm hoping to minimize those days off, but you know what they say about best laid plans.

There is a strong possibility I will be traveling for my work from time to time. If I do any writing on those trips, it will be for my paying gigs. It’s not all about the money for me, but the money is what will allow me to do my own projects.

Thanks for stopping by. See you in July.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #214

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I review Lars of Mars/Crusader from Mars/Eerie Adventures Volume One plus The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History by Jon Morris plus Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Newspaper Strips Vol. 1!

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 114

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 114th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #127 [July 1975] has a cover pencilled by Rawhide Kid writer and artist Larry Lieber with inks by John Tartaglione. It’s a reprint of the cover of issue #76 [May 1970], albeit with a brighter yellow background and a rearrangement of the cover copy to allow for the addition of the “Blazing Western Action As You Like It!” blurb. 
                                                                                 

“Guns of the Bandoleros” (18 pages) is reprinted from that issue. Written and drawn by Lieber with inks by Tartaglione and lettering by Jean Izzo, it has been edited from its original 20-page length. However, it should be noted that the original story was not really 20 pages. Two of those pages were half-pages in the centerfold of the original issue, the better to squeeze two additional half-page paid ads into the comic books. Though their credits don’t appear in #127, Len Wein was the editor and Irene Vartanoff was the reprint editor of this issue.

I wrote about “Guns of the Bandoleros” almost three years ago and you can read those comments here. To make the reprinted story fit the allotted page count, Vartanoff cut page 10 of the original and combined the half-pages into one full page. Though the story still reads smoothly sans the missing page, we lose the violent passion between the Lynx and her henchman Juan that will inflame the man’s hatred of the Rawhide Kid.
                                                                              

The “Marvel-Hero Stick-Ons” ad from the previous issue is back in this one. Another returning full-page house ad promotes Stan Lee’s The Origins of Marvel Comics and the Mighty Marvel Calendar for 1975. I can’t recall who wrote and edited the 1975 calendar, but I got the job for the 1976 Bicentennial edition. I’ll doubtless write about that somewhere.
                                                                                  

New this time around is a full-page Marvel merchandise ad featuring the Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain America model kits from Aurora; bendable plastic figures of Spidey, Cap, Hulk, the Lizard, Iron Man and the Green Goblin; and brightly-colored hard plastic figures of Spidey, Hulk, Iron Man, Cap, Daredevil and Thor. The Aurora models were $3.39 each, the bendables were $3.98 each and the hard-plastic figures were a set of all six for $4.18.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page kicked off with another “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” column, this one promoting Marvel’s Classic Comics adaptations of classic novels, Stan speaking at Penn State, and a sequel to Origins of Marvel Comics.

The first news item spoke of legendary producer George Pal coming to the Marvel officers to be interviewed about his forthcoming Doc Savage movie for the premiere issue of Marvel’s black-and-white Doc Savage magazine. The interview was conducted by Chris Claremont and Jim Harmon.

The second item has Herb Trimpe penciling War Is Hell, written by Chris Claremont. Also mentioned: a guest appearance of the Phantom Eagle, a World War I character co-created by Trimpe, in Ghost Rider #12. I wrote the Ghost Rider story, but, alas, I didn’t receive a shout-out in the item.

The third item reported that Bob Brown would be drawing the Thing team-ups in Marvel Two-In-One.

The fourth item told of other moves. Steve Gerber would be the new editor of Crazy magazine. Marv Wolfman was launching his new Skull the Slayer comic-book title. Don McGregor would be the new writer of Luke Cage, Power Man. Chris Claremont would be the new writer of Iron Fist.

The final item was a plug for FOOM aks Friends of Ol’ Marvel. The ninth issue of the fan club magazine would feature a cover by Jim Starlin. Membership in the fan club was a mere $2.50
                                                                             

This issue’s Hostess comics ad had Captain Marvel battling Nitro. To save the world, the Kree super-hero drops a shit-ton of Hostess Twinkies on his explosive foe, more than enough to last Nitro and his henchmen for a month. Drawn by Ross Andru, the page teaches us the important lesson that...”You get a big delight in every bite of Hostess Twinkies!” Can I get an “amen?”
                                                                                

The final editorial page in this issue is a full-page house ad for Marvel t-shirts. You could order shirts featuring Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and the Hulk. Cost was $4.45 per shirt for “man-size” shirts or $3 for “boy-size” shirts. Because, as we all know, women and girls don’t read comic books.

That’s all for this week’s “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” presentation. I will be back tomorrow with other stuff. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

THEMYSCIRA TUESDAY

Wonder Woman (2017) is the best DC Comics super-hero movie of all time. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Batman movie from 1966. I’ll always think well of the first two Superman movies with Christopher Reeve, even though both of them have really dumb and just plain awful elements. I liked the first of the Batman movies with Michael Keaton. Some of the other DC movies have their moments. But, from start to finish, top to bottom and in whatever other direction you care to consider, Wonder Woman is the best and, for that matter, one of the best super-hero movies period.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The framing sequence of the movie is perfect. Bruce Wayne sends an old photograph to Diana and it triggers memories of her coming to “man’s world” during World War I. It is an act of simple kindness for a friend, not at all what we’ve come to expect from the often-psychotic Batman of today’s comics and movies. It gave me hope for Batman or, at least, for Bruce Wayne.

With Diana, we remember her childhood on Themyscira and her growth into womanhood. Against her mother’s wishes, she trains to become a warrior and becomes the greatest of all the Amazon. There is an origin story of sorts and a hint of mystery surrounding the young princess. Origin stories usually drag. This one was fascinating all the way.

When American spy Steve Trevor crashes off the coast of the hidden island kingdom, Diana gets her first inkling of the outside world and a sense of her destiny. She is attracted to Trevor and, as any of us would be, he is bowled over by her.

When the Germans discover and invade Themyscira, Diana learns all she needs to know about the horror of war and the loss to innocent lives. It is a battle both heroic and terrible.

Comics purists may decry the time-shift that has Diana entering our world during World War I instead of World War II, but I think the earlier setting drives home the obscenity of the conflict. Trevor is trying to stop the release of a mustard gas more powerful than any previously known to man. The armies slog through trenches for months and years, spending thousands of lives for mere inches of territory. Civilians are brutalized by the invading German armies. Small wonder that, faced with such suffering, Diana assumes it is all the doing of Ares, the god of war and that, to end the war, she must slay the deity.

There are so many outstanding performances in this movie. Gal Gadot is breathtaking as Diana. Chris Pine’s Trevor is brave and willing to bear wounds to his very soul to protect innocents. Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff and Elena Anaya are terrifying as an ambitious general and a scarred scientist known for creating weapons of death. David Thewlis as treacherous Ares is a commanding villain. Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock bring a grim reality and even some humor to their roles as Steve’s unlikely allies. Lucy Davis is cocky and radiant as Etta Candy. It is a superb cast.

The budding romance between Diana and Steve ends when Trevor gives his life to save thousands of civilians. More than Diana’s climatic battle with Ares and her realization the God of War did not create the evil within the hearts of men, it is Trevor’s sacrifice which sets the Amazon on the path that leads her to a lifetime of trying to bring hope and peace to the world of mortals.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


Wonder Woman is an inspirational film. It shows us at our worst. It shows us at our best. It urges us to choose the latter path. The best super-hero comic books do the same. From its beginnings, the super-hero genre has portrayed an optimistic view of the world. It shows us men and women who are courageous and selfless and asks us to imagine a world where all of us strive to be like those men and women.

I used to joke the only way DC would be able to make a good Wonder Woman movie would be if they hired Marvel make it for them. I’ve no doubt Marvel could have made a good Wonder Woman movie.

DC made a great Wonder Woman movie. 
 
Kudos to the magnificent cast, to screenwriter Allan Heinberg and director Patty Jenkins. All of them exceeded my greatest expectations and gifted me with a truly unforgettable night at the movies.

I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, June 19, 2017

MONSTERS FOR MY MONDAY

My preparation for my G-Fest panel on Gorgo, Konga and Reptilicus continues apace. After owning it for well over a decade, I finally read Konga [Monarch Books; 1960], the novelization of the movie by the prolific Dean Owen. I also watched Konga [1961] the movie, one of my least favorite giant monster flicks.

My somewhat edited Internet Movie Database summery:

Presumed dead, Dr. Decker comes back from Africa. During the year he was “missing,” Decker came across a way of growing plants and animals to enormous size. He brings back a baby chimpanzee to test out his theory. As he has many enemies at home, he decides to use Konga to get rid of them. Then Konga grows to gigantic proportions and wreaks havoc all over the city of London!!

Konga the novelization is well-written pulp fiction with some sex scenes that would have shocked young Tony Isabella if he’d read it in 1960. Konga the movie is a dud with a gorilla suit as bad as the one Clarence Beeks [Paul Gleason] was sewn into in Trading Places [1983]. In fact, it might be the same suit.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The characters of note in Konga the novelization are all terrible people. Dr. Charles Decker is an egotistical sociopath willing to sacrifice anyone for his science and his libido. Margaret, who is his assistant, housekeeper and lover, wants desperately to be Mrs. Charles Decker and is willing to overlook his murders and, to a far lesser extent, his lust for one of his students. Of course, to get even with Decker, Margaret has a one-off with that comely student’s studly boyfriend.

Comely student Sandra doesn’t hide her attraction to Decker and is less than understanding of boyfriend Bob’s irritation with her for that. Bob tries to beat the crap out of the much older Decker and is threatened with expulsion from their college.

Decker’s professional colleagues are only slightly less horrible. Dean Foster is arrogant and obvious in his jealousy of Decker, and tries to force the doctor to resign his position. Professor Tagore, whose research mirrors Decker, taunts Decker with the knowledge he is going to publish his findings before Decker.

Little Konga is the only sympathetic character in the novel. He’s controlled by Decker and, near the novelization’s end, by Margaret, and forced to do their murderous bidding. He does not attain his gigantic size until the second last chapter when, enraged by Decker literally raping Sandra, Margaret gives him one dose to many of the scientist’s growth formula.

Margaret is crushed to death when Decker’s house and lab collapses around her and the expanding Konga. Sandra gets eaten by one of the scientist’s enormous flesh-eating plants.

Helpless in Konga’s hand, Decker dies when flung to the street as the military dispatches the giant gorilla with its tanks. In death, Konga shrinks back to chimpanzee size, his small body just inches away from that of his master.

The movie follows much the same plot as the novelization, but there are notable differences. Sandra and Bob are much nicer in the film. The young woman is fascinated by Decker’s intellect but is pretty much oblivious to his advances. One of the flesh-eating plants does trap her arm, but we don’t see her die on screen.

Bob does have a physical confrontation with Decker, but it is the lecherous scientist who starts the fight. In the book and the film, Konga murders Bob.

As in the novelization, Konga doesn’t grow to giant size until near the end of the movie. The film actually gets more boring once this happens because the relatively few scenes of destruction are badly done and because there is a lot of Konga walking around models of a town with a Decker doll in his hand while managing not to do much damage. It’s like he’s waiting for the military to get to the scene and have done with him.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


An amusing note. In the novelization, Decker talks about the women of the African village where he stayed being so unashamed of their bodies that they went topless. In the movie, Decker shows his class a film of the village and remarks how the women always went around fully and modestly dressed.

My overall low opinion of Konga did not change with this viewing. It’s not a good movie. However, this time around, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the scenery-chewing performances of Michael Gough as Decker, Margo Johns as Margaret, Austin Trevor as Dean Foster and George Pastell as the sibilant Tagore. Still, the novelization is much better than the movie...and the Charlton comic books are incredibly better than both the novel and the movie. Even the issues not drawn by Steve Ditko.

                                                                            
Yusei Matsui’s Assassination Classroom [Viz Media; $9.99] is one of my all-time favorite manga. The series revolves around an octopus-like creature who destroyed 70% of the moon and threatens to do the same to Earth in a year if he is not killed . In the meantime, Koro Sensei - the creature - becomes a middle-school teacher in charge of the lowest-ranked class at the school. He teaches them the usual subjects and assassination techniques to be used against him. The governments of the world have offered 100 million to whoever kills Koro Sensei. It is a series filled with outrageous humor, exciting action and undeniable heart as the despised students of class 3-E blossom under the guidance of their alien teacher.

Assassination Classroom Volume 16 is a game-changer. It reveals the true history of Koro Sensei, a history filled with surprises that I never saw coming and yet which make perfect sense to me. Having written professionally for four-and-a-half-decades, I am not often surprised so delightfully. With five more volumes to come, I’m more excited and impressed by this series than ever...and maybe a little jealous of those of you just starting this wonderful series. Even if you’re not a manga reader, I recommend Assassination Classroom to you. It is an outstanding comics epic.

ISBN 978-1-4215-9091-2

                                                                           

Donald Duck #16 [IDW; $3.99] has “The Call of C’Rruso!” by writers Mark and Laura Shaw and artist Flemming Anderson. The 37-page tale is the first USA publication of a story that originally appeared in the German comics publication Lustiges Taschenbuch.

What starts out as the ever-optimistic Donald attempting to win a singing competition continues with a magic atomizer that transforms his voice. However, before long, Donald, his nephews, and a pair of rivals are sailing into the frigid waters of Lovecraftian horror. One rival wants to save the world and the other wants to see it die in terror. The adventure is action-packed, funny and surprisingly scary in places. I like it a lot.

IDW is bringing some wonderful foreign-made Disney comics to this country. I’m enjoying their titles immensely.

                                                                           

One more for the road.

Martin Arlt’s Mad Scientist [$6] is one of my favorite magazines. That I’ve just this weekend read the latest issue - Summer 2016 - should not be taken as any sign of disrespect. My life is a little crazy these days - no duh - and I’m trying to get to where I’m able to read at least the latest issues of my favorite magazines closer to when they are published. But I digress.

Mad Scientist is a 56-page, slick-looking journal of stuff Martin finds interesting. It’s one of my favorite magazines on account of I find that stuff interesting as well. The cover by the great Mark Maddox illustrates Martin’s article on the thirteenth season [1975-1976] of Doctor Who. It’s been ages since I’ve seen those episodes, but the article does a good job covering them and reminding me how much I wish I had the time to watch the entirety of Doctor Who from start to today. Sigh.

Martin also writes about The Thing from Another World, the landmark 1951 horror/sci-fi film about a bloodthirsty alien carrot preying on scientists in a frozen wasteland. That could be a metaphor for what’s happening to science today at the hands of ignoramuses like the Dumpster President and his Republican henchmen.

John LeMay writes about Toho Studios attempt to take a bite out of the Dracula legend so wonderfully done by England’s Hammer Studios. It’s a fascinating appraisal.

The learned and prolific Allen Debus contributes two great pieces. The first is on Mary Shelley’s other landmark horror/sci-fi novel and her other writings. The other is on Godzilla Raids Again, which was heavily edited and shown in the United States as Gigantis the Fire Monster. The Japanese version is one of my all-time favorite Godzilla movies because of the great human stories told alongside the giant monster mayhem.

Timothy Price writes about seeing monster films at the neighborhood theaters, something which brings me back to my own youth once I was old to go to the movies with my friends. Prior to that, I only got my kind of big screen monster thrills from the movies shown at Sts. Philip and James on Sunday afternoons in Cleveland, Ohio. The idea was to give parents a break from their offspring on their weekend day of rest...or to enable them to make more Catholic babies while we were watching Gorgo, War of the Worlds and the like.

But I keep digressing. That’s one of the terrific pleasures of Mad Scientist. It reminds me where I come from.

Last but not least, we get a single-page satire on why General Zod would make a really great president. It’s a startling premise, but Mike Dimesa makes his silly case and makes me laugh as he does so.

For more information on this highly recommended magazine, you can e-mail Martin. You’ll be happy you did. 

That’s it for now. If my plans work out, as they occasionally do, I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of a major movie. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, June 17, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #3

Previous 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. 
 
The Overstreet Guide to Collecting [Gemstone Publishing] is a smart idea, especially for Free Comic Book Day when this issue will find its way into the hands of folks young and old who are just getting into the joy of collecting. From its amusing Billy Tucci cover of Wynonna Earp and Shi looking at the latest Comic Book Price Guide, through a five-page comics collecting introduction by J.C. Vaughn with artists Brendon and Brian Fraim and its concise, informative articles on several subjects, this is like unto a Rosetta Stone of fandom. The articles and comics include: Comic Book Pricing, Comic Book Ages, Collecting by Creator or Genre, Grading Comics, Original Comic Art, Movie Posters and more.

QUALITY: The writing, art and production are all first-rate. This is a nice-looking guide.

ACCESSIBILITY: The considerable information is presented in a very easy-to-grasp manner.

SALESMANSHIP: I’m thinking anyone who reads this mini-magazine and decides they want to start collecting comic books and related items will, at the least, want to buy the main Overstreet Guide to Comic Books and, depending on their interests, might consider the guides to grading, original art and horror as well. There are also a pair of full-age ads for archival supplies and professional comic-book grading. There’s also an ad for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Fast and the Spurious, but I won’t hold that against them. 
 
SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

                                                                            

The Ballad of Franklin Bonisteel [Z2 Comics] leads off with the 22-page, black-and-white, done-in-one tale from whence this FCBD issue derives its title. That’s followed by a 6-page, full-color excerpt from a comic book or graphic novel or perhaps a collection called Murder Ballads.

The lead story is written by Gabe Soria with art by Warren Pleece. Piano player and accidental detective Pete Reyes is hired by former record producer Bonisteel to help him get payment from a rock star who stole Bonisteel’s songs. Reyes takes the job because Bonisteel owes him money and has promised to pay him that money with a good chunk of interest. It’s a solid story with interesting supporting characters. It’s well-written and well-drawn.

The Murder Ballads excerpt is likewise written by Soria with art by Paul Reinwand. The six pages don’t give me much of a leg up on what it’s about.

QUALITY: The lead story is first-rate and I enjoyed it a lot. The excerpt isn’t bad, but there’s not enough of it for me to form an opinion on its quality.

ACCESSIBILITY: The lead story provides the readers with everything  they need to know to follow. The excerpt fails in this area.

SALESMANSHIP: Based on the lead story, I’d be interesting in buying stories featuring Pete Reyes. But this giveaway comic book doesn’t give me a clue where I might find them. There’s a full-page ad for Murder Ballads, which doesn’t tell me what it is - ongoing comic, graphic novel, and so on - but which does reveal the whatever-it-is features an original soundtrack. This is terrible marketing, more the pity since the lead story is so good.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                                     

Malika Warrior Queen [YouNeek Studios] presents the first chapter of a graphic novel. Created and written by Roye Okupe and drawn by Chima Kalu, Malika is part of a shared universe of graphic novels.

QUALITY: Though the 20-page chapter could have used a little more background, it told an exciting story with likeable characters and vibrant actions. I liked it a lot.

ACCESSIBILITY: Almost any reader should be able to follow the story easily. Good panel-to-panel and page-to-page flow.

SALESMANSHIP: First-rate. The back cover makes it clear the entire graphic novel is on sale now. There is a explanation of the shared universe and full-page ads for the other graphic novels currently available. I’m going to be spending more money soon.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

                                                                             

Grimm Fairy Tales [Zenescope] features three excerpts from longer stories and one complete short story. All are written by Zenescope president and  chief creative officer, all are set in an universe of four realms of power - Wonderland, Oz, Neverland and Myst - that surround Earth, the nexus of the universe. The short story and one of the excerpts feature Guardian of the Nexus Skye Mathers, taking that mantle from her late mother. The creatures and villains in the comic book are all drawn from fairy tales of one kind or another. Which makes sense given the title.

QUALITY: The writing ranges from decent to mediocre. The art is by a variety of artists and ranges from fair to quite good. Ditto the storytelling, though one of the excerpts is so poorly executed by the artist that, despite studying it for a good long while, I still can’t tell what happened on the excerpt’s final page.

ACCESSIBILITY: Good, but not quite. Skye Mathers is introduced in solid fashion. The first story in which she is not featured has a decent set-up. The excerpt mentioned above is impenetrable.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. The Zenescope Universe is explained well. There are last-panel blurbs and full-page ads that make it easy to find more comics like this one.

JOHNNY DEPP TRIGGER WARNING BACK COVER: Yes, there is another FCBD  back cover ad for Pirates of the Caribbean: Why Must Johnny Depp Persecute Us? It doesn’t cost this comic any points. I just enjoy making fun of this movie.

SCORE: Five out of ten points.

                                                                                

Barbie [Papercutz] has excerpts from two Barbie graphic novels. In Barbie: Fashion Superstar by writer Sarah Kuhn with artist Alitha Martinez, Barbie is an assistant to fashion designer legend Whitney Yang. Her friend Liz is a photography intern. Both are determined to prove themselves. The second excerpt is from Barbie Star Light Adventure: The Gems of Para-Den. Inspired by a Barbie movie, it is written by Tini Howard with art by Jules Rivera.

QUALITY: The Fashion Superstar excerpt is very good. It delivers an excellent message without being too obvious about. Both the art and storytelling are vibrant. I liked it a lot. Alas, the other excerpt is bland “magical girl” stuff that is way too heavy-handed when it comes to its message.

ACCESSIBILITY: The first story is a breeze to follow. The second is decent. One jarring note is that the inside front cover editorial references a third graphic novel of which this FCBD issue does not include an excerpt, though there is a back cover ad for all three Barbie graphic novel that included it.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. It’s clear from the editorial that these are excerpts to graphic novels and the back cover shows the covers of all three. Plus there is no ad for a movie starring Johnny Depp, saving me having to come up with another bogus title.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

                                                                                

Bad Machinery [Oni Press] features a delightful FCBD-themed cover by British cartoonist John Allison and a 27-page excerpt from his The Case of the Forked Road. That’s the seventh volume in an award-winning series about three schoolgirl and three schoolboy sleuths who attend the same grammar school.

QUALITY: The story is taking its time to unfold, but there is some very funny banter, interesting female characters - we don’t see too much of the boys in this excerpt - and a mystery that isn’t clear. But I enjoyed the excerpt and will request the earlier volumes from my local library system.

ACCESSIBILITY: The inside front cover gives the basic setting. The story flows well and, though the nature of the mystery might not be clear so far, what we see is intriguing. I think most readers would be able to follow this easily.

SALESMANSHIP. Top marks. The inside front cover makes it clear that there is more to this story and the house ad has the covers of all seven volumes in the series. There is a back cover ad promoting $1 debut issues of ten different Oni titles. There is also an inside ad for that movie starring that actor.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

I’m running behind this week, which is why Free Comic Book Friday is actually posting on Saturday. I blame that actor.

I’ll be back on Monday with something. I have no idea what. But I will be writing a bloggy thing. Come and visit on Monday and we’ll both find out what I wrote about.


© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, June 15, 2017

TELEVISION THURSDAY

I’ve been catching up on my comics-related television viewing these past several weeks. At this point, I’m current on every show save for Agents of SHIELD, Arrow and iZombie. Which would be a whole lot more impressive if you don’t take into account that I have twelve episode of SHIELD to watch, nine of Arrow and roughly 34 episodes of iZombie. My goal is to watch all of these episodes before Labor Day. A person has to have dreams.

What you’ll be reading today are my random thoughts on Iron Fist, Legion, Legends of Tomorrow, Flash, Supergirl, Lucifer and Gotham. Of these seven series, Legion is the only one that might not get me back next season.

Because I don’t know what I’ll be telling you until I actually get to the comments, let’s assume there are

SPOILERS AHEAD

That way, no one gets hurt.

Iron Fist [Netflix] got mixed reviews from a lot of my friends and I see where they’re coming from. Some of the episodes dragged and the litany of bad decisions made by characters got tiresome. I think the season would have been better and tighter at eight to ten episodes instead of the thirteen they did.

I don’t understand the uproar over Danny Rand being white. He was white in the comics and one of things I like most in the series is how out of place Danny is in both his native land and in K'un-Lun. Does every martial arts character have to be Asian?

Finn Jones was decent as Danny Rand. The various actors playing the messed-up Meachum family got a little chewy with the scenery from time to time. I liked Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, but she did come off as a little naive.

The stand-out performances were...

Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple. As always, Claire’s our real-world anchor to the weird and stormy seas of the lead characters in this and other Marvel/Netflix series.

Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao, who is honestly terrifying in Iron Fist in a way she never quite managed in Daredevil.

Carrie-Anne Moss as the complicated Jeri Hogarth. Her character was a horrible person in Jessica Jones, but we got to see another side of her here.

I’ll add that I love the idea of Danny Rand being in the Defenders if only on account of he’s the only member of that team with money. Snazzy headquarters, anyone? Also, if Misty Knight should lose her arm somewhere along the line, Rand Industries has the clout/money to get her a Tony Stark-designed replacement.

                                                                            

I stuck with Legion [FX] through the entirety of its eight-episode first season, but it became a chore around the fifth episode or so. The Internet Movie Database describes it:

David Haller is a troubled young man diagnosed as schizophrenic, but after a strange encounter, he discovers special powers that will change his life forever.

Legion is based on New Mutants comic books by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, two creators for whom I have great respect. But, here’s the thing, outside of being fascinated by some of the duo’s storytelling techniques, I didn’t care much for that run. Doesn’t mean it was a bad run - it wasn’t - it simply didn’t resonate with me. That happens.

There’s some excellent acting on this show: Dan Stevens as Haller, Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker, Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett, to name but three. Some of the manifestations of Haller’s powers and those of other mutants are interesting. However, I would have preferred writing more to the point and with fewer unanswered questions. I’m sure other viewers like the series for the very reasons I am only so-so about it.

I’m not bailing on Legion yet. When the second season debuts, I’ll watch a few episodes and see if it works better for me.

                                                                                   

The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow is one of my favorite shows, despite featuring one of my least favorite comic book and science fiction themes: time travel. Specifically, time travel in which there is an ever-present threat that reality as we know it could become undone. Time travel is messy. If I want messy, I can look around my office.

It’s the characters that endear Legends to me. Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory is my favorite and, though he often stumbles, his story is a redemption story and redemption stories are favorites of mine. After Purcell, Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance is my second favorite. Hers is also a redemption story mixed with a story of her embracing her identity as a gay woman without hesitation and spiced with most of the sexual comedy in the series. Like her male teammates, I am in awe of Sara’s moves.

Special mention should be made of Wentworth Miller’s Leonard Snart. He has played Snart in the “present” time as an often untrustworthy teammate and played him in “past” times as a vicious criminal and killer. He’s no longer a series regular, but Legends and other CW shows keep finding ways to feature him.

My favorite moments of the just completed second season:

Mick forms a bond with General George Washington while rescuing the father of our nation from the British. Back in our own era, time’s undergone a slight reality hiccup. There’s now a statue of Mick in Washington D.C.

The second season cliffhanger. Despite defeating the main villain and saving reality, the Legends kind of broke time themselves. They emerge from the timestream into Los Angeles 2017 and find the city has been overrun by dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs. How could I not love this series?

                                                                                   

Supergirl [CW] is another favorite of mine. I think the strength of the show is in the relationships. We’ve seen bonding like nobody’s business. We’ve seen unlikely romances blossom. We’ve seen lovable Teri Hatcher as one of the most vile villains ever, which is saying a lot in a show that also has Brenda Strong as a xenophobic Lillian Luthor. And when Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers aka Supergirl) makes with that smile, I can’t help but smile myself. I love this show. That said...

What struck me most about the last few episodes of this season was how many of the regular and recurring characters should absolutely lose their jobs. I hope they’re working on their resumes.

Lynda Carter’s President Olivia Marsdin is revealed to be an alien. She’s not from Kenya. She’s from another planet. She seems to be a good and caring president, but I can’t get past the fact that she has no legal right to hold that office. If the show had said that she was born in the United States to alien parents living here, I could have accepted some wiggle room. But, no, not only should she be removed from office, but any character who knows she’s an alien and doesn’t expose her is also in violation of the law.

Chyler Leigh’s Alexandra Danvers disobeyed a direct order to fire on Teri Hatcher’s flagship to save her adoptive sister. This gave a mind-controlled Superman time to destroy the weapon that was to be used against the ship. Which probably resulted in the deaths of a few more civilians on the ground.

Detective Maggie Sawyer [Floriana Lima] busted a killer out of jail to save her girlfriend Alex. Understandable, but still an act I’d expect Internal Affairs to look at.

Then you have Kara writing stories involving Supergirl without her editor knowing she’s Supergirl. And James Olsen [Mehcad Brooks] moonlighting as a vigilante while running a media empire. And Wynn Scott [Jeremy Jordan] working with Olsen without the knowledge of his bosses at the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations).

Wait a minute! Six friends with job problems? Maybe they can spend most of next season hanging around a coffee shop.

I kid because I love this show, though I do believe at least some of the above situations need to be addressed. I’ll end my look at Supergirl by mentioning two of my favorite moments.

The scenes of James Olsen bonding with a young alien refugee made my heart sing. It’s like he’s Jeff Pierce’s brother from another mother. Ditch the Guardian costume and let James be a father figure for other alien kids in need.

Cat Grant [Calista Flockhart] knows Kara is Supergirl and, clearly, has known this for some time. I already loved this version of Cat. Now I love her even more.

                                                                             

The Flash [CW] was probably the hardest series for me to watch this past season because it has a remarkable cast of characters I have grown to love and because it has also been my favorite super-hero show in previous years. However, this season was all about things I don’t like: smart characters making bad choices again and again, and time travel gone horribly awry.

There were flashes - pun intended - of genius in such things as the Gorilla City two-parter and the musical episode. However, we also got way too many super-speedsters and the inadequate replacements for our beloved Caitlin Snow [Danielle Panabaker] in the forms of Julian [Tom Felton] and Tracy [Anne Dudek]. Julian had a limited shelf life as an antagonist and is reaching his expiration date as an ally. Tracy has never brought much to the ensemble.

My hopes for the Flash’s next season: no more time travel, no additional speedsters and less screen time for the ones we already have, more stories dealing with Barry Allen [Grant Gustin] and Joe West’s [the sublime Jesse L. Martin] police work, and some better grooming for Cisco Ramon [Carlos Valdes]. And one really terrific Earth-One/Earth-Two story that gives the lead role to the wonderful John Wesley Shipp as Jay Garrick, the only super-speedster I find as interesting as Barry. And since I’m racing for the stars here, how about an Caitlin and Iris West [Candice Patton] story that can pass the Bechdel test?

One more crazy thought. After multiple seasons of the Barry Allen, Barry Allen soap opera, maybe the show could takes a page from the Spirit stories of Will Eisner and do multiple stories wherein the Flash isn’t the main protagonist of the story. The series needs a Gerhard Shnobble or two.
                                                                             

Lucifer [Fox] continues to be a delight. It has one of the finest casts on television with Tom Ellis [Lucifer], Lauren German [Chloe Decker], D.B. Woodside [Amenadiel], Lesley-Ann Brandt [Maze], Kevin Alejandro [Dan] Scarlett Estevez [Trixie] and Rachael Harris [Dr. Linda Martin] delivering solid and often amazing performances week in and week out.

The season-long arc of Lucifer’s mom [Tricia Helfer] escaped from Hell and plotting her return to Heaven was brought to a satisfying conclusion. Then, with the Lucifer/Chloe relationship on the verge of moving forward, we got a cliffhanger so surprising it forced me to sit back and go “Wow!” This from a guy who has often decried the prevalence of cheap cliffhangers on TV shows.

                                                                                

Gotham [Fox] continues to be a trigger show for Batman fans who have trouble accepting and understanding it takes place in a reality far removed from most comic-book continuities. It’s been my feeling that Bruce Wayne never becomes Batman in this reality and, instead, saves Gotham as Bruce Wayne. This despite the clumsy final scene of this season. More on that in a bit.

What Gotham has going for it is some of the best acting on TV and a fearlessness about taking its characters down unexpected paths. Most of the characters are flawed. Many are just bad people. But I am constantly impressed by seeing heroes exhibit moral failings and villains showing positive qualities.

Gotham keeps me guessing. The two-hour season finale had surprises almost every act. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Favorite performers? This season, I would say it’s been Donal Logue and Camren Bicondova. Logue’s Harvey Bullock has been a redemptive character this season. Bicondova’s Selina Kyle has been that tough kitten you want to cuddle but who keeps trying to claw you. So many bad choices for such a beautiful soul.

Character I most want to see be not dead? Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Moody. Oswald Cobblepot [the great Robin Lord Taylor] could use a mother-figure in his life. His reconciliation with Fish rang true to me. I want more moments between them.

That last scene? Yeah, yeah, I know fandom is orgasm-ing from that scene of a masked Bruce saving a family not unlike his own from a mugger in an alley. How odds-defying that Bruce just happens on a scene that mirrors the greatest tragedy of his life and brings it to a much happier conclusion. So odds-defying that, for me, it came off as cheap manipulation of that portion of the audience that has never stopped kvetching about the darkness of this series.

Sometime before the fall premieres, I hope to bring you my thoughts on Agents of SHIELD, Arrow and iZombie. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for another session of Free Comic Book Friday.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 113

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, honor and fighting skills - Johnny Clay 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 wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. We’re currently in the extended twilight of the title. We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the title, which is now a bimonthly reprint. This is the 113th installment in my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

We’re looking at The Rawhide Kid #126 [May 1975], which has a new cover penciled and inked by Gil Kane. His name even appears on that sign in the background.
                                                                                

This issue reprints “The Bounty Hunter” (17 pages) from Rawhide Kid #48 [October 1965]. The story was written and drawn by Larry Lieber with the uncredited inks attributed to Frank Giacoia. The original cover was penciled and possibly inked by Lieber.
                                                                                

Ads for Marvel merchandise were on the rise around this time. Mego announced four “great new Marvel characters”: The Lizard, The Green Goblin, the Falcon and the Hulk. All of the images shown here were taken from comics or covers drawn by Steve Ditko, Sal Buscema and Herb Trimpe.
                                                                               

Our Way Studios would send fans 18 Marvel-Hero Stick-Ons for only $2.50 plus 35 cents postage. Two sets were $4.50 plus fifty cents postage. Additional sets were $2.25 each and, apparently, there was no extra postage charge.
                                                                              

The Marvel Poster Masterpieces, mentioned previously, were back in a half-page ad.
                                                                               

Marvel’s subscription department had a full-page ad offering subs to 74 different comics titles, 11 different magazine titles and the Marvel Treasury editions. If you want to know why Marvel began to go off the rails about this time, you need only look at this insane production schedule.

This issue’s “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page was about as boring as the feature would ever get. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” was a lackluster effort plugging mostly stuff he had plugged before. The “news items” read like a directory of Marvel staffers. While I’m sure those fine folks appreciated seeing their names in print, I can’t imagine the readers were all that keen about it.

The best and only real “news item” on the page was about how Bill Mantlo rescued a pair of senior citizens on his wedding day. I was there at Ft. Tyron Park at the Cloisters, though I only witnessed the aftermath of Bill’s heroic feat. When the driver-less bus with the two seniors started rolling downhill, Bill jumped into the bus and stopped it before it smashed into a brick wall.

The last item on the page was a coded message to Foom (Friends of Ol’ Marvel) members who knew the Captain America code from the 8th issue of FOOM Magazine. The message read:

VDA XNZNOT JX ADBJIO JI N YONIV IOG YQNAU NIV GCJPO BNO!

I’ll award a bloggy no-prize to the first reader who successfully translates the above for code-impaired Tony.

Both beloved and ridiculed, the Hostess snack treats advertisements in comics form began appearing and would continue to run in comic books into the 1980s. They are among the most frequently parodied  comics features and every generation of comics creators add a few more pages to the ongoing archives.
                                                                            

This issue, Spider-Man appeared in “The Trap.” Captured by clever criminals, Spidey bribes his way to freedom by offering delicious Hostess Fruit Pies to the dim-witted Lunkhead. The page was drawn by Ross Andru. My guess for the page’s inker(s) is Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia or both. My two Italian "uncles" often worked together on various things.
 
I searched the Internet in vain, but couldn’t find writing credits for this page. Admittedly, I could only afford to search for a few  minutes. My vague memories of those long-ago times tells me the ads were usually written by editors or staffers. I have an even more vague memory that the writers and artists were paid a higher than standard rate for their work on them, which would have made sense if Marvel (and other publishers) were billing Hostess for the work. It was common for editors, especially at Marvel, to assign such choice gigs to themselves.
                                                                               

The last editorial material in this issue was a “Marvel Masterworks Pin-Up” taken from the cover of Rawhide Kid #74 [February 1970]. Drawn by Larry Lieber with inks by John Tartaglione, the “pin-up” took up 80% of the page. The other 20% of the page was occupied by the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation that never seemed to show up every year.

According to this Statement, the total average paid circulation of Rawhide Kid was 151,165. The total paid circulation of the single issue nearest to the filing date was 153,865.

Legend has it that these numbers were pretty much conjured out of thin air for the annual statements. But, if those numbers are even close to the actual circulation, The Rawhide Kid was selling better in 1975 than most of today’s Marvel comic books. Sigh.

That’s all for today’s “Rawhide Kid Wednesday,” but it will return  next week with a new installment. As for me, I’ll be back tomorrow with some quick looks at the just-completed seasons of several of your favorite comics-inspired TV series. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #213

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Rough Riders Volume 1: Give Them Hell by creator and writer Adam Glass and artist Patrick Olliffe; Giant Days by creator/writer John Allison and artists Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin; and Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations by Keith Giffen and Bilquis Everly.

TUESDAY REVIEWS

I have owned the novelizations of 1960s monster movies Gorgo, Konga and Reptilicus for well over a decade and never read them. However, since I’ll be doing a G-Fest panel on all three of those films and their comic books and their novelizations, I figured I’d best get to reading the novels.

Gorgo by Carson Bingham [Monarch Books; 1960] was published in July 1960, several months before the March 1961 release of the movie in the United States. The Charlton comics adaptation of the movie was also published in that month. “Carson Bingham” was one of several pseudonyms used by prolific fiction and non-fiction author Bruce Cassiday.

The novelization is solid pulp writing and sticks pretty close to the movie. All the same, there are key difference between the two and the novelization is richer for it. Be advised that there will definitely be

SPOILERS AHEAD

The book reveals the backgrounds of salvage ship partners Joe Ryan and Sam Slade. Ryan is a pretty vicious guy whose behavior towards women and most other people probably qualifies him to be a member of the Dumpster President’s inner circle. Slade has issues, but he is shown to be fighting his demons from early on in the novel. Well before the greedy Ryan realizes capturing a prehistoric monster and putting it on display might not have been the best choice, Slade is having considerable doubts about it. The movie Ryan and Slade are nicer than their novelization counterparts, though Ryan’s greed is evident in both.

The book changes the relationship between the shady harbor master McCartin and the young boy Sean. The lad is McCartin’s son from his contentious marriage. Sean’s mother left her husband years earlier, but McCartin would not let her take their children from poor doomed Nara Island.

Children? The book adds Moira McCartin, Sean’s adult sister and the woman Slade falls in love with. There are some steamy (but only by 1960 standards) sex scenes between Moira and Sam, as well as some serious bumps in their romantic road. Both McCartin siblings want to see Gorgo released and returned to the sea.

Beyond that, the novel follows the movie closely. The prose format allows more detail on the rampages of the creatures and also on the thinking of the authorities who try to destroy them. The novel is only 135 pages, but it never seems lacking or rushed. If you’ve been hoping to find a copy of this book and read it, you  will be relieved to know the

SPOILERS ARE OVER.

Here are my final comments on the novel:

I liked it a lot. If any publisher can ever untangle what must be the convoluted ownership rights of this novel, they would do well to reprint it in a better format than this mass market paperback. I’d buy at least one copy of a high-quality reprint.

I’m also watching each of the three movies as I finish reading the novelization. Gorgo remains a very entertaining movie that I love as much as an adult as I did as a kid.

                                                                               

Alas, I came too late to the Justice League/General Mills cereals  promotion to collect all four of the 6" by 4" original comic books included in specially marked boxes of those cereals. I reviewed one of the comic books a while back, but have only found one more since I became aware of their existence.

General Mills Presents Justice League: Alien Justice is a 22-page tale by writer Tony Bedard with penciller Tom Grummett, inker Keith Champagne and colorist Sotocolor. Wes Abbott is the letterer. John McCrea (artist) and Mike Spicer (colorist) did the cover.

The people of an alien planet with barely any water comes to Earth to take a good portion of our water. Their reasoning is that this is a crime against nature that demands justice. The “B” story has a young Aquaman learning how to see things through the eyes of his enemies and thus breach cultural differences. It’s very “Afternoon Special” in its approach.

SPOILER AHEAD

While the story is certainly competently written and drawn, it left me baffled. The cultural difference our world had with these water-stealing aliens is that, by the culture of the aliens, they could take our water. It’s nice that Aquaman and our world brokered some deal whereby a bunch of our scientists would go to the alien world and help them find solutions to their water problems, but it would have been nicer if the aliens admitted that their attempt theft of another world’s water was, you know, wrong.

SPOILER OVER

Afternoon specials may not be DC’s forte, at least not as presented in cereal boxes.

                                                                            

Having enjoyed general editor Steven Jay Schneider’s pocket-sized  101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die, I was quick to read 101 Action Movies You Must See Before You Die [Barron’s; $14.99]. Published in 2010, but still available from Amazon and other book vendors, the 416-page volume discusses movies from The Great Train Robbery (1903) to Avatar (2009). Like the horror volume, this book reminded me of movies I have enjoyed and suggested movies I would like to see. This one’s a keeper, partly because I love books of lists and partly because I hope to live long enough to see all the movies again or for the first time.

Somewhere in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I also have 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die. That’s another 101 reasons for me to live long and prosper.

ISBN 978-0764163500

                                                                          

Based on the films of Christopher R. Mihm, Canoe Cops vs. the Mummy by Stephen D. Sullivan [Walkabout Publishing; $11.95] is huge fun. Mihm makes these retro-style horror and sci-fi moves that look like they might be lost films from the 1950s. I’ve become a fan of his mania and am working my way through all his movies.

Sullivan is a prolific author whose written more than fifty books as well as comic books and games. He won a prestigious 2016 Scribe Award for his adaptation of cult classic Manos: The Hands of Fate. He’s also an online pal of mine, which I mention because I try to do full disclosure around here.

Some Mihm films feature a police force known as the Canoe Cops, who protect and serve the waters that border Phantom Lake, a small town in Wisconsin. In yet another Mihm movie, a drive-in movie marquee advertised a fictitious movie called...you guessed it...Canoe Cops vs. the Mummy. Inspiration struck Sullivan, the result being this hilarious and yet still exciting novel.

Sullivan has chapters narrated by various characters, including a hapless pair of truck drivers who might remind you of a certain Bud and Lou of comedy renown. It’s got the chills of a good mummy movie and a sense of growing peril. I really want Mihm to make this film. For now, I’ll recommend the novel to you. Because the pursuit of fun is something we really need these days.

ISBN 9781537557373

                                                                                
One more for the road. The Confounding Case of the Comic Collector Killer by J. Ballmann [Totalmojo Productions; $14.95] is what was once known as faan fiction aka fiction starring comics or science fiction fans. And the best way I can describe this particular novel to you is by sharing its back cover come-on:

“The Comic Collector Killer? Wait. Does that mean the killer collects comics - or that he kills comic collectors -- or both?!”

So asks exasperated FBI Director Lee Hirschel when a serial killer begins murdering big-name comic book collectors.

After the world’s top Spider-Man fan dies a little too coincidentally from a spider bite and Comicdom’s best-known Sub-Mariner expert just happens to drown mysteriously - not to mention a Human Torch collector burning to death - the FBI is forced to admit it is out of its league and must enlist the aid of a certain Peter Plippton, a.k.a., Dr. Marvel - the greatest Marvel comics expert on the planet.

For it is only Dr. Marvel who knows the deepest secrets of the Marvel Universe. It is only he, Dr. Marvel, who knows such facts as the real true first full appearance of Mary Jane Watson, the cryptic origins of the 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man costume, and the cult-like mysteries surrounding the early formation of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. But can even he, the awe-inspiring Dr. Marvel, unravel all the confounding comic-related conundrums to this case and stop the killer before another comic collector dies?


I’m not going to claim that Ballmann’s prose lies liltingly on the page. There are long passages of Dr. Marvel pontificating on Marvel trivia. There are encounters with rude fans and retailers that made my eyes roll. There is a lot of wish-fulfillment in the writing of the book, not unlike the “Mary Sue” tales so common in fan fiction. But, if you can forgive the myriad sins of Ballmann’s writing, this novel is good goofy fun.  And you already know my position of fun in these troubled times of ours.

ISBN 978-0-9963930-03-3

Thanks for stopping by the bloggy today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.  

© 2017 Tony Isabella