COVER STORIES for 12/18/2005
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #32
Welcome to this 32nd edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
This week, I'm presenting a very special theme! Well, it's special to me, and I hope it'll be special to you, too! This week is fellow WF Comics columnist Tony Isabella's birthday!
So, as you're reading this week's column, do yourself a favor, and sing or hum "Happy Birthday" to Tony... and when you're done reading this column, take a look at Tony's latest, and send him some birthday greetings too, won't you?
I hope Tony will forgive me for this bit of indulgence as I take a look at some of the many, many comic books Tony's written in his career!
Two more different characters you're not likely to find in comics... first, in Astonishing Tales 21, we've got It! The Living Colossus, one of the wonkiest, but most fun characters in comics, and one that should've had much more success than it did.
Tony told me a story about how this came about, and I'm sure he's mentioned it in his column, too... but basically, an adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon's classic swamp monster story, "It!" was done at Marvel, and sold very well, prompting the call to publish a character to be referred to as It! Well, research was done... they couldn't do another swamp monster, as they already had the Man-Thing, and Tony (or someone else) happened to come across an old Marvel monster mag with the Living Colossus, presented as a one-shot story (as they all were), and It was born! Tony brought back the Colossus, and came up with a very cool storyline featuring special effects wizard Dave O'Brien, who could project his spirit into the Colossus to battle the forces of evil! It's a very fun series of stories, and you should check them out!
Most famous of Tony's books is probably Black Lightning... and here we have the first issue of the first series. Jefferson Pierce didn't have any super-powers yet here, but he was a great character from the get-go, even if he's been mishandled at DC when Tony (or Mike W. Barr) hasn't been writing him.
Both the Astonishing Tales It! Stories and both series of Black Lightning can be had fairly cheaply... go out and buy 'em, why don't you?
The Champions was Tony's first regular super-group assignment, and a more thankless job he probably never had... Marvel was expanding, and they wanted a new super-team book... and look at the line-up Tony had to work with: Angel, Black Widow, Hercules, Ghost Rider, and Iceman. Not exactly the A-list, are they? Heck, only GR had his own series going! Still, Tony did the best he could with the characters, and the series is still good reading (heck, any Tony books are good reading, you know that!).
A lot of people forget that Tony had a decent run on Daredevil... and that's probably because gentlemen like Gene Colan and Frank Miller had such impressive and influential runs with ol' Horn-Head. Would it surprise you to learn that I recommend these issues, too? No? Okay... how about finding out that, had Tony stayed on the book, he would've had Foggy Nelson joining SHIELD? Or learning who the Black Widow's father was? These are just a few things Tony had planned to do, but never got around to, unfortunately.
OK, I have to confess... Giant-Size Creatures #1 was probably the first Tony-written book I ever bought, and it's always been one of my favorite comics... not only did it introduce Tigra, the Were-Woman (formerly known as the Cat), but it featured the Hordes of Hydra, my favorite Marvel bad guys! Tony would go on to write just a handful of other stories featuring Greer Nelson's furry counterpart, but unfortunately, other, larger hands would mishandle her in later years.
Of course, you all know Tony wrote some issues of Luke Cage's book, didn't you? These are also well worth getting, and you even have the option of buying them in Essentials format these days (as I hopefully will have, by the time this column sees print). Tony did some great stuff in here, and I wish I still had the lost files of the world's longest Tony Isabella Interview so that I could share some of the things he told me about his run on the book.
And, to wrap up this tribute to Tony, a triptych of three other titles he worked on... First up, the most recent book you'll likely ever see in this column, Satan's Six #1! This book, part of the "Kirbyverse" titles published by Topps, took character concepts that Jack Kirby created, and got them published, with some of the best people who ever worked in comics writing and drawing them. Satan's Six is probably my favorite of these titles, as it's just such a fun concept! Track these books down, you'll like 'em!
Now, Vampire Tales #3... ah, the stories Tony could tell you about this, and the other monster books he worked on at Marvel... but heck, instead of my going on here about them, why don't you check out my blog entry at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com/2005/07/tony-isabella-interview.html, where you can not only read about Vampire Tales, but also get the full story on It! The Living Colossus, as well as Ghost Rider, and other stuff?
And last, but certainly not least, we have What If? 24, "What if Spider-Man had Rescued Gwen Stacy?" This has got to be one of my favorite issues of What If, and it was considered to be one of the best stories, given it was reprinted in The Best of What If some time ago... I mean, come on... Tony Isabella writing, Gil Kane drawing... how could you possibly go wrong?
So, that wraps up this birthday tribute to Tony Isabella, a man I'm proud to consider a friend, a great guy, and a great writer. Tony, Happy Birthday, my friend, and many happy returns!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !