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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1420 (02/02/01)

"I hope I get better marks this millennium than I did last millennium."

--"Billy" in Bil Keane's THE FAMILY CIRCUS

I'm still cleaning out my "Tips" files from last millennium. I figure I'd better use these items before the expiration dates on them pass, something I just barely avoided when it came to renewing my driver's license last month.

I didn't remember to renew my license until the day before it expired, which was also the day before my birthday, which I'd been trying to forget. It, the license renewal, not my birthday, turned out to be less traumatic than I feared. I even managed to elicit a laugh from the clerk with this exchange.

Clerk: Are you an organ donor?

Tony: Not yet, I'm not. I really wanted to wait on that until I was actually dead.

(Clerk chuckles loudly.)

Let's hit the files.

GEORGE PEREZ TO CROSSGEN. Those of you who read my column in CBG #1412 (December 8, 2000) may recall that, while I gave largely favorable reviews to the first few months of titles from Florida's own CrossGen Comics, I did express some unease over their "in-house production" philosophy of creating comics. The creators of MYSTIC, SCION, and other CrossGen titles work out of the company offices in Tampa, allowing constant and immediate communications between the members of these creative teams.

Though I never denied that the method seemed to be working for CrossGen, the "sullen loner" part of my freelancer's brain prefers working in my cozy little garret. However, I added that taking a shot at a similar set-up did have a certain appeal for me and that, in this still-shaky comics marketplace--only ONE title selling over 100,000 in the Direct Sales Market--I didn't consider it prudent to dismiss any new ideas.

Even so, I was absolutely delighted to learn that CrossGen can be flexible in said "in-house" policy and is being that in order to accommodate the needs of George Perez, one of comicdom's greatest talents. Due to Perez's health concerns, he will be working from his home in nearby Orlando and making regularly scheduled trips to the CrossGen offices to meet with the other members of his creative team. Perez is currently penciling CROSSGEN CHRONICLES, a four- issue series which he will then continue to pencil as a continuing bi-monthly title.

Like other CrossGen creators, Perez will be exclusive to the company. However, in a further show of the company's flexibility, CrossGen Publisher Mark Alessi has agreed to one possible exception to Perez's exclusivity, the on again/off again/on again/off again Avengers/JLA crossover to which Perez's name was first attached 18 years ago. To crib from a recent press release

"There's been talk of this project for 18 years," Perez said. "The prospect of this crossover is the reason I've been reluctant to sign an exclusive agreement. I'm very grateful that CrossGen as comics fans, are allowing me the leave of absence I'll need should this finally come to fruition. If it never happens, I'll be perfectly content right here with CrossGen. I really enjoy the fantasy genre and feel it suits my style."

Alessi believes allowing Perez a temporary release for the Avengers/JLA crossover is the right thing to do. "This project is just too historic not to happen," Alessi said. "The fans want it, the retailers want it, heck, all of us here at CrossGen want it! So if it actually comes to be, we'd be more than happy to allow George the opportunity to do it. For comics' sake, let's just hope it happens."

Grumpy and perhaps jaded comics fan and pro that I am, I don't happen to be one of those who eagerly awaits ANY crossovers between DC and Marvel characters. I have been down that particular road so many times that I don't even look out the window any more. On the other hand, knowing how enthusiastic Perez is, and knowing there are top-notch writers like Kurt Busiek and Paul Dini and Mark Waid out there, such a crossover wouldn't be all that hard to take. I'd probably even buy a copy.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, three cheers and a tiger for CrossGen on signing Perez on these terms. Of course, ever the impudent wretch, I'll also suggest that they should expand on this welcome flexibility.

CrossGen's comics, their readers, and the freelancer community could benefit by their bringing aboard other veteran creators from time to time. When I think of Mike Barr's CAMELOT 3000 and MANTRA, or Jan Strnad's DALGODA, I think these are talents who could bring something special to the CrossGen Universe, creative booster shots for the intriguing fantasy worlds we've seen to date and a special treat for the countless readers who've enjoyed their work over the years, myself among them.

Don't misunderstand me. It's not that I think CrossGen NEEDS such temporary help. I just think it would be fun to see these and other revered creators jam with the regular CrossGen crew every now and then. Fun is good, right?

A DREAM COME TRUE. This next item appeared in the December 4 edition of NEWSWEEKand don't even pretend you're not going to buy at least one pair for yourself

    Remember when underwear was fun to wear? Newsweek has learned that next year Underoos, the children's super-hero underwear from the 1980s, will be available for adults in Batman, Superman and probably Spider-Man versions. (And possibly Wonder Woman and Supergirl. For women.) Underoos, which were introduced in 1978 by Fruit of the Loom, and went on to dominate the Super Friends years, virtually disappeared in the 1990s: they had added too many characters--even Smurfs--which possibly confused people, says Tom Witthuhn of Fruit. This year, boys' Underoos were relaunched and sold well at stores like Kmart. The new, mature Underoos should hit stores by Father's Day. So if there's a super- hero inside waiting to get out, he'll be one step closer to breaking free.

Then again, I may wait until they come out with the Incredible Hulk version.

HE PLAYED STEEL IN THE MOVIE, SO, YES, THIS IS A COMICS ITEM. On December 15, political science major Shaquille O'Neal received his bachelor of arts degree from Louisiana State University on Friday, December 15. On this proud occasion, fulfilling a promise he had made to his mother, O'Neal said "I feel very secure. I can get a real job now."

Besides starring as DC Comics super-hero Steel in the movie of the same name, O'Neal has worked his way through college by playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. After leading the Lakers to their first championship in 12 years, the $19.2 million he'll get this year should just about cover the money he shelled out for his books and tuition. Fortunately, he makes even more money from his product endorsements, movies, and rap albums.

All kidding aside, the 28-year-old O'Neal had his head on very straight when he went back to school. "It didn't seem right to me to be telling kids to stay in school when I hadn't got my degree," he said. "Now I can tell them--stay in school."

On returning to college, O'Neal said, "I got real frustrated many, many times. When I was at school, my mom was on me to study and go to class. When I left I got very, very lazy, especially being in Hollywood and in movies and stuff. I had to re-teach myself to study, re-teach myself how to read."

Now I feel even better about having liked STEEL when I saw it at the movie theater. Check it out on home video sometime; it's an entertaining little film.

CHRIS OARR. As has been reported in CBG and elsewhere, Chris Oarr, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, has resigned from that position after three years. The CBLDF is a non- profit organization dedicated to protecting First Amendment rights in the comics industry.

Oarr served the CBLDF exceedingly well during his tenure with the organization. He did a great job raising awareness and money for the Fund and was a wonderful CBLDF presence at more conventions than many fans would attend in a lifetime. He'll be missed by the CBLDF and all who championed its cause.

The good news? We'll still be seeing Oarr at conventions and other events. He's joined the Direct Sales department of DC Comics as manager of events and retailer services. It's a well-deserved opportunity for a classy, hard-working guy, and I wish him lots of success in his new position.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Boy howdy, did comics and cartoonists get a lot of play in Entertainment Weekly recently. The January 5 edition of the mag was cover-billed as "a special tribute issue" and featured, among the tributes, a spread honoring PEANUTS creator Charles M. Schulz, artist Gil Kane, illustrator Edward Gorey, SHOE creator Jeff MacNelly, Uncle Scrooge creator Carl Barks, and MAD's Maddest Artist, Don Martin. The illustration accompanying the Jeff Jensen-written piece was by Drew Friedman.

Sadly, two things about the tribute steamed my clams but good. First, I take considerable issue with Jensen dismissing Kane as "a journeyman penciler." Second, the figure of Green Lantern in the Friedman illustration is pretty obviously swiped from a famous GL drawing by...Neal Adams.

Comics and their creators fare better elsewhere in the issue. Video reviewer Ken Tucker gives BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER an "A-", calling it "a surprisingly emotional adventure." I second that emotion.

Comics writer Scott Lobdell got a nice write-up concerning the three shows he's created and sold to the Fox television network. The shows are BALL AND CHAIN, based on the Lobdell-created comic that came out a while back; NONE OF THE ABOVE, "about a racially divided group of kids from the future trying to repair the earth's thrashed ecosystem;" and AMBUSHED, "a game show where contestants are waylaid in random locales and quizzed for cash prizes." That's a pretty cool way to kick off a new millennium.

In the "Books" section, Mark Harris reviews BATMAN UNLEASHED: ANALYZING A CULTURAL ICON by British popular-studies professor Will Brooker. Harris gives the book a "B," citing Brooker's "incisive analysis and very sharp reporting, particularly on the comic book's homoerotic subtext." Yawn.

Finally, in EW's "Internet" section, the COMICS 2 FILM website picks up a "B+" from reviewer Ann Limpert. Comics 2 Film is updated daily and can be found at

ONE MORE THING. On reading my report of an uncanny "Mark Waid look-a-like" in CBG #1415 (December 29, 2000), writer Dan Mishkin e-mailed proof of an even scarier resemblance. I'll let the photo and Mishkin's caption speak for themselves

Is Mark Waid Dick Cheney's Love Child?

Comments and review items for this column should be sent to: Tony's Tips. P.O. Box 1502, Medina, OH 44258. You can also e-mail Tony at.



But I'm also staying at the wild and wooly WORLD FAMOUS COMICS website. Allow me to explain.

TONY'S ONLINE TIPS, a thrice-weekly column of comics reviews, personal reflections, and commentary on whatever else upon which I am moved to comment, will be appearing at Norman Barth's PERPETUAL COMICS website commencing on Monday, February 12. You will find me there every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you'd like to check out the place before I move in, head over to

Norman and I have been working on this for a while, figuring out how to maintain a separation of the business end of his online comics store and my critical corner thereof. While I will benefit financially from your visiting my column and patronizing Perpetual Comics, I won't be involved in Norman's marketing decisions and he won't be involved in my writing decisions.

As with the daily "Tony Isabella's Journal" columns, I likely won't know what the heck I'm going to be writing about until I face the keyboard. However, following the usual introductory column, my plan is to spend February reviewing--among other things--the "top" direct sales comic books in the United States as per Diamond's "Top 100" list...if one could call titles which barely/rarely sell over 50,000 copies per issue the "top" anything. Though my nature is to seek the silver linings, I won't ignore the clouds.

My little corner of World Famous Comics will undergo a change of name to TONY'S TIPS. The nom de guerre is meant to convey that here is where you will be getting the reprints of my Comics Buyer's Guide columns. As has been the custom, the reprinted columns will include material cut from their CBG publications as well as brand- new material written just for you.

The renamed TONY'S TIPS MESSAGE BOARD will also remain at the WFC website. Readers of my Perpetual Comics column will be able to link to the board as well, so we may see some new folks joining our lively discussions in the weeks to come.

WFC webmaster Justin is working with me to make the transition as smooth as possible. I'm incredibly grateful for his assistance and thrilled that he and I will continue working together on this and--in the future--other projects.

Let's see what else is on my mind this week.



I take a great deal of comfort knowing that Bill Clinton will still be around. For all his personal failings, he did one heck of a job as President of these United States and could have done much more had the GOP not declared savage war on him even before he took his oath of office. For all their hatred, he left office with the highest approval rating of any outgoing president in the past fifty years. Indeed, Clinton was the American president for our citizens and for the peoples of the world, something which the prevaricating George W. Bush will never achieve.

I salute President Bill Clinton for his years of service to my country. I look forward to having him continue to play a role in our nation's future, which, by my calculations, should get here in approximately 1400 days.



Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman wrote a great peace on how the so-called compassionately conservative Bush showed his true colors on his first working day. She wrote

    The opening act of this compassionate conservative is an attack on the poorest women of the world who are looking for ways to limit and space their children. The very first "anti-abortion" measure is, in fact, a measure against pregnancy prevention.

Bush doesn't support using taxpayer funds to provide abortions and he's hardly alone in that. But the FACT of the matter is that the USA hasn't allowed international funds to be used for abortions since 1973. Though family planning prevents abortion, what Bush's reinstated ban does is deny funding for contraceptives to clinics who merely answer patient questions on abortion. The price for our assistance is their freedom of speech.

Goodman brings up another irony. On the same day that the ban was reinstated, Colin Powell was promising to show the world what democracy and freedom are about, that they work, that other systems do not work, that we're not going to shove it down anyone's throat, and that we're going to give the world the power of our example to show the truth of these words.

Goodman writes

    The power of our example? Freedom without free speech. The first thing Bush has sacrificed to abortion politics is the American way of democracy.



It's hard to believe Bush could do so many things to prove his opponents right in just one week in office. But, when his actions and words are examined, neither the math nor our disgust with Dubya is the slightest bit fuzzy.

Education is the guy's top priority, right? He's adding $400 million a year for teacher training and recruitment, $300 million in tax breaks for school supplies that teachers pay for themselves. Los Angeles Times columnist Matthew Miller has done the math; this comes out to $235 for each of today's 3 million teachers.

But, as Miller continues, "Bush is also devoting $30 billion a year to abolishing the estate tax. Nearly half of the savings will go to 2,400 families.

"The savings PER rich family is $6.2 million."

Rich people: $6.2 million per family

Teachers: $235 each

What's next? Is he going to start telling us oil drilling is GOOD for the environment?




As reported by the Associated Press

"The Georgia House has approved a compromise state flag which reduces the Confederate battle emblem to one of five small symbols at the bottom of the banner dominated by the state seal. 13 stars surrounding the seal represent the original 13 states. A ribbon on the bottom contains reduced images of five flags that have flown over Georgia: the "Betsy Ross" version of the U.S. flag, the first state flag post-Civil War, the state flag from 1920-56, the present state flag, and the present U.S. flag."

How do you feel about this new flag? I'm on the fence myself. I think it's an attractive design, but even a reduced Confederate flag makes me uncomfortable. However, the design also strikes me as a not entirely unreasonable compromise, perhaps worth accepting so as to free Georgia's elected officials to deal with other state business. The message board invites your responses.



In the January 21 edition of the AKRON BEACON-JOURNAL, Gloria Irwin reported on that publication's "final" decision as to whether or not to reinstate PEANUTS to said paper's comics pages. Beacon- Journal Editor Jan Leach called a meeting of editors to reconsider the decision to drop the strip.

Irwin voted yes, the others voted no

    Some of the reasons cited...that PEANUTS creator Charles Schulz said he did not want anyone else to draw the strip after his death, although it was not clear whether he ruled out reruns by the syndicate; that running a dead person's material seemed somehow inappropriate and had not been done in other cases, such as with syndicated columnist Mike Royko; and that although some readers voiced their displeasure, others said they did not went to see the strip resumed.

    Leach said the newspaper publishes a variety of comic strips that are intended to appeal to a wide readership and varying ages, and the mix of comics will continue to be reviewed as new offerings become available.

I'll be back next week with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 01/26/2001 | 02/02/2001 | 02/09/2001 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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