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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1422 (02/16/01)

Four fingers, no hair, no ears. Face it, pal; you've got a lazy cartoonist!"

- Ziggy's doctor, speaking to the title character of the self-deprecating Tom Wilson's popular comics panel.

I'm not sure what the above quote has to do with this week's all-review column, but I liked it and wanted to share it with you. I'm a giver, I am.

On the other hand, I do expect a certain level of common sense from readers. This being a review column, I'm gonna be reviewing comic books and other things. Sometimes the nature of my reviews require that I give away plot details. While my editors may insert "spoiler warnings" here and there, I'm not going to include them in my text. You proceed at your own risk.

2 FUN FLIP BOOK (Funny Book Institute; $2.95) features short strips by Chris Yambar and other alternative cartoonists from the pages of COMIC LIBRARY INTERNATIONAL. As with any anthology, it's a mixed bag. Yambar's "One Good Sting Deserves Another" is a hoot, as are his two "Itsa Kitsi" shorts. George Broderick's "Courageous Man: A Case of Common Cent" is way too busy and wordy for its four-page length, but his three-page "Stardust and Thor Meet Courageous Man" had me laughing out loud. The five-page "Stormfield" tale by Wes Alexander was fun, but the seven pages of Stormfield newspaper-style comic strips which followed were more often misses than hits.

This one's a toss-up, but I'm inclined to recommend it on the basis of the Yambar stories.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #26 (Marvel; $2.25) almost had me. In "The Mask" by writer Howard Mackie and artists John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna, Peter Parker is recovering from Norman Osborn's most recent assault on his body and soul. After an evening spent looking at family albums with his Aunt May, Parker decides to look up an old friend of his father's. Meanwhile, someone or something is making

independent businessmen disappear from Manhattan's upper west side. So far, so good, well, except for maybe Randy Robertson's incessant whining about being attacked by the Green Goblin a few issues back. It was far from the first time he's seen a super-villain up close, though the Spider-writers are ignoring that fact, something I would be okay with--foolish consistency and all--if this particular sub-plot were anything other than repetitiously annoying.

Parker goes to Callahan's bar where he interrupts an argument between "Big Mike" Callahan and the bar owner's son Donny. By the way, the bar is also located on Manhattan's upper west side. Yeah, I know, but I'm somewhat more forgiving of coincidence than I am of other literary sins.

Parker and Callahan have a nice chat, during which Callahan recounts a story of Peter's father showing remarkable restraint and understanding when he came across a father beating his child. At the end of this story, there's a scream that sends "Big Mike" into the street with a baseball bat.

The Squid, a super-villain who looks much cooler than his name would indicate, is in the process of making another upper west side businessman disappear. Spider-Man swings into action and has the upper hand until Callahan interferes; the Squid is his son Donny and it's obvious Donny has some parental authority issues. Using the exact same words his dad used in the story Callahan told him, Spidey defuses the situation and spends the night talking it out with the Squid...all of which happens off-panel.

What's wrong with this story? Mackie's writing is some of the best he's done in recent years, so that's not it. Romita Jr's art is as fabu as ever; that's not it. So what if Callahan now knows--unless he's an idiot--who Spidey is? Lord knows Peter could use a confident in his life; his closest super-hero friend (Daredevil) is prone to instability these days. An occasional appearance by "Big Mike" would be fine with me. Heck, even as I type, an idea for a great story revolving around this new relationship just popped into my head. I have no problem with this development.

No, what's wrong with this story is what's wrong with almost everything that's been done with Spider-Man for the past two years and more. Spider-Man/Peter Parker is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) written out of character and, for the umpteenth time, the ending of the story is nowhere to be found.

If you're a Spider-Man reader, here's a fun activity for you: go through the issues published since the relaunch and make a list of the "unfinished business" still out there. Just off the top of my head, we still don't know who was stalking Mary Jane before her supposed death and what was in the airline box that convinced Peter she WAS dead. In the case of this issue, I'd like to know who was behind the Squid's attacks on the businessmen and what happened to him after he and Spidey had their long talk.

Here's where my "out-of-character" complaint comes into play. Squid-Boy's guilty of, at their very least, assault and kidnaping, and, more likely, premeditated murder. There is NO indication that Spidey turns him over to the authorities to be arrested and tried on these charges.

Did I miss something? Did Marvel retcon away the whole "great responsibility" thing?

They had me. They really had me. And, for lack of a caption or a panel telling/showing the Squid being taken into custody, they lost me. What a shame.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #27 (Marvel; $2.25). This one was a page-turner, mostly because I couldn't figure out where Mackie, Romita, Jr., and Hanna were going with it. I'm still not sure.

Randy is still being tedious about seeing the Goblin up close. Spidey rescues a mangy stray cat from a tree. Two nicely-crafted gangsters try to shoot up the cat. The cat whizzes on Spider-Man. I'm okay with that embarrassing development; maybe comics COULD use more olfactory jokes. Randy proves he can be more than one-track annoying by trying to fix newly-widowed Peter up with Jill Stacy, cousin of our hero's other dead girlfriend, mostly so Randy can get closer to a woman he fancies.

The cat and its hunters show up at the underground club where Peter and company are all being miserable together. Something is said about the cat being a "genetic time bomb" created by Advanced Idea Mechanics, villainous scientists whose lab uniforms make them look like villainous bee-keepers. Peter and Randy end up adopting the cat. My fervent hope is that the feline will whiz on Randy, or the writers, every time Randy talks about the Green Goblin or how Peter should get on with his life. If the critter does that, I can look the other way this time and not mention that we now have yet another dangling Spider-Man sub-plot.

At last year's Mid-Ohio-Con, writer/artist Douglas Paszkiewicz gave me ARSENIC LULLABY: "APATHY FOR THE DEVIL" (A. Silent Comics; $12.99), a trade paperback collecting ARSENIC LULLABY #6-11. The material is edgy and sometimes uneven, but I can see why it's been building a following among readers of alternative comics.

There's nothing else quite like ARSENIC LULLABY in the comics shops. The lead protagonist believes he has been cursed and turned into a witch doctor. People come to him seeking revenge and it's his curse/duty/inclination to help them, even when the revenge they seek is unjust. It's humor of a most dark and unsettling variety, which, though not entirely to my tastes, is still intriguing enough to merit my interest.

I especially--I'm not sure "like" is the right word--the bits with an agent from the U.S. Census Bureau. His job is to make the census accurate by eliminating babies born after the latest count was taken. Though I'm horrified to be making this suggestion, I'd like to see Paszkiewicz create longer, more involved stories with the guy. The agent is fascinating in his soul-chilling efficiency. Such a story--with more realistic artwork--wouldn't be out of place in a Vertigo series.

ARSENIC LULLABY ain't for kids and the squeamish. As for me, I'm glad I had the chance to check it out.

Also at Mid-Ohio-Con, Pam Bliss favored me with a copy of her spiffy B-36 #3 (Paradise Valley; $3). The highlight of the issue is "Those Kids and the Girl in the Sailor Dress," a 14-page delight in which "those kids" invite a Japanese student new to their school to visit them at their secret hangout. The exchanges which follow were so much fun I almost didn't notice how packed-with-facts they also were, proof positive of how comics can entertain and educate. I hope the Eisner and Harvey judges keep this one in mind when they are making their 2000 nominations. There are other charming tales in the issue as well, but "Those Kids" is the star attraction this time around. For ordering information on this and other Pam Bliss creations, visit the Paradise Valley website at.

http://www.paradisevalleycomics.com


BURGER BOMB #2 (Funny Book Institute; $2.95) was another of my Mid-Ohio-Con acquisitions. It's an anthology of humorous stories set at a Clowny's burger joint; creators include Michael Churchill, Ken Wheaton, Chris Yambar, Doug Baron, Mike Bocianowski, and Carey Killion.

I can't tell any of them apart except for Yambar, who is a cross between his own beatnik Mr. Beat creation and Santa Claus, and Ken Wheaton, a fresh-faced kid of maybe 12 who got all shy when looking at a Playboy model who was featured in an issue of the mag he "found" under his father's bed. With that kind of trauma in his childhood, Wheaton should go far in comics.

Hey, I kid the BURGER BOMB crew because I like them and their nutty comic book. You get six stories in this issue, including a wacky team-up between Yambar's Itsi Kitsi and Bambeano Boy, a guest appearance by Bocianowski's Chuck the Ugly American, and the nigh-epic-for-ten-pages "Clowny's Goes to Heck."

BURGER BOMB doesn't have a website, so, in the unfortunately likely event that your comics shop doesn't stock the title, write to them at.

Burger Bomb
783 Peck Road
Hilton, NY 14468


I ordered THE WARNING LABEL BOOK (St. Martin's Griffin; $8.95) as a stocking stuff, but it didn't arrive before Christmas, so I'm reviewing it for the tax write-off. If you work for the IRS, I'm just kidding. This is a legitimate tax expense as outlined in form X234-dash-tango-674B12-glorpix-dash-99917V.

Compiled by Joey Green, Tony Dierckins, and Tim Nyberg, all of whom are my dependents, the book is 128 pages, which includes eight pages of self-sticking bogus labels. This is not a weighty tome, but who can dispute these words of wisdom?

"Do not pour liquids into your television set."

"Flame may cause fire."

"Do not eat the urinal cakes."

Of course, my favorite label, included herein, is the one that appears on virtually every bottle of shampoo

"Wet hair. Lather. Rinse. Repeat."

I think I'm going to wash my hair now. I may not be here next week. I bought the large bottle.

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

tony@wfcomics.com


******

ADDENDUM

When I originally sent the above to CBG, I inadvertently used a quote I had used a few weeks previously. Fortunately, I caught my error almost immediately and sent my editors the quote that you read above. However, for some reason, when they replaced the old quote with the new quote, they also dropped the opening line of the column, which has been restored for this publication.

After writing the above column, I learned that an organization called Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (M-LAW) holds a yearly "Wacky Warning Labels" contest. The most recent grand prize, awarded from 132 entries, went to a warning on shin guards for bicyclists: "Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover."

The nonprofit M-LAW was formed in 1997. A list of winners for this and previous years can be found at

http://www.mlaw.org


******

CLIPPING FILE

In all the chaos of dealing successfully with health problems, preparing for the arrival of my new computer, and taking care of as much family and professional business as possible, I haven't had a lot of time to comment on the events of the day. What we have here is a bunch of odds and ends presented with very little commentary on my part...mostly because I thought they might be of interest to the loyal legions of Tips readers.

STAR TREK DOCTORATES. Pat Murkland (Scripps Howard) wrote of two graduate students from Germany "boldly going on their own Star Trek" at the University of California-Riverside. Bernhard Janzen and Sabine Theuerwaechter are seeking doctorates in comparative literature. They are writing three volumes probing the religious content and structure of 35 years of STAR TREK TV series and films. The school has welcomed them with fully paid fellowships and jobs as teaching assistants.

The grad students are sponsored by professor George Slusser. He's the curator of the university's J. Lloyd Easton Collection, the world's largest catalogued library of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

The collection holds more than 80,000 books, comics, and pulp magazines published since 1675.

LAW AND ORDER GETS CENSORED. According to a wire reports that appeared on January 27, reruns of an episode of LAW AND ORDER have been blocked by protests

    Responding to demands made by representatives of Puerto Rican and other Hispanic groups, NBC says it will never replay an episode of its drama LAW AND ORDER that dealt with a fictional homicide set against last year's Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan. The episode, broadcast Wednesday, January 24, included

    scenes similar to the attacks on young women that occurred after last year's parade. Puerto Rican and Hispanic groups said the episode cast their communities in a bad light. The decision, made on Thursday, January 25, angered the producer and creator of LAW AND ORDER, Dick Wolf, who charged that NBC was caving in to the demands of a special-interest group.


Although I didn't see the episode in question, and assuming it did not disparage law-abiding citizens of Puerto Rican or Hispanic descent--highly unlikely given the episodes of the show that I have seenI'm definitely in Wolf's corner on this one. The episode was based on a real-life situation and is fair game for a program like LAW AND ORDER. The protestors should direct their anger towards those who committed these assaults and not to those who write about them. NBC's response was cowardly.

MINI-MOSS. In a Los Angeles toy store, actress Carrie Anne-Moss bought an action figure of Trinity--the character she played in THE MATRIX. She told the sales clerk that it was a gift for her hubby. The clerk didn't pick up on the resemblance and told Moss that her husband must have a crush on Trinity, to which the actress replied, "I'm pretty sure he does."

SHAME ON THE BOY SCOUTS...AGAIN. Seven Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops in Oak Park, Illinois, whose sponsoring organizations said they could not abide by a no-gays rule have had their charters lifted by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America on the strength of a U.S. Supreme Court decision permitting discrimination against gays. The troops, believed to be among the first expelled since the court's ruling, were told they must disband by February 28. This is a tremendous loss for the Boy Scouts.

Look for more of these clippings next week and on the TONY'S TIPS MESSAGE BOARD.

******

TONY STUFF

Your favorite online columnist and mine had a letter printed on the "Voice of the People" page in the February 1 edition of THE AKRON BEACON-JOURNAL. Here's what I wrote

    I enjoy Mickey Porter's "Porter's People" column; it's one of my favorite features in the Akron Beacon-Journal. However, his Jan 18 item about Finland banning Donald Duck comic books is nothing more than an urban legend.

    In most of the Scandinavian nations, the comics art form is far more respected than it is in the United States, the land where it was born and developed. And, throughout the world, few comics creators are as highly respected as Walt Disney and writer-artist Carl Barks.

    The Barks stories of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge have been printed and reprinted countless times over in nearly every country that publishes comic books.

    Donald Duck, far from being banned in Finland, is the most popular comic book in that land.

    While it is possible that, at some point in the dim past, some crackpot politico--the United States doesn't have a monopoly on those--might have sought to have the clothing-challenged Donald banned, it is likely he would have been laughed off the podium.

    Donald remains beloved by Finnish readers of all ages. He is a true ambassador to the world.

    For more information, you might want to visit the Urban Legends website.

    http://www.snopes2.com/disney/films/finland.htm


Tony Isabella


<< 02/09/2001 | 02/16/2001 | 02/23/2001 >>

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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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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.



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