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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 #1426 (03/16/01)

"What we need is a story that starts with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax."

attributed to Sam Goldwyn (1882-1974)

I don't do much in the way of Internet-surfing, but I do have my online guilty pleasures; I belong to a handful of comics-related mailing lists. I'm selective of which discussion groups are worth my time and energy. I've had good and bad experiences. Generally, I look for amiable and engaging participants, and subjects which are of interest to me.

One of my favorite groups is the Silver Age/Golden Age mailing list. The SAGA list was originally part of the eGroups community, which is now the Yahoo! groups. It shouldn't take you long to find out how to join SAGA, but then, you're probably a whole lot better at this web stuff than I am. In any case, if you're interested in the comics of the Golden and Silver ages, and if you don't mind the frequent-but-still-fun off-topic threads, I think you'll enjoy the group as much as I do. If you do join, be sure to mention my name because I've got a shot at winning the group's "Miss Congeniality" award this year.

One off-topic SAGA thread concerns movies that have something to do with comic-book or comic-strip artists. Here's the post that kicked it off

    For my own personal pleasure, I'm trying to compile a complete list of movies about comic-book or comic-strip artists (good movies or bad movies), or featuring characters who are comic-book artists, cartoonists, or even comic-book writers.

    Can anyone add to this list?

    Strange Affair (1944)

    Angels in Disguise (1949)

    The Girl Next Door (1953)

    Artists and Models (1955)

    That Certain Feeling (1956)

    How to Murder Your Wife (1964)

    The War Between Men and Women (1972)

    The Hand (1981)

    The Comic Book Kids (1982)

    I Want to Go Home (1989)

    Funny About Love (1990)

    Cool World (1992)

    Chasing Amy (1997)


With the consent of the original poster, I'm inviting you to get in on the fun and submit your own additions to the above list. I'll pass said additions on to the SAGA list and run them in future issues of CBG as well. You'll find my e-mail and mailing addresses at the end of this column.

10th MUSE. Another famous movie quote involves a conversation between Georges Franju and Jean-Luc Goddard. Franju says, "Movies should have a beginning, a middle, and an end," to which Goddard replies, "Certainly. But not necessarily in that order." I don't disagree with Goddard, but I confess I lean more towards Franju's side of the argument. Case in point: the mostly swell first issues of 10th MUSE by Darren G. Davis (creator), Marv Wolfman (writer), and Ken Lashley (penciler).

The title heroine of this new Image Comics series is based on a real-life person named Rena Mero. I have absolutely no idea who she is or what she does, but I'm assuming that she's a nice person because, judging from her letters column comments, she appreciates how much hard work goes into the making of a comic book...and she is much cuter than my pal Marv.

The Muse is district attorney Emma Sonnet, who managed to get that job despite having gone missing for the eight years following law school...and despite her past romantic involvement with this thoroughly nasty gangster by the name of Grayson Bishop. I can't wait to see how Wolfman and company explain this, preferably before the 60 MINUTES crew gets hold of the story.

While I'm having trouble making that particular leap of logic, I enjoyed the first two issues of this series. Narrator and Emma- friend Dawn Levitz is an engaging character. The action scenes and criminal conspiracies are exciting. The villains are both powerful and kind of creepy; I like that.

Wolfman's writing is just a tad shaky in a couple places-it's been some time since he's helmed an ongoing series-but it is still way above the industry average. Lashley's art is very nice, though he has a thankfully occasional tendency to forgo clear storytelling for splashy visuals. I would discourage him from that approach in future issues.

Where 10th MUSE doesn't work for me is in the pacing of these issues. The story jumped back and forth in time and place so often that I had to stop and reorient myself as I read them. Such tricks are completely unnecessary when you have a writer and an artist of the caliber of Wolfman and Lashley.

Two more things. There are a zillion multiple covers on 10th MUSE #1 and #2, with more planned for issue #3. I beg readers not to patronize such crass commercialism. I could see two covers per issue, one a photo cover and the other illustrated. Anything over that is just plain silly.

10th MUSE #2 has a five-page preview of Randy Green's DOLLZ, which will be an ongoing Image Comics title. Co-written by artist Green and writer Thomas Sniegoski, this tease won me over when the "dollmaker" explained their mission to his latest creation

    You see, the world has become a much darker place. Many have turned away from the light to become lost in the dark. Even some of my special children have strayed, losing their love for one another. This is where you come in, child. I'm sending you to help those who are lost to find their way back.


Stay tuned; I'll let you know if DOLLZ lives up to the promise of this opening sequence.

ROSE. It's came out last year, but I still want to recommend ROSE #1 (Cartoon Books; $5.95) by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess to one and all. This magnificently-drawn prequel to Smith's BONE concerns the coming-of-age of Gran'ma Ben from that justly-beloved series. I'm not exaggerating when I report that I was enraptured by the story, here light and optimistic, there dark and fearful, and the artwork, so rich with detail and warmth that a reader could melt right into it. Reading this book is an experience.

Not surprisingly, the production values of ROSE are the equal of its contents. It's square-bound, sturdy, and brilliantly-hued. Where dialogue covers artwork, the speech balloons are transparent, allowing every line to come through. It took some getting used to, but, ultimately, it added to my enjoyment.

The creation of an issue of ROSE must be a time-consuming and often frustrating birth, especially for readers awaiting the next issue. But it won't take more than reading the first few pages to know the effort and the wait is worthwhile. How could I not give my highest recommendation to a treasure like ROSE?

ZENDRA. If you have a few bucks in your pocket on your next trip to the comics shop, or, better yet, if you've finally decided to drop the title you haven't enjoyed in years, I recommend you use these new-found funds to purchase ZENDRA #1 and #2 (Penny Farthing; $2.95 each). The series is shaping up as one of the best science-fiction adventure books in recent memory.

Welcome to a future where the human race has been apparently been exterminated by the alien Jekkarians. But, however murderous and powerful the Jekkarians may be, they are not the only power in the universe. There are the "Makers," a race whose legends tell of the fabled humans and whose prophecies speak of humanity's return and whose primary quest is to make those perfect humans live again.

There are the Aesirians, they who control the wormholes necessary to galactic travel and on whom the Jekkarians have set their lethal sights. And there is Halle, an artificial life form created from incomplete DNA samples salvaged from the remains of Earth.

In case you haven't figured it out, ZENDRA ain't exactly light reading. It's a complex and dense story. But, for all that, it's a story that's easy to access and follow, thanks to the outstanding contributions of the creative team.

The writer is Stuart Moore, late of DC/Vertigo and currently the editor of the "Marvel Knights" line. The series was created by penciler and inker Martin Montiel Luna and Jose Carlos Buelna. The layouts are by Peter Gross. ZENDRA is dynamic and straight-forward storytelling from cover to cover.

As with all Penny Farthing publications, the production values on ZENDRA are among the best to be found anywhere in the industry. It's a great-looking comic book-colors by Mike and Chris Garcia; letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jason Levine; painted covers by Luis Royo (#1) and Matt Marsilia/Eric Balasdua (#2)and, as noted, a cracking good story. Each ish also includes a letters columns and a generous gallery of pin-up pages. It scores high in the bang-for-your-bucks department. Buy it already.

TONY'S FINAL THOUGHT. Marvel is planning a month of "silent" comic books, issues which will contain no captions or dialogue in the telling of their tales. I'm keeping an open mind on this odd little gimmick, but, in thinking about it, another idea occurred to me and, what the heck, I'll run it by you.

Could today's writers and artists produce exciting comics in the traditional panel-grids commonly seen in the 1960s? Certainly Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons proved they could do it, as evidenced by their classic WATCHMEN series of 1986. Could others do the same in this day of double-page spreads, full bleeds, and garish "money" shots? I wonder...and I'd like to see them try.

How about you? Would you like to see a "back to the basics" month from Marvel? Think about it.

Please send comments on and review items for this column to: Tony's Tips, P.O. Box 1502, Medina, OH 44258. You can also e-mail Tony at.

tony@wfcomics.com


******

ADDENDUM

Shortly after writing this column, I decided I would like to see each and every movie on the list, as well as any other movies that featured comic books, comic strips, or the creators of same. My first stop on this quest was Amazon.com, from whence I ordered ARTISTS AND MODELS and HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE.

Unfortunately, I'm not having any luck tracking down STRANGE AFFAIR, ANGELES IN DISGUISE, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, or THAT CERTAIN FEELING. In addition, I'd like to find a copy of another comics-related movie I recall from my youth, THE GOOD HUMOR MAN, which starred Jack Carson as an ice-cream truck driver who was also a big fan of the original Captain Marvel. In fact, he was the only adult in the neighborhood Captain Marvel Fan Club.

If any TIPS reader has information on where I could get copies of these movies, or on comics-related movies not on my list, please e-mail me with same. Eventually, I'll be reviewing these cinematic discoveries somewhere.

Re: Rena Mero. Any number of readers have e-mailed me to tell me that she is perhaps better known under the name Sable, which was the wrestler she played in the WWF. Since she no longer wrestles for the organization and since they own the name, she now uses her own name. At the risk of alienating readers, I have to say that I find professional wrestling imbecilic and trashy, but I do stand by my published comments that Ms. Mero seems like a nice person and is undeniably cuter than Marv Wolfman. I'll likely check back in with 10th MUSE for some future column.

Finally, a number of readers pointed out that, during Marvel's special "flashback" month of a few years back, many of the artists did adopt a "back to basics" approach for those particular issues. Although I'm slapping my forehead over forgetting that one, I would like to see Marvel try this again.

******

FANZINE WATCH

The comics fans of this new millennium are living in an era of the greatest comics fanzines of all time. Even though many of the zines are far slicker than anything I could've imagined in decades past, even though some of them are professional magazines in every sense of the word, they can still inspire my youthful passion for comics, even as they engage my adult experiences and sensibilities.

They are fanzines and they're better than ever.

Jim Kingman's COMIC EFFECT is one of the more personal comics zines being published today. Available only through subscription, four issues for $13, the 8-inch-by-5-1/2-inch CE runs 52 pages per issue and those pages are packed with some of the most insightful and nostalgic comics reviews anywhere.

In COMIC EFFECT #25 (Winter, 2000), Kingman kicked off a four-part series on his 100 favorite comic books of all time. In doing so, he inspired two of CE's other contributors, Howard Leroy Davis and Michel Jacot, to follow suit in the following issue. It's made for some interesting and surprising reading, such as when Kingman included my BLACK LIGHTNING #3 (July, 1977) on his list. Needless to say, I was pleased to see Kingman so completely "get" what I was trying to do in that issue

    Isabella had brought Metropolis' biggest crime gang, the 100, back into the picture, giving the crooked institution more visual depth with a Kingpin-type boss, Tobias Whale. He also brought in lesser known elements from around the DC Universe (villain-tailor Paul Gambi's brother and Inspector Bill Henderson) and gave them prominent roles. While Isabella carried over some of the super-soap-operatic tone of Marvel Comics, it was less heavy-handed than Gerry Conway's style.


Some of Kingman's other choices are equally surprising, but he makes a good case for each of them. Reading the first two parts of his list was like kicking back with a big stack of old comic books. What a wonderful feeling!

You'll find lots of other great comics reviewed in these two issues: TALES OF SUSPENSE #15 (featuring Goom!), SHOWCASE #34 (the origin of the Silver Age Atom), KID COLT OUTLAW #107 (the wild and wonderful "Giant Monster of Midnight Valley"), LIMITED COLLECTORS' EDITION #C-22 (Tarzan by Joe Kubert), TOM SKINNER: UP FROM HARLEM (a Spire Christian comic), and more. CE contributors include Steve Chung, Allen Schuler, Dylan Williams, Daryl Broussard, Timothy Walters, Jim Simants, Gene Popa, and Tony Seybert, whose wondrous recollections of SUPERMAN #252 (June, 1972) is a special treat for fans of DC's original 100-Page Super-Spectaculars. I love CE and I think you will, too.

If you want to subscribe to COMIC EFFECT, make your check or money order payable to

Jim Kingman
P.O. 2188
Pasadena, California 91102-2188


For more information, you can e-mail Kingman at.

jkcomeff@aol.com


Tell him I send my best regards and wishes.

******

HEADY HISTORY

If you happen to be visiting London any time soon, be sure to check out the new model of the Tyrannosaurus rex now on display at the National History Museum there. As reported by the Associated Press, the museum wasn't content with showing just another replica dinosaur that moved and roared. It wanted to recreate some of the fierce aromas the beast might have known.

The museum folks first experimented with creating an authentic scent of the T-rex, "the whiff of a killer drenched in the blood of its prey, reeking of rotten meat and scarred with infected wounds," but thought better of the notion. I'm guessing this revelation came shortly after their first snoot-full of Rex breath, possibly on their way to the nearest comfort station.

Instead, they opted to go with the smell of the environment in which Rex reigned. The scent being used is a boggy, acrid, earthly odor called "Maastrichtian Miasma" and it wafts around the 23-foot-long and 13.5-foot high model, which was made by the Kokoro Co. of Japan at a cost of $330,000.

The AP reporter asked Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, what he thought the T-rex itself would have smelled like

    The T-rex would have to be the most putrid, foulest thing that ever lived. A hyena times 10 would not even get you close. The bigger you are, the stinkier you are, the nastier you are, the less other animals will mess with you.


Not to second guess the London museum, but I wish they'd gone with the T-rex smell. I wouldn't last two minutes in the room, but the kids would love it.

I'll be back next week with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/09/2001 | 03/16/2001 | 03/23/2001 >>

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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