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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 #1434 (05/11/01)

"The truth is the safest lie."


The absolute truth about this week's Tips, so help me Maggie, is that I ran out of steam the day I absolutely, positively had to write it. I have no debilitating illness. I am no more busy with my children and family than usual. Our house is not falling down around us. The streets outside our home are devoid of man-eating dinosaurs. I'm not even blowing off writing the column to read a good book or watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have no good or bad reasons for not writing the column I'd planned to write this week, a moving account of the bathroom my father built in the basement of our Cleveland home in 1959, a delightfully warm-and-fuzzy narration which would cleverly set the stage for my reviews of a selection of independent comic books. I ran out of steam and all I can think of to fill my allotted space is to rummage through my files in search of already-written items that, in all probability, will have next to nothing to do with one another.

That I am a most wretched creature is plain to see. I throw myself upon your tender mercies and present you with the following miscellanea. Do not think *too* poorly of me.

One of the most frequently-asked questions I get from readers is on what a comics script looks like. Here are the first two pages of an unpublished Black Lightning story


Panel 1. Extreme close-up of an angry BLACK LIGHTNING. His expression says this is a man you do not want to be messing with. The only background is the early evening sky, just before the sun sets on the Brick City. (COLOR: As always, captions designated as "BL" should be colored differently than any narrative captions in this story.)

CAPTION (BL): I had a dream.

Panel 2. Large panel of Lightning walking down the steps of the Freedom Baptist Church with his dazzling bride, Lynn Stewart. Yes, he is in costume because this panel begins a DREAM SEQUENCE. No lightning bolts come from his eyes. The smiling newlyweds are being greeted by Tommy Colavito on the left and the old Outsiders on the right (Batman, Geo-Force, Halo, Katana, Metamorpho). They are throwing confetti and rice. The scene resembles the cover of Batman #122--the gentle and reassuring look of a much simpler era of comics--but with the Outsiders shown somewhat more prominently than their 1959 counterparts. (EDDY: Let's do flowery borders of some kind to distinguish this sequence from the flashback and the real time sequences.)

CAPTION (BL): Lynn and I get married again, the really huge wedding we never had the first time around.

CAPTION (BL): We couldn't ask for a more perfect day.

CAPTION (BL): Tommy Colavito is wearing a suit.

CAPTION (BL): The Batman is actually smiling.

CAPTION (BL): Everything is perfect.


Panel 1. The DREAM SEQUENCE continues with a large panel of the smiling newlyweds on a chartered boat in the Caribbean. Lynn wears a really hot swimsuit while Jeff tries his hand at catching really big fish. Jeff is being encouraged by the boat's skipper, a dark-skinned, heavy black man in his late 60s.

CAPTION (BL): We go to the Caribbean for our honeymoon, two weeks of pure paradise where the closest thing to a menace I come across is the skipper of the boat we charter.

CAPTION (BL): He says he was Amberjack, a super-villain who fought Mr. Terrific and the Human Bomb in 1941.

CAPTION (BL): He enlisted after Pearl Harbor, went straight after the war, and retired here six years ago.

Panel 2. Jeff and Lynn, sitting at a kitchen table with the remains of a good meal still visible, are laughing at the skipper and the dorky fish-motif mask he is wearing. The skipper has his hands clawed and extended in a bad Dracula impersonation.

CAPTION (BL): I have no idea what he was doing in my dream. Maybe I read something about him once.

CAPTION (BL): It's not important, okay?

Panel 3. Jeff and Lynn are intertwined in a most passionate embrace. Their nude forms are lit only by a flickering candle on their night stand.

CAPTION (BL): What is important is I never felt so complete as I did during this dream, never felt more content than I did in this very best of all worlds.

Panel 4. Largely obscured by shadows, Tobias Whale lurks in some dark and distant place. He glowers from those murky shadows and brandishes an ancient, rusty harpoon.

CAPTION (BL): And, if any evil did lurk in the dim, distant corners of that place, it was held at bay by the soft candlelight flickering in the night.

Some explanatory comments

The boldfaced and capitalized words in these script pages are the equivalent of "road signs" for the other people who would have worked on the story. The underlined words would have been lettered in boldface.

The "Eddy" mentioned above is Eddy Newell, one of the finest artists with whom I have ever been privileged to work. He was my first choice to draw the second Black Lightning series and remains my first choice should I ever again get the opportunity to write my proudest creation.

Tommy Colavito is a police detective who works "unofficially" with Lightning and one of my favorite characters from the revival of the series.

Tobias Whale is Lightning's most bitter enemy, an organized crime leader with no redeeming qualities.

I came across several questions I was once asked about Captain America, though I no longer recall who asked them and the context in which they were asked. One of these questions asked me to name, among all the changes in our world between the time Cap was frozen in the iceberg and his revival, which was the most jarring to which he had to adjust at the time of said revival.

I answered

    Marvel time being somewhat fluid, Captain America may have--in current continuity--missed much of the turmoil you mention in this question. Even so, I think the biggest shock was more personal than socio-political, namely, how does a man fifty years out of his time fit into today's world and make the kinds of contributions he is driven by sense of duty and morality to make?

    In a moral sense, the Steve Rogers of the 1940s was decades ahead of the America of his time. He fought alongside brave men and women from all walks of life. Two of his closest allies were an android and a mutant. I think his essential sense of fairness allowed him to take women's lib and integration in stride.

    However, like the rest of us, he had some growing up to do in the area of politics. We aren't electing perfect men and women to office. We never did. They are human beings; they can champion wrong causes, they can make mistakes, they can use their offices for personal gain.

    Captain America overcomes this by placing his strongest faith, not in elected officials, but in the basic courage and decency and goodness of his fellow Americans.

I was also asked if Captain America wore boxers, briefs, or a thong under his uniform. I responded thus

    Briefs. Boxers would bunch up under the costume and you don't wanna know what happens when you jump around while wearing a thong. You also don't wanna know how I know that.

If I ever recall where this entire interview appeared, I'll be sure to let you know.

Somewhere in the dim reaches of online history, members of a comics mailing list, perhaps members of several different comics mailing lists, began referring to comics fan Hoy Murphy as "Our Pal Hoy." From there it was but a short and completely improbable leap to our discussing the various non-existent OUR PAL HOY comic books published over the years.

That Murphy is an uncommonly good sport has everything to do with the regularity with which his online friends simultaneously abuse and honor him. I have, of course, been an eager participant in this silliness, as witness the following from 1999

    I couldn't respond to this thread earlier because I was in New Orleans for the Big Easy Comic-Con. Coincidentally enough, while walking on Bourbon Street in the early hours of the morning, I came across a curious sight.

    An elderly, nattily-dressed man was drawing a several-panel "Our Pal Hoy" comic strip on the wall of the Cafe Laveau. He was using common classroom chalk.

    I recognized the style immediately. He was Beauguard Canal, the artist most aficionados consider to be *the* MPH artist. He left comics in disgust shortly after DC added go-go checks to their covers and retired to New Orleans to be closer to his daughter and help her run the restaurant.

    We chatted for a spell and I learned that, on a regular basis, he draws these brilliant little comic strips on the wall of the restaurant. They stay up until rain or time erase them and then he draws a new one.

    That evening, I tried to bring a group of comics artists from the show to meet Canal, but I couldn't locate the restaurant. They accused me of making up the story of meeting the legendary artist, but I swear it's all true.

It should be noted, however, that no matter how much data I send them, Maggie Thompson and Brent Frankenhoff refuse to add OUR PAL HOY to the COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE COMIC BOOK CHECKLIST AND PRICE GUIDE. Does anyone have Bob Overstreet's number?

I'm not completely hopeless when it comes to organizing files. For example, I know that the following question was one of 17 asked of me by a gentleman named Dave Rose and which I answered in April of 2000. I just can't recall where the interview appeared or even if it did appear. We can safely rule out Good Housekeeping, Field and Stream, and Playboy, but, beyond that, your guess is as good or better than mine.

Here's the question and my answer

    Q: In closing, what advice do you have for someone wanting to be a comic book writer?

    A: Don't get caught alone in a dark alley with me. I'm still kicking myself for not killing the likes of Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid when I had the chance. Who needed the competition?

I have just enough energy left to remind you that Wildstorm/DC Comics has published STAR TREK: OTHER REALITIES, a trade paperback collecting stories by Peter David, K.W. Jeter, Bob Ingersoll, and yours truly. It's a handsome volume and if you buy lots of copies of it, my share of the royalties will cover what I think we can all agree is a much-overdue visit to my psychiatrist.

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



Life is full of unpleasant coincidences. The above column was written at the last minute, following a rare episode of the dreaded writer's block disease. It's reprinted here at the end of a week where anything that could possibly go wrong *has* gone wrong and, in doing so, led to my preparing this column just a few short hours before Justin has to post it here.

Over at TONY'S ONLINE TIPS, which is a thrice-weekly version of this column hosted by Norman Barth and Perpetual Comics, I put poor Norman through the same deadline hell. To read that column, head over to

I did finally get around to writing about my father's wondrous home-made bathroom. That column appears in CBG #1436 and will be reprinted here on May 25. It also kicks off a multi-column series on various comics industry issues. After this series sees print, I'll either be incredibly in demand or never work in this business again. Okay, I'm exaggerating; chalk in up to the massive doses of Wild Cherry Pepsi currently flowing through my system. I may not be able to come down for days.

Anyway, in the interest of not pushing my incredibly bad luck any further, this week's column is going to be shorter than usual. If this relative brevity leaves you feeling unsatisfied, I suggest you visit our TONY'S TIPS MESSAGE BOARD, where the conversation is almost always friendly and informative. See you there.

I'll be back next week with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/04/2001 | 05/11/2001 | 05/18/2001 >>

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

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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:

Tony's Online Tips
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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