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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 #1435 (05/18/01)

Trees, trees,
You bring blossoms,
Apples and sweets.
Thank you, trees,
For all these treats.

an Arbor Day poem by Kelly Isabella, 9

I never particularly bought into that whole "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" thing, but my son Eddie, two months shy of 13, just got his first byline for a 4-H Club item that ran in our local newspaper, and my daughter Kelly, all of 9, has become quite the budding poet. Unfortunately, they also seem to have inherited their father's penchant for battling their deadlines right down to the wire.

Our opening poem was being lovingly pasted onto Kelly's Arbor Day poster while I drove her to school this morning. She wrote it five minutes before we left the house because she liked it better than the obscure Joyce Kilmer poem which had adorned her poster as of SIX minutes before we left. She also figured she would have a better chance of winning the poster contest with an original poem as the centerpiece of her design.

I plan to encourage these creative instincts of my children in the hope of getting them to write columns for me. Child labor laws were made to be broken.

As Nike might say, just do it.


Standing in twin spotlights, the man is bald and middle-aged. He holds a toilet plunger. He wears a party hat, Mister Weatherbee glasses, a gorilla suit, fishnet stockings, and high heels. No, it isn't Dick Cheney on his way to a GOP fund-raiser. It's the cover of MONKEYSUIT (Monkeysuit Press; $9.95), the first in a series of comics anthologies from a group of New York City animators, folks who have worked on such shows as The Tick, Doug, King of the Hill, Sheep in the Big City, and many others.

MONKEYSUIT is 128 pages of crunchy goodness in a convenient 8-1/4" by 5-3/8" trade paperback format. Not every one of its nine stories is likely to appeal to each and every reader, but there was not one I didn't find at least interesting. For me, the stand-outs were "Rover," a silent tale of a mechanical probe on an alien world by Michael Foran; the darkly-humorous "Profiles in Tenacity" by Ben Edlund; Pat Giles' "The Big Problem With Marshall," which I liked in spite of my distaste for comedies about hostile 20-somethings in the big city, especially since we hostile 40-somethings are so much more interesting; and a thoughtful little gem called "What Would'st Thou Do, Old Man?" by Prentis Rollins. That last is a story which would fit well in a modern-day version of SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES, my favorite of the legendary EC Comics titles.

The cartoon cover model of MONKEYSUIT becomes a disturbingly realistic Tor Johnson look-alike in the Bill Presing painting which fronts THE BRIDE OF MONKEYSUIT ($9.95). The monkey-suited guy even carries an unconscious, provocatively-clad woman in classic 1950s "movie poster" fashion. Most of the features in the first book are back and the page count is expanded to 144 pages.

Presing is also represented within the book by his second "Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher" adventure, which is growing on me with each new tale. I'm a sucker for Rex's manly jaw and his gal pal Penny's petite sexiness. Also back are Foran's "Rover," Giles' "Marshall," Miguel Martinez-Joffre's "Kamikaze Joe," and Jonathan Royce's "Keef and Bruno."

Other noteworthy efforts include: "Just Some of the People Who Hate You," a two-page spread by Mo Williams; the delightful "Pickle Sandwich" by Fariba Adams and Heather Heath; "Mittle Europa: Rerun" by Miriam Katan; "Mia: 1931," an anthropomorphic aviation adventure by Enrico Casarosa; and "Candiggy," an odd amalgam of the works of Voltaire and Tom Wilson by R. Sikoryak.

By the time you finish the above books, you'll be more than ready for VIVA LA MONKEYSUIT ($11.95), a black-and-white, perfect-bound paperback of 176 pages. It's scheduled for July and features "revolutionary" cover art by Casarosa.

Terrific features abound in VIVA LA MONKEYSUIT, including one by Robert Kopecky, the title of whose contribution will appear in this newspaper roughly the same time I win the Miss America crown. My favorites would be: the wild and wacky "A Fine Day to Take Out the Garbage" by Dick Codor; the I-know-I-shouldn't-be-laughing-at-this antics of Maurice Fontenot's "Ghost Pimp"; a surprisingly moving episode of "Rex Steel" by Presing and Matt Peters; "Atomic Shelter" by Martinez-Joffre; "The Whirligig" by Prentis Rollins; more "Pickle Sandwich" by Adams and Heath, and the delightful "Dad, I'm Not Gay!" by Amanda Saah-Baerh. Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Network is currently working with Saah-Baerh to turn her daughter-father vignette into an empire.

The Monkeysuit creators are definitely making their own place in the comics market. I suspect that place will be on the shelves of alternative and mainstream book stores, as opposed to the comic-book specialty shops. My advice to the latter would be to keep a few copies of these anthologies on hand. They can be an excellent answer to the eternal question: "What's new?"


MEN OF MYSTERY #28 (AC Comics; $6.95) collects an entertaining batch of stories starring a variety of mostly second-banana heroes. This issue spotlights some of the Nedor/Standard mystery men of the 1940s: the Black Terror, the Grim Reaper, Fighting Yank, and Miss Masque. As a bonus, we also get a Charles Biro "Little Wise Guys" adventure drawn by Ralph Mayo, who was art director at Nedor back in the day.

The Biro story is the best of the lot, but there is good goofy fun to be had from the rest. See the Black Terror and sidekick Tim go undercover as husband and wife. To quote Tim, "Gulp!" To quote one of the criminals they seek, "Awful lot of muscles on those legs for a dame."

Ponder why the Grim Reaper, who seems like a perfectly nice, non-lethal chap, calls himself that. Gasp as the Fighting Yank's ghostly ancestor does his Spectre imitation. Call Vince McMahon as Miss Masque tosses bad guys all over the place; she has to look better in WWF spandex than she does in this comic book.

All of the Nedor stories are likely written by editor Richard E. Hughes, better known for his writing and editing on ACG titles like Adventures Into the Unknown, Forbidden Worlds, and, of course, the magnificent Herbie. Though the artists on the Grim Reaper and Miss Masque stories are unknown, Mort Lawrence made the pictures on the Black Terror tale while Ken Battlefield and Rafael Astarita did the honors for the Fighting Yank.

MEN OF MYSTERY is a bit pricey, but, as I've said before, you won't find this stuff anywhere else, at least not without paying a heck of a lot more than seven bucks. These AC reprints are a good way to sample Golden Age characters without depleting your checking account. Give them a look.


I hope this doesn't seem like too much of a afterthought, but I have to add my voice to the chorus praising John Lustig's madcap FIRST KISS #1 (Shanda Fantasy Arts; $4.99). As CBG readers, you're already familiar with Lustig's mad genius, how he rewrites Charlton romance comic books of the 1960s into works of hilarity and satire. For your five bucks, you get 38 pages of comics, most of them "new" to this issue; an interview with Joe Gill, the man who wrote most of these stories in their original incarnations; and even a contest

whereby you can match your dementia with that of Lustig. Anybody who doesn't laugh out loud at FIRST KISS is a soulless sourpuss who should be reported to the authorities immediately.


Another book that's been sitting around unreviewed--by me, at least--for too long is the GEMINAR 72-PAGE SPECIAL by Terry Collins and Al Bigley. Published by Image Comics last summer and priced at $4.95, it's a complete-in-one-issue story of an astronaut stranded in an uncharted region of the galaxy a hundred years in the future. Offered a new life as a galactic super-hero, he accepts the mantle of Geminar, fighting villains and wrestling with the mysteries of his past, his present, and his future. Though the comic would have been more effective in color, Collins and Bigley delivered a solid story with a courageous and very human hero, scheming bad guys, and some surprising twists and turns. If you can't find a copy of the book at your friendly neighborhood comic shop, or if your friendly neighborhood comics retailer can't order one for you, check out the Geminar website at


When I see a Bernie Wrightson cover on a comic book, as I did with THE NIGHT TERRORS #1 (Chanting Monks Studios; $2.75), I am so there. Unfortunately, the interior of this issue didn't live up to my initial excitement. I'll let you decide whether that's my fault or the fault of the contributors.

Wrightson leads off with "Spuds," a tale about what is perhaps the next logical step in sedentary mankind's evolution. The basic concept is chilling, but the writing and the artwork, though good, just don't measure up to it. It needed more of an edge, more of a cold drop of sweat running down your back, to be as effective as it could have been.

"Go Fish," another story of evolution, is written and drawn by another of my favorites, Wm. Stout. It's got a certain "EC" charm to it, but it's too much story with too many elements for its three pages. Like Oliver Twist, I wanted more, sir.

Publisher Joseph M. Monks contributes two stories. "Barney" has an ending that I saw coming a mile away, but has spiffy artwork by Ronn Sutton, whose more light-hearted work is regularly featured in ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK. I'd love to see what Sutton could do with a better and more challenging script.

"The Party's Over" has an ending I could not have seen coming because it comes out of absolutely nowhere, which doesn't bother me as much as the story itself. If Monks was going for mean-spirited vulgarity, he succeeded. If he was trying to make the readers feel anything but contempt and loathing for the characters of his story, he failed miserably. No kidding, my friends, this is about as bad as comics can get...and it's the longest story in the book. With sincere regrets to Wrightson, Stout, and Sutton, I recommend you avoid THE NIGHT TERRORS.


Let's close with a note from ROGER STERN, who has worked with some of the best artists in comics and is himself one of the finest writers in comics

    Upon reading my letter in Tony's Tips (CBG #1430)--wherein I mentioned my good fortune to have written stories for Bruce Timm and Steve Rude, "who both drew at the old, pre-1993 proportions, (with) white panel borders, and white space all around"--I had to stop and smack myself upside the head.

    How could I have forgotten to mention the other two incredible artists who also know the value of white space? How could I have forgotten the other master storytellers with whom I was also able to work in recent years...John Buscema and John Romita Sr.!

    Buscema drew the short Hulk story I wrote for Marvel's SHADOWS & LIGHT #3, and I had the esteemed pleasure of working with Romita on the "Flashback" issue of UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN.

    I mean, sure, I'd already been lucky enough to work with Big John on THE AVENGERS, and it was great fun to collaborate with him again after all those years.

    And the Untold story was really about the ol' web-slinger's parents, Richard and Mary Parker--but, hey, I didn't care!

    I got to work with Jazzy Johnny Romita! Yee-hah!

    'Nuff said?

Nuff said, my friend.

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



I have a stack of magazines on my desk that should be in the recycle bin, but have been spared that fate because they contained items I thought would be of interest to the loyal legions of Tips! readers. Let's begin with the May issue of BOY'S LIFE, courtesy of my son Eddie.

I don't know if this is the case month in and month out, but this issue had a lot of comics or comics-related stuff. Superman got a nod in a trivia feature, while Archie Comics writer Michael J. Pellowski wrote an "Oddball Baseball" article. There were also quite a few pages devoted to comics stories, some of them drawn by comics artists.

The longest comics feature was a 16-page adaptation of MACBETH by Suzette Haden Elgin and artist Mike Vosburg. Other comic strips in the issue include

"The Broken Blade," a medieval adventure;

"Scouts in Action," written and drawn by Grant Miehm;

"Bible Heroes," with art by Anthony Castillo;

"Pee Wee Harris" (uncredited);

"Space Adventures," also by Miehm; and

"The Wacky Adventures of Pedrobot."

All told, this issue featured 22 pages of comics. There was also a gag cartoon by Orlando Busino, who is fondly remembered by many comics fans for his work on Archie's TALES CALCULATED TO DRIVE YOU BATS in the 1960s.

Three "Perspectives" quotes from the April 23 NEWSWEEK caught my attention. I'll share them with you.

"God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is going to destroy you and a lot of others."

--Florida state Rep. ALLEN TROVILLION to a group of gay Orlando-area high-school students.

"Lieberman-Buchanan: A ticket only a mother can love. Lieberman-Buchanan: Building a bridge to the 14th century."

-Connecticut Sen. JOE LIEBERMAN, suggesting slogans for his possible run for the White House, which he jokes will be made with Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.

"The pat-down' must have been especially interesting in that one."

-MARK KOTTE, a police lieutenant in Normal, Ill., where officers searched a suspected shoplifter, only to find $32,212 hidden in her bra.

In ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for April 27, "Jim Mullen's Hot Sheet" cracked me up with this one

"Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. The craft Aussie makes short work of the city's punks and thieves. But other producers always pop up to take their place."

In the same issue, EW's movie preview writers had this to say about the GHOST WORLD movie which will be hitting the theaters on August 3

    Daniel Clowes helped adapt the script from his brilliant alternative comic book. It's directed by CRUMB's Terry Zwigoff and it co-stars Steve Buscemi. Could this thing possible be more hip?

In EW for May 4, Jim Mullen had me laughing out loud with this bon mot

Will Smith. The word is he's getting more than $20 million for MEN IN BLACK 2. Then he can afford to give me my $9.50 back for WILD WILD WEST.

TV GUIDE reader Frank Stone echoed my thoughts in his letter printed in the May 5-11 issue of the magazine

    I couldn't help but notice that your article on JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS didn't include one word about cartoonist Dan DeCarlo, who originally drew Josie. Without him, neither the cartoon series nor the movie would have even existed.

DeCarlo did more than draw Josie, of course; he created the character and her pre-Pussycats cast, co-created the Pussycats, co-created Sabrina the Teenage Witch and, just for good measure, set the style for the Archie comic books for decades. His attempts to get his fair share of the Josie and Sabrina pies haven't met with much success, but that doesn't and shouldn't affect Archie Comics' moral obligation to do right by a gentleman who worked tirelessly and wonderfully on their books. For starters, they could apologize for firing him, lay some serious profit participation money on him, and treat him with the respect he deserves.

Back to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. In the "Books" section of the mag's May 18 issue, their "Winner of the Week" was JOSS WHEDON, of which they wrote: "Dark Horse will publish the Buffy creator's comic-writing debut, FRAY, an eight-issue supernatural miniseries. Vixens and vampires included."

NEWSWEEK led off the "Perspectives" page of its May 21 issue with this quote from KATHLEEN TREANOR, who lost her four-year-old daughter and her in-laws in the Oklahoma City bombing, on the FBI revelation that it had inadvertently withheld thousands of pages of evidence from Timothy McVeigh's lawyer, resulting in the convicted murder's execution being delayed by at least a month

"How could they have possibly made a mistake this huge?"

Maybe I've been hanging out too long with Bob Ingersoll, the Cuyahoga County public defender who writes "The Law Is A Ass" for this very website, but I doubt this was a complete mistake. With politicians and prosecutors wanting their names to be synonymous with "tough on crime," all many of them care about are their win-loss records.

Prosecutors often withhold evidence which weakens their cases. And, given that another 3,000-plus pages of McVeigh documents have turned up since the first batch, how can anyone not be outraged by what is, best case scenario, monumental incompetence or, worst case scenario, deliberate obstruction of justice?

I'm convinced McVeigh is guilty of his heinous crimes, even if I'm ethically, logically, and morally opposed to the death penalty. However, while I don't believe he should be executed, I also don't believe he should be allowed to remain a player on the news stage, especially because of FBI malfeasance. Yet it is not inconceivable that these withheld documents could result in a new trial, if not for McVeigh, then for his co-conspirator Terry Nichols.

To allow these men even one more moment in the spotlight is repugnant to me. To wonder if these documents, had they not been hidden away, might have pointed to additional co-conspirators, is enough to make my guts churn. In the name of justice, our nation must always demand the highest integrity from those we call upon to serve the cause of justice.

I'll be back next week with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/11/2001 | 05/18/2001 | 05/25/2001 >>

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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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Medina, OH 44256

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