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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1436 (05/25/01)

"Very few people do anything creative after the age of 35. The reason is that very few people do anything creative before the age of 35."

-John Hildebrand (1881-1983)

Life being filled with uncertainties, I can only assure you that I sincerely believe there is a point to this week's column and that I may actually be able to reach it without spilling over into my next column. If it turns out that this belief was unwarranted, well, then, at least we will have spent some quality and hopefully thought-provoking time together.

It was 1959. My parents decided we needed a second rest room and hired a plumber to install a sink and a toilet in the basement of our three-bedroom house. I have no idea what this cost, but it couldn't have been all that much because he offered my mother the opportunity to settle the bill by giving him my then-two-year-old brother Ray and, since Ray continued to live us and still shows up at family functions, I assume the plumber must have been given cash or a check. Even so, the installation of this plumbing was quite a big deal for our family.

A sink and toilet do not a rest room make. My father took the job over from there and built what has developed, over the years, into the most amazing room in the house.

The first accessories were utilitarian: walls, sliding door, medicine chest, paper cup dispenser, a pair of towel holders (one for cloth, one for paper), and a toilet paper dispenser. Over four decades later, the walls, door, and medicine chest are in excellent shape, a testimony to Dad's belief in doing a job right. However, the various paper holders have changed as he has found horse-motif replacements; horses being an interest of his, one of several that he largely neglected while providing for his family.

The most eye-opening addition was a big and ancient Budweiser sign depicting "Custer's Last Stand" in shockingly-gory-for-the-times detail. I don't know the identity of the painter who created this masterpiece or how many of the signs were made, but I do know my brothers and I liked it a great deal more than did my mother and sister. I never asked my dad what appeal the picture held for him, maybe it was his way of staking out the new rest room as the "guy" rest room, but he recently mentioned, with considerable pride, that a similar sign sold for over a hundred dollars on eBay. My father knows art when he sees it.

I can't give you a timeline of the other additions to Dad's sanctum sanctorum, but I took a quick inventory when I was there on Easter. The room now boasts a fan, an intercom, a magazine stand, a phone, a radio, and a small heater. Add a laptop and you could run an empire from in there.

This room always says "Dad" to me, even though I'm not usually in the habit of listening when architecture speaks to me. All it lacks to be complete is some reflection of my father's most recent interest: aliens, extraterrestrials, little green men, your basic visitors from another planet.

Dad's interest isn't of the "Fox Mulder" variety. He doesn't seem to have any strong position on whether they are out there or not. I think he just thinks the idea of extraterrestrials is kinda cool and those little green spuds are kinda cute, which I think is very cool and very cute. I should hope to be so cool and cute when I'm his age. Being the dad with the most comics in Medina, Ohio, is already wearing thin on my kids and their friends.

The moral at this juncture of this column is this: my 76-year-old father is still capable of surprises. He taught me the value of doing jobs right of and in taking pride in those jobs, no matter what they might be. The value of his life and how he gives freely of it to his family becomes more manifestly clear to me with each passing year. He's a tough act to follow.

If Bill Gates were to call me up and, not content with having dropped in rank to the second richest person in the world, wanted to see if he could slide even further down the list by bankrolling a new Tony Isabella-run comic-book company, I would hire my father immediately. I'm not sure in what capacity because I don't think that far ahead-hey, I don't even know where this column will end-- I just know Dad would be an asset.

(I would also hire my mother, but I know her position would be that of company enforcer. Mom is good and kind and loving, and if you were to be so foolish as to mess with her kid, she would make you regret the very formation of the universe. You would spend all your few remaining days in fear of her certain and most certainly unpleasant vengeance.)

People who possess imagination and skills before the age of 35 very often retain them after the age of 35. This is something no businessman should forget if for no other reason that he diminishes his options by doing so.

******

GEEKSVILLE has come to a close. With the publication of its final Image issue, we must bid a sad farewell to Rich Koslowski's "Three Geeks" and also to the variety of characters to be found in Gary Sassaman's "Innocent Bystander" tales. Regular "Tips" readers will recall my praising the works of both creators on a number of occasions, this being back in the days when I actually knew where my columns were going as I wrote them.

Koslowski and Sassaman had a decent run in a comics market so indecent as to not support such fine storytellers. Keith, Jim, and Allen, those comic manifestations of the comics geek in all of us, appeared in over two dozen publications, including a pair of trade paperback collections. Sassaman published six issues of INNOCENT BYSTANDER, a trade paperback, and joined Koslowski for ten issues of GEEKSVILLE.

In his last-issue editorial, Koslowski writes that GEEKSVILLE was doing okay by industry standards. In other and damning words, that meant it was breaking even, which isn't much of a victory when one considers the hard work-emotional, physical, spiritual-that goes into the creation of a comic book. On any logical level, it's difficult and often impossible for creators to justify that cost in time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears against the meager returns of "breaking even." For Koslowski and Sassaman, the time has come for them to move on to other projects. For the rest of us, we have one less comic book to anticipate and enjoy and treasure.

Meaning no slight to Sassaman, I must now turn my attention to Koslowski's Geeks. Here follows an excerpt from a letter written by Chuck Rozanski, president of Mile High Comics, and published in GEEKSVILLE #4 (November, 2000). After ordering 50 copies of every issue of THE 3 GEEKS/GEEKSVILLE, including the trade paperbacks, Rozanski added

    By the way, I read every issue of the 3 Geeks while I was in Seattle. Absolutely brilliant! I recognized all my childhood friends, and many of my personal experiences, not to mention waaay too many of my customers. You captured the essence of being a dedicated comics fan in a wonderfully good-hearted and sympathetic fashion. I want all of our customers to get a chance to read your fun stories.


Rozanski saw what I have always seen in the characters. Their teenage mania for "Marble Comics" mirrors my own. Their awe of the creators they see at their first convention captures the elation I experienced when I got my first honest-to-Odin letter from Stan Lee in 1964. Truth be told, even after working with many of my boyhood idols, I still have to quiet the excited kid inside my head when I talk to Stan or Roy Thomas or Julius Schwartz or any of a hundred other legendary creators. I don't even work in my pajamas anymore for fear Harlan Ellison will phone.

GEEKSVILLE #1-4 (Image series) chronicled the saga of Keith, Jim, and Allen self-publishing their first comic book. I made not have made precisely their mistakes in launching and continuing my career, but, boy howdy, can I relate to the excitement, the horror, the highs, the lows, the triumphs, the disasters, and, most of all, the sheer insanity of making one's way through a maze in which far better folks than I have been lost forever.

In GEEKSVILLE #5 (January, 2001), alternative comics fan Sky Branovan sets out to disrupt the security of the local comics club by becoming a member and challenging their "Marble zombie" notions. She becomes romantically involved with one of the guys--and, no, I won't tell you who because, if you haven't been buying GEEKSVILLE, I'm very upset with you--and succeeds in exposing the club members to some new, albeit modestly so, ideas. Though it's difficult to tell for sure through Sky's "Goth chick" exterior, I think she may well have come away from the experience with a modicum of respect for, if not the Geeks' taste in comic books, at least their sincere passion for their favorites. Of course, I'll never know for sure unless Koslowski writes some more Geeks and/or Sky stories in the future. Don't touch me, I'm still upset.

The above is necessary background to GEEKSVILLE #6, the final "3 Geeks" story. While I may spoil some elements of this wonderful tale with my comments, I will not spoil them all, which means you can't use this column as your lame excuse for not buying the comic. Give me a moment here.

"All Good Things..." opens with the 48-year-old Keith walking the streets of his boyhood home for the first time in many years. Much to his amazement, Collector City, the store which was second home to him and his comics buddies, is still in business. When he enters the store, to his even greater surprise, he finds that Allen is now the store's owner/proprietor.

After an emotional reunion, Allen explains to Keith that his family trust provides for him and his family very well and that the grand-but-empty shop is a labor of love for him. This is where the story takes a turn for the almost unutterably sad. Asked if he has any costumers, Allen responds

    Oh yes...a few. The real die-hards. A couple even moved into town here since I'm one of the only two shops left in the world. And I get the occasional order through the mail.

    But, with no new comics being made since the big "comics crash" of 2006, I've seen fewer and fewer customers every day. There's hardly any collectors left anymore.

    I think the "boom" in the early 90's was the worst thing that ever could've happened to comics. The owners got greedy and irresponsible. Jacking up prices and capitalizing on the "speculators." They didn't seem to mind the fact that they were pricing kids out of the market, or ticking off their lifelong fans...they just saw the short-term profits and went completely out of control.

    And the result? Sales began to slump. Books began to get canceled one by one. Until only a few of the icons were left. And the stories began to close...only a few at first...and then in droves...

    And then the companies started to collapse...first the little ones...no one was surprised.

    But then...b-but then...oh my God...how could they have been so foolish?!


This is where we must take our leave until next issue. Allen has given us much to consider and, when we return, we will consider his nightmarish scenario and much more. We will talk about "hype" and "in your face" public relations and the importance of backing up such tactics with more than the frantic waving of one's arms and the demand for a loud "amen" from the audience. We will talk about distribution. We will talk about comics past, present, and future. We may even get to the point or even several points by the end of next week's column, but I wouldn't bet heavily on that. Perhaps we will discover that enlightenment and glory are found in the journey itself and not merely in its conclusion.

While you're waiting, it's not too late for you to, first and foremost, go to your friendly neighborhood comics shop in search of GEEKSVILLE, INNOCENT BYSTANDER, and THE 3 GEEKS. If you find said comics, buy them and know that, by doing so, you will have enriched your life significantly.

If you do not find these comics at your friendly neighborhood comics shop, politely request the proprietor of said establishment order them for you. If he refuses your request, you are shopping at the wrong store. Do something about that.

If all else fails, you can send an self-addressed and stamped envelope to.

Rich and Sandy Koslowski
4117 N. Bartlett Avenue
Shorewood, WI 53211


If you prevail on the Riotous One to send you a list of still-available comic books, he will swiftly comply with your request on account of he's smarter than the retailer who turned down your cold hard cash a few lines back. So is his wife Sandy, who, as I failed to mention earlier, contributed story assets and lettering to these outstanding comic books.

However, considering how swiftly the remaining back issues are being sold, you might want to speed up the process by e-mailing the Koslowski kids at.

the3geeks@aol.com


This meeting is adjourned. We'll reconvene next week in these same pages.

It's your turn to bring the chips.

******

ADDENDUM

This week's column kicks off an extended series that I still haven't finished writing as you read this. I'll be discussing Bill Jemas, Marvel Comics, Diamond Distribution, and much more...with a one-week break for a special "editorial request" column remembering what it was like to be a kid on summer vacation with time to read lots of comics and explore new worlds of imagination and science. It may reduce you to tears.

One of the columns required a great deal of negotiation with my CBG columns who objected to some passages therein. The editors made some good points and I'll likely incorporate some, but not all of the changes, into the "director's cut" of the column that will be posted here.

When I get around to writing about Marvel's "mature" line, I fully expect to be pilloried by some of the more rabid fans around comicdom. It could be interesting.

Anyway, those columns will be coming along in the next weeks and, as always, you are encouraged to comment on them via e-mail or on the TONY'S TIPS MESSAGE BOARD. See you there.

******

DUBYA GETS SPANKED

Dubya, a president who was never elected by the people, often quotes people who, were they alive, would be horrified by his use of their celebrity or words to buttress his brand of compassionate-less conservatism. Recently, in a commencement speech he gave at Notre Dame, he conjured up the spirit of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Workers Movement, in a particularly deceitful manner. His remarks were quickly challenged by TAMAR and MARTHA HENNESSY of Weathersfield, Vermont

    As the daughter and granddaughter of Dorothy Day, we feel compelled to speak about the use of her name and work in George Bush's commencement speech at Notre Dame.

    Dorothy was an ardent believer in social justice, the rights of workers, and care of the disenfranchised. Her life's work was dedicated to picking up the pieces of human wreckage, the result of policies that continue to be perpetuated by the Bush administration. It is shameful to have her efforts associated with an administration that gives priority to corporate profiteering over human needs. Dorothy understood a just system was as equally important as her ideal of personalism, where each takes individual responsibility for the well-being of all. The speech writers for George Bush have distorted her message regarding the works of mercy by using her words in their arsenal of deceit.


The letter from the Hennessys ran in the May 23 edition of the RUTLAND HERALD. Veteran comics readers will recall Rutland as the setting for a number of Halloween issues of DC and Marvel titles of the 1970s. Here's how that worked

Comics fan TOM FAGAN lived in Rutland and was an organizer of the city's annual Halloween parade. He also held what I'm told was a terrific Halloween party every year, which was attended by some of the comics writers and artists who had entered the comics field in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These creators immortalized Tom and his town in various comic-book stories.

Anyway, I applaud the Hennessys for standing up to Dubya and his prevarications and cite them as two of the reasons why fiercely independent Vermont is now-officially-my favorite state.

Another good reason is given in our next item.

******

HOPE FOR AMERICA

SENATOR JIM JEFFORDS of Vermont made a glorious announcement yesterday [May 24], an announcement which offers considerable hope that the nightmare of a GOP-controlled United States of America is coming to an end even before the 2002 elections.

Let's get right to the key quote

    In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an Independent.


Sensible soul that I am, I want to consider the ramifications of the senator's courageous act before I discuss it at length here. However, with Jeffords voting with the Democrats to give that party organizational control of the Senate, it does appear that the Dems will assume the role of the majority party and be in a much better position to derail the Dubya Gang's agenda.

It may be raining outside my window as I write this closing, but the sun is once again shining brightly on the American dream of a government by the people and for the people...and not merely for those who have the cash to buy political power.

Be afraid, Dubya. Be afraid.

We're taking our country back.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/18/2001 | 05/25/2001 | 06/01/2001 >>

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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