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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 #1450 (08/31/01)

"When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice."
--Otto von Bismarck, founder of German empire

"DC Plans" is the theme of this week's CBG. In the past, I've used these themes mostly as an excuse to mock my CBG editors. But, upon reflection, I realized that some of my readers might not know of the love and respect I have for these people, of my admiration for their hard work and dedication, of my concern that they might accidentally have me professionally graded, slabbed, and auctioned off for several hundred times my actual value.

Having come to this realization, I now plan to fully embrace each week's special theme. Well, maybe not every week.

But, this week, oh, this week, I am down with the theme in a major way. I can't wait to tell you about my DC plans. I thought I'd start by tearing out that corner of my old friend Paul Levitz's office and putting in a basketball court. And I got a really good price on a giant penny for the Batman office. And I thought I'd go with a "bracelets of submission" motif for the Wonder Woman office.


What's that? You say the theme of this week's issue isn't *my* plans for DC, but *theirs*. Oh, well, isn't that just smurfy. After I put these blueprints on my credit card and all. Now I'm going to have to cover those bills by selling my prized collection of Mark Evanier bobble-head figurines.

What's worse is that I don't have a clue what DC's plans are. I mean, yeah, I was invited to the meetings and all, but there were some really good movies on AMC this summer and I had laundry to do and the beer in my refrigerator doesn't just drink itself, y'know, and, hey, I'm a busy guy. I can't be expected to devote my every waking hour to the betterment of the comics industry.

[Breathe deep, Tony. You can handle this. You can fall back on your greatest skill: making it up as you go along. It'll be at least another paragraph before your readers can purge that image of Mark's head going up and down, up and down, from the minds. Just remind calm and keep typing.]

Since my CBG colleagues have already done a truly magnificent job reporting DC's plans for the coming months, I thought it might be amusing to share my own DC-related plans with you. We'll talk while I polish this giant penny.

I plan on acquiring a hopefully affordable copy of THE ATOM #16 (January, 1965), seen elsewhere on this page, because I can no longer remember the fate of the flattened-out Atom and because this is one of those covers which just can't be reprinted enough times. Though he never received the respect to which he was due, I think it's important to recognize that the Atom was the only member of the Justice League who ever got to ride on Wonder Woman's shoulder. The view must have been breathtaking.

Atom 16

I'm going to write an extremely stern letter to DC insisting its October "The Joker's Last Laugh" event live up to its title. Talk about a wretched excess. The Joker will appear in 32 comic books in one month while Mother Theresa only got one her entire career.

It's not that the Joker wasn't a great character in his time, but enough is enough. Though I applaud Batman's restraint in not terminating the killer clown, it overwhelms my willing suspension of disbelief that no other person in the DC Universe has taken the Joker out. Even if I believed DCU courts would refuse to execute an insane murderer, and the last time I checked, there was still a Texas in the DCU, accidents do happen.

"The Joker? He's dead. He slipped in the prison shower and busted his head on the floor. 167 times."

I'm going to reread BIZARRO COMICS ($29.95) because it made me howl with laughter the first time I read it. What a strange and glorious tribute to the comic books of my youth. I can't imagine younger readers getting half the jokes and sight gags contained in this 240-page hardcover. If I wasn't so busy polishing this giant penny and explaining the "bracelets of submission" to my wife, it'd be fun to annotate all the esoteric references contained therein. My only disappointment in this volume was that it didn't include a comics adaptation of the classic Black Lightning/Death of Superman sketch from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Yo!

Some further observations

It amuses me that this terrific book grew out of Paul Levitz's decision to pulp an Elseworlds special because of his concerns over Kyle Baker's "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Babysitter." I disagreed with that decision, but it was Paul's to make and I don't think he deserved the scorn he received as a result.

On a related note, though Baker's cheeky little tale was very funny, I wonder if it was really award-winning material. How many folks voted for it for no other reason than to yank DC's executive chain? How many of those voters hadn't even read the story at the time they cast their ballots for it? It's a great story, but we're kidding ourselves if we say its acclaim has nothing to do with the circumstances surround its stalled publication.

My plans definitely include catching up on several DC titles, some of which I'm years behind in reading, among them THE BOOKS OF MAGIC, JSA, STARMAN, and the Superman titles. It's important for me get up to speed on the Superman books because my readers keep requesting my thoughts about Jeff "Black Lightning" Pierce serving as President Lex Luthor's Secretary of Education. I'm thinking of printing up the following response to hand out

    I would prefer that no writer other than myself write stories featuring my creation. That said, it's not impossibly far-fetched for Luthor to have heard of inner-city school teacher Jeff Pierce. Talia, who I'm told is in charge of LexCorp these days, knows Jeff and knows that he's Black Lightning. She might have brought Jeff to Luthor's attention.

    However, I find it unlikely that the Senate would confirm Jeff Pierce for the position. I love the guy like a son, which, in many ways, he will always be to me, but he's not even remotely qualified for the job. He is, probably by choice, an in-the-trenches teacher and has never held an administrative position, not even on a school level. It would be like putting me in charge of national security because I used to watch GET SMART.

    As for why Jeff would agree to work with Luthor, I'm assuming Batman asked him to be his eyes and ears in the White House. Now I don't much like the idea of Jeff answering "How high?" whenever Bats says "Jump," because I think Pierce is, by nature, a guy with his own priorities who isn't really a joiner, but I could live with that. And who knows? Maybe the Superman writers have come up with a different and even better rationale for my creation working with one of the DCU's greatest villains, a rationale which is still in character for Jeff. Hope springs eternal.

    Finally, yes, I would love to write more Black Lightning comic books. I'd love to write Black Lightning novels and screenplays. When I launched his second series in 1994, I said I would be happy to write Black Lightning stories for the rest of my life and I've never felt otherwise since. DC willing, I'll have another shot at writing my creation someday. Or was this where I was supposed to play hard-to-get?

I resolve not to encourage "Battling" Bob Wayne, DC Vice President Sales and Marketing, to respond to the incessant "in-your-face" hype from Marvel Comics, even though I got a kick out of Bob's recent remarks and think he made several excellent points. I'm thrilled Marvel is doing better these days, but I think that has more to do with the comic books it publishes than with the "bad boys" posturing from its publisher and editor-in-chief. DC has kept the reader and retailer confidence Marvel is fighting to regain; I think that's the strength to which DC should continue to play as the Marvel hype wears thin.

My DC plans also include striving to avoid getting drawn into any online feuds with other industry professionals. I have noted with alarm that there are an increasing number of individuals who delight in stoking the flames of existing disagreements or starting new contentious conflagrations. They carry quotes, not always in context, from one message board to another, in a pathetic imitation of Wimpy's "let's you and he fight" routine. Obviously, as someone who writes opinion columns, I have opinions and not every reader is going to agree with those opinions. If any one takes issue with my writings, they are welcome to respond to me directly-Do we really need a middle man for this?--or on my message board, which can be found at

By the same token, I need to remind myself constantly that you can't always judge a message by its cold and impersonal typeface. I received an e-mail recently which initially struck me as perhaps somewhat strident and suspicious in its request for my views, as a former writer of Hawkman, on Timothy Truman's HAWKWORLD and also on the recent revival of the character in JSA. In retrospect, I feel I misjudged the intent of the writer and wish I hadn't deleted his note unanswered. I'll rectify that by answering his questions as best as I can recall them. Here goes...

I didn't like HAWKWORLD. Nothing against Timothy Truman, who I think is a good guy and a talented storyteller, but I never felt that brand of "grim-and-gritty hero redeems himself for past crimes by becoming a hero" was right for Hawkman and, in fact, limited the possibilities of the character. The various Hawk-titles following HAWKWORLD did nothing to change my view.

From what I've seen, essentially "The Return of Hawkman" arc in JSA #23-25, writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns did a good job bringing the Hawk back into the DCU. Their portrayal of Golden Age Hawkman Carter Hall was believable and they were respectful of the other versions of the character. It was a fine beginning and I'm looking forward to where it goes from there.

Was I disappointed that DC didn't hire me to revive Hawkman? Not at all. I loved writing Hawkman and would likely have accepted the gig if it had been offered to me, but, as Goyer and Johns have proven, there are others who can write the character and write him well. It's not the same as with Black Lightning where I don't feel any other writer has ever brought to the character the things which I bring to him or shared my precise vision for him. Even there, I have often expressed my appreciation for Mike W. Barr's handling of Black Lightning in BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS.

So, no, I wasn't disappointed. On the other hand, I would be crushed if I were passed over for the revivals of The Dingbats of Danger Street, the Green Glob, or Johnny Everyman. I guess I could sum up MY personal plans as: no challenges too great, no characters too obscure, no shoes no service.

Next week's special CBG theme is "Marvel Plans." I know just where I want to put the time-out corner.



August turned out to be a far more challenging month than I'd anticipated.

Several deadlines got moved up, sometimes without a lot of warning, to accommodate various clients of mine. I went to the Wizard World 2001 convention, which took four days out of the month, not counting the time I spent recovering from it. Finally, there was a whole bunch of things which needed doing to get my kids ready for the new school year. What a month!

Anyway, all of the above is by way of explaining why, for the second week in a row, you're not getting any new material with the CBG reprint. Justin, he who rules the World Famous Comics empire, is going to Dragon Con in Atlanta and so needs this week's column earlier than usual and, I ask you, how could I possibly say "no" to such a hard-working guy?

Justin and I will both be back up to speed next Friday. See you then.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/24/2001 | 08/31/2001 | 09/07/2001 >>

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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.

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