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From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1454 (09/28/01)

"My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet. She's now in a maximum security twilight home in Australia."
-Dame Edna Everage

Odd as it may seem, I didn't come to WizardWorld 2001 for the convention. I didn't come to buy or sell comics. I didn't come to participate on panels or promote my work. I didn't come to look for work. I came to WizardWorld to see my friends and to meet my friends-in-waiting. I came for the people.

People who aren't involved in comicdom, professionally or as fans, may not understand that. It's not like there's any shortage of people in my home town of Medina, Ohio, or in nearby Akron, or in similarly nearby Cleveland, which is, perhaps, the only major US city still spending half a million bucks a month to guard against the Y2K bug, a story that has absolutely nothing to do with comics but which amuses me nonetheless.

We do have people around here and many of them are fine human beings, indeed, but they mostly aren't people who share my passion for comics and related items. They aren't people I have "met" long distance and online but have rarely, if ever, seen in person. They aren't the people whom, in a very real sense, I grew up with while making my way through three decades in the comics biz.

After the long and tiring drive to Chicago on the day before the convention, and after a monumentally bad and expensive meal at one of the convention hotels, it was walking into a lobby full of Alex Simmons and Terri Boyle and Paul Storrie and Dan Mishkin and Billy Tucci and, incidentally, a whole bunch of Beatles fans there for their own convention, that turned my day completely around and left me with the smile on my face which remained in place for the next three days.

I can't remember how far back I go with some of those I named above. Alex was around during my Marvel staffer days in the 1970s; he was a pal of Don McGregor's, which is probably how we met. He's been writing and self-publishing his own terrific comic books (like BLACKJACK and RACE AGAINST TIME) for some time now, but he's also enjoying deserved critical acclaim for his first DC Comics writing, BATMAN: ORPHEUS RISING. In addition, he became the writer of the Tarzan syndicated strip earlier this summer. Congratulating a pal on his success is one of life's true pleasures.

Computer whiz Terry is working with Alex Ross and many other clients. Paul, who once dedicated a comic to me, is making sales to DC. Dan is launching his way cool CREEPS book at Image Comics with artwork by Tom Mandrake. The irrepressible Billy is working on his popular SHI comics and a dozen other projects; he gave me a copy of his flipbook preview of THE BURNING BLUE and THE UNDAUNTED (Crusade; $4.99) and his personal enthusiasm comes through on the printed page as well.

Billy's The Undaunted blew me away. To quote from his intro, the series will chronicle "one of the greatest feats of heroism and sacrifice in modern history. It is based on the true story of how a handful of pilots, backed by the spirited people of England met and turned back Hitler's vaunted Luftwaffe."

The story is told from the viewpoint of an American volunteer, one of eleven pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain. After that battle, over 200 other Americans would risk prison and their own citizenship to join the fight. Over a hundred would give their lives in this cause.

Billy's treatment will make a great comic book and would make an equally great movie. It's the story of heroes knowingly facing a vastly superior force, an air armada against which they could not possibly prevail, and wresting not just hope but victory from their enemy. Once I started reading it, once I met its wonderful cast of characters, I couldn't put this treatment down until I finished it. It was a fitting way to end an evening that included hanging around with good friends.

My first stop when the convention opened was at the CBG booth which would be staffed by Maggie Thompson, Brent Frankenhoff, Merry Dudley, and Kathleen McCormick. You already know Maggie and Brent, so I'll ignore them while I go on about how charming and friendly Merry and Kathleen were.

Merry is the editor of TOY CARS & MODELS, a Krause publication on more cool stuff I can't afford. I don't think she realizes that her name would be perfect for the secret identity of a comic-book heroine, but, now that I've mentioned it here, I'm confident Brent and Maggie will use that notion to make her life like unto a living heck at the Krause offices.

Kathleen is CBG's new Advertising Sales person who, if I have the story right, was hired on the Tuesday before WizardWorld and spirited off to Chicago two days later. I think that's against the law in some states, but the lady was positively effervescent in her acceptance of her fate. Meeting her and Merry was another warm and fuzzy moment in a weekend filled with them.

Dog and Pony Show

I wandered a fairly busy Artists Alley and chatted with pals there. Pam Bliss was doing well with her excellent DOG & PONY SHOW trade collection, which she attributed in part to the introduction by a certain beloved columnist. She was being kind, but Paul Sizer of LITTLE WHITE MOUSE fame must have fallen for it because he asked me to write an intro for one of his forthcoming collections. Doing intros isn't something I want to make a career of, but I'm always eager to support exceptional independent creators however/whenever I can. Cartoonists like Pam and Paul define "exceptional" for me. If my words can bring their work a new reader or two, I'm delighted to lend them to their service.

Illuminating Artists Alley with my sunny disposition, I talked to an artist about his branching into caricature drawing, which can be very lucrative. Another was eager to tell me about a new comics company with which he has become involved. There was a surprising but welcome optimism in the Alley and the show in general.

Here's a surreal moment for you. The oldest comics pro at Wiz World was Martin Nodell, the co-creator of Green Lantern. The next oldest pros (at least in terms of when we got started in the comics industry) were Linda Lessmann and myself, both of us coming to work at Marvel Comics in 1972. That's a 30-year gap. I'm not going to suggest here that WIZARD and its convention isn't interested in the older professionals, but that was an impression one could take from the show. My unsolicited advice to their event would be to make an effort to close that gap in the future.

Linda, who, given how young and beautiful she looks, must have been twelve when we worked together at Marvel, is married to artist Bill Reinhold. She has been one of the best colorists in the biz for decades, having done some of her most outstanding work on Barry Windsor-Smith's early Gorblimey Press prints of the 1970s. I'm a big fan of Bill's work as well, particularly a dramatic, gorgeous Silver Surfer graphic album he did a while back. It's always a joy to see them at a convention.

My pal Rick Stasi was madly drawing away in the Alley, doing absolutely lovely color originals for his fans. In another surreal moment, Rick introduced me to a group of fans from Medina. Neither I nor any of them had been aware we lived in the same city until matchmaker Stasi brought us together. Now I just sit by the phone waiting for them to call.

One more surreal Artists Alley moment. There was an artist in Star Wars drag trying to hawk his work utilizing the mental powers of the Jedi Knights. Okay, yes, that isn't so unusual for a comics or science fiction event. The special moment came when he tried to use his Jedi mind tricks on a Paul McCartney impersonator from the neighboring Beatles convention.

"You want to hold my hand."

"I want to hold your hand."

"Give me your wallet first."


Maybe the conversation didn't go exactly like that, but what's a harmless exaggeration between friends?

As I said from the onset, for me, WizardWorld was about the people. I got to say "hi" to people who have been good friends of my various columns, folks like Shawna Ervin-Gore and Mike Martens of Dark Horse, Ian Feller of CrossGen, Bill Flanagan of Viz, Bob Wayne of DC, and others. I had fun reminiscing about our careers with the late (and still greatly missed) Capital City Distribution with Mike and catching him up on our mutual pal Dave Barrington, a distribution partner of mine before we went to work for Capital. Dave is doing well in the Detroit area and, although not working in comics, he comes to Mid-Ohio-Con every year and assists me with the guests and panel programming for that event.

All the publisher booths seemed to be attracting a lot of fans during the con. I think the Image booth was multi-dimensional on account of I kept stumbling across new sections of it.

Expatriate Clevelander Brian Michael Bendis, who is moving to Oregon even as I write this column-we'll keep a light on for you, little buddy--celebrated his birthday at the con. It's always cool to watch Brian at these things; whether writing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and his other books or greeting his fans at shows, he is one of the hardest-working men in comics.

Josh Blaylock and the rest of the G.I. JOE crew had a lot of con-goers interested in their relaunch of that fan-favorite comic, while veteran writer and editor Tom DeFalco was handing out posters for his RANDY O'DONNELL IS THE M@N and MR. RIGHT books. If you've not yet sampled Tom's newest titles, created with Ron Lim and Ron Frenz, you're missing out on fun stuff that is completely suitable for all ages. I get a kick out of them.

Erik Larsen was on hand and, though we didn't get to chat for more than a moment, I was delighted to see him looking so fit after his recent illness.

In this day and age, Erik's commitment to his SAVAGE DRAGON book is nothing short of amazing. He's closing in on his 100th issue, the only one of the original Image creators who is still writing and drawing a monthly title. (Hey, Maggie, shouldn't CBG plan a special issue to commemorate this milestone? You could bump the "Mr. Silver Age's Greatest Sound Effects" cover back a few weeks or something.)

One of my favorite moments of WizardWorld came from watching Anthony Bozzi, Image's director of marketing, manning the company's booth. I first met Anthony at an earlier Chicago convention when he asked for a few moments of my time to ask me about the business side of the comics industry. Like many fans, he wanted to work in comics, but he felt his strengths lay outside the creative arenas. He was so earnest, intelligent, pleasant, and sincere that the few minutes ended up being about an hour and it may well have been the most productive hour of my career.

Anthony and I next saw each other at another convention where he was working as a volunteer. He was still pursuing his dream of working in comics and, on a fortuitous hunch, I introduced him to Jeff Mariotte of Wildstorm Productions. They talked and exchanged cards and, a few months later, Anthony was in La Holla, California, doing an internship with Wildstorm.

Today, a few years later and at the company of which Wildstorm was originally a part, Anthony is widely recognized as one of the nicest and most capable marketing people in comics. From the very moment we met, I knew he was a quality guy, the real deal, and well worth whatever effort I put forward on his behalf. He remains your basic sweetheart of a human being and a true credit to the comics industry.

During one of my visits to the Image islands, I saw Anthony handling a situation which turned a fan's bad convention experience into an unforgettable one. The fan had purchased a Red Star poster and gotten it signed by the creators of that series. He placed it on another Image table for a moment and then absentmindedly walked away without it. He returned a few more moments later looking for it, but someone else had made off with it.

Knowing such misfortune could ruin a show for a fan, Anthony started off by handing a stack of Image Comics to the fan. Then he went to the Red Star table and got a new poster for the fan. Then, realizing some of the creators had left for a bit, promised the fan he would get the poster signed by all of them. The fan was amazed by Anthony's concern and generosity.

Here's the wonderful thing. Based on what I know of him, I'm sure it never occurred to Anthony that what he had done was top-of-the-line public relations. Nope. He saw a guy having a bad day, was in a position to do something about it, and he set about doing just that. At the moment, I felt actual pride at being in the same industry as such a man and honored to call him friend. Sometimes, I really can pick them.

I have more warm-and-fizzy WizardWorld memories to recount, including a list of the 120 panels Mark Evanier would have hosted had he been there. We'll pick this up next week.



The above column appeared in CBG #1454. The concluding part of my WizardWorld "trilogy" didn't appear until #1456, bumped to make room for my first column on the terrorist attacks of September 11. That column has already appeared online; it was the September 12 installment of my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS column at Perpetual Comics. You can read it at:

Since it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to reprint my CBG #1455 column when it's already available online, the last of my Wiz World pieces will post next Friday, October 5, a week earlier than would be the norm. That column will be followed on October 12 by the lengthy review of ALIAS #1 I wrote for CBG #1457.



Don't touch that mouse; we're not finished for this week yet. What follows is a Craig Williams column which ran in the October 20 edition of The [Medina County] Gazette. Williams is far and away the best writer that otherwise uninspired newspaper publishes, and he's way too hip for my beloved hometown. We'll talk again after you've read it.

September, 20, 2001

And Now, a Message From God


Guest Columnist

Hi folks, God here. Sure I know, I don't look anything like you thought I would. You thought I was an old white guy with a beard, but I'm not. I'm a hamster. Surprise!

I realize this changes a lot of things for a lot of people-- and hamsters, and probably Richard Gere, too, I don't know, but there you have it.

It just goes to show that you people down here on Earth have a lot of misconceptions about me, God, and so I thought it was time I, God, stepped in to clear up a few things...again.

First of all, I know a lot of you are angry about last week's terrorist attacks, and I want you to know it's OK to be angry. It's OK to be really very super-angry--good and cheesed off. Just don't go off half-cocked and start hurting innocent people out of ignorance. This is the point I've come to make, and I will in a sec.

Also, I want you to know I didn't have anything to do with these tragedies, all right? Anyone who tells you I did...well, those people are just psychos. And you heard that straight from me, God. Hold on, I think I have a flea or something. Ahhh, there, that's the ticket.

Anyhow, I, God, have come to you in this rodental form to say you need to start laughing again soon or your head will explode from all the stress.

You see what I'm saying? I give you permission not to feel guilty about laughing again. Laughing in the face of catastrophe is not disrespectful, it's necessary to your sanity and healing.

If you look around, you'll see there's still plenty to joke about. For instance, I'm getting a pretty good chuckle out of those two boneheaded freak-sticks Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I made all those TV evangelists as a practical joke. Why do you think I gave them all bad hair and Gomer Pyle accents? Jim and Tammy Faye, Ernest Angley--are these people not laugh riots?

Last week when those two bloated, pointy-eared preachers, Jerry and Pat, told everyone on THE 700 CLUB that the terrorists attacked America because I was mad about liberals, homosexuals and feminists, well sir, I just about wet my cedar chips. Man, my pouches still hurt from laughing. What a couple of maroons, those two! I laughed even harder when they tried to backpedal and apologize.

See, you have to laugh, or you're going to just cry and cry and get more angry or whatever. That's how it works. But what do I know? I'm just a hamster.

Whatever you do, DO NOT take ANY religious lunatics seriously--Osama bin Laden, Pat and Jerry--any of those creeps who kill and hate and try to pin it on me.

It's not fair. I, God, don't hate anyone. Not even Silverado drivers, and they'd probably be my first choice. I mean, look at me. Do I look like a mean and vengeful God who wants to broil people for all eternity? And excuse me, Falwell, but I made liberals, homosexuals and feminists, and God doesn't make mistakes, fella!

Look. Here's the thing. I don't ask a lot of you people. Just be nice to each other and throw me a little lettuce now and I'm a happy God. Oh, and don't pollute my planet. Hey, I built this place with my own two paws. Do I go driving SUVs all over your house? No, I do not.

I've been down here before, you know, and I wasn't always a hamster, either. I've come down as great humans: Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi and others--even though I didn't always claim it was me--and every time I give you the same message: Love your neighbor. But no matter how many times I tell you, you still get it all mixed up. You can't see you're more alike than different.

For example, Christianity, Judaism and Islam all come from the same source: the Old Testament, right? You're all talking about the same God, but never has so much killing and suffering been brought upon the world as has been brought in the name of this same shared God, and most of the time it's the result of plain ignorance. For instance, did you know Muslims have a great respect for Jesus? They recognize him as a mighty prophet of God, who was born of a virgin and was able to perform healings and other miracles. They say no Muslim is a true Muslim unless he believes in Jesus, who, as you all know, was a Jew.

Makes you think, doesn't it? You don't have to take my word for it, of course, I'm just some hamster who runs the universe, but let me make a few more points here.

Adolph Hitler considered himself a Christian. In Volume 2, Chapter 10, of MEIN KAMPF, he referred to Jews as "the enemy of Aryan humanity and all Christendom."

Would you call Hitler a good representative of Christianity?

The Ku Klux Klan calls itself a Christian organization, and leans heavily on the Bible to support its beliefs--and we all know what their beliefs are. Would you call them good representatives of Christianity?

How about Gandhi? Did he live his life like a good Christian? I would say so. Ah, but he was a Hindu. Confused? I hope so.

The bottom line is not all Christians are potential Hitlers. Not all Christian organizations are the Ku Klux Klan. Not all Muslims are potential Osama bin Ladens. Not all Islamic organizations are the Taliban.

Before you talk about justice--and I'm all for justice and punishment, don't misunderstand me--just make sure you know who the real enemy is.

Here are some final thoughts about me, God, that I would like to leave you with.

I, God, do not ask for planes to be crashed into the sides of buildings. I don't ask for money on television, and have never called for the destruction of Buddhist antiquities. I never asked anyone to get drunk and drive their car through the front doors of a mosque, or to bomb innocent Afghan people simply because a handful of crazy fundamentalists live on their land. I've never instructed anyone to bomb, shoot or throw stones at anyone or anything. Because I, God, whether I look like an old guy with a beard, a pot-bellied brown man meditating under a tree, a prophet nailed to a cross, a man wearing a turban, a woman under a veil or a black family singing to the sky in Alabama--even if I look like a fuzzy little hamster--I, God, do not hate--or even dislike-- anyone.

The above column was previously published as a work for hire in THE GAZETTE in Medina, Ohio on the date listed. You can find more Williams columns at his website

That's all for this week. I'll be back next Friday with more stuff. Keep a good thought for all the peoples of the world; we're all in this together.

Tony Isabella

<< 09/21/2001 | 09/28/2001 | 10/05/2001 >>

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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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