TONY'S ONLINE TIPS From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1456 (10/05/01)
Don't have a job, don't leave my bed, My TV's duct-taped to my head.
I watch it til I puke,
And if I could meet Jean-Luc,
I'd say as long as you're out looking for life, Find one for me!
(from "Star Trek Case" by The Great Luke Sky)
This is the concluding installment of my WizardWorld 2001 trilogy, three columns about my time at a convention where I didn't actually do anything. Just imagine if I had hosted as many panels as Mark Evanier hosts in one day at the San Diego con; we'd still be talking about this WizardWorld in 2010!
Over the years, I have been given a great many things at cons. I have been given books, comic books, fanzines, magazines, role-playing games, sketches, t-shirts, videos and darn near everything else that could possibly be reviewed here. I've been gifted with homemade bakery, such as the delicious cookies longtime reader Tips reader Sandy Schreiber brought me in Chicago. A few of those even made it home to Sainted Wife Barb and our children.
Once a perky fan handed me an envelope filled with pictures of her dressed as an assortment of super-heroines. Of course, I was never sure which super-heroines since she was pretty much naked in the photos. One cape looks pretty much like any other cape in such circumstances. I had no idea how to respond to this gift. I mean, of course, I offered a few polite words of admiration, but, beyond that, I hadn't a clue what I was supposed to do next.
"Maggie? This is Tony. I'd like to talk to you about running a photo spread in next week's issue."
I figure such a photo feature would happen about the same time simians begin taking flight from my posterior. Please stop holding your breath. Maggie won't budge on this one.
Getting back to Wiz World, I received hours of enjoyment from the cassette and CDs given to me by Luke Sienkowski, also known as "the Great Luke Ski."
Inspired by the glorious works of Weird Al Yankovic, this young man writes and performs musical parodies with a sci-fi slant. His singing will never get him to Carnegie Hall, but his comedy and the enthusiasm with which he performs make for some fun stuff.
I especially liked his "Fandom Trilogy" cassette. It features the Jeff Foxworthian "You Might be a Trekkie," as well as the songs "Fanboy" and "It's a Fanboy Christmas." Each of these runs a bit too long to be effective, but they're fun and, in places, bordering on brilliant.
Sienkowski also gave me three CDs, the best of which is CARPE DEMENTIA. The works therein run a little heavier towards rap music than is to my taste and, as above, often run longer than the core ideas can comfortably sustain. There are also several songs based on incomprehensible "in" jokes. But, despite such problems, I was impressed by Sienkowski's writing.
"Titanic Monday" was such an obvious--albeit wonderful--twist on "Maniac Monday" I am amazed Weird Al Yankovic didn't get there first. "Aliens Just Don't Understand" turned "Parents Just Don't Understand" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) into a salute to the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY (which starred Smith). Other favorites: "Ranma Soutome" (to the tune of "Kokomo"), "YODA" ("YMCA"), and "Viva Las Nagus," a brisk ode to the Ferengi of STAR TREK renown.
If you delight in Yankovic, Doctor Demento, and fan-inspired comedy, there's a good chance you'll also enjoy the musical madness of the Great Luke Ski. For more on his works, including ordering information, visit his website at
As I wrote a few weeks back, at the start of this WizardWorld trilogy, I came to the convention to be with my friends, those I'd known for decades and those I would be meeting for the first time. It was reassuring to see one old friend looking much healthier than the last time I saw him and to chat with another old friend who was dealing magnificently with some life changes.
One evening, I gathered in the lobby of the Hotel Sofitel with a small group of my online readers. Among them was Norman Barth, who sponsors my thrice-weekly "Tony's Online Tips" columns at his Perpetual Comics website:
Afterwards, I was interviewed by one of the group for, of all things, a cable-access wrestling show. I got just a little carried away towards the end of the segment and challenged a former editor to a no-referee, no-time-limit, steel-cage match. Let me tell you now: the smart money will be on me.
The second and third generations of comics were in evidence at the convention. Dave Olbrich was there with his lovely daughter. Jerry Ordway was there with his son, who is as good-looking and as well-behaved as Jerry himself. Stephen Thompson, son of a certain CBG editor, was there with his son and, as befits someone who works on THE ONION, was amused when I quipped
"Oh, he's got Maggie's eyes, which probably explains why she's been bumping into things all day."
Reader Howie Gold gave me a copy of J.E. Smith's COMPLEX CITY #1 (Better Comics; $2.50), a humorously off-beat comic that speaks to both the NYPD BLUE and super-hero parts of my pop culture soul. Although this title is not presently available through Diamond, you can still order copies online at:
I also met the outrageously-attired-and-coiffured creators of MAC AFRO (Atomic Entertainment; $2.95), a retro-to-the-1970s comic book. The title won't be to everyone's liking--I thought the basic storytelling was too choppy for mine--but there is some fun stuff going on here. I'd like to see what these folks do after they get a few more issues under their belts.
Bill Cole of Bill Cole Enterprises, who has been advertising in these pages since they weren't actually pages but were, instead, crude paintings on cavern walls, had an exhibitor booth at the show as well. This was the first time I had met Bill and, to celebrate this momentous meeting, he sold me the ComicBase computer software. I may be giving away restricted information here, but, according to the back of the package:
ComicBase is the longtime leader in comic collector's software. It combines the world's most comprehensive comic price guide and encyclopedia with a powerful collection management system, making it the ideal tool for serious collectors.
What this means to me is that, if I were to try to install it on my computer myself, I'd likely create a technological black hole in my office and be sucked into nothingness. But, fear not, my son Eddie has agreed to install it for me...
Don't be nervous, Dad. This will be easy for a technological genius like me and every other person on the planet who's not you. First thing, you'll have to buy me some pre-instillation software to generate the valances I'll need to build in your system. Just go to the store and ask for Turbo Track 4001, Fishing Fury II, and Roller Coaster Maniac. The nice thing about them is that they have games included with the pre-instillation software and...
Dad! You're going away again.
Tell you what...just give me a blank check and you can wait in the car while I buy this stuff.
This is the point where this column could easily turn into a lengthy list of the many fine and noble folks with whom I conversed at the convention. However, since none of their checks cleared, I'll take a more serious tone.
The friend I most wanted to see at WizardWorld was Jon "the Interrogator" Knutson. As veteran Tips readers may recall, Jon has been conducting the longest and therefore most wretchedly excessive by its very nature Tony Isabella interview in the known universe. It makes ATLAS SHRUGGED look like a haiku.
What you probably don't know is that Jon lost his beloved wife Barbara a few weeks before WizardWorld. She was a dear woman, his fellow afficionado of comics, and his true soulmate. Her death was tragic, but the way Jon comported himself in that time of loss was nothing short of inspirational.
Jon only spent part of one day at WizardWorld, long enough to say hello to some friends, reassure us that he was doing as well as possible, and thank us for our sympathy and friendship. The former was natural, given what a fine person his Barbara was. The latter was something for which we should have thanked him.
In the midst of his loss, Jon e-mailed me some tips he wanted to share with my readers. How "Jon" of him to be thinking of other people. He wrote:
There are things that I've been learning from this experience with Barbara's passing, things that, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to be share with your readers
You can never tell the people you love often enough that you love them. You don't know when it'll be the last chance you have. Although I did tell Barbara at least twice a day that I love her, I still wish I'd said it to her at least one more time.
Having a will is *very* important. Barbara passed without a will and I'm going to have to go through all sorts of legal stuff before everything is settled. She had a checking account in her name only and hadn't named a beneficiary. There's also the matter of her car. Even if it essentially just names one person who will see to the disposition of assets, a will can save a lot of time and trouble.
Having life insurance is just as important as a will. The only life insurance Barbara had was through her work, and when they let her go during her lengthy hospital stay, we weren't able to get a new policy started. Even just the cost of cremation can be more than many people can afford all at once, and funeral homes expect to be paid within 30 days.
Make sure, if bank accounts aren't in more than one person's name, or for that matter, all other savings, retirement plans and so forth, that a beneficiary is named.
I don't think enough people realize the importance of these things. God knows I've learned the importance of the last three, but if my experience can, in turn, help others avoid some of these difficulties, then there will, at least, be that positive note to this experience.
Barbara and Jon were strong supporters of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, won over to the cause after hearing Harlan Ellison speak about the organization at a convention. In lieu of flowers, Jon asked Barbara's friends to make donations to the Fund and has since named the Fund as his own beneficiary.
Jon and I exchange e-mails at least once a week. We're still working on my stupid interview because neither one of us is willing to admit defeat. He continues to transcribe far more interesting interviews for fine magazines like ALTER EGO and COMIC BOOK ARTIST, though he has, quite understandably, cut back on that workload the past few months. He is also trying to arrange his schedule so he can come to Mid-Ohio-Con this November.
I'm hoping that works out because, as a wise man wrote to me, you can't tell the people you love often enough that you love them. The long-distance nature of comicdom, no matter if one is a fan or pro, limits our opportunities to see some of our dearest friends. Every chance we get is precious.
I went to WizardWorld to see my friends. What other reason did I need?
Under normal circumstances, this week's column would have been the column I wrote for CBG #1455. However, that column is already online as the September 12 installment of "Tony's Online Tips" and can be found at:
Next week, Justin and I will be posting the column I wrote for CBG #1457. As per my promise to Brian Bendis a while back, it's my review of ALIAS #1.
Be sure to wear your steel pot.
CBG #1456 shipped on September 26. By week's end, I'd already received e-mails requesting copies of the super-heroine photographs mentioned above.
You know, folks, even if I hadn't returned those photos to the young lady years ago, there was far less chance of my sending them to you than there is of monkeys flying out of my butt. I'm a gentleman...more or less.
Here's a note from JON KNUTSON, who also sent it to CBG's "Oh, So?" letters column. I don't know if CBG will be running it, but Jon gave me permission to share it here
I'm not going to talk about the terrorist attacks, except to mention, in response to John Jackson Miller's editorial that, in my mind, even the most trivial--relatively speaking--jobs are still worth doing, even if all they do is provide a necessary distraction and entertainment to others. 'Nuff said.
The main focus of this is to note the appropriate coincidence of Tony's column, talking about our meeting at WizardWorld and the lessons I have learned in the wake of my wife Barbara's death, appearing in the same issue focusing on the five-year anniversary of Lois and Clark's wedding.
What Tony may not have known or remembered--had I mentioned it before and it's quite possible I had-is Barbara and I met through LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, the television show. Actually, it was through an internet mailing list that, so far as I'm aware, is still going strong today.
I'm originally from western Washington, while Barbara was here in Greenfield (right outside Milwaukee). Neither of us was looking for a relationship when we first began chatting online through the group, but we did find we were finishing each other's sentences and responding in the same way to what other posters said. That led to discussions outside the TV show, concerning each other's likes, dislikes, and opinions on a wide variety of topics. In about four months' time, we figured we'd had the equivalent of several years' worth of dates, without the distractions of dating.
LOIS & CLARK played a big part in our lives, especially after we met in person the first time. Our wedding had the characters all over the place, although sometimes, Clark was represented as his alter-ego. One of our wedding cakes had a topper I'd created using a wedding photo of Lois and Clark from the show. The ring pillow was made from a Superman S-shield T-shirt. The wedding favors included small tins of Superman candies, which we'd scoured Milwaukee trying to find just before that Christmas. I even wore a Superman S-shield pin on my suit, and the men involved in the wedding all wore flowers with red, blue and yellow ribbons tied around them. Even the bouquets had the Superman colors. To top it off, our exit theme at the end of the ceremony was the theme from LOIS & CLARK!
Since we were married, we made a trip to Metropolis, Illinois, and, at the last Mid-Ohio-Con we attended, I was able to tell John Byrne that his work on Superman made it possible for my wife and I to meet and get married. Heck, I couldn't tell Siegel and Shuster, or even Curt Swan or any of the many other people who worked on Superman and had passed away.
I wrote several columns for an online Superman fanzine. There is even a Superman Christmas ornament hanging from mt car's rear-view mirror, and I won't even get into all the other paraphernalia around an apartment which is crowded with stuff, but now feels much emptier than it did two months ago.
I think Barbara would appreciate the coincidence, the latest in a long line of Superman-related events in our all-too-short time together. Thank you.
I would ask our online community to take a moment to remember Barbara Knutson and all the other good souls taken from their loved ones too soon. They are in our hearts and our prayers.
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: