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Tony's Online Tips
Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1463 (11/30/01)

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
--Winston Churchill

The coming of the Internet does require we update the esteemed Churchill's supposition somewhat. These days, a lie can get nine-tenths of the way around the world before the truth, as exemplified by columnists such as moi, can pull up its trousers and sally forth to conquer it...which is why Barbara and David P. Mikkelson's URBAN LEGENDS REFERENCE PAGE has become one of my favorite places in all of cyberspace.

The Mikkelsons have been investigating urban legends for many years and reporting the findings on their site. Their efforts have been particularly helpful of late, what with the nigh-instantaneous transmission of misinformation by even legitimate news agencies in the frenzied wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Nowadays, when someone posts a strange story online, the first place I go to check its veracity is the URBAN LEGENDS site

http://www.snopes2.com


There are hundreds of "urban legends" reported and debunked on the site and, just to keep your sense of wonder strong, you'll even find some stories that turned out to be true. It's a great place to visit for inquiring minds of all ages.

******

Making me chuckle is a good way to get me to plug your website here. After reading my column in CBG #1459, artist BRAD MARSHALL sent me this note:

Mickey's dog is named Pluto. Plato is that colored clay stuff you played with as a kid.

Marshall is a pretty spiffy artist. You can view his online gallery at:

http://Bradmarshall.8m.com


******

Reader VIC EDMONSON was moved by my recent "Marvel memories" columns to send me this note

I've been reading comics since I was in elementary school in the late 1960s. I've always enjoyed comics, especially IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS. I've also subscribed to CBG for years. I read with interest your column this week on "Marvel Memories."

I've always liked the character of Greer Nelson/The Cat/Tigra. I always thought she had potential, but that she's been mishandled or misunderstood by most of the writers or artists who handled her. You were one of the exceptions during your stint on MARVEL CHILLERS in 1975. I was wondering if you could give us your thoughts on the character and what your plans were for her. From those 1970s books, it seemed to me you had in mind a more detailed storyline than what actually made it into print. I speculate that artistic changes, a lack of sales, and the poor economy of the times spelled the end of the series. I appreciate your time and any feedback that you could provide me.

I agree with you about Tigra's potential. It's always bugged me that so many writers couldn't see past the "sex kitten" aspects of the character. I'm told that someone at Marvel is working on a new Tigra mini-series and, hopefully, whoever it is will treat the lady with more respect than has been the norm.

Had I continued on the Tigra series in the 1970s-my departure was due to my taking a position at DC Comics--I had intended her to be a globe-trotting adventurer, traveling wherever I had a story to tell and intersecting with the Marvel Universe on those occasions when it made sense from a story standpoint.

I saw Tigra as a cross between Modesty Blaise and Spider-Man. In fact, I consciously tried to make her speech pattern as close as I could to Spidey's without it becoming a note-for-note duplicate of Peter Parker's verbal rhythms. I also envisioned her forming a kind of Modesty Blaise/Willie Garvin relationship with the Thing, because Bashful Benjy was another of my favorite characters and I thought they would work well together.

Since I'd already left Marvel, I wasn't privy to the decision to cancel MARVEL CHILLERS, but I would hazard the guess that poor sales were, indeed, the reason the book got axed. The direct sales market was just getting going in the mid-1970s and newsstand sales were plummeting. The timing couldn't have been worse for Tigra to reach for solo stardom.

One last Tigra note. My pal Andy Ihnatko has put together a magnificent Tigra website at

http://www.cwob.com/tigra


THE TIGRA GALLERY has dozens of Tigra images, both published works and sensational special commissions from a variety of comics artists. If there's a bigger Tigra fan in the world than me, it's Ihnatko and his website is proof positive of that.

******

Since this column has drifted back to the 1970s, here's a bit of little-known comics history. When I was on staff in the Marvel offices, which were then located at 575 Madison Avenue, the company shared space with Magazine Management. This was another publishing outfit owned by Martin Goodman.

Magazine Management published what were then known as "men's sweat" magazines. They featured supposedly true stories of heroic adventures involving beautiful babes and brutal villains. Goodman also published crossword and puzzle magazines out of this company and maybe, memory fails me, some romance magazines. I'm also foggy as to whether or not this company was a part of Cadence Industries, which had bought Marvel Comics from Goodman prior to my arrival at the House of Ideas.

The covers of these magazines were as lurid as their contents. I never paid much attention to them, but I recall that, for some reason, Marvel staffers/freelancers would be photographed and the pictures used to illustrate "true" stories about adventurers. I'm thinking Sol Brodsky may have done some free-lance production for these mags. I myself was never photographed, but then, at 5'4", I probably wasn't precisely the heroic image they sought.

If anyone comes across issues of the magazines from the early 1970s, I would advise checking out the photos. You might just have a comics-related find on your hands.

******

With the USA waging war against terrorism, I have wondered if real-world events might enkindle a renewed interest in war comics. Certainly the success of the new G.I. JOE title indicates this may be the case. Can the returns of G.I. COMBAT and SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOES be too far behind?

Probably. I'm not certain today's readers would relate to the comic-book war heroes of my youth, though my 13-year-old son Eddie does enjoy reading the "Haunted Tank" and "Sgt. Rock" comics of the 1960s, but I do definitely believe a cautious testing-of-the-waters would be a reasonable risk for either DC or Marvel.

GI Combat


This wave of nostalgia reminded me that, a while back, artist TONY GLEESON posted the following message to the Silver Age/Golden Age mailing list to which we both belong

Finally got to read some of the cool "Big Five" war comics I bought last month. One issue--G.I. COMBAT #57 (February, 1958)--had one of those filler pages of "army slang" that had this marvelous piece of bowdlerization:

"SOS: in strict military parlance, the term refers to "services of supply," but, in mess hall lingo, denotes "SLOP ON A SHINGLE" (creamed beef on toast)..."

A nicely done euphemism there for the tiny tots who followed the Kanigher war books. I wonder if they ever defined "SNAFU" in one of those columns.

Gleeson was kind enough to send me a scan of the page, and we here at CBG are thrilled to share it with you. For those readers who aren't products of the 1950s and 1960s, here are a few helpful factoids.

The "Big Five" war comics were published by DC Comics, though G.I. COMBAT was originally published by Quality Comics and sold to DC along with BLACKHAWK, PLASTIC MAN, and a romance comic book or two. The other war titles were: ALL AMERICAN MEN OF WAR (featuring Native American fighter pilot Johnny Cloud), OUR ARMY AT WAR (the home of Sgt. Rock and the "Battle-Happy Joes" of Easy Company), OUR FIGHTING FORCES (Gunner, Sarge, and Pooch), and STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES (French resistence fighter Mademoiselle Marie, and, later, the dinosaur-festooned "War That Time Forgot" series). Relegated to an unjust second-class status: CAPTAIN STORM, a wooden-legged PT boat skipper in search of the Nazi submarine which had murdered his first crew and taken his leg. Melville, anyone?

All the above were edited by Robert Kanigher, one of the best writers and editors ever to work in comics. He created/co-created the afore-mentioned war heroes, as well as dozens of other classic characters, including the Black Canary and the Metal Men. He also wrote thousands of scripts in every conceivable genre: super-hero, war, western, mystery, romance, you name it.

Some of my most treasured childhood memories involve reading Kanigher comics and I list him among my own creative influence. I only got to work with him once-he wrote a terrific story for me during my short stint as editor of DC's YOUNG LOVE-but I have fond memories of our occasional chats in the DC offices. Then and now, he remains a comics original.

Time sure does fly when you're wallowing in blessed nostalgia.

I'll be back next week with more fun stuff.

******

ADDENDUM

Marvel Comics will be publishing a TIGRA mini-series sometime in the new year, written by Christina Z and drawn by Mike Deodato. I'm not familiar with Christina's work, though I know her name, but I liked what she was saying about Tigra in various interviews she's given. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what she does with my "step-daughter."

Tigra by Deodota


A few weeks back, Deodato e-mailed me one of his promotional pieces for the mini-series. He was surprised to learn that I had kind of sort of created Tigra. We had a chance to chat about the character at last weekend's Mid-Ohio-Con, where I told him how much I was looking forward to the mini. This surprised the heck out of an eavesdropping fan, who couldn't believe he was hearing this from yours truly. I'll explain why.

I have frequently expressed my considerable displeasure over writers other than myself using Black Lightning, another Isabella creation, in their stories, and especially over anyone other than me writing Black Lightning stories. The fan, who, by the way, I'm not upset with for eavesdropping--Who among us hasn't done that at conventions?-later asked me why I didn't feel the same way about my beloved Tigra. It's a fair question.

Black Lightning is my proudest comics creation, a character I would be quite content to write stories about until my fingers are cold and lifeless. Unfortunately, my history with this character has been checkered with what I consider unfair treatment from some editors and executives, including an after-the-fact reduction of my credit from sole creator to co-creator.

I don't mention the above out of any desire to take a shot at DC Comics, or its past and present employees. However, it is this specific combination of the Black Lightning stories I still want to write and the yet unresolved unfairness which incurs my displeasure when other writers use the character.

I didn't create Greer Nelson, the character who became Tigra. She first appeared in the short-lived THE CLAWS OF THE CAT title, written by Linda Fite and drawn by Marie Severin. I suspect Stan Lee or Roy Thomas or both also had a hand in the creative process, but this book was launched just before I came to work for Marvel in October of 1972, and canceled shortly thereafter.

I liked Greer and wanted to give her a second chance at comics life. Somewhere along the line, looking at the success of Marvel's "monster" titles-GHOST RIDER, TOMB OF DRACULA, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, to name but three--I suggested to Roy Thomas that this might be a direction to explore with regards to Greer. I'm pretty sure I had the Tigra name at the time, but it's quite possible that came at a somewhat later date.

I bounced some ideas off Duffy Vohland, an avid fan and a good friend who left us far too soon, and, though my memory is unclear, I wouldn't be surprised if some of Duffy's thoughts made their way into the notes I then prepared for my "Tigra creation" meeting with Roy and artist Gil Kane.

It was at that meeting where Greer's transformation into Tigra was given a green light, where Gil designed her new look, and where Roy decided GIANT-SIZE CREATURES #1 (May, 1974) would feature our "new" character's debut. With so many people contributing to this creative process, from the original CLAWS OF THE CAT title to this revamp, I have never considered myself to be Tigra's sole creator. I conceived the change and wrote the first story, but it was a team effort. This was not the case with Black Lightning, where all the key concepts unique to the character were mine.

So, though I have been often disappointed and occasionally outraged by writers who have portrayed Tigra as, at best, a heroic sex kitten, or, at worst, a cowardly slut, I don't believe I have any legal or moral claim on the character. I'm a foster parent who wishes Tigra happiness and success, nothing more.

Yes, I would have liked to write this Tigra mini-series and, yes, I would be interested in writing the character again. But, at the end of the day, I'll be almost as thrilled if this mini-series by Christina and Mike is as good as I hope. I wish them and Tigra all the best.

I'll be back next Friday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/23/2001 | 11/30/2001 | 12/07/2001 >>

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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