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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 #1464 (12/07/01)

"There is a continuing, mandatory need for heresy in its most profound sense; for freedom to choose and follow truth wherever it leads."
--William Edelen

"The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn."
--David Russell

Our beloved CBG has a sparkling new format, not that I have a clue what that sparkling new format looks like. Heck, most weeks, I barely have a clue what goes into my column, much less the whole flipping newspaper. I see each new issue about the same time you do, which is when my mailman finishes reading it.

The reason I mention this is because I keep receiving e-mails, letters, and even phone calls from readers who seemingly believe I share a Krause Publications bullpen with Peter David, Mark Evanier, Fred Hembeck, Mr. Silver Age, Captain Comics, and Commander CGI, and am thus privy to omniscient knowledge of every element of this fine publication. The truth is that most of CBG's columnists don't live or work anywhere near Iola, Wisconsin, which is a small town located in the same basic hemisphere as Nova Scotia.

Outside of my own little "place" here, I don't worry overmuch about my CBG neighbors. My extracurricular activity is limited to answering an occasional editorial question, forwarding a news item, and requesting Brent Frankenhoff's assistance in transferring large sums of money out of Nigeria, for which he receives a substantial handling fee.

What? You thought that was just an internet scam? No wonder you couldn't afford a slabbed copy of ALIENS VS. PREDATOR VS. SUGAR & SPIKE! Brent has 17 of them.

"But, Tony," you plead, "who can we turn to for the answers we seek? Who can lead us out of the darkness?"

Not to worry. Elsewhere in this issue--it used to be on page four, but, for all I know, the editors have added a new wing onto the paper--you'll find the names of the nice CBG people who DO live in Iola and information on how to contact them. They will be able to answer your questions and help you to enjoy and use CBG to the fullest. You can count on them.

On the other hand, if you're of a mind to dabble in some Third World investment, I'm your guy.

******

Artist ROBERT FAIRES is, like myself, a member of the SILVER AGE REVIEWS mailing list. Recently, he posted this note and gave me permission to post it here along with examples of the artwork he discusses therein. He wrote:

As a kid, I dreamed of being a comic-book artist, of drawing the adventures of my favorite cape-clad heroes and heroines. Well, I never realized that dream, but this week I came awfully close. THE AUSTIN CHRONICLE, the weekly free paper for which I work, puts out an annual "Best of the city" issue, usually built around some theme. This year, we decided to go for a kind of "hometown heroes" approach, using super-hero iconography to celebrate the everyday heroes and heroines in town. (For what it's worth, we settled on the theme three months before the September 11 attacks.)

I was given the opportunity to come up with illustrations for the various categories we use for "Best of Austin" and I based all my work on Silver Age images and logos. I "created" my own heroes for the illustrations, but I swiped a number of compositions and poses of the figures from actual Silver Age covers. And every logo is a ripoff, er, *homage*, to the logo of a Silver Age (or older) Marvel or DC comic.

It was probably the most fun I've had doing a project for work in years. Response around the office has been positive, but as I was working on the pieces I thought the folks who would probably most appreciate these illos and what went into them would be the members of this list. In some ways, I thought of these pieces as a gift to all of you whose reviews and comments I enjoy.

I love seeing comic-book iconography appearing in this manner, if for no other reason that it helps remind the big old world out there that comic books exist. It may be a passive recognition, but it's a warm-and-fuzzy hug that speaks to the continuing impression these images have on the national consciousness.

Robert has kindly given me permission to share some of these images with you and you'll find them somewhere in the sparkling new format of this business-as-usual column. If you've a hankering to read about the best stuff in Austin, you can find that information at the Austin Chronicle website

http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-10-05/boa_feature.html


******

One of my year-end goals is to catch up on reader requests and the like. Several months back, I received this e-mail from Nelson Jimenez:

I'm a fan of your weekly column. But how can you mention an unpublished John Byrne Fantastic Four and not go into more detail? Is Marvel crazy not to publish this?

I would also like to read your thoughts on the upcoming end to STARMAN. CBG devoted an issue to the character's 60th anniversary and I was hoping to see something by you. Should more creators have a say in ending a series like Sandman & Starman?

John Byrne plotted and penciled his unpublished Fantastic Four story as a sample of what he could do with the characters. Yes, he wanted the gig from the start of his comics career.

In John's 30-page story, which would have fit nicely into the GIANT-SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR title Marvel has publishing at the time, the Human Torch met and fell in love with the Crystal of Counter-Earth. I recall it as an action-packed and well-paced story with the heart-rending and poignant ending of the Torch losing the woman he loved for a second time.

I remember recommending Marvel run the story and, since John wasn't known as a writer back then, at least not at Marvel, offered to script the pages.

I believe Joe Sinnott expressed his interest in inking them. Amazingly, however, there were folks in the office who didn't appreciate John's obvious-to-me talents and, being that they were in charge, decided not to purchase his story and artwork.

The best I could do was give John a penciling assignment on one of the black-and-white horror magazines I was editing for the company at the time.

Fittingly, John would eventually get the FF gig and prove to be, after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby themselves, the best man for both the penciling AND writing jobs. His FF run still stands as some of the best Marvel comics of the 1980s.

Relations seemed somewhat strained between John and Marvel at the present, but I think it would be spiffy to see a special comic presenting John's original story, published as it would have been then, with another writer scripting his pages and hand lettering and coloring; and also featuring a modern version of the story with John doing the entire job and bringing all of his present-day tools and skills to the telling of his tale. I don't know if either John or Marvel would be interested in such a project, but I do know I'd happily plunk down several bucks to read it.

As for STARMAN, I must confess--with great embarrassment--that I am years behind in reading this fine title. Maybe I can catch up and write a retrospective for the guy's 61st birthday.

Should more creators have a say inwhen a series like STARMAN or THE SANDMAN ends? In those specific cases, where James Robinson and Neil Gaiman brought entirely new characters to the DC Universe, I would say yes.

In other cases, maybe not.

Robinson and Gaiman made a commitment to their creations and fulfilled it through the runs of the titles. I applaud DC letting them determine the how and when of their characters' stories coming to an end. And I would hope that, even if the characters someday reappear in the DCU, that Robinson and Gaiman will be consulted and have right of first refusal on those appearances. That's a great way to cement trust between creator and publisher and, in the long run, I believe it works out best for all parties.

In other cases, the elements that made STARMAN and THE SANDMAN so memorable may not be present. The characters may be closer to variations on a theme than new melodies. The creators may not be willing to make the same commitment to the title that Robinson and Gaiman made. In these cases, I wouldn't expect a publisher to make the same commitment as DC made to Robinson and Gaiman.

Clearly, however, when outstanding works like STARMAN and THE SANDMAN are created, the mutual good faith of the creators and the publisher is a important factor in the creative and the financial success of those works. Moreover, that success can encourage other creators and publishers to follow the same plan. The end results benefit everyone, creators, publishers, and readers.

******

A friend of mine recently posed a question on his website. He asked visitors to the site what they would do if they could take a year-long sabbatical without detrimental effects on their income or careers. Here's how I answered

Three things. There's a comics story I want to write, but the research for it would be extensive and also involve a considerable amount of travel in the United States and Canada. A sabbatical would allow me to move this project forward.

There's a novel I want to write. It would be a bestseller and Hollywood would throw big stupid gobs of money at me for the movie rights. It also involves considerable research and travel, but it would be worth it knowing that my enemies would be so consumed by envy that they would spontaneously combust.

I could read the thousand-plus (and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest) unread comics sitting in boxes all over my house and finally organize my collection. Then I would probably sell 75% of everything I own on eBay...to pay for the publication of the comics story and the novel.

******

The holiday season is upon us. I'll take advantage of that to make two requests of CBG readers.

Don't forget those less fortunate than yourselves. All across our country and our world, there is a great and continuing need for food, shelter, clothing, health care, and the education which would allow those in need to aspire to a better life for them and theirs. Give the gifts of help and hope.

If you're buying gifts for family and friends, do as much of your gift-shopping as possible with your favorite comics retailers. The comics industry showed some welcome signs of improvement in the past year and that's a trend worth embracing.

Happy holidays to all.

******

ADDENDUM

I have now seen the new CBG format and, for the most part, I think it looks pretty cool. I would like to see a better contents page and a Chuck Rozanski column which didn't involve him writing about his own greatness...that's my turf...but, all in all, I like the new look CBG. So does Krause Publications, which has started advertising the newspaper in Marvel Comics and WIZARD.

I've always believed that CBG was a great buy for your bucks, what with a low subscription rate of $29.98 per year, so maybe now would be a good time to begin or renew your relationship with the weekly newspaper of comicdom. You can order online at

http://www.collect.com


Having thus secured my Christmas bonus, let me again thank Bob Faires for allowing me the use of his cover homages in CBG and on this website. I got a kick out of his work and am pleased to share it with all of you.

My mention of John Byrne's unpublished Fantastic Four story brought a flurry of e-mail responses. TIM MARKIN wrote:

I have information that ties in to your recent column about John Byrne in the 1970s. I am not sure if you are aware of this, but those Fantastic Four sample pages Byrne penciled in 1974 were published several years ago. In 1985, DAVID ANTHONY KRAFT'S COMICS INTERVIEW #25 ran an issue-long Byrne interview and, in the back of the mag, the samples were published, showing the Kirby influences and looking a lot like circa-1974 Rich Buckler pages. The art is somewhat crude but he was still a beginner. I think he was toiling at Charlton at the time. Still, it was nice to see this early work.

Feel free to share this information with your readers, but let them know that this magazine may be hard to locate; mine is the only copy I've ever seen.

I also heard from JIM LANG

I read with interest your comments on John Byrne's unpublished Fantastic Four story. I'm a huge Byrne fan. A Byrne comic was the first comic I ever remember reading and it was at that point that I became a life long comic book fan. I guess I can even blame Byrne for my 20,000+ comics collection.

The unpublished Fantastic Four story rung a bell with me as I had a vivid memory of seeing this story. While you may be aware of this, you did not mention it in your article and I thought your readers might be interested to know that this story did actually see print.

After checking my collection, I pulled out a comic magazine from 1985 called DAVID ANTHONY KRAFT'S COMICS INTERVIEW #25. The entire 114-page mag is devoted to an interview between Jim Salicrup and John Byrne. Included in the middle of the issue are the entire "30 pages of previously unpublished pencil art." It is fantastic work to look at and, even though there are no words, you can still follow the story fairly well. It's a definite must to track down for fans of Byrne and the FF.

In fact you're even mentioned in the opening as giving John his first Marvel work. You may even be mentioned in the interview itself but I have not read it in 15 years. (Note to self: re-read COMICS INTERVIEW #25.) Thanks for the great column and keep up the good work.

Some folks might consider it an act of cruelty for me to run two such letters praising a long out-of-print magazine. But, don't despair. This legendary all-Byrne issue of COMICS INTERVIEW might not be totally beyond your reach.

My old pal DAVID ANTHONY KRAFT writes

Howdy again. I just finished reading your latest CBG column, and while it's on my mind, I wanted to let you know that the only place where Byrne's FF pencils saw print in their entirety was in my COMICS INTERVIEW #25. I did some scratching around, and I have about ten copies left at $15 plus $5 p&h. Spread the word to your readers if you want. I think it's a pretty fair price; I've seen the issue sell on eBay for $25 and up.

Interested parties can e-mail DAK at

powerhouse@rabun.net

******

QUOTES CORNER

I'm doing some "house" cleaning here at Tips Central and came across a couple quotes I may or may not have shared with you prior to this week's column

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for any assumption of power. The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

(Daniel Webster)

Even allowing for the best intentions on the part of Bush and his cabinet members--and that's something I'm not inclined to do in light of their current actions-it is necessary for their actions to be examined closely by all citizens who believe the Constitution is the law of the land. It doesn't take a Constitutional scholar to recognize that some of these actions raise serious questions as to their legality. If we as a nation are going to claim a lawful foundation for our anti-terrorism activities, which I believe, for the most part, we can, then we ought make sure we are following the laws from which that foundation is constructed.

I'm equally fond of this quote

"Dreams do not vanish, so long as people do not abandon them."

(Phantom F. Harlock, aerial explorer)

If we are willing to abandon the American dream of liberty and justice for all, whether in the name of expediency or for political advantage, then we ourselves will have become a far more dangerous enemy than any we face on foreign soil.

******

ANIME IN OHIO

The wonderfully exhausting MID-OHIO-CON 2001 is little more than a week past as I write this columns and I'm already thinking of attending another convention. And it's all because of an e-mail I received from reader WIDYA SANTOSO

I'm an avid reader of your column in the Comics Buyer's Guide, and I am also an anime and manga reader as well. Knowing you're a fan of good anime and manga and have covered your favorites in the past, and also that you enjoy going to conventions, I thought I'd alert you to a convention close to Medina

OHAYOCON, January 26-28, 2002, Independence, Ohio

http://www.ohayocon.com

While I realize you may already have prior engagements, and/or that your budget may not allow you to include an additional con, I thought that I would let you know about this event.

OHAYOCON is small, not more than 1,000 people at the previous cons, and as you might expect, run about the same as other cons, except with an anime/manga flavor. There are panels, a masquerade event, and a dealers room, offering goods from the US and imported from Japan. The material isn't limited to only what's available in the US. It also covers anime and manga only available in Japan, but which has garnered a fan following in the US. One example is INU-YASHA. The translated manga is available from Viz in the US, but it is also an animated TV series in Japan, and the US licence for this series has not been awarded as far as I know. Many anime conventions also fly in guests from Japan, and fans can hear from them and ask questions about their work.

One of the most striking differences you'll immediately notice is the number of fans who attend in costume, or "cosplay" (COStume PLAY). Cosplaying has become very popular in US anime fandom, and you'll find cosplayers range in age from little children to adults. Again, the subjects aren't confined to anime and manga available in the US, and just those only seen in Japan, but include video games (such as the Final Fantasy series) and, the more recent phenomena of JRock/Visual Kei...dressing up in the flamboyant costumes of Japanese male rock singers.

Another difference, though this can only be seen at a special event, is the anime music video contest. Fans take favorite pieces of music, such as pop songs, etc., and cut together scenes from anime to make a music video. Whilst I am not sure if this kind of thing is prevalent in SF fandom, in anime fandom it is extremely popular, and there are lots of wonderful, funny and striking music videos to be seen.

As you might expect, there is a lot of adult material at anime cons, but it's outnumbered by the sheer number of family friendly material to be seen. Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Digimon and other anime shown on television have attracted lots of young fans and their inquiring parents to conventions, and con organizers have made it one of their priorities to have their cons accessible to all ages and sensibilities. It is advisable though for parents to keep a watchful eye out for anything that might be sensitive.

I hope you decide to attend OHAYOCON, and hopefully raise your own enjoyment of the anime and manga is available there. If you're interested in seeing more about anime cons, you may want to visit the Fan's View [http://www.fansview.com] website. It's hosted by a fan who attends LOTS of conventions and posts his notes and his photos from them on the site.

Thanks for your time.

I should be (and am) thanking you. I wasn't aware that there was an anime/manga convention being held so close to where I live. It sounds like a great way to spend a January weekend, so don't be surprised to see me there.

I'll be back next Friday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/30/2001 | 12/07/2001 | 12/14/2001 >>

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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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