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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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From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1477 (03/23/02)

"I have no desire to make a career for myself in this industry. So don't worry about my 'pro' work hurting TCR. It's just a way to help pay my college tuition."

-Paul Levitz, the newly-named President AND Publisher of DC Comics, from The Comics Reader #98 (June, 1973).

I trust Paul Levitz, a friend of many decades, will forgive me for sharing the above with you. It was posted on a comics mailing list recently and also sent to me by a Tips reader or three. When I sent it to Paul, his amused reply was that now it's a way to pay for his daughters' college tuitions.

Whatever Paul's reasons for remaining on the wild ride that is the comics industry, I congratulate him on his new responsibilities and wish him the best. He's done a fine job for DC...from writing House of Mystery text pages in 1973 (and a bunch of classic Legion of Super-Heroes and other stories after that) to running the place in these more turbulent times. Maybe the ride has been a bumpy one now and again, but the truly exciting ones always are. If only he could find time to do more writing...


If you're new to CBG, here's the short story on me

I've been working in comics for just shy of three decades as a writer, editor, retailer, and so many other positions that even I don't have a complete collection of my business cards. I live in Ohio with my wife and two kids, and I've never transferred my debt to off-shore accounts. Powerful motivator that debt is, I like to keep it where I can see it.

Every week I review comics and stuff here at CBG, rating these items on a scale of one to five Tonys

5 Tonys: Broadway Smash
Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

4 Tonys: Off-Broadway Hit
Tony Tony Tony Tony

3 Tonys: Touring Company
Tony Tony Tony

2 Tonys: Dinner Theater
Tony Tony

1 Tony: Street Mime

I've been told there are some other "Tony" awards out there, and even that they might have some connection to the entertainment business, but, for now, I'm assuming this is just another annoying Internet rumor.

At least until I can order some new business cards.


BLACK TIDE #1 and #2 (Image Comics; $2.95 each) rolled in from Tidal Wave Studios, the same outfit which brings us THE 10TH MUSE. Created and written by Debbie Bishop, the series introduces us to a trio of reincarnated heroes from ancient and now reborn Atlantis. Justin/Villonious is a member of an international special ops team, but it's too early in the mag's run for me to say if that team will be a major focus of future tales. In fact, I'm not yet getting any sense of direction for this series, a leisurely approach that may not be wise in the current marketplace.

Bishop's writing ranges from mostly serviceable to promising. Her first issue was a bit of a muddle with key plot points lacking sufficient clarity. Fortunately, some "what has gone before" copy on the inside front cover of the second issue answered most of my questions from the first. I was also able to get more into Bishop's characters with this second issue, particularly the delightfully devious Queen Celestia. Think a blonde Joan Collins in a toga. The queen is a scary one, but her motives appear to stem as much from her maternal instincts as from the desire to hold power in Atlantis.

Penciler Mark S. Millar does some decent work in these issues. His storytelling is good, but he excels when it comes to the facial expressions and figures of the characters.

BLACK TIDE earns some extra points for the genuine enthusiasm which comes through on its editorial pages and for the interesting factoids which are included on those pages. The first issue rates 2 Tonys, but, with their second issue, Bishop, Miller, and company work their way up to 3 Tonys.

Tony Tony

Tony Tony Tony

If BLACK TIDE can find a focus and build on the good things in its initial issues, I could conceivably add another Tony or two to its rating in the not-so-distant future.


I read THE FORGOTTEN #1 ($2.95) from a preview copy sent to me by Fintan Studios. The actual 32-page, black-and-white comic ships in April with the already-completed second through fourth issues of the series coming in June, August and October.

In a world where super-heroes once captured the imagination of the world, and where they now play a smaller role, history student Sara Dawning is researching the career of the nigh-forgotten Mister Mystery. But, as she is learning, "forgotten" may not necessarily mean "gone."

THE FORGOTTEN, created and written by Evan Young and Jareth Grealish, offers readers a somewhat different take on the vigilante hero. Their "Mister Mystery" (if that is, indeed, who he is) does his work as unobtrusively as possible, passing from the memories of those he encounters as soon as he has achieved his objectives, and, it also seems, paying a physical price for using his powers in this manner. I want to know this guy's story, which Young and Grealish are savvy enough to reveal slowly.

Artist John Forcucci shows considerable promise here, but his work could have benefitted from color. Throughout the issue, there are figures which don't stand out from their surroundings as well as they should have, a "dimensional" problem which inkers Mostafa Moussa and James Taylor didn't appear able to solve. Consider this a minor quibble; the art did operate in the service of the story and that's the most important thing.

Tony Tony Tony

THE FORGOTTEN #1 is an impressive debut. I'll give it three Tonys. For more information, visit the Fintan website at


Humor is often an subjective experience. Some people get the joke. Some people don't. Sometimes the only one who gets the joke is the person telling it. My reactions to some recently-published comic books surprised even me.

GENERIC COMIC (Comics Conspiracy; $1.95) was a book I'd not so much as glanced through previously, despite the publisher kindly sending it to me regularly. Marvel Comics had tried something like this concept once and all I can remember from that ancient one-shot is that it was neither funny or successful. But I've enjoyed other comics written by Doug Miers and, since GENERIC COMIC #6 was guest-starring Pete the P.O.'d Postal Worker, I felt it was time to give this super-hero spoof a shot. I'm glad I did.

Before the "Generic" joke got entirely played out, Miers went beyond the limited concept with the arrival of the obsessive Pete, then continued to generate chuckles with some well-crafted digs at comics, comics fans, and the industry. The comic wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but I was smiling as I read it.

GENERIC COMIC #6 is only 20 pages (counting the covers), but, since the story takes up 18 of those pages, it does offer excellent bang for your two bucks. I give it three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

You can find the Comics Conspiracy website at


Unlike GENERIC COMICS, I had been anticipating enjoying Gail Simone's KILLER PRINCESSES #1 (Oni Press; $2.95) from the moment I heard about it. Besides writing some very funny stories for Bongo Comics, Simone wrote a hilarious online column for a year. She did a spoof of my own online column that, well, let's just say that if laughter is the best medicine then she added about five years to my life with that one. Given my appreciation for Simone's writing and

my oft-expressed fondness for the work of artist Lea Hernandez, I figured KILLER PRINCESSES would be a hit with me.

Surprise. It wasn't. I just didn't get the joke.

The princesses are heavily-armed and lightly-sentient sorority sisters who moonlight as assassins. Their controller/house mother is unconcerned with concepts like "good and bad" and more concerned with balance, which she describes as a "world without genius." The house mom won't allow anyone to make her girls unhappy, but she is also prepared to kill them herself if they start thinking about the rightness of what they do.

I respect Simone's ability and intelligence enough to accept that there may well be an audience that finds these characters and their violent antics amusing. I also can't find fault per se with the writing or the art. Which doesn't alter the fact that I didn't like KILLER PRINCESSES and, since it's my smiling face rating these comics, the best I can give it is two Tonys.

Tony Tony


THE OCHLOCRAT (Comics Conspiracy; $2.95) was more to my taste. This time out, Doug Miers brings us a world where the high and the mighty are subject to the rule of the mob, as expressed and enacted by an on-air and on-the-streets "hero" called the Ochlocrat. The one-shot is drawn by Gerry Alanguilan, best known as an inker, but proving here that he knows how to wield a mean pencil as well. His realistic style plays nicely off the mania of the story.

The Ochlocrat is always on, downloading the electronic wishes of millions of certified voters before he takes action against his targets. Lawyers have no place in this system of instant justice, except as opportunities to jazz up the program with an explosion or two. It's the will of the people that carries the day and, if the audience want their hero to have sex with his target's mistresses, well, that's what the adults-only channel is for.

The reader, and perhaps Miers himself, feels both respect and contempt for the Ochlocrat's audience. That audience wants what's right, but it also wants its big explosions and sexual titillation. The resultant comic book is a challenging mix of social satire and sophomoric pandering. It won't be to every reader's taste, but I found it funny and thoughtful.

THE OCHLOCRAT earns three-and-a-half Tonys...and 78% of CBG's 65.8 million readers think it would be funny if I wrote next week's Tips while wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Been there, done that, still paying damages to the thousands of people traumatized by the sight. But, hey, just to show I'm willing to work with you, I'm making Diana the focus of next week's column.

Tony Tony Tony half Tony

Hera help me.



Sometime in the very near future, maybe even between the time I write these words and the time they're posted on the WORLD FAMOUS COMICS website, Justin will be adding a "Tip the Tipster" link to my columns here. Both of us would appreciate it if you used this link to do just that.

This website has never been profitable for Justin or myself. We've kept it alive, bleeding red ink all the way, because we think it serves a person and because we know you enjoy it. What we hope to do with this link is stem the flow of red ink enough so that we can continue to provide you with entertainment and maybe even add some new stuff to these pages.

This year alone, we've added two extra days of entertainment in the form of Sunday's TONY POLLS page and Tuesday's TONY'S TIPS: THE AFTER-POLL REPORT. With Norman Barth's PERPETUAL COMICS site sponsoring TONY'S ONLINE TIPS on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'm but one day away from providing daily content...and I'm trying to come up with something special to fill that gap. What can I say? Wretched excess looks good on me.

We're not going to make a big deal about this. If you enjoy what we provide here, it'd be spiffy if you tossed us a few dollars now and again. We won't go away tomorrow if you don't, but we also can't guarantee we'll be here two months from now. We all take our chances in this crazy game of online life.

In the future, I'll keep my mentions of this "Tip the Tipster" link as brief as possible. In any case, never doubt for a moment that Justin and I appreciate the moral support you've given us over the years. It's our online blessing.



I received a lot of comments on last week's Marvel-based poll questions. Since I got long-winded commenting on the final results of the questions in Tuesday's after-polls report, I decided to run some of your comments here.


Re: which of the current ongoing Marvel books is my favorite? Before I went to this question, I knew it was going to be a tough toss-up between CAPTAIN MARVEL and THUNDERBOLTS. Imagine my relief when I saw I didn't have to make that choice, as neither were offered on your list. Ah, well, I'd have to go with Marv in the end. But if Kurt Busiek was still writing THUNDERBOLTS, it would be a lot tighter.

I'm guessing you deliberately limited the list of titles to get information specifically pertaining to the titles you choose. Or maybe it was just because the list was long enough already... Occam's conclusion.

The format we use limits us to 20 choices for each question. However, since so many readers were disappointed that titles such as BLACK PANTHER, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and THUNDERBOLTS weren't on the list, I ran the question a second time...eliminating the various X-titles to make room for other Marvel books.


BLACK PANTHER. Christopher Priest is writing the best Marvel title bar none. Currently the arc is "Enemy of the State II," with Iron Man and Wolverine guest-starring.


On the last Tony Polls question, about which title I'd be most likely to pick up if written by you? I think you should have had an additional option: "Most likely? I'd buy any of 'em!"

But I picked Giant-Man and the Wasp. I've been intrigued by the idea of a mini-series or regular series featuring them since the first issue of the current AVENGERS run, and you're one of the writers on my short list for a "dream team" on such a mini-series. The others on that list are Roy Thomas, Karl Kesel and Peter David, so you're in good company.

I won't deny I have a soft spot in my heart for GIANT-MAN AND THE WASP. I'm currently enjoying rereading their adventures in the ESSENTIAL ANT-MAN collection. Let me see if I can come up with an idea that's both true to the characters and "edgy" enough to appeal to the current Marvel brass.


Some of these questions were relatively tough to answer. Part of that was because I'm buying not much now and have distinct plans to cut zero. This has nothing to do with the frequency; it has to do with the fact that the vast majority of comics coming out now are crap. Everything I read either has stories focusing on just how nasty "heroes" can be or art so bad I can't fight my way through it to get to the story.

I dumped all 2,468 X-Men titles about 15 years ago and never looked back. I never cared much for Spider-Man as a character, not even in the 60s and 70s. Too whiney. I always liked FF, but the current incarnation leaves me cold. I was buying Captain America, but they killed him and the "resurrected" series has the same crappy art as most of the other Marvel titles, so forget it. I stopped Iron Man a few years back because the comic became about the tin can rather than the guy in it.

That left the Avengers. Now I've reached the point with that series where (a) I hate the art and (b) I am so sick of this stupid Kang story that I can't stand reading it anymore. I haven't picked up the issue that came out last week yet, but I plan to have my dealer take it off my pull list when I pick it up. This, despite the fact that it is the only "new" comic left on the list. Everything else I am getting is reprints, mostly from AC and ACG, plus quite a few of the Marvel Essentials.

Just finished reading The Essential Ant-Man and, yeah, some of the stories were silly, some of the villains were sillier, but the stories were fun, and I didn't come away from reading the book feeling dirty, the way I feel when I read anything with Wolverine, the Punisher, Lobo, and these days even Batman. It was fun.

Obviously, the above has necessitated a few "other" answers to your poll. Question 4: I'm not even willing to buy 12 issues. You didn't include an "other" option, so I just abstained.

Question 9: I've never bought a MAX title, nor will I. These aren't the characters I grew up with. I don't want to know what slimeballs Luke Cage and Nick Fury turned out to be. So, again, I skipped this one.

What is there to look forward to in comics then? Easy...Sugar and Spike Replica Edition #1.


My choice for favorite current ongoing Marvel title is BLACK PANTHER. It's a very creative title, I never feel "written down to" if that makes any sense. Most issues are meaty enough to merit a reread.

Marvel's plan to increase the frequency of its top titles probably won't affect me, but it is sort of upsetting news. Most writers/artists probably couldn't keep up with double titles, and that could lead to fill-ins! Unannounced ones, probably. Still, based on the vote so far, this is good thinking "outside the box" for Marvel; they could very well get away with permanent biweekly issues regardless of fill-ins or rushed production.

How would I adjust my buying habits or lifestyle to purchase additional issues of my favorite Marvel titles?" If it were Black Panther or Captain Marvel, I would drop other Marvel titles. If it were other Marvel titles, I'd drop the title itself.

Which Marvel feature would I be most likely to buy in a mini-series written by Tony Isabella? I'd like to see you write a few issues of Marvel Team-Up. You'd obviously be good with Spider-Man, plus you could have carte blanche to pick his allies. A good mix of characters you've always wanted to try out, plus characters you've had good ideas for stewing in the back of your mind for a while! It's a can't miss idea!

You know what would be fun? Writing a MARVEL TEAM-UP series using characters from other companies and working with the creators of those characters. Off the top of my head, I'd try to cut deals to team Spidey with MS. TREE (Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty), AKIKO (Mark Crilley), POE (Jason Asala), CRANKSHAFT (Tom Batiuk), and RANMA 1%2 (Rumiko Takahashi).

Our next-to-last letter is from CARL HENDERSON

Re: favorite current ongoing Marvel titles. If I remember correctly, your poll software is limited to 20 items per question. Which is too bad, because my two favorite Marvels--THUNDERBOLTS and CAPTAIN MARVEL aren't on your list.

Of the choices listed, I picked Grant Morrison's NEW X-MEN, but I wish I'd looked at the results first. Claremont and Larocca's X-TREME X-MEN only had one vote. X-TREME is very nearly as good as the NEW X-MEN--and it comes out on time. Marvel has done well by their flagship titles this year. One year ago I was reading zero x-books; now I'm regularly buying three.

Re: favorite first wave Marvel Universe title. I'm getting up there, but I'm not that old yet. Over the years, I've read most of these early Marvels in reprint. In my opinion, the only first wave Marvel that holds up by modern standards is Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's DOCTOR STRANGE. Lee and Ditko had something timeless there. To this day, no one at Marvel has figured out a way to make Strange work for a modern audience.

On the frequency questions, assuming the quality could be kept up--a big assumption--I would be happy buying a weekly comic. But if Marvel solicits on a more than monthly schedule without proving that they can actually deliver, I suspect that retailers will tend to cut their orders. Why tie up the budget on something that may or may not show up?

As for consistent creative teams, I think it is absolutely crucial for the same writer to do all the issues, but only somewhat important the same artist do all issues...not that anyone currently working at Marvel other than Bagley, Romita Jr., and Korday could pull off 18 to 24 issues a year. If comics are coming out bi-weekly or even more frequently, continuity of story is very important. But as NEW X-MEN has shown us, lack of artistic continuity won't kill a popular title if it is well written.

If Marvel did increase frequencies, I'd increase my comics-buying budget. I don't have a family that needs my money, so I've got a lot of leeway in my frivolous purchases budget. And I don't expect Marvel to be able to put out many titles more than monthly. They may solicit them more often, but I don't expect them to be produced that often.

My favorite MAX title to date is HOWARD THE DUCK. Hilarious. And the ESSENTIAL HOWARD THE DUCK shows how well Gerber's original run has stood up to time. ALIAS is also pretty good, but stronger on character and dialogue than plot.

Which Marvel features would I be most likely to buy in a mini-series written by you? TIGRA. It's that blue-sting bikini. What can I say?

I also think you would do well on GIANT-MAN AND THE WASP, but I suspect you would write them as a couple. Ever since the Shooter and Stern runs on the AVENGERS in the early 200s, I can't see them that way.

I'll give the last word to Marvel Editor-in-Chief JOE QUESADA, who e-mailed me on the lateness question

FYI, the big secret no one seems to being paying attention to, because as long as people are repeating [the late shipping stuff] it's true, is that Marvel has improved its on-time status. Since David Bogart's arrival, we have cut the late list by two-thirds. It's not perfect just yet, but Marvel has never had a perfect late ship week.

This column is already way too long, so I'll direct you to my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS column for March 20. You can read my response to Joe's e-mail at

Look for ten new TONY POLLS questions tomorrow, my after-polls report on this week's questions on Tuesday, and another one of my CBG columns on Friday. Now, if you're excuse me, I have to go soak my aching typing fingers.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/19/2002 | 03/23/2002 | 04/02/2002 >>

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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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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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