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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 #1482 (04/27/02)

"The trouble with unemployment is that the minute you wake up in the morning you're on the job."

-Slappy White

I'm not even going to ask for a show of hands here. If you're a freelance writer or artist, someone, maybe an in-law, maybe the neighbor you only see once a year at a backyard cookout, has asked you what you do. And when you've told them what you do, they give you *that* look, the look that says

You don't really have a job, do you?

This comes with the territory, especially for those of us who work in the comics biz. At such times, I take a moment to consider if my interrogator is interesting enough to be a villain in my next story (they never are), shrug it off, and take solace in the fact that I get to work in my pajamas.

My pal Mike Collins, who is a terrific writer and artist from across the ocean, recently shared a story with me which relates to the above. He wrote

I have been doing loads of paperwork recently to change my mortgage, so there's all sorts of legal stuff that needs to be covered. The guy from the mortgage company was over my house, filling in the forms. He asks me my job title.

Comic artist? Sounds something or nothing...

Illustrator? Too "old," like when someone calls me "Mister Collins..."

So I settle for the one that covers many bases, and I'm most comfortable with: "cartoonist." Mr. Mortgage dutifully notes this down, finishes up the paperwork and leaves.

The legal stuff all comes through for me to sign and there, in the "Occupation" box is...

Car Tunist.

Anyone want their spark plugs changed?

Mike sent me a .jpg of that portion of the paperwork, which, through the wonders of modern communication, I have sent to my CBG editors to be included in this column. I am so envious of his new position that I'm thinking I should stop calling myself a freelance writer and go with something more socially acceptable.

Car Tunist

Please understand this: I don't want to change my job. I just want to call it something else. Suggestions from my loyal legions of Tips readers will be most gratefully accepted and, what the hey, I'll award prize packages of stuff from around my office to those whose entries most tickle my fancy.

Be clever, have fun, and keep the suggestions clean enough to run in these pages. My e-mail and postal addresses can be found at the end of this column.

******

BABYLON 5: THE LEGEND OF THE RANGERS. I'm breaking format for a couple weeks to discuss and review things which don't easily fit into my silly ratings systems. First up is this Babylon 5 spin-off which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in January and, yes, if you must know, I'm two months behind in watching all but four of my favorite TV shows. That's why we have VCRs.

BABYLON 5 is one of my all-time favorite series and the best science fiction series in the history of television. It still airs on the Sci-Fi Channel and I'm currently watching it from start to finish for the fourth time. Creator/writer J. Michael Straczynski crafted a five-year epic that stands the test of multiple viewings and leaves the viewer satisfied each time.

CRUSADE, Straczynski's immediate follow-up to B5, was a great disappointment. Set five years after B5, its premise found Earth under a death sentence and those humans who had escaped the plague dooming their world desperately seeking a cure for same. Although there were a few interesting moments in the show's 13-episode run, the characters never captured my interest as had the B5 players and the individual episodes lacked the unity of B5's intricately-woven storyline. I have never felt compelled to watch those episodes a second time.

LEGEND OF THE RANGERS is set between B5 and Crusade. Its lead characters are members of the elite strike force charged to protect the Interstellar Alliance. On the verge of being booted from the Rangers for choosing to save his crew rather than pursue an enemy to their certain destruction, Captain David Martel (played by Dylan Neal) is given a second chance and the command of a ship haunted by the spirits of its former crew. His new crew is a likeable bunch, maybe too likeable, and the two-hour pilot enjoyed the presence of Andreas Katsulas, reprising his B5 role as G'Kar.

Based on the pilot, LEGEND looks to be more episodic in nature than its predecessors. It's true the series, if the pilot goes to series, will draw on the universe created for B5, and there is a "big bad" out there with which the heroes must concern themselves, but I didn't come away from the viewing feeling every subsequent story would be driven solely by either.

Straczynski's script had the elements I've come to expect from him: emotion, excitement, heart, surprises, and a sense of wonder. The actors brought their characters to life, especially in a scene where a ritual necessitated their stating their place in the scheme of things. That some crewmen were clearly uncomfortable with the ritual made it believable.

If I were the quibbling sort, I could mention that the ship's weapons system, consisting of a human operator bouncing, floating, and back-flipping in a holographic display of the surrounding area and firing bolts of virtual energy from her hands, did look a mite silly. I choose instead to consider it an experiment that didn't quite work and suggest that multiple images of the operator firing at targets would convey her nigh-omniscient field of vision without making viewers giggle.

Will there be a LEGENDS OF THE RANGERS series? That depends on how the Sci-Fi Channel (or some other buyer) looks at the show's ratings. The hard numbers weren't great, but they look much better when you look at how they went up once a major East Coast sporting event ended, and how good they were where there was no competition from the event. If they make more episodes, I'll watch them and, if they are as entertaining as this pilot, I'll tell all my friends to watch them as well. I'll even tell enemies and total strangers. I'm annoying that way.

But not so annoying that I won't tell you which four TV shows I never fall behind on: Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NYPD Blue, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

******

BURGER KING MUTANTS. A while back, my local school system had an "in-service" day wherein teachers did teacher-stuff and students had the day off. Since it wasn't a holiday, and since my schedule is more flexible than that of most parents, I ended up with a house full of kids. For lunch, I took them to Burger King and several of them ordered the Kids Meal du jour.

Burger King was in the midst of an X-MEN EVOLUTION promotion. Included with the meals were one of eight toy packages containing a small figure of one of the characters, a base for the figure, and a mini CD-Rom. One of the kids already had that week's toy (Rogue) and gave me hers. The unopened package sat on my desk waiting for my curiosity to get the best of me. I wish that had been sooner; this is a nice little item.

The Rogue figure isn't articulated, but it looks pretty cool standing on its base. If you look into an opening on the base, you see Rogue in her civilian identity with a few lines of information on who she is and what her powers are.

The CD-Rom is even better. It holds clips from the cartoon, a Marvel Dot-Comics story by Tom DeFalco and Udon Studios, three video games, a "super-hero compatibility" quiz, and downloadable bookmarks and screen savers.

One more thing. The package came with a coupon good for three bucks off the cost of a X-Men/Gameboy cartridge. As a reviewer who often considers "bang for your bucks" in making my recommendations, I thought this Burger King promotion was terrific.

Besides Rogue, the other toys are Cyclops, Wolverine, Magneto, Nightcrawler, Toad, Quicksilver, and Mystique. I don't know what they're selling for on the secondary market, but if you're a fan of the series and the toys aren't priced too dearly, you'll definitely want them for your collection.

******

ONSTAR/BATMAN. My family went to the Cleveland Auto Show last weekend and all I got was a couple of Batman freebies from Onstar. Bats has been appearing in commercials for the safety and security system currently offered on around three dozen cars and trucks from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and other automakers. Onstar brings us one step closer to the day when all cars will talk to their drivers in the voice of William Daniels.

The ONSTAR BATMAN AUTO SHOW SPECIAL EDITION is an eight-page comic book featuring a cover by Paris Cullins and Rodney Ramos, and a 5-page story by Joe Staton and Ramos but sans a writer's credit.

That's not surprising--the tale is a commercial for Onstar in which Batman uses Onstar to rescue Commissioner Gordon from the Riddler--but I give the unknown author credit for crafting an entertaining tale within that limiting framework.

The ONSTAR/BATMAN COLLECTOR CARDS are a set of eight drawings and photos of Batman and the Batmobile. They come in a strip from which they can be easily detached and feature Onstar advertisements on their backs. The back of the last card features a timeline of important events in Batman's history, such as his Detective Comics debut (1939), the first appearance of the Riddler (1948), the 100th issue of Batman (1956), the publication of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1980), and, of course, those notable events of the years 2000 and 2002.

2000: The Dark Knight teams up with Onstar, providing unparalleled safety, security and convenience. The three-button Onstar system provides Batman with fast access to the Onstar services he needs.

2002: Batman adds two exciting new tools to the Batmobile to aid in his crusade against crime: Onstar Personal Calling puts Batman in touch with any telephone number by simply calling out a number of preprogrammed name. Virtual Advisor keeps the Dark Knight informed by delivering stock quotes, e-mail, and organized news to the Batmobile, read to him while he drives.

Given the importance of Onstar to the Batman mythos, I think it's high time DC Comics gave the Batmobile its own monthly comic book. I'd make myself available to write it, but only if they let bring me back the Batmobile of the 1950s, the one with the big and scary Bat-head/cow-catcher on its grill, the one that made crooks soil themselves as they watched it roaring down the street at them. Now that was a sweet ride.

I'll be back here next week with more reviews from outside the comics box. See you then.

******

ADDENDUM

The closing paragraph of the above column ran smack dab into the "best laid plans" barrier. To put it as briefly as possible, the last six weeks have been, shall we say, challenging, for yours truly. So, with the consent of my CBG editors, I cobbled together my next two "Tony's Tips" columns, which appeared in issues #1483 and #1484 of that worthy publication, from items/reviews which had already appeared in my "Tony's Online Tips" columns. That was of enormous help to me and I want to thank them publically, as I did privately, for their gracious cooperation.

Since it wouldn't make any sense to reprint those two columns here...the reviews are available at Norman Barth's PERPETUAL COMICS website...I'm going to have to come up with something else to fill this space on May 4 and 11. However, in an effort not to run into that "best laid plans" barrier again, I'm not going to say a word about what I might or might not do.

It's the suspense that gets them every time.

******

MAGAZINE WATCH

The April 5 ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY reports that Crown Books has signed BOONDOCKS creator Aaron McGruder to a four-book deal

The house plans to publish THE BOONDOCKS OMNIBUS a year from this fall, followed by HUEY'S HATE BOOK (an illustrated collection of all the things the title character can't stand); a graphic novel, FIGHT THE POWER, which McGruder is working to develop into a film with Reginald Hudlin (THE LADIES MAN); and an essay collection, PROFITS OF RAGE. "We're catching him at just the right time," says Crown editorial director Steve Ross. "He's maintained his position as a voice of dissent even at a time when other voices have quieted."

In the same EW, Evan Serpick had this about the "song-driven" SPIDER-MAN soundtrack album

Among the confirmed artists are ALLEN ART FARM, who recorded a new track, "Bug Bites"; SUM 41, who will contribute a Rick Rubin-produced tune, "It's What We're All About"; a "supergroup" with NICKELBACK's Chad Kroeger, SALIVA's Josey Scott, and ALICE IN CHAINS' ex-guitarist Jerry Cantrell, who've recorded a song called "Hero"; and MACY GACY, whose "My Nutmeg Phantasy" is slated for inclusion.

The album's release date is April 30, and odds are I won't be reviewing it. On the other hand, if a musically-inclined member of the loyal legions of Tips readers wanted to share his thoughts with his fellow readers, I'd be pleased to include them in a near-future edition of this column.

Among the signs that Tony's just not hip to the beat: Of all the bands/musicians named above, the only ones I've ever heard of are ALICE IN CHAINS (because one of its members died recently) and MACY GACY (because she hails from Ohio). Sad, isn't it?

One more item from April 5. The TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES are featured on EW's "Encore" page. Remember when those guys were the absolute kings of the comics world? They may never attain such prominence again, but, as Stephen McGill reports, the shell-backed super-heroes aren't down and out

Even though a proposed CGI feature film hasn't gotten off the ground, a fresh comic is on stands and a new animated series is in the works. "Whatever it is that sparked everybody's imagination obviously remains," says [Corey] Feldman [who voiced Donatello in the film]. Just as there are people who grew up on Spidey, we'll be entrusting our futures to kids raised in the shadow of four feisty turtles. Cowabunga, indeed.

Look for MAGAZINE WATCH in upcoming columns.

******

TIPPING THE TIPSTER

Since World Famous Comics web-wizard Justin put up the PAYPAL link which appears below, we've received "tips" from around a dozen readers, ranging from $5 to $25. We want to thank them for their support and assure them that, as long as we're able, we'll continue to provide (hopefully) entertaining and informative content for all who visit this website. Onward!

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

Between my thrice-weekly columns for PERPETUAL COMICS, these CBG reprints, the TONY POLLS page, and Tuesday's AFTER-POLL REPORT, I'm posting new content online six days a week. This September, I hope to get it up to seven days. When it comes to wretched excess, I *am* the man with the plan!

Since I determined to embrace this madness completely, I have been trying to decide what sort of feature I should launch on that seventh day. My pal JON KNUTSON had these suggestions

I think it should be very much a potpourri column, one where you can write about whatever you feel like writing about...review a movie or TV show, a web site, or even some new food if you feel like it...tell us stories about your kids...pick a gripe you've had recently and expound on why it annoys you. (One of my own current pet peeves is people who bring luggage with wheels as their "carry- on" item on a plane. I figure that if it's got wheels, it's not a *carry* on!) Tell us who some of your all-time favorite people in comics are...and why they're on your list. Whatever strikes your fancy on that particular week.

Those are all good suggestions, Jon, though I've done almost all of them from time to time. I'll definitely keep them in mind as I work towards a decision...and invite your fellow readers to offer their suggestions as well.

Look for a new batch of TONY POLLS questions on Sunday, a new TONY'S ONLINE TIPS on Monday, and so on. If posting all this stuff is wrong, then I don't wanna be right.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/23/2002 | 04/27/2002 | 04/30/2002 >>

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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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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