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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 #1488 (06/08/02)

"Few enterprises of great labor or hazard would be undertaken if he had not the power of magnifying the advantages we expect from them."

-Samuel Johnson

Two significant events for comicdom are a week away as I write this column and my expectations are running high. The Spider-Man movie opens on Friday, May 3, followed one day later, by Free Comic Book Day, and I'm equally excited about both.

I tried to resist catching "Spider-Man fever" for reasons best explained by recalling all the really lousy comic-book movies we've suffered over the past three decades. But I couldn't maintain my defenses, not after seeing those amazing previews and reading what industry folks I respect had to say about this movie. By the time (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reporter Mike Sangiacomo phoned requesting a quote for an article he was writing, I was counting down the days until I could take my kids to the movie.

"Y'know, Sainted Wife Barb, I could tell the school that Eddie and Kelly have orthodontist appointments and take them to that noon showing on Friday."

Sangiacomo had interviewed Brian Michael Bendis, the writer of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and executive producer and writer of MTV's new animated Spider-Man series, about the movie and also about what he thought accounted for Spidey's success. Bendis had the advantage of having already seen (and loved) SPIDER-MAN, but when it came to the latter, we had pretty much the same answer:

"With great power comes great responsibility."

No quote ever summed up a character's motivation or, by my way of thinking, the appeal of the super-hero, better.

We were also on the same page when it came to another reason for Spider-Man's continuing popularity, that the mythos has as much to do with Peter Parker as it does Spidey.

"Peter is just a likeable guy," I said.

"If anyone else marries a supermodel, you would be jealous. But when Peter did it, we were happy for him. There's something wrong with you if you don't like Peter Parker."

Depending on what SPIDER-MAN showing I attend, expect to read my review of the movie next week or the week after, likely running with reviews of other Spider-stuff. I'm even planning on getting the soundtrack album, further proof that I have totally surrendered to my inner fanboy.

Free Comic-Book Day also has me cackling with anticipated joy. What an opportunity to bring the general public into stores where knowledgeable employees can introduce them to the wonderful variety of comics being published today!

We may quibble about the quality and worth of this comic book or that, but few would deny we are in an age of remarkable material being created by writers and artists of extraordinary vision. I'm even a little envious of the retailers who will have the pleasure of introducing their new customers to MARVELS and MAUS, OUR CANCER YEAR and STUCK RUBBER BABY, CLAN APIS and THE SPIRIT, and so many other outstanding works of comics art.

By the time you read these words, SPIDER-MAN will have opened and Free Comic-Book Day will have come and gone. You'll know if my expectations were met, surpassed, or cruelly dashed to the ground. No matter how it goes, I'm grateful for the respect with which the movie-makers have treated a comics icon, for the genius of retailer Joe Field in suggesting Free Comic-Book Day, and for the incredible effort of darn near the entire comics community in making the day possible. It feels great to be part of that community today...and I'm thinking it's gonna feel even better tomorrow.

******

There I go getting all gushy and philosophical, cutting into my valuable reviewing space. I'm currently rating stuff on a scale of one to five Tonys, with the number being determined by how much I love or don't love said stuff:

B> 5 Tonys = "I love you madly."
Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

4 Tonys = "I think I love you."
Tony Tony Tony Tony

3 Tonys = "I like you."
Tony Tony Tony

2 Tonys = "You're just not my type."
Tony Tony

1 Tony = "Please stop calling me."
Tony

0 Tonys = "I'm getting a restraining order!"

Cue the Barry White background music and let's see what's on top of the review pile.

******

Prepare for sacrilege. Thanos, except for his appearances in a handful of comic books by Jim Starlin, has always bored me, and, even then, he struck me as a Darkseid wannabe, a punk unworthy of his star status, much less his frequent reappearances. Mantis has always bored me without exception, though I did think it was kinda cool when writer Steve Englehart sneaked her into JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA during his 1970s run on that title.

So, given that AVENGERS: CELESTIAL QUEST #7 (Marvel; $2.50) and, for that matter, this entire mini-series focuses on Mantis and Thanos, I was a hard sell from the start. It's not a bad series. I've always thought Englehart a fine writer. Jorge Santamaria, who penciled the first six issues, is a decent artist. Scott Hanna is one of the best inkers in the business. Tom Brevoort is arguably the best editor.

And guest penciler Joe Staton? He's one of the best artists in comics. His sense of storytelling is always sure. He handles the grim and the humorous, the fantastic and the mundane, the quiet and the explosive, with uncommon skill. Unless it's by his choice, I don't understand why he isn't drawing major super-hero titles for either DC or Marvel.

In QUEST, Mantis is doing her "celestial Madonna" thing again and Thanos is doing his "death and power" thing again. She wants to protect her half-plant son Quoi, who, naturally, has some great destiny to fulfill, from Thanos. A bunch of Avengers have joined her on this quest.

Thanos wants to pretty much kill them all and let God sort 'em out, though, of course, he thinks he IS God. In between the fights and fleeing and threats, super-hormones are running wild and folks are pairing off or trying to: Mantis and the Vision, Quoi and a reptilian pirate queen, the shape-shifting Silverclaw and Haywire, formerly of the Squadron Supreme. Think of THE LOVE BOAT, but with Thor playing Captain Stubing.

I know there are many readers, especially among those who were fans of Englehart's AVENGERS and DOCTOR STRANGE in the 1970s, who are enjoying his return to these characters. And, as I said above, this isn't a bad series. But it also isn't a series that holds my interest. The best I can give it is: three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

******

ME AND EDITH HEAD by Sara Ryan and Steve Lieber was originally published in the September/October issue of CICADA MAGAZINE. The 15-page story introduces us Katrina Lansdale, a teenage girl whose home and social lives are less than wonderful and whose parents are divorcing. Yet the heart and soul of the tale are the discoveries Katrina makes about herself as she creates costumes for her school play. It's an extremely satisfying story that left me wanting to know where Katrina goes from here.

Ryan is the author of EMPRESS OF THE WORLD, a "groundbreaking novel that tackles teen sexuality head on." It was named a "Best Book For Young Adults" by the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association. I ordered a copy five minutes after reading "Me and Edith Head."

Lieber is a versatile comics artist who has been published by darn near every major publisher and some of the more spiffy minor ones as well. He draw Greg Rucka's Eisner Award-winning WHITEOUT and is currently drawing Batman in DETECTIVE COMICS. The only flaw in his work is that he hasn't drawn any of my stories.

Since the issue of CICADA in which their story first appeared is out of print, Ryan and Lieber have published a chapbook version of "Me and Edith Head." The chapbook is available at a dozen or so of our finest comics emporiums, or you can order it for two bucks (postpaid) from the Ryan/Lieber website:

http://www.unrewarding.com

"Me and Edith Head" has been nominated for "Best Short Story" in this year's Eisner Awards. I recommend that you read it before you cast your ballot in that category. After all, it's not every week I give a comic book the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

ADDENDUM

When this column appeared in CBG #1488, it also contained the review of SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #122, which you read here last week, and my review of THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #2, which had previously run in one of my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS columns for Norman Barth's Perpetual Comics. What happened is that my editors had to make room for some last-minute ads in #1487 and the solution was to cut something from the column I wrote for that issue.

When this situation occurs, as it does from time to time, any cut reviews are included in my next column. Since best-laid plans and fate don't always see eye-to-eye, my editors discovered they had *more* room for me in CBG #1488. The timing of this discovery was such that we needed a quick review. By adding a score of "four Tonys" to my DARK KNIGHT review, we were able to ease it smoothly into the column.

The "we've got more space" situation arose again recently, but the timing was such that I was able to write an additional review and not rely on a reprint. I wouldn't want to try that every week, but, every now and then, it's cool to stretch those old "newspaper guy" muscles of mine.

******

CHAIN

Someone sent me this item recently without identifying where it came from:

Nicholas Cage's Saturn Films will be making a film called CHAIN, about a modern-day cowboy who rides a Harley Davidson horse. The movie is being described as "THE CROW with biker gangs," but it sounds suspiciously like the GHOST RIDER movie Cage was rumored to be in several months back. No casting has been done yet, it will be written and directed by John Rice.

I found this amusing because, when I was writing GHOST RIDER for Marvel Comics back in the 1970s, I frequently described Johnny Blaze as a "motorized cowboy" and threw just enough western slang into his speech to make sense of the phrase. I admit it; I always wanted to write RAWHIDE KID and the book was the closest I ever got to fulfilling that dream.

******

SPIDER-TOONS

In ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's June 7 issue, Dalton Ross rates the four animated Spider-Man shows. He gives the highest mark, an "A", to ABC's SPIDER-MAN, which aired from 1967-1970, but it's downhill from there.

NBC's SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS (1981-82, 1984-86), which co-starred Iceman and Firestar, picks up a "B+". SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (Fox; 1995-99) sinks to a "C", but Ross saves the lowest mark for Fox's SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED. In giving the show a "D+", he writes:

We're willing to overlook the fact that it takes place on another planet and that Spider-Man wears a cape and a suit made of "microscopic robots"...wait, no, we're not.

How would you rate these Spider-Man cartoons? Don't answer yet. You'll get the chance to cast your votes tomorrow...when our new TONY POLLS questions go online.

******

SUBWAY SUPER-HEROES

My good friend JON KNUTSON posted this on the always-fabulous DC History mailing list and it so tickled me that I asked him if I could share it with you. He agreed:

I decided to hop over to the nearby Subway to get dinner last night, and saw they had the Cartoon Network JUSTICE LEAGUE figures, so I asked, "Do you sell the figures separately, or do you have to get the kid's meal?"

The guy replied, "We sell them separately for a dollar."

"Cool! Which ones do you have?"

"All of them."

"I'll take one of each, and a Cold Cut Trio."

As he started on my sandwich, I remarked, "This is great, I've been hearing that the other Subways only have one figure available at a time."

"Well, it depends on the location...most of them just put one out, and when that's gone, they'll put out another one...but the cool stores put them all out. The owners of this one are cool."

He then turned to a co-worker and said, "Don't you think my parents are cool?"

It's so refreshing to hear a youngster so obviously proud of his parents. Of course, I'm used to that because I think of all of you as my children and you've always been so generous with the nice things you write about me and my work.

Did I mention that next Sunday is FATHER'S DAY?

No, please, don't go to all the trouble of shopping for me. That's why we have the PayPal banner below.

Wow...even for me, that was blatant. I'm so embarrassed that I'm not going to mention that it's also my and Sainted Wife Barb's wedding anniversary. It's been 17 years since that blessed event. I wonder if she'll remember.

I'll have some new TONY POLLS questions for you tomorrow; new TONY'S ONLINE TIPS columns on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and my AFTER-POLLS REPORT on Tuesday.

Have a great weekend, kids.

Tony Isabella

<< 06/04/2002 | 06/08/2002 | 06/11/2002 >>

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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