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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1491 (07/10/02)

"Everybody had said that's it, we have them all, guys. This is something nobody expected."

-Dr. Joachim Adis, an entomologist, after he and colleagues claimed the discovery of a new insect group.

This is one of those "odds and ends" columns. What I have for you here is material cut from previous columns (for space reasons) and random thoughts on this and that. I'm clearing the decks for several "theme" columns I have in the works.

The significance of our opening quote is its welcome reminder that there are still wonders to be found on this allegedly getting- smaller-all-the-time world of ours. Not long ago, I read about the discovery of deep sea life forms which had never before been seen by man. Now Doc Adis is talking new insects.

Who knows what will be next? Gorilla City? The Great Refuge of the Inhumans? Turok's Lost Valley?

Okay, probably none of the above. But isn't it cool to know that we *don't* know every creature with whom we share this planet? The unknown so rocks!


Of late, I have embraced a new theory of the Marvel Universe. Putting it as succinctly as possible, I now approach Marvel titles as if each one takes place in its own pocket universe, connected to the Marvel "Oververse" by certain shared concepts, personalities, organizations, and events. Each pocket universe has its share of unstable molecules. Each has a Spider-Man and a Doctor Doom. Each has a Fantastic Four and a S.H.I.E.L.D. Each experienced World War II and the Cold War which followed it. And so on.

Following this theory, the slaughter of Genosha's mutants can be THE pivotal event of the current X-Men titles without consuming every waking moment in the lives of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Logically, of course, it would. No Marvel hero could rest until the facts of that mutant holocaust were known and the killer or killers brought to justice. But, since having it do so would be a creative and logistic nightmare, effectively forcing all Marvel's writers to tell the same basic story, I prefer it being pivotal in the X-Men universe and ignored elsewhere.

This doesn't mean Avengers can't walk in the X-Men's universe and vice versa...or that the writers of one universe can ignore the basic truths of characters from another. One of Marvel's strengths is that continuing connection between its books. It just opens up story possibilities which would have been an awkward fit in a more cohesive and singular universe. Judging from how well writers like Judd Winick in EXILES and Grant Morrison in NEW X-MEN have run with the possibilities, this is a sensibility I embrace wholeheartedly. A foolish consistency, as they say...

However, I do insist that characters remain true to themselves no matter where they appear. The Thing isn't a killer in FANTASTIC FOUR; he shouldn't be a killer when he makes a guest appearance in THE PUNISHER. If Nightcrawler is a Roman Catholic in the X-titles, he shouldn't be practicing voodoo in THOR. If the writer keeps the characters consistent with their established personalities, I'm not going to sweat the lack of an all-encompassing chronology of events covering each and every Marvel title.

After all, how many of us can still fit into the same clothes we were wearing 40 years ago?


Since we're into the summer convention season, now might be an excellent time to reiterate the basic rules of convention conduct. Our beloved "Miss Manners" would most certainly express them far more delicately than I, but, your bad luck, I'm what you get, and I can condense them into four little words:

Don't be a jerk.

The convention doesn't exist solely for you. The guests and the vendors aren't there solely for you. It's a group activity and you'll have a better time of it if you strive to always play nice with the other kids at the event.

However, I do have some additional advice for the media guests who appear at comics and similar conventions. Of course, before I get to the advice, I have to tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, a convention promoter contacted the agent of a television actor to arrange for the actor to appear at his event. Without going into details, which are none of our business anyway, the actor would get a financial consideration for his appearance, the exact sum to be determined by what the actor made selling his autographed photos and memorabilia. It's a standard arrangement which relies heavily on good will and trust between the guest and the promoter. When the good will and trust is there, everyone goes home from the event happy.

Stuff happens. The majority of convention promoters are good people who keep their word, even when the event doesn't come off as planned. Sometimes the fans don't come. Sometimes the real world creates problems. Stuff happens.

Sometimes, though, the promoter doesn't know what he's doing. Sometimes, the promoter is a con artist. Sometimes, because one or both of these situations have come to pass, a guest doesn't receive his compensatory due.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that an actor I know and like appeared at a convention where at least one of the above dark forces was in play. The end result of a poorly-planned and poorly-attended event was that he didn't get paid. Calls and e-mails from the actor's agent to the promoter have gone unanswered and it's a pretty safe bet his check *isn't* in the mail.

The advice is coming. Thanks for your patience.

One of the reasons the actor agreed to appear at the event was that the promoter had told his agent the actor had been recommended by another promoter. The good character of the other promoter and the sterling reputation of the other promoter's event factored into the actor's decision to appear at this other event.

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter was that the promoter had never talked to the "good" promoter about the guest. In fact, to the best of the good promoter's recollection, he had never met or ever spoken to the other promoter.

The promoter used the name and reputation of the good promoter to initiate his dealings with the actor without the good promoter's knowledge or permission. This leads me to offer the advice you've been so darned nice about waiting for:

Check references.

Had the actor or his agent contacted the good promoter, they would have learned the truth and realized the other promoter might not be completely trustworthy. That would have surely influenced their decision to attend the event.

I can't stress strongly enough that most promoters are decent and sensible folks who honor their agreements. They want guests to feel comfortable about appearing at their events and would likely be happy to supply them with references and contact information for those references. For guests and promoters, it's good business and good sense. I happen to think both are instrumental in hosting a great convention.


Here's a review which got squeezed out of last week's special all-previews edition of "Tony's Tips"...

Lori Lovecraft Created by veteran comics artist and Emmy-winning animation director Mike Vosburg, Lori Lovecraft is a struggling actress who found herself possessed of incredible mystical powers and has ever since been trying to understand them. In the meantime, she fights an occasionally-ending battle against the demonic and inscrutable forces of Hell and Hollywood.

Vosburg originally created the character in the mid-1970s and she appeared in a series of one-short stories in Mike Friedrich's pivotal STAR*REACH magazine. In 1997, with television writer Pete Ventrella (co-creator of PSI-FACTOR: CHRONICLES OF THE PARANORMAL), he produced several issues of a Lori Lovecraft title for Caliber Comics. Two years ago, they formed AV Publications to publish a Lori Lovecraft trade paperback compilation of their work together. This July, they return to thrill us anew.

LORI LOVECRAFT: INTO THE PAST ($3) launches an all-new, two-issue mini-series starring the thespian sorceress. The first issue features a done-in-one tale of a legendary actress Danke Shoen, who has hired Lori's former boyfriend to find the child she gave up for adoption early in her career. Complicating the search is someone willing to go to any lengths to prevent it from succeeding.

Ventrella and Vosburg squeeze a lot of character and plot into their 23-page mystery. The result is that, every now and then, it seems like we're getting the shorthand version of certain events. But, despite that, "Into the Past" is an engaging tale with simply gorgeous artwork.

LORI LOVECRAFT #1 goes on sale in July. I like it enough to give it four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony


Before you turn the page, let's have a quick show of hands as to what you'd like to see in future installments of "Tony's Tips."

Do you enjoy columns concentrating on a theme (such as last week's all-previews reviews)? Columns reviewing comics from an individual publisher? Columns reviewing stuff from all over the wide world of comics? Or something else entirely?

I'll be honest with you. Most of the time I scoff loudly at the whole "you're the real editor" scam. Heck, I even scoff at my real editors on a regular basis because I'm a believer in healthy and mutual abuse. But, every now and then, I weaken and actually do something an editor or reader has requested. This might just be your lucky day.

You know how to contact me.



The New York Post has reported that William Reilly, the former Primedia boss and current chairman and CEO of F&W Publications, is putting together a $120 million deal to buy Krause Communications, the publisher of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE and hundreds of other hobby books, magazines, and newspapers. Reilly expects the deal will be done by the end of the month.

What does this mean to comicdom? Reilly says he does not plan to move Krause from its current Iola, Wisconsin headquarters. My CBG editors tell me everything will be business as usual and that will surely be the case until the deal is completed.

After that? No one is expecting any major changes, but, hey, we hear that whenever a company changes hands. Still, until there is any further news, I certainly intended to keep writing my weekly "Tony's Tips" column. I've had a good long run with CBG and, since I do enjoy working with my current editors, I hope to keep that run going for some time to come.

When there is further news, I'll share it with you here or on my message board. Until then, it will remain business as usual at Tony's Tips Central *and* at my "branch office" in Iola.

In other business...

That explosion you heard a while back was my online schedule blowing itself to pieces. The litany of events leading to the big boom would include several unexpected make-up games for my baseball and softball-playing kids; a heat wave that caused problems with my computer; Norman Barth, the host of my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS columns at Perpetual Comics, taking a well-deserved vacation; a handful of family functions; and, just for good measure, my latest battle with kidney stones. It's been a spiffy week or two and, though things are returning to what passes for normalcy in my existence, it will still be a few more days before I'm back up to speed.

New TONY POLLS questions were posted yesterday, most of them "ripped" from comicdom's headlines. There are questions concerning CrossGen and other top comics companies; on the 10th anniversaries of Superman's "death" and Milestone Comics; on the "ultimatization" of the Marvel Universe; on those synopsis pages coming to Marvel's titles; and on whether Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson should get back together in the traditional Spider-Man titles. Then, just for good measure, I asked you about airlines forcing larger passengers to purchase two seats and if you read your owner's manuals before operating whatever devices or products you purchase.

Because of our schedule woes, these new questions will only be active until Sunday. Therefore, I strongly recommend you check out the TONY POLLS page today. You will find a handy link elsewhere on this page.

What's coming next? I'm working on a TONY'S TIPS: THE AFTER-POLL REPORT, which could post as early as tomorrow. That will be followed--fingers crossed--by two more editions of TONY'S TIPS for Friday and Saturday. That would catch us up with where we would've been if not for all the schedule mishaps. Visit my message board for the latest updates.

Sunday will see the afore-mentioned new TONY POLLS questions, with the return of TONY'S ONLINE TIPS to Perpetual Comics scheduled for Monday. As always, the goal is to provide you with new content six days a week with the hope of expanding that to seven days come the fall. Man's reach should ever exceed his grasp...

I thank you for your patience with me during what has turned into an incredibly hectic summer. Now go out there and enjoy your July. We'll chat again very soon.

Tony Isabella

<< 06/25/2002 | 07/10/2002 | 07/11/2002 >>

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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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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Medina, OH 44256

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