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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 #1505 (11/14/02)

"We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours."

--Dag Hamarskjold, Swedish statesman

Shazam: Monster Society of Evil I've become an explorer in a most specialized field of study: what tickles Tony Isabella's fancy. Inundated by pages upon pages, print and electronic, of comics news from Comic-Con International, the only items which raised smiles on my face were the announcement of Jeff Smith writing and drawing a SHAZAM! mini-series, and Max Allan Collins writing CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION comic books. The attendance estimates for the event were staggering, the Eisner Awards were interesting, and, as usual, I was envious of those who attended the hundred-odd panels hosted by my pal Mark Evanier, but it was only the news of projects by friends whose talents I admire that got my afficionado mojo working. Go figure.

I'm more eager to learn details of a reported Charlton Comics revival than of the Chaos Comics bankruptcy, though I'm naturally concerned for the creators left unpaid and without work in the wake of the latter. Go figure.

There was something on some website about some new books from Marvel's "Ultimate" imprint and I barely glanced at the item. But, when CBG hits my mailbox, I can't wait to read the latest from neo-columnists Heidi MacDonald and Chuck Rozanski, even though both of them report from worlds alien to me. Go figure.

I'm curious about what connects me to those things and works I love. Is there a strand of DNA in my make-up that makes me crazy for giant monsters like Godzilla and Gorgo? Or is the shortest kid in darn near every class I was ever in just acting out some sort of psychological issues? Whatever the reason, those skyscraper-sized movie stars continue to float my boat...at least before they smash it to kindling and roar triumphantly.

This week's official "fancy-tickler" comes from the National Fatherhood Initiative, whose goal is "to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers." From what I saw on a visit to its website, the NFI goes about this without disrespect or intolerance toward the diversity of households that exist within our land. Of course, I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to any organization cool enough to sign Godzilla to be one of its role models.

The NFI has created TV public service announcements promoting involved fatherhood. One of them, "Big Daddy," features clips from the kinder/gentler movies of the 1960s of Godzilla playing with his son. Tom Selleck provides the voice-over while the theme from THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER plays in the background. The 30-second message is a hoot-and-a-half; you can view it online at:

http://www.fatherhood.org/psa_tv.htm

This week's column reflects my continuing search for and study of comics and comics-related things which tickle my fancy. Let's heed the call of destiny and proceed.

******

2000 AD isn't a cheap date; each 32-page, mostly color, weekly issue runs $3.25. Most issues feature 27 pages of story and art divided between five strips of varying quality. For me, the main selling points are the anthology format, the weekly frequency, and, of course, the always-entertaining Judge Dredd. It takes a while for the issues to get from England to the U.S., so, even when I've read all the issues I have--a rarity--I'm weeks behind the readers over there. Sitting on top of my reviewing pile are 2000 AD #1282 (March 13) and #1283 (March 20).

The physical dimensions of 2000 AD are 11-5/8 inches by 7-5/8 inches, which allows quite a bit of room for the art. Most of the artists, as well as the writers, use the space to good advantage. The covers, line drawings or paintings, definitely benefit from the format. Covers featuring Judge Dredd seem to inspire their makers, with the Simon Davis painting for issue #1283 being a delightfully grim depiction of Dredd and a hapless perp.

The Judge Dredd strip is almost always the best story of each issue and that was the case here. In a dark-but-hilarious two-part tale, writer John Wagner and artist Cam Kennedy pit the futuristic lawman against the rampaging Branch Moronians, cultists who believe lobotomy brings them closer to "Grud." At one point, the Moronians take hostages and vow to release one every five minutes until their demands are met. They eventually figure out what's wrong with that maneuver and things gets deadly, but the story has several similar moments where even the most compassionate reader will find himself laughing amidst the carnage.

Other series rotate through the pages of 2000 AD, but two of the best were in these issues. Dan Abnett's "Sinister Dexter" are freelance hitmen in the sprawling European city of Downlode; think PULP FICTION with more laughs.

"Nikolai Dante" is the bastard offspring of futuristic Russian royalty who, following his allegiance to the losing side of a civil war, has resumed to a life of remarkably spectacular crime. Writer Robbie Morrison and artist Simon Fraser do the honors.

"Avatar" is the new strip on the block. Written by Abnett and drawn by Richard Elson, this story of the last surviving member of the human race launched in #1282. The initial chapters moved very fast, but the feature is holding my interest.

The bad news? When it needs to fill pages between the longer serials, 2000 AD has this bad habit of filling them with artlessly brutal done-in-one fare like the black-and-white "Terror Tales" and the painted "Tales of Telguuth." For my money, I'd much rather see reprints in these slots. With 1300 issues in the 2000 AD archives, not counting annuals, specials, and THE JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE (which I'll be reviewing in the near future), how hard could it be to find something good?

Those page-fillers hurt the legendary weekly's over-all score, but, out of a possible five Tonys, 2000 AD still earns three-and-a-half of those fearlessly floating heads.

Tony Tony Tony Half Tony

******

Eric Shanower's AGE OF BRONZE (Image; $3.50) is as sure-handed as it is excellent. Setting himself the prodigious task of telling the story of the Trojan War via comics, Shanower proves up to the challenge issue after issue. Pick up any issue, even one smack dab in the middle of a longer story arc, and, when you're done reading, you'll be both satisfied that you got your money's worth and eager to read the next issue...or the previous issue...or whatever other issues you haven't read yet.

My comics reading habits are impossibly erratic. However, the "Our Story So Far" copy on the inside front cover of AGE OF BRONZE #14 got me ready for Shanower's latest chapter, which focuses on a lull in the war and an examination of the unbreakable bond between warriors Achilles and Patroklus.

Shanower's sureness is clear from the first panel of the first page of his story. His drawings are amazing in their detail, the most ancient backgrounds and the most subtle of emotions coming to life on the pages. The panel-to-panel flow of the art never fails to, first and foremost, move the story forward, yet each and every page is worthy of hanging on the wall of the most discerning comics art collector/connoisseur.

His dialogue is equally certain. Characters are revealed in simple conversation, their emotions evident in word and expression. When they discuss past events, they do so naturally, providing only what is necessary for the scenes at hand.

With superlative writing and artwork, and a letters section as learned and literate as the story, Shanower's AGE OF BRONZE is one of the best comics being published today. How could it not get the full five Tonys?

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

CICI #1 (Spilled Milk; $2.99) is a comic book that breaks my heart. From the cover letter that accompanied the review copies to the exceptional production values of the actual comics, it's clear CICI is a labor of love for creator/writer/publisher Parker Smart. What breaks my heart is that, despite that, and despite one element of the title character's story that could be interesting, CICI is not a good comic book.

CiCi is a clone created via nanotechnology, an exact duplicate of her original, one Cynthia Christiansen. She is flesh and blood, and possesses all Cynthia's memories, including the woman's strong religious beliefs, beliefs at odds with the concept and practice of cloning. CiCi is repulsed by what she believes herself to be, some soulless mockery of a human being. In the right creative hands, I think that would be a story worth telling.

However, what we get is a cover that makes her look like some sort of deformed insect queen; a ridiculous "costume" designed to showcase her breasts; writing which tries too hard to be artistic; the typical callous government goons eager to terminate a "failed" experiment; gratuitous gore; and badly-drawn women wearing skirts so impossibly short one must consider the possibility the artists have never seen either a real woman or real clothing.

One of the truths of comicdom is that, no matter how poor one reader thinks a comic book may be, there will be another reader who loves it. I look at the production values of CICI, and what Smart must have spent on the creation and the promotion of the comic, and it hurts to see so much effort expended on a book that falls short in every other area. But, in recognition of the love that clearly went into this labor, I'll direct you Smart's website on the off-chance you, yes, you, are my opposite number who will be absolutely enthralled by this comic:

http://www.spilledmilk.com

Visit the site and decide CICI's merits for yourself. In the meantime, I give the book one Tony for effort.

Tony

******

My first encounter with the mad genius of Dominic Nunziato was when a comics mailing list directed me to this URL:

http://www.spoil-sports.com/Aquaman.htm

What I found there was a cartoon song parody of "It's Not Easy To Be Me" starring a certain harpoon-handed hero. My eyes widened at what was before me, opening the way to tears of laughter as each outrageous verse played out before me.

Two months later, Nunziato posted a Wonder Woman parody. Two more months brought a Batman parody. Both were eagerly awaited and both were met with much online praise.

In the fullness of time, mainly because he directed me to it, I learned that Nunziato's primary creative outlet was SPOIL SPORTS. Twice a week, he creates posts a sports-oriented editorial cartoon, "a sports column in every cartoon," and posts it at:

http://www.spoil-sports.com

In addition to these cartoons, he also posts a weekly sports rant, a wave of the week, and a caricature of the week...with those last two features extending into the realms of movies, TV, and pop culture. Nunziato's artwork may be unrefined, but he's got a gift for conveying his opinions in an amusing manner.

Myself being the poster child for online excess with my 2000 or so Internet columns, I'm well aware of how fast one can build a considerable archive of material. In Nunziato's case, he actually did something with his archive, collecting 100 of his cartoons in SPOIL SPORTS ($14.95), a self-published trade paperback sold on his website. In appreciation for his musical super-hero parodies, and because I think Nunziato is a very funny guy, I ordered a copy of his book. I wasn't disappointed.

SPOIL SPORTS was amusing light reading, even for someone whose interest in professional sports is pretty much limited to rooting for the Class AA Akron Aeros baseball team and mocking the various Cleveland teams at every conceivable opportunity. The latter isn't merely one of my endearing character flaws, it's also a response to racially-insensitive team symbols and to team owners who epitomize "welfare for the rich." But I digress or, more accurately, I would digress if Peter David hadn't already staked a claim on that corner of this fine publication.

Rambling back to the point, which I think was to review stuff by Dominic Nunziato, I give five Tonys to his Aquaman parody, four Tonys each to his Batman and Wonder Woman parodies, four more Tonys to his website, and three Tonys to his book.

Aquaman parody
Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Batman parody
Tony Tony Tony Tony

Wonder Woman parody
Tony Tony Tony Tony

Website
Tony Tony Tony Tony

Book
Tony Tony Tony

That makes a total of 20 Tonys, which he might be able to trade for a Maggie Thompson and a Brent Frankenhoff to be named later.

There's a flag on that lame sports analogy, so I guess I'm out of here until next week. See you then.

******

ADDENDUM

The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1505 [September 20], mailed to subscribers on September 3. That issue's cover featured photos of Peter David, Bill Jemas, and Joe Quesada. They aren't a pretty trio.

Dominic Nunziato now has a Green Lantern parody available on his website and it's a stitch. You can see it at:

http://www.spoil-sports.com/GreenLantern.htm

If you want to support his Internet madness, and you should, buy his book already.

******

TONY STUFF

Ever since DC Comics announced a new OUTSIDERS book on Sunday and that one of the revived team's members is the daughter of Black Lightning, I've been deluged with e-mails asking me about the title and the character and all things Lightning. I'm working up an FAQ to respond to these e-mails and, once it's finished, I'll run it as an installment of my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS column at Perpetual Comics. While you're waiting, though, I did answer a few of the most-asked questions in yesterday's TOT:

http://www.perpetualcomics.com

That's all I have for you today. Once I create some breathing room between myself and these deadlines, I'll add more new material to these reprints. See you tomorrow at Perpetual Comics...and then back here on Saturday and Sunday.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/12/2002 | 11/14/2002 | 11/16/2002 >>

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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