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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
TONY'S TIPS! (01/01/03)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This is the first of two all-new columns made possible by the generous contributions of TONY'S TIPS readers. I thought I'd write something in the spirit of the day and garnish it with this classic cover from the Silver Age of Comics.

ACTION COMICS #327 [August, 1965] isn't a "New Year" cover per se, but the Curt Swan/George Klein image does speak to the passage of time, albeit with artistic tongue firmly in cheek. Editor Mort Weisinger knew his readers loved "imaginary stories" about Superman and made such tales a frequent component of his Superman family of comic-book titles.

Action 327

I can't remember anything about Edmond Hamilton's "The Three Generations of Superman," which could mean I never read it. This issue would have come out while I was completely ga-ga over Marvel Comics and somewhat dismissive of all but a handful of DC titles. Guess I'll have to add ACTION #327 to my want-list.

Swan and Klein penciled and inked this 12-page Superman story, which was backed up by Leo Dorfman's 12-page "Supergirl: Fugitive From Justice!" Jim Mooney did the full artwork for the Supergirl episode. According to the Grand Comics Database, this issue also contains a text feature on the honors awarded to Superman over the years. That text piece would have almost certainly be written by the late E. Nelson Bridwell.

THE OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE opines that a near-mint condition of this issue will sell for $40. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS lists it at $16. I suspect, as in so many things, the truth lies somewhere in between.

******

DON'T CALL THEM RESOLUTIONS!

Amidst much general mocking from those I love, I like to spend the day before the first of the year setting a variety of personal and professional goals for myself. I'm usually too cowardly to put them to paper, but a man embarking on a farewell tour is not a man to shy away from either challenges or risks.

These goals are in no particular order. This section will be as close to stream-of-consciousness as I can get without starting to speak in tongues. As a writer who believes in both clarity and correct spelling, I am bound by my convictions.

The list begins...

I want to work far enough ahead on my online columns so that I never have to skip a scheduled appearance. If someone comes to Norman Barth's PERPETUAL COMICS website on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I want to greet them with a new column. If someone visits this website on Saturday, I want them to find a reprint of my CBG columns *and* a goodly chunk of brand-new material.

I want to organize my entire comics collection by the end of the year...make decisions on what to keep and what to let go...and start selling what I can bear to part with on eBay. I'm hoping to free up lots of space in Casa Isabella and bring some extra money to the family coffers.

I want to do the same thing with all the books, magazines, and vinyl records I've accumulated. All the records are going to go; they just take up too much space.

I want to finish reading and reviewing the December DC Comics shipment by the end of next week. If you've been reading my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS columns at Perpetual, you know I wanted to read/review all 80+ items in the shipment. The main stumbling block has been that, in too many cases, I couldn't read just one issue of a title.

The earlier issues of recent debuts or story arcs seduced me into reading them as well. As I write *this* column, I have 16 books to go, one of them the latest SHAZAM ARCHIVES...and that's if I avoid further seduction. When it comes to diversity of titles and sheer quantity of titles, no one beats DC Comics.

When creators send me their work, as opposed to publishers, I want to read and possibly review it within a week of its arrival. If my three decades in the comics biz have taught me anything, it's that creators are more vital to the art form and the industry than publishers.

I want to attend twelve conventions on my 2003 TONY ISABELLA FAREWELL TOUR...and I want to conduct myself with more dignity and integrity and respect than most publishers and far too many readers treat creators. If I can help increase awareness of how badly the comics industry has treated creators, historically and continuing to present times, I will count that as an accomplishment at the end of my tour.

I want to have fun on the tour, meeting old and new friends, celebrating my own comics career, however modest some may deem it. The joys outweigh the regrets.

I want to have all twelve conventions booked by the first stop on the tour, which will be MegaCon from February 28 through March 2 in Orlando, Florida.

I want to send in my 2002 taxes by mid-February, so I can use the refund to pay for our family vacation.

I want to plan that vacation by March. We'll be heading out to the West Coast on a trip that will include my attending Comic Con International in San Diego.

Starting in February, I want to lose a pound a week. One of my relatives has had great success via Weight Watchers and I plan to follow suit. One handicap is that I intend to do this without giving up the Pepsi which fuels me as I work.

With the exception of the licensed novel I'm writing with Bob Ingersoll, I want to complete all my other outstanding commitments by the end of January, freeing me to work exclusively on the twelve comics proposals I will be submitting as part of my farewell tour. I want to finish the novel before its April 1 deadline.

It should be noted that I'm not married to the "exclusively" part of the above goal. If an interesting assignment comes along, an assignment I can take without violating my principles, I'm going to give it full consideration.

Principles? Hmm...maybe we better take a break from my list of goals for the new year to discuss that.

******

CREATIVE PRINCIPLES

Those of who have been reading my columns on anything close to a regular basis know I believe that, on occasion, I've been, well, screwed over by some editors and publishers. I won't list chapter and verse here, but this needs be mentioned...as does the sad fact that, in my own career, I doubtless did the same to other creators, albeit in the ignorance of youth and the failure to fully consider the ramifications of my actions. The principles by which I intend to guide whatever remains of my comics career are all based on that hard-earned knowledge and my refusal to act in a manner than allows publishers to screw over other creators.

1. I will accept only assignments that allow me to create the highest quality work of which I'm capable. The world doesn't need any more bad comic books.

2. I prefer to work on projects of my own creation. That is the best way to ensure that I won't be screwing over another comics creator as I have been screwed over.

3. I will work on characters and concepts created by another creator if the creator asks me to work on them...or if the creator is no longer with us and the rights to his or her creation are not being contested...or if the creator or his heirs have not expressed the wish that other creators refrain from working on said creation. I know this one is a brainful, so let's see if I can offer some clarifying examples.

As neither Bob Kane nor Bill Finger are with us, and a great loss this is, I could work on a Batman project...assuming there was no objection from their heirs. However, I wouldn't want to write a Batman project which used characters conceived by living creators such as, oh, Mike Barr, Paul Dini, Denny O'Neil, and so on, unless those creators were agreeable.

Some might see this principle as a limitation, but I see it as a nigh-irresistible creative challenge. Maybe if writers did not continually recycle the old, if they tried to bring new elements to their work on even the most legendary characters, maybe we wouldn't bore so many readers to the point where they stop buying our comic books entirely.

4. If the circumstances are right for me to write an existing character, I'll only write that character if I can keep him true to character. I'm not going to distort a character for a quick spike in the sales. There are good reasons why these classic characters have attained and retained their appeal...and I'm just smart enough to recognize that.

I'd be dishonest if I failed to note that one of my existing commitments may violate one of these principles. If that does turn out to be the case, I'm in a bit of a pickle because it is also a commitment I can't abandon without injuring someone very important to me. My fallback position, the best I can come up with under the circumstances, would be to send part of my earnings on the project to the creator of the characters I'm writing.

My guiding principles. I expect adhering to them will prove difficult at times. Then again, they wouldn't be worth much to me, or to any creators who also choose to follow them, if they weren't. The best ideas demand our best efforts.

******

MORE GOALS

The more important ones.

I want to be a voice of opposition to faux-President Bush and his soulless mob of oil profiteers and religious zealots. The very soul of our nation is at risk as long as he is in power.

I want to do what I can to help people realize that there is a right to life and that it extends far beyond the miracle of one's birth. There is a right to life free from ignorance, intolerance, poverty, and war, a right to life where no cause is more important that equal rights for all God's creations, even those who may not believe in a particular God or any God.

I want to do what I can to safeguard the Earth itself for the generations which will follow us. We must use the resources of our world more wisely.

I want to do what I can to make this world a better place for my loved ones and for yours.

I want to someday figure out a way to write this sort of thing without sounding like an evangelist or a politician. I'm thinking we could make do with fewer of those.

******

OUR WORLD TODAY

Having shelled out fifty bucks for CHASE'S CALENDAR OF EVENTS for 2003, I figure I should make use of it on special occasions and not just so I can list it as a business expense on my income taxes. However, if you happen to run into my brother Ray, the accountant, let him know that, yes, Tony is working on his taxes and will have them to you well before October.

Today kicks off BREAD MACHINE BAKING MONTH. This encourages the use of bread machines and accessories for use in your home and mine. We have a funnel cake maker and a pretzel maker. I plan to mate them and create a higher form of doughy treat. If you want more reasonable suggestions, go to:

http://www.breadmachine.org

Many Christian churches celebrate the CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST on this day, but I try to avoid writing about subjects that make me cross my legs reflexively.

January is IMAGE IMPROVEMENT MONTH. This is not, as I first and wrongly thought, the anniversary of when Image Comics gave Rob Liefeld the boot. It is actually a month for "empowering others to look and feel better, while simplifying their lives." If you are heavily into self-improvement, you should also look into January's other special ventures: International Business Success Resolutions Month, International Creativity Month, International Like Balance Month, International Quality of Life Month, International Wealth Mentality Month, National Be On-Purpose Month, National Reaching Your Potential Month, and, of course, Oatmeal Month. The more you buy into these events, the more you're going to need something to clean you out.

Finally, I want to give a special Z DAY shout out to my good friend THOM ZAHLER. Thom is the writer and artist of the way cool RAIDER: FROM THE SHADOWS graphic novel, which you can check out and purchase at:

http://www.thomz.com/raider

Yes, Thom Zahler, January 1 is your special day. It's a day when we "give recognition to all persons and places whose names begin with the letter *Z* and are always listed or thought of last in any alphabetized list."

Oh, wait, I guess putting this at the end of my column sort of defeats the purpose of the day.

Sorry, Thom. You're screwed again.

I'll be back on Friday with another special edition of TONY'S TIPS here at the World Famous Comics website.

Tony Isabella

<< 12/28/2002 | 01/01/2003 | 01/03/2003 >>

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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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