"Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed."
What Has Gone Before:
Gaining control of the dynamite-laden truck with mere seconds to spare, Tony Isabella, secretly the Masked Liberal, steered the vehicle away from the CBG offices and over the edge of a convenient cliff. The truck hits the ground and explodes into a ball of fire and shrapnel. And now, our story continues...
Hey! How did we miss that? Tony leaped from the truck just before it went over the cliff and grabbed a convenient root to stop himself from rolling over the cliff after it.
Back at his keyboard, Tony starts writing this week's reviews as if nothing extraordinary had happened...
Right now is, for me, the Golden Age of Comics Fandom. There have never been so many fine books and magazines about comics, past and present. There has never been such an incredible diversity of material, classic and cutting edge. There have never been so many opportunities for comics fans to communicate with one another, in person and online. If my farewell tour weren't turning out to be such an abject failure--people keep offering me interesting work--I could happily retire to a life of reading comics, selling comics, and talking about comics.
If I had to choose one magazine among so many favorites, that zine would be Roy Thomas' ALTER EGO (TwoMorrows; $5.95). It isn't just the quality of A/E's information and its presentation--though, certainly, those are extraordinary--it's that A/E really speaks to my inner fan. It covers the comics, events, and, most especially, the creators in which I'm most interested, those which came before I went to work in the industry and those which came during the time when I was more directly involved in the industry.
A/E is now published monthly, so, naturally, I'm a few issues behind in reading it. I just finished enjoying issue #21, an 104-page expedition into distant and not-so-distant past. Depending on which side of the issue you start with, editor Thomas leads the way with notes on THE INVADERS, the comics series he created and wrote for Marvel in the 1970s, and, also, one of my favorite titles from that decade.
An interview with Timely Comics staff artist Bob Deschamps is next, masterfully conducted by Jim Amash. The interview runs just over 16 pages and I never for a moment lost interest. In fact, it left me wanting more such interviews.
Flip the magazine and you get over 30 pages on the first New York City comics conventions, complete with photos and transcripts of historical panel discussions. Back then, as a young teenager, attending such an event would have been akin to walking the halls of Olympus or Valhalla.
Those are the highlights, but A/E #21 also featured comments by Alex Toth, a look at some unusual Flash Gordon collaborations, Marc Swayze on writing and drawing the original Captain Marvel, and a piece on the post-World War II adventures of Captain Marvel, Jr. Swayze is a treasure; reading his columns opens a window to what it was like to work in comics at the dawn of the industry.
On our scale of zero to five Tonys, ALTER EGO #21 deserves and gets the full five. You can find the magazine at better comic-book shops everywhere and online at:
When I spoke with him at this year's MegaCon, AC Comics editor and publisher Bill Black seemed a little surprised at how well his company's GOLDEN AGE TREASURY ($29.95) was selling. This 240-page collection of comics stories from the 1940s and 1950s is the most expensive book he's ever published. I wasn't nearly as surprised; short of spending thousands of dollars on rare comic books, where else could a modern-day fan find adventures of characters like Spy Smasher, Bulletman, Ibis the Invincible, Captain 3-D, the original Ghost Rider, the Twister, and so many others...in stories drawn by Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Joe Kubert, Dick Ayers, George Tuska, and so many other legendary talents?
Okay, I'll concede that you can find almost all of the above in various issues of AC's other titles, but, boy howdy, this thick GOLDEN AGE TREASURY will entertain and educate you for a good many pleasant hours. This is a collection with which you can and will linger, delivering terrific bang-for-your-bucks.
All the stories are worth reading, either for their historic value or because they're just cracking good stories. My favorites were the two-part battle between Ibis and a cat-cult (with spiffy artwork by Kurt Schaffenberger); El Carim, Master of Magic (Tuska); the Little Wise Guys (story by Charles Biro, art by Norman Maurer); Captain 3-D (Simon & Kirby); the Ghost Rider (Ayers); the Cheyenne Kid (story by Joe Gill, art by Al Williamson with Angelo Torres), and Dick Brieffer's first Frankenstein tale from PRIZE COMICS #7. There are over a dozen other stories in the book as well.
Was there room for improvement? Yes. Besides the reprints, Black presents several text pieces on the characters and creators. Captain 3-D is discussed in such detail that I was almost too bored to read the hero's actual origin story. We get a long article on Simon and Kirby's Bullseye, but only a two-page origin recap of the character's origin. An interview with Joe Simon consists mostly of his curt answers to questions of comics minutia. Finally, though I wouldn't have minded seeing some actual comics stories drawn by Britain's Denis McLoughlin, I don't see how the article about the artist fits the theme of this collection. McLoughlin stories would have been out of place as well, but at least they would have added to the comics content.
My suggestion for future volumes? Keep the text pieces short and to a minimum, just long enough to give readers some background on the comics.
Despite my complaints, I think GOLDEN AGE TREASURY is a heck of a book. It earns four-and-a-half Tonys.
AC's HAND OF ZORRO #1 ($5.95) reprints the third (and last) of the one-shots drawn by Everett Raymond Kinstler, a great comic-book artist and illustrator who went on to become one of this era's most revered portrait painters. His work hangs in the National Portrait Gallery and the White House; his subjects include movie stars like John Wayne, presidents like the first George Bush, and, in the case of Ronald Reagan, a movie star who became a president.
Published in 1954 as part of Dell's FOUR COLOR series, HAND OF ZORRO boasts an action-packed script by Paul S. Newman and equally dynamic Kinstler artwork. I've no idea if the reproduction of the art suffered in its transition from full-color comic book to this breathtakingly exciting black-and-white reprint, but, if it did, a near-mint copy of the original is worth every penny of the $155-165 value attributed to it by various price guides.
From the cover painting (by Kinstler?) through the wonderful story by Newman/Kinstler and the informative articles by Bill Black and Tom Johnson, HAND OF ZORRO #1 is a delight. It deserves every one of the five Tonys I'm awarding it.
The 48-page MEN OF MYSTERY #38 (AC; $6.95) gathers six stories from 1939 through 1955. These typical-for-their-era tales feature Bulletman, Commando Yank, Rusty Ryan, Spy Smasher, Jungle King Lee Granger, and the Black Cobra. Worthy of artistic note is the Bill Ward Bulletman adventure and Emil Gerswin's moody rendition of Spy Smasher's encounter with a man in an iron mask in a gloomy castle. I've seen Gerswin's work in other AC comics, but this is the first time it's truly caught my eye.
From a story standpoint, I most enjoyed the breakneck pace of the four-page "Rusty Ryan of Boyville" story by Paul Gustavson, and the bizarre-but-uncredited "Jungle King" story. The latter has a talking lion, friend and confidant to the hero.
MEN OF MYSTERY is a consistently interesting mag. I give this latest issue three-and-a-half Tonys.
For info on MOM and other AC titles, visit the AC website:
An ancient evil is released into the modern world and takes up residence in the body of a 20-something screw-up, transforming the poor sap into a horned creature of destruction. That's the first pitch--April is here and so are the baseball metaphors--thrown out in writer Josh Blaylock's KORE #1 ($2.95), a new ongoing monthly series from Image Comics.
Alex Crane is as irresponsible as they come, but Blaylock does manage to make him a sympathetic character. I expect future issues will deal with his personal growth as he battles for control of his new form with the demonic Manticore. That's not a bad premise for a comic book, especially given that the Manticore appears to have lethal designs on Crane's girlfriend and that other humans want the demon's power for their own.
On the artistic end of things, penciler Tim Seeley and inker Cory Hamscher do a pretty good job on both the storytelling and the actual drawing. Not usual for modern comics, the Studio F coloring is generally too busy and too dark. I swear, someone should stand behind today's computer colorists and beat them with a stick every time they get carried away by their technology.
The key to the success of KORE lies with the rise and/or fall of the hero's spirit. Though the PREVIEWS solicitation for the new title indicated Alex would be transported to some kind of fantasy world, that wasn't in evidence in the first issue and I'm kind of hoping it was left on the cutting room floor. There are plenty of stories to be told with this guy and his curse in the more-or-less real world. I'd very much like to read those tales.
For its promising start, KORE #1 picks up four Tonys.
Fans of George Perez--and I'm definitely one of them--will be bowled over by PACESETTER #1 ($6.50), which, in its previous life, was THE GEORGE PEREZ NEWSLETTER. Editor/publisher Tony Lorenz has put together a handsome square-bound zine whose 64 pages are filled with commentary on Perez's work and an abundance of drawings by the artist. This issue focuses on George's work for smaller comic-book publishers with an emphasis on the art he produced for ULTRAFORCE and other Ultraverse titles. Among the contents: an interview with Ultraverse co-founder Gerald Jones, articles from artists who have been helped/inspired by Perez, a checklist of Perez's Malibu work, and a 26-page Perez gallery. The theme for the second issue will be Perez's current efforts for CrossGen.
PACESETTER is a cheerful tribute to Perez and mirrors George's own affable nature. I give it four Tonys.
Mere moments before I left MegaCon to catch my flight home, I did a quick "how are you" with Phil Yeh, the dedicated and talented comics storyteller behind Cartoonist Across America. He handed me a copy of his WINGED TIGER COMICS & STORIES #12 ($2.95), which kept me sane on the first leg of my trip home.
"Here Comes the Sun" has Yeh's Patrick Rabbit ballooning here and there across the world, meeting a variety of comics artists and other creative types. The real-life guest stars contribute their own drawings and tips on getting and developing ideas for stories. The format of the tale is repetitive--I fear younger readers will tire of it--but as someone who wrestles with story ideas every day of my life, I found the various approaches fascinating.
Both for its excellent content and to help support the great work Yeh and the CAA do, I recommend you check out THE WINGED TIGER COMICS & STORIES #12. I give it four Tonys.
And, as long as we're on the subject, please visit the CAA's website at:
I'll be back next week with more reviews and the final--yeah, right--schedule for the Tony Isabella Farewell Tour. How could I leave without seeing you one more time?
The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1535 [April 18, 2003], which shipped March 31. This was sort of a slow news week for the paper. The cover story was about a rare variant of Eclipse's MIRACLEMAN #1 selling for $1,500. The secondary lead was about Marvel opening the submissions door for its Epic imprint. Had more details about the latter been forthcoming at the time of the initial Epic announcement, I suspect that would have received more play on the cover.
HEROES IN THE NEWS
Reported by Associated Press:
The Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken has been "convicted" by a court of Presbyterian Church officials of violating church law by marrying same-sex couples. The court rebuked Van Kuiken but did not suspend him or remove him from the ministry. He was acquitted of a second charge: ordaining gays as elders and deacons.
Van Kuiken plans to appeal the conviction while continuing to ordain gays and marry same-sex couples:
"I just have to be true to myself, and that's the best I can do. Our congregation has always felt that these ceremonies are marriages in every way...gay people are equal."
It will surely come as no surprise to my readers that I salute Van Kuiken's heroism. Whenever I ask myself what Jesus would do, the answer *never* comes back:
"Oh, I dunno, how about discriminating against gays? Yeah, that's the ticket."
My Jesus is so much better than that.
Today's letter comes from DANIEL LOUIE, who answers a question I posed a while back, and then asks one of his own:
You asked what makes manga tick for us? I'll take a quick stab at an answer. The trouble is, I know what I like, but can those series be easily categorized?
1) A romantic story with a large cast of characters
2) Strong female "heroics"/heroines
The first category could include such series as Maison Ikkoku, Love Hina, Tenchi Muyo, Oh My Goddess, Wish, and Chobits...while Silent Mobius, You're Under Arrest, Gunsmith Cats, Hyper Dolls, and Geobreeders (which barely made any sense) would fall into the second.
But...what about Eat-Man, Pineapple Army, Patlabor and Lum? Does this mean I'm "with you"...in that I'm into manga for the variety? What about all of the manga series I don't buy/read and which I have no interest even looking at?
Here's a question for you. Do you know of any websites with FAQs on how to sell a comic collection? While I would love to get maximum value for my comics, I'll settle for a fast way of moving a collection containing many series that probably wouldn't interest many of today's collectors, issues from Eclipse, First, Valiant, and so on.
MAISON IKKOKU is one of my all-time favorite comics, manga or otherwise. One of manga's greatest strengths is that its enormous variety gives readers a great many choices. Just as with American or European comics, not every manga series will be to your liking. But the variety increases the odds that you will find titles which appeal to you.
As for your question, I far from an expert on selling comics, but I bet one of your fellow Tips readers will be able to steer you in the right direction. I'll work their responses into an upcoming edition of this column.
I'm writing this a couple days before posting this week's new TONY POLLS question or questions...and don't know what it or they will be. To find out, go to:
My next convention stop is the BIG APPLE COMICS CONVENTION on Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, in New York City. The show is held at St. Paul Church on 59th Street and 9th Avenue. This is my first time at a NYC show since the 1970s and, indeed, my first trip to the city since 1988.
Other guests include Steranko, James Warren (former publisher of Creepy, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Vampirella, and many other treasured magazines of my youth), Alex Maleev, Russ Heath, Billy Tucci, Scott Roberts, Jim Salicrup, Jim Krueger, Craig Weich, Guy Gilchrist, Jamal Igle, Robin and Elayne Riggs, and an assortment of media guests, models, and wrestlers. For more information on the show, head over to the convention website at:
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: