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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Saturday, May 31, 2003


It is rumored that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez want to star in a remake of Casablanca. This will be the perfect film for people who liked the original but wished it was terrible. -Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live

Take one columnist who, it seems, spends more time in front of his keyboard than with other human beings. Add many younger human beings enjoying a spring break from school and spending much of it, it seems, within his home. Add countless germs positively giddy at the opportunity to have their way with the so-called master of the home. Columnist plus kids plus germs equals big-time cold and flu. Why didn't I invest in pharmaceuticals when I had the chance? I'd still be sick, but I'd be wealthy and sick.

You get reviews mixed with corrections and some old business this go-round. Hopefully, my editors will edit out any sniffles, sneezes, and delirium before sending this to press. Thankfully, they will have received my column via e-mail and not, as in bygone days, in the form of a dripping-with-disease manuscript. Thus does progress trump plague.


Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis Osamu Tezuka's METROPOLIS (Dark Horse; $13.95) is one of his earliest works, predating his legendary ASTRO BOY by a few years. The inspirations for the 1949 graphic novel were Tezuka's lifelong interest in the juxtaposition of human beings and technology, the dawning of the Cold War, and a single striking image of the robotic Maria from Fritz Lang's silent film of the same name.

Tezuka's story is set in a distant-but-not-too-distant future. For all intents and purposes, the world is ruled/driven by science, but it is also a world threatened by terrorist Duke Red and his Red Party organization. Into the conflict comes Michi, an artificially created being with no knowledge of his/her origins and a child-like delight in his/her amazing powers.

Michi is composed of synthetic cells and can be made to appear as either male or female. His powers come from the "various secret apparatii implanted in the body." Even as Duke Red seeks to find Michi and subjugate the marvelous creation to his will, the young robot searches for his nonexistent parents. The book's surprising and thrilling climax is precipitated by Michi's discovery of what he is and why he was brought to life.

Tezuka was a masterful storyteller and METROPOLIS is one dandy story. Various humorous sequences were overplayed, even tiresome, but Tezuka would always win back with the humanity and tragedy that are the heart and soul of the work. I'd rank the final scene among the most unforgettable in comics.

METROPOLIS has me eager to see the animated version, which I scored for less than five bucks at a recent Blockbuster Video sale. It'll be interesting to see what changes were been made to Tezuka's classic graphic novel...and classic it surely is. On our scale of zero to five Tonys, METROPOLIS gets the full five. Its occasional weaknesses only minutely diminish its well-earned place among the most revered comics of all time.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Kid Colt 122

Old business: witness the virtual end of an era, probably the last time that I'll be able to squeeze column inches from my worn copy of KID COLT OUTLAW #122 [May, 1965]. Dick Ayers has confirmed he did NOT ink the Jack Kirby-penciled cover for that issue, so my identification of Chic Stone as the inker stands.


The bulldog is a police inspector. The little green creature hovering over a safe just "ate" a police officer. It's business as more or less usual in JE Smith's COMPLEX CITY: ALL IN A DAY'S WORK (Better Comics; $12.95), a trade paperback collecting previously-published-but-revised material from Smith's quirky comics series of a few years back.

Complex City is a "crossroads for the fantastic, a swap-meet for the bizarre and unusual." There are scientific advances that border on the wondrous. There are other-dimensional creatures-for-hire. There are vampires, but they're not a problem because they cut a deal with the city government. There is an urban myth by the name of Crazy Quilt who can reportedly suck the evil from the souls of criminals, leaving them somewhat worse for the wear. And there is Bulldog Malone, a top cop trying to find out exactly what was in that safe, who wants it, and, unexpectedly, how it might relate to his own existence.

JE Smith's Complex City I got a kick out of COMPLEX CITY. It's an exciting, sometimes wacky "cops dealing with the strange" adventure in which the humor never seems forced or inappropriate to the larger story. Being a cop is as real as it gets; combining that with the unreal makes for an odd-yet-irresistible atmosphere.

Smith's straight-forward storytelling brings COMPLEX CITY to life. His writing is descriptive when it needs to be, terse when it would otherwise get in the way of the action. His art is what I would call cartoon-realistic and every bit as to-the-point as his writing. Indeed, in the 94 pages of comics included in this book, the only time the overall story slows down is when he inserts two pages of text into it. The text covers material which would have required several pages of comics, but, as someone who used the same technique once or twice in his early career, I think it's a cheat. But it's the only place where Smith cuts corners.

COMPLEX CITY: ALL IN A DAY'S WORK also has an introduction by Steve Bissette, an afterword by Smith, and a "Bulldog Gallery" by several other artists. It's a satisfying hunk of reading for your bucks and, though it ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, it still rates a commendable four Tonys. The story will continue in the all-new COMPLEX CITY: SIBLING RIVALRY trade paperback, coming from Better Comics in Fall, 2004. A 15-page preview of that book is available online at:

Tony Tony Tony Tony


Correction: I reviewed Bongo's RADIOACTIVE MAN #6 a few issues back and, due to the confusing nature of the issue's credits, which were last names with no division of labor indicated, misidentified Dan DeCarlo as the story's layout artist. Fortunately, when my pal Batton Lash sent me an e-mail thanking me for the review, he also corrected my error:
Many thanks for the four Tonys and the kind words of the Gold Key pastiche issue of Radioactive Man! I especially appreciate your pointing out that the issue doesn't rely on "inside" humor. I try to do that with the Radioactive Man issues I write; a kid can read it as a goofy super-hero story while codgers like us recognize the style in which it's done. Did Bill Morrison tell you he painted the cover? He's a very talented guy.

Also, Dan DeCarlo didn't have anything to do with the issue. I did the layouts and Mike DeCarlo penciled it.

Finally, I could kick myself for overlooking the "Radioactive Man Pin-Up" tag on the back cover!

I knew something was missing!
I regret the error and thank Batton for the correction. Don't be shy about bringing errors of fact to my attention. If I thought I were infallible, I'd be running for Pope.


In last week's Tips, I gave DRAGON BALL VOLUME 1 (Viz Comics, $7.95) the coveted five Tonys. I enjoyed that volume so much that I didn't wait long before reading DRAGON BALL Z VOLUME 1 ($7.95), a continuation of the series which begins five years after the end of its forefather. There's a "but" coming, following a quick note about the numbering of these two series.

The overall Dragon Ball story fills 42 albums. The first 16 volumes are DRAGON BALL; the rest are DRAGON BALL Z.

Back to the review...

I loved the Dragon Ball volume I reviewed last week, filled as it was with clever ideas, likeable characters, and truly hilarious scenarios. It was an absolute delight.

This volume of Dragon Ball Z had some of those characters, but it was otherwise and mostly concerned with brutal combat devoid of humor. Son Goku is the greatest hero on Earth, devoted to raising his young son. Comes his evil brother from outer space to recruit Goku for the destruction of countless planets, starting with Earth.

The set-up for the battle takes about 60 pages. The battle, complete with dismemberment, evisceration, and death, runs another 70 or so pages. What a bore.

I'm not giving up on DRAGON BALL Z quite yet. Creator Akira Toriyama is a good writer and artist. The odd alliances formed in this first volume could prove interesting, as could the preparation for the battles to come. On that basis, I'm giving this volume an extremely tentative three Tonys. But I'll need more than vicious punch-ups to keep me reading this series.

Tony Tony Tony


Old business: My pal John Wells and I have a disagreement re: the creation of Spider-Man. He writes:
In your review of THWIP! #84 [CBG #1538], you took "issue with a portion of the mini-bio which credits Jack Kirby with the plot for the first Spider-Man." I agree entirely that Kirby had nothing to do with Spidey as we know him, so, as the person who wrote that article (originally for a Wal-Mart promotion), I wondered how I could possibly have given the impression it was otherwise. Here's the paragraph in question:

"On a roll, Lee & Kirby followed up with the Hulk. And Thor. And Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Kirby's plot involving a young boy who magically transformed into Spider-Man wasn't quite what Lee had been thinking of. Collaborating with artist Steve Ditko, Stan came up with a story more in line with he'd envisioned and it appeared in AMAZING FANTASY #15 (published circa May, 1962). Teenager Peter Parker was a loner, mocked and bullied by his classmates when he was away from the security of his loving Aunt May and Uncle Ben. A bite from a radioactive spider at a science expo sent Peter's life into hyper-drive and he used his newfound powers and natural scientific prowess to become an entertainer called Spider-Man. Caught up in his celebrity status, Peter set himself up for a fall, learning in a particularly terrible way that, 'With great power there must also come--great responsibility.'"

Yes, the opening states Lee and Kirby followed up Fantastic Four with the Hulk, Thor and Spider-Man. But, taken in context, it also says that Stan rejected Kirby's idea, a recycled version of the unused Silver Spider project from the mid-1950s, and that Lee and Ditko delivered the real goods. The Silver Spider detail has been a relatively recent revelation, but it's been a matter of record for decades that Jack came up with a pre-Ditko Spider-Man, one Stan rejected as too fantastic and god-like.

I hope that clarifies things. I'm sorry if I somehow conveyed something otherwise.
To which I respond:

It's not "a matter of record" that Kirby came up with an entirely different version of Spidey before the Lee-Ditko version. What is a matter of record is that Jack drew a Spidey who was too muscular, too traditionally super-heroic for the concept Stan had come up with. Anything else is a matter of conjecture. According to accounts of the Silver Spider, it was C.C. Beck and not Jack who was the intended artist for the stillborn series.

By my reckoning, fans (and historians) have been way too eager to jump on the theory that Stan Lee was little more than a dialogue writer for the comics he created with Jack and Steve. I believe an examination of the earliest issues of these comics...and the work these celebrated creators did apart from one another...puts the lie to that theory. I stand by my previous comments.

Actually, I'm going back to bed and laying down by my previous comments. Hand me that box of tissues, will you?



The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1540 [May 23, 2003], which shipped May 5. The lead story was DC Comics again winning the CBG Fan Award for "Favorite Publisher." If you check out my TONY POLLS page every week, you know I've been asking my online readers to vote in the same categories approximately one week after CBG publishes their results. I thought that it might be interesting to compare the two.

Here's how the CBG readers voted:






Dark Horse.....1.4%

Top Shelf.....1.1%




Here's how the TONY POLLS ballots came out...






Dark Horse.....1.77%


Top Shelf.....0.88%



You'll find my comments on this and other TONY POLLS questions in my TONY'S ONLINE TIPS columns at Norman Barth's PERPETUAL COMICS website:

That's also where you'll find the results of all future TONY POLLS questions.

Yes, it's true. It takes more than one website to satisfy me. I am the Don Juan of online commentators.



I think my pal RUSS MAHERAS should see if Justin wants to give him his own WORLD FAMOUS column, so he can continue defending Bush, his policies, and his supporters without my giving him space each week. I'll tell you why Russ and I will likely not see eye-to-eye on these issues after you read his latest e-mail.

One caveat. Russ is responding to the column posted here last week. Rather than include his previous comments or my response to his comments in what's already turning out to be a long-ish column, I refer you to our "back issues" archives.

Russ writes:
On the boycott of American and French items:

I wasn't defending either side. I made it very clear that I felt BOTH extremes were wrong. For that reason, I don't buy a "one- side-is-more-wrong-than-the-other" argument.

McDonald's has just as much right to operate its business as Joe's French Bistro does. It is not "more wrong" to boycott a small business than it is to boycott a large company.

From what I could see, Germany, Russia and especially France seemed to oppose the war effort because they had multi-billion- dollar economic ties with Saddam Hussein, not because they had moral reservations about a war with him. If you look at the years and years of passed U.N. resolutions, all three countries supposedly condemned Saddam's regime. However, it is also apparent to me that behind closed doors, things were business as usual between these three governments and the Bad Boy of Baghdad. So when push came to shove about actually doing something about Saddam's defiance, the trio suddenly started doing whatever they could to keep the situation status quo. I don't know about you, but I don't sell out my principles when someone throws money in my face--hence my displeasure with the leaders of these countries.

Heck, I don't mind at all if someone disagrees with me, and I certainly don't want to deny them the right to disagree. But as Mark Twain said in the opening quote to your column, "Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let man label you as they may."

But keep in mind that this quote is just as applicable for you and I as it is for folks you disagree with, don't pop an artery...George W. Bush.
Here's why Russ and I won't agree:

I don't believe Bush and his bunch have any convictions beyond enriching themselves and/or making every one else march in tune to their oft-twisted moral codes. Darn near everything Bush proposes benefits the wealthy at the eventual expense of those who are not wealthy, benefits those who share his alleged moral beliefs at the expense of those who believe otherwise or who simply believe in the separation of church and state, benefits those with whom he shares financial interests over the rank-and-file. Until Bush made this grab for oil, he never seemed to have any problem with Halliburton doing business with Saddam...and a key result of his attack on Iraq is that Halliburton picks up all sorts of government contracts on a non-competitive basis.

I think Bush and his bunch are, not just bad for this country and the world, but bad guys period. Russ isn't likely to convince me otherwise, nor am I likely to convince him of the veracity of my position. Which is where I think I'll leave our discussion for the foreseeable future.

Look for a new TONY'S ONLINE TIPS on Monday at the Perpetual Comics website, new TONY POLLS questions on Tuesday, more new TOTs on Wednesday and Friday, and then back here for another CBG reprint plus. Am I insatiable or what?

Tony Isabella

<< 05/24/2003 | 05/31/2003 | 06/07/2003 >>

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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