"It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him!"
Our top story this week: your most beloved columnist attended the Mighty Mini-Con in Herkimer, New York, on Saturday, May 10, and had a perfectly spiffy time. If you don't want to read yet another "Tony on the Road" column, now would be an excellent time to bail on me and see what "Mr. Silver Age" is writing about. Now that guy is entertaining.
Herkimer is roughly 422 miles from the stately Isabella manse in Medina, Ohio. My original plan was to jump in my Ford Aerostar van, which is getting on in years, and drive solo to the show, but, noting that I, too, am getting on in years, Sainted Wife Barb nixed that plan. She suggested, and, by "suggested," I mean, "threatened to have me committed," that I, instead, rent a vehicle and take our son Eddie to keep me company on the drive, and, by "company," I, of course, mean, "awake."
The drive was pretty much a straight seven-hour-shot on I-90. Save for spending time with Eddie, and listening to the Beatles and Jimmy Buffet CDs, it wasn't much fun through Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, once we hit New York, especially the Mohawk Valley region wherein lies Herkimer, the surrounding countryside was stunningly beautiful. It was early evening when we pulled into the Herkimer Motel, which was not stunningly beautiful.
Fellow CBG columnist Heidi MacDonald has already told you of the raucous charm of Herkimer nightlife, the unfailing friendliness of the native Herkimerians, and the unfortunate shortcomings of the Herkimer Motel. All I can add is the observation, made a number of times during the evening, that our lodgings were bordered by I-90 on one side and train tracks on the other. Eddie, innocent that he is, slept peacefully, whereas I woke up whenever a semi roared by. Guilt or imagination? You decide.
The Mighty Mini-Con was hosted by Rick Olney and ORCA, which stands for the Organized Readers of Comics Associated. It was held at the Herkimer County Community College. Not only was the campus lovely and the facilities excellent, but, from my table in Artists Alley, I had this breathtaking view of the Mohawk Valley. I've sat across from gorgeous actresses and models at conventions and never have I had a more inspiring view.
The fans attending the Mighty Mini-Con were as friendly as any I've met anywhere. I'm sure there weren't as many of them as Olney and ORCA would have liked, but the several hundreds that were there got to meet terrific guests and shop with some equally terrific retailers. Eddie stocked up on old issues of MAD and even helped out my pals at Coop's Comics.
If you'll pardon my fatherly pride here, everyone loved Eddie. Yeah, I already knew what a great kid he is, but it was still nice to hear so many others share my opinion.
Here comes my favorite Mighty Mini-Con story:
My old and dear friend Ken Gale has a habit of throwing snaps my way. It's a defense mechanism; as a child, he was inexplicably terrified of dashingly handsome comic-book writers and carries that psychological trauma with him to this day.
The lovely and talented Mercy Van Vlack, who is Ken's partner and the reason why we all put up with Ken, was telling me how great my son was. Ken entered the conversation with:
"Yeah, how did *that* happen with you for his dad?"
Not missing a beat, I replied:
"Skips a generation."
Even Ken was impressed.
I didn't lack for good company at the con. There were so many of my friends there, including some, like Alan David Doane of the Comic Book Galaxy website, and Gail Simone of KILLER PRINCESSES and soon-to-be BIRDS OF PREY fame, I had never met in person. Another treat was a surprise visit from Tom and Marie Hegeman, who live in not-so-nearby Oneonta, New York.
Quick digression. I have distant relatives in Oneonta. Back in 1963, when my family was visiting them, I bought FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1 at my great-uncle's cigar shop. Reading that issue made me want to make comics my career.
Tom and I met in the pages of CAPA-ALPHA, the first and still the best comics apa (amateur press association) in the whole entire universe. Tom is currently a member and I'm back on the waitlist. To our delight, we realized that there were eight current or former members of K-a at the Mighty Mini-Con. Besides Tom and myself, our ranks included: Rick Olney, Ken Gale, Mercy Van Vlack, Bob Rozakis, Andy Fish, and Dennis Kinninger. Our man Rick was off running the convention or some such, but we did get seven of us to stand still long enough for a photo.
Panels? Yep, the Mighty Mini-Con had them. I did a special "Tony's Tips Live" presentation, which mostly consisted of my going on about this and that. In fact, the only difference between that panel and this column is that people who came to my panel got free comic books, courtesy of Future Comics. I also caught the last few minutes of Bob Ro's "Trivia! Trivia! Trivia!" contest wherein I was horrified by both the minutia I still remember and that which I've forgotten. Scary.
The convention ran from 10 am to 5 pm. I answered questions, hung out with friends, and signed old comics. As in the other cons I've attended this year, the Isabella-written comics I see the most are Black Lightning, Ghost Rider, and Hawkman. In addition, I am being asked to deface an increasing number of copies of Champions, Daredevil, Satan's Six, and that perennial favorite, Astonishing Tales starring "It, the Living Colossus." I also scored a handful of indy comics and magazines, which I'll be reviewing over the next few columns.
If I were rating the Mighty-Mini-Con, I'd award it a full five Tonys for effort, friendliness, and setting. However, uplifting to the spirit as the Mohawk Valley location was, the area doesn't seem to have enough of a population base to support a show as ambitious as this one. That's probably why next year's con will be expanding to two days and moving to Syracuse. It's sad, but understandable, and I'm confident Olney and his crew will deliver a fine event in their new venue. If you want the latest information on next year's show, and see some photos of this year's activities, you can visit the Mighty Mini-Con website at:
Eddie and I decided to take advantage of the flexibility that driving to Herkimer had allowed us by going to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a short 45-minute trip through more of that incredible scenery, getting there just as the town was closing down for the night. We didn't know the Hall of Fame closes at 5 pm before Memorial Day...or that pretty much the rest of the town follows suit.
Since the Hall of Fame would open at 9 am the next morning, we decided to spend the night. That turned out to be a spectacularly good decision.
The Lake Front Motel, Restaurant, and Marina sits one healthy block from the Hall and on Otsego Lake. Our second-floor room was big, clean, and comfortable...with a deck from which we could see the lake and surrounding mountains. Tired as I was from the drive and the con, I wanted to spend all night on the deck just taking in that amazing panorama. God does good work.
It'll probably make it harder for me to get such a great room when next I visit Cooperstown, but you can see photos of the Lake Front Motel place and make reservations at:
Eddie and I got to the Hall of Fame as soon as it opened and were pleasantly surprised at how few other early birds were there as well. It's a lot easier to study the exhibits and even linger at your favorites when there aren't a thousand other people in the place. We saw everything in just a few hours.
My favorites? One was the Babe Ruth exhibit. His connection with the youngsters of his day has always impressed me. Reading a letter he wrote to a ailing boy actually got me misty.
My other favorite was the Negro Leagues exhibit. Even though I am saddened by all the great players who never got their shot at the majors, I'm encouraged by their obvious dedication to the game and their determination to excel. I have to say, though, it's real tough to read the death-threat which was sent to Jackie Robinson in a cowardly and malevolent attempt to scare him away from playing at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.
Now imagine my delight, and, by "delight," I mean, "total and utter loathing" on walking through the actual Hall of Fame part of the Hall and hearing an evolutionary throwback complaining loudly about how "affirmative action" was the reason the Hall had started inducting "all these" Negro Leagues players. If Eddie hadn't been with me, I believe risking getting thrown in jail for assault would have been a very real option for me. God does good work and then we go and mess it up.
I didn't cheer up until we hit the gift shop and got matching Abbott and Costello "Who's on First?" t-shirts, along with presents for the women we left behind: Sainted Wife Barb and my daughter Kelly. The Hall was a hundred-and-thirty bucks richer by the time we hit the return road to Ohio.
The drive back was mostly uneventful. We did hit a downright torrential rain storm which forced us to the side of the road, but which moved on within five minutes. Maybe Storm happened to be in the neighborhood.
The entertainment on our drive home was JUDGE DREDD: TRAPPED ON TITAN, a full-cast audio adventure on CD which had been sent to me by my pal Sean Kelly. The special effects got a little loud in places, but it definitely had an authentic Dredd vibe going for it. Sean also sent me STRONTIUM DOG: DOWN TO EARTH, featuring another popular character from the pages of Britain's 2000 AD weekly. I'll be listening to it soon, so expect reviews of both it and the Dredd thriller in the near future.
Eddie and I had a wonderful time on this trip. Kind of makes me want to rethink this whole "farewell tour" idea.
Speaking of which...
There are three stops left on the Tony Isabella Farewell Tour. Comic-Con International in San Diego is next and I'll be there each and every day from the Wednesday preview night on July 16 through the closing hours of Sunday, July 20.
San Diego. It's the biggest comics party of the year and you being there will make it even better.
Don't disappoint me.
The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1546 [July 4, 2003], which shipped June 16. The cover story that issue announced the return of Steven E. Mitchell's long-stalled series of articles on the chronology of attacks on the comics art form. The secondary cover story announced the publication of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE PRESENTS HULK, their guide to the long-running Marvel Comics character.
Mitchell's columns are historically important and occasionally fascinating. However, for the most part, they are not written in an even remotely entertaining style. I'm glad he has resumed this series; I just wish there were some snap to the writing.
CBG has sent me review copies of both their Hulk book and the earlier one they did on the X-Men. I plan to take them on the road with me and review them sometime in August.
The column above is not exactly as it appeared in CBG, but all the changes are mine. I originally reported that I was doing four more shows this year, but, sadly, the Lone Star Comicon, which was scheduled for September 5-7, has been canceled. Lance Moore, the promoter of the show, has suffered a rotator cuff injury which will require (at least) an extended healing period and perhaps (at the worst) surgery *and* an extended healing period. I thought about adding another show in its place, but decided I'd rather spend that weekend with my family.
I also edited out some material about my tentative San Diego schedule. Having included more definite information in last week's new material, I didn't see any reason to reprint the less complete information. Out it went.
In order to accommodate my trip to San Diego and my subsequent family vacation, I'm writing this and the next two Saturday "Tips" in one crazy session at the keyboard. Outside of these "Addendum" sections, I won't be adding any new material to the presentations, the better to actually get the columns to World Famous Comics web-wizard Justin before *he* leaves for San Diego as well.
Don't fret. Our regular extra-length "Tony's Tips!" columns will resume in August.
Thanks for spending a part of your busy weekend with me. I'll be back soon with more stuff.
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: