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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
for Thursday, January 1, 2004

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I'm not doing all that well on my New Year's resolutions, as witness this column posting well after the first. I certainly hope you're doing better with yours.

I do have what I think are spiffy plans for TOT in this brave new year, including a trio of monthly challenges which will kick off today. Initially, though, my main focus will be to catch up with the schedule.

Happy New Year As with December, I will leave no TOT behind. You'll have new TOTs on Tuesdays and Thursdays (or whenever they actually post) and the reprints-plus on Saturdays. I'm hoping to actually be on that schedule before the end of the month.

I'm not overly concerned with having broken or bent some of my 2004 resolutions. As I see it, every blessed day of the year is a new creation. If I got something wrong yesterday, I have another chance to get it right today.

Today, however, is a day for rambling through my files to see what rises to the top. No set plans, save to announce the challenges mentioned above. Even the images festooned around today's opening segment were chosen by happenstance. I don't even know where they came from. I either stumbled across them while web-surfing or some kind reader sent them to me...and they seemed to belong in today's column. I'm not going to over-think them.

2004

Here are the challenge announcements...

******

CHANGE MY LIFE

Happy New Year I'm eager to experience new things in this new year. If you have been reading TOT for a while, you probably have a fairly good idea who I am, how I live, and what I've done. This first challenge gives you a chance to change all that...if you can make your case in 100 words or less.

Recommend I try something you don't think I've tried before. It can be an activity, a book, a food, a movie, a piece of music, a website, or just about anything you can imagine. Do your best to convince me to try it in 100 words or less.

Every month, the most convincing entry will win its author a prize package of stuff that will have a combined cover price of no less than $100. It could be comic books or books or video tapes or gewgaws or any combination of the above, but, whatever it is, it'll be a box full of fun.

In addition to this physical reward, you'll be bursting with pride when I run your winning entry in TOT. Every other kid on the virtual block will be green with envy.

In addition to the physical reward AND the attendant bragging rights, you'll have the satisfaction of getting me to try something new and then reporting on the experience here. However, I caution you that I won't do that which is illegal, immoral, or physically impossible. You're free to suggest such things and, if you do so in a clever enough manner, you might still win the monthly prize. But don't expect me to run off to Vegas and marry Britney Spears on your say-so. The poor girl has suffered enough.

You must E-MAIL your entry to me at:



Each monthly challenge ends on midnight on the last day of each month. The winner will be announced in the next available edition of TONY'S ONLINE TIPS.

The January competition is now open.

******

ROCK MY WORLD

The second monthly challenge is much like the first. However, instead of asking you to recommend something you believe I haven't yet experienced, this asks you to recommend something which, based on your understanding of my column-expressed pleasures, you think I'll love. Something you think I might have overlooked. Something I haven't gotten around to yet. Something similar to other things I've reviewed favorably here.

The deal is the same as in that first challenge. Make your case in 100 words or less. Send me your entry via e-mail. Every month, I'll print the winning response in TOT and send you a prize package of items worth at least $100. It's your second chance to win fame and fortune. Gives you chills, doesn't it?

This January challenge is now open as well.

******

SPREAD THE WORD

The 1980s were widely recognized as "the Al Franken decade." Indeed, the author of LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM had a great time in the 1980s and is presently working on "the Al Franken millennium." My goals are far more modest.

My dream is for 2004 to be the prelude for "the Tony Isabella fifteen minutes of global fame," which I have tentatively scheduled for 6:43-6:58 pm on Saturday, January 1, 2005. Most of you should be over your New Year's Eve hangovers by then.

The winners of our monthly "Spread the Word" challenges will be those Tony Isabella fans who have most distinguished themselves in the area of making me famous. In a slow month, maybe they plugged this column or my other work online. In a more competitive month, maybe they took their lottery winnings and agreed to finance 2005's "Official Tony Isabella Comeback Tour." The possibilities are as limitless as their imaginations.

Spread the word.

Make me a star.

Whatever it takes.

Okay, make that whatever it takes that won't land me or you in a courtroom, operating room, jail cell, or morgue.

Go crazy. Just not *too* crazy.

Every month, I'll award yet another $100 prize package to the Isabella-fan who has most distinguished himself or herself in this regard. The winners of this content won't necessarily have had to sent me an e-mail extolling their efforts on my behalf - I will be keeping an eye on you - but such an e-mail could be the determining factor in selecting the winner.

This January challenge has already begun.

Get to work already.

******

ARE GENRE FANS CONSERVATIVE?

Tips reader BOB MADISON sent me the following e-mail back in August of 2002. It's been sitting in my file because I didn't know how to answer it. He wrote:
I've had the pleasure of exchanging a few emails to you in the past (mostly about some of the offhanded homophobia in the comics world), and wanted to draw your attention to today's NEW YORK TIMES, which covers the upcoming gay-bashing story in GREEN LANTERN.

My main reason for writing is not the Green Lantern event per se, but one of the facts revealed by the article. It seems that much of the mail DC received regarding Kyle Raynor's gay friend has been negative. This does not surprise me.

I am deeply interested in comics, but, for years, my main area of interest has been classic horror and science fiction films, 1925-1968. I've written two books related to the topic, DRACULA: THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS and AMERICAN HORROR WRITERS. In meeting with like-minded people at conventions, I find that most of them are politically conservative-to-downright-reactionary.

So...I ask this purely anecdotal question: why are so many genre fans (comics, films, whatever) politically conservative? Isn't most horror, science-fiction, etc., liberal or humanist in intent, if not in execution? How come the lesson of much of this material is missed by the people who appreciate it most?

I don't expect any easy answers, but I would love for you to give it some thought and maybe one day devote a column to it. I know it would be a contentious piece, and you will get mail on it, but I would sure as heck love to read it.
I have read this e-mail at least once a month since Bob sent it to me...and I don't have many answers for him.

Though there was a time when THE NEW YORK TIMES was considered the newspaper of record, I think that era has passed. Between the paper's clear right-wing bias and the scandals involving reporters (and editors) who have been somewhat less than honest and competent in fulfilling their duties, the Times can no longer be held as the standard for print journalism. So, right from the get-go, I have to question if DC's mail was truly as negative as the article made it out to be.

Another factor would be the basic difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals tend to strive for doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Conservatives insist everybody do it *their* way. The latter group takes umbrage more quickly and is more likely to write letters, make phone calls, and demand the rolling of heads. Obviously, these are broad generalities, but I think they have some bearing on your question.

That Al Gore's victory in the 2000 presidential election was by such a relatively small margin speaks to how evenly this country is divided on most issues. While I've certainly taken note of the conservatives in comics fandom, I haven't found them to be greater in number than the liberals. In fact, my impression has been that comics conservatives are more likely to embrace liberal positions than their fellows. On some level, perhaps subconsciously, comics conservatives do relate to the lessons of fairness, tolerance, and responsibility to the greater good found in so much of our classic comics and genre fiction.

Those are the best thoughts I can offer at this time. I'd be interested in hearing what my readers have to say. My e-mail box is always open, as is my message board.

******

SIDEBAR

While writing the above, I was reminded of a several-years-old conversation I had with two friends of a conservative bent. During our chat, I mentioned the then-recent book which FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) had published. The book detailed a hundred lies told by Rush Limbaugh on his shows and offered what I thought was compelling evidence of his dishonesty. The response of my pals was basically:

"Those creeps at FAIR!"

They appeared to be manifestly unconcerned with the fact that Limbaugh had lied and lied repeatedly.

Messengers beware.

******

RIGHTS AND WRONGS

Internet piracy concerns me as, I suspect, it does most people who make their living in the entertainment fields. However, there are online fans who have come to believe they have some technology-given ownership to anything they can scan into their computer and distribute throughout cyberspace, regardless of whether or not the work in question has been legally copyrighted by the creator or the company for which he did the work.

COVER UPS, one of my favorite mailing groups, exists for the purpose of allowing pulp magazine fans to share the covers of those magazines with their fellow fans. I've yet to see anything posted to the group that didn't fall within fair usage, that which the law allows to be circulated for educational and/or historical purposes. I've used many of these cover scans in my own columns and have no problem defending their use.

Where the problem lies for me is when fans determine they have a right to "publish" complete works, both comics and prose, online, sans permission from the owners. That's where presumption of fair usage becomes outright theft.

On occasion, I get embroiled in the online discussions of this issue. In going through old files, I discovered my half of such a discussion...which I have cleverly edited into a faux-question-and-answer session for your edification and education.

QUESTION: Wouldn't your position make groups such as this one completely illegal?

ANSWER: I can easily make the case that the cover scans which appear in this group would be fair usage for educational/historical purposes. I don't think I could make the case if these cover scans were collected in book form and sold.

Most of these arguments come down to "I want it and therefore I should have it." That's not morally or legally right. But there are ways to get much of what we want legally.

QUESTION: What's the harm in sharing even copyrighted works if they're currently out-of-print?

ANSWER: It's when such works are "mass-produced," whether for profit or no, that the problems arise. If copyright owners don't protect their copyrights, they risk the works going into the public domain.

The "I want it and that's all the matters" crowd tries to equate quiet, single-copy sharing with the larger "mass- produced" issue. While single copies are still illegal, they don't threaten copyrights as would printing the works on a website or a web-based achieve or on CDs for sale.

If you make a copy of the rare TONY ISABELLA'S MASHED POTATO MARAUDERS, just to share it with a pal, I'm going to pretend not to notice. But, if you start sharing MPM on a mass basis, then, much as I love you, ya big lug, I have to crush you until you're a pasty substance. Because I can't let you blow that potential future deal by allowing MPM to fall into the public domain.

QUESTION: Whether works are in the public domain or not, why should we "respect" the current copyright holder, who is likely not even a relative of the creator and who probably has no plans to publish any versions of these works himself. Ever. What a unique concept of "hoarding".

ANSWER: Works in the public domain can be reproduced to your heart's content. Copyrighted works are someone's property and do not belong to you in any way, shape, or form.

QUESTION: Even if my sharing the copyright works wouldn't hurt the current copyright holder's profits?

ANSWER: It's not your call as to whether something would or would not hurt the owner's profits.

QUESTION: This is frustrating. It all comes down to greed, doesn't it?

ANSWER: Yes. Mostly yours.

It's even more frustrating for those folks who have to protect the copyrights from falling into the public domain. Most copyright holders won't get bent out of a shape over quiet sharing between friends. It's when sharing rises to the level of mass production that they have to take action.

Wanting something doesn't make "stealing" right. Being able to "steal" something doesn't make it right.

I respect private property rights. There ain't no compelling public need to violate those rights in these cases.

QUESTION: Some properties have no value to their creators and owners and never will. Why should I respect their defending their rights to absurd limits?

ANSWER: You don't have the right to determine the value of any property to its creator or owner. It's not yours.

Many fans simply don't "get" why creators and copyright owners defend their property. I fear some of them won't ever get it until it's their work being stolen.

As much as I might wish otherwise, I suspect I'll be returning to this subject in the future.

In the meantime, thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 12/30/2003 | 01/01/2004 | 01/03/2004 >>

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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