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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 Friday, March 5, 2004

How can I not love the Internet?

How can I not love a medium that brings me images like this cover from NATIONAL COMICS #69?

National Comics #69

I found this cover at COMIC BOOK GORILLARAMA, a website which honors those sensational simians who have appeared in comic books from the 1940s to the present. It has character biographies from Ape-X to the Weeping Gorillas, over a hundred comic-book covers and other ape art, and more monkey madness than you could fit in even the largest barrel of...ah...monkeys.

I can't praise the genius or geniuses who developed COMIC BOOK GORILLARAMA - I couldn't find credits or contact information on the site - but I can and do recommend you check it out at your earliest convenience. You'll find it at:

members.shaw.ca/comicbookgorillarama/cbgindex.htm

As for NATIONAL COMICS #69...

Published by Quality Comics, this is the December, 1948 issue. The cover was drawn by the great Gill Fox and the comic was edited by George Brenner.

According to the GRAND COMICS DATABASE, Klaus Nordling wrote and drew the 11-page "Barker" story leading off the issue. To the best of my recollection, I have never read a "Barker" story. But something about the character, who I assume is a barker for either a carnival or a circus, has long fascinated me. So much so that I bought several issues of THE BARKER, his solo title, during an eBay shopping spree I gave myself for Christmas. I haven't sat down to read those comics yet - after years of delicious expectation, that is a pleasure I wish to savor at my leisure - but, when I do, I'll let you know what I thought of them.

NATIONAL COMICS seems to have carried a variety of features in addition to the Barker. Here's the line-up:

Fuzzy, a one-page gag strip by Jack Cole;

Granny Gumshoe, a detective strip by Fox:

Sally O'Neil, Policewoman, another detective, this one drawn by Alice Kirkpatrick;

Lassie, no genre listed and I'm thinking this is probably not the famous collie, script and art by Bernard Dibble;

Quicksilver, a super-hero drawn by Dan Zolnerowich;

an uncredited Barker text story;

Anthrop, no genre listed, but the strip was written and drawn by Bart Tumey; and,

Steve Wood, another Kirkpatrick-drawn detective.

If I've been a good boy when Christmas rolls around again, I might give myself an issue of this title. I'd have to be *really* good, though. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS says a near mint copy of this particular issue sells for $100; last year's OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE lists it at $175. Know any old ladies I can help across the street?

Footnote. The GRAND COMICS DATABASE is a staggeringly useful resource for comics fans and historians. It suffers from technical difficulties on occasion, but, when it's up and running, it's one of my favorite places on the Internet. You can explore its wonders for yourself by going to:

www.comics.org

Let's see what else I have for you today.

******

EERIE QUEERIE!

Eerie Queerie! Originally solicited as GHOST, Shuri Shiozu's EERIE QUEERIE! (ToykoPop; $9.95) is a gay romance with the supernatural as its foundation. Protagonist Mitsuo Shiozu is "an ordinary student with an extraordinary gift...wandering spirits use his body and mind to communicate with loved ones."

Here's the good and the bad of this first volume:

Good: Mitsuo is a reluctant hero, but a caring and courageous hero nonetheless. His possession by ghosts puts his life at risk on several occasions, but he remains committed to helping them find peace. Considering the chaos said spirits bring to his existence, Mitsuo is as noble a hero as you'll find.

Not so good: The visual storytelling isn't up to the writing. I'm still not sure exactly what happened in several scenes, though I was able to pick up the story once I got past those scenes. This is as common a failing in Japanese manga as it is in our home-grown comics. Style and showmanship don't make up for a lack of clarity. It's the story, stupid!

Good: The courtship of Mitsuo by Hasunuma is sort of sweet in its own way. The first ghost to possess Mitsuo is a girl who had a crush on Hasunuma, but no one besides Mitsuo knows it. Hasunuma responds to the attention and thus begins his friendship with the embarrassed Mitsuo.

Good: Shiozu does a terrific job with Mitsuo and Hasunuma. In the case of Mitsuo, his confusion about his sexuality is very real. In the case of Hasunuma, though he clearly wants the friendship to grow into something more, he doesn't push things. When he learns of Mitsuo's gift, he does his best to help his friend cope with the craziness and occasional dangers.

Good: The Mitsuo stories are excellent, a fine mix of comedy and honest human emotion.

Not-so-good: Those two stories only fill three-fourths of this first volume. The remaining fifty pages feature two unrelated and lesser tales. This is common in manga volumes, but the drop-off in quality between the leads and the back-ups diminishes the bang-for-your-buck value of this volume.

Not-so-good: I'm not crazy about the "Eerie Queerie!" title of the book, probably because I'm from a generation for whom the word "queer" was an insult. Language evolves, but it isn't always easy to keep up with that evolution.

EERIE QUEERIE! is rated "OT" for "older teens age 16+" and I think that's a good call. On our scale of zero to five disembodied reviewer heads, I give it four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

www.toykopop.com

******

OSCAR NIGHT

My family and I watched the 76th Academy Awards with our good friend Mark Evanier. Sort of.

As we viewed the televised ceremonies from our home in Medina, Ohio, we also read Mark's "Live Oscar Blogging" on his NEWS FROM ME website. Indeed, I probably wouldn't have even watched the awards ceremony if Mark hadn't been blogging it live, my interest in the Oscars being particularly low this year.

Mark did a great job commenting on the ceremonies, though even his wit and wisdom couldn't keep me from dozing off and missing the last few presentations. I awoke as the end credits were rolling, but caught up on what I had missed by reading what Mark had posted in his blog. Thanks for a great evening, Mark.

You can and should read Mark's "Oscar blog" at your earliest opportunity. Head over to...

www.newsfromme.com

...and then bookmark his website for daily visits. It's one of the best things online, combining humor, knowledge, and insight in an evenhanded manner that sets the bar very high for the rest of us commentating clowns.

Here are my own thoughts on the ceremonies:

The pre-show was appalling. I can't recall the names of ABC's hosts, but the younger of the two men was annoying beyond belief. I was hoping someone would take a swing at him.

The woman host was attractive, but she seemed overwhelmed by her duties. She also seemed clueless as to how to respond when a couple of guests leered and made inappropriate comments about her breasts. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised - these ceremonies take place in a state which has a serial groper for a governor and are held by an industry which honors Nazi filmmakers and rapists - but I was glad my daughter Kelly wasn't watching, having decided to go to bed early that night.

Billy Crystal did a decent job hosting the awards themselves. He had some very funny material and some material which fell flat, but I was not disappointed in his overall performance in what must have been an enormous creative and physical challenge. That said, the funniest moment was when actor Adrian Brody spritzed his mouth with breath fresher before handing out the award for best actress, followed closely by the Jack Black/Will Ferrell song about overlong acceptance speeches.

Triplets of Belleville I was disappointed that AMERICAN SPLENDOR didn't win for best adapted screenplay. Partly because it was the only nominated movie I saw and mostly because I think it's an amazing film which will be remembered as a classic in decades to come.

I was also disappointed "Belleville Rendez-Vous" wasn't given the Oscar for best song. It was a fun tune that, unlike the other nominees, didn't have me wanting to drive spikes through my ears. I doubt THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE will be playing at the Medina multiplex anytime soon, but I'll definitely buy this animated movie when it becomes available on DVD.

Those are my Oscar notes. Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/04/2004 | 03/05/2004 | 03/06/2004 >>

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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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