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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 Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Casa Isabella is looking a little more untidy than usual, so I'm devoting this edition of TOT to clearing out e-mails and other materials from my files. This has nothing to do with the cover of BUGS BUNNY #71 [February-March, 1960] you see before you...except that I got a huge giggle from it when I spotted it at THE COPACETIC GALLERY website and wanted to share it with you.

Bugs Bunny

THE COPACETIC GALLERY...because I knew that would be your next question...is a keen website "dedicated to giving underappreciated comics a closer look." Consider it my first online recommendation of the day and check it out at:

http://home.earthlink.net/~copaceticgallery/index.html

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

******

THE AUTHENTIC HISTORY CENTER

Another site worth visiting is THE AUTHENTIC HISTORY CENTER, To quote from its mission statement:
The Authentic History Center is comprised of images of artifacts, sounds, and written letters and diaries. We believe that these items reflect the history and societal values of the time period in which they were produced. They are presented here for individual study of American History.
Within the various areas of the website, you'll not only find dozens of classic (and not-so-classic) comic-book covers, but also nine complete Korean War-era comics stories from SOLDIER COMICS #5 [Fawcett; September, 1952], WARFRONT #10 [Harvey; September, 1952], and THE FIGHTING MAN #3 [Farrell; January, 1953]. I can't say if these stories are used with permission of their copyright holders or if they have somehow fallen into the public domain, but, while they remain online, they do offer a window into the temper of their time. Definitely worth reading.

However, the highlight of THE AUTHENTIC HISTORY CENTER is its complete reprinting of TREASURE CHEST's "This Godless Communism," a ten-part docudrama published in 1961 and drawn by the legendary Reed Crandall. From the website:
TREASURE CHEST was a monthly comic published by the Catholic Guild from 1946 to 1972. Each issue featured several different stories intended to inspire citizenship, morality, and patriotism. In the 1961, volume 17, number 2 issue, the story "This Godless Communism" began. It continued in the even numbered issues through number 20. The entire story is presented here.
Treasure Chest 71

TREASURE CHEST was a major perk of my going to Sts. Phillip & James Elementary School. Each issue ran an adventure serial drawn by Frank Borth or Fran Matera...and artistic contributors included Crandall, Joe Sinnott, John Tartaglione, and others whose names I would learn as I learned more about the history of the comic books I loved.

The opening chapter of "This Godless Communism" depicted the United States under Communist rule; the serial then continued with a biased-but-not-wholly-inaccurate account of the Communist Party's history and plans for world domination. It was Cold War mania at its scariest and...with added paranoia supplied by the nuns at my school...the first chapter actually gave me nightmares of my family and me crucified on Bosworth Road in Cleveland. One particularly vivid nightmare was directed and filmed by Mel Gibson.

Okay, I'm just kidding about that last bit. But, believe me when I say that, for a ten-year-old kid living through those times, "This Godless Communism" was disturbing stuff...especially as drawn by Crandall. He made it look so real.

Again, I don't know if the Authentic History Center received permission to post these comics or if the material has fallen into the public domain. Check it out while you can.

THE AUTHENTIC HISTORY CENTER is at:

http://www.authentichistory.com

The Korean War comics can be found in the "1946-1950s" section of the site...with "This Godless Communism" located in the "1960s" section.

One more thing...

I thank my good friend MARK EVANIER for directing me and the other readers of his NEWS FROM ME weblog to the Authentic History Center several months ago. There's always something interesting at Mark's online digs, which is why I "visit" him daily at:

http://www.newsfromme.com/

******

MY BACK PAGES

One of my favorite Yahoo! groups is THE TIMELY-ATLAS MAILING LIST where some of the most knowledgeable comics fans/historians I know discuss and explore the Golden Age of Martin Goodman's comics publishing empire, the beginning of the Marvel Age, and the years between the two. I mostly lurk because I am no-how as well versed in all things Timely-Atlas as these folks. However, from time to time, since I was a Marvel editor and staffer for a few years in the 1970s, I contribute some small bit of insight from those years in the trenches.

Early this year, the list was discussing the "desperate years" when Timely/Atlas/Marvel cut back on its production, leaving many comics creators without what had been a remarkable steady supply of assignments. I piped in with this:
I wasn't working in comics at that time...or until 1972...but I can tell you that the fallout left the creators of the time with a kind of "we're all in this together" attitude. This expressed itself in creators, editors, and staffers trying to find work for the older creators. There was a sense of not quite obligation, but more like kinship.

A few of the creators from my generation picked up on that and continued to operate in that vein. Most did not.

During the years when I was running both a comic-book shop and a comics distributorship, I'd visit the Marvel offices from time to time. I'm talking early 1980s here. I was also writing the very occasional fill-in for Marvel.

Danny Crespi, who was Marvel's production manager and one of the nicest guys in the world, would always ask me if I had enough work and offer to talk to Shooter and the other editors for me. I never took Danny up on this because, though I wasn't writing too many comics stories, I *was* busy and earning a decent living. But he made me feel like I still part of the community.

That has been largely lost today. I have seen writers go from three monthly titles to none in a matter of one month...and then be told that they have to generate their own future assignments. I've advised younger creators over and over again that the gravy train always stops and they should be planning for that...putting some of the money away when they are making it and keeping their hand in other pies. Talking with some of my contemporaries, I frequently express how much I miss the days when even a second-stringer like me could make a few phone calls and find some work for an artist or a writer in need.
If you'd like to join THE TIMELY-ATLAS MAILING LIST, you can sign up here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/timely-atlas

Be advised: when the group gets going on a hot topic or three, it's not unusual for list members to receive dozens of e-mails in a single day. It can be a time-consuming group, but you'll learn more about Timely-Atlas than you knew there was to know.

******

HAILING FREQUENCIES OPEN

Star Trek: The Case of the Colonist's Corpse (A Sam Cogley Mystery) It's been a while since STAR TREK: THE CASE OF THE COLONIST'S CORPSE (A SAM COGLEY MYSTERY) by Bob Ingersoll and my own bad self appeared in the bookstores, but I still get e-mail like this note from JAMES GILLESPIE:
I wanted to jot down a quick note to say "Thank You" for the wonderful novel you've written. I truly loved every minute. There was so much great stuff in it. It was nice how you had a nod to the current ENTERPRISE series as well as "Section 31." Those small things make the Star Trek world appear seamless. I truly hope you plan on writing more Cogley books.
Thanks for making our day, James.

Bob and I would love writing more Cogley books. That hinges on how well this first one sells. The novel is still available and if TOT readers order their copies through this ACTION IS MY REWARD link...

www.actionismyreward.com/item-0743464974.shtml

...Justin and this World Famous Comics website make a little change off the deal as well.

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

Batman: Detective No. 27 I reviewed DETECTIVE 27, a truly exceptional DC "Elseworlds" hardcover in the 12/30/03 edition of this column...and am just now getting around to running this note from its writer, MICHAEL USLAN. When I said I had an untidy office, I wasn't kidding.

Uslan writes:
At last! In my office next to my Emmy, my People's Choice Award, and my Annie for animation work, I can place my FIVE Tonys! Thank you so much for taking the time and interest to review the work that I have been so utterly passionate about, DETECTIVE #27. When the "Liz Smith" of the comics world proclaims your work has merit, the word gets out to many who might otherwise not consider picking up the book. After all, it is a Batman book *without* the costumed Batman in it.

I'm hoping your review...along with some strong numbers...will help Peter Snejbjerg and I get to do the grand sequel story we have in mind. Peter just e-mailed me, thrilled, because he just learned that this will be the first comic book work he's done for DC that is being published in Danish. Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year, and thanks again.
The same, albeit belatedly, right back at you, Mike.

Those of you who missed my DETECTIVE 27 review, scroll down to our archives link and you'll be able to read that column. In fact, you will also be able to read my Comics Buyer's Guide/World Famous Comics columns from 2003, 2002, and 2001...at least until webmaster Justin does some website cleaning of his own.

******

THE HISTORICAL ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

Another of my favorite Yahoo groups is the DC HISTORY mailing list. Members post scans of covers and images from DC's history, as well as covers and images from other publishers, often engaging in fun and spirited discussion of same. During one conversation, I posted this tidbit:
Among the many collections I have suggested to DC is a volume reprinting the best of Superman's (and his family's) meetings with real historical and entertainment industry figures. I envisioned a colorful volume which would reprint these stories and follow each with a breezy factual afterword.

There were no takers. DC has a massive library of material, but the company often seems incapable of thinking outside the box (the Archives, "lost" annuals, collections of recent arcs) when it comes to utilizing it more fully. Sigh.
If you'd like to join the DC HISTORY list, you can do so with a quick visit here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DCHistory

******

AMAZING TRUE STORY

I have no memory of where I got this item from and whether or not it's been widely reported in the comics press, but it's way too cool not to share with you:
Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (Seabiscuit, Schindler's List, Sixth Sense, The Color Purple) have acquired the movie rights to the young adult novel, THE AMAZING TRUE STORY OF A TEENAGE SINGLE MOM (Hyperion, 1998) from author/artist Katharine Arnoldi. The book is Arnoldi's real life story, including being a teen mom, dating, trying to find a job and being abused as a child. Arnoldi's book tells her story in a graphic novel (black and white illustrated panels) format.
THE AMAZING TRUE STORY OF A TEENAGE SINGLE MOM is one of the best graphic novels ever. I reviewed it for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE shortly after it came out and have been recommending it to friends and readers ever since. If you've never read it, put it at the top of your want list and start searching. Though the book is out of print currently, there were used copies available at through AMAZON when I checked there prior to writing this item.

That's all for now. Thanks for spending part of your busy day with me.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/27/2004 | 03/30/2004 | 04/12/2004 >>

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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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