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for Sunday, April 18, 2004


Daredevil 8

I have no particular reason for running the cover of DAREDEVIL #8 [June, 1965] beyond my appreciation for what a cool cover it is, and my amazement - then and now - that artist Wally Wood and writer Stan Lee were actually able to make this villain menacing. Wacky as the Silver Age of Comics could be on occasion, there were times when the imagination and skill of its creators just plain soared, carrying readers with them.

As a Marvel Comics writer in the 1970s, I only used the Stilt-Man once. It was in CAPTAIN AMERICA #191 [November, 1975], a full decade since Lee and Wood created him, and he was already on the cusp of becoming a joke. My plot - the story itself was scripted by Bill Mantlo - played him as a hitman hired to whack the Falcon. I don't remember how the heroes beat him then. I do remember that, some years after that, the "sensational" She-Hulk took him down in hilarious fashion, courtesy of writer-artist John Byrne.

I haven't kept up on the Marvel Universe. I don't know if the Stilt-Man continued to be a joke or if he received a new infusion of "menacing" somewhere in the intervening years. Either way, this villain's debut, even coming after Daredevil's classic meeting with Sub-Mariner an issue earlier, brought entertainment and excitement to the 13-year-old edition of Tony Isabella.



This is the second and concluding part of my look at the first issues of RAIJIN COMICS. Since writing yesterday's column, I've read the sixth issue (Gutsoon; $4.95); a few updates are in order. The BAKI THE GRAPPLER, CITY HUNTER, and SLAM DUNK episodes therein all featured major developments, while FIST OF THE BLUE SKY had a neat twist in the battle between Kasumi Kenshiro and his opponent. In addition, the letters column featured the welcome (to me) news that BOMBER GIRL is only eleven issues long and that its sequel has been deemed too "mature" to run in the magazine. Good riddance to that trashy tale!

Continuing with the remaining RAIJIN features...

First President of Japan THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF JAPAN was the serial I was most looking forward to reading, a political thriller about the first Japanese prime minister to be elected directly by the people. In this tale, that prime minister, the American-educated Sakuragi Kenichiro, will assume his office in the wake of a North Korean invasion of South Korea, jeopardizing Japanese nationals there, and as China launches his own attacks against Taiwan.

Writer Hidaka Yoshiki has reported on political relationships between the U.S. and Japan for over three decades and brings that insight to bear as Japan faces what is clearly a pivotal moment in its modern history. Artist (and, I believe, co-writer) Tsugihara Ryuji does an amazing job depicting the fear and tension of that moment, bringing a stark reality to all the countries and players. More than once while reading this serial, I let out an involuntary "gasp" at a particularly striking scene.

The challenges facing Sakuragi are overwhelming. Each chapter is more riveting than the previous chapter. I would pay five bucks an issue just for this story.

Score: five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Guardian Angel Getten Sakurano Minene's GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN is the only fantasy in RAIJIN. Shichiri Tasuke, a 14-year-old student, lives alone while his father and sister travel around the world. Apparently, there is no law against "child abandonment" in Japan.

Tasuke's absentee father sends him an ancient ring. Being as how Tasuke is of "pure heart," he is blessed with "a guardian from heaven" when he gazes into the ring. Shao Lin, the lovely "spirit of the moon," appears to protect the lad from any dangers and ills before him. Her mystical power is formidable; her understanding of the modern world non-existent. From these elements, Sakurano draws great humor. From the bond that forms between the boy and his new friend, he draws great warmth.

GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN doesn't bowl me over. It's a pleasant enough change-of-page within the magazine. The writing is decent. The art emphasizes cuteness over storytelling, always a drawback in my estimation of manga. The introduction of a rival for Shao Lin's affections seems to be taking the series down a road well traveled by other manga of this sort. But, bottom line, the serial is still acceptably entertaining.

Score: three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Revenge of Mouflon REVENGE OF MOUFLON by writer Ueno Jiro and artist Ono Yoichiro is the most shocking of the RAIJIN serials. The word "mouflon" is one which needs explaining:
"Mouflon" is a French name for a breed of wild sheep. These untamed beasts live in the mountain ranges of Sardina, Corsica, and western Asia. They're known to be dauntless and proud. In REVENGE OF MOUFLON, Deputy Minister Takaoka refers to victims of terrorism as sheep, and says that even if a few sheep die, the flock will be back to normal in no time. The image of the "Mouflon" represents ordinary people who, with strength and pride, fight against terrorism.
The hero of REVENGE is comedian Sano Yohei, a popular comedian who has recently made headlines for assaulting Takaoka in response to the minister's arrogant comments. On a subsequent flight, Sano is welcomed into the cockpit by pilots who share his position that the world governments aren't doing enough to protect them and their passengers from terrorists. Shortly thereafter, terrorists murder the pilots and parachute from the plane, leaving the craft in the uncertain hands of amateur pilot Sano.

This is a solid thriller on many levels. Sano is determined to fight back. The U.S. government wants to shoot the plane down, fearing that, if it crashes in a heavily-popular area of Tokyo, the impact on Japan's economy will be devastating and take the world's markets down with it. The Japanese government is impotent to stop the Americans. It looks grim for Sano and his fellow passengers, until the comedian gains a surprising ally with an unexpected "ace in the hole."

It's taking tremendous will power for me to resist pulling out all my unread issues of RAIJIN and reading ahead on this serial. It's as gripping as THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF JAPAN.

Score: five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

The Climbers' Saga RAIJIN COMICS #5 featured THE BAREFOOT CLIMBER, a complete-in-40-pages tale about Kamba, a 15-year-old Sherpa boy who attempts to climb a treacherous wall of ice and rock to prove his manhood. Set in the Himalayas, writer and artist Murakami Motoka's work provides breathtakingly stark images of the mountains, and moving scenes of the struggles that are a daily challenge for Kamba and his people. The young man's fortitude in the face of sorrow makes this a truly memorable adventure.

Score: five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Overall, RAIJIN COMICS is greater than the sum of its parts. Despite the odious presence of BOMBER GIRL, its overall quality and variety is terrific. Though its design isn't as attractive as that of SHONEN JUMP, and though JUMP has about a hundred more pages of story and art, RAIJIN is still an excellent value: five bucks for just under 250 pages per issue. With the hope the magazine returns from its current hiatus, I give RAIJIN COMICS the full five out of five Tonys. It's a keeper.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Journey Into Mystery 117

Today's lead-off cover scan came from Nick Simon's sensational SILVER AGE MARVEL COMICS COVER INDEX where you can find over 1500 covers from the 1950s through the 1970s and addition to a boatload of special features and sections. You can view covers by months, titles, artists, and even themes.

For example:

I did a check to see what other Marvel titles were on sale in the same month as DD #8. The fairly impressive list included some Marvel milestones:

FANTASTIC FOUR #39 (Daredevil teams up with a powerless FF to face Doctor Doom)

STRANGE TALES #133 (The Human Torch and the Thing in the lead, backed up by Doctor Strange)

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #117 (The mighty Thor battles commies in the Far East)

TALES TO ASTONISH #68 (the soon-to-depart Giant-Man and the Wasp...and the Incredible Hulk)

TALES OF SUSPENSE #66 (Iron Man and Captain America)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25 (the first time J. Jonah Jameson sicced a spider-hunting robot on our wall-crawling hero)

SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOES #19 (Nick seeks revenge on the man who led the air raid that killed his British girlfriend Pamela Hawley)

AVENGERS #17 (the first mission for the new team of Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch)

RAWHIDE KID #46 (guest-starring Doc Holliday)




Hitting the theme section, I visited Simon's "Westerns That Aren't Really Westerns" page and found this gem: RAWHIDE KID #22, cover-dated June, 1961. The then-straight cowboy faces a gigantic woody. Was this a life-changing experience for him?

Rawhide Kid 22

The SILVER AGE MARVEL COMICS COVER INDEX is a website you'll want to visit often. You'll find it at:



One of my most prized possessions is a copy of SECRETS BEHIND THE COMICS by Stan Lee. Published in 1947, the 100-page paperback was a breezy tutorial on how comics were created. While working at Marvel Comics in the 1970s, I asked Stan to autograph my well-read copy and this is what he wrote:
All the best to Tony Isabella - the fearless fella who's the thinking man's copy writer! Keep up the good work helping to put ol' Marvel on the map! Stan Lee '73
SECRETS BEHIND THE COMICS was illustrated by comics artist Ken Bald and lettered by Mario Acquavia. The book includes pages and panels from the Timely comics of the day, as well as caricatures of a number of Timely artists. As a teenager training himself to be a comics writer, I learned quite a bit from it...though I quickly abandoned the two-column description/copy format it showed for the writing of comics scripts.

At the end of the book, Stan offered to personally inspect any reader's writing, artwork, or lettering for one dollar. Allowing for inflation, that would be nine bucks today. However, I suspect Stan's offer expired about fifty years ago. That's a pity; I can think of a hundred current comic book writers and artists who could benefit greatly from his tutelage.

During a discussion of SECRETS on the Timely-Atlas mailing, I posted the following:
I often get ideas that are impossibly beyond my ability to bring to fruition. This is one of those.

Secrets Behind the Comics: The Annotated Edition

A reprinting of the original with notes, articles, and, when available, interviews with the writers and artists mentioned in the booklet.

It would probably need to be a high-ticket item because it's not a book in which most fans would be interested.

Might be a nice project for TwoMorrows.

I'll stop thinking now.
Another of my prized possession is my autographed copy of HOW TO MAKE MONEY WRITING FOR COMICS MAGAZINES by Robert Kanigher. The book was published by Cambridge House in 1943; the only copy I have ever seen is the one I own. I should write at length about both of these books someday.

If I can figure out how to use my scanner, it could be sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed.



The new TONY POLLS questions are up. Not right this minute as I'm writing today's column, but, right this minute as you read it. If all went according to plan...and how often does that ever happen around here...the questions will concern AVENGERS/JLA, the upcoming BATMAN: WAR GAMES event, and the HELLBOY movie. You can cast your votes at:

As for the previous batch of questions, I'll have the results for you in a day or two. Watch for them.

Thanks for spending a portion of your day with me. I'm going to take a day off to recharge the creative juices, but I'll be back on Tuesday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/17/2004 | 04/18/2004 | 04/20/2004 >>

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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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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