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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 Wednesday, April 21, 2004

COMICS BUYERS GUIDE, the weekly newspaper which has published my "Tony's Tips" columns for over a dozen years and other Isabella writings since 1972, will become a monthly slick magazine with the first new issue shipping in June. Since Monday's announcement, I have received dozens of e-mails which basically asked..."What does this mean for you, Tony?"

We'll talk about that in a moment or two. First, here's the press release which went to the media:
FROM NEWSPAPER TO MAGAZINE:

CBG makes the switch this spring

The longest-running magazine about comic books, Comics Buyer's Guide, gets a new look for a new generation this June, designed to meet 21st century needs and catch the attention of the comics buff. Issue #1595, shipping in June, brings the first installment of the monthly slick Comics Buyer's Guide magazine.

CBG New features include:

* 244 squarebound pages with a five-color heavy-stock cover each month

* Full-color features up front

* Feature articles on media projects with ties to what was, what is, and what will excite readers

* The largest monthly price guide in comics, reporting prices based exclusively on actual transactions (an industry innovation that began in CBG's annual 1,500-page Standard Catalog of Comic Books)

* Expanded coverage of anime, manga, and other comics-related collectibles

* More than 100 reviews of current and upcoming comics, more than any other monthly publication

Also, every issue of CBG will include such existing favorites as comics' most inclusive convention and creator appearance calendars. And, of course, opinions galore from CBG's existing (and expanding) roster of celebrity columnists.

"From its bimonthly beginning in 1971," CBG Editor Maggie Thompson said, "Comics Buyer's Guide has changed its frequency several times. But, until now, it has always been a tabloid on newsprint. Now, at last, we'll be able to simultaneously focus in detail on new topics and convey what's so great about the classic material, all in the same issue."

Contents will be loaded with facts, figures, and fun - with a $5.99 cover price in a package designed to captivate both the longtime fan and the casual shopper.

Full details appear in Comics Buyer's Guide #1590.

Comics Buyer's Guide is published by Krause Publications, a wholly owned subsidiary of F+W Publications, Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio. Headquartered in Iola, Wis., since 1952, Krause Publications is the world's largest hobby and collectibles publisher of periodicals and books, ranging from antiques to such topics as crafts, collectibles, fishing, and construction. The firm runs 10 hobby shows and publishes more than 40 periodicals and 750 books with the latest news, expert advice, and buying and selling opportunities concerning hobby and collecting specialties.
You'll find an editorial by Maggie Thompson about the change in format and frequency here:

www.collect.com/interest/article.asp?id=10801

And a more detailed article here:

www.collect.com/interest/article.asp?id=10802

I'm going to go grab a sandwich and a Pepsi while you digest all of the above. Then we'll talk.

******

INTERVIEW WITH TONY ISABELLA

When it came time to pick someone to interview me for today's column, I knew I needed a hard-hitting, pull-no-punches journalist unafraid to cut through the crap to get to the truth. That's when I remembered this column has no budget and couldn't afford to order out for pizza, much less hire anyone to interview me. Fortunately, I owed myself a favor and thus prevailed upon myself to interview myself. I found myself to be very charming and genuine, the sort of man I would follow into the very jaws of Hell. Of course, that was before I stuck myself with the tab for lunch.

QUESTION: How do you feel about the switch from weekly tabloid to monthly magazine?

I knew it was coming even before CBG called me to tell me about it, "knew" in the sense that I recognized the weekly tabloid format was becoming less and less viable every year. If I were on staff, I would have suggested it two years ago. It became apparent to me during my contract negotiations with Krause Publications that the format was restricting CBG's growth.

Creatively, I think this is definitely the right move to make. There is a large segment of the comics-reading market which has not been served as well as it could be by the other comics magazines in the field. CBG's new format will allow the editors, writers, and designers to do things we couldn't do before and not only serve our existing readership better but, I believe, expand our readership. It's an exciting time to be a CBG contributor.


QUESTION: My keen journalistic instincts instantly picked up on the implication of your last comment. Does that mean you will continue to write your "Tony's Tips" column for CBG?

Yes.

QUESTION: You ain't paying me enough for me to settle for one-word answers, Isabella! Will "Tony's Tips" be changing to fit the new monthly format and, if so, how will it change?

The James Mishler article linked to above stated I would be hosting the revamped review section, a responsibility which weighs heavily on me even as I try to figure out what it means. Having been with CBG longer than any contributor save the esteemed Maggie, I appreciate the honor and the faith my editors are showing in me. However, to get back to your actual question, yes, "Tony's Tips" will change and I'm in the process of figuring how extensive that change will be.

For better or for worse, my columns have always had their own personality and that seems to be one of the reasons they've always been so popular. The challenge for me will be to adapt that cult of personality to a more mainstream audience, which is something I am convinced will benefit the new CBG. The lessons I learned from Stan Lee as a Marvel Comics reader and as a Marvel Comics employee were not lost on me. I think they can be applied to this new venue as well. What would be the point of writing "Tony's Tips" if there were no "Tony" in there?

The format will dictate some changes to my column. I plan to concentrate on items with a longer shelf-life than your traditional comic book or comics-related periodical: graphic albums and novels, collections of comics, books about comics, etc. When I delve into periodicals, it will be to examine a year's worth of a comic book or magazine. It can be informative and intriguing to see a comics series develop over a period of time.

However, since I'll be writing 12 columns per year and not the 52 columns per year, I'll no longer have the luxury of doing those "oddball" columns I used to be able to write. For example, when I opened a recent column with some comments about naming the Isabella family's new van, I received a great many e-mails from readers who had their own "naming" stories to share. Those notes were so much fun that I wrote an entire column around them, something perfectly acceptable as one of 52 columns, but way too self-indulgent for one of 12 columns.


QUESTION: My apologies for getting so personal, but I have to ask the question so many people have asked you. You're going from writing 52 columns a year to 12 columns a year. Are you taking a financial hit there?

If I didn't admire my plucky interviewing skills so much, I'd take a swing at me for asking that. But I'm so impressed by my courage that I'll answer it.

I'm taking an enormous hit in the checkbook with CBG's switch to monthly publication. I'll be paid more per column for the new ones, but it won't come close to equaling what I used to make over the course of a year. Which doesn't, by the way, alter my earlier-stated conviction that this move is definitely the right thing for CBG. One way or another, I'll deal with the hopefully short-term effects the switch will have on my bottom line.

However, from CBG's first official conversation with me about the switch, my editors and I have been exploring some other areas in which I can contribute to the magazine. I'm not at liberty to discuss those areas at this time, but, at the risk of sounding like a tease, I wanted to mention them. I wanted to assure my readers that the CBG staff looks out for me as much or even more than I try to look out for them.


QUESTION: Does this mean you are available for other writing assignments?

I never stopped being available.

No editor or publisher should ever hesitate to call or e-mail me if they would like to work with me. If the assignment is right for me, and if the money is reasonable, I'm certain we can do great things together.


QUESTION: Will TONY'S ONLINE TIPS continue?

Of course. One of the main reasons I'm working toward TOT appearing on a daily basis is because I knew the change in CBG was coming. I wanted to have a frequent venue for reviewing the comics and other items which I wouldn't be able to get to in the monthly CBG. I also wanted to have an outlet for the personal and social discussions which were more appropriate to an online forum than to a print forum.

TOT doesn't pay for itself. If we're extremely lucky, we get a couple hundred bucks a month in donations. But, if you'll pardon my pride, I think I do important work here and I plan to continue doing it as long as possible. Which doesn't mean we won't welcome advertisers and sponsors...and more donations.


QUESTION: Those were all my questions. Do you have any other thoughts you'd like to share with your readers?

Just the usual. That I thank them for spending a part of their day with me and that I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff. Stuff that isn't all about me, me, me even.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/20/2004 | 04/21/2004 | 04/22/2004 >>

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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