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Tony's Online Tips
Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

Current TOT >> TOT Archives | About Tony | Books by Tony | Message Board

for Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Today's column is about as close to a personal blog as I get around here. Chalk it up to frustration over computer, health, and weather problems keeping TOT offline for the past week. To fight the chaos of my jumbled thoughts, I'm gonna dive into the files and notes which have been piling up on my desk and hard drive and see what's between my teeth when I come up for air.

After a brief pause to contemplate a classic comic-book cover which truly speaks to me in these challenging times...

Tales to Astonish #41

The cover of TALES TO ASTONISH #41 (March, 1963) was pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers. I just love this cover with its itsy-bitsy figure of Ant-Man and that grey background looming over him. I can't think of any comic-book cover which conveys the sense of tinyness better than this one does. There are days when I feel just like this.

The contents:

Ant-Man in "Prisoner of the Slave World" by Stan Lee (editing and presumably plot), Larry Lieber (script), Don Heck (art);

"When the Beast Walks" by Lee (plot), Lieber (script), and Joe Sinnott (art); and,

"The Curse" by Lee (script) and Steve Ditko (art).

THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE opines a near-mint condition copy of the issue would sell for $475. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS has it at $230.

Checking recently completed eBay auctions, a copy of the issue described as "excellent" went for $61 with nine bidders. A copy graded by CGC (Comics Guaranty, LLC) as a 9.4 NM had a starting bid of $1,850 and not a single bidder. Another CGC-graded copy, this one deemed 7.4 VF- (very fine minus), had a "Buy It Now" price of $185, but, despite 13 bids and a high bid of $91.66, failed to meet its reserve price by the time the auction ended. It appears demand for the book is not what some sellers would have hoped it would be, making the price guide estimates questionable.

Gee, who'd have thought that would be the case?



The future I read about when I was a kid is here with neither flying cars nor vacations on Mars to show for it. However, for the most part, I look at how the computer has made my life and my work so much easier...and I look at how the Internet has put friends old and new, and, indeed, most of the world, at my fingertips...and I think it's not that bad of a trade-off.

Except when they're not working the way they're supposed to. Then, even more than the flying car and the interplanetary holiday, I want one of those funky ray guns that can melt its target into a puddle of glowing gelatin.

My most recent computer woes were caused by the abundance of adware and spyware which had wormed its way into my files. There was so much of it that it my web-surfing was dead in the electronic waters. I had my e-mail, which I access with a dial-up connection, but everything else was frozen. It remained thus until my tech guy came over, installed Spy Sweeper, cleaned out my system, and showed me how to do this in the future.

Which I'll have to do once or twice a week because the adware and spyware is freaking everywhere. It's the modern equivalent of the annoying salesman sticking his foot in your door. Even worse, no matter how we might wish otherwise, closing the door on adware doesn't let you hear the satisfying yelp of pain you hear when you close the door on the foot of a human pest.

Oh, yeah, and the day after my tech guy set me up with the Spy Sweeper program, my home town got hit with a massive thunderstorm that so messed up the phone lines that my dial-up e-mail connection didn't work for two days. Sigh.

Maybe I would like that flying car, after all.



Take a moment to visit John Jakala's GROTESQUE ANATOMY to see some "Vaguely Creepy Marvel Covers" and read his comments on same. You can find Jakala's excellent journal at:

This isn't the first time I've linked to GA and it surely will not be the last.



I mentioned "health problems" at the onset of today's TOT and I should probably stop doing that. Because every time I do, I get a dozen or more e-mails from people inquiring about my health, some of them solicitous of my well-being, and at least one or two hoping it's something painful and ultimately fatal.

Yes, I am undergoing treatment for various ills. Yes, there are days when the ills or the treatment or both cause me a spot of pain. No, I'm not going to die. Heck, by my reckoning, not that I've been keeping score, I could have died over a half-dozen times in my life. I keep on going while people far better and far worse than me don't. I assume there are reasons for this, but I really don't dwell on it.

Stress contributes to the problems, so I'm doing what I can to reduce that in my life. I'm limiting my travel to family vacations this summer and Mid-Ohio-Con in November.

I've been avoiding writing about politics, albeit only for the short run. There are too many important issues for me to remain on the sidelines for very long.

There are others stressful factors in my life, but I'm dealing with them as best I can. In short, my life is as crazy as yours. You just seem to be handling it better.

Anyway, if the health problems ever get to be really serious, I'll let you know. There are so many other things to worry about in occupied America and the world that you don't need to fret over me even a little bit. Word.



In addition to my "Tony's Tips!" column for the new monthly COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, I'll be writing other bits and pieces for the magazine...including "Reading Room" reviews which will be scattered throughout each issue. These differ from my column reviews in that they will be of uniform length and will follow the four-star rating system used by CBG's other reviewers.

Here's an example:
Mavel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man #6
Marvel Comics /
ISBN 0-7851-1362-2
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Romita and others
312 pages / color

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man #6
* * * * [4/4 stars]

Reviewed by Tony Isabella

This hardcover collects THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #51-61 plus ANNUAL #4 from 1967 and 1968. It's the second year of the Stan Lee/John Romita collaboration on the series and represents an evolutionary leap in the storytelling. To the basic Marvel super-hero template laid down by Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko, Romita adds a visual intimacy from his years drawing romance comics and a Milton Caniff style of plotting extended storylines.

The Kingpin comes into his own during these issues. Doctor Octopus gets a personality. Spider-Man continues to make his way through his double life as the guy next door and the super-hero who amazes. Though the action never seems to abate, Lee and Romita smoothly include character development for virtually every member of Peter Parker's supporting cast. Only the annual is out of sync with the "gotta get the next issue" drama that infused these issues when they were first published.

My favorite dialogue in the book is spoken by May Parker, hanging out with friend Anna at the Coffee Bean:

"Cool it, sweetie! We don't want those cats to dig that we're hippies!"
I haven't yet decided if I'm going to post these short reviews online as I write them for CBG...or rewrite them for TOT...or not post them at all. I picked the above review out of the ones I did for the first monthly CBG because I hope to write a longer review of the volume for an upcoming TOT. I figured you might get a kick out of comparing the short and long versions when the latter makes its appearance here.

Let me know what you think of this "Reading Room" review and if you'd like to see them become a regular part of TOT.



Thunderstorms interspersed with bright sunny skies seems to be our prevailing weather pattern here. Besides playing heck with my dial-up connection, the storms that hit Casa Isabella Friday night finished off our aging sump pump. The valiant device couldn't keep up with the rains and we had some minor flooding before coming up with this brilliant plan:

I was up most of the night manually operating the sump pump. I'd drain the collection well and have about fifteen minutes before I would need to drain it again. It was almost morning when I was finally able to get any rest at all.

Barb bought a new sump pump the next day and our neighbor Greg installed it. Unfortunately, we ran into what I call...cue spooky music...the Curse of the Builder.

Our home was built by a builder for himself, using leftovers from his other jobs. I'm guessing he didn't live here very long. Nothing in my home is standard size and that includes the sump pump well. It's not as deep as it should be.

The float on the new sump pump did work, but it wouldn't kick in until water started overflowing into the basement. It did great once that happened, but it was making me very nervous wondering if the water would spread too far.

Fortunately, Saturday turned out to be my last sleepless night for a while. Greg was able to adjust the sump pump so it activates well before the water crests above the well.

The thunderstorm which blew across Medina around three a.m. Monday morning caused not a drop of flooding. Now I can devote my sleepless nights to worrying about other things in this, the land of George Bush, his evil handlers, and his delusional supporters. Hmm...maybe those aren't just thunderstorms.

Maybe God is crying.



Every weekend, I post new questions at our world famous TONY POLLS page. This week's questions ask you to grade the season for several TV series which are favorites of either myself or posters to the official TONY ISABELLA MESSAGE BOARD.

Last week's questions asked you to pick your favorite classic UNIVERSAL MONSTERS and to give either "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to DC's ongoing Superman titles.

Here are the results of those polls...

Which of the Universal Studios movie monsters listed here is your favorite?



Wolf Man.....12.20%

Creature From the Black Lagoon.....8.13%


Invisible Man.....7.32%

Bride of Frankenstein.....5.69%

Dracula's brides.....2.44%

Phantom of the Opera.....1.63%

This was a surprisingly easy choice for me. The Frankenstein Monster is monster and victim. Though the monster terrifies us, we can sympathize with his suffering and even hold out some small hope that he can find redemption.

As for the vote on the Superman titles...

ACTION COMICS by Chuck Austen and Ivan Reis, do you give it a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down?"

Thumbs up.....15.48%

THUMBS DOWN.....44.05%


ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN by Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark, do you give it a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down?"

Thumbs up.....40%

Thumbs down.....13.33%


SUPERMAN by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee, do you give it a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down?"

THUMBS UP.....42.67%

Thumbs down.....22.67%


SUPERMAN/BATMAN by Jeph Loeb and various artists, do you give it a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down?"

THUMBS UP.....49.44%

Thumbs down.....30.34%


I voted "thumbs up" on SUPERMAN/BATMAN, which I'm definitely digging, and "thumbs down" on ACTION COMICS, which is the dumbest of the Superman titles.

I'm "undecided" on ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN. Each has elements I like, each has elements I dislike. I have to read a couple more issues before I get off the fence.

You can vote on this week's questions at:

You can discuss this week's questions and pretty much anything else that's on your mind at:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Thursday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/19/2004 | 05/25/2004 | 05/27/2004 >>

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:

Tony's Online Tips
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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