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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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for Thursday, May 27, 2004


"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."

- Albert Einstein

Figuratively speaking...

I'm packing up the weekly "Tony's Tips" office in preparation for the move to the monthly "Tony's Tips" office. Going through my old files, I came across this gem:
On behalf of the legion of comic-book fans who follow your every pronouncement in the CBG with bated breath and unwavering wonderment, and by dint of a rhapsodic recommendation by Merry Michael Carlin, I, in my responsibility-laden capacity as Chairman Emeritus of mighty Marvel Comics, am pleased to award you an increasingly rare yet magnificently meaningful No-Prize in recognition of the carefully considered and undoubtedly unbiased review you have given to DC's new series of "Just Imagine" comic books.

Do but vow that this unsolicited yet wondrous honor shall not change thee nor cause thee to abandon thy noble pursuits nor lose thy legendary link with the common man. So hath it been ordained. So shall it be. Alea jacta est!


Stan Lee
That two-year-old e-mail was sent to me after I reviewed the first several issues of Stan's JUST IMAGINE in which he re-imagined DC's top super-heroes. It's a bittersweet reminder that I meant to write a pair of follow-up columns, reviewing the remaining issues in the series and then speculating on where Stan and DC could have gone with these new/old characters from there. I never got around to it, at least not yet.

Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe - Book 1    Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe - Book 2

Would such a column be a good fit for the monthly CBG? I'll add that to the list of a dozen other questions I'm asking myself and my editors.

Fortunately, I have a fall-back position: TONY'S ONLINE TIPS, my online home of news, views, and reviews. When it comes to non-fiction, CBG has always been my top priority. But, even with my 52 weekly columns a year, there were comic books I couldn't get around to reviewing and non-comics topics I wanted to discuss.

My monthly CBG column will still be "Job #1" in this office, followed by any other writing I do for the magazine. But it's nice to have another place where we can hang out pretty much as often as you think you can take me. It might not be a place where every one knows your name, but, like CBG, it will remain a place where comics readers of good will are always welcome.

I'm getting all misty again. Let's see if I can write a few reviews through the tears...


I'm not going to claim I heard lots of good things about Eric Powell's THE GOON. What I heard was the same thing over and over again - "This is really good stuff; you'll love it!" - from lots of people whose opinions I respect. What's the point of having smart friends if you don't listen to them occasionally?

The Goon: Rough Stuff

THE GOON: ROUGH STUFF (Dark Horse; $12.95) collects the first three issues of THE GOON from 1999, newly colored by Dave Stewart for this first DH edition. Here's the set-up:

The otherwise nameless Zombie Priest blew into town and built his criminal gang from the ranks of dead hoods and thugs. The guy figured he'd take over the town. He didn't figure on the Goon, the strong arm of the mysterious Boss Labrazio and a man too tough for even an army of zombies to handle.

The Goon takes care of Labrazio's business, working with his vertically-challenged sidekick Franky. Tough guys against a world. What's not to love?

Powell has a realistic view of these early stories. THE GOON #1 was the first full-length comic he'd ever written. He describes his artwork for these tales as crude. He goes so far as to say his new stuff makes this stuff look like...a word that starts with "c" and ends in "p," but is not "carp." But what he stands behind and what he clearly takes pride in is that these early issues fulfilled his intention: making comics that were fun.

I concur completely.

THE GOON: ROUGH STUFF has the knuckle-bruising action you'd expect from a book with such a title. It has drama, suspense, and tragedy. It has scenes and dialogue which made me laugh out loud. It even has a excellent surprise I didn't see coming until shortly before Powell revealed it. Do you know how rare it is for a comic book to catch me even that much off-guard?

THE GOON: ROUGH STUFF doesn't need to apologize for whatever shortcomings Powell sees it. No matter how good subsequent Powell material has been, this collection remains a terrific collection on its own merits. I'm awarding it four out of a possible five Tonys and I look forward to more Goon fun in the future.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony


Something about Allison Cole's Yeti-like characters caught my attention when I was looking for something to read in the warmth of a summer-like April day. Yet I almost didn't pick her NEVER ENDING SUMMER (Alternative; $11.95) to read on my break.

Never Ending Summer

People do judge books by their covers. An interesting cover does catch their eye, as Cole's did mine. Once the cover does its job, the prospective reader will either flip through the book or, more likely, look at the back cover (inside cover flap, if the book has one) to get a further idea of what awaits them should they buy and read the book. The back cover of NEVER ENDING SUMMER offers no such further idea; it shows multiple images of the book's heroine walking somewhat aimlessly. It's an evocative drawing, but hardly the come-on I would have preferred.

I receive hundreds of comics every month. Because I actually have a life, I can't read them all. Anything comics creators or publisher do to entice me into reading their books works to their benefit...and can't possibly hurt them with the potential readers who will hopefully choose their books from the thousands available in bookstores and comics shops.

All I'm saying is...let art rule the interiors of your books, but give commerce a wee bit of space on your covers. Readers won't be able to appreciate your genius until/unless you convince them to buy your books. So ends the lesson.

NEVER ENDING SUMMER follows twenty-something Allison through a summer of change and loneliness. Within a handful of pages, Cole had me completely in Allison's corner and feeling the pain of the sadness and various indignities she endures. The other characters are developed as well as they need to be; this is Allison's story and they merely players in it.

Summer's end brings an end to the book, but not the changes in Allison's life. Whether or not the book ends on a positive note is left to the reader to decide.

Cole's artwork is simple but very effective. The characters all share a common body type and I expected to have some difficulty telling them apart. I needn't have worried. Cole makes Allison a compelling presence, always recognizable, and the supporting cast are equally recognizable in the context of her story.

NEVER ENDING SUMMER is an engaging comic book, just the ticket for a spring afternoon. I give it four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony


Steven Grant's MY FLESH IS COOL (Avatar; 3 issues, $3.50 each) is definitely for older readers. There's nudity on the first page of the first issue and graphic violence on the second. What turned me on, though, was seeing Grant's name in large letters above the cover logo. Such respect for comics writers is the equivalent of roses and chocolates for a romantic like yours truly.

My Flesh is Cool

Some kidding aside, MY FLESH IS COOL is a scary thriller about a hitman who has the power to possess other bodies, carry out his murders, and escape without anyone - not his victims, the police, or his clients - knowing who he is. What's even more scary is that Evan Knox, the hitman, is the "hero" of this story.

Knox is a bad man. Grant never argues otherwise. He's just not as bad as those who mass-produce the body-jumping drug and sell it as the ultimate thrill, regardless of the deadly chaos this can and does bring to the world. Imagine the "high" a user could get from jumping into the body of the President of the United States and, yes, it would be a lot worse than President Fill-in-the-name-of-the-current-or-recent-office-holder-you-most-despise.

Grant keeps the suspense compelling and the surprises intense throughout the three issues. Artist Sebastian Fiumara does a good job on the visual end. If I have any complaint, it's that I think the book's core ideas - Knox, the drug, the effects of the drug's widening availability - have potential beyond a three-issue series, no matter how entertaining that series was.

Complaint aside - it's Grant's story and not mine - MY FLESH IS COOL delivered great goose bumps for your bucks. It scores four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony


I didn't compare the stories in COMMON GROUNDS #1-4 (Image/Top Cow; $2.99) with the original versions that appeared in the mini-comics published by writer Troy Hickman as HOLEY CRULLERS several years ago. Fat chance of my finding anything in the chaos that is my decades-worth accumulation of comics. I remember loving those "humble" minis, drawn by Jerry Smith in expressive black-and-white, and I love these full-color retellings just as much.

Common Grounds 4

Common Grounds is a donut shop, but it's also a safe haven for the super-heroes and super-villains who inhabit the world according to Hickman. Though we don't see him in these tales, its owner was once a powerful super-hero himself...and no one is gonna upset the peace he's created in this establishment. It's a social club, it's a confessional, it's warm-and-gooey therapy for the metahuman soul. I wish there was one in my town.

Top Cow has provided Hickman with breathtaking coloring, top-of-the-line production values, and artistic collaborators ranking among the best in the business. These include Dan Jurgens, Al Vey, Michael Avon Oeming, Ethan Van Sciver, Chris Bachalo, Aaron Sowd, Carlos Pacheco, and George Perez. Hickman's stories are still the tastiest treats in the shop.

A reporter interviews a renowned hero and discovers the man's greatness, limits, and sorrows. Old foes chat in a restroom. One waitress must find the hero within her. A super-hero family deals with loss. A rabbi gives guidance to a young heroine. A brother and sister rediscover their father. Old foes and old teammates cross paths after many years. Heroes join together to face a heavy problem.

Each of these stories is a small gem of great value. Almost every one of them is worthy of awards-consideration. The series as a whole demands, at the very least, awards-nomination. This is the best comic book to ever come out of Top Cow and one of the best to ever come out of Image Comics.

You know where this is going.

COMMON GROUNDS #1-4 get five Tonys each. I believe there are two more issues to come. I hope Image collects them in plenty of time for holiday gift-giving...because that's the book I'm going to be recommending to anyone looking for a great gift for the comics reader in their lives.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony


While you were reading my reviews, I was going through more of my old files. There are ideas for columns which may or may not fit the still-evolving nature of the monthly "Tony's Tips."

I had hoped to visit all the comics shops in my area, see what they did right and what they did wrong, and share my findings with CBG's readers. Maybe that would work for a special feature for the monthly. Maybe it would be better suited for an ongoing feature on my website. Decisions, decisions.

I have to write my final weekly column the day after I write this one and my first monthly column the day after that. Past and present and future. All coming together.

That's what makes the new CBG, not to mention life itself, so intriguing. I wouldn't miss it for the world.



The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1593 [May 28, 2004], which shipped May 10. The lead story of this next-to-last weekly issue reported on John Byrne's June-scheduled reboot of THE DOOM PATROL, the quirky super-heroes created by Arnold Drake and Bob Haney in the summer of 1963. This new/old version of the team proceeds from the premise that these characters are new to the current DC continuity. On the one hand, I'm interested in seeing what Byrne does with the book. On the other, DC continuity makes my head hurt. A lot.

The secondary lead was "Marvel announces toy sales up, plans made." This astonishing news came from Marvel Enterprises' first quarterly report for 2004 as provided in a Webcast to shareholders. Most telling was this quote:

Not once during the entire Webcast were the words "comic" and "book" mentioned together in a meaningful fashion during any of the reports, although the publishing division was mentioned in passing.




The question was:

What original art do you collect? Why?

My answer is:

I can't afford to collect original art. If I could, I'd buy pages from those of my own stories of which I'm particularly fond. I'd also commission drawings of Black Lightning and other Isabella creations from artists I admire. It's a dream of mine to have the walls of my office lined with such works.

That's not to say I don't have any original art. I've picked up a few pages and drawings here and there. Some I plan to keep as long as I can. Others I plan to sell.

Some of the drawings will turn up in future editions of TOT. If I can't have the office wall of my dreams, maybe I can create a virtual version online.

That's my answer. What's yours?



Every Sunday, MILO GEORGE yields his blog to readers' letters to Gojira "Godzilla" Kijou, the world-renown film star. Godzilla answers the missives, sharing his wisdom with his legions of fans. The bigger they are, the nicer they are.

You can read Milo's blog at:

If you scroll down to the archives and check out the April 25 entry, you'll find my own note to the big guy. Godzilla, that is, not Milo. To put you in the proper mood, here's a publicity shot from the forthcoming GODZILLA FINAL WARS:

Godzilla: Final War

Toho Studios claims this will be its last Godzilla movie for the foreseeable future.

Say it isn't so, Gojira!



Early this month, I received this guilt-inducing e-mail from reader TYRONE CORBETT:
I'm an African American and want to thank you for my favorite characters: Black Lightning, Luke Cage and Tobias Whale. I lurk at your message board and communicate with a couple people from it, but it is a wonderful place.

I did not participate in it, but I wanted to ask if you still planned to announce the winners of your January contests to change your life. I wondered what people would suggest and was worried I had missed this column. I searched your archives and couldn't find it listed there.
It means a lot to me that Black Lightning and Tobias Whale are two of your favorite characters. I wish I could also take credit for creating Luke Cage, but he was created by Archie Goodwin with considerable input (if my aging memory is correct) from Roy Thomas, John Romita, and the late Billy Graham. I did write several issues later on, but I wasn't one of Luke's fathers.

As for my January contests...oh, the shame...I have misplaced the entry file. I know approximately where it must be in the chaos of my office and storage area, but I haven't had a spare moment to search for it. Apparently, my life keeps changing even without the assistance of my beloved readers.

Sometime this summer, especially since I must go through all that stuff anyway, I will find the file, pick the winners, ship off the prizes, and write about their entries here. It's a sorry state of affairs, but that's life for you.

Thanks for writing, Tyrone. It's appreciated.



We'll wrap up this edition of TOT with an e-mail from my pal CRAIG BOLDMAN. He writes:
Craig Boldman Thanks for tipping me off (via TOT) about Stan Goldberg's birthday. I'll dash off an e-mail to him as soon as I'm done with you! Thanks also for the nice write-up of the latest issue of ARCHIE. Your review gets four Craigs!

This is a good opportunity to mention:

It's my new web site, just getting off the ground, but I've worked enough bugs and kinks out of it that I'm spreading the word. Of possible particular interest to you might be the new weekly web comic I'm running on the site, called "Tailipoe." I'm doing the art and writing, and am having fun! It's a nice civilized way to polish up a concept while getting some feedback along the way. Plus, I wanted to have regular new content to give visitors a reason to check back in on my site from time to time.

I haven't forgotten that we're doing lunch, eventually, when I get in your neighborhood, eventually, eventually.
Better hurry, Craig. I'm starving!

The new site looks fabulous. I particularly appreciate your news section's listing of Boldman tales reprinted in recent Archie digests since, as you pointed out, the digests only have credits on the one or two new stories which appear in them.

Thanks to all my readers for spending a part of their day with me. I'll be back on Saturday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/25/2004 | 05/27/2004 | 05/29/2004 >>

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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