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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 Thursday, June 17, 2004

One of my great joys is watching my children, Eddie and Kelly, playing baseball and softball. Eddie is in a recreation league for boys 15-18 years old, while 12-year-old Kelly is on a girls travel team. Scheduling conflicts - parents with more than one active kid know what I mean here - don't allow me to be at all of their games, but I never willingly miss them.

Both Eddie and Kelly are terrific players on teams composed of other almost-as-terrific kids. However, I won't be bragging about my pride and joy in today's TOT. Instead, I'll be bitching about the weather.

Rain. Ohio has been getting a ton of it over the past several weeks. I've already lost track of how many baseball/softball games have been canceled, re-scheduled, and canceled again. Eddie's last three games were canceled and it's two or three for Kelly as well. Making matters worse, our local fields aren't always ready for play on the days when it's not raining.

Eddie's home field always needs several hours of work after it rains - horrible drainage - and the city won't provide workers, equipment, or material for the job. The coaches and parents have been doing what they can, but no one else seems willing to take the slightest bit of responsibility here...though the city did come up with money to support the gorgeous soccer arena right next to this baseball field. For comparison, picture a mobile home one lot over from Wayne Manor. With apologies to the soccer parents reading my column today, soccer blows.

Still, Eddie's muddy field with its rivers, lakes, and streams started looking pretty good after my trip to a softball field where Kelly was scheduled to play early this week. Her Medina, Ohio team and a team from nearby Cloverleaf were supposed to meet at a field in yet another community. I'm not going to mention any more actual names here because...when it comes down to it...I lack the survival skills of the young Jaime Lee Curtis.

The game was to be held at the Brutal Slayings Campgrounds in Gacy, Ohio. It's a populated-but-rural area of farms and houses. The driveway leading to the campgrounds is nearly invisible until you're right on top of it. It's two single lanes, one going in and one - ha ha - going out.

You pull up to what looks like a railroad crossing. A trio of mutants emerge from a trailer and lift the bar for your vehicle to enter. They look like every murderous backwoods family you've ever seen in the movies and, you know, you just know, they have an even more hideous offspring or sibling chained up in the barn...and that they release him to prey on unsuspecting campers.

We drove a skinny road to a softball field sitting on top of a huge mound. I figured this for some ancient Indian burial mound, resting place of understandably vengeful warriors, but didn't rule out that it was camouflage for an alien spaceship filled with slimy Weird Science monsters. There were no spectator stands or restroom facilities anywhere in evidence. The "dugouts" consisted of four uncovered wooden benches. Jason Voorhees provided more amenities for his playmates.

There was also no real parking at the field. We were told to park at the side of the skinny road next to a field of tall grass, perfect for concealing ravenous monsters just waiting to chow down on Italian cuisine. Even without the storm I could see rolling in, this place would have creeped me out.

The storm exploded overhead. We hadn't left the van yet, but we had to wait for the first wave to pass before I could see well enough to get back on the road. The mutants looked disappointed as we pulled out of the campgrounds. As we turned on to the road, my cell phone rang:

The game had been canceled on account of rain.

When we arrived safely in Medina, the kids went to the trunk to get their gear and started shouting excitedly. There, hanging limply from the handle of the trunk...

...was a bloody hook!

Cue ominous end-music as the scene dissolves into a glowing question mark. Roll the next item.

******

AQUAMAN VS. WEATHER WIZARD

Our opening illustration comes from DC Comics' 1978 calendar, which had a disaster theme going for it. Please note how valiantly I have resisted making any cheap jokes at DC's expense here, even if my immodesty compels me to point out how valiant I'm being and even if my ornery nature delights in the knowledge that those same cheap jokes are bouncing around your heads right now.

Aquaman vs. Weather Wizard

Jim Aparo drew this dramatic and dynamic scene and, outside of Silver Age Flash artist Carmine Infantino, I don't think any artist ever drew the Weather Wizard better. Aparo is definitely one of my favorite artists of the Silver/Bronze/whatever the heck comes next ages of comics.

My thanks to Mike S. of the DC HISTORY mailing list for this scan, and to the other members of the list for providing some great covers for future TOTs. For information on joining the DC HISTORY list, head over to:

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

******

ARCHIE DIGEST MAGAZINE

I make no apologies for enjoying the change of pace offered by Archie Comics titles like ARCHIE DIGEST MAGAZINE #207 [$2.39]. I appreciate the creativity and skill the writers and artists bring to the admittedly familiar plots. I smile at some of the gags and stories. I think Archie digests are among the best buys in comic books today and, especially with the digests, there's almost always a story or two worth noting.

Archie Digest 207

"Busy Guy" by Mike Pellowski (script), Tim Kennedy (pencils), and Rudy Lapick (inks) - one of two brand-new stories in the issue - looks at the relationship between Archie and his mom. There are no surprises here, but it's a heartwarming tale.

"Super Dupe-er" sees Archie hired to portray the super-heroic Hamsterman at a comics convention.

"When Time Stood Still" and "The Carnappers" are atypical for Archie. The former isn't unlike the mystery stories found in early 1960s sci-fi/fantasy comics while the latter finds Archie and pals Carlos and Chuck getting involved - involuntarily - in the theft of a car. I have to admit I'm not thrilled that Archie's co-stars are two of the only minority characters in the series - the story would have worked just as well with Jughead and Reggie - but I suppose I should be grateful for any appearance they make.

Digression. I'm a fan of Archie Comics. My readers recognize this. But, increasingly, I find Archie's home town of Riverdale is too conservative and too "white" for my liking. When I think how much good Archie could do by diversifying their cast of characters to include more persons of color, more students of different faiths (Jews and Muslims), handicapped kids, and, yes, even gays, I must conclude the company is, to some extent, failing its young readers. Those readers live in a world far more diversified than the one in Archie comics. Why not meet them halfway?

Getting back to the digest proper...

Pellowski, Kennedy, and Lapick also did the other new story in the issue. Kudos to Pellowski for the clever scripting of "Say My Name" in which, with the exception of Archie himself, the dialogue consists almost entirely of other characters saying Archie's name. I got a kick out of that one.

******

BACK ISSUE

BACK ISSUE #4 [TwoMorrows Publishing; $5.95] bills itself as a "Marvel Milestones" issue and I suspect it will appeal mightily to comics fans of the 1970s and 1980s. The highlight of the issue is Peter Sanderson's "Pro2Pro" interview with Chris Claremont and John Byrne, whose work on UNCANNY X-MEN made that title *the* big hit of the 1970s. Sanderson chatted with the duo separately, but weaves their talks into a seamless session that reveals something of the creative tension and mutual respect which exists between the two comics stars.

Back Issue 4

In addition to the lead, BACK ISSUE offers Len Wein expounding on the creation of Wolverine, scads of artwork from some of Logan's best artists, a MARVEL SECRET WARS anniversary quiz, the secrets behind Marvel's Punisher, and Joe Casey interviewing Walt Simonson on the latter's epic THOR run. Though the zine is somewhat lighter fare than ALTER EGO - my hands-down choice for best magazine about comic books and creators being published today - BACK ISSUE remains a tasty and satisfying experience.

******

BART SIMPSON

Young rebel Bart Simpson and writer/penciller Ty Templeton (of BATMAN ADVENTURES fame) are an inspired pairing, as witness SIMPSONS COMICS PRESENTS BART SIMPSON #17 [Bongo Comics; $2.99]. "Legends of the Bartman Family" features the return of Bartman, our hero's costumed identity, and Templeton's hilarious takes on the history of crime-fighting in Springfield. I was hooked as soon as I read the very first page of this book-length story:

Simpsons Comics 17

Templeton does a fine job capturing the voices of Bart and the Springfield crew and an equally fine job depicting them, aided and abetted by the sure lines of inker Bob Smith. A little super-hero parody goes a long way with me, but I could easily handle an annual Bartman adventure.

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

Over the next several weeks, I'm going to be bouncing back and forth between the latest e-mails of comment I've received and the oldest ones. Today, we have ROB ALLEN sharing some thoughts on the TALES TO ASTONISH cover which ran on Tuesday:
One odd and interesting fact about the Giant-Man/Hulk battle in TTA #59: it was the only time the Hulk was drawn by someone other than Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko in the first few years of his existence. Kirby drew Hulk #1-5, and Ditko drew #6. Kirby drew his appearances in Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and Thor. Then this one story by Dick Ayers in TTA #59, then Ditko drew the first eight episodes of the Hulk feature in TTA (which is where I first saw old Greenskin), and then Kirby takes over again. The next time someone else draws the Hulk is TTA #74 (12/65) when Bob Powell finishes Kirby layouts. The first completely Kirby-less or Ditko-less Hulk story in TTA is #85 (11/66), drawn by John Buscema.

I've never seen the story in #59, and have always wondered how the Ayers Hulk looks compared to the Kirby and Ditko versions which preceded and followed it.

Thanks for the column, the message board, and the chance to reminisce about the Marvel Age!
Essential Ant-Man Friend Rob, you must not deny yourself the exquisite pleasure of reading the Giant-Man/Hulk encounter from TTA #59, and *all* of the other Ant-Man/Giant-Man stories which appeared in that comics title. You can find them in the ESSENTIAL ANT-MAN, a bargain of a book at its list price of $14.95 and currently available at a great discount through our own World Famous Comics ACTION IS MY REWARD link. You get a great book, we make a few cents.

That's it for this time, my loyal legions of TOT readers. I thank you for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Monday with more of this stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 06/15/2004 | 06/17/2004 | 06/22/2004 >>

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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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