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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 Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tales of Suspense #58

Come wallow in nostalgia with me.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #58 [October, 1964] marked the second month in a row that Marvel announced a new strip in one of their titles by having the new arrival duke it out with whoever was headlining the book. So Iron Man found himself "In Mortal Combat With Captain America!" in an exciting 18-page story by Stan Lee (script), Don Heck (pencils), and Dick Ayers (inks). The instigator of the fight was the Chameleon, a Spider-Man foe seeking revenge on Iron Man for clobbering his pal Kraven the Hunter, also a former opponent of our favorite wall-crawler. The cover of this classic was pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Chic Stone.

This tale was the second time in the Marvel Age of Comics that a villain impersonated Cap. Months before the Avengers found the shield-slinger in that block of ice, the Acrobat stole his identity for a battle with the Human Torch in STRANGE TALES #114 [November, 1963]. Hmm...now that I think about it...such impersonations were common in the Marvel comics of the Silver Age. Maybe I should ask Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt to cobble together a list of all those dastardly duplicates.

Backing up the lead story was a one-page text story that even I never read and a five-page "Tales of the Watcher" drawn by George Tuska. Stan Lee was the writer.

Tales of Astonish #60

Last week, I ran the cover of TALES TO ASTONISH #59, which had Giant-Man contending with his title's future co-star. This week, I give you TALES TO ASTONISH #60 [October, 1964] by Jack Kirby and inker Sol Brodsky.

Giant-Man got 14 pages for "The Beasts of Berlin" by Stan Lee (script), Dick Ayers (pencils), and Paul Reinman (inks). I believe this was the last time Hank Pym would go up against the "Commies" in his own series, but such politically-oriented villains continued to appear in other Marvels for a good many years to come. Hey, Mr. Silver Age, I have another column idea for you here.

The Incredible Hulk's new strip was designed to be something of a soap opera in super-hero drag. The ten-page debut was written by Stan Lee, pencilled by Steve Ditko, and inked by George Roussos under his George Bell alias.

I hope my younger readers don't mind these trips to the past. I've been thinking a lot about the excitement these comics brought to me and other comics readers when they first appeared, trying to charge up the creative batteries for some new projects I'm working on. The challenge is to recreate that addictive excitement while creating something reasonably new and fresh. I think I'm getting up to speed in that regard.

Digression. Don't hold your breath waiting for announcements on these projects. I'm developing them on my own and won't offer them to publishers until I think they're ready to compete with the truly remarkable work of this new millennium. And then, of course, once burned and all, I'll have to find a publisher who won't screw me on the deal.

Which do you suppose will be the more difficult task?

Having descended from creative excitement to vulgar commerce, I note that THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC-BOOK PRICE GUIDE believes a near-mint condition copy of TALES OF SUSPENSE #58 should sell in the neighborhood of $500. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs the price at $210.

A quick visit to eBay found recent sales of this issue ranging from $499 for a 9.0 CGC-graded copy (just one bidder) to an amazing $9.02 for a copy in good/very good condition (five bidders). There were also a dozen other recent sales of the issue under a hundred dollars each.

As for TALES TO ASTONISH #60, Overstreet puts a near-mint copy at $275 to the Standard's $175. On eBay, lesser condition copies have sold recently for $10.49 to $27.95. But just wait until that Giant-Man movie comes out.

Come on. Don't look at me like that. I kid because I love. I love Giant-Man and the Wasp. I'd write a Giant-Man and the Wasp series in a heartbeat.

You can likely count on me to do some more nostalgic wallowing before the week is up.

******

ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS DOUBLE DIGEST

Weighing in at 200 pages, ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS DOUBLE DIGEST #84 [Archie Comics; $3.59] continues to offer great bang for your comics bucks, provided you enjoy the kind of wholesome teen humor found in those pages. There are two all-new stories in this issue, both of them dealing with contemporary themes.

Archie's Pals 'N' Gals Double Digest

Bill Golliner's "Buy The Book" centers on a clash between Pop Tate's diner and a newly-opened bookstore over the Archies playing a concert in the diner. In "Source of Pride" by Mike Pellowski, we have school newspaper editor Archie refusing to reveal the identity of a source to Principal Weatherbee.

This digest also features reprints of stories starring Josie and the Pussycats, Li'l Jinx, and That Wilkin' Boy. I never quite understood the reason for doing that last series.

Bingo Wilkin was a humdrum knock-off of Archie, right down to having his own band in the earliest issues. Yet, somehow, despite lackluster characters and stories, his title managed to run for 52 issues from 1969 to 1982. Go figure.

The oddest Archie story in the issue is essentially a 20-page public service announcement for Young Astronauts Council, a hands-on, multi-media educational program. The story is a reprint, but you can get the current scoop on the program at:

http://www.youngastronauts.org/yac

My favorite story is the uncredited "Flower Power." Triplets Daisy, Iris, and Rose are all interested in Archie. He asks one of them out. They decide to share the date, switching back and forth as opportunities present themselves and leaving our guy even more confused than usual. It's a nice switch on the usual "Archie makes two dates for the same night" scenario.

Archie digests make a nice change-of-pace from my other comics reading. I always find something of value in them.

******

BATMAN ADVENTURES

The animated versions of DC's super-hero stars lend themselves incredibly well to both standard size comic books and digest-sized collections of those comic books. BATMAN ADVENTURES VOL. 1: ROGUES GALLERY [DC Comics; $6.95] reprints BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #50 and BATMAN ADVENTURES #1-4.

Batman: Gotham Adventures #50

"Second Timers" is a terrific Batman/Catwoman story by writer Scott Peterson, penciller Tim Levins, and inker Terry Beatty. The Batman of these stories, like the Batman of the animated cartoons, is a more human and sympathetic character than the current Batman of the DCU Bat-titles. They do some nice work in those comics, but I like the animated versions better.

In the stories from BATMAN ADVENTURES #1-4, someone is trying to kill off Batman's major foes. It's not too difficult to figure out who and why, but the individual chapters deliver an emotional punch in addition to the usual action and detecting. Adding to the Batman's problems is that the Penguin, the current mayor of Gotham City, has ordered the police to arrest his old foe, whom he calls a criminal vigilante, on sight. Kudos for the thrills should go to writers Dan Slott and Ty Templeton, and artists Beatty, Templeton, and Rich Burchett.

BATMAN ADVENTURES 2: SHADOWS AND MASKS is also on sale right now, but I'll be reviewing that one in a near-future issue of the new monthly COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. In the meantime, I'll recommend both digests as big fun for comics readers of all ages.

******

B.P.R.D.

Mike Mignola's Bureau For Paranormal Research and Defense is back in a new series of mini-series intended to give the feel of an ongoing monthly. Kicking it off is B.P.R.D.: PLAGUE OF FROGS [Dark Horse Comics; $2.99 per issue]. I've read the first four of the five issues and was so impressed I can't go the logical route and wait for the final issue to review it.

B.P.R.D. #4

Written by HELLBOY creator Mike Mignola - the B.P.R.D. often plays a key role in Hellboy's adventures - and drawn by Guy Davis, PLAGUE OF FROGS start with the scary in its first few pages, takes a breath to introduce its cast (who will be further illuminated in the course of the issues), and then barrels ahead into a case that has unexpected ties to past cases.

From a giant sentient mushroom to a legion of amphibian man-monsters to startling dangers facing our heroes, Mignola and Davis maintained the tale's intensity. An event in the fourth issue made my jaw drop and I almost dread its resolution.

Mignola's scripting is well-paced and on target throughout the issues, though I would have liked a tad more character background within it. The Davis art is atmospheric and spooky as all get out, but intimate where it needs to be intimate. I must also give props to colorist Dave Stewart, one of the best in comics.

Cinema stardom hasn't changed Hellboy and his allies, except, hopefully, in that it will introduce new readers to the top-notch comics from which the movie came. If you like pulp adventure with bizarre heroes and supernatural villainy, HELLBOY and B.P.R.D. will certainly appeal to you.

Hellboy - The Movie

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

We have a comment and a question from a TOT reader today, but I'm withholding his name due to the question, which seemed to me to be of a personal nature, but one whose answer might hold interest for my other readers. He writes:
I humbly appeal for the return of the five-head rating system for your online column. While, as a writer, I definitely agree the author's intent should convey what the feelings about the book are, as a reader, my needs are different. Given the amount of content on the Internet, I find myself skimming much of what's out there, looking for cues as to what's important. And the Disembodied Heads were perfect toward that end.

Let's say I really haven't liked the efforts of comics creator Biglee Squarejaw. If I'm skimming through TOT on my lunch break and note a review of the latest Squarejaw effort, I'm liable to skip the review entirely; after all, I already know I don't like his work. But if I see Biglee's new comic got Five Disembodied Heads...well, then, I'm probably going to read the review to figure out why! It could be this comic really *is* worth another look. And if it got zero or one heads, I'm likely to read it as well; reviews of monstrously bad comics are interesting, too.

I have used the Heads to check out creators, characters, and genres I normally have no interest in. I've used the Heads to make me reevaluate comics I *do* purchase; while I normally skip reviews of comics I'm buying, a One-Head rating may get me to do some soul-searching. And I've used the Heads to confirm what I've suspected about some titles.

In short, I appreciated the Heads. Although I can understand the desire to be rid of them, I also know I would welcome them back with open arms should they decide to return.

I also have a question:

I note from your column that you are in charge of the revamped review section of the monthly version of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. Do you currently accept outside submissions of reviews, and, if so, how would I go about submitting? I apologize if you aren't the right person to ask, but I tried in vain to find submission guidelines or writer's information on the Krause website. Of course, I also admit this could be entirely because CBG doesn't *want* any outside writers...but nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you would like to see a sample of my writing, would like more information from me, or if you have more information for professional efforts with CBG, please let me know.

Thank you for your time, and thank you for presenting some of the most insightful information and reviews in the comic industry. Take care!
As I joked on my message board, here I am writing these oh-so-insightful reviews and reflecting on important issues of our world, and it's the damn floating Tony heads that bring me the most e-mail I've had all year! Sheesh!

I'm beginning to think my decision to ditch the heads isn't as final as I thought. I'm reconsidering it even as I write today's column. Now would be a great time for special interest groups to try to influence my decision by donating to this website via PayPal or by sending me gifts from my Amazon want-list. There's a handy link for PayPal elsewhere on this page and you can find my Amazon wish list via my name (Tony Isabella) and birthday (12/22). True, these donations and gifts could come back to haunt me if I run for office, but that's a chance I'm willing to take.

As for CBG, my titles as "contributing editor" and "host" of the review section are largely ceremonial. I think I help set the tone of the reviews and the standards, but I don't do the hiring or the firing therein.

Given that neither Editor Maggie Thompson and Managing Editor Brent Frankenhoff included personal office e-mail addresses in the first issue of the new CBG, I would suggest the best way to contact them on this matter is via a query letter. I honestly don't know if they are looking for new reviewers - keep in mind that most of the magazine's contributors took a financial hit when it went from weekly to monthly publications - but be sure to include an e-mail address where they can reach you quickly when they respond to your query. Also know that it may take some time for them to respond; the monthly involves as much or more editorial and design work as the weeklies and both Maggie and Brent are working on other Krause projects as well.

One more thing. The new CBG - I received my subscription copy last week and read it over the weekend - is well worth seeking out and buying. There's so much good stuff in there that it sometimes seems like the zine which will never end. I may be biased in this matter, but I recommend it highly.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 06/17/2004 | 06/22/2004 | 06/23/2004 >>

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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