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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, July 1, 2004

Adventure Comics 340

Sigh. Computer woes took me out of the game for the past few days, which brought to mind "Computo the Conqueror" from ADVENTURE COMICS #340 [January, 1966]. Computo was a silly-looking computer gone berserk that managed to be scary in spite of its appearance. Disintegrating one of Triplicate Girl's three bodies was a big help there; it was one of the most cold-blooded regular character deaths I'd ever seen at a time when such deaths were infrequent.

Two thoughts occur to me.

The first...how much our conception of computers has changed since 1966. Computo would probably be a laptop today.

The second...how little was made of Triplicate Girl becoming Duo Damsel. I sort of recall some later Legion series might have dealt with this, but, even as a teenager, I was curious about the ramifications of her, in effect, losing a limb.

She came from an entire world of people who could split into three. Besides dealing with the loss of her third self, which had to have been traumatic in itself, how did she now relate to others of her race and they to her?

"Computo the Conqueror" was written by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by George Klein, and edited by Mort Weisinger. The Swan/Klein team also did the cover.

Backing up the 16-page Legion story, which concluded in next month's issue, was "Mystery of the Space Trophies," a reprint from SUPERBOY #55 [March, 1957]. That story was written by Otto Binder and drawn by John Sikula.

THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE opines that a near-mint condition copy of this issue would sell for approximately $75. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs the approximate cost at $25. I suspect these reasonable prices are the result of this story having been reprinted a number of times, most recently in THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES ARCHIVES series.

A quick check of eBay found a fair condition copy of the book selling for $2.99, while a very-good copy didn't get any takers at $3.99. Nor were there any bidders for a CGC-graded 9.4 copy with a starting bid of just over two hundred bucks.

Onward to today's reviews.

******

CLASSIC ILLUSTRATED JUNIOR

I'm a sucker for reproductions of old comic books, even when they aren't particularly good old comic books. By way of example, let us consider CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED JUNIOR #563: THE WISHING WELL [Jack Lake Productions Inc.; $3.99].

1953. Inspired by the success of his Classic Illustrated line of comic books, Albert Kanter went after younger readers with his Classic Illustrated Junior titles. He published and reprinted 77 issues, until Spring, 1971. A Canadian publisher is releasing 50th anniversary editions of these junior classics.

In THE WISHING WELL, first published in December, 1959, a king and his lovely daughter are vexed by a tree which cannot be felled and a well which cannot be dug. Great riches and the girl's hand in marriage are offered as rewards to anyone who succeeds at these tasks with banishment the cost of failure. It's gonna be a mite quiet around that kingdom.

Three brothers set out to conquer these tasks. The youngest keeps straying off to investigate noises in the woods. In horror movies, this gets you killed. In this story, you get magic objects whether you've earned them or not. No important lessons about life to be learned here.

Mediocre writing and artwork, not to mention that lack of a moral, make this issue unworthy of your attention. Its only saving grace: an amusingly-illustrated poem by Edward Lear which fills a single page at the back of the comic.

******

OPTIC NERVE

Optic Nerve 9

OPTIC NERVE #9 [Drawn & Quarterly; $3.95], the first new issue in almost two years, is also the first chapter of a three-issue tale about a 20-something Asian-American forced by circumstances to examine matters of the heart and matters of race. I wish I could be sympathetic to Ben Tanaka, but, as portrayed by writer/artist Adrian Tomine, the guy is a gaspole.

If you know what I mean and I think that you do.

Ben thinks he's in the movie business; he manages a theater. His girlfriend is growing; he's clearly uncomfortable with that. He's disconnected from his own background.

Black-and-white comic or not, Tomine paints his characters and brings them to life in all its fullness. His layouts effortlessly carry the reader through the story. His drawings capture moments big and small. His dialogue always rings true.

Tomine doesn't appear to have given up on Ben. We have all known and liked people who keep doing or saying the wrong thing. I don't know if this serial's conclusion will find Ben in better circumstances. I do know Tomine has me wanting to stick around to find out.

******

SPIDER-GIRL

Spider-Girl 73

SPIDER-GIRL #73 [Marvel Comics; $2.99] is the first issue of the title I've read in years, which is more a reflection on my lack of organizational skills and spare time than it is on the efforts of writer Tom DeFalco and the artists who work with him on SPIDER-GIRL. Currently that would be co-plotter and penciller Ron Frenz and finisher Sal Buscema.

Title heroine May Parker is the spider-powered daughter of the original Spider-Man in a world roughly contemporaneous to our own, but not a precise match for the current Marvel Universe. A reader coming to the book for the first time will find DeFalco has created an entire world of heroes, villains, and supporting characters for Spider-Girl and included enough nods to the "real" Marvel Universe to intrigue old-school Marvel fanatics.

"All Men Are Jerks" puts May through a bad day. It's not a "world-in-peril" day or a "someone-dies" day, just a day when her costume doesn't fit right and nothing works out even remotely close to how she would have liked it to work out, leading up to a battle with a costumed burglar so annoying I wanted to smack him myself. I don't know if I should praise or criticize DeFalco for creating this villain.

Though the writing and art are solid throughout the issue, I never got truly excited about the story or the characters. On the other hand, they aroused my interest enough that I plan to get the first manga-sized Spider-Girl paperback and start catching up on what has gone before.

(Since I wrote the above review for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, two more issues of SPIDER-GIRL have been released. Look for my review of those issues tomorrow.)

******

UNCLE SCROOGE

Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge

WALT DISNEY'S UNCLE SCROOGE #329 [Gemstone Publishing; $6.95] features the work of consummate comics storyteller Don Rosa and an assortment of lesser European writers and artists. I doubt Scrooge McDuck would pay seven bucks for even a handsomely-made squarebound comic book like this one, but, then again, most of us don't get to experience his life of adventure and wealth except through this vicarious medium.

Even Scrooge's dreams are exhilarating, as seen in Don Rosa's action-packed "The Dream of a Lifetime." A stolen invention allows those larcenous Beagle Boys entry into Scrooge's dreams, where they hope to get the combinations to his vault doors. Nephew Donald follows them to protect his uncle, but Scrooge's dreams are not what he or they expected. Rosa keeps the laughs and twists coming in this 26-page thriller.

From the vault of "Disney ducks" stories produced overseas and never-before-seen in the USA, the issue presents four more stories starring Gyro Gearloose, Daisy Duck, Grandma Duck, and, of course, Scrooge. Such back-ups tend to be hit-and-miss with me, but, this time, all of them were entertaining and two were exceptional. "How To Induce a Miser" and "Bossing the Boss" stood out because, while Daisy and Grandma get the best of Scrooge on one level, he manages to come out ahead on another.

I'm loving the new Gemstone comics a whole bunch. The stories are usually pretty good and sometimes great. I like the variety of formats the publisher is offering (standard comics, deluxe comics, and digests). And I'm most appreciative of Gemstone continuing the grand tradition of Disney comic books in the USA. It's a tradition worth keeping.

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

Our first letter comes from Comics Buyer's Guide reader STEVE BLY, commenting on the CBG column posted here on May 29:
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your latest column. I thought the reviews of those old romance comics were awesome. I particularly enjoyed you saying how much you paid for these issues on eBay and your talking about filling your runs of GORGO, KONGA, etc. It's hard to believe an esteemed comic reader like you would have holes to fill.
Sadly, there have been times in my life when financial needs forced me to sell off huge chunks of my comics collection. Though I was and am okay with that for the most part, there are more than a few comics I regret parting with.

On the other hand, I'm currently planning to sell between 50% and 75% of the comics/books/magazines/stuff I still own. This time around, I hope to put a bit more thought into what I will and won't part with this time around and hopefully avoid the dreaded seller's remorse of the past.

I also heard from my pal MARTIN ARLT, responding to my query as to the collecting of original art:
I have been collecting original art for about 14 years or so. I find seeing the original, inked pages of comic books I've read to be fascinating. It's especially interesting when the pencils can still be seen under the inks and I can see how the inking changed the look of the page.

For the most part, I focus my collecting on a couple of areas. Since Marvel's first Micronauts series was the comic that truly got me hooked as a serious comic collector, I try to buy any and all pages from that series that I find. I've found the series provides many good artists to collect...with Michael Golden, Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane, Pat Broderick, and Butch Guice all represented in my collection.

I also focus on certain artists. I own a startling (to me, at least) number of works by John Byrne, ranging from his fanzine days to his recent work from GENERATIONS 3. I lucked out several years ago, picking up a Byrne Avengers page from issue 191 for about $30. No way I could afford that page today! I've also been fortunate to pick up a few Kirby pages, as well as one page and two lone panels from Ditko's 1970s Charlton days.

One interesting, recent acquisition was art from two complete stories from CHAMBER OF CHILLS #17 (Harvey, pre-code horror). It's the first time I was able to read an entire story in its original art form. Neat experience.

The only "Holy Grail" that I'm still looking for, at least that's not covered by my interests above, is a page from INCREDIBLE HULK #209, by Sal Buscema, the first non-Archie/Casper/cartoon tie-in comic I read. To this day, Sal Buscema is THE Hulk artist in my book, and the Absorbing Man is the perfect villain for him!
When you say "him," I hope you mean the Hulk. Because while our pal Sal is a fine specimen of manhood, I don't think he'd last five minutes in a match with Absorby!

Absorby? I can't believe I just wrote that.

Those old Marvel Bullpen habits die hard.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me, my loyal legions of TOT readers. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 06/26/2004 | 07/01/2004 | 07/02/2004 >>

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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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