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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Saturday, July 10, 2004

Justice League 23

While reminiscing about MY FIRST MARVELS, as I have been doing for several days now, I also want to take some time here and there to look at the DC comics I was buying and reading during these same months. I'm up to November, 1963, as determined by the cover dates of the comics under discussion.

Despite my new found passion for comics, inspired by FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1, I remained a fairly typical kid. I was starting the seventh grade at Sts. Philip and James Elementary School on the west side of Cleveland. There were many distractions in my young life: a new school year, the way several of the girls in my class had matured in delightful ways, and a growing love for the monster movies being hosted by Ernie "Ghoulardi" Anderson on Cleveland TV. My trips to the drug store where I bought my comics were infrequent and it shows in my meager purchases.

Unless I also bought an issue of GORGO or KONGA, I only bought four November-dated comic books. These were FANTASTIC FOUR #20 and STRANGE TALES #114, which I wrote about in my columns for Thursday and Friday, and a pair of DC comics: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #23 and ADVENTURE COMICS #314.

I should pause here to explain how my memory works, which is, basically, that it doesn't. I can't remember exactly which order I bought these comics in and so am relying on their cover dates to create a workable time line, one which presumes the comics hit the stores two or so months prior to their cover dates. And I couldn't even manage that if it weren't for wonderful online resources like THE GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org], MIKE'S AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS [www.dcindexes.com], and the SILVER AGE MARVEL COMICS COVER INDEX [www.samcci.comics.org]. I am indebted to all of those fans who have labored so long and lovingly on these websites. You are among the true heroes of comics history.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #23 [November, 1963] found the Flash and teammates transformed by radiation rod into the "Drones of the Queen Bee." Mike Sekowsky pencilled both the cover and the 26-page interior story; his inkers were Murphy Anderson (cover) and Bernard Sachs (story). Julius Schwartz was the editor and Gardner F. Fox was the writer. It was a winning combination that kept me reading JLA after I'd stopped buying many other DC titles.

What I remember most about the issue is Zazzala, the reddish-brown-haired title villainess. Bad girls were seldom seen in the comics of the day and almost none of them were as sexy as Zazzala. She reminded me of one of my classmates, a tall Nordic girl whose surprising affection for me often took the form of her pulling me closer when we danced. She had lovely, sparkling eyes, not that I could see them when dancing, given the disparity in our respective heights. If I had to speculate, I would guess she liked me because I started noticing girls sooner than most of the other guys in our class. Everyone likes to be appreciated.

See what I mean about distractions?

Zazzala was seeking an immortality elixir, but its ingredients had been hidden in perilous places. She put a doomsday device on Earth to encourage the JLA to gather these components for her, sort of a back-up if the radiation rod didn't do the trick. The heroes gathered the ingredients, defused the doomsday device, and got the last laugh on Zazzala by sealing the ingredients inside unbreakable containers made by Green Lantern and J'onn J'onzz.

Man, did Sekowsky ever have a knack for drawing truly pissed-off beauties! I fell for Zazzala then and there.

Adventure Comics 314

I have the very clear memory of reading ADVENTURE COMICS #314 [November, 1963] on the night of President Kennedy's assassination. My visibly-upset parents were watching the news coverage which had pre-empted regular programming. I read the comic a few pages at a time, turning to it when the TV reports would become too repetitive to hold my interest.

Thinking back, the comic book had to have been a couple months old at the time. Since it's inconceivable that I would have bought a comic and not read it the day I bought it, there are only three possible scenarios:

1. I bought a copy of the issue which had been overlooked when the drug store clerk pulled the unsold copies to be returned to the distributor.

2. I got it from my favorite neighborhood barber. He was my favorite barber because he gave me comic books. Having been tipped off by a classmate as to this man's ample supply of comics, I went to him even though he was several blocks further from my boyhood home than the other neighborhood barber.

3. I got it in one of the baseball-cards-for-comics trades I had started making with other neighborhood kids.

The issue's cover was by Curt Swan (pencils) and George Klein (inks). It's pretty dull, not at all one of their best efforts and especially not when compared to the Jack Kirby covers on FANTASTIC FOUR and STRANGE TALES, or the Sekowsky cover on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. If it weren't for the hook of the masked "three greatest villains of all time," I don't think I would have bought or traded for the issue. Mort Weisinger was the editor.

Edmond Hamilton's "The Super-Villains of All Ages" was drawn by John Forte. The artist drew stiff human beings and the oldest-looking teens I'd ever seen, but he was a decent storyteller and I got used to his style.

All I recall of this story is that the main villain traveled back in time to rescue Hitler, Nero, and Dillinger before they met their well-deserved fates. On returning to the 30th Century, he transferred their minds into the bodies of Superboy, Ultra-Boy, and Mon-El, the three strongest Legionnaires.

The villains didn't need their benefactor after that, so they turned on him...and then on each other, encouraged by Saturn Girl's increasing their natural paranoia with her telepathic powers. The heroes got their bodies back, the villains were sent back to their respective eras, and Saturn Girl received a frightening premonition that future Legion of Super-Heroes artists would draw her wearing increasingly slutty costumes.

I may be imagining that last part.

The back-up was a Superboy solo: "My Son, the Boy of Steel". Its writer is unknown, its artist was George Papp, and, even after looking it up on MIKE'S AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS and learning it revolved about a Smallville resident convinced his son was secretly Superboy, I don't remember a thing about it.

Speaking of my memory...

I could have sworn the next Marvel comic I bought after those November-dated FANTASTIC FOUR and STRANGE TALES issues was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9. However, checking cover dates, it looks like I've been getting that one wrong for years.

What was my next "first" Marvel?

I'll tell you tomorrow.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/09/2004 | 07/10/2004 | 07/11/2004 >>

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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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