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for Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Godzilla vs. King Kong

We're back to full-sized columns now that Justin (our wondrous web-wizard) is back from San Diego and Comic-Con International. I can't think of any better way to herald his return than with two of the biggest stars I know: King Kong and Godzilla, courtesy of Todd Tennant's incredible AMERICAN KAIJU website:

If you love the giant monsters the way I do, you'll love this website, created to showcase Tennant's artwork and the fiction of his pal Mike Bogue. There's a ton of cool stuff at AMERICAN KAIJU, including comic strips, paintings, designs, and prose fiction, all of it great fun.

I'm thinking you're going to be hearing a great deal about and from AMERICAN KAIJU in the months and years to come. Be among the first to be able to say you knew them well.

Let's see what else is on my desk and my mind today.



If any of my previous reviews of G-FAN [Daikaiju Enterprises; $5.95] have piqued your interest in the magazine, you should seek out the latest issue. Editor J.D. Lees cover-bills it as his "best issue ever" and I'm definitely on board with that assessment. It's 100 pages of scaly goodness for a mere six bucks.

G-Fan #68

We're showing the cover of the magazine here, but the inside and back covers are just as terrific. Inside the covers, you get a selection of entertaining and informative articles on all things Godzilla plus some pretty spiffy prose fiction. Let me touch on a couple of features to give you feel for the issue.

Godzilla 2000 Allan Debus discusses Godzilla in the context of the public's interest in dinosaurs. Armand Vaquer "visits" the Hollywood stage where the American scenes added to the first Godzilla movie were filmed. Lees updates his unofficial Godzilla compendium with looks at GODZILLA 2000 [movie #23] to GODZILLA TOKYO S.O.S. [#27], which, sadly, is not yet available in this country. Jerry Petersen offers a historical perspective of Godzilla. There are also features like "Kaiju Quotations," "Weird Godzilla Stills," and a list showing how often the big G used his atomic breath in his films. Page of page of great stuff.

G-FAN's only weakness continues to be its comic strips. They aren't very well-written or well-drawn. Methinks the dozen pages devote to them could have been better utilized. Even so, there is so much of quality in the magazine that I can overlook the comics for the time being.

G-FAN #68 is must-reading for Godzilla fan. On our scale of zero to five Tonys, I give it a fiery four!

Tony Tony Tony Tony



It's got a cast of characters so large that even the creator admits he has trouble keeping track of them. It's got the typical teen titillation found in, well, found in just about every Japanese comic that involves schoolgirls. But, gosh darn, NEGIMA! MAGISTER NEGI MAGI [Del Rey; $10.95] is so much fun none of that matters in the slightest.

Negimu! Magister Negi Magi

Negi Springfield is 10 years old, a wizard-in-training, and a full-fledged teacher at an all-girl school where every one of his students is older than him. The situation is meant to test him as a wizard and as a teacher. The stories are full of heart, humor, and honestly exciting challenges for Negi and his pupils. Del Rey has a great series here.

NEGIMA is creator Ken Akamatsu's first series since his well-received LOVE HINA. He and his staff have come up with fascinating backdrops and intriguing relationships for these tales. The work is first-rate all the way.

Del Rey's packaging of NEGIMA is equally superb. Peter David and Kathleen O'Shea David adapt the English language translations and do one of the smoothest jobs I've seen in my reading of manga. The artwork includes the original Japanese sound effects, plus the English translations of said sound effects, which I think adds to my enjoyment of the series. The bonus features included in each of the two volumes released to date are entertaining and informative. This is a series I would recommend to one and all, even though Del Rey rates it for readers sixteen and older.

Digression. Parents should always make their own decisions on NEGIMA and any other manga their children read. Advisories are not a big problem for me, but I don't think parents should rely on them or on any reviewer to decide what may or may not be appropriate for their children. End of digression.

The third volume of NEGIMA will be released in October of this year. Volume One and Volume Two each earn five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Getting a new issue of ROB HANES ADVENTURES is always a treat. Getting two new issues at once is almost too good to be true. But creator/writer/artist Randy Reynaldo managed just that in time for Comic-Con International. I read them almost as soon as they came out of the mailing envelope.

Rob Hanes 5

Here's the quick catch-up:

Rob Hanes is a private investigator for Justice International. His cases take him all over the world and involves him with a cast of characters the likes of which have done been seen since Milton Caniff last put pen to paper. Beautiful and feisty women. Spies and counter-spies. Courageous agents of law and order and ruthless villains. With stories played against some of the most exotic and exciting locals on the planet. I once called Reynaldo THE talent most deserving of wider recognition in comicdom and that's as true today as it was when I first said it.

(Amusingly, Reynaldo uses the pull-quote on the back cover of one of these issues but attributes it to Toni Isabella. Not long ago, I was mis-identified as one of the few black writers working in comic books in the 1970s and now this. As the saying goes, I am vast, I contain multitudes.)

Back cover blurb

Getting down to specifics...

ROB HANES ADVENTURES #5 [WCG Comics; $2.95) features the long-awaiting conclusion of a storyline involving our hero's father, who was thought to be dead and now stands accused of being a murderous double-agent. "The Glowworm Identity" is darker than most of Rob's adventures, but the story packs both an emotional wallop and a very satisfying conclusion. Reynaldo has stated his preference for the lighter stuff, but I, for one, don't mind him going darker for the occasional change of pace.

ROB HAINES ADVENTURES #6 [$2.95] is cover-billed as a "special advance preview edition," but it looks as complete as the previous issue. "The Hunt For Octavius Jebru" is inspired by some real-life espionage cases which have been in the news in recent years, adding fast-moving action to the reality. Like issue #5, this issue is a 36-page black-and-white comic whose shiny color cover is printed on a heavier/sturdier stock. The interior pages are printed on a good grade of white paper. These comics look as good as they read, and that's high praise for the production end of things.

ROB HANES ADVENTURES #5 and #6 rate five Tonys each from me. If you like exciting, fun, well-crafted stories that are suitable for readers of all ages, here they are!

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Christopher Hart is a one-man art school. I've lost track of how many "how to draw" volumes he's produced for the always classy Watson-Guptill Publications on topics ranging from anime and manga to cartoon characters.

Drawing Faeries

His latest is DRAWING FAERIES [$14.95], a bit of a departure from his other books in that his springboard for the lessons is a fantasy story he tells at the beginning of the book. I can't tell you how useful this book would be to an aspiring artist - I'm lucky if I can draw a paycheck - but it's a good-looking book that seems fairly user-friendly. Some of the drawings do look familiar to me, but that could just as easily be a case of Hart being inspired by artists whose work I know - I think I see some Buscema, Pini, and Ploog in there - as any kind of swiping. DRAWING FAERIES goes for a traditional approach and it's not at all unlikely that alone is the cause of any similarities.

"How to draw" books are outside my range of expertise, but, as TOT's resident reviewer, is falls on me to make the call. I choose to give DRAWING FAERIES a perfectly respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



Watson-Guptill also sent me their fall/winter catalogue, which offers two must-haves for comics fans, a must-have for adventure art fans, and a huge selection of "how to draw" books. I'll start with the must-haves.

STEVE DITKO: SPACE WARS [$14.95] collects some of the artist's finest pre-Spider-Man work. The black-and-white volume is credited to Ditko and J. David Spurlock's Vanguard Productions; it appears to feature a selection of sci-fi tales from the Charlton comics of the 1950s and 1960s. This could be some wonderful stuff.

Steve Ditko: Space Wars

October will bring THE THRILLING COMIC BOOK COVER ART OF ALEX SCHOMBURG [$24.95], edited by Spurlock. It features 150 color and 20 black-and-white illustrations. Schomburg is, of course, one of the greatest cover artists in comics history.

The Thrilling Comic Book Cover Art of Alex Schomburg

For November, Spurlock compiled GRAND MASTER OF ADVENTURE ART: THE DRAWINGS OF J. ALLEN ST. JOHN [$24.95]. The volume will have 170 black-and-white illustrations from pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, and from classic adventure and fantasy novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It should be a spectacular collection.

The Grand Master of Adventure Art: The Drawings of J. Allen St. John

Aspiring artists will have a wealth of "how to draw" volumes to choose from:

MANHWA MANIA: HOW TO DRAW KOREAN COMICS by Christopher Hart [September; $19.95];

SCARED! HOW TO DRAW FANTASTIC HORROR COMIC CHARACTERS by Steve Miller and Bryan Baugh with art from Bernie Wrightson, Mitch Byrd, Arthur Adams, and Vince Locke [November; $19.95];

XTREME ART: DRAW MANGA CHIBI by Hart [October; $6.95];

DRAWING CUTTING EDGE ANATOMY: THE ULTIMATE REFERENCE GUIDE FOR COMIC BOOK ARTISTS by Hart, featuring interviews with "people from Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics" [October; $19.95];

LET'S DRAW MANGA: ALL ABOUT FIGHTING by Makoto Nakajima & Big Mouth Factory [September, $19.95];

LET'S DRAW MANGA: MONSTERS by Plex, Inc. [October; $19.95]:

LET'S DRAW MANGA: TOKYO URBAN-HIP HOP CULTURE by Nakajima and Big Mouth Factory [October; $19.95]; and,


There's one other book I should mention. It's not related to comic books, but David Hofstede's WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? THE 100 DUMBEST EVENTS IN TELEVISION HISTORY [October; $14.94] looks like it could be a fun volume. Look for Sally Field as the Flying Nun on the cover.

What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History

What to see more catalog reports in upcoming installments of TOT? Ask and ye shall receive.



Comic-Con International has two days to go as I write today's column. Assuming Justin's remote-control magic worked, you've had a new TOT waiting for you just after midnight every day this month. If you've been enjoying them - and, yes, we do plan to keep TOT on a daily schedule - now would be an absolutely spectacular time to show us some love.

Donating to this website via PayPal - you'll find the link on this page - is one way you can support the site.

Have a comic book or other work to promote? Have some service you offer to customers? TOT is accepting advertising, albeit only from advertisers who meet our standards. Our rates are reasonable. Your ads will appear within the body of these columns and remain as part of the column for as long as it's archived. For information on placement and rates, e-mail Justin at:

My financial situation remains somewhat precarious. If you're an editor or a publisher, I'm available. There are assignments I wouldn't take - if I didn't feel I can do a good job for you, if my taking the assignment would screw a creator, if the assignment was something I found morally repugnant - but I'm extremely interested in work that pays up front and within a reasonable period of time following my completion of the work.

All of the above will help keep TOT coming your way day after day. However, even if you're not in a position to help us on the financial end, you can help us by spreading the word about TOT in online forums. The more readers we have, the more attractive the website will be to advertisers. Additionally, the more notice TOT gets, the more review items come my way and the greater the range of reviews you'll see here.

That's the end of the business talk for today.

I'm itching to do another installment of MY FIRST MARVELS for you and that could show up as early as tomorrow. I hope to collect these into a book when the series is completed.

I'll be posting new TONY POLLS questions every Monday. But, since I'm writing TOT as close to a week ahead of its "publication" as I can manage, there will be a delay between the closing of any week's poll questions and the posting/discussing of their results. You can vote on this week's questions at:

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

Tony Isabella

<< 07/27/2004 | 07/28/2004 | 07/29/2004 >>

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:

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