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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 Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Gang Busters Parody

Tony Isabella...reporting for duty!

I was at the post office, chatting with a clerk who, though a Republican, does not appear fond of Bush. Postal service employees are apparently not allowed to express their candidate preferences while on duty, or, absurdly, to post campaign signs in their yards. This makes no sense to me, but the things in this world that make no sense to me are legion.

For example:

Same post office, same time. A rather unkempt gentleman who was standing a few customers behind me felt compelled to express, via slurred words, his belief that there is no difference between the candidates. The person in front of him grimaced as he spoke. I've been around enough drunks to know why her nose wrinkled up and not in the cute way. His excuse for being a fool was inebriation. There are many who have no excuse.

No matter whether you're a liberal or a conservative or some other shorthand description, you have to realize there are, indeed, many differences between the current candidates. In that fleeting moment, I was able to succinctly communicate why I would be voting for John Kerry come November:

"I'm voting for the candidate least likely to get my 16-year-old son killed."

That's not the only reason, merely my most important one. The others would include my distaste for an administration whose every action puts the interests of the powerful and wealthy - especially the interest of BIG OIL - over those of the not-wealthy, the young, and virtually every other "the" which isn't predominantly white, male, and so-called Christian. Not to mention those wee matters of an ambiguous war against terror, a second war waged on a foundation of lies and misdirection, and the attempts to enshrine bigotry in the Constitution.

I am tired of the lies and of the mean-spirited antics of the GOP. I yearn for the creation of a responsible Republican Party, one which would challenge the Democratic Party to work with it for the benefit of all Americans...and not just the privileged few and the ideologically "pure." This is never going to happen unless the GOP takes major and multiple hits in November.

By the way...

I also yearn for *real* third and even fourth parties to join the ongoing debate and the governing process. I just believe they better serve their members and the nation by proving their worth on local, state, and congressional levels before running for President of the whole gosh-darn United States.

But I digress.

It is not my intention to daily beat you over the head with my political views. All indications are the current campaigns will, on every level, be the most contentious and even vicious campaigns of my life. As much as possible - I have my kids to consider - I'd like to provide you with a respite from all that.

I'm working on four "political" pieces at present. One is on how barely a day passes without my reading in the news of something bad that was done, is being done, or being suggested by the current administration or other GOP-heads.

A second piece is on a virulent editorial cartoonist who has, in my estimation, crossed *the* line with his attacks on everything that isn't GOP.

A third is on the frequent use of Homeland Security and terror alerts for political gain.

A fourth is on equal marriage rights.

I'll try to spread the pieces out over the next several days. I'll also try to keep them as short and to the point as possible. Because I suspect we'd all rather talk about comic books and other cool stuff than politics.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. The next item will also be somewhat political, though it does have something to do with our beloved comic books. Once we get through it, we can move quickly and safely into a comics review or three.

Courage, America.

******

BRUCE YURGIL

Today's opening illustration is a remake of a 1950s comic-book cover by the amazing BRUCE YURGIL. It originally appeared on the BARTCOP website...and I should probably tell you about the latter before I sing the praises of the former.

BARTCOP.COM is a feisty liberal site which delights in getting right up and into the face of the malicious right-wingers and, near as often, the fainthearted left-wing. It is not a place for polite political discourse. It's take-no-prisoners commentary. I can't say I'm 100% in agreement with the positions Bart takes, but I do enjoy visiting it and appreciate that it gives to Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others of their malignant ilk a taste of the crap they've been dishing out for years. If you'd like to check out the website yourself, go to:

www.bartcop.com

My favorite thing about BARTCOP is that it usually begins with a comic book or pulp magazine "recreation" by BRUCE YURGIL. I love the guy's work and I should have steered you to it a long time ago. His new stuff appears at BARTCOP, but you can get a heaping helping of his older recreations at:

home.earthlink.net/~ifness/index.html

Neither of these websites are likely to please supporters of the current administration...and BARTCOP is definitely not suitable for all ages. But, if you like the occasional down-and-dirty laugh at the expense of the right-wing, I think you'll enjoy your visits to them. I know I have.

******

THE COVER BEHIND THE COVER

Gang Buster 60

Yurgil used the Ruben Moreira cover from DC's GANG BUSTERS #60 [October-November, 1957] as the template for his recent recreation. The interior art on "The Phantom Safe-Cracker" was also by Moreira, perhaps best known for illustrating the "Roy Raymond, TV Detective" series in DETECTIVE COMICS.

The Grand Comics Database [www.comics.org] doesn't have writer credits for this issue, but the other three tales included therein were drawn by Bill Ely, Bernard Baily, and Jim McArdle. The editor of record was Whitney Ellsworth, which probably means the comic was actually edited by Murray Boltinoff or Jack Schiff. Any one know for certain?

The OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE figures that a near-mint copy of the issue would go for $90. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs it at $44. A quick eBay check didn't find any recently completed sales of the issue.

One more quick question before the reviews. Has anyone ever written and posted online an article on either GANG BUSTERS or DC's other "crime" comic, MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY? If so, I would love to read them. I await your responses.

******

CATWOMAN: NINE LIVES OF A FELINE FATALE

Catwoman: Nine Lives of a Feline Fatale

Giving credit where it's due, CATWOMAN: NINE LIVES OF A FELINE FATALE [DC Comics; $14.95] lives up to its title premise by presenting nine tails, ah, I mean, tales, each distinctive of a different era in the career of one of comics' most beloved characters. It's hard to quibble with editor Anton Kawasaki's choices.

You must have "The Cat" from 1940's BATMAN #1 - after all, it was the lady's debut - but its inclusion does rule out a number of other terrific stories from the decade. From 1966, "The Catwoman's Black Magic" is another must-have, though it is the single most bizarre, one might even say DOPEY, use of the Feline Felon ever. From 1967, Gardner Fox's "Catwoman Sets Her Claws For Batman" is an amusing adventure - guest-starring Batgirl - but Selina Kyle is not well served by either 1969's "The Case of the Purloined Pearl" or 1986's "A Town on the Night."

Were I awarding "best of show" medals, they would go to "The Crimes of the Catwoman" (the 1954 episode where famed writer Edmond Hamilton turned the reformed villainess back to a life of crime), "Object Relations" (Devin Grayson's wonderfully dark comedy from 1998), and "Claws" (a truly heartbreaking animated-style adventure by writer Ty Templeton and artists Rich Burchett and Terry Beatty). I got a little misty reading that last one.

The trade paperback collection also includes an introduction by BATMAN producer Michael Uslan, a serviceable recap of Selina's current life, a plethora of pin-ups by a pride of comicdom's best artists, and mini-bios of the contributors. It's not a purr-fect overview of the character, but I categorically recommend it to Catwoman fans of all ages.

In the "this bugs me" department, I was once again appalled by the wasted space at the bottom of several pages. In the old days, the final page of some stories and chapters of stories were only a half or two-thirds of a page to accommodate advertising. In this book, DC fills up this space with Catwoman logos of various designs and sizes...which gets old real fast. They could have better used the space for expanded biographies of the many wonderful creators who worked on the reprinted stories or short articles on the lives and times of Catwoman.

In the "this pissed me off" department, Gardner Fox's mini-bio states "He retired in 1968." That's a lie. He was fired from DC, along with several other prominent writers of the 1940s through the 1960s, because the writers dared ask DC management for medical and other benefits. Better for DC to have left off that line then to put such a shameful falsehood in print.

Too bad Catwoman couldn't have come to the aid of the writers in their time of need.

Despite my being bugged and pissed off, I still think this is a pretty good book. It gets three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

******

DORK TOWER

Dork Tower 28

John Kovalic's DORK TOWER #28 [Dork Storm; $2.99] continues to be a games-oriented comic book that can still be enjoyed by comics fans who have little or no interest in gaming. I fear I fall into the "no" category.

What did I like in this issue?

The cover by Chynna Clugston-Major is a pretty sweet piece of artwork. It immediately caught my eye.

Kovalic's lead story starts off great, but there are only nine pages of it in this issue. I was really getting into and then it was over until next issue. That sort of soured me on the rest of the issue.

There were several one-page and two-page "Dork Tower" strips following the lead tale. Only one of them got a laugh out of me. It involved a Cthulhu role-playing game.

There were a pair of "Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink" strips that were adequate, but Kovalic and artist Christopher Jones have done better episodes in this series.

Finally, I got a giggle out of Greg Hyland's goofy "Lethargic Lad" story. Funny stuff in there.

The bottom line?

This was an "off" issue of DORK TOWER, a title I usually like much better. It picks up a disappointing two Tonys.

Tony Tony

******

RAIJIN COMICS

Raijin Comics 28

I'm under twenty issues away from the last published issue of RAIJIN COMICS. As ever, there are strips I enjoy greatly in this thick (198 pages) manga anthology and strips I don't enjoy. Still, if the magazine were being published today, I'd still be buying it. At 200 pages for five bucks, it's a terrific buy.

RAIJIN COMICS #28 [Gutsoon; $4.95] is the latest edition I've read. It had two strips I thought particularly worthy of mention. The one that surprised me was BOW WOW WATA.

Bow Wow Wata Umekawa Kazumi's BOW WOW WATA is about a young man who works at the animal clinic owned and operated by his father. His father is the god of dogs in human form and can speak to animals. After being bitten by a noble if contrary dog, Tasuke finds that he, too, has this gift. Currently, Tasuke and Wata (the dog) are trying to help a sweet, adorable corgi with a split personality. His other half is a ravenous beast whose hunger never abates. The corgi is in despair over the grief this causes his master. This current BOW WOW WATA storyline is far more involving than those preceding it. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next...and hoping future storylines will be as engaging.

I also want to note THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF JAPAN, a political thriller by Tsugihara Ryuji (art) and Hidaka Yoshiki (story). This series has been a favorite of mine, but, on occasion, I've been put off by too convenient twists in the saga. All I want to say about this issue's chapter is...I never saw the ending coming and, when it came, I literally gasped out loud. It's taking all my will not to immediately pick up the next issue and see where the serial goes from here. It's a honest "wow" moment - as opposed to what we've seen in recent issues of AVENGERS and IDENTITY CRISIS - and I don't see nearly as many of those in comics as I'd like.

RAIJIN COMICS never earns less than three Tonys. Most issues are good for four. RAIJIN #28 gets five.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

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

Tony Isabella

<< 08/03/2004 | 08/04/2004 | 08/05/2004 >>

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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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