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

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for Friday, August 6, 2004

Weird Comics

I have no idea why I'm running this cover here. I'd decided today's column would be one in which I cleaned out some stuff from my desk and my files and shared it with you. That's when I found the Grand Comics Database information on this comic book which I'd apparently printed out on July 1 of this year...and could not, for the life of me, recall why I was interested enough in WEIRD COMICS #2 [May, 1940] to print out that information.

Certainly the Lou Fine cover is pretty spiffy with its bizarre imagery and hard-boiled cover copy...

The mummy stirred...a gun flashed and blasted the fiend into eternity!

...but there had to be more to it than that.

According to the GCD, the cover features "Dr. Mortal," though I don't know which character he is. He was a villain who had his own ongoing series. The contents of the issue, which was edited by Fox Comics publisher Victor Fox, are as follows:

Thor: "Thor Goes to War"
(12 pages, drawn by Pierce Rice)

Sorceress of Zoom: "Attack on Bango"
(8 pages, drawn by Don Rico)

Solar Plexis: "Which Way to Mars?"
(2 pages, written and drawn by Fred Schwab)

Blast Bennett: "Zom the Space Pirate"
(8 pages, drawn by Don Rico)

Dr. Mortal: "The Lion-Man"
(6 pages, written and drawn by Bert Whitman)

Voodoo Man: "The Return of the Voodoo Man"
(8 pages, maybe pencilled by Alan Spectre)

"The Speaking Rock"
(2-page text story)

Bird Man: "The Giant Lizard Invasion"
(8 pages, maybe pencilled by Arnold Mazos)

Typhon: "Dwellers of the Sea"
(10 pages, maybe pencilled by Phillips Judge)

The contents don't give me a clue as to why I researched this comic book. The only other information I can give you is that THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE thinks a near-mint condition copy of the issue is worth $2750. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs it at $2000. I'd venture to say the odds of my ever reading this issue are pretty darn slim.

Do any of *you* have a clue why I was interested enough in the comic to do even this small research on it? I'm open to theories. Because I got nothing.

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



Jughead's Double Digest 108

Archie Comics sends me their monthly press releases/schedules and I figured it was time I started sharing them with you. Yes, I realize most of you don't enjoy Archie comics as much as I do, but I keep hoping you'll give them a try.

Adventures of the Fly The biggest news for October is the publication of ADVENTURES OF THE FLY ($12.95), a 96-page trade paperback reprinting - in full color - the first four issues of the title from 1959 and 1960. Two Joes kick off the collection: Joe Staton provides the cover art for the volume and co-creator Joe Simon pens the foreword. Simon wrote the stories (with co-creator Jack Kirby collaborating on a few of the earliest tales) and drew some of them. Other artists included Kirby, George Tuska, Al Williamson, Angelo Torres, Jack Davis, Bob Powell, and Paul Reinman. A stellar line-up, to be sure. You can expect a review of ADVENTURES OF THE FLY as soon as a copy lands in my hot little hands.

What else looks cool from Archie in October?

Craig Boldman, my favorite of the current Archie writers, has stories in ARCHIE #552 and JUGHEAD #161. Tania del Rio continues the manga-style adventures of SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH with issue #62 of that title. I'll be reviewing the new look SABRINA in this column within the next week or two.

VERONICA #156 looks interesting, too. The lovely Miss Lodge has a new boyfriend...the son of the just-elected President of the United States! How strange...I didn't realize any of John Kerry's three sons were young enough to be dating Ronnie.

Look for more Archie previews tomorrow.



Brother Destiny

One of the drawbacks of reviewing stuff - and I freely admit there aren't many - is that sometimes you don't like a comic book as much as you want to. That was the case with BROTHER DESTINY #1 [Mecca Comics; $2.99], a series so rooted in the Marvel Comics of the 1970s that, at first glance, I thought I was in for a nostalgic romp through my own first years in the industry.

The title hero is a mortally wounded World War II soldier who stumbles onto a secret mystic retreat. He is not merely healed of his wound; he is charged with great power, power which will someday be used in the service of mankind. Or something like that. Sadly, editor/writer/artist Chris Nye's story includes so many characters and elements that I'm not sure I could keep track of them even with a scorecard.

This is a failing I've seen many times before. The creators know their creations intimately. They are virtually bursting with ideas. But they fail to present those creations and ideas in a way that those who aren't as wrapped up in them will be able to follow them and be entertained by them. Sometimes a creator has to bridle his enthusiasm and imagination in service of the work.

There were things I liked about the first issue. Though Nye's layouts and drawing look like the work of someone who's read HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY too many times without realizing a) it's just a guide, not the Bible, and b) John Buscema drew better than God, they do have a certain goofy charm. If he had walked into the Marvel offices on the right day in the 1970s, say a day when a book was falling behind schedule or in need of a fill-in issue, he might very well have gotten an assignment. Even today, were I writing a traditional super-hero series, I could do a heck of a lot worse than to have him as an artist.

I also took an instant liking to his "Brother Joey" character. Nye gave the character a distinctive appearance and speech pattern. I hope we see more of Brother Joey in future issues.

Circling back to where this review started, BROTHER DESTINY #1 is not as good a comic as I wanted it to be. The best I can award it is what I hope is an encouraging two Tonys.

Tony Tony

For more information on Mecca Comics, go to:



Freaks! How to Draw Fantasy Creatures

Steve Miller's FREAKS! HOW TO DRAW FANTASY CREATURES (Watson-Guptill; $19.95) is the launch of a new series on drawing fantastic characters and creatures. This isn't going to be an actual review of the book - I don't think I'm equipped to judge the effectiveness of a "how to draw" book - but Watson-Guptill keeps sending me all of these neat-looking books that I feel compelled to share with you as best I can.

Miller knows good stuff when he sees it. His opening remarks reference Jack Kirby, Walt Kelly, L. Frank Baum, and Mickey Mouse, among others. He's also put together a fairly impressive array of contributing artists: Art Adams, Bryan Baugh, Brett Booth, Jessica Ruffner Booth, Mitch Byrd, Steve Hamaker, and Todd Nauck. Miller has worked as a designer of toys and of characters for video games. In short, he's got the credentials for this book.

If you're not an artist or aspiring artist - See me raising my hand back here? - I think you can still enjoy FREAKS for the shots of various animals and reptiles turned into fantastic characters. If you are an artist/aspiring artist, you ought to be able to pick up some tricks from the terrific drawings.

This isn't a review. I said that up front. However, if this subject matter interests you, FREAKS is definitely worth checking out at your earliest opportunity.



New TONY POLLS questions are posted every Monday. Last week, working from a list of Emmy Awards nominees, we asked you to vote on the outstanding drama series and the outstanding lead/supporting actors and actress in a drama series.

Here are the results.


Joan of Arcadia (CBS).....29.03%
The Sopranos (HBO).....22.58%
The West Wing (NBC).....17.74%
CSI (on CBS).....16.13%
24 (Fox).....14.52%

Of these nominees, JOAN OF ARCADIA was the easy choice for me. It's a brilliantly-written, brilliantly-performed series about faith. Real faith. Not the hate-speech you get from the religious right. However, had either ANGEL or COLD CASE been nominated, I'd have had a much tougher decision.


Kiefer Sutherland (24, Fox).....31.03%
Martin Sheen (The West Wing, NBC).....27.59%
James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, HBO).....20.69%
James Spader (The Practice, ABC).....12.07%
Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace, CBS).....8.62%

I didn't vote in this category. I stopped watching West Wing when it started leaning ever-so-slightly to the right. I had stopped watching 24 after the first season because I really hated the ending. I've only watched Without a Trace once and have never watched The Practice or The Sopranos. Ergo, nothing for me to vote from these nominees.

It would have been a different story if either David Boreanaz (ANGEL) or Joe Mantegna (Joan of Arcadia) had been nominated. Both of them did brilliant work this season.


Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia).....29.51%
Jennifer Garner (Alias, ABC).....21.31%
Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order SVU on NBC).....18.03%
Edie Falco (The Sopranos, HBO).....16.39%
Allison Janney (The West Wing, NBC).....14.74%

AMBER TAMBLYN was my easy choice among these nominees, but I think Mariska Hargitay deserved to be considered, as did the not-nominated Kathyrn Morris (Cold Case) and Mary Steenburgen (Joan of Arcadia)


John Spencer (The West Wing, NBC).....25.86%
Steve Buscemi (The Sopranos, HBO).....24.14%
Brad Dourif (Deadwood, HBO).....18.97%
Victor Garber (Alias, ABC).....15.52%
Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos, HBO).....15.52%

Here's another category I passed on. My list of deserving actors who should have been nominated would include Alexis Denisof (Angel), John Finn (Cold Case), James Marsters (Angel), and Michael Welch (Joan of Arcadia).


Stockard Channing (The West Wing, NBC).....29.82%
Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos, HBO).....26.32%
Janel Moloney (The West Wing, NBC).....21.05%
Robin Weigert (Deadwood, HBO).....14.04%
Tyne Daly (Judging Amy, CBS).....8.77%

I also passed on this category. Had she been nominated, I would have voted for Becky Wahlsthom (Joan of Arcadia). The acting on that show is the best in television.

This week's questions ask you to vote on your favorite sci-fi legends of TV...and weigh in on where you stand in relation to the various eras of comic books. You can check them out and cast your ballots at:



Star Trek: Other Realities First off, it's a great pleasure to make your acquaintance. I've grown up reading on your work from DC and Marvel and have your most recent prestige format STAR TREK book from Wildstorm. I have two things to ask you in regards to your time at BIG TWO during the 70s and early 80s:

Why did DC and Marvel never do any comic-book adaptations of the popular detective and action/adventure shows of that era? In your case, I could have seen you adapt BARETTA into a comic book. Some shows which could have been done include:


The Rockford Files, Kojak, Columbo, McCloud, Knight Rider, Airwolf, and Magnum P.I.


Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, Charlie's Angels, Kung-Fu, Starsky & Hutch, Spenser: For Hire, Dukes of Hazzard, Fall Guy


Have you a response to WIZARD's recent article alleging writer Micah Ian Wright pulled a reverse-Jayson Blair in regards to his fabrication of his background?
Both companies were oriented largely towards fantasy, horror, pulp adventure, sci-fi, and super-hero material in those decades. DC dabbled in a few other genres - romance, war, western - but the only out-of-genre TV adaptation they did was WELCOME BACK, KOTTER, for which I wrote one issue.

Looking back with 20-20 hindsight, CHARLIE'S ANGELS could have been successful for either company. Ditto KUNG FU, though Marvel did it's own take on that with MASTER OF KUNG FU.

I never watched BARETTA, but I would have enjoyed writing such a comic. Next to super-heroes and pulp adventure, police stories are a favorite genre of mine. However, your question leads me to ask a question of you:

How did you decide which shows would have been better done at Marvel and which at DC?

If you get a chance, please write me again. I'd be interested in hearing the reasoning behind your choices.

As for the WIZARD article...

I don't read WIZARD. Nothing against the magazine per se, but they don't send me review copies and I'd rather spend what limited recreational money I have on books, comics, and DVDs.

Wright has admitted to falsifying his background and has paid a steep price for the fraud, losing assignments at DC/Wildstorm and a sequel to his original poster book. I regret Wright's falsehoods because, even without the phony ex-Ranger background, I thought he was a powerful voice against the dubious military actions/policies of the Bush administration. I truly regret the loss of that voice. Not much else I can say.



I was wondering if you are going to get a chance to review the Hawkman issue of the Julius Schwartz tribute series. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, put it at the top of your pile. It is the first issue of said series that is a tribute to both Julie and the spirit of the Silver Age. Most of the other issues have been either too self-conscious or too mocking for me to enjoy fully (sad to say but I really hated the Green Lantern issue), but this issue makes up for the dreck and dross of the previous three.
I'm going to be reviewing all of the Julius Schwartz tribute comics in a special "Tony's Tips" column for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. The current plan is for me to review the tribute issues *and* the original stories which inspired them. My rough guess is that this column will appear in either CBG #1599 or #1600.

That's all for now. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/05/2004 | 08/06/2004 | 08/07/2004 >>

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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:

Tony's Online Tips
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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