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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 Monday, August 9, 2004

Spider-Man: The '67 Collection

My family was on vacation last week and I filled those lonely hours writing columns and watching SPIDER-MAN: THE '67 COLLECTION [Buena Vista Home Video; $59.99]. Not the entire collection, mind you, which I believe consists of a billion cartoons, but just the first disc's fourteen episodes.

I don't feel like writing a review of the cartoons per se, but I do have some observations to share:

The opening theme song is unforgettable. I didn't watch many of the cartoons when they first aired - I was such an elitist snob back then - but I remembered most every word.

The best episodes are the stories which were adapted, however loosely, from the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics, especially "The Menace of Mysterio," "Captured by J Jonah Jameson," and "Never Step on a Scorpion."

The dumbest stories are the ones that have nothing to do with the comic books. The alien ice men in "Sub Zero for Spidey" are pretty hard to swallow, but the episode does have the subtle theme of fear breeding aggression. "Diet for Destruction" has absolutely no saving grace, just a giant metal-eating robot that appears sans any explanation for its existence.

The artwork - as opposed to the animation - varies, but some of the individual drawings, even besides the ones cribbed directly from Ditko or John Romita, are quite good.

The animation is limited in so many senses of the word. But I did get into seeing how clever the makers were at reusing footage throughout the episodes I watched. And also when they blew it big time. During one scene in "The Power of Doctor Octopus," Spidey is in a cage in one shot, outside of the cage and wrapped in chains in the next, and back in the cage in the third shot.

The villains all talk in melodramatic villain tones about how no one can stop them, nothing can withstand their power, the world will be theirs, and so on. Even the Rhino talks like that and he's dumb as a stump.

Betty Brant is kind of hot in these cartoons. Maybe it's that bright red hair. Maybe it's the tight secretary look. Maybe I was just lonely, but she could have done my filing for me any time, if you know what I mean and I think that you do.

If you ever play a SPIDER-MAN CARTOON DRINKING GAME, I caution you *not* to include taking a drink when Jameson slams his office door and knocks his portrait askew. I swear they did that in every one of the cartoons I watched.

The most surprisingly unnerving moment comes when the villain Parafino ("Master of Wax") starts melting away to nothing. Turns out the real Parafino was on a pedestal pretending to be a statue. For nearly the entire episode. No explanation of how he brought his wax doppelganger to life is offered.

The second silliest moment is when the Green Goblin tries to summon demons. These "demons" are the simplest looking ghosts you ever saw. Casper the Friendly Ghost could have kicked all of their asses...if they actually had asses.

The silliest moment is when the Rhino charges at the "camera." I can't describe it, but it was the stuff of spit-takes.

I had fun watching these old cartoons. I have five more discs to go and am looking forward to watching them over the next several weeks. Life is good. Indeed, one might even say, if one were so inclined, that it's a great big bang-up.

Let's see what else I have for you today.

******

ARCHIE

Archie 550

I've been in a kind of Archie mood of late, probably because Archie comics nicely fit the bill for light summer reading when I take the occasional short break from my duties of the moment. This is what brings us to ARCHIE #550 [Archie Comics, $2.19], one of the company's rare "socially relevant" issues.

When Archie Comics does social relevance, though it might not be on subjects as weighty as drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, or war fought for corporate gain, they nonetheless address the issues at hand with earnestness and good humor. This time out, the Riverdale kids are showing their support for grizzly bears.

George Gladir's "Bear in Mind" is an 11-page look at grizzly bears, the aspects of modern life which threaten them, and what the Wildfire Preservation Society is doing for them. It's lighter on the jokes than usual - but, by no means devoid of them - and very informative. Drawn by penciller Stan Goldberg and inker Bob Smith, the story is backed up by two text pages, one written by readers, on related subjects.

Craig Boldman gets the third spot in this issue - most Archie comics have four stories of 5-7 pages each - with "Crafty Caper." The good-natured tale show Archie and his pals at their best while building to a funny punch page.

The final tale is Greg Crosby's "Nix on Chicks" wherein Archie learns that most important of lessons: "Women! You can't live with them and you can't live without them!" Perhaps that isn't the most enlightened of morals, but it sure beats the "relationship" lessons to be found on television.

ARCHIE #550 gets four out of five Tonys. If you're new to TOT and don't know what that means, check out the handy chart somewhere to the right of the column proper.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

FLOWERS ON THE RAZORWIRE

Flowers on the Razorwire

Last week's mail included FLOWERS ON THE RAZORWIRE: EPISODE 1, the first installment of a new film series launched by Joe Monks of Chanting Monks Press and Hart D. Fisher of Boneyard Press. The DVD comes with a free comic book and the whole package looks intriguing as all heck. However, I trust Joe and Hart will understand that I will not be watching this DVD until my wife is at work and my kids back in school (August 25). I'm not sure I'm ready for this film, much less my Sainted Wife and my innocent offspring. But, watch it I will, and then I'll report on it to my loyal legions of readers. If any of said readers can't wait that long, they can get more info on the film at the Chanting Monks website:

www.chantingmonks.com

******

MY NEW FAVORITE QUOTE

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No matter how many times I listen to Bush say this, no matter how many jokes I hear about it, it never gets old.

******

SIMPSONS COMICS

Simpsons 96

I knew Chuck Dixon could be funny. I knew this because, many years ago, when former DC editor Dan Raspler and I were discussing pitches I was making to his planned ELSEWORLDS ANNUAL, he told me about the Batman/Superman story Chuck had pitched. Not only did I burst out laughing when Dan described it to me, but I told him it was funnier than my ideas and that he should buy it. I don't know if Dan took my advice or not, but we do know the annual so shocked Paul Levitz he had as much of the print run pulped as he could get his hands on. A few years later, Raspler was gone from DC. There are probably some folks up there who blame me for both events, but, as we also know, they're insane.

And not in a good way. Not like Chuck.

Uh-oh. Isn't this how Harlan Ellison got sued? If Chuck's reading this, let me quickly state I am merely indulging in silly exaggeration for effect and do not mean to convey the impression he is actually insane. And, if that doesn't work, I can show him my financial statements and he'll see suing me would be a monumental waste of time. I have to sell my blood to buy comic books and you don't want to know what body part I sold to get the computer fixed last time around.

Back to the review...

My problem with reviewing SIMPSONS COMICS #96 [Bongo Comics; $2.99] is that I want you to run out and buy this comic, containing as it does Chuck's hilarious "A Tale of 2 Pen Pals," without giving away even the slightest element of the story. I'm hesitant to even tell you that it revolves around Bart and Lisa having to write to pen pals in poor countries as a punishment for an incident at their school. About all I'm willing to say is this: it's good enough to be an episode of the actual Simpsons show and it would be ranked as one of the best episodes. Ever.

Dixon's script is worthy of award nominations a'plenty, but I also want to extend kudos to John Costanza (pencils), Phyllis Novin (inks), Art Villanueva (colorist), Karen Bates (letters), and Bongo editor Bill Morrison as the Beaver.

SIMPSONS COMICS #96 gets the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

TONY POLLS

This week'S TONY POLLS are being posted sometime today. Maybe already even. What is certain is that all of this week's questions are related to comics.

What's more important to you...the rights of real-life comics creators or the status quo of the fictional universe in which their creations currently appear? That's the first question.

You'll also be asked to give your "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to Avengers Dissembled, Catwoman, Comic-Con International, the new Comics Buyer's Guide format, and Identity Crisis. I'm not giving you any safe middle ground on any of these questions. It's either "yea" or "nay" and let God sort out the rest.

You can cast your ballots at:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

From TODD WILSON:
I wanted to thank you for taking me through my own trip down memory lane in your August 1 column. Unlike you, I focused mostly on DC comics during my childhood years of the sixties with just a few Marvels bought on the sly. I realize now how silly it was, but I only bought team books back then, thinking I was getting a better deal for the money spent.

Of the DCs you mentioned, the Doom Patrol and the Challengers were my favorites, especially the two issues in which they crossed over. My third favorite was Rip Hunter, Time Master. It took me over 22 years to finally find a copy of issue #1...after looking for nine years at the Chicago Con. There weren't comic-book shops when we were kids, so I missed quite a few issues due to the local drug stores not having a complete selection in my small hometown in Iowa. That comic still occupies the top spot in my collection, even above JLA #1 and X-Men #1.

Again, my thanks for the memories. I believe I'll go read the Challengers Archives again tonight before drifting off.

Challengers of the Unknown Archives Vol. 1     Challengers of the Unknown Archives Vol. 2
Thanks for your note, Todd. I'm having too much fun writing the MY FIRST MARVELS series and the main reason I'm not running it on a daily basis is that the installments do require more research and work than most of my columns. I hope to resume it in sometime next week, so watch for it.

Thanks to all my readers for spending a portion of their day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/08/2004 | 08/09/2004 | 08/10/2004 >>

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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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