Today's column is dedicated to all my friends and readers at Wizard World Chicago, especially those who oh-so-politely request new Tony Isabella comics from the editors and publishers they meet. Such conversations might be long shots in terms of generating those new comics, but I do appreciate them.
Today's TOT spotlight shines on MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST: VOLUME 1 [Dark Horse; $17.95]. This full-color trade paperback collects the first two issues of the ongoing Escapist series in a more compact format and for five cents more than the combined originals would have cost you. Since the originals are themselves handsomely-made squarebound books and standard size, I recommend them over this collection. Still, past the pricing, there's no denying the quality of the Escapist stories and text presented herein.
These are pretend "classic" comic-book tales of the costumed escape artist who figured so prominently in THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY, Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Running between the stories are wonderfully wry commentary and "historical" pieces on the Escapist and his evolution through the decades. If you get the gag, these are great fun.
The comics themselves, often tongue-in-cheek, are entertaining in their own right. The stories are written by Chabon and others, and drawn by a stunning array of artistic talent: Dan Brereton, Kyle Baker, Howard Chaykin, Gene Colan, Steve Lieber, Val Mayerik, Jim Starlin, and others. Without sacrificing the personalities of the artists, the tales still fit perfectly into the mosaic that is the history of the Escapist. There's even a manga version of the Escapist, allegedly licensed by a Japanese publisher in the 1980s, and a Gene Colan story (shot from his pencilled artwork) which is said to have been suppressed in the mid-1970s.
These adventures ARE amazing...amusing...and even thoughtful. Comics fans will doubtless derive the most pleasure from them, but "civilian" readers will enjoy them as well.
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST: VOLUME 1 is a delight on several levels. It earns the full five Tonys.
I reviewed ARCHIE #550 a few days ago [August 9] and, in the course of that review, discussed the company's support for grizzly bears in the issue's cover story. That prompted the following note from Archie chairman/co-publisher MICHAEL I. SILBERKLEIT, offering additional background on the story:
Thanks for your kind review of the bear story. There is more to it and I guess our PR folks forgot to send you the info. A while ago, I found out there were four grizzly bears at the Bronx Zoo named Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead. I contacted the folks at the zoo to learn more and found out that these four giants were "nuisance bears" or extreme survivors being given one last chance or they would be euthanised.
Editor Victor Gorelick and writer George Gladir came up with a story and we ended up sponsoring an Archie weekend at the zoo. We gave away 50,000 comics with the story to all the kids who came to the zoo on a beautiful weekend about a month ago. We had Archie characters walking around...and Victor, Stan Goldberg, and Fernando Ruiz were also there autographing drawings of Archie and the gang. It was a great weekend and everyone had fun.
Is it any wonder I have such warm feelings for Archie comics and the folks who create and publish them? What a wonderful way to introduce new readers to comics while supporting a very worthwhile cause! Kudos to you, my friend.
That's all I have for this edition of TONY'S ONLINE TIPS, but I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
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.
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