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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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for Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Justin, our wondrous web-wizard, should be back from his trip to Wizard World Chicago as you read today's TOT. Mostly because, if he's not back, you're *not* reading this column on account of I don't know squat about getting it from my computer to the website. I remain a technological caveman.

This will be the last of our "short form" TOTs for at least a few days. I have several special columns in the works and I hope to start bringing them to you as early as next week. In addition, our well-received MY FIRST MARVELS series will be making its return before the end of the month.

Justin and I hope you have been enjoying our efforts here and will do our level best to keep bringing you this feature on a daily basis. If you'd like to make it a bit easier for us to do that, I direct your attention to the TIP THE TIPSTER link elsewhere on this page. Thanks for your support.

Let's see what we have for you today.



Comic Book Marketplace 112

We are living in *the* Golden Age of Comic Book Scholarship, though I personally think "scholarship" is far too stuffy a word to convey both the amazing research being done in comics history and the enormous fun we derive from pursuing it and reading about it. Publications like the bigger-and-better COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE and Roy Thomas' ALTER EGO, not to mention all the great online journals and resources, prove my point over and over again.

COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE #112 [Gemstone; $6.95] brings its own special fun to the party with contributors that include some of our hobby's most knowledgeable experts, writing entertainingly on some of the oddest and rarest comics ever published. This issue focuses on horror comics of the 1950s, covering such topics as mummies, a "beloved" issue of VAULT OF HORROR, severed heads, Marvel's first forays into fear, Brand X terror titles, DC's WEIRD MYSTERY TALES, handsomely-illustrated revisions of genre icons like FRANKENSTEIN, and British reprints of American suspense and sci-fi stories. Over a dozen full-color pages showcase covers by Russ Heath, Lee Elias, Don Heck, and other legendary comics artists in all their original and gloriously gory detail

Besides the creepy coverage of its main horror theme, CBM #112 presents Michelle Nolan writing about Stanmor romance comics, an interview with INCREDIBLE HULK writer Bruce Jones, and a sampling of market reports from around the country. It's a terrific-looking magazine, just the ticket for those times when my arms are just too tired to lift the latest issue of the afore-mentioned bigger-and-better CBG.

Am I true to my school or what?

COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE #112 earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Smack dab in the middle of the 1970s, former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, allegedly angered that his son Chip hadn't remained in a position of any real authority after Goodman sold his company to Cadence Industries, started a new company called by a name he'd used in the 1970s: ATLAS COMICS.

Atlas Comics was an interesting blip on the comics scene and, because Goodman was paying higher rates than Marvel, a number of my Bullpen buddies - freelancers, not staffers - took the short walk to the Atlas offices to pick up an assignment or three.

For many reasons, I had decided to leave my editorial position at Marvel. This coincided with the new Atlas launch. My decision wasn't connected to the launch, but, as a born-again freelancer, I agreed to chat with Atlas editors Jeff Rovin and Larry Lieber about writing for them. Ultimately, I only wrote a few things for them. I didn't lack for Marvel assignments and, from the get-go, higher rates or not, Atlas looked shaky to me.

That's prologue to what I really want to write about in this section. I recently discovered - which really means that someone told me about it and I can't remember who - a site devoted to the short-lived second coming of Atlas Comics. It's called THE ATLAS ARCHIVES and, though I've only skimmed it a bit, it looks pretty neat. You can check it out for yourself at:

Unrepentant creature of ego that I am, I did a within-the-site search on "Tony Isabella" and, to my surprise, found several items. The first of these - and the only one I've read at this writing - has an "Atlas News" section from THE COMIC READER #115 [February, 1975]. Here's the cover...

Comic Reader 115

Here's an edited excerpt from the news section:
The new Atlas book-of-the-month is THE BARBARIANS, a spin-off featuring a 10-page IRONJAW story (in addition to his own magazine) and a 9-page pirate story by Esteban Maroto.

There will be two more super-hero books added to the Atlas roster soon.

New writing assignments:

Tony Isabella - GRIM GHOST, MORLOCK 2001, IronJaw in THE BARBARIANS

Tony Isabella and Pablo Marcos will be the writer and artist combination on MAN-MONSTER in the pages of TALES OF EVIL.

All Atlas books will be carrying 19 pages of artwork.

After terrible distribution of the first month of Atlas color comics (November), with few if any reaching the customers in most areas of the country, things are looking up. The local distributors are getting the books displayed a bit better, though there is room for improvement.
I'm not sure who supplied TCR with the above information back then, but it sure came as a surprise to me.

I might have been involved in one or both of the super-hero books mentioned above. Goodman had been offered the rights to the THUNDER AGENTS. Larry Lieber and I prepared short pitches on what could be done with the THUNDER roster. Goodman wasn't convinced, opting instead to pick up the rights to TIPPY TEEN.

I wrote one issue of THE GRIM GHOST for Atlas and discussed a new direction for MORLOCK 2001. Some elements from the latter did end up in the last issue of the MORLOCK comic - with my blessing - but I didn't write that last issue.

Reading the above was the first time I heard about my writing IRONJAW. Outside of scripting a Thongor story overnight as a favor to my boss/mentor/friend Roy Thomas, the closest I came to writing a sword-and-sorcery comic was when, for about a week, I was going to write Robert E. Howard's KULL for Marvel. I mapped out a good arc of stories, but, ultimately, my existing editorial duties and writing assignments ruled out my working on KULL. I didn't think I could devote the time the series would require and I didn't want to produce something unworthy of Howard's creation or the standard of excellence Roy had set with his work on CONAN and other Howard characters.

I did create and plot the one and only MAN-MONSTER story that appeared in TALES OF EVIL, but Pablo Marcos was never attached to the project. My plot was drawn by Rich Buckler, who, somehow, got a co-plotting credit on the story, and scripted by Gary Friedrich. This was my second version of Man-Monster; Goodman had rejected an earlier version which involved a government project gone horribly awry. It was better than the second version, but that really isn't saying much.

TALES OF EVIL, by the way, has got to be one of the stupidest comic-book titles ever. What did it mean? What was it supposed to mean? I never figured it out.

Atlas Comics *did* have horrible distribution, which I believe hurt Atlas far more than the uneven quality of their publications. Inside-the-industry rumors abounded that DC or Marvel or both had put the distribution equivalent of a "hit" on Goodman's outfit and that wouldn't have surprised me. There was considerable bad blood between all three parties.

Hmm...looks like this turned out to be not such a "short form" TOT after all. There's just no stopping me when I get swept up in my personal nostalgia.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 08/16/2004 | 08/17/2004 | 08/18/2004 >>

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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:

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