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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, September 8, 2004

Dime Detective 1243

This is the cover of DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE [December, 1943]. It's here because it was posted to Yahoo's COVER_UPS mailing list and, on seeing it, I knew I had to share it with my loyal legions of TOT readers. We'll speak of COVER_UPS shortly, but, first, I'm going to attempt - and doubtless fail - to impress you with my vast knowledge of this magazine as gleaned an exciting ten-minute ride through the Internet.

DIME DETECTIVE was the first hit from Popular Publications, a pulp magazine outfit of the 1930s. It ran 274 issues from November of 1931 to August of 1953. One entry opined that it was the most popular mystery pulp of the era.

DIME DETECTIVE seems to have emphasized continuing characters with a particular fondness for oddball detectives. There was BILL BRENT, a hard-nosed newsman who wrote his paper's lovelorn column under the name "Lora Lorne." There was THE DEAN, who was a private eye, professional fortune teller, and con artist. There was even a gent by the name of HORATIO HUMBERTON; he was a detective and an undertaker.

The pulp magazine afficionados among you should feel free to further my knowledge of DIME DETECTIVE and its characters through e-mails or even samples of the stories in which these fascinating characters starred. I await enlightenment.

As for COVER_UPS, it's a moderated mailing list run by my pal Mark Stratton. It promotes the sharing and trading of pulp fiction covers, as well as discussion thereof. It's a restricted list, but you can apply for membership at its home page:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Cover_Ups

It's a fun group that has brought me many hours of pleasure. I recommend it highly.

******

THE PASSION OF THE TONY

I'm going to be digging deep into TONY'S MAILBOX today, trying to catch up on reader comments that have languished in my files for far too long. For starters, I'm going back to March for this note from CHRIS LANG:
I have read TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for a number of years now. I may not have agreed with everything you've said, but I have always found your column entertaining and informative. Lately, however, you have disappointed me.

Your most recent column [March 1] and a recent message board post indicate you pre-judged Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and hopped on the "It's anti-Semitic" bandwagon.

I'm under the impression you have yet to see the film. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I thought you knew better than to just blindly accept others' judgement of something before you see it for yourself. I had my own doubts all along that THE PASSION was actually anti-Semitic, and, now that I've seen the film, I'm still not convinced.

As near as I can tell, the movie is no more anti-Semitic than the Gospels themselves.

There are two scenes in the film that would seem to indicate that no, it is NOT anti-Semitic. One is the flashback to Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, in which he states that no one takes his life, he will give it. Indeed, if Jesus sacrificed himself for the sins of all humanity, then the Jews and Romans who were actually there were just doing their part in God's plan.

The other is where Jesus says "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." The emphasis on Caiphas in this scene indicates that Jesus is not just talking about the Roman soldiers, but the Jewish leaders who demanded his crucifixion.

I agree Gibson shouldn't excuse his father's denial of the Holocaust, but I decided not to judge the film based on that. I decided to see the film first, and then decide what I thought about it. The film is very well done, but it does assume one is already familiar with the life of Jesus going in. I also wouldn't recommend it to young children, as the cruelty and gore may be too much for them. I didn't find the violence to be gratuitous; I'm pretty sure the actual torture and crucifixion happened more or less as it is depicted in the film, and to clean it up would be to miss Gibson's point entirely.

The point, unless I'm mistaken, is that Jesus went through torment no sane person should wish on anybody, all to save humanity from its sins.

Anyway, I'm disappointed that you appear to have decided the film is anti-Semitic without seeing it for yourself first.

I'm not one of "the right." I believe Bush has more important things to worry about than gay marriage. However, just because "the right" is wrong doesn't make everything that "the left" says right. Think before repeating the judgmental statements others make, even if the others are people you have great respect for. And before you pass judgement on any film, TV show, or comic, be sure to see it for yourself and make your own judgments afterward.

I didn't want to be the one to say this, but I felt I had to. If at all possible, please address my objections in a later column. If I'm jumping to conclusions myself (as I'm accusing you of), then at least try to set the record straight.
I'll start by apologizing for taking so long to get this note into the column. Even with a daily column, it's tough to include as much content as I'd like.

Rereading my column remarks - the message board post was not available when I checked - I don't believe I was commenting on THE PASSION at all. I wrote about Gibson's marketing of his movie and how he successfully deflected charges it was anti-Semitic. Then I expressed my opinion that Gibson doesn't get what I consider to be the true message of Jesus Christ:

Love one another.

You are correct that I haven't seen the film, but I also have not condemned it for being anti-Semitic. I haven't seen it because I didn't think I would enjoy it on any level and because I believe that Gibson is a jerk. I suspect that he would have much the same opinion about me. I could respect that.

My assessment of Gibson isn't based on his film.

I think Gibson is a jerk because he didn't condemn his daddy's ravings strongly enough, much the way Bush didn't condemn the lies of his Swift Boat goons strongly enough.

About the same time Gibson was brusquely brushing aside his father's statements, he was telling reporters that his beloved wife would be going to Hell because she wasn't a Roman Catholic. That set off my jerk alert as well.

Finally, I believe Gibson used piety as his sales gimmick. He appealed successfully to the fanaticism of the religious right to put their holier-than-thou butts in the seats. Regardless of the merits of THE PASSION as a movie - or the lack thereof - I resented what I saw and still see as a blatant manipulation of his targeted audience. So I chose not to see THE PASSION.

I don't get to see many films in theaters. Due to my ongoing ailments, it's difficult for me to sit through most of them. The movies I see are either movies I take my kids to see or movies that have some connection to comics. For the most part, I prefer to see movies via DVD. This fits my life better.

Will I rent THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST? Probably not. I don't have a lot of free time for movie or television viewing, sometimes not even an hour a day, and there are so many other films and shows I'd much rather see. However, I would never review this movie or any other movie without seeing it.

Make a joke at its expense? Sure thing.

Discuss its marketing? Fair game.

An actual review? No.

I hope this addresses your objections sufficiently. Because that's all I have on this particular subject.

Thanks for writing, Chris, and, once again, my apologies for not getting to this sooner.

******

DC TIMELINE

It isn't just e-mails that have been sitting in my files too long. There are also notes which I made to myself reminding me to alert you to spiffy websites.

Comics historian Bob Hughes has been building a spectacular DC TIMELINE online. Here's what he says about it:
This is an attempt to list significant events in the history of DC Comics in as chronological order as possible. Most dates are the cover dates from the comics themselves. It should be recognized these dates tend to be two months after the actual release date. Other dates come from various published sources and have varying degrees of precision. Everything is relative. No attempt is made to list everything that ever happened. More detailed information is contained in the various works cited in the bibliography. Non-DC comics events listed are included because of their relevance to the history of DC Comics, not to their own companies. An attempt has been made to refer to the company by the appropriate name in each period. This is not an attempt to explain super-hero continuity. There are other web sites that do that. All opinions given are mine and probably can't be changed. Factual errors will be thankfully corrected.
I checked Bob's website this morning and he has entries from 1925-1995. Additionally, there are sections for imprints Piranha, Vertigo, and Paradox...and on "DC's Other Comics" (pulp magazines with ties to DC). This timeline is an amazing achievement and Bob isn't finished with it yet.

You can view it at:

www.supermanartists.comics.org/DCHISTORY/DCHISTORY-1.htm

******

NOT A PSEUDONYM

Judge Dredd Megazine 216

I reviewed JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #216 a while back [March 25] and, in that review, opined that "Rufus Dayglow," the name listed in the credits of "Whatever Happened to Giant," must be a pseudonym of the story's artist. I was informed otherwise by Jamie Boardman, Rebellion graphic novels editor:
Just FYI, Rufus Dayglo *is* Rufus Dayglo's real name, as far as I'm aware. I also understand that Rufus has a remarkable set of tattoos - the head of Judge Dredd as drawn by each major artist to have worked on the character! Thanks as ever for your interesting and perceptive reviews!
Thanks for the correction, Jamie. Of course, now that I have this information, I have no choice but to ask my British readers to track down Dayglow and get photos of his Dredd tattoos for a future edition of the column. Well, at least the ones well north or south of his naughty bits.

******

COVER STORIES

Champions 6

I'm not entirely sure of the background of these next bits of business. They were messages I posted to a mailing list responding to questions asked of me. I'll paraphrase the questions as best as I can recall them.

How important were Jack Kirby's covers? They must've sold well since he drew so many of them. Did his later Marvel covers - in the 1970s - not sell as well since he eventually only drew them for his own titles? Or was there another reason he stopped doing the covers? Were you at Marvel during this time?

I wasn't privy to Jack's contract talks. It's possible that drawing covers for books other than his own were part of the deal. Perhaps as a trade-off for Jack writing his own stuff. I know that there were editors and writers - I won't name names - who weren't happy they wouldn't have Jack drawing their stories.

Initially, I think everyone was thrilled to have Kirby covers on their titles. I had left staff by then, so I never had any say one way or the other. I don't know that Jack's covers sold better or worse than anyone else's covers. The entire industry was in a slump at the time.

Was there a specific month when Kirby covers on titles other than his own became less frequent? That could indicate a change in his contract or an unwillingness from the office folks to work with him. As I said, I wasn't on staff by then. I heard some staffers were less than thrilled with Jack's deal.

The oral history, such as it was, which I picked up during my time as a Marvel staffer and editor, left me thinking that, while there was personal unpleasantness in the industry from the start, it got much worse in the 1970s and through to today. It seems that as creators made gains in pay and benefits, they started to - for lack of a better phrase - feed on each other more.

Add editors/staffers competing with freelancers for the best and even the least assignments to the mix and it got worse, a whole lot worse. That's a major reason why, as much as I'd love to write comics once more, it's not *killing* me not to.

The covers were too "busy" and cluttered...with lots of characters, word balloons, blurbs, and so forth...and did they just not showcase Kirby to his best abilities. Many of his earlier covers jumped out at you because he designed the covers himself and knew how to grab the buyer and poke him in the eye.

Again, I wasn't working in the office then. I usually didn't see the covers until they were finished...and sometimes not until they hit the newsstands. Given my druthers, which I rarely am, I prefer to work out cover designs with an artist. That allows me to plan the copy beforehand and work better with the art. Some covers need little or no copy. Others need more.

The important thing is to look at the cover as a sales tool. It's an ad first and a work of art second.

Can you provide any insight on the use of certain words on covers? I'm thinking specifically of a period in the mid-seventies when "kill" and "death" seemed to appear in over-abundance. Was there data correlating increased sales to the use of these words? Was this the Marvel equivalent of DC putting the gorillas on their cover? Were there any other "magic" words which help to increase sales?

The only instance that I can recall of being specifically told something re: what makes covers sell was when Roy Thomas mentioned that putting a skull on a Conan cover always seemed to be good for a few extra sales. Skulls, of course, are often used in subliminal advertisements.

The overuse of "death" and "kill" was failure of imagination more than anything else. People writing cover copy wanted strong words; those two are the easy ones.

One of these days I'll have to look through the Marvel horror and western covers from my office days - when I was writing some of the cover copy - and see if I can pick out the covers I conceived and/or wrote and if I overused "death" and "kill".

******

THE BIG FINISH

That takes us through the March files. I'll be covering more current stuff tomorrow before bouncing back to check out the April files later in the week.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 09/07/2004 | 09/08/2004 | 09/09/2004 >>

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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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