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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Swing with Scooter 1

By the power vested in me as the supreme ruler of all things TOT and also my less-than-enviable stature as a resident of one of them "swing states" besieged by more campaign ads and candidate visits than can possibly be good for it, I hereby select SWING WITH SCOOTER as the official comic of hapless "swingers" in Ohio and its fellow swing states. As we would say it in the Latin: Permissum nos groove, meus frater quod sanctimonialis.

SWING WITH SCOOTER was one of DC Comics' never-ending, doomed-to-failure attempts to be "hip." DC keeps trying this, beating the odd pregnant woman to death here, turning a hero evil there, but it just isn't in the company's blood to be "hip" and it never seems to understand that "good" is better than "hip" anyway.

I bought SWING WITH SCOOTER #1 [June-July, 1966] when it was published because I was as much of a sap as DC Comics. Of course, I had the excuse of being 14 at the time.

I don't remember a lot about it. Scooter was a British rock-and-roll star who moved to the United States to be a normal teen going to a normal school. Put in those terms, it might've made for a mildly amusing TV show back then. Even today, its basic concept might make for a mildly amusing TV sitcom. Somebody should take a meeting on this.

I do remember I really liked Joe Orlando's art on this series. The Archie comics, blessed with talents like Dan DeCarlo, had long since set the standard for teen humor comic books, but Orlando was able to bring something fresh to the genre. I bought several other Orlando-drawn issues during the title's 36-issue run - he did just over a dozen - and ignored the others. I kind of recall that the "British rock star" element was downplayed and possible eliminated entirely about midway through the run.

THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE has the opinion that a near-mint condition copy of SWING WITH SCOOTER #1, cover and art by Orlando, would sell in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks. The second edition of THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS pegs the price at a more affordable $30.

Paying a quick visit to eBay, the only completed sale I found was a lot of issues #1 and #3 which went for $5.65. Remarkably, a very good copy of the debut, offered by my pals at Graham Crackers Comics, failed to attract even its very reasonable opening bid of eight bucks. Go figure.

There are two current auctions, neither of which have garnered any bids. A good condition copy has an opening bid of nine bucks. A "Buy It Now" copy is available for seven bucks, but, judging from the photo of the issue, it's a stretch for the seller to deem it as being in "near fine" condition.

In the interest of science, however, I will happily accept any and all issues of SWING WITH SCOOTER sent to me. I think readers who don't live in swing states have an obligation to ease the lot of those of us who do. We didn't *ask* to take the heat off you by being so darned vital to the democratic process.

Let's see what else I have for you.



Let's take a moment to wish the happiest of birthdays to our own BOB INGERSOLL, one of the most decent guys it has ever been my great privilege to call "friend." Over the years, Bob has written some fine comics, collaborated with me on two well-received novels, and done his best to educate the comics masses via hundreds of his witty "The Law Is A Ass" columns for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. You can find a whole bunch of those columns here:

In addition, Bob has been creating and hosting his five-days-a-week MOVIE QUIZ at my message board. Each week's movies share a common theme, adding another challenge for the movie buffs who have participating in these quizzes. Yours truly is absolutely hopeless when it comes to getting any of these right, but, if you're looking to test your cinema chops, Bob is waiting for you at:

Once again, let me extend birthday wishes to my pal Bob. May he have many more joyful and successful years and may we continue to enjoy his company as well.



Frankenfish DVD

Chalk this up as a pleasant surprise for me and my son Eddie. Depressed by Ohio State's loss on Saturday, we watched a couple of episodes of BABYLON 5 - thanks again to the generous TOT reader who sent me the boxed sets of seasons two through five as a gift - and, then, for the heck of it, we decided to watched the Sci-Fi Channel debut of FRANKENFISH, a 2004 movie which must have been shipped to the network within hours of being finished.

Here's the skinny: something is killing people in the bayou of some unnamed state which is probably not New Jersey or even Ohio. A medical examiner and a pretty biologist are sent to the bayou to investigate the death of a local fisherman. Before long, the cast of characters has grown to include the fisherman's brother, wife, and daughter, an arrogant young lawyer who is the boss/boyfriend of the daughter, a Vietnam veteran who served with the dead fisherman, a rich hunter, his crew of three, and the last two hippies on the planet. They are all pretty much on the bottom of the food chain with genetically-altered snakehead fish on top.

This low-budget movie was a hoot and a half, which is why I'm not going to give away any additional details. As one online film reviewer pointed out, it starts out as JAWS and turns into TREMORS, albeit a lot more gory than either of those films. As befitting a small budget, the plot doesn't hold together perfectly, the acting isn't always good, and some of the monster attacks will remind you of other movies. Just the same, it's a fun flick.

Some of the characters have brains and use them in trying to survive, not that this helps all of them. One of the deaths took me completely by surprise, both in terms of who died and how that person died. The film makers used animatronics and CGI for their monster effects and the deft combination was amazingly effective. I was so engrossed in the movie that it wasn't until my second look at the movie - I taped it - that the "frankenfish" could have been Dick Cheney's bastard aquatic children:


Watching this movie on the Sci-Fi Channel did mean an ungodly number of commercial interruptions. I'm considering buying the DVD of the movie so I can watch it uncut. As far as content, though, I doubt Sci-Fi edited that much from the film. There may have been a quick bit of mammary nudity we didn't see, some language might've been bleeped, and perhaps the TV version cuts away from some of the gore faster than in the original movie. But, honestly, considering how much we did see, I doubt it was crucial.

The Sci-Fi Channel will show FRANKENFISH again tomorrow night [October 14] at 8:00 p.m. EST. I recommend you tape it and watch when you're in the mood for some goofy and gory fun. On our scale of zero to five, FRANKENFISH gets four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Potomac River, THE WASHINGTON POST gives us this:

The latest northern snakehead fish found in the Potomac River may be the most significant yet: It's a baby, three inches long and proof that the Asian predator is breeding in native waters, scientists say.

You can read the rest of the article here:



Nightwing 97

SPOILER WARNINGS AHEAD as I look at NIGHTWING #97 [DC Comics; #2.25] by writer Devin Grayson with penciller Mike Lilly, and inker Andy Owens. It's the third part of the second act of BATMAN: WAR GAMES, the three-month-long event running through most of the Bat-titles this fall.

The Nightwing who stars in this issue is unrecognizable as the Dick Grayson from countless Batman and Teen Titans stories I have enjoyed in decades past. Could this dissociation be the result of some pre-GAMES mental or physical trauma? Perhaps, but after three pages of his whining in captions and a page of the mystery villain torturing a captive for the fun of it, I stopped caring.

This villain might be the architect of the gangland shootout which triggered the gang-war or he might merely be taking advantage of it. We seem to learn his identity by the end of this chapter - after another brutal torture scene and extraneous message parlor titillation to excite the little boys reading this comic - but that could be a red herring. The torture seems out of character for the big-name villain in the reveal.

Between the torturous writing and the uncertain reveal, this issue was the least enjoyable WAR GAMES chapter to date. Call me hard-nosed, but it gets no Tonys whatsoever.

No Tonys



Not long ago, I asked TONY POLLS voters to play TV DEATHWATCH and pick the shows they thought would be the first canceled in this new season. Here are the WEDNESDAY results:

WIFE SWAP.....22.83%
Center of the Universe.....17.39%
Method & Red.....7.61%
The Mountain.....5.43%
America's Next Top Model.....3.26%
Kevin Hill.....3.26%
The Bernie Mac Show.....3.26%
Law & Order.....1.09%
The West Wing.....1.09%
60 Minutes.....0%
CSI New York.....0%
King of Queens.....0%
That '70s Show.....0%
The Bachelor.....0%

The Wednesday votes were spread out a lot more that almost any other day of the week. I was torn between voting for WIFE SWAP and HAWAII. Ultimately, I figured the salacious-sounding title of the former would keep it along longer than the scripted drama, despite the exotic locale of the latter.

What am I watching on WEDNESDAY? Too much, but that could be changing in a few more weeks.

LOST is probably my favorite show of the evening. How well it holds up for me will depend on how long the show takes to unravel some of its mysteries. They don't have to reveal everything, but there does need to be some movement.

KEVIN HILL got off to a great start. If the hero continues to behave in a noble manner and if he gets some challenging cases in his job, this could continue to rate high with me.

LAW AND ORDER and SMALLVILLE are shows I watch because of my kids. Eddie has been a fan of the original L&O for a couple years now and, though neither of us much like the new cop, it's still a consistently watch-able show.

I was all set to drop SMALLVILLE until Kelly took a liking to it. I still wish they had kept Lana in Europe and out of the show this year, but we can always hope her boring teacher-boyfriend gets busted for messing with a student and she has to leave the town in disgrace. I also wish the writers would stop dumping on Chloe and bring back Pete Ross. Smallville is too damn white.

I haven't mind up my mind about CSI: NEW YORK yet. I haven't gotten interested in any of the characters, but there have been a few good cases. I'll stick with it for now.

I dropped THAT '70s SHOW after three episodes. The characters are neither interesting nor likable this year.

Look for a double dose of TV DEATHWATCH in Friday's edition of TOT. Until then, why not vote on this week's TONY POLLS questions at the usual online ballot box:

These new questions all concern the DC-inspired cartoons which are currently airing on Cartoon Network and Kids WB: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, TEEN TITANS, and THE BATMAN. The questions will remain open for voting until sometime after midnight on Monday.

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

Tony Isabella

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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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