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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Saturday, October 16, 2004

Strange Tales 67

Today is Joe Sinnott's birthday. He's probably best known for inking Jack Kirby's pencils on the greatest run of FANTASTIC FOUR comics ever, so, naturally, to celebrate his birthday, I'm running a horror cover he pencilled and inked in the late 1950s. My mind works like that.

I can't recall when I first met Joe. It might have been at a Mid-Ohio-Con or it might have been at a Comic-Con International in San Diego. We might have met at a New York City convention when I was living there and still on staff at Marvel. I think the reason I can't remember when I first met Joe is because, once you meet the man, who is one of the nicest guys in the history of mankind, you feel like you've always known him.

In a sense, I knew him long before I met him. I was a serious Marvel maniac when he started inking Kirby on FANTASTIC FOUR, but I also knew his work from the TREASURE CHEST comic books I used to get at St. Phillip and James Elementary School on the west side of my then-hometown of Cleveland. When I was a little older, haunting used book stores and buying as many back issues of pre-hero Marvels (mystery, war, western) as I could find and afford, it was always a treat to find a Sinnott story in those comics.

To review:

Joe Sinnott is one of the finest artists in comics history and one of the nicest guys in the universe. Today is his birthday and you can send him greetings via his son Mark:

You can also visit Joe's wondrous website at:

You won't believe all the cool Sinnott art, photos, and tales - from comics and from Joe's life - collected there. It took more will power than I normally possess to drag myself away from it so I could write today's column.

Happy birthday, Joe. Now as ever, you are an inspiration to all who labor in the comics business and a treasure to the readers who have enjoyed your work for over half a century.



Joe Sinnott's cover for STRANGE TALES #67 [February, 1959] is at the top of today's column. It illustrates "Trapped Between Two Worlds," a six-page story pencilled and inked by Steve Ditko. The editor was, of course, Stan Lee, but the GRAND COMICS DATABASE does not credit him with the writing of this or any other story in the issue. Those other stories are:

"I Seek the Sea Serpent" (five pages, pencilled and inked by Don Heck");

"I Was the Invisible Man" (seven pages, scripted and pencilled by Kirby, inked by Christopher Rule, and reprinted in STRANGE TALES ANNUAL #2 and GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #1); and,

"The Man Who Never Was" (five pages, pencilled and inked by Bob Forgione).

THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE, which rather absurdly claims the "Invisible Man" story as a prototype for future Avenger Quicksilver, opines that a near-mint condition copy of the issue would sell for $235. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS has it at $175...and at least has the decency to add a question mark to the prototype nonsense. A quick trip to eBay showed no completed sales of the issue in recent weeks.



Frank Giacoia, Joe Sinnott, and Mike Esposito

When I came across this photo on Joe Sinnott's website, I knew I had to "borrow" it and show it to you. Taken by Sam Maronie, who is best known for his work in MAD magazine, this 1975 photo shows artists Frank Giacoia, Joe, and Mike Esposito. I'm guessing it was taken at the Marvel convention held that year.

I may not remember when I first met Joe, but I met Frank and Mike within a day or so of my going to work at Marvel in the fall of 1972. I don't know if they were on staff per se or if they were just given office space so they would be available for corrections and the like, but they definitely contribute to the "Bullpen" that made my time at Marvel so exciting.

Frank and Mike reminded me of my uncles back home. They were, though they never knew it, quite a comfort to a young man making a transition from the Midwest to the Big Apple. I loved hearing the two of them talk about this and that, especially when they told me stories of the comics industry in the 1950s and 1960s. I wish I'd taken notes back then or that I had a better memory now.

One thing that always stayed with me from those days was that, though working in the industry was a job to them, it was never just a job. They loved comics.

Sadly, Frank passed away some years ago. Mike is still with us, though it's been years - too many years - since we've spoken. I will correct that very soon, but that's a topic for another day's TOT. For now, just let me say Frank and Mike were two of the best "unofficial uncles" a Cleveland boy could have in the big, bad city of New York. They meant and mean a lot to me.



Mutant 2099 #1

I must have missed the memo. When did super-hero comic books stop being about hope and start being about hopelessness?

Impulse buy. That's what led me to order the Marvel Knights specials BLACK PANTHER 2099, DAREDEVIL 2099, INHUMANS 2099, MUTANT 2099, and PUNISHER 2099 ($2.99 each). There was major buzz around Robert Kirkman; I figured I'd acquaint myself with his writing via these done-in-one issues and take it from there. That the comics were set in a universe with which I had a passing familiarity was yet another attraction.

The premise of these MARVEL KNIGHTS 2099 books is that the US reinstated the Mutant Registration Act, the super-heroes resisted, and most of them were killed. For the most part, this is a future world without super-heroes. The same introductory page appears at the front of each issue.

Kirkman is, indeed, a good writer. I just didn't like any of these stories. In fact, I pretty much hated them. It's gonna take me a while before I give him another chance. However, I did want to say that I thought he was a good writer before I told you why I hate these comics and then proceeded to spoil them for those of you who haven't yet read them.


Given the opening page premise of these comic books, my take on them would be to show the rebirth of heroism in a society that has turned its back on the concept. Instead, Kirkman drives a few more nails into the coffin.


Here's where I start revealing the endings of these comics, so you really want to decide now if you want to continue reading this item or skip down to the next section.

The latest Doctor Doom invades and conquers Wakanda in BLACK PANTHER 2099. The youngest member of the country's ruling council reluctantly dons the mantle of the Black Panther and liberates his country. Except...he's nothing more than a pawn of Doom. So much easier to rule a conquered country that doesn't realize it's been conquered. It's a clever enough idea, but it certainly lacks the inspirational value of super-hero comics. The comic, nicely drawn by Kyle Hotz, rates three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

In DAREDEVIL 2099, the "hero" is the grandson of the Kingpin. Driven by guilt over his grandfather's murder of the original DD, repulsed by the old man's frequent gleeful retellings of the brutal slaying, the grandson is a mob boss by day and a crime-fighter by night. Another good premise which Kirkman undoes when the grandson executes his wife's lover and fully assumes the mantle of Kingpin. The art is by Karl Moline with Mike Perkins and inker Rick Magyar. I'll award another three Tonys to this one.

Tony Tony Tony

INHUMANS 2099 is perhaps the biggest exercise in pointlessness to be found in this series of comics. The Inhumans left Earth in the wake of the global intolerance towards super-humans. They have traveled in space for nearly a century, still abusing their kids by exposing them to the often-disfiguring Terrigan mists. The royal family is in stasis tubes and Maximus is running the show.

As the years go by, Maximus kills each member of the Royals in turn, sparing only Black Bolt. His master plan is to revive Black Bolt as the Inhumans are returning to Earth, confront him with the murders, and spur Black Bolt to a cry of anguish that will destroy the ship and everyone on it. It's a sick and twisted master plan, but it works just as Maximus wanted.

That's right. All the Inhumans are dead. For no good reason. This one gets no Tonys whatsoever.

No Tonys

MUTANT 2099 features a young mutant who teams with the brain of Reed Richards to fight crime. Kirkman gets points for the idea of medication which suppresses the onset of mutant abilities, and also Reed's using a Thing suit for his outlawed activities. Then, as is usual with these comics, he loses them because his young hero is only interested in being a hero when it's easy. This one picks up three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

PUNISHER 2099 was the only issue which didn't leave me cold. Kirkman's Punisher is the daughter of Frank Castle and Elektra and she's as crazy and criminal as her pop ever was. She wants her son to follow in the family's bloody footsteps. But he's not a killer. The line of psychopathic vigilantes comes to an apparent end with the death and burial of Cossandra Natchios. It may not be a happy ending per se, but it's as close as MARVEL KNIGHTS 2099 gets to it. With art by Pop Mhan, this one gets four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Exploring the dark side of super-heroes has gotten real old. It may be a dark world outside our window, but that's exactly what the super-heroes were create to address. It's long past time that we got back to the defining idea.



Spider-Man Strip

The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber may not be the pinnacle of comic art in our times, but, darn if it doesn't have its moments. The current Tarantula storyline is a nice parable on trusting one's leaders too much. And no one can tell me that Stan still can't throw out a bon mot with the best of them.


I'll teach you to mock the Tarantula!


Don't bother! I already know how!

I chuckled out loud when I read that one. If I wore one, my hat would be off to Stan and Larry. Two good guys still doing what they love. God bless them!



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 SATURDAY results:

Crimetime Saturday.....36.36%
The Apprentice (encore).....30.68%
48 Hours Mystery.....13.64%
The Amazing World 6.....9.09%
The Wonderful World of Disney.....5.68%
America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back.....3.41%
NBC Saturday Night Movie.....1.14%

I had no horse in this particular race because I don't watch any network shows on Saturday night. I voted for the rerun of THE APPRENTICE because of my conviction that someone should take a big stick to Donald Trump.

What I do watch on Saturday is DC cartoons: THE BATMAN in the a.m., TEEN TITANS and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED in the p.m. Oddly enough, those shows are the subjects of this week's TONY POLLS and you can vote on them here:

We'll wrap up our game of TV DEATHWATCH in tomorrow's edition of the online column that never stops loving you, even when you do not "Tip the Tipster" via our PayPal link.

Darn! I almost went an entire week *without* shilling for the donations which would greatly help World Famous Comics web-wizard Justin and me keep this column coming to you day after day. Better luck next week.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Sunday 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.

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