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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 Sunday, October 17, 2004

Captain Storm 1

We lost IRV NOVICK a few days ago. Following a long illness, the veteran artist passed away on Friday. I didn't know Novick - never met him at the DC offices or at the San Diego convention he attended a few years back - but I certainly knew his work.

He was a top artist for MLJ (now Archie Comics), drawing most of their top super-heroes at one time or another. When MLJ moved away from the adventure stuff, he worked on a couple of syndicated strips and in advertising. Then he was back in comics, drawing the war comics edited and often written by his former MLJ collaborator, friend, and neighbor Robert Kanigher.

From the war comics (and the Kanigher-edited romance comics), Novick would go on to draw most of DC's big guns as well. He was especially known for his Batman tales, but he also drew the Flash, Lois Lane, and Superman. On his NEWS FROM ME blog, Mark Evanier offers more information and insight on Novick's movements at DC and how the company respected and valued his work. You can read Mark's comments at:

www.newsfromme.com

When I think of Novick, the first image that always comes to mind is the cover of CAPTAIN STORM #1 [May-June, 1964]. Storm was, naturally, a Kanigher creation. On his first command, a PT boat in the Pacific, Storm was ambushed by a blood-red Japanese submarine. Wounded and thrown from the boat, Storm watched helplessly as the sub sank his ship and slaughtered his crew. Only he survived, but, as a result of his wounds, his left leg was amputated at the knee. The Navy gave him a wooden leg and, as I recall, tried to put him behind a desk.

Storm fought his way back to active duty, showing courage and determination above and beyond the call of duty. I have this vague memory that he tracked down, fought, and perhaps even sunk the sub which killed his first crew. I think he might have done this more than once.

Kanigher was a brilliant, fast, and fiery writer. In the grip of creativity, I don't think he always paid attention to what had gone before. In lesser writers, this disdain of continuity would have bothered me. In RK's case, I happily went along for the ride. The man had power to spare.

For some odd reason, I have always associated Novick with the Captain Storm character. His artistic style, which is, of course, all I really knew of the man, had a gutsy and tough quality to it. It was full-speed-ahead from start to finish, even when applied to Lois Lane tales. I don't know if Novick the man was anything like Novick's art, but, in his feisty responses (or non-responses) to an interview Evanier conducted with him at the San Diego convention, I get a sense that my long-distance analysis of his character was not very far off.

Novick retired from the comics when his eyesight began to fail him in the late 1990's. In 2001, he suffered a fall which put him in a wheelchair, but which didn't stop him from attending the 2002 Comic-Con International. He moved into a physical rehabilitation facility last year. I'd like to think of him as fighting his way back to active service at the time of his passing.

NEWSARAMA [www.newsarama.com] is reporting that donations in Novick's honor can be made to:

Alzheimer's Association
225 N. Michigan Ave.
Ste. 1700
Chicago, IL 60601

We lost Irv Novick a few days ago, but, in truth, he's still with us. For fifty years, he drew terrific comics and that work is and will be cherished for many years to come.

******

A DIFFERENT COMMITMENT TO OUR ROOTS

Whenever comicdom loses someone like Irv Novick, I think the comics publishers - with as much help from comics readers as the publishers are willing to accept - should produce some sort of book to honor such creators. As a comics professional, I'd be honored to assist in the creation of THE BEST OF IRV NOVICK or THE BEST OF ROBERT KANIGHER or THE BEST OF any number of other talented artists and writers and editors. As a comics fan, I would be waiting with open wallet to purchase such books, especially if the profits from same were earmarked for a charitable cause chosen by the surviving family of the creators.

I am far from being a leading comics historian and my personal resources are limited. However, here and now, I offer my services to any comics publisher with the ability and desire to honor their creators in this manner.

You need an introduction or other text material? Consider me on call for you.

You need help selecting the stories? I'll offer suggestions and solicit suggestions from my readers.

You need editing or proofreading. If I can work from my home, you've got me.

Pro bono, baby. Free of charge.

If we want to be taken seriously as an art form and as popular culture, and I think we do, we need to embrace and honor the many talented creators who have entertained and inspired us throughout comics history. It's time to celebrate our heritage on a dedicated and ongoing basis.

I'm reporting for duty. How about you?

******

ROBIN

Robin 130

BATMAN: WAR GAMES finally starts picking up speed again with ROBIN #130 [DC; $2.25], part five, act two, of the three-month-long event holding court in eight different Bat-titles. "The Only Light in Gotham" starts with a brutal battle between the Spoiler and the mystery villain who has been flitting in and out of this extended story...and I'm not remotely kidding about the brutal part. I felt uneasy reading it, something I rarely feel with over-the-top comics violence. The fight disturbed me because it *wasn't* over the top. It was believable. Kudos to writer Bill Willingham and artist Jon Proctor for pulling this off.

Things actually happen in this issue. We learn the identity of the mystery villain. Tim Drake's dad finds out (from Tim) that his son has become Robin again. The Drake family pitches in. It looks as bad for Spoiler as it did for Orpheus in part four, but I'm hoping it isn't as bad - for either of them - as it appears. Spoiler, despite her shortcomings, is a decent kid. Orpheus is one of DC's too-few black heroes. Both of them deserve better than to be cannon fodder in this story.

ROBIN #130 gets four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

BATGIRL

Batgirl 56

BATGIRL #56 [$2.50] features "Collateral Damage," part six of act two of WAR GAMES, which, as you surely must know by now, is a three-month-long event running in several Batman titles. A curfew has been established in Gotham in the hope of keeping civilians out of the line of fire as various criminals and gangs vie for control of the city's underworld.

The criminals ain't Mensa material. The Moxon Family has a sniper trying to control a street; most of his kills are civilians. The Ghost Dragons attempt to seize the clinic run by uneasy Batman ally Leslie Thompkins. It doesn't go well for them.

Meanwhile, the mystery villain revealed in the previous part chats with another mystery-to-me-because-he's-not-named villain who offers him directions to the Bat Cave. Undercover hero Orpheus is still dead with Spoiler likely to join him. I keep hoping they're playing possum.

WAR GAMES continues to pick up speed with something happening in every issue. But the overall event still feels padded, as if DC wanted a trilogy of trade paperback collections whether there was enough story to fill them or not. Writer Dylan Horrocks, penciller Mike Huddleston, and inker Jesse Delperdang do satisfactory jobs in their respective arenas, but BATGIRL #56 doesn't rate more than two out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony

******

TV DEATHWATCH

Some weeks 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. We've been running the results all week long and have now arrived at the big finish.

Here are the SUNDAY results:

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.....31.31%
The Partner.....22.22%
Jack & Bobby.....18.18%
Boston Legal.....7.07%
Steve Harvey's Big Time.....7.07%
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.....5.05%
American Dreams.....3.03%
Arrested Development.....3.03%
CBS Sunday Movie.....1.01%
Charmed.....1.01%
King of the Hill.....1.01%
60 Minutes.....0%
America's Funniest Home Videos.....0%
Cold Case.....0%
Crossing Jordan.....0%
Dateline NBC.....0%
Law and Order: Criminal Intent.....0%
Malcolm in the Middle.....0%
The Simpsons.....0%

These turned out to be some of the most interesting results in the polls. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES has turned out to be the biggest hit of the season's new shows. Fully 42% of the shows listed here didn't receive a single vote.

What did I vote for?

EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION.

I hate shows that have snotty strangers come into the homes of presumably decent people and remake them. This probably stems from my own dislike of people touching my stuff. I'm still angry about how an in-law turned my library into a playroom for my kids...who almost never used it then and who never use it now. That was ten years ago; there are still things I can't find as a result of her meddling interference.

What do I watch on Sunday?

My favorite Sunday show is COLD CASE. Kathryn Morris stars as Detective Lilly Rush, who investigates unsolved murders. The show has just enough personal stuff mixed in with the fascinating cases to make it one of the best cop shows, if not *the* best cop show, on the air. The writing is first-rate and the supporting actors - John Finn, Thom Berry, Jeremy Ratchford, and Danny Pino - are the equal of the scripts.

I watch DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES with Sainted Wife Barb. I like it a lot more than I would have thought. It could fall into TWIN PEAKS territory, too many secrets and not enough answers, but I'm sticking with it for now. My suggestion for sweeps week would be to have the impossibly and psychotically "perfect" Bree Van De Kamp (played wonderfully by Marcia Cross) get major freaky in an attempt to keep her hubby from divorcing her. I'm talking serious swinging on a pole and lap dancing here, folks.

Although they haven't started their new seasons yet, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and THE SIMPSONS are must-see TV for me. I'm still on the fence vis-a-vis MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE. I had kept watching it for the Francis and Otto segments, but one pre-season report I read gave the impression that Francis will be back home and Otto's dude ranch won't be part of the series. Given how unlikeable the rest of the characters have become, that could be enough to break me of this particular viewing habit.

That wraps it up for TV DEATHWATCH. As for our current TONY POLLS questions, today will be your last full day to vote on which of the ongoing DC Comics cartoons - JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, TEEN TITANS, and THE BATMAN - is your favorite, as well as how you rate each of them. You'll also get to vote on which JLU guest stars you would like to see more of it. You can cast your votes at the usual polling page:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

I'll be posting new poll questions on Monday. I haven't made up my mind on their content yet, but I'm leaning towards SMALLVILLE questions. We'll both know what I decided come Monday.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 10/16/2004 | 10/17/2004 | 10/18/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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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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