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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 Saturday, October 23, 2004

Boston Red Sox

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on their astonishing and exciting comeback to win the American League championship. Those final games were some of the best baseball I've watched all year, made more golden by my being able to watch them with Sainted Wife Barb and our son Eddie.

Intending no disrespect towards the St. Louis Cardinals - the National League champs - I'm hoping Boston wins it all and puts the "Curse of the Bambino" to rest. Then baseball can concentrate more fully on the "Curse of Chief Wahoo," which insures the Cleveland Indians won't win a World Series until they retire their racially-insensitive icon.

Around the Cleveland area, hating the New York Yankees is big. I've never hated them per se, but it did my heart good to see them tank so badly. They played as if they felt they were entitled to win just because they're the New York Yankees; that arrogant sense of entitlement bothers me as much in sports teams as it does in the Bush administration.

Blame it on my middle class background. I dearly love it when the pompous and the powerful get their asses handed to them. The crying of the Yankee fans is music to my ears and I'm hoping for an even bigger concert in November.

I'm still in a VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF MY DESK mode, but I'll be including other material in upcoming columns as well. With the assistance of my pal Jon Knutson, I have a Very Special Edition of TOT coming your way in a few days.

Let's get today's journey underway.

******

ARCHIE & FRIENDS

Archie and Friends 86

Archie comics might not reflect the totality of real life for today's teenagers, but they still strike a familiar note or three as they go about their business of entertaining readers. The cover of ARCHIE & FRIENDS #86 [$2.19] hit home for me; the school system in my hometown of Medina is heading for a financial crisis of its own if a November levy fails to pass.

Craig Boldman's "The Next Big Thing" leads off the issue. The Archies aren't getting any gigs, but an Archies "tribute band" is doing just fine. Much to Reggie's dismay, Archie is generous with his assistance to the new band. The result is a thoughtful story with some good messages for young readers. Not to mention terrific art by penciller Rex Lindsey and inker Rich Koslowski.

Also in this issue:

"Pussycats in the Dark" by Abby Denson, which strives just a tad too hard to make its own good points;

"Parking Problem" by Bill Golliher, wherein the Riverdale High kids face a contemporary problem (that's good) and come up with a fanciful solution to it (that's not good);

plus a selection of one-page gags and fan pages.

On our scale of zero to five, ARCHIE & FRIENDS #86 picks up a solid three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

******

BIRTHDAY BOY

Age of Bronze - Trojan War

Here's wishing the happiest of birthdays to ERIC SHANOWER, the writer/artist of AGE OF BRONZE, one of the very best comics being published today, as well as a series of breathtakingly beautiful graphic albums based on the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, and lots of other way cool comics and illustrations.

In AGE OF BRONZE, the Eisner Award-winning Shanower brings the epic story of the War at Troy to comics with an amazing attention to detail, an impressive way with characterization, and a classic-yet-modern sense of storytelling. For more information on AGE OF BRONZE and Shanower's other work, go to:

www.ericshanower.com

Happy birthday, Eric, and may you enjoy many more joyful and successful years to come.

******

CONCRETE

Concrete

This is an event!

CONCRETE: THE HUMAN DILEMMA [Dark Horse, six issues, $3.50] is Eisner Award-winner Paul Chadwick's first Concrete mini-series in six years. Its on-sale date is December 29, but the fine folks at Dark Horse sent me an advance copy of the first issue. By page 12, I was on the edge of my seat and stayed that way straight through to the end of this first issue.

What makes this so remarkable is that edge-of-my-seat usually denotes death-defying action. That's not the case here. There is no physical action per se in this issue. What there is drama and plenty of it as Concrete mulls an offer to endorse a controversial program to reduce overpopulation...and as his aide and friend Larry prepares to propose to the woman he loves. Moreover, though the wealthy individual trying to recruit Concrete does nothing which I could point to as even remotely villainous, he still gives me the chills. Now that's writing!

Chadwick's art? It's as good as his writing.

CONCRETE: THE HUMAN DILEMMA #1 picks up the full five Tonys. Do not miss this series.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

GALLIFREYAN GAZETTE

Tardis

THE GALLIFREYAN GAZETTE is the semi-monthly newsletter of the WHOOSIER NETWORK, a friendly crew of Doctor Who, comics, and sci-fi fans from Columbus, Indiana and thereabouts. It's edited by my pal MARK DOOLEY and packs a lot of news and fun features into its dozen pages. To subscribe to this fine fanzine (12 issues for $17 USA; $20 Canadian; $22 overseas), send a check or money order payable to Mark C. Dooley to:

The Gallifreyan Gazette
c/o Mark C. Dooley
105 Wehmeier Street
Columbus, IN 47201

In related news, Dooley will debut MARK AND DEE #1, his first full-length comic book at this year's MID-OHIO-CON. I've seen much of the issue and liked it so much I allowed Mark to use my smiling face in his Mid-Ohio-Con program book ad. Supplies of this first printing will be limited, so make sure Mark's booth is one of your first stops at the convention.

******

KARAS

Karas 1

Dark Horse also sent a preview copy of KARAS #1 [$2.99], which goes on sale December 1. I confess the book left me cold. Here's what DH had to say about here:

In the not-too-distant future, Japan is under siege by strange mechanical monsters led by a sinister ex-hero named Eko. Though the future looks bleak, all is not lost. There is a young hero chosen by the Landlord Yuri to fight against the phantoms that plague Japan. He is KARAS, a powerful armored being appointed to defend the innocent. With the help of Yuri, his mystical mentor, Karas sets out to preserve the natural balance of the universe, and to prevent the friendly old-world monsters from being transformed into mechanical demons!

KARAS is the newest creation from the minds of Tatsunoko Productions (the production company of SPEED RACER and BATTLE OF THE PLANETS) and Keiichi Sato (THE BIG O).

The comic - written by Phil Amara (THE NEVERMEN) and drawn by amazing newcomer Nuria Peris - has a moody style and introverted characters that will appeal to fans of VAMPIRE HUNTER D, NINJA SCROLLS, and GHOST IN THE SHELL.

The issue started out well for me, a conversation between an older detective and a younger one. I don't know what significance they have to the story, though, since they don't appear elsewhere in the issue. I sort of like the concepts of Eko, a fallen hero who has gone over to the dark side, and Karas, a reluctant hero who would rather be a healer. But the rest of the story feels like the creators just threw in as much weird stuff and stuff they like from other anime/manga series and stirred it around a bit. I finished reading this first issue and couldn't think of any pressing reason to read the next. That happens sometimes.

KARAS #1 gets but a single Tony.

Tony

******

TONY POLLS

Last week's TONY POLLS questions asked voters to weigh in on three current cartoons based on DC Comics characters. Here are the results of those polls.

QUESTION #1: Which of these current DC Comics cartoons is your favorite?

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED.....77.03%
Teen Titans.....16.89%
The Batman.....6.08%

I voted with the majority here.

QUESTION #2: On a scale of zero to five, how would you rate JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED?

Five.....35.29%
FOUR.....52.94%
Three.....10.29%
Two.....0.74%
One.....0%
Zero.....0.74%

That makes twice in a row I voted with the majority. I think JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED is a wonderful show. There's room for improvement - more heroes of color would be nice, more non-costumed characters in pivotal roles - but it's still a must-watch show for me. Even if DC won't let them use Black Lightning.

QUESTION #3: How would you rate TEEN TITANS?

Five.....8.96%
Four.....26.12%
THREE.....36.57%
Two.....14.93%
One.....8.96%
Zero.....4.48%

I'm with the majority yet again. The only reasons I didn't go one notch higher is that the show's anime affectations often get in the way of the story and the humor occasionally gets too silly for my taste. My daughter Kelly loves the series; we watch it together every week.

QUESTION #4: How would you rate THE BATMAN?

Five.....2.56%
Four.....15.38%
THREE.....38.46%
Two.....25.64%
One.....7.69%
Zero.....10.26%

The voters like this show better than I do. I gave it a TWO. Bruce Wayne looks completely hideous and there are so many obvious toy placements in the episodes that they might as well be filming a TOYS 'R' US commercial.

QUESTION #5: Which JUSTICE LEAGUE supporting characters would you like to see more of?

QUESTION.....17.48%
Green Arrow.....14.69%
Zatanna.....11.89%
Supergirl.....11.19%
Atom.....6.99%
Blackhawks.....5.99%
Booster Gold.....5.99%
Hawkgirl.....4.90%
Doctor Fate.....4.20%
B'wana Beast.....3.50%
New Gods.....3.50%
Aquaman.....2.10%
B'wana Beast.....3.50%
New Gods.....3.50%
Captain Atom.....2.10%
Etrigan (The Demon).....2.10%
Hawk and Dove.....2.10%
Metamorpho.....2.10%

I had narrowed it down to the top three choices above, but, ultimately and predictably, I cast my vote for ZATANNA. The heart wants what the heart wants.

That said, let me add that I love THE QUESTION as portrayed on the series to date. He's a hoot-and-a-half.

SMALLVILLE is the topic of the current poll questions, which will remain active until sometime after midnight Sunday night. You can vote on them here:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

New questions will be posted on Monday.

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

After writing about CRIME DOES NOT PAY #98 for the October 15 edition of this column, I heard from my pal ANTHONY "TEX" TOLLIN, renown for his vast knowledge of old-time radio and, of course, the Shadow. He wrote:
The Chip Gardner stories in CRIME DOES NOT PAY were written by my old buddy Walter Gibson. I suspect that many of them were probably rewrites of his earlier CHICK CARTER, BOY DETECTIVE radio scripts.
Anthony and I chatted on the phone shortly after I received the above e-mail and decided there was - at this time - no evidence to connect the Chip Gardner stories with the earlier Chick Carter radio scripts. On the other hand, rehashing plots was a stable of both pulp magazines and comic books, so it's possible the prolific Gibson repeated himself now and again. As always, any information on this - and any information on uncredited comics stories of the past - is of interest to me.

We can't do anything about the low rates and frequently lousy treatment comics creators of yore endured, but we can, at least, do our utmost to properly credit them for their work.

******

WRITER FOR HIRE

A few readers asked how my financial/work situation was these days, so here's a as-brief-as-possible update:

Things are still very tight. I've done a couple of small jobs for a non-comics client, but nothing else has come across my desk since I mentioned this a few months back.

I'm definitely available for comics and most other writing or editing assignments that pay on completion or thereabouts. I'm not particularly interested in assignments that pay on the back end at the present time - many of these gigs never result in a paycheck at all - but I wouldn't automatically rule out doing something with an artist or an editor I admire.

If you have any questions about my ability, availability, or interest in any project, don't rely on second-hand info concerning me. Drop me an e-mail and we can set up a phone call to talk about said project.

One way or another, I do plan to start writing comics stories again. If you're an artist who would like to work with me, chat me up at Mid-Ohio-Con. I have a different kind of comics anthology in the planning stage and will have info on it at that most beloved of all comics conventions. That also goes for any publisher who would like to get it on this project.

Meanwhile...

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

Tony Isabella

<< 10/21/2004 | 10/23/2004 | 10/24/2004 >>

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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