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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Rawhide Kid 42

We start today with the warmest of birthday wishes to our pal LARRY LIEBER, who turns 73 years young today. Larry is currently drawing the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip, which is written by his older brother, a guy name of Stan Lee.

Comics-wise, Larry started writing and/or drawing all sorts of comics stories in all sorts of genres: mystery, romance, western, crime, science-fiction. I always enjoyed his super-hero scripts in the early 1960s, the start of the "Marvel Age of Comics," but, if you asked me to name my favorite of his work, my answer, sans any hesitation, would be RAWHIDE KID.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had retooled the western hero into a bantam-sized brawler barely out of his teens. They did about two years worth of issues before Kirby moved to other projects, mostly featuring the ever-expanding roster of Marvel super-heroes. Other talented artists followed Kirby on the series, but it wasn't until RAWHIDE KID #42 [October, 1964] that the young outlaw truly found his very own Ned Buntline in Larry Lieber.

Larry wrote and drew all but a handful of the new Rawhide Kid stories from then until the book went all reprint in the mid-1970s. I'm not sure if he drew the cover which leads off today's column - the Grand Comics Database lists no credits for it - but he did draw the cover of RAWHIDE KID #49 [December, 1965] and a few dozen more after that one.

Rawhide Kid 49

Somewhat compact of stature myself, I identified strongly with the Rawhide Kid. Lee and Kirby had established his unfair outlaw status, adding a sense of alienation to the wild western action to be found in the Kid's adventures. Another powerful attraction for me. I was a teenager when I first discovered the title and not too far out of my teens when I went to work for Marvel. Being hounded and hunted were feelings with which I and most of my peers related. We'd seen a young president assassinated and were watching our own contemporaries fight and die overseas for reasons that never stood the test of time.

Following one of the toughest acts in comics, working without the colorful costumes and soap opera overtones of the super-heroes, Larry still managed to capture everything I loved about the Rawhide Kid. I never missed an issue.

On a personal level, Larry was one of the friendliest and most supportive creators I met during my early comics career. I learned more from him than he realizes...and dearly loved working with him during those years. There is something fundamentally unfair about a universe that doesn't have a new Larry Lieber RAWHIDE KID comic book for me every month.

Happy birthday, Larry, and many more to come.



Detective Comics 799

DETECTIVE COMICS #799 [DC; $2.95] is the start of Act Three of BATMAN: WAR GAMES, wherein "a hypothetical scenario never meant to be actualized" has actually and prematurely been put into motion, setting off a city-wide gang war in which hundreds of people have died. That the scenario was only "hypothetical" is either Batman deluding himself or his editors doing a stealth retcon.

Writer Andersen Gabyrich's "Good Intentions" opens with Batman arrogantly and smugly believing everything is going to plan. The plan falls apart on page six.

The story is terrific, leaving me horrified at how Batman's psychotic pride has put himself, his allies, and the city in dire jeopardy...and horrified at how I really don't give a hoot whether he survives or not. This guy is no more MY Batman than the villain impersonating still-dead undercover hero Orpheus is really Orpheus. This Batman IS the menace the police think he is. Penciller Pete Woods and inker Cam Smith hold up the visual end of the chapter as well as Gabyrich holds up his end.

The page count of the ish is padded by an annoying advertising insert in the middle of the lead story. It's for Milton Bradley's HEROSCAPE game.

In the back-up spot, a Riddler/Poison Ivy story concludes on a meaningless "illusion of change" note. The writing is so-so at best, but the Tommy Castillo/Rodney Ramos/Tony Avina art is lovely to behold. More, please.

On our scale of zero to five, DETECTIVE COMICS #799 picks up a surprising four Tonys. I credit Gabyrich and company for making the most out of what they had to work with.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Layo y Lola

This was an eBay impulse buy. I was looking to buy a HI AND LOIS comic book and came across this special bilingual issue from 1974. It was produced by King Features and Charlton Publications. The first half of the issue had stories in Spanish while the second half had the same stories in English.

For example, here's a panel in Spanish:

Spanish Panel

Here's the same panel in English:

English Panel

I assume the intention was to use to comics to help students learning these languages. Since my daughter Kelly is now taking an introductory class in Spanish, I thought she might get some use out of this comic book. Maybe even score a few brownie points when she brings it into to show her teacher.

There are no credits on the interior stories, but all of them are good for a chuckle. The tales are very light on copy, but that was likely intentional. If I had ever seen one of Charlton's own HI AND LOIS comics, I might be able to tell you if these stores are typical of those they published.

This issue is numbered "L-4" in the indicia, but I don't know what significance, if any, that has. If I learn anything further, I'll share it with you in future columns.

Want me to write about some of the other eBay purchases I've made? Just drop me a note and let me know.




I didn't think much of "Low" - the three-part Riddler/Poison Ivy serial which ran in the back of DETECTIVE COMICS #797-799 - but I keep thinking *about* it. More accurately, I keep thinking about "Edward Nigma" or whatever his real name is.

I haven't been following the various Batman titles regularly, so I don't really know what Eddie has been up to for the last ten years or so. I gather he played some sort of key role in BATMAN: HUSH and that, as a result, he is pretty much hated by the rest of Batman's villains. I also read something online indicating he knows (or knew) Batman's secret identity and that he died and was restored to life through that Lazarus Pit which gets trotted out whenever Ra's Al Ghul feels his age. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on any of this while I post a big honking...


In "Low," Poison Ivy kidnaps, hunts, battles, and pretty much psychologically destroys the Riddler. The last chapter ends with her voice-over claiming she has succeeded in her objective. She is letting Eddie live, but the Riddler is dead.

Gonna do some brainstorming here.

In the hands of a better writer, this could be the beginning of an interesting series. Nigma is a genius. He's smart enough to figure out a way to use his gifts to earn a good buck working for clients who, while not overtly villainous, might be walking around in the grey areas of the law and the world. There could some good stories there.

Batman wouldn't be happy about his old foe being out there and working as a freelance operative. Eddie's clients wouldn't trust him completely, so they might decide he's disposable once whatever job he's been hired for is finished. The rest of the Bat-villains would still be gunning for him, so he would be spending a good deal of his life looking over his shoulder.

I think our boy Eddie could be a lot more fun, for DC readers, anyway, as a damaged detective walking the mean streets all by his lonesome than he ever was as a villain.

Just thinking out loud here. I'll let you know if my thoughts lead anywhere.

In the meantime, can anyone provide me with a list of Eddie's canonical appearance over the past ten years or so? I might want to do some catch-up reading.




Last week's TONY POLLS questions were all drawn from the WB's hit retelling of the adventures of Superman when he was a teenager. Here are the results of those ballots.

QUESTION #1: On the scale of zero to five, how would you rate SMALLVILLE?


My SMALLVILLE rating dropped lower as I started thinking about all the things I don't like about the show. It's currently holding at TWO and could go lower.

QUESTION #2: Do you want to see Pete Ross return?


Smallville is way too white. As in virtually exclusively so. If they don't bring back Pete and otherwise diversify the cast, I'm gonna start wondering if Clark Kent will be wearing a hood and robe before he ever dons the cape and tights.

QUESTION #3: Who is SMALLVILLE's hottest hunk?


You are so shallow. JONATHAN might have more than a few miles on him, but his rugged good looks have stood the test of time.

QUESTION #4: Who is SMALLVILLE's hottest honey?


You are shallow *and* blind. MARTHA has beauty, character, fire, and grit. I'll grant you Lois and Chloe are very easy on the eyes, but Lana? She's not even in their league.

QUESTION #5: Which of these DC characters would you most like to see appear on SMALLVILLE?

Legion of Super-Heroes.....17.05%
Black Lightning.....6.82%
Green Arrow.....5.68%
Phantom Zone criminals.....4.55%
Green Lantern.....3.41%
Wonder Woman.....3.41%
Martian Manhunter.....2.27%
Jimmy Olsen.....1.14%
Sandman (of the Endless).....1.14%

Do I really have to tell you who I voted for?

QUESTION #6: Do you think that the Feds have Smallville under observation?


I voted YES on this because the Feds would have to be stupid not to have it under observation. Then I remembered who is running the country right now and realized the question wasn't as cut-and-dried as I'd originally thought.

QUESTION #7: Do you think the Feds know who and/or what Clark Kent is?


I voted YES. I think they think he's...a liberal. As such, he definitely bears watching.

QUESTION #8: If you had to go somewhere in Smallville or the surrounding area, would it be safest to...

Drive your car.....2.41%
Ride the bus.....8.43%

Let's be clear on this. I am NEVER getting in a car with the 2.41% of you who would drive in that crazy place.



What about this week's questions? At this critical point in time, there is only one question:

Who would you elect as President of the United States?

You can cast your vote at:

The electronic ballot box will remain open until shortly after midnight on Monday morning.



I'm taking a day off to attend to some personal business, so look for my next TONY'S ONLINE TIPS on Thursday. You can expect a few politically-oriented reviews on either Friday or Saturday, and a very special Halloween column on Sunday.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 10/25/2004 | 10/26/2004 | 10/28/2004 >>

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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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