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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 30, 2004

How about those Boston Red Sox?

Sorry. I'm just playing you. I'm not writing about something fun and good like the Red Sox winning the World Series and putting the "Curse of the Bambino" to rest. I wish.

Today (and Monday) we get politics. Comments on the process. Reviews of politically-oriented works and websites. A letter from a reader. What I predict will happen. What I would do. What I will do after the elections. Politics.

I'll try to make it entertaining or informative. I'm not sure I can manage both, but I'll give it my best shot.

******

BAD DAY FOR BUSH

Today's column has been on my mind all week, but I decided to hold off writing it until Friday. I wanted it to be as up-to-date as possible.

My writing started with my reading the Akron Beacon-Journal, my favorite of the three daily newspapers I take. By the time I'd finished the first section, it was clear that Thursday had been a pretty bad day for President Bush and the GOP.

Even Ohio's own Republicans are getting increasingly disgusted with their party's attempts to disenfranchise new voters. The Board of Elections threw out all 976 challenges to Summit County voters. Indeed, it was Republican board members Joseph Hutchinson and Alex Arshinkoff who moved and seconded dismissing the challenges on the grounds that the local Republicans who made the challenges had no proof of impropriety. It has been suggested, albeit by one of the Democrat board members, that the challengers could conceivably face criminal charges for their actions. Sweet.

I have a grudging respect for Arshinkoff. When the enormous Bush/Cheney sign on his lawn was deemed in violation of his town's zoning laws, he asked for and received the support of the American Civil Liberties Union in fighting for his rights. It's about time Republicans started realizing that the ACLU is truly a non-partisan organization; its only real client is the Constitution of the good old United States of America. If it appears to champion the causes of the left more frequently than those of the right, it's because and only because the right tends to play more fast and loose with that cherished document.

On the Iraq front, the evidence appears to be leaning towards the conclusion that those hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives did, indeed, go missing on Bush's watch...though born-again churl Rudy Giuliani is putting the blame on our troops and not those who give the troops their orders.

In my very pleasant dreams, the American public gets a smoking gun revelation that Bush and his bunch made a conscious decision to bypass securing the explosives to protect Iraqi oil. Admittedly, though, it would be of small consolation to those who have already been killed or injured by these explosives...and those who will be harmed by them in the future.

Election Day quagmire in Ohio seems likely as 3400 Republicans and 2000 Democrats challengers take up positions at polling places. However, a lawsuit has been filed claiming the 1886 rule allowing such challengers is unconstitutional because it makes no provisions for voters to appeal challenges against them. With the Democrats having been far more successful in recruiting new voters in Ohio, this lawsuit could deal the GOP a serious blow in its attempts to disenfranchise those new voters.

No one, certainly not me, objects to challenging obvious voter fraud. If "Dick Tracy" or "Mary Poppins" can't show proof of their identity, they shouldn't be allowed to vote. But the GOP have made challenges based on voters refusing Republican junk mail, clearly an abuse of the process.

In other bad news for Bush, the FBI is widening its probe of Halliburton, that company's actions, and the propriety/impropriety of those no-bid contracts it received from the Bush administration. The stink was on those shady deals from day one.

Will the above events play a major role in Tuesday's election? I'll have some predictions for you on Monday.

******

BUSH JUNTA

Bush Junta

Edited by artist Mack White and Fantagraphics co-founder Gary Groth, THE BUSH JUNTA [$18.95] gives us 25 cartoonists using their craft and talent to hold forth on "the Mayberry Machiavelli and the Abuse of Power." It goes without saying that this anthology has an anti-Bush bias, which would only be a concern if that wasn't made abundantly by the title, front cover, back cover, and virtually any interior page to which a reader might turn. The question I have to ask...is it good comics?

The book starts off well with Marcel Ruijters' "The Bush-Nazi Connection." It uses the comics art form to convey information in a clear and even entertaining manner. What makes the piece strong is that it backs up its claims by directing readers to the sources Ruijters used. Some may question these sources, but the cartoonist makes a strong case.

The most successful entries in THE BUSH JUNTA are those which use the comics art form to clearly make their cases. Those which are less successful are generally those which crowd too much info onto their pages or dilute the comics art form by presenting little more than copious text with illustrations.

On this basis, I thought the best pieces in the anthology were Ruijters'; Albo Helm's "Super Spook" (starring the first President Bush); "Poppy the President" by Jem Eaton; "The Skies of Texas" by Scott Gilbert, and the contributions of Carol Swain, Seth Tobocman, and Alejandro Alvarez.

Ironically, my favorite piece is the almost impossibly dense "Blacks, Babies, and Battered Women," Ethan Persoff's accomplished dissection of John Ashcroft. If I weren't already convinced that Ashcroft was, well, evil, Persoff would have sold me on the notion. It's a remarkable piece of work.

THE BUSH JUNTA is a tome best read over a stretch of time and with the reader skipping all over the contents. I read it over a long day and, to be honest, its stridently anti-Bush tone got to be wearying, even for someone as sympathetic to it as I am. I won't fault the anthology's ambitions or intentions, but, artistically, it failed to achieve those ambitions and, politically, it contented itself with preaching to the choir.

THE BUSH JUNTA earns a respectable - but still disappointing - three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

******

FAHRENHEIT 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11

Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11 may be the best movie of the year. I liked it so much that I bought *two* copies of the DVD so I could pass one around...and then realized the people who need to see this film the most would never watch it. I'll likely surprise some TOT supporter with the extra copy.

Since you're presumably reading this on the Internet, I have to figure you already know what FAHRENHEIT 9/11 is about...even if you think it's a load of partisan crap. I'll let the back cover of the DVD speak for itself:

In the most provocative film of the year, Academy Award-winner Michael Moore (2002, Best Documentary, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE) presents a searing examination of the role played by money and oil in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11. Moore blends captivating and thought-provoking footage with revealing interviews, while balancing it all with his own brand of humor and satire.

The movie runs approximately two hours. I found it every bit as riveting on my second full viewing as on my first. Moore makes his case in this film. Those who call it biased are correct only in the facts themselves are biased against George Bush and his mob. Bush can run, but he can't hide from the facts.

Just as I was on my first viewing, I am horrified by the sheer violence of the invasion of Iraq and the toll it has taken on our soldiers. How can you watch a wide-eyed young G.I. describe how he was listening to a song with the words "Burn, mother-f*****, burn" as his tank attacked a town and not be chilled? How can you watch Lila Lipscomb reading the last letter her son sent her from Iraq before he died and not feel your soul sink into the deepest pit of your stomach? I don't question the movie's "R" rating - it may be the most intense film I've ever seen - but I applaud those theater owners who did not accept that rating.

There's a "lighter" side to FAHRENHEIT 9/11 as well. Moore's humor skewers Bush and his presidency. When he goes to the streets of Washington, D.C. to try to convince congressmen to enlist their children in the war, the obvious discomfort of those he captures on film warms the cockles of my liberal heart.

The DVD - with a list price of $20.95 - is a solid value for its cost. In addition to the movie, the DVD includes what seemed like a couple hours of special features. While some of the extras are a bit too self-congratulatory for my taste, others are nothing short of amazing. The footage of and interviews with the people of Iraq before the invasion put a human face on the innocents caught in that war. The interviews with and performances by Arab-American comedians are both hilarious and sobering. This DVD presentation does Moore's film justice.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 gets the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

FAN MAIL

When I announced in the October 11 edition of this column that I'd be forgoing political commentary for a few weeks, I received maybe two dozen e-mails from readers who were pleased or displeased by my decision. Those who fell into the former camp liked the idea of being able to find a respite from the endless electioneering of the candidates and their supporters. As someone who lives in Ohio, a so-called swing state, I could relate to them. Not a day goes by in which I don't receive two or three campaign phone calls and six or seven pieces of political mail.

The latter group of readers were disappointed and sometimes a little horrified. Some readers expressed concerned that I had been "scared off" by the rancor of the right...and I quickly lost count of the TOT readers who seemed to believe that, if I didn't discuss politics here, then *they* had won. If the future of my country is resting so completely on my electronic shoulders, *they* might be the least of our woes. I don't quite know how to respond to these e-mails, but I'll give it a try.

Those of you who relished the respite, I apologize for doing this flip-flop in today's column and also in the column I'm writing for Monday. I felt I had to give the dubious benefit of my wisdom to the readers who wanted my political commentary. There were more of them and one of them offered me candy.

Was I scared off by the rancor of the right? Not even a small bit. I have gone through well over a decade of angry letters and e-mails and phone calls from those who disagree with me. I've been threatened with loss of work and I probably have lost jobs here and there because of stands I take and statements I make. There was - maybe still is - this one gas-pole who would write COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE on a regular basis demanding I be canned and replaced with a "conservative" columnist. The guy is looney, but I must admit that his choice for my replacement would make an excellent addition to CBG. If my editors ever ask me for suggestions, I'd recommend said choice in a heartbeat.

Moving right along...

Whether *they* win or not, there have always been many places readers can go - even within the comics community - to get terrific political commentary. Among my own favorites would be my pal Mark Evanier's NEWS FROM ME [www.newsfromme.com] and, at the COMIC BOOK RESOURCES site [www.comicbookresources.com], the "Permanent Damage" column by Steven Grant, also a friend of mine. Both of them are on my must-read list.

Even during my brief political sabbatical, the TONY ISABELLA MESSAGE BOARD remained a forum for discussion of political issues. Most days saw me post comments on (and links to) news and writings I considered of interest to the board and I continue to supplement my columns with such posts. You can view the board and participate in its discussions by going to:

www.comicscommunity.com/boards/tony

For better or for worse, the political commentary will remain a part of TONY'S ONLINE TIPS. I don't plan to let it overpower the other stuff - save for the occasional special column like this one - but it will remain a part of this feature.

Life informs art. My real-world concerns drive my writing now and will surely continue to do so when I start writing comic books again. These points of view - these connections to reality - that I bring to my writings are intended to add weight to my reviews and make my fiction more believable.

At least that's the plan.

How am I doing?

Tomorrow is your last full day to vote on this week's solitary TONY POLLS question: who would you elect as President of the United States?

The catch is: all the choices are comics characters, my way of squeezing a bit of amusement out of these most contentious times. You can cast your vote at:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

Comments on the candidates and write-in votes are absolutely encouraged. Send them to me at:



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

Tony Isabella

<< 10/29/2004 | 10/30/2004 | 11/01/2004 >>

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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