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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 Friday, November 19, 2004

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1600 [Krause; $5.99] has an anniversary article on "1600 Comic Books You Need To Have!" These comics were chosen by the CBG review crew as well as columnists Craig Shutt and Andrew Smith. I was one of the participants.

Each of us were asked to come up with approximately 200 comic books, preferably in the form of runs of comic books. As I saw it, the idea was not to pick what I felt were the 200 best comic books of all time, but to consider a variety of titles, some well-known, some virtually unknown.

Exercising an ego as big as a planet, I asked my CBG editors if I could include some comics I had written. They gave me the go-ahead, then thought better of it. It was their call and it wasn't a problem for me.

There was some duplication among the choices. In those cases, the CBG editors either combined the comments of several reviewers or went with the most representative comments. That's why some of the reviews in the issue have multiple reviewer credits.

Writing a daily online column means I let nothing go to waste if I can help it and if I think my readers will find the material entertaining or informative. So...today and tomorrow...you'll be getting my (slightly expanded from CBG) comments on the comic books I selected for the magazine's anniversary special.

I hope you enjoy them.

******


ACTION COMICS #507-508, 510-512

Action Comics 507  Action Comics 511

"The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent"
"Luthor's Last Stand"
Written by Cary Bates
Pencilled by Curt Swan
Inked by Frank Chiaramonte

Pa Kent lives! Lex Luthor reforms! Tucked into the final years of the pre-reboot Superman, Bates and editor Julius Schwartz crafted a pair of serials which could have revitalized the Superman titles if their major developments hadn't been undone by the end of these tales. The stories are terrific as is, but I remain haunted by the missed opportunities they represent. Just imagine a pre-Crisis DC Universe where, sans pandering to brutality and misogyny, anything could have happened.

The covers for the issues shown above were pencilled by Ross Andru and inked by Dick Giordano. The Pa Kent story was reprinted in SUPERMAN: FROM THE 30s TO THE 80s.

******


AKIKO #1-18

Akiko 1

"The Menace of Alia Rellapor"
Written and drawn by Mark Crilley

Fourth-grader Akiko is brought to Smoo to rescue the kidnapped prince of that fantastic planet. Her companions-in-adventure are Spuckler (a tough-guy pirate), Gax (his loyal robot), Mr. Beeba (a stuffy but courageous academic), and the enigmatic Poog (a floating alien). The thrills and laughs are plentiful in an exciting saga which speaks to readers of all ages. When these comics first came out, my kids and I enjoyed them together. With great memories like that, AKIKO will always be a special favorite of mine.

"The Menace of Alia Rellapor" - along with AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO, the graphic novel which preceded it - has been reprinted in AKIKO POCKET SIZE #1, 2 and 3 [Sirius; $11.95 for the first volume, $9.95 for the others].

******


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #68-77

Amazing Spider-Man 68

"The Stone Tablet Saga"
Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita, Jim Mooney, and John Buscema

It was 1968. Lee and Romita mixed the sinister secrets of the past with the urban unrest of the present in a serial which still ranks as one of the greatest Spider-Man adventures of all. Crime lords Kingpin and Silvermane vie for ancient power. Spidey battles hero and villains alike to keep them from it. Fast-paced action, surprises around every corner, intriguing human interest, gorgeous art, and slick scripting. This saga had it all!

You can find these issues reprinted in ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN #3 and #4. They aren't reprinted in color, but readers get a heap of sensational stories at a very reasonable price.

******


ANTHRO #1-6

Showcase 74

Written and drawn by Howie Post

Making his debut in SHOWCASE #74, teen caveman Anthro was the creation of Howie Post, veteran writer/artist of humorous features for many publishers. The Anthro stories were charmingly satirical with their mix of dawn-of-history adventure and situation comedy, but failed to find an audience. They remain as enjoyable today as they were then. The legendary Wally Wood inked the sixth and final issue, a cancellation which left Anthro waiting at the altar while his prospective brides battled for his hand in marriage.

******


THE AVENGERS #35-104, ANNUAL #1 and #2

The Avengers 58

Written by Roy Thomas
Drawn by Don Heck, John Buscema, and others

THE AVENGERS, Earth's mightiest heroes, were the gold standard of Marvel's super-hero teams until recently. I know the Fantastic Four are a super-hero team, too, but I always think of them as a family first. It took Thomas a year to truly hit his stride, but, after his learning period, it was one terrific story after another. Their adventures spanned the globe and the universe, but always had a believable core of humanity. Hawkeye's brashness. The Vision's loneliness. The Hank and Jan romance before lesser writers made it ugly. There would be a few other great Avengers writers following him - Steve Englehart, Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek - but Thomas gets my vote as the best of the best.

You can find most of the Roy Thomas issues reprinted in black-and-white in ESSENTIAL AVENGERS #2, 3 and 4.

******


BLACK LIGHTNING #1-10 (first series)

Black Lightning 1 (series 1)

"Black Lightning"
Created and written by Tony Isabella
Pencilled by Trevor Von Eeden
Inked by Frank Springer and Vince Colletta

Schoolteacher Jefferson Pierce was a reluctant hero, recently returned to his roots with a dream of educating young minds. But it didn't take him long to learn he'd have to fight for his dream against such vicious foes as Tobias Whale and the 100. He rose to the challenge to became a shining symbol of hope in his community. The 1976 series shows its age - and the inexperience of its writer and artist - but remains a favorite of its readers, even inspiring some of them to become teachers.

DC has a history of disrespecting this character, so, sadly, these stories have never been reprinted. The brother couldn't even get a trade paperback for his 25th anniversary.

******


BLACK LIGHTNING #1-8 (second series)

Black Lightning 1 (second series)

"Brick City Blues"
Written by Tony Isabella
Drawn by Eddy Newell

1995. An older Jefferson Pierce comes to a new community in desperate need of a hero. The neighborhood gangs have gotten more vicious, their leaders more cunning, and the politicians don't care about anything except their own power. Only Black Lightning and a thin blue line of courageous cops stand between the people and an all-out gang war. A gritty and triumphant series with astonishing art. The fifth issue won the Don Thompson award for best issue of the year. Despite critical acclaim, these stories have never been collected or reprinted.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me, I'll be back tomorrow with more comic books you need to have.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/18/2004 | 11/19/2004 | 11/20/2004 >>

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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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