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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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for Saturday, November 20, 2004

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE celebrated the publication of its 1600th issue [Krause Publications; $5.99] by asking myself and its other reviewers to recommend approximately 200 comic books each for "1600 Comic Books You Need To Have!" They asked for runs of titles and I contributed 14 short entries to the article.

Not all of my entries appeared in the article. There was some duplications among the contributors and, when that happened, CBG's editors either smooshed the entries together or went with the most representative of the lot.

An editorial change of course also resulted in the dropping of four of my entries. Initially, the editors had okayed my including some of my own comics writing among my choices, then changed their minds. That wasn't a problem on my end because I knew I could use them in my online column.

In yesterday's TOT, you got the first half of my contributions to this article. Here are the rest of them.



Cosmos 1

Written and drawn by Bob White

It was 1958 and the "Space Race" was well underway. Archie Comics took a great leap forward from their traditional earthbound teenagers to publish the whimsical adventures of the planet-hopping Cosmo and his crew of odd friends from all over the solar system. As a kid, I never thought Cosmo was ever in any real danger, but his journeys tickled my imagination and my sense of humor. I read every issue over and over again until not even Scotch tape couldn't hold them together.

All six Cosmo issues were reprinted in various Archie digests several years back...and I've reacquired the entire run in a series of eBay auctions...but I'd still like to see Archie Comics collect them in a trade paperback.



Deathlok 1

Created by Rich Buckler
Written by Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright
Drawn by Jackson Guice and Denys Cowan

The original Deathlok series - which appeared in ASTONISHING TALES #25-37 - never quite came together. In 1990, McDuffie and Wright re-imagined the cyborg hero. When Michael Roth learned the project he headed was creating a death machine for hire, he tried to end it. He was murdered and brought back to life in the body of the machine. High-tech adventure and moving human interest were the hallmarks of these 52-page squarebound books. Deathlok is "in production" as a movie which seems to draw some inspiration from this version of the character.



Fantastic Four 39

"Frightful Times"
Written by Stan Lee
Pencilled by Jack Kirby
Inked by Chic Stone, Frank Giacoia (w/Wally Wood), and Vince Colletta

Super-hero stories don't get much more edge-of-your-seat than they did during this run. Our heroes are defeated by the Frightful Four, lose their powers, invade their own headquarters to battle Doctor Doom (with an assist from Daredevil), regain their powers, watch helplessly as the Thing walks out on them, and face a rematch with the Frightful FIVE, now bolstered by the power of a mind-controlled Ben Grimm. It was a delightful agony to wait for each new issue.


MS. TREE #10-50

Ms. Tree 10

Written by Max Allan Collins
Drawn by Terry Beatty

Michael Tree - she prefers it to "Michelle" - is the widow of "Mike Hammer," the daughter of "Joe Friday," and the coolest hard-boiled detective in the history of comic books. Her debut was in ECLIPSE MAGAZINE #1-6, and Eclipse published the first eight issues of her own comic. DC published ten 84-page, full-color issues, but the lady was at her best in these black-and-white and occasionally duo-toned comics. Her adventures were gutsy and they had heart to spare. I recommend them all.



Satan Six 1

Created by Jack Kirby
Developed and written by Tony Isabella
Pencilled by John Cleary
Inked by Armando Gil

Six lost souls, trapped between heaven and hell, and insanely trying to earn their way into the latter. They may not have been the smartest characters Kirby ever created, but they were certainly among the most fun characters I ever worked on. They had their own guardian angel (Pristine) and their own training officer (the demon Frightful). Somehow, despite their best/worst efforts, they always ended up doing good. The title's ongoing theme of redemption, no matter how comically it was portrayed, earned this quirky comic praise from several honest-to-God ministers. Guest stars included Quasimodo, Jason Voorhes, and attorneys Wolff and Byrd from Batton Lash's SUPERNATURAL LAW.



Shadow of the Hawkman 1

Written by Tony Isabella
Pencilled by Richard Howell
Inked by Alfredo Alcala

The Absorbascon - threat or menace? The benign super-science of the Silver Age gives way to the paranoia of the 1980s as Hawkman contends with a secret invasion of Earth by a shadow army from his home planet Thanagar. Facing enemies who know every thought that exists in the minds of humans, he can take no allies. Melding dark suspense with super-heroics, the 1985 series delivered a complete story and led into an ongoing series.

Unfortunately, the ongoing series didn't resolve Hawkman's war with his homeworld as I planned. I left the title due to creative differences with the editor, watching with dismay as concepts that I had included in my previously-approved overview of the war then made their way into other DC comics and "events."

Everything I did with Hawkman and Hawkwoman, as near as I can tell, was retconned out of existence by later editors and writers. The mini-series still holds up well - in my estimation - as do the other issues I wrote, but they have no place in the DC Universe as it is currently constructed.



Silver Surfer 5

Written by Stan Lee
Pencilled by John Buscema
Inked by Joe Sinnott and Sal Buscema

Marvel thrilled me anew with the launch of this double-sized, ongoing title. Lee and Buscema took full advantage of those extra pages. The stories were bigger and more meaningful. The artwork matched co-creator Jack Kirby for out-of-this-world excitement and John Romita for down-to-earth emotion. I'll never forget the first appearance of Mephisto, the epic Surfer-Thor battle in Asgard, or, most especially, the unsung heroism of Al Harper. This series was never quite as special in the more standard 32-page format of its subsequent issues.

The entire 18-issue run of this series, along with the Surfer tale from FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #5, has been reprinted in ESSENTIAL SILVER SURFER (black-and-white) and also in the two-volume MARVEL MASTERWORKS: SILVER SURFER (color).


Before I call it a column, I have to give a shout-out to ROB HELMERICHS, whose comics-oriented TRADE PAPERBACK LIST was a great help in tracking down collected reprints of the stories I praised today and yesterday. You can visit his website at:


Some comics bloggers have been commenting on CBG's "1600 Comic Books You Need to Have" article...with almost all of them missing the point that these choices were never characterized as being the BEST 1600 comic books ever. One or two of them even seem offended by some of the choices and omissions...which is what makes this so much fun.

Did DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN deserve to be included? I think so. It's arguably the best "ground-level" super-hero story ever. The only reason I didn't include it among my own choices was because I erroneously thought Managing Editor Brent Frankenhoff, who used it as an example when asking for reviewer contributions, was already going to be writing about it.

Did some of the choices not deserve to be include? I would be in agreement on that score as well. Still, when you wander around online comics fandom, you'll find many readers who like these comic books more than I do. Again, that's part of the fun.

I seem to be catching some flack for choosing COSMO THE MERRY MARTIAN instead of Bob Bolling's LITTLE ARCHIE. While I certainly appreciate Bolling's abilities, the fact is that I've never been a LITTLE ARCHIE fan. I generally don't enjoy comic books featuring younger versions of established characters. There are exceptions - there have been some great SUPERBOY stories over the years - but LITTLE ARCHIE never really clicked with me. If you love it, that's great. Enjoy the comic books in good health.

Apropos of something, I'm also not fond of comics which show the future of established characters. I prefer to think of them as "possible" futures, thus preserving the possibility, however slim, that anything can happen to those characters.

I'm delighted to see the response CBG's anniversary article is receiving, even the negative response. No one reviewer or group of reviewers has a lock on determining what's good and what's not so good. Every comic book - well, almost - is some reader's favorite. And that - here comes the mantra - is part of the fun.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 11/19/2004 | 11/20/2004 | 11/21/2004 >>

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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.

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