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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Monday, January 17, 2005

Lovers 31

Winter comes and goes here in Ohio. We were hammered by snow just before Christmas, saw temperatures rise to a balmy 65 degrees last week, and now we're in the 9-20 degree with some light snow to emphasis the January-ness of our existence.

I'm not sure where I first spotted the cover which leads off today's column. I can narrow it down to the always-wondrous COMIC BOOK DATABASE [] or Greg Gatlin's more centered but equally wondrous ATLAS TALES []. I visit both of these amazing online resources daily and recommend them to one and all without hesitation.

LOVERS picked up its numbering from Marvel's BLONDE PHANTOM, running from #23 [May, 1949] to #86 [August, 1957]. Its earliest issues had photo covers with the header "True-To-Life Stories" over the title, but quickly switched over to line art. The above cover is LOVERS #31 [January, 1951] and that's absolutely everything that I know about for the usual price guide and auction stuff which I'll be getting to in a bit.

This cover is one of the most striking romance comics covers I've ever seen, combining a great image with coloring which really sells the book. I confess to being amused that the heroine on the cover of LOVERS is so forceful in expressing her hatred of the man skiing behind her.

After this issue, LOVERS switched over to the crowded covers common among Atlas genre titles of the era with a strip of panels from stories running down the left-hand side of the cover. Some of these covers have enough copy on them to qualify as short stories. I'm not fond of the design.

LOVERS #32 and some later issues have the words "All the world loves..." above the title logo, which I think is cute. Today, the word "lovers" usually designates people who are having sex with one another, but I suspect its meaning was less specific in the 1950s. Or that folks were just too polite back then to admit that anybody was having sex with anybody.

Like many Atlas comics of the era, LOVERS had some of the best artists in the business working on the title. Over the run of the series, these would include Jerry Robinson, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Bernard Krigstein, Bill Everett, and others. Atlas published a lot of books and needed lots of pages for them. Like a comics-industry version of CASABLANCA, everyone came to Rick's...with Rick, in this situation, being publisher Martin Goodman and/or editor Stan Lee. Surprises abound in those old comic books.

THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE opines a near-mint copy of LOVERS #31 would sell for $65, which doesn't strike me as outrageous. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS figures that a near-mint copy would go for $30, which strikes me as a bargain for a half-century-old issue. A quick check of eBay found no outgoing auctions or recent sales of the issue, though there were two later and lesser condition issues in the $10 range.

As always, I'd "love" to hear from TOT readers who have more information on LOVERS in general and this issue in particular. You can e-mail me at:

Let's see what else I have for you today.



Attitude: Andy Singer

Following the success of their ATTITUDE anthologies collecting work by "new subversive political cartoonists," NBM and editor Ted Rall have launched a new series showcasing individual cartoonists featured in those books. The first up is ATTITUDE FEATURING: ANDY SINGER: "NO EXIT" ($10.95).

The Brooklyn-born son of politically active parents, Singer's work appears in alternative journals and has run in THE NEW YORKER, ESQUIRE, and DISCOVER. His no-nonsense drawing and writing leaves no doubt as to his political leanings (progressive) or intent, but he also takes a goodly number of shots at targets ostensibly on his own side of the issues.

I like Singer's honest straightforward style. My own politics mesh with his, but my favorites of the cartoons in this collection were those which addressed issues larger than any simple right/left divide: isolation, aging, advertising, progress, and even the lure of garage sales. Though Singer doesn't hesitate to condemn those attitudes and conditions he finds heinous, he does so without the mean-spiritedness that defines much of the current climate. He's more "Jon Stewart" than "Sean Hannity" in his approach, making him a welcome participant to the national debate.

On our disembodied columnist heads scale - check the handy box on the right-hand side of this page for details - ANDY SINGER: "NO EXIT" earns three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



Black Enchantress

Publisher Dennis Mallonee gives FLARE a "sister" magazine with the debut of THE BLACK ENCHANTRESS #1 [Heroic; $2.95], written by Wilson Hill with art by J. Adam Walters.

Andrea Avery-Crusoe is a college freshman, an ace detective, the daughter of a heroic magician and the evil queen of another dimension, and...the Black Enchantress, a villain who seeks to rule the world. To make sure said world stays in good condition until she can formally take possession, she often finds herself saving it from various mystical threats. What a bother!

Andrea may be both amoral and saddled with a clunky nom de guerre - French for "war name" - but the trio of tales featured in this issue are darkly amusing fun nonetheless. In "Birth of the Black Enchantress," the then-ten-year-old Andrea is chased through a bayou by locals who, not without some reason, believe her to be a witch and blight on the community. Her hunters are scary, she's scarier, making for horrific events. This lead story is followed by the helpful "Secrets of the Black Enchantress" and "Witch of the Bayou," an intriguing prologue to Andrea's next-issue meeting with the mysterious Monocle.

Andrea is an interesting protagonist, the writing and art are good, and, with a mere four pages of ads, this issue offers nearly cover-to-cover content. Check it out.

THE BLACK ENCHANTRESS #1 picks up three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



Long-time readers of this column will recall I get a kick out of comics references and self-referential humor in newspaper comic strips. This comics panel...

Strange Brew John Deering's STRANGE BREW for January 14. I suppose one could make a case for the Batman being the root cause of Wayne Industries woes, but I would venture the possibility that the blame rightly lies with its parent company...DC Comics.

Here's what the Creators Syndicate website has to say about Deering:

John Deering has started drawing cartoon panels, and the comic pages of our newspapers may never be the same. With the creation of STRANGE BREW, Deering - famous for biting humor and political savvy as chief editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - now has an outlet for his creative sense of humor and quirky view of life.

"Being an editorial cartoonist today, you have to be tuned-in to pop culture as well as politics - but there are some limits to what you can do," Deering says. "In STRANGE BREW, everything's fair game. I get to cut loose and draw anything."

Anything and everything Deering draws will hit your funny bone, whether he's poking fun at suburban life or the animal kingdom. In fact, one of the principal sources of Deering's inspiration is in his own back yard -- in the form of his two pets, Trixie the cat and Suzie the dog.

"If you look closely, you can see a lot of Trixie and Suzie in some of the cartoons I draw. Spend enough time with them, and something bizarre is sure to happen."

As an editorial cartoonist, Deering has received numerous honors. Winner of the National Press Foundation's 1997 Berryman Award, Deering also gained top honors in the 1994 national John Fischetti Cartoon Competition and was the seven-time winner of the Arkansas Press Association's Best Editorial Cartoonist award.

Deering's work is collected in two books: DEERING'S STATE OF MIND (1990) and WE KNEW BILL CLINTON...BILL CLINTON WAS A FRIEND OF OURS (1993, with Vic Harville). He is a 14-year member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists.

Born in Little Rock in 1956, Deering has been drawing since his childhood fascination with science fiction and dinosaurs - subjects he made into comic books. After studying art with Truman Alston, Deering focused on commercial and fine at the University of Arkansas. At the Democrat-Gazette, Deering advanced from layout artist to editorial cartoonist in 1981-82. His promotion to chief editorial cartoonist in 1988 made his cartoons the state's best-known.

A house full of comic material, a lifetime of drawing and the discipline Deering has from producing five editorial cartoons every week ensures that STRANGE BREW is consistently hilarious. Read a couple weeks of the strip, and see for yourself.

Deering and his wife, Kathy, have a daughter and two sons, and live in Little Rock.

You can read STRANGE BREW online at:



Return of Shadowhawk 1

Something about Shadowhawk turned me off from the get-go. I read the hero's first issue in 1992 and never looked back, missing stories written by Kurt Busiek and Alan Moore and even a Silver Age version of the character. I decided to give RETURN OF SHADOWHAWK #1 [Image; $2.99] a try because I've enjoyed so many of creator Jim Valentino's non-Shadowhawk comics over the years.

Shadowhawk has a far more complicated history than I realized. The young man who currently wears the hero's helmet is able to tap into the abilities of all previous Shadowhawks and communicate with them and the ancient gods who gave them their powers. That's heady - albeit somewhat familiar - stuff. Unfortunately, because of it, Shadowhawk comes off as an underachiever when he devotes his powers to apprending a common jewel thief with a sword. Not much suspense in a scenario like that.

What this hero needs are threats which truly challenge him and more emphasis on the briefly-mentioned-but-intriguing concept that he is destined to be the last Shadowhawk.

Valentino's 24-page lead story is followed by an 8-page guide to the character. That's pretty good bang for your bucks and earns RETURN OF SHADOWHAWK #1 two Tonys.

Tony Tony



Almost every Monday, I post new TONY POLLS questions for your electoral pleasure. This week, we're asking you to cast your votes on the Marvel ESSENTIAL volumes you'd like to see, the ESSENTIAL-style books you'd like to see from DC, and the DC and Marvel action figures you'd be interested in buying. The questions were mostly written by my pal JON KNUTSON and you can find them at:

Look for the results of my previous poll questions in a day or so...once I've made sure Diebold didn't try to fix these elections as well. If I laugh at any mortal thing...



Comics Buyers Guide 1602

One of my 2005 resolutions - I've got a million of 'em - is to do a better job letting you know where else you can find articles, columns, and comics I've written.

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1602 [March; $5.99] features my monthly "Tony's Tips" column as well as a handful of other Isabella-written reviews. I'm only about 30 pages into the 244-page magazine, but, so far, I have enjoyed James Mishler's articles on the forthcoming BATMAN BEGINS, DC's plans for its Batman comics, and an overview of other DC properties heading for the big screen; Ray Sidman's piece on John Constantine; and the Neil Gaiman interview conducted by CBG editor Maggie Thompson.

CBG has been the steadiest account of my professional career, so I'd appreciate TOT readers supporting the magazine. Don't do it just for me, though, but also for the magazine's other entertaining contributors and for the hours of reading pleasure you'll get from each and every issue.

I'll probably have more to say about the issue after I've read more of it, but, in the meantime, you can pick up a copy at better comic-book shops, bookstores, and newsstands. Or you can subscribe to CBG by going here:

A one year subscription - 12 issues - will set you back $38.95 (in the U.S.), $58.95 (Canada), or $70.95 (Mexico/foreign). Even at the high end of that scale, I still think the magazine is worth the price.

Pacesetter 5

PACESETTER #5 [Tony Lorenz Productions; $12.95] is a double-sized issue celebrating comics legend George Perez's thirty years in the business. Tucked into its 132 pages of goodness is a piece by yours truly - "Gullivar Jones Unleashed" - on the first time I kind of sort of worked with Perez. I'll be reviewing this terrific zine in the near future, but, just from flipping through it, I can tell it's a must-have for Perez fans.

And isn't that just about all of us?

Diamond has distributed some issues of PACESETTER, maybe even this one, but, for the most up-to-date info on the availability of this and earlier issues, e-mail Lorenz at:

That's all for now. That's for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 01/10/2005 | 01/17/2005 | 02/01/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined.

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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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