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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Friday, March 4, 2005

Essential Luke Cage

I apologize in advance if today's column ends up being almost completely "me, me, me," but a number of you have asked to be kept informed as to all things Tony. That's kind of sweet and kind of sad. You really should get out of the house more.

Recently arrived at Casa Isabella is Marvel's ESSENTIAL LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN VOL. 1 [$16.99] which reprints the first 27 issues of the guy's comic-book adventures in breathtaking black-and-white. I worked on eight of these issues, though my memories don't always match the credits. For example, artist Billy Graham is credited as the co-scripter of my first issue and, try as I might, I simply do not recall getting anything other than the usual penciled pages to script. I skimmed a little of that issue and, making no judgment as to whether this is a good or bad thing, the writing does strike me as all mine.

The most common question I get asked about reprints of my work is: "Do you get paid for them?" In the case of Marvel, yes, I do. I don't pretend to understand how the payments are determined - and I imagine it's a bookkeeping nightmare considering how many writers and artists worked on this volume - but, somewhere down the line, I will get a check. That's definitely a good thing.

I'm not sure if I'll be reviewing the ESSENTIAL LUKE CAGE on account of I'm terrified at the mere thought of re-reading stories I wrote three decades ago. However, if you buy this book, you get a whole lot of comics for your money and a pretty impressive talent list: Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Billy Graham, Roy Thomas, John Romita, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Ron Wilson, Bill Mantlo, and George Perez. It's worth a look.


Tales of the Zombie 9

Comics fan and historian RICHARD ARNDT recently interviewed me about my editorial experiences on Marvel's black-and-white horror magazines in the 1970s. The interview is posted alongside Arndt's incredible index to those magazines at:

You'll have to follow some links to get to the interview, but this website is a wonderful resource for comic-book annotations and bibliographers. Your time there will not be wasted.


Walt Disney Comics & Stories

I have been doing some writing work for GEMSTONE COMICS, which publishes a terrific line of Walt Disney comics. My shorthand job description is...I'm a script doctor.

Editors John Clark and Sue Kolberg send me English-language translations of foreign Disney stories which have already appeared in various lands. I rewrite them for the American audience, adding character bits, gags, and references where I am able. The biggest challenge here - which I relish, as I do most challenges - is that I have to write to fit the existing balloons and captions. I can come up with the funniest line in the world, but, if it doesn't fit the space, I can't use it.

I must stress that these are not Tony Isabella stories. I am working with stories by fine authors from around the world. While tailoring those stories for their new audience is satisfying work, I consider myself a member of the support staff bringing the work of these writers to that new audience. First and foremost, these are their stories.

However, since my readers have expressed an interest in buying these comics, and since I'm not about to stand in the way of a cool outfit like Gemstone selling a few more comic books, here's a list of where the first batch of stories on which I have worked will be appearing...

Mickey Mouse takes on "The Volcano Villains" in WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #656, which ships in April.

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck pay a visit to "Brig-a-Dog" in WALT DISNEY'S VACATION PARADE #2, shipping in May.

Donald Duck has car trouble in DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS #329, which ships June 8. Gyro Gearloose guest-stars.

Everyone wants Gyro to invent things for them, so he invents a way to fulfill all their requests. Look for this story in UNCLE SCROOGE #343, shipping June 15.

I have several more Gemstone stories I'll be working on over the next few months and, as those are completed and scheduled, I'll pass along that information to you.

P.S. Other publishers of foreign comics in the United States are welcome to e-mail me if they'd like me to do this kind of work for them as well.

There may be other Isabella comics and writings in the future, but I prefer to talk about those after the deals have been made and the work has been completed. Keep watching this space.



You know the drill. These are comic strips and cartoons which make reference to cartoonists, comics, or comic books. I love them and I love them sharing them with you.


Bill Griffith's ZIPPY got a manga makeover on February 23. It does have an odd appeal.

Beetle Bailey

Mort Walker speaks in BEETLE BAILEY for March 3.


In FRAZZ for March 3, cartoonist Jef Mallett gives a friendly nod to another comic strip.

Fox Trot

In FOX TROT for March 1, Bill Amend reveals a closely-guarded secret behind the comics.


I should have used this FUNKY WINKERBEAN strip by Tom Batiuk months ago. It's from November 27, 2004.


This one is from March 3.

Cue the ominous music.

Mike Peters editorial

Finally, the above MIKE PETERS editorial cartoon appeared in newspapers in late February.

Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs.



Weird Mysteries 4

I'm digging deep into my e-mailbox again because I'm just not in the mood to review anything today. Back on January 2, I ran the cover of WEIRD MYSTERIES #4 and remarked that the creature on that cover reminded me of the "Zanti Misfits" from the original run of THE OUTER LIMITS. That brief mention brought this note from reader KEN QUATTRO:

Your mention of the Zanti Misfits sparked a long-ago memory. THE OUTER LIMITS was about the only "adult" show my parents allowed me to watch at that time. I don't remember why, I never asked. But I was mesmerized from the moment "they" took over our television - "We control the vertical..." - on Monday nights.

Most episodes gave me a tingle - I was only 10 years old - but this one scared the bejeebers out of me. The whole premise of those man-headed alien bugs trapping folks in a building was terrifying enough, but when they started eating through the walls it prompted a week's worth of really bad dreams.

My only comparable nightmare was from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - when Gort first opened his visor - and FAIL SAFE. Actually, that second one STILL scares me today. While I have you on "the line," some time back (way back on September 14), I posted to the terrific Timely-Atlas list about a 1940 issue of Martin Goodman's MARVEL STORIES pulp which contained a Human Torch appearance and a text story with many similarities to The Fantastic Four. At the time, you asked if you could use the post in an upcoming TOT and I happily agreed.

Unfortunately, my computer then took a powder. Did you ever use my post and, if so, do you remember in what column? I'd love to read it and bask in my 15 seconds of fame.

Anyway, thanks for piquing memories of long-ago nightmares, Tony. Best wishes for the new year. Take care.

I remember what column I used your note in. It was this one! The one you're reading right now!

Your "Zanti" note sent me digging even deeper into my files to find the Torch page and your original note.

Here's the Human Torch page:

Human Torch

And here's your September post:

I was perusing my copy of MARVEL STORIES vol. 2, #2 [November, 1940], a Goodman pulp, which contains a one-page appearance of the Human Torch. This brings to mind several questions.

I know there was at least one more Timely crossover into the pulp line (December, 1940, I believe). Does anyone know if this was also a Human Torch appearance or someone else? Were there any other crossovers anyone is aware of?

This is a cool issue overall. Besides the Torch comic, all of the story illustrations were by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. There is also a bit of foreshadowing: a story by John L. Chapman entitled "Cycle" that asks in its opening blurb, "If momentary exposure to the cosmic rays beyond the Heaviside Layer made a super-man of an ordinary mortal, what fabulous titan of strength and intelligence might the human become who'd spend hours under such forces?"

It concerns the first man to leave earth's atmosphere and, due to his exposure to COSMIC RAYS, he becomes a super-human. Shades of the Fantastic Four!

Thanks for sharing, Ken, and also for creating your fabulous COMICARTVILLE site []. Man, if I didn't have these column deadlines, I could easily spend days enjoying all the great art and articles you have there.

You deserve way more than 15 minutes of fame.



That January 2 TOT also brought this note from Jeffrey Blair Latta of the Pulp and Dagger Fiction Webzine at:

He wrote:

My brother drew my attention to your Jan 2 column about WEIRD MYSTERIES #4. I thought you'd find it interesting (in a trivial way) that the Bernard Bailey cover was reused on CHILLING TALES OF HORROR #2 (Aug 1969) from Stanley Publications. You can even see the old Weird Mysteries logo peaking out from under the Chilling Tales logo.

I can email you a scan, if you're interested.

I was and Blair sent me this...

Chilling Tales of Horror 2

...and a follow-up note:

Here's the scan of the cover for CHILLING TALES OF HORROR #2 (August, 1969) I promised. As I mentioned, it reuses the Bernard Bailey cover from Weird Mysteries you mentioned in your January 2 column; you can even see the old WM logo peaking out from under the CTOH logo. How cool is that?

I came by this scan because I had always remembered reading a really scary story about a guy on board a ship who gets swallowed by a sea serpent. It was written in the "you are this, you are that" style, and the last line was forever imprinted on my brain. As the sloshing stomach acid gets nearer...

"You realize you are about to be digested!"

Chilling Tales of Horror

I had long since misplaced my copy and couldn't remember its name. I posted a query on a forum and, lo, the next morning I had my answer. Anyway, I thought the connection between WM and CTOH was interesting and something you'd want to share with your readers. Stay well.

You thought correctly, Blair. I love sharing comics trivia, especially of the oddball variety, with TOT readers. It's one of the things that makes comics so much fun.

Thanks to Blair and thanks to all of you for spending a part of your day with me.

I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/03/2005 | 03/04/2005 | 03/05/2005 >>

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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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