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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Monday, March 28, 2005

Tales of the Unexpected 13

Reading the remastered KIRBY UNLEASHED - reviewed below - got me to thinking about the thousands of pages of published Jack Kirby art I've never seen and which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't been reprinted. That seems, well, wrong, in a market where books with even modest sales can turn a modest profit.

The Atlas (Marvel) comics of the 1950s have lots of Kirby work to offer. It's true many (perhaps most) of his horror, sci-fi, and western stories have been reprinted, but the romance and war tales he drew remain largely untouched. And it should be noted that even the 1960s and 1970s reprints of Kirby's non super-hero stories have gotten harder to find in recent years.

Over at DC Comics, in addition to his breathtaking efforts on CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN and Green Arrow, Kirby drew mystery and sci-fi stories for HOUSE OF MYSTERY, HOUSE OF SECRETS, MY GREATEST ADVENTURE, and TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED. Some of these stories have been reprinted, but, as with the Marvel reprints, even those have gotten harder to find. As with his Marvel work, I think there's a few bucks to be made from collecting this material.

Since I'm in this Kirby state of mind, I'm going to open this week's columns with Kirby covers from those DC titles, commencing with TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #13 [May, 1957], which cover-features "The Face Behind the Mask."

The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [] has Kirby credited for pencils and inks on the quiet but riveting cover. "Every night, her beautiful face thrills the audience--but when she leaves the theater, she always wears that strange bandage!" Is that a great come-on or what?

Kirby draws a gorgeous woman here. Even wrapped in bandages, she's smoking. If she alone wasn't intriguing enough to attract a prospective buyer's eye, Kirby also provides an understated air of menace via the stage door Johnny watching her.

The GCD lists no reprinting of this six-page story and, though my memory is hardly as trustworthy as that wonderful site, I don't recall ever reading it. I'd like to.

There are four other stories in this issue:

"Weapons of Destiny" (drawn by Bill Ely; reprinted in WORLD'S FINEST #152, August, 1965);

"The Thing From the Skies" (drawn by Mort Meskin; reprinted in SUPER DC GIANT #S-23, March-April, 1971);

"Second Warning" (drawn by George Papp); and,

"I Was a Prisoner of the Supernatural" (drawn by Nick Cardy). Kirby was keeping good company in these comics.

From the get-go, I'll tell you the GCD is my source for these covers I'll be sharing with you and the information on the comics. If any TOT readers have additional information, such as reprintings or writer's credits, please send them my way. I'll include them in this column and pass them along to the GCD as well.

Moving right along...



Kirby Unleashed

TwoMorrows Publishing amazes me once again, this time with its re-release of KIRBY UNLEASHED [$20], a remastered edition of Jack Kirby's in-itself-amazing portfolio from 1971. The original was an impressive showcase of Kirby's career to that time; the new edition is even more impressive.

TwoMorrows went back to the original art, so the reproduction is nigh-flawless. Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, who were Kirby's assistants, updated the original portfolio's biography and wrote a new foreword giving the origin of the project. The original color plates were recolored. Finally, this new edition adds 16 new pages to the portfolio, eight of them in color, a total of 60 magnificent 11" by 14" pages.

Seeing the range of Kirby's mastery of the comics art form at that size is inspirational. Even looking at his earliest efforts, such as gag cartoons he submitted to THE NEW YORKER when he was 14, makes me long for fistfuls of the stuff. And it's impossible for me to look at the Kirby work contemporary to the KIRBY UNLEASHED's original publication - his unpublished Marvel pencil pages from the 1960s and pieces done for the portfolio - without my eyes widening to an almost painful degree.

TwoMorrows is a leader and arguably the leader in this, the Golden Age of Comics Fandom. Their books and magazines expand our knowledge of the comics industry and pay due honor to legendary creators and to those previously ignored or unknown. Their ongoing JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR continues to reveal new information about the storyteller who was pivotal to the industry throughout his 50-plus-year career. I rarely say this about a publisher, but TwoMorrows is a comicdom treasure.

KIRBY UNLEASHED picks up the full five out of five Tonys. If you needed one more reason to buy it, proceeds from its sale go to scanning and archiving the 5000+ page Kirby pencil archives...and that will insure that future fans will be able to enjoy Kirby's art in its most powerful expression.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

For information on other TwoMorrows publications, and you'll need hours to take them all in, go to:



Every Tuesday, we post new questions on our TONY POLLS page, requesting your vote on various comics and entertainment matters. Here's how you weighed in on the questions we asked during the week of March 15...

Siegel and Shuster

The biggest news in comics is Jerry Siegel's heirs claiming their rights to Superman, Superboy, and other creations. While a deal satisfying all parties would be swell, if it comes down to one winner - the Siegels or DC Comics - who should be that winner?

SIEGEL FAMILY.....73.05%
DC Comics.....26.95%

I'm pleased to see the SIEGEL FAMILY carry the day here, but disappointed by the 26.95% of you who didn't join me in supporting the Superman co-creator's heirs. The law is clear on this matter and the DC/Time-Warner lawyers are, to my mind, obstructing a fair resolution of this matter.

I make that statement because of the very creditable reports I have received that DC did, indeed, work out a settlement with the Siegel family acceptable to both parties, only to have Time-Warner refuse to sign off on it. I'm not shy about criticizing DC when it fails to honor its agreements and commitments, but, in this case, the publisher at least tried to do the right thing.

That said, given a "one or the other" choice, I'm most likely to go with the creators over the corporations. The history of the comics industry is replete with tales of creators and freelancers being poorly treated and outright cheated by publishers and their representatives. The creators could come out on top in this case and the next sixty like it and that probably wouldn't come close to evening the score. I appreciate the avid fan's love for coherent shared universes - and even the incoherent universes like those of DC and Marvel - but those universes wouldn't exist without writers and artists like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and so many others.

The best solution to this ongoing conflict is for publishers to recognize the inherent value in dealing fairly and honestly with writers and artists...and to act accordingly. At the end of the day, I think that would make for better and more successful comics, a win for both parties and a win for the readers.

Legion of Super-Heroes 1

The new LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES title by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. With three issues published, do you give it the thumbs up or thumbs down?

THUMBS UP.....77.78%
Thumbs down.....22.22%

I again voted with the majority here. I'll be reviewing those three issues later this week.

Sin City: Hard Goodbye

Have you read Frank Miller's SIN CITY comics?


I haven't read all of SIN CITY, but, encouraged by the arrival of new editions of the first two collections, I'll be reading the series from start to finish this spring.

Because, really, what says spring better than sex, violence, and superb storytelling?

Sin City Movie Poster

Are you planning to see the SIN CITY movie?


I am so there when the movie opens on Friday!

Quantum and Woody

Rights to the characters of the Valiant (Comics) Universe will be sold via auction next month. Which of these titles would you most like to see return?

Archer & Armstrong.....13.48%
X-O Manowar.....7.80%
Second Life of Dr. Mirage.....5.67%
Doctor Tomorrow.....4.26%
Eternal Warrior.....4.26%
Trinity Angels.....2.84%
HARD Corps.....1.42%

Man! I don't remember half of these titles. But I do recall getting a huge kick out of QUANTUM AND WOODY by Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright, so I voted for that one.

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man

Which of these would you most like me to review in TONY'S ONLINE TIPS columns?

Jon Sable Freelance: Blood Trail #1.....28.66%
Hardy Boys #1: the Ocean of Osyria.....9.76%
Road to Purgatory by Max Allan Collins.....7.32%
Femme Fatales for March/April, 2005.....6.71%
Danny Fingeroth's Write Now Magazine #9.....6.10%
Black Enchantress #2.....3.05%
Strange Day by Damon Hurd and Tatiana Gill.....3.05%
Comic Effect #41.....1.22%
A Bit of Madness by Emmanuel Civello.....0.61%
Stickleback by Graham Annable.....0.61%
Escalator by Brandon Graham.....0%

You heartless fiends! You want me to reread/review stories I wrote three decades ago! Oh, well, if I can't screw up the courage to do it, I'll get someone to write a guest review of the ESSENTIAL LUKE CAGE. In the meantime, look for reviews of almost everything on this list in April, including my own choice, Max Allan Collins' ROAD TO PURGATORY.

Today is your last full day to vote on this week's TONY POLLS questions. We're asking you to choose which of some three dozens actress you'd most like to see play Wonder Woman in the forthcoming movie, who you would vote for in three categories of the National Cartoonist Society's Reuben Awards, and, as ever, what you'd like me to review in future TOTs. You can get in on the fun by getting your own opinionated self over to:

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

Tony Isabella

<< 03/27/2005 | 03/28/2005 | 03/29/2005 >>

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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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