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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 Friday, April 15, 2005


Walt Kelly knew that Friday the thirteenth could even come on a Wednesday. He was a very wise man.

I typed "frustration" into an image search engine, considered several possibilities, and then chose the above image - my "brother in irritation" - to lead off today's TOT. Two days back from when this column posts was an exercise in frustration from the moment I got out of bed to the wee hours of the morning when I went back to bed.

It wasn't any one big thing that frustrated me, no 800-pound gorilla of misfortune. It was dozens of little annoyances. There were multifarious problems in the areas of accounting, scheduling, computer maintenance, family dynamics, Internet idiots, publishing disappointments, editing blunders, household management, physical ailments, and more. Had I been offered root canal surgery during the day, I would have happily accepted it just to take my mind off all that other stuff.

A sane man would take today off to recoup.



Blood of the Demon 1

John Byrne again goes back to the "archives" for his newest DC title, BLOOD OF THE DEMON [$2.50]. I have no idea how many series this makes for the Jack Kirby-created hell spawn - I speak here of Etrigan the Demon and not my old pal John - but, as Byrne has done many excellent comics following in the footsteps of other creators, I looked forward to reading his take on the character. Let's look at his first issues in good/so-so/bad mode...

The good *and* the so-so: Byrne does his version of Kirby's first Demon cover and it's a fine piece. Still, slightly brighter coloring would have made the art stand out more. The second cover, also well-drawn, suffers from the same problem.

The bad: Plotter Byrne and scripter Will Pfeifer make the far-too-common mistake of assuming their readers are familiar with the Demon's past comics history. In the first issue's opening scene, set in the waning of Camelot, Merlin appears to turn Etrigan into a man. Elsewhere, it appears Jason Blood is a man with a demon for a body-mate. There have been so many takes on the characters that I'm not sure myself. Likewise, the relationship between Blood and his existing supporting characters is just there with few clues to its history and status.

The good: Byrne plots a rousing good comic book. The action is more brutal and violent than I'm used to from him, but I'm glad he didn't flinch from the more horrific elements of these issues. Each of the issues has a couple of "Whoa!" moments that widened my eyes as I read them. That's storytelling!

The good: The combination of Byrne's pencils and Nekros' inks - and isn't that a great name for the inker of this title - works incredibly well in this comic.

The good: I'm not familiar with colorist Alex Bleyaert's work, but he lays down the hues nicely.

The good: Pfeifer's scripting is solid. It's not outstanding, mind you, but it's solid from start to finish.

The good: Rob Leigh's lettering. It's clear and unobtrusive throughout the issues.

The good: I like the occult nature of the threats Etrigan and Jason Blood are facing in this issue. My favorite Doctor Strange run were probably the stories when he was saving a world that had no idea it was even in danger.

The bad: Too much involvement with the mundane world. I don't want cops getting involved with the new series and I *really* don't want Batman hanging around, even though BLOOD OF THE DEMON is set in Gotham City.

The so-so: We get yet another TFC (tough female cop) in Sandra Kincaid. This is fast becoming the new comics cliche. I applaud any inclusion of positive and strong women in comics, but could we start mixing up their attitudes and jobs a wee bit?

The bad: Batman. He doesn't make his grand entrance until the end of the second issue and, yeah, his appearance was inevitable, and, yeah, I'm confident Byrne will handle him better than in the 87 ongoing Batman titles published by DC, but I don't see how there can be any reconciliation between the Bat and the Demon while they live in the same city. That might be an interesting conflict for an issue or three, but then we get into the realm of the illogical. Namely: how could Batman not devote his every waking hour to riding Gotham of a face-ripping vigilante? Kudos to Byrne and Pfeifer if they can make this work or send Etrigan packing without diminishing him as a threat.

The conclusion: BLOOD OF THE DEMON #1 and #2 are far more good than bad. I'm giving them four Tonys each.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Comics references in comic strips. I love them and I love to share them with you.

A few days back [April 11] I was praising what Guy and Brad Gilchrist's have been doing with NANCY. They out-did themselves with this beautiful strip from April 12:


Our second entry this time out is John Deering's STRANGE BREW for April 14:

Strange Brew

Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future editions of the column that almost never sleeps.



Heroes Anonymous

From Cynthia Turner's Cynopsis for April 14 comes this welcome bit of news about a HEROES ANONYMOUS show in the works for the Sci-Fi Channel. She writes:

Heroes Anonymous (NBC Universal Television Studio/Bender-Brown Prods) is based on the comics of the same name from Scott Gimpel and Bill Morrison and published by Matt Groening's Bongo Comics. A 60-minute live action series set in the world of modern day super-heroes. The show follows a group of twenty-something aspiring super-heroes that form a support group to help them cope with the nearly impossible task of trying to discover their own identity, while carving out their secret identity.

Congratulations to Gimpel and Morrison. I thought their comic was terrific and, if the TV series is half as good, they can count on me to be a regular viewer.



So I'm digging through my files and I come across something I wrote for a Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art exhibit on the Harvey Awards. I had been asked to write something to accompany a display of the 2004 nominees for the awards and went through a draft or two before coming up with something that pleased both the museum folks and myself. I wasn't doing any traveling last year and never saw the exhibit, but I'm told my small contribution appeared as part of the display dressing.

Here's what I wrote last June...

THE HARVEY AWARDS NOMINEES FOR 2004 reflect and are representative of an art form constantly expanding its creativity and scope. Just as legendary creator Harvey Kurtzman expanded the medium through his work on the classic EC horror, science fiction, and war comics of the 1950s, on MAD and other humor magazines, and on his slick stories for PLAYBOY, these amazing writers and artists continue to push comics art ever forward.

Kurtzman set a towering standard for personal vision and quality of execution that inspires comics creators as much today as it did in the 1950s. It has been said, with considerable justification, that he was the father of the free expression found in the underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s. His storytelling techniques continue to be studied today. That these awards bear his name is testimony to his legacy as one of comic art's most important and influential creators.

The nominees hail from across the USA and the world. They weave stories from every material of the human experience and the human imagination. Their styles encompass the traditionally classic and the shockingly groundbreaking. Their publishers range from the largest in the world to themselves. Most have little in common with each other, save for an unwavering dedication to their art and a talent which staggers the senses.

They are the storytellers of tomorrow, the pioneers of an exciting art form soaring towards its maturity.

Imagine some one with an authoritative and impressive voice - in other words, not me - speaking the above.

Gives me goose bumps, it does.



I receive an e-mail like this March note from LOYD FERRELL JR ten or twelve times a year from comics fans who enjoy what I write even though they disagree with me:

I just thought I'd rattle off a few lines to you and let you know that I enjoy both your CBG and your online columns. I've also enjoyed some of your previous comics work. The HAWKMAN mini-series you wrote back in the mid-80s is a personal favorite.

I also wanted you to know, being an underpaid working stiff myself, as well as a father of two kids, that I can relate to your references to tight budgets and lean times! I don't even mind the occasional "proud papa" boasting you regale us with! I'm a dad, too; it comes with the territory.

One other thing before I sign off. While I don't see eye-to-eye with you on political matters, it's never gotten in the way of my enjoyment of your work! We share a love for the comics medium, and, in my book, that makes us practically family! I think family can disagree and still get along peacefully with each other. Would that more of the world had that sort of outlook! IS your column! You're entitled to fire off whatever opinions you may have! Take care...and greetings to your Sainted Wife Barb and the kids!

Obviously, I get more e-mails from comics fans who agree with me than those that don't, but I'm sure those like-minded readers can forgive me for admitting that I get a slightly bigger kick from the "opposition." Those other letters give me hope that we might be able to get through this crazy divide before the bullets start a'flying. I'm a big fan of hope and optimism.



Return of the Sith

World Famous Comics web-wizard JUSTIN will be attending STAR WARS CELEBRATION III, Thursday through Sunday, April 21-24, 2005, at the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. The gala event is produced by Gen Con, LLC, based in Seattle, Washington, in partnership with Lucasfilm, Ltd. According to the event's website, there will be more than half a million square feet of Star Wars events, interactive activities, displays and action all under one roof. Also attending will be Star Wars artist and WFC columnist JOE CORRONEY, as well as actresses AMY ALLEN, who played Aayla Secura in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and MICHONNE BOURRIAGUE, who played Aurra Sing in the Phantom Menace. Additional event and guest information can be found here:

Over the past weekend, Justin and I were kicking around ideas as to what how we should handle his brief leave of absence. He was willing to set up several days worth of columns in advance, but I figured neither of us were able to devote so many hours to writing and processing those columns before he left.

So...TONY'S ONLINE TIPS will be going on vacation from April 21-25. Since the tail end of February, we've always had something new - however brief - waiting for you here every morning. But the resources for working that far ahead aren't in place at the present time. Besides, the time you save not reading my column for those five days will give you a chance to read my old comics stories in the ESSENTIAL IRON FIST, ESSENTIAL SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP, ESSENTIAL LUKE CAGE POWER MAN VOLUME 1, ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA VOLUME 4, and THE COMPLETE TONY ISABELLA BLACK LIGHTNING. Okay, four out of five ain't too bad.

Starting tomorrow, and running through the April 20th edition of TOT, I'll also be recommending a selection of online columns and blogs to keep you entertained during my absence. However, I stress that, if the weather is nice, I'll expect you to get off the darn computer and go outside to play with your friends.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 04/14/2005 | 04/15/2005 | 04/16/2005 >>

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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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