This column will be going on vacation for a little over a week with an expected return date of Wednesday, June 1. I would spare you the list of reasons, but then some of you will call me to make sure I'm not dying and that's always a drag. It's not that I don't appreciate the genuine concern expressed by most such callers. No, it's the disappointment in the voices of those who were hoping that I actually was dying. To those of the latter persuasion, I can but offer a heartfelt:
"Kiss my deliciously spicy Italian ass. I'm gonna live long enough to dance and piss on all your graves!"
My reasons? Paying gigs I need to complete sooner rather than later. Hectic end-of-the-school year activities with my children. Assorted sports activities with my children. Casa Isabella's just-begun renovations which will undoubtedly force me away from my work at various times. Some minor medical stuff. Standing in line to get tickets for the next exciting chapter of Star Wars and cursing Peter David for beating me to the joke:
See? I'm just taking a short break. No big drama. No trips to the ER. No being dragged away in accordance with the soon-to-be-passed "We'll Do Whatever We Please, Shut Your Centrist/Liberal Pieholes" provisions of the revised PATRIOT Act.
Just some time off.
Our opening cover is from BUGS BUNNY'S VACATION FUNNIES #6, a 100-page comic book published in 1956 by Dell. It had stories and activity pages starring Bugs and his cartoon friends, including a character called Little Pancho Vanilla who apparently wanted to be a bullfighter. I have a bad feeling about this.
Instead of speculating about Little Pancho, who I don't recall ever seeing in comic books or cartoons, let's move on to the many other topics I need to cover today.
SERGEANTSTEIN AND HIS MARAUDIN' MONSTERS
Veteran readers of this column will recall that I'm a big fan of the delightfully mad comics created by PETE VON SHOLLY. Stroll through the TOT archives and you'll find my reviews of his MORBID, CRAZY HIP GROOVY GO-GO WAY OUT MONSTERS, and the raucous HERE COMES THE FLYING F***! Von Sholly has a new book being solicited in this month's PREVIEWS and, having read most of the comics it contains, it gets my recommendation.
Here's the 10-4 on it from Von Sholly's "evil publicist" self. Yes, it's sad-but-true. My pal Pete was attacked by a publicist at a comics convention and now, whenever the full moon is bright and he has a project being solicited, he turns into a savage creature. The only defense against this were-huckster is to buy whatever he's selling. Do not take my warning lightly or you, too, could become one of the living darned.
Here's the Von Sholly pitch:
Pete Von Sholly's next book is going to be SERGEANTSTEIN AND HIS MARAUDIN' MONSTERS, a satirical MONSTER WAR COMIC touching on many aspects of the horror genre from films, tv and literature. He will have advance copies on his table at the San Diego Comicon this July. The bulk will ship in August. The solicitation will be in the JUNE issue of DIAMOND PREVIEWS (on sale end of May) and will have a Certified Cool Item flag AND a Spotlight. Under VONSHOLLYWOOD near the end of the comics section. And so...
From the H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe legacies, to the Middle East (Harryhausen style, but seen in the light of political reality and twisted accordingly) to Jason, Chucky, Leatherface and their cinematic serial killer brethren, to modern CG fests like Matrix, the new Star Wars epics and Van Helsing, to "classic" big brained sci-fi monsters as seen in INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, MARS ATTACKS, THIS ISLAND EARTH etc, "modern" monsters battling DINOSAURS (natch), HOME GROAN creatures like the Deep Fried Fiend known as Former John and his zombie cannibal family...and even the ever popular MUCH MORE, SERGEANTSTEIN is a laugh riot from beginning to end. The Sarge himself is a defectively-brained malaprop-spouting bull in the china shop of his hidden underground camp where monsters train and toil to take care of their bumbling incompetent cousins...mainly US.
The book is a slick 96-page trade paperback from VONSHOLLYWOOD press, retailing for $14.95 and including back up features spoofing Greek Mythology and invading Martians. You will definitely get your money's worth! You can go to...
Keep up the great work on the column! I remember your work at Marvel in the 70's and really enjoyed it.
Thanks for sending the strip my way, Scott. I got a kick out of it. Good luck with TRIPLE TAKE.
One of my new favorite blogs is palaeontologist Michael Ryan's PALAEOBLOG [palaeoblog.blogspot.com], which tickles the dinosaur-loving kid in me. Ryan is also a comics fan, so his blog contains frequent mentions of the art form. For example, he recently wrote about two new art books by Mark Schultz.
Also to be found in PALAEOBLOG is Steve Bissette's nine-part series on dinosaurs in comics. The first installment of the series appeared on March 19.
PALAEOBLOG is fascinating and informative reading, but also as much fun as a barrel of Gorgos. Check it out.
COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE
COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE #121 [Gemstone; $6.95] is as classy an issue as the magazine ever published. Sadly, the 100-page issue is also the last issue of the magazine.
Editor Russ Cochran and CBM's contributors take the magazine out on an incredibly high note. Lee Falk's Phantom gets the cover and six interior features, including two interviews with Paul Ryan, the current artist of the Phantom daily strip. In addition, Will Murray writes about the end of the Golden Age Captain Marvel, Mark Squirek picks an issue of RIP HUNTER TIME MASTER as his favorite comic book, and Michelle Nolan writes about the comics of 1944 and picks her 100 favorite comic books and comics characters. There's lots of art, much of it in color, a hefty letters section, market reports, and a guest editorial by retailer Steven Bates. How could this issue not earn the full five Tonys?
COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE readers know full well that the comics industry is losing a treasure here. To those of you who have never enjoyed an issue, I recommend you start haunting eBay and the back-issue bins. In years to come, there will be a lot of fans looking for CBM's 121 issues. Get the jump on them now.
SAY HELLO TO JASMINE
Say hello to a little charmer named Jasmine. Congratulations to David and Meryl Campiti on the birth of their daughter, who made her debut on May 3. Life is good, isn't it?
POP CULTURE FEST
The next POP CULTURE FEST takes place on Sunday, June 12th, at the Holiday Inn Lakeshore in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The guests for the show include Allyce Beasley (from TV's MOONLIGHTING), Dean Haglund (from X-FILES and LONE GUNMEN), Mike Sangiacomo (creator-writer of PHANTOM JACK), Chris Yambar (writer of BART SIMPSON comic books and so much more), Thom Zahler (creator-writer-artist of the RAIDER graphic novels), and pin-up artist Dave Nestler. The odds are good that I'll be there as well. I'll get back to you on that as we get closer to the one-day event.
In the meantime, for all the latest news on POP CULTURE FEST, visit the show website at:
Yes, I will happily sign anything I wrote if you bring it to me at Pop Culture Fest or any other convention. I'll do this even if you're a comics retailer bringing me a stack of a hundred comic books...as long as you're willing to wait until I've already signed for those folks in line who only have one or two comics they want me to sign. My Sharpie stands ready to serve you.
Barring pleasant surprise of a "winning the lottery" or some other millions-to-one shot, and outside of unannounced appearances at Pop Culture Fest, MID-OHIO-CON is the only comics convention I'm attending in 2005. You can get the early details on this year's event by going to the convention website:
I will autograph comics and such by mail. I do it frequently. Here's how that works...
Send the items you'd like autographed to me at:
P.O. Box 1502
Medina, OH 44258
Include a cover letter telling me where (cover or splash page) you'd like the items autographed. Include a pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelope so I can send the items back to you.
This works marvelously well for both of us. My home mailbox is big enough to accommodate packages and my terrific mail carrier picks up and delivers to my home every day Monday through Saturday. Most of the time, I can send your items back to you within 48 hours of receiving them.
If you'd *really* rather get me to sign your items in person, start working on your local convention promoters. I'd like to hit the road in 2006, but, for the most, I'll only be attending those shows providing support for my visits.
Thanks for your interest, now and in the future.
Some few folks have failed to notice that TONY'S ONLINE TIPS is a copyrighted feature. While fair usage certainly allows folks to quote portions of these columns, it does not allow the reposting or reprinting of entire reviews or columns.
Creators and publishers: I'm almost always willing to approve your use of my reviews and columns, as long as there is no attempt to change the meaning of my opinions or positions. Believe it or not, I have had publishers try to pare unfavorable reviews down to a word or a sentence that could be construed as praise. You don't want to try this. Really.
Bloggers and posters: I'm *sometimes* willing to approve your use of my reviews and columns. But, contrary to my balance sheet, this website is a for-profit endeavor, I'd much rather you simply include a link to the column. That's one of the reasons we archive them on this website. Say nice enough things about me and there's a good chance I'll return the warm fuzzies.
The key thing to remember is...when in doubt, ask. I'll get back to you as soon as possible. I'm not trying to spoil anyone's online fun, but I do want to protect my copyrights.
BETTY AND VERONICA
I decided to run this press release to give me an excuse for using this photo. It just tickles me.
MATTEL TO LAUNCH BETTY AND VERONICA FASHION DOLLS IN JUNE
Archie Comics Entertainment and Mattel have announced a multi-year, worldwide licensing agreement naming the world's leading toy manufacturer Doll licensee for BETTY & VERONICA. The announcement was made jointly by Steve Herman, VP of Licensing for Archie Comics Entertainment, LLC and Russell Arons, Vice President of Marketing, Mattel. The doll license grants Mattel manufacturing and marketing rights for dolls and accessories, as well as Magic 8 Balls reflecting Betty & Veronica's renowned differing perspectives on life and love.
Based on the theme "Are you a Betty or are you a Veronica?" (the theme behind the successful launch of the Women's and Junior's upscale boutique apparel and accessory line), the BETTY & VERONICA products will be available in June. The BETTY & VERONICA Barbie dolls bring the popular Riverdale High coeds to Barbie's world. Dressed in cool, contemporary fashions, each doll comes with a die cut note-book.
"Archie Comics Entertainment has an impressive track record of extending the renowned ARCHIE universe into all areas of media and consumer products. As a result of their successful efforts, the ARCHIE brand has become a formidable franchise, underscored by the exciting developments of BETTY & VERONICA in the media, consumer products and fashion marketplaces. As partners with Archie Comics Entertainment, we are committed to helping bring the BETTY & VERONICA characters to life in creative and innovative ways for kids," said Arons.
Said Herman: "All young girls (and boys) at some time growing up have read the adventures of teenager Archie Andrews and his two best girlfriends Betty and Veronica."
"America's most enduring and largest selling teenage humor comics for 64 years, Archie Comics enjoys monthly sales in excess of 700,000 copies and a readership exceeding 5,000,000 per month. As a result of the agreement between Mattel and Archie Comics Entertainment, LLC, the Betty and Veronica dolls come to life exclusively at Toys R Us."
The Archie characters first appeared in an Archie comic book published in 1941. More than 60 years later, Betty, Veronica, Archie, Jughead and friends remain a staple of entertainment for readers the world over with timeless tales of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of teenagers. Role models to millions, Betty & Veronica, Archie and Jughead have come to represent the fads, fashions and attitudes of contemporary youth.
Yes, they did lay it on a little thick. It's a press release. All the same, I think this is exciting news for Archie and for the comics industry in general.
Now where's my Cheryl Blossom doll?
When you scroll down to the bottom of this column, you'll see links for TOT sponsors. Wildcat Books, one of those sponsors, is publisher of many adventure, fantasy, horror, and science fiction books, including my pal Ron Fortier's BROTHER GRIM (print: $12.99; download: $5.21). Allow me to crib the back-cover copy:
Risen from the grave in the aftermath of a brutal murder, former underworld hitman Tony Grimaldi finds himself transformed. Now, with his ebon trenchcoat, gleaming silver automatics and ivory skull mask, Tony stalks the benighted streets and back alleys of Port Nocturne, brining justice to the downtrodden, and judgement to the wicked! A pulp action-adventure tour de force penned by master wordsmith Ron Fortier!
Besides being a pal of mine, that master wordsmith also wrote a series of great GREEN HORNET comics in the 1980s. Whether he's doing comics or prose, as in this book, he's a terrific writer and one well worth reading.
Grim was created by Christopher Mills (no slouch of a writer his own bad self), Fortier, and Delfin Barral. The character first appeared in comics form at Mills' SUPERNATURAL CRIME website, then went on to star in a series of prose thrillers.
This book has had a rough time getting to the public. Diamond decided against carrying it - and if anyone here can look at *any* Diamond catalog and not shake their heads at this decision, I don't think I want to know them - leaving Wildcat to pursue other avenues of distribution.
I'll be reading and reviewing this book when I return from my "vacation," but, even unread, I don't hesitate to recommend it to readers who enjoys pulp fiction. You can order the book directly from Wildcat Books - just click on the link to be directed to the publisher's sales site - and also buy it from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online.
P.S. The book has illustrations by Rob Davis, a spiffy comics artist whose credits include Star Trek, Quantum Leap, and The Maze Agency. What a deal for under thirteen bucks!
Another TOT sponsor is THE ANTIDOTE, "a newspaper that really does have a liberal bias." It's published by Craig Williams, the former columnist and entertainment editor for the MEDINA GAZETTE, "a newspaper that really does have a right-wing bias, but tries to pretend otherwise." The local paper hasn't been the same without Craig, so I'm happy to see him launch his own paper.
The April edition - the one shown above - is 24 pages of news articles, columns, and cartoons. The next issue is due to hit the streets on June 1.
If you click on the link below, you'll be whisked away to THE ANTIDOTE site where you can find spiffy features and merchandise. If you're an out-of-towner, you can subscribe to the paper there as well. Twelve monthly issues are $23 and, if THE ANTIDOTE increases its frequency, you'll get those additional issues free of charge. Only a liberal could be so generous.
There's now even more fun at WORLD FAMOUS COMICS. My pal Jon Knutson's COVER STORIES column makes me feel a little less guilty about abandoning you. Each and every Sunday, Jon will be bringing you a selection of classic and not-so-classic comic-book covers and offer his insightful and witty comments on same. I've wanted him on this website for ages and here he is! Sometimes good things do happen to good people!
This week's COVER STORIES has the theme of "Altered Egos" and you can read it at:
The TONY POLLS will also go on hiatus for several days with a scheduled return date of Tuesday, May 31. Today is your last full day to vote on the current poll questions, which ask you to grade the new DC Comics logo and rate your expectations for a quartet of comic-book movies. These questions will be taken offline sometime after midnight tonight.
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: