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

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for Saturday, June 4, 2005

From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1605 [June, 2005]:

"If you need someone to count on, count me in
"Someone you can rely on through thick and thin
"When you start to count the ones that you might ever doubt
"If you think of counting me, count me out."

- Gary Lewis and the Playboys, "Count Me In" (1965)

It started with CBG mainstay Fred Hembeck...over 22 years ago. He needed to come up with an installment of his popular "Dateline @#$%!" feature and drew 100 panels featuring 100 cartoon head shots of himself listing 100 things he liked about comics. Yes, this was insane and, of course, Fred pulled it off brilliantly.

A few months back, Fred reprinted that incredible strip on his website. You can see it here:

Lo and behold, Fred's strip started an online movement. Alan David Doane was the first to follow in Hembeck's footsteps, listing 100 things *he* loved about comics at his website:

The idea caught fire as dozens of comics bloggers and online columnists took on the challenge and listed 100 things they loved about comics. Much to my surprise, I was included on Doane's list and a few others.

Until now, I have been too chicken to come up with my own list of 100 things I love about comics. These lists are one of the best advertisements for the variety and wonderfulness of comics that I can imagine, but I was paralyzed at the thought of leaving out this or that individual, organization, comic book, story, or character. Given enough time, I could probably come up with a list of 10,000 things I love about comics.

I'm going to give it a shot anyway...with the caveat that this is, by no means, a top 100 list. I'm going to sit back and let the choices come to me at random, encouraged by whatever happens to be on my computer screen or desk at the moment. No crying "foul" if I leave someone or something off this list; it doesn't mean I love them or it less than what is on the list.

May the light of Agamotto illuminate my path...

Doctor Strange

1. DOCTOR STRANGE BY STAN LEE AND STEVE DITKO. Doc was at his best before he started hanging out with the other heroes. I loved the notion of a hero truly working in secret with no one aware that he was saving us from threats we could never imagine.

2. THE PASSION OF THE FANS. I didn't like IDENTITY CRISIS or AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED, but I loved the way the fans got all worked up about them.

3. PREVIEWS. It offers far more wonderful things than I could ever hope to afford, but this 500-page-plus catalog is my monthly reminder of how big and beautiful comicdom can be.

4. STAN SAKAI'S USAGI YOJIMBO. For two decades, the masterful Sakai has been creating funny, thoughtful, and thrilling adventures of a samurai rabbit.

5. GEMSTONE COMICS. Disney comics are back, in a variety of formats, and showcasing writers and artists from around the world. Not to mention the great creators of the past.

6. THE "RETURN" OF FIRST COMICS. How cool is it to have John Ostrander and Tim Truman making new GRIMJACK comics, and Mike Grell making new JON SABLE FREELANCE comics, and to also have legendary editor Mike Gold on board? The answer is...very.

7. SECOND CHANCES...AND THEN SOME. I love the way neither DC or Marvel ever completely gives up on old characters. True, many revivals don't measure up to the originals, but many are fine comic books in their own right. Now if only the company would adopt the same optimism when it comes to older creators.

8. JERRY SIEGEL'S FAMILY. I hope they get everything they're asking for. If they win their legal fight for their just rights in Superman, Superboy, and other properties, it will be the best day for comics creators...ever!

9. MANGA, MANGA, MANGA. The format, the variety, the doorway to a new and vibrant comics community.

10. SHONEN JUMP. It's the best buy in comics. Over 300 pages of comics and features for five bucks. And you know I'm excited about the June launch of SHOJO BEAT.

Judge Dredd #1

11. JUDGE DREDD. Superman is a crusading liberal. Batman is a driven conservative. Dredd's their worst nightmare: government authority without limit. But not without his own sense of duty and honor and even compassion. One of the truly classic characters in comics and as good today as he ever was.

12. MEN OF TOMORROW: GEEKS, GANGSTERS, AND THE BIRTH OF THE COMIC BOOK BY GERARD JONES. I don't think there was a chapter that didn't cause my jaw to drop. It may be the most important book of comics history ever written.

13. COMICS HISTORIANS. Whether they are writing for terrific magazines like ALTER EGO and NEMO, whether they are posting heaps of data on line, whether they are writing books published by great publishers like Fantagraphics and TwoMorrows, they're expanding our knowledge of the comics art form and giving much deserved credit to long overlooked comics creators.

14. JOHN LUSTIG'S LAST KISS. Old romance comic book art mixed with wacky new dialogue. Lustig is a genius.

15. eBAY. It's a mind-boggling useful way to find comics old and new and it's fun...even when some dirty so-and-so outbids me at the last possible nanosecond.

16. THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES REBOOT BY MARK WAID AND BARRY KITSON. Teen power on a galactic scale. Makes me wish I wasn't an old guy.

17. PROSE NOVELS STARRING COMIC-BOOK CHARACTERS. Forgive me. It's a guilty pleasure.

18. PETE VON SHOLLY. He makes comics from photos and art and computer magic...and he's one of the funniest creators in comics. Dark Horse published his wonderful MORBID anthologies, but he self-published his even wilder HERE DOESN'T COME THE FLYING F---! It's about the most apathetic hero of all. He doesn't give a flying, well, you get the idea.

19. GARY CARLSON'S BIG BANG COMICS. Brand-new adventures from the Golden/Silver/Bronze ages of comics that never existed. Part of me winces at the similarities to actual comics heroes while part of me delights in it.

Jughead 165

20. JUGHEAD BY CRAIG BOLDMAN AND REX LINDSEY. Jughead is the most interesting teenager in Riverdale. Boldman is my favorite of the current Archie writers. Lindsey is a swell artist. I love the recurring characters they've added to the title.

21. ASTONISHING X-MEN BY JOSS WHEDON AND JOHN CASSADAY. Other than having Spike, Xander, and Andrew join the team, how could this get any better?

22. THE SIMPSONS. The TV show is better than the comics, but the comics are more fun than an all-syrup Slushie.

23. SHE-HULK. I didn't think anyone could write She-Hulk as well as John Byrne. Then Dan Slott proved me wrong.

24. MARVEL ESSENTIAL EDITIONS. Big thick comic books filled with great and not-so-great stories from the past. At under twenty bucks a pop, I can live with these black-and-white reprints. If I were a gambling man, I'd bet that all of my Marvel stories from the 1970s will be reprinted before the Distinguished Competition even considers doing the same for my Black Lightning tales.

25. COMICS REVUE. Over 225 issues and still going strong as Rick Norwood and Don Markstein continue to bring CR's readers some of the greatest adventure strips of all time: Modesty Blaise, the Phantom, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Steve Canyon, and more.

26. GTO: GREAT TEACHER ONIZUKI BY TOHRU FUJISAWA. Immature, rough at the edges and then some, Onizuki goes from being a common punk to a teacher capable of inspiring even the most difficult and troubled students. It's funny, heart-warming, rude, and sometimes even unnerving.

27. ARCHIE COMICS DIGESTS. I love seeing them at supermarket check-out counters, knowing they deliver good value for their cover prices and are suitable for all ages.

28. CLAYPOOL COMICS. Editor Richard Howell helms a small line of titles - DEADBEATS, ELVIRA, SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY - with a style all their own. This year, while wrapping up many plotlines in exciting and surprising ways, the Claypool crew also crafted a series of "jump-in issues for new readers."

29. JEFF MARIOTTE'S DESPERADOES. A great take on the western genre: gritty, intelligent, and spooky.

30. CHARLTON SPOTLIGHT. A cool fanzine dedicated to exploring and honoring the oft-underappreciated wares of Charlton Comics. It's published by Mike Ambrose and you can learn more about it by going to:

Gorgo 2

31. GORGO AND KONGA. Two of the greatest giant monster comics of all time. Mostly written by Joe Gill with Steve Ditko drawing their best issues.

32. KURT BUSIEK. I like his writing a lot, but my main reason for putting him on this list is that I am mightily impressed with his ability to keep his cool when communicating online with some of the biggest idiots in cyberspace.

33. COMICS BLOGGERS. There are good comics bloggers and there are bad comics bloggers, but there's something very exciting about them no matter how much crap you have to surf through.

34. BATMAN BEGINS. I can scarcely believe it, but I'm looking forward to this. Please don't toy with me, Hollywood.

35. BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE. Sight unseen, the reunion of the Batman, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin has me nigh-giddy with anticipation.

36. SUPERMAN/BATMAN. I enjoy writer Jeph Loeb's deft handling of these comics icons.

37. DC ARCHIVES. Do I have to explain? Have you ever seen me give a bad review to one of these?

38. ZATANNA. My first comics crush, the girl that I'll always remember.

Ekam ytitnedI sisirC og yawa.

Cosplay Costumes

39. COSPLAY AT COMICS CONVENTIONS. I love it. Especially the occasional Zatanna costume.

40. MID-OHIO-CON. My favorite comics convention.

41. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. Maybe the best animated super-hero show ever.

42. DWAYNE McDUFFIE. One of my favorite writers of comics and cartoons. Everyone should hire him.

43. "SOUL POWER." Not the best episode of STATIC SHOCK - that would be "Static in Africa" - but my personal favorite. Props to Adam Beecham for a wonderful script.

44. MILESTONE'S DAKOTA UNIVERSE. I look forward to the return of these characters someday, someway, preferably with the original creators calling the shots.

45. STAN LEE. How could I leave "the Man" off even a random list of the things I love about comics? No other editor or writer in the field had as much impact on me.

46. ROY THOMAS. He is one of the best editors and writers in the history of comics. As the editor of the monthly ALTER EGO, he brings that history to light. He also hired me to work at Marvel in 1972. Impact on Tony-wise, he's right behind Stan.

47. MARIE SEVERIN. My favorite comics lady. No matter what the job, she does it great. Of all the great folks who worked in that wonderful Marvel Bullpen at the dawn of my comics career, she might just have been my favorite.

48. MIKE ESPOSITO. Then again, maybe Marie is tied with this guy. Mike was kind of like an uncle to me, always friendly, always with the great stories of his life in comics. If I were smarter, I would have written them all down.

49. MY OTHER MARVEL UNCLES. The esteemed Esposito wasn't the only one. I learned from other fine men who made me feel at home: Sol Brodsky, Dan Crespi, Frank Giacoia, Larry Lieber, John Romita, George Roussos, John Verpooten, to name just a few. Hmm...I guess that makes Marie my aunt.

Amazing Stories of Suspense

50. ALAN CLASS COMICS. Published in black-and-white, I get a kick out of these British magazines which reprinted material from a variety of American outfits (Marvel/Atlas, Charlton, ACG, Tower, and others) in the 1960s through the early 1980s. I have less than two dozen; their eBay auctions are fierce.

51. GRAND COMICS DATABASE. The most amazing comics research resource ever. It's online at:

52. JERRY BAILS. Often called the "father of comics fandom" and I can't think of anyone more deserving of the title. From the first and best comics apa - CAPA-ALPHA - to some of the first and best comics fanzine to his decades of work collecting data on the men and women who made the comics, he's been important to the art form and the industry.

53. ALVIN SCHWARTZ. One of the best and most prolific Batman and Superman writers of the Golden Age. His insights into that era continue to be invaluable while his 1997 book - AN UNLIKELY PROPHET - offers a breathtaking look into the process of creation and mind and self.

54. BILL FINGER. He co-created Batman and other now-classic comics characters. His scripts were always a notch above those of his contemporaries. He was not enriched by his comics career, but his readers were most definitely entertained.

55. CHARLEY'S WAR BY PAT MILLS AND JOE COLQUHOUN. Perhaps the best war comic of all time. The first 29 episodes are available in a handsome hardcover collection from Titan Books.

56. LUANN BY GREG EVANS. The "star" of this newspaper strip is a shallow and uninteresting teenager. However, when the comic's focus turns to supporting characters, especially her older brother and rookie fireman Brad, the strip sings.

57. THE PHANTOM. Lee Falk's creation is looking better than ever with Graham Nolan drawing the Sunday strips and Paul Ryan the dailies. The stories are better, too, with the "Ghost Who Walks" having to work harder to bring more dangerous evildoers to justice and often taking his lumps while doing it.

58. THE TRADE PAPERBACK. This has become my preferred format for reading ongoing series.

59. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN BY BRIAN BENDIS AND MARK BAGLEY. It's now - officially - my favorite Spider-Man title, especially since I began reading it in the hardcover collections.

60. MARK EVANIER. He's one of my best friends. He's one of our best writers. He's one of the most thoroughly decent people in comics. His NEWS FROM ME blog [] is the best on the Internet. He's currently writing a screenplay for the planned Groo movie and, if there's any justice in the world, the movie will make him, Groo, and Groo creator Sergio Aragones household names. I've already named my toaster after him.

Sergio Aragones

61. SERGIO ARAGONES. To know him is to love him.

62. HOSTESS COMICS ADS. We loved them so. It's okay to admit that. I just wish today's comics readers could see their favorite contemporary heroes using pastries to protect the innocent and give criminals a mouth-watering taste of the good life...before sending them up the river.

63. GODZILLA. The Big G isn't best known for his comic books, but are you gonna tell him he can't be on this list?

64. TOM BATIUK. In his FUNKY WINKERBEAN and CRANKSHAFT comic strips, he mixes sometimes corny humor, moving human interest, and thoughtful examinations of important issues.

65. ARLO AND JANIS BY JIMMY JOHNSON. These characters remind me of my neighbors. Only funnier.

66. YVONNE CRAIG. Still my favorite Batgirl.

67. JULIE NEWMAR. Still my favorite Catwoman, though I give major props to Halle Berry for showing up to graciously accept her Catwoman-induced "Razzie" for worst actress in last year's cinema cat-astrophe.

68. ATLAS COMICS. The Marvel comic books of the 1950s. There were dozens of titles in virtually every genre conceivable. Most of the best artists of the era drew stories for these comics. You could fill a dozen trade paperbacks and not come close to including all the good stuff. But I wish someone would try.

69. THE COMPLETE PEANUTS. The most extraordinary publishing event in comics. Every home should have these books.

70. ACTOR. It stands for "A Commitment to Our Roots" and it's the first ever federally-chartered non-profit organization created to help comics industry veterans in their times of need. To find out more about this most worthy organization and how you can help them help others, go to:

Jack Kirby Bust

71. JACK KIRBY. Requires no explanation.

72. CARL BARKS. Requires no explanation.

73. WILL EISNER. Requires no explanation.

74. HARVEY PEKAR. I don't know what I love most about Pekar. His AMERICAN SPLENDOR comics. The should-have-won-the-Oscar movie based on those comics. Or the downright heartwarming emergence of Pekar the family man, a team effort with his wife Joyce Brabner and their daughter Danielle. Oh, heck, it's all of them.

75. JEFF SMITH'S BONE. It gets my vote as the best and most fully realized epic adventure to come out of the independent comics arena. A magnificent work.

76. JOE KUBERT'S YOSSEL. This just gets better every time I read it. One of the best graphic novels of all time.

77. OUR CANCER YEAR BY BRABNER AND PEKAR. Hang on, my beloved readers. I think we've just entered the lightning round of great graphic novels.



Daredevil Born Again







86. THE DC COMICS EDITORS OF MY YOUTH: JULIUS SCHWARTZ, MURRAY BOLTINOFF, ROBERT KANIGHER, JACK SCHIFF, AND MORT WEISINGER. I got to know Julie well, Murray pretty well, Bob a little, and thought the world of them. I would have liked to have met Schiff; I think we would've had a lot in common. Weisinger? We've all heard the stories. But, love them or not, these editors and their creators brought me great enjoyment in my formative years.

87. THE SECOND WAVE OF DC EDITORS: DICK GIORDANO, JOE KUBERT, JOE ORLANDO, AND MIKE SEKOWSKY. I got to work with Dick and Joe, two of the best story men in the business. I would have liked to have worked with Kubert and Sekowsky.

88. E. NELSON BRIDWELL. He never got the respect he deserved, but he was a brilliant and creative man who truly loved the comics art form. It showed in his work.

89. CAPTAIN AMERICA. Though I like him best when his writers and editors remember he's a liberal.

Black Lightning 1

90. EDDY NEWELL. The comics artist I would most like to work with again. His work on BLACK LIGHTNING brought my stories to life and always inspired me to give the book 150%.

91. TREVOR VON EEDEN. The first Black Lightning artist. I'd like to work with him again, too.

92. SINBAD. I have never laughed so hard in my life as when I watched the comedian spoofing my creation on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. We chatted on the phone years later and I learned that both he and his teenage son were big Black Lightning fans.

93. COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND. A non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community, it's often our first line of defense when the censors come knocking. You can learn more about the CBLDF and become a member by going here:

94. CHEEKY ANGEL BY HIROYUKI NISHIMORI. The story of a young boy who wanted to become the manliest of men and who was, instead, transformed into the loveliest of young women by a malicious genie. It's got action, drama, heart, humor, romance, and as even-handed an examination of gender identity as I've seen in comics.

95. PATTY CAKE AND FRIENDS BY SCOTT ROBERTS. It's a charming and often hilarious look at childhood.

96. THE FRANKENSTEIN MOBSTER BY MARK WHEATLEY. Come for the brilliant title, stay for the terrific characters, story, and art.

97. DISTRICT X BY DAVID HINE AND DAVID YARDIN. It's cops and mutants in the Marvel Universe.

98. BILL BLACK'S AC COMICS. Bringing readers classic comics cowboys, fabulous females, and super-heroes in affordable formats. If memory serves me correctly, AC is well into its third decade as an independent comics publisher.


100. COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. I couldn't exclude the publication that's been like a mother and father to me for two decades and then some. Okay, maybe not exactly like a mother and a father. Maybe more like weird cousins. As a contributor, I'm proud to have been a part of CBG all these years. As a reader, I think it's still one of the few indispensable magazines in comicdom.

That's my random list and, as I expected, no sooner did I hit the one-hundredth item than I started thinking of many other things I love about comics. Bernard Krigstein. Supernatural Law. Frank Cho. Mad Magazine. Al Feldstein. Dick Ayers. Akiko. Wendy and Richard Pini. Stan Goldberg. Uncle Scrooge. Challengers of the Unknown. Dan DeCarlo. Frank Doyle. Cheryl Blossom. Little Lulu. Nancy. The Boondocks. Arrgh!

I wonder how many pages it would take to run that list of the *10,000* things I love about comic books.



This is a column that grew too big to be contained in a single day. I have additional comments/information on the hundred items. I have e-mails I received after it appeared in CBG. I have issues with some of the editorial changes made to the comment. I have no idea how long will take me to cover all of these.

Bear with me. I'm going to start making with the additional notes in tomorrow's TOT and continue them through the week until I get to all them. I'll have other stuff for you as well, including a salute to one of comicdom's greatest...

Ah, but that would be telling.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 06/03/2005 | 06/04/2005 | 06/05/2005 >>

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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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