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for Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Action Comics 1

We continue our salute to Superman in the anniversary month of his debut in ACTION COMICS #1 [June, 1938]. Jumping forward five years from that auspicious arrival, we find ourselves gazing upon the Jack Burnley cover for ACTION COMICS #61 [June, 1943]. Whitney Ellsworth was the credited editor of the issue, but Jack Schiff was the actual editor.

Behind the cover, Superman met "The Man They Wouldn't Believe" in a 12-page story by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Ed Dobrotka. Here's what THE GREAT SUPERMAN BOOK by Michael L. Fleisher has to say about the tale:


An arrogant, self-indulgent, recklessly irresponsible playboy - secretly engaged in some form of criminal activity, apparently counterfeiting - who becomes engaged to Lois Lane after a one-day courtship in early 1943. Crushed by the sudden engagement announcement, Superman is heartened to learn that Lois' real motive in encouraging Shaw has been to enable her to verify her suspicions concerning "the source of [Shaw's] huge income," suspicions that lead ultimately to the capture of Shaw and his henchmen by Superman after an unsuccessful attempt by the villains to murder Clark Kent and Lois in a pair of makeshift electric chairs "wired for 20,000 volts of electricity...!"

So Lois gets engaged to a crook to expose him, this being the kind of thing all great journalists do. If "reality TV" was around back then, is there any doubt that Lois would be the winner of WHO WANTS TO MARRY A CRIMINAL MASTERMIND?

"The Man They Wouldn't Believe" has been reprinted in ACTION COMICS ARCHIVES: VOLUME 4. Backing up Supes in the issue were the Vigilante, the Three Aces, Americommando, Congo Bill, and Zatara. According to the GRAND COMICS DATABASE [], both the Three Aces and Zatara had panels repasted to reduce the page counts of their adventures. The Aces likely went from six to five pages while Zatara was cut from nine pages to seven.

Want to buy a near-mint condition copy of ACTION COMICS #61? According to the OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE, that could cost you $1575. Of course, Overstreet also claims that this issue has an "historic atomic radiation" cover where I see an oil-field fire. I say "tomato," you say "nuclear," oh, let's call the whole thing off.

Before we move on to other matters, here's an e-mail from ERIC GIMLIN which arrived mere hours after yesterday's TOT was posted to the website:

Maybe it's just me, but you had me seriously disagreeing with you a mere six words into Tuesday's Tips. Superman's birthday is February 29; therefore June is not generally considered Superman's birth-month. Actually, I've no idea if, post-Crisis, that birthday is still canonical. I honestly can't recall a statement in several years of reading your tips where I've so quickly gone "Huh?" Which probably just proves my level of comic geekness. It's not that I don't like the idea of you spending a lot of time saluting Superman. It's just the anniversary of his first appearance you're celebrating, not his birth.

Ironically, Superman's Kryptonian birth-month corresponds most closely to our Earth month of June. So, while it's true DC Comics once claimed Leap Day as Superman's birthday in a letters column, learned Kryptonologists now believe that was an artifice put forth because the publisher was too cheap to buy Supes a birthday present more than once every four years. Current DC management, warm and fuzzy teddy bears that they are, celebrate Kal-El's June birthday every year...though they admit he's hard to shop for.

Let's see what else I have for you today.



Heart of the City

Marvel Comics characters get some props in today's additions to our "Comics in the Comics" archives. In Mark Tatulli's HEART OF THE CITY for May 22, Star Wars fan Dean has a suggestion for George Lucas' next movie. I'd be all for this if Steve Gerber was hired to write the screenplay.


This may be one of the signs of the coming apocalypse. Sweet little Nancy playing Elektra?

"Sai" it isn't so, Guy and Brad Gilchrist!

The strip appeared on May 27.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the OUT OF THE GENE POOL strip which ran here on Sunday was sent to me by my good buddy SEAN KELLY. Thanks, Sean!

Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs. And don't be shy about sending me any strips you find.



Allow me to introduce you to GLYPHS: THE LANGUAGE OF THE BLACK COMICS COMMUNITY []. After publishing a handful of issues of an e-mail newsletter, comics creator/columnist RICH WATSON decided to go the blog route. From GLYPHS, here's his mission statement:

Basically, this is where you'll find news, information and commentary pertaining to the black comic book community. There are more of us involved in this business than many people think, doing more than just superhero books. It's my objective to invite people from all walks of life here to learn about our favorite black characters and titles, as well as the people of color who make them. Once again I am joined in this endeavor by columnist Erick Hogan, who'll be on hand to provide his views on the industry as it pertains to black comics and creators. And of course, I invite all of you, no matter who you are or where you're from, to share your thoughts as well.

Rich hit the ground running. Since launching the blog, he's run a report on the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention which was held last month in Philadelphia, an interview with FIRESTORM artist Jamal Igle, and more. It's a daily online stop for me and I recommend it to all of you as well.



Brave and Bold 57

We're dipping back into my random list of "100 Things I Love About Comics" today, as per my promised when I ran the list in its entirety last Saturday:

Let's revisit this entry:

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.

Several readers directed me to the recent PULSE article by my friend JEN CONTINO on the forthcoming DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS volumes. Her article begins:

With so many great classic stories at their disposal, it's no wonder DC Comics has finally decided to follow in the footsteps of other publishers and offer affordable black and white collections from their stable of characters. DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS makes its debut this September with Superman and Green Lantern volumes. These Silver Age spotlights feature 500 black and white pages of action, adventure, and - something that era is famous for - fun.

The PRESENTS volumes will cost $16.99 and the initial releases will be followed by Jonah Hex, Justice League of America, and one of my favorites, Metamorpho the Element Man. You can get further details by visiting THE PULSE:

Those hopeful readers who wrote me should probably not expect to see a Black Lightning volume any time soon. That disappointment aside, I'm looking forward to DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS. The books will be a great addition to DC's already impressive library of trade and hardcover books.

Comics Revue

Also on my list was this item:

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.

After the above appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, I received this note from DON MARKSTEIN:

COMICS REVUE has been Rick's baby all the way. Even when I was working with him on it - which I haven't done in several years, I'm afraid; my current listing as editor is mostly courtesy - I never did much more than help him get it out. But I certainly agree that it's a wonderful, wonderful magazine. I devour each issue, and wish I could accept the credit you give me.

COMICS REVUE #226 was a milestone for the magazine. With that issue, Rick surpassed the issue count of TIP TOP COMICS, which I believe was PREVIOUSLY America's longest-lasting comic book devoted to newspaper comics reprints.

I'll have more additions and corrections to my list in future TOTs. Watch for them.



All-American Comics 100

ALL-AMERICAN COMICS #100 [August, 1948] featured the debut of Black Lightning. But not *my* Black Lightning. When I created the urban super-hero who has been the source of much joy and not-joy in my comics career, I had forgotten that was also the name of Johnny Thunder's horse. D-oh!

The issue's cover and lead story was "Johnny Thunder," and it was the first appearance of the western hero created by legendary comics writer and editor Robert Kanigher. The ten-page story was drawn by the equally legendary Alex Toth, who also drew the cover shown above. The editor of record for this comic book was Whitney Ellsworth, but the actual editor was another legend, the esteemed Julius Schwartz.

Black Lightning? Horses, especially super-smart and trained horses, were a big deal for the era's western heroes. Roy Rogers had his Trigger and just about every cowboy worth watching on TV or reading about in comics had their own Trigger. As I recall, Black Lightning's gimmick was that Johnny Thunder - in reality, teacher John Taine - had trained him to act meekly when he was being ridden by Taine and cut loose when fighting crime with Thunder. The mark on Black Lightning's forehead would be covered with makeup of some kind to further disguise the horse's identity. I swear, I am *not* making this up.

The super-heroes who had called ALL-AMERICAN COMICS their home for several years were on their way out. In a few more issues, the title would be changed to ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN and the heroes would not be seen again until the 1960s. Backing up Johnny Thunder - and his horse - in this "100th smash issue" was Green Lantern, Dr. Mid-Nite, the Black Pirate, and a selection of reprinted Mutt and Jeff newspaper strips.

Overstreet opines a near-mint condition copy of ALL-AMERICAN COMICS #100 would sell for around $2550. Imagine what it would be worth if there had been an oil fire on the cover.

The astute among you may have noticed that I'm only presenting centennial issues that make note of the fact that they are, indeed, the 100th issue of the title. That I'm still at "A" gives you an idea of how many of these there are. I have found the mother lode of column fodder.

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

Tony Isabella

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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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