Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"
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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Tuesday, August 9, 2005
We resume my TONY'S CENTENNIAL COVERS series with ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR #100 [November-December, 1963]. I don't know what it is about that landmark number, but, judging from my mail, I'm far from alone in getting a kick out of these issues.
ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR started out as a continuation of ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN which was, in turn, a continuation of ALL-AMERICAN COMICS. It ran for two issues under the old numbering and started over with its third issue which, for reasons unknown to me, is ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR #2. Huh?
Cover artist Russ Heath did many outstanding covers for Atlas (Marvel) in the 1950s and he just kept getting better when he moved over to DC. The comic's centennial is noted only by a small banner over the logo, but that's enough to qualify it for a TOT spotlight. The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] doesn't list an editor, but it was likely Robert Kanigher.
Kanigher also wrote the 15-page "Lt. Johnny Cloud" adventure - "Battle of the Sky Chiefs" - which led off the issue. The tale was drawn by the legendary Irv Novick.
Here's what Mike Voiles of the wonderful MIKE'S AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS website has to say about the story:
Johnny's squadron is joined by a pilot from Johnny's reservation, Proud Eagle. Proud Eagle's father had battled Johnny's to become chief of their tribe. Johnny's father won the fight, and Proud Eagle has vowed vengeance against Johnny.
Johnny and Proud Eagle are asked to fly a dangerous mission to destroy a dam. Proud Eagle agrees not to fight Johnny until the mission is complete. Johnny distracts the enemy fighters, so that Proud Eagle can complete the bombing run, but Proud Eagle's bombs are jammed. To finish the mission Proud Eagle slams his plane into the dam. Though he dies, the mission is a success.
Johnny - "The Navaho Ace" - would frequently meet up with foes and friends from his past. As I recall, most of them wouldn't fare too well. They were the literary predecessors to all those hapless crewmen who got knocked off on STAR TREK, the guys who got the one-way transporter tickets when they beamed down to the almost always hostile planets. But I digress.
Backing up the Johnny Cloud lead was "Ace In Reverse" by Hank Chapman (writer) and Jack Abel (artist). Chapman wrote hundreds of fine stories for Timely/Atlas and DC Comics from the 1940s through the early 1960s.
Abel worked for virtually every major comics outfit during his career. I met him when I was living in New York City in the early 1970s and remember him as an all-around good guy...who kept goading me into betting on the Cleveland Indians against the Yankees. But I loved him anyway.
MIKE'S AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS is one of online comicdom's most valuable resources. You can visit it at:
You can expect to see more TONY'S CENTENNIAL COVERS in future editions of this column.
Now let's see what else I have for you today.
ART OF GEORGE TUSKA
ART OF GEORGE TUSKA [TwoMorrows; $14.95] is a well-researched tribute to one of comicdom's most prolific and beloved craftsmen. Author Dewey Cassell - with assistance from Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland - took on the enormous task of covering Tuska's legendary career and did both the artist and themselves credit.
The handsome trade paperback gives a grand overview of Tuska's life and career. I always enjoying learning something of the lives of my favorite comics creators and Cassell gives us a nice look at Tuska, his family, and his friends. Through interviews with Tuska and other creators, we get an even better look at his early days in the industry to the present. The emphasis on his later Marvel and DC work wasn't quite as interesting to me - I was buying his 1960s stuff off the newsstands and was lucky enough to have him draw some of my own Marvel stories as well - but I can understand why Cassell went in that direction.
Besides the interviews with an all-star line-up of creators - Will Eisner, Jim Mooney, Nick Cardy, Marie Severin, John Romita, Gene Colan, Joe Simon, Mike Esposito, Bob Layton, Paul Levitz, and Roy Thomas - the book also has a foreword by Stan Lee, an index of its subject's published works, and page after page of Tuska art and sketches, some of them appearing in print for the first time ever. Cassell and company made me downright hungry for more Tuska comics, past and future.
[Digression. While Marvel and occasionally DC have been known to publish collections of the best works of individuals creators, those collections seldom showcase the variety of material written or drawn by those creators. I would love to see a BEST OF GEORGE TUSKA collection which included his crime, mystery, romance, war, and western stories. He brought as much excitement and talent to those genres as he did to super-hero comics. Wouldn't it be cool to see an entire series of such books, showcasing Tuska and other great comics artists and writers?]
THE ART OF GEORGE TUSKA is another swell book from TwoMorrows. It earns four out of five Tonys.
ART OF GEORGE TUSKA: 132 pages, black-and-white.
LOOKING FOR A FACE LIKE MINE
LOOKING FOR A FACE LIKE MINE [Fine Tooth Press; $9.95] brings us the "collected essays, interviews and presentations of renowned comics scholar Professor William H. Foster III." Foster is also a long-time comics reader and the creator of a traveling exhibit on The Changing Face of African Americans in Comics." He is not - or so he claims - secretly the super-hero named Black Goliath or even Giant-Man. Okay, I'll let him have it his way, but...has anyone ever seen the two of them together?
Seriously, Foster has done admirable work in researching and writing about African Americans in comics and there are top-notch articles and interviews to be found in this slim volume. My main - I don't want to say "complaint" - disappointment is that this is more like a preview of the definite work in the field which I think Foster is capable of writing. There are creators and characters who deserve more attention than was within the scope of this book. There are issues, such as the not-always-hidden racism which can be found in the comics industry even today, which likewise cry out for examination and discussion. But I'm here to review the book before me and not the book I want Foster to write.
Foster's introduction zeroes in on the progress, however slow, comics have made in this area. His interviews with creators Bert Fitzgerald (the "Golden Legacy" history series and the Archie-esque FAST WILLIE JACKSON) and Richard "Grass" Green (creator of so many wonderful aboveground and underground comics) are vital first-hand accounts. Other articles, though maddeningly brief, at least point the way to other comics and creators of interest.
Foster's LOOKING FOR A FACE LIKE MINE is, at the very least, an excellent start to a necessary discussion. It earns four out of five Tonys.
LOOKING FOR A FACE LIKE MINE: 104 pages, black-and-white.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
FUNKY WINKERBEAN creator Tom Batiuk is a comics fan and reader from way back, so it's not unusual to see comic-book or comic-strip references in his work. While honeymooning in Paris, Funky stops to get a present for his friendly neighborhood comics retailer back home in Ohio:
The above strip ran on July 3. The comics reference in FUNKY WINKERBEAN for July 5 is a bit more subtle:
The name on the jacket is T. LEE and, if you're thinking that was a character from one of the greatest comic strips of all time, I'm not going to tell you that you're mistaken. And, if you know that much, it won't take you long to figure out the identity of the woman giving the jacket to Wally Winkerbean. Let's hope it brings him good luck. Judging from the most recent FUNKY strips, he well and truly needs it.
Watch for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs.
Every Tuesday - except for maybe today - I post brand-new or only slightly used questions on our TONY POLLS page so that you can have the fun of voting on things without your patriotism being held suspect. It's a public service thing I do. I'm all about making you feel better than way.
A couple weeks back, we asked you to pick the villain(s) you would most like to see in the sequel to this year's FANTASTIC FOUR movie...and also to give the thumbs up or thumbs down to some new Marvel Comics titles.
Here are the results of those polls.
Which of these villains would you most like to see as the main menace in a sequel to the FANTASTIC FOUR movie?
Mad Thinker/Awesome Android.....1.50%
I voted for the SKRULLS/SUPER-SKRULLS combo, but, the more I think about it, SUB-MARINER would be even cooler.
Let's have some thumbs up/thumbs down votes. Starting with NEW AVENGERS. Thumbs up or thumbs down?
I gave the benefit of the doubt to NEW AVENGERS and voted with my thumb up, but you'll have to wait for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1611 to read my review of its first several issues.
NEW THUNDERBOLTS. Thumbs up or thumbs down?
How interesting. These results are virtually the reverse of those for NEW AVENGERS. I like NEW THUNDERBOLTS a lot, but, once again, you'll have to wait for CBG #1611 to read my review of its first ten issues.
YOUNG AVENGERS. Thumbs up or thumbs down?
I voted "thumbs up" on this title. I'm waiting for the end of the book's first story arc. I'll be reviewing YOUNG AVENGERS here after I've read that issue.
Theoretically, there will be new TONY POLLS questions posting sometime today at:
Coming up with those questions is the next thing on my "to do" list. The thing is...I haven't a single idea for those questions. My recommendation is that you check the TONY POLLS page and see for yourself if I've come up with anything.
Me? I'm gonna take a nap now. It might help.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
<< 08/05/2005 | 08/09/2005 | 08/10/2005 >>
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THE "TONY" SCALE
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.
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