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for Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Astounding Stories 163

ASTOUNDING STORIES #163 - today's featured British reprint - posed a challenge. As it was comprised almost entirely of Charlton stories - I'm not sure of one - I wasn't able to identify who drew some of them and where they originally appeared. Feel free to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

This issue, likely published in the late 1980s, is more than likely a reprint of an earlier issue of the title. Note the smudge under the "FULL" in the cover's upper left corner. I'm guessing what's under that smudge is a page count higher than that of this reprint. Coming up later this week, I'll have a pair of Alan Class comics to share. One is 68 pages and the other is the same issue but shy four stories from the earlier number.

The cover is by Charles Nicholas (pencils) and Vince Alascia (inks). It's from UNUSUAL TALES #37 [January, 1963] and it's also the splash page of the lead story. Charlton often cobbled together splash pages and panels from interior stories to create the covers of its comics. Save a penny, make a penny.

"The Hand of Fate" (10 pages) is a odd tale about a Korean War vet turned mechanic who gets involved with a plot by foreign agents to kidnap scientists. The giant hand which spurs him to action is either a hallucination caused by nerve gas or a manifestation of the hero's subconscious. Since he ended up with the gorgeous movie star, he probably didn't care which it was.

The Ugly One

I couldn't track down the first appearance of "The Ugly One" (5 pages) or identify its artist(s). Charlton had two or three of these largely nondescript artists whose work pretty much all looks the same to me. The story is equally unimpressive: nasty aliens kidnap one of our guys and, by their standards, he's "the ugly one" of the tale's title.

"Time To Return" is from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #65 [June, 1963]. Pencilled by Bill Molno and inked by Alascia, it's the old "the mannequins are alive" yarn. I sort of recall a similar story on TV's original TWILIGHT ZONE series.

Ghost of Edgebrook House

"The Ghost of Edgebrook House" [5 pages] is from MYSTERIES OF UNEXPLORED WORLDS #38 [October, 1963]. A guy trying to buy a house tries to make the new owners think the place is haunted. He would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those darn kids. Except there are no darn kids or ghosts in this story; it just reminds me of the old Scooby-Doo cartoons. I couldn't find an identification for the artist of the story online, but I see Rocco Mastroserio in its pages and panels.

Melody of Hate

"Melody of Hate" (9 pages) is the story that doesn't look like it was originally published by Charlton. It's about murder in the music business.

Come Back to Yesterday

"Come Back To Yesterday" (4 pages) has a kind of neat premise, that of a visitor from the future who doesn't understand how any of the futuristic stuff he stole works. Unfortunately, nothing much is done with the premise. Your guess is as good as mine as to the tale's artist(s) and where it first appeared.

Unusual Tales 23

"The Amazing Guest of Planet 23" (5 pages) hails from UNUSUAL TALES #23 [August, 1960]. Drawn by Steve Ditko, whose interior art was used for the issue's cover, the story is one of those corny but satisfying tales of a kind and meek man who is more than he seems. I've always been a sucker for that story.

Black Cat

"The Black Cat" (5 pages) first appeared in UNUSUAL TALES #41 [September, 1963]. Can the figurine of a cat actually protect an African estate surrounded by hostile forces? Apparently, it can, at least until your clumsy houseguest smashes it. The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [] credits the art to Sal Trapani (maybe on the pencils and a definite on the inks), but I'm not sure I accept that identification. Once again, I'm seeing Mastroserio in the art for the story.

That's ASTOUNDING TALES #163. Tomorrow, I'll be writing about a British reprint comic *not* published by Alan Class.




DOONESBURY looked back kindly on the adventure comic strips of the 1940s in the August 14 installment of Garry Trudeau's classic (but not quite *this* classic) strip. The decade was truly golden for strips like TERRY AND THE PIRATES, FLASH GORDON, THE PHANTOM, DICK TRACY, and so many others, back when the comic strips sold as many newspapers as the front pages and political stances of those publications. Will their day ever come again?



Mickey Mouse and Friends 282

Another one of my dialogue doctoring scripts has come out from Gemstone. Here's what the SCOOP newsletter had to say about MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #282 [$2.95]:

MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #282, drawn entirely by modern fan favorite Francisco Rodriguez, features a "nogoodnik" from Mickey's 1930s heyday: con man and hustler Eli Squinch! When Mickey travels to Mexico for the wedding of Minnie's old babysitter, Sierra Motty, he's not expecting to find Squinch as her bridegroom. Mickey and Minnie are sure he's marrying her to further some crooked plot, but Sierra isn't convinced. The quest to get to the bottom of things leads Mickey and Eli to an awesome underground Aztec city, where treacherous traps imperil them both! "The Treasure of Sierra Motty" is written by famed X-FILES and NANCY DREW scribe Stefan Petrucha. Then in our backup story, "Penalty Problems," Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse face another kind of bad guy: a smarmy soccer ref who repeatedly favors the team playing against Mickey's nephews. Featuring a story by British mouse man Paul Halas and dialogue by Tony Isabella (BLACK LIGHTNING), "Penalty" continues Morty and Ferdie's ongoing "Riverside Rovers" subseries.

This story was a bit of a challenge for me because I've never played or even watched soccer. But, with a little research and a little help from some British pals, I quickly learned enough to see me through.

When I do these jobs for Gemstone, I mostly try to smooth out any roughness in the translated copy and make the dialogue more in tune with its new American audience. When I have the space - these stories come to me with the balloons and captions already in place - I add character bits and gags.

In this story, I was concerned by how badly Morty and Ferdie were acting towards one another. Fortunately, a cameo appearance by their mother gave me the chance to put a more palatable spin on their behavior. It was a little thing, but it made the story work for me and, hopefully, for the readers.



Dobie Gillis 19

Every month, COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE runs "The CBG Price Guide," a hefty section that combines information about both comics prices and comic books. Just as I "open" the magazine's review sections with my "Tony's Tips" column, I "close" its price guide with little snippets from my life in comics.

This one appeared in CBG #1611 [December, 2005]:


You see the disbelief on the faces of young fans when you tell them of a mythical time before the birthing of stores dedicated to our passion, a time when comic books were found in plentiful supply at corner shops and drug stores and newsstands across this great land of ours. Nor do they understand that, despite the abundant outlets of that era, we ancients took great joy in finding our own special places to buy comics.

My first was a corner drug store several long blocks from my home on Cleveland's west side. There were closer stores selling comics, but none matching the selection gloriously displayed on the lower shelves of the store's huge magazine racks. The brightly-colored comics shone from the sturdy wooden displays.

No matter the weather, I made that journey every Tuesday and Thursday. Once the store's grumpy (but never grumpy to me) clerk questioned my purchase of an issue of DC's THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, perhaps thinking the Bob Oksner babes on its cover were far too sexy for a lad of my tender years. She withdrew her objection when I explained the TV show on which the comic was based was one of my favorites and even complimented me on how well I'd presented my case to her.

By the time I started high school, I was checking in the new comics in for her, removing older issues, and putting the new ones on sale. It was never a job per se, but it assured I wouldn't miss any issues. I could also count on her not charging me for a couple issues each week.

I actually *did* work for comic books.

She got a little teary when she told me the store would be closing. So did I. You never forget your first.

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

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