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for Sunday, January 1, 2006

New Year Baby

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."

- Oprah Winfrey (1954-), O MAGAZINE

TONY'S ONLINE TIPS resumes its Monday through Friday schedule on January 6, 2005, but today wouldn't be quite right for me if we didn't spend a little time together. I want to thank our wondrous web-wizard JUSTIN for accommodating my desire to write a New Year's column in the middle of his extremely busy schedule of drawing Lord of the Rings sketch cards for Topps.

Many columnists use this occasion to look back over the year that's ending, make predictions for the new year, and maybe go on about their new year resolutions. There will be some of that here, but, mostly, I'm just gonna talk about this and that.

Resolutions? I only made one of those for 2006...and it's one I'm keeping to myself, sort of like the wish you make when you blow out your birthday candles. If it works out, maybe I'll write about it this time next year.

Let's see what I have for you today.



Christmas was on Sunday this year, affording the creators of newspaper comic strips a bit more room to comment on the holiday. Three such strips moved me greatly.

Born Loser

THE BORN LOSER can be counted on to provide a smile whenever I read it, but cartoonist Chip Sansom got downright profound in his lovely definition of the spirit of Christmas. The late Art Samson, who created the strip in 1965, should be proud of his son.

Judge Parker

JUDGE PARKER hardly ever appears in his own strip these days. The characters who drive the current stories are wealthy, but they clearly understand their moral obligation to those less fortunate than themselves. Writer Woody Wilson and artist Harold LeDoux took advantage of Christmas to remind us the holiday isn't as merry for the victims of catastrophes natural and man-made. I'd love to see them explore these themes further.

Rex Morgan

In recent weeks, REX MORGAN has focused on the problems of an Iraq War veteran. That character didn't appear in Woody Wilson and Graham Nolan's Christmas strip, but the writer and artist did close their heartwarming strip with a evocative nod to those soldiers and civilians who face daily peril in the Middle East. Once again, I'd love to see such themes brought to the forefront of our newspaper comics in this new year.



King Kong underwear

Just a few random notes from the holiday:

My Sainted Wife Barb gave me a pair of King Kong boxer shorts from Target. I'll have you know these are not just your ordinary, everyday King Kong boxer shorts. No, they come with a sound button which allows them to emit a kingly roar. Not that the Sainted One has ever needed electronic assistance to get me to roar.

My kids suggested I pose in the boxer shorts for this column. I was embarrassed just putting them into the scanner.

My alternate suggestion was to send them around the country to my friends. Sort of a BROTHERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING BOXER SHORTS. This grossed out my kids. Go figure.


Barb and the kids also gave me THE COMPLETE CALVIN AND HOBBES. The FOXTROT strip from December 27 has it right. I'm currently in training to be able to lift the volumes. I think I should also add some more support to whatever table I put them on once I am able to lift them. The phrase "big fun" was never more apt.

After opening presents at Casa Isabella, we went to Cleveland to go to mass and see my parents and siblings and the various spawn of my siblings. Veteran TOT readers know I'm no longer a Catholic, having left the church when its protection of pedophiles - not to mention its bigotry towards gays and lack of respect for women - became too much for me to stomach. But my wife and kids are still Catholics and I went to mass as a courtesy to them.

However, I came *this* close to losing it when the priest, an otherwise fine fellow, made a derisive remark about the litigation with which the church is dealing. Let's cut the crap and get right to the heart of it.

The Catholic Church - at its highest levels - covered up for pedophile priests for decades. It protected them. It continually returned them to positions where they could claim new victims. It tried to cover up their crimes and, in doing so, obstructed justice for decades. It didn't put the victims first. Indeed, it treated them as if they were the ones at fault.

The Cleveland diocese should be particularly ashamed of itself in these matters. One of its highest ranking bishops had the gall to advise churches to send their records of sexual abuse off to the Vatican where they would be out of the reach of investigators here. Which isn't something I think Jesus would do.

The bottom line...the Catholic Church deserves to be stripped of as much wealth as those seeking redress can pry from its jewel and money vaults. Those criminals - the pedophiles and those who protected them and covered for them - should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Maybe what remains after that would be a church I could truly embrace once again.

Thus ends the sermon.

The gathering at Casa Isabella in Cleveland - and, yes, it's the same 11203 Peony Avenue address which you'll find in comic-book letters pages of the 1960s - was a delight. My dad is doing quite well in his recovery from hip replacement surgery. My siblings and I had a terrific time with each other and our various kids. And I got a little quiet satisfaction when Bush supporters made comments indicating a certain "buyer's remorse" over their having voted for the worst American president ever.

Fruit Basket

I also learned that Kara, my niece and godchild, is reading a few manga series; her favorites are FRUITS BASKET and NARUTO. I've been following NARUTO in the pages of SHONEN JUMP since the title launched, but, on her recommendation, I'll be reading FRUITS BASKET in the very near future.

Back in Medina, we put a big bow on our Christmas via a dinner and gift exchange with some of my favorite in-laws. It was really the first time we've entertained in our home since the addition was completed and a great time was had by all.

I hope your Christmas or whatever other holiday you celebrated was as joyful as mine.



I have only made one resolution, but that doesn't mean I don't have *goals* for the New Year.

On the personal side of my life, first and foremost, I want to do more for my family and friends. I want to devote more attention to my physical well-being because a healthier Tony can accomplish more than a less-than-healthy Tony. I want to get a handle on all the comics and books and stuff I own with an eye towards organizing and reducing its volume.

TONY'S ONLINE TIPS bridges my personal and professional lives. I want to keep it on its Monday through Friday schedule. I want to get back any readers lost during this unavoidably long absence from regular content. I want to gain new readers. I want more readers talking about what we do and say here.

On the professional side of my life...well, it wouldn't be all that prudent to say too much about that. However, the question of what we hoped to accomplish in comics in the coming year was posed to a pros-only mailing list of which I'm a member and here's how I responded:

I'd like a series of stories I'm writing for a publisher to be successful enough to warrant an ongoing title.

I'd like to find a quality publisher for a horror series I've been developing, one I think has potential outside comics as well. For reasons I won't go into, Marvel could be my top choice for that publisher.

I'd like to do as much "Americanizing" for Gemstone Comics as possible. I enjoy this work.

I'd like to get an "Americanization" gig with one of the manga publishers. I'm sure it would be a different experience from doing the Gemstone rewrites, but I think I'd find the work as challenging and as enjoyable as working with Donald and Mickey.

I'd like to write some stories for Archie Comics just because it would be another challenge.

I'd like to convince COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE that the five-point reviewing scale used in "Tony's Tips" is superior to the four-point scale used elsewhere in the magazine. I stopped writing additional reviews for them because the four-point scale doesn't offer enough range to adequately inform the readers.

I'd like to hook up with some new show that this old dog can still run with the young mutts.

Looking over my list, these are truly modest goals. Which was my intent. Coming off a year of bad health and other woes, I want to have a productive year that doesn't make me crazy.

Those are some of my goals for 2006.

How about yours?



Tony and Kids

Welcome to a new TOT department for 2006. This is where I'll be sharing photos that don't need a lot of explanation. These will be photos from my life, from your lives if you want to share them, from conventions and other events, from the news, and from anywhere else I find them or from where you send them to me.

Near as Barb and I can determine, the above photo was taken on St. Patrick's Day, 1993. Eddie was almost five years old and Kelly was a year-and-a-half. It's always a shock to see photos of them when they were that young and that much shorter than me, especially since Kelly is now a tad taller than I am and Eddie towers over me. My standing quip is that I married for height.

Tony and Eddie

Our second SNAPSHOT is from 1998, the first "Webelos" camping trip which I went on with Eddie. "Webelos" are basically older Cub Scouts preparing to become Boy Scouts. It's an obscure Indian word meaning "Let's take Tony out into the woods and let nature mock and torture him in a hundred ways."

Eddie was almost ten years old here. I was learning a painful lesson about striped clothing. But, for all my inability to adapt to the wild, we had a great time.

Got a SNAPSHOT for me? You can e-mail it to me at...

Or postal mail it to me at...

Tony Isabella
P.O. Box 1502
Medina, OH 44258



Most every Monday, though I took time off during this recent medical leave, I post new questions on our TONY POLLS page. I do this because it's fun and because I really do want to know what TOT readers think of this, that, and the other thing.

This page is configured so that there must always be at least one question on it, much as there must always come a slayer to slay the vampires until the forces of good realize they don't have to be so vastly outnumbered. I think Justin designed the page thus just to see what I'd dream up for that orphan question on my rare breaks from polling.

Most of the time, these not-actually-questions only receive a few responses from poll-addicted voters. However, during the most recent break, nearly a hundred of you made your way to the page to respond to this:

Tony Isabella is on medical leave. New questions will be posted on Monday, December 5, 2005

There were but two possible responses to this non-question and here's how you voted:

Get well soon, Tony!.....88.10%
Die, you bastard!.....11.90%

While I certainly found it gratifying that the vast majority of you were solicitous of my well-being, I was simultaneously - and mildly - alarmed and amused that approximately a dozen voters voted the other way. Clearly, in the future, I must do a better job of offending those who mightily need to be offended. Heck, Mary Worth probably gets more hate-mail than I do.

This week's TONY POLLS ask you to select your choices from the nominees for the Golden Globe Awards in movies and TV. They will remain active until sometime on Monday, January 2, depending on how long it takes me to take them down and put up new questions. You can cast your votes by going to:

Look for the results of our TONY POLLS from November when TOT returns from hiatus this coming Friday.



The mailbox is always open for your comments on these columns and anything else that's on your mind. Today's letter comes from East Coast reader ANTHONY:

I met you a few years back at a New York comics convention and think you're really cool. Will you be attending any conventions on the East Coast any time soon? Happy holidays!

I'm not planning to attend many conventions anywhere in 2006, but that could change if I get invitations from conventions willing to cover my modest expenses (lodging and travel). At the moment, I have three conventions on my schedule:

May 19-20:
Philadelphia, PA

July 19-23:
San Diego, CA

November 25-26:
Columbus, OH

Keep reading TOT for any additions to this schedule.



I haven't been reviewing online-only comics, but the requests for me to do so are on the rise. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of how I work, the problem is that it's difficult for me to review such comics in the manner to which I am accustomed...though I do recognize that these are an increasingly important area of the comics art form.

So here's the deal...

If you want me to review your or someone else's online comic, you need to print out and send me a good chunk of same. If we're talking comic-book storytelling, you need to send me approximately one issue's worth (about 20 pages). If we're talking newspaper-style strips, you need to send me the equivalent of a month's worth of the feature. This allows me to go back and forth over the work as I write my review without the need to continually click icons on my computer screen. It would also be good to include the URL where your comic is appearing, some background (characters, story, etc.), and the cost (if any) of reading your comic online.

I apologize in advance for making you jump through these hoops to get your online comic reviewed here. It's entirely my bad that this is what I need from you. But, in return, I'll do my best to review your comic as completely and as fairly and as quickly as I am able. Thanks for your understanding.



Two more requests because I'm ever so needy.

I'm getting tired of looking at the same old floating Isabella heads at the end of my reviews here. Consider this an invitation for any artists in the audience to design new ones. The more, the merrier. You won't receive any financial reward, but the accolades and thanks will be mushy and profuse.

Request the second.

Let's get some TOT talk going. Send me e-mails. Post to the message board. Discuss TOT in your blogs and forums. Report me to the authorities as a liberal insurgent. The more people read TOT, the more talk about it, the better chance we have of bringing you bigger and better columns in this new year.

That's all for now. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back on Friday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 12/23/2005 | 01/01/2006 | 01/06/2006 >>

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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:

Tony's Online Tips
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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