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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Monday, February 13, 2005

Sinister Tales 196

SINISTER TALES #196 was a late 1980s release from Alan Class, the British publisher whose titles reprinted stories from American comics companies like Marvel/Atlas, ACG, Archie, Charlton, Tower, and others. I've been collecting these black-and-white comics for a few years now and, thanks to columns like this one, I can claim them on my taxes as a business expense.

The cover and cover story are reprinted from TALES TO ASTONISH #10 [July, 1960]. Jack Kirby pencilled both; Steve Ditko is the likely cover inker with Christopher Rule performing that task on the 7-page "I Was Trapped by Titano the Monster That Time Forgot!", which was also the title of a popular country western song of the era. Okay, I'm just kidding on the last part, just as this cover merely kids when it indicates Titano - a mountain-sized crab - ever gets anywhere near a city in this story.

This tale is reprinted in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: ATLAS ERA TALES TO ASTONISH VOL. 1 [$49.99], so, before I proceed any further, I'm throwing up a polite SPOILER WARNING for those of you who have already and wisely plunked down your hard-earned cash for that great hardcover collection.

SPOILER WARNING!

Titano rises from the really deep deep, terrifies some South Pacific islanders, and comes to the attention of the United States Navy. A task force is sent to dispatch the creature and, on seeing it in all its ginormous glory, advance to the rear.

"And I used to worry about the COMMIES!"

Commander Hartnell comes up with a plan. He paints an atomic sub with luminous paint, catches Titano's attention, and leads the crab on a high-speed chase from the South Pacific to the glaciers of the Alaskan shoreline. The sub turns and...I kid you not...the crab is moving so fast it embeds itself in a glacier!

"He can't get out! He's FROZEN there!"

"We're safe! The WHOLE WORLD is safe again--thanks to YOU, Commander!"

"Yes, Titano will menace us no longer! But I wonder about the centuries to come--if that glacier should ever THAW! What then? WHAT THEN?"

"Well, sir, we should be alright as long as we don't elect a President beholden to the oil industries and who willfully neglects the clear evidence of global warming!"

"Ha, ha, like Americans would ever be that stupid!"

Yes, I, your beloved columnist, am making with the humor once again. But I'm crying inside.

END OF SPOILERS

SINISTER TALES #196 also contains:

"Only I Know When the World Will End!" (6 pages, also from TTA #10, drawn by Don Heck);

"I Know the Secret of the Flying Saucer!" (6 pages, from TALES OF SUSPENSE #11, September, 1960, Steve Ditko);

"What Was the Strange Power of Simon Drudd!!" (5 pages, from TTA #10, Jack Kirby and Christopher Rule);

"Barely Human" (4 pages, MARVEL TALES #151, October, 1956, Joe Orlando);

"Secret Weapon!" (4 pages, MT #151, Paul Reinman);

"A Phantom in the Sky" (4 pages, MT #151, Jay Scott Pike);

"Robot on the Rampage" (5 pages, TTA #18, April, 1961, Steve Ditko);

"Who Walks In The Ruins" (4 pages, MT #151, Ed Winiarski), and;

"It's Alive" (3 pages, MT #151, Bill Everett).

Unfortunately, as with most stories of this era, there are no writer credits. However, it's likely the tales from the 1960s were plotted and scripted by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber.

The two other stories reprinted from TALES TO ASTONISH #10 are noteworthy. "Only I Know When the World Will End" gives readers a pair of twist endings while the shock ending of "Simon Druid" would be repeated in an issue of...AMAZING SPIDER-MAN! The Don Heck art on "World" is terrific, filled with dramatic and emotional close-ups. The Kirby/Rule art on "Druid" is big and bold, flamboyant in its execution.

"I Know the Secret of the Flying Saucer!" has an ending I'm fairly sure was used elsewhere - either before or afterwards - but, when I first read it in the original, it was the first time I had seen this twist. Ditko did a great job here; there were times when I ranked him above Kirby as my favorite Marvel artist.

Marvel Tales 151

This comic reprinted five of the six stories from MARVEL TALES #151. The cover of that issue was by Bill Everett and illustrates a scene from "It's Alive!" That three-page story was also drawn by Everett and involves Earthmen on a mission to find life elsewhere in our galaxy. I'm guessing you already figured out the ending of this one.

The other four stories from that issue are so-so. We get an "abominable snowman," an alien invasion thwarted by a misunderstood scientist, German pilots from World War II traveling through time to another dimension, and a "Midas stamp" that can give a man the power of the legendary king with the golden touch.

From TALES TO ASTONISH #18, "Robot on the Rampage" pits an old lighthouse operator against a rebellious robot. Once again, Ditko provides astonishing artwork, doing so much with a limited cast and setting. Marvel should start collecting his fantasy and science-fiction stories into trade paperbacks.

On a personal note, I'm delighted TOT readers are enjoying my biweekly looks at Alan Class comics. When next we return to this subject, we'll examine an issue that's not in the fantasy or sci-fi genre. Watch for it near the end of the month.

******

COMICS IN THE COMICS

It'll be another day or two before I can get back to IDENTITY CRISIS COUNSELING, but, while you're waiting for that session, here are two newspaper comics featuring guest appearance by some of DC's best-known super-heroes. First up is Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK for February 12:

Reality Check

Dan Piraro's BIZARRO panels often feature Superman. This one is from February 10:

Bizarro

I have dozens of COMICS IN THE COMICS sitting in my files, so look for more of them here soon.

******

SNAPSHOTS

Tony and Green Lantern

This section is supposed to be for photographs of me, of you, of other people, and of wonderful places and things in general. However, my pal ALEX NESS keeps sending me goofy and spiffy images like the above, so I'm expanding the section's mission statement to include such doctored images of myself and other comics creators. Don't be cruel or nasty and keep them clean, but, if you're feeling creative, you can send such images to me at:



******

TONY POLLS

Most every Monday, we post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. In mid-January, we asked you to weigh in on what I write about in TONY'S ONLINE TIPS. Here are the results of that balloting...

TONY'S ONLINE TIPS covers comics virtually no other column covers. That's a source of pride for me, but I'd like to know how you feel about it. Do you enjoy TOT when I write about Britain's 2000 AD Weekly and its related publications?

Yes.....52.54%
No.....47.46%

Do you enjoy TOT when I write about the Alan Class reprints published in England from the 1960s through the 1980s?

Yes.....61.61%
No.....38.39%

Do you enjoy TOT when I write about Archie Comics?

Yes.....69.09%
No.....30.91%

Do you enjoy TOT when I write about Gemstone Comics?

Yes.....78.90%
No.....21.10%

Do you enjoy TOT when I write about Shojo Beat/Shonen Jump and other manga titles?

Yes.....40.37%
No.....59.63%

Of a more general interest, do you enjoy TOT when I write about DC's INFINITE CRISIS and related DCU titles?

Yes.....89.09%
No.....10.91%

Of a more general interest, do you enjoy TOT when I write about Marvel's House of M/Decimation and related titles?

Yes.....85.98%
No.....14.02%

All of you who voted YES on the above questions will be happy to know I plan to keep writing about all of the above...including manga. It would be a dereliction of my self-imposed duty as your beloved Tipster to refrain from commenting on what is arguably the most significant trend in comics publishing. But I'll concentrate more on individual series and less on SHOJO BEAT/SHONEN JUMP, even those are two of the best-selling titles in comicdom and among the very best buys. So there.

I apologize for neglecting Marvel in recent weeks. Once I get more current on the DCU/INFINITE CRISIS titles, I'll be putting the full-court press on Marvel's intriguing X-MEN titles.

Our current TONY POLLS questions, which will be posted today, give you a chance to vote for which Oscar nominees you WANT to win in five categories and which you think WILL win. You can cast your ballots at:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

Here's a note from DAVE POTTS, who also provided us with scans of the story he writes about:

I thought you might be interested in this sequence from "Clark Kent, Gangster!" [SUPERMAN #186; May 1966]:

Superman Panel

Superman Panel

This is an accurate depiction of what a newspaper strike is like, right? Everybody gets to have a nice vacation, and the rival papers courteously stop publishing so as not to take unfair advantage? And, yes, not only does Jimmy have a fan club, but he has them all over the country!

Of course, this story does omit the scenes where the mayor of Metropolis sends in mounted police to trample the picketers.

"Clark Kent, Gangster!" was written by Leo Dorfman, pencilled by Curt Swan, and inked by George Klein. If you can't find a copy of its initial publication, it was reprinted in THE SUPERMAN FAMILY #165 [June-July, 1974].

If the last line of Dave's letter confuses you, he's referring to a pivotal event in the life of Tony Isabella. I was working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. We went on strike. The wealthy owners of the paper, being very chummy with the mayor of Cleveland, asked him to do something about the rabble picketing them. He sicced the mounted police on us.

During the rabble's "strategic retreat" from the scene, I was knocked to the ground by a fearlessly fleeing reporter and looked up to see a horse's hoof hit the sidewalk inches from my face. It was an experience that changed my life.

I called up Roy Thomas, the number two editorial man at Marvel Comics, and asked him if he had any job openings. As luck had it, he needed someone with my meager qualifications to assist Stan Lee and Sol Brodsky in putting together reprint comic books for Great Britain.

Two weeks later, the newspaper strike settled with very little gain for the workers, I put in my last shift at the PD and moved to New York City. My immediate superior chided me for not giving more notice of my departure, this despite my accepting Roy's job offer before the end of the strike.

And that's the way it was.

Golden Age Spectre Archives

I also received this from DAVE POTTS:

Something else which may interest you:

I recently read DC's GOLDEN AGE SPECTRE ARCHIVES. Actually, I read it several weeks ago and am just getting around to writing you about it. If I were a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I could call myself Procrastinator Lad.

In the handful of GA Spectre stories I'd read previously, the city in which he operated wasn't identified, but I had presumed it was supposed to represent New York. In the sixties version, he was in Gateway City.

But, in a number of these stories, the city is identified as "Cliffland." When I first read this name, my initial reaction was "Huh, I never saw it called 'Cliffland' before."

Then I realized these stories were written by Jerry Siegel. "Cliffland" must be Cleveland.

So if the Plain Dealer starts running stories about criminals meeting really bizarre deaths, you know what's going on.

If only that were the case...

"It's the mayor! But how did he get trampled by a horse while working in his office?"

However, if the Spectre ever decides to pay another visit to this neck of the woods, I could give him a list of people in need of a little divine wrath. A long list.

Thanks for writing, Dave, and thanks to all of you who came to visit today. I'll be back Wednesday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 02/07/2006 | 02/13/2006 | 02/15/2006 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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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