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

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for Thursday, June 22, 2006

Amazing Mysteries 34

AMAZING MYSTERIES may have run only for four issues from May, 1949, to January, 1950, but it's notable for a couple of reasons. One, its numbering continued from the canceled SUB-MARINER COMICS, which had been one of Timely/Atlas/Marvel's best-sellers for nearly a decade. Two, it was a horror comic for its first two issues and then switched to a crime comic for its remaining issues.

AMAZING MYSTERIES #34 [October, 1949] had a photo cover. What caught my attention was the apparent cover feature, "Poppy Chavez, the Strange Woman!" Since I don't see a woman on the cover, I can only assume Chavez was some kind of criminal drag king. Take that, new Batwoman!

The Chavez story was 9 pages long. The remaining contents of the issue are:

"Wanted by the F.B.I." (1-page public service message);

"The Kissing Buccaneer!" (7 pages);

"The Rivals" (2-page text story); and,

"My Fatal Mistake!" (8 pages).

I remain fascinated by the Atlas/Marvel comics of the 1950s, which is why they are part of our opening rotation. I may bend the "rules" every now and then to showcase an issue from the 1940s or early 1960s - I just got an issue of LINDA CARTER, STUDENT NURSE in an eBay auction - but you can count on seeing such comics at least a couple times a month.

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



Marvel's CIVIL WAR excites me because it combines a real-life debate with the super-heroics of the Marvel Universe. Watching a twisted version of Jerry Siegel's Superboy punching realities is a fantasy and a sadly brutal one at that. Thinking about how far a government and a people are willing to sacrifice civil liberties in the same of security is something I do every day. Guess which one I can relate to better?

Marvel published three CIVIL WAR issues in April. Let's take a look at them.

Amazing Spider-Man 531

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #531 [$2.99] concludes the three-issue "Mr. Parker Goes to Washington" arc by writer J. Michael Straczynski, penciller Tyler Kirkham, inker Sal Regla, and editor Alex Alonso. Tony Stark has come to our nation's captial in hope of convincing a Senate committee to hold off on recommending the registration of all super-humans in our country. At the end of the previous issue, the Titanium Man tried to assassinate Stark, only to be foiled by Spidey, who, as Peter Parker, had accompanied Stark to Washington. This issue picks up with Magneto -- I mean, Spidey -- and the Titanium Man duking it out around landmarks like the Washington and Lincoln monuments. It's a solid action sequence, enlivened by our favorite wall-crawler battle-testing some of the gizmos Stark built into his new costume. Before the last page is turned, Stark uses the attack to press his case, Spidey addresses the Senate committee in person, and some surprising twists are revealed. Think "Road to Hell" and you won't be too far off.

I was wavering on how to score this issue, but what sold me on the higher score was how unconvincing Spider-Man's comments were to me, who is always looking to restrict government intrusion into our lives. I'm still against the proposed registration, but I can see how men of good conscience could be in favor of it. That kind of thoughtful writing earns AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #531 the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Civil War: Opening Shot

CIVIL WAR: OPENING SHOT [free?] is a promotional sketchbook of art from the upcoming event. Alongside sketches by Steve McNiven, Alex Maleev, and others, OS writer Jim McCann provides tantalizing hints as to the lines that will be drawn in the opening months of the event and who will draw/cross those lines. This promo special didn't give away much, but did bolster my already high excitement in CIVIL WAR. That's good for four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Fantastic Four 537

FANTASTIC FOUR #537 [$2.99] is another solid comic book from Straczynski, this time teamed with penciller Mike McKone, multiple inkers, and editor Tom Brevoort. Doctor Doom is back from Hell and after the hammer of Thor, which the government has been hiding for months. Okay...since they can't actually lift it, they aren't so much hiding it as they are trying to keep people away from it while they study it.

This is an "action issue" with most of the pages showing the FF battling Doom and his Doombots. Yet in between the hitting and the exploding, JMS gives us a terrific explanation as to why Doom isn't still in Hell. Then he teases us with CIVIL WAR and perhaps the return of the Thunder God to Earth. That's not a bad issue's work and it earns FF #537 four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Coming up just as soon as I can read CIVIL WAR #1 and related comics from May will be my reviews of these issues. While you're waiting, ask yourself this:

Whose side are *you* on?



Marvel Legacy: 1970s Handbook

The Marvel Universe is one really big and intimidating mother of invention. While I may prefer my super-hero stories to stick to the main story and not go into too much detail on all the minutia of this or that character, I still get a kick out of publications like MARVEL LEGACY: 1970s HANDBOOK [$4.99]. It was like taking a ride back to my first decade in comics.

I couldn't believe how many of the entries involved characters on which I had worked in some capacity and, in a few cases, created or co-created. That list would include: Giant-Man/Black Goliath, John Kowalski, Mahkizmo, Manphibian, Power Man, Sons of the Tiger, Steel Serpent, and Stunt-Master. If you want to stretch a point, the Crusaders who teamed up with the Invaders were homages to DC's Freedom Fighters. During my brief time as the editor of FREEDOM FIGHTERS, it was yours truly who suggested to friend-and-mentor Roy Thomas that his team "meet" the DC heroes in THE INVADERS and vice versa. Those were fun times.

Though the coverage of the characters included in the handbook ends with the 1970s, the Marvel crew also included a handy "Where Are They Now?" feature to bring readers up to date. Some of these history recaps might make my head spin, but there's no way a book this much fun walks away from this column with less than four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Meet the new Coach

In the TOT for Wednesday, May 31, while discussing diversity in Archie Comics, I wrote about "Meet the New Coach," a story that featured a handicapped but highly capable young woman. A few days later, I received this from David LoTempio, grants administrator of People, Inc., western New York's "leading human service agency, an agency providing programs and services to more than 10,000 people with special needs, their families and seniors."

LoTempio wrote:

I saw your article "Diversity in Riverdale" and was interested in the Robin Gantner character. I work for a nonprofit that has been developing a small, burgeoning museum on the history of disabilities. We have started to include comics that deal with disability-related topics and, based upon your article, I purchased the Archie Pals and Gals Double Digest for inclusion. But, for the accuracy of our records, we'd like to know where this story first appeared. You seem to remember reading the story so any information you have as to the story's first publication would be most helpful. Please feel free to check out our Museum's small website at...

We are planning to have some new exhibits launched this month, which will expand the site considerably. Thank you for any help you can provide.

I couldn't remember where I'd first seen the story, but I knew enough to forward LoTempio's inquiry to the generous folks over at Archie Comics. He received this response from Victor Gorelick, VP and Managing Editor of the company:

"Meet The New Coach" first appeared in RIVERDALE HIGH #5, April, 1991. The story was written by Mark Waid with art by Stan Goldberg and Henry Scarpelli. I have located a copy of this issue for your archives and will forward it to you today.

Thanks to Archie Comics and Gorelick for their help in this matter. Now all you Mark Waid fans can start hunting for this very cool story.

Annihilation: Silver Surfer 1

In TOT for Wednesday, June 7, I was remiss in not identifying the artist who created those exquisite covers for the ANNIHILATION issues reviewed therein. All were painted by Gabriele Dell'Otto. TOT regrets the omission.



PEANUTS is arguably the most beloved comic strip of all time. The characters and situations created by Charles Schulz during his 50 years on the strip are so instantly recognizable and classically funny that they continue to receive homage in other strips. That's the theme of today's CIC.

Bob Gorrell

Syndicated editorial cartoonist BOB GORRELL used the familiar image/concept of Linus and his security blanket to address the lack of security engendered by the final 9/11 report.


Snoopy hangs with a vacationing PRETEENA in the March 3 strip by Allison Barrows.


Snoopy and Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey were referenced in the MONTY strip for April 6, the conclusion of a sequence of strips by cartoonist Jim Meddick in which the federal government had assumed oversight of the funnies.

Sports played a major part in PEANUTS. Two of Schulz's best-known running gags were replayed recently. First up is Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds' TANK McNAMARA from June 2:

Tank McNamara

Then there's this rare non-political edition of Scott Stantis' PRICKLY CITY from June 13:

Prickly City

Even a relatively minor PEANUTS character like Pigpen is good for a gag, as seen in this Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK panel from June 7:

Reality Check

Watch for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs.



Witch Hazel and Little Itch

This isn't so much a correction as a "heads-up" that there's some question as to whether the late Virginia Hubbell was, as noted in the obituary mentioned in our June 7 TOT, really the creator of the Witch Hazel and Little Itch characters who appeared in LITTLE LULU comics of the 1950s. Those characters made their debut in the early 1950s and Hubbell's WHO'S WHO OF AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS entry doesn't have her writing any Little Lulu stories until 1957. While it's possible that Hubbell simply made an error in filling out her form for WHO'S WHO, we should list this matter as unresolved until further information comes to light. In the meantime, we can add Archie (1943-44) and CRIME DOES NOT PAY to Hubbell's credits, along with stories for Good Comics (1953), Marvel Comics (1955) and St. John Publications (1955).



CBG 1620

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1620 [F+W Publications; $5.99] should be hitting bookstores, comic shops, and newsstands this week. As per usual, you'll find my "Tony's Tips" column and a "Tony's Back Page" sidebar. In the former, I write about applauding the passion of even those who create not-so-terrific comics and review a selection of books by Marvel, Fantagraphics, Del Rey, Viking, and Ballantine. In the latter, I answer the frequently asked question about Black Lightning's name.

In addition to the above, I also write exclusive reviews for CBG's online forum. Once a week, you can read a new installment of "Tony's Other Online Tips" at:

In recent weeks, I've reviewed Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #1; Tag #1; Spider-Girl Presents Juggernaut Jr. Volume 1: Secrets and Lies; Loaded Bible: Jesus Vs. Vampires; and, Justice League Unlimited, Volume 2 and 3. I'm delighted to be a part of the good conversations and information at the CBG forums.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 06/21/2006 | 06/22/2006 | 06/26/2006 >>

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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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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