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for Monday, June 26, 2006

Eddie Isabella

We interrupt our TOT opening rotation to wish a happy birthday to my son Eddie. He turns 18 years old today and I get a wee bit misty when I look at the fine young man he's become.

Eddie went to his first convention before he was born. It was the International Superman Exposition [Cleveland; 1988], of which I was one of the organizers. Sainted Wife Barb was there for most of the con, despite Eddie's looming "due date," and our huge staff of volunteers were instructed to know where she was and where I was at all times...just in case. Ever cooperative, Eddie waited until a few days after the event to make his debut.

Eddie has never been anything other than a great kid. He's a terrific student, a kind and generous person, and just a joy to be around. As he enters his senior year of high school, he's a member of the National Honor Society and the school's symphony orchestra. He's looking forward to attending his beloved Ohio State University after graduation.

This summer, Eddie is truly shining as a baseball player. He has pitched as both a starter and a closer for his team, striking out opponents on a regular basis. In the field, he's confident and sure; at the plate, he's battling darn close to .500. His team has struggled this year and it's characteristic of Eddie to have said, as he did about a week ago, that he would gladly go hitless every game if his team were winning.

That's my Eddie. He's a great kid, a great son, and a great brother to his sister Kelly.

Happy birthday, Eddie. You're the man!



Showcase Presents: Green Lantern

SHOWCASE PRESENTS GREEN LANTERN VOL. ONE [DC; $9.99] reprints over 500 pages of the earliest adventures of the Silver Age Green Lantern in resplendent black and white. This thick volume hit the stores last September and, yes, everybody else did read and review it months ago. I was reading and reviewing INFINITE CRISIS and all its spinoffs at the time. I'm an idiot.

GL Hal Jordan made his debut in SHOWCASE #22 [October, 1959], hung around the book for two more issues, and then graduated to his own book. Besides those SHOWCASE stories, this volume reprints the first 17 issues of GL's title.

It took me a few issues to warm up to the Lantern back in the day. I wasn't impressed by his SHOWCASE appearances or the first issue of his own book. But John Broome's writing was always worth reading - not that I knew it was John Broome's writing at the time - and Gil Kane's art was engaging. It was the second issue of the solo title that made me glad I'd hung in there.

GREEN LANTERN #2 [October, 1960] is one of the great comics of the Silver Age. "The Secret of the Golden Thunderbolts" - the lead story - introduced the anti-matter universe of Qward, a place where evil ruled nigh absolute. It might have been a simplistic concept, but it appealed mightily to my pre-teen self. The Weaponeers were outrageously cool villains with their vaguely Germanic outfits and gleaming thunderbolts. Defying them could and sometimes did have deadly consequences and this was at a time when death was something of a rarity in super-hero comics. Jordan was never more fearless or kick-ass than when he was fighting Qwardians and, a bit later, Sinestro, their renegade Green Lantern ally.

"Riddle of the Frozen Ghost Town" - the issue's second tale - introduced Thomas Kalmaku, mechanic to test pilot Jordan and friend and confidant to Green Lantern. Though Kalmaku's nickname and the broken English of the other Eskimos who appeared in these earliest stories make me wince in year 2006, the mechanic himself was always portrayed as brave, loyal, and smart. This down-to-earth adventure also gave us a chance to see a powerless Jordan get physical with some claim-jumpers and escape from a scary death-trap. After this, I only missed GREEN LANTERN on those occasions when an issue would sell out before I could get to the drugstore.

There are many terrific ideas and stories in this collection. The secrets of Green Lantern's mask and oath. The extremely oily Hector Hammond. The sheer "wow"-ness of the Green Lantern Corps. GL's unknown adventures in the 57th century. The introduction of Hal Jordan's brothers. The wacky Sonar. The sexy Star Sapphire. The Qwardian elections. GL's first team-up with the Flash. Those keen "zero hour" tales of GL facing peril with a fading power ring. The clever explanation of why Abin Sur (Hal's predecessor) was in a spaceship when he met his heroic death. I might have had to grit my teeth to get past the dumb romantic triangle of Hal, boss-lady Carol, and Hal's other identity, but the rest of GREEN LANTERN was almost always pure silver wonderment.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS GREEN LANTERN VOL. ONE delivers major bang for your bucks. It easily earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Tales of the Champions

Before I write about CHAMPIONS Vol. 4, No. 4 [Heroic; $3.75], I have to do the full disclosure thing. Publisher Dennis Mallonee has asked me to write for his comics and I'm eager to get on board because I like what he's been publishing. It also looks as if the Tigress and I will be working together. Obviously, the appearance of a conflict of interest arises any time I review Heroic titles, even though I have yet to complete a script for Mallonee, who has been incredibly understanding about my clearing my decks before I leap into the fray. Part of me thinks I shouldn't review his books at all, but the more optimistic part of me thinks you know me well enough by now, know my tastes well enough by now, that you will be able to trust that, when I wear my tipster hat, all that matters to me is the quality or lack thereof of what I review. Hoping we're on the same page here, here's my review:

I love the Tigress. Young Kassidy Farrell is a cool character and, though her methods of fighting evil can be violent and deadly, she doesn't come anywhere near crossing the line from super-heroine to murderous vigilante. She's the avatar of the Cat, charged with the protection of mankind from the minions of the Serpent, and it's a responsibility she takes seriously. This issue's "Vengeance" is the finale of her origin and, as presented by writer Wilson Hill and artist Dick Giordano, it's a solidly entertaining tale. If I have any complaint, it's that a little "What Has Gone Before" copy would have been helpful to a new reader drawn to this issue by that striking Giordano cover.

This is a common failing of Heroic's titles. Mallonee and his writers are working with a fully-developed super-heroic universe in these comics, but they need give more of a "leg up" to readers who may be joining them for the first time. My suggestion would be to utilize the inside front cover for this purpose and push Mallonee's editorials to an interior page. I like the connection between the publisher and his readers, but I believe job one has to be to make the books very welcoming to new readers.

Backing up the Tigress in this issue is the conclusion of the origin of Giant by Mallonee and artists Chris Marrinan and Daniel Lauer. This story didn't work nearly as well for me. Many of the Champions characters have their roots in a mythology based on but not exactly like Greek/Roman mythology. Some of their backgrounds are more complicated than I would like. In this chapter, Giant is tempted by the seven deadly sins as provided by the goddess Malice, which gets a little creepy when you realize this version of Giant is but a child in his human identity.

If I were rating these two stories separately, which I guess I'm about to do, the Tigress would be an easy four and Giant would be a two. Let's give this issue a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys as well as my recommendation that, if you like good super-hero comics with a different sensibility than what Marvel and DC publish, there's an excellent chance CHAMPIONS, FLARE, and other Heroic titles will suit you just fine.

Tony Tony Tony



Werewolves:Call of the Wild

Moonstone sent me WEREWOLVES: CALL OF THE WILD #1 [$2.99] for review here. The series seems to be part of some larger "Moonstone werewolf universe," but, if that is the case, new readers need not shy from this first issue. It stands on its own.

Writer Mike Oliveri and artist Joe Bucco gave us a moody and suspenseful opening here, despite overly familiar elements like the evil sheriff, the hint of a town secret, the mysterious stranger in search of a missing relative, and such. But fiction has always had its familiar elements and I think Oliveri and Bucco make decent use of them. They sort of turn the mysterious stranger bit on its ear by showing us his family back home and, if the last page appearance of a werewolf won't come as a surprise to anyone who, duh, looked at the title and cover of this comic, it still works.

Oliveri's writing is solid throughout the issue, as is Bucco's art. The coloring does get a little too muddy in places, which is a problem for many comics these days. I can't tell you this issue knocked me out, but it was entertaining. WEREWOLVES: CALL OF THE WILD #1 earns three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Look for more Moonstone reviews in upcoming TOTs.



Today is my son's birthday, but it's also the birthday of two gentlemen who have made significant contributions to the American comics art scene.

Jerry Bails is the father of American comics fandom. If there was a "first" to be accomplished in Silver Age comics fandom, Bails was either the fan behind it or one of the first fans involved with it. I'm going by memory, but I'm pretty sure his credits include one of the first SA comics fanzines (Alter Ego), first SA comics apa (CAPA-Alpha), first comics newsletter, first comics adzine, and the first database of comics creators. He's also involved with the GRAND COMICS DATABASE [], which is arguably the most useful comics history resource of them all.

Tom DeFalco has been a comics writer and editor for well over three decades. He can claim a number of impressive successes in a career that's ranged from Archie to Spider-Man, and his writing has entertained me far more often than not. Currently, he's finishing up a 100-issue run on SPIDER-GIRL, the alternate universe daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson he created in an issue of WHAT IF. The title is a fan favorite which, sadly, sells poorly in the direct market, but its manga-format reprints are the best-selling Marvel books of that nature.

Here's wishing a happy birthday to a couple of swell guys with the additional wish that they have many more happy, productive, and fulfilling years to come.



Today's TOT will be the only one this week, so I want to cover as many items as possible.

Uncle Scrooge 354

WALT DISNEY'S UNCLE SCROOGE #354 [Gemstone; $6.95] has another one of my script-doctoring gigs. "No Thanks For the Memories" has Scrooge and Flintheart Glomgold doing battle on the field of their best-selling, competing autobiographies. The story by writer Karl Korhonen and artist Jose Massaroli was titled "Rude Recollections" when it appeared overseas. If you like it, Korhonen and Massaroli should get the lion's share of the credit for a funny concept with art to match.

UNCLE SCROOGE #655 [$6.95] will have another terrific Korhonen story and it was a blast to work on. Here's what Diamond's SCOOP e-newsletter had to say about the issue:

...stick around for Uncle Scrooge #355, another blockbuster issue! The excitement starts with a feature-length Carl Barks epic making its first American comic book reappearance in some 19 years. When Scrooge nurses his health taking a trip by ship, he lands up a creek with the Beagle Boys, a cabbage-crunching dotty professor, and "The Mysterious Stone Ray!" Soon Donald and his nephews are as petrified as the Rock of Gibraltar, and Scrooge will need fast reflexes and faster wits to rescue them!

Up next in our book is Gyro Gearloose in "Creative Impulse," pairing Finnish fan favorite Kari Korhonen with Spanish artist Tino Santanach and longtime American script doctor Tony Isabella (Black Lightning). Gyro falls prey to sudden, compulsive inventing urges--and soon he's repairing or upgrading every machine he sees! Can Donald cure him of his problem...and hold onto his new job in the bargain?

Magica De Spell is up next in "Bottled Battlers," an adventure scripted by Carl Barks and recently redrawn in Barksian style by Daan Jippes. During a broom-trip to Scrooge's money bin, Magica loses her break-in weapon -- a hefty bottle of complex Formula X. When the Junior Woodchucks try to prevent her recovering it, she wastes little time imprisoning them inside an even heftier bottle! Finishing off this stellar issue is "Something From Nothing," by Tomasz Kolodziejczak, Donald D. Markstein, and Vicar. When Scrooge discovers a megamarket that sells normally expensive products for pennies, his first step is to worry about business competition. But greater worries follow fast when Scrooge visits the "Everything Store" up close and personal--only to vanish without a trace!

Little White Mouse

Paul Sizer's LITTLE WHITE MOUSE OMNIBUS EDITION [Café Digital Comics; $24.95] collects one of the best indy adventure series of the past decade. An introduction I wrote for the first paperback collection is reprinted in this thick volume, but that's the very least of the reasons you should latch on to this book as soon as it comes within reach.

Here's the tease:

Stranded on a remote, automated mining satellite, 16-year-old Loo must find the strength to survive in this harsh and unyielding environment. But can she figure out how to escape from this satellite before the life support systems shut down permanently?

Sizer is a top-notch storyteller, writer, and artist. LITTLE WHITE MOUSE is a classic. Buy it already.



Summer is here and, to be honest, it's kicking my ass in a big way. Sainted Wife Barb has been involved in a major project at her work. Eddie and Kelly are involved with many summer activities and sports; hardly a day goes by that doesn't find me going someplace with them. Add this to the usual financial, health, and household challenges and it's been impossible for me to maintain my preferred TOT schedule of five columns a week.

Justin, our wondrous webmaster, is having a busy summer, too. That also figured into this decision:

TOT will resume on Saturday, July 1, and post every other day right here. There may be times when, due to Justin's schedule and travel plans, the columns won't post right on the money. But I'll be writing one every other day and letting you know when they post. This schedule will continue until August.

Come August, I plan to write two TOTs every three days. Our July 31 schedule will be followed by columns on August 1 and 2, and then August 4 and 5, and so on.

Finally, if all goes according to plan - and what are the odds of that joyous occurrence? - TOT will go back on its Monday through Friday schedule in September.

Our weekly TONY POLLS questions will return on Monday, July 3. I have a couple of questions lined up, but I'm also eager for your suggestions, especially if they come with a list of choices. You can email them to me at:

Over at the COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE forums [], I continue to write and post a brand-new and exclusive TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS every week. That won't change in the immediate future, though I've had a brief, very tentative opening conversation about writing additional material for the website. I'll let you know if that happens.

One more thing.

I realize that summer brings additional expenses for readers of this column. But, if you enjoy what we do here, please consider making a TIP THE TIPSTER donation via the handy PayPal link found elsewhere on this page. Such donations are truly appreciated and help us continue to bring TOT your way.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Saturday with more news, views, and reviews.

Tony Isabella

<< 06/22/2006 | 06/26/2006 | 07/03/2006 >>

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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