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

Current TOT >> TOT Archives | About Tony | Books by Tony | Message Board

for Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Action Comics Archives 2

From the Golden to the Bronze Age of Comics, the DC ARCHIVES join our TOT rotation. Once or twice per month, I'll spotlight one of these handsome hardcover collections.

Today's tome is SUPERMAN: THE ACTION COMICS ARCHIVES VOLUME 2 [$49.95]. First published in 1998 and still in print, it collects the Man of Steel's stories from ACTION COMICS #21 [February, 1940] through #36 [May, 1941].

I love these early tales and former DC editor Paul Kupperberg nailed the reason for that in his foreword:

[Superman] was still a hero of the people, a post-Depression, pre-War populist who battled exploiters of child labor, insurance fraud targeted at the elderly, and crooked doctors who claimed to be able to cure polio, to name but a few. There was no doubt that this, the greatest and mightiest hero of all time, was the creation of two "little guys." Whatever wrong faced the honest citizens of the world, whatever bully threatened Joe and Jane Average was confronted head-on by the one guy who couldn't be hurt, wouldn't be intimated.

Jerry Siegel, one of those "little guys," wrote every story in this collection and they are truly the stuff of wonder. The first features the last Golden Age appearance of the Ultra-Humanite (evil scientist who had his brain placed in the body of beautiful actress Dolores Winters) and a last-panel plug for the Spectre, another of Siegel's creations. Terry Curtis, a scientist forced to do Ultra's bidding in this story, would return to comics four decades later as a sympathetic villain in the Roy Thomas-written ALL-STAR SQUADRON. Sometimes it's fun to get one's geek on.

Sidebar. The final story in this volume has Superman putting the skids to fifth columnist Stuart Pemberton. After reading it, I found myself wondering how Roy resisted tying that villain to the Star-Spangled Kid, another Siegel creation whose civilian identity was...Sylvester Pemberton!

The Superman of these earlier adventures wasn't above racking up a body count now and then. He destroys a submarine and its crew in one story, and Luthor's giant blimp in another. This wasn't at all unusual for the times, and these were still the Man of Steel's formative years, but I'm glad Superman soon adopted a code against killing. It makes him that much more of a hero.

Superman was facing more fanciful adversaries in some of these stories - Ultra-Humanite, Luthor, Arabs with disintegrating rayguns - but my favorites are still the one where he lends a hand to the "little guys" he was created to defend. I have a dream wherein a modern-day version of this early Superman dismantles Halliburton's corporate headquarters throughout the world and uses the materials to build houses and schools for the poor. Boy, could DC Comics get into a lot of trouble if I were writing Superman!

The art in these early stories is as interesting as the tales themselves. Co-creator Joe Shuster's style was packed with power while retaining a whimsical quality not unlike that to be found in Roy Crane's "Wash Tubbs" newspaper strip. Shuster's poor eyesight, not to mention a demand for more Superman material than any artist could have drawn on his own, required he and Siegel to hire other artists as well. Among those represented in this volume are Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, Jack Burnley, and Fred Ray. It should be noted, however, that DC got the credits wrong on several stories. For a more accurate record of who did what in this book, visit the GRAND COMICS DATABASE at:

SUPERMAN: THE ACTION COMICS ARCHIVES VOLUME 2 is one terrific book. The 16 stories reprinted therein are exciting and fun...and historically important. I don't believe I've ever given a negative review to a DC ARCHIVES and that's not gonna change with this one. SUPERMAN: THE ACTION COMICS ARCHIVES VOLUME 2 earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Watch for more DC ARCHIVES reviews in future TOTs.



Creeper 1

Every week, I post a brand-new and exclusive edition of TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS on the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. Recent TOOTs have spotlighted OMAC, UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, and THE CREEPER! You can read these reviews at:



Almost every Tuesday, I post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. What with today being Election Day in these United States of America, it seemed like the right day to catch up with the results of last month's balloting.

Heroes Cast

How would you rate HEROES, the new NBC series about several people who suddenly acquire superhuman powers?

Very Good.....16.09%

I'm not a big fan of television serials these days, preferring done-in-one episodes with some continuing sub-plots, but HEROES has won me over. I rated it FINE.

At this point in Marvel's CIVIL WAR, which description best fits Tony "Iron Man" Stark?


If you've been reading my CIVIL WAR reviews, you know I think Stark is a VILLAIN. What I might not have made clear in my reviews is that I'm hoping he remains a villain. He's great in that role; I look forward to seeing the heroes foil his schemes on a regular (but not too frequent) basis.

Does incarcerating unregistered superhumans in a prison in another dimension constitute cruel and unusual punishment?


I voted a resounding YES on this one. I think Stark and Reed Richards should be hauled before the World Court and made to answer for their unconscionable actions.

Do you feel minority superhumans (African-American, gay, Hispanic, etc.) in CIVIL WAR are being injured, tortured, or killed at a disproportionate rate?


I voted YES, but no one should read too much into that vote. There are still too few minority characters in both the Marvel and DC Universes, so, when something bad happens to such characters, it will be disproportionate simply because of their low representation in the ranks of the super-heroes.

Battle for Bludhaven

How would you rate DC's CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE BATTLE FOR BLUDHAVEN limited series?

Very Good.....9.72%

I gave this series three out of five Tonys when I reviewed it in "Tony's Other Online Tips." On reflection, I think I was overly generous. So, when it came time for me to cast this vote, I only gave it a FAIR.

Sometimes I throw an intentionally silly question on the TONY POLLS page to "hold the space" for more serious queries. The next question posted in mid-October.

Tony is taking time off from the TONY POLLS to audition for the role of a corpse on one of the C.S.I. series. In which locale, do you think he's mostly likely to meet his demise?

New York.....40.54%
Law Vegas.....37.84%

I know what you were thinking, but, no, I don't think anybody at DC or Marvel bears me enough bad will to off me. Las Vegas was tempting, but it's been done. I voted MIAMI for one reason: it has a much hotter medical examiner than the other cities.

Spider-Man 3

Which of these future comics movies are you most looking forward to seeing? I've asked this question before, as has the Internet Movie Database, but I wanted to see how our votes compare with that site's most recent results.

Spider-Man 3.....30%
The Dark Knight.....11.82%
Wonder Woman.....11.82%
Iron Man.....7.27%
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.....5.45%
Sin City 2..........5.45%
Untitled Superman Returns Sequel.....4.55%
Ghost Rider.....1.82%
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.....0%

I had a tough time voting on this one. No one choice jumped out at me. I loved the first Fantastic Four and Sin City and the first two Spider-Man movies. I'm kind of interested in seeing if any of my own Ghost Rider concepts made it into that film, though I think that is unlikely. Ultimately, based on the character and the actor (Hugh Jackman) who will be playing the character, I voted for WOLVERINE. Which even I think is a odd choice for me.


How would you rate CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE limited series from DC Comics?

Very Good.....13.85%

When I reviewed this series in "Tony's Other Online Tips," I gave it two Tonys. When I voted on it in this poll, I rated it as FAIR. I have not been impressed by DC's CRISIS AFTERMATH comics or by the titles spun from its BRAVE NEW WORLD special.

Martian Manhunter

How would you rate the MARTIAN MANHUNTER limited series from DC Comics?

Very Good.....6.56%

I gave this one Tony in my "Tony's Other Online Tips" review and the poll above indicates most of you didn't care for it either. When I voted, I rated it POOR.

That brings us up to date with the TONY POLLS results. There should be new TONY POLLS questions waiting for you at...

...but since I haven't finished writing them yet, I can't tell you exactly what they are. That's next on my job list.

I can tell you that the new questions will remain active until sometime on Tuesday, November 14, which is when they'll be replaced with even newer questions.

Check in with me later in the week for my views on the results of the real world voting going on today.



Theo and the Blue Note

I reviewed an advance copy of Peter Kuper's THEO AND THE BLUE NOTE back in August:

Peter e-mailed me to let me know the book is now available at fine bookstores and comics shops everywhere.

He added this:

I also have a book coming out from Crown next July called STOP FORGETTING TO REMEMBER. It's the autobiography of Walter Kurtz, famous cartoonist who does Ebony vs Ivory for Nuts magazine as well as co-founding the political zine Bomb Shelter with his childhood friend Saul Blockman. Did I also mention that he's my alter ego? Here's what the cover looks like:

Stop Forgetting

Here's the whole catalogue copy:

Stop Forgetting to Remember
The Autobiography of Walter Kurtz
Peter Kuper

Crown|Hardcover|July, 2007|$19.95|978-0-307-33950-8

"Based of on award-winning cartoonist Peter Kuper's real life, this graphic novel tells the story of Walter Kurtz, a semi-famous cartoonist in the midst of creating an autobiographic novel who suddenly must deal with what he's been ominously warned will "change your life"...the arrival of his first child.

"Can a cartoonist with an overactive imagination juggle work, marriage, friendship, and an ever-present audience without dropping the ball? As we meet Walter Kurtz circa 1995, that's exactly what he's wondering because, ready or not, as his wife Sandra informs him, here comes baby. As parenthood looms, Walt reminisces about his wild, now receding youth, replete with too many drugs, too little sex, and the anarchic joy of irresponsibility. We get to see it all as fully-drawn comics-within-a-comic with Walter as our narrating guide. Can Walt keep art and life apart when the two collide? In this mini-epic, a decade will elapse while the world (and Walter's head) spins. His mettle - and his ability to get it all down on paper - will be tested as parenthood, a fall out with his best friend, the election of George W. Bush, and 9/11 explode around him.

"Stop Forgetting to Remember is a hilarious, disturbing, upbeat, downtrodden, bittersweet memoir of life in the passing lane...and the audience rides shotgun."

Also here's my updates from Oaxaca, Mexico where I have been living for the last 4 months:

Geez, Peter, remember when it was a big deal for you and Seth Tobocman to travel from the east side of Cleveland to the west side for our Graphic Arts Society meetings?

Needless to say, I'm thrilled by your continued success in so many venues. Let me know the next time you're anywhere near Ohio. It's been way too long.

Thanks to the loyal legions of TOT readers for spending part of their day with me.

I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/06/2006 | 11/07/2006 | 11/08/2006 >>

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:

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

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