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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, November 20, 2006

Best of Harveyville Fun Times

Editor/publisher Mark Arnold just sent me the magnificent hunk of book that is THE BEST OF THE HARVEYVILLE FUN TIMES [$29.95], his 400-page compilation of, well, the best of the wonderful magazine he's been creating since 1990. As such, it's the first book ever on Harvey Comics, a leading comics publisher for half a century and the home of such icons as Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Sad Sack, and more.

My puny contribution to the book is "Ghosts, Witches, Giants, Devils, Dogfaces, Zillionaires and Other Friends: The Harvey Comics Legacy," a two-page foreword. I was fairly pleased with it when I sent it to Mark, but seeing it at the front of this amazing volume makes me feel like I'm running two steps ahead of a roaring freight train of comics fun and knowledge.

From Shelly Pieger's bright and cheery cover to Ernie Colon's equally bright and cheery back cover family portrait of the Richie Rich cast, this book is a thing of wonder and an obvious labor or love. There are pieces on the Harvey characters, the comic books, cartoons. and films in which they starred, and the great creators who brought them to life. The focus is on Casper and Richie Rich, but Arnold also includes a 23-page history of Harvey and articles on Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, Little Audrey, and other beloved players. This is a whole lot of goodness.

THE BEST OF THE HARVEYVILLE TIMES is available through Amazon and, if you order it via the link our webmaster Justin provides on this page, World Famous Comics gets a few cents on the deal. But, however you buy it, this hefty volume is well worth adding to your comics library. Just carrying it to your favorite chair to read it will burn off a few calories.

******

CANCER IN THE COMICS

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person

This year saw the publication of two courageous and hilarious graphic novels about a subject not usually associated with laughs. Yet cartoonists Miriam Engelberg and Marisa Acocella Marchetto were able to shape their fears and pain into works of amazing artistry and undeniable heart.

Engleberg's CANCER MADE ME A SHALLOWER PERSON [Harper, $14.95] is a chronological collection of vignettes, some of them as short as a page. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, cartooning became her means of coping with her disease and the treatments she would undergo in battling it.

The scariness of her situation didn't prevent Engleberg from going for the laughs, sometimes outrageously. It takes a seriously determined cartoonist to ask the burning question of whether it's okay to play the cancer card with telemarketers. To be sure, there are tears in this book, but they are cushioned by the cartoonist's sense of hope and sense of humor.

Sadly, I was halfway through CANCER MADE ME A SHALLOWER PERSON when word reached me that Engleberg had passed in her hometown of San Francisco, surrounded by loving family and friends. The first-time graphic novelist was only 48 years old. It took me a day to return to Engleberg's book and I wondered if I could get through it. As it turned out, I couldn't put it down until I finished it. Her death had not diminished the quality of her book in the least. It remained funny, human, and thoughtful to its characteristically optimistic final pages.

There are works of comics art which I firmly believe must be part of the collection of every serious student of comic art. This is one such work and it earns this column's top marks.

Cancer Vixen

Marchetto's CANCER VIXEN [Knoft; $22] pulls you into the story from its first line:

"WHAT happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist (me, Marisa Acocella) with a fabulous life finds...A LUMP IN HER BREAST?!?"

Marchetto's credits include The New Yorker, Glamour, The New York Times, and Modern Bride. At 43, she was mere months away from marrying "It" restauranteur Silvano Marchetto when she learned she had breast cancer. In 212 full-color, often frenzied, always eye-catching pages, she brings us completely into her New York world. We meet her friends, her family, and her wonderful Silvano. More than meet them, actually. She makes us feel like we know them as well as we know our own friends and family members.

There are moments in the book when laughing out loud seems the only appropriate response. There were other moments, such as when Marchetto realizes she'll never give birth, when I felt tears creep into the corners of my eye. Testimony to her storytelling skills, the only tear I actually shed came in the final pages of the book, when her living a long and happy life seems as certain as it can be for any cancer survivor.

Like Engleberg's book, CANCER VIXEN is a funny and uplifting tale. Also like Engleberg's book, it's a graphic novel that every serious comics reader should own and read. Our usual disembodied, grinning reviewer heads would be out of place in reviews of books on dealing with cancer, but I can still award Marchetto the highest honor this column has to offer.

Top marks, Mrs. Marchetto, and my regards to your magnificient Silvano. I hope my daughter will someday marry a man who defines a loving husband as well as does your husband.

******

COMICS IN THE COMICS

You know the drill. These are either self-referential comic strips and panels, or comic strips and panels (including editorial cartoons) that guest star other comics characters.

First up, Allison Barrows' PRETEENA - astonish your friends by knowing the title heroine's real name is Teena Keene - skating with a comics icon. It's from March 3 of this year:

Preteena

Here's Alex Graham's FRED BASSET from March 4:

Fred Basset

Editorial cartoonist STEVE KELLY of the Times-Picayune offered this odd comment on March 4:

Steve Kelly

Osama bin Laden isn't really my notion of a cartoon character, which is why the cartoon struck me as odd. By the way, the above is as close to political commentary as TOT is likely to get until after Mid-Ohio-Con.

Marmaduke is referenced in J.C. Duffy's THE FUSCO BROTHERS of March 6:

Fusco Brothers

The strip was sent to me by TOT reader TOM DUFFY, who is, as far as I know, no relation to the cartoonist.

While looking at the DC Super Heroes stamps, Jason Fox ponders a serious question:

FoxTrot

That installment of Bill Amend's ever-amusing FOXTROT ran on March 9. It's clear that Amend is one of us...one of us...one of us...one of us...

We'll wrap up this edition of CITC with John Deering's STRANGE BREW from March 11:

Strange Brew

Lots more of these to come in future TOTs.

******

GET MORE TONY

All-New Atom 1

Every week, I post a brand-new and exclusive edition of TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS on the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. Last week's TOOT spotlighted THE ALL-NEW ATOM; this week's edition looks at THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM! You can read these reviews at:

www.cbgxtra.com

******

I READ THE NEWS TODAY Non-Political Edition

There was a full-page ad in Saturday's BEACON-JOURNAL from the Akron Unit of the Newspaper Guild Unit One, thanking its colleagues and fellow members were either laid off or voluntarily resigned to save someone else's job in the recent cutbacks mandated by the BJ's new owner. Listed were two dozen employees (reporters, columnists, editors and others) with a combined 335 years of experience in the field, as well as a half-dozen newsroom managers. I read the names with a heavy heart. I knew most of the names and, over the years, had exchanged e-mails with several of them. It was a sad, sobering reflection of the decline of the American newspaper. You can read a little more about this here:

www.bjguild.homeip.net

At THE (Cleveland) PLAIN DEALER, buyouts and layoffs have been going on for some time. Hardly a week goes by without a farewell column, losses slightly tempered by the return of Pulitzer-winning columnist Connie Schulz, wife of the newly-elected Senator Sherrod Brown. Just this week, though it hasn't been in the paper yet, I learned that a friend of ours, a terrific writer who had actually gotten me to read a section of the paper I had never read before, would be taking a buyout. Sigh.

I get a lot of news online, but it only feels real to me when I hold it in my hands. I grew up with newspapers. I can't imagine not making my early-morning walk to our mailbox to get the papers (Barb bought the one we have specifically because it had slots for them), not quickly skimming the front page and metro sections, not handing the sports sections to my kids to read with their breakfast before going to school.

Change is the one constant in life. We adjust to it and move on. But, if the day comes when there is no newspaper to publish an ad like the one that caught my attention this weekend, it will be a sad day, indeed.

******

TONY POLLS

Most every Tuesday, I post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. Here are the results some questions I posed earlier this month.

Brave and the Bold 1

I'm loving DC's SHOWCASE editions and so is guest pollster DAVE BLANCHARD. Here are Dave's top choices for future volumes. Which of them would you most like to see?

BRAVE AND THE BOLD (starting with issue #1)...14.84%
Metal Men.....10.97%
House of Secrets.....9.03%
Sgt. Rock.....9.03%
Flash.....8.39%
Spectre (Silver Age series plus).....6.45%
Plop!.....5.81%
Showcase itself (starting with issue #1).....5.81%
Western (All-Star Western and Western Comics).....5.81%
World's Finest (beginning w/Mort Weisinger era).....5.16%
Science fiction (everything from Julius Schwartz-edited books but Adam Strange).....4.52%
Superboy (the Silver Age stories).....2.58%
War That Time Forgot (Star Spangled War Stories).....2.58%
Wonder Woman (Kanigher/Andru/Esposito stories).....2.58%
Adventures of Bob Hope.....1.94%
Young Romance (w/first DC issue in 1963).....1.94%
Adventures of Jerry Lewis.....1.29%
Plastic Man (starting w/Silver Age issue #1).....1.29%
Binky & His Buddies (plus Debbi, Windy & Willy).....0%
Swing With Scooter.....0%

What I found most hopeful about these results was that almost everything got some votes. That bodes well for the variety which mainstream fans are willing to accept in these books. As for yours truly, I voted for YOUNG ROMANCE because I haven't read any of its early issues. My next choice would have been either "The War That Time Forgot" or the western volume.

OMAC

How would you rate DC's OMAC limited series?

Near-Mint.....3.09%
Fine.....5.15%
Very Good.....11.34%
Good.....21.65%
Fair.....27.84%
Poor.....30.93%

When I consider the results of poll questions like this one, I look at positive/negative ratios with "good" and anything above "good" being positive. When that ratio is less than 70/30, I know the title isn't very popular with my readers.

I liked OMAC much better than most of you. I voted it a VERY GOOD. But, as I wrote in my CBGXtra review, that surprisingly high rating is based on DC Comics giving us a definite conclusion to the 8-issue series.

Uncle Sam 1

How would you rate DC's UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS limited series?

Near-Mint.....27.13%
Fine.....19.38%
Very Good.....18.60%
Good.....11.63%
Fair.....13.18
Poor.....10.08%

You were more positive about this title. It didn't score as highly as I did OMAC in my CBGXtra review, but I still gave it a VERY GOOD here.

Creeper 1

How would you rate DC's CREEPER limited series?

Near-Mint.....32.81%
Fine.....13.28%
Very Good.....9.38%
Good.....15.62%
Fair.....15.62%
Poor.....13.28%

You seem to like this one as well. I've liked the issues I've read to date...with some reservations. It earned three out of five Tonys in my CBGXtra review and a GOOD here.

Last week's questions will remain active until sometime after midnight tonight, when they will be replace by new questions that I haven't written yet. So, for a limited time only, you can still vote on them by going to:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. Things will be a little shaky around here as I prepare for this weekend's Mid-Ohio-Con, but I will be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/17/2006 | 11/20/2006 | 11/21/2006 >>

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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