BACK ISSUE #19 [TwoMorrows; $6.95] has been called "probably the best issue of the publication to date" and, while I'm not much for absolutes, I have to agree it's an outstanding issue of editor Michael Eury's magazine. The cover feature honors Don Newton, who rose from the ranks of fandom to become a top-notch comics artist before passing way too young. Thanks to the 22 pages of coverage, including a comprehensive article by Barry Keller, memories of the artist from his good friend Jay Wilson, and lots of Newton artwork, that loss is felt even more keenly than before.
The issue has lots of other good stuff as well. Dan Johnson provides a great overview of THE DEFENDERS. Steve Gerber and Gene Colan talk about Howard the Duck. David Gutierrez writes about the UNLIMITED POWERS television script written by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo...and it's an intriguing look at what might have been. There are also fine pieces on Geppi's Entertainment Museum, the long-ago Marvel "Assistant Editors Month," Mark Gruenwald, Bob Wiacek, and "She-Hulk: The Movie!" In the "Get More Tony" department, there's the "Tony's Back Page" sidebars on THE CHAMPIONS I originally wrote for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE.
I don't usually rate items which include my work, but, since my CHAMPIONS pieces are reprints, I'm gonna bend that rule to give BACK ISSUE #19 the full five out of five Tonys. Kudos to Eury and his contributors for a sensational issue.
My column for last Monday (November 13) had my reviews of DC's SUPERMAN RETURNS prequel comics. Though I had some complimentary things to say about them, I didn't think they were worth $3.99 each and advised you to wait for the $12.99 trade paperback collecting all four issues. I've now seen that trade paperback.
SUPERMAN RETURNS: THE PREQUELS is a bare-bones reprinting of those comics. It has the covers and interiors, but no additional editorial material. My never-tremendously-high enthusiasm for the prequels has dimmed somewhat, but, if you must have them, here they are. Amazon has the book for $10.39; it's eligible for their free shipping with an order of $25 or higher. I don't recommend you pay any more than that price.
We're always on "Black Lightning Watch" at TOT headquarters. But we've also been watching the career of comics/TV writer Adam Beechen from his wonderful "Blast From the Past" episode of STATIC SHOCK and his HENCH graphic novel to his yarns for ROBIN and other DC Comics titles. Those two areas of interest combined in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #27 [$2.25], an issue spotlighting Black Lightning in his civilian and super-heroic identities.
"Climb the Mountain" delighted me. With Superman out in space somewhere, Black Lightning and other members of the Justice League must stop the Parasite from tearing up Metropolis. As in my first BL series, Lightning is living in his hometown and, as Jeff Pierce, teaching in Suicide Slum. Beechen gets the teacher exactly right, showing Jeff going the extra mile to encourage one of his students. The effort that pays off in both Jeff's identities.
Beechen's handling of the super-hero is pretty good, too. He has him a bit more verbally confident than I would have and, later, a little more tentative before he figures out how to deal with the Parasite, but, hey, it's not my story and the handling of Lightning is well within my acceptable parameters. And I think we all know I set the bar pretty high when it comes to the creation of which I am most proud.
The bottom line: Beechen's done-in-one story has a satisfying payoff to match his excellent characterization and writing of Black Lightning. The animation-style art of Carlo Barberi and inker Bob Petrecca looks good and tells the story well. That Beechen added a last-panel dedication to me was a bonus which moved me greatly. This was a solid issue of a solid title and it earns four out of a possible five Tonys.
P.S. If the issue seems a little bulkier when you first pick it up, it's because it also contains the 3-D glasses for an online Heroscape game...and an 8-page Teen Titans comics insert by writer Marc Sumerak and artists Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker. The insert introduces Sara Hunter, a character whose further adventures with the Titans can be found at:
Watch for more Black Lightning stuff in future editions of this column.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
It never seems like a complete TOT if I don't share a couple of "Comics in the Comics" with you.
ARLO AND JANIS got a visit from a classic comics character in the March 17 installment of Jimmy Johnson's strip:
The ever-watchful TOM DUFFY sent me the March 20 PEARLS BEFORE SWINE with its clever use of comics cursing:
Space permitting, I think I'll have a pretty cool edition of CITC for you tomorrow.
TOT will continue to run Monday through Friday, but there will be weeks when family or other matters necessitate my taking a day or two off. With my preparations for Thanksgiving and Mid-Ohio-Con [www.midohiocon.com] occupying so much of time this week, it seemed prudent to ease my schedule somewhat. So...I won't be writing new columns for Friday, November 24, and Monday, November 27. However, since I can't bear the thought of my loyal TOT readers staring at their monitors, bereft of entertainment, allow me to direct you to a site guaranteed to fill many blissful hours, the TREASURE CHEST OF FUN AND FACT, located at:
The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact was a Catholic comic book published by George A. Pflaum and provided to Catholic parochial school students between 1946 and 1972. The digital collection is a project that includes fifteen of the first eighteen volumes running from 1946 to 1963. Volumes 1-3, 5-12, and 15-18 have been digitized (Volumes 4, 13 and 14 are missing).
You don't have to be a Roman Catholic to get a kick out of the comics fun available at this site. I'm reading the 1947 issues at present, enjoying the adventures of "Sally in Spangles" (a teenage girl who has just joined the circus), "Dragon Mountain" (two young lads fleeing from Chinese Communists), and the ever-present "Chuck White" (bad boy turned good boy trying to stay out of trouble and make something of himself). I'm especially enjoying Chuck White's ongoing story because, by the time I started getting TREASURE CHEST at St. Philip and James School on the West Side of Cleveland, circa 1960 or so, Chuck was the all-American good kid. I never knew he had started out with so many rough edges.
One of my more delightful discoveries in reading these ancient issues was the frequent gag strips drawn and perhaps even written by Jim Mooney. Here's a taste of his PERKY PENGUIN AND BOOBY BEAR feature from 1946:
This archive of TREASURE CHEST OF FUN AND FACT is one of my favorite places to visit. It earns five out of five Tonys.
Keep reading TOT for more online recommendations.
Most every Tuesday, we post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. This week's questions are ones we've asked before...with the Christmas-and-other-fine-holidays shopping season starting, how likely are you to give or receive comics or comics-related items from your family and friends? What kind of comics or comics-related gifts are you most likely to give or receive? You can cast your votes at:
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: