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

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for Wednesday, December, 6, 2006

The DREADED DEADLINE DOOM still holds sway over Casa Isabella, so what you're getting today are installments of the "Tony's Back Page" feature that runs every month in Comics Buyer's Guide. These were written in May and June of this year.

Black Lightning 1

What's In A Name?

One of my favorite online hangouts is Dwayne McDuffie's spiffy forum []. There are a lot of good folks there and a lot of great conversation on subjects near and dear to me. Several months ago, forum member James Mathurin directed me to another forum's thread on the black super-heroes who have the word "black" in their names. Was it a marketing ploy or something more sinister? Wise man that he is, James leapfrogged over speculation and went right to the source, the writer responsible for both Black Lightning and Black Goliath. He asked what my thinking had been when I named Black Lightning. My response:

"My thinking was that Black Lightning sounded cooler than just plain Lightning. It was also an expression of Jeff Pierce's pride in his identity. It was the 1970s that sort of usage was common in entertainment mediums and as an expression of pride."

I'm frequently asked this question or some variation thereof, usually by readers who weren't reading comics when the characters were created in the 1970s. My inspirations were the strong black heroes and heroines found in then-current films like Shaft and Foxy Brown. Pam Grier, who starred in the latter, was the "model" for another of my Marvel creations, the tough-as-nails Misty Knight who appeared in Iron Fist.

Marketing ploy? Not in the 1970s.

Headlining black super-heroes was risky business when there were still regional distributors who'd refuse to distribute such comic books to the newsstands they supplied. Whatever flaws modern eyes might perceive in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire and Black Lightning, it took courage for the publishers to put the titles into the marketplace.

On the other hand, I can offer no defense for Black Goliath. That was a stupid name from the get-go. I had wanted Bill Foster to assume the Giant-Man moniker from Hank Pym, but the editorial powers-that-be remembered how poorly the original G-M had fared as the star of Tales To Astonish. I definitely should've given more thought to my second choice.

Misty Knight

Misty Knight

This snippet of history is dedicated to Robert Rowe, who e-mailed me with this query:

"I was discussing comics with a friend who thought the apparent appearance of Misty Knight in Marvel Team-Up #1 was some kind of retro-continuity someone at Marvel concocted. When you created Misty in Marvel Premiere #20, did you reference her appearance in MTU #1 in any way?"

Not in the slightest. When I created Misty, it was to give Iron Fist someone to talk to, a non-romantic, sassy, tough-as-nails partner who'd always have his back in combat and mock him endlessly not unlike a older sister who truly loves her naive-but-talented sibling. She bore absolutely no relation to the damsel-in-distress who was rescued by Spider-Man in MTU #1.

It was a few years later, when Chris Claremont and John Byrne did a two-issue Spider-Man/Iron Fist/Daughters of the Dragon team-up, that one or perhaps both of them decided, apparently based on some sort of physical resemblance, that Misty was the unnamed woman from MTU #1.

I didn't buy it then and I don't buy it today.

For the record, I also don't believe Norman Osborn and Flint Marko (the Sandman) are related, an absurdity put forth in the now-largely/rightfully ignored Spider-Man Chapter One series. All they had in common was the same oddly-drawn hair, courtesy of Spider-Man co-creator and non-barber Steve Ditko.

Why did I want Iron Fist to have someone to talk to? It was part of my never-realized plan to rid the book of those annoying second-person captions.

You know what I'm talking about:

"You are Iron Fist...and, with a name like that, you're just asking for the bad guys to make rude comments about you! Like the ballet slippers aren't enough!



Uncle Scrooge 360

Uncle Scrooge #360 [$6.95] has another of the script-rewrites I did for Gemstone Publishing. "Operation Vesuvius" takes Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews to the source of Magica DeSpell's power to thwart the sorceress' latest scheme to make off with Uncle Scrooge's number one dime. With a story by Stefan and Unn Printz-Pahlson and art by Daniel Branca, this adventure was a lot of fun for me to work on.

Adding to the coolness, two of my long-time pals from comics fandom also have dialogue credits in this issue. Dwight Decker did the honors on "Being Good For Goodness Sake" by Carlo Chendi with art by Romano Scarpa...while Donald D. Markstein did the rewrite on Printz-Pahlson's "Return of the Terror." That story was drawn by Vicar (Chilean artist Victor Arriagada Rios).

Rounding out the issue:

Gyro Gearloose in "Show Duster" by Carl Barks;

Uncle Scrooge in "Trapdoor Trick" by Kirsten de Graaf and Mau Heymans; and,

Uncle Scrooge in "Snow Intention to Pay" by Kristian Højsteen (story), Vicar (art), and John Clark (dialogue).

Several readers have asked if Gemstone putting four of its six Disney comics on hiatus will adversely impact my work for them. I suspect it will, but, on the other hand, the company's plans to try out some new formats for their material might positively impact my work for them. Whichever way it goes, I have truly enjoyed working with the Gemstone crew, with the great characters featured in their comics, and with the amazing writers and artists who created these stories in the first place. It's been a joy from the start...and, fingers crossed, I hope the finish is nowhere in sight.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 12/05/2006 | 12/06/2006 | 12/07/2006 >>

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.

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