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for Thursday, December 7, 2006

The DREADED DEADLINE DOOM is a harsh taskmaster, but, though pressing assignments and household renovations loom over my head, I did manage to sneak away long enough to bring you today's double helping of "Tony's Back Page" and the latest opportunity for you to "get more Tony." Leave us proceed.


Thanagarian Name Game

Developing and writing DC's The Shadow War of Hawkman series [1985] was one of most fun gigs I have ever had during my career. Editorial director Dick Giordano gave me a free hand, as did series editor Alan Gold.

Dick told me I was free to completely re-imagine Hawkman, but I don't like "fixing" things that aren't broke. Beyond a baffling run of late 1960s issues, none of them edited by editor emeritus Julius Schwartz, the Hawks had held up very well. My re-imagining consisted only of ignoring those issues, applying a bit of logic to Hawkman's past, moving his current adventures forward based on the unfortunate events that had befallen his home planet of Thanagar, and recognizing that the amazing Absorbascon was actually one scary weapon of war.

With Thanagarians playing major roles in the series, I had to come up with a bunch of Thanagarian names. I turned to the honored tradition of "tuckerisms," the use of friends' names as characters and places in stories. The tradition is named for mystery/science fiction writer and fan Wilson "Bob" Tucker, the amiable fellow who brought such private jokes into common use.

I put my own personal twist on these tuckerisms by rearranging the names of my friends to make them appear more Thanagarian. So comics writer Mike W. Barr became "Rab Mekir" and former Black Lightning editor Jack C. Harris was turned into "Sirrah Jak." Writer Mark Waid's moniker lent itself to rearrangement better than anyone else's; in my stories, there are at least two characters named after him.

What's that, kids? You want me to give you a complete list of my Hawkman tuckerisms? What would be the fun of that?

Dig up my issues of Hawkman (1985-1987) from your collection or, if you don't already own them, start haunting the back issues bins and eBay sales. Then see how many these tuckerisms you can find. I'm here to confirm/deny/explain them for you. Look really hard and you'll find other "in" jokes as well. Then and now, I do my best to bring the fun to the funny books.

Adventure Comics 253 Superboy 82

Will Work For Comics

I didn't become a bonafide comics fan until 1963, but, even before that, as a mere reader, I was not adverse to doing physical labor in exchange for comics. On a few occasions, when the high-school kid who worked for my barber didn't show, I ran errands for the barber and swept hair into the holes in the floor of his shop. I envisioned a basement filled with hair from top to bottom, but, in reality, there were trash bins under the holes and those would be emptied once a week. Each time I worked for the barber, I would get a dozen DC, Dell, or Harvey comics for my efforts.

About the same time, I went to work for an older boy who lived down the street from my family. He delivered the afternoon paper and owned, at the time, the most comics I'd ever seen in one house. The deal was that I would help him deliver his papers and then get to pick any one comic from his stash. Delivery would take a half-hour, so my pay was the equivalent of 20 cents an hour. In today's dollars, that would be a cool $1.27.

I had my eye on Adventure Comics #253 [October, 1958] featuring a meeting between Superboy and a time-traveling Robin the Boy Wonder. The issue also had a Green Arrow story by Jack Kirby, but I didn't know from Kirby back then. However, when it came time to collect my pay, my "boss" wouldn't turn on his basement light, forcing me to pick blind. I was petty sure the comic book I wanted was on top of the pile nearest to the steps, but, when I ascended from the darkness, I found I had instead picked up Superboy #82 [July, 1960]: "The War Against Superboy!" I walked off the job and never looked back.

I didn't realize it until years later, when I finally got to read the Superboy/Robin story, but I had actually gotten the better of the transaction. Guest-star aside, the story I wanted was so-so at best. But the book-length "The War Against Superboy," written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Sikela, is a classic. Despite my initial disappointment in my blind choice, I was thrilled by that comic in which a criminal called the General used military tactics against the Boy of Steel. I read the book on a daily basis for two weeks straight and still remember it fondly.

Older and wiser, I no longer work for comic books. Unless, of course, they're really good comic books.



Essential Man-Thing

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1 [$16.99] is the latest facet of Marvel's mad scheme to reprint everything I ever wrote for them. Before he was driven insane, incapable of doing more than reciting every entry in the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe from memory, my inside source revealed that, when every one of my stories is reprinted, the Marvel Universe and perhaps our world as well, will reboot back to the day I started work at Marvel. He was unable to explain to me why anyone at Marvel thought this would be a good thing.

This Man-Thing book, on the other hand, is a very good thing. It collects the first four Man-Thing stories by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, and Len Wein...and 26 stories (one of them a prose story) by the swamp-master himself, Steve Gerber. The artistic line-up: Gray Morrow, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Jim Starlin, Rich Buckler, Val Mayerik, Mike Ploog, and Alfredo Alcala. My sole contribution is "All the Faces of Fear" with art by Vincente Alcazar. It first appeared in Monsters Unleashed #5. It's one of my favorite Marvel stories, but it's not nearly as good as the Man-Thing tales by Gerber.

If you've read Gerber's Man-Thing stories before, you already know they were among the best comics of the 1970s. If you haven't read them before, you're in for an eye-opening experience as to why so many comics fans revere the 1970s. If it wasn't for the afore-mentioned Dreaded Deadline Doom, I'd be kicking back and rereading them right now.

That's all for this edition of TOT. Thanks for spending part of your day with me.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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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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