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for Thursday, April 5, 2007

Giacoia, Sinnott, and Esposito

The current issue of Comics Buyer's Guide features my review of the recently-published Andru & Esposito: Partners For Life by Mike Esposito and Daniel Best. Mike is the dashingly handsome gentleman to the right of the equally dashing and handsome Frank Giacoia and Joe Sinnott in the above Sam Maronie photograph. I wrote a foreword for Mike's book.

From what I understand, the book is either sold out or close to being sold out. For reasons I don't care to discuss at present, I doubt the book will have a second printing.

Since my reason for writing the foreword was to say thanks to Mike for his friendship and to let as many people as possible know what a great guy he is, I always figured that, sooner or later, I'd run the foreword as a special edition of TOT.

It turns out to be "sooner."

Ten Things I Never Told My "Uncle Mike" Esposito

The FIRST thing I never told my Uncle Mike Esposito is that I actually did think of him as a surrogate "uncle" when I arrived in New York City in the fall of 1972. For the first year of my employ at Marvel Comics, I was in a perpetual state of awe at working with so many of the writers and artists whose comics had meant so much to me as a youth. If I seemed the least bit editorial back then - or competent - it was acting. Even when I brought art corrections and jobs to Mike and my other "Bullpen Buddies," I was inwardly and repeatedly shouting "Oh, man, I'm working with (fill in name)! I'm actually working with (fill in name)!"

Now I didn't intend to make this introduction about me and I still don't. But, since I can't possibly compete with the amazing scholarship that has gone into the book you hold in your hot little hands, I have to fall back on the personal stuff. And it doesn't get much more personal than an outwardly cocky/inwardly terrified kid from Cleveland walking into the Marvel Comics offices and, on his first day, meeting friendly industry veterans who remind him of his uncles back home.

Those guys were Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia.

Stan Lee was my idol. Sol Brodsky and Roy Thomas were mentors to me. I learned valuable stuff from dozens of writers and artists during my years at Marvel. But Mike and Frank, my great admiration for their work notwithstanding, they felt like family.

There were times when I would invade their work space just to listen to their stories and to watch them effortlessly work away at whatever they were doing. I wish I had kept notes when Mike spoke of his history in comics. If I had, I could be writing books like this instead of just composing cheesy introductions. Ah, well, I guess I should play to my strengths.

I always knew I could count on Mike as a professional. I also knew I could count on him as a friend. He may not have realized it at the time - or maybe he did because he's a pretty smart guy - but there were times when some seemingly insignificant bit of advice he threw out would steer me away from making mistakes or, at the very least, cushion the falls when I made them anyway.

The SECOND thing I never told Mike, or at least not as often as I should have, was how much I loved his collaborations with Ross Andru, John Romita, and virtually every other artist he ever worked with. He made the best of them look just as good as they ever did and he made the rest look better.

Star Spangled War Stories

The THIRD thing I never told Mike was that, as a kid, I'd have to trade two Superman or Batman comics to get an issue of Star Spangled War Stories with soldiers fighting dinosaurs. Those comic books were the 1960s equivalent of bearer bonds.

The FOURTH thing I never told Mike was that, "girly comics" or not, every kid in my neighborhood had a few issues of Wonder Woman by Andru and Esposito among his comics. Which they swore their sisters had put there. Even those who didn't have sisters. I'm not gonna speculate as to why they had Wonder Woman comics, but I will tell you why I had them.

Oh, stop blushing. It's because the way Ross and Mike drew Diana she looked like one of my beautiful Italian aunts. I found that comforting somehow. When you're the shortest and the smartest kid in your neighborhood and you walk the long way home - as in the opposite direction - to avoid encountering that thug-ish classmate having a bad day, you take all the comfort you can get.

In case you were wondering, I wasn't nearly this perceptive as a kid. I got smarter as I got older.

Brave and Bold 37 - Suicide Squad Cover

The FIFTH thing I never told Mike - and you should get ready to blush here - is that young Tony Isabella was strangely excited by Karin Grace, that blonde scientist with the tight sweater, tight skirt, and high heels from the six "Suicide Squad" issues which he and Ross drew for The Brave and the Bold. Something about the way one of her shoes would dangle from her foot in a moment of jeopardy fascinated me.

The SIXTH thing I never told Mike was that Metal Men was one of the most brilliant comics of all time. You couldn't trade for an issue of Metal Men in the 1960s. You had to buy them at the corner store and you had to buy them within a week of their arrival. You could, however, borrow issues you missed from thug-ish classmates who needed help on their homework.

The SEVENTH thing I never told Mike was that I never saw what I considered a bad job from the Andru/Esposito team. I know they took some lumps from the fans when they followed Carmine Infantino on The Flash, and that some thought they drew the Batman too stocky, but I never saw that. Sure, their style was different from Infantino's and the other, but they never delivered anything less than exciting comics with top-notch storytelling.

Up Your Nose

The EIGHTH thing I never told Mike was how crappy I felt when I realized how deeply he had been hurt by a churlish review I had written of Up Your Nose And Out Your Ear during my days as a writer for The Comics Reader. I hadn't given the magazine a fair reading, didn't recognize that it was its own thing, and dismissed it with quick, callous jibes. Someone should republish the magazine so I can make amends.

I learned something from Mike that day. I learned that there were people behind the comics I reviewed. I knew that on a purely intellectual level, but that brought it to me on a personal level. I won't tell you that I never again wrote a negative or even cruel review. That's part of the job and, without it, those who read the reviews wouldn't have a base line from which to judge the quality of the stuff I praise. So, yes, there have been and there will be negative and sometimes cruel reviews from me. But, whenever I feel the need to write them, I always think of Mike and make sure that I'm not just playing to the crowd in the Colosseum.

The NINTH thing I never told Mike is that one of the reasons I like him so much and liked working with him is that I never ever doubted how much he loves comics. It was a job for him and all the others who toiled in the industry from its dawning to the present. Yet when I would listen to him talk about artists and editors and writers, or those dreams of publishing he and Ross pursued over the years, it was clear that it was also more than a job to him. Which is why he was so darned good at his job.

Metal Men

The TENTH thing I never told Mike is that I wish I had kept in contact with him when I moved from New York back to Cleveland, from Cleveland back to New York, from Marvel to DC, and all those other journeys in my life. It's so easy to get wrapped up in one's life that one neglects people who have been a part of that life in ways they may not even realize.

"Uncle" Mike Esposito isn't one of the good guys. He's one of the best guys. It's a privilege to be even the smallest part of a book honoring him and Ross Andru.

And, as soon as I proofread this introduction and send it off to the editor, I'm going to phone Mike and tell him all the things I never got around to telling him before this.


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

Tony Isabella

<< 04/04/2007 | 04/05/2007 | 04/06/2007 >>

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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