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for Friday, May 4, 2007


Irwin Hasen defines "truly delightful human being." I've only had the privilege of spending time with him on a few occasions, but I treasure each of them and hope our paths cross many more times in the years to come.

Hasen is, of course, the talented artist and writer whose many credits include a 31-year run on the newspaper strip "Dondi," and comic-book covers and stories for such characters and titles as the Atom, Big Town, Detective Chimp, Flash, Gang Busters, Green Lantern, Justice Society of America, Our Army at War, Secret Hearts, Strange Adventures, Wonder Woman, and dozens more. He's won the National Cartoonists Society award for best story strip and taught at the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Arts and the School of Visual Arts. If you have seen Irwin at conventions, you know that he is a snappy dresser, always friendly, and a teller of some of the best comics and life stories ever heard on a panel. I'm crazy about him.

A few days ago, Dan Makara sent the following letter to the CBG website:

I'd like to notify CBG readers that longtime comics favorite Irwin Hasen is recovering from a minor stroke suffered this past April 24. He's in fine spirits (as usual!) and would certainly appreciate hearing from any and all of his longtime friends at this time.

As many readers know, Irwin began his comics career in 1940, among other things creating "The Ferret" in Marvel Mystery Comics #4, creating "The Wildcat" with Bill Finger for DC Comics in 1942, ghosting "The Green Lantern" for DC throughout the 40s, and drawing many of the most memorable covers to All Star Comics. In fact, DC editor Shelly Mayer had Irwin drawing a very large portion of covers to the All-American Comics line.

Leaving comic books in the mid-50s, Irwin and writer Gus Edson created the long-running newspaper strip Dondi.

This May, at 89 years young, Irwin will be retiring from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art, where he's taught for 30+ years. It was very gratifying to me to see Irwin finally nominated for the Eisner Hall of Fame Award this coming summer in San Diego!

Well-wishers can reach Irwin at...

Irwin Hasen
68 E.79th St.
New York, NY 10021

I mailed a get-well card to Irwin yesterday. I'll print out this column and send it to him as well. Because when you get lucky enough to know someone as wonderful as the esteemed Hasen, you need to let him know much he's appreciated.

Heal swiftly, sir.



Buffy Season Eight 2

It's good to have Buffy Summers back with us, especially when her new adventures are being guided by creator/writer Joss Whedon. Dark Horse's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight [$2.99 per issue] takes place several months after the TV series came to its city-swallowing conclusion. I've read the first two issues of the new comics series - Whedon is writing the first arc - and I'm eager to read many more issues.

The Jo Chen covers are outstanding. Though Buffy and Xander don't look like actors Sarah Michelle Geller and Nicholas Brendan, Chen has created comparable visuals for those characters and they work well. Penciller Georges Jeanty, who delivers solid drawing and storytelling inside the book, could follow the Chen visuals for Buffy a tad closer, but I generally like how he draws Xander. His Dawn and Willow are terrific while my jury-of-one is still out on Amy, Andrew, and Giles. Kudos should also go to inker Andy Owens and colorist Dave Stewart.

Whedon deftly explores what things are like since the planet went from one Slayer to 1800...with 500 of them working with Buffy and her crew. Buffy is having some difficulty being in charge of an army and even more difficulty connecting and guiding her sister Dawn. Though it doesn't look like Dawn plays a major role in this first arc, Whedon does allow her to steal every scene in which she appears. For all her abilities and accomplishments, Buffy remains insecure on many levels. It's a good humanizing touch.

Xander is Buffy's "Nick Fury" and doing a fine job of it. His competence and loyalty contrasts nicely with the bumbling fear and hidden agenda of the American general determined to take Buffy and the larger-than-ever Scooby Gang down. I can't blame him entirely. If a young woman strong enough to have saved the world a few times suddenly became an army of thousands, I might get a touch nervous, too, though I probably wouldn't deal with my concerns by recruiting a clearly crazy, vengeful witch who has somehow managed to survive for months in the hole where Sunnydale used to be.

Crazy Amy is one of the characters I'm not entirely sure of in this new series. She puts Buffy in harm's way easily, but doesn't seem much of a threat otherwise. On the other hand, she wasn't in that hole alone and the identity of her "boyfriend" could prove to be interesting.

My guess? I'll give you a hint: "Madam, I'm..."

The rest of the old cast? Giles is something of a cipher so far. Andrew gets a two-page scene that drags. But these are minor blips in an otherwise fun ride. Neither is enough to keep me from awarding Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #1 and #2 the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

I can't wait to see more of the old gang.



Dead and Deader

Writer Steve Kriozere is one of us, a comics and pop culture fan. We've exchanged e-mails for years and, when he's remembered to tell me about them in time for me to set the VCR, I've enjoyed his scripts for such series as NCIS and V.I.P.. Even if you didn't know Kriozere was one of us, you'd probably figure it out from the comics and pop culture references in his work. Steve knows how to bring the fun. So, even though zombies are my least favorite monsters, when Steve tells me he wrote a Sci-Fi Channel original movie about zombies, I watch it.

Dead and Deader [Starz Home Entertainment; $19.98] was well worth watching. One reviewer called it a "zom-edy" and that's not too bad a description of this entertaining low-budget adventure with super-hero overtones.

Dean Cain plays a Special Forces commando who is infected and seemingly killed by a weird insect-thing while on a secret mission. His entire squad is wiped out, but he comes back to life during his stateside autopsy and manages to cut the bug out of his arm before it can zombie-fy his mind. He's technically dead, but, outside of a craving for human flesh, he's better than ever. He is stronger and more durable. As long as he feeds on raw meat every few hours, he can resist the urge to eat people.

His squad also comes back to life, albeit as zombies through and through, creating more zombies with each snack. Cain's self-appointed mission is to wipe them out before they spread beyond the military base and its desolate surroundings. Joining Cain are Guy Torry, playing a smart-ass cook, and Susan Ward as a sexy bartender who knows her horror movies.

Dead and Deader is exactly the movie Kriozere, producer and co-writer Mark A. Altman, and director Patrick Dinhut set out to make. It's Saturday matinee cheese, but it's fun and smart with appearances by beloved genre actors, such as Armin Shimerman, John Billingsley, and Dean Haglund. Even Kriozere puts in some screen time as a cop who arrests Cain at Ward's bar and then gets beat up by the former Superman! Steve insists he could've taken Cain, but he had to remain faithful to the script.

Just on the basis of what I watched on the Sci-Fi Channel, I'd be recommending the movie. But the DVD, which I haven't seen, also has audio commentary by Kriozere and Altman, the DVD-Rom script, a photo gallery, and the short feature, "Raising the Dead: The Making of Dead & Deader." That sounds like a pretty good deal, especially if you look around for a discount.

Dead and Deader earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys. Low budget or not, I would happily watch any movie that entertained me as much as this one did.

Tony Tony Tony



Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars was back Tuesday night with "Un-American Graffiti," the first of five done-in-one episodes that will close out the season and maybe the series. Right out of the gate, I have to say I was favorably impressed by how much sheer characterization and story the episode delivered without ever seeming crowded. In fact, it wasn't until after the show that I realized almost every regular character had gotten some play.

The "A" plot had Veronica (Kristen Bell) hired to discover the vandals of an Arabic restaurant owned by the family of a classmate. This story had several surprises, including a surprising change of heart (that didn't come off the least bit maudlin) and a satisfying fate for one of its players.

The "B" plot had Acting Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) tackling underage drinking and making more than a few enemies along the way. His actions were righteous...and I predict they will come back to vex him when he runs for reelection. Most notable was how Veronica gets busted for having created all of those bogus ID cards she made over the years and how she feels remorse for same. It was a rare character growth moment for a TV show.

There was movement on the various romantic subplots as well, including the unexpected-yet-cool bonding of Veronica's friend Mac (Tina Majorino) and recurring character Max (Adam Rose). I remain interested in the tortured romantic quadrangle of Veronica, Logan (Jason Dohring), Parker (Julie Gonzalo), and Stosh (Chris Lowell), though I think it needs resolution by season's end.

The only weakness in the episode were scenes with man-pig Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) and his comeuppance at the hands of two lovely ladies he met on MySpace. This character has outlived his usefulness to the show, which has mostly consisted of his knowing-without-knowing-he-knows information which moves the plots forward. Roommate-wise, Logan can do better.

Veronica Mars excels at both the continued stories and the done-in-one episodes. I'm okaying with closing out the season with the latter, but I hope the show returns next year with a mix of both approaches.

Veronica Mars: "Un-American Graffiti" earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. Have a happy and safe Free Comic Book Day weekend. I'll be back here on Monday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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