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

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for Friday, July 13, 2007

Every issue of Comics Buyer's Guide has two features by me. The best-known is my "Tony's Tips" column, the direct ancestor of "Tony's Online Tips." The other is "Tony's Back Page," a short look at some comics-related item from my life and career in comics. It always runs on the last page of CBG's price guide section.

Though examining one's past on Friday the 13th might be seen as tempting bad luck, here are the "Tony's Back Page" features from CBG #1630-1632...


Marvel-Two-In-One Art

"Tips" reader Jeff Sharpe sent me this e-mail:

"I'm purchasing a page of art from Marvel Two-In-One which appears to be two separate pages drawn on one standard-size page and wanted to ask if you had any insight as to why it was drawn this way? Was the entire issue drawn this way or just these pages? If it was just these pages, who decided on which pages? I assumed it would be the centerspread, but, that's not the case. Also, the art is signed by Frank Giacoia, but, the comic credits Mike Esposito with the inks. Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated!"

What Jeff has is an attempt by Marvel to cut the actual story page count of their comics without making it obvious this was done. All the issues produced during that period, which I think lasted less than a year, had a page like this. The bean-counters had cut our per-issue original comics material from 17 to 16 pages. Since that would leave us with 32-page comics that were half advertising and text, editorial came up with this two-for-the-price-of-one plan to artificially keep us at 17 pages.

Writers were told to plot stories designating two pages which the artists would draw as a single page. The production department would then blow them up to run as two separate pages.

Some of us did double-page spreads. Some plotted our stories so the pages wouldn't appear next to each other and make it obvious there was something not quite right about them. But, no matter how much work production did on them, you can spot these "half-pages" a mile away. Eventually, someone figured out the extra production work was costing Marvel as much as it was saving. We got our 17th page back.

As for the published credit...

Esposito and Giacoia often worked together, but didn't always receive joint credit. My guess is this is one of those team-ups and, when the inker's share of the original art was returned to Mike, he split it with Frank. The page you have could be the work of both of them.


Marvel Two-In-One 5

Due to space considerations, I sometimes leave parts of my TBP features on the cutting room floor before I send them to CBG. So here's a little additional information.

The page Jeff Sharpe was purchasing is from Marvel Two-In-One #5 [September, 1974], the second half of a team-up of the Thing, Captain America, Wundarr, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. On the letters page, I'm credited with a few concept ideas for the story. Unfortunately, over three decades later, I don't remember what the ideas were. There was much comradely give-and-take among the Marvel writers back then, so I wouldn't have taken special note of it. The same letter pages credit Ed Hannigan for Wundarr's new costume, and Dave Cockrum for designing new costumes for Guardians Vance Astro and Yondu, as well as the "starship Captain America." If I had to guess what my contribution to Steve Gerber's story was, and a guess is all it would be, it would be the notion that Captain America might be even more of a symbol of freedom in the Guardians' time than in our own, what with humanity's war of liberation from the Badoon not yet won.



The Odd Couple

One of my favorite films is The Odd Couple with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. One of my favorite scenes is when Oscar Madison (Matthau) tells Felix Unger (Lemmon) to get out of Oscar's apartment. Neurotic Felix solemnly intones that whatever happens to Felix now will be on Oscar's head. Nearly driven to madness, Oscar responds with "Let it be on my head? Let it be on my head? What the hell is that...the curse of the cat people?"

1976. I was in New York during my mercifully brief six months as a DC Comics "story editor." For some reason, I was out of the office much of that day, running errands in and around Rockefeller Center. I ran into the esteemed Matthau at a hot-dog stand. I loved New York hot-dog stands. One of the few things I miss about the city.

He had time to kill before some meeting. I told him how much I liked his work and the movie in particular. We chatted for maybe 10-15 minutes about this and that. He even asked me what I did for a living. He didn't know what DC was until I mentioned Superman. It was a cool New York moment.

About two hours later, we bumped into each other again. We smiled at one another. He greeted me as "Superman" and we again chatted. Another very cool moment.

About an hour after that, we bumped into each other again. He gave me an amused look, smiled widely, and said, "You again? What is this...the curse of the cat people?!"

It was a private performance for an audience of one, and, as always, Matthau was absolutely brilliant.



Challengers of the Unknown 8

Superman was my first hero, which was not at all unusual for a young boy introduced to the character via The Adventures of Superman on TV. My memories are vague, but I'm sure I "flew" around the living room with my arms outstretched stiffly, and put my fists on my hips and laughed as imaginary bullets from imaginary bad guys bounced off my largely imaginary chest. The George Reeves version of the Man of Steel was an easy impersonation.

A couple years later, my parents bought a new house and we moved to a neighborhood with more kids and more possibilities for creative play. Back then, all the boys read comic books - I wasn't too sure about anything concerning girls beyond their having cooties - and it wasn't difficult to find three friends to form a peewee version of the Challengers of the Unknown. Dark and curly-haired though I was, I usually took the role of team leader Ace Morgan, he of the blonde crew cut and military demeanor. Clearly I was born to lead. Since I was Italian, it didn't bother me much that Ace was the only one of the Challengers with a girlfriend. After all, June Robbins was smart, tough, and, in retrospect, pretty hot. Especially when she became a giant.

Since my parents were clearly not from another planet - they just acted like it sometimes - Superman was off the table and I decided I wanted to be Batman. My training consisted of clipping newspaper stories and weather maps, and collecting dirt samples from around the neighborhood.

"Hmm...the crook left this clump of dirt behind and it matches the dirt behind Danny's house!"

For a brief time in my teen years, I picked up the nickname "Spidey" after you know who. I'm not sure why, though I was okay at climbing things, including the brick walls of the nearby public school. But don't tell my mom about that. She's quite capable of retroactive worrying.

How about you? Which super-hero did you want to be?



I enjoy reading reader comments on my writings, whether they come to be via e-mail, posts to my message board, or the good old postal service. After the above "heroes" piece appeared in CBG, I received this letter from Valerie McLaughlin:

Which super-hero did I want to be? When I was six or seven, I wanted to be Wendy the Good Little Witch. Even now, I continue to pray for magical powers.

When I was nine or ten, I wanted to be Thor, God of Lightning and Thunder. Thor is still my favorite. I agree with Beau Smith; I wish Thor would get over his family and origin issues. They only make him weak. Enough already.

If I can't be Wendy or Thor, I would like to be any of the X-Men, especially Storm or Wolverine.

At this point in my life - Middle age, oh, no! - I would not care which super-hero I was, as long as I had super abilities and used them to fight evil! Until then, I'll just read my comic books, watch cartoons and movies of my favorite super-heroes, and live through them vicariously.

Thanks for the note, Valerie. Your comments and those of your fellow Tips readers are always welcome.

My e-mail address is:

My message board can be found at:

My postal address is:

Tony Isabella
P.O. Box 1502
Medina, OH 44258

Let me know what's on your minds.


Just a quick reminder before TOT closes for the weekend. You can still vote on this week's TOT-related "Tony Polls" questions by heading over to:

These current questions will remain active until sometime on Tuesday, when they will be replaced by new ones.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 07/12/2007 | 07/13/2007 | 07/16/2007 >>

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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

Tony's Online Tips
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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1000 Comic Books You Must Read.1000 Comic Books You Must Read

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