Only one comic-book story ever gave me nightmares and it was one I read in, of all place, a comic book I subscribed to through Sts. Phillip and James, the Catholic school I attended as a youth. It was published in The Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact, Vol. 17, No. 2, September 28, 1961.
Treasure Chest was published every other week by George A. Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio, but only from September through May. It was sold to parochial school students, who, if they were like me, thought it was neat to have a nun hand you a comic book during the school day. The title enjoyed a long run from its launch in 1946 to its last issue in 1972.
The cover of that 1961 issue featured a blood-red hammer-and-sickle superimposed over the Statue of Liberty's arm and torch. It was an exceptionally scary cover for the title, made all the more so by a special inside cover letter from the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover warning TC readers about the serious threat Communism posed to our way of life and urging us to learn all we could about this enemy of freedom.
"This Godless Communism" was a 10-part series, running in the even-numbered issues of TC. Brilliantly drawn by the legendary Reed Crandall, it was mostly a straightforward, if biased, history of communism. But its opening chapter was true Cold War scariness, a "what if" tale of what life would be like for a Catholic family in a communist United States. No violence was depicted in the six-page tale, but the uncredited writer didn't spare the psychological terror of families being broken up and children being sent away to special schools and nurseries. For days after reading this story, I had nightmares of my school's priests, nuns, and teachers being crucified from one end of my street to the other. Not even Stephen King has ever chilled me so much.
Because the Internet's a wondrous thing, you can read "This Godless Communism" and other TC material at:
Thanks to Marketing Manager Stephen Vrattos, I have a stack of review stuff from a new-to-me publisher. Vertical prides itself on translating "the best contemporary Japanese books," selecting its "popular novels, graphic novels, and quality nonfiction from a rich variegated stock: Japan's huge and vibrant book market." I'm two books into what Vrattos sent me and I'm impressed.
Apollo's Song [$19.95] is a 500-page-plug graphic novel by Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of Japanese comics. His incredible body of work ranges from Astro Boy to the eight-volume epic, Buddha. Even when his stories aren't exactly to my tastes - I tired of Astro Boy after a handful of volumes - Tezuka is always worth reading. He was inventive and passionate, two traits I admire in comics creators.
Apollo's Song is a kind of dark romance. Tragic Shogo is a young man, a victim of cruel childhood abuse, who has come to hate love. Seeing affection in humans or animals triggers Shogo to commit violent acts; the authorities and the young man himself fear these acts will become more and more violent. As the graphic novel opens, Shogo is being held at a psychiatric hospital and subjected to electroshock therapy. Then a goddess intervenes...
...but not in a good way.
"Diving un-forgiveness" is the tone of Tezuka's story as Shogo is cursed to live again and again, loving and losing one woman, for all eternity. This is the harsh penalty for him disdaining beauty and love...which is not to mean that I would ever disdain either. Nope. Not me. Big fan of beauty and love. Just in case any PMS-ing goddesses are reading today's TOT.
The settings of Shogo's trials are historical, contemporary, and futuristic. As a German soldier, he falls in love with a young Jewish woman being transported to the death camps. As a pilot, he crashes with his beautiful employer on a weird island inhabited by animals who live in absolute peace with one another. In a distant future, he's a human assassin sent to kill an android queen. And, in our time, he meets a real woman with which he forms a bond both touching and terrifying.
There are some crazy sequences in Apollo's Song. There are moments of brutality and tenderness. Mostly, throughout, there is first-rate, page-turning storytelling with a protagonist that, despite his flaws, won me over. I'm not wild about how this book ends, but I won't dispute Tezuka's choice.
Apollo's Song is labeled for readers age 16 and older, which I think is the right call. It's definitely worth reading and earns an impressive four out of five Tonys.
Several readers have asked me about the new DC Direct Black Lightning action figure. When first solicited, this is how it looked:
I thought the cliched shaved head looked too small for Black Lightning's body - DC probably needed the extra plastic for Vixen's boobs - but it didn't look too bad.
Some anonymous kind soul at DC sent me the actual figure a few weeks ago and this is how it looks:
Jeepers creepers! Where'd he get those peepers?
Black Lightning hasn't been transformed into a bug-eyed alien. Those are supposed to be goggles.
They don't look good, but they're goggles.
Maybe the goggles are mesmerizing me, but I think BL's head is more proportionate to his body/torso than it was on the originally-solicited action figure. I could live without the lightning bolts aimed at his crouch.
There's a paragraph about Black Lightning on the back of the blister pack. It ignores anything that was done with the character before he joined President Lex Luthor's cabinet. You can probably deduce how thrilled I am about this.
But, hey, it is what it is. I do appreciate DC sending it to me, but I wish I'd had approval over the design. I think my input would have made for a better-looking figure.
Always looking out for me, several readers have asked if I'll be paid for this action figure. The most honest answer I can give you is...I don't know. DC and I often differ on when I'm entitled to compensation...and those disagreements are seldom settled in my favor. However, I am heartened by DC's sending me a check for the Black Lightning HeroClix figure, albeit well over a year after the figure came out. It wasn't a lot of money, but I was happy to get it and will spend it wisely.
Absent communication from DC, I can't say you're helping me by buying this new Black Lightning action figure. But you're probably not hurting me either. If you like how it looks, or if you want to show your support for my creation at the cash register, then, sure, go ahead and buy it. In the meantime, I'll let you know if/when I get paid for it.
Look for my comments on recent Black Lightning sightings in DC comics in upcoming editions of TOT.
CARTOONISTS ACROSS AMERICA
To crib from their website:
Cartoonists Across America & The World is a gathering of dedicated artists from many nations, who all believe firmly art, music and reading play a central role in the health of communities, great and small. Dedicated to enhancing public appreciation and understanding of the arts, and to promote reading, music and art, the group has been on a world-wide tour since 1985.
From time to time, founder Phil Yeh drops me a line to let me know what he and the organization have been doing. Here's his latest note:
There are a lot of new things happening with our Cartoonists Across America tour...from the new hardcover color Dinosaurs Across America book from NBM to this cool custom guitar that we had signed in New York City, Washington, DC, and San Diego in the last few months. You can see some of the folks and this guitar on our website:
We got the first 20 Cazco: "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been!" books as artist's proofs for the San Diego con and sold out immediately. I am thrilled as this is the first chapter of my epic Cazco graphic novel slated for 2008. It will be at least 200 pages and take Cazco from 1972-2007 as he searches for a publisher for his own work....
Populated with tons of real people - I don't draw them but mention them - it's a fictional story designed to be a universal one for all artists and writers on this planet for the ages.
Thanks again for the past support. We are on a huge national tour starting in September again; I will be on the East Coast twice in the fall, in the Midwest once, and then back in the deserts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona for our Route 66 book. Dinosaurs Across Route 66 is out this October, and it's a fun look at the ol' Mother Road.
Hope all is well in Ohio.
Thanks for the update, Phil. For continuing news on all the exciting Cartoonists Across American events and publications, visit the organization's website at:
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz is held in incredible reverence by his fellow cartoonists and rightfully so. It's common for his creations to be referenced and even appear in comic strips and editorial cartoons.
Cue Beetle Bailey from August 20, 2007...
...and thanks to David Toomey for sending it to me. I don't know how I missed it in my own local newspapers, but I'm glad David was there to catch it.
Digging into the CITC archives, we also have Mother Goose and Grimm from July 3, 2006:
And Zits from August 30, 2006:
And even this Bob "Not a Fan of the U.N." Gorrell editorial cartoon from October 21, 2006:
This is just the tip of the Peanuts homage iceberg, so expect more Schulz-inspired "Comics in the Comics" this week.
GET MORE TONY
I still can't talk about my "day job" - sorry - but there are other Isabella appearances, columns, interviews, and, well, stuff, that I can talk about.
Today, let's talk about Tony's Other Online Tips, the exclusive reviews I write for CBG's forums. I post these as often as I have time to write them, sometimes as many as five reviews in a week. Some recent subjects include:
I'll have further "Get More Tony" items as the week continues. It's a busy time for the old Tipster.
I READ THE NEWS TODAY
It pains me to reveal the shallowness of my soul here, but, of all the important things going on in the world, the news story that stuck in my mind is that two burglars stole personal items from the SoHo Grand hotel room of Kirsten Dunst, who played Mary-Jane Watson in the Spider-Man movies. She was in New York City filming for a new movie. Among the items reported stolen was - and I'm not making this up - a $13,000 handbag.
Look, few people deserves to be burgled. I was burgled while I lived in New York City and I didn't like it one little bit. But I can't wrap my poor puny head around the notion that anyone would spend 13 grand on a purse. Unless you had 13 thousand-dollar bills in your handbag, how could you even fit $13,000 worth of stuff in it? You'd be losing money every time you used the thing! It makes no sense to me.
I like Dunst. She's a cute kid and a fine actress. If I were not happily married, I'd let her have her way with me. Unless her way involved me hanging upside down because, at my age, that could have serious medical complications.
But, I gotta say, with her looks and talent, she could easily get away with carrying a $25 dollar handbag. Just think how much better she'd feel if that was what the burglars had taken. Heck, it being New York City and New Yorkers being kind of stuck up and all, those crooks might have taken one look at the cheap purse and decided it wasn't worth their time.
I think we can all learn from this.
Another of Spider-Man's girlfriends was in the (comicdom) news last week. The exclusive Toon Tumbler glass for this year's Baltimore Comic-Con will feature Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's other great romance. Each day of the show, the first 100 guests will be offered a clear version of the Gwen Stacy Toon Tumbler and a limited number of Toon Tumblers will be available for sale during the convention.
I hate to be the nay-sayer once again...because this really is a spiffy-looking item...but, considering the most prevailing image of Gwen Stacy is her being tossed off a bridge to her death...isn't putting her on a Toon Tumbler in bad taste?
I'm just saying.
Normally, this is where I'd be telling you today is your last chance to vote on the current Tony Polls questions and new questions will be posted tomorrow. Except that attendance at the electronic ballot box has been truly piss-poor for the last several batches of questions, so piss-poor that I'm thinking of dumping the polls entirely.
I'm keeping the current questions up for one more week. You can cast your votes at:
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: