Carl Buettner drew the cover of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #28 [January, 1943]. Donald's nephews as depicted here appear to have a great deal more baby fat than they would in later years. Or maybe it's just that the t-shirts they usually wore were amazingly slimming. The 68-page comic was composed almost entirely of reprinted Disney newspaper strips - Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse etc. - drawn by legendary artists like Al Taliaferro, Bill Wright, Floyd Gottfredson, and others. The cover of this issue struck me as a good choice to herald the coming of the new year and the long-delayed relaunch of Tony's Online Tips.
For those of you visiting for the first time, or for those who can't remember what we do here, "Tony's Online Tips" was one of the first online columns by a comics industry professional. It might even be the first, based on those folks who have called me the "godfather of online comics commentary." Aided and abetted by World Famous Comics web-wizard Justin, this is where - for a very long time - I've been bringing you news, reviews, views, and anything else I think might entertain you and me.
I don't think of it as a blog. I don't know if the word was even in use when I started doing this online column. But, as I've grown older and wiser, I won't quibble if that's what you want to call it. Just as long as you tell your friends and your enemies alike to visit us regularly.
"Tony's Online Tips" is the logical progression of the "Tony's Tips" column I've been writing for Comics Buyer's Guide for more years than I can recall. I was CBG's first columnist when it was still known as The Buyer's Guide For Comics Fandom and, though I only did a few columns back then, I kept returning to the newspaper doing one feature or another, and sometimes more than one feature at a time. But "Tony's Tips" is the one that stuck and the one I'm best known for.
Ironically, when CBG finally got around to following me online - a decade after the launch of "Tony's Online Tips" - and asked me to contribute content to its forums, it had to settle for "Tony's Other Online Tips" as that contribution. The TOT name was already well established as my main online home.
TOT is also where I reprint the "author's cut" editions of the things I write for CBG. Sometimes my beloved CBG editors cut stuff from my columns for reasons that seem perfectly good and valid to them. I do not mock them for their errors in judgment, well, not most of the time, but what you'll see here is what I wrote when I wrote it sans whatever errors I discovered after I sent it to CBG.
Because of TOT's unfortunately long hiatus, we're going to be doing a lot of catching up on CBG columns this week and next. I'll do my best to include updates as needed.
In its previous incarnation, TOT had several rotating opening features: 2000 AD, Alan Class, Archie/Riverdale, Atlas, Batman, Blonde Phantom, British comics, Candy, DC Archives, Essential Marvel, Giant Monsters, Marvel 1966, Marvel Masterworks, Showcase Presents, Superman, Tony's Back Pages, and Tony's eBay Buys. I'm not sure which of these will be returning, but they probably won't be returning for a while.
In its previous incarnation, TOT also had regular departments like: Black Lightning, Comics in the Comics, Get More Tony, I Read The News Today, Kaiju In The Comics, Magazine Watch, Old Business, Online, On My List, On This Date, Phantom Files, Second Opinions, Snapshots, Tony Polls, Tony's Mailbox, and TV Time. Some of these will be returning and some new ones may be added.
How can creators and publishers get their comics, books, and other things reviewed here? The first best step is always:
Send it to me.
I can't guarantee a review - I receive over 300 review items each month - but your odds of getting a review go up appreciably if you actually send me what you'd like me to review. Send any items (comics, books, DVDs, whatever) to:
Tony Isabella P.O. Box 1502 Medina, OH 44256
I will not review comics or books sent to me on disc or PDFs. I've been doing this long enough to become set in my ways. When I write a review, I keep whatever I'm reviewing on my desk so that I can refer to it as I do my work. That's how I roll.
I have no problem with reading advance copies of comic books and books not yet published as long as you mail me - as in the real mail and not electronic - clear and readable copies of whatever it is you'd like me to review, and as long as you send me the entire whatever you'd like me to review. Don't send me 12 pages of a 32-page comic book or 120-page graphic novel and expect me to review it. I need to see what my TOT readers are going to be buying if I am going to recommend your work to them.
That covers most of what I wanted to discuss in these re- introductory remarks. In future editions, we'll be talking about conventions, as in how to get me to yours, and the godliness of those who "tip the Tipster" and thus make it possible for Justin and I to continue bringing you TOT on a regular basis.
One last opening note. My thanks to Bob Bailey, Merlin Haas, and Jim Ludwig of the Grand Comics Database for their assistance in choosing today's opening image. Without a doubt, the GCD is online comicdom's best and most valuable resource and I urge you to visit it regularly at:
BACK ISSUE #25 [TwoMorrows; $6.95] is the special "Men of Steel" issue and editor Michael Eury stretches the theme in some mildly absurd (but still fun) ways. I love "Iron Mike" Grell, both as an artist and a terrific human being, but I'm not convinced that a nickname and that fact this his creation - The Warlord - carries a sword qualifies either as a man of steel. Still, any excuse to interview Mike and showcase his work works for me. I'm pretty easy that way.
As with any publication this packed with features - 14 articles and columns plus a preview from another fine TwoMorrows magazine - I'm going to find some of the articles more interesting than others. Hands down, my favorite article had to be Andy Mangels writing about TV's Legends of the Superheroes specials. It hit just the right mix of fanboy love, fun facts, and realistic assessment of the seldom-seen shows. In the "more interesting than others" category, you can also put pieces on the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman comics from Charlton, John Byrne's ROG-2000, and the Fantastic Four's H.E.R.B.I.E.
All the articles were readable, the illustrations plentiful, and the design pleasant. This wasn't one of my favorite issues of the magazine, but Back Issue #25 still earns a respectable three out of five Tonys.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
Comics in the Comics? I purely love them. They can be self-referential comic strips or panels. They can be strips featuring guest appearances by comics characters or even commentary on comic-strip techniques. I love them and, when I find them, I save them to share with you.
Dan Piraro's BIZARRO has always been a great source of material for this department. Today, I dig into my files to bring you examples from September and October of 2006:
Watch for more Comics in the Comics in future editions of TOT and on my official message board:
Scheduled for release later this month, ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4 [Marvel; $16.99] collects issues #157-186 of the legendary 1970s run by Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, and others. Included is "And A Phoenix Shall Arise" by Roy Thomas and myself with art by Sal Buscema, John Tartaglione, and George Roussos. Roy plotted the story and scripted the first five or six pages and I scripted the rest. I can never figure out exactly where my work started. This was one of my deadline-saving, write-all-night gigs, which were a whole lot easier for me to do in 1973 than they would be today.
The most notable thing about this issue was that it introduced the son of Baron Zemo - called Phoenix - a character who would go on to become the key player in Kurt Busiek's Thunderbolts. It's been reprinted once or twice previously, most embarrassingly as a heavily edited Power Records comic and record set with absurd voice performances.
Since there are some really good comics in this run of issues - Englehart's Secret Empire epic is seminal '70s - and since Marvel has always great about paying me whenever the company reprints my stories, I don't hesitate to recommend this 520-page volume to you. It's a whole lot of hours of entertainment for under twenty bucks. Check it out.
Today also marks the return of our weekly TONY POLLS. However, before we direct you to where you can vote on this week's questions, let's look at the results of the questions we asked back in September.
I started with FAIR and worked by way down to POOR. I don't plan to continue reviewing the title.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS BIRDS OF PREY?
I would buy this. Mostly because my reading of Chuck Dixon's run and Gail Simone's earlier issues was very spotty and I'd like to read those comics without having to track them down in my vast accumulation of stuff.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS BLACKHAWK?
Of course I would. The 1940s and 1950s stuff was hard-core manly adventure comics. The 1960s stuff was tamer, but still fun, if you didn't think about seven leather-clad guys living on an island and thinking Lady Blackhawk was a pest. As a kid, I didn't think much about the guys. I thought about Zinda's legs.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS BLACK LIGHTNING?
I'd buy dozens and give them out as presents for many years to come. Not holding my breath waiting for this to happen.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS BOOSTER GOLD?
Yeah, I would. Creator/writer/artist Dan Jurgens did decent work on this title.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS CONGO BILL/CONGORILLA?
This is another yes, but not out of any love for the material. I just can't resist inexpensive Golden/Silver Age reprints.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS FIRESTORM?
No. I was never a fan of this series, though the issues that were written by John Ostrander were interesting. I did enjoy much of what I read of the most recent Firestorm series.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS RIP HUNTER TIME MASTER?
Certainly. My reading of the title as a kid was spotty, but I liked it well enough that I would snap up a big, fat, inexpensive collection of the series.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS TOMAHAWK?
Definitely. I couldn't afford to buy this title regularly as a kid, but I picked up several issues in trades for baseball cards. I'd love to read them all.
Would you buy SHOWCASE PRESENTS TOMMY TOMORROW?
I flash on Tommy in his purple Planeteers uniform with those darling short pants visiting the leather boys of Blackhawk Island and I laugh. But I'd still buy this collection.
This week's TONY POLLS questions ask you to cast your votes on big DC and Marvel crossover events...if such events are good or bad for the DC and Marvel characters...if you'd like a break from such events...and if Dan DiDio or Joe Quesada is most likely to an evil Skrull bent on doing irreparable damage to the DC and Marvel heroes we love. These questions remain active until sometime next week. You can cast your ballots 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: