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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, February 29, 2008


This is the column I never wanted to write, mostly because it seems very much like an ending to me.

I've been writing Tony's Online Tips for a very, very long time. Justin, the wondrous web-wizard of World Famous Comics, could probably give you the exact date. What I do know is that, with the occasional interruptions, I've been writing TOT at least once a week and sometimes up to seven times a week for well over a decade. I've been called the "godfather of online comics columns" and, if I wasn't comicdom's first "proto-blogger," I was certainly among the first. That adds up to several thousands of columns. I doubt even Justin can tell you exactly how many.

All those columns were presented to readers free of charge and I rarely received compensation for them, save for the brief period when TOT moved to the website of an online comics retailer who paid me $30 per column. Those were the good old days.

Starting Monday, Tony's Online Tips will be a "reader-supported" feature. What this means is that I'll only be writing new TOTs when your "Tip The Tipster" donations justify it. This is the decision I came to after the dismal failure of my fund-raising attempts last month and this month.

For January, I had set myself what I thought was an incredibly modest goal. I would write 21 columns, Monday through Friday, with a day off every ten columns...and my adoring readers would send me $300 in "Tip The Tipster" donations. That wouldn't be a great deal of money, but it would've covered a few household bills. I wrote the 21 columns and received $192 from my readers.

I had hoped to write 20 columns in February. Due to various circumstances, some on my end and some on Justin's, I only managed 14 columns. Several of those columns mentioned that how many TOTs I wrote in March would be determined by what I received in "Tip The Tipster" donations in February. As of this writing, I've received $95 in donations with the last donation coming in on February 11. Rounding up to an even hundred, those donations will pay for four new columns, which I hope to present Monday through Thursday of next week. After that...

We'll talk about "after that" in a moment. I want to lay out a few more things first.

Right now, I am as close to being completely unemployed as I have ever been in my life. My "day job" writing comic strips ended unexpectedly in January. Though I'm still writing my "Tony's Tips" and "Tony's Back Page" features for the monthly Comics Buyer's Guide and "Tony's Other Online Tips" for the magazine's online forums, budget cuts reduced TOOT from five reviews per week to two, a decrease of 30% in my overall CBG earnings.

New assignments have eluded me in recent weeks. I turned down one gig because accepting it would have required me to relinquish all rights to wholly original material with no future compensation should my material be used in other medium. I took a non-writing job and - my luck runs true - it looks like I'll be waiting two or three times as long for my paycheck as originally agreed upon, if I don't get stiffed altogether. Of course, the alteration in the payment schedule wasn't made until after I'd completed the job for which I'd been hired.

This isn't intended to be a "pity me" column. My Sainted Wife Barb still has a very good job. The Isabella family won't be out on the street, though I will be cutting expenses wherever I can and paying some bills later than I would like for the immediate future. I'll keep looking for work and pursuing the projects listed in this week's Tony Polls. If all else fails, I have lots of comics and other things I was planning to sell on eBay anyway. Being out of work just speeds up that process.

Some of my own budget cuts involve money and time. I should mention three of them here.

I will not be attending any conventions that don't cover my expenses.

This isn't a "star" thing because I think my being unemployed pretty much puts that to rest. It's strictly a "I have no money" thing. So any convention that wants me as a guest needs to provide airfare (or other travel expenses), a decent hotel room, some sort of per diem for meals, and a table for signing comics and things on which I've worked and, if I so desire, for selling art, comics, and other items I bring to the show. I don't charge an appearance fee and I don't charge for my signature.

Am I worth that kind of money? That's strictly the convention promoter's call. After all, he or she is the one asking me to come to his or her convention. I'll take no offense if a promoter can't afford the expense of having me for guest. I will take offense if the promoter tries to negotiate a lower price. I'm not asking for what I want to attend your convention; I'm asking for what I need to be able to attend your convention.

I'm not available for interviews.

This isn't an absolute. When someone from, say, Marvel Comics or TwoMorrows, publishers who have sent me a lot of cool stuff over the years, wants to ask me questions, I'm happy to do so for them. They earned my good will.

But being interviewed for someone's college thesis or for some newspaper's latest "Zap! Pow! Wham!" article doesn't put a dime in my pocket. Mercenary as it sounds, and with rare exceptions like those noted above, I'm only going to agree to interviews when there is clearly something in it for me.

I don't write for free.

This is also not an absolute, but it's more an absolute than the interview thing. I've written a lot of columns, forewords, and the like for charities and for individuals. I may do more of these in the future...provided the requests come from folks who have done me a solid in the past. But I can't afford to do them when I don't know if/when I have another paycheck in my future.

On a related note...

Folks who ask me to do "pro bono" work and preface the request with "Since you're not doing anything anyway..." should be grateful I don't own a gun. You're just asking to die.

Now we get back to the "after that" part of today's exercise in depression.

When CBG cut my online work, I stopped selling them exclusive rights to my "Tony's Other Online Tips" reviews. Out of my respect for my long association with CBG, I am giving them exclusive rights to the reviews for a period of one month after I post them. But, after that, every Friday, those TOOT reviews will be "reprinted" in a "free" installment of Tony's Online Tips. That way, even if "Tip The Tipster" donations dry up completely, there will still be some "new" content every week.

Thirty days after they appear in the print editions of CBG, my "Tony's Tips" and "Tony's Back Page" columns will also be reprinted in free TOTs. As always, the reprints will be my "director's cuts" of the features.

The vast Tony's Online Tips archives will remain online and available for free as long as keeping them online doesn't cost me anything. If Justin and I get ambitious, we may even add a few new things to the website in the future. Perhaps a checklist of my work or even a links page.

I haven't made a decision on the Tony Polls, but it's not looking good for that page. It's a lot of work for very little return. It might be dumped after next week's presidential runoff election between Barbara Gordon and Joseph "Robbie" Robertson. If you want to vote on this week's questions, go here:

Finally, for the foreseeable future, my official message board will remain online at:

With the reduced frequency of TOT, that's the place to go for updates on my projects. If I have any projects.

This still feels like an ending to me, but I'm keeping TOT on life support for the nonce. If you want me to write new columns, click on the "Tip Your Tipster" banner and send me a donation. If you don't want new TOTs, you can still stop by every now and then to read the CBG reprints. The ball's in your court.

If there's anything you want to discuss with me, especially if you're offering paying work, you can e-mail me at:

For now, thanks for spending part of your day with me. I hope I'll be back soon with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 02/28/2008 | 02/29/2008 | 03/03/2008 >>

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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