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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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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Barack Obama

From last September...

Many years ago, back when dinosaurs walked the Earth and before the birth of the Internet, back when walking to Sts. Philip and James Elementary School too often involved avoiding classmates who would routinely beat me up just because they could, Sister Mary Crucifixion determined I should participate in a classroom debate weighing the respective merits of presidential candidates Barry M. Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson. She doubtless considered this to be a great honor. I saw it as almost certainly leading to another beat down. However, when you are the shortest kid in the school, almost anything you do can lead to a beat down.

I was to extol the sterling qualities of one candidate while making the case against the other. To this day, I can't remember which of the candidates was "my" candidate...though, back then, I could name every member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I had my priorities.

My research for the date consisted of reading the rare weekday copy of the newspaper that made it into our house - my dad only had time to read the newspaper on Saturday - and suffering through the evening news. And I also had a secret weapon. Cajoling an extra quarter from my Mom, I bought the comic-book biographies of the candidates published by Dell Comics that year. Twelve cents each and so disappointing in their blandness.

Hold that thought. We'll return to the great Sts. Philip and James Presidential Debate of 1964 in a bit.

John McCain

From IDW Publishing comes Presidential Material: Barack Obama/John McCain [$7.99], a flip-book featuring the truncated bios of our current presidential candidates. The covers show the senators posing in classic Superman hands-on-hips stance. Artist J. Scott Campbell does a decent job capturing their likenesses, though he probably shouldn't have gone with the smiling McCain. It really looks kind of creepy.

Writers Jeff Mariotte (Obama) and Andy Helfer (McCain) treat their subjects fairly, though 28 pages aren't enough to do justice to the fascinating stories of either candidate. Still, the scripts are far more interesting than those long-ago comic-book biographies of Goldwater and Johnson. Helfer includes McCain's explosive pre-POW military record, his adultery, and his questionable ethics in the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s. Mariotte writes about young Obama's experiments with pot and cocaine, his coming of age in the hardball politics of Chicago, and the hammering he took during the Democratic Party primaries.

Neither writer delves into the issues separating Obama and McCain. Their aim is to convey the stories of the candidates as best they can within the limitations of their page counts. The caption get tedious from time to time - so much information, so little space - but, overall, at the risk of seeming to damn them with faint praise, Mariotte and Helfer do a creditable job.

The art? Tom Morgan brings more excitement to his portrayal of Obama's life while Stephen Thompson, who appears to rely more on photo references, brings more emotion to his depiction of McCain's life. Neither half of the book is visually exceptional, but, like their writers, both artists deliver creditable work.

Presidential Material: Barack Obama/John McCain earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Getting back to 1964...

As I said earlier, I don't remember if I championed Goldwater or Johnson in that classroom debate. I do remember I was unfairly passionate about condemning the other guy for some youthful prank I'd read about in his comic-book biography. I don't know if that was a determining factor in the results, but, when the class votes were counted, "my" candidate won and won big. There's a reason so many campaigns go negative.

Fortunately, one of the sore losers beat me up that very afternoon. That hard and painful lesson in consequences probably saved me from growing up to be Karl Rove. I would thank my brutish assailant by name, but I still visit my parents in that Cleveland neighborhood and, at the age of 56, I don't run as fast or heal as quickly as I used to.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 02/02/2009 | 02/03/2009 | 02/04/2009 >>

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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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.



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