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for Thursday, March 19, 2009

Journey INto the Mystery Volume 1

From last November...

Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Journey Into Mystery Volume 1 [$59.99] reprints the first ten issues of the 1950s horror comic that would someday introduce the world to the Mighty Thor, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby-style. However, in those Cold War years of 1952 and 1953, it was one of over a dozen horror titles published by the company known as Timely, Atlas, and Marvel.

The book starts with a painstakingly thorough introduction by the esteemed Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, a noted comics historian and the "to go" guy for Atlas Era enlightenment. A whiz at identifying the artists of that era and a tireless crusader to get recognition for those oft-forgotten talents, he's writing what will surely be the definitive career compilation of the late great Joe Maneely. But I digress.

The covers of these ten issues are unfailingly eye-catching and not particularly grisly. Russ Heath's cover for the debut - with its ghostly hands reaching for a terrified woman is a favorite - as is the weird wedding scene Bill Everett drew for the sixth issue. But my choice for the best of the bunch would be the scary and strange street scene on the third issue. It was drawn by Sol Brodsky, one of the truly unsung geniuses in comics.

Not every story in an anthology comic book and especially in a 250-page collection of anthology comic books is going to be a hit with every reader. There are quite a few good tales in this volume with the artists often doing masterful jobs bringing them to life. My favorites include:

"One Foot in the Grave" in which artist Tony DiPreta gives a lively presentation about a crooked florist who steals flowers from graves and resells them;

"Iron-Head," with intense art by my pal Dick Ayers;

"The Corpse," a terrific jealous spouse story by Mike Sekowsky with Sy Barry tentatively identified as his inker;

"The Stroke of Midnight", penciled by Carmine Infantino; and many others.

There are fine twist ending stories by Stan Lee, Carl Wessler, and, sadly, a host of unidentified writers. It pains me that their names and credits are unknown to us. I keep hoping some old ledger will turn up and allow them to receive their proper due.

There are also many fine artists represented in this book. Besides those already named, the roster includes Howard Post, Gene Colan, Vic Carrabotta, Jay Scott Pike, Carl Hubbell, Dick Briefer, Jerry Robinson, Joe Maneely, John Forte, Paul Reinman, Fred Kida, and an early eerie effort by John Romita featuring, of all things, spiders. Who could have known?

"Expensive" is a relative term when it comes to hardcover volumes like this one. Even assuming you could find the first ten issues of Journey Into Mystery, merely good copies of those comics would set you back nearly a thousand bucks. And how can you put a price on holding comics history in your hands?

Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Journey Into Mystery Volume 1 gets the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Today's frequently-asked question:

Why weren't you credited as the creator of Black Lightning in Black Lightning Year One #1?

There were two printings of that issue and I'm credited in the second one. Incorrectly, but credited nonetheless.

Some basic information:

I am the sole creator of Black Lightning and was credited as such for the first years of the character's existence. It was only after I inquired about buying back the character that DC decided, retroactively, that Trevor Von Eeden co-created Black Lightning. Which he didn't. He's a friend and a great artist, but he is more correctly identified as the primary designer of the original Black Lightning costume and the artist of the first series.

Shortly after I heard about the Year One series, which was more than two years before it was published, I was told by an industry source that Dan DiDio did not plan to include any creator credits on the series. My sources aren't always correct, but this particular individual has one of the best records for checking the facts and getting it right.

I registered a complaint and was told that my creator credit would appear on the series, albeit as a shared credit with Trevor. But it wasn't in the first printing of that first issue. My guess is that the first issue was already completed and DC editorial felt no urgency about including the credit before the issue went out to the printer.

However, there was apparently some sort of problem with that first printing and it was recalled. It wasn't recalled because of the missing credit - which would have impressed the heck out of me - but, to its credit, DC did add the credit to the corrected second printing and to subsequent issues.

Unfortunately, they credited me as "Anthony Isabella," which, while it is my legal name, is a name I have never used on any of my professional writing. "Tony Isabella" is the brand name and that's the name I've always gone by.

After yet another round of e-mails, DC informed me the credit would be corrected at its earliest convenience...which I think was the fourth or fifth issue of the series...and would be correct in the trade paperback of the series.

Let's see how that works out.

There are one or two more Black Lightning questions in the FAQ file and I'll try to get to them soon.

In the meantime, thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/18/2009 | 03/19/2009 | 03/20/2009 >>

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:

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