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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Thursday, April 2, 2009

All Select Comics 11

Every Friday at, current and former Marvel creators are asked to weigh in on a "TGIF" question. I've become a semi-regular contributor to the feature which, while not a paying gig, allows me to keep in touch with the fans and the company that gave me my start in comics...and which continues to send me checks when it reprints my work.

Here are my responses to some of the questions.

Who is your favorite Marvel character created in the last 20 years?

I can't pick just one.

Spider-Girl, aka May "Mayday" Parker, delights me like few other comics characters of the past two decades. Allowing for the unusual teen angst that naturally comes with living in a Marvel Universe, having Spider-Man for a dad, and fighting villains, May reminds me a lot of Kelly, my own teenage daughter, and her friends.

Jessica Jones of Alias and New Avengers fame. Her journey from downonherluck superhero to private detective to wife and mother has been thrilling. She adds welcome reality to the fantastical Marvel Universe.

Which Marvel character you've never worked on before would you one day like to take a crack at?

Being something of a utility infielder in the 1970s, I got to write most of my favorite characters for at least a scene or two. There are characters I would love another shot at Luke Cage as so brilliantly developed by Brian Bendis, maybe the Living Mummy, maybe ManThing but that's not what you asked.

Only one character leaps to mind: Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck. I mean, who better to write Howard than someone born and raised in Cleveland like yours truly? Okay, maybe Bendis or Harvey Pekar, but still...

Gerber was a genius and nowhere was that more evident than in his Howard stories. He was a good friend of mine when I lived in New York and I'd love the challenge of trying to do something even half as good as what he did. I even have a Cleveland-centric idea of what I would do in an extended storyline.

Which of Marvel's female characters is your favorite and why?

First, there's Tigra, my 1970s revamping of Greer Nelson into a superheroic avatar of an ancient cat goddess. I haven't always liked what other writers have done with her. In fact, I've been horrified on rare occasion. But she's still one of my favorites.

Then...the Blonde Phantom. The 1940s version. I've only read a couple of her adventures, but I love the notion of a superhero fighting crime in an evening gown. As they would have said back then, it tickles my fancy. I'd love to write her someday.

What moment, character or story from Marvel has scared you the most over the years?

Most of my truly scary Marvel moments involve editors, artists, getting angry phone calls from "martial arts masters," being invited to visit a guarded community after writing "Welcome to Security City" for the Power Man title, and getting mugged in my penthouse apartment. Gee, maybe I should write a book about all that stuff someday. However, if you're going to limit me to actual comic books...

Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Tomb of Dracula. It was always suspenseful, but, every few issues, they'd throw something shocking at the readers. The unexpected death of a character.Some scary backstory. And the trick that always got me: introducing us to some person, making them an interesting and likeably character, and then killing them in the next panel. No one has ever done an ongoing horror series as well.

Name your favorite Marvel "odd couple"?

One of the great strengths of the Marvel Universe has been the interactions between characters of widely diverse backgrounds and styles. Spider-Man and Doctor Strange leap to mind, as do Power Man and Iron Fist. But my favorite was the odd couple that never least as I envisioned it.

My original pitch for The Champions was as a vehicle for Iceman and the Angel. Two heroes on the road, helping people, chasing women, and driving each other a little crazy. A mix of Route 66 with Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. That combination of a really rich guy with a middle-class guy - Joe the Super-Hero? - would have been a fun book to write. Alas, the editors saw it differently and, the next thing I knew, I had those two teaming with a former KGB agent, a Greek god, and a demon-possessed biker. Which, thinking about it, was a pretty odd teamup in its own right.

To commemorate Black History Month, we are asking Marvel writers, editors, artists and creators to reflect on who they believe to be Marvel's most influential, interesting or compelling black character from the Marvel Universe, or perhaps a character that you happen to have a soft spot for).

Two characters come to mind.

The first is Joe Robertson of The Daily Bugle. Taking nothing away from great characters like the Black Panther or Luke Cage, Robertson was someone to whom I could relate. He wasn't an African king or unjustly convicted excon, but a man with a real job who conducted himself with decency and pride. Now that I think about it, he was also one of my influences when I created Black Lightning at DC.

The second is the Rocket Racer, mostly because I got such a kick out of writing a quartet of short stories starring him in the 1990s. These were published in the back of Spider-Man annuals and Marvel Tales. No one but me probably remembers them. But he was a fun character to write and I relished the challenge of telling entertaining stories in a handful of pages.

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

Tony Isabella

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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.

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