The following material was written in early January and ran as the opening for my "Tony's Tips" column for Comics Buyer's Guide #1652:
"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?"
- Robert Browning
This being the first "Tony's Tips" column I'm writing in this new year, I decided to go with one of my two favorite quotations in the English language. My other favorite quotation discusses great power and responsibility. You've probably heard it.
It's 2009. Another chance to get it right. Seems like a good time for comics, comics creators, and comics readers to reach for the heavens. After all, slowly but surely, we do seem to be taking over the world.
Comic books and graphic novels have been where Hollywood comes for its "new" ideas for years with the downsides being that comics creators almost never make out as well as the Tinseltown types, and that comics publishers sometimes seem to be little more than cheap research and development for Hollywood. But, at least, we get some cool movies out of the deal.
Most bookstores have healthy display of comics material, even though the manga usually outnumber American comic collections by a factor of two or three to one. Hmm...this opening is turning out to be not nearly as optimistic I'd hoped.
Turning to the world of politics, President Barack Obama used to collect Spider-Man and Conan comics and seems to have a working knowledge of Superman. The "great power/great responsibility" bit is as decent a rule for governing as ever and his collecting Conan indicates Obama'll be strong on defense, on offense, and on sending evil sorcerers to their respective hells.
Across the Pacific, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso groused that the duties of his office doesn't give him enough time for his favorite pastime: reading weekly comic books. As you can imagine, the conservative politician is fairly popular among Japanese fans. How do you say "one of us" in Japanese?
On the flip side, Japan also has Taichi Takashita, who, last October, launched a website to collect one million signatures on a petition to the government. He wants to establish a law allowing human beings to marry cartoon characters.
"I am no longer interested in three dimensions," he posted on his site. "I'd like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world. However, that seems impossible with present-day technology. Therefore, at the least, would it be possible to legally authorize marriage with a two-dimensional character?"
We should all invest in Acme Catering today.
Of course, for your Tipster, one of the highlights of 2008 was seeing Black Lightning get a shout-out from host Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report. Who knows? Maybe this year, I'll get a "Tip Of My Hat" or a "Wag of My Finger" from the award-winning faux-pundit. I'm reaching for the stars.
More realistically, I expect comicdom will muddle through this exciting new year, publish some terrific comics and graphic novels, and, hopefully, make gains in treating comics creators more fairly and respectfully. It's my wish for 2009.
And that's the word.
The Marvel Vault [Running Press; $49.95] was my choice for best comics-related holiday gift of 2007. I'm a little slow on the draw this time out, but my pick for the best comics-related holiday gift of 2008 is Marvel Chronicle [DK Adult; $50], a spectacular year-by-year history of Marvel by Tom DeFalco, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort, and Matthew K. Manning.
This huge (12.6 x 10.7 x 1.7 inches) hardcover book comes in a handsome slipcase and with two prints: a black-and-white print of the Jim Cheung cover and a second print of the cover as colored by Justin Posner. There's a foreword by Stan Lee and an afterword by Joe Quesada. But, neat as all those things are, the real meat of this tome is its year-by-year coverage of Marvel Comics history, including interesting, informative sidebars that place that history in the context of real world events.
The authors did a great job exploring Marvel's characters and creators without shying away from the company's occasional business reversals or the disagreements that arose between some of Marvel's most important creators. The real-world historical sidebars were just as much fun as the comics history. You could put together a pretty good film program by watching the landmark movies listed for each year.
I'm hard-pressed to find any negatives in this book. I'm sure there are some errors and omissions. (For example, in listing the editors of FOOM, they overlooked yours truly, the editor who followed Jim Steranko on the mag.) In the real-world sidebars, I would have liked more coverage of the important books, magazines, and TV programs of those years. But these are all minor quibbles. This is a magnificient effort and would make a wonderful gift for that special comics fan in your life.
Marvel Chronicle earns the full five out of five Tonys. I can't wait to see what they come up with for 2009.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
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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