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

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for Monday, April 20, 2009

Roy Rogers

Packing a loaded Amazon gift card, I got Roy Rogers Volume One [Dark Horse; $49.95]. Like every kid from my generation, I had watched the King of the Cowboys on TV, both in reruns of his films and on his TV series. I don't have strong memories of them - after all, Roy was competing with Superman for my attention - save that they were maybe a bit too wholesome to be interesting. I had absolutely no memory of reading Roy Rogers comic books as a kid; I bought this hardcover collection to address that shocking gap in my comics knowledge.

The volume reprints the first five Roy Rogers comic books, published by Dell in 1944 through 1946. From Four Color #38, "Blazing Guns" is a 49-page thriller by the prolific Gaylord DuBois and artist Burris Jenkins. This story and the others in the book are more violent than I normally associate with either DuBois or Rogers, but that's an observation and not a criticism.

DuBois didn't go in for gratuitous violence. Those who die by the gun or other means are either innocent victims, whose deaths do carry emotional and story weight, or villains who deserve the fates they bring upon themselves.

The stories are intricately plotted and developed, so much so that I at first thought they might be adaptations of movies. They aren't. Given the expanded page counts of these adventures, DuBois crafted some of the most exciting western comic books I have ever read.

The Jenkins art is a little rough visually, but his sense of storytelling and his ability to depict action made him an instant favorite of mine. Albert Micale took over the art with the second issue and, while his work is certainly competent, he doesn't bring the energy that Jenkins brought to that first issue.

These 200-plus pages of Roy Rogers comic books leave me eager for more of the same. Kudos to Dark Horse for bringing us another great collection of vintage comics.

Roy Rogers Volume One earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony


I love Garfield. Completely and unapologetically, I love that chunky cat and his strip. It was Maggie Thompson who introduced me to Garfield, proclaiming Garfield At Large: His First Book as "how comic strips should be reprinted."

That was in 1980. Having never read the strip prior to that, I bought that book and then I kept buying subsequent books and, one of these days, when I get them out of storage and figure out which of the 45-and-counting Garfield books I don't already own, I plan on completing my collection. I love Garfield.

That love most definitely extends to Garfield: 30 Years of Laughs & Lasagna: The Life & Times of a Fat, Furry Legend! [Ballantine Books; $35]. This handsome, 288-page hardcover book features a decade-by-decade history of Garfield, his creator Jim Davis, and many wondrous things that come with the cat. Besides reprinting over 400 strips, Davis offers enjoyable insights on his characters, his creative process, and more. For the big finish, we get the cartoonist's 30 favorite Garfield strips. I love this book a whole lot.

Garfield: 30 Years of Laughs & Lasagna: The Life & Times of a Fat, Furry Legend! earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

You'll All Be Sorry

Before Gail Simone became the acclaimed writer of Birds of Prey, Secret Six, and Wonder Woman, she was sharpening her claws and her skills writing the columns reprinted in You'll All Be Sorry [About Comics; $11.99]. These were weekly online parody/satire columns that, more often that not, left their readers doubled up with laughter. As one back-issue blurber wrote, "Gail stole my heart with a clever joke, dashed it to pieces with a biting satire, and ruined me for other columnists."

Oh, wait, that was your Tipster who wrote that. The praises of Gail have also been sung by relative unknowns Warren Ellis and Marv Wolfman, to name but two. My affection for her is, of course, pure. Those other guys are just creepy.

This 160-page book collects more than two dozen YABS columns, lovingly skewering comic books, fan fiction, Scott McCloud, the Punisher, Galactus, Batman movies, and much more. At the risk of revealing an ego the size of a planet, one of my favorite pieces is "Tony's Hourly Online Tips," a "gentle" spoof of this long-running daily column. It's the pretty ones who hurt you.

To cleanse the parody pallet between Simone's columns, she has included "Classic Condensed Comics Classics," mini-spoofs written for this book by a legion of comics writers. Among their glorious ranks: Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mark Verheiden, Colleen Doran, Peter David, Kurt Busiek, and others.

Providing readers hours of poignant lessons about life - along with a very cool cover by Scott Shaw! - You'll All Be Sorry earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Just a quick reminder. Our current Tony Polls questions will end sometime after midnight tonight.

You can vote on them here:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. There will be more stuff tomorrow.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/17/2009 | 04/20/2009 | 04/21/2009 >>

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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