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

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for Monday, May 11, 2009

Big Skinny

Just in time for me to get in shape for swimsuit season comes Carol Lay's The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude [Villard; $18]. This is an enormously fun graphic novel memoir of how Lay overcame a lifetime of bad eating habits, lost weight, kept it off, and now looks absolutely gorgeous. Okay, she draws herself to look absolutely gorgeous, but I trust comics more than photos. Don't you?

The book has the usual disclaimer: Lay is not a doctor and you should consult a doctor before starting any serious diet or fitness program. But her detailed descriptions/explanations for the choices she made rate high on my "common sense" radar.

The autobiographical portions of Lay's book are entertaining, dramatic, humorous, sad, and serious as dictated by the events of her life. There are out-loud laughs in this graphic novel, but also emotional moments when Lay ponders if better habits could have kept her parents alive longer. As a comics work, The Big Skinny deserves consideration in our industry awards.

I got The Big Skinny from my local library, but bought a copy for myself and my wife directly thereafter. It's a wonderful book and it earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

By the way...just kidding about the swimsuit. There are some things no one should see.


Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop [VCI Entertainment; $19.99] celebrates the long-running newspaper comic strip and the man who, by creating it, entertained and inspired generations of readers and many fellow cartoonists. Written and directed by Max Allan Collins, the documentary does an excellent job showing us Hamlin at both his best and worst with "eyewitness" accounts from those who have followed him on the strip. Just as important, this film gets to the heart of Alley Oop and its influence on American comic strips. If my local PBS station had shown it, I'd have sent it a "thank you" donation.

The DVD has some cool extras. Will Eisner, who surely needs no introduction here, talks at length - 43 minutes - about Hamlin and comics in general. There's also a 50-minute panel discussion with Collins, producer Mark Lampert, and current Alley Oop artists Jack and Carole Bender.

Equal in importance to the great new and old comics available to we lucky comics buffs of 2009 is the growing field of comics art history. Hardly a week goes by without a new book or, in this case, a new documentary, hitting the market. More than anything else, it has been these works that make me feel like the art form I love is starting to get the respect it deserves.

Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop picks up the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony


Edited by Craig Yoe, Boody. The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers [Fantagraphics Books; $19.95] is the first collection showcasing the wacky genius of a cartoonist previously unknown to me. In what other age of comics does someone who's been reading comics for half a century experience wonderful new discoveries like this one on a regular basis? But I digress.

The book kicks off with Yoe's brief essay on Rogers and what the cartoonist means to him. Perhaps shy on detailed information, it serves to introduce Boody and then move on to the fun of Boody's stories.

Babe - "The Amazon of the Ozaks" - is the star of this volume. She's as gorgeous as the most gorgeous ladies ever to appear in Al Capp's Li'l Abner with the added attraction that she's an amazing athlete. We meet her at a hill country baseball game where she is virtually a one-woman team and, for me, it was love at first pitch. Based on just the few stories reprinted in this book, I'd be eager to spring for as many archive editions as it would take for me to have all her adventures. Rogers' other characters and stories are terrific as well, but Babe is in a class all her own.

I do have one quibble with this book. Two of the Babe stories seem to be the first parts of continued stories, but the concluding episodes aren't included. Good as these opening chapters were, I'd have rather seen complete stories. Even so, Boody overcomes my solitary quibble and gets the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



I'll be in Philadelphia on May 15-16 for the Glyph Comics Awards ceremony on Friday night and the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention on Saturday. It would be great to see some of my online readers there.

For more information, go to:

Though I will almost certainly attend Mid-Ohio-Con in October, ECBACC is my only scheduled convention appearance at the present time. If you're a convention promoter who would like me at your show, you can contact me at:



Today's your last day to vote on our current Tony Polls questions. Sometime after midnight tonight, they will be replaced with new questions.

You can cast your ballots at:

Tomorrow starts our three-week "THEY'RE NOT DEAD YET" COMICS IDOL competition. Taking a swipe at the Big Two's unwillingness to employ the writers of the 1970s on a steady basis, we'll be listing twenty writers of that decade and their signature features. You'll get to cast three votes in this first phase of the competition and, for the following week, narrow the list down to ten writers you'd like to see writing their features on a regular basis. Then, in the final week, you'll vote on which of the five finalists you'd like to see writing his feature on a regular basis.

The "fun" starts tomorrow.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 05/08/2009 | 05/11/2009 | 05/12/2009 >>

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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