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

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for Friday, December 4, 2009

Marvel Apes 1

I received my Hero Initiative Bronze Membership package this week and, lemme tell you, it contained some pretty sweet swag. Besides my membership card itself - signed by John Romita - I got a sketch card and a copy of the special Hero Initiative edition of Marvel Apes #1.

Written by Karl Kesel with art by Ramon Bachs, the comic book was big on fun. How could you expect anything other than fun when its hero is the Gibbon and the story finds the earnest Marty Blank and a cute young scientist traveling to a parallel world populated by simian versions of the Marvel heroes and villains? The fun does get dampened a bit when we see the more violent aspects of this ape culture, but it's still an entertaining opening to the four-issue story. I'll be reading the rest of the story soon, so keep watching TOT for a full-length review.

Hero sketch card

Much to my delight, the random sketch card sent to me was by Ralph Reese, an old friend from my years in New York. Though we've corresponded recently, it's probably been over three decades since I've seen Ralph. Getting a sketch card by him gave me one of those warm and fuzzy feelings that mark my best comics career memories. Hope the above scan does it justice.

Membership card

As I have noted in previous columns, Hero Initiative is a favorite organization of mine. To quote from the organization's own website:

"The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterday's creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment."

Of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't have at least a small quibble with the Hero Initiative, and it comes with the first of its eligibility requirements:

"An applicant must have been a working comic book writer, penciler, inker, colorist, or letterer on a work-for-hire basis for no less than 10 years since January 1, 1934."

Hero needs to replace "work-for-hire" with "freelance" as soon as possible. My fear is that a creator will accept help from the organization and, if said creator should later seek legal recourse against some former employer, that tacit "admission" of having done "work-for-hire" will be used against the creator in court.

I know publishers and ignorant fans like to throw out "work-for-hire" as justification for creators getting screwed over, but the fact of that matter is that, just because a publisher claims a creator was doing "work-for-hire" doesn't automatically make it so, even in the presence of contracts claiming this to be the case. It ain't that simple, my friends.

Whether something was/wasn't "work-for-hire" is a matter best decided in a court of law. It's a complicated issue and not every case is the same. Which is why the Hero Initiative shouldn't take any possible advantage away from a creator.

That said, I do support the Hero Initiative and urge all of my readers to do the same. You can find out more about the group and how to become a member by going to:

Ed Hannigan

One more Hero Initiative note. Back when I lived in New York, I was friends with and worked with Ed Hannigan, a young artist who quickly developed into one of the best designers and storytellers around. His creative and eye-catching covers for Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man were classics. This month, the Hero Initiative is teaming with Marvel Comics to publish a special book to benefit Ed in his time of need.

Here's the solicitation...

Master artist Ed Hannigan did many of Marvel's cover layouts of the late '70s and early '80s. Over that time, Ed created some of the most innovative cover designs ever. His covers for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man still stand today as some of the finest of all time!

Today, Ed is 58 years old and has multiple sclerosis. Through special arrangement with the Hero Initiative, Marvel is offering Ed Hannigan: Covered, a massive 48-page collection of Ed's covers, designs he created for other artists, and even rare glimpses at licensing and merchandising art Ed did. Best of all, proceeds benefit Ed Hannigan directly!

This volume also features a new cover by Ed, and new tribute pieces from Mark Millar, Michael Avon Oeming, Jim Valentino, Herb Trimpe, and more!

NOTE: There will be ONLY ONE PRINTING OF THIS BOOK EVER! Get it now so you don't blow your chance!

48 pages...$5.99

UPC: 596060705600111
Please support the Hero Initiative. Because every one of us can be a hero, too.



Your Tipster has a question for the veteran "For Better or For Worse" fans in the audience. The Akron Beacon-Journal kept running Lynn Johnston's strip even after it switched to its current format of refurbished reprints. I enjoy the strips, but something about them seems a little off to me.

Was John, the husband and father in the strip, really such a jerk in the feature's early days? He seems to take Ellie, the wife and mother, for granted. For example, when Ellie considers taking some classes, he suggests cooking classes because that will result in tastier meals for him. The only time she works outside of their home is when he needs temporary help in his dentist office.

I haven't kept notes on what I see as a pattern of behavior. The recognition of this pattern, if it truly exists, has just sort of grown on me as I've been reading the reprints. Especially when I also consider Johnston's unpleasant divorce from the man she was married to during her strip's original run.

If you have any thoughts on this, please send them my way or post them on my message board. Because it's been driving me crazy since it first occurred to me.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 12/02/2009 | 12/04/2009 | 12/14/2009 >>

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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