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for Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Richie Rich 9

Happy birthday to me!

I don't usually make a deal about my birthday, but this one is feeling kind of weird to me. I'm not sure why that is, but I plan to stumble around for a thousand words or so in the hope of finding some understanding of this. You've been warned.

I have a great life in all the ways that really matter. I've the best family in the known universe in Sainted Wife Barb, Eddie, Kelly, and our crazy/cute cat Simba. Money is tight - Eddie is in his third year at Ohio State; Kelly starts college in fall of 2010 - but we're managing.

We live in a big, nice, and messy house. My vast accumulation of stuff and I have to take the lion's share of the blame for the last. It's one of the many things I need to resolve in the coming year. I'll write about that quest from time to time.

We have terrific neighbors with equally terrific kids. It's sort of sad that several of the kids are already living at college and several more will join them too soon. Intellectually, I know time never stands still, but, emotionally, I wonder if it must move so swiftly.

This afternoon, some of my closest friends will be coming over to Casa Isabella to celebrate my birthday. I don't often go in for birthday parties, but I really wanted to see the guys today. Like I said up top, it's a kind of weird time for me.

Professionally, I'm thrilled my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read is getting so many positive reviews and selling so well. Though there's no official word on a sequel at this time, I think it's a strong possibility.

I note with amusement and dismay that, as I've gotten older, I've developed what the kind would call quirks and what the not-so-kind would call obsessive behavior disorders. I have an order in which I try to accomplish my daily goals. I straighten the house along a set path. I have a favorite spot to sit on the family room couch and at the dinner table.

I'm not totally set in my ways. After years of not wanting to shop at "evil" Walmart, the local Medina store is now my favorite place for groceries. They are open 24 hours a day. Their prices are always competitive and sometimes the lowest in town. Since I do my shopping around 7 in the morning, I am pleased to find fresh packaged salads and sandwiches ready at that hour and to be served by workers who, at just one hour into their shifts, are unfailingly friendly and helpful. Best of all, there are few other shoppers to impede my swift progress up and down the aisles, and none who block aisles conversing with friends. Beyond my self-centered reasons for being pro-Walmart, or, at least, this particular Walmart, the store employs a great many of my fellow Medina residents, pays them decent wages, and thus strengthens our community.

Then there's the other parts of my life.

The things that make me angry.

Our elected officials should be ashamed of themselves. While the Republicans seem to care about little beyond making President Obama fail, no matter how much it hurts our country and citizens, the Democrats are too cowardly to stand up for what they know our country and citizens need. Would that our nation had a responsible third party large enough and well organized enough to wrest power from the soulless and the spineless.

Relax. I've largely sworn off writing about political issues - local, state, national, and global - until after Kelly graduates from high school. Despite the many good things about our hometown of Medina, it remains an elitist clustercluck that functions mostly to provide for its wealthiest and most powerful residents. I have no doubt my writing about such things on a regular basis could have a negative impact on my daughter. Check back with me in June when all bets are off.

The passage of time doesn't bother me as much as the things we lose in the passage. Friends lose their jobs. Favorite restaurants close. Favorite stores close or change hands with the new owners providing poorer selection and service. I don't object to change. I object to change for the worse.

If I extend my anger into comics matters, we could be here all week and that's a little angrier than I want to get in my birthday column. But I will touch on it.

Outside of writing for Comics Buyer's Guide, I haven't had a good paying gig since I finished writing the afore-mentioned 1000 Comic Books You Must Read. A lot of friends of mine, some who work in comics and some who don't, have similar tales of woe. I'm downright nostalgic for the days when I could pick up a phone and get someone a gig to help them over a rough spot or when someone would call with an out-of-the-blue job for me.

I have a long "bucket list" of things I want to write that I will start working on in the new year, but, realistically, that's nothing but spec work unless it sells. Late this year, I did some development work on two new comic-book series not of my creation. It was an enjoyable gig and, if these two series sell, writing them solve my financial problems for the immediate future. But the word "if" looms large when bills come due.

Oh, yeah, and as I've gotten older, there are three things I no longer wish to hear from the well-intentioned or other. In no particular order...

"Don't put your age on your resume."

I've earned every one of my 58 years and I couldn't have done as much as I've done if I were 30. Besides, what fresh hell would it be working for a client or publisher too stupid to figure out my age? Would they think I was writing Marvel Comics when I was six months old?

I'll admit that I make more "old man" noises when I move than I used to. That I can't pull more than the occasional all-nighter. That I sometimes have to ask my family members something more than once before the information registers. But I'm as good a writer as I ever was - insert cheap shot here - and, in most ways, I'm a much better writer than I ever was.

"If you don't stop attacking DC Comics, they'll never hire you again!"

I get this about thrice a year from a friend who's not really a friend but doesn't think I know that. Surprise. But, please, do go on trying to curry favor with DC people by pretending you have any actual knowledge of or influence over me. It amuses me no end that you're being played.

DC Comics hasn't honored a good number of its agreements with me and has screwed me over in many foolish petty ways. This dire warning I am regularly given would only even remotely be a concern if DC Comics had, indeed, hired me for anything in the past decade. As it stands now, my keeping silent would only benefit DC Comics. By speaking out, I at least offer a cautionary tale to the creators who haven't learned the lessons of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bill Finger, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, and others.

Yes, the record of Marvel Comics is hardly unblemished. But, with the conceit of my advancing years, I give them a pass because, aside from also not hiring me, the company hasn't treated me badly. My Marvel gripes are with individuals no longer employed by Marvel; my DC gripes are more wide-ranging. It's my birthday and I can be a right bitch if I want to.

"When you write about looking for work in your column, you come off as desperate!"

I hear this every now and then from one of the people I love most in the comics industry. All I can say is...I both agree and disagree with this.

I am simply too professionally inept to play games. I've been underemployed for years and unemployed for the past several months. With college bills and rising household bills before me, with the obvious lack of new Isabella comics out there, I'd be insulting the intelligence of prospective employers to pretend I didn't need the work. But I'm not a complete pushover either.

I turned down one comics job at the start of the year because the contract demanded all rights to a completely original work and wasn't offering sufficient compensation for that. Moreover, the contract was presented to me without any room for any negotiations. My fondness for the editor of the project aside, I couldn't bring myself to sacrifice my creation for one small paycheck, especially knowing the "all rights" part of the contract was designed to allow a third party to profit from my work to a far greater extent than I would and with no future compensation to me. It wasn't the worst deal I've been offered, but it wasn't a good one.

I'm easy, but not that easy.

I prefer to own my work, but there are any number of scenarios under which I could and would sell all rights to my work, scenarios that would benefit both the client and myself. I'm desperate for work, but I'm not so desperate that I would accept conditions that virtually guarantee my getting screwed over.

I've taken shameful advantage of your considerable good will and, given I'll likely do much the same on Christmas and New Year's Day, let me close this on happier notes.

I have a spiffy life. I'm in good health and thus have every expectation of being able to amuse, educate, and entertain you for many years to come. Happy birthday to me, indeed.

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

Tony Isabella

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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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