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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pep Comics

It's the last TOT of 2009, and we're concluding my look at the spiffy comics sent to me by friend of the column, William Ashley Vaughan...

Pep #342 [October, 1978] presents the title's usual mix of comics stories and special features. Archie bookends the issue with "The Awful Truth" and "The Specialty". The first finds Archie making the courageous decision to tell Veronica he can't afford to take her to a new disco with predictable results. The second has a Pop's Chok'Lit Shop-sponsored eating contest between Jughead and Moose, also with predictable results.

Chuck Clayton headlines "Bowl Brummel." His girlfriend Nancy objects to his sartorial deficiencies, so the lad makes an effort to put on the Ritz for their date. Predictability seems to be the nature of the teen humor in this issue, but this was still a funny effort. This story predates the revelation that Chuck wants to be a comic-book artist, an ambition which made him a more interesting character than when he was just a) the black guy, and b) the son of one of the school coaches.

Also quite amusing is "Arts and Crafty," a Li'l Jinx story by Joe Edwards. Jinx and her pals are vying to make the best project for an arts and craft show. Hilarity ensues and the punch panel of the story got a chuckle out of me.

Besides the four stories, the issue also gave readers a half-page Jughead gag strip, a couple of Archie newspaper strips under the title "Archie's Gag Bag", an "Archie on the Road" puzzle page, Archie's Club News, a pin-up gag page of Archie's dad, and, though technically an advertisement, a Hostess Twinkies ad starring Josie and her Pussycats.

Josie

Pep #342 earns three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Donald Duck

Walt Disney's Donald Duck #296 [May, 1996] hails from the brief period when Gladstone Comics cut its costs by eliminating slick covers and publishing 32-page comics on a slightly sturdier paper stock. With proper care, the issues still hold up, but they also still feel like coverless comics.

I couldn't help but think of former newsman Lou Dobbs when I reread the 1957 tale of Donald as a border patrolman charged with stopping smugglers of, among other things, cameras and parakeets. Ah, those were simpler times, weren't they?

"Borderline Hero" was written and drawn by Carl Barks...and now I'm imagining crazy asshat Glenn Beck "exposing" how much the master storyteller's name sounds like "Karl Marx" and then making his eyes bulge the way he does. Simpler times, indeed.

Getting back on topic, this is a fine tale that originally ran in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #197. When winter-weary Donald takes on this new job, his nephews follow him to the desert clime. A lucky break allows the boys to forego school long enough to help their hapless "unca" without his knowledge. It's a tight ten pages with crisp art that brings the story to life. Even minor Barks is breathtakingly good.

From 1939, the issue also features 16 Donald Duck newspaper strips by Bob Karp and Al Taliaferro. In those days, papers gave their strips room to stretch, which, even for the gag-a-day strips, allowed for more ambitious pacing, more content, and more detailed art. These strips work as both comedy and history.

Walt Disney's Donald Duck #296 earns an impressive four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Once again, my thanks to my buddy Billy Ash for this Christmas package of fun.

******

SAY GOODBYE TO 2009

That certainly didn't turn out as we hoped.

Congress abrogated its responsibilities to its constituents, which was only unexpected as to the degree to which they did this. The Republicans were soulless berserkers, committed only to making our President and his party look bad. The Democrats were spineless cowards, failing to use their power to accomplish all that needed to be done. Our President screwed up as well, though not nearly as bad as the right wing-nuts would claim.

The real economy, the one you and I live in, isn't coming back as quickly as we'd hoped. There was one day last week when I heard from four friends who had either lost their jobs or been stiffed by clients. I can relate to both.

I'm so happy at how 1000 COMIC BOOKS YOU MUST READ turned out and at how well it's been received. But, when I finished writing it in April and then proofreading it in June, I never expected that it would be pretty much the last paying gig I would have the rest of the year. It's been tough paying the bills in 2009.

And yet...

I continue to be sustained by the love of my family, friends, and readers. I continue to hope for a better tomorrow. For me and for all of you.

Thanks for spending so many parts of so many days with me in 2009. I'll be back in 2010 with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 12/30/2009 | 12/31/2009 | 01/01/2010 >>

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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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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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