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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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for Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Talk about a vision from the past. I hadn't given a thought to my old Gestetner mimeograph for decades. Even when my lifelong pal Terry Fairbanks recently gave me copies of zines I'd printed on it, I never wondered about what had happened to the machine itself. Until, a week later, I received this e-mail from another longtime pal, JEFF WASSERMAN:
Anyone know of someone who'd like Tony Isabella's old Gestetner mimeograph machine? Liam O'Connor gave it to me for safekeeping over thirty years ago and I still have it. I haven't looked at it since my son was five and he came across it in the basement.

"Dad, what's this?"

"It's a printing machine," and I explained how it worked.

"Great, can we print something?"

Considering its fannish background and prior custodianship, the machine must possess great power, much like Scrooge McDuck's Old Number One dime. I've got stencils and a box of twiltone paper, too.

I had long since forgotten my dad had brought my old machine to New York when he brought the rest of my stuff from our home in Cleveland. I don't think I ever printed a zine on it while I lived in New York. Which is why I sold or, more likely, gave the machine to Liam, who was a member of the Brooklyn bunch that included Paul Levitz, Paul Kupperberg, Carl Gafford, myself, and others.

Here's a shot of the machine:


In my teens and before I moved to New York to work for Marvel Comics, I was a member of several amateur press associations, also known as...apas. The most prominent of these groups was CAPA-Alpha, which was founded by Jerry Bails near the dawn of comics fandom and which has included such notable members as Roy Thomas, Don and Maggie Thompson, Wendy (then Fletcher) and Richard Pini, and many others who went on to become leading comics historians or comics professionals.

I produced The Wandering Fan for CAPA-Alpha and The Wild Itralian for the much less refined Exponent. Looking at my old zines recently was not a rainbow-filled excursion into my past. I could be a jerk and an idiot back then. It might have been typical of the alienated comics-reading teens of my era, but way too much of the material I wrote in my zines embarrasses me mightily today.

On the plus side, I did have a knack for getting artist pals to draw covers for non-artist Tony.

Dwight Decker

DWIGHT DECKER is one of my oldest comics fandom friends. We started writing to each other when we were both teenagers and have rarely been out of touch since. "Doc" Decker, as we used to call him, is a accomplished man of languages and a fine writer. He can read and speak a dozen languages and has translated comics stories and novels for many publishers. He's written countless articles on comics foreign and domestic. He's written comics for a number of publishers. I'm a big fan of his writing and - big announcement - convinced him to let me run one of his latest prose stories in an upcoming edition of TOT. Watch for it.

As you can see, my predilection for having people draw me as a cartoon/comics character dates back to my teen years.

Mark Evanier

The above cover was drawn by MARK EVANIER, quite possibly my first comics fandom buddy. Everyone knows him and almost everyone loves him. As well they should. His "News From ME" blog is one of the highlights of my online journeys and you can read it at:

Joe Rutt

JOE RUTT went to elementary school (Sts. Phillip and James) and high school (St, Edward) with me. All of his friends were in awe of his artistic ability, so, naturally, I conned him into doing covers for my apazines.

Joe's proudest high school achievement happened when we were both members of the St. Edward stage crew. He was painting a New York skyline to be seen from a window of Oscar Madison's apartment in our school's performance of The Odd Couple. I suggested he include the Empire State Building in the scene and that he have King Kong climbing it. It looked great.

The director didn't like it. He insisted Joe paint Kong over. Which he did. Except, what with the full moon in the background, Kong could still be seen from certain parts of the audience and the great ape still got his share of laughs.

The director never knew.

Maggie Thompson

MAGGIE THOMPSON is, of course, the goddess of comics fandom, or, at the very least, its den mother. Like her late husband Don, she's been a great editor, friend, and inspiration to me since the first time I met them in our native Ohio. Naturally, I imposed on Maggie's friendship to get a cover or two from her.

Because the gag in this cover is so corny, I'm going to assume it was my idea. It doesn't work as well for me today, but I bet I was inordinately proud of it back then.

Here's the big news about the Gestetner, this rare artifact of Isabella history. It's yours if you want it.

If anyone reading this column would like the machine, my buddy Jeff would be delighted to give it to them. They'd have to travel to New Jersey to get it, but it's there and waiting for the first taker. If you're interested, e-mail me and I'll forward your note to the esteemed Wasserman.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 01/11/2010 | 01/12/2010 | 01/13/2010 >>

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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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Medina, OH 44256

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