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

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for Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Alter Ego 89

If Roy Thomas' Alter Ego gets a lot of attention in my columns, it's because it's my favorite comics magazine...and that includes the one I write for. Truth be told, I don't enjoy reading about new comics before I read said comics. I took "Hype 101" with Professor Stan Lee at the start of my comics career and no one has ever done it better and made it more fun than he did. I reserve my excitement for new comics after I read them.

When it comes to older comics, I enjoy reading about them and the creators who made them almost as much as I enjoy reading them. The history of the American comic book fascinates me and my college of choice is Alter Ego with a Thomas-gathered faculty that simply can't be beat.

A/E #89 [TwoMorrows; $6.95] was the magazine's "Have a Harvey Horror Halloween!" issue, commencing with an overview of Harvey's 1950s titles by John Benson and followed by informative interviews with Harvey contributors Howard Nostrand, Sid Jacobson, and Warren Kremer. Jacobson and Kramer, of course, continued to create great kid-oriented comic books for the company for decades afterwards and those are touched on as well. Ace interviewer Jim Amash concluded the Harvey curriculum by talking to artist Ken Selig about Harvey's early days under the Comics Code.

Rounding out the issue are great articles on comics boogie man Dr. Fredric Wertham, the early Detroit Triple Fan Fairs, Fawcett romance comics, the Fawcett/Charlton connection, and Mr. Atom, the original Captain Marvel's nuclear foe. How can I not give A/E #89 the full five out of five Tonys?

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Alter Ego 90

If I had to name my favorite comic-book company of all time, it'd be Marvel. It was where I always wanted to work and my only real Marvel regrets are that I didn't work there longer and that I am not currently writing for Marvel. So when I opened the envelope from TwoMorrows and saw the Jack Kirby cover of Captain America, Spider-Man, and Thor under a "Have Yourself a Merry Marvel Marching Society Christmas!" blurb, I couldn't dive into Alter Ego #90 [$6.95] fast enough.

As a Marvel Comics reader in the 1960s, my mind was regularly boggled by the works of Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Roy Thomas, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, and so many others. The boggling came anew with this ish's line-up: a grand celebration of Joe Sinnott's 80th birthday; my cherished buddies Barry Pearl, Nick Caputo, and Mike Vassallo visiting with Dick and Lindy Ayers; the comics writing of famed novelist Patricia Highsmith; the original Marvel Super-Heroes animated series, which I've never seen; Jim Amash's interview with Golden Age writer Leon Lazarus; the teenage creations of the late, great, sorely-missed Steve Gerber; and more. Issue after issue, A/E takes me on an exciting journey through the art form to which I've devoted my life. Which is why, issue after issue, it deserves the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Amy Goes Gluen Free

One of the more unusual comic books in my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read was the informational comic Pete Learns All About Crohn's and Colitis by Hilarie and Joe Staton. The comic was sent to me by Dr. Athos Bousvaros, who spearheaded the project. I thought the comic book was terrific, full of helpful information presented in a breezy, kid-friendly style.

The Statons (and Doc Athos) are back with Amy Goes Gluten-Free: A Young Person's Guide to Celiac Disease, another great booklet published by Children's Hospital Boston. The good news is the disease can usually be treated by dietary means...and that this comic book guides kids through their dietary needs through comics and games. As a fan and student of all things comics, I'm glad to see the art form being put to such good use.

Amy Goes Gluten-Free

Rating a comic book like this doesn't seem appropriate. Heck, I can't even tell you where to get a copy for yourself. But a good start place would probably be:

If any of my friends or readers are working on informational comic books, I would love to see them. This area of our industry just doesn't get the coverage it deserves.



Here's another installment of the continuing feature by which I vainly try to justify how much time I spend watching TV. Didn't fool you for a second, did I?

C.S.I. Miami has been hard to take this season, mostly due to the seemingly interminable departure of Adam Rodriguez, who plays Eric Delko on the show. How can we miss him if he won't go away? The arrival of Eddie Cibrian as Rodriguez's replacement has not helped the situation; there's some mystery going on with that character, but, bottom line, I don't care. Meanwhile, the rest of the lead cast - David Caruso, Emily Proctor, Jonathan Togo - have been pigging out on scenery all season long. This is what happens to good actors matched with bad writers.

On the other hand, I like two new cast members. Omar Benson Miller is funny, real, and smart as CSI Walter Simmons. He's one of the reasons I still watch the show.

Another: Christian Clemenson as less-than-supremely competent Medical Examiner Tom Loman. The character isn't awful at his job; he's just not the ball of fire M.E. we see on all the other C.S.I. and Law and Order shows. I find that refreshing.

And, yes, I also very much like looking at Eva La Rue and Boti Bliss. They could run my biologicals any day. (Not really, but I really wanted to use that line.)

Since a few of you asked, I have watched the third episode of Human Target and liked it much better than the previous two. However, it was not lost on me that it was sheer dumb luck and the highly-trained special soldiers who can't hit the broad side of the barn that got the hero and the pretty FBI agent out of the Russian Embassy and, as usual, Rorschach who did the heavy mental lifting. Is it to much to ask that Christopher Chance be a little better at his job in future episodes?

Watch for more "TV Talk" in future TOTs.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 02/01/2010 | 02/02/2010 | 02/03/2010 >>

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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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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