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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 9, 2010

You Can Do A Graphic Novel

Those who can't, teach.

I've never believed that, especially when it comes to comics. The latest proof that those who can can also teach comes in the charming form of Barbara Slate's You Can Do a Graphic Novel [Alpha Books; $19.95].

Slate has written and drawn over 300 comic books and graphic novels from some of the leading publishers in the field: Marvel, DC, and Archie, to name just three. In this colorful breezy guide to creating comics, Slate takes her young readers through each and every step of the creative process from finding your story to how to make the contacts that could help you achieve your goal of seeing your story in print.

Though the book is written for younger readers like those in the many graphic novel workshops Slate has taught, the information it imparts would be useful to older readers as well. What I think I like most about the book is that Slate gives good solid creative advice wrapped around the cheerful encouragement that all artists and writers need. Her book is as much about the dream of creating a graphic novel as it is a practical guide to doing just that. As set in my ways as I am, even I am tempted to follow Slate's common sense directions and see what I can come up with.

I most definitely recommend You Can Do a Graphic Novel to schools and libraries, and as a great gift for any young future comics creators. But, as I said above, older readers will get much from it as well. On our usual scale, it earns an impressive four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-1-59257-955-6


Chronicles of Conan

I'm with Conan. Not the talk show host, though he seems like a perfectly nice fellow, but with the mighty hero created by Robert E. Howard and translated brilliantly to comic books by Roy Thomas. Courtesy of my public library system, I'm rereading the Conan comic books originally published by Marvel and currently being reprinted in spiffy trade paperback collections by Dark Horse.

The Chronicles of Conan: Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories [$15.95] is the first volume of color Conan reprints, collecting the first eight issues of the Marvel comic by Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith. The issues thrilled comicdom back in 1970 and 1971, and rightfully so. This volume also features an informative personal remembrance by Thomas.

At least one of the issues reprinted in this book will appear in my sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read. I'm trying to decide between issue #3's "The Grey God Passes" and issue #4's "The Tower of the Elephant." Maybe I should just use both as they share a similar theme: the passing of beings who, though they seem far more powerful than men, are tragically doomed.

The Chronicles of Conan: Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories delivers considerable barbarian bang for your bucks and earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 9781-59307-016-8

I'm just starting The Savage Sword of Conan: Volume Two [$17.95], which reprints the Conan material from issues #11 through #24 of the Marvel black-and-white magazine. The major revelation for me so far has been than, brilliant as both these artists were, I'm not that big a fan of the team of John Buscema and embellisher Alfredo Alcala. Buscema's layouts/pencil art move across the page, but Alcala's detailed finishes freeze the images. It's beautiful art, but I guess I like my Conan action to be more fluid and loose. Different strokes.



Just to clarify...

While I'm working on the sequel to my book in and around other things, I've not yet signed a contact to write it. Besides writing a few entries a week, I'm figuring out how to do some things better than I did in the first book and what kind of introductions I want for each chapter of the sequel. When I'm ready to make the formal pitch for the sequel, my first port of call, by contract, must be Krause Publications...and, considering the amazing job my editors and their designers did on the first book, I really want to do the sequel with them. There won't be any actual news on the sequel for several weeks, but, when there is, I'll update you.



Giving credit where it is most certainly due, I first learned about DC Comics Senior VP/Executive Editor Dan DiDio's to produce a sequel or sequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen from Rich Johnston's Bleeding Cool website:

While it's "fashionable" in some comics professional circles to dismiss Johnston as a gossip monger or worse, there's not a day in the week when I wouldn't rather read his reports than the ones found on websites that act as virtual arms of the comics industry's PR departments. But I digress.

Thinking about Watchmen isn't a high priority of mine, but several readers have asked for my thoughts on the matter and I figure I'll put them out there today before moving on to things in which I have a much greater interest.

My thoughts...

1. I see no creative rational for a sequel to a work that was complete unto itself. It's a commercial decision. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with commercial decisions, but I bet DC tries to spin it as something other than that.

2. I see even less creative rational in tying Watchmen to the DC Universe. It's another commercial decision which counts on the loyal DCU fan base creaming its jeans over the prospect of Batman fighting Rorschach.

3. Is DC screwing Moore and Gibbons on this? That's for them to say. But, in any case, it's far from the first time DC or other comics publishers have screwed creators. The main difference here might be somewhat greater sympathy - but not much greater - for the creators being screwed.

4. Many fans who think doing a sequel to Watchmen is a bad idea...for whatever reasons...will still buy as many sequels as DC is able to publish.

5. Comics news sites, even those who will moan piteously over this defilement of a comics classic or the disregard for the great talents who created said classic, will still slavishly promote the books for DC Comics.

6. DiDio will have no trouble hiring writers and artists to work on his Watchmen sequels. Oh, a few of them might turn down the work for principled reasons, but there will be many eager for the challenge or the paycheck. I have some sympathy with both sorts, especially for creators who have not earned decent paychecks in months and sometimes years.

7. I'm sure many writers and artists have already sent query letters or even pitches to DiDio.

8. In the extremely unlikely event that I was asked to write Watchmen 2 or any of its spin-offs...and it's as unlikely as winged glowing pigs flying out of my ass, singing show tunes, and pooping gold and silver coins...I would see if the old phone number I had for Alan Moore still works, ask him if he would object to my taking the gig, and then ask the same of Dave Gibbons.

9. Re-read thoughts #1, #2, and #6. The challenge part would be there for me, I could really use the paycheck, and, despite my knowing the rationale for doing such work is purely commercial, I'm confident I could deliver comic books that would be entertaining on their own. You don't necessarily have to swing for the fences to give your audience a comic book worth reading.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 02/08/2010 | 02/09/2010 | 02/10/2010 >>

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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.

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