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

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for Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Buster Crabbe 3

"I WIN!"

That's the motto of the "Year of the Tiger," which I embrace on account of it sounds pretty neat and because my official Marvel nickname in the 1970s was Tony "The Tiger" Isabella. To celebrate this spiffy new year, TOT is running tiger-themed cover all month long. In our world, March came in like a tiger and it's going out the same damn way.

Today's cover: The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe #3 [Lev Gleason; April-May 1954]. Clarence Linden "Buster" Crabbe was an Olympic athlete who won bronze and gold medals for freestyle swimming and an actor who starred in popular serials of the 1930s and 1940s. He played three of the most popular comics characters of those decades: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers. Eastern Color/Famous Funnies published 12 issues of Crabbe's first comic-book series in 1951 and 1952; this series from Gleason lasted only four issues.

The Grand Comics Database [] doesn't name the cover artist of this issue, but the interior artists include Mort Leav, Pete Morisi, Alex Toth, and Mike Peppe. The cover story is "The Strange Case of the Radioactive Tiger!" In other adventures, Crabbe contends with the "Invisible Monsters of Callisto!" and the more earth-bound "Pirates of the Timberland!"

Let's see what else I have for you today.

Detectives Inc.

I don't understand why all comicdom isn't singing the praises of Don McGregor's Detectives, Inc. [IDW; $24.99], a terrific hardcover book reprinting ground-breaking tales drawn by Marshall Rogers and Gene Colan and a host of fascinating special features. Reading these for the first time in years, I was again impressed by how much glorious humanity, riveting emotion, and intense drama is in them. McGregor was and remains an original voice in comics and, quite frankly, there's something manifestly wrong with an industry that isn't competing for his services.

Private investigators Ted Denning and Bob Rainer remain two of the most unforgettable characters in comics and detective fiction. These stories stick to the soul, brilliant collaborations between an original writer and two of the best visual storytellers I know. And don't even get me started on the autobiographical pieces that surround them; they make me angry, they make me cry, and they even make me laugh.

IDW should be pushing Detectives, Inc. with every thing they have. It's a must-have book for any serious comics reader and it earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-1-60010-494-7

Troubling Stone

Scott Roberts, whose delightful Patty Cake and Friends is one of the thousand comic books you must read, has written his first prose novel. It's an exciting fantasy in which two human children, clever, daring, but far from perfect, must venture into a strange alternate world to rescue their infant sister.

The Troubling Stone [iUniverse; $16.95) is filled with wonder and peril. Ten-year-old twins Kim and Tim find themselves in some of the wildest situations and face some seriously harrowing perils on their quest. The same knack for spot-on characterization found in Roberts' comic books are also found in his prose and the nature of this book allows him to take his imagination further than ever before. There are shocking surprises and edge-of-your-seat action here, leading to a completely satisfying conclusion. I'm ready for a sequel right now.

Suitable for all ages, The Troubling Stone earns an impressive four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

ISBN 978-1-4401-6293-0


Every month in Comics Buyer's Guide, "Tony's Back Page" takes an extended look at one of the issues featured in my book, 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.

Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves 12

The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves #12

Cover artist: Steve Ditko

Writers: Steve Skeates, uncredited, Ernie Bache

Artists: Steve Ditko, Charles Nicholas, Vince Alascia, Ernie Bache

Charlton (February 1969 © 1968 Charlton Press, Inc.)

Dr. Graves was the host of this title, but sometimes played a more active role in the stories he introduced. The super-heroes hadn't sold well for Charlton, so the company was now focusing on horror, romance, war, western, and licensed properties.

In the cover story, Graves goes all "Master of the Mystic Arts" as he stands against an evil tyrant from another dimension who is bent on conquering our world. For the comics fans of the time, reading Skeates' "The Ultimate Evil" was like discovering a hitherto unpublished Dr. Strange adventure. It was even drawn by Strange co-creator Ditko!

Skeates also wrote a second story in this issue, this one drawn by Don Perlin. In the 1970s, Perlin would move over to Marvel where he would draw titles like Werewolf By Night, The Defenders, and Ghost Rider.

This issue's letters page has a letter from Klaus Janson, a fan who would later established himself as one of the best artists in the comics industry.

That's all for now. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back Monday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/16/2010 | 03/17/2010 | 03/22/2010 >>

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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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