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for Thursday, April 15, 2010

Judomaster 93

In this "Year of the Tiger," I feel oddly compelled to run as many tiger-themed covers as catch my fancy. This one is the cover of Judomaster #93 [Charlton; February 1967], drawn by Frank McLaughlin, the creator of Judomaster.

McLaughlin's "Meet the Tiger" (15 pages) introduced his hero's sidekick. Operating in the Pacific during World War II, Judomaster was U.S. Army Sgt. Rip Jagger. Jagger learned martial arts from an island chieftain whose daughter he'd saved from a Japanese sniper. Tiger was his unit's mascot; the kid was called "Tiger" both in and out of costume, not unlike Captain America's Bucky.

Besides writing and drawing the Judomaster story, McLaughlin also wrote and draw "The Kiai Shout," a two-page martial arts facts feature. Rounding out the issue was a two-page letters column by editor Dick Giordano and a seven-page Sarge Steel story - "Case of the 'Devil's Wife'" - by writer Joe Gill, penciler Bill Montes, and inker Giordano.

I was and remain a big fan of the 1960s Charlton heroes. I'd love to see DC's Showcase Presents collecting the adventures of Judomaster, Sarge Steel, and even the Fightin' 5.

Moving right along...

Walt Disney Comics 699

Though I didn't read the title as a kid, for me, the classic issues of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories start with one of Carl Barks' hilarious, tightly-plotted ten-page Donald Duck yarns and roar to the finish with a chapter of an exciting Mickey Mouse serial. In between, there would be a variety of other strips and at least one text story to justify "and Stories" part of the title. WDC&S was one of the most popular comics titles from the 1940s to the 1960s and deservedly so.

Times change. Walt Disney Comics [Boom! Kids; $2.99 per issue] is the current incarnation of the title. No text stories. No Donald as everyman stories. No plucky Mickey taking on villains armed only with his courage and wits. No variety. Instead, what we got for issues #699-702 of the revived title, and continuing in Disney's Hero Squad, was an ongoing serial that re-imagines various Disney characters as cliche-ridden super-heroes.

Written by Giorgio Salatiamy, Riccardo Sacchi, and Alessandro Ferrari in various combinations, the series pits heroes gathered by future man Eega Beeva against villains gathered by Dr. Emil Eagle. The heroes include Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Feathery Duck (a character apparently popular in Europe, Gladstone Gander, and Gus from Grandma Duck's farm. Goofy, of course, has a prior super-hero career as Supergoof, but the others are ill-accustomed to their new roles. Mickey Mouse is on hand, but he's dismissed by the others as the non-super-heroic errand boy who picks up pizzas and does odd jobs around their secret headquarters. My psychic powers tell me it will be our friend Mickey who saves the day at the end of this already-too-long serial, but I'll add that anyone who couldn't see this coming couldn't find their ass with both hands.

I'm being awfully negative, aren't I?

Most of the characters ring false to me. The story revolves around the two teams racing to collect the scattered components of a machine that can conquer the world. So, to keep the story going, each side must wrest components from their opposite numbers. The battles are usually determined by which team got the previous piece of the machine. In one battle, the incredible luck of Cloverleaf (Gladstone) allows him to best Peg-Leg Pete. But, when Gladstone becomes jealous over the sympathy the crowd shows the vanquished Pete, he wishes he'd lost the battle and his "luck" grants him that wish. Since when does Gladstone's luck work that way?

There is worthwhile stuff in the issues I've read. The team of Italian artists drawing this serial deliver decent storytelling and visuals. Some of the hero/villain battles - Gladstone vs. Pete before the absurd turnover, for example - have their funny moments. A subplot with Uncle Scrooge and the Beagle Boys imprisoned by the villains and attempting fruitless escape after escape is a pretty good running gag. But these good bits are overpowered by the not-so-good bits and an excessive parade of irritating editor's notes. This super-hero-centric revival of WDC&S isn't classic, nor is it anything actually new.

The very best thing in any of these issues comes in WDC #700. It's a clever eight-page Donald Duck tale by William Van Horn used to fill out the issue.

Disney's Hero Squad has a regular back feature showing the origins of the various "Ultraheroes," which is the name Eega Beeva gives his team. The first two issues have a Supergoof story drawn by the great Paul Murry and written by Bob Ogle while issue #3 starts the origin of the Red Bat (Feathery) by Ivan Saidenberg and artist Carlos Edgard Herrero.

Disappointing as they are, the best score I can give Walt Disney's Comics #699-702 and Disney's Hero Squad #1-3 is a dismal two out of five Tonys. The former starts a new direction in issue #703, so I'll be checking that out soon. But, in a tough economy and with so many worthwhile comics being published today, several of them from Boom!, I can't offer any good reasons to stick with Hero Squad.

Tony Tony

What People Earn

Every year, Parade does its "What People Earn" survey. Golfer and sex machine Tiger Woods [$110 million] was their cover guy this time around. Those surveyed included a medical marijuana provider [$17,000], a Supreme Court justice [$208,100], a customer service representative [$23,800], a rehab specialist [$49,000], an evil talk-show host [$23 million], a secret shopper [$1300], and many others.

Some years, the survey includes "one of us." The first that I can remember was when they include comics writer Mark Waid, who was having a very good year that year. He later told me this was one of those times when, about a minute too late to remove himself, he realized what a bad idea agreeing to be included has been. I'm betting a lot of Mark's friends borrowed or tried to borrow money from him for months afterward.

I promise I'll pay you back, Mark, just as soon as I can. Please don't take my kidney.

Andy Smith

This year's survey includes cartoonist Andy Smith, who hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. He doesn't make anywhere near the money Mark made that year, though, so I'm not even going to try to borrow money from him.

You can visit Andy's website at:

And his blog at:

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

Tony Isabella

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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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