TONY'S ONLINE TIPS From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1516 (12/14/02)
"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."
--Leonardo Da Vinci
Several readers have e-mailed me asking for more information on my semi-serious "Tony Isabella Farewell Tour" and I've spent way too much time trying to figure out how to answer without coming off as too desperate or whiny. As I lurch towards my 51st birthday, it's important to me to keep myself open to new possibilities and to maintain a firm grip on reality, however disappointing reality might sometimes be. My "farewell tour" is driven by those personal goals. This is where the unkind among you can insert a jibe about my not having a full tank of gas.
The comics industry is not particularly kind to creators of my generation. This shouldn't come as a revelation. There are many writers and artists conspicuous in their absence from today's comic books and, in most cases, it's not by their choice. The editors and publishers, though not necessarily their readers, don't want to know from these "veteran" creators.
Why is this the case? Get the editors out of earshot of their bosses and you'll likely get different answers from each of them. They don't think old pros have anything left to say. They couldn't "sell" an older creator to their publisher or marketing department. Their jobs depend on their recruiting super-stars, preferably those with Hollywood connections. They want to generate their new comic books from within their offices. And so on.
Ironically, and in the interest of full disclosure, I confess I have had to pass on several opportunities for reasons of finances or health. That I was able to do so is good fortune denied to many of my fellow vets. That I'm in a position to take one more crack at comic books is even better fortune and part of my doubtless mad plan for a farewell tour.
Not a week goes by, and there are some weeks when not a day goes by, when I don't receive a letter or an e-mail from a reader wishing I were still attending conventions and writing comic books. Okay, those convention letters might be from a certain Sainted Wife who wants to get me out of the house occasionally, but I think some of them are for real. Balancing this is the realization that, like some of my peers, there may no longer a place for me in the comics industry. I hope that isn't the case, but I'd be kidding myself if I didn't recognize that possibility. I'm wearing bifocal glasses, not blinders.
On the comic-book side of this farewell tour, I'll be sending a dozen proposals (one per month) to comics editors and publishers. A very few of these are for existing characters owned by companies with the rest being original concepts. Some of these pitches are the sorts of things you would probably expect to see from me while others are very different from what I've done in the past. The one thing they will all have in common, be they one-shots, mini-series, or ongoing titles, is that they will represent the very best work of which I am capable.
The smart money says you will never see any of these efforts in your friendly neighborhood comics shop. I expect many of them, maybe all of them, will never be seriously considered or even read by the editors and publishers who receive them. I know this from the start of my journey, just as I know the editors and publishers are inundated with proposals from grizzled veteran like me and from those fresh-faced kids with stars in their eyes. I even know why I'm doing this.
I love comic books, always have, always will, and your e-mails and letters have told and continue to tell me that many of you love what I've written. On a realistic level, it makes little sense for me to devote much time and effort to breaking back into the comics field. On a deeper level, this is something I owe myself and those of you who have supported my work in the past.
Whether I succeed or not, I can't imagine leaving the comics scene entirely. I have already signed to write this column through 2003. Assuming I haven't overstayed my welcome, I suspect I'll be hanging around beyond that.
Nor am I fool enough to proclaim "never" should an intriguing opportunity cross my path after the completion of my farewell tour. Heck, if the universe should become unbalanced and this tour turn out to be successful, I'll gladly repeat it year after year until it stops working.
On the convention side of the tour, I would like to appear at a dozen conventions in a dozen different cities with the final stop being the 2003 Mid-Ohio-Con in Columbus, Ohio. This is going to be trickier than writing those proposals because it costs actual money to travel to these events. Still, this would give me the chance to meet my readers, answer questions, autograph a few comics, and let them know face-to-face that I appreciate all their kind words over the past three decades.
As of right now, the Isabella family is planning to vacation on the West Coast next summer. It's looking very good that I'll be attending Comic-Con International: San Diego (July 17-20) for a day or three. Odds are I won't have a table in Artist Alley, but I'll sign at the tables of whatever exhibitors will have me and appear on panels if I'm asked.
Lance J. Moore invited me to be a guest at his 2003 Lone Star Comicon in Houston (September 5-7), so the Texas readers will have a shot at me as well. Figuratively, one hopes.
Counting my tour's grand finale at Mid-Ohio-Con, that leaves me with nine open dates for convention appearances. I'm completely open to invitations and suggestions. Events providing some measure of support, such as hotel and travel expenses, will obviously be of greater interest to me than others, but I won't automatically rule out any invitation I receive.
Since I'm probably very close to exceeding federal limits on "me, me, me" column-writing, let me close out this item by telling you what you will and won't see in "Tips" next year.
You will see more reviews. I write about other things in my online columns, but this paper is called COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE and I aim to live up to that...most of the time.
You won't see progress reports on those proposals I mentioned above. If I were an editor or a publisher, I wouldn't want to be put on the spot that way and I certainly won't do this to people I respect enough to send my work to.
You will get as much advance notices of the conventions I'll be attending as possible. You will also get exciting and hilarious reports of my event experiences...even if I have to make stuff up. I don't want to take this reality thing too far.
You won't see any crying over the thirty years I've spend in the comics industry. I got a chance to do what I dreamed of doing when I was a kid and got to do it with many of the creators I most admire. I entertained readers, made friends, and kept my passion. It's been a good run and, if it turns out this one track is closed to me, I'll find another.
I want to thank my editors and publishers for this "me" time. It's so much cheaper than therapy.
Peter David is running a retailers poll in his column and I'm feeling e-mail envy. In a pathetic cry for attention, I'm going to throw a few questions at you and ask that you respond to them as honestly and succinctly as possible. The former is to help me make up my own mind on these issues and the latter is to allow me to run as many of your comments as possible in a future column.
Let's start with...
Why do you read reviews? Do you read them mostly to help you find comics you might enjoy reading? Or to help you avoid comics you wouldn't enjoy? Or just to gauge your reactions to the comics you've read against those of others?
I don't read many reviews to avoid any accidental duplication in my own reviews. When I do read them, it's either to tip me off to comics I might enjoy or to see what someone I respect thought of a comic I've reviewed.
Besides reviews, what would you like me to write about in this column? Comics collecting? Comics history? Comics promotion and retailing? My old "war" stories?
My editors like my reviews, but also recognize my experience extends well beyond what's new in the shops. Though my focus will be on reviewing, I'd like to shake things up from time to time and try some different things.
Once I get through this year's Mid-Ohio-Con and the holidays, I'm toying with taking a hundred bucks and seeing what nifty comics I can buy with it on eBay. The plan would be to have no plan: just go online, type whatever names and genres come to me in the moment, and let the links take me where they will.
There are so many people who write comics history better than me, but I wonder if there aren't some neglected corners of our past worth poking into. Is there some comic or creator you want to know more about? Let me know.
Comics retailing? Chuck Rozanski does a terrific job writing about the right ways to run a business, but I could illuminate many of the wrong ways from personal experience. I'm pretty sure I can laugh about it now.
I am more hesitant to write about my career as a writer and an editor. Not only have I already written extensively about it here, but I'm concerned that it could come off as "let me tell you about when I was somebody."
I'll pause here so that those of you who didn't take advantage of the "gas tank" opportunity at the top of this week's column can get their licks in. My generosity is legendary.
One last question. Do you have a "Holy Grail" of comic-book collecting, that one issue you'll never rest until you possess it, that one artist you want a sketch or a page of original art from, that one knick-knack you want for your shelf?
I don't know if I have one "Holy Grail," but there are several items I'd love to have. Via eBay and Mile High Comics, I recently completed my collection of COSMO THE MERRY MARTIAN. When I can con myself into thinking I can afford them, I pick up issues of GORGO and KONGA. Those drawn by Steve Ditko are my favorites, but even the worse of them are good and goofy fun.
I'd love to have original art from the stories I've written. Sketches by the artists I've worked with would also be very cool to hang on my walls.
I'm not much for knick-knacks, but, in a world where money was no object, I'd buy every Batman action figure I could get my hands on to recreate the classic story I'm likely mis-remembering as "The 1,000 Costumes of Batman." I envision this enormous display taking up far too much space in the family room.
Enough of my ramblings. Your answers are the ones that really interest me. Fire when ready.
The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1516 [December 8, 2002], which shipped on November 18. I'll answer the most frequently-asked question first:
Yes, I'm serious.
Beyond that, I'll add that the first stop on the TONY ISABELLA FAREWELL TOUR is MEGACON, Friday, February 28 through Sunday, March 2, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. You can learn more about the show here:
I'll have more details about this appearance and others next Saturday. One of the possibilities currently being discussed with the Friends Of Old Tony are commemorative t-shirts for each stop on the tour. The shirts would be made-to-order and sold online, but I haven't ruled out bringing some to the shows. Your suggestions for witty t-shirt slogans would be appreciate.
Another possibility would be a special TONY ISABELLA FAREWELL TOUR comic book, though I don't know if I can have this ready for MEGACON. Two of the six stories are already written and drawn, and I'll be writing the others before the end of the year.
Ironically, at this time when I'm preparing to ride off into the sunset, my plate is amazingly full. I have three other scripts in various stages of completion...the novel I'm co-writing with Bob Ingersoll...a non-writing job offer to contemplate...and the dozen proposals mentioned above.
Two more things before we move on to other matters. If you're a convention promoter who would like me to appear at your show, you need to contact me sooner rather than later. There are only eight remaining openings on the tour and I'm absolutely not going to do more than twelve shows in 2003. The sooner I get them locked down, the sooner I can start promoting my appearances.
I would *really* like to do a show in or around New York City. I haven't been to the Big Apple since 1988, and haven't attended a convention in the city since the 1970s. I'm easy; I can be had for airfare and a hotel room.
Keep watching this website for more on the tour.
I've decided the TIP THE TIPSTER link somewhere south of this column is the online equivalent of a vestigial tail. It's there, but it serves no purpose than I can see. Which is not to say that Justin and I aren't grateful to the *one* reader who actually used the thing last month.
Two related questions showed up in my e-mailbox recently and I figured--what the heck--I'd give them some bandwidth in today's column. The first was from someone who wanted to know if we accept advertising, the second from a reader wondering how much it would cost to sponsor an *extra* edition of this column.
Yes, we accept advertising, but it must be compatible with our suitable-for-all-ages format. I have final approval of everything that appears at TONY'S TIPS, but Justin is the guy to talk to about price and size and whatever other technological magic is involved in putting ads on these pages. E-mail him at:
As for sponsoring an *extra* column, let's try an experiment from now until the end of the year. For every $100 that Justin and I receive through the TIP THE TIPSTER link, I'll write an *extra* column in January. Moreover, if any one reader comes up with $100, I'll write an *extra* column on just about anything said generous patron of the arts wants me to write about.
If you want to discuss anything north of this paragraph, I'm available via e-mail and also on my official TONY ISABELLA MESSAGE BOARD. The message board is, of course, made possible by the very generous support of Kevin Smith and I'd be remiss if I didn't again thank him publically for his role in keeping the COMICS COMMUNITY boards online. He's one of the good guys.
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: