Monday, June 26, 2017


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Commando, the long-running British war comic book plus Occupy Avengers and Savage!

Sunday, June 25, 2017


For information on my upcoming garage sale...

And keep watching this bloggy thing, my Facebook page and my Twitter tweets for more details.


Thursday, June 22, 2017


My first real garage sale in two years achieved 110% of my modest goals for it. The Monopoly games sold well, but there are around three dozen plus games left. The dollar comics sold well as did some of the more expensive hardcovers; the latter were 70% off their cover prices. Every one of the dozen five-buck mystery boxes I had made for this first sale sold.

Some customers were disappointed I didn’t have more quarter boxes of comics, magazines and books - hardcover and softcover - at this sale. Hey, everyone loves that price, but the number of those boxes will likely go down with each sale. That’s the natural result  of my goals for this summer’s sales.

This summer’s garage sales are all about reclaiming my office and bedroom from the too many boxes and stacks of stuff that loom too large before me. I desperately need to make my office a whole lot more efficient because the arc of my current career is heading to the near-future time when I will need to hire at least a part-time assistant to help me cope with the clerical part of my business. At the moment, there’s no room for an assistant in my office. I need to fix that.

The bedroom? My Sainted Wife Barb continues to be the most patient woman on the planet, but we need to get moving on our years-delayed renovation of our master bedroom and bathroom suite. I’d like to be able to move all the boxes and DVDs out of there by the end of the summer. That’s going to take some doing.

Friends have asked me about my “thinning the herd” as it were. They see some of the great comics and books going into my garage sales. I’m not going to claim all of my decisions on what to sell and what to keep are easy, but the desire to seriously reduce my legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff went into overdrive as I witnessed all the stress Barb and her friends had to go through to empty out her mother’s house.

Digression. Barb’s mom has Alzheimer’s Disease and is currently in a care facility. There’s more to the story than that, but it’s too soon for me to write about it in detail. But clearing out just the stuff Barb wanted to keep took months and has resulted in me paying for a third storage unit for it. I want to get rid of one of my other storage units by Christmas. End of digression.

Though I am in good health for a chubby little man of 65 years old, I would be foolish to ignore the possibility I might not be around ten or twenty years from now. I do not want to burden my wife and our kids with cleaning out my VAOS. I want to accomplish most of that myself within the next five years. Even sooner if my career slows down, something that doesn’t appear likely at present. I am living a good and very interesting life.

Some decisions were easy to make. Since my son Ed is a big fan of the Simpsons TV show - as am I - I was keeping my Simpsons comics because I thought he might want them. As it turns out, he doesn’t. Any Simpsons fans who come to my next garage sale are going to have a couple hundred different issues that they can buy at just a buck each. And those are just the ones from my office or future reading room. In the fullness of time, more issues of Simpsons Comics, Futurama Comics and others will emerge from the VAOS.

There are comic books I love, such as The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Invincible Iron Man, that are in the dollar boxes. I’m not likely to reread them and, though I think the writing in the titles is terrific, it’s not writing I’m going to look at when writing my own stuff. Squirrel Girl is hilarious, but not my personal kind of hilarious. As for the Riki Williams Iron Man, though I have played around with Brian Bendis-style writing for my own amusement, it’s not my thing either. I gotta be me.

I love the Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge comic books being published by IDW. But, with a bucket list of over 300 things I want to write before I kick the bucket, I’m more likely to go to that personal list when I have an opening in my schedule. Which is not to say I wouldn’t be tempted if someone came to me and asked me to write my “ultimate” Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse or Uncle Scrooge adventure.

Marvel’s Star Wars titles are entertaining, but I’m not likely to seek a play date with that complicated universe. I mean, I’ll never say never. Just unlikely.

Batman? He was once my favorite comics hero, but I’ve read way too many terrible Batman comic books and seen too many lousy movies to make me want to keep many Batman comic books. There is one Batman story I want to write, but it’s one I doubt DC would let me write and one in which Batman is little more than a supporting character. My garage sale customers are going to find a whole bunch of Batman comics in my dollar boxes...and many other Batman comics at higher but still low prices. I'm talking comics from before and after killing "Robin" became a thing.

I just came across a run of Amazing Heroes. I’ll go through those issues of that great magazine for any thing written by or about me. Issues that don’t have Isabella content will go into the sales.

Some decisions are more difficult, especially when it comes to some once-treasured hardcovers and trade paperbacks. The general rule is that if I need them for my own writing, if I think I might want to read them again, if I want to keep them around to give to others as an example of how diverse and wondrous comics can be, they will remain in the VAOS. If not, I’m sure they’ll find good homes with my customers.

I don’t know exactly what’s in the plethora of boxes in my office, bedroom, future reading room and basement. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about this downsizing process. Going through every box is an adventure in itself.

If you’d like to share the adventure, by which I mean, if you would like to exchange your money for my stuff, my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales are held approximately every other weekend at Stately Isabella Manor, 840 Damon Drive in Medina, Ohio.

Here’s the 2017 schedule...

Friday, June 30
Saturday, July 1

Friday, July 28
Saturday, July 29

Friday, August 11
Saturday, August 12

Friday, August 25
Saturday, August 26

Friday, September 8
Saturday, September 9

Friday, September 22
Saturday, September 23

Friday, October 6
Saturday, October 7

Keep watching my Facebook page and this bloggy thing for details on these sales. I’m hoping to have special guests and other fun events at some of them. More to come.


One last bit of bloggy business before I put today’s bloggy thing to bed. I have looked into the abyss that is my ridiculously busy schedule and it has looked back at me with a stern admonition that something had to give. 

The bloggy thing will be going on hiatus until Monday, July 3. As much as I love writing it, this blog has to take a back seat to my paying work and some other cool things happening in my life. When the bloggy thing returns, it will resume its seven-days-a-week schedule...with some exceptions.

I’ll be on the road in July, once to an undisclosed location and then on to Chicago for G-Fest. Later in the year, I’ll be a guest at NEO Comic Con, Grand Rapids Comic Con and Akron Comicon. I won’t be posting new blogs during those conventions.

I’m getting dental implants this year, starting as soon as humanly possible so that I don’t dwell on the expenses of the procedures. Odds are there will be days when this process leaves me unable to write anything. 
On occasion, the deadlines on my paying work might necessitate taking a few days off her and there. I'm hoping to minimize those days off, but you know what they say about best laid plans.

There is a strong possibility I will be traveling for my work from time to time. If I do any writing on those trips, it will be for my paying gigs. It’s not all about the money for me, but the money is what will allow me to do my own projects.

Thanks for stopping by. See you in July.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I review Lars of Mars/Crusader from Mars/Eerie Adventures Volume One plus The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History by Jon Morris plus Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Newspaper Strips Vol. 1!


RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 114th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #127 [July 1975] has a cover pencilled by Rawhide Kid writer and artist Larry Lieber with inks by John Tartaglione. It’s a reprint of the cover of issue #76 [May 1970], albeit with a brighter yellow background and a rearrangement of the cover copy to allow for the addition of the “Blazing Western Action As You Like It!” blurb. 

“Guns of the Bandoleros” (18 pages) is reprinted from that issue. Written and drawn by Lieber with inks by Tartaglione and lettering by Jean Izzo, it has been edited from its original 20-page length. However, it should be noted that the original story was not really 20 pages. Two of those pages were half-pages in the centerfold of the original issue, the better to squeeze two additional half-page paid ads into the comic books. Though their credits don’t appear in #127, Len Wein was the editor and Irene Vartanoff was the reprint editor of this issue.

I wrote about “Guns of the Bandoleros” almost three years ago and you can read those comments here. To make the reprinted story fit the allotted page count, Vartanoff cut page 10 of the original and combined the half-pages into one full page. Though the story still reads smoothly sans the missing page, we lose the violent passion between the Lynx and her henchman Juan that will inflame the man’s hatred of the Rawhide Kid.

The “Marvel-Hero Stick-Ons” ad from the previous issue is back in this one. Another returning full-page house ad promotes Stan Lee’s The Origins of Marvel Comics and the Mighty Marvel Calendar for 1975. I can’t recall who wrote and edited the 1975 calendar, but I got the job for the 1976 Bicentennial edition. I’ll doubtless write about that somewhere.

New this time around is a full-page Marvel merchandise ad featuring the Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain America model kits from Aurora; bendable plastic figures of Spidey, Cap, Hulk, the Lizard, Iron Man and the Green Goblin; and brightly-colored hard plastic figures of Spidey, Hulk, Iron Man, Cap, Daredevil and Thor. The Aurora models were $3.39 each, the bendables were $3.98 each and the hard-plastic figures were a set of all six for $4.18.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page kicked off with another “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” column, this one promoting Marvel’s Classic Comics adaptations of classic novels, Stan speaking at Penn State, and a sequel to Origins of Marvel Comics.

The first news item spoke of legendary producer George Pal coming to the Marvel officers to be interviewed about his forthcoming Doc Savage movie for the premiere issue of Marvel’s black-and-white Doc Savage magazine. The interview was conducted by Chris Claremont and Jim Harmon.

The second item has Herb Trimpe penciling War Is Hell, written by Chris Claremont. Also mentioned: a guest appearance of the Phantom Eagle, a World War I character co-created by Trimpe, in Ghost Rider #12. I wrote the Ghost Rider story, but, alas, I didn’t receive a shout-out in the item.

The third item reported that Bob Brown would be drawing the Thing team-ups in Marvel Two-In-One.

The fourth item told of other moves. Steve Gerber would be the new editor of Crazy magazine. Marv Wolfman was launching his new Skull the Slayer comic-book title. Don McGregor would be the new writer of Luke Cage, Power Man. Chris Claremont would be the new writer of Iron Fist.

The final item was a plug for FOOM aks Friends of Ol’ Marvel. The ninth issue of the fan club magazine would feature a cover by Jim Starlin. Membership in the fan club was a mere $2.50

This issue’s Hostess comics ad had Captain Marvel battling Nitro. To save the world, the Kree super-hero drops a shit-ton of Hostess Twinkies on his explosive foe, more than enough to last Nitro and his henchmen for a month. Drawn by Ross Andru, the page teaches us the important lesson that...”You get a big delight in every bite of Hostess Twinkies!” Can I get an “amen?”

The final editorial page in this issue is a full-page house ad for Marvel t-shirts. You could order shirts featuring Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and the Hulk. Cost was $4.45 per shirt for “man-size” shirts or $3 for “boy-size” shirts. Because, as we all know, women and girls don’t read comic books.

That’s all for this week’s “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” presentation. I will be back tomorrow with other stuff. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Wonder Woman (2017) is the best DC Comics super-hero movie of all time. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Batman movie from 1966. I’ll always think well of the first two Superman movies with Christopher Reeve, even though both of them have really dumb and just plain awful elements. I liked the first of the Batman movies with Michael Keaton. Some of the other DC movies have their moments. But, from start to finish, top to bottom and in whatever other direction you care to consider, Wonder Woman is the best and, for that matter, one of the best super-hero movies period.


The framing sequence of the movie is perfect. Bruce Wayne sends an old photograph to Diana and it triggers memories of her coming to “man’s world” during World War I. It is an act of simple kindness for a friend, not at all what we’ve come to expect from the often-psychotic Batman of today’s comics and movies. It gave me hope for Batman or, at least, for Bruce Wayne.

With Diana, we remember her childhood on Themyscira and her growth into womanhood. Against her mother’s wishes, she trains to become a warrior and becomes the greatest of all the Amazon. There is an origin story of sorts and a hint of mystery surrounding the young princess. Origin stories usually drag. This one was fascinating all the way.

When American spy Steve Trevor crashes off the coast of the hidden island kingdom, Diana gets her first inkling of the outside world and a sense of her destiny. She is attracted to Trevor and, as any of us would be, he is bowled over by her.

When the Germans discover and invade Themyscira, Diana learns all she needs to know about the horror of war and the loss to innocent lives. It is a battle both heroic and terrible.

Comics purists may decry the time-shift that has Diana entering our world during World War I instead of World War II, but I think the earlier setting drives home the obscenity of the conflict. Trevor is trying to stop the release of a mustard gas more powerful than any previously known to man. The armies slog through trenches for months and years, spending thousands of lives for mere inches of territory. Civilians are brutalized by the invading German armies. Small wonder that, faced with such suffering, Diana assumes it is all the doing of Ares, the god of war and that, to end the war, she must slay the deity.

There are so many outstanding performances in this movie. Gal Gadot is breathtaking as Diana. Chris Pine’s Trevor is brave and willing to bear wounds to his very soul to protect innocents. Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff and Elena Anaya are terrifying as an ambitious general and a scarred scientist known for creating weapons of death. David Thewlis as treacherous Ares is a commanding villain. Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock bring a grim reality and even some humor to their roles as Steve’s unlikely allies. Lucy Davis is cocky and radiant as Etta Candy. It is a superb cast.

The budding romance between Diana and Steve ends when Trevor gives his life to save thousands of civilians. More than Diana’s climatic battle with Ares and her realization the God of War did not create the evil within the hearts of men, it is Trevor’s sacrifice which sets the Amazon on the path that leads her to a lifetime of trying to bring hope and peace to the world of mortals.


Wonder Woman is an inspirational film. It shows us at our worst. It shows us at our best. It urges us to choose the latter path. The best super-hero comic books do the same. From its beginnings, the super-hero genre has portrayed an optimistic view of the world. It shows us men and women who are courageous and selfless and asks us to imagine a world where all of us strive to be like those men and women.

I used to joke the only way DC would be able to make a good Wonder Woman movie would be if they hired Marvel make it for them. I’ve no doubt Marvel could have made a good Wonder Woman movie.

DC made a great Wonder Woman movie. 
Kudos to the magnificent cast, to screenwriter Allan Heinberg and director Patty Jenkins. All of them exceeded my greatest expectations and gifted me with a truly unforgettable night at the movies.

I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, June 19, 2017


My preparation for my G-Fest panel on Gorgo, Konga and Reptilicus continues apace. After owning it for well over a decade, I finally read Konga [Monarch Books; 1960], the novelization of the movie by the prolific Dean Owen. I also watched Konga [1961] the movie, one of my least favorite giant monster flicks.

My somewhat edited Internet Movie Database summery:

Presumed dead, Dr. Decker comes back from Africa. During the year he was “missing,” Decker came across a way of growing plants and animals to enormous size. He brings back a baby chimpanzee to test out his theory. As he has many enemies at home, he decides to use Konga to get rid of them. Then Konga grows to gigantic proportions and wreaks havoc all over the city of London!!

Konga the novelization is well-written pulp fiction with some sex scenes that would have shocked young Tony Isabella if he’d read it in 1960. Konga the movie is a dud with a gorilla suit as bad as the one Clarence Beeks [Paul Gleason] was sewn into in Trading Places [1983]. In fact, it might be the same suit.


The characters of note in Konga the novelization are all terrible people. Dr. Charles Decker is an egotistical sociopath willing to sacrifice anyone for his science and his libido. Margaret, who is his assistant, housekeeper and lover, wants desperately to be Mrs. Charles Decker and is willing to overlook his murders and, to a far lesser extent, his lust for one of his students. Of course, to get even with Decker, Margaret has a one-off with that comely student’s studly boyfriend.

Comely student Sandra doesn’t hide her attraction to Decker and is less than understanding of boyfriend Bob’s irritation with her for that. Bob tries to beat the crap out of the much older Decker and is threatened with expulsion from their college.

Decker’s professional colleagues are only slightly less horrible. Dean Foster is arrogant and obvious in his jealousy of Decker, and tries to force the doctor to resign his position. Professor Tagore, whose research mirrors Decker, taunts Decker with the knowledge he is going to publish his findings before Decker.

Little Konga is the only sympathetic character in the novel. He’s controlled by Decker and, near the novelization’s end, by Margaret, and forced to do their murderous bidding. He does not attain his gigantic size until the second last chapter when, enraged by Decker literally raping Sandra, Margaret gives him one dose to many of the scientist’s growth formula.

Margaret is crushed to death when Decker’s house and lab collapses around her and the expanding Konga. Sandra gets eaten by one of the scientist’s enormous flesh-eating plants.

Helpless in Konga’s hand, Decker dies when flung to the street as the military dispatches the giant gorilla with its tanks. In death, Konga shrinks back to chimpanzee size, his small body just inches away from that of his master.

The movie follows much the same plot as the novelization, but there are notable differences. Sandra and Bob are much nicer in the film. The young woman is fascinated by Decker’s intellect but is pretty much oblivious to his advances. One of the flesh-eating plants does trap her arm, but we don’t see her die on screen.

Bob does have a physical confrontation with Decker, but it is the lecherous scientist who starts the fight. In the book and the film, Konga murders Bob.

As in the novelization, Konga doesn’t grow to giant size until near the end of the movie. The film actually gets more boring once this happens because the relatively few scenes of destruction are badly done and because there is a lot of Konga walking around models of a town with a Decker doll in his hand while managing not to do much damage. It’s like he’s waiting for the military to get to the scene and have done with him.


An amusing note. In the novelization, Decker talks about the women of the African village where he stayed being so unashamed of their bodies that they went topless. In the movie, Decker shows his class a film of the village and remarks how the women always went around fully and modestly dressed.

My overall low opinion of Konga did not change with this viewing. It’s not a good movie. However, this time around, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the scenery-chewing performances of Michael Gough as Decker, Margo Johns as Margaret, Austin Trevor as Dean Foster and George Pastell as the sibilant Tagore. Still, the novelization is much better than the movie...and the Charlton comic books are incredibly better than both the novel and the movie. Even the issues not drawn by Steve Ditko.

Yusei Matsui’s Assassination Classroom [Viz Media; $9.99] is one of my all-time favorite manga. The series revolves around an octopus-like creature who destroyed 70% of the moon and threatens to do the same to Earth in a year if he is not killed . In the meantime, Koro Sensei - the creature - becomes a middle-school teacher in charge of the lowest-ranked class at the school. He teaches them the usual subjects and assassination techniques to be used against him. The governments of the world have offered 100 million to whoever kills Koro Sensei. It is a series filled with outrageous humor, exciting action and undeniable heart as the despised students of class 3-E blossom under the guidance of their alien teacher.

Assassination Classroom Volume 16 is a game-changer. It reveals the true history of Koro Sensei, a history filled with surprises that I never saw coming and yet which make perfect sense to me. Having written professionally for four-and-a-half-decades, I am not often surprised so delightfully. With five more volumes to come, I’m more excited and impressed by this series than ever...and maybe a little jealous of those of you just starting this wonderful series. Even if you’re not a manga reader, I recommend Assassination Classroom to you. It is an outstanding comics epic.

ISBN 978-1-4215-9091-2


Donald Duck #16 [IDW; $3.99] has “The Call of C’Rruso!” by writers Mark and Laura Shaw and artist Flemming Anderson. The 37-page tale is the first USA publication of a story that originally appeared in the German comics publication Lustiges Taschenbuch.

What starts out as the ever-optimistic Donald attempting to win a singing competition continues with a magic atomizer that transforms his voice. However, before long, Donald, his nephews, and a pair of rivals are sailing into the frigid waters of Lovecraftian horror. One rival wants to save the world and the other wants to see it die in terror. The adventure is action-packed, funny and surprisingly scary in places. I like it a lot.

IDW is bringing some wonderful foreign-made Disney comics to this country. I’m enjoying their titles immensely.


One more for the road.

Martin Arlt’s Mad Scientist [$6] is one of my favorite magazines. That I’ve just this weekend read the latest issue - Summer 2016 - should not be taken as any sign of disrespect. My life is a little crazy these days - no duh - and I’m trying to get to where I’m able to read at least the latest issues of my favorite magazines closer to when they are published. But I digress.

Mad Scientist is a 56-page, slick-looking journal of stuff Martin finds interesting. It’s one of my favorite magazines on account of I find that stuff interesting as well. The cover by the great Mark Maddox illustrates Martin’s article on the thirteenth season [1975-1976] of Doctor Who. It’s been ages since I’ve seen those episodes, but the article does a good job covering them and reminding me how much I wish I had the time to watch the entirety of Doctor Who from start to today. Sigh.

Martin also writes about The Thing from Another World, the landmark 1951 horror/sci-fi film about a bloodthirsty alien carrot preying on scientists in a frozen wasteland. That could be a metaphor for what’s happening to science today at the hands of ignoramuses like the Dumpster President and his Republican henchmen.

John LeMay writes about Toho Studios attempt to take a bite out of the Dracula legend so wonderfully done by England’s Hammer Studios. It’s a fascinating appraisal.

The learned and prolific Allen Debus contributes two great pieces. The first is on Mary Shelley’s other landmark horror/sci-fi novel and her other writings. The other is on Godzilla Raids Again, which was heavily edited and shown in the United States as Gigantis the Fire Monster. The Japanese version is one of my all-time favorite Godzilla movies because of the great human stories told alongside the giant monster mayhem.

Timothy Price writes about seeing monster films at the neighborhood theaters, something which brings me back to my own youth once I was old to go to the movies with my friends. Prior to that, I only got my kind of big screen monster thrills from the movies shown at Sts. Philip and James on Sunday afternoons in Cleveland, Ohio. The idea was to give parents a break from their offspring on their weekend day of rest...or to enable them to make more Catholic babies while we were watching Gorgo, War of the Worlds and the like.

But I keep digressing. That’s one of the terrific pleasures of Mad Scientist. It reminds me where I come from.

Last but not least, we get a single-page satire on why General Zod would make a really great president. It’s a startling premise, but Mike Dimesa makes his silly case and makes me laugh as he does so.

For more information on this highly recommended magazine, you can e-mail Martin. You’ll be happy you did. 

That’s it for now. If my plans work out, as they occasionally do, I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of a major movie. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella