Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #220

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I saw The Defenders before you did and here's what I thought of it!

Monday, August 14, 2017

NEO COMIC CON (AUGUST 20, 2017)

NEO Comic Con 3 is my next convention appearance. It will be held on Sunday, August 20, at the Soccer Sportsplex, 31515 Lorain Road in North Olmsted, Ohio. The convention runs from 10 am to 7 pm with a low admission of $7 for the day. Kids under 12 and attendees in costume get in free. A portion of ticket sales will go to charity. Kids under 12 and attendees in costume get in free.

This is NEO’s largest venue ever. It’s over 25,000 square feet or roughly half the size of a football field. There’s more space and more free parking. There will be are more artists, special guests and vendors. There will be cosplay, contests, panel discussions, a gaming tournament and other special events.

My fellow guests include Kevin Nowlan, Bob Hall, Marc Sumerak, Ted Sikora, Gary Dumm, Don Simpson, Matt Horak, Darryl Banks, Chris Yambar, Aaron Archer, Mike Gustovich and others. Marc and I will be doing separate panels - Marc on “The Craft of Comics” and me doing the legendary “Tony’s Tips Live!” - and there will also be a performance by The Confused Greenies, a devised and improvisational comedic performing troupe.

NEO Comic Con will have over 40 vendors and over 125 tables selling comic books, collectibles, toys, action figures and more. Based on my dropping a bundle of cash at last year’s event, I am confident fans attending the convention will find all kinds of treasures to delight them.

Getting to the Tony Isabella stuff...

I will be at tables 117 and 118, right across the aisle from those fine folks from WBNX aka the CW in Northeast Ohio. They always have free cool swag and, this year, they will have Black Lightning mini-posters from the forthcoming TV series based on my creation. Meet my WBNX friends, get a poster and then bring it over to my table. I’ll be delighted to sign them without charge. As regular readers of this bloggy thing know, I’m not charging for my signature at any of the conventions and events I am attending this year.

What will I be selling at my tables? I’ll have copies of both Black Lightning Volume 1 (collecting my first run on my creation and two stories written by Denny O’Neil) and July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I’d explain what the latter book features, but typing that long title always wears me out.

In addition to those books, I’ll have boxes of great comics priced at a mere dollar each. I’ll have a box of Isabella-written comics at various prices. I will have a couple boxes of hardcovers and trade paperbacks at approximately 30% of their original prices. I’ll also have a box of my few remaining double-sided Superman in Cleveland posters from 1988, priced to sell at only $25 each.

I’m looking forward to attending Neo Comic Con 3, seeing old pals and making new friends. I’ll do my best to answer your questions, assuming doing so doesn’t violate any of the non-disclosure things I have signed. No alternative facts or fake news from me. Just the honest-to-Godzilla truth!

If you’re going to be anywhere near this convention, you definitely need to check it out. It’s gonna be a blast!

That’s all for now. This is going to be a too busy week for me as I finish a comics script, have some dental surgery and prepare for NEO Comic Con. But the bloggy thing will return on Monday, August 21. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #219

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 7 by Stan Sakai, the world's greatest living cartoonist; Archie Comics and Marvel Comics team up for Marvel Comics Digest #1; and the new Youngblood series from Image Comics!

GET MORE TONY: THE GARFIELD SHOW #7

With script restoration and additional dialogue by me, The Garfield Show Vol 7: Desperately Seeking Pooky [Papercutz; $12.99] is due to be released on September 5. Confusing as it may sound, this latest volume is both bigger and smaller than its predecessors. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, the back cover copy:

DON’T CRY OVER SPILLED LASAGNA!
That’s Garfield’s Favorite Seventh Lunch
Everyone loses things sometimes. But right now, it seems like “sometimes” means “all the time” for Garfield. In “High Scale,” Garfield receives a terrible ultimatum from the vet: lose two pounds in a week or get sent to Maggie’s Cat Spa, where lunch is a single pea. Then, in “Freaky Monday,” Garfield gets a dose of karmic justice as he and Odie switch bodies and he’s forced to watch the helpless pup-turned-cat eat the cheesy treat that rightfully belongs to him. Finally, in “Desperately Seeking Pooky,” tiny but terrible forces conspire to cost Garfield his favorite food and his best friend!
 
Sidebar. I worked on all three of these stories and, until I read this back cover copy, it never occurred to me that they shared that common theme. Sheesh!

This volume of The Garfield Show has more pages than the previous ones. The raw material for these stories [screen captures from the show turned into comic-book stories] is now coming from China and not France. The Chinese are not abridging the stories in the manner of the French, who would sometimes reduce an episode to a mere five pages. So each of the stories is a full 23 pages in length, adding up to 69 pages of feline fun. That’s the bigger.

The smaller? This volume measures 5 x 6.5 inches. That concerned me when I first saw a copy, but, on looking through the book, it’s as easy to read as ever. Plus, the more compact size makes it perfect as a stocking stuffer or other small gift.

Papercutz gives me a lot of room to exercise my own sensibilities as I translate the stories from their original televised scripts to the comics format. I have a ball working on Garfield and I’d like to think that fun is contagious.

Kudos to all the fine people who make this fun possible. Editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup hired me. The show itself is written, produced and voice-directed by Mark Evanier, my dear friend of nearly half a century. Letterers Tom Orzechowski and Wilson Ramos Jr do a terrific job making my copy look good. Dawn Guzzo is the production coordinator. New editor Alexander Lu came up with a schedule I could handle and supported my efforts. The bottom line is that I’m proud of this book.

Do yourself (and us) a favor and check it out.

ISBN 978-1629917450

The bloggy thing will be on hiatus until August 14. I’m heading to New York tomorrow for a special screening of Marvel’s new Defenders TV series. The eight-episode show will be available on Netflix starting August 18.

When I return, I’ll have all sorts of cool stuff for you. More on Black Lightning. More Sharknado Week reviews. Reports from G-Fest. I’ve got so much material I could write two bloggy things a day and not cover it all.

Be happy and safe while I’m gone. See you soon.
 
© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, August 7, 2017

SHARKNADO WEEK 2017: PART TWO

Today I’m looking at the two movies that premiered in the middle of Sharknado Week 2017 on the Syfy channel. First up is Trailer Park Shark, which aired on Wednesday, August 2.

Trailer Park Shark hooked me with that great title and then lost me within in the first five minutes of the movie. Privileged city boy that I am, I was still put off by the film’s offensive portrayals of its trailer park residents. Dehumanizing the characters we’re supposed to care about as a great white shark dines at the redneck buffet? What genius came up with that notion?

Director Griff Furst has an impressive resume as a director, actor and writer, but he was off his game in this film, co-written with four other writers: Nathan Furst, Marcy Holland, Matt Muschamp and Xander Wolfe. Way too many cooks.

The movie stars Thomas Ian Nicholas as Rob, whose curly hair looks pretty much the same as when the actor starred in 1993's Rookie of the Year. Recognizing the grown-up Nicholas was the very few good moments I had while watching this movie. Also in the movie: Lulu Jovovich as hot girlfriend Joline, Clint James as Rufus the Cowboy, Elise Berggreen as the overly-made-up Daisy, Josh Whites as creepy thug Bruno, Dennis Haskins as the cliched boss of the trailer park and everything that supplies it and, in an absolutely wasted short part, Tara Reid as Billie Jean. Tara, baby, you’re better than this movie. Next time, if you’re sitting around waiting to star in the next Sharknado movie, e-mail me. I can write you a much better part in a much better monster movie.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

A tropical storm floods Soggy Meadows trailer park and forces a hungry shark upriver.

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It’s not just a tropical storm that floods the trailer park. It’s that their landlord ordered Bruno to dynamite a levee so that the storm would flood the trailer park. We don’t see the flooding and I’m guessing that’s because you can only stretch a ridiculously low budget so far. The hungry shark is a great white who doesn’t know it can’t live in fresh water, though a character tries to cover for that by saying it came inland to give birth. That doesn’t happen and is never mentioned again. Oh, yeah, and the shark is already in the area before the levee goes boom.

By the time we get to the flooded camp, most of the trailers are mostly underwater and some of them have been swept to other parts of the area. The shark eats Rob’s uncle when the two of them are trying to hook up the trailer park to a wind turbine and get free electricity. The turbine will show up for the climax.

Rob gets video of Bruno fleeing the scene of the explosion, but the shark eats the video. Boss Deconnard, who has plans for the trailer park land, tells Bruno and his goons to make sure no one survives the flooding and, especially, to make sure Rob doesn’t expose their murderous actions.

As the movie progresses, the shark eats almost all of the trailer park residents and all of the bad guys. It also eats a horse, which struck me as pointlessly cruel. That horse might still have had a career after this movie.

Sometimes the shark jumps out of the water to eat someone standing on a mostly sunken trailer. Sometimes it just waits for them to go into the water. Once it plows into a trailer to eat the only black character in the film and - Do you have to ask? - that character is horribly offensive.

Rob and Joline catch the shark, but it breaks free and, trailing a cable, gets caught by the wind turbine blades, pulled up to the top of the wind turbine, and sliced into a great many gooey chunks of shark. I have an enormous capacity to willingly suspend my belief when watching movies like this. This was beyond even that capacity.

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Trailer Park Shark was not worth watching beyond that this review will prove to my family that I don’t love every cheesy shark movie that comes my way. I strongly recommend that you not toss away the ninety minutes it will take you to watch it.

                                                                                 

The week got back on track with the Thursday, August 3 premiere of Toxic Shark. Directed by first-time director Cole Sharp, it was a fun shark flick with a nice mix of likeable characters and at least one who really deserved to get eaten by the title shark. The movie stars the delightful Kabby Borders as college student Eden, come to a secluded island “resort” for a singles fitness event in the hope of putting a broken romance behind her. Unfortunately, ex-boyfriend Sam [played by Bryce Durfee] has come to the island for pretty much the same reason. Both give good performances.

The movie has lots of good performances. Eric Etebari is the owner of the resort. Michelle Cort├ęs and Christina Masterton are Eden’s friends. Sean Samuels and Owen Saxon are Sam’s friends. Quinn Bozza plays the resort’s medic. Other resort employees include Cristina Jayo and Jaime Wallace. I’m not talking any Oscar nominations here, but the overall acting is better than in your typical shark movie. Kudos to the casting director.

Here’s the IMDb summary:

A tropical singles retreat takes a terrifying turn when guests realize a poisonous shark is infesting the surrounding water. Not only will it rip apart its victims, but it also uses projectile acid to hunt - in and out of the water.

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The shark is a pretty cool monster. It’s been mutated by chemicals in the water. It spews a corrosive bile. Its merest scratch causes a super-rabies that turns its victims into crazed pseudo-zombies. The CGI effects are a little repetitive, but they work fine in this suspenseful and sometimes fast-paced film.

You know how in some of these movies the victims-to-be have no one but themselves to blame because they made bad decisions? That’s not the case here. The resort owner’s lack of funds are the reason he hasn’t kept the place up to snuff. The shark eats the communication cable that would allow them to call for help. None of the island’s boats are in good shape. Also, though we viewers see the shark very early on, by the time the characters know what they’re facing, they are already in dire straits.

Once the menace is known, everyone actually tries to come up with ways to escape the island, get help or kill the shark. The deck is stacked against them, but they do their best and show some courage as they proceed. None of the deaths is laughable. These characters are basically good people in a terrible situation.

There’s nothing original in how the characters fight the shark and ultimately defeat it. But their reasoning is good and the director plays fair with the viewers. No lucky break comes out of nowhere. And, yes, it’s got one of those cheesy “oh, no” endings I’m not at all fond of, but which I shook off by realizing that the characters were in a much better situation in that last scene. What happened on the island does not have to repeat itself on the mainland.

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Toxic Shark was exciting and fun. I’d watch it again. I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD.

If you’ve been keeping track of the score, Sharknado Week 2017 is  2-2. Empire of the Sharks would have aired on Saturday, August 5, and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming on Sunday, August 6. Naturally, I plan to watch both of those movies, though I won’t be able to post my reviews of them until I get back from my quick trip to New York City. Look for those reviews next Monday.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, August 4, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #7

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.
 
I Hate Image [Image Comics] has what appears to be a new 22-page I Hate Fairyland story by writer/artist Skottie Young with colorist Jean-Francose Beaulieu. Protagonist Gert is an battleaxe-wielding moppet who is slaughtering her way across the Image Comics titles in a quest to escape from Fairyland.

QUALITY: Pretty good. The over-the-top belligerence and brutality  got tiresome, but the snarky comments on various Image characters and titles made me chuckle.

ACCESSIBILITY: Needed work. I had to wait for a house ad to figure out what Gert’s name and deal was. There was more than enough room on the inside front cover credits page to have included some brief background on the series.

SALESMANSHIP: If you liked the new story, a house ad lets you know what I Hate Fairyland trades are available. There are three other Image house ads, but they are so general as to be ineffective. This free comic book missed so many opportunities.

SCORE: Six out of ten points.

                                                                                

Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #0 [IDW] leads with a 12-page story and five additional pages of behind-the-scenes stuff introducing the Next Generation component of the Mirror Universe seen in various Star Trek TV episodes and comic books. Written by David Tipton and Scott Tipton with art by J.K. Woodward, the story focuses on the character Barclay. Also included in this FCBD issue are excerpts from Star Trek: Boldly Go, Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds and Star Trek: Waypoint.
 
QUALITY: High. The lead feature has me wanting to see more. The Waypoint excerpt intrigues me, but there wasn't enough of it to hook me. I wasn’t bowled over by the other two excerpts.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly good. The lead feature is easy to follow. We get decent background on the other features.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Each of the four features includes decent information on where to find more of the same.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                                    

Doctor Who [Titan] is one of the most delightful of the Free Comic Book Day giveaways I’ve read. It features the 16-page, done-in-one “The Promise” by Alex Paknadel and artists Mariano Laclaustra, Pier Brito and Nico Selma. It’s clever and thoughtful tale that manages to include four different incarnations of the Doctor.

QUALITY: Top of the line. When I finally get around to reading the dozens of Doctor Who comic books awaiting my attention, I’ll look for Paknadel’s name in the credits.

ACCESSIBILITY: Between the inside front cover copy and information smoothly inserted into the story, I believe any new reader will be able to enjoy this story.

SALESMANSHIP: A double-page house ads direct readers to the ongoing Doctor Who titles. There is also an ad for the BBC Doctor Who shop and Titan’s Sherlock and Torchwood collections.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

                                                                                

Via Wikipedia, Rick and Morty [Oni Press] is an “American adult animated science-fiction sitcom created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Cartoon Network's late-night Adult Swim.” The issue has an 18-page excerpt from “The Wubba Lubba Dub Dub of Wall Street” by Zac Gorman and artist C.J. Cannon and a 4-page excerpt from “Pocket Like You Stole It” by Tini Howard and artist Marc Ellerby. On the cover, a Newsarama pull quote proclaims “Bottom line, if you love the show, you’ll love the comic.” That wasn’t much comfort to me. I’ve never seen the show.

QUALITY: Although this isn’t a comic book I enjoyed, I thought the writing and art of the lead story were good and suited each other. I didn’t think the second story was nearly as good.

ACCESSIBILITY: Poor, based on my position that Free Comic Book Day issues should be accessible to readers who have never seen or read the series. I had to go to Wikipedia to learn “The series follows the misadventures of cynical mad scientist, Rick Sanchez, and his fretful, easily influenced grandson, Morty Smith, who split their time between domestic family life and interdimensional adventures.”

SALESMANSHIP: Two house ads point readers who liked this comic book to where they can find more of the same. In addition, Oni promoted Zander Cannon’s terrific Kaijumax and several other titles. That’s the way to go.

SCORE: Five out of ten points.
                                                                                   

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [IDW] presents a 20-page TMNT story by Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz and Cory Smith. It appears to be the first part of an arc running in the ongoing TMNT series and a spin-off Dimension X one-shot or series.

QUALITY: Okay. The story is pretty much by the numbers. There’s the equivalent of a sewer Danger Room session, a tedious recapping of a bunch of old villains, a set-up to the trial of one villain and a creature sent to keep witnesses from testifying. It’s a readable story but doesn’t rise above that in any way.

ACCESSIBILITY: No background information outside of the villainous roll call, but the Turtles are so well and widely known that I can cut IDW some slack here.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There are four house ads directing readers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and collections and additional house ads for IDW’s amazing Artist’s Edition books, Transformers, Star Trek, Locke and Key and March.

SCORE: Five-and-a-half out of ten points.

                                                                                   

World’s Greatest Cartoonists [Fantagraphics] features 50+ pages of new material by some of the world’s greatest cartoonists and some whom this reader wouldn’t elevate to that category. This is comics and not an exact science. Still, I can’t help but be impressed by the publisher offering work by 16 of its authors in a free comic. Fantagraphics is committed to its mission of publishing diverse and intriguing creators.

QUALITY: I enjoyed some of the contributions quite a bit. I didn’t care for others. Some readers will have the opposite reactions to them. My preference is for more straightforward storytelling with witty dialogue. Some readers will like the artsy-fartsy stuff more. That’s the beauty and challenge of an anthology.

ACCESSIBILITY: This comic is rated “M” for “Mature” and I suspect most readers will be able to follow at least some of these comics.

SALESMANSHIP: Following the comics, there’s a three page section on where you can find more work by these cartoonists. That’s a great idea. The back cover shows two dozen other Fantagraphics books and comics. So...high marks in this category.

SCORE: Eught out of ten points.

That’s all for now. I’m taking a couple days off from blogging to finish another project, but I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, August 3, 2017

CANCELLED: AUGUST 25-26 GARAGE SALE

My Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale of August 25-26 has been cancelled. I'm getting very tired of posting this message.

The reasons for this latest cancellation are much as they have been in the recent past: my busy writing schedule, upcoming business trips, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, lawyer stuff, comics conventions, interview requests, and so on.

I'm in this place where I really need to hire an assistant/office manager but am not yet at the point where I can afford to hire an assistant/office manager. There are some wonderful candidates out there. But I won't have them work for free.

I'm not giving up on September yet. Keep watching the bloggy thing for updates.

Tony Isabella

SHARKNADO WEEK 2017: PART ONE

Sharknado Week 2017 got off to a weak start with the Syfy channel’s July 30 premiere of 5-Headed Shark Attack. Directed by the first-time director Nico De Leon and written by too many writers - Jacob Cooney, Bill Hanstock (story); Stephen Meier, Daniel Lawlor, Sean P. Hale (screenplay) - it’s an embarrassment to the earlier 2-Headed Shark Attack and 3-Headed Shark Attack. It stars TV veteran Chris Bruno as shark-hunter Red and Nikki Howard as Dr. Angie Yost, a scientist with a degree in rocking a bikini top. The inaccurate Internet Movie Database summary:

Shaped like a demented starfish, a monster 5-headed shark terrorizes the open ocean before invading the beaches of Puerto Rico, endangering the once peaceful island paradise.

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First off, forget that starfish stuff. It would have been a pretty cool look for the monster, but it’s not in this movie. What we get are four heads up front and a fifth head on the tail. I’ll credit the CGI folks for doing an excellent job with the four heads, but that tail-head never doesn’t look silly.

So much wrong with this movie. 2-Headed Shark Attack has many good moments. 3-Headed Shark Attack was a very good movie. This one is a fail on every level with so many characters making dumb choices over and over and over again. You could predict who was gonna die from where they stood on the various boats or what they did or said before becoming shark food. I won’t dwell on the stupid “black guy dies first” cliche, though, to be fair, the shark actually eats a boatload of nameless models and photographers first.

None of the characters are engaging. None of the acting is anything other than journeyman. The one bit of character growth comes when the head of the aquarium pushing these people to go after the shark so he can exhibit it risks his own life to save two members of the team. Of course, because he didn’t notice his foot was tangled up in the rope attached to the life-saving spear he gets dragged off the boat and into the multiple mouths of the shark.

There’s no explanation given for this creature, other than multiple heads have been known to occur in nature. A reference to Cerberus of Greek mythology describes the three-headed hell hound as a two-headed hell hound. 3-Headed Shark Attack laid the cause of that monster’s mutation on the garbage and pollution in the ocean and then cleverly used that to dispatch the beast.

Even the climax is anti-climatic. The shark gets blown up, but you don’t see anything other than an explosion from under the water and some blood in the water. Bruno’s character survives hooking the big fish with explosives and being taken for a ride, but we don’t see how he survives. Did the filmmakers run out of money?

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I have an admittedly low standard for recommending cheesy monster movies, mostly because almost any cheesy monster movie can be fun if you watch it in the right frame of mind. There is no right frame of mind that would make 5-Headed Shark Attack worth watching even once. Avoid it.

                                                                             

Sharknado Week picked up considerably with the July 31 premiere of Mississippi River Sharks, the third shark movie from director Misty Talley. Her previous films were Zombie Shark (aka Shark Island) and Ozark Sharks (aka Summer Shark Attack). In just these three movies, I’ve become a big fan of Talley. Writer Marcy Holland also wrote Ozark Sharks. Here’s the IMDb summary:

Sharks attack a fish rodeo on the Mississippi River, and it is up to a group of locals to stop them.

Before we go any further, let me state I’m not 100% certain which cast members played which characters. The IMDb doesn’t have all of that information, but I’ll do the best I can. If I get any of them wrong, let me know and I’ll edit in the corrections.

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The CGI sharks show up early in a great scene I would have loved to have been longer. The sharks attack a riverboat singles cruise by getting onto the boat via its paddlewheel. That’s one of the most clever shark movie bits I’ve seen.

The sharks are said to be bull sharks, who can live in fresh water. So...science. The shark effects range from adequate CGI creations to what appeared to be some kind of puppets to really awful video game-like effects when the sharks swim underwater. This would be a concern if the characters weren’t so much more interesting than the sharks, always something I like to see in these movies.

College student Tara Mitchell [played by Cassie Steele], who was the science whiz kid in high school, has now changed to a business major to help run the family hardware store. Which is not what her dad Ray [Miles Doleac] wanted for her. Her fear of failure plays well against her father’s desire that she follow her dream and not be stuck in their small town. This is very believable drama and the two actors run with it.

Among the other positive characters are Eric [Tahj Vaughans], who had a unrequited crush on Tara when they were in school; Eric’s friend [?], a devotee of the Shark Bite movies mentioned in this movie; plucky TV reporter Alison Harting [Michelle West]; and the town lawman [Nathan O'Neil Smith]. All perform heroically in spite of their understandable fear of getting eaten.

Less positive characters include Jason London [Jason London] as the star of those Shark Bite movies come to town to sign autographs and promote his next film; Big Bill Braddock [Marco St. John, who chews  the scenery as the southern-fried fish rodeo promoter]; and Possum [Kevin J. McGrath], the two-time winner of the rodeo who’s willing to cheat to hold on to his title.

The action and tension are fairly constant. Whenever they slow a bit, it’s for solid character scenes. The solution to the shark attacks involves courage, ingenuity and luck. Bonus points for the cameo appearances in the first and last scenes. They had me laughing in sheer delight. Well played. Well played.

If I have any quibble with Talley’s work to date, it’s that every one of these three movies has a death I would categorize as “just plain mean.” Only in one of these movies did I feel the death was dramatically justified. The other two deaths were simply pointless exercises in gratuitous misery and bloodletting.

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Look for the second part of my Sharknado Week reviews once I’ve had a chance to see and reflect on Wednesday’s Trailer Park Shark and Thursday’s Toxic Shark. Part three will cover Saturday’s Empire of the Sharks and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. I think I’m gonna need a bigger blog.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of Free Comic Book Day Friday. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #218

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The Complete Sabrina the Teenage Witch: 1962-1972 featuring classic tales by George Gladir, Dan DeCarlo and other Archie Comics legends; All-New, All-Different Avengers by Mark Waid, Jeremy Whitley and Adam Kubert; and Victor LaVelle’s Destroyer with a fresh take on the Frankenstein Monster!

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 118

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 118th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.  

The Rawhide Kid #131 [January 1976] is the cover from The Rawhide Kid #60 [October 1967], somewhat altered to work with the then-current Marvel cover format but without any obvious retouching. The cover was pencilled by Dick Ayers with inks by Herb Trimpe.
                                                                                

“Massacre at Medicine Bend” (17 pages) was by Gary Friedrich and Denny O’Neil with art by Ayers and Trimpe. The story is unaltered from its original appearance. I wrote about it on July 3, 2013 and you can read my comments here.
                                                                                 

Replacing what would have been the letters column in a Marvel comic book featuring new  material, we got “A Marvel Masterworks Pin-Up” of the Rawhide Kid by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers with retouching by Marie Severin. The image came from the cover of The Rawhide Kid #20 [February 1961]. The original cover is shown below.

There are many comics-related ads in this issue. Some of them are even paid advertisements. There are 15 “classified ads” from mail-order comics dealers, a pair of “how to draw cartoons” pitches and a mysterious ad aimed at fans of Conan the Barbarian:

**CONAN FANS**
Free information on valuable collector’s item concerning R.E. Howard’s Conan. Free gift. Send name and address to Moondance Productions, Dept. M, Box 425, Wilmington, Vt. 05363


My quick online search revealed Moondance produced dramatizations of REH’s Conan stories. I couldn’t find any evidence the company is still in business.
                                                                             

The first of the Marvel house ads is a full-page ad advertising Son of Origins of Marvel Comics and the nigh-legendary Mighty Marvel Bicentennial Calendar, which was written and edited by yours truly. The 12-month calendar featured mash-ups of Marvel heroes with the events of that pivotal year in American history. I’m pleased to say none of the artists I contacted for this calendar thought I was out of my mind. They had all worked with me before so they knew I was out of my mind.
                                                                                

There was a full-page paid ad for Big Jim’s P.A.C.K. (Professional Agents/Crime Killers). Produced by Mattel, the “Big Jim” brand was originally used for sports action figures. This new incarnation was possibly inspired by Doc Savage and definitely enlivened by Mattel hiring Jack Kirby to design the characters. I’m fairly sure Kirby did the art for this advertisement.
                                                                               

The next house ad was a full-page pitch for two Marvel Treasuries: The Mighty Avengers and The Savage Fists of Kung Fu. That Kung Fu special reprinted a long story conceived and edited by me. That story featured Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and the Sons of the Tiger sans any actual meeting between the heroes.

Not shown here is a full-page ad for The Zane Grey Library. If you joined you would received three matching volumes containing Riders of the Purple Sage, The Thunder Herd and Wild Horse Mesa. Each of these hardcover books were only $4.39 each. Once you signed up, if you were happy with the books, you would receive additional novels at the same price. I mention this paid advertisement here because it struck me as brilliant for the publisher to promote their Zane Grey western novels in a western comic book.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page was nearly 100% pitches for Marvel publications. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” plugged Celebrity, a new non-comics magazine and Son of Origins of Marvel Comics. Stan also talked about a live-action Spider-Man movie and his upcoming speaking engagement at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. Though we didn’t get a Spider-Man movie back then, we’ve gotten a bunch of them in recent years.

As for the rest of the Bullpen Bulletins page, so many plugs that I’m just going to list the titles and features: Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, Iron Fist, Son of Satan, The Liberty Legion, Wood-God, Moon Knight, Vision, Nighthawk, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Guardians of the Galaxy, Tigra, Bloodstone, Modred the Mystic, Marvel Presents, Marvel Chillers, Red Sonja, Invaders, Conan, Fantastic Four, Marvel Two-In-One, a Dracula/Doctor Strange team-up, a Thing/Hulk/Fantastic Four continuity of some sort and Werewolf by Night. Whew!

The next-to-final item on the Bullpen page promised the return of the Mighty Marvel Checklist in a month or three. I’ll let you know if that turns up in future issues of Rawhide Kid.

The final item was about the Fantastic Four radio show then airing on stations across the country. The item lists just over two dozen stations, including Philadelphia, Boston, San Diego, Grand Rapids and Columbus, Ohio. Bill Murray did the voice of the Human Torch. There were 13 episodes of the series.
                                                                                 

Next to the Bullpen Bulletins Page, we get the one-page “Spider-Man and the Kidnap Caper” ad for Hostess Twinkies. Ross Andru pencilled the page. My guess for the page’s inker would be Mike Esposito or Frank Giacoia or them working in tandem as they sometimes did. The identity of the page’s writer is not known to me, but the safe bet is that is was a Marvel editor or staffer.
                                                                                  

Following the end of the Rawhide Kid story and the afore-mentioned pin-up page, we get a Superhero Merchandise ad. Offered on the page are seven different Mego dolls at $4.28 each. That price includes postage and handling. The Color a Comic Kit is $5.44 and the Super-Giant Spider-Man Puzzle is $4.67. I’ve seen the Mego figures, but not the color kit or the puzzle.
                                                                                      

The inside back cover ad is for Hudson’s Spider-Man vitamins. The vitamins without iron cost $2.49 for 60 tablets and $3.59 for 100 tablets. The vitamins with iron cost $2.79 for 60 tablets and $3.99 for 100 tables. If you ordered the vitamins, you got a free Spider-Man poster.
                                                                                 

I’m including the back cover ad for various Evel Knievel toys here because I kinda sorta see Murphy Anderson’s touch in the drawings. But I’m not married to my identification and would welcome comments from far better art detectives than myself.

That’s all for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll have another one for you in two weeks.

I’ll have something else for you in tomorrow’s bloggy thing, but I won’t know what until I write it. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN JULY

July was, like most months, a mix of the good and the bad. I spent a wonderful day in Burbank visiting with the writers of the forthcoming Black Lightning television series, followed by a tour of the beautiful DC Comics offices. My son Ed and I had a monstrously terrific time at G-Fest XXIII, the convention for fans of Godzilla and other kaiju. On the down side, health issues slowed me down and, of course, the Dumpster President and his fellow right-wing vermin are still working hard to make America horrible.

That’s life. I embrace the joys and do what I can to fight the very real evil. What helps in that ongoing struggle is to take a moment each day to remember the people and things that make the struggle worthwhile. As posted on Facebook and Twitter, here are the “Things That Make Me Happy” from July...

July 1: Elizabeth Banks. She makes me smile every time I see her, especially in her Realtor.com ads.

July 2: Comics historian Bill Schelly, whose book on John Stanley is simply magnificent.

July 3: The thing I can’t tell you about until next week. [This was my trip to Burbank to visit with the Black Lightning writers. I’ll be writing about this again soon, but the two biggest thrills for me were seeing how much of me will be in the show and how much the writers are adding to that. If the day comes when I can no longer write Black Lightning for the comic books, I think the next great Black Lightning comic-book writer might have been in that room.]

July 4: The Resistence. I admire and support all those who oppose the Dumpster President and the villainous GOP.

July 5: The other thing I can’t tell you about for another month or two. [I still have to remain a tease about this. It’s actually two things, but the word might already be out on them.]

July 6: Flying first class. I’m a nervous flier and having a little more room and care helps me cope.

July 7: The Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It’s weird in a very good way. Would like to explore it further. [The only drawback is that it’s not near anywhere I’d likely be going to in Los Angeles. I’d still consider staying there again.]
                                                                               

July 8: My fifty years of friendship with Mark Evanier. Anyone who doesn’t like Mark has a screw loose.

July 9: The DC Entertainment offices. If they rented rooms, I would stay there on my next visit.

July 10: Delta Sky Club. My one-day pass was worth the cost for the food, drink and relaxation I got.

July 11: Dominic’s. My new favorite pizza place in Medina. I want to try other items on their menu soon.

July 12: “Walk Through the Fire” from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. Rousing, sad and character defining all at once. Always brings a lump to my throat.

July 13: Astro City #44 by Kurt Busiek, Rick Leonardi & Andy Parks. Buy an extra copy for your cat. Seriously.
                                                                               

July 14: Pam and Martin Arlt. If it wasn’t for them, I would have kept putting off attending G-Fest. [Next year, I need a photo with both Martin and Pam.]

July 15: J.D. Lees and the G-Fest directors. They make me and every one else feel like they are an important part of this most wondrous of kaiju conventions.

July 16: G-Fest fans. So wonderful to see whole families enjoying the event together.

July 17: The Syfy Monsters panel I did at G-Fest. It was more fun and more successful than I could have imagined.

July 18: Artist extraordinaire Mark Maddox, just one of the nicest guys and best artists I know.

July 19: Holy carp! Black Lightning is on the cover of TV Guide! I have no words.

July 20: Holy carp! Black Lightning is on San Diego Comic-Con bags! I still have no words.
                                                                               

July 21: Johnny Hazard by Frank Robbins. I’m on volume four of the daily strips and loving them.

July 22: Ice cream. Do I have to explain why?

July 23: So much wonderful Comic-Con interest in and love for the  Black Lightning TV show.  

July 24: My cool custom Lego Black Lightning Minifig has arrived. Say hello to my little friend.

July 25: Those DC/Looney Tunes specials. They are both strange and hilarious. I’m loving them!

July 26: Seeing my name in the TV Guide Comic-Con issue. Something else I never would have expected a few years ago.

July 27: NBC’s Midnight, Texas. The pilot was both entertaining and intriguing. I’m in.

July 28: The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films by John LeMay. Big, giant fun.
                                                                                     

July 29: Final Girls by Riley Sager. Incredible thriller that kept surprising me.  

July 30: I’ll be returning to New York City on August 8 through the 11. Hotel and flight are booked.

July 31: Sharknado Week. Five new movies leading up to Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. I’m watching them all.

August will be a crazy busy month, but I hope to post a new bloggy thing every day I’m not on the road. Look for more on my quick trip to Burbank, my G-Fest fun and an updated convention schedule in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday!” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, July 29, 2017

GARAGE SALE UPDATES

Here's the schedule of my upcoming garage sales at 840 Damon Drive in Medina, Ohio. The sales will run from 9am to noon on each Friday and Saturday. Depending on circumstances, I might add additional hours or even an occasional Sunday to the mix.

Friday, August 25
Saturday, August 26

Friday, September 8
Saturday, September 9

Friday, September 22
Saturday, September 23

Friday, October 6
Saturday, October 7

I had considered adding a garage sale for next weekend, but between my writing schedule and my current health issues, I decided that was an avoidable stress.

For the remaining garage sales, I am returning to my original plan of clearing as much stuff out of my office as I can. I need to have a work space for the assistant I hope to hire as soon as I can afford to hire an assistant. The goals of my garage sales are to make my office more efficient, reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff and, of course, make some money.

This probably means a lot fewer boxes of quarter comics and $5 mystery boxes. But, depending on what I find in my office, that might not be the case. My office is in as much chaos as the rest of my VAOS. Who knows what will turn up?

The garage sales will continue to be  advertised online (here, my Facebook pages and Twitter) and on Craig's List. I'll advertise in the local newspaper as well, though not to the extent I've done so in the past. When you come to my sales, please let me know where you learned of them.

That's all for now. Look for my updated convention schedule in a day or so.

Thanks for your continued support.

Tony Isabella 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

CANCELLED: AUGUST 11-12 GARAGE SALE

My August 11-12 Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale has been cancelled. 
 
I'll be going to New York that week for a special event, which I'll tell you about at some point in the future. If I think I can put together a quality garage sale for the weekend of August 4-5, I'll do so and let you know about in all the usual places. 

My life is changing in ways I never dreamed possible. Mostly in great ways. 

But I'm still Jenny from the block...err...Tony from the fanzines...and I will always treasure the love and support I've gotten from my fellow fans and which I continue to receive.

Keep watching the bloggy thing and my Facebook page.

Tony Isabella

Sunday, July 23, 2017

TAKING A BREAK

Hey, kids...

Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing will return on Tuesday, August 1. I had to juggle my schedule to handle some important commitments and some relatively minor medical stuff.

Tony

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #6

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.


Defend Comics is this year’s Free Comic Book Day offering from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, educators and readers. The issue presents seven short comics stories, most with some connection to freedom of expression.

QUALITY: There’s not a bad story in the issue. “Rock Stars” is an excerpt from Jeffrey Brown’s Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: The Stone Cold Age involving music as an early form of communication. “Secret Message” by Ryan North with artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb covers toy electronic typewriters with an encryption function. In “Babymouse” by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, readers can write their own speech balloons. “Wide Opinions” by Mike Lawrence discusses how we must defend even speech with which we disagree. In “Free Speech for Arachne,” George O’Connor casts a mythological tale as a right of expression conflict. In Falynn Koch’s “The Pryomancer,” magic is the stand-in for freedom of expression.

My favorite story of the issue is “Delia’s Lucky Book” by Matthew Loux. The book is the first book its young heroine truly loved and it was a book banned by her school until she and others protested that decision.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly excellent. “Rock Stars” was a bit confusing, but everything else was new reader-friendly.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. The message of the CBLDF comes through in this comic and a couple of house ads leads readers to comics by the contributors.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.
                                                                                 

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess [Viz Media] has excerpts from two Zelda manga series: the title series and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Both are written and drawn by Akira Himekawa using styles so different from one another that I thought they were done by two different artists. These comics are based on the popular and seemingly endless video game.

QUALITY: The “Twilight Princess” excerpt is very well done. Not so the “Ocarina of Time” excerpt, which suffers from poor storytelling and an art style that doesn’t really work with the material.

ACCESSIBILITY: Mostly poor. Though the “Twilight Princess” excerpt is easy to follow, the “Ocarina of Time” excerpt is nigh-impossible to fathom.

SALESMANSHIP: Good. There are house ads for the manga series and a back cover with both of them and a third book.

SCORE: Five out of ten points.

                                                                             

Drawn & Quarterly Presents Guy Delisle Hostage presents a 14-page excerpt from the Delisle graphic novel and 13 pages from Brigitte Findakly’s Poppies of Iraq as drawn by Lewis Trondheim. There are also many ads for other D&Q publications.

QUALITY: Excellent. Delisle’s account of Christophe Andre’s time as a hostage is brilliantly tedious, conveying that tedium and Andre’s ever-present fear and discomfort. The Findakly/Trondheim excerpt is a fine first-person account.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. My only quibbles are that background on Andre would have been helpful - the excerpt doesn’t convey how he came to be a hostage - and that the lettering in the second story gets a little wonky and hard to read.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Readers are directed to the graphic novels from whence the excerpts were taken. Other ads promote a wide range of other Drawn & Quarterly titles.

SCORE: Nine out of ten points.

                                                                            

This year’s edition of Bongo Comics Free-For-All reprints several stories from Bart Simpson Comics. The best of the bunch is “Leader of the Backpack Pack” by Max Davison with artists Rex Lindsey and Dan Davis. When a skateboard accident - i.e. “male showboating” - forces Bart to use a wheelie backpack, he teams with and inspires other students who use them.

QUALITY: All the stories are amusing with Mike W. Barr’s “The Todd & Rodssey” being both amusing and very clever. I’m a big fan of the Simpsons and Futurama comics from Bongo.

ACCESSIBILITY: After 28 seasons, The Simpsons are such a popular culture landmark most readers will be familiar with the characters even sans any particular introductory material.

SALESMANSHIP: So-so. There are house ads for two trade paperbacks collecting stories from the comics, but absolutely no indication of the ongoing comics series. That costs this FCBD issue some points.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                                  

Underdog [American Mythology] has one of the coolest covers of any of the FCBD issues. Kudos to Bill Galvan. Inside: a new Underdog story by James Kuhoric and Adrian Ropp, a one-page strip by Kuhoric and Galvan, a reprint of a 1977 Underdog story by Steve Skeates, a coloring page or two and previews of other titles coming from the publisher.

QUALITY: The comics stories are fun. Not brilliant or anything, but fun. I enjoyed them and it was especially cool to read an Underdog story by my friend Steve Skeates.

ACCESSIBILITY: Pretty good. Underdog is a classic character, which means you don’t need a lot of background to enjoy his adventures.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. In addition to Underdog ads, we get some nice reviews for The Friendly Ghost Casper and Rocky & Bullwinkle. Other ads include the Pink Panther and the Three Stooges. That is a solid, suitable-for-all-ages roster.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.
                                                                              
The Free Comic Book Day edition of Betty and Veronica #1 [Archie Comics] reprints the 23-page story from the Betty and Veronica #1  that wasn’t free. Written and drawn by Adam Hughes, it stars a pair of mean girls who have clearly abducted the real Betty and Ronnie and stolen their identities. I hated it when I first read it and it hasn’t improved with age. The issue also includes that photogenic Riverdale (TV show) character guide that ran in the FCBD Riverdale one-shot.

QUALITY: Well...the art is nice. To quote Don Thompson once again, if you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.

ACCESSIBILITY: Shaky. Hot Dog (Jughead’s dog) narrates the story. If a new reader gets past that, they will find the story more than a little disjointed and unsatisfying. Especially when they get to the two pages that consist of a single image with dozens of speech balloons. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.

SALESMANSHIP: Several decent ads for Archie comic books and trade paperbacks. Noting that some of them are “Classic Archie” is good.

SCORE: Four out of ten points.

                                                                              

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies [United Plankton Pictures] features 28 pages of comics, including “The Great Funnybook Getaway,” a 21-page epic by Jay Lander (story and layout) and Jacob Chabot (pencils and inks) wherein the Krusty Krab crew and friends go in search of free stuff on No-Charge Funnybook Day. The other seven pages are short stories of one to four pages.

QUALITY: “The Great Funnybook Getaway” is hilarious with some very pointed barbs at aspects of the comic-book industry. I enjoyed the heck out of it. I think Patrick’s response when asked if something hurt - “Yes, but the pain tells me I’m alive” - may become my own response to so many of life’s questions.

ACCESSIBILITY: There’s no background information on Spongebob and his friends. I’ve never seen an episode of the cartoon. Yet, maybe though the osmosis of popular culture, I somehow knew just enough to follow and enjoy the lead story. However, that didn’t help with the back-up strips.

SALESMANSHIP: The inside back cover has an ad for two collections of Spongebob comics, but gives no indication of the ongoing title. That costs this issue points.

SCORE: Seven out of ten points.

That’s a wrap for our weekend of Free Comic Book Day reviews. I’ll be back tomorrow with something different.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, July 22, 2017

FREE COMIC BOOK FRIDAY #5

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.


Secret Empire [Marvel] presents a 10-page excerpt from the latest and possibly worst “Let’s break toys we didn’t create” event fail as well as 10 pages from Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 by Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira.

QUALITY: Maybe it’s because I still have a soul, but I’m just not down with this tedious “Captain America is the leader of Hydra and a totalitarian dictator who betrays his friends and lets loose all kinds of Hell on the America he once loved” epic. Taken out of the context of the terrible story, the writing and art aren’t terrible. But they are in service of an awful story. As for that Spider-Man excerpt, Zdarsky is trying way too hard to be funny and, because of that, he’s not. But I did like the upgrades to the Vulture and the introduction of the new Trapster. Did I miss something happening to the old Trapster?

ACCESSIBILITY: The Secret Empire excerpt goes for faux-poignant in the writing and fails to provide new readers with the background information they would need to know what the heck is going on with this story. The Spider-Man excerpt is much better in that regard.

SALESMANSHIP: Ten pages of house ads feature a lot of Marvel stuff, including the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. Sadly, the ads don’t offer much in the way of information. They might remind an existing reader what’s available, but they don’t entice the new reader. Which is the point of Free Comic Book Day.

SCORE: Three out of ten points.
                                                                                

Kid Savage [Image] presents a 30-page chunk of the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and artist Ilya. Set on an uncivilized alien world, the segment shows the title hero fighting nasty creatures to survive. He, in turn, meets a family that has crashed landed on his world. There’s also a brief excerpt from Gregg Schigiel’s Pix, which I’ve praised recently.

QUALITY AND ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. The story is fast-paced, but in speeding from scene to scene, it doesn’t slow down to provide any background. Nor does Ilya’s art always convey what’s happening in a clear manner. Ultimately, I had to do an online search to find an article that gave me a handle on who these characters were and what was happening, The Pix excerpt is much better in this regard, but is all talk and no action.

SALESMANSHIP: The last panel of the Kid Savage excerpt lets us know there’s a graphic novel. There’s a nice ad for the Pix books preceding the Pix except. There’s an ad for other Kelly-written GNs and also a general “Image Classics” page. Neither of those two ads offers any real information on the titles being advertised.

SCORE: Three out of ten points.

                                                                                 

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy has a 10-page Guardians story and a 10-page Defenders story. The Guardians tale is written by Gerry Duggan with art by Aaron Kuder. The Defenders intro is written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez.

There’s a similarity between these two stories. In the Guardians, the Nova Corps has returned to intergalactic law enforcement, only to be challenged by the Shi’ar Empire’s Fraternity of Raptors. In the Defenders, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist are taking pre-emptive action against anyone trying to fill the crime vacuum left by the Kingpin moving into the mainstream.

QUALITY: The Guardians story is functional, but doesn’t really have the feel of either the movies or the previous Guardians comic books from Marvel. The Defenders story is much better, but its attempt to mesh the various Netflix series with the Marvel comics universe is not a smooth transition, asking us to believe its seeming “big bad” is actually as dangerous as the story would have him be. However, I liked it well enough that I’ll be following the ongoing Defenders series and giving Bendis more time to make his case.

ACCESSIBILITY: All of these characters are pretty well known to an audience larger than that of the comic books. I don’t think a new reader would have any real problems getting into the stories. But a little introductory copy would have gone a long way.

SALESMANSHIP: Nine pages of Marvel house ads, including a double-page spread of Guardians trades and separate full-page ads for the first issues of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy and the Defenders, do the job pretty well. However, the other ads seem to be targeting existing Marvel readers instead of new ones. I’m out of the ad copy business myself, but Marvel could sure use someone like me to bring an outsider perspective to these ads.

SCORE: Eight out of ten points.

                                                                               

Colorful Monsters [Drawn & Quarterly] is a 68-page comic book with solid chunks of four graphic albums: Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War, If Found...Please Return to Elise Gravel, Anna & Froga, and Moomin and the Brigands. That’s pretty impressive for a free comic  book, but doesn’t change the fact that three of the four features do nothing for me. I do like a wide variety of comic, but nobody I know of enjoys every comic book there is. It’s what I have started calling “The Krazy Kat Konundrum” wherein I can recognize something has merit but which doesn’t appeal to me at all.

QUALITY: Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War is the only one of these features I liked...and I liked it a bunch. Which should come as no surprise to those of you who have seen my glowing reviews of this manga series. I struggled to get through the other strips, my eyes glazing over as I did so. Once again I must quote Don Thompson and say “If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this.”

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. Introductory comments to Kitaro and If Found should give a new reader a leg up into those strips. But there was nothing similar for Moomin or Anna & Froga.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. This giveaway comic book has ads telling  readers about the other volumes in these four series.

SCORE: Five and a half out of ten.

                                                                               

Animal Jam [Dynamite] is based on some online playground. Over 70 million fans think it’s perfect for kids of all ages. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

[National Geographic] Animal Jam takes place in fictional Jamaa.  [The area contains] various biomes and cartoon player-created animals. Players can create an animal with an anonymous 3-part name, such as "Crashing Magicshark", dress it up with virtual clothing, and control it in the gameplay environment. The original six virtual animals that could be created were the panda, rabbit, tiger, wolf, koala, and monkey. Many more animals have been added following the six, letting players have the possibility of seeing one of their favorite animals in the game. Players can also customize their dens with furniture, chat with other players, adopt pets, play mini-games, buy additional furniture, clothing, and dens with gems and diamonds as a method of payment, attend parties, and go on various RPG-style adventures. There is a membership feature available costing real money. Members get access to exclusive dens, pets, animals, and adventures, among other things.
This FCBD issue has a 20-page Animal Jam story written and drawn by the prolific Fernando Ruiz. It also has a dozen pages of house ads for other Dynamite titles.

QUALITY: New animal Clover comes to Jamaa where she’s given a tour of the place and introduced to many animals, including the “Alphas” who protect the animals from the Phantoms who would harm them all. We get an amusing travelogue, a concise history of how the place works and some action/drama when Clover accidentally opens a portal to the realm of the Phantoms. It’s a solid story with lively art. Definitely one of the best FCBD issues.

ACCESSIBILITY: If a doddering old senior like me can follow Ruiz’s story with ease, anyone can.

SALESMANSHIP: Very good. Besides Animal Jam, we get ads for several Grumpy Cat titles, Boo the World’s Cutest Dog, Betty Boop, Bob’s Burgers and Doodle Jump Comics.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back with more reviews of Free Comic Book Day comics tomorrow. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella