Monday, October 16, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #229

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...2009’s Vixen: Return of the Lion by G. Willow Wilson and Spanish artist/illustrator Cafu; Super Gorillas Vs. The All-American Victory Legion by Alan Kupperberg; and The Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos Special #1 by Howard Chaykin!

MONDAY WITH THE MOVIES

I have watched a lot of movies this fall and I figure I should get around to reviewing some of them.

First up is Colossal, a 2016 film directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo and starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. Though it was not a box-office success, this genre-bending independent film has received well-deserved critical acclaim. Here is the synopsis from the Internet Movie Database:

Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City, and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to realizing that  she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.

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Hathaway’s performance as Gloria shows what a great actress she is. We see her reckless party-girl, her subservience to her boyfriend, her eagerness to accept charity from Sudeikis’s Oscar, her fear of him, and, finally, triumphantly, her taking responsibility for her life and the incredible situation she has found herself in.

Sudeikis is mildly scary as bar-owner Oscar, who has wanted Gloria since they were kids. He becomes malevolently scary when he learns that, just as Gloria controls the giant lizard-like monster across the ocean, he controls a giant robot. Their final confrontation is masterfully played and made for a satisfying ending.

The movie is light on giant monster scenes, but that’s okay. This is not a monster versus monster movie. This is a movie about people making bad choices and being needlessly cruel, and how at least one of them can get her life back and back on track.

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Colossal is a keeper. It’s a film I’ll watch again. Though it’s been panned by the usual amateur online critics - you know, the ones who have never created anything themselves - I’m confident it will be considered a classic in the years to come.

                                                                              

Every time I think there couldn’t possibly be any more 1970s/1980s Jaws ripoffs I haven’t seen, I stumble across...you guessed it...a 1970s/1980s Jaws ripoffs I haven’t seen. Originally titled Great White, The Last Shark [1981] is an Italian movie directed by Enzo G. Castellari and starring James Franciscus and Vic Morrow.

It did well at the box office, grossing over $18 million in its first month in the United States. However, its North American release was later blocked after accusations of plagiarism of Jaws. Here’s the IMDb synopsis:

James Franciscus tries to save hundreds of swimmers in a coastal resort after a Great White Shark starts terrorizing the area.

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Franciscus plays author Peter Benton. Morrow is crusty Ron Hamer, a professional shark hunter. Joshua Sinclair plays Mayor William Wells, who is running for governor and who won’t cancel his city’s  wind-surfing regatta. You can guess how that works out for him and his constituents. But not completely.

After Benton’s daughter loses a leg to the shark, Wells goes after the shark in his helicopter. Which is more than the mayor of Amity ever did. The shark eats him and his helicopter.

Benton and Hamer plan to blow up the big shark with dynamite. Hamer  straps a belt holding dynamite around his waist. The great white attacks Hamer from behind. The hunter gets tangled up in a line and dragged to his drowning death by the shark. Still feeling peckish,  the shark attacks a slab of ribs tied to a dock, taking the whole dock and those unfortunates on the dock with him. It dines on the idiot who tied the ribs to the dock and the TV cameraman ordered to film what he thought would be the shark’s capture. But, wait, isn’t it about time to blow up the shark?

Benton feeds Hamer’s body to the shark. The author is holding the detonator for the dynamite that’s still strapped to Hamer’s waist. Shark go all boom real good.

Benton punches an obnoxious TV reporter. If you had seen that guy and sat through this movie, you’d want to punch someone, too.

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The Last Shark is worth watching once, but only if, like me, you’re obsessive about seeing shark movies. If you’re looking to get real hammered while watching it, play a drinking game over how often it imitates Jaws. Not for lightweight imbibers of alcoholic beverages.

                                                                                 

I know it as Zombiesaurus [2017], which is what it’s called on the Region 2 DVD I bought, but its actual title seems to be Z/Rex: The Jurassic Dead. According to the box art, “There is only one thing worse than zombies on the loose...” After watching this movie, I’m assuming that refers to the movie itself.

Because thinking about the movie might trigger anxiety over the 82 minutes of my life I will never get back, I’m just gonna copy the back cover synopsis:

A militia unit, led by “Cuchilla” Vasquez (Raquel Pennington, UFC “The Ultimate Fighter”), Duque Wayne (Andy Haman, USA Freestyle Wresting Champion) and “Stick” Howard (“American Ninja Warrior”) must team up with a group of tech-nerd millennials after the United States is struck by ab Electromagnetic Pulse asteroid attack. The group are trapped inside a labyrinth compound by Dr. Wokick Borge,  a maverick scientist and political terrorist, responsible for the attack. This was just the beginning as the Evil Doctor now looks to unleash his ultimate killing machine, the ZOMBIESAURUS. This bio-engineered ultimate zombie dinosaur, is the complete predator. It either destroys or infects anything that gets in its way. The unit must find a way of stopping the doctor and his killing machine before all mankind is wiped from the face of the earth.

I would give you spoiler warnings if I could remember enough of the movie to spoil it for you. I have a vague memory of waiting for the good parts. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. The movie was released in the United Kingdom in June of this year. It has not yet been released in the United States. I suggest Trump move all funding from his Mexico wall and, instead, build a wall to keep Zombiesaurus from our shores.                                                                                 

A*P*E [1976] is pretty much a cheap South Korean knock-off of King Kong. It was known as King Kong’s Counterattack in South Korea, but has also been released as Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla (for a 1982 grindhouse re-release) and Hideous Mutant (for its first home video release). It was a co-production of the South Korean Kukje Movies and Lee Ming Film Company and Worldwide Entertainment (USA). It was filmed with 3-D effects. I saw it in 2-D and you could tell when those effects were on the screen.

Not unlike later Asylum productions, A*P*E was a mockbuster. It hit the theaters about the same time as the  Dino De Laurentiis remake of King Kong. Here’s the IMDb synopsis:

A newly discovered 36-foot gorilla escapes from a freighter off the coast of Korea. At the same time an American actress is filming a movie in the country. Chaos ensues as the ape kidnaps her and rampages through Seoul. 
 
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Picture King Kong if it started after the classic monster had been captured on Skull Island. The giant ape escapes from the freighter carrying it to South Korea. It fights a laughable Great White shark and then moves inland. Where it fights an equally laughable giant snake. It smashes a village or two and then comes across American actress Marilyn Baker [played by Joanna Kerns, best known for her role as Maggie Severs in the TV series Growing Pains and, in this movie, credited as Joanna DeVarona.]

The ape snatches Kerns, but she escapes with the assistance of her horny American boyfriend Tom Rose [Rod Arrants]. There are several other actors in the cast and they are all terrible. Even the movie
Kerns is appearing in is terrible. It seems to consist mostly of an unconvincing rape scene in which the director keeps yelling at the actor playing the rapist to be more rape-y but more gently rape-y. If the giant ape prevented that movie from being made, we owe him  a debt of gratitude.

The ape tracks Kerns down to the home of a Korean police officer. He wrecks the surrounding village to get the actress. In doing so, it’s possible he kills the officer’s wife and young children. They aren’t seen again.

The combined American/South Korean forces decide the actress would be acceptable collateral damage. They start shooting missiles with visible wires at the ape. The ape releases Kerns.

The ape dies. Kerns wonders why he had to die, which explains why she was making the rape movie. She’s an idiot. Arrants says “He was just too big for a small world like ours.”
 
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Watch A*P*E once, but only if you can watch it for free. It’s one of those films where you have to experience the awfulness to truly appreciate pretty much every other giant gorilla movie you’ve ever seen.
  
A*P*E runs 86 minutes and was reportedly made on a budget of just $23,000. In some dubbed versions, the ape is actually called King Kong. Apparently, identity theft has been a problem for longer than I realized.

That’s it for today’s bloggy thing. I’m going to be writing about my recent TV viewing tomorrow. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 15, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS COMIC-CON 2017

This year’s Grand Rapids Comic-Con will be held on Friday, October 20 through Sunday, October 22, at the spacious DeVos Place/Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids. Show hours are 2 to 8 pm on Friday, 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. There will be late night programming as late as 1 am on Friday and Saturday nights!

Grand Rapids is a nice blend of comics guests, media guests, literary guests, cosplay guests and YouTube guests. The event has multiple-tier programming, costume contests, gaming, celebrity photo shoots and more. As my bloggy readers know, I like that kind of variety.

The guest list is too vast for me to mention all of the cool folks who will be attending. I’ll try to hit on at least some of them in the next few paragraphs.

The comics guests include Jim Steranko, Mike Zeck, Allen Bellman, Jose Delbo, Thom Zahler and yours truly. I’ll be on the main stage on Friday at 3:30 pm to present TONY’S TIPS LIVE! Here’s the more or less accurate synopsis of what you can expect:

Join Tony Isabella, creator of Black Lightning, co-creator of Misty Knight and Tigra, 45-year veteran of the comics industry for a lively discussion of well, everything. I’ll talk comic books, giant monster movies, blogging and the development of my characters for TV shows including Netflix’s “Luke Cage” and “The Defenders” and, on the CW, “Black Lightning,” called the most anticipated new show of the mid-season. I’ll also be talking about Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. My return to my proudest creation will be hitting the comics shops in November and, oh, boy, do I have surprises for you. I’ll share stories from my career, comment on recent events in the comics industry, the entertainment industry, our troubled country and world and, to the best of my ability and considering the scope of the non-disclosure agreements I’ve signed, I’ll answer whatever questions we have time for.

Of course, if, while I’m on the main stage, I don’t get around to talking about what you’d like me to talk about or answer all of the questions you might have for me, I’ll be happy to do so at my booth in the exhibit and vendors area.

Getting back to the guests...

The media guests include Billy Dee Williams, Gates McFadden, Kevin Sorbo, Adrienne Barbeau, Jim Cummings and several other performers from TV shows, animated series and movies. I’m particularly psyched that Godzilla suit actors Tsutomu Kitagawa and Mizuho Yoshida, not to mention actors from Batman: The Animated Series and Star Wars. Fingers crossed, I’ll get to meet at least some of these wonderful guests over the weekend.

Among the literary guests are Ken Johnson and Ray Pointer. Johnson is the author of The Man Who Watched Batman and a leading expert on Batman: The Animated Series. Pointer is the author of The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer, a study of the legendary animator and and Fleischer Studios. Johnson will be at the convention all three days. Pointer is a Sunday only guest.

The Grand Rapids Comic-Con website shows fifty different artists in Artists Alley. The local artists really come together for the show. You’ll want to check out their work.

Based on my past visits to this convention, there will be lots of great cosplay on display. The website lists five cosplay guests and over a dozen costuming programs over the weekend. And, of course, there will be a costume contest at this family-friendly gathering.

There are YouTube guests. The Harp Sisters, masters of both concert grand and electric harps, will be performing at the convention and discussing their art and videos. Vegan Black Metal Chef writes and performs songs about cooking vegan food. I admit this is a form of expression I never realized existed.

Other events include a car show, a shorts film festival, an anime room, an art show and a large display of comic book and superhero memorabilia from the Hall Of Heroes Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. The latter was a highlight of my 2016 visit to the Grand Rapids Comic-Con. I can’t wait to see what curator Allen Stewart brings to the event this year.

Grand Rapids Comic-Con has eight stages and galleries for panel and other programming. There will be panels with actors, voice actors, cosplayers, comics creators and more. Fans attending the convention will be faced with a lot of tough choices. I figure I’ll be lucky to attend even one or two of the panels beyond my TONY’S TIPS LIVE presentation.

When I’m not sneaking away to check out the comics creators and a few of the celebrities...or playing hooky at a panel...you’ll find me at my booth. I’ll be selling Black Lightning Volume One, various Isabella-written comic books and my new book, July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic Book Life of Tony Isabella. I’ll probably have a couple boxes of stuff from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales, but I’ll make that call as I get closer to packing for the convention.

Whether you bought it directly from me or not, I will happily sign your Isabella-written stuff. There is no charge for my signature, but that will not be the case at all of my 2018 appearances. Just keep in mind that, if you have a large number of comics and things for me to sign and there’s a line of fans waiting to have me sign their items, I’ll sign a few of your items and ask you to come back when there isn’t a line.

As at all my appearances, you should consider my booth to be a safe space. Here’s my permanent statement on this:

The recent presidential election tragedy has empowered bigots and racists and misogynists. No matter how hard conventions might try to keep their events welcoming to all, there’s no such thing as a jerk detector. Some of these lowlifes will be at the conventions. They will try to make you feel uncomfortable. For what it’s worth, you are not alone.

If you feel uncomfortable at a convention that I’m at, consider my booth or table to be a safe space. Come to my booth and hang out as long as you need to. If the situation calls for it, I will ask the promoters to deal with whoever is making you feel uncomfortable. I have stood up to bullies my entire life and I’m not about to stop now. Word.


I’m looking forward to this, my third appearance at Grand Rapids Comic-Con. If you’re attending the event, please stop by my booth to say “hello” and chat for a bit. I wouldn’t be where I am today with the support of my friends and readers. I’m honored to do what I can to make your convention a little more special.

For more information on the Grand Rapids Comic-Con, check out the event’s website. Better bring a snack when you do so because there’s a whole lot of goodness to be found there.

                                                                                 
 
After Grand Rapids, I have one more scheduled convention for 2017. The Akron Comicon will be held Saturday and Sunday, November 4 and 5, at the John S. Knight Convention Center. We’ll be celebrating 40 years of Black Lightning with original artist Trevor von Eeden, original editor Jack C. Harris, second series artist Eddy Newell,  Mike W. Barr, who wrote my creation in Batman and the Outsiders and the fine folks from WBNX-TV, Cleveland’s CW. You can count on the WBNX booth to have all kinds of great CW swag. I’ll have much more to say about the Akron Comicon in the near future.

I don’t have any other appearances scheduled for 2017, but there’s a possibility that could change. 

Given the pace at which I've been working and dealing with all kinds of stuff, I'm thinking I might like to get away in December for a weekend at some convention some distance from chilly Ohio. The con would have to provide airfare for me and an assistant and a hotel room, but I wouldn't charge them an appearance fee. I would sign for free - assuming the event itself didn’t want to charge for my signature to recoup some of their expense of having me as a guest. I would appear on up to three panels a day as long as they weren't back to back...and would also consider being part of other programming during the convention. I wouldn't be a cheap date, but I'd be a fun one.

If you're a promoter, email me and I’ll get back to you as quickly as humanly possible. I’m only looking to add one con in December, so crunch those numbers and contact me as soon as possible. If no one contacts me, I guess I’ll have to fill the time with a shift or ten at the North Pole.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back tomorrow with movie reviews. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Friday, October 13, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #228

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The Hook Jaw Archives, a British comics classic from the 1970s is collected in its entirety for the first time! Plus: Drew Friedman’s Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Pioneering Legends Of Comic Books and Walt Disney’s Christmas Classics!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #227

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...The Customer is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond; Ms. Marvel: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson; and The Full-Color Guide to Marvel Silver Age Collectibles: From M.M.M.S. to Marvelmania by J. Ballmann

Monday, October 2, 2017

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT #3

Black Lightning news has been coming faster than I can keep up with it. There’s so much of it that I haven’t been able to get to your questions. Hopefully, I’ll answer at least some of them this time around.

Production on Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands reminds me of how it used to be when I was more involved with comic books. During this past week, while writing issue #4, I was also another pair of eyes looking over the coloring and lettering for issue #1, looking at artist Clayton Henry’s final pages for issue #2, and discussing the cover of issue #3. I feel like a time traveler.
                                                                                

The upcoming Black Lightning TV show from the CW, Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil and Greg Berlanti has added a new recurring cast member in Kyanna Simone Simpson. The actress is known for her work in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017), Show Me a Hero (2015) and Being Mary Jane (2013). According to Deadline Hollywood:

Simpson will play Kiesha [Henderson], partner-in-crime/best friend of Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain) and who attends Garfield High School. The daughter of Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton), Kiesha will encourage Jennifer to challenge her image as the perfect principal’s daughter.

Sidebar. I just hope Kiesha doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the comic-book Inspector Henderson’s son. If you read the first Black Lightning series in the 1970s, you’ll recall that son was secretly working for Tobias Whale and the 100.
                                                                               
                                                                                 

Stylin Online sells Black Lightning t-shirts and more. They have a Black Lightning Uniform T Shirt and also a Black Lightning T Shirt that shows the character. The latter design is also available as a pullover hoodie, youth hoodie, long sleeve T, juniors T, ladies T, tank top, youth T, juvenile T and toddler T. Just the thing for the family that enjoys Black Lightning together.

Justice Like Lightning: The Black Lightning Story is now available for viewing on YouTube. This is the condensed version of the short film by John Burgio that I mentioned the other day. John tells me there will be a longer version that focuses on both Black Lightning and my overall comics career. In 2018, I hope to incorporate this documentary into my “Tony’s Tips Live!” convention presentations. Showing it will give me cover when I change into my super-hero suit  and fight crime at the events. Be afraid, comic art plagiarists. I have my super-eyes on you!

This next item is indirectly related to Black Lightning. As I have told many an audience, my first black friends were comic-book fans. Even as a relatively young man, I thought it was unfair that there were so few black heroes in comics. So, when I started working in comics professionally, I tried to do what I could to address that inequality. That was the start of the road that led me to creating Black Lightning.

Leroy Crayton, one of my first three black friends, is the subject of this WVIZ-TV segment on selling your “killer comics collection.” It was written and produced by Dennis Knowles, who was also one of my first black friends. In a couple weeks, Dennis will be coming to Casa Isabella to interview me for a segment of his arts and culture program. In the meantime, I think you’ll enjoy Leroy talking about selling his comics.

One more news note before I turn to your questions. The Black Nerd Problems interview with me is now online. It’s mostly about Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, but it touches briefly on a few other subjects as well. I hope you like it.

Which brings us to your questions and my answers to them.

From Neil Ottenstein:

Is there any chance that Trevor von Eeden and Eddy Newell can be part of this series? Just doing a poster or a cover or something inside some of the issues?

Not at this time. I would love to work on Black Lightning or other comics with both of those talented gentlemen, but I couldn’t make it happen for this initial six-issue series. Trevor and I want to work together on something and will be discussing that when we meet at the Akron Comicon this November. Eddy’s been working full-time as a baker, but I’ll be talking to him as well.

From Alan David Doane:

If you could write one of those 1970s Marvel/DC Treasury Editions ala Superman/Spider-Man featuring Black Lightning and a Marvel character teaming up, who would you feature as the two villains they would take on (one from each company, of course) and who would you want to be on your dream-team to create the artwork for the project? Either 1970s creators or younger up and comers from today. Your choice.

That’s three questions in one, including one you didn’t outright ask me. If I teamed Black Lightning up with a Marvel hero, it would be Misty Knight. I almost went with Luke Cage, but, hey, Misty is my girl.

Tobias Whale would be the obvious DC villain for this team-up. But I think I’d go beyond the street-level choices on the Marvel side. Maybe the Wizard leading a new Frightful Four or the Super-Skrull leading an extraterrestrial version of the Frightful Four. It’s not like Tobias Whale has any feeling for any human being, so I could see him working with and trying to manipulate his alien allies of the moment.

As for the artists, there are so many amazing talents I could name here. But, if I’m going to be honest and since we’re talking doing this as a Treasury Edition, there can be only one dream choice for me. We’re friends, but we’ve never worked together on a comic book. My choice would be...

Neal Adams.

Come on, you know he’d be perfect for it.

Jermaine Dill wrote:

In your eyes, what is the likelihood of Black Lightning taking new, young superhero proteges under his wing? And no, when I ask this, I am not referring to Static, nor Thunder or Lightning. I'm talking about potential original creations of yours that would be added to Jefferson Pierce mythos as a junior partners/proteges, explicitly powered or otherwise, under Black Lightning.

I like the sheer layers presented in a hero story that features the hero earnestly becoming a mentor to younger super-heroes who become characters in their own right. I think Bruce Wayne’s Bat-family has made the character and his mythos as much as Batman himself has and his isn't the only example. I’d love it if Black Lightning’s world could one day include layers like that.

Jefferson Pierce is already like that to the high school students he teaches, so do you see the idea of him taking it a step further and mentoring one or a small handful of new young heroes and how it adds to the world you're building (or re-building) for Jefferson?

I ask this hoping Black Lightning's new series will be prosperous enough to organically lead to such an outcome, and in that context, wondering how you would feel about such a thing.
 
First, I assume you’re asking about my new Black Lightning comic books. Because I have no official position with the CW’s TV series. Though, since his daughters have powers, it’s not impossible you’ll get to see something like you want on the TV series, albeit all in the Pierce family.

When it comes to the new comic-book series, I don’t see him taking on any junior partners or proteges in this initial series. There’s already a lot going on in those six issues. As to what I’d like to do following those six issues, I’m going to play that close to the vest until I get the various pitches approved by DC.

But, since I’m writing Jefferson Pierce younger than I’ve written him before, I not inclined to make him the kind of mentor you are suggesting. It sound a little too much like a super-hero team to me and, honestly, I’m bored with most of those.

Ironically, long after I was fired from my second Black Lightning series, when I read the frankly terrible stories in which our hero supposedly murdered a man in cold blood and ended up in prison, I started working on a pitch that would have continued that terrible story in my own way. Using characters who weren’t DC characters but might seem familiar to readers.

The lead protagonist would have been executed for his crime in an electric chair. Which only made him seem dead. He would have risen from the grave with a mission. Free super-powered teens unjustly tried as adults and given too harsh sentences, then take them with him on a journey of redemption.

I didn’t follow through on this pitch because I thought my readers might feel cheated if I were to return to “Black Lightning” without actually returning to Black Lightning. I also thought it might just exasperate the pain I was suffering because of the old DC’s unfair treatment of me and my creation. So I put it aside.

In this initial six-issue Black Lightning series, I am consciously building a world for Jefferson Pierce. How that world develops is contingent on how well the initial series sells and how willing DC is to let me explore that world. Know that I am always looking to Black Lightning’s future and hoping I get to be a key part of that future for the rest of my life.

My friend Pam Arlt had questions about the Black Lightning series from the 1970s:

In everything I can find about the first Black Lightning series, including the trade paperback, the series is listed as having 11 issues.  However, in the trade paperback, there are 12 issues with 12 numbered covers.  What am I missing?

For those last two issues, why did Denny O'Neil take over as the writer?  I was surprised by this, especially since those were the last issues of the first run.
 
Black Lightning #12, which would have been dated November-December 1978, was cancelled before it was published. This was part of the “DC Implosion” in which many titles were cancelled. The story and cover were printed in DC Comics Cavalcade, a black-and-white, in-house publication given out to the contributors of the stories in its two issues. A cover planned for Black Lightning #13 also made its way into Comics Cavalcade.

The story intended for Black Lightning #12 eventually appeared in World’s Finest Comics #260 [December 1979-January 1980]. 

O’Neil’s story for issue #11 was originally written as a fill-in. When I quit the series over DC’s continued unwillingness to honor our original agreement concerning my creation, the story was used and O’Neil became the regular writer. He continued to write Black Lightning in World’s Finest and in one issue of DC Comics Presents. When the character moved to Detective Comics, he was passed on to other writers.

That’s all the Black Lightning questions in my “Black Lightning questions” folder. If you have any further questions, e-mail them to me and I’ll do my best to answer them in future installments of “Black Lightning Beat.”

I'm taking the rest of the week off to write a Black Lightning script and then take a vacation day or two. I’ll be back as soon as possible with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, October 1, 2017

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN SEPTEMBER

October is here, but we’re still dealing with the tragic hurricanes of September and other natural disasters around the world. My heart goes out to all those who have suffered seemingly unbearable losses in these terrible events. I’m especially concerned about my fellow Americans in Puerto Rico...and disgusted beyond my ability to fully process the sad truth that our Dumpster President has failed to respond to that crisis in a swift and adequate manner. Of course, it would help amp up the outrage against his failure if more than half of my fellow Americans realized Puerto Rico is part of the United States and that its people are also American citizens. Sometimes, I weep at how stupid and insensitive my nation is becoming. I have donated to relief efforts and I urge my bloggy readers to do what they are able in that regard.

Republicans continue to be horrible. Racists continue to revel in the empowerment provided them by our white supremacist president. The world itself continues to be justifiably concerned that nuclear weapons are in the hands of petulant children on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a scary time.

On a less global, but no less sad scale, we have lost so many dear friends and great people in recent months. Len Wein. Bernie Wrightson. Sam Glanzman. June Foray. Basil Gogos. Hugh Hefner. Naruo Nakajima. So many others.

I can’t complain about my life per se. I’m having a pretty good run of late. But, like all of you, there are times when sadness becomes a lump in my heart. That’s why, every day, I try to spend a couple minutes thinking about things that bring joy to my life. I post them on Facebook and Twitter every day and, at the end of the month, I put them all together for this bloggy thing of mine.

Here are the things that made me happy in September...

September 1: When the remaining three issues of my six-issue Black Lightning series become crystal clear to me. Now all I have to do is write them.

September 2: Ohio State beat Indiana. The Browns crushed the Bears. The Indians are on an amazing winning streak.

September 3: The cover of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2. It is so dangerously great.
                                                                              

September 4: Batman and Harley Quinn. A hilarious dark comedy that has both big laughs and touching emotional moments.

September 5: Howard Chaykin. I don’t like every comic he does. But he pushes his and our boundaries. That’s what creators are supposed to do.

September 6: Making new and sometimes surprise friends on Facebook and Twitter. I hope to meet some of you soon.

September 7: Getting interview requests from other countries, even if said interviews will be printed in languages I don’t understand. Hello, Google translate!
                                                                                    

September 8: Back Issue #100. I’m excited to see a comics mag reach that lofty milestone. Congratulations to editor Michael Eury and TwoMorrows Publishing.

September 9: HGTV’s no drama inclusion of gay couples on its shows without making a thing about it.

September 10: Naps. I’m finding these very useful for dealing with anxiety and stress. In this, my cat Simba is my sensei.

September 11: Len Wein’s life and legacy. His loss hurts more than I can express, but he was a great man, writer and friend.

September 12: Marvel Masterworks: Luke Cage, Power Man Volume 2. A great-looking book reprinting stories by me, Len Wein, Don McGregor and others with a new introduction by me.

September 13: Hit by Pitch: Ray Chapman, Carl Mays and the Fatal Pitch by Molly Lawless. This 2012 graphic novel is nothing short of amazing. Recommended for baseball and comics buffs.

September 14: Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. Deeply honest, moving manga that made me what to give its creator a hug.

September 15: Reading and enjoying Behaving Madly by Ger Apeldoorn and Craig Yoe. Great book on MAD imitators.
                                                                                    

September 16: Reading and enjoying Last Girl Standing, the amazing autobiography of comics legend Trina Robbins.

September 17: Secret Cleveland by Deb Thompson & Tonya Prater. The book is filled with quirky fun places to visit.

September 18: Actually finding the reference book I needed today in my train wreck of an office. Little victories.

September 19: The Orville. The punch line of the second episode had me literally laughing out loud.

September 20: The Black Lightning Train, powered by the enthusiasm of my creation’s fans. It’s like Soul Train, but with slightly less dancing.

September 21: I have my own Internet Movie Database page. It’s not 100% accurate, but that’s still pretty cool, right?

September 22: The Orville. Again. The third episode was funny, serious and emotional. A truly unforgettable episode.
                                                                                

September 23: Midnight, Texas season finale. A satisfying episode with a last scene “cliffhanger” that had me crackling with delight. Did not see that one coming.

September 24: So many NBA and NFL players and owners taking a stand against the racism and unpatriotic statements made by the dumpster president.

September 25: Ms. Marvel #19-22. G. Willow Wilson’s “Mecca” is an utterly terrifying tale of suppression and resistance, made more so because of our racist president. When comics speak truth to power, they lift my soul.

September 26: Spending a nice evening watching TV with Sainted Wife Barb: Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Scorpion.
 
September 27: Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, for speaking out on behalf of social justice issues. He is a true leader.
                                                                             

September 28: Full-Color Guide to Marvel Silver Age Collectibles: From M.M.M.S. to Marvelmania by J. Ballmann. So much nostalgic fun.

September 29: Bought a comic for my “July 1963" series. Ebay seller refunded the cost to thank me for all my work. So grateful for his support and that of fans, friends, and readers.

September 30: Getting a jump on Christmas with my Limited Edition Hanes Crewneck Godzilla Sweatshirt from Teespring. Kaiju Claus is coming to town!

ADDENDUM: After posting that last item on Facebook and Twitter, I learned that Teespring had used art by Todd Tennant without asking his permission or compensating him for their use of his art. I will be sending an email to Teespring telling them I will not be buying any products from them until they make good on their debt to Todd and asking my readers to also refrain from purchasing Teespring’s products. This kind of artistic piracy hurts artists and we should not stand by quietly when we see it.

I will be back tomorrow with a new installment of “Black Lightning Beat.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #226

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man by writer Chip Zdarsky with artist Adam Kubert; The Old Guard by Greg Rucka with art by Leandro Fernandez; and the first issue of the All-New Popular Comics.

TONY WILL *NOT* BE SHUFFLING OFF TO BUFFALO

This is the kind of announcement I hate to make, especially since I was very much looking forward to this convention. Unfortunately, I had to make some hard choices this afternoon.

I won’t be attending the Official Buffalo Comicon, which is being held, Saturday, September 30 & Sunday, October 1, at the Buffalo- Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York. I encourage my bloggy readers to attend the convention. It’s going to be a great event and I really do wish I could be there.

Unfortunately, situations with my work, my home and more have made this cancellation necessary. It was one thing after another...and then I took a realistic look at my priorities. Three days of travel and convention...and a likely fourth day to recover...would impact all the above too greatly at a time when I can’t afford to take so much time off.

I apologies to the promoters of the Official Buffalo Comicon and, of course, the Buffalo area fans. I will make it up to you in 2018. Thanks for your understanding. 

Tony Isabella

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 124

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 124th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.
                                                                               

The Rawhide Kid #137 [January 1977] reprints the Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers cover from Rawhide Kid #23 [August 1961] with significant alterations by Marvel’s art director John Romita.
                                                                                

This issue has two Rawhide Kid stories. “Stagecoach to Shotgun Gap” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers (6 pages) comes from Rawhide Kid #17 [August 1960]. That’s the first issue of title to feature the “new” Rawhide Kid. The previous sixteen issues starred a much older western hero. Here’s what I wrote about this story way back in 2012:

When the Kid boards the stagecoach, his presence unsettles the fearful passengers.  This is the first but not the last time that, for no good reason I can see, Rawhide will take the stage and leaves his horse...somewhere.  He earns the admiration, trust, and some homemade cake from his fellow passengers after he saves them from a trio of robbers.

This tale is also the first example of the Kid being not just good with his guns but absurdly good with his guns.  He shoots the masks off the robbers without hitting them.  The X-Men should travel back in time and sign this guy up.

                                                                                
From Rawhide Kid #23 [August 1961], “A Place to Hide” is an 11-page  story by Lee, Kirby and Ayers. Here’s what I wrote about the tale in April of 2012:

“A Place to Hide!” (11 pages) mixes some by now familiar elements of Rawhide Kid stories.  We start with the Kid on the run from the law.  He flees to the “spooky-lookin’ town” of Sagebrush where no one recognizes him.  Sagebrush is dominated by bully Luke Stokes, but, though he itches to take Stokes down a peg, the Kid pretends to be a coward rather than lose this relatively safe haven. This is a disappointment to pretty Nancy Stokes, who had hoped someone had come along who could stand up to her brother.

Like Popeye in one of those cartoons where he promises Olive that he will not lose his temper, the Kid keeps himself in check until Montana Joe and his henchmen - Ox and Weasel - hit town. Montana tries to force himself on Nancy.  When Luke learns who his sister’s new admirer is, he turns tail: “Don’t be a fool, Nancy! Suppose he wants to be friendly--what’s wrong with that? Montana Joe’s a big man! Yuh--you oughtta be proud!”

You can practically see the steam coming out of Rawhide’s ears as he faces down Montana Joe and his goons for two pages of punching and shooting.  He finishes up by slapping around Luke for a couple panels while explaining life to him:

“There comes a time when a hombre can’t stand by and let jaspers annoy a woman--while her spineless brother looks the other way.”

Words to life by as the Rawhide Kid rides off into the sunset...on account of all of these story-ending battles take place late in the afternoon:

“And so the Rawhide Kid rode on--leaving a girl behind who had just lost a bit of her heart which would never be replaced--leaving a town which would never forget him--and leaving another episode in the ever-growing legend of the Rawhide Kid--the most colorful gunfighter the west has ever known!”

                                                                              

The inside front cover of this issue is for Kenner action figures of The Six Million Dollar Man and his enemy Maskatron. For half a buck, you can join the Six Million Dollar Man Bionic Action Club. In case you were wondering, given inflation, Steve Austin’s bionic upgrades would cost $25,889,525.48 in 2017.
                                                                                 

Fascinating Art Industries has a half-page ad offering Marvel hero “heavy duty wipeable large book covers that fit!” The four covers feature Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Power Man. They cost a quarter each plus another quarter for shipping and handling.
                                                                                   

Simon & Schuster has a full-page ad for Bring on the Bad Guys, the newest collection of classic Marvel reprints. The cloth edition is $10.95. The paperback edition is $6.95. Also offered are the boxed set of Origins of Marvel Comics and Son of Origins of Marvel Comics for $13.95; the spiral-bound 1977 Marvel Memory Album Calendar for $3.95; the Mighty Marvel Strength and Fitness Book for $3.95; and  the Mighty Marvel Fun Book for $2.95. Postage and handling are paid for by the publisher.
                                                                               

Dinky Toys has a half-page ad for the “Dinky Starfleet.” These are durable die-cast metal models of ships from Star Trek, Space 1999, U.F.O. and other shows. You could get a “free” catalog for half a buck postage and handling.
                                                                                 

Remember Superhero Merchandise? They have a full-page ad this time around offering such delights as a Marvel World model featuring the Baxter Building, the Avengers Mansion and Doc Strange’s Greenwich Village pad for $7.84. Other items include Spider-Man Web Shooters ($2.56), Captain America and Spider-Man wrist radios ($11.64 each), and various Mego action figures at $4.38 each.

In the classified ads pages, there are 15 ads for mail-order comics dealers, down seven from the previous issue. In addition, there are also classified ads for John Buscema’s art classes and the Marvel Comics Index.

The same Marvel Comics subscription ad that’s been running for the past several issues runs in this issue as well.
                                                                                    
                                                                   
Another Marvel house ad consists of a half-page ad for the Marvel Treasury Edition featuring a brand-new 27-page team-up of Howard and the Defenders and some classic reprints. The bottom half of the page is a pitch for Marvel’s F.O.O.M. (Friends of Old Marvel) fan club and fan club magazine.
                                                                                  

Lincoln Enterprises has a full-page ad offering a variety of Star Trek collectors item. There are posters, coins, tribbles, photos, replicas and more. You could join the Star Trek Official National Fan Club for six bucks or send away for a free catalogue.

That brings us to this issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page. This time around, “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” sings the praises of Bring on the Bad Guys and John Buscema’s comic-book workshops. Stan mentions Bob Hall, identified as one of Buscema’s students, who has drawn issues of Champions and Super-Villain Team-Up. 
 
Most of the news items are for various Marvel comics: Logan’s Run by Gerry Conway, George Perez and Klaus Janson; Black Panther by Jack Kirby; Ms. Marvel by Conway, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott and two annuals: Marvel Team-Up and Dr. Strange. Representing Marvel’s black-and-white magazines, there’s an announcement of a giant-size special revival of Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction.

In personal news, Herb Trimpe and Linda Fite were congratulated on the birth of their daughter, Amelia Fite Trimpe. Gerry and Carla Conway moved from Manhattan to Connecticut. Roy Thomas finally made his move to California. Roger Slifer and Dave Kraft were somewhere as they hitchhiked to Oregon. Those crazy hippies!

The page wrapped with a tiny tease for Spider-Woman. She was coming soon in Marvel Spotlight!
                                                                               

Hostess Fruit Pies were the big delights sought by hero and villain alike in “The Incredible Hulk and the Green Thumb.” There are, of course, no credits, but I’m seeing some Dave Cockrum in this one. This is a particularly crazy Hostess ad, what with the Plant Lady and her anthropomorphic hench-plants Mari Gold, Rhoda Dendron and Artie Choke.
                                                                                     

Reprinted from issue #43 [December 1964], this issue’s Rawhide Kid pin-up was penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Paul Reinman.
                                                                                 

That’s followed by another comic-strip ad featuring Marvel heroes. “Spider-Man and Captain America Ricochet to Freedom!” This weird Hasbro toy was a rifle and a cartridge with a small car inside it. Once the cartridge was loaded, the rifle could be put on the floor at an angle. When the rifle was fired, the car would shoot out and speed across the floor. The Spider-Man version of this toy came out in 1975 and was a bigger hit in England than it was in the United States. Who drew the ad? The panels are too small for me to hazard a guess.
                                                                                  

Monogram Models had the inside back cover of this issue, offering its new B-24 J Liberator 1/48th scale plastic model. When finished, the model was 17-and-a-half-inches long with a wingspan of 27-and-a-half inches.
                                                                                

Ideal had the back cover of this issue. The Evel Knievel Precision Miniatures were made of die-cast metal and high impact plastic said to be “rugged enough for play.” There were six different miniatures shown in the ad.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” We have fourteen more installments to come before we get to the end of the title’s run. After that, I’ll do occasional installments to cover guest appearances I may have missed and later Marvel appearances of the Kid. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of “Black Lightning Beat.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT #2


This is where I bring you the latest Black Lightning news I can and am able/willing to share with you. It’s also where I’ll answer your questions on Black Lightning and related subjects. I hope to post a new installment of this blog-within-the-bloggy every two weeks, and more often if breaking news requires it.

Black Lightning has never been more in the public eye. Sometime in the “mid-season” part of 2018, Black Lightning the TV series will debut on the CW. In article after article, entertainment writers are calling it the most-anticipated show of the mid-season. This is exciting.

The Black Lightning series now has an Internet Movie Database page. There’s not a lot on it, but that will change as more episodes are completed and after the show starts airing on the CW.

It also turns out I also have my own Internet Movie Database page. Like the Black Lightning page, there’s not a lot on it. Some of what’s on it is erroneous. All the same, discovering the page came as a pleasant surprise. When I get a spare moment or ten, I try to correct that misinformation and add some new information.

This seems like a good place to remind you that I have no official position with the TV series. I’ve been treated with great respect and kindness by all involved parties, but I can’t get you hired as a writer, a cast member, an extra or any other job with the show. I’m the self-appointed “head cheerleader” for Black Lightning and  I’m content with that.
                                                                                 

When it comes to Black Lightning-related merchandise, sometimes I know about stuff and sometimes I don’t. For example, I didn’t know Black Lightning is apparently a “skin” in the video game Injustice 2. If someone at DC had told me this in advance, I would have responded with my own questions. What’s a skin? What’s Injustice 2? Don’t worry. I know how to Google. Once I get a free moment, I’ll do a Google search on that stuff.

When fans ask me what I think about this Injustice 2 thing, all I can say is that I’ve never had any interest in video games or the like. Of course, I’m thrilled for the additional exposure for Black Lightning. Of course, I’ll cash the check for whatever royalties I will receive from this. And, of course, most especially, if Black Lightning fans will get a kick out of this, I’m delighted for them.
                                                                              

In November of this year, DC Comics will publish Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1, the first issue of a six-issue series written by me and drawn by superstar artist Clayton Henry. This is my third time writing my creation and, given remarkable freedom by DC, I’m doing some different things with the character. He’s younger than I’ve ever written him before, but this is not a prologue series of any kind. It’s the start of the new continuity for Black Lightning that will be in place at least as long as I’m writing him. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to give away too much before the series debuts. When I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll be happy to answer your questions on the new series.
                                                                                
                                                                             
Black Lightning Volume 2 [$24.99] is scheduled for a late January or early February release. It’s available for Amazon pre-ordering, but the product information listed there is incorrect. This volume will collect the Black Lightning tales that were published between my original 1970s series and my second 1990s series. Those stories appeared in World’s Finest, DC Comics Presents, Justice League of America, Detective Comics, The Brave and the Bold, Batman and the Outsiders and Secret Origins. I wrote the Secret Origins story and, though nobody seems to have noticed, it sets up the Black Lightning series I wrote in the 1990s. At that time, the second series lived only in my mind. In addition to the reprint of the Secret Origins story, I also wrote a new introduction for this volume.
                                                                             

Black Lightning Volume 3, which would reprint the 1990s series, is tentatively scheduled for February of 2019. However, if the Black Lightning TV series is the huge hit I think it will be, and if you buy a whole bunch of copies of Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands and the Black Lightning trades, I have a hunch it could get into print sooner than 2019. I believe in Jefferson Pierce. 
                                                                                  
My next convention appearance will be the Official Buffalo Comicon, September 30-October 1, at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin Street in Buffalo. Other guests include John Wesley Shipp, Fred Williamson, Eric Roberts, Kevin Nowlan, Graham Nolan,  Steve Geiger and more. There will be great cosplayers and a variety of panel presentations. I’ll be doing my “Tony’s Tips Live!” panel sometime during the weekend. As with all my 2017 conventions, there will be no charge to have me sign Isabella-written comic books and books. That might not be the case at all my 2018 events.

My next-to-last 2017 convention will be the always wonderful Grand Rapids Comic-Con, October 20-22. It’s at the DeVos Place/Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids. There will be lots of terrific guests and more, but I’ll talk more about this convention in a near-future bloggy thing.

My last 2017 convention is the big one for Black Lightning’s fans. On November 4 and 5, at the John S. Knight Convention Center, the Akron Comicon will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Black Lightning with myself, the original series artist Trevor Von Eeden, the original series editor Jack C. Harris, the second series artist Eddy Newell and Mike W. Barr, the writer of Black Lightning in Batman and the Outsiders. This is the largest gathering of Black Lightning professionals ever at one con. There will be many other great guests at the event, but, for now, you can learn more about the show by visiting its website.

I’ve lost track of how many interviews I’ve done in recent weeks. John Burgio and a crew of college film students from Florida came to my home in Medina to interview me for a short documentary called Justice Like Lightning: The Black Lightning Story. The documentary is being edited and, if all goes well, I hope to have a copy to show at future “Tony’s Tips Live!” presentations.

I just finished doing a long interview with Wilson Simonetto for a Brazilian magazine called Mundo dos Super HerĂ³is (or World of Super Heroes). The completed interview, which I assume will be condensed for publication, runs over 3000 words. It’s entirely possible I’ll run some excerpts from it here.

I’m almost finished answering questions asked of me by Keith Reid-Cleveland for Black Nerd Problems. That interview will probably run about 1500 words when it’s completed.

In mid-October, I have two interviews scheduled. I’ll be speaking to the students of Michael Schuldiner’s course on super-heroes at the University of Akron. On the following day, a crew from WVIZ-TV, the local PBS station will be coming to my house and trainwreck of an office to interview and film me for a segment of that station’s arts and culture program. Look at me being all arty and cultured. Who’d a thunk?

Some tips for the well-dressed Black Lightning fan:

Black Action Tees has three different styles of t-shirts that are perfect for your next swanky gathering. There’s the Black Lightning Black Edition t-shirt:
                                                                              

There’s the adorable Soul Power Heroes and Heroines T-Shirt:
                                                                                

And the Black Rushmore T-Shirt:
                                                                               

In addition, from Marvel’s Luke Cage series on Netflix, I love my Pop's Barber Shop T-Shirt:
                                                                                

There was so much news this time out that I didn't have the room to answer any of your Black Lightning and related questions. I’ll do another installment of “Black Lightning Beat” on Thursday and get through as many of your questions as possible. If there’s something you’d like to ask me, e-mail me. The sooner I get your questions, the sooner I can answer them.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday,” your guide to the hard-riding reprints of Marvel’s greatest western hero. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella