Saturday, December 31, 2016


Trigger warning. This is another of those “me, me, me” bloggies in which I reflect on my life after my latest milestone birthday. By writing about it, I hope to gain new perspectives on the challenges ahead of me. I wish I could guarantee that you will get something out of it as well, some small bit of knowledge, some brief moment of epiphany, but you probably won’t. You should go out and have fun at a New Year’s Eve party or something.

We commence...

Nine days ago, I reached the lofty age of sixty-five years of age and, immediately, gained the wisdom that naturally come with all of those years. I wish. The truth is, whether we are six or sixteen or sixty-five, we’re all still trying to figure out the world around us. That gets even harder when the world around us gets more insane with each passing moment. But enough about Donald Trump, at least for the moment.

I saw a video clip of myself from over twenty years ago. I was on a Mid-Ohio-Con stage with Stan Lee. That was back when Roger Price held his convention in a converted barn at the Mid-Ohio Fairgrounds in Mansfield, Ohio. I look like a very round balloon in a jacket. I shuddered at the image.

Physically, I’m still overweight but not as bad as in that ancient clip. Indeed, my health is pretty good considering my age and the various medical problems I’ve overcome over the years. On my most recent visit to the doctor, he said my cholesterol was spectacular.

I take my blood pressure daily and it’s almost always in the normal range. When I have a particularly frustrating day or if something I’ve eaten doesn’t agree with me, then it creeps into the lowest numbers of the “pre-hypertension” range. Looks like I’m not going to go all explode-y on you any time soon.

Sometimes I make “old man” sounds when I get up from the couch and sometimes parts of me ache. I used to be able to lift two long boxes of comics at once. Now I stick to one. My usual four hours of sleep has drifted into six or seven.

Emotionally, well, I’m not going to claim things haven’t been a little tough around Casa Isabella. My mother-in-law suffers from both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia...and is being divorced by a much-younger-than-her husband who seems to have forgotten that part of his marriage vows about “for better or for worse.” More about that at some future time.

So Sainted Wife Barb’s mother is in a care facility and, being the only child - Barb's dad died shortly after we were married - she’s handling her mother’s affairs with the welcome help of some of her friends and a precious few family members. I do what I can to ease Barb’s burden, but it never seems like enough to me.

Barb needs to sell her mom’s house so Medicaid can assume the cost of her mom’s care and treatment. It’s a difficult time for her as she has so many memories of what the house used to be when her dad was alive. It wouldn’t be prudent for me to discuss too much of the house situation at the present time, but I’ve been making too many trips there and it wears on me greatly. Not as much as it wears on Barb, but it still leaves me exhausted.

Barb and our kids are as wonderful as ever. We are all concerned as to what our country might become, and what will happen to friends who don’t fall into the right-wing vision of our country, but we’ll do what we can to stand by those so unfairly targeted by the bigots and fools of Donald Trump’s America.

Barb works too hard. Eddie works too hard. Kelly works too hard and will be looking for new employment soon. Things are never as easy and simple as they should be. Life is complicated even on a day-by-day basis.

I don’t work as hard as I would like to. Those halcyon days when I could write a comic-book script overnight are behind me. I have a lot of paying work on my desk and a lot of personal projects I want to pursue, but sometimes despair if I will ever be able to accomplish all that I want to accomplish.

I have anger issues. The callousness, the hate and the stupidity of the Trump supporters often enrage me. For them, truth is what they want it to be and not what it is. They are hurting the country that I love and, no matter how quickly we defeat them, those scars will be on our nation’s soul for many generations to come.

Despite my anger issues, which I swear I’m working on, I’ve tried to forgive those who have wronged me. Even when they’ve failed to admit they wronged me and made even the slightest move to apologize or make amends for the wrongs. I know how hard that can be because I’ve had to do it myself on several occasions.

I don’t and will never apologize for what happened to some folks as a result of their wrongdoing. The thieves who didn’t get away with it. The attorney who lost his license. The comics people who broke their word to me. The comics people who slandered me and, in some cases, continue to lie about me. What happened to them is on them. Accepting that instead of blaming me for the inevitable outcome of their actions won’t be easy. They should still try.

I have annoyance issues, but they are probably the same ones that you have. Because I have a wife and two kids out there working in the world, because Barb and I both have elderly mothers, because we have friends all over the world, because I get business calls from all over the world...when the phone rings, even when an unfamiliar number is shows up on our caller ID, I usually answer it. You can imagine how thrilled I am when the caller is a robot or, worse, an actual human being trying to scam me, sell me something, convince me to donate to their abhorrent causes, vote for candidates who are just as abhorrent, or some such. If Rachel from Cardholder Services ever showed up at my front door, I fear I would strangle her on the spot. Which might be worth going to prison for.

Something that doesn’t annoy me are the anonymous trolls who keep trying to get my goat. Most of them amuse me. I can’t fathom what they think their insults are accomplishing. For every one of them, there are thousands of friends and readers who really like me and my writing. Why should the comments of cowards weigh more heavily on me than all those positive comments? Of course, math has never been been a strong point with these jerks.

With all the terrible people and things in the world, I sometimes feel something akin to survivor’s guilt over how well my own life is going. I am on excellent terms with the two biggest publishers of comic books and related entertainment in the country. I’m doing work that is challenging and fun and important, working with folks I really admire and like and respect.

I have a great wife. I have great kids. I’m so proud of them that my heart near bursts when I think about them...which I do all the time because they’re so great.

I live in a nice house on a nice street in a nice, albeit way too Republican city. I have wonderful neighbors and have watched their children go up to be capable and wonderful adults.

I have great friends and great readers...and the two groups overlap to a great extent. This bloggy thing and my Facebook pages bring me great joy. If I’m using the word “great” too much, it’s because I found an unopened box of the word in my closet and want to use it up before the end of the year.

Life is good for me. I pray to what I like to think of as the good in the universe that it should be as good for all people who don’t harm other people as they go about their daily lives. I am content in my life. I am thrilled with my life. I have hope for the future even in the midst of madness. 

We all have our little self-improvement projects. The one I seem to have made some progress on is learning not to beat myself up when  things don’t go as planned. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to go. I have learned to accept that.

So, yes, I’m annoyed that I’m still sending out Christmas cards and gifts...and will probably be doing so for a couple weeks into the New Year. I’m annoyed that I haven’t gotten around to doing some of the things I wanted to do in this bloggy thing. I’m annoyed I have not made more progress on the two non-fiction books I am writing. I’m annoyed I have dozens of emails I should have responded to by now. I’m annoyed that there aren’t more hours in the day and more days in the week. But that last one isn’t my fault.

So, okay, I’ve failed some of my own expectations for myself. The alternative would be to set the bar so low I can never fail. What would be the fun in that?

I have love in my life. I have challenges in my life. I’ll embrace both of them. If I have guiding principles, they have come from the entertainments I cherish.

Never give up. Never surrender. Always forward.

Those will be my battle cries for the next sixty-five years of my life. Because, even if I don’t make it to age 130, I plan to stick around to haunt the shit out of bad people.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my New Year’s resolutions for the comics industry. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, December 30, 2016


These last two months of 2016 have been a struggle in so many ways. Even with the horrifying prospect of Trump and his demonic legion of deplorables running my nation (into the ground), I am eager for 2017 to arrive. There’s a lot I want to do next year and maybe it will include some of the comic-book and other characters I’ve been writing about this week.  

On Tuesday and Thursday, I started to answer this frequently-asked question: Which character or series that you’ve never written would you like to write?

We continue on that subject...

Space Cabby. When I first encountered this recurring character in old issues of Mystery in Space, I loved the idea of a space taxi. Maybe we didn’t have the flying cars and personal jet packs we had been promised in so many works of science fiction, but maybe, just maybe, we could travel between the planets and the moons in a cab. Alas, the Space Cabby stories were too short to address what must have gone into the creation, the operation and the maintenance of this interplanetary transportation option.

That’s what I would do if I were writing Space Cabby. I’d show the how and the why of his occupation and the solar system (and beyond) in which he earns his living. I’d spend more times with his fares and his fellow drivers. I’d try to include action, humor and human drama in these extended tales. Sort of a combination of TV’s Taxi and Hill Street Blues.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is my favorite of the various Star Trek series. It got better each and every season and, when it came to an end, I thought it was too soon. There were lots of stories to be told in and around that station. I would like a chance to write them.

Spoiler alert. In my Deep Space Nine adventures, sooner rather than later, you would most definitely see the return of Commander Sisko. He’s one of the best and most inspirational characters in the Star Trek Universe.

Sugar and Spike. I love the original Sheldon Mayer stories, which should not be taken as a dig at the recent Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations series. I’ve never read that series, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. So much so that I ordered a copy of the collected edition and will be reading it soon. No, when I say I want to write Sugar and Spike, I’m saying I want to write those cute babies with a language all their own, getting into mischief and struggling to figure out an adult world that just does not seem to make sense. I wish I could assure them that it’ll ever make sense. It won’t.

I have been told Mayer never wanted anyone else to write Sugar and Spike. If he were still with us, I would respect that. But, as he is not still with us, I’d relish the challenging of writing those great creations of his as well as he did. I don’t think I (or any other writer) can do that, but I believe I could bring readers an entertaining comic book set in our modern world. Heck, at age 65, I might well be as confused about aspects of the modern world as a couple of babies would be.

Tremors. I actually pitched a Tremors comic to a publisher after I saw the second movie in the series. My pitch has the original trio of graboid-fighters - Valentine McKee, Earl Bass and Burt Gummer - dealing with hard times and heartbreak. Burt is still in love with ex-wife Heather while Val and Earl are estranged from their ladies: scientists Rhonda LeBeck and Kate Reilly.

All the guys have left is the town of Perfection and the valley it lies in and they might not have that for long. The government is in the process of eminent domain-ing the whole area. The feds believe that graboids can be used as weapons in the Middle East. What could possibly go wrong except everything?

When everything goes wrong, the government nukes the valley. Which solves the immediate problem but also spreads “monster spores” all over the United States and elsewhere. However, behind every atomic cloud is a silver (albeit radioactive) lining.

Val, Earl, and Burt find themselves in demand as monster-hunters. Not just graboids, but other creatures mutated by contact with the “monster spores.” This would allow for a variety of creatures and locations. But, wait, there’s more.

Heather, Rhonda and Kate form their own monster-hunting business. Nothing like a healthy does of competition and graboids to rekindle the flames of love.

Some of the above has shown up in other Tremors movies and even the too-short-lived TV series. There’s a new Tremors TV series in the works even as we speak. So, while the above pitch might not useable today, it’s what I pitched back in 1997.

The Web. All of the revivals of this 1940s super-hero have missed the mark by miles. The one I thought was a stroke of genius - even though its execution has flawed - was the 1960s version of the hero from “Mighty Comics” aka Archie Comics in masks and tights. Hear me out on this one.

John Raymond, college professor, criminologist and mystery writer, should have been one smart super-hero. Not unlike the FBI agents we have seen in shows like Criminal Minds. I’d play him that way with one exception. He’s absolutely helpless when it comes to his wife Rose Wayne. The grim crime-fighting stuff would be lightened by the comedic possibilities of the unflinching Web trying to balance his day job and his night job and keep his marriage intact. Though the comedy of this situation was played too broadly in the 1960s comic books, it’s still a novel idea.

Pulling this off would be challenging. Which is one of the things I look for in my comics projects.

Weird Science. This John Hughes movie from 1985 is one of my all-time favorite movies. Two high-school outcasts manage to create the beautiful and magical Lisa, who was played by Kelly LeBrock, who I was in love with until she married Steven Seagal. And maybe even a little after that.

There was also a Weird Science TV series which ran for 88 episodes from 1994 to 1998. It starred Vanessa Angel as Lisa and it wasn’t as good as the movie. But it was still fun.

I pitched this as a comic book to a couple of different publishers, but could never get one of them to even explore acquiring rights to the property. I still think it could work in today’s marketplace. It’s got comedy, nerdy heroes, teen angst and a powerful woman as one of its three leads. I didn’t have a master plan for the comic. I just figured on doing done-in-one stories that would take place in current times. That’s still what I would do.

The Whisperer. One of my favorite pulp heroes, second only to Doc Savage. Here’s what I’ve written about him in the past:

The Whisperer is Police Commissioner James “Wildcat” Gordon...and now you know where Batman co-creator Bill Finger got the name for the only cast member besides Bruce Wayne and his other self to appear in the Dark Knight's first story and the name of one of his other DC Comics creations. Gordon fights especially cunning and  violent lawbreakers by posing as a mysterious criminal mastermind. The Whisperer is a quirky character - I’d love to write him myself - but his foes are much more down-to-earth than those who foolishly opt to go up against Doc Savage or The Shadow.

Gordon is almost a prototype Wolverine.  He’s short, bad-tempered, feisty and dismissive of authority.  He regularly defies the mayor of the unidentified city in which he operates.  Every now and then, he punches out his politically-appointed deputy commissioner. I  not only could write this guy, I could be this guy.

In the couple of years since I wrote that, I’ve been amazed at how many people have agreed that I could, indeed, be the Whisperer. I don’t know if that’s a compliment, but I’m good with it.

Given the character’s rather fluid approach to law-enforcement, I would probably set a comic-book series in the 1930s. But don’t hold me to that. Given the craziness of America 2016, Gordon might well be able to get away with his wilder antics in a Trump-run country. Either way, writing new adventures of The Whisperer would be great fun for me.

As long as I didn’t identify too strongly with him.

Zippo. Yeah, the 1940s super-hero who fought crime in Clue Comics for eight issues. He had wheels on his feet and did amazing things with them. Let me be honest with you...

Zippo isn’t actually a character I want to write.

At present, when I sum up my comics career, I can tell people I’ve worked on everything from Amazing Spider-Man to Young Love. That’s right. I’ve worked on comic books from A to...Y.

See the problem there? I mean, I could cheat and count Zatanna on account of I wrote her once in an issue of Hawkman. Which doesn’t seem like enough to me.

I need to write a comic book whose title starts with the letter Z. Only then will I feel complete.

“Z” suggestions are welcome...especially from publishers who have or who are willing to start a comic book with a title that starts with “Z”. My fate is in your hands.

On that bit of silliness, thanks for sticking with me through 2016. I’ll be back tomorrow with some sort of “appropriate for the final day of the year” bloggy thing. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 29, 2016


On Tuesday, I wrote there had been a slowdown in the family matter occupying so much of my time, which meant I could return to full-scale blogging earlier than I had anticipated. Though that slowdown turned out to be short-lived, I’m not going to take any more days off from this bloggy thing of mine. I consider it vital therapy for  my weary mind and soul. However, for the next day or two, I may be posting new bloggy things later in the day than has been the norm. 

When we chatted on Tuesday, I started to answer a frequently-asked question:

Which character or series that you’ve never written would you like to write?

We continue on that subject...

Mary Worth. The appearance of the newspaper comic strips’ leading dispenser of advice and bromides on my list will surprise my close friends who know how much I loathe Mary Worth. Most recently, the story wherein a dunderheaded single mom somehow misses every sign that her drug addict son was addicted to painkillers had me rolling my eyes from its start to its “a son needs a mom and here, read the Bible more” finish. How, I asked myself, is it possible no one has terminated Mary and her insipid Charterstone friends with extreme prejudice? When the answer came to me, I realized Mary Worth was a comic strip I wanted to write.

The Charterstone residents are protected because they’re all former government agents. Except they don’t know all their neighbors are also former spooks. Only Mary knows this because she’s the “warden” of this community.

Someone learns Charterstone’s secrets and launches a synchronized strike that takes out all the residents. Except for Mary, the best there is at what she does. Mary survives. She takes off the makeup, padding and wigs that made her look so dowdy. This senior citizen is hot and pissed off. She has failed those under her protection. Even if she must travel around the world to find them, she’s going to take down the assassins...and whoever sent them to dispatch the late residents of Charterstone. Mary’s advice? Don’t get in her way.

Don’t roll those eyes at me. You know that you would totally read this newspaper strip.

The Mole Man. It’s 1963 and the Marvel Age of Comics is beginning. Shunned by his fellow man, brilliant but physically unattractive scientist Rupert Harvey Elder leaves the surface world behind to live in the underground world he has discovered. But when an evil genius named Reed Richards steals a spaceship with three friends, gains fantastic super-powers and threatens the world, Rupert fights to protect the very people who rejected him. It’s a battle for New York like you’ve never seen!

Think about the heroes of the pre-hero Marvel monster adventures. They were mocked for their lack of physical strength or for being mild-mannered or for being nerds. Yet they managed to defeat some of the greatest threats our planet ever faced. Is the notion of the Mole Man as a hero that different from the earlier tales...or from Ben Grimm? The best Marvel heroes have always been outcasts in one way or another.

The Newsboy Legion. This series about four newsboys and the police officer/costumed hero who befriends them ranks with Captain America as my favorite Joe Simon and Jack Kirby creation. I used to collect their Star Spangled Comics appearances back in the day. If I were writing these characters, I would set my stories in the early 1940s and have a ball researching the New York City of that era.

Ranma Saotome. Ranma 1&2 was the first manga/anime series I read. It’s endlessly inventive and hilariously funny. Like Kitaro, who I wrote about on Tuesday, I’d like to bring the Saotomes, the Tendos and their wacky supporting cast to the USA for an extended visit.

Rawhide Kid. You knew this Marvel western hero, brilliantly created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and brilliantly continued by my friend Larry Lieber, had to be on my list. My many “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” bloggy things should have tipped you off.

If I were writing new Rawhide Kid comics for Marvel, I’d ignore any stories after Lieber’s run. I’d probably explore some of the ideas readers wanted to see back then, such as the Kid going overseas or becoming a lawman or settling down. I’d also use a whole bunch of guest heroes and guest villains.

My Rawhide Kid back-up plan, which I’ve actually done some work on, is to strip the character down to the non-Marvel elements that made him my favorite of the company’s western hero and create a brand-new character in a brand-new setting.

Sailor Moon. Many years ago, Carl Gafford pitched Topps Comics on getting the license to do Sailor Moon comics. As someone who’d been watching the Americanized cartoons with my young daughter Kelly, I was more than happy to sign on as writer if Topps had gotten rights to do this comic-book series. I still love these characters, so I’d be up for writing them today. My aim would be to retain the charm of the original cartoons and update them for the modern audience.

Shako. Attempting to imitate the success of the killer shark series “Hook Jaw” in the infamous British weekly Action, 2000 AD launched “Shako”. The title star was a killer polar bear who had swallowed a deadly bio-weapon. Shako liked long walks on the arctic ice and slaughtering the CIA agents hunting him. Shako appeared in 2000 AD Progs 20 to 35, dying in the final episode. Given my love of cheesy monster movies featuring nature turning on mankind, and given that I’ve figured out how to revive Shako, I think I’d be a natural to write a new Shako series for 2000 AD. Which would also fulfill my dream of writing for said legendary weekly.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for the finale of my long answer to the question of what characters/series I have never written that I would like to write. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 95th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #109 [March 1973] has a new cover by Larry Lieber with George Roussos inking. Inside, the 14-page “The Vengeance” was written and penciled by Lieber, inked by Roussos, colored by Dave Hunt, lettered by June Braverman and edited by Roy Thomas.


As we might have said in the 1970s, “The Vengeance” was one heavy story. The Rawhide Kid rides into the small town of Boulder Bluff. The town has no sheriff and the Kid figures he can rest there for a few days. But the townspeople had spotted him coming. They ambush him, capture him and prepare to lynch him.

Leading citizen Sam Rathmore stops the lynching. He says the Kid’s past shouldn't be held against him and offers our young hero a job on his ranch. Rawhide gratefully accepts and enjoys this new peaceful life of his.

Things aren’t peaceful for Rathmore. He’s having nightmares. When he cries out in his sleep, Rawhide rushes into the house to see what’s going on. The rancher and his wife tell the Kid it was just a bad dream, but it’s more than that. Mrs. Rathmore thinks the Kid can help, but her husband says nobody can help them.

The Rathmores have been receiving threatening letters from a group of ex-Union soldiers. These soldiers want revenge on Rathmore for something. They move from sending letters to poisoning cattle and stealing steers. They set the barn on fire.

Rathmore says these are just accidents, but Rawhide knows better. He tracks the soldiers to their camp, only to be caught by a trap. The Kid tries to fight them, but they have him outnumbered. Captain Langley, the leader of the soldiers, admires Rawhide’s loyalty and courage, but says the Kid has enlisted in the wrong cause.

The soldiers leave Rawhide tied up and go to finish their business with the rancher. Nightwind, the Kid’s horse, finds his master and frees him by chewing through his bonds. Finding the Rathmores gone from their ranch, Rawhide rides into town and arrives in time for the big finale.

Langley has seized Rathmore and his wife. He wants to put Rathmore on public trial...and then kill him. The townspeople protest, but Langley drops a truth bombshell on them:

This innocent looking old man was the commandant of Huntfield Prison! 
The townspeople are aghast. Huntfield was the most infamous prison in the South during the Civil War. It made Andersonville seem tame by comparison.

Langley recounts the horrors of the camp. The hunger. The disease. Rathmore tries to defend himself:

Yes, conditions at Huntfield were terrible, but it wasn’t my fault! Everyday I begged for more personnel, food and medicine! But the South was losing the war, and they couldn’t spare men or supplies!

Rathmore has told this to the prisoners, but his words could not cure the dysentery or stop the starvation. Langley vowed vengeance and is determined to pass judgment on Rathmore.

Rathmore pleads for his life. After the war, he was tried and found innocent of wrongdoing. Langley says he was not tried or found innocent by his victims. The soldiers find Rathmore guilty and sentence him to death.

Rawhide says they have to go through him first. The soldiers draw on him and the Kid has no choice but to dispatch them.

Langley is the only one left standing. He grabs his sword and runs over to Rathmore. Langley doesn’t make it. He’s shot in the back by Rathmore’s wife:

I am a woman...and all my life I have hated the violence wrought by men! But I guess even a woman will kill when there is no other choice.

Rathmore and the Kid agree. Rawhide says:

Langley was suffering from an incurable disease! A disease that poisons the soul...and destroys humanity...a disease called “Hate”!

Rathmore will know peace, but the Rawhide Kid is moving on, always in search of his own peace and tranquility.


This never-reprinted story haunted me for a long time after I first read it and still does. With Rathmore serving as an officer of an evil empire of slavers and Langley’s men serving a man driven mad by his need for revenge, it can be seen as a cautionary tale about following bad leaders. It definitely resonates with me as my nation faces an administration that does not bode well for the majority of its citizens.

Backing up the lead is the non-series “Man of the West” (5 pages) by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. The story is reprinted from  Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963] and is a favorite of mine. You can read what I had to say about it here.

“Man of the West” is followed by a full-page house ad for Kid Colt Outlaw #168 [March 1973]. The Grand Comics Database isn’t sure who pencilled the issue’s new cover, putting forth both Alan Weiss and Rich Buckler as guesses while being more certain that the pencils were inked by Frank Giacoia. Inside the all-reprint issue are three stories of the title hero and one non-series story...

Kid Colt: “Durk Drago, the Man Who Beat Kid Colt” (6 pages) by Stan Lee and Jack Keller. From Gunsmoke Western #55 [November 1959].

Kid Colt: “Fury At the Circle-R” (5 pages) by Lee, Keller and inker George Klein. From Kid Colt Outlaw #87 [November 1959].

“The Meeting” (5 pages) by Lee and Bob McCarthy. From Western Kid #4 [June 1955].

Kid Colt: “Mark of the Outlaw” (5 pages) by Lee, Keller and Klein. Also from Kid Colt Outlaw #87 [November 1959].

This issue’s “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page leads with a “Stan’s Lee’s Soapbox” teasing the arrival of FOOM without identifying that FOOM is the company’s new fan club. That’s followed by news items of varying lengths:

Artist Herb Trimpe and writer Linda Fite got married.

The tabloid newspaper Monster Times devoted an entire issue to the Amazing Spider-Man with a large spread on John Romita. Meanwhile, The New Yorker featured a full-length piece on new Spidey scripter Gerry Conway. I’d love to see both.

“Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria” made its debut in Creatures on the Loose. Based on the prose novels by Lin Carter, it’s written by George Alec Effinger and drawn by Val Mayerik.

The deluxe Marvel Origins has been delayed, but it’s still in the works. Release date to be announced.

Roy Thomas and then-wife Jeanie Thomas, along with Jim Steranko, thanked the New England Comics Convention for making them guests of honor at the event.

Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema have been laying the groundwork for some shocking developments in Captain America.

Don McGregor has joined the Bullpen as an editorial assistant. He will be working with Steve Gerber.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page is condensed to fit the annual, almost too small to read “Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.” Thanks to a magnifying glass, I can tell you the average total paid circulation of The Rawhide Kid was 161,577 per issue.

There were three letters from readers. The pseudonymous Gringo is on hand to - gasp - praise Rawhide Kid #105's ““The Sinister Sons of Ma Morgan”. Myself, I was less impressed with that one.

Tony Wright of Decatur, Georgia is incensed at the lack of corpses in Rawhide Kid and other Marvel westerns, what with so many of the heroes shooting guns out of the hands of their opponents. Marvel’s response is that the heroes don’t like killing people. My response is that Wright hasn’t been reading the comics closely. This issue’s Rawhide Kid story, for example, has five gun deaths.

Preston Wayne Cox of Bassett, Virginia asks the eternal question of whether the Rawhide Kid’s name is Johnny Clay or Johnny Bart. The Marvel letter-answerer doesn’t get it right.

For the record, the Kid’s real name is Johnny Clay. But, as he was raised by an ex-lawman with the last name as Bart, he went by the name Johnny Bart until he reconnected with his brothers.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more characters I’d like to write.
© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


There has been a slowdown in a family matter that was occupying so much of my time, which means I can return to full-scale blogging a few days earlier than I had anticipated. When last we chatted here, I’d promised to answer a frequently-asked question:

Which character or series that you’ve never written would you like to write?

Keeping in mind that I will undoubtedly forget some characters and series, here are the ones that leap to mind. I’m presenting them in alphabetical order because sometimes I have to surrender to my OCD.

87th Precinct. This outstanding series of over 40 police procedural novels were written by Evan Hunter under the pseudonym Ed McBain. Detective Steve Carella is the “star” of the series, but the cast includes many other intriguing characters and, in the form of “The Deaf Man,” even a super-villain or sorts. I was introduced to these books by legendary comics writer Don McGregor, who read passages of the book out loud during lunch breaks in the Marvel Bullpen. Though Don says he doesn’t remember this, I owe him a life-long debt for acquainting me with the cops of the 87th.

The series has given birth to several movies, including one made in Japan, a television series and two issues of a comic book published by Dell in 1962. I’d probably have to fight my dear friend Don to the death to write a new comic-book series with these characters, but it would be his own fault for sharing these treasures with me. If I couldn’t write 87th Precinct comic books, I would be just as interested in writing comics based on two of my all-time favorite TV series: Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.

The Avengers. Not the Marvel super-team, but the British TV series starring secret agents who never seemed to be able to save victims of heinous schemes but were aces at avenging those poor souls. When I think of the Avenger, I think of John Steed and Emma Peel because they are two of the most awesome heroes ever to appear on the small screen. However, some of the previous and latter team members would doubtless make occasional appearances if I were writing an ongoing Avengers title.

Babylon 5. Created, produced and written by J. Michael Straczynski, this was simply the greatest science fiction TV series ever. It was conceived as a five-season “novel” and accomplished that lofty goal in brilliant fashion. Although the stories of some characters were completed, there are stories to be told in and around the existing stories and, likewise, stories to be told with the characters whose stories weren’t finished. I’m not a science fiction writer per se, but I’d bust my hump to do right by Babylon 5.

The Barker. Old-time circuses and traveling carnivals fascinate me, though I’ve never pursued that fascination. This 1940s series from Quality Comics, created by writer Joe Millard and artist Jack Cole,  revolved around barker Carnie Callahan and the sideshow performers of Colonel Lane's Mammoth Circus. Continued by Klaus Nordling, the series is a favorite of mine. Writing new Barker stores, still set in the 1940s, would give me an excuse to research old-time circuses and traveling carnivals.

Batman ‘66. In recent years, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Batman television show that kind of sort of embarrassed me when it first aired. I think it’s because many current Batman comics have gone too far in the other direction, making Batman almost as brutal and deranged as his foes. The gentler “Citizen Batman” of the show is now a refreshing take on the classic character and could be fun to write.

Batman and the Joker. I loathe the Joker. He’s terribly overused. He should have been put down by the Batman years ago because he can never be kept behind bars and always escapes to kill innocent folks by the dozen. I have exactly one Batman/Joker graphic novel I want to write and it’s a story no one has ever come close to telling in any medium.

Beetle Bailey. Creator Mort Walker is a comic-strip genius. There is a reason this feature has remained popular for so many decades. But it’s in serious need of updating. Sorry, but Sarge brutalizing Beetle isn’t funny. It’s a serious crime, punishable by military tribunal and prison time. The challenge of bringing Camp Swampy and his soldiers into modern times, including service overseas, while keeping it funny, would be one I’d relish.

Blonde Phantom. This 1940s Marvel heroine did everything the male crime-fighters did while wearing an evening gown and high heels. I find her both sexy and ludicrous. I could write the heck out of a new Blonde Phantom series set in her original time period.

Cosmo the Merry Martian. Created by Bob White for Archie Comics in the era of Sputnik, this short-lived series had the title hero and his odd interplanetary friends traveling the solar system on their erratic journey to Earth. It was bizarre and clever and hilarious. The character has appeared occasionally in more recent Archie comic books, but no writer has done him justice.

Godzilla. As pastor of the First Church of Godzilla on Facebook, I was a fan of the classic kaiju since before I found that spiritual calling. My dream Godzilla comic project would be a 12-issue series adapting/combining the original Japanese Gojira with the American Godzilla, King of the Monsters and including additional background on the main characters and on Godzilla’s original assault on Japan.

In a similar vein, I’d love to write new comics stories featuring Gorgo and Konga. The Charlton comics of those characters, even the ones not drawn by Steve Ditko, are also favorites of mine.

Herbie Popnecker. I was introduced to this ACG character created by writer/editor Richard E. Hughes and artist Ogden Whitney by one of the comic-book fans I knew in elementary school. Coincidentally, this fan looked kind of like a taller Herbie. Anyway, what’s not to love about Herbie? From Wikipedia:

Herbie is an antithetical hero: short, obese, unstylish, and young. Deriving some of his powers from genetics and some from magical lollipops from "the Unknown," Herbie can talk to animals and sometimes even inanimate objects (who all know him by name), fly at high enough speeds to quickly travel to other galaxies (by walking through the sky), become invisible, cast spells and summon spirits from other dimensions, quickly dispatch his enemies with apparent ease, and (once he got his own title) travel through time. Herbie is emotionless, terse, irresistible to women, consulted by world leaders, and more powerful than Satan.

Writing Herbie in modern-day America would be bigly fun for me and allow me to satirize so many aspects of our world. Which leads me to a character who could be Herbie’s soul brother.

Howard the Duck. I knew Howard creator Steve Gerber. I worked with Steve Gerber. I, my friends, am no Steve Gerber. But I still think I could do credit to his greatest creation. Fair warning. If Marvel did ask me to write Howard the Duck, I’d move the character back to Cleveland. The city has been lacking something since the too-soon passing of American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar.

Judge Dredd. Since I first saw him in the British weekly 2000 AD, I’ve been a huge fan of this character. You can write any kind of story with Judge Dredd from high adventure to police procedural to satire to horror to science fiction to political intrigue to social commentary. So many entertaining ways to go.

Kitaro. This one-eyed monster boy created by manga legend Shigeru Mizuki is the last surviving member of the Ghost Tribe of yokai (or spirit creatures). He uses his powers to fight evil yokai, of which there are hundreds. The series is a wonderful mix of action, comedy and horror. My tentative take on it would be to have Kitaro pay an extended visit to the United States. Because you know Trump and his family are yokai.

Koro Sensei from Assassination Classroom, my favorite of the manga I’m currently reading. The series follows the daily life of Koro and his middle school students. Koro is an octopus-like alien who, having destroyed the moon, has promised to do the same to Earth in a year. In the meantime, he has become a teacher. His students, the manga equivalent of Welcome Back Kotter’s sweat hogs are tasked with assassinating Koro. It sounds grim, right? But it’s anything but grim. It’s funny and even heartwarming as Koro’s quirks provide big laughs and as he proves to be a downright inspirational teacher who brings out the best in his students, even when they’re working  on assassination skills. I’m two-thirds of the way through the series and have no idea if Koro Sensei survives the final volume. But, if he does, I want to write him someday.

Magicman and Nemesis. In addition to Herbie, American Comics Group editor/writer Richard E. Hughes created two costumed heroes in the 1960s. Magicman was the son of the 18th century wizard Cagliostro. He inherited his dad’s mystical powers and, apparently, retained his youth throughout the decades. Magicman appeared in Forbidden Worlds for a couple years, ending his run just before ACG stopped publishing newsstand comic books.

Nemesis was a police detective who, murdered by gangsters, went to “The Unknown,” a version of the afterlife. The current Grim Reaper had also been killed by the same gangsters and gave the detective permission to return to Earth as a costumed hero, using his ghost powers to avenge their killings. The new super-hero did that, then got to stick around to fight criminals and other evil beings. His adventures ran in Adventures into the Unknown for about two years, ending just before the title was cancelled.

Magicman and Nemesis were pleasantly weird features. I would have a good time writing them today.

We’re halfway through my “Characters I’d Like to Write” list. For tomorrow’s bloggy thing, I have another installment of our popular “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. Then, on Thursday, I’ll be back to share the rest of my “Characters I’d Like to Write” list with you. You won’t believe some of the characters who are on that list. I made the list and I don’t believe some of them. See you tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, December 26, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Walt Disney Presents Silly Symphonies: The Sunday Newspaper Comics Volume One 1932 to 1935; Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro: The Birth of Kitaro; and Marvel's Death of X mini-series.

Sunday, December 25, 2016



I would write about the normal Christmas stuff. I would write about good will to men. I would write about the hope for the future that has long been associated with this date. I would write about this most magical time of the year.

“Normally” went off the table with the election of Donald Trump to be our next president, a madness made possible through the archaic Electoral College system that should have been deep-sixed decades ago. The country I love has gone off the rails.

Good will towards men? How is that possible when so many American voters, albeit not the majority of American voters, no matter how much Lying Donald might claim otherwise, cast their ballots for the candidate of the Ku Klux Klan and brutal Russian dictator Vladimir Putin? How is that possible when Trump and his followers demonized and threatened so many: women, people of color, Muslims, members of the LGBTIQ community, immigrants, progressives, journalists and any who would question and oppose them?

Hope? How is that possible when Trump and Putin are conspiring to increase the nuclear stockpiles of Russia and the United States of America with the stated intent to bully the rest of the world into compliance with their agendas? How is that possible when Trump has basically stated that he can and will do whatever he likes with the refusal of the Republican party to hold him accountable under the rule of law? How is that possible when Trump has named Cabinet members who want to destroy the  departments they are going to be running? How is that possible when Trump and the Republicans are going to turn the Supreme Court into their rubber stamp?

Magic? The only magic I see is how Trump has absolutely refused to disclose his financial records and the conflicts of interests sure to be found there. The only magic I see is how the conflicts that are manifestly visible are being ignored by the Republicans. The only magic I see is how Russia can interfere with our elections and be greeted as our newest ally. The only magic I see is how, again, Trump and the Republicans have flim-flammed American citizens into voting against their own best interests, the best interests of our country and the best interests of our world.

So, no, this is not a normal Christmas. It is not the happiest time of the year. For many of our fellow Americans, it has become the most terrifying time of the year.

The only consolation I can offer to those who’ve been demonized and threatened by Trump and his neo-Nazi followers is that many of us, the majority of us, will stand with you. We’ll be there for you for the simple reason that we’re stronger together. We have to be stronger. The alternative is too scary to accept.

Earlier this week, just three houses down from my home in Medina, Ohio, I saw a hundred American flags along the sidewalk, driveway and front yard. They had been supplied by a local Boy Scout troop and were there to welcome the holiday visit of the family’s son and daughter-in-law. Both the son and his wife are on active duty with the Air Force. The couple’s three-year-old son was also with them. It was a grand sight and, for a few moments, it lifted my spirits. Sadly, those few moments passed... I realized this was likely to be the last time in a good long while that I could take pride in the symbol of my country. Because the American flag is being disgraced on a daily basis by President-Elect Trump, his fascist friends, those honor-less Republicans and all those who blindly follow him.

Merry Christmas? Not this year.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Alter Ego #144 [January 2017; $8.95] is the “Aces High” issue of my favorite magazine of comics history. The cover spotlights “The Far-Flying Heroes of the Golden Age Ace Comics”: Magno, Lash Lightning, the Raven, Unknown Solider, Vulcan, the Flag, Mr. Risk and Captain Courageous. Inside the issue, long-time comics fan and historian Mark Carlson-Ghost writes about these heroes.

Also in the issue, comics editor Bill Harris is interviewed by Rich Arndt, comics creator Michael T. Gilbert writes about his fanzine years, Earl Blair Jr. Remembers G.B. Love and Houston Fandom and, in the Fawcett Collectors of America section, Brian Cremins has a piece on Captain Marvel’s mot controversial supporting character.

Alter Ego is always aces in my book. Check it out.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


I'm 65...and I started writing a cool reflective bloggy thing about reaching that advanced age. This was before the shit hit the fan. This was before I realized this Christmas had well and truly gotten away from me. However, with the wisdom that comes with reaching my advanced age, I understand that shit does happen and, sometimes, all you can do is tread carefully.

As time permits, there will be short bloggy things until I return to full-scale blogging on January 1. The New Year's bloggy things will include that reflective piece mentioned above as well as all my usual news, views and reviews. 

The "War on Christmas 2016" reviews will appear. Yes, they won't be running in 2016, but I believe we should keep Christmas in our hearts all years long...even if those hearts are being ripped out of our bodies by an evil Santa Claus or three.

You can look forward to many more installments of Rawhide Kid Wednesday, as well as my series on comics from July 1963, my OC (Old Comics) series and my series on 1990s Marvel Comics debuts. My "Citizen Tony" series will return.

I'll be posting my 2017 convention schedule in early January. Then, as the year progresses, I'll bring you my reports on those conventions.

On this birthday, I am grateful for my ever-patient family, friends, colleagues and readers. Your Christmas cards and gifts will go out before the end of the year. If I owe you responses to emails, requests and whatever, I'm going to do my best to get those out before the end of the year as well. Realistically, some of these will not get out until sometime in January.

I'm excited about starting a new year of my life. I have a great family. I have work I love. I'm in pretty good health. If I have to face challenges in the world of 2017 and beyond, I think I'm ready to meet them. 

I'm still standing. For myself and, I hope, for everyone else who needs me to stand for them. There will be obstacles to our continued progress, but we will meet them. 

There can be no turning back. Always forward.

Always forward.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Marvel’s Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Omnibus Vol. 1, reprinting issues #1-18 of the 1970s black-and-white magazine, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Special #1, and the all-article The Deadliest Heroes of Kung Fu #1 with new ontroductions by Gerry Conway, Doug Moench and my own bad self. Plus...Tom Hart's heartbreaking, incredible Rosalie Lightning and Black Magick Volume 1: Awakening by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


The stuff with my mother-in-law's Alzheimer's and care...and with her house...and with her divorce...are all hitting the fan at once. I have to be in several places at times when I would normally be writing blogs, handling odds and ends, posting here. Do not be alarmed if I'm not quick to respond or even here. This is going to be a tough week, but nothing I can't handle.


According to Wikipedia...

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter.

Back in the day, I used to mock people who claimed to have seasonal affective disorder. Until I discovered it was a real thing. Which was about the time I realized I suffered from it. Which I learned from Facebook. No, really.

Facebook has an “On This Date” feature which shows all your posts from all the previous years of that date. That’s when it hit me I suffered episodes of depression and weariness at pretty much the same time every year.

I even deduced why I was having these episodes. It went beyond the cold weather. It went beyond the madness of the Christmas season and my double anxiety at knowing I would be facing the birth family that has always considered me the black sheep of the family and in-laws who didn’t even think that highly of me. Which is all I’ll be saying about that. For now.

It was at this time of the year I suffered the worst professional setback of my career. Some of you know what that was. The others? Well it’s something I’ll touch on in my slowly-progressing memoirs of sorts. Just know that something happened. It was devastating to me and the family. It made me suicidal. It took me a long time to figure out how to beat this disorder. Which is not to say I’m not still fighting it. Every year.

What I do at this time of the year is put one foot before the other and try to keep moving forward. If I don’t accomplish everything I want to accomplish, I at least accomplish something. If I don’t do everything I wanted to do before Christmas, I do as much of it as I can without fretting that some friends will get cards and gifts after the holiday. I embrace real family, real friends, my work and all the other good things in my life.

I also...and I think this is important...I allow myself to have a bad few hours or even a bad day...and I don’t beat myself up about it. It happens. I get through it. I move forward.

This might not work for everyone. It works for me.

If you suffer any of the above, find something that works for you. It’s important for you, for those who care about you and for this sad sack who wants the best for all his readers.


These “Sundry Sunday” columns give me a chance to write about stuff that I want to write about for whatever reason, stuff that wouldn’t fill an entire column. This week, while watching President-Elect Donald Trump and the Republicans make a mockery of our country all over the country, I recalled how Superman was once said to battle for truth, justice and The American Way. But what do those words mean in Trump’s America?

Truth has already gone by the wayside. Facts don’t matter. If you feel something to be true, if you want it to be true, then, whether you have evidence or not, you think it’s true.

Trump claims he won the popular vote if you discount the millions of illegal votes for which there is no evidence. He backtracks on things he said during the campaign by either denying that he ever said them or dismissing them as statements that played well during the election but are not of interest to him now. Not surprisingly, many of his supporters said they never expected him to be truthful and are now shocked that their health care is going to be destroyed by the new Republican regime.

Justice? Trump is already violating ethical rules that have been in place for decades. He dismisses “conflict of interest” charges as immaterial; you knew he was a crooked businessman when you voted for him.

My concept of the “American Way,” the ideal to which we should ever aspire, is that we are a country that welcomes all kinds of people and treats them equally. That we are a country that looks out for the weakest members of our society. Kiss that goodbye under Trump. The bullies and the obscenely wealthy are in charge and they plan on keeping it that way.

I miss the Superman of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s original Man of Steel stories. I miss the guy who would not only talk truth to power, but would run power out of town on a rail if they harmed the oppressed and the powerless. That guy...he would make short work of Trump and his deplorable billionaires, morons and zealots. Yeah, I wish that guy were real.


I re-read the first four issues of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther in trade paperback. While it’s unquestionably intelligent and well-written with gorgeous art and storytelling by Brian Stelfreeze, it leaves me more than a little cold. At the risk of sounding like one of those stick-in-the-past comic fans I often roll my eyes at, it’s because the Wakanda of which Coates writes is not the Wakanda of my favorite Black Panther writers: Don McGregor and Reginald Hudlin.  That’s not the fault of the current creators.

McGregor’s T’Challa had to struggle to keep his Wakanda safe...and he bled every issue to do so. But it was a Wakanda worth fighting for. Hudlin’s Wakanda was even more so, the advanced black nation that had never been conquered. Until, of course, lesser writers and editors decided that couldn’t stand.

Wakanda was destroyed two or three times in the name of dumb “big events.” T’Challa’s marriage to Storm - talk about a power couple - was ended. These were garbage comics. Garbage. Superman would have run those writers and editors out of the comics industry on a rail. Okay, *my* Superman would have done that.

My inability to warm up to the current Black Panther comics is not the fault of Coates or Stelfreeze. They are the unfair victims of my distaste for what had gone before.

One more thing. Whoever put together the Black Panther chronology for the trade paperback is also on my shit list. That chronology includes McGregor’s Jungle Action run but omits all the other great Black Panther stories he wrote for Marvel Comics Presents and other series. Don’t try to explain away this shocking omission by saying those other stories have not yet been collected...because they all should have been collected long ago.

The ball is in your court, Marvel. Shoot wisely.


Two questions I am often asked...

Which characters who you have written in the past would you like to write again?

Which character who you have never written would you like to write?

Answer #1:

While there are characters I have written previously that I could enjoy writing again, there are only a few I feel passionate about. And some of those I would only want to write again in very specific circumstances. Let’s start with Marvel...

I would love writing slightly-goofy It! The Living Colossus stories if I could write them as I did in the 1970s but better. Back then, I was a “throw everything against the wall” kind of writer. I think I would be focused today. But just as much fun.

I would love to write a Ghost Rider Forever series, picking up from my last issue and ignoring the assistant editorial changes made to it. I had more to say about Johnny Blaze and would have liked to follow him as, freed from Satan’s power, he made a better life for himself and those around him.

If I could find the right angle on them, I would love to write new comic books about Tigra, Rocket Racer and the Sandman. Last I heard from her, Tigra was a single mom working for the police department. I love that concept.

The Rocket Racer stories I wrote for Jim Salicrup when he was the editor of the Spider-Man titles were lighthearted super-hero fun. They were too short for me to explore the character’s large family. I like the notion of a smart young man using his abilities to bring in super-villains and to support his family.

The Sandman was a favorite of mine during the time he reformed and became an ally of some of his former super-hero enemies. The tale where Sandman and the Thing have a beer instead of fighting is one of my all-time favorites. Kudos to writer Tom DeFalco for that gem. Alas, creators of limited imagination decided the Sandman must be a villain. Big mistake that because he was so much cooler as one of the good guys.

Over at DC...

Black Lightning. Which should be obvious.

At other companies...

Satan’s Six. With the full blessing of Jack Kirby, I developed his creation into something that became as much Tony Isabella as it was Jack Kirby. It was an action-comedy and, though the art was not to my liking, it was great fun to write. I would write it again if I could continue to do it my way.

The Grim Ghost. Despite the presence of another writer’s credit on the six issues I wrote for the revival of Atlas Comics, that writing was all mine...albeit building on a short preview tale done before I was attached to the series. I had plans for a follow-up series, but those were torpedoed when Atlas went under. I did try to buy the property outright so I could continue the title elsewhere, but my offer was refused.

Now it’s possible that I may have forgotten other characters that I would like to write again, but these are the ones that leaped to mind when I was most recently asked this question.

Question #2? I’ll answer that one tomorrow as we expand this Sundry Sunday into a Sundry Monday. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Welcome, girls and boys, to the second day of my War on Christmas 2016. Between now and the night Santa came back, I’m going to view and review as many Christmas-themed horror movies as I can. Because  I’m all about the Christmas cheer...and fear.

Black Christmas [1974] might not be the first slasher movie, but it is rightly praised as pivotal in the development of the genre. It was directed by Bob Clark, whose other Christmas movie was a little film called A Christmas Story, and written by Roy Moore. The cast includes Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon and Andrea Martin. From the Internet Movie Database:

During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.

That synopsis isn’t even good enough for government work, but, to tell you more, I have to activate the warning system.


It’s the Christmas break. Sorority sisters, their house mother and boyfriends are getting ready to head home or wherever. Except for the heavy-drinking Barb [Kidder] who’s been ditched by her family. Most of the other girls are in good spirits, save for Jess [Hussey] who is dealing with some personal issues. As they engage in their pre-Christmas events and parties, the sorority sisters are troubled by strange anonymous phone calls.

The calls are coming from someone named “Billy,” who we never see clearly. Nor do we ever find out what his deal is. We do know he’s insane and murderous. He’s killed a high-school girl off stage and now he’s getting to work on the sorority house.

His first victim is a girl whose father is picking her up for the holidays. She’s not his last victim, but this movie’s body count is surprisingly low for a slasher film. None of the killer’s murders are particularly inventive. But, with the gore kept to a minimum, they add to the mounting suspense.

During the frantic search for the missing teenager and the missing sorority sister - the first is in the woods, the second is in the sorority house attic - Jess’s problems are also playing out. She’s pregnant, but planning to have an abortion. Her perpetually on the verge of a breakdown boyfriend David [Dullea] has just flunked his concert piano playing midterm. He wants to leave school, marry Jess and raise their child. Jess? Not so much. In fact, not at all. Her goals don’t include a husband, a kid or for that matter, continuing her relationship with David.

Given the slain teen - whose body has been found - and the missing college girl, Lt. Ken Fuller [Saxon] is taking the anonymous phone calls seriously. However, tracing a phone call in 1974 was far from easy. By the time the police figure out the calls are coming from a second phone inside the sorority house, Jess is all alone fending off a killer.

David has been the prime suspect since he made a drunken phone call to Jess earlier that evening and since the police discovered he had smashed up a piano at the  rehearsal hall. Jess is hiding in the basement with a fireplace poker when David breaks a basement window to come looking for her. Thinking he’s the killer, Jess beats him to the death. When the cops find her, she’s in shock.

Up to this point, I had been loving this movie. That’s when it all went south due to terrible police work.

The police don’t clear the house, so they don’t find the murdered sorority sister or the house mother in the attic. They would have found “Billy” there as well.

When the dead girl’s father collapses with a heart attack, they all leave the house to get him to a hospital. Let me put this another way...

They leave a heavily-medicated Jess lying on her bed in the house. Because they won’t be able to question her for several hours and, hey, what could possibly go wrong?

Yes, they think the killer is dead. But what about making sure the heavily-medicated young woman in shock is not left alone to awaken in the same place where she saw her friends slaughtered and where she killed her boyfriend?

Billy leaves the attic and the credits roll. I think we can assume Jess never wakes up


I mostly love this movie. It doesn’t need buckets of blood to keep the suspense and tension high. Hussey and Dullea are not very good in their roles, but Kidder, Martin and Saxon all shine. There are some good supporting players as well.

Steve Martin, the actor and not the newspaper reporter who almost got killed by Godzilla, told Hussey that Black Christmas was one of his favorite movies and that he had seen it over two dozen times. The movie was also an inspiration for John Carpenter’s Halloween. Not too shabby.

Black Christmas deserves respect. I enjoyed the movie enough that I’ll watch it again. You should watch it again. Just make sure you are watching the original and not 2006 remake. The remake adds background details for the killer, thus spoiling a major element of the original. Bad move that.

Remember how I wrote about how much I enjoyed Silent Night, Deadly Night [1984]? That’s how much I dislike Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 [1987], the cheap-ass sequel that lifts almost half of its 88-minute running time from the first movie.

The movie is directed by Lee Harry, his first as a director. Most of his work was as an editor and he would only direct one more film and one short. It’s written by Harry and three other people, none of whom were involved in the first film. Here’s the IMDb synopsis:

The now-adult Ricky talks to a psychiatrist about how he became a murderer after his brother, Billy, died, which leads back to Mother Superior. 
Mother Superior was the abusive nun who ignored Billy’s childhood trauma and added to his mental instability. But we’ll get back to her after I post the usual warnings...


In fairness to Harry, the producers of the “sequel” wanted him to simply re-cut the original movie and add a couple scenes with the adult Ricky. The idea was that the original movie was nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic. Harry insisted on doing more, even though he had a tiny budget and just ten days to shoot this movie.

The adult Ricky is played by Eric Freeman, one of the worst actors of all time. He has 11 credits to his name, mostly for appearances in TV shows. He also changed the spelling of his first name several times. Go figure.

Freeman is the only memorable cast member. His wild-eyed rages are actually comical. When he shoots a suburbanite carrying trash cans to the curb, he yells “Garbage Day!” with such crazy intensity that the scene has become an Internet meme.

Once we get through the footage from the first film, Ricky talks to the asylum psychiatrist about the other killings that brought the young man to his incarceration. The indication is that Ricky will be facing death if he’s not found insane.

This movie does boast three interesting killings. Ricky shoves an umbrella clean through a loan shark’s leg breaker and opens it up. He kills an arrogant young man by sticking jumper cables into the
jerk’s mouth and turning up the juice. Then he uses the vehicle’s antenna to strangle a witness.

Ricky breaks out of the asylum, chalking up a few more kills as he does so. He kills a Salvation Army worker for his Santa suit, and then goes after Mother Superior. She’s retired after a stroke that put her in a wheelchair.

Mother Superior is defiant, but she still loses her head. The cops arrive and shoot Ricky full of lead. But, don’t fret. He survives and returns in 1989's Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! Just not played by Eric Freeman.


Three interesting murders and the over-the-top performance of the lead actor isn’t enough to earn this movie my recommendation. It’s my guess that, if you do some searching on YouTube or other video sites, you’ll find clips of those killings as well as examples of the lead actor’s thespian stylings.

My 2016 War on Christmas continues in a day or two. Among the films awaiting me are the remaining three movies in the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, the remake of the original movie, Saint Nick, Rare Exports and something called Two Front Teeth. It is truly the happiest time of the year.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, December 16, 2016


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Halloween ComicFest is a smaller and spookier version of Free Comic Book Day. My pals at Stormwatch Comics sent me full-sized and mini-sized comics from the event. I’m attempting to read and review all of them before the end of the year.

I look for certain things when I review Halloween ComicFest items. Is the material in the comic well-written and well-drawn? Does it present a good enough chunk of the comic or graphic novel to entice a reader into buying the comic? Is it reader-friendly enough to welcome rather than confuse a new reader?

The Halloween ComicFest Challenge concludes...

From American Mythology Productions, The Three Stooges: Halloween Hullabaloo Vol. 1 No. 1 is a full-sized comic book clearly aimed at readers nostalgic for one of the great comedy teams of the big and small screen. I don’t know if younger readers are cognizant of the Stooges, but they were a constant presence on TV when I was a kid and, as an adult, I did not hesitate for a moment before ordering The Three Stooges Collection on DVD.

Counting the cover and inside front cover contents page, this issue has 29 pages of Three Stooges material. Up that to 30 pages if you count the inside back cover ad for The Three Stooges: The Curse of  Frankenstooge that was published at the same time as this giveaway comic book. There are comics stories, a parody ad, a trio of cut-out Stooges masks (though you’d need a really small head to be able to wear them), coloring pages, a still from one of the Stooges shorts and a preview of the Frankenstooge comic book. The writing and art won’t win any awards, but the work is solid and the comic is fun. The back cover is a house ad for a Pink Panther comic book.

RATING: Excellent. I almost didn't give this issue that high a score, mostly because it lacked introductory information about the Three Stooges. But I think the target market for this series was always going to be fans who already know about the Three Stooges. If such a reader enjoyed the material in this free comic, they will likely seek out more of the same and I’ve been saying throughout this series of the purpose of a free comic book.


Little Tails on Halloween Original Halloween Mini-Comic [Magnetic Press] is “an adorable wildlife exploration series for all ages, from the creators of the award-winning LOVE books.” It’s created by Frederic Brremaud and Federico Bertolucci with illustrated by the latter. This one is hard to describe.

Friends Chipper and Squizzo are a dog and a squirrel. Each page has two rows of panels -one at the top of the page, the other at the bottom - with a painting in the middle. The panel art is cute and lively. The paintings are lovely. I found the nine pages of story to be interesting, but not interesting enough that I’ll be seeking out the two 32-page hardcover volumes of the comic. At $14.99 each, that’s not decent bang for the bucks. It’s not entirely outrageous for a hardcover children’s book, but still not what I would call a good value.

In the middle of the story, we get two game pages featuring Chipper and Squizzo. One is a maze, the other is crossword puzzle in which the reader is given words and must fit them into the puzzle. Don’t be a hero. Use a pencil.

RATING: Good Plus. The material is interesting. There’s a house ad for the Little Tails hardcovers, which earns them points. I’m sure some readers will like it better than I did.


Peach and the Isle of Monsters #1 has an Action Lab corner logo on the cover, but, inside, the mini-comic is said to be published by the delightful Aw, Yeah Comics. The 10-page excerpt from a longer work was written and created by Franco Aureliana, drawn by Agnes Grabowska and colored by Zac Atkinson. There’s a lot I liked about this taste of the series.

Peach, our feisty young heroine, is said to have come from a peach. Her adoptive father loves her and tries to protect her from being bullied and harassed by her unthinking classmates. But, when rumors of monsters entering their village at night reach them, Peach’s dad gives her a sword and sends her to find her own way in the world. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a book starring a kid.

RATING: Not Quite Excellent. The title character is appealing. The writing and art are first-rate. However, though there are ads for two other Action Lab titles, there is no ad for the further comics adventures of Peach nor is the reader given any indication where he or she can go to find the rest of the story. Free comic books are sales tools. This one needed sharpening.

Also from Action Lab is a full-size comic I think is called Action Lab Presents. It features a few pages each from four comics series: Miraculous, Monster Dojo, Ghoul Scouts and Puppet Master. This is an unsatisfying effort that only does justice to one of these four features. We’ll talk about that one first because it’s the only one with a house ad giving the basic concept and because it’s the best written and drawn of the four.

Ghoul Scouts has a decent blurb line:

Be Prepared. Be Very Prepared.

The blurb copy:

Something stranger than usual haunts Full Moon Hollow. Paranormal capital of the world. When zombies attack during the Hemlock County Scouting Jamboree, only a group of misfit scouts can save the Hollow.

The six-page preview is written by Steve Bryant and drawn by Mark Stegbauer. Zombies generally bore me; this preview doesn’t change that. But I like the misfit scouts angle and, with more interesting monsters, would be more inclined to read further.

The other features? The Miraculous preview (8 pages) doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the house ad for the comic. The house ad doesn’t explain anything.

Monster Dojo (8 pages) is clearly intended to be humorous, but it’s just not very funny. The writing and art are journeyman at best. It just doesn’t entice me in the slightest.

Puppet Master (4 pages) seems to be a continuation of the movies, which I’ve never seen. This excerpt doesn’t give me a leg-up into the universe of the movies. People who have seen the movies and who like them would perhaps be interested in the comic book, but this new reader wasn’t won over.

RATING: Poor. Only Ghoul Scouts shows any potential. Beyond that, this full-size comic book doesn’t fulfill its mission of convincing new readers to come onboard.


Haunted Mansion No. 1 Halloween Comic Fast 2016 [Marvel Worldwide] was an eye-opener. I had completely ignored these comic books based on Disney park attractions. This full-size giveaway has me wanting to read them. Major points for that.

The 20-page story was written by Joshua Williamson. I have enjoyed a number of his other comics works. It’s drawn by Jorge Coelho with colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu. I don’t know if the back story of this comic book is the same as that of the park attraction, but the premise of a house that holds spirits captive is an intriguing one and plays out well in this issue. I’ll be requesting the hardcover of the complete story from my local library.

There are house ads for several other “Disney Kingdom” offerings: Enchanted Tiki Room, Figment, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Seekers of the Weird. There are also house ads for a couple other Marvel titles. And, as with other Marvel giveaways, the placement of the house ads break up the story frequently and annoyingly. I’m sure either editorial or marketing has given this a lot of thought, but I suggest they revisit that thinking.

RATING: Excellent. The Haunted Mansion story drew me in. I enjoyed it quite a bit and want to read more. The quality of this story was high and makes me want to read those other Disney Kingdom titles. That’s a successful giveaway comic book.


The full-sized Quilte #1: Halloween ComicFest Special [Comix Tribe] is the last of these special event free comics I’ll be reviewing. It appears to be a one-shot which, since it’s complete in itself, seems to be intended to promote other ComixTribe titles.

Quilte is about a woman who enters the terrifying dreams of others to help them out of those dreams. It’s written by John Lees. It’s drawn by Iain Laurie, whose style is off-putting to me. This horror story does have a satisfying ending, but that wasn’t enough for me to consider reading other comic books by these creators.

This is definitely one of those “your mileage might vary” comics. I didn’t care for it. Other readers might. The house ads didn’t entice me, but, to their credit, they followed the story and didn’t interrupt my reading of the story.

RATING: Good. The material, while not to my liking, might appeal to readers more in tune with it. The house ads don’t do a great job of promoting the other titles, but they are good enough to steer any interested readers to those titles.

That completes my series of Halloween ComicFest reviews. Come back tomorrow for the continuation of Tony Isabella’s War on Christmas  2016. I’ll be looking at Black Christmas (1974) and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987). See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Halloween ComicFest is a smaller and spookier version of Free Comic Book Day. My pals at Stormwatch Comics sent me full-sized and mini-sized comics from the event. I’m attempting to read and review all of them before the end of the year.

I look for certain things when I review Halloween ComicFest items. Is the material in the comic well-written and well-drawn? Does it present a good enough chunk of the comic or graphic novel to entice a reader into buying the comic? Is it reader-friendly enough to welcome rather than confuse a new reader?

The Halloween ComicFest Challenge continues...

Harrow County #1 [Dark Horse Comics] is a full-size special edition reprint of the first issue of the Cullen Bunn/Tyler Crook series. The inside front cover is a house ad for the four collections that have been published to date. The ad copy gives new readers a decent leg-up on the fictional world before them.

Here’s the blurb for the first volume:

Emmy always knew that the deep, dark woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts, goblins, and zombies. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures—and to the land itself—in a way she never imagined.
The 27-page story is both creepy and evocative. Readers will get a sense of the place wherein the stories are set. They will see the beauty of the place and the horror that lies not very far beneath that bucolic beauty. The first-rate writing and art easily won me over. I’ll be checking out the collected volumes.

RATING: Excellent. This is what a free comic book should do. It’s a great story in a package that will likely convince many readers to follow the series regularly.

From Storm King Comics, the mini-sized John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloweenight Volume Two (A Traveler’s Trail) presented a 13-page  story written by publisher Carpenter and drawn by Dennis Calero. Apparently, the horror anthology from famed filmmaker and his wife Sandy King Carpenter features stories by impressive comics creators like Steve Niles, Jimmy Palmiotti and others. But you wouldn’t know that from his Halloween ComicFest issue. It doesn’t even mention or show covers of the anthology series. It just plops out this rather unimpressive story and leaves to the reader to learn more if said readers choose to go to the effort of an online search.

RATING: Poor. The story is well-drawn, but the plot and writing are journeyman. It’s an absolute failure in terms to getting a reader to buy the anthologies because it doesn’t tell the reader anything about them. Indeed, I didn’t even know this John Carpenter was the rightfully celebrated movie maker until I did my online research. What’s the point of a giveaway comic book if it doesn’t help sell comic books?


Mummy’s Always Right #1/2 [Comix Tribe] is a 12-page story about a young mummy trying on Halloween costumes. No, really, that’s pretty much all there is to the story. Writer/artist Joe Mulvey delivers some cute single-page drawings of the kid’s various costumes. There is a moral of sorts...

On Halloween, we all dress up as someone we’d like to be. Well, there’s nothing I’d want more than to be Super Me!   

...but that’s a thin pitch for whatever Comix Tribe is attempting to sell here. The giveaway lacks copyright notices or an indicia. However, we do get the URL of a “Mummy’s Always Right” website that offers a free download of the book...and nothing else. The single page site says the book costs $15 in stores, but has no information on how to order a physical copy of the book.

RATING: Fair. Mulvey’s art is why I didn’t give this free comic a lower rating. But as a means of attracting new readers, this is a dismal failure.


Pokemon Pocket Comics: X*Y Halloween Comic Fest Edition [Viz Media] is a 16-page mini-sized issue with story and art by Santa Harukaze. The inside front cover is a house ad for full-size volumes of the series with a succinct description thereof:

A Pokemon pocket-sized book chock-full of four-panel gags, Pokemon trivia and fun quizzes based on the characters you know and love!

Bang! That’s everything you need to know. The gags, trivia and such are clearly aimed at younger readers that love Pokemon madly. The material isn’t aimed down at those younger readers. It invites them to join in on the fun. It’s a charming mini-comic and, if I knew a Pokemon-loving youngster, I’d definitely consider getting some of the full-size books for them.

RATING: Excellent. The material is well-done. The mini-comic tells you all about these Pokemon pocket comics. It’s entertaining stuff that promotes the source material incredibly well.


My Little Pony: Halloween ComicFest [IDW] is a full-size comic book featuring characters I don’t quite understand in a universe I don’t understand. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it would be good for me to learn about all this equine enchantment. It just means I’m not there yet. I’m still trying to figure out how these ponies built a civilization without fingers.

Seriously...this seems like a perfectly charming and fun comic. The 22-page story by Rob Anderson reads well and has relatable heroes and situations. Artist Amy Mebberson visualizes the story well and has a cute peppy style. Colorist Heather Breckel keeps the scenes bright, darkening them only when the story calls for it. Though I may not be the target audience for this comic book, I can see the talent and work that went into it.

The issue includes a readers guide designed to looks like a game board and several house ads for My Little Pony collections. If this is a My Little Pony fan’s introduction to the comic books, they’ll be able to find more of the same.

RATING: Very Good to Excellent. Though a bit of a leg-up would be helpful to readers like me who know nothing of My Little Pony, the popularity of the franchise is such that most readers won’t be in the dark. The comics material is good. The house ads should sell a few collections. Well done.


From Drawn and Quarterly, Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro: Strange Fun for Everyone is one of my favorites of the Halloween ComicFest issues. I’m already very familiar with this character. Unfortunately, the new reader will be more than a little lost. This full-sized, black- and-white comic book needed to provide background information for the new reader.

The 23-page comics story is complete unto itself and very good to boot. The centerfold is a Kitaro poster with the reverse side being used to promote the series. The back cover also promotes Kitaro. If readers likes this story, they will be able to find more adventures of this strange and delightful little guy.

There are game pages and house ads for other Drawn and Quarterly publications. The inside front cover offers a bit of biographical information on Mizuki while promoting his other works. I have read some of them and plan to read the others.

RATING: Very Good to Excellent. This presentation loses points for its lack of sufficient background on Kitaro and his world, but it scores high marks in every other area.


Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: You Choose The Story No. 1 Halloween Comic Fest 2016 reprints an entire issue of the generally wonderful series. However, modeling a story after the very popular “Choose Your Own Adventure” books doesn’t give new readers a very accurate sampling of the character. It’s a clever effort, but it’s far from one of the best Squirrel Girl adventures. I also think the comic book assumes a familiarity with the character and the Marvel Universe that many readers won’t have.

There are lots of Marvel house ads, including one for the all-new The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe graphic novel and one for the latest Squirrel Girl collection. I love this character, so I hope readers check out her ongoing series.

RATING: Good. Squirrel Girl herself is the biggest draw here.  If new readers take to her, this full-size free comic will have done what it’s supposed to do. The house ads are also good come-ons for the respective series they promote, but the placement of these ads is often annoying.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of my Halloween ComicFest reviews.

© 2016 Tony Isabella