Thursday, March 31, 2016


The bloggy thing will return on Tuesday, April 5. See you then.


Continuing my report on Wizard World Cleveland 2016:

Saturday was, as it usually is, the busiest and most fun day of the convention. I signed a bunch of Isabella-written comics and books. I handed out lots of fliers promoting Marvel Masterworks: The Champions and Black Lightning Volume One. I got to chat with old friends and make some new ones. I appeared on three panels.

Best of all, in a rare alignment of our weekend schedules, Sainted Wife Barb was able to come to the convention. She was joined by our son Eddie, our other daughter Giselle and some friends of Giselle. Unfortunately, our actual daughter Kelly was working an extra shift at her First Merit job, so she couldn’t be with us.

Barb had a ball at the convention. She loved checking out all the vendor booths. She enjoyed several panels with Eddie, Giselle and our friends. She especially enjoyed the panel with Cleveland’s Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and other Marvel movies. I was envious of her being able to attend that panel. Between the panels I was on and spending time behind my Artists Alley table, I never got a chance to meet the Russo brothers. I have to figure out how to make time to meet at least some of the celebrity guests at future shows.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s bloggy, Wizard World’s inclusion of so many different fandoms with their attendant crafts and trinkets makes their conventions fun for family members who aren’t into the same things you are. One woman I spoke with was thrilled that she got to meet Henry Winkler. He’s one of those celebrities I wish I had made the time to meet because I’ve loved so much of his movie and TV work over the years.

There were vendors selling fan-related fashions. Various businesses and fan organizations were set up at the show. You could buy great coffee and other delicacies. In the latter category, my favorite - and that of many Wizard attendees - was Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda Pop Company. For $25, you could buy a really cool campfire mug emblazoned with the Wizard World log. Then, all weekend long, you could return to the booth to get free refills of Wild Bill’s Rocky Mountain Root Beer and other drinks. Adding to the coolness was this: If you bring the mug to other conventions at which Wild Bill’s is exhibiting, five bucks will get you free refills at that convention as well. I saw hundreds of fans carrying around mugs filled with deliciousness. I was one of them.

Note to self. The next time I go to Wizard World Cleveland or any other convention that boasts such variety, I’m going to bring some assistants to help me document that variety.

Celebrity and comics guests are great. Cosplay and old comics are wonderful. Panels and other programming always rank high with me. But there’s so much more to experience at these conventions and we almost never hear about it.

The first of my Wizard World panels was DIVERSITY IN THE INDUSTRY (11:30 am). Hosted by Abdul Rashid, CEO and Founder of AHR Visions, here’s how it was described in the program guide: A panel geared to spark awareness and imaginative thinking to assist with social and creative enrichment through “paradigm breaking” (thinking out of the box) approaches towards a directed effort in diversifying the industry market with fresh new characters and content.

The panel featured artist and illustrator Sequoia Bostick, comics writer and publisher Victor Dandridge, comics creator Clare Kolat, and writer Martin Reese. I was a special guest on account of Abdul and Victor asked me and on account of diversity in comics is near and dear to me.

Since I was too busy being on the panel to take notes on the panel, I can’t give you a proper summary of all the very smart statements made by panelists other than myself. I should start traveling with one of those robot Recorders that used to hang with Thor in those glorious days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby showing everyone else in comics how it’s done. But Martin wrote about the panel in his blog and you can read his comments here.

I have been trying to condense my diversity in comics rap down to a few cogent points. Here are some of them:

Comic books must reflect the diversity of those who read them and that means more than gender and race and sexual orientation. That last term always sounds clunky to me. Does someone have a better term I can start using? People of faith are rarely shown in comics and they should be. People from all walks of life should be shown in comics. Liberals and conservatives should be represented and not as political caricatures. We should all see ourselves in our comics somewhere.

Create characters not icons. People aren’t perfect and our diverse characters shouldn’t be perfect either. For me, characters are far  more interesting than icons, both as a writer and a reader.

While it’s preferable to create original characters of diversity in comic books, there’s nothing wrong with switching things up to get those characters into long-running university. My wise best friend and new grandfather Bob Ingersoll has a pretty good take on this, so good this is only the first time I’ll be quoting him in this and future blogs. He told me:

My theory on diversity casting has always been I don't mind it...if it's accurate. Making Perry White black in 2013 is fine, because, in, 2013 a major metropolitan newspaper could have a black editor-in-chief. Making him black in 1939 doesn't work. Historically, there would not have been a black editor-in-chief of The Daily Planet back then.

Same with the movie Wild, Wild West. If a black man were waking around Reconstruction-era Texas asking questions, he would have been lynched. It didn't make sense for James West to be black. But having a black Pete Ross or Jimmy Olsen? No big.

Finally, don’t go looking for enemies among your friends. Whenever I say this, I recall the ridiculous online shit fit when an issue of Batgirl, a comic-book series known for its diverse cast, featured a villain who impersonated the title heroine. Yes, the villain was more than a little flamboyant as befit his performance artist character, but there was nothing in the comic book itself that defined him as either gay or transgender.

Certainly, one needs to avoid stereotypes in depicting characters of diversity. But if every black character, women character, person of (whatever) faith and so on has to be perfect, you aren’t telling your stories honestly.

I’ll keep working on these points until I can express them better and shorter.

My next panel was FROM THE AVENGERS TO AGENT CARTER TO JESSICA JONES - AND SOME DUDE NAMED DEADPOOL! MARVEL COMICS AT 77 WITH SPIDER-MAN’S DANNY FINGEROTH AND CAPTAIN AMERICA’S TONY ISABELLA (2 pm). The description: In 1939, Marvel Comics #1 debuted, unleashing the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch on the world and launching what would come to be known as the Marvel Universe. Danny Fingeroth (Deadly Foes of Spider-Man, The Stan Lee Universe) and Tony Isabella (Ghost Rider, Black Lightning) present an illustrated tour through the many decades of comics, movies and TV series that make up the phenomenon that is Marvel.

This is the lightning round of comics convention panels. I really enjoy doing panels with my friend Danny, but this one is demanding. Imagine covering 77 years of Marvel history in around 45 minutes or so. It’s difficult to provide much context or humor to the images projected on the screen, but we do our best and, judging from the audience reaction, manage to entertain and inform them as we press on. Just the same, I’m hoping I can convince Danny and Wizard World to make this a two-part panel next year. Marvel has a rich history and I want to do it justice.

My third and final panel of the day was HOW TO WRITE COMICS with MARVEL ZOMBIES’ FRED VAN LENTE, POWER PACK’S MARC SUMERAK, BLACK LIGHTNING’S TONY ISABELLA & SPIDER-MAN’S DANNY FINGEROTH. The panel program described it thus: Accomplished comics writers Fred Van Lente (Marvel Zombies; Archer & Armstrong), Marc Sumerak (Power Pack; Spider-Man), Tony Isabella (Captain America, Black Lightning) and Danny Fingeroth (How to Create Comics from Script to Print; Spider-Man) talk about how to put together a compelling comics story. Plus: they’ll answer your questions about both the creative and business sides of the comics writing profession, including how to find an artist to work with (hint: a comics convention is the number one place!) and how to write exciting dialogue!

I don’t know if we covered all of that in our lively give-and-take, but I can share with you the closely guarded secret of how to write exciting dialogue. It’s easy! Use exclamation points!! The more exclamation points you use in your script, the more exciting your dialogue will be!!! Word!!!!

In all seriousness, panels like this are always well-attended and informative. Obviously, there’s no one right way to write comics. But you get a lot of great ideas on how to write comics and how to balance your art with the business of comics at panels like this one.

There are also lots of books on writing comics. None of them will have all the answers, but you can learn from them. By the way, the answer to the question why your beloved blogger hasn’t written his own book on writing comic books is in the first sentence of this paragraph. The part about lots of books about writing comics. With so many helpful tomes on the subject already available, I’d rather come up with different kinds of books on the art, the craft, the history and the sheer wonder of comic books.

Two final thoughts for today.

One. Those are some really long titles for panels. It’s kind of sort of overkill. Clever is always more alluring than long.

Two. The best part of any convention, comics or otherwise, is the people you meet at them. So, in the final installment of my Wizard World Cleveland journal, which will post early next week, I will be writing about them. See you then!

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Wizard World Cleveland Comic Con took place Friday through Sunday, February 26-28 at the FirstMerit Convention Center of Cleveland. The center used to be called the Cleveland Convention Center, but, apparently, the city sold the naming rights to the bank. That sort of thing will always bother me until someone offers me big bucks for the naming rights to this blog. The Costco Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing does have a ring to it.

Wizard World Cleveland made its debut in 2015 in the middle of the worst winter weather of the year. Despite the inclement conditions, the event was a huge success and draw tens of thousands of fans who were eager to have something to do that weekend. The Cleveland area  media was all over the show. Good times.

I was looking forward to this year’s event, but my cheery mode was darkened by a string of annoyances. I couldn’t wait to leave those annoyances behind.

One of those annoyances was a shrill and poorly informed column in the Akron Beacon Journal. Written by Rich Heldenfels, the paper’s pop culture guy, it took shot after shot at the Wizard World show. He objected to what he considered high ticket prices and the even higher cost of getting autographs and photographs from the biggest names at the convention. He reminded me of the very talented writer who, at last year’s convention, sitting at her complimentary Artist Alley table, couldn’t stop complaining about the prices charged by celebrities for their signatures and photographs. I love her a lot, but she was essentially expecting that Wizard World conventions to be something other than Wizard World conventions.

I have no problem with Wizard World being Wizard World. The kind of convention they produce might not be to everyone’s taste, but I’ve always loved the variety and, yes, glitz they bring to their shows. Attendees, like, for example, my Sainted Wife Barb, can enjoy their conventions even if they aren’t into comics. We’ll talk more about that in a day or two.

Are Wizard World ticket prices high? Compared to some other shows, they probably are. However, there are discounts available if a fan is willing to make some effort to look for them. Which often takes no more than a trip to the Wizard World website.

Do some celebrities charge a lot for their autographs and photos? Yes, they do. The cost is worth it for some fans and not for other fans. Who am I or my writer friend or Heldenfels to tell the fans willing to pay those prices how to spend their money? It’s their money. Sure, it’d be great if they spent it on comics and graphic novels and such, but it’s their money. They get to decide what they spend it on.

When I’m a guest at Wizard World Cleveland, I look at it as a great opportunity to connect with fans who may not have heard of me or my work. I look at it as a chance to introduce folks who haven’t read comics to the wonders of the art form. I’m happy to spend a weekend doing that, especially since I also get to spend time with comics creators and other friends I don’t see often enough.

You don’t like what Wizard World produces? Then don’t go the Wizard World conventions. There are lots of other conventions all over the country. You will be able to find one that suits your needs/tastes better than Wizard World. Or you can sit in front of your computer taking snarky online dumps on conventions that tens of thousands of fans enjoy attending.

The drive from my Medina home to Cleveland was uneventful up until the moment I entered the hellscape that is downtown Cleveland. The  city is tearing up its streets left and right to get ready for the Republican National Convention in July. Neither GPS or online maps were helpful in getting me where I needed to go. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

I did get to the Convention Center and even got a good parking spot in a garage across the street. Clearly, things were looking much brighter for me.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to my Artist Alley table, my brain was throbbing. I popped some ibuprofen and sat back, figuring they would kick in before the fans entered the convention. That’s when the first con-related annoyance reared its pointy-eared head.

A professional Spock cosplayer - professional in the sense he has a nice costume, looks the part and charges people to photograph him - had decided I was sitting at his table. This despite several people showing him the directory and floor map listing me in that spot. Not to mention the sign reading “Tony Isabella” that Wizard World had attached to the front of the table.

He would put his luggage and sandwich on my table to claim the spot while he went off to find some unfortunate Wizard World staffer to yell at. I would move his luggage and sandwich off my table. Then he would return and put his luggage and sandwich on my table once again. And I would take them off. He also got pissed because that “Tony Isabella” sign had been stapled to the table. He started to pull on it, that’s when I told him to bugger off and stop bothering me. I get a little John Constantine in me sometimes.

When he came back a third time, I had pretty much covered my table with my signs, my signing pens, my online directory handouts and special fliers advertising Black Lightning Volume One and Marvel Masterworks: The Champions Volume One. He was moving to again put his sandwich on the table when I spoke to him in a very low voice  that made it clear I was done with him. I told him to get away from my table and go pon farr himself.

Wizard World did have a table for him on one of the far walls and it was a pretty good spot. During the convention, I would see him urging fans to take a photo with him before telling them they would have to pay him for the privilege. Once or twice, he walked by me and loomed over me in what I’m sure he thought was an intimidating manner. We all know how easily intimidated I am.

The second annoyance wasn’t con-related, but it happened when the fans were just starting to make their way around the vast guest and vendors hall. I received a cell phone call from the assistant to a doctor who was substituting for my regular doctor while he was on a much-deserved holiday.

The substitute doctor had gone over lab results from my most recent visit to my doctor. The assistant said I had low potassium levels for which the substitute doc had written a prescription. Straining to hear and speak to the assistant in the loud hall, I told her I would get the prescription filled on Monday.

That’s when the assistant got nigh-hysterical. I couldn’t wait that long. I had to start taking the potassium immediately. I tried to explain to her that I was at a convention and not near any of the places where I could get the prescription filled. She wasn’t having any of it. She started to make me worried.

Finally, I told her to call Barb. My wife is a pharmacist who - at the time - was working for the same healthcare outfit as my regular doctor. If the assistant called the prescription in to the location where my wife was working, Barb could get it filled. That seemed to relieve the assistant somewhat.

The kickers?

I grew more and more anxious about the low potassium levels. I should have known better, but some vestigial awe of the shaman from past lives had kicked in. Ultimately, I departed Wizard World two hours before the event’s Friday night closing time.

Despite the intense urgency of the substitute doctor’s assistant,  the potassium prescription was not called in to the location where my wife works. She would not be able to get the potassium until the following day.

When I got home, we did some quick research and determined eating a couple of bananas could tide me over until I got my life-saving potassium pills.

When I got the potassium pills on Saturday, I discovered they were comically large. Maybe not horse-sized big, but considerably larger than the blood pressure and other medications I take. Having eaten a couple of bananas Saturday morning, I decided to wait until that evening to start taking them, a time when I could cut the pills in half with my handy-dandy little pill-cutter. I somehow managed not to die before I started taking them. 

When we finally saw the lab result after the convention, we found that my allegedly life-threateningly low potassium level was only .1 lower than the normal potassium range. My regular doctor might well have prescribed potassium pills for me, but he wouldn’t have gotten all worked up about it. He’s been my doctor for two decades and knows my levels don’t always match up to the so-called norms. Part of that is because of my Mediterranean heritage. Part of that is because I’m a freak of nature.

While my Wizard World Cleveland weekend might have gotten off to a rocky start, I still had a wonderful time at the convention. I’ll start telling you about in tomorrow’s bloggy.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...DC Super Hero Girls on TV, Faith (from Valiant Comics) and Patsy Walker aka Hellcat!


The Republican National Convention will be held in my birth city of Cleveland, Ohio in July. I’ve been told I should be thrilled about  this, but I’m not. If there’s anything Cleveland and my state and my country doesn’t need, it’s more Republicans. On a kinder note, given Cleveland’s past propensity to get it wrong at least half of the time - the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland museums, the efforts to honor home boys Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for their creation of Superman and LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers are all very nice - I’m not confident hosting GOP Con will bring honor and respect to Cleveland, sometimes known as “The Mistake on the Lake.”

I was in Cleveland last month around this time. The downtown area where GOP Con will be held doesn’t look ready to me. There are many streets still torn up and being worked on. There may not be enough hotel rooms for the unholy invasion. I’ve heard tales of relatively normal people fleeing the area and renting out their homes to the Republicans. Better lock away the good silverware.

I’ll stay as far away from the GOP Zombie Apocalypse as possible. If any of these unnatural creatures come to my home town of Medina, some forty minutes south of the Cleveland Hellmouth, I’ll shoot them in the ass, which is where I assume their brains are located.  As you may have discerned - you Sherlock you - I am not exactly a fan of the party of bigotry and subservience to wealth and power.

Last week, a petition posted at to “Allow Open Carry of Firearms at the Quicken Loans Arena during the RNC Convention in July.” While the identity of the person or persons who created the petition is unknown - it may be a satire - it has gained very close to 50,000 signatures at this time. It’s not likely all the signers are simply amusing themselves. They are undoubtedly signers who are desirous of bringing their penis-enhances to GOP Con. The default position for many Republicans is fear, though they can never stroke their rods enough to compensate for their lack of courage.

I am ashamed to admit my initial reaction to this petition was to chuckle over the concept of a bunch of gun-toting morons blasting the heck out of each other at the convention. As a writer of heroic fiction, the concepts of irony and just desserts hold great appeal for me. But my delight was wrong.

Ohio is an “open carry” state, but our laws allow for businesses to say “not here.” Given the sporting and other events held at the Quicken Loans Arena - it’s where the Cavaliers play - and the large crowds that come there, “not here” was the only sane choice for the Arena. I don’t think anyone has expressed a problem with the policy in the past that has been large enough to get media coverage. Not all advocates of “open carry” are jerks. Some are.

The petition itself is a checklist of right-wing rhetoric. It gives the usual Second Amendment blow job. It talks about how Cleveland is such a dangerous city. It shits its pants over the Islamic State maybe attacking the convention in its dreams. It even capitalizes President Obama’s middle name to emphasize that he is a murderous secret Muslim out to take our guns and shove them up our collective asses. Gun nuts need not fear this. Their heads already block the shoving of anything else up their asses.

The petition, whether real or satire, does correctly point out that all the Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee and the National Rifle Association oppose the creation of “no fire zones” pretty much everywhere. So what are those folks to do when asked if they support this position?

Trump says he has to study the petition, which doesn’t seem at all nuanced to me. The NRA doesn’t seem to have commented on it at the present time. Everyone else says they will defer to the government, i.e., the Secret Service, to make the proper decision. Which marks the first time they have admitted to trusting the government to do the right thing.

Note. The Secret Service does have the authority to overrule “open carry” laws as it deems prudent.

Some of the Ohio “open carry” groups have agreed that this is the Secret Service’s call. I want to applaud their rationality, but I think what’s at work, especially for the Republican politicians, is fear for their own safety and fear of bad press.

Look at the violence that happens at most Trump rallies. Then think about the possibility of this being a contested convention. Would you be confident that violence won’t erupt if the Trump supporters don’t get their way? Could you imagine what a profound indictment of the GOP fetish for guns such an outbreak of violence would be? The potential of “open carry” violence at GOP Con has got to be in the minds of the candidates and the party.

I admit I want the power of the Republican party and their wealthy overlords to be reduced to where it can be drowned in a shotglass. But I don’t want that loss of power to come in a hail of bullets.  I don’t want blood on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena. If you are hoping for that, even the tiniest little bit, than you are as bad as these vile Republicans. I think we progressives and liberals are much better than that. I think we have to be much better than that. I hope you agree. While we’re on the subject...

Mitch McConnell and other despicable Senate Republicans refuse to give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing, something required of them by the Constitution that gleefully cherry-pick at will. They claim the people deserve a say in who fills the current SCOTUS vacancy, conveniently ignoring that the people have had our say. Twice. When we elected Obama.

Having failed to beat Obama in his two presidential elections, McConnell and his goons are trying to deny him his full eight years in office. But, believe it or not, that isn’t the most disgusting thing McConnell has attempted in this matter.

Here’s a McConnell quote from March 20, which he said in response to a question asked on Fox News:

“I can’t imagine a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.”

Think about this. McConnell doesn’t think our votes for President Obama count. But the preferences of the NRA and NFIB, organizations which have never run for office and so have received no votes from the American electorate, those count.

Fuck you, Mitch McConnell...and not in a pleasurable way.

I’ll be back soon with something lighter. I mean, even if I tried, I don’t think I could go darker than today’s bloggy. 

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 28, 2016


During the course of any given month, I am asked many questions. I answer some of them in e-mails, posts to mailing lists and posts to my Facebook page. As time permits, I’ll continue doing all of the above. But, because time does not always permit, I’ll try to talk about these subjects in this brand-new feature of the bloggy thing. Let’s see how many I can cover today...


The title is misleading. I am terribly disappointed that, instead of the legal drama I was anticipating, this turned out to be another dark take on classic DC Comics characters with an excess of violence, callousness and teeth-gritting. I’m thinking of filing a class action suit to demand Zack Synder and anyone who approved the movie title go back to school to learn the difference between “v” and “vs.” Just kidding, but not entirely.

I haven’t seen the movie. My current plan is to watch it when it’s released on Blu-ray. That was also my plan for Man of Steel (2013),  but the more I heard about the movie, the less I wanted to subject myself to it. I made the decision not to watch Man of Steel when I requested and received a copy for my local library. I returned it unwatched.

Although the reviews of Batman v Superman have been overwhelmingly negative, there are enough favorable comments that I haven’t ruled out watching the film when I can get it from my library months from now. I think my favorite negative review to date claims the movie is so bad it’ll make you hate the entire Justice League, including the members who weren’t in the movie. Harsh.

I’ve read and heard favorable reviews from folks who aren’t comics fans. A bunch of fans on a comics art collecting list also seemed to like it. Then again, Mark Evanier quipped, “To honor the name of the late Bill Finger, maybe we should be campaigning to get it OFF the Batman movies.”

There are super-heroes who work with dark treatments, but I can’t imagine Superman or Wonder Woman being among them. Well, I can, on account of I’ve seen it in some not particularly entertaining comic books, but I don’t like to imagine it. Going dark with Batman makes a bit more sense to me, but not when he’s portrayed as a psychotic or a sociopath. It still wouldn’t be my preferred choice...and this may be why no one asks me to write Batman.  Well, maybe that and because, in doing so, I would totally lift Kite-Man to the heights that misunderstood villain deserves.
If I do watch Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I won’t review it unless I can find something to say about that a dozen other critics haven’t already said. Or unless it turns out to be a whole lot more enjoyable than I expect.


Two frequently asked questions fall into this section. Why do you write negative reviews? Why don’t you write more negative reviews?

I’ve been reviewing comic books and related items longer and more often than any other comics professionals. I met with some industry resistance for this with naysayers claiming it was unprofessional for a professional to be writing about the work of his fellows. It was a ridiculous claim. Mystery writers have been reviewing mystery books for decades longer than I have been reviewing comic books and graphic novels. Fantasy and horror and science fiction writers have been reviewing works in their field for just as long. And so on and so on. This isn’t toddler t-ball where everyone gets to run around all the bases and everyone gets a participation trophy. This is an adult art form and its creators should not expect to be coddled as if they were children.

I write negative reviews for the simple reason that it helps gives my readers a base line for judging if they would like a comic book or graphic novel I’ve recommended or panned. While I would caution anyone from assuming I’ll like or dislike something, I would hope my reviews help you in your buying decisions.

As to why I don’t write more negative reviews, it’s simply because I don’t find them as much fun to write. I write them when I think I can make an educational or societal point and, I confess, when I find something hilarious in a comic book or graphic novel’s failed execution. But I’d rather introduce you to the really good stuff. That’s where my heart is.


I don’t have a clue how or if DC’s Rebirth event will affect Black Lightning. I expect DC will bring me up to speed on this, but, even if they do, I likely won’t be able to write about it. I’m afraid I can’t answer every question you ask me, though I will certainly try to answer them when and if I can.


While overall negotiations with DC are progressing and I very much enjoy my occasional conversations with various DC brass and staff, we’re not at the stage where I can announce anything. I remain relatively optimistic that day will come. 


For those wondering where they can meet me, I’m appeared as a guest at two conventions in April.

The first is Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2. You can learn all about this comics-centric event by going to the show website...and you read my personal take on my forthcoming appearance here.

The second is FantastiCon in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17. I’ll be writing about this appearance next week, but, in the meantime, you can learn about this convention by going to the event’s website.

In May, I’ll be a guest at Canal Fulton’s The Toys Time Forgot for Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 7. I will have more details for you closer to the end of April.

Also in May, I’ll be a guest at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, home of the Glyph Awards, in Philadelphia. The Awards will be presented Friday evening, May 20, and the convention itself will be on Saturday, May 21. This one of my favorite conventions. I’m looking forward to returning there.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with either the start of my multi-part Wizard World Cleveland report or one of three single-day pieces I’ve been working on. Thanks for stopping by.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Gem City Comic Con is my next convention appearance. The event will take place on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3, at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio. The official show hours are 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday. I plan to be at the show from start to finish each day.

The guest list includes such stellar comics creators as Mark Waid, John Ostrander, Joe Staton, Bob Hall, John Beatty, Joe Rubenstein, Christy Blanch, Dan Parent, Craig Boldman and dozens more. This is a true comics convention, perfect for those of you who like comics to be at the forefront of these events.

Panel-wise, you’ll get a chance to Meet Tony Isabella in Room B on Saturday at noon. Hosting this “anything I want to talk about” event will be the lovely and talented (so I’m told) Paul Carbonaro. Paul will have questions for me. You’ll have questions for me. I’ll have questions for you and Paul. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, I’ll tell you about the son Mark Waid never knew he had. It’ll be the stuff of legends. Maybe even legends of tomorrow. You never know. Someone may ask me the right question and, caught up in the moment, I may tell you something I shouldn’t ought to tell you.

Of course, if I don’t to get to ask me that burning question that’s been on your mind, you can always swing by Table AH15 in Creators Corner. Except for when I’m doing my panel, taking breaks or just wandering aimlessly looking for love and cool old comic books, I’ll be signing comics and selling stuff. As always, there is no charge for my signature.

What will I be selling? I will have a ridiculously small supply of Black Lightning Volume One unless I luck out and get a much bigger shipment in before the convention. I will have a limited supply of the rare double-sided Superman poster I helped design for the 1988 International Superman Expo in Cleveland. I will have as many old Isabella books and comics as can be found in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. I’ll have a box or two of dollar comics. I’ll have a box of hardcovers and trade paperbacks, mostly priced at half of their original costs. I love you all, I truly appreciate your support for my work all these years and I want your money. Not all of it. Just enough so that I can spread the bills on my bed when I get home and dive into it like a porpoise and burrow through it like a gopher and toss it up and let it hit me on the head.

Back to reality.

I’ll be arriving on Friday to set up my table and leaving directly after the show on Sunday. In between those times, I am reasonably available to do interviews or podcasts. It’s best to arrange such things in advance, so, if you have such a request, e-mail me to set up the time and the place.

This will be my first time doing a show in Dayton and I’m looking forward to the event. I hope to see you there.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


Last Monday, at the studio of WBNX (Channel 55) in Cuyahoga Falls, I appeared in a brief Public Service Ad for reading and Free Comic Book Day. 

WBNX is the home of The CW in the Cleveland area, so there's a chance this spot will run during Arrow, the Flash, DC's Legends of Tomorrow or iZombie. Which would be very cool.

The PSA will start running in the next few weeks, but you can see it here:

Hope you enjoy my ten seconds of fame.

Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Bart Simpson #100, All-New X-Men and Extraordinary X-Men.


I just received a small box of this book. At the moment, I can't express how it feels to hold it in my hands. Save that I am grateful to everyone at DC Entertainment for making it happen and to all the Black Lightning fans who have kept the dream alive. More to come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Edited by all-terrain writer Carol Pogash, Quotations from Chairman Trump [Rosetta Books; $14.99] is a literally pocket-size hardcover of 192 pages. Almost all of those 192 pages feature actual quotes from the despicable Donald Trump. As a result, what was most likely created to be a humorous novelty item is instead perhaps the most horrifying book of the year.

Fear is knowing these stupid and vile quotes were said by a more-or-less human being. Terror is knowing there are people who support this malicious individual not in spite of the awful things he says but because of them. This is what the continued devolution of the Republican Party has wrought.

I don’t recommend this book, but I don’t not recommend it either. It is a compendium of reasons why no one in their right mind should vote for Donald Trump. If Trump fades from human memory, as I most sincerely hope he does, this book might be a nice collectible for devotees of political oddities. If he does become President and  ushers in the Republican Apocalypse that will surely claim all life on this world, putting this book in a time capsule will explain to future interstellar visitors what happened to our world.

ISBN 9780795348211


It will be a while before I can resume writing my usual full-size bloggy things, but I’ll try to post short bloggies like this one as often as I can. Just to tide you over.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, March 21, 2016



This morning, I appeared in a PSA for reading and Free Comic Book Day. It will be running on WBNX (Channel 55), the local CW station. Maybe even during Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, the Flash and iZombie. 

The shoot went very well, even though I've been deathly ill since late last night. I got through it, got home and gave in to the whole deathly ill thing. Like a boss.

I rose from the death to post some birthday and remembrances on my Facebook page.

And this. Now I am crawling back into my grave until tomorrow.

I'll let you know when the PSA starts running and, after it's been posted online, where you can view it.

I will die now, but I will return. Like a boss.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


My schedule just exploded in my face for reasons both good and bad. I'm doing something special tomorrow morning and afternoon - I may even tell you about it soon - but, after that. my job for the remainder of the day will to rework my schedule. My apologies for the continued delay in bringing you the bloggy excitement you love so much.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


While you’re waiting for the bloggy thing to resume, why not check out The Garfield Show #6: Apprentice Sorcerer [Papercutz; hardcover $12.99, paperback $7.99]? This is the American edition of the two most recent French comics albums produced by Dargaud Media. Here’s how this works...

Dargaud takes screen shots of The Garfield Show and turns them into comic-book pages. These stories are adaptations of the cartoons you see on television.

The albums are translated from French back to English. That’s when editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup sends them to me. I get the art pages and the translations and the original English language television scripts.

My job is described as “dialogue restoration.” I try to restore as much of the original scripts as the art and space allows. I write some new dialogue here and there as necessary or sometimes because I’m just having so much fun working on these stories. When I’ve written the new restored script, legendary lettering guy Tom Orzechowski does his magnificent thing.

I love working on these books. Mark Evanier, who produces and does most of the writing for the show, is one of my dearest and oldest friends. Tom Orzechowski, a pal from my pre-Marvel days in comics fandom and another old/dear friend, got his first professional gigs from me. Jim Salicrup is another old/dear friend who has hired me to write stuff for him at three different publishers. In short, I am having fun and working with three great pals.

Buy this book and get it on the fun.

Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-62991-450-3

Paperback: ISBN 978-1-62991-449-7

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I'm all about Disney as we discuss IDW's Donald Duck comics,  Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never Knew You Never Knew by Jim Korkis and A Disney Scrapbook!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


From Wikipedia:

On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured in a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, which consisted of a mass shooting and an attempted bombing. The perpetrators, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in the city of Redlands, targeted a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and holiday party, of about 80 employees, in a rented banquet room. Farook was an American-born U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, who worked as a health department employee. Malik was a Pakistani-born lawful permanent resident of the United States.

After the shooting, the couple fled in a rented sport utility vehicle (SUV). Four hours later, police pursued their vehicle and killed them in a shootout. On December 3, 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a counter-terrorism investigation. On December 6, 2015, in a prime-time address delivered from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama defined the shooting as an act of terrorism.

The horror of such mass shootings on American soil, whether they be acts of terrorism or otherwise, is a scab that never seems to heal. Each new shooting opens the wound anew and there are times when I fear it will never heal. I already knew that one of the victims of the San Bernardino shooting was a friend of a friend. This made the unthinkable even worse.

The scab opened up again when I read a New Yorker article on the shooting by William Finnegan [February 22]. In his second paragraph he wrote this about another of the victims:

Nicholas Thalasinos was fifty-two. He was a restaurant inspector who, according to his widow, loved Godzilla - he once took his two sons to a Godzilla convention in Chicago.

I am 64 years old. I love Godzilla. In July, I’m going to Chicago’s G-Fest with my adult son Eddie.

I have no answers for you, only my conviction that neither treating all Muslims as our enemies or allowing completely unfettered access to guns and other weapons can alleviate the hatred and violence at the center of such unthinkable crimes. There needs to be a better way to move forward to peace and security.

Nicholas Thalasinos loved Godzilla.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


Every other month, on my Facebook page and on Twitter, I post about things that piss me off. Except when I’m out of town at conventions and such, I post one such item a day. People seem to enjoy my pain and/or annoyance, so, a few days after the end of a month of these posts, I collect them for this bloggy thing of mine. Here are the TTPMO items for February with additional comments in italics:

February 1: Editorial cartoonists commenting on the shapes/styles of the new Barbie dolls and using transsexuals as the punch lines. Pardon the expression, but you’re being dicks.

February 2: Opening the pre-viewed copy of A History of Violence I bought from Blockbuster a long time ago and finding there’s no disc in the case. I have too many unwatched DVDs. I just got a copy of the movie via my local library.

February 3: Supporting Kickstarter projects that take too long to get finished and sent to backers. Enough. I’ll buy this material when/if it’s finally published.

February 4: Bongo Comics is canceling Bart Simpson with issue #100. They should replace it with an ongoing Lisa Simpson title. But I have to admit that last issue was pretty great.

February 5: Magazines and organizations that send “final” renewal notices on a weekly basis. I suspect they don’t know what the word “final” means.

February 6: Bernie/Hilary supporters who savage the candidate they don’t support. Either one would make a better President than their Republican opponents. If you think otherwise, you haven’t done your homework.

February 7: People who post “prison rape” comments or jokes on my Facebook page threads. Such posts are NEVER acceptable on my page.

February 8: Cyborg wearing a Black Vulcan shirt in his mini-series. He’s now my least favorite member of the Justice League.

February 9: Plumbing problems. This time, it’s two hot water valves that can’t be completely shut off. So it’s a double whammy. First, we pay the plumber. Then, next month, we pay the much higher than usual water bill. The plumber did the job quickly and a whole lot less expensively than we had feared.

February 10: The “bully” contingent of the Republican presidential field: Trump, Cruz, Christie. Not an ounce of decency or humanity in any of them.

February 11: Athletes and entertainers blessed with talent, wealth and fame who abuse such gifts via debauchery, drunkenness, drug use and other bad behavior.

February 12: The disgustingly obscene amount of money squandered on political campaigns. Imagine all the good uses such money could be put to instead.

February 13: People who believe in “religious freedom” but only for their religion.

February 14: People who claim to be pro-life when they are clearly only pro-fetus..

February 15: Bigots who try to position their bigotry as “religious freedom.” God and Godzilla both find you loathsome.

February 16: Sick days. I consider any illness an affront from the universe because of how it limits what I can accomplish that day.

February 17: Comic strips that run sideways, especially online. It is a major pain to turn my monitor so I can read them.

February 23: Advertising that wraps around a newspaper’s front page and obscures it. I have to remove the sheet before I can read that front page.

February 24: John Kaisch. He’s no moderate. His record on women’s health issues is ghastly and he undermines public education to benefit his charter school donors.

February 25: Getting poked on Facebook. It’s annoying and not even remotely cute. I deeply resent even the second it takes to ignore such nonsense. Poke me at the wrong time and you get un-friended.

February 26: Republicans who think the late Antonin Scalia should vote on pending Supreme Court cases from beyond the grave. I wish I was making this up.

February 29: Concrete floors at conventions. Yeah, I know they come with the venues, but, man, are they hard on my back, feet and legs.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


Some of you know I have a 200-plus-item bucket list of the things I want to write before I kick the bucket. However, I have another, less focused bucket list, which I have cleverly named “My Other Bucket List.” The items on that list include actual goals, flights of fancy, life-hacks and downright silliness.

People seemed to enjoy them, so, every other month, I compile them into a bloggy thing for your edification and entertainment. In the even months I don’t post “My Other Bucket List” items. Instead, I post items that fall into the “Things That Piss Me Off” category. You’ll get a list of those tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s the MOBL items for January with additional comments in italics:

January 1: Do much better with my end-of-the-year holiday planning. Get everything done early so I can enjoy said holidays.

January 2: Get or make a Godzilla Christmas tree. Convince Sainted Wife Barb to let me put it up.

January 3: Start copying my favorable reviews to Amazon and maybe help those creators sell a few more books and movies. This one has been an epic failure, but, hopefully, will not remain so.

January 4: Come up with and write a children’s book. Maybe a series of children’s books.

January 5: Go to the Stay Classy bar, 174 Rivington Street in New York City. It has a Ron Burgundy/Will Ferrell theme.

January 6: Brush up my Shakespeare by rereading and reexamining all of the Immortal Bard’s plays.

January 7: Create an anthology fundraiser adapting Harry Chapin’s songs to comics with the profits going to combat American and world hunger.

January 8: Catch up with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD before its next new episode. Read all the recent SHIELD comic books as well. Guess who failed miserably on this one.

January 9: Watch Jessica Jones on Netflix before the new season of Daredevil starts. Guess who hasn’t started watching Jessica Jones yet.

January 10: Write an updated version of Dumbo as a graphic novel, prose novel or screenplay.

January 11: Help my kids make good decisions, even though they are now adults. Luckily, I remember all my bad decisions.

January 12: Our world is both wonderful and terrible. I will strive to concentrate on the former.

January 13: Paint my van in psychedelic colors, teem up with four teenagers and a big dog, solve mysteries.

January 14: Get me some “my people” to handle the life and career details so often beyond my meager capabilities.

January 15: Get every volume of The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy; read them from start to finish.

January 16: Get every volume of The Complete Peanuts and read them from start to finish. I decided to buy the volume with President Obama’s foreword and work backwards until I hit the ones I already have. I’ll probably take the same “buy most recent volume” with the Dick Tracy, Judge Dredd and Modesty Blaise books.

January 17: Get every volume of Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files;  read them from start to finish.

January 18: Get all the Modesty Blaise graphic albums; read them from start to finish.

January 19: Re-read Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier. Try to write an equally economical and powerful script.

January 20: Read Will Eisner’s The Spirit Archives, then read all the Spirit stories that followed those stories.

January 21: Create a shipping area for online Vast Accumulation of Stuff sales in our downstairs family living room. I have actually done this one. Now all I have to do is fine the time to resume my online sales.

January 22: Try to reach my daily Fitbit goals by the middle of the year. My goal was 5000 steps a day in January, 6000 in February, 7000 in March and so on. January and February were easy, but March has proved dicey so far because my vast accumulation of work keeps me at my desk for several hours each day.

January 23: Start using the Kindle Fire I got for Christmas 2014 now that I've actually activated it. Done. The first book I bought and read was Night of the Crabs, the first book in the giant crabs series by Guy N. Smith. I’m now reading The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar.

January 24: Black Lightning, Misty Knight and Tigra all make Comic Book Resources lists of 100 best DC/Marvel characters within the next five years.
January 25: Do a Black Lightning project that has a cover painting by Alex Ross.

January 26: Spend a week as a guest in Cinderella’s Castle Suite at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

January 27: Have lunch with a friend at least once a week. (Another epic failure, but, with nicer weather coming, I hope to make this a reality.)

January 28: Do ten kindnesses a week for people I love, for friends in comics and for people I don’t really know. I manage this most weeks.

January 29: Eat a meal at every restaurant at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT.

January 30: Strive to be so darned pleasant that people wonder what I’m up to. A Twitter poster gave me his vote for the nicest guy at Pensacon, so let’s call this one a tentative win.

January 31: Figure how to deal with my seasonal affective disorder so next January is more productive than this January.

I’ll be back soon with February’s “Things That Piss Me Off” list. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Bernie by Ted Rall, The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Book One: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso and The G-Man Super Journal: Awesome Origins by Chris Giarrusso!

Monday, March 7, 2016


Pensacon 2016 ended Sunday night, but the convention’s care for its guests didn’t stop there. The event had transportation waiting to take us to the airport on Monday.

I can’t say enough good things about Maria and Irene and the entire Pensacon transportation team. They got us wherever we needed to be and got us there in comfort and quickly. There was even one more perk coming my way, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Just before I came down to the lobby for my ride to the Pensacola airport, Fred (the Hammer) Williamson had come to be driving there. One of the hotel workers, a woman who’d been working tirelessly all weekend long, was stunned to see one of her favorite movie stars in her hotel.

Maria held the van for a few moments so that the women could meet Fred and take a picture with him. Fred was every bit as gracious as I had seen him be during the convention. The woman says that moment with me made the entire weekend worthwhile for her.

My van was next. That’s when Maria and Irene told me that all I had to do was show my Pensacon guest badge to the TSA checker to enter the expedited security line. I didn’t have to remove my jacket or my shoes. That was a major plus for me because, at my advanced age, there’s no guarantee that, if I bend down to remove my shoes, I’m gonna be able to get back up.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it was still a cool moment. I’ve since learned that, for a nominal fee, you can register to always go to the expedited line when you travel. That’s a payment I will gladly make, even though I question why such exceptions are made. I guess terrorists don’t have an extra hundred bucks in their budgets.

Because direct flights are rare birds, indeed, I would be flying to Dallas first and then onto Cleveland. I got to the airport an hour or so before my flight would board. Williamson was waiting for the same flight, so we chatted a bit more. He was one row behind me on the flight, so we didn’t get a chance to continue our chat, but it was great having some extra time with him. If Fred hasn’t already written a book about his life and his careers in football and the movie industry, he should. I’d buy it.

As on the second leg of my flight to Pensacola, I was seated next to interesting people on both this flight to Dallas and the flight from Dallas to Cleveland. On the Dallas flight, I was sitting with the acting police chief of the only Native American reservation in Alabama. My immediate reaction?

“That’s a TV series waiting to happen.”

It turns out there isn’t much serious crime in his territory. Just a few calls a day and those are usually related to the casinos on the reservation. But his is a strong community where neighbors look out for one another and one another’s children. His police force - they are federal agents - are well trained and always getting more training. So, maybe not so great for TV, but pretty swell for the community itself.

We landed in Dallas early and with almost three hours to wait for my flight to Cleveland. I had time to grab a meal and read Michael Eury’s Back Issue #83 [$8.95] and #86 [$9.95]] from cover to cover. The TwoMorrows magazine is among my top ten favorite magazines, though I tend to read its issues out of order and slowly.

Issue #83 [September 2015] was devoted to international heroes like Alpha Flight and the Global Guardians. There were also articles on the New X-Men, Captain Canuck, Justice League International and the Spider-Man adventures created in and for the UK audience. Lots of interesting stuff in this issue.

Issue #86 [February 2016] focuses on Marvel’s Bronze Age giants and reprint comic books. There’s an obsessive attention to detail when it comes to listing these comics and fascinating history from folks who worked on them. Scott Edelman, Roger Stern and Irene Vartanoff are among the Marvel staffers interviewed for this issue. My pick for the best article in the issue was Jerrod Buttery’s “The House of Recycled Ideas,” but my favorite feature was “The Giant-Size Marvels That Weren’t” by Eury and Rich Fowlks. As a special treat for me, they included the “cover” of Giant-Size Giant-Man.

Digression. When I turned scientist Bill Foster into a giant-sized super-hero, I wanted to call him Giant-Man. Apparently, Giant-Man did not sell well in the 1960s, so the name was nixed and he ended up being called Black Goliath. In recent years, I’ve joked that it would have been cool to see an annual titled Giant-Size Giant-Man. Eury and Fowlks made my day by bringing my joke to life.

I recommend Back Issue in general and both of these fine issues in  the specific. Check them out.

On the flight to Cleveland, I was sitting next to one of the guys who run the Fin Feather Fur Outfitters stores and firing ranges in my area. He and his group were coming back from a buying trip. He was very kind in answering my questions about the business. Their  Ashland Ohio place has a hunting range and is next to the “famous” Grandpa’s Cheese Barn. We pass the huge highway signs for both of these places whenever we drive to Columbus...and we always say we should go to Grandpa’s. My new acquaintance invited me to try out their firing range - I’ve never fired a gun in my life - and check out Grandpa’s, thus knocking two items off my bucket list with one trip. A nice guy.

My flight arrived in Cleveland on time with the airport’s baggage claim area being more efficient than usual. I texted Sainted Wife Barb, who was waiting in the nearby cell phone lot, and she picked me up within a few minutes of my getting my luggage.

My trip to Pensacon was over, but it was one of the best convention experiences of my career. If they want me back, I will definitely return to Pensacola.


I’m home and working for the rest of March, but I will be a guest at two Ohio conventions in April: Gem City Comic Con in Dayton on April 2 and 3...and Fantasticon in Toledo on April 16 and 17. I’ll have more on these events in the next couple weeks.

Coming up over the next several bloggy things will be my reports on Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland and my visit to the cool Cleveland State University Comic Book Club, as well as a few special reviews columns. I hope you’ll join me for those.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Like the header says. Maybe we can get to a million by the end of July.


Sunday was the final day of Pensacon and, though I was feeling tired, I was still looking forward to it. Everything I had learned about the show was impressive.

I’ve described Pensacon as the best-run convention that isn’t San Diego’s Comic-Con International. That assessment becomes even more remarkable when you consider this was only the third year of Pensacon. When the organizers planned their first convention, they believed they would draw a few thousand fans, maybe as many as five thousand fans. Their attendance topped 17,000.

The city of Pensacola was quick to realize what a gem they had in this convention. The city, the media, area restaurants and more all got behind the event. It was grown so large that the Pensacola Bay Center can’t hold it all. So there was programming, gaming, a film festival and fan organization tables at the Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel. Many of the larger celebrity panels were held at the nearby Rex Theatre. More panels were held at the Saenger Theatre, accessible via a free trolley ride.

I’ve also spoken of the great organizers and volunteers who truly made the Pensacon guest experience wonderful. One person who was at the convention tweeted “comic book/strip writer Tony Isabella gets my vote for nicest guy at Pensacon.” In thanking him, I responded “It was easy to be nice among the wonderful Pensacon fans, guests, organizers and volunteers.” You can bet I’ll be recommending this show to my friends and readers.

Sunday was sort of a blur to me. I got to meet Claudia Christian, who played Susan Ivanova, my favorite Babylon 5 character, and get a copy of her book. What was so great about Christian’s portrayal of the character was the writers threw into every kind of situation imaginable - action, drama, grief, humor, romance - and she nailed it all. Even with great writing, those scenes could have gone south in so many ways...and they never did. Claudia appreciated my quick praise of her work and was very gracious.
Barry Gregory, who was on Saturday’s writing panel with me, gave me a stack of his John Oman Amazing Man comics. Writer Gregory teamed with artist Steven Butler to do a new take on the classic character created by Bill Everett. Just flipping through the issues, I saw a number of other public domain heroes and villains showing up. Now that my convention journeys are over for a few weeks, I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing these comics.

I spent the rest of the day handing out fliers for the collections of my 1970s work - Marvel Masterworks The Champions Volume One and Black Lightning Volume One - signing Isabella-written comic books, answering questions and doing my badly-drawn free sketches of a sea creature who was only Godzilla in my addled brain. The time passed very fast, so fast I never got to hit the vendors area the rest of the day. Sigh.

My third and final panel of the weekend was WRITING FOR NOVELS VS. COMIC BOOKS with moderator Chris Kubiak and fellow guests Nancy A. Collins and Victor Gischler. Nancy and Victor have written a great many novels. I’ve co-written two with Bob Ingersoll. I was really out of my league here. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the panel or gain anything from it.

My experience with novels has consisted completely of writing for licensed properties: Captain America and Star Trek. This meant Bob and I had to produce chapter-by-chapter plots for these two novels. Which wasn’t terribly different from doing plots for comic books.

However, listening to Victor talking about the freedom of starting a novel with a basic idea and by writing the first page got my envy going. I’m going to have to try that in the hopefully near future.

About the only amusing story I could add to the proceedings was by telling the audience how Marvel, after reviewing the chapters plot for Captain America: Liberty’s Torch, wanted us to make the militia villains of the book not racist. We took out one scene and added a bunch of others that made it clear the militia villains were just as racist as we originally intended. We didn’t figure the folks at Marvel would read the finished manuscript. We figured correctly as no manuscript changes were requested.

That wasn’t me being ornery. My extensive research into the militia groups of the period made it clear that almost all of these groups were racist. Like the Tea Party. Like Donald Trump supporters. It would have been dishonest to downplay that essential component of such domestic terrorists. You may not like my writing, but I always strive to do my work with clean and honest hands.

The panel took up the last of my energy. I went back to my Artists Halo table, left a bunch of signed fliers, then got a ride back to the hotel. I again ordered off the kids menu, did some reading and packing, watched some TV though I couldn’t tell you what I watched if my life depended upon it. I fell asleep. Soundly.

As I’ve said in earlier chapters of this Pensacon report, I regret not being able to take more advantage of all the activities around the convention. If I am again invited to the show, I hope to avoid that regret.

Pensacon was over, but my Pensacon experience still had another day to go. Come back tomorrow for the big finish.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 5, 2016


I had a great time at yesterday afternoon's meeting of the Cleveland State University Comic Book Club. It has a honor to speak before and answer the questions of so many wonderful comics fans. 

I am still getting over the week's lingering con crud, but I expect to be fully done with it by the time Monday rolls around. I have no further March appearances, but I will be going to conventions in Dayton and Toledo in April.

I'm running behind schedule, but the final two parts of my Pensacon 2016 report will post sometime this weekend. They will be followed by a few bloggy things that aren't convention reports and then I'll start writing about Wizard World Cleveland.

Much more to come.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Pensacon was in full swing on Friday, but I was told Saturday would be amazingly busy. That was no exaggeration. I was on the go from the moment I arrived at the Pensacola Bay Center - a little before the show opened early to fans who had purchased special VIP passes - to the moment I left. As I reported in yesterday’s blog entry, I signed a bunch of Isabella-written stuff, handed out fliers for the collections of my Black Lightning and Champions work of the 1970s, and drew dozens of “Godzilla” sketches. I wasn’t keeping track of how many sketches I did, but, if I had to guess, it was somewhere between 60 and 75 different ones.

In addition to the above “Artists Halo” activities, I answered all sorts of questions about my career for the fans, posed for photos with them and was interviewed for two or three podcasts. I didn’t keep track of the podcasts. Not taking proper notes is becoming a bad habit with me. Assuming the podcast folks let me know when the interviews are available online, I’ll share that information with you here and on Facebook and Twitter.

My only “gripe” about Pensacon was that I was afraid the convention wouldn’t be getting its money’s worth out of my appearance. I was only scheduled to appear on two panels, though I was drafted for a third panel. Two took place on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Quick digression. I enjoy appearing on panels and even moderating them. I can’t do back-to-back panels because I need to recharge a bit between such appearances, but I love doing them. If you are a convention promoter who is paying my expenses to be a guest at your event, don’t be shy about putting me on panels.

Before Pensacon’s main vendor area got swamped, I strolled around it for a spell. My first of two Pensacon purchases came when I met legendary Playboy cartoonist Doug Sneyd, whose great gag drawings for the magazines were among the reasons I could honestly say that I bought the magazine more for the cartoons and articles that the pretty ladies who wore smiles and little else.

I chatted with Sneyd for a bit and saw he was selling Unpublished Volume 1 [$25], a cool collection of cartoon roughs he had pitched to Playboy but which had not sold. I knew I had to have a copy of this book even before I found out Doug had drawn wonderful sketches  on the introduction page of each book. A great book and an original Sneyd sketch for $25? That might well have been the best bargain of the convention. I hope he has a Volume Two when next I see him at a convention.

My first panel was THE STORY CRAFT OF COMIC BOOKS at 1 pm. Hosted by Ryan Patel, the panel featured Victor Gischler, Barry Gregory, Mike Grell and Kelly Yates. We talked about the different methods of writing comic-book scripts, our individual preference for this or that method and our own process for writing our stories. I won’t speak for my fellow panelists, but here’s the Tony Isabella method of making with the stories.

I prefer to create/choose and get to know my characters first. The more I know them, the more they steer the direction of the stories. Some of my best moments have come when the characters lead me into some scene I hadn’t anticipated before we got there.

I prefer writing full-script because it gives me more command of my stories. But I can and have worked in just about every method known to the industry. I’ve written loose plots and panel-by-panel plots. I’ve broken down a story on index cards and then read the cards to the artist over the phone. I’ve sat down with an artist and worked out the story, scripting the pages as they were finished. I might prefer full-script writing but I pride myself on being adaptable to  the needs of the situation.

I don’t like artsy-fartsy comics. I believe that if you have a good story, you should tell it clearly and without the kind of “frills” so beloved by the academics who don’t think something can be art if it isn’t confusingly ponderous. Just tell the damn story!

My second panel of the day came via an invitation from moderators Thomas Boucher, Michael Manning and Thomas Strange. At my Artists Halo table, for their podcast, they interviewed me about the Black Bomber. Do a search on this DC Comics character who never was. You will be amazed and horrified in equal measure. They also invited me to join them for a panel they were doing that afternoon.

The HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE STEREOTYPES IN COMIC BOOK HISTORY panel and slideshow took place at 4:45 pm. There had been a glitch in the earlier Black Bomber interview, so I told the tale again during the panel. Also discussed (and shown) were characters like “Pie Face”, “Egg Fu”, “Chop Chop”, “He-She”, “Steamboat” and too many others. It was a lively discussion that showed comic books had come a long way in recent years. Probably not quite far enough, but the journey was well underway.

Digression. The entire story of the Black Bomber and my subsequent creation of Black Lightning will be told again - with new details - in my forthcoming memoir of sorts. That book is a long way off, but I will let you know when it’s finished and when it’s available for purchase.

If I have any regret about attending Pensacon, it’s that I didn’t have the energy to enjoy the after-hours fun surrounding the show. Increasing my stamina for future events is definitely on my bucket list of things I want to accomplish this year.

On the way back to the hotel, I shared a van with Fred (the Hammer) Williamson, legendary NFL player and actor. We chatted a bit and I would speak to him at somewhat greater length on Monday morning at the airport. More on Williamson in a day or two.

In my room, I ordered a light meal from room service, answered the second batch of questions for an upcoming Alter Ego interview, did a bit of work for a client and ended the evening reading the first volume of Arina Tanemura’s Idol Dreams [Viz Media; $9.99].
Here’s the back-cover synopsis:

At age 31, office worker Chikage Deguchi feels she missed her chances at love and success. When word gets out that she’s a virgin, Chikage is humiliated and wishes she could turn back time to when she was still young and popular. She takes an experimental drug that changes her appearance back to when she was 15. Now Chikage is determined to pursue everything she missed out on all those years ago—including becoming a star.

I have mixed feelings about this manga. Chikage is an interesting, likeable protagonist. Some of the supporting characters, especially driven male teen idol Hibiki, are pretty interesting. However, the pairing of a 31-year-old woman with a teenager, even if they seem to have a merely professional relationship, creeps me out more than a little bit. I feel a similar uneasiness about Tokita, Chikage’s former classmate who supplies her with the drug and is secretly in love with her. I’ll have to read another volume or two to suss out if I like this series or not.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the penultimate chapter of my Pensacon 2016 report. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

Bloggy Tony is a guest at the spectacular Pensacon. It’s February 19, Friday afternoon and the first day of the event, which is being held at the Pensacola Bay Center. Tony’s table is on the “Artists Halo” that overlooks the lower arena where the main vendors area is located. Switching to a more comfortable past tense, here’s what he did from his lofty perch...

I signed a great many Isabella-written books, comics and magazines. This sometimes happen when I go to a convention in a place where I have never gone to a convention previously. I tried to keep count, but failed in the midst of many great conversations with fans and guests. My best guess is I signed well over 300 different items and maybe as many as twice that number.

I handed out over a hundred fliers advertising two collections of my 1970s writing: Marvel Masterworks The Champions Volume One (now on sale) and Black Lightning Volume One (coming soon). These fliers were the ones I’ve posted in previous bloggy things. Designed by my lifelong friend Terry Fairbanks, they are printed on glossy paper and are signed by yours truly.

I also gave out little sheets containing the URLs of all my online venues. Here’s a list of them:







I also did something completely different:
Though I am not an artist, I started doing badly-drawn sketches and gave them away to fans who came to my table. As you can see above, I did Godzilla sketches and added gags to them.

Stop right there. I know the monster in the drawings doesn’t look like Godzilla. I can’t draw arms. I can’t really draw anything. But it was Godzilla’s “voice” I heard in my head as I drew these awful sketches and came up with the gags for them.

The “Godzilla” sketch above is one of several I wrote on the theme that Rodan is a filthy, disgusting, lice-ridden bird. Why there’s such bad blood between Godzilla and Rodan is unknown to me, but I bet Godzilla has good reasons for trash-talking Rodan.

I did some “Godzilla” sketches with political themes. There were a few “Feel the Burn” gags, but, as in real life, Donald Trump was a much easier target:
I did some “Godzilla” shout-outs to my fellow Pensacon guests like Dave Dorman and Claudia Christian. My friend Alexi Vanderberg, who was mentioned in yesterday’s bloggy thing and who was supervising Christian signing her memoir at the Word Fire Press booth, gave her a sketch like the one recreated below.  As I learned when I spoke to her on Saturday, Claudia got a kick out of it.
Badly-drawn as these sketches were, the fans loved them. They would swing by my table on a regular basis to see whatever new ones I had done. After the convention, I received e-mails or notes telling me they had hung the sketches in their homes or offices. Which I guess is the equivalent of taping your child’s less-than-refined drawings on your refrigerator.

My plan going forward is to have real artists draw up these silly little gags of mine and produce small prints of them to sell when I attend conventions. If you think you’d like to collaborate with me on such frivolous fare, email me with a link to samples of your work. I’ll get back to you quickly.

Since I’m still getting over the bout of con crud I contracted at Wizard World Cleveland last week, today’s bloggy thing is a short one. But I’ll be back tomorrow with a full report on my Saturday at Pensacon 2016.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


I'm still suffering from the con crud I acquired at Wizard World Cleveland, but it does seem to be abating. I'm also still running way behind schedule, so I ask you to be patient if you're waiting on an email or some other response from me. I'll write and post the next part of my Pensacon 2016 report as soon as I can.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


On its first day, Friday, February 19, Pensacon didn’t open to the public until 1 pm. Which gave me plenty of time to do this and that before being driven to Pensacola Bay Center.

I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant where the staff had donned kind of sort of cosplay outfits. The hostess wore a Superman emblem shirt with a tutu. She also had a mask, but she wore it on top of her head. When I cautioned her that she needed the mask to protect her secret identity and her loved ones, she said the mask covered up her pretty eye makeup. Sigh. These young super-heroes today. I don’t know what the multiverse is coming to.

I spent the morning answering some questions for a future interview in Alter Ego and doing some reading. I started with Pensacola’s Downtown Crowd, a free monthly tabloid newspaper that devoted its cover and two interior pages to Pensacon. There were also a number of ads for restaurants and taverns that were doing promotional tie-ins with the convention. Pensacola gets behind the event in a big way, which is good for the con and good for the city.
I read the first book of Izumi Tsubaki’s Monthly Girls’ Nozako-Kun [Yen Press; $13]. High school student Sakura has a crush on fellow student Nozako...and tries to express this by telling him she’s his fan. Turns out Nozako is a shojo manga artist and he thinks she’s talking about his manga. This being a romantic comedy, Sakura ends up becoming one of Nozako’s assistants. I like the premise of this manga because I’m a sucker for fiction set in the comics industry, but the individual stories are often too short and too unfocused to deliver satisfying humor. The book is also hampered by a problem I have with many manga works: the characters aren’t visually distinct enough for me to instantly tell them apart. No recommendation this time out, but I will read the second volume and see if I like that book better than this one.

On my Kindle Fire, which I’ve finally started using, I also read a couple chapters of The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar [St. Martin’s Press, 2009]. Though I’ve never read any of Highsmith’s novels or short stories, I became interested in her when I learned she wrote comic books in the 1940s. By most accounts, she seems to have been a most unpleasant person, but she makes a fascinating subject for  a biography.

On to the convention...
The Pensacola Bay Center is more an arena than a convention center, though it affords ample room for a convention. The first floor is an arena where various sporting events are held. That was the main dealers room for Pensacon. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but I did get to say “hi” to Sensei Neal Adams, chat with my old buddy Mike Grell and briefly renew my acquaintance with Alexi Vandenberg, who I knew when I lived in New York. He was there with Word Fire Press, publisher of many fine books and novels.

The second floor of the center had the Pensacon panel rooms and its large celebrity autograph area. To get to the latter, fans had to walk down a long circular corridor. I’m not saying it was a bit of a hike to the celebrities, but I saw a man in tattered clothing and a week’s beard stubble crawling down the hallway asking for water. Photo opportunities with the celebrities were generally held in the dealers room.

What I dubbed “Artists Halo” was the third floor. It ran all around the circumference of the center. You could look down on the dealers room. Outside the halo was a food court offering various fast foods and beverages, some of them alcoholic. Though I did not imbibe of any spirits, I did develop a liking for the hamburgers. They were not worth $6 each, but they were tasty.

In addition to the areas open to the public, Pensacon had a really nice green room for guests of the events. It was well stocked with water and other beverages, snacks and even catered food from one of the local restaurants. It was one of the nicest green rooms that I have ever seen at a convention.

Throughout the convention, dozens of volunteers were there to help the guests and the fans. If guests needed someone to watch tables while they appeared on panels or took care of other business, the volunteers would cover that. If a guest couldn’t get away from his or her table, the volunteers would bring them whatever drinks and food they needed. I was helped by so many volunteers that I never got the chance to write down more than a few of their names. I’ll talk more about them down the line.

My table was next to comics artist John Dell on my right and famed Star Wars Dave Dorman on the left...which isn’t the usual political configuration of me and my old friend Dave. Both were great company during Pensacon. John deserves special praise for listing to more of my old stories than any human being should be subjected to over such a short period of time.

Also in my general vicinity were artist Bob McLeod (co-creator of The New Mutants), artist Steve Butler, British comics legend Simon Bisley, publisher/writer Barry Gregory of Ka-Blam Digital Printing, artist Mitch Byrd, author Nancy A. Collins (a dear online friend I was finally meeting in person), novelist and comics writer Victor Gischler, illustrator Mark Maddox (whose work I have long enjoyed in magazines like Mad Scientist and Video Watchdog, comics artist Mark Texeira, comics creator Kelly Yates and many other fine folks who I slight only because my memory needs an upgrade.

So what did I do at Pensacon? We’ll talk about that tomorrow as my report on the convention continues.

© 2016 Tony Isabella