Saturday, April 30, 2016


What Has Gone Before:

Tony had a fun Saturday at Fantasticon and an equally fun evening. Around midnight, he left the show’s after hours party to head back to his hotel room. That’s when this happened...

As I walked to the elevators, I was greeted by a very attractive young woman. She was at the hotel attending a wedding reception. Her dress left little to the imagination and she was obviously quite inebriated. I didn’t have to guess that because she told me as much a couple seconds later when she draped herself all over me, clinging to my neck and shoulders. I think she’d mistaken me for another reception guest. She slurred:

“Hello. I’m drunk. I need to lay down somewhere. Can I come up to your room...”

Oh, get your minds out of the gutter.

Have you seen me at a convention? I look like somebody’s granddad and I might as well have a forehead tattoo that reads “safe zone.” At other convention parties, women who feel like they’ve had enough of men talking to their breasts tend to gravitate to wherever I am sitting. Keeping my ego in check - and, guys, this is a very useful skill if you, I don’t know, want to behave like an adult - I assume that was what the young lady was picking up on.

I untangled myself from her. Twice. Because the first time I didn’t think she could stand under her own power. When I left her, she was leaning against the hotel’s front desk. The desk clerk was keeping an eye on her and, after a brief conversation, the desk clerk and I figured someone would come by and collect the young lady. I went up to my room and got a good night’s sleep.

Sainted Wife Barb called me in the morning before she went to work. Naturally, I told her about this incident. She laughed. We’ve been married for 32 years come June and Barb knows crazy shit happens to me all the time. Just another drop in the bucket.

Here’s the funny part of this story.

When I came down from my room later that morning to go down to the convention, I was stopped by one of the show’s dealers. He gave me a funny look and asked me who my evening companion was. I told him what I just told you, albeit in somewhat abbreviated form. It was clear from his snort and the even more suspicious look he gave me that he didn’t believe me for an instant. I keep waiting for some comics website to “expose” my scandalous behavior. Which hasn’t happened yet, but who knows.

Guys...this is why you tell your wives and significant others every damn crazy thing that happens to you at a convention. People, even comics people, talk shit as easily as they take breath. Don’t step in it.

Sunday was a slower day than Saturday, which is almost always the case at comics conventions. Oddly enough, I’ve had very busy days at small Sunday-only shows. I don’t try to predict what will happen on any given day of an event. I just go with it.

Fantasticon hit a bump in the road Sunday morning. Streets around the convention center were blocked for a 10K race. So fans coming to the show couldn’t get to the show for an hour or so. I can well imagine how infuriating this is for convention promoters and don’t understand why such races can’t be routed away from conventions and other such events. Does anybody in the city governments, which have to approve races and routes, ever consider such things?

I still had a good time on Sunday. I signed a bunch of comic books and other items. I sold some stuff. I talked to fans. I bought some Isabella-written comics from a dealer and will have them for sale the next time around.

I enjoyed the cosplayers who were in attendance on both days of the convention. There was a contest for kids and a contest for adults. My pal Scott Crawford, who was the hit of many a Mid-Ohio-Con with costumes he made for himself and others, was wearing his incredible Phantom suit. The Ghost Who Walks has rarely looked better.

There was one awkward moment on Sunday. A long-time friend who I’ve signed many comics for in the past brought me a copy of Astonishing Tales to sign. I had forgotten that he prefers his comics signed on the inside of the book and, to his horror and mine, signed on the cover. My only excuse is that I sign so many comics at conventions that details like this sometimes slip through the cracks of my aged brain. I usually remember to ask a fan where he or she would like their comic signed.

Help an old guy out, will you? If you want me to sign a comic book or any other item, hand it to me open to where you want me to sign it so I don’t head for the cover immediately. And know where you want the book signed. Don’t leave it up to me. It’s your comic. You get to choose.

My son Ed wanted to watch the opening Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game against the Detroit Pistons. Our plan was for him to walk to a highly-recommended brew pub. I would break down my artist alley table and load the van before picking him up for the drive back to Medina. Advance planning paid off.

I had found an elevator at the other end of the convention center than few dealers knew about. It opened very near to where our van was parked. I was ready to hit the road within fifteen minutes of the end of Fantasticon.

I did go back to say goodbye to my friends. I was there when Keith Pollard told a story about our Marvel Bullpen days. The star of the story was Don McGregor.

Those of you who have met Don know he is a combination of madness and genius and energy in compact form. In Keith’s anecdote, Don was having an argument - possibly a mock argument - with the late John Verpoorten, Marvel’s production manager and a giant of a man in so many ways. At one point, Don reportedly jumped on John’s desk so he could argue with him eye to eye. I got my best laugh of the weekend when I said:

“That McGregor. He brought a Don to a John fight!”

I met Eddie at the brew pub in time to watch the Cavaliers win the game. The Cavs would go on to sweep the Pistons in four games. Our drive back to Medina was uneventful.

I had a good time at Fantasticon. In fact, I’m trying to figure out my schedule so I can do another of promoter Joe Nieporte’s events  before the end of the year. I’ll let you know if that is happening as soon as I know it’s happening.

In the meantime...

My next appearance will be at the store Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio, on Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 7. That will be followed by a trip to Philadelphia later that month for the Glyph Awards ceremony and the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. I’ll have more details on all those events soon.

My 2016 convention schedule is almost full. Come back tomorrow for that schedule as it now stands and for other bits of Tony Isabella news. It’s an exciting time for me and I love to share it with you and all my other bloggy thing readers. See you tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 29, 2016


What Has Gone Before;

I drove to Toledo, Ohio with my son Eddie. Mission: Fantasticon, a comics-centric show of which I had heard good things. We unloaded  my artist alley table stuff at the Seagate Convention Center, then checked into Room 1313 of the Park Inn by Radisson. We had a “Bar Rescue” experience at a local tavern. We had pizza. Eddie went to hang out with some pals from his time at The Ohio State University. I watched McGarrett and his Five-0 team fight Iron Man and rescue an abused elephant. You should go back and read’s yesterday bloggy thing, which prompted one entertained reader to tweet that I should have my own show on The Travel Channel. Our story continues.

Pre-convention Saturday morning went smoothly. I had the breakfast buffet at the hotel’s restaurant. The food was good and I limited myself to one relatively modest plate of it. I went back to my room for my briefcase and a bottled water.

The convention center is connected to the hotel, so going back and forth between Fantasticon and my room was always a quick trip. The Park Inn elevators were the fastest elevators I have ever seen in my years of convention going. They always seemed to be on whatever floor we were on and they rarely stopped along their vertical way for other hotel guests. It was a little scary.

I was disappointed to see there were no signs of life in any of the food carts or establishments outside the show floor. I’ve written about how convention centers shortchange or ignore the nutritional needs of comics fans. Those needs would be inadequately served by a snack bar within the show floor.

Setting up my table was easy because I don’t bring a big display. There was a box of Isabella-written comics. There was a box of the two-sided Clark Kent/Superman posters from the 1988 International Superman Expo in Cleveland. There was a box of random comic books priced at a dollar. I also had copies of the just-released Black Lightning trade reprinting my initial 1970s run on my creation with a new introduction and a handful of The Garfield Show albums that I work on for Papercutz. Sales were good throughout the day, which didn’t stop me from studying what some other comics creators were doing with banners and displays and whatnot. I’m always considering ways to up my game at conventions.

Background music at the convention was kept to a reasonable level, which is a relief from shows that blare such music and make talking with fans difficult. My table was within earshot and sight of the K.I.T.T. car from Knight Rider and a Ghostbusters vehicle. Even if I were scared of ghosts, I figured I could count on K.I.T.T. to save the day.

As I expected, I had a great time talking with my old comics pals Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard, Mike Grell and others. With my table between Arvell’s and Keith’s, I got to see them drawing some very nice sketches for the fans. I must come up with a project I can do with those guys sooner rather than later.

Fantasticon had terrific volunteers. I especially want to mention Marti, who was always there with bottled water and coffee when any of us needed it. Great volunteers are the heart of any successful  comics convention.

My buddy Rick Santman, who always has reasonably priced old comics at his dealer’s table, strolled by with a gift for me: a 1997 book titled A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series by David Kalat. It’s on my bedroom night stand, waiting to be read after I finish Totally Unofficial 100 Things Superman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.

Cleveland’s own Ted Sikora, the wondrous film maker and comic-book writer of the movie Hero Tomorrow and the comic-book series Apama: The Undiscovered Animal, had a booth at the convention. I recommend both the film and the trade paperback of the comic book...and would  do so even if Ted hasn’t bought a copy of the Black Lightning trade from me. One of the cool moments of the show was when I walked by his table and saw him chuckling as he read my introduction to that collection.

Sales continued to be good throughout the day. I sold out of that Garfield book and will have to restock before my June conventions. Anticipating/achieving brisk sales of Black Lightning, I’m already ordering additional copies of that book every month. As for those spiffy Superman posters, I’m down to my last three dozen of them. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
Later that afternoon, I participated in the “Marvel and DC Comic Creators Discussion” with Mike, Arvell and Keith. The “panel room” was a curtained-off area on the show floor and worked well for us. Our moderator was comics artist and writer Martin Hirchak, who did a fine job. We answered questions about our career and working in comics. We got a few laughs. No one broke anything. You can’t ask for more from a panel than that.

Among the many pleasures of the day was seeing my long-time friends Martin and Pam Arlt. Martin published Mad Scientist, a favorite of mine, and is an actual mad scientist. Both of them work on G-Fest, the celebration of all things Godzilla held in Chicago every year. It was great seeing them again.

After Fantasticon closed on Saturday, Eddie and I went with them to dinner at Table Forty 4, a very nice tavern and restaurant within walking distance of the convention center. We were joined by Tim Bean, G-Fest’s "guest wrangler" for the Japanese guests, He makes  sure those guests have what they need, from water to translators. It was good conversation, good food and a good time.

Fantasticon held an “after hours” party in the Park Inn’s bar and restaurant. With Eddie having left to hang out with his friends, I threw on a sport coat and went down to see what was happening. I’m usually exhausted from a day at a convention, but I was remarkably energetic. There was also a wedding reception at the hotel, which is my clumsy attempt at foreshadowing.

The convention party was fun. Writer Dirk Manning, aka the Toast of Toledo, was hosting karaoke in one part of the bar. I listened to the performances, but did not participate in them due to that silly restraining order granted to the music industry.

During the party, I met and chatted with Dan Fogel. Dan has been a writer, editor and publisher of adult/Underground comix books like Cherry Poptart and is the author and publisher of the indispensable Fogel’s Underground Comix Price Guide. He was one of the people I most wanted to meet at Fantasticon. I was delighted to learn he’s recently moved to Cleveland and hope to see him again soon, maybe even at the comics creators cookout I’ve wanted to host for years.

I left the party, which was still going strong, at midnight, which, technically, was the second day of the convention. As I walked over to the elevators, I was greeted by a very attractive young woman, one of the wedding reception guests, who was wearing a dress that left little to the imagination and who was obviously inebriated. I didn’t have to guess that last part because she told me as much a couple seconds later when she draped herself all over me, clinging to my neck. I think she had mistaken me for another reception guest and perhaps someone she knew. She slurred:

“Hello. I’m drunk. I need to lie down somewhere. Can I come up to your room...”

Look at that. We’re out of time for today’s bloggy thing. I’ll pick up this story tomorrow. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 28, 2016


I was going to Toledo. From Arvell Jones, my pal from before either of us went to work went to work in the comic-book industry in the 1970s, I’d heard good things about Fantasticon. The company, helmed by Joe Nieporte, puts on nearly a dozen comics conventions a year. So, when Joe contacted me, I agreed to be a guest at his April 16 and 17 show in Toledo. At the very least, I would get to spend some time with Arvell and two other long-time friends: Mike Grell and Keith Pollard.

I have indirect ties to Toledo as Sainted Wife Barb went to and got her pharmacy degree from The University of Toledo. She was planning to attend the show with me, but her schedule changed and she had to work instead.

Fortunately, my son Eddie, who is into anime and comics and other related cool stuff, was happy to drive to Toledo with me. A couple of his friends from The Ohio State University were going to medical school in Toledo and, when he wasn’t at the convention, he would be hanging out with them.

It’s about a two-hour drive from Medina to Toledo, so, while you’re waiting for me to get to Toledo, here’s some information about the convention from its website:

Fantasticon is a mid-size show created for true comic book and pop culture collectors and fans. The fans that come to our shows are true collectors that are looking for those rare items for their personal collections. Most leave very satisfied as we pride ourselves on having great dealers and artists at our shows. If you collect it, you will find it at a Fantasticon Show.

Fantasticon is proud to have a presence in multiple cities throughout the mid-west. Currently we are in four different cities in Michigan and Ohio, and expect to expand into Indiana in the near future. We also, are very proud of the fact that our admission price is the lowest of any other comparable shows. And the cost for being an exhibitor or artist at the Fantasticon is far less than any comparable comic cons out there.

The drive was uneventful. Eddie and I pulled into the loading area of Toledo’s Seagate Convention Center and quickly unloaded my show stuff. It didn’t take long.

The convention takes place in one large area. The concrete floors are the usual leg-killing floors, but the room looked pretty good by the time the show opened on Saturday morning. My table was on a wall between those of Arvell and Keith...with Mike next to Keith. I knew it was going to be a fun weekend.

The convention hotel was the Park Inn by Radisson. It wasn’t what you’d called a five-star hotel, but I liked it much better than the Crowne Plaza I’d stayed in two weeks earlier in Dayton. The front desk folks at the Park Inn were always friendly and helpful. There was a decent hotel restaurant whose breakfast buffet offered much better-tasting food than the Dayton hotel. It was connected to the convention center, which made going to and from Fantasticon easy. The convention/hotel parking lot was equally convenient. Though the convention center itself wasn’t very good, I had no problems with the hotel. I would happily stay there again.

Our hotel room was on the 13th floor. This surprised us because a lot of buildings skip that floor. Our room was...1313. That became a running joke the whole weekend, with at least one fellow hotel guest saying I should have warned her about that before she got on the elevator with me. Amusingly, when I joked with the front desk that I would be lucky to survive the weekend, the older employees had to explain the whole “bad luck” superstition thing to a younger member of the staff.

Since it would be a while before Eddie could meet up with his old college chums, we decided to grab dinner. I couldn’t get the feel of Toledo or, at least, the area around our hotel and the Seagate Convention Center. We had a wonderful view of the Maumee River from our hotel. The baseball park where the minor-league Toledo Mudhens play was classic and inviting. But it seemed like every third storefront was vacant and the streets were never busy at night.

We went to the Fleetwood Tap Room for dinner. In case you wondered, that place is the reason we have a Bar Rescue logo at the top of today’s bloggy thing. Boy, could that place have used a visit from the TV show’s Jon Taffer.

If you haven’t seen Bar Rescue, which I watch fairly regularly with Eddie and the rest of the family, It’s a reality show that airs on Spike. As per Wikipedia: 
It stars Jon Taffer, a long-time food & beverage industry consultant specializing in nightclubs and pubs, who offers his professional expertise plus renovations and equipment to desperately failing bars in order to save them from closing.”

When we walked into the Tap Room, we asked for a table, only to be told the manager didn’t allow less than four people at any table. This despite there being empty tables that stayed empty the entire time we were at the bar/restaurant. Instead, we were seated at the end of a long and uncomfortable elevated table. 

By Eddie’s count, there were 14 employees of the Fleetwood in plain sight. That was roughly one worker for every five or six customers in the place. Despite this, it took over ten minutes for me to get a soft drink and over fifteen minutes for Eddie to get a beer. He never had a second beer because no one ever asked him if he wanted a second beer. Taffer would not have been happy.

Note. There were six bartenders working behind the bar. There were five customers sitting at the bar. Unbelievable.

When someone finally took our food order, it was twenty minutes or so before Eddie was served. His food was lukewarm at best and not very good.

My food? I ordered a damn hot dog and it didn’t come until after we had corralled a server and told them to cancel the order and just bring us the check for Eddie’s meal, which he had already finished, and our drinks. It was apparent that my hot dog had been sitting in the “out” window the whole time and no server thought to bring it to our table. Taffer would have been screaming.

Me? I was loud. When the manager came over and tried to shmooze me, I wasn’t having any of it. I told him I didn’t care what his name was. I just wanted the check. To his credit, he took Eddie’s meal and my soft drink off the bull. Eddie paid for his beer. We headed back to our hotel.

The manager had claimed “growing pains” as the reason for the bad service. Indeed, the Fleetwood was under new management. But it had been under new management for over six months. If you don’t have it figured out after six months, you’re never getting there.

I was starving and Eddie was still hungry. The hotel recommended we call Vito’s Pizza, which delivers and which is affiliated with the famous Tony Packo’s Pizza. We ordered a bacon cheeseburger pizza. It got to our room in less time than the Fleetwood took to get my son his food. I don’t know if that Vito’s is at all related to the famous Vito’s in the Garfield cartoons, but I would order from this Toledo restaurant anytime.

Eddie went to hang out with his friends. I stayed in the home and channel-surfed until I hit Hawaii Five-0, the remake of the series that aired from 1968 to 1980. In this episode, Steve McGarrett and his team fought...Iron Man. Seriously, they were hunting a stolen suit of armor created for the military. The secondary plot involved the rescue of an elephant abused by a circus. We’re not talking an award-winning show here, but it was fun.

Hawaii Five-0 is one of those series I would watch regularly if I had more time. It’s got a likeable cast, including such favorites as Masi Oka, Jorge Garcia and especially Chi McBride, who I swear I would watch in almost anything.

I dozed off after that and got a decent night’s sleep, though I got up at five in the morning thinking my cat, who was back in Medina, wanted to be fed. I have been well trained.

Come back tomorrow for my report on the first day of Fantasticon. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 27, 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 74th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #89 [July 1971] has a cover signed “Larry Lieber,” though the Grand Comics Database credits John Tartaglione with the inking and Marie Severin with “alterations.” I won’t dispute either of those additional credits, but I will say I think the cover does not do what a cover is supposed to do, which is sell the comic to a potential customer. I’ll explain...

This issue features a guest shot by Kid Colt, one of Marvel’s two best-known western heroes, the other behind Rawhide himself. This is only mentioned in a speech balloon; it should have been heralded more prominently. Adding to the problem is that Kid Colt’s traditional garb is colored incorrectly. Missed opportunity.


“When Outlaws Ride!” by Lieber (script and pencils) and Tartaglione  (inks) has a simple plot that fits the story’s 14-page length well. Rawhide spots his friend trying to escape from a posse and figures Colt’s horse Steel is much faster than the steeds of his pursuers. But Steel stumbles and Rawhide and his horse Nightwind must rush in to prevent Colt from being captured.

In flashback, we learn that Colt helped out a young woman named Ann and was invited to dinner. Ann’s father runs the town’s express office and, because he’s working late, is not able to join them. On leaving the house, Colt is knocked out from behind and wakes up to find his clothing scattered around him.

During Colt’s nap time, a masked robber wearing his clothes stuck up the express office and killed the manager. The townspeople spot the groggy Colt and aren’t in a listening mood. Colt took off and that’s where the story gets back to real time.

Rawhide and Colt head back to the town because it’s “the last place they’ll think of looking for you.” Specifically, they go to Ann’s house where the angry grieving woman beats her fists on Colt’s chest and says that, if she had a gun, she would kill him. Colt gives her one of his guns...and she shoots him dead.

Just kidding.

She can’t do it. Colt tells her she can’t shoot a man in cold blood and neither could he. Rawhide tells Colt to lie low while he does some investigating. He finds a clue a few panels later: a tobacco pouch with an unusual design.

The returning posse spots the Kid and, because they figure he’s in cahoots with Colt on account of Rawhide helped his buddy escape and all, they start shooting at him. Rawhide heads for cover and, not wanting to hurt the townsmen, starts shooting the guns out of their hands. Colt rushes into the street to help the Kid.

Rawhide spots the tobacco pouch design on saddlebags on a horse. He waves around the pouch and tells the posse it belongs to the real killer. Someone recognizes the horse as belong to Sam Tanner. Colt impulsively runs at Tanner...who shoots Colt in the leg. Clearly, Colt has gotten rusty since his own comic book went to all reprinted stories.

Rawhide corners the fleeing Tanner and disarms him. Tanner admits he wanted to pin the robbery on Colt. He killed the manager because his mask slipped and the manager recognized him. Tanner wants the Rawhide Kid to let him go because they’re both on the wrong side of the law. But it’s just a ploy to give Tanner a chance to use a gun  hidden in his hat.

Rawhide’s spider-sense warns him of this treachery and he manages to avoid the bullet. Tanner doesn’t get a second shot. He’s gunned down by the Kid:

I’ve regretted many a death, but not his! He was a sidewinder right up to the end!

Kids Colt and Rawhide ride out of town “knowing that in movement and distance lies the only safety they may ever know!”

This story has never been reprinted in American comics, but did run in three foreign titles.


As usual, the half-page Mighty Marvel Checklist ran after page 6 of the Rawhide Kid story. Highlights of the month included Neal Adams drawing the Inhumans in Amazing Adventures #7, the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #98, a turning point for my favorite Avenger in Captain America and the Falcon #139, Thoth-Amon making his Marvel debut in Conan the Barbarian #7 and the Thing and the Hulk battling  in Fantastic Four #112.

The rest of the page advertised the fan club Marvelmania’s official Marvel stationery. For $1.75 (including postage), you would get ten envelopes, 10 stationery sheets and 40 scratch pad sheets, all of them “drawn by your favorite artists!”
Some comics dealers had dropped out of the Marvel “classified” ads, but there were two new dealers from San Diego, California: Doug Van Gordon and Brain Laurence. But the most significant advertisement was this one:

COMIC CONVENTION. San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con, Aug. 6-8, 1971. Many comic and sci-fi pros, art displays, films, dealer’s tables, and fellow fans! Please sent 25c for full details. Comic-Con, Box 23182, S.D., Ca 92123.

This issue’s reprint story was “Redmen On the Rampage!” featuring The Kid From Texas (5 pages). Penciled and inked by Joe Sinnott and possibly written by Stan Lee, this tale first appeared in Kid Colt Outlaw #85 [July 1959].


The GCD synopsis says most everything you need to know about this story, which is filled with references to “savages,” and “Injuns” and “palefaces.” The synopsis:

A small frontier town is besieged by Indian attacks. The Kid from Texas and his sidekick, Cactus, help a doctor end the conflict by treating the Chief's son for cholera.

Cactus is a typical Gabby Hayes type. The Kid is a voice of reason and compassion. In response to a townsman declaring the Apache need to be wiped out, the Kid says:

Maybe there’s been too much of that already...We’ve pushed further west, and all the time we took what he wanted! There are ways to win their confidence, and without the use of guns.


There were many cool items on this month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page. We get the first announcement of a future black-and-white mag to be called The Tomb of Dracula or The House of Dracula. It will show Dracula as he is, as he was and as we will be...and with art by Gene Colan, Berni Wrightson, Gray Morrow and others. The “Tomb” title would end up being used for a legendary color series and the magazine, when it finally came out, would be called Dracula Lives!

There’s a note that Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness have changed their titles to Monsters on the Prowl and Creatures on the Loose.

Tom Palmer gets congratulations on the birth of his first child, a girl. Sal Buscema gets the same for his second child, a boy. Items like these always made me feel closer to writers and artist I had never met, but would meet within the next few years.

The page pointed out Marvel references in recent movies There’s a Girl in My Soup (a Hulk poster) and Brewster McCloud (a character reading Captain America).

Roy Thomas was on TV station KFVS in Missouri, a 20-minute spot on relevance in comics. He appeared “in his Brooks Brothers suit and tie, overlapped by his long blonde hair, which must have confused everyone who was watching!”

Besides the usual shout-outs to artists moving from one comic book to another, the page listed the nominees for the Academy of Comic Book Arts awards for 1970...

Best Penciller: Adams, Buscema, Kirby
Best Writer: Lee, O’Neil, Thomas
Best Inker: Giordano, Palmer, Sinnott
Best Continuing Feature: Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Spider-Man
Outstanding New Talent: Conway, Smith, Wrightson

“Stan’s Soapbox” discussed the eternal question of whether or not Marvel should use dialogue balloons and captions on its covers and if doing so gave the comics a juvenile look. As usual, Stan tosses the question to the fans.

[My take is that we should use all the tools in the box as we need them. That includes word balloons on covers and thought balloons in stories. Why limit ourselves?]

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page has four letters and responses to same. Dan Mulcahy of Brandon, Vermont wants new adventures of Kid Colt, the Ghost Rider and other western heroes, suggesting these be written by Larry Lieber and Gerry Conway with art by Barry Smith and Herb Trimpe. He wants an all-new Rawhide Kid Annual. (He’ll get a reprint annual soon.) He wants Rawhide to stay in one place for a few issues at a time. He wants the Kid to team up with the Ghost Rider.

David Lomazoff of Philadelphia likes John Tartaglione’s inking, but thinks there’s room for improvement. However, he might be confusing inking with coloring. He also wants to see Larry Lieber doing more than Rawhide Kid and a return to costumed villains in the series.

Elliot Cohn of Ann Arbor, Michigan didn’t like Rawhide Kid #84, but thought issue #85 was great.

Dan Botelho of Cheyenne, Wyoming declares Rawhide Kid to be “one of the greats of the comics world.” 


The final editorial page this month is a full-page house ad for Kid Colt Outlaw #154 [July 1971] with a new cover by Herb Trimpe. The issue reprints...

Kid Colt: “Gunduel In the Desert” (5 pages) by Stan Lee with Jack Keller (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks) from Kid Colt Outlaw #91 [July 1960].

“The Fury of Bull Marker” (5 pages), a non-character story by Lee and Don Heck from The Rawhide Kid #27 [April 1962].

Kid Colt: “Jailbreak” (6 pages) by Lee and Keller with Christopher Rule inking from Kid Colt Outlaw #81 [November 1958].

Kid Colt: “Plunderers” (5 pages] by Lee and Keller from Gunsmoke Western #32 [December 1955].

That’s our “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” for this gallop around the West. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Postal, a great ongoing series from Image about a town with dark secrets...Pre-Code Classics Ghost Comics, reprinting the earliest issues of the Fiction House title from the 1950s...and the school relationship manga Horimiya.


I love comic books in all their myriad forms, be they mini-comics or big thick graphic novels and everything in between. However, my second great passion is the cheesy monster movies, especially when these films involve giant monsters. You would expect no less from the pastor of the First Church of Godzilla. All honor to the Great Scaly One who protects us with His fiery atomic love.

One of the joys of watching cheesy monster movies is writing about them in this bloggy thing of mine. The press of other business has kept me from doing this for too long, but I’m back in the cinematic saddle today with my thoughts on...Queen Crab.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary of the movie, which I’m sharing with you sans spoiler warning on account of it doesn’t bear any resemblance to the actual movie beyond being set in a somewhat remote countryside:

A meteor crashes into a quiet lake in the remote countryside and awakens a centuries-old beast, who tears through a nearby town and its inhabitants, who must fight for their lives and stop this Queen Crab before she can hatch an army of babies.

Sounds like a swell movie that someone should make some time, but it’s not this movie. Adding to the false advertising, the summary also appears on the back of the DVD case.

Queen Crab is from Polonia Brothers Entertainment, the low-budget movie makers who unleashed Jurassic Prey on the world. I reviewed that film last September. This movie, written and directed by Brett Piper, is much better than that movie, especially when it comes to the stop-motion animation used for the title characters and several smaller crabs. Now it’s time to warn you there are...


No meteor disturbs the quiet lake at the beginning of this movie. The disturbance comes from a bickering married couple. The husband is a scientist trying to increase food growth so humanity doesn’t starve by the year 2050. His wife objects to him spending all his time working and not doing the household chores. They are terrible parents whose default positions are to either scream at their young daughter (Mom) or tell her to stop bothering them in the lab (Dad), However, to be honest, the scientist does talk to his daughter just long enough to insert the “increase growth” element into the plot. Like I said, no meteor.

Daughter Melissa [played by Michelle Simone Miller] finds a crab, which she names “Pee-Wee” and takes as a pet. She feeds Pee-Wee berries from her dad’s experiments. Pee-Wee grows to about the size of a Roomba Vacuum Cleaner Robot. Mom freaks, distracting Dad from his work. Explosive chemicals mix and, well, explode, killing Dad and Mom. Melissa will be raised by her uncle [Ken Van Sant], who is the town sheriff.

Time passes. After high school, Melissa returns to the family house and, apparently, renews her relationship with the now-gigantic Pee-Wee. I can relate. I have crabby friends and I am the crabby friend of others.

Pee-Wee turns out to be female and gives birth to a dozen little-but-still-Roomba-size crabs. A cow is killed and eaten. The sheriff investigates with his douche bag of a deputy [Richard Lounello]. Douche-bag deputy gets shot with rock salt, courtesy of Melissa’s exercising her Second Amendment rights. Melissa’s best friend from high school - “B” movie actress Jennifer Kane [Kathryn Metz] comes to visit. In a bar, she elbows the douche-bag deputy in the face, then pepper sprays him. These are not the worse things that happen to the deputy in this movie.

A scientist [A.J. DeLucia] comes to check things out and finds one of Pee Wee’s old shells. A bartender-slash-wannabe-rapist gets eaten by the baby crabs. Other characters kill all the baby crabs, which pisses off Pee-Wee. The giant crab goes on a rampage, but, despite what it says on the back of the DVD case, she never gets anywhere near the town itself. I suspect this was a budget in this movie had a really tiny budget.

Since I’m going to recommend this movie, this is as far as I will take the plot synopsis.


There’s lots to recommend this fun movie, even though it falls more than a bit short of being any kind of classic. The acting and the writing are decent. The 90-minute length is just right. The stop-motion animation is pretty good for what often seems to be a lost art. The movie has a satisfying ending. I liked it.

Queen Crab is available on DVD. It wouldn’t be out of place on the SyFy channel. Whether you buy, rent or watch it on TV, if you are a devotee of this kind of film, as I am, I think you’ll have a good time with it. Hey, for an hour-and-a-half, it kept my mind off the monsters running for the Republican Party presidential nomination. That is no small feat.

I have - literally - stacks of movies like Queen Crab sitting on my shelves waiting to be viewed and reviewed. I’ll try to write about them on a more frequent basis in bloggy things to come.

Aa for tomorrow...saddle up for so hard-riding adventure, cowboys and cowgirls. Because another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” installment is coming your way. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 25, 2016


What Has Gone Before:

Aging comic-book fan and “industry legend” Tony Isabella drove to Dayton, Ohio to be a guest at the Gem City Comic Con on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. The first day of the show was mega-swell. The delights of the day included a joyous reunion with his old friend Mark Waid aka “that really terrific writer who does all those really terrific comic books.” However, little did Tony know that Sunday - the second and final day of Gem City - would see him do battle with Waid. Our con report continues...

Sunday morning started out poorly. I packed early and began taking my suitcase and other items to my Artist Alley table. This simple task was complicated by the Crowne Plaza Dayton having, apparently, decided I’d checked out just after midnight Saturday. I was locked out of my room, had my room key re-computerized, was locked out a second time when it still wouldn’t work and, ultimately, had to get the front desk to open my room for me. I couldn’t wait to check out of that place. I didn’t even want to leave my van in their parking lot, which, thanks to Gem Con, I didn’t have to.

Gem City had some of the best and most friendly volunteers of any convention I’ve done in recent years. If I may be churlish enough to pick my favorite, the delightful Amanda Gilliam was a treasure. Efficient, smart and cute as an incredibly cute button. Within just a few minutes of my asking her if it would be possible to move my van to the loading area, I was pulling my van into the prime spot of the loading area. Right next to the exit gate. Between that and Paul Carbonaro - my handler - assisting me later in the day, I was on the road back to Medina about fifteen minutes after the close of the convention.

Back to Gem City itself...

Sunday is usually the slowest day of a convention, but I signed a dozen or so Isabella-written items in the first hour and continued to sign whenever I was at my table. I even did, at a foolish fan’s request, one of my terrible Godzilla sketches in his heavily-signed copy of the Roy Thomas-written book-in-a-suitcase also known as 75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen. I could barely carry that book from my back porch to my office. I can’t imagine someone lugging it around a convention. But, when a fan wants me to deface his book, I’m there for them.

While I was signing books, I was asked if I would be willing to go up against Mark Waid in Gem City’s annual “Fan Boy Family Feud.” My first inclination was to decline. I had been on trivia teams with Mark and, like all other sensible people, was in awe and terror of his mastery. However, as this contest would not depend entirely on Mark knowing...everything...I agreed to give it a go. More on this in a bit.

At noon, I took a break from my table to attend Paul’s “Name That Writer” panel. During this event, Paul puts a page of a comic book up on the screen, gives a few hints as to the writer’s identity and then ask the contestants to write down their answers. The winner of the competition gets a Silver Age comic book and the runners-up get comic books from the Bronze and Modern age. Though I didn’t play in the game - professional discretion - I had a great deal of fun as a spectator. However...

I take issue with my friend Paul’s identification of Jack Kirby as the writer of Silver Surfer #18 [September 1970]. The page shown in the game was the issue’s final page, a dramatic full-page image in which an angry Surfer declares war on mankind. While I suspect Jack plotted and pencilled the story with minimal input from scripter Stan Lee - my speculation is that the ending was mandated by Stan - both the words shown and the Grand Comics Database entry for this issue correctly identify Stan as the scripter. Sorry, Paul, but I knew I was right on this one.

After a quick bite to eat at my table, I was ready to play the “Fam Boy Family Feud” game. This game is played like the still-running Family Feud game show on TV. Team leaders Mark Waid and myself had to pick teams from the fans in attendance. Our teams would try to guess which were the top five answers to questions as determined by surveys of comics fans. The questions would be along the lines of “Name an alien who came to Earth and became a super-hero” and “Name super-heroes whose powers can be duplicated by the Super-Skrull.” It’s a contest of both knowledge and strategy.

My initial strategy was to mess with Mark’s mind by picking Christy Blanch, his significant other, as my first team member. My second pick, made at Christy’s suggestion, was to select the game’s host for our team. He declined. Stupid rules.

Mark countered by picking Paul Carbonaro for his team. Once we had our teams in place, the game began.

Christy was actually my co-captain for the game. She was very good at the strategy part, the result, no doubt, of watching Mark’s team  lose every year in all the years as Gem City had included the game. Mark wanted this win bad, but I wanted to be Lucy to his Charlie Brown. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Team Tony held its own through the entire game up until the double-points finale. This despite neither Christy nor myself feeling very comfortable not being on Team Cap.

It was the Super-Skrull question that tripped us up. The first four answers would be the easy ones: the members of the Fantastic Four. You may remember the Fantastic Four comic book was once published by Marvel Comics. The fifth answer would be the tricky one. We did the exact opposite of what we should have done. We passed to Team Mark, which meant we had to come up with the fifth answer. Which we couldn’t do. Mark earned his first and well-deserved victory in the Gem City “Fan Boy Family Feud.”

This isn’t over. I’ll be back next year with Team Lightning to take on the reigning champ. Expect a lot of mutual trash-talking between now and next year’s Gem City Comic Con.

The elusive fifth answer to the final question?

Iron Fist.

Which I would have gotten if I could remember any comic books that were published after I got into the business.

I had a blast at Gem City Comic Con and, despite the unworthiness of the convention center and the host hotel, I would recommend it to one and all. If promoter Jesse Noble wants me back in 2017, I’ll definitely be there.


I’ll be making two appearances next month. On Saturday, May 7, aka Free Comic Book Day, I will be at Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Two weeks later, Saturday, May 21, I’m a special guest of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia. I would be pleased to see some of my bloggy thing readers at these events.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 22, 2016


Gem City Comic Con has been around for close to a dozen years and has earned a reputation as being one of the best comics-centric events in the Midwest. When Jesse Noble, the guy who created this show and who calls Roger Price’s legendary Mid-Ohio-Con one of his inspirations, invited me to attend the two-day event (Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3, at the Dayton Convention Center), I checked my schedule and accepted. That was a good choice.

Dayton is about three hours from my Medina home. Outside of running into some rain during the drive, it was a pleasant journey. Though the convention center has a small-ish loading dock, it was fairly easy to get my table stuff into the event and then head over to the Crowne Plaza Dayton, which is where I would be staying. There was a walkway connecting the hotel to the center.

DIGRESSION. Remember yesterday’s bloggy thing on convention centers and hotels that are not worthy of the comics events they host? It was this convention center and this hotel that convinced me it was time to write that column. Neither was worthy of the show Jesse has created. We will avoid the subject as much as possible for the rest of this con report.

Gem City offered a huge floor space for guests, vendors and gaming contests. There were plenty of guests and vendors, but also plenty of room to walk around the tables without feeling confined. I was set up in a guest row that included Bob Hall, Joe Staton, Mike Norton, Dan Parent and others.

After stacking my boxes behind my table - I planned to do the real set-up the next morning - I strolled around the room to say hello to some of the many dealers I’ve met over my decades of attending conventions and, especially, the nearly two decades I spent doing this and that for Mid-Ohio-Con. So, when I say a show reminds me of Mid-Ohio-Con in some ways, it’s about the highest compliment I can give an event. Gem City reminds me of Mid-Ohio-Con in some ways and I had a sense of that almost immediately.

The dealers were still coming in and setting up. I sported a couple booths I wanted to shop at on Saturday. I did manage to drop some cash at one of them, but I don’t want to get ahead of my Gem City Comic Con report.

I was beat by the time I checked into my hotel room. Any thoughts of exploring the area vanished while I unpacked. I ordered chicken noodle soup and a burger from room service, did some unsatisfactory channel-surfing while waiting for my meal, ate and put the remains of my sandwich in my room’s small refrigerator and quickly drifted off to sleep. Through no fault of the hotel, I did not sleep well. I woke up once about the time my cat would be demanding attention at my Medina home (2:30 am) and again at the time my wife would be getting up for work (5:30 am). I have an internal alarm clock and I hate it a lot.

When I woke up the second time, I figured I’d polish off the rest of my burger. It was frozen solid. In all my stays at hotel, it had never occurred to me to check the setting on a refrigerator before I put anything in it. The previous guest or perhaps a mischievous housekeeper had set the refrigerator to its coldest setting. Even my Boost nutritional drinks were now blocks of ice. After making myself as presentable as humanly possible, I went to the hotel’s breakfast buffet. The restaurant was large with great views of the city. The buffet itself was bland and disappointing.

Taking the walkway to the convention center, I ran into Jay Fife, a talented artist I’ve known for years and who is on my bucket list of people I want to work with. We’ve come close a time or two, but haven’t quite managed. Seeing old friends is one of the best things about any convention, so I was in good spirits when I entered the Gem City show floor in those pre-opening hours.

I set up my table and started pricing a stack of Isabella-written comics. Even working from a two-year-old edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, I was astonished by some of the prices some of my 1970s work now commands. The first issue of Astonishing Tales with “It! The Living Colossus!” now goes for fifty bucks in near-mint. Now that’s astonishing!

The rest of my table set-up consisted of the double-sided Superman poster I helped design for 1988's International Superman Exposition in Cleveland, a box of random books priced at a buck apiece, spiffy fliers for the new Godzilla movie opening in Japan this summer, a box of Isabella-written comics and a woefully few advance copies of Black Lightning Volume One, which wouldn’t be arriving at the comic shops until Wednesday. My set-up didn’t take long.

I had planned to visit several vendors before the show opened, but my attention and disposal cash were drawn to a booth offering great prices on a vast selection of hardcover collections. I got a box-full of slightly damaged Dick Tracy books at prices ranging from $4 to $10. Somehow I managed to resist the urge to return to that and other vendors during the convention. I envy the fans who would get to shop all those wondrous displays.

Before the show started, my long-time Facebook pal Paul Carbonaro came over for our first face-to-face meeting. Paul was designated to be my handler during the weekend and he’s the kind of tireless volunteer a convention is lucky to have. We had many conversations and, though we don’t agree on every comics issue, I enjoyed hanging out with him. Good times.

I had steady sales with the Black Lightning trades going within an hour of the show opening. I should have a better supply of them at  the rest of my 2016 appearances.

Those Godzilla fliers, sent to me by my Japan-based friend Michael Jones, were a big hit. The fans were amazed by such a unique item and delighted they were free. The fliers were gone by the weekend’s end. It’ll be hard to top them at future conventions.

I signed a whole lot of Isabella-written stuff over the weekend and this came as something of a surprise. When I go to a convention in an area I’ve never visited before, such as February’s Pensacon in Pensacola, Florida, I expect to sign a lot of books. But, though I hadn’t done a convention in Dayton before, Ohio is my home state.  I do a lot of Ohio shows, but I haven’t signed this many of my old comics in years. It was wonderful to meet so many of my readers at Gem City. I hope to return next year.

At high noon on Saturday, the esteemable Carbonaro hosted a “Meet Tony Isabella” panel. We didn’t fill the room, but we had a decent and enthusiastic audience for my stories of my career, my thoughts on comics, politics and other popular entertainments and whatever else the audience wanted to know. I love doing this kind of panel. I hope the fans enjoy them half as much as I do.

There was some amazing cosplay at the convention. I was extremely impressed by a Hawkman and Hawkwoman team and tickled by the many young cosplayers at the show. Alas, there were no Black Lightnings, Misty Knights or Tigras at Gem City this year. Come on, cosplayers. You’re missing the chance to be photographed with your “creator,” and to be immortalized in this bloggy thing and in the memoirs of sorts I’m writing.

One of the many bright spots of the convention was seeing Mark Waid for the first time in way too many years. I’d briefly seen Christy Blanch, his partner and a fine writer herself, at last year’s Indy Pop Con, but Mark had not been at that show. It was a blast talking to them, but, little did I know that, on the second day of the Gem City Comic Con, Mark and I would do battle.

Oh, look, I’ve reached the end of today’s bloggy thing. Come back tomorrow for "Waid versus Isabella" and so much more.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 21, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Operation Ajax: The Story of the CIA Coup that Remade the Middle East, Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter and Paul Tobin's Mystery Girl!


Low expectations have been the lot of comics fans and professionals since I started attending conventions as a teenager. We often met in basements and ill-kept ballrooms. We stayed in hotels that rated two stars at best. We were young. We were a community not remotely respected by the world around us.

“Geek” and “nerd” were insults and not badges of honor. We had not yet taken over the entertainment world. Indeed, we still hear from those who used to dismiss us completely that this “comics movie bubble” cannot last. Even as our films break record after record. Even as our TV shows occupy several hours of prime-time programming. Even as our graphic novels win mainstream awards. They still turn up their noses at us, all the better for them to see the comet before it takes them to join the dinosaurs.

In 2013, I attended the New York Comic Con at the Javitz Center in rude and squalid Manhattan. It was a repugnant event created by a soulless corporation that saw only dollars and not our vibrant art form and eager devotees. Adding further insult to insult, the thing was held in a woefully inadequate facility.

No discernible crowd control. A mostly shuttered food court which seemed to believe comics fans and industry pros do not partake of human sustenance. Filthy rest rooms that reeked from the start of the event to its conclusion and - I know this sounds like the punch line of an old joke - not enough of them. I can think of no better image to represent that weekend than the people in the giant penis and vagina costumes flitting around the convention.

Outside of seeing dear old industry friends and promoting the Grim Ghost comic book I had written for the doomed revival of the 1970s Atlas Comics, it was one of the most unpleasant weekends I’d ever spent among my comics people. I will never again attend a New York Comic Con or any of its run-by-the-same-people other-city events unless a publisher brings me in for promotional purposes.  Life is just too damn short.

While none of my recent conventions have been within a light-year of the awfulness of the Javitz Center, there have been annoyances with the venues. These have not been the fault of the conventions. No, any problems and unpleasantness I encountered was strictly on the convention centers and the adjacent hotels. I think we should expect better from these venues. But, before I go into “grumpy old man” mode, let me tell you about my favorite convention venue, the Greater Columbus (Ohio) Convention Center.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is a huge facility connected to the Hyatt Regency Columbus, one of my favorite hotels, and also the Drury Inn and Suites, which I also like a lot. Three other hotels are connected to the facility and a very nice Hampton Inn & Suites is across the street. The facility sits in the trendy Arena District, which has great entertainment and many fine restaurants. But, as they say, there’s more.

The Hyatt Regency has a great restaurant and bar. I’ve spent many a pleasant hour in both. Just past the Hyatt Regency and connected to it is a shopping area and a terrific food court.

How good is the food court? I actually look forward to breakfast at one of the stands and either lunch or dinner at a Chinese place owned by the same family. I have gone to these restaurants so often over the years that they remember me from convention to convention. I’ve never had less than a great meal at either.

Back to the convention center. It is a bright, clean and welcoming venue. There are lots of clean restrooms throughout the convention center and they are kept clean throughout the events. No slacking off because the comics fans are there.

If I have a quibble, it’s that not all of the coffee shops and the restaurants across from the halls where events take place are open for the conventions. That’s fairly common, but the owners of those places are leaving a lot of money on the table by not accommodating our community. Word to the wise.

Here’s where I put my “grumpy” on...

I’m no longer willing to be complacent when conventions centers and hotels fail to do the basic things they should be doing. Here are some of those basic things...

Clean hotel rooms with decent restaurant and room service. We pay a premium price for such things and we should receive quality and service equivalent to the cost.

Room service should pick up its trays quickly after a hotel guest calls to let them know they are finished and have placed the tray outside the room. During my 2013 stay in New York, a tray was left outside my room for more than two full days, despite multiple calls to room service and the front desk. Finally, I put the tray in the elevator, sent it down and called the front desk to let them know it had been sent down. I often wonder how long it remained in that elevator before they retrieved it.

Housekeepers shouldn’t leave empty pizza boxes in the rooms, most especially when the hotel gives you fliers advertising those local shops that deliver to the hotels. I began to hear complaints about this earlier this year, but didn’t experience it myself until last weekend.

DIGRESSION. Fans should tip housekeepers and other hotel workers. If we want respect, we need to show respect.

Hotels need to be fully staffed. I can’t count how many times I’ve stayed at a convention hotel and learned the hotel was working with a reduced staff. Our time is valuable. We shouldn’t have to wait an unreasonable length of time for basic services.

Hotels should show a little initiative and make us feel welcome. Yeah, costumes and t-shirts might be a little corny, but they make me feel like the hotel is glad I’m there. They make me happy and, when I’m happy, I spend more and tip better.

DIGRESSION. One of the smartest things I have ever seen a hotel do was at a Mid-Ohio-Con. Acting on the advice of the legendary Roger Price, they prepared boxed lunches for the dealers and guests, and sold them at a reasonable price. It was simple fare to be sure - a sandwich, an apple, some chips and a can of soda - but that clever hotel made considerable bank selling them.

Convention centers need to be clean. They need to have sufficient restrooms for convention attendees and those restrooms need to be cleaned and otherwise maintained throughout the event.

Restroom maintenance should always include keeping soap and towel dispenses filled, making sure stall doors lock, making sure there are hooks for bags and coats inside the stalls. This isn’t rocket science. It’s basic maintenance.

The food and drink needs of a comics convention are not well served by a single snack bar. Selling hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, nachos, pretzels and prepackaged sandwiches/wraps isn’t at all sufficient for a convention. If you have other food choices in the convention center, you need to do everything you can to make sure those places are open throughout the convention hours. If they refuse, then you - the convention center - must make other arrangements or allow the event itself to make those arrangements.

The comics industry isn’t the red-haired stepchild any more. We’re the freaking lords of the entertainment world and we deserve to be treated with respect. Hell, we demand to be treated with respect. You’re lucky to have us at your convention centers and your hotels. We bring people to your cities and those people spend money in your hotels, restaurants and other businesses. When you fail to do these very basic, relatively simple things, you leave money on the table.  Don’t be a dumbass.

I’m writing about this today because I attended two terrific comics conventions this month - Gem City Comic Con and FantastiCon - and will writing about both of them over the next several days. In the case of Gem City, neither the Dayton Convention Center or the hotel were worthy of the event. In the case of Toledo’s FantastiCon, it was the Seagate Convention Center that came up short. I’m writing about this stuff today because I don’t want to bog down my reports of the great times I had at these two great shows.

The grumpy old man has spoken. I’ll be back tomorrow with the first part of my Gem City Comic Con report.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 14, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Pre-Code Classic Web of Evil, Gail Simone's Clean Room and, from Dynamite, Will Eisner's The Spirit!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing is taking an unexpected week off and will return on Thursday, April 21, with the first of two columns on the Gem City Comic Con. There has been some movement on one of my other ventures and I need some extra time to make sure it proceeds in good order.

Reminder: I’ll be a featured guest at FantastiCon, Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, at the Seagate Convention Center in Toledo, Ohio. 

I'll be back soon with more stuff.


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 73rd installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #88 [June 1971] is a mostly new issue with a cover by writer-penciler Larry Lieber and inker John Tartaglione. Regular “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” readers know Tartaglione is my favorite of Lieber’s inkers on this title. Lieber and Tartaglione also team on this month’s Rawhide Kid Adventure. The story was lettered by Jean Izzo aka Jean Simek, daughter of the legendary Art Simek.

The cover’s two panels summarize the basic plot of the 14-page “Gun Fever!” The story suffers from its truncated length, which didn’t give Lieber enough time to fully develop the character of the young man who shares the cover with the Kid.


The story opens Jess Parker waiting with gun drawn to rob the next reader of his horse. That rider turns out to be Rawhide, who drops his guns and surrenders his steed Nightwind rather than gun down a boy. Of course, as Jess starts to ride away, the Kid whistles and Nightwind throws Jeff off. The frightened youngster tells Rawhide his tale.

The day before, outlaw Joe Slade had ridden up to the Parker ranch. Pa Parker invites him to supper, but, once inside, Slade robs the farmer and his son. Jess watches in horror as Slade shoots his dad in the back, killing him.

Jess buried his dad and took off after Slade, but his horse broke a leg and had to be shot. That’s why he needed Rawhide’s horse. To the lad’s credit, he did tell Rawhide he would leave his horse for him at the livery stable in nearby Sulphur Springs.

Knowing Jess is no match for Slade, Rawhide teaches the young man out to shoot fast and accurately. Apparently, Rawhide is one heck of a teacher because four panels and mere hours later, he and Jess are riding on Nightwind to Sulphur Springs.

Jess calls out Slade. Slade brushes him off, but Jess isn’t having it. Slade figures Jess for an easy kill. It’s the last bad choice of the outlaw’s life.

It takes four panels for Jess to turn into an asshole. He pushes a townsman down for walking in front of him. He challenges the rest of the men to see if they are fast enough to take down the man who killed Joe Slade. He bullies the proprietor of the town hotel into giving him and Rawhide free rooms. If the story had more pages, I’m sure we would have seen Rawhide go down to the front desk and pay for the rooms.

Jess’ bravado lasts as long as it takes Slade’s gang to learn about their partner’s death and drag Jess from his free hotel room. The four outlaws plan to lynch the boy. Rawhide sees the situation and, riding Nightwind, grabs Jess. They head for the hills to make their stand. Let the sound effects fly.

Jess is inexperienced and overzealous. He exposes himself and gets a bullet in his shoulder. Rawhide takes out the entire gang on his own, even nailing the outlaw who had made his way to the hill that overlooked Jess and the Kid. That leaves two panels for the message of this adventure.

JESS: I-I thought gunfightin’ was fun! But after this fracas...

RAWHIDE: You’ve lost your stomach for it!

JESS: Yeh, I reckon so!

RAWHIDE: That’s all I wanted to hear!
JESS: Where are we goin’?

RAWHIDE: To town, for a doc to look at your arm! Then home, boy. Home!
I’m guessing Rawhide stayed around for a spell to help Jess manage the farm, then rode off into his next adventure.  


A half-page “Mighty Marvel Checklist” ran after page six of this story. My picks of that long-ago month was the Avengers/Incredible Hulk crossover plotted by Harlan Ellison and the gorgeous debut of Kull the Conqueror. Also worth noting was Monsters on the Prowl #11 with a reprint of “I Was a Slave of the Living Hulk!” from Journey Into Mystery #62 [November 1960]. 
Alien criminal Xemnu was the Hulk  of the title, but was renamed the Titan - for obvious reasons - in the reprint. Xemnu would return in Journey Into Mystery #66 [March 1961] and enter fully into the Marvel Age when he went up against the Defenders in Marvel Feature #3 [June 1972]. He’s a favorite of mine and I once plotted a never-published Defenders story with him. I think Pat Broderick pencilled it.

The second half of the page advertises a “Super Poster Offer” from the Marvelmania fan club. Four posters for two bucks including the postage. The three-foot posters were drawn by Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Thor) and Howard Purcell (Black Knight).

“All in a Day’s Work” (5 pages) is written and drawn by the great Bill Everett. The non-series story originally saw print five years prior in Two Gun Kid #82 [July 1966].

The plot is pretty simple. Hard-as-nails stagecoach driver Jake has to contend with attacking Indians, a cloudburst that threatens to sweep the stagecoach away, a busted wheel and a band of stage robbers. As you can tell from the title, that’s just another day for Jake. What makes this story notable is Everett’s amazing art. So much detail and so many figures on every page. Whoever owns the originals to this tale could spend hours looking at these pages.    

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page follows the Everett story, but it lacks the pizzazz the page usually had. There are some results of readers finishing the sentence “Life is...” There’s a long section about artists shifting to different titles. There’s an item about Stan Lee working on a long-play album with Icarus and appearing on To Tell the Truth and Roy Thomas speaking on a radio show and on a college campus. The final item before “Stan’s Soapbox” is a shout-out to colorists Stan Goldberg, Mimi Gold, Sharon Cohen and others. The subject of “Stan’s Soapbox” is the relevancy of comics. Here’s a spoiler. Comics are relevant.

That brings us to the “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page. Reader Steve Nelson of Eugene, Oregon takes up most of the single page complaining about the Rawhide Kid and Kid Colt never managing to clear their names. It’s a justified complaint and I know I was not the only reader who felt it was time for a change in the status quo of the series.

A second letter is from James Rubino of Hollywood, Florida. He has nothing but praise for Rawhide Kid #83 [January 1971]. You can read my review of that issue here.

The final editorial material of the issue is a full-page house ad for Western Gunfighters #5 [June 1971]. The 68-page comic book had a cover by Herb Trimpe with inset figures drawn by Marie Severin, and 30 pages of new material. The contents:

The Ghost Rider in “The Time of the Gunhawk!” (10 pages) by writer Len Wein, penciler Dick Ayers and inker Frank Giacoia.

Gunhawk in “Gunhawk vs. the Range Lord!” (10 pages) by writer Allyn Brodsky, penciler Werner Roth and inker Dick Ayers.

The Renegades in “Deserters” (10 pages) by Mike Friedrich (writer) and Tom Sutton (artist).

Apache Kid in “Grey Wolf Strikes” (8 pages) with art by Werner Roth and reprinted from Apache Kid #2 [February 1951]

Black Mask (aka the Black Rider) in “Meeting at Midnight” (5 pages) with art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and George Klein (inks), reprinted from Kid Colt Outlaw #86 [September 1959].

Wyatt Earp in “Men Without Faces!” (5 pages) with art by Dick Ayers and reprinted from Wyatt Earp #13 [August 1957].

The Western Kid in an untitled story (5 pages) drawn by John Romita and reprinted from Western Kid #12 [October 1956].

I really liked this series of Western Gunfighters. It’s one of the titles I’d collect if I had the funds and the time to hunt down the run. I’d do the same with The Mighty Marvel Western, another one of my favorites from just before I went to work for Marvel.

Look for another Rawhide Kid Wednesday next week and the start of my report on the Gem City Comic Con tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I made my second appearance before a meeting of the Cleveland State University Comic Book Club on Friday, March 4. The club inviting me back to speak to them a second time clearly shows its members are among the finest and most intelligent comics readers ever. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Though Cleveland State University has been an important part of the Cleveland scene for many decades, my own history with it is brief. After I graduated from St. Edward High School, I’d had my fill of religious institutions and wanted to attend CSU. I was overruled by my father who, having survived the Jesuit priests at St. Ignatius High School, wanted his eldest son to experience the delights of a Jesuit education at John Carroll University. When I say “delights,” I am, of course, being sarcastic.

Dad had gone to John Carroll for a brief time before World War II interrupted his education. On returning from his service, he went back to work at the family bakery, putting his own wants aside to do for others. Knowing the sacrifice he made, I agreed reluctantly to go to John Carroll. It was as big a mistake for me as not going back to school had been for him. I didn’t like the Jesuits. I did not like most of my teachers, though my French teacher looked like Gil Kane drew her. I definitely didn’t like the jocks and the ROTC goons who strode across the campus as if they owned it. Back then, they probably did.

I left John Carroll within a year. While working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer - night shift - I considered enrolling as a student at CSU. The closest I ever came was dating a young woman who was going there. She would have given me straight A’s. Her family would have given me straight F’s. My family never knew I was dating the woman because they would have been horrified by my dating an older black woman. It’s one of the reasons why I’m a firm believer in building one’s own family.

But I digress.

Roman Macharoni is - I think - the president of the CSU comic-book club. He put together a meeting program of questions for me and a  bunch of interesting clips and illustrations projected on to a big screen. There were somewhere between a dozen and two dozen comics fans who came to the meeting. I answered their questions and told them stories.

I didn’t take notes. Because I was too busy talking and talking and talking...will I ever shut up? But I’m pretty sure I talked about Black Lightning, the Black Bomber, the Champions, Misty Knight, Jim Shooter, diversity in comics, Stan Lee, why I would have killed the Joker long ago if I were Batman, why I would kill a whole bunch of villains just because they are boring and overused and boring...and there I go again.

I think everyone had a good time. No animals or super-villains were harmed during the presentation. If you are ever invited to attend a meeting of the Cleveland State University Comic-Book Club, accept immediately. You will be delighted you did.

I no longer think about enrolling at Cleveland State University, but I’d be totally up for a honorary degree from the school and a gig as a visiting professor. Someone should make that happen.


On other matters:

People have been asking if I will sign Black Lightning Volume One and other Isabella-written items via the mail. I will, but you need to follow certain steps and be aware of existing conditions in my  exciting and hectic life.

1) You must send the items to me with return packaging that already has postage on it. This allows me to sign the item and pop it back in my mailbox for the next day’s pick-up.

2) Let me know where on the item you’d like it signed and if you’d like it personalized.

3) Remember that part about exciting and hectic? I will sign these items and get them back to you as soon as possible. However, I am getting lots of similar requests and, on occasion, it may take me a few days to accommodate you.

If all of the above is agreeable to you:

4) Email me and I’ll send you my address.


I’ve been so busy of late that, when I sleep, I either don’t dream or don’t remember my dreams. I tend to remember comic-book dreams better than other dreams. The most recent one was a doozy...

Denny O’Neil - as I remember him from the 1970s - was in front of my house with a beat-up junker of a car. I could see him from the window of my office, but couldn’t hear him. I have no idea why he had driven from New York to my home town of Medina, Ohio.

What I could tell from watching Denny was that he was having some sort of argument with Roy Thomas, also in his 1970s incarnation and having just walked over to the car. Denny kept pointing to parts of the car. Roy was doing the same.

I thought about walking down to the street to keep the peace, then decided against it. I told myself I wasn’t expecting either Denny or Roy to visit. They might not have even come to Medina to see me, though both of them being in front of my house would then be a very strange coincidence.

Ultimately, I decided to ignore them and get back to work. If they were here to see me, they’d knock on the door. When I looked down on the street a while later, they had both left.

Comic-book dreams. They sort of freak me out sometimes.


My next convention appearance will be at FantastiCon on Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17, at the Seagate Convention Center in Toledo, Ohio. Convention hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Check the show website for details.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of my beloved “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. That will be followed on Thursday and Friday by my Gem City Comic Con report.

Thanks for stopping by the bloggy thing today.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 11, 2016


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Black Lightning, Captain Marvel and Mandalay, a dark adventure set in colonial Burma of the 1940s by Philippe Thirault and Butch Guice!


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 the April list of those sometime in early May.

Here are the MOBL items for March:

March 1: Visit the not-as-nearly-as-well-known-as-it-should be Wood County Historical Center and Museum in Bowling Green, Ohio. This  post needs the explanation I didn’t have time for when I posted the item. The place was many things in its first lives. A poorhouse. An insane asylum. A “pest house” to quarantine men with communicable diseases. Museum exhibits include the three shriveled fingers used to solve a murder case. It is said to be a beautifully photogenic window in the past and also to be haunted. The moment I read about this place in some travel article I knew there are ghosts waiting there to speak to me. If I ever mention that to Barb, she’ll never visit the place with me.

March 2: Stop getting angry at unwelcome callers at my door or on the phone. Be firm about sending them off, but don’t let anger over the intrusions diminish my day.

March 3: Convince publishers to do nice coffee table books of their cooler variant covers. My top choices: Neal Adams, DC/Looney Tunes, Godzilla, Marvel Cosplay.

March 4: Cameo appearances in favorite comic books. Four possible choices: Garfield, Harley Quinn, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Usagi Yojimbo.

March 5: Upgrade my phone. Start getting and using convention apps.

March 6: Create a new, more powerful but still hilarious Kite-Man for DC Entertainment.

March 7: Write Godzilla dream project: a comics adaptation of the original Gojira AND Godzilla, King of the Monsters, combining the two versions while adding background stories only hinted at in the films themselves.

March 8: Find an economical way to get 2000 AD, Beano and other UK comics. Be able to afford to resume collecting Alan Class comics.

March 9: Research speed dating at comics conventions and blog about it. Obviously, I’m not going to take part in it, but I would love to hear from people who have participated in these events or are involved in running them.

March 10: Try to maintain hope Republican voters aren’t as bigoted, fearful, heartless and ignorant as they appear to be.

March 11: Do more panels at comics convention. I enjoy appearing on them and have a lifetime of experience to share.

March 12: Make time to prepare and hold Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales this summer.

March 13: Reach out to favorite actors and actresses in the event I become involved in making movies or TV shows.

March 14: Start compiling a list of people I want to work with if my career leads me into appropriate projects. I might be willing to share this list with you someday.

March 15: As an addendum to yesterday’s item, compile a list of the people I never want to work with. I will never share this list with you. Don’t even ask.

March 16: See @thetonyisabella reach 5000 Twitter followers by the end of the year.

March 17: Donate a dollar to the local food bank for every day that I don’t get a right-wing mailing or robo-call.

March 18: Donate a dollar to the local food bank every time I tell a right-wing caller or robo-caller to go fuck themselves.

March 19: Finally decide which super-power I would want if I could only have one super-power.

March 20: Reprints of the 1940s American Library books, which were comics adaptations of contemporary books like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

March 21: Write a script good enough to pitch to Simpsons Comics. Maybe even good enough for the TV show.

March 22: Get back to writing comic books regularly, but branch out into other kinds of writing as well.

March 23: Convince DC to publish The Neal Adams Covers, no matter how many volumes it takes to include them all.

March 24: Start going for walks like no one’s watching by walking when no one’s watching. Late night or early morning.

March 25: Spend a half-hour a day to listen to music, old favorites and new discoveries.

March 26: Convince Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns to include Kite-Man in the next Batman movie.

March 27: Convince DC to publish The Complete Brian Bolland Covers, which would be a delight unto my eyes.

March 28: Break up with doughnuts. We’ve been together so long, but they aren’t good for me. I’ll always remember them fondly.

March 29: Stay optimistic and positive about the comics art form and industry without being naive about it or simply going with the flow.
March 30: Write and post convention reports within days of going to the events. Instead of my usual weeks.

March 31: Become a shadow of my former self, both in terms of how much I weigh and in developing a new super-power.


Reminder. I’ll be a featured guest at FantastiCon in Toledo, Ohio, Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, at the Seagate Convention Center. It’d be grand to see some of my bloggy readers there.

I will be back tomorrow with a report on my visit to the Cleveland State University Comic Book Club. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, April 8, 2016

FANTASTICON (April 16-17)

Old Bloggy Tony will be on the road once again. My next convention appearance is FantastiCon on Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17, at the Seagate Convention Center in Toledo, Ohio. Convention hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. You can buy tickets online or at the door.

I’ll be at FantastiCon to meet and greet the fans, answer as many of your questions as I can, sign comics and other Isabella-written items, hand out fliers promoting the newly-released Black Lightning Volume One and Marvel Masterworks: The Champions, offer Isabella items and other things for sale, and appear on a panel with some of my comics industry friends. I’m looking forward to doing all of the above and hope to see many of you at the event.

The FantastiCon guest list is headlined by the great Michael Dorn, who played Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and some of the Star Trek movies. I’ve long admired this actor’s work on Star Trek and in many other roles. Maybe this will be the convention I actually get to talk to him for a bit.

Comics guests include Mike Grell of Green Arrow and Warlord fame; Keith Pollard, who drew Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Thor over at Marvel Comics; Arvell Jones, the co-creator of Misty Knight when we were doing Marvel’s Iron Fist together; noted writer Dirk Manning and more. The K.I.T.T. replica car from TV’s Knight Rider will be on display. Also in attendance will be fan groups like the Great Lakes Ghostbuster Coalition, the Mandalorian Mercs, the Star Wars-inspired 501st Ohio Garrison and, also from Star Wars, the Apollo Base Rebel Legion.

Artist Alley will be hopping with a variety of talents. The back-again-to-thrill-us-anew Caliber Comics will be there. So will Jim Beard, writer of modern pulp novels featuring heroes like Captain Action. I’m looking forward to meeting Dan Fogel, a writer, editor and publisher of Adult/Underground comic books like Cherry Poptart and the author/publisher of the indispensable Fogel’s Underground Comix Price Guide.

There will be cosplay, a Fantasticon tradition and one of the most fun elements of any convention. The event will have a kid’s contest and an adult contest. I wonder if we’ll see any cosplayers dressed as Black Lightning, Misty Knight or Tigra.

On Saturday at 4 pm, I’ll be part of a Marvel and DC Comic Creators Discussion with Mike, Keith and Arvell. I suspect we’ll have cool stories to share and believable or outrageous answers to questions you might have for us.

Getting down to Tony stuff...

Because I’m still in negotiations on various things, I likely won’t be able to answer every question you might have for me. But I will answer what I can. I’m expecting there will be some announcements later this summer on the stuff I can’t talk about yet.

I will not be charging for autographs through the end of the year. If there’s a line of fans waiting to get my signature and you have  a large amount of items for me to sign, I’ll sign a few right off the bat and ask you to go the end of the line while I sign for your fellow fans.

In the past, and continuing to this day, there have been items that I won’t sign. Notably so-called comics history books with errors of facts about me and my work. I have mellowed considerable in recent years, but there are still some items I won’t sign. If you stick to comics and books I wrote myself, we’ll be fine.

What will I be selling at FantastiCon? First and foremost, I have to have copies of Black Lightning Volume One on my table. I’ll also have the classic two-sided Superman poster I helped design for the 1988 International Superman Exposition in Cleveland.

Depending on what I find in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff between now and the convention, I’ll have a box of Isabella-written items and a box of random dollar comics. Sales on those items were very good at last weekend’s Gem City Comic Con.

I can be available to appear on your podcasts and other programs. It’s always best to set those appearances in advance. I recommend e-mailing me early in the week.

I’m always very willing to talk to artists, editors and publishers  about doing projects with me. However, because I have all sorts of paying work and personal projects on my desk and in production, I’d be most interested in paying gigs.

That covers all the salient details of my Fantasticon appearance. As I said up top, I’m looking forward to meeting the fans in the Toledo area. I know we’re going to have a great time.


Can’t make it to FantastiCon? I’ll be doing a bunch of other shows and events this year. Here’s the list to date:

Saturday, May 7: Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton)

Saturday, May 21: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Friday, June 17: Indy PopCon 2016

Saturday, June 18: Indy PopCon 2016

Sunday, June 19: Indy PopCon 2016

Friday, July 15: G-Fest (Chicago)

Saturday, July 16: G-Fest (Chicago)

Sunday, July 17: G-Fest (Chicago)

Thursday, July 21: PulpFest (Columbus)

Friday, July 22: PulpFest (Columbus)
Saturday, July 23: PulpFest (Columbus)
Sunday, July 24: PulpFest (Columbus)

Friday, July 29: Monsterfestmania (Akron)

Saturday, July 30: Monsterfestmania (Akron)

Wednesday, August 3: Euclid Library

Saturday, September 17: MECCA Con (Detroit)

Saturday, October 1: Cleveland Comic Con 2016

Sunday, October 2: Cleveland Comic Con 2016

Friday, October 21: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Saturday, October 22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Sunday, October 23: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Saturday, November 5: Akron Comic Con

Sunday, November 6: Akron Comic Con

I could see myself adding an event in August, September, November and December. If you’re a promoter who would like me to appear at your convention, you should know I require the following: hotel and travel expenses, a per diem for meals and a booth/table from which I can sell and sign stuff. I know all those expenses can add up and I won’t be offended if your budget doesn’t allow for them. But it’s what I need to keep my budget in check.

I’m contemplating another addition to the conditions listed above. Many comics conventions also have celebrity guests from movies and TV. In the future, I may ask conventions to arrange opportunities for me to meet, interview and be photographed with a celebrity per show. I seldom get the chance to meet these celebrities. This would address that and give me material for my blog and elsewhere. I am still working out the details of this in my mind, but I’m thinking I would give the convention a list of three to five celebrities and then they could work out something with one of them.

I’ll be back on Monday with another installment of “My Other Bucket List,” followed by reports on my March visit to the Cleveland State University Comic Book Club, my appearance at the Gem City Comic Con  and more surprises. See you then.
© 2016 Tony Isabella