Friday, May 26, 2017

THE ROAD TO ECBACC 2017

There’s only one thing I don’t love about the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention...and that’s the seven-plus-hour drive across Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. Naturally, I’ve considered flying to the event, but I’m trying to limit my air travel these days. I have grown weary of the connecting flights that extend the time it takes to get from A to B. A nervous flier at best, I’m uncomfortable in those cramped seats. I’ve seen too many examples of bullying and incompetence from airlines and government agencies. Thus is the sad example of a President Donald Trump.

In the past, I've left my home in Medina Ohio at some ridiculously early hour on Friday to get to my Philadelphia hotel early enough to relax and freshen up for that evening's ECBACC reception. This year, because Sainted Wife Barb, who is much smarter than I am, was traveling with me, we planned to drive about two-thirds of the way on Thursday night and finish the trip the following morning.

We left home about four Thursday afternoon so Barb could put in a full day at her job and I could finish a column. We also had to deliver laundry to the care facility where Barb's mother now lives. We got on the Ohio Turnpike around five.

There are three constants about driving to Philadelphia. There is always going to be construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There will be traffic jams and slowdowns once you get within twenty or so miles of Philadelphia. It will cost you fifty bucks in tolls both on the drive to Philadelphia and on the drive back.

Our Thursday night destination was the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in more or less Harrisburg. The place was actually located in New Cumberland. We made decent time on our drive there, but we didn’t arrive until after the hotel restaurant closed. That and the lack of room service were minor annoyances.

The major annoyance was when we walked into a room and it was less a room and more a sauna. The heat was oppressive and we could not get the thermostat to respond to our desperate need to not have our blood boil in our bodies and emerge through our ears and elsewhere as steam. I went to the phone to call the front desk and ask them to save us before we melted.

The less major annoyance was that there was no house phone in the room. I have never been in a hotel room that didn’t have a phone in the room. We had to walk - a wee bit of a hike - to the front desk to inform said front desk of our predicament.

Speaking of annoyance, that was the immediate reaction of the front desk clerk when we told him about the problems. He said he could come to the room and adjust the thermostat, adding that the person in the room before us wanted it set for heat. And, yes, I’ve never heard of a hotel thermostat that could only do one or the another. I also asked the clerk is he was going to install a phone in that room. With a final flourish of annoyance, he gave us another room. There was much rolling of eyes on my part.

Despite this introduction to the hotel, it was a very nice place. The bed was comfortable. The grounds were attractive. There was a free hot breakfast buffet that was outstanding. I complimented the woman who was keeping it well stocked.
                                                                              

We made decent time driving the rest of the way to Philadelphia and the Courtyard Marriott where we would be staying. Located on North Juniper Street, the hotel is one of three Marriott hotels in a row. Talk about owning the block...or three.

The Courtyard was a beautiful place with nice rooms. Not only was it relatively close to where the ECBACC events would be held, but it was across the street from the wondrous Reading Terminal Market and in close proximity to the Philadelphia City Hall (shown at the top of today's blog) and many other areas of interest.

Once we were unpacked, Barb and I decided to do some sightseeing. Barb has never been to Philadelphia before and I had never visited long enough to see any of the sights.
                                                                                 
                                                                            
Our first destination was the Liberty Bell Center at 6th and Market Streets, just a short walk from our hotel. Admission to the center is free, though we did have to wait a reasonable amount of time before we could enter the center. However, there were exhibits we could check out while we were waiting and a special performance.

Right behind us in the line was a group of students. They had their own tour guide, an African-American man who seemed to be around my age or maybe a tad older. He was animated, funny and informative as he related facts and stories about the dawn of American democracy. The man was a natural storyteller. I don’t know if those students appreciated him, but Barb and sure did. Inside the Center, after we’d seen the Liberty Bell, I went up to the man, told him he was a delight and thanked him. This pleased him greatly.

From there, we went to the Independence Visitor Center. It was just across the street and filled with exhibits. However, as we only had a limited amount of time, we only stayed long enough to buy tickets for the Big Bus Philadelphia Tour.
                                                                                

The “Big Bus” was a double-decker bus that made 27 stops along its route. You could get off anywhere on the route and then get back on when the next bus rolled to the stop. The stops included the Betsy Ross House, the United States Mint, Ben Franklin’s Grave, the great Chinatown area (which we definitely want to visit on some future visit) and the “Rocky Steps” made famous by the Sylvester Stallone movie. Our tour guide was personable and presented facts and trivia in an entertaining manner. He even pointed out the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department, which was often filmed for Cold Case, a TV show Barb and I used to watch.

The only negatives to the bus tour: we hit traffic jams more than once...and we were sitting on the top of the bus in temperatures that never dropped below ninety degrees. That second one was all on Barb, but, despite the brain-boiling heat, I had to admit the views were spectacular.
                                                                                 

We stayed on the bus through the 27 stops and beyond, getting off at the Reading Terminal Market. The Reading Railroad opened this  Philadelphia landmark in 1893. Back then, the place had nearly 800 spaces for vendors and was praised as the greatest food market in the world.

The Market suffered when the Railroad went bankrupt in 1971. By the end of the decade, only 23 merchant stands were opened. This would not be the case for long.

The Market turnaround started in the 1980s. It has been rebuilt to strict historical preservation standards. It is now home to nearly eighty independent small businesses featuring bakeries, beverages, books, crafts, dairy and cheese, housewares, meats and poultry, produce, restaurants and specialty foods. You could spend days in the Market and only begin to sample all it has to offer. Honestly, everything looked delicious, even foods I would never ever think of eating like lobsters and pigs feet.

Barb and I had a late lunch that Friday afternoon. She enjoyed the Philly cheesesteak from Spataro’s Cheesesteaks while I dined on a cheeseburger from Hunger Burger. The latter donates part of every sale to community programs. On our way out, we bought bananas and grapes from Iovine Brothers Produce. All in all, great food at very reasonable prices.

We went back to our hotel room to relax for a bit and get ready for the ECBACC reception and kick-off at the TECH Freire Charter School on nearby North Broad Street. The evening event included the 2016 Glyph Comics Awards and the presenting of several Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Awards. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about that exciting evening.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 25, 2017

RICH BUCKLER (1949-2017)

Comics creator Rich Buckler passed away last Friday morning. That evening, just before the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention reception in Philadelphia, Don McGregor pulled me aside to give me the sad news. It wasn’t our place to announce Rich’s death at that event, but we talked about our friend privately more than once over the weekend.

It’s been difficult for me to decide what I want to say about Rich. Don was much closer to him and more recently than I was, so I know Don will have so much more to tell you about Rich than me. I also know there are fans of Rich’s that will be able to relate all the things he did in comics and beyond comics and, again, do so better than I could. But Rich was one of the first friends I made when I moved to New York to work for Marvel and made me feel welcome there and elsewhere. I’m just going to start writing now and see where it takes me.

I knew Rich’s work before I met him. I probably first saw that work in one of DC’s mystery comics or in one of the black-and-white mags published by Skywald. I particularly remember his work on “Rose and the Thorn” in several issues of Lois Lane...and on “Butterfly” in Hell-Rider #2 [Skywald; September-October 1971]. Butterfly was the first African-American super-heroine in comics, which is something that probably deserves further comment in the future.

Rich’s work had a strong Neal Adams influence in those early days, but Adams was only one of his influence. He was an admirer of Jack Kirby and that showed in his work as well. But, even though Rich’s influences might’ve been obvious, he always brought something else to the table, something uniquely Buckler. His work with McGregor on Black Panther and other features and stories are stand-outs in that regard, as is Deathlok, his own creation.

When I first went to work at Marvel, I was in a large office helmed by Sol Brodsky. I didn’t have a desk per se. My typewriter was on an artist’s table, which I’m sure has a name I can’t remember, and I had a kind of end table with drawers, which I’m sure also has a name I can’t remember. I do remember George Roussos, hidden behind file cabinets, shared the office with Sol and I, and there were a couple other artist’s tables in the office for when artists might need a place to work. Rich often used one of those other tables, which is how we met.                                                                           
The first stuff we worked on together was a bunch of covers for The Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly. These titles were weekly reprint comics produced in New York, but published in the general vicinity of Great Britain and for the British market. Our United Kingdom partners were forever switching printers on us and, in doing so, constantly forcing us to push up our deadlines. I never did get the hang of the scheduling, but Sol kept our merry little ship afloat.

Rich and I did two dozen of these covers in a fairly short amount of time. Because these were reprint books and I was working pretty far ahead of schedule, I already knew what would be in each issue. We worked on quick sketches - sometimes Rich would come up with the idea, sometimes I would - and then Rich would flesh them out a bit. The sketches were okayed by Stan Lee or Roy Thomas, usually without any changes. My memory is that Rich turned in the final pencils on all the covers within a week, two weeks tops. Mike Esposito inked them. They looked pretty good to me.

Rich did layouts for the second of the two issues of Doc Savage I wrote for Marvel. I’m sure we did some other Marvel stuff together - probably not full stories - but I never kept track of all those little odds and ends. I wish I had.

Later on, Rich and I did the one and only Man-Monster story for the brief return of Atlas Comics in the 1970s. I plotted, Rich drew and Gary Friedrich scripted. It’s a terrific looking comic book cover and story.
                                                                                

During my mercifully brief time as a DC Comics staffer, Rich did at least one Challengers of the Unknown cover for me. It’s one of my favorite things to come out of those few months.

That’s the comics stuff. Rich and I didn’t hang out a lot, but we had some meals together and saw some movies together. With Rich’s first wife, we saw The Omen. There was a Spanish-speaking woman in front of us who kept crossing herself while saying “Madre de Dios” (Mother of God) at the scary parts...and there were a whole lot of scary parts in that movie.

Rich’s first wife apparently thought I was marriage material. She arranged a double date with her and Rich and a friend of hers. She then took me shopping to make sure I looked nice for what I thought was just a casual date and ended up feeling like an audition to see if I was worthy to court the young woman. It wasn’t a comfortable evening for me, but I appreciated Rich and his wife making such an effort on my behalf.

Rich brought me over to Warren Publications editor Bill Dubay’s apartment for a game night. Bill was married to Rich’s sister. Bill wanted to get me to write and maybe edit for Warren, but, even though I liked him and thought it was a nice offer, I was too happy at Marvel to even consider a move. Later, when I wasn’t quite as happy, and probably at Bill or Rich’s suggestion, I had a meeting with Warren publisher Jim Warren. Jim offered me both the editorship of Eerie and all the writing I wanted. I was tempted, but turned it down. I had too many ties at Marvel. After the meeting, I ended up on better terms with Warren than ever. He’s one of the few comics folks that didn’t get angry at me when I turned down job offers from them.

I know the above stories might seem like they’re more about me than about Rich, but I’m working my way around to a point here. Besides being remembered for his great comics stories and art, Rich should be remembered for being a good friend to an awful lot of people in the comics industry.

Rich opened the door to careers in comics for many young artists, among them Denys Cowan, Arvell Jones, George Perez, Keith Pollard and more. He hired them as assistants, taught them the things he’d learned, often threw them into the deep end of the deadline pool and helped them become comics professionals. Rich was appreciative of the kindnesses done to him by the previous generation of comics artists and he paid it forward.
                                                                          

Someone close to Rich wanted to make sure he was never forgotten. He won’t be. His fans - like me - will remember their favorite Rich Buckler work. For me, that would include All-Star Squadron, Black Panther, Avengers and many others. During his career Rich drew just about every super-hero - major and minor - from DC, Marvel and a few other publishers. For those young artists he championed, Rich will be remembered for the knowledge and the opportunities he gave them. For his friends - like me - Rich will be remembered for those good times we had with him. Rich will be remembered and he will be missed. By the fans, by his students, by his friends.

Let’s raise a flagon of Asgardian ale for our friend Rich Buckler. He joins the hosts of comics talents who inspired him and he’ll be there for those who he inspired.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

IF IT’S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE TONY

It’s been an interesting - mostly in good ways - several weeks for me. The news of the Black Lightning TV show being picked up by the CW was quickly followed by the release of that incredible trailer. I received a cherished Pioneer Life Achievement Award from the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia, which was a joy magnified because Sainted Wife Barb was with me and because my dear friend Don McGregor also received that great honor. However, all that joy was tempered by the usual insane and vile actions of Donald Trump and his goons and, especially, by the passing of Rich Buckler, legendary comics creator and old friend. I’ll be writing about Rich on Thursday and about ECBACC over the weekend.

Folks often ask me how I’m doing in the midst of all the above. The most honest answer I can give is...I’m not sure. I’m incredibly happy about everything Black Lightning and my new relationship with DC Comics/Entertainment. I’m in a state of perpetual dizziness over everything on my desk. I’m excited by what looms in my future. But I’m also sad because some of my friends aren’t doing as well and my ability to help them is limited.

I’m trying to be many things to many people, but, especially, to my Sainted Wife Barb. Her pharmacist job, which involves her making chemo for cancer patients and working very long hours on behalf of those and other patients, is challenging at the best of times. In addition to that, Barb is also handling her mother’s complicated situations. Her mom has Alzheimer’s disease and is living in a care facility while dealing with her divorce from a scumbag ex-husband.  There are financial and legal matters to be sorted out in a manner that will help her mom during these final stages of her life. It’s frustrating and time-consuming and I think it’s a wonder Barb has been able to keep her wits about her with only occasional bouts of screaming. I try to do as much as I can to help Barb, but I never think it’s enough.

When asked about my hopes for the future, a question usually asked in conjunction with the Black Lightning stuff, the truest response I can give is...I want to ride the lightning as long as I can in the hope of creating new opportunities for myself and other comics creators. It’s a lofty goal and I’m not certain it’s a reachable goal. I still have to try.

Anger is my constant enemy. Not so much my anger, though I surely have given in to anger on too many occasions, but the anger of the friends I hope to help. I listen to and understand their anger and would never claim they don’t have a right to that anger. But I know it’s going to get in the way of my being able to help them at some point down the line. I still have to try.

Before anyone starts humming “First World Problems,” rest assured I do know how fortunate I am. I recognize how much love, respect and support I have received and continue to receive. I often feel overwhelmed by how much I have to do and my apparent inability to balance it all. I still know I’m a lucky, lucky man.

Which brings us to today’s bloggy thing, a compilation of odds and ends that have been bouncing around my head over the past several days. Some of it is personal, some of it isn’t. I’m just trying to figure it all out while that “it” is getting bigger all the time.

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My best-laid plans don’t always work out. A while back, I asked for my artistic readers to send me cruel caricatures of Donald Trump. I planned to use these caricatures whenever I wrote about “Peepee Cheeto” and pay the artists five bucks every time I used their art in this bloggy thing. One of my readers thought it was such a great idea he donated $25 to the cause.

My e-mail box was flooded with...two submissions.

Two. Submissions.

I’m posting both of them today. The first one is by Brian Wingrove of Bear Butt Comics. The second one is by Rick Brooks. As soon as I post today’s bloggy thing, I’ll send them $12.50 each.

After that, I’m out of the “cruel caricatures” business. Honestly, I think real photos of Trump are hideous enough.

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Speaking of the Dumpster President, I saw and read some brouhaha on how his First Lady Melanie didn’t wear a head scarf in Saudi Arabia on their recent visit there. Apparently, when First Lady Michelle Obama didn’t wear a head scarf in Saudi Arabia, Trump said that was disrespectful or some such. Of course, Trump said one thing when it was the black president’s wife and didn’t say anything when it was  the racist white president’s wife. This wouldn’t have raised my ire in the slightest because it’s what I expect from him. But it does give me a chance to say this:

Fuck Saudi Arabia. The country is a key sponsor of terrorists and  should have been attacked by US forces before any of the countries we did invade. They are a repressive nation that got the free pass after 9-11 because they were sleeping with the Bushes and because they were wealthy and because they had oil. Good for Michelle and Melanie and any other woman who chooses not to kowtow to the Saudis penchant for restricting the rights of women in this and in so many other ways.

Naturally, Trump couldn’t stick his orange nose up Saudi butts fast enough. He’s the lapdog of despots.

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On a more cheery note, one of the things I love about my Facebook page is that I’m always learning new things. Yesterday was Herge’s birthday. He was the creator of Tintin, one of the greatest graphic album series of all time. When I posted a remembrance of Herge, I got a comment from my friend Lonni Susan Holland. She wrote:

[Herge] often drew himself into his stories, just as a passerby or face in a crowd.
I did not know that...and now I do. I’ll have to reread my Tintin albums and look for Herge in those wonderful stories.

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I can’t recall where I saw the original discussions, but I recently came across comment threads asking comics fans and professionals to name their favorite Flash villain and who they considered the arch-enemies of other 1960s super-heroes. The term “arch-enemies” always brings a smile to my face. I picture evil fiends who force heroes to wear uncomfortable shoes. Inevitably, I also remember people I once thought of as my “arch-enemies” and chuckle at my ridiculous sense of drama.

My favorite Flash villain was always Captain Cold because he looked so...uhh...cool. His super-weapon was pretty basic and even easier to understand. Cold. I know what cold is. I don’t like cold. What else could the Captain be other than a villain. It took the X-Men’s Iceman to get me off the notion that cold was always bad.

Now, if you had asked me the most dangerous Flash foe, I would’ve answered Grodd. Because the Grodd of the comic books was one deadly monster. Physical strength. Scientific mastery. Mind control. The perfect mix of the seeming primitive with the terrifying advanced evolution.

As for the arch-enemies of the super-heroes and other adventures of the 1960s, that’s probably good for an entire bloggy thing or two. Sticking to the comics I read as a kid or a teenager, I’ll limit myself to a dozen characters or teams this time around.

Superman: Lex Luthor
Batman: The Joker
Green Lantern: Sinestro
Aquaman: The Ocean Master
The Atom: Chronos
Challengers of the Unknown: Multi-Man
Sgt. Rock: The Iron Major
Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom
Spider-Man: Doctor Octopus
Thor: Loki
Sgt. Fury: Baron Strucker
Daredevil: The Owl
The X-Men: Magneto

There were characters who, as far as I was concerned, didn’t have arch-enemies. For me, Wonder Woman didn’t have an actual arch-enemy  until editor/writer Robert Kanigher did that run of stories meant to look like the stories of the 1940s. The Martian Manhunter didn’t have an arch-enemy unless you wanted to count fire. The best that Ant-Man could do was the Porcupine, though I confess I love the Porcupine.

I’ll revisit this topic in the future. In the meantime, feel free to send your own choices and comments. I’ll include them the next time I do one of these “odds and ends” columns.

I’ll be back on Thursday with a remembrance of Rich Buckler. I hope you’ll join me.  

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 22, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #210

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Forbidden Worlds Volume Twelve, reprinting issues #71-76, cover-dated October 1958 to March 1959; Escape from Monster Island.and Marvel's Civil War II!

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 111 (PART THREE OF THREE)

Previously in “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”...

We’ve been looking at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 [January 1975], a 68-page comic book that featured Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid in a new 15-page adventure written and drawn by Larry Lieber with inking by Vince Colletta. In part one, we discussed that team-up story and a few other odds and ends. In part two, we covered four of the seven reprinted tales that followed the new. Six of them starred Kid Colt and the seventh was a non-series story by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. For this final installment, we’re looking at the last three of the reprinted stories, all starring Kid Colt. It’s best to assume that there will be SPOILERS AHEAD...

The remaining reprint stories are from Kid Colt Outlaw #62 [July 1956]. The cover of that issue (as shown above) was by Joe Maneely. There were four Kid Colt stories in that issue, but, surprisingly, only one of them was drawn by Jack Keller.

“Duel To the End” (5 pages) was drawn and lettered by Dick Ayers. The writer of this story and the remaining two reprints in Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 has not yet been identified.

The story:

A casino is abuzz with the news Charro Dance has come to town. He’s a noted gunslinger who was double-crossed by Rock Gavin. When Rock tries to have his men come with him, Kid Colt gets in the way. If there’s gonna be gunplay, it’s be a fair fight. Despite the Kid’s interference, Gavin already has a man in place on a roof to shoot Dance. Then something unexpected happens.

“Charro Dance” walks right by Gavin. When Gavin calls him out, the man seems puzzled. He’s got no argument with Rock. Gavin draws on him anyway, but Kid Colt shoots the cylinders out of Rock’s guns. Then Colt rides out of town with the befuddled stranger.

The stranger’s last name is Dance, but he’s no gunslinger. He came to town to open a print job and, stubbornly, he still intends to do just that.

A week later, in another town, Colt sees the stranger again. This time, though, the stranger has no idea who the Kid is. Because it’s not the guy who wanted to open a print shop. It’s the real Charro Dance.

Once Charro hears Colt’s story, he reveals that the printer is his twin brother, who he’s been separated from since they were kids. He would have found his brother before this, but Charro was ashamed of his gunslinger reputation. Colt and Charro ride back to the town.

They find the smouldering ruins of Johnny Dance’s print shot. The fire was set by Rock Gavin, who then left Johnny half-dead. It was a bad move on Gavin’s part.

Charro and Colt make short work of Gavin and his gang. They sort of have to make short work of them because this story is a mere five pages long. After the gunplay, the brothers are reunited.

CHARRO: We’ll make it a twosome from now on, Johnny! You’ll get that print shop an’ I’ll help you run it!
 
COLT: And I’ll drop by every so often to see you’re not runnin’ out of ink!  

Kid Colt, Seller of Printing Supplies!

This was a fun story, though I think it could have used a few more pages to expand on the multiple befuddlements.

“Beware the Gunman!” (4 pages) was drawn by John Severin. It’s the only one of this issue’s reprints that specifically mentions that Kid Colt and the law “don’t exactly see eye to eye!”

The story:

A youngster sneaks up on Kid Colt’s campfire with guns drawn. The Kid tells the lad he has no money. The lad says he’s after grub on account of the law is on his tail and he can’t travel on an empty stomach. Colt offers to share his food.

The young man weaves quite the tale of being a ruthless outlaw on the run. When asked his name:

They call me...er, K-Kid Colt! Yep! Kid Colt, that’s me! You can call me Kid if you got a mind to!

Covering his mouth to stifle a laugh, the actual Kid Colt suggests they team up. The youngster agrees readily.

The fake Kid Colt says they should find some rich casino, jump the place and then get out. The real Colt is aghast:

You mean just an ordinary everyday robbery? I always heard Kid Colt never robbed cold! I thought you played it straight and square!

Fake Colt says he was just testing Real Colt’s nerve. They ride into town. Fake Colt is amazed that everyone is ducking for cover. Real Colt explains:

They know better than to stand in the open when a gunslinger like you rides into town, Kid!

The young man responds:

I reckon you’re right! These weasels better not cross me or I’ll brace the whole town!
 
The smiling real Kid Colt says:

It’s mighty comforting riding with a big caliber hombre like you, Kid!

Inside the town’s leading “den of gambling,” Spade Reed, who has faced the real Kid Colt before, orders one of his men to tell the Kid to come into the saloon ready to swap lead. The real Colt tells his imposter Reed is a mighty rough customer.

Making yet another bad choice, the fake Kid Colt enters the casino for the showdown. Reed laughs at the lad and knocks him down. Which is when the real Kid Colt walks in. One panel later, the real Colt is shooting guns out of the hands of Reed and all his men:

This is the second time you talked me into a gunfight, Spade! The third time will be the last...for you!

The last panel takes this story into “afternoon special” territory as the Kid Colt impersonator comes clean:

I’m s-sorry, K-Kid! I ran away from home figurin’ to find adventure an’ danger, so I picked your name because...well, because you’re top gun in the west!

Colt responds:

Well, go back home and forget it! You’ll find more adventure in books...and a lot safer kind, too!
 
I love this goofy little story. It could have used another page or two, but I love it. With the right actors, I could even see it as a short film. It’s my favorite story in this issue.

“The Dam!” (5 pages) is Giant-Size Kid Colt #1's final story. It’s drawn by Jack Keller, the artist most associated with Kid Colt in the 1960s. The tale is a rather grim one.

The Kid comes across the smoking remains of a sheep rancher’s home and spread. It appears to be the result of an ongoing war between sheep ranchers and cattlemen. The one survivor is a very young boy who witness his father being taken away by the men who did this to their home.

Colt takes the boy to town and makes it clear he’s planning to hunt down the men who killed the sheep rancher:

This lad was orphaned by some hyenas who massacred a flock of sheep and burned his house! Maybe those saddle tramps are here, an’ maybe not.

Every man’s got a right to earn wages an’ enjoy life as he sees fit! Some polecats denied those rights to this boy an’ his dad!

I’m going to find the buzzards who did this, and when I do, they’ll be bait for Boot Hill!


Outside the saloon, Colt is approached by Jeff Cantrell, who is a cattleman. He says he and his fellows are fed up with these feuds and swears none of them has anything to do with attacking the dead sheep rancher.

Colt believes Cantrell and asks him to keep on an eye on the young boy. The cattleman promises the boy will have a home. He also says the men in the valley will help Colt in his quest.

The Kid declines the latter offer. He’s used to playing a lone hand in such matters.

Colt comes across some sheep ranchers. Impossibly, their lands have dried up. The Kid knows this valley is fed by headwaters from the Sierras and they never dry up. He decides to investigate.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who, you know, read the title of this yarn, but a dam has been built to block the valley’s water. It was built by the polecats who killed the sheep rancher. Their plan is to make the sheep ranchers think the cattlemen are to blame and then buy up the cheap grazing land that will inevitably come on the market in the aftermath of a range war.

Colt goes after the killers, shooting the guns out of their hands and forcing them to blow up the dam. They set off the explosions prematurely, figuring Colt will be blown to bits and they’ll swim safely to shore. They aren’t good with this figuring stuff.

Colt makes it to safety. The bad guys get swept to their deaths in the surging waters that had been held back by the dam.

This isn’t a bad story, but, like so many of these short Kid Colt adventures, it could’ve used more pages. Colt’s personality is that of an avenger, but, beyond that, there’s not much to set this hero apart from the other Marvel western heroes. I always liked both the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid better.

That wraps up this look at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1. There were too more issues in the series and I’ll get around to both of them down the road. I hope you enjoyed the extended coverage of this comic.

Coming up next - because I’ll be skipping “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” this week - are most likely three days of this and that, followed by my report on the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention.

Thanks for following the bloggy thing. See you tomorrow.     

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 18, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 111 (PART TWO OF THREE)

Previously in “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”...

We were looking at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 [January 1975], a 68-page comic book featuring Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid in an original 15-page adventure written and drawn by Larry Lieber with inking by Vince Colletta. In yesterday’s installment, we discussed that story and a few other odds and ends. Today, we’re going to talk about the some of the seven reprinted tales backing up the cover story. Six of the reprints tarred Kid Colt; the seventh was a non-series story by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. As I write about these stories, it’s probably best to assume that there will be SPOILERS...

The first three Kid Colt stories and the non-series tale all come from  Kid Colt Outlaw #52 [September 1955]. The cover of that issue (as seen above) was by Joe Maneely. The Kid Colt stories from that 1955 issue did not have titles, so I’ve come up with my own.

“Stockton” (6 pages) was written by an as-yet-unidentified writer and drawn by Jack Keller. The story:

Stockton was a neat, clean town when Kid Colt last passed through it. Since then, gold was discovered nearby and gambling houses have been built to take the money of the hardworking miners. The town is in dire straits with no future for decent people.

Those decent people ask Colt for his help in cleaning up the town. With his help, they campaign for a better town and show the miners how they get bupkis for the money they lose to gamblers. Taking the message to heart, the miners stop gambling and donate to a fund to build up the town.

The gamblers take offense to this. They try to stop Colt by force. But they can’t stand against a united townspeople and must flee the  town. The good people of Stockton then burn the gambling houses to the ground.

It’s an unbelievable story which left me shaking my head. Burn down the gambling houses? I mean, they couldn’t find some other use for those buildings? Sheesh!

The story is followed by full page ad for such Marvel merchandise as Spider-Man and Hulk model kits, a Spidey squirt gun, a Spider-Mobile, Spidey Foam and more. Nothing on the page was priced higher than $5.98 (the Spider-Mobile). The other items ranged from $1.25 to $2.98. What bargains!

“Silver Valley” (6 pages) is also drawn by Keller and, once again, the writer has not yet been identified. The story:

Kid Colt rescues am older man from a hungry bear and then has bacon and coffee with the man. Colt is on his way to “pressing business” in Culver County and asks for directions to the shortest trail to Silver Valley. The old man tries to steer Colt clear of the valley, but the Kid is in a hurry.

The road trip is harrowing. Colt is attacked by an unfriendly band of Native Americans and only escapes because they respect him as a warrior enough to let him pass in peace. He encounters a blizzard and hungry wolves in a mountain pass. He is blistered by the sun in the lowlands. He fights and captures murderous stagecoach robbers. Despite all these distractions, Colt reaches his destination: the place of his friend Jim Wyatt.

Why did Colt have to get to the Wyatt spread so quickly? Because he wanted to be there for young Jody’s birthday and give the lad the silver spurs Jody wanted. When Jim asks the Kid how his trip there went, Colt says there was nary a ripple.

I love this story. It’s action-packed with a wonderful punch line. The writer did his job exceedingly well.

“The Ramrod” (5 pages) by Stan Lee and Gene Colan was a non-series story. A wild-eyed man in a Confederate uniform rides into Pawnee, shooting into the air. He charges into the saloon, demanding Dixie music. He insults brave men who fought on both sides of the war. He goads a man into a duel and, fortunately, only shoots the guns out of that man’s hands. When he tries to buy the house a drink, he’s told his Confederate money is now worthless. He proclaims he will rob the bank, but then sits down at a table and waits for the town sheriff to come and face him.

The town wants to know why Sheriff Alf Durand hasn’t done anything about this man. Durand walks into the saloon alone. He faces the wild-eyed man and speaks:

Men have always fought for causes and died for them! The world has gone ahead! You’re no different! It’s over now and the nation is stronger for it!

You taunted brave men who had fought on both sides! They want to forget, but you won’t let them! Gray and blue...they’re hear to make a new life! But you won’t let them!

Stand up, Ramrod! Get on your feet, because I am to make you a man! On your feet, you selfish, bawling cry-baby! Get up!


Durand shoots the gun out of Ramrod’s hand, then proceeds to beat the crap out of him. The sheriff tells Ramrod he’ll be a better man now. To forget the past and live for the future.

The twist ending? Ramrod knows the sheriff, but thought Durand was killed at Vicksburg. But Alf was only wounded and recovered from his injuries.

Durand tells the townspeople to get Ramrod to a doctor and assures them the man will be all right now. The sheriff should know. He was Ramrod’s commanding officer...and his brother!

“The Ramrod” is a well-written and well-drawn story, but it hails from a time when foolish people were more forgiving of the slavers of the South. We can now longer afford such forgiveness. Not when our President is a racist who has placed other racists in important positions. Not when vile white supremacists march and protest while waving around torches. Today, this well-written and well-drawn tale makes me sigh in sadness and disgust.

“Bad Blood” (6 pages) is the third and final story reprinted from Kid Colt Outlaw #52. The writer is unknown at this time, but Jack Keller is once again the artist.

The story:

Riding into an unnamed town, Kid Colt stops a gunfight by shooting the guns out of the hands of both men. The feud between the Dawson and Moore families has been going on so long that no one remembers what started it. But it has heated up because Ed Moore believes his brother was murdered by Dawson.

Hearing the story from Dawson, Colt believes the man is innocent. Moore’s only living kin is his half-cousin Clyde Hanson, so Moore has taken the death of his brother real hard and vowed to kill Dawson. Hence, the attempted gunfight.

Colt does some deducting. When the death of his brother, the whole of the Moore ranch went to Ed. Dawson is shocked at the idea that Moore himself is the killer, but agrees to join the Kid to do some investigating. They ride to the spot where the younger Moore was shot in the back. An unseen shooter tries to bushwack them, but he misses and rides off.

Colt rides to the Moore spread to confront Ed. The Kid tells Moore he thinks he knows who killed his brother. Moore doesn’t believe it was anyone other than Dawson. But Colt tells him he’ll be waiting at the entrance of Wolf Canyon with the proof. This is where Ellery Queen shows up and tells you that you have all the clues you need to solve this murder that I solved back on page two.

Just kidding about the Ellery Queen part...

Colt and Dawson ride to the canyon. There’s no sign of Moore. Then Cousin Clyde gets the drop of them. Clyde figured that, if Ed was killed in a gunfight, the ranch would be his.

Colt didn’t have this figured out all the way. He thought telling Moore he had a hunch who the killer was would make the back shooter come out in the open.

Clyde says Colt and Dawson will never tell anyone what they know. But he whirls at a voice from off-panel.

Ed Moore, who had come to the canyon to kill Colt and Dawson, heard everything. Colt keeps Clyde from shooting Ed.

Moore feels low, but is glad Clyde will pay for his crime. He then shakes hands with Dawson. The feud is finally over...and that’s all the reward Kid Colt needs.

This was a good little story. I want to point out that none of the three Kid Colt reprints make much if anything of his being a wanted outlaw. He’s just a wandering cowboy helping people out wherever he goes. It’s a nice change of pace from the “man on the run” stories that are so prevalent in most Kid Colt and Rawhide Kid comic books.

That’s it for part two of this extended installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be absent from the bloggy thing for a few days to attend The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia, but will return on Monday for the third and final part.

See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 111 (PART ONE OF THREE)

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, honor and fighting skills - Johnny Clay speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. We’re currently in the extended twilight of the title. We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the title, which is now a bimonthly reprint. This is the 111th installment in my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

This week, we’re looking at Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 [January 1975], a 68-page issue with a cover penciled by Larry Lieber and inked by Vince Colletta. The issue guest-stars the Rawhide Kid in a western team-up written and penciled by Lieber, inked by Colletta, colored by George Roussos, lettered by Jean Izzo and edited by Roy Thomas. The 15-page cover story is backed up by six short Kid Colt stories (all reprint) and a non-series short story (also a reprint).

Among the questions I’m asking myself - I wasn’t spending much time in the color comics department at the time - is whether this story was originally done for the never-published Western Team-Up #2 or if it was commissioned specially for this first of the three issues of Giant-Size Kid Colt that were published in 1975.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


“Meet the Manhunter!” (15 pages) starts with Kid Colt riding into a lawless town and finding the Rawhide Kid in the middle of a bar brawl. He pitches into help his friend, but, with the odds against them, the Kids make a break through a window.

Outside the saloon, some of the brawlers draw down on the Kids and one of them pays the ultimate price for his recklessness. Outlaw Scar Colby, brother of the slain man, vows vengeance on the Kids as they ride out of town. Figuring there’s safety in numbers, Colt and Rawhide decide they should stick together for a while.

The story shifts to “back east” where Detective Murdock attempts to arrest the Dolan Gang. But the aging copper is outgunned and ends up with a shoulder wound. Adding insult to injury, Murdock is then “retired” from the police force. Angered, Murdock decides to leave the city and go west with his grandson Billy.

Murdock and Billy arrive in the West. The former police detective figures to get rich using his skills as a bounty hunter. His first targets: two of the most notorious badmen in the West. Do I have to tell you who he’s talking about? I didn’t think so.

Murdock and Billy catch up with the Kids and ask if they can join them. Our heroes accommodate them. Sizing the young gunslingers up, the former lawman decides he must out-fox them. He takes Kid Colt’s money and pocket watch from the Kid’s saddlebags and puts them in Rawhide’s saddlebags. The plan is “divide and conquer” and, if the Kids draw on each other, well, Murdock will get the reward whether they are alive or dead.

Murdock’s plan works, albeit only partly. Colt and Rawhide slug it out, but don’t draw their guns. Neither will kill for money.

Colt thinks Rawhide is a thief. Rawhide is pissed that Colt thinks he’s a thief. They go their separate ways.

Murdock and Billy stay with Kid Colt. He’s grateful for the older man letting him know Rawhide robbed him.

Murdock’s back-up plan? He has cut the cinch strap on Colt’s horse.  Colt tumbles to the ground and is knocked out. When he wakes up, he’s been handcuffed. Colt realizes Murdock framed the Rawhide Kid and Murdock gloats about it. Might I add Murdock is not setting a good example for his grandson?

Murdock then rides after Rawhide. He tells the Kid that Billy was annoying Colt with questions about gunslinging...and Colt shot the lad. Rawhide rides back with Murdock to see how badly Billy’s been hurt.

Rawhide leans over the still form of Billy, but sees no wound. He turns to find Murdock holding a gun on him. With both the Kids in handcuffs, Murdock will take them to the nearest sheriff.

Hey, remember Scar? What do you figure the odds are that he would show up along the trail to the nearest sheriff?

Colby knocks Murdock off his house and takes his prisoners. Billy wants to call it quits on the whole bounty-hunting thing. Murdock ain’t about that.

Murdock sneaks up on the man guarding the Kids. He knocks him out from behind. He frees the Kids and gives them back their guns. The two gunslinger make short work of Colby’s men.

Colby grabs Billy and uses him as a shield. Murdock rushes between Rawhide and Colby. Colt takes advantage of this to tackle Colby and get Billy out of harm’s way.

One of Colby’s men draws on Kid Colt and gets gunned down for it. Colby tries to shoot Colt in the back, only to be shot dead by the Rawhide Kid. The Kids are buddies once again.

What about Murdock? He says:

I’m not about to turn in the men who saved the life of my grandson! Matter of fact, I’m giving up manhunting altogether.

You two have taught me that out here in the West it’s not easy to tell the good guys from the bad! So before I call any more wrong shots, I’m going back east...where at least I know the players.


Two of the west’s most colorful figures - you know who - then ride out toward another day and a new adventure.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


“Meet the Manhunter!” has two major flaws that undermine the story terribly. At 15 pages, it’s way too short. By my estimation, there was enough plot and enough interesting characters that it could’ve run at least 22 pages.

The other flaw is that Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid are simply not themselves in this story. Now Colt never had much personality, but Rawhide had a distinctive attitude and speech pattern. Which isn’t seen in this too-compacted adventure.

The January “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page nine of the story. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” is the lead item. Lee discusses the just-completed New York Comic Art Convention, the upcoming Origins of Marvel Comics trade paperback and a said-to-be-upcoming Spider-Man movie. I’m pretty sure that last one didn’t happen.

In other items...

The Marvel softball team lost a game to the team from the Greenwich Village Voice. You can’t win them all.

The Iron Fist black-and-white magazine that never happened is said to have been pushed back yet another month to make sure it was just right. The same item also plugs the new Marvel Preview mag, which showcase a brand-new feature every issue. First up: Man-Gods from Beyond the Stars. No credits were announced, but the cover of the magazine was by Neal Adams. Inside the issue: Doug Moench wrote a 37-page script (concept and co-plot by Roy Thomas) that was drawn by Alex Nino. The issue also had a number of articles on UFOs and aliens plus a 10-page comics story by Marv Wolfman with art by Dave Cockrum. It was a homage to EC Comics.

Len Wein joined the Marvel staff as associate editor of the color comics. He was also writing Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk at the time.

Jim Starlin took time off from a “secret new mag” he was working on to draw a full-length story for Giant-Size Defenders. I’m guessing that “secret new mag” was Warlock.

Finally, Marvel talked about how difficult it was to find the right artist for Marvel Two-In-One. The company asked readers to send in their suggestions.

To the right of the Bullpen Bulletins page was a house ad for The Origins of Marvel Comics and the Mighty Marvel Calendar for 1975. The former cost $9.95 (cloth) and $5.95 (paper). The spiral-bound calendar was $3.95...or a few cents less than the cost of a single issue of one of Marvel’s 2017 comic books.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the middle chapter of this week’s Rawhide Kid Wednesday. I’ll be writing about this giant-size issue’s seven reprinted stories, six starring Kid Colt with the seventh being a non-series tale drawn by Gene Colan. See you then! 

© 2017 Tony Isabella

TONY'S TIPS #209

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Lois Lane: Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond and the Frozen comic books from Joe Books!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LO, THERE SHALL BE GARAGE SALES!

My legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales will return in June. I started doing these a few years back when it finally hit me that I desperately needed to downsize my stuff.  There were lots of reasons for this and more reasons have been added with each passing year. Here are the top six:

1. Having just watched Sainted Wife Barb and others have to clear my mother-in-law’s house of decades of stuff, I don’t want to put Barb and our children through that when I die and become a vengeful spirit. They might still have to deal with a lot of stuff, but it won’t be anywhere near what they would have to deal with if I die before the end of today’s bloggy thing.

2. I would really like to know what books, comics and stuff I own. I know what I think I have, but I’d like to be certain, especially when it comes to comics and other things I am actively collecting. Or would be actively collecting if I knew what I had.

3. I would like to reduce my monthly expenses by the $218.74 I pay out every month for three storage units.

4. I enjoying spending a few hours every other week or so selling stuff and talking to fans and friends and neighbors. Writing can be a lonely profession and the garage sales allow me to interact with  other human beings.

5. I could use the money. I need dental implants. I need to buy a bunch of comic books for research on ongoing projects. I would like to renovate my office to make it more efficient.

6. Because of the nature of my garage sales, which are built around old comic books and related items, I can create mini-conventions of a sort around them. You can expect to see cosplay, guest exhibitors and even panel discussions in my driveway. Because I am all about the fun.

This items for sale at this year’s sales will be somewhat different than in previous years. My first priority is to drastically reduce the clutter in my office. That means you’ll be seeing higher-priced comics, books and magazines than before. I’ll still have boxes of comics, magazines, paperbacks, trade paperbacks and even hardcover books at a quarter each. But those bargain boxes will be fewer in number this year. On the bright side, you can usually count on the sales including between a half-dozen and a dozen $5 mystery boxes every time. My customers love those mystery boxes.

Even the higher-priced items will be priced well below their cover prices, generally about a third of their cover price. There will be boxes of comic books originally priced at $2.99 to $4.99 and more selling for a dollar each.

Do you collect Monopoly games? If so, you won’t want to miss these garage sales. I have well over fifty collectible and still factory-sealed games that will be selling for five and ten dollars apiece. I’ll also have assorted loose Monopoly pewter figures and such on sale. Stock up for family game nights!

I’ll have Isabella-written stuff for sale, some older comics, maybe some posters, maybe some other cool stuff. I literally won’t know what specific items will be on sale at any given garage sale until I finished getting ready for it. Oh, the suspense!

Here’s my updated convention and garage sale schedule:

Friday, May 19: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Saturday, May 20: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Friday, June 2: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Saturday, June 3: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Friday, June 9: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Saturday, June 10: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Friday, June 16: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, June 17: GARAGE SALE

Friday, June 30: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, July 1: GARAGE SALE

Friday, July 14: G-Fest

Saturday, July 15: G-Fest

Sunday, July 16: G-Fest

Friday, July 28: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, July 29: GARAGE SALE

Friday, August 11: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, August 12: GARAGE SALE

Sunday, August 20: NEO Comic-Con

Friday, August 25: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, August 26: GARAGE SALE

Friday, September 8: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, September 9: GARAGE SALE

Friday, September 22: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Saturday, September 23: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Friday, October 6: GARAGE SALE

Saturday, October 7: GARAGE SALE

Friday, October 13: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Saturday, October 14: GARAGE SALE (tentative)

Friday, October 20: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Saturday, October 21: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Sunday, October 22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Saturday, November 4: Akron Comicon

Sunday, November 5: Akron Comicon

Some of the garage sale dates are “tentative.” I’m hedging my bets on the June 2-3 sale because I’m not 100% I’ll have a set-up I’ll be comfortable with. The June 9-10 dates are listed as “tentative” in case I have a June 2-3 garage sale and it’s so successful I need extra time to restock.

I kept the weekend of Comic-Con International in San Diego open on the off-chance I might unexpectedly attend that event. It’s a long shot, but not impossible.

The September 22-23 dates are tentative because there’s a chance I will be involved in a special event that weekend. If that doesn’t happen, there will be a garage sale on those dates.

Finally, the October 13-14 dates are tentative for several reasons. I might be exhausted from the above schedule and not have time to restock for one more sale. The always uncertain Ohio weather might make a garage sale difficult. I might have to be somewhere else on those dates. My life is full of surprises.

As per usual, I’ll advertise my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales in this bloggy thing of mine, on Facebook, on Twitter, in the local newspaper and on Craig’s List. As we get closer to each sale, I’ll let you know how things are going and what you can expect to find at the sale.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with a special edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.
          
© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 15, 2017

ECBACC 2017 PREVIEW

The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) is one of my favorite events of the year. This year, I’m even more excited than usual because Sainted Wife Barb will be coming to the convention, because I’ll be able to introduce her to my long-time friend Don McGregor, because I’ll be meeting Don’s wife Marsha for the first time and because I’m receiving a Pioneer/Lifetime Achievement Award from the convention. I’m also more overwhelmed than ever before on account of there’s so much going on in my life that I haven’t had a chance to do much preparation. Yow!

Let’s start with the basics:

ECBACC kicks off on Friday, May 19, with its opening reception and awards presentation at TECH Freire Charter School, 2221 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The reception runs 6:30 pm to 9 pm. Besides receiving an award, I’m scheduled to present a Glyph Award for Best Artist.

The convention itself is a one-day effect taking place on Saturday, May 20, from 11 am to 7 pm at TECH Freire Charter School. Besides having a table at the convention, I’ll also be doing other event-related stuff.

From the ECBACC home page:

The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, Incorporated or ECBACC, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit literacy and arts organization. The signature event was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in May 2002 by Mr. Yumy Odom and the organization was registered in 2008. As the forerunner in urban comic book and sci-fi conventions, ECBACC offers year-round programs including the STARS classes for youth in the Philadelphia area and a first-rate professional comic book industry workshop in conjunction with several community-based organizations.

The goals of the convention:

To promote literacy and creativity in youth through comic book writing and drawing workshops.

To offer audiences exposure to some of the leading Black artists and writers in the comic book industry.

To provide outstanding Black writers and artists with a prominent showcase for their talents and the opportunity to engage in networking with their peers.

To promote positive Black images.


McGregor and I are at ECBACC because, according to Michael Davis, a master of the universe, we are “two of the best Black writers in the industry.” If Michael says it, it’s word.

ECBACC is more than a convention. It’s a community of creators and educators and fans. I am constantly encouraged and humbled by the support I have received from this community.

At the opening reception, there will be five recipients of the ECBACC Pioneer/Lifetime Achievement Award.

Billy Graham (1935-1999), who was the most prominent and one of the very few African-American creators working in the comics industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Don McGregor, one of the most groundbreaking writers of the 1970s and beyond. His work on the Black Panther, Killraven, Detectives Inc, Sabre and many other comics showed a commitment to diversity that has seldom been equaled.

Tony Isabella. Who you probably have heard of, what with reading this blog and all.

Alex Simmons. He’s an award-winning comic-book creator, playwright, international teaching artist, public speaker and educator.

M. Akil Dukon. Filmmaker, director, producer, editor and media arts educator. If memory serves, at last year’s event, she showed us a bit of her feature-length Invisible Universe documentary about the history of representations of black people in science fiction and movies.

This award is the most significant award I’ve ever received. I am honored to be included among these extraordinary creators. When I accept this award, I will also be accepting the responsibility to continue and expand upon the work I’ve done to date.

Also that Friday evening...

The Glyph Awards highlight “the best in comics made by, for and about people of color from the preceding calendar year. It strives to honor those who have made the greatest contributions to the comics medium in terms of both critical and commercial impact.” In years past, the nominations list has served as my reading list for the rest of the year. Looking at the nominees, that will certainly be the case this year.

Saturday will be a busy day for anyone who attends ECBACC, be they guest or fan. The main area is a “comic book marketplace,” but it will offer much more than comic books. Visitors to the convention will see art, crafts, videos and other creative works. At my table, you will find Black Lightning Volume One and other books and comics I’ve written. I’ll be signing Isabella-written stuff for anyone who requests it. I’ll answer your questions on my work and on comics in general, though there will be some questions I can’t answer due to non-disclosure agreements. While I can’t read unpublished stories, I’ll be happy to look at artist portfolios.

There will be panel discussions on a variety of subjects. I’ll be on a creators panel discussing the science of storytelling. Regina Sawyer will be the facilitator of the panel. Besides her and I, the panel includes artist N. Steven Harris and author Robert Garrett. We will attempt to answer questions like:

Is there a science to storytelling? How do these professionals use images and words to convey their ideas?

The panel is scheduled for 2:45-3:45 pm.

Thrilling AfriCoz cosplay will be on view throughout ECBACC. This  is always one of the coolest aspects of the event and, this year, I have been asked to serve as a judge alongside Garrett, creator Jamar Nicholas, artist/digital painter Sheeba Maya and writer and creator Uraeus. Shenkarr Davis is the facilitator.

The costume review takes place from 1:15 to 1:45 pm and the contest results will be announced between 3:45 and 4:15 pm.

ECBACC says: “Many may Coz but only a few will AfriCoz!”
                                                                         

Speaking of cosplay, as I will do at every convention I attend, I will be handing out my special “Certificate of Cosplay” to anyone who cosplays as one of the fifty-plus characters on my cosplaying list. You can find the details here.

Two of the coolest aspects of ECBACC are its Comic Book Workshops and its Kids Library Zone. The workshop programs will give future creators some hands-on instruction in the skills they will need to pursue their dreams. The library zone is designed to encourage and inspire young readers. One of these years I hope to find the time to sit in on both.

Speaking of hoping to find time...look at the incredible guest list for this year’s ECBACC. I’d love to chat with each and every one of them. I never want to stop learning...or reach a point in my life where I think I can stop learning. I always want to bring something new to my work.

As you’ve gathered, I’m looking forward to ECBACC. I’ve never come back from one of these conventions without feeling revitalized and ready to get back to work even harder. It’s more than a convention to me. It gives me encouragement and energy and the will to always go forward in every thing I do.

I hope some of my bloggy thing readers will be able to come to the convention and experience the glory and wonder that is ECBACC. It is unlike any convention you’ve ever attended. You will recognize that from the moment you walk into the event.

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

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, May 14, 2017

HOLIDAY HORROR: MOTHER’S DAY

Holidays are supposed to be fun occasions. Sure, some holidays are somber events in remembrance of those who have served their nation and even given their lives for them. Still, even those holidays can be times for families and friends to gather at homes and events, or to hit the road and travel across the land. Holidays are generally considered good things.

Holidays are joyous or thoughtful. Which is I am endlessly amused and fascinated by how many horror and monster movies revolve around holidays. You could view a different horror movie on each and every day on the twelve days of Christmas and not come close to watching all the existing Yuletide fear films. There are horror movies for every holiday you can imagine from New Year’s Day to Easter and all around the calendar.

My amusement and fascination often translate into my watching and then writing about holiday horror movies. In today’s bloggy thing, my twisted obsession centers on Mother’s Day.

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood have taken place around the  world for thousands of years. Our American version of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908. In West Virginia, Anna Jarvis held a memorial for Ann Reeves Jarvis, a Civil War peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of that terrible conflict. Anna wanted to honor her mom by continuing her work.

Years later, Jarvis did succeed in getting Mother’s Day declared a national holiday - the second Sunday in May - but soon after became resentful of the day’s commercialization. She organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits and protested publically. She was arrested at  one such protest for disturbing the peace.

The story of Jarvis and Mother’s Day would make for an entertaining graphic novel that I would buy if someone made it. However, keep in mind that this suggestion is from a guy who delights in horror and monster movies. Mock me if you must, but I consider myself to be a connoisseur of cinematic cheese.

Today’s gooey fun commences with Serial Mom, the 1994 comedy crime horror film starring Kathleen Turner, Sam Watterson and Ricki Lake, and directed by John Waters. It is a dark delight from its opening scenes to its outrageous ending. Here’s the quickie synopsis from the Internet Movie Database: 
 
A sweet mother takes a little too much at heart for the defense of her family.

Okay, that’s a really awful and misleading synopsis that does not begin to reveal the wonder of this film. I’ll discuss the movie in more details once I do this...

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Turner is radiant as housewife and mother Beverly Sutphin. She is a perfect wife and mom in almost every respect, except that she is also a clearly insane and murderously clever serial killer. She’ll murder because someone has wronged a member of her family. She’ll criminally harass someone for stealing a parking space. She’ll kill to cover her tracks. And God forbid you fail to recycle or dare to wear white after Labor Day.

Watterson is perfect as her befuddled and devoted husband. Lake is darling as the daughter seeking romance. Matthew Lillard is great fun as Turner’s horror movie loving son. From this first role, Lillard went on to appear in many movies, including multiple turns as Shaggy in Scooby-Doo cartoons and live-action films. What comes across in all these performances is that this family loves one another, even when Mom is certifiable and deadly.

Beverly keeps killing while two police detectives build their case against her. She murders with such a sense of joy and righteousness that you can’t help but smile and outright laugh at these killings. Though there’s some gore, this is more dark comedy than out-and-out horror movie. Especially when Beverly has her day in court. That’s when the movie gets so outlandishly wonderful that I’m pretty sure I was cackling with delight.

According to Wikipedia, when he reviewed Serial Mom, the late Roger Ebert found “some of Waters' satire effective” but felt “Kathleen Turner's decision to portray her character's mental illness with realism instead of in a campy fashion made the character difficult to laugh at:

“Watch Serial Mom closely and you'll realize that something is miscalculated at a fundamental level. Turner's character is helpless and unwitting in a way that makes us feel almost sorry for her - and that undermines the humor. She isn't funny crazy, she's sick crazy.”

I beg to differ. A campy performance would have made Beverly little more than a clown. It’s because she’s so loving and normal in most ways that her also being a serial killer evokes much of the film’s humor. It’s outrageous humor, to be sure, but it sort of sneaks up on as you realize Beverly never doubts the necessity of rightness or what she does.

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Serial Mom gets “Best Mom Movie” of the day from me. Turner should have been Oscar-nominated for her performance. Seeing many familiar actors and celebrities in various roles added to the sheer fun of this film. It’s a keeper - or will be as soon as I buy a copy for myself - and a movie I’ll watch again. 
                                                                               

Mother's Boys (1993) is unique. It’s the only movie or TV show I’ve seen in which Jamie Lee Curtis is terrible. It pains me to write this - because I have adored Jamie Lee Curtis for decades - but even her Activia commercials are more riveting than her performance in this drama/thriller.

Here’s the IMDb synopsis:

Jude Madigan abandons her husband Robert and her three sons without any explanation. Three years later Jude inexplicably returns to reunite her family. However Robert and his new lover Callie see Jude for the true psychopath she is and try their best to protect their sons. Jude embarks on a non stop stalking and harassment campaign against the family, and even seduces her eldest son Kess into committing her acts of violence.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
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SPOILERS AHEAD


Serial Mom’s Beverly Sutphin is insane. Curtis’ Jude Madigan is a self-centered sociopath. The movie - based on a novel by Bernard Taylor, written by Barry Schneider and Richard Hawley, directed by Yves Simoneau - was touted as a “Fatal Attraction” for the 1990s, but finished hopelessly short of that goal. While I didn’t like Fatal Attraction, mostly because I found Michael Douglas’ character to be completely unsympathetic, Glenn Close played possessive crazy lady much better than Curtis does here. In Fatal Attraction, it takes a while for viewers to realize just how crazy and dangerous Close’s character is. In this movie, from the moment we see her, Jude’s so obviously crazy and dangerous that not even her own children should trust her. Of course, much of the movie revolves around her seducing her oldest son into helping her carrying out her murderous plans.

As Robert Madigan, Peter Gallagher is every bit as unsympathetic as Michael Douglas was in Fatal Attraction. He seems more than a bit nuts himself, so much so that I was expecting some sort of switch where it turned out he was the real sociopath. He’s not. He’s just an actor doing a bad job.

As Callie Harland, assistant principal and Robert’s new girlfriend, Joanne Whalley is sympathetic, but not interesting. I wanted to see a moment where she stands up and becomes more than Jude’s victim, but, even with her heroic attempt to rescue the oldest son when one of Jude’s plans puts the boy in mortal jeopardy, the actress could not overcome the inadequate screenplay.

There are some good performances in the movie. Vanessa Redgrave is terrific as Jude’s mother, an elderly woman who loves Robert, the boys and Callie, who recognizes her daughter is dangerous, and who might have some darkness in her own past, though that last is only hinted at. Luke Edwards is very good as the oldest Madigan son, and Colin Ward and Joey Zimmerman are convincing as his younger brothers.

The movie moves very slowly. There is one unsettling scene in which a naked Jude stands up in a bathtub to show her caesarean scar to her oldest son. There is a cheap “gotcha moment” about an hour in as that son has a nightmare about his father, a lame scare attempt repeated at the end of the movie when the boy has a dream about a  hospital morgue. I groaned at that one.

The movie picked up in its last twenty minutes, but that may have just been me recognizing it was finally heading toward some sort of  conclusion. At that conclusion, it’s just a movie that goes out of its way not to have a body count higher than one, that doesn’t have any true “gotcha moments,” that is neither scary not suspenseful, and which, save for the frequent potty mouths, could have passed as a made-for-TV movie.

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If you’ve read the spoiler bits for Mother’s Boys, you can likely guess I am not recommending this movie. Even with the ever-lovely wearing short tight skirts and sometimes much less, I would rather have back the 96 minutes I spent watching it. Sigh.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, May 13, 2017

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY FREE COMIC BOOK DAY

It was cold. It was rainy. Sainted Wife Barb, myself and the other guests were in tents in the parking lot at The Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio. And we all had a wonderful time on Free Comic Book Day 2017. It’s one of those magical times of the year.

For anyone stumbling across this bloggy thing of mine for the first time, Free Comic Book Day is akin to Christmas for comics readers. You don’t have to deal with annoying relatives and right-wing jerks complaining about some mythical “War on Christmas” that only exists inside their damaged brains, but jolly old men and women and jolly young men and women give you free stuff.

Always held the first Saturday in May, Free Comic Book Day is the day participating comics shops across North America and around the world give away specially-produced comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops. There were over fifty such books produced by publishers for this year’s event. The comics shops do have to pay for these special comics, but the day is meant to thank their regular customers for their patronage throughout the year and to hopefully attract new customers to their business. Most stories hold terrific sales on this day. Many bring in special guests from the comics industry and elsewhere. It’s a big party.
                                                                          

The Toys Time Forgot is located at 137 Cherry St E in Canal Fulton, Ohio. This wondrous establishment is literally packed with toys and other incredible items. It’s so packed with treasures there isn’t even room to hang a guest from its ceiling. There are already lots of action figures hanging from it. But, as it has a large parking lot, it sets up tents for Free Comic Book Day. This works out well when the weather gets on board with the event. Which didn’t happen this year.

Sainted Wife Barb and I arrived at Toys Time Forgot about an hour before the 11 am start of the event. The temperature was in the mid 40s and it was raining slightly. We decided to put off sitting in the cold for a bit and walked over to a local restaurant to get a bit of breakfast.

The Sisters Century House Restaurant is a great family restaurant with a lot of seating in a somewhat small space. It has a long and proud history, one which the current honors by providing a family friendly and friendly experience for its customers. All meals are prepared fresh. Our meals were delicious. We’re already planning a return visit on a warmer day to eat at the restaurant again and to see more of the charming Canal Fulton.

Back at The Toys Time Forgot...

Joining us under the big tent were  Matt Horak, current artist on Marvel’s The Punisher; pop culture artist Ed Griffie; and Shana Schottenstein, creator of The Color of Fire fantasy novel series. We were next to Matt. I enjoyed talking to him and checking out his work. Also braving the elements was Webster, the mascot of minor league baseball’s Akron RubberDucks.

In addition to his comics work, Horak is an artist for EarthQuaker Devices, an Akron-based maker of effects pedals for musicians. He even wrote and drew a comic book for the company, featuring heroes based on their products. He gave me a copy and I’ll be reading and writing about it in the near future.

Despite the chilly and occasionally wet weather, the fans came to Toys Time Forgot in droves. From before the official start of the Free Comic Book Day festivities at 11 am, they were lining up for their free comic books. Fans could take up to five comic books and sign up for a free raffle with prices ranging from original art to a Black Lightning action figure signed by good old Bloggy Tony to a fat bag containing all the FCBD comics.

There were great cosplayers in attendance and, if I figured out how to transfer photos from my new phone to this bloggy thing, you will see them right about now. Among them was my Facebook friend Riley Rivera as Poison Ivy. Given the nature of her costume, I think we can assume she has an extremely warm heart.                                                                                

                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                 

The fans could not have been nicer. I signed a bunch of comics and sold more copies of Black Lightning Volume One in four hours than I had the entire previous weekend. I answered questions about my work and comics in general. We chatted about our favorite comic books and comics creators. I delighted in their enthusiasm for the possibility of a Black Lightning television series, even though I couldn’t tell them it was a go at that time.

Barb had a great time as well. When she needed a break, she visited some of the shops in walking distance of The Toys Time Forgot. We will be checking out those shops more fully on our future visits to Canal Fulton. She enjoyed talking to the fans and the other guests. She didn’t even hit me when I referred to her as my “booth babe.” Is it any wonder I love this woman?

The Toys Time Forgot is an astonishing store that puts on a really first-rate Free Comic Book Day. My thanks to Dan and Jami and the rest of the store crew. It was a good time and we look forward to  coming back for many Free Comic Book Days to come.

I’ll be back tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with my reviews of two Mother’s Day-themed horror movies. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella