23 September 2009

Trouble with Comics: The Group Blog of Comic Book Galaxy: Five Questions for Tony Isabella: Use a Merchant Cash Advance to buy Tony's Black Lightning

Tony Isabella is the creator of Black Lightning, the writer of Tony's Tips for Comics Buyer's Guide (and Tony's Online Tips), and one of the nicest guys in or out of comics. Whether you have money or need a merchant cash advance from your parents you should go out and buy the first 10 issues of Black Lightning. He's also a staunch defender of the rights of comics creators, as you'll see in the interview that follows, a thoughtful and eloquent writer on social issues, and most apposite to this discussion, the author of the cool new book 1000 Comic Books You Must Read. My thanks to Tony for taking a second spin around the Five Questions block.

Alan David Doane: Tell me how your new book 1000 Comic Books You Must Read came together?

Tony Isabella: For some time now, having written thousands of columns on comic books, I was trying to come up with some sort of "ultimate" Tony's Tips column in book form. When Krause Publications came up with the initial idea for this book and determined I was the only writer crazy enough to write it, I saw an opportunity to write the book I wanted to write and combine it with the book they wanted to publish. So we have my personal take on the history of the comic book in America wrapped around my comments on over a thousand great comic books.

I have a feeling you easily could compile a convincing list of 10,000. What was the process you used to pare down your list to 1,000?

The hardest part of writing this book was selecting just 1000 comics for inclusion. From the get-go, I knew I didn't want this to be the most "important" 1000 comic books or the "best" 1000 comic books. I wanted it to be representative of the variety that existed in the mainstream from the start of the American comic-book industry with, at least, a smattering of alternative, underground, and manga titles.

I wrote well over a thousand separate entries, but I left out a lot of great comics. Some because we couldn't find good cover scans, some because they got overlooked, some because we already had too many issues of some titles or writers or artists. This project was much more work than any of us anticipated and some decisions were made at the last moment because of that. At the end of the day, it is a book of which I'm very proud. I hope it sells well enough to justify a sequel.

What good comics have you read recently?

Via trades borrowed from my local library system, I've been reading some truly great comics: Barefoot Gen, Fables, Ex Machina, Usagi Yojimbo, and others. Some of these are stories I'm rereading and others are stories I never got around to reading when they were originally published.

Having borrowed thousands of mainstream comics from a good friend, I'm catching up on things like Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Panther, and Daredevil. Much to my delight, I found some done-in-one Spider-Man stories, one by Paul Jenkins and the other by Marc Guggenheim, that are shoe-ins for my sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.

My pal Thom Zahler's Love and Capes is my favorite current super-hero comic. I'm also enjoying Marvel's 70th anniversary specials and the first volume of the Essential Sub-Mariner. The Sub-Mariner feature wasn't a favorite when it ran in Tales to Astonish, but, in rereading these stories, I discovered they combined into one heck of an exciting movie serial style adventure.

You caught me in a super-hero mode this week. It's the equivalent of comfort food after dealing with some demanding, even frustrating work and household projects. Once I get back into the groove of writing nigh-daily reviews for TONY'S ONLINE TIPS, which will happen after Mid-Ohio-Con, I plan to read as many and as many different kinds of comics as I can.

You've been an outspoken advocate for comics creators for many years. If you had your way, what changes would you like to see in the way Marvel and DC treats its freelancers and employees now that they both are facing serious changes at the corporate level?

I'm pretty far out of the loop when it comes to the Big Two. What I have always believed is that treating freelancers and employees fairly is not just the right thing to do ethically, but the smart thing to do from a business standpoint.

I'd love to see DC/Warner stop screwing around with the Siegel estate and come to an agreement that both parties can live with. My understanding is that DC had actually accomplished this, only to have Warner refuse to sign off on it. Ironically, DC/Warner has probably paid out as much or more in legal fees than they would have paid had they cut the deal back then...and, at the end of the day, they will still have to write some big checks to the Siegel family.

There's a reason no one is creating the next Superman or Wolverine for DC or Marvel. The rewards for doing so simply aren't there at the present time.

In 1976, I was way too trusting to get my Black Lightning deal in writing, but that deal -- a partnership between DC Comics and myself in which each party was supposed to have an equal voice in business and creative decisions -- would be an excellent model. If DC had lived up to that agreement then and since, I'd be the company's biggest booster now.

Finally, I know you and I see pretty eye-to-eye on politics and social issues, but I am wondering what you think of the Obama era to date and the current political climate in the United States?

While I don't regret voting for him in the slightest, I am disappointed by Obama's reluctance to do some of what needs to be done. I commend his attempts at bipartisanship, but it's time for him to realize they failed. The Republican leadership cares about winning back their power and that's all they care about and that, in turn, makes too many Democrats quiver in their boots and fail to do what needs to be done for fear of losing their power. When the Democrats fail to do what's right, it emboldens the worst elements of the right.

We need universal health care in this country. We pay more for our health care and get less bang for those bucks than just about every other industrialized nation on the planet. A more efficient system will pay for itself and deliver more and better care to everyone.

When it comes to the military, there's no reason to continue the absurd "don't ask, don't tell" policies of past administrations. We have ample evidence from our own history -- the integration of our armed forces after World War II -- and from other nations that openly gay men and women can serve in our military without adverse effects on that military.

We have to figure out how to curb the excesses of Wall Street, the old industry, and big business to stem the loss of jobs overseas. We should reward companies who keep good-paying jobs here, who keep their profits here instead of in tax shelters, and who rein in the salaries of their executives...and penalize companies who don't do these things.

Vote for me!

Whoops. I guess I got carried away there. I'll settle for being named Czar of Comics.

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Buy 1000 Comic Books You Must Read from Amazon.com, and you can also read ADD's previous Five Questions for Tony Isabella by clicking here.

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