Tony Isabella, 1,000 Comic Books You Must Read: Review by Barry Pearl

To this day, I feel that reading comic books should be entertaining, and the first book here, Tony Isabella’s shares his fun with us in his great book 1,000 Comic Books You Must Read.

What a great eclectic list, but what surprised me most, however, is the wave of nostalgia that hit me. I lived through so much of this and it was great to see old friends back: Little Dot, Lulu, Dennis the Menace, Jerry Lewis and some that I had forgotten Sugar and Spike (Four entries!). Not just at comics from Marvel and DC this book gave a change to look back, but also a chance to catch up.

Tony still has the heart of a fan. I was concerned that this would be another one of those lists where some “lectures” about what were good and bad. Instead Tony takes us on a personal journey through a life in comics, his life, and remembers the fun stops. He does in so brief, thoughtful and even funny references. These are observations, not notes to a thesis. For example:

On Iron Man in TOS #39, “His origin will be changed periodically to accommodate new wars.”
Sadly true. (Very true. I fear we will not run out of wars for the new generations.)

Wonder Woman #108 “I bought the issue when no one was looking!”

And while he might have thought “Little Archie peaked too early” it is interesting that his comic is placed next to the Atom! Who was also little.

1,000 Comic Books You Must Read

Yes, there is Fin Fang Foom, Konga, Menace, the Fantastic Four, Uncle Scrooge (who has a barroom brawl described as “Jack Kirby with Ducks!”) But Tony takes his time to remember some of the most important comics that can be forgotten because their publishers are no longer around, like Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein.

I thought this would be a book to read in a day, but it has stretched to a week. Now I want to go back to the candy store where I got my comics in the 1960s and 1970s re read them. Or go back to the 40’s and pick up Pep Comics, Fun Comics and even Young Romance. Or a few new ones I know nothing about.

And it is a beautiful, colorful book, laid out and arranged just right. If you are thinking of just buying this for a gift for a new reader, or an old one: don’t. Buy this for yourself. (Alright, buy two).

Note: Don’t go nuts. I am sure someone will review this and say Tony left this out or didn’t put that in. Of course, this is only 1,000 comics. As I said earlier, is not just the list, it’s the journey that should be enjoyed.

Sadly, people get ripped off and I think Tony was by someone who unnecessarily used a very similar title. And they aim at the same audience. 1001 Comics You Must Read before You Die: The Ultimate Guide to Comic Books, Graphic Novels and Manga by Paul Gravett fails on so many levels.

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: The Ultimate Guide to Comic Books, Graphic Novels and Manga

It is a well-printed, 960 page book. However, the title is misleading. When they discuss comics, they often discuss full runs of titles like the X-Men. Not which individual issues are done by the artists they recommend, including Kirby, Heck and Adams? When they discuss the character Sauron, they don’t mention what issue he appeared in. You almost have to read this book at your computer to Google the events you want to find. So this is really 10,000 comics you must read before you die? This doesn’t help me much in determining which comics they felt stood out in long runs.

It doesn’t cover just comic books. It covers comic strips too. That is, the complete Peanuts and other reprints of newspaper strips are mentioned here as well. So is Manga, Graphic Novels etc. The book does not have one author but contributors who address their specialties.

They do something which started off good, but then left me frustrated. They often mention a series within a comic, like Adam Strange. However, in so many cases, there is NO picture of the cover; there is NO listing of what issues the character appeared. An example of that is the story of “Red Nails” they do not mention what issue of Savage Tales that Conan story was in. And good luck in trying to see that on a shrunken cover. And sometimes there is no picture of a cover. For Nick Fury (S.H.I.E.L.D.) they don’t mention what issue Steranko started or ended. They do reference issue #159.

At the bottom, the often have a section of “Also by” For example, for the Aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. they say, “Also by Steranko” then list, “At The Stroke Of Midnight,” “Captain America, ” X-Men” and a few others. But they don’t tell you what comics the stories appeared in or the artist did. Good Luck. And Steranko was not mentioned in the X-Men section at all.

Get Tony’s book! Below you can see some previews of the great stuff inside!

And see my companion piece on “My Favorite Comics”.

Boys Ranch


Dennis in Hawaii


Herbie 1




Lassie 46


Little Lulu 4


Treasure Chest


Batman 5


Black Lightning 1

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