Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Black and White Wednesday: War Toy by Tony Isabella and George Perez

Once upon a time, in a galaxy that seems so far, far away, Marvel Comics was producing a wonderful line of black and white comic magazines. One of the best, though short lived, was stuck with a rather unwieldy title, Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. The mag brought together many fine writers and artists from both the comicbook and science fiction fields creating brand new stories and sometimes adapting classics like Day of the Triffids; Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman; Behold the Man; Adam...and No Eve; and many others. Sadly, it lasted only six issues (October, 1974-August, 1975), plus one special in 1976.

From time to time, Ol' Groove is gonna lay a classic comic from one of those magnificent mags upon ya--and today is such a day, you lucky Groove-ophile, you! I'm gonna start with a fave, "War Toy", by Tony Isabella and George Perez from U.W. of S.F. #2 (December, 1974). The story behind this story is pretty cool. Seems cover artist Mike Kaluta mentioned to editor Roy Thomas that he'd like to do a robot cover for U.W. of S.F. Thomas had been toying with the notion of a cover featuring an Iwo Jima style scene with a robot replacing one of the soldiers, so he gave Kaluta permission and the idea for the magnificent cover scene you see floating up there to your left. The cover was so cool, Thomas decided it had to have a story to go with it, so he gave Isabella (according to that issue's editorial) "the roughest of ideas" along with the title and turned him loose. The art chores were handed to a young up-and-comer named George Perez whose layouts pretty much blew everyone away. The only misstep was the art was heavily inked by the talented but overpowering Rico Rival. Still, the story is heart-rending, the art is far-out, and I really think you're gonna dig it!


  1. Unknown Worlds was my favourite of the Marvel black & white mags. the talent roster was astonishing. the stories just seemed to get the very best out of the artists. Alex Nino's job of Repent, Harlequin! was beautiful. and there are few things more jaw-droppingly sweet than Jim Mooney inking Frank Robbins ( Adam. . . ). a great post, mate.

  2. Thanks, pal! You'll be seeing more from Unknown Worlds from time to time, you bet!

  3. This story led me to write Tony Isabella a fan letter more than twenty years after it was published.

    Reading "War Toy" fresh off the stands as a twelve year old, I had enjoyed it as simply a well-crafted SF story. When I dug out the issue in my thirties (wanting to check something in the Alfred Bester interview) I reread the story...and realized what it was actually about. Mr. Isabella had written a story that functioned equally well on both levels, and was even better than I'd remembered it. Fortunately we now had the Internet, so it was possible to contact him all those years later and congratulate him on a piece of writing that demonstrably stands the test of time.

  4. Thanks for posting this! I can still remember how much this story affected me when I was young!!

  5. Wanted to add my appreciation to Isabella and Perez. Like the rest of you, I vividly remember this story. Powerful stuff.

    This was a deeply moving and amazing story; a testament to the arrogance born of success and the failure to see beyond the immediate. As another mentioned, and like all great scifi, it's a Life Lesson beyond the scifi theme.

  6. I really miss those black and white issues from Marvel.



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

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