Wednesday, September 19, 2018

BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS

I just received my comp copies of BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS, which means it will available at comic shops and other fine vendors in the near-future. This trade paperback collects the entire six-issue series and also features a brand-new afterword by me and character designs from Clayton Henry. 

I think this volume represents the best Black Lightning and the best comics writing I have ever done. If you want to see more Black Lightning stories by me, the creator of the character and the comics writer who knows him best, please buy this trade in large quantities. Show DC Comics that you want the real moving forward deal and not a throwback to the 1980s.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

TONY'S TIPS #274

Last week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I wrote about Batman, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman Vs. Two-Face!

New bloggy things are in the works. Keep watching this space.

Friday, September 7, 2018

THE ROAD TO ELKHART AND BEYOND


I’m packing for the Hall of Heroes Comic Con in downtown Elkhart, Indiana, Saturday and Sunday, September 8-9. Today is the start of two absolutely insane weeks for me. So, besides urging anyone who can to come see me in Elkhart, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be almost completely offline until Monday, September 17.

I will be offline while I’m in Elkhart. I will be online Monday, September 10. I will be offline from Tuesday, September 11 through Sunday, September 16. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I’ll have figured out how to stay in touch while I’m on the road.

If you follow me on Facebook, you won’t see the usual birthdays and other postings from me while I’m gone. One of the reasons I want to hire an assistant is so that I’ll have some to do that for me when I’m not at home.

You won’t see any new bloggy posts until Tuesday, September 18 at the earliest. I will write new Tony’s Tips columns for the next two weeks, but those will likely run later in their respective weeks than usual.

I’ll be a guest at the Baltimore Comic*Con later this month. That will be my only other guest appearance in September, though I will be popping in at some local events.

I’m only scheduled for one October comics convention: the Syracuse NY Comic Con on Saturday, October 13. There is another convention possibility, but I’m thinking I might be better off staying at home and trying to catch up on all sorts of things before my incredibly insane three November comics conventions in three weekends. If I don’t feel my age now, I will after that.

I apologize in advance for not responding to comments and e-mails with my usual alacrity. If you absolutely have to speak to me about something from now until September 17, you’ll need to call or text me on my cell phone. If you don’t have that number - because I am not going to put it online - you won’t be able to contact me while I’m out of town.

That’s it for one of the most boring bloggy things that I’ve ever written.  I’ll be back as soon as possible with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TONY'S TIPS #273

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Catwoman: Soulstealer by #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Sarah J. Mass; Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume One by Akiko Higashimura, creator of Princess Jellyfish; and Guardians of the Louvre by acclaimed manga artist Jiro Taniguchi!

CATCHING UP WITH THIS AND THAT

“Overwhelmed” seems to be my default setting these days. Over the past couple years, I have had a roller-coaster’s worth of ups and downs and twists and turns. A lot of good stuff has happened for me and some not-so-good stuff as well. That’s just in my own life. Don’t get me started on the evil empire that is the Dumpster presidency.

I had “The Talk” with Saintly Wife Barb. At nearly 67, I’m in good health and quite capable of working for as long as my fingers can dance across the keyboards. Yet, one of the sad facts of the comics industry is that there are limited opportunities for me at the handful of publishers that pay decent wages.

When I started working at Marvel in the early 1970s, I worked with a number of what I now call “Depression-Era Kids.” Comics creators who grew up at a time when anyone could lose everything overnight. For creators like them, they could never earn enough money and, no matter how well they were doing, they always feared it would not be enough to take care of them and theirs.

I was born well after the Depression, at least the one referred to above, but I have much the same mindset. Which is ridiculous. Barb and I have always lived a modest lifestyle. Our financial advisers have told us we could retire at any time. But Barb, who is one heck of a pharmacist and who is devoted to her chemotherapy patients, is not ready to retire yet. And, in my case, there’s no reason I can’t keep writing until the day I die.

“The Talk” was...what does Tony do if there are no decent-paying jobs in his future? I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I've been having conversations with comics creators. The general topic is that the comics industry doesn't make sense and never has. When I take a punch to the gut, it’s usually because I forgot that sadly basic truth. I’ve told one professional friend to call me if he ever starts thinking there is logic to how the comic-book business works and I’ll hold an intervention for him.

I’ve had a good relationship with DC Comics these past few years. I cherish that relationship, but it makes no sense for them not to have me working on Black Lightning material. I created their most iconic black hero. I have proven that I write him better than any other comics writer. I have a loyal following among Black Lightning readers. Yet, at the moment, all DC Comics can think of doing with my creation is regressing him to yet another Batman sidekick.

Yes, Mike Barr’s Batman and the Outsiders was a terrific comic-book series. I’m keeping the original comics until the whole series has been reprinted in omnibus editions. But that was decades ago...and Black Lightning is now a headliner.

Is DC Comics mired in the past when it comes to Black Lightning? I see no logical reasons for moving him from the Cleveland of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands to the Metropolis of his 1970's comics. Although, if I do get to write an ongoing Black Lightning series, I will claim the current Detective Comics run takes place before my Cold Dead Hands and subsequent stories. Or completely and utterly ignore it.

People keep asking me why I so object to Black Lightning being part of a new Batman and the Outsiders team. This goes beyond my stated dislike of every super-hero in the DC Universe being treated as if they were Batman’s sidekicks and my considered opinion this hurts those other super-heroes. It even goes beyond my thinking that, for the most part, the current versions of Batman are more than a bit insane. It has to do with who Jefferson Pierce is and what are the most important things to him.

What’s important to Jefferson Pierce is: his family (including his girlfriend Lynn Stewart), his students, his community and his city. How do those priorities jibe with him dropping everything to work for a man he respects but doesn’t actually like or trust?

Digression. What was the point of that recent “Dark Days” event? To see how many twisted, and vile versions of Batman that DC could shove into one event? You’d think they didn’t like the guy.

I’m not giving up on DC Comics. I like the folks there. I think I could do great things for the company. Indeed, I’m hoping to meet with them while I’m in Los Angeles next week. I’m hoping some good news comes out of those meetings, even if it’s good news I won’t be able to tell you about right away.

I’m also not giving up on Marvel Comics, which has always honored its agreements with me. I’ve pitched some ideas to them already and am working on some additional pitches. The company seems receptive to working with me again.

DC and Marvel are the only companies I know of that pay a decent wage. I would be open to other publishers as well. You would think those publishers would recognize the value of being able to put “From the creator of Black Lightning” on comics I might write for them. That’s logical and...whoops...there I go again.

Digression. I recently wrote a script for a smaller publisher for a ridiculously low rate. Because I wanted to work with the editor and because the license was one I liked. I wrote what both he and I thought was a great script. The people who owned the license then tried to take everything “Tony Isabella” out of the script. Which is why I pulled the script. For the kind of money they were paying, I wasn’t about to let them publish a script that would no longer have been up to my standards.

Which brings us back to “The Talk” I mentioned. If I am unable to land decent-paying work in the comics industry, I’ll continue to write comics. I may not be able to bring them to the marketplace, but I’ll write them.

Yes, I know about online fund-raising platforms. You know what I’m as bad at as I am good at writing? Business. I suck at the business end of things. I also would suck at trying to divide my attention between writing and crowd-funding. I’ll never rule it out, but I just don’t think I would be successful at it.

If I can’t get paid to write comics, I’ll write other things. I’m working with a filmmaker who wants to make a horror movie I would write and co-produce. He’s doing the fund-raising for the project. I’m doing what I do best: write and be beloved.

I will be writing a number of books for Pulp Hero Press. There are seven more volumes to July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella. I am working on a book about Black Lightning and my road to diversity. I have plans to write memoirs of sorts. I have plans to collect and expand upon my reviews of monster and horror movies.

Digression. It’s alarming to realize I could do an entire book just of my previously-published reviews of shark movies. Maybe I’ll call it Blog Shark.

What else could I do to make money?

Conventions. It’s no secret that I charge most comics conventions and other events an appearance fee. It’s a reasonable fee, though I understand why some events can’t or don’t want to pay it. Still, since it’s important to me to continue to make money, almost every convention or events I do will have paid me to be there.

Charging for signatures. If you buy something from me, I’ll sign it for free. I’ll sign one item for free. After that, it’s basically two bucks per signature; five bucks each if you have the signature certified or witnessed.

Garage sales. I enjoy doing them and my customers enjoy them. They help reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. I make a reasonable amount of money at them. Nuff said.

When I talk about being overwhelmed, it’s because there are so many projects and other things I want to do. I have been interviewed by one of my favorite magazines and I’ve been churlishly dragging my feet on completing what will be a major look at my career.

I have stuff to send to people who have been waiting patiently for me to send it to them. I really need an assistant.

I have interviews and podcasts on hold, waiting for me to find the time to do them. I’m hoping to get to all of them before the end of September.

And, as always, I have a bucket list of over three hundred things I want to write before I kick the bucket. A new universe of super-heroes. Comics in every conceivable genre. Novels, short stories, plays and screenplays.

Today’s bloggy thing is not the bloggy thing that you were looking for. It’s not the rewrite of my piece on why I sort of hate the Batman. I’m really hoping DC can convince me that I don’t sort of hate the Batman or, at least, offer me insights as to why they do what they do with the character.

My upcoming conventions and trips are going to delay other bloggy things as well. I have like a year’s worth of convention reports to write. I want to review the movies that I watched during the Syfy channel’s Sharknado week. I also want to review other movies, comic books, magazines, novels and more. I’m trying to find the time to get this blog back on a nigh-daily schedule.

Thanks for visiting this online self-therapy session. Now you know what goes on in my head. I hope to bring you great comic books and more in the weeks and months and year to come. I appreciate all of your support and will always try to be worthy of it.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY IN AUGUST

More often than is good for me, I find myself overwhelmed by the multiplicity and speed of events that impact me in some way. There are moments of joy and there are moments of sadness. I took blows to the heart with the passing of creative folks like Russ Heath and Gary Friedrich and Marie Severin and Neil Simon. They were people whose work meant a great deal to me.

I didn’t know Russ well, but we had a few friendly conversations at conventions over the years. I think he would be on anyone’s list of the best four or five war comics artists of all time and probably on similar lists for all the other genres in which his magnificent art appeared. He received assistance from the Hero Iniative and was a staunch advocate of that organization.

Gary and I were friends, albeit convention and long-distance ones. He was exceedingly friendly and gracious to me, the guy who ended up following him on Ghost Rider. He had nothing but good things to say about my work on his creation. At one point, I was seeking to learn who owned his Hell-Rider and Butterfly creations of the very early 1970s with the hope of getting those rights and then working with Gary on new versions of those underappreciated heroes.

Marie was the light of the Marvel Bullpen during the few years of my employment therein. She could do everything. She was gracious, kind and devilishly clever when someone raised her ire. We weren’t even lunch buddies, but she remains one of the best memories of my time in New York City.

Neil Simon was an influence and an inspiration to me. He’s one of the best and funniest writers of all time. I learned a lot studying his works. I never met him, but I read his plays to this day. The Odd Couple is my favorite.

Alongside the sadness of their passing, there is the joy that their lives and the work brought me. I glad I got to know them, even, in the case of Simon, from afar.

Life is always going to be a mixed bag. Things look pretty grim in my country and my industry. But, for all those things, it’s never hard to find other things that make me happy. I try to note one of these other things every day.

Here’s the August list:

August 1: Black Lightning: Brick City Blues is on the schedule for early next year. It collects the 1995 series. I’ll be writing the intro as soon as I come up more superlatives to describe the work of artist Eddy Newell.

August 2: Jiro Taniguchi’s Guardians of the Louvre is a beautiful graphic novel with so much heart and soul and insight. It literally brought me to tears.

August 3: The “Once Upon a Time” episode of Lucifer raised the bar re: respect for comics creators. In that episode, Neil Gaiman was the voice of God. I’d settle for playing a grumpy old man in Black Lightning.
August 4: I love comics more right now than I’ve ever loved comics in my life. Besides the incredible variety of material both new and old, it’s the wondrous diversity of characters and creators that renews my passion daily.

August 5: I find myself quite delighted Nicholas Cage finally got to play Superman, albeit in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. Now he and I should talk Ghost Rider 3.

August 6: My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame is a beautiful, emotional, reflective and riveting manga. I cherish it.

August 7: I have an intriguing idea for the conservative super-hero I wanted to add to my new universe. If my research pans out, I may have to start thinking about doing four titles initially.
                                                                             

August 8: Dynamite’s Project Superheroes. As individual issues, I didn’t find them entertaining. In trade paperback, I’m liking them much more. Not classics, but solid reads.

August 9: So many e-mails, Facebook/Twitter messages and calls from good folks having my back against Comicsgate. Of course, Comicsgate would be outnumbered if it was just me against them. But it’s not just me. Not by a long shot.

August 10: A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo. Her new novel of former Amish police chief Kate Burkholder - set in Ohio - is one of the best in the series.

August 11: I got a fan letter on my Craig’s List garage sale post. She wrote: “Even though I'm not in the market for anything you're selling, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your ad and looking at your picture. Really brought a smile to my face!  Good luck with the sale.” Of course, now I have to maintain that in my future ads.

August 12: Going back to Duck Tales again. “The Last Crash of the Sunchaser!” was such an emotionally-charged episode. Unexpected and heartbreaking. Can’t wait for the next episode.
                                                                               

August 13: Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss. It’s a great book to celebrate thirty decades of one of my favorite TV series.

August 14: The Asylum’s Megalodon, which premiered yesterday on the Syfy channel. Michael Madsen’s final scene was insanely wonderful. This is why I love The Asylum.

August 15: A great start to my day. Finished writing introduction to a collection of my work. Booked my hotel room for next year’s G-Fest. Gonna take the rest of the day off. More or less.

August 16: Incredibles 2. I’m begging you, Brad Bird, don’t make me wait another fourteen years for the next one.

August 17: Flaming River Con, first LGBTQIA+ geek comics convention in the Midwest. It’ll happen on Saturday, September 22, at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. I plan to attend.

August 18: Sirius XM’s Studio 54 channel. Now that’s music to get your day off to a swinging start. Reminds me of my days not dancing at discos. You’re welcome.

August 19: NEO Comic Con 2018. I had a wonderful time at this show. Congratulations and thanks to promoter Shawn Belles and his amazing team.
                                                                               

August 20: 6-Headed Shark Attack. I like my shark movies real big and stupid. This was my favorite of the films leading to The Last Sharknado with Santa Jaws a close second.

August 21: Duck Tales continues to amaze me. “The Shadow War” had so many surprises and so much heart. It’s the best animated show on television.

August 22: Keeping relatively sane in an insane industry by taking more time for myself. A movie a week at the local theater. Lunches with friends. Some social evenings. Pacing myself for the long haul because I ain’t going away any time soon.

August 23: Randy Rainbow. I love this guy’s personality and songs. Comedy is wonderful medicine for what ails us in this era of the Dumpster President. You can listen to Randy on You Tube here.

August 24: Had lunch with Andrew Farago and Shaenon Garrity, who were visiting family in my neck of the woods. It was a fun and came at a time when I needed it. If you’re a comics pro passing through Medina, e-mail me and maybe we can get together.

August 25: Being trolled by Comicsgate clowns. No better proof that I’m on the right side of history.

August 26: This year’s garage sales ended on a high note as I made 147% of my goal. I had great conversations with fans and friends. This goes into the books as a big win.

August 27: My son Ed’s housewarming party was a huge success. The place looked great and it was nice to see so many of his old Ohio State University buddies there.
                                                                               

August 28: I was interviewed by the local CW affiliate for a piece to run just before the second season of Black Lightning starts. They let me pick the location. So we filmed at the Historic Coast Guard Station on Whiskey Island, the scene of the climatic battle between my guy and Tobias Whale in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #5-6.

August 29: That whatever my differences with DC Comics, the company is honoring its financial agreements with me. That wasn’t the case under the previous management.

August 30: Despite the sadness of their passing, it makes me happy to have known Gary Friedrich and Marie Severin, to know they were among the creators who made me want to create and to know I’m part of the Marvel Comics legacy of which they were such an important part.

August 31: The unexpected twists my life takes. A one-day trip to Los Angeles has now become six days. Catching a surprise break on a hotel for same. Getting a great chauffeur in my best friend Bob Ingersoll. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Monday, September 3, 2018

HALL OF HEROES COMIC CON (September 8-9)

My next public appearance will be the second annual Hall of Heroes Comic Con, Saturday and Sunday, September 8-9, in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. Sponsored by the Hall of Heroes Museum (410 S. Main St.), the convention will be spreading out all over the area. I’m really excited to see what museum master Allen Stewart has put together. This will be first time in Elkhart.

Special guests? The convention has them. John Schneider, the star of The Dukes of Hazzard, father to Clark Kent in Smallville, and a man fearless enough to appear in some of the cheesy monster movies I love, will be there. Will I be the only who asks him about Snow Beast or Super Shark?

William Katt was brilliant in The Greatest American Hero and many other roles. I saw him on Broadway playing Pippin, though I doubt he remembers meeting me back stage. I’m looking forward to meeting him again.

I’m looking forward to meeting Kevin Sussman. He’s best known for The Big Bang Theory, but he’s done many other TV shows and movies. I especially enjoyed him in Killers (2010). Other media-type guests include Katrina Law (Arrow), Seth Gilliam (Starship Troopers) and horror-host Svengoolie (Sunday only).

From the world of comic books and art, Hall of Heroes will host the great Allen Bellman, one of the few Golden Age comics artists still attending conventions; Stuart Sayger, Mike DeCarlo, Charles Urbach, Scott Rosema and...me.

There will be panels and presentations on a wide variety of topics and, at one time or another, featuring most of the special guests in their own spotlight events. My panel is scheduled for Sunday at  11 am on The Lerner Stage. I’m anticipate the usual mix of news and reviews and views on anything you’d care to ask me about. I’ll do my best to regale you with stories of my comics career and insane life in general. There will be questions I can’t answer because of a) Non-Disclosure Agreements and b) None of Your Business. If you ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, I’ll make something up. I mean, I’m a writer, right?

There will be cosplay, free movies and gaming. Cosplayers: please visit me at my table, especially if you’re cosplaying characters I created or have written.

There will be vendors selling comic books and other cool items. I hope I remember to bring my want list.

I haven’t yet decided what I’m bringing to sell at my guest table. I know I’ll have copies of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1-6, as well as the Black Lightning collections. I’ll have July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I’ll probably have two different Black Lightning posters and mini-posters of Daredevil and Luke Cage. Fingers crossed, my booth babe for this event will be my Saintly Wife Barb.

I will only be signing at my table and I do charge for signatures. Here’s the price list on that:

Items bought at my table: no charge.

Items not bought from me: one free signature; all others $2 per item.

Photo of me or with me: no charge.

Signature witnessed by representative from grading company: $5 per item.

Having me sign a Certificate Of Authenticity: $5 per item.


I hope to see some of my Bloggy Thing readers, Facebook friends and Twitter pals at the Hall of Heroes Comic Con. It’ll be a lot more fun for me if you’re there.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella