Sunday, July 9, 2017


Now it can be told! Well, some of it can be told. You’ll see what I mean as you read this digest version of why I was gone from the Internet for a few days. A longer version will follow after I get back from G-Fest next weekend and have time to elaborate.

Early Thursday morning, my son Eddie drove me to the Akron-Canton Airport to board a flight to Detroit and there board a connecting flight to Los Angeles. I had been asked to come to Burbank to meet with the writers of the Black Lightning TV series which will begin filming in Atlanta in August.

I was treated with great generosity and respect at every stage of this trip. I flew first class to Los Angeles and, on my return, to Atlanta and back to Akron-Canton. At LAX, a car was waiting to take me to the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. This was going to be a quick trip, which is why I only spent one night at the Ace. But it was a memorable stay.

The Ace Hotel is in the running for the weirdest hotel in which I have ever stayed, but it was weird in a wonderful way. The once-classic hotel is being refurbished along with much of the surrounding area. The room was full of surprises, including a cool turntable and a stack of vinyl albums to play on said turntable.

When I was settled in the room, I called Mark Evanier who is, in order of importance, one of the finest people on our planet, one of my best friends for going on half a century, and one of my favorite writers. Mark sent his assistant John to pick me up and drive me to Mark’s house. I had a terrific couple of hours with Mark before jet lag hit me hard. He drove me back to the Ace.

There was a lot of construction going on around the Ace. The sounds of trucks woke me up early. When I explored the area a bit, most of the people I saw were construction workers. Back at the Ace, I had one of the best room service breakfasts ever with the absolute best scrambled eggs I had ever had in life.

I checked out of the hotel and another limo drove me to Burbank and the Black Lightning writers room. Jamon Brown, assistant to show runners Salim and Mara Akil, was one of several people who planned my trip/visit and took great care of me. I got nothing but love and respect the whole time I was there.

Pause to contemplate this amazing situation with me. After years of what we will describe as friction between myself and DC Comics, I was invited to Burbank to meet with the writers and staff crafting a TV series based on my proudest comics creation. There are moments in my life when I fear I am in a coma somewhere hallucinating what my life has become and is becoming. That’s how unreal all of this feels to me sometimes.

Walking into the writers room and seeing a white board mapping out the first season of Black Lightning was an experience I will never forget. Looking at the opposite wall where another white board had the names of characters, several of which I created with Trevor Von Eeden or Eddy Newell, who might appear on the show added to my joy, as did the placards with characters who are appearing as they were originally drawn by Trevor, Jim Aparo and others. I don’t have the words to express what I felt without quickly descending into happy and nervous babbling.

And then...spending a couple of hours answering questions from the writers, talking to them about the characters, listening to them, well, that was equally indescribable. They know Jefferson Pierce. They know Anissa and Jennifer. They know Jefferson’s world and the challenges and conflicts he faces. And when I was asked questions about things from individual comic books I had written, I realized they knew and respected my work.

Comic books and TV shows are not the same. There are elements that work in the former that won’t work in the latter and vice versa. To know that and then to discover how much of my work will be represented in the TV series as translated by show runners Salim and Mara Brock Akil, the writers and the actors, I literally can’t tell you what raced through my mind during this meeting. I would sound like one of the bubbly Minions of Despicable Me.

I was shown the full Black Lightning presentation piece created for the CW. The trailer you saw is the definition of awesome. The full piece adds even more weight to that awesomeness. Though I suspect I might be somewhat biased, I think Black Lightning is going to be a huge hit when it debuts early next year.

I am constantly in awe of how important Black Lightning is to more people than even I have realized. I was stunned into silence when I looked at the schedule board in Salim’s office. I’m a comic-book writer. I thought I knew how much bigger an undertaking creating a TV series had to be. Then I saw that schedule. Wow.

Salim gave me a Black Lightning ball cap, which came in handy just a few minutes later. I signed a copy of Black Lightning #5 (second series) for him. It’s my favorite issue and his as well.

If you’re waiting for me to spill details about what I know about the TV series that you don’t know, you’re going to be disappointed. Even if I were at liberty to tell you these things, I wouldn’t. I want you to experience the TV series without any conceptions that are filtered through my perceptions. When you do see the show, you will be almost as thrilled as I was in the writers room. In other words, don’t ask because I ain’t telling.

I will have much more to say about the writers when I can write a more comprehensive report on this visit. The kindness and respect they showed me was incredible. I feel so confident that they will knock this series out of the park week after week.

Salim thought the session was very helpful and productive. I hope so because, as I said several times, I will do anything I can to be of assistance to the show and the people making it. Because Black Lightning is more important than my contributions to the character. He means too much to too many people. He deserves to be a star.

We also covered a lot of ground quicker than had been anticipated. I was originally scheduled to be in the writers room until seven. So I ended up getting a tour of DC Comics/Entertainment, which is located just a block away. Jamon walked me over to DC. It was a blistering hundred degrees in Burbank that afternoon. Thankfully, I had my Black Lightning cap.

Those DC offices, which occupy multiple floors, are kind of like Oz and Starfleet HQ rolled into one. Because it was Friday afternoon, which operates on flex-time, the officers were relatively quiet as my guides Renee and Mike showed me around.

For this bloggy thing, I’m not going into detail about this tour, but the wonderful art on the walls, the statues, the memorabilia, the ever-present spinner racks stocked with free-for-the-taking comic books and the brightness of the place was astonishing. It exceeded anything I ever thought the DC offices could be. And I got great swag.

I also got to meet with Jim Chadwick, my editor on the mini-series I am writing for DC that hasn’t been announced but which you know a bit about because several people, most definitely including me, are too excited about it to keep their mouths shut. Today, I will be uncharacteristically circumspect. Save to say what I have told many of my friends: Chadwick is one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with. He has been letting me tell my story and helping me tell it as best as I possibly can. If you love the series as much as I think you will, he gets a good share of the credit.

Look. Most of you have been with me a long time. You know most of my history and, in particular, my history with DC Comics. None of that is going to be rehashed here. I love the folks I have worked with at other publishers. I am happy to continue to be associated with Marvel in minor ways and am treated extremely well by Marvel.


I have never been treated with greater respect than I am receiving from DC these days and on more levels than I ever imagined. I feel honored to be working with the company again and I think they kind of like having me on board as well. I get dizzy when I look at how things are now. At how far we’ve come.

People have been telling me my life is about to change in ways I’ve never imagined. That opportunities will be coming. And, since I’m not exclusive to DC, that these opportunities might come from many different directions. If my life stays exactly as it is now, I’d be blessed beyond my previous expectations. If it gets even better and more exciting, I would relish what ever comes my way. I'm ready to ride the lightning, as it were.

I am blessed. I hope I can share those blessings with others in my industry and with the fans. My life is an adventure.

Okay, before I burst with happiness, let me get through the rest of this not-as-detailed-as-it’s-going-to-be trip report.

I didn’t want to have people trying to find ways to entertain me when they had work to do. So Jamon called the car service to take me to the airport early. My flight wasn’t leaving for six hours, but I figured I could hang around the airport as easily as anywhere else. My driver, hating what he’d seen of the expressways that day and knowing we had plenty of time, took me to the airport via land routes. So I got to see all sorts of cool architecture and scenery. I think we made better time than we would have had we taken the expressways.

A minor glitch in my return tickets omitted the pre-check status I have purchased from the TSA. So I had to go through the bothersome removing of my shoes and belt while dealing with an obnoxious TSA agent. But Delta had a first class line, so the experience wasn’t too long for me.

The airport terminal was packed. I realized hanging out there was not going to be as relaxing as I had hoped. So I did something that surprised me. I walked up to the Delta Air Club and bought a one-day membership. Relatively quiet and relaxing large room. Free food that was excellent. Free drinks. Free magazines and newspapers. Pristine bathrooms. Hey, at 65 years old, a man has priorities. 
If I hadn’t checked my suitcase, I could have taken a shower and changed out of the clothes I would end up having worn for over 24 hours before I got home. I ate. I drank. I relaxed. It was well worth the 59 bucks I paid for the one-day pass. If I end up doing a lot more traveling in 2018, I might spring for the yearly membership.

I was very pleased with Delta on the flight from LAX to Atlanta. We had a friendly pilot who chatted with passengers before the flight. The flight crew was terrific. I even managed a couple hours sleep, albeit in increments of fifteen to thirty minutes, before we landed in Atlanta and my three-hour layover before my flight back to Ohio. I spent a lot of time in the various airports and on airplanes this trip. Still incredibly worth it.

Things didn’t get dicey until we were close to boarding our plane to Akron-Canton. The pilots felt there were problems with the plane and that it needed maintenance. We would have to go to a different plane at a different gate. I was 100% good with this. If the pilots thought there were problems, I was not going to suggest we roll the dice and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of confusion and even some anger at the new gate. Two flights would board at close to the same time. Some vocal passengers were bitching about the order in which we’d board our plane. A grumpy old man who was in the premium line - not this grumpy old man, mind you - started arguing with them. He sat in front of me during the flight to Ohio and never stopped being a grumpy old man.

There were technological problems with switching the luggage from the first plane to the second plane, which extended the departure delay. Finally, there was some sort of water warning at the airport with the result that our flight would not be able serve coffee or tea. Not a problem for me. I was good with bottled water and soft drinks. But other passengers were less than thrilled.

All in all, I give Delta a solid “B” on the four flights I was on this trip. I enjoyed flying with them.

I was picked up at the airport by Sainted Wife Barb. Eddie ordered pizza from our new favorite local pizza place and we picked it up on our way home. I changed out of the clothes I had worn too long and they walked themselves over to the laundry basket. I unpacked,  shared quality time with my family, did some online stuff, watched The Gong Show and Battle of the Network Stars, and finally relaxed enough to sleep.

It was a great couple of days. I look forward to telling you about them in more detail and even showing you some photos. Come back on the morrow and we’ll talk a little about the upcoming G-Fest, the Godzilla convention heard around the world. Roar.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


  1. Tony: I am so happy that after all these years, things have worked out so well for you. I am looking forward to reading more Tony Black Lightning stories, and I'm sure the TV show will do you proud. Hoy

  2. Hi Tony,
    So happy you are getting the respect and happiness you deserve. Your absolute joy and excitement at the prospect of seeing your creation on TV is very contagious. I found myself smiling as I read what was obviously one of the best times of your life. Really happy for you. Can't wait for more details of the trip and, later, sitting and watching the Black Lightning TV show. Enjoy the ride!
    Take care, Steve Lipsky

  3. Great story and i like all the specific details. sounds like you had a great time.

    i wanted to ask, will trevor and or eddie get the same treatment from DC?

    more asking about mr eeden as he is considered co creator of BL ?


    1. I assume your questions are not being asked in malice. The question of malice is only considered because your questions have been asked in malice by others in the past. I'll try to respond as clearly as possible in the hope I will be able to cut and paste this response in the future.

      I am considered the primary creator of Black Lightning because everything vital to the character was created by me before I ever brought my creation to DC Comics. The original creator credit of "Created by Tony Isabella" ran on the feature for the first two years of its existence. No one questioned it.

      Until I inquired about buying out DC's share of Black which point someone added Trevor's name to the creator credit. That was a violation of my agreement with DC, but I won't dwell on that.

      It has become standard for creator credits to include the writer and the artist, even if they are not both creators of the character. It was not standard when I created Black Lightning.

      The current creator credit, which I wrote and which was agreed to, is intended to confirm my primary role as creator while also honoring and respecting my friend Trevor. The official creator line should now read...

      Black Lightning Created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden.

      It's a chore to get news stories and fans to get it right. But that's the official credit.

      Eddy Newell is not considered a creator of Black Lightning, though he did outstanding work on the title in the 1990s. John Romita did outstanding work on Spider-Man in the later 1960s and 1970s, but he is not considered a co-creator of that character.
      Eddy would be considered the co-creator of new characters created by me during my second run on Black Lightning because he designed them from my scripts. I also consider Trevor to be the co-creator of the other BL characters I created during my first run because he designed them from my scripts.

      Trevor and I are friends. We exchange enough emails every week to choke a whale. We hope to work together on a comics project in the near future and will be appearing at conventions together.

      Eddy Newell is like a brother to me and, when the situation arises, I certainly want to work with him again, too.

      Will Trevor and Eddy get the same treatment from DC that I get? Realistically, I do not believe that will be the case. I don't think that reflects badly on DC. It's just the way things are because of my primary role as Black Lightning's creator and because I have proven valuable to DC and continue to do so.

      But...I will do everything in my limited power to see that Trevor and Eddy benefit from the new interest in Black Lightning. I will do everything in my limited power to see that almost everyone who has contributed to Black Lightning comic books receives benefit from the new interest in the character. I have already done this to some extent and plan to continue doing it.

      I'm 100% comfortable with my position on these matters. I believe everyone else who has been involved is okay with it as well.

      Black Lightning is more important than my own contributions to the character. He means so much to so many people and that's only going to become more so with the anticipated success of the TV show. I will do anything I can to assist in that.

      Everything except respond to any questions that are asked in malice. I don't have time for that. I have important work to do and so does everyone else who is working on Black Lightning in any capacity.

      I hope this answers your questions. Because it's all I have.

  4. The joy I feel for you, my friend, is truly without limit.

  5. Well, this has been a day for tears of joy.

    First, to see the first trailer for "Columbus", which was shot here in my home town last summer and which I came this close to appearing in had it not been for the shoot at the restaurant taking longer than scheduled and no time to shoot the diners' scenes. Despite being slighted for my Hollywood debut, the trailer is magnificent, capturing the breathtaking architecture of my home in a way that moved me beyond words. Can't wait for it this September.

    And then to hear about your incredible experience at the CW and DC Studios. You wondered if you were in a coma and dreaming all of this. To that I say, it's your world, Tony. The rest of us are just living in it. Blessings to you and your family.

  6. This would make a great chapter in a book titled "When Good Things Happen to Good People." It's a true pleasure to read about such wonderful times in your life after all the less than wonderful experiences of years past. Great things are coming your way and you most certainly deserve them!