Thursday, August 31, 2017


It was early in the morning. Very early. Around 4:30 a.m. Dawn was still hours away in quiet Medina, Ohio.

Flashlight in hand - our back porch light had burned out and hadn’t been replaced yet - I walked down my driveway between the two rows of parked cars. I had seen the newspaper delivery person’s car as it made its way around the “U” of Bradley Court. My home address is Damon Drive, but our driveway is on Bradley.

I was half-awake, having fallen asleep on the couch. I figured, as long as I was up, I’d get the day’s newspapers. So I walked toward our mailbox with its attached holders for newspaper deliveries at that early hour, armed with only a flashlight.

I was startled by the unexpected appearance of a police officer on my lawn near the mailbox. So startled I didn’t raise my flashlight. He apologized for startling me, then asked if there was something going on. I didn’t think before answering. I told him I was getting the newspapers.

I asked him if there was something going on in the neighborhood I should know about. He seemed a little put out by me asking him the question. He said there wasn’t. He was merely taking a walk around the neighborhood while on patrol. At no time during this exchange did I think about raising my flashlight to get a better look at him or asking him for identification.

Later that day, I would call the Medina police department to check on what happened that morning. The person answering seemed confused by my question, went to ask someone else in the office and returned to tell me that, yes, sometimes when they have time, the officers will leave their cars to walk around a neighborhood.

When my son Ed came home from work, he told me that, when he left for work that morning there was a printed note on his car window. It said the Medina police had patrolled our street earlier in the morning. Which made me remember that such notes had been placed on our mailbox once or twice in the distant past.

Even so, I couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter.

The Akron Beacon Journal ran a front-page story under the overall title “Race in America.” The headline:

We ask: What does it mean to be white?

The story asked readers to send their thoughts on that question to the editors. It added your name would be included with responses they chose to publish.

My initial reaction was that this was a dumb question. Which, given the increasing violence of white supremacists in this country, was an unfair reaction. Clearly, what it means to be white for too many white people, including our dumpster president, is being afraid of anyone who isn’t white, being resentful of anything that non-whites achieve and being smouldering buckets of bigotry, racism and just plain hate. But not, thankfully, all white people.

So I thought about the question and here are the thoughts that came to my mind as I did...

It never remotely crossed my mind that my “confronting” the officer might go badly...even though I’ve been slammed against a police car a few times in my life. I was a white man in my pajamas in a mostly white neighborhood. He probably saw me walking out of my house. I didn’t expect negative consequences, so much so that, as I said, the thought never occurred to me. In the exact same circumstances, a black man would likely have been questioned more and would not have the same expectation of walking back into his house without incident. That’s what it means to be white...and I get angry when I think about it.

Several years back, at a convention, walking down a street with a black friend, I saw the unbearable pain in his eyes when he told me of white people crossing the street if they saw him walking on the same side of the street as they were. Excuse me, I would have found that pain unbearable. He had to bear it. It was part of his life in these United States. That’s what it means to be white...and I get angry when I think about it.

Slavery didn’t put an end to white supremacists. They enacted Jim Crow laws to keep black people down. They have tried to keep them from certain neighborhoods. They put up huge statues and monuments to traitors to tell black people they weren’t welcome. That’s what it means to be white...and I get angry thinking about it.

Black people get “policed” more excessively and sentenced way more harshly because of their skin color. Republicans do everything they can to suppress minority voters. If a TV news report shows a man taking food from a store in a disaster area, the color of the man’s skin determines whether he’ll be identified as a looter or somebody heroically trying to feed his family. That is what it means to be white. It’s neither justified or moral in any way.

I do not hate being white. I don’t hate anyone for being white. I don’t hate anyone for being any color, any race, any gender or any other of the many human conditions. With the exceptions, of course, of bigots, Nazis, racists and other human monsters.

If you’re getting angry at me and clucking away like the soulless Nazi sympathizers some of you are, fuck you. If you do your fucking homework, if you do the reading, if you accept that there is truth and there is what you get from the dumpster president and his Fox News and alt-right partners-in-crime, you’ll quickly see that none of the above is an exaggeration.

Bad stuff is more like to happen to non-whites and non-Christians because they are non-whites and non-Christians. I could write 100 blogs on this subject and not begin to cover the examples you can find by spending an hour surfing the Internet. What does it mean to be white? I think you know my answer.

Ironically, I have never felt particularly white. When I was just starting school, my family moved from a predominantly Italian area of Cleveland to a neighborhood where we were among the few Italian families. The Untouchables were a hit TV series and it seemed like many - perhaps most - of the gangsters brought to justice by Robert Stack’s Eliot Ness were Italian. That show had an effect on how we were seen by others. I had classmates who assumed my father was in the Mafia. It hurt.

I was picked on because I was short. I was picked on because I was smart. I was picked on because I read comic books. I was picked on because I wouldn’t back down when I was picked on and so got beaten up on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time I was able to hide this from my parents and siblings.

That pain? It’s not one-millionth of what almost every black person in America has experienced. If I had to experience what they did, what they still experience, I’d be angry all the time...and I doubt I’d be able to handle it. That’s what it means to be white.

Not for a second do I believe that’s all it means to be white. We are not all racists. We do not all believe in white supremacy. We don’t always realize how much a role white privilege plays in our lives - no more than guys think about their male privilege and the Christians think about their Christian privilege - but that doesn’t automatically make us bad people. It makes us people that need to become more self-aware about themselves and the world and country in which they live. I’m an optimist. I think we’ll get there. It’s that hope that keeps me going.

I’m curious as to what responses the Akron Beacon Journal will get to their question...and what responses they will actually publish. As the newspaper has moved further to the right, my trust in it has dropped quite a bit. But, maybe, just maybe, this will be the start of a conversation our country needs to have and needs to have sans the prevarications of the right. Ask the question honestly, answer the question honestly, learn from the answers.

One more thing.

I have no problem with Medina policemen walking the neighborhoods at night. I think they should walk them during the day as well. I can give them good reasons for both.

The house next door to ours has been vacant since its owner passed away a year or so ago. From time to time, not often, someone checks on the house. I’d feel better if it were put on the market and sold and occupied. An empty house is just asking for trouble,

I have seen suspicious activity on the “U” during the day. When I say “suspicious” what I’m really saying is I’ve seen drug deals on the “U.” I’ve alerted the police to these and have requested that they swing by during the afternoon just before and after the high school - one block away - lets out.

So I welcome a police presence in my neighborhood. I want the place where I live to be safe for folks of all colors, creeds and sexual orientations. I want the city where I live and the country it’s in to be the vibrant melting pot that is the true promise of America. That’s what we all need to be working toward.

Those of us with greater privilege? I think we need to work harder than those without our greater privilege.

If you object to what I have written, send your complaining emails to...

The rest of you can submit your comments here or send them to me at my usual email address.

I’ll be back soon with an installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Yeah, I know it won’t be posted on Wednesday, but I’m catching up on the bloggy thing as fast as I can.

That’s our bloggy thing and I think we can all do better. Say that with an Australian accent and it’ll sound really cool.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Welcome to the launch of a new ongoing series-within-the-blog. As often as possible, “Black Lightning Beat” will give you news about Black Lightning comic books (past and present) and the forthcoming live-action TV series. I am contractually prohibited from answering every question...and creatively impelled to not give away too much about the new comic-book series...but, within those limitations, I will do my best to give you the straight scoop.

Some preliminary notes...

Don’t expect me to answer moronic questions of the “Let’s you and he fight” type. One example of these was when an anonymous (but, of course) jerk tried to make a big deal out of some newspaper article in which Black Lightning show runner (and director and writer and producer and I think he charges the Black Lightning suit in his spare time) Salim Akil commented that Black Lightning’s creator was a white writer and that he, as a black man, was going to be able to bring his life experiences to the series. This jerk wanted to see Salim and I battle it out online. Not going to happen.

Yes, I am a white writer. Yes, Salim is black. You don’t think this didn’t come up when I was meeting with him and the Black Lightning writers a while back? I and my work have been treated with nothing but the utmost respect across the board. I have written about how, in writing characters like Black Lightning, I am always going to be something of an outsider. I can take some of my life-experiences, amplify them and apply them to what it’s like to be a black man and a black super-hero in this world, but those experiences will never be as genuine as an actual black man’s experiences.

I am not done writing Black Lightning stories. I don’t expect to be done writing Black Lightning stories for some time to come. Just as Salim and his writers learn from my work, I will learn from theirs. This is something I’m looking forward to. Because I think I write damn good Black Lightning stories, but I will always want to write better Black Lightning stories. The character and what he means to readers and what he stands for is too important for me or any other writer to give him less than our best.

I have no time for such bullshit questions. I already feel slightly unclean for having addressed the above at all. The next time one of you anonymous “heroes” want to drive a wedge between me and folks I respect, I have a suggestion as to where that wedge can be put to much better use.

The second preliminary note...

If you want me to answer your questions, you must email them to me. I’m not going to respond on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments sections of news and/or rumor articles. This is where I’ll answer your questions.

When you email them to me, I print them off and put them in a pile from oldest to newest. Then I’ll answer as many of them I can in each new installment of “Black Lightning Beat.”

The third and final preliminary note...

Use your real names. I’m more likely to answer a question that has come from someone using their real names than I am a question from “megacomicsreader2017.” Own what you send.

On to your questions...

Steve Horton asks...

Is this an entirely clean slate reboot type thing for Black Lightning? He was never in the Outsiders or Luthor's Secretary of Education any of that? What of his kids who have appeared since New 52?

When Dan DiDio asked me to write a new Black Lightning series, the first question I had after accepting was “What Black Lightning do you want me to use?” I was told I could do pretty much anything I wanted to do with the character, taking as much or as little from previous interpretations as I wanted.

What I wanted was to do things with Black Lightning that I’ve never done before. I made him younger than I’ve ever written him before because that was something I wanted to explore. DC’s press release added he’s never been married and doesn’t have daughters.

This Black Lightning will still have the core values I have always considered key to my creation. But the mere fact that he’s younger does mean that his past history has changed in some ways. You will discover what that means as the series progresses, but not in one of those boring obsessive continuity ways. If readers approach my new series with open minds, I am certain they will be entertained and thrilled by what’s coming.

Was he in the Outsiders? Jefferson tells me he worked with Batman for a “hot minute” and was not enamored of the experience. He was never Luthor’s Secretary of Education because this Black Lightning does not ask “How high?” when a Superman or a Batman gives him orders. Personally, I never want to see Black Lightning subservient to any other super-hero ever again.

His “daughters” were something I thought about long and hard. I was not fond of how they were portrayed in previous comic books, most especially when an Outsiders writer took upon himself to trash the Thunder character. However...

I really liked what my friend Lynell Hakim Forestall did with the daughters in a couple of DC Nation shorts...and I really love what I’ve seen of the daughters in the trailer and especially the longer presentation piece for the show. I have plans for those remarkable young ladies and have already written a couple scenes with Anissa. How the sisters fit into the new series is something you’ll have to wait and see...though I promise you it doesn’t involve any of that X-Men-style “alternate/future reality” bullshit.

Tom Keller asked:

Will there be a second volume of the collected Black Lightning?

Yes. Black Lightning Volume 2 is scheduled for publication in late January/early February. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, but the contents have changed from what’s listed in that Amazon entry. Currently, the second volume will feature Black Lightning stories that appeared between my two runs. As eager as I am to see the run I did with Eddy Newell collected in trade paperback - and that will happen eventually - I knew that, if these “in between” stories were not reprinted now, the odds of DC going back to reprint them at a later date were slim.

Fans are completists. We all know that. So these non-Isabella tales will be gathered together with the “Secret Origins” story I wrote and a surprise I’m keeping under wraps for now. Dan DiDio and Paul Santos were receptive to my suggestions. With help from some great comics fans, this is going to be a terrific book. As with the first collection, I’ll be writing the introduction to this one as well.

How soon will the third volume with the Isabella/Newell stories be published? It’s tentatively planned for early 2019, but that date could be moved up if the Black Lightning TV show and the six-issue comics series are as successful as we all hope.

Paul Engelberg asked...

How far ahead is the book done in terms of writing, editing, and artwork? How far along is everything now, and how far along do you expect things to be when the first issue hits the shops?

There are a lot of factors that go into the production of a comic book, so there’s no one answer to your first question. Your second question is easier to answer. Writing full script, I started Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #4 this week. Clayton Henry, who is penciling and inking this series, is a little over halfway through the second issue. The colorist is currently working on the first issue.

I’m not going to predict the future, but, on my end, I hope to have written all six issues of what I insist on calling “this initial series” before the first issue hits the comics shops. That way, if the reader and sales reaction is what I hope it will be, I can then pitch DC on the two subsequent six-issue Black Lightning series I want them to publish simultaneously. Because that’s the way crazy old Tony rolls.

Ricky Whiting had several questions...

What do you think about DC's past decision to age Black Lightning and make him the father of 2 teenage daughters? What do you think about the TV show going with the older married with kids version of the character? Have you ever thought about writing a brand new Outsiders team book with Black Lightning as the leader? You could call it either "The New Outsiders" or "Black Lightning and the Outsiders" and have the team comprised of BL, Katana, Metamorpho and other lesser known and less popular DC characters.

Had my second Black Lightning series run a few more years without me being fired by Pat “the Rat” Garrahy, Jefferson and Lynn would have remarried and started a family. I have never been against the idea of Jeff being a father. I just thought his instant fatherhood was poorly handled.

Re: TV series. I love the scenes I’ve seen with Jefferson and his daughters. As I told Salim when I watched the longer presentation piece in his office, the extended ice rink scene of Jefferson and  his girls is wonderful and very true to life.

I once thought about having Jefferson Pierce adopt a new identity and form a clandestine team of young heroes. That was after I was fired from my second run. I figured I could continue the themes of Black Lightning in a comic that wasn’t actually/legally Black Lightning. These days, especially with my Black Lightning being younger than my previous runs with the character, I would have little interest in such a team. I’m not going to say no interest, but that’s just not where I am at this time.

That said, Metamorpho has been a favorite of mine since his debut in the 1960s. I’d love to write a Metamorpho movie that would start his story over from the beginning and, depending on the amount of freedom I was given, I’d love to do the same with a new Metamorpho comic book. If there was any character I’d like to do a full-blown guest appearance with, it would be Metamorpho. Maybe that’s a story I should pitch for the second season of the Black Lightning TV series.

That’s all for this edition of Black Lightning Beat. Keep emailing me your questions and I’ll be back to answer them sometime in the next week. I’ll be back tomorrow with other stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder: Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics by Roger Hill, the definitive biography and examination of one of the greatest artists in the history of comics...The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films by John LeMay...and Mysterious Girlfriend X Volume 6 by Riichi Ueshiba, the conclusion of the weird and wonderful manga that follows the relationship of Akira Tsubaki and Mikoto Urabe.


Monday, August 28, 2017


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

In early July, DC Comics/Entertainment flew me out to Los Angeles to meet with the writers of the Black Lightning TV series. I wrote about that meeting last Thursday. Yesterday, I backtracked to tell you about the day before that meeting. Today, I’m writing about my day after the meeting and my flights home. There are trip reports and then there are obsessive trip reports. You’ve probably figured out which kind this is.

My original itinerary called for me to be with the Black Lightning writers until seven p.m. and then be driven to the airport for my  10:25 p.m. departing flight. But...we covered so much ground so quickly that, even with a lunch break, we were finished with hours to spare. So Jamon Brown, the show runners’ assistant, made a call to the DC Comics offices and arranged for some nice folks to give me a tour of the company’s Burbank digs.

Holy elegance, Batman! Were those DC offices swanky! I’m not gonna give any too many details - have to be cautious of costumed crooks who would love to get their mitts on some on the treasures on open display - but spending a night in those offices would easily match spending a night in Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland.

The foyer was big and bright. There were costumes from DC shows and movies on display in the lobby. There was a chessboard with pieces based on super-heroes and super-villains. The walls were adorned with museum-quality artwork and memorabilia and prints and photos and so much coolness you’d almost expect to see your breath as you walked by them.

There were magazine and spinner racks filled with comics throughout the officers...and I was told to take anything I wanted. I took a copy of the Colonel Sanders/Green Lantern comic book that would be given away at San Diego’s Comic-Con International later that month.

There was a room filled with hardcovers and trade paperbacks and, again, I was told to take anything I liked. I wished I had brought a second suitcase.

All DC licensed products come to these offices for final approval. When they showed me their secret room where all these products go after approval, I wished I had brought a dozen suitcases. It was DC clothing and toy heaven. I took a child’s Wonder Woman costume for my sort of niece Gabby, an exclusive Funko Catwoman figure for my “other daughter” Giselle and a Matchbox Batmobile for myself. I put the car on the wall, but my cat Simba has been eyeing it. I’m thinking of changing her name to “Selina.”

Because the offices operate on Friday flex time, there weren’t many people still at the offices. I was given the tour by a pair of nice folks from licensing and marketing, but I was also able to have my first face-to-face meeting with Jim Chadwick, editor of the coming Black Lightning series, Cold Dead Hands. It was a brief meeting and we mostly talked about covers and how he had sent me some helpful notes that broke my mental logjam over the vital third issue of the series. It was great to put a face to the emails.

The handful of people I met during my visit to the DC offices all seemed really happy to be working there. It’s a great atmosphere, a decided improvement over the Mordor I used to imagine was the DC offices under the company’s previous management. I’m hoping this is the first of many future visits and that no one looks askance when I bring a couple of empty suitcases with me.

When I returned to the Black Lightning offices, I asked Jamon if I could be picked up early by the car service. I didn’t want the good folks to feel they had to entertain me, so I figured I’d just hang out at the airport for a few hours.

The driver asked me if it was okay if we took a more scenic route to the airport as the LA highways were crazy crowded. He described them as parking lots. Since I had hours to kill - literally - I was okay with that. He pointed out some interesting sites and we had a pleasant conversation.

Things were very hectic at the airport. The TSA agents were a surly bunch, not at all up to the standards I usually find from agents at other airports. Once I got through to the gates, I found each and every gate packed with people. I was hoping to relax until it was time to board my flight. This would have been the exact opposite of  relaxing.

I walked over to Delta Sky Club to ask about the cost of a yearly membership. It was in the neighborhood of $500, which didn’t seem practical for 2017. That’s when the helpful agent told me I could buy a day pass to the club for under $60. That struck me as a good deal to be able to relax in comfort for several hours...and an even better deal when I saw what was available.

There was free food and enough choice to make it both filling and enjoyable. There were free drinks, including alcoholic beverages. There were tasty desserts. There was a variety of free newspapers and magazines. There was lots of comfortable seating and places to plug in phones and computers and other devices. The restrooms were clean. There were shower rooms and, if I hadn’t checked my luggage, I would’ve taken one. I slept for a few hours. Had I requested it, one of the club attendants would have alerted me when my flight was boarding. Next year, if I’m flying as much as I expect to fly, I’m going to spring for that annual membership.

I was on an overnight flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta, which is a favorite airport of mine. Yeah, I know it’s huge, but it has so many great restaurants and shops. I was again flying first-class, which, as you may recall, I have proclaimed does not suck even a little bit. The Delta flight crew was friendly and helpful. I even chatted with the pilot for a few minutes.

We arrived at Atlanta around 5:45 a.m. with my flight to the Canton Akron airport due to depart three hours later. As my pass to the Delta Air Club had expired at midnight, I hunkered down in a seat at my gate and made notes about my hectic few days.

The flight left on time, arriving at Canton/Akron around 10:30 a.m. Barb picked me up at the airport and drove me home. Where I was way too excited to sleep or work.

The most important thing about this trip was...I’m more confident than ever Salim and Mara and their team are going to make a great Black Lightning series. The writers are dedicated and smart. The casting has been wonderful. The fan support has been nothing short of incredible.

The second most important thing...the DC Comics of which I’ve been so critical in the past no longer exists. I’m not going to say the company does everything right, but it’s a much better company than it was at the height of my problems with it. I really am thrilled to be associated with DC again.

The third most important thing...Delta Air Lines has really upped its game since the last time I flew with them. If I have a choice  in the future, Delta will be my go-to airline.

I’m running behind in writing and posting these bloggy things, but I hope to be caught up by the end of the week. Next up: my answers to a bunch of your Black Lightning questions. That’ll be followed by a new “Citizen Tony” column, another installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”, another “July 1963 column, and the finale of my series of reviews of this year’s Free Comic Book Day issues. Beyond that, you’ll be seeing my G-Fest 2017 report, my NEO Comic-Con report and the usual mix of news, views and reviews.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, August 27, 2017


With some more dental work to be done tomorrow morning, I've decided to take the day off. I won't be skipping any bloggy thing or columns, but they will be posted later than the usual scheduled times. When I told my son Ed I was doing this, he said I had a lot of work to do and added...

"Dance for me, word monkey!"

I want to get that as the wake-up-alarm for my phone.

More to come.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


In 1927, the United Artists Theatre opened in downtown Los Angeles. In 2014, the theatre became the Ace Hotel.

A few days ago, I wrote about my visit to the writers room of the Black Lightning TV series. Today and tomorrow, I’ll be telling you about the rest of that West Coast trip because, as you’ve learned from following the bloggy thing these past few years, I am nothing if not obsessive.

On Thursday morning, my son Ed drove me to the Canton/Akron airport to catch a flight to Detroit and then Los Angeles. “CAK” is a small airport, but, in many ways, I prefer it to the Cleveland airport. My plane to Detroit was a puddle jumpers with a row of single seats and a row of double seats. I had a single seat, which I prefer when traveling alone. Even when I’m not traveling alone, I request, at least, an aisle seat. I’m a nervous flier at the best of times and feel a bit claustrophobic if I’m not on the aisle.

I was flying Delta this trip and, though I’ve had problems with the airline in the past, I have nothing but good things to say about it on these flights. The Delta folks on the ground were friendly and informative. The Delta folks in the air were just as friendly and unfailingly helpful. Of course, since I was flying first class, my usual anxieties weren’t as much of an issue.

NOTE. I love flying first class so much one of my new life-goals is to be able to afford to always fly first class. The only downside to flying first-class is that, occasionally, someone else in first-class is a dick. Get over yourself already.

At the Los Angeles airport, I was met by a car service driver with a sign reading “Mr. Isabella.” Just like in the movies. While the reasons for doing this are obvious, I still giggled at the sight. My life is so wonderfully strange these days.

I was driven to the Ace Hotel at 928 South Broadway. It is a very weird yet wonderful hotel that, though recently refurbished, is a monument to classic Hollywood. Much of the surrounding area is also being refurbished, which means a lot of construction, quite a few theaters and other entertainment venues, and, as near as I could determine from my brief stay, not a lot of great places to grab a meal.

The Ace has no ornate front. When you walk into the place, it gives off an ambience of young people coming to Hollywood in the hope of achieving stardom. From my handful on conversations with employees and others, I learned some of the employees live and work there as they pursue their other dreams...and that many guests come and stay for days/weeks/months when they have jobs in the city. I wished I’d been able to stay longer and explore more of the place. Just being in my room was an adventure.
I was booked into a “medium with terrace” room. It had a king bed, ornate sink and bath tub, a small desk, a flat screen TV, a fully-stocked minibar, a snack/convenience items tray filled with weird  stuff at exorbitant prices and a toilet room whose door so matched the wall that, at first, I wasn’t sure the room had a toilet. I’m glad I figured it out before calling the front desk for directions. When I told the toilet story to Mark Evanier later that evening, he improvised a quick sketch...
TONY: This is Mr. Isabella in room 666. Could you tell me where the toilet is in this room?

DESK: Toilet? Oh, did you want one of the deluxe rooms?

On the door of the toilet and the only thing that distinguished it from the wall was a small dot-pattern photo of Franz Kafka by Mike Mills. Every room at the Ace has a similar photo of some figure or event from 1927, meant to “conceptualize” the history of the place. The image of Clara Bow from the top of today’s bloggy thing is one of these photos. It’s the cover of a booklet I’ll tell you about in a few more paragraphs.

A few other things about the room...
The terrace was small, but quite comfortable. I spent a few moments that night just sitting out there and breathing in Los Angeles and then a few more moments coughing up Los Angeles air.
Each room had either a working guitar or, in my case, a turntable with a stack of record albums. I didn’t play any of the albums, but I thought that was a very cool feature.

The snack tray had one free item: condoms. These were of no use to me during my stay, but I thought it was a nice gesture.

I bought one overpriced item from the snack tray. It was 7.5 by 6-inch booklet featuring all of the dot-pattern photos by Mike Mills and a multitude of facts and anecdotes about the era in which this building was constructed.

I made some calls to let my loved ones back home know I was safe at the hotel and to let the Black Lightning writers room know I would be ready for my morning pick-up. Then I called Mark, who sent his assistant John to pick me up and bring me to Mark’s house. Which is filled with so many wondrous things that I couldn’t begin to tell you a tenth of what it contains.

I spent several enjoyable hours hanging out with Mark. He gave me advice. We exchanged “war” stories. We talked about a TV series he created which hasn’t made it to air, but which he will regain the rights to soon. All I’ll tell you about it is that it’s probably not what you might expect from Mark, that it’s terrific and that I would definitely watch it if it gets on the air. I do expect some smart TV producers will show up at Mark’s house carrying very large cartoon-like bags of money to get this series.

One sad moment came when Mark was surfing the web while we spoke. We learned Joan Lee, beloved wife of our mutual friend Stan Lee for seven decades, had passed. The downside of knowing as many people as Mark and I know - Mark more than I - is that it seems like we’re losing a good person every other day. Sigh.

Other than that, it was a great evening. Unfortunately, it didn’t last as long as I would have liked as jet lag caught up with me. I knew I needed to get back to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep before my Friday meeting with the Black Lightning team.

I did get a good night’s sleep, though early morning construction traffic woke me up sooner than I would have liked. I walked out of the hotel in search of breakfast, but didn’t find any places that appealed to me. I did see lots of construction workers heading to their job sites. Literally dozens of them. Like I wrote up front, this area of downtown Los Angeles was being rebuilt and refurbished at an impressive pace.

Wanting to eat something before I was picked up for my meeting, I ordered room service from the Ace Hotel. It was great food at a not outrageous price for room service. Maybe the best scrambled eggs I have ever had in my life and the sides were delicious as well. My compliments to the chef.

I packed and headed down to the lobby to check out. The car service picked me up just a few minutes later and drove me to the Burbank Studios for my meeting. Which I told you about on Thursday, so, if you prefer reading these trip reports in chronological order, you should go back and read that bloggy thing before you come back here tomorrow for what happened after my meeting.

See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


I had to put off writing today's bloggy thing for a while, but it will be written and posted before the end of the day.

Friday, August 25, 2017


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

Free Comic Book Day happens but once a year. Every year, good old Bloggy Tony gets all the FCBD issues from his friends at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey. Then he tries to read and review  all of them. He judges those individual issues on three criteria:

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want to buy more of the same?

On a scale of zero to ten, each of those criteria is worth up to three points. Tony awards the elusive tenth point when he deems a FCBD offering particularly worthy.

I came to Keyser Soze: Scorched Earth/The Rift [Red 5 Comics] cold. While I knew of The Usual Suspects, I’ve never seen the 1995 film. I should do so one of these days. However, the inside front cover of this Free Comic Book Day issue offers new readers introductory information on the two title features. I’ll share that information with you here.

Keyser Soze: Scorched Earth

“I am sure you’ve heard a number of tall tales, myths and legends about Mr. Soze. I can assure you, gentleman, most of them are true.” - Kobayashi

In 1986, Dan Metzheiser - who will one day consult with Agent Baer in an memorable case - is a Justice Department agent with an eye for patterns. For years, he’s been tracking the trace of a whisper of the name Keyser Soze as an obsessive hobby. At least he calls it a hobby.

The Rift

Presented by Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner, The Rift tells the story of a single mother and her son whose lives change forever after witnessing a WWII fighter pilot from 1941 crash-land in present-day Kansas. They find themselves drawn into the work of Section 47, a secret government organization responsible for responding to Rifts that open in space and time.
QUALITY: The Keyser Soze excerpt is written by Paul Ens with art by Livia Pastore. The Rift excerpt is by Don Handfield and Richard Rayner with art by Leno Carvalno. The writing and art on both are very good. They each do a good job of introducing the stories and giving the readers reason to explore the two series further. If I have any complaint here, it’s that, ironically, the introductions on the inside front cover pretty much cover the exact same ground as the excerpts.

ACCESSIBILITY: Excellent. No reader should have a problem following these two excerpts.

SALESMANSHIP: Also excellent. The excerpts are good lead-ins to the two titles. Two full-page ads for other titles, while not offering much detail, are intriguing. Another full-page advertising several collections of Red 5 Media titles has nice hooks to all of those collections.

FINAL SCORE: Eight out of ten possible points.


2000 AD Free Comic Book Day Prog 2017 [Rebellion] is an anthology featuring five stories from the British weekly. The line-up: Judge Dredd, Blackblood (a solo story of one of the ABC Warriors robots); Hope...for the Future (a private eye in an alternate universe where World War II was won by Magic; Judge Anderson (Psi-Division judge) and Dreams of Deadworld, a planet similar to Earth but in another dimension where the Dark Judges have taken hold).

QUALITY: 2000 AD is a mixed bag of late. The Judge Dredd adventure is decent, but lacking. Hope...for the Future has a great premise. The other three stories are so-so at best.

ACCESSIBILITY: Better than many FCBD comic books, but not as good as it should have been.

SALESMANSHIP: This free comic book presents a fair sampling of the weekly title. If you like what you see here, you’ll probably like the ongoing weeklies.

FINAL SCORE: Four out of ten points.

RELATED NOTE: After returning to 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine for a few months, I have dropped both titles from my “pull list.” It’s the writing, as in “The writing in 2000 AD isn’t anywhere near as good as it once was.


James Cameron’s Avatar [Dark Horse] features two stories, the first being a Sherri L. Smith (script) and Doug Wheatley (art) tale from the title movie. The second story is a Briggs Land episode by Brian Wood (creator/script) and Werther Dell’Edera (art). Briggs Land is about a “modern secessionist movement and the family behind it.” I am reminded that I really need to see Avatar one of these days - I have neglected my non-cheesy horror/monster movie viewing - and a wee bit intrigued by Briggs Land. However, given the apparent lack of black or other characters of color, I’m less likely to check out more Briggs Land comics.

QUALITY: Both stories are well written and well drawn.

ACCESSIBILITY: Decent. Avatar is such a part of the popular culture world that readers know the basics even if they haven’t seen the movie. Briggs Land is accessible, but doesn’t provide enough back story or insight into the characters.

SALESMANSHIP: Excellent. Besides the two comics stories, the issue has good house ads for Dark Horse’s American Gods comics, the trio of titles created by Joss Whedon, the Hellboy titles and the latest Predator series.

FINAL SCORE: Seven out of ten points.


Street Fighter V: Wrestling Special [Udon/Capcom] has two stories of silly wrestling based on some sort of video games. This is not a comic book for Tony Isabella, who is not fond of any wrestling - save for the Netflix series GLOW - and not fond of any video games whatsoever. As my late friend and mentor Don Thompson would often say, “If you like this kind of comic, you’ll like this comic.” He was so much more congenial than me.



SALESMANSHIP: Very good. If you, indeed, like this kind of comic, this giveaway alerts you to others of its ilk.

FINAL SCORE: Three out of ten points.


Valiant: X-O Manowar was disappointing because it wasn’t anywhere near as accessible and interesting as the actual Valiant comics. It has a prologue of the new X-O Manowar series, a preview of Secret Weapons #1, a prologue to Bloodshot: Salvation and several pin-ups showing large groupings of Valiant characters.

QUALITY: The writing and art are up to Valiant’s high standards, but the story fragments are not as enticing as they should’ve been.



FINAL SCORE: Four out of ten points. It’s a score that doesn’t even remotely reflect how good Valiant’s titles are.


Dragon Ball Super [Viz Media] features uninteresting snippets from two manga series that are mostly about fighting with very tedious segments talking about the fighting. This is another one of those “If you like this sort of thing” giveaways. Me? I stopped buying Shonen Jump when it became little more than manga based on battle anime series.


ACCESSIBILITY: Poor. You get more information from an ad for these two series than from the stories themselves.

SALESMANSHIP: Barely okay.

FINAL SCORE: One out of ten points.

Clearly, this was not a stellar batch of Free Comic Book Day comic books. However, it is the penultimate installment of my 2017 quest to read and rate every one of the Free Comic Book Day comic books I received from my pals at Stormwatch Comics. Come back next week and see if I manage to complete this quest for the first time ever. My eye is on that prize.

While you’re waiting for next Friday, you can look forward to two “Burbank Bookends” columns on what happened before and after that memorable day I spent with the Black Lightning writers. Then, come Monday, you’ll get the first of a series of columns in which I do my best to answer your Black Lightning questions. won’t be all Black Lightning in the bloggy thing. I have more convention and trip reports coming your way. I have the weekly Rawhide Kid Wednesday installments. I have the return of a number of our ongoing series-within-the-bloggy. And I have more news and views and reviews on the worlds of comics, entertainment and even the real world.

The bloggy thing doesn’t get much in the way of props from comics news sites, but a few thousand readers visit here every day. They must know something those news sites don’t.

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Last month, I wrote about being brought out to Burbank to meet and meet with Salim Akil, show runner, writer, director and producer of the Black Lightning TV series and the writers of that forthcoming smash hit. Hey, I have faith in Jefferson Pierce. Truth be told, I was so excited and nervous about that visit that I fear I may have come off a little crazy and didn’t do the best job reporting on one of the most exciting days of my life. With your kind indulgence, I want to give it another shot.

Note. In the interest of trying to keep this to one bloggy thing, I’m going to forego retelling you about my flight to Los Angeles, the weird and wonderful Key Hotel (where I stayed the night before my meeting), my evening with Mark Evanier, my subsequent visit to the DC Comics offices and my return flight. I’ll backtrack to those in some near-future bloggy thing.

Outside of having to be checked in at the entrance gate and at the main Burbank Studios building, there wasn’t anything about these buildings that screamed “Hollywood” to me. On my way to the Black Lightning offices, I saw a couple workers moving things that might have been parts of sets, but, if that’s what those were, it wasn’t obvious to me.

Jamon Brown, assistant to show runners Salim and Mara Brock Akil, met me at the main building and walked me to the Black Lightning offices. Jamon took great care of me the entire time I was in Los Angeles, making sure I had transportation from and to the airport and their offices, arranging for me to visit the DC Comics offices (about a block from the studios) and keeping me from getting lost. He also wants to write and, more importantly, he writes every day. I have no doubt I’ll see his name in the credits one day.

In the hallway outside the Black Lightning offices, I didn’t spot anything proclaiming that’s what they were. In fact, I don’t think I saw any signage outside any of the other offices. I didn’t learn until later that Mike Carlin, one of my editors on my second Black Lightning series, had his office down the hall from where I was. Had I known that, I would have stuck my head in to say “hi.”

Jamon walked me into the empty writers room. At the risk of being blasphemous, it was like walking into holy ground for me. The first thing I saw was an enormous white board filled with rough notes on the thirteen episodes that will comprise the first season of Black Lightning. I let out a gasp when I saw how much of me was up there on that white board. Across from the white board, there were drawings and photos of some characters who will be appearing on the series and a smaller board with names of characters who might appear on the series. I saw quite a few of my creations represented with some of the images taken from comic books drawn by Trevor Von Eeden and other artists.

Note. I want to be clear about something from the get-go. While I saw a lot of me in that room, I also saw a lot of ideas from Salim and the other writers. I’m honored they are using some of what I’ve done, but I’m thrilled by the great ideas they are contributing to Black Lightning. I can’t give you specifics, but Salim’s version of a classic DC Comics villain (not one I created) is breathtaking in concept. I can’t wait to see that villain on the show.

The writers and I sat at a long table in the middle of that room. Mara wasn’t there because she was at an out-of-state event with one of her and Salim’s sons. The Black Lightning team: Charles Holland, Jan Nash, Pat Charles, Adam Giaudrone, Lamont Magee, Keli Goff, Asheleigh Conley, Kamaria Robinson, Melora Rivera and Jake Waller. If there had been time, I would have taken photos of all of them to share with you.

In front of each seat was a print out of character and story flow. I deliberately didn’t do more than glance at it because I was very conscious of accidentally revealing more than I should and because I wasn’t there to go over what they had written but to answer their questions about what I had written.

Note. Early on in my new relationship with DC, before we had even started work on our overall agreement, I had been asked to write a paper on “Black Lightning Core Value.” That was one of the starting points for this series, but it was not a bible in any sense of the word. It wasn’t carved in stone. It was just a place to start. In the future, after the show debuts, I’ll share that paper with you here or in a non-fiction book I’m writing.

I was amazed at the questions. I was asked about comic books I had written forty years ago. I was asked about back story that I never actually put into a comic-book script. We discussed how that back story might be adapted to 2017. We talked about Jefferson Pierce’s character. We talked about my impressions of what it is like to be a black man in America in 2017, and some of the writers offered me much greater insights into that part of their worlds.

I can’t and won’t discuss specific questions and answers. You will get no spoilers from me. What you will get when the show makes its debut is a TV series based on a comic-book creation that takes that creation to a new and more realistic level.

I don’t have any official role with this series beyond that I will likely be its number-one cheerleader. I’m there to answer questions or do whatever else they ask of me. Because, official role or not, the importance of this character demands that everyone involved in it, even at a distance, gives it their very best efforts.

I hope I didn’t come off as a pompous ass, but I told these writers the question should never ever be “What would Tony Isabella do?” It should always be “What would Jefferson Pierce do?”

Note. One of the two questions everyone asks me at conventions is if I’ll be writing for the series. I’ve been telling fans I should have learned enough about screenwriting to pitch a script for the  show’s third season. Some of the writers thought I should shoot for the second season. I’m thankful for their confidence in me.

Note. I’ve also been telling people I don’t know how to write for  TV or movies. One of my dearest and oldest friends has beseeched me to stop saying that. So, from this moment on, if anyone asks me to write a movie or an episode of a TV show, I’m going to answer that I would happy to do so. Have your people call my people.

Note. Remind me to get myself some people.

I spent about three hours with the Black Lightning writers. Salim told me it was a very productive session. I was glad to hear that because I was afraid I spent too much time telling the writers some of my comics industry and lifetime war stories. A couple of them want me to write my memoirs. I’m not quite ready for that.

Salim brought me into his office. On one of his walls was an even bigger white board showing the show’s production schedule. I might as well have tried to read Sanskrit. The main thing I learned from it is...television production is really complicated. Probably just a notch below rocket science. I’m impressed by how well Salim can juggle the business, creative and production operations of running this series.

Salim showed me the presentation piece they had done for the CW to get the show picked up. It ran a little shy of twenty minutes and is the trailer plus additional material. The scene you’ve seen of Jefferson Pierce talking to his two daughters at the roller rink is longer and really rings true. As I told Cress Williams, the scene is what cemented my belief that he is the absolute right actor to be playing Jefferson Pierce.

As I keep reminding fans and readers, I’m not at liberty to write about everything I know about this series or, for that matter, the forthcoming Black Lightning comic-book series. I knew the reports the Black Lightning pilot would be presented at Comic-Con were 100% wrong because I knew no pilot had been filmed. But I couldn’t say anything about that until after the Black Lightning presentation at the convention.

Salim and I talked about Tobias Whale. I knew some of the actors he was auditioning for the character, but I couldn’t/wouldn’t mention any names until he and Mara hired the rapper Krondon for the role.

The second of two questions everyone asks me is if I'll be doing a cameo appearance on the series. This is a concept that fills me with fear. When a particularly nice photo of Jefferson, Lynn and their daughters sitting on a couch in their home hit the Internet, I quipped I’d be playing their wacky next door neighbor. At least one reporter thought I was serious and almost put it in a story.

Salim kidded I could play Peter Gambi, but I wasn’t going to repeat that silly suggestion until the great James Remar was cast in the role. Now that everyone knows Gambi will be in the show, I’ll tell you I answered several questions about the character during my time in the writers room.

Anyway, at this time, no one has actually asked me to make a cameo appearance in the show. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m hoping it’s because they got Stan Lee instead.

Before I left the Black Lightning offices for my quick tour of DC Comics, Salim asked me to sign a copy of Black Lightning #5 (second series) for him. That’s my favorite Black Lightning story and, as it turns out, it’s his favorite as well. He told me it helped him understand Jefferson Pierce better than any other issues. That was high praise coming from a guy who I believe knows Jefferson Pierce just as well as and maybe better than I do.

Salim also gave me the very cool Black Lightning hat you have seen me wearing in photos from the recent NEO Comic Con. Everyone wants one of those hats, but they aren’t commercially available at this time. I hope that changes.

I don’t have a big finish for this writers room report. You know I think the world of the folks doing the Black Lightning TV series. You know I am thrilled to be working with great people on the new Black Lightning comic-book series. You know how much I appreciate that Black Lightning is so much bigger and more important than me or anyone else working on the character. If Black Lightning is my comics legacy, I’m over the moon content with that.

One last note. I will no longer refer to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands as a mini-series. It’s a six-issue series, but, to me, there is nothing “mini” about it. I have ideas for stories beyond the one I’m telling in those six issues and, if the fates are kind, I will be writing new Black Lightning stories until the day they pry my keyboard from my own cold dead hands. My passion for this character has not diminished with the passage of time.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


Today's bloggy thing is delayed while I finish a comic-book script. As soon as that script is finished, which will be early this morning, I'll write today's blog.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 119th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #132 [March 1976] reprints the Dick Ayers and Frank Giacoia cover of The Rawhide Kid #61 [December 1967]. The changes to the original cover are the white background, which I find more effective the original red background, and re-lettering and moving the two original cover blurbs. Marvel wasn’t expending much effort on this reprint title at this time.

“Shotgun to Deadwood” (17 pages) is reprinted from issue #61 sans any cuts or editorial alterations that I could spot. The adventure features Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The story was written by Gary Friedrich, penciled by Ayers and inked by Vinnie Colletta. I wrote about this story here.

There are 15 “classified ads” in this issue, 13 from mail-order comics dealers, one for a Spider-Man record and one for cartooning lessons. There are four pages of Marvel house ads, a Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page, a Hostess ad starring Spider-Man, and a pin-up page that also includes the annual “statement of ownership, management and circulation.” There are paid ads as well and we’ll talk about them today as well.

The inside front cover was a Johnson Smith ad offering a whole lot of different items: kung fu lessons, a Planet of the Apes mask, an automatic hypnotizer, a vibrating shocker and more. I’d love to see someone create a super-villain whose arsenal consists of souped-up novelty items from Johnson Smith.

Another full-page paid ad sold “10 Super Great Iron-On Transfers” for $1.35 with postage. These badly-drawn transfers were offered by “Super Values,” which had the same 575 Madison Avenue address that Marvel had. Sharing another full-page ad were Slim Jim (smoked beef snacks) and Grit (“America’s Greatest Family Weekly Publication”).

“Put the Hulk under Someone’s Christmas Tree!” proclaimed the first Marvel house ad of the issue. The suggested gift items: t-shirts of Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor Fantastic Four, as well as covers of Marvel Double Feature and Captain Marvel. Adult sizes were $3.99 each and kid sizes were $4 each. Sweat shirts of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America were $5 each.

Half-page paid ads offered lessons on how to customize cars, vans and more - the brochure was free - and how to become “a master of  karate.” You could get the martial arts book and a “giant life-like karate practice dummy” for $1.98. I’m guessing the practice dummy was just a poster.

Marvel’s next full page house ad divided between subscriptions for Marvel comic books and magazines and a FOOM fan club ad heralding the return of Jack Kirby to Marvel. Jack was back, if only for a couple memorable years. That page was followed by another full-page house ad, this one split between Crazy Magazine and the Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man treasury edition.

Joe Weider - “The World’s Most Famous Muscle Man” - was shilling 16 muscle-building courses for a buck. You would get four issues and a $5 gift certificate that could be applied against the purchase of any of Weider’s doubtless much more expensive muscle builders.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page again opens a window as to what was happening at Marvel at this time. “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” talked about upcoming conventions in Miami and New York...asked readers to entreat their newsstand dealers to order more copies of the Marvel comic books...and hinted at a third collection of classic stories to follow the very successful Origins of Marvel Comics and Son of Origins of Marvel Comics.

The first news item reported that Fantastic Four and cover artist Rich Buckler had moved back to New York, that Ghost Rider writer Tony Isabella had moved back to Cleveland and that Steve Englehart had just gotten married.

The next item announced the debuts of the Guardians of the Galaxy series in Marvel Presents and the Tigra series in Marvel Chillers. Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom were noted as the Guardians team, but neither myself nor artist Will Meugniot were so much as mentioned for the Tigra feature.

Item three was all about the sword-and-sorcery heroes and heroine. Frank Thorne was drawing Red Sonja in Marvel Feature. John Buscema was penciling Conan with inks by Steve Gan. Kull the Destroyer was waiting in the wings.

The final item lauded George Perez and his love for drawing super-hero teams. Mentioned were Fantastic Four, Avengers, Inhumans and Sons of the Tiger.

The Bullpen page ended with a teaser image of Icarus from Kirby’s new Eternals series. No names. Just the image.

Next to the Bullpen Bulletins Page, we get the one-page “Spider-Man and the Cupcake Caper” ad for Hostess Cup Cakes. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are about to enjoy the tasty treats when our hero spots a rampaging Man-Mountain Marko on the street. He tells MJ he must buy milk, stops Marko and then returns to find she’s eaten all the cupcakes. I’m not sure who drew this page. I see some Jim Mooney, I see some Ross Andru, I see some John Romita and I see some Frank Giacoia inks. If anyone can give a more definitive identification, I’d be thrilled to include that information here.

The final editorial page is “A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up” taken from the cover of The Rawhide Kid #74 [February 1970]. The same pin-up had appeared just two issues earlier, but, here, it’s been reduced in size for the title’s annual “statement of ownership, management and circulation.”

As best I can tell with the ad of a magnifying glass, the average total paid circulation of The Rawhide Kid was 143,972 per issue. For the single issue nearest to the filling date, the title sold 129,305. It has widely been suggested that these numbers were often made up on the spot. I wouldn’t doubt it.

That’s all for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll have another one for you next week.

As for tomorrow, I hope to present a fuller report of my July trip to Burbank to meet with the writers of the Black Lightning TV show. Because of the increasing interest in all things Jefferson Pierce, you can probably expect at least one Black Lightning bloggy thing every week and sometimes more than one.

If you have questions, e-mail them to me. I’ll do my best to answer the ones I’m allowed to answer in a timely fashion.

See you tomorrow, my friends.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


This is not the Black Lightning bloggy thing I was expecting to write for today. With the official announcement that, in addition to the forthcoming live-action series, DC Comics would also be publishing Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, a six-issue series written by me and drawn by superstar artist Clayton Henry, my plan was to answer a bunch of the many questions asked by fans and other interested folks. That bloggy thing is on hold for a day or three. There are other things I have to say about Black Lightning today, including the big thing that, more and more, strike me as the truest things I can say about my proudest creation.

Black Lightning is bigger than me. He is bigger than me and anyone else who works on the character. Despite his so-called second-tier standing, he is important to so many people on so many levels and he has been so since his debut in 1977.

This bigness. This importance. It has become more of my awareness of Black Lightning with each new day. It is a humbling awareness, one that has been the core of my belief in the character and how I approach him in all of his glory.

Readers have come to me at conventions and told me Black Lightning #1 was the first comic book they bought for themselves because it was the first comic book in which they saw themselves. I tell you without any hesitation that there have been tears of joy on a few of those occasions.

When I state the above, I’m not trying to elevate Black Lightning above other characters of color. I have absolutely no doubt that, for other readers, that first hero who looked like them was Black Panther or the Falcon or Luke Cage or Icon or Static or any number of other creations. Even today, I’m certain there are readers who say that about Ms. Marvel or Moon Girl. That today’s comic books are more diverse than ever makes me more proud of the art form and my industry than at any other time in my 45-year career.

Digression. No reader has yet told me Devil Dinosaur or Groot were the first heroes that looked like them, but, oh my Godzilla, would I love to meet such readers. End of digression.

I’m proud of my work on Black Lightning and, even more importantly, Jefferson Pierce and what he has always stood for. But I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to have been there at the exact right time to create the character and, how despite all the cards stacked against him, through market conditions and through executives who didn’t see the power and promise of the character, he remained in the hearts and minds of his readers. I have so many people to thank for bringing him to this moment.

It started with legendary creators like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Billy Graham, Don McGregor, Rich Buckler who bucked the odds and an antiquated distribution system that seldom looked kindly on characters of color. It continued with well-intentioned creators who somehow didn’t realize their Black Bomber character was one of the most offensive notions of all time. It continued with whatever combination of DNA made me too crazy stubborn to let that character become DC’s first major black super-hero.

It continued with Jenette Kahn, Joe Orlando, Jack C. Harris and my friend Trevor Von Eeden. Here was Trevor, a young guy thrown into the deep end of the pool, who knocked himself out drawing the first Black Lightning series. Trevor and I exchange emails several times a week and, like me, he is well aware of what a defining moment our work on Black Lightning has been for both of us. Because Trevor is a black artist and an outspoken one at that, he bears - and he bears gladly - the added responsibility of being a role model for other artists.

Special thanks must go to my friend Mike W. Barr, who has written more Black Lightning stories than anyone, albeit in Batman and the Outsiders. He kept Black Lightning before the public in those fine comic books.

Indeed, every creator who has worked on Black Lightning, even those who have done stories of which I am not personally enamored, have brought something to the character. They gave me building blocks to consider and use or discard as my own vision demanded.

I will always and forever be grateful to Eddy Newell for his work on my second Black Lightning series. He brought a passion to that work that equaled my passion and Trevor’s passion. My second run is what made me realize that I would be happy writing Black Lightning stories for the rest of my life. That remains my dream.

I will always and forever be grateful to the fans who kept both me and Black Lightning alive in their expectations for the character. There were those who would have preferred my name not be so linked with Black Lightning...or linked at all. I feel very fortunate they didn’t get their preference.

I will always and forever be grateful to the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. They invited me to their gatherings and gave me a greater realization of how much Black Lightning meant to them. As I’ve said, it was and remains a humbling reminder that I’m part of something so much bigger than I am.

Geoff Johns. He reached out to me and started this new journey for all of us. From our first conversation, I knew things were going to change for the better. He’s a hero to me and my family.

Michael Lovitz, my attorney, and DC’s attorneys. I’m not going to discuss details because I can’t and because I wouldn’t, but every one was working towards the same basic ends. Everyone wanted this to work.

Digression. If this is sounding like an acceptance speech, believe me, it’s not. It’s my heart being so full as I write this bloggy. If I ever give an acceptance speech, it won’t be anywhere near as long and I’ll probably be all fumble-mouthed. My main concern will be to remember to thank my wife and kids for sticking by me through the good times and the bad times. End of digression.

Dan DiDio, who has been an absolute joy to work with and determined to help me make the new Black Lightning series the best it can be. Our conversations about the first Black Lightning trade paperback - still available from better comics and book sellers everywhere - shaped my thinking on that and future collections.

Paul Santos should be mentioned and honored for his dedication to these collections. I can’t wait to tell you what’s coming up in the near future.

David Wohl, who was briefly the editor of the new Black Lightning series before he was abducted by others who recognized his talent, gave me wings to develop the new series as I saw fit. I’m looking forward to answering your questions about that process and what I was thinking as I worked through that process.

Jim Chadwick, one of the best editors I have ever worked with. He gives me great notes that make my scripts better. He doesn’t try to make them his scripts. He wants them to be the best Tony Isabella scripts they can be. His associates Rob Levin and Harvey Richards are important parts of the team, though Rob will moving on to some other great DC projects.

Jim Lee, who brought his design sense to the long search for both the right costume and the right artist for the series. Jim remains key to the creation of our covers.

Clayton Henry. He’s knocking it out of the park with every page he pencils and inks. He’s amazing. He brings the characters to life. He makes me proud that my scripts have generated such astonishing pages. He holds his own with Trevor and Eddy.

Okay, if I go on any longer today, I’m gonna burst. Because I have so much love still to share for Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti, Salim and Mara Brock Akil, the Black Lightning writers, the amazing Cress Williams, Christine Adams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain and so many other folks working on the TV series. That’s going to take another bloggy to cover, one I hope to write within the next couple days or so.

Some closing notes for today.

Even though the new comic-book series and the TV series are not in the same continuity, I have been influenced by what I’ve seen from the actors and the writers. One of the cast members has changed my thinking on a character so completely - and I’d be amazed if any of you figure out which character - that it feels like I’m creating an entirely new character. I’ve seen my influence on the TV series and I want the TV team to know they are influencing me as well.

More than ever, I would love to write new Black Lightning stories rest of my life. But, if and when circumstances dictate otherwise, I’m confident there will be others who will carry on in a fashion that will honor my work. There are great comics writers who could bring themselves and their stories to my creation...and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next great Black Lightning comics writer comes from the TV series writers room.

Black Lightning is bigger and more important than me. He’s bigger and more important than everyone who has worked or currently works on his stories. He’s the real deal.

Me? I’m the blessed and lucky writer who was at the right place at the right time. It is good fortune I will never take lightly.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, August 21, 2017


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Pre-Code Classics: Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Volumes One and Two, collecting all 14 issues of the legendary media star's comic books; from Papercutz, Gumby Vol. 4 #1; and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 #1-7 by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs.


Circumstances delayed this third and final entry in my coverage of Sharknado Week 2017. But here I am to sink my teeth into the last two movies that aired on the Syfy channel. Let’s get right to them.

Empire of the Sharks aired on Saturday, August 5. Made by the fine folks at the Asylum, it had a lot going for it. Set in a future era where global warming has turned most of Earth’s surface into ocean, it has a sort of “Mad Max on the high seas” vibe going for it. However, despite a claim by the Internet Movie Database, it’s not a sequel to last year’s Planet of the Sharks. It’s similar in tone, but both bigger and more deliciously cheesy in scope.

It was directed by Mark Atkins, who directed over two dozen other movies, including Planet of the Sharks, 2012's fun Sand Sharks and the goofy-but-still-fun Snakes on a Train [2006]. He also wrote the movie. I like his work enough that I plan to check out other Atkins works in the near future.

Empire stars John Savage as the ocean dictator Ian Fien, Jonathan Pienaar as Mason Scrim, Fien’s scenery-chewing second-in-command, and several earnest performers as the movie’s hero, heroine, and a rag-tag bunch of outsiders who band together uneasily to rescue the heroine and prevent Fien/Scrim from wiping out her people. There’s a little “Magnificient Seven” in this one as well.

The IMDb summery gives away much of the plot, so I’ll activate our usual warning right now...


On a future earth where 98% of the surface is underwater, a Warlord who controls an army of sharks meets his match when he captures the daughter of a mysterious shark caller.

Fien and Scrim demand tribute from the floating villages they rule in exchange for the fresh water only they can provide. The villains get this water through a tedious process that demands the labor of slaves. When a village fails to provide sufficient tribute, Scrim takes people instead. The captives literally slave until they drop and are then fed to the sharks the bad guys control.

It’s not a complicated plot. The hero is working on a way for his village to produce its own fresh water. The heroine, who he loves, is a pacifist whose power to control sharks naturally is triggered during her captivity. The hero and a friend recruit their rag-tag commandos. Some will live, some will die, and it all boils down to a fairly epic battle between Fien’s man-made control of the sharks and the heroine’s natural ability.

Thanks to the IMDb summery above you know how it ends.


Empire of the Sharks is a solid “B” action thriller. The heroes are sufficiently heroic if not always competent. The villains are very hiss-able. There is considerable shark fu and the special effects are up to it. Of the movies that led up to the Sharknado 5: Global Swarming finale, I’d rank it a close third behind the excellent Mississippi River Sharks and the pretty good Toxic Shark. I would watch this movie again.


Sharknado 5: Global Swarming had me giddy with expectation - I love the franchise - and a wee bit pensive because it would be the first movie in the series not written by Thunder Levin. Instead, the film was written by Scotty Mullen. I’ve not seen any of Mullen’s other six films, but he has many credits as a casting director and a few as an actor. So, as with many of the fine folks who work with the Asylum, he’s well-rounded. Based on this Sharknado screenplay, I’m going to be checking out his other work.

Returning as director is the wonderfully mad Anthony C. Ferrante, along with the fighting Fin Shepard family. Here’s the quick IMDb summary, corrected for content and grammar:

With much of America in ruins and the rest of the world bracing for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop the toothy storms.


This may be the silliest Sharknado movie of them all, but, except for some incredibly shocking surprises, I never stopped smiling and even laughing out loud as I watched. It’s a family saga, a series of hilarious sketches and cameos and an international thriller all rolled into one.

Nova [played by Cassandra Scerbo] has joined a secret sisterhood of sharknado fighters. They have learned that such storms happened in the distant past and that mankind defeated them. In a Indiana Jones riff, she and Fin [Ian Ziering] discover one of the hiding places of a powerful gem and, in doing so, accidentally trigger the most deadly sharknado of all. It can create portals that allow it to go all over the world.

With android/robot wife April [Tara Reid] and their son Gil [Billy Barratt] fight against this unstoppable menace. They’re assisted by Nova’s sisterhood and a very Q-like British scientist [Clay Aiken, if you can believe it]. In an inspired performance, Chris Kattan is the Prime Minister of England. There are lots of other great cameos as well, but, with one exception, I’m going to let you experience them on your own. That one exception is Fabio as the Pope. That’s right. Fabio. As. The. Pope. The brilliance of that casting had me laughing so hard I cried a little bit.

The jumping from locale to locale and the sketch nature of the film throws the actors somewhat. I still loved Ziering and Reid in this movie, but they were a little off their game. I have no doubt they will be back on the mark for the next movie.

The movie has a very depressing ending. Except...just when you’re convinced you’ve seen the last Sharknado, which, in itself, would be a crime against nature in my book...that’s when you get another inspired development that will lead into Sharknado 6. I’m excited, so much so that I’ve already sent suggested titles to my friends at the Asylum.

Sharknado Week 2018 can’t come soon enough for me.


If you’ve been keeping track of the score, Sharknado Week 2017 ends on a score of 4-2. While I’d like to see some variety next year - it’s been a while since Syfy has graced us with any giant reptiles or other creatures - this week of premieres is my favorite annual television event. Keep them coming!
In other news...

My life continues to be crazy busy and crazy exciting. I’ve got so much to write and write about. Obviously, with the news of both the Black Lightning TV series and a new written-by-me Black Lightning mini-series, I’m getting asked all sorts of questions about these things. I’ll do my best to answer them - or, to be accurate, answer those I can answer without violating my agreements with DC Comics - in a timely fashion. You can expect a lot of Black Lightning stuff in this blog in the weeks and months to come.

There’s also a lot of other things I want to write about here and that you have asked me to write about here. I’ll get to it all as soon as possible. This blog means a lot to me and your enthusiasm for it means even more. We’re gonna have a lot of fun here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella