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

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations. Having read of your hurts about this situation in the past it's wonderful to read about where it is now and where it seems to be heading.