Saturday, June 2, 2018


When I was at the East Coast Comicon, my dear friend Jim Salicrup gifted me with the above drawing of “old school” Black Lightning. Salicrup is the head of Papercutz, the NBM imprint which publishes all sorts of great suitable-for-all-ages comics from all over the world. I love this piece of art so much I had to share it with all of you. Besides, it gives me a chance to let you know I’d love to see your drawings of Black Lightning, his supporting cast members and his villains. If you want to get your five minutes of very little fame here at the Black Lightning Beat, e-mail your drawings to me with confirmation you're giving me permission to use them here.

At every convention I attend, the love for Black Lightning and my work on the character is evident. Last year, the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) gave me its Lifetime Achievement Award for creating Black Lightning and Misty Knight, as well as my other work with characters of color. This year, the Black Lightning love was even greater. The Black Lightning TV series is a huge hit. Those who had read Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands wanted to know when I would get the go-ahead for an ongoing comic-book series. That seems like a no-brainer to me, but it’s not my call to make. I’ll keep you posted.

Northern Michigan’s The CW32 sponsored my appearance at the Cherry Capital Comics Con. They had some terrific Black Lightning swag at the show. I spent an hour behind the station’s table and signed a bunch of Black Lightning posters for the fans. I also walked away with some of that cool swag:

I also “collaborated” with artist Gene Ha at the show. Gene drew a sketch of Black Lightning for a charity auction and then asked me to write a word balloon for it:

The big news this time out is the Black Lightning TV series launches its second season on October 9. Its promotion to the fall schedule is indicative of its tremendous success earlier this year. There will be 16 episodes in this second season, up three from the first season. Obviously, I’m looking forward to the show’s return.

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands is being collected and should be out in late September or early October. I’ve written an afterword for the edition.

As to my further involvement with Black Lightning, I don’t have any information for you at this time. I haven’t been given a go-ahead on any new Black Lightning comics. I don’t have a publication date for Black Lightning Volume Three, which would reprint the 1990s run I did with artist Eddy Newell. I don’t know if I will be involved with the TV series. I would love for all of the above to happen, but, having done what I could to make them happen, I can only wait and see what comes around.

I am working on a non-fiction book which will discuss my creation of Black Lightning, my work with comics characters of color before Black Lightning, my battles to make Black Lightning the iconic hero he has become and my own path to understanding and working towards greater diversity in comics. I might post a chapter or two before publication. I’ll let you know when I have a target completion and release date on this volume.

Questions on Black Lightning, Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands and the Black Lightning TV series continue to be asked. As always, I’ll do my best to answer them here.

Chet, a long-distance friend of many decades, asked:

Will we see Tony Isabella as a gang boss in Black Lightning?

It has been rumored that I will be appearing in a recurring role on all of DC’s television shows. Since most of those shows are driven by characters making bad choices, I will float from show to show as the “Tinder Date from Hell.” It has also been rumored that the cast members of these shows - male and female alike - are fighting to be the character that dates me. Or maybe it’s that they are fighting *not* to be the character that dates me. I can neither confirm nor deny these rumors.

Neil Ottenstein wrote with comments and questions on the Cold Dead Hands mini-series. I’m going to split them into segments to allow  me to answer them better. But, if you haven’t read the mini-series, I must warn you that there are


First off, I was surprised to see Black Lightning call on help with the city while he was busy taking on Tobias Whale.  It was a pleasant surprise that made perfect sense and was a nice payoff.  I was wondering your thought process on doing this - any pros and cons that came into your mind.
I’ve said this new Black Lightning of mine is smarter than earlier versions. I had this in mind from the start, which is why I name-dropped both Cyborg and the Flash in the first issue, and why I had Jeff show thoughtful restraint when he learned of the drug dealer coming to his high school to supply his pushers.

Most super-hero comics would have had a scene of Black Lightning actually interacting with Cyborg and the Flash in that final issue. But I’m all about doing the unexpected. He was smart enough to call them in to protect the police while he was keeping Tobias Whale off the board. He knew they could do the job. I assume they all went out for pizza off-camera, but there was no need for Jefferson to have a photo op with them.

Second,  the last panel is a puzzler.  I can see a switch happening off screen if someone with a similar build came in visiting, but other than that I can't see how he left the prison.  I guess there would be an explanation if there is a follow-up series.
Having established that Tobias Whale had judges and police chiefs on his payroll, I didn’t think I had to spell it out that he also had his hooks into prison personnel. That last scene was necessary to show that, even though Black Lightning handed the Whale his ass, Tobias remains a formidable adversary. The exact details were not important for that moment.

Third, is there going to be some compressing when making the trade paperback?  Reading issues five and six right after each other, had me thinking there was repetition of Whale explaining how hopeless it was at the end of issue five and then a similar passage at the beginning of issue six.  Any thoughts on this?

I don’t believe in writing for the trade. I knew there would be a bit of repetition, but the Whale’s gloating was needed for both of those issues. I’m a believer that each issue must deliver its own punch and that reprints of those issues should appear as they did in the individual issues.

Fourth, reading this series over the past few months while watching the show really had me thinking that they were perfect companions to each other.  There were quite different stories, but the same sensibility throughout along with similar issues such as police corruption, illegal drugs/guns in the hands of people who couldn't handle them, and so forth.
Both the comic-book series, which was begun before the TV show was definite, and the TV series all start from the core values of Black Lightning and Jefferson Pierce and an understanding of the world in which he lives. It was inevitable that both the comics and the show would share a basic sensibility.

Did my current comic-book stories inspire elements of the TV show? Maybe. I certainly discussed what I was doing with Salim Akil and the show’s terrific writers. I know I was inspired by some of what I knew about the TV series. For example, my Lynn Stewart is British because Christine Adams, who plays Lynn on TV, is British. I have big plans for my Lynn Stewart if I write more Black Lightning comic books. Fingers crossed.

Here’s another tip to what I have planned if I get to do the Black Lightning ongoing comics series. I wasn’t planning to introduce an Inspector Henderson into the new comics because I already had Tommi Colavito, Denise Simms and Henry Casey as a police presence. Then I watched Damon Gupton’s outstanding performance as the Inspector on the TV series.

Loretta Henderson is Jeff’s grandmother in my comic books and the guardian of his cousins Anissa and Jennifer. The idea of Inspector Henderson being related to Jeff would add such an interesting level to their interactions. If I do more Black Lightning comic books, I will be adding him to my supporting cast.

That’s all for this installment of “Black Lightning Beat.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. a better idea for a recurring role than the Tinder Date from Hell: Jefferson Pierce is a regular customer at a local bakery. This bakery is a longtime Cleveland institution, with a familiar-looking (to us) guy behind the counter, who has known Jefferson since he was very young.