Friday, July 13, 2012


One of the reasons I write stuff like the last four days’ worth of
this bloggy thing is because, if comics freelancers like me don’t set
the record straight, you’ll be stuck with the bullshit propagated
by comics executives and those who believe anything and do anything
those executives tell them to believe or do.  Not every executive
and his/her employees are like this, but plenty fit that profile.

I have a dear industry friend who has been screwed over many times.
Yet one lie that seems to anger him as much as anything that’s been
done to him is the fantasy that he was somehow rescued from a lousy
job and given a break in comics.  The truth of the matter is that
he had a really good non-comics job before he was hired by one of
the major comics companies.  He took financial and other risks to
take the comics job and he worked as hard or harder as anyone that
I worked with back in the day.  His reward was to be tossed aside
and insulted by his ratbag superiors.

Yeah, it’s extremely important to set the record straight.  So while
I read and mostly enjoyed the Jenette Kahn interview in Back Issue
#57 [TwoMorrows; $8.95], I was ticked off that the interviewer got
virtually every “Tony Isabella fact” wrong as he tried to jog the
memory of his subject.  I wrote a more grumpy than friendly letter
to the editor of the magazine.

Here’s what I wrote:   

Re: Back Issue #57

I enjoyed the Jenette Kahn interview in Back Issue #57.  Despite my
contentious relationship with DC Comics, I always liked Jenette and
thought she did a lot of good things for DC creators.  Not enough,
mind you, but that’s been the case with the company for longer than
I’ve been alive.  I like to remind fans that Liebowitz and Donenfeld
swindled Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, arguably the company’s
first creator, out of the company the Major founded.  DC’s record
in the ensuing decades is spotty at best.  But I digress.

My enjoyment of the Kahn interview was marred by interviewer Robert
Greenberger getting virtually every “Tony Isabella” fact wrong as
he fed questions to Jenette.  For the record...

I was NEVER an assistant editor at DC Comics.  I was NEVER one of
Sol Harrison’s Junior Woodchucks.  I didn’t even like Harrison and,
in my world, he ranks as low as Liebowitz and Donenfeld.

I was NOT hired as a “story editor,” that ridiculous position that
DC created because Vince Colletta had been given such a tough time
by editors and writers whose deadlines he routinely saved.  I had
been a full editor at Marvel Comics and, when DC asked me to join
its staff, the position offered and accepted was as a FULL editor.
On my first day, I learned DC had failed to honor another agreement
made with me.  Ultimately, the company would fail to honor almost
every agreement it made with me.

Technically, I guess I did replace Bob Rozakis.  I’m not sure his
transition from editorial to production was as straightforward as
Greenberger would have.  I recall it as a shameful treatment of a
loyal, talented employee.  But that’s Bob’s story to tell.

I usually refer to the six months or so I spent in the DC editorial
offices as “my mercifully brief time at DC.”  It was a nightmare
of arrogant and petty decisions, which I’ve touched upon in my blog
and which I’ll doubtless discuss further at some near-future time.

I saw the writing on the wall when I was told I couldn’t personally
give Dick Ayers his first Freedom Fighters script.  I had to give
it to Levitz to give to Colletta so that Colletta could then give
it to Dick.  Yeah, it was as stupid as it sounds.

I had worked with Dick at Marvel.  We were friends.  I knew he did
his best work when given a pep talk by an editor or a writer.  But
I was told I had to somehow deliver this pep talk through Colletta.
My goal was, as always, to create the best comic books I could.  I
didn’t see how I could do this if I couldn’t talk to the artists.

My memory is a little foggy on this last bit.  Either on my final
day on staff or during my first Black Lightning series, I outlined
to a friend still working at DC exactly what was going to happen at
the company in the next several years.  To this day, when I speak
with my friend, he expresses his amazement that my predictions were
all dead on. 

Please correct the misinformation Greenberger wrote about my brief,
my mercifully brief time, working in the DC officers.  Naturally,
I’ll be doing this in my blog as well, but it would be nice if the
readers of Back Issue were told the truth as well.

Hey, I warned you it was a grumpy letter.

I’ll be taking a couple days off for my garage sale.  I’ll be back
on Monday with more stuff.   
© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. Sounds like having a package delivered from Medina, Ohio to Akron, Ohio via the Panama Canal. - A.

  2. Even as a small child (sorry, you are older than I am) I greatly respected the work you did for Marvel and then for DC. It pains to me to think of what you might have done had you been dealt with like the professional you are and been allowed to treat others accordingly.

    Andy Turk

  3. Sadly the roundabout way of doing things is all to common in some places I've worked in the Library field. In some cases, you were not allowed to have direct communication with another department, even working within yards of each other in the building. Everything had to go through supervisors.

    Back Issue is really a great magazine and I'm surprised that Greenberger or someone else on staff didn't ask you for a response or to at least ensure the questions were accurate.

  4. Thank you for setting the record straight.You are brave,sir!
    A fellow man.
    p.s. As long as all too many do not mention the culprits(Jim Lee,Dan Didio et al)and take them to task (instead only naming the companies;DC,MARVEL,DISNEY,WARNER...)there will never be any changes for the better.