Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing: Now you have two days’
worth of bloggy things to read to get up to speed on what’s what in
the behind-the-scenes history of Black Lightning.  There won’t be
a quiz, at least not for you.

There are, as previously noted, so many things I’d rather be doing
than writing about Black Lightning at the moment.  I’d rather write
about my son Eddie’s new digs and new jobs.  I’d rather review the
comic books and other items I’ve read lately.  I’d rather work on
my first garage sale of the summer.  I would even rather sulk about
not being at Comic-Con than write about this stuff again.  But here
I am again.  Sigh.

By the way, speaking of that garage sale, it will be at 840 Damon
Drive in Medina Ohio.  It will take place on Friday and Saturday,
July 13 and 14 between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm.  There will be
thousands of comic books and other things on sale at ridiculously
low prices.  I will happily sign things I’ve written.  And, if for
some reason you decide to spend the night in this area, I suspect
you can find a decent hotel room for far less than the $500 they’re
charging in San Diego. 

Okay, back to Black Lightning stuff...

On Monday, I was remiss in not mentioning the many good turns Paul
Levitz has done for comics creators, including myself.  When Kenner
produced the first Black Lightning action figures and I inquired as
to how I could buy them in quantity - I wanted them for family
members and the younger brothers of the inner-city teens I’d worked
with while researching the second Black Lightning series - Levitz
arranged for a case of the figures to be sent to me gratis.  He’s
not a bad guy, despite his unwillingness to intervene in DC’s bad
treatment of me and my creation.

I knew some know-it-all would take a statement I made in Monday’s
bloggy thing and try to turn it back on me.  I wrote:

I know the thrill of being asked to write great characters and, at
times, I’ve crossed a line freelancers shouldn’t cross when offered
such assignments and when the original creators are still alive and
very capable of and eager to write their creations.  In my youth,
it was because I didn’t understand the issues involved.  As
recently as my Grim Ghost mini-series last year, it was because I
stupidly didn’t remember that Michael Fleisher created the Ghost
and was credited as the creator in the original comics.  While it
doesn’t seem too likely I’ll be writing more Grim Ghost comics, if
that happens, I will do my best to contact Michael and do right by

The person who called me on this made assumptions based on what he
thought I would do if I were offered the opportunity to continue my
Grim Ghost writing.  Not surprisingly, he was wrong about that and
other statements he made about me and my situation.

I have tried to contact Michael Fleisher without success.  I wanted
to send him the comics I had written and ask him how he felt about
my continuing to write the Grim Ghost.  If any one has more current
contact information for him, please send it my way.

If I am asked to continue on the Grim Ghost and if Michael approves
of my continuing on the character, I’ll include his creator credit
in every script I write...and I’ll send him 10% of whatever I make
from writing his creation.  If Michael doesn’t approve and despite
how much I could use the gig, I won’t take it.  If I can’t contact
him, I’ll take the gig and put aside 10% of whatever I make in the
hope I will someday be able to contact him.

Moving right along...

One question frequently asked by online jerks is why I haven’t sued
DC Comics over its many violations of our partnership agreement and
its non-payment of money owed to me.  Some posters do acknowledge
the difficulty of suing a corporation with deep pockets that’s part
of a bigger corporation with deeper projects.  Additionally, sans
the prospect of big payoff, such as exists with famous characters
like Superman or even lesser characters like Blade and Ghost Rider,
the financial burden of that lawsuit would fall entirely on me and
my meager resources.  No law firm with the chops to take on a giant
like DC is going to take the case on a contingency basis when the
likelihood of even a decent payoff is the longest of shots.

There’s another equally valid reason I haven’t sued DC:

I don’t think I could win that lawsuit.

We’ve seen the courts favor corporations over creators in similar
lawsuits even, as in the case of Blade, when the corporation could
not produce any documentation supporting its case.  We’ve seen the
slimy tactics of DC’s lawyers in their efforts to deny the rights
of Jerry Siegel’s heirs.  Those lawyers surely contributed to the
poor health and death of Joanne Siegel and it sure seems to me as
if their overall battle plan is to outlive the heirs. 

So I could fight a battle I don’t think I could win, devote my life
to that battle and not have the time to enjoy my family or to write
other things.  I suspect many of the anonymous posters making snide
remarks about my not filing a lawsuit against DC Comics don’t have
families, have never created anything, and have never written/drawn
anything professionally.  As I once said, and which my pal Harlan
Ellison quotes with surprising regularity, “Hell hath no fury like
that of the uninvolved.”

Come right down to it, I have everything I need.  A wonderful wife
and kids.  Good friends.  A good life, even when the work and the
money aren’t what I would like them to be.  If I were to put Black
Lightning above all that, I wouldn’t be the writer who created that
character and who wrote him as I did.  My priorities reflect who I
am and who I want to be.

Remember the question implied in the title of today’s bloggy thing?
The answer is that I’ll be wrapping this up tomorrow.

© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. People with the strongest opinions of how professional writers "should" conduct themselves are usually those who couldn't pen a grocery list with an outline and two editors.
    Thanks for the posts, Tony.
    I got tons of enjoyment from your BL series and consider it the definitive take on the character. (Hell, it should be. You created him.)

  2. Tony,
    You are above the greed and the corruption that exists in the corporate world. I have a friend who is African-American and I hope you realize the impact. I thought Black Lightning was cool, but for my friend, he was an inspiration. The costume was perfect, the character had real-life issues, and the character had awesome powers that any of us would want. If you think about the impact that character had at a time when the African American community desired positive role models for the youth, the inspiration and hope you gave a group of people is emotionally tremendous and the impact is incredible. You have done and continue to do, great work. Thanks!

  3. As regards the why-I-didn't-sue element -- I feel your pain, man; been there, had to make the same decision. Funnily enough, it involved WB.