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

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for answering my question! (this is Tom Keller) I can't wait to get the next collected editions of BL, your new series, and watch the show. Best of luck to all of you!