Monday, January 1, 2018


Writing today’s bloggy thing for the first day of a new year puts me in a reflective mood. With 2017 in the books, I look back on a year of incredible highs and lows and, of course, Black Lightning looms large in the former category.

Being a long-distance part, however small, of the Black Lightning TV series that will debut on January 16, is something I will never forget. Early on in my new relationship with DC Comics, I was asked to write a paper on the character’s core values. I have seen those values reflected in the TV show. Other TV series highlights would include: speaking with show runners Salim and Mara Brock Akil just as they began their wonderful work; seeing that first incredible trailer for the series; seeing the reaction to that trailer when it was shown at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention; meeting with the Black Lightning writers in Burbank; watching the growing excitement for the series in the fan and national media; watching the first episode with my family and seeing my writing incorporated into that amazing debut; and the indescribable emotions I felt as, early in the first episode, one of the cast members recites lines that have been central to the character from the beginning of the first Black Lightning comic book in 1977:

Justice, like lightning, shall ever appear, to some men hope and to other men fear.

In 1977, Sainted Wife Barb was able to accompany me to Pensacon in Pensacola and ECBACC in Philadelphia. At the latter, she got to see me receive the convention’s Lifetime Achievement Award with my dear friend Don McGregor. Barb and I and Don’s wife Marsha had a great time with each other and with Frank Lovece and Maitland McDonagh. More recently, Barb was my “plus one” at a terrific party and photo shoot for Cleveland Magazine, which has named me one of its most interesting people of 2018.

At every convention I attended, even the Godzilla-oriented G-Fest in Chicago, fans were excited for Black Lightning. My son Ed and I had a great time hanging out with other kaiju fans at G-Fest. We’ll be back for the 2018 convention.

Writing Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands has been the fulfillment of so many dreams and hopes. To be reunited with my creation and be able to write scripts which are every bit as good as the best work of my 45 years in comics is a blessing. To be working with some of the very best people I’ve ever worked with - artist Clayton Henry, editors Jim Chadwick and Harvey Richards, colorist Pete Pantazis, letterer Josh Reed, publicist Clark Bull and so many others - has been one of the very best experiences of my career.

The Akron Comicon reunited and honored me, original Black Lightning artist Trevor von Eeden and our original BL editor Jack C. Harris at its yearly event. At a special dinner which Barb attended, they gave us gorgeous plaques for our work on Black Lightning. It was a weekend I’ll never forget, especially, followed as it was, by the overwhelmingly positive reactions to my new Black Lightning series, Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands.

I would remiss if I didn’t also mention Marvel Comics in this 2017 report. I wrote introductions for a number of collections of comics from the 1970s and had a ball doing so.

Marvel brought me to New York for a private screening of the first two episodes of The Defenders. Misty Knight co-creator Arvell Jones and his wife Wanda were there with others whose comics work was an inspiration for the show. I got to hang out in the city for a few days, rediscovering my love of my old Times Square neighborhood. I had dinner with Jim Salicrup one night and Larry Lieber on another night. I visited Midtown Comics, one of the most impressive comics shops in the world. I saw the latest Spider-Man movie at the AMC 25 on 42nd Street and was recognized by two young women who were huge comics fans. This was further evidence that the comics I’ve devoted my life to have become a big part of our entertainment and social world, enjoyed and respected around the world.

In 2017, I watched my children Ed and Kelly achieve great things in their careers. I watched Barb continue to care for her patients in often trying circumstances. I spent precious time with old friends and made new young friends that have become very dear to me, much as the older fans and professionals accepted me into their circles when I was in my teens and 20s. In many ways, at age 66, I feel as young as I ever did. A world of possibilities lies open before me.

But 2017 wasn’t without problems. On a personal level, after some professional slights, I had to remind myself and then readjust to the reality that, no matter how much progress has been made in the proper treatment of comics creators, it was always going to be a steep learning curve for companies and fans alike. There would be ups and downs. I’ve faced worse and have come out on top. I’ll do so again.

The comics industry was rocked by some of the same scandals we saw in the larger worlds of entertainment, politics and sports. There will be more of these to come. We will be angered and shocked. But our art form and industry will be better off in the long run. I’m beginning to think endurance and stubbornness may be as important to creators as craft, dedication and talent.

Also, on a personal level, this was the first holiday season where I didn’t send out cards, didn’t sent gifts to the clients who have been so good to me, didn’t make my usual year-end donations to the worthy causes I support. Unexpected demands on my time and funds, some of them medical in nature, drained my available resources. I do hope to be able to make those charitable donations in the first quarter of the new year.

We lost so many great people this year. Len Wein. Bernie Wrightson. Joan Lee. Flo Steinberg. June Foray. Rose Marie. Forgive me, but I can’t list all the dear ones who have passed. All have left behind great memories and great works. All will be remembered and missed.

When it comes to darkness in the old year and the world, few things can match what has happened to America. A dumpster president who is a bigot and a racist, a con man and a traitor, a misogynist and a egotist, a liar who spreads hate even as he dismantles all of the protections and safety nets in our society. It is completely beyond my comprehension how anyone who has a brain and a soul and a belief in the American dream can support this man. It is especially hard to know there are comics professional who align themselves with the worst elements in our country. Not a day goes by when the dumpster president doesn’t tell some new lie, spread some additional hate, enact some new atrocity. I despair that I will not live long enough to see my country get back on course. I know that I must and that we must all keep resisting those soulless horrors.

The purpose of my “things that make me happy” posts on Facebook and Twitter is to remind myself that, in the darkness of times, there are still people and events and stories that lift my spirits, that remind me of better times, that give me hope of those better times returning.

Here are the things that made me happy in December...

December 1: The granddaughter of one of the great comics creators for whom I posted a Facebook remembrance sent me a message thanking me for that. Remembering our own is a passion of mine. I’m honored to do so.

December 2: Making good progress on getting our garage clear enough for two of our four cars.

December 3: The Ohio State Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship. My son Ed and his pals were at the game.

December 4: New books by Casey Daniels. Her latest Pepper Martin novel features the ghost of Eliot Ness. A second novel introduces Evie Barnum, museum curator, amateur sleuth, sister of P.T. Barnum. Looking forward to reading them.

December 5: My son Ed passed his certification test the first time out and attained the rank of “professional engineer.” Our family is very proud of him.
December 6: “The Resurrection” is everything I needed and wanted from and for the Black Lightning TV series. I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt because I can’t talk about it until it airs. I will say this...I turn 66 on December 22 and watching this show has made this the best birthday and Christmas of my life.

December 7: NBC’s Better Late Than Never returns on December 11th. Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman are back for new globetrotting adventures.

December 8: My “other daughter” Giselle is moving to NYC tomorrow. I’m going to miss her, but I’m excited for her. Here’s wishing her great happiness and success.

December 9: Planning a getaway, which could be between one and four days. Not even my family will know where I am. Because what happens in (redacted) stays in (redacted).

December 10: Chip Kidd. He’s arguably the world’s greatest graphic designer. I’m reading two fat books about him and virtually every page gives me something to think about.

December 11: Putting in a solid day of writing, especially after a week of little distractions and irritations. It’s all about setting priorities.

December 12: The first Lynn Stewart scene for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #5. I’m loving reinventing this character and you won’t believe what’s coming in issue #6.

December 13: Alabama elected Doug Jones to the Senate. It’s a good start, America.

December 14: The first face-to-face meeting and subsequent battle between Black Lightning and Tobias Whale in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #5.

December 15: Barb had me taste her twist on an old family cookie recipe. She made it better, so much so I asked her to make another three dozen just for me. I’m a greedy cookie monster.

December 16: Luke Cage Season One is now available on Blu-ray. I’ve ordered my set. Let’s hope we get some Misty Knight action figures and toys out of this. Are you listening, Funko?

December 17: Capeless Crusader. A new-to-me comics news site that responded to my blog on comics news sites by promising to be part of the change I sought. They have requested my comics birthdays &  historical notes & remembrances data, which I’ll be sending them in a day or two. I applaud their announcement and wish them the best.

December 18: Creating a more realistic writing schedule for myself while carving out more “me” time.

December 19: Best Wishes by Mike Richardson and Paul Chadwick. With just days to go in 2017, what a joy to read yet another contender for the year’s best graphic novel.

December 20: Thrilled to see Twitter post calling Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands my best work on my creation. Joyous over the many positive responses to this older writer’s run with the youngsters. Happy/sad to be starting the sixth and final script of the series. Anxious/excited as I wait to see where my career takes me next.

December 21: My one-day vacation. Stayed at the cool Hyatt Regency Arcade. Visited the wonderful Superman exhibit at the Cleveland Public Library. Hung out with friends old and new.

December 22: I woke up this morning at age 66 and didn’t crumble to dust. Then my son took me to Denny’s for a free birthday breakfast. Double win!

December 23: My birthday evening with Barb, Ed and Kelly. Pizza and pasta from my favorite Medina pizza place. Hooking up the Ultra HD Blu-ray player we got as a family gift. Watching Wonder Woman, my favorite DC Comics movie.

December 24: The Daily Show’s The Yearly Show 2017. A solid hour of comedy with a bite from Trevor Noah and the correspondents. Not an off moment in the show. Magnificent!

December 25: That every time someone watches Hans Gruber fall from Nakatomi Plaza, an angel gets its wings.

December 26: Recognizing and then reconciling in my own mind that treating comics creators properly is going to be a lengthy learning curve and that some people will never figure it out.

December 27: Paul F. Tompkins as Gladstone Gander and B.D. Wong as Toad Liu Hai in the DuckTales episode “House of the Lucky Gander!” Not to mention clever writing and fantastic animation. My favorite episode to date.
December 28: James Remar playing Peter Gambi on the Black Lightning TV series. He brings so much to this vital supporting role. I hope I get to thank him personally someday.

December 29: Crisis on Earth-X. Many great moments, performances and twists. Special kudos to Franz Drameh (Jefferson Jackson) for bringing home the emotional heart of this sweeping story.

December 30: Since my “fame” has outstripped my wardrobe, I ordered two suits from Men’s Warehouse in Fairlawn. The gentlemen waiting on me were fellow geeks.

December 31: The Punisher on Netflix. Gut-wrenching thriller with a satisfying ending and only a few missteps. Props to Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Amber Rose Revah.
Here's wishing all my beloved bloggy thing readers the happiest of New Years. I'll be back tomorrow with the finale of my Halloween ComicFest reviews. See you then.
© 2018 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Just so you know, there is a Misty Knight action figure.

    Happy New Year!