Saturday, March 31, 2018


Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #6 will be available in the comic-book shops and other fine emporiums next Wednesday. I had the time of my life modernizing my creation for this six-issue series, thanks in no small part to the creative team working with me.

Editors Jim Chadwick and Harvey Richards gave me the best notes I have ever received in my long career. The notes weren’t remotely carved in stone. We could and did discuss them. But all of the notes were given to me to make my stories better. Not to make my stories into their stories. To make my stories better. That’s what good editors should do. That’s what many editors don’t do.

In addition to the notes, Jim and Harvey brought me in on darn near every aspect of the book. I was consulted on Black Lightning’s new suit, which ended up being based on and simplified from the suit in the TV series. I was asked to contribute cover ideas and copy. I was asked to help with the solicitation copy where I tried to use everything I’d been taught by Stan Lee back in the day. As each page of art came in, as each page of coloring came in, I was included in the discussions thereof. I was another pair of eyes on the proofreading and even invited to butt heads with standards and practices on occasion. It was a wonderful experience.

Artist Clayton Henry knocked it out of the park with every page he drew. He could handle the big bold action scenes and the more human drama with equal excellence. I’ve been told other editors are eager to get him on their books. I’m not the least bit surprised.

Color artist Pete Pantazis was equally remarkable. He brought great stuff to the pages and always did his work with an eye toward what would tell the story best.

Everyone involved in this series - relief penciler Yvel Guichet, letterer Josh Reed, Clark Bull and the DC publicity team, our legal overseers - everyone gave these six issues their best. That we received such glorious critical acclaim is something they can all be proud of.

The question I am asked most often these days, beating out “Has the TV series been renewed for a second season?” by a hair, is “Will I be writing more Black Lightning comic books?”. The answer: I don’t know at this time.

I want to write more Black Lightning comic books. I love this new take on Jefferson Pierce. I would happily write new Black Lightning stories until the day they pry my keyboard from my cold dead hands. I have pitched DC on an ongoing series, received their notes on my pitch and rewrote the pitch accordingly. I’m currently waiting to hear back from them on that.

What I can tell you is that I’m not going anywhere. Creating Black Lightning is my greatest creative accomplishment and I’m well aware of the great responsibility that comes with that. Whether I write more Black Lightning comic books or not, I’ll continue to discuss the character and what I feel is right for the character. Meaning no disrespect to DC Comics, no one is more qualified to talk about and write Black Lightning than I am. I’m not going anywhere and I will continue to post regular “Black Lightning Beat” pieces in this bloggy thing of mine.

As for the answer to the question of whether or not Black Lightning (the TV series) will be coming back for the second season, there’s no official word on that. But industry pundits are saying it’s very likely the series will be renewed and, looking at the ratings the show has achieved in this first season, I can’t imagine the series won’t be renewed for a second season...and a third season...and a fourth get my drift.

Black Lightning’s back and so am I.    
East Clark Elementary School teaches students from pre-kindergarten to the eight grade. Located on the east side of Cleveland, most of its students, teachers and staff are black. Tara Roberson contacted me earlier this week about my coming to speak to the kids. It took a bit to figure out when I could visit the school, but I accepted as soon as I got the invitation. I mean, what would my good friend Jefferson say if I had turned them down?

I was scheduled to speak to the combined grades five through eight - about a hundred kids - on Thursday, March 22, from 9 to 10:30 am. When I arrived, there was a big sign reading “Black Lightning” on the front door of the school. Ushered into the main office, I was greeted by a bunch of friendly faces. The students were already in the auditorium/gym, watching the first episode of Black Lightning.

A member of the staff asked me about the biblical-sounding titles of the TV show episodes. She was delighted when I told her one of the Black Lightning core values is that Jefferson Pierce is a man of faith. I have been delighted by how often his faith and that of his family has been referenced on the series.

When I walked into the auditorium, there were more signs and even some pictures of Black Lightning on the stage. I spoke to the kids about my background, why/how I created Black Lightning, how comic books are made and my limited non-official role on the TV series. The kids were engaged and asked great questions. The school gave me a canvas gift bag with the school logo on it. Inside, there was a t-shirt and other goodies. I’m wearing the shirt as I write today’s bloggy thing. It seemed like the appropriate attire.

One thing that stood out for me was how thrilled the students were over Black Lightning and Black Panther. I think a great many folks in comics still don’t realize how important these characters are to so many people who have not been properly represented by comics in the past. I believe that these characters work best when they’re presented in contemporary terms.

Black Panther was “woke” from the minute Don McGregor was assigned T’Challa’s adventures. I like to think I was almost as “woke” from my 1976 creation of Black Lightning. I don’t think Black Lightning and his growing legion of fans are well-served by 1970s nostalgia. The success and critical acclaim of the TV series bears this out. I also think the critical acclaim for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands is proof we can build the same success for my creation in the comic books.

Speaking for myself, since I don’t control the use of my creation, I never want to see Black Lightning again portrayed as the guy who asks “how high” when the Batman tells him to jump. I never want to see him subservient to any other super-hero, even icons like Superman and Wonder Woman. He’s his own man who makes his own decisions and he doesn’t need any hero’s okay to make them.
After I talked to the students, I was interviewed by a journalist who works for the school district. She also interviewed two of the students. Neither had read the comic books, but both said they were going to in the future. One of them said she liked to hear where I had come from because that helped her understand why I had created Black Lightning.

I stayed around a little later than planned because the principal of another school was driving to East Clark to meet me. She’s a fan of comics, anime and manga. We kind of sort of bonded over our love of Assassination Classroom. Maybe I’m just drawn to super-powered teachers.

I love talking to kids about Black Lightning and comics in general. It’s important outreach for the comics industry and it always makes me feel like I’m giving something back for the extraordinary good fortune I’m enjoying of late. If you’re a comic creator invited to speak at a school, I urge you to accept that invitation.

I have another Black Lightning-related adventure to tell you about. However, since today’s bloggy thing ran longer than I anticipated, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to read about it. Yeah, yeah, I know tomorrow is April Fools Day. I also know I’m not playing that game. Tomorrow, as always, you’ll get the straight scoop from your friendly neighborhood blogger. See you then.
© 2018 Tony Isabella

Friday, March 30, 2018


About a week ago, I spoke to students from grades 5-7, ages 12-15, at a Cleveland elementary school. I’ll be posting my report on that adventure tomorrow.

If any of the kids knew my name before I spoke to them, it was from Black Lightning. If you have read this blog with any regularity or heard me speak at comics conventions and elsewhere, you know I love talking about my proudest comics creation. I am excited and humbled to be associated with Black Lightning and to know that, without me, this now-iconic hero who means so much to so many people wouldn’t exist. No one can ever take that away from me.

I’m part of another comics legacy, that of the grand, glorious history of the Marvel Universe. To be sure, it’s a small part, but there I am, seeing Misty Knight on TV, writing introductions for hardcover collections of my 1970s Marvel stories, being invited to attend premieres and, in February, participate in a special project on the Marvel legacy.

The Marvel Legacy is more than just the great characters and great stories that have been told with those characters. It is a legacy that includes thousands of comics creators from Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Syd Shores, Allen Bellman, Stan Lee and other giants of the Joe Maneely and all the artists and writers who contributed to the variety of genres the company published in the those like Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber,  Don Heck and Dick Ayers who were there at the birth of the Marvel Age of Silver and Bronze Age talents like Roy Thomas, John Romita, Gene Colan, John and Sal Buscema, Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Ross Andru, Jim Starlin and many the creators who followed them in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s and who follow them today. The great characters and the great stories don’t exist with the great writers and artists.

I am honored to be a small part of the legacy and to have had the opportunities to know and work with other Marvel creators over the decades. When Harry Go, lead producer for Marvel New Media, asked me to come to NYC and be interviewed on camera for a feature-length documentary exploring the evolution of Marvel storytelling through the writers and artists who have created the Marvel Universe, I was on board from the get-go. It was just a matter of working out the logistics of scheduling the interview and getting me to the studio on time.
On Monday, February 5, I flew from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, arriving in mid-afternoon. Marvel had hired a car to drive me from there to the Henry Norman Hotel in Brooklyn. I was scheduled to be interviewed the following morning. Here’s the story of the Henry Norman from its website:

Born from the name of the two streets at the intersection in which it is located, the corner of North Henry Street and Norman Avenue, this former 19th century warehouse has been converted into a 50-room boutique hotel.

Surrounded by the flourishing film stages and production offices that have revolutionized and transformed Greenpoint’s industrial sector, the hotel is just down the street from the idyllic Msgr. McGolrick Park, perfect for strolling through its paved lanes, sitting on benches under its majestic grand trees, and taking photos in front of the historic bandstand and monument.

This is a very cool hotel, but it lacks three important components. No bar. No restaurant. No room service. Those aren’t deal breakers. I rarely hang out at a hotel bar and, given any options, don’t eat at a hotel restaurant or order room service. But, with the weather being frigid, I would’ve liked such options. Fortunately, the hotel did have a 24-hour shuttle service.

My “other daughter” Giselle, my daughter Kelly’s best friend since they were wee ones, now lives in New York City. She took a number of trains to meet me at the hotel. I took out to a really terrific dinner at the Little Dokebi Korean restaurant. It was a great meal and great catching up with her.

The next morning, I braved the cold to get breakfast. I should’ve asked for directions because I went the wrong way. I passed a whole bunch of warehouses and studios for Blue Bloods and The Good Fight. Admitting defeat, I walked back to the hotel and asked the shuttle driver to take me to a McDonald’s. I just needed something to eat before my close-up. Had I left the hotel and gone the correct way, I would have found the neighborhood restaurants and shops.

Marvel sent a car to bring me to the Ruby Bird Studios where I met Harry Go along with the movie’s director, producer and production crew. Since the documentary is a work in progress with a great many creators already interviewed and more to come, I’m not going to go into great detail as to Marvel’s plans for this footage. Judging by how much footage they took of me, I suspect snippets of some interviews might show up as extras on Blu-ray and DVD releases of  Marvel movies.

I was interviewed on camera for about two hours. The director had done his homework on me, reading up on me and watching panels and podcasts featuring me. We talked about my background in Cleveland. We talked about my growing up a fan of Marvel. We talked about my working in the offices in the early 1970s and my writing comics for the company. We even talked about Black Lightning and my commitment to diversity in comics. It’s the kind of interview I would love to watch if I didn’t already know all the answers. And maybe even if I did know all the answers.

The two hours were kind of grueling. I didn’t take a break when the crew did because I didn’t want to mess up the lights and the sound. It takes a lot to make me presentable.

After the interview, I sat around and shot the shit with Harry and some of the other folks. But I knew they had other interviews that day, so I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I decided to head back to the airport early.

While I enjoyed this brief visit to New York, I was anxious to get back home and back to work. Writing, especially writing comics, is what I love to do and a large part of who I am.

Though I might not know exactly what my next gig will be, figuring that out is almost as exciting as the actual writing. I’m fortunate to have a job that I truly love and it’s a job that started when I went to work for Marvel Comics in the fall of 1972.

There is room in my comics-loving heart for all kinds of comics and just as many comics publishers. But that heart never forgets what Marvel did for me. When I think of the “Make Mine Marvel” credo of my youth, it will always be with the warmest of feelings and a big old smile.

That’s all for now. I have several of these “adventure reports” to share with you, but I’ll break them up with other bloggy things as well. Sometimes the “adventure” and the “other” will be combined. That’s the case tomorrow as I once again walk...the Black Lightning Beat. See you then.
© 2018 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Black Panther Annual #1 by Christopher Priest, Don McGregor and Reginald Hudlin; Cosmo by Ian Flynn and Tracy Yardley; and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell with pencil artist Mike Feehan.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


I'll be back with new bloggy things as soon as I am able to write them. Hopefully, that will be in the near future.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


I spent the morning talking to elementary school students and their teachers. Here's what I posted on that when I got home a little while ago...

BLACK LIGHTNING! This morning, I spoke to grades 5-8 at the East Clark Elementary School on the east side of Cleveland. What an amazing bunch of engaged students and teachers. My experience there reinforced something I have been thinking about a lot of late.

Black Lightning isn't your typical super-hero. Like the Black Panther, he means so much to so many people. We owe it to the new generation of fans to present them with contemporary versions of these characters. Taking several steps back to present the 1970s version of Black Lightning to indulge the nostalgic whims of older readers or creators are the wrong steps to take.

If I do more Black Lightning comics - and I certainly would like to - I'll do my best to present the contemporary hero you see in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands and on the TV series. On my watch, you will never again see a Black Lightning who asks "how high" when a Batman tells him to jump. Making him subservient to Batman or other characters is a disservice to Black Lightning and his contemporary fans.

And if I don't do more Black Lightning comics, I'll do my best to find another way to continue the work I started over four decades ago.

As a wise man once said to Luke Cage, "Always forward."

I'll be speaking more on the above subjects soon.

I'm going to take the next couple days off to think deep thoughts, figure out my plans going forward and goofing off. I'll be back soon with more bloggy things.

Tony Isabella

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Tomorrow's bloggy thing will likely post late in the day. I had an exhausting schedule of errands and phone meetings today and, first thing tomorrow, I'll be heading to a Cleveland public school to speak to students from grades 5-7 on Black Lightning and comics in general. I only hope I can live up to the sterling example set by Jefferson Pierce.


This is it! The Last Gunfight!

RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 138h installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #151 [May 1979] has a new cover by Dave Cockrum and inker Bob Wiacek. The issue reprints “The Manhunters” from Rawhide Kid #99. The cover to that May 1972 issue was by Larry Lieber with George Roussos on the inks. Lieber wrote and draw the 14-page take and Roussos inked it.

For this printing, Marvel cut a panel from the story’s fourth page to make room for the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation. Here’s the original page:

And here’s the reprinted page:

I wrote about “The Manhunters” on August 31, 2016. You can read my comments on it here.

The total paid circulation for the previous year was a mere 98,978 per issue with the issue nearest to the filing date coming in at a lower 96,378. According to the current year’s statement...

...the total paid circulation per issue had dropped to 89,414 with the issue nearest to the filing date dropping to 83,582. If a comic did the lower of those numbers today, it would have been the fifth best-selling direct market comic book. However, back in 1979, those numbers were a ticket to cancellation.

This issue’s paid advertisements were so-so. There were full-page ads for the Sales Leadership Club, the Fun Factory’s novelty items, Fruit Stripe Gum, Aurora’s AFX racing cars, lessons on customizing cars, 100 toy soldiers for $1.75, and the Olympic Sales Club. There were also half-page ads for drafting careers, Grit newspaper sales people, a “deluxe quality movie viewer” for $29.95 and training on becoming a police officer.

There’s the usual two-and-a-half pages of classified ads. They had 23 ads from comics sellers, down five from last issue. There was also the now-standard ad selling 3 mil comics storage bags at three bucks per hundred.

This issue’s full-page Heroes World ad was for Marvel posters. The posters were $3.25 each, including postage and handling. Ordering quantities would get you better individual prices. For example, six posters would cost $12 plus a buck for postage and handling.

A full-page ad offered a year’s subscription to Shogun Warriors and The Micronauts for nine bucks combined. If you ordered the titles, you got a free Battlestar Galactica super special.

The Fantastic Four cartoon, the one that replaced the Human Torch with a robot name of Herbie, was the subject of a half-page ad. The stories were by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, The designers were by Jack Kirby.

This issue’s Outlaw Kid reprint is from Outlaw Kid #13 (September 1956). The cover is by Joe Maneely. This is the fourth appearance of “Bully’s Bluff” (4 pages), which also ran in Outlaw Kid #7 [August 1971] and #25 [December 1974]. The story was drawn by Doug Wildey.

This story is the by-now-incredibly-familiar morality play wherein the Kid mixes it up with some bullies. Said bullies try to ambush him, but are attacked by a cougar. The Kid rescues their asses and the bullies vow to change their ways. As I’ve said before, someone - and it may have to be me - should take this concept of a hero who seemingly specializes in reforming bullies and use it for a modern-day super-hero.

The “Bullpen Bulletins” page starts with Stan Lee using his “Stan’s Soapbox” column to encourage Marvel fans to write to the networks airing Marvel live-action and animated shows to tell those networks how much they enjoyed those shows. He also plugged his forthcoming appearance at Miamicon 2.

The rest of the page has a drawn-out item on an editorial meeting on Spider-Woman, an item plugging current issues of Daredevil, Thor and Micronauts and the revelation that Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter is the author of everything on the page not written by Stan Lee. That explains my disinterest in this era’s Bullpen Bulletins. I wasn’t a fan of Shooter’s Marvel writing or his management of the company. Somehow, I must have sensed his presence on these pages.

Iron Man was the star of this issue’s single-page Hostess thriller. “Brains over Brawn” has the hero defeating criminals breaking into Stark Industries with repulsor rays and Hostess Fruit Pies. Guess even bad guys get a big delight from every bite of these so-called treats. Maybe an occasional salad would have kept these guys from their misspent lives of crime.

The back cover is a full-page ad for Battlestar Galactica t-shirts, a steal at $4.99 each. A buck for postage and handling covered the buyers no matter how many shirts they ordered.

That was all she wrote for The Rawhide Kid series that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby rebooted almost two decades previously. No announcement of the cancellation is in the comic book itself, only that telling “The Last Gunfight!” title blurb on the cover.

With this bloggy thing, “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” rides off into the online sunset. But you’ve not seen the last of my writing about the Marvel westerns.

After I catch up on some other bloggy things I want to write, I’ll be launching either “Marvel Western Wednesday” or perhaps “Western Wednesday.” The former would feature a variety of Marvel westerns; the latter would expand that coverage to include westerns from the other comics publishers as well. Either way, I will include some of the Rawhide Kid appearances that happened outside of his own book or in the odd sequels to his own book.

Give me some time to burrow through my unsorted comics boxes and we’ll see what western comics I come across. For that matter, I’ll gladly accept donations of western comics, for which I will repay the sender with various Isabella swag.

My mailing address is:

Tony Isabella
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

Thanks for riding this often dusty trail with me. I’ll be back on the morrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


My fondness for British weeklies led me to subscribe to The Beano. Published by DC Thomson, it’s the longest running British kids comic. It first appeared on July 30, 1938. Each new issue comes out on Wednesday.

My shorthand description of The Beano, which is aimed at pre-teens, is that it features a number of one-to-four-page stories about the Bash Street Kids and their neighbors im Beanotown. Most of the kids are mischievous bordering on maniacal. Some of them have developed skills (like dodging work) to a nigh-super degree. One or two have actual super-powers. Most of the adults in these strips are worst than the kids.

A typical issue of Beano will have Dennis the Menace (not the Hank Ketchum character, but one who made his debut almost simultaneously with the Mitchell lad) and his dog Gnasher; Minnie the Minx, who’s said to be tougher than all the boys; Billy Whizz, the fastest boy in the world; Calamity James, the unluckiest boy in the world; Bananaman, a youngster who turns into a super-hero whenever he eats a banana; Tricky Dicky, a prankster; Roger the Dodger, a juvenile con artist and others.

Beano all has giveaway contests, joke pages, puzzles, games, reader participation pages and a cool back cover feature. If a kid sends their “menace name” and photo to the comics weekly, said kid could be chosen to appear in their own back cover comic. In the issues I have before me, the spot went to Festive Finn (who’s excited about Christmas), Monday Morning Minnie (she hates Mondays); and Chilly Charlie (who’s always cold). I should send Beano a photo of me as a kid and see if I can land that coveted back cover.

Beano #3914 [December 9, 2017] is one of three issues I set aside because I wanted to write about them today. Most of the issue’s comic strips are part of a larger story about Beanotown being invaded by giant sentient bruessel sprouts during the Christmas season. What makes this tale even more special is its guest star...
That’s right. Peter Capaldi, the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, appears in this issue as himself. Which should send Doctor Who completists scurrying to find a copy of that issue for their collections.

Beano #3915 [December 30, 2017] has a Star Wars parody with Gnasher in the lead and other Beano characters playing the other roles in the classic original movie.

There was a hilarious nod to the 1966 Batman movie in Beano #3918 [January 20, 2018]. In the Bananaman strip, the title hero has to get rid of a bomb. Yeah, they went there.

Much to my child-like delight, my Beano subscription came with a Christmas gift. The Merry Prank-Mas Kit was a little dented when it arrived, but I had more fun with its contents that an old guy like me should be allowed to have. My favorite prank was a “snake in a tube.” The others: joke ketchup, fake pencil through finger, gross teeth, cockroach sweet, fake poo, trick snot and joke gift tags. The kit was one of my favorite Christmas presents.

Two more notes. Because I’m trying to reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, I’m not saving my issues of The Beano. You’ll find them in my VAOS garage sale, which I hope to commence before the end of April. Watch the bloggy thing for more news on them.

I would like to create an American magazine with the same sense of mischief that I see in The Beano. Depending on what my schedule is like this year, I may be starting on that soon.

As always, if you want to discuss convention or other appearances or my doing a project for you, you can email me. I’ll respond just as quickly as I can.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for the final installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Then, starting on Thursday, I’ll have a bloggy or two on the Marvel Legacy and my going to New York to be interviewed on camera for a Marvel documentary.

Thanks for visiting.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Mine!, the ComicMix anthology that celebrates “liberty and freedom for all” and benefits Planned Parenthood; the delightful Bettie Page #6-8 from Dynamite; and Ant Wars, reprinting the classic 2000 AD serial from 1978!

Monday, March 19, 2018


My only remaining open-to-the-public appearance this month will be a workshop that’s part of the Cleveland Public Library and the Ohio Center for the Book’s Coffee and Comics program. These workshops are hosted by Rising Star Coffee and allow attendees to join comics creators for free coffee and instruction at the Rising Star Coffee Roastery.

I’ll be at the Roastery on Saturday, March 24, from 10-11:30 a.m. This workshop will focus on creating and developing characters in comic books and strips, including my thoughts on the importance of establishing core values for primary characters.

My workshop will be open to all ages and skill levels. Bring your drawing materials and sketch pads because there will be a test of sorts. You’ll be given a character description I wrote for one of the characters in Black Lightning: Cold Dark Hands and be invited to sketch your own version of that character.

While you’re drawing - I hope you’re prepared to multi-task here - I’ll be talking on the other topics included in this lesson plan. Will I rise to the teaching level of Gabe Kotter or Jeff Pierce? I guess we’ll find out together.

If there’s time, I will be happy to answer questions outside of the lesson plan. Likewise, if the Roastery hasn’t had enough of me by the time the workshop ends, I’ll sign one (and only one) Isabella-written item for any attendees who request this. There will be no charge for that one signature.

The Rising Star Coffee Roastery is at the Hildebrant Building, 3617 Walton Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. For more information, call the literature department at 216-623-2881.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a new bloggy thing.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

August, 2017. Marvel Comics has brought Tony Isabella to New York City for a special screening of The Defenders series that will soon debut on Netflix. His adventures continue...

I arrived at the ABC Building on West 66th Street and was directed to the 22nd floor. The screening was a special event for creators and families of creators who contributed to the show. Among those present were Arvell Jones and his wife Wanda, Larry Hama, Michael Gaydos, Martha Thomases and the wife and family of the late Archie Goodwin. I also met and chatted with Marvel’s Tom Brevoort, David Bogart and Brian Overton. Good people one and all.

The screening room was on the small side. My estimate was that it could hold less than a hundred people. We saw the first episode of The Defenders.

My initial reaction to that first episode was only slightly mixed. I thought almost all the principals - Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Mike Colton - were at the high level set by their star turns on Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. I thought Finn Jones (Iron Fist) wasn’t on the same level, but he did get better later in the later episodes of the eight-episode series, especially when he was interacting with the other leads.

Overall, having watched the entire series, I think Defenders was a good but not a great show. Sigourney Weaver was real scary as the “big bad” until she wasn’t the “big bad” anymore. Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao delivered a better and more nuanced performance than her fellow Hand members. Supporting players Jessica Henwick, Rosario Dawson, Eldon Hensen, Simone Missick, Rachael Taylor and Deborah Ann Woll were all excellent.

Where the show faltered was when smart characters did really dumb things to advance the plot and where the Hand hierarchy overplayed the melodramatic villain stuff. I know there are those who contend that bad choices make good stories - and I don’t necessarily find fault with that - but dumb choices infuriate me.

After the screening, Arvell, Wanda and I went to the Europan Café, which was just around the corner from the ABC Building. The Jones couple are among my favorite people, so I was glad for the chance to spend some additional time with them.

I would be flying back to Cleveland early Saturday morning. On my own for the rest of Friday, I decided to return to the AMC 25 and see another movie I had been wanting to see Spider-Man Homecoming. As with Atomic Blonde, the theatre showing it was on the top floor of the six-floor multiplex.

As I rode the escalator to the sixth floor, two young women ahead of me kept looking at me with puzzled expressions on their faces. When we got to the sixth floor and when they saw me heading to the Spider-Man showing, they figured it out.

THEM: You’re that comic-book guy!

ME: Huh?

THEM: You’re Black Lightning!

ME: He’s darker and taller than me.

THEM: No, you’re Tony Isabella! You created Black Lightning!

They were pretty excited to meet me, but I was just as excited to have been recognized by two young women who were probably a third of my age. They were avid comics fans and were looking forward to Black Lightning. We talked for maybe fifteen minutes - I try to get to my appointments early - and then took our seats.

Spider-Man Homecoming was nothing short of terrific. Tom Holland did a fine job as Peter Parker. Michael Keaton was even better as the Vulture than he had been as Batman. Marisa Tomei was a little unnerving as the hottest Aunt May of all time and because Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark was perving on her, but I have enjoyed the actress’ work for many years.

Director Jon Watts and six other writers delivered a solid story. The interactions between Peter and Tony were great. Peter’s making mistakes due to inexperience and youth worked for me. I’m already eager to see the next Spider-Man movie.

After the show, I chatted with the young ladies again. They liked the movie as much as I did. Then they invited me to hit some bars with them and did so in a provocative manner. This is what went through my head.

If you combined their ages, they were probably still twenty years or more younger than me. If you combined their ages, they wouldn’t have been on this planet more than three years more than my happy marriage to Sainted Wife Bath has lasted. And, in all probability, they might have been looking for someone to buy drinks for their very likely underage selves. The suspense builds.

What did I say about choices? If you haven’t been paying attention to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, I’ve not only been writing a younger Black Lightning than any other incarnation, but he’s also smarter than any other Jefferson Pierce. That’s right. He’s smarter than my original 1970s version. He’s smarter than my 1990s version. He’s smarter (though perhaps not as inspiring) than the CW’s version of the character. Some of my new Jeff rubbed off on me as I was writing the six-issue series.

I made a lame (worthy of Clark Kent) excuse that I had a very early flight in the morning. The young ladies were disappointed, but we parted as friends we’ll probably never see again.

I went back to the Econo Lodge and changed into a more comfortable t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt was one of my Pop’s Barber Shop t-shirts, based on the Luke Cage series. I wasn’t full meal hungry, nor was I ready to go to bed. So I went to one of the neighborhood bars. That was a good choice.

One of the other customers recognized my t-shirt. He and his pals and I talked comics, politics and sports. They liked several of the comics I liked. They were interested in Black Lightning. They were pretty much in sync with my own politics, which didn’t surprise me in New York City. They were impressed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most importantly, they were Mets fans. Damn Yankees!

I dined on bar food while drinking a beer and several soft drinks. This was a new experience for me. I seldom go to bars and usually don’t go to them unless I’m with friends. I blame the corrupting influence of Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer.

I got a decent night’s sleep. After a day or two, the constant New York background noise doesn’t keep me awake. I got up in plenty of time to pack and catch a cab to the airport. My uneventful flight left on time. Before long, I was back in Medina.

I want to thank Marvel Comics for bringing me to New York for the screening. I cherish my relationship with the company. Maybe I’ll write comic books for them again someday and maybe I won’t. But I love being part of the Marvel legacy. Which will be the subject of my next trip report.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a short bloggy thing on my next public appearance. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Time travel alert! The Wayback Machine has been set for Wednesday, August 9, 2017.

Marvel Comics invited me to New York for a special screening of its Defenders series, scheduled to be released on Netflix on Friday, August 18. Misty Knight, who I co-created with artist Arvell Jones during our brief 1970s stint on Iron Fist, would be featured on the series. For that reason and because I’m as big a Marvel fan as the next fan, I accepted the invitation readily.

Even though I’ve done all of my most recent comic-book writing for DC Comics, I remain on excellent terms with Marvel. I’ve written introductions for a number of Masterworks and Omnibus editions. Marvel always kept its agreements with me and I’m still thrilled to be associated with them, even in small ways.

Because I wanted to give myself a relaxing mini-vacation, I flew in a couple days early. This would let me meet up with some dear old friends and wander my old NYC neighborhood a bit. Back in the day, I lived in a somewhat seedy (and boarding on sleazy) hotel so close to Times Square I could see the Great White Way from my penthouse rooftop. Don’t be too impressed by the “penthouse” description of my apartment. It was a one-bedroom apartment that was a penthouse only by virtue of it being on the rooftop of the hotel.

Living in that apartment was an exciting adventure up to the point where I got mugged in it. I’d come home from an evening out with a lady friend to find that two men had broken into the place and were still there. I scored a few punches to good effect, but mostly got the crap beat out of me. I’ll tell you more about the hotel and my time in New York when I get around to writing my memoirs of sorts. To sum up, the hotel and surrounding buildings were torn down and a Crowne Plaza hotel stands there today.
As I had done when I came to New York for the premiere of the Luke Cage show, I stayed at the Econo Lodge Times Square on West 47th at 8th Avenue. The rooms are really tiny, but it’s a decent place with a decent continental breakfast in a neighborhood that, though much changed from when I lived nearby, I knew well.

After spending decades in the way too Republican and way too white Medina, it was a joy to be able to walk a block and hear several different languages and inhale the smell of trucks offering food from just as many cultures. I needed (and still need) more color in my life. Once Sainted Wife Barb retires, I want to move somewhere that fills that need for me. Unfortunately, unless I see some huge, ongoing cash from the Black Lightning TV show, I could never afford to live in my old neighborhood. Sigh.

My Wednesday night dinner partner was Jim Salicrup, editor-in-chief at Papercutz. Jim and I go back decades. In 1972, he was one of the first to welcome me when I started work at Marvel in 1972. We had dinner at the terrific Virgil’s Real BBQ restaurant on West 44th. One of the best things about my old stomping grounds is that there are more great restaurants than I could possibly eat at even if I stayed for a year.

From Virgil’s, we went to Midtown Comics at Times Square. It was my first visit to the landmark comic-book store, which is one flight up from the street and occupies two huge floors packed with all sorts of comic books, graphic novels and related items. I managed to resist buying all sorts of the above, but it was a close thing that took all my will power. It’s a great place and - hint, hint - I would love to do a signing there sometime. Whatever it would cost Midtown to bring me out there for a signing, the store would likely get back from me as a customer.

We wandered to Bryant Park and continued to chat about comics and old friends and such. Jim is one of my favorite people and I wish we could see each other more often.

When my Thursday lunch plans fell through, I took a stroll that led me to the Hard Rock Café. I had a good lunch with a side order of conversation, courtesy of actress/waitress Olivia. It was slow at the restaurant, so we talked about our respective careers. It was a good way to kill an hour or so.

From there, I went to the AMC 25 to see Atomic Blonde, a movie I’d wanted to see but which had left my local theater before I got the chance to see it. Based on the Oni Press graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston with illustrator Sam Hart, the Cold War-era thriller was directed by David Leitch and starred  Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman and Sofia Boutella. Here’s the quickie synopsis from the Internet Movie Database:

An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

The movie was...okay. More action-oriented than the graphic novel, the action was where the film was most entertaining. Director Leitch didn’t make as good a use of the exotic settings as he could have. The twists and turns in the plot often slowed down the film. The acting, save for Theron and Boutella, didn’t impress me. Still, I think the movie is worth seeing just for the action scenes.

I was actually more impressed by the theater itself. Six stories of  screening rooms. Comfortable seating. A snack bar on every floor, though only two were open that afternoon. I can’t say Atomic Blonde was worth the $13.29 price of my ticket but I was impressed enough by the AMC 25 itself that I hoped to see another movie there before I flew back to Medina on Saturday.

Thursday dinner was another wonderful time. I visited Larry Lieber, the legendary Marvel writer and artist, at his apartment. We went to The Three Star on First, one of the neighborhood eateries for another terrific meal.

Larry is another of my favorite comics folks. We became friends and worked together while I was on staff at Marvel. While a freelancer, I did some work for him at the 1970s incarnation of Atlas Comics. We’ve kept in touch as much as possible, but this was the most time we’d spent together in decades.

What didn’t we talked about that evening? Larry told me about his life since we’d last met, the novel he was writing, a short story he did write which might be one of the most moving romance stories of all time and his penciling the syndicated Spider-Man newspaper strip. At 87, Larry is as creative, fun and interesting as he ever was. Like his brother Stan Lee, he was and remains an inspiration to me. I’ll see him again later this year.

Friday morning saw me rise early to stroll my old neighborhood. Gone is the seen-better-days hotel I once lived in, replaced by a huge Crowne Plaza Hotel. Most of the street I lived on has changed. The gigantic Sam Goody where I bought so many albums is gone, but the Eugene O’Neil Theater - owned by writer Neil Simon - is still going strong. Much to my surprise, a second theater is now across the street from it.

One of my favorite New York moments of the trip was seeing the trio of t-shirts pictured above. There were in the display window of one of those quintessential Times Square souvenir shops, just around the corner from the Econo Lodge. I was sorely tempted to buy the third shirt because it literally made me laugh out loud. I passed when I realized I couldn’t even wear it in my own house without upsetting Sainted Wife Barb, who thinks I’m way too antisocial even without advertising the sentiment.

I flagged down a cab and headed to the ABC Building on West 66th. My destination: the special screening of The Defenders that was my reason for this trip. I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you about that screening and rest of my time in New York.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Friday, March 16, 2018


For those of you just joining us...


My name is Tony Isabella. I do not own a mansion and a yacht, but, I would love to own a mansion. Especially if it comes with a wacky yet endearing staff.


I am a going-on-46-year veteran of the comic-book industry. I’m the creator and writer of Black Lightning, co-creator of Misty Knight and Tigra, and a writer of Captain America, Champions, Daredevil, Dracula, Ghost Rider, Grim Ghost, Hawkman, Iron Fist, the Living Mummy, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Star Trek and many others.

Like Superman, I was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was an editor and writer at Marvel Comics and other publishers. At DC Comics, I created Black Lightning, the company’s first prominent African-American super-hero.  I co-wrote the prose novels Captain America: Liberty’s Torch and Star Trek: The Case of the Colonist’s Corpse. I’m the author of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, one of the most successful books of comics history and nostalgia ever, and the odd-but-strangely-wondrous July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume 1.  I was the lead reviewer and also a contributing editor of Comics Buyer’s Guide for over two decades.  I was a comics retailer and distributor for twelve years. I have  been a ghost-writer for several syndicated newspaper comics strips. I received the Inkpot Award at the 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego and a Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. Cleveland Magazine named me one of that city’s most interesting people of 2018.

My most recent comics work is the six-issue Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, marking my return to my creation. I write the mostly daily “Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing” and the weekly “Tony’s Tips” review column. I lecture at colleges and such on comics history, comics writing and diversity in comics.  While developing several new projects for comics, movies and more, I am writing books that include both a “memoir-of-sorts” and compilations of my writings on comic books and his beloved B-movie monsters.

Perhaps most notable...Black Lightning is now a weekly, live-action series on the CW. The show has drawn much of its inspiration from my comic-book work on the character.

I have heard of something called “retirement,” but it is an alien concept. I live in Medina, Ohio with my pharmacist wife Barbara. Our all-grown-up children are Ed and Kelly; Ed is a professional engineer and Kelly is a credit card fraud analyst. I have a cat named Simba. Except for the cat, they all have much better and saner jobs than I have. The cat doesn’t need a job. She has me.


If you’d like to see me at a comics convention or some other event,
here’s my schedule for the remainder of 2018.

March 24: Cleveland Public Library Coffee and Comics

April 27-29: East Coast Comicon

May 5: Toys Time Forgot (FCBD)

May 18-19: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

June 8-10: Fingerlakes Comic Con

July 13-15: G-Fest

August 17-18: TerrifiCon (Connecticut)

August 19: NEO Comic Con (North Olmsted)

September 8-9: Hall of Heroes Museum

September 28-30: Baltimore Comic Con

November 3-4: Akron Comicon

November 9-11: Grand Rapids Comic Con

November 17-18: Great American Comic Convention (Las Vegas)

To answer a FAQ, I am not adverse to adding events to my schedule. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

To answer another FAQ, I won’t be at that convention you would like me to be at because either I haven’t been invited to it or because the event was unable/unwilling to meet my requirements for being a guest at said event.

To answer yet another FAQ, I’m not currently planning to attend San Diego’s Comic-Con International. That’s an expensive event for me to attend and I can only attend when either the convention itself or one of my clients covers my expenses.


Why not?


If you would like to have me as a guest at your convention or other event, you must invite me and meet my requirements for appearing at your event. Though I’ve made exceptions in the past and will make them for a small number of shows dear to my heart, my requirements do include hotel expenses, travel expenses, sufficient table space and placement for me to sell and sign items, per diem for food and incidentals and an appearance fee. I am a great date, but I am not a cheap date. I don’t think I’m a terribly expensive date, but every convention or event promoter has to figure out if I can fit into their budget.

Many conventions have a problem with paying comics guests. Some of those have no qualms about laying out cash for some minor movie or TV actor. I cast no aspersions on their business models, but I do believe that paying comics creators will be standard business practice in a few more years.

If a convention or event meets my requirements, I will appear on up to two panels a day if they are not back to back. I will promote my appearance and their event on my social media. I will be available if their local print newspaper, radio station or TV station wants to do an interview. Most importantly, I will not charge the fans for my signature on their Isabella-written items.

If you are a publisher or filmmaker who wants me to write for you, you should contact me with as many details as you feel comfortable revealing to me. I am not looking for “back-end deals” that may or may not pay off on that back end. I have a great many projects of my own that I can work on and that likewise have no guarantee of a payday. I only put those aside for the paying gigs.

If you are a convention/event promoter or a client looking to hire me for a project, the best way to contact me is via e-mail. I will respond to your e-mail as swiftly as possible.

If “How are you still around?” is the question you want to ask, I can only repeat what I’ve told fans and fellow comics creators when they’ve asked that.

I’m still around because I refused to go away despite the efforts of several disreputable comics industry people and despite my two decades of struggle against their breaking of agreements and their slanderous comments. I kept writing and getting paid for what I was writing, even if my name wasn’t on it. I kept a visible presence on the Internet. I wouldn’t go away.

Thanks for indulging me today. From time to time, I find it useful and necessary to post something like today’s bloggy thing. I’ll be back tomorrow with something that’s hopefully a lot more fun than what I wrote today. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Michael Ryan, Ph.D, who is the head vertebrate paleontologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, contacted me a while back in the hope I could help him locate the houses where legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang lived in Fremont, Ohio. With the help of some comics history geniuses, I was able to provide Michael with the addresses.

Michael visited these houses with a friend. Michael has hopes that Fremont will honor Sprang in the future, but, for now, I'm not including the addresses of these houses.

My planned bloggy thing report on my August 2017 trip to New York for a special screening of the Defenders series on Netflix is still in the works. I put it aside because I had other pressing matters to deal with and because I wasn't thrilled with how it was coming out. I'll get back to it as soon as those pressing matters are dealt with. Thanks for your patience.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.