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

1 comment:

  1. I plan on ordering the trade paperback of Cold Dead Hands, Tony. What are your thoughts on DC having Black Lightning appearing in Detective Comics for a 2-parter in June, plus an implausible 1-shot with Hong Kong Phooey?