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

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