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

1 comment:

  1. Tony,

    I think I speak for my peeps in upstate NY when I say we'd be happy to have you visit us someday. Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands is flying off the shelves in the hometown comics shop (if but because the owner routinely underorders books, not anticipating reader response). We'd be honored to have you come to Albany or Troy.