Sunday, March 4, 2018


Let me tell you about my first face-to-face meeting with TV’s first Black Lightning. David Adkins. Better known as Sinbad.

The funniest sketch in the entire history of Saturday Night Live was the show’s November 21, 1992 sketch on the death of Superman. Set at a memorial service for the Man of Steel after his heroic passing in then-recent comic books, the sketch featured heroes from DC and Marvel comic books.

Sinbad’s portrayal of a somewhat shady Black Lightning, Afro-mask and all, stole the sketch. Jimmy Olsen wouldn’t let him attend the service, despite Sinbad’s claims that he and Superman were tight. (Jimmy should have known this from my 1977 Black Lightning comics in which he and Superman guest-starred.) Black Lightning gave Jimmy a couple of well-deserved electric zaps and, on leaving, purloined the shrimp Aquaman had brought to the service.

I started getting e-mails and other online messages about the show as soon as it aired. Fortunately, I had taped it to watch when my then-very-young kids and my eternally-young Sainted Wife Barb were not asleep. I watched it the next morning...

...and was literally rolling on the floor laughing out loud. Only someone who loved Black Lightning could have done such a terrific job making fun of my creation. As I would learn in later years, my friend Sinbad was one such fan.

Sinbad and I first “met” over the phone. I had seen him many times since the SNL sketch and loved his comedy. We did the usual mutual admiration thing. Then Sinbad asked me if the Black Lightning movie rights were available. He wanted to try to put together financing to make the film. He didn’t want to play Black Lightning on the big screen. He wanted to produce it. I told him that DC Comics held the rights and suggested he contact them, offering my services in any capacity should he license those rights. Alas, back then, DC wasn’t interested in making money from Black Lightning.

We spoke on the phone a few times after that. Once, he told me he was taking his son Royce to Comic-Con in search of a complete set of my Black Lightning comics. Sinbad was a comics fan. So was his son. Once, when he was appearing at a Cleveland venue, he invited me to come see his show. I had to decline, though I don’t remember why I had to decline.

Then, on January 26, I got an online message from Sinbad. He would be performing at the Cleveland Rocksino that night and wanted me to come to his show. This time, what with Black Lightning being such a big hit, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to meet this Black Lightning fan.

Despite the less-than-adequate weather and none of my family being able to attend, I drove to the Rocksino. This was my first visit to the casino. It’s not awe-inspiring, but it’s pretty nice. I hope to return when we’re past the winter weather.

When I picked up my ticket, I got the third degree from the person at the “call” window. How did I get tickets for this sold out show? How was I a friend of Sinbad? What did Sinbad have to do with this Black Lightning? Honestly, I wanted to pop the arrogant jerk in the snoot.

The usher who seated me was a different story. When I asked about the logistics of meeting Sinbad afterwards, he thought I had bought a VIP pass. When he learned I was Sinbad’s invited guest and why, he was thrilled to talk with the creator of Black Lightning. Never doubt that we comic-book fans are everywhere!

Sinbad’s opening act was a young comedian named Chase Anthony. He was pretty good. A little rough around the edges, but I can see him becoming a headliner sooner rather than later. Anthony remained on the stage while Sinbad performed, giving Sinbad someone to play off on. They made a good team. I was impressed that Anthony could also handle that role so well.

Sinbad’s act was wonderful. He started with Cleveland material that killed. Some of it might have been existing material he could adapt for any city, but most of it was Cleveland all the way. He did his homework. He went on to perform for about two hours, switching effortlessly from material about marriage to parenthood to politics and to every day stuff. With the exception of an asshat who took loud offense to his jokes about the Dumpster President, the audience loved him. If GOP-holes don’t want to feel uncomfortable listening to such comedy, maybe they should stop drinking the cyanide-laced fruit juice.

I was impressed by Sinbad’s performance and writing. I’ll never again pass on an opportunity to see him on stage. He's great!

There seemed to be a bit of a mix-up with the back stage security. I was originally told I would be brought back stage immediately. I ended up waiting with about a dozen folks who had VIP passes. After a wait of about fifteen minutes, we were all brought back stage to meet Sinbad.

The minute Sinbad saw me, he made a beeline for me and hugged me. While the other back stage guests waited patiently, we talked about Black Lightning and the comics and the TV show. We could have gone on all night, but I feel funny about keeping the others waiting for their moment with Sinbad. We talked for about fifteen minutes and then said goodbye.

Here’s some of what I learned in those fifteen minutes:

Until the TV series was announced, Sinbad had hoped that, some day, his filmmaker son Royce would make a Black Lightning movie. I like Royce already. Who knows? The crazy way my life is going, I might get a chance to work with both of them on something.

Black Lightning executive producer Mara Brock Akil used to work for Sinbad on The Sinbad Show. That was a 1993-1994 sitcom starring the comedian as a bachelor raising two orphaned children. I will track this series down. It sounds like something I’d enjoy.

Sinbad would love to appear on Black Lightning, even if all he did was a walk by scene. Hypothetically speaking, if I were to pitch a couple of second season episodes to the show, I think there would be roles for Sinbad in both of them. I’m just saying.

If I write more Black Lightning comic books for DC and legal signs off on it, I could see Sinbad appearing in a story either “playing” himself or being the model for a character.

But I’d much rather see Sinbad on the TV series. I really want to see a publicity shot of TV’s two Black Lightnings. Cress Williams and Sinbad. Come on, you want to see that, too!

One last thing. I was truly moved by Sinbad’s obvious love for my creation and my writing. He had Chase snap a photo of us and then posted it online. Seeing what he wrote about me was another amazing moment in a life now filled with amazing moments. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this third act of mine.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with a bloggy preview of The Cleveland ConCoction, the convention I’ll be attending Friday through Sunday. It’s gonna be terrific!

© 2018 Tony Isabella


  1. I remember 'The Sinbad Show'! It was very funny. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

  2. Sinbad cameoing on TV's Black Lightning would be like when Garrett Morris, who played Ant-Man once in an SNL sketch, cameoed in the Ant-Man movie.