Wednesday, September 5, 2018


“Overwhelmed” seems to be my default setting these days. Over the past couple years, I have had a roller-coaster’s worth of ups and downs and twists and turns. A lot of good stuff has happened for me and some not-so-good stuff as well. That’s just in my own life. Don’t get me started on the evil empire that is the Dumpster presidency.

I had “The Talk” with Saintly Wife Barb. At nearly 67, I’m in good health and quite capable of working for as long as my fingers can dance across the keyboards. Yet, one of the sad facts of the comics industry is that there are limited opportunities for me at the handful of publishers that pay decent wages.

When I started working at Marvel in the early 1970s, I worked with a number of what I now call “Depression-Era Kids.” Comics creators who grew up at a time when anyone could lose everything overnight. For creators like them, they could never earn enough money and, no matter how well they were doing, they always feared it would not be enough to take care of them and theirs.

I was born well after the Depression, at least the one referred to above, but I have much the same mindset. Which is ridiculous. Barb and I have always lived a modest lifestyle. Our financial advisers have told us we could retire at any time. But Barb, who is one heck of a pharmacist and who is devoted to her chemotherapy patients, is not ready to retire yet. And, in my case, there’s no reason I can’t keep writing until the day I die.

“The Talk” was...what does Tony do if there are no decent-paying jobs in his future? I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I've been having conversations with comics creators. The general topic is that the comics industry doesn't make sense and never has. When I take a punch to the gut, it’s usually because I forgot that sadly basic truth. I’ve told one professional friend to call me if he ever starts thinking there is logic to how the comic-book business works and I’ll hold an intervention for him.

I’ve had a good relationship with DC Comics these past few years. I cherish that relationship, but it makes no sense for them not to have me working on Black Lightning material. I created their most iconic black hero. I have proven that I write him better than any other comics writer. I have a loyal following among Black Lightning readers. Yet, at the moment, all DC Comics can think of doing with my creation is regressing him to yet another Batman sidekick.

Yes, Mike Barr’s Batman and the Outsiders was a terrific comic-book series. I’m keeping the original comics until the whole series has been reprinted in omnibus editions. But that was decades ago...and Black Lightning is now a headliner.

Is DC Comics mired in the past when it comes to Black Lightning? I see no logical reasons for moving him from the Cleveland of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands to the Metropolis of his 1970's comics. Although, if I do get to write an ongoing Black Lightning series, I will claim the current Detective Comics run takes place before my Cold Dead Hands and subsequent stories. Or completely and utterly ignore it.

People keep asking me why I so object to Black Lightning being part of a new Batman and the Outsiders team. This goes beyond my stated dislike of every super-hero in the DC Universe being treated as if they were Batman’s sidekicks and my considered opinion this hurts those other super-heroes. It even goes beyond my thinking that, for the most part, the current versions of Batman are more than a bit insane. It has to do with who Jefferson Pierce is and what are the most important things to him.

What’s important to Jefferson Pierce is: his family (including his girlfriend Lynn Stewart), his students, his community and his city. How do those priorities jibe with him dropping everything to work for a man he respects but doesn’t actually like or trust?

Digression. What was the point of that recent “Dark Days” event? To see how many twisted, and vile versions of Batman that DC could shove into one event? You’d think they didn’t like the guy.

I’m not giving up on DC Comics. I like the folks there. I think I could do great things for the company. Indeed, I’m hoping to meet with them while I’m in Los Angeles next week. I’m hoping some good news comes out of those meetings, even if it’s good news I won’t be able to tell you about right away.

I’m also not giving up on Marvel Comics, which has always honored its agreements with me. I’ve pitched some ideas to them already and am working on some additional pitches. The company seems receptive to working with me again.

DC and Marvel are the only companies I know of that pay a decent wage. I would be open to other publishers as well. You would think those publishers would recognize the value of being able to put “From the creator of Black Lightning” on comics I might write for them. That’s logical and...whoops...there I go again.

Digression. I recently wrote a script for a smaller publisher for a ridiculously low rate. Because I wanted to work with the editor and because the license was one I liked. I wrote what both he and I thought was a great script. The people who owned the license then tried to take everything “Tony Isabella” out of the script. Which is why I pulled the script. For the kind of money they were paying, I wasn’t about to let them publish a script that would no longer have been up to my standards.

Which brings us back to “The Talk” I mentioned. If I am unable to land decent-paying work in the comics industry, I’ll continue to write comics. I may not be able to bring them to the marketplace, but I’ll write them.

Yes, I know about online fund-raising platforms. You know what I’m as bad at as I am good at writing? Business. I suck at the business end of things. I also would suck at trying to divide my attention between writing and crowd-funding. I’ll never rule it out, but I just don’t think I would be successful at it.

If I can’t get paid to write comics, I’ll write other things. I’m working with a filmmaker who wants to make a horror movie I would write and co-produce. He’s doing the fund-raising for the project. I’m doing what I do best: write and be beloved.

I will be writing a number of books for Pulp Hero Press. There are seven more volumes to July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella. I am working on a book about Black Lightning and my road to diversity. I have plans to write memoirs of sorts. I have plans to collect and expand upon my reviews of monster and horror movies.

Digression. It’s alarming to realize I could do an entire book just of my previously-published reviews of shark movies. Maybe I’ll call it Blog Shark.

What else could I do to make money?

Conventions. It’s no secret that I charge most comics conventions and other events an appearance fee. It’s a reasonable fee, though I understand why some events can’t or don’t want to pay it. Still, since it’s important to me to continue to make money, almost every convention or events I do will have paid me to be there.

Charging for signatures. If you buy something from me, I’ll sign it for free. I’ll sign one item for free. After that, it’s basically two bucks per signature; five bucks each if you have the signature certified or witnessed.

Garage sales. I enjoy doing them and my customers enjoy them. They help reduce my Vast Accumulation of Stuff. I make a reasonable amount of money at them. Nuff said.

When I talk about being overwhelmed, it’s because there are so many projects and other things I want to do. I have been interviewed by one of my favorite magazines and I’ve been churlishly dragging my feet on completing what will be a major look at my career.

I have stuff to send to people who have been waiting patiently for me to send it to them. I really need an assistant.

I have interviews and podcasts on hold, waiting for me to find the time to do them. I’m hoping to get to all of them before the end of September.

And, as always, I have a bucket list of over three hundred things I want to write before I kick the bucket. A new universe of super-heroes. Comics in every conceivable genre. Novels, short stories, plays and screenplays.

Today’s bloggy thing is not the bloggy thing that you were looking for. It’s not the rewrite of my piece on why I sort of hate the Batman. I’m really hoping DC can convince me that I don’t sort of hate the Batman or, at least, offer me insights as to why they do what they do with the character.

My upcoming conventions and trips are going to delay other bloggy things as well. I have like a year’s worth of convention reports to write. I want to review the movies that I watched during the Syfy channel’s Sharknado week. I also want to review other movies, comic books, magazines, novels and more. I’m trying to find the time to get this blog back on a nigh-daily schedule.

Thanks for visiting this online self-therapy session. Now you know what goes on in my head. I hope to bring you great comic books and more in the weeks and months and year to come. I appreciate all of your support and will always try to be worthy of it.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Tony, best wishes in getting work from both DC and Marvel. With the dozens of titles each company puts out, including mini-series, you'd think they'd be chomping at the bit to have "Tony Isabella" listed on some of their covers. You know when it happens I'll be opening my wallet to buy whatever you write, including spreading the word on my blog.