Sunday, December 16, 2018


Black Lightning’s midseason finale aired last week. I kind of sort of knew what was going to be happening in the first season of the TV series based on the character I created. That was not the case with this second season. I was constantly and pleasantly surprised by the chances the episodes took and how well the cast and writers pulled them off. Since some of you may not be current on the show, here’s our traditional warning:


The Pierce family has been put through the wringer. Jefferson lost his job as principal and saw his beloved Garfield High turned into a bureaucratic “zero tolerance” parody of its former promise, complete with metal detectors at all its entrances. Yet the moving scene where Jeff announced this to the students made it clear he’s had a positive effect on them.

Lynn, still dealing with having had to kill a man at the end of the first season, is caring for the metahumans in suspended animation. The government has its own agenda and that included bringing in a heartless monster whose science-over-humanity machinations led to the deaths of half of those metahumans.

Anissa is struggling to find balance between her own true self and her other identity as Thunder. She can be reckless and has crossed more than a few lines along the way.

Jennifer is horrified by her powers and, taken out of school, feels like a prisoner in her own home. Her love for Khalil (Painkiller) and her desire to see him freed from Tobias Whale saw both of these rebellious teens making bad choices.

Peter Gambi has enemies beyond those faced by the Pierce family, a situation which led him to fake his own death and has impacted his ability to help the people he loves most in this world. Above all else, Black Lightning has become the most out-there family saga on television and I couldn’t love it more. My creations have gone to emotional places that surprise and delight me.

Jefferson isn’t always thinking through his actions. I feel closer to him than ever. Because, as I’ve said in the past, there is a lot of me in my creation. If anything, he’s handling things much better than I would in his shoes. But I sympathize with his desperation, fear and helplessness because those feelings would be my feelings in those circumstances.

Tobias Whale has become such a formidable villain in this season. I’ve witnessed my wife screaming at the TV when he commits acts of brutality. She wants him ended. Me...I think the Tobias Whale we’re seeing on the TV series is a much better and more complex and scarier Tobias Whale than any of the versions I’ve written. Watching him do his evil is like watching a chess master.


Great new villains. Surprising revelations. Amazing performances. The best writing of any comics-based TV series. Breathtaking action sequences. Outstanding graphics and music.

Black Lightning is the best show on television. Watching it every week is like getting a new and beautiful grandchild every week. I love the series and everyone who contributes to it. Since I’m not writing Black Lightning comics at the moment - not by my choice - the show is the only version of my creation that I consider to be consistent with the character’s core values and my own.

Black Lightning will return from its midseason hiatus on Monday, January 21. If I can pull things together by then, I’ll be bringing you my scene-by-scene commentary of each new episode shortly after it airs.


Over at DC Comics...

I wish I could report that I’m writing an ongoing Black Lightning series or even another mini-series, but, apparently, DC Comics has no interest in my writing Black Lightning or any other project for them. I just hope I don’t have to wait another twenty years to be reunited with my creation.

For now, fans of my Black Lightning comic books should be on the lookout for February’s Black Lightning: Brick City Blues trade paperback. This book will feature my 1995 stories with Eddy Newell, some not remotely good stories by another writer, the Kwanzaa tale Eddy and I did for DC Universe Holiday Bash #2 and an all-new foreword by me. Readers have been asking for this run to be collected almost from the moment it ended and I’m delighted that it’s finally coming back into print.

Another worthy Black Lightning item for that month will be Scooby-Doo Team-Up #46. Thanks to the clever and often hilarious writing by Sholly Fisch, this has become my favorite DC title. I can’t wait to see what Fisch has in store for my creation.

Two other new comics with Black Lightning were also on the February schedule, but the orders on both have been cancelled. The first was The Other History of the DC Universe #1, a prose and art comic book by noted screenwriter John Ridley. I was intrigued by this out-of-DCU-continuity series and even ordered a copy.

Why were orders cancelled? DC must have been somewhat impressed by it, having bought the cover of the Previews catalog to showcase it. Then...something happened. Several online pundits have speculated on the why of this. Theories include the disastrous launch of DC’s Black Label imprint and the uncomfortable fact that Michael Davis pitched a similar project to the publishers several years ago and had it rejected by the company. I’m not remotely in the DC loop, so I’ll just wait and see how it plays out.

Orders were also cancelled on Batman and the Outsiders #1 and #2. This is the ill-conceived title in which Black Lightning regresses to just another Batman sidekick, despite how out of character that is for him. Official word is it was pushed back because of coming  events in the DC Universe. From where I stand as the guy who knows Jeff Pierce better than anyone working for DC, I’d be deliriously happy if this title never appears.

DC also again offered two previous Black Lightning trades. One is Black Lightning Volume Two, which features 1970s stories by writers other than me and a new introduction by me. The other one is Black Lightning Year One, of which I have a low opinion.

Not offered again were Black Lightning Volume One, which reprinted my 1977 run on the character, and Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, this year’s Isabella-written reboot of my creation. I think CDH is the best comics story I’ve ever written, so I’m disappointed it and the reprint volume were not offered again.

Unless I love Black Lightning comics not written by me, I’ll likely not comment on them. However, that’s just a guideline I have given myself. It ain’t carved in stone.


One more item. Not to be a nag, but the *official* Black Lightning credit line is “Created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden”. That’s the credit line DC Comics is *required* to use. I wrote it. DC agreed to it.

“With” was always meant to be ambiguous. Neither Trevor nor myself consider him to be a co-creator of Black Lightning. My including him in the credit honors his role as the primary designer of Black Lightning’s original costume and his other artistic contributions to my first series.

I should always be referred to as the *creator* of Black Lightning and not *co-creator*. If the ambiguity in the official credit leads you to refer to Trevor as *co-creator* that’s something that I can live with me. He’s my brother and my friend, someone I want to work with again. Indeed, he was my first choice to draw both my second Black Lightning title in 1995 and Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands.  I’ve asked him to draw the cover of my Black Lightning and My Road to Diversity book-in-progress.

Going forward...

“Black Lightning Beat” will be appearing regularly in this bloggy thing of mine. Even without me writing new Black Lightning comics, there’s always news and cool stuff to report. Look for the another installment very soon.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


1 comment:

  1. Yeah I like this Tobias. My only complaint with the show is I'm not sure they know what to do with Lynn now. The writers could certainly use her better. Also the music can sometime overwhelm my old man ears. But I still really enjoy the show.