Monday, March 4, 2019


On the exceedingly rare chance you have stumbled into this blog of mine by happenstance and with no knowledge of who I am, allow me to introduce myself. I’m a 46-year veteran of the comics industry. I started my career in 1972 working with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Sol Brodsky. I have been published by multiple comics companies. Some of my creations have made it to the big and small screen. I’ve also written books on comics history, co-written prose novels, and spoken at libraries and schools. I’ve done a lot of stuff.

Most pertinent to today’s blog, I’m the creator of Black Lightning. Not the co-creator. The creator. We’ll be getting into that in tomorrow's bloggy thing.

What I try to do in this ongoing feature is pull together as much Black Lightning stuff as I can. These are items that don’t require an entire blog to themselves, but which are important nonetheless. I’ll tell you how you can get involved in this work in tomorrow’s bloggy thing.

February saw the long-awaited publication of Black Lightning: Brick City Blues [DC Comics; $19.99]. This trade paperback collects the eight issues of Black Lightning I did in 1995 with Eddy Newell and the black-and-white ‘Twas the Night Before Kwanzaa” story we did a few years later. Up until my most recent Black Lightning series, I considered the best writing I’d ever done for Black Lightning and, for that matter, comics.

My new introduction to the book covers the year I spent researching the real-life Brick City neighborhood of Cleveland before I began writing the new series. It covers my discovery of Eddy Newell at a Cleveland comics convention. It skirts over my being fired from the title by a rodent-like editor and, at that time, the latest in a series of DC or employees thereof, failing to keep their agreements with me. Ask me about that sometime.

Today, having reread those stories, I just want to celebrate that I got to do them and got to do them with my brother Eddy. The new costume in this series, as well as the general atmosphere of these stories, is all praise to Eddy. He nailed the look I wanted and I never had to fret about visuals the entire time we worked together.  Would that he was still drawing comics and that he was drawing them from my scripts.

By the way, the answer to the question of “What is Tony’s favorite Black Lightning costume?” is...this one. I felt and still feel it was time to retire the disco-era costume designed in the mid-1970s by Trevor von Eeden, Bob Rozakis, Joe Orlando and myself. While I do understand the nostalgic regard for that costume, it’s not 1977 anymore. My mantra is “Always forward!” That should be the mantra for Black Lightning as well.

Digression. DC Comics is in a state of flux. There is no guarantee Black Lightning: Brick City Blues or my other BL trades will remain  in print. If you’re interested in Black Lightning, Black Lightning Volume 2 or Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, I advise buying them now while they appear to be readily available.


There’s one another DC Comics publication I can recommend to Black Lightning fans today. Scooby-Doo Team-Up #46 [$2.99] features Black Lightning in “Justice, Like Lightning...” It’s written by the most excellent Sholly Fisch, who has a knack for hilarious stories that treat their guest stars with respect. It’s drawn by Dario Brizuela, who does an excellent job on all counts.

Check out the cover. Do I have to tell you what other Tony Isabella creation appears in this issue?


Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any other current DC comic books featuring Black Lightning for the simple reason DC doesn’t seem to understand my creation. Jefferson Pierce’s priorities are family, students and community. He would not abandon those priorities to go to work for Batman. Nor would he, as shown in a particularly weak story in DC’s Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1, abandon those priorities to sign on for Katana’s war against demons or whatnot. They don’t get Black Lightning. Which is a shame since there is a writer who does get the character. His name is Tony Isabella.

I have pitched several Black Lightning projects to DC, including an ongoing series continuing from Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. As near as I can tell, DC is simply not interested in working with me in the future. Which makes very little logical sense considering my creation is the title star of a hit TV series seen by millions more people than will read DC’s comic books. Including comics written by me. But, at least, if I’m writing Black Lightning, viewers of the series will get a super-hero with the same core values as the hero in the popular TV series.

Warning. Don’t try to figure out how DC Comics makes its decisions. It’ll just make your head hurt.

After a few weeks off, Black Lightning returns with a new episode tonight at 9pm EST on the CW. The episode is titled “The Book of Secrets: Chapter Four: Original Sin.” I don’t have any information about it, save that it is the first of the three remaining second season episodes. You can watch a preview here:

The series has been renewed for a third season. I’ll let you when that new season will launch as soon as I know.


On February 11, the Paley Center in New York presented hosted “An Electrifying Black Lightning Conversation on Good vs. Evil” with Cress Williams and Marvin “Krondon” Jones III. Friend of the blog Michael Rapoport attending the event. took photos, and sent me this report:

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of seeing Cress Williams and Marvin Jones discuss Black Lightning at the Paley Center for Media in New York City (you may have known it by its former name, the Museum of Television and Radio). It was billed as "An Electrifying Black Lightning Conversation on Good vs. Evil," and it did touch on that philosophical debate, as you'll see, but the discussion ranged over every aspect of the show.

The discussion was in the Paley Center's theatre, as part of their look at African-Americans in television as part of Black History Month. There were maybe 100-150 people there, all clearly big Black Lightning fans.

Before Cress and Marvin came out, they showed us this week's episode, a couple of hours before the rest of the country got to see it. Hey, it was Monday night - no one there wanted to miss the show, even if we weren't at home to watch! The episode played well into some of the things they were going to discuss, with Jefferson having doubts about whether he could handle being Garfield's principal again with everything else on his plate, and Tobias showing us a little bit of a softer side, through his relationship with Cutter.

Then Cress and Marvin appeared, and they launched right into the good vs. evil theme. (The interviewer was Karama Horne from A lot of it focused on Tobias - does he have any redeeming qualities? Marvin maintained he does (of course, he would think that, wouldn't he?), and said he tries to give a full portrayal, introducing nuances into the character rather than just have him be a one-note villain.

Along those lines, Marvin said his favorite episode was the one showing the relationship between Tobias and his father. (Cress said his favorite was the one where Jefferson is in a rage wanting to go kill Tobias, and Lynn has to talk him down.)

They also talked about the importance of the show from the standpoint of representation - African-American, of course, but also LGBTQ (they noted how Gambi doesn't think it's unusual in the slightest when Anissa mentions her girlfriend) to Marvin as a black man with albinism.

Other things brought up, some in response to audience questions:
Favorite fights on the show? Marvin, not surprisingly, voted for Tobias going toe-to-toe with Jefferson in Season 1. Cress said he liked one of the scenes where Anissa invades a drug den and takes down the thugs one by one, with the camera swooping through the whole thing in a single shot.

On the question of whether Black Lightning should cross over with the other DC shows on the CW: Cress votes yes - but only if the Flash, Arrow, etc. come to Freeland, as opposed to Jefferson going to Central City or wherever. Cress cracked everyone up with his idea of how people in Freeland might react if Oliver Queen were to show up: "Yo, man, that's a nice leather suit..."

Everyone is excited about the prospect of Season 3 - especially since it sounds like Season 2 is going to end on a cliffhanger. Cress hinted Jefferson may get a new uniform, though he wouldn't say whether that's because something happens to the current one.

A great time was had by all. Attached to this email are several photos I took with my iPhone. I am not a particularly good photographer - okay, I stink - but I think they came out okay.

Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to speak to Cress or Marvin and say hi on your behalf - they were led into the theatre while the rest of us were watching the episode, and security led them out as soon as the discussion was over. Oh, well. It's enough to see them help create such a terrific show every Monday night.

Oh, and Cress was asked toward the end what we can expect from the rest of this season. "War," he said. "Strap yourself in."

Thanks, Michael. I look forward to seeing you at the Big Apple Comic Con this coming weekend.

This edition of “Black Lightning Beat” is running longer than I had anticipated, mostly because I couldn’t wait to bring you Michael’s report on the Paley Center discussion. So, making one of my world-renowned seat of my pants decisions, we’re going to break here and present another “Black Lightning Beat” column tomorrow.

While you’re waiting, why not finalize plans to meet me at the Big Apple Comic Con? It’s clearing going to be big fun and it will be even more so, if you’re there, too.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I attended this event as well. I must compliment Michael Rapoport for his accurate reporting of what transpired at this event. Great job. I wonder if you're the guy I took a photo of before the event started? I plan to attend the Big Apple Con also. I can hardly wait. It's been years since I've gone to one of the cons.