Monday, June 24, 2019


I have started this blog entry a couple dozen times over the past several months. Things haven’t been right with me for those months and, at the risk of sharing too much, I wanted to explain what has been going on to my friends and readers online.

None of this is a plea for sympathy, though I know many of you will send me just that. Right from the start, you should know I have a wonderful life with a wonderful family and more wonderful friends from all around the world that I ever dreamed of having.

My comic-book and other writings have been incredibly well received over the years. The Black Lightning TV series has been a blessing unlike any in my career. I think of everyone who works on the show as part of my extended family. I may have to start buying Christmas cards by the gross.

It’s been an additional blessing talking about Black Lightning, the show and my other work at conventions and libraries and schools. I have done close to a hundred print and TV interviews over the past three years. They turned out pretty good.

I’m doing pretty okay in the financial department, though, like all of us, I wish I was doing  better. Without regular work from any of the major comics publishers, I have to work at least twice as hard to make half as much. I’m grateful I’m still able to work as much as I do. Many creators of my generation aren’t writing or drawing at all. Which is a damn shame.

Physically, I’m doing decently for a guy of my age and lifestyle. My blood pressure rarely goes into even the moderate warning zone and, according to my doctor, my cholesterol is spectacular. I’m not as spry as I used to be. I need more naps. I need to lose weight. But, all in all, I should be able to keep doing the things I love for many years to come. Emotionally, well, that’s an area that is of concern to me. But I believe I am getting a handle on it and the months of depression that have accompanied it.

In January, I spent several days visiting the cast and crew of the Black Lightning TV series in Atlanta. You can read about my visit in a series of blog entries posted earlier this year. I was treated with great love and respect by everyone I met there. It ranks very high among the best moments of my life. I hope to visit the Black Lightning set more than once during the production of the series’ third season. I have a standing invitation to visit. Those amazing folks seem to be as fond of me as I am of them.

So, you may be asking, what is your problem, Tony? The problem I’ve been having emotionally, the problem that has me fighting the worst writer’s block of my career, stem from the vast disconnect between the love/respect I receive from the TV show, from the fans, from many fellow comics creators, from conventions I attend, from talks I give, from TV and print journalists who interview me...and between the almost total lack of that love/respect from the rest of the comics industry.

DC Comics kicked me to the curb a while ago. I’ve written about it previously. I’ve written about how insulting it is that the company has reduced Black Lightning, the star of a hit TV series and their most iconic black super-hero, to Batman’s support Negro. I won’t go over all that stuff here.

Many comics people think I’m on the top of the world and I cannot deny I’ve been riding high in many ways. They think I made far more money from Black Lightning than I have. They think I receive crazy cool offers to write comics and TV shows and movies. I wish all of that were true.

Despite my past problems with DC Comics, I believed I was heading for the top of the world. Early on, there had been some discussion of my becoming an adviser of some sort on both the comics and the various TV shows. I would have liked to have been able to share my ideas and knowledge with DC Entertainment. I think they would have been the better for that.

I figured it was a given that I would writing Black Lightning comic books for years to come. I figured I would be writing other things as well. I pitched some stuff that was initially well received and ultimately rejected. Even Black Lightning was off the table because DC editorial decided that their most iconic black super-hero, the one who has a hit TV show, the one who has meant so much to fans over the decades since I created him, was best suited to be reduced to Batman’s support Negro in Batman and the Outsiders. The reboot of my creation as seen in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands seems to have been written out of current continuity even before my mini-series concluded.

Lucy pulled away the football. How could I have believed it would not happen this time?

I was hurt. I have said many times that I would love to be writing Black Lightning stories until the day I die. That seems unlikely at this point, though I also thought that in the 1990s. I’m not going to speculate publicly on why things played out the way they did with DC this time around. Maybe they’ll ask me to write my creation again in another twenty years. Comics is crazy.

I figured I’d have no problem creating comics and getting work from other comics publishers. Cold Dead Hands proved I could still write great comics. They could put “From the creator of Black Lightning” on the covers of any comics I wrote for them. I could use my media and social media contacts to publicize my new comics. I was and I remain committed to showing DC Comics what a huge horrible mistake they made kicking me to the curb.

But that didn’t happen. Since I finished Cold Dead Hands, the only comics writing I’ve done is a one-page story for Marvel Comics and an eight-page story I had to pull from publication because the Ripley’s Believe It or Not people wanted changes that would have ruined the story.

Only a few other comics publishers ever contacted me. I responded. None of them followed up with me. Though that’s happened many times before, it was particularly disheartening this time.

Things that wouldn’t have bothered me in the past are now blows to my peace of mind. Despite Cold Dead Hands being set in Cleveland, despite the series being promoted in area newspapers and on local TV stations, despite the release of several trades collecting my previous Black Lightning work, not a single Cleveland comics shop ever contacted me to do a signing at their shop. People recognize me on the street, but the comics shops weren’t interested. This is why I buy my comics from a store in New Jersey.

I’ve been told there is a slander campaign against me. That’s not a new thing. It happened in the 1990s and that one was a whole lot better orchestrated than what seems to be happening now. If this is happening, and it likely is, I’m sad about it. Even as I understand that some comics creators who aren’t straight white old guys have it much worse than I will ever have it. The Dumpster in the White House has empowered the most vile elements of our society and the Internet gives them a relatively safe platform for their despicable behavior. It’s something we all live with.

For the record, I am neither insane nor undependable. I think I’m a delight to work with. I think I go above and beyond to create the best comics I can create. I think I can help publishers well beyond my writing skills. I’m a sweetheart of a human being. As you can see, my self-esteem remains intact.

The blows to my mind and soul have plunged me into depression on a regular basis. It’s a battle I have fought my entire life. It’s a battle I know how to fight. But it’s a struggle and that struggle has taken a toll on my productivity.

Baby steps. That’s the best way I can describe my battle plan for the immediate future. Right now, I’m concentrating on avoiding as much stress in my life as possible. I’m focusing on the “must-do” stuff right in front of me. Getting ready for my next garage sales. Trying to get back on track with my “Tony’s Tips” columns for Tales of Wonder. Completing pitches that I should’ve finished months ago. Planning for G-Fest and the San Diego Comic-Con. Figuring out ways to be more productive when I return Comic-Con.

One thing I’ve started doing is writing several blog entries at the same time. Even when I don’t have the time or the energy to write a complete blog entry, I can find a few minutes to review a comic book or movie. I can find a few minutes to write an item or two for entries that aren’t strictly review columns. Whenever these various items or review amount to a decent-length bloggy thing, I will post them. On some days, you won’t get an new blog entry. On other days, you might get two or more. When they are finished, I will put them online. I have missed my nigh-daily blogging and I sincerely hope you have missed it as well.

I will have much more to say in the coming weeks, especially after I get back from San Diego. In the meantime, if you want to contact me about my attending your convention, my writing for your company, or meeting with me at G-Fest or Comic-Con, please e-mail me sooner rather than later. I’ll do my best to accommodate you.

If you stayed with me through this way-too-long bloggy thing, you have my thanks. Now go find something more fun to do or read. You have earned that in spades.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.   

© 2019 Tony Isabella


  1. Tony:

    The more I think about it, the more I believe DC's decision in re.: Black Lightning might've been more of a case of corporate meddling, given the recent merger between Time Warner & AT&T. It's not fair to you, or Black Lightning and his growing legion of fans, but the attitude seems to be that someone in corporate doesn't want Black Lightning overshadowing Batman, DC's #1 star.

    Recent changes in the management wing at DC have seen, from what I understand, non-comics people in positions of authority at DC. Kinda like what Disney did with Marvel a few years back.

    Looking forward to season 3 of Black Lightning on CW in October. Have they approached you about writing an episode or two?

  2. Tony, I only know you through your writing in comics and your blog, but you seem like a helluva good guy. Sorry that the modern comics industry has gotten you down. Truth to tell, I'm not surprised. As a fan and reader of comics for more than 50 years, they've got me down, too. I just cannot work up any enthusiasm for what comics has become; the way they seemingly randomly break characters that have stood the test of decades, the way they mistreat and cast aside writers and artists like yourself and dozens of others. I really hope that you come out of this dip in your productivity and mood soon and proceed on to the best life imaginable. You certainly deserve that.

    Sean Belt