Monday, October 7, 2019


My Tony Isabella’s Authentic Black Lightning Group has launched on Facebook. Here’s the basic description:

This group is dedicated to authentic portrayals of Black Lightning, the iconic super-hero created by Tony Isabella. At present, you can only find authentic portrayals of Black Lightning in Tony’s comics stories and the TV series airing on the CW. This doesn’t mean the group won’t discuss other aspects of the character, but the focus will always be on the portrayals noted above.

The third season of the Black Lightning TV series starts on Monday, October 7 at 9 pm EST. Right now, the Facebook group has 129 members. I would love to double that number by the end of the week. The more members we have, the more we can do with the special features we’re planning to add to the page. For example: the group is currently compiling a list of Black Lightning appearances in DC Comics comics books and graphic novels. More such lists will follow, along with departments for art, merchandise and photos.

By the way, when I use the word “we” here, it’s not the editorial “we”. My dear dear friend Dionne Stallworth is the chief administrator of the group. Kendall Mathis is our dynamic designer. Other administrators include: Adam Holmberg, Herb Kinney and Neil Ottenstein. We’re all working to make the group a safe and welcoming place for fans and pros to discuss Black Lightning. I hope you’ll join us.

Do I ever run out of things to write about? Apparently not.

When I look at my “bookmarks,” I find links to several subjects I want to comment on. When I look at my desk and/or the piles of stuff on/around it, I see books, comic books, e-mails, magazines and slips of paper on which I have jotted down possible topics. My goal for today is to write about some of these topics until I reach 1500 words or so. Let’s see how I do.

Twitter is alive with a great many posts by and about Andrew Rev’s Terrific Productions. There has been the usual online kerfuffle on the initiatives and policies posted by Rev’s social media team. I am asked about Rev and Terrific a few times a week. I don’t really have any answers. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude with the hope - optimism springs eternal from the well that is my soul - that all of this turns out to be good for comics fans, comics professionals and the industry itself.

I met Rev but once many years ago. I think it was at a Heroes World convention. My vague memory is he had just bought Comico and was trying to get me to write for that company again, promising me love and low rates. I’m being needlessly snarky. I don’t think we hit it off and, at the time, I wasn’t interested in signing back on  with Comico in any form. I bear him no ill will and I’m assuming he bears me none.

I had a Twitter exchange with whoever handles their Twitter account and took the discussion private to answer their questions about my original Black Lightning agreement with DC Comics in 1976. I didn’t add any information you haven’t seen in past bloggy things on that subject. Save for this:

As good as that deal would have been in 1976 had DC honored it, I wouldn’t sign that deal today.

I'm 67 years old and in decent shape financially and physically. So while I'd certainly love to be writing comics again, I don't need comics to live a good life. I'm currently writing a whole bunch of different things. I get paid for most of my convention appearances. I feel I can be particular about what I do in comics and who I work with. Not that the industry in general has been calling me of late. We’ll talk about that in the near future. Anyway...

I hope Terrific delivers on its promotions and promises. I hope any bad feelings that have emerged in the mix get sorted out to the benefit of all parties. Beyond that, I won’t have anything further to say about the company until they start soliciting and publishing comic books. I hope those comic books are as swell as we all want them to be.

A while back, someone asked me what I thought of the portrayal of Black Lightning in DC Comics’ Injustice: Gods Among Us adaptation of the popular video game. In these stories, the Joker murders Lois Lane, hers and Superman’s unborn child, and nukes Metropolis to a fare-thee-well. In response, Superman rips out the Joker’s heart. Superman follows that up by becoming a murderous tyrant unlike any the world has ever seen. He claims he’s doing it to create a safe world. He enlists other super-heroes in his mission and often keeps them in check by threatening them. Essentially, he becomes an even bigger monster than the Joker and on an even larger scale.

This is not the kind of comic-book series I would normally enjoy. But original writer Tom Taylor told a compelling story and told it well enough that I could accept Superman and all these other folks acting insanely out of character. This is not Superman. This is not Wonder Woman. This is get the picture. They are twisted dopplegangers of their traditional portrayals. There are heroes and even villains that oppose the Super-Tyrant. The lure of this series of stories is hoping/waiting for them to end Superman.

I just read Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Five Volume 3. If Black Lightning appeared earlier in the series, he didn’t make any real impression on me. He did in this volume.

Black Lightning swears allegiance to Superman. He does it to help the people who have been forgotten in Superman’s war to consolidate his rule. As with the other characters, this is not Black Lightning as we know him. When I say “as we know him,” I am speaking of my  work on my creation and the character as seen in the hit TV series developed by Salim Akil. Our Black Lightning possess core values I don’t see in this Injustice version.

Again, all of the characters in Injustice are twisted versions of their comic-book counterparts. So it doesn’t concern me overly that Black Lightning isn’t right here. But it doesn’t please me either and I’d be happy if he didn’t appear again in these stories.

That’s the answer to the question asked so long ago that I’ve quite shamefully forgotten who asked me. My apologies.

Alter Ego is my favorite comics magazine. Edited by the legendary Roy Thomas, each issue is filled with comics history I didn’t know or didn’t know as clearly as I thought I did. Two letters in issue #159's letter column were of particular interest to me. I’ll only get to one of them this time out.

The also legendary Neal Adams wrote about false information on the sales of current comic books in the late 1960s and 1970s. Neal discussed a comics/distribution industry practice called “affidavit returns” and it was as pernicious as he says.

General distributors didn’t want to go to the time and expense of shipping unsold comic books back to the publishers, who would not have had any place to put them anyway. They didn’t even want to pay for someone to strip the covers or logos from the unsold comics as proof the comics didn’t sell. What they were willing to do and eventually allowed to do by publishers, was report the number of unsold comics to the comics publishers and promise (with fingers crossed) those unsold copies would be destroyed.

I was a comics retailer from 1976 to 1989. The local distributor from whom I bought magazines and comic books was fairly honest when it came to destroying the unsold comics, though likely not honest when it came to accurately reporting the number of unsold comics. Many such regional distributors were not.

As Neal accurately reported, these supposedly destroyed comics were sold to comics dealers as the same time and very often before the comic books were distributed to drug stores, newsstands, supermarkets and other outlets. The dealers and distributors were stealing from the comics publishers.

There was another element to this wholesale larceny. In my neck of the woods - and I’m talking woods large enough to encompass my own Ohio and its neighboring states - boxes of comic books would “fall off the truck” at the printers. This became a real problem for Cleveland area comic shops when a comics dealer set up at comic book flea markets on Sundays, before the comic shops even got the new comics. This guy would sell the comics at considerable discounts. Sometimes at discounts as high as 50% off. Whenever the dealer hit the Cleveland area, all the local shops would take a massive hit in their sales. Thankfully, someone dropped a dime on him with a comics publisher or two and put an end to his business. I’m not going to say who that someone was, but he threatened me at Mid-Ohio-Con a few months after he was put out of business. I must have lost a whole second of sleep over that.

I’m aware of one other way “affidavit returns” made their way into the marketplace. Distributors, even some who stripped the covers or logos off unsold comics to send to publishers, would then sell the comics to jobbers for as little as a quarter-cent per comic. These comics would be bagged, usually by threes, and sold to convenience stores and other outlets. If memory serves, the going price for the comics packs was a quarter.

I have no way of knowing how much harm this wholesale theft did to titles like Green Lantern/Green Arrow. But it certainly didn’t help them stave off cancellation.   

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2019 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I'd be interested in this if it was anywhere but Facebook.