Tuesday, May 11, 2021



After I posted my convention appearance requirements, I realized I might catch some flak because of my insistence I be billed as the creator of Black Lightning. Not co-creator. Creator. Since I have been wanting to write a column on creator credits, this seems like an apt opportunity to do just that.

The creator credits you see in the comic books and elsewhere are not always accurate. The comics industry, the fans and especially so-called comics journalists have adopted a writer/artist policy in listing credits. The first writer to handle the character and the first artist to draw the character inside the comic books. That’s an unfair simplification of the process. Even when the character’s publisher uses an accurate variant of this standard credit - such as “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden" - there are those who refuse to use that credit.

Why would anyone use an incorrect credit when the correct credits are being used by the publisher of a character and on a television series featuring a character? Because some people are lazy and some  are just dicks. For example, almost all the writers at Comic Book Resources fall into those two categories.

The simple writer/artist creator credit often leaves out folks who have created mightily to a character. I know from experience that Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas and art director John Romita had considerable input into new characters during my time working as a Marvel staffer. I’m certain the same is true of many other editors.

I won’t be addressing characters created by others today. Because I wasn’t in the room when those characters were created. But I will be discussing some characters I created or co-created. Not all of the characters I created or co-created just the better-known ones and ones who fall outside the usual writer/artist credits.


You knew I was going to start here. The Black Lightning credit has evolved over time and that includes my own perception of what that credit should be.

There is only one creator without whom Black Lightning could not have come into existence and that person is me. When I pitched teacher Jefferson Pierce to DC Comics, everything important about him was already in place. It was all me without any editorial input. They entered into an agreement to published my creation based on what I pitched. That the company viewed the agreement far differently than I did - as in not honoring it - does not change how the creation of Black Lightning was credited.

For the first two years or so of Black Lightning’s existence, the credit line read “Created by Tony Isabella” and no one disputed the accuracy of that credit line. Then there came a day when I inquired about buying my creation back from DC Comics. Pieced together from first-hand conversations with people, here’s what happened directly after that day.

Fearing I might sue to get my creation back, or maybe just to fuck with me, DC decided to name original artist Trevor von Eeden as a co-creator of the character. Trevor has told me of being stopped in the hall and told he was now Black Lightning’s co-creator. He did not question this. Why should he have?

One DC Comics wrote a credit line that read “Based on a character created by Tony Isabella and Trevor von Eeden,” which I’ve always assumed was yet another corporate ploy to diminish any lawsuit to regain my creation. I objected so loudly to this that DC Comics backed off that usage. That was the closest I’ve ever come to suing them.

When I signed my most recent agreement with DC Comics - they have honored the letter of that agreement - I quite possibly could have gotten my solo credit back. But I wanted to honor Trevor’s artistic contribution to my creation and I also wanted to insure he continue to benefit financially from that. I wrote and DC agreed to what is now the official Black Lightning credit:

Created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden

Black Lightning showrunner/writer/director Salim Akil put it better than anyone. When Trevor and I made a cameo appearance in the third season finale, Salim introduced us to the cast and crew. He said, and I’m going from my memory on what was an exciting and wonderful day here, Tony created these characters and Trevor showed us what they looked like. I’ve adopted that description.

Yes, the original Black Lightning costume was a team effort between Trevor, Bob Rozakis, Joe Orlando and myself, but Trevor pulled it all together. He designed the other characters from my descriptions in my scripts, descriptions which even included a crude drawing of the whale-shaped ring worn by Tobias Whale. We got a terrific look at that ring in the May 10 episode of the Black Lightning TV show. The “with” part of the official credit line recognizes Trevor’s work without denying I was the creator of Black Lightning.

I am the creator of Black Lightning. Not the co-creator. Trevor is the legitimate co-creator. Creator. Co-creator. I think those are our proper titles when it comes to Black Lightning. It’d be nice if everyone accepted that.

I went on longer than I anticipate with the above. We’ll pick this up in the next bloggy thing where I discuss Tigra, Misty Knight and some other Isabella creations. See you then.

© 2021 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Isabella really nice to read this. I always hoped you and Trevor Von Eeden would do another Black Lightning story together even an Annual or something. For my own part I would like to share an anecdote of when myself and my cousins met Mr Von Eeden at the Philadelphia Comic Con a few years ago. I share this because he had some interesting things to say that made my respect for him skyrocket. It is worth noting that he said to my cousin that he just considered himself "the original artist" and that DC "sprung" the co-creator label on him. He answered some questions and said that he "helped" draw out the original costume and referenced "like a police sketch artist" and said "Tony had lots of ideas". The one story he shared was that he had some problems with DC editors where apparently they tried to pull a chair out on him (!!) and cause him injury under the guise of "just joking" and he seemed still upset about it. I misunderstood and thought this incident happened during a Black Lightning session with y'all there and he said "No, and Tony didn't go for stuff like that" so I always remembered this even though it has been a few years and wanted to share it today. He was very generous with his time and told us about a graphic novel he did about the first Black heavyweight boxing champ before Muhamad Ali. I still think DC could even commission a short 8 page Black Lightning story written by you the creator and illustrated by trevor the original artist for one of their wal-mart anthologies or something. Anyway thank you for sharing your thoughts from your experience in the industry.