Robot 6

Tony Isabella on DC’s new Black Lightning: ‘Words fail me’

Brett Booth's Black Lightning character design

Black Lightning co-creator Tony Isabella, whose relationship with DC Comics can be kindly described as contentious, would like you to know that, yes, he’s seen the announcement about the character’s reintroduction in DC Universe Presents — and, no, he doesn’t want to comment on it.

“You don’t have to e-mail me, private message me, phone me, or post links on my Facebook page,” he wrote on his blog. “My only public comments to date have been ‘Words fail me’ and, to my friend Dan Mishkin, ‘Forget it, Dan. It’s DC Town.’ But, really, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about Black Lightning and DC’s continued refusal to honor its agreements with me, and if you have half a brain, you already know how I feel about the news.”

Mishkin is, of course, co-creator of Blue Devil, who’ll share the spotlight with Black Lighting, as well as co-creator of Amethyst, who will anchor the upcoming Sword of Sorcery anthology. He’s already spoken publicly about the relaunch of Amethyst, telling Comic Book Resources he thinks “what they’re setting out to do isn’t worth doing” because of central changes DC is making to the character. His former collaborator Gary Cohn was more blunt, saying, “I really don’t have anything to say about Amethyst that I haven’t said many times before, except maybe, R.I.P.”

Isabella has long contended he’s the sole creator of Black Lightning, a character who wasn’t introduced under a work-for-hire agreement but rather a partnership between he and DC. It was only after he sought to buy out the publisher’s interest in the character following the cancellation of the first series in 1978 that he says DC declared artist Trevor Von Eeden as Black Lightning’s co-creator.

The new Black Lightning will debut alongside the new Blue Devil in October’s DC Universe Presents #13. The five-part story by Marc Andreyko and Robson Rocha will team the two disparate heroes in a scenario the writer has likened to Lethal Weapon and Moonlighting.



Did not know Black Lightning was yet another example of corporate greed. Noted. And a little more depressed.

Amethyst seems to be legally and morally theirs at least, in the sense that any selling of intellectual property from its creators is ok*. Even if the original creators don’t like what DC is doing.

*With all this comics creator stuff, and the bullshit in Silicon Valley, I’m beginning to think that transferrable copyright (not the technical term) is just plain wrong. Maybe there should only be licensing agreements, and the copyright always goes to the creators, and is theirs until it goes public

@Matt: Personally I definitely see it that way. I think the notion that someone other than the person who creates something should own it is, quite frankly, absurd.

Other reason on why I can’t stand the Nelson/DiDio/Lee/Harris regime.

What DC is doing to Isabella with its Black Lightning reboot seems like theft. The whole of the new 52 is a train wreck. — all marketing and no meat.

Waiting for the usual suspects to defend DC, and tell us how this acceptable, and somehow Isabella’s fault for not having the money to take on a corporate titan.

Hopeless Savage

July 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

DC has done more in the last year to push away former creators and fans than any other company in the history of comics. I respect and admire some of the creators that currently work there, but the work coming from the company itself feels too much like Wildstorm/Image versions of the characters we love and it stinks of the worst the 90’s had to offer. Wildstorm had some good work, don’t get me wrong there, but I am speaking more of the aesthetic sense and the seeming taboo that is having characters who aren’t in their 20s or younger. In my mind, DC died when Flashpoint hit and I’d rather remember it that way than accept the reality they’ve given us.

I like Hopeless Savage’s comments.

Billy The Cat

July 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Don’t forget the comments Dan Mishkin made over at The Beat !

“Hey, Tony,
When this book comes out, maybe we can go on the road together. Call it the “Black & Blue” tour, show off our bruises!” !!! says it all really !!!

very easy to defend DC , don’t sign the contract and/or take their $$
How can you possibly feel bad for someone who took the $$ , and knew what he was signing , when he signed the deal-


Andreyko does really well here ,we sold Manhunter better then any other store in our area , we killed with it

Chuck Melville

July 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Wasn’t Isabella’s point that DC screwed him on the contract? That it wasn’t the standard work-for-hire, but that they found a loophole to keep from giving him what he was owed? (IP rights as well as money, that is.)

@Everybody who posted so far

I think it’s time for one, sweet, grand thing to happen this year:

Coup de’tat in mainstream comic book company management. Who’s with me? VIVA LA REVOLUCION!

I’m assuming Tony Isabella always had some special provision in his contract for Black Lightning… otherwise, wouldn’t that character have been on the Superfriends instead of stand-in Black Vulcan?

Two things I don’t like, that I commented on the DC blog:

1 – The new Black Lightning looks almost identical to Marvel’s new Power Man, though I love Brett Booth’s stuff.

2 – Since Isabella is still alive and able to write, AT THE VERY LEAST let him and pay him to consult or, even better, write it himself. Black Lightning has worked best under his creator. I don’t know what politics are behind it all but let the guy have a swing. He’s created better stuff than most of us could ever dream of.

Rollo Tomassi

July 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Vote with your wallets, people.

It would be nice of D.C. to create some good will and do the right thing. I hate when things like this happen to creators. Whether I personally like the characters or not is unimportant. Hopefully this is another example of what can happen when you enter into a gentleman’s agreement. Get an attorney and make sure you have a contract in writing. If you’re a creator and you have confidence in your skills as a writer or artist, then invest in yourself, by investing in an attorney.

Slight problem with that logic–for every one person who chooses not to buy this, another two will swoop in. P.T. Barnum had a saying for that: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

@Hopeless Savage

I concur 100%. But I take it a step further – some of the creators that currently work there deserve disdain. Specifically the Before Watchmen group – which are creators, not corporate lackeys, yet they are actively perpetuating the “screw the creators” trend

I’m sorry that Tony Isabella isn’t on board with this
but I’m gonna ck it out anyway. If it’s good ill finish reading it.If not then I’ll stop.

While I’m a fan of Isabella, I do have a problem that everyone takes his story as is so often.

Von Eeden did design the character from the get go after all. Keep in mind that this battle isn’t just a fight between Isabella and DC, but also Isabella cutting out the person responsible for the visuals of Black Lightning.

In the end, I think it’s telling that Isabella never at any point took DC to court over the issue means he has very little legal ground to stand on here.

Tony Isabella should be happy that DC is giving Tony Isabella a chance to remind people that Tony Isabella is still around. When was the last time he was relevant? Such a talented creator should have a nice, fat catalogue of creator-owned characters and IPs.

Brett booth is terrible.

“In the end, I think it’s telling that Isabella never at any point took DC to court over the issue means he has very little legal ground to stand on here.”
Yes because taking a huge corporation with deep pockets owned by a larger corporation with deeper pockets is so easy and inexpensive to do.

Work. For. Hire. Contract.

If Isabella and Mishkin haa a legal way to get the characters they created back under their ownership, then it would have happened by now. I’m all for creator’s rights, but it’s been DECADES!!!

I love how hes saying how DC screwed him while hes saying the Artist had nothing to do with its creation. Trying to cut out the man who created the look for Black Lightning is equally wrong, I’d say more so.

I hate this Blue Devil redesign. Too much chains….

I find it funny that people think DC is the devil for working with these characters that were created for them without the consent of the writers. The creators did create these characters, but they created them for a company that was paying them and spending the money to put these characters in print. Countless other writers and artists continue developing these characters. Claremont did a hell of a lot more to make me interested in the X-Men than Stan Lee ever did or could.

If the creators of Amethyst, Black Lightning and Blue Devil are not asked to consult on the re-imagining of these characters then they can get upset all they want but the comic companies are completely within their rights. I don’t understand why this is such an issue all of a sudden. Characters have been re-imagined and written differently by different writers since comics began.

I’m not a fan of big corporations getting all the money and the employees getting screwed… but these guys were getting paid when they were actually doing the work and they knew that these characters did not belong to them. If they are so upset that this amazing character they are apparently “SOLELY” responsible for the popularity and longevity of is being used by other people, then by all means use that magic to do it again and make sure you keep the rights.

You have to understand the psychological component for their reasons why–sometimes the creators become attached to their own creations.

only creators should own comic book characters and companies.

and last time i checked, DC was owned by Warner. this auto = money, …enough money to not really be paying out anything to publish, as Warner funnels money to DC to defend superman in court. when superman does not, and has never made more money than batman, nor has he made near enough money, to warrant the amount of bank it takes to legally defend him. this = DC is NOT, and NEVER HAS taken a “risk” to publish anything.

they knew superman and black lightning would eventually make them some money. they lied to the creators, and swindled them. for money. they then deserve to be run out of business. ..creators create. corporations cant draw or write. they allow superman to be written to factually be a hero, then they repeatedly show themselves as a corporation to be about what superman hates most, greed. the villains of the story.

is it just me or does Blue Devil look like a Bondage Queen?

marc andreyko

July 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm

jerry jacobs, send me ur store info and i’ll send you a bunch of signed books. you can sell em, give em away, whatever you’d like! and thanks for the support and kind words!

Pretty much figured that was going to be Isabella’s reaction even before I read the article. The guy always seems to be complaining about something relating to Black Lightning…

First of all, nice hearing some pro input on something as mundane as a site like this with a bunch of shlubs like us. Read the first part of your Manhunter run for the first time last year, great stuff.

Outside the corporate spectrum, which of the two titan toy properties of the 80’s would you want to tackle–Transformers, or GI Joe?

I tend to be divided about stuff like this. On one side, I love Black Lightning and Blue Devil and am excited to see new stories with them (even if they’re being rebooted). And it really doesn’t bother me when DC or Marvel gets new or different creators to work on characters even if their original creators are still around. I’m pretty okay with new creative voices and new takes on characters (within reason… I wasn’t a fan of giving BL an adult daughter suddenly). And especially when it’s a creator I really like such as Marc Andreyko! I’m greatly looking forward to “Black and Blue”.

On the other side, I can see why the original creators are upset. I’m not sure I’d be okay with other writers taking over characters I created. New writers might do things with your characters that you strongly believe shouldn’t be part of those characters (like suddenly having superpowered offspring). So I sympathize with creators being protective of the characters they created.

So this is a tricky issue.

Am I the only one that realized these characters sucked when created, and nothing’s changed? – and it really doesn’t matter that their creators are so pissy, because they still suck, and revamped – will still suck. Amethyst RIP? – I assumed she was already done.

Are you guys REALLY talking about DC royalty issues again? How much do you really think DC LOST on these guys. Amethyst – will she be having a companion Care Bear with that, or will it take place in the land of the Smurfs?

Why DC continues to bury an anthology with these crap characters and crap writing is a real mystery, when so many great characters abound.

to: Hopeless SAvage- I love the Marvel John Byrne Stories, oh and the Jim Shooter stuff! Keep living in Anethyst Smurf world and I’ll read Walt Simonson Batman – and enjoy your Neal Adam’s X-Men, should be better than Odyssey – (the levels of Hell to read that one)

This industry needs new young new writers – and flushed old characters

I don’t agree with anything that other Chris said.

out of curiosity how many people who commented here actually donated to the hero iniative or the fund that was setup in response to the avengers success. Im gonna throw myself under the bus because i know i didnt.. Actual creators are struggling now maybe we should step away from the computer and help out people who used to enrich our lives. i spend twenty bucks aweek on my books maybe i should give it to them instead of the book 2. anyway just sayin

Black Lightning has been appearing in the outsiders for years, why is this only becoming an issue now? Unless I’ve been missing something.

Oh, and in regards to the Superfriends/Black Vulcan thing, it was Hanna-Barbera who didn’t want to pay DC for Black Lightning, not the other way around.

Another Chris

July 6, 2012 at 7:16 am

I am in agreement with Other Chris about our disagreement with Chris.

My name is not Chris but I agree with Other Chris and Another Chris. Chris is wrong.

As I have always said (and here again now):

“If you do not understand a term in your contract, DO NOT SIGN IT UNTIL YOU HAVE A HELP FROM A LAWYER.”

That’s so harsh to understand??

With all these kind of stories these days, if you do not understand how a contract is made and what are your obligations and what will became about your creation, you are really dumb.

Law texts are available on Internet and some lawyers are giving free advices. It is not a shame to ask for help when you do not understand something. Goddamned.

Now about the black lightning, as I really do not know this character, I will give a try!!! And, no, I will not cry when I will pre-order Sword of Sorcery.

Isavella doesn’t think his original artist is a co-creater. Rob Liefeld doesn’t think his original writer is a co-creater (Cable). Funny how that works out…

Given how often throughout its long history DC has been screwing over creators, starting way back with Siegel & Shuster and continuing to the present day, I am going to give Tony Isabella the benefit of the doubt on this one. I am much more inclined to find his recollections of Black Lightning’s development, and the contracts signed back then, to be credible than I am to take the word of DC’s public relations dept.

““If you do not understand a term in your contract, DO NOT SIGN IT UNTIL YOU HAVE A HELP FROM A LAWYER.”

That’s so harsh to understand??”

As long as you also understand that at this point it doesn’t matter a damn what your contract says or how airtight it is because a massive corporation like Time Warner can break it whenever they want and they know that a mere individual can do absolutely nothing against them unless they too have massive amounts of money and lawyers.

These are bullies, pure and simple. It sickens me to see people defending this kind of behaviour or dismissing it with idiot statements like “just bring them to court!” Do you know how much that would cost and how long it would take? There ARE people who’ve brought these companies to court and it’s still going on, DECADES later! Comic creators aren’t exactly rich (I’ve seen people on the internet claim that Alan Moore is a millionaire which is laughable); spending the rest of their lives and money on a case that’ll be dragged out for decades isn’t exactly a realistic or attractive option for any human being.

So yeah, it’s easier to just speak out and call them on it and hope that it’ll at the very least shame DC into doing something relatively fair and honest for once.

I don’t like this “New DC… Beware our Power Aww Yeah!” bullshit.

I don’t remember ever seeing Tony complain when he wrote other people’s properties in the past, so I fail to see why he’s so up in arms now. The saddest thing is Tony’s refusal to acknowledge the input of Trevor Von Eeden, going as far as to claim that Trevor’s original character design could be fakes (they’re not – I have them and I can tell you, they’re anything but faked). Tony took an idea to DC and Trevor helped flesh that idea out and bring the character to life, but then Tony sometimes acts like Bob Kane did with Batman and Bill Finger. Tony is upset because he doesn’t get all of the money from the character – and rightly so. DC Comics altered the contract, he should be upset with them, but to take it out on Trevor Von Eeden, as he has done, by minimising his involvement in the character’s creation is very poor form.

The moral of the story – if you really want to own something, cut a better deal. Anything that you take to a major company will ultimately be owned by them and as such be able to be used by them in any way, shape or form that they see fit. Just look at ANYTHING that Jack Kirby created. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen. Siegel & Shuster’s Superman (although, to use Tony’s analogy, as Joe Shuster was merely the artist, the Superman was created by Jerry alone). The industry is full of shitty deal, broken promises and companies that don’t really care for creators. Perhaps if Tony was a bit less vocal he might be writing Black Lightning again, but I expect that Jim Lee and Co might be sitting there thinking ‘who needs the grief?’

Personally I’m waiting for DC to announce the sequel to V For Vendetta.

Personally I’m waiting for DC to announce the sequel to V For Vendetta.

“W for Watchmen?”

@pete bloome

I did. I gave 20 bucks to the Hero Initiative when The Avengers came out. I put my money where my mouth is. I made a big stink on this very site about no longer contributing to the success of the Big Two. I refuse to support their unethical business practices, and frankly, subpar quality of the past few years.

I’m just wondering why this is an issue all the sudden. Wasn’t Black Lightning on the Justice League during Meltzer”s highly popular run? Why is it a big deal now and not then? Really though, Isabella should trust in Andreyko, he always puts out good stuff. Highly underrated writer and needs more work with the big two. I’m more upset that they give Tony Daniel, Tom DeFalco and Scott Lobdell big writing assignments, but nothing for talented writers like Andreyko. Hell, they removed Nathan Edmonson for Rob Liefeld! For every good move they’ve done with the New52, there’s 5 bad ones. Oh well, I look forward to this run and hopefully to an ongoing.

Tony Isabella is always whining about something. It’s his politics on everything. Whine whine whine. Victim victim victim. He made a crappy deal and regrets it, the world owes him, his cocreator did nothing, poor Tony. Frankly his writing has never been anything special, which is why neither DC nor Marvel have bothered with him. Why hire a mediocre talent who just whines and moans about how unfair everything is? Who wants the grief? Black Lightning was a good character, though his comic book in the ’70s was just mediocre due to Tony’s writing. Black Lightning was more fun and more interesting when he guest starred in contemporary JLA issues and then in the original Outsiders and Brave & Bold team-ups.

Siegel and Shuster weren’t screwed out of anything. They were handsomely compensated and lived large and wasted their money, then put on a pity party when the cash ran out.

If you want to make money and own your creations, model yourself on Will Eisner, not Siegel & Shuster.

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