Black Lightning Archives | Robot 6 | The Comics Culture Blog

‘Black Lightning’ creator Tony Isabella & DC Comics reconcile


In an era where the creator’s rights conversation is as loud as its ever been in comics, this week saw some surprising news quietly slip out onto the web: Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella and DC Comics have taken the first steps towards reconciling a very contentious relationship.

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

While Isabella did some later work with the publisher — most notably the first nine issues of a 13-issue Black Lightning revival in 1995 — he’s spent the majority of the past two decades being very vocal about his discontent with the publisher and their treatment of him. Most recently, the writer spoke out against DC’s choice to revive and redesign the hero as part of the New 52 initiative.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Mystery of the missing monikers

Who wants to be a TV star?

Anyone here want to be on TV?

This week it’s back into the DC/CW television universe, as news has broken about three “major DC characters,” each new to the TV realm, who will be part of the upcoming Arrow/Flash spinoff series. Some brief character descriptions are now fueling speculation about these folks. So who are The Traveler, Female Warrior and Mystery Hero — and why do we want to know?

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Grumpy Old Fan | Don’t blink! Sizing up the short runs



With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971’s Issue 206 through October 1985’s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978’s Issue 151 through October 1986’s Issue 255.

However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.

A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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Grumpy Old Fan | A League that looks like America

Note: Actual Leaguers may vary from those depicted on cover

In the immediate wake of the 2012 election, the emerging story is “demographics.” Specifically, the electorate of 2012 seems almost to have duplicated the coalition of 2008 that first elected President Obama. In fact, this year saw a slight increase in the number of Latino and Asian-American voters, and a corresponding decrease in the number of white voters. The next Congress will include 20 female senators; and for the first time in history, white men will be in the minority of the Democratic side of the House of Representatives.

It’s probably a coincidence that this week, DC Comics announced two new ongoing series, one for the Latino hero Vibe and one for the Asian heroine Katana. Each was created in the early 1980s, Vibe by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton for Justice League of America, and Katana by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo for Batman and the Outsiders; and each will be in the new Justice League of America series debuting in February.

Meanwhile, though, a lack of diversity is almost hard-wired into the main Justice League. While the new series may mitigate that, it could just be a venue for more “edgy” fare. We’ll know more in a few months, but today I want to look at the League’s attempts to integrate.

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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.

Grumpy Old Fan | Death, diversity, “definitives”

Justice League of America #173

Justice League of America #173

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to sort out my feelings about Ryan Choi’s death. It should go without saying that all of these feelings are negative. Ryan and his All-New Atom supporting cast were the core of a very fun comic book; and I thought Ryan made a good successor to Ray Palmer (who was missing in action for most of ANA’s run).

Accordingly, I started off angry at DC for its callous attitude towards the character, and honestly, I’m still a little angry. Regardless, that anger and frustration has developed into lingering disappointment. Specifically, I’m disappointed that DC continues to use death as a storytelling crutch. (John Seavey says it better here.)

However, I’m also disappointed in DC’s apparent unwillingness to let its superhero line develop naturally. There was nothing wrong with the Ryan Choi Atom. If anything, he was too superficially similar to Ray Palmer’s Atom: powers, costume, hometown, even occupation. Heck, they knew each other! I can see how this would make Ryan redundant once Ray decided to start superheroing full-time, but it’s not like Ryan didn’t have a day job. If you want to sideline someone like that, you let him go back to civilian life — you don’t kill him.

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Talking Comics with Tim: Cully Hamner

Cully Hamner's The Question

Cully Hamner's The Question

Cully Hamner is an artist who never disappoints me. So I was immensely pleased that he and I were able to finalize this email interview in the chaos of the holiday season just in time for our one-year anniversary at Robot 6. We start the interview discussing his current collaboration with Greg Rucka on The Question co-feature in Detective Comics. From there, due to the film that is currently in production and the trade paperback collection that was released in mid-2009, we discussed his 2003/2004 Homage/Wildstorm collaboration with writer Warren Ellis, RED. There’s so many projects I could have discussed with Hamner, but I’m grateful he was willing to discuss RED to the degree he did. Hamner is clearly an artist who looks forward, not back–which makes me appreciate his indulging my RED interest in this discussion.

Tim O’Shea: How hard is it to convey emotion with the Question, the face is taken out of the dynamics, but you do still give a hint of her facial dynamics in certain scenes?

Cully Hamner: It’s a matter of considering that, even though you see no specific facial features, the planes of the face are still there and will react to light and shadow. It’s not a total blank, you know, Renee’s real face is under there, along with a range of expressions. So, when I look at it like that, it becomes a much simpler thing than you might think. So, what I do is just go ahead and draw an outline of the modeling on the face, and Dave McCaig (and before him Laura Martin) colors over that, and then drops my linework into a color. It’s not a full range of emotion like a detailed face would have, but I’ve been able to get across a few things well enough. Seems to work.

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Talking Comics with Tim: Matt Wayne

The Brave and the Bold 24

The Brave and the Bold 24

Matt Wayne‘s latest work for DC comes out this week, The Brave and The Bold 24, featuring the “first meeting of Static and Black Lightning” (as detailed by DC here). Given that Wayne was a Milestone editor back in the mid-1990s, this marks a return to some old friends for the writer. In addition to discussing his comics work, we also discuss his career in animation in this email interview.

Tim O’Shea: You’re shifting Brave & Bold gears, as you wrap up a stint writing the DC Kids Brave and Bold, you will be writing the non-kids line The Brave and The Bold 24, where Black Lightning and Static team up for the first time. With two heroes with similar powers, did you enjoy getting to show their differences in this issue?

Matt Wayne: Sure, any team up’s going to have that aspect to it. For instance, my next episode (Menace of the Conqueror Caveman!) of the Batman: Brave and the Bold show [to be replayed this Thursday, June 18, according to IMDb {check those local listings}] will pair Batman and Booster Gold, and they’re both gadget guys. The differences between the two need to come out in the course of the action, or it’s not a good team-up. There isn’t much in life that’s more entertaining than putting two toddlers in a wading pool and watching them compare belly buttons. But if anything can top that, it’s hero team-ups done right!

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