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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.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back for another round of Robot Roulette. It’s kind of like Vegas, without the mob connections or chances of actually winning money–comic creators spin the virtual wheel and get six questions thrown at them to answer.
Today Kurt Busiek takes his six questions and turns them into gold. Kurt, of course, is the award-winning writer of Astro City, Liberty Project, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Marvels, Avengers, Arrowsmith, Shockrockets, Thunderbolts, Iron Man, Kirby: Genesis, JLA/Avengers, Trinity, Superman: Secret Identity, Conan, Power Company and many, many more comics. You can find out more about him on his website.
My thanks to Kurt for agreeing to answer our questions. Now let’s get to it …
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.