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Tony Isabella Speaks (Sort Of) On Black Lightning in the DCnU

Written by Jude Terror on Thursday, July 05 2012 and posted in News with Benefits
Tony Isabella Speaks (Sort Of) On Black Lightning in the DCnU

Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella posted a blog update responding to questions about his thoughts on Black Lightning appearing in the upcoming DC Universe Presents story arc.

Source: Various, Linked Above

For those who might not know, Alan Moore isn't the only creator DC has "allegedly" cheated or screwed out of their creations. Tony Isabella, the creator of Black Lightning recently posted the following on his blog in response to the recent announcement about DC Universe Presents bringing Black Lightning to the DCnU:

Yes, I have heard the news about Black Lightning.  You don't have to e-mail me, private message me, phone me, or post links on my Facebook page.  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.

Well, this reporter has roughly .65 brains, so I chalk up my lack of knowledge on this situation to institutional racism, the same institutional racism that led me to post a picture of Marvel superhero The Falcon with this article and hope no one would notice. I did want to know more about what Tony was talking about, though, so I did some searching to get the back story for anyone else lacking a fully developed central nervous system, and found some more details from an interview with Isabella on Mystery Island:

I'm the sole creator of Black Lightning. The character and every key element of the series was fully realized before I even pitched it to DC. It was my creation. It wasn't a work-for-hire deal. It was supposed to be a partnership between the creator of the character (myself) and DC. Unfortunately, DC has never fully honored its agreements with me.

Trevor is the primary but not only designer of the original Black Lightning costume. He disputes that others were involved, but his version is disputed by every living person who was in the room at the time the first costume was designed. Indeed, he has admitted that key elements like the Afro-mask and what I called the Captain America boots came from Bob Rozakis and myself...and also that the late Joe Orlando asked for the front of Black Lightning's shirt to be more open. Of course, the original costume hasn't been used in any comic books since BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS.

After the end of the first Black Lightning series, I wanted to buy out DC's "share" of my creation. The company response to this was to retroactively declare Von Eeden a co-creator; he was not listed as such during the first run of the series and for the next couple years after the first run. Go check the original run and you will see this is the case. At this time, DC also started giving Trevor half of the royalties they had agreed to pay me.

I'm sorry this ongoing dispute has led to an estrangement between Trevor and myself because I think he's developed into an incredibly talented artist. But the truth is the truth: he's not remotely the co-creator of Black Lightning.

DC's alleged screwing of Isabella isn't limited to the character's appearances in comics, either. Supposedly, Ligntning was supposed to appear in the 70s Superfriends cartoon as well, but in order to avoid paying Isabella royalties, was replaced by Black Vulcan, a cheap knockoff:

Here's the most accurate version of the deal I've been able to piece together. Black Lightning was supposed to appear on the show. A DC executive told me as much. My deal with DC called for me to receive 20% of whatever DC made on the use of my character in the series. I wouldn't have received 20% of what DC made from the show, just 20% of - for the sake of argument, let's say there were ten DC characters in the show - one-tenth of what DC made. But DC didn't want to pay me out of their cut.

DC told the folks at Hanna-Barbera they would have to pay extra for the use of Black Lightning. Hanna-Barbera balked at this and told DC they would just do their own version of Black Lightning. Which DC let them get away with.

Hanna-Barbera didn't owe me for the use of Black Lightning. It was DC Comics who owed me. I didn't find out my creation wasn't on the show until the first Black Vulcan episode aired. My response was to write a story called "The Other Black Lightning" where in this unscrupulous promoter named Barbara Hanna - subtle, huh? - created her own fraudulent version of Black Lightning. That turned out to be my last script of the first run. It wasn't the first time that DC had violated our partnership agreement, but it was when I knew the company would never honor it.

I worked for DC a few more times since - Hawkman and then a second Black Lightning series - but the company always ends up screwing me over. Currently, I am blacklisted at the company for the heinous crime of speaking the truth about this sort of thing. As much as I would love to write Black Lightning again, I can't imagine anyone at DC being smart enough to make that happen and I can't imagine DC giving me the kind of contract I would need before writing for them again.

DC has been getting a lot of negative publicity lately for what many consider the shameless exploitation of Alan Moore's Watchmen property through the release of Before Watchmen, a series of prequel comics and kitchen appliances, which just came up again in an article by Tim Marchman on The Daily Beast - a very interesting read, if only to see the humorous interaction between former Watchmen editor and Before Watchmen writer Len Wein and DC publicity manager Pamela Mullin.

So, Outhousers, who has more information on the Black Lightning situation? Post it in the comments.

Tony Isabella Speaks (Sort Of) On Black Lightning in the DCnU

Written or Contributed by: Jude Terror

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About the Author - Jude Terror

Jude Terror is the Webmaster Supreme of The Outhouse and a sarcastic ace reporter dedicated to delivering irreverent comics and entertainment news to The Outhouse's dozens of loyal readers. Driven by a quest for vengeance, Jude Terror taught himself to program and joined The Outhouse. He instantly began working toward his goal of forcing the internet comics community to take itself less seriously and failing miserably. A certified trash eater ruining the pristine field of comics journalism with his sarcasm and goofiness, Jude Terror is secretly friendly and congenial, so if you've got a complaint, why not just bring it up to him instead of subtweeting like a jackass, jackass? You can find him on Twitter or try your luck with an email, but keep in mind that he is notoriously unreliable and may not get back to you right away. Unless you want to send him free stuff, in which case he'll get back to you immediately.

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