Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tony Isabella's Black Lightning!

One of the pleasures of attending G-Fest this year in Chicago was getting the chance to meet one of my comic book heroes from days past, Tony Isabella. Mr. Isabella has a long list of comic book credits (including a great run on Hawkman!) but what he is most remembered for these days is the creation of the character Black Lightning for DC Comics in the 1970s. After years of legal wrangling with DC Comics about the creator's credit of that character Mister Isabella and the company are now happily in collaboration again. Indeed, things have been settled to the point that Mr. Isabella is a part of the production of the newest DC TV show - Black Lightning! This mid-season replacement show premieres next year on the CW and I can hardly wait!  

Of course Mr. Isabella was at G-Fest in his capacity as a Kaiju fan and presided over a number of panels revolving around giant monsters both in their comic book form, novelizations and on screen. But being an old comic book fan what I was thrilled most about was the chance to get in him to sign my trade paperback copy of the original run of  Black Lightning comic books. Luckily Mr. Isabella is an incredibly nice man and was willing to talk to an aging fanboy about his work. He even imparted some information about the production of the upcoming television show, his participation in it and the possibilities at this juncture of a second season. Let's just say I'm really looking forward to seeing Black Lightning finally hit the small screen next year.

One of the things he and I discussed was that the first issue of Black Lightning I saw back in the seventies was issue number four, I can clearly remember buying it off a spinner rack when I was a kid even though I can't remember which store that rack was in. He told me something that should have shocked me more but it didn't really shock me very much at all. It seems that Black Lightning had trouble getting distribution in the southeast during its initial run. As a matter of fact, the distributors in the southeast dropped a lot of other DC comic books so that they wouldn't have to distribute Black Lightning. There's nothing like running into another example of the big, ugly racial prejudice of the region of the country in which you were born and raised. All I could do was shake my head in disgust and wonder what this type of below-the-radar racist crap did to shape what I was able to see and read as a kid. While I'm sure such a pathetic bit of distribution censorship wouldn't occur today I'm also not completely positive that it might not happen in some other hidden form. I don't know why but sometimes it's far too easy for me to forget just how racially polarized the region of the country in which I reside remains. I guess I'm lucky to have seen an issue of Black Lightening at all when I was young. Now I wonder if the same thing might have been true for Luke Cage, Power Man since I remember several back issues of his comic being among the first books I ordered through the mail when I was a young comic fan.

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