Movies & TV / Columns

Tony Isabella talks w/411 About Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, Black Lightning Series & More

January 18, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands

Tony Isabella knows comics. As a teenager, he a number of letters published in comic book letter columns and was active in comics fandom as a member of CAPA-alpha, and a regular contributor to comics fanzines.

It was his passion and work in these ventures that drew the attention of Marvel editor Roy Thomas and in 1972 Thomas hired Isabella as an editorial assistant at Marvel.

He made his mark and over the years was a part of a number of memorable stories. Not only that, he became known as the creator and writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Goliath and DC Comics’ first major African-American superhero, Black Lightning.

DC’s Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands marks the return of Mr. Isabella to Black Lightning after 20 years and reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. He was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his schedule to answer some questions.

Steve Gustafson: It’s been 20 years since you last wrote Black Lightning. What changed at DC Comics that opened the door for you to return to do Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands?

Tony Isabella: Simply put…new management that was far more respectful of my creation and my work than the previous management had been. DC’s Geoff Johns reached out to me, we talked and we started the wheels turning to reunite me with DC and my creation.

Steve Gustafson: How did you approach writing Jefferson Pierce for a new generation? Was this a story you’ve had in mind for years or one you recently put together?

Tony Isabella: When DC told me I could use any version of Black Lightning I wanted, I chose to do what I call a soft reboot of the character. He’s been around for a few years, but he’s younger than any other version of the character. I wanted to do things with him that I’d never done before and that was part of it. I also wanted to write stories based on real-world issues.

Steve Gustafson: The Black Lightning TV show is being called the most anticipated new TV series of the mid-season. Does that have an impact on how you’re writing Black Lightning?

Tony Isabella: I started working on and writing Cold Dead Hands before I knew the TV series was moving forward. But as both the comic books and the TV series are based on the same core values, I think we’re impacting each other. The more I heard about Jefferson’s daughters in the TV series, the more I wanted to include them in the comics. However, since my comic-book Jeff has never been married, I turned them into his young cousins. In a similar fashion, something about how Christine Adams (Lynn Pierce) conducted herself in some of the early press interviews inspired my take on the Lynn who will be in the comic books. Each of the two versions can stand on their own, but they share the Black Lightning core values.

Steve Gustafson: The first three issues of Cold Dead Hands have come out. I’ve read the first two and enjoyed them immensely. What’s the reaction you’ve seen on social media and/or fans?

Tony Isabella: The reviews have been overwhelmingly favorable, especially with the third issue. The alt.right Nazis and racists hate what the series stands for, but they have broken brains and souls. I’m not concerned about their reactions.

Steve Gustafson: What’s the future look like with you and more Black Lightning?

Tony Isabella: I’ve made it clear that I’d like to keep writing new Black Lightning stories until the day I die. I am currently writing the sixth and final issue of the current series. What I’m finished with that, I plan to spend a couple of weeks writing pitches for future Black Lightning projects. Hopefully, DC will like these ideas just as much as I do.

Steve Gustafson: Thank you again for your time and can’t wait to see what you come up with next.