Tuesday, January 23, 2018

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 1/23/18

Previously...

Having successfully navigated past Scylla and Charybdis to actually get to Washington, D.C. for “DC in D.C." (aka the hottest ticket in town), my son Ed and I spent several enjoyable hours at the Newseum portion of the event. You can read about our Friday night travels and Saturday afternoon in the bloggy things I posted last Tuesday and yesterday. We continue...

Saturday evening.
                                                                             

Shuttles were ready at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel to take us to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for the world premiere screening of the first episode of Black Lightning. The evening started with a cocktail reception where the drinks and hors d’oeuvres came with Black Lightning napkins like the one shown above. Okay, not every napkin had the logo, but I managed to grab a few unused ones to I could have a memento of the event and scan one to share with you here.

Full disclosure. Much of the evening was an exciting blur for me. All I recall about the hors d’oeuvres is that they were delicious and there were lots of them. I didn’t eat lots of them. I was way too overwhelmed for that. But I know I ate enough of them to keep something in my stomach beyond whatever I drank. It might have been wine or it might have been champagne. I probably had both between the cocktail reception and the premiere after-party. I probably had a Pepsi or two. Excited. Overwhelmed. I was lucky just to remember my name at that point.
                                                                               

At some point, Larry Ganem, one of my favorite vice-presidents of all time, handed me over to one of the many helpful members of the DC Entertainment team to walk me down the red carpet. The nice lady who escorted me across the carpet made sure I looked okay - nobody was expecting miracles - and was probably ready to sedate me if I said anything stupid. I confident I didn’t say anything stupid, so some miracles do happen.

Most of the red carpet attention was deservedly on the great Black Lightning cast. By now you have come to realize that I am over the top in love with these actors. When I see my creations brought to life so wonderfully, when I see the characters I didn’t create come to mean as much to me as those I did create, it takes effort not to let the happy tears flow down my plump little cheeks.

I think I spoke to three of four reporters, one of whom might have been from the local NBC affiliate. I don’t know if anything I said made it to the airwaves or online or to print. If anyone has links to my red carpet comments, I’d love to check them out to find out if I owe anyone an apology. I don’t think I do, but I don’t recall what I was asked or what I said in response.

I’m going to assume I said nice things about how well Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil, Cress Williams and the cast had brought my Black Lightning core values to reality. I hope I said that their work on the character inspires my current comic-book work on the character. I hope I conveyed how much Black Lightning means to so many comics fans around the world and that knowing that is a responsibility I will never take lightly. I hope I just didn’t go all Frankenstein Monster and just say “Arrh...Black Lightning good...arrh!

Not-so-sudden realization. I need someone to follow me around when I do things like this to take notes for me. Or maybe I should start wearing a body camera.

My comments on Black Lightning’s premiere episode deserve a bloggy thing of their own, which will be coming your way within the next few days. I’d already seen the episode before the premiere, having been sent a link to a not-quite-finished version of the episode by my friends at the CW. I watched the episode at home with my Sainted Wife Barb, Ed, Kelly, “other daughter” Giselle and Kelly’s future roommate Lauren. This not-quite-finished version did not have any credits. When I saw this on the big screen...
                                                                            

...my heart darn near burst with pride and joy. This was what I had spent decades fighting for and, thanks to the current management at DC Entertainment, there was proof of my victory over those who had tried to keep me and my creation down.

The episode itself? Even better the second time around. Even better the third time around when we watched it with friends and relatives at the somewhat smaller Casa Isabella Black Lightning watch party on Tuesday, January 16. I’m looking forward to the remaining twelve episodes of Black Lightning’s first season.

After the premiere, Orlando Jones hosted/moderated a question-and-answer session with Salim and Mara Brock Akil and the cast of Black Lightning. The esteemed actor expressed his love for the character and the show, making thoughtful comments and asking some terrific questions of the panelists. Any success I’ve had writing Jefferson Pierce, his supporting cast and their lives is because I’ve always listened and learned from insightful and instructive conversations like this one. I have listened to people in the neighborhoods of Cleveland, at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention and other comics cons, in online forums and podcasts, and anywhere else where I could gain knowledge of the subjects I’ve been passionate about my entire career.   
                                                                            

After the Q&A session, there were shuttles waiting to ferry us to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for the premiere after-party. The guide shown above was in the gift bags that guests received as they left the party.

The party itself was wondrous beyond my expectations. In addition to the amazing people at the party and the phenomenal food, drink and entertainment, guests were allowed to wander freely through the museum’s several floors of exhibits. Ed and I took some advantage of this, but hope to return at some later date to really check out everything the museum has to offer.

Ed and I had an incredible time at the party. He’s used to seeing excited fans come up to me at conventions. He’s not used to seeing actual celebrities wanting to take selfies with me. I scored a few “Dad points” that evening.

There’s no chance of me remembering everyone I spoke with at this event, but I’ll mention as many of them as I can before my ancient brain starts to boil.
                                                                                

Cress Williams and I had met and chatted at the Newseum, but things were slightly less hectic at the party. This photo doesn’t really do justice at what a heroic figure he cuts and what a tiny “stout” man I am.

Orlando Jones and I had exchanged Twitter messages over the years, but this was my first time meeting him. I love that he’s a comics fan and I love his work. Given the crazy twists my career had been taking, I hope to someday get a chance to work with him on a movie or TV project. All I have to do is learn how to write screenplays. Which I’m working on.

Christine Adams and I had a few fun moments together. Earlier, I’d said her natural voice had inspired me to make Lynn Stewart British in my new Black Lightning comics. Stunned by Christine’s beauty - she’s right up there with my wife and Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man - I told her there was more to the comic-book Lynn and that I would be hinting at just that in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #6. She smiled and proclaimed “Spinoff!”

Confession. I probably told her more about Lynn that I should have, but I was intoxicated by her and the party.

I made new comics friends, meeting writers Julie Benson and Shawna Benson. I’ve enjoyed their work on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and was excited to hear about their next gig. Thom Zahler, one of my dearest friends and a top-notch writer and artist, was there with lady friend Emily Whitten. She is a comics journalist, most recently contributing to the ComicMix site. Thom was her arm-candy.

Journalist and old friend Michael Rapoport was there. He’s going to do another interview with me in the near future.

I met the cool Jamie Broadnax, editor-in-chief of Black Girl Nerds editor-in-chief. I’ll be doing something with Black Girl Nerds as soon as we figure out the logistics. I love them madly.

One of the highlights of the party was getting to spend time with Dan DiDio, who has been a strong advocate of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands and the trade paperback collections of the character. We talked about all sorts of stuff, some of it relating to more Black Lightning comics written by me, some of it about forthcoming trade collections, some of it about our mutual love of Godzilla. I knew there was a reason I like this guy. I also learned some things from him which gave me some new insights into DC Comics. I hope to get to see him again soon.
                                                                          

One of the other big highlights of the evening was finally getting to meet Geoff Johns. Geoff and I have exchanged emails and talked on the phone. We’re are fans of each other’s writing. But this was our first-ever face-to-face moment and it was an emotional one for me. I’ll tell you why.

After decades of - let’s face it - anomosity between DC Comics and myself - it was Geoff who reached out to me and started the company and I on the path to the relationship we enjoy today. He is a hero to the Isabella family. If you’ve been enjoying my current work for DC, it all started with Geoff.

My only regrets about this party is that I didn’t get to meet some of the people I would have loved to meet. There were cast members from Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash, all shows I enjoy. There were comics creators whose work I enjoy. There were DC folks whose behind-the-scenes work makes terrific stuff like this happen. It was a magical night.
                                                                           
                                                                                

When we left the party, Ed and I got our afore-mentioned gift bags. Besides the museum’s office guide, there was a copy of the newest edition of Black Lightning: Year One and a spiffy “Get Lit” shirt. My shirt was just a bit too small for me, but daughter Kelly wore it during our Casa Isabella cast party.
                                                                                  

As for Black Lightning: Year One, it’s no secret that I’m not fond of that book. But, what’s also no secret is that Black Lightning is bigger than just me. Every version of the character has its devoted fans and, for those fans, I would be thrilled to see all the Black Lightning stories back in print and kept in print. Just because I don’t enjoy something doesn’t mean others won’t.

When Ed and I got back to the hotel, we were too pumped to go right to bed. He were also feeling a bit peckish. So we ordered some room service and packed our bags for a Sunday morning flight back home. After the nightmare of our flight to D.C., we were glad our return flight was as smooth as could be.

I want to again thank everyone at DC Entertainment for making this weekend happen for me. I want to thank Salim and Mara and the cast of Black Lightning for making me feel so respected and so welcome. I want to thank all the comics fans and pros who have expressed how thrilled they are with my good fortune. It was the best weekend of my 45-year career in the comics industry. Thank you.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the latest installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Then, following that rooting-tooting excitement, I will share my comments on the Black Lightning premier episode.

Thanks for visiting the bloggy thing.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

ANOTHER DELAY

A computer glitch ate the last half of today's bloggy thing. I'll rewrite what I lost and get the column posted as soon as possible.

TONY'S TIPS #243

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Zander Cannon’s Kaijumax Season One: Terror & Respect; Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #9-14 by Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker; and Valiant's War Mother by Fred Van Lente!

BRIEF DELAY

Today's bloggy thing will post this afternoon.

Monday, January 22, 2018

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 1/22/18

I seriously underestimated how much the extraordinary premiere of the Black Lightning TV series would impact my schedule last week. Which is why I’m here Sunday with a bloggy thing that should have been posted last Tuesday. To refresh my memory...

I was invited to last weekend’s DC Comics in D.C. event that would include the world premiere of the Black Lightning TV series. I went with my son Ed. Because our Friday flights kept getting cancelled, we missed a screening of the Batman: Gotham by Gaslight animated feature and dinner with Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and others. We also had to spent Friday night in the Cleveland Airport, which is not even a one-star accommodation. We persevered and arrived in D.C. around eight or so on Saturday morning. Our adventure resumes.

DC booked us at the Willard Continental on Pennsylvania Avenue. Because of my well-known liberal leanings and our proximity to the White House, I was strip-searched and probed by Stephen Miller. I’d rather not talk about it here, but I’ll be in therapy for the rest of my life. Indeed, I think my eventual grandchildren will be in therapy for the rest of their lives due to my DNA memory, which is a thing I just made up. Fake news.

Seriously, the Willard is a lovely hotel. Our room was large and, though we didn’t get to sleep until after midnight Saturday night, very comfortable. Our bathroom was bigger than my whole room at the Econo-Lodge where I’ve stayed on recent trips to New York City. No knock on the Econo-Lodge, which I do like, but I’m trying to give you a sense of the size of our Willard room.

After freshening up from our stay at the Cleveland Airport, Ed and I went to the lobby, got our passes for the “DC in D.C. event” and went to breakfast with Larry Ganem, DC Entertainment Vice-President Talent Relations and Editorial Administration. On a vice-president  scale of one to ten with Mike Pence being a one, Larry scored about a million. He is a charming, funny and terrific guy who took great care of me at the event.

I wore a Black Lightning t-shirt at breakfast. One of the servers spotted it and ask if I knew there was a Black Lightning TV series. I told him I’d heard something about that. Larry chuckled and told  the guy I was the creator of Black Lightning. The server said how happy he was to meet me. It’s as I’ve been saying, Black Lightning means a lot to a lot of people. It’s a honor and a responsibility to be associated with the character.
                                                                                
   
From the hotel, we headed over to the Newseum, the location for the daytime “DC in D.C.” events. This is a stunning building dedicated to free expression and the First Amendment. It was a great choice to host DC’s presentations on such topics as “The Many Shades of Heroism: DC Heroes Through the African-American Lens,” “The Pride of DC: The Art of LGBTQ Inclusion,” “Wonder Women” and more. I wish I had been able to attend all the panels.

In addition to the Newseum’s other exhibits, there were autograph sessions for the various comics creators and the stars of the shows featuring DC characters and, just outside the museum, a DC pop-up store selling Funko figures, shirts and trade paperbacks. Even with the chilly weather, the store did a brisk business.

Every one connected with DC treated me with great friendliness and respect. Larry introduced me to Diane Nelson, the President of DC Entertainment and the President and Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It was a short conversation, just long enough for her to thank me for coming to the event and for me to thank her for the invitation and for all she’s done to make DC a company I’m delighted to be once again associated with. I hope I get a chance to speak with her again soon.

Larry, Clark Bull of DC Entertainment’s publicity department, and several other DC staffers always made me feel welcome and - this is important - always made sure I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. I wish I had written down all of their names because I’d love to thank them all personally.

SIDEBAR. If those other DC staffers will send me notes reminding me of our meeting and how they kept me from looking or saying anything foolish, I’ll praise them in a future bloggy thing. I owe you folks at least that and much more.

“The Many Shades of Heroism” was the one panel I was able to enjoy in its entirety. Moderated by David Betancourt (Washington Post), the panelists were Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave); Candice Patton, who plays Iris West on The Flash; Black Lightning star Cress Williams; BL’s executive producers Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil; Chris Chalk, who plays Lucius Fox on Gotham; legendary comics artist and Milestone Media founder Denis Cowan; Milestone writer Alice Randall; Black Girl Nerds editor-in-chief Jamie Broadnax; and, from Supergirl, David Harewood, who plays the Martian Manhunter on that series. It was a great panel and, as with great panels, it gave me things to consider as I continue to write Black Lightning and other comics.

After the panel, while waiting for a scheduled photo shoot with the cast and creators of the Black Lightning TV series, I had a chance to chat with David Harewood. I love his performance as a surrogate father to Kara and Alex on the show and we talked about parenting and such. That Kara and Alex are his character’s surrogate children makes their dynamic all the more realistic. I’m the proud father of a dynamic young woman and Harewood’s J’onn speaks to me. Plus, he was rocking a cool Black Lightning t-shirt.
                                                                                 

The photo shoot was a dream come true. I got to speak with most of the cast for a few minutes. Cress Williams had this big grin on his face and seemed as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. James Remar thanked me for creating Peter Gambi. I thanked him for doing such a great job with the character.

Christine Adams gushed a bit when I told her I loved her natural voice so much I decided the Lynn Stewart in my new Black Lightning comics would be British. China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams were delightful. I might not have created the Pierce daughters, but their trailer performances made me know I wanted them in my comics. Even though they are Jefferson’s cousins in those comic books, I’m inspired by their work.

Marvin 'Krondon' Jones III is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, but his Tobias Whale is incredibly menacing. Damon Gupton’s Inspector Henderson impacted me with his performance as a hard-as-nails cop concerned about his friends and fellow officers.

I got to say “hey” to Salim Akil again and finally got to meet Mara Brock Akil. My respect for them is off the chart.

After the photo shoot, the cast sat down for an autograph session. The DC Comics crew handed me a Black Lightning poster and allowed me to be the first to get it signed by the entire cast. It will be framed and hanging on my wall soon.
                                                                               

I lost track of all the great conversations I had at the Newseum. Artist extraordinaire Shawn Martinbrough was there and took a photo of the two of us plus my son Ed and Larry. Someday, somehow, I have to work with this man.

SIDEBAR. If anyone has photos of me from the event, please e-mail them to me or send me links to them. I’d love to put them together for a bloggy thing photo album of the day.

Michael Tune, a PhD student of African American women's history at George Washington University in D.C., was at the event. We’d talked some time back about Misty Knight. This time, he had questions on all sorts of other comics I’d written. It was a great conversation, not to mention a chance to get off my feet for a spell.

Ed decided to catch some of the remaining panels. Since I was going on no sleep, I opted to go back to the hotel and relax a bit. The world premiere of Black Lightning was scheduled for a couple hours later at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It would be preceded by a cocktail reception and red carpet arrivals, then followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Orlando Jones. I figured my falling asleep during the premiere - as if that were possible - would send the wrong message to the audience and to everyone who had worked so hard on the show.

After the Q&A session, guests would be bussed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for a very cool premiere party. Besides the party itself, the Museum would be open for guests to explore at their leisure. Have I mentioned this day was the best day of my 45-year career?

I want to do justice to the Black Lightning premiere and the events surrounding it. So let’s say we all come back here tomorrow for the next installment of my adventures. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

Friday, January 19, 2018

DELAYS

I seriously underestimated how much the extraordinary premiere of the Black Lightning TV series would impact my schedule this week. I should be back with new bloggy things in a couple more days. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

TONY'S TIPS #242

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Mark Vogel’s psychedelic Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture; Babes in Arms: Women in the Comics During the Second World War by Trina Robbins; and The 1964 New York Comicon: The True Story Behind the World’s First Comic Convention by J. Ballman!