You can say that Black Lightning has had a rather tumultuous time when it came to finally finding his place, as it is now, as one of DC’s more prominent heroes on TV and in the comic books. The hero’s creator, Tony Isabella, has been rather candid on telling just how the hero came to be and how difficult it was to bring him into the spotlight where he belongs. As DC’s first prominent black hero he’s definitely had a big impact on the overall universe despite not being among the most powerful or noticed heroes in the past. Black Lightning has been making leaps and bounds however since being brought back to the forefront for his own show. In fact it’s been lauded as one of the more desired shows that’s hit TV in a while and it seems that the hero has finally come home to where he belongs.
It’s not that he ever really left, but the mishandling that Isabella has uncovered when it comes to how DC treated him and the hero in the past is something that you might find rather distasteful, not to mention disrespectful. While there were black heroes as represented by Marvel comics such as Black Panther and Luke Cage, the only issue is that Black Panther was an African king and Luke Cage was a former convict. Isabella’s desire to bring forth a positive black role model for kids and even adults to enjoy was what led to the desire to bring Black Lightning into being. In fact Isabella started out at Marvel after making the jump from being a journalist, and was doing quite well for himself with Marvel until he decided to make his way over to DC. It was a mistake from the get-go unfortunately since DC had some truly horrible ideas back in the 60s and 70s when it came to black superheroes and Isabella was adamant about trying to make a positive change and bring forth a hero that people could truly enjoy.
He was the driving force behind Black Lightning and the positive note that the character would bring, but from the start his work was being undermined and distorted in ways that made it so much less than it could be. At one point the character was even stolen and reworked by Hanna-Barbera for Super Friends so that Isabella wouldn’t be able to gain his required payment for his contributions. This kind of puts DC in a rather poor light at this time, and while Marvel hasn’t been the epitome of fairness either in the past, DC was absolutely villainous in dealing with Isabella and his creation. The first time he quit, the second time he was fired, and he’d had enough. Despite the chance to write the story, to work with truly great artists and up and coming, talented individuals that he enjoyed, Isabella simply grew tired of the constant back-stabbing that he had to deal with, as most anyone would.
In fact it wouldn’t be until 2016 that he would be called back to DC, as a new regime had been created and those in charge were far more understanding of his character and were more than willing to work with him on his creation so that he would be completely satisfied with what they could accomplish. Since then Tony has been on board without any hesitation when it came to Black Lightning, being given almost complete control over the direction the character’s development, or at least enough that he could be represented as he needed to be.
This is the peril of a lot of creators, writers and artists alike, that watch their creations become something of a joke to those that want to cherry-pick the traits and parts of a character or story that they like only to change the rest without any thought of what it’s going to do to the overall feel of the story. At such a point it becomes more about what they feel they can market to the public and less about the actual story itself, meaning that a great deal of what went into the characters and the overall plot gets lost in the mad rush to make money. That is a big part of the effort that goes into making these characters and the story they live in, but watching your creation be manhandled and torn to pieces or misrepresented so horribly is tough, and in some cases just too hard to watch. There’s no doubt that many of us would do the same as Isabella and walk away after a while. But thankfully years later DC came to their senses and realized the type of character they had in their stable, just waiting to be unveiled to the public.
Sometimes it’s a waiting game, but when the moment is there it’s important to take it.