Tony Isabella is one of the most important figures in comic book history. He is the creator of Marvel’s Black Goliath and also created the first starring African-American superhero for DC, Black Lightning. Both of the heroes have been featured in other forms of media recently. Goliath was seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, while Lightning has an eponymous show on the CW.
During a panel with fellow creator Roy Thomas at the New Mexico Comic Expo, Isabella recounted a story that illustrates the ugly side of being a creator in the comics industry.
In late 1977 The All-New Super Friends Hour was set to debut. Hanna-Barbera was interested in using the character of Black Lightning on the show. Isabella had negotiated a deal with DC stating he would receive royalties for all uses of Lightning outside of comics. It was not a large percentage, but DC decided it was still in their best interests to ask Hanna-Barbera for more money to use Lightning in Super Friends.
Barbera had a counter offer. They instead would create the character of Black Vulcan. He was not a pre-existing character, therefore, no money would have to be paid to DC and in turn, Isabella. Despite the similarities to Lightning, DC didn’t fight the matter. In the last issue of Black Lightning, Isabella had a con artist named Barbara Hannah use a fake Lightning to commit crimes.
Isabella said this is an unfortunate part of the industry. It happens more often than it should, even among fellow creators. On the plus side, DC now lives up to all their financial arrangements with Isabella.