Black Lightning, Blue Devil Creators Respond to DC’s ‘Black & Blue’ Revival
News of DC’s upcoming revival of 1970s blacksploitation icon Black Lightning and 1980s stuntman-turned-superhero Blue Devil as a super powered buddy comedy may have been greeted warmly by fans online, but it turns out that the creators of the characters aren’t quite so excited about the comeback.The two heroes are due to be reimagined as a younger crime-fighting duo in Marc Andreyko’s “Black & Blue,” a five-part storyline running in DC Universe Presents starting this fall – but don’t worry about telling Tony Isabella, the writer who created Black Lightning back in 1977; he already knows.
“Yes, I have heard the news about Black Lightning. You don’t have to e-mail me, private message me, phone me, or post links on my Facebook page,” Isabella wrote on his blog. “My only public comments to date have been ‘Words fail me’ and, to my friend Dan Mishkin, ‘Forget it, Dan. It’s DC Town.’ But, really, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about Black Lightning and DC’s continued refusal to honor its agreements with me, and if you have half a brain, you already know how I feel about the news.”
Isabella has long been outspoken over DC’s use of Black Lightning, a character he not only created, but possesses enough of a stake in that he would receive a higher-than-usual rate of royalties should he appear in another medium (For everyone wondering why you’ve never seen a Black Lightning cartoon, there’s a clue). Critical of the way that the character has been used in recent years – Considering some of those appearances included his working for Lex Luthor when he was President of the United States for awhile, you can kind of see why – Isabella has, nonetheless always maintained that he would be happy for other creators to use Black Lightning as long as such use was consistent with the character that Isabella created. Apparently, de-aging Black Lightning and turning him from an inner-city school teacher into an Olympic athlete, thereby changing both the character’s origin and his motivations doesn’t quite fit that bill.
Dan Mishkin, co-creator of Blue Devil (alongside Gary Cohn and artist Paris Cullins) was slightly more conciliatory in his response, posting on Facebook that “DC Comics is apparently not finished with the Cohn & Mishkin characters yet” – the company is also reviving another character he and Cohn co-created in the 1980s, Amethyst, something that he has conflicted feelings about – adding that the revival won’t be written by any of the characters’ creators “because, again, that is how the game is played.”
In the comments thread of Mishkin’s Facebook post, Cohn gets involved, suggesting that “We’re not “still around” as far as DC is concerned. My take is beginning to evolve into this: we created a couple of things that will, apparently, be perennials…always somewhere in the mix. So there’s a bit of DC legacy from Cohn and Mishkin, Mishkin and Cohn. Beyond that, these were things we created when we were much younger men, thirty years ago.” He continued,
There’s a zen story about two monks who encounter a beautiful girl on a muddy road. One monk carries the girl across the road. The other fumes until later that night he can’t resist, and chastises his friend. “We’re not supposed to have contact with women,” he says. The first monk responds, “I left her back there. Why are you still carrying her?” I’m coming to understand that I should leave Amethyst and Blue Devil “back there.” If and when I create something new and interesting and I want to promote it, I’ll be more than happy to talk to anyone about it. But for BD and Amethyst…it will be nice to get a check now and then if it happens. I’ll always have a residual curiosity about what’s happening with them, and if it’s something nice like the Cartoon Network Amethyst shorts, that’s fun. But other than that, they’re back there.
DC Universe Presents #13, the first issue of Andreyko’s “Black and Blue,” will be released in October.