Why He’s Interesting: If you’ve picked up a comic book in the last 50 years, there’s a good chance Isabella has contributed to the franchise. Name the hero: Luke Cage, Daredevil or Captain America. The Medina resident has written for them all. Now Isabella’s most famous original character, Black Lightning, is being adapted into a television show for the CW.
Origin Story: By the time Isabella could read, the Cleveland native was devouring the vibrant illustrations and out-of-this-world characters in comic books. “I always loved comic books, and much to the despair of my parents, I wasn’t likely to grow out of them.”
Super Power: Isabella singles out Fantastic Four Annual No. 1 as the issue that unmasked comic book writing as a legitimate career. After reading the Stan Lee-penned issue, Isabella couldn’t see himself doing anything else. “My backup plan was to become Clark Kent.”
Plan B: In 1976, DC Comics conceived the Black Bomber, a white racist who could transform into a black superhero. After scrapping the character, DC charged Isabella with creating its first African-American hero — Black Lightning. “I love [Marvel’s] the Black Panther, but he’s an African king. I felt there needed to be a black hero who was closer to the experiences of our readers.”
Ordinary Hero: Isabella wanted Black Lightning to reflect the everyday lives of black readers, so he made him a father and high school principal. “If you’re asking readers to believe the fantastic, as we do every time we write a superhero comic book, it’s good to have the reality stuff be as real as possible.”
Comic Coach: Isabella is not officially involved with Black Lightning, which premieres Jan. 16, but he visited the Los Angeles set. “You spend a few hours with the writers and they ask you questions about comics you wrote 40 years ago. You realize they didn’t just read your comic books, they studied them.”
Monster Mash: Isabella loves the B-movies of his childhood. His passion project is a film about two mothers who must rescue their children from a cabal of classic freaks. “Cheesy monster movies are my second love. I got some cheesy monster movies in me.”
Interesting Fact: Isabella ran a comic book store, Cosmic Comics, in downtown Cleveland from 1978 to 1989.