It's no secret that, unless you are only using the character for a few panels in Justice League of America, Black Lightning just isn't very good unless he's written by his co-creator, Tony Isabella. But that rarely happens because the comic book business, like every other business, has a way of ruining the finished product when management and the artists don't see eye-to-eye.
Black Lightning is kind of notorious because, while he's always been a rather well-liked character, most comic geeks are well aware that in the past, DC Comics would do almost anything to avoid using him. The most hilarious example of this was when they created an African-American hero with electrical powers but renamed him "Black Vulcan" for the dreadful Super-Friends Saturday morning TV series. Even as a youngster, the first thing I asked when I saw the character was, "Why didn't they just use Black Lightning?" Little did I know how loaded a question that was.
Not once, but twice (once in the 70's and once in the 90's) was Tony Isabella given the writing chores of a Black Lightning solo series. And not once, but twice was Isabella taken off and replaced by someone who not only didn't seem to "get" the Black Lightning character, but seemed to have a hard time writing about an African-American's perspective at all.
Picture J.K. Rowling not writing the last couple of Harry Potter books. It's that bad.
I give you... World's Finest #256:
Now, have you ever heard an African-American refer to him or herself with that term? Never use that term. Never. It's like using the word "retarded" as an insult. Just. Don't.
Also, even if you know someone named "Black Lightning," don't give them this nickname:
You know, I don't see racism in everything. But I just don't think calling anyone that is a good idea. Denny O'Neil is a great writer, but you just get the feeling he probably should have had a friend proofread this before he sent it in.
And, as an aside, you might remember Sinbad's portrayal of Black Lightning on Saturday Night Live. He wasn't recognized by the other super-heroes at a party and took all the free shrimp from the buffet table before he left in a huff. I wish I could show you that clip, but NBC doesn't have it online. It's a shame, because that was genius.
On the plus side, the next story had this:
Admit it. You laughed a little. Because it's funny.
It was almost as funny as this Moment of Comic Book Greatness! (tm!):
Wouldn't you like to see the original script here? "Hawkwoman grabs the bird lady by her feathered tail. The bird lady is really angry ("SKAWKK!") but just kind of flutters around in frustration."
Man, that's good stuff. I guess cranking out 80 pages a month was a lot to ask from the makers of World's Finest back in the day.
See you tomorrow!