* * * WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE * * *
By the way, that's Silvio Bewsima and his unnamed brother (Giovanni, perhaps?), who was so worried about the diamond being stolen that it drove him to "sit in a small room and draw strange pictures all day". Ha ha, Tony.
About this issue, Tony said: Since the story was also a homage to Silver Age storytelling, specifically Carmine Infantino's Flash stories, I split it into three chapters. The last page of each chapter ran 2/3rds of a page -- with a 1/3-page filler (Science Says You're Wrong and the like) running just underneath. My editor thought that was going too far and asked me to come up with additional material to replace the filler items.
BL 10 was Tony Isabella's first last "Black Lighting" issue. In issue 11, Denny O'Neil took over to write the story of an immigrant family from Puerto Oro, who gets involved with an unsavory restaurateur named Major Corpo. The kid's grandfather was a big name in the old country, and he helps illegal immigrants into the country to work for Corpo, but too late sees the error of his ways and turns against Corpo.
In the backup story, the Ray (of the Freedom Fighters) has come to Metropolis looking for the Silver Ghost, but instead got trashed by Quakemaster and Killer Moth (in the about-to-be-but-never-was-published SSOSV 16). He's got self-doubt, and is ready to quit, but saves a burning chemical factory instead. He absorbs too much heat and flame, and passes out in Gotham Bay (remember, Gotham and Metropolis are right across the Bay from each other).
"Next issue on sale August 15, 1978."
Meanwhile, BL returns to the scene of the fight with Dr. Polaris, since the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime. Sure enough, he does, and BL foils his magnetic powers by throwing some metal strips to confuse Polaris' powers, just like the fly boys in the Air Force use foil strips to confuse radar. BL takes him down with one punch: "Can't imagine why Green Lantern had trouble with you! Maybe his power ring was broken!" But Polaris magnetically brings down the fire escape on BL, knocking him out until the cops arrive. Det. Corrigan (a black man) thinks that BL knocked over that electronics store, but lets BL go since there's no proof.
Back at Timmons' house, Jackie stumbles in on his uncle, and -- gasp!-- his uncle is really Dr. Polaris! He sneaks out and calls that runaway hotline number he saw earlier, mentioning Jeff Pierce's name to the operator. Too bad for Jackie, but Polaris hears him and tears him away from the phone. It seems that the electronics that he stole were for "revolutionary magnetic circuits" that he completely integrated into his costume, the better to gain revenge over Green Lantern. Jackie tries to escape, throwing a lamp out the window, but Polaris hauls him back by magnetizing the iron molecules in Jackie's blood.
Now wouldn't you know it, but Jeff Pierce's townhouse is just down the street from Baxter Timmons. He sees the lamp thrown out the window, and shortly thereafter the two come out. Polaris is in costume. Jeff changes into BL, and hops on Polaris' van. BL smashes the windshield, forcing Polaris to stop by an auto junkyard. There's a fight, in which a fence gets demolished, and BL almost gets impaled on a crane hook. But just before Polaris can put the final whammy on BL, Jackie plays the farmer to Polaris' donkey: Jackie gets his attention by whupping him upside the head with a 2x4. BL takes him down, and tells Jackie to go back to his parents house where he can help fix the family.
The Ray has time to remember his origin (how inconvenient, at a time like this) while the truck is falling. He was a reporter, who was on a research balloon which went through a cosmic storm. A faulty valve on the outside has to be closed; Langford "Happy" Terrill volunteers to go fix it. Cliff, the chief engineer, wants to do it, but Happy accuses him of deliberately getting them caught in the storm. Outside, lightning hits and Happy gets zapped, but inside Cliff has gotten a "momentary shock that came exactly as planned..." Now imbued with the Ray's powers, Happy saves the balloon with a "solid light aura". His flashback over (fortunately just in time for the truck driver), he leaps out of the water and saves the truck.
On top of a nearby building, a mysterious man in a black cape, mask, and costume curses the Ray. "Damn him! Again he ruins my plans-- even here! But now I'm strong enough to destroy him. Soon the Ray will learn... that no light is powerful enough to overcome... THE DARK!" (Gee, I wonder who he could really be...)
Next: "Who's afraid of... THE DARK?"
The mysterious Master storyline from issue 10 was never finished. Tony Isabella had an interesting caption in there: "It would be incorrect to say the ancient church RESTS on the outskirts of Suicide Slum; rather, it seems instead, to SQUAT on the Metropolis waterfront.. like some obscene TOAD-THING waiting for its next MEAL to fly by!" The "Obscene Toad-Thing"-- wasn't he one of those obscure Marvel villains of the 1960's? Here's what Tony said about this plot dangler: At the time I wrote the "toad-thing" sequence, I'm sure I had an idea where I was going with it. Alas, that is no longer the case. Two decades in the comics biz have taken their toll on me. This will likely remain an unsolved mystery. Someone call Robert Stack.
The Detective Corrigan featured in this issue was black, certainly not the same person as the Earth-2 version. There is speculation that this may have been the Earth-1 version, though. Or maybe the artist just drew him wrong.
Tony Isabella wasn't on issues 11-12 for personal reasons. He did the lettercol for issue 11, but Denny O'Neil wrote the story. Tony did receive sole creator credits on the two issues. I wished the editor and my replacement the best of luck (even sent a telegram to the latter), and turned my attention to comics retailing, said Tony.
Black Lightning just finished up a great 8-issue miniseries (masquerading as an open ended series) written by Tony Isabella.
The Ray story never saw regular print, and neither did his nemesis-to-be The Dark (who is not to be confused with his current nemesis Deathmasque). I don't think the Ray appeared between the cancellation of the Freedom Fighters (which led to the SSOSV crossover and this backup) in 1978 and the teamup with Superman and the rest of the Freedom Fighters in "DC Comics Presents" #62 (1983).
Incidentally, the building Dark's on looks like a newspaper building, judging by what some of the people inside are doing. One man, in the lower left hand corner of the page, is holding up a sign in the window that reads "Lou Fine Lives!"
The Ray is now a guest star (though sorta dead, maybe) in the current "The Ray" series by Christopher Priest.
Thanks to Tony Isabella, Steve Mattson, and Brian Saner-Lamken for comments and corrections on my original posting of the review for this issue. Brian noted that Here's an interesting tidbit: When the Ray was finally revived, in a mini-series written by his former editor Jack C. Harris (which was, unlike the current series, *good*), the first costumed supervillain faced by the new Ray was... Dr. Polaris, the last costumed supervillain faced by Black Lightning in the final issues of *his* last series, which contained backups of the Ray. Coincidence? Oh, sure, but it's still interesting. I think. And thanks to Neil Hansen for the art credits for the issue.
* * * THIS ISSUE * * *
It looks like a Mike Nasser cover, with BL in chains and manacles, his arms above his head out to the sides. His head is down, as if he's unconscious. The cover caption reads "The Death Disciples", and there's no logo.
Copies of this or any other CCC story are available for a mere $5.00 each (that covers copies and P&H). Give me a holler!
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