Interview With Tony Isabella
(May 1997)

Tony Isabella wrote Daredevil in the mid 70's. His run on the comic was issues #119-123. Mr. Isabella was kind enough to answer these questions by e-mail. You can catch his regular column 'Tony's Tips' in the CBG.

Kuljit Mithra: Can you give some background on your comics career? When did you start and what got you interested in writing for comics?

Tony Isabella: I started working at Marvel Comics on Halloween, 1972. My first job was editing weekly reprints for Great Britain, working very closely with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and Sol Brodsky. I'd always loved comic books and when, as a young man, I realized people got paid for making them, I knew that's what I wanted to do as well.

After spending a few years at Marvel, I moved over to DC Comics for about a year. Then I moved back to my native Ohio where I bought a comic-book store, distributed comic books to other stores, and kept writing comics whenever I had a chance. I've written for bunchs of companies and titles over the years.

Mithra: What other comics beside Daredevil did you write in the 70's?

Isabella: I was the regular writer on IT, THE LIVING COLOSSUS, GHOST RIDER, LUKE CAGE--POWER MAN, THE LIVING MUMMY, CHAMPIONS, TIGRA, and CAPTAIN AMERICA. I wrote fill-in issues or stories for just about every hero and title at Marvel at one time or another.

Mithra: What have you worked on recently?

Isabella: Besides my weekly column in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, I wrote the first eight issues of BLACK LIGHTNING for DC and stories for HARLAN ELLISON'S DREAM CORRIDOR and NEGATIVE BURN. With Bob Ingersoll, I wrote a prose short story featuring the Ringmaster for THE ULTIMATE SUPER-VILLAINS book. Ingersoll and I are presently writing a CAPTAIN AMERICA novel.

Mithra: You worked on Daredevil #119-123 in the mid 70's, with Len Wein as your editor. What was it like for you to follow Gerry Conway and Steve Gerber on the comic? Did you know what you wanted to do with the character?

Isabella: I never really thought about following Gerry and Steve. I know that I wanted to bring DD more in line with the Stan Lee issues I'd enjoyed so much as a reader.

Mithra: Bob Brown was the penciler for all your issues. Most comic fans sadly don't remember his work on the title, since he worked after Colan and before Miller. How was it working with Brown? Is he underappreciated as an artist?

Isabella: I loved working with the late Bob Brown. I was a fan of his from his days as the artist on DC's CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN. Yes, he was very much underappreciated.

Mithra: S.H.I.E.L.D. and H.Y.D.R.A. both played big parts in your stories. Did you always want to do a H.Y.D.R.A. story? What is so appealing about the two organizations?

Isabella: Yes...I loved the Nick Fury stuff by Stan and Jack and always wanted to see Hydra restored to glory. This was before the days of grim-and-gritty when a reader could still believe in government good guys.

Mithra: You used the letters page to document the history of H.Y.D.R.A.. Was it well received by fans at the time?

Isabella: I never got to see the mail on those issues, so I don't know.

Mithra: What makes Daredevil a good character to you? bad character?

Isabella: There are so many things I love about Daredevil. His devil-may-care courage, his overcoming adversity, his passion for justice.

Mithra: You wrote Daredevil with a humourous tone. Are you more a fan of the 'Stan Lee/Gene Colan' Daredevil, or the serious Frank Miller Daredevil?

Isabella: I loved them both. While it's true I wrote a humorous Daredevil, I also had a taste of the grittier guy in there as well.

Mithra: I remember in one of your H.Y.D.R.A. columns that you planned on writing it until #131. I think you concluded it by #122. I've heard or read somewhere that Len Wein took you off the comic and then co-wrote #124 with Marv Wolfman. Did Wein have problems with your stories?

Isabella: Apparently so. Needless to say, I think editors removing writers from books to write the books themselves is an indefensible practice. However, I've long since made my peace with Len and Marv and consider them good friends..

Mithra: Do you follow the comic at all now? Why/Why not?

Isabella: I read the Karl Kesel run, which I thought was pretty good. I haven't read any of the more recent issues. Why not? Well, I buy very few Marvels these days and tend to stick to ones written by writers whose work I've liked previously like Peter David and Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid.

Mithra: Gene Colan has returned to the pages of Daredevil. Did you ever work with Colan on any projects? Are you a fan of Colan's work?

Isabella: I did some black-and-white horror and science-fiction stories with Gene for DRACULA LIVES and UNKNOWN WORLDS OF SCIENCE-FICTION. Wonderful artist on every level. I'm a big fan of his work.

Mithra: The Black Widow was also in your stories. Did you want to bring her back as a romantic interest for Daredevil? Wein and Wolfman broke them up again in #124. Does Daredevil need a romantic interest to keep the comic entertaining?

Isabella: I brought the Black Widow back into Daredevil to write an ending to their relationship. I was going to make Foggy Nelson's sister the new love interest in the book, but it would have been a slow, torturous, and (hopefully) amusing development. I think romance is a wonderful thing when handled in an interesting and realistic manner.

Mithra: Who is your favourite Daredevil villain and why?

Isabella: The Kingpin because he's so evil...and Stilt-Man because he's so dumb.

Mithra: What kind of projects are you working on these days?

Isabella: Besides the novel I mentioned earlier, I'm developing new comics characters and looking for work from the major companies. I'm also preparing to launch a new online column this summer.

Mithra: Would you ever consider writing Daredevil again?

Isabella: Sure. If you or any other fans would like to see it happen, write the editors.

Mithra: What would be the best Daredevil story you could write? What would it be about?

Isabella: The best DD story I could write would be my next one. And the best one after that would be the next one after that.

What would it be about? Let's save that for when I get a chance to write it.

(c) Kuljit Mithra 1997
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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