We are counting down the days to the anticipated debut of the CW’s newest superhero program, Black Lightning. While one could take issue with the newest show not connecting with the acclaimed Arrowverse (i.e. Me), there’s still much to be excited about with the premiere just around the corner. Here’s the thing, how many of you realllllllyyy know the character Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning?
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “What the f—, Lou?! I come here for your wit, sarcasm and humor, not your serious takes on things!” and to that I say, “Mom, I swear I’ll get back to that soon enough.” I’ve decided that from time to time, I’ll put together Top 10 lists with actual information and facts on random topics, not just my asinine takes on random topics. With the CW releasing a new superhero show, its first that a) doesn’t connect to the normal continuity (yes, I know Supergirl didn’t originally, but it does now, so…), and b) is lead by an African-American superhero, I deem this topic to be highly important. Black Lightning, while not quite a household name, has a storied history within DC lore.
Top 10 Things You May Not Have Known About Black Lightning
10. World Renowned Athlete
Jefferson Pierce, our titular hero also known as Black Lightning, has a back story that includes being a world class decathlete. In fact, the character is an Olympic gold medalist. Does Batman have a gold medal? I think not.
9. Originally a Racist…Wait…What the…
You read that correctly. In 1977, the FIRST iteration of the character, known as the Black Bomber, was a white racist…no I’m serious…who in times of stress and crisis turned into a black superhero. Does this sound at all racist, tone deaf, AND insane?? Yeah, well Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella was (unbelievably) the first to voice that opinion to those in charge over at DC. Appalled that this character was being brought to life (with 2 issues with scripts already finished), Isabella asked the DC brass, “Do you really want DC’s first black superhero to be a white bigot?” Thankfully, Isabella convinced them this was a bad (horrible, terrible) idea, and was able to make DC’s first African-American superhero a memorable one.
8. Another Icon
Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella, before taking the reigns of Black Lightning, worked on another iconic character, this time over at the competition, Marvel Comics, developing story lines for Luke Cage. After working on stories that helped turn Cage into a fan favorite superhero, DC tasked Isabella with developing their first African-American superhero (thank God.) Black Lightning #1 was released in April of 1977 and ran for 11 issues.
7. Supes’ City
In the last decade, an updated version of Jefferson Pierce’s back story changed his place of origin to the all too real city of Cleveland, Ohio. But when he was created, and for the majority of his existence, Black Lightning had been from one of DC’s most famous cities: Metropolis. That’s right, he started his crime fighting career in the same city at Superman himself. The area that Pierce originated from was the Southside of Metropolis, also known as Suicide Slum.
6. Worked on Capitol Hill with Lex Luthor
In DC’s continuity circa 2000, Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States, and as his Secretary of Education, he appoints Jefferson Pierce. Pierce is well aware of who Lex Luthor REALLY is, and the villainous activity he participates in, but he feels he can fight better, and do more good, from the inside of the system. Eventually, his secret identity as Black Lightning being revealed caused him to resign from his position.
5. Same Name, Different Abilities
When the Black Lightning character originally took off, his powers and abilities were quite different than they are now, meaning he had none…sort of. Jefferson Pierce had no powers that came from his own body, but wore a power belt of sorts, which allowed him to generate electrical powers (lightning bolts) and create force fields. During a DC Invasion storyline, it was revealed that Pierce did have innate powers of his own. Not only can Black Lightning shoot lightning bolts from his hands, but can create small lightning storms, as well as become electricity himself.
4. Turned down Justice League, but Joined Another
Early on in Black Lightning’s career, he was asked to become a certified, card-carrying member of the Justice League of America. Preferring to work alone, fighting street level crime as a vigilante, he turned them down. Buttttttt, when Batman came recruiting, putting together a team he would coin “the Outsiders,” Now, wouldn’t YOU rather be a part of a Batman secret group other than share the spotlight with Superman and Wonder Woman in the JLA? Right, me too.
3. Thunder and Lightning
Jefferson Pierce has 2 daughters, and both have metahuman abilities. His oldest daughter, Anissa, goes by the moniker of “Thunder,” with powers allowing to her manipulate her own body mass and density. She is then able to make her skin so tough she’s essentially bulletproof, and can create shock waves by stomping the ground. His younger daughter, Jennifer, is known as “Lightning,” with powers not unlike her father, such as manipulating electricity and shooting bolts from her hands.
2. Alternate Versions
The DC Universe is built within a multiverse, meaning there are several alternate versions of Black Lightning living on different Earths, within different storylines. In the Injustice: Gods Among Us arc, Pierce is a part of Batman’s “Insurgency,” trying to take down a dictatorial Superman and rebuild the Metropolis he loves. On Earth-23, Black Lightning is a part of an all African-American Justice League, lead by a black Superman. There’s even an alternate version that goes by the code name “Brown Bomber,” a new version of that original Black Lightning (Bomber) idea. Good God, no one thought that idea should just die in a fiery death?! DC Comics, I’m judging you pretty hard right now.
1. Tobias Whale
Every superhero needs an archenemy. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, Darkwing Duck has Negaduck. Black Lightning’s main super villain is Tobias Whale. Yes, that’s a stupid name, but Whale is an intriguing character. A very large African-American albino, he is the head of “the 100,” an organized crime syndicate existing in the DC Universe. With commonalities to Daredevil’s Big Bad the Kingpin, Whale, also referred to as “the Great White Whale,” has been a major player in the criminal underground of both Metropolis and Gotham.
There ya go, folks. Hoping that whet your appetite for a little Black Lightning, and you’ll be tuning in with me to the CW on January 16th at 9:00pm, when Black Lightning, lead by the ultra talented Cress Williams, premieres. Tune in to the Geekiverse for all of your Arrowverse wants and needs.
Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time father, full time husband & full time superhero enthusiast. You can follow all of his inane commentary on Twitter @Sweetest_Lou
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