Black Lightning

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This article is about the comic book character. For other uses, see Black Lightning (disambiguation).
Black Lightning
Art by Kevin Nowlan.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Black Lightning #1
(April 1977)
Created by Tony Isabella (writer)
In-story information
Alter ego Jefferson Pierce
Species Metahuman
Team affiliations Justice League
Outsiders
U.S. Department of Education
International Olympic Committee
Abilities Electricity generation and manipulation
Limited flight
Force field generation
Skilled martial artist
Olympic level athlete

Black Lightning (real name Jefferson Pierce) was one of the first major African American superheroes to appear in DC Comics.[1] He debuted in Black Lightning #1 (April 1977), and was created by Tony Isabella and first drawn by Trevor Von Eeden.[2][3]

Publication history[edit]

Black Lightning, cover details, Justice League of America #12. Art by Alex Ross.

The original candidate for DC Comics' first headlining black superhero was a character called the Black Bomber, a black hero who was actually a white racist and later described by comics historian Don Markstein as "an insult to practically everybody with any point of view at all."[4] When the editor who had approved the Black Bomber left the company before the character had seen print, Tony Isabella (whose previous writing experience included Luke Cage, Marvel Comics' first black superhero with his own title) was asked to salvage the character. Isabella managed to convince editors of his Black Lightning character which he had been working on for some time, mentioning that his characters along the way were merely stepping stones.[5]

Tony Isabella wrote the first 10 issues of Black Lightning, before handing it over to Dennis O'Neil. Only one O'Neil-scripted issue came out before the series was canceled in 1978 as part of a general large-scale pruning of the company's superhero titles known as the DC Implosion. Issue #12 was published in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade and World's Finest Comics #260.

Black Lightning made a number of guest appearances in various titles over the next few years, including a string of issues of World's Finest Comics written by O'Neil, then shifting to Detective Comics and a two-part story in Justice League of America in which the League invited him to join, but he turned them down.

In 1983, with his powers restored, he regularly appeared again as a member of the Batman-led superhero team the Outsiders. When The Outsiders ended, he returned to making occasional guest appearances.

In 1995, a new Black Lightning series began, with art by Eddy Newell, again written by Tony Isabella,[6] who was fired after the eighth issue with the series then being written by Australian writer Dave de Vries. After Isabella left, the series was canceled five issues later, the decision being made before these issues had seen print. Isabella has stated that he believes the editor fired him because of a wish to bring in a new writer to "create his own power base at DC Comics".[7]

A "Black Lightning: Year One" six-issue limited series, written by Jen Van Meter and illustrated by Cully Hamner[8] saw a bi-weekly release in 2009, and was nominated for two Glyph Awards[9] in 2010.

As part of the New 52, a revamped version of Black Lightning appeared in DC Universe Presents where he was paired with Blue Devil.[10]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Year One[edit]

A gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete, Jefferson Pierce returned to his old neighborhood in the Southside (Suicide Slum) section of the city of Metropolis, with his wife Lynn Stewart and his daughter Anissa to become the principal of Garfield High School. Southside as it was once known was where his father - renowned journalist Alvin Pierce - had been murdered. Guilt over this event was a factor in his decision to leave the city of Metropolis. Suicide Slum was being torn apart by a local organized criminal gang called the 100, shady corporations, and crooked local politicians like Tobias Whale. Peter Gambi, a family friend and tailor, had taught a much younger Jefferson how to suppress his inborn metahuman abilities so that he would not accidentally hurt any of the people he cared about.[11] Upon his return Gambi suggested to Jefferson that he should use his powers to help the neighborhood, and refers him to a plaque with the paraphrased Milo Sweetman quote "Justice, like lightning should ever appear to some men hope, to other men fear", the original text of which was "Justice, like lightning, ever should appear to few men's ruin, but to all men's fear. Of mortal justice if thou scorn the rod, believe and tremble, thou art judged of God." Appalled by the public murder of Earl Clifford, one of his more promising students, Pierce tried to intervene on behalf of the schoolchildren, but quickly learned that the 100 objected violently to any interference.[2][12] Pierce adopts the costumed identity "Black Lightning". Years later, he would tell fellow African American superhero Mister Terrific that he chose the name Black Lightning because he "was the only one of us around" at the time, and he "wanted to make sure everyone knew who they were dealing with."[13]

Outsiders[edit]

Main article: Outsiders (comics)

After his own series was canceled, Black Lightning lost his electrical powers, but continued fighting without them. The loss eventually turned out to be psychosomatic, a symptom of a crisis of confidence resulting from the accidental death of a female bystander named Trina Shelton during an altercation between Black Lightning and some gun-wielding thugs. Batman, wanting to recruit him to rescue Lucius Fox in Markovia, helped him regain his powers; this eventually led him to join the Batman's Outsiders.[2] During his time with the Outsiders, a group of villains called the Masters of Disaster captured Black Lightning at the behest of the parents of Trina Shelton to avenge the death of their daughter;[14] however, upon learning that he still regretted what happened and was willing to be executed by them, they sacrificed their lives to save him. During the Invasion! crossover, the Dominators detonated a Gene-Bomb that wreaked havoc with anyone possessing the metagene by making them lose control of their powers.[15] After the breakup of the Outsiders, Black Lightning moved to Brick City to continue his solo career in 1995's Black Lightning #1.[16]

Secretary of Education[edit]

Cover to Black Lightning v2, #1, Eddy Newell

When Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States in 2000, he appoints Jefferson Pierce as Secretary of Education, Pierce accepting as he concludes that he can do more good working within the system than outside it.[2] He resigned amidst controversy over his "worst-kept secret in Washington" identity as Black Lightning, and his alleged inadvertent killing of a criminally-minded corporate CEO, for which President Pete Ross (who had since succeeded Luthor) then pardoned him.

Making frequent guest appearances in several DC series, Pierce has appeared in Green Arrow (who had a one night stand with his niece, a successful attorney named Joanna Pierce). Pierce helped Green Arrow track down Dr. Light in the Green Arrow "Heading into the Light" story arc. He also appeared in the new Outsiders, of which his daughter, Anissa (using the alias Thunder), is a member. He came to fight the new Sabbac and help his daughter alongside Captain Marvel Jr. and the Outsiders. He had on an outfit that mixed his second outfit with the colors of the first. After teaming up with the Outsiders, incoming President Pete Ross asked him to resign as Secretary of Education and he did.

At some point prior to his resignation, Pierce used his pull in Washington to deny the powerful metahuman gangster known as Holocaust permits to build a Casino on Paris Island in Dakota. This would come back to haunt Pierce sometime later when the enraged Holocaust attacked him while he was giving the graduation speech at Ernest Hemingway High School.[17]

Infinite Crisis[edit]

Main article: Infinite Crisis

In issue #5 of the Infinite Crisis storyline, it was shown that Black Lightning was one of the eight people Batman had considered to aid him in destroying the Brother Eye satellite, which controlled the OMACs. Booster Gold, who was not on the list of eight, but knew about the candidates from his knowledge of the future, contacted Lightning before Batman did, as historical data from the future had shown who had aided Batman. Lightning accepted, arriving at the Bat cave to await orders. He then forged an uneasy yet effective alliance with Mister Terrific, combining their powers of electrical manipulation and invisibility technology to strike the villainous AI from the inside.

After the third Society of Super Villains was formed, Black Lightning as a member of Brad Meltzer's new Justice League began using his status as Lex Luthor's former Secretary of Education to gain information from super villains.[18]

Outsiders redux[edit]

In Outsiders (vol. 3) #45, it was revealed that three years have passed since Jefferson's niece Joanna Pierce was murdered, and that upon initially learning of her death, Jefferson went after the corrupt businessman Martin Somers, the man who was responsible. He had intended to wound Somers with his lightning shot, but apparently ended up killing him. Jefferson turned himself in to the authorities. However, it is revealed that Deathstroke was responsible for Somers' death by firing a dart of toxin to Somers moments before Jefferson shot his lightning. Hence, he was dead before he hit the ground. Jason Todd discovered the truth while eavesdropping on the assassin's conversation with Lex Luthor (who was really Alexander Luthor, Jr. in disguise) and contacted Nightwing with this information. When Nightwing and Anissa told Jefferson of this in prison, he disbelieved it and intended to pay for Somers' death. Anissa herself intended to break her father out of Iron Heights Prison. Upon learning from Todd that other inmates were about to carry out a contract hit on Pierce (whose identity as an inmate had leaked to unknown parties), the Outsiders resolved to assist her. They freed him from jail and with the audio recording of Deathstroke's conversation cleared his name.

Justice League of America[edit]

Years ago, Green Arrow brought Black Lightning to the attention of the Justice League of America, who extended an offer of membership to the protector of Suicide Slum. He turned down the offer, preferring to work as a loner and focus on street-level crime.[19] Most recently, however, Black Lightning has joined the JLA, once again appearing with a modified costume.[2] He appears to be primarily based in Washington DC again. Black Lightning assists the JLA with intelligence gathered from the criminal community. Many super villains still believe he is 'in' with Lex Luthor and are willing to cooperate. Jefferson also helps the team in a battle against Amazo. He was the first member of the League to respond to the recent attacks made by the Amazons of Themyscira, and he also saved the President of the United States in this event.

Black Lightning was the focus of the one-shot Final Crisis: Submit, in which he helped the new Tattooed Man and his family escape at the cost of his own freedom. He is subsequently shown in issue 4 of Final Crisis under Darkseid's thrall.

Outsiders[edit]

Recently, Black Lightning was recruited by Alfred Pennyworth to join a new version of the Outsiders following an attack by Doctor Hurt which left Thunder comatose. Unlike previous iterations of the team, these Outsiders must live "off the grid" and stay out of contact with friends and family for months at a time. It is confirmed that, due to this new commitment, Black Lightning has left the Justice League.[20]

The New 52[edit]

In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Black Lightning makes his debut where he was paired with Blue Devil and had a bad start with each other when it came to both of them stopping Tobias Whale's crime wave.[21] He later made an appearance as a possible recruit for the Justice League.[22]

Powers and abilities[edit]

Originally,[23] he was described as having no innate powers, using a belt that allowed him to generate a force field and project electrical bolts. This power was later revealed to exist as a result of the Metagene, according to Invasion! #3.[24]

According to Black Lightning: Year One, Jefferson Pierce is in current continuity a metahuman who was born with the ability to generate and magnify external localized electromagnetic phenomena, by manipulating intense bio-electric fields generated by his body. This is a power that he internalized and kept hidden for much of the early part of his adult life.[25] Exactly how much electrical energy Black Lightning can generate is unknown but he can easily stun or kill a man with his internal powers, and on one occasion he was able to restart Superman's heart after the Man of Steel had suffered from a near-fatal Kryptonite exposure. He can also generate a powerful electro-magnetic force field capable of stopping projectiles, however, this act requires considerable effort and concentration.[2] He has demonstrated the ability to create an electromagnetic repulsion field which grants him limited flight capabilities. Pierce also maintains his Olympic-level physical conditioning, giving him above average strength, speed, and stamina. Under Batman's tutelage, he has become a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant and martial artist.

Black Lightning's daughters[edit]

Jefferson has had two daughters by his ex-wife Lynn Stewart, both of whom have followed in his footsteps and become superheroes. His oldest daughter Anissa Pierce has taken on the name "Thunder" and served on an incarnation of his team the Outsiders[26] and his sixteen-year-old younger daughter, Jennifer Pierce, was recently recruited by the Justice Society of America under the code name "Lightning".[27] A version of Lightning first appeared in Kingdom Come a 1996 miniseries published by DC Comics.

In Justice League of America vol. 2 #27, Pierce claims that people frequently ask him if he is the father of Static, much to his chagrin. It is later revealed that Static is in fact a fan of Black Lightning, and has a poster of the hero in his room in Titans Tower.[28]

Enemies[edit]

Black Lightning has his own rogues galley which consists of:

  • 100 - A criminal organization.
    • Tobias Whale - A crime lord who heads up the Metropolis branch of the 100.
    • Joey Toledo - A drug pusher.[29]
  • Ishmael - A shapeshifting servant of Tobias Whale who was sent to assassinate someone, but was defeated by Black Lightning.[30]
  • Painkiller - A supervillain who was sent to kill Black Lightning.[31]
  • Warhog - An assassin who was sent to kill Black Lightning.[32]

Reception[edit]

IGN listed Black Lightning as the 85th greatest comic book hero of all time, describing him as a true hero and a born badass who has earned his spot on the Justice League.[33]

Other versions[edit]

  • Black Lightning has appeared in the Justice League Unlimited spin-off comic book. His appearances are in issues #15[34] and #27.[35]
  • During a JLA mission, the Vixen encounters an alternate version of Black Lightning called the "Brown Bomber", a contemporary version of the original Black Bomber envisioned prior to Tony Isabella's involvement with the character.[36][37]
  • In the 1997 Tangent Comics series "Black Lightning" is the codename of Francis Powell a member of the Tangent World variation of the Metal Men as well as one of the key members of the government organisation Nightwing. He is in charge of an mission to apprehend the Lia Nelson version of The Flash with the help of "Dark Star" (Todd Rice).

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

  • Black Lightning appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Enter the Outsiders!" voiced by Bumper Robinson. He seems to be the lead of the trio composed of him, Katana, and Metamorpho. They work for a sewer dweller named Slug at first, but turn on him when Wildcat convinces them to fight for good. Black Lightning later uses his electricity to save Wildcat's life with instructions from Katana when the elder falls victim to a heart attack. Black Lightning and his comrades are later seen training with Batman in the teaser of "Duel of the Double Crossers!". Black Lightning's hatred for society is shown in "Inside the Outsiders!". Black Lightning had a fleeting cameo in "The Siege of Starro! Part One" (as one of the heroes under Starro's mind control) in which he blasted Firestorm with lightning and was shown to have a new costume. He reappeared in the teaser of "Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster!", in which he and the rest of the Outsiders (Katana, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, and Halo) help Batman stop Kobra and his cultists from completing a ritual. He and Geo-Force save Batman from being crushed by a snake. Though Batman compliments Black Lightning's ability to lead, the Outsiders forgot to take out the bridge behind them, resulting in reinforcements coming in.
  • Both the animated versions of Black Lightning and Static share a shout-out joke; as they both wear a blue and yellow outfit (trench coat & jacket). In addition, the pilot episode of Static Shock features a scene where Static tries on a costume that looks similar to Black Lightning's, while Black Lightning in Batman: The Brave and the Bold jokes he needs more than a "little static shock" to defeat his enemies (By the same token, Wildcat jokes that it was going to take "a whole lot more than a little static shock to slow this old man down!").
  • Prior to appearing in Batman: The Brave and the Bold in 2009, Black Lightning had never appeared in any of the many television series based on DC Comics superheroes. This in itself is not unusual for a character of Black Lightning's relative obscurity, but is notable because at least three such series have contained specially-created black superheroes with electrical powers who weren't Black Lightning - series regular Black Vulcan in Super Friends, Soul Power in Static Shock, and Juice in Justice League Unlimited, based on Black Vulcan.
  • Black Lightning appears in an episode of Mad voiced by Gary Anthony Williams. In the "That's What Super Friends Are For" segment, he and Plastic Man lead the other heroes in a musical number where they ask Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman about why their group is called the "Super Friends."
  • Black Lightning appears in Young Justice: Invasion, voiced by Khary Payton. In "Happy New Year", he is shown as a member of the Justice League five years later from Season One. In "Cornered", he attempts to remove the force-field that Despero has set in the Hall of Justice. He displays pitch-black electricity when using his powers. In "Endgame", Black Lightning and Static take down the Magnetic Field Disruptor in Dakota City. Afterwards, Black Lightning asks Static that if he needs a mentor, he should let him know.

Film[edit]

  • Actor Terrence Howard has expressed interest in playing Black Lightning in a potential film adaptation, remarking, "I don’t think he’s really been explored."[39]
  • An evil version of Black Lightning known as Black Power appears as a member of the Crime Syndicate of America in the animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. The heroic Black Lightning also makes an appearance, along with Aquaman, Black Canary, Firestorm, and Red Tornado, presumably as backup members of the Justice League, although their actual membership status is never explicitly stated.[41] Black Lightning, and the other backups, appear again after the final battle as Batman suggests initiating a membership drive. While Black Lightning does not have any lines his grunts are provided by Cedric Yarbrough, who was credited only in his role as Firestorm.

Video games[edit]

Comic strip[edit]

Homages/parodies[edit]

  • Sinbad once appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live dressed as Black Lightning, crashing Superman's funeral (with the episode airing the same time as The Death of Superman storyline). The other dignitaries and superheroes did not recognize him, even though he claimed to have taught Superman how to fly. As the funeral breaks up so that the superheroes can stop the Legion of Doom in their attack on Metropolis Civic Arena, he is spotted at the back of the room, at the buffet table, grabbing the free shrimp that Aquaman had brought to the funeral.
  • In the commercial of Alltel there is a character similar to Black Lightning, he brings Chad the spokesperson to tell the family about the offer and zaps away the competition.

References[edit]

  1. ^ DC Comics' first superhero of African descent is Mal Duncan, who debuted in Teen Titans #26 (March–April 1970).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Beatty, Scott (2008). "Black Lightning". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 51. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. 
  3. ^ McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "Writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor von Eeden provided the creative juice for Black Lightning." 
  4. ^ Black Lightning at Don Markstein's Toonopedia
  5. ^ Isabella, Tony (30 August 2007). "TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Thursday, August 30, 2007". Worldfamouscomics.com. "How did you come up with the character of Black Lightning? What was he intended to be? Describe the character as you created him.That's a long story, which has been told many times. The short version is that I'd been working toward creating a new black super-hero who would be an iconic role model. The other characters I'd written along the way were stepping stones to Black Lightning. I created Jefferson Pierce to be a reluctant warrior, a man of many extraordinary talents who would hear the call of his community and respond to it, even at great cost to his personal happiness. When DC Comics planned to publish a black hero who was actually a white racist, I talked them into dumping that character and going with my creation instead." 
  6. ^ Manning, Matthew K. "1990s" in Dolan, p. 269: "Writer Tony Isabella returned to his prized character, Black Lightning, in an ongoing series with artist Eddy Newell."
  7. ^ Tony Isabella's post at Newsarama
  8. ^ DC Nation: #31 DC Comics website, October 18, 2006
  9. ^ Newsarama February 17, 2010
  10. ^ Campbell, Josie. "EXCLUSIVE: ANDREYKO SEES BLACK & BLUE IN "DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  11. ^ Black Lightning: Year One #1 (March 2009)
  12. ^ As seen in Black Lightning: Year One #1 (March 2009)
  13. ^ Infinite Crisis #6 (May 2006)
  14. ^ Adventures of the Outsiders #34 June 1986
  15. ^ Invasion! #1 (January 1989)
  16. ^ Black Lightning #1 (February 1995)
  17. ^ Brave and the Bold (vol. 3) #24
  18. ^ Justice League of America vol 2 #2 (November 2006)
  19. ^ Justice League of America #173-174 (December 1979-January 1980)
  20. ^ Justice League of America (vol. 2) #31
  21. ^ DC Universe Presents #13
  22. ^ Justice League #17
  23. ^ Black Lightning #1 (April 1977)
  24. ^ Invasion! #3 (March 1989)
  25. ^ As seen in Black Lightning: Year One #1 (March 2009)
  26. ^ As seen in Outsiders vol. 3 #1 (August 2003)
  27. ^ As seen in Justice Society of America #12 (March 2008)
  28. ^ Teen Titans (vol 3) #83
  29. ^ Black Lightning #1
  30. ^ Black Lightning #7
  31. ^ Black Lightning #2
  32. ^ Black Lightning #12
  33. ^ "Black Lightning is number 85". IGN. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  34. ^ GCD :: Issue Details
  35. ^ GCD :: Issue Details
  36. ^ Justice League of America (vol. 2) #26 (December 2008)
  37. ^ "What's Happenin' Baby? Meet the Brown Bomber!". www.againwiththecomics.blogspot.com. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  38. ^ http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2012/02/21/first-look-supergirl-wonder-girl-and-batgirl-from-dc-nation-shorts/
  39. ^ [1]
  40. ^ The World's Finest
  41. ^ http://www.newsarama.com/common/media/video/player.php?videoRef=NA_100119_Justice-League

External links[edit]