This week, the news broke that Black Lightning, a lesser-known but historically important superhero from the vast world of DC Comics, may soon be getting his own TV series courtesy of DC super-fanboy and producer extraordinaire Greg Berlanti. Why is that exciting news? To answer that question, let's dive into the truly incredible back story behind the creation of DC's first headline black superhero.
A Difficult Birth DC Would Rather Forget
In the mid-'70s, DC, playing catch-up with Marvel (who had already brought Falcon and Luke Cage to the page), needed to create a black superhero to prove their diversity credentials and keep up with the competition and the times. Having an entire comicverse filled with white faces just wasn't going to cut it anymore. Thus, they created a character called the Black Bomber.
This is where things start to get really insane, but I promise you everything you're about to read is 100% legit. The Black Bomber was a white supremacist and Vietnam vet who, during his time in service, became exposed to an experimental gas intended to allow camouflage in enemy territory. Back home, when stressed or angry, the white racist would transform into a black superhero known as the Black Bomber, with no realization of the fact that he was actually white.
Obviously, every single thing about this is horrific and presumably conceived after a white man had consumed a very large quantity of cocaine. Luckily, when writer Tony Isabella was drafted in to work on scripts for a Black Bomber comic, he managed to talk DC out of their stupidity. Instead, he created a brand new, actually black superhero, and his name was Black Lightning.
Who IS Black Lightning?
Isabella, who had also worked on Luke Cage for Marvel, took his vague brief — a headline black superhero — and created Jefferson Pierce, alias name Black Lightning, a school principle and former Olympic gold medalist who returns to the notorious Suicide Slum, an impoverished suburb of Metropolis, following his father's murder.
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With his students and neighbors being terrorized by a local criminal gang, The 100, Pierce decided to don a costume and assume the identity of Black Lightning. His powers have altered according to the various DC continuities, but he is typically a metahuman with the ability to create and manipulate bio-electric energy fields. The exact limits of that power are unclear, but he can knock a target out cold or even kill, and he once used his skill to restart Superman's heart.
It's a cool power, but viewed purely on those terms, Black Lightning is perhaps not the most interesting superhero Berlanti could bring to the screen. Jefferson's actual personality, history (he's variously been a member of the Justice Society of America and the Outsiders) and home situation — he has two superheroine daughters, Thunder and Lightning — are arguably far more engaging. Not being one of DC's better known heroes, Black Lightning has a somewhat limited cast of rogues, but is sometimes involved with Blue Devil, who'd make an excellent villain in the TV series.
When's The TV Show Happening?
Berlanti and producing partner Sarah Schechter are currently shopping Black Lightning to various TV networks, but it feels like a pretty solid bet that the series could end up on The CW, presumably as part of the Arrowverse. That would allow crossovers with The Flash, Arrow, Legends and potentially Supergirl, giving Pierce a vast gallery of rogues to play with.
If a pilot is recorded, we should get casting news around February or March, and if said pilot is greenlit to create a series, it will most likely debut in September 2017. So, Black Lightning is not yet a sure bet and still a way off, but it definitely has the potential to expand the DC TV universe to places it hasn't been yet — particularly if the grittier setting of Metropolis' Suicide Slum neighborhood is retained.
We'll keep you up to date with the latest on Black Lightning. In the meantime, check out the latest teaser trailer for The Flash Season 3 above.
Could Black Lightning be as thrilling as The Flash?