Black Lightning

From Academic Kids

Template:Superherobox Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, was DC Comics' first black superhero to have his own title. He was created by Tony Isabella and first appeared in Black Lightning #1 (1977).

A former Olympic athlete, Jefferson Pierce returned to his old neighborhood (the notorious Suicide Slum in the proud city of Metropolis) to become a teacher. Appalled by the violence he saw, he tried to intervene on behalf of his students, but quickly learned that the local mob objected violently to interference. A family friend, whose brother was a tailor specialising in superpowered clients, suggested an alternative: and Pierce donned a mask, an Afro wig, a hip way of talking, and an outfit that gave its wearer electrical powers to become Black Lightning, defender of the poor and underprivileged. (Later, when Black Lightning was captured by his enemies and the belt that gave him his powers destroyed, it was discovered that he had somehow internalised the power and no longer needed the belt.)

The original candidate for DC Comics' first headlining black superhero was a character called the Black Bomber, later described by cartoon and comics historian Don Markstein as "an insult to practically everybody with any point of view at all." 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; even with the first-issue deadline looming, Isabella was convinced that the only way forward was to scrap the Black Bomber and start again from scratch, and so Black Lightning came into being.

Isabella wrote the first ten issues of Black Lightning, before handing over to Dennis O'Neil. Only one O'Neil-scripted issue came out before the series was cancelled in 1978 as part of a general large-scale pruning of the company's superhero titles (which also, incidentally, killed off what would have been, had it not been cancelled just before the first issue, DC's first title starring a female black superhero).

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 written by O'Neil, and, notably, a two-part story in Justice League of America in which the Justice League, after seeing him in action, offered him a membership - which he turned down.

During this period, 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 bystander during an altercation between Black Lightning and some gun-wielding thugs.

In 1983, powers restored, he became a regularly-appearing character again as a member of the Batman-led superhero team the Outsiders.

When The Outsiders ended, he returned to doing the occasional guest appearance. One such appearance, in 1988, resulted in increased powers.

In 1995, a new series of Black Lightning began, again written by Tony Isabella. Editorial disagreements about the direction of the series resulted in Isabella leaving after eight issues; the series limped along for another five issues before being cancelled, and Black Lightning returned once again to guest-star limbo.

When Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States in 2000, he offered Jefferson Pierce the post of Secretary of Education, which Pierce accepted. Pierce has had subsequent appearances in Green Arrow (in which the protagonist was dating his niece), and the new Outsiders (in which one member is his daughter Anissa, aka Thunder).

Black Lightning in other media

Black Lightning has never appeared in any of the many television series based on DC Comics superheroes. This is in itself 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 and guest stars Soul Power in Static Shock and Juice in Justice League Unlimited - leading fans to speculate that for some reason DC is making a point of not including Black Lightning.

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