DC Comic’s first black headlining character! Black Lightning was created by writer Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden in 1977 and has continued appearing in current books, but along the years the character has not been without some controversy. When DC decided to present a black character for his own series, they came up with a character called the Black Bomber. If you haven’t heard of this story before, prepare for some shocks, laughs, and a face palm worthy Patrick Stewart/Jean-Luc Picard proportions. The Black Bomber was suppose to be a racist white man with the ability to change into a black man and save people. He would then spit some racial slurs in disgust from having saved a black person. Oh, and how about this one? His costume was suppose to be a basket ball uniform. Have you placed your palm upon your face yet? In one of Dwayne McDuffie’s last issues of JLA, he poked fun of the Black Bomber ill-guided idea, introducing us to the Brown Bomber who turned into a black hero when he shouted “Black Power!” He was given the ability to stay as a black man for an hour which he calls, “C.P.T.” McDuffie had originally written a line where Bomber asks Vixen if he could say the N-word due to him “being black” in which Vixen responds, “…No. You absolutely can‘t.”
So going back to the 70s after the mindless and idiotic idea of the Black Bomber, in came Tony Isabella, a man with a mind and not idiotic, to save the day… or DC’s ass, if I may say. Isabella created Jefferson Pierce, a gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete with the strong sense of morality and responsibility to improve his community, Suicide Slum, a city of Metropolis. He was a hard working Christian and a positive teacher. Jefferson was given the abilities of electro-magnetic powers which he used to clean up his community, naming himself Black Lightning. The name was used as a way to show all who opposed him who they were messing with, as a strong, positive black hero at the time wasn’t common.
Sadly Isabella wouldn’t get too much space to continue developing his characters. Twice Isabella was taken off of a Black Lightning series despite praises of the series and character and led the character to obscurity for a short bit. The character would then re-appear years later, but certain actions would be classified out of character by many fans of the character and creator, Isabella himself. Actions such as becoming a cold-blooded murderer and also joining President Lex Luthor as his Secretary of Education. Let me not forget to include Lightning’s lack of television appearances. Remember Black Vulcan in the old Super Friends cartoon? Originally planned to be Black Lightning himself, but due to Hanna-Barbera refusing to pay for licenses to the character’s creators, Vulcan was created instead. Lightning was also to be guest starred in Static Shock, but once again due to licenses, Soul Power was created to replace him. At least finally the character appears in Batman: Brave in the Bold, though the character is radically changed, hardly resembling the comic’s Jefferson Pierce.
Over the years in the comic-verse, Black Lightning has joined Batman’s team The Outsiders where he became a regular and was trained in hand-to-hand combat by the Dark Knight himself. Black Lightning also joined the Justice League for a short while before leaving to join Alfred Pennyworth’s Outsiders team. He continues to be a fan-favorite.
Black Lightning Adventures can be found:
Black Lightning (1977) #1-11
Black Lightning (1995) #1-13
Justice League of America: Tornado’s Path
The Outsiders: The Deep
JLA/JSA: Lightning Saga
JLA: The InJustice League
Black Lightning: Year One