Black Lightning is coming to The CW on January 16 with Cress Williams in the title role, but some might not be as familiar with him as they are with the other CW heroes. So The A.V. Club prepared this introduction to Black Lightning and why his TV show is one worth paying attention to in the already-crowded superhero landscape.
Black Lightning holds a pretty huge honor: He was the first black superhero to headline his own book at DC. As the story goes, DC had originally approved a comic called The Black Bomber, which would have been about a white guy who transforms into a black superhero when stressed. Mercifully, that idea was scrapped, although they would later reference this idea in Justice League Of America Vol. 2, issue #26 with a character called The Brown Bomber. In 1977, DC enlisted Luke Cage writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eeden to come up with a idea for a black superhero that wasn’t stunningly racist.
Thus, Black Lightning, a.k.a. Jefferson Pierce, was born—high school principal by day and local masked vigilante by night. Naturally, his powers have always revolved around electricity, including generating it from within his body and manipulating it in various ways, like shooting lightning bolts and making electric force fields.
Unlike Arrow and The Flash, Black Lightning takes place in a separate universe, meaning we probably won’t be seeing Pierce in any four-part, Nazi fighting epics. Of course, Supergirl was also supposed to remain in a separate universe, but now that show crosses over with the others at least once a year. If the first season goes well, maybe we’ll see Black Lightning team up with the rest of the Arrowverse.