Written by Tom G. Wolf
The new CW series Black Lightning premieres on Netflix this week, and advance reviews have been roundly positive. With Cress Williams (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Hart Of Dixie) in the title role and a strong supporting cast, Black Lightning already looks like it will be another strong addition to CW’s superhero stable.
But who is Black Lightning? Well, though he doesn’t share the same level of fame as some of his CW companions, he’s nonetheless a significant character in the DC Universe. Expect to see a new current of fan interest, in his old and new adventures, fire up over the next few weeks.
He’s been around since the ‘70s
Black Lightning debuted in 1977, a creation of veteran comics writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eeden. Intended to be DC’s first high-profile African-American superhero, his initial run was quite short, lasting only 11 issues. However, he would go on to establish himself as a supporting character in numerous other titles, including World’s Finest Comics, Detective Comics and Justice League Of America. Most recently, he received a reboot miniseries – 2017’s Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands.
He’s got a… shocking… array of powers
As his name suggests, Black Lightning is capable of creating lightning bolts, which he uses to frighten or stun villains. In the comics he’s also capable of turning himself into electricity, creating forcefields and absorbing energy to make himself more powerful. It still remains to be seen how many of these will make an appearance on the show, but we can probably expect to see at least a few.
His enemies are numerous
Black Lightning’s main villains are The 100. They’re a gang that controls much of the grift in Black Lightning’s hometown, headed up by Tobias Whale (played by rapper Krondon). In the comics, their number has included numerous super-powered members – while Black Lightning isn’t set to be a monster-of-the-week show, it seems likely that we’ll see him confronting at least a few villainous metahumans.
He’s a family man
With a full-time job as a high school principal, an ex-wife (Lynn) and two daughters (Jennifer and Anissa), Black Lightning has his hands full even without fighting crime. In the comics, both of his daughters have also developed metahuman powers at different times, sometimes aiding him directly in fighting crime.
He’s an Outsider
In the DC Universe, the Outsiders are a team formed by Batman to handle that were outside of the purview of the Justice League. Black Lightning was one of the founding members, and has remained part of the team for most of its subsequent incarnations. Though Black Lightning isn’t currently part of the CW Arrowverse, it’s a fair assumption there will be some kind of crossover in the future. With Katana already having popped up in Arrowverse, maybe we’ll see some incarnation of the Outsiders onscreen in the near future.
Black Lightning premieres on Netflix today