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Lightning strikes twice in this town—and the second time I strike—it's for keeps.
~ Black Lightning
Some of us never lost hope.
~ Black Lightning in Injustice 2

Black Lightning (real name Jefferson Pierce) is a superhero with the ability to generate and control lightning. Originally he was a high school principal and Olympic-level athlete who became a vigilante to take down organized crime in Metropolis' Suicide Slum. Eventually he would become a member of Batman's team of Outsiders for many years, although he retired briefly to become secretary of education underneath president Lex Luthor. Returning to crime-fighting, he has also been a member of the Justice League. His two daughters operate as the super-heroes Thunder and Lightning. Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella and Trevor von Eeden, first appearing in Black Lightning #1.

Publication history

The original candidate for DC Comics' first headlining black superhero was a character called the Black Bomber, a white racist who would turn into a black superhero under stress, and be later described by 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, a black Marvel Comics superhero with his own title) was asked to salvage the character. Isabella managed to convince editors to instead use his Black Lightning character which he had been working on for some time, mentioning that his characters along the way were merely stepping stones.

Tony Isabella wrote the first 10 issues of Black Lightning, before handing it over to Dennis O'Neil. Only one O'Neil-scripted issue came out before the series was canceled in 1978 as part of a general large-scale pruning of the company's superhero titles known as the DC Implosion. Issue #12 was published in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade and World's Finest Comics #260.

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 Comics written by O'Neil, then shifting to Detective Comics and a two-part story in Justice League of America in which the League invited him to join, but he turned them down.

In 1983, with his powers restored, he regularly appeared again as a member of the Batman-led superhero team the Outsiders. When The Outsiders ended, he returned to making occasional guest appearances.

In 1995, a new Black Lightning series began, with art by Eddy Newell, again written by Tony Isabella, who was fired after the eighth issue with the series then being written by Australian writer Dave de Vries. After Isabella left, the series was canceled five issues later, the decision being made before these issues had seen print. Isabella has stated that he believes the editor fired him because of a wish to bring in a new writer to "create his own power base at DC Comics".

A "Black Lightning: Year One" six-issue limited series, written by Jen Van Meter and illustrated by Cully Hamner saw a bi-weekly release in 2009, and was nominated for two Glyph Awards in 2010.

As part of the New 52, a revamped version of Black Lightning appeared in DC Universe Presents where he was paired with Blue Devil.

Fictional character biography

Year One

A gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete, Jefferson Pierce returned to his old neighborhood in the Southside (Suicide Slum) section of the city of Metropolis, with his wife Lynn Stewart and his daughter Anissa to become the principal of Garfield High School. Southside as it was once known was where his father - renowned journalist Alvin Pierce - had been murdered. Guilt over this event was a factor in his decision to leave the city of Metropolis. Suicide Slum was being torn apart by a local organized criminal gang called the 100, shady corporations, and crooked local politicians like Tobias Whale. Peter Gambi, a family friend and tailor, had taught a much younger Jefferson how to suppress his inborn metahuman abilities so that he would not accidentally hurt any of the people he cared about.

Upon his return Gambi suggested to Jefferson that he should use his powers to help the neighborhood, and refers him to a plaque with the paraphrased Milo Sweetman quote "Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some men hope, to other men fear." (the original text of which was "Justice, like lightning, ever should appear to few men's ruin, but to all men's fear. Of mortal justice if thou scorn the rod, believe and tremble, thou art judged of God.") Appalled by the public murder of Earl Clifford, one of his more promising students, Pierce tried to intervene on behalf of the schoolchildren, but quickly learned that the 100 objected violently to any interference. Pierce adopts the costumed identity "Black Lightning". Years later, he would tell fellow African American superhero Mister Terrific that he chose the name Black Lightning because he "was the only one of us around" at the time, and he "wanted to make sure everyone knew who they were dealing with."

Outsiders

After his own series was canceled, 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 female bystander named Trina Shelton during an altercation between Black Lightning and some gun-wielding thugs. Batman, wanting to recruit him to rescue Lucius Fox in Markovia, helped him regain his powers; this eventually led him to join the Batman's Outsiders. During his time with the Outsiders, a group of villains called the Masters of Disaster captured Black Lightning at the behest of the parents of Trina Shelton to avenge the death of their daughter; however, upon learning that he still regretted what happened and was willing to be executed by them, they sacrificed their lives to save him. During the Invasion! crossover, the Dominators detonated a Gene-Bomb that wreaked havoc with anyone possessing the metagene by making them lose control of their powers. After the breakup of the Outsiders, Black Lightning moved to Brick City to continue his solo career in 1995's Black Lightning #1.

Secretary of Education

When Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States in 2000, he appoints Jefferson Pierce as Secretary of Education, Pierce accepting as he concludes that he can do more good working within the system than outside it. He resigned amidst controversy over his "worst-kept secret in Washington" identity as Black Lightning, and his alleged inadvertent killing of a criminally-minded corporate CEO, for which President Pete Ross (who had since succeeded Luthor) then pardoned him.

Making frequent guest appearances in several DC series, Pierce has appeared in Green Arrow (who had a one-night stand with his niece, a successful attorney named Joanna Pierce). Pierce helped Green Arrow track down Dr. Light in the Green Arrow "Heading into the Light" story arc. He also appeared in the new Outsiders, of which his daughter, Anissa (using the alias Thunder), is a member. He came to fight the new Sabbac and help his daughter alongside Captain Marvel Jr. and the Outsiders. He had on an outfit that mixed his second outfit with the colors of the first. After teaming up with the Outsiders, incoming President Pete Ross asked him to resign as Secretary of Education and he did.

At some point prior to his resignation, Pierce used his pull in Washington to deny the powerful metahuman gangster known as Holocaust permits to build a Casino on Paris Island in Dakota. This would come back to haunt Pierce sometime later when the enraged Holocaust attacked him while he was giving the graduation speech at Ernest Hemingway High School.

Infinite Crisis

In issue #5 of the Infinite Crisis storyline, it was shown that Black Lightning was one of the eight people Batman had considered to aid him in destroying the Brother Eye satellite, which controlled the OMACs. Booster Gold, who was not on the list of eight, but knew about the candidates from his knowledge of the future, contacted Lightning before Batman did, as historical data from the future had shown who had aided Batman. Lightning accepted, arriving at the Bat cave to await orders. He then forged an uneasy yet effective alliance with Mister Terrific, combining their powers of electrical manipulation and invisibility technology to strike the villainous AI from the inside.

After the third Society of Super Villains was formed, Black Lightning as a member of Brad Meltzer's new Justice League began using his status as Lex Luthor's former Secretary of Education to gain information from super villains.

Outsiders redux

In Outsiders (vol. 3) #45, it was revealed that three years have passed since Jefferson's niece Joanna Pierce was murdered, and that upon initially learning of her death, Jefferson went after the corrupt businessman Martin Somers, the man who was responsible. He had intended to wound Somers with his lightning shot, but apparently ended up killing him. Jefferson turned himself in to the authorities. However, it is revealed that Deathstroke was responsible for Somers' death by firing a dart of toxin to Somers moments before Jefferson shot his lightning. Hence, he was dead before he hit the ground. Jason Todd discovered the truth while eavesdropping on the assassin's conversation with Lex Luthor (who was really Alexander Luthor, Jr. in disguise) and contacted Nightwing with this information.

When Nightwing and Anissa told Jefferson of this in prison, he disbelieved it and intended to pay for Somers' death. Anissa herself intended to break her father out of Iron Heights Prison. Upon learning from Todd that other inmates were about to carry out a contract hit on Pierce (whose identity as an inmate had leaked to unknown parties), the Outsiders resolved to assist her. They freed him from jail and with the audio recording of Deathstroke's conversation cleared his name.

Justice League of America

Years ago, Green Arrow brought Black Lightning to the attention of the Justice League of America, who extended an offer of membership to the protector of Suicide Slum. He turned down the offer, preferring to work as a loner and focus on street-level crime, though he did offer to become a reservist. Years later, when all of the JLA reservists where called in to fight a newly revived Amazo, Black Lighting was one of the heroes called, confirming that the League had accepted his offer. Most recently, however, Black Lightning has joined the JLA, once again appearing with a modified costume. He appears to be primarily based in Washington DC again. Black Lightning assists the JLA with intelligence gathered from the criminal community. Many super villains still believe he is 'in' with Lex Luthor and are willing to cooperate. Jefferson also helps the team in a battle against Amazo. He was the first member of the League to respond to the recent attacks made by the Amazons of Themyscira, and he also saved the President of the United States in this event.

Black Lightning was the focus of the one-shot Final Crisis: Submit, in which he helped the new Tattooed Man and his family escape at the cost of his own freedom. He is subsequently shown in issue 4 of Final Crisis under Darkseid's thrall.

Outsiders

Recently, Black Lightning was recruited by Alfred Pennyworth to join a new version of the Outsiders following an attack by Doctor Hurt which left Thunder comatose. Unlike previous iterations of the team, these Outsiders must live "off the grid" and stay out of contact with friends and family for months at a time. It is confirmed that, due to this new commitment, Black Lightning has left the Justice League.

The New 52

In DC's 2011 reboot of its continuity, The New 52, Black Lightning comes into conflict with Blue Devil, over their confrontation of Tobias Whale's crime wave. He later made an appearance as a possible recruit for the Justice League.

Powers and abilities

Originally, he was described as having no innate powers, using a belt that allowed him to generate a force field and project electrical bolts. This power was later revealed to exist as a result of the Metagene, according to Invasion! #3.

According to Black Lightning: Year One, Jefferson Pierce is, in current continuity, a metahuman born with the ability to generate and magnify externally-localized electro-magnetic phenomena, by manipulating intense bio-electric fields generated from his body. This is a power that he internalized and kept hidden for much of the early part of his adult life. Exactly how much electrical energy Black Lightning can generate is unknown, but he can easily stun or kill a man with his internal powers, and on one occasion, he was able to restart Superman's heart after the Man of Steel had suffered from a near-fatal Kryptonite exposure. He can also generate a powerful electro-magnetic force field capable of stopping projectiles, however, this act requires considerable effort and concentration. He has demonstrated the ability to create an electro-magnetic repulsion field which grants him limited-flight capabilities. Pierce also maintains his Olympic-level physical conditioning, giving him above-average strength, speed, and stamina. Under Batman's tutelage, he has become a highly-skilled hand-to-hand combatant.

Black Lightning's daughters

Jefferson has had two daughters by his ex-wife Lynn Stewart, both of whom have followed in his footsteps and become superheroes. His oldest daughter, Anissa Pierce, has taken on the name "Thunder" and served on an incarnation of his team the Outsiders and his sixteen-year-old, younger daughter, Jennifer Pierce, was recently recruited by the Justice Society of America under the code name "Lightning". A version of Lightning first appeared in Kingdom Come a 1996 miniseries published by DC Comics.

In Justice League of America vol. 2 #27, Pierce claims that people frequently ask him if he is the father of Static, much to his chagrin. It is later revealed that Static is in fact a fan of Black Lightning, and has a poster of the hero in his room in Titans Tower.

Quotes

Ever regret the pain you cause?
~ Black Lightning
Instead of fighting fear, you embraced it.
~ Black Lightning
Because I know right from wrong.
~ Black Lightning

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