Forty years after the character initially appeared as a comic character, Black Lightning will finally make it’s debut appearance on the small screen on the CW this fall. While this character joins the current wave of African-American superheroes getting larger exposure to a new generation of audiences, we examine his humble beginnings.
Before the world met DC Comics’ first Black Superhero, Jefferson Pierce, who would become Black Lightning, a very creative comic book editor approved a character was known as “The Black Bomber.” According to legend, The Black Bomber was conceived as “a white racist who would turn into a black superhero under stress.” This racially offensive and tasteless idea was described as “an insult to practically everybody with any point of view at all,” by comic historian Don Markstein.
Fortunately, for all parties involved, the editor who approved the Black Bomber left the company before the character had seen print. DC Comics turned to a man who previously had written for another Black Superhero for Marvel, Luke Cage, veteran Tony Isabella to see if he could take the previous comic lemons and turn them into lemonade. It was Isabella who managed to convince editors to instead use his Black Lightning character which he had been working on for some time, mentioning that earlier characters along the way helped him reach his final destination.
Fast forward four decades later and The CW. Mara Brock Akil, Salim Akil and Greg Berlanti have teamed up to create the latest comic series for television. Playing the title character, Black Lightning will be Cress Williams (Living Single) and Christine Adams as his ex-wife, Lynn. The series will explore the complex world of being a superhero balanced with a bustling family life.
The upcoming pilot episode will feature Jefferson Pierce (Williams), who retired from his superhero persona Black Lightning, being forced to return when his daughter Jennifer (China Anne McClain), who is hellbent on justice and a star student, gets recruited by a local gang.
Black Lightning will debut as a part of the CW this fall.