Black Lightning! DC’s first superhero of color! Who is this man with lightning powers capable of fibrillating a near-dead Superman’s heart, and skilled enough to be Lex Luthor’s Secretary of Education? Want to learn more about Jefferson Pierce and his battles in Metropolis’ Suicide Slums? Join me, won’t you?
Jefferson Pierce grew up in Southside Metropolis, commonly referred to as the Suicide Slums due to the notion that this was the only way out for its residents. Not the most chipper of places, high in crime, and Jefferson felt it at home with the death of his father due to a mob hit gone awry.
Jefferson would get a father figure in Peter Gambi, a friend to the family and tailor who worked in the shop under Jefferson’s home. Gambi would prove to be an invaluable friend and mentor. In his original beginnings, Jefferson would gain his powers from a belt Gambi built, but the new origin has Gambi help Jefferson get his metahuman abilities under control. In the end, Gambi is sort of the Alfred to Jefferson’s Bruce.
Going to school at Garfield High, Jefferson would excel in both academic and sports, eventually getting a scholarship to a fine college outside of the Suicide Slums. He’d continue on to get English and teaching degrees, and even become an Olympic medalist. Jefferson would meet a woman named Lynn Stewart, marry her, and have two children with her, Anissa and Jennifer. The two children would develop their own powers and become Thunder and Lightning.
After his mother’s death, Jefferson found himself returning to the Southside to become a teacher and principal at his old high school. Here he’d run afoul of an organized crime group called The 100, who would go on to become a constant thorn in his side. After the death of one of his students, Earl Clifford, he took on fighting The 100 as Black Lightning, with a uniform made by Gambi.
Jefferson would go on to work with Batman and the Outsiders, where he’d lose his powers only to regain them after realizing their loss was psychosomatic. Eventually the team would disband, and Jefferson would go back to a solo crime fighting career. His abilities beyond superheroics in the field of education would garner the attention of Lex Luthor, who while president, appointed Jefferson the Secretary of Education of the United States of America. He did this as a way of changing the system from within, and to keep watch on Luthor.
Resignation was soon in the cards due to having to deal with events as Black Lightning, and the murder of a corrupt corporate CEO. The new President of the United States, Pete Ross (Superman’s friend from Smallville), would pardon him. Jefferson would get to team up with such heroes as Green Arrow, and return to join the Outsiders. He was able to use his time in DC (the US capital, not the comics company) to take down harder to reach crime bosses. Jefferson would prove that his powers went beyond just electricity.
Batman would trust Jefferson to help him in destroying his creation of the rogue Artificial Intelligence, Brother Eye. This would have him teaming up with even more heroes than he had before. His niece, Joanna, would be murdered in this time, and he would team up with the Outsiders to find her murderer. While working with them, he’d learn that his daughter Anissa had taken up the superhero moniker of Thunder and joined his old team.
The Justice League would invite Jefferson to join, and he accepted. During this time he would once again relocate to DC and be on call from there. This allowed him easy access to his political pull, if the team ever needed such help. During his tenure as a League member he would save the President’s life from an Amazonian attack; no big deal for Jefferson.
Jefferson’s time as Secretary of Education for Lex Luthor and his not-so-secret identity had many villains believe he was still working with Luthor. This granted him an easier time getting information for other heroes about what was going on in the world of super-villainy.
As the Final Crisis began, most electronic communications were knocked out, and it was up to Jefferson to use his powers to help maintain order by granting communications across the globe. As Darkseid’s forces attacked and began transforming people into his own forces known as Justifiers, Jefferson would sacrifice himself, becoming a Justifier to keep others from experiencing the same fate. With the reboot of DC, it is unknown what the fate of Black Lightning will be; hopefully he will return sooner than later.
Black Lightning #1
Batman and the Outsiders
Black Lightning: Year One
Justice League of America Vol. 2