Thursday, February 18, 2010
Black Lightning. DC Wakes Up and Smells the Marketplace!
Tony Isabella, the man who brought you Luke Cage, gave DC comics one of my all-time favorite Black superheroes. Black Lightning.
Black Lightning is Jefferson Pierce, an Olympic gold-medalist who returns home to his old neighborhood on Metropolis' South Side- Suicide Slum.
Okay, I know the 70's comics were all about addressing real-world social issues, but you're telling me there's a neighborhood in Superman's home town that's SO BAD it's called "Suicide Slum" ? Hell, in the early 60's, Superman would have built clean, pretty, low-income housing on his day off and found jobs for everyone who lived in them. Of course, I guess it wasn't possible for Superman to tackle the problems of Black folks in the 1960's, as the Silver Age DC Superman comics didn't have any black folks for him to help...
Anyway, back to Black Lightning. So, in a combo of Welcome Back , Kotter and Walking Tall, Pierce (who has just accepted a job as a High School principal) returns home to find that there's a crime problem in his old neighborhood. An organized crime outfit called "The 100" have set up a drug ring on the South Side. And it looks like the 100 have a little help from a crooked politician, Tobias Whale (A freaky-looking, morbidly obese African-American albino who's kinda like The Kingpin crossed with Moby Dick).
So, of course Pierce gets his Family Friend, tailor Pete Gambini, to whip him up some disco threads -with a built-in electro-shock weapon- and takes it to the streets as Black Lightning.
At some point, with no real explanation (current retcon's aside) Jeff Pierce himself has the power to make lightning, not his costume.
Sadly, Black Lightning's series only lasted 11 issues. The first ten were written by Tony Isabella, with the final issue being written by Denny O'Neil. After his series was cancelled, Black Lightning was added to the line-up of The Outsiders, alongside Metamorpho.