Black Lightning


Black Lightning

Academic by day, urban avenger by night, Jefferson Pierce has fought all levels of crime and corruption as a solo hero, a Justice Leaguer, and an Outsider.


Aliases: Jefferson Pierce
First Appearance: BLACK LIGHTNING #1, 1977




Jefferson Pierce grew up poor and with few expectations put on him. But rather than coast through life, he decided to challenge himself at every turn. As an adult, he entered the Olympics and won three gold medals. He then furthered his education, then turned to teaching so he could help young people realize their own potential as he had. But gang violence and criminals kept threatening his community and his students. Which is when Jefferson Pierce decided to no longer hide from the metahuman abilities he had been born with and started fighting evil as Black Lightning.


While some vigilantes just want to stop crime or punish criminals, Black Lightning tries to help communities become stronger. As a superhero, he wants to be an example that people can fight back against predators and opportunists. As an educator, he tells kids that who they are in life is their own choice, regardless of circumstances. Whether on his own or with teams such as the Justice League and the Outsiders, Black Lightning will always strike when justice is needed.



blacklightning-origin-BL_01_14-v1.jpg There have been a few differing accounts of Black Lightning’s life and origin. As originally seen, Jefferson Pierce grew up in the Metropolis’ Southside area, known to many as Suicide Slum due to its crime rate and poverty. After making a career as an Olympian and a marriage that ended in divorce, Jefferson returned to Suicide Slum to become a teacher at his old school Garfield High.


Soon after his arrival, Jefferson confronted members of the criminal gang known as the 100. To retaliate, they attacked one of Pierce’s students, inadvertently leading the boy to his death. Angered, Jefferson decided to step in and recruited help from Peter Gambi, a tailor and engineer whose Paul brother provided special outfits for several of Flash’s enemies. Peter Gambi sympathized with Jefferson’s desire to stop the 100 and similar criminals, and so he made for him a “power belt” and costume that allowed him to possess a electrical-based powers. As Black Lightning, Jefferson changed his manner of speech to sound less educated and wore a wig, both so that people wouldn’t suspect the vigilante was the new high school teacher (BLACK LIGHTNING #1, 1977). After using the power belt for some time, Black Lightning internalized the electrical abilities and could summon them at will.


In a later account, Jefferson was born with his abilities and they emerged soon after the murder of his father Alvin, who had been a journalist for the Daily Planet. Peter Gambi was responsible for the death of Jefferson’s father and tried to make amends by looking after the boy as he grew up. He helped Jefferson temper his abilities and initially told him to hide them.


In this version of events, Jefferson was still married to his wife Lynn when he returned to Suicide Slum and the two had already started a family with their daughter Annissa. When the 100 killed one of his students at Garfield High, Jefferson decided to no longer hide from his abilities and fight crime as Black Lightning. Peter Gambi then used some of his brother’s super-villain suit equipment to create Jefferson’s costume, as well as the power belt which now was not responsible for his abilities but helped control them. Later, Jefferson realized Gambi’s role in the death of his father, considered all the good the man had done since, andforgave him (BLACK LIGHTNING: YEAR ONE #1-6, 2009).


DC history was reimagined in 2011's New 52 and in 2016's Rebirth. As a result, some of Black Lightning’s origin has been revised. Although all the details are not known, it is known that his father Louis, a journalist, was still alive when he first became Black Lightning and supported him. Louis also recruited retired costumed criminal-turned-hero Amberjack to help train Jefferson further when he started his Black Lightning career. In this version of events, Jefferson Pierce grew up in Brick City, an area outside of Cleveland (BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1, 2017).


Powers and Abilities

Jefferson Pierce is a former Olympic decathlete and gold medal winner. He excelled in track and field, the long jump, the high jump, hurdles, discus, pole vaulting, javelin throw, shot put, the 100 meter dash, the 400 meter dash, the 1500 meter run, swimming and gymnastics. He has kept his body in prime condition since then. His strength, speed, agility and stamina are all much higher than an average person of his age, height and weight. Along with his Olympic prowess, he has great experience and knowledge in basketball, boxing, and martial arts. He has academic degrees in Language Arts and Physics.


blacklightning-powers-BLCDH_2_p25-v1.jpg Black Lightning is a meta-human who can generate and manipulate his own “bio-electricity,” a trait sometimes called “electrokinesis.” On some occasions, Black Lightning’s raw power seems to increase when his actions are fueled by rage.


Black Lightning can deliver an electric charge similar to that of a taser through his hands, allowing him to stun someone with a touch or deliver an electrically-charged punch. He can also release lightning bolts from his hands of varying degrees of power, enough to knock someone to the ground without serious injury or to tear apart a car. With focus, he can create a grenade-like ball of lightning to throw at opponents.


Black Lightning can use electro-magnetic energy to move and repel metal objects, as well as create force fields to protect himself from threats such as gunfire or even oncoming cars. He can also direct electro-magnetic repulsion blasts beneath him so as to launch himself through the air. He can also use this to propel himself at superhuman speed.


Black Lightning’s bio-electricity can temporarily enhance his strength and his healing abilities if he’s been injured.


Black Lightning can drain power from machines and technology that run on electricity. Likewise, he can cause such things to overload by feeding them power. He can also sense strong electrical fields that are nearby. When he has focused this power, he has sensed the presence of living things nearby.


In his first comics, it was said that Black Lightning’s powers were a feature of his costume. Later, this was revised so that Black Lightning’s abilities with his own and the costume was said to help regulate and control them.


Currently, Black Lightning wears a new suit that has a number of features. Using his bio-electricity, the suit creates a force field that prevents Jefferson’s features from being filmed or photographed. The goggles he wears use residual electrical discharge to blur his features to the naked eye, acting as a mask and protecting his identity.


Black Lightning’s current suit can shift its colors and appearance. Normally, Black Lightning leaves it in its default mode, but it can also become entirely black for stealth operations (with his goggle lenses darkening accordingly) or generate bright light from several areas (including his goggles), making him a beacon.


In the New 52 era, Black Lightning could transform himself into an invulnerable being of living electricity and could summon a mystical form of lightning that was not bound by the laws of physics and was actually colored black. However, these abilities don’t seem to apply to his current stories and history.


Essential Storylines and History


Early Days in Suicide Slum (BLACK LIGHTNING #1-11, 1977-1978)


In his early days, Black Lightning fought the 100, crime lord Tobias Whale, and a variety of super-villains. His attitude and maturity gained him the respect of Metropolis Police Inspector Henderson and heroes such as Superman, Batman and Green Arrow. The Justice League then asked him to join, but he declined so he could focus on community issues and ground-level crime rather than alien invasions and world conquerors (JUSTICE LEAGUE OFAMERICA #173, 1979).





Black Lightning’s powers became internalized, but then he seemed to lose them. When Batman decided to rescue hostages from the country of Markovia, a situation where the Justice League didn’t want to intervene, he recruited Black Lightning and others to his side. When Black Lightning revealed his power loss, Batman figured out that it was psychosomatic due to Jefferson’s guilt regarding Trina Shelton, an innocent bystander who had died during one of his battles. Black Lightning regained his abilities and officially joined Batman’s new strike force, the Outsiders (BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #1, 1983).


blacklightning-essential2-theoutsiders-BMOUT_07_C1-v1.jpg Weeks later, Jefferson was paying his respects at Trina Shelton’s grave only to then be attacked by the super-villains known as the Masters of Disaster. The villains had been hired by Trina’s mother, who blamed him for their daughter’s death. Distraught, Black Lightning surrendered to them. The Outsiders came to Jefferson’s rescue and during this course of events, Trina’s mother realized that he was a good person and acknowledged he had not been at fault. Forgiving him, she then jumped in front of him when the villain Heatstroke fired a deadly blast, dying in Jefferson’s place (BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #8-10, 1984).


Jefferson came to regard the Outsiders as a family and stayed with the team after they separated from Batman’s direction and leadership. As an Outsider, he fought strange menaces, terrorists such as Kobra, and even a clone of Adolf Hitler. Eventually, the Outsiders disbanded and Black Lightning relocated to Brick City, an area where his father had grown up outside of Cleveland (BLACK LIGHTNING #1-13, 1995-1996).


Black Lightning also became a reserve member of the Justice League, joining them whenever they needed him. He was instrumental during the battle against the cosmic threat called Mageddon (JLA #36-41, 1999-2000).




blacklightning-essential3-secretaryofeducation-JLA-Cv17-ns-1-v1.jpg When Lex Luthor won the election for President of the United States, Jefferson Pierce was named his Secretary of Education (SUPERMAN #166, 2001). Jefferson accepted the post in order to keep an eye on Luthor for Superman and the Justice League. At this time, his history was revised slightly and it was revealed he had now two super-powered daughters, 22-year-old Anissa who went by the name Thunder and joined a new version of the Outsiders, and teenager Jennifer who took the name Lightning and worked alongside the Justice Society of America.


Lex Luthor later lost the office of President and his VP Pete Ross assumed the position. Ross then released Jefferson from the post, arguing that too many people now knew he was also Black Lightning and that he didn’t want a superhero on the cabinet. Furthermore, it seemed that Black Lightning had inadvertently killed Martin Somers, a corrupt businessman who had hired an assassin to kill Jefferson’s niece Joanna (OUTSIDERS #10, 2004). Black Lightning accepted punishment for the crime, but was released when it was later proven that the assassin Deathstroke was responsible for Somers’ murder.


Black Lightning continued operating as a superhero, later joining the Justice League of America finally (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1, 2006). He provided major help during INFINITE CRISIS (2005-2006) and FINAL CRISIS (2008-2009). Many of these events, however, and his position as Secretary of Education, no longer apply to DC history.



New 52

In 2011, DC history was reimagined by the New 52 comics. In the new version of events, Jefferson Pierce was a school teacher in Los Angeles who was also secretly Black Lightning. He was single rather than married and with children, and he now possessed mystical abilities along with his standard lightning powers. These events don’t seem to apply to current history.






After DC Rebirth in 2016, Black Lightning’s history in the Rebirth version of DC history is still being established. At this time, it seems he has not been married nor has children, and his identity is still not publicly known. He does have a cousin named Anissa. According to his new stories, Black Lightning started his career several years ago and worked alongside the Justice League, only to then retire for a couple of years.


Black Lightning has now returned to Cleveland following the recent death of his father. Along with fighting criminals, he is determined to defend innocent civilians from police officers who might otherwise open fire on them (BLACK LIGHTNING: COLD DEAD HANDS #1, 2017).


It is also known that Black Lightning, was still recruited by Batman to join the original Outsiders. But in this version of history, this team is clandestine and its existence is unknown to the public (DARK DAYS: THE FORGE, 2017).









Team Affiliations

• Outsiders

• Justice League of America

Appearances in Other Media


Main Character Appearances


Live Action:

• Black Lightning


Guest Appearances/Cameos



• Batman: The Brave and the Bold

• DC Nation Shorts

• Young Justice




Guest Appearances/Cameos



• Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

• Superman/Batman: Public Enemies



Video Games

• Batman: The Brave and the Bold

• DC Universe Online

• Injustice 2