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).
BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS/ADVENTURES OF THE OUTSIDERS, 1983-1988
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).
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).
THE MODERN AGE
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.
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).