Who is Black Lightning?
O great pop media gods, you never stop smiling upon us lowly nerds! The whole of TV land is abuzz again, as the CW has given the green light to create the pilot for DC Comics superhero Black Lightning, adding yet again to their eve expanding roster of characters appearing on the small screen that are based on the publisher’s stable of superhuman properties. And if you think this is a case of studios running out of other viable properties they could run their filthy hands all over, which leads to a bad case of scraping the old barrel, then I’d just have to say that I would be to differ (although I can’t deny there could be some truth to that thought). On the contrary, I think the emergence of these relatively unknown characters to the forefront of popular media just proves how far along the superhero genre has gotten: fans, or at least those cokehead execs, are now willing to try out something new, something whose name isn’t Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man.
But, of course, we have to ask who exactly Black Lightning is. The thing is, he’s the kind of character whom you may mainly know by name but have no idea about. But if I’m being completely transparent here, I honestly think the character is not that obscure. So much so, that I’d rank his popularity to be just right behind Green Arrow’s before the CW came out with the TV series, and that’s mostly thanks to his occasional appearances on animated shows like the Justice League and JLU all those years ago. So, what’s the whole deal with Black Lightning, you ask? Allow me to give you a very brief overview.
All right, first of all, you should know that the character is one pretty important piece of comic book history, given that he’s one of the first African American superheroes out there. Created within the same decade as Marvel’s Luke Cage, which is in the 70s, and in the thick of the whole blaxploitation craze of the era, Black Lightning is the brainchild of writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eeden. He first appeared on the first issue of his own solo title, which was pretty forward-thinking of DC, considering Black Superheroes were fairly rare at that time, especially ones that had their own title. As for his powers, well, it’s self-explanatory: the man has electricity-based superpowers. That’s all you need to know.
But the question is how come Black Lightning wasn’t able to gain as much traction as, say, Luke Cage or Black Panther? Well, the answer to that isn’t all about race (although I’d be wrong to say that didn’t play a part. People could be savage morons sometimes); it’s more because of DC’s publishing methods. See, the 70’s saw the company experience an overabundance in their catalogue, which caused mass cancellations, which we nowadays call the “DC Implosion” – more on that later – and Black Lightning was sadly one of the characters to be cut from their line.
Thankfully, 2017 is looking well for this DC property. Let’s see how it will all unfold.