Black Lightning, the superhero from Suicide Slum, comes to the CW on January 16, 2018. Cress Williams will star in Black Lightning as Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning. As Krypton Radio reported previously, this will be the fifth show currently on the CW based on DC Comics.
Like Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow, dubbed by fans the “Arrowverse,” it is produced by Greg Berlanti. At the moment, there are no plans to have Black Lightning be part of the Arrowverse, although with the revelation of 53 known parallel Earths in the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover event, that may change. Mark Pedowitz, president of The CW, said that the series “at this time, is not part of the Arrowverse. It is a separate situation.” However, the show’s creators, Mara Brock Akil and her husband Salim Akil, aren’t ruling out the possibility of crossovers.
When writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eeden created Black Lightning in 1977, Jefferson Pierce was an Olympic decathlete and a schoolteacher. Rather like Gabe Kotter in Welcome Back, Kotter (which was popular at the time), he deliberately returned to the bad neighborhood he’d grown up in to help people. Pierce lived in a part of Metropolis that Superman rarely visited, Suicide Slum, where the cops refused to go in groups of less than five. Black Lightning was the first African-American hero to have his own title at DC. He turned down a chance to join the Justice League of America, partly because Suicide Slum needed him, but mostly because Green Arrow made it appear the JLA only wanted him because they needed a token African-American. He later joined Batman and the Outsiders (written by Mike W. Barr), when Lucius Fox was kidnapped and Bruce Wayne could not believably convince his abductors that he was a relative of Fox’s.
Now, CBR reports, Pierce “is a high school principal with two daughters who is grappling with his crimefighting past. Jefferson stepped away from the superhero lifestyle because of what it did to his family, but now a new threat has taken hold in his neighborhood, prompting him to once again don his superpowered persona.”
Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is a man wrestling with a secret. As the father of two daughters and principal of a charter high school that also serves as a safe haven for young people in a New Orleans neighborhood overrun by gang violence, he is a hero to his community. Nine years ago, Pierce was a hero of a different sort. Gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, he used those powers to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life on the line, and seeing the effects of the damage and loss that his alter ego was inflicting on his family, he left his superhero days behind and settled into being a principal and a dad. Choosing to help his city without using his superpowers, he watched his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) grow into strong young women, even though his marriage to their mother, Lynn (Christine Adams), suffered. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, and those he cares about in the crosshairs of the menacing local gang The One Hundred, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also the soul of his community.
Black Lightning will be filmed in Atlanta, but set in New Orleans. The majority of the cast are African-American (Criminal Minds‘ Damon Gupton as Inspector Henderson, A. N. T. Farm‘s China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce, One Life to Live‘s Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce). Black Lightning’s older daughter, Anissa, is Lesbian and has an Asian-American girlfriend, Grace Choi (played by Crossing the Rubicon‘s Chantal Thuy). Depending on how large a role Pierce’s ex-wife and daughters have in the show, it might offer some strong female characters. In the comic books, Black Lightning was bidialectal. He spoke “jive” and wore an Afro wig in his superhero persona, but had short hair, wore a suit and tie, and spoke as articulately as President Obama in his identity of Jefferson Pierce.
Black Lightning will debut on the CW on Tuesday night, January 16, 2018. Thirteen episodes are promised. Will you be watching?