Lightning. Panther. Lantern. Starfleet. Is 2018 truly the Year of the Black Superhero?
Black Lightning premieres soon, and I can’t contain myself. The purpose of this post is three-fold; (1) I want to voice the importance of what’s being called “The Year of the Black Superhero”, (2) I’m extremely excited about Cress Williams being Black Lightning, and (3) I have some geeky comic book questions, open for anyone to answer;
Part 1: THE YEAR OF THE BLACK SUPERHERO
Some people are calling 2018 “The Year of the Black Superhero”, and I love it. In 2018 we get to see Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) have his own DC Comics TV show, and T’Challa (Black Panther) have his own Marvel movie. I’m so glad that Black Lightning is kicking this year off, and that isn’t just because I prefer DC to Marvel… It’s for a much more important reason.
A simple fact check will show you that Marvel’s Black Panther and Falcon both came to mainstream comics before DC’s Black Lightning… and that’s okay. I’ll even give you the background information; Black Panther, the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. A few years later, in 1969, Captain America #117 saw the introduction of the Falcon.
Then, in 1972 DC’s Green Lantern #87 introduced an African American Green Lantern named John Stewart. John Stewart became a substitute Green Lantern to Hal Jordan… and I promise, this it was just a shameless way for me to mention The Green Lantern… John Stewart was the first African American superhero to appear in DC Comics… It’s a big deal. A big Green Lantern deal.
Moving on, DC’s Black Lightning didn’t appear until years later, in 1977, but Black Lightning wasn’t a part of someone else’s story. Jefferson Pierce (aka. Black Lightning) was his own leading man, with a comic book named after him. He made his first appearance as “DC’s Boldest New Super-Hero” in the “Thunderous Origin Issue”; Black Lightning #1 in 1977… and that’s a HUGE DEAL! But the story gets much more interesting…
Black Lightning was developed by Tony Isabella; a writer who had done work on Marvel’s Luke Cage. I applaud Tony Isabella for two huge reasons; First, he gave us Black Lightning, which I love. Second, he saved us from “The Black Bomber”, which was – dare I say – the worst brainstorm in the history of comics… I’m very serious.
Before Black Lightning came to fruition “The Black Bomber” was in the works, and Tony Isabella convinced DC Comics to go in a different direction. “The Black Bomber” was, essentially, a racist white man who was also a Vietnam war veteran. During his time in Vietnam he was exposed to a “chemical camouflage” gas that would allow soldiers to blend in with the natives. Therefore, under times of stress he would morph into a black superhero; aka. “The Black Bomber”. Believe it or not, it keeps getting worse; the black-version had no memory of being white, and vice versa. It almost reminds me of that old Dave Chappelle skit where the white supremacist is blind and doesn’t realize that he is black.
Tony Isabella realized the extreme importance of making DC’s first headlining African American superhero honorable… and I’m very thankful for that.
Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) is awesome, and his story highlights problems that are all too real in the world today; social injustice, racial profiling, political corruption, gang violence, and so much more. In addition to addressing problems, Black Lightning also discusses how to properly approach these issues… and of course, how could you do that without bringing up Martin Luther King Jr’s teaching about nonviolent protest, with a small dash of Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary” beliefs? I would LOVE to breakdown examples of these practices in the comic books, but I don’t want to give spoilers… I will say, though, that Black Lightning has the power to kill by shooting an extremely strong lightning bolt from the palm of his hand; but he chooses not to kill, and normally sets his palm to stun.
I’m so glad that he is kicking this year off…
Moving on, A few months ago someone asked me who my favorite black superhero was, I quickly answered Uhura of the Starship Enterprise (Star Trek)… and yes, I know she is a human, with “no superpowers”, but I stand behind my answer; she has always been an awesome superhero to me. Plus, Uhura was one of the first African American females to be featured in a non-menial role in an American TV series; in other words, she wasn’t a maid, she was an essential and valued member of the Starship Enterprise. Which was a big deal to women and African Americans everywhere. Uhura is the hero that the world needs… But, will we ever truly deserve her?
This year we will see Jefferson Pierce have his own show, and T’Challa have his own movie… and, hopefully, by the year’s end we will no longer have to ask “who is your favorite black superhero?” but only “who is your favorite superhero?” and, maybe, somebody’s will be Black Lightning…
By the way, my husband’s favorite 2018 superhero, of course, is Black Panther; because we live in a house that is DC/Marvel divided. But T’Challa is ridiculously awesome, so I won’t hold his Marvel fandom against him…
Part 2: EXTREME EXCITEMENT
I couldn’t have picked a better actor to play Jefferson Pierce! I absolutely love Cress Williams, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this pairing sooner. Fans of the show Hart of Dixie will know Cress Williams as Lavon Hayes, former football star, and superhero-like Mayor of Bluebell… But now Cress Williams gets to play an actual superhero; Black Lightning.
I love all of The DC Universe shows on The CW, so I would have been excited for this show, regardless, but the fact that it’s Cress makes me excited-times-ten.
Part 3: GEEKY QUESTIONS
(1) Will Tobias Whale (crime boss and archenemy of Black Lightning) really have a whale harpoon?
(2) I’ve heard talk that Black Lightning won’t take place inside the Arrowverse. But, Inspector Henderson (who exists in the Superman universe, as Superman’s police contact) is going to be an “unlikely ally” to Black Lightning in the show, which poses the question – Will Clark Kent’s Metropolis and Bruce Wayne’s Gotham exist inside the Black Lightning world? I mean, when Supergirl was created it was said that she would exist separate from the Arrowverse – but now she is fighting Nazi’s alongside Barry Allen, so…
(3) Will the Daily Planet report on The 100 Crime Gang? If so, is there the possibility that CatCo World Wide Media could get involved? Because I would LOVE it if James Olson (The Guardian) could meet Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning)… or have they already met, during Olson’s time in Metropolis with Superman? I’m allowed to dream… and speculate, wildly.
“Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some men hope, to other men fear.”
Black Lightning premieres Tuesday, January 16th at 9/8c on The CW!
And, now… I will leave you with a shameless Star Trek / Green Lantern plug… Because it’s super relevant to this blog… John Stewart met Uhura in the comic book I’m currently reading; Star Trek / Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds… and it’s insanely awesome! (see photo below.)
Sincerely, the Uncustomary Housewife
Oh wow, I didn’t know that Black Bomber stuff. It’s great they went in a different direction.