Black Lightning is an inner-city vigilante with powerful bioelectric powers. Jefferson Pierce is a school teacher and principal, and in both identities he fights the influence of gangs like the 100 in Suicide Slum, Cleveland and Brick City.
Jefferson Pierce grew up in Suicide Slum, a neglected part of Metropolis which got its name from the idea that people only escaped the degradation of the slum by killing themselves. His father was accidentally shot during a mob hit, and times were quite tough for Jeff and his widowed mother. A month or so later, Italian tailor Peter Gambi opened a shop beneath their apartment and helped them through their financial difficulties. Peter was there to care for Jeff while his mother worked long hours to support them. Over time, Gambi began to fulfill Jeff's need for a positive father figure in his life.
Growing up, Jeff pushed himself in athletics and in his studies, with an aptitude for English and poetry. He even penned a few lines which stuck in Peter's memory: "Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some men hope, to other men fear". At the age of 18, Jeff managed to make it to the Olympic Games, gaining fame from the media profiles which highlighted his rise from Suicide Slum. Jeff wanted to send a message to everyone back home that you could get out of the neighborhood with hard work.
Having won medals and attention, Jeff received scholarships and endorsement offers which allowed him to go to college and receive both an English major and a teaching degree. Four years after he left for college, he again went to the Olympics and this time won the decathlon. The gold medal winner then began a teaching job upstate in New Carthage but returned to Metropolis for his mother's funeral.
In his time away, Jeff had married Lynn Stewart. He and Lynn were together for a short time but bore a daughter, Anissa. Jeff considered his future career as Black Lightning a necessary sacrifice to help provide for Anissa the freedom to live a normal (i.e., non-metahuman) life. But at the age of eleven, the girl also manifested metahuman powers. She discovered that she was able to alter her density and weight at will. Regardless, Anissa conceded to her parents' wishes and pursued a pre-med degree instead of costumed adventuring. Jeff was so protective of his daughter that he never mentioned her to anyone. When Jeff and Lynn divorced, Anissa went to live with her mother. Lynn was disappointed with Jeff for not being the community activist that she was. He only seemed to care about getting himself out of the ghetto.
Upon his return to Metropolis, he noticed that nothing had changed in Suicide Slum. Pierce decided it was time to make a difference and, indeed, back at his old alma mater Garfield High School, he quickly made an impression when he kicked a drug pusher off the premises and followed suit by humiliating three members of the criminal organization known as the 100. In retaliation, the gunmen killed Earl Clifford, one of Pierce's students, and left his corpse in the GHS gymnasium. A distraught Pierce related the tragedy to Peter Gambi, who urged him to fight back in a persona that wouldn't invite counter-attacks on his students and presented him with a costume.
Equipped with a force-field belt that enabled him to generate lighting bolts, Black Lightning was born. While in costume, Pierce played to the era's stereotypical perception of blacks by affecting a jive-talking speech pattern and wearing a mask/wig combination that gave him a large Afro, simple devices that deflected suspicion from a well-educated school-teacher.
Black Lightning carved out a niche in Metropolis, ultimately gaining the trust of high-profile figures like Superman, Inspector Bill Henderson and reporter Jimmy Olsen. Along the way, he defeated several super-powered underlings of the 100, from Merlyn to the Cyclotronic Man to Syonide, as well as the gang's gargantuan albino leader, Tobias Whale. There would be retaliation for Black Lightning's actions but not against Jeff Pierce's students. Rather, it was Peter Gambi who paid the price, leaping in front of a gun-blast meant for Black Lightning. Stripped of his force-field belt, the hero seemed destined for a similar fate but, in his fury, Black Lightning generated its effects from within his own body. In some unknown manner, he'd internalized the electrical power. The confrontation with the 100 had also exposed Peter's darkest secret. The support and love that he'd showered on Jeff and Mrs. Pierce had been a kind of penance: he had been the man who'd killed Jeff's father.
During this time, Jeff's ex-wife Lynn was hired as a teacher at Garfield High and eventually figured out that Jeff was Black Lightning.
Lightning next met a man who would become one of his biggest allies in crime-fighting: Batman. Together, they investigated a series of student abductions (which included Dick Grayson) and met Superman and Black Canary before the case had closed. This led him to meet Green Arrow as well; these two acknowledged a kindred spirit.
It seemed that Black Lightning was ready to hit the big leagues. After meeting Green Arrow, his new friend nominated Pierce for membership in the Justice League, but Lightning rejected the honor. The JLA respected his decision and B.L. soon teamed up with Superman to solve the murder of a girl named Trina Shelton, who was shot and killed by a stray bullet during an altercation between Lightning and some muggers. As a result, Pierce lost his internalized powers due to a psychological block.
Batman kept Pierce in mind when he also grew frustrated with the Justice League. Hoping to rescue his friend Lucius Fox from war-torn Markovia, the Dark Knight recruited Jeff to infiltrate the country, posing as Fox's brother. Inevitably, he was forced to become Black Lightning and ended up being captured alongside Batman. While prisoners of Baron Bedlam, Batman managed to help Black Lightning recover his electric powers and they escaped from prison. Lightning and Batman joined the war in Markovia to defeat Bedlam and after a successful mission, he became a member of the Outsiders.
As part of the team, Black Lightning was eventually challenged by the Masters of Disaster, who were hired to kill him and Black Lightning surrendered to prevent them from killing innocents. The Outsiders rescued Black Lightning, and he learned that the fathers of Trina Sheldon had hired the villains to kill him. At the end of the affair, the mother of Trina forgave him. Later on, Black Lightning protected Suicide Slum against the Ghetto-Blaster.
The next four years saw a new confidence envelop Black Lightning, as he forged new friendships with the Outsiders, found a teaching post at Gotham City's Edison High, gained a bit of closure in Trina Shelton's death after a confrontation with her parents, revisited the Olympics and even had an amicable reunion with Lynn Stewart, now the president of a public relations firm.
After several years the Outsiders disband and Jeff settled into a teaching job in yet another city. His powers went berserk upon the detonation of the Dominator's Gene Bomb and Jeff could no longer deny that the power was part of him. Reflecting on his new-found goals, he explained that he'd moved to the so-called Brick City, a neighborhood in his father's hometown.
The ongoing menace of a gang known as the Royal Family figured into a school shooting that left Jeff critically wounded and one of his best friends, teacher Walter Kasko, dead. During Jeff's physical and emotional recovery, he reflected on his career as Black Lightning and the deaths of so many along the way.
Despite the Outsiders' falling out with Batman, Jeff renewed his ties with him to help clear him of charges that he was a serial killer. After the Outsiders, Black Lightning kept a low profile, but continued to appear occasionally alongside his friends and allies. When seven "heavy hitters" reformed the Justice League, Black Lightning became a reserve member. His efforts during the Maggedon crisis, in particular, were critical as he taxed his abilities like never before, attempting "to tap the electrical field of the planet".
When Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States, Pierce chose to retire temporarily as Black Lightning and accepted an appointment as Secretary of Education. This surprised many of his former allies but in truth, Pierce saw this as an opportunity to keep tabs on Luthor.
In the meantime, his now-22-year-old daughter, Anissa graduated in pre-med at the medical school. She had done this only to satisfy her parents and the very next day, she set out to fight crime, much to the disapproval of her father who had always pursued his own adventures so that his daughter would not have to. She drew the attention of the former Titans member Arsenal, who after the demise of the Titans sought to assemble a new team of Outsiders. She accepted his offer, reasoning that her father might feel better about her crime-fighting if she was in the company of others.
Black Lightning came out of retirement to help the Outsiders battle Sabbac. Following this battle, he begged Anissa to give up adventuring, but to no avail. If anything, she was inspired by her father's heroics. When Jefferson returned to the White House, Luthor's successor, President Pete Ross asked for Pierce's resignation as Secretary of Education because the government feared the political implications of having a known super-hero on staff. Jeff complied.
Black Lightning's next year would be one of his most tumultuous. He began by reuniting with his Outsiders friend, Metamorpho to clean up an old Outsiders case involving the "human bomb " called Fuse. Katana also joined them on this case.
His affiliation with Green Arrow would be his most pivotal. First, his niece, Joanna, was killed after becoming a lawyer in one of Arrow's cases. At the conclusion of this, Black Lightning was responsible for the death of Joanna's killer, Martin Somers—or so he believed. In truth, Deathstroke had seen the whole incident and made the killing blow himself, but he allowed Lightning to believe he'd caused the death.
Jeff blamed Ollie in part for Joanna's death (the two of them had been intimate) but they were soon forced into action together again when attacked by Dr. Light. Light was acting in retaliation to the Justice League's erasing his memories years before. Jefferson then revealed to Ollie that the Department of Defense had evidence of the JLA's habit of mind wiping villains (which he discovered while serving on Luthor's cabinet).
Dr. Light managed to surprise the heroes and critically injured Green Arrow's young protege, Mia. Jeff was forced to attempt to jump start her heart with his powers. Though Mia was saved, Oliver's home, Star City was not. Dr. Light detonated bomb that took out an entire city block. The ensuing chaos ultimately led to Queen's election to the office of Mayor of Star City.
Black Lightning was one of the eight people Batman had considered to aid him in destroying the Brother Eye satellite, which controlled the OMACs. Booster Gold, who was not on the list of eight, but knew about the candidates from his knowledge of the future, contacted Lightning before Batman did, as historical data from the future had shown who had aided Batman, and Lightning accepted, arriving at the Batcave to await orders. He then forged an uneasy yet effective alliance with Mister Terrific, combining their powers of electrical manipulation and invisibility to technology to strike the villainous AI from the inside.
After the third Secret Society of Super-Villains was formed, Black Lightning began using his status as Luthor's Secretary of Education to gain information from super villains.
Following this and the sacrifice of the Superman of Earth-Two and others in the "Crisis," Jefferson Pierce turned himself in for killing Martin Somers. His friends and family tried unsuccessfully to dissuade him, but he turned himself over to Checkmate, who put him in Iron Heights Prison under the identity of "Derek Cooper." Meanwhile, Nightwing was approached by the Red Hood, who had evidence to acquit Black Lightning. The Hood had eavesdropped on a conversation between Luthor (who was really Alexander Luthor, Jr. in disguise) and Deathstroke, who admitted that he'd killed Somers just as Pierce's lightning struck too. Jeff's daughter Anissa hurried to bring her father the good news, but Pierce wouldn't believe it, and remained in prison.
Anissa implored the Outsiders to free her father from prison, which they initially refused. It wasn't long before other inmates discovered the truth about "Cooper" and put a hit on Black Lightning. The gang leader called Skeet charged the young Captain Boomerang to kill him "Cooper." The Outsiders learned of this plot and finally agreed to get him out.
Pierce was also eventually convinced that he was innocent of his "charges," and realized the danger of being in Iron Heights. Boomerang had become his cell mate, but young Owen Mercer was not his father's son—he could not bring himself to kill Pierce and became his ally instead. Just as they plotted to escape, Nightwing sent the Outsiders into the prison. Things quickly got out of hand and Warden Wolfe responded by using his metahuman muscle-control powers to bring the prisoners under control. In his anger, his powers caused extreme pain and the Outsider called Shift conjures a gas to counteract the effects. Wolfe responded by increasing his control and killed dozens of guards and prisoners. Shift protected the Outsiders, Jeff and Boomerang from the effect. In this pivotal moment, the Outsiders decided to use this as a ploy to fake their deaths. They sent off a decoy craft which was destroyed. Jeff resumed his life while the world believed that Thunder and the others had died.
Justice League of America
Black Lightning renewed his career as a costumed adventurer and eventually met up with Hawkgirl on a case in St. Roch, Louisiana. He followed a trail from Metropolis about the recent super-villain activity involving the android body of the Red Tornado. Lightning and Hawkgirl brought one of the villains, Trident, to the Batcave, to show Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman evidence that the Star Conqueror had returned. He aided these heroes in saving the Red Tornado from exploitation by Professor Ivo and Solomon Grundy.
All the heroes participating in this case agreed to form a new Justice League, of which Black Lightning was a founding member. Ironically, it was Lightning who was sent to invite Batman to officially join the group.
He appears to be primarily based in Washington DC again, and was the first member of the League to respond to the recent attacks made by the Amazons of Themyscira, and even managed to save the President of the United States.
Black Lightning learned of Thunder's accident that left her in coma and he rushed to Gotham to check on his daughter.
Main article: Final Crisis
Jefferson is seen trying to deliver papers to those survivors still in need of world information, as all the electronic forms of communication have been taken over by Darkseid's Anti-life equation message system. In doing so he runs into Tattooed Man and his family and helps them escape Darkseid's Justifiers. Eventually Jefferson is captured and forced to become a Justifier himself, but not before setting Tattooed Man on a mission to the Hall of Justice to deliver a message to Green Arrow and carry "The Circuit". As part of the Justifiers, Pierce joined Green Arrow and travelled to the Justice League Watchtower, where they tried to convert Black Canary and Tattooed Man into Justifiers, without success.
Powers and Abilities
- Electrokinesis: Jefferson can generate raw electricity which courses through his body, which he has learned to manipulate and control.
- Athletics: Olympic-level decathlete. Excelling as a runner, sprinter, swimmer and track and fielder.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced): Under Batman's tutelage, Black Lightning has become a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant.
- Pedagogy: Jefferson Pierce is a highly educated and skilled teacher and school principal.
- Electric Power Belt (Formerly): Jefferson had to access his powers through a belt; he has since internalized these powers.
- Although this character was originally introduced during DC's Earth-One era of publication, their existence following the events of the 1985–86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths remains intact. However, some elements of the character's Pre-Crisis history may have been altered or removed for Post-Crisis New Earth continuity, and should be considered apocryphal.
- According to his bio, Jefferson took part in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and since Jefferson was 18 when he did this, that would place Jefferson's birth year in 1957 or 1958.
- Black Lightning (Volume 1)
- Black Lightning (Volume 2)
- Black Lightning: Year One (Volume 1)
- "Outsiders: Sum of All Evil"
- 402 Appearances of Jefferson Pierce (New Earth)
- 138 Images featuring Jefferson Pierce (New Earth)
- 24 Quotations by or about Jefferson Pierce (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Jefferson Pierce (New Earth)
- DC Comics Encyclopedia, 2008 p. 31
- Justice League of America #173
- DC Comics Presents #16
- Batman and the Outsiders #1
- Batman and the Outsiders #2
- Batman and the Outsiders #9
- Batman and the Outsiders #10
- Batman and the Outsiders #21
- JLA #1
- JLA #41
- Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 2) #12
- Final Crisis #6
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #3
|Outsiders member |
This character is or was primarily a member of the super-hero team known as the Outsiders, in any of its various incarnations. They are a black ops team dedicated to fighting evil and taking the fall in public opinion that bigger groups like the Justice League cannot, started by Batman to avoid being crippled by public relations needs. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Outsiders members" category.
|Justice League member|
This character is or was a member of the Justice League of America, or the Justice League in any of its various incarnations, sworn by a duty to act as guardians of America and the world by using their skills and/or superpowers to protect Earth from both interstellar and domestic threats.
Justice Society of America member