This month, Ancient History is honoring African American heroes to celebrate Black History Month! So with no further ado here’s DC Comics first black hero, Black Lightning, in his first appearance in his very own series!
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Title: Black Lightning #1
Writer: Tony Isabella
Art: Trevor Von Eeden and F. Springer
Colors: Liz Berube
Letters: P.G. Lisa
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: April 1977
What You Need to Know:
“Justice, like lightning, should ever appear, to some men hope, and to other men fear!”
Jefferson Pierce has had enough of pushers and dope fiends using his school as a place to sell their wares, if he can’t convince them to leave as himself, he’ll have to become something more! Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning!
What You’ll Find Out:
We open to see an already familiar figure taking on a horde of men in a warehouse, he capably handles them all while talking like a 70s street dude (calling people jive turkey etc) as a front to keep the dealers from guessing his identity. One of the Thugs, named Joey Toledo, gets a bright idea and whips out a gun and starts firing wildly, BL dives out of the way, taking a pusher out of the fight, and the line of fire, in the process. Finally, BL gets everyone out of the way but Toledo, and starts grilling him about some drug syndicate called the 100, Toledo doesn’t talk, and Lightning tells him to meet him at the Garfield High Gym at midnight or else…
Black Lightning bails out the window before Toledo can follow, and backtracks to a friendly tailor shop, he pops in through the window and is greeted by his tailor friend Gambi, he tells them no one suspects streetwise Black Lightning is Olympic Decathlon Star turned schoolteacher Jefferson Pierce! A man with a heavy head, Pierce feels responsible for the death of one of his students at the hands of the drug dealers, hence why he developed the disguise, to keep his students safe!
We flashback to 2 weeks ago, new teacher Jefferson Pierce is being shown Garfield High, where he’ll be teaching. The principal is proud of Pierce, who was one of his students, and tells him he’ll serve as a fine example of where a young man can get if he applies himself. Suddenly Pierce notices a pusher shoving a student around in the school hallway, he runs over and knocks the drug dealer on his backside, telling him he better not see him again. The dealer seems to understand that he can’t take on Jefferson, but doesn’t look scared a bit.
Jefferson walks over and checks out the gym and is introduced to a fast-talking brilliant athlete named Earl Clifford, Earl tells Jefferson he better watch out, he’s coming after his records! As Earl shoots a basket a yell rings across the gym, it’s Joey Toledo and a couple goons with guns, they tell Pierce he’s going to get what’s coming to him for sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. They get ready to cripple the schoolteacher when one of them is his in the side of the head with a basketball and Earl yells for Jefferson to run for it. Jefferson and Earl beat up the 3 goons, and they run off. The pair seem confident they
won’t return, I have a feeling they’re wrong!
We cut to Toledo talking to his boss, despite Jefferson capably handling the 3 of them, the 100 can’t suffer such an insult, but they can’t make Pierce a martyr, they’ll strike at his heart!
Later that night a car pulls up next to Earl Clifford on the street, the goons get out and start to talk tough to the teenager, suddenly he bolts, and is hit by a car. One of them expresses concern, they weren’t going to kill the kid, just rough him up a bit, Toledo sees things differently, they wanted Pierce’s heart, they got it!
The next morning Jefferson arrives at the school for his first day of teaching, suddenly a friend of Earl’s runs up and tells him something terrible has happened! They left Earl in the gym… (holy crap that was sad!)
Jefferson runs to his friend Gambi’s shop, Gambi was a friend of his mother’s and is a good man. Gambi tells Jefferson that he was nuts to take on the 100, the streets don’t need a martyr, they need a symbol to rally behind, they need Black Lightning!
We move back to the present, Gambi tells Jefferson it’s almost midnight, as Jefferson gears up to go, Toledo and the goons are setting up an ambush for the hero, as he’s leaving Gambi gives him one last thing, an edge over his enemies. Tonight Lightning strikes twice!
What Just Happened?
This is my first time reading this and I gotta say it’s a fantastic book, definitely gonna finish the mini this weekend, super fun read. I especially liked a Superman namedrop, as a lot of these minis seem to either tiptoe around or flat-out never mention their place in the DC comic universe. I was surprised to find out this story takes place in Metropolis, definitely seems like more of a Gotham book, not that Gotham needs any more heroes.
I will say it is nice to see a black hero that isn’t a racial stereotype, course I’m no expert but more or less any race that isn’t a white dude in comics in this era seems to be some sort of stereotype. I love how Pierce is portrayed, intelligent, capable and badass! It’s no wonder he becomes a superhero.
I did find it interesting that his lightning powers (later a metahuman power passed genetically to his daughter) are either not present, or coming from the gadget he received at the end of the issue, and not inherent. Later appearances retcon him as a metahuman, although I’m glad they retain the rest of his backstory, he was secretary of education under Lex Luthor’s administration. (as a JLA plant to keep an eye on the supervillain president)
Interesting tidbit, the character Black Vulcan on the Superfriends was created because Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella wouldn’t release rights to the character, as he felt it wasn’t a proper portrayal, and he had a point, again, look at Apache Chief. So if any similarities are noticed that’s intentional.
Awesome comic, really glad I read it, if there’s a black hero or villain you want me to highlight during the month of February (or anytime really) please contact me, I gladly take requests and if I can find a book I’ll feature it! Anyway, this is a really strong start to my featured heroes of Black History Month, and I have strong hopes for the rest of the books!
If anyone ever wants to contact me, look me up in my group for the love of comic books , I also have several comic pages dedicated to my various true loves, Batman, Spider-man, Marvel, Oldie Goldies and Hats! (Long story on that last one haha) or on Twitter @johnbatusijack
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