Black Lightning is DC Comics First Black SuperHero

Black Lightning debuted in the pages of DC Comics in April 1977 as their first starring black superhero. He was created as a response to the popular Marvel Comics character Luke Cage, who was not Marvel’s first black superhero—that’d be Black Panther—but was the first to have his own solo series. Lightning was essentially the same character as Cage, albeit with electric generation powers instead of indestructible skin. They both spouted blaxploitation clichés—a 1977 Justice League of America issue has Lightning refer to Superman’s team as a “bunch of jive turkeys.”

Black Lightning isn’t interested in merely having its hero avoid bullets; it allows Jefferson Pierce, excellently rendered by Cress Williams, to fuck up the police when he wants to. You see, in Luke Cage our hero is often at odds with a Harlem police squad that wants to do right by its community but often fails. In Black Lightning, you live vicariously through Jefferson when he’s tased by two cops who shout, “Get your black ass on the ground!” and he uses his powers of electricity to light them up through their own weapons.

Actor, Cress Williams

The series juggles police brutality, systemic racism, black youth culture, gang violence, and black parenting with aplomb, and all topics feel entirely new to The CW but also necessary for the network, where it can be paired with an equally pulpy series like Riverdale. It’s a series that the Riverdale audience should be watching and it’s also a series for a black audience that is not catered to by the Tiger Beat teens in Archie Andrews’ world.

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