Originally received his powers from a belt but later found out that he possessed a metagene to control the powers his belt mimics. In his eighteenth year, Jefferson Michael Pierce participated in the Olympics and believed that life could never get any better than this. At twenty-two, he came away from the Decathlon with a gold medal. Surely, this must have been his fifteen minutes of fame. And then came his twenty-seventh year. And his twenty-ninth. At thirty-five, well, as a child, he’d vowed to escape his Suicide Slum roots but, in his wildest dreams, Jeff Pierce had never imagined he part of the Presidential Cabinet. Of course, he’d never imagined he’d be Black Lightning, either. 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, an Italian tailor named 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, Peter 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 Pete Gambi'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 Olympics, 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 Suicide Slum. 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 a young woman named 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 life. But at the age of eleven, the girl also manifested metahuman powers. She discovered that she was able to alter the density of her body. 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 of Garfield High School, Jeff 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 Jeff related the tragedy to Peter Gambi, who urged him to fight back in a persona that wouldn’t invite counter-attacks on his students. Presenting him with a predominantly blue 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 William 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 the 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 of America, 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.
The 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. Batman was convinced that the loss of Lightning's powers was psychological, and so he began to verbally prod at Jeff and brought his electrical powers back to life once more. 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 Mageddon 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 President Lex Luthor's 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.
Return to The OutsidersEdit
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 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. 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.
The Outsider for The Last TimeEdit
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 AmericaEdit
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 Starro 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.
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 Darksied'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". The ultimate understanding of Jefferson's sacrifice to pass on the "The Circuit", is still to be determined.
Back with The OutsidersEdit
In the most recent version of the team, Alfred recruited him along with Geo-Force, Halo, Metamorpho, Katana, Creeper, and Owlman to go under the radar and take on missions they normally wouldn't be able to take. The main enemy during this time was the Insiders who were unknown to the rest of the world. The team stopped the threat and moved on the tracking down Killer Croc, Clayface, and Mr. Freeze. The team survived the Blackest Night and tried to pick up the pieces of their operation. Jeff started having trouble with Geo-Force whenever he started to act strange, pompous and rude. Geo-Force would make decisions for the team without consulting them and sent Black Lightning on a mission for Markovia as a secret agent. This eventually led to Geo-Force and Black Lightning fighting and splitting the team apart. Black Lightning, Owlman, and Metamorpho go and find Simon Stagg, and here they also meet Freight Train. Metamorpho gets stuck inside Chemo by Java, Simon Stagg's assistant. Chemo is defeated and they go into hiding.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
Electrokinesis: can generate raw electricity which courses through his body, which he has learned to manipulate, control, to sense sources of electric energy, electricity and administer as a wide range of attacks with several uses; he can charge devices with electricity, and alternatively drain the energy from them into himself.
- Electric Current Control: Black Lightening can choose to keep the electric energy that he currently holds in his body by controlling the Current and Voltage for whenever he wants to use it.
- Electrical-Energy Absorption: He can also absorb the energy of electrical equipment such as a power plant to increase his powers further.
- Electrical-Energy Projection: Ability to project his electricity through his hands to stun his enemies.
- Flight: He can fly by charging his lower body with energy.
- Force Field: He can also generate bulletproof force fields.
- Electrical Form: He can even assume an electric form which he can use to travel quickly and discreetly. He can also glide over power lines by using the electricity contained therein for propulsion, and has on occasion been shown to actually ride on lightning bolts.
- Electrical Tracking: he is able to track the resonance of a broadcast frequency to a location of where its coming from, but if its too subtle then he won't have much success.
- Electronic Interaction
- Electric Manipulation
- Electric-Enhanced Strike
Peak Human Conditioning: Olympic-level Decathlete. Excelling as an athlete an gymnast in Swimming and Acrobatics
Martial Arts Master: He is an originally a street fighter, but he no doubt honed his fighting skills under Batman's tutelage.
Expert Teacher: Jefferson is a highly educated and skilled teacher. Widely regarded as the number one teacher in the country. Jefferson is known to have single handedly been the driving force in turning various decaying public education schools and facilities in various cities in country to the finest in the nation.
- Peak Human: Jefferson is able to lift double one's own body weight up to the 800 lb level.
- Genius Level Intellect
- Electric Power Belt: Formerly had access to his powers through a belt, has since internalized these powers.
- Electrical Form: Electricity transportation through power lines or even lightning bolts.
In Other MediaEdit
- Black Lightning is portrayed by Cress Williams on the CW show Black Lightning.