Black Lightning

Real name: Jefferson Pierce
First Appearance: Black Lightning #1 Vol. 1 (April 1977)
Residential area: Los Angeles, California, formerly Metropolis, USA
Occupation: Government cabinet member, former Olympic athlete, school teacher
Marital status: divorced(?)
Known relatives: Alvin Pierce (father, deceased), Lynn Stewart-Pierce (ex-wife)
Hair color: black
Eye color: ?


Jefferson Pierce grew up in Suicide Slum, a neglected district of Metropolis which got its name from the idea that people only escaped the degradation of the slum by killing themselves. His father Alvin 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 studied athletics, 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 success, 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.

Also during his time away from Suicide Slum, Jeff married Lynn Stewart. However, Lynn became disappointed with Jeff for not being the community activist that she was. He only seemed to care about getting himself out of the ghetto. They later divorced.

Returning to Suicide Slum for his mother's funeral, Jeff was sad to see that nothing had changed over the years. Thinking of what Lynn said about him, Jeff decided to get a teaching job at his old high school in the hopes that he could make a difference in the lives of the children there.

While on a tour of the building with the principal, Jeff stumbled across a drug deal in a school hallway. Furious, he captured the dealer and ordered the junkie to report to the school nurse. Impressed, the principal welcomed Jeff Pierce to the school. Later, Jeff was getting to know the school's top basketball player, Earl Clifford, when several thugs from the local mob, The 100, came to call on the nosy teacher who had tackled their drug dealer. Jeff and Clifford succeeded in fighting off the thugs. But the 100 was not an organization that took kindly to meddlers.

Tobias Whale, leader of the 100, ordered the thugs to assault Clifford. They intended to just intimidate him, but accidentally ran into him with their car. They left the body hanging from the basketball hoop at the school, where Jefferson Pierce could see the price of interfering with the 100.

Shaken and disheartened, Jefferson Pierce vented aloud to Pete Gambi that there wasn't a way to fight off the influence of the 100. If he became a community activist and an outspoken teacher, the 100 would simply remove him or strike at him through his students. Gambi thought on this and announced that he would come up with something.

Unbeknownst to Jefferson, Pete's brother Paul Gambi was also in the tailoring business...namely, the business of creating the costumes and accessories for the supervillains of Central City. Using his connections, Pete was able to procure a belt-like device which gave its wearer electrical powers. Inspired by Jeff's old poem, Pete Gambi created a blue costume with lightning symbols on the hemlines. A wig/mask combination helped to protect Jeff's identity. Thus, Black Lightning was born.

Black Lightning began terrorizing the hoodlums of Suicide Slum. Drug dealers, weapons merchants and other affiliated scum learned that it was harder to operate in the area than they thought. Reporting this new threat back to Tobias Whale, he hired hitmen to get rid of this "Black Lightning." Merlyn the archer, the Cyclotronic Man and Syonide all fought him, but it was Syonide who finally captured him with a paralysis dart.

Syonide taunted Jeff that he had done a great deal of investigation into who Black Lightning was. He'd uncovered Jeff's real name. He'd learned Jeff's history. And he'd uncovered the identity of the hitman who had accidentally killed Jeff's father: Peter Gambi.

Syonide destroyed the lightning belt and hauled Jeff before the 100 where they hung him in chains on a wall beside the kidnapped Peter Gambi. Tobias Whale had called all of the leaders of the 100's different branches (spread across 100 American cities), and he planned to have Syonide execute Black Lightning in front of all of them. This came as a surprise to Syonide, who took pride in himself as a manhunter but didn't engage in murder. Tobias stated that Syonide handed over his victims to people who surely kill them, and yet Syonide thought that his hands weren't stained with blood. "Your hypocrisy sickens even me!" Whale spat, leaving the room.

Alone, Gambi tried to plot an escape with Jefferson, but Jeff asked him if he was the man who killed his father. Gambi admitted he was. Jeff insisted that they would get out of there...and then he was turning Gambi over to the law. Black Lightning did manage to free the two of them, and then he pursued two of Whale's hired agents, who led him into an arena. Looking around, Black Lightning found himself in Syonide's crosshairs. As Syonide fired, Pete Gambi leapt in front of him and took the bullet.

Black Lightning's body began to crackle with electricity despite the lack of a power belt. His power had become internalized, perhaps due to the metagene's activation during this moment of high stress. Furious, Black Lightning leapt into the stands where the gangsters were gathered and began fighting them by the dozens. He waded through the 100 and took down Tobias Whale. The 100 were broken.

Later on, the Justice League of America tried to recruit him as a member, but though he fought a battle with them to stop the menace of a mad scientist called the Regulator, he declined membership. He continued to fight crime in and around the neighborhood of Garfield High School. When a girl died indirectly from his actions, Black Lightning lost his powers (this was apparently psychosomatic, as they returned when his confidence in himself returned) and went into retirement. He came out of retirement when Batman sought out Black Lightning for a mission to Markovia that would eventually lead to the formation of a new superhero team, the Outsiders. Black Lightning spent years with the Outsiders and, despite turning down membership in the JLA earlier, moved away from Suicide Slum to live near the Outsiders' California HQ.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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