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Black Lightning (DC Comics) (1990s) does an acrobatic dodge (header version)

Black Lightning

(Profile #3 - 1995 series)

Power Level:
Game System:


Sequence

This profile is part of a series. The goal is to explain the character and show how he evolves. But in smaller bits, not as a giant article.

The chain (lightning) goes :

  1. Black Lightning (Profile 1 – Year One, original take). Start there, yeah?
  2. Batman and the Outsiders (Part 1 – 1983/1986).
  3. The Outsiders (Part 2 – 1986/1992).
  4. Black Lightning (Profile 2 – 1980s).
  5. Interlude – The other history of Black Lightning.
  6. Black Lightning (Profile 3 – 1990s). This here profile.
  7. Black Lightning (Profile 4 – 2000s).
  8. Black Lightning (Profile 1.1 – Year One, modernised take).

This profile only uses data from the 1990s and the year 2001. So for instance Jeff doesn’t have children – they were retconnedMaking changes to a character or story after the fact in later on.

If you need more guidance than a mere list, check our guide to Black Lightning character profiles.

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Background

  • Real Name: Jefferson Pierce.
  • Known Relatives: Lynn Stewart Pierce (ex-wife).
  • Group Affiliation: JLA (Reservist), formerly the Outsiders.
  • Base Of Operations: Carver Neighborhood of Cleveland a.k.a. “The Brick City”.
  • Height: 6’1” (1.85m). Weight: 182 lbs. (83 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Brown. Hair: Black.

Powers and Abilities

The basics of Black Lightning’s abilities are unchanged. The main evolutions are :

  • The more esoteric electric tricks seen in The Outsiders aren’t demonstrated during this span. The story is back to blaxploitation-like grit, rather than the slight Silver AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1950s to the early 1970s tinge in The Outsiders.
  • On the other hand, his ability to generate current seems stronger than ever. In practice, this means :
    • A bulletproof personal force field, though impacts still hurt.
    • The power to electrify his own body.
    • Obscuring his features by having an electrical arc running between his eyes.
    • Emitting a low-powered electrical field around him, serving as a crude motion detector.
  • He can deploy superhuman strength, up to “Class 4” or so. But the stronger he makes himself, the stronger the current permeating his body. Which Jefferson avoids if that might electrocute nearby people.
  • More generally, Lightning relies primarily on his athletic training in combat. He only uses his powers against inanimate objects (weapons, vehicles, etc.) and other metahumans as necessary. His goal is to take down with reasonable force and avoid accidents.
  • His speed, baseline strength and close combat prowess are back to their peak, with the early 1980s losses now far behind him.

Black Lightning’s people, detection and urban vigilante skills are stronger than ever. He’s charismatic, confident and competent.

Black Lightning (DC Comics) (1995)

Soundtrack

One of 1995’s hit tunes was Montell Jordan’s “This is how we do it”, a sort of funk/hip-hop party music hybrid. I think it was classified as R&B back then, but what “R&B” means changes every decade.

In the US, it seems to have been a somewhat-brief-lived hit among White listeners – but much more enduring among Black audiences as, well, party music.

The video also showed some firmly-mid-1990s-Afro-American fashions, hairstyles, etc.. Also, it’s fun – and impeccably composed and executed.

History

Black Lightning’s biography is identical to the one revised during the 1980s, in Secret Origins.

The loose leaves 1990s Who’s Who in the DC Universe adds the following details :

  • His father was accidentally shot dead while Jefferson was young. His mum would have lost everything without Peter Gambi’s help.
  • After his athletic triumphs, Jeff obtained his teaching degree at Kent State  . He taught at New Carthage until his mum’s death brought him back to Suicide Slum.
  • The original Black Lightning belt was devised by Peter’s brother Paul. Paul Gambi worked as a tailor for Flash (Barry Allen)’s rogue gallery in Central City.
  • There’s a minor discrepancy as to when exactly the Pierces divorced, but heh.

Another small retcon is that Jefferson’s powers were fully reawakened after the 1989 Invasion!, when the Dominators detonated their Gene Bomb. How that aligns with his gains during the 1980s The Outsiders runs is unclear.

Black Lightning (DC Comics) (1995) face closeup

Brick City

With his renewed abilities came a renewed sense of purpose.

Pierce got a Wayne Foundation Grant to fund his work (inner-city improvement, though Batman sees it as a cover for Black Lightning). He then moved to Carver Neighborhood in his father’s hometown, Cleveland (Ohio).

Carver Neighborhood, a.k.a. the Brick City, was an economically depressed borough. Its serious drug problem was exacerbated by numerous warring gangs. Pierce stepped into this two-fold:

  1. To inspire children through his work as a schoolteacher – and other community work via the Wayne Foundation grant.
  2. To take down the gangs as Black Lightning.

Foul weather friends

Pierce had several friends to help him in his war.

Black Lightning’s first ally was a contact named Beagle, a street informant who lived in a VW Bug parked in an alleyway. Beagle had all sorts of street connections, even extending to cities as far away as Los Angeles and Gotham City.

Beagle put Lightning in touch with Commissioner Latimer. However, Latimer’s ability to help Lightning was rather limited. The city officials disapproved of the Brick City in general – and Lightning in particular.

Still, Latimer unofficially assigned Detective Tommy Colavito to work with Black Lighting. Colavito ran interference between the police and Lightning, as well as passing information along both ways.

Battle for Brick

Jefferson Pierce’s struggle in the Brick City was difficult.

  • He faced another meta-human named Painkiller in combat.
  • He was seriously wounded in his civilian identity by a gangbanger posing as a new student.
  • His old enemy Tobias Whale had been in Brick City for years.

Despite all of this, Black Lightning still made inroads in improving the neighborhood.

He was also a reserve member of the JLA and played a supporting role in a number of missions during that time.

Mister Secretary

After Lex Luthor’s election to the presidency, Jefferson Pierce accepted the position of Secretary of Education.

He defended the White House as Black Lightning during a 2001 alien invasion, taking care not to expose his secret identity. However, Luthor already knew of Pierce’s alter ego, though Pierce in unaware of that fact.

Black Lightning (DC Comics) (1995) doing acrobatics

Description

Jefferson Pierce is a tall, athletic Black man. He has a short haircut and the beginning of age-wrinkles. He dresses in relaxed formal wear as Jefferson Pierce.

As Black Lighting, he wears a set of dark blue biker’s leathers. The high-collared jacket has rust-colored panels trimmed with a golden lightning bolt design.

Lightning does not wear a mask. He instead keeps a constant crackle of electricity surrounding his body in a nimbus, to obscure his features.

Black Lightning (Iron Age DC Comics) glowing electrified

Personality

Black Lightning is serious and determined, but still maintains a good disposition and even a dry wit. He takes the concept of civic improvement in all of its aspects very seriously. Thus, he tries to be as inspirational as Jefferson Pierce as he is intimidating as Black Lightning.

He is still greatly troubled by all of the deaths that he has failed to prevent. While he has a tendency to take the weight of the world on his shoulders, he usually does it with a fair amount of good humor. He takes his work seriously, but takes a great and contagious joy in working to make a difference.

Black Lightning uses his powers in much the same way as Batman uses his gadgetry. These are support to augment his skills, rather than something he relies on.

Also, much like his mentor, he won’t kill his opponents (even Painkiller’s death was unintended). Jefferson usually avoids inflicting serious injury unless he’s making a point. Such as breaking the arm of a gangbanger that ordered a hit on one of Pierce’s students.

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Quotes

“We have some serious concerns in this city — education, jobs, health care, housing, not to mention government indifference. Frankly, you gang morons are distracting me from the *important* issues of the day.”

(After breaking a gangster’s arm) “Three things you should take to heart, Del. One: the Royals recruit any more kids and I come looking for you. Two: you only have three more limbs. Three: after that I have to get *creative*.”

“Classrooms come and go. [But] education endures. I came here to teach — and I can do that whether I’m in a classroom or the locker room… or out on the street.”

DC Heroes RPG

Black Lightning

Dex: 07 Str: 04 Bod: 05
Int: 07 Wil: 08 Min: 08
Inf: 08 Aur: 07 Spi: 07
Init: 26 HP: 050

Powers:

Electric Being: 08, Force Field: 03, Full Vision: 01, Lightning: 10, Power Reserve (STR): 04

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Force Field and Full Vision are Contingent upon Electric Being — at least 1 AP of EB must be on for either of them to function (-1FC).
  • Force Field is only effective against metallic objects (steel-jacketed bullets, etc.) (-2FC).
  • Full Vision is provided by a low-level electrical field, and thus acts like a motion detector rather than an actual visual ability (-0FC).
  • Power Reserve is Elementally Linked to Electric Being and can only be activated up to the current active APs of Electric Being minus 4 (-1FC).

Note:

While in costume, Black Lighting usually leaves Electric Being on at 1 AP to disguise his features and to keep Full Vision active. He won’t increase it to more than that except in combat with other metahumans to avoid accidental collateral damage to people or property.

Skills:

Acrobatics*: 07, Charisma*: 08, Detective*: 07, Martial Artist*: 07, Thief (Stealth)*: 07

Advantages:

Area Knowledge (Metropolis’ Suicide Slums, Cleveland’s Brick City), Confidant (Beagle), Expansive H.Q. (his brownstone apartment building’s basement), Government Credentials (Secretary of Education — Medium), Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Rich Friend (Wayne Foundation Grant), Scholar (Creative writing, English literature), Sidekick (Det. Tommy Colavito).

Connections:

Batman (High), Commissioner Latimer (Low), Outsiders I (High), JLA (Low).

Drawbacks:

Guilt (those he couldn’t save), Mistrust, Secret Identity (Jefferson Pierce).

Motivation:

Seeking Justice.

Occupation:

Secretary of Education.

Wealth:

007


Sidekick: Detective Tommy Colavito

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04
Int: 04 Wil: 05 Min: 04
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 04
Init: 14 HP: 15

Skills:

Charisma*: 04, Detective*: 04, Martial Artist*: 04, Thief (Stealth)*: 04, Vehicles (Land)*: 04, Weaponry (Firearms)*: 04

Advantages:

Area Knowledge (Brick City), Police Credentials (Low), Sharp Eye.

Connections:

Commissioner Latimer (High).

Motivation:

Thrill of Adventure.

Occupation:

Police Detective.

Wealth:

005

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: DCU, character created by Tony Isabella.

Helper(s): DC Comics’ Who’s Who, Rob Maple, Sébastien “Pretty fly for a White guy” Andrivet.