Tobias Whale was Black Lightning (Jefferson Pierce)’s original archenemy type, all the way back in 1977.
He wasn’t the best part of this series. And this got worse when Marvel’s Kingpin (Wilson Fisk), whom Whale *strongly evokes*, became a major, classic villain in 1980s Daredevil stories.
Still, there’s a sense that, as the OG Black Lightning foe, he should be reworked into a viable antagonist. This led to multiple versions of Tobias Whale across several media.
Here, we’ll cover everything in the comics up to 2006 inclusive. It can be loosely considered the “original take” on Tobias Whale.
During that span the character isn’t well-defined and doesn’t quite go anywhere. But it still can be documented for reference.
- Real Name: Tobias Whale.
- Other Aliases: Great White Whale.
- Known Relatives: None.
- Group Affiliation: The 100.
- Base of Operations: Midtown Metropolis. Later on the Aquatic Estates (a mansion in the Metropolis suburbs).
- Height: 6’8″ (2.03m). Weight: 382 lbs. (173 Kg.).
- Eyes: Blue. Hair: Zilch, bro.
Powers & Abilities
Tobias Whale is a veteran mobster.
One important asset is his planning ability – Mr. Whale will normally be cunningly prepared. And he’ll also make sure that :
Mr. Whale has a medical condition that vaguely resembles albinism . But aside from a low-melanin skin, there doesn’t seem to be much in common with any real-world condition. For instance, his eyesight seems undiminished.
Though he comes across as masterful and prepared, Mr. Whale’s resolve isn’t that great. If things abruptly go off the rails, he’ll react out of fear. And, in DC Heroes RPG terms, his Hero Points stock is meh.
Are you strong enough ?
In his earliest appearances, Mr. Whale was a hulking mass of muscle. He could easily kill a man within seconds, using his bare hands. Or smash through solid oak with a simple backhand slap.
This, and his apparent stature, receded without explanation in later appearances. He was still a large dude who could use his mass for strength (say, to smash ordinary doors), but that was about it.
Between this strength and the unusual layer of fat over his body (evoking blubber), it seemed possible early on that he had some sort of minor mutation.
Especially with early art, which stressed the inhuman, cetacean-like aspects of his physique.
Back in 1977, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to suspect he was a super-evolved orca, a bit like Green Lantern enemy the Shark. And that maybe his strength was related to how well-hydrated he currently was, like Namor’s.
As a The 100 leader, Whale was usually accompanied by a half-dozen enforcers, wielding a mix of .45 handguns and generic submachineguns.
His headquarters were also be tricked out, starting with secret passages allowing for quick escapes. His mansion in Metropolis also featured :
- Electrically charged fake trees. These were placed to look like a fine way to get over the outer wall, but a person attempting this would get electrocuted.
- A pool filled with acid, with a fake drowning kid in the middle of it. The idea being that invading super-heroes would jump right in to save the “kid”, who was calling for help.
- Lots of well-hidden video surveillance cameras.
- A score of armed guards.
- An holographic projector playing a pre-recorded scene, with sound. The scene in this case was of Whale strangling a woman, and when Lightning rushed in he discovered that the hologram was covering a waiting steel cage.
- Said cage had hidden amplifiers within the bars. These knocked Lightning out using the electricity he emitted to melt the metal.
So we need 1977 music to set a chronologically correct ambiance. But not one of the leading lights, something more topical and since-forgotten, such as… oh, what about the Brothers Johnson ?
Here’s a *very* 1977 video, which does everything we need… and makes it funky. Like, really funky.
Tobias Whale once said that he missed the ocean. This may imply that he grew up on an island. And/or that he worked as a sailor during his youth.
In any case, he came to work rackets for the The 100 mob. He worked his way up to a senior position in Metropolis.
A hundred mysteries
Though this mob was active in over 100 cities (hence the name), Metropolis was reportedly the flagship of their criminal empire. But curiously, The 100 never seemed to interact with the likes of Superman (Clark Kent) or the Intergang mob.
It is possible that this mob thrived by solely operating in areas that Superman and his foes didn’t frequent. But this in turn raises awkward questions as to why Superman wouldn’t fight crime in, say, Suicide Slum.
The 2009 retelling of Black Lightning’s origins had The 100 use some magic to fly under Superman’s radar, and make it difficult for him to directly intervene. This certainly could be backported into the 1970s version of Tobias Whale.
Since the original take on Tobias Whale channelled 1970s blaxploitation movies, he might work with occultists from Western Africa or the Caribbean.
Justice, like lightning
The 100 pushed narcotics throughout Suicide Slum. But one of their men was beaten up by teacher Jefferson Piece, who saw him pushing right in a high school hallway.
Pierce wanted to drive The 100 out, but this would clearly mean payback. This led him and his friend Peter Gambi to develop the masked Black Lightning identity.
Lightning clashed with The 100’s operations in his area. In particular he was after one Joey Toledo, an enforcer who had semi-accidentally killed one of his students. Which was exactly the situation that Whale had been ordering to avoid – a cause célèbreAn issue attracting strong public attention..
Black Lightning once invaded Whale’s HQ. But he was repelled using firefighting hoses, soaking him and preventing him from using his electrical belt.
Then the police came in, forcing everyone to retreat.
During the rise of Black Lightning, Mr. Whale employed the following enforcers :
- Merlyn the Archer.
- The Cyclotronic Man (Ned Creegan).
- Bullseye. No, wait, not Bullseye.
- Syonide, plus Steel-Fist Feeny and “Pajamas”.
Another ally was Andy Henderson, the son of Inspector Bill Henderson. A capable spy and disguise artist, the junior Henderson provided Mr. Whale with invaluable intelligence on police operations.
Mr. Whale would likely have killed Lightning. But :
- The unstable Syonide unexpectedly killed himself rather than murder someone.
- Aged tailor Peter Gambi sacrificed his life to save Lightning’s.
- Black Lightning started manifesting electrical super-powers out of the blue, without his special belt.
The panicking Tobias Whale was taken down by Lightning, then arrested as the police swarmed in.
However, Tobias Whale escaped. Though he had but a handful of henchmen left, these had access to an odd flying platform (stolen from Intergang ?). Thanks to this vehicle, a coordinated raid on the courthouse did set Whale free.
Whale took Inspector Henderson hostage, for security. His goal was to call in reinforcements from other The 100 leaders, then rebuild. However, Black Lightning attacked – and Henderson managed to distract Whale’s thugs.
Tobias Whale tried to take on Black Lightning, but the Suicide Slum vigilante was now stronger and more experienced. Whale was recaptured. This is apparently when The 100 expelled him.
Oh wow the Arrow-Car !
Tobias Whale was soon free – perhaps thanks to some police on the take.
In Star City, he bought the Arrow-Car at an auction. This was the super-car that Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) had used in his youth.
Two of Whale’s hitmen then used the Arrow-Car to steal an invaluable prototype racing car. But Green Arrow defeated them.
Annoyed, Whale leaked information to Queen, reeling him into a trap in his Metropolis mansion. However, Black Lightning was also on site, and saved Arrow’s life.
Yet, Lightning was captured after Mr. Queen left.
Tobias Whale then laid an ultimatum out… to The 100.
Seeking revenge for having been kicked out, he demanded $20M. Otherwise, he would release Black Lightning and provide the vigilante with inside intelligence about The 100’s operations.
However, he was betrayed by his moll, one Tabitha Katt. This forced Lightning and Whale to ally to repel The 100’s hitmen. Then to chase Ms. Katt – who had stolen the intel files.
The odd duo invaded the new The 100 HQ in Metropolis, hidden… under a Superman museum. Katt wasn’t there, and Whale knocked Pierce out by surprise as he no longer needed him.
However, Pierce recovered in time to locate Katt, stop Whale from murdering her, and arrest the both of them.
Tobias Whale was soon free. Jefferson Pierce stated that he had “busted out of prison”.
He rebuilt himself a power base in narcotics trafficking, with new manpower. His head enforcer was a new Syonide (Nikki), and he could retain the services of Dr. Moon.
He worked in Cleveland and throughout the Midwest. That kept him away from super-heroes, or enhanced mobs such as Intergang.
But two young criminals, Violet Harper and Mark Denninger, stole important documents a Whale chemist. Furious, the crime lord had them hunted all the way to Europe. Harper murdered Denninger, but was then killed by Syonide.
However, Harper’s corpse was soon possessed by a light-based alien to become Halo (Gabrielle Doe).
Jane Denninger’s vengeance
In 1985, Denninger’s sister Jane offered intel to Tobias Whale about Halo. She thought that Ms. Doe had killed her brother, and sought revenge.
Whale and his men invaded the Harper home, trying to force “Violet Harper” to tell them about the stolen data. But Halo’s teammates, the Outsiders, responded just in time.
Nevertheless, Violet Harper’s parents were slain in the fracas. And Tobias Whale managed to escape.
Circa 1995, Black Lightning moved to Cleveland. Whale thus knew he’d soon clash with his old enemy.
Furthermore, Gangbuster (Jose Delgado) came in, chasing a former Metropolis gangster.
Using his power not for good, but for Melville
By this point, Whale had a new head enforcer (and butler) – the shape-changing Ishmael. Whale had him impersonate Mr. Delgado as part of a subtle plan to provoke a war between the street gangs in Cleveland.
(And Whale’s aide was, of course, named Miss Pequod).
That plan was foiled at the last minute, with Delgado and his quarry allying to convince gangs of respecting a ceasefire.
However, one gang — the Royal Family — did not participate. And they used the ceasefire to take territory, then offer an alliance to Whale as the up-and-coming set in Cleveland’s Brick City neighbourhood.
Killing an Ahab
Whale then sent Demolition (Steven Kenahan) to blow up a building and engage the police, in order to fight Black Lightning.
To Whale’s surprise, Kenahan initially had the upper hand. But Lightning eventually rallied, and defeated Demolition.
Now having an accurate reading of Black Lightning’s current power level, Whale remotely murdered Kenahan, who was now but a loose end.
Whale clearly had further plans. But the (somewhat chaotic) 1995-96 run of Black Lightning came to an end before that could be addressed.
(Tony Isabella revisited many of these 1990s elements in the 2018 Cold Dead Hands Black Lightning Limited Series. But this series featured markedly different versions of Lightning, Whale and other characters as Mr. Isabella continued to modernise.)
Early 2000s cameos
This version of Tobias Whale may have been the one that was glimpsed :
- In 2002, attending an event at Blacksmith (Amunet Black)’s underground black market, the Network.
- In 2003, during an underground fighting event organised by Roulette (Veronica Sinclair).
It arguably could have been the modified version of Mr. Whale that debuted in 2007… but that’s for another writeup to discuss.
In 1977 Whale looked massive and inhuman. Perhaps 450+ lbs. (204+ Kg.), with a conic head, no neck, orca-like teeth, impossibly thick fingers, etc.. But this receded after a few issues, then partially came back, then receded, etc.. Time and tide, man. Time and tide.
On a few occasions his eyes are coloured pink, like an albino person’s, or even red. Perhaps — unsupported hypothesis — he usually wears blue contact lenses that protect him from excessive light.
One of Whale’s rings is a large one, shaped like a stylised whale silhouette.
During the 1990s, his teeth were depicted as being filed to a point. So we’re back to the orca-like dentition, albeit not as fangs-like.
The vitals in the Background block are his 1986 Who’s Who in the DC Universe ones. In the actual art, his size varied a lot.
Early on, a pretty standard mob mastermind. But a smart and pragmatic one. He would clearly have outmanoeuvred and slain Black Lightning if not for rotten luck.
He was extremely articulate, always preferring more literary words over everyday ones.
Whale is ruthlessly businesslike. He will always have witnesses and traitors killed, and seeks to make clear examples of those who oppose him.
He has a cruel streak. He tries to keep it under control, lest it turns against him. Yet he will still go a teensy bit too long in having his enemies suffer, opening a small and fleeting opportunity for them to turn the tables on him.
“Have you ever seen the ocean, Mr. Toledo ? It is a thing of many moods. When it’s calm, it’s the most beautiful creature mortal man can conceive of. When it’s angry, strong men tremble. Its mighty fury can reduce the sturdiest of ships to mere kindling. I miss the ocean very much, Mr. Toledo. But I carry part of it with me always. You see, I am very like the ocean. I am angry ! No one makes a mockery of The 100 !”
“Welcome to my home, Mr. Lightning. I do hope you will forgive our rather raucousUnpleasantly loud and agitated. sense of humor.”
“Think clearly, Mr. Syonide. The 100 — and myself as the leader of their Metropolis branch — are not in the habit of leaving loose ends about.”
“May I present my aide-de-campAssistant for a senior military officer ? Her only cognomenA type of name or nickname. is Syonide, while I have the honour to be your servant, Tobias Whale. Would you care for a demitasseA half-size drinking cup, usually used for coffee. ?”
DC Universe Adaptation
(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).
Just use… say, Cornell Cottonmouth. He covers all of Whale’s base, but he’s better and that dodges the Kingpin comparisons.
If Cottonmouth’s too strong, keep it gill and use Piranha Jones.
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Tobias Whale (1978/1979)
|Dex: 04||Str: 04||Bod: 04|
|Int: 04||Wil: 05||Min: 04|
|Inf: 05||Aur: 05||Spi: 04|
|Init: 015||HP: 015|
Charisma*: 05, Detective (Legwork): 07, Vehicles (Land, Water): 03
Area Knowledge (Metropolis, then Cleveland).
Street (High), Underworld (High).
The early whale gets the plankton
In his first few appearances Tobias Whale seemed to have about DEX 06 STR 06 BODY 06. Plus one AP of Growth, Always On and Already Factored In.
The Attributes could be 05s, based on the material. But the intent at that point seemed that he could match Black Lightning’s enhanced brawn – but not quite his fighting skills.
His Wealth as a The 100 executive, and immediately after he was fired, seemed to be about 10 APs.
In the Mayfair statting style, Whale would have higher Mental Attributes APs. INT 07 WIL 06, I guess. And likely one or two more APs of Charisma.
But in WORG statting style, he doesn’t actually demonstrate such high APs.
His key asset might actually be his two High Connections. He gets a lot of mileage out of this information and contacts.
The Detective (Legwork) Skill is there to put emphasis on this aspect. We don’t see him using it, but he clearly works on knowing who’s who, who’s doing what and why, etc..
Wealth 007 is his low ebb, and the aforementioned 010 his peak. Most of the time he’s between the two, trending toward 010… but there just ain’t the material for estimates, bro.
Call me Ishmael
Ishmael (occasionally helped by his brother Queequeg) might have been space-changing space aliens. It’s unclear, though – and Black Lightning noted that sci-fi stuff was unlike Whale.
Physical Attributes seemed in the vicinity of DEX 07 STR 07 BODY 07, plus Chameleon: 06, Stretching: 01, Extra Limbs: 07 and possibly a bit of Fluid Form and Water Freedom.
It’s hard to tell, since Jeff went from pulling his punches (as Ishmael was pretending to be Gangbuster) to burning Hero Points on his attacks (to prevent Ishmael and Queequeg from murdering allies).
At Whale’s headquarters, Ishmael was doing the stock butler impression. In the field he seemed cruel, murderous, somewhat unhinged.
This power armourStrength-enhancing body armour, like Iron Man’s was only seen briefly – then sacrificed along with its operator.
It had something like /STR/ 07 /BODY/ 06, with Skin Armour: 02 (limited to Ballistic, and perhaps Slashing and Piercing Descriptors). Plus some sort of light recoilless rifle (Projectile weapon: 08). It also could transport a firebomb powerful enough to demolish a small building.
It was insulated – Lightning Immunity: 04, and probably Flame Immunity: 03 and Cold Immunity: 02 or some such. However, Lightning did a Trick Shot to melt the mechanical parts rather than try to overload the shielded electronics, crippling it.
The Demolition armour was thus sufficient to engage the police, and some street-level heroes.
Source of Character: DC Comics (mostly Black Lightning).
Writeup completed on the 24th of April, 2022.