“Black Lightning” is immersively, not incidentally, black...
January 15, 2018 12:05 PM   Subscribe

‘Black Lightning’ Is Pulp With a Purpose [The New York Times] “By day, Jefferson is a high school principal, something of a local hero for his outreach to troubled students. Until nine years ago, though, he patrolled the fictional city of Freeland, wearing a space-age electro-suit that one observer likens to a Parliament-Funkadelic outfit. Targeted by the police for vigilantism, he wearily gave it up. But he’s drawn back in as the city is overrun by a brutal gang, the One Hundred, which ends up threatening his two daughters: Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain).” [YouTube Trailer]

• DC Comics’ Landmark DC in D.C. Event Proves It’s Our World—Superheroes Are Just Living in It [Paste Magazine]
““It was very important to us, in our storytelling,” Black Lightning executive producer (and Akil’s wife) Mara Brock Akil explained during one of Saturday’s round tables, “to put the black man at the center of the story, especially at the time we were developing it [in May 2016]. Not to dismiss black women, because heaven knows, we have our own issues—but the talk at the time was all about what was happening to black men, especially with police brutality, gang violence. It was affecting them at a higher rate, and yet there was no fictitious character on television responding to that in any way. And that was important to us to get that in there.” This idea, of the importance of getting superheroic characters on superheroic television to respond to something happening in the real world—a cultural movement, a sexual identity, trauma—was echoed throughout the day, across every panel and in every round table discussion. ”
• ‘Black Lightning’ plays well to its strengths, rather than playing like a token effort [The Washington Post]
“Today’s “Black Lightning” takes place in Freeland, a fictional city with a skyrocketing crime rate, courtesy of a large gang called the 100. Although his success as the principal of an inner-city high school has brought him local acclaim, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams, in a commanding performance) still suffers occasional indignities, including getting pulled over in his Volvo because police are looking for a robbery suspect who looks nothing like Jefferson — except, of course, for being black. Jefferson sees reasons every day to reignite his superpowers. His eyes thrum with electric-blue anger when he learns of a fresh outrage committed against his family or one of his students. Or even during the outrages he experiences personally. It’s a powerful fantasy, particularly in the Black Lives Matter era, to call on extreme heroics and vigilantism to deliver a message that will get heard.”
• The CW's 'Black Lightning' offers an electrifying superhero facing tough issues [Los Angeles Times]
““Black Lightning” successfully walks the line between advocacy and entertainment thanks to deft storytelling and a sense of when to be obvious and when to pull back. The series, created by Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil (“Being Mary Jane”) and executive produced by Greg Berlanti ("Arrow," "The Flash"), follows Black Lightning, who retired from fighting crime years ago in his fictional city of Freeland after it wreaked havoc on his personal life and marriage. He traded the mask for a suit and tie and is now simply respected high school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams). He channels his pent-up need to help the community into enriching the lives of the predominantly black student body. That is until a powerful gang known as the 100 forces the conflicted father of two to tap back into all that dormant ampage. Making matters more urgent, the gang’s thugs have targeted Pierce’s daughters, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain), who themselves are no shrinking violets. When Pierce’s negotiations go nowhere, it’s Black Lightning who shows up to save them. But violence begets violence, and his actions open up a Pandora’s box of wrongs that need to be righted.”
• 'Black Lightning' Isn’t in the Arrowverse, for Now [Inverse]
“At the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday, co-executive producers Salim and Mara Brock Akil said Black Lightning is on its own simply because the producers were allowed to make it as such. “This idea of why they’re not in this universe or why they’re not in the Justice League [cinematic universe] is because … [the studio told us] ‘You’ve got to do this the way you want to do this. You’re going to live and die by that, and we support you.’ That’s what you’re seeing,” Akil said. Salim Akil also added that the other “Arrowverse” shows don’t completely mesh well with their vision for Black Lightning. “I say this with all due respect, but they’re not really relevant to the show that we’re doing,” he said. Unlike the other DC TV shows, which focus on millennial-aged vigilantes and misfit freaks, Black Lightning is a family-centric saga starring a middle-aged superhero struggling to keep his family together while fighting crime.”
• Here’s everything you should know about Black Lightning [AV Club] [Autoplay]
“Black Lightning holds a pretty huge honor: He was the first black superhero to headline his own book at DC. As the story goes, DC had originally approved a comic called The Black Bomber, which would have been about a white guy who transforms into a black superhero when stressed. Mercifully, that idea was scrapped, although they would later reference this idea in Justice League Of America Vol. 2, issue #26 with a character called The Brown Bomber. In 1977, DC enlisted Luke Cage writer Tony Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eeden to come up with a idea for a black superhero that wasn’t stunningly racist. Thus, Black Lightning, a.k.a. Jefferson Pierce, was born—high school principal by day and local masked vigilante by night. Naturally, his powers have always revolved around electricity, including generating it from within his body and manipulating it in various ways, like shooting lightning bolts and making electric force fields.”
posted by Fizz (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've been burnt out on comic book adaptations and super-heroes the last few years. That being said, this looks really good. It looks to be channelling a similar Luke Cage kind of vibe and I'm board for that. I'm also glad that this is not a part of the CW Arrow-verse which feels way too clogged and a reason why I haven't bothered with The Flash. I hope this does well and I also hope that it can just be its own thing. It doesn't need to be shoe-horned into a larger Arrow-verse. It will hopefully just stand on its own merits. I'll be tuning in.
posted by Fizz at 12:20 PM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I usually hate ensemble superhero stuff, so I hope it stays out of Arrowverse. I'll be rooting for this show to succeed, but I feel like the CW usually puts too much of their shows' emphasis on pretty casting and not enough on strong acting and writing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:30 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, the quote I pulled from that NYT article didn't contain or reference that the role of Jefferson Pierce is being played by Cress Williams. Just thought I'd make a note of that here. He's a phenomenal actor and I'm glad that he has this opportunity.
posted by Fizz at 12:39 PM on January 15, 2018

Interestingly enough, it turns out from my reading, that


The condition is genetic so the daughter(s) will also become empowered.

Also, I have read it is more intended as a family drama with a powered individual than a straight out superhero show.
posted by Samizdata at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2018

Thanks for posting that Artw. I recall reading that article last summer. A good thing to reference here as a part of this discussion.
posted by Fizz at 12:43 PM on January 15, 2018

Also, I kind of like the contrasts in the Arrowverse. Ollie is all grimdark "make the tough choice, no matter the cost" and Barry (true to his role in the Justice League) is "DO THE RIGHT THING! BE THE GOOD GUY!" and the Legends are "well-meaning idiots with a time machine"/
posted by Samizdata at 12:44 PM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Why Do So Many Black Superheroes Have Electricity Powers?

I was just about to ask that very question. Thank you, Artw.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:46 PM on January 15, 2018

I've been burnt out on comic book adaptations and super-heroes the last few years.

Funny how the minority-focused superhero [movies/tv shows/etc.] don't get made until after superhero fatigue has set in for a lot of people. Institutional racism at its finest, really. If this show doesn't get good ratings, or if Black Panther underperforms at the box office, you can bet it won't be "superhero fatigue" that gets blamed.

Anyway, this show sounds really promising, I just hope they can keep Greg Berlanti from Berlanti-ing it up. Hopefully having an already-married, middle-aged lead character will help keep them from re-using a lot of the same angsty superhero tropes that the other CW shows have done to death at this point.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:52 PM on January 15, 2018 [13 favorites]

Storm's electricity powers only really take the front seat when you've got an unimaginative writer who writes her as a flying energy caster, which is boring. I think that the movies were better with showing her at her full potential, especially when she'd create multiple tornadoes within seconds.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:59 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

> Halloween Jack: "I think that the movies were better with showing her at her full potential, especially when she'd create multiple tornadoes within seconds."

I get your point except for the use of 'the movies' instead of 'the one movie where an actress who actually brings some emotion to the role is cast as Ororo, instead of a Halle Berry who is clearly uncomfortable, confused and wondering whether her agent can get her out of this, what is it called? "ex-man"? '.
posted by signal at 1:04 PM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you're worried about whether or not they're going to be able to keep Black Lightning separate from the rest of the CW Arrow-verse, I saw someone on the internet mention that unlike the rest of the Arrow-verse shows who all film in Vancouver, Black Lightning films in Atlanta. So, just logistically (and financially) speaking, it's a bit more of a hassle for them to join up.
posted by mhum at 1:05 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Of all the shows from the Hell's Kitchen Marvel-verse, Luke Cage was the best (at least in my opinion). It had its own rhythm and style where so much of the rest of Hell's Kitchen felt generic and samesy, as if we had already tread this ground a hundred times before in a hundred other superhero adaptations.

I'm hoping that this Freeland captures that same kind of magic. From some of the interviews I've listened to on the radio, Freeland looks to be a kind of Atlanta place-holder, but we'll have to see if that is true or not.
posted by Fizz at 1:05 PM on January 15, 2018

And mhum now confirms it. If it was filmed in Atlanta, it's very obviously going to be inspired by that city and its people and landscape.
posted by Fizz at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2018

I won’t complain if they do roll Black Lightning into the Arrowverse. While the Arrowverse in general has pretty diverse casting, it could use a more diverse POV. Especially if Supergirl manages to bring its feminist/immigrant story undercurrent to the forefront.
posted by Eikonaut at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

> Eikonaut:
"I won’t complain if they do roll Black Lightning into the Arrowverse. While the Arrowverse in general has pretty diverse casting, it could use a more diverse POV. Especially if Supergirl manages to bring its feminist/immigrant story undercurrent to the forefront."

It's not that hard considering the Arrowverse is just one part of a metaverse, which gives them the ability to only crossover when they want.
posted by Samizdata at 1:29 PM on January 15, 2018

I always liked him better than White Arrow, White Canary, White Lantern, White Tornado, Booster White, or White Beetle.
posted by benzenedream at 2:41 PM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Here's the first trailer. This show looks fun.

Am I a bad person because while watching both trailers I keep imagining Samuel L Jackson saying "HONEY, WHERE IS MY SUPERSUIT?"
posted by rmd1023 at 2:53 PM on January 15, 2018

Also, if they do this even remotely well, they will have a monster hit on their hands. Luke Cage broke Netflix, and Black Panther advance sales have been busier than any non-Star Wars movie. Black nerds are, for the most part, an under-served and under-represented segment of nerd-dom, and I think everyone ends up benefitting from different stories and shows that beat different superhero tropes to death. :)
posted by rmd1023 at 3:00 PM on January 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

The AV Club’s review of the first two episodes (as opposed to the explainer linked above) just dropped, and it’s very encouraging:

Don’t worry about the crossovers—Black Lightning doesn’t need any other heroes
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:54 PM on January 15, 2018

Need? No. Want? Yes. I can imagine Snart showing up with a deal too good for the 100 to pass up, and he'll need Black Lightning's unwitting help to double cross them...
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:50 PM on January 15, 2018

I've posted the Fanfare thread for the season premiere.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:15 PM on January 16, 2018

Why Do So Many Black Superheroes Have Electricity Powers?
I happened to be reading The Wicked and the Divine this weekend, and Baal brought this article to mind.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:00 AM on January 22, 2018

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