Monday, February 13, 2017

Real Name: Jefferson Pierce
First Appearance: Black Lightning #1 (April, 1977)
Fight Club Ranking: #87

Featured Fights:
- vs SINESTRO CORPS: Green Lantern #25 (Jan 2008)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #14 (Jan 2008)

Is it a "Golden Age" of television, or just a golden shower of content? Abundance seems to be the most compelling argument for the present era of genre programming. Quality, a bit more scarce.

Superheroes and comic book adaptations have become a major part of the TV landscape, even as high profile licenses are stripped to barely resemble the comics that spawned them. It's an old tradition in Hollywood. One more easily excused at a time when budgets were tight, technology limited, and audiences less aware of these worlds. Entry-level problems that should've been left behind a decade ago, but inform the basics for new live-action incarnations.

FOX marshalled one of the more perplexing TV pitches of the current era, spearheading Gotham with an intent to strip the city of its most iconic characters. Saving Batman for the big screen is a fine idea, but turning back the clock to a time before the crime-ridden city was populated was always, for lack of a better term: stupid.

The absurdity couldn't last. The show inevitably populated itself with The Penguin, Riddler, and pint-sized Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. All handicapped by commitment to a flawed premise that always should've looked more like Gotham City Central than bad fan-fiction. It's probably a good thing, then, that the network behind Gotham won't be honoring their production commitment to a show based on Black Lightning.

Deadline reports the show will instead retreat to the safety of The CW, where producer Greg Berlanti already has a universe of DC superheroes to surround it with. His score card includes the high of Supergirl, as well as middling-to-embarrassing lows of Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

Black Lightning wasn't exactly a property demanding to be added to the list, but the possibility that low expectations might free the show up to break new ground is promising. The only problem -- a double-edged sword that could just as easily leave the character unrecognizable, and bogged in the episodic phony cosplay that typifies a lot of these shows.

If things go well, it could be another renaissance for a character who's flirted with more permanent residence in the DC Comics spotlight. My affection for the character grew in the mid to late 2000s, when he appeared as a supporting character in Green Arrow, and memorably became a hunted Anti-Life resistance fighter during Final Crisis. The latter seemed like particularly exciting grounds for what might've otherwise been an interesting reshuffling of the Justice League(s). Alas, the reach of Final Crisis only went so far, but Black Lightning did get a brief unrelated run with the League.

I won't be expecting a flair collar, but I'll be interested to see what compromises -- and potential improvements -- can be made to the Black Lightning design. It will also be interesting to see if the show can distinguish itself with a unique visual palette, or style. This would be one of the areas where superheroes on television have lacked the most. Luke Cage on Netflix providing an example for resolving the issue of visual and cultural panache -- even if it isn't perfect.

There's also the possibility that Black Lightning finds his way into Injustice 2. The DC fighting game is trundling along toward its inevitable release in April. With Premier Skins on the table, it could provide a base for young cartoon-watching fans who've also clamored for electrically charged Milestone acquisition Static. We'll be watching with interest for the first look. For now, Black Lightning is Hero of the Week!

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