What Are Black Lightning’s Powers?

Chris Tilly
TV The CW
TV The CW Streaming Comics DC

With Black Lightning heading to American TV on January 16 (and Netflix in the UK a week later), the following is a quick explainer of the character’s superpowers in the comics, and how they might translate to the small screen. But first, a bit of background…

Who is Black Lightning?

The first appearance of Black Lightning.

Black Lightning — aka Jefferson Pierce — first appeared in Black Lightning #1 in April 1977, which was written by Tony Isabella and drawn by Trevor Von Eeden.

In the comic, Pierce is a former Olympic decathlete and current teacher at Garfield High School on the Southside of Metropolis, aka Suicide Slum.

Angered by the way in which criminal organization The 100 is destroying his community, Pierce assumes the alter-ego of Black Lightning, controlling and manipulating electricity to fight crime.

As his story progresses, Pierce has two metahuman daughters; Anissa, whose physical strength turns her into Thunder, and Jennifer, who becomes Lightning when she develops powers similar to her Dad.

What Are Black Lightning’s Powers?

Black Lightning in action.

In that first run, Black Lightning’s powers came from a special belt that allowed him to project electrical bolts. The belt was given to Jefferson Pierce by friend and local tailor Peter Gambi, who also supplied his costume and mask.

In later comics, however, Jefferson is a metahuman, his powers the result of his possessing the metagene. They allow him to punch with the power of an electric shock, to fire lightning bolts that can stun or kill, and to create electrical force-fields to protect him from danger.

The character can create lightning storms in the sky, while when angry he can fire super-strong bolts that are literally black. Pierce can also absorb electricity from natural or artificial sources to re-charge and effectively power-up.

Finally, Pierce can turn himself into electricity, enabling Black Lightning to pass through solid objects and travel huge distances in the blink of an eye. In this state, the character is pretty much invincible.

What Powers Will We See on TV?

FANDOM has watched the first two episodes of Black Lightning, and while we’re sworn to secrecy regarding the plot, we can talk a little about the powers.

We get a glimpse at them early in proceedings when Jefferson Pierce becomes angry and the street lights around him flicker in an ominous fashion. We then see him go full-blown Black Lightning, and it’s pretty impressive, flashes of lightning incapacitating his assailants, and those electric shock punches throwing bad guys across the room.

Pierce is also clearly an expert at hand-to-hand combat, while electricity fields on his suit seem to absorb the power of bullets, rendering them useless.

We don’t however, witness Black Lightning turning into an electrical current, so we have no idea if that will play into proceedings. But Pierce does somehow survive jumping off a penthouse balcony, so we’re not ruling it out.

Oh, and a seriously funky soundtrack plays when Black Lightning struts into battle. Which isn’t a superpower. But is super-cool.

In the US, Black Lightning premieres on The CW on January 16, while the show streams on Netflix in the UK, starting January 23.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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