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Black Lightning is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by writer Tony Isabella with artist Trevor Von Eeden, first appearing in Black Lightning #1 (April 1977) during the Bronze Age of Comic Books. While his origin story has been retconned several times, his current origin story states that he was born in the DC Universe a metahuman with superhuman abilities. Black Lightning is DC Comics' second African American superhero and the first to lead his own live-action TV series (in which he is played by Cress Williams).
Born Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning is originally depicted as a schoolteacher from the crime-ridden Suicide Slum area of Metropolis who acquires electrical superpowers from a technologically advanced power belt that he puts to use to clean up crime in his neighborhood. Over time, Pierce establishes himself as a successful superhero in the DC Universe, and later stories depict him as having "internalized" the belt's powers as a result of his latent metagene. Later retellings of Black Lightning's origins simplify his story by depicting him as metahuman with the inborn ability to manipulate and generate electricity.
Tony Isabella, an experienced writer having done work for the Luke Cage character at Marvel Comics, was signed on to develop DC's first starring black character. He pitched the idea for Black Lightning and it was developed though only 11 issues were published in the first series due to the 1978 DC Implosion. However, the character continued to make appearances in other titles over the years, including a Justice League of America storyline in which Pierce is offered but turns down a position with the group. Elements of Black Lightning were controversial when the character debuted. In the character's early days, Black Lightning was depicted wearing a combined afro wig/mask and affecting an exaggerated Harlem jive vernacular as part of his efforts to conceal his identity as highly educated school professional Jefferson Pierce. Black Lightning later becomes one of the founding members of the Batman-helmed Outsiders superhero team.
In the 2000s, DC Comics introduced Black Lightning's daughters, who inherited metahuman abilities from their father. His eldest daughter Anissa, known as Thunder, can alter her density, rendering her almost indestructible, and create shockwaves by stomping the ground. Pierce's younger child Jennifer, also a superhero known as Lightning, has powers almost identical to her father though she is still inexperienced and not in full control of them.
Along with his presence in comics, Black Lightning has made various appearances in DC-related animated television series, video games and comic strips. The character is being portrayed in live action for the first time by Cress Williams for the self-titled television series, a production of The CW network. In 2011, he was ranked 85th overall on IGN's "Top 100 Comic Books Heroes" list.