There are many superheroes to keep track of in today’s day and age between Marvel and DC, movies and TV, and all the comic books they originated from. Black Lightning on the CW chronicles the life of DC’s first Black leading man, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), alias Black Lightning. His powers are electrifying (literally) — Black Lightning can use electricity to make himself indestructible, heal himself, throw balls of lightning, and more. But how did Black Lightning get his powers?
There are a few origin stories for Black Lightning since his story is told by a few different sources. Plus, Black Lightning isn’t the only “metahuman,” meaning a human who acquires powers through an external source of energy, in Freeland. Black Lightning’s daughters also have powers, although where they got their powers is much more straightforward.
Black Lightning got his powers because he is a metahuman.
There are varying definitions of what exactly a metahuman is, and if it means that Black Lightning was born with his powers or that he acquired them. The consensus seems to be that Black Lighting was born with the metagene, which allowed him to harness his electrical powers. In the Black Lightning television series, Black Lightning was injected at a young age with a vaccine that would turn him into a metahuman.
Most of the children injected with this vaccine died or became unstable, but because Black Lightning already had the metagene, likely through relation to the original metahuman, Tyson Sykes (Wayne Brady), the vaccine gave him the ability to access his powers. Black Lightning’s unique genetic makeup inspired much of the plot of Black Lightning, with his archnemesis, Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III), coming after him to access his genetic makeup.
However, in the comic books, the story of how Black Lightning got his powers is told differently. In the comic books, Black Lightning is not at all born with his powers. Instead he receives them from a belt gifted to him by a family friend and father figure, Peter Gambi. Readers of the comics compare Black Lightning’s acquisition of powers to Iron Man’s, in which he gets his powers from technology.
Much to the satisfaction of Black Lightning fans, the Black Lightning TV series added some more meat to Black Lightning’s origin story with the metagene. It’s also noted that the comics have even retconned Black Lightning’s origin in recent years to say he was born with his abilities.
Black Lightning’s daughters were also able to get powers through their genetic makeup.
Black Lightning didn’t want to be a superhero and even turned down the chance to join the Justice League. He married Lynn Stewart (Christine Adams), and together they had two daughters, Anissa and Jennifer. Black Lightning and his daughters would become the only stable metahumans in Freeland, making them simultaneously powerful and in danger.
Black Lightning’s elder daughter, Anissa (Nafessa Williams), alias Thunder, has the ability to alter her density, which makes her virtually indestructible. This also gives her superhuman strength powers, but her well-rounded upbringing gave her high-level intellect as well. Black Lightning instructed both his daughters that they could not fight crime until they were 18, so Anissa is a med student in addition to being a superhero.
Jennifer (China Anne McClain), Black Lightning’s younger daughter, has powers that are more similar to her father’s, so she eventually lands on the alias Lightning, although Tyson Sykes nicknames her Baby Lightning. While her powers are very similar to Black Lightning’s, Lightning has more telepathic abilities than Black Lightning. She’s able to do what’s called “electrical-technopathy,” in which she can control the technology around her to hack systems and bypass passwords.
Black Lightning and his daughters have powers that are quite literally out of this world, and we are buzzing to see how they play into the larger Arrowverse.
Watch new episodes of Black Lightning every Monday at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.