There’s just no stopping producer Greg Berlanti’s march to bring a hero for every possible viewer from the world of DC Comics onto broadcast television. After covering the dark and gritty with Arrow, a shift to the lighter side came in the form of the The Flash – followed soon after by a time travel team-up in Legends of Tomorrow, and a return to the golden age of Kryptonians with Supergirl (now switching to The CW). Now it looks like another Justice League member will be battling the forces of evil and corruption – assuming Berlanti has his way.
According to a new report, Berlanti’s production team is pairing up with Being Mary Jane and The Game creator Mara Brock Akil to bring DC Comics’ Jefferson Pierce a.k.a. Black Lightning to TV, with the group apparently now pitching the show to networks.
The report comes courtesy of Deadline, who state that it will once again be Berlanti and producing partner Sarah Schechter getting development in motion (as they did with Supergirl), with Mara Brock Akil and her producing partner and husband Salim Akil on board to produce and write. The Akils recently signed a multi-year development deal with Warner Bros., the first fruits of which may apparently be adding to their crop of DC Comics adaptations. Details are scarce, but the outlet does provide the following brief synopsis:
He made his choice: he hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend — Black Lightning.
At first glance, many will see the development of Black Lightning as one more push from comic book studios to increase not just their adapted properties, but the diversity of them, with characters and voices from all ethnicities, nationalities, faiths and gender being no longer demanded by fans, but actively pursued by executives. The report also coincides with growing momentum for Marvel’s Luke Cage, a Netflix series built on one of the comic publisher’s first African-American heroes spawned during the success of 1970s ‘Blaxploitation’ films – the same period that spurred DC into creating Black Lightning.
In the original comics, Jefferson Pierce was a boy with promise born into Metropolis’ ‘Suicide Slum,’ eventually working his way through school to become not only a brilliant student, but an accomplished athlete, eventually making it to the heights of an Olympic Gold Medal in the Decathlon – Suicide Slum’s own success story. But a career as a college professor – and a daughter, as mentioned in the show’s pitch – couldn’t distract him from his home, and upon returning, realized that the streets were as bad as ever – and in need of a physically gifted defender.
First came a belt capable of channeling bolts of electricity to augment his physical prowess, later replaced by certified superpowers. In the modern age, Jefferson even worked in President Lex Luthor’s cabinet, adding some political experience to his repertoire of hard knocks and a superpowered daughter, no less. It’s fruitful territory for the Akils, Berlanti and Schechter to explore: a lower-class kid who makes good, returns home, and realizes fists can solve what an intellect and good education can’t.
Obviously that idea has some problems in today’s world – and the same goes for Jefferson’s decision to don the clothing, hairstyle and language of blaxploitation to conceal his ‘educated’ identity. But in the right hands, that alone means some new ground can be broken while still remaining faithful to the heart of the character. Now, which network will be attracted to the story, and its possible connections to the larger Berlanti Arrowverse… remains to be seen.
The Flash season 3 will premiere Tuesday October 4th at 8pm on The CW, Arrow season 5 will premiere in the same timeslot on Wednesday October 5th, Supergirl season 2 on Monday October 10th, and Legends of Tomorrow season 2 on Thursday October 13th.
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