For two seasons now, Black Lightning has received an abundance of praise for adeptly bringing the iconic DC hero to life in live action. With regards to his post-Crisis origins, from which much of Black Lightning seems to be derived, everything from Jefferson Pierce’s Olympic success, passion for education, and commitment to his hometown has been masterfully reflected on screen.
However, there are a few notable details about the beloved character that either never receive mention on The CW series, or are altered from comic book canon. In the following list, 10 of these details will be acknowledged and examined.
10 JEFFERSON ORIGINALLY GREW UP IN METROPOLIS
For the Black Lightning TV series, the city of Freeland was crafted from the ground up; there’s no precedent for it in the comics. Jefferson Pierce’s post-Crisis origins, however, place his childhood home in a ghetto of Metropolis, Suicide Slum. There likely exists a multitude of reasons as to why Metropolis could not appear in this series.
Still, it’s quite unfortunate. That a substantial section of The City of Tomorrow is enveloped in destitution would have made for a fascinating backdrop to Black Lightning’s premise. Honestly, though, Freeland has proven compelling enough of a setting on its own.
9 JEFFERSON'S UPBRINGING
On the television show, it is Jefferson’s father, Alvin Pierce, who raises Jeff and ultimately loses his life to street crime. In post-Crisis continuity, however, Jefferson’s widowed mother rests at the forefront of his upbringing. As a single mother, she often struggles to make ends meet.
Luckily, a tailor named Peter Gambi, who does feature on The CW series, lends a helping hand. Similar to his role on screen, Gambi becomes a positive male role model early in Jeff’s life. Curiously, it appears as though Black Lightning has yet to address what role, if any, the Pierce matriarch plays in the protagonist’s upbringing.
8 GAMBI IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALVIN PIERCE'S DEATH
In both comics and television canon for Black Lightning, Jeff’s father, Alvin Pierce, dies under mysterious circumstances. Essentially, both versions of Alvin’s murder are centered around street crime. However, while the television series portrays Tobias Whale as Alvin’s killer, post-Crisis continuity places an unlikely character in the role of cold-blooded murderer, Peter Gambi.
Prior to meeting Jeff and his mother, Gambi worked as a gun for hire; Alvin Pierce just happened to be one of his unlucky targets. Therefore, Gambi’s becoming a father figure for Jeff helps in his desire to atone for past sins.
7 THE REASON HE BECOMES BLACK LIGHTNING
After spending years away from home, post-Crisis Jefferson Pierce returns to work at his alma mater, Garfield High. During his tenure as a teacher, Jeff kicks local gang members off of school property. As payback, the gang murders and abandons the body of a student, Earl Clifford, in the school gym.
This event leads to Jeff’s becoming Black Lightning. A character named Earl in the TV series is killed under similar circumstances. Yet, according to Jeff, Black Lightning was already active at this time. It’s a small detail, sure, but raises questions as to what event specifically inspired the TV character to take up vigilantism.
6 WHEN DOES LYNN LEARN ABOUT HIS IDENTITY?
In the aforementioned comics continuity, Jefferson Pierce doesn’t adopt the role of Black Lightning until after he and his wife, Lynn Stewart, divorce. Eventually, she learns the truth about his being a vigilante. The TV series, however, presents a version wherein his commitment to Black Lightning ruins their marriage.
This begs the question of when exactly Lynn learned the truth in The CW show. Though the series has shown flashbacks in the past, it has, curiously, yet to deeply explore Jeff’s origins as Black Lightning. Perhaps this is something that will see the light of day in future seasons of the series.
5 ANISSA DEVELOPS POWERS AT AN EARLY AGE
As far as the show is concerned, Anissa Pierce, Jeff’s eldest daughter, does not get meta-human abilities until adulthood. Yet, the comics see her powers manifest before she arrives at her teen years. Despite learning of her abilities at a young age, the comic version of Anissa waits until she finishes college to kickstart her crimefighting career.
Shortly after doing so, she joins the Outsiders. Whether or not her involvement with the crimefighting team, or even the Outsiders’ existence, will be explored on Black Lightning remains to be seen. Regardless, these small differences between the comics and television series are still worthy of note.
4 JEFFERSON BEFRIENDS LEAGUE MEMBERS
By the end of Black Lightning’s sophomore season, it does not appear as though Jeff knows any superheroes apart from those in his immediate family. In the comics, of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. During post-Crisis continuity, Jefferson befriends members of the Justice League. Moreover, he eventually joins the League and later the Outsiders.
On the show, it seems much of his heroics take place exclusively in his hometown of Freeland, meaning he likely never ventures far enough out to run into other costumed vigilantes. It’ll be interesting to see if the show’s status quo on this front ever changes.
3 JEFFERSON HAS A SISTER
In the comics, Jefferson Pierce is not an only child. Rather, he has a sister, Constance Pierce. To be fair, Constance is a lesser known character, debuting just years ahead of the Flashpoint event that shook up the DC Universe in 2011. In fact, her first appearance occurs in 2009’s Black Lightning: Year One.
Thus far, The CW series has suggested that Jeff has no siblings. Of course, there exists enough wiggle room in the character’s TV backstory to allow for changes in this regard. Since so little is known about his mother’s side of the family in Black Lightning, the possibilities seem limitless.
2 JEFFERSON'S POST-HIGH SCHOOL YEARS
Barring his participating and winning in the Olympics, Jeff’s post-high school days in Black Lightning remains somewhat of an enigma. Admittedly, this isn't too surprising, given how late in his life and career the series takes place. Still, it serves as an interesting missing piece to the puzzle that is much of Jeff’s backstory.
Jeff, in the New Earth continuity, goes to college outside of Metropolis on scholarships, graduates, and remains away from his hometown for quite a few years. If Jefferson Pierce in The CW series experiences a similar arc, such details have yet to be made clear.
1 HIS AFRO WIG
One staple of Black Lightning’s identity that remained constant throughout much of his comic history is his afro wig. While an episode of the show’s second season briefly displays a look at its version of Black Lightning’s original garb, which harkens back to his 1970s attire, there’s no mention of his ever donning the famous wig.
This does not mean it never happened, of course. So, perhaps this piece of Jefferson’s disguise still has the potential to somehow be represented in live action. If not, the previously mentioned glimpse at his classic suit will have to do for fans of Black Lightning’s old school adventures.