WARNING: The following article contains SPOILERS for the Black Lightning episode "Shadow of Death: The Book Of War"
The finale of Black Lightning's first season saw Jefferson Pierce expose the secret government experiments that accidentally gave him and dozens of other inner-city children super-powers. It was a hard-won victory, but unbeknownst to Black Lightning his efforts also helped clear the way for crime boss Tobias Whale to tighten his hold on the underworld of Freeland, as he organizes his own team of supervillains.
'Shadow of Death: The Book Of War' was largely devoted to examining Whale and the current status of his operation, giving definition to characters who had been largely confined to the background. In the case of Whale himself, the episode confirmed that Whale does have a superpower of sorts. While not a natural metahuman like Jefferson Pierce, Whale does have access to a special serum that slows his aging while increasing his strength. Whale looks no older than he did 30 years ago and is said to have the strength of three men.
This is something of a change from the original comics. While the original Tobias Whale was a menacing figure, he had no superpowers. He was, however, quite agile for a man of his size (6'5" and 400 pounds, according to Who's Who In The DCU) and particularly skilled at throwing harpoons.
Despite this, the revelation of Tobias' powers is still a nod to the classic comics, where Whale worked in the service of The 100 - a cabal of mystics who found a way to gain immortality by feeding on the suffering of others. One of these mystics took control of the Metropolis neighborhood called Suicide Slum, and established a gang (also called the 100) to encourage the appropriate sense of despair needed to fuel their power.
Tobias Whale's right-hand woman Syonide has been a largely silent presence for most of Black Lightining's first season. The season finale gave Syonide a backstory, revealing that she had been rescued from an abusive orphanage by Tobias Whale, who set about training her to be his personal assassin. Whale also had carbon-fiber armor implanted under her skin.
Strangely, this is more backstory than was ever given to Syonide in the comics. An unnamed assassin in the employ of Tobias Whale, she took up the name and weapons of another supervillain named Syonide. He had been an expert hunter and poisoner (who took pride in not killing his targets) and chose to kill himself rather than risk the wrath of The 100. Tobias took Syonide's signature weapons - poison darts and an electrical whip - and gave them to the second Syonide.
Track star Khalil Payne thought his life was over after a bullet shattered his spine following a peaceful protest turned violent. Blaming Black Lightning for his injuries, Khalil was taken under the wing of Tobias Whale, who promised to teach him how to "kill the pain." One experimental surgery later and Khalil was able to walk again and also developed the ability to secrete a paralytic venom that he could dispense through wrist-mounted dart guns. Whale also gave Khalil a new name to go with his new purpose - Painkiller.
Ironically, Khalil has more in common with the original Syonide than the Black Lightning villain called Painkiller. Introduced in the 1995 Black Lightning series, the original Painkiller was a metahuman who had the power to dull the senses of people around them, causing them to go blind or lose all feeling in their limbs. Sadly, he died two issues after being introduced, never being given a full name or proper backstory.
The Tattooed Man
Latavius Johnson (aka Lala) was a drug dealer in the employ of The 100. His sloppy methods saw him killed by Tobias Whale, before he was mysteriously resurrected and began having visions of the people that he'd murdered. He also started growing tattoos of his victim's faces! The season finale saw Tobias Whale revealing that he was responsible for Lala's resurrection, which came about because of an undefined million-dollar process. Whale also gave Lala a new name - The Tattooed Man.
There have been three DC Comics villains called The Tattooed Man, but Lala's background doesn't match-up with any of them. The closest is Mark Richards - a former Marine, who claimed that his tattoos represented the sins of the people he killed and that he was bringing them peace as he killed more and more evil people. The only common ground between Lala and Richards is a suggestion that Richards was an unwitting recipient of his own dark powers.
It is unclear if the new Tattooed Man survived Whale's turning him into a suicide bomber, but it seems unlikely Whale would give up his investment in Lala so soon or so easily. The only certainty is that Black Lightning and his allies will have their hands full in Season Two.