There can be little doubt that Greg Berlanti is the current king of superhero mania. With four shows currently on The CW—Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl—he’s formed a de facto monopoly on the world of DC television; one that seems to expand in both scope and vision with every passing season. Now, as one of the producers of FOX’s Black Lightning, his grip on the genre has grown even tighter, which is great news for fans.
Executive Produced by Salim and Mara Brock Akil (The Game), Black Lightning brings DC’s first African-American superhero to life for the first time ever in a live-action TV adaptation. News of Berlanti’s involvement in the series sent ripples of excitement through the comic book world when it was announced earlier this month, as he seems to have the Midas Touch when it comes to bringing properties to life on the small screen. Though not a part of his Arrow-verse, Berlanti will play an important role in bringing Black Lightning to TV screens, the extent of which we now know.
In an interview with IndieWire, the prolific producer discussed his involvement with the show, which seems to be more of a guiding hand than anything else. Berlanti discussed the show as primarily the brainchild of the Akils, downplaying his role somewhat as more of a helping hand:
“[Black Lightning] was mostly Mara and Salim, who are incredibly talented, and the studio just asked me to godfather them a bit, since this genre is newer for them. But they really have a vision for that show, so I hope I can help them execute it.”
The Akils can ask for no better person to help them as they dip their toes into the superhero pool for the first time. Though not their first time producing a series, creating a popular and successful superhero TV show presents its own unique problems, all of which Berlanti has extensive experience in dealing with. From the sound of things, his will be more of a consultant-type role than anything else, with the Akils running the show while Berlanti teaches them the tricks of the trade.
As for that, the producer offered his own ideas as to what makes for a successful superhero TV show, based on the lessons he’s learned in his own forays into the genre (something IndieWire referred to as Berlanti's "superhero boot camp"):
“A few of them would be that the shows have to exist as if they had nothing to do with superheroes as well. What kind of show would it be? What would it be about? What’s the emotional core of the main character and their journey? Inevitably if that stuff isn’t there, everything else feels like noise. I’d say also, your heroes are only as good as your villains. They have to have a great villain as well to challenge the hero. And to not be afraid to make it as specific as possible. Obviously we participate in a lot of these shows right now, and there are a lot of them in TV and movies. The ones that succeed have a real specificity to them. They did that and worked their heart and soul into their pitch. It’s a very personal story for them. I hope people will connect with it.”
Berlanti’s penchant for balancing superhero action with human drama has been an integral part of his success with the Arrow-verse. There’s an emotional core to his work that brings superheroes to life in ways that seem as realistic as they do fantastic. This is a reality that comic book readers have known for years, which the masses have been picking up on thanks to the successful superhero trend. Superheroes are, and should be, opportunities to tell stories, not the story itself.
Berlanti seems to know this better than anyone, and if he can impart this wisdom onto the Akils, then Black Lightning will almost certainly become a hit when it premieres. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to watch as the series grows and develops, especially as the human emotion of the stories begin to reveal themselves. Given the level of talent working behind the scenes on the show, Black Lightning looks like it might be another winner for both the Akils and Berlanti.
Black Lightning is currently in development. No premiere date is currently set.