The CW’s Black Lightning TV series will not be an origin story, according to the show’s producers. The latest DC Comics superhero series to grace The CW heralds from executive producers Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, with an expected premiere date during the mid-season breaks for Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow this coming winter.
Salim Akil has commented on the fact that Black Lightning is different from the Arrowverse - namely, the show's namesake is “older”, the exec has stressed, referring to middle-aged protagonist Jefferson Pierce (played by Cress Williams), before adding, “He’s got aches and pains, he’s not as useful, and that is something that is unique.” Jefferson is also a husband, a father and a high school principal, which sets him apart from a lot of other superheroes that are currently doing the rounds.
Now, Black Lightning's executive producers have divulged even more details about the show and what sets it protagonist apart from the ever-growing pack of superhero TV series. Speaking to CBR, Salim Akil offered this account of where Black Lightning starts and how it bypasses generic superhero origin story beats:
“Why are we starting it in the middle? Not an origin story? We did that because I wanted him to be fully out of the game [...] So he quit because of the love of his family: ‘I love my wife. I love my kids. And I’m coming home beat up.’ And if you guys have seen the trailer, you’ve seen that image of him in the tub. You can imagine having to deal with something like that, what, once a month. And so, when [Jefferson’s ex-wife] says, ‘Look, I need you to stop for the love of your family,’ he did! Nine good years, right, you’re on the wagon.”
“Because your superpowers can be like a drug, right? So she’s telling him to get off this drug," Salim Akil added, offering further insight into Jefferson’s backstory. Indeed, these quotes explain a lot about the show’s approach to Jefferson’s superhero career as Black Lightning: it’s not about why he got these electrical powers and how he won his first few fights. Instead, the focus lies on how vigilantism put strains on his family, with the show starting at a point where Jefferson has already hung up his shiny superhero suit in a bid to protect his loved ones.
However, major new players in the neighborhood will force Jefferson to reconsider his retirement. Marvin Jones III has been cast as Tobias Whale, the show’s crime lord big bad who’s got “authentic street sensibility’ and a “regal physical bearing”. It seems safe to assume that Whale’s arrival on the Chicago scene will force Jefferson back into action, but it remains to be seen how his ex-wife and daughters will react to that decision.
Black Lightning premieres on The CW in early 2018.