Black Lightning debuted on The CW this past week, drawing in big ratings both during its premiere and when the pilot was re-broadcast later in the week as audiences got their first look at the first black superhero to be the center of his own show.
Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning's race isn't all that he is, but it's an important part of the story being told on the series. The show's pilot, "The Resurrection," didn't shy away from important, real-world issues impacting society and the black community specifically. Police brutality, poverty, and racism were all topics that showrunners Salim and Mara Brock Akil tackled, which is part of what gives the show authenticity in its representation. There is one moment in the episode, however, that drives home the idea that Black Lightning is different in a subtle, but powerful way. About halfway through the episode, a news segment is playing in the background in which commentator Roland Martin (played by himself) makes a comment about other superheroes.
"That's a curious question," Martin says in the segment. "Why is he a vigilante, but other communities have folks with superpowers and all of a sudden they're heroes? This shows you how in this country, for nearly 400 years, there's a double standard when it comes to us."
While Martin was making a very important point about race, perception, and discrimination, he also shed some light on the world Black Lightning is set in. While we know that Black Lightning is not set in the Arrowverse, Martin's comments indicate that there are other superheroes outside of Freeland, opening the door for a whole new world of characters that fans might see as the world of Black Lightning develops.
But who could some of these heroes be? While we don't have the Arrowverse to draw from, Black Lightning has had notable appearances in DC Comics history even outside of his own book. The character has strong ties to a number of heroes and is himself even a founding member of the Outsiders. With that in mind, here are some heroes that could exist in the Black Lightning universe.
Perhaps one of the more recent heroes connected to Black Lightning, Blue Devil encountered Black Lightning in The New 52. In the encounter, Blue Devil is busting up a drug deal and runs into Black Lightning who is also there to stop the deal. Turns out, both heroes are trying to take down Tobias Whale, but Black Lightning isn't sure about Blue Devil. The pair fight, with Blue Devil getting the upper hand as he tries to explain things, but the LAPD show up, and they are prepared to start shooting at the heroes. Black Lightning and Blue Devil both manage to escape. While the show has Black Lightning in Freeland, it wouldn't be a stretch to have the demon-banishing Blue Devil hanging out in another city, perhaps even Los Angeles.
A member of the Outsiders in comics, Atomic Knight/Gardner Grayle is connected to the Atomic Knights, a team with a rich comic book history dating back to the early 1960s where the Atomic Knights team first appeared in every third issue of Strange Adventures where they were living in and protecting a post-apocalyptic 1992. In more contemporary comics, Grayle is part of the Outsiders, and while he's often associated with Bludhaven -- a city that has been mentioned in the Arrowverse -- it wouldn't be difficult to see Grayle serving as a hero in another city, possibly even a Midwestern one to maintain ties with the Strange Adventures history.
Yes, Gotham has been mentioned on Arrow. Yes, Arrow has name-dropped Bruce Wayne. But that doesn't mean that Black Lightning can't have their own Batman or that that Batman has to be Bruce Wayne. A character that could perhaps be the sharpest example of the prejudice found when deciding if a masked figure is a hero or a vigilante would be the inclusion of Batman -- in this case Dick Grayson. Batman, almost any version of the character you choose, is a brutal figure. He has to be to deal with the threats his city faces, much like Black Lightning has to be brutal in order to protect Freeland. But Batman actively works with law enforcement in comics while Black Lightning is a wanted man. Considering that both heroes use similar means to do a similar service, the difference could be argued to come down to race. Including Batman in the Black Lightning universe shines a light on the inequality that black heroes face -- and could make for some amazing storytelling, too.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.