Black Lightning Series In Development From Greg Berlanti, Mara Brock Akil & Salim Akil

Black Lightning Crisis on Two Earths

The Flash and Supergirl executive producer Greg Berlanti is teaming with The Game and Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil and her husband Salim Akil to develop DC superhero Black Lightning for television.

According to Deadline, who broke the news, "Black Lightning centers on Jefferson Pierce. He made his choice: he hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he'll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend — Black Lightning."

The Akils will write the pilot, and executive produce the series along with Berlanti and his producing partner Sarah Schechter.

The character was created in 1977 by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden, and has been one of DC's highest-profile characters of color ever since and a frequent member of the Justice League. In the comics, both of his daughters -- Anissa and Jennifer -- went on to become superheroes as well, joining The Outsiders and the Justice Society of America, respectively.

The character, of course, joins a number of Marvel and DC Comics projects in development for television, including the just-announced New Warriors at Marvel. Besides the animated Vixen, Black Lightning would be DC's only solo superhero series headlined by a person of color. Marvel has Luke Cage coming to Netflix later this year, their first. Black Lightning co-creator Tony Isabella had previously worked on Luke Cage comics before coming to DC in the '70s.

Black Lightning is also the subject of some controversy between Isabella and DC; DC claims that the character was created as a work made for hire, and therefore Isabella has no claim on the rights. Isabella claims he created it independent of DC and is entitled to additional creative and financial consideration. The story goes that Isabella was called in to overhaul a character called The Black Bomber -- a white racist who turned into a black superhero. Isabella convinced DC to let him take a shot with another character he had been working on instead, which was Black Lightning. After years of being credited as the character's creator, Isabella also objected when artist Trevor Von Eden was added to the credits.

In June of 2015, Isabella made it known via his blog that DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer and President Geoff Johns had reached out to him to try and mend fences over Black Lightning.

"Just as I always have, Geoff sees a lot of potential in my finest creation. It's a potential the previous DC management clearly never saw," Isabella wrote. "We talked about what it would take to make things right between me and DC so that Geoff could, in good conscience, consider developing the character in this bigger-than-1976-or-even-1995 new comics world."

Since Marvel has made over a dozen feature films and have a handful of TV series going, they've been the focus of a lot of talk about diversity. Neither major studio have featured a person of color in the leading role of a superhero movie during this recent spate of major hit comics adaptations, although Marvel's first major hit franchise of the modern era was Blade. DC has tried and failed to build film franchises for Steel and Catwoman, both featuring leads of color. They have Cyborg coming in 2018, and Marvel has Black Panther. Berlanti's DC shows have drawn accolades for their diversity more or less across the board.

Given that Anissa -- codenamed Thunder -- is probably the one that lends herself to being a story focus more easily, it's likely that the daughter mentioned in the synopsis is her. That's handy, since the Justice Society is playing a prominent role on DC's Legends of Tomorrow this season, and Black Lightning is currently being shopped around, not specifically attached to The CW.


Besides his numerous superhero projects at The CW, Berlanti and his production company oversee NBC's Blindspot and have a pair of new shows -- a drama called Criminal and a comedy called Raised By Wolves -- in development at ABC this year.