This discussion will focus on DC's character Black Lighting. For this project, I'll be reading the following comics:

Black Lightning 1-11
World's Finest 256-261
Dc Comics Presents 16
Justice League of America 173-174
Brave and the Bold 163
Detective Comics 490-491, 494-495

Hopefully, I'll be able to do these in order.

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Tony Isabella has said his story in #10 was his response to the first appearance of Black Vulcan on Super Friends.

That makes some level of sense. I never watched any episodes of Super Friends with Black Vulcan, so I don't know how far away he was from Black Lightning. One does wonder why they didn't just use Black Ligthning, however.

World's Finest #256 - "Encounter With A Dark Avenger!"
Cover Date: April 1979
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Dick Dillin

We open with Green Arrow taking a cab while chasing a criminal. The crook is escaping in a helicopter when Green Arrow shoots it down with a bolo-arrow. As the chopper lands, Green Arrow asks the pilot why he committed a crime driving his old car (presumably the Arrowcar). The crook decides to fight, but Green Arrow beats him quite easily. He searches the hood's unconscious body and finds out that his pilot's license was issued in Metropolis, which means only one thing--road trip! Meanwhile, a couple of other ne'er-do-wells are watching the Emerald Archer, satisfied that he's taken the bait. They go to tell their boss.

In Metropolis, the boss puts down the phone and tells his companion that the Archer should be there around midnight and will step into the trap they've prepared at that point. His companion asks why he wants revenge on Green Arrow, and the man (who is unidentified, but seems to be very large and have white skin) tells her that Green Arrow interfered in his business. Plus,he hopes that the archer will eliminate another foe of his.

Shortly before midnight, Green Arrow arrives at the pilot's address, which is actually a fairly ritzy home in the suburbs of Metropolis. He's suspicious of a trap and fires an arrow at ta nearby tree, confirming that it's electrified. His arrow shorts it out, and he uses it to gain access to the grounds.

Inside the house the boss and his companion are monitoring Green Arrow. He tells her that he expected the archer to escape his first trap, but his second one should be much harder.

As Green Arrow explores the grounds, he's being watched by another character--one Black Lightning, who mistakes Arrow for one of the guards. As this is comics, the two hereos meet and fight. Green Arrow eventually figures out he's fighting another hero, then turns and takes out an approaching hood. They exchange introductions, and now it's a team up.

Arrow asks who owns the house and Black Lightning tells him that it's an old foe of his. Before he can say any more, Green Arrow sees a child drowning in the pool. He wants to save the child, but Black Lightning stops him. He then shows Green Arrow that the pool is filled with acid, and not water, and that the kid is a dummy.  The two of them search the house, but find nobody home. Green Arrow asks who this old enemy is, and Lightning tells him it's Tobias Whale (surprise, surprise).

To be continued...

My rating: 6/10

It's not a bad reintroduction to Black Lightning, and it does serve it's purpose in terms of setting up a new story. That being said, however, it's just not terribly exciting. Also, I'm not a big fan of the way Dillin draws Black Lightning--he draws him with a skintight suit, when it was obvious before that it was a little looser in terms of fit.  

World's Finest #257 - "Death Ransom!"
Cover Date: June 1979
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: George Tuska

Black Lightning approaches a house where Tobias Whale is supposed to be while a couple of goons sneak up behind him.  However, our hereo has spotted them and takes them out.

Tobias Whale is watching from inside the house, angry at the failure of his men. When his companion, Tabby asks what he's going to do, he shows he has other methods of dealing with the interloper. He pushes a button on a control panel and Black Lightning is presented with an illusion of Whale strangling a woman. It distracts the hero long enough to lock him inside of a cage. He notices the bars aren't very thick and figures he can use his electrical powers to escape, but when he does he's knocked unconscious.

Whale explains to Tabby that the bars where hooked to an electrical amplifier which overloaded Lightning's system. Of course, since Whale is an idiot, he decides not to kill Black Lightning, but rather use his defeat as a symbol of his power.

About twelve hours later, the 100 are meeting. It's mentioned that Whale has contacted them, and one of them mentions that they'd kicked him out. They suggest he wants money and revenge from them. He's also using Black Lightning to extort money from them, because if they don't pay up not only will Whale release the hero, but he'll give him details on the 100's organization.

They're debating what to do when Tabby shows up and tells them that she'll tell them where Whale has Lightning hidden for much less money. They decide to listen to her so they can put an end to both Whale and Lightning.

In a factory (specifically a chocolate factory) on the edge of Suicide Slum is where Whale has Lightning stashed, wrapped in steel cables. He attempts to escape, but his powers don't do anything. Whale explains to him that he's grounded and his electrical charge won't be effective. He tells Lightning of his plans, right as the 100's goons ready an attack.

One of Whale's men stumbles in, shot. He tells Whale that it's a 100 hit squad before he dies. Whale beats a hasty retreat.  The 100's men catch Lightning and are ready to shoot him, and the hero's force field won't work since he's grounded. However, before they can shoot, a bunch of crates and barrels are dumped on them by Tobias Whale. Whale tells Lightning he'll have to move him. He sees Tabby and tells her to get the car ready, but she smashes a bottle over his head and rouses one of the hit men, telling him to do his job. As the thug readies to kill them, Lightning realizes he's standing in a puddle of chocolate that's also connected to his ground wire, and he uses his powers to take out the thug.

Lightning realizes that the shots that were fired have loosened the cables around him and that he can escape. Whale is attempting to escape, but Lightning stops him. He tells Lightning that he should chase after Tabby, as she's got the evidence that can put the 100 out of business for good. Lightning tells him that he'll get to her eventually, but Whale tells him that he has no idea where she will go and that he'll need Whale to find her. They agree to team up.

To be continued...

My rating: 7/10

As such stories go, this isn't bad. Sure, the old "hero and arch-villain team up against a common enemy" plot is pretty overused, but it is a staple and there's reasonable motivation. It's a little simplistic, but that's okay. In my opinion, it's often the simplest plots that produce the best stories.

Are you/will you read the rest of the stories in the World's Finest issues (even if not for a review project)?

I'm focusing on the Black Lightning stories listed in the first post of this thread. I might read the other stories, but I have no plans on commenting on them unless Black Lightning is involved.

David Warren said:

Are you/will you read the rest of the stories in the World's Finest issues (even if not for a review project)?

World's Finest #258 - "The Blood of the Lamb!"
Cover Date: August 1979
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Rich Buckler

Lightning and Whale are outside the Superman museum in Metropolis. According to Whale, it's also the secret headquarters of the 100.

They break in, and are ambushed. They're able to fight their way free and continue to look for Tabby.

Tabby, meanwhile, has sought refuge from a woman in Suicide Slum she calls Granny. Granny takes her in, not realizing she's the catalyst of all of the strife.

Back at the museum, Whale and Lightning are trying to figure out their next step Or rather, Lightning is. Whale chooses instead to clobber him over the head with a large chunk of (apparently fake) kryptonite.

Whale leaves, and some of the 100's men enter. Lightning has recovered consciousness but decides to lay low for the moment. The two men figure that Tabby has gone to the car wash in Suicide Slum to stay with Granny, and wonder if Whale  is also aware of this hiding place. They leave, and Lightning decides to investigate the car wash as Jefferson Pierce. He borrows a suit from a Clark Kent dummy to go for a visit.

Whale arrives to the car wash first. He pushes Granny out o the way and goes after Tabby. She lures him into the car wash and uses the equipment there to subdue him.

Lightning arrives and hears the sounds of the scuffle. He decides to intervene without changing into his costume. At the same time, the thugs from earlier in the museum also decide to join the party.

Pierce enters, and Granny tells him that Whale is going to kill Tabby. He enters the car wash, changing into Black Lightning as he does. He stops Whale from killing Tabby, but then the 100's goons enter the scene. They plan to shoot both Lightning and Whale, but Granny jumps in front of them and she's shot instead.

Lightning loses it and takes out both the goons and Whale. HE then recovers the evidence and takes Tabby in for questioning.

My rating: 6/10

This is a pretty by the numbers story, which really isn't a bad thing, but there's just no emotional resonance. We never understand who Granny is or what her connection is to Tabby runs to her, so when she dies she might as well be your average innocent bystander. Ultimately, in some ways it just wraps up too cleanly and neatly for my tastes--I know we all complain about decompressed story telling these days, but I kind of wanted this to last a little longer.

World's Finest #259 - "The Last Hideout!"
Cover Date: October 1979
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Marshall Rogers/Michael Nasser

We open with Lightning being held at gunpoint along with a security guard and a child. The gunman warns that he'll shoot them if they move.

We flash back 24 hours. The scene is a prison hospital where a con is on his deathbed. As he dies, he tells the warden the location of a dangerous fugitive, one Big Bart Toohey.

A few minutes later, one of the orderlies calls a guy named Shuck in Metropolis, and tells him where Toohey is located. Unsurprisingly Shuck is a mobster, and he wants to meet Toohey, as he actually idolized the man and he wants some pointers.

Shuck goes to the hotel where Toohey is supposed to be, only to find out it's now a welfare hotel, and he can't get in. The security guard at the door tells him that the hotel is being torn down next week and he's there to make sure the residents have their last week in peace.

Shuck goes back to his car and instructs his minions to find out what they can about the guard. They find out he has a son and kidnap him. They use a smoke grenade to create a distraction: however, Jefferson Pierce is on the scene and changes to Black Lightning to investigate. He tries to stop the kidnapping, but is struck from behind. It turns out that the boy who struck him was trying to help but couldn't see in the smoke. They get away with the boy, one Jerry Haslip.

Lightning recovers and chases after one of the goons who was left behind. He tries to escape on the subway, but Lightning follows him. He catches him and forces him to talk, and the thug tells him that Mohawk Shuck kidnapped the kid and took him to the hotel. Lightning tells the thug to turn himself into the police.

Back at the hotel, Shuck has the guard's kid at gunpoint and is allowed into the hotel. He and his men begin interrogating the residents, trying to find Toohey. When they won't tell him where to find Toohey, Shuck tells his men to shoot them. However, before they do Black Lightning shows up.

Lightning takes out the gunmen, and with the help of the guard frees the kid. However, Shuck's girlfriend has them at gunpoint, and now we're back to where we started.

She's standing next to a radiator, and one of the pipes is near Black Lightning's foot. He uses his powers to send a charge through the pipes, and she's knocked out.

One of the residents spots a damaged wall from the gunshots and sees something inside. Lightning opens up the wall, adn there is the skeleton of Bart Toohey.

My rating: 6/10

Another fairly common story, and another mildly disappointing one. It's not bad or anything, but it's not that good either. I feel like more could have been done with Shuck who had a very interesting look for 1979, but other than the name not much was done with him. The ending was a little anti-climactic as well.

World's Finest #260 - "Lure of the Magnetic Menace!"
Cover Date: January 1980
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Michael Nasser

A young man named Jackie Parrish is in an alley witnessing an encounter between Black Lightning and Dr. Polaris. As they fight, Lightning activates his force field--however it reacts with Polaris' magnetic powers and knocks Lightning out. Polaris escapes.

After he recovers, Lightning changes back to Jefferson Pierce as he has a parent/teacher conference at school to attend. He arrives late, and the father is angry and drunk and tells Pierce that his son Jackie Parrish has been missing. Apparently Jackie ran away when his father was beating him. Pierce manages to pacify him and send him home.

Apparently this is a "relevance" story, so we get a little bit of lip service about parents mistreating their children, then we get back to the story.

Back to Jackie who is wandering the streets, hungry and penniless. He doesn't even have a dime to call a teen runaways hotline. He heads to the house of his uncle, Baxter Timmons, who allows him to stay.

Lightning has returned to the scene of his fight with Dr. Polaris, theorizing that Polaris wanted something there and that he'll be back for it. As it turns out, he's right. They fight again, but this time Lightning is ready for him. He tosses strips of tinfoil at Polaris hoping that they will screw with his magnetic powers. This works, and he's able to punch out Polaris. However, it turns out the fire escape in the alley was Polaris' target, and it falls on our hero, knocking him out.

A while later, he comes to as he's approached by the police. They want to arrest him because there was an electronics warehouse robbery and they think he's the one who did it. One of the officers is Jim Corrigan, adn Lightning tells him that he wouldn't rob a warehouse and then knock himself out so they could find him. He then leaves, telling Corrigan to get a warrant. He wonders what Polaris wants with the electronics parts he stole.

Jackie wakes up as he hears a noise in the kitchen. He goes to investigate, and discovers his uncle is also Dr. Polaris. Jackie doesn't know what to do, so he calls that teenage runaway hotline. He asks them to contact a teacher he trusts, Jefferson Pierce. However, Polaris catches him on the phone. He grabs Jackie and throws him into the living room, then tells him that the robbery tonight was for the purpose of mkaing his powers much stronger. Jackie grabs a lamp and throws it through a window.He then runs away, but Polaris easily stops him. He tells Jackie that he'll make a great hostage until he's ready to leave, then he'll kill him.

Down on the street below, Jefferson Pierce has already been contacted by the runaway center and is investigating. He sees the lamp going through the window and changes to Black Lightning. He then sees Polaris taking Jackie away and follows, looking for a good opportunity to intervene.

As he rides atop Polaris' van, eh spots a junkyard and decides it's a good place to make a stand. He manages to punch the windshield just hard enough to crack it, and Polaris has to stop.

They fight, and Polaris seems to have the upper hand. However, Jackie intervenes and cracks Polaris on the back of the head with a bit of broken fence. This gives Lightning the opportunity to finish Polaris off. He then takes Jackie home to get a beating--well, I presume that's what happens. He does advise Jackie to go home.

My rating: 7/10

It's nice to see Lightning having to deal with someone who also has super powers as it's a little harder for him to win. I wonder if anyone in the Marvel Universe has ever tried to use that tinfoil trick on Magneto.

The story is a little preachy and I think it suffers for it. We didn't really need to know why Jackie ran away from home, or it could have been explained in a different manner. That being said, the story is still reasonably solid.

World's Finest #261 - "Return of the River Rat!"
Cover Date: March 1980
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Romeo Tanghal

We open at Garfield High's annual costume party, this year aboard a rented ship on the river. The ship has begun sinking after an accident. Pierce changes out of his clown costume and into his Black Lightning duds. He saves a couple of kids below decks from a fire.  

After that, he dives underwater to investigate, noticing someone in SCUBA gear climbing aboard the boat. Underwater he spots a small submarine. He forces the sub to surface with an electrical bolt. As one of the men inside the sub investigates, he's ambushed by Lightning. However, the Captain gets the drop on him and orders him below decks at gunpoint. Lightning identifies him as Captain Alton, a former Navy man who got hooked up with a deported mobster named Sonny Rabb who wants to be smuggled back into the country.

Lightning theorizes that the idea was for Rabb to board the ship and mingle, then leave when the ship docked, avoiding customs, but the sub actually crashed into the ship and sank it. Alton confirms Lightning's theory by shooting him, only Lightning has activated his bulletproof force field. After Alton empties his weapon, Lightning takes him out pretty quickly. He then forces Alton to take the sub to the pier, where he turns him over to the police.

The police tell him that everyone got off the sinking ship okay, which is bad news to Black Lightning. He runs to find the group, then attacks the man who told him where the lifeboats were. He then asks the remaining crowd which one of them is Sonny Rabb. He notices one of them wearing the clown suit he discarded earlier, and quickly defeats him.

My rating: 4/10

There is zero tension in this story whatsoever, as if it were written as an afterthought. That makes it fairly inconsequential and boring.



DC Comics Presents #16 - "The De-Volver!"
Cover Date: December 1979
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Joe Staton

Black Lightning interrupts an armed robbery on the subway. However, as he takes out the robbers, one of them fires a couple of wild shots. One hits one of the passengers, the other hits the train's controls, and the engineer cannot stop. Going around a curve, the train flies off the tracks, but Superman is there to catch it and save the day.

Black Lightning thanks Superman and lets him leave (rather than, oh, I don't know, using his super speed to get the wounded girl to the hospital). After he leaves, he tells the girl's boyfriend that he's sorry (and he should be--he acted like a rank amateur here)., but the boyfriend doesn't want to hear it, telling him that he loved her and that he now hates Black Lightning.

A bit later, as he changes back to Jefferson Pierce, we find out that he knows the boyfriend--in fact, it's one of his students, Hugh Bryant. He decides to go see the young man and offer comfort. When he arrives at Hugh's apartment, he sees light under the door and assumes he's home. He knocks on the door and identifies himself, and a huge fist comes through the door and punches him.

A moment later, a neanderthal man comes through the door and identifies Pierce as Black Lightning. They begin brawling, and it's a pretty even fight. Pierce changes to Lightning during the fight. Surprisingly, no one investigates the sounds of the scuffle. Eventually, Lightning forces the neanderthal through a window and to the ground below. He thinks it will knock him out, but the neanderthal is gone when he gets to the ground. He decides not to pursue as he's more concerned about Hugh, but as he leaves we see the neanderthal hiding nearby, undergoing a physical change.

Black Lightning returns to Hugh's apartment, but can't find any trace of Hugh, even though there's soup cooking on the stove. He then theorizes that the neanderthal figure he fought before might have been Hugh, as he was wearing the same clothes that Hugh had been wearing previously.

Thinking he can't handle the mutant on his own (why?) he decides to go to the Daily Planet to see if he can contact Superman (because you really need a man who can move planets around to handle someone that seems to have equivalent strength to yourself). Clark Kent sees him and realizes it must be something important, so he changes to Superman and enters the scene. As he does, there's a notice that a flying monster is terrorizing Suicide Slum, and the two heroes investigate.

As they arrive, they see a giant Pterosaur attacking citizens. When the Pterosaur sees them, he turns to attack. Lightning realizes he's out of his league at this point and lets Superman fight the beast. Superman punches it, and it starts sinking--actually it starts phasing--through the ground. Superman can't even spot it with his X-Ray vision.

Afterwards, one of the local kids tells the heroes that the Pterosaur came out of one of the apartment buildings in the area, which just happens to be where Hugh Bryant lives. They go to check it out. Inside the apartment, Superman spots a number of ancient and alien artifacts. Superman theorizes that Hugh is an alien who's been on Earth for thousands of years, and now he's de-volving. Somehow Superman has deduced that Hugh was the neanderthal that Black Lightning fought earlier, then wonders what he'll devolve into next.

We quickly discover the answer, as Hugh returns as a gigantic electrical monster. Superman goes to stop the monster, but his punches have no effect as the monster's body is something like syrup. The monster grabs Superman and it seems to affect him, as Superman can't get away. The monster then grabs Black Lightning as well. Once he's got both of them, he begins to tell his story to them telepathically.

As Superman theorized, he was an alien who'd been exiled and came to Earth to live at it's beginning. He slowly evolved along the way, and was extremely lonely until he met Trina, the girl on the subway that was killed in the firefight. He then plans to kill the two of them for revenge.

Black Lightning actually uses his brain for a moment and theorizes that if Hugh is creating a magnetic field, he could possibly counteract it with an electrical one. It works, and he and Superman are freed, and Hugh changes back into his human form.

Superman asks Hugh why he hasn't left the Earth, and Hugh tells him that the gravity is too strong. Superman then asks him if that weren't an issue if he would leave, and Hugh tells him that he's slowly being driven crazy by loneliness and he'd like to return home. Superman flies him up out of Earth's gravity field, and Hugh goes home.

My rating: 1/10

This comic offended me.

Black Lightning's actions on the subway instigated the whole thing, and his callousness towards Trina's death--and this is one of his students, mind you--was just ridiculous. That's not the way a hero acts or behaves, and quite frankly I blame poor writing.

If they were going to blame Lightning for her death, at the very least they could have actually shown him caring. Or they could have killed her in a way that Black Lightning could not have prevented and still had Hugh blame him. So many things they could have done that wouldn't have made Black Lightning look like an uncaring idiot.

I disliked that part too. The SF plot is poor, so it's a terrible story all round.

I thought it was Trina's death he was supposed to be guilty about in the opening issues of Batman and the Outsiders, but there are so many stories to go between this and those, that might be wrong.

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