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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Really looking forward to this thread Randy,

I have often very very nearly picked up the first Black Lightning collections thinking I may enjoy the series.....

Black Lightning #1 - "Black Lightning!"
Cover Date: April 1977
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

We open as Black Lightning is taking down a crew of thugs headed up by one Joey Toledo, one of the 100. We know little about  the hero save for the fact that he's competed in the Olympics, and that an innocent kid died on his watch. After defeating  his goons, Black Lightning tells Toledo he wants information on how to take down the 100, and tells him to meet him at the  Garfield High Gym at midnight or else. He then leaves, and Toledo plans a double-cross.

We follow Black Lightning to a tailor's shop where he meets an old man named Gambi. He tells Gambi that the costume works  quite well as nobody recognized him, not even Joey Toledo. He then removes his mask and wig to reveal himself as Jefferson  Pierce, former Olympic Decathlon star, current high school teacher and in his own words, a "kid killer".

 We backtrack two weeks as Pierce is touring the high school on his first day, accompanied by Principal Chapin. During the  tour, the two of them encounter a student buying drugs from another. Pierce breaks it up quite physically, and the dealer  leaves.

Later, Pierce checks out the new gymnasium. Someone tosses him a basketball, and he quickly shoots and scores. He turns to  see Earl Clifford, the latest hot jock of Garfield high, accompanied by two lovely young ladies. Pierce isnt' too thrilled  by his attitude and challenges Clifford to prove to him how good of an athlete he is. However, when Clifford shoots the  ball, the ball itself is shot with a bullet. Joey Toledo and his goons are here to give Pierce a lesson after he drove away  the drug dealer earlier. As his men move in, Toledo is hit in the head by a basketball thrown by Clifford, allowing Pierce  to deal with Toledo's muscle. Toledo and his men leave, and Clifford is impressed by Pierce.

Elsewhere, Toledo reports to his boss, who is not at all pleased with today's shenanigans. Toledo wants another chance and  offers to kill Pierce, but his boss thinks that's a bad idea, as it would give people on the streets a martyr. He sends them  out after Earl Clifford instead. They find him, but he resists and runs away, straight into the path of an oncoming car  driven by more of Toledo's men. While originally they just planned on beating Clifford up, Toledo decides that this is just  as good of a lesson. They take Clifford's body and hang him up on one of the basketball hoops.

Pierce goes to see Gambi--Peter Gambi--who's apparently an old family friend. Gambi tells him that if he expected to come  back and drive away the 100 by beating up a pusher that he was foolish. Pierce wants to get back at them but doesn't want to  involve his students, but Gambi has a plan--he's designed a special costume that will allow Pierce to be a superhero--a  symbol to the kids on the streets. Pierce puts it on and becomes Black Lightning. Over the next two weeks, Black Lightning  goes on a relentless hunt for Joey Toledo, and now we're caught up.

Pierce is well aware that Toledo is setting a trap for him at the gym, and apparently that includes an archer hired  especially for this situation. Meanwhile, Gambi adds a special weapons belt designed by his brother to Black Lightning's  suit. Black Lightning goes to face the music.

My rating: 7/10

Well, if nothing else, that cover is pretty straightforward. It does a good job of outlining exactly what the series is  about and who it's about. No aliens, no hi-tech gadgets, it's straight up street level crime in the sights of the main  character. I'm a tad surprised Von Eeden didn't do it himself, however.

Back when Black Lightning debuted, DC had I think (there may have been more, but these are the only ones I can think of)  perhaps two Black superheroes in their stable, neither of whom were headliners (John Stewart and Tyroc). Assuming that Tony  Isabella's assertion that editorial wanted it's first headliner to be the infamous "Brown Bomber" is true (no reason to  think it isn't), it's a good thing he talked them into Black Lightning instead.  Isabella has said that he wanted to create  a character that was relatable to street kids, someone that they could and would encounter on a regular basis, hence casting  Pierce as a teacher.

All this being said, for a young Black kid in 1977 it was nice to see DC featuring a Black superhero, and there was  certainly nothing wrong with Black Lightning. He was respectable, he wasn't the typical "angry Black man", he didn't  showcase the typical stereotypes frequently seen with Black characters especially during that particular era. At the same  time, however, this debut didn't really make him that exceptional either. At this point in his career, Pierce is a little  one dimensional and not terribly complex, which is something that tended to afflict a lot of DC's superheroes at the time.

The story is more or less by the numbers for a street level comic from the 1970's. Drug dealers? Check. An evil organization  behind the drug dealers? Check. Kids being victimized by drugs? Check. Drugs are bad, mmkay? It's a pretty stale plot. The  villains are pretty much cardboard cut-outs as well.

There are some nice touches. I liked the touch of Peter Gambi being Paul Gambi's brother. I liked the idea of Pierce  returning to try to help out the younger generation when he could easily have gone to some nice suburban high school.  There's also some nice action sequences.

To sum it up, it could be better, but for what it was it isn't bad.

Oops. It should be:

Black Lightning #1 - "Black Lightning!"
Cover Date: April 1977
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

Randy Jackson said:

Black Lightning #1 - "Enter...the Tumbler!"
Cover Date: April 1977
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

The Black Panther was also a teacher for awhile.

At the end of this thread will you review the "Soul Power" episode of Static Shock?

The comics I'll be covering are listed in the first post of the thread.

Ronald Morgan said:

At the end of this thread will you review the "Soul Power" episode of Static Shock?

It was a TV episode that was supposed to use Black Lightning but changed his name to avoid paying Tony Isabella anything.

It's a good cover, but I wish Trevor Von Eeden had done it.

The story may have been a by-the-numbers one, but it's admirable that BL is taking on the 100 by himself, with (at this point) no superpowers.  That would have been enough to hook me.  He's more akin to Batman than Power Man.

I think the open chest costume owes a bit to Luke Cage, but everything else about Black Lightning strikes me as an attempt to make him the anti-Luke Cage.  

You mentioned John Stewart and Tyroc, but you forgot about Mal Duncan in Teen Titans.

I used my Mod powers for good and changed the title of Issue #1 for you.

Black Lightning #2 - "Merlyn Means Murder!"
Cover Date: May 1977
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

A mysterious woman visits Peter Gambi wanting information on how Jefferson Pierce is doing as Black Lightning. Gambi tells  her he's surprised she's figured out his secret already, and that if he had her resources he could destroy the 100 very  quickly. She warns him that the 100 will not be easily beaten, and that tonight Black Lightning enters a dangerous trap.

At the gym, Black Lightning crashes his way into the 100's trap. He quickly displays his new power of electricity by  electrifying a railing. The goons are hitting him with their bullets as well, but they just bounce off of him. He quickly  defeats the goons, leaving just himself and Joey Toledo--and the hired assassin who so far has not entered the fray. That  quickly changes as the archer strikes from behind with a sonic arrow. He manages to dispose of that arrow, however another  one knocks him down for the count.

The archer tells Joey Toledo that his opponent is now unconscious and can be disposed of at his leisure. Toledo asks him why  he didn't get involved earlier, and the archer tells him that he doesn't hunt in packs, as assassination is an art, and  Merlyn--the archer's name--is a master.

Back to Gambi and the woman, we get some exposition on the life of Jefferson Pierce. After he's done, she tells him that  none of the 100's men should pose a problem for Black Lightning, but Merlyn is another matter entirely as he was trained by  the League of Assassins. She gives some background on Merlyn--how he fought the Justice League to a standstill and managed  to escape albeit without completing his mission of killing Batman. The League wanted him dead for his failure, so he  enlisted with the 100 for protection. The woman then reveals that she's the one who's been sent to deal with Merlyn, and  reveals herself as Talia al Ghul (sigh).

Black Lightning comes to, surrounded by hoods with guns pointed at his head and tied up. Merlyn tells Joey Toledo that  keeping him alive is a mistake, but Toledo says he's calling the shots. Toledo then reveals that he's taken Black  Lightning's trick belt, which carries enough voltage to kayo a grizzly bear and generates a force field as well. He's about  to kill Black Lightning when an arrow shoots the gun from his hand. Toledo turns on Merlyn angrily, but Merlyn shows Toledo  the bosses' ring, which means that now Merlyn is in charge. The goons grab Toledo as Merlyn informs him that he's been told  to terminate his employment in the 100. He then frees Black Lightning, and tells him he gets a five minute head start.  However, the neophyte superhero attacks instead.

As Lightning is fighting with Merlyn, the other goons are aiming their guns at him. Suddenly, one by one they're gunned  down. Toledo attempts to escape, but Black Lightning chases him down. As he catches Toledo, a flaming arrow comes between  them both. Black Lightning turns to see Merlyn aiming an explosive arrow. Grabbing a nearby pole, Black Lightning throws it  at the arrow just as Merlyn releases it, and manages to stop it's flight. The resulting explosion knocks down Merlyn.

Merlyn isn't out however, and fires another arrow at Toledo and Black Lightning. Then someone with a gun (Talia, I presume)  shoots Merlyn int he leg. He lets loose another arrow striking Toledo square in the back, killing him. Merlyn attempts to  escape, and Black Lightning prevents Talia from killing him.

Talia is annoyed, but she tells Black Lightning that Toledo's goons were shot with an amnesia-producing drug of her father's  (sigh) creation, which will keep them alive but remove their memories of his secret identity. She tells Pierce that it is  beneficial to the League of Assassins that he continue his war against the 100. When he suggests that he may not continue  battling the 100, she tells him that he's a dedicated man, and that he'll keep fighting until they're defeated, hopefully  before he becomes too much like them. She leaves.

My rating: 6/10

This isn't a bad story, and it would be a much better story without the inclusion of the League of Assassins shenanigans and  Talia al Mary Sue (can you tell I'm not much of a fan of the al Ghul's?). We get a nice display of Black Lightning's  upgraded powers and his courage in the line of fire. However, it would have been good to see a brand new hero beat the  seasoned assassin without the help of anyone else, as that would have established him as more of a player in the field.  Also, it's very unclear exactly how Joey Toledo figures out Black Lightning's secret identity, as it seemed as if he had no  clue in the previous issue.

There are some nice action sequences from Trevor Von Eeden here, particularly in the gym as Toledo is killed and Merlyn  escapes. It's a shame that once again he doesn't get the cover. It's not a bad cover, but it's not as if it's an artist of  greater talent and ability drawing it. Nothing against Rich Buckler, but I don't see him as being heads and shoulders better  than Von Eeden.

From what Von Eeden's art looked like elsewhere I'd guess the inker, Frank Springer, was contributing a lot, but I only have the story from the first issue. The GCD tells me Vince Colletta did the inks from #3. Springer also inked the first two covers.

My recollection is Tony Isabella has said Jenette Kahn wanted a Marvel-style integrated universe approach, and that's why he made Peter Paul Gambi's brother. That explains the use of the 100, Merlyn and Talia, and the setting of the stories in Metropolis.

I find the decision to not introduce the belt until #2 an odd one. Marvel's Skull the Slayer had earlier done the same thing; Skully acquired a belt that gave him super-strength, but not until the second issue.

The 100 had primarily appeared in Lois Lane, in both the lead stories and the "Rose and the Thorn" back-ups. It, and the Thorn, were introduced together in Lois Lane #105 in a story by Robert Kanigher. The Thorn also had a weapons belt, but it didn't give her powers or bullet-protection.

Kanigher's 100 was a mob of 100 criminals. I remember a Thorn story where she keeps a count as she captures each criminal, and for #122 he did a lead story where Lois, the Thorn and Superman capture the remaining 77. At the end of the story Superman proclaims the end of the 100.

In the next issue Cary Bates recast it as a Spectre-like organisation with ten specialised divisions that replaced its active agents as they were captured. In #123 and #124 Lois combatted two of the divisions. I don't have all the later Lois Lane tales so I don't know whether Bates persisted with this portrayal.

DC Indexes doesn't list any appearance of the 100 between a "Rose and the Thorn" story in Lois Lane #130 (1973) and Black Lightning #1. In the Thorn story, by Kanigher, it was back to being a stand-in for the Mafia.

Randy, you may not be a big fan of the al Ghuls, but I like Talia's inclusion here.  I like the fact that different elements of the DC Universe are used - the 100, Peter Gambi, Talia, Merlyn - and we are not hit over the head with big name guest stars, crowding BL out of his own book.

I'm now very tempted to buy the Black Lightning tpb that DC released a few months ago.  It reprinted BL 1-11.

Black Lightning #3 - "Every Hand Against Him!"
Cover Date: June 1977
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Trevor Von Eeden

We open with Clark Kent reporting on Black Lightning for WGBS. He's wanted for questioning in the death of Joey Toledo.

Watching the newscast are several of the 100's thugs. Apparently Black Lightning has been causing the 100 some problems. One  of the goons thinks that Black Lightning's gotta lay low now that he's wanted by the police, but the other says he's still  out there doing his thing.

On the newscast, Clark Kent begins interviewing Inspector Henderson of the Metropolis Police Department. Kent asks him why  such a heavy manhunt when it's obvious that Black Lightning is doing a lot of good, and Henderson responds that Black  Lightning is working outside of the law.

During the interview, Black Lightning breaks in on the thugs working for the 100. As Inspector Henderson and Clark Kent  argue about Black Lightning, he takes out this particular hideout of the 100. After he's finished, someone comes out of  hiding, and we find out it's one "Two-Bits" Tanner, who's working as Black Lightning's informant. Tanner mentions that he  may have found where the leader of the 100 happens to be. He mentions how he ran into a reporer looking for someone's  runaway daughter. He tells Lightning that he's already found the daughter, and that he's meeting the reporter later for the  address. Lightning ushers him off to his meeting, leaving himself. Tanner takes a moment to relieve the unconscious goons of  their money, but doesn't see that one of them isn't unconscious and was watching the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent is attempting to talk to Inspector Henderson again, who had cut the interview short. He tells  Henderson that it was his boss, Morgan Edge's idea to ask those specific questions as he's pulling for Black Lightning.  Henderson reiterates his position that he wants to bring Black Lightning to justice.

At Gambi's tailor shop, Jefferson Pierce tells him that the belt seems to be making him stronger each time he uses it.  Pierce is worried he might accidentally kill someone if he can't control the power, and Gambi tells him that he'll call his  brother tomorrow to see if he can figure out what's going on. However, Gambi is actually thinking that everything is working  out as planned. He tells Pierce to get some sleep, but Pierce tells him he still has some papers to grade that evening.

Friday morning, Tobias Whale has been informed that Black Lightning plans to pay him a visit, and he's pleased. Whale is  pretty angry at Lightning, and shatters some wooden statues of him and Superman. Meanwhile, his underlings are marveling at  his strength and warning one another not to call him by his nickname, the Great White Whale, as he doesn't like being  reminded that he's an albino. One of Whale's men asks him if he should sit this one out, and Whale tells one Mr. Creegan  that he wants to save him until he has an opponent worthy of his particular talents.

At the high school, Principal Chapin asks Pierce to step into his office. He wants to introduce a new staff member, a woman  named Lynn. It's obvious that she and Pierce know one another, and Pierce makes a swift exit.

Early Saturday morning, Black Lightning stands outside a high rise where he's been informed Whale resides. After taking out  two guards, he's surprised it's not better guarded. He enters a room and is immediately struck with a fire hose. The lights  come on and there is Tobias Whale along with a number of men. Whale advises him not to activate his belt in his current  soggy state. However, the neophyte hero yanks the rug from underneath Whale's feet, scattering him and his men, and attempts  to make his escape.

Meanwhile, Inspector Henderson and his men are outside, having been tipped off to Black Lightning's whereabouts. Henderson  tells his men to apprehend Lightning, but that if they happen to see anything incriminating on Whale to let him know.

Whale's thugs are searching for Lightning. He manages to trick a couple of them and take them out, but then is cornered by  Whale himself. Whale attacks, knocking down Black Lightning, but not out. However, before the fight begins in earnest, he's  interrupted by Inspector Henderson and the police. Henderson attempts to arrest everyone, but Whale hits a button activating  a secret panel and escapes. Lightning uses the ensuing chaos to activate his belt. He manages to escape, but the Inspector  seems to have an attack of some sort.

Later, Pierce is complaining to Gambi that both Whale and the police knew he'd be there that evening, and that Tanner must  be playing for all three sides. However, Gambi tells him that's impossible. He blames the leak on the reporter that Tanner  was working with--one James Bartholomew Olsen.

My rating: 7/10

First of all, while the cover is more or less representative of the content within, I don't particularly care for it,  especially Rich Buckler's depiction of Tobias Whale. It just looks off. I still don't know why Von Eeden isn't getting the  covers for this comic.

As far as the content goes, there's a handful of subplots setup here. Black Lightning being wanted by the police, the  addition of the woman Lynn to the high school staff, and whatever Gambi's up to. Oh, and also the future of Two-Bits Tanner,  who won't have much of one by all indications. I wonder if perhaps it's a few subplots too many, but we'll see.

We finally meet the big bad of 100, one Wilson Fis--er, Tobias Whale. I suppose Whale's imposing, but I think his character  design is a little too far from baseline human. He looks less threatening and more like a muppet.

All this being said, it's a reasonably entertaining issue. We get some good action sequences, as well as seeing the villains  showing a bit of intelligence by attempting to short out Black Lightning's belt. Some of the subplots are more or less  intriguing if not sensible--the police would be looking for him, after all--and we get the first skirmish between Whale and  our hero. Essentially a satisfying issue.

Isabella took Inspector Henderson from the Superman TV show.

Jimmy often fought criminals in this period.

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