Thursday, it was The CW’s turn at the TV Upfronts in New York to reveal their new shows for the upcoming season to advertisers and critics. The CW has made a big investment in superhero TV, which has paid off with Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. After Fox passed on another DC Comics-based show from producer Greg Berlanti, The CW picked up Black Lightning.
Black Lightning is notable for being the first network superhero TV show led by a black character, but it’s also a curious addition to The CW’s slate because the headlining hero is older than typically seen on the network’s programming. Superheroes don’t typically mesh well with a wife and kids. And rather than pure origin story, the Black Lightning character has more of a backstory to his narrative. (OK, Oliver Queen has quite a backstory on Arrow as well. Especially since that series keeps adding to it.)
As shown in the first trailer released by The CW on Thursday, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) used to be a costumed crime-fighter before giving up that life once his daughter was born. During the past 12 years, Pierce tried to make a difference in his community as a high school principal. But a growing gang presence and the violence that comes with it compels Pierce to suit up as Black Lightning again.
That costume should satisfy most comic book fans. One superhero nerd note after viewing the trailer is that Black Lightning appears to get his powers from a suit, a la Tony Stark. The comic book version created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden in the late-1970s was born with the power to generate electricity. But he got his superhero fighting skills from being a former Olympic athlete.
In the TV series, maybe the suit helps Pierce control his electricity powers and gives him superhuman strength and agility. However, the trailer alludes to his children — or at least his younger daughter, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) — developing electricity-related superpowers as well. So there must be something inherent to pass along. Black Lightning’s kids having the same superpowers as their dad would be consistent with recent comic book and cartoon storylines.
Will Black Lightning take place in the shared universe in which The CW’s other superhero shows exist? As of right now, the series won’t be in the “Arrowverse,” according to CW president Mark Pedowitz. As he explained to reporters, Black Lightning is filmed in Atlanta, while the other DC series are produced in Vancouver. So a crossover would be difficult, though Pedowitz teased that it wasn’t impossible. Those crossovers have gotten unwieldy as it is, but maybe all five CW superhero shows don’t need to combine at once. Don’t be surprised if we eventually see The Flash stop by or something along those lines.
No premiere date has yet been set for Black Lightning, but Pedowitz told media and advertisers that the show would likely debut midseason, which probably means sometime early next year.