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Always bet on Lightning – Black Lightning #10

February 19, 2011

Since it’s Black History Month, I figure it’s about time I took a look one of the paltry number of black superheroes who’ve had their own books. Let’s be honest, folks — it’s a short list. Thankfully their creators made most of them easy to spot by PUTTING BLACK RIGHT IN THEIR NAMES.

Enter Black Lightning, the man known to many people by his Sinbad-portrayed appearance in an old SNL “Death of Superman” skit:

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(If the embed is fouled up, here’s a link.)

This one caught my eye because of its promise of two, count em’ two, Black Lightnings, and one with a repainted Captain America knock-off shield to boot. Called “The Other Black Lightning,” this story, written by Tony Isabella with art from Trevor von Eeden and Vince Colletta, isn’t all that bad.

As the cover promises, the Trickster makes an appearance, and here he is using his patented chicanery to make a mid-air escape from custody:

Later on, mild-mannered teacher Jefferson Pierce reads a bit of shocking news in the paper — there’s another Black Lightning lurking out there in the world:

Here’s Jefferson gearing up that night to go confront this usurper of his moniker:

I never realized that his mask had a built-in afro. Was there a storyline reason for this? Did it have something to do with his electrical powers, like grounding or insulation? Was it to better hide his identity by concealing his closer-cropped hair? Or was it a simple artistic touch to better accentuate the “blackness” of this hero?

Anyway, we soon meet the fake “Black Lightning,” who’s in the employ of a P.I. named Barbara Hanna (nyuk nyuk), who’s in turn been contracted to guard a circus’ diamond. The guy isn’t the brightest bulb in the bunch, as evidenced by his use of “dis,” “dat,” “dose” and the like:

It turns out that “Miss Hanna” is actually out to steal the diamond for herself, and is going to use this lummox as a patsy in her scheme. The Trickster shows up and has designs on the diamond himself, but the real BL steps in to stop him:

The goofy(er) looking Black Lightning gets in the way, proving that the “tackled my own team’s quarterback” bit was no fluke:

After this initial confusion, he later proves his mettle when the real McCoy is trapped by the Trickster in front of a charging elephant:

His gambit lacks subtlety, but gets the job done:

Black Lightning frees himself and captures both the Trickster and the greedy Miss Hanna, and then gives an inspirational pep talk to his imposter/foe/ally:

There you go.

I may mock Black Lightning for the first part of his name, but he was a dignified character and a trailblazing one at that. A black hero with his own comic was long overdue in a storytelling form that to this day remains all too white. Perhaps it’s the upright quality of the Black Lightning character that makes the “dumb black athlete” sterotype used in this issue so grating. One expects to hear lines like “Lowdy, I’se jus’ seen a g-g-ghost!” or “Feets, don’t fail me now!” or “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!” to come out of his mouth. That’s not a good thing. Maybe it’s just a generational chasm, and I understand what Isabella was going for in scripting it this way. But my 2011 eyes roll when I read things like that.

Still, it has its moments, with creditable art — I especially liked the work focusing on the greedy, grinning Hanna Bar-, wait, I mean Barbara Hanna.

Hopefully I’ll have a post in the next week taking a look at another African-American-centric comic, this one roughly contemporary to Black Lightning and from the Marvel side of the ledger. Check back in if you’re so inclined.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2011 1:38 am

    Very nice post! I was also not aware that Afro styled hair was attached to his mask. I am going to have to think on that…

    • February 27, 2011 4:41 pm

      It’s sort of like if a person with a large nose, mustache and dark-rimmed spectacles put on some of those joke Groucho Marx glasses. Similar vibe. Plus, I saw the wigs advertisement you posted a few days ago — it looks like Black Lightning might have placed an order back in the day.

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