WARNING: This list contains SPOILERS for the premiere of Black Lightning
Black Lightning has arrived, and he’s brought plenty of DC Comics Easter Eggs along with him. That’s to be expected of new shows joining The CW’s Arrowverse – or existing alongside it, for now – as the crew and showrunners work in as many nods to the comics and extended universe as possible. Even if Black Lightning is as much a show about a father, and a family as it is superpowers, he’s still rooted in DC history. Which means fans won’t want to miss any of the inside jokes, references, or teased connections to the other Arrowverse shows dropped in Black Lightning‘s premiere.
To make sure that every viewer spots the Easter Eggs and more subtle bits of major DC lore – like Black Lightning’s ex-wife, Green Lantern’s sister – we’re breaking them all down as more are spotted. So with one last SPOILER warning before we begin, let’s look at the best Easter Eggs and comic connections in the premiere of Black Lightning.
10. “Justice, Like Lightning…”
“Justice, like lightning should ever appear to some men hope, and to other men fear.” It’s a powerful bit of poetry in the context of costumed superheroes, condensing the core idea into a single line. That the heroes who give the weak and oppressed hope should appear to to those who would prey on them as their reckoning. And the phrase fits this version of Black Lightning as well as it did the comic book version – which explains why it’s read aloud to open the premiere episode, just as it opened the comic’s first page.
Interestingly enough, it’s a quote that can’t actually be attributed to any particular writer (especially not this specific tweaking of the language). But aside from the callback to the hero’s first comic, it’s worth pointing out that the first mention of “lightning” is spoken by Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain) which will be a lot more meaningful later in our list…
9. The Classic (Modern) Black Lightning Suit
Where most superhero TV shows have to introduce their hero to a world and audience step by step, explaining their powers while constructing a convincing costume, Black Lightning manages to sidestep some of the issue. For starters, everyone in Freeland already knows Black Lightning is a force to be reckoned with. And thanks to some surveillance footage from one thankful business owner, fans even get to look at Black Lightning’s unforgettable, “Parliament Funkadelic” costume. Briefly, and set years ahead of the show’s normal timeline.
The scene is still a delight to longtime fans of the DC character, since it gives a surprisingly faithful rendition of Jefferson Pierce’s comic book costume. Not the first version from the 1970s, obviously, but his more modern design in the current DC Universe (or a few years ago, more accurately). Right down to the domino mask and shaved head (a frequent look of Jefferson’s), the throwback costume might even seem like a stronger design than the Black Lightning armor of the TV show.
8. Garfield High School
There isn’t much time spent diving into the work life of Jefferson Pierce as he balanced it with his vigilante heroics, but in the comics, the former Olympian was a school teacher. And just like in the comics, the TV version hung up his mask and powers to become the principal of Garfield High School. But there’s a significant change for Black Lightning on The CW, since the original version of the school was located in the neighborhood called Suicide Slum – officially designated as the Southside of Metropolis.
Even though Superman now exists in the world of The CW’s Supergirl, the city of Metropolis is largely off-limits. Why? Hard to say. But for Black Lightning, it makes sense to keep the action in a setting where fans won’t expect Superman to come save the day. Since that was, you know, the whole point of heroes like Black Lightning in the first place.
7. The Return of Black Lightning, Witnessed By “Thunder and Lightning”
The show wastes no time in confirming that the experience of modern black families will be central to Black Lightning. When the Pierces ares pulled over by police, not only is Jefferson subjected to some illogical racial profiling, but claims it’s happening more and more frequently. Understandably, the rage builds until he absorbs the nearby electricity without even realizing it. And in that moment, it’s Jennifer who once again narrates the significance of the scene:
“This was the night: in the rain, with thunder and lightning as witness, that Black Lightning was born again.”
For most viewers her language is poetic, adding some scale to the events by suggesting that the storm itself is bearing witness to her father’s ‘resurrection.’ For the DC Comics fans, the line is a playful wink. Not to the storm witnessing Black Lightning’s return… but Thunder and Lightning.
6. Anissa Pierce, Also Known as Thunder
If the only part of Black Lightning you see is the episode itself, then the final scene will come as a massive surprise. When Jefferson’s oldest daughter, Anissa, unleashes her frustrations in their bathroom at home, the sink pays the price. For the comic fans, it’s the first step towards Anissa becoming the superhero Thunder, inheriting the metahuman gene belonging to her father. But instead of lightning, enjoying superstrength instead. Of course, this was a twist ending that The CW didn’t even try to keep quiet.
The first look at Thunder’s own superhero costume was revealed ahead of the premiere, showing actress Nafessa Williams in her own CW-brand supersuit. There’s no telling how quickly her father will allow her to accept a superhero identity of her own (or if he ever approves), but she’s not the only budding superhuman in the Pierce household…
5. Jennifer Pierce, Also Known as Lightning
The showrunner were practically forced to outright confirm that at least one of Jefferson Pierce’s daughters was a metahuman, once they decided to adapt both of his super-kids to the show. Where the older sister Anissa is blessed with ‘thunder-ous’ strength, it’s the younger sister, Jennifer, who inherits her father’s exact powers. Well, powers of electrical manipulation… but far more direct and wild than her father’s. Not to mention the appearance they give her as a result, making life a bit more complicated, to say the least.
Just because fans will be asking eventually, the concept of Jefferson passing on a metahuman gene to his daughters is an evolution of the original story, when he was just an athletic man with some electric gadgetry. Legitimate superhuman physiology came later, which is where the show is beginning. That being said, fans might want to hold off hoping to see Lightning make her debut, as well. Aside from the budget concerns of a loyal adaptation (just look at her!) the emergence of one super-sister is worth a few seasons of storytelling, at least.
4. Gambi’s Been in The Arrowverse Already
The twist on the usual superhero formula for The CW, at least, comes in the form of Peter Gambi (James Remar). Not only is he the closest thing to a father Jefferson has, but he’s also his weapons and armor designer (and the main cheerleader supporting Jefferson’s return to the role of Black Lightning). Though Jefferson refers to him only as ‘Gambi,’ his role is a direct lift from the Black Lightning comics. And it’s a name that’s been alluded to once already in The CW’s Arrowverse.
In the pilot episode of The Flash, Barry’s early attempts at superspeed see him crashing into the back of a ‘Gambi Cleaners’ laundry van. Then, it was an allusion to Paul Gambi, the Central City tailor famous for having created the costumes of most of The Flash’s rogues. His brother is a tailor, too, although the bond between these two Gambis – given the possibility to Multiversal separation – is harder to pin down.
3. From Batman Begins To Black Lightning
If actress Christine Adams, playing Jefferson Pierce’s wife, Lynn seems familiar to DC Comics fans, there’s a very good reason. Before she was putting Black Lightning in his place in Freeland, she was welcoming Bruce Wayne back to Gotham City in Batman Begins. It was a tiny role, but no fan of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s version of Bruce Wayne could ever forget it. Either for her dropped-jaw reaction to Bruce being a live and well, or the impromptu golf lesson that interferes with a Wayne Enterprises board meeting.
It isn’t the first time Adams has appeared in comic-book-themed properties either. Others might recognize her as ‘Agent Weaver’ from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or for her small part on NBC’s Heroes.
2. Lynn Stewart, Green Lantern’s Sister?
The real twist in Lynn Pierce’s story is not the actress playing her, but the character’s quasi-canonical connection to another member of DC’s Justice League. One that’s been heavily alluded to in previous Arrowverse shows, as it happens. Although Black Lightning refers to her only as ‘Lynn,’ those who know the comics upon which the show is based know her names if Lynn Pierce, maiden name ‘Stewart.’ As in John Stewart, the Green Lantern of Earth.
Since the comic series was cut short at just eleven issues, creator Tony Isabella never got the chance to explore Lynn’s own backstory beyond being married to Jefferson and, later, having mothered their children. But according to industry legend, it was Isabella’s original intention to outright confirm that Black Lighting was married to Green Lantern’s sister. At the time, John Stewart had yet to become a permanent Corps member. Which made it hard to confirm from that point onward… an issue the TV show won’t have to worry about.
1. “Since 1977”
It just wouldn’t be a comic book property without a loving nod to the year or issue that launched the legend, and Black Lightning is no exception. Fans will need to look alive though, since it appears for just a second during Jefferson’s first scene with Gambi (after waking from his wound-repair). Beyond the simple “Tailor” sign in his window (a shocking match for the comic book version), the message “Since 1977” can also clearly be read over the door.
No surprises here, the very first comic of Black Lightning debuted in April of 1977. Here’s hoping that it’s only a reference to that meta joke, and not a hint that Gambi’s been keeping his shocking secret from Jefferson for forty years (look that one up for yourselves, if you want to be spoiled).
So there you have it, our breakdown of each and every easter egg, comic book nod, and hidden detail in Black Lightning‘s first episode. If you’ve spotted anything we’ve missed, or have questions unanswered, let us know in the comments!