Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Black Lightning's Powers Explained

Black Lightning has been around since the 1970s, but he's finally getting his time to shine to audiences who don't have a deep understanding of comics lore. In addition to having a show of the same name on The CW, he also had a prominent role in "Young Justice" Season 3, which led to the creation of this famous meme. He's poised to have an even larger role to play in Season 4 of the latter, which comes at a good time considering his CW show recently wrapped up

With a name like Black Lightning, it'd be easy to assume the guy only shoots lightning bolts, and that's the end of it. However, he has a rather storied history within the comics and subsequent adaptations, especially considering he's the first Black DC superhero to receive his own comic book series. Variations of his story have emerged over the years, but for anyone wanting a thorough deep dive on the character, here are the basics of what you need to know as you binge-watch the entire series on Netflix

Black Lightning has several origins for his powers

Understanding where Black Lightning's powers came from involves knowing where you first started reading/watching his stories. When he first came onto the scene in 1977, he used technology to harness the tremendous power of electricity (via Distractify). He receives a belt from Peter Gambi, and it's the belt that gives him his abilities, meaning when he's not wearing it, he's powerless.

Over the years, this origin story became simplified. Instead of wearing a belt, the comics changed Black Lightning's origin to be a metahuman, meaning he was born with his powers. He possesses the metagene, and anyone who has that component in their genetic makeup can access a wide breadth of powers. For this reason, Jefferson Pierce can pass down his powers to his daughters — Anissa and Jennifer — who also become electricity-based superheroes. 

The CW show added an interesting wrinkle to his origin story. In the series, Jefferson (Cress Williams) is born with the metagene but doesn't immediately have superpowers. Those only develop after receiving a vaccine, which was part of a massive program by the American Security Agency to create metahumans. While Jefferson gets powers, many other children died due to the experiment in a haunting storyline that mirrors the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

His powers include electro-blasts and magnetic manipulation

No matter where his powers come from, they've remained consistent across mediums. First and foremost, he possesses the power of electrokinesis, which grants him the ability to generate raw electricity through his body (via Nerdist). This power allows him to fire off electric blasts at his enemies, but he can also manipulate electricity around him. 

This is evidenced in the first episode of "Black Lightning" on The CW when the police pull Jefferson over. In his anger, the electronics around him begin to flicker on and off. His powerset extends into magnetic manipulation, where he can assume control over metal objects and throw them at his opponents.

Over the years, he's also exhibited the powers of electroportation (teleporting via electricity), force field creation, and electrical healing. He also has all of the standard capabilities you expect with a DC Comics character, like enhanced strength and durability, but he was an impressive individual even before gaining powers. In the comics' continuity, he's an Olympic Gold medal winner in the decathlon, meaning he was already quick as lightning before he started fighting crime. 

One thing's clear: You don't want to be on the wrong end of some black lightning.