The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
of the Justice League of America, Outsiders
Jefferson Pierce is better known as "Black Lightning," the first black (African-American) superhero at DC Comics to star in his own comic book title. Black Lightning has always been portrayed as a devout Protestant Christian. Specifically, he is a Northern Baptist, a member of the American Baptist Church, U.S.A. (commonly abbreviated ABC/USA).
From: Tony Isabella, "Comics and Religion", posted on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup, 5 August 2002 (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/e30ffedc16d93f94/91242bf6bd24fd1f; viewed 12 June 2006):
From: Tony Isabella
Date: Mon, Aug 5 2002 5:58 pm
Earlier today, I was interviewed by a Dallas newspaper reporter on the topic of religion in comics. The trigger for his paper's interest was the recent issue of FANTASTIC FOUR in which Ben Grimm's Jewish background was mentioned.
As far as I could ascertain, I was contacted because he came across one of my online columns on the subject. I guess when you write sometime like two thousand columns for the Internet, you hit just about every subject sooner or later.
Anyway, when we got to talking about characters I had created or worked on, I mentioned my favorite: Black Lightning.
For those of you who were wondering about the faith of various DC characters, Jefferson Pierce is what I refer to as a liberal Northern Baptist. He's a devout man sans the intolerance which so often creeps into the religious right.
Detective Tommy Colavito, [Black] Lightning's sidekick, was identified as a Catholic in the Kwanza story Eddy Newell and I did for one of DC's holiday specials a few years back.
When and if the Dallas piece appears online, I'll post a link.
Overview: Former Olympic athlete and former inner city school teacher, Jefferson Pierce is currently a member of Lex Luthor's cabinet. For several years he has also operated as a super-hero, using a costume which allowed him to project bursts of electricity, a power he later internalised, becoming a living dynamo. He was a member of the Outsiders, but has also worked in inner city areas, fighting crime, corruption and injustice. He is a strongly moral man and a practicing Christian and hates to see those around him suffer. He clearly does not trust Luthor; his reasons for joining the cabinet are not entirely clear.
From: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
From: Anthony Isabella
Date: Thurs, Oct 24 1996 12:00 am
re: "For that matter, what characters have been portrayed as having any definite religion?"
Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) was shown to be a Baptist in the second BL [second Black Lightning series].
- Tony Isabella
From: "Let's make OUR OWN new JLA (and other teams)" forum webpage on DC Comics forum discussion section of official Warner Brothers website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000044548&messageID=2001467913; viewed 7 January 2006):
Black Lightning [Jefferson Pierce] - (Outsiders) Former Olympic athlete, school teacher, and Secretary of Education under Lex Luthor. Practicing Christian. Can generate, conduct, and absorb electrical energy.
From: "New Christian JLA member" message board, started 5 May 2005 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000023085&start=15&tstart=0; viewed 15 May 2006):
Posted: May 6, 2005 9:42 AM
Don't forget to add my favorite hero in the DCU - BLACK LIGHTNING - is also a Christian.
From: "Banned for using this nic" thread began 4 Apri 1999 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/f38288dc4e56542/8a873a0a53da3d0d; viewed 12 June 2006)
From: Robert Justus
Date: Mon, Apr 5 1999 12:00 am
To keep this on topic (sorta), why are most heroes not as religious as they could be? ...the only really religious person that's sane that I recall in DCU is Huntress, and I guess Wonder Woman... Anyone else...?
Date: Wed, Apr 21 1999 12:00 am
Black Lightning is a Christian, I believe (Baptist?), and has always seemed pretty sane to me...
From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):
I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 1:17 pm
Black Lightning, as written by his creator (pardon the pun), Tony Isabella, was a devout Christian, IIRC. Too bad DC decided to throw that out and make him a cold-blooded murderer:
From: Rick Phillips, "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters", posted 14 July 2007 on "Black Lightning Limited" blog website (http://blacklightninglimited.blogspot.com/2007/07/religious-affiiation-of-comic-book.html; viewed 14 July 2007):
I have linked to this site before but I didn't see the photos [collage illustrations] that they now have on the site. It is called The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters [http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html]. This is their group of Baptist superheroes [picture is posted]. Near the center of the group is our favorite, drawn by the great Jim Apro, Black Lightning. I found it hard to believe that Ghost Rider was any religion other then Atheist. Apparently Johnny Blaze said he was Baptist in one story. If you have your body possessed by a demon it is pretty good sign you aren't a Christian. However, just cause you are born into a religion doesn't make you a Christian unless you accept Jesus Christ into your heart.
Anyway if you have ever wondered what faith your favorites were you can get a hint by looking at this site. Who knew Jimmy Olsen was Lutheran?
From: "NY Times outs Batwoman. DUH SPOILERS!!!!!" forum discussion, started 27 May 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-27770.html; viewed 23 July 2007):
May 28th, 2006, 09:11 AM
I feel like DC is tying to be an advocate... Is DC just wanting quick media attention? If this were truly about diversity where is the devote Christian hero? What about a Pro-Life Republican? A priest that takes a vow of poverty to fight poverty?
For years people have praised or criticize liberal Hollywood. Are we now looking at a Liberal DC comics?
May 28th, 2006, 10:20 AM
Christian hero? I'm sorry but aren't a good majority of heroes Christian?
May 28th, 2006, 06:04 PM
But the point is that there are a majority of Christian characters in DC comics that already exist, so there's no "diversity" in creating more of the same...
May 28th, 2006, 06:36 PM
Really? One might make a case for a general "good works ethical monotheism", but how many have made on page confessional statments of Christ being their personal Lord and Savior? To assume that these characters are Christian is akin to assuming that any male character without a girlfriend is gay. Is that good enough?
May 28th, 2006, 06:49 PM
Did you click that link in my last post? It uses evidence from the various appearances the characters have made to determine what denomination they belong to.
May 28th, 2006, 07:05 PM
I've seen it, and I'll reiterate that I believe that the number of confessional Christians in mainstream comics is equal to, or less than the number of openly homosexual characters.
May 28th, 2006, 07:12 PM
Thanks for the link. It is interesting. But religion is not shown in their everyday life. We see the gay lifestyle, but when was the last time we saw Dick Grayson (Christian) at a Baptism, Batman (Catholic) attend mass, Hal Jordan go to confession, or Superman darken the doorway of a church?
May 28th, 2006, 07:48 PM
re: "...I believe that the number of confessional Christians in mainstream comics is equal to, or less than the number of openly homosexual characters."
I don't mean any offense, but if you believe that, it's probably because that's just what you want to see, because there's no way there are more openly gay characters in mainstream comics than openly Christian characters. Granted, we may not see declarations of their devotion to God in every issue, but there are still lots of Christians in comics who are open about their religion, like Black Lightning and Nightcrawler.
May 28th, 2006, 08:48 PM
Maybe Batwoman will be the exception that proves the rule, like Nightcrawler is for confessional Christian characters. Black Lightning shows up nowadays maybe slightly more than Pied Piper. I just don't see nominal ties to a certain denomination as proof positive that a character is Christian. I have no more reason to to believe that they are...
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