Black Lightning is going all in on intersectional representation this season with Anissa Pierce AKA Thunder. Not only will she be a prominent Black superhero on the show, but she’s a woman and she’s gay. These three characteristics are not usually present on superhero shows, nor are they typically combined together. But times they are a changin’ and the showrunners behind Black Lightning are committed to bringing Anissa’s comic book roots to life, as well as making sure she represents queer women of color accurately.
Anissa Pierce, AKA Thunder, is played by actress Nafessa Williams. Williams made her Black Lightning debut in the series’ first episode, “The Resurrection.” Pierce is a 22-year-old health educator at her father’s high school, Garfield. In the first episode, Anissa was arrested for protesting and kidnapped by one of The 100 gang. She fought back but was unable to escape. Her father, appearing as the hero Black Lighting, rescued her and her sister. Later that night, as she was remembering the trauma of being held at gunpoint, her powers manifested and she broke her sink.
In the second episode, “LaWanda: The Book of Hope,” Anissa discussed her powers with her girl friend. Her girl friend chalked it up to an old sink, but Anissa knew it was something more. Since we know who her father is, we know it’s something more too. Anissa doesn’t know her father is Black Lightning, so it’s possible she won’t understand her powers until that truth comes to light.
Anissa is the first black woman on television to be both queer and a superhero.
The roots of Anissa’s character run deep in DC Comics. Created in 2003, Anissa first appeared in Outsiders Vol. 3 #1. In the comics, Jefferson wasn’t excited about his daughter’s powers right away. He feared for her safety and her future. Thunder was a hero on her own for a while until the Red Arrow invited her to join the Outsiders. Her father then started fighting along side her and they both grew to appreciate each others powers. Anissa eventually began a romantic relationship with fellow superhero Grace Choi.
While Anissa may be television’s first black, female, queer superhero, she is preceded by a strong list of comic book characters. Some of DC Comics most notable female LGBT characters include Donner, Blitzen, Masquerade (who is transgender), Anaya, Comet (who is gender fluid), and Katherine Kane. Donner and Blitzen were really the first female characters to break the LGBT mold in DC Comics as well as Masqurade, who is DC Comics first black transgender superhero. Valkyrie, from Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok also made an impression in 2017 as a bisexual superhero woman of color.
As for television representation, it’s important to recognize Anissa as the first black, queer superhero because so often superheroes are straight, white and male. It’s a refreshing change of pace, especially since Black Lightning is an inherently black show. As for her being the first, Gotham and Arrow have paved the way a bit. Tigress is a bisexual woman of mixed ethnicity, Renee Montoya is Latina and gay, Nyssa al Ghul is also gay and Sara Lance is bisexual. Anissa joins their ranks as queer and super, as black and a main character. A rare but very welcome change of pace.
Black Lightning airs on The CW on Tuesdays at 9PM and on Netflix in other territories.