John Ridley Talks Crafting Thunder’s Journey in Other History of the DC Universe Finale

This Tuesday will see the release of The Other History of the DC Universe #5, the final chapter in writer John Ridley and artist Guiseppe Camuncoli’s epic and expansive take on the DC mythos. This finale issue will spotlight Anissa Pierce/Thunder, the daughter of Black Lightning and a trailblazing (albeit underrated) superheroine in her own right. While Anissa’s journey across DC comics canon has varied wildly, this installment tries to encompass her unique decades-long story in one sitting — and as Ridley put it, that kind of examination is long ovedue.

“Just picking Dick Grayson as one of any number of characters, but somebody who started very young and is now an adult in comic books, there was a lot, a lot, a lot to choose from,” Ridley told reporters during a recent virtual press conference. “And with Anissa, it was filling in some gaps. It was really — for example, the story where she goes to Africa, and her feelings and moods and emotions. I’ve worked with someone in Uganda who’s worked with child soldiers, and really taking these kids who were taught to kill and trying to give them a sense of life and humanity. So that story, to me, was very powerful. And you look at that and go, ‘That’s got to go in. But what more can I say about that?'”

“Even for me, filling in gaps and — whether it’s Anissa’s story or other stories, particularly with Mal and Karen — where there were gaps and I tried to embrace them,” Ridley continued. “I didn’t just for me say ‘Okay, well, there’s this negative space, and I’m just going to fill it with stuff that does not feel as though perhaps, if that story had been written, if that space had been filled, is a coherency to that storytelling.’ With Anissa was a little tougher. There was some huge gaps there. Beyond gaps, there was just stuff that never existed, but it was trying to fill those gaps with okay, well, when her parents told her that their marriage wasn’t working out, what happened? What happened for a young person at that time period in the ’80s or so?’ So it was fun, in a way. In other places where I’m really trying to be honorific to the individuals who wrote these stories previously, that’s one skillset in the space where there are gaps and it’s like, ‘Okay, I can do anything.’ But it’s sometimes nice to have a prompt, it’s sometimes nice to have some understanding where you’re coming in.”

“So, Anissa was fun. It was challenging,” Ridley added. “Again, I really, in starting [with] Jefferson [was] really trying to lay those seeds very early on. But it was getting into that story and knowing you’re wrapping it up, and knowing you want to wrap it up in a way that feels worth the journey for everyone. There were a lot of anxious moments with Anissa. I would say out of all of those stories, it was certainly the one where I felt the most anxious for all kinds of reasons.”

Ridley also touched on some of his canon sources of inspiration for his approach to the Pierce family, and reiterated his desire to further expand upon the stories of Anissa and her younger sister, Jennifer Pierce/Lightning.

Black Lightning: Year One, where it’s a little more modern take on Jefferson arriving to Suicide Slums with his entire family,” Ridley revealed. “And initially, when Jefferson, way back in the day, shows up, I think he’s already divorced. He’s already separated. The kids aren’t even in the picture. So that was one where it was like, ‘Okay, here’s a little bit of a reset or reboot. But here’s the family together, and here’s just a window into what their life would have been like in the relatively good times.'”

“So I would say for Anissa, and we’re just setting the tone with the family, that was the one… I don’t want to pretend like I wasn’t pleased, and they didn’t do a good job. They did a really masterful job,” Ridley added. “Nobody was sitting around years ago anticipating what John’s needs [are] going to be years from now. But you read it, and there’s still much more. I get it. I get that mood, I get that vibe, I get that feeling. But again, just not a lot going on with the kids in a way where it necessarily [was] — again, pick any heroes. Wally West, we got to see him grow up. Dick [Grayson], we get to see grow up. Donna [Troy], we get to see grow up. We really didn’t get to see that with those kids.”

The Other History of the DC Universe #5 will be available on Tuesday, July 27th, wherever comics are sold.

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