Finding a voice for the superhero Black Lightning was not at all difficult for Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Levar Burton.
A comic book fan since childhood, Burton reached inside himself to find his inner superhero for his voice work as Black Lightning in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. “I think everybody has a superhero that lives inside of them,” said Burton, “so I just went to that place, that deep kind of superhero voice.”
Living in Germany as a child, Burton and his American buddies read comics in lieu of watching German language TV. “On Saturdays, you took your box with all your comic books and you went around from apartment building to apartment building, trading comic books with the other American kids living on the base,” said Burton. “But this was before black superheroes came around. They didn’t start appearing until the ’70s. So it’s mildly exciting for me to actually have a chance to play a black super hero today.”
Did Burton have a favorite superhero as a child? “When I was a kid, it was always Batman over Superman,” explained Burton. “Batman had all the cool stuff, and he just had a vibe. Superman was the All-American guy but, with Batman, there’s a little something going on. Batman’s history was a little edgier, and there was just something really attractive to me about the cowl. Superman is all out there, even though he does the Clark Kent thing, but Batman keeps his identity hidden. He has this double life that’s very sexy, very attractive for a kid. Not that I didn’t like Superman, the whole kryptonite thing is all well and good, but Batman was my guy.”
What is the value of comic books to those who read them? “Don’t underestimate the power of comics and what they represent for us and how they inform us on the journey of being human, because it’s powerful,” said Burton. “It’s very powerful. They give us permission to contemplate what’s possible. And in this world, in this universe, there’s nothing that is not possible. If you can dream it, you can do it.”