52 years ago - Tobias Whale is born in Metropolis's Suicide Slum.
38 years ago - 14-year-old Tobias starts dealing drugs.
30 years ago - 22-year-old Tobias assumes control over the largest drug trafficing territories in Metropolis, creating his own distribution networks.
26 years ago - 26-year-old Tobias officially takes control of all drug distribution in Metropolis.
23 years ago - 29-year-old Tobias battles Intergang over the drug trade when Bruno Mannheim takes over.
21 years ago - 31-year-old Tobias is given sanction over all organized crime in Metropolis by Lex Luthor, forcing a truce with Bruno Mannheim that limits Intergang to weapon smuggling.
20 years ago - 32-year-old Tobias's drug distribution network comes under assault by Black Lightning.
12 years ago - 40-year-old Tobias, his organization faltering under attack by Black Lightning, loses the support of Lex Luthor who instead moves the drug trade over to Bruno Manheim's Intergang.
4 years ago - 48-year-old Tobias is released from prison, and begins focusing his attention on building up his remaining legitimate shipping companies.
2 years ago - 50-year-old Tobias Whale, using assets borrowed from the Ventriloquist, begins taking control of abandoned territory in Bludhaven.
Most heroes might have their own particular nemesis. Generally speaking, that nemesis will do one of two things, either be remembered specifically as that particular hero's enemy, or they will work out well and go on to be absorbed into the larger DC pantheon of villains, where they'll be used in a wider variety of roles. Tobias Whale is actually a pretty singularly sucessful villain concept. He works on a lot of levels as an archetypal organized crime villain and is regularly referenced across all of DC as one of their central crimeboss characters, but he also is well remembered as the archnemesis of Black Lightning. He served his original story extremely well, and yet is so well designed and written that he continues to be a solid character across DC's storyscape.
Tobias Whale's Comic History
Tobias Whale first appeared in 1977 in the first issue of Black Lightning. He was, from the very beginning, designed to be the singular archnemesis of this one particular hero. He's clearly patterned after the long-time Spider-Man and Daredevil villain Kingpin, but it's worth pointing out that Kingpin's prominence as a character archetype really didn't begin until Frank Miller took over writing the Daredevil book in 1981. In a lot of ways, therefore, Tobias Whale actually predated the concept of Kingpin as a prominent, truely threatening villain.
Black Lightning is, fameously, DC's very first black hero to headline his own book, and I personally find it fascinating that his archnemesis was depicted as a African American crime boss with albinism. The layers of subtext involving African American culture and identity that can be explored here are incredibly rich, although it would be many years before a black writer was given the chance to actually explore them.
Tobias Whale is also very noteable because he was ultimately defeated. Black Lightning's crusade to bring down his archnemesis was actually successful, and he went to prison. It's kind of amazing how rare that is.
Our Tobias Whale Story
As we said, Tobias Whale was built to be the original archnemesis of Black Lightning, but he also has a role to play as a major organized crime figure in Metropolis. While both Metropolis and Gotham have their own native superhero, the thing that makes them different isn't their heroes but the nature of their villains. Gotham is pure chaos even in the world of organized crime with a constant shifting of power. Metropolis, on the other hand, has Lex Luthor. Lex is a singular presense who has absolute control over his city, and anyone who operates there is only going to be able to do so with his support.
Therefore, Tobias Whale, as powerful and omnipresent as he is, is really only allowed to operate in Metropolis because he has the backing of Lex Luthor. This also means that once he has earned that position he is absolutely unquestioned in his authority. This makes Black Lightning's crusade against him even more daunting, because it's not like Whale has competitors that he has to worry about; Metropolis isn't a city where that sort of thing is tolerated.
Of course, that's not to say that Whale isn't without his rivals. Long-time Metropolis organized crime mainstay Intergang is absolutely right there, just waiting for the opportunity to snatch up Whale's territory. When Black Lightning's long-time effort to take apart Whale's organization finally brings him to a point where he can no longer operate, Luthor is forced to shift those operations to Intergang, leaving Whale completely vulnerable to actually be sent to prison.
Tobias Whale's Future
There are actually quite a few stories that bring up Tobias Whale as a potential archnemesis for different heroes; He's a large, violent, physical threat while also representing a major organized crime presence, and that's a really great foil to put against almost any hero; but to tell his story correctly he needs to be brought out with a very particular focus.
When Tobias is out of prison (clearly thanks to some sort of legal loophole, or because he rolled over on someone inside), his first task is to rebuild his power base. He can't do this in Metropolis, obviously, but he does have some legitimate businesses he can use to build his cashflow back up.
Now, by lining up the timelines just so.... Whale can be ready to move just as Nightwing is taking apart Blockbuster's organizations in Bludhaven. In order to tie the various organized crime organizations together a bit closer, we had him ally with the Ventriloquist, an outlier crime boss in Gotham who is only partially loyal to the city's premier crimeboss, the Penguin. This gives Whale the firepower he'd need to start claiming Bludhaven as his own territory, establishes him as a outsider within the Gotham organized crime world, and sets him up as the new man to beat in the city where the greatest hero in the world is still establishing his place.