Or – “The Girl So Nice They Named Her Twice Seven Times.”

The Legion of Super-Heroes was remarkably progressive, always a few steps ahead of it’s time, with a few exceptions.  One thing that was never a problem was finding strong female characters in the 30th Century.  Today’s Hero History subject actually joined the Legion under an alias (and an assumed gender) before taking a long-time supporting role.  She starred in one of the Legion’s EARLIEST romances, and when that one ended, was a part of one of the more controversial ones.  Always a soothing presence, she meshed well with all her comrades, and whether they called her Light Lass, Lightning Lass, Pulse, Gossamer, Spark, Livewire or just plain Ayla, she is an island of calm in the midst of the madness of the Legion.  This is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Ayla Ranzz of Winath…  Lightning Lass!    

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Ayla’s story begins as many old-school Legion members’ stories did:  as a silly plot twist.  Her twin brother Garth (Lightning Lad) had been killed in action by a Khund named Zaryan, and was buried with honors in a crystal coffin, with lightning bolts forever firing through the air above his form.  But not long after he was interred, the Legion came to place their team flag across the coffin, and the ever-clever Bouncing Boy noticed something odd…

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The team is beyond thrilled to have one of their founders back, but soon Sun Boy begins to have his doubts.  When LL can’t seem to channel his electrical powers, Sun Boy begins covering for him, using his own heat and light powers to simulate the lightning bolts.  As the mission continues, the entire Legion begins to have their doubts, and suddenly Sun Boy realizes that this isn’t their very own Lightning Lad, because of a very obvious physical characteristic.  Getcher minds outta the gutter, this is 1963 we’re talking about…  he realized that the revived Garth lacked an adam’s apple.  Busted, Ayla reveals her origins…

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I wonder why the artist drew him in his superhero costume on the day he got his powers?� Weird.� And make note of that origin, because for several years, every time it got told, they added a sibling.� Thirtieth-century science being what it is, Garth’s decedence didn’t last long.� Readers of the recent Lightning Saga in JLA and JSA probably know what comes next, as Ayla (along with Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl, Mon-El and Tom Welling) volunteer to save Garth’s life, even if it means their own death…

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Garth’s return to active duty was a cause for great rejoicing, but there came a snag.� A mysterious new glamour girl called Dream Girl joined the team, wooing all the men, and irritating all the girls.� Because she had foretold the deaths of a team of Legionnaires (including Lightning Lass) she then put into motion a plan to drum them all out of the ranks.� Ayla was stunned when Dream Girl found an obscure regulation that made her ineligible for the team since her powers duplicated her twin’s powers.� When D.G’s plan was revealed, she makes good all her evil deeds, even helping Ayla out with some Naltorian super-science.

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With her new anti-gravity powers, Ayla simply dropped a few letters from her name and became Light Lass, although her choice of a feather as chest symbol was a bit suspect.� Of all the Legionnaires, Ayla has probably gone through the most changes in name, though her personality remained largely the same.� Even in these earliest stories, Ayla’s positive and trusting nature is established.� When a�brooding young lad�calling himself Lone Wolf appears, she finds herself crushing on him hard, to the point that she refuses to believe that he’s the mastermind behind a series of robberies.

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As would eventually become a theme, her instincts are true.� Lone Wolf is NOT the thief, instead he’s being manipulated by an android named Karth Arn.� Lone Wolf joins the Legion academy, eventually graduating to full membership under the name Timber Wolf.� He would be a large part of her Legion career, and their romance was one of the legendary Legion couples.� Even though her more visceral lightning powers were gone, Ayla was quick to establish that her new powers were useful, creatively engaging her antigrav powers�in innovative ways…

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Light Lass often teamed up with Star Boy for a one-two punch of enhanced and reduced gravity, and more than one villain was taken down after bouncing weightless off the ceiling.� Even when transformed into a child, (as every Legionnaire apparently had to be, under the rules of the Legion Constitution) Ayla’s upbeat nature and creativity make her more than a match for grown men with frap guns…

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Light Lass and Timber Wolf were also a part of comics’ history…� Most of us remember Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, the story in which Harry Osborn, upset over a breakup with Mary Jane Watson, takes a few tabs of bad acid and freaks right out of his speed-bumpy head.� What many people AREN’T aware of, is that this wasn’t comics first drug story.� That honor goes to another tale, in Action Comics #378, a short-story called “The Forbidden Fruit.”� Timber Wolf is injured in action, and foolishly takes a drink from a stranger claiming to be a doctor…

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T-Wolf quickly finds himself jonesing for another dose, and the villain reveals himself, blackmailing Wolf into doing his bidding.� Young Brin Londo is willing to forsake his Legion membership, even his vow against crime.� But Ayla shows her sheer moxie once again, forcing Timber Wolf into a situation where he must choose:�another score, or her life.

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For long moments, he hestitates, and finally turns, clocking the villain and saving himself.� Ayla nurses him back from his “addiction,” and their relationship deepens.� For reasons unknown, Ayla changes her hair color from it’s natural red to blonde, and gets a new costume (I honestly can’t remember whether or not it was Cockrum designed or not, so… let’s say “Maybe.”) but maintains her status as the Legion’s resident ray of sunshine, even showing some impressing detective skills in so doing.

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Timber Wolf finds himself changing, becoming more and more feral, but Light Lass stays by his side, no matter his identity crisis.� As the Legion moved into the 2970’s, Timber Wolf began feeling the urges of his animal side, occasionally giving in to a feral rage, but it’s Light Lass who keeps him on an even keel…

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Not long after, the entire Legion is reunited, including retired members Duo Damsel, Matter-Eater Lad and Bouncing Boy, for a wonderful event:�the wedding of Legion founders Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.� A time paradox sweeps over the 30th century, leaving only the time-traveling Tom Welling aware of the changes, and the honeymoon couple is lost during an attack by Lunarites (not to be confused with Mooninites.)� Stranded on the moon and running out of air, Garth and Imra would have died a slow and painful death by asphyxiation, were it not for the quick thinking of Light Lass.

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Ironically, Saturn Girl would be an integral part of the worst moment of Ayla’s Legion career.� With Lightning Lad buckling under the pressures of leadership, Chameleon Boy assembled a team of Legionnaires (including Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Saturn Girl and Timber Wolf) whose cruiser was downed in Khund space.� The Legionnaires desperately searched for their lost comrades, but the seeming death of Timber Wolf throws Ayla for a loop.� For the first time in her career, she loses her cool, giving in to despair.� When the cruiser she and Dawnstar are traveling in crashes, Light Lass is despondent.

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When the Legionnaires are found, Timber Wolf is caught in a compromising position, snuggled up with Saturn Girl.� It’s never entirely clear if it’s just for warmth, or if something hinky is indeed going on.� Either way, Light Lass’s trust is shaken for the first time.� Her courage, however, is unaffected, as shown during the Great Darkness Saga.� In order to protect the young man who houses the essence of Izaya the Highfather, Ayla goes toe to toe with DARKSEID himself.�

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Given that the big D had already downed Legion stalwarts like Mon-El and Tom Welling, her actions are doubly brave.� Having returned to her original hair color, Light Lass finds herself channeling her old forthrightness.� After several years of constant membership, of supporting Timber Wolf, of combat and strife, Ayla needs a break.� She informs Timber Wolf that she will be leaving the team, and implores him to come with her…

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As her introduction to the Legion showed, Ayla values nothing more than family, and so returns to the one place where she can truly be at peace:�the family farm on Winath.� This return home also brings the first appearances of what would become a theme, her dislike of clothing.� She spends several months living the life of a farmer (though a couple of years passed for us) and enjoying a pastoral life without worries like super-powers or bras…

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Unfortunately, the idyllic life wasn’t going to last.� A new incarnation of the Legion of Super-Villains was about to raise it’s shrouded head, and one of their members wanted Ayla to witness the death of her twin.� To that end, he sends a relative loser called Radiation Roy to Winath with one mission: capture Ayla Ranzz.

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The radiation burst incapacitates her, and she is taken to planet Orando and kept with other Legionnaires.� Their new pact involves the murder of an LSHer by each member of the LSV, but ironically, Ayla isn’t on the death list.� Her fate is even crueler, as her elder brother Mekt (remember how I mentioned the addition of siblings to the origin?) wants her to survive.� Ever the wack-a-loon, Mekt believes that the death of Lightning Lad will free Ayla to become HIS twin, thereby in his mind finishing their family unit.� Light Lass bitterly refuses, telling him that he’s out of his mind, and Mekt lashes out as only an angry sibling can.

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Leaving her for dead in her cell, Mekt returns to preside of the LSV’s triumph, leaving her to her own devices.� Whether the radiation field or the lightning attack was to blame, she found herself feeling a bit odd, and her frustration finally escaped in a very pyroclastic manner…

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Whatever Dream Girl’s science did to adjust her metabolism was clearly undone, and Ayla stood alongside her former teammates against the Super-Villains.� Kidnapped, tortured, starved and beaten, Ayla still found the wherewithal to fight, and when the conflict ended, Mekt knocked her out and fled back to Winath.� What Lightning Lord HADN’T counted on was her tenacity.� Ayla channels the full fury of the storm back at her elder sibling, taking out every ounce of frustration on him, and defeating the lord of lightning.

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Even after being tortured for days, she can’t escape the fundamental love and caring at her core.� Soon after, she returned to duty, informing the Legion that, rules be damned, Lightning Lass was back!� This came as wonderful news to all her teammates, but none was nearly as happy as the artist formerly known as Lone Wolf.� Manipulating the mission monitor, T-Wolf manages to wangle a mission with just the two of them, and tries to pick up where they left off.

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Ayla finally explains why she left, berating him that no matter how many problems, how many identity crises, how many ongoing existential quandaries he went through, SHE was there for HIM.� But when she asked him to stand with her ONCE, he balked.� Though she still had deep feelings for him, Lightning Lass cannot take him back.� As much as it hurts her, she has the inner strength to let him go.� But when a door closes, sometimes the universe opens a door.�� A sexy, sexy, girl-on-girl door…

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Okay, I apologize, that was absolutely creepy.� Still, even though Ayla and Shrinking Violet had been on the team for years without really interacting much, they found themselves drawn closer.� Entertainingly, her second tenure also found Lightning Lass flirting with Pol Krinn, a.k.a Magnetic Kid, also a sibling of a Legion founder.� Depending on how you read the timeline, she’s got to be at least 10 years older than him, but her bio-electric Mrs. Robinson act doesn’t quite get her message across.

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Staying with the team through the Magic Wars, Lightning Lass quit during the events known as the Five-Year Gap, and returned once more to Winath.� During the lost years, Shrinking Violet returned home to her planet, and became a general in a senseless war with Braal, home planet of Cosmic Boy.� During a horrifying battle, Violet lost an eye, and most of her innocent na�vet�, becoming a battle-hardened warrior.� Even so, she kept up her relationship with Ayla by letter.� When she finally saw that the government of Imsk was corrupt, she quit the military, fled the planet and went to the only place she thought of as home:� Lightning Lass.�

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I really enjoyed this particular plot.� After all, it’s the 30th century, there’s no reason why SOMEBODY wouldn’t be gay.� Vi and Ayla were on Winath when�Reep (Chameleon Boy) Daggle and Rokk (Cosmic Boy) Krinn discovered the conspiracy within�Earthgov, bringing some of their old friends into the fold.� A stop on Winath doesn’t net them the help of Lightning Lad or Saturn Girl, but does�give Violet and Ayla something to think about.�

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The Legion reforms, and once again Lightning Lass is central to it’s functions as part of the combat team (along with the former Ultra Boy and Laurel Gand [long story, which I’ll get to later.])� Ayla acts as a sort of counselor to the group, keeping everyone on even keel, especially the somewhat tightly wound Violet.� Having finally been able to forgive Timber Wolf for his short-sightedness, Ayla is saddened to hear of his seeming impending death (in reality, he was saved by being�sent back to the 20th century.)

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The volume four Legion is filled with concepts that are far-out, even beyond the likes of wedding sticks or Planetary Chance machines.� One of those is the SW6 Legionnaires:�a group of younger duplicates of the entire Legion circa 1964 (allowing for adjustments due to the retcons of Crisis on Infinite Earths, of course) including a duplicate of Light Lass.� Initially, the SW6 team is thought to be clones of the grown LSHers, but later events make it seem that the opposite is true.

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Once again, Ayla doesn’t concern herself with unnecessary philosophy, instead believing in the Winathian mindset of serenity.� “What grows in sunshine, wilts in worry” becomes her mantra, and Ayla finds a kinship with her younger self that some of the more self-conscious Legionnaires couldn’t achieve.� But no matter how positive and�upbeat�her nature, Ayla is still tough as nails inside, as�her teammates�discovered when Mordru the mystic�brings a number of familiar faces back from the dead…

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The younger team found themselves stuck in the present, and chose to be the protectors of the Earth.� This is ironic, as the Earth then blew up.� No lie.� (I toldya some of these plots were far-out.� Comic book legend claims that writer Keith Giffen was going to put all the Legion and SW6 names in a hat, and pull out those who would survive, then reveal that the SW6 team WAS the real Legion.� He also claims that he only blew up the Earth to see if anybody was paying attention.)� The death of million of innocents and the loss of the Legion’s home-away-from-home planet is a great loss,�but Ayla maintains her optimism in public.��Once in private,�however, a devastated Violet lashes out and reveals that even Ayla’s serenity has it’s limits…�

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Take it from the old married dude, folks:�how you respond to the bedroom crying fit can tell you a lot about a relationship, and these women have themselves something worth envying.� The surviving cities of Earth (thanks to a system of space-domes and rocket engines) form a colony called “New Earth,” and the young Legionnaires become it’s protectors, including young Ayla as “Gossamer.”

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At least her feather chest symbol has symmetry now…� But while the young Ayla with the antigravity powers chooses one alias, the older Ayla with the electromagnetic powers chooses another.� When the remains of Earthgov declares them fugitives, the older LSHers go on the run, and Ayla chooses a not-so-impressive new name (Pulse) and a costume that I’ve always felt was one of the most impressive of the entire Legion era.

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You may note that she looks considerably younger, and has suddenly grown about ten inches of hair?� A run-in with Glorith left all the Legionnaires physically transformed by chronal energies, and the elder Ayla found herself getting less and less ‘elder’ by the day.� As the�events known as Zero Hour begin affecting the 30th Century (and�if you’re a regular reader of these histories, you know what THAT means) Ayla finds that she’s even younger than her teenage�SW6�duplicate.�

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The entire Legion is affected by the ongoing time-anomalies, and Ayla finds her condition reversing itself, returning to her true age.� Unfortunately, the timeline unravels around them, and the two Legions realize that the only way to save the 30th century is for them to reunite, as the SW6ers aren’t clones at all, but the Legion itself, pulled out of the past by the Time Trapper.� Violet and Ayla accept their fate as calmly as one can, hugging their younger doppelgangers but still going out together.

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When the Legion reformed after the reboot of time, Ayla was nowhere to be seen, at first.� Her brother, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl again teamed up to save R.J. Brande, but rather than allowing the kids to run rampant, the United Planets deemed them a military resource and drafted kids from various planets to fill out the Legion’s ranks.� When he was deemed a loose cannon, Garth found that Winath had chosen a DIFFERENT hero, a replacement candidate who was nonetheless very familiar…

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The only thing wrong with that costume?� I expect Ayla to show more skin than that…� She served the team in good standing, but was as shocked as anyone when Shrinking Violet was possessed by the Emerald Eye of Ekron.� Transported to the past with half the team, Spark found herself bothered when her brother’s girlfriend and her brother’s best friend become a couple, to the point that she finds herself refusing to work with Cosmic Boy…

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Saturn Girl follows, and finds that her real problem is a fear of dying alone, twinless in the past.� While in the past, Spark and the LSH become part of the Genesis crossover (a rather ill-advised summer event that theorized that the Speed Force, the energy channeled by the Guardians of the universe, and the powers of most of the frickin’ DC Universe were all the same energy:�the power of The Source.� Ayla traveled through the Source Wall during the crossover, and when she exited, found herself subtly changed…

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The Silver Age always seems to come back, doesn’t it?� With her new gravity powers, Ayla and her Legion returned home to the 30th century, but Ayla’s health began to decline, suffering ongoing migraines, eventually diagnosed as a psychosomatic reaction to having different powers than her twin (Nearly all Winathians are twins, and those that aren’t are often have mental problems, the explanation given for why big brother Mekt was such a frickin’ cosmic fruitcake.)� An electrical blast by Live Wire returned her powers to their original lightning configuration, but Ayla was among the Legionnaires left in the regular universe when the Legion Outpost exploded and threw half the team outside the universe.� Upon their return, Chameleon travels to Winath, where Ayla has once again returned home, with some bad news…

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Ayla returns to the Legion again, and finds that Lightning Lad (in this version of reality called Livewire) has died saving the universe from an Element Lad gone completely made from centuries of isolation.� When the Legion is returned to active duty, it is relative rookie Kid Quantum who gets elected leader, and Ayla once again makes a name-change to suit a new role…

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Her name change is short-lived, however, as Kid Quantum convinces her that a better tribute to her brother is by simply being herself.� Of course, Livewire isn’t actually dead so much as transformed, and the Ranzz siblings are reunited before this version of the Legion ceases to exist.� The transformation of reality from reboot to Threeboot Legion creates a whole new status quo, and with it a whole new Ayla…. sort of.� Of all the Legionnaires, she is the one who seems to change the least across realities, as the first issue of the new Legion contains the return of Light Lass!

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The new Legion is edgier and bit snarkier in tone, and the new Ayla follows suit, apparently having dated her way through most of the Legion’s boys (though I eagerly await the return of the Ayla/Vi relationship) but still showing a healthy amount of skin.� Light Lass is still a capable Legionnaire, acting as team leader frequently, and maintaining the keen eye and sharp wits of her previous incarnations…

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Though never having served as official Legion leader, Ayla has always seemed perfectly capable of it.� She simply never seemed to crave that sort of authority, preferring to pursue her happiness.� Even through the dark events of the volume four Legion (war, death, pestilence, famine, and�probably telemarketers) she maintained her cool, seldom falling prey to the darker side of her�nature.��From the day she joined the Legion, Ayla’s tenure was marked by her loving nature, caring for her friends, her family, for Timber Wolf, Shrinking Violet, and her twin, but that gentle nature didn’t prevent her from kicking any asses that presented themselves as worthy.� No matter how dark the�galaxy got, no matter the name, the woman called�Lightning Lass�brought a ray of hope to the Legion and the universe.
�

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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7 Comments

  1. August 6, 2007 at 1:14 am — Reply

    **If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! Our previous Major Spoilers Hero Histories include:

    Blok
    Bouncing Boy
    Brainiac 5
    Dawnstar
    Dream Girl
    Karate Kid
    Matter-Eater Lad
    Sensor Girl
    Star Boy
    Timber Wolf
    Wildfire
    XS

    Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! Tune in next week for the hero who defines “good intentions, but bad execution” and is the largest of the “few exceptions” I noted in the first paragraph… Tyroc!

  2. Maximus Rift
    August 6, 2007 at 9:22 pm — Reply

    I really didn’t know about her naked thing or her relationship with Vi. I guess I’m a little more familiar with the second Legion. Still it is interesting to note that there was this kind of relationship back then; though it bothers me a little that every lesbian relationship in comics that I know of has one of the girls been in a relationship with a guy. It feels sexist to me. I mean, has there been a lesbian couple where the girls have been lesbians from the “get go”?

  3. Brent F.
    August 7, 2007 at 9:46 pm — Reply

    I think you should do your next Hero History on the Legion’s other homosexual member, Element Lad.

  4. August 8, 2007 at 12:08 am — Reply

    Element Lad is definitely forthcoming, but I’m balancing out the members with longer histories against those who have more limited tenures…

    I feel that it balances the interest level a bit, and also gives me a bit of a break in terms of writing and research. Which is why after Brainiac, we got Bouncing Boy, and why after Ayla we’re getting Tyroc. I’m thinking Colossal Boy, Ferro Lad, Element Lad and maybe Kent Shakespeare are in the wings…

    Any other votes for Legionnaires?

  5. Brent F.
    August 8, 2007 at 12:22 am — Reply

    Triplicate Girl seems like a good candidate given Una’s role as Karate Kid’s new partner of sorts.

    I’d also like to nominate Shadow Lass since she may or may not have an ancestor who was a member of the Sinestro Corp, Quislet, Polar Boy, and Tellus.

  6. Brent F.
    August 8, 2007 at 12:24 am — Reply

    Oh, and Chameleon Boy.

  7. Fredy
    August 11, 2007 at 12:50 am — Reply

    hm i think id like to see an Element Lad H.H.

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