Hero History: Shrinking Violet

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Or – “In Small Things, We Reveal Ourselves As We Truly Are…”

One of the things for which the 30th Century has never lacked is strong female characters.  From the steely nature of Legion founder Saturn Girl, to the tenacity of Dream Girl, to the self-determination of Dawnstar and beyond, the females of the LSH are every single iota the match for their male colleagues.  But with that many dominant personalities on one place, someone is bound to end up in the shadows.  Today’s Historical subject spent the greater part of her Legion career in the shadow of her own relationships, from her first teenage crush, to a relationship with her polar opposite, (power-wise, anyway) to her involvement in the Legion’s first openly homosexual relationship, she’s been defined as much by her other half as by any intrinsic aspect of herself.  But that doesn’t lessen the impact she has had on the team, nor does it in any way eclipse her heroism.  There’s an old cliche that comes to mind about good things and the relative size of their packaging that comes briefly to mind before sensibly departing, but it’s point is still valid:  Size needn’t matter.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Salu Digby of Imsk…  Shrinking Violet!

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The story of the Legionnaire known widely as Vi starts early in the team’s history, with only the fifth appearance of the team, in Action Comics #276.  We’ve touched on this issue (hell, this PANEL) a number of times before, but I think it’s worth noting that the internal chronology of these stories is, to be frank, a bit nuts.  We know that Saturn Girl, Cosmic and Lightning Boys (at least in the first appearance) recruited that kid from Smallville in their first chronological appearance, but at the end of that issue, several Legionnaires appeared to cheer his inauguration, yet Clark Kent is popularly thought to be the sixth member of the Legion, after the founders, Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl.  Making things more complicated is this scene…

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Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, and Shrinking Violet are REJECTED from the Legion in this story, in favor of Supergirl and Brainiac 5.  Yet, a couple of months down the line, all three members are shown to suddenly be on the team, without so much as a “by your leave.”  I honestly think that these implied “behind the scenes” moments are half the reason for the team’s continued popularity, as to be a Legion fan is the equivalent of being a detective, piecing together bits and pieces of thirtieth century lore into a cohesive whole.  The next time we see Shrinking Violet, she is already a member in good standing, and the male members of the Legion are shocked to find their distaff members infected with a strange alien virus.

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The Legion ladies are saved from the plague by the power of Supergirl (though, since her red-kryptonite-fueled duplicate “Satan Girl” was responsible, it’s really her problem to deal with) and Violet returns to duty.  One of the things that marks Shrinking Violet’s earliest appearances is her quietness, her willingness to stay in the background.  In a team that seems to try for as much diversity as possible, it stands to reason that there would be a quiet one…  Of course, when Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and the son of Jor-El are possessed (by Nero, John Dillinger and Hitler (!)) the Legion has to find a way to function without their mightiest powerhouses.  This mission serves as a trial run for what would become the Legion Espionage Squad, with Invisible Kid, Chameleon Boy, and Violet at the forefront.
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Violet is key to the plan that removes Hitler’s brain from the invulnerable Kryptonian body (a feat that might be considered saving the universe, when you think about it) and again returns to her quiet service.  And, since this is the Silver Age Legion, she was contractually obligated, under section 6.11 of the Legion Constitution to be transformed into a toddler at least once.  (No one is really sure where that section comes from, though the chief theory involves Matter-Eater Lad, a bottle of Aldebaran whiskey, and a dare by Triplicate Girl’s ‘naughty’ self.)

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If memory serves, this is actually Ultra Boy’s second run as a kindergartener, but the first and only for Vi, Chuck, and Garth.  One of the earliest moments that indicated that there was something more going on under than coal-black Donna Reed ‘do, came after a Legion team took possession of an intergalactic weapon called The Concentrator.  The members of the Legion found themselves falling into various traps, masterminded by Chief Wilson of the Science Police (secretly, THE TIME TRAPPER!!! Dun dun DAAAAH!)  Stuck in an inescapable trap, tortured with her worst fears, Shrinking Violet is forced to draw upon reserves she didn’t know she had…

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Quick thinking from the tiniest Legionnaire…  The Concentrator turns out to be some sort of energy device, apparently created on the planet Plaht (It’s a Plaht device, you see) but this show of steely nerve in the face of adversity is a sign of things to come for Vi.  As one might expect when two dozen teenagers in super-tight pants crush into an inverted rocketship together, the romantic tensions occasionally ran high, and even the Imskian sweetheart soon found her tiny heart afluttering.  But, who could cause our lovely young flower to (figuratively) bloom?  Could it be the humorous wit of Matter-Eater Lad?  Perhaps the thoughtfulness of Element Lad?  Maybe even the sex appeal of Sun Boy?  None of the above, actually.  As with any girl, the secret of courting is to see things from HER perspective…

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Enter Duplicate Boy!  Ord Quelu (or Qued Orlu) of Lallor, a member of the so-called “Legion of Super-Outlaws,” he represents a step back for Violet, allowing her to retreat to the protection of the most powerful man in the universe.  (Duplicate Boy can essentially have any power that he imagines…  Luckily for those within collateral damage range, Ord has very little imagination.)  Violet is so overcome by this young man, that she helps him to first escape from the Legion, and then to clear his name.

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And indeed it isn’t the end, as the plucky Violet continues to pursue her long-distance relationship, keeping even her boyfriend safely at arms’ length.  Amazingly, when the girls of the Legion are mind-controlled by a man-hater from beyond the stars, Shrinking Violet is key to defeated not one, but THREE Of her male counterparts, and then showing off some pretty impressive ballerina skills besides.

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Shrinking Violet always found herself at her best when there were no other options available.  During Universo’s first successful (thought short-lived) bid at galactic domination, he managed to capture and imprison the most powerful Legionnaires.  Some of the Legion’s less powerful, but no less determined members came up with the only possible plan: bust ‘em out, and bust some heads!

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Vi’s marksmanship is up to par, taking out the guard lights (one of the only times I remember Legionnaires with firearms) and freeing her brethren and sistren (is that even a word?) from jail.  Soon after, the Legion finds themselves overwhelmed by a mysterious entity from space, and seemingly killed, leaving only the members of the Espionage Squad.  Once again, with her back to the wall, Shrinking Violet finds an inner strength, surprising everyone with her internal resources.

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Still, Violet finds herself falling back into old patterns, waiting for a hero to come save her.  When her long-distance relationship with Duplicate Boy goes into a slightly longer-distance-than-usual phase she finds her emotions overwhelming her.  Once again, she reaches out to a knight in shining armor, this time, Matter-Eater Lad, who isn’t one to let a pretty girl suffer…
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As the Legionnaires moved from the 2960′s to the 2970′s, there came many changes in their modus operandi, their attitudes, but most of all, changes of fashion.  Shrinking Violet, historically the possessor of one of the blandest Legion wardrobes (a minidress, choker, and boots, suddenly changes to a complex and stunning outfit, growing out her hair and adopting a pair of knee-boots by Fredryk-5 of Planet Holl-E-Wud.
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Changing to an outfit that tight, with that much cleavage, would seem to indicate an upswing in Violet’s general self-esteem, yet not long after, she finds herself in her worst mental state ever, afraid to even use her superhuman powers thanks to a horrible recurring nightmare.

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In what has become a recurring pattern in her life, Violet ends up once again turning to a male hero for support, this time Brainiac 5, who realizes what he needs to do to break her of her delusions…
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But here, for the first time, Violet gets the upper hand.  Brainiac 5 miscalculated his gambit, as the giant creature turns on him, threatening to crush him in it’s metal claws.  Though the trip began as Brainiac helping a damsel in distress, the damsel suddenly turns the tables and saves HIM!

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Violet’s new-found confidence serves her well, and for the first time, instead of her carrying a torch for someone else, someone starts carrying a torch for HER.  As her on-again off-again love affair with Duplicate Boy goes once again on the, Colossal Boy starts to show an interest in Violet. 
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Unfortunately for Mr. Allon, Duplicate Boy shows up in the nick of time to renew her affections, and leave the big man out in the cold.  Then again, even if he doesn’t get to be with her in the relationship sense, he does get to spend some time with Violet, and technically, they’re closer than Duplicate Boy could ever hope to get…  as in “sharing one another’s molecules as part of a monstrous ‘Composite Legionnaire’” close. 


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This is another example of why Kal-El can be such an annoying character.  The boy simply never learned when to duck.  The LSHers are separated, but 3 out of 4 of them buy into Chameleon Boy’s rhetoric when the Espionage Squad leader sets off on a disastrous mission to Khundia.  The United Planets is pushed to the brink of war, the marriage of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad is strained to the breaking point, Timber Wolf and Light Lass’ romance is destroyed once and for all…  But Shrinking Violet, at least, finds herself a happy ending, as Colossal Boy finally admits to his feelings for her, feelings which Violet finds herself reciprocating.

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Things take an even more romantic turn as the Legionnaires impulsively get married, and run off for a honeymoon in an idyllic ski lodge.  It’s perfect, secluded, romantic, beautiful.  The newlyweds enjoy themselves greatly until an uninvited guest (who really shouldn’t have slipped Violet’s mind) makes his jealous, diamond-pantied, frothing-at-the-mouth reappearance.

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Duplicate Boy attacks Colossal Boy with his own super-powers, and the two giants fight it out as Violet watches silently from the sidelines.  The battle ends thanks to the timely intervention of Ultra Boy, but the real reason that Ord (or Qued, as Lallorian names can be reversed in custom) gives up is much more subtle.


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“Not the Violet I fell in love with…”  These words are more than just a euphemism, the protective camoflage for a broken heart.  Their significance (and Violet’s obvious relief) escape nearly everyone, with the exception of one of the Legion’s oldest and most observant heroes.  Element Lad puts two and two together, and with the help of his girl, Science Police officer Shvaughn Erin, manages to dig up the evidence that he hoped he wouldn’t find:  Shrinking Violet has been replaced!
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The Legion threesome manages to take out Colossal Boy long enough to spray “Violet” with Cancellite, a spray designed to keep Durlans from using their powers.  As you may remember from Colossal Boy’s history, the false Vi was revealed to be Yera, a Durlan actress hired by Imskian separatists to infiltrate the Legion and set the stage for an Imskian secession from the United Planets.  But what has happened to the real Violet?
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With several months of torture under her belt, Shrinking Violet is remanded to Medicus One for rehabilitation and rest, but once she’s able to walk again, Violet taps her inner core of strength, and makes a conscious decision:  No more miss wallflower.  Her super identity to the contrary, Shrinking Violet is done hiding behind boyfriends…

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Violet flies straight to Lallor, where she confronts her boyfriend and reads him the riot act.  Violet angrily tells Duplicate Boy that he is an idiot for not telling the Legion that she had been impersonated, and dumps him unceremoniously.  Violet makes a complete change in her demeanor, no longer hiding her strength behind a delicate facade, instead bringing her real self to the forefront.  When the Legion of Super-Villains attack, the LSH found itself changed forever, as Karate Kid was killed, Projectra left Earth’s dimension and five Legionnaires found themselves trapped somewhere in the cosmic ether…


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Shrinking Violet and the LSH went through many changes in the next few months, culminating in the ‘Magic Wars’ that changed the 30th century forever.  When the United Planets began to fall apart due to a loss of their technological infrastructure and internal manipulations by the Dominators and others, Imsk finally managed to go through with their secession plan.  Shrinking Violet returned home to join the Imskian army, quickly rising through the ranks until Imsk attacked Braal (home planet of Cosmic Boy.)  The Imskians used an experimental damper weapon to neutralize the Braalians magnetic powers, but the device was flawed, leaving hundreds of Braalians crippled, powerless, or maimed, including Cosmic Boy himself.  Violet immediately began speaking her mind, loudly proclaiming that the government made a horrible mistake, even committed human rights violations…  and got herself thrown in the stockade for her troubles.

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Vi is drummed out of the service, and immediately goes to one of the only places she can still consider home:  the Ranzz plantation on Winath, and her old friend Lightning Lass.  Living together in the pastoral paradise brings the two former Legionnaires closer than ever, and both women are caught up in the draft when a group of former Legionnaires regroups to avenge the murder of Blok by Roxxas the Butcher.  One of the leaders of this grouping is Rokk Krinn, the former Cosmic Boy, and the one person who shakes Violet’s resolve…
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But even a woman who can reduce herself to subatomic size knows that you can’t hide forever, and Violet (still wearing the scars from that battle as a badge of honor) gathers up her courage and goes to talk with her friend…  who, at the battle of Venado Bay, was the man who cut out her eye.


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Violet and Rokk finally forgive one another, and the battle-hardened Shrinking Violet becomes, once again, a core part of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  Unfortunately, the menace of the Khunds raises it’s ugly pink head again, and the LSH finds itself at the center of intergalactic war.  Faced with a battle unlike any they’ve faced before (save maybe with the LSV on Orando) the Legion goes to war.  And with any war, comes casualties…
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Her leg amputated, Vi is given a cloned “Probe” leg from a genetically engineered service creature (although, to her irritation, the limb is initially bright blue) and returns to battle.  No injury is enough to keep the plucky Legionnaire out of duty for long.  When Glorith of Balduur is revealed to be the manipulating factor behind the war with the Khunds, Laurel Gand (as we saw last week) infiltrates her royal court to take her out.  Unfortunately, Laurel (the most powerful Legionnaire at the time) was quickly taken out of commission, leaving the battle in the hands of Shrinking Violet…
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Irresistable force?  Meet Imksian Legionnaire.  What do you do for an encore after single-handedly taking out the greatest menace to life, liberty, and fashion sense everywhere?  If your Shrinking Violet, you get yourself right back to business.  A series of disasters engineered by the Dominators leaves the entire planet Earth ready to crumble, and only the quick thinking of the Legion and an ancient emergency system manages to save even a fraction of the population.  Shrinking Violet and the Legion do what they can, but the disaster brings out a bit of the old “run and hide” Violet…


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Her relationship with Lightning Lass has blossomed from mere friendship to a full-fledged partnership, with Violet and Ayla becoming one of my favorite Legion couples ever.  But as with any couple, they have their conflicts, their disagreements…
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From ‘eternal damsel-in-distress’ to protective knight in shining armor, Violet finally finds her equal in Ayla, a partner who doesn’t treat her like a favorite toy or a crystal goblet that must be protected.  Violet’s strength serves the Legion well, as Chameleon Boy and Cosmic Boy (the founder of the new LSH) are, respectively, sidetracked with the SW6 Legionnaires and obsessed with regaining his powers.  Faced with a leadership void, Violet does the only thing any self-respecting Legionnaire would:  She steps in.
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The Legionnaires find themselves framed by Earthgov (run now by Universo) for conspiring with the Khunds, and go on the run, taking on new identities and putting on (mostly hideous) new costumes.  Violet, for her part, realizes that she is the one best suited to take over control of the team, a role that she wrests from Rokk/Cosmic Boy for the greater good of the team.
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Violet’s run at the head of the LSH is short-lived, however, as she and her Legion (along with the SW6 Legionnaires) find themselves at the center of the Zero Hour Crisis, watching their world unravel itself like a cheap scarf in an industrial dryer.  The Legion and their younger counterparts realize that, for the world to survive, they must remerge themselves (the SW6 team being the younger versions of the LSH themselves, ripped from the past by the Time Trapper) and let the 30th century, in essence, reboot itself.  Violet and Ayla share one last moment before she embraces her young, unsure self and makes her last heroic act…


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With a FWASH! (also, ironically, the way my daughter used to refer to Wally West when she was two) the 30th century is reset.  The founding of the Legion happens again, as it did before, but in this reality, the United Planets drafts young superhumans into service rather than allowing them to choose their own teammates.  On Planet Imsk, the Legionnaires get to watch the three top candidates compete for the coveted Legion slot.  When one of the Imskians is murdered, the team and the other two would-be Legionnaires (including a very familiar looking dark-haired quiet girl) put their skills to the test to suss out what happened…
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Micro, here, by the way, is the rebooted version of the red-headed “Micro-Lad” who kidnapped and replaced Violet with Yera back in the original continuity.  Knowing IS half the battle, after all!  Micro shrinks out of sight, and none of the Legionnaires can stop him… Luckily, Shrinking Violet is on the case!  Micro rages as she follows him, screaming at her, “Do you know what it’s like…”

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The tiny cameras of Imsk capture the entire battle, and Shrinking Violet is enthusiastically admitted into the LSH, serving alongside the new versions of her old, dear friends.  There is no sign of the friendship that defined Violet and Lightning Lass in the last iteration of the Legion, but she does become close to Kinetix, even warning the redheaded Legionnaire to stop lusting after power.  Kinetix seeks out an ancient artifact called the Emerald Eye of Ekron (which, if you believe Lobo, was ripped out of the Emerald Head of Ekron) in the hopes of gaining additional superhuman powers…  With Violet continually warning her, Kinetix keeps on searching for more mystical juice, as Violet rises in the Legion.  She becomes more outspoken, more popular, even gets nominated leader.  But when Leviathan dies in the line of duty (fulfilling, not coincidentally, his greatest wish) we find out why Kinetix can’t find the eye: Violet had it all along!

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Corrupted by the power of the eye, Shrinking Violet finds herself unable to control is great mystical power, and is consumed, becoming nothing but a vessel for the eye…


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Worse than that, Shrinking Violet takes over the entire Legion, turning her friends and teammates into possessed Emerald versions of themselves with even more hideous costumes (and if you’ve seen some of the rebooted Legion uniforms, you know that’s a steep track to hike, ladles and jellyspoons.  Thank you, I’ll be here all week!)  Violet manages to resist enough to allow the Legion to get free, and flees into space with the eye.  The LSH, along with fellow hero team The Amazers (Ugh.) are forced to ignore the threat of Violet, instead mobilizing against the threat of Mordru the Merciless.  But sadly, the problem of facing down two separate threats is nullified when the two threats band together to destroy them.  So, that’s a mixed blessing…


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Mordru, of course, is about as trustworthy as a scorpion waiting for a bus, and turns on Emerald Vi in the heat of battle.  She and the Eye are nearly destroyed, but instead find themselves separated, and Violet freed from it’s influence.  Quick thinking by Vi not only keeps her from being annihilated, but keeps the power of the eye out of Mordru’s hands.


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 After the threat of Mordru is taken down, Violet returns to the Legion, which cautiously accepts her back into the fold.  The self-assuredness that came with the Emerald Eye sticks around, but Violet finds herself tempted once again as the Eye returns to try and restart their partnership. 
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Violet pushes the Eye away by sheer force of will (and have you ever noticed that in comics, the more evil a woman gets, the less clothing she wears?  The only real exception to this rule is Dark Phoenix, who went from a micromini to a full-body catsuit with sash, but that’s another universe, and also beside the point…) and once again finds the strength she needs within herself.  She asks out Chuck Taine (the hero formerly known as Bouncing Boy pre-boot) and does something that she never would have done pre-possession, acting on her own romantic urges…


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Triad AND Violet.  Who knew that Bouncing Boy had it going on?  Either way, Violet’s changes aren’t limited to a new frame of mind.  Her battle with the Eye has left her with a new shock of green hair (which, honestly, is pretty hideous with her two-tone purple costume) and a new set of somewhat familiar powers…


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Shades of the Composite Legionnaire, eh?  Rechristened LeViathan, the newly-gigantic Vi joins the team’s forefront combat presence, standing with Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Andromeda and Thunder on the rebooted Legion’s combat monster frontline.  With her new attitude firmly in place (“new,” of course, being a relative term, since it’s been going on since approximately 1967 or so, but hey, it’s comics) LeViathan becomes a comforting presence in the Legion’s battles.  And, occasionally, a somewhat titillating one, something that Gim Allon never managed to pull of (at least, not for me.)


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I see Naltor, I see Tharr, I see Violet’s underwarr…  Aaaannnnyway, this version of the Legion found itself facing down a new version of the Fatal Five, in the form of the Fatal Five Hundred, consisting of hundreds of duplicates of the Emerald Empress, Validus, Mano, Persuader and Tharok, and they’re forced to join forces with the Titans of the 20th century (with whom they share a member, a young fellow named Connor with a red S on his t-shirt) and find themselves adrift in the timestream.  When last seen, this Legion of Superheroes was lost in time, with Vi acting as one of their anchors, sticking together even in the face of a dissolving reality.  Of course, as we saw a few paragraphs up, even the end of the universe can’t keep a good Legionnaire down, and the LSH once again is reconfigured by the buffeting of the timestream.  In this new reality, a manipulative Brainiac 5 and a bitter Cosmic Boy were in a power struggle for control of the Legion, and new team member Invisible Kid found himself stuck in the middle.  When one of his prevarications is caught, Invisible Kid does the only thing he can: throws the blame.


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Karate Kid’s quiet warning aside, Invisible Kid isn’t sure what to believe, as the rumors of Brainiac’s tiny warrior continue.  When a villain named Elysion threatens the entire team, when all seems completely lost, the Legion is somewhat shocked to find that their urban legend is not only live, she’s mean as hell, and she’s in Elysion’s bloodstream!


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That… is HARDCORE.  Joining her disbelieving comrades, “Atom Girl” helps in the climactic battle to take down the super-separatists known as “Terror Firma.”  Once the battle is over, and everything is back to normal, Invisible Kid thinks that he’s gotten away with it all, until Violet appears, drags him by the neck and dangles him over the streets of Metropolis, demanding in her demure way, an apology.


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A horrified Invisible Kid isn’t sure how to answer, since the crazy woman is mere inches from splattering him all over the pavement, and he doesn’t have his flight ring.  Luckily for Mr. Norg, this version of Shrinking Violet has the tenacity of the two previous incarnations, with a wicked sense of humor besides…


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Heh.  The new version of Violet is one of the things that works whole-heartedly for me in this somewhat problematic new LSH,  as she is considered one of the most dangerous and deadly Legionnaires of them all.  No matter the incarnation, no matter the orientation, Shrinking Violet has proven herself to be almost impossibly loyal, with the ability to rise to any challenge and overcome it by sheer force of will.  Her power is designed to allow her to pass unseen, to slip between the very bonds of molecules, but the one thing that Shrinking Violet won’t countenance is being ignored.  Whether big or small, green or purple or (laird help us all) both, Shrinking Violet proves once again that you don’t have to be the super-confident, infallible likes of Cosmic Boy or Saturn Girl to have something to offer…  Sometimes all you have to do is be willing to try.

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**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:

Andromeda
Blok
Bouncing Boy
Brainiac 5
Chameleon Boy
Chemical King
Colossal Boy
Dawnstar
Dream Girl
Element Lad
Ferro Lad
Gates
Invisible Kid
Karate Kid
Kinetix
Kent Shakespeare
Lightning Lass
Matter-Eater Lad
Mon-El
Sensor Girl
Star Boy
Supergirl
Sun Boy
Tellus
Thunder
Timber Wolf
Triplicate Girl
Tyroc
Ultra Boy
Wildfire
XS

Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ‘em all!  Next time:  I don’t have to actually GO back to 1961, as the retcon does it for me!  Join us for the tangled history of the Soul of Antares and those who later bore his name, as we go in-depth on the Cullen siblings, both known to the world as…  Kid Quantum!