Or – “The Legion’s Impulsive Heart…”
And here we are, at the beginnings of the whole shebang.Â The three kids who started it all, who leapt into action to save the life of a stranger because they had the ability to do so.Â The founding members of the Legion represent an interesting triad, a study in contrasts.Â The studious, internally focused blonde whose powers are completely covert in nature.Â The charismatic, team-oriented dark-haired one, whose abilities represent the ability to shape, to change, to manipulate.Â The quick-to-action red-haired one, whose powers channel the destructive forces of nature.Â Imra as commanding mother figure, Rokk as guiding big brother, but where does that leave today’s entrant?Â A founding member, a powerhouse of the early team, but never quite comfortable in his own skin, his battles with his family (and, indeed, with himself) are as legendary as his clashes with any other opponent.Â Sometimes called the unluckiest Legionnaire, he nonetheless has been an anchor of all incarnations of the team to date.Â This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Garth Ranzz of Winath…Â Lightning Lad!
The story of Lightning Lad takes us to the earliest point of Legion of Super-Heroes history, their very first appearance in the 20th Century, as a young Clark Kent makes his way through Smallville of an afternoon, only to find himself taunted by a strange red-haired boy…
“In the future, we will wear our names on the front of our shirts in order to better identify ourselves, for it is bright and shiny there…”Â The three kids brush off their horrific cruelty with a laugh and a smile, and proceed to tell Clark that they want him to prove himself worthy of joining their group by competing best out of three with Rokk, Imra and Garth.Â But one by one, these founding Legionnaires use their powers to show up Tom Welling in more and more impressive ways.
He is tricked into failing his tasks, but it turns out the the LSHers were just tugging on his invulnerable cape, and offer him membership anyway.Â A few months later, Clark is stunned to find that the kids from the future are back in the past, but this time they’re even meaner than they were the first time.Â Garth, for his part, makes a much-needed tonsorial change from his red and green parachute pants to what would become his regular heroic togs.
With a series of powerful displays, the Legion turns the entire town of Smallville against Tom Welling, only to reveal that they were trying to get him to quit before he seemingly lost his mind and performed several destructive acts as seen on their history tapes.Â When the Leigon returns to their own time, their leader, Saturn Girl begins behaving very oddly, indeed, ordering the team’s members to stop using their powers since they can’t do it to her stringent specifications.Â Lightning Lad figures it all out though: Imra was trying to keep the members of the team from making a fatal sacrifice to stop Zaryan the conqueror…
Garth succumbs to his injuries, dying (or, per some accounts, falling into a death-like coma) in the arms of the woman who tried so hard to keep him alive.Â Even this early in their history, the Legion’s fame is such that Lightning Lad’s death leads to galaxy-wide mourning…
I’m not entirely sure that I’d be surprised at the answer, having read that panel, but I suppose there were fewer examples of heroes coming back from the dead in 1961 then there are now.Â The Legionnaires scatter to the four corners of the universe, searching for something, anything that might restore their friend to life, but but even their might powers fail…Â or so it would seem.
Mon-El has a fine reason for lying about it all, as it turns out he DID find a way to resurrect their lost hero friend, but (as readers of the Lightning Saga can tell you) at great cost…
The Legionnaires, being little more than kids themselves, feel the bonds of friendship so intensely that they’re willing to risk their own lives to save the life of Lightning Lad, a testament to the impact that Garth made on his teammates.Â The ritual is completed, and Saturn Girl is struck by the bolt of lightning and falls dead…
This moment is the subject of much discussion late, so make a mental note of it now.Â This marks a turning point in the lives of the Legion as well, with the kids of the future entering into some pretty heady territory, facing life and death situations, growing into their roles as protectors of the galaxy.Â When an alien beastie known colloquially as “The Super Moby Dick of Space” runs rampant, Lightning Lad bravely takes the creature on solo, and pays the consequences of his heroism…
Man, don’t you hate it when telepathic winged whales shoot lightning bolts into your arm and give you gangrene?Â That’s worse than when you drive a scale model of the Eiffel Tower up your nose…Â I hate when that happens.Â The cruiser’s autopilot delivers Garth home, but the news is grim.
Filled with a mighty rage, Garth ignores his doctor’s orders and heads back out into battle with the monster that cost him his arm.Â Obsessed with revenge like a cosmic Captain Ahab, (hence the whole “Super Moby Dick” thing) Lightning Lad seemingly gives in to his thirst for revenge…
Turns out that Lanphier CREATED the creature, accidentally mutating it from tiny harmless thingy to marauding titan of the galactic spaceways, and that Lightning Lad knew his electricity could reverse the effects.Â Of course, the question of why he would keep that information secret remains unanswered, but still…Â A short time later, the Legionnaires are menaced by a powerful villain known only as Starfinger, whose powers make him a match for nearly the whole team.Â When they finally figure out a way to stop him, the Legionnaires are stunned to see who is under the mask of Starfinger.
It is discovered that Starfinger is really Lars Hanscomb, a minor crimelord whose only real power is overly complicated schemes, and who is quickly and easily taken down by Kal-El.Â Lightning Lad’s mind is restored to him (or is it?) and he returns to duty with the Legion, only to find himself drawn even more to the wiles of Saturn Girl…
The Legionnaire couple decide to get married, even though the Legion constitution strictly forbids married members from active duty, but Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are willing to give up their heroic careers to be together…
The whole thing is revealed to be a ruse, to open membership slots so that a group of spies could infiltrate the team, and the foursome reveals that their nuptuals are a ruse to draw the infiltrators out into the open.Â But, as Lightning Lad returns to active duty, he finds that sometimes, you can’t unring a bell…
With his romance firmly cemented by this experience, Lightning Lad returns to active duty with the Legion, facing down threats like Universo, Computo, and Evillo.Â (Catastropho and Horrific-Personal-Hygeino were busy that week…)Â And even though he only had one arm, Garth didn’t let any villain get the best of him.
The battle with Evillo had unforeseen positive consequences for Lighting Lad, as Dr. Zan Orbal is so grateful to be freed from the control of Evillo that he rewards the Legionnaires with the fruits of his vast knowledge.
The Legionnaires are pretty impressive when they go all out like that, huh?Â Ironically, the story of how Lightning Lad got his powers didn’t first get told by Garth himself, but instead first appeared (at least first I can find) in a tale of the future Adult Legion of Super-Villains, narrated by his evil brother, Lightning Lord.
The brothers Ranzz were irradiated with the lightning, and given their electrical powers thanks to the Korballians creatures, wearing identical versions of Garth’s later costume (without the lightning bolts.)Â However, the next time the tale was told thereÂ were some slight changes, including the addition of another Ranzz sibling...
You also get the origin of the entire Legion there, a double bonus page!Â Beat that, Onion AV Club!Â HA!Â Now, where were we?Â Oh, right.Â Ranzz siblings…Â With the revelation that evil doppelganger Lightning Lord is actually Garth’s big brother, the Legion is witness to sibling rivarly on an epic scale.
As with many of us, Garth has a weak spot when it comes to his family, and over the years, it seems that big brother Mekt is the one thing that can always turn him from the stolid, dependable founding Legionnaire into a loose cannon, as evidenced a few years later, when he recieves a mysterious message at Legion headquarters…
Karate Kid’s vacation is put on hold, as Garth impulsively steals the ship, and rockets away to a particular sector of space, and it is revealed that the message he recieved was a remembrance of the anniversary of his parents’ death.Â Garth heads to the site of their fatal accident, only to find that he’s not alone.
For all the rage that he channeled into his brother, Lightning Lad still found himself capable of more controlled emotions, including his ever-growing adoration for his beloved Imra.Â As happened years before, Garth and Imra found themselves considering the possibility of marriage, even if it means the end of their Legion careers.
Saturn Girl’s plan is the kind of thing the Legion is known for, a complicated scheme by which she and Garth plug their minds into a complex computer simulation to see if they’re really compatible, or if they’re just a flash in the pan crush…
Is it just me, or do they look like Meg Ryan and Mark Hamill in that image?Â Weird…Â With the computer proving how simpatico the twosome are, Garth and Imra finally take that last step, gathering all the Legionnaires, the Subs, and various hangers-on in Legion Plaza to witness something that has only happened once before…Â A Legion wedding.
I’m quite angry that my wife refused to wear replicas of those wedding clothes at our own nuptuals, but we all live with our little disappointments…Â like the disappointment Lightning Lad felt when, rather than escaping to their honeymoon, the couple is captured by moon aliens and threatened with death.
The Legionnaires travel through time, space, and dimension, battling to the ends of the universe and defeating the Time Trapper himself in order to save Garth and Imra (and reset the timestream anomaly that created alien mooninites, presumably, as they’ve never been heard of since.)Â Upon returning from their honeymoon, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad find that the very Legion constitution they helped to write means that they’re being drummed out of service…
Garth and Imra left the Legion briefly, but were quickly called back into action (along with fellow married Legionnaires Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel) during an interstellar war with the Khunds, and their assistance was so key that the team thought fit to revisit their statute against married members…
Soon after, the Legion held another of their periodic elections, this one a controversial battle between Brainiac 5 and Wildfire, during which both Legionnaires fought hard, Wildfire to retain his incumbent role as leader, and Brainiac to finally attain control of the team.Â Their competition became so heated that the Legionnaires chose to pull a Ross Perot, exercising their third option…
Lightning Lad’s tenure as Legion leader was immediately marred by the revelation that Brainy has gone insane, creating the Omega monster to kill his Legion partners, Matter-Eater Lad loses his sanity, Ultra Boy is framed for murder, then seemingly killed, RJ Brande loses his vast fortune, The Dark Man nearly destroyed the Legion, Tom Welling became Reflecto through a complicated series of events, and Shrinking Violet is replaced by a Durlan spy.Â It’s not the best year in the Legion’s history, in other words, and Lightning Lad blames himself for things getting out of control…
The team is thrown into the midst of the chaos that was the Great Darkness Saga, and Lightning Lad barely had a moment to gather his thoughts when his most implacable foe returned…Â big brother Lightning Lord.Â Mekt attacks while Saturn Girl is undergoing testing with Doctor Gym’ll on satellite Medicus One…
With his beloved wife injured, Lightning Lad again lets his usual restraint go, confronting his rogue sibling at full power, no holds barred, unleashing the fury of the storm within him…Â Matching lightning for lightning, Garth manages to hold up his end of the battle, again defeating his brother in combat, allowing Imra to shut down Mekt’s evil mind…
With Lightning Lord in custody, the twosome returns to Legion duty, but the results of the testing for which they initially consulted Doctor Gym’ll are in, and Lightning Lad’s role is about to change forever…
Garth accompanies Imra to every medical exam, acting always as the dedicated husband and would-be father, which leads to his being on Medicus One again, meeting Imra’s new caregiver, one Doctor Larsh…
Of course, you might have guessed from the above sequence that the good doctor is slightly more than he seems to be.Â Once again, Lightning Lad has fallen under the hypnotic sway of the villain with reasts on his mask… Starfinger!Â Of course, he’s not a kid anymore, and being married to the world’s most powerful telepath has it’s priveleges.
Lightning Lad gives “Larsh” a 200-volt wakeup call, then races to the side of Imra as she gives birth to their child.Â Thanks to the twin menaces of Darkseid and Mordru, the Ranzzes first baby is born under a pall of complete darkness, part of the “curse of Darkseid” (about which more next time.)
With the birth of his child, Graym,Â and renewed affections for Imra, Garth remembers the simple, farm upbringing that his own beloved parents gave him, and realizes that the life of a Legionnaire is not one that lends itself easily to family.Â After discussing the situation with Saturn Girl, (and a coincidental moment of zen for Cosmic Boy) Garth and his fellow foundersÂ bring a surprise to Legion leader Element Lad…
Garth and Imra leave the Legion and embark upon the adventure of parenthood together, but a couple of surprises await the former Lightning Lad.Â The first comes when it is discovered that (as is the norm with births on his home planet of Winath) his son is actually a twin, and that their second child was snatched by Darkseid at the moment of his birth andÂ suffered a fate somewhat worse than deathÂ (again, I’ll cover that soon, promise.)Â The second comes when Imra is pulled back to active duty by a crisis involving Universo, and remains on the duty roster with the Legion, leaving Garth as a house-husband.Â It’s a role that he finds oddly appealling…
With both their kids at home, Garth is happy to live the family life, when the events known as the Magic Wars throw the entire United Planets into chaos.Â The galactic economy collapses, and Earthgov (secretly controlled by Dominators) harasses the Legion into non-existence.Â Worst of all, the real secret of Darkseid’s curse is revealed to be a disease, a plague carried by the Ranzzes second son because of his transformation by the scion of Apokalips.Â Garth contracts the disease, and is scarred for it, leaving him with a mostly useless arm and a pronounced limp.Â Officially out of the hero business, the Ranzzes resettle on Winath and start their own agrarian empire.
Embracing the ways of his home planet, Garth easily settles back into a daily routine as farmer, enjoying the serenity that comes with life on Winath.Â For several years, the family gets to live a relatively normal existence, growing things, raisin’ their twins, and basically being the Waltons 2099.Â In fact, if you discount purchasing all the monuments from Legion headquarters and relocating them to a quiet grove on the farm, Garth Ranzz manages better than most LSHers to adjust to normalcy.Â But, once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire, and when Roxxas the butcher murders former Legionnair Blok, Garth finds himself once more drawn into bits of Legionnaire business.
This butchery by Roxxas is the catalyst that brings a new Legion back together, with founding member Cosmic Boy (sans powers, though) at their helm.Â Garth is content to provide financial support where he can, and an occasional haven for the team when they need a quiet place to heal up.Â During the course of these “Five Years Later” adventures, the Legion learns of the existence of ANOTHER Legion, the SW6 batch, seemingly clones of the team from years earlier, including Lightning Lad himself.Â When the new heroes come out of hiding, they form a second team, calling themselves the Legionnaires.Â But all of the elder Legion members are surprised at how agressive and reckless the younger Lightning Lad (calling himself ((ugh)) Live Wire) is…
His fly-off-the-handle routine isn’t just saved for perps and villains, either, as young Live Wire is even a reckless jerk with his own best friends…
Naturally, as we’ve seen, this behavior really doesn’t seem much like the Garth Ranzz we’ve come to know over the decades, the Garth who was so concerned with the Legion’s well-being that he resigned as leader rather than be an anchor holding the team down.Â There’s a reason for that, a reason that even telepathic wifey is unaware of.
The little alien blobs are Proteans.Â You remember Proteans, right?Â One of them gave his life to return Garth from the grave waaaay back during the earliest days of the team?Â Of course, this is the Legion of Super-Heroes, and things are seldom exactly what they seem…
Clandestine meetings with snot blobs are weird, even for a Legionnaire, and Garth realizes that it’s time to make a decision.Â The Proteans have come to recruit him for a secret mission, a mission that will reclaim “The Soul of Antares,” also known as former Legionnaire Kid Quantum the first, and return the rest of the Protean race to sentience.Â But why would the artist formerly known as Lightning Lad have anything to say about Proteans, you ask?
Because he is one.Â Or, to be more accurate, he was one before a lightning bolt transferred his consciousness into the body of Garth Ranzz.Â In this reality (which I should point out no longer exists due to the changes in Legion history during Infinite/Countdown/Final Crisis) it was Proty who returned to the Legion, Proty who wooed Saturn Girl, Proty who lived through the history of the Legion, and Proty who became the successful businessman and father.Â Twin sister Ayla discovers the truth from this meeting, but keeps his secret, and Garth and Imra welcome a second set of twins into their family…
Soon after this shocking (no pun intended) revelation comes to light, the Legion(s) are faced with a crisis of epic proportions, as a series of events in the 20th century (mostly involved Hank Hall and Hal Jordan futzing with the timestream) lead to waves of chronal energy tearing apart the Legion’s world.Â Garth is pulled back into LSH business, as the teams realize that having two Legions is part of the reason that time is broken…
The teams try to stop whatever force is unraveling their worlds, but repeatedly fail.Â One by one, they’re blipped out of existence, as the world comes apart around them, until only Garth, Imra, Rokk, and their duplicates are left…
The Legionnaires, based on supposition and Brainiac 5 thinking, realize that they’ve been split rather than clones, that the dual existence of two time-tossed Legions is what is causing the havoc, and they know what they have to do.Â The 30th century ends as it began, with three hopeful kids trying to do what’s right, and Garth finally voices the truth about his lifelong misfortunes…
The 30th Century as it was ceases to be, and the timestream knits itself back together.Â But the universe seems to know that something is missing, and as happened before, a young man named Garth sets out from a backwater farming planet to find his fortune on Earth…
Imra’s telepathy, Garth’s lightning casting, and Rokk’s magnetic prowess manage to foil the plans of the would-be assassins with a quickness, and the threesome finds that working together feels very natural to them, as if they had done it for years in some alternate reality…
Garth and his pals are once again given funding by RJ Brande, once again launched into careers of heroism, once again becoming the nucleus of a superteam (and once again using the awful sobriquet of “Live Wire,” which I will be ignoring as is my wont) called the Legion of Super-Heroes.Â But this Garth, like his earlier SW6 counterpart, is somewhat of a loose cannon, and causes tremendous amounts of property damage with his powers…
Lightning Lad/Live Wire quites the Legion for a couple of reasons…Â First, his relationship with Saturn Girl was in a rocky patch.Â Second, his home planet of Winath replaced him as their Legion draftee, replacing him with his own twin sister, Ayla.Â And third, he wasn’t making much headway in his search for long-lost brother Mekt, the secret reason that he left Winath in the first place.Â Garth finds a place, temporarily, in the pet super team of RJ Brande’s arch-rival Leland McCauley, but finds the Work Force not to his liking either.
Blowing things up and stalking away becomes a way of life with Lightning Lad in the reboot continuity, you’ll notice.Â Garth returns to the Legion, more successfully this time, and even finally seeks out lost sibling Mekt, now calling himself the Lightning Lord.Â The Ranzz brothers do battle, and echoes of a long-lost past are heard as Mekt literally disintegrates his baby brother’s arm.
As much as I like the symmetry of evil sibling blah blah blah fishcakes, I kind of miss the epic scope of the Super-Moby Dick of Space.Â Everybody has their pecadilloes, I guess.Â Given a special robot arm that can handle his lightning powers, Garth comes back to the Legion, and when half the team is lost in time, is voted in as Legion leader…
The teams are eventually reunited, and Garth rebuilds his relationship with Saturn Girl (though it never seems to be the deep love affair that they had pre-Crisis, a factor I attribute partly to the Proty switch, though I am biased.)Â The team eventually runs afoul of a Borg/Cybermen-like group of aliens known as the Blight, whose influence nearly destroys the U.P, and colapses the Stargate network that keep the planets united.Â Garth, along with a dozen of his teammates, is thrown outside the universe by the collapsing stargates, presumed dead, a Legion Lost.
There’s irony here , in Lightning Lad confiding in Phantom Girl while in the lost Galaxy, a long story we’ll get to in short order, but the basic gist of it all is that Garth really wants to be with Imra, together as they should be.Â The team ends up allying with a race called the Kwai (of which Legionnaire Shikari is a member) and confronting a group of puritan schmuckos called the Progeny and their mysterious unseen leader, the Progenitor.Â When the Progenitor is found, he turns out to be Legionnaire Element Lad, driven mad by billions of years of isolation.Â The Legion must find a way to stop one of their own, grown incredibly powerful, and they realize that not everyone will make it out alive…
The team puts together a plan, a Hail Mary that will destroy the gateway, kill the Progenitor AND get them all home.Â Small problem: somebody has to close the door from the OUTSIDE.Â After a short discussion, Garth ends the speculation with a bolt of lightning and a personal sacrifice…
The team is catapulted back home, and founding member Lightning Lad becomes the newest statue in their hall of deceased heroes.Â But it takes a lot more than death to keep a man like Garth Ranzz doewn.Â He beat the reaper before, and sees no reason not to do it again…Â
Pre-Crisis, Garth’s resurrection left another soul in his body.Â Post-Crisis, Garth’s sould is resurrected in the body of another.Â Symmetry, anyone?Â It should be noted, however, that returning to life in the body of an old friend now universally reviled as a mass-murdering #&$!-head is not the ideal return from the pale, and Garth finds it all a bit complicated…
When an alien race called The Credo arrive to take the Progenitor into custody, Lightning Lad is again forced to make a hard, seemingly fatal decision, turning himself over to them to save his teammates.Â Team leader Kid Quantum II doesn’t want to accept his sacrifice, but Garth proves to be even harder headed than the crystalline body he inhabits…
Live Wire successfully defeates the Credo by channeling the transmutation powers of Element Lad, and turning them all to crystal, and even reunites with his lost love, Saturn Girl in the wake of this adventure.Â Almost immediately afterward, though, the team is torn apart by a battle with the Fatal Five, during which the Persuader learns how to cut through dimensions of space.Â FAced with a Fatal Five Hundred, the Legion teams with the Teen Titans of the 20th century, but are torn free of reality in so doing.Â The entire team is hurtled through empty void, and the 30th century again resets itself.Â Again.Â And once again, the Legion of Super-Heroes is founded by a cool-headed telepath from Titan, a capable magnetic leader from Braal, and a young hothead from Winath, and once again Garth Ranzz shows himself to be a force to be reckoned with…
This Threebooted Legion is immediately thrown into utter chaos, facing menace after menace, in Terror Firma, the Wanderers, the Dominators, a time-lost Supergirl, and more.Â But, when quintessential leader Cosmic Boy is lost in time, Brainiac 5 again begins bucking for Legion membership, and as before, the team responds by… electing somebody else entirely.
Garth’s leadership of the team has started out somewhat unsteady, but he continues to grow into the role by admitting his weaknesses and working to strengthen them.Â Garth Ranzz, in any incarnation, has been the heart of the Legion, the hero who acts and reacts with his gut, making the hard calls on his instincts.Â He has refused to be beaten, even when his identity, his body, his life was compromised.Â He repeatedly showed that he was willing to give his life for the greater good of the team, or if a teammate was in danger.Â Throughout the various Legion histories, it’s Garth who balances his founding teammates, offsetting Imra’s logical and ordered reality, and making sure that Cosmic Boy’s inherent fairness isn’t overwhelmed by those who would take advantage of it.Â One of the first team members to marry, the first Legionnaire to become a father, (unless those rumors about Ultra Boy were true) he is also one of the only members to be truly successful in a role other than that of hero.Â Lightning Lad shows the heart of the Legion, as it was hisÂ initial deathÂ that opened the door for the more adult tales and the more realistic consequences to come, and in a very real way, changedÂ The Legion and our concept of superheroicsÂ forever…
**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:
Invisible Kid II
Karate Kid II
The White Witch
Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all!Â Next time: behind every good man is a great woman.Â In this case, she wasn’t willing to STAY behind.Â A competent female leader in an era where there were few females at ALL, she was strong enough to keep the Legion in line, smart enough to be two steps ahead of the villains, and woman enough to wear a pink pleather dominatrix outfit in public.Â Her friends sometimes called her “Iron-Butt,” but you know her better as…Â Saturn Girl!