Hero History: Saturn Girl

by

Or – “The Brains Of The Outfit…”

So, last week (theoretically) we looked at the emotional center of the founding Legionnaires, this time around we look at the woman whose strength of will in many ways defined the team.  She is one of the strongest characters in the Legion (perhaps one of the strongest in her world’s history) yet her powers are entirely subtle in nature.  Like her namesake planet, she is an axis around which the LSH rotates, as much a cornerstone of the team as Brainiac 5 or Tom Welling, and she personifies the Legion in ways that no other character can.  One of the team’s first leaders, she was among the first Legionnaires to marry, among the first to start a family, and when everyone on the team was half-naked, she joined in and dressed like Strawberry Shortcake if she were a dominatrix.  Occasionally hard to understand, but always impossible to overlook, she represents Legion’s iron will.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Irma Ardeen Ranzz of Titan…  Saturn Girl! 

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Once again, we head back to that fateful day, when a young Tom Welling flew through the skies of Smallville, only to find a group of strangers taunting him at every turn, aware of his double identity and every aspect of his life.  This is the moment where (for Kal-el, and for fans of the Legion) everything changed.

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Thankfully for Tom, and for the future of the universe, the Legionnaires weren’t out to expose him, or sell Lana to a white slavery ring, but instead had come to honor him…  With cruelty, and lots of it, just like my family (every Thanksgiving, we emotionally and verbally abuse each other until someone has a nervous breakdown, and then we have pie.)  Inviting him back to the future, the team introduces him to their teammates (early Legion history gets a bit complicated, don’t ask) and offers him membership in the team…  if he can beat them at their own game.

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As is his wont, young Tom Welling figures that his fifty-seven variaties of Kryptonian awesome will easily overcome some chick in a green miniskirt and an Eve Arden hairdo.  Little does the last son of Krypton know, the mighty mind of Irma Ardeen knows of more than one way to skin Streaky the super-cat.

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Bested by Imra (as well as by Rokk and Garth) young Kal-El finds himself rejected for LSH membership, arguing that his powers are too common, but he resorts to some Silver Age trickery, and the kids from the future reveals that it was all a hoax, a little superhuman hazing ritual.  (Thank Rao it didn’t get to the paddling and drinking game portion of the program.)  A few months later, when the Legionnaires once again return to the twilight world of “About Ten Years Ago” in which Tom Welling eternally dwells, the team has a much less cordial approach, including a bit of flat-out 30th century venom from the girl from Titan, pun fully intended.

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In this, her second appearance, Imra has changed her costume to the familiar fuschia/pink and white color scheme that would define her for five more decades and three distinct universes.  This story likewise has a twist at the end (one which we’ll get too sooner than I’d like to think about) leaving Tom once again in the good graces of the super-teens from the future.  As for Saturn Girl, she is established clearly as a hero as competent as her male counterparts.  When SuperMAN heads into the future to meet his grown-up Legion friends (as part of a scheme by cousin Supergirl to find his one true love) he finds a full-grown Imra to be as capable as ever, and moreover, pretty damned irresistable.

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Y’know, for a man who has a girlfriend in Metropolis, Superman spent a lot of time bussing random chicks, didn’t he?  Either way, grown-up Saturn Woman is revealed to have a HUSBAND, in the form of a grown up Lightning Man, the first hints or romance between the Legion’s super-couple.  In a time-twist worthy of the lovechild of Rod Serling and Rip Hunter, Supergirl later finds herself meeting the Legion for the first time in a story that has to take place BEFORE the team’s first appearance in her cousin’s book two years earlier.  Time travel sure will have been hard to have once been writing about, doesn’t it used to be?

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Mirroring (or, to be more precise, presaging) their pranks upon the initation of Kal-El, the female members of the Legion play a series of sorority pranks on Supergirl that lead to her not being able to join the team (since red Kryptonite made her physically age to adulthood)  allowing Saturn Girl’s playful side again takes the forefront.  But our young lass from Titan has a serious side as well, and a keen mind underneath those blonde locks.  Take, f’rinstance the hard case of Mon-El, trapped in the Phantom Zone for 1000 years (longer than anyone has ever been gone before!)  Was is the computerized medulla oblongata of Brainiac 5 who could free him?  Or the evanescant grey matter of one Invisible Kid?  How about the yellow-sun fueled axons of Tom Welling?  No, no, no, faithful Spoilerite, only one Legionnaire had the wherewithal to unravel the millenium-long torment of Dax favorite son, and she did it backwards, in heels, so to speak.

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“Yeah, I  got bored one day, and whipped up this formula that no one had been able to put together in a thousand freakin’ years.  I also proofed Fermat’s Last Theorem, and it turns out he misplaced a decimal point.  Who knew?  Anybody want brownies?”  Saturn Girl’s talents are only eclipsed by her modesty, but tragedy soon loomed on the horizon for our founding Legionnaire, encapsulated in the form of a strange probe that fell from the sky one morning…

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What sort of message could be in such a probe?  Why would Saturn Girl destroy it upon reading?  Why would it be important that the thing fell on the morning of elections for Legion leader?  And what about Naomi?  (Foreshadowing: Your Key To Quality Literature, Even In The Silver Age.)

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By manipulating the other Legionnaires’ minds, Imra easily wins the election, becoming the team’s second leader.  Before the members can even deal with this revelation (including the unusual precedent of voting for herself) Saturn Girl immediately putting the Legionnaires through their paces, drilling them on techniques, powers, and feats of superhuman prowess, suspending any hero from Legion duties when they failed to meet her incredibly high standards.  Eventually, only Saturn Girl herself is left, and the team thinks that she’s just basically a Saturn Bitch.  When Zaryan the Conqueror finally arrives, only Imra faces him, until Lightning Lad disobeys her orders to protect her, and is dealt a fatal wound…  But, in his final moments, it turns out that Lightning Lad knows why Imra has been so harsh. 

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Satrun Girl chose to die for her friends and teammates, even going against her own instincts and manipulating election results so that she would HAVE to be the one to make the ultimate sacrifice, but she forgot to factor in one thing: the love of Lightning Lad.  Garth dies, but if you’re a regular reader, you know that it didn’t stick, and they renewed their subtle teenage love affair upon his return from the dead.  Saturn Girl earns the respect of villains and teammates alike (even getting the not-entirely-joking nickname of “Iron Butt Imra”) and continues to show her cleverness and resourcesfulness on mission after mission.  She’s even re-elected Legion leader due entirely to her cleverness and skill. 

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Saturn Girl’s strong hand and cool head defines what the job of Legion leader entails, and sets the tone for all leaders to come.  Soon after the end of her second term as leader, Saturn Girl and the Legion encounter one of the strangest creatures of all, one who (unbeknownst to her) would become incredibly important in the years to come, a monstrously powerful thing whose super-powers seem strangely…  familiar.

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Validus fires mental lightning, you say?  Hmmm…  That’s an odd super-powered combination, isn’t it?  And why does that sound oddly familiar?  As the Legion matures, the members of the team also do so, growing and changing.  For her part, Imra makes adjustments to her wardrobe that indicate that she, too, is maturing and changing, taking on the costume that redefined her superhero persona, and helped to usher in an era during which the Legionnaires looked futuristic and mostly naked.

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Even though her tastes in clothing may have changed, the heroism of Saturn Girl does not.  She’s still one of the toughest members of the Legion, a capable hero in her own right, even willing to risk her own life to save the well-being of one of her partners (who, by the way, is INVULNERABLE?)

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Saturn Girl survives this encounter, and as the Legion enters the 2970′s, becomes one of the mainstays of the team.  Her relationship with Lightning Lad continues to deepen and evolve, and she provides him with support and assistance during his ill-fated run as Legion leader.  Their partnership took on a more literal meaning when she and Garth (as well as other Legion couple Shrinking Violet and Colossal Boy) were merged into one giant composite creature sharing a single mind and an appetite for destruction.

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I think the best thing about that creature is Imra’s eyeshadow on that one eye.  This unprecedented level of intimacy led Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad to a new stage of their relationship, one where they actually considered being completely bonded again, this time in matrimony.  The greatest problem with that?  The Legion Constitution (which, ironically, the two of them helped to write and shape) forbids married heroes from active membership.  Saturn Girl found herself forced to choose between the life she built for herself for years, a life she earned with heroic act after heroic act, and the man she has chosen to love…

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Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl return to her home of Titan, where a helpful oldster offers them a chance to see if their love is more important than the Legion.  Linking their minds telepathically through a “senso-comp,” the future duo finds themselves in an imaginary landscape gone mad.

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Their ordeal convinces Imra of the truth.  No matter how important her membership in the Legion is, her love for Garth is more so.  She accepts his proposal, and the couple prepares for their nuptuals, regardless of the Legion’s constitutional codes.  The Legion of Super-Heroes prepares for it’s second wedding (the first having come when Bouncing Boy wed Duo Damsel months earlier.)

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Though the events of their honeymoon are a bit sketchy (since the version of it we saw was in an alternate universe, due to the interference of the ominous purple bedsheet known as the Time Trapper) it is clear that Imra knows she made the right choice.  Upon their return to the LSH, the two founders are greeted by their partner in crime, and a formal ceremony is held removing them from active duty…

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Cosmic Boy’s gift turns out to be short-lived and somewhat unnecessary, as the galactic upheaval known as Earthwar breaks open soon after, and war with the Khunds is narrowly averted.  During the battle, Imra, Garth, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel return to action.  The Legion’s code is altered in the wake of these events, allowing Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad to return to active duty.  In the unstable universe that followed, Imra’s strong hand and telepathy were more useful than ever.  When Chameleon Boy initiates a poorly planned excursion into Khundish space, however, Imra finds herself troubled in ways that no Legion of Super-Villains or Mordru could.  When she and Timber Wolf believe that they’re going to die, they share an almost-moment of inappropriateness…

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Imra’s moment of weakness doesn’t last, and she and Garth reunite happily (though his twin sister’s relationship with Timber Wolf is destroyed.)  Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad, while Legionnaires, are still a married couple, and freely enjoy those things that married couples enjoy.  And, you know what that leads to…

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Her pregnancy is one of the few times that we ever see Saturn Girl at less than her best, as complications with the Winathian/Titanian hybrids give her issues, as well as a lingering curse from Darkseid of Apokalips that no one really understands.  On the eve of her birth, in the midst of hard labor, the curse of Darkseid kicks in, but even this strangeness can’t throw the disciplined mind of Saturn Girl from her focus.

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The delivery, while a bit odd, goes as well as one might expect, and Imra gives birth to a perfect healthy son, Graym.  She and Lightning Lad leave active duty again to raise their beloved child, but the lingering curse of the scion of Apokalips returns to plague the Legion, a promise to corrupt that which they held most dear.  When the monster Validus returned again, only Saturn Girl’s powers (combined with the love of a mother) could unravel what it was that ol’ Stone-Face really meant. 

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The secret of Validus and his mental lightning revealed, Saturn Girl realizes that the innocence Darkseid stole was her son (remember, Winathians almost always are born in pairs.)  What would you do in a situation where Darkseid was manipulating your life?  Would you cower?  Would you panic?  Would you CONFRONT THE LORD OF DARKNESS IN HIS OWN LAIR, AND DEMAND YOUR SON BACK?  Guess what Imra did?

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Fear simply isn’t in her vocabulary.  Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad once again return to detached duty, now raising TWO sons together, but (as always) Legion business popped up to interfere with their simple life.  This time, the interruption came when Imra awoke one morning to realize that Universo had successfully taken over the world, and that she (and the galaxy, the U.P. and the Legion itself) were just catspaws in his grasp.  But Vidar hadn’t counted on the unbreakable will of Titan’s favorite daughter.

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Discovering Dream Girl, she quickly finds Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy likewise trapped in Universo’s remote gulag, their minds reverted to nearly functionless drone-states.  The foursome manages, through guile, trickery, smarts, and force of will to escape and confront the would-be power-monger in his own lair.  Faced with the powers of Ultra Boy, Blok, Mon-El and the most powerful Legionnaires, Saturn Girl does the unthinkable.  She simply switches their minds off…  But is she powerful enough to face down an amplified Universo’s hypnotic prowess?

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Can she do it?  Will she do it?  Is even her power, her spirit, her iron core enough to resist Universo’s overwhelming power?  Will Saturn Girl finally fall?  Can she resist?  CAN SHE RESIST THE JOLLY, CANDY-LIKE BUTTON THAT EVEN NOW BECKONS HER TO PUSH, PUSH IT NOW?  What do you think?

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Damn skippy, she can.  Maybe her powers are mental in nature, but Saturn Girl also has a mean right cross.  The Legion’s mnds are freed, and the team returns to duty, rebuilding that which Universo had damaged, with one major adjustment to their roster…

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Back on the team for real this time, leaving Garth to look after the boys, Saturn Girl is quickly drawn into one of the team’s most controversial moments: the conspiracy to avenge the death of Kal-El.  Alongside Mon-El, Rond Vidar, Brainiac 5, and Duo Damsel, Saturn Girl sets forth to find and punish the Time Trapper for his hubris in manipulating and eventually murdering the Boy of Steel.  Even faced with the inhuman powers of the Time Trapper, Imra doesn’t waver.

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All the Legionnaires return from the end of time changed, but Saturn Girl is the one who recovers the quickest, staying with the Legion until constant interference and harassment from Earthgov (manipulated by the Dominators) makes it impossible to do their job.  Saturn Girl retires, with no regrets, and returns with Garth to Winath, where they found the Lightning Ring plantation, growing produce and raising their boys in a sane envirnment.  Even here, though, Imra’s keen mind is essential to day-to-day operations.

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Still a force to be reckoned with, Saturn Girl is very, VERY pregnant at the time when the Legion reforms under the command of Cosmic and Chameleon Boys, a circumstance that keeps her and Garth out of the center of events as the team rebuilds itself.  When more Dominator interference causes the destruction of the fusion powerspheres, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, The Legion is in the thick of things.  Imra and Garth, however, have other priorities…

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Though her SW6 duplicate is reactivated (showing the same strength, and the same indomitable will as the original), Saturn Girl doesn’t return to active duty until the events known as Zero Hour cause the temporal threads of the universe to unravel about them. The two Legions come together to combat the threat, but one by one they fall to temporal anomalies, disappearing from time until only the founding members (including TWO Saturn Girls) are left…

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The sacrifice of the founding Legionnaires allows the 30th Century to reboot itself, mending the various shredded skeins into a new, recognizable but wholly different shade.  In this reality, Imra Ardeen is still tough as nails, still a telepath, but has studied extensively in telepathic operations and has graduated into the ranks of the Science Police.

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Still, just as happened before, she finds herself travelling on the same liner as R.J. Brande, one of the richest men on Earth, as well as a couple of scruffy fellows from the backwater worlds of Braal and Winath, both of whom irritate her with their less-than-subtle come-ons.  When assassins arrive, it is Imra whose powers allow the three would-be-Legionnaires to respond in time…

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As a founding member of the Legion, dubbed Saturn Girl (again, Titan Girl isn’t a bad name, y’know) Imra quickly proves herself invaluable from an intelligence perspective, as well as for the powerful offensive uses of abilities.  When a Durlan known as Composite Man steals the Legion’s powers and runs rampant, it takes a full-on mental merger from Saturn Girl to take him down…

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It is a battle that costs Imra dearly.  Her mind is damaged, and she has to turn to her old mentor for assistance and comfort.  Upon her return to the Legion, the team finds itself split by the power of the Emerald Eye, with several of their number trapped in the 20th Century of the DCU.  Her powers are again invaluable in keeping her teammates together and their spirits high, but something strange starts to happen between Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy…

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It is slowly revealed that something terrible has happened to Cosmic Boy’s mind, leaving him a blank slate, essentially an automaton, manipulated and controlled by the powers of Saturn Girl.  Once he is returned from this state to full mental capacity, she reveals the truth…

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… she only has eyes for Lightning Lad (going by the excrable codename Livewire in this iteration of the team.)  Upon the Legion’s reconstitution, Saturn Girl is elected Deputy leader under Invisible Kid, but it isn’t long before his discomfort with operating in the open becomes too strong, and she is once again given command of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

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She is leader of the team when an attack by the alien Blight leaves the Stargate network shattered, and the Legion under alien control.  The team manages to overcome this new threat, but in so doing, several of the Legionnaires are lost, thrust through time and space to a new world, a Legion Lost.  Saturn Girl initially leads the team, and she does everything in her power to keep them safe and their spirits high…

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Unfortunately, she goes too far, as her subconscious mind creates a Phantom Girl to calm Ultra Boy, and eventually creates the illusion that their teammates have found them.  The Legionnaires at first think that her powers are blocking their way home, but soon the truth becomes obvious…

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Saturn Girl is shaken to her core, her powers having betrayed her for what may be the first time, and resigns leadership to Lightning Lad.  Afterwards, she has another strange semi-moment of weakness (a holdover from her telepathic “affair” with Ultra Boy as the non-existent Phantom Girl.)

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Still, even after her moments of weakness, she is still the strongest mind alive, and proves it again when (this sounds familiar) Universo takes over the world.  In this timeframe, though, Universo is blood, her own cousin, making Imra’s determination to take him down a personal crusade, and she uses every iota of her telepathic power to break his hold on the U.P. and the Legion.

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Her return from the Lost Galaxy left her with the belief that Lightning Lad was dead, but the reality was even more complicated, as her long-lost love is returned to her in the body of the mad Element Lad, now a representation of murder, death, and insanity.  Her discomfort with this, neeedless to say, throws a bit of a wrench in their relationship.  Eventually, though, Imra manages to come to terms with it all, and makes peace with her once and future boyfriend.

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Unfortunately, though, this version of the 30th Century was as susceptible to temporal forces as the first.  When a battle with the Fatal Five changes time, Saturn Girl and her Legion are torn adrift from their universe, causing the 30th Century to reboot itself once more.  Once again, the Legion of Super-Heroes comes together and once again, it’s founding members include the most powerful telepath that Titan has to offer.  In this reality, though, things are darker and considerably more complex than anything that has ever come before…

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This newest Legion faces new challenges, and a world where the line between Legion of Super-Heroes and Legion of Super-Villains is harder to draw, and superhumans run rampant in all directions.  That doesn’t mean, however, that Saturn Girl is any less formidable of a foe…

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In this reality, though, Saturn Girl (though as powerful as ever) isn’t quite the same girl we’ve seen from previous version o the Legion’s reality.  The most important difference isn’t discovered until the team is forced to split up, with her telepathic powers blocked, all of the Legionnaires being tracked by monstrous foes…

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Though this reality’s Saturn Girl hasn’t yet had her Hell, Yeah moment (maybe the Threeboot Universo is a slow starter?) she manages to easily live up to the standard set by her predecessors.  No matter the universe, no matter the haircut, an encounter with Saturn Girl means three things: power, determination, and intelligence that is a cut above your average Lad or Lass.  Saturn Girl’s role in the founding trinity is that of willpower, of strength, of courage, of unwavering drive to succeed, to protect, to better the universe and herself.  More than just a pretty face, Saturn Girl exemplifies the Legion’s credo that the strong must protect the weak, that each of us has a duty to serve a greater good, and that, most of all, EVERYONE has something unique that only they can contribute.

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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
Calamity King
Catspaw
Celeste Rockfish
Chameleon Boy
Chemical King
Chlorophyll Kid
Color Kid
Colossal Boy
Computo
Crystal Kid
Dawnstar
Devlin O’Ryan
Dragonmage
Dream Girl
Duo Damsel
Echo
Elastic Lad
Element Lad
Ferro Lad
Fire Lad
Gear
Gates
Infectious Lass
Insect Queen
Invisible Kid
Invisible Kid II
Karate Kid
Karate Kid II
Kid Psycho
Kid Quantum
Kinetix
Kent Shakespeare
Kono
Laurel Gand
Lightning Lad
Lightning Lass
Magnetic Kid
Magno
Matter-Eater Lad
Mon-El
Monstress
Night Girl
Nightwind
Pete Ross
Phantom Girl
Polar Boy
Porcupine Pete
Princess Projectra
Quislet
Reflecto
Rond Vidar
Sensor Girl
Shadow Lass
Shikari
Shrinking Violet
Star Boy
Stone Boy
Storm Boy
Supergirl
Sun Boy
Tellus
Thunder
Timber Wolf
Triplicate Girl
Tyroc
Ultra Boy
Visi-Lad
Wave
The White Witch
Wildfire
XS

Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ‘em all! In our next outing, the man with the personal magnetism, the leader among leaders, we turn magnetic north to examine the polarity of Braal’s most successful son… Cosmic Boy!