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Lightning Lass

In the 30th century, a group of super powered teenagers banded together to form the Legion of Super Heroes. The Legion were deputized agents of the law and help keep interplanetary peace throughout the United Planets. Two members of this peace keeping force were Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass.

Lightning Lass (Ayla Ranzz) was born on the planet Winath. While traveling with her older brother Mekt and her twin brother Garth, the three experienced problems with their space craft and found it necessary to force a landing on the uninhabited planet of Korbal. The three attempted to have the Lightning Creatures found on Korbal re-charge their ship, but found themselves to be the victims of their lightning powers instead. All three survived and found that they had been charged with ability to generate lightning bolts themselves.

Ayla’s twin brother joined the Legion as Lightning Lad. When he was apparently killed in battle, Ayla joined the Legion in his place as Lightning Lass. Soon after her induction into the Legion, Ayla’s powers were altered. No longer able to generate lightning, Ayla now possessed the ability to nullify gravity. Renamed Light Lass, she continued her career alongside her brother Garth (Lightning Lad) who was revived from his apparent death.

Ayla soon met and fell in love with a hero known as Lone Wolf. The two maintained a long distance romance until he joined the Legion years later as Timber Wolf.

Both Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass remained active members for quite some time. Then, unbeknownst to the other Legionnaires, Vi was kidnapped and replaced by a Durlan shape shifting actress named Yera. Yera posed as Shrinking Violet for months before the switch was discovered. It was during this same time that Light Lass began to doubt her place with both Timber Wolf and the Legion and she resigned.

The other Legionnaires discovered that Yera had infiltrated their ranks and set out to rescue the real Shrinking Violet. They soon found out that Violet had been abducted by Imskian extremists and held in a sensory deprivation tank during the entire kidnapping. After her rescue, Vi emerged as a much stronger and determined individual. She began intense workouts and severed her relationship with Duplicate Boy. This was the beginning of a whole new life for Shrinking Violet.

Not long after this incident, Ayla was also kidnapped by her older brother Mekt (who unlike his younger siblings had decided to use his lightning powers for evil as Lightning Lord). During an attempt to break free, Mekt and Ayla battled and her lightning powers were restored during the process. The battle was a turning point in Ayla’s life and she decided to rejoin the Legion of Super Heroes as Lightning Lass.

Soon after Lightning Lass rejoined the group she and Vi discovered that their mutual experiences had changed their outlooks on life (Legion of Super Heroes (2nd series) #22 5/86). Shrinking Violet explains, “I changed my whole life Ayla. What about you?” “Never mind,” she continues “Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe we don’t know each other that well.” The ensuing conversation is cut short but the seed had been planted for the readers!

Throughout the remainder of the second series, Vi and Lightning Lass were often shown to work, travel and play together. They were drawn in a fashion that consistently displayed them in physical embraces that inferred a lesbian relationship. While Vi’s commitment to this unspoken relationship was never in question, it should be noted that Lightning Lass was quoted as still loving Timber Wolf, but she had no intention of “taking him back.”, and she also playfully flirted with fellow Legionnaire Magnetic Kid.

lightninglass01In November of 1989, the Legion of Super Heroes began it’s third series. Set five years after the last series ended, the Legion is shown to have disbanded. Issue #1 quite clearly points out that the relationship between Vi and Ayla is still alive. Being discharged from the Imsk Occupational Army, Vi writes Ayla “… and while my MIND is still confused, my HEART knows EXACTLY where I belong. I’m coming ‘home.'” With this, Vi joins Ayla on the planet Winath.

Not long after this reunion, the two both join the Legion again as it is re-formed. They continue to nurture their relationship and serve the team throughout the remainder of the series. In Legion of Super Heroes #61 (9/94) Ayla and Vi join together for a final embrace as time is warped around them and they fade from existence. “All the choices we made in our lives… ” Ayla begins. “I’m glad we’re making this one together too,” Vi concludes. In the next few moments, the entire Legion of Super Heroes and it’s long rich history are erased.

Vi and Ayla’s relationship did not survive this reboot of the Legion that came from Zero Hour, nor did it carry over into the version laid out by Mark Waid. It remains to be seen if Vi, Ayla, or any of the other Legion members who were gay will be written again as such after Legion of Three Worlds.

The last writers of the Legion before the Zero Hour reboot, Tom & Mary Bierbaum, have discussed in later interviews (and also at a Legion 50th anniversary panel at Comic Con) that Vi and Ayla were indeed written as a lesbian couple, even though the words “gay” or “lesbian” were never spoken, and a kiss between them was never shown.

Art by Francis Portela

In issue #6 of Legion of Super Heroes (published 10/10), current writer Paul Levitz gives readers the first indication that Vi and Ayla are in a relationship in this iteration of the series. Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl are on monitor duty talking about Shadow Lass’ relationship with Earth Man. Their conversation is interrupted by Vi and Ayla. Vi tells them she is taking Ayla to Imsk for a break and for the “the holidays”. They’re standing quite close to one another, perhaps their hips are touching even as Vi’s left hand quite naturally rests on Ayla’ship. The sub-text of their body language to me is that their relationship is not brand new (though also not a continuation of the Bierbaum version).

Lightning Lass was created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte. She first appears in Adventure Comics #308 and hints that she is lesbian or bisexual first appear in Legion of Super Heroes #22 (2nd series, 5/1986). Please also see this entry.

Art by Francis Portela

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July 19, 2021
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