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Living Lightning

Contributed by Michael McDermott

Miguel Santos’ father was involved with a radical organization called the Legion of the Living Lightning, who planned to take over America for its own good, to eliminate war and hatred. The Legion ended up in conflict with the Hulk, who blew up half of their mountain headquarters killing many of the Legionnaires in the process.

Eventually, Miguel went to the remains of the headquarters, to learn more about the Legion, and perhaps to try and follow in his father’s footsteps. While examining the leftover equipment, he accidentally triggered the lightning machine, and its power ran through his body, transforming him into a being of living electroplasma, calling himself the Living Lightning. The surge of power overwhelmed him and drove him temporarily insane. He went on a rampage through Fullerton, and clashed with members of the West Coast Avengers. He was finally stopped when Dr. Hank Pym grounded his electrical form, and the Living Lightning was apparently destroyed.

What none of them knew at the time was that his energies had actually been siphoned by the machines of the villainous Dr. Demonicus, and reconstructed into his human form. Demonicus planned to recruit Living Lightning into his team of Pacific Overlords. Miguel agreed, since Demonicus provided him with a special suit, which was the only thing allowing him to return to human form. Demonicus also had a control to deactivate the suit, if Living Lightning ever tried to turn against him. However, Miguel’s first test of loyalty came after the Overlords had captured the West Coast Avengers and planned to execute them. Miguel refused to allow the executions to take place. Before the argument could continue, some of the Avengers allies arrived to effect a rescue. A fight broke out between the Avengers and the Overlords, and during the battle, Living Lightning switched sides to assist the Avengers. When Demonicus threatened to deactivate his suit, Miguel destroyed the deactivator with an electric blast.

Once the battle was over, Living Lightning was offered a spot on the Avengers roster and joined the team. He returned home to check in with his family, after being missing for weeks, and found out that his sister had been killed in a drive-by shooting while he was gone. He also learned his younger brother had joined a gang, and they were looking for revenge against the Vietnamese gang that was responsible for the shooting.

He managed to intervene before a full-scale gang war broke out, and got his brother out of the gang. While Miguel was gone, his girlfriend Asuka left him for one of the Vietnamese gang members, but Miguel soon found a new relationship with a young woman named Mona, who worked at a movie studio. The two of them dated for a while, and she even slept over at Avengers Compound on occasion.

Living Lightning served as an active member of the West Coast Avengers for a few months, but after the apparent death of Iron Man, Miguel started to re-evaluate his future. Miguel decided to step down from active duty, and go to college to get an education. He continued to serve as a reserve Avenger when needed, until the West Coast team was eventually disbanded and reabsorbed into the main Avengers membership.

Miguel grew up with a strong religious background, strong enough that he was one of the many deeply spiritual or religious heroes “recruited” by the cosmic being known as the Goddess for her Infinity Crusade. Miguel and the others were eventually released from her control.

Many months later, the Avengers decided to take a more aggressive approach to their pursuit of superhuman threats, and established a number of field missions in addition to the main team. Although Miguel’s college studies prevented him from returning to duty full time, Miguel did agree to serve on the Avengers asteroid base with Quasar to serve as an early warning post for threats from outer space. Miguel was able to continue his courses from the base through communications link, and figured that the solitude would help him to focus on his studies.

After the Avengers entire organization was disbanded, due to a series of disasters, Living Lightning returned to Earth. When the unofficial associate team, the Great Lakes Avengers (known as the GLA for short) were looking for new members, Living Lightning was one of the heroes that their deputy leader, Flatman, approached. Miguel said that he had been meaning to join the GLA for some time–but he thought that Flatman was from the Gay/Lesbian Alliance, not the Great Lakes Avengers. Once he realized his error, Miguel apologized and left. Miguel’s admission of his own sexuality inspired Flatman to come out of the closet himself.

Miguel’s coming out of the closet was something of a surprise to many readers, given his prior relationships with women in Avengers West Coast. This is what GLA writer Dan Slott had to say on the subject in an interview: “He’s gay. Get over it. Previous girlfriends? Beards. Or relationships that just didn’t work – because Miguel hadn’t come to terms yet with who he really is. Miguel is a gay superhero and a wonderful role model.”

It is possible that the strong Catholic background of Miguel’s family may have played a part in his delay in accepting his sexuality.

This revelation may also put a different spin on his decision to live all alone with Quasar in their remote asteroid base. Perhaps all that time alone in close quarters with another man forced Miguel to confront his own attractions. Although Miguel’s field of study at college was never specified, a fantasy sequence shown through telepathic probe revealed that Miguel has political aspirations.

Living Lighting has the ability to transform his body into electroplasma energy. In this form he can fly, project electrical bursts, and travel through the vacuum of space without the need for oxygen. Miguel can also project electric bursts and fields in his human form. He can control the intensity of the voltage, although his control is not always completely precise. Miguel has also displayed the ability to manipulate electronic equipment.

Living Lightning first appeared in Avengers West Coast #63 by Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, and Paul Ryan. The character is outed in GLA (Great Lakes Avengers) #2. Art by Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar, and Wil Quintana.

Read Flatman’s profile.

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July 19, 2021
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