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Lightning Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Silver Age DC Comics)

Lightning Lad

(Profile #1 - Silver Age)


Context

Lightning Lad is one of the core, founding characters of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes. Thus he appeared at the dawn of the Silver Age , in 1958. To no-one’s surprise, he has lightning powers.

This profile focuses on Lightning Lad during his Silver Age appearances in Adventure Comics and Action Comics. But it does include some background details (in the History, for example) that were not revealed until the “classic” era in the Bronze Age. So it’s not an emergent history profile.

Later versions of the character profiled on writeups.org include the Lightning Lad (Classic) profile, and Danielle Mendus’s writeup of the post-Zero Hour Live Wire (from what is now called Earth-247).


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Background

  • Real Name: Garth Ranzz.
  • Other Aliases: Lightning Lad, Starfinger.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Mekt Ranzz (aka Lightning Lord, brother), Ayla Ranzz (aka Lightning Lass/Light Lass, sister).
  • Group Affiliation: Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Base Of Operations: 30th Century Metropolis, Earth.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Red Age: Co-founded the Legion at age 13 or 14.


Powers & Abilities

Lightning Lad can generate and hurl powerful lightning bolts (in DC Heroes RPG terms, Lightning). His lightning flashes can be seen for miles, which he has used to send signals across space (Flash). He is also able to absorb and harmlessly disperse electrical attacks (Energy Absorption).

He can fly using a Legion Flight Ring.

Lightning Lad is a skilled pilot and navigator (Vehicles and Scholar Advantage). He is athletic and good in a fistfight, as well (DEX, Martial Arts). He is also well educated in the sciences (Gadgetry, Medicine, Scientist).


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History

Garth Ranzz and his twin sister Ayla were born on the planet Winath, a colony of Earth and member of the United Planets (UP), in the latter half of the 30th century.

Winath was a peaceful agrarian planet. Its ecology had a strange effect on humans and other organisms; nearly every being on the planet was a twin. Garth and Ayla followed this pattern, but their mentally unbalanced older brother Mekt did not.

Mekt’s “singleton” status contributed to his mental deficits and made for an uneasy relationship with Garth and Ayla. Mekt displayed an almost pathological need to be included, and tried to function as a sort of “third twin” to Garth and Ayla.

Lightning Strikes Thrice

On one fateful occasion, their parents allowed the trio to travel off-world to a party. Garth, though young, was already a fully qualified pilot and navigator. However, Mekt insisted on taking the controls and was piloting when the ship’s power cells inexplicably failed.

His panicked attempts to regain control steered the three right into a meteor shower. Garth took over again and managed a relatively safe landing on Korbal, “the Lightning World.”

Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) and Brainiac

As the three made repairs they realized that the ships’ power cells were depleted. They would need to be recharged. Garth got the idea that they could lure the native lightning monsters into discharging their bolts at the ship and recharging the craft’s batteries (or recrystallizing the dilithium crystals, or something else you 21st century types wouldn’t understand).

Things did not go quite as planned. The electrical discharge from the lightning monsters struck the three teens, not the craft. Against all laws of probability, none of the siblings were electrocuted. Indeed, they were not even hurt.

They were changed, imbued with electrical powers even greater than those of the Lightning Beasts. Using their new powers they drove off the lightning monsters, recharged their spacecraft, and returned home.

Brave New Galaxy

Mekt, always unhappy and out of place, left Winath without a word shortly after being empowered and vanished into the underworld of the galaxy. Garth feared what might happen to his unstable brother without his family to watch over him, and also feared what he might do with his new powers.

He decided to track Mekt down, to try and reason with him and bring him home, or if necessary, to stop him. His quest to find Mekt sent him to the Mother World, Earth, looking for leads.

Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) tries to blast a fortress

Garth’s seatmate on the starliner carrying him to Earth was a young man from the planet Braal named Rokk Krinn. Rokk was a semi-famous Magno-ball champion heading to Earth to look for work. The two struck up a friendly conversation on the voyage.

They were awestruck to notice that one of their fellow passengers was R.J. Brande, one of the richest beings in the galaxy. Garth’s eye was also caught by another passenger, a beautiful young blonde woman from the Saturnian moon of Titan.

Assassination attempt

As the passengers disembarked on Earth, the young blonde, a telepath named Imra Ardeen, shouted a warning that assassins were about to murder Brande. Thanks to Imra’s warning, Garth’s lightning powers and Rokk’s magnetism, the assassins were captured. Brande’s life was saved.

Imra then probed the minds of the would-be assassins and revealed that Brande’s partner Doyle was behind the plot.

Brande, an avid fan of 20th century super-heroes, was reminded by the heroic youths of the legendary Superboy and Supergirl. He encouraged the three to make their instinctive team-up permanent, with him as their financier.

Garth, ever eager for adventure, was quick to agree. Brande’s resources might be just what he needed to find Mekt, Rokk seemed likely to become a good friend, and he would have a chance to get to know Imra better.

Legion Lore

Computer analysis of the three founders, now called Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy, showed that Cosmic Boy had enormous leadership potential. The three founders agreed that he would be their first leader.

They also began writing the Legion Charter. Those early rules showed the Legion’s somewhat schizophrenic nature. It was a mash-up of a hang-out for super-powered teens, a crimefighting organization, and a group of idealists dedicated to the highest principles of justice.

Acting like kids forming a club, they decided that prospective members must be younger than 18 and must have a distinctive superpower possessed by no one else. Demanding absolute dedication, they ruled that members could not be married. They also adopted a code against killing, even in self-defense, drawing their inspiration from the principles of Superman.

Early successes and Brande’s backing led to Legionnaires being granted honorary citizenship on every UP world. They also won status as deputies of the Science Police, giving them authority to make arrests.

Garth’s flashy abilities, brassy personality, and status as a founder made him one of the more powerful and prominent Legionnaires. In those early days, Lightning Lad’s dynamism was as important to the Legion’s growth as Cosmic Boy’s leadership or Saturn Girl’s intellect and discipline.

More majorum

The three made a formidable team, and together had the brass to face any challenge.

Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) dies fighting an invasion
As if to prove just that, the founders pioneered use of a new technology, taking the recently invented Time Bubble into the distant past. There they met their idols, Supergirl and Superboy. Displaying remarkable chutzpah, they ignored the dangers of tampering with the timestream and revealed themselves to their heroes, even playing pranks on them.

Ultimately they persuaded the young Kryptonians to join the Legion themselves. Thus the Legionnaires made their first exception to the Legion Charter, writing in a clause allowing Supergirl and Superboy to join despite having identical powers.

It may be that the Legionnaires were overcompensating, going out of their way to show how unaffected they were by the legends in their midst. Their pranks were certainly over the top. But it’s worth noting that both Supergirl and Superboy took comfort in having superpowered friends their own age who treated them like normal people.

Super duper

It’s also odd that in his first meeting with Superboy, Lightning Lad wore a different costume and called himself Lightning Boy instead of Lightning Lad. He changed his name to be more like Superboy’s while simulataneously changing his costume to be different. Despite the outward show of confidence, it may be that Garth, Rokk, and Imra were more unsure of themselves than it seemed.

(This is all No-Prize  speculation on my part, of course. In actuality, the story with Superboy meeting “the three super-heroes” is the first Legion story ever written. Lightning BOY’s name and first horrible costume were retconned  away by later writers, who depicted him as Lightning Lad from the founding of the team.)

The induction of Supergirl and Superboy instantly made the LSH one of the most powerful assemblages of heroes in history. Their popularity and effectiveness grew even faster. By the end of Cosmic Boy’s term as Leader, the team had grown from 3 to 18 members.

Legend of the Legion

Saturn Girl became the second Leader of the Legion, though she manipulated the others with her telepathic abilities to win the election. She had received prophetic warning that Zaryan the Conqueror would attack Earth, and a Legionnaire would die stopping his invasion.

Imra used her new position to trump up spurious complaints against each of her teammates, taking advantage of the complexities of the Legion Charter she’d helped draft. This let her suspend them from duty, making sure she was the only Legionnaire left to face Zaryan and die.

Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz)'s coffin

Saturn Girl’s plan went as anticipated. But there were two Legionnaires’ whose behavior she hadn’t predicted. The first was Mon-El, who at that time was still confined to the Phantom Zone. Mon-El revealed Saturn Girl’s plan to Lightning Lad just as she was flying alone to confront Zaryan.

Lightning Lad, driven by his own heroism and his still mostly unrequited love for Saturn Girl, defied her orders and intervened. He single-handedly repelled Zaryan’s invasion, sacrificing his life to save Saturn Girl and Earth.

Lightning Lad’s heroic death made him and the Legion legends throughout known space. His funeral was broadcast around the galaxy, and more potential Legionnaires than ever before sought to join the team. One of them was Garth’s sister Ayla, who wanted to serve as a living memorial to her brother, ensuring that he was never forgotten.

Long Live the Legionnaire

It was soon discovered, however, that Zaryan’s freeze ray had actually placed Lightning Lad in a deathlike coma. The grief-stricken Saturn Girl, as Legion Leader, had the team scour the galaxy for experimental techniques that might restore him.

On Daxam they found a technique that would transfer life-energy from one person to another. That could restore Lightning Lad at the cost of someone else’s life. Several Legionnaires were prepared to make that sacrifice. But Saturn Girl once again secretly manipulated events so that the team would be spared and she alone would die for Lightning Lad.

However, Imra was outmaneuvered by Proty, an alien mascot/pet of the Legion’s Chameleon Boy. Proty, a shapeshifting telepath with a great affection for Saturn Girl, impersonated her and made the sacrifice himself.

Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) memorial statue

Though saddened by Proty’s loss, Imra was overjoyed at Garth’s revival, and the two soon become romantically involved.

Not long thereafter, Lightning Lad lost his arm to a mutated Dxaundii space-creature. The interstellar press rather luridly called this creature the “Super Moby Dick of Space.” Though initially outfitted with a cybernetic arm, advances in biomedical techniques held hope for the arm’s eventual restoration.

Starfinger and Lightning Lord

Before that could happen, however, one of Lightning Lad’s doctors took the opportunity to hypnotize Garth. That made him act as his criminal catspaw, as the supervillain Starfinger. The Legion eventually captured Garth/Starfinger, and Saturn Girl freed Garth from the true villain’s hypnotic commands.

Garth never had much success tracking down his brother Mekt. A few times the LSH encountered time-travelling adult super-villains from their own future. One of these appeared to be Mekt, now calling himself Lightning Lord of the Legion of Super-Villains. It wasn’t until a few years later that the Legion encountered the Mekt Ranzz from their own time period.

Sure enough, he called himself Lightning Lord and had joined a “School for Super-Villains” that was training a Legion of Super-Villains. From that point on, it became clear that Mekt now hated Garth and wanted to kill him. The two would clash repeatedly from then on out.

Lightning Lad’s many misfortunes — a supervillain for a brother, his near death, the loss of his arm, brainwashing by his own doctor, etc. — have led some to call him the unluckiest Legionnaire.

Ironically, as he and Saturn Girl became a confirmed couple, they realized the Legion Charter they themselves wrote would prevent them from ever getting married. The dedicated pair put off thoughts of marriage for several years and through many Leaders’ terms of office, remaining two of the most dedicated and effective Legionnaires.


Description

Garth is fit and athletic, with bright blue eyes and red hair. His costume is arguably one of those most similar to Superman’s. It has a mostly blue color scheme, cape, and chest symbol (two diagonal lightning bolts slanting down from each shoulder toward the center of his chest).

The yellow lightning bolts stand out against a white background on his chest. The legs of his costume are orange, and his boots are blue.

The fairly horrible costume he wore as Lightning Boy was mostly red, with green legs and yellow arms, and red boots and gloves. The name “Lightning Boy” was written across his chest above the double lightning bolt symbol.


Personality

Garth has a flashy and dynamic personality. He provides the early Legion with much of its energy and drive – not to mention an infusion of raw power. He can be reckless, but always in the cause of heroism and helping others. He believes good will always win out over evil.

Lightning Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Silver Age DC Comics) sacrifice ceremony resurrection

Garth is self-sacrificing to a fault. Even before gaining his powers he showed poise in a crisis and the ability to put aside his personal fears in order to do what needed to be done.

His brush with death at Zaryan’s hands seemed to sober him a little. He’s as dedicated and selfless as ever, but perhaps a little more modest. He thinks about being worthy of the rest of his teammates and their example of heroism. He takes pride in the Legion as a whole and in the exploits of his teammates.

Garth doesn’t seem to get how much his sacrifice inspired the rest of the Legion. Or that the others are still trying to live up to his example rather than the other way around.

He is devoted to and protective of Saturn Girl. But he generally doesn’t stand in her way and treats her as a full Legionnaire and equal. Apart from Saturn Girl, he’s been said to be especially close to Cosmic Boy and Sun Boy.


Quotes

“I don’t want to live at the expense of Saturn Girl’s life !”

“Thanks, all of you ! You risked your lives for me… I’ll try to be worthy of what you’ve done !”

“My most powerful bolts have no effect !”

Evillo: “Impossible ! The evil force made you a criminal !”
Lightning Lad: “Sorry, chum ! Evil can’t defeat good… and never could !”
Evillo: “But… how did you manage to overcome the evil force ?”
Lightning Lad: “It was easy ! All I had to do was think of good ! I concentrated on unselfish deeds my fellow Legionnaires had done.”

Cosmic Boy: “Here come the Xakkan Raiders again, attacking the peaceful Tartonian cities !”
Lightning Lad: “Well, what are we waiting for ? This is why we were called here !”

Sun Boy ! Cosmic Boy ! Hold off the guards ! I’m going to blast that tower apart with my lightning bolts !”

“Let’s hit ’em !”


DC Universe History

Lightning Lad’s been a mainstay of every version of the Legion of Super-Heroes since it was created in 1958. This profile covers his appearances in the Silver Age of comics, throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The Lightning Lad (classic) profile covers this version of Lightning Lad in adulthood, as presented during the 1970s and 1980s. The original timeline  lasted until the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, then (with modifications) persisted a few more years into the Post-Crisis era.

He was a reserve member during the new, more heavily modified timeline (the Keith Giffen/Tom & Mary Bierbaum version) published from 1989 until Zero Hour. (See the forthcoming “Five Year Gap” profile.)

Zero Hour saw a reboot of the Legion, resulting in a completely new, revamped timeline. During Infinite Crisis, it was identified as the Legion of Earth-247. In that timeline, Garth was renamed Live Wire (see the post-reboot profile of Live Wire by Danielle Mendus).

More timelines

Mark Waid and Barry Kitson started another, newer LSH in 2004. Generally referred to as the “Threeboot Legion”, this group was identified in the Final Crisis as the Legion of Earth-Prime.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Infinite Crisis Geoff Johns wrote stories featuring a Legion closely inspired by the original Pre-Crisis Legion, which Paul Levitz has begun writing again. I’ll refrain from pointing out how Johns’ re-insertion of the Legion into Superman’s back-story parallels suggestions from the DCH Mailing List :-).

Whichever version of the Legion you use, Lightning Lad’s role in every timeline is almost always the same. Some versions have depicted him as a hothead, but he’s always shown as a Legion founder and powerhouse, dynamic, flashy, and dedicated. If you use the Legion in your campaign universe, Lightning Lad should be around somewhere.


Marvel Universe History

The Shi’ar  Imperial Guard were originally a direct homage to the Legion of Super-Heroes, with Lightning Lad’s counterpart being Tempest or Electron.

I really don’t see porting Lightning Lad himself into the Marvel Universe’s 30th or 31st centuries unless you bring the whole Legion. And given their strong Superman family ties, you’d need Superman and Supergirl, too.

If your campaign universe amalgamates the Marvel Universe and the DCU into a single universe (as mine does), then you may also want to modify the Imperial Guard some to downplay some of the similarities. This is the approach I take, highlighting Guardsmen who aren’t such direct parodies of LSHers.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Lightning Lad (Silver Age)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Thrill of Adventure
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 06 Occupation: Legionnaire
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 18 HP: 065

Powers:
Energy Absorption: 10, Flash: 10, Lightning: 14

Skills:
Gadgetry: 03, Martial Artist: 04, Medicine: 04, Scientist: 04, Vehicles: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Derived from Lightning (-1 FC).
  • Energy Absorption is limited to electrical energy only (-2 FC).
  • Vehicles is also used when making repairs to vehicles (+1 FC).

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (Winath), Confidant (Saturn Girl), Confined HQ (apartment in Metropolis), Credentials (Science Police — High), Leadership, Popularity, Rich Friend (R.J. Brande), Scholar (astro-navigation).

Drawbacks:
Archenemy (Lightning Lord), Public Identity.

Connections:
Legion of Super-Heroes (High), Saturn Girl (High), Sun Boy (High), Cosmic Boy (High), Light Lass (High), R.J. Brande (High), Science Police (High).

Equipment:
An early model LEGION FLIGHT RING – see the Legion Equipment writeup for details. Prior to the invention of the Flight Ring, he made use of a FLYING BELT.


Previous Stats

It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s possible that Lightning Lad’s MIND and SPIRIT were a little lower prior to his revival by Proty, something like MIND 04 and SPIRIT 05. After his return he has a little more calm and stability and seems even more dedicated to the Legion and its ideals.

Archenemy isn’t very pronounced at this stage of Garth’s career. During the Silver Age it’s mostly only present in stories of the Adult Legion, not the teenage Legionnaires featured in most issues. The teenage Lightning Lord doesn’t surface until near the end of the Adventure Comics run.

He doesn’t encounter Garth at that time, but from then on out he does begin turning up much more frequently and is definitely fixated on his hatred of Lightning Lad.


Design Notes

Lightning Lad v1.0 was the published writeup in the LSH v.1 Sourcebook by Mayfair Games. That one used 1st edition DCH rules. It was updated, using 2nd edition rules, in the 2995 LSH Sourcebook by Mayfair. I consider that to be v1.1. My previous take on the character, which was informed by both of those writeups, was therefore v2.0. This completely rewritten and newly researched writeup is, therefore, v3.

(Ed. note – we since phased out the explicit versioning of profiles).


By Chris Cottingham.

Helper(s): John Colagioia, Mayfair’s Legion Sourcebook v.1 and 2995 Sourcebook, Who’s Who and Who’s Who in the Legion.

Source of Character: DC (Adventure Comics, Action Comics).

Writeup completed on the 3rd of September, 2012.

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