It’s another very special first for Secret Origin Sunday this week as we take our very first look at a member of one of my favorite teams, DC Comics’ Legion of Super Heroes. This week we look at that lightning-powered legionnaire from the planet Winath… Garth Ranzz… Lightning Lad.
Most people who know me know I’m a huge long-time fan of the Legion of Super Heroes so it was inevitable that Secret Origin Saturday… or Sunday… would sooner or later take a look at my favorite Legionnaires. I don’t know if Lightning Lad is at the top of the list… Sometimes it’s him. Sometimes it’s Mon-El or Cosmic Boy… but he’s certainly up there. The costume he’s sporting on the last panel of today’s page… designed by the legendary Legion artist Dave Cockrum… is absolutely one of my favorite costumes in all of the DC Universe! It’s right up there with Kid Flash, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel Jr and a few select others!
Discovering Superman by way of Superboy, it wasn’t long into my comic book reading career before I’d become aware of the Legion of Super Heroes. Like many super hero concepts of the time, I found the large diverse team visually interesting, but the huge cast and dense mythology was intimidating and undeservedly off-putting for me. I always looked at their book, with its complex ongoing storylines, and I figured I’d just never be able to follow what was going on.
Then I found the perfect jumping-on point with The Secrets Of The Legion Of Super Heroes #1.
It was 1980 and DC Comics was pioneering the comic book mini-series format with short three-issue series like The World Of Krypton and The Untold Legend Of Batman. I don’t know if SOTLOSH was the third mini. That might’ve been the Green Lantern themed Tales Of The Green Lantern Corps, but SOTLOSH was early enough in mini-series history to be only three issues. It wouldn’t be long before most minis were four issues. In those early days, the mini series was absolutely a platform for introducing characters to new readers who might not otherwise have been fan of those characters. The stories were constructed to be introductions to those characters and usually worked the character’s origin very quickly into the first issue. SOTLOSH was perfect in that the entire three-issue story was devised so that the origin of the entire team and that of each Legionnaire up to that point would be covered. It was the perfect introduction to this large, complex cast. I loved it and from that point forward, I’d love the Legion!
Lightning Lad, with his cool power set and dashing design, became a quick favorite.
Today we look at Lightning Lad’s classic origin in the most complete form as my one-page format would allow. I’m not sure when Lightning Lad’s origin was first explained. I do know that in Superman #147, we get the Legion’s seventh appearance. This issue would also feature the first appearance of the original three Legionnaires as adults and the first appearance of the Legion’s arch foes, the Legion of Super Villains including Lightning Lad’s villainous older brother, Lightning Lord.
In this issue, Lightning Lord recounts the story of how he and his brother received their powers from the lightning beasts of the remote planet Korbal. No mention of course would be made of their sister, Ayla, the future Lightning Lass, who of course wouldn’t be created until a few years later.
On this page, I depict the origin as it would ultimately take shape with all three Ranzz kids flying their under-powered cruiser and making their emergency pitstop on Korbal. This page might be the Secret Origin Saturday record holder for featuring the most characters on one page! Certainly that last panel helped in that regard!
A few Director’s Cut Commentary notes… First Panel 1 features the Ranzz kids’ cruiser as designed by me. It wasn’t until I’d finish the page that I noticed the similarities between my version of the cruiser and future Legionnaire Quislet!
Panel 2 features the three Ranzz kids, Mekt, the future Lightning Lord, Ayla, the future Lightning Lass and later Light Lass, and Garth, the soon-to-be Lightning Lad and founding Legionnaire.
Panel 4 includes my version of the lightning beasts based heavily on Keith Giffen’s design for these critical creatures. As much as I love the work of Curt Swan, his lightning beasts, like many of his alien concepts, look a bit goofy. I wanted something more animalistic and believable.
The final panel of course depicts an assortment of Legionnaires. Since I wanted to showcase Lightning Lad at his best, I chose to highlight the 1970’s Legion which was when LL was the leader of the team. In the panel, I included his fellow Legionnaires, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy and my favorite female Legionnaire, Shadow Lass.
Next week… we have another Secret Origin Saturday first! Don’t SIDEline yourselves and miss it… because you’ll surely KICK yourselves!
Until then… LONG LIVE THE LEGION, Everybody!