Lightning Lass: Needless Character Analysis
Lightning Lass has been one of my favorite members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She started as a replacement for her brother, with not much more development than that. Eventually, she found herself relegated to being one of the weakest Legionnaires, with what many considered a useless power. In that role, she was defined by her relationship to a stronger male character. However, when her original powers were returned, she found herself once again among the more powerful Legionnaires. She also became one of the first openly gay Legionnaires in a same sex relationship with fellow Legionnaire Shrinking Violet. For the purpose of this article, I am restricting my coverage of the version of Lightning Lass that existed up until the end of the fourth Legion series, Legion of Super-Heroes #61.
Ayla Ranzz was born on Winath, peculiar for the propensity of twin births among the inhabitants. Her twin brother was Garth Ranzz. As adolescents, they went on a joyride with their older brother Mekt, one of the rare Winathians that was not born a twin. Their shuttle ran out of power on the world of Korbal, home to the lightning beasts, that emitted electricity. The three were attacked by the beasts, giving them all electrical powers. Returning to Winath, Mekt left to begin a criminal career, and Garth later went to try and find him and stop him before he went too far.
Garth went on to help found the Legion of Super-Heroes. After he died defending the Earth, Ayla masqueraded as Garth, apparently revived. Fellow Legionnaire Sun Boy deduced that “Garth” was a girl, exposing Ayla’s deception. Coming clean to the Legion, Ayla was admitted to the Legion as Lightning Lass.
Garth eventually was revived. When a new member, Dream Girl worked through deception to save the lives of Legionnaires that she believed would be killed in a cruiser accident, she changed Ayla’s powers using advanced Naltorian science. Her lightning powers were altered so that instead she could cancel the effects of gravity on objects and people. She changed her name to Light Lass.
Ayla later found herself helping the misunderstood Zoon hero, Lone Wolf. Brin Londo mistakenly thought himself to be an android, but the Legion exposed the deception on him from the android that had taken his place. After attending the Legion Academy and then joining the Legion as Timber Wolf, he and Ayla began dating.
They became one of the stronger Legion couples. Ayla helped Brin beat addiction and even encouraged him to get reconstructive surgery to appear more human again. Eventually, though, Ayla found herself Brin’s fidelity when she and Dawnstar rescued him and four other missing Legionnaires. They came upon Brin and Saturn Girl in an embrace, that while innocent, put too much doubt into Ayla’s mind. When she decided to quit the Legion, she asked him to come along, but he opted to stay with the Legion, ending their relationship.
Ayla returned to Winath, enjoying a relatively normal life. It wouldn’t last. Her brother Mekt had her captured by his Legion of Super-Villains and he tortured her with lightning. Eventually, this reverted her powers back to her original lightning powers. After helping to defeat the Super-Villains, she rejoined the Legion as Lightning Lass. That was advantageous, since her brother had left the Legion to raise a family.
In the Legion, she demonstrated herself as one of the more powerful Legionnaires and developed a strong friendship with Shrinking Violet. She also pursued the younger brother of Cosmic Boy, Magnetic Kid. She remained with the Legion up until the Great Collapse sparked by the Magic Wars.
Five Years later, with the break-up of the Legion, Ayla returned to Winath with her brother to build the Lightning Ring plantation into a large exporter of food. When Shrinking Violet was discharged from the Imsk military, she joined Ayla on Winath and soon, with a reformed Legion. The two’s friendship blossomed into a romance, making her one of the first openly gay characters in DC Comics. As the Legion’s timeline collapsed as the results of Zero Hour, Ayla and Vi were among the last of the Legionnaires to close the door on the 30th century.