Deck Log Entry # 145 The OTHER Legionnaire Who Killed (Part 1)

Responding to my Deck Log entry on Adventure Comics # 342 (Mar., 1966), in which Star Boy was expelled from the Legion of Super-Heroes for violating the Legion code against killing, correspondent Commando Cody indicted another Legionnaire for also breaking the code.


Cody posted:


Didn’t Lightning Lad kill Zaryan the Conqueror in Adventure 304, in the mission that resulted in his “death”?  It doesn’t explicitly say so, but it shows Zaryan in his invasion spacecraft without a space suit along with his crew of non-Asmovian robots.  Moments later, Lightning Lad destroys the invasion spacecraft with lightning bolts.


Even if Zaryan left the spacecraft before it was destroyed, Lightning Lad had no way of knowing that the spacecraft was only occupied by robots.


It’s a valid charge.  Initially, no procedural action was taken against Lightning Lad, due to the inconvenient circumstance of him being dead at the time, killed during his action against Zaryan.  But, while here in the real world, the death of the accused is a reliably permanent bar against prosecution, in the fictional conceit of comics, death isn't always so cut and dried.


So why didn’t the Legion pursue Lightning Lad’s violation of the Legion Code?  Especially given the swift and aggressive action it took in the case of Star Boy.


In light of this apparent nonfeasance of duty on the part of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I hereby appoint myself as a one-man board of review to investigate the matter.






Garth Ranzz, a.k.a. “Lightning Lad”

Planet of birth:  Winath


Lightning Lad, with the super-power to cast bolts of electricity, is one of the three charter members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  He debuted, along with Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl, in Adventure Comics # 247 (Apr., 1958).  At the time, he was dubbed “Lightning Boy” and had to clap his hands to create bolts of lightning.  These were bugs that, within a couple of stories, were worked out and he settled into his lasting rendition as Lightning Lad.


As told in Adventure Comics # 308 (May, 1963), the youth named Garth Ranzz was forced to land on the wild and desolate planet of Korbal when the energy-cells of his space-flyer became exhausted.   One of the life-forms native to Korbal was the lightning-beast, capable of self-generating electrical charges.  Garth lured a herd of the beasts to his ship, hoping that their electrical energies would recharge the dead cells.  Instead, the creatures aimed their bolts at Garth, bathing him in a field of electricity.  Instead of killing him, the force turned Garth into a human dynamo, capable of discharging tremendous bolts of lightning.


Later, following the events which led to the origin of the Legion, Garth assumed the identity of Lightning Lad.


Lightning Lad, along with Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl, served as “the Big Three” of the Legion.  Other members were added to the group shortly after its inception, but in the early years, they tended to remain in the background.  So prominently were Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad featured that, to reader identification, they were the Legion of Super-Heroes.


The Legion received its own series, starting with Adventure Comics # 300 (Sep., 1962), and the participation of the other members increased.  Yet, the Big Three were still treated as the team’s senior representatives.







Zaryan, a.k.a. “Zaryan the Conqueror”

Planet of birth:  Brok


Very little is known about Zaryan the Conqueror.  In “The Stolen Super-Powers”, from Adventure Comics # 304 (Jan., 1963), we learn that he was an interplanetary criminal who once offered the Legion a bribe not to oppose his predatory attacks of other worlds.  Enraged when the heroes rejected his offer, Zaryan, with an army of warrior robots, flew an armed space-cruiser towards Earth, intending to attack and enslave its inhabitants.


Zaryan was presumed killed in space when Lightning Lad destroyed his ship before the self-styled conqueror could reach the Earth.







Imra Ardeen, a.k.a. “Saturn Girl”

Planet of birth:  Titan, moon of Saturn


Saturn Girl is one of the three charter members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.


Like all Saturnians, Imra possesses the native power of telepathy.  One of the most powerful telepaths of her race, she can read the minds of others with crystal clarity, project her own thoughts across great range, and induce hypnotic commands.


Following the formation of the Legion, Imra adopted the identity of Saturn Girl.  At the time of the incident leading to this review, she was the Legion leader, a position she assumed under contentious circumstances.


She was the only witness to the alleged violation.







The first few pages of “The Stolen Super-Powers” spotlight the election of the next leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  This is the first reference to such a proceeding or that the Legion even had someone in charge.  (Cosmic Boy would later be established as the first Legion leader, retroactively, in a text piece appearing in Adventure Comics # 352 [Jan., 1967].)


With the entire membership present---except for Superboy and Supergirl, who are tied up in their respective time-eras---the vote is taken.  Under vaguely questionable circumstances, Saturn Girl is unanimously elected as the Super-Hero Club’s new leader.  That “vaguely questionable” qualifier is erased when Saturn Girl reveals, in a thought-balloon, that she used her power of telepathy to compel all of the other Legionnaires to vote for her.  As soon as she takes her seat in the big chair at the head of the meeting table, she turns into a self-serving, grade-A shrew.


First, she squanders the club’s $200,000 treasury on medallions bearing her image, which she requires all of the other Legionnaires to wear.  Then she forces them to undergo trials of their individual super-powers, failure of which means suspension from duty.


Not surprisingly, given her conduct to this point, Saturn Girl fails each member’s performance for insignificant details.  By the time Commander Loring of the World-Wide Police alerts the team to Zaryan’s imminent attack, she’s the only Legionnaire left on active duty.  The rest of the teen heroes have been benched.  Donning an anti-gravity space suit, S.G. swoops off to meet the threat, but not before tossing her fellow members a few snarky insults over their “incompetency”.


What we, and the Legionnaires, don’t know---and won’t find out until after it’s all over---is that, just before the election, Saturn Girl was tipped off to Zaryan’s invasion threat by the ever-helpful Trylop Council of Mernl.  Moreover, the council’s probability computer predicted with certainty that one Legionnaire would die in the coming battle.


This explains all of her severe actions.  She deliberately rigged the election in her behalf, so that, as Legion leader, she could suspend the other members.  Nobly, she ensured that she would be the only Legionnaire to confront Zaryan the Conqueror and, thus, would be the fatality foretold by the Trylop Council’s computer.


Saturn Girl hedged her bets, though.  The medallions she forced the other members to wear temporarily bestowed her with super-powers identical to theirs.  Armed with the might of fourteen Legionnaires, she hoped to put paid to Zaryan’s invasion effort before she became a statistic.


It didn’t quite work out that way.






Back on Earth, minutes after Saturn Girl takes off to meet Zaryan’s attack ship, Lightning Lad emerges from the Legion clubhouse wearing a space suit equipped with an advanced anti-gravity unit.  Defying orders, he launches himself spaceward, in pursuit of the new Legion leader.


Catching up to the girl Legionnaire, Lightning Lad reveals that he is aware of her scheme.  As their foe’s spaceship looms into view, Saturn Girl orders him to return to Earth.


Lightning Lad refuses, flashing ahead of her.  “ . . . I won’t let you sacrifice your life for me or the others!”


“His anti-gravity power-unit is stronger than mine!” bemoans Saturn Girl.  “I can’t . . . overtake him!”


Moments later, the battle is joined.  Lightning Lad unleashes a barrage of electrical bolts at Zaryan’s invasion craft.  In the same instant, the youth is struck by a freeze-ray fired from the enemy ship.


An eye-blink later---as Saturn Girl watches in horror---Zaryan’s space-cruiser is destroyed and Lightning Lad is mortally wounded.






With Zaryan’s ship reduced to scrap, Saturn Girl carries the stricken Lightning Lad back to Earth and the front lawn of the Legion clubhouse.


With his last gasps, the dying Legionnaire explains how Mon-El, the Legion member forced to live in the Phantom Zone, had witnessed Saturn Girl receiving the ominous warning from the Trylop Council.  Observing her subsequent actions invisibly from the Zone, Mon-El deduced Saturn Girl’s plan.  However, sunspot disturbances had prevented Mon from telepathically tipping off the rest of the Legion.


Almost too late, the sunspot activity subsided long enough for Mon-El to get a telepathic message through to Lightning Lad.



Then, with a final good-bye, Lightning Lad breathes his last.



It’s a tragic milestone for the Legion of Super-Heroes---the first time a Legionnaire has fallen in the line of duty.  And it gets the kind of send-off you’d expect.


Superboy and Supergirl, with Lori Lemaris in tow, arrive from the twentieth century to attend the funeral.  Mon-El is there, as well, having taken the temporary XY-4 serum cure, enabling him to spend a few minutes in the corporeal world.


Flags across the universe are lowered to half-staff in the Legionnaire’s memory.


Lightning Lad’s body is placed in a transparent sarcophagus.  Over his resting place, an electrical arc crashes between the twin spheres of a futuristic Van de Graaff generator, in perpetual tribute to the fallen super-hero.


The story ends on this downbeat note.  This is no hallucination or hoax.  There is no last-minute save.  The Legionnaire called Lightning Lad is dead.






This review is hereby recessed.  It will resume shortly, with further finding of fact.

Views: 1461

Comment by Philip Portelli on August 24, 2012 at 12:32pm

Can't wait for the follow up!

I will comment on this later!

Comment by Commander Benson on August 24, 2012 at 1:17pm

I really didn't mean to tantalise everyone by making them wait for the next part in order to read my conclusions.  But as I went along, I realised that I either had to cut this one short or end up with an especially overlong single entry.  So I opted for the former.


I've already got the next part percolating in my noggin, so you won't have to wait too long.

Comment by Randy Jackson on August 24, 2012 at 3:41pm

I find it interesting that Saturn Girl thought the other Legionnaires to be so incompetent that they couldn't deal with a space pirate--after all, from what we see soon afterwards of the tests to gain Legion admission (i.e. when the Subs get tested), one doesn't enter the Legion without being able to deal with some pretty difficult tasks.

Comment by Commando Cody on August 24, 2012 at 4:19pm

A few points:

You'd think that while Saturn Girl was accumulating other Legionnaires' powers, she'd taken the trouble to get invulnerability, either by calling Superboy or Supergirl and telling them it was an extreme emergency, or by pulling Mon-El out of the Phantom Zone for a few minutes.

Did she have reason to believe that the Trylop Council of Mernl's computer was always correct in it's predictions?

I slightly disagree about the story ending on a downbeat note. This was the last panel of the story:

Plus, there is the point (which made into a letter to the editor), that it had already been revealed (in a Superman story, I think) that Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl would marry as adults. At this point, the answer could have only been surprising had they left Lightning Lad dead. I really think this last panel was detrimental to the story and Lightning Lad's sacrifice.

During the period that Lightning Lad was being dead (for tax purposes), how was his body being preserved? Had it been super-frozen by Zaryan's freeze ray?

Finally, I spend way too much time obsessing over the logic in 50 year old comics.

Comment by Fraser Sherman on August 24, 2012 at 7:37pm

Randy, the issue wasn't incompetence. The apparently infallible Trylop computer had guaranteed a legionannire would die. By sidelining everyone else, Saturn Girl ensured it couldn't be any of them.

Comment by Commander Benson on August 25, 2012 at 7:28am

"I slightly disagree about the story ending on a downbeat note. This was the last panel of the story . . . ."


I actually had that last panel scanned to use as art for this entry.  But as I wrote it, and realised that this would become only the first half of the whole thing, I decided that it would work better, thematically, if I concluded on the downbeat that Lightning Lad was dead.  It's the same reason that I wrote this entry to hedge around the fact that Lightning Lad would return to life.  There was no spoiler-related reason to do that: it's no surprise to anyone that Lightning Lad "gets better".  It just works better that way, in view of the next half.



"Plus, there is the point (which made into a letter to the editor), that it had already been revealed (in a Superman story, I think) that Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl would marry as adults."


Now, there, you are getting ahead of me, sir.  Stay tuned.


Comment by Commando Cody on August 25, 2012 at 11:44am

"I actually had that last panel scanned to use as art for this entry.  But as I wrote it, and realised that this would become only the first half of the whole thing, I decided that it would work better, thematically, if I concluded on the downbeat that Lightning Lad was dead."

This showing better editorial judgement than the DC editors.

I apologize for getting ahead of you. I did think that you had finished with the death portion of the story.

Comment by Fraser Sherman on August 25, 2012 at 2:16pm

Maybe they already had Lightning Lass in mind, so they were setting readers up: "Oh, he came back to life just like they said he might—no, wait, look!"

Comment by Philip Portelli on August 25, 2012 at 9:29pm

Okay, now just dealing with the events of Adventure Comics #304:

  • The capsule from Mernl (a play on Merlin?) lands in front of Legion Headquarters and doesn't set off any alarms! How convienent!
  • Saturn Girl, for the only time in her career, is packing heat! Complete with holster! Triplicate Girl has a raygun too, this time only. You would think with all the Legionnaires with non-physical, non-offensive powers that being armed would be more common. You can't join because of a weapon or gadget but you could still use one!
  • Beating a dead horse time! Superboy and Supergirl are time travellers! They can show up anytime they want!
  • After rigging her election, Saturn Girl makes some very unreasonable demands and apparently the team has to take it. In other words, once they elect a leader, they're stuck with them for the entire term!
  • Why does the Telepathic Teen know what the "spectrium" bar can do but not Brainiac 5? Did she make him forget about it?
  • She must be really aggravating! She finally got Shrinking Violet to talk!
  • I wrote about Ultra Boy not having his full powers before but it's reinforced here as he only uses his penetra-vision (actually his flash-vision) and she only refers to it. She also forbids him to use his super-power, singular.
  • Saturn Girl becomes a one-woman Legion and flies off to battle Zaryan the Conqueror alone as she has cowed the entire Legion to obey her!
  • However Lightning Lad goes after her, consequences be damned. Seems like someone remembered that they were a super-hero!
  • Then again, how dangerous was Zaryan? He had one spaceship and some robots! How was he going to conquer Earth? And the Legion? He would have had a hard time invading Bismol! Robots are tasty!
  • Anyway Lightning Lad speeds past Saturn Girl because he knows why and what she is about to do!
  • Despite having ALL the Legion's powers, she is helpless to stop him, proving she does not have Ultra Boy's ultra-speed. But she could have use Cosmic Boy's magnetic power to pull him back, Lightning Lad's own power to short out his anti-gravity unit OR her own power to command her to return!
  • I guess Zaryan's secret weapon was a freeze ray and it's deadly. But then again, so is Lightning Lad's power.
  • The Big Reveal: Mon-El, while in the Phantom Zone, is finally able to tell the Thunderbolt Teen that Saturn Girl plans to sacrifice herself. He had to wait for sun-spot activity to decrease to do so but now it's back so Garth can't be projected to the PZ. More Superman Family members die during increased sunspot periods. True fact!
  • After Lightning Lad expires, THEN Superboy and Supergirl show up! And already knowing what happened! Again, say it with me, TIME TRAVELLERS!
  • Kara brings Lori Lemaris with her. Why? I guess she had to fulfill her cameo quota since she's there for one panel. Though to be fair, Supergirl is only in two!
  • Superboy, thinking, "I can't believe Lightning Lad's...dead. Could I have saved him? Whoa! Who's the mermaid?? She's hot!"
  • Nice touch to have Cosmic Boy be the one there for a grieving Irma, who is not quite the Ice Maiden anymore!
  • I'm going out on a limb by saying it was planned to bring Lightning Lad back. There was just too much talk about if they could revive him for them NOT to revive him! And they never did that for Ferro Lad!


Comment by Commander Benson on August 25, 2012 at 10:10pm

I always thought the story should have ended like this:


L Lad:  "Don't cry, Saturn Girl!  Better me . . . gasp . . . th--than you . . . ."


(From the clubhouse emerges two more Saturn Girls.)


S. Girl:  "Lightning Lad . . . I used Triplicate Girl's power to split into three versions of myself!  Only one of my bodies left to confront Zaryan!  The other two of me remained safely here on Earth.  That was my plan all along!  You sacrificed yourself . . . choke . . . for nothing!


L Lad:  "Awwwww, man . . . ."   


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