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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Lightning Lad’s a What?!?

Every Saturday, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the death and “life” of Lightning Lad!

Enjoy!

In Adventure Comics #304, Lightning Lad sacrifices himself to save Saturn Girl’s life…

Over the next eight issues, a recurring sub plot was “can they bring him back to life?” A lot of “finding a cure for seventeen stab wounds to the back” type of stuff.

Then, finally, in Adventure Comics #312, by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte, they succeed in bringing him back…

And so it went for over thirty years, until Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #3 (in a story by Tom and Mary Bierbaum and art from Brandon Peterson and Scott Hanna), when an adult Lightning Lad makes a stunning revelation to his “sister” (they are on their home planet of Winath, where clothing is optional, hence her attire)…

So yes, Proty had taken Garth’s place. He debates whether to tell her…

I suppose this has been re-retconned in the current Legion of Super-Heroes title, but it has not specifically been addressed.

41 Comments

Is there any particular reason Lori Lemaris wants to come to the funeral?

If I’m understanding right, Proty’s mind got zapped into Garth’s body, so impregnating Imra wouldn’t be a problem on that element, I don’t think. If not, well, Proty’s a big blob of goo, so if I remember health class right, that is how babies are made :)

Ah, yes, that’s right. I thought Proty was impersonating at first, but you’re right, it is just a mind transfer instead.

Yeah, otherwise, what’s that wad of goo that Mon-El is pointing at once Garth is alive again? Ugh, oh, no!

I loved this twist because it added a science-fiction flair to what was otherwise a space melodrama. Same with the revelation about Element Lad and Shvaughn Erin, which I think appeared in the same issue. But I can see how other longtime fans would consider it a desecration of the cherished “canon.”

Since the Legion has been retconned several times now, I don’t think much is necessarily canon anymore. Writers can say the present Legion is a combination of previous Legions. And that whatever bits and pieces they choose are the present canon.

Seeing these pages from books I don’t read out of context, there’s always some random detail that just sits there daring me to figure it out. Something that probaly makes complete sense in context, but to an outsider, gives you a “why is no one talking about this?” feeling. Like the way someone who only knew Superman from movies and TV would feel if presented with a page featuring Electric Blue Superman with no explanation.

In this case: why is his sister dressed like a sumo wrestler?

Sorry, ZZZ, I edited in the reason for her attire. They are on a planet with a “clothing optional” policy. There are lots of topless Legionnaires in the issue.

Lori had met previously met Garth at a Superman parade. I’ve also seen it argued that as a telepath she could comfort Imra, which makes good story sense. Also, having Supergirl bring in a mermaid is just plain cool.

Legion fans debate this story a lot! I’m pro-Proty myself. With heroes coming back from the dead so often resurrection has become almost boring in comics. This reveal shows that not every return is as it seems.

I love how it’s all “we’ll sacrifice *anything* to bring Lightning Lad back to life,” then it’s “too bad about Proty!”

randypan the goatboy

February 5, 2012 at 6:49 am

OH MY GOD,,,,,,,ewwwwwwwwwww. Does that suck or what?

Nice reasonably obscure Simpsons reference.

I always thought the Proty twist was really clever, although I can totally see why it did not work for some people. Honestly, there was a lot of cool stuff in the 5 Years Later Legion, it’s a pity that so much of it has been completely discarded and forgotten. It’s great that the Ayla/Vi relationship has been kept, but I’d still like to see some of the characters like Kono and Celeste Rockfish show up in the current title.

A bit of background to this story: in an earlier issue Mon-El had died, and his cousin (Eltro Gand, I think) used the same lightning-sacrifice gimmick to bring him back.
Years later, we would find out that a lot of mental instability Mon-El had suffered from in the intervening years was caused by having Eltro’s consciousness implanted in his, and once that consciousness is eliminated, Mon-El becomes much more stable & heroic.

And so, the Bierbaums take this idea to the next logical step. Kind of genius, really.

The Five Years Later era is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it produced the most mature Legion stories you will ever read.

I suspect that once Zero Hour had wiped out this continuity, Garth’s story reversed itself to the “Proty dies” version and remains the case now that Paul Levitz’s 80′s Legion is back.

I don’t know if this is really valid now because it happened in the first reboot of LSH – that LSH that was “official” between Zero Hour and the crossover with Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans, when it ended.
Then, we had Mark Waid’s LSH… that was ended in Final Crisis (though Geoff Johns had already introduced a “fourth” version of LSH, mainly based on the original one [but with changes]).
It seems that this “fourth” version is the one remaining today, even after Flashpoint’s reboot.

So, that version of LSH started with Zero Hour doesn’t count anymore for years now.

More recently, Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer dealt with that lightning ritual again in Lightning Saga (involving LSH, JSA and JLA), and nothing was mentioned about (that I can remember now).

I’m not a usual DC reader anymore… but this is what I remember.

Lori had met previously met Garth at a Superman parade.

I really want that to have been at this “Superman parade”: http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/action-comics/388-1.jpg Sadly, probably not.

I always thought the Proty twist was really clever, although I can totally see why it did not work for some people. Honestly, there was a lot of cool stuff in the 5 Years Later Legion, it’s a pity that so much of it has been completely discarded and forgotten.

I love everything about the Five Years Later Legion. I’m willing to accept that it’s no longer really in continuity, but for grife’s sake I wish they’d collect it.

PM Agria: Close. The Proty-is-Garth idea wasn’t in the Reboot Legion, which is what you’re talking about; it was in the Five Years Later Legion, which still had shreds of the continuity of the original Legion.

Speaking of out-of-context details, what are those weird splotches on Garth’s arm on the final page pictured?

The weird blemishes on Garth’s arm at the end are scars left over from his infection with Winathococcus Validus. A disease that infects Winathians and emanates from his time displaced/Darkseid altered son Garridan who was the former member of the Fatal Five Validus

The “Five Years Later” (5YL) Legion was explicitly retconned out when the Geoff Johns “retroboot” came in. Those guys were from the Levitz/Lightle era and diverged somewhere post-Crisis. The Giffen/Bierbaum 5YL version (which was a soft reboot that retconned out Superboy, Supergirl, and Mon-El and retconned in Laurel Gand and Valor) was the one that got wiped out in Zero Hour.

The whole lighting revival thing always seemed kind of stupid to me, and I could only ever laugh whenever DC when back to that well. Not the life transfer itself, but the whole story around it.

Lightning Lad dies, and everyone is downright eager to die to bring him back to life? Why is Lightning Lad so important? Saturn Girl blaming herself, okay. Maybe one or two others with a “wish it was me instead” attitude. But everyone?

Why wouldn’t the Legionnaires immediately start looking for ways to bring back their sacrifice? After all, the sacrifice would have been a Legion member. (Although it would be a bit funny to see a Marvel What If? style story, “What if the Legion cared about every member as much as Lightning Lad?”, where every week they meet to randomly sacrifice one Legionnaire to bring the previous week’s sacrifice back to life.)

It was pretty much an insult when they just dismiss Proty’s death. Particularly Lightning Lad, who went from “I don’t want to live if Saturn Girl had to die” to “Hey, Saturn Girl’s alive! All of you were willing to die to save me, so I’ll live and try to be worthy.”

Speaking of out-of-context details, what are those weird splotches on Garth’s arm on the final page pictured?

There was a subplot where one of Garth and Imra’s twins was a carrier for the Validus Plague. Lots of Winathians had died, some had been infected, including Garth, but survived. Part of the thing about the disease was that you became mishapen and began to look like Validus. Garth was infected, but ended up with a club foot, (Hence the walking stick) and some damage to his right arm….Which was, by the way, the cloned arm he was given to replace his robotic one.

I suppose this has been re-retconned in the current Legion of Super-Heroes title, but it has not specifically been addressed.

The evidence we’ve been given, in story or through interviews, is that there are four distinct Legions

Version 1: The original Legion, from the Silver Age to Zero Hour. This timeline suffered some retcons due to time shifts, the first Crisis, the Mordruverse/Glorithverse, but was, essentially, one continuing story from beginning to end.

Version 2: The Reboot, from Zero Hour to Infinite Crisis.

Version 3: The Threeboot, The Waid/Kitson/Shooter/Manapul version.

Version 4: The Retroboot, from the Lightning Saga to the Present. A Legion that is similar to Version 1, bu has lots of retcons and changes. This Legion parallels the original up until the Magic Wars. From then it diverges with the Geoff Johns stories replacing the “5 years Later Legion” and leads into Levitz’s current run.

The 5YL Legion is an interesting read, because it’s the Legion written as a science fiction story rather than as a superhero story. That understandably turns off some longtime fans, and interests some people who otherwise didn’t care about the Legion. The other theme that bothered a lot of fans, and somewhat bothers me, is that the Legion went from an (admittedly silly) utopian Buck Rogers future to a (somewhat cliched) dystopic “same problems, new era” sort of future. I wonder when comic-book writers gave up entirely on imagining better worlds than ours, and started settling for worlds that are the same or worse? At least the 5YL Legion gave us characters who aspired to be better people and to create a better world.

I liked it a lot myself for the first several storylines, but I think the Bierbaums occasionally sacrificed story for the opportunity to write in their more treasured fannish speculations and preferences. Probably the most obvious of these is their hatred of Sun Boy, who becomes the goat for everything and utterly fails to redeem himself for any of it. Even his archfoe, Regulus, is written out offstage. The Bierbaums just didn’t like the guy for some reason.

In a more relevant example, while I thought that the Proty/Garth bit was carefully done and leads to some powerful character moments, I still feel that the Element Lad/Shvaugn thing always struck me as the work of fans who’d decided Jan was gay and were damned well going to make that so in the comics. There were more intelligent ways of thinking through 30th-century sexuality than the left-turn reveal about Shvaughn’s transgender status. That said, I do think it was interesting to introduce a transgendered character, and that Jan’s immediate reaction — while truncated — was rather well-written.

interesting for always thought proty had just had garth minds tranfered to him while they look to revive his body not thinking maybe he just like he did with saturn girl took garths form also and maybe the lighting lad was actully proty all the time..

Mind you, much as I liked this story, the idea that a guy with someone else’s mind could be married to a powerful telepath for 20 years without her catching on is pretty far-fetched. I know she tried to honor people’s privacy and all, but sheesh.

The problem with this story for long-time Legion fans is just that it so blatantly went against so many things that had been explicitly seen and shown for years and years before this (not to mention being able to keep a secret like this from Saturn Girl – that’s a lot of self-control on display there. Proty should have been a Green Lantern).

The excuse for it, though, is that near the beginning of this particular series, the Legion’s history had been rebooted and all sorts of new elements had been added in or changed (ie Valor instead of Superboy inspiring the team, presence of Kid Quantum, Reflecto, etc), so that is how I was able to swallow this, as much as I disliked it.

The idea that this has “not specifically been addressed” is misleading, though, since all of Legion history has been rewritten since, numerous time over, and this particular incarnation didn’t even make it as one of the “Legion of Three Worlds”, except as a brief cameo. So this “hasn’t been addressed” any more than any of the other numerous “innovations” of that series.

5YL, and the Waid threeboot for that matter, had some really intersting ideas, and are good science fiction stories. My problem with them is that, to me, the Legion future is supposed to be optimistic. As it is, almost every sci-fi future except for Star Trek is dystopian, we don’t need the Legion future to be dystopian as well.

Also, I agree with Buttler’s comment that it strains credulity, even for a comic book, that Imra couldn’t figure this out after five minutes, let alone 20 years. I know Ayla said she thinks Imra just didn’t want to know, but I’m not buying that. However, it is sort of a clever idea.

i really liked the 5YL Legion, as i never was a big fan of ‘In the future, everything is bright & shiny’. i grew up with Star Wars, where everything looked like it had been used & was real. So, i appriciated this new take on the Legion & read up to about issue 40 [where the Earth has blowed up real good]. However, this was the final straw for me. i really like what Omar Karindu & XBen say. Omar say it better than i can:

“I think the Bierbaums occasionally sacrificed story for the opportunity to write in their more treasured fannish speculations and preferences.
[This storyline & the] Element Lad/Shvaugn thing always struck me as the work of fans who’d decided Jan was gay and were damned well going to make that so in the comics.”

Sorry to steal Omar’s thoughts, but they are so close to mine & better written.

This Proty/Garth swap seemed to come out of the blue to me [as someone who liked the Legion, but wasn't steeped in the rabid fan base that debated these issues] that it totally turned me off. i couldn’t read anything else by the Bierbaums & dropped the Legion asap.

Even if danjack or anyone else doesn’t like what the Bierbaums did here, they should still pick up their collaboration with Giffen on Heckler. 6 issues of pure comics gold!

@ Travis:

i did like most of what they did on the 5YL Legion, it was just that a few of their stories seemed so forced & out of the blue [this above & the Element Lad weird romantic situation are the two biggest examples] that it turned me off & i stopped reading the comic.

If i found the compleat Heckler for cheap i would probably pick it up. Love Giffen on just about anything, so there’s that.

Thanks Travis.

I loved the 5YG Legion, and this revelation was a stroke of genius. It isn’t still canon, of course, but Levitz has managed to sneak Vi and Ayla’s relationship back in to the title, and that was another 5YG idea so one never knows.

I’d wondered about that lightning thing from that Geoff Johns story a while back . . . and honestly, I’m still wondering?

Post-FLASHPOINT, I’m not sure if all three ‘surviving’ Legions established in LEGION OF THREE WORLDS (Earth-Prime’s LSH, aka the Waid/Kitson/Shooter/Manapul version; the re-established Levitz-Giffen ‘Keystone-Earth’ LSH; and the LSH from an Earth destroyed by the Crisis on Infinite Earths) are still kicking around. Well, other than the Levitz-Giffen Retroboot, that is. Time will tell.

This happened in the “5 Years Later” Legion, which is out of continuity since the current Legion picked up right before this era began (thus, negating it).

Plus, there’s DC’s general attitude of “we don’t need to bother explaining continuity gaffes other than to say it was changed in one of the many Crises since”

Had the Legion not recently had its continuity radically altered, this ‘revelation’ and the Shvaugn Erin revelation would have not worked, because both flew in the face of years’ worth of characterization (and in the case of Proty/Garth, DECADES’ worth of story and characterization).

But, since the history of the Legion had been changed TWICE since then (first, in the ‘Pocket Universe’ story, and then in issue #4 of the 5YL Legion where Mon-El and the Time Trapper’s confrontation changes their history), resulting in Superboy and Supergirl being replaced with new characters, we can chalk Proty/Garth and Shvaughn/Sean as further changes. Such things were not true about them in the pre-5yl Legion, but in the new reality the 5YL Legion is set in, they are.

Not that it matters any more, considering all the reboots and relaunches since then.

I liked the 5YL legion because, despite the darkness, the Legion themselves seemed to have the same old optimism–they would fix things, they would make the universe better, long live the legion!
That being said, yeah, some ideas not so good, this being one of them (also the Garth/Rokk/Imra triangle seemed forced).
Nobody fussed about Proty because he was a pet–it’s like having your dog rush out in front of the car to save you. You’ll notice he doesn’t get any lines–and even Proty II, who did, joined the Legion of Super-Pets (and during the Levitz years, complained about that).
But yes, the fact they left the life-transfer open ended was sloppy–it’s unusual to do something like that and not have a “This rare element will be totally burned out so it may be years before anyone can attempt this again!” rationalization.
Glad to see these A&F aren’t stopped yet. Looking forward to catching up.

In all of these forums, I feel the need to point out that the first suggestions of Shrinking Violet’s and Lightning Lass’ romantic relationship were written by Levitz during the second half of his Baxter run.

As it stands, there’s only one tiny element of 5YL Legion that has been retained by the current retroboot. That would be the name ‘Garridan’ for the Ranzz twin who used to be Validus. Right through Magic Wars, the boy was only ever called Validus. 5 years later, the boy had been renamed and that name has stuck.

I was a huge fan of the 5YG Legion. I pretty much appreciated very story during that era. I’m equally sure that the whole Proty revelation caused quite a stir in the letter’s page; some long time fans enjoyed it and had often speculated that was the case, while others were bothered by Irma’s lack of knowing.

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