Lightning Lass currently stars in the ongoing Legion of Super-Heroes series after the DC Universe was rebooted with the new 52. Ayla and her teammates are presently battling a villainous Daxamite and a group of Controllers on the planet of Panoptes.
Ayla Ranzz was the twin sister of a founding member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Garth Ranzz (Lightning Lad), and the younger sister of the villainous Mekt Ranzz (Lightning Lord). While traveling from their home planet of Winath, all three siblings became stranded on the 'lightning world' of Korbal, where they were attacked by powerful creatures known as lightning beasts. Rather than being killed, the Ranzz's somehow survived the attack and gained formidable lightning powers themselves. Ayla originally joined the Legion of Super-Heroes disguised as Lightning Lad, claiming to be her brother back from the dead after his apparent death at the hands of the villain Zaryan. Ayla's impersonation of her brother was soon discovered, but she proved her worth to the team and was admitted into the Legion as Lightning Lass.
Lightning Lass was created in 1963 by writer Edmond Hamilton and artist John Forte. She became the fifth female character to join the Legion and the 19th Legionnaire overall.
Original Continuity: New Earth
After joining the Legion, Ayla caught the eye of fellow Legionnaire Timber Wolf (Brin Londo) and the two became a regular item. But Ayla had only been a Legionnaire for a short time before new teammate Dream Girl (Nura Nal) had a vision foretelling that Ayla's lightning power would eventually result in her death. To save Ayla's life, Nura used the advanced science of her homeworld of Naltor to change Ayla's power to that of gravity nullification. Ayla's new ability to make objects super-lightweight led her to shorten her code name to Light Lass, and to further reflect this change she removed the lightning logos from her costume and replaced them with a feather logo on her chest. As Light Lass, she soon mastered her new powers and remained a valuable member of the team.
In original continuity, Ayla had two major romantic relationships: first with Timber Wolf, and later with a female teammate, Shrinking Violet, which lasted all the way to the end of original continuity.
After the event called Zero Hour, Legion history was completely rebooted, with this reality later designated as Earth-247. Ayla gained her lightning powers in much the same way as that of her counterpart in original continuity, though she now called herself Spark rather than Lightning Lass. She again joined the Legion as a replacement for her brother Garth (who was called Live Wire in this continuity), though the circumstances this time were completely different. Because of his illegal activities in search of their older brother, Mekt, Garth was wanted by the police, and it was decided that he was not the type of person their home planet of Winath wanted to be representing them in the Legion. So, Garth was out and Ayla was in. This caused understandable friction between the two siblings, but once R.J. Brande assumed the presidency, he lifted the restriction that limited Legion membership to one member per planet.
In reboot continuity, shape-shifting teammate Chameleon (Reep Daggle) developed a major crush on Ayla. She initially rejected him for being a member of an alien race, but later began to reciprocate his feelings. Romance with Timber Wolf or Shrinking Violet was absent in this continuity.
Legion history was rebooted yet again, in a continuity which became known as the "Threeboot." This reality was later designated as Earth-Prime. Ayla Ranzz was once again called Light Lass, and unlike in previous continuities, she always had anti-gravity powers rather than lightning powers. She did not appear to have any problem with possessing powers unlike those of her twin brother Garth (who was once again Lightning Lad), and in fact she seemed to enjoy being different. She often teamed with Star Boy, countering his ability to make things heavier with her ability to make them lighter.
In this continuity, Ayla was the flirtatious party girl of the Legion. She wore a saucy midriff-baring costume and had a history of dating many of her male teammates, who joked that she sure knew how to "make things rise." Though the Threeboot Ayla indulged in flings rather than serious relationships, it was mentioned that she had once been in a serious relationship with Timber Wolf (Ayla's first romance in original continuity) that ended badly. A romance with Shrinking Violet (known as Atom Girl in this continuity) was never alluded to.
Retroboot: New Earth
The event known as Infinite Crisis brought together the Legions of all three continuities. Afterward, the current Legion of Super-Heroes has returned to being a close approximation of the original Pre-Crisis team prior to the Five Year Gap. Ayla Ranzz has returned to her Lightning Lass identity and possesses her original lightning powers along with a variation of her original blue and orange costume. In the Lightning Saga (which chronicled Legion events leading up to Infinite Crisis), it was mentioned that Ayla had reconciled with Timber Wolf, implying that the two may have gotten back together. However, more recent events ended that speculation; Ayla is currently in a steady romantic relationship with Shrinking Violet, just as they were at the end of original Legion continuity.
Major Story Arcs
Original Continuity: New Earth
Romance with Shrinking Violet
Later there was a misunderstanding when Ayla caught longtime boyfriend Timber Wolf in an intimate embrace with Ayla's own sister-in-law, Saturn Girl, while both were stranded together on a frozen asteroid. Because of this, Ayla broke up with Timber Wolf, and she soon became disillusioned with her Legion career. She decided to leave the team, but was captured and tortured by her evil brother, Lightning Lord, who had become an implacable enemy of the Legion. She eventually escaped and successfully battled Lightning Lord, which caused her original lightning powers to be restored. Ayla re-joined the Legion as Lightning Lass once again, though she did not rekindle her romance with Timber Wolf. Instead she bonded with a female teammate, Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby), who had just been through a similar personal crisis. The two women grew so close that they entered a romantic relationship (one of the first same-sex romances in mainstream comics) that lasted until the end of the Legion's original continuity.
Five Years Later
Following the cataclysmic events of the Magic Wars, Legion continuity jumped ahead five years in what is known as the "Five Year Gap." After the event called "Black Dawn," Ayla resigned from the Legion and returned to her homeworld of Winath. There she joined the rest of her family and helped manage their plantation, which helped feed the starving galaxy. A traumatic military incursion on Shrinking Violet's homeworld of Imsk caused Violet to join girlfriend Ayla on Winath. Events soon prompted the re-forming of the Legion and both women became Legionnaires again. A confrontation with Glorith resulted in the reversal of Ayla's body's natural aging process, which briefly gave her youthful vitality. It was an asset during a period when the Legion was "on the run" from trumped-up charges of treason. During this time she changed her codename to Pulse, while Violet changed hers to Virus. Ayla's true age was restored in an explosion resulting from a battle with Glorith and Mordru. Not long after this, Ayla met her time-paradox duplicate Gossamer (see Other Versions below) for the first and last time before the original Legion timeline came to an end. Ayla held Violet's hand as their reality was erased by the white wave of the Zero Hour.
Ayla was among a group of Legionnaires that was sent one thousand years into the past after a battle between Shrinking Violet and the Emerald Eye of Ekron. Ayla seemed to enjoy being in the 20th century, but during her stay she traveled into the Source, which was a mysterious energy field that lay at the center of the universe. Her contact with the Source changed her powers so that she was now able to nullify gravity, a change that she greatly disliked. She had no choice but to use her new power to aid the Legion as best she could, though she did not alter her code name or costume to reflect the change.
Death of Live Wire
Shortly after Ayla returned to the 30th century she began suffering serious psychosomatic problems, which were diagnosed as a reaction to now having powers different than that of her twin brother. Desperate for a cure, the twins traveled back to the lightning world of Korbal to try to re-imbue Ayla with her original lightning powers, but things went horribly wrong and Ayla appeared to suffer a lethal accident. But her brother refused to give Ayla up for dead, and took advantage of the supercharged atmosphere of Korbal to channel a massive blast of electricity into her body. Miraculously she awoke unharmed, and with her old lightning powers restored. As in original continuity, Garth himself was eventually killed in action, leaving Ayla devastated. She tried to adopt his code name of Live Wire to honor him, but the change never felt right and she soon returned to her previous code name of Spark. Later, Ayla was overjoyed to discover that, though physically altered, her brother was still alive.
Saving Earth from a Black Hole
After Legion leader Cosmic Boy went missing, Ayla spent much of her time trying to support her over-worked brother Lightning Lad, who had been named replacement leader. During her free time she was shown to be having a brief fling with fellow Legionnaire Karate Kid, as they were seen passionately kissing after Phantom Girl left them alone in the Legion's recreation room. Ayla later impressively demonstrated her worth to the Legion when a black hole materialized dangerously close to Earth space. Combining wits and powers with Star Boy and Brainiac 5, Light Lass used her abilities to negate the black hole and save Earth, though this feat took multiple attempts and left her completely drained.
Retroboot: New Earth
Captured by the New Emerald Empress
Following a battle that left Ayla injured, girlfriend Shrinking Violet suggested Ayla join her on a vacation to her homeworld of Imsk. The two women vacationed in a private starship, which passed near the planet Orando on its way to Imsk. Unbeknownst to the Legionnaires, Orando had recently been taken over by the new Emerald Empress wielding the Emerald Eye of Ekron. Sensing their presence and realizing they were old enemies, the Empress blasted down the Legionnaires' ship with the Eye and took the two women captive. Ayla and Violet were able to escape and call for backup, prompting several more Legionnaires, including Sensor Girl (the rightful ruler of Orando), to arrive and battle the Empress. The Eye's power seemed too great and the Legion was on the verge of defeat, when Violet shrank down to sub-atomic size and was able to enter the Eye unnoticed. By suddenly growing back to full size from inside the Eye, she was able to shatter it, breaking its hold over the Empress. The Eye quickly re-formed and fled into space, and Sensor Girl set about the task of rebuilding Orando. Meanwhile Ayla and Violet continued their vacation together. This story arc firmly established that Ayla and Violet were again a romantic couple.
Powers and Abilities
As Lightning Lass
As Lightning Lass, Ayla has the ability to generate and project powerful bolts of electrical energy, which she can direct against her opponents to deadly effect. Her lightning is considered roughly equal in power to the lightning generated by her twin brother Garth (Lightning Lad), though less powerful than the lightning of her older brother Mekt (Lightning Lord). Ayla can modulate the strength of her electrical blasts in order to suit a particular purpose or situation; i.e. disrupt electronic devices, or stun opponents rather than cause physical harm.
As Light Lass
As Light Lass, Ayla could nullify the gravity on any living thing or object. She could make massive multi-ton objects become as weightless as a feather with a simple gesture. The upper limit of her gravity nullification was unknown, though it appeared to be directly linked to her willpower and ability to concentrate. Her greatest feat was performed by the Earth-Prime (Threeboot) Light Lass, who helped save Earth by temporarily nullifying the awesome gravitational pull of a black hole.
Ayla is an athletic woman who keeps herself in excellent physical condition. Her girlfriend Shrinking Violet is considered the second-best female martial artist in the Legion and has given Ayla extensive hand-to-hand combat training, making Ayla a skilled fighter even without using her powers.
As a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Ayla possesses a Legion Flight Ring. The ring gives its wearer the ability to fly, the speed and range of which is determined by the wearer's willpower. It also acts as a long-range communicator (enabling constant vocal contact with other Legionnaires, even across vast distances of space), a signal device, and a navigational compass, all powered by a micro-computer built inside the ring.
Five Years Later: Batch SW6
After the Five Year Gap, duplicate teenaged versions of the Legion mysteriously appeared, initially known as "Batch SW6" since they were believed to be clones of the original team created by the Dominators prior to the death of Ferro Lad. Batch SW6 were later revealed to be time-paradox duplicates of the original Legion, rather than clones. They formed their own team and operated separately from the original Legion, calling themselves the Legionnaires and starring in their own series with that title. The Ayla Ranzz of SW6 still had anti-gravity powers and called herself Light Lass. To further differentiate herself from the original Ayla, the duplicate Ayla changed her code name to "Gossamer" and adopted a different costume. The timeline of Gossamer and the other SW6 duplicates ended with Zero Hour.
Ayla appeared as a member of the Legion in Superboy's Legion, an Elseworlds story in which Superboy arrived on Earth in the 30th century, rather than the 20th. She went by the Light Lass code name, but with an important difference: She had the power to manipulate light itself, rather than gravity. She wore a different costume than any other version of Ayla, though it had the same blue, orange, and white color scheme as her original (and now current) Lightning Lass costume.
Castles in the Air
Ayla Ranzz appeared as royal handmaiden in the Elseworlds story Castles in the Air, published in 1994 in Legionnaires Annual #1. In this reality, the Legion became a futuristic version of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. This version of Ayla wore a medieval-style dress patterned after her Earth-247 Spark costume.
Superman: The Animated Series
Ayla's first animated appearance was as Light Lass in the episode New Kids in Town, though it was only a non-speaking cameo role. She was shown briefly along with other Legionnaires when a younger Superman (Clark Kent) was brought to Legion headquarters in the 30th century. Her costume resembled the Light Lass costume from original continuity, though it had sleeves instead of being sleeveless.
Legion of Super-Heroes Animated Series
In the episode Chained Lightning, a very young Ayla appeared in a flashback sequence that showed how the Ranzz children first got their lightning powers on Korbal. Unlike in the comics, Ayla disappeared when they were attacked by the lightning beasts. She later reappeared as an energy being in a space storm. She was eventually rescued by her brothers Garth and Mekt and restored to human form, though she was still the same young age as she was before the lightning beast attack. The series was canceled before it was ever revealed if the restored Ayla had lightning powers that would enable her to join the Legion when she grew older. Ayla was voiced by actress Kari Wahlgren, who also voiced Shrinking Violet in the series.
Lightning Lass was ranked 47th in Comic Buyer's Guide's 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list, making her the third-sexiest Legionnaire to appear on the list (after Shadow Lass and Duplicate Girl).