Shrinking Violet & Lightning Lass

viayla1In the 30th century, a group of super powered teenagers banded together to form the Legion of Super Heroes. The Legion were deputized agents of the law and help keep interplanetary peace throughout the United Planets. Two members of this peace keeping force were Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass.

Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby) was born on Earth, but her parents hailed from planet Imsk. Imskians are born with the ability to decrease their size down to sub-atomic size, and Vi (as she was quickly nick-named) inherited these same powers. She was admitted into the Legion on her second try and became a member of long standing.

Vi was originally a very shy girl who barely spoke during her first few years in the group. It wasn’t until she met and fell in love with Duplicate Boy (a hero from the planet Lallor) that she began to emerge from her shell and become more self assertive. The two maintained a long distance romance for many years.

Both Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass (Ayla Ranzz) remained active members for quite some time. Then, unbeknownst to the other Legionnaires, Vi was kidnapped and replaced by a Durlan shape shifting actress named Yera. Yera posed as Shrinking Violet for months before the switch was discovered. It was during this same time that Light Lass began to doubt her place with both Timber Wolf and the Legion and she resigned.

The other Legionnaires discovered that Yera had infiltrated their ranks and set out to rescue the real Shrinking Violet. They soon found out that Violet had been abducted by Imskian extremests and held in a sensory deprivation tank during the entire kidnapping. After her rescue, Vi emerged as a much stronger and determined individual. She began intense workouts and severed her relationship with Duplicate Boy. This was the beginning of a whole new life for Shrinking Violet.

viayla2Not long after this incident, Ayla was also kidnapped by her older brother Mekt (who unlike his younger siblings had decided to use his lightning powers for evil as Lightning Lord). During an attempt to break free, Mekt and Ayla battled and her lightning powers were restored during the process. The battle was a turning point in Ayla’s life and she decided to rejoin the Legion of Super Heroes as Lightning Lass.

Soon after Lightning Lass rejoined the group she and Vi discovered that their mutual experiences had changed their outlooks on life (Legion of Super Heroes, 2nd series #22 5/86). Shrinking Violet explains, “I changed my whole life Ayla. What about you?” “Never mind,” she continues “Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe we don’t know each other that well.” The ensuing conversation is cut short but the seed had been planted for the readers!

Throughout the remainder of the second series, Vi and Lightning Lass were often shown to work, travel and play together. They were drawn in a fashion that consistantly displayed them in physical embraces that infered a lesbian relationship. While Vi’s commitment to this unspoken relationship was never in question, it should be noted that Lightning Lass was quoted as still loving Timber Wolf, but she had no intention of “taking him back.”, and she also playfully flirted with fellow Legionnaire Magnetic Kid.

In November of 1989, the Legion of Super Heroes began it’s third series. Set five years after the last series ended, the Legion is shown to have disbanded.

Issue #1 quite clearly points out that the relationship between Vi and Ayla is still alive. Being discharged from the Imsk Occupational Army, Vi writes Ayla “… and while my MIND is still confused, my HEART knows EXACTLY where I belong. I’m coming “home.” With this, Vi joins Ayla on the planet Winath.

viayla3Not long after this reunion, the two both join the Legion again as it is re-formed. They continue to nurture their relationship and serve the team throughout the remainder of the series. In Legion of Super Heroes #61 (9/94) Ayla and Vi join together for a final embrace as time is warped around them and they fade from existance. “All the choices we made in our lives… ” Ayla begins. “I’m glad we’re making this one together too,” Vi concludes. In the next few moments, the entire Legion of Super Heroes and it’s long rich history are erased.

In October 1994, DC re-booted it’s entire line of comics after a mini series called “Zero Hour.” Beginning in Legion of Super Heroes #0 (10/94) the Legion begins anew with a fresh new story line that begins with the re-creation of the entire team with no references to any of the past series.

Vi and Ayla were not reunited as a couple in the Mark Waid three-boot version. Legion of Three Worlds has not concluded and the outcome and consequent storylines and continuity for these two charactes remains to be  seen.

Tom & Mary Bierbaum, the last writers of the Legion before the reboot,have discussed in interviews and also on a Legion 50th Anniversary panel at Comic Con that Vi and Ayla were indeed written as a lesbian couple, even though the words “gay” or “lesbian” were never spoken, and a kiss between them was never shown.

Art by Francis Portela
Art by Francis Portela

In issue #6 of Legion of Super Heroes (published 10/10), current writer Paul Levitz gives readers the first indication that Vi and Ayla are in a relationship in this iteration of the series. Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl are on monitor duty talking about Shadow Lass’ relationship with Earth Man. Their conversation is interrupted by Vi and Ayla. Vi tells them she is taking Ayla to Imsk for a break and for the “the holidays”. They’re standing quite close to one another, perhaps their hips are touching even as Vi’s left hand quite naturally rests on Ayla’ship. The sub-text of their body language to me is that their relationship is not brand new (though also not a continuation of the Bierbaum version).

Shrinking Violet first appeared in Action #276 (1961). Ayla Ranzz first appeared in Adventure #308 (1963). The first hintthat they’re romantically involved comes in Legion of Super Heroes #22, vol. 2 (5/86). Please also see this entry.

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October 22, 2010
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