www.cbr.com

A History of Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass' Relationship

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Today, I thought I'd take a look at one of the most fascinating relationships of the 1980s, the love between Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass, a love that the cultural situation of the 1980s and early 1990s led to being mostly in subtext and innuendo, which was still a lot more than most other gay relationships were given at the time.

Our story begins in 1986. Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby) and Lightning Lass (Ayla Ranzz) had both been longtime members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but they also had both undergone a whole lot of trauma over the years. Violet had a long time relationship with the superhero, Duplicate Boy, of the Heroes of Lallor, while Lightning Lass (then called Light Lass, because she had gravity powers) had one of the more notable relationships in the Legion with Timber Wolf. They got a lot more "air time" than Violet and Duplicate Boy's long distance relationship. However, eventually Light Lass wanted to leave the Legion and Timber Wolf did not, so they broke up. She was off of the team for a few years of our time, living the live on her home planet of Winath, where clothing was very much optional. Anyhow, when the Legion was launched into their own Direct Market Only series in 1984, the opening storyline involved the Legion of Super-Villains getting together and Light Lass was captured and her evil older brother forced her lightning powers to return (conveniently, her twin brother, Lightning Lad, had retired from the Legion and so there wasn't an issue of duplicate powers anymore). She rejoined the Legion. Meanwhile, Shrinking Violet seemed to break up with Duplicate Boy and then marry Colossal Boy. It turned out, though, that this Violet was an impostor, as a Durlan named Yera had taken Violet's place. The real Violet was in a sensory tank this whole time. She was freed, but she was changed a lot by her experiences.

Okay, so you have two characters, neither of whom is seeing anyone romantically, who both went through some major changes in their lives. Paul Levitz decided to show how the characters were now a lot alike in Legion of Super-Heroes #22 (art by Greg LaRocque and Mike DeCarlo)...

Remember, we're talking 1986 here. We're a year before John Byrne introduced Maggie Sawyer in the pages of his Superman reboot and even Maggie Sawyer, one of the most explicitly gay characters introduced in a DC superhero comic, was still mostly subtextually gay, so this was a big deal here.

Their bonding experiences continued in the next issue...

Then, the following issue had a confrontation between Timber Wolf and Lightning Lass where she makes it clear that they are through...

But then a funny thing happened. The Violet/Lightning Lass relationship never really progressed.

We see that they are still close, like when they're coming back from partying in Legion of Super-Heroes #30...

And Violet makes some vague comments about how she learned from her mistakes in dating Duplicate Boy in Legion #37...

But they're mostly apart for most of these next few years. This leads to a fascinating scene in Legion of Super-Heroes #56 where Lightning Lass effectively throws herself at Magnetic Lad, the younger brother of Cosmic Boy, and when that falls flat, she has an awkward run-in with Shrinking Violet...

That was it for their relationship in this series. However, Keith Giffen was about to relaunch the Legion with a new series set five years later with scripters Tom and Mary Bierbaum, longtime Legion fans who believed that Violet and Lightning Lass should be together. Now their relationship took a leap forward, but even then, a lot of it was still left as subtext...

1 2
Captain America Namor feature
Namor: Marvel's First Mutant Has Been Turned Into What He Hates Most

More in CBR Exclusives