Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I Liked the Lad Who Had the Lightning

When I was 6, my favorite member of the Legion of Super Heroes was Lightning Lad, for four reasons:
1)           He was the first of them I saw, when Jerry Siegel sent him to rescue Superboy from Luthor’s Army of Living Kryptonite Men (Superboy 86, Jan. 1961). The Boy from Tomorrow saved the doomed Boy of Tomorrow single-handedly, a deus ex machina if there ever was one.
2)          Unlike the other founding members, LL sported the necessary swashbuckling flourish of a CAPE, in addition to a cool midnight blue costume.
3)          He had interesting red hair. Ginger superheroes were quite a rarity. In fact, I remember being vaguely confused as to whether Lightning Lad might be the secret identity of Jimmy Olsen.
4)          He could project LIGHTNING BOLTS from his HANDS! As a child, I loved lightning and thunder, so what could possibly be better than projecting LIGHTNING BOLTS from your HANDS?
The onset of adulthood brought with it the disappointing realization that however cool it may look, hurling lightning bolts is of extremely limited utility in solving life’s problems. Steel girders just don’t fall on people all that often.
Years later, the immense popularity of the Legion to a new generation of children puzzled me. Unlike the JLA or the Avengers, the Legion seemed a particularly contrived business.
Why should all superheroes be teenagers? Why should almost all superheroes have only one power? And why should all superheroes who have more than one power have exactly the same set of powers, namely Superman’s? Silly stuff.
What I had missed was that for later readers, the feature neatly combined the adventurous spirit of superhero stories with the time-tested romantic appeal of school fiction (an element later exploited by Harry Potter).

No comments:

Post a Comment