Lightning Lad’s Costume Design History

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

We have already taken a deep dive into Cosmic Boy’s costume design history. Next up on our examination of the costume histories of various Legionnaires is another one of the three founders. Everyone’s favorite Ginger-American. Lightning Lad! I view Lightning Lad as the San Diego Chargers of the Legion. Not just because they both share lightning bolt symbols and a similar color scheme. But, because the Chargers have always had one of the best looking uniforms in the NFL ever since they debuted in 1961.

Lightning Lad can claim the same accolade. Lightning Lad has always had one of the best-looking costumes. Period. All of the other Legionnaires have gone through highs and lows. Some Legionnaires have never really had a good looking costume. But, Lightning Lad? The guy almost always has a costume that looks good. Another interesting aspect of Lightning Lad’s costume design language is how consistent it has been over the decades.

1950s

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Lightning Lad’s original costume debuted in Adventure Comics #247 published in 1958. Much like Cosmic Boy, Garth’s original costume design left a lot to be desired. The primary color scheme is yellow, red, and green. As if a tri-color scheme was not enough we also get white as an accent color. Interestingly enough, after this original costume, we would not see red or green used in any of Lightning Lad’s costumes. The difference between Garth’s first costume and all of the rest of them is as extreme as any Legionnaire’s costume history. The yellow, red, and green color scheme is ugly. The yellow and red combination reminds me of McDonald’s. The red and green combination reminds me of Christmas. All three of them together is just a hot mess.

Garth had his name written across the chest of his shirt. Like I said in my breakdown of Cosmic Boy’s costume design, I dislike the design decision to have a codename written across the chest of the shirt. We have the iconic twin lightning bolts on the chest. The twin lightning bolt design on the chest of Lightning Lad’s costume is a consistent design element that is seen in all of his costumes. Much like Cosmic Boy’s four circles, the twin lightning bolts are Lightning Lad’s trademark symbol.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

The shirt is red with white shoulder fins and yellow sleeves that end with red gloves. The shirt has a yellow formal high collar. The costume has a black belt with a large yellow belt buckle in the shape of home plate on a baseball field. The costume then has billowy green pants and red boots which is a terrible way to finish off this costume.

Final Grade: 1 Night Girls out of 10. This is a poor costume design with the billowy pants and the codename written on the shirt that is made even worse by a truly awful color scheme. This was an inauspicious start for our favorite Ginger-American.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Lightning Lad’s second costume debuted in Adventure Comics #267 published in 1959. The second costume design is an immediate upgrade over the first costume. The color scheme is changed to blue, orange, white, and black with yellow as an accent color. That is too many different colors for one costume. I prefer when costumes stick to two primary color and an accent color for the color scheme.

At any rate, the second costume adds the addition of a blue half cape. The half-cape looks dumb. The half-cape is also a design element that has not aged well. The second costume has a robe style collar. White was a mere accent color in the first costume. However, in the second costume, we see white evolving as a more primary color in Lightning Lad’s color scheme. The shirt has white in the middle along with a black “vest” design. We get blue across the top of the chest, shoulders, and arms. The second costume tops it off with white cuffs. We also have the iconic twin yellow lightning bolts with black outlines on the chest.

The second costume has an odd rope or billowy cloth wrap just above the black belt with an orange belt buckle. There are blue trunks and orange leggings that run to blue boots. The top of the blue boots come to a point in the front. The combination of blue trunks, orange leggings, and blue boots is a massive upgrade over the billowy green pants and red boots of the first costume.

Final Grade: 5 Night Girls out of 10. I definitely think that the second costume has too many colors in its color scheme. I am also not a fan of the half-cape. However, the second costume is a big upgrade over the original costume. This costume also introduces Lightning Lad’s trademark colors of blue and white which play a heavy role in all of his subsequent costumes. The second costume is also interesting in that it introduces orange to the color scheme. Orange does not make it past 1973 and is never seen again in Lightning Lad’s costumes. I am glad that orange was dropped from the color scheme, but I have to admit it is cool how the orange in the second costume matches Garth’s hair.

1960s

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In Action Comics #293 published in 1962 Lightning Lad gets his third costume. The third costume is largely the same as the second costume. However, there are a few subtle differences. The third costume has a more formal high collar. Another difference is that the third costume has a white belt buckle instead of an orange one. Lastly, the blue boots have a flat top instead of a pointed tip. The blue boots also gain a blue band above them.

Final Grade: 5 Night Girls out of 10. This is largely just the second costume. As a result, I view the third costume in the same manner. It is solid but nothing special.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In Adventure Comics #300 published in 1962, Lightning Lad gets a fourth costume. Again, the changes are minimal. The fourth costume goes back to the orange belt buckle from the second costume. Also, the band above the top of the blue boots is white instead of the blue from the third costume. Lastly, the cape gets longer than before.

Final Grade: 5 Night Girls out of 10. Again, the second, third, and fourth costumes are all nearly identical. So, my view of the fourth costume is the same in that it is a solid design but still does not appeal to me that much.

1970s

  Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #197 published in 1973 brings Garth his fifth costume. The fifth costume is the most important costume for Lightning Lad’s design history. This is the costume in which all subsequent costumes are based upon. The fifth costume has a blue and white color scheme with a yellow accent color. The blue in the fifth costume is a darker blue than in the prior costumes. This becomes the definitive color scheme for Lightning Lad’s costumes from this point forward.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

The fifth costume retains the iconic twin lightning bolts on the shirt. However, for the first time, the lightning bolts cover the shoulders. Another first is that the twin lighting bolts now meet together in the middle of the chest. Further, the twin lighting bolts are more of a horizontal angle than the lightning bolts from the previous costumes which were in a more vertical angle.

The top of the costume is blue with white gloves. We get a cool V shape in the costume near the trunk area where white appears in the costume and extends down the inside of the legs while the outside of the legs remains blue. The costume ends with blue boots. This is one sleek-looking costume.

Final Grade: 10 Night Girls out of 10. The fifth costume begins Lightning Lad’s streak of having the most consistent and best-looking costume design of any Legionnaire. This costume is sleek and gorgeous. I love all of the lines and the color scheme. It is just a flat out handsome costume.  

1980s

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In Legion of Super-Heroes #280, published in 1981, Garth gets his sixth costume. Honestly, this is barely a costume change. there is only one single tiny difference the fifth costume and the sixth costume. In the fifth costume the twin lightning bolts touch. In the sixth costume, there is a small space between the twin lightning bolts. That’s it.

Final Grade: 10 Night Girls out of 10. Again, this is a fantastic costume and the tiny change makes no difference in the overall wonderful look of the costume.

1990s

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-HeroesIn Legionnaires #1 published in 1993, Garth gets his seventh costume. This is the costume that Lightning Lad would wear during the Reboot Legion of Super-Heroes that started post-Zero Hour. Yeah, I know that Garth went by the codename Live Wire during the Reboot Legion. But, that codename sucks so I will continue to call him Lightning Lad.

At any rate, Lightning Lad’s seventh costume brings a few changes to the fifth and sixth costume. The basic design of the seventh costume is very much like the fifth and sixth costumes. The color scheme remains blue and white with yellow as an accent color. The “V” design in the trunk area where the white begins is the same. The white on the inside of the legs and the blue on the outside of the legs design is also the same. The white gloves are also the same.

While most of the seventh costume is the same as the fifth and sixth costumes, there are several differences. First, the twin lightning bolts are at a more vertical angle rather than a horizontal angle. The twin lightning bolts are also completely off the shoulders with the seventh costume. The position of the twin lightning bolts is more reminiscent of the second, third, and fourth costumes. The second small tweak is that the seventh costume has white stripes on the outside of the arms. Further, the seventh costume gains a black belt with a huge Legion “L” logo. Lastly, the seventh costume swaps out the blue boots for white boots.

Final Grade: 9 Night Girls out of 10. The seventh costume is another excellent look. Sure, I prefer the blue boots of the fifth and sixth costume. And, yeah, that ludicrously large Legion “L” belt buckle is tacky. But, those are two small quibbles. Garth managed to continue having one of the better costume designs in the Reboot Legion.  

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In 1998, Garth gets his eighth costume. Well, to be honest, this is like calling the fifth and sixth costumes different. The only difference between the seventh and eighth costumes is that the eighth costume has pouches on the sides of the belt. Because…1990s. We just had to have pouches. At any rate, other than the pouches, the seventh and eighth costumes are identical.

Final Grade: 8 Night Girls out of 10. Minus 1 point for pouches. Yeah, that may seem tough, but pouches just look like crap. Even in the 1990s. Now? They look like crap and are dated. Unless your name is Batman, I do not want to see pouches on the costume. Despite the pouches, Garth’s streak of great-looking costumes continues.

2000s

  Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

The Threeboot Legion brought Garth a new costume. The Threeboot Legion also gave Garth his Lightning Lad codename back. See? Not everything about the Threeboot Legion was a failure. This ninth costume debuted in Legion of Super-Heroes #5 published in 2005. Lightning Lad’s ninth costume is the first real departure from the iconic fifth costume. Up until now, the sixth through eighth costumes kept the design schemes very close to the fifth costume.

Well, the ninth costume goes in a new design direction while still paying homage to Lightning Lad’s fifth costume. The ninth costume’s color scheme remains blue and white with a yellow accent color. The ninth costume evokes the lighting bolt pattern from the fifth costume from 1973. The twin lightning bolt pattern moves back across the shoulders and has a more horizontal angle. These are two changes compared to the seventh and eight costumes. The twin lightning bolts also join each other at the ends which is reminiscent of the twin lightning bolt pattern of the fifth costume.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

The top of the ninth costume remains blue with white gloves. There is still a “V” shape at the trunk area where the blue ends and the white begins. However, one big difference is that there is no longer a belt. Instead, the ninth costume has a cool looking lightning bolt in a “V” shape in the trunks area. This is a fantastic design addition to the costume. The pants receive an update as they are now white with blue stripe outlined by yellow lightning running down the outside of the legs. The blue boots from the fifth and sixth costumes return. However, the blue boots now have yellow lightning running around the tops of the boots.

Lightning Lad’s ninth costume is an excellent example of making a modern costume that looks fantastic, but still retains all of the classic design elements from an older iconic costume. Often, when costumes are given a “modern” update the design language often gets confused and lost in the process. Usually, the result is a hideous looking “modern” outfit that completely loses the character’s iconic design language. That is not the case with the ninth costume. Lightning Lad’s classic design language is evident in this “modern” redesign of his outfit.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

But, wait! We are not done! Nope. The ninth costume has a special gimmick that none of Lightning Lad’s other costumes possess. Whenever Garth powers up to use his lightning powers the all of the lightning bolt patterns on the ninth costume glow. It makes for a pretty dramatic and badass look.

Final Grade: 8 Night Girls out of 10. The ninth costume is an excellent redesign of Lightning Lad’s costume. Yes, the ninth costume is busier than the previous costumes. And, yes, the ninth costume has a gimmick to it with the glowing lightning pattern. But, this is still a strong looking costume that makes Lightning Lad look good.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Lightning Lad’s tenth costume debuted in Legion of Super-Heroes #37 published in 2008. The tenth costume changes Lightning Lad’s color scheme for the first time in thirty-five years. The color scheme is now just blue and yellow. Yellow is far more predominant than ever before. And white is completely missing. The twin lightning bolt pattern is quite similar to the twin lightning bolt pattern from the sixth costume except that the gap between the two lightning bolts is even larger. with even more of a gap between them.

The tenth costume has yellow gloves and yellow boots. The tenth costume also has a yellow belt with a Legion “L” belt buckle. I dislike the blue and yellow color scheme. This outfit truly suffers from the lack of white as a primary color. This costume also suffers from yellow being such a dominant color. It is too much yellow. I do not like the yellow gloves and boots at all. The tenth costume has a more dull and basic look. This costume fades more into the background. This costume definitely does not jump out of the panels at the reader like Lightning Lad’s other costumes do.

Final Grade: 7 Night Girls out of 10. The tenth costume is the worst design that Lightning Lad had since his fourth costume back in the 1960s. Having said that, even a comparatively weak Lightning Lad costume is still a good looking costume in general. Like I said at the beginning of this article, Lightning Lad is a rarity in that he almost always looks good. The tenth costume may be the weakest design since the fourth costume, but it is still a solid looking costume.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Lightning Lad received his eleventh costume in Legion of Super-Heroes #48 published in 2009. Thankfully, white returns. The color scheme returns to Garth’s regular blue and white color scheme with yellow accent coloring.  The eleventh costume takes the tenth costume and tries to move it more toward the look of the fifth and sixth costumes. Actually, the eleventh costume is basically the tenth costume but the gloves and boots are changed from yellow to white. It is a small change to the costume design but it makes a massive difference. Because of this design change, the eleventh costume looks far better than the tenth costume.

The twin lightning bolt design has been moved off of the shoulders and is more of a vertical angle than a horizontal angle. This twin lightning bolt design is more like the one from the seventh costume. The belt is a more subdued yellow and the Leigon “L” buckle remains the same.

Final Grade: 9 Night Girls out of 10. The eleventh costume greatly benefits from the return of the color white. Once again, Lightning Lad looks fantastic.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

While the Threeboot Legion was coming to an end, Geoff Johns was busy bringing back the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Levitz Legion over in Action Comics. With the re-appearance of the Levitz Legion, Lightning Lad was given a dramatic redesign. This eleventh costume debuted in Action Comics #859 published in 2008. The eleventh costume has a blue and white color scheme with two accent colors in the form of yellow and black. The addition of black as a second accent color is something we have not seen on Lightning Lad’s costume since his fourth costume back in the 1960s. I find the inclusion of black as a second accent color to be an unnecessary addition to the color scheme.

The top of the outfit differs drastically from the top of all of Lightning Lad’s previous costumes in that the eleventh costume is sleeveless. The “guns out, sun’s out” look is something that I think only works with Legionnaires like Cosmic Boy, Ultra Boy, and Timber Wolf. Everyone else? They should have sleaves. Needless to say, I have never liked the sleeveless look for Lightning Lad. The top has the trademark twin lightning bolt design are at more of a vertical angle.

The white makes a return that we have not seen since the ninth costume. The traditional “V” design in the trunk area has a few more angles than ever before. The gloves are blue which is the first time that has ever happened on one of Lightning Lad’s costumes. The eleventh costume has a belt with a Legion “L” buckle that is similar to the ninth and tenth costumes. The white extends past the trunk area down to the inner thigh. The rest of the pants are blue.

The boots are blue with silver ribbed cuffs. There are also silver ribbed designs on the toes and soles of the boots. I like that the boots are blue like the iconic fifth and sixth costumes. And the silver ribbed cuff is okay. But, the silver ribbed design on the toes and soles of the boots just looks weird.

Final Grade: 8 Night Girls out of 10. I dislike the sleeveless look of the eleventh costume. I also find the addition of black as an accent color as unwelcome. But, outside of those two small criticisms, the fact remains that the eleventh costume continues to string of Lightning Lad having great looking costumes. The eleventh costume has several design departures for Lightning Lad, but the design language for this costume is coherent. And in the end, the eleventh costume looks like a proper Lightning Lad costume.

2010s

  Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In Legion of Super-Heroes #2 published in 2010, Lightning Lad gets his twelfth costume. The “differences” between the eleventh costume and the twelfth costume is just like the “differences” between the seventh costume and the eight costume. The only two differences are the pouches on the side of the belt and the gap between the tips of the twin lightning bolts is smaller. Other than the pouches and the space between the twin lightning bolts, the eleventh costume and the twelfth costume are identical.

Final Grade: 7 Night Girls out of 10. Yup. It is another automatic minus 1 point for the addition of pouches. Seriously, let’s do our best to eliminate the pouch from superhero costume designs.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In Legion of Super-Heroes #8 published in 2012, Lightning Lad gets his thirteenth costume. There are only two differences between the twelfth costume and the thirteenth costume. The first is the color and style of the bands above the boots. The thirteenth costume has yellow metal bands above the top of the boots. I am not a fan of this design element. Metal is not a design material that has ever been associated with Lightning Lad. Also, white bands look better above the blue boots than yellow. The yellow bands clash with the white on the toes, heel, and sole of the boots. The white bands make more design sense given the rest of the boot design.

The second difference is that the thirteenth costume has the twin lightning bolts at a more horizontal angle than a vertical angle. This is a design change that is made numerous times throughout Lightning Lad’s history. I am perfectly fine with both angles for the twin lightning bolts.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Final Grade: 7 Night Girls out of 10. Again, it is an automatic 1 point deduction for the ridiculous pouches. The gold bands above the boots do not help any, either.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

In Legion of Super-Heroes #0 published in 2012, Lightning Lad gets his fourteenth costume. The fourteenth costume is just an updated version of the fifth costume from 1973. There are four differences. The first is the split formal high collar. I actually think it looks rather nice. I am good with this change. The second is the lightning bolt designs on the side of the torso coming up from the waistline. These look oddly placed and come across as too busy. The third difference is that the pants are all white instead of blue and white. The fourth difference is the busy black lines all over the costume. These black lines do nothing but clutter up what could have been a rather sleek and handsome costume.

Final Grade: 7 Night Girls out of 10. Remove the lightning bolts on the sides of the torso and junk the pointless black lines and this costume would easily be an 8 or 9.

2020s

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

Prior to the debut of the Fourboot Legion of Super-Heroes, character designs were released to tease the new look of the Fourboot Legionnaires. With yet another ridiculous full reboot, our favorite Ginger-American received his fifteenth costume. The fifteenth costume breaks tradition all over the place.

First, I have to point out that the fauxhawk haircut for Garth looks beyond stupid. At any rate, the fifteenth costume has a royal blue and navy blue (almost black) color scheme with white and yellow accent colors. I do not like this color scheme at all. The navy blue is way too dark for Lightning Lad’s design language. Also, this color scheme is way too monochromatic and dark. The result is a costume that looks a bit too dull and drab.

The top of the costume as the iconic twin lightning bolt design. This time the twin lightning bolts are moved out close to the shoulders, but not quite on top of them. The twin lightning bolts come down at a more vertical angle. There is very little space between the ends of the twin lightning bolts.

There is no white at all in the body of the costume which is a huge departure. Instead, you get royal blue and a dark navy blue pattern. The dark navy blue parts of the costume have a busy ribbed pattern. The costume sports silly-looking white gloves that end right at the bottom of the palm. It is an odd look.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

The lower part of the costume continues the royal blue and dark navy blue with a ribbed pattern. The costume ends with white boots with yellow lightning bolt rings around the tops of the boots. I actually like the yellow lightning bolt rings around the tops of the boots. They look pretty cool. While I prefer blue boots on Lightning Lad’s costumes, the white boots are vitally necessary considering the overuse of blue in the rest of the fifteenth costume.

When Lightning Lad made his official debut in his fifteenth costume In Superman #14, he looked largely the same as he did in the character sketches that were released earlier. Well, aside from the fact that our favorite Ginger-American got racially retconned after the character sketches were released to the public. I have already discussed this mystery here. I still cannot understand why Bendis decided to racially retcon Garth instead of simply adding Tyroc, XS, and Kid Quantum to the Fourboot Legion. Which Bendis did not do. At any rate, the only difference I can see between the character sketch and the actual costume when it debuted in Superman #14 is that the twin lightning bolts have more space between the tips.

Final Grade: 5 Night Girls out of 10. The fifteenth costume suffers from a bad color scheme that employs way too much blue. Another fatal design defect is the busy ribbing design in the dark navy blue sections as well as all of the unnecessary black lines all over the costume. This costume lacks a coherent design and is overly busy to the point where it looks like a sloppy mess.

Best Costume

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

It gets no better than this. The Fifth and Sixth costumes are identical with the sole exception of whether the tips of the twin lightning bolts touch or not. This was the look that Garth sported from 1973 all the way to 1993. That makes this the longest-running design in Lightning Lad’s history.

Worst Costume

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes

It feels a bit mean and unfair to pick the first costume as the worst. After all, when the Legion of Super-Heroes debuted in Adventure Comics #247 we only met three of them and they were minor throwaway supporting characters. Also, the first costume only lasted for a single issue. So, I cannot give this award to this costume given that the Legion was originally just random supporting characters that nobody was expecting to see again and the first costume only appeared in one issue.

Lightning Lad Legion of Super-Heroes 

The fifteenth costume gets the award for the worst Lightning Lad costume. The Legion was nothing when Adventure Comics #247 came out. However, when the design for the Fourboot Lightning Lad costume came out the Legion had a storied fifty-two-year history. Lightning Lad himself had an impressive fifty-two-year design history for his costumes. Yet, somehow, the Fourboot Lightning Lad costume design was still botched.

All right, that’s it for our favorite Ginger-American! Looking back at Garth’s excellent collection of costumes just reaffirms my belief that he has had one of the best selection of costumes of any Legionnaire. As always, let me know if I missed any of Lightning Lad’s costumes. You guys have been amazing at recalling such detailed and small details of Legion history. Until next time, Long Live the Legion!


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