Publication Date: 23rd Apr 2020
Written By: Monolith.
Image Work: Douglas Mangum.


Miguel Santos was the eldest son of Mexican immigrants who lived in the barrios of east Los Angeles, California. His father Carlos was recruited to join the Legion of the Living Lightning, a disenfranchised militia who intended to overthrow the American government and institute a new order under their rule. The Lightning Lord and his men crossed paths with the Incredible Hulk, however, and they all died in the destruction of their Santa Ana mountain base, including Miguel's father. [Tales to Astonish (1st series) #97-99]

Miguel and his siblings grew up under the threat of gang violence, with Mexican and Vietnamese gangs, the Jaguars and the Snakes, vying for control of their neighborhoods. Miguel wanted no part in the gangs. He dated a girl named Asuka and insisted his brother Jose remain out of the gang lifestyle. After his father was gone, Miguel came to idolize the Legion, and the ideals they claimed to expound. [Avengers West Coast Annual #6]

Miguel learned about his father's fate from the one surviving member of the Legion, who passed on his own version of the Legion's goals to Miguel before apparently dying of his wounds. Miguel spent years poring over the Legion's files, trying to crack their codes. He finally located the site of the Legion's mountain base, along with a fingerprint glove of his father's that would allow entry. Out in the mountains, Miguel surveyed the devastation and lamented over what his father was unable to accomplish. He discovered the Lightning Machine and, while fiddling with the power cords, accidentally plugged himself into the machine, causing a massive explosion.

When he emerged from the wreckage, Miguel discovered his body was glowing with electrical power. He had become a true Living Lightning. Disoriented and flush with power, Miguel flew out over Fullerton and caused a power outage while testing his new abilities. He drew the attention of Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch of the Invaders and now Avengers West. The Living Lightning started a fight with the Torch in order to play with his powers. Doctor Pym and the Wasp join the Torch in the conflict against Miguel, and Pym tricked the Living Lightning into grounding himself to a conductive wire from the ROVER hovership. The resulting electrical charge blew up ROVER and seemingly obliterated Miguel Santos in the process. [Avengers West Coast #63]

In fact, the Living Lightning's body had dispersed into discrete packets of electroplasma throughout the atmosphere. His transition into living energy was detected by the criminal scientist Doctor Demonicus, who used his equipment to accumulate Miguel's energy and restore him to human form. Imprisoned but stabilized by Demonicus’ machines, Miguel was offered a place in the mad doctor's team of minions, the Pacific Overlords. Believing he was a fugitive with nowhere else to go, Miguel reluctantly accepted the offer. He received a costume that acted as a mobile version of Doctor Demonicus' machines, allowing him to remain in human form and use the suit to transform into his energy state and back at will. However, as the doctor's assistant Kuroko pointed out to him, Demonicus still had ultimate control over the suit. If Miguel ever betrayed the Overlords, Doctor Demonicus could reverse the suit's effects, dispersing Miguel's living energy into the atmosphere again.

The Pacific Overlords were in the midst of a conflict with Avengers West as the Living Lightning was being acclimated. Various Overlords captured the Avengers around the Pacific and brought them as prisoners to Demonicus’ underwater base. Doctor Demonicus’ plan was to raise a new island nation from the ocean floor called Demonica, with himself as ultimate ruler. As the Scarlet Witch broke free of captivity and another Overlord named Pele overcame the hypnosis controlling her, each was struck down cruelly and dishonorably. When the Overlords began to squabble over who would kill the fallen women, the Living Lightning stepped in to prevent the murders. He clashed with Demonicus over killing unarmed and unconscious prisoners, and so was placed in charge of securing them.

After Demonica surfaced, the Avengers' reinforcements arrived and Miguel briefly fought alongside the Pacific Overlords. When Demonicus decided to end the battle by using the Scarlet Witch as a hostage, Living Lightning decided he had had enough and refused to work for the doctor anymore. He destroyed Demonicus’ trigger mechanism for his suit and allowed the Scarlet Witch enough breathing room to free the rest of the Avengers. The Living Lightning joined the fight against Doctor Demonicus’ ultimate Overlord, Kain, and proved his valor alongside the heroes. When they finally left Demonica, several Avengers members were in the process of stepping down, so the Wasp nominate Miguel Santos to take her spot on the team. Honored by the opportunity, the Living Lightning joined Avengers West. [Avengers West Coast #70-74]