Monday, February 13, 2017

Couples Legion Style

The earliest Legion stories I read as a child were reprints of earlier tales in Adventure Comics. The title at the time was featuring Supergirl, and Legion reprints were common. Two stories that left an impression on me were "The Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires" originally from Adventure #326 and "The Weddings That Wrecked the Legion" from Adventure #337.

These two stories made my preschool mind aware of two things. First: how progressive the future was in that men and women, even as teenagers, were all equal – as opposed to the present day where most super-teams only had one female, like Sue in the Fantastic Four and Wanda in the Avengers. Secondly I was made aware that most of the female Legionnaires were paired off with male Legionnaires. Straight in the Silver Age, but the Legion was ahead of its time gender-wise in the years to come. So it's true, the Legion taught me equality, and sexuality, before I even hit kindergarten.

So for the day before Valentines' Day, let's take a look at couples, Legion style!

Starting from the origin of the team, there were sparks between Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, and even Cosmic Boy initially had some attraction to his female teammate (not going to mention the mind-wiped hook-up, some things in continuity are just not meant to be in continuity). Yet the bond between Garth and Imra was strong from the start. Chronologically the first of the Legion romances, their partnership at times held the team together. Theirs was a love that survived Lightning Lad's death, and a child cursed by Darkseid. The second couple to marry are probably the Legion's strongest. And no, I am not going to mention Proty, that's just wrong, in continuity or not.

The first couple to marry of course was Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel. I was young and not as well read in Legion history when that wedding happened, so I just kinda accepted this one, but I have to admit, even then I knew that Luornu had been crushing on Superboy for a while. I remember a schoolmate who suggested that the third of Triplicate Girl killed by Computo was the one who liked Superboy, the two remaining doubles liked Chuck Taine. Later versions of the character indicated that this was a valid theory as one of her doubles flirted with Element Lad, each having a different personality. Bouncing Boy also had an early girlfriend, Iresa, before he hooked up with Luornu. These two are my personal favorite couple in the Legion.

I would say the number three couple in the Legion would be Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl. During the five-year gap, he proposed to her but they never married because of her apparent death. In later versions, they did marry and have a son. As for me, after seeing Jim Starlin's vision of Jo's crime-ridden homeworld, Rimbor, and his old girlfriend An Ryd, I was a bit suspect of Jo's loyalty. It didn't help when in a later reboot he was briefly involved with Spider Girl. A guy who likes bad girls can't possibly be good for sweet Tinya. Just my opinion, folks, otherwise I love Jo Nah.

Two events cemented some Legion relationships in my mind. There was the infamous Adult Legion two-parter that showed the Legion's future including marriages and deaths, and then there was the Lore of the Legion features in the 100-Page Super Spectacular era which seemed to pair most members with girlfriends/boyfriends. Among those were Chameleon Boy with heiress Janice Warren, Cosmic Boy with Night Girl of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and Shrinking Violet with Duplicate Boy of the Heroes of Lallor. These were just a few of the Legionnaires who dated outside the Legion.

The other founder romance would be Cosmic Boy who for the longest time (not counting a reboot hook-up with Kid Quantum) was with Legion reject and Substitutes member Night Girl. There was always some question about these two in the Silver Age, he of the pink costume and she of the throwback hairdo, but when Mike Grell came along and gave them two of the sexiest and most naked outfits, they became the couple to beat. In the legendary Adult Legion, they are married with a child.

Even with the Lore of the Legion and the Adult Legion, there were some loners who were never connected. Some of them ended up retconned as couples or on the death list – sometimes both. Both the first Invisible Kid and Chemical King died in the line of duty, but in retcon decades later were revealed to have been partners. I like this as it added more dimension to the latter character who in my opinion was a criminally underused Legionnaire. After his death it was also hinted that Lyle Norg had a ghost girlfriend named Mysa as well.

Another initial loner was Colossal Boy, who for years harbored a hard crush on Shrinking Violet. Eventually Vi, who had always been in a long distance relationship with noted jerk Duplicate Boy, returned his feelings. The ensuing romance brought Duplicate Boy into combat with poor Colossal Boy. I say poor, because Gim was not even with the real Shrinking Violet. She was the Durlan spy Yera disguised as Violet. Gim and Yera married as they discovered they actually did love each other.

The real Violet likes to play the field, so Duplicate Boy being out of her life was probably for the better. Vi once had affections for Element Lad, and was with Light/Lightning Lass during the Five-Year Gap. Ayla has for the most part always been linked to Timber Wolf, and Element Lad for a time was with Shvaughn Erin, a Science Police officer who worked closely with the Legion. She was probably one of comics' first trans characters as it was revealed later that she was in fact born Sean Erin and was taking a drug to stay female.

I should bring up a few points at this time. The Legion was first in this kind of sexuality in the comics industry. Second, much like the Avengers, I think the Legion works best as soap opera, and some of these relationships are prime soap fodder. It's also notable that most if not all of the Legion romances are mixed marriages. This is not a matter of just race or religion, but these are characters from other planets, talk about crossing cultures!

The 'mixing of the races' plays into some relationships as a marker to how the times were changing in the Bronze Age of comics. Interracial romances in the real world usually means black and white, but in the Legion, the earliest was Mon-El and Shadow Lass which was more a matter of pink and blue, and one that never really came up as a skin color thing. Skin color was also never a thing in the relationship of the second Power Boy and Gravity Kid in the Legion Academy. Skin color doesn't matter in the future at all.

Later in the Bronze Age some new members seemed to be put together because of coming later and having no one else to couple with. These relationships were sweet, bittersweet, and tragic. Wildfire and Dawnstar, because of the former's powers, can't really even touch. Blok and the White Witch are so different and yet so sweet together. I might even throw Infectious Lass, much beloved Sub and reject, into the mix with her time lost love of the ghost pirate Captain Fear.

I've talked about Superboy and how the Legion has affected his love life at length before here, with Lana Lang, Laurel Kent, and Luornu as mentioned above. As we all know, he eventually ends up with Lois Lane in most continuities. His cousin Supergirl had long been connected to Brainiac 5, as over-hinted at the Legion's second animated appearance. Brainy, never good with stress, or relationships, went a little overboard at one point, building a Supergirl robot for… hmmm… let's not go there. Worth noting is Brainy's bromance with young Superman in the Legion animated series, and Supergirl has been flirting with Mon-El recently on her prime time series.

Among the finest examples of "standing by her man" is Dream Girl, and her man, Star Boy. Although Star Boy killed a previous boyfriend of Nura's in self-defense, losing him his Legion membership, she stayed with him, joining the Substitutes together. Later they rejoined the Legion as Sir Prize and Miss Terious. I liked this couple a lot, and hated a later reboot when Brainiac 5 was matched up with Nura.

One of the more enduring and most tragic romances in Legion history is of course Karate Kid and Princess Projectra. They joined the Legion together, along with the villain who would end their romance – Nemesis Kid. Val would spend an extended time in the 20th Century to prove himself worthy to Jeckie's father, and star in his own self-titled comic while doing so. And in one of the most horrifying deaths in Legion history, when the Legion of Super-Villains took over Orando, Nemesis Kid beat Karate Kid to death in combat. After Karate Kid used his last moments to save Orando, Projectra tracked down Nemesis Kid and executed him. Murder yes, but a defining moment, and a very satisfying moment, in Legion history.

Yeah, I ended with tragedy, but then again, so did Romeo and Juliet, and most of the Legion romances have ended happily ever after, and hopefully will again as the Legion is on the brink of returning any day now. Happy Valentine's Day, and Long Live the Legion!

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