Monday, September 10, 2018

The Legion Transuit

Editor's Note: Recently we sent out an A-1 Alert asking any long-time Legion fans to submit posts they would like to see us share here in United Planets space. Today we are happy to present this essay about the Legion transuit by Todd Ramsey. We hope you find it as interesting as we did! 
by Todd Ramsey 
Hello to everyone and thanks for having me.  The original version of this post appeared on my blog This post has been updated from that essay with a few more facts regarding the evolution of Legion space suits.

So what is a transuit?  The DC Wikia describes it like this:
The Legion Transuit is a thin, translucent polymer that fits snuggly over the top of a Legionnaire's costume. The suit enabled them to function in environments without a sustainable atmosphere, such as outer space. The suit is durable enough to protect them from extreme temperatures and pressure.
And just to clarify, the quick definition of polymer is:
a substance that has a molecular structure consisting chiefly or entirely of a large number of similar units bonded together, e.g., many synthetic organic materials used as plastics and resins.
It's never been explicitly stated how Saran Wrap was able to do all of this. I could not find the first appearance of the transuit.  Some of the earliest depictions of transparent space suits were accompanied by an “advanced” headglobe. (Notice the antenna)

Sorry for being impolite here.  The reality is that those working on the Legion didn't have much frame of reference for what space suits could be. In 1958, when the Legion was created, Mankind did not have its first spaceflight yet (Russia did that in 1961). But it appears they were using that aesthetic in Legion designs.
Note here the Russian space suit in its bright orange color.

And now note these Legion space suits used in Adventure #304 (1962).  Imra is in a gold suit while Garth is a green suit.  It seems to me that the Russians' choice of color may have inspired the comic creators to put the Legion in colored suits as well.  

The United States, however, seemed to move towards silver suits for their astronauts.

The Legion also seemed to keep with this trend, too.  Here in 2966, Projectra is wearing what appears to be a silvery type space suit with head-globe.  And a cape because SHE’S A DAMN PRINCESS.  The problem with these types of suits, though, is that they can make characters easily unrecognizable ....if they aren’t wearing their cape. 

Enter: the see-through suit.
I haven't been able to pin down which issue they make the switch to transparent suits.  Of note here in S&LSH #225 (1977), the head globes actually have some metal piece integrated.  It can be assumed the metal part houses all the respiratory functions for the suit.   

Initially the transuit was something that the wearer had to put on, one leg at a time. But later it appeared that once activated, it would just envelope the wearer and seal. The method of activation is still unclear.  Did it have a manual activation?  Was it activated by a thought from the wearer?  Or did it also have an automatic activation in cases of explosive decompression?

In the case of the original pre-CRISIS stories, the technology continued to evolve.  We later see it to be self-sealing, which would help in case the suit is punctured in some way.  It would have to be somewhat ablative that it could help cushion against space debris and other impacts.  In fact, in one story, Dawnstar dives into a cruiser to save Light Lass.  Light Lass is unharmed but Dawnstar gets cut up.  Shoulda worn a transuit Dawny. But we never actually see where the suit comes from.  It’s possible it comes from the flight ring but the art does not suggest anything in particular.

Depictions of the suits during the Reboot showed a metal cuff that presumably housed all the environmental circuitry but artists have been fairly inconsistent in showing the suit and it's armband.  These suits also had to be put on, at least initially.  

But what does it really do?
Here is where the usage of the transuit in stories becomes somewhat inconsistent.  First, we must look at what our current era 21st Century spacesuits do.
1. pressurize for the vacuum of space
2. protect against the cold of space while providing a cooling environment inside
3. provide a breathable atmosphere
4. shield from UV radiation
Now, as far as additional functions like drinking water and waste management, I assume would not be included no matter how far Mon-El wants to carry Shadow Lass across the galaxy.

We have never seen, though, is what are the upper limits of temperature management.  When five  Legionnaires were stuck on an asteroid, they built a fire to keep warm (never mind that they probably did not have the oxygen to sustain a fire). 

And then, on the hothouse world of Tharr, the White Witch doesn't use her transuit, instead relying on her spells to maintain her body temperature. I have no idea why, other than writer Paul Levitz adding some unnecessary plot point.  We have no in-continuity detail on Tharr's temperatures; however, the planet Venus can get up to 462 degrees Celsius so we could assume Tharr would be somewhat similar. 
But as this story is written, should we infer that transuits fail at such high temperatures?  If Legionnaires can exit and re-enter a planetary atmosphere with a transuit, then it can withstand the heat and friction from traveling through the atmosphere quite easily.  Our modern day space shuttles withstand heat up to 1649 degrees Celsius, which is much hotter than the temperatures on Venus and, likely, Tharr.  
One possible explanation is that a transuit can sustain a higher heat for a short time, but lower heat for a longer time is more taxing.  A transuit would have to be able to protect automatically against light as sunlight is quite brilliant without an atmosphere to help diffuse it.  If you can barely look at the sun on the planet Earth, you won't be able to look at it at all in space. So the transuit must be self regulating to a point for light, temperature, and pressure. Similarly, liquid environments should pose very little stress to a transuit.

What about radiation though?  One would have to assume that with all the outer space missions the Legionnaires go on that transuits would have to offer a bit more in radiation protection that what our modern space suits do. Here is where the science fiction really starts to break down. Ultra Boy has been shown to keep up with Mon-El and Dawnstar, but to do so, he usually relies on a transuit for protection since he is using his super-speed, not his invulnerability. Earth is surrounded by the Van Allen radiation belt so the transuit would have to offer him protection from that as well.  These things have to be pretty insulated. So while they are not force-fields, they are going to prevent a lot of attacks from various super-villains.

Psst, Tinya, turn on your transuit.  But this raises other conundrums as well.  In the Reboot, Andromeda wore a transuit to protect her from lead poisoning. However, she was eventually exposed because those transuits were not self-sealing and hers was torn in a confrontation.  What else could a transuit do?  Protect Superman(boy) from green Kryptonite radiation and red sun rays?  Could it filter out all visible light to give Night Girl her powers even during daylight? Enemies with cold powers would be defeated easily as well as those with gaseous and pheromone powers.  Maybe the transuit is too powerful for its own good if you really want it to protect against the rigors and vacuum of space.
Thanks, Todd! 
What do you think about the Legion transuit? Let us know in the comments below! 

If you would like to submit a post as a Guest Blogger, please send either an idea or an actual essay to Long Live the Legion! 


  1. Nice article. But you should have included the "cheesecake" pic of Saturn Girl putting hers on.

  2. They used the individual character logos/emblems on the Silver Ahe silver ones in Adventure #350. Can't remember if we saw that ever again.

    You happen to have posted the exact page I was thinking of here: