Tuesday, July 30, 2019

L.E.G.I.O.N. '89! An Introduction

Welcome boys and girls to the newest series here at the Legion of Super Bloggers!  Yes, as you can see, I will be covering L.E.G.I.O.N., also known as the Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network, also known as an intergalactic police force led by the manipulative Vril Dox.

This will be a bit of a departure for the blog in that up until now, virtually every comic we have covered featured one or more official members of the classic Legion of Super-Heroes. But it is not a leap to see why L.E.G.I.O.N. warrants discussion here, and there are connections beyond just the obvious that we will explore as we go along.

On a bit of a personal note before we go further, there is something I wanted to mention about my own comic collecting history. I am probably unique among the Super Bloggers in that I started reading the L.E.G.I.O.N. long before I became a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I started collecting Marvel comics around 1984, and did not begin reading DC for a couple years after that. By that time I had become aware of the LOSH, but I found them to be a bit intimidating. They had so many members and their history seemed so complicated, particularly with Superboy having been removed from their continuity. Of course, I eventually learned the error of my ways. But long before then, I became a fan of L.E.G.I.O.N. What did I love about the book? Well, lets take a step back and see where it all began...

This book was a spin-of the DC multi-crossover Invasion! event, which was plotted by Keith Giffen and scripted by Bill Mantlo. Artists included Todd McFarlane, Bart Sears, and Giffen. While the characters that would go on to form the L.E.G.I.O.N. did not play an integral part in Invasion!, this was where they first appeared.

For the few of you out there who are not already aware, the premise of Invasion! was that several alien races concluded (for understandable reasons) that Earth and its meta-humans had become a problem that needed to be dealt with. Those alien races formed an Alliance and each was charged with specific duties.
One of them, the Citadelians, ran Starlag, a large prison where experiments are conducted on the inmates. These experiments included tests on human subjects because the Alliance wanted to study the human meta-gene, which was the reason Earth had spawned so many super-powered beings. The Starlag is where our future L.E.G.I.O.N. members come in. 
In the first issue of Invasion!, we are shown that the prisoners of Starlag include the classic DC hero Adam Strange and his chatty cellmate Garyn Bek. Garryn had been a policeman on the planet Cairn but was one of many rounded up as a suspected Earth sympathizer. Strange had surrendered himself to the Alliance as a good will gesture to protect Rann, but his secret goal was to learn as much as he could about their plans before his Zeta Beam wore off and returned him to Earth.
Strange learned a great deal about their situation from Bek, and is briefly introduced to another prisoner, a Coluan named Vril Dox. Eventually, his plan works and Strange is sent back to Earth by Zeta Beam. Unfortunately, this leads to the Citadelians executing several prisoners as a warning to others. Vril becomes Bek's new cellmate and reveals that he has been using the analytical abilities of his Coluan mind to plan their escape.
Dox had a friend, a shape shifting Durlan, slip aggression drugs into the food of the prison population, which leads to a revolt. Yes, this caused a lot of death and destruction but that sort of thing tended not to bother Vril so long as he gets what he wants, and here it provided them their chance to escape.
Once they escape, that is the last we see of our L.E.G.I.O.N. heroes in Invasion!. Vril, Bek, the Durlan, and several prisoners who depart with them are not seen again until the first issue of their series. The Invasion! series goes on for another issue, and as expected Earth triumphed over the invaders. There is the matter of a gene bomb that is set off that leads to more meta-humans on Earth and becomes a plot point in quite a few DC titles several. But none of that really concerns our heroes.

So to sum up, in Invasion! we were introduced to three of our main characters: Vril Dox, who is the manipulative, abrasive mastermind; Garryn Bek, well meaning but bitter and also very whiny; and the mysterious shape-shifting Durlan, a companion of Dox but otherwise a blank slate.

There are a few more characters that will form our main cast who were not featured in Invasion! beyond a panel or two cameo. Lyrissa Mallor, the planetary champion of Talok VIII, is probably the most noble and heroic member of our cast. Her appearance is familiar to Legion fans. Strata, the well meaning and very strong Dryad who always has her heart in the right place. Legion fans will recognize her as being from the same race as Blok. And Stealth, from the planet Gryx, who had been rejected by her people as a mutant and abomination for reasons we will get into later.
Of course, fiction is usually driven by conflict, and L.E.G.I.O.N. had tons of that thanks to the strong personalities among the team. In addition to the original core characters, Vril "recruited" Lobo at a time before I came to find the character tiresome. The regal but confrontational Lady Quark from Crisis on Infinite Earths also joined. The classic DC hero Captain Comet was brought in, which was particularly intriguing to me as a young reader. (This was to make up for the creators not getting to use Adam Strange as they had originally planned.) There was also the mysterious Phase, a refugee from another time period that will seem very familiar. And of course Lar Gand, a certain Daxamite also very familiar to LOSH fans. And more will come as we move along.
L.E.G.I.O.N. never shied away from potential controversy, whether it was Vril's "the ends always justifies the means" attitude or even a controversial rape storyline. The team would go through several incarnations, the first being the the follow-up R.E.B.E.L.S. series. After that title's cancellation, L.E.G.I.O.N. would roam the outskirts of the DC Universe, occasionally making guest appearances in other titles or story-lines, such as The Rann-Thanagar War. A new, and pretty entertaining R.E.B.E.L.S. series reappeared in 2009. The L.E.G.I.O.N. has been shown to exist in the New52, although it has yet to be explored in depth as far as I know.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is much to explore in this wonderful series, and we will get to all that, beginning next time with L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 #1!


  1. It's always interesting to hear when people first encountered the Legion, and how it's shaped their view of the team over time. I'd never considered the "L.E.G.I.O.N." title being a gateway instead of a bonus/supplemental book. It'll be cool to hear how it shaped your experience.

    1. I imagine I am at least somewhat unique on this one. I hope you enjoy following these posts.

  2. I'm not even familiar with the title, so this is going to be a totally new ride for me.

  3. I had been hoping this series might be something covered on this site; it was one of my favorite series when it was coming out, so I'm looking forward to these articles.

  4. Thank you everyone, I hope you enjoy following the posts!

  5. Been waiting for this for quite a while 😊