Monday, September 29, 2014

Why I Love the Legion of Super-Heroes

Legion Member: The Irredeemable Shag
Unique Power: Taunted the other Super-Bloggers into creating this blog.

Finding a favorite character or team is as much about the reader's mindset, as it is about the appeal of the characters. In my case, I found the Legion of Super-Heroes in 1989 at just the right time in my life. I was already collecting most of DC's titles, having jumped in with both feet after Crisis. At age 17, I was beginning to dip my toes into comics outside the traditional spandex and capes. I came across a pamphlet promoting the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch.  I'd missed out on the previous run, but was certainly aware of its popularity. The pamphlet advertised this new series with copy like, “Operating in a universe where there is no more order, gathering together former comrades who have grown out of the names, Boy, Girl, Lad, Lass, and Kid, he has a new Legion to build. And if he succeeds… what can they hope to accomplish? There’s only one way to find out. Join them.”  It was exactly the kind of jumping on-board point that grabbed my interest. I mean, c'mon, what 17 year old geek isn't attracted to stories of a dystopian future. 

I picked up the first issue and was utterly bewildered. The Legion I'd heard of was full of brightly-clad characters and goofy codenames. This issue was full of dark muted colors, sketchy art, and people with names like Rokk and Reep. I was completely confused ... and loved it! I didn't know who any of these folks were, but I had a complete collection of Who's Who and by golly I was gonna figure this out! I spent hours crawling through my Who's Who, entry-by-entry seeking Legion characters, noting their codename, real name, and planet of origin. All of this was hand-scrawled on a single sheet of paper that I kept for years. It was my Rosetta Stone to deciphering the Giffen/Bierbaum/Gordon run. Each issue I’d look up the newly reintroduced characters to better understand the story. The excitement of research and discovery helped cement my investment in these characters. 

This era of Legion is considered controversial by some fans. Love this incarnation or hate it, I think we can all agree that Keith Giffen is excellent at world-building. In just a few issues, I desperately wanted to know what happened at Venado Bay and what happened to continuity when you removed Superboy. For a more recent example, Giffen's world-building in Justice League 3000 is absolutely fascinating. I didn't expect to enjoy Justice League 3000, but I love learning more about that world as the story slowly unfolds. It's compelling! Similarly, the "Five Years Later" era launched with many questions and mysteries. I anxiously awaited each new issue. 

Many mainstream superhero comics lack a sense of excitement because month-to-month you know by the end of a story they’ll revert to the status quo. Let's face it, comics are corporate properties and there is a lot of money tied up in merchandising, so those characters must maintain the status quo. This book threw the status quo out the window! Gone were all the traditional trappings, even the team itself. The first story arc was about "getting the band back together" and had a distinct feeling that it was going somewhere. No stagnation here. Also, watching the team come back together was a joy. These were great friends seeing one another after years of adversity. The world surrounding them was bleak, yet together they believed they could make things better. While perhaps not intentional, the series managed to touch on our cultural fascination with nostalgia. Even though it hadn't actually been 5 years in publishing time, you felt the characters happiness at being reunited. It generated an artificial sense of nostalgia that I was happy to revel in. By the time the Batch SW6 Legionnaires arrived, I was primed for classic style adventures with these characters.

Once Zero Hour brought “my Legion” to an end, I drifted away. I stopped by and visited the 30th (later 31st) century from time to time, checking on my old friends. It was always pleasant to hang with the reboot or threeboot versions, but there is something about your first love. Give me scratchy Keith Giffen art, powerless Rokk Krinn, private detective Celeste Rockfish, journalist Devlin O'Ryan, and Furball any day.

Long Live the Legion!


  1. Thanks for this post, as one of the dialoguers on the 5YL series, it's very interesting to hear the memories of exactly the kind of new reader we were hoping to bring into the Legion fold with this run of the book.

  2. Tom Bierbaum visiting the site! Unbelievable!