Monday, September 7, 2015

Legion of Super Heroes: The Animated Series - Introduction

Everyone knows who the Legion of Super-Heroes are. No, really. They do. If you say the name, you might get a quizzical look, but if you explain they are the super-powered teenagers who came back in time to recruit Superman/boy, they know who you're talking about. Whether it's from Howard Stern references on the radio to their guest shots on "Smallville," "Justice League Unlimited," or "Superman The Animated Series," they know. Between that and almost sixty years of comic book history, why not an animated series?

The two previous animated appearances, while both in continuity with the so-called DC Animated Universe, featured different Legions, or at least different designs. When the time finally came to launch the Legion in their own series, much like the multiple reboots of the comics, the showrunners, James Tucker in lead, again thought to start from scratch. Rather than the more realistic designs of Batman, Superman, and Justice League, they went with the more cartoony style of the then-popular "Teen Titans" series.

Rather than having the team go solo, it was also decided, as was done originally in the comics, to anchor the Legion to a well-known hero to insure ratings... Superboy... or not. The problem was that at this time DC Comics/Warner Bros. was in the middle of litigation with the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster heirs over Superman, and while DC could still use Superman, Superboy was in legal limbo.

There had to be a way around this as Superboy was an integral part of both the Legion and Legion lore. It was simple, Superboy became 'young Superman.' Sometimes that's all it takes. In the new series, the 31st century of the Legion would be where young Superman received his training as a superhero, where he learned what his legacy means to history, where he would become Superman. Not the way it happened in the comics (or any of the reboots), but close enough to make most Legion fans happy. We would still have the semblance of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the most iconic of the team's eras.

And it should be noted, that this is a very Superman-centric series. I guess the powers that be didn't have enough faith to let the Legion sail on its own, but then again, when you think about it, it was that way in the comics for a long time as well. The Superman S-shield is even a part of the TV series logo, and as long as we're on the subject - they've changed the name of our favorite team as well. It's not the Legion of Super-Heroes, it's the Legion of Super Heroes, no hyphen. Whether by design, or by lazy proofreader, there you go.

That first season, while acknowledging the huge cast of characters and large membership of the Legion, would focus on a small group of members to guide young Superman on his first adventures. Among them would be the hot-headed Lightning Lad, overweight everyman Bouncing Boy, the extra-powered and mature Saturn Girl, seemingly spoiled princess Phantom Girl, the cool Furball kid Timber Wolf who joins in the second episode, Triplicate Girl whose three selves have distinct personalities, and Brainiac 5, who was completely redesigned for the series as a robotic transformer similar to the Titans' Cyborg.

The cast would grow in the second season, and many of the other Legionnaires would make cameos. Many tradition foes and friends would show up as well as a few new ones. A third season was planned but never materialized, which was a shame as season two ended in a rather ominous cliffhanger. There were McDonald's Happy Meal toys along the way, which was totally cool. Anything that gives us Legion toys can't be all bad, right?

I'll be taking an episode-by-episode look at the series in upcoming segments, and discussing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ultra cool. Join me, and long live the Legion!

Next: The Man of Tomorrow!


  1. I liked this series (as I do most of the WB superhero stuff that's in the Bruce Timm or Titans style) and can't wait to see your take on it.

    I've only seen the first season because of the WB's really terrible DVD release strategy of late. I hate how they just dump a few episodes on a disc and then wait to release the next, and S2 never came out at all. :P

  2. I loved the show when I saw it. But I have to admit, this was the pre-DVR days and I haven't tracked down the discs. As Legion fan, I was thrilled to see any incarnation on television.

    I even went out to McD's to get all the toys to play with ... with my kids of course!

    The Validus has a place of honor on my work desk.

    Excited to read these.

  3. I really enjoyed the first season of this. The Superman vs. Superboy bit bugged me, but I got past it.

    I didn't enjoy season 2 as much. The weird clone/replacement Superman bit was an unwanted addition to the series, and just muddied the waters, and smacked of DC' unwillingness to just let Superman BE Superman. We're still getting that now in the comics, of course.