Monday, 19 September 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes: A Brief Guide for New Readers

Last week saw the release of Legion Lost #1, a comic featuring members of the Legion of Superheroes trapped in the present. This week sees the release of the first issue of the Legion's main title, Legion of Super-Heroes #1. These should be the perfect jumping on point for anyone who wants to check out the Legion for the first time.  I can't help but feel however that new readers might have felt a little overwhelmed by all the strangely named characters featured in Legion Lost #1.  With that in mind I thought I'd write a post answering a few frequently asked Legion questions. The Legion's vast history can seem daunting and so this post is designed to bring any new readers up to speed with the Legion in the most succinct manner possible, more succinct even than Wikipedia.  I'm by no means an expert and there are many people on the 'Net who are much better versed in Legion Lore than I am. Check out the Legion Omni-Con blog for one such expert.  Hopefully though the fact that I'm still discovering so many aspects of the Legion's rich history will help me just to focus on the bare essentials.

1) Who are the Legion?

Basically they're like the X-Men but better, in the future, with spaceships.


Inspired by legends of Superman, several super-powered teenagers in the 31st Century joined together to form a great, big super-team.  Some of them gained their super-powers by accident, others are aliens whose powers are a natural attribute of their race.  They all defend Earth and the rest of the United Planets (it's a bit like Star Trek) from evil.  All members are given a ring that enables them to fly (even the ones who can fly already) and some of the younger members have to train in the Legion Academy before they can join.

2) Weren't there several continuity reboots?

Yes, but pretty much everything from 1958 to 1989 happened with a few minor revisions.  Everything else happened on parallel Earths.

Keith Giffen & Al Gorden

In 1989 the series jumped forward in time five years. In 1994 it was rebooted and everything started from scratch. In 2004 the exact same thing happened again and the stories were once more started from scratch!  In 2007, believe it or not DC Comics went back to the original continuity!

3) Is there an official timeline that sums it all up?

Yes! This year Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 featured a board game that doubled as a timeline.  

Art by Brian Douglas Ahern

While it's obviously tongue-in-cheek it does actually tell you everything you need to know about the Legion in a succinct and fun way.

4) Who are the members?

There's loads of them!!!!!

Here are a few of the most prominent members.


Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) A hotheaded character from the planet Winath where everyone has a twin.  He gained electric powers when he, his twin sister Ayla and his evil, twinless older brother Mekt were struck by a Lightning Monster from the planet Korbal! His sister later became Lightning Lass and his brother became the villainous Lightning Lord.


Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen) Saturn Girl actually comes from Saturn's moon, Titan, home of a whole race of telepaths.  She's the wife of Lightning Lad and together they have two infant, twin sons, Graym and Garridan.  Saturn Girl is a bit like the X-Men's Jean Grey but she doesn't die as much.


Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn) A natural leader type who has magnetic powers.  Everyone from his home planet of Braal has the same powers but he's really good at using them.  He founded the Legion, along with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.


Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) As his name would suggest Brainy is descended from the Superman villain Brainiac.  He's the team's resident inventor/scientist and he designed and built most of their gadgets.  He acts like an arsehole to everyone, but he loves the Legion really.


Mon-El (Lar Gand) A resident of the planet Daxam, Mon-El has all of Superman's powers.  He is however, the unluckiest guy in the Universe! After an encounter with a young Superman in the present day he was accidentally poisoned by lead (which is fatal to Daxamites) and placed in the Phantom Zone to stop him from dying.  He remained stuck in the Zone for 1000 years until he was rescued and cured by the Legion.  He's just been dumped by his long-time girlfriend, our next Legionnaire....


Shadow Lass (Tasmia Mallor) Shady comes from the planet Talok VIII where she inherited the powers of her ancestors, a long line of shadow champions with the power to spread and control darkness.  She is currently mourning the death of Earth Man, a former villain for whom she left Mon-El.


Chameleon Boy (Reep Daggle) Reep is from Durla, a planet of shape-shifters.  Thanks to his crafty powers, Reep is leader of the Legion Espionage Squad.  He is the son of R.J. Brande, the Legion's financier and a Durlan trapped in human form.


Ultra Boy (Jo Nah) Jo has most of Superman's powers but he can only use them one at a time.  He gained these powers after being eaten by a space whale (Best. Origin. Ever.)  He comes from the planet Rimbor and is something of a working class tough guy.


Superman & Supergirl Thanks to time travel the team's two biggest historic inspirations are also members, although how they fit into Legion continuity after their recent reboots is anyone's guess.  In my opinion it's enough for us to know that Superman and Supergirl are members and then leave it at that.  In the past the writers have tied themselves in knots trying to reconcile Super-continuity with Legion continuity.  I honestly think they're better off leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves.

5) Who are Legion Lost? (CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR LEGION LOST #1)

A group of Legionnaires are currently trapped in the present day after attempting unsuccessfully to retrieve a super-villain who had escaped from the 31st Century carrying a mysterious virus.  Gates and Chameleon Girl seem to have been killed in issue 1.  Here's who's left.


Timber Wolf (Brin Londo) Brin is from the planet Zoon and gained his powers after being experimented on by his mad scientist father.  He is like Wolverine but better! That's right, you heard me!


Tyroc (Troy Stewart) Tyroc has sonic powers. His origin is frankly embarrassing and is summed up nicely in this brilliant cartoon strip from ComicsCritics.com.  Judging by the first issue of Legion Lost Tyroc is currently developing into a pretty good team leader.


Wildfire (Drake Burroughs) Wildfire is a normal human from Earth transformed into a ball of energy by a lab accident.  He has to wear his special costume to maintain humanoid form and stop himself from dispersing.  He's a bit of a loudmouth who can rub his teammates up the wrong way (a bit like Green arrow or Hawkeye) and he has a complicated romantic relationship with our next member....


Dawnstar is from a planet called Starhaven, home to a race of super-powered people descended from Earth's Native Americans.  She has wings, can fly at light speed through space and can track down anything.


Tellus (Ganglios) A native of the planet Hykraius, Tellus is telepathic and telekinetic like all his race.  So basically he's also a bit like Jean Grey, except he's a giant fish (and therefore better than her).

6) What Legion stories could I check out to get me started?

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  This story tells you everything you need to know about the Legion without bogging you down with continuity.  It's just a really fun story that gives quite a few of the Legionnaires a chance to shine and showcase their personalities.  Even if you never see yourself becoming a Legion fan, if you love super-hero comics you'll love this story, trust me!

Showcase Presents: The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1-4 Four thick, affordable black and white books containing the Legion's classic Silver Age stories in all their wonderful, lovably daft glory! Loads of fun!

The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.  Probably the most famous Legion story, it features the team going up against the biggest, baddest DC Comics villain, Darkseid! At one point Darkseid gets an entire planet full of people to carve their home-world into the shape of his face.  He is one evil dude!

Eye for an Eye by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. The Legion are attacked by the Legion of Super-Villains, who have all taken a blood oath to kill one hero each!  This story contains some great moments between Lightning Lord and his sister, Lightning Lass and also features Karate Kid's final showdown with the evil Nemesis Kid.  Like The Great Darkness saga it can initially be a bit confusing with all the different characters running around but both stories are so good that your patience will be thoroughly rewarded.

The Choice Consequences collect some of Paul Levitz' recent run on the title.  These two volumes feature the Legion having to let former villain Earth-Man join and Mon-El being chosen as the 31st Century's only Green Lantern.  Very enjoyable stuff.

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Hopefully this blog post has been useful to anyone interested in checking out the Legion for the first time.  If it has, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.  If it hasn't, then write a comment anyway, leave me some abuse, it's all welcome.  After you've done that why not follow this link to another of my Legion based blog posts, where I explain how I became a Legion fan in the first place.

2 comments:

  1. Brilliant!

    I've been a Legion fan since I read my first issue of "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes" (#231) way back in 1977 when I was six, so their multi-layered continuity doesn't seem convoluted to me at all, despite the multiple reboots.

    But I'd have the agree that the new #1 should have probably started off explaining who's who and what's what instead of mid-story as it did. Maybe they should rush out a "Zero" issue to lay the groundwork a bit better for new readers?

    (Although...come to think of it, my first issue didn't explain the group's backstory at all, and I was hooked from the moment I first laid eyes on Shady's & Imra's Grell-licious high-heeled, bikini-wearing glam! And there were no fewer than 11 Legionnaires in that issue and 5 villains! Yet my 6-year-old brain managed to take it all in—and come back for more! Guess it's a good thing that insta-gratification and ADD hadn't been invented yet!)

    Here's hoping that Mr. Levitz spends some time explaining Mon-El & Shady's breakup a bit further—and then gets them back together!!

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  2. Thanks!

    You're right about the Zero issue. Maybe Legion: Secret Origin will fulfil that role.

    #231 is a great first issue for a fan! My first issues were my dad's Adventure Comics #339 & 348.

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