Adventure #311

Aug 1963

The War Between the Substitute Heroes and the Legionnaires

 

When the Legionnaires are replaced by shapeshifting Zyzan invaders, it's up to the Subs to save the world.

This is one of my favorite stories featuring the Subs. They show true heroism and great bravery.

In the last few decades, it's become fashionable to sneer at the Subs and make them a laughingstock. This story is a nice reminder of a time when the Subs were taken seriously.

As I said before, I think the Legion of Super-Heroes occupies a niche market in today's comics environment. I wouldn't try to make it a big seller -- I would budget for a normal audience of about 5,000 (or fewer). I'd certainly try to make my version of the Legion accessible to new readers, but I wouldn't want to aim at conventional, mainstream success.

I posited a subscription web comic, possibly with annual or semi-annual print collections.

That being said, here we go:

THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES:
THE NEXT GENERATION

It is the year 3030. We join the new Legion as an already-formed entity operating from a satellite base in Earth orbit.

The core group of the Legion consists of the following heroes:

 

  • Pulse (Garridan Ranzz of Winath, age 23) power: Mental lightning
  • Saturn Lad (Garridan Ranzz of Winath, age 23) power: Telepathy
  • Ivy (? of ?, age 21) power: Control of plants
  • Spunge (? of ?, age 19) power: Absorbs and re-radiates energy
  • Lynk (? of Hykraius, age 18) power: Telepathy and telekinesis
  • Kimodo (Princess Tokiashi of Orando, age 17) power: Sensory akido
  • Polestar (Lydda Krinn-Jath of Earth, age 17) power: Magnetic control
  • Presage (Thom Nal of Naltor, age 17) power: Precognition
  • Scales (? of ?, age 17) power: Can shapeshift into any aquatic animal
  • Phase (Arnah Nah of Bgtzl/Rimbor, age 16) power: Phantom ability
  • Triplicate (Phil Durgo-Taine of Earth, age 16) power: Can split into 3 bodies
  • Shift (Marte Allon of Earth, age 15) power: Shapeshifting
  • Thu-El (Kal Gand of Daxam, age 15) power: Standard Daxamite powers, but inherited immunity to lead from his mother, Tasmia Mallor
  • Quislet (unpronounceable of Teall, perpetual adolescent) power: Back for more fun

 


In addition to this core group, there are several other characters floating around and interacting with the Legionnaires, including med student Kent Shakespeare, reporter Devlin O'Ryan, computer expert Danielle Foccart (in her late 20s), teenage smuggler Kono, and possibly others.

The Legion is financed by Brade Industries and overseen by Science Police Liaison Jan Arrah.

The first story arc concerns the appearance of a renegade super-powered youth who wears a version of Superman's costume and calls himself Superlad. He encounters the Legion and wreaks havoc on several of United Planets worlds -- as near as anyone can tell, he's not bad, jsut reckless, overconfident, and suffering from amnesia.

It eventually turns out that he is the son of Superman -- his father sent him to the 31st century to be trained by the Legion to use his powers responsibly. By the end of the story arc Superlad has joined the Legion and moved in with them.

While the series certainly gives glimpses of the adult former Legionnaires, the focus is on the youngsters and their struggle to make their way in the world.

 


I would head off future continuity problems by anchoring the start of the series in the year 3030 and letting time progress at a reduced rate -- five years of real time (60 monthly issues) would roughly equal one year of comic time. The characters would age and change according to that schedule. The "exactly one thousand years in the future" thing would be eliminated.

Just as in the past, I would have "yearly" (i.e. every 60 monthly issues) elections for Legion Leader, in which readers would elect the new Leader and the writer would be bound by their choice.

 


So that's what I'd do with the Legion. I would draw on some of the background of the old Adult Legion stories, as well at the Five Years Later era (I want to bring back Catspaw and Dragonmage, for example) and other versions of the Legion. I'd also want to throw in some fresh new characters, worlds, and menaces.

Okay, DC, you know where to find me.

Just one Legion sighting this week:

Legion of Super-Heroes 23, the last issue and the last Legion appearance for a while.

This is a wrap-up issue. Dirk and Thom and confirmed dead and memorialized on Shanghalla. Tinya is missing and Brainy can't contact her.

Mon-El is still critical and unconscious in a medical chamber. Shady says she's going to take him home -- I presume she means to Daxam, with the best medical care anywhere.

Gigi Cusimano comes to drop a bombshell: The U.P. Council has voted to disband the Legion. This has been coming a long time -- the Legion's been having trouble with the Council since Legion of Three Worlds, and the recent mess has left them crying out for a scapegoat.

There are four poignant epilogues. The first shows Nura being welcomed back to Naltor, with a hint that It's All Been A Dream. (Jacques has also hinted this in the past few issues.)

The second epilogue has Luornu and Chuck pledging eternal love, and supposedly retcons the entire New52 Legion into the New52 version of Earth-2. Which I suppose leaves the Morrison version of the Legion in New52 Earth-1, or whatever they're calling the place now. It's really hard to care, especially as it's all going to be different in another ten years anyway.

The third epilogue shows Jeckie and the newly-regenerated Val arriving at Orando.

The final epilogue shows Rokk, Garth, and Imra on Winath with Garridan and Graym playing in the background, and ends with Imra proclaiming that the Legion's story never ends, while Mr. Levitz signs off with the obligatory Long Live the Legion.

 


I've been pondering the place of the Legion in DC Comics, their fate this time around (as well as the fates of other versions), and the fact that the Legion just can't seem to find a mass audience in today's comics world.

I wonder if it's not inevitable. I can't say I understand what today's comics readers are looking for, other than blood, guts, and boobs. What seems to succeed violent, sadistic, misogynistic, simplistic, and childish.

I don't think the Legion can be any of those things.

I've heard that the Legion's large cast is a deterrent (but somehow large casts in the X-Men and the Avengers aren't a drawback). I don't think there's a way to do the Legion without a large cast.

I've heard that the Legion's convoluted history is a deterrent (but somehow the convoluted histories of Batman, the X-Men, and the Green Lanterns aren't). I don't think the Legion can avoid having a history -- even if it starts over again from square one, in a year or two there'll be a history that will inevitably be part of current stories.

I've heard that the future, science-fictional setting of the Legion is a deterrent. I don't think the Legion can work without its future setting.

I've heard that the Legion isn't "edgy" enough -- which I think is code for sadism and violence. Well, the Legion's tried dark-and-gritty, and there was plenty of sadism and violence in the Giffbaum years. I just don't think the Legion is, fundamentally, compatible with sadism and violence (or "edginess" if you prefer).

It's odd, Batman and Superman and Spiderman and all the rest die and beat each other to bloody pulps all the time...maybe the difference is that they come back -- whereas the Legion (the first  comic to have a character die permanently) has always treated death and violence as consequential and, in many cases, irreversible.

In so many ways, I just can't see the Legion finding a successful place in today's comics environment.

So what's the answer?

There are a certain number of Legion readers who will buy the book no matter what. I don't know what that number is -- ten thousand, eight thousand, five thousand? It's not enough to sustain a print book.

But what about a web comic? How much do an artist and writer get paid per issue? If five thousand readers would each pay, say, $3 a month for a digital version (I know I would), that's $15,000 a month or $180,000 a year -- do artists and writers get $90,000 a year per book? Somehow, I don't think so. (Even if you assume DC and Comixology take their cuts, throw in an Annual and a special issue or two, and you could still be talking $50,000 a year each for artist and writer. Not chicken feed.)

If DC thought there was a demand, they could package six months or a year's worth as print collections and sell them -- the same 5,000 loyal fans would probably buy them, and any other sales would be additional gravy.

Just an idea.

 


Everyone seems to be pitching DC their take on a revival of the Legion. I, of course, have one, and I'll present it in a subsequent entry.

For now, hokey as it sounds: Long Live the Legion!

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

One more week to go before the last issue. frown

I did not see any Legion content this week.

There's a new Kevin Keller comic with cute boys kissing and a really gay-positive story. 

I did not see any Legion content this week.

There was a new Young Avengers comic with some cute boys kissing and a shocking development on the last page, but that's about all.

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

 

With the final issue of Legion of Super-Heroes coming up and nothing else on the horizon, I thought I'd look back at previous Legion-less gaps.

The longest gaps between Legion appearances happened at the very beginning of the Legion. Between the Legion's first appearance in Adventure 247 and their second in Adventure 267, there was a gap of 19 months. Then it was another 18 months before the Legion's next appearance in Action 267.

The next largest gap I could find was in the early 1970s. Between Action 392 and Superboy 172 was a gap of 6 months.

And the gap between the end of LSH v. 3 and the first issue of LSH v.4, the infamous Five Year Gap, which I remember as being endless? Two months.

Bottom line: in the last 55 years, the longest we've gone without the Legion is about a year and a half. In the last 50 years, the longest we've gone is 6 months.

One Legion comic this week: Legion of Super-Heroes 22 (2013/09).

Well, now the Legion is acting like the Legion!

Ayla pulls herself together and blasts the Persuader (which Garth doesn't seem to be able to do). Imra shows what she's made of, with a great line: "I've faced Darkseid. You don't scare me."

Jacques and Brek return from the weird dimension, only to find out that the fifth member of the Fatal Five is the Promethean Giant that Tharok's been controlling. Okay, that was cool. And it recalls Tharok's mental control of Validus in the original Fatal Five.

Jeckie appears along with Val, who has mysteriously come back to life. This keeps happening; if I choose to believe that Jeckie's love is strong enough to bring him back from the dead, who's gonna tell me I'm wrong?

Anyway, Jeckie releases the Giant from Tharok's control -- another nice echo of the original Fatal Five, when it was Jeckie who released Validus from Tharok's control.

It falls to Brek (following Imra's suggestion) to finally defeat Tharok, by freezing him to absolute zero, "the temperature at which there's no energy for electrons to move." (Which makes comic-book sense, but is absolutely lousy science -- at absolute zero, matter becomes superconductive, which means electrons travel with zero resistance. Well, zero resistance would have rendered Tharok inoperative anyway, so I'll let it slide.)

Back on Earth, Luornu mourns another dead body ("Like a chunk of my soul has been ripped out") -- at least she has plenty more to spare. And a tearful Brainy confesses to the assembled Legionnaires that it's all his fault.

I can't help but hope that Levitz brought Karate Kid back to piss off Giffen (even though his return has been in the works since the Legion Academy in Adventure.)

It's nice to see the Legion coming back, although it's hard to see why they couldn't pull together like this earlier. 

One more issue to go.

One Legion comic this week: Smallville Season Eleven #15 (2013/09).

Now this is a Legion that works. And this is a Superman who's noble and compassionate, a Superman you believe could inspire heroes for a thousand years.

And the Legion! Great costumes, characterization spot on, these are heroes who see a problem and jump into action, doing what they can. A Legion that uses teamwork to accomplish the impossible.

I'm ready to see the Legion spinoff from this title...all-digital, if necessary. There are so many stories to be told, so much to find out. They've got Kara (Supergirl) for the Superman connection; they've got ten seasons of tv continuity to draw on for new stories. I'm ready.

 

Oh, there's also new Young Avengers and the long-awaited sixth issue of America's Got Powers, both comics filled with cute boys.

 


 

 

I did not see any Legion content this week.

I'm pondering what to do in this space when there aren't any more Legion appearances. Week after week of "I did not see any Legion content this week" would be pretty sad.

Maybe a monthly "Fifty Years Ago" would be an interesting way to pass the time....

Well, there are still two more issues left, so for now I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

There's more news of Justice League 3000. Apparently there will be no Legion connection. And it's being written by Keith Giffen, who in my opinion is every bit as good a writer as he is an artist...which is to say, not at all to my taste. I can't see any compelling reason to pick up this book.

While I'm at it, I think I'll drop World's Finest...I've been waiting a long time now for something to happen, and it hasn't.

That will leave Smallville Season Eleven as the only DC comic I'm buying. I have over six thousand comics in my collection, and I'd guess at least five thousand of those are DC titles...but there's really nothing at DC any more to keep me even mildly interested -- except, of course, Smallville Season Eleven. (Which I imagine they will cancel soon.)

For the last, oh, forty years I've been buying each new Legion comic (except for the Giffbaum years when I quit in disgust, and a few short hiatuses between titles) -- it's going to feel odd to go to the comic store month after month and spend money with no Legion to show for it...no DC comics....

Unless...the Legion starts appearing as a backup feature in Smallville Season Eleven...then starts to push Clark out of the comic...until the name changes to Smallville: Legion of Super-Heroessmiley

One Legion comic this week: Legion of Super-Heroes 21 (2013/08).

The remaining Legionnaires gather on Earth for a showdown with the Fatal Five Three. Element Lad resists the temptation to turn the oxygen in the villains' bodies into chlorine; Shrinking Violet resists the temptation to shrink inside the Eye and shatter it like she did before; Harmonia doesn't release the power of the winds, water, and rock against them; Lightning Lass doesn't short out Tharok's circuitry; Cosmic Boy doesn't toss them around by the iron in their hemoglobin; and Dream Girl flat out refuses to use her power at all.

Instead, the Legionnaires bravely fall down continuously and scowl at the Fatal Five Three.

At the end of the issue, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad show up...and somehow, it's a hopeful moment.

I have no doubt about Imra's ability to save the day. After all, she's the strongest telepath in the universe -- nothing with a mind can resist her. (As Universo once said to her, in fear, "The two most powerful beings in the universe -- you just looked at them, and they fell over.")

What really annoys me about this whole arc is how passive and whiny the Legionnaires have been. Yes, they've had bad things happen, and they're excused for being a bit demoralized...but honestly: Tinya fleeing to another dimension with the intention of never coming back? Dream Girl refusing to look into the future? Cosmic Boy doing nothing of consequence?

This isn't the Legion that defeated Mordru, Darkseid, the Legion of Super-Villains, and the Time Trapper.

There's one last loose end, one that might be a red herring or a clue to the last issue. On page two, the following exchange takes place between Cos and Brainy:

Cos: Don't overthink it, yell for help.

Brainy: Obviously. The question is from who...and where?

Cos: See if you can reach--

Brainy: As I said -- obviously...but maybe there's another possibility too -- before the quarks fade out again...

Who are they talking about? Garth and Imra, I suppose, are either "obviously" or "another possibility" -- but who's the other one?

When I read that, my first thought was that Cos was going to say "Superman." But flashpoint barrier, time travel doesn't work, yadda yadda yadda.

So who else is there? XS? The Legions of the other Two Worlds? The Subs? Computo? Mordru? The Infinite Man? Ronn Kar? 

I guess we'll see next issue.

One Legion comic this week: Smallville Season Eleven 14.

I've been late to this party: it turns out that Smallville Season Eleven started life as a digital comic published weekly at Comixology.com. Each issue of the print version collects three "issues" of the digital version.

Instead of trying to keep up with the digital comic, I 'll continue to list the print version only here (I'll cross-reference to the digital comic when possible). If DC cancels the print comic but continues the digital one, and if they continue to feature Legion content...well, I'll put on my flight ring and fly across that bridge when we come to it.

This story continues the arc from last issue. For the first time we get to see more Legionnaires from this alternate universe, including some old familiar faces -- I've tried to identify them all, but with some of them we only see the backs of their heads. Anyway, I made my best guesses.

The existence of this digital comic raises an interesting question -- when if the next incarnation of the Legion crashes and burns, is it possible that DC would consider doing a digital-only Legion comic? What do y'all think?

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week. I also did not see any Legion content in books, video, or other media. I did have a dream that featured Brainiac 5, my old high school, and a speech contest. Brainy lost the contest because he gave his speech in Coluan; I think the winner was a purple camel but things are a little fuzzy...probably lingering effects of too much time travel.

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Get-a-Life Boy writes and reviews science fiction. Check it out here.

 


 

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Legion statuette images and some costume variation images created by Jim Gallagher, based on Curt Swan's sketches.

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