By Broadcasting Brain
Fifty years ago and a thousand years in the future, three teens with super-powers foiled an assassination attempt and started a legend. Their story comes, goes, and changes according to finances, fan response, and fickle fate. And yet, during the year that is the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the most memorable super-hero teams of all time, DC Comics has chosen to cancel not just one, but two comic books related to the Legion (or LSH, as it’s sometimes called).
Why, Dan (Didio), why?
For those just tuning into the 31st century, the Legion of Super-Heroes was an outgrowth of the Superman mythos. When he was still allowed to be called Superboy (long legal story), young Clark Kent was approached by three mysterious youths who knew he wasn’t just your average ordinary teenage boy. They reveal themselves to be the founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of teenagers with super-powers who help protect Earth and the rest of the galaxy from evil. They invite Superboy to join their team; they had been inspired by his heroic deeds both as a teenager and an adult. And thus, the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the largest super hero teams of all time, was introduced to the world.
The Legion has had an interesting and challenging struggle during its fifty real-time years of existence. For years, the Legion appeared in both Adventure Comics and Action Comics (the longest running Superman title with 869+ issues). A short-lived self-titled comic book was replaced by Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which eventually became Legion of Super-Heroes by 1980. The team has starred in a Legion book almost continuously since then.
The thing is, the Legion is not the same Legion it used to be. Much like the way that Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica have undergone radical changes over the years while maintaining core concepts, the Legion of Super-Heroes has been changed, reinvented, and relaunched almost as many times as the careers of Madonna, Prince, and Jane Fonda have. Here’s a quick overview of some of the twists and turns that the Legion concept has endured over the years:
- Starting off as Superboy’s pals from the far future
- Supergirl, Superman’s cousin, is an occasional member (but she and her cousin come from different timesâ€¦ it’s complicatedâ€¦)
- The Legionnaires grow up and start getting married and starting families; Superboy/Supergirl pop in and out
- DC Comics reinvents their continuity and Superboy doesn’t really exist (well, sort of; he does die, though)
- Five years after a big, bad event, we follow the exploits of an older, changed Legion — definitely lacking a Superboy; by their fifth issue, everything changes radically again and there really never was a Superboy, just a guy named Valor and his female cousin who came from a different planet and had the same powers as Superboy (Superman? OK, I’m getting confused.)
- Oops: in 1994, the universe gets destroyed and recreated with a brand new Legion of Super-Heroes (the Reboot version) who look like they’d be at home in the pages of the 30th century’s version of Archie Comics (no Jughead or Hot Dog, though); still no Superboy, but a different version of Valor eventually comes on board. Thematically similar to the original Legion; brighter and more optimistic.
- Double oops: in 2005, yet another new version (the Threeboot version) of the Legion of Super-Heroes appears: this time, they’re a bunch of smart-ass kids who are trying to shake up a complacent, yet fearful older generation of folks in the 31st century; still no Superboy.
- Meanwhile, two different cartoon versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes have appeared on TV in our 21st century; the second version actually carries a decent cartoon series for two years before getting cancelled.
- Oh, wait: a group that looks a lot like the original Legion of Super-Heroes starts appearing in DC Comics published in 2007.
I could go on and on in a lot more detail, but the important point is that this concept has changed, mutated, and been restarted a lot of times during the past fifty years. At each turn and twist, some old fans leave and a few new ones come on board. Meanwhile, an awful lot of people scratch their heads in confusion as they try to make sense of what the Legion is really about. Believe it or not, it’s even harder to track the Legion’s history than the X-Men’s history.
The word came down this week, via Dan Didio, Senior Vice President â€” Executive Editor, DC Universe: the current Legion of Super-Heroes comic will end at issue 50 and the team will go on hiatus for an unknown period of time with the promise of more, exciting things to come. DC had already announced the cancellation of a second Legion title, based on the animated series, and fans hadn’t yet recovered from the shock of that loss.
I have been reading the Legion of Super-Heroes for 30 years and I have loved this team and this concept for all of this time. And I can’t keep track of it.
Guys, if you relaunch it, do it right this time. Please? Make it fun, easy to follow, and make the Legion the heroes they deserve to be.
And please, please don’t change it again for a long, long time. OK?