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Monday, December 12, 2011

Legion

Eye-Spy a  New and Improved Emerald Empress...
The Legion of Super Heroes is one of those classic comic book mash-ups of super heros and far future sci-fi, with more than a few bits of fantasy tossed-in for good measure. When it works, it's a heady, intriguing and engrossing milieu filled with loads of interesting characters. And a few really lame ones. Matter Eating Lad? Bouncing Boy? Yeah. Okay.

The one major thing that always bothered me as a young nerd reading my first copies of the Legion of Super Heroes comics was that there was no continuity with the past. For all the great many super heroes in the Legion there wasn't a 30th century Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern. Nope. Not any of them. And that felt weird, in a bad way. Did they all get destroyed by Darkseid perhaps? Sounds like a better story than quite a few that were getting peddled back then. Still kind of does...but nah. Nothing quite so grandiose. No one had given any writer permission to create a far future version of the classic, major players of the DC universe back then.

Of course that changed. We had Batman Beyond--which was an animated depiction, not originally a comic book. We had the DC 1,000,000 event. And now, we have Legion member Mon-El becoming the Green Lantern of the 31st Century. But where's the Legion version of Batman? Did I blink and miss it/them?

The Legion of Super Heroes is a great idea. But it has always been backwards.  The series has always tried to build itself up and then retro-fit into the rest of the DC universe, when in fact they should have extended the modern day continuity forwards, at least in big chunks, much as they eventually did for the DC 1,000,000 miniseries. The legacies and dynasties and descendents of the various modern day super heroes projected outwards to the 31st century--that's a lot more interesting than just having yet another stupidly named 'hero' show up with yet another silly power. Even if they are some sort of alien or robot. What is the Spectre or Phantom Stranger like in the 31st Century? That would be interesting to find out. How well did Batman stay ahead of the curve with his gadgetsand toys? Have cloned Batmen(TM) taken over most of the mundane police efforts as a special arm of the Science Police? And isn't that a scary name--Science Police. Very Orwellian. The cool part of the whole Legion set-up is that it just begs a thousand different questions and lends itself to all sorts of speculation and a wealth of interpersonal dynamics that would put your typical soap opera to shame. Just plotting out a family tree would get plenty complicated...and full of bizarre opportunities for developing super heroes that would partake of aspects of established characters like say Aquaman or one of the New Gods, which begs the question of where are the New Gods in the 31st century--are there New New New Gods now?

Maybe that all has been addressed fully and completely and I just missed it. I haven't been following the Legion very much for a while now. I recall the old issues of the original Legion of Super Heroes when time travel was a common element and the stories were filled with aliens, lame aliens, cool aliens, robots, more aliens, psychic powers, all sorts of technology, and again more time travel. I always liked those slightly goofy stories from the Seventies. A lot has happened since then, all sorts of character development, complicated plots, elaborate ret-cons...it can feel a bit overwhelming to anyone trying to get caught-up with what's been going on with the Legion since the good old days. There's something cool about the core concept of a group of far future super beings, out protecting the galaxy from nefarious forces and all that. Those old issues were fun. Next time we go to the local comics shop, I'm going to have to check on what's going on with the Legion these days.



Below is an old interview with Keith Giffen talking about the Legion of Super Heroes with Newsarama. Giffen has some interesting observations to make regarding the designing of the 30th/31st century.
Giffen: You know how great it is to draw a book and you don't have to reference anything except the costumes?
Nrama: Because it's in the 31st Century and you can make things up?
Giffen: Yes, but you know, it's important to get that right, to make it feel like the future. I used to say that in the 30th Century, if it has wheels, it's wrong. Now, if you push a button, it's wrong.
Nrama: So you have to modernize it even more since last time you drew it?
Giffen: Yeah, because last time I did it, half of the stuff I was drawing in the Legion, thinking I was so clever back then, we're actually doing now! You know? So yeah, it does take a certain mindset to say, OK, a thousand years from now.... if you took someone from a thousand years ago and brought him into our current world, he would think we were a world of wizards. It would be beyond his comprehension. It would be like magic to him.
Now, I can't really go in and do that to the Legion of Super-Heroes because readers have to have some kind of base upon to suspend their disbelief. So I'm bound by certain conventions. Like in the book now, they may fly off to wherever they have to go or board a spaceship to get somewhere, even though I'm sure that, by that time, especially since we've established that teleportation exists in the DCU, they would just go through some type of portal. But you have to find a comfortable middle ground where I can feed the reader familiar things before going in and messing with it.


A Legion of Links

The Legion of Super Heroes Animated series

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