With Apologies…To The Legion of Super-Heroes

 

I see that you found my letter. It took months of planning to get that letter planted in your home. Do you remember eight months ago when you suffered from a brick eating snake infestation? It wasn't chance that those snakes ended up inside the walls of your home, nesting in your comic book room. Do you remember the exterminator that came to rope those snakes? Tall, handsome, and with the raw sexual magnetism of a sweating minotaur. Yes, it was me. Take a seat over there, by the larping equipment. I have prepared tea for your enjoyment.


I have had some interest in your comic book collecting for the last few years. We shop at the same LCS. I noticed that you were a big fan of the capes and cowls. You pick up Avengers, X-Men, Justice League, all the big team books. Don't be too flattered, I know what everyone buys at the shop. I make it my business to know what everyone buys on Wednesdays. I am just an interested party. A raging party that became even more interested about a year and a half ago when I overheard you talking to Snuffy, the shop owner. He had suggested that you might be interested in picking up Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. To which you responded, and I quote, "Oh…I never got into the Legion of Super-Heroes. There are too many characters." It took all of my will power not vomit right then and there. Gasping for air I dashed from the shop and headed home. Slamming the door behind me I launched myself to the floor and had a good cry. Six hours later I picked myself up and decided action was needed. You needed to be shown the error of your ways.

You can put the phone away. As you can see, there is no reception in this room.

"There are too many characters." If the Legion of Super-Heroes were to have an oath, these words would be the graffiti thrown over the top of it by haters. The number of characters is one of the beautiful parts of the Legion. There is always somebody you want to follow. Not only do you want to follow them but you get to see them interact with characters that you hate. I love Brainiac 5. He is such an unrepentant ass, but at the same time he has a heart of gold. The descendant of one of Superman's greatest foes, seeking to make the world better. He even fell in love with Supergirl back in the day. I hate Wildfire. He is brash, cocky, and has a bad attitude. He was so popular that he won Legion leadership within a couple years. He is the Gambit of the DC future. There was nothing I loved more then an occasion to see Brainiac 5 deal with Wildfire. The secret is that the Legion books were never based on trying to fit all the characters in, it was based on rotating characters through and having characters mix in new ways. Sometimes your favorites would take a backseat, but they would eventually come back. In that time you might just find another character to love. The book thrived on adding more and more characters. There were enough rejects from the Legion try outs that they were able to form a Substitute Legion.


SIT DOWN! No one can hear you.


The nature of the Legion makes it a perfect mix of what Superhero fans are looking for in a book. In it's history it has ranged from the goofy to the terribly serious, just like real life can run the gamut of emotions. Starting off as occasional guest stars in Superboy's Adventure Comics tales, they eventually gained a rich history of their own. It started as the perfect children's fantasy tale. The Legion existed in a world where the kids are the ones who have to solve the problems. It was a place where the kids were right and they were going to make sure the adults knew it. They weren't just sidekicks to an adult hero. They weren't just accessories to Superboy, they were peers to Superboy. He inspired their creation, and in turn they became his friends. They were the heroes, and they needed to depend on each other to beat back their foes. They were a family.

Like any family the characters would grow up a bit, and their relationships would change. Lightning Lad would marry Saturn Girl. Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy would marry and leave. Romantic confusions and entanglements would add spice into the cosmic stories. The characters would depend on each other, but not in the same way they had done as children. It would become the more adult version of friendship. A place were a friend's betrayal is worse then anything that Mordru could do to you. The doubts of young adulthood began to be more prominently featured. Timber Wolf struggling to balance his animalistic impulses with the need to be part of a community. Chameleon Boy wrestling with the nature of coming from a home where life is a constant struggle. Wildfire had to deal with the fact that he had no body, yet he wanted to make out with Dawnstar. Characters would die, and stay dead.  A little bit of the simple children's fantasy fades away but it is replaced with the joy of true self discovery. A simple club eventually becomes a calling.

It is getting difficult for me to talk over your sobbing. Please get yourself under control.

I know that your continuity alarm is going off right now. The alarm is the part of your brain that doesn't like the idea of multiple reboots. You have an aversion to time travel and the oddities it creates in continuity. It repulses you that there are versions of Legion where all the events I described above didn't happen. Once again, it is actually a strength of the series. There is probably a version of the Legion that you will love. The classic legion of the Silver and Bronze Age are my favorite. Ask another Legion fan and you will get another answer. If another fan were to give you their reasons for loving the Legion, they would probably be all different. Others swear by the Abnett, Lanning, and Copiel Legion stories from the mid nineties reboot. Most recently, the Mark Waid and Barry Kitson reboot had some great moments, followed up later by stories featuring art by Francis Manapul and writing from classic Legion writer Jim Shooter. All of these versions are unique, fun, and addictive in their own way. The future can constantly shift so the Legion will probably reboot once again, and be all the better for it. The Legion has provided a unique opportunity for creators to play with familiar characters, add some new characters, and take them in new and exciting directions. Yes, they all count. If someone reads them, they count. 

Knowing a little can be worse then knowing nothing. This is especially true with the Legion. They have become a bogeyman for what comic book readers like you fear. The waking nightmare of a club house that looks like a rocket. The horrifying prospect of fleshed out characters with deep and interesting personal interactions. The horror of alien worlds filled with cool looking enemies. I know you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of a rousing space adventure. I know this, because you remind me of myself before I found the Legion. 

DRINK THE TEA!

That is why I have to show you the error of your ways. It took months to save up enough money to buy a dozen brick eating snakes. It took months to become a certified snake roper. Now…Now we can become Legion brothers. I have sat in this room waiting for the day when you would discover my letter. You have such a set schedule that I knew it would happen soon. You always put your issues into your long boxes at the end of the month. It was a simple matter to plant the letter right between your issues of The Legend of Zelda and Leonard Nimoy's Primortals. Now we are here and you can begin the next phase of your life. You are like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Read the issue underneath your chair. The last page will have the antidote to the poison, just as I laid out in the letter.

 

 


We traced this article. It came from your attic. Tom Katers is inside your house. Get out!

 

Comments

  1. If I just tell you I read and liked the Giffen reboot in the early nineties will you get the hell out of my house?  Or will that kind of crazy assertion just tip you right over the edge?

  2. Thanks for making me remember Primortals Katers (shakes fist)

    great article bye the way

  3. I like the Gold and Silver age Legion as well….its just so cheesy and campy. Pure Comic Book magic. I always giggle when the Legionaries are all sitting at their big tables with their little namecards in front of them as they make big decisions. 

  4. As Mark Waid revealed, the secret of the Legion clubhouse is more terrifying than just being a rocket.

  5. My favorite part of the DCU continuity and the main reason i started reading superman again, sure there are loads of characters but honestly look at any team book and tell me they haven’t had just as many characters. The only thing the Legion has done different is focus on all of their characters rathen then pick a core team tell the story of like 4 of them and let the others be background filler

  6. This article features too many characters.  I can’t keep up.

  7. Great article, especially because of my love for the Legion. I also have to agree with the love for Brainiac 5 for the reasons mentioned, and since you’re apparently in my attic, would you like some milk and cookies, or are you going to keep trying to intimidating me?

  8. Good man. Anyone doubting the early Legion’s nutty charm should buy a super-cheap Showcase edition. Anyone wanting the Legion at its peak should try Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s The Great Darkness Saga. Anyone sitting around a table with Tom Katers should beware the Planetary Chance Machine.

     

    >ouch< 

  9. I love the Legion. It’s probably my second favorite superhero team behind the X-Men. I even have some intellectual appreciation for the curiosity that Legion continuity.

    I got into them with Legion Lost (which is easily on the same level as Abnett and Lanning’s current work) and took the opportunity to read the whole of Postboot Legion. Since then, I’ve read most of the original Legion stuff as well.

  10. The threeboot Legion with Waid was pretty good up until the book got cancelled for John’s grant revision of the Legion of superheroes and they screwed Shooter’s ending. That being said i love how Johns has ressurected the classic Legion i just needed better closer for Waid’s version…whatever happened to Cosmic Boy

  11. One thing that grates is what a crappy job Johns does at writing Lightning Lad. This is supposed to be the Legion from around 1986, right? At that point, Garth was stable and happy… yet since the deboot, he’s done nothing except rant and rave like a maniac.

    And the haircut… yeah, let’s not get into that.

  12. I love Waid and Kitson’s reboot they did of the Legion back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.  It’s good stuff.

  13. Thanks again Katers. You made me laugh while reading this at work, drawing unwelome stares form my peers. But glad I did. Amusing and eductional and…..expensive……as I now have to go and aquire these stories you speak of.

    kudos 

     

  14. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Oh, god, Primortals! I’d been storing my memory of that series in a fob watch and now…

    (Loved this.)

  15. I don’t know that I want the antidote that badly.

  16. I’ve only in the last few years found out how much fun the Legion is, and it’s become the only book I look for in back issues.  The ability of the writers to combine characters you can’t stand with ones you love is one of it’s best features.  I’d never realized it till now.

    Terrific article.  Best line of the whole thing: "Yes, they all count. If someone reads them, they count".  Words for comic readers to live by.

  17. Growing up my greatest pleasure was going to the used book store in my small hometown walking to he back of the store, sorting through the boxes of abandoned comics, and finding an old issue of LOSH or Tales of LOSH.  I will always read any Legion title that is put out because it reminds me so strongly of my beginnings as a comic collector. 

    The Legion with DNA starting with Legion Lost, Legion Worlds, & then The Legion with Coipel were probably my favorite, but the original run will always have a special place in my heart.

  18. Poor Arm-Fall-Off Boy.  He never got a fair shake.

  19. Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    . . . And you wouldn’t believe where he shoved that arm in the next panel.

  20. Great Article Tom.