SHOWCASE PRESENTS: Who gives a crap about the Legion of Superheroes?
(Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.)
Compared to my useless, damn near encyclopedic knowledge of heroes like Superman and Batman, I don’t know crap about the Legion of Superheroes. I could wax poetic about the plight of Booster Gold but I don’t have too much to say about Bouncing Boy. Other than “he bounces and possibly has male genitalia.” I have no way of citing that second thing. I mean, I haven’t read too much Legion stuff, but I feel like I’d be aware of a panel where Bouncing Boy drops his pants and someone just stares for a while before saying “Yup… that’s a penis. Confirmed. Look at it go.”
My point is that, apparently, what I consider a vast deficit of information is a great deal more than what the average comic book reader knows. For example, I can tell you that the Legion of Superheroes came about in the late 1950’s, in issue 247 of Adventure Comics. It was a story about Superboy. Lightning Boy (no, that’s not a typo, he didn’t adopt the “lad” part of his name until later), Saturn Boy, and Cosmic Girl came to see a young Clark Kent as their group of teen heroes in the 30th century had been inspired by his adventures as Superboy and they wanted to “test” him before offering him an honorary membership.
I also know that the Legion has been rebooted four times now. Once after Zero Hour, again in 2004, once more in 2007, and finally as a part of the New 52 that no one cared about in 2011. If you’re keeping score at home, that means that they were rebooted 3 separate times in the last decade. Not even Hollywood is that nuts.
I can also name entirely too many members of the team. Why? Because there are entirely too many members of the team. Let’s see… Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Bouncing Boy, Matter Eater Lad, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Mon-El/Lar Gand/Valor, Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass, Karate Kid (yes… yes that exists), Phantom Girl, Dream Girl, Timber Wolf, and Dawnstar. Not to mention over a dozen others who don’t really matter because, c’mon, that’s ridiculous. How many people do you even need after Matter Eater Lad joins the team? None. None is the answer to that question.
And, for the last batch of crap I know about the LSH (we’re at the initialism part of the article): they frequently hold try outs, the people who don’t make it have gone on to form the Legion of Substitute Heroes, leadership is constantly in question, their biggest villains are the Fatal Five and the Time Trapper (who, since all these people are named like kitchen appliances, appropriately has the ability to trap people in time, which has been used for countless retcons). Oh, and they’ve appeared in Superman: The Animated Series, their own self-titled animated series, an episode of Justice League Unlimited (where only like 3 members of the team were actually present), and a few episodes of Smallville where they, much like every other character on the show, were much more interesting than Clark.
That’s all off the top of my head. The fact that I actually manage to hold down a job and be a functional member of society is a goddamn mystery to me.
The thing is, I’ve got all that knowledge but I’m far from a LSH fan. There are too many characters, the plot lines are convoluted (probably as a direct result of the “too many characters” thing), and, for a group of people inspired by Superman, they’re almost all weirdly cliquey and judgmental when it comes to any potential new recruits.
Now, their latest series has long since been cancelled so this might come across as me just hurling bricks at a horse skeleton, but here’s the reason no one gives a shit about the Legion of Superheroes: DC doesn’t care. I really, honestly, believe that. Deep down in the core of my being.
Why? Because DC, as evidenced by the ridiculous amount of reboots and retcons the Legion has had to endure (more than Hawkman, which is freaking astounding), has no idea what to do with the Legion. Not a damn clue. If DC was somehow personified and locked in a tiny room with a giant blackboard that said “here’s what to do with the Legion of Superheroes,” it would erase the board and then just fall on the ground. Like a turtle.
“Maybe we should trim down the roster–”
“Sorry, can’t hear you down here.”
“We could throw in legacy heroes like the descendants of Superman and Batman and the Flash–”
“Nope. Nothing to be done. Just gonna lay here.”
“Did you even read the–”
“No reading on the floor.”
The Legion shouldn’t be that hard to understand. It’s a group of young heroes inspired by Superman’s legacy. They live in the future and often travel through time. They have Star Trek levels of diversity. I mean, really, it’s a winning formula.
What goes wrong, repeatedly, is that DC can’t decide on those points. Half the time, the Legion isn’t inspired by Superman/Superboy at all. They’re just…there. Sometimes the future is a utopia. Other times it’s a horrible, oppressive, Orwellian dystopia. Sometimes the Legion has a completely manageable, totally reasonable amount of members. More often than not, there’s like 20 different heroes on the team at any one time and they all have their own weirdly complex backstories. Throughout it all, Brainiac 5 seems to be kind of a dick. So at least that’s consistent.
Why should you care about the Legion of Superheroes? Honestly, until DC actually hires a good writer to bring the franchise back to basics, you probably shouldn’t.