Futuristic Space Opera
I have confessed many times how much I love the Legion. No, I adore the Legion.
Some of my first comic books featured the Silver Age Legion. (No, I am not that old. It just so happens they were republished in the Spanish language in the 80s).
Growing up with the Legion of Super-Heroes and Doctor Who is a big reason I love optimistic science fiction.
The Legion of Super-Heroes was born during the Silver Age of comic books in 1958.
Created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, it wasn’t until the Jim Shooter and Curt Swan era it became popular.
The Legion was created as one-off guests for a Superboy story. However, they became so popular, the readers kept asking the editors for them to come back again and again. Mind you, those were the days before the internet.
The editors at DC comics wisely recognize they had a hit in their hands. Eventually, the Legion took over the Superboy comics. Ironically, he became a supporting character in his own book.
The Legion of Super-Heroes is the greatest superhero team of the 31st century. They are a combination of space opera and military science fiction.
They are the protectors of the United Planets (think the United Nations but in space). They come from different planets and they have quirky superpowers. And the tone of the stories is optimistic and hopeful.
This is a future with flying cars, interstellar travel, and weather control. The kind of future you would want to live in. What is not to like?
If it wasn’t for the Fatal Five, the Dominators, the Time Trapper, and all those pesky supervillains…
Why the Legion Endures?
The Legion of Super-Heroes has quite an intermittent publishing history. At times it feels DC Comics does not know what to do with the team.
However, their fans complained, organized, and kept bringing them back. The Legion fans are very vocal. Obviously, there is something about the Legion that resonates with its fans.
What makes the Legion so special and so endearing?
First, the concept was a novel one for the late fifties and sixties —teenage superheroes! Those were the days before the Teen Titans, the X-Men, or Young Justice.
Most teen super-heroes were sidekicks (or a younger version of an adult hero). Not the Legion. They were teenagers with teen problems, fearlessness, and an optimistic outlook.
Second, there is another element about the Legion people overlook. Namely, the idea of people from different backgrounds, genders, social classes, races, and sexual orientations working together.
Most legionnaires were not from planet Earth. They came from different planets light-years away. Some of those planets were at war with each other. But they all believed in the Legion’s ideals of cosmic solidarity and brotherhood.
Some Legionnaires were not the friendliest or likable (I am looking at you Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, and Shadow Lass). Some have weird, impractical superpowers (Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad). Others are too alien, even among aliens (Quislet and Tellus). But, they worked together as a team despite their many differences.
Third, the whole idea that the future will be brighter.
This is the future, for God’s sake! We are supposed to have conquered disease, climate change, and poverty. Yes, there are still supervillains and alien conquerors. And some xenophobic people and other threats.
But no need to worry. The Legion will save the day.
To the 31st Century and Beyond
The Legion has never been a big seller. However, they keep coming back. Their fans are a vocal minority who loves science fiction and the ideals the Legion stands for. Namely, Interstellar Peace, Tolerance, Unity, and Fairness.
The Legionnaires are representatives of their respective home planets. In a way, they are goodwill ambassadors first, superheroes second.
In most continuities, their inspiration was Superboy (which represents the 2oth Century ideals of Truth, Justice and the American Way) but expanded to include Earth, Mars, Titan, Winath, Braal, Bgztl, Rimbor, Orando, Colu, Durla, Trom, Xanthu, Daxam, Zoon, Imsk, Cargg, Talok VII, Naltor, Dryad, Virga and other fictional planets.
The Legion‘s adventures were true space operas where occasionally members will pay the ultimate price to save the Universe. Members will come and go, there will be different continuity and costume changes also.
But one thing will remain –the ideal of teenagers from different planets working together to keep the future safe and bright.
Long live the Legion!
Reader, what is your favorite Legion member? Your favorite story arc? Or which Legion planet would you like to live? Share in the comments.
Post-Script: The Legion remains in publishing hiatus as of this writing, making sporadic appearances as a guest in other comics. Most recently in Supergirl #12 and Annual #1. Here is hoping they come back in their own comic as they deserve.