A Preview Of DC's New Legion of Super-Heroes
By Michael Haeleury (1989)
In recent years, DC Comics has performed cosmetic surgery on many of their oldest and, most venerable super-hero concepts, eliminating wrinkles, removing age spots and trimming the fat from Superman, Batman, Wonder woman,Flash, and the Justice League in successful efforts to revitalise those characters for contemporary audiences. This fall, the Legion of Super-Heroes, that perennially popular band of 30th-century crusaders who just celebrated their 30th anniversary, receives a face-lift in DC's most ambitious retooling to date.
You Can't Ignore history
While numerous outmoded--and sometimes moulding-concepts were excised from the DC Continuity during the rebirths of the aforementioned characters the Legion's long and very rich history made it impossible to start from scratch for its revamping That,very history, which commenced way back in the Superboy story titled "the Legion of Super-Heroes" in Adventure Comics #247, has endeared this futuristic super-team into the hearts of tens of thousands of dedicated readers, readers whose allegiance to the Legion is so strong and vocal that they've followed the series through various highs and lows. The legions history, which was originally a spinoff of the Superman mythos, has also provided the series with a sense of growth do evades other comic books. While Superman must remain a perpetual 29 years of age, we've watched the Legion of Super-Heroes mature from adventurous adolescents to responsible adults. No, the history behind the Legion cannot be ignored; and the creative team behind the upcoming, all-new Legion of Super Heroes tide has adopted a unique approach for this renovation of the series: they've advanced the book's setting, even further into the future launching the new Legion's adventures five years after the last story, in current series' run, resuming action in the year 2994.
The credit for concocting this goes to Keith Giffen who continues to pencil the new Legion, but now inherits the mantle of plotter from out-going scribe Paul Levitz. "About a year ago," Giffen recalls, "Paul was making noises about leaving the Legion soon; he planned on telling the stories he still had to tell and then leave the book to someone else" Giffen realized that he wanted to be that "someone else." as he felt comfortable with plotting through his work on the Justice League titles, so he approached then Legion editor Karen Berger about replacing Levitz.
But Giffen also realized his work was cut out for him, noting that Paul Levitz had two successful runs as writer of Legion of Super-Heroes under his belt, the second one spanning an uninterrupted seven years. Levitz's Legion of Super Heroes, well-respected tenure proved I somewhat intimidating to Giffen, as Keith joked, "I felt a little bit like the guy who replaced Miller on Daredevil." Rather than directly competing with the prosperous Levitz run by continuing the series where Paul left off, Giffen elected to distance the series from that body of work by carrying it five years into the future.
This seemingly radical idea was quickly and enthusiastically approved by the editorial higher-ups at DC, who agreed with Keith that, despite the book's loyal readership and continuing healthy sales, it was time to shake the Legion up a bit. In addition to adding five years to the setting, the revamped Legion of Super-Heroes will begin anew with issue #1 Mark Waid, a long-time Legion fan who recently assumed the book's editorial reins from Karen Berger, guarantees fans that the renumbering is no mere sales ploy, citing. "It's not a stunt-it's to show that there's an end to this era that's been going on for 10 or 15 years in legion of Super-Heroes," Agreeing with Giffen that Paul Levitz's Legion stint "was a magnificent piece of work," Waid notes that the book had experienced very limited trader growth in the past few years, with the bulk of the title's sales remaining steady without expanding. It seemed that the vibrant history that had ear- marked the Legion for so long was so frightening off potential new fans as readers unfamiliar with Legion continuity simply could not pick up a random issue and fully understand what was going on. Keith Giffen explains: "The Legion needed a starting point; it needed a point wherein we could reach new readers and also satisfy the old" So, without ignoring the Legion's past, DC followed Giffen's lead and advanced the series into the future.
Incidentally, the hardcore Legion following did not exactly accept the news of Giffen's impending alterations with open arms. Mark Waid likens the Impact Of the announcement of Giffen's plans to that of the initial reaction to Michael Keaton's casting as Batman "this is not" assures Giffen, "an attempt on my part to rip down everything that Legion fandom had held so dear, to sabotage the book, to turn it into a bleak, nightmarish realm. It's my attempt to redefine the book in the readers! eyes, and to get a cold point for new traders to start from" Instead of taking for granted that fans comprehend all-of the multifaceted concepts and players in legion of Super-Heroes, the cast and other events will be reintroduced - and redefined - for the benefit of new and old readers
The Great Crash of 2989
Don't be misled into assuming that the only change experienced by the Legionnaires in this new series is five extra years of age. The events that transpire during the interim period will certainly surprise and shock followers of the book.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1 introduced us to a 30th century Earth vastly different from that seen in the old series. Economic decay and political unrest live disrupted the Legion's entire universe. "The United Planets", explains Giffen, "has collapsed under its own weight. I call it the Great Crash of 2989. It's caused by economic mismanagement, by planets living well beyond their means and counting on the UP for support.
"this five-year span was a dark time for everybody. If you had a graph of the five year point, at the end of the mystic War-2989-you'd have a peak with the Legions victory. During this gap in time there was a steady downward plunge. "When I pick up the book" Giffen continues, "things are at the very bottom of that spike"
The Khundish empire has expanded during this dismal era into a vast empire, its influence disturbingly far reaching. Earth has fallen under the wings of the Dominators and all interplanetary détente has disappeared as a result of the United Planets' implosion. Interchange of technologies and commodities between planets has also crumbled. Additionally, conflicts between planets have become commonplace. One Such war which will prove important to the early issues of Legion of Super-Heroes involves the worlds of Brag and Imsk, the homeworlds of Cosmic 'Boy' and Shrinking Violet, respectively.
But things are far from hopeless for the future. Giffen asserts that "from Legion #1, we start a gradual upswing. We won't be watching everything fall apart - we'll be watching everything come together again."
It is quickly established, in Legion of Super-Heroes #1 that the Legion itself had disbanded a few years earlier. Giffen blames the Team's downfall on the United Planets' collapse, economic developments on Earth, and the fact that "the Legion had become an unwieldy organization. They were tied up in a lot of bureaucratic red tape and became extremely top-heavy. What started out as a club became a nightmare."
Giffen adds - quite cryptically - that the legions disbanding was far from their choice. "they were railroaded" he adds, while declining to go into details for fear of ruining the plot's impact.
Rising from the ashes
Legion of Super-heroes #1 opens with one of the Legionnaires attempting a recapitulation of the team to its, former glory. Reep Daggle, aka Chameleon 'Boy', follows the footsteps of his father, RJ Brande, the billionaire who originally formed and funded the Legion, as he travels throughout at galaxy in search of his old teammates
Reep realizes that the decomposing state of the universe cries out for the legions rebirth - "But not the Legion as it was" Keith Giffen interjects, comparing the old and new teams by calling the old series "a straight super-hero book With science fiction trappings" but describing the new as "closer to Terry and the Pirates with science fiction trappings"
Daggle's quest to reform the Legion begins in issue 01 as he tracks down Rokk (Cosmic 'Boy') Krinn, one of the legions trio of founding members. Editor Mark Waid contends that Rokk is the first Legionnaire targeted because "he has a certain magnetism" (pun intended) that is fundamental to the Legions well-being. Cosmic 'Boy' who has lost his magnetic powers in a conflict, boats leadership and motivational abilities that make him the most crucial link to the Legion's restoration. "Chameleon Boy is the impetus" for the regrouping, Waid elucidates "but cosmic 'Boy' will basically be holding the center."
And while many Legionnaires are ecstatic to rejoin Reep and Rokk (sounds like. a 30th Century singing duo, doesn't it?) and return to active duty, others are quite happy and content with their post-Legion lifestyles and resent the intrusions.
Rebuilding the Team
On of the most unique, and appealing, features of the Legion of Super-Heroes is its diverse and quite large cast. "there's a legionnaire for everyone," chuckles Giffen; "fat ones, short ones, tall ones, blue ones, green ones..."
While the new legion of Super-Heroes will eventually address the whereabouts of each of the teams roster, the spotlight will generally shine on the "classic" Legionnaires, those who joined the club during the Legion's lengthy exposure in adventure comics through the 1960's "Keith and I have the exact same cutoff point as to who is a 'real' Legionnaire and who is I just I a hanger on." Mark Waid jokes, "Which is, anyone who joined the group during Adventure is a 'real' Legionnaire." Both Waid and Giffen agree that there are Legionnaires they don't particularly care for, and those characters will not be key players in the book - but they won't simply be ignored, either. However in an attempt to relaunch the Legion by returning the book to its roots it's a safe bet you won't be Seeing much of heroes like Dawnstar, Tellus; and Wildfire... but don't be surprised to see the return of nearly forgotten characters like Matter-Eater 'Lad', Tyroc, and Dev-em.
This 'back to basics' philosophy forced Giffen to dissect each Legionnaire and ask what each character was truly about. "In a lot of cases, that meant going back to a Legionnaires original appearance," He explains, "to find out how he or she was. approached, what type of development occurred, and, in some cases, where things went wrong."
While some of the events that happened in the legionnaires' lives during the five year gap won't surprise regular readers (like the marriage of Cosmic Boy and Night 'Girl'), other revelations will startle, possibly outrage-readers new and old. For example, a major development will be disclosed in the life of Lightning "Lad:" one that will even astound his telepathic wife, Saturn "Girl" (if she ever finds out). Phantom "Girl" is due for some major changes, with Giffen remarking that "the last page of the second issue carries her obituary notice" Gim (Colossal 'Boy') Allon is now involved with the Science Police" while Ultra 'Boy' (Jo Nah) is wrestling with what Mark Waid calls "a terrible secret," one devised by new Legion scripters Tom and Mary Bierbaum. Sensor "Girl", formerly Princess Projectra, has returned to her throne. For the lives of the other Legion members, Keith Giffen offers a "no comment,"
Ultra Boy or Ultra Man
Giffen asserts that, in order to emphasise their maturation and camaraderie, the Legion's youth-oriented codenames will no longer be used. "the Legionnaires will refer to each other on a first-name basis," he insists. "Maybe somewhere down the line well cobble up some new codenames for them if we feel it's necessary, but at this point, if you're talking about Ultra 'Boy', you're talking about Jo. Since we're reintroducing the characters slowly, there should be a minimum of confusion:"
However, Mark Waid and co-writers Tom and Mary Bierbaum disagree with Keith on this point, believing that codenames aid the reader in character identification. "I like the codenames," Mary states. "I think they're necessary, like costumes. But after working with many of the Legionnaires I think of them now by their first names."
Some "Legionnaires codenames have become, at least in the form of nicknames, heavily used, as the now adult Chameleon 'Boy' is generally called 'Cham' by his comrades, and Shrinking Violet is often referred to as 'Violet' or 'Vi' Since only a handful of Legionnaires appear in the first few issues - most notably Chameleon and Cosmic 'Boys'-the first name policy will continue for the foreseeable future. Waid states that he's still pushing for the use of codenames, but admits that the names of most of the 'classic' Legionnaires' names are silly, stating, "Nobody will use the names 'Boy,' 'Lad,' 'Lass,' 'Kid,' or 'Girl' anymore." As more characters are reintroduced in the series, though, expect this creative-disagreement to be resolved.
Another minor quibble surrounding the book involves the Legionnaire's costumes. Since the team has been inactive for some time when we meet them again, they will initially wear their street clothes or paramilitary uniforms, as is Giffen's preference. However, for the same reasoning behind the need for codenames, the Bierbaum's and Waid feel individually distinctive uniforms mandatory. This matter was not resolved at press time
During Reep be search for the Legion new characters who will eventually join the team will appear. Readers who feared that the element of youth was being erased from this new 'adult' Legion should take note that many of the new Legionnaires are kids or teenagers. Tom and Mary Bierbaum also want to introduce the offspring of married Legionnaires into the series, fashioning sort of a "Legion: The Next Generation."
The first new Legionnaire to debut is Kono, premiering in Legion #2. She is a yellow-skinned, blue-haired, 15 year-old raider with powers similar to those of Star 'Boy' and Phantom 'Girl.' Kono can control the density of both herself and other objects (and, presumably, other people). Mary Bierbaum describes Kono as "short, obnoxious, uppity, brawling, always spoiling for a fight." Her hard attitude is tempered by her propensity for drinking (her name comes from the 30th century beverage, Kono juice), and Mary adds that Kono "likes to have fun at the expense of other people." Her mischievous nature once caused her to do something that resulted in her exile from her homeworld, an act which today (or, actually, in the future) forces her to stay on the run.
Another new Legionnaire is Devlin Orion, a teenager characterized, by Tom Bierbaum as "the embodiment of the traditional Legionnaire he's noble, trustworthy honorable, and a team player." Devlin can repel attacks made toward him, reflecting them back onto his attackers. He acquired his powers via an unusual misadventure With Tom's favorite Legion member, Matter-Eater 'Lad'
The remaining new Legionaries include Ryko, about whom Keith Giffen notes "If you ever wondered what to the vampire myth in the 30th century, then Ryko will answer your question;" Kent Shakespeare, an earthman affected by a genetic virus that mode him, in effect "a living Virus," according to Mary Bierbaum, "with invulnerability and super-strength;" Ivy, an eight-year-old girt who can telepathically speak to plants; and Celeste, a light-energy woman who "is quite possibly the most powerful Legionnaire we've ever come across - even though she's not aware of it yet," Giffen states.
Giffen adds that he's also developing an as yet unnamed hero he humorously calls, "Sensory-Deprivation kid" (this will not be his real name), a character who can take any of a person's senses away, thereby heightening his own. "He's the only known sentient possessing all 23 senses in the galaxy Giffen quips.
A Handy 2994 Primer
The economic, social, cultural, and political ramifications of the five-year gap in DC's 30th century history will unfold gradually in Legion of Super- Heroes through two means: plot elements and text pages Mary Bierbaum comments that the Legion text features will be "along the lines of the Watchmen text pages with Daily Planet and magazine articles, letters and memos from characters, gossip features, and the like" helping to flesh out the events of these years for readers. Mark Waid inserts that 'video' news reports will also appear in Legion, but they'll pride only "Pieces of the story - we don't want to give away too much too soon." Future fill-in issues and annuals will also document these events. Very little of this historical information will ever be used as the basis for an entire story. as Tom Bierbaum jests that the economic downfall of the United Planets would probably bore Legion readers in story form: "I don't think the pulsating angst of the New York Stock Exchange would make a very good comic-book story." "I don't know," retorts Mary; "people jumping out of windows-that's always good in comics!"
Behind the Credits
After the perimeters of Keith Giffen's new Legion ideas were defined, the remaining members of the creative team were selected. Husband and-wife writing duo Tom and Mary Bierbaum was recruited to dialogue over Giffen's plots, a scripting choice which may surprise readers who were expecting a 'big name' talent in the writer's credit. "The shortcomings that don't make us the logical choice to write the Legion book," explains Tom, "were overcome by the facts that Keith is the real heavy-hitter that makes this comic work, in a commercial sense, and that we provided knowledge into the Legion's background. On top of that, both Mark Waid Keith know us well and know they can work with us!" Waid's association with the Bierbaums dates back quite a few years to their efforts in the Legion-based APA (amateur press alliance), Interlac, and Giffen once illustrated a number of 'Lightning' tales written by Tom and Mary in the mid-'80s for Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, published by Deluxe Comics.
The Bierbaums each have full time careers - Tom reporting and writing for Variety and Mary working as a nurse - but they fill many of there free hours with their Legion Assignment.
I do most of the actual writing in draft form" Tom States. "We work together in the conceptual stage, and once the story is drafted, we bash our heads together to polish it." Tom concedes that his wife "is the sounding board who makes the stories tie together." Mary concurs, citing that her contribution consists mainly of plotting and providing an overall feel and direction, while. Tom's strength lies in dialogue.
Rounding out the creative team is popular inker Al Gordon whose credits include many early issues of embellishing Kevin Maguire's pencils on Justice League International (where he also worked with Giffen); ace letterer Todd Klein; and colorist Tom McCraw, whose palette has graced issues of Dreadstar, Aquanian, Elementals, and other titles.
Working as a Team
"I think the new Legion series is going to be a tremendous success," asserts Mark Waid. "I think it will be a slow success, though. I don't believe it will immediately set the world on fire, because many people just won't know at first what to make of it - it's very different from its predecessor series. But it's going to be a tremendous success because Keith has a very definite vision of what he wants. As an editor, I'm desperately trying to let Keith fulfil his vision as much as I possibly can."
While Keith Giffen is the main driving force behind the new Legion of Super-Heroes, each member of the creative team admits that there is an openness, a give-and-take, that allows each voice to be heard. Waid elects to offer editorial and suggestive input only when he feels he has a positive idea for a certain character, choosing to primarily encourage and nurture Keith's 'vision,' Tom and Mary Bierbaum, while initially coming on board only to dialogue. have, with Keith and Mark's blessing, provided a wealth of story ideas and subplots, and occasionally receive the opportunity to write full scripts, too (as with the recent Phantom Girl tale in Secret Origins and a Mordru story in the now series' upcoming annual). Al Gordon has also contributed numerous ingredients into this creative mix. In fact, Tom, Mary and Al were all asked by Keith to create many of the new Legionnaires discussed earlier. Kono is the brainchild of Mary; Tom came up with Devlin Orion; Kent Shakespeare and Celeste are the products of the fertile imagination of Al; and Giffen can be credited for designing the other new super-heroes.
Into the Future
Keith, Mark, Tom and Mary guarantee long-time Legion, readers that they're handling these characters with tender loving care. Mark Waid adds that the new Legion of Super-Heroes will also witness "the return of everyone's favourite Legionnaire," and mentions that he's eventually love to launch a spin-off Legion Academy series, featuring the attempts of Bouncing 'Boy' and the former 'Duo Damsel" to train the next wave of Legionnaires. Waid assures readers that the Legacy of Superboy, the Pocket-Universe character in whose honor the legion was formed, will still be felt in the new Legion of Super-Heroes title.
Rest assured that as long as comic books are published, there will always be a Legion of Super-Heroes series on the stands. The Legion possesses an uncanny appeal - a mystique - which has kept the team alive for three decades, even resurrecting the book from periods of cancellation. Keith Giffen Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and mark Waid all agree that one of the key elements to the Legion's longevity is the teams bond of camaraderie. These aren't merely super-heroes forced to interact - The Legionnaires are friends, a family. Giffen adds that a secondary, but vital, element behind the Legions success is the series optimistic future, a rarity among other modes of speculative fiction which paint the future as a bleak, hopeless place. He believes that Legion of Super-Heroes says to the reader, "We're not going to blow ourselves up. We're going to be around in the future. The Legion's future is a place where readers can say 'Gee, I'd like be there!'"
Readers can participate in the Legion's future by following their new Baxter series (which is DCs first Baxter book to be distributed onto news- stands, according to Giffin), priced at $1.75 per copy and debuting in August.
long live the Legion!
Amazing Heroes #172, October 1989.
Ten years later...Keith Giffen, Tom McCraw (LSH/L* co-plotter/colorist) & Jeff Moy (L* penciller) were the guests on America Online's Legion of Super-Heroes Chat for Tuesday, February 16, 1999.
Keith showed up in the chat room without knowing it was Legion Chat. He stayed for a while and answered plenty of questions.
He was burnt out from drawing the Legion books' typical cast of thousands, but thought the team in LSH #1,000,000 seemed easy to draw.
He hates Hypertime, saying it was an "excuse for lazy storytelling." Jeff called it a "cop-out," and Tom predicts it'll be "overused."
His favorite project was THE HECKLER, but he doesn't think it would be feasible for a revival.
The preboot LSH v4 is what he described as "the one story I wish I could have finished up right." The young Batch SW6 would be the real Legion, while the adults would be revealed as clones. He said the "hat trick" rumor is "dead on true": that's where the writers would randomly select some characters (as if drawn from a hat) to die in a massive battle involving the Legions fighting together against a common enemy. The senior team would then leave United Planets space, and call themselves THE OMEGA MEN in their own book.
...fascinating LSH stuff cut out cause it don't mean much to me.....
Keith would like to work with the current version of the Legion, but only for a mini-series or special. The characters he'd most want to use would be the ones who were around for his run. But first, it's quite likely that he and popular LSH writer Paul Levitz might return together to the Legion for a one-shot in LEGENDS OF THE DCU.
I stole this from Alex Tam's really useful postings regarding LSH chats. Rat me out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nachro2 on AOL
For all his LSH online needs, Alex uses the Legion of Super-Resources