Their name is Legion (a modest proposal)

The future isn’t what it used to be, for one of DC Comics’ oldest super-teams.

One of the better attempts to combine science fiction with super hero action is going to that Big Long Box In the Sky.

Earlier this month, DC Comics announced that the current run of Legion of Super-Heroes would end with the issue that comes out in August. It’s highly likely that DC will recycle that title, but it’s much tougher to say when this will happen, and how much the new Legion will look like the old one.

Officially, the last issue of the Legion will be #23, but actually the Legion has been around a lot longer than that number suggests.  The team was introduced in a Superboy story that was published in 1958.

A club of super-powered teenagers from 1.000 years in  the future, the Legion had traveled back in time to invite Superboy to join their ranks. The group started to appear regularly in all the Superman-related comics, becoming the lead feature in Adventure Comics. This is where it really did become a legion, with roughly two dozen members at points .SF great Edmond Hamilton wrote the series during this period , and he generated interest in the comic by doing things that wouldn’t become common in comics until much later, like using continuing sub-plots. He was followed by a teenaged Jim Shooter, who went onto become editor-in-chief at Marvel and co-creator of the original Valiant Comics line.

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Eventually, Adventure Comics evolved into the Legion’s own comic. In the 1980s, under the creative guidance of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, the Legion became one of DC’s most popular titles. That popularity didn’t endure; Levitz has returned as writer, but an attempt to reunited him with Giffen didn’t even last two issues. Still,  the Legion still has a solid core of devoted admirers, something that confuses some fans and –I think—some of the Powers That Be at DC comics.

Some readers say that the Legion is hard to follow because of its massive cast. Others say they’re turned off by the fact that some of the characters’ powers don’t exactly lend themselves to high-voltage action scenes. Light Lass, for example, can make things super-light. Personally, I’ve been reading the Legion of Super-Heroes almost as long as I’ve been reading comic books, and I think the eccentric  nature of their powers is one of the reasons for their enduring popularity.  But I don’t mean that in a campy or post-modern way. Consider:

When you’re growing up, your popularity is affected by which super powers you have. You may be handsome; you may be athletic or you may be rich; in other words, you may have a major super power. On the other hand, you might be able to draw funny pictures, or play the guitar.   In the merciless social hierarchy of school, they become minor super powers.

If you were in the latter category–and I certainly was–it’s not hard to see the parallels between your world and the Legion’s, even if you weren’t thinking about them consciously. Here are kids–teenagers yes, but still kids–who are trying to defend the Earth without adult resources or abilities. And there are still other kids–the Legion of  Substitute Heroes–whom even the titular heroes of the comic have rejected. I think utilizing that tone, and the massive cast, may be one way of growing the Legion of Super-Heroes’ audience, without completely deconstructing the series  Instead of making the Legion more appealing to hardcore comics fans, DC  should reach out to readers of fantasy novels and paranormal romances.

I’d like to see a Legion of Super-Heroes comic similar in tone to Japanese shojo manga. It would still be a science fiction comic and there would still be physical conflicts, but the emphasis would be on characterization and relationships. Because of its large enrollment, the Legion has always had a higher percentage of women members than similar teams.  And there are contemporary stories that suggest that some of the members are gay or lesbian (which, in a group this size, seems only logical.)

One of Jim Shooter’s most popular stories, during his first tour on the series, was a story about the Legion as adults, which suggested which  Legionnaires would become couples.

This comic could be done as the main Legion title, or it could be done as a companion book to a more traditional comic.  Throughout its lifetime, the Legion has often appeared in two different comics regularly, over a long period of time. Most recently, the current incarnation of Legion of Super-Heroes was accompanied by Legion Lost, which  featured a smaller squad of Legionnaires, trapped in the present. This isn’t the first time DC has tried this approach to rejuvenate the Legion; none of them have really  worked.

Understand: I’m not saying this is the only way to revitalize the Legion of Super-Heroes. But I think that it’s way that should be considered.

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