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Grumpy Old Fan | Foundational features and DC’s details

It seemed like a good idea ... AT FIRST

It seemed like a good idea … AT FIRST

Although I’m looking forward to Justice League 3000, I still can’t quite get over the Legion-sized hole in DC’s roster. The Legion of Super-Heroes turned 55 earlier this year (on Feb. 27, according to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics), which makes it some 18 months older than Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, and almost two years older than the Justice League. Indeed, the Legion’s enduring popularity has made it one of the“foundational” features that DC will probably publish until its doors finally close, along with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the League and Green Lantern. However, today I want to talk about the Legion in terms of a different kind of landmark.

By definition, a shared universe is composed of the combined details of its constituent features. We tend to think of this in terms of geography, cosmology and the space-time continuum. Accordingly, DC-Earth has various additional “fictionopolises” (including Metropolis, Gotham City, Central City and Coast City) and nations (like Atlantis and Themyscira); and it shares a universe with planets not found so far in ours (Oa, Tamaran, etc.). There are also other planes of existence to be explored (Gemworld, Earth-2, the Fourth World and the Fifth Dimension); as well as series set in the Dark Ages, the Old West and of course the 31st century.

However, sometimes the details that distinguish the DC Universe can be effective on a more personal level. The Superman titles of the ‘90s were thick with such things — not just the ubiquity of the Daily Planet and superstation WGBS, but fast food like Soder Cola and Big Belly Burger, media personalities like Whitty Banter and Dirk Armstrong, and even the price of cab fare ($6.50 would get you just about anywhere in Metropolis, although it went up to $7 around the time Action Comics hit the big 7-0-0). It’s not just the Super-titles, though: Odds are the average DCU household owns, or wants, something touched by Wayne Enterprises, LexCorp or (in the New 52) Q-Core. Conversely, odds are they’d want nothing to do with what might escape from Project Cadmus, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. or S.T.A.R. Labs, to say nothing of Arkham Asylum or Iron Heights. They’d probably rather spend a relaxing day at the Flash Museum, Metropolis’ Centennial Park or Challenger Mountain.

Still, those ‘90s Superman books had the space to do some serious world-building, and the 2006-07 weekly series 52 grounded itself similarly in order to convey the full sweep of the DC Universe — from Metropolis and Gotham to the magical retreat of Nanda Parbat, the isolated Oolong Island, and the far-flung star system of Vega. If the average crossover was “you’ve got chocolate in my peanut butter,” 52’s setting was a whole shelf of candy.

How, then, should the professionals who make DC’s comics manage all these details? Well, I’m not calling for every title to have mandatory references to other series in every issue. A story needs only the details that it needs. (As it happens, both The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #2 and All-Star Western #21 make good use of DCU lore.)  What I do think is valuable, however, is the occasional general sense of something beyond the boundaries of the particular story. DC’s superhero line maintains a shared universe mostly for practical financial reasons, but the ancillary narrative benefits shouldn’t be overlooked. Sure, there’s always the “why couldn’t [the other character] help fix this?” question, but the flip side of that is the chance to show why the other character couldn’t, in fact, help very much.

In any event, the real opportunities of a shared universe come from the interaction between the “local rules” of a series and the rules of whatever lies beyond. The most recent Brave and the Bold series kicked off with a fun set of interlocking team-ups, including odd pairings like Supergirl and Lobo, the Flash and the Doom Patrol, and Batman and the Legion.

And that’s why I’m sorry to see the Legion’s place in the larger DC Universe diminished, even if it’s only temporary, and even if Justice League 3000 just steps into the same 31st-century setting. The Legion has its own set of details, like Interlac, the Science Police and the McCauley Omnicoms; and for anyone else, even a Justice League, to occupy that space would feel weird. It’d be like one of those early-fall football games played in a dual-purpose stadium that still has its baseball diamond. (Either that or the Thunderbolts moving into Four Freedoms Plaza. Whichever works for you.) One of the challenges JL3K faces is to convince its readers that it belongs in the Legion’s old digs, without seeming to co-opt the Legion’s details for some cheap affection by association.

Indeed, while these probably aren’t the kinds of things that can be required, “no gratuitous references” is probably a good rule for the superhero line generally. The New 52 creative teams have enough on their plates without having to worry about the implications of randomly mentioning Ferris Aircraft. The shared superhero universe may be the preferred business model, but calling attention to those shared details probably comes more from wanting to have fun with them — and it is fun to think about Lois Lane writing an in-depth profile of Wonder Woman, or LexCorp attempting a hostile takeover of S.T.A.R. Labs.  The Green Lantern Corps even got a significant mention (although not an actual appearance) in your favorite late-‘70s Superman novel and mine, Elliott S! Maggin’s Last Son of Krypton (and it was in the vein of “this is why the GLC can’t help Superman here,” to boot).

Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that each of DC’s foundational features has been taken off the playing field at some point in the past 20-odd years. It started with the Death of Superman and “Knightfall” and expanded into the utter destruction of the Green Lantern Corps, Wonder Woman’s ascension to Olympus as Goddess of Truth, various Justice League disbandings, Gotham’s year-long “No Man’s Land” status and the mystery of Wally West’s post-Infinite Crisis fate. The very reason for 52 was “a year without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman,” and that developed further into a year without either the Justice League or a Flash who wasn’t Jay Garrick.

Granted, these were in the days when DC traded more heavily on its details. Hal Jordan has been absent from Justice League for several months (in part because he’d been replaced and/or dead in his own title), and Wonder Woman is barely a presence in the larger DC Universe outside of Justice League and the occasional Superman guest-appearance; but the larger universe seems not to have noticed. The New 52 clearly aims for consistency and cohesion, but often its various series feel somewhat disconnected, even within franchises like the Bat-books and the Superman titles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, insofar as it encourages individual voices to develop; but personally, I always like being reminded that those individual voices are each commenting on the same character, setting and/or event.

Along those lines, I got the feeling practically from the start of the relaunch that Legion of Super-Heroes was being left to fend for itself. Even its companion title, Legion Lost, would be focusing primarily on its characters’ 21st-century adventures. Accordingly, it was relatively easy for me, and perhaps for others too, to lose track of the Legion; and I wonder if JL3K is really just a blatant attempt just to remind the bulk of DC’s readers about the continued viability of the 31st century. It is, after all, a whole other region, perhaps well-traveled but always ready for a new group to discover.

Again I’m reminded of the 10 years DC’s superhero line spent without a Green Lantern Corps. While I can see the appeal of having only one Green Lantern (Alan Scott did pretty well by himself on the old Earth-Two, and the latest version of Alan similarly seems content), I always thought DC foreclosed a lot of storytelling possibilities unnecessarily. By definition, Green Lanterns share some personality traits, but once you get past those, you can plop a GL into any number of settings. You don’t have to know all the backstory of the Manhunters and the Emotional Spectrum, just that this particular being is a space cop with a magic wishing ring. Regardless, DC decided it didn’t want to be in the Corps business anymore, and it took 10 years to change its corporate mind. In the meantime, it tried to replace the Corps with L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Darkstars, neither of whom especially caught on, perhaps because everyone seemed to remember the Green Lanterns (including the ex-Lanterns who’d show up from time to time).

The GL Corps, the Legion, the Justice League, the Trinitarians and the Flash are each “foundational” because they and their attendant details have come to define DC’s superhero line. Maybe not all of it, but enough of it collectively to make the DCU books distinct. DC has gotten along without them at various points, but never for too long; and even then, not to the point of forgetting them completely. There will always be a Metropolis, and it will continue to inspire creative teams to flesh it out, just as other teams flesh out their particular corners of the superhero line. The more DC can do to make its fictional settings function cohesively, the better I think it will be at cultivating an environment for new characters to thrive. Historically, DC’s superhero line has benefited from the clash of different storytelling styles, and that goes for the clash of settings as well. It could be as intricate as the Seven Soldiers miniseries or as mundane as someone who lived in Metropolis but owed his career to the distant future’s Space Museum and had a connection to the Legion as well.

That said, it’ll probably still feel weird to watch a Justice League running around in the Legion’s old haunts. Some settings are just synonymous with their regular inhabitants, and some storytelling setups work too well to abandon forever. At the same time, though, it might be nice to look at those places with fresh eyes.

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29 Comments

Anonymous Rex

June 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I love that cover. I’d read the hell out of a JLA starring Firestorm, Firehawk, Super-Chief, Bulleteer, and Ambush Bug…much moreso than I would the Big 6 + Martian Manhunter/Cyborg.

I agree that building those little details really adds to the intimate vastness of the DCU.

Kevin Madison

June 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Another great and thoughtful post Tom, thanks.

“Sure, there’s always the “why couldn’t [the other character] help fix this?” question, but the flip side of that is the chance to show why the other character couldn’t, in fact, help very much.”

This was my biggest gripe with “Iron Man 3.” All through the film, even though there were constant references to “what happened in New York,” there was not a single bit in the film to explain why Captain America wasn’t tracking down these terrorists. There wasn’t a call from the Black Widow asking if Tony could use a hand. No Nick Fury explaining that SHIELD was still rebuilding. No newscasts or papers asking if the destruction in LA might’ve involved the Hulk. The story would’ve worked fine for either “Iron Man” or “Iron Man 2″ since Tony didn’t have any allies (other than Pepper and Happy and Rhodes) but after “The Avengers” created a truly shared universe for Tony, Cap, Thor, the Black Widow and the Hulk, not having that–even just in passing–felt like a real letdown. (I know, it’s got nothing to do with DC but it just felt it needed to be mentioned.)

I find it strange that nobody recalls that the advent of the Kyle-era of GL stories was not the first time the GL Corps concept was given a lengthy break, at least in its own title. GL was canceled entirely in the 70s following the GL-GA era, only to be revived and then canceled again in the mid-80s, this time with the destruction/disbanding of the Corps. After being revived in 1990, it was only a few years before the Corps was destroyed *again* and Kyle took over as the sole GL. Taken together, it’s clear that DC had trouble finding a commercially viable “hook” for the GL Corps, a problem spanning decades. It wasn’t until Geoff Johns massively expanded the GL Corps mythology that GL became the multiple-monthly-titled franchise it is today.

GL’s past problems are the same ones plaguing the LOSH today. For whatever reason, the LOSH has not resonated with today’s audience in spite of efforts by previously successful LOSH writers like Paul Levitz and Jim Shooter who have come back to contribute to the title in recent years. Even Geoff Johns’ patented retcon/revamp/refresh approach was not sufficient to inject new interest into the title. It may be that the LOSH’s previous “hooks” simply don’t or can’t work today. In the Silver/Bronze Age the LOSH was part of the Superman franchise, benefiting as a setting for Superboy’s adventures in the future. In their Levitz-Giffen-era heyday, LOSH was successful due to its long-form, soap opera-style storytelling, which while common at Marvel was still relatively unique at DC. Nowadays, LOSH has all but eliminated its Superman connection and the soap-opera approach to superheroic team dynamics is the norm and not the exception. Given its creative and commercial anemia, it might be best that DC let LOSH rest for a while until someone comes along with a new spin on the concept, so that it’s not simply being published out of nostalgia or habit.

I wonder if JLMMM is going to be in the Legion’s 31st century at all. Their future setting might be a completely new one.

wilyjeff: With regards to the Legion, that’s not quite it. I mean, you’re right, but you’re saying “despite” where I’m saying “because of”, and vice versa.

True, Levitz and Shooter came back to write the team, but neither one was at the top of his game, so of course the stories didn’t capture an audience. True, Johns took a brief swipe at the Legion, but for the most part he didn’t tell Legion stories with them; he told Superman stories, so of course the Legion wasn’t revitalized.

And both Johns and Levitz took pains to emphasize the Superman connection to the Legion, as did the cartoon and cartoon-spinoff-comic, and Kon-El appeared in Legion Lost, and the Legion was in Smallville, and they appeared in Action just recently, and… True, Superman didn’t appear in the just-cancelled LSHv7 series, but the Superman connection is very much still there.

Which is not to say I disagree with your overall point: there’s deep skepticism among comics readers as to the viability of Legion comics these days. DC has an uphill battle to sell the Legion to their readership. But the problem is not that they’ve tried everything and found it doesn’t work; the problem is that they haven’t tried just making it a really good comic and supporting it.

We don’t need Legion. It just damages the continuity and the shared universe. And probably even JL3K. But I can’t be sure until I see it. The characters aren’t important enough and I dodn’t undestand why DC insists on publishing titles with the team.

And probably even JL3K will damage the shared universe.*

You want a shared universe, you need a central repository (like a wiki) to track it and allow it to be fully accessible to creative, or at least editorial.

Matthew E: The Johns approach I was referring to was not just the “brief swipe”, but rather the entirety of the JLA/JSA and Action arcs which culminated in “Legion of 3 Worlds”, which, in its attempt to wholly reorganize a ton of conflicting LOSH continuity and fully reintegrate Superman into its mythos, can certainly be seen as a Rebirth-style attempt to revitalize the Legion.

Speaking of LO3W, I reread that story after reading this article, and damn if that’s not an approach to LOSH that I could really get behind. Ridiculous, over-the-top galactic spectacle told by an A-list creative team and including Superman as a strong supporting player, with the soap-operatic elements relegated to the background rather than the foreground. The same is true for another relatively recent favorite of mine, Alan Davis’s “Superboy’s Legion”. A modern take on Superman running around a high-tech, futuristic setting with an army of fellow super-powered beings is a fun concept that hasn’t been explored nearly enough recently.

Marvel’s never been shy about spreading their most bankable characters across multiple team books and continuities, in order to prop us franchises that need them. Why else stick Wolverine and Spider-man into the Avengers? With than in mind, placing the Justice League concept into the 31st-century in order to prop up that particular corner of DC continuity may not me an unreasonable thing to do.

” The Johns approach I was referring to was not just the “brief swipe”, but rather the entirety of the JLA/JSA and Action arcs which culminated in “Legion of 3 Worlds”, which, in its attempt to wholly reorganize a ton of conflicting LOSH continuity and fully reintegrate Superman into its mythos, can certainly be seen as a Rebirth-style attempt to revitalize the Legion.”

Yes, that’s what I meant too. Superman stories, basically. (The Lightning Saga, to the extent that it was a story at all, was, okay, a JLA/JSA story; the Action story was certainly a Superman story with the Legion in a strictly supporting role; FC:L3W started off as a Superman/Superboy-Prime story and ended as a Legion story; the stuff in Adventure was obviously centred on Superman and Kon-El.)

And FC:L3W didn’t reorganize anything. It recognized the three major Legion versions and acknowledged that the 5YL stuff had been pushed off to the side, but it didn’t really change anything other than to kill some characters. I agree with you that the approach was good: high-profile, top talent, Superman, action, and one thing you didn’t mention, which is a resolution that was thematically appropriate to the Legion.

As for JLMMM, well, it’ll probably be well done but I’m not sure the idea has legs. I’m not really interested in saving the 31st century at the expense of the Legion, and this future JLA is not the Legion, so no matter how well done it is it’s not really for me. I’ll miss the Legion while they’re gone, and when they’re brought back, which they inevitably will be, I hope DC will have figured out a way to get their collective shoulder behind the comic book.

Matthew E: Regardless of how you define a Superman/Superboy story vs. LOSH story, my point is that LOSH as a franchise would more marketable when a marquee character like Superman appears as a regular. Otherwise, you’re left with a large group of characters that are clearly unfamiliar to today’s comics audience. It doesn’t help that, unlike other successful ensemble team franchises in comics, LOSH is not known for the distinct, quirky personalities of its characters.

Re: continuity. I suggest you take another look at LO3W. What Johns does is take all the distinct iterations of the Legion, reassigns them among 52 Earths, and then explains how they each could have interacted with the “main” present-day DC Earth in the various stories that took place since COIE. In the process, he establishes the adult pre-Crisis Levitz Legion as the “official” Legion, and also explains the Superboy continuity wipe following COIE as Time Trapper shenanigans. As a cherry on top, he goes on to throw in a retcon to reassign XS from the post-Zero Hour Legion to the adult pre-Crisis Levitz Legion. Altogether, that’s a lot of retcon heavy lifting with the signature Johns style of somehow taking nearly everything that came before and putting it together in a way that almost makes sense.

Given the talent involved and the name recognition of the JL, it’s probably smart of DC to use JL3K as the standard bearer for this corner of DC continuity for the time being. If its a success, then it could be used as a platform to launch other 31st century stories, including a revamped LOSH that can finally connect with audiences again.

Well, we’ll see how well it works. Personally I doubt that the 31st century is big enough for JLMMM and the Legion, and I think that if we have one we will not have the other.

I’m a lot less impressed with the continuity stuff than you are. I mean, we knew that the various versions of the Legion were out there somewhere; the details really weren’t that important. Johns picked some path-of-least-resistance set of explanations and left the status quo in place: it was obvious for a long time that DC had abandoned the reboot and threeboot Legions and was going to emphasize the retroboot team, and Johns didn’t establish that so much as he confirmed it. What would have impressed me is if he had found a way of reconciling all three Legions so that fans of the reboot and threeboot didn’t feel like DC had pulled the rug out from under them. (Who knows? Maybe if he had, LSHv8 wouldn’t have been canceled.)

It does seem like a lot of fans like the Legion better when Superman or Superboy is prominently involved. (I’m neutral on the subject myself; I like it fine when he’s there and don’t miss him when he’s not. I believe he has to be part of the premise of a Legion comic, and show up occasionally, but I don’t think he has to be there all the time.) I don’t know why they haven’t been using him in the book; DC went to great pains to establish that they could, any time they wanted to, but then they didn’t. These people will drive you crazy sometimes.

For as long as I can remember, DC has tried to be strict about it’s month-to-month continuity, far moreso than, say, Marvel. Captain America can be active in the Avengers while adventuring in another universe in his own book. Wolverine can be in several X-teams and the Avengers, while still leading his own solo adventures, sometimes in multiple solo books. But, for whatever reason, possibly because DC group editors are more proprietary or protective of their characters, this doesn’t happen as often with DC. When its marquee heroes are taken off the board for story reasons within their own books, it always results in eliminating their appearances in team books. Hence, Superman’s not in the Justice League (or even his own titles!) while adventuring on New Krypton or taking his walk across America, which all took place soon after Johns established the “retroboot” team in Action Comics and reconnected Superman to its mythos. Clearly this habit of relentlessly adhering to month-to-month continuity has seldom served DC well, leaving their team book rosters full of B-, C-, and D-list characters.

You have a point. But you’d think that’d be less of a problem between Superman and the Legion since: time travel. Doesn’t matter much when Superman’s trip to the future happens in his personal timeline; doesn’t matter at all how long he stays in the future.

I find myself in disagreement with most of these GOF articles.

Case in point:

“The New 52 clearly aims for consistency and cohesion, but often its various series feel somewhat disconnected, even within franchises like the Bat-books and the Superman titles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, insofar as it encourages individual voices to develop; but personally, I always like being reminded that those individual voices are each commenting on the same character, setting and/or event.”

…. I’m always to find that people clearly aren’t reading the same books I’m reading.

Granted, WW could stand a bit more exposure across the New 52, but that doesn’t mean she’s not present at all. She was in a major Superman crossover, as well as in Batwoman, for & entire story arc. Her book is being used as a platform to launch the New Gods, & she’ll undoubtedly play a part in Trinity War.

Not to mention, she’s now in a relationship with THE most popular character in all of comics. What more can you ask for, in barely 2 years? That’s why they call it the “New” 52.

So-called “fans” are trying to compare a 2yo universe, to one that’s over 10 times that old. Granted, alot has happened in that 2 year time span, & knowing DC, big things will continue to happen as the months & years go by (just as it did in the post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint DCU), but all these “details” you claim to he clamoring for, can’t be expected to happen in 2 years (or even 5 years, in context of the New 52).

Bottom line, all this just sounds like someone pining for the old DC, that you’re never gonna get back. I enjoyed the old DC (or at least, the little more than the last decade of it that I started reading), but I love the New 52 just as much, if not more.

Clearly I’m not the typical fanboy (& certainly not of the “grumpy” variety); I’m able to sit back & enjoy the ride,while others are complaining about the destination.

“No one likes when people constantly ask “are we there yet”?

Well put, SAMURAI36.

shawn defiant

June 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Chris said above: “We don’t need Legion. It just damages the continuity and the shared universe. And probably even JL3K. But I can’t be sure until I see it. The characters aren’t important enough and I don’t understand why DC insists on publishing titles with the team.”—-

YES THIS, this is exactly how I feel. –name one legion member besides phantom-lass, who is a rehash of the public-domain character phantom-lady/girl, that is even remotely relateable? the league is supposed to be DC comics main team. why showcase the legion as the only team in the future, and why would that company showcase them as the most important? being mostly immortal, at least three members of the league would still be around. why aren’t they ever shown as either on a J.L.A. team in the future, or as members or founders of the legion?–all the legion ever seems to do, is look for ways/reasons to muck up the time steam, and yank on superman’s cape.

I’m just so sadden to hear or read anyone saying we don’t need the Legion. Truly these are troubling times.
Long Live the Legion ( just keep Geoff Johns away)

Well, _I_ need the Legion, even if nobody else does. But I don’t think JLMMM needs the Legion; if DC is serious about that comic, it’s only right and proper for them to give it a fair shot and try to make it work on its own merits and keep all their Legion stuff separate from it.

Having said that, DC’s been publishing the Legion for about 55 years now, and I don’t think they’re able to turn their backs on all of that forever. Unless DC stops publishing comics entirely (which isn’t completely out of the question), they’ll eventually bring the Legion back.

shawn defiant: You don’t seem to be a Legion fan, which is fine; I won’t try to make you one. But, since you asked: the Legion was actually created a few years before the Justice League was, so, even if the original JLA writers had had the idea that the team would be around forever (which they probably didn’t), the Legion was _already_ DC’s preeminent 30th century superhero team.

Also, I’m not sure what’s so unrelatable about the Legionnaires, but anyway there’s no connection between Phantom Girl (not Phantom Lass) and Phantom Lady other than just the name.

“there’s no connection between Phantom Girl (not Phantom Lass) and Phantom Lady other than just the name.” …both have black hair. both phase through objects. (although the original used a device to do so..) both have the same name almost. -both have been repeatedly ignored and brought back. and she was called phantom -lass with the legion at one point. – i have an old issue of “who’s who” with her in it.

-the legion might have come first, but thats not the way dc is telling it in their recent extras on their animated J.L.A. dvd films.
they say the league was the first team they marketed. –the whole point is to market the characters the majority of people will spend bank on. for DC thats always going to be the various members of the J.L.A. & titans. –ive rarely heard people say they would prefer to be lightning-lad, as opposed to being superman or batman. –at comic cons, ive seen very few legionaries cosplayed…and its always satern-girl, dawnstar, ferro-lad, and cosmic-boy. once or twice for mon-el. and very few instances.

they have a cult following, and i respect this. i like the premise of some of them, and those few could do well if put in their own books. –but all they ever seem to do collectively, is change the time-stream, come back home to their own time, to realize they need to re-do what they just did as it still sucks, and go back in time to help superman. ..this is boring. it seems to happen all the time with them, as if the writers cant allow them to interact with any other heroes besides the superman family, as of some sort of editorial mandate.

the first five times this happened were monotonous…but almost every relevant storyline has to have superman, superboy, krypto, or supergirl in it in order to be considered good. .. ive read legion, as i liked some of the art. dawn-star is one of my fave characters. but its been sub-par at best. the same things over and over again get re-hashed. this isn’t the case with the Titans, or the league, or even the outsiders. -all those teams regularly at every level get new directions, and new, different things to do, other than one. the legion gets time-travel, or an overpowered alien takeover. two story-lines re-hashed to death. yes there are the sub-plots, but thats not very interesting in itself.

Great article. Agree on all the Tom had to say.

JL3000 will turn out to be members of the LOSH masquerading as the ‘historic Justice League’ to remind the worlds of the need for heroes.

Jonny_Anonymous

July 1, 2013 at 4:31 am

It makes me really sad that there isn’t going to be a Legion book any more and it’s going to be replaced with yet another JL book, yea Justice League in the future, like that hasn’t been done before.

shawn defiant: I was about to post something about how Phantom Lady never had phasing powers, just invisibility and darkness-ray powers, but I thought I’d look it up first and, son of a gun, there were a couple of times when she could phase; never knew that. I still hold that there’s no connection between the two characters (and if Phantom Girl was ever called Phantom Lass, it was nothing more than a mistake on the part of the writer and editor; she’s been Phantom Girl the whole time except when she was Apparition), but all of this which-character-did-what-first is just quibbling over details and doesn’t get at what either one of us is actually trying to say.

The JLA characters are always going to be the superstars of DC; this is uncontroversial and, barring outliers, probably inescapably true. But that doesn’t mean that those characters are the only ones DC should pay any attention to. Hey, if the Human Target can get his own TV show, there’s got to be room out there somewhere for the Zoo Crew and Plastic Man and the Omega Men… and the Legion.

I know as well as you do if not better that Legion stories have dwelt on the past too much, but there have been good ones too, ones that don’t fit the patterns you’ve mentioned. I can list them if you’re interested. And anyway the fact that some of their stories have been repetitive says nothing about what stories could be told, if only DC would make up their minds to make the comic book good and not just an appeal to nostalgia.

To me, one of the best pro-Legion arguments is this: the Legion is something that DC has that Marvel can never have. DC has Superman, the greatest superhero, and the noblest and most inspirational, and his example has led to the existence of a superhero team ten centuries in the future dedicated to carrying on his legacy and keeping the future the nice place that it is. Marvel can’t do that, for two reasons: one, they don’t have a character who fills the role that Superman does for the Legion; two, all of Marvel’s future timelines are dark and depressing. That’s the real value of the Legion, and it goes beyond any individual Legion character. I mean, I think the Legionnaires are great, mostly, but there’s no one Legionnaire who’s as important as the premise of the team itself.

“all this just sounds like someone pining for the old DC, that you’re never gonna get back. ”

Never say never. Years from now, nostolgic creators might have a Crisis and bring it back. Atleast offer some kind of satisfying in-story explination on why it’s gone.

The New52 is kind of a clustercuss. The “Five year” conciet is utterly pointless and only hinders instead of helps, and the majority of character redesigns are often headscratchingly awful. The New 52 doesn’t “uncomplicate” the DCU is just further complicates it.
DC should have gone the Marvel NOW route instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The new 52 will be around until DC tires of it and has a new Superboy-Punch, Anti-Monitor belch, Black Lantern barfing reality wipe to start over again, again,again and again……

Brian from Canada

July 2, 2013 at 6:09 am

JokersNuts, you are wrong: the “five year” conceit was to ensure that we don’t get repetitions of stories still in constant reprint, like “Knightfall,” “The Killing Joke” and “Death In The Family.” That SOME writers couldn’t deal with it — or some editors — was a fault of the foundation, but many of the problems are working themselves out.

Tom’s right in this article to say that the foundations of a comics universe are its connections, both blatant and subliminal. Q-Core phones, Wayne technology, The Daily Planet… DC has the foundations in New 52 both technological and governmental (A.R.G.U.S.) to make it all seem like it comes together. More importantly, I think, Tom’s missed the fact that DC’s going back to reference points that put certain stories around other appearances — though Birds Of Prey seems to have erred by having #20 before Batgirl #20 and #21 before Batgirl #19.

Yet all of this is missing in the Legion. Legion seems disconnected somehow from all that is in the present. Heck, even a reference to their appearance in Action Comics would have been nice. And so, as a result, Legion is isolated from the DCU and not considered a major component of the shared universe.

Given how DC is now expanding from the cores as much as possible, this make Legion’s absence even more notable. New waves are dominated by the Bat, the S and the rings. If JLMMM can connect the Legion to all that, more’s the better; but, for now, everything Legion does to create a connected universe in its present doesn’t have any connections to its past, and that’s a big problem.

It’s a problem, incidentally, that could have easily been solved by having the temporary time barrier between our present and the Legion’s broken when Legion Lost could return home. But Levitz and DC didn’t do that and kept the artificial barrier up.

DC’s strength of diversity is the ability to connect its separated parts together. They ARE more effective than Marvel by this because each hero isn’t running around the same city. And, as one person said, Legion is something DC has which Marvel can never have.

The only question now is, who at DC is going to realize this and come up with a plan to make Legion both new and exciting but connected to all its past stories — and past of its worlds? How long will it take to do this?

Because once it’s done, we’ll see the Legion back. DC’s too acknowledging of the fan base and its demand for Legion to not publish a Legion of Super Heroes comic.

I so completely agree, Tom. Thanks for an excellent post. I also agree wholeheartedly with the entirety of Spike’s comments, as well as others’ comments about the fact that the Legion was best when Superboy (and Supergirl) were participants.

The Legion represents the future of the DC universe – no other hero or team can claim to do this as completely. That in itself should be enough to treat it with respect – something quite lacking in the slash and burn way the book is ending. I’m heartbroken at its poorly-written demise, and I do not think a JL3000 suffices as a replacement.

Long Live the Legion.

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