Saturday, January 07, 2006

MARBLES’ TALES OF THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES

What’s happenin’, gang?

With another reboot of the Legion and my re-entry into the world of comics, I figured that I’d get a bit more in-depth with the history of the team and some of the issues that led to the various reboots.

I’m not going to get into a complete, detailed history of the team. What I aim to do is to drop a general background of the Legion up to what is referred to as the 5 Year Gap (5YG). Then, I’ll get a little bit more in-depth with the 5YG and take it up into the Zero Hour reboot. In my opinion, this timeframe is where all of the trouble started snowballing, leading to the mess we have today.

My aim is to get folks interested in the book and get questions, ideas, comments, additions, feedback, suggestions and opinions from everyone. I’m a relatively long-time reader but my LSH knowledge isn’t infinite. I invite corrections or opposing viewpoints.

Thanks to AFKAP for providing this Legion Chronology link.

http://www.mykey3000.com/cosmicteams/legion/index.html

Check it out and if anyone wants to know anything more specific, please don’t hesitate to ask. I don’t know everything but there are other Legion fans around here that can help.

So in the words of the immortal Al Bundy, "Let’s rock."

OVERVIEW

The original Legion of Super Heroes was a group of teenagers in the 30th century who banded together to protect the universe and fight for good. They came from many different planets but Earth was their headquarters. In the 30th century, the United Planets is a confederation of worlds that joined together for progress and protection.

While each Legionnaire has a specific ability, not all of them were unique to their race or homeworld. For example, Chameleon Boy was from the planet Durla, where all of the Durlans had the ability to change shape. Shrinking Violet was from Imsk, a planet of people who could shrink to super-small size (or a super-small planet whose citizens could grow to normal size…I’m not sure which one). Triplicate Girl was from the planet Carggg, where everyone could split into 3 identical versions of themselves. Other Legionanaires gained abilities that weren’t held by all of the other members of their race.

As decades went by, the Legion gained members and lost members. 3 members who are crucial to note are Superboy, Supergirl and Mon-El. Superboy actually served as the inspiration for this group of teenagers to become costumed adventurers. Superboy and Supergirl would travel back & forth between the 20th & 30th centuries to meet with the Legion and share adventures. Mon-El was actually from the planet Daxam, whose citizens were similar to Superboy & Supegirl’s race, the Kryptonians. They received the same super-powers under a yellow sun. But Daxamites had a weakness for the element lead instead of Kryptonite. Superboy encountered Mon-El on Earth in the 20th century. In order to save Mon-El from lead poisoning, Superboy was forced to trap Mon-El in the Phantom Zone until he could find a cure. Upon joining the Legion, Superboy travelled to the 30th century, used their advanced technology to find a cure and released Mon-El into the 30th century. Please note, that Mon-El was trapped in the Phantom Zone for 1,000 years.

When the Crisis on Infinite Earths came along, big changes came to pass for a lot of DC’s heroes. The Superman creative teams wanted to adjust Superman’s origin to fit their vision and convinced the bigwigs at DC to allow for some changes. The most important change for the Legion was that Superman was retconned into never having been Superboy. The first time Clark Kent donned a costume to fight for truth, justice and the American Way was as the adult Superman. That creates several fundamental problems within the Legion. One of their most important members now never existed and therefore couldn’t have served as their inspiration.

The Legion creators came up with a solution. The Legion’s Superboy was discovered to be a creation of the Time Trapper, one of the Legion’s deadliest enemies. The Time Trapper created a pocket-universe so that whenever the Legion travelled back into time, the Trapper would manipulate the timestream and force them into his pocket universe where a Superboy existed. The Time Trapper wanted the Legion to come into existance so that he could one day take control of them and harness their powers for his own twisted purposes. In the subsequent battle with the Time Trapper, the pocket universe Superboy sacrificed himself to save the Legion.

The Superman team also wanted Supergirl written out of the picture. They wanted Superman to truly be the last survivor of Krypton. Supergirl was killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, again creating big holes in the Legion’s history and roster that were never truly filled at that point.

In order to exact revenge for the death of Superboy, a group of Legionnaires tracked down the Time Trapper in an effort to punish him. In the battle that followed, the Legionnaires instigated a fight between the Trapper and another time-manipulating villain, the Infinite Man. As a result, the two villains were sent violently hurtling through the timestream, trying to keep the other from gaining control. But the battle took its toll. Mon-El was seriously injured and Duo Damsel (formerly Triplicate Girl) lost the second of her three bodies. Her ability to split into 3 versions of herself made her a Legionnaire but now, she was down to one single body.

Time moved on and the Legion faced another threat. In what’s referred to as "The Magic Wars", science began losing its hold on the universe. Magic was causing things to go inexplicably crazy. The Legion battled a magically-powered enemy who was attempting to destroy all Magic except for his own and bring an end to science's riegn. Upon destroying the Sorcerer’s Homeworld, he ultimately vanquished himself because he was so closely tied to that planet. This fight was not without consequences as the Legion lost Mon-El and Magnetic Lad. Magic had been severely decimated in the 30th century but not totally destroyed. The Legion stood victorious once again and vowed to continue battling any threats to their homeworlds in the 30th century.

And that was the beginning of the 5 Year Gap.

Next time…Legion of Super Heroes, (volume 4), begins…

Peace,

*** MARBLES ***

6 comments:

JRennoldz said...

I really liked this piece Marbles. As a fan of the new Legion and also being one who is oblivious to the characters' backgrounds, it is nice to know that someone has the ability to break down such a massive history in such simple terms.

Many thanks and I look forward to your next installment.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

nice recap of the first 30 years of Legion history!

as we go into the next chapter, i think it's important that we discuss certain extra-textual elements of Legion lore, such as the creative teams and fandom.

unless i'm mistaken, the LOSH readership was one of the earliest organized fan movements, and the creators who contributed to the book - Jerry Siegel, Edmond Hamilton, John Forte, Dave Cockrum, Jim Shooter, Keith Giffen, TMK and DnA - have been essential parts of the legend.

buckshot said...

Quite informative. Thank you!

Marbles said...

Thanks, fellas. I agree with AFKAP's idea about expanding to into the various other aspects of the Legion.

However, I'm not 100% knowledgeable about creators. I've always been a reader who follows chracters instead of creators. You guys could teach me a lot in that respect.

tom tomorrow said...

Great piece. One of the most interesting elements of LSH is that despite it's marginal beginnings, it has been one of the few comics to seriously tackle death and other actual life experiences as a part of the hero's existence. I always felt that it added a lot to the gravity of the series, and made up for the seeming deluge of characters that were always present or in the background.
The weddings, the love triangles, the mortality, all of it combined to make the series emotionally resonant on a level that mainstream comics rarely achieve.
By the way, I don't know if you've done this, but when you read v.3 from #50 (culmination of the plot to gain revenge against the Time Trapper) to the end of the Magic Wars, and then go to v.4, it's amazing how well Giffen makes it all fit together. When you read the end of v.3 in the context of the next volume, the end becomes very dark. You see the roots of all of the problems that plagued the Legion during that run.

Marbles said...

Tom Tomorrow hit a great point, too. At the end of the Magic Wars, your favorite super-hero team has just saved the galaxy and they're claiming that they're always going to be around.

You start reading v.4, #1 and the Legion is disbanded, Cosmic Boy is powerless, Sun Boy works for the feds and is bad-mouthing the Legion. My favorite part about v.4 was the hints and slow revelations about where the Legionnaires were after 5 years. I hope to convey some of that mystery in my recaps.