Legion of Super-Heroes was created by Otto Binder
Plastino in Adventure
Comics #247. Although multiple DC Comics
continuity reboots have altered the details some over the years, the constant
is that the Legion was a team comprised of beings from multiple worlds in the
far future inspired by the heroics of Superboy/Superman to be heroes in their
own time. Initially starting small, the roster would come to boast dozens of
different characters and off-shoot teams, funded by eccentric millionaire R.J. Brande after
they saved his life. The initial line-up was comprised of Lightning Boy (later
Lad), from the planet Winath
with lightning powers, Saturn Girl, from Saturn’s moon Titan with
telepathy, and Cosmic
their leader from Braalian with the ability to generate magnetic fields. They
traveled back in time to recruit Superboy into their ranks, and after a series
of tests was he inducted into the “club” before being returned to his own time.
|The ever-expanding roster of the Legion of Super Heroes.
Initially intended as a one-off
story, the Legion proved popular with readers and was brought back in issue
for another adventure. Their popularity continued to grow, and the Legion was
featured in stories in various titles edited by Mort Weisinger.
In these stories, the other Legionnaires only hinted at before began to be
introduced, including Chameleon Boy, a shapeshifter from the planet Durla;
who was an Earthling capable of stealth; Colossal Boy, another Earthling with
the ability to increase his size (and later decrease it as Micro Lad); Star Boy,
from planet Xanthu
with the ability to increase the mass, density and gravity of an object;
Brainiac 5, initially a descendant of Superman’s villain Brainiac
(before he was retconned as being robotic) from the planet Colu
with superior intellect and shape-shifting abilities; Triplicate Girl, from the
with the ability to split herself into three physical beings; Shrinking Violet,
who possessed the ability to shrink to atomic levels like other residents of
another Earthling who could generate fire; Bouncing Boy, yet another Earthling
who could inflate his body allowing him to bounce really high and become
impervious to injury; Phantom Girl, hailing from the 4th dimensional
with the ability to phase through solid matter, fly and travel between
dimensions; and Ultra
who could use super strength, speed, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision or
invulnerability one at a time. Superman’s cousin Supergirl
would even become a member. In Adventure
Comics #329, the Legion Flight Ring
was introduced; granting each member the ability to fly and survive in vacuums.
|The very first Legion of Super-Heroes issue.
The Legion spent most of their early
existence sharing a title with Superboy in the pages of Adventure Comics,
Comics and Superboy.
wouldn’t be until 1973 that they would get their own book titled The
Legion of Super-Heroes, although
it was only a four-issue series reprinting earlier Adventure stories. In
1980, they took over the Superboy title completely with #259,
leading to their second
solo series. The Legion book would be cancelled and
restarted several more times, navigating through inter-office politics that saw
Superboy removed from their history entirely to be replaced by the similar Mon-El
and then later re-introduced, an ever-expanding roster, new origin stories for
the various members, and little tweaks to the Legionnaires overall. Spin-off
titles, such as Legionnaires and
Legion would see publication,
and several members would get books of their own, including Cosmic Boy,
Wolf and Valor.
|Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy and Cosmic Boy make their animated debut in 1998.
In 1998, the Legion made their first
jump to animation with the Superman:
The Animated Series episode “New Kids
in Town”. Chameleon Boy (Jason
Priestly), Saturn Girl (Melissa Joan Hart)
and Cosmic Boy (Chad
travelled back in time to keep Brainiac (Corey Burton)
from killing a teenaged Clark Kent (Jason
Marsden). Other Legionnaires appeared in silent cameos. In 2004, their
appeared in the Justice
League Unlimited episode “The
Greatest Story Never Told” before the Legion themselves reappeared in 2006’s
“Far From Home”, where Bouncing Boy (Googy Gress) and Brainiac 5 (Matt Czuchry)
recruited Supergirl (Lauren
to help rescue the others from the Fatal Five
(more on them later).
|Reciting the Legion's oath outside of their HQ.
Many fans assumed that this episode
was actually a backdoor pilot to the newly announced Legion of Super Heroes animated
series developed by Amy
Wolfram. However, producer and character designer James Tucker
set the record straight in revealing that the show came about because Cartoon Network
wanted their own Superman-centric series that could air around the time Superman Returns hit
theaters. It had no connection to the DC
Animated Universe that began with Batman:
The Animated Series. The series saw the Legion—Lightning
Lad (Andy Milder), Saturn Girl (Kari Wahlgren), Brainiac 5 (Adam Wylie),
Phantom Girl (Heather Hogan), Bouncing Boy (Michael Cornacchia), Triplicate
Girl (Wahlgren), Timber Wolf (Shawn Harrison) and Chameleon Boy (Alexander
Polinsky)—journey back in time to recruit a young Superman to join their ranks.
Unfortunately, they ended up going too far back and encountered a Clark Kent
who was not yet in full control of his abilities; requiring them to train their
inspiration as well as fight alongside him. While the series centered around
the core 8 Legionnaires, other members of the Legion would appear in various
episodes either as guest stars or cameos.
|The main Legionnaires (from top): Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Superman, Timber Wolf and Bouncing Boy.
Original promotion for the show
called Superman “Superboy”, much like he had been known during his earliest
encounters with the Legion. However, there was ongoing
litigation between DC Comics and the families of Superman
Siegel and Joe Shuster
over the rights to Superman and Superboy. In March of 2006, a judge ruled in
favor of the Siegel family over the copyright of the Superboy character, but
Time Warner, DC’s parent company at the time, owned the trademark. Although a
retrial would rule
in DC’s favor, at the time DC had to use creative ways
to get around outright calling any of their Superboys by name.
|Triplicate Girl is beside herself.
Legion of Super Heroes debuted
on September 23, 2006; however, Cartoon Network ended up passing on the show
(although they would air it in reruns). Instead, The CW, also looking for
a cartoon centered around a young Superman to compliment their long-running Smallville,
it up and aired it in their Kids’ WB
programming block. It was written by Wolfram with Matt Wayne,
with Hoegee serving as story editor for season 1 and Jelenic for season 2. The
theme was composed by Kristopher
Carter with him, Michael
McCuistion and Lolita
Ritmanis composing the rest of the series’ music.
|The Fatal Five: Persuader, Mano, Emerald Empress, Tharok and Validus.
Villains for the series included the
aforementioned Fatal Five comprised of Emerald Empress
& Tara Strong),
wielder of the Emerald
Eye of Ekron which gave her access to immense mystical
a mutant with the ability to disintegrate anything he touched; the Persuader
who used an axe that could cut through anything; Tharok
a cyborg with immense intelligence; and Validus,
who possessed immense physical strength; Alexis
Luthor (Strong), the richest girl in the galaxy and
descendant of Lex
Luthor who turned to villainy when she felt Superman’s
heroic duties left him little time to pay attention to their friendship; Mordru
a powerful sorcerer; Brainiac (Burton, reprising his role from the DCAU),
Brainiac 5’s android ancestor; and the Legion
of Super-Villains (aka the Light Speed Vanguard), an
antithesis to the Legion comprised of Lightning Lord
Taylor), Lightning Lad’s brother with similar powers; Esper
(Strong), a telepath; Hunter
using an Australian accent), a master hunter and trucker; Ron-Karr (Harrison),
who possessed the ability to become totally flat; Wave,
who could use her hair like an appendage; and Tyr (Payton), a
warrior whose right arm was a bionic gun.
On request from the network, the
second season of Legion was given a darker tone than the first with such
occurrences as Lightning Lad losing an arm and getting a robotic one, and one
of Triplicate Girl’s duplicates being lost in a temporal anomaly leading her to
take the new codename Duo Damsel. Set two years later, Superman returned to the
future to help the Legion deal with the looming threat of Imperiex (Phil Morris), a powerful being
from the 41st Century who came back to conquer the Legion’s present.
He was aided by the Dominators:
a technologically advanced alien race whose rigid hierarchy was determined by
the size of the red circle on their heads. Aiding the Legion was a second
Superman: Superman-X (Lowenthall), a clone of the original created by an
android named K3NT
(Amy Hill & Sab Shimono) to battle Imperiex.
Superman-X possessed all of the original’s abilities and none of his
weaknesses; in fact, he was given the ability to produce and channel Kryptonite energy. However,
since he regarded himself as a living weapon, he was far more aggressive and
cold-blooded than the actual Superman. A focus was also placed on Brainiac 5’s
relationship with his ancestor, culminating in Brainy’s eventual corruption to
the dark side.
|An older Superman returns to help his friends.
season was planned but ended up being cancelled when The CW
handed their children’s programming over to 4Kids Entertainment,
ending Kids’ WB in favor of The
CW4Kids. The series would have again time-jumped three years after the
conclusion of the second season with an older and more experienced Superman
returning. The primary focus would have been Brainiac 5’s return after he quit
the team due to events of the previous season. Legionnaires Blok and Dawnstar would have been
elevated from cameos to major characters. Superman-X would have returned with a
reduced role, replaced by fallen Legionnaire Ferro Lad’s (Dave Wittenberg) long-lost twin
brother. Brainiac would have returned as well.
|Superman and Superman-X.
its run, Legion was nominated for three Creative Arts
Emmy Awards. In 2007, DC Comics began publication of a tie-in comic titled Legion
of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century, distinguishing it from
both the main Legion books and the more youth-oriented Adventures titles set in the DCAU. The first issue was
given out on Free Comic Book Day
that year as well as sold in comic shops. The series ended after 20 issues and one collection of
the first 7 issues. McDonald’s featured
toys based on the
characters in their Happy Meals that came in their own book-like case with
a trading card, and the collectible miniatures game HeroClix
by Wizkids produced a special starter
set with the Legion and “Young Superman”. A proper action figure line
wasn’t made due to a lack of retailer interest.
|The second season DVD cover with Imperiex front and center.
Home Video released the first season across three
DVD volumes from 2007-08, which was collected as a three-pack
in 2009. In 2020, Warner
Archive released both the second
season on DVD and the complete
series on Blu-ray. The series has also been made available for streaming on
Prime Video and DC Universe.
Individual episodes were included as bonus features in several direct-to-video
animated movies: “Phantoms” in Justice
League: Gods and Monsters, “Man of Tomorrow” in Justice
League vs. The Fatal Five and “Dark Victory” in The
Death of Superman.