The Legion of Super-Heroes was created by Otto Binder and Al 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 Boy, 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 #267 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; Invisible Kid, 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 planet Cargg 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 planet Imsk; Sun Boy, 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 planet Bgztl with the ability to phase through solid matter, fly and travel between dimensions; and Ultra Boy, from Rimbor 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, Action Comics and Superboy. It 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 The Legion would see publication, and several members would get books of their own, including Cosmic Boy, Timber 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 Lowe) 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 arch-villain Mordru 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 Tom) 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 creators Jerry 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, picked it up and aired it in their Kids’ WB programming block. It was written by Wolfram with Matt Wayne, Scott Sonneborn, Rob Hoegee, John Esposito, Rob Hummel, Stan Berkowitz, Marty Isenberg, David Slack, Michael Jelenic, Greg Weisman, J.M. DeMatteis, Eddie Guzelian, Keith Damron, Joseph Kuhr, Steven Melching 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 (Jennifer Hale & Tara Strong), wielder of the Emerald Eye of Ekron which gave her access to immense mystical power; Mano, a mutant with the ability to disintegrate anything he touched; the Persuader (David Sobolov), who used an axe that could cut through anything; Tharok (David Lodge), 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 (Richard McGonagle & Jim Ward), 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 (James Arnold Taylor), Lightning Lad’s brother with similar powers; Esper (Strong), a telepath; Hunter (Khary Payton, 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.|
A third 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.|
During 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.|
Warner 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 iTunes, Amazon 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.