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Some Brief Histories of Time: The Legion Reboots, Part 1
CINESCAPE offers an extended look back at the labyrinthine lore of the modern Legion of Super-Heroes
By Tony Whitt
November 05, 2001
The Millennium Edition of the classic first appearance of the Legion, in ADVENTURE COMICS #247.
© DC Comics
This month's launch of THE LEGION
, a brand new monthly series for the Legion of Super-Heroes written by Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett, isn't the first time the teens of tomorrow have gotten a new book. Ever since the team's first appearance in ADVENTURE COMICS
#247 in April 1958, the Legion has had more relaunches than just about anyone else in the DC lineup. Well, except Aquaman, perhaps.
An early story from the "Tales of the Legion" run, in ADVENTURE COMICS #302.
© DC Comics
After their first appearance, in which Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl traveled back through time to recruit Superboy, the fan response was phenomenal, and editor Mort Weisinger knew he had to bring the kids back. It would take another year and a half and a further 20 issues until they would return, but before long the Legion were appearing not only in ADVENTURE
but in numerous other Superman titles. These appearances led to the first continuity snafus, though back then the very concept of "continuity" was still a twinkle in some obsessive fanboy's eye. Among them were their first appearance with Supergirl in ACTION
#276, in which story they claimed to be the descendants of the original three heroes who met SuperboyI guess the superpowered apple never falls far from the superpowered tree, does it?and the appearance of the adult Legion of Super-Heroes in SUPERMAN
#147, in which our heroes were adults but wearing the same silly costumes they did as kids.
The final issue of the ADVENTURE run, ADVENTURE COMICS #380.
© DC Comics
It soon became obvious that the Legion needed its own series, and soon the first regular Legion series, the classic "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes," launched in ADVENTURE
#300. This series not only introduced several of the characters who have continued to this day, it also featured many of the storylines that writers Mark Waid and Tom McCraw would recreate in their post-ZERO HOUR
reboot. It also finally changed the home era of the Legion, originally given as the 21st century(!), to the more reasonable and far more distant 30th century. Initially, the Legion served as a back-up feature for the regular SUPERBOY
feature, but they soon moved to center stage and continued in the book until ADVENTURE
The Legion was then homeless, but not for long. "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes" soon resumed in ACTION COMICS
as of issue #377. Not so much a reboot as a lateral shift, this incarnation of the Legion didn't last quite as long as their ADVENTURE
run did, lasting only through issue #392. But over all those years, the Legion never had their own title. Sadly, the first time the Legion saw their very own #1, it wasn't even an original series. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
, launched in 1973, reprinted classic Legion stories from their ADVENTURE
runs and lasted only four issues. The true irony of it is that the first issue also featured a reprint of a TOMMY TOMORROW
story, so the team didn't even get their own "first issue" all to themselves.
SUPERBOY #209, an early issue sharing the Legion's name.
© DC Comics
The Legion's name would not appear in a comic title again until the SUPERBOY
series changed its name to SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
with #197. The team had been appearing intermittently in that series ever since they began, but it was only with the name change that they had what amounted to their "own" original book for the first time. This state of affairs lasted until issue #259, with Superboy's (temporary) departure from the Legion. With that issue, the Legion finally had a book of their ownwithout reprints, without a lead feature starring another character, and without a name above theirs. Any unsuspecting reader might have thought they've had 259 issues on their own by this pointand given how long the team had existed up to then, it wouldn't have been an unreasonable assumption.
Up until now, Legion history had been one fairly unbroken line of continuity, with only a few hiccups along the way. But this is where it gets really complicated.
"In Their Own Mag At Last," indeed...LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #259.
© DC Comics
As of issue #290, the series became what current Legion fans still drool over. "The Great Darkness Saga" began in that issue, pulling an admittedly mediocre book up to the heights of greatness. Paul Levitz would soon take over scripting chores, Keith Giffen would begin artistic chores, and the Legion would suddenly become much more adult, much darker, more realistic. None of the previous Legion continuity had been scupperedyet. In August 1984, as of issue #314, this series would be retitled TALES OF THE LEGION
, and the third series to bear the Legion title, a deluxe format direct-sales-outlet series, began that same month. TALES
would reprint the stories being told in the new LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
series and would last to issue #354 in December 1987. Meanwhile, the deluxe Legion series lasted for 63 issues, during which Superboy died in issue #38 (!).
The first issue of the Baxter series in 1984.
© 1984 DC Comics
Yes, you heard me. The character whose very existence was directly responsible for bringing the Legion into being had to be killed off. It all had to do with an itty bitty series called CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
, a series which, to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, made some people angry and which some regarded as a bad move. For the Legion, it was nearly disastrous. In rebooting the entire DC Universe, CRISIS
effectively did away with Superman's career as Superboy, establishing that Kal-El only took on that name when he arrived in Metropolis as an adult. Had there been no Legion, whose whole continuity rested on the existence of Superboy, it would have been no problem but there was a Legion. Though the entire DC Universe had been rebooted, it was now necessary to reboot the Legion.
TO BE CONTINUED