November 20, 2018

Why DC’s Legion of Superheroes Deserves a Home in CW’s Arrowverse

Long Live the Legion… Credit: The CW.

Been watching Supergirl lately? We’ve just about made it through Season 3 on ye ole Netflix, through the story arc featuring the battle against Reign and the Blight. Along with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl is one of the best superhero sagas in the CW Arrowverse. I really like how they’ve done a deep dive into DC comics lore, crossing paths with the Martian Manhunter, Red Tornado, General Zod, and much more.

But the series has also teased us, especially through the third season, with glimpses into one of the most fascinating sagas in the Supergirl tale: The Legion of Superheroes.

The Legion is probably one of the greatest superhero clubs you’ve never heard of. A group of super-powered teens based in the 30th century, The Legion started as a foil for the further adventures of Superboy in the late 1950s. The team found a regular home in Adventure Comics in the 1960s and featured some of the best comic book writing of the time, mostly thanks to the efforts of a young Jim Shooter before he went Marvel. DC got hit hard by the late 50s hysteria surrounding the supposed influence comics were having on juvenile delinquency, and the resulting Comics Code Authority (which only finally went defunct in 2011) Meant that comics were written for a kindergarten level. Seriously: some of those early 1960s DC comics are painful to read today. But in this comics wasteland, the Legion was a place where drama and adventure prevailed, characters developed and got in to superpowered quarrels, romances blossomed, and hey, heroes occasionally gave all, such as the death of Ferro Lad in Adventure Comics issue #353.

Sure, the Legion has its share of hokey-ness over the years. CW is probably wise not the resurrect such lesser known members as Arm Fall Off Boy or Infectious Lass. Still, some of the quirkier moments in Legion lore were also the best, such as the tales of the Substitute Legion. The success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy demonstrates that there’s lots of room for quirky in CWs Arrowverse.

In fact, I’d say DC has done better with the Arrowverse group of series than their film franchise. First, there’s much more interplay between the individual series and the DC Universe as a hole. There’s also just the right amount of histrionic campy-ness in Supergirl, something that made other TV sagas like Xena Warrior Princess work.

We’ve been teased with the promise of a Legion series before. Even the title was beleaguered with periodic homelessness in the DC Universe over the years. DC finally dropped Superboy from the title in the late 70s to become simply “The Legion of Superheroes” during which Paul Levitz crafted some of the best tales for the team. Rumors of a Legion movie have languished in script development hell for years.

The Superboy series Smallville and the Brief  Legion animated series teased us again with a glimpse of the Legionnaires in 2009, as Saturn Girl , Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy journeyed back to help battle the Persuader. Season 3 of Supergirl is now doing something similar, this time giving us a look at Legionnaires Saturn Girl, Mon-el and Brainiac-5.

Lots is alluded to in the 30th Century universe, including other Legionnaires such as Ayla Ranzz (Lightning Lass), Saturn’s Girl’s homeworld of Titan, the Legion flight rings (“That costs more than the ship!” Brainy, the inventor of the Legion flight ring quips in one episode) and the rise of The Blight. A future battle between General Zod and the Legion is also alluded to… now that I’d to see!

To be fair, CW has played fairly fast and loose with Legion lore, some good, some bad. Much ado is made about how Mon-el can use his cape as an offensive weapon(?), something that never really comes up in the comics. I do like how CW’s Saturn Girl can use her mental abilities more as an offensive weapon. In the comics, there’s a definite disparity between the guys and the gals in the Legion in terms of superpowers: most of the male superpowers are more offensive (super strength, shooting lightning, etc) while the girls tend to have weaker, more defensive powers (mind reading, prescient dreaming, etc)

My advice to CW is to do like SyFy did for the re-imagined Battlestar series, and build on the good… but leave the bad. We humbly offer our fiction writing skills and exhaustive knowledge of Legion lore from our childhood, if needed. The Legion deserves a home, and would make a fine next logical step for the Arrowverse saga.

 

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