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Author Topic: The Legion and SuperMAN  (Read 10685 times)
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MatterEaterLad
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« on: March 06, 2007, 10:02:49 PM »

Probably mainly having to do with DC politics in the 1960s, but no matter.  I think if you really want to take Superman continuity seriously I kind of think that Alan Moore got it right in emphasizing Superman's friendship with the Legion of Super Heroes in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?".  I posted this in the Supermanica forum and I may be discounting Superman's relationship with the Justice League of America in the 70s and 80s too much but...

The Legion really is a part of who Superman is.

In the 1960s...

Not only did Superboy participate heavily (he usually DOES do things in most adventures) but, the whole Superman family is involved. 

1. Karate Kid tries out, who does he scrap with? Superboy, who's sittin' on the bench as deputy leader.

2. Ferro Lad sacrifices himself, who does he shove away?  Superboy.

3. The adult Legion wants to be friends with who? Superman.

4. Supergirl feels sorry for Superman, sho does she suggest as a possible mate? Saturn Woman!

5. Does the Legion of Super Villains want to take on the Green Lantern? No, they want to hang with Luthor and take on Superman.

6. Jimmy is buds with the Legion.

7. Lana tries out for the Legion. 

Mort really let the writers weave an interconnected story.

The Justice League?  Maybe BECAUSE of Mort, but no matter - none of Superman's closest buds hangs with the Justice League, Supes himself is almost always knocked out by kryptonite in every adventure.

Is this off-base?
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crispy snax
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2007, 07:21:51 AM »

i think you should continue with your feelings on doing the legion more indepth, they are more important to superman than the JLA (i think the LSH had more effect in shaping his life) and they are essentially a spinoff, a spinoff that has evolved beyond its inital status mind (kinda like the  buffy vampire slayer tv show... but then it wasnt hard to evolve past that dreck of a movie!)

btw, have you seen the LSH help guide?  its this big file thing that has an issue by issue guide of the legion of superheroes adventures, a problem might be that they concern themselves as post crisis (with all the pocket universe sillyness that dragged it down into a desperate need for a complete rehaul..) it might serve as a good guide
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2007, 10:19:12 PM »

When I first read the title of this thread, I thought it was going to be about all the great times that Superman as an adult aided the Legion, e.g. the Adult Legion tale, the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Villains, and that issue of DC COMICS PRESENTS where a time-lost Legion teams up with Superman...the one occasion where Curt Swan did the 1980s Legion.

As for the importance of Superboy/Superman to the Legion...I agree with you that Superboy plays an indispensable role, but what that role IS, has varied over the years.

In the beginning, the Legion of Super-Heroes was a Superboy spin-off, no different from Supergirl or Bizarro World. These were the Ed Hamilton and Kurt Schaffenberger years when the Legion would battle time-travelling Superman enemies like Lex Luthor. This period lasted far longer than it should have, because EVEN when the Legion got their own enemies and their own identity, with the Weisenger control over the title, it meant that pretty much only Weisenger guys could pop up in guest-shots...which essentially meant Superboy, Supergirl, Krypto, and the rest.

But even in the Ed Hamilton and certainly the Jim Shooter years, the Legion acquired a life of its own, like a kid moving out of his parent's bedroom. There are still important ties, but he's got independence. By this I mean, the Legion built up its own mythology: the Fatal Five, the Adult Legion, Computo, the Dominators, etc. With this, the role of Superboy became a different one. One that is just as vital, however:

Superboy became two things: 1) the marquee name of the book, and more importantly, 2) the point of audience identification, like John the Savage for BRAVE NEW WORLD, or Fry from FUTURAMA. This goes beyond just being a cypher and asking "hey, what's that?" So Saturn Girl or whomever can give exposition...he's the person the audience sees themselves in.

Can the Legion survive without its "star," Superboy? Previously, I said no, it couldn't. Heck, I even busted Gerry Conway and his editors' chops for removing Superboy from the book back in 1980. But I've started to change my mind on the subject, because the Legion has, at this point in its existence, so much love and so much of an audience, and so much of an identity APART from the Super-Mythos, that Superboy isn't as necessary as he once was.

I owe Conway and the rest an apology for this.

Superboy is very important to Legion history, but his role is a set of training wheels that can now come off.

Think of it like this...in the beginning, Lorne Michaels wanted Albert Brooks to be the "regular" host of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, because he didn't think anybody would want to watch a show with unknown comedians. But the reason SNL never "got" a regular host e'er after, was because the so-called unknowns, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and the rest BECAME people that the audience would want to watch by themselves.

The Legion, post-ADVENTURE, is very much like this. Heck, even Superboy's traditional role as cypher/audience identification isn't as necessary as it once was, because we the reader, read the book because we care very much about the inner lives of Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, etc.

Does that mean the Legion and Superboy aren't important to each other? No. Superboy guest-starring is quite a thrill. But at this point, Superboy doesn't HAVE to be there for the Legion to be readable and to "work."

On the subject of Karate Kid trying to tackle Superboy...yeah, that was a rockin' moment that characterized Val Armorr pretty well as a sometimes hothead that occasionally bites off more than he can chew, but what is it with Martial Artists trying to take on Super-Powerhouses, anyway? The most shocking moment of the Englehart AVENGERS is when Mantis took down Thor, a deity of a major religion, with pretty much one nerve punch  to a vital cluster (which e'er after established Mantis as someone not to be messed with, if you can take on the most powerful Avenger with ONE PUNCH on your very first day).

(Though that moment was pretty famous, it overshadow a later moment in that issue, where Mantis brought down Captain America with the most sexually suggestive scissors move ever.)

Incidentally, Karate Kid and Projectra, Jimmy Shooter's "homegrown" Legionnaires are my personal favorites, because they were the first Legionnaires to have real definite personalities (with the POSSIBLE exception of Saturn Girl's ball-busting feminism). Later on, KK would be used not unlike Hawkeye is in AVENGERS: except instead of Hawkeye firing that one-in-a-million arrow shot that saves everybody, Karate Kid has the "Luke Skywalker vs. Death Star" moment, where it's the karate chop that saves everybody, as he did when he broke a giant energy chain surrounding the earth (!) created by Grimbor the Chainsman with one chop (it's no coincidence Roy Thomas wrote both stories).
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2007, 10:28:34 PM »

I would argue the role of Superboy to the Legion is like that of a parent (Superboy) to a child (the Legion). Superboy gave birth to the Legion. Superboy raised the Legion. But after a little while, the Legion has to "grow up" and become its own comic, with its own enemies, supporting cast, and world that often doesn't include Superman-elements like Lex Luthor or Kryptonite.

That doesn't mean the parent and child can't see each other for special occasions (like Thanksgiving or Passover), and because Superboy "raised" the Legion, there will always be a connection and goodwill and the influence of one upon the other...but Legion as a comic did what Supergirl and other "Superman Family" titles never did: move out of the parent's house.

So, does that answer your question? I think Superboy was absolutely essential in the early days, equally essential later on in "adolescence" though the role is different and Legion starts to break away from Mom and Dad and be independent (the later Hamilton and Swan years), helpful in "early adulthood" when the Legion goes to Superboy's house to do laundry every weekend (the Cary Bates years), and not needed at all in Legion's adulthood (the Paul Levitz era).
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
MatterEaterLad
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2007, 11:17:04 PM »

Well, I'm not sure like the Legion needed to grow up, because the earlier stories made it clear that Superman and Supergirl continued to be friends with the Legion and interact with the adult Legion.  That's why it seems like a cradle to grave relationship to me.  As a matter of fact its downright weird how the Super Villains, the adult Legion, and the teen Legion continued to operate on only 3 time lines, the "present", the teen Legion time, and the somewhat later Adult/Super Villain time.  These folks could all drop off in any time they chose.

And even after Mort retired, its odd to me that the Legion and the Justice League never checked in with one another.  If you count the teen and adult Legions along with the League, here are like 50 heroes that can travel to any time they want.

I admit I'm no Bronze Age fan but I don't sense the tightness of Superman or the Superman family with the League other than his Batman friendship.
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Johnny Nevada
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2007, 02:27:20 AM »

Well, I'm not sure like the Legion needed to grow up, because the earlier stories made it clear that Superman and Supergirl continued to be friends with the Legion and interact with the adult Legion.  That's why it seems like a cradle to grave relationship to me.  As a matter of fact its downright weird how the Super Villains, the adult Legion, and the teen Legion continued to operate on only 3 time lines, the "present", the teen Legion time, and the somewhat later Adult/Super Villain time.  These folks could all drop off in any time they chose.

And even after Mort retired, its odd to me that the Legion and the Justice League never checked in with one another.  If you count the teen and adult Legions along with the League, here are like 50 heroes that can travel to any time they want.

I admit I'm no Bronze Age fan but I don't sense the tightness of Superman or the Superman family with the League other than his Batman friendship.

Actually, the Legion and JLA did meet once---in a mid-70's JLA-JSA teamup (the three teams fight Mordru and the Three Demons [Abnegezar, Ghast, and Rath]):

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=31506&zoom=4

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=31609&zoom=4



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JulianPerez
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2007, 05:02:22 AM »

Incidentally, that JLA/JSA/Legion team-up was written by none other than "Stainless" Steve Englehart during his ten-issue run.

Quote from: MatterEaterLad
Well, I'm not sure like the Legion needed to grow up, because the earlier stories made it clear that Superman and Supergirl continued to be friends with the Legion and interact with the adult Legion.

You're absolutely right - Superboy and Supergirl are clearly shown to maintain their connection to the Legion and they maintain their membership, so I don't think its possible to divorce them from the Legion completely, considering their historical importance and role in the Legion.

What I am saying, though, is that if a writer wanted to put Superboy on the inactive roster for a little while, the Legion wouldn't come down like a house of cards conceptually (would ANYONE want to read BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS without Batman?).

What I also am saying is that, yes, the Legion did start off as a spin-off of Superman, but the Legion has grown to the point where it has its own identity, their own villains and world, and a connection to the Superman mythos is not all that vital, either.

Quote from: MatterEaterLad
I admit I'm no Bronze Age fan but I don't sense the tightness of Superman or the Superman family with the League other than his Batman friendship.

Yeah, absolutely. Clearly the Legion is more important to Superman, and I think I've made the observation before that Superman's participation in League stories feels more like an extension of the Batman/Superman team-up.

The reason the Legion is so incorporated into Superboy's life, whereas the League is not with Superman, I suspect, is that Legion started off as a Superman spin-off, so obviously it could be placed into his life much more easily.

Then again, Englehart characterized Superman as someone that was something of a reactionary, a guy that was there at the beginning and is very concerned about League tradition and integrity.
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2007, 12:06:13 PM »

For me, The Legion is more of a big brother than a son to Superboy in its earliest incarnation.  When Superboy encounters the Legion initially, the adventure is characterized as the first time he has encountered other, more experienced young heroes.  They lead him to understand that he is creating a legacy by his actions in the 20th Century and therefore has a responsibility to future generations.  They even outsmart him for awhile and seem superior until he "proves" himself. 

Later, they give Superboy a sense of family where he functions as one among equals --people he can relate to who are different from most of the people he has encountered in the 20th Century.  He is even sometimes superfluous --Mon-El and Ultraboy have essentially the same abilities.  I sometimes feel that he uses his time-travel adventures as a form of escapism (like reading a comic book) --leaping into an adventure that in some ways, because it doesn't take place in the "real world", has less consequences.  Heck, he can even take a backseat if he wants to!

Superboy's relationship with the Legion is not always clear cut.  At times, he acts the hero (Father?) when he must be totally freaked out and out of his element.  He is the hero of heroes whose reputation precedes him.  He must act even more grownup than he does in the 20th C (where he is admittedly VERY grownup compared to most teenagers in terms of abilities and responsibilities).  He often takes charge, leads, or saves the day.

At other times, he is as Julian says, a reader stand-in, the stranger-in-a-strange-land/Fry-in-Futurama figure.  (Incidentally, Fry is the only other character in serial fiction that I can think of, with the possible exception of Alley Oop, who plays this Superboy role of an integrated member of a future society.)  As well, as a member of a group of equals, he can enjoy intimacy and the fun teenager things (like dating or telling people his secret i.d.) that he can never enjoy at home.   He can relax and let his hair down.  Something he only does later in his Fortress/Kandor or when around an adult Kara or (maybe) the JLA.

The idea of Superman leaving the Legion behind as an adult, like they were a youthful indulgence or fantasy, is kind of sad but a great analogy.  I just saw Pan's Labyrinth and this theme of "childish things" is really weighing on me.  Alan Moore used the trope in the Miracleman stories when he retconned the 1950s Miracleman adventures into a scientifically-induced dream state imagined by the sleeping heroes: the only way to explain how the heroes could fly to Neptune to get some flowers or use magic was to say it was the fever dream of a young boy.  I can almost imagine I read a story about when the Legion visit an adult Superman and he laughs at them, thinking they are trying to hoax him with a story about a club of teenage superheroes from the far-future who live in an upside-down rocketship and have names like Brainiac 5 and Lightning Boy.  Sort of like a grown-up Peter Pan who has left Neverland behind and forgotten it.
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