I was quite stunned to realise that The Great Darkness Saga was warming up thirty-four years ago this month. I bought these issues on my first-ever trip to London, in the Forbidden Planet store on Denmark Street.
That holiday was notable for grim reasons: the two bombs which killed eleven military personnel on July 20th 1982 led to a temporary and anxious evacuation of Oxford Street, with which we became involved.
However, such is the resilience of late adolescence, that alarm and tension was soon placated by a repeat of The Curse of Peladon of tv and The Wrath of Khan in the cinema.
I had been a fan of the LSH since Legion lore appeared in the pages of the b/w Super DC magazine and then with the “disco” era initiated by Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell. However, after a four-year period of bland, Avengers-inspired comics, the Legion had entered a fertile and visually striking phase that had begun with a brief pencilling stint by Pat Broderick.
In the 21st Century, the Legion hasn’t had a monthly title for a couple of years but I believe that state of affairs will change, sooner or later. Such a series could depict the LSH in a grim, dystopian world out of YA fiction, and even link them to the twisted, ultra- violent Bat-mythos. It would probably be successful for a while.
But the important thing about the Legion is not the interplanetary utopian setting, per se; it’s more the sunny symbolism of its young membership. The Legionnaires should be teenagers and their link to the Superboy mythos indicates that truth and justice mean something- that those values prevail. And it seems to me that superheroes prevail in media other than comics: in film and television.
In previous blog posts, I’ve postulated an imaginary Legion with a cohort of around fifty; that might fly in a comic: “Star Trek with super-heroes”. However, if the LSH were a tv series in the same universe as Flash or Supergirl, membership would be undoubtedly be limited in numbers, like Agents of SHIELD, to nine or ten characters.
Today, I present the ten Legionnaires I would pick to star in an imaginary tv season, chosen from all the different incarnations of the team over the decades.
I wanted to honour the original trio of founders but I liked the idea of replacing stay-at-home dad Lightning Lad with his twin. I also liked the relationship between Ayla and Salu/Vi.
Brainiac 5 and Shrinking Violet have two of the most memorable code-names while Ultra Boy has one of the best costumes and power sets in the LSH.
I then wanted to include two of my favourite Jim Shooter Legionnaires: Karate Kid and Shadow Lass, the courageous Eurasian martial artist and the barbarian shadow caster.
Then, to promote diversity and to honour the LSH of the 90s, I included the feline but relatively obscure Catspaw and the insectoid teleporter Gates. The latter would probably have to be a CGI creation on tv but I like the idea of a unwillingly drafted, Communist lifeform.
I’ve always been a fan of the plucky Substitute Legion and I would populate that group with some of the quirky, lesser lights of LSH history, in the spirit of the Planetary Chance Machine and villains like Starfinger :
and in the wings, for a “second season”, I’d keep another of my Bronze Age favourites, the Energy Release Generator, ERG-1:
It was difficult not to find a place for LSH stalwarts like Phantom Girl or the regal spiritualist Princess Projectra or Wolverine’s antecedent, Timber Wolf. But this grouping represents the widest range of aggressive and defensive abilities, ethnicity and gender balance.
In upcoming posts, I’ll probably revisit the Levitz/Giffen Legion and most likely, the Abnett/ Lanning version, beginning with Legion: Foundations. Meanwhile, let me know which Legionnaires you would like to see in a live-action series.
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