Friday, August 23, 2013

The Death of the Legion of Super Heroes

And now we have reached....the end.

Dave-El here and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You. Well, it may not be suffering in the truest sense of the world but I am pretty much bummed out.
The Legion of Super Heroes has reached the end of the road.
The Legion has been down before. After headlining Adventure Comics for several years, the Legion was relegated to the back ups in Action Comics. Eventually, the Legion found itself in Superboy's own book and much as they did with Superboy's solo adventures in Adventure Comics, the Legion began to dominate the Superboy title as well. The small print indicia still said the title was Superboy  but the covers proclaimed it Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes. Eventually that became the title for real and by 1979, Superboy is sent flying out of the title that used to be his and his alone and, for the first time, Legion of Super Heroes was in it's own book of brand new adventures.*
*There was a Legion of Super Heroes title in the early 1970's but it was a reprint book.
The Legion continued to spin a vast tapestry of super heroic mythology against the tableau of Earth 1,000 years in the future and the myriad planets that spun in their orbits out in the infinite universe. The Legion of Super Heroes was a title filled with outrageous powers, amazing feats, astonishing wonders and, above all, a delightfully tangled web of human drama.  The Legion is a concept of near limitless possibilities.
Now this limitless concept comes to an end. And right now, there's nothing to indicate any reprieve or return or reboot or re-anything is out on the horizon.
I noted my reaction to the news that Legion of Super Heroes was cancelled in this blog post. I've also shared stories of how the Legion of Super Heroes lead me to marvelous heights of excitement only to have that excitement crash to the ground. The very quick rise and equally fast fall of Pulsar Stargrave can be found the following links connecting to parts One Two and Three. And I've shared my encounter with Jim Starlin and the Legion and that story's subsequent disappointing  resolution.  
But I stuck by the Legion because at it's core was something that resonated deeply with me: a sense of belonging. A wide range of characters of varying talents and levels of power but they all had one thing in common, a strong bond that held them together: they were Legionnaires. It was a strength of unity and spirit that made the Legion more than just a collection of Super Heroes. It was an extended family.
On Twitter, someone asked the question, "Who was your favorite Legionnaire?"
I had to give that some thought as I considered any number of Legion members to be a favorite at one time or another.
I had a soft spot for Mon-El. He basically had Superboy's same power set and I don't really remember what his basic personality was. But for some reason, I really like his costume. It was a very basic design, nothing too flashy. Which is why I liked it. I was way easier for me to draw that Superman's costume. (After all these years, I still can't make any S shield worth a damn.) And Mon-El was essentially the ultimate utility player. ("Should we send the dude with the lightning powers or the solar powers? Oh hell, Just send Mon-El.")
But the Legionnaires who really intrigued me were the ones with
limited or hard to define power sets. And no member of the Legion met those criteria like Dream Girl. She had precognitive powers that worked as well as whatever was needed by the plot. Mostly, she was there to look sexy and remind us she wanted nothing more than to take a nice, long, relaxing bath.
While Paul Levitz would play to her sex appeal, there were hints that Dream Girl was far more capable that we gave her credit for. Nothing drove that home more than in Levitz' Universo storyline; Dream Girl shows what she's made of...and more. A character that I had all but given up on and cringed every time she appeared on page, I was excited to see Dream Girl get her moment of bad ass awesomeness.
      And of course, there was Brainiac 5 whose super power was being super smart. He was the guy who could out-fight you by out-thinking you. But while Brainy was way smarter than you, he didn't necessarily have wisdom. Computo, anyone?
I was more than a little disappointed that the master villain in Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes#250 turned out to be (Spoilers? Friggin! It's been since 1978. Get over it!) Brainiac 5 as he breaks down laughing maniacally. Thankfully he was restored and we should never speak of this again.
But ultimately, I decided that my favorite Legionnaire was someone with one of the most ridiculous powers ever in comics. But this member has proven time and time again his value to the team. 
Ladies and gentlemen,
That's right, Bouncing Boy, aka Chuck Taine, with the super power of...bouncing. So what was the appeal of Bouncing Boy?
For a guy who could inflate his body into a giant ball, he was the most normal of the Legionnaires. His name was "Chuck", for crying out loud. That's a guy you hang out with a bar having a beer and watching a game. Speaking of having a beer...

Bouncing Boy's origin was straight out of the Jimmy Olsen playbook: Chuck accidently swallowed a bottle of secret formula like it was soda. Really.
Bouncing Boy may have been a goofy concept but he was in the Legion and his fellow Legionnaires treated him with respect. (Remember that sense of belonging I mentioned earlier? This is a group with Superboy, Mon-El and Ultra Boy as members and yet, Bouncing Boy belonged in this group just as much as the heavy lifters.
Bouncing Boy knew how to make the most of what you got. When you're hanging out with people who can shoot fire and ice out of the their fingers, you've got to know how to maximize what you do,  especially when what you do is...bounce. This is what made Chuck Taine such an ideal instructor at the Legion Academy.
Bouncing Boy married Duo Damsel. Sweet!
In many ways, Bouncing Boy was THE ultimate Legionnaire. Where else but the Legion of Super Heroes would you likely be able to see a guy with the power of super-bouncing gain acceptance and respect. A thousand years in the future, Chuck Taine represented me. I may not be the strongest or smartest guy on the planet but I am who I am and if I can make the best of that, then I'll be okay. If there's a place for Bouncing Boy, there's a place for us all.
So we come back around to where we started which was the end. But the Legion of Super Heroes was about the realization of civilization's greatest dreams and hopes distilled in the heroic arts of young people with amazing powers and an incredible shared destiny. So let's end here not with the end but with a message of hope. In our hearts, minds and imagination, hold on to this declaration that has been the refrain of Legion fandom for over 40 years....
Long Live The Legion!

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