Thursday, August 03, 2006

Something Missing

I have no reason to believe Mark Waid or Barry Kitson has ever seen this blog. They might have; stranger things have happened. Of all the things I’ve posted on here, though, this is probably the one I most hope they ever read.

There’s something missing from this version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. And I think we’re going to have to put up with it for a while.

In some ways, it goes back to something I saw in an interview with Waid around the time of the most recent reboot:

“[W]ho in their right mind would entrust the security of the Earth and United Planets to teenagers?

“That’s the first question we asked when we put every single element of the Legion under the microscope--and […] we realized that the inevitable answer, no matter how hard we tried to make it otherwise, was ‘No one,’””

When I read that for the first time, I said to myself, “That makes a lot of sense.” Because it’s true. Nobody would nominate, as the last line of defense between civilization and monstrously destructive evil, a bunch of teenyboppers. Never happen.

The two previous versions of the Legion were that last line of defense, though. Whether it’s realistic or not that they should have been in that position, it’s indisputable that they were, and that they proved they deserved it. Whether it was against Mordru or the Khunds or the Time Trapper or the Dark Circle or the Dominion or Ra’s al Ghul or Robotica or freaking Darkseid, the Legion came through again and again.

And, in doing so, they achieved legendary status in their society. Think about Cosmic Boy’s method of crowd control here:

First of all, it worked. (The magnetism helped too, yes, but I hold that it was the flight ring thing that sealed the deal.)

Second of all, he knew it would work.

Can you imagine? A teenager shows off some jewelry and everybody goes home.

This kind of thing happened on an individual level, too. How many stories have we read in which the stalwart Example Boy is in a tight spot, and the caption says something like, “But Example Boy is still a Legionnaire. And, even now, that still means something.”

Do you get that? The proposition is this: if you’re a Legionnaire, that automatically puts you one up on anyone who isn’t. The kicker is this: everyone believes that. Everyone in the 30th/31st century, Legionnaire and non-Legionnaire alike, believes that. That’s Timber Wolf’s assumption here:

The current version of the Legion doesn’t have that status, and I miss it. It’s wonderful to read about. But their society doesn’t look at them the same way. Oh, sure, they came through against Lemnos, and that was impressive. They have some support. Their new official alliance with Earthgov and the addition of Supergirl gives them a little extra credibility. But really they’re still considered just a pack of kids.

If this Legion is ever going to be thought of in the same way as their predecessors, they’ll have to earn it, by defeating not just one menace, but all the menaces. (And by acting like superheroes as they do it.) It’ll take a few years. But I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the characters being proud of being Legionnaires. Right now they’re not. Oh, they like the Legion, and they believe in it, in their own ways, but the group is still new and young. The Legion is still being defined by its membership and their actions; the Legionnaires are contributing their values and courage and identities to the team. At some point, these contributions will start paying off. It’ll start going the other way. The team will be, as the expression goes, greater than any one of them, and Legionnaires will be able to draw identity and values and courage from their Legion membership.

I am assuming that this is the way Waid and Kitson are going with this title. In all their years associated with these characters, and the years of reading about them before that, they must have noticed this special aspect of the Legion. And nobody fond of these characters could be aware of this particular brand of esprit de corps and decide not to use it. Right?

A while ago, my wife asked me what she probably thought was a very simple question: who’s your favourite superhero? Now, I’ve got an inexplicable affection for the superhero genre, whether it be in comic books or movies or TV or prose fiction… but I didn’t have the first idea how to answer her. I do now, though, after writing this. My favourite character is the Legion itself, the team, and how it can make all the individual characters stronger for participating in it. That Legion doesn’t exist yet, in this version, and it’ll take a while to coalesce. I can wait… but no more reboots, please?

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