Monday, September 15, 2014

Minutiae Galactica

Super-Blogger: Siskoid
Unique power: Sheer volume

Welcome to the blog that could only be fueled by a large number of bloggers, because the Legion of Super-Heroes is just too big a project for a single person. And that's why I'm a big fan of the Legion, really. I'm often asked why by those who never got into the franchise. It seems there are two kinds of comics fans - those who love the Legion, you might say, unconditionally, and those who don't see the attraction whatsoever and wonder WHY so many of us care about these practically-outside-continuity heroes with dated Silver Age names like Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad. I mean, LAD?! LASS?! Lame, right? Just like those hokey and silly Silver Age stories. And then there's the continuity mess left by a series of reboots, 5 years laters, cloned returns and their very own Crisis. A team with some 30 active members at any given time? Who can follow that? How aren't they all ciphers? Right?

I completely get where you're coming from, Legion fans-to-be (yes, I hold out hope), so let me attempt an explanation.

To me, the Legion has the same attraction other detailed worlds do. I'm talking about Star Trek and Doctor Who, and yes, to a point, the mainstream DC and Marvel universes. There's something special about the geek cred one accumulates by becoming an expert on a truly immense fictional universe. It's where I draw the line between mainstream genre pieces and the truly geeky niches where I want to live. And the more removed that world is from the real one (so if it doesn't take place Earth Present), the better, because you can't take 90% of the reality for granted. The Star Trek universe has dedicated fans in large part because there's a whole universe to explore, and it'll take you 28 seasons and 11 movies to do so before you even consider going outside the canon. When the task is that big (and bigger in Doctor Who's case), there's geek pride in undertaking it, in mastering it.
And so it is with the Legion. The 30th/31st century is its own universe, with its heroes and villains and key relationships, but also its coherent technology, its recurring planets, its own politics and culture. The Legion has a huge roster, a Constitution filled with rules, and its own traditions (the try-outs and the inevitable rogues spawned from rejection are but one example). Paul Levitz' original 80s run, which is where I came in, tapped right into that with frequent use of "Encyclopedia Galactica" captions that described locations, people and technologies, and gave the world a sense of being as well thought-out as Tolkien's Middle Earth. I find the Silver Age stories as amusing as the equally crazy Superman stories of the era, or could read the 70s stuff to see young Jim Shooter or Mike Grell honing their craft, but it's the 80s that most feel like world-building to me. And 5YLs and clones and reboots? They're thought experiments to see what this world would look like in its own future, or remixed in some way, and say what you will about any of these permutations, Legion fans still find enjoyment in tasting the new blend of their favorite universe.

So what's the difference between the Legion and other comics? Sure, the DC Universe is (or perhaps I should say was) a big place, a coherent reality where many titles co-exist. And you might feel the same exhilaration at discovering its more obscure corners, or understanding as much of its 75-year-old tapestry as you can. But if you take DC history as a whole, it's too big for any one person to collect and read. The Legion is more self-contained and thus, more coherent. And the fact that most comics take place in the present (or a well-known past) takes a lot of the world-building away (though DC's fictional cities do help in that sense). The Legion is its own world and therefore, much richer. It's why the recent Legion Lost didn't really work, whereas I remained committed to the main LSH book, meandering storylines and all!

Intimidated or not by the breadth and scope of Legion lore (and trust me, even the Legion of Super-Bloggers is only HOPING to pull this off), I hope we'll help you, dear 21st-century reader, one day hop aboard a Time Bubble and find YOUR perfect gateway into this wondrous future world where everyone wears spandex and knows how to read Interlac (I know *I* do). And TOGETHER, we might raise our fists and shout: "Long Live the Legion!"

5 comments:

  1. Nice one, the size of the Legion - team and history - shouldn't be seen as intimidating, but as an invitation to exploration and adventure.

    As for sub-teams of Legionnaires in the present day for extended periods, no thanks DC, that's throwing away the series' two USPs. It never works.

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  2. There are times I thought it worked better than others - in the Reboot for example, where they got to explore their links to LEGION and actually pick up a member, Ferro Lad I think - but usually, no, it doesn't really work. See the Karate Kid series and the New52 Legion Lost.

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  3. And Timber Wolf, and ruddy Inferno.

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  4. Yes, unnecessary is the word I'd usually use. 20th-21st century has plenty of heroes running around already.

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  5. I thought New 52 Legion Lost had potential, especially as it served as a watermark for the Legion being aware of the changes due to Flashpoint. Had they made the goal of Legion Lost to be discovering who Pandora was and fixing the Flashpoint Paradox instead of the whole convoluted "Culling" story line they could have had a winner.

    The LEGION has a rich history, and eras with some very distinct ending points, that's one of the things that make its concept so attractive. If you aren't finding something in modern comics that grabs your interest, dive into an era of Legion and explore its entire run, I guarantee you'll like what you read!

    -Kyle Benning

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