Monday, April 17, 2017

The Legion My Way

Editor's Note:
This week we get a What If? essay from our newest member, Jude Deluca, aka Sarcasm Kid. Jude applied for membership in the Legion of Super-Bloggers with three fully-formed essays, which is the equivalent of Karate Kid throwing Superboy over his shoulder. Jude will be one of our regular essayists here on the Legion of Super-Bloggers. This time out he tells us how he would handle a new Legion series if it was up to him....


Hi there. Let me just offer a brief introduction and explanation of why I've written this. My name's Jude Deluca and, like many of you I'm assuming, I'm a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I've been a fan since I was in middle school, but I didn't begin to regularly buy the ongoing Legion comics until 2007/2008, at that point when DC Comics began to acknowledge the different Legion continuities as existing independently of one another. When I was younger, I'd spend a lot of time re-reading info on the Silver Age Legion comics from a website which is now, sadly, defunct.
  For the last couple of years DC's been without a Legion series, and has instead given liberal doses of Legion cameos in different comics (Justice League United, Justice League 3000, Legends of Tomorrow). But no sign of a Legion series... until now. A new version of Saturn Girl cameo-ed in "DC Universe Rebirth" and in "Batman" as Arkham Asylum inmate "Jane Doe," followed by Emerald Empress appearing in "Justice League VS Suicide Squad." The implications are that DC is leading up to another Legion comic with a new continuity... again. 
DC has rewritten the Legion's continuity several times in the past decade, first with the Johnsboot Legion, then with the New 52 Legion title (which was contradicted with Legion Lost and the Legion in Grant Morrison's "Action Comics," which ran AT THE SAME TIME), then with Justice League United, and then nothing except the evil Legion in JL3001 (I'm not even sure if that series was properly finished or not because I can't recall my comic store ever getting the last issue). Oh and the Convergence miniseries.

Personally, the idea of a new Legion comic at this point has legitimately terrified me. To put this in perspective, I'm at my most content when DC has no news about a Legion series during conventions, and when references in other comics turn out to be nothing. I'm speaking from my own feelings as a fan, but judging from how DC has handled the Legionnaires in the past I can't bring myself to say I can see them learning from their mistakes, even with the praise "DC Rebirth" has received so far. Especially if the Legionnaires will once again be made into teenagers. DC's track record with making their characters younger and hipper (in an effort to make them relatable) has been exceedingly poor. That technique arguably worked with the Reboot Legion when, let's be honest, a reboot was needed because the retcons in the FYL Legion books were beginning to pile up too quickly; but I feel it worked because the writers kept the emotional flow of the story going. The characters weren't solely defined by their ages and DC wasn't throwing around pop culture references and outdated memes to appeal to the younger generation. 

The only current comic-book writer I could possibly consider handling the Legion would be Marguerite Bennett judging from her writing on DC Bombshells and Marvel's Angela comics. But, if I could do the Legion my way, and God willing someday I can make this happen as a professional comic author, here's how I'd do it. (Note: If I had to say what my influences as a writer would be to give you an idea of the feel, then I would cite old-school anime such as Bubblegum Crisis, Sailor Moon (NOT Sailor Moon Crystal), and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Just a head's up)

STORY DECISIONS AS A WHOLE

Acknowledge the Legion's history as one single story: A straightforward recap acknowledging all the retcons and revisions as they are instead of struggling to come up with convoluted reasoning for why Supergirl doesn't have a headband anymore or why Sensor Girl's a human snake. I don't want to create another brand new continuity. That's been done too many times in the last few years, and I feel it would just drive away more of the old school Legion fans by wasting their time rehashing Silver Age stories and origin issues, and would confuse new readers more than they probably are right now. Although there are a couple of things I really want to address from the pre-Flashpoint Legion's return, like why Earth was suddenly always xenophobic (in Superman: Secret Origin's take on Superboy's first meeting the Legion), and why Academy student Glorith shares a name with a Legion villain...
I will go with the pre-Flashpoint Legion as the focus: this was the era when the Reboot and Threeboot Legions were acknowledged as coexisting with the "original" Legion, so I would pick up where the last Legion series ended before the New 52. In my opinion, the New 52 Legion books just spiraled out of control, so Levitz deciding to end the series by saying they were on an alternate Earth and with that Legion retiring may have been a mercy kill. I'd prefer to start from a point where the majority of the Legionnaires are still alive (except for Earth-Man, obviously), and then maybe try to explain what happened between then and the DC Universe's current status. Not a "Legion Rebirth" series. Not exactly.

The main Legionnaires would be the Reboot-original Legionnaires: The Reboot Legion probably had the best track record for brand new Legionnaires since the end of the original continuity. There was XS, Kinetix, Thunder, Inferno, Gates, Gear, Magno, Monstress, Kid Quantum II, and Shikari. I would transplant them into the cast of the pre-Flashpoint Legion, but these wouldn't be brand new versions of old characters. Like I said, I'm not going to spend time on doing brand new origin issues, so these would be the original versions of the Reboot Legionnaires living in the pre-Flashpoint Legion's world. My reasoning stands that these Legionnaires were arguably remembered more fondly than the new Legionnaires created in the continuities that proceeded the Reboot era, and still remain rather popular with the fans. Take into account the Reboot era lasted much longer than the eras which proceeded it. I know I'm still mad about how Kinetix was fridged by Geoff Johns to give the White Witch more of an excuse to turn dark, and XS was poorly handled after she became a member of the Johnsboot Legion. Also, while there is some merit to appealing to a younger audience, I reason why not just focus on the Legionnaires who are already young instead of de-aging the cast once more? 
And given the variety in terms of skin color, body size, and sexuality, it can help appeal to the same fanbase as all ages comics like "Lumberjanes" and "Backstagers," whose selling points have been their ability to resonate with queer and POC readers. Also, making XS a selling character could appeal to fans of the Flash TV show, since she's Barry Allen's granddaughter. There would even be a mystery arc surrounding why these specific Legionnaires are back, like why Kinetix and Monstress are alive again and how XS can exist even though Barry accidentally erased her from time in Flashpoint (thanks Barry).
Do a separate comic (or back-up feature) about the adult Legionnaires: Obviously since I'm making a big deal about specifying the use of the pre-Flashpoint Legion, the older Legionnaires need to have a role in it too. Otherwise why not just do another Reboot Legion comic if I'm so insistent on using XS and Kinetix. The adult Legionnaires would serve as sort of the co-feature while the Reboot Legionnaires are at the front. There's potential to do a back-up feature like was done in past Legion titles, or a separate Legion comic about the older Legionnaires. If two comics are published, the casts could sort of slip in between the two books from time to time, making references to what's happening to one Legion group while the other group is doing their own thing.

Reestablish the Legion's supporting cast and diversify the background characters: One of the Legion's best selling points was the depth of the supporting characters it had to offer, coupled with the amount of detail and variety placed in the background characters. This was especially prevalent in the original Levitz/Giffen era, where the city shots and backgrounds were loaded with people from a multitude of alien races (some even the Legionnaires hadn't heard of). All that was virtually nonexistent in the last few Legion comics, with the majority of the background characters limited to humanoid aliens. 

Among the supporting characters who are due for a comeback are Shvaughn Erin (who was suspiciously absent in the last two Legion ongoings), the Subs (who were woefully underused after their appearance in Action Comics), Calorie Queen (who was best utilized as Matter-Eater Lad's Gal Friday during the FYL era), reporter Marella Tao (who could serve as a POV character and maybe help the Espionage Squad with her investigate skills), and for argument's sake I would include Styx and Stiletto (Prince Evillo's teenage daughters who rebelled against him and joined Polar Boy's squad). Personally, I think another attempt is needed to address Shvaughn's status as a transwoman, since I'm still not entirely sure what was going on in the FYL era issue where that information was revealed beyond that it sounded like Shvaughn was only transitioning to get Element Lad's attention.
Bring in some political intrigue villains: I'd like to maybe do a conspiracy arc of my own, possibly with established villains such as Jean Chuu from the Reboot and Tayla Wellington from the FYL comics. While Chuu was the first Big Bad for the Reboot, we never really got into Tayla's character before she died and I'm curious about what she'd been like as a puppet president. I got the sense that she was possibly a conniving individual and would like to see how she works alongside someone equally conniving as Chuu.

Update the architecture: As best to my understanding, one problem with the last Legion comic was how dated the 31st Century looked so it didn't necessarily scream "The Future" as much as it did "The Future as people in the 1980s thought it would be." The buildings and worlds need to seem more believably futuristic to give the reader the sense that this IS the 31st Century they're reading about. Although I would try to go for a blend of aesthetics similar to what was done in "Superman: New Krypton." The Kryptonian citizens looked like they were pulled from all the past verions of Krypton (the Silver Age, the John Byrne era, the Birthright era, the Richard Donner inspired era) so I'd try to go for a blend of architecture and technology from all the past Legion comics along with a more updated take. That way Legion readers can feel there's a little bit of everything from the continuities they preferred.

Explore alternate universe versions of the Legion: Yes, technically the Reboot and Threeboot Legions now count as alternate Earth Legions, but I mean like really explore variations in the Legion's themes. Every other time an alternate Legion's appeared like the Adult Legion or the Elseworlds Annual Legions, they've just been slight tweakings of the original deal. The names don't really change and only a few characters get altered backstories. We've never seen a Legion from the Crime Syndicate's Earth, or say the Red Son Earth, or Red Rain Earth, and those feel like missed opportunities to me.

INDIVIDUAL STORY DECISIONS FOR SEPARATE CHARACTERS

Let Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet kiss. This has always bugged me because even when DC was able to be more open about its queer characters, Ayla and Violet still haven't been allowed to be physically intimate with each other on-panel. They've never even been allowed to kiss! I was happy when Paul Levitz put them back together as a couple after Geoff Johns tried to put Ayla back together with Timber Wolf (which felt very homophobic no matter how I read it and is one of many reasons why I believe Johns shouldn't be allowed near female characters), but I wish he'd been able to finally come out (no pun intended) and let them kiss on-panel.

Explore Dawnstar's bisexuality. I'm not a Brad Meltzer fan. In fact I hate Identity Crisis and his take on Roy Harper during "Justice League of America," but I loved his implication that Dawnstar was in a relationship with a woman while on Thanagar, and was disappointed no one else has done anything with that development. Instead, it felt like all anyone did with her after "The Lightning Saga" was rehash the whole "Doomed romance" thing between her and Wildfire. It's like they were now two halves of one character, and that was just lazy.

Let Shadow Lass stay single for a while. Like with Dawnstar, it felt like Shadow Lass was slowly being defined solely by whoever she was dating at the time. I'm a Shady/Mon fan, but instead of rushing her back to Mon-El, I'd rather let Shady stay single and extend some focus on what makes her an interesting character besides her taste in men.

art by Empty-Brooke on DeviantArt
Absolute Power! Saturn Queen is a Big Bad: The version of Eve Aries from "Superman/Batman: Absolute Power" and the Candor arc in "Supergirl" is brought in as one of the main villains of the overall story arc, having been working alongside Titans/Wonder Woman villain Dark Angel behind the scenes and responsible for several changes in the DCU, even before Flashpoint. Both are survivors of the original Multiverse, through happenstance and sheer force of will, so it made sense to me to have the two working together. This also opens the way to do team up stories with the Titans (whom I also have a number of plans for).

They create a new version of Villainy Incorporated, the all female villain team from "Wonder Woman," comprised of villainesses from across the Multiverse and from worlds long thought dead.

They successfully break New Earth!Saturn Queen's spirit until she's now willingly serving them as Absolute Power!Eve's "piece." "My lovely body double.

Focus on Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's family. I love the idea of the Ranzz Family and would like to do something with Garth and Imra as well as their twin sons Graym and Garridan. I've also considered bringing in Dacey and Doritt from the FYL era. I'd like to acknowledge how Garth became angrier in the early days of the Johnsboot and have it be something he's ashamed of because of the way he treated Rokk and Imra, and explain why Imra was becoming so passive. Their relationship is like Morticia and Gomez Addams with how deeply devoted they are to each other, or in another way to put it, Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh from "Sailor Moon." I like the idea of Garth constantly being snarky with Imra in a playful way, being able to get under her skin because he knows her so well. Also Imra would have short hair again like she did in the Johnsboot era because I think it works for her as a nice contrast to longish haired, scruffy faced Garth.

Bring back the old Sensor Girl costume. I'm sorry,  I just to need to say this. It's petty and ridiculous but I would get rid of that new outfit Jeckie's had since "New Krypton" because it's a mess. You don't fix what isn't broken and her original costume was gorgeous.
Establish a "World's Finest" duo with Arsenal and Lightning Lad: This one's going to sound especially weird, so... essentially, I've long had the idea of Roy Harper and Garth Ranzz being friends because there are a lot of similarities between them (both redheads, both dads, both former teen heroes, both have certain anger management issues, both have had a really bad string of bad luck). They've never really met or talked in the actual comics, so I'd want to try and do something with the two of them together. I see Roy as the Batman to Garth's Superman, basically, and this helps create a better connection with the Titans and the Legion.

INDIVIDUAL STORY IDEAS

Touchdown to Tomorrow: The return of the pre-Flashpoint Legion and an old Legion villain who rewrites the future and erases the memory of the Legionnaires from everyone's minds... except for three people, two old Legionnaires and a new character who has a history with this Legion. Also featuring the return of a Legion no one ever expected to see again! The opening story done in a miniseries style. The name comes from a Bubblegum Crisis song.


Scissorbaby: A story connected with the Doom Patrol, of all things, focusing on the half human offspring of a DP villain who escapes from the planet Labyrinth.

What's In The Canister?: The return of the infamous canister from the FYL Legion, which is brought to Legion HQ after it's unearthed during a cave-in. A crack is made in the canister, and whatever is inside starts to affect the Legionnaires and make them go crazy. The HQ is sealed off, and the only people who can go inside and save the Legionnaires are Matter-Eater Lad and the Subs.

Titanworld: On vacation, the Ranzz Family discovers an artificial planetoid created in the style of a theme park version of the now destroyed Titan. And then it's revealed the park's "staff" is made up of enslaved and brainwashed Titanian refugees.

Family Reunion: XS travels back to the 21st Century to finally confront her grandfather about Flashpoint.

Don't Remember Me: Stationed at an isolated Arctic research facility, Academy graduates Dragonwing and Chemical Kid find things aren't so boring when it seems the facility is haunted. Then it turns out they aren't dealing with ghosts, but the espionage squad sent by the Legion of Super-Villains into the 21st Century who have become trapped between time as a consequence of Flashpoint.

Me and my Shadow: A look into Mekt Ranzz's growing insanity and desperation for a twin sibling as he starts to believe his reflection is his twin brother. And even more disturbingly, his reflection is now acting independent of Mekt.

Arsenal - Under A Bad Moon: A miniseries about Roy Harper which heavily involves the Legionnaires following "Touchdown to Tomorrow" due to cryptic foreshadowing given by the villains. Arsenal is put through a night of hell when not only are his memories of the pre-Flashpoint DCU suddenly restored, but he is reunited with his daughter Lian (who technically was never born in the DCnU). Father and daughter are plummeted through a night of psychological torment and horror thanks to the machinations of Dark Angel and Saturn Queen, and must preserver in order to save not only Lian's mother, the villainess Cheshire, but Lian's half brother Thomas Blake Jr..

Titans - Night of the Gargoyle: An event series for the DCU focusing on the Teen Titans and their first archenemy, the Gargoyle. The Fab Five Titans (Troia, Tempest, Nightwing, Arsenal, and Flash) are trapped in a nightmare thanks to the Gargoyle, aided by Dark Angel and Saturn Queen, while in the waking world the people of Earth are cast into a deep slumber, and the planet is covered in total darkness like a black jewel. The Legion is called to the 21st Century once more when they're the only heroes not affected by the Gargoyle's spell. Calling on just about everyone who's ever been a Titan, every supporting character and villain, it's a night of chaos and torture as the Titans are forced to confront the lives that were taken from them thanks to Flashpoint and the mistakes they never answered for while the Gargoyle rips out their most hidden secrets and regrets in his effort to once and for all destroy them.

Several ideas for spin-offs include Young Justice (the return of the real Tim Drake, Kon-El, and Bart Allen (which features Jenni Ognats)), Teen Titans '96 (a continuation of the Dan Jurgens Titans), The Parallax Corps (which has Parallax taking control of Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Carol Ferris and decimating the Lantern Corps as they hunt for Kyle Rayner and the White Lantern), and Supergirls (which features the first official team up of Kara Zor-El, Matrix, Linda Danvers, Cir-El, and Ariella Kent against Supergirl's Rogues Gallery and the Seven Supergirls of Sin, seven doppelgangers of Supergirl's various "evil" phases such as Satan Girl, Nightflame, and Dark Supergirl). 

This is basically my "Crisis" for the DCU, with the Titans effectively at the center because they have connections to just about every aspect of the DC superhero and villain communities well beyond the JLA. My biggest attempt at integrating the pre-Flashpoint and current DC continuities by having the characters remember and accept their lives before the New 52 changed everything and then moving forward. It's equal parts fairy tale and horror story, inspired by "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Umineko: When They Cry," "Suspiria," "Sailor Moon," and Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty."


Multiversity - The Three In One Earth: Grant Morrison left seven Earths blank in the current DC Multiverse when he was writing "The Multiversity," and for the last couple of years I've worked on ideas for those Earths. Earth-27 is a really a universe containing three separate Earths that each experiment with the "evil counterpart" tropes. It's essentially a triple mirror reflection of Earth-3, so it has 3 Earths because 27 is the number 3 cubed. These Earths are controlled by the Kindly Ones from "Sandman," ("The Witching Hour" hosts Cynthia, Mildred, and Mordred) and each has a predominant theme going.

Earth-27B is the "Mystery Earth" controlled by Mildred, in the guise of comic author Millie Simmons, and the conflict of this Earth is centered around the mystery of the deaths of the Secret Seven and their archenemies in the Crime Club. This world's got a fairly detailed hero community, including the Justice Syndicate, the Justice Lodge, the Super-Stars, the Outcasts, Revolutionaries, and the Justice Snots. This world's Legion is called the Vanguard of Tomorrow. They come from a techno-organic future where nature and machines coexist peacefully in a symbiotic relationship (think the "Good Future" endings from "Sonic CD"). The members of the Vanguard base themselves off fairy tale and folklore themes, futuristic kings, queens, knights and so forth. The founders are Magno King, Titan Queen, and Thunder Lord. There's also an Emergency Vanguard.

Their line-up includes the following. I'm still working on including more Legionnaires but I have to do more research into certain myths. I don't want to rush things. Try to guess who they all are!

Ultimadien and Cherry the Ulti-Lion, Spirit Queen, the Weird Sisters, Gim the Giant, Ariel, Storm Maiden, Rose Elf, Mega Knight, Grizzly Bear, Visionary, Sumo King, Pinball Wizard, Scholastica V, Veil, Planet Boy, Tomorrow Girl, Helios, Jack Frost, Valiant, Jack O'Lantern, Moonshadow, Lady Dusk, Twilight Queen, Gremlin, Quartz, Pearl Mage, Silver Princess, Albedo, Solve & Coagula, Usagi, Match Girl, Sirene, Draug, Jack in the Pulpit, Paint Prince, Polychrome, Lady Eleanore, Wind Rider, Janus, Shadow Puppet.

The Vanguard's Rogues Gallery includes the Entropy Brigade, the Devil's Dozen (Fatal Five/Devil's Dozen mash-up inspired by monsters and villains of folklore led primarily by the Queen of Diamonds, Mazikeen, Nuckelavee, Jack Ketch, and Baylock), Morgana of Avalon, Alpha & Beta, and the Time Trapper.


Multiversity - JSA, the Justice Sorority of America: I've taken the unused Earth-28 and used it to update the old "Lois Lane, Krypton Girl" Imaginary Story. This is the Earth where the supporting characters are the heroes, having swapped roles with the established main characters. Lois Lane/Lanelle is now Krypton Woman, serving alongside her foster brother Clark Kent and her girlfriend Lana Lang, her daughter from the future Cirella (Krypton Girl), Steel Man (James Olsen) and Toyboy (Adam Grant), against the likes of the Contessa (Arualla of the Phantom Zone), Armageddon, Dollmaker, and Superior Woman/Weirdo.

The Legion of this world, the Legion Academy, is really a school for superheroes in the 31st Century. The Legionnaires we all know like Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, and the rest are all teachers, while the students are literally EVERY Legion reject, Sub, and 31st Century hero who was never a Legionnaire, including Copy Kid (Absorbancy Boy), Weaver (Spider Girl), Love Song (Voice), Zen Girl (Mandalla), and many others. This was partially inspired by "Sidekicks" from Oni Press by J. Torres and Takeshi Miyazawa.

I've been working on many of these ideas for the past several years, and one day I genuinely do hope I can make them a reality, not just as a fan story but an actual, honest-to-God DC published comic. I know it's egotistical to assume I personally know what's best for the Legion, but I have to go by my instincts and my observations on DC's handling of the concept for the last decade. The Legionnaires mean a lot to me, their stories helped me get through some really horrible periods in my life and through them I've met some of the best friends I could ever ask for. I want to do right by them and by my friends because I feel I owe it to them. The best way to do that is by being honest with myself and others. This is how I would handle the Legion of Super-Heroes, and someday I will make this dream a reality.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for including the Zero-Hour Legion in your concept! I love the originals but I grew to love the reboot too and still miss it.

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    1. (This is Jude) They deserve better than they were given.

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  2. I love your concepts for the Legion. I do have one question the Legionnaires title/section that would focus on the reboot, would that be all of them or just those that didn't have a counter part on earth-0 pre-flashpoint?

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    1. Just the ones that don't have a counterpart. That's also part of the mystery. What happened to the rest of the Reboot Legion and what happened to Earth-247?

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  3. Jude, I'm definitely on the same page as you as regards the Legion, particularly the importance of the Reboot Legion. Ever since my friend Paulo converted me to that era through his adoration of Kinetix, I've found it to have far more potential raw materials for spinning out fresh new stories, instead of dull variations on old stories. It wasn't perfect by any means, but when it was good, I think it was the best the Legion had been since the mid-late Silver Age. Also, there are several Reboot versions of established Legion characters that I think run rings around the Preboot/Retroboot versions (UMBRA.)

    More thoughts to come over the next few days.

    Good show, Jude.

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  4. I like a lot of stuff here. I would definitely read most if not all of these stories, even though I really don't know most of the Reboot stuff (I was out of the country for most of it).

    I like the spotlight on Imra and Garth family idea, and I like making Mekt schizophrenic (sp?) and Saturn Queen into a Big Bad. And of course, I'm all for diversity of types and architecture etc. I would love to see more than 1 or 2 (token) non-white characters as members, including the return of Tellus!!

    And while I agree that Vi and Ayla should be a couple, are you telling me that there has never been a gay male Legionnaire? Come on, DC! You basically have 30 characters to choose from, haha! Invisible Kid-Brainy-Chemical King would be a fun triangle, I think, just as an example.

    Nice work, Jude!

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  5. Some cool story ideas, but I'd prefer the unique Reboot members be added eventually via newly-created counterparts in the original timeline, to avoid confusion.

    In my opinion, the less timeline-mixing the better for new readers. Streamlining is key to any future success, and not hitting every continuity and/or trying to reconcile every old plot point.

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    1. How about a mini series featuring Ferro Lad, Triplicate Girl, Invisible Kid, Chemical King, Karate Kid, Superboy and Earth Man taking on the original Time Trapper called....

      "The Legion of The Doomed - Suicide Squad " !

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