Back Issues: Not just a team but a Legion

Classic DC group to appear on ‘Supergirl’

The literal future of DC’s universe joins its television lineup when the Legion of Super-Heroes arrives Monday on “Supergirl.”

I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind on some of the comic shows given the sheer volume out there, so I don’t know a lot about the context of the team’s arrival on the CW. But in the comics, the Legion is a group of 31st century teens who come together with their natural and enhanced abilities to make the galaxy a better place.

The founding members are Cosmic Boy, who like all natives of the planet Braal can generate and control magnetic fields; Saturn Girl, whose people on Saturn’s moon Titan developed telepathic abilities; and Lightning Lad, who can generate electricity after he and his siblings were involved in an accident with lightning beasts. The trio saved billionaire R.J. Brande from an assassination attempt, and he convinced them to follow in the footsteps of the great heroes of yesteryear and form the Legion.

Their ranks grew quickly with the addition of characters like the self-duplicating Triplicate Girl, the intangible Phantom Girl, shapeshifting Chameleon Boy, size-changing Colossal Boy and self-explanatorially named Invisible Kid.

Another member was Karate Kid, a Earthling who mastered every form of martial arts. DC owns the rights to the name and got a special thank-you in the credits of the better-known 1984 movie for allowing the use of the title.

Other classic members include Brainiac 5, a super-genius descended from the Superman villain of the same name; Ultra Boy, who essentially had all the powers of Superman but could only use one at a time; Sun Boy, who generates heat and light; Dream Girl, who could see the future in her — you guessed it — dreams; the gravity-controlling Star Boy; Lightning Lad’s sister Lightning Lass; and Element Lad, whose species can temporarily transmute materials on the atomic level.

Among the exceptions to the “boy,” “girl,” etc. codenames were Dawnstar, a winged colonist with the ability to track lifeforms from light years away; Shrinking Violet, who used her native ability to shrink to microscopic size and in one version was considered a made-up member until she appeared at normal size; Timber Wolf, who can change into a werewolf-like form; and Wildfire, transformed into a cloud of anti-energy and living in a containment suit that harnessed his powers.

More unusual members of the Legion include Bouncing Boy, whose accidental ingestion of an experimental serum gave him the ability to inflate and bounce; and Matter-Eater Lad, from a planet whose natives evolved the ability to eat literally anything. And those guys made the roster, unlike the Legion of Substitute Heroes, introduced in an ’80s one-shot.

All members of the Legion wear flight rings designed by Brainiac 5, and in some versions Invisible Kid, which allow them to fly and send out distress calls, among other effects.

The Legion first appeared in 1958’s “Adventure Comics” #247, in which the founders travel to the 20th century to meet Superboy. Superboy became a member of the team as did, at various points, his friends Lana Lang and Pete Ross, Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl. A contemporary of Superman, Valor, also known as Mon-El, became trapped in the Phantom Zone, an interdimensional prison, and was eventually freed by the Legion in their time.

The Legion has been revamped and rebooted moreso than most DC properties, so there have been multiple versions of these characters in a variety of tones and settings.

The members highlighted in the upcoming “Supergirl” episode are Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5 and Mon-El, Supergirl’s love interest from season 2.


Recommended Reading

* “Legion of Super-Heroes” Archive Editions — The earliest adventures of the teen heroes, often teaming up with the original Superboy.

* “Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes” — I highlight this one because they’re appearing on her show, but Mark Waid’s entire run on the Legion is great, self-contained reading.

* “The Great Darkness Saga” — The Legion faces off against the menace of Darkseid in the 30th century.