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July 25, 2006

Comments

Matthew E

Well, I'd rather that than another reboot. But, honestly, I like the Legion just fine the way it is right now. (For that matter, there was only one version of the Legion that was so bad it needed to be thrown out, and that was the Legion on the Run. And even then, the SW6-Legion was concurrently having perfectly likeable adventures in the 'Legionnaires' title.) If only there was a way for all of us fans of previous Legions to eat our cake and have it too.

RAB

A masterful summary, Marc!

On the one hand, something like All-Star Superman demonstrates how you can respect and incorporate many different eras in a character's history without having to define any previous continuity as "definitive" or worry too much about specific past stories or details. As long as you have the core identity right and simply tell good stories, it'll work. Spending too much time on establishing that this happened or that didn't happen is death to good storytelling.

On the other hand...I wonder if the appeal of the Legion premise was never the exterior traits (that have been duplicated in unsuccessful relaunches) but the very fact of all that preexisting history. The whole universe they inhabited; all the trivia questions and planets and who was dating who; the sheer size and scope of it. I don't mean that in just an obsessive fan way. Perhaps the Legion was a kind of extended family...and what defines a family isn't shared genetic history or surnames but shared experiences. You can't duplicate that with a bunch of strangers by giving them the same names.

If there's anything to this idea, it would confirm your conclusion that another reboot -- no matter how well intentioned -- would kill the whole endeavor yet again. It's been reworked and rejiggered and tinkered with endlessly, but perhaps every attempt was doomed to failure by definition.

Marc

Great comments, RAB, and I'm pleased to say they're this site's thousandth! Balloons and confetti will be descending on you any moment now.

I think the latest reboot has just about killed the franchise's sense of shared experience, which it was finally starting to accumulate after a decade of the previous reboot. Worse yet, I can't see the advantage: Projectra is human again and Colossal Boy and Element Lad are alive again (though Gim is saddled with a joke origin and Jan is once again Spacy Jan), but otherwise why did Waid need to start over? All it accomplished was throwing out the depth of experience and diversity of characters and settings that the first reboot had finally achieved--and replacing them with simplified, high-concept versions of the same.

Matthew, the only way I can see for everybody to have the Legion they want is to do something like All-Star Superman--advance the story far enough that you can imply all the continuity you want and draw on all the best parts of it. It might deprive readers of seeing, say, Wildfire's induction or the debut of the Legion of Super-Villains, but that's what flashbacks are for and besides, I can't stand the prospect of watching the Legion writers rebuild all that stuff again. They barely got it together last time.

Greg Morrow

All-Star LSH by Paul Levitz and George Perez?

I'd buy it.

RAB

I'm proud to have done my bit, Marc.

A more successful take on the Legion could really use the values and priorities exemplified by All-Star Superman...but to have an All-Star Legion book as such would just be another reinvention of the concept, and that's the last thing it needs right now.

(Arguably what the Legion book has at the moment is a kind of all-star team, though it may not be the ideal one. What distinguishes Morrison's book is that he's set out to distill the best bits from all the different eras of Superman, and he has a real sense of what worked in the different incarnations. By contrast, Frank Miller certainly put his personal stamp on All-Star Batman and Robin but would anyone on Earth argue that book is a distillation of the best things in Batman history?)

One of the most effective Legion stories ever was the introduction of Mordru in Adventure Comics #369, where we learn about an attempted conquest of Earth entirely in flashback as a means of building up a foe never seen before. It turned out to be far more effective than the multi-issue sagas where everything gets spelled out. I'd rate those two issues above "Earthwar" or "The Great Darkness Saga" which are so often held up as high points in LSH history.

In that spirit, the idea of a second "Five Years Later" jump offers tremendous possibilities. I can see a general shape for it: imagine some huge event has happened and the Waid/Kitson-era Legion has been through a time of trial. In this case, it would be the precise mirror image of the Giffen five year jump: we'd see a Legion that has faced adversity together, come to trust and rely on one another, and accepted their differences. What's more, they're acknowledged as heroes and honored by the public, and have to live up to that status. We take them straight to the goal -- retrofitting the latest Legion to incorporate whatever we want from past versions -- without all the tedious pipe-laying and exposition. We get on with the proper business of just telling good stories without having to rationalize how we got the characters to that point. And that five year period (alluded to but never shown) provides the framework of an implied shared history to remove the "new car smell" from a recreated Legion.

Marc

You've got it exactly right, RAB, and I envy your ability to say in two comments what took me two weeks. I don't want an Ultimate Legion or an All-Star Legion or any other sort of reboot; every one of them inches the Legion that much closer to death. But I would like to get to that family of twenty-five or so experienced, competent heroes without watching the writers lay it brick by tedious brick. Five Years Later, baby!

And I'm not sure Waid's version constitutes a great all-star team; the lack of anyone post-Adventure just makes it another nostalgia vanity project, akin to those that wrecked the Bierbaums run.

RAB

One clarification: I meant "all-star team" in reference to the creative team -- I've always assumed that was the sense in which the term was applied to those DC titles. As in "these are the best people we could have creating these books."

Matthew E

"I would like to get to that family of twenty-five or so experienced, competent heroes without watching the writers lay it brick by tedious brick."

Now this I can sympathize with entirely. I'm looking forward to that too. In fact, I've planned a post on my blog about this exact kind of thing... well, similar, anyway. The difference for me is that I'm notoriously patient with writers (not just comic-book, but prose too) when they're taking their time getting where they're going. How else could I have read 'Lord of the Rings' so many times?

Chris M.

I actually could go for a reboot that simply reconnected to the Legion around the time of the death of Superboy (either just before if you can keep Superboy around, or just after if you can't) -- this isn't my favorite stretch of Legion by any means, but it includes pretty much everything some previous Legion fan might love short of any soul-destroying elements like the curse of the Luck Lords or the Legion in jackets.

Just plug in and go. Yeah, it's clunky, it's even sucky in a way, but it accomplishes the best of all possible ends as far as I am concerned.

An intelligent, carefully executed Five Year Gap (part deux) that avoids the mistakes TMK made, yeah, I could live with that as a second option, but it has its own issues of Clunk and Suck as well. I see pros and cons to both approaches, but at this point I'm just so sick of new versions of the Legion that I'm comfortable with my "screw it, just reconnect to the past continuity and stick it in a pocket dimension and let it ride" recommendation.

Marc

I've just found this handy chart of Legion sales figures over the last ten years. It raises a couple of interesting points:

* The Legion fell into an abysmal hole late in the Peyer/McCraw/Stern years, as if you needed further confirmation.

* DC One Million actually was a surprisingly cool crossover and it had the sales spike to show it. Unfortunately the concept meant there could be almost no carryover to the regular titles. (Plus the Legion issues sucked.)

* Abnett and Lanning did great things to turn the franchise around, although perhaps not in the numbers DC wanted. A durable 50% increase in sales is amazing, but those sales were so low to begin with that DnA rarely cracked 25,000. I can see DC's bottom line, but it's still frustrating that the book got canceled after such a successful renovation.

* The "all-star" team of Waid and Kitson had a predictably huge effect on sales, more than doubling the numbers with their first issue. But look at the curve of that drop! They were losing readers faster than Stern and Peyer in the bad old days of Lori and Emerald Vi, and they were stabilizing at a point not that much higher than Abnett and Lanning. (I see I can measure my own departure within 900 readers!)

What does this have to do with the reboot? I think the numbers indicate it was largely unnecessary in the short term, and maybe counterproductive in the long run. I'm guessing most of the readers came for Waid and Kitson's names, the Teen Titans crossover, or the new number one, which would have applied whether they reset the continuity or not. Nearly half of those readers left; many of them came back for Supergirl but the book is already dropping again. Adding big-name creators and popular 21st-century characters is a great idea for boosting sales in the short term, but the reboot is irrelevant.

Except it makes me that much less likely to come back after Waid and Kitson are gone. Hell, even if they clean up their act next issue I'll still find the world and characters they've created much less interesting than the ones they replaced. I stuck around to see what happened to the Legion that developed over the previous thirteen years; the one that developed over thirteen issues, not so much.

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