One of the things I wrote that was most popular during my stay at Livejournal was this – a thirty-day campaign, by me, to convince DC Comics to let me write Legion of Super-Heroes. It was never in fact intended to be a super-serious thing inasmuch as it was a simple fan effort designed to hammer home everything that is utterly and completely awesome about the Legion, and an examination of how I felt the series should be written. It is reproduced here by popular demand (and who knows, maybe somebody at DC sees it and says “well, why not” – SHUT UP IT COULD HAPPEN).
As good a start as any, and endemic of what I think the Legion should be, namely turning the dial to eleven whenever humanly possible. Batman fights entire gangs? That’s cool – Karate Kid fights entire planets.
Throughout the campaign, people kept emailing me and asking me how it happened, and when I refused to tell them, they always wondered if I was just stringing them along or what. The answer is no: I was reading some science news about theoretical physics years ago and thought, “huh, that would be a good way to fuck around with a precognitive.” This is the sort of thing that happens to you when you’re a giant nerd.
It’s also important to note that the destruction isn’t gratituous; I have a serious problem with Naltor because its existence (and the existence of Dream Girl for that matter) requires the Legionnaires to be complete idiots – either they admitted someone with a useless power or they’re not using her properly, because if you have someone who can reliably predict the future, any idiot would make use of that resource regularly. Now, you might say that destroying the entire civilization is a bit extreme, but then again they destroyed Orando and that didn’t even have a particularly good reason behind it.
The first point where there was a little backlash. Legion fandom tends to be sharply divided over how Brainiac Five should act: there are devout fans of both friendly, enthusiastic old-school Brainy and somewhat-assholic new-school Brainy.
From the original post:
Firstly, I feel the need to explain that Brainiac Five is my favoritest superhero ever. He is a super-scientist, which is of course awesome, but beyond that you get into the doctoral aspects of his personality, the interesting character development of occasional emotional instability that rightly comes with all that intelligence, and the wonderful fact that he ended up falling for Supergirl and she fell right for him in response, and on top of that the truth that he’s never ever had a relationship end well – I don’t understand how anybody can not love the character.
See, here’s the thing. I agree that Brainy being a dick can be taken too far. He is, after all, a superhero on a superhero team and therefore should, you know, be recognizable as a good guy and stuff. He’s not Vril Dox, who’s an icy-cold Machiavellian manipulator and who’s more akin to Lex Luthor than Brainy.
But on the other hand, Brainy has Issues. He has shitloads of them. I mean, we are talking about somebody who was banished from the DC Universe’s official Genius Planet for being too smart, which probably set him off as being extremely emotionally defensive from an early age. The guy is saddled with the name of one of DC history’s greatest villains, for crissake! I’ve always felt he didn’t take it by choice, I might add. A name like “Brainiac Five” has all the tones of a death sentence. “You’re Brainiac Five. We already know you’re going to go bad and kill a lot of people. We’re just making sure everybody knows in advance.”
I’ve also always felt that Brainy suffers from the mental equivalent of Pietro Maximoff Syndrome, where he’s always three thousand steps ahead of everybody else to figure out the problem at hand and devise a solution. By the time somebody else says “hey, maybe we can do this,” Brainy is already on plan number fourteen and biting his lip to keep from asking what’s taking them so goddamned long. (In a lot of emotional minefield navigation, Brainy’s plans will of course be completely wrong in all their assumptions, but dude can’t be right about everything.)
Ultimately? I lean towards a middle ground for Brainy – less friendly than the early versions, but less dickish than the near-psychotic currently running around in the threeboot Legion. He should have emotional issues, and he should be acerbic – but if he was a total manipulative asshole, he wouldn’t be on a superhero team in the first place.
I spoke about the “toybox rule” when I introduced Girl Detective – if you want to write a comic, you should be prepared to put two “toys” (concepts: villains, places, ideas, etc.) in the toybox for every toy you remove. Simply having the Legion fight Darkseid yet again is not new, no matter how awesome the Legion fighting Darkseid may be. Similarly, new heroes and villains and especially new Legionnaires should be a matter of course, rather than simply going to the well. That way lies boredom.
(And the tagline somebody came up with – “it’s Veronica Mars! In SPACE!” – is all too apropos.)
Of course, the other facet of the Toybox Rule is that the toybox itself is actually pretty goddamned full of awesome. And Blok deserves to be brought back from the toybox and put into regular use again. He is a big lovable guy made of rock who punches people. All big lovable guys made of rock who punch people (the Thing, Strata in L.E.G.I.O.N., et cetera) are fantastic.
That having been said, re-emphasizing the White Witch/Blok “romance”? Creepy. I am just saying.
I lied about this one. Actually, in my imagined storyline, there are two (unrelated) traitors. One of them is reluctant. One of them really, really isn’t.
I love the Legion of Super-Villains concept, but to make it work you need either an enormous backstock of Legion bad guys sitting around and doing nothing (which is what Levitz and Giffen did on their classic LSV story), or you need another way for something as ornately silly a concept as an organized supervillain team to work.
My idea involved the Anti-Matter Universe, and having the LSV be the 31st century equivalent of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika: imagining an LSV where Pulsar Stargrave (the anti-matter Brainiac Five) has enslaved half of the Legion with telepathic nanochips, his control blunted only by the small but powerful faction of Villionaires who are naturally resistant to such tricks. This would of course would be the original Legion of Super-Villains: Cosmic King, Saturn Queen, and Lightning Lord. Of course, that faction would be rife with betrayal and plotting amongst themselves, as Cosmic King and Saturn Queen carried on an illicit affair behind Lightning Lord’s back – who in turn would be cheating on Saturn Queen with his sister (ewwwwww!).
I just like the idea of space whales. They bring atmosphere to the universe; the underlying assumption that the universe is a place teeming with life (as opposed to the likelihood that it is largely barren) is one that makes the Legion setting work nicely, and whales swimming through outer space embodies that concept.
Tony Bedard recently reintroduced Tenzil Kem into the threeboot Legion universe and like most writers nowadays started from the wrong point, introducing Tenzil as a non-superheroic antagonist for the Legion. Yes, Tenzil is a good character because he’s funny, but any character can be the funny one; what makes Tenzil unique is that he possesses an amazingly silly superheroic power and he’s in the Legion, mostly on the basis of sheer goddamned balls. Tenzil being a lawyer or a fry cook (as he was during the “Archie Legion” period) completely misses the point. (Of course, Bedard was probably setting up for Tenzil joining the Legion. I don’t know. It never panned out.)
Of course, it then becomes reasonable to ask why the Legion would give someone with such a useless superpower a flight ring. And the answer is self-evident: they didn’t. He stole one. Because if you’ve got the balls to call yourself a superhero when your power is eating rocks, you’ve certainly got the balls to steal from the Legion of Super-Heroes for your own (altruistic) ends…
Everybody universally loved this one, which is entirely reasonable, because it is gorillas in space, and if you read DC comics at all, that means you probably like gorillas and you probably like space adventures. Sometimes you just have to know your target market, you know? (Of course, I think “gorillas in space” is the sort of concept with which you can go broader-appeal. But that’s me.) The idea of combining the Gorilla City gorillas with a sort of Battlestar Galactica feel is one I particularly like.
I’m not suggesting that Timber Wolf become Wolverine, but here’s the thing: he needs some sort of hook, and the animalistic one, while not exactly the most original thing around, works reasonably well for the character. Just having him be a badass in a duster is painfully generic – yes, more generic than “animal man worried about his humanity.” (Actually, he wouldn’t worry too much about his humanity, but more about what happens if he becomes a furry dude and suddenly Projectra isn’t interested any more.)
This was an idea for a done-in-one single issue story, and of course you know right away that it can’t actually be Batman (editorial dictates, et cetera), so the question for the issue then becomes who he is, and the point of the issue is to dip into futuristic neo-noir and possibly have Shadow Lass wear a fedora or something. The future is a wide-open place. You can do a lot with it other than the standard space-opera fare traditionally ascribed to the Legion. Sure, the space opera is the bread-and-butter, but every so often, for a single issue…?
If I was going to point to any single idea for a Legion comic that emerged from the campaign as being the absolute best one, it would be this – and since this is just really a transfer of one of the more inspired ideas from the cartoon, that’s kind of humbling. But in the context of a Superboy/Superman-less Legion, Alexis Luthor works even better, because she instantly becomes what the comic needs so firmly – an ongoing, threatening antagonist, a deadly romantic matchup for Brainiac Five, Supergirl’s bitterest enemy.
Alexis Luthor, absolute ruler of Lexor Prime. You know that shit is choice.
People really loved this, which is funny because it was just a one-off idea I had and threw it in as a joke.
Moral: you never really know what the audience actually wants.
And they’ve already reintroduced the Fatal Five, sort of, in the new Brave and the Bold comic. I hope it doesn’t stick or it’s a time anomaly or something, because this current Fatal Five is way too retro-flavoured for my tastes.
I see the Fatal Five as being standards for the Legion – you write a Batman comic, sooner or later you got to write a Joker story, and you write a Legion comic, sooner or later you got to write a Fatal Five story. That doesn’t mean they’re boring or predictable – after all, these guys should be downright terrifying. But they’re standards, and you have to occasionally pander to the force of comics history a bit. Of course, you can put your own spin on it…
For the record: Mano, Validus, Tharok and Persuader would have been the most notorious criminals of the 24th century (the infamous “dark period” of galactic history), brought forward in time by the Emerald Empress – who would be revealed, eventually, as Kinetix. No, not the threeboot universe’s version of Kinetix. The actual Kinetix from the reboot-era Legion, finally achieving the dark destiny she was always going to have. (Poor Zoe – but then again, we all knew she was power-hungry right from the get-go.)
I really hate female characters who wear sex-bikinis and shit like that. Next.
I received a lot of guesses as to who was behind the Empire of D. Some people guessed Darkseid, even though I specifically said “it’s not Darkseid” and meant it. I also received two guesses from people who figured it out, and one of them even tied it into one of the other points in the I Should Write The Legion series successfully. I’m not sure if that means it’s a good plot or not. I like it, though.
I just like robots, and Abnett and Lanning’s run on the title ended before they could do anything funky with this guy. Why hasn’t there ever been a robot Legionnaire, anyway? (Oh, right, Computo. Oh well.) The time is long since overdue for a heroic robot Legionnaire, I say.
Okay, so this is pandering a bit to the nostalgia crowd, but so what – I like the Substitute Legion. I like scrappy underdogs. I liked all the Bad News Bears movies. (Even when they went to Japan.) I don’t think they should be played for laughs, so much – but then my fondest memories of the Subs are when they were all that was left to form the resistance against the Dominators in the v4 Legion, and they comprehensively kicked ass.
Also: Stone Boy. (Or possibly replacing him with Ferro Lad. I remain undecided.)
Arguably the least popular idea in the series, as people accused me of trying to make the Legion “anime” (as if I already had the book or something, which certainly both flattered and amused). My response to this is:
1.) There are worse things than taking influences from the most popular form of animation and comics in America today to try and broaden the appeal of a given superhero comic book;
2.) He’s one villain in the entire thing;
3.) Cyber-demons are pretty cool, and
4.) It opens up the concept of magic back to the Legion, which is something the team needs – not necessarily a magic-using member, but certainly the existence of magic makes things more difficult for a team so strongly oriented towards science. (The team’s general lack of comfort with magic should be played up – it’s another one of the ways that the Legion are the heroic heirs to Superman specifically.)
One of the things about the Legion that really makes it work for me is that death in this comic is Death. You die and that is it, generally speaking – there’s no takebacks, no resurrections most of the time. It gives the book gravitas that a lot of superhero comics lack. (Do not get me started on the whole Dream Girl thing.) I mean, death in X-Men is pretty much a running joke now. “Why do they even bother having funerals,” et cetera – but if there’s a statue at Shanghalla, that should mean something. And in Legion, the deaths are rightly and universally heroic.
Pretty self-explanatory: go big or go home.
Interestingly, someone asked me after they saw this if this meant I wanted to do a Time Trapper story. I told them no, because, well – Paul Levitz wrote “Life and Death And The End of Time” already, and how do you top that shit? I mean, Brainiac Five beats the Time Trapper, the personification of universal entropy, by literally hitting him with the personification of Big Bang/Big Crunch cycle theory. That’s scientific debate reframed as superhero beat-em-up on a grand scale. It’s genius. Why would you want to try and retell it?
…and then I thought of a way to do a Time Trapper story and make it fresh. But it would have to be a run-culminating story. You would have to spend years leading up to it. It would be almost impossible in the current comics climate. But it’s doable.
This one is not strictly for fannish reasons; R.J. Brande is simply a good idea. There have been a lot of process stories written about how the Legion interacts with the United Planets and how they get money and they are all boring. Brande lets you get past that immediately with a little story handwaving.
From my notes:
“The Legion travels to Rombat to serve as observers at the tension-filled peace talks between the Traditionalist Cortex and the Neoexpansionist Lobe. The planet’s political situation is more or less like Northern Ireland. (Except they are giant floating brains.)”
(People accused me of ripping off Futurama. Where do they think Futurama got the idea from, anyway?)
This was just my little nod to the wideness of the Legion’s universe: there’s an entire prison planet! One of the things Waid did well in his run at times was point out how widespread and weird and awesome the 31st century could be, constantly trying to top himself (the Bottle Planet of Colu! The beings made entirely of light! Et cetera). You can always come up with a new wild crazy setting for the Legion to have an adventure in. It’s one of the great strengths of the series.
They’re done. They’re so done. You know I’m right about this. We have just about reached that time where it is time to put the zombies back in their zombie-box and let them sit for ten years or so. Land Of The Dead was just the first hint of this, then 28 Weeks Later came along to stink up the joint, and god knows how bad the new Day of the Dead remake will be…
(For those who are wondering, bears were the new zombies, and 70s muscle cars are the new bears. I am unsure as to what will be the new 70s muscle cars, but my money is on cowboys.)
Despite the choice of graphic, this is not me wanting to write the Legion as Planetary.
This is about the fact that the Legion’s adventures are set in the 31st century, and that there’s a lot of ground to make up between then and now. Compare what’s happened between now and the 11th century. (Britain had just been invaded by the Normans, for a start, which would make the difference in their ruling class that would, I would argue, eventually lead to their prominent role in history.)
Now, the Legion in recent decades has usually had a pattern of “atomic wars” or other similar tragedies filling up the intervening years to make sure that their knowledge of history isn’t entirely complete (so they can have the occasional 21st-century teamup without constantly having to get around “by the way, in a year’s time, I’d suggest you DUCK rather than DODGE when you’re fighting Bane” and similar). Said tragedies also explain why 1000-years-later science, while awesome, isn’t quite as superadvanced as it might be.
What this means, additionally, is that every time there’s a tragedy affecting most of the civilized cosmos, it turns into a technological “do-over” as interstellar civilization reboots itself. Which means there’s a lot of deadly oldtech weaponry tucked away out there, for starters, but also technological wonders that never had the chance to develop into full-blown scientific fields – a hundred thousand Nikolai Teslas on a galactic scale over a millennia. And, of course, there’s tons of other weird things out there as well. The secret of the Amazon Planet, the lost migratory patterns of the Stellarphants, the last will and testament of Space Cabby…
Oh, and here’s one more thing. With the mental destruction of Colu and the subsequent (and suspicious) destruction of their extensive historical archives, there’s only three remaining major sources in the galaxy for all this historical knowledge. One is Brainiac Five, obviously – and his knowledge is of course incomplete at best. The second and third are the respective houses of Luthor and El. Of course, nobody knows that the House of El still exists, seeing as how they disappeared over a century ago (and wouldn’t Alexis Luthor love to know where they are). And I’m sure that that nice roving reporter Richard Kent Shakespeare, who works at the Daily Planet, wouldn’t know a thing about where they are.
Another new Legionnaire. She (yes, “she,” girl gorilla) is awesome, because she is a smart gorilla who can rip your arms off if she feels like it. But she would not do that, because she is nice. Brainy’s had a lot of scientific Legionnaire “foils” to bounce his ideas off of over the years (in the Zero Hour reboot Legion, for example, it was Invisible Kid; before that it varied because many of the Legionnaires had scientist backgrounds); this would be the latest. And, because she is a gorilla, obviously superior.
Repeat after me, everybody: Ultra Boy is Han Solo. That’s his character model. Ultra Boy is an ex-petty-criminal who got superpowers and is trying to make good. He’s reckless, prone to taking risks (“the chances of successfully navigating an asteroid field are seven hundred and twenty to one!”), and his first (note: not his only) thought regarding any supervillain will usually be “beat them up.”
But he’s not stupid. He’s got more contacts in the galactic underworld than anybody else in the Legion, and he knows how to navigate it better than anybody else to boot. (Which is to say “at all,” really, because the rest of the Legion just doesn’t know anything about that. Except maybe Timber Wolf. But I digress.) He is streetwise.
He is not, say, a dumb thug who throws a tantrum because Supergirl is stronger than he is. I am just saying.
And we close off with a big “nuff said.” From the original post:
I could go for another thirty. Seriously. It would be easy. Most of what I’ve outlined here thus far is either character notes or the elements of the first two years’ worth of stories. I haven’t mentioned, for instance:
- Star Boy’s new(ish) powers
- the prophecy of Supergirl’s last battle
- Anti-Lad and the 75th Century’s League of Super-Sentients
- the deadly mystery of the Infinite Girl
- Ultra Boy’s murder trial
- the significant ticks of the Great Galactic Clock
- what those rascally Khunds are doing during all of this
- the cosmic retreat of Bgtzl
And so on. But there comes a point when it is right and proper to end these sorts of campaigns, and I’ve done an entire month of this and I know full well it’s time to end. (No doubt some are relieved.) If you want more Legion from me, sign the petition and/or email DC Comics or what have you.
Except, of course, it didn’t end there, and I did another twenty reasons. Sometimes you just end up being a glutton for punishment.
(The petition, again, for those so interested, is here.)