Over the 50 years since the Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 in 1958, the team of teenagers from 1,000 years in the future have had adventures on hundreds of planets and multiple universes, traveling time and encountering most of the DC Universe. In celebration of their 50th anniversary and this week's beginning of the Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds mini-series, we asked some of the creators who have guided the team over the years to pick their favorite moments in Legion history.
Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds writer Geoff Johns picks this whole issue as one of his favorite stories. Written by Mark Waid and drawn by Stuart Immonen, the issue followed the Zero Hour event and was billed as "the beginning of tomorrow," launching a whole new era for the Legion. Johns says of the issue: "I was absolutely blown away with the subtleties of character when they re-imagined the Legion after Zero Hour. Most people talk about Starman being the series that was the break out of Zero Hour, but Legion and Legionnaires by Tom Peyer and Jeff Moy introduced new characters (like Gates and XS) that you fell in love with immediately. No easy task when rebooting the Legion."
Chosen by writer Dan Abnett as one of his favorite parts of Legion history, the "Five Years Later" period took place when Keith Giffen took over writing duties after long-time writer Paul Levitz left the Legion book. Restarted with a new creative team, the Legion comic didn't pick up right where the last series had left off. It instead started five years later. What resulted was readers being immersed in an immediate crisis that had to be overcome as the Legion faced a darker period than they ever had. Abnett said he picked "the mind-blowing power of Keith Giffen's 'Five Years Later' for being properly brave and properly sophisticated sci-fi comic books."
Keith Giffen picked this as a favorite moment in Legion history, and the story where it happened was named as a favorite by Paul Levitz. And there's no doubt it is often referred to by fans, particularly since the Karate Kid's reappearance in last year's Countdown weekly series. Recently collected into trade paperback, An Eye for an Eye tells the story of the Legion of Super-Villains uniting to take down the Legion. After Karate Kid had just married Princess Projectra, the happy couple returned from their honeymoon to find her planet taken over and Legion members imprisoned. In the climax of the storyline, the villain Nemesis Kid beats Karate Kid almost to death, and Karate Kid spends his last bit of strength before death succeeding in saving the Legion. Giffen says: "Whenever Karate Kid dies, I kind of rejoice a little. I'm nostalgic over the first time with Nemesis Kid. That was his best death. But anytime he dies is OK with me."
A galactic war between the United Planets and the Khunds, Earthwar is picked by Keith Giffen as one of his favorites by his Legion collaborator, Paul Levitz. As the Legion investigates an invasion by the Khunds, they discover there are other forces manipulating the war behind the scenes. "It's one of the few stories I wish I'd been involved with," Giffen said, since the pencils on the story were done by James Sherman and Joe Staton. "I would have loved to have drawn that story. And I think that was the first story in Legion where I saw what Legion stories could do. All the potential I've seen in the book is really, really there, because Paul is really starting to exploit it."
Ten years after the Legion first appeared in comics, readers finally learned the origin of the team in a story in Superboy #147 in 1968. It turned out that the three Legion members who had first appeared to Superboy in Smallville -- Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl -- were also the group's founders. The three had saved the life of millionaire R.J. Brande during an assassination attempt, and in gratitude, he decided to fund the Legion's activities. "If the first appearance was the cornerstone, the origin was the foundation that, for decades, the series was built upon," Shooter said.
Mark Waid enthusiastically named this as his all-time favorite Legion story. In the '60s, Jim Shooter introduced Legion readers to Mordru, the powerful sorcerer who would prove to be one of the team's most formidable foes. "The first Mordru story is the template for everything I like," Waid said. "The whole structure of that first Mordru story -- it's Adventure #369. It's the Legion unleashes this thing that scares the crap out of them, this sorcerer named Mordru that is so powerful that even Superbody is frightened and they have to retreat a thousand years in the past just to get breathing room, just to make a plan and buy time. And they go through an entire adventure there and you think everything's going to be OK, and you turn the page, and there's Mordru. They forgot -- oh crap. And it's just the greatest cliffhanger of all time."
This story by Legion writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and artist Oliver Coipel was picked by Geoff Johns as one of his favorites. It put the Legion outside their own universe, facing the Progeny, genocidal creatures who delete those who do not fit with the ruler Progenitor's wishes. The emotional and epic story, filled with plot twists and challenges for the Legion, ushered in yet another era for the superheroes of the future under the pen of Abnett and Lanning. "An obvious fan favorite, this is one of mine too. It led to a wonderful run that made me fall in love with the Legion all over again," Johns said.
DC President and Publisher Paul Levitz picks this as a favorite moment. The first real death of a Legionnaire, it would be referred to by Legionnaires for years to come. As Levitz told Newsarama: "Jim [Shooter] was obnoxiously good, and nobody has any right to be that good at 13 years old as a writer and particularly if you look at it in the context of what was being done, at DC in particular but in comics in general. The kind of storyline that he did there the consequences of a hero committing essentially heroic suicide, sacrificing himself for the benefit of his team the death of a character was still a very shocking thing in comics in, I think it was 1966, when the first of that came out. And doing a realistic sort of ghost story around the sacrificed character, which I guess is six months or a year later, is astounding stuff for that time and just has tremendous emotional depth for somebody who was too young to have any emotional depth at that point."
Jim Shooter picked the scene that's been often repeated in DC Comics, and will be retold when the Legion is introduced on TV's Smallville this season. Shooter says it "represents the seminal act of creation by Otto Binder and Al Plastino. It's the cornerstone." Readers first saw the Legion when three teenagers from the future travelled back in time to visit their inspiration, Superboy, in Adventure Comics #247. As Paul Levitz told Newsarama, "You've seen in so many different media the magic of, if you could go back in time and meet someone, who would you want to meet? And this was the comic book incarnation of that." Geoff Johns, who recently retold the first appearance story in an Action Comics arc, told Newsarama that the Legion helped teach a young Superboy all about truth, justice and the American way. "Back when Clark Kent was a kid, nobody else could fly. And he met these kids from the Legion, and they could fly. And all of them were aliens like him, from different worlds. It was the first time in his life that he felt like he wasn't completely an outsider. He felt like part of the club," Johns said.
Picked as a favorite moment by Keith Giffen and Geoff Johns and most of Legion fandom this epic by Paul Levitz told the story of a huge assault on the United Planets, and the surprise that Darkseid was behind it all. Giffen says: "There weren't a lot of artists lining up to draw the Legion back then... even I was waffling about it for awhile. And when Paul whispered in my ear, 'We've got this thing with Darkseid,' I was on board. I think that story was Paul and I at our best, and everything that came after was 'can you top this?'" Johns said of the story: "Simply one of the finest superhero epics ever done in comics, Legion or otherwise. It was one of the pinnacles of Paul's magnificent run the greatest run on Legion and an example any writer aspiring to do epic with character and heart should pore over."