This week's Justice League United Annual #1 by writer Jeff Lemire made it official — the Legion of Super-Heroes is back.
The Legion of Super-Heroes has experienced some confusing continuity since DC's New 52 reboot. Although the team seemed intact after the 2011 relaunch of DC's titles (even adding a spin-off title, Legion Lost), the final issue of Legion of Super-Heroes in August 2013 ended in a way that made it seem like the New 52 Legion was actually from a different Earth in DC's multiverse.
But was it? Readers had expected the current Justice League 3000 team to take its place, but writer Keith Giffen revealed on Newsarama that JL 3000 takes place on a completely different Earth. And the Legion Lost team, no matter where they started, ended up being left in current-day, New 52 continuity (although they haven't been seen since their comic was canceled).
And Levitz told Newsarama he meant to leave his story open-ended for another writer to perhaps explain when the Legion of Super-Heroes returned someday.
That return is now.
Despite all the loose ends, JLU writer Jeff Lemire has brought the team of characters from the 31st Century into the DCU. And according to our interview with the writer (and a couple hints in his Futures End issues), that includes the Legion Lost characters.
Lemire has been writing Justice League United since April, when he brought together some unexpected characters (and a youthful new one) for a space-traveling, surprisingly upbeat team book based in his home country of Canada.
In the Annual that came out this week, readers met a few of the Legion of Super-Heroes team members as they traveled back to the present to destroy Ultra the Multi-Alien, who's a child in the present — because he'll one day grow up to become the dangerous villain Infinitus.
Newsarama talked to Lemire to find out more about his Legion story, how he's dealing with Legion continuity, and what this take on the 31st Century means for the other future-based story he's co-writing, Futures End.
Newsarama: Jeff, the Legion of Super-Heroes has this confused continuity right now. I know it's the New 52, but there was already a Legion in the New 52. We've seen some hints that they might be from another Earth… or something. So is your Legion of Super-Heroes a new one, or one we've seen before?
Jeff Lemire: No, yeah, this is very much the traditional, sort of classic Legion.
And the Legion — you kind of hinted at it. It's very tricky at the moment, because there have been so many iterations of the Legion. And even in the New 52 it's gotten a bit confusing, I'll be honest.
So I just approached it not as a reboot or another re-imagining of the Legion. Rather, I just… as close as I can, I'm just bringing it back to what people think of as a classic Legion and not worrying too much about all the minutia of continuity.
It's very much the classic Legion.
Nrama: In the Justice League United Futures End issue (and the Justice League one as well), there seemed to be an acknowledgment of the characters that were left behind in Legion Lost. Correct?
Lemire: Uh… yeah. Yeah, I don't want to spoil that, because that's part of the story. But the Legion Lost characters are part of it. And then, like you said, five years from now, I've hinted that a couple Legionnaires are part of the Justice League. So we'll get to see over the course of that story how that happens.
Nrama: The January solicitations indicated a "penultimate" chapter of "The Infinitus Saga," where the Justice League United team will battle the Legion of Super-Heroes. But does the Legion story take the book through March, when most DC stories are wrapping up?
Lemire: Yeah, it does. It ends in March.
Nrama: The flash-forward you showed in the Annual is a Legion fan's dream come true. I assume you're a Legion fan?
Lemire: Yeah, huge, huge Legion fan. I've said that New Teen Titans was kind of my book growing up, but kind of my second favorite book was the [Paul] Levitz and [Keith] Giffen Legion comics from the '80s. So those two books were the ones that I really loved.
And then I continued to read pretty much every version of the Legion since. The Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning Zero Hour reboot of the Legion, I thought was brilliant. I just think it's really brilliant stuff. That's a great run. And Keith Giffen did a sort of dystopian adult version of the Legion in the '90s, Five Years Later, and I love that. That was one of my favorite comics when I was in my teens or whenever that came out.
So yeah, I've been a huge Legion fans since I was reading comics, at a really young age. It's sort of like fulfilling a little dream to get to write them in this story, for sure.
Nrama: I know you're not big on spoiling anything about your stories, but for Legion fans… is there more about the future and the other Legion members than just this one scene showing so many of them? We'll see more Legionnaires?
Lemire: Yes. We'll see every Legionnaire. I think every single Legionnaire is in the story [laughs].
As hard as it is with that many characters, I tried to give them all at least one little moment. Obviously, some characters kind of become more important to the story and get a little more time on-panel, but they're all there, and they all have at least one little moment.
Nrama: It's got to be interesting for you, as a writer on Futures End — how do you write the 31st Century when the five-years-from-now stuff is only a potential future? I assume you've worked that out in your head?
Lemire: I worked that out by completely not over thinking it [laughs]. It's just sort of a fun story.
The Legion is the Legion.
And I just present the classic 31st Century Legion that I think most fans would know. And I just embraced that and had fun with it, and I didn't over think the continuity of which future is real and how is Futures End going to affect that and all the other stuff.
At the end of the day, you just want to tell a good story, and sometimes continuity is useful in that, and sometimes it can get in the way.
Nrama: Justice League United is filled with characters that other creators might view as a challenge to bring together in a team, but you've made it into a more upbeat title than a lot of DC's team books. You're taking quirky characters and doing something a little different with them as well.
Lemire: Yeah, I mean, I think we've talked about this before, but I've always enjoyed the second- and third-tier characters more than the main… you know, the big guys like Batman or Superman. I just find them more interesting, and it gives me a little bit more freedom to interpret them and stuff.
One of my favorite things about the DC Universe, growing up as a reader, was just how big it was and just how many characters and superheroes there were. And how many odd characters there were.
So yeah, I mean, I love using those characters.
And I also felt like, I don't know, I think I was just getting sick of the very "serious-minded" takes on superheroes. You know, the grim, gritty, serious superhero stories, where superheroes are always fighting each other.
I don't know. I felt fatigued by that.
I wanted to remind myself that superheroes should be fun too. You know? And they should have fun doing what they do. I just wanted to embrace the fun of it.
And the big, cosmic scope of it gave me a chance to have a bit of awe and wonder return to the world of superheroes, and have them react that way, as opposed to taking everything so seriously.
Nrama: That's interesting, because you were the one who made Green Arrow and Animal Man so serious.
Lemire: Yeah [laughs], yes.
Nrama: They're ready for some fun too?
Lemire: Yeah. You know, you spend so much time writing a character the way I did with Buddy Baker and then Green Arrow that you start to care about them. And you almost think of them as people, you know?
And I felt like I put them through so much horrible, horrible stuff that they deserved a little fun, especially Buddy. He just went through so much torment. It was just… I just wanted to see him have fun and enjoy himself again. So it was kind of cathartic, I think, for me.
Nrama: The Justice League United features a few young characters, and we'll be seeing your Teen Titans Earth One book in November. And now you're introducing the Legion of Super-Heroes to JLU, which is another young team. Is this something you particularly enjoy?
Jeff Lemire: Yes! I love writing characters who are kind of reacting to these bigger, kind of fantastic worlds. It feels more grounded. And I guess there's just something about younger characters that lends itself to that.
I've always enjoyed teen characters, and kids as well. For whatever reason, I seem to have an ability to do it sort of well and I enjoy doing it.
Check back on Newsarama soon as we talk to Jeff Lemire about his upcoming graphic novel that updates another teen team — Teen Titans Earth One.