Comic books were always great escapist fare as a kid, and still are for some adults, including yours truly. What youngster wouldn’t want to read about costumed crimefighters battling outlandish villains and making things right? Whether it was superpowered heroes like Superman and Thor, or mortals like Batman and Daredevil, the heroes appealed to my love of adventure and larger than life characters. However, what was even more appealing were the heroes closer in age, the youngsters like the Teen Titans, X-Men, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I could imagine myself as a teen superhero, even if adolescence was still years away, and nothing capture my imagination like DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes. DC’s Teen Titans and Marvel’s X-Men were okay, but the Legion was a force unto themselves. Unlike the X-Men or the Teen Titans, the Legion weren’t apprentice superheroes or junior versions of other heroes, but superheroes in their own right. When the galaxy summoned superheroes for help, the Legion answered the call.
The Legion of Super-Heroes had me from the first issue I read. I can’t remember exactly which issue it was, but it was, but I read my first issue in the mid 1970’s. Mike Grell was drawing the Legion at the time, and the book looked nothing short of fantastic. Writer Paul Levitz was beginning his legendary run on the book, and he did a great job capturing the feel of the 30th century. For a kid who loved Star Trek (Star Wars was a year or two off in the distance), the Legion seemed like the perfect synthesis of sci-fi and comic books.
The Legion had so much going for it. It had Superboy, the 20th century hero whose exploits had inspired the Legion’s formation, and a small army of superheroes with various powers (Interestingly, the Legion was appearing in Superboy’s comic book, but by the time I was reading the book, the Legion had all but taken over Superboy’s book). Since the Legion membership was so big, you never knew who was going to show up (although you could usually count on Legionnaires Chemical Kid and Tyroc being absent as the writers had no idea what to do with them). From what I remember, the Legion roster was limited to 25 members, which made for a large cast of characters to choose from. Rare was the issue when all members participated in an adventure (they were usually written out as being on other missions), so comics usually involved anywhere from five to eight members.
The Legionnaires came from a variety of worlds and each member had unique powers. The powers ranged from the silly such as Matter-Eater Lad (who could eat anything) to powerhouses like Mon-El (a variant of Superboy who somehow avoided the Legion’s prohibition against members with duplicate powers) and Wildfire (a being of pure energy whose body was contained in a special protective suit). In between were members such as Saturn Girl (telepathy), Shrinking Violet (the ability to reduce her body size), Shadow Lass (who could project impenetrable darkness), Lightning Lad (the ability to shoot out lightning), and Colossal Boy (who could grow to giant-like size). Since the Legion debuted in the Silver Age, it was no surprise most of the female Legionnaires had more passive powers, but the fact there were a large number of female Legionnaires was unusual as most comic teams had one female member (and on rare occasions, two).