Okay, comics fans, it doesn’t get much more geeky than this! As our esteemed columnist Steve Savage pointed out in his latest column, there’s just something about the Legion of Super-Heroes that grabs your imagination when you’re young and never lets you go. And how could it not grab your attention? The whole idea is intended to grab the imaginations of young readers.
An enormous group of teenagers who hang out together and fight evil bad guys in the 30th century while they fall in and out of live with each other? The amount of drama implied in that setting is completely palpable. Just as with any group of teens, there are characters who are insiders and outsiders. Here are the ten members of the LSH who have the warmest place inside my heart.
10. Matter-Eater Lad
Tenzil Kem of the planet Bismoll has the amazing, astonishing, only-in-the-’60s power of… super eating. Yes, when fighting the horrible masses of evil creatures who threaten the entire universe in the 30thcentury, some members of the Legion become giants or shoot lightning from their hands. But Matter-Eater Lad… eats stuff. And you know what? That power actually became incredibly useful.
In Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #251, M-E ate the amazing Miracle Machine, which has the power to turn thoughts into reality. The machine was running rampant, about to kill everyone, and so our hero got out his metaphorical knife and fork and had a very filling dinner. Unfortunately, eating the Machine made him insane – but that’s what heroes do, they sacrifice themselves for the greater good. And so this former laughingstock became a Great Man.
9. Princess Projectra
‘Jeckie makes the list for a few reasons. First, because her best-known costume is the ugliest and most improbable suit of any character in the Legion. Pretty much every character had their suits redesigned in the early 1970s by the legendary artist Dave Cockrum, and Princess Projectra wasn’t immune from that wave of excitement. If there was a pattern to the costumes, a big part of it was that all the women wore costumes that would look good on a dancer at your local strip club. Most improbably of all, Princess Projectra – an actual princess from a medieval-influenced world – was granted a suit that exposed her chest all the way from her neck to the top of her pelvis, and some absurd high boots – and to top it off, it’s all drawn in blazing hot pink. Just look at that suit! I gotta tell you, this heroine definitely caught the eye of pre-pubescent Jason!
But despite her slutty look, ‘Jeckie actually was a princess, through and through. Unlike some of her Legion amigas, our Princess had a regal presence that made her stand out. She was a serious woman, very committed to her role in life, and also very committed to her love for her improbable paramour, Karate Kid. KK was low born and a hero who fought with his hands – something Jeckie never did – but their love was real, and she ended up leaving the Legion for many years after avenging KK’s death.
And that brings me to the third reason why Jeckie makes this list: her second life as Sensor Girl. Wearing a mask and an all-covering suit, Jeckie had her powers increased so that she was a really strong, fighting member of the Legion. Sensor Girl’s identity was a great mystery during the ’80s, but despite that mystery, she ended up becoming the leader of the Legion. Yes, despite her mystery, the Princess finally became regal again. What’s more appropriate than that?
I always loved the hot-headed energy being Wildfire. His passion and anger seemed a perfect match for his powers. The guy could shoot energy from his hands and mask at the same time he would scream and yell at his teammates for their stupidity. His personality was the perfect match for the slick and flashy artists who often drew the Legion – Wildfire seemed to stand out among his compadres; compared with all the Lads and Boys and Kids, a hero with Fire in his name seemed to shake things up with the Legion.
Also, I love his costume! It’s so flashy but I think it looks great!
How can you make a list of best members of the Legion without including the first and greatest hero of them all, the man who inspired the Legion to form in the first place? The Legion loved Superboy, just plain adored him, and Superboy reciprocated that love right back at them. Whenever Clark traveled through time to hang out with his super-powered buddies, Superboy was profoundly happy in a way that he really never was able to be happy in any other way. Whenever he hanged out with the Legion, there was always a sense that he was getting away from his loneliness and getting to be with friends who were a lot like him. No wonder the lonely teenagers who loved comics liked the Legion! What better analogy to real life was that?
6. Chameleon Boy
Who wouldn’t love to be able to change themself into any object they wanted? The antenna-headed hero had that wonderful power, and was able to change himself into a range of creatures ranging from a Betelgusian space fly to a giant Rigellian monster beast.
This power allowed him to lead the Legion Espionage Squad, a group of characters that guaranteed that the story that resulted would be exciting and fun and very exciting.
The best aspect of Cham to me, though, was that he discovered one day that he was the son of the richest man of the galaxy, R.J. Brande. That might surprise many heroes – after all, Brande was a fat white man while Cham was an orange-skinned dude with antennae on his head, but through the machinations of crazy comic book lore, it all made sense. It had to make sense because that’s the way that comics have to be. How awesome would it be to discover that you were the son of Bill Gates?
5. Saturn Girl
Imra Ardeen was one of the founding members of the Legion, a beautiful psychically powerful woman. She could get into your head in more ways than one.
It always surprised me that despite her comparative weakness compared with other Legionnaires, that Imra was able to hold her own in fights with villains like t
he Fatal Five. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is a woman who helped found and build the Legion, working to publicize their work throughout the universe. It speaks volumes that this woman ended up serving multiple terms as leader of the Legion.
Since she made the rules, she was also able to break them. There was a long-standing rule against Legionnaires marrying and staying with the team, but since Imra made the rules, she was also able to break them. This woman knew what she wanted, and was driven to achieve them.
4. Cosmic Boy
Cos is the second of the founding members of the Legion, a dutiful and intense man who always seemed to work as the magnetic force holding the team together. This is a clever pun for me to make because Rokk Krinn had amazing magnetic powers that he could use to manipulate all kinds of metallic objects.
He’s also notorious for wearing one of the ugliest costumes that any male character ever wore in the history of comics, a bizarre outfit that looked kind of like black briefs with a bizarre breastplate, with handsome black boots – well, just check out that image next to this description and you can see what I mean.
I always liked that this wacky costume was such a huge contrast with Rokk’s personality. It’s fascinating that this quiet personality put on this completely exhibitionist outfit. It was if his inner self was always struggling to come out, like the quiet and retiring English professor who wears bright and crazy outfits. I always liked that Rokk had an outlet for the alternative side of himself.
Mon-El has one of the most tragic and heroic life stories of all heroes. He first burst to the attention of readers when he came to Smallville, speaking Kryptonian. Kal-El immediately believed that this young boy was his long-lost brother and quickly named him Mon-El. The two of them immediately became close friends, perhaps the first real friend that Superboy would ever have. The boy took on a civilian identity, moved in with the Kents, and seemed destined to really become the brother that Kal-El never had.
But there was a tragic twist to this news. There were clues that Mon-El and Kal-El weren’t brothers. Superboy was weak around Kryptonite but Mon-El was not. He had a much more tragic allergy than rare Kryptonite. Mon-El was fatally allergic to the common element of lead.
There was only one thing that could be done for Mon: he had to go into the Phantom Zone, that realm of ghosts that was intended for Kryptonian criminals, while waiting for a cure to his allergy. Mon-El went into the Phantom Zone for a thousand years. A thousand years of hell, surrounded by some of the most evil villains of the universe, never able to touch a single human being while just watching a world not his own change in front of his eyes.
But Mon-El wasn’t discouraged by his tragic fate. He was a heroic soul, a man as powerful in mind and spirit as he was in physical abilities. When the cure was finally found to his tragic fate, Mon-El was finally free to seek his heroic fate that was so long deferred.
Since then, Mon-El has been one of the absolute mainstays of the Legion, a man who would not be stopped in his quest to be a great hero against all odds.
2. Brainiac 5
If Mon-El represents the physical heart of the Legion, Brainiac-5 represents the intellectual heart of the Legion. No matter what incarnation of the Legion you love, our green-skinned and blonde hero was the smartest and most arrogant man in the universe. And if you had his mental ability, wouldn’t you be arrogant too? Brainy invented the fershlugginer Legion flight rings, for goodness sake! He also invented a zillion other important inventions for the Legion over the years. The guy earned his arrogance.
But Brainy wasn’t just intellect. He also had a whirlwind romance with a woman from far away: Supergirl. Kara and Brainic had a wonderful romance that helped our hero loosen up. It showed that he wasn’t just brains, but he also had a soul. The Crisis and Supergirl’s death hit him hard, and the poor guy never quite recovered from that. It only goes to show that no matter how smart you are, you can never control your emotions.
1. Lightning Lad
The final founding member of the Legion is perhaps the one member that it’s hardest to imagine the Legion being without. Every aspect of Garth Ranzz’s life was changed the day that he met Rokk Krinn and Imra Ardeen and saved the life of zillionaire R.J. Brande.
After that day, Garth’s whole life revolved around the Legion. He met his wife and best friend because of the Legion. He lost an arm because of the Legion, and was temporarily dead because of the Legion (he got better). He recruited his twin sister to join the Legion and was responsible for his brother becoming one of the arch-villains of the 30th century. Garth did everything he could do to recruit new members, improve the group and protect the universe.
He also has always looked cool. Any guy who can shoot lightning out of his hands always stands out in a crowd of heroes, and Garth’s fiery personality helped to keep him front and center with his team. And what a team it is.