As we all know, for better or worse, the DC Universe is a place of constant reinvention. Ever since the dawning of the Silver Age of Comics, DC has consistently reimagined its most popular heroes for new generations of readers, the New 52 reboot notwithstanding. While Marvel entered the Silver Age with a host of brand new heroes such as the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, DC jumpstarted the era with new incarnations of classic Golden Age mystery men such as the Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom.
With news of Marvel’s “Generations” dropping this past week and the imminent return of the JSA in DC’s “Rebirth” initiative, we thought it prudent to compile a list of our favorite DC legacy heroes. Drawn from all corners of the DCU, these heroes embrace the legacies of their iconic forebears, while carving out their own place in history as legends.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by DC Comics.
15. JACK KNIGHT
Jack Knight never wanted to be a legacy hero. Despite this, he serves as a prime example of the archetype, carving his own path as a reluctant hero, while honoring his father Ted’s career as the Golden Age Starman. Created by James Robinson and Tony Harris, Jack first appeared in 1994’s “Zero Hour” #1 and only took up the mantle of Starman after his older brother David was murdered by the Mist’s deranged son. As the new Starman, Jack served briefly with the Justice Society of America but seemed more concerned with exploring the histories of various other Starmen, his journey of discovery taking him across time and space.
Ultimately, Jack’s career as Starman was relatively short but few legacy heroes burned as brightly for many readers and critics. He retired from the superhero biz after the birth of his son and discovering his girlfriend Sadie was pregnant with his unborn daughter. He passed on his signature Cosmic Rod to Courtney Whitmore, who took on the name Stargirl to honor the Knight legacy.
14. SUPERBOY (CONNOR KENT)
One of the most popular members of the Superman Family, Connor Kent (Kon-El) debuted in “Adventures of Superman” #500 as one of a handful of replacements seeking to fill the void left by the death of Superman after his monumental battle with Doomsday. Created by Dan Jurgens and Tom Grummet, Connor was actually a clone created by the nefarious Project Cadmus from the combined genetic material of Superman and his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor.
Readers immediately embraced Connor’s youthful energy and brash personality and he went on to become a beloved member of Young Justice and the Teen Titans. His death during “Infinite Crisis” was short-lived and he returned in the 30th century in time to help the Legion of Super-Heroes defeat the villain who killed him, Superboy-Prime. Although there was a new version of Kon-El introduced during the New 52 reboot, the character was universally panned and faded into obscurity. The Connor Kent we all know and love is so far absent from “Rebirth,” a new, younger Superboy taking up the name as the son of Superman and Lois Lane.
13. MANHUNTER (KATE SPENCER)
Created by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz, Kate Spencer debuted in 2004, as the star of her own solo series, “Manhunter.” A former district attorney, who cobbled together her superhero identity from several previous heroes, Kate wore a Darkstars power mantle, a pair of Azrael’s old gauntlets and a staff used by a previous Manhunter named Mark Shaw. She enjoys ties to numerous Golden Age mystery men, including the original Atom, Al Pratt, who she believed was her grandfather, until it was revealed he substituted his name on her father’s birth certificate, when fellow mystery man Iron Munroe bailed on her grandmother, Sandra Knight, the original Phantom Lady.
Largely absent from post-New 52 continuity, save for a stint as Gotham City’s district attorney in “Gotham by Midnight,” the character seems to have since been relegated to editorial limbo. With rumblings of the return of the JSA emanating through DC’s ongoing “Rebirth,” we’re hoping Kate’s rich history as a legacy hero once again comes to the fore.
12. HUNTRESS (HELENA WAYNE)
The daughter of the Batman and Catwoman of Earth-Two, Helena Wayne first appeared in 1977, in “DC Super-Stars” #17. Created by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton, Helena served as a member of the pre-Crisis JSA and Infinity Inc., alongside other legacy heroes such as Power Girl, Silver Scarab and Fury. She was killed by the Anti-Monitor’s Qwardian Thunderers during “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and was eventually replaced in the rebooted continuity by Helena Bertinelli, a new Huntress with an entirely different origin.
When DC decided to reboot continuity yet again during the New 52, Helena Wayne returned as a displaced hero of Earth 2. Once again the daughter of Selena Kyle and Bruce Wayne, she served as Robin until she was transported to Prime Earth, along with the Earth 2 Supergirl during their parents’ final stand in the war with Apokolips. There they became the World’s Finest duo, Huntress and Power Girl. They would eventually return home just in time to witness the destruction of Earth 2, during the “World’s End” storyline. But that wasn’t to be their end. The pair has been instrumental in rebuilding Earth 2, with Helena taking up the mantle of the Bat as the newest Batman.
11. JADE & OBSIDIAN
The Earth-Two offspring of the Golden Age Green Lantern and his nemesis Rose Canton, Jade and Obsidian first appeared in 1983’s “All-Star Squadron” #25 as founding members of Infinity Inc. Jade was born with the ability to tap into the Starheart, the source of her father’s vast powers, while Obsidian possessed powers fueled by the Shadowlands. The siblings managed to survive 1985’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” but Jade perished during “Infinite Crisis,” sacrificing her life attempting to stop Alexander Luthor Jr. from creating a new multiverse. Obsidian, having inherited his mother’s schizophrenia, turned down a darker path, battling his father and the JSA until his sanity was restored in the aftermath of a battle with Mordru and Eclipso.
When the New 52 rebooted DC’s continuity, Alan Scott was reborn on Earth 2 as a gay man, effectively erasing his heroic children from existence. However, as we all know, nothing is permanent in the world of comics. With the imminent return of the classic JSA rumored to occur at some point during DC’s latest “Rebirth,” there is still hope that legacy heroes like Jade and Obsidian will accompany their legendary forebears on their journey back into established canon.
10. JESSE QUICK
Before DC’s New 52 reboot effectively erased her from existence, Jesse Belle Chambers was the daughter of two Golden Age members of the All-Star Squadron, Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick. She was created by Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck and debuted in 1992’s “Justice Society of America” Vol. 2 #1. Initially a reluctant hero, Jesse’s father taught her his super speed formula, hoping she would continue his legacy as a hero. Over the course of her career she helped Wally West train Bart Allen to be the next Flash, almost losing her leg in the process. She also served as a valued member of the JSA, finally embracing her father’s heroic legacy.
Although she was originally only able to employ her father’s speed powers, she later learned to tap into her mother’s abilities, adding superhuman strength to her arsenal. Shortly before the New 52 reboot, Jesse served as a member of the Justice League for a short time, until she discovered her pregnancy was the reason for a recent loss of speed. The child wouldn’t be born until much later, during “Convergence,” when multiple timelines were fused together by the artificial being known as Telos.
9. POWER GIRL
The problem with perpetual reboots and retcons is that the origins of some characters become irrevocably convoluted, if not outright perplexing. Along with heroes like Hawkman and Donna Troy, Power Girl is one such character. Created by Gerry Conway, Joe Orlando and Ric Estrada, Kara Zor-L first appeared in 1976, in “All-Star Comics” #58. Originally based on the character of Supergirl, Kara was the Earth-Two cousin of Superman and served alongside the mystery men and women of the Justice Society of America and was a founding member of Infinity Inc.
When DC streamlined the multiverse during “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Power Girl’s origin was drastically changed, giving her a new Atlantean heritage. Subsequent retcons re-established her Kryptonian roots but the New 52 reboot once again confused matters by transporting her to a new Earth 2, where she was that world’s Supergirl. Last seen as a member of a new society of “wonders” in the final issue of “Earth 2: Society,” Kara’s fate is presumably up in the air, as the DCU prepares for the return of the classic JSA as a part of its latest “Rebirth.”
8. DONNA TROY
If you thought Power Girl’s history was confusing, then you’ll likely find Donna Troy’s numerous origins downright discombobulating. Originally introduced to the wider DCU as a founding member of the Teen Titans, in 1965’s “The Brave and the Bold” #60, Donna’s origins have been overwritten so often over the intervening years, it’s nearly impossible to make sense of her history. When the New 52 essentially erased the classic version of the Teen Titans, Donna was once again recast in a new role, this time as a magically-infused lump of clay meant to be used against Wonder Woman as a weapon.
Then “Titans Hunt” re-established some of the original elements of the pre-Flashpoint timeline, revealing that Donna had left Themyscira five years earlier and helped found the Teen Titans as Wonder Girl. In “Titans Annual” #1, when members of the Titans and Justice League are captured by the Key, Wonder Woman reveals Donna’s true origins, noting her memories had been erased so that she could never be used against her mentor. The news devastated Donna and it remains to be seen how this latest wrinkle affects her new status quo as a Titan.
7. MISTER TERRIFIC (MICHAEL HOLT)
Created by legendary collaborators John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, Michael Holt made his first appearance in 1997’s “Spectre” #53. Depressed by the deaths of his brother and his wife (who was carrying their unborn son), he contemplates suicide, until the Spectre tells him about Terry Sloane, the Golden Age Mister Terrific, who used his natural genius and athletic skills to fight crime alongside the JSA. Self-described as the third smartest man in the world, Holt determines to follow Sloane’s example, creating a new Mister Terrific identity.
A polymath with doctorates in 14 different disciplines and a gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete, Holt joined the JSA and eventually rose to the position of chairman of the storied group. In the New 52, his ties to the JSA and the Spectre were erased and he instead became a self-made millionaire CEO, who used his talents to fight crime. He eventually crossed paths with the evil Terry Sloan from Earth 2, who stranded him for a time on that planet. His current status, given the onset of “Rebirth,” remains to be seen. Never fear, though, until he reappears in the comics, you can catch up with the live-action version of Mister Terrific, Curtis Holt, on the CW’s “Arrow.”
6. BLUE BEETLE (JAIME REYES)
Jaime Reyes became the third person to take up the mantle of Blue Beetle, after Max Lord murdered his former colleague Ted Kord in “Countdown to Infinite Crisis.” Created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers and Cully Hamner, Jaime first appeared in “Infinite Crisis” #3, when he came into possession of the alien scarab that granted the original Blue Beetle (Dan Garrett) his powers. An instant hit with readers, Jaime was a popular member of the Teen Titans and starred in his own solo series that explored the scarab’s alien origins and its connection to ancient Egypt, where it had become infused with magical energies.
In the New 52 DCU, Jaime’s connection to previous Blue Beetles was retconned out of existence and the scarab became an artifact of alien technology. The scarab’s origins were once again massaged by DC’s “Rebirth” event, once more connecting it to ancient Egyptian sorcery. Currently working with a resurrected Ted Kord to unravel the scarab’s convoluted origins, Jaime is a reluctant hero trying to balance his crimefighting duties with the turbulent life of a teenager.
5. GREEN LANTERNS
As one of the cornerstones of the DC Universe, Green Lantern is one of those properties outside of DC’s holy trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, who never seem to go out of style. Like the Flash, there must always be a Green Lantern and so there has been, even when things looked bleakest. From Alan Scott’s mystical origins to the character’s Silver Age sci-fi reinvention as a member of a corps of spacefaring cops, there has always been a Green Lantern in the DCU. For a time, after Hal Jordan turned heel, that was Kyle Rayner, the last surviving Green Lantern, who eventually helped restore the interstellar corps to its former glory.
The newest Green Lanterns on the block are Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, who are appointed the protectors of Earth by Hal Jordan, after they fail a training exercise. Jordan fuses their power batteries together, so that both must be present to use it, thus somehow ensuring that they have the necessary skills to defend the world in his absence, though the logic seems sketchy to us. Both Green Lanterns currently serve as members of the Justice League, benefiting from the team’s intensive on-the-job training.
4. THE FLASH (WALLY WEST)
Truth be told, we could have chosen any number of speedsters as the Flash’s legacy hero, including the newest Kid-Flash, but nobody fills the Scarlet Speedster’s gilded boots better than the man who actually was the Flash for more than two decades, the original Wally West. Although he first appeared way back in 1960’s “The Flash” #110 (created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino), to many readers, Wally has just as much claim to the Flash’s legacy as Barry Allen.
Considered by many of his peers to be one of the most experienced heroes in the DCU due to the length of his career, Wally was a founding member of the Teen Titans and served on several incarnations of the Justice League. He remains an important part of DC canon, despite a long absence from continuity thanks to the New 52 reboot, sparking a new era of hope with the advent of “Rebirth.” More powerful than ever before (perhaps even more so than his mentor Barry Allen), Wally appears to be a central player in the mystery surrounding the alterations to DC continuity, cementing his status as an integral part of the ever-changing DCU.
Created by Geoff Johns and Lee Moder, Courtney Whitmore originally debuted in 1999’s “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.” #0 as the new Star-Spangled Kid. A bright, headstrong teenager, who discovered her stepfather’s previous life as the Golden Age Star-Spangled Kid’s adult sidekick Stripesy, after snooping through his belongings, Courtney’s initial plans only revolved around mocking him. However, after villains attacked a community dance, she and Pat Dugan teamed up to save the day, using the Kid’s old Cosmic Convertor Belt and a new suit of powerful armor.
Although Pat eventually retired from crimefighting completely, Courtney went on to join the Justice Society of America, becoming a valuable member of the team of legacy heroes. After Jack Knight retired from the role of Starman, he passed along his cosmic staff to Courtney and she took on the name Stargirl in homage to the Knight legacy. In the New 52, she served as the public face of the ARGUS-backed Justice League of America and helped realign the team as Justice League United, free of government interference.
2. BLACK CANARY
Another in a long line of DC properties suffering from one too many retcons, Black Canary first appeared in 1947’s “Flash Comics” #86, created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino. She served as a member of Earth-Two’s JSA until she crossed over to Earth-One and joined the Justice League of America, at which point it was revealed she was actually the daughter of the original Black Canary. Dinah Lance served in various incarnations of the JLA and JSA through multiple retcons, until the New 52 reboot, when her origin was dramatically altered.
In this new reality, Dinah Drake Lance was a member of John Lynch’s Team 7, a top secret strike team of metahumans and later joined Batgirl’s Birds of Prey. Most recently, she’s once again been seen in the company of Green Arrow, her traditional paramour, although the couple have yet to remember their pre-New 52 relationship as a married couple. She also serves as a member of Batman’s new iteration of the Justice League of America, drawing upon her recent experiences as a covert operative to bear on a team comprised of former villains and neophyte heroes.
1. SUPER SONS
The concept of the Super-Sons first cropped up during the Silver Age of Comics in an imaginary tale featuring the offspring of Batman and Superman. Since that first appearance in “World’s Finest” #154, the Super Sons have appeared in numerous out-of-continuity stories, in one form or another. The pair’s first canonical appearance together occurred in the two-part “World’s Smallest” story arc in “Superman” #10-11, in which Damien Wayne and Jon Kent must work together to earn their right to fly their fathers’ colors, despite an initial shared hatred of one another.
Although their relationship is somewhat fractious and fueled by an intense competitiveness, the pair has teamed-up in their own ongoing series to investigate the emergence of a murderous youngster who goes by the name of Kid Amazo. In keeping with “Rebirth’s” mandate of reintroducing hope to the DC Universe, Damien and Jon provide a much-needed injection of youthful exuberance to their fathers’ legacies, while laying the foundation for their own heroic legends.
Our list is only the tip of the iceberg! Let us know who your favorite DC legacy hero is in the Comments!