With the big screen comic book adaptations garnering most of the attention, it can be easy to forget all the beloved small screen adventures of our favorite heroes. In particular, the CW Network’s“Legion of Superheroes”animated series has struck a chord with fans. We’ve talked with series producer James Tucker and Story Editor Rob Hoegee in the past, but now the Legion are making the jump (back) to comics in an all new series based on the animated series. Featuring an intergalactic band of diverse heroes in the far future, DC Comics’“Legion Of Superheroes In The 31 st Century”series will be written by J. Torres and a number of guest artists, with the first issue arriving in April under the all-ages “Johnny DC”label. CBR News caught up with Torres to learn more about the book and how he became involved with the series.
“I was actually brought in by Mike Siglain before he took over to ’52.'”Torres told CBR News. “Luckily, the new editor was someone I’d worked with before and she kept me on after Mike’s departure! And I didn’t even have to use those pictures [laughs].
“I was attracted to this incarnation of the Legion because I’m a fan of the team and I love working on DC’s all-ages book, so it was a great combination for my sensibilities and abilities.”
This isn’t Torres’ first turn adapting a DC Comics animated property into a companion comic book series. He’s spent years writing all ages stories in “Teen Titans Go!,”a companion to the wildly successful “Teen Titans”animated series and though, like “Legion,”it features a team of teen heroes, Torres sees a big difference in the groups. “For me, the futuristic, cosmic setting is what basically sets it apart from the Titans,”he explained. “Not that the Titans haven’t been to space or experienced travel, but that’s not their usual domain. That’s where the Legion lives and thrives and I look forward to exploring other planets and alien cultures and playing with some futuristic technology and all that fun stuff.”
It’s not only the creative opportunities in “Legion”that excite Torres, as the popular Canuck scribe has been a fan of the Legion Of Superheroes for quite some time. “I’m about to date myself here but I think one of the earliest issues I picked up from the corner store involved a story leading up to Karate Kid and Princess Projectra’s marriage. I don’t remember the issue number or who wrote or drew it, or even everything that happened in the story, but the combination of action and adventure and romance and all those cool superheroes hooked me immediately.
“As for favorite eras, I’d probably have to say the Silver Age stuff I’ve read via the DC Archives, and probably the Blue Ribbon Digests before that. But I also have fond memories of Levitz/Giffen-era, especially ‘The Great Darkness Saga’ which I would love DC to reprint again. Hello? Anyone from DC reading this? Please?”
Based on the solicitation for the first issue of “Legion Of Superheroes In The 31 st Century,”fans took note of the story’s similarities to the animated series’ pilot. “It’s a kind of re-telling of Superman’s first meeting with the different team members told from their different perspectives,”Torres explained. “I hope fans will find it as amusing as we did. The series wasn’t originally supposed to lead with this story but somewhere along the way things got shuffled around and ‘Yesterday’s Hero’ got slotted into the #1 position.”
Along with the Fatal Five appearing in the first issue of the series, expect a diverse array of Legion villains to appear in the series, some who Torres isn’t quite ready to reveal. “Emerald Empress returns in my story scheduled for #5. The bad guys in #2 are alien creatures and the story follows the Legionnaires on their way back home after events in the episode ‘Timber Wolf.’ Now, my next story is the one I can’t wait for everyone to check out – it’s not only got a lot of Legionnaries in it, but it also has some surprise guest stars and a surprise villain, both from the DCU and not the cartoon.”
To prevent contradictory tales, Torres coordinates his stories with the crew over at the Legion animated series and when asked about story latitude, if he could tell his own “Great Darkness Saga,”he responded, “I suppose but it would make sense to try and coordinate with the show a bit, or at least avoid doubling up on ‘adaptations,’ you know? There’s a bunch of stuff that I’d love to do in this series, but it’s up to Jeanine to say yes or no and manage who’s writing what and what we can and can’t do because of or in spite of what’s happening or planned for the show. But let me tell you, she’s got some pretty big and exciting plans for this series.”
Despite Torres’ obvious enthusiasm for superheroes, and the Legion in particular, he knows that he’ll have to deal with the preconception that “Legion Of Superheroes In The 31 st Century”is a book meant for kids, a notion espoused by many fans in regards to comic book companions to animated series. “Well, for this series we definitely want to skew things a bit older than, say, ‘Teen Titans Go,'”Torres revealed. “Even that series, both the cartoon and comic, evolved along the way as not only did the readership/viewership get older, but we discovered that more teenage girls, for example, were fans. With ‘LOSH31,’ we get the sense that there are older fans out there looking for a fun Legion book, so we want to try do stuff that will entertain them as much as the kids. But I think the only way to really attract them and get them to give us a chance is to “do it.”Write and draw what you hope will work, build it, and hope they come. You’ll notice DC passed on the chance to call this ‘Legion Adventures’ – I believe that was because they didn’t want people to think that this was just another kids book.”
Handling the art on issue #1 is Chynna Clugston-Flores, of “Blue Monday”fame,”and the announcement drew cheers from many fans, including the scribe himself. “She recently did a ‘TTG’ issue for us and knocked it out of the park,”said Torres. “And the pages I’ve seen so far from ‘LOSH31’ #1 are pretty sweet. I think her own style gels really well with the look of the cartoon.
“I’m not sure who’s drawing #2, but #5 is being handled by Alex Serra who also did some ‘TTG’ for us recently, but that’s not out yet. Anyway, he obviously impressed our ‘TTG’ editor Tom Palmer, Jr. who shares an office with Jeanine and suggested she use him on ‘LOSH31.’ And I’m glad he did because his issue is… electrifying! Okay, that compliment would make more sense if you know that the story features Lightning Lad and Superman beating each other up.”
Unlike some previous animated comic book adaptations, “Legion Of Superheroes”has been universally warmly embraced by the comic book community and non-fans alike. Torres shared his theories and said, “It’s hard to say really. I mean, you can say that it’s because there are a lot of Legion fans out there, but you could have said the same for ‘Teen Titans.’ But that show got a lot of resistance from older comic fans when it first debuted, although some were eventually won over. So, maybe ‘Teen Titans’ sort of paved the way for the Legion toon, and maybe helped change the way people looked at these ‘adaptations’ generally aimed at a younger audience. It could also be that the show’s sensibilities lie somewhere in between ‘Teen Titans’ and ‘Justice League.’ Or maybe it’s because Superman is in it? Or maybe because Saturn Girl rocks those earrings. Who knows!”
With “Teen Titans Go”and “Degrassi: The Next Generation”as his two other big current projects, it’d be reasonable for Torres to worry about being typecast as a “teen story”kind of guy. “It’s a double-eged sword,”he admitted. “On the one hand, I was given the opportunity to work on ‘LOSH31’ because of this ‘typecasting’ if you will. On the other, I do know that I’m passed up for other gigs because of it. But I really can’t complain because I do enjoy working on the Johnny DC books. I honestly think it’s important work in that it helps nurture a love of comics in younger readers. For too long we ignored that ‘demographic’ and we almost lost an entire generation of potential comic fans. So, it’s important for a big company like DC to put these kinds of titles out there.”
Fans can look forward to a slew of other projects from Torres quite soon, including, “More ‘teen stories’ of course! I just finished the last volume of the Degrassi graphic novels, which should be out sometime this spring. Then there’s ‘TTG’ which is nearing its 50th issue so we’re planning something big for that. And meanwhile in my one non-teen book, ‘Ninja Scroll,’ look for a two-part story called ‘Musko,’ which sees Juebi getting a teenage sidekick! Okay, just kidding. A little.”