The future is coming to the DC Universe and, with it, a relaunch of the Legion of Super-Heroes as the teenage superteam from DC's distant future that has never been seen before. Spearheading the rebooted fan-favorite property is Brian Michael Bendis. The Eisner Award-winning writer explores all the seemingly disparate futures of the DC Universe in the two-issue miniseries Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium before the November debut of the new Legion of Super-Heroes, with artist Ryan Sook.
Ahead of the release of Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2 on Wednesday, Bendis spoke with CBR, teasing what to expect from the reimagined teenagers from the future, explaining why Superboy belongs on the roster, and singling out a crucial piece of the DCU's future that has gone unaddressed.
CBR: The last time we talked, you mentioned Superman was the most truthful writing you had ever done. Is the Legion of Super-Heroes the most hopeful writing that you've ever done so far?
Brian Michael Bendis: It is 100 percent an extension of that, it's all coming out of the same part of the brain, so, yeah. We get to reflect all that truthfulness from a thousand-year perspective; that's a pretty thing to have as a writer. It's really that you would think to do it as a writer, it's just that the premise of the story really makes you do it.
Previously, you had written at least two Avengers concurrently, with this, you've got a cast of 34 Legionnaires. How has that been giving everybody from Lightning Lad to Saturn Girl and Triplicate Girl their just due?
I've been joking that it's feeling like a Robert Altman film with superheroes, like Nashville or The Player, where there are so many people and they're all talking, with each story is very potent and each perspective and experience is very potent to the actual job at hand. So we're going to introduce them all and then we're going to be breaking them up into smaller groups much like Keith Giffen and Paul Levitz had done over the years so we can get to know them all a little bit better. So it's not going to be all 34 characters on-panel every single time even though, for the first couple of issues, it might feel that way since we're just so excited we get to see them all and draw them all but, as we unpack, we get to meet each character and find out what drove them to this very unique experience.
Yes, it's going be very cool, but you're right, the amount of characters on-screen is daunting; it's unlike anything we've tried to do. I literally have to tell the story completely differently from each end than I would like, say, an issue of Avengers so even the language of these books being different from other comic books, this is unique to itself.
Just as a fan, I have to ask: I haven't seen Karate Kid! Is Karate Kid going to make an appearance?
Oh, no, he's there! Karate Kid is there! Karate Kid is there right away in the first issue, right off on a mission. There are a lot of characters, so you've got to go looking.
Is this the first time we've seen the founding of the United Planets, in Superman #15?
Yeah, I was surprised! I even double-dug in with some of the stories to make sure I didn't miss it like in a random issue of Adventure Comics where they may have showed it; they never actually showed it! I was so grateful that such a big moment in DC history was available to explore and dramatize.
With this, you're reimagining a lot of characters while still keeping them true to form.
Some people want to know about our choices, why we didn't go full retro or just rehash all the old costumes; Legion can't be about retro. It's got to be about future-forward sci-fi. When people read those original stories, they were as future-forward as those authors could come up with and they blew everyone's minds. So our job is not just to do what they did but to do the spiritual version of what they did. Let's roll up our sleeves and come up with sci-fi that blows our minds, right?
And our job is much harder than the original one because sci-fi has become so much more than it was when Legion first debuted but that's the part of the equation that I got the most excited about. What can we do with science fiction and what can we put back into it that is unique to DC, that is unique to this book, that is unique to these characters? Maybe we'll come up with a whole pile of sci-fi ideas that we haven't seen before like our heroes did.
To that point about pushing the Legion into the future and reinventing them for today's audiences, one of the things that I found the most exciting, as a multi-racial individual myself, is we see multi-racial versions of a lot of Legionnaires, including Lighting Lad, who is one of the big three for that team. I was wondering how that decision came about.
I just wanted to look at the Legion and, just by the look of them, you could see a lot of good stuff has happened to the DC Universe. A lot peace has been made, a lot of understanding has been discovered; that's kind of what we're all hoping, that everyone kind of has figured each other out so we can get on with our lives and I wanted to [have] the minute you see them in issue fifteen, you turn the page and go, "There are 34 different planets being represented here." That's a lot of peace and unity already. That's a future I want to visit, that's a future that I'm rooting for; someone not being threatened? I want a spot there. The diversity conversation we have and the one they have a thousand years from now are completely different conversations.
One of the things in Millennium #2 that pre-Booster Gold Michael Carter mentions is that civilization had to pick itself back up from the ashes twice. I assume one of those times is from Kamandi. Is Booster's future beyond the Legion's?
No, we have a whole document but there are things between the chapters as well. There's Kamandi, but someone blew up that world, like, what happened to Kamandi's world? There's more to say about that and that little chapter itself [with Booster Gold] was a great little exciting thing. I'm a huge fan of Nicola Scott and she's partnered with one of my best friends Greg Rucka so I just thought I'd never get to work with her and she was available for these pages and wanted Booster Gold, so I sent this to [Booster Gold creator] Dan Jurgens and said, "Are you OK with this?"
Like, I wasn't trying to rewrite Booster Gold #1, but wanted it to be additive and he was totally into it so I'm so excited this is Dan Jurgens-approved, and it's such great Nicola work. That alone, I'm so excited to show people.
I didn't know Booster Gold was such a fan of Friends!
[Laughs] I'm probably going to get the most shit for that. My premise is that's what brought Booster back to the 20th century.
Over in Justice League, we're seeing potential futures; Kamandi is one of the futures the Justice League sees. Another future the Justice League sees is DC One Million. You cover just about every single alternate future of the DC Universe but I would say the biggest omission is DC One Million.
That's right. Excellent note. I'm smiling because, yes, it is, and I thought people wouldn't even notice, but you noticed and that's hilarious. I'm smiling because the relationship DC fans have to their history and the relationship Marvel fans have to their history is very unique, and I love it. DC fans take their history much more seriously -- and they should -- but it's so fractured and they take it so seriously. I'm so delighted to be diving into the futures with this in my pocket.
Speaking of fractures, as far as we can tell, this is the pre-Flashpoint Superman; he still reacts like he's never quite seen the Legion before like, say, in regards to "The Great Darkness Saga," which Superboy shows up in. Is this a completely new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes that we really haven't seen before?
Yes, as far as this Superman and this entire story, the Legion has never existed before. This is the first time we're ever meeting them. There is no other version, there is no other timeline. This is the Legion of Super-Heroes' first appearance in the DC Universe as far as all these characters are concerned. How it tees up with Doomsday Clock and all the other stuff, I promise it will all land but I don't want to spoil anything but it will all land. You can enjoy the moment as it's happening or as it all connects together -- and it will all connect together.
So far you've packed it with Easter eggs. You previously mentioned Keith Giffen and Paul Levitz and there's Mark Waid and all that.
Yes, our Legion run is really a mix of all those things that worked. It's not unlike the Marvel movies or what I did with Ultimate Spider-Man. I get to cherry-pick the stuff I definitely know speaks truth and works and is completely amazing and present them in the most future-forward way possible. We really get the best of both worlds; we get the best of what Legion was and the best of what Legion can be.
Rose and Thorn are one of the more obscure DC properties. What made her the right choice as the point-of-view character for all of this?
I personally love the character and the idea that there's a character that walks us to the Legion's front door and, not unlike with Powers, there's a character that can take us somewhere unique. But wouldn't it be cool if the character didn't know it was something they did. We were talking about superheroes always being in danger and surrounded by radiating energies and never get new superpowers, like, villains only get the one superpower, right? So wouldn't it be cool if this character got another superpower not even knowing it happened, right? What was interesting was, as I was writing: was the character that comes to Legion a hero? Are they villain? Are they a third thing? Are they all these things put together? And I went, "Who is all the things put together?" and, really, it was only Rose.
Rose could hero, Rose could be a villain, Rose could be in the middle, Rose could be all these things and, when she walks up to the front door, we don't know who she is. We don't know who it is or what they know or why they're here. So that got me very excited. Is she [Lost in Space villain] Doctor Smith or is she Charles Xavier? So that mystery on top of the 3,400 other mysteries we get in the first issue made me very excited.
Of all the characters you're introducing, you're including an incarnation of Doctor Fate on the team.
Yes! I must say, I'm so elated how everyone is delighted about that. I will admit, [including Doctor Fate on the Legion of Super-Heroes] was great for me, and everyone seems very into it. So, on top of everything else, we're going to expand on the legend of Doctor Fate, expand on the legend of the Green Lanterns. All of it tells a story, a history, and we were talking that if this is in the future, there's always a character that still harks back to the past, but not in a retro way, and Doctor Fate felt like it. Doctor Fate not only feels not-retro, but Doctor Fate works on the team like she's already 30 years ahead of them, like Doctor Fate is working beyond the Legion already.
I think the most complicated relationship the Legion has is with Superboy, like, is he part of the team? Is he from a pocket universe? Is he Clark Kent? What made you want to include a Superboy on this incarnation of the team?
I got to tell you, I'm very proud; I actually first got to pitch this to [DC Comics Co-Publisher, Dan Didio] the first time we met each other just to see if we were going to do this. He was talking about something that he wanted and I mentioned, "I don't even know if the pieces line up with this, this, and this but if it's [Jon Kent] who gets to go, you still get your Superman book but you have Superboy teed up for a completely original journey as a hero that's different than his father's and then they have to deal with it as father and son too." That's unique and everyone got real excited about it.
They were always worried that Jon was just going to be Superman's little Bat-Mite sidekick or something and that's not what happened but they were worried about it. So this storyline of Jon going through and surviving it -- once people saw Jon going through a gauntlet, they were immediately worried I was going to kill Jon and Jon was going to go evil Superboy; all that stuff was never going to happen but I understand the nervousness of it, with evil Superboys in the past.
But this was about Jon having his own trial by fire, different from his father's that he survives without his father and without his mother and then he can come out of it and become the young hero he's always wanted to be and then be faced with something his father was never faced with, which was this invitation. So it was really exciting to tell this classic Superman story but in a way that was completely unique to Jon and got him to have experiences that are completely unique to his father's experience. That, we're pretty proud of. I know it comes with people thinking about the lost innocence of Jon's younger adventures but look what we're offering in return.
We saw a bit of it in Superman, but are we going to see more of Jon's lost years with Jor-El?
Yes. What I don't want to do is keep pushing that button but, when it's very story-effective, 100 percent. There are quite a few missing chapters in there and, may I just say, the most interesting stuff is the time when he was on Earth-3 not fighting the Crime Syndicate but just surviving. He says he was there for quite a while just helping people and I think that's probably Jon's most interesting missing chapter. I think that's when he grew the fuck up.
I think one of the most interesting things about Millennium is you've got all these slices of DC's future. You've got some post-apocalyptic, some cyber-punk, some cyber-noir. How are these seeming disparate threads going to tie into the bright, hopeful future of the Legion?
I think that when you turn the page and see the group of them, you can kind of see hints and pieces of everything that ever came before. Like, you can see all the influence and how it's going to be moving forward; that was what the premise of turning the page was. There it all is, there's everything [Rose] witnessed, both in the hopeful version of the package she could get and just that these kids have taken away from what she perceives as experience and a huge, epic event and all that experience is to keep these kids on track. It all happens so that these kids can stay feeling the way they do right now even though she knows the universe is much more complicated.
This whole thing has been a meditation on the future of the DC Universe. If there was ever a villain that personified all that with an association with the Legion, it's the Time Trapper.
This is going to be a funny thing to say: We're not going to be doing a lot of time travel or a time-travel shtick. The best Legion stories are about them just being in the moment, and I know we go back and forth a lot and, yes, Damian is coming back with the Legion as well -- that's a time travel thing -- but, other than that, there's not going to be a whole lot. It's going to be about what has happened to the galaxy, what has happened going forward, and what the Legion can do to bring real peace and real unity to Earth and each other.
You mentioned this is the brightest, most hopeful thing as an extension of your work with Superman. What is something so grave that these teenagers are going to come-of-age to unite against?
Right away, you see in Millennium #2 what the Earth has become and I won't spoil anything but the Earth is not what it was. And what happens in the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is that the great McGuffin -- Aquaman's trident -- has not been seen in a thousand years and is found on another planet and it may have within it the ability to bring back the oceans of the Earth. And you can you thank my son for that because I was sitting and going, "I want to do a big Legion story but I don't want to do a rehash of an old one but something completely brand new," and my son bursts into my office -- he's six-years-old -- holding his Aquaman trident from the movie and says, "Oh my God, dad, this is the most important item in the entire galaxy!" and he ran out of the room like he was being chased by some imaginary thing and I went, "Well, there you go! Well done! I have not seen that in a Legion of Super-Heroes story."
So when you see the cover of issue #2 and there's Jon Kent holding the trident, "Thank you, son."
Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2 is written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by a whole host of artists including Nicola Scott, Jim Cheung, Jeff Dekal and Ryan Sook on sale Oct. 2 from DC Comics.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Ryan Sook, Legion of Spider-Heroes #1 goes on sale Nov. 6 from DC Comics.