The Legion of Super-Heroes debuted in 1958, in Adventure Comics #247, and quickly became a fixture of DC's superhero universe – that is, until August 2013, when the company stopped publishing Legion of Super-Heroes. Although the team has appeared in other titles here and there (most recently Doomsday Clock), there hasn't been an ongoing Legion series for over six years.
That all changes with the group's return this fall, courtesy of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists led by Ryan Sook. As Bendis has shared Sook's team portrait last week on Late Night with Seth Meyers, today we're here to put code names to faces.
DC had already released a couple of looks at Sook's designs. The first batch included the three founding Legionnaires (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad), plus Chameleon Boy, Shadow Lass and Brainiac 5. A later set revealed new looks for Wildfire, Matter-Eater Lad, Dream Girl, Dawnstar, Blok, someone we think is Timber Wolf, and the Jon Kent Superboy. Also appearing but not identified specifically were characters we think are Star Boy, Light Lass, Phantom Girl and Sun Boy. Finally, DC's website debuted a new Element Lad costume as part of a larger set of Sook's preliminary work. While these are mostly the same as the current portrait, Lightning Lad seems to have changed his ethnicity from the first look. Our guess for Light Lass has done the same, which would make sense, considering the characters are siblings.
That's a total of 18 Legionnaires, all of whom appear in Sook's team portrait. While they're recognizable as Legionnaires, these changes suggest yet another reboot for the team (perhaps connected to Doomsday Clock's aftermath). That would make this version 4.0 of the Legion (after the originals, the Zero Hour group, which debuted in October 1994's Legion of Super-Heroes #0, and the "threeboot" introduced in November 2004's Teen Titans/Legion Special). Everybody joined forces in 2008-09's Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds miniseries, which restored the originals to DC's primary version of the team.
Who's Who 4.0
Including these already-identified members, there are 31 Legionnaires in the new team portrait. Some of the rest are pretty obvious, like Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy and Triplicate Girl. Otherwise, our best guesses are marked with an asterisk.
In the front row are Cosmic Boy, Element Lad, Light Lass*, Wildfire, Matter-Eater Lad and Timber Wolf*. At first we thought Light Lass was XS, but then decided her chest symbol looked more like a feather than her headgear looked like speedster goggles. We think that's Timber Wolf because his chest symbol looks like a "T/W" over an animal head.
The second row contains Dream Girl, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, Star Boy, a mohawked woman with a glyph on her forehead, Superboy (Jon Kent), Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl*, Lightning Lad, two-thirds of Triplicate Girl, and Dawnstar. We think that's Phantom Girl because her shirt has a hint of a "P" on it; and because we'd be surprised if she weren't on the team somehow. Mohawk girl we'll get to in a minute.
The third row starts off with what looks like a new character, who reminds us visually of the old Superman villain Atomic Skull. Next to him is Shadow Lass, followed by a new Doctor Fate, and then Sun Boy*, Green(?) Lantern (presumably Rond Vidar)*, Bouncing Boy, Princess Projectra*, Invisible Kid*, Chameleon Boy, and the final third of Triplicate Girl. On the back row are Blok, White Witch*, Colossal Boy and another unidentified character. As for our earlier guesses, we're pretty sure that's Sun Boy because basically he's on fire. Our guesses for Projectra, Invisible Kid and White Witch are based on similarities to earlier versions' costumes and color schemes.
Naturally this group includes the bulk of the Silver Age team, with about 21 of the 27 members who joined over the group's first 10 years (1958-1968). Missing (so far) are Supergirl, Shrinking Violet, Ferro Lad, Karate Kid and Chemical King; as well as the original Superboy (Jon's dad).
Of the 10 remaining characters, five aren't much newer, having joined and/or originally appeared from 1973 to 1988 (Wildfire, Dawnstar, Blok, White Witch and GL Rond Vidar). While the other five look new to the Legion, clearly Jon Kent and Doctor Fate are well-known to regular DC readers. As for the final three, if they're new versions of old characters, we'd guess the skull-faced fellow is Gates; the mohawked woman in green is Shikari; and the kid with the tail is a new Beast Boy. Actually, we're about 80 percent sure that Mohawkgirl is Shrinking Violet, because a) she was a major Silver Age character and she's so far unaccounted for; and b) the green coloring, the glyph, and the down-pointing arrow all remind us of her 1970s-era costume. We're willing to concede that Skull Boy and Tail Lad are entirely new.
One of the nice things about crediting the various Legion creators is that early on, the characters were introduced in bunches. Otto Binder and Al Plastino created Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl for April 1958's Adventure #347. Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney created Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Invisible Kid for August 1960's Action Comics #267; and later created Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy and Triplicate Girl for May 1961's Action #276.
Binder and George Papp created Star Boy for March 1961's Adventure #282; and Papp and writer Robert Bernstein created Mon-El for June 1961's Superboy #89. Siegel and Curt Swan created Ultra Boy for July 1962's Superboy issue #98; while Siegel and John Forte created Matter-Eater Lad for December 1962's Adventure #303.
Forte and Edmond Hamilton created Element Lad for April 1963's Adventure #307, Lightning Lass for May 1963's Adventure #308, Dream Girl for February 1964's Adventure #317, and Timber Wolf for December 1964's Adventure #327. Jim Shooter and Sheldon Moldoff created Karate Kid and Princess Projectra for July 1966's Adventure #346, and Shooter and Swan created Shadow Lass for March 1967's Adventure #354. Again, this reflects both the group's rapid growth in its first ten years, and the staying power of that group across the decades.
Naturally, the expansion didn't stop with the 1960s. Rond Vidar and White Witch appeared originally in the Silver Age, but didn't become major Legion players until the 1980s. Shooter and Swan created Rond for October 1966's Adventure #349, and he was revealed as a Green Lantern in September 1988's Legion of Super-Heroes issue #50. E. Nelson Bridwell and Curt Swan created Mysa Nal, aka "The Hag," for November 1966's Adventure #350; and she joined the Legion as the White Witch in December 1982's Legion of Super-Heroes #294.
Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum created Wildfire for June 1973's Superboy #195. Paul Levitz and James Sherman created Dawnstar for April 1977's Superboy #226. Gerry Conway and Joe Staton created Blok for July 1979's Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #253.
As it happens, both Superboy and Doctor Fate first appeared in More Fun Comics in the 1940s. Fate was first, introduced by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman for May 1940's #55. Jerry Siegel created the original Superboy (i.e., "Superman when he was a boy"), and the first Superboy story was drawn by Joe Shuster for January-February 1945's More Fun #101. Jon Kent was created by Dan Jurgens and first appeared (indeed, was born to Clark Kent and Lois Lane) in July 2015's Convergence: Superman issue #2. He became the latest Superboy in November 2016's Superman #6, written by Peter Tomasi and penciled by Patrick Gleason. (Not surprisingly, his Superboy predecessors Clark Kent and Connor Kent were Legionnaires at some point in their teen-hero careers.)
Who Can Do What?
If you're new to the Legion (and certainly DC wants to attract new readers), here's a brief rundown on each character's powers. Cosmic Boy controls magnetism. Element Lad can transmute matter into different compositions. Light Lass controls gravity. Wildfire is an energy being. Matter-Eater Lad can eat anything, and we mean anything. Timber Wolf is an animalistic fighter.
Dream Girl can predict the future. Mon-El has Kryptonian-style powers, but his vulnerability is to lead. Saturn Girl is a telepath. Depending on his backstory, Star Boy either has a Kryptonian-esque power set, or he can control gravity. If that's Shrinking Violet, she can shrink Atom-style. Superboy is Superboy. Brainiac 5 is real, real smart. Phantom Girl can turn intangible. Lightning Lad shoots electricity. Triplicate Girl can split into three people. Dawnstar is the galaxy's best tracker.
If that's Gates, he can teleport. Shadow Lass can create fields of darkness. Doctor Fate is an incredibly powerful sorcerer. Sun Boy shoots heat rays. You know about Green Lanterns, but this one may be a bit different (Golden Lantern?).
Bouncing Boy can turn into a big rubber ball. Princess Projectra can create realistic illusions. Invisible Kid turns invisible. Chameleon Boy can change shape. Blok is literally built like a brick house. White Witch is a sorceress, and Colossal Boy gets real big.
Anyway, that's the Legion in a nutshell. There's more to explore, of course; but as with anything that's sixty-plus years old, it's a blessing and a curse. As beloved as the Legion has become among DC fans, its vast history risks driving off those aforementioned new readers. Still, if this portrait is any indication, Legion 4.0 is in good hands.