"The future is now"- a clichéd statement to some, but never more appropriate than when trying to describe the critically acclaimed "Legion" series from DC Comics, celebrating its forth-fifth anniversary this year. It's been four years since writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, affectionately called DnA, took over the reigns of the then struggling "Legion of Superheroes" franchise and infused it with their own unique sensibilities, bringing in lots of new fans and drawing in the disillusioned old fanbase too. With the acclaim growing after every issue, DnA are hard at work crafting their new stories, but found time to speak with CBR News about "Legion" and the upcoming stories.
In a market saturated with spandex clad men and women, DnA know that the characters and situations in "Legion" need to stand out, and as such feel they've tapped into a theme that other super hero comics never explore. "The sci-fi element is the key," contend DnA. "This isn't a book about costumed heroes in a contemporary world where they stand out like lurid sore thumbs, this is a book where the universe is as strange and amazing as them. A futuristic environment where super-powered individuals are much more part of society...though the threats they face are just as dangerous as in the 21st century. It's also the future of the DC Universe, a future informed by the legacies of Superman and Batman, so that makes it very interesting, too...and unique!"
Part of the appeal of DnA's storytelling has been their breakneck pacing, with grand stories that haven't given readers a chance to breath and in that sense, the recently begun two part story, focusing on Timber Wolf, is a real change for fans. "It may have been shorter, but it's no breather! Ask Timber Wolf!" laugh DnA. "Some stories are just shorter than others, but Wolf's was still breakneck (almost literally). We try and keep the momentum balanced between the main story arcs and the subplots, even in the midst of a big, epic scale tale. It's a balancing act, and the pace and rate of incident is determined by the large cast, but we think we're pretty fair to all the characters, giving each one room to develop. Any slower, and we'd never get a story told."
The following story is also breaking from the DnA mold, another two part story focusing on R'as Al Ghul, the villain who posed as Earth's president, and the Sensor, the snake member of the Legion, who will find she needs the villain's help in order to survive. "That story is an interesting epilogue or sequel to the major Ra's tale we did in the first year, and it's a chance to see what happens to a super villain after he's been brought down and banged up. Couple of big, status-quo altering events in that story too!
"As for her becoming a humanoid, not specifically, but we are going to push ahead a strong and developing story for Sensor. Making her a snake was a very bold move back at the reboot, and not a popular one with everybody, though it was about time the Legion had more non-humanoids on its roster. Rather than arbitrarily change her, we're going to develop her in a way that we hope will examine that humanoid/non-humanoid difference, and perhaps even the fan's response to Projectra [the pre-reboot version of Sensor] vs Sensor.
"I think we have to be as true to the reboot as possible. Rebooting rebooted characters wholesale would be a cheat to anyone who has invested time and attention in the book. Sensor is a very 'alien' alien, visually speaking, and that should be preserved...and reflected in her character and outlook. Projectra was a great character in the time of the preboot Legion, but simply switching back to her would be defeatist and regressive in terms of the book's vigour."
But DnA "traditionalists" shouldn't fear- a big story is in the works and will launch in a few months under the title of "Dream Crime" and has both Dan and Andy quite excited. "The starting point is Saturn Girl's return to her home world Titan for telepathic rest and recuperation, so people may be guessing where we're going. But that's just the springboard into an unexpected menace...and a chance to bring back some much loved, much missed characters. All we can say is the villain on the way is one of the greatest and darkest the Legion have ever faced," tease DnA. "And the old friends we're going to catch up with haven't been seen in a while, but possess their own flight rings..."
Fans will take notice that Imra Ardeen, everyones favorite telepath Saturn Girl, will once again play a large role in a DnA Legion story and some may wonder why it is this character is so loved by the British writers. "She's a founder, and a strong female character from an era where super heroics was dominated by male characters," explain DnA. "For someone so mentally focused and, occasionally, so cold, she's very much now the heart of the Legion, and that's why she appeals to us...and the fans probably. A terrific mix of power and confidence and, with Cosmic Boy, a living example of how the Legion can unite and bond antagonistic races, the very essence of the United Planets which the Legion was created to embody."
Some have questioned why DnA haven't introduced more of their own new character and insist on "recycling" (as those critics say) old characters in the Legion. "It's not a matter of bringing back 'old' characters. The Legion, ancient and modern, has a vast wealth of great characters to draw on, and frankly the fans are begging us to use as many 'classic' existing characters as possible. So we do, although some are very 'new' versions of old characters. And there are plenty of new characters too. It's an evolution, with a little refreshment, rather than a make-over."
During the DnA tenure, the Legion have faced huge, intergalactic threats that would make the JLA, JSA and even the Authority proud, so do the writers find it hard to create stories that are grander in scope and have more impact than the previous "Legion" stories? "Not so far," answer the writers confidently. "The stories come from the characters anyway. Some may be bigger or smaller than others, louder or softer, lighter or more serious. We never think 'oh, we can't do that because it's not as big as the last one'. A good story worth telling is a good story worth telling."
There's also new cover artists onboard for "Dream Crime" and their work has been circulating around the internet recently, which has Legion fans excited for the new look of the Legion. "Tony Harris and Tom Feister are the new cover artists," say DnA. "The cover face lift (new logo and fresh new art style) was the result of the input of our new editor, Steve Wacker. He got the guys involved, and the great series of covers reflects a reinvigorated new thrust with the book. The covers are fantastic and they'll make the book leap off the stands."
While DnA do miss having Olivier Coipel, the artist with whom they started their run, ("We wish him the best on 'Avengers,'" say DnA), they are taking their time picking a new artist and are looking forward to all the new people they get to work with in the future. They've also got a lot of great memories in general to look back on and explain that their time on Legion has generally been a blast. "It's hard to call the best moment. The climax of 'Legion Lost' got us a lot of praise, and the world-building in 'Legion Worlds' was great fun, but the ongoing has been the most rewarding time so far. Building and sustaining momentum and keeping the quality as high as we can get it."
If you're a new reader who's interested in this storyline and you're worried about being lost in between all the subplots and/or character- what's the difference between a Saturn Girl or a Cosmic Boy anyway- DnA assure that "Dream Crime" will be, "Very accessible. It's not at all dumbed down for new readers, but it's a great way in and comes after a decent period punctuation, plot wise. Like the start of a new movie, if you like. We're waiting to hear on the TPB of our previous 'Legion' issues, in case readers are asking."
Despite what some may say, DnA say that new readers shouldn't worry about the future in "Legion" being bleak or dark- it's just that sometimes things get tough. "We've never been bleak or dark. Situations can be tough for the heroes, and sometimes events take a serious or sad turn...without those changes in fortune there'd be no drama. The the 31st century is assuredly a positive, vibrant place."
So what can fans expect? "A forty fifth birthday/twenty fifth issue celebration that will, we are sure, delight Legion fans old and new, packed with trademark DnA shocks, treats and surprises! Hold on tight! We've only just started"
Friday, CBR News discovered an image featuring a new new logo that will be appearing on "Legion" covers as created by brand new cover artists Tony Harris and Tom Feister, affectionately known as TnT. The new logo, revealed on their Web site, hints at the returns of the "Legion of Superheroes" name to the series that is celebrating it's 45th anniversary. Click the image for an enlargement.