Producer James Tucker Looks Back on "Legion Of Super-Heroes"

As veteran television producer James Tucker watched Warner Bros. Animation’s “The Legion of Super-Heroes” come to an end Saturday after two seasons, he was far too busy to get too sentimental about the show he produced for 26 episodes. The former co-producer of “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” has been hard at work the last six months preparing for his new show, set to debut this fall on Cartoon Network, “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

“We knew ['Legion' wasn't] coming back for a while, so I am kind of resigned to the fact,” Tucker told CBR News. “I have moved on because the Legion has been a distant memory as far as my actual day-to-day for quite some time now.”

And while Tucker couldn’t delve to deep into the Batcave, he did reveal a few teases on the new show before sharing his closing thoughts on “The Legion of Super-Heroes.”

“['The Brave And The Bold'] s not connected to 'The Batman.’ It’s its own thing. It will be action-packed and fun,” said Tucker. “I’d say it’s more Batman as a superhero as opposed to Batman as a dark avenger. And he’s joined by a rotating cast of heroes. And that’s all I can say right now.”

“The Batman,” an Emmy-award winning series, aired its final episode in March.

Tucker did confirm what the “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” teaser image indicated, and that was the inclusion of Green Arrow and the Jaime Reyes-version of Blue Beetle in the series. “They are some of the guest heroes but there are tons more. It’s not just them,” said Tucker, who when pushed, added “We love Aquaman.”

Tucker admits that working with the iconic caped crusader and his super friends is a much easier sell to the masses than Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and the Legion’s version of Anakin Skywalker, Brainiac 5. “Every series has a few bumps along the way but I am particularly proud of the second season of 'Legion.’ I thought given we only had 13 episodes, each season, I think we really had a nice, strong run with it,” said a candid Tucker. “It would have been nice to do more because some shows don’t really hit their stride until their third or fourth season, but you know the situation was such that it wasn’t meant to be, at least this time around.”

Tucker revealed that Season 3 of “The Legion of Super-Heroes” would have further explored Brainiac 5’s journey to the dark side, a plot thread that ended in the show’s final episode, decidedly frayed. “Brainiac 5’s story is probably the only story that carried over from Season 1,” said Tucker. “The fact that we knew he could be potentially tempted by his ancestry. Part of the reason we made him robotic was because we wanted to tie him more heavily to the villain Brainiac. We made those adjustments so that it would be more of a logical progression to get him to be the darker character. Adam Wylie was great at voicing him. He really understood the character. He really brought out all the facets of the transition.”

“Given we only had two seasons, cumulatively, the series has mostly been about Brainiac 5, his issues with Superman and how he fits in, or doesn’t fit in, with the Legion,” continued Tucker. “Originally, we thought Superman would be the outsider to the Legion but ultimately, it’s Brainiac 5, who is the outsider. I like how that worked out.”

And while Tucker likes how it worked out, he knows some fans of the show may not like how Brainiac 5’s journey was left. In the two-episode final, entitled “Dark Victory,” Brainiac 5 gains human form while struggling between good (the Legion) and evil (Imperiex and his ancestor, the original Brainiac).

In “Dark Victory” Part 2, after leaving the Legion in self-exile because he feels he can longer be trusted, Brainiac 5 is shown retrofitting himself with some space debris with the possibility looming large of a new beginning for the supervillain.

The series’ final words, spoken by Brainiac 5: “Evil does not die. It evolves.”

“We left it unresolved on purpose,” said Tucker. “This ending was going to bridge into the third season. And the way we leave it, Brainiac 5 has to redeem himself. So that’s what he would have been doing in the third season. When we left, he has a lot to clean up. I’ll put it that way!

“For some fans, they may be disappointed or annoyed by the ending because it definitely leaves it open,” Tucker continued. “It’s like the ending of 'Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. It’s like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, what was that.’ We probably could have cut it where it would have ended more simply, but I wanted to leave it open ended. I wanted to leave people something to chew on.

“Not that it ended happily ever after, necessarily. I don’t buy that series have to have 'final’ episodes. With that in mind, it ends with Brainiac 5 having to deal with the repercussions of what he did when he was evil. He’ll be on a quest to redeem himself with the Legion. But he may or may not go back to the Legion. That is what we would have explored in Season 3.”

Another personal highlight of the show’s two-year run for Tucker was the introduction of a new Superman into the Man of Steel’s 70-year old mythos -- Superman X.

“I don’t think it was a detriment having Kel-El be added to the cast because originally the idea we pitched to the network for the second season was to introduce Mon-El because they wanted a suped-up Superman,” explained Tucker of his 41st Century Superman clone. “And I said, 'Well, we don’t really want to change Superman’s character from what we have established so it would be better to use Mon-El.’ Unfortunately Mon-El, in and of himself, is not an easy sell to an average, non-comic book reading fan. Even comic book fans, a lot of them don’t understand Mon-El.”

Mon-El, introduced in “Superman” #80 in 1953, was an alien from the Planet Thoron, which is in the same solar system as Krypton. In a storyline fueled by Mon-El’s bout of amnesia following the explosion of Krypton, Superman believed, for a time, he was his big brother.

“The network pretty much said Mon-El wasn’t different enough,” Tucker continued. “They basically wanted a kick-ass, bad-ass Superman. I pitched an idea of a future Superman, a clone of Superman from the future, who would come back to the Legion time, to enlist their help, which is basically the flip of what we did Season 1 when we had the Legion go back to Smallville and get Superman.

“But Kel is the complete opposite of Superman, so that creates sparks. Mon-El’s personality wouldn’t have been dramatically different than Superman, at least not for a casual viewer of the show. I know fans will dicker with me on that but he is just one step removed. He’s not the opposite. We were going to try and do it. We would have had to alter his personality, a bit, to do it, just to make it work, but the network wanted another Superman. Having said all that, I think Kel added some dimensions to the show, some tension to the show that wasn’t there first season and I liked how he turned out.

“Of course, for third season, we were under no obligation to have him come back. We had aged Superman up. The second season happened about three years after the first one. We had our Superman actually look and feel like Superman. So we didn’t really need Kel, although he probably would have showed up here or there.”

Tucker also had plans to introduce fan favorites like Wildfire and Dawnstar in Season 3. “And we have given some other characters the spotlight, like Blok. He’s a favorite of mine, and hopefully we would have given the girls more screen time,” he teased. “I had some plans for a Ferro Lad story too, where we would have introduced his twin brother.”

Tucker said it’s ironic as “The Legion of Super-Heroes” comes to an end, DC’s current comic continuity has embraced the original Legion, with the team enjoying runs in Brad Meltzer’s “Justice League of America” and Geoff Johns’ “Justice Society of America,” “Action Comics” and this summer’s miniseries “Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds.”

“I don’t know how far along they were planning to bring back the original Legion but I think our series, particularly in the first season, may have reminded people how cool the old school Legion was,” said Tucker. “It was going to come. It was in the zeitgeist anyway. People were clamoring for the original Legion.

“It’s just with Legion fans, every one has a different era they prefer. You can’t please them all specifically, so I wish Geoff luck on that one.”

He continued, “I’m a casual reader of Legion. I always say that almost every comic book fan has probably read the Legion at some point in their life. I came in around the late’70s/early ’80s and read it very faithfully at that time, and then grew away from it. So now that I am starting to see the Legion that I remember coming back then I probably will start reading 'Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds.’ I liked the DnA [Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning] 'Legion Lost’ series. I enjoyed those stories and the artwork [Oliver Coipel] on them.”

Tucker said if the opportunity presented itself to bring the Legion to television a second time for a 'final crisis’ of his own, he’s not sure that he would reach out and grab it. “I don’t know if it would come back as a show but based on my experience, when a show is over it sometimes comes back when nostalgia kicks in,” said Tucker. “I don’t know if we being on for only two years would merit that [laughs]. All I can say is the Legion idea is such a good one that I think that there will be another Legion show down the line somewhere.

“And maybe it won’t have to be tied to Superman, who knows. But I definitely think it would be a good idea to adapt a Legion story for one of the [DC Universe] DVDs. I hope they do that down the line. I definitely think the 'Great Darkness Saga’ with Darkseid would be really good to adapt for a DVD. It would need condensing and that’s always a problem with the DVDs, but I think that would be a good one.

“As for me being involved, at this moment, I probably wouldn’t. I’m pretty Legion’d out. It would be nice to sit back and let someone else worry about the intricacies of the Legion for a while. The Legion is a tough book. The Justice League was hard, but Legion was tougher in some ways because the characters themselves are not as iconic as the Justice League. With Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and even the lesser-knowns, you know who they are just by looking at them. With Legion, there are hardly any characters that just pop up and just stand on their visual alone. You have to know their names, where Cosmic Boy is from. You have to know a lot of their backstory to really get into the characters. They don’t work as stock heroes. But you lose a lot if you just play them flat like that.

Tucker closed, “Now that we have de-virginized the American audience for the idea of the Legion, maybe somewhere down the line, some network will be open to giving it another shot. Maybe doing something a little more 'older’ skewing. I actually grew to love the Legion even more through working on this series. Another reason that I am enjoying Geoff Johns’ run on 'Action’ is because I recognized the traits and the characters. I felt like I honored the Legion even with some of the changes we had to make. And even though we didn’t get to hit on all of the fan favorites, we still captured what is the gist of the Legion.”

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