Make It So: Legion of Super-Heroes by Jerry Whitworth
According to rumor website Bleeding Cool, following the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and considering Warner Bros’ desire to mimic Disney’s success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, rumor has it a Legion of Super-Heroes film is being considered for development. Originally infrequent supporting characters to Superboy (Superman’s adventures as a teenager), the Legion grew into its own franchise initially featuring teenage aliens from the future who would jaunt to the past to summon Superboy for their extraordinary adventures. Over the years, the Legion developed into a vast cast of characters that became something of a joke to older readers as for every conceivable super power, there seemed to be a unique Legionnaire who represented it (like Matter-Eater Lad, Antennae Boy, and Arm Fall Off Boy). During the late 1970s and most of the 1980s, the Legion underwent a Renaissance under the direction of Paul Levitz that made the title one of the best comics of its time with the underrated “Earthwar” followed by the much-lauded, critically acclaimed “The Great Darkness Saga” (featuring the emergence of Darkseid in the 30th century). Arguably this was the greatest height of the Legion, another bright spot being following the events of Zero Hour under the direction of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA, whose reinvention of the Guardians of the Galaxy was the basis of the Marvel film). Lets take a look at what an adaptation of the Legion of Super-Heroes could entail.
This would likely be the biggest area of contention for the film. Movies based on comic books generally avoid crossing over however considering Disney’s success in this area with its Marvel properties and Warner Bros’ desire to imitate this success, it makes sense to connect the Legion of Super-Heroes with the Superman franchise (of which they were originally aligned). Further, this idea is supported by the fact Man of Steel prominently featured a teenage Superman in Dylan Sprayberry (Teen Wolf). What makes the concept something fertile for drama in a Legion film is that a major turning point in Man of Steel was a teenage Clark Kent allowing his own adopted father to die before his eyes, likely the dominant catalyst for why the hero chose to become an aimless nomad rather than reveal himself to the world (until the Earth was attacked by Krypton’s survivors). In a manner, bringing Clark Kent to the future can show another path he could have went had his adopted father not forced Clark to let him die and instead become the hero he was always meant to be (which could be moderately redeeming for detractors of Man of Steel).
With a name like the Legion of Super-Heroes, the group certainly did not exaggerate this claim as throughout its years its membership has bloated to over six dozen heroes not including allies like the Legion of Substitute Heroes, Heroes of Lallor, Wanderers, and Workforce. Obviously, to be adapted for film, in some manner this has to be trimmed down. Likely, this would be achieved by displaying the group in its infancy or employing some story element that sidelined all but a handful of members. Regarding who should appear, the original trio of Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad are a no-brainer as they’re the founders, the group that recruited Superboy, and arguably the stars of the series throughout its history. Another strong contender for who should appear is Brainiac 5 considering his prominence in the group throughout its existence and the connection his lineage has to Superman (being something of an ancestor of Brainiac, arguably Superman’s greatest foe next to Lex Luthor). Beyond those four (five if Superboy is included), there’s any number of other candidates though its unlikely the group in the film will feature any more than seven characters. Some other strong nominees are Chameleon Boy, Star Boy, Shrinking Violet, Ultra Boy, and Timber Wolf.
Part of the intrigue of doing a film like Legion of Super-Heroes over any number of properties available from DC Comics is to create a world alien yet familiar. Perhaps borrowing elements from something like Star Trek, the Legion series generally depicts a relative utopia which has become exceptionally rare in works of fiction over the past decades (dystopian visions make-up the overwhelming majority of fiction based in the future). Considering the advances in science today which often times mirrors some of the technology used in various Star Trek media, it can be both interesting and daunting to envision what technology could exist almost a millennium from now (considering the Legion began at the tail end of the 30th century, the series later transitioning into the 31st century). Architecture, entertainment, travel, medicine, and so much more could help create an entire world the film industry has yet to even comprehend. In such a manner, a Legion film could be an innovation and progenitor for the film industry years from now (not to mention instill new ideas and concepts in viewers in the same way Star Trek’s writers helped inspire the science of today). For example, all Legionnaires are equipped with a Legion Flight Ring which permits flight by mental command, communication between those wearing rings, and the ability to move unhindered and unharmed in harsh environments like outer space and under water.
While the Legion of Super-Heroes has a rich rogues gallery with the likes of the Time Trapper, COMPUTO, Mordru, Pulsar Stargrave, and the Khund Empire, arguably the villains most closely associated with the group is the Fatal Five. Composed of some of the five most dangerous villains in the universe, the Fatal Five are made up of the Emerald Empress, Tharok, Mano, Persuader, and Validus. Unfortunately for the Legion, the villainous group was created by their organization of heroes. When a Sun-Eater threatened to extinguish the Earth’s sun (wiping out all life in the solar system), the Legion was forced to recruit the most dangerous criminals in the cosmos dubbed by the Science Police to be the “Fatal Five” (their version of a most wanted list). Following the destruction of the Sun-Eater, the five villains escaped and adopted the moniker of the Fatal Five as their group’s name becoming one of the most frequent and dangerous threats to the Legion. The Empress commands the Emerald Eye of Ekron, an artifact of immense power formerly worshiped on the planet Ekron as a god. Tharok was once a petty thief until half of his body was destroyed and replaced with cybernetic components (providing a techno-organic brain of immense intellect and an arm that can adapt into virtually any weapon). Mano is a mass-murderer and mutant with an anti-matter touch able to destroy anything his right hand touches. The Persuader is an assassin of immense strength and durability who wields an “atomic axe,” a weapon that can cut through virtually anything (even immaterial things like gravity and space). Validus is pure and simply a monster, a nigh-mindless beast something like twelve times stronger than a Kryptonian that can unleash devastating bolts of energy from its brain.