The origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes was first published in Superboy #147 in 1968 and re-told several times in different versions over several decades. One aspect that has always remained constant were three heroic teenagers saving the life of a man who would be their benefactor.
In the 30th century, the galaxy is a crowded place. There are thousands of inhabited worlds and intelligent species, and very few of them get along with each other. Still, there are those who believe that a united galaxy is the best solution for everybody. One of those is R.J. Brande, one of the richest men in the galaxy. He pushed for a United Planets organization to handle conflicts between systems, and while he had some support, he also had a lot of resistance. There were some who opposed him so strongly that they wished him dead.
One of these assassination attempts was in the presence of three teenagers, strangers to each other. Imra Ardeen from Titan, with her people's power of telepathy, Rokk Krinn from Braal, one of the best manipulators of magnetic fields on his planet, and Garth Ranzz from Winath, who had gained his powers over electricity in a bizarre accident on another world.
The three youths worked together instantly, foiling the assassination and capturing the suspects. Brande saw in them the embodiment of all he had been working towards, and convinced them to follow in the footsteps of the great heroes of the 20th century. They wore costumes and used code names and became the Legion of Super-Heroes. Imra Ardeen was Saturn Girl, Garth Ranzz was Lightning Lad and Rokk Krinn was Cosmic Boy.
Otto Binder and Al Plastino created the Legion of Super-Heroes as well as creating the three founding members for the team. Binder wrote the story and Plastino drew the art for Adventure Comics #247 in 1958. Like many of Superboy's stories in Adventure Comics, this issue was meant to be a one-shot story and the Legion's only appearance. This issue was so popular that DC published a second Legion story in Adventure Comics #267 in 1959 which was also a success with fans. The Legion of Super-Heroes eventually became a regular feature in Action Comics, Adventure Comics and Superboy which led to the Legion being published in their own book.
Silver Age (1960s)
News of the Legion spread quickly, and soon there were many super-powered youngsters clamoring to join. Some had powers native to their homeworlds, others had acquired them through strange accidents. The number of people who wanted to join eventually grew so large that the Legion had to hold regular tryouts, in which any potential Legionnaire could show his or her abilities.
The Legion was heavily involved with time travel, often going back to the 20th century to meet their idol, Superboy - the original teen hero (See Adventure Comics #247). Superboy would go to the 30th Century as a regular member of the Legion roster. The Legion also accepted Superboy's cousin, Supergirl, as a member of the team although she came from a later time period in the 20th century. The Legion battled alien conquerors, evil robots, crazed magicians and even demigods (See Adventure Comics, Action Comics, Superboy and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes).
Bronze Age (1970s-1980s)
During this time new Legionnaires Dawnstar and Wildfire joined the team. After the end of Earth War (a galactic war between the United Planets and the Khunds), The Legion constitution is amended to allow married Legionnaires. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl return to active membership. Following the the Great Darkness Saga, saw more newer members like Blok, Invisible Kid II and White Witch.
When members of the Legion were falsely imprisoned on Takron-Galtos. Aware that there would be massive backlash from the United Planets if they attempted to interfere with their incarceration both Chameleon Boy and the original Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) created the Legion Espionage Squad.
Modern Age / Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths
Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy had resign and new legionnaires join from Legion Academy. Magnetic Kid, Polar Boy, Quislet, and Tellus (Ganglios of Hykraius). Comet Queen, Mentalla (Deyla Castill of Titan), and Power Boy (Jed Rikane) are rejected. Saturn Girl asks to admit the masked Sensor Girl (Projectra). Dev-Em declines an offer of membership. Eventually, Superboy limited his visits to the 30th Century and changed his active membership to a reservist status. The Legion continued to battle any threats or dangers that plagued the universe. Members grew up, married and had children, and members died in battle (See Legion of Super-Heroes vol 1 and Legion of Super-Heroes vol 2). Although Superboy grew up to be Superman and no longer an active Legionnaire, Superman and the Legion continued to associate with each other (See DC Comics Presents #13, #43, #59, #80 and World's Finest Comics #283 and #284).
Then a Crisis of cosmic proportions threatened the entire universe in the past, present and future. The Crisis on Infinite Earths threatened all life in every timeline. The Legion gathered with many heroes of different eras to fight the entity known as the Anti-Monitor who caused this catastrophe. Many heroes died in battle to ensure the defeat of the Anti-Monitor including a member of the Legion, Supergirl. After the Anti-Monitor was defeated and the Crisis averted, all the heroes returned to their own eras. The Legion continued to safeguard the universe and battle any threat against them as usual.
Five Years Later / Glorithverse
Sometime after the Magic Wars, the Legion disbanded but it was reassembled five years later by Chameleon Boy, who saw a need for the Legion in this darker era (See Legion Super-Heroes #1 vol 3). By this time, the Dominators, a super-scientific race, had control of the Earth and, by extension, the United Planets. The new Legion did away with much of its child-like past - no more bright costumes or cute code names. Their main purpose was to free Earth from the Dominators. In the process, they would learn much about themselves as well.
Five Years Later / Batch SW6 (Legionnaire)
The most startling discovery they made was a group of Legionnaire clones, labeled batch SW6, that the Dominators had grown and kept hidden on Earth. These clones were all teenagers, reminiscent of the Legion's early days, and believed that they were in fact the original Legion. They believed the older Legion was fake, an impossible distortion of their dream. After the destruction of the Earth, the older Legion team went into hiding, and worked in secret.
The end of the Legion came with the event known as Zero Hour. The temporal instability of Zero Hour led to a massive battle between Glorith, Mordru and the Time Trapper against the combined Legions. The Time Trapper, who was actually Rokk Krinn after an eternity stuck in the Library of Time, revealed that the clones weren't clones at all - they were versions of the Legion from an alternate timeline, and if the Legion wanted any hope of surviving the coming crisis, the doppelgangers would have to cancel each other out. The last legionnaires were also the first - Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl, and their counterparts. They merged with each other and their universe ended.
Reboot / Earth-247
The "rebooted" Legion began much as the original had - Ranzz, Ardeen and Krinn foiling an attempt on the life of R.J. Brande and becoming the Legion, living symbols of the new United Planets. This group also grew rapidly, accepting many members and eventually having to hold tryouts for new ones. There were some significant differences, however. Some of the names were different - Live Wire instead of Lightning Lad, Apparition instead of Phantom Girl and so on. Some characters, such as Chuck Taine (Bouncing Boy) and Tenzil Kem (Matter-Eater Lad) filled non-heroic roles as the Legion's chief technologist and gourmet cook, respectively.
A few heroes joined who had no counterparts in the previous Legion - XS, the granddaughter of Barry Allen (Flash II), Gates, an insectoid teleporter with communist leanings, and Kid Quantum, who could alter the very flow of time itself. As before, it wasn't long until members died. The first Kid Quantum died when his power-belt malfunctioned, depriving him of his powers and giving Tangleweb a chance to snap his neck. Leviathan (previously Colossal Boy) died fighting Doctor Regulus. Other members who had died in the previous incarnation of the Legion went on to survive. Invisible Kid and Ferro are the two most notable of these. This Legion acted as police, ambassadors and explorers, working to bring peace and understanding to the galaxy. They had many adventures, including an extended period when half the Legion was stranded in the 20th Century, following a battle with one of their own - Shrinking Violet, who was in the thrall of the Emerald Eye of Ekron.
Threeboot / Earth-Prime
While the exact origin of the Legion is still unknown, the world they live in is very different. It is a time of stagnation and conformity, where physical contact with other people is considered the height of rudeness, and even people in the same room will use electronic means to converse rather than talk to each other. Children are bio-tagged so their parents can track them anywhere, and are taught obedience and propriety.
In this environment, the Legion has become an icon of youthful rebellion. While the actual working membership of the Legion is only about twenty, the thousands of young people who have left their homes and gathered together in its support are also considered Legionnaires. The "core team" have adopted code names conforming to the pattern of 20th century heroes - one-word noun or adjective, followed by "Boy," "Girl," "Lad," or "Lass."
For a long time, the Science Police, the dominant power on Earth, considered the Legion a threat, but now is attempting to put the Legion under its power. As with the previous "reboot," there are some changes to characters. For example, Colossal Boy is now from a race of giants. His ability to shrink to six feet tall is why he wants to be called "Micro Lad," but his teammates prefer his original name. Chameleon Boy, who in previous incarnations was recognizably male, is an androgynous character due to his nature as a shapeshifter, and thereby only goes by the codename "Chameleon." Phantom Girl gains her abilities by phasing from one dimension to another, to the extent that she is existing in two worlds at once.
The current Legion exists to fight not only evil but also conformity, fear and oppression. They are at the front lines of the generation gap in the galaxy. Their first battle cry, coined by Lightning Lad, was "Eat it, Grandpa," which says a great deal about the view that version of the team has of their world.
Retroboot / New Earth
This incarnation of the Legion shares the same history as the Modern Age Legion up to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. In the "Lightning Saga" crossover (See Justice League of America (vol. 2) #8-10 and Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #5-6) which saw the return of the original version of Star Boy (now called Starman) who is a member of JSA and the return of Dream Girl, Wildfire, Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Dawnstar, and Brainiac 5.
Back in the 30th century the Earth's sun has turned red and several failed Legion applicants who were born on Earth have banded together to form the Justice League of Earth under the leadership of Earth-Man after he claims that Superman was a human who gained his powers from "Mother Earth". Earth-Man uses the claim to have Earth secede from the United Planets and ban all aliens from Earth, resulting in several Legionnaires going underground. With the help of Superman, the Legion eventually restores the Sun to its normal state and defeats Earth-Man and the Justice League of Earth just as the United Planets is about to attack the Earth (See Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes).
Post-Flashpoint / Legion Lost
Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Tyroc, Tellus, Gates, and Chameleon Girl traveled to the 21st Century on a mission to save the future; however, they found that had to remain there after they contracted a pathogen that could destroy the 31st century if they return.
This version of the team teamed up with the Teen Titans and the Justice League before reuniting with the rest of the Legion in the 31st Century.
Fourboot / Rebirth
A new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes traveled to the past and recruited Jon Kent to join the team.
This version of the Legion had new, unique members such as Gold Lantern, Doctor Fate, and Monster Boy.
Major Story Arcs
Time Trapper Manipulating Time
The Legion discovered anomalies in history that did not coincide with their version of history including historical data about Superman. The Time Trapper seemed to be responsible for manipulating the time stream (See Cosmic Boy mini series and Legends). The Legion decided to travel in the Time Bubble to confront the Time Trapper at his citadel at the end of time. The Time Trapper diverted the Legion to Superboy's time period where some members of the Legion were captured by Superboy (See Legion Of Super-Heroes #37). The others escaped in the Time Bubble several years into the future and landed in Superman's time period. The Legion and Superman met for the first time which confused members of the Legion except for Brainiac 5. Superboy was able to follow the Legion and captured them as well (See The Man of Steel mini series and Superman #8).
Superboy brought them back to the past with Superman following him. Superboy and Superman battled in Smallville after arriving in the past. Superboy does not wish to fight anymore and explained his actions. Superman was returned to his own time period while Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes left to battle the Time Trapper (See Action Comics #591). The Time Trapper revealed that he altered the timeline to create a pocket dimension that contained the Superboy of an alternate Earth. Apparently, the Time Trapper diverted any travel by the Legion to Superman's early years to the Earth in this pocket dimension. Thus, the Legion invited the Superboy from this pocket dimension to be a Legionnaire. The Time Trapper created Superboy as part of a trap to destroy the Legion.
The Time Trapper coerced Superboy's cooperation by saving his home and family from a destructive storm of energy that could still be released to destroy them. Superboy died to save his Earth and to return the Legion safely to their own time period. Time travel was also stopped until Brainiac 5 finds another way through time (See Legion of Super-Heroes #38).
The Magic Wars
The Legion came together during a galaxy-wide cataclysm involving a struggle between the forces of magic and science. The Legion battled and defeated the Archmage who was the source of the magical upheaval (See Legion of Super-Heroes #60-#63).
The Legion continued to operate on Earth until the appearance of the Blight, a star-spanning race of aliens who were determined to assimilate all life into their galactic web. They were defeated by the Legion, but at great cost, and the Earth was nearly in ruins. The Blight had used the UP's network of stargates to spread through the galaxy, and so the network was shut down until it could be made safer. The galaxy was about to enter a dark age, and the Legion was about to enter one of its own.
While trying to contain a space-time rift caused by a malfunctioning stargate, half the Legion was flung out of our universe entirely into another, stranger place. They spent a year trying to get home, in the process discovering that their survival was due to the efforts of Element Lad, who paid for their lives with his sanity. He became a kind of mad god of this universe, creating and extinguishing life at his whim. With the help of a native of that universe, Shikari Lonestar, and the sacrifice of one of the founders, Live Wire, the lost Legionnaires were able to make their way home, a year after they had left.
The Returned of Lost Legionnaires
During that year, the Legion had ceased to exist. Leland Macauley, a longtime opponent of the Legion, had become President of the United Planets, and the era of super-heroics was at its nadir. When the lost Legionnaires returned, however, they discovered that Macauley was actually Ra's al Ghul, who was preparing to bring the Earth to a state of near catastrophe so as to jump-start human evolution. He was thwarted, but at great cost.
The Legion, now with complete autonomy thanks to R.J. Brande, looked forward to expanding its role in the galaxy. They had their own satellite, and were training a "Legion Corps" to assist them. They went into battle against great enemies, such as Universo and Darkseid.
Fatal Five Hundred
When an attack by the Fatal Five brought the Legion together with the Teen Titans, another spacetime rift was created. In order to shut the rift, the Legion took the Persuader's axe - the cause of the rift - through it, and vanished. The member remaining in the standard DC continuity was Shikari, who immediately set out to find her friends. She did so during the Infinite Crisis, on Earth-247.
Legion of 3 Worlds
Superman is pull from the past to help the under men Legion against Superboy-Prime the Legion of Super-Villains. Even with Superman they are still out match against LSV, so Brainiac 5 calls on two other incarnation Legion from other realties to fight Superboy-Prime, the Legion of Super-Villains, and the Time Trapper. It was revealed in the mini-series that the "Reboot" Legion came from Earth-247, which was destroyed in Infinite Crisis, and the "Threeboot" Legion came from the reconstructed Earth-Prime. After battle Threeboot Legion re-tuned to home reality, as for Earth-247 Legion chose to explore the multiverse calling themselves the "Wanderers" to search for survivors (See Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds).
Rules governing the Legion
According to its constitution, are the following (Pre-Zero Hour):
- The Legion may contain no more than 25 members, but the Club may have any number of part-time reserve members (Action Comics #387).
- No member can be over the 18 years of age, must have at least one super-power that he or she can "fully control" and must be "courageous and of good character".
- To become a Legionnaire, a candidate must win a two-thirds vote of at least three-quarters of the acting membership.
- All Legionnaires must continue to go to school when off duty.
- A new leader is selected each year "in a manner to be determined by a vote of three-quarters of the entire active membership." This leader need answer only to the Commissioner of the Science Police. The Legion of Superheroes Election is also run in the event of a current leader resigning.
- Unless it's a dire emergency, no Legionnaire may partake in more than five successive space missions without a rest period, to prevent "space fatigue."
- Legionnaires must salute in the presence of the Legion flag.
- Members who refuse an order from the leader may be court-martialed and expelled form the Legion.
- Cowardice, a loss of powers, and charging a fellow Legionnaire falsely are also grounds for dismissal. Any Legionnaire expelled form the Legion, and not retained as a Reservist--a hero who has retired or is a member of Legion of Substitute Heroes--must submit to hypnotic brainwashing "to remove all memory of Legion secrets." In the distant future, the Legion of Super-heroes will merge with the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
Along with the main version of the team itself at differents ages, there also had existed simultaneusly alternate versions, which were parallel to the mainstream iteration:
Legion of Super-traitors: An alternate universe legion visited by Superboy, where all legionnaries are criminals instead heroes. First seen in Adventure Comics #293.
Legion of Adult Super-heroes: a future beyond the main Legion time visited by an adult Superman, where he discovers the future of some of the legionnaries and learn about characters who would become members. First seen in Adventure Comics #354.
- Bizarro Legion of Super-Heroes: Bizarro duplicates of the legionnaires, created by Bizarro. First seen in Adventure Comics #329. A new version of the team made his debut post-Zero Hour.
- L.E.G.I.O.N.: the Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network, an private galactic police force, run by Vril Dox II, is a present day version of the Legion. Several members have ties to legionnaries members, such as ancestors.
- Time Trapper's Legions & evil Legion: Composed by different alternate version Legions (with several of them being out of continuity), the Time Trapper seek to test the (then) mainstream Legion. For this purpose, the Trapper summoned also a first time seen evil version of the Legion, who went against their heroic doppelgangers. The evil legion was first seen in Legion of super-heroes 105.
- Justice Legion L: Seen in DC One million event. In the century 853, an isolated clusters of planets is protected by evolved members of the Justice Legion, such as Cosmicbot, the M'onelves, and Brainiac 413.
- Dead Earth Legions: In a time in the far future after the death of earth, these versions of the Legion resurges backed by an immortal Wildfire, who wants to give the universe an example of cooperation among differents species to a highly paranoid society.
- Superboy's Legion: Elseworlds. An universe where Kal-El was discovered one thousand years later by JR Brande, and founded the Legion by less altruistic reasons.
- Kingdom Come's Legion: Elseworlds. Heavily inspired in the post Zero Hour/Batch SW6 Legion, it includes future versions of Superboy and Supergirl. In Multiversity Guidebook it was revealed than Kingdom Come universe is earth-22.
- Legion of Death: Also called Legion of Doom and Lady Styx' s Royal Guard. In the alternate 31st century of the Justice League 3000, an evil version of the Legion appeared as the personal army of Lady Styx. First seen in Justice League 3001 9.
DCU Animated universe.
The legion made his debut animated in the Superman animated series episode "New Kids on town", where a young Clark Kent is saved by time traveler legionnaires against a Brainiac decided to kill him before he became Superman.
Their next appearance would be in the Justice League Unlimited series. In the episode "Far from home", Legionnaries Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy recruit the help of 21st century leaguers Green Lantern (John Stewart), Green Arrow and Supergirl to help them to stop the Fatal Five.
Superman and the Legion of Super-heroes
The animated series Legion of Super Heroes ran from September 23 2006 till April 5 2008 on Kids' WB. The shown ran for two seasons with the third being planned but then cancelled after Kids WB! was taken over by The CW4Kids.
The show mostly revolved around eight main members of the Legion with others appearing in recurring roles similar to Justice League Unlimited. A young Superman appears in season one as one of the main character, he is brought in to the future to help out the Legion and also learn how to be the hero he is destined to become.
In season two a character named Superman X (later named Kell-El) is introduced. A clone that was created by mixing DNA from Superman and Kryptonite to create the perfect weapon, he is sent back in time from the far future to get help from the Legion of Super Heroes in fighting Imperiex. The character is roughly based on Superboy Prime.
In the episode of Smallville entitled "Legion", Clark Kent is saved by the core members of the legion of Super-heroes.
- Lightning Lad
- Saturn Girl
- Brainiac 5
- Phantom Girl
- Bouncing Boy
- Triplicate Girl
- Timber Wolf
- Chameleon Boy
- Invisible Kid
- Colossal Boy
- Cosmic Boy
- Dream Girl
- Element Lad
- Shrinking Violet
- Sun Boy
- Matter-Eater Lad
- Star Boy
- Ferro Lad
- Ultra Boy
- Nemesis Kid
- Polar Boy
- Karate Kid