The news broke this week that DC Comics is cancelling Legion of Super-Heroes. (Whoops: putting it on “indefinite hiatus.”)

Legion of Superheroes by Gary Frank and Jon SibalSays DC’s Executive Editor Dan DiDio, “50 seemed like a really nice number to bring this series to a conclusion.” This oh-so-carefully considered reasoning evidently superseded the fact that writer Jim Shooter was in the middle of an extended storyline projected to conclude four months later in #54. Or the fact that 2008 is the 50th anniversary of the Legion, which was the very first super-team of the Silver Age when it debuted in 1958. Or the fact that Legion (while not an A-list title in recent years) has bumped in sales since Shooter (a fan-favorite on the Legion since his original run in the 1960s) came aboard, and has been selling a steady 25-30,000 copies a month, far more than other titles like Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, or Jonah Hex. (Nothing against those titles; all are critical favorites, and I’m not suggesting they should be cancelled. OTOH, the critically disregarded Simon Dark only sells about 12,000 copies, yet doesn’t appear to be on the chopping block).

Legion Flight RingSpeaking as a fan (yes, I even own a flight ring!), this decision mystifies me. “But,” some will say, “surely they’re just axing the current series to make way for a new Geoff Johns-written Legion title?” After all, Johns has reintroduced (a different version of) the Legion in recent storylines in JSA and Action, teaming them with Superman as a lead-in to the high-profile George Pérez-illustrated Legion of Three Worlds mini-series that launched last month. It doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine that he has bigger plans in mind.

But… no, apparently not.

“…realistically, [Geoff]’s got a pretty full slate with everything that’s going on,” DiDio said. “He’s got Flash, Green Lantern, JSA, Action, and specials coming up… But I’m sure that the Legion will stay close to Geoff and near and dear to him as well…”

So, there’s no commitment to a relaunched book, by Johns or anyone else, at least in the foreseeable future.

The Legion has always seemed like the red-headed stepchild of DC’s line, despite its dedicated fan base. It’s a distinctive concept—a team of optimistic, idealistic heroes growing from their teens into adulthood, set against a spectacular science-fiction backdrop a thousand years in the future. In many ways, it appeals to the same sense of wonder that makes Star Trek work. Still, it’s usually had more support from the fans than from the company. It bounced around from one back-up feature to another in its early years; its backstory was eviscerated by John Byrne’s 1986 Superman reboot in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. And over the last 20 years:

  • The series was revamped and relaunched in 1989 (with an internal “soft reboot” along the way)
  • It was rebooted from scratch in 1994 (yet for some reason not relaunched)
  • It was canceled and revamped in 1999, with two mini-series eventually leading into a new ongoing title.
  • It was rebooted and relaunched again in 2004.

And now this.

Let me be clear: I’ve not been a huge fan of the current incarnation of the team. There are too many characters and concepts from past versions whose absence is too keenly felt. It’s no surprise that Johns’ “unboot” version of the team has excited fans, evoking as it does the classic mid-’80s Paul Levitz run on the title, and I wouldn’t mind seeing that version given a shot on an ongoing basis.

However… that’s not what DC is doing. They have no plans at this point, at least none they’re willing to announce. If Johns isn’t available in the near term, why not let Shooter finish off his current run in the style it deserves? And at that point, why not hand the responsibility for a relaunch over to some other writer with less of a full plate—say, perhaps, J. Michael Straczynski, who certainly has a highly regarded background writing futuristic concepts with large ensemble casts?

That’s just one possibility. Regardless, though, the current approach is just one more example on a long list of hamfisted editorial decisions at DC. It’s a terrible shame just to let the Legion languish, espeically when the anniversary, the available talent, and the LO3W publicity all present such an opportunity to celebrate the team and give it a fresh promotional push.

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3 Responses to “Putting the future on hold”
  1. Andrew says:

    It’s nice the see my childhood heroes come back to life under another banner, really I don’t care if they are Marvel or DC or WB, the story is the one that mattrers

  2. Well, I’m of two minds about the end of L3W. It definitely had a couple of great fist-pumping moments, but still I don’t think it lived up to the promise of its beginning. The FYL cameos were a nice easter egg, but I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing them again unless and until DC has a writer and editor who actually want to revisit them, and none is in evidence at the moment. And the setup for future Legion outings was rather dampened by the fact that they have no venue in which to appear, aside from single-character backups in Adventure.

  3. The one thing that the closure of Legion of Three Worlds gave me in terms of satisfaction? That two-page spread with Superboy-Prime facing off against multiple Legions…including the 1989-1994 version as well. And they didn’t explicitly dispose of the characters of that version in any way that suggested we’ll never see them again in the DCU.

    Left me more than a little hopeful for their future.

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