Several members of The Legion of Super Heroes. Artist: Frank Miller.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1958
Creators: Mort Weisinger (editor) and Otto Binder (writer)
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The Legion of Super Heroes started as little more than props in a Superboy story, but grew inexorably to …

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… become one of DC Comics' most popular series — in fact, they did that more than once!

Superboy was inducted into that elite group of young adventurers in Adventure Comics #247 (April, 1958), when its three charter members (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Boy, later known as Lightning Lad), who hailed from the 30th century, journeyed back in time to meet the first superhero of all during his boyhood years. They all acted out their parts in a routine little story (written by Otto Binder, who had earlier written Captain Marvel and Tommy Tomorrow; and drawn by Al Plastino, who also ghosted several newspaper comics, including Terry & the Pirates and Ferd'nand), then went back home, and that was that.

It may be that they weren't even intended as recurring characters — indeed, more than a year and a half went by before they returned. But even in the early days, they seem to have struck a responsive chord in readers. Maybe it was a combination of the futuristic setting, camaraderie, and age of the members — not much older than the readers themselves. In any case, the Legion began to appear more often. More members turned up — in fact, it was a good bet, from about 1959 through the early '60s, that any unknown superhero who appeared in a Superboy story was connected with the Legion. This fit right in with the trend at DC, where superheroes in general were making a comeback.

They finally got a series of their own in the back pages of Adventure Comics #300 (September, 1962), replacing "Tales of the Bizarro World". Within a year or so, they started encroaching on Superboy's space in that title — in fact, they even crowded him off the cover, where he'd reigned alone since 1946. By the mid-1960s, the Legion was starring in book-length stories, and Superboy was out.

Those stories were at first written by science fiction author Edmond Hamilton, but in 1966 a teenage writer named Jim Shooter made his debut. Shooter wrote the Legion for the rest of its Adventure Comics run, then went on to an illustrious (if controversial) career in comics, which included a lengthy stint as Marvel's editor-in-chief.

Editor Mort Weisinger retired in 1969, and his "Superman Family" comics were divided up among the other DC editors. Several features were shifted around during that period. Among them was the Legion, which switched places with Supergirl. Starting with the June, 1969 issues, she got their book-length Adventure Comics slot and they got her back pages in Action Comics. They languished there for a couple of years, then were transferred to the back pages of Superboy, where they languished a little while longer.

But not too long! Within a few months, they started doing to Superboy in his own comic, what they'd done to him in Adventure. First they got more pages, at his expense. Then the title was changed to Superboy & the Legion of Super Heroes, with the Legion getting the covers. Then Superboy stopped appearing in his own stories, but was present only as a Legion member. With #259 (January, 1980) the title became Legion of Super Heroes, and Superboy was out once again.

Since its Adventure run, the Legion has been through dozens of shifts in creative personnel, even more shifts in membership, and even a couple of reboots. But the series has seldom been out of print, and has certainly never suffered for a lack of enthusiastic fans.


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Text ©2000-03 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.