The Original Legion
The Legion of Super-Heroes became not only heroes of Earth but to the various societies that were part of the United Planets organization (similar to the modern day United Nations). The Legion Clubhouse was established within a spaceship-like building in Metropolis, a nod to the spaceship that brought to Earth Kal-El of Krypton, a.k.a. Clark Kent, the hero Superman.
Along with Superman and his age of super heroes, the Legion were also preceded by a group of heroes called the Wanderers that had operated and disbanded years before the assassination attempt on RJ Brande (ADVENTURE COMICS #375, 1968). The Legion met the Wanderers on several occasions.
As the team’s fame and resources grew, so did its membership. Major members who joined were Bouncing Boy, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Chameleon Boy and Brainiac 5 (a descendant of Superman’s enemy Brainiac). Though Cosmic Boy was the first leader, leadership rotated several times.
So many super-powered individuals and skilled fighters wanted to join the Legion that they regularly held try-outs. Some people who were rejected at try-outs decided to create their own group known as the Legion of Substitute Heroes or “the Subs” (ADVENTURE COMICS #306, 1963). Over time, some of the Subs proved themselves to such a degree that they were then welcomed into the main Legion. The LSH also established the Legion Academy, where potential new members could learn how to hone their skills and abilities (ADVENTURE COMICS #347, 1968).
The Legion made many enemies over the years including Universo, the sorcerer Mordru, the gang called Fatal Five, and the Legion of Super-Villains (which included Lightning Lad’s brother Mekt in their membership).
With their time bubble ship, the founding members of the LSH journeyed into the past when Clark Kent was just a teenager living in Smallville. The three let him know that although he would have challenges and defeats, what he did mattered and he would grow into a hero so influential that a thousand years later would inspire their team. Wishing to spend more time with kids his age from whom he didn’t have to hide his abilities, Clark became a Legion reservist. He made semi-regular visits to the future and also helped the team whenever it traveled into the past. The Legion helped cement Superman as an idealist, since thanks to them he had seen the future and knew humanity’s true potential and worth (ADVENTURE COMICS #247, 1958).
When the Legionnaires visited the past again and faced the telepathic Brain Globes of Rambat, they recruited Clark’s Kryptonian dog Krypto and other super-powered animals to help them. This led to the creation of the Legion of Super-Pets (ADVENTURE COMICS #293, 1962).
Time travel also led to the team joining forces with Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, a.k.a. Supergirl. Along with that, they befriended Lar Gand, a.k.a. Mon-El, a young adventurer from the planet Daxam. His body had suffered fatal lead poisoning, so Superman sent him into the timeless “twilight dimension” known as the Phantom Zone where he would become an un-aging wraith, the poisoning halted until a cure could be found. A thousand years later, the Legion used chemicals such as serum XY-4 to let Mon-El leave the Phantom Zone for limited periods of time. Eventually, Brainiac 5 came up with a permanent cure and Mon-El officially joined the team (ADVENTURE COMICS #305, 1963).
The team faced its first major defeat right after Saturn Girl learned that a Legionnaire would possibly die during their next battle against Zaryan the Conqueror. Newly made leader of the team, Saturn Girl hid this news from the team and decided to take sole responsibility for stopping the menace. Learning the truth, Lightning Lad interceded, ending the threat and saving Saturn Girl while losing his life in the process (ADVENTURE COMICS #304, 1963). Soon after, the team welcomed new allies Element Lad and Garth’s sister Ayla, who took the name Lightning Lass (which she changed to Light Lass when her powers altered to manipulate gravity instead of electricity).
During one adventure, the 5th dimensional being Mxyzptlk V killed the LSH. But Clark Kent was able to banish him back to the 5th dimension, causing all of his damage to be undone and resurrecting the Legion in the process (ADVENTURE COMICS #310, 1963). Later on, a plan by Mon-El and the sacrifice Chameleon Boy’s pet Proty, led to Lightning Lad being resurrected as well (ADVENTURE COMICS #312, 1963).
Brainiac 5 created an artificial intelligence called Computo, but then it went rogue and attempted conquest. Though the Legion was successful against Computo and its robot drones, one of Triplicate Girl’s copies died in combat. A funeral was held for her and the traumatized Triplicate Girl became Duo Damsel (ADVENTURE COMICS #340-341, 1966).
When a Sun-Eater threatened all life on Earth, the LSH recruited the Fatal Five, a gang of super-villains, for help. New LSH member Ferro Lad sacrificed his life to destroy the Sun-Eater (ADVENTURE COMICS #352-353, 1967).
A battle with the Fatal Five left the Legion Clubhouse in ruins. Almost immediately afterward, the terrorist group called Dark Circle led a massive attack against Earth. During this, the Legion discovered a device that could turn thought into reality, the Miracle Machine. Brainiac 5 used the Miracle Machine to repel the Dark Circle and create a new Legion HQ citadel in Smallville. The Legion then sealed the device in a block of inerton, the hardest/densest substance known, promising only to use it in the most dire of emergencies because it was too powerful (ADVENTURE COMICS #366-367, 1968).
The Legion went through further changes. It was revealed that R.J. Brande was actually a shape-shifting Durlan alien named Ren Daggle, and the father of Chameleon Boy. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl married, as did Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel. Invisible Kid died in battle against Validus, a member of the Fatal Five. The team also faced new foes such as the mysterious and powerful Time Trapper.
During the “Earthwar” story arc, the Legion fought in a multi-sided war involving the Dominators, the Dark Circle, the Khunds, the Resource Raiders, and the United Planets. It turned out the different groups were being manipulated by the sorcerer Mordru, who then briefly took control of Earth before he was beaten by the combined forces of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Legion of Substitute Heroes. This story also introduced the LSH to Shvaughn Erin of the Science Police (SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #242-245, 1978).
“The Great Darkness Saga” (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #290–294, 1982) became one of the biggest stories of the team’s history. After fighting various villains who claimed to be servants of a powerful master, and some of whom were clones of powerful figures in history including Superman, the Legion learned that their hidden foe was the New God called Darkseid. Despite Darkseid’s schemes and his temporarily taking control of three billion Daxamites, the Legion was victorious. Later however, when Saturn Girl gave birth to twin children, Darkseid takes one of them and warps it mentally and physically, sending it backwards in time to become the creature Validus and thus delivering a “curse of darkness” on the LSH.
Post-CRISIS and “The Five Year Gap”
Following the history-altering events of 1985's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, Clark Kent’s teenage adventures with the LSH were removed from DC's continuity. It was now said that the Legion had actually been manipulated by the Time Trapper into visiting a teenage Clark of a parallel Earth in a “pocket universe.”
During the “Magic Wars” (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #60–63, 1994), forces of magic rose again in the universe and disrupted much technology as well as the laws of science, leading to chaos and disaster. In the end, the source of magic in the universe was destroyed and order was restored for the most part, but Mon-El lost his life. The Time Trapper then revived Mon-El, hoping to use him to preserve his own endangered existence. But the Daxamite killed him instead before he could continue to manipulate history for his own agenda. As a result, the pocket universe and Superman’s influence on the Legion’s formation were removed from history, and Time Trapper’s place in history was replaced by his underling Glorith. Mon-El’s history was altered and he became the 20th century hero Valor, now serving as the main inspiration for the LSH a thousand years later.
In 1989, a new volume of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES took place “Five Years Later…” It was revealed that the Legion had disbanded and its adult former members now lived in a darker, more cynical universe where the Dominators ruled Earth. Chameleon Boy then tracks down Rokk Krinn and together they form a new version of the Legion. The adult Legion then encountered younger duplicates of themselves created by the Dominators and known as Batch SW6.
Following 1994's history-altering event ZERO HOUR: CRISIS IN TIME, the Legion's history was completely reimagined. In this version of events, many of the Legionnaires were not seen as “kids” on their home worlds due to a lower age of legal adulthood in most 30th century societies. The Reboot Legion was initially distrusted by the governments of the United Planets and took some time developing a reputation as trustworthy heroes. The Legion then became an official rescue and law enforcement branch of the U.P. The team also drafted members from different U.P. worlds for a time.
Although the membership was very similar to the previous incarnation, the members of the Reboot LSH generally had different codenames (Lightning Lad was instead called Live Wire, Phantom Girl was instead called Apparition, etc.). New members included XS (granddaughter of Barry Allen, the Flash), Kinetix, Inferno, Gates and others. The 20th century adventurer Lar Gand AKA Valor eventually wound up in the future and joined the Legion under the name M’Onel.
For a time, half the team was lost in the late 20th century for years. This version of the Legion also sometimes clashed with, as well as worked alongside, a rival super hero team called the Workforce (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #64, 1995).
After the team reunited, dark times were ahead. A malevolent race known as the Blight spread decay through different parts of the universe, finally reaching Earth. The Blight then opened a special rift that threatened Earth’s solar system. The Legion succeeded in closing it, but RJ Brande, by now President of the U.P., was partially blamed for the Blight invasion as his Stargates technology had been used by them to travel great distances, and so he stepped down from office (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #122–124, 1999-2000).
It was discovered that the Blight had indirectly caused a rift in space to open near the Legion Outpost station in Deep Space. The rift collapsed and, although the damage was contained, eleven Legionnaires were lost in the process, transported across space. Following this, the United Planets officially disbanded the Legion of Super-Heroes, replaced by the Presidential Oversight Watch (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #125, 2000).
The 2000-2001 series LEGION LOST followed the Legionnaires who were now displaced far away, while 2001's LEGION WORLDS limited series followed the Legionnaires who remained in United Planets territory. The team reunited in the series THE LEGION from 2001-2004, accepted new members, and returned to the business of fighting threats old and new such as the terrorist cult leader Ra’s al Ghul and the machine civilization of Robotica.
In the 2005 event INFINITE CRISIS, it was revealed that the rebooted Legion was not from Earth's future but rather the future of Earth-247.
In 2004, a completely new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes was introduced in TEEN TITANS/LEGION SPECIAL. This team’s adventures were chronicled in 2005's LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series.
In this version of the 31st century, the Legion seems to have had a similar origin to their original incarnation. However, this version of the Legion also rebelled against the overly strict and stagnant societies that are the norm in this future. Their flight rings give them the freedom of being untraceable by public services that track the movements of all people, particularly teenagers. As a result of all this, the team becomes a rallying symbol for social activism in young people across the galaxy. While there is a set roster of active members on the team, and a limited number of flight rings, it is considered that any teenager who speaks their mind and questions the strict social order is a member of the Legion. It was a recurring joke that the battle cry of this Legion was “Eat it, grandpa!”
After proving themselves as reliable protectors, despite their youth, the Legion became an official and fully funded extension of EarthGov (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #14, 2006). When Supergirl was accidentally transported from the 21st century into the 31st century, she joined the team and the series was temporarily renamed SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES from issue #16 to #36.
Against the wishes of the Legion, the team later became an official part of the United Planets joint government and now had to abide by more rules and limitations (SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #20, 2006). Soon after this, the “Dominator War” occurred, as the Legion became the frontline against infiltration and invasion by the Dominator race. During this story arc, the Legion encountered a black ops unit called the Wanderers (SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #22-30, 2006-2007).
Following this, Cosmic Boy left to join heroes of the 41st century and Supergirl was made leader. When she later found a way back to the 21st century, she turned leadership over to Lightning Lad (SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #36, 2008).
Back to Basics (2007-2011)
Following the 2005 event INFINITE CRISIS, a version of the LSH appeared in the 2007 storyline “The Lightning Saga”. This was revealed to be the original version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, still in existence but without the history of the “Five Years Gap” era and certain stories that came before it.
This version of the Legion had been teenagers in the 30th century but were now adults in the 31st century, dealing not only with familiar enemies and interstellar threats, but also growing xenophobia on planets such as Earth. A new superhuman named Earth-Man led a racist social movement on Earth that believed all aliens were enemies and claimed that Superman had been on Earth, that it was propaganda and lies to say he was from a world called Krypton. Earth-Man’s movement forced much of the Legion to become an underground resistance, and they recruited their old friend Superman to help them prove the truth to the public (ACTION COMICS #858-863, 2007-2008).
Following the defeat of Earth-Man, the Legion actually included him in their ranks for a time, on the insistence of EarthGov. The team dealt with cultists known as the Religion of Crime, attacks by the Durlans in response to the death of RJ Brande, the destruction of Titan, and Mon-El temporarily becoming a Green Lantern. During one battle, Earth-Man sacrificed himself to stop the villains known as the Blue Flame (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #13, 2012).
In the 2008 limited series FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, this classic version of the LSH joined forces with the Reboot Legion and the "Threeboot" Legion. Following these events, the Reboot Legion, realizing their reality was now lost, decided to venture through the multiverse under the new name “Wanderers.”
Following the events of 2011's FLASHPOINT, DC history was reimagined in the New 52 universe. This, however, did not seem to greatly affect the Legion of Super-Heroes. During this time, several Legionnaires were temporarily stranded in the 21st century, including Chameleon Girl, Dawnstar, Gates, Tellus, Timber Wolf, Tyroc and Wildfire. The team realized they had contracted a pathogen that could wipe out people of the 31st century if they returned to their home era. The adventures of this group were chronicled in 2011's LEGION LOST.
After several events that lessened faith in the heroes, and an intense battle with the Fatal Five, the Legion was once again disbanded by the United Planets LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #13, 2011; #23, 2013). The team members then returned to action during the “Infinitus Saga” and the team not only reformed but also now included members from other timelines (JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #6-10, ANNUAL #1, 2014-2015).
Following 2016's DC Universe: Rebirth #1, much of DC’s pre-New 52 history has been restored, while some New 52 stories have now been removed from continuity. It is not yet clear if this has affected the Legion of Super-Heroes.