Monday, February 21, 2011

The Legionnaires: Superman X

Superman-X aka Kell-El of Earth. Created by, uh, the writers of the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon. I could look up the names, but I wouldn't know which ones were specifically responsible for this guy.

In the second season of the Legion cartoon, some important focus-group testing showed that the collection of yard apes and crumbcrushers that KidsWB wanted to sell shoddily made toys and nutrition-free food simulations to wanted fewer girls, more fights, more costumes, and more cool superpowers than the show had had before. So the cartoon's creators immediately made plans to revise some characters' looks, to remove Saturn Girl and one-third of Triplicate Girl from the scene, and to beef up characters like Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, and Lightning Lad and make them more !xtreme and fighty. This worked in the sense that they did it and weren't struck down by a bolt from the heavens, but it didn't work in the sense that the show wasn't as good and was cancelled at the end of the season for unrelated reasons anyway.

The other thing they did was to introduce Kell-El, an aggressive, impatient Superman clone from the far future. I guess the idea was that he'd be just like Superman, but a better fit for the show since he had a new costume, some crystal-generating and energy-blast powers as well as the regular Superman powers, and wasn't interested in anything but fighting evil as hard as he could. Part of the arc of Season 2 was to give this dork some sense of humanity and empathy and heroism, making him more than just a warrior. I have to tell you that I could have done without him, but, hey, he was a Legionnaire.

Here's a look at him from his signature moment (about a minute and a half into this): an episode that addresses just what happened to Lightning Lad's twin sister Ayla. Turns out that when the Lightning Beasts of Korbal attacked the three Ranzz siblings, Garth and Mekt got lightning powers but Ayla was actually turned into some kind of electric cloud that's been wandering the galaxy ever since. The Legionnaires encounter this cloud but have no idea what it is... except they can detect a signal coming from it, that of a little girl's voice singing a children's song. This notion blows Kell-El's tiny little mind.

"The cloud is singing?!"

The big goof.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always wished that Mon-El had been the second season's new guy.His character arc could've even been similar to the one Kell-El had over the season;made cold and bitter by his stint in the Phantom Zone,Mon-El thaws out due to the influence of the Legion.
Superman-X works if you think of him as a one-shot character, someone who meets the Legion and became a better man as a result. Don't even consider him a real Legionnaire, but it's your blog.
I think the second season worked as well as the first,despite the efforts of KidsWB.Supe-X wasn't too much of a drag,and while it stunk having some female Legionnaires sidelined,Shrinking Violet and Dream Girl both had strong roles,so it wasn't a total loss.

2:35 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, it wasn't a total loss; there were some points of considerable interest. But overall I wish they hadn't done it that way.

I think Mon-El's virtues are too subtle for what this cartoon was.

As far as whether he was a real Legionnaire or not, well... there he was. I don't know what basis I have for not considering him a real Legionnaire.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superman-X could be considered an ally of the Legion,like Rond Vidar,rather than a member.Why,he didn't get a Legion ring until the final episode of the season,before he returned to his home time. A technicality,perhaps,but that's what technicalities are for.
The TV show could do subtle;the scene of Triplicate Girl in front of the three-way mirror proved that.Mon-El could've inherited Kell-El's extra powers for his TV incarnation;could've acquired them somehow during his 1000 years of solitude.Mon could've even kept Kell's black-and-green eyes;they look cool,and keep Mon from being seen as a Superman clone.Daxamites look too much like Kryptionians and Earthlings as it is.
For the second season,I wish the Legionnaires had gotten a different look.At least redesign them with an eye for basic anatomy.Time travel could've been the theme of the season;would've been fun to strand a few Legionnaires in the 21st century for an episode or two.Instead of Imperiex,we could've had the Time Trapper as the main heavy,and the season finale could've been a remake of Death of Superboy without the collateral damage.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Superman-X could be considered an ally of the Legion,like Rond Vidar,rather than a member.Why,he didn't get a Legion ring until the final episode of the season,before he returned to his home time.

See, in retrospect, we could look at it that way, but I was watching this show as it was broadcast, and as of the episode with Karate Kid, Superman-X was clearly being treated as a Legionnaire, and we the viewers had no option but to conclude that he really was one. So that's what I'm going with. And then he did get his official induction in the last episode. So we've got him as a de facto Legionnaire and also as a de iure Legionnaire; should we exclude him because the time periods of those things don't coincide?

I agree that the TV show could do subtle; the problem is that they couldn't put any weight on it. The subtleties were extras for the benefit of people like us who weren't their main audience.

Oh well; someday there'll be another Legion cartoon and we'll see what they do that's different.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Jim Davis said...

Not to hijack the thread (much) but does anyone know if there are any plans for a DVD release for Season 2?

9:21 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Haven't heard of any. Tell you what you do: register at and make Legion of Super-Heroes one of the shows that you want them to send you updates for.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...


Quite the different reaction to getting your arm replaced with a cybernetic one than Red Arrow/Arsenal/"back on speed"y has been having, huh?

10:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It was pretty weak, all right. I half expected him to ask if he could get the other one cut off too.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Bill D. said...

Season 2 had all kinds of problems - most of them Kell-El related - but we did get a decent amount of Vi. She became my favorite character on the show, and my favorite version of her from any take on the LSH. Most of this is because she reminded me of every girl I ever crushed on in high school, I admit, but still.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't think she was around that much, actually, but she certainly did make the most of her few appearances. Kind of reminded me of Joan Cusack in a way.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What really sells this is the actor's reading of the line.He gives it just the right note of dumbfounded belligerence.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Just another day with the Legion, Kell, better get used to it.

6:01 PM  

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