Sunday, November 22, 2015

Strength of Superboy, Wisdom of Harmonia, Uh...

According to the @thisdayincomics Twitter account, the Justice Society first appeared in comics seventy-five years ago today. So that's something: seventy-five years of superhero teams.

I've touched on the history of superhero teams before, but I want to touch on something else here. The point of the Justice Society was to take existing characters and have them all appear in the same comic book. This is also how we got the Justice League, the Avengers, the Defenders, and the Teen Titans. More or less. The identities of the characters came before the identity of the team.

But that wasn't really what happened with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The origins and identities of the individual characters are not identical, but they all (with, I know, a couple of exceptions) share the common feature of featuring interplanetary stuff in the future. And certainly no Legionnaire has been able to establish much of an identity outside of the context of the Legion. The identity of the team comes before the identities of the characters.

So that's not like the Justice Society. There are other teams for whom the same is true, though, like the Fantastic Four and the Zoo Crew. The Metal Men, there's another one. But this model of superteam has its origins in another group that began in the early 1940s: the Marvel Family. They aren't a perfect example of the type, in that the individual Marvels appeared in comics solo with regularity. But they had so much in common with each other that their group identity was basically inseparable from their superheroic identity. Similar costumes, similar names, same powers, related origins...

That's all. Just something I happened to think of.

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Blogger Azathoth100 said...

I think the main reason is because, as you stated, the team is bigger than the members. One of the joys or reading a Legion book is that each issue could show different characters, either in an ongoing storyline or stand alone stories. At it's best the legion would have several storylines going each dealing with different heroes, only to have them come together when a big enough threat came along. If one character was allowed to be a central point, other than Superboy/Superman, then it throws off the balance of the book. Each hero brings their own strengths and weakness to a story, deciding which ones to use takes a lot of skill. Only the best writers have been able to balance all the characters, giving each a distinct personality and story to be a part of. Add in that different writers prefer different heroes, regulating many to cameo's or not seen at all, and it's one of the reason why DC has such a problem keeping the book going. Using some of the less popular heroes is even more challenging. But it's the fact that the group is what sells the comic, not an individual that makes Legion so much fun and almost unique in comics.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yes, all of that.

11:02 PM  

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