Sunday, April 01, 2018

Retcons, the Way They're Supposed to Work

Some thoughts on the animated Legion.

You may recall that the final issue of Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century featured the revelation that the whole animated continuity didn't actually "happen" but was one of original-Legion Brainiac 5's simulations. The idea was, the three founders were going to go back in time and meet Superboy for the first time, and Brainy came up with this simulation to get a sense of how this could play out, whether it was safe or not. (My review is here; note that writer Jack Briglio, who is an excellent fellow, visited the comments to basically confirm this interpretation.)

It's kind of a cool idea. Sort of gets in the way of future crossovers between the original/reboot/threeboot Legions and the animated Legion, but if we're honest with ourselves we can admit that that was never going to happen anyway.

But what I want to talk about is, the story also implies that Brainy had a considerable amount of knowledge of future events right from the beginning of original-Legion continuity. Consider:

- he saw the Sun-Eater story play out with the Fatal Five's betrayal and Ferro Lad's sacrifice
- he knew that Timber Wolf was Brin Londo
- he saw a bunch of Legion rejects organize themselves as the Legion of Substitute Heroes

...and so on. Now, some of that stuff doesn't really get in our way. The thing with the Subs, for instance; it's not a problem that has to be solved, so Brainy is not to be faulted for not investigating just what the rejects all get up to. So it's fine for the Subs to exist for so long in original-Legion continuity without the LSH knowing they're there. When they finally did reveal themselves, I imagine Brainy would be like, "What? We're doing this now? All right. Where's the kid with the spikes?"

The Sun-Eater story is more problematic, and, to me, it's only saved by the fact that Brainiac 5 doesn't appear in the original comics story. There are lives at stake here, after all. Brainy must have beat himself up afterwards for not having contingency plans around for what if the Sun-Eater showed up in real life; Ferro Lad might still be alive! Still, not everything in animated continuity happened in real life, and Brainy is a busy guy, so I can't criticize him too much for it.

But there's one place where it helps us!

You remember in the famous "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story in Action Comics where Brainy tells Polar Boy and Wildfire that Saturn Girl used to screen out some applicants for reasons other than their powers? (She can't have been reliably good at it; look at all the troublemakers who got past her.) Why didn't she screen out Nemesis Kid? Guy was an evil traitor, working with the Khunds. She couldn't spot that?

Well, maybe she couldn't, because of Nemesis Kid's powers... but maybe Nemesis Kid had Brainy speaking up for him, saying something like, I saw this guy in one of my simulations, and he turns out to be a good Legionnaire. I know, I know... the LSH31C writers were eventually going to have him betray the animated Legion just like every other Nemesis Kid. But they never got around to it, and it's better this way. Makes all the sense in the world.

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