Thursday, June 13, 2019

Gotta Get Home before the Morning Comes

As you all know and as fate would have it, we're going to be getting a new Legion of Super-Heroes comic this year. If you need to brush up on the details, this link is where you want to go, for an interview with Brian Michael Bendis about what his plans are for the Legion.

I'm very glad about this. I'm glad whether it turns out to be a good comic or a bad one. Obviously I'd rather it be a good one. But I like thinking about the Legion of Super-Heroes, and I like thinking about them as an active entity, not a static one that only exists in back issues. I don't want to just look back on Legion comics; I want to look forward to them! We can always use stories of heroism, and, these days, we can especially use stories of heroism in which people work together and give us hope for the future.

I don't want to spend too much time discussing what's going to be happening; there'll be a lot of that all over the place. I'm more interested in what we can make of the things we have learned.

So let me go through this interview with Bendis to see what jumps out.

First thing I notice is that Bendis really seems to like the Legion. Which is a good sign. There's no substitute for affection for your material. I've never read much of his stuff, but his reputation is not such that I would have pegged him as a likely Legion writer... Still, he's been around long enough to know his stuff, and if he's really into it, then, hey, let's give it a chance.

Bendis seems to be leaning into the large cast. I've seen any number of people spitballing that if they wrote the Legion, they'd pick out seven or eight characters to focus on and have everyone else present but in the background. And I'm sure it must be tempting to handle it just like that.

When citing Legion runs from the past that might be inspirational for this version of the team, Bendis mentions Mike Grell and Keith Giffen... but also Mark Waid. He uses the phrases "from a modern setting" and "from this standpoint of a modern comic reader" and "brand new kinds of sci-fi" and "No homage to Kirby, Moebius, or John Berkey." This reassures me a lot: it suggests that the comic book will not just be about nostalgia.

But then there's this one. "[T]he point of the Legion of Super-Heroes is how it reflects back on the era of the Age of Heroes, right?"

Hmm. Hmmm.

I don't know if it is.

I don't know if it isn't! I'm dubious but not necessarily opposed.

For the longest time, the Legion was mostly isolated from the rest of DC continuity. This had its good and bad aspects. For better or worse, that time seems to be over; it looks like we're getting a Legion that's more tightly bound up with, I don't know, Booster Gold and Terry McGinnis and stuff like that. And I just don't know. I mean, if they do it well, then that's fine, but I can't claim to actually care about Kamandi and Tommy Tomorrow and that.

Bendis also seems to be looking at this as a long-term project. I think this is the correct approach; the Legion famously lends itself to long-form storytelling. I still like done-in-one stories and am frustrated by sixteen-issue mega-arcs, but Legion comics are a ponderous beast and need long runways.

But here he says, "this isn't a criticism of other creators, but over the years, Legion doesn't have the consistency that other books have had." Except if you look at the history, it has had consistency. It's had a lot of long runs, some very long, that were quite consistent in themselves! So I'm really not sure what he's getting at. Does he mean the reboots and relaunches?

Then he talks about the Legion's motivation. "Our Legion is coming together out of what they think is dire necessity. Things are starting to crumble, and they're crumbling fast, and it really feels like it's time for a new Age of Heroes for the first time in a millennium." On the one hand, this doesn't really reflect the Legion's traditional 'optimistic future' setting. On the other, a couple of things: first, in an adventure story, you need to give your heroes something to do. Second, there's still room for optimism here. Third, just the idea that there are still going to be human beings in a thousand years is something that I would call wildly optimistic all by itself. So.

"You're coming into a universe of ideas about self and all the kinds of things that "self" means as far as anywhere on the spectrum. You can think of about religion, or sexuality, or anything that makes a person individual, and apply all these intergalactic ideas to it..." Now that I think is a very threeboot kind of thing to say. And I mean that entirely as a compliment.

Check out Ryan Sook's character designs. The first one I saw was the Saturn Girl one, and I only caught a glimpse of it. My reaction to it was, good, it's very simple; they finally smartened up. Because the Legion takes forever to draw; the artist might as well save himself the trouble of drawing complicated costumes. Runes on the edge of Element Lad's cape? That cool transparent thing Dragonwing wore? An expensive luxury. But then I looked at all the rest of them and they really aren't that simple. They're not too bad, but some of that detail, like all Lightning Lad's strappy things? He's just creating more work for himself. Anyway. I'm not totally sold on the new look. But I said the same thing about the Legion cartoon and ended up really liking how that looked.

My point is this: break's over.


- TIL who John Berkey is
- Ryan Sook seems to know his business
- 34. Literally 34, or did he just pick a number out of the air?

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