LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES

The Legion in Animation

A scene from Legion of Super-Heroes season 2, episode 9 (2008).
» SEE ALSO: Legion on Television

The Legion of Super-Heroes starred in their own animated series for two seasons, which ran from September 2006 to April 2008. Prior to that, Legionnaires made various guest appearances in two other DC cartoons. The continuity between these series is debatable, and cannot be definitively linked.

However, the "DC animated universe" was mostly masterminded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, who delivered a consistent look and tone across all series: Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League. So it's reasonable to expect some similarities among the characters (especially supporting characters), because they shared creators and animators.

But the visual style of the Legion series was a departure from those previous cartoons. And series creator James Tucker denied that these universes were connected by saying: "The Legion series was never tied to the Justice League Unlimited episode (below). Supergirl was never, ever going to be in the Legion."

This article explores the Legion's animated appearances without attempting to hammer them into a logical continuity. The chronology that follows focuses on the events contained within the Legion of Super-Heroes animated series and related comic book, Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century.

Superman: The Animated Series (1998)

Saturn Girl shows young Clark Kent a vision of the Legion. From Superman: The Animated Series, season 3, episode 3 (1998).
Left: Legion headquarters. Right: Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy star in "New Kid in Town." From Superman: The Animated Series, season 3, episode 3 (1998).

The Legion made their first cartoon appearance on Superman: The Animated Series in an episode titled "New Kids In Town" (season 3, episode 3, 31 Oct. 1998). Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Chameleon Boy intercepted Brainiac in the 20th century, where he had engaged with teenage Clark Kent. They told him about his destiny as Superman, and an aside showed a group of Legionnaires, including Ultra Boy, Apparition, Dream Girl, Live Wire, Spark, Brainiac 5, Triad, Bouncing Boy, Kid Quantum and Andromeda.

In the Superman series, Brainiac was depicted with a three-circle symbol on his head. This motif was inspired by his classic comic book look. (Also, the same actor, Corey Burton, voiced Brainiac in both Superman and the finale of Legion.) This symbol reappeared on Brainiac 5 in this episode and in his next animated appearance (see below). The android Brainy of the Legion animated series sported the same.

At this time in DC publishing, Legion comic books featured the post-Zero Hour Legion, and so the Legionnaires depicted in this cartoon mirror the look of those characters, though they do not map exactly to the members at that time.

Justice League Unlimited (2006)

Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy introduce the Justice League members to the Legion. From "Far From Home," Justice League Unlimited season 3, episode 10 (2006).
Left: Mordru appears briefly in Justice League Unlimited (season 1, episode 7). Right: Compare this shot of the Legion HQ (from "Far From Home") to the one above.

In "Far from Home" (Justice League Unlimited season 3, episode 10, 15 April 2006), Supergirl, Green Lantern and Green Arrow meet Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy. They help defeat the Fatal Five and free the rest of the Legionnaires. Supergirl then elects to remain in the future. Note: Validus is depicted here as a robot with a brain; in the LSH cartoon, he is fully biological.

There is one major difference between the depictions of one member: Brainiac 5. In these earlier DC animated appearances, Brainy is quite humanoid, but in Legion, he is an android like his 21st century namesake.

The Legionnaires and Legion headquarters in this episode are very similar to those in the Superman episode above. The shot of Legion HQ was copied entirely, and Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl are drawn essentially the same.

The JLU episode "The Greatest Story Never Told" (season 1, episode 7), featured the Legion's arch-foe, Mordru, running rampant in 20th century Metropolis. His depiction is in line with his original comic appearances, though there was no real explanation given for his appearance here.

Batman Beyond

There is a chain of connections linking the Legion animated series to the Batman Beyond universe. It begins with the character Warhawk, who was introduced in "The Call" (Batman Beyond, 2000). Warhawk was later revealed to be the child of Green Lantern (John Stewart) and Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol), characters from the Justice League animated series. Warhawk and Batman "Beyond" (Terry McGinniss) appeared twice in the JLU cartoon: "The Once and Future Thing" and "Epilogue" (both 2005). Future versions of the Warhawks appeared in the Legion animated comic book, in Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #17 (Oct. 2008).

Batman Beyond was assigned to Earth-12 in the DC multiverse. This designation was given after 52, during the Countdown: Arena series and in Countdown #21 (2007).

Adventures of the DC Universe

The Legion appeared in Adventures in the DC Universe #10 (Jan. 1998). This series was supposedly set in the DC animated universe but this story actually fits into the Legion's regular continuity at the time (despite the art's animated style). It featured post-Zero Hour members Gates, Kinetix and M'Onel, and it references their comic book battle with the White Triangle. Most active Legionnaires appear.

—Many thanks to Michael Grabois

Legion of Super-Heroes Animated Series (2006–07)

The introduction sequence shows some Legionnaires who do not regularly appear in the show — Cosmic Boy, Star Boy, Element Lad, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet and Matter-Eater Lad.

The first season of the Legion animated series focused on a group of seven Legionnaires — Brainiac 5, Bouncing Boy, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf and Triplicate Girl — plus Superman.

The animation style of this cartoon was more inspired by anime, a departure from the previous DC series. At the start, it's made clear that the Legion has many members. The opening sequence shows many of them, and their graphic symbols appear as well. Later in the series, the group's traditional origin is told, but the order in which all the other Legionnaires joined is uncertain.

The Legion founders address the team. From Legion of Super-Heroes season 2, episode 12 (2008).
I own this page of original art from the first issue of Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century (Oct. 2008). Art by Chynna Clugston.
In the first issue that takes place after events of the cartoon, the Legion meets the Warhawks, which were introduced in the Justice League animated series. From Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #17 (Oct. 2008). By J. Torres and Sanford Greene.

During the course of the show, many more Legionnaires are introduced and some of them join the team.

A related comic book, Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century, wove its stories in between episodes.

Season Two took a leap three years forward in time, and a number of things had changed. It introduced the character of Kell-El aka Superman X. The animation style evolved as well. Characters were rendered in a more serious style and the show itself took a darker tone.

The Legion animated series was not renewed for a third season because the "Kids' WB!" was sold. The show's creators went on to produce Batman: The Brave and the Bold for Cartoon Network.

Producer James Tucker said to CBR:

"Initially when we were pitching second season, we had planned to introduce a character that was like Superman's older or twin brother. The network, rightly so, didn't think it would pop. They wanted a super-up Superman. They didn't care how we did it, but they wanted him to be more of a bad ass. For me, I didn't want to alter our existing Superman that much. So along with Michael Jelenic, we came up with the clone from the future."

When the last animated episode was written, the creators did not know it would be the series final. Writer J. Torres mentioned wanted to introduce the LSV, "Most importantly, we wanted to show where Brainy went after the end of season two and how he made his way back to the Legion... While we were waiting to hear the fate of the show, we basically just 'skipped ahead' and started writing stories as if we were in a third season."

James Tucker mentioned some potential introductions for the Season 3 cartoon: Wildfire, Dawnstar, Ferro Lad's brother, and a spotlight on Blok.

Issues #17–20 of the comic book series take place after the final episode of the cartoon.

Justice League vs. the Fatal Five (2019)

The Justice League witness Legionnaire statues in their headquarters (from inside the mind of Star Boy).
The Fatal Five: Mano, Tharok, Emerald Empress, Persauder and Validus.
Brainiac 5, Star Boy and Saturn Girl play larger roles in the feature.
In the 21st century, the Five nearly succeed in destroying Earth's sun and escaping back to the future.
The Legionnaires attend the memorial for Star Boy, who is eulogized by Green Lantern Jessica Cruz.

Justice League vs. the Fatal Five is a 2019 feature-length animated movie set in the same universe as the Justice League animated series. The Legion's depiction seems to also be in line with their appearance on that show (see above). The tone of this feature is more adult than the original cartoon; characters use swear words and actually kill people. The film features outstanding action sequences and a compelling narrative.

The featured Legionnaire in this story is Star Boy. The story borrows a plot point from the character's treatment in the 2007 Justice Society series: he has a mental condition that requires periodic injections to stabilize his mind; without them he cannot think straight and his condition may worsen permanently. (As Starman, he was a member of the JSA from Justice Society of America v.3 #1–23.) In this feature, Star Boy is called "Thomas" not "Thom," and wears his uniform from the 1980s with the starfield and white gloves (but no beard). A photo suggests that he has a relationship with Lightning Lass.

The story's origins begin with a 31st century fight between the Legion and the Fatal Five. The villains nearly triumph and the Emerald Empress' Emerald Eye struck down even their most powerful member, Mon-El. It succumbed to Star Boy's extreme weight shifting ability while Saturn Girl mentally incapacitated the Five.

After a battle, the Emerald Empress and Validus are imprisoned in "sciencells" on Oa (the Green Lantern Corps' base of operations). The remaining members (Mano, Tharok and the Persuader) escape. Note: Their imprisonment is a curious hiccup in plot continuity because it is said that in the 31st century, the Green Lantern Corps has been "lost to the ages."

Mano is in love with the Emerald Empress and devises a plan to steal the Legion's Time Bubble. They seek a "key" to release their teammates. Since there are no Green Lanterns in their time, they need to find one in the past. A year later, they attack Legion headquarters and gain access to the machine. Star Boy, Brainiac 5 and Saturn Girl fail to stop them but Star Boy jumps into the timestream after them. They emerge in the time of the Justice League in the 21st century.

After arriving, Star Boy's mental condition deteriorates. He is found by Batman and placed in Arkham Asylum. Meanwhile the Fatal Five remain trapped in stasis inside the Bubble but they are released when it is examined by Mister Terrific at the headquarters of the Justice League. The League (Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and Miss Martian) succumb to the villains, who escape and search for their "key" — the new Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz.

Mano coerces Jessica into helping them, to stem further violence and destruction. They go to Oa to free the Empress and Validus. The Emerald Eye absorbs power from the Lanterns' central power battery. Note: It is not explained how they exist in the 21st century if they had been captured in the 31st. Perhaps the cells exist simultaneously in all times.

Before they return to the 31st century, the Empress decides to use the Eye's new power to destroy Earth's sun — in order to destroy the planet's future. The next battle destroys the Justice League's mountain headquarters and Superman, Star Boy and Jessica go to intercept the Emerald Eye at the sun. Superman fails and Star Boy must enter the sun and use his gravity powers to hold the star together. He presumably dies and the Justice League holds a memorial for him. Seven Legionnaires arrive from the future to attend.

The fate of the Fatal Five is unrevealed; they are last seen buried under the collapsed mountain.

Notes

When Miss Martian takes the Justice League inside Star Boy's mind, they learn more about the Legion and Fatal Five. In Legion headquarters they see tribute statues to the Justice League and statues of the Legionnaires. Some are not definitively identifiable, but they include Night Girl and Stone Boy.

Brainiac 5 is depicted in a manner very similar to his uniform in "Far From Home."

Chameleon Boy appears in the same costume as his first cartoon appearance, on Superman.

Hawkgirl has returned to Thanagar and there is mention of a war there.

Miss Martian is a trial member, and awarded full membership at the conclusion of the case.

In the future, it's said that Jessica Cruz will attain legendary status as "Limelight."