LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
The SW6 Legion
aka The Legionnaires
Created by Keith Giffen, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, Jason Pearson, and Chris Sprouse
In shadow: Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 #20 (July 1991)
Fully revealed: Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 #24 (Dec. 1991)
» SERIES: Legionnaires #1–18 (1993–94)
Introduction: What could be better?
By 1993, the Legion of Super-Heroes — a longtime staple in DC's publishing properties — had moved into a very different realm. The iconic teen group had officially grown up; their bright colors were retooled to suit a darker drama. They even eschewed their well-known (but now retro-sounding) code names.
Legion of Super-Heroes was relaunched in 1989 (volume 4) by writer/artist Keith Giffen. The fan-favorite creator joined with co-scripters Tom and Mary Bierbaum took readers "five years later." The team used the opportunity to experiment with new kinds of storytelling, and escape from the trappings of Legion tradition. As Tom Bierbaum assessed it, "I can see how people both thought this was a very confusing comic and also a very good comic."
Formerly plastic Legionnaires became real parents, tortured souls, gay lovers, great leaders, even twisted freaks. The Bierbaums were longtime Legion fans themselves, so readers were often rewarded with "Easter eggs" and obscure references.
But after a few years, some grew tired of the experiment and the dark tone. It had become apparent that the familiar uniforms and codenames were essential to the Legion's broader appeal.
"Well, what if you could just bring it all back?" It's comics — you can!
Editor KC Carlson was interviewed in 1993 for Comics Buyer's Guide #999 and gave details behind their decision to change the direction of the series. It happened as Giffen was leaving and the Bierbaums became the primary writers. They acknowledged that the extensive history of the Legion was a deterrent for some, so they planned to launch the SW6 Legion in their own Legion title.
The SW6 Legion were introduced in 1991; they were teens — "chronal duplicates" of the adult Legionnaires — and they had gradually taken on a larger role in the story of Earth's fight against the Dominators. The creators hoped this younger group would appeal to longtime fans while staying accessible to new readers. Carlson said:
"Legionnaires is much more of a traditional super-hero comic book. The Legionnaires wear bright, distinctive costumes designed by Chris Sprouse, have code names, and engage in straightforward adventures."
These SW6 Legionnaires were created during Giffen's run. Their fictional creator was the Time Trapper, who essentially copied the Legion during its formative years. The Trapper described:
"[I] split them into two possible time tracks. I chose to make the divergence occur just before Ferro Lad's death [Adventure Comics #353 (Feb. 1967)] — back when the team's camaraderie was highest. There were exceptions. I had to take Luornu [Duo Damsel] from a slightly earlier time — merge Garth [Lightning Lad] with an undamaged temporal version... but it was important to restore them, to have the team unbroken and pure. ... They are not copies of any sort." (Valor #23)
At that point in Legion history, around the time of Adventure Comics #350 (Nov. 1966, one of Tom Bierbaum's favorite stories), Star Boy and Dream Girl had been expelled; Bouncing Boy was powerless; Ferro Lad was still alive. The Time Trapper restored Triplicate Girl by making her duplicate from a time before Computo killed one of her bodies (Adventure #341, Feb. 1966). Likewise, he took Lightning Lad from a time before his death (Adventure #304, Jan. 1963).
The Trapper stored these copies beneath the Time Institute in Metropolis, in a chamber labeled "Batch SW6." These chambers were discovered much later by the Dominators as they infiltrated Earthgov, as detailed in Legion v.4 #53. The SW6 first appeared in shadow in Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 #20 (July 1991), and they were fully revealed in issue #24 (Dec. 1991).
The SW6 Legionnaires quickly leapt to their potential and pitched in to fight the Dominion. They operated simultaneously with their adult counterparts.
The whole Legionnaires initiative was cut short by the editorial decision to "reboot" the Legion entirely. By the end of the Zero Hour event (1994), all Legion history, continuity, and characters were totally erased.
The SW6's era in Legion history is known among fans by several names. Both "Five Years Later" and "v.4" describe the relaunch of Legion of Super-Heroes, volume 4. It is also known as the "Glorith Reality," because that villain influenced much of this timeline.
Whereas the Retroboot (post-Infinite Crisis) and Reboot (post-Zero Hour) Legions were later established as "official Legions" in the multiverse (in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds), the Legion v.4 events between those two were left in limbo and disregarded in the reestablished continuity.
After the conclusion of Zero Hour, an all-new timeline was created. Legion of Super-Heroes #0 and Legionnaires #0 (Oct. 1994) presented a new Legion, and some all-new Legionnaires.
The post-Zero Hour Legionnaires were also teenagers. Most of them were recreated in the image of their SW6 forebears. Their uniforms and codenames were very similar to (if not identical to) their SW6 counterparts. Since then, the SW6 style of Legion uniform (created by Chris Sprouse) has become a classic. Its been the basis for many Legion costumes in other incarnations, in print, and on television.
The Fight for Earth
It was 2995 and the alien Dominators had virtually taken over Earthgov, now landing fleets led by Pinnacle Command to "pacify" Earth. They had discovered the Time Trapper's duplicate Legionnaires but kept them in stasis. The Legion copies might never have been unearthed but for a cataclysmic event — the destruction of Earth's moon. When Superman was lost in time, he and several Legionnaires failed to prevent the Legion's one-time ally, Dev-Em, from triggering the explosion, and Luna was destroyed. (Adventures of Superman #478)
Debris falling to Earth caused great tremors, and the explosions of a fusion power spheres across the globe. The Dominators in Metropolis worried in particular about the Legion chambers. (Legion v.4 #19) Those chambers were disrupted and their subjects were released, the Trapper's duplicate Legionnaires, stored beneath the Time Institute for over fifteen years in the so-called "Chamber SW6." The Dominators immediately discovered the breach and released an android called BION to track them down. (#20)
The youthful Legionnaires were very disoriented. It was their Shrinking Violet who first made contact with anyone, inviting the young reporter Devlin O'Ryan to come and meet her friends. (Legion v.4 #23) He was shocked to see them fully revealed: the Legion of Super-Heroes, in its original state and ready to fight! (#24)
They had emerged just as Earth's resistance fighters were preparing for war with the Dominators. O'Ryan was quick to warn the Legionnaires against an alliance with one of the Legion's enemies, Universo (one they had never met). (#25) And rightly so, Universo was in league with the Dark Circle, and planned to deliver the Legionnaires to them. (#30)
It wasn't long before the SW6 reached out to members of the adult Legion. They messaged an utterly shocked Jacques Foccart (the former Invisible Kid II, and leader of the resistance) and Tenzil Kem (Matter-Eater Lad) in Africa. (#27) Valor (called Mon-El in original Legion lore) posited that the adult Legionnaires may have been clones all this time. (#29) He was the first one to actually meet his SW6 counterpart. (#31) Even Brainiac 5 was stumped; both Brainys argued over which Legion was the original. (#36)
The SW6 Legion was instrumental in destroying the Dominators from Earthside, finally managing to jam the transmission that had prevented them from using their flight rings, and destroying the Science Police Earth headquarters. They went on to join with Foccart's Subs. But the Subs member Grinn went rogue and set off a chain of explosions; the SW6 Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, and Princess Projectra were killed in the collateral damage. (#32)
The surviving SW6 Legionnaires rescued other Dominion captives, three of whom would go on to join them at a later date: April Dumaka (Catspaw), Danielle Foccart (Computo), and Xao Jin (Dragonmage). (#33) NOTE: Danielle Foccart was Jacques' younger sister. She first appeared in Legion v.2 Annual #1 (1982)
Jacques Foccart led the campaign to force the Dominators into retreating from Earth. (#34) In the chaos, the adult Sun Boy was released from containment. His SW6 counterpart came across him, shocked to see Dirk severely burned and half-mad. The Dominion agreed to a ceasefire and surrendered. Jacques was appointed the acting President of Earth. (#35)
Despite their great victory, there was no immediate peace on Earth. Internal damage created by the destruction of underground chambers had reacted with unstable landfill material from the 28th century. This set off a cataclysmic destruction within the planet and a mass evacuation was necessary. Efforts raised 102 cities into Earth's orbit, all protected by environmental domes, though six were destroyed in accidents. Two billion people died when the planet exploded. (Legion v.4 #38) Earth's surviving cities were linked in space and became New Earth. (#39)
On the road to stability, the adult Legion returned to Earth and formally met the SW6 Legionnaires. (#40) Foccart's presidency was short-lived; he longed to return to work with his friends in the Legion. When he resigned another former Legionnaire, Vice President Troy Stewart (Tyroc) became president. The elder Brainiac 5 was able to confirm that the younger Legionnaires were not simply lost in time, and so the team began to create a life for itself on New Earth.
Earthgov and the United Planets deputized the SW6 as law enforcement and they formally reformed as a team in Metropolis. The adult Chameleon Boy made a reverse decision and joined up with the SW6 group, to help them reestablish themselves in their rebuilt Legion clubhouse. Three of the Dominators' captives also joined the teen team: Catspaw, Dragonmage, and Computo. Some young Legionnaires experienced awkward moments, as when Invisible Kid met the parents of his long-deceased counterpart. And the young Duo Damsel discovered that she actually had all three of her bodies all along. Most of the teen Legionnaires were assigned new code names, and all Legionnaires donned new costumes. (#41)
The new team began with twenty active members. Invisible Kid declined to resume his tenure as team leader, instead nominating Cosmic Boy. The motion carried, and he named Computo as his deputy. He thought that she would add valuable insight about current socio-political matters. No sooner did they form than the Legion's arch foes, the Fatal Five, reformed to attack. (Legionnaires #1)
This time the Five were assembled by Leland McCauley IV. He first sent Mano, then revealed that he had a new Emerald Empress under his thumb. They procured the Persuader's Atomic Axe and recruited the monster called Mordecai. (#2) Meanwhile, the other Emerald Eye sought out rejected Legion applicant Cera Kesh to make her the third Emerald Empress. (#3) Lastly, the group freed their former leader, a revived Tharok (#4) and attacked the Legionnaires as a team. Cera Kesh entered the fray and killed McCauley's Empress. (#5)
The Legionnaires defeated the Fatal Five, however the new Emerald Empress freed them immediately. The Legion confronted Leland McCauley at his home on Gallan, where the new Empress came and took the other Eye from him, which left him a withering husk. (#6)
Some time before this, Chameleon Boy had set out to find his father, R.J. Brande. They found him on Yal searching for the so-called "Soul of Antares," the legendary savior of the Protean race. They discovered that the former Legionnaire Kid Quantum was the Soul of Antares. Kid Quantum was the Legion's ninth member, and was believed to have been killed shortly after joining the Legion. Cham discovered that Quantum was alive, and convinced him to leave his seclusion on Yal. But their ship was hijacked by the Emerald Empress, (Legion v.4 #33) and they were brought to Gallan, the home of Leland McCauley. He used the power of the Eye to put his enemies in stasis. McCauley's father managed to summon the Legionnaires for help, and they rescued Cham, Brande, and Kid Quantum. (#39)
The Legionnaires were later called to a mission on Antares II, (Legionnaires #10) where Kid Quantum revealed that his original purpose was to safely hide the souls of the Protean race. Dragonmage helped Quantum restore the Protean people. One soul remained in the human form of Kid Quantum and his time-stasis powers became internalized. Freed of his burden, Kid Quantum returned with the Legionnaires to New Earth (#11) and joined the SW6 Legion. Other new applicants such as Accordion King and Barber Boy were not so lucky. (#12)
The young Legionnaires' hyperactive hormones were sent into overdrive by the new Kid Psycho, Mayf, whose reality-warping powers produced illusions, madness, and infighting. This exacerbated the feelings of resentment that Live Wire held toward his friend Cosmic Boy. The new order made Garth feel second-rate, and he even envied Cos's relationship with Saturn Girl. While they were quelling food riots in Acapulco, Live Wire accidentally fried Cosmic Boy with his powers. (#9) This nearly led Saturn Girl to up with Live Wire. (#11-15)
Meanwhile, Matter-Eater Lad was sent on an undercover mission with Kono (a Sklarian with mass-altering abilities). She infected Tenzil with a Grandin gender-reversal disease so that he became a girl. (#12-13)
Another team of Legionnaires defeated one of their elders' enemies for the first time. Grimbor was brought in with the help of a persecuted Dominator girl. (#14)
Dead on Arrival: the Zero Hour
Shortly after their emergence, the SW6 Valor had set off on a mission to try and return to the year of their creation, 2978. He hoped to discover the true origins of the SW6 Legion, but his Time Bubble vanished in a flash of lightning, and the team never heard from him again. (Legion v.4 #37)
When the Legionnaires began to discover historical anomalies related to Valor, they decided to go after him in time. Time distortions were happening in the wake of the so-called "Zero Hour," which also caused SW6 versions of Bouncing Boy, Dream Girl, and Star Boy to materialize (and Ferro Lad was made to be deceased). (Legionnaires #16)
A team of Legionnaires traveled back to the 20th century in hopes of finding the source of the temporal anomalies. Instead they unexpectedly bore witness to Valor's death from lead poisoning. This was the original 20th century Valor, and at the same time the SW6 Valor appeared from out of the timestream. His original self was dying and the SW6 Valor was forced to take his place in history, in order to maintain the timeline. When the Legionnaires returned to the 30th century they retained no memories of that mission. (Valor #13–18)
Young Valor's sacrifice came too late to save the Legion's timeline. The anomalies worsened in frequency and severity, unleashing villains from "lost" timelines and causing other Legionnaires to disappear. (Legionnaires #17, Valor #22)
Arch villains Mordru and Glorith sought to take advantage of the chaos and fashion history to their liking. Meanwhile both Legion teams noticed a correlation between extant counterparts. Legionnaires without counterparts were quicker to vanish. And when the SW6 Leviathan was killed, it caused the older Gim Allon to disappear. (Legion v.4 #60)
Mysa Nal (the White Witch) defeated the villains and it was down to the elder Rokk Krinn (Cosmic Boy) to try and save their fate by confronting the Time Trapper. (Legionnaires #18) The Trapper explained to Rokk Krinn at last exactly how he had created the SW6 Legion. Most shocking of all, the Time Trapper was Rokk Krinn! (Valor #23)
Rokk returned to his friends with a proposal: to save themselves, the surviving Legionnaires and their SW6 counterparts would have to "merge" in hopes of stabilizing the universe. The gamble worked, but perhaps not as envisioned. The last ten pairs of Legionnaires joined hands and disappeared together. The Legion's entire 30th century timeline Legion ceased to exist, fading to white. (Legion v.4 #61)
In the 20th century, the Time Trapper was concurrently stripped of his power and slain by Parallax (Hal Jordan, the former Green Lantern). The universe was then rebooted at the Dawn of Time, which resulted in the creation in a new 30th century timeline. (Zero Hour #1–0)
The Legion's adventures continued, as the post-Zero Hour, or Reboot Legion.
Twenty Legionnaires were duplicated by the Time Trapper. They first appeared (fully) in Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 #24 (1991).
During the Dominator War, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, and Princess Projectra were killed in an explosion (Legion v.4 #32, Aug. 1992). And just before the team reestablished itself, their Valor left to undertake a mission in time (Legion #34, Dec. 1992).
This left sixteen Legionnaires to set up their new headquarters on New Earth. The adult Chameleon Boy transferred teams to become the teens' mentor. They were joined by three all-new members, Catspaw, Computo, and Dragonmage (Legion v.4 #41, Mar. 1993). Kid Quantum followed a bit later, in Legionnaires #12 (Mar. 1994):
When Zero Hour struck, time-shifts brought three other classic members into the fold, in Legionnaires #16 (July 1994). (When the Time Trapper created the SW6 Legionnaires, Bouncing Boy II, Dream Girl, and Star Boy were not members.)
In Who's Who in the DC Universe Update 1993 #1, the Legionnaires were described as such:
- Alchemist (Jan Arrah of Trom): Introverted, spiritual, highly disciplined Alchemist is the last survivor of a race that had the power to transmute the elements.
- Andromeda (Laurel Gand of Ricklef II): Bright, spirited Andromeda hails from the Daxamite system and therefore possesses greatly enhanced strength, speed and vision powers, and is virtually invulnerable.
- Apparition (Tinya Wazzo of Bgztl): Assertive, iconoclastic Apparition can render herself an immaterial phantom.
- Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox of Colu): This sensitive, socially clumsy super-genius wears a powerful force-field belt.
- Catspaw (April Dumaka of Earth}: A guinea pig of alien experimenters, April has emerged a playful, uninhibited woman-cat with enhanced agility, night vision and hunting skills.
- Computo (Danielle Foccart of Earth): This single-minded, no-nonsense woman "talks to" and controls computers.
- Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn of Braal): Dedicated, principled Cosmic Boy has the power to magnetically attract and repel metal objects.
- Dragonmage (Xao Jin of Earth): Life as a Legionnaire is a learning experience for this shy apprentice sorcerer.
- Ferro (Andrew Nolan of Earth): An enigmatic masked daredevil Ferro can convert his body to nearly invulnerable iron.
- Gossamer (Ayla Ranzz of Winath): Sweet, free-spirited Gossamer, the twin sister of Live Wire, is able to reduce the weight of other people and objects.
- Inferno (Dirk Morgna of Earth): Inferno is a flashy, dynamic ladies' man who can transform himself Into a virtual living sun.
- Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg of Earth): This quiet, dedicated genius has given himself powers of invisibility.
- Kid Quantum (James Cullen of Antares II): Deeply philosophical and pacifistic, Kid Quantum is able to project a stasis field that "freezes" his opponents.
- Leviathan (Gim Allon of Earth}: Earnest Leviathan can grow in size to a maximum of around 25 feet and maintain his proportionate strength.
- Live Wire (Garth Ranzz of Winath): Brash and impulsive Live Wire wields spectacular lightning powers. He's Gossamer's twin brother.
- Matter-Eater Lad (Tenzil Kem of Bismoll): Wry, entertaining Tenzil eats matter in all forms.
- Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen of Titan): Saturn Girl is a dedicated, highly disciplined telepath.
- Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby of lmsk): Shy, nervous Violet has the ability to shrink to microscopic size.
- Triad (Luornu Durgo of Carggg): Triad can split into three bodies that have three distinct personalities to match.
- Ultra Boy (Jo Nah of Rimbor): Outwardly a slow-witted, over-muscled jock, Ultra Boy is actually a shrewd, street-wise former gang member. He possesses enhanced strength, speed and vision powers, plus near-invulnerability, but he can only use one of these powers at a time.
- 2995: The Legion of Super-Heroes Sourcebook, Bierbaum, Tom and Mary. Mayfair Games Inc. (1995). This is the bible for the post-Crisis Legion and contains lots of behind-the-scenes info about the Legionnaires.
- Comics Buyer's Guide #999. Interview with editor KC Carlson.
- Cosmic Teams Original Art. See two preparatory sketches for Legionnaires, by Chris Sprouse.
- It's OK I'm a Senator. In his blog, Tom Bierbaum reveals all kinds of behind-the-scenes details about the Legion, volume 4 era.
- Legion Elseworlds > Elseworlds Annuals