Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Saturday evening post about a Saturday morning cartoon


After finally getting a taste of the new animated version of The Legion of Super-Heroes via their Johnny DC comic with the ridiculously long title a few weeks back, I picked up a DVD containing the first four episodes of the first season of the cartoon from the library.

I’m not much of a Legion fan, and find that the whole concept tends to get on my nerves, mostly because of all the reboots and time-traveling nonsense that makes the cast of thousands hard for even my superhero trivia focused brain to process (I know some of you have explained that they’re actually a lot less complicated than they look, so maybe I’ve just never had sufficient motivation to conquer that particular corner of the DC Universe).

Anyway, I can honestly say that the experience of watching those few episodes of the cartoon was the most excited I’d ever been about the Legion. I really liked the character designs, and the way in which the uniforms visually echoed one another while never seeming too realistic (like Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s current incarnation of the team) or too dated (the original LOSH) or too Hollywood futuristic (the current Action Comics version of the team). And The Fatal Five looked great; a lot more scary than goofy, which is how they usually look in the comics.

The animation and design on a whole looked like a compromise between that of Teen Titans show, which I loved, and JLU, which I also loved. And they sure did pack the backgrounds with lots of little in-jokes. One episode I saw had the JLU version of Skeets, one of those crazy crystal orb guys with tentacles and Mohawks from the Green Lantern Corps, and a woman from whatever Tomar Re’s race is called walking a giant egg in a hovering baby carriage.

I do have some questions though, for any Legion experts in the reading audience.

Ready?


—This Brainiac 5 was a shape-changing robot with telescoping limbs. Is there any precedent for this in the comics, beyond the Superman villain with the same name sometimes being a robot? I thought the Legionnaire Brainy was just a green-skinned alien who also happened to be an arrogant prick no one really liked?


—Bouncing Boy turns into an actual giant bouncing ball here. In the comics, I assumed he was just a fat boy that bounces—is his ability to turn into a ball that bounces unique to the show? And wasn’t he always a sub rather than a member of the team in the comics?


—Has there ever been any explanation for why they keep names like –Lad, -Lass, -Boy and –Girl? (And lad? Did they just revere the hell out of Aqualad or what?) I know that seemed appropriate in the ‘60s, when all teenagers in DC comics looked like they were 35, but it really seems dated now, and the Legion stories are all set a thousand years from now, so “dated” is something you would think they’d try to avoid. Especially since they seem to keep trying to reinvent the team every few years.

I think the normal teenage impulse would be to use a more adult name, kinda like when Superboy debuted in “Reign of the Supermen,” he demanded to be called “Superman” rather than “Superboy.”

Particular to the show, it seems odd that teenage Superman goes by Superman, while everyone else goes by a juvenile name, although I understand that likely has more to do with the legal problems of the name “Superboy” than anything else.


—Was there ever a Luthor descendent in the Legion comics, or did the cartoon create theirs out of whole cloth?


—All I’ve seen of season two is the opening sequence, in which everyone looks grungier—longer hair, more facial hair. Is it sometime after the first season? Also, why are there two Supermans all of a sudden?


—How do you guys rate the cartoon? Is it acceptable in terms of a Legion adaptation, or is it seen as a complete travesty?

9 comments:

Troy Brownfield said...

Hey, Caleb, answers!

Q1) This Brainiac 5 was a shape-changing robot with telescoping limbs. Is there any precedent for this in the comics, beyond the Superman villain with the same name sometimes being a robot? I thought the Legionnaire Brainy was just a green-skinned alien who also happened to be an arrogant prick no one really liked?

A1) You're right. Animation creative license.

Q2) Bouncing Boy turns into an actual giant bouncing ball here. In the comics, I assumed he was just a fat boy that bounces—is his ability to turn into a ball that bounces unique to the show? And wasn’t he always a sub rather than a member of the team in the comics?

A2) He started out as a fat guy who bounced, but Giffen gradually turned him ballish. Chuck was a full member, and was a teacher at the Legion Academy by the post-Great Darkness era.

Q3) Has there ever been any explanation for why they keep names like –Lad, -Lass, -Boy and –Girl? (And lad? Did they just revere the hell out of Aqualad or what?) I know that seemed appropriate in the ‘60s, when all teenagers in DC comics looked like they were 35, but it really seems dated now, and the Legion stories are all set a thousand years from now, so “dated” is something you would think they’d try to avoid. Especially since they seem to keep trying to reinvent the team every few years.

A3)The '90s relaunch changed many of the names (Livewire for Lightning Lad, for instance). Waid/Kitson restored the lads, etc. and explained it early as affectation for the era they were emulating.

Q4) Particular to the show, it seems odd that teenage Superman goes by Superman, while everyone else goes by a juvenile name, although I understand that likely has more to do with the legal problems of the name “Superboy” than anything else.

A4) Totally legally driven.


Q5) Was there ever a Luthor descendent in the Legion comics, or did the cartoon create theirs out of whole cloth?

A5) I can't remember one; in the days of Superboy and the LSH, the Legion was usually dealing with the actual Luthor.


Q6) All I’ve seen of season two is the opening sequence, in which everyone looks grungier—longer hair, more facial hair. Is it sometime after the first season? Also, why are there two Supermans all of a sudden?

A6) It's a bit later, and the two Supermans is a long-term plot.

Q7) How do you guys rate the cartoon? Is it acceptable in terms of a Legion adaptation, or is it seen as a complete travesty?

A7) I think it's good. I kind of wish that they'd used the JLU/Supergirl/LSH episode as the basis for the ongoing, but I get the decision. What I'd really like is for the "New Frontier" animation team to do "Great Darkness".

Kevin said...

I've also enjoyed the cartoon a lot more than I expected to... in fact, it had a lot to do with getting me more into the comics (I had previously avoided them for many of the same reasons you have and you're right - it's not as complicated or daunting as it seems at first if your brain is wired like ours seem to be... but I digress). initially I just figured "well, Teen Titans is done, here's something else DC-related I can watch with the kids"...

we just watched the first airing of animated version of the origin story from Season 2 this morning. Season 2 has taken a lot more stuff from the actual comics - Lightning Lad's robotic arm and rivalry with Mekt, Triplicate Girl becoming Duo Damsel - and worked them into the on-going story they've established for the season. and like you said, a lot of nice nods to other aspects of the DCU.

the "second" Superman is a clone from the 41st century, traveled back in time to help the Legion beat Imperiex, who is also from his time and also traveled back. he's immune to Kryptonite beacuse his "parents" incorporated it into his DNA - he has the added ability of being able to make Kryptonite rock constructs with energy blasts. and green eyes. the whole "Kryptonite immunity, clone of Superman" thing makes me wonder if they'll introduce a vulnerability to lead, since they haven't brought Mon-El into the show at all yet...

anyway, I ramble.

I'm personally waiting for the hopefully-inevitable release of the entire season on DVD at once.

sorry to ignore your questions but I think Troy answered them anyway :)

Unreasonable Action said...

The latest episode of the second season came out today after three months, so I thought you were commenting on that when I saw the picture you posted.

I am glad you finally checked out the series, and especially that you started from the beginning.

Though a longtime fan, I was somewhat shocked when I first heard the show was in development, and could only vaguely imagine what the pilot would air like. While the final product is not at all what I would have constructed, I am pleased, and occasionally surprised, by what I am offered; I can find few reasonable faults with it.

What is more, now I have an easy-to-ingest dose of my favorite superteam for showing all of my friends, who have always suffered my bard-like regaling of their adventures. Legion try-outs and Matter-Eater Lad have now become part of our common myth.

Anonymous said...

The lad / lass / kid thing was explained. In the Legion Companion there is an interview with Paul Levitz where he describes his attempt to explain this as the worst story he ever wrote. Basically he claimed that as society moved on older people were considered to still be young (a bit like 60-year-old baby boomers in jeans and leather jackets at James Blunt concerts), therefore it was considered to appropriate to call someone in their thirties a kid.

Damien.

Anonymous said...

to *be* appropriate

I left my grammar in my other trousers.

Damien.

Jacob T. Levy said...

There was a Luthor descendant (as well as a Mxyzptlk descendant) in the "Adult Legion" from the Adventure era. They posed as members of the adult LSV but were really working to bring down the LSV-- and, as I recall, they ended up joining the adult LSH. The Luthor descendant had gravity powers.

The 90s-relaunch names, and for that matter the SW6 batch names, seem just as dated to me as -Lads and -Lasses. But in-story, the Legion has always involved an element of looking backwards to the 20th c heroes in general or Superboy in particular, so a retro-nostalgia in naming conventions isn't out of place. In the current reboot, with the youth politics overlay, there seems like especially good reason for Legionnaires to have some word that means "young person") (Boy, Girl, Kid, Lad, Lass) in their code names,

Mike Lorah said...

As much I really do love the Legion, the code-naming convention has ALWAYS bugged the shit out of me.

Despite its many flaws, the Zero Hour reboot did offer more palatable names. To my eyes, anyway.

Greg said...

Well, of course, legality to the side, you can understand how someone in their late teens might be all done feeling like Super-BOY is the name for him. Plus, all his futuristic pals would know him primarily from his exploits later in life (ancient history to them) as SuperMAN.

Greg said...

As for the "lad" business...perhaps after the Great Disaster, it's the Scots who rise up and rebuild society...and so their lingual "peculiarities" (not that there's anything wrong with them) prevail around the globe.

It's the whole "if it's not Scottish, it's crap" thing, eh, lad?