Paul Levitz on the end of his run on Legion of Superheroes

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lerion 231 Paul Levitz on the end of his run on Legion of Superheroes

If there’s one writer who’s most associated with the Legion, it’s Paul Levitz who wrote the book on and off between 1977-1989, and most recently starting in 2010. Yesterday’s announcement of the cancellation of the latest Legion books led the former DC publisher to reflect a bit on Facebook:

DC’s officially announced the end of the current run of the LEGION with #23…sad to see my old friends go, and hoping my tale for that issue with Kevin Maguire illustrating will be an honorable end. As a reader, I’ll miss them until their next incarnation, whenever and however that may come. As a writer, I’m privileged to have gotten three chances to work with this vast and wonderful cast, and now on to other projects and other worlds.

To those of you who have supported my tales of the future since back when WONDER WOMAN debuted in prime time, Joe Namath played his last as a Jet, and the US thought Nevada was a reasonable place to test nuclear weapons…my thanks. Few of us get to play for so long in a world we loved as a child, and I’ll always appreciate the readers who made it possible.

Comments

  1. My own thoughts on why this happened, and my analysis on how it can be avoided in a future title, can be found here:

    http://heshouldreallyknowbetter.blogspot.com/2013/05/so-they-cancelled-legion.html

    But in a nutshell; for a book that should be about looking forward, filled with energy and verve and optimism, this franchise has been too focused on the past, both in the style of writing and the direction of plots/characters, and it needs to change.

    Hope you check out my full analysis, and make comments.

  2. Snikt Snakt says:

    IMO DC really needs to let LOSH lie low for the next few years, until there is renewed demand for the characters.

    After the constant relaunching and cancelling of LOSH titles these past few years, methinks everyone has LOSH-fatigue…

  3. Perry Beider says:

    Paul Levitz is a classy guy all the way. DC is much the poorer for not having him running things these days. I hope Worlds’ Finest continues so that he isn’t gone from the company entirely.

  4. Johnny Memeonic says:

    The Legion are good as guest stars in Superman and maybe Justice League, but they’re just not suited to the era they weren’t created for (the 1950s/1960s). Too optimistic and it’s too 50s retro and boring, too grim ‘n’ gritty and it gets stupid that a guy named “Lightning Lad” is saying “flark” all the time and acting hyper-violent.

    A lot of comic fans have trouble with this, but it’s perfectly okay to let something go, for it to just be a part of the era it came from.

    You see this same problem whenever a comic company drags the rotting corpses of Doc Savage and the Shadow out of the ground and tries to pound the square past that defined everything about the characters into today’s round hole. Then they wonder why these things just don’t sell in 2013.

  5. I don’t think it’s that they are too optimistic. Star Trek is a pretty inherently optimistic view of the future and JJ Abrams proved that it can succeed in the present day. I think with a break to build a bit of excitement (a la what Marvel did with Thor after Avengers Disassembled) and a good creative team and proper marketing, the book can succeed. Of course, most of that is impossible at DC at the moment.

  6. Johnny Memeonic says:

    JJ Abrams’ Star Trek is just a Star Wars style action movie in the Star Trek setting. Making the Enterprise bridge look like the bright and shiny inside of an Apple store does not equal optimism. Perhaps you meant the lens flare.

  7. Johnny, I appreciate the snark, but I did not mean the lens flare. JJ Trek is optimistic. Disparate species coming together for a common good as the Federation, United Earth being basically free of disease and racism, etc.

  8. I gotta second Zach here. JJ Star Trek may not be as thoughtful as even TOS Star Trek but it has a zippy Buck Rogers optimism that could work in a Legion. Also. Star Wars (Ep IV) isn’t optimistic?

    I think Memeonic might mine Idealistic, not Optimistic. JJ Star Trek and Star Wars advance few “ideals” beyond “self confidence” and “intuition”. Which, at least as far as how they’re shown in Star Wars, is just pep talk and pop New Age pablum. It’s fun but not a philosophy. TOS Star Trek and Legion are idealistic.

  9. The Legion had a cartoon just a few years ago, and a comic that went alongside it. The comic was fantastic in the late ’70s through the ’80s. The concept can work for modern audiences, just not the way it’s allowed to be written today.

    I’d argue that each version/reboot was at its best when a Superboy or Supergirl character was a part of it. The series allows its sense of wonder to really shine when their new-to-us world is observed through familiar eyes.

  10. Synsidar says:

    It’s unfortunate that Levitz is the one to write the Legion’s (latest) death announcement, but his attitude toward the group is probably the opposite of what it should be for a writer who wants to make the group work. The group has been through as many reboots and relaunches as it has because the cast is so “vast and wonderful”. The concept is too unfocused.

    Imagine how Star Trek: TOS might have gone if, instead of focusing on the bridge and the officers, the series had had a cast of, say, 15 ranging from the captain to several yeomen and stories ranged from confrontations with menaces to ensigns competing for the favors of a nurse, with storylines spread over several episodes. The series wouldn’t have lasted a year.

    As a thought experiment, to emphasize the group’s major aspects and themes, what would a single story about the Legion focus on? Who would the lead characters be? Or are they all interchangeable, so that a single story would wind up celebrating the mere existence of the group over decades, as it saved the universe time and time again, without the makeup at any specific time really mattering?

    SRS

  11. You can’t go home again. It’s as simple as that.

  12. “We all have a girl and her name is Nostalgia,” is what Hemingway would say about LOSH, so I agree with @MHF and Thomas Wolfe.

  13. Kid Kyoto says:

    I was a die hard fan from the early 80s (just before the Great Darkness Saga) to the end of the Giffen Bierbaum 5 year gap Legion. During that time I also picked up a good chunk of their silver age run thanks to Adventure Comics Digest.

    For me what sold the Legion is that it was the group that grew up with me. Things changed, people matured, people quit, people died. Unlike the endless roadrunner cartoons of books like Batman and Spiderman stuff happened and changes were real.

    So I stuck through the 1994 reboot but eventually gave up. I got TPBs for the 2004 reboot and gave up. Basically if someone wants to write the Legion I’d like to see a big ole ‘5 YEARS LATER’ or 50, or 500 and just go from there.

    The Legion is not about Lightning Lad or Ultraboy, it should be about interesting, changing characters in a cool sci-fi universe.

  14. RAGGEDT says:

    The Legion has to have some tangential connection to the broader DC Universe for it to survive long-term. It’s conceptual roots were as a far away extension of the Superboy brand. Yes, it can survive on its own, but if there’s not a direct link to the Superboy/man-DCU, it’s just a group of young heroes in the future. While there have been many great stories over the last quarter-century, the fact remains that the franchise hasn’t been the same since Crisis on Infinite Earths severed that link. The New 52’s total reboot just compounded the lack of grounding the LoSH has had for 24 years now. Ironically, a case can be made that the Waid 3boot of 2004 would have been the best version to use for the 31st century version of the New 52 (consider how Gail Simone’s “The Movement” borrows some of the political angles of the 3boot). Since that won’t happen, it’s just as well that the LoSH take a nap for a couple years until DC Editorial decides how the future can be rationalized with its messy present.

  15. Whatever says:

    Abnett and Lanning did a bang up job with Legion Lost a few years back it absolutely can exist today. The Nu52 on top of that weird as Mark Waid ( sorry Mark you are awesome) story a few years ago just made everything so confusing. I cannot deal with DC’s ever-morphing relaunch characters. Not that Marvel is different but LOSH is the poster boy for multiple relaunch confusion.

  16. Superboy Prime says:

    Rebooting Legion constantly has been the problem. Anyone suggesting that it is the solution again is partially ignorant to LOSH’s history and why the brand has suffered.

    They did good work piecing it back together with Final Crisis Legion Of Three Worlds and I was one of the few who enjoyed the current runs but facts are facts obviously not enough of us where buying into it.

  17. Tiffany says:

    I agree that Legion should stay reasonably optimistic, and the downer it became is probably what killed it. Face it, it is basically “Superheros in a Space Opera.” It *should* have a Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon feel. Heck, Marvel is managing to do it with the new Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Unfortunately, despite the good start Geoff Johns gave it, the potential was wasted as the writers just rehashed all their old ideas for the characters. Instead of the generally optimistic future and characters with some dark spots that should characterize the Legion, the writers once again dragged the Legion back into a darker and darker version of the future with only a few bright spots. The characters got progressively nastier and more cliqueish, just like the last time Levitz and Giffen were involved. These ideas contributed directly to the first end of the Legion, the Five Year Gap, and then all the reboots. What did anyone expect when Levitz and Giffen rehashed the Magic Wars (breakdown of tech via magical means) with the Fatal Five Destroy Everything (breakdown of tech via sci-fi means), with almost the exact same outcomes? What did anyone expect when the characters started acting like they could barely tolerate being in the same room with each other? Honestly, the definition of insanity applies here: doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.

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