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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Brian Michael Bendis on his revival of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes and ending the sad astronaut phase

By Jeff Spry

DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes is soaring once again with new revival series courtesy of Eisner Award and Peabody Award-winning writer Brian Michael Bendis, acclaimed artist Ryan Sook (Action Comics), and colorist Jordie Bellaire that introduces this optimistic crew of 31st-century teenage superheroes to an entirely new generation.

The Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of super-powered teenagers from 1,000 years in the future, draws their inspiration from legends and lore of Superman's heroic deeds — which makes sense as the franchise first appeared in 1958's Adventure Comics #247 as a quirky Superman offshoot. Over the decades, the Legion has been the subject of several different series and various rebooted continuities from creators such as Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Mark Waid, and Geoff Johns, but they've been mostly absent from the DC Universe lately.


With its Space Age lineup of dozens of colorful crimefighters like Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, and Triplicate Girl each manifesting strange and sometimes extremely unusual powers (I see you Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad!), the cast of Legion of Super-Heroes holds a special place in fandom's hearts.

Bendis' resurrection of the vibrant posse of youthful heroes is a welcome addition to comic shop racks, putting a team of characters with steadfast convictions and a message of a better tomorrow front and center. The storyline, which kicks off on November 6, welcomes readers to the utopia of the 31st century, a destination inspired by the acts and lessons learned from the greatest heroes of all time.

Here, the Legion of Super-Heroes has banded together to stop our galaxy from repeating its past mistakes. Why have the Legion broken a crucial rule of the United Planets and inducted Jon Kent, aka Superboy, into their ranks, and what does it have to do with Aquaman's long-lost golden trident?

SYFY WIRE spoke with Bendis on the eve of the book's arrival to learn his attraction to the Legionnaires, how he balanced nostalgia with modern storytelling, and what he hopes to accomplish as the series unfolds over the next year.

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Your Legion of Super-Heroes carries a distinct sense of optimism and energy. Where does that uplifting attitude stem from?

I'm bewildered by the "Sad Astronaut" genre and there's a lot of it in comic books. I just saw Ad Astra, the most "Sad Astronaut" thing ever, and I'm watching a character who passionately, desperately wanted to get into outer space and when he gets there he's just miserable the entire time. Isn't the general sense of accomplishing your goal exciting? And invigorating and hopeful? I'm reflecting in this book that everyone is genuinely excited to be where they are. You watch Star Wars and they're under duress but they're very excited to be where they are and on their chosen quest.

The Legion is similar in that they're headed towards a goal they're all believing in and very much in the honeymoon phase getting to know each other. When I got to go on national TV with Seth Meyers and talk about Legion of Super-Heroes, when I said it was set a thousand years in the future there was a genuine sense of applause because that was the best news people had heard all day. Offering an invitation to a different feeling is something we should take seriously in our books, and we have.

What makes Legion of Super-Heroes so special for you to revive and what were your associations with the team growing up?

I deeply love Legion and as people have just discovered, it is really next-level superhero craft and it's very different from everything else that's been on the market. Because there's been no giant movie or TV show, it's really something they've never experienced in superheroes. People walking away from all the movies they've seen in the last few years think they've seen everything. And Legion fans say, "No you have not!" I was an X-Men fan and a Legion fan and I would read both and they would reflect almost a sister version of each other, even though they're completely different worlds.

Legion always took things to a surprisingly deep place and also because there were so many members and each of them had a whole universe of stuff behind them that it seemed no matter where the story went, there was always something unique and exciting to see. I see Legion's influence everywhere. It's a major part of comic DNA.

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With so many creators having a hand in Legion's legacy over the decades, what did you hope to bring to the book to balance out the nostalgia with a modern take on the team?

That's a great question, and I still can't believe I'm the writer on Legion. It stuns me. I made a joke on Twitter and said if you had shown me the poster of the Legion of Super-Heroes and gone in a time machine to 2012, not when I was twelve, but when I was doing X-Men, and say, "here, look what's going to happen," I couldn't imagine all the things that needed to occur to make that happen. Yet here we are! I thought about what Legion meant to me and how this generation has not experienced them. They haven't been on the shelves in many years, and for comics that can be generations of readers.

So, Ryan and I have a massive responsibility not only to introduce you to the Legion, but to encapsulate a brand new Legion experience that isn't in any way reflecting or nostalgic because nostalgia in comics can be a killer, especially when something is supposed to be so future-forward. We're not retelling the stories here, we're telling almost the ultimate version of Legion.

How is this different from your iconic Marvel work or recent DC stuff like Superman?

100 percent different. Everything about how I handle the page, how I write it, how I collaborate with Ryan is very different. One of the major reasons I wanted the book was because I was scared of it, because it was enormous. I came from the world of the dirty streets of Cleveland crime fiction. Being in the 31st century of New Metropolis is like taking myself out of whatever original comfort zone I have as a writer and completely abandoning it. And that is exciting and delightful, and because my partner, Ryan Sook, has it all under control and that's the best feeling in the world.

How does Ryan and Jordie's artwork help convey the style and tone you strived for?

We had almost a whole year head start on designing and planning and thinking and building Legion around what we knew was coming in the DC Universe and what had come before. Some major motion pictures don't have this kind of pre-production window. Ryan had all year to consider brand new designs for the characters, a lot of them reflecting the classic look but in a modern sensibility. With Ryan and Jordie, those were two names I didn't get to work with at Marvel. When Ryan and I started working on Action Comics, I was literally thinking I hope we're a match made in heaven. Then you go from the first date to getting married and having 34 babies. You're basically asking for their hand in creative marriage when you ask someone to join you on something like this.

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What are your favorite Legionnaires from the original lineup or any of the rebooted series?

It's Wildfire and Timberwolf. But in the course of my time writing Legion, my favorite Legionnaires are not my favorite members to write, and that's exactly what happened on X-Men and Avengers. You're always surprised what fictional soul attaches to yours. For me, Ultra Boy has really become the centerpiece of the book. I think his story will reflect the truth that a lot of people can relate to in a modern setting and going to the future and having to deal with our parents in such a way is interesting.

And we do have a couple of new Legionnaires I'm dying to get to, but I'm not getting to them in the first issues. Monster Boy and Gold Lantern are two new characters. We can't wait to debut them and the story that comes with them as well.

Now take flight into our four-page peek into DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes #1 in the gallery below, then tell us your memories of the Legionnaires, and who is your personal favorite team member!