13 Reasons Why the Recruitment Committee for the Legion of Super-Heroes Should Consider Being a Little More Judicious in Its Duties
1. Bouncing Boy
First appeared: Action Comics #276 (5/61)
I may be entertaining death threats and/or calls for galactic banishment for even including Chuck Taine on this list — Legion fans are nothing if not sentimental about the old guard — but there is simply no justification for this guy’s inclusion on the roster. Yes, he brings a little comic relief and serves as a morale booster for the endomorphs among us who dream of superhero stardom, but… come on, people. His power is super-bouncing, for heaven’s sake. In what possible battle scenario is this even remotely useful? As if that weren’t embarrassing enough, there’s the slightly ridiculous manner in which he got his “super-power” in the first place — he accidentally drank a “super plastic formula” that he thought was soda pop. This being the Silver Age, it rendered him bouncy instead of dead in a suitable Darwin Awards-like fashion. Not the brightest of bulbs, our boy is, which probably explains why he was later shuffled off to reservist status to head up the Legion’s training academy. Hey, those who can’t do…
2. Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel
First appeared: Action Comics #276 (5/61)
Forever intertwined with Bouncing Boy is Luornu Durgo, BB’s love interest and partner in training the next generation of Legionnaires. I’ll skip the usual rant about the scientific and psychosexual difficulties that arise from the idea of a woman who can split into three identical bodies and make just two observations. First, in her original incarnation she possessed a skill that every other person on her planet could also perform (something about evolution and Cargg orbiting three suns, the usual science-sounding nonsense one expects from a 1960s superhero comic book). This alone should disqualify her (and any other other applicant with nothing more than the “powers” that every other person on their planet shares) from Legion status. Second — come on, people, she goes from one body to three (or just two, after her run-in with a seriously homicidal super-computer). That barely qualifies her for the carpool lane — and they don’t even have cars in the 31st century!
3. Light Lass
First appeared: Adventure Comics #308 (5/63)
So, here’s what you need to know about Light Lass. Her twin brother is Lightning Lad, and he gets himself killed in the line of duty. She joins the LSH by impersonating her supposedly back-from-the-dead brother (don’t ask how or why; just buy the books, a’ight?), and when her deception is uncovered (can’t get anything past those eagle-eyed Legionnaires), the Legion admits her as Lightning Lass. But then her brother returns from the dead, and so she faces getting kicked off the team because the rules say no two members could have the same super-power. Not to worry, as there’s some science-doohickey thing just lying around that does nothing special except bestow on people the power to manipulate one of the fundamental forces in the universe, and she uses her new gravity-nullifying powers as “Light Lass” instead. Still with me? Good, because I have no idea where I am. In any event: if the Legion is serious about its “no two powers alike” by-law, then I’m imposing a “no two members of the same family” rule and cutting Light Lass loose.
4. Matter-Eater Lad
First appeared: Adventure Comics #303 (12/63)
What I just said about members with powers shared by their entire planet? Same thing here. Plus there’s the indelicate subject of his “special” power: he eats things. Quoth Wikipedia: “He appears rarely in Legion stories, as the writers struggled with the problem of how to make his power useful in a fight.” And… yeah, that sounds about right. Later writers had fun making him a media celebrity on his home planet and occasionally having him suffer some kind of after-effect from eating certain objects, but the usefulness of this visitor from Bismoll is debatable at best. (Oh, wait: “Bismoll.” I get it now! Oh, those crazy writers…)
5. Dream Girl
First appeared: Adventure Comics #317 (2/64)
Super-dreaming. That’s her power, people. She also rocks the one-piece metallic swimsuit look, but that’s just about it. I’m all for the Eye Candy Theory of Comic-Book Casting, but I would like to think we all learned a valuable lesson from that Minority Report movie. No, the other lesson that wasn’t about the importance of avoiding Tom Cruise movies. Next.
First appeared: (as Spider Girl) Adventure Comics #323 (8/64); (as a Legionnaire) Legion of Super-Heroes (vol. 4) #54 (2/94)
Super-strong, prehensile hair. Sweet Jesus, isn’t that enough to get her on this list? True, she has an interesting backstory; rejected by the Legion, she joined the Legion of Super-Villains but isn’t into the whole villain thing as much as she is into having a good time. Oh, and she’s also the champion of a matriarchal world who was bio-engineered to protect the planet from male influences. So story-wise, she has a lot of potential as a character. But still. Super-strong, prehensile hair. God help us.
7. Karate Kid
First appeared: Adventure Comics #346 (7/66)
Wax on, wax off. OK, so much for the obligatory shout-out to children of the ’80s. Karate Kid played a starring role in one episode of the Legion of Super-Heroes animated series, a story in which he (spoiler!) achieves LSH membership despite his lack of any super-powers. He’s a highly trained martial-arts fighter, which is definitely a bonus in any universe where people can’t read minds or bend metal as easily as you or I can microwave a burrito, but in the Legion universe… look, we’re talking about a team that deals with mad sorcerers, bloodthirsty warrior races and the occasional sun-munching cloud, sometimes all at once. I’m all for the “everyone can be a hero” message, but minimal standards have to be set, and a wooden cutout of a clown holding one finger up and stating “you must have this many super powers to join” sounds like a good place to start.
8. Timber Wolf
First appeared: (as Lone Wolf) Adventure Comics #327 (12/64)
Let’s review: superhuman strength, speed, agility, claws, enhanced senses, accelerated healing factor. And in later incarnations — say, anytime after 1978 — he possesses a hair-trigger temper and, depending on the artist, is drawn in various stages of hirsuteness. I don’t know who to be disappointed in more — DC, for brazenly out-Marveling Marvel in the blatant plagiarization department, or Marvel for letting this one slide for so long. Fer crissakes, look at the picture — they even gave him little pointy tufts of hair. At least Timber Wolf’s claws don’t go “snikt” when they come out… at least, not the last time I checked.
9. White Witch
First appeared: Adventure Comics #350 (11/66)
I’ve never been a fan of magic in the LSH universe. It just seemed like a copout whenever the writers used it: “Hey, let’s throw a magic villain at them, someone who can turn them all into chickens or something and then Brainiac 5 has to win a game of Parcheesi against the evil sorcerer to set them free.” Hiring the White Witch sounds like a good way to reinforce the team’s magical defences, but… well, let’s let Wikipedia have its say: “Unlike [other magic-using] characters like Dr. Strange or Dr. Fate, Mysa required study before casting a spell. Furthermore, she could only commit a few to memory at a time.” Yeah, that’s useful — a superhero who has to pull an all-nighter before she can magically kick ass. Next up: a super-speedster who needs to do 100 squat thrusts before he can save orphans from a fire.
10. Shadow Lass
First appeared: Adventure Comics #365 (2/68)
She’s an expert hand-to-hand combatant and looks better in blue skin than just about anyone else, but what got her on the LSH roster is her ability to conjure up a field of absolute darkness. This sounds cool, but I can think of a few practical challenges. Regardless of how much darkness you throw around, it should be fairly easy for a gun-wielding villain to pinpoint her location, especially if he has a weapon that can target a wide field. And unless everyone else on the LSH team brings their own night-vision goggles, I don’t see what kind of tactical advantage turning out the lights will give them over the Fatal Five.
First appeared: Legion of Super-Heroes #272 (2/81)
Nightwind was actually one of three heroes introduced in this issue, and while all three were generally bland and useless (and also the result of a “create your own superhero” contest for the fans), Nightwind gets the nod for her ability to generate and control the wind — a vastly useless power given the amount of time Legionnaires spend in space. She was killed by alien marauders a few years later, and trust me when I say no one is planning a Final Crisis to bring her back.
First appeared: Legion of Super-Heroes (vol. 3) #14 (9/85)
This Legionnaire wasn’t so much useless as he was bizarre. He was a microscopic energy-being from an alternate dimension who flew around in a tiny spaceship. But that wasn’t the weird part. His power, such as it was, was his (its?) ability to “possess” inanimate objects, temporarily giving them mobility before they disintegrate from the stress of hosting his essence.
“Pooped” into the computer, you say? Nasty business, that. Definitely voids the warranty, I’d say.
First appeared: Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 4) #33 (9/92)
A human/feline hybrid, Catspaw has the agility, speed, and heightened senses of a cat, as well as retractable claws on her fingertips and toes. She also had excellent night-vision and “animal-like instincts,” whatever the hell that means. Never heard of her? Don’t sweat it. She was a Legionnaire for about five minutes before Head Office ordered another reboot of the whole franchise and erased her from existence. Just as well. Imagine, if you will, this conversation during Legion auditions:
“And what do you do?”
“I’m a living nuclear reactor, with the power to generate sun-level heat and light at will.”
“You’re in. Next?”
“I possess the ability to transmute elements, turning the oxygen in this very room into chlorine gas or anything else the situation requires.”
“Um, hi. I’m Catspaw. I… have claws and fur and love afternoon naps in sunbeams.”
“Right. We’ll be in touch. Next!”