Just for fun, I’ve decided to rank the Silver Age Legion of Super Heroes. This is my list, so if you disagree, please create your own. I’d love to see it.

 

Here are the guidelines I’ve set for myself for this list:

 

  • The Silver Age ends in 1968—the end of 1968
  • Only active, full-time Legionnaires are being considered. No Subs, Reservists or Honorary members, and nobody that was a member for one story but was expelled afterwards.
  • Rankings will be based on each character’s potential and actual contributions to the team. It’s entirely possible that a character I think is pretty awesome is ranked pretty low—or vice versa.

 

Characters will be ranked in several areas:

 

  • Intangibles – what, beyond their powers and abilities, did they bring to the team? For instance, if a character helped significantly boost morale, made a major scientific contribution or brought great leadership, that character would likely get extra points.
  • Perceived Value – Looking at the character’s powers and abilities, what should they bring to the table for the team.
  • Actual Value – Looking at the stories, what did those characters actually do with their powers and abilities? What contributions did they make?

 

I’ll tell you all right now, there are gonna be some surprises.

 

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It's funny, I was thinking about this recently, and the whole business with Wonder Woman being their secretary. In retrospect, it's pretty obvious they did that because she was so much more powerful than all of the other members at the time.

The Baron said:

This talk of characters who were so powerful that they should have been able to should have been able to end the story on the second page puts me in mind of the early JSA stories where the Spectre (who was essentially God's understudy) fought alongside Al Pratt, who (in the early days, at least) had the proportionate strength and speed of a short guy.

With the Color Kid/Kryptonite business, we can't really guess what the Kid's power does without figuring out what the deal is with the rainbow varieties of kryptonite in the first place.  As I understand it, when Krypton blew up, every bit of matter there that wasn't vaporized was transmuted into Green K, no matter what it originally was--we've seen whole cities that were so transmuted, so it wasn't just matter in a "natural state" so effected.  Somehow, no matter what it originally was, copper wire, glass windows, iron bars, all of it seems to have the same physical properties once it became Green K (it's kind of a shame we never got to see liquid mercury K, magnetic iron K, explosive methane K, etc.).  Eventually outside forces (what was it? a cosmic cloud?) further transmutes the original Green K into the other colors, most famously the Red & Gold type, which have different effects on Kryptonians than the original, but otherwise seem to have the same base physical qualities (most notably friction resistance, but otherwise NOT indestructible like all non-transmuted Kryptonian matter).  So, the question we face is--has anything actually changed besides the wavelength the various flavors of K radiate?  Since color is a visual manifestation of the electro-magnetic spectrum (this visible part, anyway), Color Kid may well be able to alter the way objects reflect or radiate visible light, and thus have the same effect on kryptonite as the forces that created the variants in the first place.  Ok, so the Blue variety was created by the Bizarro duplicating ray, but we can charitably assume that the basic process is the same.  The really interesting question is one of range & volume--the usual suspect Legionnaires (Element Lad, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, etc) attempted to use their powers to transmute, repel, or incinerate the Green K cloud, but none of them could effect a large enough area of the cloud to make a difference, but Color Kid was able to alter the entire cloud with little effort.  While I can see where turning Green K into Blue K would be more energy effective than transmuting it into inert gas (or whatever Element Lad attempted--I wonder what would have happened if he'd tried the Blue K stunt?), since the cloud was covering the entire Earth, can Color Kid recolor entire planets at will?

Randy Jackson said:

It's funny, I was thinking about this recently, and the whole business with Wonder Woman being their secretary. In retrospect, it's pretty obvious they did that because she was so much more powerful than all of the other members at the time.

Also, back then (and until just recently) women were (1) not allowed in military combat and (2) were thought to be a turnoff for the presumed customers, very young boys.

The thing that gets overlooked with Wonder Woman's status in the JSA is that under their original rules, any hero that got promoted to their own solo title was automatically "promoted" to honorary membership, the status Superman & Batman started out with, and Flash & Green Lantern eventually reached--Wonder Woman had her own title by the time she joined the team, and thus had the distinction of becoming both an member and an honorary member at the same time.  Unlike Superman & Batman, who were mentioned from time to time but had no real presence on the team (at least in the Golden Age), Wonder Woman appeared in almost every issue, even if she was usually relegated to silly secretarial chores and left behind to worry about the menfolk.  In a weird way, compared to the male honoraries, she got, if not better treatment, at least more on-panel time.  It has recently occurred to me that part of the reason Wonder Woman remained HQ bound as often as she was may have had to do with Dr. Marston--we know that he insisted on doing a nearly complete re-write of WW's solo chapter in the "Shanghaied in Space" story; what if he had so much creative control over her that the powers that be simply decided that it was best to keep her out of action, so fewer stories had to go thru such a re-writing process, while still keeping AA Comics' biggest gun on the roster, and on the covers?  It seems to me that by the time that shrinking page counts and diminishing sales moved WW into regular active duty (such as it was), Dr. Marston was dead, and no longer as pressing an issue.  Just a thought.

7. Ultra Boy

Intangibles – 5 – He was who he was, no complaints about that.

Perceived Value – 8 – Every super power possessed by Kryptonians plus the ability to see through lead—the only problem was his limit of being able to only use one power at a time. That limited him to a certain degree and seemingly made him less useful

Actual Value – 10 –  Despite his “handicap” I always  thought Ultra Boy overachieved. Certainly he was a favorite back then, as he frequently either headlined or took a large part in the Legion’s missions.  All things being equal, he gets high marks here because he was easy to use.

Total: 23


Randy Jackson said:

6. Mon-El

 

Intangibles – 5 – Beyond being ridiculously powerful otherwise, at least in the Silver Age he didn’t bring much else to the team.

 

Perceived Value – 10 – Daxamite and everything that comes with it.

 

Actual Value – 9 – Superboy syndrome strikes again. In his case, it was much more the “Mon-El is out in space on a mission” sort of thing, but even when he was used in a story, he generally wasn’t very effective, which was kind of surprising as I’m imagining his weaknesses were generally less well known than that of Kryptonians.

 

Total: 24

In my own evaluation, I would bump up Mon-El's score in the category of "Intangibles" (a curiously coïncident category title, given what I am about to address).

Something Mon-El brings to the table that no other Legionnaire does is over a thousand years of knowledge from observing things from the Phantom Zone.  He's witnessed the rise and fall of nations--of worlds, even.  He's seen man at his best and at his worst, and every permutation of conscience and ambition.  He's seen scheming, plotting, deception, trickery, resourcefulness, and heroism in all of their forms.  

It's easy to overlook because the stories themselves never made much reference to it, but the knowledge that Mon gained from over a millennium of observing history across the very universe certainly would have been a significant advantage in his performance as a Legionnaire and the one thing (besides the lead weakness thing) that distinguished him from Superboy.

That's fair, and it is something I considered. Plus, the Intangibles category is not just meant for notable achievements. However, in the case you're arguing, I couldn't think of a story where this experience and knowledge was used explicitly. Still, it dos work, and there will be other Letgionnaires with less quantifiable intangibles coming up later, so I could conceivably bump Mon-El up a point.

Commander Benson said:


Something Mon-El brings to the table that no other Legionnaire does is over a thousand years of knowledge from observing things from the Phantom Zone.  He's witnessed the rise and fall of nations--of worlds, even.  He's seen man at his best and at his worst, and every permutation of conscience and ambition.  He's seen scheming, plotting, deception, trickery, resourcefulness, and heroism in all of their forms.  


Actually Al was powerful enough to do things like smash down doors. The real problem was Spectre (and Dr. Fate and Green Lantern) don't belong here. Was there anything GL did back then that he couldn't have done a lot easier in the 60s or later?
 
The Baron said:

This talk of characters who were so powerful that they should have been able to should have been able to end the story on the second page puts me in mind of the early JSA stories where the Spectre (who was essentially God's understudy) fought alongside Al Pratt, who (in the early days, at least) had the proportionate strength and speed of a short guy.

Commander Benson said:

Something Mon-El brings to the table that no other Legionnaire does is over a thousand years of knowledge from observing things from the Phantom Zone. He's witnessed the rise and fall of nations--of worlds, even. He's seen man at his best and at his worst, and every permutation of conscience and ambition. He's seen scheming, plotting, deception, trickery, resourcefulness, and heroism in all of their forms.

I've always thought that if Mon-El was actually paying attention to everything that happened (on Earth? in the universe?) for 1,000 years it would be amazing that he kept his sanity. Would he remember how to talk? how to eat? how to go to the bathroom? I guess this is yet another thing we weren't supposed to think about.

8. Lightning Lad

Intangibles – 6 – Legion founder

Perceived Value – 9 – Being able to generate electricity from your body should be a nice complement to the other Legionnaires..

Actual Value – 8—He did the best he could, but it never really seemed like he quite lived up to his potential. He was a frequent contributor, but he was also frequently thwarted.

Total: 23


Seems like he would spend time talking to the criminals there, just to have something to do.

Richard Willis said:

Commander Benson said:

Something Mon-El brings to the table that no other Legionnaire does is over a thousand years of knowledge from observing things from the Phantom Zone. He's witnessed the rise and fall of nations--of worlds, even. He's seen man at his best and at his worst, and every permutation of conscience and ambition. He's seen scheming, plotting, deception, trickery, resourcefulness, and heroism in all of their forms.

I've always thought that if Mon-El was actually paying attention to everything that happened (on Earth? in the universe?) for 1,000 years it would be amazing that he kept his sanity. Would he remember how to talk? how to eat? how to go to the bathroom? I guess this is yet another thing we weren't supposed to think about.

9. Invisible Kid

Intangibles – 6 – Legion leader

Perceived Value – 8– He doesn’t have the most impressive power, but it should be pretty effective in other ways, particularly in terms of stealth.

Actual Value – 8—All things being equal, I’d say he contributed as expected. There were times where his power didn’t help as it should, but I’d also say there were enough times when it did to counter balance things.

Total: 22


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