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:
Characters will be ranked in several areas:
I’ll tell you all right now, there are gonna be some surprises.
Keeping in tune with your in-story insights, Randy, I'd like to suggest that the reason all the boys paid attention to Dream Girl to the point of being rude to the other girls (out of character for most of them, especially Superboy) wasn't just teenage hormones, but some aspect of Dream Girl's powers. Maybe she could project a bit, to cloud men's minds to a dreamlike state.
Sure, it's a stretch, but it always bothered me that every male Legionnaire was simultaneously smitten by Dream Girl so much it looked like hypnosis.
As to Timber Wolf, at the time Cockrum was re-inventing the third-tier Legionnaires I thought of it as Marvelizing a crew that had been static since the Silver Age, and welcomed it. Was I right about that?
Anyway, turning Timber Wolf into a feral brawler was an especially welcome change since so many of the Legionnaires accessed their powers by just pointing (Lighting Lad, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Star Boy, Cosmic Boy, etc.). And also because prior to that, Timber Wolf was essentially superfluous.
An interesting thought about Dream Girl, Cap. She honestly seemed to have more going on than her precognitive powers, and perhaps she either emitted some sort of pheromone like Spider-Woman or had some sort of device that did something similar. Hard to say.
As to Timber Wolf, as you say, he was superfluous. Yes, he had a great backstory, and as a character he wasn't bad, but he was just another brick in the wall when you get right down to it. Given the Legion already sported the likes of Mon-El, Superboy, Supergirl, Ultra Boy, etc. there just wasn't much he could do that others couldn't do just as well. And sure, he wasn't a pose and point type, but it never really seemed as if he did much.
Dream Girl's effect over the male Legionnaires may have been a combo of Naltorian science, her natural beauty and her charm. Being the "flirty girl" was a strategy to advance her plot. But it only happened in her first appearance. When she returned, she was definitely in love with Star Boy and there was never anything seductive about her until the late Bronze Age. Yes she looked good but she was never trying to "steal" the affections of the guys or attention away from the gals.
She couldn't control when her dreams happened. And they were subject to her interpretation. Her dreams came true. That's why she's a Legionnaire but the subtext was never always clear.
I can't see the Legion rejecting someone with super-strength just because they have other members with greater strength. Most teams have more than one strong person.
The "hypnosis" aspect of Dream Girl's powers being discussed seems to be a weaker/subtler form of Charma's (from the post Silver Age) powers.
Karate Kid, Princess Projectra and Ferro Lad were introduced together in 1966 (in Jim Shooter's debut issue), and Shadow Lass in 1967. Chemical King and Timber Wolf joined together in 1968. The next new Legionnaire was Erg-1/Wildfire, who debuted as a one-shot character in 1973 and was made a member between issues in 1973/74.
From 1969-73 the feature appeared as a supporting strip. In this period the stories often focused on just a few Legionnaires, or one in particular.
-In 1969-70 the feature appeared in Action Comics. It was dropped when Weisinger retired.
-From the start of 1971, after a five month gap, it appeared irregularly in Superboy. There was an eight month gap between the third and fourth Superboy stories. (Reprints also appeared in the title in the period. I'm not counting those.)
Adventure Comics #403 was a Legion reprint giant that appeared simultaneously with the first Superboy story. It had a feature showing new costume suggestions by readers. The GCD tells me some of these showed up in the fourth Superboy story, with pencils by George Tuska. Cockrum's first story was the next one. Beginning with his second the feature appeared every couple of issues until it took over the title with #197 and #198 in 1973. (#197 had a "Superboy" back-up, #198 was the first all-Legion issue.) Timber Wolf's new look debuted in #197, which incidentally also introduced Tyr.
A reprint title called Legion of Super-Heroes appeared ahead of the takeover, in 1972-73.
Nice "chair," Boy of Steel. Even as a lad I thought it looked more like something to recline on, and that was before I heard the term "casting couch."
Mind you both Princess Projectra and Shadow Lass wore the same one-piece as Dream Girl but they had capes!
26. Karate Kid
Intangibles – 6 – I don’t remember offhand, but I’m guessing Val helped train Legionnaires in hand to hand combat.
Perceived Value – 6 – No matter how quick and strong he is for a normal human, he’s a normal human. Unlike some other normal human superheroes I can think of, he doesn’t bring “master tactician and strategist” as part of his resume. I don’t know how much you can really expect.
Actual Value – 7 – Val overachieved at pretty much everything. He was a valuable member of the Legion despite his lack of powers.
Once again, here’s another “great character” that I personally felt brought very, very little to the Legion. Yes, he beat up Superboy at his audition, but Superboy wasn’t really trying. His romance with Princess Projectra was also nice, but in terms of this list that doesn’t matter for much. I love his moxie, but all things being equal, his lack of powers should have relegated him to the Subs or to a Legion Reservist.
"I won't be robbed of my chance to join!"
Confident, defiant and proud. Karate Kid fought for his place in the Legion. He wasn't going to settle for an old flight-belt or "The Subs are doing some fine work". His power was overcoming obstacles and he impressed Superboy greatly and in very little time the rest of the team.
Plus his father was a super-villain, the Black Dragon, who was killed by the super-hero White Crane who raised Karate Kid as his Sensei.
No one sane would go up against the Fearless Fighter of the Future!
I've always liked the Legion, but wasn't the superfan a lot of people were. For example, I don't think I've re-read anything since Cockrum left the book. So I'm always asking on this thread if the impressions I had at the time certain books came out are accurate, or just fuzzy memories from the perspective of a much younger me.
In the case of Karate Kid, it seemed to me that at one point they were trying to make him a star. He was in a lot of adventures, culminating with his own book. I didn't know then, and don't know now, if he was really popular, or if it was an editorial decision. What do y'all think?
This is part and parcel of an impression I had of certain other characters on the "star path." Timber Wolf was one of those once Cockrum made him visually interesting, as was Ultra Boy. I have the impression that Jo Nah had a sympathy vote for his treatment in the story where the Legion thought he was a traitor which carried over for years, and for some reason, he seemed to appeal to distaff readers. The "bad boy" effect, perhaps? Or maybe because he was one of the few Silver Age Legionnaires to have a girlfriend? Anyway, when he started appearing in a lot of stories (the "star path") it was years later, so the two things might be disconnected. Or I might be entirely wrong about it all.
Brainiac Five seemed to become a star during the Shooter/Swan era, faded into the background, and came back to the fore as a sort of resident mad scientist in the '80s. He's been more or less a major Legionnaire ever since, probably because he's fun to write and/or his "super-power" is a much-needed contrast to the punchy guys.
In the very early Legion, it seemed to me that Saturn Girl, Sun Boy and Lightning Lad were meant to be the stars.
It seemed to me that Ferro Lad was created to be killed, as he added nothing to the Legion power-wise (he was basically an updated version of Stone Boy) and didn't stick around long. Naturally, we all have fond memories for his sacrifice, which was very well done, and he gets a sympathy vote for overcoming his personal trauma to become a Legionnaire. Yep, he stands out in my memory, too.
Nobody ever seemed to do much with Cosmic Boy, a founder with Magneto's power who never did much but be the adult in the room. Mon-El seemed to get short shrift in the Silver Age, too -- Superboy made him superfluous, so he was always "on a space mission" or trying to get through the Time Trapper's wall of time. We've discussed the marginalization of Element Lad already.
I welcomed the diversification and amplification of the Legion in the Bronze Age and later, because up to that point it really was a team of square-jawed pointers and punchers. You'd think in the 31st century there would be a lot of problems a punch couldn't solve -- among them computer sabotage/theft and galactic politics. So it made sense for B5 to become more important, for players like Chameleon Boy, Princess Projectra and Saturn Girl to have more to do.
But some things I didn't care for. I know Blok has his fans, but to me he was -- in Randy's phrase -- just another brick. And I mean literally. A poor man's Thing who added nothing to the roster. But he seemed popular, or at least the writers liked to use him.
Projectra needed some work -- including a proper name. How did her parents know she'd develop those powers? Anyway, turning her into a giant snake is clever, but not very palatable. Did any males ever show interest in her before that reveal? Maybe kiss her? Because if so they're probably still scrubbing themselves bloody in the shower.
I liked Quislet for the variety, both in visuals and powers. I can't remember what he could do, though, or a single thing he ever did. Had a strange speech pattern, too, didn't he?
Couldn't stand Comet Queen, primarily because of her "future slang." Sizzling comets, I've already made my rocket opinion known on this space board about that.
I felt sorry for Cosmic Boy's younger brother. Magno Boy? Magnetic Lad? Anyway, what was he doing in the Legion Academy? It's like being a catcher in AAA when the parent club has a superstar at that position. Unless he gets injured, you're never moving up and the best you can hope for is a trade.
Those are some of my impressions. What do y'all think?
I always made the assumption that Karate Kid got h is own comic more because of the Kung-fuh craze at the time rather than any other reason I remember reading the series, but not much else about it, which I think says a lot.
There have been several "Ultra Boy is a traitor" stories over the years that have really helped strengthen the character, but he didn't really go bad boy until Giffen.
Cosmic Boy was the adult in the room, and that worked well for his personality.
I understand the appeal of Blok, but he never really brought that much to the team. An extra brucj doesn't hurt, plus he did have a nice romance.
Karate Kid kissed Projectra a few times, although I don't think any of those times was in her snake phase.
I think Magnetic Kid was handled as well as he could have been, and I have no complaints there.
Another Legionnaire who served very little purpose on the team but was quite popular was Monstress, just for her personality.