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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As long as I'm on the topic, I was also an Element Lad fan as a kid, because he was so powerful and never used. It felt "underdog" to me.

Also, he wore pink. I understood: There are only so many colors available, and most of the good ones were taken. Heck, Cosmic Boy wore pink. (But he was important.)

Anyway, here was a guy that I could imagine a thousand uses for, but the few times he appeared, he was useless or just stood around,.

Here was a guy who could turn a bad guy's clothes to lead. A guy who could evaporate a wall for everyone to escape. A guy who could stand around looking helpless -- as he often did -- but without moving a finger, make every bad guy pass out, because the oxygen in his lungs/blood was suddenly carbon dioxide.

I mean, jeez -- this was a guy who could defeat every member of the Legion without leaving his chair, or moving a hand!

And yet, he did almost nothing. I can't think of a Silver Age story to this day where Element Lad played an important role. And yet, he was probably the most powerful of all.

Transmutation was illegal in the United Planets due to Venusian lobbying following Cosmic King v. Mr Element 3,141,592 U.P. 6535, except under circumstances established by the subsequent Dr Alchemy v. United Planets 8,979,323 U.P. 8462.

I'm sure there were one or two where he did something, but nothing truly notable.

There's a problem with certain powers. Any character that can transmute anything should be ridiculously powerful, but the only one I've seen achieve anywhere near that potential is the Molecule Man during Secret Wars II.

Captain Comics said:

I can't think of a Silver Age story to this day where Element Lad played an important role. And yet, he was probably the most powerful of all.

And we all know the Legion's most dangerous foe was in fact, the United Planets.

Luke Blanchard said:

Transmutation was illegal in the United Planets due to Venusian lobbying following Cosmic King v. Mr Element 3,141,592 U.P. 6535, except under circumstances established by the subsequent Dr Alchemy v. United Planets 8,979,323 U.P. 8462.

Element Lad was (is) one of my favorites.  To my mind there is no question that he is one of the most powerful Legionnaires -- as others have noted, he could take out Superboy or Mon-El without working up a sweat.  Back then, no one really seemed to acknowledge how powerful he could be -- Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El and Ultra Boy were the big guns.  He wasn't given much to do when he did show up, alas.

In 1966, the Color Boy/kryptonte cloud story made perfect sense to me, but I was eight.  Today it raises all sorts of questions.  Just how powerful was Color Kid?  He didn't just change the color (maybe that would have been Dye Boy's job), he changed the fundamental nature of green kryptonite.  The Subs were also favorites of mine, so I didn't have a problem with one of them saving the day.  I remember writing a letter back then arguing why each Sub belonged in the Legion proper.  For my efforts I received the customary postcard filled with DC facts (e.g., Superman and Batman's ages).  I don't know where it got off to, but I think I still have it somewhere.

When we consider Element Lad's (and Cosmic Boy's, and Brainiac's for that matter) costume I think we need to think in terms of the 1950s/early 1960s and not look at things through our 2017 eyes, where the toy aisle for girls is an explosion of pink.  Pink was everywhere in the 1950s and not exclusively for girls/women.  There are plenty of pictures of Elvis in pink and of course his many pink Cadillacs.  Also, when baby clothes morphed from white for everyone to blue/pink one hundred years ago or so, pink was originally for boys because it was a more robust color.  This is the world the creators of Element Lad inhabited.  Fifty years ago, Element Lad in pink was no big deal, today we try to find all sorts of hidden meanings and signals that just weren't there. So, in 2017 we should interpret the world of 3066 through the lens of 1966; time travel is so confusing.

I tired of the "government is evil" trope long ago, but I can almost sympathize with the UP. Here was a gang of super-powered teens with almost no adult supervision. Some of them even crossed the time barrier to hang out at the clubhouse, which should send up some red flags at whatever department worries about the timeline getting screwed up.

* What if Element Lad dropped some acid? What damage would he do before coming down?

* What if Mon-El decided all the lead on Earth was a threat, and decided to get rid of it?

* Could anyone be sure the decisions they made were their own, with Saturn Girl in the room?

* Could anyone be sure what they were seeing and hearing was real, with Princess Projectra in the room?

* How could anyone trust Brainiac Five after Computo? Given his family history, why is he not under 24-hour supervision while still a minor?

If the Legion adopted leather jackets, the UP probably would have nuked them within the hour. 

Actually, I was kind of joking. The UP being their enemy didn't happen until Post-Crisis, if I recall correctly.

There were whole planets of people who could do the same stuff as Legionnaires. Not all of them, to be sure.

Randy,

I'm not sure why you cut off the Legion's Silver Age at 1968; their run in ADVENTURE lasted until 1969, and they continued as a backup in ACTION under Weisinger's editorial guidance until 1970. So I'd suggest the Legion's Silver Age lasted as long as the actual Silver Age lasted (especially since one of the main "end points" of the Silver Age was Mort's retirement).

Anyways, I would put Superboy at # 1, but would have Supergirl almost at the very bottom, since she hardly ever did anything in the actual ADVENTURE COMICS stories (her best-known appearances tending to appear in her own solo stories in ACTION). I'm also of the mind that Superboy worked best as a character (at least during the Silver Age) when he appeared with the Legion, since his stories in SUPERBOY were kind of lame.

Also, your placing Element Lad so high up on your list, higher than Sun Boy or Brainiac 5 or Karate Kid, indicates to me that you're using some kind of ranking metric that omits the sheer, pure greatness of a character. Cuz, I mean, Element Lad???

Oh, there were definitely some pre-Crisis stories where the UP was a hindrance at best. Didn't President Kandru intentionally work to bankrupt RJ Brande? (I guess that was Earthgov, not the U.P.) And man, there always seemed to be some shady stuff going on with Ambassador Relnick and Ontir. 

Randy Jackson said:

Actually, I was kind of joking. The UP being their enemy didn't happen until Post-Crisis, if I recall correctly.

Hi Dave,

There's sort of been a working definition ending the Silver Age in 1968 in this community for a while now., based primarily on the shifting of the guard at DC, when the old creators were fired and the new ones brought in. The Commander could likely give a more rounded explanation than I.

Also, this isn't about how good of a charsacter a Legionnaire was, but rather what did they bring to the team. There's no doubt, for instance, that Brainiac 5 is a great character, but that's not what the rankings are based on (if so, you'd be seeing the likes of Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad near the top because I think those guys are awesome).  In the case of Element Lad, he brought a ton of raw power to the team; however, he was also highly underutilized in the stories and therefore quantifying his contributions isn't as easy as it is for some other Legionnaires.

Dave Blanchard said:

Randy,

I'm not sure why you cut off the Legion's Silver Age at 1968; their run in ADVENTURE lasted until 1969, and they continued as a backup in ACTION under Weisinger's editorial guidance until 1970. So I'd suggest the Legion's Silver Age lasted as long as the actual Silver Age lasted (especially since one of the main "end points" of the Silver Age was Mort's retirement).

Anyways, I would put Superboy at # 1, but would have Supergirl almost at the very bottom, since she hardly ever did anything in the actual ADVENTURE COMICS stories (her best-known appearances tending to appear in her own solo stories in ACTION). I'm also of the mind that Superboy worked best as a character (at least during the Silver Age) when he appeared with the Legion, since his stories in SUPERBOY were kind of lame.

Also, your placing Element Lad so high up on your list, higher than Sun Boy or Brainiac 5 or Karate Kid, indicates to me that you're using some kind of ranking metric that omits the sheer, pure greatness of a character. Cuz, I mean, Element Lad???

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.

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