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 I noted earlier, despite what the writers said, Karate Kid had to have super strength and some high level of invulnerability to do the things he was shown to be able to do. He is less Shang-chi and more Karnak or Iron Fist. A good comparison may be Magnus who was able to behead robots with a single “karate chop.”

Ronald Morgan said:

Looks like he has whatever it is that Karnak has.

To digress back to our discussion of Nemesis Kid, the more I think about him, the more he comes across as a coward and a bully. He knew he was “bigger” than any single other kid on the playground and was able to “bully” anyone. However, when he was no longer “bigger” he “ran away.”

Also, I always wondered what would happen if Nemesis Kid took on Duplicate Boy of the Heroes of Lallor. Of course, the easy out is Duplicate Boy using Duo Damsel’s power or Nemesis Kid teleporting away. But without those cheats such a battle could have been a lot of fun. Does anyone know if this actually did ever take place?

Captain Comics said:

We should just post all the letters from "Legion Outpost" in this thread and call it a day. Evidently, they thought everything we're thinking, only 47 years earlier.

To wit:  


Dave Palmer said:

I always wondered what would happen if Nemesis Kid took on Duplicate Boy of the Heroes of Lallor. Of course, the easy out is Duplicate Boy using Duo Damsel’s power or Nemesis Kid teleporting away.

From the letter column of Action Comics # 381 (Oct., 1969):

I have a suggestion for an interesting Legion fight:  Duplicate Boy of Lallor versus Nemesis Kid, the villainous ex-Legionnaire.  N.K. has the power to defeat any one foe, so he could presumably win; but D.B. has the power to duplicate any super-power, so he could possibly duplicate Nemesis Kid's.  How about it?  Who would win?

                                                                --- Leonard Philip Zinna, Brooklyn, New York

(That's an easy one!  Remember how N.K. was beaten last time?  Duo Damsel did it by becoming TWO people.  And Duplicate Boy could mimic her power, too!  --- Ed.)

Commander,

Thanks. It seems there were a lot of little ”gems” hidden in The Legion’s short tenure in Action. I’ll have to dig out my originals and take a look at the letters pages (usually I just refer to the various collections I have, it’s just easier).

Action 391 has Element Lad transmuting an android army. I don't remember the number of adversaries, but he eventually exhausted himself and passed out.

Fraser

Randy Jackson said:

7. Element Lad

Intangibles – 5 – He brought himself, and really that’s enough.

Perceived Value – 10 – Having someone on your team that can change any object into another object should be an exceptionally useful power.

Actual Value – 8 –  I suppose that rather than “Superboy Syndrome” I could call this “Flash Syndrome”. I’m sure it wasn’t easy using EL in a story without figuring out a way he wouldn’t end it in a single panel. Hence, he wasn’t used often, and rarely in a story with serious stakes. What he did bring was pretty good, but he rarely got the chance.

Total: 23

And now for a question: was an upper limit ever established of how much matter Jan could actually convert at one time? Part of the reason I’m asking is the story where Superboy and Supergirl were forced to quit the Legion because of the Green Kryptonite dust surrounding Earth that Color Kid eventually turned into Blue Kryptonite. Why couldn’t Element Lad have turned into, say, helium or hydrogen or some harmless gas? And is Color Kid really that powerful that he can change all of that Kryptonite in such a quick fashion? Seriously, just how powerful was Color Kid? That’s a lot of mass to change the composition by changing it’s color.

This assumes Nemesis Kid has even minimal fighting skills when he's not tapping his power. Or any brains. I'm not sure he does. In Karate Kid #1, for instance, and when he faced Projectra years later, he gets enough power to beat them but he's overconfident and they clobber him. Even when he gets the power to beat Val to death, KK sacrifices himself destroying the device the LSV are using to control Orando.

So it wouldn't surprise me if he has zero combat skills—after all, he knows he can beat up anyone who picks a fight with him, so he can rely on his power 100 percent. Suddenly being in a fight and not being able to access his nemesis power he may just have frozen.



Commander Benson said:

Dave Palmer said:

One more Duo Damsel tidbit. On her own she defeated one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, supervillain the Legion faced. A supervillain who could take down any one of the big guns: Nemesis Kid. (As an aside, I was able to learn what “nemesis” meant, I think I could have handled “catalyst” as well.) Of course, it’s all Silver Age silliness, which you’ve gotta love. Nemesis Kid had the superpower to gain the ability to defeat any single other individual. Where he could have defeated Superboy or Mon-El, he couldn’t defeat her because there were two of her. It happened in Adventure #372. One Duo Damsel holds him while the other Duo Damsel slugs him. “Oof! It can’t be! No mere Girl can take Nemesis Kid uhh!” You know he’s a supervillain because he refers to himself in the third person, and is sexist to boot. “Duo Damsel can! Your power can’t work on the two of me!” (Luornu, be careful, you’re talking in the third person too.) If you think about it,it’s either silly or an incredibly creative use of her power.

That's easy---it's silly.

I get it.  Duo Damsel fans have always been desperate for ways to demonstrate that her power isn't the lamest of the Legionnaires.  That's why they clutched at the straw of D.D. having "double strength" when in her singular form---a reach of an inference after a scene in Adventure Comics # 369 (Jun., 1968).  The scene you mentioned, from the climax of Adventure Comics # 372, is another attempt to justify her presence in the Legion.

The inference here, as the Duo Damsel Fan Club would have it, is that the instant that D.D. splits into two girls, Nemesis Kid just curls up, helpless to combat her.  Because, the rationale goes, she can become two girls and the Kid's power works against only one foe.

But there's no evidence to suggest that.  Nemesis Kid's super-power guarantees that he will defeat any one foe---but he's scarcely impotent against more than one opponent. So, there's nothing to say that N.K.'s own natural abilities and strength wouldn't be enough to defeat two ordinary teen-age females.

Let's even give Duo Damsel the benefit of the doubt.  She goes through Legion fitness training, which is rigourous to the extreme, so she's in peak physical condition.  And let's toss in that she's probably been taught a few combat techniques by Karate Kid.  It's certainly reasonable that two of her could overcome Nemesis Kid, whose super-power won't kick in.  But he's going to make a fight of it.  D.D. would come away with more than her hair mussed.

Beyond that, two Duo Damsels would be no match for a Nemesis Kid armed with a plasma-rifle, or a disintegrator ray, or even a plain old-fashioned sub-machine gun.

The point is:  Nemesis Kid just doesn't keel over the moment Duo Damsel splits in two.

I think it was a kind of super-extrapolation. Real karate masters break boards, so "logically" super-karate could break steel.

I always liked KK precisely because using super-karate made him stand out from the other superstrong members. IIRC Shooter said he created him specifically to counterbalance the point-and-zap types. Plus the various real and imaginary martial arts that he used from time to time.


Dave Palmer said:

Into the Bronze Age and once he went “feral” to capitalize on Wolverine’s popularity it can be argued that Timber Wolf was the Legion’s best brawler, but in the Silver Age I think that title should go to Karate Kid with Ultra Boy as a close second. In his tryout Karate Kid went toe-to-toe with Superboy, and in Adventure #378 he took on the Fatal Five single handed—that’s going to be tough to top. In #377 he defeated the “Champ” in boxing at a carnival on Mercury.

An interesting question does present itself: did Val have superpowers or super strength? No matter how good you are at the martial arts some of the things he did are impossible. At his try-out he smashed a steel beam, and during their battle Superboy was amazed by his strength. Maybe in that regard he belongs in that tier with Timber Wolf just below the big guns.

Philip Portelli said:

Lone Wolf made only one appearance before showing up in the Adult Legion story as Timber Wolf, now married to Light Lass because she was attracted to him in his debut and was now stuck with him! Much later at the end of the Silver Age, he officially joined.

I have always considered him to be one of the strongest and fastest Legionnaire, below Superboy, Mon-El, Supergirl and Ultra Boy but above Colossal Boy and Ferro Lad. He was certainly the most agile and acrobatic and the Legion's best brawler.

One of the text features (IIRC) in Adventure said Projectra was gifted with her powers by a sorceress at birth. So her parents probably did know and picked the name accordingly.

Captain Comics said:

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?

This is something that always annoys me about stories involving some sort of super-hero regulation (e.g. Civil War). It's taken as a given all super-powered heroes (and sometimes non-super heroes) are covered; any competent attorney could have a field day shredding registration requirements, based on how sloppy the laws seem to be written.

Commander Benson said:

Randy Jackson said:

26. Karate Kid 

 

. . . No matter how quick and strong he is for a normal human, he’s a normal human.

Bingo!

The stickler in me---and I was worse about it 'way back when---says that Karate Kid should not be a member of the Legion.  As far as Earth folks go, Karate Kid may be at the very peak of human development in certain disciplines, but he's still within the range of human ability. Thus, he's not super-human in any respect.  And the Legion Constitution stipulates that a member must possess a genuine super-power.

Philip defends K.K.'s membership on the strength of the Kid's determination to succeed, but being really, really good at what you do doesn't earn you a place in the Legion. Otherwise, one could logically argue for Sherlock Holmes qualifying to be a Legionnaire.

I explained away the Legion's admission of Karate Kid with the same rationale that Randy has mentioned both here and before:  the Legionnaires were teen-agers, and as teens, their decisions were more influenced by social considerations than adults' are. The other Legionnaires voted K.K. in because they were impressed by his bravado, but more important, Superboy---whom the other members held in awe, like he was Conrad Birdie and they were a bunch of Kim MacAfees---wanted him to be admitted, so they couldn't say "aye" fast enough.

That said, something occurred to me as I was composing this post.  A question, really, and it's a question with an answer not as obvious as one may think at first blush.

What is a super-power?

I mean, by the fictional conceit of DC's thirtieth century.  Let me explicate.

I can see, but that's not a super-power because nearly everyone else on Earth has the ability to see.  (The unfortunate who cannot are exceptions, and we term them disabled or handicapped because their lack of sight is less than the norm.)

Cosmic Boy has the power to control magnetism, but is that a super-power?  Everyone else on his planet can do the same thing.  Certainly, to varying degrees (just as the quality of our vision varies among us Earthlings), but to the society of Braal, Cosmic Boy doesn't have a super-power.

The same goes for Saturn Girl, or any other Legionnaire who stems from a world in which everybody is born with the same "super-power".  

By that perspective, the only one of the three charter Legionnaires who had a super-power was Lightning Lad, who had an ability not possessed by those of Winath as a whole.

But even a prototype definition for "super-power" as a power or ability outside of the abilities of one's race isn't enough.  Again, I can see, but let's imagine that I'm from another world where the native population has no eyesight.  I'm a member of that other-worldly race, but I was born a mutant, with the ability to see.  That fits the "power or ability outside the abilities of one's race" requirement easily enough, but there's no chance the Legion is going to let me sign up because I have the "super-power" of sight.

Now, when Mort Weisinger and his writers were fleshing out the concept of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the term super-power was meant as "something which normal Earth people cannot do", and having some of the Legionnaires possess their powers due to their alien births was just a convenient way of avoiding coming up with a new "bizarre accident" origin every time they wanted to add a new member.

But, if we look at the term super-power through the in-fiction perspective of the thirtieth century of the Legion, it was never satisfactorily defined.  So, yes, I would insist that Karate Kid did not qualify for the Legion because he did not possess a super-power, but only because we have to take super-power as one of those thing which "everybody knows what it means", and not by the more stringent definition that the Legion would logically have.

That aspect actually bothered me more in Marvel's Civil War than it did in the Legion (if only because, no matter what they said, it was obvious that Karate Kid had some sort of genuine super-human ability going on, in much the same way the Golden Age Wonder Woman insisted that, with proper Amazon training, any woman could do what she did, like outrace & lift cars...)--if Hawkeye had to register as a "super-human", did that mean that the entire US Olympic archery team also had to register?  After all, any of them could theoretically do what he did?  Since they were preemptively registering powered people who had no interest in dressing up and either fighting crime or committing it, like the original Jackpot, it stands to reason.

Thinking about it, one woners how Nemesis Kid got accepted into the Legion in the first place. Sure his power is impressive--against a single foe. However, one would think a coordinated attack from two foes could take him down, espeicially if he wasn't much of a fighter.  I'm amazed none of the Legionnaires brought this up. Theoretically, it seems as if Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 attacked him physically at the same time, he'd likely lose.

I know his power was treated as if it had to be twins or something similar, but it seems to me that if two foes attacked with the express intent of taking him down, he'd be in a bad spot.

Likewise if Misty Knight had to register, does everyone with a mechanical prosthetic have to sign up? Or heck, anyone with night goggles — being able to see in the dark is a classic super-power.



Dave Elyea said:

That aspect actually bothered me more in Marvel's Civil War than it did in the Legion (if only because, no matter what they said, it was obvious that Karate Kid had some sort of genuine super-human ability going on, in much the same way the Golden Age Wonder Woman insisted that, with proper Amazon training, any woman could do what she did, like outrace & lift cars...)--if Hawkeye had to register as a "super-human", did that mean that the entire US Olympic archery team also had to register?  After all, any of them could theoretically do what he did?  Since they were preemptively registering powered people who had no interest in dressing up and either fighting crime or committing it, like the original Jackpot, it stands to reason.

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