The 50th anniversary of DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes started so well: They had a Saturday morning cartoon, two monthly comics and a high-profile guest-spot in lead Superman comic Action Comics. But as the year draws to a close, both their comic series and the cartoon have been cancelled, with DC's Dan DiDio talking about the need to let the characters rest for awhile. What went wrong for the children of the future?The beginning of the end came in March, when the CW announced that the animated series Legion of Super-Heroes was ending after only two seasons on the CW (In comparison, similar DC cartoons like The Batman and Teen Titans both lasted five seasons). Without the television show, the tie-in comic Superman And The Legion Of Super-Heroes was also cancelled - the last issue is due next month - and this week saw final confirmation that the main Legion of Super-Heroes series will end with January's issue... ironically, its 50th. According to DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio, while this doesn't mean the end of the characters, it does mean that they'll be taking it easy for awhile:
We've got a lot of plans and a lot of thought for the Legion right now, but coming out of [current Final Crisis tie-in series] Legion of 3 Worlds, we're going to let the characters rest for a little bit and see where we go from there.
If true, this would mean that - once Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds finishes at the start of next year - the franchise will finish its 50th anniversary by no longer appearing on a regular basis for the first sustained period since its creation. Thing is, we don't think it's true.
There's a lot of wiggle room in DiDio's comment, to start with. Yes, he talks about letting "the characters rest for a little bit," but that's after saying that there are "a lot of plans" for the franchise, a point he returned to later in the same interview when asked about rumors that Legion of 3 Worlds writer Geoff Johns would want to take on the characters on a more permanent basis:
You know what? I think we'd love Geoff to write everything right now. But realistically, he's got a pretty full slate with everything that's going on... He's got Flash, Green Lantern, JSA, Action, and specials coming up because this thing called Blackest Night is looming. But I'm sure that the Legion will stay close to Geoff and near and dear to him as well, and you'll probably see some of them appear through some of his runs down the line. I don't want to give too much away. But there's always plans for the Legion. They're an important part of the DC Universe.
Anytime that someone says "I don't want to give too much away," then there's definitely something to be given away... which is especially interesting considering that DiDio didn't actually say "no," anywhere in response to the question.
(Maybe more importantly, all of Johns' recent work with the characters has been clearly leading to something bigger than "letting the characters rest" - he's revived a previously-abandoned version of the franchise and has been rehabilitating those older versions of the characters for something. He's also been doing so in a series of high-profile settings - the Justice League story "The Lightning Saga," his Action Comics six-part story, and now Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds have all been stories on high-selling titles given a lot of publicity by the publisher - which again suggests that this isn't some pet project Johns is doing in his spare time.) Of course, the other place that we know that Johns is going to be writing the Legion for sure is on this season of Smallville, where - spoiler alert - the Legion are due to show up in the eighth episode in some CW version of their first comic appearance (Namely, traveling back in time to fuck with Clark before telling him that he's awesome in the future). Again, hardly a low-profile place for the characters to rest, if that was the intent. Add this to the fact that fan favorite Legion creators Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen have been teasing a return to the characters since San Diego Comic-Con and it seems less and less likely that DC is mothballing the characters as they claim, but instead trying to dampen down expectations ahead of a relaunch at some point in 2009. This wouldn't be the first time DC has tried this approach - they prefaced Final Crisis's revamp of the Jack Kirby New Gods characters with a series called Death of The New Gods, after all - but their timing does appear to be slightly off; shouldn't this kind of fake-out be done so that the "Ha, only joking! Here they are again after all!" reveal comes on the 50th anniversary, instead of the whole "Yeah, time to put the toys down for awhile" part? Kind of makes you glad that DC didn't decide to do anything to mark Superman's birthday; otherwise, we might have celebrated that occasion with a rehash of 1992's biggest comic stunt, only without the mullet-sporting return a few months later.