Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fixing Legion Chronology (For the LAST Time) (No, Really)

The Problems:

1. The Legion is 50+ years old, but its members are in early adulthood (20s - 30s).

2. The Legion interacts with the "present day" DC Universe on a fixed 1,000-year interval.

3. Reconciling these two conditions results in a Legion chronology that is ever-changing and ever-shrinking to match the current DC Universe.

4. Everybody keeps messing with the Legion, and there is no agreement on fundamental principles.

5. By the nature of the problems, most solutions are only temporary. Ideally, any solution should still stand when the Legion celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2058.

Previous Solutions:

Based on the Mayfair Games sourcebooks, a generally-accepted Legion chronology was established in the 1990s. This chronology, based on the terms of Legion leaders, had the Legion founded in 2973 and the Magic Wars in 2989.

Unfortunately, this chronology would have Cosmic Boy aged 42 in the year 3000 and most Legionnaires approaching their 50s at the time of "Legion of 3 Worlds." And it's only going to get worse in the future.

Basically, the generally-accepted chronology is too long. It needs to be shortened.

The Givens:

1. The Legion was founded in the 3oth century. Young Clark Kent/Superboy visited the 30th century.

2. The Legion is "now" in the 31st century. Superman visits the 31st century.

3. Rokk Krinn (Cosmic Boy) was 15 when the Legion was founded. The ages of other Legionnaires are relative to him.

4. With Paul Levitz coming back, this is a great time to end the madness once and for all. One hopes that Levitz has the clout to make changes stick.

Everything else is assumed to be negotiable.

The Proposed Solution:

1. The fixed 1,000 year interval must be abandoned. Ideally, the Legion's chronology should be divorced from the present day as much as possible. To accomplish this:

A. "Legion time" runs more slowly than "present day" time. In particular, the ratio is approximately 1:5 - that is, five years of "present day" time equals one year of "Legion time."

In practical terms, each month (or each issue of the comic) covers more-or-less one week in Legion time. Sixty issues (5 years) covers one year in Legion time.

(Roy Thomas used a similar system with All-Star Squadron/Young All-Stars and it worked fine. Also, in LSH v.4 Giffen & the Bierbaums ran "Legion time" on a slower rate than "real time.")

B. There is only one anchor point: the year 2000 corresponds to the Legion's year 3000 (technically, December 31, 2000 = December 31, 3000). Therefore, Adventure Comics #1/504, cover date October 2009, corresponds to a Leigon time of late in the year 3001 (mid-December, to be exact, although cutting things so closely is not encouraged - it would tie the hands of creative teams too much).

2. To shorten the generally-accepted chronology, it is decreed that all Leigon Leaders served half-year terms (forget what the Legion Constitution says - that was pre-Choose-Your-Crisis).

Under these changes, Cosmic Boy was born in 2976, the Legion was founded in 2991, and the Magic Wars occurred early in the year 3000. Cosmic Boy was 15 when the Legion was founded, is "now" about 25, and will be about 35 by the time of the Legion's 100th anniversary.

Here's a quick-and dirty outline of the proposed chronology:
    2991 [old: 2973/74] Legion Founded - Leader: Cosmic Boy (2 terms) - Hamilton/Binder Era - Adventure

    2992 [old: 2975/76] Leader: Saturn Girl (2 terms) - Death of Lightning Lad - Adventure

    2993 [old: 2977/78] Leaders: Brainiac 5/Invisible Kid - Computo, Death of Ferro Lad - Shooter Era - Adventure

    2994 [old: 2979] Leaders: Ultra Boy/Karate Kid - Shooter Era - Adventure/Action

    2995 [old: 2980] Leaders: Mon-El/Ultra Boy - Chuck & Luornu married - Cockrum Era - Superboy

    2996 [old: 2981/82] Leaders: Mon-El/Wildfire - Earthwar - Levitz I Era - Superboy/Superboy & LSH

    2997 [old: 2983/84] Leaders: Lightning Lad (Element Lad)/Dream Girl - Clark/Superboy resigns, Great Darkness - Conway Era, Levitz II Era - LSH v.2

    2998 [old: 2985/86] Leaders: Element Lad (2 terms) - LSV, Crisis on Infinite Earths - Levitz II Era - LSH v.3

    2999 [old: 2987/88] Leader: Polar Boy (2 terms) - Universo Project - Levitz II Era

    3000 [old: 2989/90] Leaders: Sensor Girl/Unknown - Magic Wars - Levitz II Era, Interregnum

    3001 Leaders: Unknown/Unknown - Lightning Saga, Superman & the LSH, L3W - Johns Era

3. These changes apply to the Classic/Retro/Earth-0 ("Lightning Saga") Legion only. Other Legions from other Earths have their own internal chronologies.

Moving Forward:

1. Elections for Leader should happen roughly every 2.5 years (30 issues).

2. In "Legion time" a new year will come in every "real time" year that ends in 5 or 0 (2005, 2010, 2015, 2020, etc.)

3. In the "present-day" DC Universe, the Legion's time should be referred to as "about a thousand years in the future" or "the 31st century." Any adventures of young Clark Kent/Superboy took place in "the 30th century."

4. Unless future creative teams want the Legionnaires to grow up and have grandchildren, this scheme will probably need some sort of adjustments around the year 2100. I doubt I will be here.

5. There's enough leeway here that creative teams can play fast-and-loose with these guidelines. If they want to spend a five-issue arc on a two-day adventure, that works. If they want to cover an entire year in a single issue, there's room for that too. If they want to revisit a past time occasionally (Levitz did), no prob.

What Next?

No scheme is perfect. Make comments and suggestions. We'll thrash it around a bit. Spread the word to other Legion fans so they can weigh in.

Once you think we have a solution that's workable, contact DC (to the attention of Paul Levitz) and let them know. Posting on the DC message boards would probably help too.



SUBZERO said...

Thanks for reminding me that it was the 20th century and not the 21st century.
Sorry, wanted to send you an e - mail but I couldn´t find an e - mail address :

I just wanted to ask if you would be interested in doing a link exchange as I´m always interested in featuring interesting blogs - especailly connected to the Legion - on TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN.

And to pimp my own blog to more readers in my quest for world domination.

Matthew E said...

Honestly, I think that the best thing DC can do is to ignore it. It's the nature of serialized entertainment: the timeline will always break down if the characters are popular for long enough. There's nothing to be done about it, but it's only a problem if we insist on making it one.

mtoksane said...

There is no problem if we assume that people age more slowly in the 31st century due to medical advances. This has already been suggested in some past Legion stories. Please reming me - were these stories written by Levitz?. Legionnaries can then still be in their early adulthood (physically and socially) in their 50s. The solution is to bring bring doctor B'Reldenn back and make his serum central to Legion stories.

A remaining problem is that while Legionaires can age more slowly, Superman's cast of characters (like Lois Lane and Perry White) cannot. This is one reason why Superman gest rebooted and retconned. So if the Legion is strongly tried to Superman (as it again is due to Geoff Johns) the Legion's chronology will still be a bit of a mess since Superman's chronology will keep being a huge mess.