The Legion of Super-Heroes, in its earliest days, was pure fun and adventure (how suiting that it’s first run as a series was in Adventure Comics). What it also had was potential.
Being set in the 30th century, it fit in nicely with DC’s general focus on Science Fiction. Not only did many of the Legion’s adventures take place in outer space, on alien worlds and dealing with aliens, most of its members were aliens themselves! Add to the science fiction potential for an almost infinite arena the fact that most of the heroes had only a solo power. While their inspiration, Superboy, had almost too many powers, with the exception of Mon-El, Ultra Boy and Supergirl the Legionnairs depended on a single power, some very useful, some… for lack of a better word, odd. Yes, I’m looking at you Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad!
The old adage, “when all you have is a hammer, all of your problems start to look like nails” holds true, up to a point. When you’re only power is to throw lightning, your first instinct when confronting a bad guy is to, well, throw lightning. So too if your power is to throw heat and light, exert magnetic forces over suitable metals, and so on. Where Superboy had the options of pummelling someone or something with super-strength, freezing with his “freeze breath”, melting it with his heat vision, etc., his biggest problem often turned out to be not how to stop the bad guy, but which power to use. Our single-powered Legionnaire had to use their brain to figure out how to solve the problem with their one option. This could be a challenge for a writer, or for a very creative writer, a golden opportunity, because if the managed some out-of-the-box solution the reader was left with an impression of brilliance, or magic, especially satisfying if the reader had thought of the same solution. Keep in mind that the stories in the early 1960s were still aimed at younger teens or pre-teens; everything was over-the-top and often a little goofy, hence the “fun”.
The most important solution to many of their bigger problems, of course, was teamwork. It was more often than not multiple Legionnaires working together — despite their different backgrounds and planets of origin — that saved the day.
The stories were fun, full of potential, and almost always inspired the reader in one way or another.
Over the years, when I’m testing a new set or style of 3D character, I often use the new models to recreate some of the old Legionnaires. As always, my focus tends more towards comic book/cartoon style than realism; it’s my attempt to try to bring back the youthful “fun” aspect of the Legion. As a result, I tend to call my versions, “Young Legionnaires” (in recent years, some Legion scholars have pegged some of the current Legionnaires from the original run to be in their late 30s, sometimes married with children — not the type of hero I wanted to be when I was 12). The 2018 version is at the top of the page, and uses 3D Universe’s “Toon Generations 2” (dialled back to be a little less toony) and used in conjunction with DAZ’s Genesis 3 characters.
Back in 2009, I did a version using Lady Littlefox’s and Redspark’s “Chip and Cookie” models:
While a few years later, using 3D Universe’s “Toon Generation” models I created this one:
Three different styles, but hopefully all capturing the fun, the variety and I hope the essence of what the Legion of Super-Heroes meant to me way back then.