Every week in 2018, the plan is that my friend Rod is going to ask me some geeky question that will answer in a post. This week is Week #3, and Rod brought up a question connected to both the X-Men (his favorite comic book series) and the Legion of Super-Heroes (my favorite).
What if two members of the All-New X-Men had actually been members of the Legion of Super-Heroes instead?
This question isn’t quite as random as it sounds. In the early 1970’s, artist Dave Cockrum became the primary penciller on the Legion of Super-heroes, in the process redesigning a lot of the team’s costumes and bringing them visually from the more conservative “Silver Age” to the more far-out sci-fi stylings of the “Bronze Age” of comics. He continued at this job for a few years before leaving DC and going over to Marvel, where he became one of the chief architects–along with Len Wein and Chris Claremont–for the revival of the X-Men (a title that had been in reprint-only mode for some time), even bringing some of his unused character concepts to the X-Men with him.
So the task to me here is to pick two members of the “All New” X-Men (the group that started with Dave Cockrum’s tenure on the book) and re-imagine them as members of the Legion? Rod expanded the group of X-Men I could pick to basically anyone who’d been a core member of the team starting with Giant-Sized X-Men #1 (where the new team started) and going up to the Dark Phoenix Saga, a celebrated story that was drawn by Cockrum’s successor, John Byrne, and sort of closed off the chapter that began with Cockrum’s debut.
I only have a moderate familiarity with these characters, but if I remember properly, that means, eligible for selection are Cyclops, Marvel Girl / Phoenix, Banshee, Professor X, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Thunderbird, and I don’t know, maybe Beast? Sunfire? I can’t remember for sure, either way I’m not likely to pick them…(although actually Beast would make a pretty interesting Legionnaire if we didn’t already have Timber Wolf)
What’s funny to me is how many of these characters already have pretty clear parallels with Legion members. Such as:
• Jean Grey / Saturn Girl – Attractive female telepaths
• Cyclops / Lightning Lad – Energy-based leaders who are romantically involved with the telepaths (or maybe Wildfire, who was also a leader and also shot energy out of his face sometimes)
• Banshee / Tyroc – Sonic characters that people weren’t sure what to do with
• Wolverine / Timber Wolf – Feral acrobatic fighters
• Colossus / Ferro Lad (who was dead), or maybe Blok (who hadn’t joined yet) – Strong guys whose bodies were made of metal (or stone)
• Thunderbird / Kid Quantum I – People who died right at the beginning of the run, who had unpleasant personalities, and had powers nobody was clear about.
OK, that last one is a joke. My Kid Quantum description doesn’t really fit until the character (previously only briefly used) was rebooted after DC’s continuity-altering Zero Hour event, and obviously if you actually read those early X-Men stories, Thunderbird’s powers are clear.
Anyway, after considering everybody, I’ve opted to go with
First, these two characters have no obvious parallels with 1970’s Legionnaires in terms of powers. The Legion has never had, to my memory, someone who could control the weather, and they didn’t get a teleporter for another 20 years or so.
Second, Storm adds a bit of much-needed female power to the team. At this point in Legion history, most of the female members had what you’d call “defensive” or “stealth” powers…like phasing or shrinking or casting shadows or making things lightweight. Even Saturn Girl’s telepathy wouldn’t prominently be used as an attack power until later. So having a woman who could control the weather would have shaken things up a bit in a good way.
Third, Nightcrawler, with his peculiar look, would have fit into the Legion really well as an alien from some other planet.
Now, as it turns out, both Storm and Nightcrawler were the two main X-Men characters that Dave Cockrum had originally pitched for the Legion of Super-Heroes, but ended up being rejected or unused.
Well, actually Storm as we know her was an amalgamation of a couple of those pitches and went through a lot of adjustments in the development of the X-Men, but Nightcrawler came over to Marvel without many changes, at least as far as appearances go.
But the question here isn’t just which two characters did I want to use, but how would their presence impact the Legion in an ongoing manner. In talking about this I’m going to get into a bunch of Legion minutia, some of which I’ve mentioned in this post, but others of which I didn’t go into there and won’t have time to here.
Dave Cockrum’s last issue of the Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes as regular artist was #202. In #203, Mike Grell debuted, in a story that killed off long-term member Invisible Kid.
But what if Cockrum had stayed for one more issue, and in that issue he’d introduced both Storm and Nightcrawler to the book?
Well, to begin with, Superboy #203 would not have featured the death of Invisible Kid.
Instead we’d have some plot, written as before by Cary Bates, that would allow us to introduce Storm, aka Ororo of the earth colony Kler-Mont, who experienced some sort of strange event which gave her control over the weather. Storm is from a poor family, but carries herself with a regal pride. She is the defender of her colony, but comes to realize that she can do even more as a Legionnaire.
The story also has a villain who is a slave trader of some sort, and has a bunch of captives kept in cages, including Kurt Wagner (or if that’s too human sounding, he can be Kurtt Vogn-err), the man known as Nightcrawler who can teleport. When Legion members Invisible Kid and Phantom Girl set Nightcrawler free, he rises up against his captors and helps Storm and the Legion defeat their enemies. Closing dialogue indicates that Storm is going to be inducted shortly into the Legion.
Of course, after that Cockrum leaves, and the story that originally was published in Superboy #203 is released in #204, with the death of Invisible Kid. In the series after that, Storm is fully inducted, and has at least poignant scene where she stands before the statue of Invisible Kid and vows to carry on as a hero in his name.
Later, she fights alongside the team in a variety of adventures, and at least once has a bit of a clash of personalities with Princess Projectra (who takes offense at her “royal airs” when she isn’t actually royalty) and is attracted to Cosmic Boy, but drops it because of his involvement with Night Girl.
Then we get to Superboy #216, which in the real world introduced Tyroc, the Legion’s first black member. With the inclusion of Storm, he probably wouldn’t have been invented. Not that there’s any problem having two black members on the team (of course), but Tyroc ended up being an unpopular character amongst even the book’s creators, not in the least because of potential racist readings of his origin, and as a result he was rarely used.
During this era of the team, he prominently showed up in only four stories–three of which were all part of his introduction, and the last explained his departure.
So the idea is that in #216, instead of introducing Tyroc, we catch up with Nightcrawler, who has been pondering his direction since the last time he appeared. We discover that he is a refugee from the Planet Bamf, and now has no home. We are also given an origin for his abilities, but it’s important that the details of his world are not seen at this point (more on that later). The events of the story end up with him being offered membership into the team.
In #218, Nightcrawler goes through a series of initiation rituals to join the Legion, similar to Tyroc in the “real” #218. It’s important to keep this story relatively intact but it introduces Absorbancy Boy, a Legion applicant-turned villain who later becomes the Legionnaire Earth-Man, a character used prominently by Geoff Johns and Paul Levitz during the “Retro-boot” era of the team.
Finally, in #222 (the third part of the original “Tyroc trilogy” of stories), we’d finish with Nightcrawler’s background, where we find out he’s actually an outcast from his own world, because he is deformed by the standards of his planet. The rest of his race look like normal humans, or at least like something different than he is. Through all of this, we see that Kurtt’s personality is hopeful and optimistic, with even a swashbuckling sense of fun, in spite of his difficult background. We could even see evidence of his religious faith. I don’t know much about the “real” Nightcrawler, but my impression is that these things are part of his personality.
In the real issue #225, there was an election for Legion leader, which came down to Superboy and Wildfire. Superboy won, but Wildfire became the leader since he was actually a full-time member.
Element Lad became the Deputy Leader, but in our alternate world, it would be Storm, as the proud woman would feel no hesitation putting herself forward for the position. This would give the Legion two leaders who are both relatively new (Wildfire joined right at the end of Cockrum’s run), which could create some interesting conflict–including with Wildfire himself–and give Storm a bit more prominence.
Then, around Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes #237, after Lightning Lad & Saturn Girl get married, Cosmic Boy muses about how he can never get married since it means being forced to leave the Legion (as his friends had to do thanks to by-laws that he helped create).
In this revised version of things, this would cause trouble with Night Girl, who wants to get married, and have this lead to their break-up. Cosmic Boy would then get together romantically with Storm, who is not so concerned with marriage. Legion romances are a mainstay of the title, so it makes sense that our new characters participate in this to some degree, and if we can give the Cosmic Boy of this era (the Legionnaire most in need of a personality) something to do in the process, that wouldn’t hurt.
During the epic Earth War saga (the Legion’s first, found in SLSH #241-245), Nightcrawler would be part of Superboy’s team, fighting the raiders and then eventually sneaking onto the Khund homeworld (where his powers would be useful).
Storm would have a smaller part, being a member of the team with Cosmic Boy that was defending the earth from the Khund invasion. They’d both fall to the power of Mordru and the climax of that story would be largely unchanged.
Shortly after the Earth War, we would then have a story for Storm to star in. Maybe she returns home for a break after the intensity of the Earth War, and we discover more about her home life. SLSH #248-249 included a fairly uninspiring story about a chemical sludge monster that this could replace. Storm could discover a threat that she calls the team in on, and the essential storybeat of Brainiac 5 being cold and aloof (to set-up the revelation of his madness the following issue) could still be included.
As the series progresses, the characters would continue to be involved as part of the team. Nightcrawler could have some of Timber Wolf’s stories, especially when he was less sullen and morose.
Storm on the other hand could continue to be standoffish and aloof, conflicting with Projectra and Shadow Lass, but befriending Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl (Cosmic Boy’s friends).
During the Great Darkness Saga, by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, it would be Storm and not Shadow Lass who is left defending the mysterious baby from Darkseid’s attack at the end, obscuring Orion’s transformation with a small cyclone, rather than with a darkness field.
As we move fully into the Paul Levitz era of the team and the mid-1980’s, Nightcrawler could have befriended Timber Wolf and Blok, becoming the third part of their little friendship group. At some point, Cosmic Boy and Storm would have had to face the question of marriage again, now that the rule restricting it was lifted–the could either get married in a small ceremony, or they could break up. As part of this whole storyline, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl have had to confront some of the unresolved pain between them. Perhaps all this would have happened just before Cosmic Boy decided to step down from the team. When that took place, Storm would have elected to remain on active duty.
Storm would have been extremely frustrated with both the mystery of who is Sensor Girl, as well as Polar Boy’s ineptitude as Legion leader, while Nightcrawler would have rolled with both. And then she would have been furious at the conspiracy of Saturn Girl and three other members to destroy the Time Trapper following Superboy’s death, seeing it as absolute betrayal. Finally, when Sensor Girl aka Projectra (someone she never liked and now trusts less) is elected leader, she’d be on the verge of resigning. But during the Magic Wars storyline that followed, it’d be Storm (and not Magnetic Kid) who sacrificed herself to defeat the enemy, and to save Polar Boy (one of many Legion leaders she clashed with), bringing the character to a conclusion as the Levitz-era reached its end.
During Five Years Later, we’d learn that Cosmic Boy eventually got together again with Night Girl, allowing those stories to take place pretty much as written. Nightcrawler would have rejoined the team just as a lot of others did, and been part of the “Legion on the Run” crew. Having no parallel amongst the SW6 crew (since they weren’t introduced during the Adventure Comics run), he would have faded out of existence before the finale of The End of an Era.
In the Reboot, Storm would have joined the team in the first six months, perhaps taking new character Kinetix’s place on the team. Nightcrawler would show up later, and would certainly have replaced Gates. I like Gates, but no doubt he would not have been created if there was already an inhuman teleporter on the team. Both heroes would have continued to contribute to the Legion during the whole post-boot series. When Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took over, Storm could have replaced Kid Quantum on the Legion Lost team and ended up rising to Legion leadership when she returned.
In the Threeboot, there weren’t any members who had joined in the original continuity after Timber Wolf, so neither Storm nor Nightcrawler would have been involved.
And finally, in the recent Retroboot, Nightcrawler would have ended up as one of the Legion Lost members trapped in the 21st Century (instead of Gates) and Storm would have been randomly brought back to life, because that’s the sort of thing they did in the Retroboot, and been part of team for the duration of that run.
And in this alternate world, where Dave Cockrum stayed on for one issue more and was able to bring some of his ideas to the Legion before they ended up with the competition, we would now be waiting to see how the Legion will play a role in the current Rebirth-era of DC, in both the internal and external future of the DC Universe.
Just like we are now, except with Storm and Nightcrawler in it.