Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Girls of the Legion of Super-Heroes Will Be BAD-ASS!

The Girls of the Legion of Super-Heroes Will Be BAD-ASS!

Chris Sims of the Invincible Super-Blog recently posted an article on Comics Alliance (as part of their Girl Week) called The Best and Worst Super-Heroines In Comics!

Now, there is only so much room in a column like that, but it seems like an egregious error to write an article about the best Super-Heroines in comics, and forget la creme de la creme, the best of the best, namely the women of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Wearing my HATER-dom with pride I tasked... er tweeted... hrmm tweet-tasked? Mr. Sims with this and received the following reply:
theisb @Llakor HAAAAAAAAATER! I actually thought about 'em, but I couldn't pick one, and I would've had to do a bunch.
Since Mr. Chris Sims, alleged Super-Genius has chosen to ignore the astonishing ability of the Super-Heroines of the 31st Century. I might as well jump in and explain why they deserve our respect.

As Booster Gold has told us, and Chris Sims (again) recently reminded us, in the world of the future, the sexes are equal so anyone can punch anyone.

When I come from, a punch to the face is a show of respect!
The one criticism that could be levelled at the roster of the Legion of Super-Heroes is that the women seem to have a lot of passive powers: telepathy, shrinking, illusions, intangibility etc. This is true, in the entire cast there are only two girls that could be called powerhouses, but as written there are two key Legion elements that make these passive powers much more powerful.

First, most Legion powers are racial powers. They are powers that have evolved over the course of centuries and, for the Legionnaires, using those powers is as natural as breathing. This makes Saturn Girl's telepathy much more powerful than Professor Xavier's.

Secondly, most Legion villains concentrate on the powerhouses frequently leaving the Legionnaires with more passive powers to save the day usually through an imaginative use of their supposedly weaker abilities.

But that is all generalization, let's look at this cast of Bad-Ass Future Fems.

Go To Sleep!1. Saturn Girl
Real Name: Imra Ardeen
First appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958).
Legion Founder.
Super-Power: Telepathy

One of the three founders of the Legion and the smartest of the three. Lightning Lad was the power-house, Cosmic Boy was the tactician, but Saturn Girl was the strategist leading the Legion as elected leader for years and frequently using her telepathy to coordinate separated groups of Legionnaires. Imra may have been the first female character to lead a super-hero team (way back in 1963).

What makes Imra truly dangerous however is that when her back is against the wall, she can find new offensive ways of using her powers. Whether that is turning on the sleep centers of an opponent's brain or avoiding an opponent's attack because she knew what he was going to do before he did or "borrowing" a fighting technique from someone around her.

2. Triplicate Girl
Real Name: Luornu Durgo
First appeared in Action Comics #276 (May 1961)
Fourth member of the Legion.
Super-Power: Splits into three bodies.

Computo Kills Triplicate GirlBefore Karate Kid joined the Legion, Luornu was the resident martial artist, an expert in jiu-jitsu. Before joining the Legion, Luornu was the assistant (and it is strongly implied the bodyguard) to R.J. Brande the richest man of the 31st Century.

Braniac's creation Computo killed one of Triplicate Girl's bodies, but rather than quitting being a Super-Heroine, Luorno simply renamed herself Duo Damsel.

After marrying Bouncing Boy, they both retired from active duty and became reservist and trainers for the next generation of Legionnaires.

Luorno Dargo: Martial Artist, Bodyguard, Survivor, Drill Sergeant, BAD-ASS.

I hit you, you can't hit me. I hit you...3. Phantom Girl
Real Name: Tinya Wazzo
First appeared in Action Comics #276 (May 1961)
Fifth member of the Legion.
Super-Power: Intangibility.

Notice that by the time Tinya joins the Legion, the girls outnumber the boys, substantially so if you count Triplicate Girl as three Legionnaires instead of one.

Again like Luorno, Tinya is one of the best Legion martial artists before Karate Kid joins. The difference is that while Luorno throws people with jiu-jitsu, Tinya kicks people in the face. Her favorite tactic in fact is to run through an opponent and then kick him in the head from behind.

What makes Tinya a quintessential bad-ass is that she is a charter member of the Legion of Super-Heroes Espionage Squad. In other words, Tinya is a Super-Heroine who is also a SPY!

4. Supergirl
Real Name: Kara Zor-El
First Legion appearance in Action Comics #276 (May 1961)
Thirteenth member of the Legion
Super-Power: Being Supergirl

One of the two powerhouses that I mentioned above.

Here is the key to understanding Supergirl's place in the Legion. In the 20th Century, Supergirl is a neurotic wreck. Crippled by a lack of self-confidence, trying desperately to live up to the expectation of being Superman's cousin. The original died at the hands of the Anti-Monitor in a moment that was both her best moment in the 20th Century and summed up her weaknesses - beating the Anti-Monitor to the brink of defeat, but allowing a moment's distraction to give the Anti-Monitor time to recover and kill her.

The more recent version struggles to find the balance between being good and trying to do good. The balance that her cousin seems to find so easily.

In the 31st Century, those pressures aren't there. Supergirl can relax and be the best version of herself.

In the 20th (and 21st) Century, Supergirl is a mess. In the 31st Century, Supergirl is a bad-ass.

5. Shrinking Violet
Real Name: Salu Digby
First appeared in Action Comics #276 (May 1961)
Fifteenth member of the Legion.
Super-Power: Shrinking.

Another charter member of the Espionage Squad, Salu is probably the most scarily blood-thirsty Legionnaire. Leave aside the fact that Salu has a set of miniature blasters so that she can turn the insides of the Legion's enemies into a shooting gallery...

She once took out a bad guy by expanding to her full size while in the bad guy's lungs!

And as Polite Dissent reminds us:

DAMN! That is cold Violet!Shrinking Violet is the leading cause of strokes in 31st Century Super-Villains.

6. Light Lass
Real Name: Ayla Ranzz
First Appeared in Adventure Comics #308 (May 1963)
Twenty-First member of the Legion.
Super-Power: Electrical Powers; Gravity Negation

Ayla first joined the Legion by impersonating her (then-dead) brother Lightning Lad. While Ayla's cross-dressing didn't last long, she has always been the Legion's biggest tom-boy. When Proty sacrificed himself to resurrect Garth, Ayla was temporarily out of the Legion because she duplicated her brother's power-set, until Dream Girl used SCIENCE! to change Ayla's powers from lightning to anti-gravity.

Yeah. If you can turn off one of the fundamental forces of nature - gravity, you're a bad-ass.

Don't mind me, I am just turning off GRAVITY!
Also, I love Ayla's costume with the giant arrow on her chest, simultaneously drawing attention to her breasts and insisting that you look her in the eyes.

7. Dream Girl
Real Name: Nura Nal
First appeared and joined in Adventure Comics #317 (February 1964).
Twenty-Second member of the Legion.
Super-Power: Precognition.

Also, as noted above, the power to change her girlfriend's powers into even better and stronger powers with SCIENCE!

Layla Miller decades before Layla Miller. Nura could give the appearance of being a ditzy blonde and then in a heartbeat become a super-competent bad-ass because she knew exactly what was going to happen and what she needed to do and when.

I know how badly I am going to be kicking your ass in a minute.
Dream-Girl's most devastating trick is getting her way by describing the future she wants to happen. She once rigged her election as Legion leader by announcing that she knew that she was going to win and everyone voted for her because Dream-Girl is never wrong.

8. Princess Projectra
Real Name: Projectra Wind'zzor
First appeared and joined in Adventure Comics #346 (July 1966).
Twenty-Fifth member of the Legion.
Super-Power: Illusion

It is really easy to dismiss Projectra. The fact that she hooks up with Karate Kid within seconds of joining the Legion and basically lets him fight all of her battles for her doesn't help her cause much. It also didn't help that her powers seemed to be a sub-set of Saturn Girl's.

The difference as Projectra explained once was that Saturn Girl, when she used illusions, affected the intellect of those fooled. Projectra affected something much more primal.

The other huge difference was that Projectra was raised on a planet that chose to live in medieval feudalism. Projectra learned to fight with a sword at the same age that most future kids learned to operate a hover-bike. Barbarian princesses tend to be bad-asses.

Amongst the many who forgot or ignored that? Nemesis Kid who invaded Projectra's planet and killed Val Armorr, the Karate Kid, Projectra's husband.

Pissing off Projectra is a bad idea.
A really really really BAD IDEA!
Nemesis Kid's power was to be able to evolve a power to beat any opponent and any opponent's power. Except, apparently, Projectra's ability to be a cold, ruthless bad-ass when you pissed her off.

The Legion of Super-Heroes has a very firm no killing rule. Projectra isn't much of a rules person.

9. Shadow Lass
Real Name: Tasmia Mallor
First appeared in Adventure Comics #365 (February 1968).
Twenty-Sixth member of the Legion.
Super-power: Create darkness.

Shadow-Lass' powers seem like the weakest of the entire Legion. Casting shadows? Can she do rabbits?

The key is that Tasmia - like Projectra - is a barbarian princess. The difference is that Projectra has a civilized veneer, because Orando plays at being a feudal planet. Tasmia has no interest in being civilized and Talok VII is a fingernail away from tribes beating each other with clubs.

Tasmia is a devastating hand-to-hand fighter and she fights dirty. Being able to create darkness can be really effective when you can also see in that darkness, but your opponents can't.

Like Projectra, Tasmia dates one of the Legion's heavy-hitters: Mon-El. Unlike Projectra, Shady doesn't allow Mon-El to fight her battles for her.

Notice the slingThis is Shady at her best, taking out one of the Fatal Five with one punch while she has a broken arm!

10. The rest
Dawnstar: Can fly in space without gear. Can track across inter-stellar distances.

Night Girl: The other powerhouse. From the Legion of Substitute Super-Heroes. Super-strong when not in direct sunlight. Amazingly, was rejected from the Legion when a Shadow-Lass/Night-Girl team would be absolutely devastating. (As far as I know they have teamed up exactly once. Sometimes the future is stupid.)

Infectious Lass: Also from the Legion of Substitute Super-Heroes. Possibly the most dangerous woman on the entire list. "Would you rather surrender quietly or come down with something excruciatingly painful and possibly fatal? How do you feel about the Ebola Virus?"

White Witch: According to Wikipedia, "Currently the most powerful sorcerer of the 31st century."

XS: Grand-daughter of Barry Allen.


I really can't defend Spider Girl though. Super-strong prehensile hair? Unless you are married to Black Bolt, what's the point?

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