The Arrowverse is back in business after the long winter break this week, and that means that it’s time for the Legends of Tomorrow to take on the Legion of Doom! This particular incarnation of the super-villain team has been building throughout the season, and includes Reverse Flash/Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), Damien Darkh (Neal McDonough) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman).
It’s a formidable line-up, and will certainly pose a serious challenge for the Legends (who spent an entire first season trying to take down Vandal Savage). Fans are thrilled to see a super-villain team-up like this, and are already speculating about who else Reverse Flash might scoop from history to join his new evil cabal. The Legion is still a far cry from its comic book (and cartoon) counterpart, however – so we’ve taken a look at the original Legion of Doom, and how it has changed over the years.
Super Friends And Super Foes (1976)
Many comic fans know that the Legion of Doom made their first official appearance not in a comic book, but in an animated series: Challenge of the Super Friends. This third season of the long-running Super Friends franchise began in 1978, as a Hanna Barbera cartoon that introduced the original Legion as the villainous team that could take on the Super Friends themselves (who are essentially the Justice League of America).
This original team had thirteen members (to the Super Friends’ eleven), who were brought together by Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor. He formed the team as a way to challenge the Super Friends, who were impossible to beat alone. This original Legion includes (in alphabetical order) Bizarro, Black Manta, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Giganta, Gorilla Grodd, Lex Luthor, Riddler, Scarecrow, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy and Toyman. The gang hung out in the imaginatively named Hall of Doom, usually located in Slaughter Swamp. The Hall could, however, fly, sink underwater, tunnel underground and even travel through time, so it doesn’t exactly have a fixed address.
There was a precursor to this incarnation of the Legion, however: the Super Foes. This team of super-villains appeared in the first issues of the Super Friends comics in 1976, before the Legion made their official debut in the animation. The Super Foes were a forerunner to the Legion, ateam of villains who band together to take on the Super Friends, but there were some major differences. The roster, in particular, included villains such as Penguin and Poison Ivy who did not make it into the official Super Friends Legion – although Cheetah and Toyman appear in both teams.
Extreme Justice (1996)
It wasn’t until 1996 that the Legion found their way out of animation and back into the world of comics, for Justice League spin-off Extreme Justice. This Justice League is led by Captain Atom (who is not the same as the Ray Palmer Atom known to fans of the Arrowverse), and includes Amazing Man, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Firestorm, Maxima, Plastique and the Wonder Twins. In a two-part story for the series, the Legion appears to battle the League, led by Brainwave Jr. He is joined by Killer Frost, Houngan, a reanimated Major Force, the Madmen and a robot version of Gorilla Grodd. This particular incarnation of the team was short-lived, however, as Maxima was able to enter Brainwave Jr.’s mind to find that he had been driven mad by his own power. The Legion was beaten, and the League went home.
A decade later, the Legion of Doom appeared in comics once more, for the miniseries Justice. This twelve-issue series centered on the Legion and the Justice League (of course), but gave the Legion a much more sympathetic role. For the first time, the Legion isn’t created simply to take down the Justice League, but to save the world! The series begins as the supervillains of the world start to have nightmares of a nuclear armageddon that the Justice League fails to prevent. Convinced that this dream could come to pass if the League is left in charge of the planet’s safety, a vast collection of villains are brought together by Lex Luthor to take over, destroy the League and save the planet themselves.
This incarnation includes multiple new villains, as well as all of the original team. Lex leads Bizarro, Black Adam, Black Manta, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Clayface, Giganta, Gorilla Grodd, Metallo, Parasite, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Scarecrow, Sinestro, Soloman Grundy and Toyman for this round, making it the largest Legion of Doom yet. Although they are (of course) beaten by the Justice League in the end, this storyline does show how much good some of these villains can do when they put their minds to it – especially Poison Ivy, Captain Cold, Scarecrow and Toyman.
Flashpoint and Teen Titans (2011)
2011 was a big year for DC, and for two different versions of the Legion of Doom. In Teen Titans, a new Legion is formed, not by Lex Luthor, but by Superboy Prime. Along with Indigo, a fake Inertia, Headcase, Persuader, Sun Girl and a handful of Superboy clones, Superboy Prime almost manages to defeat the Titans… but of course, we know that’s never going to happen. In a phenomenal reunion issue (Teen Titans #100) the entire past roster of Titans comes together to take down this new Legion (and make fans extremely happy to see every Teen Titan, past and present, in a single fight).
2011 also saw the massive DC shakeup event, Flashpoint, which changed the DC continuity entirely. This event included the three-issue mini-series Flashpoint: Legion Of Doom. Heatwave is the architect of this Legion, bringing together Cluemaster, Killer Wasp, Plastic Man and Sportsmaster to help him break out of a super-max prison (which looks suspiciously like the Hall of Doom) and take his revenge on Cyborg and destroy a city. Spoilers – the heroes stop him.
The Legion of Doom doesn’t have many other complete appearances within the pages of DC, but there are some mentions along the way. The Hall of Doom, their Vadar-helmet-esque headquarters, reappears as the secret lair of the Injustice League, as well as in the Sorcerer Kings arc of Batman/Superman, and of course, as the Doom Prison that appears in Flashpoint: Legion of Doom. There are also plenty of other supervillain team ups that see the same members come back together – the Flash’s Rogues usually include Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, and have also included Heatwave, Killer Frost, and a whole slew of other Legion alumni. The Injustice League itself also overlaps with the Legion roster – unsurprisingly, given that the Legion includes many of the biggest supervillains in DC!
The Legion And The Arrowverse
This latest TV version of Legion of Doom is far from the first time that this supervillain team has appeared on the small screen. As well as their Super Friends debut, an absolutely enormous version of the Legion appears in the animated series Justice League Unlimited, Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Young Justice, and Teen Titans Go. There’s even been a live-action version of the Legion already, in the form of Smallville‘s Marionette Ventures, assembled by the Toyman.
The Arrowverse Legion, however, has some serious potential. Although Legends of Tomorrow is certainly not the most popular of the four interconnected CW shows, the time-travel element allows Reverse Flash to potentially scoop up any villain, from any point in time (or even other Earths), and add them to the League. We’ve already seen multiple characters who are members of the Legion in the comics, including Killer Frost, Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Gorilla Grodd, and fans are speculating that this could see the return of either Grodd or Cold for the second half of season two. Killer Frost and Heatwave, of course, are currently heroes, so they are unlikely to be joining Merlyn, Dark and Thawne any time soon. The Legion also paves the way for more crossover episodes, team-ups and generally more excuses to pack the screen with as many superheroes and villains as possible – and we absolutely love it.
Where would you like to see Legends of Tomorrow take the Legion of Doom?