The Legion TV show is keeping its cards very close to its chest, confusing viewers each week with obtuse references to the true nature of Dan Stevens’ powerful protagonist David Haller. Thankfully, as ever, the comics are a good place to look for clues on what's to come.
If you’d like to learn more about David’s days within the pages of Marvel Comics, where his past was less of a secret and the contents of his mind were explored in great detail, you’ve come to the right place. This article is all about unearthing intriguing information about David, covering his parents and his powers and a whole lot more besides.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Legion television series may not follow the comics beat for beat. Its show-runner, Noah Hawley, previously brought Fargo to the small screen, and the resulting series didn't borrow much from the source material that inspired it. Hawley could be pulling the same trick here, luring viewers in with a familiar brand only veer off wildly with his own ideas.
Either way, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About David Haller...
15 The Powers Within Him Are Off The Charts
On TV, it’s unclear as of yet whether David is actually schizophrenic. But in the comics there’s no ambiguity about it: David’s head hosts a multitude of unique personalities, some that he’s absorbed from real life and others that grew within him. Each personality has its own look, its own name and its own superpowers.
David isn’t just telepathic and telekinetic in the comics. The vast number of personalities stowed away in his head - threatening at all times to take control of his psyche and wreak havoc - gives David more power than most other mutants combined.
As we’ve examined in another article, the combination of skill-sets in David’s head makes him incredibly dangerous. With full control of his abilities, he can travel through time and warp reality. Essentially, he could screw up the entirety of existence if he wanted to.
Other abilities ensconced with David’s damaged mind include pyrokinesis, gravity manipulation, the touch of death, and the power to copy his body over different people and take control of them like a computer virus.
14 Age Of Apocalypse Was All His Fault
With all these powers lurking within him, it's no surprise that David causes a lot of trouble when he's let loose. He’s capable of twisting reality and altering the timeline, and that’s a lot of power to rest on the shoulders of a madman.
The worst instance of David ruining everything came when he attempted to travel back in time and murder Magneto. David thought he was doing something good. His goal was to erase the metal-manipulator’s villainous schemes from history, paving the way for Charles Xavier’s dream - of mutants and humans living happily together – to come true.
Charles intervened before David could succeed in killing his frenemy, throwing himself in front of the murder weapon’s deadly blade instead. Professor X died, and this colossal balls-up initiated the ‘Age Of Apocalypse’, where the ancient evildoer recently portrayed by Oscar Isaac successfully took over the planet. Nice one, David!
13 He’s Had A Prison In His Head
David has tried a few different ways to control his manifold personalities over the years, and one in particular has a visual flair to it that would work really well on TV: the idea of David having a prison within his mind, where all of his inner demons are locked up under his watchful guard.
The comic series X-Men Legacy: Prodigal delved into this concept with intriguing results. The story began inside ‘The Qortex Complex’, David’s way of visualising the inside of his head. All his personalities were locked up in cells, and David kept them in check by draining the powers of anyone that acted out using a big fat needle.
By the end of the first volume, David has lost control. The lunatics were threatening to take over the asylum, and David had to sneak around in the shadows of his own mind, attempting to catch the personalities off guard and get them back in their cells.
On TV, perhaps we’ll eventually see David setting up a similar system to control the darker aspects of his mind. That ‘Devil With The Yellow Eyes’ character definitely needs dealing with.
12 His Mother Was A Holocaust Survivor
By now, you surely know that David’s comic book father was Professor Charles Xavier, the brave bald boffin behind the X-Men. The Legion TV show seems to be ignoring this element, for the time being at least, with David’s father yet to be shown in full. He lurks in the dark in a few of David’s memories, and reads him creepy children’s books, and that’s about it.
David’s mother, from the comics, wasn’t talked about as much in the initial groundswell of hype for Legion. Those who are unfamiliar with the source material may not know that her name was Gabrielle Haller, or that she was Israeli, or that she survived the Holocaust.
Gabrielle was first introduced in a coma. Charles Xavier used his telepathy to make her aware again. After she woke up, Charles oversaw Gabrielle’s recovery and the pair fell in love. Charles was unaware that she had also fallen pregnant, and he only found out about his son years after their amicable breakup.
Gabrielle went on to become a lawyer and worked for the United Nations. As far as anyone can tell right now, the TV show isn't using any of this. Tatyana Forrest plays does David’s mom in the show, but there’s been no mention of her past as of yet.
11 He Disagrees With His Dad Ideologically
David Haller is one of the few characters to call Professor X on his BS. The hairless hero at the heart of the X-Men talks a big talk about mutants needing to be accepted into society, but he rarely does anything to try and achieve that. Instead, Charles trains mutants into a multi-coloured militia and sends them into battle when things go wrong.
The aforementioned Prodigal arc addresses this, with David being told near the start that his famous father’s super team is too 'reactive' to ever achieve Charles’ goals. All they do is wait around for trouble to happen, and wade into the war-zone when it does.
Later, David crosses paths with the X-Men and realises how accurate this point of view is. Wolverine, Storm and the rest of them aren’t social justice warriors. They’re just warriors. There’s an ideological divide between David and the X-Men, which David sums up nicely, saying, “He’s putting kids in danger when he should be out there creating a world where danger never arises.”
10 His Comic Book Origin Was Tragic
David was living in Paris with his mother when he first discovered his mutant abilities. A group of terrorists attacked his home in a bid to murder as many Israelis as possible. They succeeded in killing David’s stepfather and Gabrielle’s partner, Daniel Shomron.
Mutant abilities often manifest at times of trauma, so it’s no surprise that this tragic event was quickly followed by a sudden burst of power from David. Offering a hint of the dark path he would end up on, David’s first act as a mutant was a very violent one.
David’s psionic powers emerged in a deadly, uncontrollable fashion. He incinerated the brains of the terrorists, killing them all instantaneously. At the same time, David accidentally read all of their minds, feeling the fear and horror the were experiencing as he killed them. Not exactly a conventional origin story, then.
9 The First Mind He Absorbed Rendered Him Catatonic
In the process of killing those terrorists, David also absorbed the mind of the their leader, Karami. The trauma of discovering all these powers in such a horrific way caused David to be rendered catatonic. And while David was physically inactive, Karami was noodling around in his brain.
Karami gained control the David’s telepathic powers and read his captor’s mind, learning in the process that the brain he was trapped inside belonged to an innocent young boy who’d been caught in the crossfire of his wanton act of terror. Motivated by guilt, Karami attempted to piece David’s mind back together.
Karami found that other facets of David’s personality weren’t so keen to fix the damage done to his mind. He ended up battling the swaggering cowboy persona Jack Wayne and a rebellious female one named Cyndi. Perhaps we’ll get to witness some internal conflicts like this on TV: as David’s understanding of his mind grows, new levels of drama could open up.
8 He’s Meant To Have A Scottish Accent And A Quiff
Hardened comic book fans will have already noticed that the version of David Haller being played by Dan Stevens on TV doesn’t bear much of a visual or audio resemblance to his comic book counterpart. In order to make the character a bit more palatable, the powers-that-be have changed David rather a lot.
For one thing, David’s hair in the comics is a sight to behold. Unlike Dan Stevens’ mop top, comic book David looks like he’s perpetually got his finger in an electrical socket. Perhaps this decision was budgetary as well as stylistic: the hair gel costs alone would’ve been astronomical.
David also has a Scottish accent in the comics, which he gained by living on a island off the coast of Scotland for years. His mother sent him there after the terrorist incident, to be studied extensively by Moira MacTaggart.
This whole chunk of the backstory may not exist in the TV show, where David has an American accent. Perhaps, as an Easter Egg, they will feature of version of David’s subconscious with the right hair and accent at some point.
7 He’s Fought With And Against The X-Men
If you’ve been watching Legion and wondering whether David is destined for heroism or villainy, you’re pretty much on the same wavelength as the writers at Marvel Comics. Since his comic book debut in 1985, David has flip-flopped between good and evil more times than you could count. Antihero is probably the best category for him, but even that's not a perfect fit.
He’s fought alongside the X-Men a fair few times, first joining their ranks to face the flying foe Bastion. He’s also manipulated them, notably by bringing a supervillain to their doorstep in Prodigal so he could break into the mansion. And he’s also outright attacked them, cunningly using his psychic powers in one fight to incapacitate Wolverine while he tried to take out the other X-Men.
If the TV series runs for long enough, Hawley and Stevens might have time to explore the complicated relationship David has with good and evil. It would certainly be fun to see him embracing villainy and violence for an episode or two.
6 Versions Of Moira McTaggert And Professor X Have Lived In His Head
One of David’s skills that they’ve hinted at in Legion is his ability to store people, or versions of them, in his head. Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny keeps showing up and chatting to David despite being dead – is he hallucinating, or has he subconsciously stored his old friend's mind inside his own? Fans of the comics will know that either is possible.
In the comics, as well as the aforementioned terrorist David trapped in his mind, there are also versions of Professor X and Moira MacTaggart rattling around in his skull. The mental version of Moira is there to help, aiming to protect David’s mind from outside meddling. At one point, she was powerful enough to create an alternate reality where David was heralded as a hero. This backfired wildly, but still, it was a nice idea.
The version of Charles Xavier that David stores in his mind is less friendly. He’s known as ‘Fiend’, and he manifested after one of Professor X’s many comic book deaths. He taunted David from within his head, telling him has father would be ashamed of him. He would sometimes appear as a dead ringer of Charles, and on other occasions take the form of a gross yellow goblin.
5 His Codename Is A Bible Reference, And He Hates It
“My name is Legion, for we are many” – that’s a quote from the gospels of Mark and Luke. It’s what a man plagued by many inner demons said to Jesus, when asked by Christ for his name. It’s become a popular quote, permeating all corners of entertainment, and it’s also where the idea came from for David Haller’s superhero codename.
It’s a moniker that David isn’t comfortable with. Whenever someone calls him by that name, he usually has an angry response ready. The image above showcases one of David’s more controversial rages against the Legion name. He finds it to be disrespectful for others to define him by dissociative identity disorder.
Regardless of how much he hates it, David’s codename stuck, and it became the title of the TV show based on him. It’s yet to actually be said in the show (the first three episodes have aired at the time of writing), but surely it’s only a matter of time.
4 Blindfold Is His Self-Declared Nemesis (And A Love Interest)
Blindfold (real name Ruth Aldine) is a mutant who was born with no eyes. Like David, she’s a psychic. Her brother is a mutant-hater, meaning she too had a very traumatic childhood. Ruth wound up living at X-Mansion and training under the X-Men. She met David in the aforementioned Prodigal arc, introducing herself as his nemesis before snogging him.
The relationship between this pair is an interesting one. Clearly a powerful mutant, Blindfold is capable of projecting herself into David’s mind and taking some degree of control over it. The darker aspects of David’s mind weren’t happy about this, with one of them attempting to slice her throat. Ruth ended up in a coma as a result.
David himself grew fond of her, and they dated for a time. The TV version of David is smitten with Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett right now, but perhaps different romantic interests will be added to the mix in later seasons. A live-action Blindfold - complete with the power to influence David's mind - could be a stellar addition to the show.
3 He Can Spontaneously Create Mutations
“Causing a spontaneous mutation is most likely well within his capabilities. Whether he's conscious of it or not” – those are the words of the Doctor Nemesis. He’s talking about David Haller’s unmatched ability to generate new mutations. It’s never clear if he’s able to control it, but new powers and new personas grow inside of him all the time.
In the brief moments when David has full control of the arsenal inside his head, he’s one of the most powerful mutants ever seen in the X-Men canon. If he could truly master the mutations he creates, and the process of making them, he could become utterly unstoppable.
In the show, only the slightest hints of David’s power-generating abilities have been glimpsed. Recently, he’s started developing the ability to project himself from one space to another, motivated by his desire to track down his sister. In time, David may well learn to control the treasure trove of potential inside him.
2 He Doesn’t Hesitate To Kill People
Ever since his aforementioned brutal origin story, David Haller hasn’t hesitated when it comes to killing. His evil inner personalities have to shoulder some of the blame, but the comic book version of David still has a brutal bloodbath in his wake.
Some of his victims had it coming, but others didn’t. David murdered the villainess Destiny with a telepathic blast at one point, for example, which wasn't exactly the end of the world. But later on, he killed a young girl named Marci who was just trying to help him. That was down to a dark personality suddenly emerging. Similarly, in Prodigal, David accidentally murdered the entire staff of a facility where he had been learning to find peace, due to a momentary loss of control.
David’s murderous capabilities took centre stage recently, with a prophecy insisting that he’d be the death of all mutantkind. To stop that from happening, David made a rather drastic decision...
1 Killing Him Seems To Be Impossible, But David Could Erase Himself
As we’ve mentioned before in an article about Legion’s lesser-known powers, David Haller is essentially un-killable. One of his personas is a werewolf with a healing factor, meaning that he can recover from any natural wound. And the fact that he can warp time and space to his will means that David can get out of any tricky situation you can throw at him.
The over-powered nature of David has made it tricky for comics writers to pen him an engaging endgame over the years, but recently they came up something great: if no one can defeat David when he’s in full-on Legion mode, why not have him end himself?
This is exactly what happened at end of X-Men Legacy Volume 2. With a prophecy hanging over him claiming that David would kill Blindfold and all the other mutants on Earth, he used his reality-warping skills to erase himself from existence altogether. And for the time being, it seems to have worked pretty well.
As with everything on this list, it’s impossible to tell if the Legion TV show will ever adapt this idea, but it’s a very cool one nonetheless. The series will need to end at some point, and having David sacrifice himself would provide a heroic send-off with a dark tinge to it – it's an ending that would match the show’s tone perfectly.