The Legion of Super-Heroes in Reprint Form
With today’s publication of Legion of Super-Heroes: Before the Darkness Volume 2, I thought it was a good time to check and see how much of the LSH’s storied history is now easily available in reprint form.
(If you’d like a more content-based history, I put together a slideshow four years ago about the team and its history and key stories.)
The original reprint series was The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, 13 volumes in all, covering from the team’s debut in Adventure Comics #247 (1958) through the end of their run in that title in issue #380 (1969); Action Comics #378-392 (in volume 9, foreword by KC Carlson); and Superboy #172-233 (ends in 1977). Various special issues and appearances are included as well, but this writeup isn’t intended to be a comprehensive listing, just a general guide as to which order the books fall.
Much of this has been reprinted in three Silver Age Omnibus volumes. Volume 1 covers up to Adventure Comics #328; volume 2 (sadly out of print) to Adventure Comics #360; and volume 3 to Action Comics #392.
Picking up from where the Archives left off are two hardcover series. Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes volume 1 (also apparently out of print) reprints Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #234-240. Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes volume 2 continues with Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241-258 and The Legion of Super-Heroes #259 (finally getting their own title).
The continuation of this series is now called Before the Darkness. Volume 1 reprints The Legion of Super-Heroes #260-271, while volume 2, just out, covers The Legion of Super-Heroes #272-283.
That title references The Great Darkness Saga, which had its own paperback collection in 1989 (reprinting The Legion of Super-Heroes #287, 290-294, and Annual #3). It’s since been reissued with a more complete collection of issues #284-296 and Annual #1 but gone out of print. (Notice a theme? DC used to be much better about this.)
That was followed by The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse, for issues #297-313 and Annuals #2-3. (How did I miss this? Something to hunt down.)
And that is where the classic reprints stop, I think. There’s the Five Years Later Omnibus, but that’s really divisive (covering issues from 1989-1993). There’s a sequel volume coming in May.
There are collections for the post-Zero Hour reboot run, and the 2005 reboot run, with Mark Waid, then Jim Shooter writing it, and the 2010 Paul Levitz run, but no one’s been able to make much of a go of the team for the last couple of decades.
Here’s another list by old Legion pal Michael Grabois that covers things more comprehensively.
A few more books of note: Another Legion storyline was included as part of the DC Comics Classics Library in 2009. The Life and Death of Ferro Lad reprinted Adventure Comics #346, 347, 352-355, 357. And if you’d just like a best-of, the 2008 compilation Legion of Super-Heroes: 1050 Years of the Future, marking the 50th anniversary, is your choice.
Well, that was a good excuse to disturb some of the dust on the bookcases.
“The Curse” is an excellent read. Very well worth getting. In spite of the Omen & Prophet storyline in there. The expanded “Great Darkness Saga” was also good for the additional material.
There are two trade paperbacks which cover the first 13 issues of the Baxter series (“An Eye for an Eye,” #1–6; “The More Things Change,” #7-13).
So, the “Before the Darkness” volume released yesterday fills the gap from Adv 247 up to the end of “The Curse” (LSH #313, as you said). Then those two Baxter trades and then the 5 Years Later Omnibus.
Which leaves two gaps left:
1) A short one: Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #314–325, during the Baxter transition. Not great stories, IIRC, but they established the tribal cultures of Talok. I think the Dawnstar stories was practically a repeat (or done again) of explaining her relationship with Wildfire. As weak as they were, they were still miles better than the Conway stuff.
2) The much bigger one: Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3, #14–63, Annual #1–4 and Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1. I think both the Legionaries 3 and Cosmic Boy minis fit in there.
The “Who’s Who in the Legion” series is supposed to be included in the 2nd volume of “Who’s Who in the DC Universe.” I htought that had been delayed, but it may be outright cancelled.
Which is unfortunate, as those are some excellent stories. I have no clue what motivated them to put the wildly uneven, but mostly bad, 5 Years Later stories in Omnibi, but skip those other ones.
Thanks for the additional info!
We’ll have to agree to disagree on the 5 Years Later – and the answer to “why collect those” is that there was enough of an audience to justify it. At least that storyline is memorable. :)
I hope that there’s some data to guide them in those decisions. Maybe 5 Years Later was a bad quip. But I can’t imagine where there could have been more requests recorded for the Conway vol 2 versus the missing Levitz stuff.
And I’ll agree that 5 Years Later started very, very strong. And there are moments of absolute brilliance in there. But between the editorial shifting on post-Crisis continuity and, I presume, the relative inexperience of the Bierbaums, it was a very unsteady cart practically from the start. The later stuff in that run drove me off the series until the reboot.
Also, part of my 5 Years Later reaction may be that I feel Colleen Doran’s Element Lad story (#31) is the most screwed-up homophobic AND transphobic story I’ve ever read in any comic. And always has been – not modern standards being laid on an old story. Makes me as mad as it did on the day it came out.
We did toy with the idea of whether to buy the second Before the Darkness book for just that reason – they aren’t great stories, but completism won out. I was hoping to get a chance to reread all these in order, now that they come in nice hardcover books, but I doubt I’ll have the time any time soon. I bring that up because when I think of the Levitz era, I think of never-ending storylines spiraling around each other. That was always the complaint when it came time to figure out how to put these in books, because it was a different time and style of writing.
No argument on the Element Lad — a great example of fans-turned-pros turning their favorite headcanons into continuity without realizing the message that’s being sent.
Also, it surprised me, while poking around, how many collections from the past five or so years are not easily available any more. Maybe that means more big hardcovers are on the way. Maybe it’s a side effect of the corporate changes over the past few years. Maybe the printing shortages are having an effect.
Completism was totally the reason for my getting that volume, but there was one really interesting thing tucked in there:
In the last issue or two, it was clearly an effort to wrap up the poorly conceived mess of a Reflecto storyline and get themselves out of the corner they’d painted themselves into. There’s a HUGE dollop of, “Does this make sense? Who the hell cares Finish it!” Which is, from a meta aspect, kind of hilarious.
I was at a fan signing event back way back when and overheard Doran bragging on that issue. She was so damned proud of it. Her being tasked with that story was actually part of the problem (albeit way down on the list of the problems). Her style of femininizing all of her characters and her ONLY issue of Legion being that one, well… I held my tongue.
I’m just bummed that so many of these, especially the 5 Years Later volume are already out of print. I had financial issues when it came out, then last few months can’t find a copy anywhere.
More and more, it’s like the bad old days of printing to order. Companies got used to being able to order reprints, and the system doesn’t allow for that these days.
Yeah I keep checking eBay and look at Amazon & other online retailers but so far no go. I wish I lived nearer to big conventions as I seemed to always have good luck finding books at great prices there. But I haven’t been to one since 2001.
I’ll keep checking maybe a reprint will be done some day. If not there’s the single issues plus digital versions.
Ah, conventions. They seem to be coming back this year, but even so, finding big books at them is a chance, as many retailers don’t want to schlep the heavy items around. Still, better seeing one in person than trusting the items to come through the mail safely.