Before we dive into actual Legion of Super-Heroes comics, I think it’d be helpful to do a big, bird’s eye view of what the Legion is, its publication history, and why it can be so intimidating to new readers. Then we’ll cap off with some recommendations for good starting points.
What is the Legion of Super-Heroes?
The Legion of Super-Heroes (hereinafter “the Legion,” or “LOSH”) is a team of heroes that live in the distant future of the DC Universe.
As a general rule of thumb, a given Legion adventure takes place exactly one thousand years after the publication date of the issue it occurs in (unless it’s the “Five Years Later” Legion, in which case it takes place one thousand and five years after pub date. (That’s not a joke, but it kinda sounds like one!)). So, the first appearance of the Legion was in Adventure Comics #247, published in 1958, and that Legion adventure can be assumed to take place in 2958.
Beyond that, there are a lot of general guidelines, but very few hard-and-fast rules that apply to every iteration of the Legion.
Sometimes the Legionnaires are all teenagers… unless it’s a version where they aren’t.
Sometimes they all have to have powers, and those powers have to be unique from one another… unless the creators forgot, or a creator has a particular idea for a non-powered hero that they really, really want to put on the team (looking at Karate Kid, here).
Sometimes Superman and his legacy is the inspiration for the team’s foundation, supplying the Legion’s raison d’etre, and Superboy is an integral member of the team… And other times, due to editorial mandate, Legion comics have to pretend that Superman never existed.
Generally, though, every version of the Legion has flight rings — techno-magical signet rings that let them fly and serve as a kind of calling card and membership badge. These started out as jet packs, then turned into jet belts, then became rings as the artists who worked on the comic grew annoyed with having to draw so darn many jet packs and belts in every panel.
The other unifying feature of every version of the Legion is that there are lots, some might say too many, members.
What do you mean by “versions of the Legion?”
To get into that, we have to talk about the Legion of Super-Heroes’ publication history, which melds into a discussion of why LOSH is so complicated and can be so intimidating for new readers.
The Legion is generally divided into five (or, I suppose, six) eras:
- the Silver/Bronze Age Legion (1958-1989)
- the Five Years Later Legion (1989-1994)
- the Reboot Legion (1994-2004)
- the Threeboot Legion (2004-2009), and
- the Retroboot Legion (2007-2013).
Then there have been sporadic Legion cameos since the Retroboot Legion died off around 2013, which will presumably be tied into the Legion reboot being masterminded by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook. I’m not aware of an official name for the current diaspora/Fourthboot? Fifthboot? Era, but when the community decides on one I’ll let you know!
The Silver-Bronze Age Legion encompasses all Legion comics from their first appearance in 1958 through the conclusion of Legion of Super-Heroes (1984) v.3 in 1989. This is where most of the familiar legionnaires make their first appearances and where the rules of the Legion, such as they are, get laid down for the first time.
This is also where a lot of the Legion’s foes make their first appearances, as well as the major events that get referenced and riffed on in later Legion iterations. It starts out very slow and very Silver Agey, with all that entails, but gradually evolves into something complex and unique, resulting in some of the most iconic storylines in Legion history.
In 1989, longtime Legion writer Paul Levitz left the title to become publisher of DC Comics. When he did so, he turned writing duties over to his frequent Legion collaborator Keith Giffen. Giffen, in turn, brought in a pair of relative unknowns he’d worked with a few times before, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, to help with the writing while he drew the comic.
The Bierbaums were most well known for their place in Legion fandom, and the new team took the Legion in a radically different direction: They moved the entire story forward five years, where the universe is a much grimmer, bleaker place, the Legion has been disbanded, and Earth is ruled by a fascist government.
Fans call this period the Five Years Later Legion (or 5YL), and opinions on it are pretty sharply divided. A lot of incredibly creative ideas were implemented in 5YL, but it also discarded long-running characters and aspects of the Legion cavalierly, some might argue cruelly. It must also be said: if what you care about is What Matters in DC Continuity As of Right Now, 2019, the 5YL Legion has been basically entirely written out of DC canon. This is why it’s treated as its own separate thing, rather than an extension of the Silver/Bronze Age Legion.
In 1994, DC used the opportunity of the Zero Hour event (about which more later) to completely reboot the Legion of Super-Heroes. This begins the Reboot Legion, which starts the entire Legion over from square one, retelling the origin of the team and all of its characters, with changes made to suit the modern sensibilities of the mid-90s.
The Reboot Legion took pains to introduce more of the racial diversity that the prior Legion lacked, but also had a distinctly youth-oriented sensibility that chafed some older fans. It eventually veered into a darker direction when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took over writing in 1999 and soft-relaunched it as The Legion (2001) following the Legion Lost maxiseries.
By 2005, sales on The Legion had dwindled to the point where DC decided the best path forward was to reboot it again, so they turned to Mark Waid to plan another, completely new Legion. This is at least a little odd, because Mark Waid had also been involved in writing the first issues of the Reboot Legion a decade earlier.
The high concept for this Legion was a sort of youth-in-revolt idea, with this team’s unofficial motto being “Eat it, grandpa!” The Legion had started out as a club for teenage super-heroes, but that version of the team had been somewhat lost over the decades since the Silver Age, and the Threeboot took that original concept and built a new version of the team with youth as its organizing principle.
The Threeboot Legion lasted roughly fifty issues and took a number of bold new directions during its run, including bringing Supergirl forward in time to join the team and, when that didn’t work, bringing back Silver Age Legion scribe (and former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics) Jim Shooter to write the book.
In the meantime, Geoff Johns had brought back a weird, throwback version of the Legion in a storyline in Action Comics and a Justice League/Justice Society crossover entitled “The Lightning Saga” with writer Brad Meltzer. Ignoring the intervening decades, the Legion he wrote in the “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” arc looked a lot like the Legion as Paul Levitz had left it back in 1989. That, in turn, led to the Johns-written Legion of Three Worlds miniseries (Three Worlds is notionally a tie-in to Final Crisis, but has literally nothing to do with it. Seriously, you need not read a single panel of Final Crisis to understand all of Three Worlds. You just need to read a few hundred Legion of Super-Heroes comics…).
Legion of Three Worlds was a sort of mega-crossover of the Threeboot Legion, the Reboot Legion, and the Silver-Bronze Age Legion (5YL Legion was not invited to the party). For as headache-inducing as that might sound, I actually kind of love this event? It’s endlessly self-indulgent and self-referential, but it rewards the Legion fan who can make the connections to the team’s history in the most endearing way.
The net result of Legion of Three Worlds was that the Silver/Bronze Age Legion became the One True Legion. Or, at least, the one Legion that comics would follow going forward. This begins the Retroboot, the version of the Legion that I complained was completely impenetrable in last week’s column.
DC effectively declared the prior twenty years of Legion comics to be null and void, for continuity purposes, and the Legion picked up where it left off two decades prior. And, in keeping with that throwback spirit, the new writer of Legion of Super-Heroes (and its companion title, Adventure Comics) was Paul Levitz, who had recently stepped down as President and Publisher of DC Comics.
The Retroboot lasted a few years, from 2009 to 2013, and is most notable for being one of the few titles to be almost entirely unaffected by DC’s linewide reboot in 2011. But sales were stagnant, and Levitz couldn’t quite capture the magic of his original runs on the Legion in the seventies and eighties, even when he was rejoined by artist Keith Giffen.
In 2013, DC cancelled Legion of Super-Heroes and essentially gave up on the title for the then-foreseeable future. After so many reboots and bold new directions in such quick succession they simply didn’t have any ideas for how to make the Legion successful going forward, so they let it lay fallow for, as of this writing, over six years.
For the first time since 1962, there was no ongoing Legion title and no plans for a new one.
There have been a few sporadic Legion appearances since the title was cancelled, notably in Justice League United, in the DC Universe Rebirth Special, in Batman, in Supergirl, in Doomsday Clock, and soon there’s going to be a brand new relaunched, reimagined, rebooted Legion of Super-Heroes, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Ryan Sook. A lot of the images and pre-launch interviews sound promising, but it’ll be impossible to judge the new Legion until the first issue is actually out in the world.
So what makes Legion of Super-Heroes so complicated?
Well, to start, you can consider the 1,200+ words I just wrote on all the different versions of the Legion. But DC fans are accustomed to reboots. I think one of the biggest factors that makes Legion extra-complicated is that none of the Legion’s reboots really correlate with DC’s big universe reboots.
When Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all relaunched post-Crisis, they did so around the same time and spawning out of the same event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Legion of Super-Heroes, though, had high sales and the powers that be didn’t want to mess with a good thing, so it just kept on trucking. There were issues that dealt with the fallout of Crisis (oh boy, were there issues that dealt with the fallout!), but the status quo was pretty much preserved. But then something happened, and a wrench was thrown into Legion continuity that wouldn’t really get resolved until 1994 and the Reboot.
The person who threw that wrench was John Byrne, and the wrench was his decision, in the Man of Steel mini-series that relaunched Superman post-Crisis, that Clark Kent had never donned a uniform and engaged in super-heroics until he was an adult living in Metropolis.
That was a problem for Legion continuity, because at that time they were attempting to soldier on with a status quo in which young Clark Kent palled around with them as Superboy for two hundred plus issues, give or take. This is a team whose whole reason for existence was to be best friends with Superboy. Now DC editorial was telling them that not only could they not be friends with Superboy going forward, but that they had never been friends with Superboy and needed to figure out a way to write Superboy out of the prior thirty years of Legion comics, including, but not limited to, several dozen comics with Superboy’s name in the title.
This is more or less the equivalent of John Byrne sending a note to Batman’s writers saying “Oh, by the way, I decided it’d be fun to have Clark Kent block Joe Chill’s bullet in Crime Alley. So, just go on ahead with Batman, but figure out a way to make it work with his parents both alive. Toodles!”
This meant that a huge portion of the real estate of Legion comics from 1987 to 1994 was spent on figuring out increasingly byzantine ways to write Superboy out of Legion history while still preserving the stories that mattered to so many readers. There were pocket universes. There were substitute Superboys. There were all the myriad variety of headache-inducing, technobabble-spewing, minutiae-obsessed retcons that make people throw up their hands and say “This is why normal people can’t get into superhero comics!”
Then in 1994, DC had an event called Zero Hour, in which Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan, now the villain Parallax, diddled around with the timeline and, once he was stopped, everything was slightly different in ways it was hard to care about unless you were extremely invested in continuity minutiae.
DC used the event to do housekeeping on a lot of its titles; certain aspects of characters’ origins were altered and an attempt was made to clear up certain continuity errors that had cropped up in the rougly ten years since Crisis on Infinite Earths. These attempts were largely unsuccessful. This is the one time when a DC reboot corresponded with a Legion reboot, and even here it wasn’t at the same scale; Zero Hour rearranged the furniture of the larger universe, while demolishing the Legion’s headquarters and beginning construction on a new one.
The Reboot Legion started the whole project over from scratch, rebuilding a Legion that could hang out with modern, never-superheroed-as-a-kid Superman, and even with the new Superboy, Conner Kent, but which didn’t have the baggage of decades of Superboy stories to contend with. And that worked great… Except for all the old fans who loved those old stories with Superboy in them, who loved a version of the Legion with Superboy on the team (or the preceding Five Years Later era), and who just wanted those stories to matter (again).
Low sales led to a soft reboot with the Abnett and Lanning Legion, then a hard reboot with the Threeboot Legion, which only vaguely tied into mega-event Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis brought about some interesting new storylines and ideas in the DC Universe, most notably the 52 series, but it’s hard to call it a reboot. Similarly for Final Crisis, the event from which the Retroboot spawned.
Then when the DC Universe had a hard-and-fast reboot in 2011, Legion of Super-Heroes just kind of… ignored it. A new volume launched, but it picked up exactly where the old one left off.
So if you’re a reader following along with both the Legion and the DC Universe at large, you need to keep track of both the Legion’s many reboots as well as the larger universe’s reboots, along with how those bigger reboots affect, but also don’t affect, the Legion. Because, through all of this, the Legion is notionally the for-reals future of the DC Universe, so when stuff happens in the mainline DC Universe, it sometimes rolls forward to affect the Legion.
There are other reasons why the Legion is so difficult to get started with. There are a LOT of characters, often 25-30 just on the core team, each with his or her own unique power or ability, almost all of whom have a weird space name.
Some runs on LOSH do a good job of juggling all the characters, some focus on a few creator favorites, but all of them expect you to know that when somebody calls someone else Tenzil, they’re talking to Matter-Eater Lad.
Also, somewhat more subtly, Legion comics cared about continuity before the rest of DC cared about continuity. This is mostly a discussion for later, but Legion had writers who had emerged from comics fandom before a lot of other comics did at DC, and that meant that Legion’s writers often cared about, referenced, and built upon the team’s prior adventures.
Indeed, Legion’s writers built an entire, consistent universe, with trans-planetary organizations and alien races and politics, all contained within the Legion’s microcosm of the DC Universe. This meant that readers were often expected to be at least somewhat familiar with the history and relationships on the team, spanning back through decades of comics.
And the thing is, this even applies to the clean-slate reboots.
The Reboot has a bunch of spins and tweaks on events that hit the original Legion, and while it’s perfectly comprehensible with no prior knowledge you don’t really get all the implications if you don’t know your Legion history.
Then the Threeboot is filled with too-clever-by-half reimaginings of characters, and you won’t really “get” the joke if you aren’t intimately familiar with the Legion already.
And, of course, the Retroboot assumes you have total recall of everything that happened to the Legion from 1958 to 1989, with no knowledge of or interest in their adventures from 1989 to 2009.
And every version of the Legion assumes background knowledge of the universe the Legion operates in, for example, who the Dominators and the Khunds are.
So… Where do I even begin?
Having said all of the above, there are any number of good places to start reading Legion of Super-Heroes, particularly if you’re willing to do some extra-textual reading and cross-referencing. Wikipedia is honestly a godsend for keeping track of the Legion’s characters, and thanks to DC Universe a significant portion of the the stories you might see referenced are now available to read online.
I tend to be a bit skeptical of “jump-on points,” at least as they’re usually defined. I don’t necessarily think you need to start at the beginning of a hero or team’s story to enjoy their adventures, wherever that beginning might be, nor do I think you need a designated “newb-friendly” onramp.
Instead, when people ask me for good jump-on points, I tend to recommend my favorite stories, the stories that show how interesting a character or team can be. Then they can explore on their own from there once their interest is piqued. With that in mind:
Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
This storyline from Action Comics, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, is a fantastic introduction to what the Legion is all about.
Superman is pulled by the Legion into a future that’s ruled by xenophobia and which has re-written the story of Superman to suit an Earth First ideology. You get to meet essential Legionnaires in their most iconic iterations, you get a bunch of fun Legion concepts like the Substitute Heroes and Legion Try-Outs, and it does it all in a fast-paced, snappy story that has particular resonance in our current troubled political times.
Frank’s art is gorgeous, and since it was using a then-unfamiliar version of the Legion it also does a pretty good job of introducing you to all the characters with no prior knowledge assumed. This is the story I read that made me reconsider my dismissal of the Legion and inspired me to go back and read more of the team.
Warning, though: This is a Geoff Johns comic, so there is some sudden, often disturbing violence.
Where to get it: Honestly, anywhere. You can find hard and softcoves on Amazon or in bookstores; it hasn’t been reprinted in a while, but it had a fairly large run when it was new so they’re around. You can also find it on Kindle, Comixology, and DC Universe, whether as a collected edition or individual issues. If you’re reading the issues individually, it’s Action Comics (1938) #858-63
Where to go from here: Go forward to Legion of Three Worlds (skip the Lightning Saga, which isn’t great and also mostly ties into JLA/JSA continuity at the time). LoTW is another entertaining Legion story. You won’t get as much out of it as you will if you’ve read more deeply from the Legion’s archives, but hey! There’s nothing stopping you from revisiting it once you’re more learned! This one gives you a great sense of the “All the Legionnaires fighting at once in giant splash pages” epic stories that LoSH is known for, and it’s illustrated by George Perez, the master of the form.
Or hop backwards, to one of the other recommendations on this list!
The Great Darkness Saga
This covers, roughly speaking, the first year or so of Paul Levitz’s second run writing Legion of Super-Heroes, and the beginning of his collaboration with Keith Giffen. It’s an epic story, with a bunch of smaller stories intertwining to tell an incredible whole that climaxes with a universe-spanning brawl against a resurrected Darkseid and his army of mind-controlled Daxamites.
These comics are roughly contemporaneous with the Brood Saga in Uncanny X-Men, and the Claremont inspiration in Levitz’s Legion is both obvious and invigorating. I have my biases, but if you’re looking for “the DC version of Claremont X-Men,” I’d recommend Levitz/Giffen Legion a thousand times before I recommended Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans once.
Where to get it: There’s an old trade paperback, one of the first DC ever published, but other than having an exquisite full-cast pull-out poster in the back, it’s hard to recommend. It cuts a bunch of issues out and the print quality wasn’t quite “there” yet. Fortunately, there’s a newer, much more comprehensive edition that came out a few years ago. Unfortunately, that one’s out of print, too, though you can find both hard- and softcover editions at used book retailers (or your local library, if they’ve a decent graphic novel selection).
If you’re a digital reader, you’re in luck; There’s a collected edition available on Kindle and Comixology at a great price. If you’re reading single issues, this one’s Legion of Super-Heroes v. 2 (1980), #284-96 + Annual #1, all available on Comixology, DC Universe, or anywhere there are single-issue digital comics.
Where to go from here: You could just keep reading! This is the start of Levitz’s second run and it continues for seven more years. The next step is “The Curse,” which is collected in another omnibus-sized edition. Or, if you want to hop backwards and get more context, Levitz’s first run features Earthwar, one of the great Legion epics. If you’re a paper reader, it’s in the recent Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, V.2 collection (Still in print!). In digital, it’s Superboy (1949) #241-45, though Levitz’s run is all worth reading and it begins with Superboy #225.
Note that there’s a name change in the middle as Superboy becomes Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but both Comixology and DC Universe file it under Superboy.
The Reboot Legion, aka Legionnaires
The Reboot Legion is a great jumping-on point in the traditional sense (the one I don’t necessarily fully agree with): It starts from square one and introduces you to all the characters, and you need no real context outside of what is given to fully understand and appreciate the story. You get to see the foundation of the Legion and meet all the characters organically as they join, and that’s all interspersed with some fun adventures.
Even though the Reboot happened in the mid-90s, it’s not at all what you’d picture if I say the word “Nineties Comics” to you. It’s not grim or gritty or nihilistic, it’s colorful and cheerful. It has a young reader-oriented sensibility, particularly in comparison to what came before, but it’s not, by any means, an All Ages Comic; characters die starting very early in the run. Still, it’s bubbly and optimistic.
Also, because it was written with a more modern sensibility, there’s more racial diversity right from the start. There are even, briefly, more lady legionnaires than dudes! My one caveat is that while it’s an easy comic to get into, it’s a bit of a slow burn before it gets to “the good stuff” and shows you why the Legion is a fun team to follow, as compared with the more immediate amazingness of the above recommendations.
Where to get it: DC actually reprinted these comics for the first time in decades quite recently. You can find them as a pair of oversized trades, Legionnaires volumes 1 and 2, which together cover about the first two-and-a-half years of the Reboot.
If you’re a digital reader, your job is a little more complicated; either you can buy the Kindle/Comixology collected editions of the aforementioned trades, or you can read individually on DCU or Comixology. The problem is, the Reboot unspooled across two monthly titles, neither of which relaunched when Legion rebooted, and began with Zero Issues. So you want to start with Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) v. 4, #0, then read Legionnaires (1993) #0, then go back to LoSH (1989) #62, then hop back to Legionnaires #19, and so on, alternating between the titles (which tell a single, continuous story, rather than having individual plots like Batman and Detective Comics usually do).
Eventually DC put triangle numbers on the cover to tell you the reading order, but that won’t happen until you’re a couple of years deep.
Where to go from here: You could hop ahead to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s soft reboot of the Legion, conveniently collected in a pair of recent volumes, The Legion by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, volumes 1 and 2. A lot of people particularly love Legion Lost, the maxi-series that relaunched the Legion, but you might not get all you could out of it without some familiarity with the Reboot Legion.
Or, if you feel like the Reboot Legion is missing the grim, gritty nihilism (or, if you will, the mature, adult-oriented storylines) that you associate with Nineties Comics, you could go back and read the Five Years Later Legion. I, myself, am not the biggest 5YL fan, but I can appreciate its audacity. I know a few long-time Legion fans, several writers on this site among them, for whom 5YL was their jump-on point to loving Legion of Super-Heroes, and when I solicited jump-on recs from Twitter I had multiple people cite 5YL as their entry point. So, it might be worth giving a try!
You’re out of luck, for now, if you’re a paper reader; DC keeps soliciting a 5YL collection, but it keeps getting pushed back or withdrawn and recolicited. But maybe it’ll come soon, perhaps tied in with the Bendis-Sook relaunch! If you’re a digital reader, on the other hand, you’re swimming in butter: essentially all of 5YL Legion is on Comixology and DCU, with the only missing appearances a handful of scattered crossovers into other titles.
Just start at the beginning with the Silver Age Legion
This is both a very easy recommendation and a very hard one. These stories are colorful, light, breezy, silly fun. They do get surprisingly serious at times, particularly for DC comics of this era, but they’re always suffused with Silver Age goofiness, even as they slowly shift into the more mature sensibilities of the Bronze Age. On the other hand: As with a lot of Silver Age DC comics, these stories are VERY silly.
There’s a certain mindset that you have to be in to enjoy a Silver Age comic, particularly Silver Age DC, and Silver Age Legion is almost aggressive about requiring that mindset to enjoy it. And they can get repetitive. And they’re not by any stretch of the imagination challenging. But the problem with skipping the Silver Age is that, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of later fannish writers, in the course of telling serious Bronze Age stories, reference these silly Silver Age stories. You may not take Silver Age stories seriously, but DC’s later writers did.
On the plus side, if you really want to start at the beginning, but are put off by the mountain of silly that lies before you, there’s an easy way to surmount it: just keep reading this column, where I’ll be starting with the Silver Age, separating the wheat from the chaff, and running through the most interesting and important bits of this era.
Where to get it: Woof. Up until now, the story has been “Paper readers will have to hunt down old trades in used book stores and libraries. Digital readers have every issue at their fingertips in an instant.” The shoe is on the other foot here, though. Paper readers don’t have it easy, exactly, but DC has a pair of extremely nice omnibus editions, the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes Omnibus, volumes 1 and 2, available now, that cover most of the Silver Age, from 1958 through 1967. They even do the hard job of hunting down and including the scattered issues of Action, Superboy, and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen that the Legion occasionally cameoed in.
If those are too pricey for you, you could hunt down either the Showcase Presents Legion collections, or the DC Archive Editions. But both are long out of print, and your best bet for either is probably a library. Still, the omnibus editions are in print and reasonably priced for how many comics you get, and the reproduction quality is simply gorgeous.
Digital readers, though, are straight out of luck. DC has made a smattering of digital issues available from this era, but the selection is haphazard in the extreme. There are a few important issues, but also some not-so-important issues, and not all the important issues are in the digital collection. If you are digital-exclusive, though, you should read what you can of Adventure Comics (1938) #s 247, 267, and 300-80. There’s a little over twenty of the hundred plus Silver Age Legion issues there, but it’s at least something.
DC has shown some interest in digitizing Legion comics, possibly because they appear to sell disproportionately well compared to DC’s other digital back issues, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of movement when it comes to Silver Age Legion lately. Which is all to say: There’s no indication that any more Silver Age Legion is forthcoming any time soon… But it also wouldn’t surprise me if they began dumping Silver Age Legion in the near future, either (particularly since the archive editions would indicate they have digitally restored colors on all their Legion issues through the Bronze Age).
Where to go from here: I suppose you could just read straight through all of Legion of Super-Heroes. Or, you could hop ahead to the Retroboot; if you skip 5YL, the Reboot, and the Threeboot entirely you’ll actually be in the best possible mental state to piece it together!
This is all so confusing. Who are all these characters? What are they talking about? What planets are they from? If they won’t accept members with duplicate powers, why are Superboy and Supergirl BOTH allowed on the team? And why is Ultra Boy, whose powers are like Superboy’s, but worse?
I have two suggestions. First: Wikipedia, and fan wikis generally. I don’t have the time, and I don’t think it would be helpful, to give you a rundown of the Legion’s membership here. We’ll cover them as they pop up in the comics. But in the meantime, let me save you a lot of trouble by linking to this incredibly handy Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Legion_of_Super-Heroes_members . It’s astoundingly comprehensive no matter which version of the Legion you decide to hop in with, and has links to pages for basically all of the members. As somebody who once made flashcards to help myself memorize every legionnaire’s name, code name, planet of origin, and powers, this page is a godsend.
More generally, wikis are super useful for figuring out a lot of complicated comics stuff. Wikipedia has a pro-Nerd Shit bias, so you can find comprehensive pages of every Legionnaire and all the Legion villains. If you need something more specialized, http://www.legionwiki.com/ is great. It’s got some holes, but it has a fantastic publication timeline of Legion appearances.
My second suggestion: With some reluctance, and hoping that you will treat this offer responsibly, in the same good faith that it is made, I am opening up my DMs on Twitter to any questions you might have about the Legion of Super-Heroes. What to read, what to avoid, who’s who, what happened, and where to find things. You can find me @AmyZiegfeld on Twitter. I’m not glued to my twitter any more, but I’ll try to check in once a day and answer any queries. I can’t guarantee the timeliness of my replies, but (if you’re not rude) I’ll try to get back to you ASAP. (Note that if you are rude, I block liberally and am not inclined to grant second chances).
That should cover the basics of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and provide useful background for our future discussions! Now that we’re all on roughly the same page about the Legion and its history, in the next column we’ll dive into the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, in Adventure Comics (1938) #247, available on DC Universe, Comixology, and about a bazillion reprint editions! See you there!