Few writers have had the opportunity to return to the same property not once, but twice in their career, but far far fewer have done so to the degree of success Paul Levitz has achieved with Legion of Super-Heroes. As Paul’s third and latest run wraps up this summer, along with the series as a whole, the writer was kind enough to share a few thoughts on some of the themes from his most recent 60+ issue time with these kids in the future, as well as a little tease for his final issue to come.
Matt Santori: Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to talk and thank you for the years — decades even — of tales from our future! With the latest Legion of Super-Heroes series ending this summer, how has this time around with the team been different than your previous two runs?
Paul Levitz: It’s different in so many ways…from the fact that it’s been written in a Google-enabled era, when readers can instantly look up the unfamiliar, to the changes that have affected super hero comics styles, to my absence from the office (and so from the kinds of involvement I had that many writers couldn’t). And for better and worse, my writing has undoubtedly changed in twenty years away from the keyboard.
MSG: You’ve had a chance to add many characters — heroes and villains alike — to the world of the Legion, from Tellus, Quislet, Comet Queen and Invisible Kid to Harmonia, Chemical Kid, Dragonwing, and the latest version of Glorith! What specifically were you looking to add to the mythos?
PL: Over the years I tried to add some diversity to the Legion: racially, bringing in more alien types like Quislet, and by sexual orientation. If we don’t learn to live together, we won’t make it to the 31st century. Some of those efforts came to fruition, at least one major one didn’t, but that was an important theme to me with the Legion.
MSG: Along those lines, rekindling the romance between Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass is one of the hallmark moments of the last few years that LGBT readers in particular felt so validated by. Can you talk a little about your feelings on their relationship?
PL: At some point, the two of them went off in this direction, as characters occasionally dictate to their writers. I’m pleased to have it recognized as an early and important step by the community, and sad since it was also late and should have been unimportant. When we get to the point that it’s no more remarkable than what letter of the alphabet a character’s name begins with, we’ll know the world’s a better place.
MSG: Looking back on the Legion’s long history, one thing that always differentiated the team from others in the DC Universe was its size and scope, yet the moments that stand out are most often about individuals and their trials. How did you find that balance?
PL: Stories are about people, their troubles and their triumphs. I tried to give the different cast members their own moments in the spotlight, and large as the cast was, I wrote enough stories that I got around to most of them. A few got more of a share, like the founders, but I think I left relatively few unexplored.
MSG: Has there ever been a situation with a character, either in this current run or previous ones, where they lead you to their story, rather than the other way around?
PL: The characters often led me… Phantom Girl stole the recent Secret Origin mini, I felt, and I was much more interested in her as a character by the end than when we started. And Brainy has a habit of butting in.
MSG: Mon-El also stands out as a central figure for your latest run on the series. What motivated your interest in him as a Green Lantern and core character for the team?
PL: Not sure why Mon-El got the ring…perhaps the logic that if you needed the strongest possible Green Lantern, he could be it?
MSG: With Legion of Super-Heroes reaching its finale next month in issue #23, what type of farewell should fans brace themselves for?
PL: If I did my job right, it’s a finale very open to interpretation…by the fans, and eventually by the next writer of the Legion, should they choose to pick up from it. I drew some inspiration from a favorite novel, Zelazny’s Lord of Light, and the fate of Sam, though this is a very different situation.
Thanks… and thanks to the readers, who’ve allowed me to play with my childhood favorite characters for so long.
MSG: Thank you, Paul!
The final issue of Legion of Super-Heroes ships August 21 from DC Comics. Paul Levitz is also the monthly scribe on the New 52’s Worlds’ Finest, starring Power Girl and the Huntress.