DC gets ready for its “Legends” coming to primetime, while we take a look at the print series that (re)established the legacy.
While the world gets ready for the DC Comics TV Universe (yes…we’re going to make that a “thing”) to unleash it’s latest effort in primetime, we’ll look back at a moment in DC’s comics history, when legends lived only in print. Where as now we live in a reality that has our heroes inhabiting almost every facet of multimedia. They come to life every fall on television, and the summer season is earmarked for all of the biggest blockbusters on the big screen. Where else can gods on earth face off against mortals in capes and cowls.
The success of The CW hit series Arrow and its spin-off The Flash, have literally opened the floodgates and unleashed the possibilities. Television executive producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim have made it their mission to not only adapt the world of superheroes into a action-packed, one-hour format that is engaging and entertaining, these producers along with their core team of show-runners and writers have dedicated themselves to honoring the source material. An idea that many entertainment executives have often tried to steer away from when adapting comics for life-action.
The fact that the television series Arrow has cultivated elements of the Green Arrow’s comic adventures to the small screen, and its sister series The Flash has also followed suit — it’s what has made these series ratings hits and brought them legion of fans. Berlanti and Kreisberg along with Allison Adler have also added to the palette the daring adventures of the Maid of Might — Supergirl premiered in the fall of 2015 on the major television network CBS. And the creative team hasn’t stopped there…while their premiere CW series may be going on hiatus for mid-season, this opens the schedule for the introduction of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
This will be the first “team show” to continue elaborating on the DC TV Universe continuity that began with Arrow and will feature an assemble cast of heroes (and villains) some already been introduced within the scope of the other CW shows.
A side note — though there has been some speculation that eventually the CW shows may overlap with Supergirl on CBS, it’s still now confirmed, so Legends may be the closest that fans will come to having the DC Universe continuing to unravel in primetime, bringing the total of hours of television to feature superheroes in a connective story arc to about 59! That’s incredible!
But Once Upon A Time…
The only way that audiences could digest their favorite superhero’s adventures were in the monthly publications of DC Comics. Big screen adventures were few and far between, and it wasn’t until the 1989 with the success of Tim Burton’s Batman starring Michael Keaton in the lead role, that the adapted media would be taken serious by Hollywood, though it would be a slow crawl until hits like Marvel’s Spider-Man and X-Men came along and opened up the market.
Nope. You could only get comics at your local newsstand or specialty store, and they were usually under a dollar! During the summer of 1985 DC Comics was taking a great risk. The long-running imprint was revitalizing their brand and that meant a publishing wide initiative to revamp all DC Comics. For the first time in its then 50 year history, DC Comics and its heroes would all belong to one seamless continuity establishing a legacy.
The first big move was felt during the earth-shattering events of the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths which revised most of DC Comic’s history and gave the world a new, more contemporary Superman, a darker and meaner Batman, and brought Wonder Woman up to her rightful place as one of the imprint’s “Big 3”, establishing the trinity. After the dust had settled with Crisis, the next step was to start to place the heroes into a more appropriate and modern context.
The series that would help make that happen was released the following year after Crisis ended and was called Legends. As told by comic legends John Ostrander and Len Wein (both wrote and scripted the story) and drawn by John Byrne and Karl Kesel (the two creatives were behind the revamping of the Superman title and mythology) the 6 part mini-series would help to reestablish the Justice League and reintroduce characters that were in a state of flux after the events depicted in Crisis.
In the story the menacing evil of Darkseid once again threatens the planet as he attempts to prove to the world at large that their belief in heroes, their faith in these “legends” is misbegotten at best. The heroic Captain Marvel — now more appropriately known as Shazam! is tricked into thinking he’s killed an innocent man, while the younger heroes in the pantheon including Firestorm and The Flash confront the responsibility that comes with being a hero.
In the end, the heroes eventually succeed at stopping Darkseid’s plan, and many are introduced to each other for the first time. Helping to reestablish the Justice League, the “Golden Age” mystic Dr. Fate becomes a core member (if only for a short time) of the new team consisting of founding members Batman, Martian Manhunter and Black Canary (taking the place in the new continuity of original founding member Wonder Woman). Joining them in the relaunch is Blue Beetle.
The series also depicts the contemporary introduction of Wonder Woman properly into “Man’s World”. The amazing amazon was one of the prominent casualties of the Crisis but was reintroduced into continuity with new powers, a new origin and mission in her new series, before moving into her place in the spotlight alongside the other big guns. It’s worth diving into this bit of nostalgia, although this 6-issue run will not necessarily be the story to springboard the TV Legends.
It’s still exciting to experience some of the story from its early conception, understand why these characters have come to mean so much to generations since and especially become a part of the first “reboot” in contemporary DC Comics history.