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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Default The Legion of superheroes is a victim of its own utopian premise.

    The Legion was created in a time when people were more hopeful about the future. Utopian visions of the future were everywhere, (the Jetsons). We are in a very different place as a society these days. Dystopias are all the rage, and overly positive views of the future seem unrealistic to vast swathes of the population.

  2. #2
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    I have to disagree,
    the main reason for the Legion's loss of popularity is due to the repeated reboots,
    and the unclear connections to Superman mythos.

    Legion's original popularity was during the time Superman is selling really well,
    and the Legion introduced a really interesting world.
    After reboots, Superman may have or may have not joined the Legion,
    or maybe Jon was the founder of the Legion.
    So you would lose many old readers of Legion and new readers just don't see the appeal.

    Plus, L.E.G.I.O.N and Geoff Johns's Green Lanterns borrowed many elements from Legion book,
    so the elements in the Legion books are just less interesting and less connected to the DCU in comparison.

  3. #3
    Extraordinary Member Robotman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathew101281 View Post
    The Legion was created in a time when people were more hopeful about the future. Utopian visions of the future were everywhere, (the Jetsons). We are in a very different place as a society these days. Dystopias are all the rage, and overly positive views of the future seem unrealistic to vast swathes of the population.
    There have been a lot of Legion stories that show the future as a very grim place. The 90s storyline with The Blight was super dark and pretty depressing. One of the best LoS stories (in my personal opinion) is Superman and the Legion of Superheroes. Johns showed the year 3000 as a place rife with xenophobia and toxic nationalism. It was a good antithesis to the Legion’s message of teamwork and unity of different alien races.

  4. #4
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    The dystopian vision of the future has been with us for a very very long time--maybe as long as the utopian vision.

    At one time, I hoped that the fad for dystopian futures would wear itself out and the pendulum would swing back to the utopian. But some thirty years on that still hasn't happened. Maybe it's because comic book fantasy is permanently stuck in adolescent arrested development. Not that the readers are adolescent but they're stuck at that phase in their comic book tastes. When we're teens we go through a phase of being skeptical of everything. And some of us never grow out of that. Of course, a lot of teens are also very optimistic--I wish that perspective was shown more.

    I guess, because dystopian worlds are so dark, a lot of people mistake that for artistic sophistication. But dystopian stories are easy to do and not all that sophisticated. In reality, it's not that easy to see what is bad or good in a society. A nation where people live in pretty houses with picket fences and colourful gardens might actually be oppressive and soul-sucking. A nation where people have to struggle to survive may yet have a rich culture and strong sense of community.

    In my Legion head canon, between the 20th century and the 30th century, the Earth went through many wars and nearly destroyed itself. Throngs left the horrors of their homeworld for the stars, to settle on other worlds and create new civilizations. A lot of Earth's technology and memory was lost. It is only in the last one hundred years--before Imra, Garth and Rokk came to Earth--that our world has pulled itself out of the darkness and rebuilt itself, restoring justice and freedom to its citizens.

    The reason the Earth is so hopeful in the late 30th century is because they have managed to overcome that dystopian past. They are motivated to rebuild and reunite. But there are still lots of problems that beset the United Planets and the people from an older generation are not too optimistic. However Imra, Garth and Rokk are young and idealistic.
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  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member j9ac9k's Avatar
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    I don't think the utopian future is itself the turn-off. The stories focus on the team and their adventures anyway, so the fact that they live in a utopian society (which is also debatable, depending on which version of the team you're talking about) doesn't usually factor in. I don't think it's that people don't buy it, it's that it's usually boring.

    I think the utopian setting has allowed writers to not spend a lot of time on world-building. With most dystopian futures, there's a fairly clear reason for how things are, or a clear setting/premise - there was a nuclear holocaust and people are struggling to survive, or there's some totalitarian regime, or the environment has gone to crap and mutant cannibals roam the earth, etc... where the setting leads to stories and helps to inform the characters and how they live. With a utopia, there's usually a presumption that things are just fine - there's no war or disease or want and everyone gets along. There isn't as much of a need to explain the world, or create a world that will provide stories for our protagonists. Bendis has been trying to do that - to create a vision of what the 31st century actually is. YMMV in terms of how effective or interesting it is, but at least he and Sook put a lot of thought into it. (although I think they've highlighted the world-building to the detriment of character building, imo)

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    Star Trek is an Utopian future, correct?
    And it’s been ongoing for over 50 years.

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    Extraordinary Member j9ac9k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Evans View Post
    Star Trek is an Utopian future, correct?
    And it’s been ongoing for over 50 years.
    When was the last time Star Trek was actually shown as "one big happy Federation?" Maybe the end of "ST:TNG? DS9 was set in a hotzone then was a show about a space war, Voyager was set in the Delta Quadrant, Enterprise was in the past pre-utopia, the Kelvin movies had Federation officers as main bad guys. (I haven't seen the CBS Access shows)

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    Traveler of omniverses Thor-Ul's Avatar
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    The concept of utopia is kind of tricky. It means to represent a world where the problems from modern world had been overcomed. In the dystopia, the problems of modern world are presented as what dooms the future. Dystopia is presented as a warning, utopia is presented as something to achieve. But that not means there will be not problems in that utopia or which is the cost to keep the utopia working. The line between dystopia and utopia also can be very thin. The future could be a place where every need is satisfied but at the cost of having losing the essense of humanity, with everyone living in a virtual reality, for example.

    Dystopia is easy to write also, take modern world problems and made them worse. Writing a world which had overcame those problems need more work and writers are lazy.

    Now, directly with the Legion, the problem is not related to the concept itself. Still can work, or even pass through less optimistic stages, as it was done with 5YL, Legion of the damned or Superman and the Legion, but it needs coherence. Not constant reboots than disengage readers from the characters.
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  9. #9
    A Wearied Madness Vakanai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    The dystopian vision of the future has been with us for a very very long time--maybe as long as the utopian vision.

    At one time, I hoped that the fad for dystopian futures would wear itself out and the pendulum would swing back to the utopian. But some thirty years on that still hasn't happened. Maybe it's because comic book fantasy is permanently stuck in adolescent arrested development. Not that the readers are adolescent but they're stuck at that phase in their comic book tastes. When we're teens we go through a phase of being skeptical of everything. And some of us never grow out of that. Of course, a lot of teens are also very optimistic--I wish that perspective was shown more.

    I guess, because dystopian worlds are so dark, a lot of people mistake that for artistic sophistication. But dystopian stories are easy to do and not all that sophisticated. In reality, it's not that easy to see what is bad or good in a society. A nation where people live in pretty houses with picket fences and colourful gardens might actually be oppressive and soul-sucking. A nation where people have to struggle to survive may yet have a rich culture and strong sense of community.

    In my Legion head canon, between the 20th century and the 30th century, the Earth went through many wars and nearly destroyed itself. Throngs left the horrors of their homeworld for the stars, to settle on other worlds and create new civilizations. A lot of Earth's technology and memory was lost. It is only in the last one hundred years--before Imra, Garth and Rokk came to Earth--that our world has pulled itself out of the darkness and rebuilt itself, restoring justice and freedom to its citizens.

    The reason the Earth is so hopeful in the late 30th century is because they have managed to overcome that dystopian past. They are motivated to rebuild and reunite. But there are still lots of problems that beset the United Planets and the people from an older generation are not too optimistic. However Imra, Garth and Rokk are young and idealistic.
    I think it's less about people's tastes being "adolescent" (I disagree on the very premise that dystopia is more adolescent and utopias somehow more mature) and more the world we live in today. There was more of a need for utopias back in the Legion's days - the very real chance of nuclear Armageddon. It was the Cold War, people had different worries back then. We're just as stressed now, but our stresses are different. Showing a better future gave people something to strive for when we could go extinct because some blockhead misread their radar at some border along the Iron Curtain. A utopia is a welcome escape to that kind of existential crisis. However today's stresses are rooted more in distrust of institutions and each other - a dystopia naturally plays to our current sense of distrust and need for self reliance. Not that utopia isn't needed now, it'd be a great way to show people we should be striving for getting back to a trusting future, but it's a more nuanced and difficult task than either utopia as an escape or dystopia against institutions are. Sense utopia as a pure escape from existential crisis isn't in vogue now (but likely will be as the threat of climate change begins to feel more immediate) dystopia playing on our current frustrations is an easier sale. It's not about people not growing up in their tastes (which I feel is silly - people like what they like, who are we to decide this is mature and this childish), but how the different state of today's world affects them. The Cold War era called for a utopia to escape to - today's divisive world calls for a dystopia to rebel against.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thor-Ul View Post
    The concept of utopia is kind of tricky. It means to represent a world where the problems from modern world had been overcomed. In the dystopia, the problems of modern world are presented as what dooms the future. Dystopia is presented as a warning, utopia is presented as something to achieve. But that not means there will be not problems in that utopia or which is the cost to keep the utopia working. The line between dystopia and utopia also can be very thin. The future could be a place where every need is satisfied but at the cost of having losing the essense of humanity, with everyone living in a virtual reality, for example.

    Dystopia is easy to write also, take modern world problems and made them worse. Writing a world which had overcame those problems need more work and writers are lazy.

    Now, directly with the Legion, the problem is not related to the concept itself. Still can work, or even pass through less optimistic stages, as it was done with 5YL, Legion of the damned or Superman and the Legion, but it needs coherence. Not constant reboots than disengage readers from the characters.
    The way I see it, 'utopia' and 'dystopia' aren't absolutes, but relative terms. The United States today may seem like a dystopia to some, but its a utopia compared to, say, the Middle Ages. Hell, if the United States wasn't seen as a utopia to people from other societies, there wouldn't be a crisis at the border...

    I think the Legion's 31st century is the same. Its a utopia by our 21st century standards, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have problems. Hell, any society which needs superheroes to do superhero stuff definitely has some problems. The tech may be more advanced, life may be more comfortable, and poverty as we know it today may be a thing of the past (literally!) but that doesn't mean crime, terrorism, social conflict and war are unheard of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vakanai View Post
    I think it's less about people's tastes being "adolescent" (I disagree on the very premise that dystopia is more adolescent and utopias somehow more mature) and more the world we live in today. There was more of a need for utopias back in the Legion's days - the very real chance of nuclear Armageddon. It was the Cold War, people had different worries back then. We're just as stressed now, but our stresses are different. Showing a better future gave people something to strive for when we could go extinct because some blockhead misread their radar at some border along the Iron Curtain. A utopia is a welcome escape to that kind of existential crisis. However today's stresses are rooted more in distrust of institutions and each other - a dystopia naturally plays to our current sense of distrust and need for self reliance. Not that utopia isn't needed now, it'd be a great way to show people we should be striving for getting back to a trusting future, but it's a more nuanced and difficult task than either utopia as an escape or dystopia against institutions are. Sense utopia as a pure escape from existential crisis isn't in vogue now (but likely will be as the threat of climate change begins to feel more immediate) dystopia playing on our current frustrations is an easier sale. It's not about people not growing up in their tastes (which I feel is silly - people like what they like, who are we to decide this is mature and this childish), but how the different state of today's world affects them. The Cold War era called for a utopia to escape to - today's divisive world calls for a dystopia to rebel against.
    That's an interesting take!

  11. #11
    Invincible Member Digifiend's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    The dystopian vision of the future has been with us for a very very long time--maybe as long as the utopian vision.
    Yeah, doesn't HG Wells' The Time Machine feature a dystopian future?
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Evans View Post
    Star Trek is an Utopian future, correct?
    And itís been ongoing for over 50 years.
    And neither are really a 'utopia' where everyone sits around eating grapes and discussing philosophy and nobody ever experiences anguish or conflict or death.

    There are Khunds and Dominators and Mordru and the Fatal Five, the Dark Circle and Darkseid, cruel worlds like Lythyl and Avalon, and less technologically sophisticated ones like Orando and Talokk VIII and even kind of crappy poorly-run exploitive worlds like Rimbor and exploitive *races* like the Gil'Dishpan. People *do* suffer and die. Adventure and tragedy abound. And there's controversy, as different cultures smash into each other and disapprove of how each other do things. (Bad Gil'Dishpan, enslaving and surgically modifying other races so that they make more useful servants is bad!)

    Oh, it's a 'utopia' because nobody has to pay rent or is going hungry. Big freaking whoop. *Batman* never has to pay rent or go hungry, and that doesn't seem to have the teensiest impact on his popularity.

    The only 'problem' with the Legion's 'utopian future' is people who don't like the Legion using the term incorrectly to talk it down.

    It's the old 'relatable' fallacy. I can't 'relate' to the Legion because they are so far in the future. I can't 'relate' to Batman because I'm not a billionaire. I can't 'relate' to Wonder Woman because I'm not a woman. It's all excuses. You either like something or you don't. I don't need a justification not to like Lobo. I don't need a justification to like the Legion. It's all subjective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vakanai View Post
    I think it's less about people's tastes being "adolescent" (I disagree on the very premise that dystopia is more adolescent and utopias somehow more mature) and more the world we live in today.
    I was saying that the version of dystopias we've got in comic books are often very simplistic and not sophisticated--they appeal to us when we're teens, because we think we know everything. With experience, some of us come to see that it's a lot more complicated than that. I never said that utopias are more mature. In comic books they also tend to be simplistic and don't recognize the complexities.

    As I said, what represents a utopia or a dystopia in comic books could actually be the opposite in reality. A fantasy that shows both sides of the coin would be more adult in my view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Digifiend View Post
    Yeah, doesn't HG Wells' The Time Machine feature a dystopian future?
    Exactly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sutekh View Post
    There are Khunds and Dominators and Mordru and the Fatal Five, the Dark Circle and Darkseid, cruel worlds like Lythyl and Avalon, and less technologically sophisticated ones like Orando and Talokk VIII and even kind of crappy poorly-run exploitive worlds like Rimbor and exploitive *races* like the Gil'Dishpan. People *do* suffer and die. Adventure and tragedy abound. And there's controversy, as different cultures smash into each other and disapprove of how each other do things. (Bad Gil'Dishpan, enslaving and surgically modifying other races so that they make more useful servants is bad!)
    Quite so. That was the beauty of the classic Legion. There were so many worlds that you could show a variety of political economies. It allowed the writers to address any number of different societies in their stories.

    There are just as many despots imposing harsh rule upon the planets as there are champions of peace and justice. This is already the case with the Siegel and Hamilton tales. Granted they appeal to kids and don't require a lot of deep thought, but that's who was buying the comic books. Once Jim Shooter and Paul Levitz came along, these stories grew more sophisticated.

    The thing is if all of the United Planets existed in a prevailing dystopian nightmare, there wouldn't be any light to contrast with the darkness. You need to have both. And from a different perspective a lot of what the classic comics presented as good and desirable could actually appear oppressive and undesirable.

    In SWAMP THING when Swampy went to Rann, we saw that world presented from a different angle. It was still the same Rann--the same Adam Strange, Alanna, Sardath--but the story showed a more sinister side to Adam's adventures. That deconstructive story worked, because it was supposed to exist in the same reality as the original stories. Deconstruction doesn't work as well (I think) when we know the story is happening in a completely different continuity. Then it's just a different version of the characters and not really using the original stories in a new way, with a new perspective.

    I would like to see new stories set in the classic Legion universe, flashing back on some established tales from a different perspective.
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    Astonishing Member Korath's Avatar
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    I'd say the main problem for LoSH is that it's Utopian Future (at least the original one) is very much the Fities in the White Suburbs of the good old US of A, more than an inherent flaw of the utopia setting itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by bat39 View Post
    The way I see it, 'utopia' and 'dystopia' aren't absolutes, but relative terms. The United States today may seem like a dystopia to some, but its a utopia compared to, say, the Middle Ages. Hell, if the United States wasn't seen as a utopia to people from other societies, there wouldn't be a crisis at the border...
    Mostly true, but also very false in other ways. For instance, racism as we know it today was basically unheard off during the medieval era. It only became a thing during the Age of Exploration and the Renaissance, when economical needs required to forge a belief system able to make the brutal exploitation and extermination of other peoples to accrue wealth sustainable.

    In that regard, it may also explains why the LoSH is struggling : it's utopia looks more like they hide things under the rug instead of having really dealt with those problems, if you ask me.
    Last edited by Korath; 06-15-2021 at 07:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Korath View Post
    I'd say the main problem for LoSH is that it's Utopian Future (at least the original one) is very much the Fities in the White Suburbs of the good old US of A, more than an inherent flaw of the utopia setting itself.
    I would lean into that rather than deleting it. It's so fascinating how in ADVENTURE COMICS 247, the costumes worn by Saturn Girl, Lightning Boy and Cosmic are a weird mix of futuristic space opera costumes and 1950s daily wear. The boys have pleated trousers! I'd love to see that explored some more. Like maybe the nostalgia for the 1950s has made a comeback--or they changed their outfits to look 20th century so as not to shock Clark (would people in the far future even bother with clothes?).

    Anyway, they immediately abandoned those costumes after that first story. But once they got their own feature in ADVENTURE COMICS, we were blessed with the art of John Forte. I've read that some fans floated the theory that, since Forte's depiction of reality did not follow any known rules of physics, what we were seeing was a mere interpretation of the future which we would not possibly understand if we saw the real thing. Forte's art is essentially a visual translation that makes the stories more understandable to the people reading them in the 1960s. But even his art has strange absurdities that confound us.
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