A wise man once said: “Where goeth The Legion, there goeth comic books…  Eventually.”  Okay, maybe it’s a little presumptuous to call myself wise, but at the very least I’m vaguely shrewd, at least in the ways of pop culture and the super-capes.  As a boy, I was fascinated by the fact that, while the Avengers had five members and the JLA nine, the Legion consisted of nearly TWO DOZEN heroes on active duty, as well as other rotating in and out as guest-stars here and there.  With the news that the Marvel NOW! relaunch of Avengers would have EIGHTEEN members, I smiled inwardly, awaiting the rage and vitriol of the non-Legion-innoculated public.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) got it’s Great Darkness Saga in your Five Years later, asking:  When it comes to a single group or title, how many heroes is TOO many heroes?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

Critical Hit #165: It's the Great Pumpkin

Next post

REVIEW: Guarding the Globe #1


  1. Waldo Butters
    September 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm — Reply

    I’d have to say that anything above thirty would be too many. After that you’re approaching an organization rather than a group

  2. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
    September 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm — Reply

    Well…it depends. On three or four things, to my mind. In order of importance:
    1) the writer – some folks (like Paul Levitz, Marv Wolfman, or Chris Claremont at their best) can really make a big cast sing; some (Claremont at his worst) make it muddy and some (Scott Lobdell lately) make it a couple of characters and their buddies.
    2) the characters – strong, distictive characters of approximately equal weight work well (LSH, mid-80s Avengers, Young Avengers); bland characters (JL Detroit) or groups heavily tilted toward a handful of big stars (most recent Avengers) don’t work as well.
    3 – 4) timeframe and plot – is it a permanent thing (like the Legion)? That makes it easier for a good writer. Is it an epic (Great Darkness, Kree-Skrull War)? That seems to work well too. Revolving doors and unclear parameters (current Avengers and X-titles, early 21st Century JL) make things muddy.

    For a regular plotline in a monthly book, even the best writer with the strongest cast can only juggle about 20 – 25 regulars, though…

  3. Michael
    September 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm — Reply

    I think it’s all in the way the writer(s) handle the cast of characters. For instance:

    Before Crisis On Infinite Earths Paul Levitz handled the LSH and it’s numerous cast of characters like a master. numerous characters and storylines co-existed at the same time and every time they got any page time you felt like that particular story was moving forward.

    On the other end of the spectrum you had the 5 Year Gap LSH (sorry Matthew), where details about characters were always parceled out in small bits you felt like the writers were having their favorite Woobie threatened and that they felt they were doing you a favor. And Gawd help you when there was a new character like Kent Shakespeare, where more info was given on him in the LSH guide for the DC Roleplaying game than was EVER given in the LSH book itself!

    But, IMHO, in general, and there are exceptions, I think a core group of about 5-10 is best with another 10 or so supporting characters is workable by a good number of writers.

    • September 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm — Reply

      No, you’ve hit the nail on the head about some of the weaknesses of the Volume 4 Legion. The creators had such brilliant backstory, but never got around to SHARING it, making the character a little bit Mary Sue. Had he been put through straight-forward with more context, I believe Kent might still be a viable Legionnaire today…

  4. September 16, 2012 at 12:41 am — Reply

    It always depends for me on the style of the story and what the story is trying to tell. A focus on a core group within a larger group (such as within some X-Men stories where they focus on a core group within a larger group of mutants all in one location) can work just as well as a sole focus on a small group, but it can get out of hand if the creators don’t focus on the core group and keep diggin in to the backstories of random background characters.

    Then again, I like the Super Sentai 199. Granted, it is a gathering of teams rather than one team itself, but the intent of the story was to show an epic battle rather than character building (and most characters have had their stories told in the past thirty-some odd years anyway).

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section