I went to see The Watchmen last night (for the nerd-record: I liked it and think it was a good adaptation but of course have a small voice inside of me crying about how my favourite scene was messed up. All in all, though: JOHN APPROVED) and it got me thinking: which members of the classic Justice Society of America would have gotten into the Legion of Superheroes?
Uh, I said that it got me thinking, not that it got me thinking in a particularly linear fashion. Still, good idea for a not-really-a-review, hey?
So, to set the stage, it's Legion Tryout day, some time after the "one boy and one girl per year" thing was phased out, and this motley crew shows up on the rocket doorstep:
For the purposes of this little thought-experiment we will be considering members of the JSA during their original run, but ignoring Batman and Superman because they were hardly ever in the comic and have had plenty of legion face-time anyway. Just for fun, if someone seems doomed for rejection of a shoo-in for acceptance we might try to think up a situation wherein the obvious might not occur. In roughly alphabetical order:
The Atom: Poor old Al Pratt got to be a super-hero by working out and practicing and never saying die. Despite his short stature he was one of the most effective members of the JSA in a fight. The Legion would've turfed him out on his ear in no time flat. Best Case Scenario: The Atom saves the world while the Legion is busy fighting Doctor Mayavale again and ends up palling around with Pete Ross in the Legion Reserve.
Black Canary: I haven't actually read any of the Black Canary's Golden Age adventures but I'm pretty sure that she was another in the "regular person with a solid right hook" school of crimefighting and that the Canary Cry came later. Still, let's say that she has it for the sake of this not turning into a series of identical paragraphs. Man, sh'd be in there like no one's business. As risque as the bustier-and-fishnets look might have been at some point in the past, it's practically a hoop skirt and bustle by the standards of the 70s Legion. The unbridled lust of Sun Boy alone would propel a flight ring onto her finger.
Dr Fate: Now, I've read maybe the first twenty issues of All-Star Comics, where the JSA made their home in the 40s and, as far as I can tell, the Dr Fate that appeared in those comics was less the magic-wielding champion of Order that we all know and love and more... something else? He seems to talk about being composed of "pure energy" a lot. He still uses magic, though, so whether he could get in is basically a matter of whether the White Witch is already a member, I suppose. Worst Case Scenario: the Legion find out that Kent Nelson is just a regular dude without the Helmet of Fate and have Triplicate Girl toss him out on his ear for gaining his powers from a device. Also, technically, Nelson and Dr Fate are two different guys, and isn't Fate thousands of years old? Not that most of the JSA aren't breaking the "nobody over the age of eighteen" rule, but still.
Dr Mid-Nite: Okay, I guess the fact that Mid-Nite really is a medical doctor is a cue-off to the fact that he's likely at least in his late twenties. Ignoring that, though, I think that he's got a pretty decent shot. A few judiciously-placed blackout bombs in the Legion tryout chamber, then a demonstration of the ol' patented Charles McNider "seeing in the dark" trick and he would be on easy street. Imagine Dr Mid-Nite, Shadow Lass and Night Girl teaming up to form... the Legion Shadow Squad! Who would dare call that a bad idea?
The Flash: I can't see why the Flash wouldn't get in, given his super-cool super-speed. Time for a Worst Case Scenario: "We're sorry, Flash. While your amazing speed powers might prove useful in a combat situation, we feel that there is a very real chance that if you stopped suddenly your hat might fly off like a discus and decapitate somebody, probably Bouncing Boy. REJECTED!"
Green Lantern: On the face of it, this one's easy, since having to wear and recharge a ring to keep yourself all powered up kind of breaks that one rule about having to have your own powers. Golden Age Green Lantern wasn't so much about firing green boxing gloves or can-can dancers or whatever out of the ring, though, so he might have had a chance. He could fly and was immune to metal (but famously not to wood, which could trip him up if anyone was in a pissy mood). I'd say he has a fifty-fifty chance based on how observant everyone was that day and whether he got to test-fight Ferro Lad or Chlorophyll Kid as his initiation feat.
Hawkman: Not in a million years. Everyone in the Legion can fly and their flying devices are a lot smaller than his and they already have Dawnstar. Best Case Scenario: He manages to convince them that he's a Thanagarian ambassador and gets a tour of the building.
Hourman: One of my favourite super-heroes ever (seriously, I was so sad about him seemingly dying in New Frontier that it took Darwyn Cooke himself to console me and say it wasn't so), so it pains me to admit that he wouldn't have much of a chance of getting into the Legion. Popping a yellow-and-red-striped pill every hour is a bit of a giveaway that you weren't born with super-strength (though making your super-pill match your cape is a pretty classy move, by my estimation). Still, Rex Tyler would make a pretty snazzy addition to the Legion of Substitute Heroes, especially as he would automatically be its most competent (and stylish) member.
Johnny Thunder: If anyone on this list would royally screw up the tryout process it would be Johnny. He'd say "Say, you fellows are tops in my book." and the Thunderbolt would misinterpret that as an order to make everyone spin around until Brainiac 5 vomits Coluan nutrient paste and that would be the end of that. However, Johnny Thunder would have made a fantastic supporting character in the Silver Age Legion adventures. Unlike the competent-but-not-confident Substitute legion, he could follow the Legionnaires around in various attempts to impress them and then fail spectacularly. Big laffs!
Ag! It's been a long day! I'm exercising my right to finish this tomorrow!