The Legion of Substitute Heroes
is a group of fictional characters
in the future of the DC Comics universe
. The "Subs", as they are often called, are a group of rejected applicants to the Legion of Super-Heroes
who banded together, hoping to prove to the Legion that their powers were not as useless as the Legionnaires claimed. They first appeared in Adventure Comics
#306 (March 1963). They were depicted as reasonably effective super-heroes until Keith Giffen
, during his tenure as Legion
writer, began depicting the team as something of a joke.
Silver Age history
The Legion of Substitute Heroes were founded by Polar Boy
, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Fire Lad, and Chlorophyll Kid, five young heroes whose powers were not sufficient to earn them membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Their main arch nemesis was Captain Freeze. After receiving a consolation prize (a Legion flight belt), the five disconsolate teenagers decided to form a group that could pinch hit
for the Legion. After several failures as a team, the Subs managed to save the Earth from an invasion by Plant Men while the Legion was off planet fighting a decoy armada of robot space ships. These Plant Men, the Legion later found out, were sent to earth by Captain Freeze who wanted to use them to distract the Legion while he went and stole the Mighty Shrink Ray. However the plot was foiled when Night Girl saw Captain Freeze sneaking into the Lab; he was caught and exiled to the planet Navoru.
At first operating in secrecy, the Legion of Substitute Heroes was gradually recognized by the real Legion as a valuable asset, most notably after the assault on the Citadel of Throon when the regular Legionnaires were all defeated and it was left to Polar Boy and Night Girl to lead an effective attack on the fortress and end the siege.
Members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes include:
- Antenna Lad: has the power to tune into any broadcast from any era, but mostly at random.
- Chlorophyll Kid (Ral Benem from the planet Mardru): has the power to make plants grow super fast. He gained this power after falling into a vat of super plant growth formula as a small child. He has stated at various times that he can only accelerate plant growth, not control plant life, although some of his appearances seemed to contradict this.
- Color Kid (Ulu Vakk from the planet Lupra): can change the color of objects. Gained his power after being struck by a ray from another dimension. In the 1985 Legion of Substitute Heroes, he was temporarily known as Color Queen after being exposed to Granderian Gender-Reversal Germs by Infectious Lass.
- Double-Header: has two heads as a result of gradually splitting into two identical beings.
- Fire Lad (Stag Mavlen from the planet Schwar): gained the power to breathe fire (often accidentally, as he suffers from allergies that cause him to sneeze) after inhaling vapors from a crashing meteor.
- Infectious Lass (Drura Sepht): spontaneously generates infectious diseases. Her aim and control left something to be desired.
- Night Girl (Lydda Jath from the sunless planet Kathoon): has powers of super-strength and invulnerability which were engineered for her by her scientist father, but which unfortunately are only effective in darkness.
- Polar Boy: had the ability to project cold and ice. When introduced he had difficulties controlling the powers, but became quite effective after training for several years. Eventually, after the Subsitute Heroes was disbanded, he was admitted to the Legion proper, and was elected to lead the whole team.
- Porcupine Pete (Peter Dursin): has quills he can shoot from his body although generally not very accurately.
- Stone Boy (Dag Wentim from the planet Zwen): has the power to turn into stone as a way of hibernation on a planet whose night is six months long. Throughout most of his appearances, Stone Boy could only transform into an inanimate, insensate stone statue and was often used in humorous ways (e.g. being dropped on a villain from above by his teammates), or at best as a distraction while the other "Subs" carried out some mission. In one instance he is used tactically, as something for his allies to throw enemies at. During the Five Year Gap, he underwent hypnotherapy and gained the ability to stay conscious during his transformation and, eventually, even to move in his stone state.
- Former Legionnaires Dream Girl and Star Boy (who had been expelled from the Legion for killing) also served with the Substitute Heroes, but later rejoined the main Legion under the disguises of "Miss Terious" and "Sir Prize".
After a colorful, if not exactly impressive, career, the Substitute Heroes were disbanded by Polar Boy, who went on to attain full membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Many of the remaining members would eventually join the Legion as well during the "Five Year Gap".
Shortly before the "Five Year Gap", a new Legion of Substitute Heroes was formed. It consisted of former Legion of Super-Heroes members Cosmic Boy, Bouncing Boy, and Duo Damsel, as well as Night Girl, a new Karate Kid (Myg of Lythyl), and Comet Queen.
During the events of Legion of Super-Heroes (vol. 4), the "Subs" came into their own as an insurgent group that was helping the Terran resistance to the Dominators. Here, old Subs Fire Lad, Stone Boy, Chlorophyl Kid, Color Kid, and Porcupine Pete, were joined by new allies such as Ron-Karr and Grinn.
Following the Zero Hour
reboot, the Subs appeared in Legionnaires
#43 during Legion tryouts. Infectious Lass, Fire Lad and Color Kid were seen on the cover, while Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Night Girl and Polar Boy all tried out. Night Girl knew very well that the Legion wouldn't accept her because of her power's drawback, but she was really planning on meeting Cosmic Boy who, at the time, was trapped in the 20th century.
Polar Boy and Night Girl appear in one panel of Legionnaires #49, concluding that their unseen team is not ready to aid the Legion against Mordru (Night Girl calls them a "poor substitute").
In the Legion Worlds one-shot focusing on Braal, Cosmic Boy along with Invisible Kid, Leviathan and Chuck Taine called themselves the "Legion of Subs". The word 'Subs' is short for subterfuge.
Infectious Lass also reappeared as a student at the Legion Academy just before the Legion's contiuity was rebooted again.
In the "Threeboot
" Legion series, Polar Boy and Chlorophyll Kid (renamed Plant Lad
) appeared as a part of the new Wanderers
led by Mekt Ranzz
. This version of Polar Boy can only slow molecular movement.
Post Infinite Crisis
Versions of Infectious Lass, Polar Boy, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Fire Lad, and Chlorophyll Kid similar in appearance to their pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths
counterparts appeared in the Tales of the Unexpected
limited series and the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
storyarc in Action Comics
. Porcupine Pete and Antennae Lad have not been seen.
- Infectious Lass: Drura Sehpt of the planet Sohmutar. Was tossed into the time stream by Earth-Man, and has appeared as part of a group of forgotten comic book characters, including Dr. Thirteen, and battled against the Architects in the Tales of the Unexpected limited series. She's fallen in love with the deceased pirate Captain Fear.
- Color Kid: Ulu Vakk of the planet Lupra. Was blinded by Earth-Man.
- Double-Header: Was murdered by Earth-Man.
- Night Girl: Lydda Jath of the planet Kathoon. Now a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
- Polar Boy: Brek Brannin of the planet Tharr. Now a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Had his arm ripped off by Tusker, but has since replaced it with one made of ice.
- Stone Boy: Dag Wentim of the planet Zwen. No longer has the ability to move in stone-mode.
- Fire Lad: Stag Mavlen of the planet Schwar. Has moderate control over his fire-breathing abilities, and can actually turn his hair to flames when powered-up.
- Chlorophyll Kid: Ral Benam of Mardru. Claims he can talk to plants.
- Rainbow Girl: Dori Aandraison of the planet Xolnar. Possesses the ability to wield the power of the Emotional Spectrum, causing unpredictable mood swings from angry (red), to hopeful (blue), to confident (green), and others. She only appeared once, as a rejected Legion applicant in pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, and originally had the power to separate into four different-colored versions of herself. Red was heat, Blue was cold, Yellow was brightness, and Green was Kryptonite. She was rejected because her Green Kryptonite self posed a threat to Superboy and Supergirl.
In part five of the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes story-arc in Action Comics, Fire Lad, Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid and Rainbow Girl are called in to help battle the Justice League of Earth. After the villainous group is defeated, the Subs decide to claim their satellite base as their own.
Appearances in other media
Characters from the Legion of Substitute Heroes first appeared in the Legion of Super-Heroes
episode entitled "Lightning Storm", and then again in the episode "The Substitutes", which focused completely on them.
They are portrayed as a mix of sympathetic and comedic characters who are determined to be heroes but not entirely aware of their limits.
The Legion of Substitute Heroes in the animated series consist of:
- Porcupine Pete – portrayed as something of a "mother's boy" who is not always good with his powers, but is determined to be a hero and has a definite sense of responsibility. Pete easily forgets that his quills can hurt others. He is the unofficial leader of the team. Voiced by James Arnold Taylor.
- Chlorophyll Kid – portrayed as a classic nebbish, but clever at using his limited powers, such as creating cacti to distract an enemy with human-like silhouettes. When pushed, he'll take risks to protect others. Voiced by Alexander Polinsky.
- Stone Boy – portrayed as highly intelligent. He once uses a fall in his stone form to strike an enemy, yet speaks little. In fact, his companions actually were surprised when he did speak up, suggesting they thought he was mute. His ability to use his stone form ranges from ineffectual to clever, perhaps because he doesn't have the sense of humor to realize when he is doing something silly. He also at times seems to forget to change back to flesh. He seems to have some small knowledge of science, which he shares with the team, giving an excellent insight on Starfinger's Ionosphere-gobbling space-worms and how to stop them. Voiced by Yuri Lowenthal.
- Color Kid – portrayed as energetic, enthusiastic, often ignorant of danger, and a bit flamboyant and campy. He has an excellent eye for color, but hasn't caught on entirely how limited his powers are. His most noteworthy use of his abilities is to conceal an obstacle to trip a villain and conceal his fellow heroes. Voiced by James Arnold Taylor.
- Infectious Lass – portrayed as withdrawn and seems to suffer from a mild asthma-like condition and sounds permanently congested. Her powers involve creating an infectious slime, but it seems limited to creating a quick, mild cold. Voiced by Kari Wahlgren.
In addition, Antenna Lad, Polar Boy, Fire Lad, Double-Header, and Night Girl all appeared in cameos in both episodes as prospective members of the Legion.
The Substitute Heroes were seen briefly in a battalion during "Sundown" Part 2, although never actually participated in the fight against the Sun-Eater.