When I first got into comic books, I was more a DC guy than a Marvel guy. The biggest reason for this was The Legion of Super-Heroes which gathered dozens of differently-powered individuals from different worlds in the far future. For a very long time, it was that one book I could count on no matter who the creative team behind it was. It was pretty good even when it was bad.
And when it was great? Holy cow was it great!
Eventually sales were such that they let Keith Giffen try something entirely new by taking them from hopeful super-powered teens in a bright future to hopeless super-powered adults in a dystopian nightmare. I absolutely loved it. The comic book I had loved forever had somehow changed completely yet was somehow even better. But then DC wanted to go back to the teen Legion and things started to slide. It was fine for a while... but then kept getting worse and worse until I just wasn't interested anymore. By then I had mostly moved on to Marvel anyway, but it was still a sad day.
For this ranking, I'm taking the Gold/Silver/Bronze age Legionnaires and figured out which I liked best... and which I liked least...
- Mon-El/Valor — Easily my favorite Legionnaire. He started as a throw-away Superboy story element from the past that became far more interesting when he was transplanted into the future.
- Brainiac 5 — His incredible intellect brought a lot to The Legion (the flight rings are all him) and writers seemed to have the easiest time making him interesting (his force-field belt was a terrific add-on). Heck, when they turned him insane, he became one of the best LOSH villains ever.
- Ultra Boy — What I like best about Ultra Boy is how they took Superboy then made him interesting by limiting him to using one of his powers at a time. In the hands of a good writer, the character had to be clever to work... being both the most powerful and the weakest character from moment to moment.
- Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl — I never really got a bead on the character or her powers until they gave her a medieval spin which made my head do a 180. From then on she was a favorite. But that wasn't all! She also got a turn as Sensor Girl, one of the more fascinating characters in the history of the team.
- Dawnstar — A character who could navigate the depths of space unaided was a natural and brilliant fit for The Legion. The fact that she always seemed to be the smartest character in the room didn't hurt.
- Timber Wolf — Basically a more interesting Wolverine character that isn't tied to a long, convoluted back-story that is never as interesting as writers seem to think it is.
- Wildfire — An effort to do something truly different with the membership, and a successful one at that. His relationship with Dawnstar was one of his best qualities.
- Saturn Girl — Her telepathy made her a naturally-interesting character, but it's what they did with her as a person — that made her crack my top-ten.
- Chameleon Boy — He started out as an interesting alien diversion, but gained a crazy-level of depth when they tied him to the origin of the entire team in a very cool way.
- Cosmic Boy — The boy scout of the Legion who had the worst possible costume for years. Even though he was pure vanilla for much of his super-powered career, he had enough interesting moments.
- Supergirl — Superboy was marginally more interesting on his own than this the Legion. Supergirl was the complete opposite. I found her much more entertaining here than in her rather dull solo adventures. If only they had utilized her more often.
- Superboy — A great character that was essentially show-horned into a crazy number of Legion stories... and not always for the better. Even so, he was the link that kept on giving, and always worked in the context of The Legion's future-tales.
- Karate Kid — Buying into the Bruce Lee karate fad of the day wasn't enough, so they made him a master of martial arts from dozens of worlds and gave him the ability to find the inherent weakness in things. His wacky over-the-top costume was a weird diversion when he was in a group scenario.
- Laurel Gand — I liked her well enough when she debuted... she was a distant relation of Mon-El that was used to interesting effect (hence her high placement on this list). Had I been able to consider her fascinating turn as Supergirl-replacement Andromeda from her Post-Crisis days, she would have ranked even higher.
- Lightning Lad — Other than being a founding member of the team, the most interesting thing about him was that he was dead for a time. Not a ringing endorsement to be sure.
- Invisible Kid II — His origin in the Legion annual he debuted was extremely well handled even if he was a bit boring afterward. Still, there's something to be said for him being a competent addition to the team rather than yet another bizarrely-powered oddity.
- Dream Girl — Her powers were easy to underestimate, but she proved herself to be an invaluable part of the team many times.
- Element Lad — Easily the most powerful Legionnaire going (well, depending on who was writing him) speculation about his sexuality by readers seemed to be more interesting than the actual character.
- Phantom Girl — She was definitely given more interesting stories than many of her teammates... but her relationship with Ultra Boy was more defining than anything else, which was criminal given how interesting her powers were. Or rather, how interesting they could be.
- Tyroc — A fascinating idea for a character that was woefully underutilized. Kinda a trippy Black Canary type. Maybe writers didn't know quite what to do with him?
- Sun Boy — Definitely a middle-of-the-road character that had his moments to shine... but he just wasn't as interesting as similar energy-based characters.
- Light Lass (Lightning Lass) — Starting out, she was a Lightning Lad clone (which makes sense, given that she's his sister. In an effort to make her less redundant, they changed her powers to make things super-light. This made her more interesting than Star Boy, but only just barely.
- Duo Damsel (Triplicate Girl) — A somewhat dull character made worse when she lost a third of what made her interesting. Her relationship with Bouncing Boy was the thing that really had her stock dropping.
- Shadow Lass — Another female character who was made interesting solely because of her love-life (with Mon-El). Kinda lame that her powers, which could actually be interesting, so often were not.
- Star Boy — Used to be a Superboy clone. Eventually gained the ability to make things super-heavy. Another one-note Legionnaire who was rarely notable.
- Colossal Boy — He could grow big. But most of the time he just ended up doing a lot of damage when he fell down and went boom.
- Invisible Kid — He never really got a shot back in the day. Finally they performed a mercy-killing and had him join the ranks of dead Legionnaires.
- Kid Quantum — A character that was never as good as his concept. The potential wasn't really fulfilled until his little sister took over the role.
- Polar Boy — As a member of the loser-squad (Legion of Substitute Heroes) he didn't gain that much when
- Shrinking Violet — Post-Crisis, they did a lot with the character. Pre-Crisis, however, she was incredibly, unforgivably boring.
- White Witch — It's not that she's not an interesting character... it's just that she was never very interesting to me. Unless there was a magic-based adversary like Mordru around. Otherwise I rememeber her being more irritating than anything else.
- Chemical King — Most notable for being mysteriously dead, then getting a bit of a moment before becoming dead-dead.
- Blok — A direct copy of The Thing from Marvel's Fantastic Four — who never really went anywhere.
- Magnetic Kid — Cosmic Boy's younger (more boring) brother. Nothing new here. Move along.
- Matter-Eater Lad — He can eat anything. Woo-hoo. The only reason he's not dead-last on my list is that it was pretty awesome how Braniac 5 got him to consume The Miracle Machine, which caused him to go insane.
- Ferro Lad — The most interesting thing about him was that he was the first dead Legionnaire. Happily, this was rectified in reboots, but it was fairly depressing in those early days.
- Bouncing Boy — Good Lord. "Super bouncing" as a power was sublimely stupid in just about every possible way.
- Tellus — Pointlessly bizarre character who, along with Quislet, was apparently an effort to get a larger non-human element in The Legion.
- Quislet — Another pointless non-human who added practically nothing to the series. I rank him worst because he was so poorly defined and utilized.
I maintain that The Legion could make an excellent television series. We got a taste in the last season of Supergirl but there is still so many places they could go. Maybe one day.