|Legion of Substitute Heroes
|Adventure Comics #306 (March 1963)
|Edmond Hamilton (script)
John Forte (art)
|Metropolis (31st century)
The Legion of Substitute Heroes are a group of fictional characters in the future of the DC Comics universe. The "Subs", as they are often called, are rejected Legion of Super-Heroes applicants who band together to prove that their powers are not as useless as they claim. They first appeared in Adventure Comics #306 (March 1963), and were created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte.
The group were depicted as reasonably effective superheroes until Keith Giffen, during his tenure as Legion writer, began depicting the team as something of a joke. The Subs regain some respect when founding member Polar Boy joins the main Legion, and a new Legion of Substitute Heroes is formed.
The Legion of Substitute Heroes is founded by Polar Boy, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Fire Lad, and Chlorophyll Kid, five young heroes whose powers are not sufficient to earn them membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes — Stone Boy, for example, is completely immobile when using his power. After receiving a Legion flight belt as a consolation prize, the five disconsolate teenagers decide to form a group that can pinch hit for the Legion. After several failures as a team, the Subs save the Earth from an invasion by Plant Men while the Legion is off planet fighting a decoy armada of robot spaceships.
At first operating in secrecy, the Legion of Substitute Heroes is gradually recognized as a valuable asset, most notably after the assault on the Citadel of Throon when the regular Legionnaires are all defeated and Polar Boy and Night Girl are left to lead an effective attack and end the siege. Later recruits to the Legion of Substitute Heroes include Antennae Lad, Color Kid, Double-Header, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete, Dream Girl, and Star Boy. The team fell into disuse during the Bronze Age of Comic Books since their simple, young-readers-oriented concept left them out-of-place in the dark, socially relevant stories of the era.
The Legion of Substitute Heroes were first presented as a starring feature in DC Comics Presents #59 (July 1983). Writer/artist Keith Giffen had been asked to do a story featuring the villain Ambush Bug, and decided that the Legion of Substitute Heroes would be appropriate heroes to pit against the villain since they were somewhat "goofy" and obscure enough that he could do what he wanted with them without fear of arousing controversy. Exceptionally good sales on the humor-driven issue led to DC publishing a Legion of Substitute Heroes Special on April Fool's Day, 1985. Again written and drawn by Giffen, the Legion of Substitute Heroes Special became regarded as a seminal work, and Giffen was emboldened to employ the issue's boundary-pushing, often metafictional comedy in his later works.
After a colorful, if not exactly impressive, career, Polar Boy disbanded the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and went on to attain full Legion membership. Many of the remaining members eventually join the Legion as well during the "Five Year Gap". Shortly before the "Five Year Gap", a new Legion of Substitute Heroes is formed, consisting 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" come into their own as an insurgent group that helps the Terran resistance to the Dominators. Here, old Subs Fire Lad, Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, and Porcupine Pete, are joined by new allies such as Ron-Karr and Grinn.
Following the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! reboot, the Subs appear in Legionnaires #43 during Legion tryouts. Infectious Lass, Fire Lad, and Color Kid are on the cover, while Stone Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Night Girl, and Polar Boy all try out.
In the Legion Worlds one-shot focusing on Braal, Cosmic Boy along with Invisible Kid, Leviathan, and Chuck Taine call themselves the "Legion of Subs"; the word 'Subs' is short for "subterfuge".
In the Legion series launched in 2004, Polar Boy and Chlorophyll Kid (renamed Plant Lad) appear as a part of the new Wanderers led by Mekt Ranzz. This version of Polar Boy can only slow molecular movement. Night Girl applies for membership in the Legion but is rejected and made a reserve member (as part of the "Legion Reserve"), along with Sizzle, an energy manipulator, and Turtle, a strong and durable alien.
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 appear in the Tales of the Unexpected limited series and the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes story arc in Action Comics.
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, a tyrannical, alien-hating association formed out of super-powered beings also rejected by the Legion; other Legion members draw a distinction between how the Substitutes had genuine power issues that stopped them from becoming full members while the super-beings who joined the Justice League of Earth were rejected because of their darker psychological issues. After the villainous group is defeated, the Subs claim their satellite base as their own.
At an early point in their timeline, the Substitutes team up with the Inferior Five in a failed attempt to steal the Legion's thunder and destroy a primeval black hole.
In the pages of "The New Golden Age", Legion of Substitute Heroes members Rainbow Girl, Animal Lad, and Stone Boy arrive in the present to ask the help of Doctor Fate after his disastrous attempt to get Salem the Witch Girl into Limbo Town.