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When the series opens, the 31st-century Legion is hopelessly outclassed by the famed Fatal Five. They resolve to recruit the near-mythical Superman from the past, but for undisclosed reasons, Brainiac 5 brings them to Smallville, not Metropolis. There they invite 18-year-old Clark Kent to help them in The Future, promising that with Time Travel, he can return the minute he left.
At Brainy's insistence, everyone studiously avoids telling Clark who he's supposed to become in the future. Regardless, Clark finds the Superman Museum, connects the dots, and takes the costume from the display case, and the name of Superman, for his own. Together they defeat the Five, and then Adventures Happen.
The show had a very Silver Age tone to it, but the most noticeable and controversial change from the source material was turning team genius Brainiac 5 from a Human Alien into an android. Word of God is that this was supposed to tie him more closely to his ancestor the original Brainiac, as well as avoiding having to explain how an an organic can be the 'descendant' of a robot, clearing away a fifty-year-old example of Writing Around Trademarks.
Season two saw everyone age about two years, even Brainy, and the show went Darker and Edgier after the very light and bouncy first season. The premiere visited a Bad Future where Superman's clone was bred to fight Galactic Conqueror Imperiex, who when cornered escapes back to the 31st century and proceeds to wreak havoc as the season's Big Bad.
The character sheet can be found here.
Legion of Super-Heroes provides examples of:
- Acrofatic: Bouncing Boy.
- Actor Allusion: Dave Wittenberg's character, Ferro Lad, at one point tells Lightning Lad that he doesn't want to see what's under his mask.
- Ambiguously Gay
- Color Kid, appropriately enough. His rainbow Chest Insignia was even changed into a fabulous rainbow triangle for the series, just in case you weren't paying attention.
- Not to mention Brainy and his obsession with Superman... which, thanks to the opening of season 2's first episode may be a whoooole lot less ambiguous.
- Amnesiac Dissonance: Ron-Karr
- And I Must Scream: One interpretation of Ayla Ranzz before "Chained Lightning".
- Anti-Hero Substitute: Superman X
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Brainiac 5 refuses to believe in magic.
- The Atoner: Dream Girl in her Backstory. Lightning Lad doesn't buy it.
- Bald of Evil: Rich Bitch Alexis loses her hair shortly after going off the deep end for Superman, and blames *him* for it, just like her presumed Silver Age ancestor--naturally her prison uniform reads, in Interlac, "LUTHOR." Unlike her ancestor, her hair grows back, though is now much shorter.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Justified, like the comics versions they probably use invisible "transuits" -- In space, everyone can see all of you.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: With a Fusion Dance, even.
- Betrayal Insurance: It's Brainiac 5, otherwise portrayed as Superman's very loyal Robot Buddy, who keeps Kryptonite for emergencies.
- Big Bad: Imperiex in Season 2.
- Big Eater: Bouncing Boy eats every bit of food he can reach because the fat guy always eats everything in sight. (In the comics, he's fat only as a side-effect of his powers, and doesn't have any more of an appetite than any other person.)
- Book Ends: For both seasons; moreso in the second.
- Brought Down to Normal: Superman in "Brain Drain". He finds a way to compensate.
- Cain and Abel: Lightning Lad and
- Calling Your Attacks
- Canon Foreigner: Superman X; several homage characters like Alexis, Zyx, and Drax; and Breath Boy, with the power to hold his breath.
- Captain Obvious: Saturn Girl can give Deanna "I sense he's hiding something!" Troi a run for her money.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Drax.
Superman: Why are you doing this?
- Catapult Nightmare: Showcasing that Lightning Lad is surprisingly buff this season.
- Chekhov's Skill: Superman X's Kryptonite immunity. It was mentioned only once, when introducing himself and how his Lego Genetics make him stronger, however, it never saw any use in the series proper until the finale, where it saves the Original Superman's life.
- Chess Motifs
- Civvie Spandex: A bizarre variation. The costumes the superheroes themselves wear are perfectly in keeping with superhero tradition, but the dress of the non-super characters and background characters suggest that this trope may somewhat be the case.
- Clear My Name: "Cry Wolf" for Timberwolf.
- Combining Mecha: Hoo boy. In the season two finale: the towering fusion of every Coluan ever, with Brainiac's Skull Ship as the head.
- Composite Character: In "Phantoms," Drax is based on a hodgepodge of Phantom Zone criminals, is implied to be the son of General Zod and Faora/Ursa, and has many design elements of the non-Kryptonian Zod from Superman: Birthright.
- Continuity Cameo
- Wait, is that Booster Gold cleaning that museum? With Skeets taking tickets at the door?
- ... Did Alexis just steal Lobo's bike?
- "Jo Nah of Rimbor"?
- And all the voiceless group-shot cameos by Legion members (e.g. Element Lad) and numerous Hopeless Auditionees (Night Girl, Double Header).
- Can you spot how many Green Lantern Corps species are background characters?
- Among the items a bored Zyx conjures up in the background while Superboy-man is expositioning is a Green Lantern power battery.
- Conqueror From the Future: Imperiex
- Convenient Coma: Saturn Girl's in a 'healing trance' for most of season 2, while Matter-Eater Lad is similarly indisposed.
- Cowboy Episode: "Unnatural Alliances"
- Custom Uniform: Most of the characters' uniforms follow the pattern of a three-part division with a center band of contrast running down the middle, and all of them have the Legion emblem somewhere on their waist.
- Darker and Edgier: The second season.
- Dark Horse Victory: Possibly the quickest example ever. The new-leader-election is proposed and concluded in about 30 seconds.
- A Day in the Limelight: "The Substitutes". Then Arm-Fall-Off Boy gets an entire spinoff comic issue.
- Dead Little Sister: Quite literally: Lightning Lad and Mekt's sister Ayla. One became The Lancer, the other became the Aloof Big Brother White-Haired Pretty Boy on the path to villainy. Then Ayla turned up Not Quite Dead, which brought up all sorts of mutual guilt issues.
- Deadpan Snarker: Phantom Girl
- Die Hard on an X: In the spinoff comics, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad fight off the Fatal Five and their Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- Disney Death
- Detached Sleeves: Triplicate Girl has these in season 2.
- Do-Anything Robot: Brainiac 5
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Sun-Eaters are nothing like stockpiled atom bombs, no sir.
- The Dragon: Validus, to Imperiex.
- Early-Bird Cameo
- Matter-Eater Lad as Kem the Bismollian contestant in the Space Olympics.
- The Legion HQ's computer system is called "COMPUTO".
- A wizard on the Zarok council is obviously intended to resemble Mordru. But when there is a Mordru episode, it's a different guy...
- Emotion Eater: Quavermass-12
- Enemy Within: Brainiac 1.0
- Enforced Plug: Parodied.
- Evil Brit: Drax. Appropriate, if it's true that he is General Zod's son.
- Evil Counterpart: Drax, to Superman.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Dr. Londo, Timber Wolf's father. He's the reason why his son looks the way he is and it's strongly implied that he wasn't the only victim of his genetic experiments.
- Executive Meddling
- Ferris Wheel of Doom
- Fiction 500
- Alexis has her own planet.
- Of course, RJ Brande probably counts as well.
- Find the Cure: "Brain Drain"
- Five-Bad Band: The Fatal Five, obviously, with Emerald Empress probably a mix of both Big Bad and Dark Chick.
- Five-Man Band: Most common group in the first season:
- Flashback Nightmare: The trip to Korbal--for Lightning Lad and Mekt.
- Foreshadowing: Superman X's cryptic message to Brainiac 5 at the season 2 premiere. This will be followed by Brainiac's last words from the end of "Who Am I?": "But that would mean the potential for evil is also within...all of us." Of course, finally there's "Message in a Bottle".
- Fun with Acronyms: although it doesn't spell out a word, and it's more like a Mythology Gag: the so-called "Heroes for Hire" Light Speed Vanguard, which will later be known as the Legion of Super Villains.
- Fusion Dance: In the second Season Finale.
- Future Imperfect: A lot of details were apparently lost in "the great Crisis". Meaning, among other things, no one remembers the Phantom Zone's name or that it even exists.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Lightning Lad's undereye mark.
- Great Gazoo: Zyx, a Spoiled Brat Mxyzptlk homage.
- Grievous Harm with a Body
- Heel Face Turn: Although they weren't seen after their "turns", Lightning Lord and Ron-Karr.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Ferro Lad in the 1st season finale, as a nod to the comics.
- He Is All Grown Up: Clark in season two. "Wow."
- How Do I Shot Web?: Superman in the first episode.
- If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Lightning Lad comes this close to fatally violating Wouldn't Hit a Girl...
- In the Back: Brainiac does this to Imperiex in the Season 2 finale.
- The Jeeves: Alexis' robot Battle Butler, awesomely named Wodehouse.
- Jennifer Hale: voiced Ma Kent and Emerald Empress in Season 1.
- Jerk Jock: Mekt Ranzz, at first.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lightning Lad. In season 2, Superman X falls in and out of this every episode.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
- The Light Speed Vanguard, who at first seem Cooler And More Effective Heroes, then Kinda Selfish Mercenary Heroes, then Ruthless Protection Racket.
- Alexis quickly goes from a brilliant but lonely Spoiled Brat with a wild streak to obsessing over her only friend to attempting to kill him for not wanting to be with her....and causing her hair to fall out. Realize who she's a Distaff Counterpart to yet?
- Forget Distaff Counterpart, try "descendant".
- Kari Wahlgren: voiced Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl and Shrinking Violet.
- Kid Appeal Character: As a contrast with the other, much darker elements that accompanied the new season, a young Chameleon Boy joins the Legion in the Time Skip.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The reason every adaptation brings Saturn Girl to Smallville. But by season two, in a creepy Shoot the Dog moment to protect the timestream, Brainiac 5 uses a memory-flasher on Superman. Which, in light of the rest of the episode and combined with the self-satisfied look in his eyes is another nail in the Foreshadowing coffin that the more ruthless Brainiac 1.0 had infected his mind and would turn up later.
- Laser Guided Tykebomb: Superman X, a heroic version raised only to defeat Imperiex.
- Layman's Terms: "Think of it like sunscreen... but with laser cannons."
- Legacy Character: Brainiac 5
- Lego Genetics: with Kryptonite, no less!
- Little Miss Snarker: Phantom Girl
- Lonely Rich Kid: Alexis. Whom Superman befriends. And she loses her hair. Does She Remind You Of Anyone? The episode she's in is called "Legacy", for added unsubtlety.
- Losing Your Head: Brainiac 5
- Magic Skirt: Triplicate Girl
- Master of Illusion: Saturn Girl
- Mecha-Mooks: Imperiex's army, which he somehow still has after arriving in the past, are unfortunately named "Destructo-bots" at one point. Before that, Brainiac 5 all but served as a renewable Red Shirt, since robot injuries get a free pass from the Media Watchdog, especially one who can self-repair.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: In this version, Brainiac 5's species (Coluans) is a cold Hive Mind of androids.
- Memory Gambit: "Who Am I?"
- Merchandise-Driven: Probably why the Legion ship got unceremoniously blown to smithereens in the second season premiere, only for a replacement to arrive within seconds.
- Messianic Archetype
- Mini-Mecha: Alexis built her own mecha-suit.
- Morality Pet: for Mekt Ranzz in "Chained Lightning". Many years ago, Dead Little Sister. Then, Not Quite Dead (which puts Even Evil Has Loved Ones back into play), followed by Unexplained Recovery. As he directly contributes to Ayla's restoration, he surrenders to prison without a fight.
- Mythology Gag: Waaay too many to list.
- Never My Fault: Alexis.
- Never Say "Die": Even when they managed to get a Heroic Sacrifice onto kids' TV, they still couldn't call it death.
- No Matter How Much I Beg: Brainiac 5
- Noodle Incident: Alexis' experiment. "The top ten floors look as good as new, don't they?"
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The hat for Zarok, the sorcerers' world.
- Oh Crap: Imperiex in "Message in a Bottle" when he realizes that he's now squaring off against hundreds of aliens that have the powers of Superman.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Superman X for Imperiex.
- Only the Worthy May Pass: "Trials"
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Timber Wolf, natch.
- Out of Order
- Peek-a-Bangs: Triplicate Girl
- Pet the Dog: "Unnatural Alliances" for both Superman X and Imperiex. Although, the latter had no choice, seeing as his existence actually depended on it. Followed by a Kick the Dog immediately afterwards.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: Brainiac 5
- Power Glows: Lightning Lad's eye scar lights up when he powers up.
- Power Nullifier: Powers of this series' version of Nemesis Kid.
- Preemptive Apology: Brainiac 5 wipes Superman's memory because he had learnt too much about his future.
- Prophecy Twist: "In Your Dreams"
- Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Saturn Girl in the season 1 opening credits.
- Purple Eyes: Brainiac 5
- The Quiet One: Stone Boy. Talk about Personality Powers...
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Subs.
- Recursive Adaptation
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Most notably seen in their Fusion Dance during the Season 2 finale, Superman (blue) and his clone Superman X (red).
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised
- Robot Names: Superman X's bi-parental unit, K3NT (Which tends to make a Late to The Punchline moment once you write it down like that).
- Secret Keeper: Brainy, about Superman's weaknesses, and the fact that he keeps a chunk of Kryptonite in his safe.
- Sequel Hook: Season 2 ends with a new Brainiac born from Brainiac 5's "husk".
Brainiac 6: Evil does not die. It evolves.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Losing one-third of yourself to anti-matter bubbles = This Season Is Serious.
- Shoot the Dog: What Super
boyman thinks he's doing in "Fear Factory". Fortunately Brainiac 5 always carries a spare copy.
- Sorry I Left the BGM On: The season two opening scene.
- Spiritual Successor: To Teen Titans, at the least Demographics-wise. Still a team of super-teenagers, still The DCU, and it started the same year Titans ended.
- Spock Speak: Brainiac 5, who also keeps name-dropping his twelfth-level intelligence. Toned down a lot for season 2.
- Spoiled Sweet: Phantom Girl
- Stable Time Loop: Superman only becomes Superman because he finds out he's going to be Superman, and learns heroism from a team that was inspired by his own future heroism, so...
- Staking the Loved One
- Strange Bedfellows: The first Season Finale "Sundown" and the second season's "Unnatural Alliances"
- Super Zeroes: As always, the Legion of Substitute Heroes, who, also as always, prove to be much more heroic and capable than you'd think.
- Tailor-Made Prison: Mordru at the end of "Trials".
- Talkative Loon
- Tara Strong: As Alexis, as well as Emerald Empress in Season 2.
- Telescoping Robot: Brainiac 5
- This Is Gonna Suck: Brainiac 5 is the master of Understatement.
- This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman: "Karate Kid"
- Time Skip: Season 2 takes place two years after the end of season 1.
- Token Minority Couple: Fangirls who were not that familiar with the comic tended to ship Dream Girl and Cosmic Boy together in fan fiction because they didn't see any other options.
- Took a Level In Badass: Season 2: the intro theme, and the main characters' appearances (possibly justified by them aging along with the audience). Lightning Lad now has a soul patch, for example.
- Transformation Trauma: "Trials"
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee
- Unwinnable Training Simulation: Twice.
- Villain Team-Up: The brief alliance between the Fatal Four and the Legion of Supervillains in part 2 of the second season premiere.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist:
Brainiac 5: Do not worry. Soon this agony shall pass, as it will pass from this entire universe. Once my work is complete, there will be no more pain, no more chaos. Only a perfect order imposed by me.
- Wham! Episode: Dark Victory. Brainiac 5 ends up being controlled by Brainiac 1.0, Superman is defeated and apparently killed, and Imperiax Killed Off for Real.
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: The crown of Kryptonite.
- What the Hell, Hero?: at least twice, between Brainiac and Superman, with the latter calling Brainy out for hiding both Supes's weakness to a red sun in "Brain Drain" and the original Brainiac's involvement in the shrinking of Kandor in "Message in a Bottle". And also when Brainiac suggested risking the Kandorians lives with Imperiex.
- With the former, Brainiac 5 told Superman he apparently failed to un-shrink Kandor.
- White-Haired Pretty Girl: Triplicate Girl, one-third of the time -- white with colored streaks, in her combined form (it changed in season 2)
- Whole-Episode Flashback: "In the Beginning"
- With a Capital T: "Unnatural Alliances"
Duo Damsel: Terra-Man, word is you've been terrorizing this entire prairie in search of someone.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Lot of X's in the names.
- Yandere: Alexis Luthor. She had no friends until Superman... and she REALLY wanted to keep him.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: With the reversal that the boss has outlived the minion's purposes...
- Your Worst Nightmare: "Fear Factory," with endless Horror movie homages.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Triplicate Girl, at a ratio somewhere around 10:1:12, no less.