Exclusive: interview with “Legion Lost” writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning!

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Cover to "Legion Lost" HC

Cover to "Legion Lost" HC

On Wednesday 15th, DC Comics finally put out a reprint very long overdue. After about 10 years from his original publication as a serialized 12-issue miniseries, LEGION LOST is once more back on the shelves, this time in a sparkling hardcover edition.
The story stars the post-ZERO HOUR incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes, now retconned as an alternate version of the team currently starring in the DC Universe. The decision to set aside that iteration of the futurologist equipe seemed to doom the possibility of further reprints of their stories, which were mostly very enjoyable at least. Still, maybe because of the new LEGION LOST book that’s coming out from september, – no relation with the one we’re talking about here besides the title, though – DC decided to bless old and new readers alike by making the original LEGION LOST available again.
To celebrate the event, Legione dei Super-Eroi Blog asked Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the duo of writers behind that wonderful epic, for an interview, and they gently replied to our questions the exhaustive way you can read below. I’d like to thank them once more for their time and their kindness.
Here we go, then!

Legion Blog: After a bit more than a decade, DC is finally reprinting LEGION LOST, the miniseries you wrote in 2000-01 with art by Olivier Coipel and Pascal Alixe.
Still, during this last decade the Legion of Super-Heroes has undergone many dramatic changes, and its current incarnation is different in many ways than the one you worked on at the time.
How would you introduce a new reader to LEGION LOST?

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning: LEGION LOST was a dramatic departure in tone and style at the time it came out; radically different to the incarnation of the team that had come before.
Though we carried on in the same continuity, (it is not a reboot), we took the series in a bold new direction; focusing on a small core of members and following them as they are marooned in a strange remote galaxy, light centuries from home and detailing their attempts to make it back home whilst exploring their bizarre new surroundings and interacting with its inhabitants, many of whom are very dangerous. It’s a 12 issue story that takes the team to the very edges of their limits, physically, mentally and emotionally.
It also sports some of Olivier Coipel’s earliest work for the US market. During the course of the series you can watch as his style develops and evolves, almost issue by issue, from a gifted and talented newcomer into one of the great comic artists working today.

Before your run started, I’d say the post-ZERO HOUR Legion was mostly aimed at a young audience; I feel your stories were way more dramatic, instead, and they also embraced complex subjects such as politics.
I even remember an online controversy at the time about the legionnaires being too much “sexualized” in your stories – which, by the way, is kind of odd if you think at how the same characters were depicted, say, in the ’70s, but it’s significant of how many fans of the so-called “Archie Legion” saw “their” team.
So, I’d dare to say you ferried the rebooted Legion of Super-Heroes from being, let’s say, an all-ages read, to appeal to a slightly older audience. Was it a “side effect” of refreshing the book for the contemporary audience, or was the target change deliberate by you and the editorial?

Page from "Legion Lost" (vol.I) #1, art by Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning

Page from "Legion Lost" (vol.I) #1, art by Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning

DnA: We were given a great deal of latitude by the DC Editorial. Both Mike Carlin, who was the Editor in Chief at that time and our series editor, Mike McAvennie, encouraged us to “think outside the box” and take things as far as we could. They wanted to give the book a new lease of life and without discounting what had come before, try to bring on-board new readers as the sales had been in decline for a while.

As for our version being considered more mature in tone, that was really a side effect as you said. We just wanted to tell new and exciting stories that would hopefully have wide appeal and bring new readers on-board.
We were both huge fans of Kieth Giffen’s famous, yet controversial, “5 Year Later” run on the book in the 80s. These stories were far from “all age” and had a very grim and complex narrative which certainly appealed to the older audience too. We were drawn to his sci-fi sensibilities and wanted to inject a good amount of current sci-fi traits and qualities into our story as well as developing some more political themes that reflected the current world climate at the time.

What’s your opinion about the current comic book audience getting, in general, older and older?

DnA: We’re both sad and happy about the current audience getting older.
Sad, as it is a shame not to have a new generation of comic readers coming along, mainly because the younger readers have so many other diversions at their fingertips and vying for their money.
But we’re happy in as much as the older comic audience is more receptive to a more sophisticated range of storytelling. The wide diversity of comic titles, subject matter and artistic styles is a direct result of the audience being more ‘comic literate’. It does make them more demanding however, which means you have to up your game all the time.
Hopefully, the development of digital comics and all the great comic movies out there at the moment will have some positive effect on the comic market, though, so far it’s yet to show.

One side of your Legion work which especially caught on me was the very distinct voice the more “alien” characters and places of the Legionverse had. I’m especially thinking at Shikari – who first appeared in LEGION LOST – but also at Robotica and Titan. And, in a way, at the way you hinted at the broad-minded sexuality of Brainiac 5.
Was it something which came out of the stories naturally, or you gave it a special thought because of the peculiar nature of the Legion as a multicultural team?

DnA: We remember having many long discussions about the multi-planetary nature of the Legion and we were once again influenced by Giffen’s “5 Year Later” stories, in which he ran a text piece at the back of each issue which gave extra information abut the world of the Legion.
We tried to make each Legionnaire distinctive because they were from different planets, this involved their speech patterns as well as their alien cultural influences. We took the idea even further in LEGION WORLDS, a mini-series that followed LEGION LOST and detailed the other members of the team left back in our universe who had split and returned to their home worlds. Each issue focused on a different team member and planet from the established Legion universe.

Page from "Legion Lost" (vol.I) #1, art by Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning

Page from "Legion Lost" (vol.I) #1, art by Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning

And what’s the “alien voice” you forged you’re more proud of, and why?

DnA: We’re most happy with Shikari, as we created her and had a lot of fun making her quirky yet likable, but we also have a great affection for Brainy, he’s a joint favourite of ours.

Even though during your career you’ve played with many genres, – from the action movie-like of THE PUNISHER: PSYCHOVILLE in 1993, which was actually the book thanks to which I came to know your work, to your current gig on NEW MUTANTS – both inside and outside the comicdom, I guess you’re most easily associated with your critically acclaimed long sci-fi sagas, such as ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST and its sequels, and of course THE LEGION.
Do you feel a special bond with the sci-fi genre?

DnA: We’ve been very lucky to work in most genres but keep coming back to the more ‘sci-fi’ superhero stuff.
We both grew up on a steady diet of sci-fi over here in the UK; from Dr Who and Star Trek on the TV, to 2000AD and Starlord in comics, we were both huge fans of sci-fi and avid sci-fi novel readers.
We share a love of many greats, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Frank Herbert, Zelazny, William Gibson, the list really does go on forever, so it’s no wonder sci-fi plays such a big part in our own writing.

Casting our minds back to when we were writing the Legion, sometime late 1999, early 2000, we were probably influenced by the current crop of writers at work around that time, as well as TV, films and of course, current comics of the time.
Films like Star Trek: First Contact, The Matrix and Phantom Menace, books by authors like Iain M. Banks, Dan Simmons and new authors like Alistair Reynolds and Charles Stross all had an influence on our writing at the time.

What’s the aspect of sci-fi that you prefer, and how did you blend it into your Legion work, if so?

DnA: Most of [these authors] share our favourite sci-fi aspect; the chance to world-build on a galactic scale and tell multi-layered stories with a large cast on a truly cosmic scale. Writing the Legion offered us our first opportunity to work on this sort of scale with a large cast; though we started small to give new readers a chance to get to know some of the characters before we really opened things up and increased the membership.

With Andy also being the inker on most of your Legion stories, you were in the position, unique for most writers, of having your vision have an influence also on the art side.
Andy, did the ideas you had as a writer about the story’s mood influence your inking style (“Legion of the Damned” for example, which had very dramatic tones, had many pages with a prominence of blacks)?
Did your position invite you to engage a closer relationship with the pencilers you worked with to create the visually complex world of the Legion?

Page from "DCU Holiday Special 2010", art by Chris Batista and Rich Perrotta

Page from "DCU Holiday Special 2010", art by Chris Batista and Rich Perrotta

Andy Lanning: I worked very closely with Olivier on the series as he had only been working for DC a short while (his first published US work was on “Legion of the Damned”, which I also inked) and he actually came to stay with me for a while when the deadlines were beginning to catch him up.
We were able to really collaborate of the stories and I was in the privileged position to watch him develop as an artist. His art style, and therefore my inking approach, changed over the course of the story from a quite dense, shadowy stylistic approach into the cleaner, precise, more ‘traditional’ look that distinguishes his work today.

Recently you came about to write another Legion story, albeit a short one, for DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2010, featuring the current incarnation of the team.
How was it to come back to the 31st century?

DnA: Mike Carlin (yes, him again!) was kind enough to offer us the chance to write the Holiday Legion story when he learned we had finished our exclusive contract with Marvel. We jumped at the chance, especially as we got to work with one of our favourite Legion artists, Chris Batista.

Did you feel the “classic” legionnaires are somehow different than the reboot ones you used to write about?

DnA: Of course, working with the “classic” Legion was fun, but actually left us with a hankering to write some more of “our” Legion, maybe one day, you never know…

Right now the Legion’s is not that big a seller, but let a fan dream: if DC ever decided to put out a spin-off project about the post-ZERO HOUR Legion, now well-known as the New Wanderers (sic), would you like to get on and write it?

DnA: That would be a very tempting offer indeed!

People, come back tomorrow to read another fascinating LEGION LOST related interview!

Buy NOW the Legion Lost HC at BookDepository.com

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