I’ve always been one of Supergirl’s biggest supporters, I’m kind of a mark that way. From the word go, I’ve been all in on this series. Even through the rough patches that were most of seasons two and three, I found things to be optimistic about and things to love about the show. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be critical however, and one of the things I’ve been most critical of is how Supergirl has failed the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Mon-El from Hell
It started with the introduction of Mon-El in the Season 2 premiere of Supergirl, “The Adventures of Supergirl.” Played by Chris Wood, the show’s version of Mon-El is far from the heroic Lar Gand that Legion fans know and love. You see, in the comics, Mon-El got that name from Superboy, not from his parents. Born Lar Gand, he was a Daxamite who landed on Earth during Superman’s childhood. He was amnesiac from his crash, and Superboy thought that since they shared power sets, this must be his older brother. Because they met on a Monday (no joke, Silver Age everyone) he was christened Mon-El. Because Daxamites are vulnerable to lead the same way Kryptonians are vulnerable to Kryptonite, and lead is everywhere on Earth, Mon-El quickly grew deathly ill, and to save him, Superboy put the Daxamite into the Phantom Zone until he could find a cure for the lead poisoning.
Spoiler, Superboy never bothered to find that cure, and Mon-El hung out in the Phantom Zone for 1000 years, until he was rescued by Brainiac 5 and the Legion. He went on to become one of the Legion’s core members, serving multiple terms as leader. He’s always been outgoing and lovable, someone you could easily think of as being related to Superman. The show’s version of Mon-El however, is about as far from that as you can get.
The show has portrayed Mon-El as misogynistic, racist, and borderline abusive. The show’s version of Daxam is portrayed as a cruel population of slavers under the tyrannical rule of the planet’s royal family. Of course, Mon-El is the royal prince of Daxam and shown to be a womanizer and misogynist. After he arrives on Earth, he develops a relationship with Kara, one in which he continually lies to her and gaslights her. By the time he leaves Earth at the end of the season, I was happier than I’d been through most of that season.
He married WHO?!
Alas, he wasn’t gone long. He came back early in season 3, returning from a wormhole to the future. This time, he came with friends: Querl Dox (Jesse Rath) and Imra Ardeen (Amy Jackson), better known as Brainiac 5 and Saturn Girl respectively. It wasn’t long before it was revealed that in the far future he’d married Imra. The marriage was one of political importance rather than love, and is the second time Supergirl has failed the Legion. In marrying Imra and Mon-El, the show threw one of the most beloved Legion relationships to the wayside. In all three of the previous comic continuities (it’s too soon to know if this hold’s true in Bendis’s current run), Garth Ranzz (Lightning Lad) and Imra were one of the primary couples. As Mon-El’s relationship ended with Imra on the show, they may make up for this, but I have my doubts.
Brainiac 5 has got the blues
That brings us to the second member of the Legion that Mon-El brought back with him, and the one that we’ve seen the most of aside from him. Because of that, he’s also the most prominent example of how Supergirl has failed the Legion. Brainiac 5 has been a main cast member for the last two years, and has for the most part been a fantastic addition to the cast. Rath is very much a fan of the character, and has done the very best he can with the material he’s been given. The problem with Brainy is one that comes up often with super intelligent characters, and that is that it is really not easy to write someone who has to be smarter than everyone in the room. Despite this being Dox’s literal superpower, there have been multiple occasions over the last few seasons where he’s been outsmarted by both Winn Schott and Lena Luthor. This does a disservice to Brainy, as usually he’s his own worst enemy in the comics. In the show, he’s been smart, but not smart enough.
When he was introduced, he also didn’t look a lot like the Brainy we know and love from the comics. He showed up with teal skin that was closer to blue than green, and white hair that was one of the worst wigs in the Arrowverse. Luckily he uses an image inducer most of the time, so he just looks like Jesse Rath. Both his substandard brain power and his coloration were lampshaded, explained, and finally corrected in the season five mid-season premiere “The Bottle Episode”. He meets several other versions of himself (or herself in one example), all of whom are shown to be smarter than him, even though they claim he should be the smartest of all of them because he’s from Prime Earth. It turns out that it was his inhibitors all along that kept him dulled both mentally and physically. Once they were removed, he looked exactly like Legion fans expected all along. Only time will tell if this makes a difference in the long run, but hey, like I said, I’m always optimistic.
He married WHO?! (Reprise) – This time with added straight washing!
Speaking of our boy Winn, it wasn’t bad enough for him to be smarter than Brainiac 5, and to create the invention Brainy is most famous for (the forcefield belt), but in season five episode “Back from the Future – Part One” its revealed that while he’s been in the future in Brainiac 5’s place, he’s gotten married. Now in most cases, I wouldn’t be upset about pairing him off with one of the countless previously unseen lady Legionnaires. There are only two that I’d say are completely off limits. While I’d have a bit of a problem with breaking up any of the standard relationships (see above with Imra), those aren’t deal breakers that would irritate me enough to write this whole essay. No, only two Legionnaires could do that, and of course the show had to pick one of them. Winn isn’t just married to any old Legionnaire, he’s married to Ayla Rannz. First the show takes away her brother’s canonical love interest, and then it does the same to her. You see, Ayla is one of the very few comic characters to be portrayed on page in a queer relationship. What was subtext in the 1980’s became text in the 2010’s when it was made official that Ayla and Salu Digby were in a relationship. Now Ayla could be argued to be canonically bi or pan, since she’s also been portrayed in relationships with men during her time in the Legion, but her most important relationship is without a doubt the one that she shared with Salu. It’s very rare for us to get representation like this on the page, and even more so for it to be two super-heroines. For the show to throw that representation out the window does a disservice to the fanbase it’s built. The show has been fantastic with representation having lesbian Alex Danvers and a transgender superhero in Nia Nal. That it would be this careless with a relationship that is comic canon stings.
He has a KID?! (But just one?)
On top of straight washing the relationship, it also lazily ignores another big part of Legion continuity. You see, Ayla and Garth Rannz (better known as Lightning Lass and Lightning Lad respectively) are from the planet Winath. Winath is known for one thing primarily, and that is that rather than a rarity, it is the norm to have twins when you give birth. In fact, single births are so rare, that they are shunned by society and seen as poor omens. Twins remain the norm, even for Winathians who marry people from other worlds. In the comics Imra and Garth have twins. So it’s a bit weird that that bit of continuity would be forgotten when it’s mentioned that Winn and Ayla have just a single daughter. If you’re going to abandon one of the few textually queer relationships just to name drop a Legionnaire, you can at least get the details right.
So while I’ve enjoyed Supergirl for four and a half years now, I’m very disappointed with how the show has failed the Legion. I’ll always love the show for the representation it’s brought me, and the wonderful memorable moments I’ve shared with the cast at cons, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be better. I criticize because I love, and because I want to love more.