If you ask any X-Men fan what spin-off TV series they'd like to see, you'll get titles like X-Factor, Excalibur, or even Exiles. I'm pretty sure that one of the last names you'd hear would be 'Legion' - and yet, that's the character who's coming to Fox TV! Since Legion was first announced, fans have speculated about which comic book plots would impact the show. Finally, it looks like we're finding out...
Who is Legion, and Which Comics Could Affect the Show?
In the comics, Legion is David Haller: the son of Professor X, a mutant with almost unlimited potential. Legion is what the comics call an 'Omega Level' mutant: a term that's never been strictly defined, but seems to indicate an almost unlimited potential. For Legion, his mutant powers are tied to his psychological problems. He suffers from multiple personality disorder, but — in a comic book twist — every personality has access to a different powerset. One personality might be able to spit acid, another might be able to restructure reality at a whim!
Complicating matters still further, Legion's personalities aren't exactly prosaic. They range from prostitutes to cowboys to bloodthirsty murderers! Since Legion's introduction back in 1985, the majority of Legion's arcs have revolved around his troubled relationship with his father. He unwittingly kicked off the "Age of Apocalypse" when he travelled back in time to kill Magneto before the schism between Xavier and Magneto ever happened; he figured doing so would earn his father's love. Unfortunately, he unwittingly killed his father instead!
It's improbable that this fraught father-son relationship will appear in the Legion TV series. Although the show is based in the X-Men universe, it's unlikely to feature more than a nod to James McAvoy's Professor X. It's pretty safe to assume that Legion's relationship with Xavier will be abandoned.
Two plots from a more recent time seem to have inspired the series. When Legion was reintroduced in the pages of New Mutants, we learned that he'd developed the ability to actually absorb people into his psyche. This may explain rumors of mysterious disappearances that cause a police investigation in the show. Meanwhile, Simon Spurrier's classic X-Men: Legacy gave us a phenomenal portrayal of the troubled mutant, playing his personalities off against one another, and transforming him into an unexpected fan-favorite. Most fans are hoping the show will be inspired by the style and tone of Spurrier's off-beat book; although the book's plot revolves around the wider X-Men universe too much for the show to replicate it closely.
How Strong Will these Influences Be?
Showrunner Noah Hawley, of Fargo fame, is seriously excited about Legion. He told IGN:
"So my approach to the Legion material is similar, which is it’s about a respect for the world, but it’s not about telling stories in that world that the reader is familiar with. It’s about taking that character and really exploring, almost on an existential level, what it’s like…"
In other words, fans shouldn't expect to see any comic book arc reproduced on the small screen. Instead, Hawley is mining the concepts, the theme and the style from the comics, and then telling his own story. He's interested in exploring Legion's experiences, and that SDCC trailer teased just how fantastical a portrayal he's aiming for. Hawley went on:
"If you have a character who for his whole life has believed that he’s schizophrenic, and is now starting to think that he may have these powers, but he doesn’t know and he doesn’t know what’s real – well, that’s the experience the audience should have. To be put into his world is to enter something that’s by definition surreal, because he’s hearing things, he’s seeing things… Are these things real or not real? What can you trust that you’re seeing?"
Aspects of this do seem to be loosely inspired by Spurrier's iconic take on the character, but it seems that Hawley is willing to go further than ever before. He wants to leave the viewers as confused and uncertain as Legion himself - and, personally, I think that's a great idea. It means we're in for a TV show unlike any other, where we truly explore a very surreal world of superhumans with psychological illnesses. It means we're in for a unique experience, and I couldn't be more excited.
- Noah Hawley Talks the X-Men TV Series 'Legion'!
- Exploring the Mysteries of 'Legion'!
- Fox's 'Legion' Will Coexist with the X-Men Films! What Does this Mean for the Franchise..?
Comic book fans take note, though. It's very clear that this isn't the Legion we grew up with; he's been reinvented for the small screen. Personally, I think that's a smart idea, because those of us who grew up with the comics will have the same immersive-yet-confusing experience as new viewers. This is one series I'm really looking forward to.
Are you excited for Legion? Let me know in the comments!