All right, next up in the world of interesting and unique Legion extras are some cool extras focusing on the famous Legion Flight Ring. The Legion Flight Ring is one of the most unique and iconic items in the Legion of Super-Heroes franchise. Now, the legendary Legion Flight Ring was not the original manner of transportation for the Legionnaires. To better appreciate the Legion Flight Ring we should take a look at what came before its creation.
When the Legion of Super-Heroes debuted in Adventure Comics #247 in 1958, the Legionnaires used jet packs to fly around. But, of course, they did! It was the late 1950s and nothing symbolized advanced technology than having your own personal jet pack. I like the simple Space Age design of the Legion’s jet packs. It certainly fits the era.
In Adventure Comics #306 in 1963, the Legion’s Flight Belt/Anti-Gravity Belt was unveiled. This new technology allowed the Legionnaires to fly without the bulkiness of a jetpack. The Flight Belt would sometimes be referred to as an Anti-Gravity Belt. Now, the artists during the early 1960s were not consistent in showing the Legionnaires with the Flight Belts on while flying. There are some issues prior to Adventure Comics #306 where Legionnaires are drawn flying around with no jetpack or Flight Belt on them. A lack of consistency is part of the charm for the early Silver Age Legion. It has to be remembered that during the late 1950s and early 1960s the Legionnaires were viewed by DC as just some odd little minor characters that would randomly show up in Superboy’s adventures.
I have never particularly liked the design of the Flight Belts. They lacked the fun mid-century design of the jetpacks. The Flight Belts are a boring yellow and have a generic ribbed belt design. The Flight Belts also clashed with the Legionnaire’s costumes. All in all, the Flight Belts were a stylistic mess.
All right, now we arrive at the moment where the iconic Legion Flight Ring made its first appearance. The Legion Flight Ring was first unveiled by Brainiac 5 in Adventure Comics #329 published in 1965. The original Legion Flight Ring’s design was rather nondescript. It lacked its trademark circular design with the classic Legion “L” log on it. Instead, the original Legion Flight Ring sported a more plain utilitarian design of a simple flat band.
The original Flight RIng was created by Brainiac 5. The original Flight Ring was controlled by the Legionnaire’s minds. All a Legionnaire needs to do is think the command and the Flight Ring will respond accordingly. However, things are changed and tweaked so that by the 1970s the Legion Flight Ring is a device that was created from an anti-gravity metal that was created by Mon-El. Brainiac 5 then used Mon-El’s alloy to create the Legion Flight Ring. We also learned that in addition to being controlled by will-power, the Legion Flight Rings possessed almost unlimited power.
Now what is interesting, is that in the 1970s, the Legionnaires used telepathic plugs in order to communicate with each other while in space. These telepathic plugs also helped the Legionnaires speak with various alien species who speak in foreign languages. At this point in the Legion’s history, the Legion Flight Ring solely served to provide the power of flight to Legionnaires. That would change late in the Legion’s history.
Also, in the 1970s, the Legionnaires all wore trans-suits. The trans-suits were transparent space suits that were form-fitting and took the place of bulky space-suits and helmets. The trans-suits allowed the Legionnaires to fly through space and have the flexibility to fight as if they were not wearing a space-suit. Again, this technology is important to cover because it is another item that eventually gets replaced by the Legion Flight Ring later in the Legion’s history.
We zip forward several decades to Legion of Super-Heroes #41 published in 2008. This issue was during the Threeboot Legion’s run. We got a fantastic three page extra in the back of Legion of Super-Heroes #41 that detailed the creation of the Legion Flight rings and all of the various features and functions of the Flight Rings.
What is interesting to note is that the origin of the Legion Flight ring got slightly retconned. The Legion Flight ring is no longer constructed from a material invented by Mon-El and then built by Brainiac 5. The Threeboot Legion had the Legion Flight Ring made from Nth Metal. Brainiac 5 conducted research on the Nth Metal and used the Nth Metal as the foundation for Brainiac 5’s new alloy: Valorium. This is a nod to the Legion Flight Ring of the 1970s being constructed from an alloy created by Mon-El. Mon-El used the codename “Valor” during his 1992-1994 title that covered his adventures in the 20th century. Another change is that it is Invisible Kid who takes Brainiac 5’s Valorium and creates the Legion Flight Ring.
The Threeboot Legion also gave the Legion Flight Ring numerous power boosts as the Legion Flight Ring becomes the ultimate Swiss Army Knife device for Legionnaires. The Legion Flight Ring gives the Legionnaires the power of flight. We learn that the peak acceleration and velocity of the Legion Flight Ring are theoretically unlimited. Also, the Legion Flight Rings can change direction on a dime.
On the second page, we learn of the additional powers of the Legion Flight Ring. First, the Legion Flight Rings have Eco-Protection. This covers a Legionnaire in a thin protective barrier to protect them from deep space, hostile atmospheres on alien planets, and extreme temperatures. This is an example of the Legion Flight Ring cannibalizing prior Legion equipment in the form of the Trans-Suits that we talked about earlier in this article.
Second, the Legion Flight Ring has navigation powers including general navigation, homing abilities, locater abilities, and collision avoidance.
Third, the Legion Flight Ring has logging abilities. The Legion Flight RIng logs every action, movement, and conversation by the wearer. The Legion Flight Ring also allows Legionnaires to add supplemental information to their Ring’s log either by voice or telepathically.
Third, the Legion Flight Ring also has communication abilities. Communication can be through general comlinks or through secure channels. Communication can also be either with or without holograms. This additional ability cannibalizes another prior Legion equipment in the form of the telepathic plugs that we talked about earlier in this article. Now, what is interesting is that it is not mentioned if the Legion Flight Ring communication abilities include being able to translate foreign languages. One would think so.
On the third and final page, we learn that the Legion Flight Ring can be customized to the unique physical features and abilities of each Legionnaire. What I found the most interesting is how Ultra Boy’s ring is modified to detect which one of his powers he is using and then adjusts the Flight Ring’s flight governors accordingly. This would mean that Ultra Boy, who can only use one superpower at a time, can actually employ both invulnerability and super speed at the same time.
We know that the Legion Flight RIng’s Nth metal origins give it unlimited speed. We know that the speed must be regulated so that the Rings do not hit such a high speed that would liquify a Legionnaire’s body. However, if Ultra Boy switches on his invulnerability then his ring can allow him to fly at a speed equal to his super-speed power. Thus, Ultra Boy is allowed to effectively use his invulnerability and super-speed powers at the same time.
I love the ending to this three page Legion Flight Ring extra. It is hinted that Brainiac 5 has given the Legion Flight Rings hidden features. This is a playful ending that certainly is in line with Brainiac 5’s personality. Especially the Threeboot Brainiac 5.
All right, that is about all I have on the Legion Flight Rings. These extras are just fantastic. We need to see more of this in the new Fourboot Legion of Super-Heroes issues. As always, let me know in the comments if I have missed any other cool extras centering on the Legion Flight Rings and its abilities!