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Collecting the Legion 016: The Sourcebooks of All Knowledge

Back when Mayfair had the license to make role-playing games (RPGs) featuring DC characters and situations, in 1986-87 they issued two volumes for the Legion (books 213 and 216). Volume 1 covered the people, while Volume 2 covered the places. In 1992, Volume 3 came out (book 263) covering the changes post-Five Year Gap.

Book 1 of the "Complete Source Book on the Legion of Super-Heroes" (as it says on the cover) was written by then-Legion writer Paul Levitz and game designer Steve Crow, and featured new cover art by Ed Hannigan (layouts), Jose Delbo (pencils), and Larry Mahlstedt. Interior art is credited to "DC Staff" but borrows heavily from the first "Who's Who in the DC Universe" series. No artist is specifically named but it's mostly LaRocque/Mahlstedt with some Giffen and Lightle. The book is presented in an "Encyclopedia Galactica" format. First up is a history of the Legion: 30 years of stories (our time) making up 14 years of Legion-time (based on the Legion leader's tenure of one calendar year). Each of the 37 people to have been Legionnaires (up through Polar Boy, Quislet, Tellus, and Magnetic Kid) gets a full page to him/herself, with a picture and RPG stats for their powers. A couple of pages on LSH equipment follows (flight ring, transsuit, telepathic earplugs, etc.). Then we get to the Villains, but they only get stats and a brief history - but there's 95 of them, from Absorbancy Boy to Zymyr. Non-player characters (to be played by the GameMaster, or GM) include 44 30th century people, from the Wanderers to Circadia Senius to the Subs to Dr. Gym'll. Finally, there are two one-page essays on aliens/other worlds, and law enforcement in the 30th century.

Levitz makes a comment in the Notes section that is worth repeating: "Finally, it has always been the firm belief of this chronicler that only those facts revealed in the stories of the Legion published by DC are absolute enough to require consideration. While certain facts included in this sourcebook are obviously ones that the series' present chronicler either theorizes or is comfortable with, they should be considered subject to change or re-interpretation until such time as they are actively included in the chronicles themselves." (see my later comments on book 3).



Book 2 of the "Complete Sourcebook on the Legion of Super-Heroes" is subtitled "The World Book". Which I suppose makes it the World Book Encyclopedia Galactica, huh? Anyway, game designer Steve Crow says in his notes to Volume 1 that "the second Legion Sourcebook... will deal with the Legion HQ, UP history, etc., compliments of Messrs. Hunt and Meyers (whoever they were)... and you should find everything in there that isn't in here." He also noted that Mayfair planned a steady stream of game modules for the Legion, but only one series of four ever came out (and I'll get to those eventually).

Unfortunately I don't have book 2 so I can't describe the contents.



Book 3 is the infamous "2995 Sourcebook", written by Tom and Mary Bierbaum (cover art by Jason Pearson and Karl Story, interior art again by "DC Staff"). The book, nearly as thick as the first two volumes combined, updates the state of the 30th century from where it was in 1986, shortly after the Crisis, to where it was in 1992, shortly after the introduction of the SW6 group in their own book as "Legionnaires".

Whereas the first character volume was a page per person with history and stats, this book went a step further and included a significant amount of new information that had not appeared in the books, in order to flesh out the characters. There are many excerpts from "The Legion Groupie" and other magazines, personal correspondence, birth announcements, original haiku (written by Elizabeth Holden, and ascribed to "Q.D.", presumably Querl Dox), UPV-4 news transcripts, personal logs, official documents, etc. The logs cover up through Devlin O'Ryan. Following all that is a section on Legion equipment such as the asteroid HQ and the Legion Cruisers; stats on the SW6 Legionnaires; updated entries on villains and supporting cast, in the same format as the Legionnaires (personal logs, patient records, news articles, etc.); and the state of the Galaxy in 2995 (who is aligned with whom, what planets were destroyed, etc.). One interesting touch was to assign dates to certain events throughout the year (the Legion was founded on January 6, 2973; Ferro Lad died on April 20, 2978; Magnetic Kid was killed on June 20, 2989; etc.), and they even incorporated the Legion birthdays as listed in the 1976 DC Calendar (which I talked about a few weeks ago). Taken by itself, the book is a pretty incredible job.

However....

The big problem with the 2995 book was that it included too much information and back story that should have appeared in the comics, not in unofficial supplemental information (see the Levitz quote above). The book seemed to be a sourcebook for the comics first and the RPG second, not the other way around. Want to know about Black Dawn? How about Kent Shakespeare's history as Impulse? Why Tellus decided to join the Dark Circle? The history of Reflecto, aka Stig Ah? The anti-Earthgov rebellion? Read the book, you won't find much of it in the comics. You can read some of the discussion on Google's new usenet archives that go back to 1992.



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