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Monday, June 6, 2016

Who Was That At The End of the Season Finale to Legends of Tomorrow?

Edited by Robert Beach 

CW’s ambitious superhero team time travel show Legends of Tomorrow has completed its first season and what a wild ride it was.  The show opened strong with a series of top-notch 2-episode storylines that used the time travel gimmick to explore a number of unique genres like ‘50s monster movie, ’70 spy thriller, and post-apocalyptic action adventure. Overall, the action and adventure of the series was top notch even as the later episodes tended to lose focus and slip a little in quality, falling into a much more syndicated approach than the early 2-part story collection.

In the end, Legends of Tomorrow’s ambitions were probably bigger than its abilities. Despite that, strong performances and amazing technical acumen made the show a damn fun ride and earned it a second season alongside CW’s 4-night superhero line-up.  Legends of Tomorrow was already gearing up for its second season with a surprise reveal at the end of the season 1 finale. Who gave the titular Legends a grave warning at the end of season 1?  

If you missed the Legends of Tomorrow finale, here's the skinny: after finally defeating Vandal Savage, the team prepared to re-enter the time stream to defend all of history from malicious time travelers when another version of their ship emerges from the ether. The ship’s costumed pilot tells the team they can’t return to the time stream for fear of grave consequences before identifying himself as Rex Tyler, a member of the Justice Society of America. 

I’ve elaborated on the Justice Society a number of times already before. The JSA were a team of heroes DC put together in the ‘40s as their first real stab at a shared universe. The thinking at the time was that most of these heroes were sharing comic space, owing to the tradition of DC publishing multiple features within the same comic, so they might as well co-exist as characters as well as publications. The team was comprised mostly of Golden Age heroes that most folks haven’t heard of now with the main exceptions being Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. 

20 years later, when superheroes began to retake the comic medium, DC decided to reuse some of the JSA member concepts to staff their new line-up of heroes. This is how you have duplicate characters like Barry Allen and Jay Garrick both existing as the Flash. To explain how big names like Superman and Batman could’ve had adventures with both Jay and Barry, DC decided to reintroduce the Justice Society into canon as a parallel Earth where they could revive the classic characters for crossovers and continuing adventures. 
Rick Tyler, founding member of the JSA & original Hourman

Since then, the team has slowly immigrated to the main DC continuity as a heroic training program. The idea of the team is that it includes a handful of older heroes who fought in WW2 like Jay Garrick or Alan Scott, Green Lantern, along with a large amount of newer heroes taking up the mantles of previous characters like Star Girl or Atom Smasher. 

Rex Tyler is tied to one of the founding members of the JSA and is also one of my all-time favorite superheroes: Hourman. The original Hourman was Rex’s dad Rick Tyler, a chemist/industrialist who developed a special pill called "Miraclo" that gave him super strength, stamina, and agility for 1 hour. 

Rick fought the Nazis in WW2 and eventually retired with Rex briefly working under the superhero name "The Clock" before becoming addicted to his dad’s Miraclo drug. After finally getting his addiction in check, Rex adopted the Hourman mantle while also suffering a side effect: he would occasionally experience flash forwards, visions of events taking place 1 hour in the future. 

CW has been trailing an Hourman show for awhile now, though given their silence on that front, I assume there hasn’t been any real traction. Because CW has now picked up Supergirl, bringing their comic book show roster to 5, it’s not surprising the Hourman series fell by the wayside. Coinciding with CW's content clutter, fellow time travel/drug power shows like Limitless and Minority Report didn't find an audience. 

Reworking Hourman into a spot on Legends of Tomorrow makes a lot of sense. His connection to time travel, individually and to the entire Hourman line, works well. Aside from the two Hourmans I already covered, there was a 3rd Hourman from the distant future: an android named Tyler who had time travel and time manipulation powers. Tyler has been rumored for a spot on Legends of Tomorrow for awhile with CW even releasing a teaser image referencing his cosmic hourglass inside Rip Hunter’s study on the Waverider. 

Moreover, the Justice Society has been simmering under the surface at CW for a long while now. Ever since Jay Garrick was confirmed for The Flash season 2, CW’s been driving very hard toward getting the JSA on screen. Dozens of JSA members have been appearing in some capacity on the various programs that are now folded into the CW-verse. 

Some folks like Atom Smasher or Sand appeared as villains from Earth-2 on The Flash. Others are slowly building heroes like Michael Holt as the future Mr. Terrific or Ted Grant as future Wildcat on Arrow, some are forgotten additions like Arrow’s Huntress, and some are cameos from other show’s like Dr. Fate from Constantine or Red Tornado on Supergirl. 

The team makes perfect sense for the CW owing to their emphasis on B- and C-list superheroes and widespread history.  Their members have origins that stretch from WW2 into the 31st century. Their powers range from meta-human abilities to sorcery to alien super science, perfect for creating the vast superhero mythos CW is working towards. 

I’m hard pressed to guess how the JSA and Rex Tyler will feature into Legends of Tomorrow season 2, mainly owing to the lack of information about the second season. So far, the only thing we know for certain is that the showrunners want season 2 to be totally different from season 1 with some talk of a roster shake-up swirling around their plans. While I’m sure we’ll be seeing a whole smattering of new heroes in the next season, my bigger guess on the JSA’s presence is that they’re tired to a shift in story engine. It’s already been established on The Flash that Jay Garrick, one of the JSA’s founding members, is from Earth-3. 

Now, this could just mean the JSA won’t have him or any of the WW2 members on it. My guess is that it’s a set-up for Legends of Tomorrow season 2 to take a break from time travel and instead dive into multiverse travel with the JSA as the premiere team of Earth-3.  As much as I enjoyed the time travel stuff in season 1, I can’t deny it got a bit taxing. With the inclusion of Supergirl to the CW-verse, the multiverse is really where things are heating up. If CW really wants to foster interest in their TV shared universe and shake things up for Legends of Tomorrow season 2, diving head first into the limitless potential of parallel realities would be a good way to do it.    

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