15 July 2011

Forgotten Classics: Alien Legion

In a future age where faster-than-light drives and intergalactic travel have become a matter of course, three galaxies join together to form the TOPHAN Galactic Union...

In 1984, Alien Legion was published by an imprint of Marvel comics, Epic Comics,and ran over the next decade in four different series. Epic Comic was focused on bring new, different, and mature comics to a mass audience. Epic published such titles as Akira, Clive Baker's Hellraiser, Elfquest, and Elektra: Assassin. Today, Dark Horse Comics, owns the publishing rights and is promising new comics, took over rights to Alien Legion. At its heart, Alien Legion , in all its forms, was about the foot soldiers that served the tri-galactic spanning government, the Union and its military, the Legion, and their dirty and forgotten missions and deaths. This was the brainchild of Carl Potts, who came up with he idea in the 1970's. However, it was after Star Wars, that Carl refined the concept to the Legion being populated with all manner of aliens species. One of the hallmarks of the comics, the fact that these Legionaries are members of a military with billions of members, and they are sent to die for the Legion on all manner of planets, the Legionaries know their dirty role in the galaxies,giving them a rather bleak outlook on their lives and service to the Legion...In a interview with USA Today in 2009, creator Carl Potts talking about another of the pioneering factors of his beloved pet project: "One of the things we did that was ahead of our time was that we weren't afraid to kill off major characters if the storyline dictated. We didn't have any Star Trek 'red shirts.' There was no cannon fodder among the story characters. To maintain a level of realism, the idea was to occasionally have characters you've grown to know get killed or maimed."

Within the pages of Alien Legion, is three galaxies filled with a mass array of species, and the government that the Legion serves tri-galactic union (similar to Systems Commonwealth of the TV show Andromeda). This TOPHAN Galactic Union (AKA the Union, or the Galarchy) is an alliance between the Aurora, Ophides, and Thermor galaxies. The series is never clear, but its seems that these galaxy are not 100% under the Union, and notice there is mention of Terra, Earth, or humans in the series. The Union is similar to the ancient Roman Empire, a massive government spread out over a vast space, and the entire show is run from a government of species looking out for themselves, and using the Legion for their own gain and profit. The main enemies of the Union is the Harkilon Empire, and are seen in different forms through the various runs of the Alien Legion comics, similar to the changing face of the Klingons in the Star Trek universe
Ther picture on the right, is from the first issue of Alien Legion and gives an introduction to government, and culture of the Galarchy  

 The team behind Alien Legion developed a futuristic French Foreign Legion were criminals and patriots serve along side one another, and the worst of the worst gets put into Force Nomad , the main focus of the comic book series.This Legion, seemed to be made of large rapid-deployment units of infantry, called a force...the majority of the series are told from the POV of soldiers in FORCE NOMAD, the penal unit of the Legion, were the worst of the worst go. 
During the first series, every soldier used a pistol-sized Hel-Laser, and wore the sliver and black armor, there was no standard helmet and little in the way of hi-tech items on the armor. There were no examples of heavy weapons, armored vehicles, or warships to speak of.
The second series, created a much wider and weirder universe for the Legion and Force Nomad, from the oddly-shaped warships to the more "alien" appearing aliens. Adding to this mix was a few examples of armored APC skimmers, armed shuttles, and anti-Gravity tanks.When it came to personal weapons, gone was the pistol-sized Hel-Laser, and now all manner of exotic futuristic alien weapons was displayed, and it seemed every Legionnaire carried a different weapon. One can only imagine the supply headaches from this....But the most interesting concept was the hand-held ligth artillery pieces.During the run of the second and third series, several of larger characters carried hand-held artillery pieces, not machine-guns, or grenade launchers, but honest-to-the-gods-artillery. I would have liked to see these in action beyond the page! The primary support weapon for the Legion gorund troopers, that is seen in the comic books, comes in the form of orbital artillery from war/transport ships that are extremely heavily armed...and often called "piecemarkers", and seem to be under the command of the ground Legion commander. Since the only unit of the Legion seen in the series is made of loser soldiers, murders, convicts, and criminals, this may be the reason behind their lack of combined arms, like Force Nomad is a throwaway unit.

The First Series of ALIEN LEGION (1984)
In the original Alien Legion series premiered in 1984, and ran for 20 issues, and focused strictly on Force Nomad, and several characters. especially the human-looking Montroc (who was sent by this rich father to experience the Legion, and to make a man of him), the criminal and socialpath Grimrod, and the commander of Nomad, Serigar.
I must confess, I really was not a fan of the first Alien Legion comic series, it often suffered from unoriginal art and lame story lines that allowed for all the main characters to survive, despite the horror of future warfare. It held back on the darkness of Grimrod's character, and rich plate of alien races, making them more like the aliens from the original Star Trek series. When I read Alien Legion, originally, I had the benefit of reading the second series, and seeing how good the concept could be.

The Second series of ALIEN LEGION (1987)
The second series picks up with Sarigar, the commander of Force Nomad looking for the remains of his unit that were presumed killed on a desert planet. The series opened on a darker place automatically, and showed the death of most of the core members of Nomad in the first three issues. Then, wisely, they allowed for the rich and bloody Grimrod character to be unleashed (especially in issue #5).
The series also explored the vast alien races that populated the Union and served in the Legion, and carried this "aliveness" over to the ship designs, weapons, and look of these galaxies.
Then, after eighteen issues, the party was over. The second series of Alien Legion was cancelled, and rolled into a three-part graphic novel series. I really enjoyed the series, and it was a shame to see it go...  

The Third series of ALIEN LEGION (1990)
Alien Legion: On the Edge was a three-shot graphic novel-like comic series that propelled the heroes and criminals of Force Nomad fifteen years into the future. This happens after their war/transport vessel is forces into a orbit around a black hole. In the event horizon, they met all manner of aliens locked in savage combat for survival. This setting allows for writers to bring some fresh creative elements to the series, and some exciting aliens into the mix.
When Force Nomad arrive back in Union space, some things have changed, and not for the better over those years. However, Force Nomad is still sent on the dirties missions, but not just for the Union, but now, for the profit of corporations, and they are fitted with shock collars. Nice.
These three books represent the best of the art, story, and writing for the entire series.  

The Forth series of ALIEN LEGION: One Planet at a Time and Binary Deep  (1993)
Toward the end of Epic Comics in the mid-90's, three more Alien Legion titles were printed, these were below the normally high standards of the rest of the series.I must confess, by the time the forth series of Alien Legion came out in 1993, I was mostly collecting Manga and Anime, and lived away from a comic book store (it happens in Oklahoma). I have only read about the series online, and seeing that Carl Potts was not on some of these projects caused me not to be impressed. The dark, ancient enemy mentioned in Alien Legion: On the Edge, called the Vreel, who are a virus that inflicts other races and turns them into slaves for a different master, are the main focus of this three-part series.
Then came the two part Binary Deep by Potts and Dixon, and I never knew it existed until I was research for this blogpost...the plot of Binary Deep, is mention on foot-sloggers.com  as: Torie's father lies dying, and to clear him of fabricated charges, Grimrod and Torie enlist the help of Nakhira Doomhar to retrieve some lost evidence froma dead data-world.
The real death note of the Alien Legion, in my mind, was the dog-shit Jugger Grimrod Graphic Novel in 1992.  During the 1987 series, issue #5 had Grimrod going lone wolf and it was my favorite issue of Alien Legion, so it seemed at an entire graphic novel devoted to this killer would be a great work, sadly I was wrong... I looked at this comic at Starbase 21, and I was shocked how bad the art was, I could not bring myself to buy it.

The ALIEN LEGION: GREY DAY TO DIE (Graphic Novel 1986)
While I was not a fan of the first run of Alien Legion, the 1986 graphic novel was a great property. The story focused Sarigar's former commanding officer that he studied under, and how this commander and the rest of his died at the hands of a fanatic cult devoted to mechanization of flesh (Borg, anyone?), called the Technoids.
In those years  after the death of that unit, the Union is threatened by the growing numbers of Technoid followers, and the Legion orders Force Nomad the task of assassinating the leader of the cult during a major speech, that will accompany a major invasion. The major characters of Force Nomad, are all called in to go on this one-way wet-work mission. The book deals with morality of killing one man, via assassination methods and the life of a soldier...and what they give up. This as long been out-of-print, but was reprinted in the Dark Horse Omnibus volume two (which lowered the value of my mint Grey day to die).

What happened to ALIEN LEGION?
Marvel deviated from its normal band of mutants and superheroes in the mid-1980’s, developing with titles like The ‘Nam, Strikeforce Morituri, and then created its own branch of mature comics, under Epic Comics, with such titles as Alien Legion, Groo, and Moebius.These were part of that experiment to grow readership beyond the usual comic buyers. This formula worked on me, I never have liked superheroes (always thought they were lame, unlike Frank Miller's Dark Knight ), but titles like the one mentioned above got me to buy a great deal of Marvel/Epic titles during this time.
But, during this experiment, for some reason, Alien Legion was canceled or reformatted four different times. I never quite understood why this brilliant, imaginative, and interesting comic never made past twenty issues in a regular series. My only guess on why Alien Legion was not able to continue was due to it being so different than most comic books out at the time, maybe reader couldn't relate if the characters were not from Terra...I know that I was disappointed in the direction Alien Legion took in it's first run in 1984, due to the simple like of realism and the horror of war.
Then, in 1987, it changed direction, and did bring much improved, deeper, gritty storylines...and then got canned after eighteen issues. The led up to the series was several trade paperback limited series, On the Edge, On Planet at a Time, and Binary Deep. I, as hard-core fan of Alien Legion, was onboard for the On the Edge series which was quite good, but the switching of the setting, turn a number of people off, then there was a two-year gap between that and the follow-up comics, which was too long for most fans that simply grew out of collecting (replaced by cars and girls). The followup comic series, were not as good as the rest of the series, there seemed to be a lack of polish, substandard art, and the normal team of Potts/Dixon was off and on the projects. From a few reviews online, Binary Deep were not up to par with the rest of the works, and then Epic Comics was shutdown by Marvel in 1994, causing Alien Legion to go dark.

The Current Status and Future of ALIEN LEGION
Dark Horse comics as reprinted the entire Alien Legion series in trade paperback format, and in 2010, Dark Horse said they were developing an all-new Alien Legion series...which we are still waiting on. For the past ten years, rumors have made the rounds, that an Alien Legion CGI TV series and/or movie was under development. Carl Potts did attempt to develop a CGI TV series (similar to the Starship Troopers cartoon series), but the company went bust before a trailer could be produced.
The movie rights were purchased by Jerry Bruckheimer, and in a 2009 interview with Carl Potts, he stated that the movie was on its "third rewrite. Bruckheimer's never done a science-fiction before, so that challenge, I think, is something that would hold his interest. The success they've had with blending CGI and live-action characters in The Pirates of the Caribbean series could translate easily to an Alien Legion film."
I can see the opening scene to Alien Legion: the movie for some reason in mind. Its from the POV of a soldier walking down a dark corridor, the dim light barely shows the well-worn conditions of the troop transport. In the distance is voices, bright light, and metallic sounds. The soldiers enters into a massive drop bay, surrounding the soldier is a vast array of aliens in Legionnaire body armor with all manner of weaponry, all getting kitted up for a drop. The roar of drop ship engines echos around the bay. In the center of this modern military madness, is the leader of Force Nomad, an member of the lokian race. He is looks worried, pacing on his tail, while studying a computer pad, the soldiers walks up to Sarigar.
The soldier drops his kit, and salutes, then Sarigar returns the favor, "welcome soldier to Force Nomad, the best of the Legion." Then he points in the way of human soldier, "that is your direct commander, Lt. Montroc, report to him."  
Then before he make across the sea of aliens, a green skinned mencing soldier with a helmet on, glares at the soldier while sharping his many knives. Behind him is blue/purple-skinned  giant of a Legionnaire, with a massive hand cannon in his massive hands, staring blankly at the new Nomad soldier. "Welcome to the worst of the worst, git," then Jugger Grimrod smiled with broken teeth, "welcome to Nomad."Then the soldier jumps into a shuttle and drops in the planetary combat drop zone. The door opens to a futuristic hellish battlefield. All the members of Nomad screamed out: "FOR THE LEGION!"
Main title flashes, music beings

A good general AL site:

The Full USA Today article on AL:

The offical AL site:


  1. Jugger Grimrod...my friend I haven't thought about that wonderful space wolverine analog in nearly 20yrs! Alien Legion is what Green Lantern should be...nice call back with this one man

  2. Thanks! Grimrod was one my favorite characters in comics during my gradeschool years...shame that Alien Legion is forgotten.

  3. Wow, this takes me back. Thanks for the memories.