By 1981, the Legion of Superheroes (LoSH) had been in publication (in one form or another) for over two decades and had amassed a huge fan following. I seem to recall that during the late 70s/early 80s the LoSH was receiving more fan mail than any of the other DC titles. Much of this fan mail included questions about the LoSH themselves, such as “what is the origin of Cosmic Boy”, “what planet does Shrinking Violet come from” and “who was Ferro Lad and how did he die?”. Remember, back then there was no wikipedia so if you wanted to find out more about a comic book character, you either had to buy back issues or ask someone who knew about them.
Around this same time, DC had started unveiling a new concept called a ‘mini-series’. The goal of the mini-series was to be able to tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end that did not disrupt the flow of the character’s regular series. It also allowed a reader to pick up the series and decide if they liked the character(s), without having to jump into the middle of an ongoing series.
Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes was DC’s third mini-series (1979’s World of Krypton being the first). The LoSH were already a hit with the fans, so that made this endeavor a ‘sure thing’ in the eyes of DC. The primary goal of this three issue mini-series was to answer reader’s questions about character origins as well as some LoSH history of the previous 20 years. Some character origins had never been revealed before this mini-series, as the older LoSH issues had a habit of a Legionnaire joining the team with no explanation as to where they came from. In fact, each issue of the mini-series ends with an index of all the issues the Legionnaires originally debuted in.
This mini also contains a major story development as it is revealed that one of the Legionnaires is actually the son/daughter of R.J. Brande (the LoSH’s mysterious benefactor). The Legionnaire turns out to be… (This should’ve came as no surprise to you if you ever read Keith Giffen’s L.E.G.I.O.N. from the late 80s). This mini-series was written by Paul Kupperberg and sets up a really engrossing mystery which a reader can absorb with ease.
When I was much younger and collecting DC comics, I never understood the appeal of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I was more interested in street-level fighters (ex: Batman, Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, the Atom, Hawkman, etc) who battled common villains I was familiar with (ex: Penguin, Joker,.. etc). A bunch of heroes foiling a bank heist was something believable I could relate to. The LoSH is super team set way far in the future – so the odds of them battling anyone I was remotely familiar with were slim to none. After reading old sci-fi pulps and star trek gold key comics, I get it now. The LoSH is a mash-up of sci-fi and super-heroics and makes for an extremely entertaining series. It’s probably safe to say that it’s the only comic of it’s genre (sci-fi/super-heroics) to last this long which is why it amassed such loyal, die-hard fans.