The Comic Book Roots of TV’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Nov. 21, 2019


When the timeline is in danger, the Legends of Tomorrow are here to set things right, even if their goofy style of chronal crime-fighting causes a mess. The Legends have stopped many catastrophes—including a few of their own making—but will they have what it takes to save all of reality when the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” television event begins on December 8th? To prepare for the upcoming Crisis, we’ve been examining the comic book roots for each Arrowverse show (check out our entries for Arrow, Flash and Supergirl), and now it’s time to dive into Legends of Tomorrow.






After losing his family to the tyranny of the mad villain Vandal Savage in the far future, Rip Hunter sought to end the dictator’s reign by traveling to his past (and our present) and assembling a team of heroes. His original team of Legends consisted of White Canary, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Heat Wave, Atom, Captain Cold and Firestorm. Led by Rip, the team used his time-traveling ship known as the Waverider to battle Vandal Savage and stop his rise to power.






After the Legends helped Rip Hunter defeat Vandal Savage, the crew wound up staying together to help fix various anomalies in the timeline. Let’s be honest though, the Legends aren’t known for their subtlety, so they sometimes wind up creating just as many anomalies as the ones they resolve. Rip Hunter sacrificed himself to save the rest of the team, making Sara Lance the current captain of the Waverider. Since then, members have come and gone, and there have been plenty of time travel shenanigans along the way. But with a looming Crisis approaching, will the team be able to pull themselves together to save all of reality?






One of the things that makes Legends of Tomorrow such a great show is its complete unpredictablity. It pulls many concepts from the DC Universe, but puts its own fun spin on them. For example, in the comics the Waverider isn’t a ship – it’s a person! Matthew Ryder was a scientist from the future who was first introduced in the comic Armageddon 2001. Seeking to prevent a dark future, he underwent some experiments that gave him the power to travel time, and turned him into the being known as Waverider. He may not be a ship, but he’s a handy person to have around during a chronal crisis.




In the comics, Rip Hunter used something called the Time Sphere to travel through time instead of the Waverider. Rip Hunter was an adventurer DC used for their science fiction anthology titles. He originally appeared in 1959’s Showcase #20 for a fun time travel story, and his subsequent adventures became popular enough to earn him a place in the mainstream DC Universe. The 1990 series Time Masters can almost be seen as the spiritual predecessor to the Legends of Tomorrow television series, since it has Rip Hunter leading a team of heroes across the timestream. They even take on Vandal Savage like their television counterparts.


Vandal Savage.jpg


Speaking of Vandal Savage, the immortal tyrant actually dates all the way back to DC’s Golden Age. He first appeared in 1943’s Green Lantern #10, where he fought Alan Scott. Savage was a caveman who discovered a mysterious meteorite, which gave him immortality. Over time Savage grew smarter and more fierce, and built his resources over centuries as he tried to conquer the world. If you want to see Savage in action, check out 1963’s Flash #137, where he takes on Barry Allen and Jay Garrick! What can we say, Savage doesn’t think small!




The Waverider has had plenty of notable heroes on their crew over the years, and while we’d love to go through them all, we’d probably need our own Waverider to have enough time. But we do want to mention Ray Palmer, the Atom. Brandon Routh is no stranger to DC, having previously played the Man of Steel in Superman Returns, and he brings his own brand of energy to the Atom. Ray Palmer’s comics counterpart is more of a scientist than a businessman, and his suit is more like traditional superhero tights than the armor from the television series. If you’re looking for something offbeat to read, we’d recommend Sword of the Atom, a four issue limited series where Ray becomes the savior of a microscopic society.




Comics aren’t the only ways to learn more about the Legends. DC Universe has the complete 2014 Constantine live-action series, starring Matt Ryan. The popularity of Ryan’s portrayal of John Constantine led to him reprising the role on Arrow, and eventually becoming a featured player on Legends of Tomorrow. In fact, if you’re planning on watching Legends of Tomorrow this season, it would be great to view this series in preparation. Astra Logue will be one of the villains the Legends face this year, and you can learn how she came into John’s life by watching the original series.


Of course, the Legends will have to survive the upcoming Crisis if they hope to deal with Astra and her demons. Worlds will live, and worlds will die, but will the Legends be left standing when the dust settles?


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