• Let's Look Back: Legends of Magic

    With the release of the Annual comic, the Legends of Magic line has come to a close. A year's worth of content covering seven lives from Equestrian history. 

    So rather than talk about an older issue this week, I'd like to take a look back at this comic's start and the journey we went on with these characters.

    Check out the full article after the break!

    My Little Pillars!
    I used wonder what adventure could be...

    When word first came out that the comics would look back into Equestria's history, I found the idea intriguing. After all, 80% of Equestrian history boiled down to "Starswirl did it". Here before us was the chance to see how the world Twilight and the other inhabit took shape. Yet for all that interest there was also an undertone of indifference. These ponies would be long since departed and I figured these would only be one-shot stories.

    Is it a little arrogant to name yourself a legend?
    The answer is "Yes."

    Setting aside how both the show and comics proved me completely wrong, let's take a look at how the comics tried to introduce these characters.

    I so empathize with you, Sunburst.

    Getting to Know You
    Legends of Magic started up well before the show could introduce these characters. If memory serves, the comic couldn't properly assume the reader knew about the Pillars until Somnambula's story in issue #5. Though even this was spoiled by season 7's strange release schedule across multiple networks and countries. 

    I ship it.

    So the staff had a challenge before them. How to make the audience care about these new characters when they hadn't yet been introduced? The answer was to put our favorite ponies as stand-ins for the audience. Princess Luna in particular.

    Royal Canterlot Voice is always welcome.
    So are earplugs.

    Luna was the golden thread for the first three issues. A proactive character in issues #1 and #3 and a demanding audience in issue #2. Was this banking on Luna's popularity within the fandom? I do not know but I wouldn't resent IDW if that were the case. It worked. Starswirl's tale fleshed out Celestia and Luna's youth and offered us an unlikely take on a more bratty sun princess. Mistmane's tale explained how Canterlot Castle came into existence. Even if we weren't yet invested in the Pillars, we still had nuggets of info about modern-day Equestria. 

    Young Luna is cutest Luna.

    This trend continued as we got to see more of Starlight and Sunburst interacting or witnessing Pinkie Pie weird out Sunburst for the first time. The downside to these appearances was that the guest star would often have to summarize each Pillar's legend. This is often awkward as both characters know the legend and so it feels artificial. We know it's for the audience's benefit. The one exception was Somnambula's story, for Sunburst didn't even know how to pronounce her name.

    This is becoming a prerequisite for when Sunburst reads.

    With these familiar companions metaphorically sitting beside us as we read the Pillar's stories it all became more accessible. Which leads into my favorite aspect of the early six issues.

    Too late! She's not in this series!

    The Life Behind the Legend
    The upside to the ponies' summaries that we knew this wasn't simply a repeat or retelling of the Pillar's most famous exploits. This carried the message that life goes on after a big event, and though it might not gain as much attention that does not make it devoid of meaning. Indeed, many of the Pillar's actions helped shaped the future even more than their legends.

    Old Spice!

    In some cases I think the new story surpassed those seen in the show, though I couldn't realize this until I'd seen both episodes and the full issue. Rockhoof is my favorite example. His story in Campfire Tales was good, but struggled with the deus ex of suddenly-imbued strength. This tale in issue #2 was a different beast. Rockhoof became weakened by his own success and had to earn back his own strength. In doing so, he also set the tone for the stories to follow. These were champions who saw the world differently than others. They all had unique skills, but their insights are what truly set them apart. 

    Still the corniest yet most inspiring line.

    By a similar notion, Flash Magnus may have looked awesome out-flying dragons, but I think he did more for inter-species relations by saving a town of griffons. Somnambula's journey through the belly of a snake was an even greater test of courage and hope than walking across that rope bridge. I will admit that Mistmane and Mage Meadowbrook may have faced more daunting and personal challenges in Campfire Tales and A Health of Information, but they too left a big imprint on Equestria with their comic stories.

    We have Mistmane and Luna to thank for Canterlot!

    As the series went on I began to enjoy the ideas of these lives behind the adventurers. It kept me reading with fresh enthusiasm. That kept the early parts of the series fresh, but what about once we knew where this was going?

    Glad Flash got a medal. 
    He gets knocked around a lot in this series.

    The Scholar's Journey
    The second half of this series came out just as Shadow Play aired. So suddenly the older format faded away. Even the comics switched artists from Brenda Hickey to Tony Fleecs. The quality of both is top-notch yet I appreciate the change because it subtly hints at the story tone.

    The least true line in this series.

    Gone were our pony stand-ins. We now knew these pillars, but not the young pony seeking them out. The comics weren't yet ready to mention Stygian by name until the third part, after people had time to see the actual season finale. 

    "Hey! I only weigh as much as 99 bunnies!"

    What we got then was a reintroduction to the Pillars and the chance to see how they interacted. More than anything, however, we got to see how Stygian acted. We saw how each additional member forced him to either move to the group's periphery socially, or stand up and take charge when in crisis. 

    "Bring your shovel."
    Things you never expected to hear on  an epic quest.

    Stygian was the new development and in many ways the most important of the Pillars. So getting to walk with him as he learned that fantasy and reality could intertwine was a solid experience. It also added a bittersweet note as we reached the climactic battle with the Sirens. Thanks to the show, we knew what would come next.

    See? Flash got knocked about!

    Oh, speaking of...

    What's Next? 
    The series is done but the Pillars are not. They're now a part of Equestria and will face the challenge of integrating with this new world. Some, like Mage Meadowbrook, Mistmane, and Starswirl, have relations or old homes to serve as an anchor. Flash Magnus can see what has become of Cloudsdale. I'm not sure if Stygian will seek out Shadow Locke. That would be an awkward conversation. 

    That's gonna be an awkward conversation at the next family reunion.

    Only Rockhoof seems bereft of a home to return, and we may yet see how that impacts him. Having gotten to know these characters and enjoyed their stories, I'd like to see them in either the main My Little Pony comic line or future episodes. Each has an older-world perspective that will be challenged by the new but may also have wisdom to share. 

    Mage Meadowbrook can offer guidance on color coordination.

    I look back at this series with great affection and was glad to journey through the Pillars' stories this past year. Next month we shall see if Ponyville Mysteries can make its own mark within the fandom. 

    Little ponies. Big impact.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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