Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Super-Star Holiday Special

Super-Star Holiday Special (DC Special Series # 21) (Spring 1980)
a review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Kyle "Metropolis Kid" Benning
title: "Star Light, Star Bright, Farthest Star I See Tonight!"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
inker: Dick Giordano
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Len Wein
cover: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, Lightning Lad, with brief appearances by Mon-El, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy, and Colossal Boy

Synopsis: 
It's Christmas Eve 2979, and Superboy arrives to spend Christmas with his pals in the Legion. Mon-El is on guard duty (due to the recent destruction to the Legion HQ, all of their security has not been fully re-installed). Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad have volunteered for monitor duty, and Phantom Girl and Wildfire are also hanging around. The five of them are hoping to settle in for a little bit of down time, checking in with other Legionnaires and what they are doing on Christmas Eve. Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Sun Boy are shown in Japan celebrating Christmas there. Chameleon Boy is on duty around Durla. Colossal Boy is with family, celebrating Chanukah instead of Christmas. Superboy bemoans the lack of tinsel and an "old-fashioned" Christmas in the high-tech future when he hits on the idea to use the Legion's advanced technology to try to find the star that blazed over Bethlehem at the first Christmas.
Leaving Mon-El behind, the others board a Legion cruiser and head off into the cosmos. Lightning Lad plots a course as to where the star should be, but all that they find there is a "lonely little planet." Saturn Girl stays on the cruiser while the others check out the scenery. Wildfire helps pink dolphin people harvest plankton that grows on the surface of the ocean. Due to the ever increasing cold in the atmosphere the water is freezing around their food supply before they can eat it, so Wildfire uses his powers to melt the largest blocks of ice for them. Elsewhere, Lightning Lad and Phantom Girl find land-dwellers burning their own crops to try to stay warm. They save one of the creatures who falls into the fire, but can't make the world warmer. And elsewhere again, Superboy helps tie bird-peoples' nests to their trees, so the cold winds will not blow them loose and destroy them.
The Legionnaires get together to compare notes and realize that the planet's ice age is dooming its inhabitants. Superboy thinks to use their Legion telepathic plugs for the three races to communicate with each other.  Wildfire and Lightning Lad creates a cave dwelling around a hot spring river on the shoreline. When Superboy returns he has all of the creatures with him. They have agreed to work together for mutual survival. The water dwellers will grow their plankton in the warmed area and share it with the land-dwellers. The land-dwellers will keep the fires burning to keep the area warm. The bird-people will bring wood from their original forests to provide fuel for the fires. With warmth and shelter, the races will survive until the United Planets can investigate and plan an actual evacuation.
On their way home, the Legion discusses whether The Star led them to this disaster or not. Wildfire doesn't want to believe, but cheerfully goes along with Superboy's belief as he decorates an old-fashioned Christmas tree with tinsel.

Commentary: 
This is a nice little sentimental story. I like how Superboy shows up in the future and, not seeing the "traditional" Christmas decorations, thinks that nobody celebrates Christmas. Really, Clark, is Christmas a *universal* holiday? When I was in Japan it was just another working day, literally. So it's not even a universal holiday on Earth! It just doesn't make sense that Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad (being from three different planets) "celebrate" Christmas at all. This story would have made more sense if 1. the Legionnaires addressed that idea (ARE they all Christians?) OR 2. all the Legionnaires mentioned were actually from Earth, so the idea of a shared culture is atleast there. Frankly, I think it would have been cool if Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Colossal Boy had been included instead of these members, as each of them are from Earth.
Besides that, though, I liked how Superboy "dragged" the others off on a "wild goose chase" that ended up saving all of those lives. This type of innocence or exuberance or whatever you want to call it seemed to vanish some when Superboy left the Legion.  And that is too bad.
The art, though! Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is awesome. All of his characters are individuals AND damn fine looking! It's a shame that he never drew another Legion story.

The first time I would have read this story was in a beat up old copy of Christmas with the Super-Heroes #1 (regular comic issue size, not to be confused with the treasury comics of the same name) that I had scored at a garage sale when I was probably around 8-10 years old. By this time I was a huge fan of Superboy and the Legion, and so this tale instantly stuck out as my favorite of the collection, despite the five other great stories that were also reprinted, including the first Frank Miller Batman story (also one of the stories that first appeared in DC Special Series #21), "Silent Night of the Batman" from Batman #219, and "Twas the Fright Before Christmas" Superman story from DC Comics Presents #67. I have since acquired the original issue, DC Special Series #21 (man I love those DC Dollar Comics Giants from the late 1970's and early 1980's) because, well to be honest, this story is so great it deserves to be cherished in as many formats as possible ( I also have the digest and trade paperback reprintings). 
The idea that the members of the Legion from other planets might not celebrate Christmas never crossed my mind in my youth, I guess now I would just "no-prize it" as since the Legion was based on Earth, and grew up idolizing Superman, they adopted his Earth-culture and holiday celebration. Superman has a long history of saving Christmas, so naturally those exploits and adventures would have been recorded and then studied by the Legion in the future. I'm really dating myself here, but my only exposure to Hanukkah at this age probably would have been limited to the Adam Sandler song, but it was neat seeing Colossal Boy celebrate another popular holiday that I knew of, but didn't fully understand or comprehend. Another case of the diversity in the Legion shining through for the better and broadening the horizons of its readership. 
Ever since I first read this story, it has become a mainstay and must-read in my yearly Christmas comic read list and it remains among my top 5 all-time Christmas capers. I just can't speak highly enough about the innocence and wonder that this story carries. Even now as an often-times cynical comics curmudgeon, this story takes me back to being a small child, caught up in the magic of Christmas. The Legion goes on a quest to find the Christmas star, and in doing so, saves countless lives and spreads hope to so many people. This year with all of the turmoil around us, that story might resonate even more, that we may take the time to spread hope and make a positive impact on our fellow man. I hope you all enjoy the full story below, and if you have a chance, go out there and snag a hard copy of the story for your own, and hopefully it will become a treasured part of your holiday reading list like it is for us here at the Legion of Super-Bloggers. 

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story takes place between Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #251 (the destruction of the Legion HQ) and LSH (v2) #259 (Superboy quits the Legion). 
  • This is the only Legion of Super-Heroes story ever illustrated by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (Praise Be His Name.) Although he drew a Legion cameo in DC Comics Presents #2 and a Star Boy-Dream Girl back-up story in LSH (v3) #55, this is the only full-blown Legion story he ever did.  
Status: 
Reprinted in the Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #11 (1981)
Reprinted in Christmas with The Super-Heroes #1 (1988)
Reprinted in the TPB DC Universe Christmas (2001)

MILESTONE: This story "outed" Colossal Boy as Jewish. He is shown toasting with his family while a menorah is clearly shown in the foreground. Oddly, he is wearing his costume but not a kippah. This scene made Colossal Boy the first Legionnaire to be directly linked to a specific religion.

As an extra added bonus, and as a Christmas present from all of us here at Legion of Super-Bloggers to you our fans, here is this beautiful, ultra-rare story in its entirety!
Merry Christmas, everybody!












From all of us here at the Legion of Super-Bloggers, 
have a safe and happy holiday season, and thank you for all of the support in 2014. 
LONG LIVE THE LEGION!!!

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