Monday, July 28, 2014

The Legion in ACTION


After head-lining ADVENTURE COMICS for nearly seven years (eighty issues!), in June 1969 the Legion of Super-Heroes as a feature was unceremoniously yanked from that title and dropped into the back of ACTION COMICS.
This was most likely because long-time Superman Group editor, Mort Weisinger, retired in 1970. One of the last things he did before he retired was to switch Supergirl and the Legion; she took over ADVENTURE and they were relegated to the back of ACTION, starting with #378 (July 1969).
This was probably supposed to be a win-win, as The Maid of Might should have glowed brightly in the spotlight, and the Legion should have managed to survive under a new editor. However, once Weisinger was gone it all started to fall apart. New Superman Group editor Julius Schwartz must not have known what to do with them. Regular Legion writer Jim Shooter quit, fed up with having to write shorter stories. In his stead E. Nelson Bridwell came back to write character pieces, doing the best he could with 10-12 page limits. New writer Cary Bates began to get his toes wet in the far flung future. But after less than twenty issues, as of #392, the Legion was out of ACTION, figuratively as well as actually. 

This section will profile the Rare Gems that are the Legion in ACTION COMICS stories, in chronological order. There are quite a few good stories here, including the famous "forbidden fruit" story that was the first comic about drug addiction, pre-dating both SPIDER-MAN and GREEN LANTERN-GREEN ARROW. Of course, there are some clunkers here, too...! We'll eventually look at them all. 

In terms of Legion history, these stories occur during Years Seven and Eight. 

 panel of the first ACTION story, #378's "The Forbidden Fruit!"

panel from the last ACTION story, #392's "The Legionnaires That Never Were!" 
yes, those are male versions of Projectra and Saturn Girl. 
small wonder the series was dumped...?


Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Legion of Super-Heroes Year Two

Here's a two-page spread from SUPERMAN ANNUAL #4 (1962) that features the almost correct then-current membership of the Legion of Super-Heroes! In Legion history these twelve members all joined in the first eighteen months of the Legion's existence. So this makes this sort of LSH: Year Two.

Because the Legion did not have a true home until ADVENTURE COMICS #300 (Sept 1962) it was very hard to keep track of who the membership was! For example, Sun Boy made his debut in the same issue that included Brainiac 5 and Supergirl earning membership over him, but the boys are both included here and she's not! Also, in ADVENTURE COMICS #282 (March 1961) Star Boy appears as a member, but is not shown here. More confusing is the exclusion of Ultra Boy, who made his debut and earned his Legion membership in SUPERBOY #98 (July 1962) but in Legion history is considered a member *before* Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, and Bouncing Boy! How is that possible?!


Oh, well. Enjoy the art! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Fire Lad!


According to the 1976 DC Calendar, today will be the birthday of Staq Mavlen, better known thoughout the galaxy as Fire Lad.
Fire Lad was one of the founding members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and served with distinction with them until Polar Boy disbanded that group. 
Fire Lad is a Cancer. He's a rebel, but the fight won't always look like a fight. This is a war of art and alliances. He will know what he's up against, but will he know what he's in for? He should be prepared for anything. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Chlorophyll Kid!


According to the 1976 DC Calendar, today will be the birthday of Ral Benem, better known thoughout the galaxy as Chlorophyll Kid.
Chlorophyll Kid was one of the founding members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and served with distinction with them until Polar Boy disbanded that group. 
Chlorophyll Kid is a Cancer. He should speak up even if he suspects he will have no influence on others. Making the effort to be heard is important for his self-esteem. Whether people listen is beside the point.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lore Of The Legion part two

In the early 1970s, DC included all sorts of special text pieces and quizzes as well as reprints in their "One Hundred Pages for Sixty Cents" super-giant comics. In Superboy #205 (Dec 1974) we got a second selection of profiles of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The text is most likely by former Legion writer E. Nelson Bridwell. The art for the first two pages is by Dave Cockrum, of course. 

These members and costumes were correct at this time, but four issues later Karate Kid went back to his yellow-black-white uniform that Cockrum had given him and then discarded. Mike Grell, who had taken over the art chores after Dave had left, preferred the high collar look to the dull beige robe.

To fill out the membership roll call, pictures were clipped from actual stories to illustrate the late Ferro Lad, Jimmy Olsen, Kid Psycho, Lana Lang, Pete Ross, and Rond Vidar. It's interesting to notice that three of the Reservists were Superboy/Superman supporting characters, making the link between the Legion and Kal-El even stronger. Rond Vidar appeared frequently in the pages of LSH, but Kid Psycho was not seen again in an actual story until his death during CRISIS. 




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Birthday, Wildfire!

According to the 1976 DC Calendar, today will be the birthday of Drake Burroughs, better known throughout the galaxy as Wildfire.
Wildfire was the twenty-eighth member to join the Legion of Super-Heroes, and served as Leader during Year Ten.
Wildfire is a Cancer. He'll have the sense that he's moving on to better things today...not necessarily bigger things but things better-suited to him. This offers hope and keeps it alive.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Birthdays of the Future...!


In the fall of 1975 Warner Bros Publishing put on sale the 1976 Super DC Calendar. This great twelve page binded "book" was lavishly illustrated by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. The art for each month featured Superman, The Flash, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern & Green Arrow, The Super-Villains, the Justice League, Captain "Shazam!" Marvel, The Super-Heroines, Wonder Woman, A DC Christmas, and leading the pack in January 1976, this awesome poster of the Legion of Super-Heroes!

Most every day of the year was marked with some important DC event, such as the day Batman's parents were murdered or the day Krypton exploded, or happy anniversaries like the day Aquaman married Mera or the day Barry Allen married Iris West. And of course, the majority of characters had their birthdays noted!

So under this banner we are going to point out those "special days." Of course, since this is from 1975 the last Legionnaire who gets mentioned will be Wildfire. That's right, no Dawnstar, Blok, Tellus, Kent Shakespeare, or Kono, unfortunately...!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes!"

Until May 1968 no one knew exactly how or why the Legion of Super-Heroes had been formed. In every story that the subject came up, a member would say only that Superboy and Supergirl had inspired the group to create itself.

Until Superboy #147 (May 1968), that is. According to Paul Levitz, writer-editor E. Nelson Bridwell came up with it. "Perhaps the most significant story (he) crafted was the first and still the definite telling of the origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes. (Bridwell) laid out the tale as he had assembled it from pieces scattered in stories he'd read, written, or helped edit over the years. And (he) pinned down a little part of the universe he cared about."

Here for your enjoyment is the original origin of the Legion, featuring vibrant art by Pete Costanza, years before he had his more famous son, George. Even though this story is from 1968, the art has a  retro Fifties Science Fiction feel to it. It's easy on the eyes, which makes the fantastic Triplicate Girl  and Phantom Girl even more eye-popping when they do appear.

Title: The Origin of the Legion!
Credits: written by E. Nelson Bridwell, art by Pete Constanza
Cover: a rare combination of Curt Swan (penciller) and Neal Adams (inker)
(per credits in Legion of Super-Heroes Archive Vol 8)
Roll Call: Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid










On a personal note, I first read this story not in the original Superboy issue or in the Archive but in a little-known reprint title from the early Seventies called Secret Origins.
Compare the cover below to the original Superboy cover. It's easy to see where Nick Cardy got his inspiration, but it is odd how he switched characters around...so Lightning Lad is featured twice! 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lore of the Legion part one

In the early 1970s, DC included all sorts of special text pieces and quizzes as well as reprints in their "One Hundred Pages for Sixty Cents" super-giant comics. In Superboy #202 (June 1974) we got a special four page profile on some of the Legion of Super-Heroes. According to the LEGION ARCHIVES #10 the text is by E. Nelson Bridwell. The art, of course, is by Dave Cockrum.

These members and costumes were correct as of 1974, but Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy had just gotten married and left the Legion two issues ago. And Matter-Eater Lad was colored incorrectly, as he should have yellow leggings and green boots. 

Superboy #202 was the last issue that Dave Cockrum drew as regular artist, but his effect on the Legion never went away. His Lightning Lad re-design, for example, is still the template all others base their Garths off of.  

 




In the Beginning....

It all started here....in Adventure Comics #247, April 1958.

It what was a simple throw-away story for the newest issue of Superboy's feature. Writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino came up with the idea of teenagers from the future, coming back to the past and pulling a prank on young Clark Kent. As part of his initiation into their Super-Hero "Club," they tease Superboy and make him think they've rejected him. At the end he shows his true worth and they award him membership and a medal with "super hero number one" embossed on it.

And so a super-hero universe is begun in the unlikeliest of places...! 
For this silly little story somehow attracted enough attention amongst enough fans for Adventure Comics editor Mort Weisinger to notice. Fans wrote in asking for more of these kids. A year after their initial appearance, they re-appeared in Adventure Comics (#267). Then Weisinger tried something different: in an effort to build up the characters' popularity, he tried these characters out as guest-stars in various other "Superman" titles. It was as if he told his stable of writers: here are these crazy future characters, try writing them into your story and see what happens. They appeared with Supergirl in Action Comics, as adults in Superman, in Superboy's own book, and eventually even in Jimmy Olsen, too.

Then, finally, in 1962 "The World of Bizarro" series in Adventure Comics was not selling as well as Wiesinger had hoped it would. So starting in #300 he made the fateful decision to give the lead feature to "the kids," Superboy and The Legion. For nearly 80 issues, until 1969, the Legion of Super-Heroes were the stars of their own comic-book.

During this time "the Legion of Super-Heroes" came into its own for a generation of fans. The majority of major characters, planets, institutions, and environments all made their debuts during this time. During their Adventure Comics run the stories were written by such greats as Jerry Siegel, Otto Binder, E. Nelson Bridwell, and, most famously, Jim Shooter. The artists were such masters as Pete Costanza, John Forte, Win Mortimer, and, most famously, Curt Swan. This was their Golden Age.
 
Everything about this blog has something to do with these stories, what we call The Original Series. However, we are not going to start our Chronological Reviews with them. Firstly, these stories are more than 50 years old and *not* the "jumping on" point for the majority of current Legion fans. Secondly, all of these stories are readily available in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives collection, which is in fact where I read the vast majority of them. (So if you really do want to know about them, track down those books. They are awesome!) And thirdly, some of these early stories are just so darn silly.

Instead, we will focus this blog on reviewing "newer" Legion series, discussing the Legion cartoons, thrilling to Legion toys, and enjoying various other Legion sightings. And while we are doing that, I promise we will sometimes take a quick jaunt in our Time Bubble back to The Beginning to showcase one of these classics. We'll do them in chronological order, following the list of stories in The Archives. And once we start getting into the more "serious" stories, I promise we will start to follow them regularly.

Long Live the Legion!