Today is the birthday of extraordinary Legion writer Paul Levitz, born on this date in 1956.
Paul's first Legion story was in Superboy/Legion #225 (March 1977). It was noteworthy for being the issue after Jim Shooter and Mike Grell had both left the title. It was not an auspicious beginning, as many fans were against new artist Jim Sherman and many also preferred the established writing style of Jim Shooter....Levitz had Mon-El *slap* Superboy in this story, for crying out loud!
A few issues later Levitz murdered Chemical King. Some of us have never gotten over it.
A few issues after that Superboy officially became Superboy And The Legion AND it became a Giant Sized monthly. After a few more deadline hiccups, Levitz wrote The Earthwar Saga, one of the best Legion stories up to that time. Then he left the title in 1979.
He came back in 1981. With Pat Broderick, and then Keith Giffen, he brought the Legion to its greatest pinnacle in entertainment and sales history. For one fantastic year he was responsible for TWO Legion titles being published simultaneously, an unheralded accomplishment! (NOW we can't even get one book...!)
Paul left the title in 1989, but then came back again for three years to write versions in 2010 to 2013.
During his ten-plus years combined tenure on the Legion, Paul Levitz wrote more than 100 Legion stories. Here are some of OUR favorite Levitz moments or memories. Feel free to add yours in the comments...!
From Bilingual Boy ...
From Bits Boy ...
And what a story?! Svaughn Erin, a character that Levitz created for the Earthwar Saga, returns as the Legion's new Science Police Liaison Officer. As Element Lad shows her around the newly renovated headquarters, we get the first hints of what would become a fan-favorite Legion couple. Then, there's Computo, the iconic villain who possesses the comatose body of young Danielle Foccart. It's a sci-fi version of The Exorcist, with Brainiac Five playing the role of Father Merrin! And of course, who could forget the introduction of Jacques Foccart, the new Invisible Kid?
Where the story really shines, though, are in those moments when Levitz pulls back from the action in order to give us a sense of the bigger picture. He gives us a sense of how the Science Police, and Earthgov, and the news media, and even the general public respond to the Legion's activities. The scene with Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel was especially poignant, given her history with Computo.
That is why I am so grateful to Paul Levitz. He never forgot the big picture, never forgot that characters, even ones as great as the Legionnaires, don't exist in a vacuum. His commitment to world-building, to making the 30th century a living, breathing, and fully-formed fictional universe, inspires me both as a reader and a writer.
And lastly, from Anj....
But for me, I want to talk about just how deep Levitz dove into the Legion mythos over his time on the book. And more importantly, despite the huge roster, Levitz was able to check in on everyone now and then and keep the readers interested and invested.
Nothing says that more to me than Legion (v2) numbers 303-305. The first issue completes an adventure where a small group of Legionnaires (including Supergirl ... yes I am biased) fight the Emerald Empress. This was a side mission, not necessary to the main plots. He followed this to a story dedicated to looking at the Legion Academy and all the applicants we had seen in the background. Call it a rest issue or a pause but I knew about and peripherally cared about Laurel Kent, Lamprey, and Power Boy. And then we get the third issue, revealing that Shrinking Violet was a Durlan imposter. The real Vi had been kidnapped and held in stasis. That was the culmination of a minor plot running through the book for a while, a plot that when revealed could be traced through clues in prior issues (how did Vi know about Durlan fighting skills?).
The Legion themselves numbered 20 plus strong. There were love interests, science police friends, rogues, and acedemy students. And yet somehow Levitz kept all those balls in the air. And as a reader I drank it in, wanting to drown in this universe.
Happy Birthday Mr. Levitz! Thanks for creating this universe that I escaped to.
Happy Birthday, Paul Levitz, and Thank You!