Monday, November 16, 2015

Keeping up to date with the Legion



    Full 12-month calendars in their own right issued by comic book companies are nothing new these days, even if some may appear to be only released at the publisher’s whim. But as recently as the dawn of the 70s, such items were non-existent, appearing only occasionally as novelty pieces within the pages of comic books.
   The first DC Comics calendar which has any sort of Legion connection appeared in DC COMICS’ LIMITED COLLECTOR’S EDITION C-34 (Christmas With The Super-Heroes), which featured a standard 12-month listing of dates for 1975, embellished on the periphery with images of various DC characters, including the Legion. This Murphy Anderson illustration was also used on the covers of the four-issue LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series, which reprinted various stories from the ADVENTURE COMICS era.



   The following year (1976) was a momentous one, with the United States celebrating its bicentennial. Among the many items of comic book merchandise produced to cash in on the event was a standalone calendar featuring DC’s heroes, with monthly spreads gloriously illustrated by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, including the iconic Legion fly-by scene. Even more interesting was the calendar’s citation of the birthdays of various heroes and supporting cast members, many of which had previously not been established. And miraculously, none of the characters ever shared a birthday!

A typical month from the calendar, showing dates of special events for the DC Comics characters.
Neal Adam's classic Legion scene on the inside cover of the 1976 calendar.
   The calendar sold well enough to convince DC to repeat the venture with a 1977 almanac,this time with the theme “Super-Heroes versus Super-Villains”. The cover was again drawn by Neal Adams, but the interior art was spread out among DC’s stable of artists. The Legion literally took center stage, with a Mike Grell depiction of the group battling the Fatal Five on top of the Statue of Liberty, an image reprised on the back of the calendar.



   The calendar for 1978 highlighted a year of Super-Spectacular Disasters. A mysterious villain plans “the total destruction of the earth and leads up to it with monthly menaces which tax the powers of the world’s greatest super-heroes.” With clues to the mastermind’s identity provided, readers were directed to fill in a grid on the JLA computer screen to spell out the villain’s name. Each month featured a battle scene which led up to the conclusion on the last pages of the calendar.
   Karate Kid and the Legion of Super-Heroes  featured in December, taking on the Toyman at a New York department store, beautifully illustrated by Jim Sherman and Jack Abel. The dates for December are also wrapped around by a framework consisting of Legion members. The details for the month explain how some Legion members decide to spend an old-fashioned Christmas in the 20th century, arriving on December 16. They visit the home of Karate Kid (who was then living in 1978) on December 21, then battle the Toyman on December 23.





   DC Comics stopped publishing these “Super DC calendars” after 1978, opting instead for one-piece calendars which featured the months and various illos of DC characters. Surprisingly, even though the Legion was a hot property in the 80s, they never appeared in any of these publications.
   The Legion’s next major appearance in a calendar did not come until 1996, when DC published its Final Night series, in which  the heroes and citizens of Earth faced impending demise as the Sun-Eater, which first appeared in a Legion story, threatened to extinguish their Sun, therefore creating the planet’s final night. 
   As a prelude to the series, DC Comics released a Final Night calendar … an advent calendar of sorts which allowed retailers to reveal scenes from the series weekly in the countdown to the first issue. An exclusive story previewing the crisis was featured in the calendar, which showed Superman and members of the Legion discussing the menace of the Sun-Eater.




   There have been several other calendars in which the Legion were featured in the form of reproductions of comic book covers in which they appeared. These include the 1988 calendar, which depicted covers of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 34 (Universo Project Pt 3), WHO’S WHO: DEFINITIVE DIRECTORY OF THE  DC UNIVERSE 20 (featuring Saturn Girl and Saturn Queen on cover), and SUPERMAN 8 (several Legionnaires on cover); and a DC Comics “Collectible 2010 Vintage 16-Month Calendar” published by Asgard Press, which included a reproduction of the cover of SUPERBOY 147.

The 1988 calendar with images of comic covers, including three featuring the Legion.

The 2010 calendar featuring the image from SUPERBOY 147.

   A different sort of Legion-related calendar was published to coincide with the release of Alex Ross’ lavish, coffee table book titled MYTHOLOGY, which collected most of the master artist’s DC Comics work. The 2005 calendar featured 12 of Alex’ best pieces to accompany each month, including the iconic Legion of Super-Heroes artwork first released as a limited edition poster. 





Are there are other Legion-related calendars we missed? Let us know!

Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.



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