Monday, October 3, 2016

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #1

At a recent comic-book convention I happened to come across this Legion of Super-Heroes gem. I'm not sure why I bought it, as I already own all the Legion Archives, which means I have all of the Silver Age Legion stories. Maybe I bought it for nostalgic value. When this digest came out there were no Archives or Trade Paperbacks. You could only find older reprinted stories in books like these. So never having read any of these stories as a kid, I grabbed this off the rack in December, 1979. And yes, where I bought comics they were still sold on racks...!

This digest includes the following stories:
Adventure Comics #247 "The Legion of Super-Heroes"
The Legion's very first appearance
Adventure Comics #349 "The Rogue Legionnaire"
The debut of Universo
Adventure Comics #306 "The Legion of Substitute Heroes"
The debut of the Subs
Adventure Comics #352-353 "The Fatal Five/The Doomed Legionnaire"
The debut of the Fatal Five, and the death of Ferro Lad
and the covers of their most famous issues, Adventure Comics #247 and Adventure Comics #300.

This is quite an odd collection of stories if you stop and think about it. I understand choosing the Legion's very first appearance, and the cover boasts that the Fatal Five-Sun Eater story is "their number one super-adventure." The Universo story is also entertaining. But showcasing the Subs? I think I would have picked the debut of Dr. Regulus over that one. Or the sacrifice of Lightning Lad, maybe? Or the adventure where Mon-El joined the Legion? It definitely does seem weird when you have 20+ characters you could feature, you reprint something about five OTHER characters.

What is also weird to me, as a side-bar to my confusion over the stories chosen, are the members chosen to appear on the back cover. Of these twelve Legionnaires, only four of them are actually IN any of the stories reprinted! Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Wildfire, and Tyroc weren't even members during the era these stories represent! I can understand not showing Ferro Lad, as he was no longer a (current) member, but Chameleon Boy and Colossal Boy ARE in the stories and also current members, yet are not featured on this roll call!

On the other hand, I wonder if there is something akin to a "throw 'em all out there and see who sticks" type of mentality going on here. For all I know, issues with Wildfire on the cover might sell better than those without him. That's possible. Maybe editor Jack C. Harris told artist Dick Giordano who to feature, and that was that. And I won't even touch on the obvious tokenism of featuring Tyroc on this cover when he had not appeared in an actual Legion adventure for more than three years.

I do like how Superboy's role in the Legion is down-played on the cover. He does not appear on either the front or the back cover; all we get is his classic logo there on the front, smaller and definitely subservient to the Legion's logo. In future digests featuring the Legion he does get cover space, but here it's almost like DC is trying to gauge the popularity of the Legion without him. When this book was published he and the Legion had just split into two titles, so perhaps this was a sales pitch? Or maybe the Dick Giordano "now vs then" illustration just didn't lend itself to squeezing the Boy of Steel in? I would not have been surprised to see him on the back cover, though, as he appears in each of the reprinted stories!

Another interesting thing about this digest is that when the decision was made to reprint the two-part Fatal Five/Sun-Eater story, some editing was ordered. The last page of Adventure Comics #352 was deleted (the next issue page featuring a shot of all of the characters and the Sun-Eater) as was the first page of Adventure Comics #353, summarizing what had already occurred in part one. The numbering of the story continues, making page 2 of #353 page 23 of the continued story. This all happened in-between pages 76 and 77 of the digest. Oddly enough, editor Jack C. Harris could have left those two pages in and not given us the two famous covers he did include....

"This is the way it began in 1958! The Legion's FIRST appearance
was originally intended as a one-shot Superboy story, but the readers
demanded sequel after sequel. After 23 years, the Legion has become
the most popular super-team in comics. Things have changed since this first story,
but here it is in its original form. Enjoy!" JCH
It's nice to start the digest with a re-presentation of the Legion's first cover appearance, leading to a reprint of that epic adventure. However, this digest was published in December 1979, with a cover date of March/April 1980. So editor Jack C. Harris' math is a little bit off....

"Four years and five months after they were introduced, the Legion finally won their own feature!
This historic cover for Adventure Comics #300 celebrated that epic event.
We present it here as a celebration of the Legion entering the Eighties
in a comic book all their own! Long Live the Legion!" JCH

On the inside back cover a list of current Legionnaires is included for our convenience. However, it also lists Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel as members. All long-time fans know that they retired when they got married, and had not been shown to have officially rejoined! In fact, in their most recent appearance before this Digest was published, they were enjoying something akin to a second honeymoon on the ice planet Wondil IX (Superboy/Legion #257). Eagle-eyed readers will also notice that this list does not include Blok, who joined in Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #270. Which makes sense, because this digest's cover date is listed as March/April 1980, which would make it roughly the same time as Legion (v2) #262.....which we will review here at LSB in two weeks! Yes, our 1980s Legion reviews start back up TOMORROW! Don't miss "the Circus of Death!"


  1. I think that the back cover logic was the exact opposite: those chracters were included there so that everyone on the roll call would appear somewhere in (on) the book.

    Anyhow, as I've said before, this is an awesome Legion primer, just what the book needed after the title change. I've got no problem with the subs story as in the top four representative legion stories. But if I was going to add a fifth story, it wouldn't have been any of the ones you mentioned; it would be the original Computo story.

  2. You bought it because your a Legion of Super- Heroes fan !

    I've got this as well as all of the Adventure Comics Digest Issues not to mention a complete run if Adventure Comics ( featuring the LSH's) all the Superboy issues.....

    Its the love of this iconic team that keeps us buying their appearances !


  3. I bought this at the time. It was the first time I actually read the Fatal Five story and the Sub stories, so I loved it as a historical document. I knew the back cover people as 'current' Legionnaires. So I didn't mind the inside content/outside head shots.

    I'd buy this again.

  4. One of the things I really liked about the Legion when I got into it back in the 70s was its expansiveness, the sense that there was so much I didn't know about the universe. I remember being fascinated by a one-panel appearance by Chemical King in SLSH #208. I'd never seen him before and he literally did nothing in that story but yawn, but the idea that the Legion was so big they could have members that never appeared was intriguing. I was likewise fascinated by the fact that a couple of the members had been killed in action, which isn't something I'd seen in any other comic I'd experienced up to that point. All of which is a long-winded way of saying I understand why they might have chosen to show members who weren't featured in the digest on the cover, and to reprint the Sun-Eater story.