Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Birthday E. Nelson Bridwell

Today is the birthday of former Superman Group Titles Assistant Editor extraordinaire and prolific comic-book writer E. Nelson Bridwell. He was born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma on September 22, 1931.

Nelson's first published work was, appropriately, a Superboy story in 1965.  He then co-created The Inferior Five in 1966 and The Secret Six in 1968. Along the way he wrote several classic Legion of Super-Heroes stories. Nelson's forte was to explain or expand on story arcs already established. For example, in "The Five Legion Orphans" he established that Dream Girl, Brainiac 5, and Mon-El were all orphans (we already knew Superboy and Element Lad were, of course). In "The Forgotten Legion" he found a way to return Star Boy and Dream Girl to the ranks. And in Superboy #147, he wrote the first and definitive "Origin of the Legion."

After the Legion was dumped from the pages of Adventure Comics and Jim Shooter quit DC, Nelson took over the writing chores for the group. Due to page constrictions, most of these stories are heavy on characterization and low on plot. However, several still stand up to the test of time, such as "Chameleon Boy's Secret Identity" (where Cham pretends to be a Caucasian in order to get a girl-friend), "The Fallen Star Boy" (where the Legion meets the brother of the man Star Boy killed in self-defense several years earlier), and "One Hero Too Many," where one Legionnaire must quit in order for the organization to stay under a new UP membership law. This particular story is unique in that it shows us a mission monitor board with EVERY member at the time....all 26 of them (25 after the end of the story). This era is sometimes called "the forgotten years" because they are the not Adventure or Superboy stories, but some of them are pretty good. (For those interested, they are all collected in The Legion Archives Vol. 9 and in Showcase Presents The Legion Vol. 4).

The last bit of important Legion business Nelson provided was in a back-up story in Superboy #172, "Brotherly Hate!" In this story, Lightning Lord's red-hair is turned white. Mekt Ranzz' hair was white when he first appeared as a member of the Legion of Super-Villains, but that was the "Adult" version of the character. When he re-appeared in "current" continuity, his hair was just as red as his brother's and sister's. Until this story, that is.

Although the Legion returned to its own series soon after this and eventually got its own title, E. Nelson Bridwell never wrote another Legion story after 1971. Instead he turned his attention to Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, first in Shazam! and then later in the pages of World's Finest. He also handled The Super Friends, a series he wrote consistently for five years. When The Secrets of the Legion mini-series came out in 1980, he helped plot it with writer Paul Kupperberg.

Unfortunately, E. Nelson Bridwell died on January 23, 1987. His legacy, however, lives on, and will continue to live on well into the future....

Happy Birthday, E. Nelson Bridwell!

The Origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes

The Inferior Five by Bridwell & Mike Sekowsky
(here lampooning Marvel's X-Men)

The Secret Six....
the catch was that their boss, Mockingbird, was actually one of the Six!

Action Comics #383
Chameleon Boy grapples with his sense of self 

Action Comics #385
Star Boy is targeted by the brother of the man he killed in self-defense

Action Comics #387
One of these members quits the Legion by the end of this story

Superboy #172
Lightning Lad vs Lightning Lord

Bridwell wrote all of the Shazam! stories from the late 70s thru the 80s

Bridwell wrote most of The Super Friends stories....
including both of their two matches against
The Time Trapper! 

Bridwell plotted this mini-series and Paul Kupperberg dialogued it


  1. Happy Birthday Nelson and thanks for the memories !

  2. Happy Birthday Nelson! You will always be remembered.