Monday, August 27, 2018

DC Super-Stars #3

DC Super-Stars #3 was one of the first Legion comics I bought that wasn't the actual Superboy series. When this issue came out I was a huge fan of Mike Grell and Cary Bates' Superboy/Legion series. And I was one of those fans who was eager and willing to purchase MORE Legion stuff if DC would just get it out there. 1976 was a good time for Legion reprints; there was this issue and a few months later there was the Limited Collectors' Edition C-49 book which reprinted the classic Mordru saga. I bought them both, so I'm assuming they sold well....

I'm showcasing this issue today because over in our TOS Tuesday slot we are about to get to these actual stories. And I gotta tell ya, as a kid reading this Adult Legion story I was *totally* confused!! Old costumes. Old relationships. New members. Dead members. Favorite Legionnaires NOT featured. This story is quite a trip for a young fan of the mid-Seventies. But we'll get to the details of the stories tomorrow. 

I remain confused to this day, but not so much on the plot but on the story choice. Of all the great Legion stories that DC could have chosen to reprint to fill these 36 pages, they picked the controversial and slightly confusing "Adult Legion" stories. I wonder, Why?

DC Super-Stars #3 reprints two stories: "The Adult Legion!" from Adventure Comics #354 and "The War of the Legions!" from Adventure Comics #355. Both are by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein.

The cover was by Ernie Chua (aka Ernie Chan), who was DC's go-to cover guy for the mid Seventies. He never drew any Superboy/Legion covers (those were by Mike Grell) so this was his only chance at the Legion. He did the majority of Batman, Detective Comics, the Flash, Justice League, and many others at this time, though.

This cover is an okay representation of what happens in the story, but in my opinion the figures are too small to really be dramatic. And the choice of Legionnaires is odd, as Saturn Girl is asking about "the rest of us" but there is Cosmic Boy clearly standing in his original (and future?) uniform with his wife, Night Girl. Karate Kid does not feature in the story at all, so using him over, say, Element Lad or Brainiac 5, is also an odd choice.

Besides the two stories, unabridged and unedited, there are two extra pages. One is a text page by editor E. Nelson Bridwell giving a brief history of the group up to that point. In it he clearly states that he wrote the Legion's Origin that was published in Superboy #147.

The other extra page featured the famous cover to Adventure Comics #354 with notes on "The Legionnaires Who Died!"

As for why DC might have chosen THESE two stories, from literally dozens they could have picked from, I have two theories on that.

The first is that Paul Levitz was already planning on taking over the Superboy/Legion series and killing Chemical King. So when given a choice as to which stories to reprint, his initial choice would be the story to back up his assassination.

Unfortunately for my theory, at the time this story came out (spring 1976) the creative team on Superboy/Legion was Cary Bates and Jim Shooter (rotating writers) and Mike Grell as artist. I don't think Paul Levitz had an inside track to get the series at this point! So this theory has to be wrong.

My second theory is more logical. The editor of DC Super-Stars was E. Nelson Bridwell, a fan of the Legion from way back. It was his job to pick the reprints to use for these books. However, the page count was a hard and fast 36. Using reprints of Batman, Superman, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman were easy because over their publishing histories they all had adventures with various story lengths. The Legion, on the other hand, basically only had 22 page adventures. You do the math; reprinting one story left 14 blank pages! That one problem prevented the Legion from being reprinted very often (it also stopped the similar "epic" stories of the Justice League and the Justice Society from getting reprinted as often as well).

However, a quick glance at this particular two-parter shows that although the first part is the standard Silver Age 22 pages, the conclusion was only 12 pages! Add a few extras, and it fits perfectly without any edits.

Now, that doesn't explain why Bridwell didn't take a "more accessible" Legion story and pair it with a separate, shorter story that he could have pulled from the Action Comics back-up era, where the story-length tended to be between 10-12 pages.

My theory on that is that when Bridwell went to choose a Legion story to reprint, he went in chronological order. He knew that Adventure Comics #350 and #351 had recently been re-printed (in Superboy #205). The next stories were all too long to fit the 36 page requirement. The "next" story that would fit would be this two-parter.

So that's why I think DC decided to confuse this very young Legion fan in the spring of 1976! E. Nelson Bridwell was *trying* to go in chronological order, so there was no choice but to use "The Adult Legion."

And maybe when Paul Levitz took over the writing chores on the Legion a year later, this reprint was fresh in his mind, and *that* is why he decided to kill off Chemical King. Maybe. 

Come back tomorrow for an actual review of the first story in this reprint!

1 comment:

  1. DC caught some static over editing down the Justice League stories to get them to fit the Annuals page count.