Monday, April 26, 2021

Who Drew It Better? Tales vs Baxter #25-29

By Siskoid and Russell
Completing our comparison of the covers of the Baxter version of The Legion (volume 3) and their reprints one year later in Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes. This time we wrap up this series, as the reprints ended with Tales #29. The stories were exactly the same, but each issue had a brand new cover. So we go back to the age-old question: Who drew the better cover?

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #25
(by Steve Lightle; idea by Ed Hannigan)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #350
(by Ed Hannigan & Mike DeCarlo)
Siskoid: Steve Lightle's sudden death in January is going to make it harder to lean away from the covers he drew from an emotional standpoint, but given that they are generally very strong - it's why he was a celebrated Legion artist, after all - it shouldn't be much of a dilemma. The revelation of who Sensor Girl is is an afterthought on Hannigan's newsstand cover, and despite the action, this isn't as exciting as the big unmasking moment. Lightle is the clear winner, though he apparently had an assist from Hannigan, so everybody wins.

Russell: I totally agree. LSH #25 is one of my all-time favorite covers, and Tales #350 just doesn't compare. It doesn't help that it has Mike DeCarlo's overly heavy inks on it, either. 

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #26
(by Steve Lightle)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #351
(by Curt Swan & Dick Giordano)
Siskoid: Emerald Empress vs. Sensor Girl shows up here on the newsstand version, while the Fatal Five are on the Baxter book, a reverse of how they handled it on the previous issue. Now, I'm not a huge fan of group shots - they were ruined for me in the modern era by the revelation that artists could better sell these on the convention circuit, so they're generic for somewhat cynical reasons. But you're asking me to side with Curt Swan over Steve Lightle? Not gonna happen. It's more action-oriented, but the Emerald Eye sitting on tiny volcano just looks silly.

Russell: I don't have Siskoid's cynism against group shots or poster shots as covers, but I do hate them when they are overused. Here, though, we get the classic pose of the Fatal Five and it is actually scary! Who knew that this iteration itself was not destined for greatness? Melancholy points for the inclusion of Mentalla, who if you did not know was based on uber-talented Steve Lightle's wife, Marianne.  Although I do like the composition of Curt Swan's Tales cover, I don't understand the Emerald Eye sitting on a mini-volcano, either. I give it to LSH #26 as well. 

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #27
(by Steve Lightle)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #352
(by Luke McDonnell)
Siskoid: I like Luke McDonnell for gritty grounded stuff. The Legion, not so much. No contest here. Lightle's cover is great - the couples in profile, the weird shade of the White Witch surrounding Mordru breaking out of the rock, the Sensor Girl reveal... While McDonnell's take on the "catering to subplots" issue is to put everyone in little bubbles superimposed on planets. It's dull, and some of the characters look silly (Tellus) or ugly (White Witch).

Russell: This is another instance when I don't really care for either of these covers! I can appreciate McDonnell's approach, but it doesn't really work for me, either And one of the main plot points of this story (the conclusion of the Sensor Girl epic) seems to be totally ignored in lieu of Timber Wolf's prominence. On the other hand, the characters by Lightle all seem to be individuals and I love the way they POP off the light blue background. LSH #27 for me, too. 

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual (v2) #2
(by Steve Lightle)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual  #5
(by Curt Swan & Al Vey)
Siskoid: Again a Lightle-Swan showdown, and Swan doesn't even have the benefit of Giordano's inks (with apologies to Vey). Swan's image is busier, while Lightle's has a more interesting perspective. Swan's Darkseid face might as well be Blok's. The cover copy on the original Annual is actually more exciting than seeing Darkseid here.

Russell: I disagree with Siskoid this time. The perspective by Lightle confuses me, and makes Lightning Lad look bigger than Validus. Validus should always be the center of attention, and Lightle's version just doesn't work for me. On the other hand, Swan's composition is busy, but exciting. I reluctantly choose Tales this time. 

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #28
(by Steve Lightle)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes
(by Pat Broderick & John Beatty)
Siskoid: I've always loved the Baxter cover, explosive, monochrome, and blowing the logo to bits. It's one of the greats and most memorable from the run. I could not possibly care less about the "Search for Atmos," and a bunch of Legionnaires caught in the middle of doing jumping jacks just isn't going to cut it against that.

Russell: I totally agree. LSH #28 is one of the great Legion covers. In contrast, Tales #353 is not. 

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #29
(by Steve Lightle)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #354
(by Ron Frenz)

Siskoid: While I won't dispute the fact that the Legion offices got "name" artists to do the newsstand pieces, these last few have been pretty boring. Legionnaires in action against randos on flying discs, even if there's stuff exploding, just isn't very exciting. Lightle gave us a background of well-rendered faces in color hold, but burns through the image in a star pattern to introduce the new Starfinger. A lot more intriguing, eye-popping, and appropriate.

Russell: What can I say in addition to that? LSH #29 is another classic cover. I literally can look at it for minutes at a time, searching for certain Legionnaires or comparing their expressions. Have you noticed Ferro Lad? It helps that the coloring is awesome. Tales #354 just doesn't compare, although I do like that Magnetic Kid finally gets on the cover again. 

....And that's it! That's our complete comparison of the Baxter and Tales covers. What did YOU think? Do you agree with us, or do you think we're totally off? Let us know in the comments! 
Long Live the Legion! 


  1. I would have to go for the Baxter covers on all of them, purely for composition, excitement and mystery.

    As far as Garth looking bigger than Validus, the fact that every Legionnaire has a flight ring made this a non-issue for me (the height from flight).

    It is fantastic to see the newsstand covers, as most of them are new to me. It's great to see Pat Broderick Legion work again, and I'd have loved to see the dynamic Ron Frenz draw a run of interiors, with a slick inker to help demonstrate the glossy future.

    1. I agree with you about Ron Frenz. I would have loved to have seen him on the actual Legion book.

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