Monday, July 15, 2019

Twenty Rare Legion Collectibles

If you're a die-hard Legion of Super-Heroes fan, you'll probably try and get your hands on any comic, magazine, publication or general paraphernalia related to your favorite group.
    While many collect only officially authorized stuff, others delve into esoterica like original art, bootlegged products, unlicensed material, or commissioned sketches.
    As a dedicated Legion follower, I have amassed a pretty complete collection of licensed product. I often get queries from followers of my Facebook page about the availability of some of the merchandise, which has provided the inspiration for me to compile a list of my top 20 hardest-to-find Legion-related items. 
    Note there is a difference between collectibles that are difficult to find, and those which are not rare and may simply be too expensive for the average collector. For example, copies of ADVENTURE COMICS #247 are easy enough to acquire if you have the funds. Likewise, the highly sought-after Mattel 12-pack of Legion figures, or copies of the ridiculously over-priced SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION #23 with the Adam Hughes cover, are not scarce, but will cost you quite a handful of Huopian energy money and Dracksler mirror coins to purchase.
    So let the drums roll. Here's my top 20, in ascending order of rarity. Every item pictured is from my collection. Some items were produced in limited quantities and distributed to only selected recipients, while others enjoyed greater circulation but are still difficult to acquire.  As with many lists of this nature, note that it's all subjective.





20. HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE LARGE POSTER



The poster compared to its fold-out counterpart in the HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE HARDBACK.

    The limited edition HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE hardback (10,000 copies) released in 1988 included a fold-out poster of various DC characters drawn by some of the industry's greatest artists. The Legion was represented by a P Craig Russell rendition of the White Witch. 

    The book came with a card which readers could use to buy a bigger version of the poster, rendered on high quality Bristol board stock. Only limited numbers were made and finding a copy of this now is definitely easier said than done.


The postcard that had to be sent in to buy the poster.


19. ALEX ROSS VERTICAL GICLEE LEGION PRINT 



    What more can be said of Alex Ross' huge 29” x 54” Giclee print of the Legion, issued in 1997? It had a run of only 500, and those fans who snapped one up are unlikely to ever sell their prints. Occasionally a copy pops up at auction houses, but you'll have to monitor them closely for a chance to bid. 

    A word of warning: if you do get an opportunity to buy this, make sure it comes with the certificate of authenticity attached to the back, which also includes a key to the characters in the painting. 


18. DC COMICS BACKING BOARD CARDS




    This set of cards came in six different sheets of eight that formed the backing boards for comics sold in three-packs at large retailers. In original condition, the perforated boards have a header, used for hanging the product. The Legion-related cards spotlight Tyr (#21), CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS 1 (#38), and ADVENTURE COMICS 307 (#43).
    The first set was released in 1987, the second in 1989. Individual cards cut out from the boards can be found on Ebay from time to time, but intact sheets are very hard to come by.



17. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES FLOW CHART




    Issued in 1997, this was a large poster made up for retailers to display on their shop walls, showing the relationships of Legion members to each other. This was a companion piece to the Legion stickers issued at the same time, but the poster contains three members not depicted on the sheet:  Leviathan, Kid Quantum I and Atom’x.  

    Most fans snapped the posters up from their local stores when they were done with them. Generally, the flow charts are not easy to find these days. 


16. WEETABIX BOXES



The Weetabix box with Legion characters on it (above) and a bigger pack with a cut-out model, which has a picture puzzler inside featuring Worldsmith.

    I've included these even though they're a product from the United Kingdom. I think they're a definite collectible, but of course opinions may differ depending on personal criteria. 

    Granted licence by DC Comics, the UK cereal company Weetabix ran a Superman promotion in 1979, its boxes adorned with various play scenes and cut-out models (a Kryptonian flyer, and Kal-El’s rocket). Hidden in the actual cereal were various character cards, issued in strips of three or six, depending on the size of the pack. Altogether there were 18 different cards, which could be slotted in to the play scenes. 
    While there were no Legionnaires, there were four related characters: Worldsmith, a Resource Raider, the Raiders’ chief (a floating brain), and the Galactic Coordinator (who only appeared in one panel of the comic book). 
    The characters were depicted on the Weetabix boxes as well as on the cards. The inside of the boxes featured six different “picture puzzlers” (which you could only get to if you tore the box open). They included a "spot the difference" puzzle with Worldsmith, a Resource Raider connect-the-dot puzzle, and a word game with the Brain. A smaller snack pack version, which did not contain cards, featured the characters on the outside of the box. The boxes are the most troublesome to procure as most of them would have been discarded or disfigured by consumers. The cards themselves are relatively common. 


The Legion-related picture puzzlers featured inside the boxes.


The Legion-related Weetabix cards (relatively common).


15. LEGIONNAIRES CLOISONNE PIN




    These metallic lapel-style pins with butterfly clips were given out to retailers for every 100 issues of LEGIONNAIRES #1 ordered. Smaller than standard pins but quite nifty in appearance, they're hard to track down, although some have recently surfaced on Ebay.


  

14. McDONALDS HAPPY MEALS POSTER



    A window poster was produced to promote the McDonald’s animated Legion of Super-Heroes figures (released jointly with a Build-a-Bear set) on one side, and McDonald’s “Good food to grow” on the other, which depicted a milk shake, a juice, a fruit cup and some nuggets. Variations of this poster were used on the menu boards of the drive-thrus, along with a pictorial listing of the figures. 

    In general, this is a scarcer item than the promotional display stand which included all the the Legion and Build-A-Bear figures. 


The bottom half of the display stand for the Legion figures, pictured next to a Happy Meals box.


13. RED LEGION JACKET-STYLE T-SHIRT




    There have been a myriad of Legion shirts made over the years but most of them are unauthorized product. The scope of this list covers only the tops that were licensed from DC Comics, of which there have been several produced over the decades, including ones featuring Jeff Moy Legionnaires, Frank Miller Legionnaires, a Legion symbol over a starfield, and a Tom Grummett drawing of Kon-El and the three founders. 

    I've found that the Legion shirt in shortest supply was the red one produced to resemble the Legion jackets of the time (1997), which bore a big Legion symbol on the back, and a simple, plain front. Beware of forgeries: the original shirt bears a Gildan label.  


12. ZERO HOUR POSTER




    This poster featured heads of various DC characters, including Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl, and was inserted into copies of COMICS VALUES MONTHLY #95. The now discontinued magazine has low resale value and comic stores do not often stock back issues. Finding copies of this particular issue is not easy, let alone locating ones with the poster still intact within. 



11. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOTING BALLOT PAPER (1976)





    DC Comics held its inaugural (and so far only) Super DC Convention in February 1976, at the Hotel Commodore, NYC (taken over by the Trump Organization that year itself and duly converted into the Grand Hyatt). With so many fans attending the three-day event, DC decided to ask them to elect a new leader for the Legion.
    Ballot papers featuring all the Legionnaires were made available to attendees, who were asked to circle their preferred leader on the form as well as writing down the character's name in the space provided, and placing them in various Legion ballot boxes placed around the venue.
    Random forms were drawn at regular intervals throughout the sessions and door prizes awarded, with the fans' choice announced on the last day. Superboy was the clear winner, with Wildfire coming in second. But because Superboy was only a part-time member, Wildfire was named leader, and duly sworn in in SUPERBOY 225, Paul Levitz' first Legion story. Element Lad came in third, and interestingly, Tyroc placed fifth.
    The double-sided ballot papers measured 8.5 x 11 inches, and were accompanied by a survey form compiled by "the DC staff", asking fans a series of questions about what they liked and disliked about DC Comics, with three lucky participants winning pieces of original art. While many fans filled the ballot papers in, those with more collectors' instincts kept a few for themselves. There are probably only a handful of these unmarked papers left today. 


10. ADVENTURE COMICS #515 (VARIANT COVER)




    The variant cover of this issue was drawn by Lee Bermejo and was produced to commemorate DC Comics' 75th anniversary. It had a distribution rate of 1:25, which really isn't that low compared to other variants, but it continues to prove elusive for collectors still looking for copies. 

    Hint: if you're hunting for this item, use both ADVENTURE COMICS #515 or #12 in the search fields, because this was the last issue in the revived series which used dual numbering.


9. LEGION OUTPOSTS




    While not a licensed product as such, I believe the historical importance of the Outposts make them a bona fide collectible for Legion fans. Originally published in 1972 as the official newsletter of the Legion Fan Club, the Legion Outpost soon became the premier Legion of Super-Heroes fanzine of the decade, featuring contributions by fans, pros, and soon-to-be pros. Launched at a time when the future of the Legion was in doubt, the Outpost was at the center of fan-based efforts to revive the title, and was largely responsible for its rescue from obscurity. Indeed, Jim Shooter was brought back into the writing fold after being tracked down by one of these fans, a development that would have future ramifications on Marvel Comics and the comics industry as a whole. 

    In total, there were 10 issues of the Outposts, and some extra supplements. The best of the Outpost content was compiled into a book published by TwoMorrows, but it's nigh on impossible to find copies of the original fanzine, in particular the first eight.


8. DC COMICS FOLDERS



A DC Comics folder with  the three Legion founders shown on the back.

    DC Comics produced various stationery items branded with corporate logos and depictions of characters, such as bookmarks, rulers, and notepads with letterheads. Two folders it produced in the 80s featured Legion characters: one incorporating Jose Garcia-Lopez art from its style guide cover which showed the three founders, and the other displaying characters from all its titles of the time, with Dawnstar representing the Legion.  



A DC Comics folder with Dawnstar shown on the back cover.


7. VS SYSTEM CARDS: DC EXCLUSIVES 



 

    This little-known VS System set, named DC Exclusives, contained three Legion-related cards; four if you include the “A Clash of Worlds” card (DCX-026), which depicts Kon-El. There’s also a card featuring Supergirl (DCX-005) if you feel compelled enough to include her in a Legion set. 

    In general, the “Too Ordinary” card (DCX-021) is hardest to track down, which shows Superboy being turned down by the Legion. The other two cards feature the Persuader and Tharok.


6.  DC COMICS CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAP





    There are two known DC Comics-licensed gift wraps which include Legionnaires among the cast of characters featured on the paper. The more common one, a birthday wrap, depicts various Legionnaires and DC heroes next to a birthday cake. 

    Far more elusive is the Christmas wrap, which shows several members around a Christmas tree as Santa extends season's greetings from a monitor screen. I've never seen this one ever listed on Ebay.


5. DC ORIGINALS STYLE GUIDE 2011 WITH FULL INSERTS



The 2011 DC Comics style guide (named ORIGINALS) binder. Legionnaires are shown on the spine.

    [Historical note: In the early 80s, DC produced a style guide to serve as a reference manual for artists to draw DC Comics characters, and also provided spec illustrations and color palette guidelines for licensing and merchandising purposes. Altogether, there were more than 200 pages of illustrations produced, most of which were done by Jose Garcia-Lopez. The guide featured a wraparound cover that included the three Legion founders on the back: the sole reason why it is considered a collectible by Legion fans, because the group is not featured in any of the interior pages, although there is a page devoted to villains from the Super Powers title, which includes a shot of Tyr. 

    This style guide is NOT hard to acquire if you can afford it; copies continue to be offered via Ebay for exorbitant prices.]
    The style guide that makes this list is a revised one that was released in 2011, which uses a more contemporary version of the 1980s wraparound cover. The content was different, including new illustrations for the DC characters. In keeping with the times, the model sheets, graphics, color palettes, logos and general presentation were more sophisticated and smarter-looking than the guide of the 80s. 
    Most of the art was done by Jerry Ordway. The pages had more references to the Legion than the 80s guide, including new shots of Tyr and Supergirl, and included covers of some Legion-related issues.
    The complete style guide also comes with a CD that contains all the information found on the sheets, and includes printable PDFs. 
    The style guide binder by itself can be found for sale from time to time, but it's rare to acquire ones with a full set of style sheets plus the CD-ROM. 
    You can see examples of the Legion-related content here.


Examples of interior pages in the guide.
A character sheet for Tyr from the guide.


4. DC SUPER-STARS APPLICATION FORM




   Just before the DC Implosion of 1979, readers were invited to join the much-heralded DC Super-Stars Society, for which there were 12 chapters (one of which was the Legion). Each application kit consisted of the same format: four pages comprising an introductory page relating to the chapter's character(s), a quiz page, another outlining what the membership kit contained, and then  the actual application coupon, which fans had to fill in and return along with payment of $4 for each kit. 
    Promised with the packs were a DC cloth patch; a glossy DC Super-Stars Society insignia decal in color; an insignia transfer for a t-shirt; a membership certificate; a membership card; discount coupons for comics and merchandise; and best of all, a huge color poster of DC’s Super Stars. Nothing ever came of it because of the Implosion, although some members did receive the poster (which is a collectible in its own right), which depicted several Legionnaires. 
    As most fans would have actually sent in the forms, tracking down an original, unmarked and unused application kit for the Legion chapter can be a futile, frustrating exercise. 


The poster that was mailed out to a lucky few.

3. STAMPIN' THE FUTURE FIRST DAY COVER





    In 2000, countries around the world were invited by the US Postal Service to participate in a world-wide children's stamp-design competition, named Stampin’ The Future, with the grand prize winners from each country assembling in Anaheim, California, for a special global celebration. One of the first day covers issued at the occasion featured the cover of  ADVENTURE COMICS #247, produced by BGC (Barry and Gerry Lesser Cachets).  
    It's so obscure that many stamp dealers have never heard of it.


2. ANIMATED LEGION TV SERIES STYLE GUIDE



The front and back cover of for the CD which contains the style guide.

    A style guide for the animated Legion TV series was produced by spoon+fork Studios in 2006 for DC Comics. The jam-packed CD, with a lavish booklet, contained specifics for five Legionnaires – Superman, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf and Bouncing Boy – plus designs for banners, backgrounds, logos, fonts, turnarounds, borders, colors, and various other graphic elements. 

    Most of the art for the guide was created by the legendary Mike Zeck, with other art contributed by Lynell Hakim Forestall. 
    You can see more of the contents here.


The CD and booklet that accompanies the style guide, which folds out.



1. ANIMATED LEGION TV SERIES PRESS KIT



    To promote the debut of the animated Legion series in 2006, a press kit was issued to the media, which included an interactive CD-ROM and a DVD, an information booklet, and a t-shirt compressed into the shape of the show's logo. The goodies were packed inside a handsome box within a transparent slipcase engraved with the logo. This is a really cool collector's item and will be worth the trouble to hunt down, but to my mind it remains the most difficult Legion-related collectible to obtain, particularly one in top condition and with all the contents still inside the box.


Inside the box. The DVD and CD are kept in the slipcase at the top, and the logo-shaped notebook-style package features bios, designs and information on the characters and creators. Beneath this is a shirt with the show's logo.


The menu from the interactive CD-ROM.

You can see more of the contents in this video.




Honorable mentions:


If you collect WHITMAN editions, then you'll know that the holy grail of the Legion comics is SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION #264. Not only is it the scarcest Whitman Legion book, it's also one of the hardest to find of all Whitmans, with less than 100 estimated to have been printed.




    In total, there were 13 issues of SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION with the Whitman branding, and four of the LEGION'S own title after Superboy left the group.

    You can read more about these comics here.

    Then there's the LEGION OF SUBSTITUTE EDITORS PIN. This is another item that depends on the collector's parameters. But if you feel you need it, you'll have a challenge finding one. 




    In 1991, DC Comics turned to the fans to suggest new titles for publication. During the summer convention season, they ran a ballot of 20 characters to choose from, with the two highest vote-getters moving on to their own titles. The contest was dubbed the "Legion of Substitute Editors", and pins were given out to fans to promote this event, using the Legion of Super Heroes font of the time. 

    The list included Adam Strange, The Creeper, Cyborg, Fire and Ice, Flex Mentallo, Gorilla Grodd, Nightshade, and of interest to Legion fans, Valor, who received his own title in 1992. After more than 2000 votes were counted, the winner was Death, from the Sandman series, followed by Martian Manhunter. 

    There are also a couple of other items which would have made the list several years ago, but I have noticed that their availability has become easier in recent times. I've gauged this primarily from Ebay listings and posts on various Legion Facebook sites.

    These are the LEGION FLIGHT RING VILLAGE BROCHURE, a four-page promotional booklet for the 5YL incarnation; and a SECRETS OF THE LEGION BUMPER STICKER, issued to retailers to promote the mini-series.


The four-page promotional booklet for the 5YL Legion.


The bumper sticker released to promote the SECRETS OF THE LEGION mini-series.


You can see the full range of Legion-related paraphernalia here.


If there's anything you feel should be in there but isn't, please let me know!



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


4 comments:

  1. I'd give someone else's arm or leg for that Alex Ross masterpiece!

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  2. I have the Legion flow chart poster. Unfortunately I don't have the wall space yet to display it.

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  3. "Wheetabix" were an actual thing? I just thought that was a made-up thing from Buffy. (Spike liked them soaked with blood.)

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    Replies
    1. I used to have Wheetabix as a kid when my mom found it cheaper than Shredded Wheat at the store :Þ

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