My First Legion Comic

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #304, DC Comics, October 1983
I love the Legion of Super-Heroes mythos in all its forms. The 60s stuff I've seen is pure Silver Age trippiness. The 90s dark, adult Legion was a rich and satisfying read. The post-Zero Hour revamp was a fun homage to what had gone before. But it's in the 80s that I discovered DC's 30th-century heroes. The first issue I ever bought with my usual lunch hour 83¢ was #304. A pretty quiet issue mostly spent on furthering subplots I knew nothing about. So I didn't pick up the next issue, but less than a year later LSH did become part of my regular buys.

In the absurdly titled "Siege Perilous", the Legion convenes in the wake of losing Karate Kid and Princess Projectra. These two just got married, and though I didn't see anything against that in the Constitution, I guess it's more of a tradition. No one wants the new underage members to walk in on the married couple doing something... adult. So the problem now is, according to Phantom Girl: "We're down to twenty-one members."

Fantastic Four? Must have 4 members (duh). Avengers? Must have 6. Justice League? 7 to 12 is about right. Legion of Super-Heroes? A mandatory 25!!!! (Article 2.1) So now, they're looking at the Legion Academy to see if there are any prospects there.

The Academy is run by retired married Legionnaires Bouncing Boy (who can turn into a big rubber ball) and Duo Damsel (who can split into 2 people). Yes, these guys were in the Legion. Their Constitution has such rules as "thou shalt not have a power another member already has", but none regarding how weak and/or ridiculous said power is. That said, a couple of Academy students aren't really in line for membership, like Shadow Kid who has the same powers as his sister Shadow Lass.

Laurel Kent, apparently a descendant of Superman, has only inherited the Man of Steel's invulnerability, a power shared by many Legionnaires, and yet she's considered. Maybe her actual power is Getting as Naked as a Code-Approved Comic Will Allow?
The one training mission we see has some students corral alien animals back into the zoo. Here, Bouncing Boy instructs them on the ins and outs of being a superhero (he's quite the expert, yes?):
"Take is slowly... and explain all your actions to me." So that solves the mystery of why heroes in the 80s would give you a play-by-play of their actions as if the scriptwriter never had faith in the artist's ability to draw those actions. Also note the giant green dog that will be defeated by Laurel simply throwing a stick into its cage. That is such a Legion thing!

Not that there isn't an edginess to the book. With 25 members, you get a lot of soap opera opportunities. And there are a lot of pissed-off Legionnaires in this issue, very often for unfathomable reasons (without context, I mean). Timber Wolf is angry at Wildfire, but also sad about a girl. Shrinking Violet has been replaced by an impostor and a small coven of Legionnaires are trying to expose her. Star Boy can't wait for his girlfriend Dream Girl to be voted out as leader so he can get back to snuggling instead of running errands for her. Phantom Girl's boyfriend Ultra Boy snaps at Star Boy when the latter insults her standards. Even the students start a cat fight. Wildfire, however, is the one with the biggest chip on his shoulder. His girlfriend Dawnstar is leaving for a tour of the galaxy to find her soul mate as per her world's tradition, leaving him behind. Just another day in the life of a guy who's lost his body and is just energy trapped in a suit. I don't think they were really compatible. When she finally leaves Earth...
...he explodes with a loud "DAMN" sound effect! That is some HARDCORE angst right there! Eat your hearts out, X-Men.

So granted, I didn't get everything that was going on at the time (or even now), and at the end of the day, no one gets selected for Legion membership (they're not ready), but I still love the book. The look of the future is angular and bizarre at the same time (courtesy of Keith Giffen) with some slick zip-a-tone effects (probably courtesy of inker Larry Mahlstedt), and writer Paul Levitz enjoys throwing out the usual Encyclopedia Galactica entries that fill out this very rich world. There's nothing like it in comics, and I eventually succumbed to its charms.

6 comments:

De said...

What, no kind words for Jedidiah Rikane or Lamprey or that floating box thing?

Siskoid said...

The floating box thing does mention Lamprey. Whatchoo talkin' about Willis?

But Jed AKA Power Boy? Meh.

rob! said...

that is an *amazing* costume, ain't it?

somebody at the Code was out to lunch the day that Legion art came in.

snell said...

My first Legion--Superboy #200, the wedding of Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy...

Siskoid said...

Rob: Every single time she appeared!

Snell: Awwww, sweet.

Mike said...

I loved Giffen's art so much then, little did I know how dramatically it was about to change. They should have added at least one new member. Crystal Kid, Nightwind, and Lamprey never got any love.

 

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