Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sun Boy Triumphant

I never really understood the need to remake Sun Boy into such a tragic figure in the Five Years Later Legion.

I know that he was characterized as a womanizer in the Levitz Legion. But he was a proud Legionnaire, who once said:
"I'm getting tired of people trying to blow me up! You’d think by now they’d learn Legionnaires die hard."

The first time he made an impression on me was in #286, when he took on Dr. Regulus and defeated him (triumph one), and then even figured out how to stop the runaway reaction in R.J. Brande's Fusion Dome (triumph two) -- something it seemed only Brainy would know how to do.

Smart, powerful, loyal -- it's a shame he ended up as he did in that grimdark future. I was happy to see the SW6 version of him appear. In later years, a female incarnation named Inferno appeared, but she was clearly a different character with riffs taken from Sun Boy.

When will he return? Hopefully soon, with the rest of the Legion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

You Are Not Alone. You Were Never Alone.

The Legion has fallen on hard times recently, but they're making a return appearance soon. And the fandom is also making its presence known, as per the announcement of the Legion of Super-Bloggers above. And there are already a fair amount of posts on their blog. Go over there and say hi -- and let 'em know your thoughts on the Legion.

I first happened into Legion fandom through my classmates at school. We all collected comics, but some of them really latched on to the Legion and other titles. I, because of my Superman / Superboy fandom back in Grade School, was passingly familiar with the title and even knew a fair amount of trivia due to a Superman Quiz Book (whose answers I'd memorized at a young age). And in that pre-Internet era, I felt I'd invested enough time to jump into collecting it.

It's always a thrill to meet another fan, and to share your fandom. Even if they don't like the Legionnaires you do. Even if they're not as into your favorite era of the Legion. Even if they don't delve into the trivia as much as you do. Even if they do, to a stunningly obsessive degree.

And sometimes, sometimes you don't even now they're fans -- until you post something and they casually reveal themselves in droves. As though it had always been a part of them you'd never seen, or never asked about. And maybe that's true.

There's something about the Legion. Let's explore what that something is for each of us, and share it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Legion Stats in the Classic Marvel RPG?

A quick post here: for those looking to run a pickup game involving the Legion of Super-Heroes in the classic TSR Marvel RPG, look no further than the Classic Marvel Forever site!

This looks to me like the post-Levitz Legion cast, possibly the SW6 batch or the reboot cast. But I think I'll have as my next project some way to categorize the various incarnations of the Legion so that future gaming-related posts will have some reference.

If I can hunt down the stats for the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, it'd be interesting to match the two against each other -- but the Legion would probably be able to edge out a win if they had their full contingent of members PLUS the much-vaunted Legion teamwork.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Justice League United and the Infinite Man?

According to the Nerdist, the Legion of Super-Heroes returns to the DC Universe via Justice League United Annual #1.

The solicitation copy says:

"The Infinitus Saga begins as the Legion of Super-Heroes arrive with the shocking news that the 31st century has been destroyed! Now it’s up to the Justice League United to save the future!"

What catches my eye is the mention of Infinitus. I'm not that up to date on the Justice League, but I didn't catch any mention of Infinitus yet.

As a long time Legion fan, however, the name Infinitus calls up memories of Professor Jaxxon Rugarth, a poor, doomed volunteer for one of Brainiac 5's experiments (well, Rond Vidar was also primarily involved in its origination and conception), also known as The Infinite Man!

The Infinite Man was born from the exploration of time, and testing its cyclical nature. Unfortunately, Prof. Rugarth discovered that time was cyclical (something that the Time Trapper would certainly take issue with) -- an infinite cycle! Rugarth gained immeasurable power from that infinite cycle of death and rebirth, and became a creature with control over time and faced off against the Legion!

I can't remember where I encountered this story first; memory tells me I read it in one of the digests that made its way to Philippine shores, or perhaps it was one of the 'bootleg' copies reprinted by National Bookstore (legal at the time, I think, due to some loophole governing intellectual property) that I read at the barber shop.

Later on, the Infinite Man would indeed face off against the Time Trapper as personifications of two theories of time.

And it was also revealed that the existence of the Infinite Man shielded the 30th Century future from the ravages of the Crisis for a time. But when the Infinite Man lost his abilities (and left Rugarth a comatose vegetable), they were suddenly vulnerable to sudden shifts in reality with time being more mutable now.

I think it's significant that hypertime is mentioned this early on in the history of the Legion -- perhaps it's what spurred Morrison on to come up with his own theory of hypertime.

Well, we'll see what Justice League United shares with us about the future to come, won't we?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cracking the Code: "We Were Legion."

Cracking the Code is a series of posts that hopes to dissect and express what made the Legion of Super-Heroes so important to me. Perhaps not as important as family, and friends, and school, and so on -- but important enough to resonate in your soul, like many favorite movies, songs, and novels.

It was in Justice Society of America #6, during the JLA/JSA crossover storyline featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes that a little bit of that Legion magic from past eras shone through in the thoroughly modern light of the 21st Century.

There's a scene wherein Superman relates that classic tale wherein several Legionnaires took up several special lightning rods in an effort to bring back one of their own from the dead -- by exchanging one of their very own lives. And, very much like Comic Book Revolution's Rokk Krinn, I also had that chill and thrill when Superman says that line: "We were Legion."

Geo-Force -- that powerful, outspoken, and oftentimes arrogant royal member of the Outsiders -- had just told Superman, in incredulous yet respectful tones, surely, that what Superman and his friends had done in their Legion days was "not only ridiculous... It is insane."

Superman tries to express his feelings about that fanatic loyalty to one another by admitting that it was inexplicable. It's an admission which Batman tries to handwave -- possibly dismissively, possibly in defense of his friend -- with a gross simplification: "You were kids."

But Superman, older and wiser and possessed of many years of experience, disagrees. "No, Batman. We were Legion."

And perhaps that's part of the futility of explaining the Legion appeal to people who haven't read the series, didn't encounter it at the right time in their lives, or just didn't have the same needs: it's too hard to explain, without that shared experience.

Perhaps, like Batman, they were self-made individuals throughout their childhood. Perhaps, like Geo-Force, they had that experience of being of a special, privileged lineage throughout youth.

But others, like a young Superman
  • who knew they were special, but also different in ways that most might not appreciate
  • who wanted to belong, but didn't or couldn't have the things that made it easy to fit in
  • who wanted to be treated as an equal, as a capable individual, as responsible, and as a friend
and found a group that they wanted to be a part of (try-outs) and that wanted them (acceptance), and that held them all to a higher code and calling -- they were the ones who understood how important being a Legionnaire could mean, and did mean, to the frequent visitors to the 30th (and later, 31st) Century.

We were Legion.

And perhaps, someday soon, we'll say "we are Legion" once more.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

LSH# 285 - Night Never Falls on Nullport (Part 01)

This was my jumping on point for collecting the Legion of Super-Heroes (LSH). I'd encountered them before, in something known in the Philippines as National Bookstore reprints -- an interesting Philippine artifact that I'll tackle in another post.

The Legion wasn't new to me. My Superman / Superboy fandom had brought me to various anthologies, compilations, and trivia books and had prepared me for most of the cast of this book.

However, the ongoing plotlines and the visually arresting cover and contents of this book really hooked me, and sustained my interest for many issues to come.

This cover is particularly noteworthy. Not only is it visually arresting, it's also quite clear that Colossal Boy is much larger than everyone else (courtesy of normal-sized Mon-El beside him), making for a stunning action scene right on the cover. It was because of Colossal Boy's portrayal in this comic that really drove home the coolness of the power to me. A shame it's rarely used these days.


Scene 01: The story starts with a handful of members from the Legion of Super-Heroes (Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, and Shrinking Violet), sent to Nullport -- a key spaceship drydock of the United Planets -- to pick up their Legion starcruisers.

After some expository captions, dialogue, and good-natured ribbing between the teammates, there is an accident. A starcruiser undergoing work suddenly begins to topple -- Mon-El manages to save the workers, but Colossal Boy (as seen to the right) misjudges the effect of reduced gravity on Nullport, and is unable to prevent damage to the afflicted ship.

Shrinking Violet, who shrank to avoid getting crushed, serendipitously also manages see through the wreckage she hid in that a signal from the control tower was what caused the 'accident' to occur.

Scene Commentary: I liked the easygoing banter between the members of the team assigned to this mission. There was something that -- to my older mind now -- felt like it was a movie or a TV show scene where the main characters get to interact with one another and show what they're like when things aren't stressful, to contrast sharply with how they are under pressure. There was also exposition about their mission and situation that didn't feel forced.

I really liked the portrayal of Colossal Boy's powers in this issue, and this scene is one of the reasons for that -- Pat Broderick did a great job here -- even if, ultimately, he fails to save the cruiser from falling over. I especially like that the reason he failed is due to misjudging the lighter gravity; it really establishes the Science Fiction feel of the book, and shows that having powers and training isn't always enough to prepare you for the multitude of experiences and challenges of the universe.

In hindsight, I suppose this is why even Mon-El isn't overpoweringly dominant all the time: the size, scale, and variety of the Legion universe can humble even a Super-Daxamite.

One other thing: you can see how much plot is packed into this one issue (and there's even a backup feature in this comic, also about a member of the Legion, also written by Paul Levitz!) by seeing what they left out. In modern comics, you'd have been treated to Shrinking Violet's view of the accident and what convinced her that it was sabotage -- here, it's all done through dialogue in order to move the plot along.

Scene 02: Orando, a kingdom of a thousand and one enchantments! Val Armorr (Karate Kid) and Princess Projectra have announced their intentions to get married, the King (Projectra's father) notes that Karate Kid has managed to complete his labors to prove worthy of Projectra's hand in marriage.

In the middle of explaining his reasons for not wanting a commoner to marry royalty, the sovereign promptly collapses!

Scene Commentary: This cut to Karate Kid and Princess Projectra on Orando -- a world considered incredibly backwater by the United Planets (a sword & sorcery world in a science fiction setting) -- may seem a bit odd. Was Orando a reference to Orlando, home to another "magical kingdom"? Who can say?

This scene, by the way, does help to establish for new readers the breadth and variety of worlds in the the United Planets and the overall setting, it really just sets up a plotline that gets resolved in a later issue.

Of additional note is the artwork of Pat Broderick, who seems to be quite fond of this 'stop-motion' effect used to show the sudden collapse of Orando's reigning monarch. He used it several times earlier to depict Colossal Boy shrinking to normal size, Star Boy performing some acrobatics, and Colossal Boy growing to giant-size once more. I also liked much of his panel-to-panel storytelling in this issue.

This was also part of the appeal of the LSH comic book. While one team was doing some thing in one corner of the United Planets, others were doing other things elsewhere, some were back at base, others were back at home -- lots of interesting locations and mostly interesting plot threads, back in the days before decompressed storytelling became popular in comics.

I also liked the look of the King of Orando. Aside from the crown, he carried a sword and wore what looks like a chainmail shirt underneath his robes.

By the way, the words "Ayeeeeeee!" and "Ayeeeeiiiiiiii!" tended to be used a lot in Legion comics to indicate a scream of pain. You don't really see it in much use these days.

Scene 03: Back on Nullport, the Legionnaires are trying to convince H'hrnath, the profit-minded horse-with-tentacles-and-human-limbs sentient who runs Nullport, that sabotage may be behind the accident with their cruiser.

The cigar-chomping H'hrnath, who doubts such leaps in logic (based on his years of experience in the biz), argues that the accident was just an accident. But Star Boy -- showing off some insight into espionage and sabotage -- argues that perhaps they should be given greater investigative leeway.

H'hrnath refuses, until a second accident takes place, shaking his confidence (and pride in his operations, probably) and allows the Legion to go ahead with their detective work.

Scene Commentary: The Science Fiction feel is lightly touched on here, but it is touched on. I liked the short exposition bit by H'hrnath on the costs of running Nullport -- it made it feel like a thought-out aspect of a larger SF setting. I also liked the absurdity of the look of H'hrnath merged with a cigar-chomping entrepreneur. It made the strangeness of the world of the Legion also very understandable.

My younger self didn't really question the ability of the Legion to conduct investigations anywhere in the United Planets; they were super-heroes after all. However, my older self appreciates the care placed here in 'asking permission' from the business owner to investigate or help out. It's also interesting to see Star Boy take point in dealing with H'hrnath, almost as lead liaison, I guess because I always tended to see him as a support character rather than as a leader (or worse, the boyfriend of Dream Girl) in stories.

Scene 04: We see Star Boy reporting back to Legion HQ, with Brainiac 5 handling monitor duties. Star Boy expresses concern that the Legion might not have enough team members to handle other missions or emergencies, but Brainy tells him they're fine for the moment.

Continuing the scene, there's a short but lovely exchange between Timber Wolf and Brainiac 5 about the possible culprits behind the sabotage: Brainy suggesting an infinity of possible suspects, but Brin Londo (Timber Wolf) interjects, stating that the Khunds are the only ones who'd profit from such villainy.

Scene Commentary: Again, a really dense scene, both visually and text-wise. Not only do we see a long vertical panel of Legion HQ, we also get a pretty detailed look at the monitor room of the Legion, where Brainy is communicating with Star Boy.

The exchange between Brainy and Brin is particularly noteworthy because in the space of a few panels we get:

  • Brainy characterized as a brilliant, but methodical genius -- more prone to careful, deliberate and exhaustive approaches to problem-solving instead of leaps of intuitive logic;
  • Brin gets to show a cunning not really showcased before, an it gets attributed to his 'new face';
  • Brin (via an exchange with Ayla "Light Lass" Ranzz) also drops exposition regarding his cure last issue from his 'animalistic face', and the possibility of a relapse if he loses his cool;
  • Brainy reluctantly agreeing with Brin, but not before sharing what he really thinks of Brin's intellectual capacity.
It's a great slice of the Legion storytelling that I fell in love with. It's also a great reminder that not everyone in the Legion likes one another, or gets along with one another.

Scene 05: As the investigation commences, Shrinking Violet (who was also instrumental in finding evidence that convinced H'hrnath to begin the investigation in earnest), leads the charge in finding out what might be causing the 'accidents' by diving into the circuitry of Nullport.

In a show of that legendary Legion teamwork, Mon-El uses his microscopic vision to keep track of (and perhaps guide) Shrinking Violet as she searches the circuitry for sabotage. While noting that none of them can go after her if she runs into trouble, at the very least he's keeping tabs on her progress.

Violet does manage to find the culprit: a circuit interrupter that can receive control signals from an external source and muck about with Nullport's systems!

She vaporizes it, after noting that it's of Khundish make. A short-term solution to a long-term problem. Exposition via dialogue once again makes it clear to readers that Khunds are a perennial problem for the United Planets, and deserving of a longer-term solution.

Scene Commentary: I really like this non-combat teamwork by the Legion. Rather than just relying powerhouses, the Legion was dangerous because of the sheer variety of powers and their teamwork, making the team greater than the mere sum of its parts.

Shrinking Violet really earned her keep in this issue, and showing some serious spine in standing up to H'hrnath and in going it alone in this mission. She also showed some knowledge of circuit design and electronics (from her own unique perspective, of course), which made me wish there were more missions like this for the Legion Espionage Squad! For those of you not familiar with that mini-team, more in another post.

I also liked the use of slang like 'Natch', and the off-hand exposition suggesting (especially to new readers like me) that the Khunds were a constant problem, and potentially a force to be reckoned with.

NEXT: Part 2 of our Issue Read-Through for LSH #285!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A new blog. An old favorite.

Why yes, I'm home. Thanks for asking, Colossal Boy.
I'll send the bill to the Legion HQ.
Why start another blog, when I have such difficulty keeping one blog updated and have left the others to lie fallow?

I suspect it has to do with several people commenting on the long disappearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and their love for it: podcasters asking for an updated blog site, friends lamenting the long absence of the Legion, and even my young son -- who currently enjoys episodes of the Legion cartoon. Perhaps it's time to go back to the versions of the Legion that I loved and figure out what made it so popular -- and what might make it more popular in this day and age.

Or perhaps it's just time to share my nostalgia for this time in my life with like-minded people online.

By the way, the comic book cover to the left is from the first Legion of Super-Heroes comic book that I bought. It wasn't the first one that I read, but it was the first one that I actively collected, and started me on a very regular collecting habit for many years.

Long Live the Legion.