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Last updated:
10th Jun 2001

Me and The Legion

My primary motivation for getting involved with Legion fandom, APAs and this web page is down to my continuing interest in the Legion. Basically, I just can't get enough of the Legion, so I'm turning to alternative sources to supplement my monthly intake, it also gives me the opportunity to discuss one of my favourite topics. This drive for information and ephemera has lead me to start buying subsidiary stuff, y'know, posters, cards, the sourcebook, etc. I was even considering compiling an index of Legion stories and appearances, but having seen ICGís "Official Legion of Super-Heroes Index" I know there is no way I can compete. According to the acknowledgements for the 2995 Legion Sourcebook there are two further sourcebooks from 1986 and 1987, anyone know if theyíre any good?

Iíve read and collected comics for quite a few years now (I can remember in my tender years carrying around my entire collection with me it was that small). Unfortunately, early on I became that most despicable of creatures the Marvelite, and sold all my DCs, including the LSH stories. Ah, the impetuosity of youth, act in haste, repent at leisure. Thankfully, I came to my senses and the Legion was, for many years, my only non-Marvel purchase.

I think my all-time favourite Legion stories are the Starlin issues. Now thatís how the Legion should have been done, characterisation, intrigue, power and a belting story. Indeed, Starlin's version presaged Giffen's darker, moodier designs for the 30th century. And yet, while I loved those stories, I also hated them in a way since they were so much better than the regular issues and I resented the thought of having to go back to the usual mundane stories.

To be honest, the quality of the Legionís stories can best be described as patchy. Still, it survived on my shopping list despite the turgid stories of Gerry Conway (ok, so I liked the League of Super-Assassins) and mediocre art by the likes of Jimmy Janes, Joe Giella, Jack Abel.

The Legion kept my interest mainly due to the occasional attention hooking concept (the aforementioned LSA, for instance) and excellent art by Jim Sherman, Mike Nasser et al. I think that one of the biggest disappointments was the way heavy handed inking by Jack Abel rendered the work of Sherman, Simonson and any other penciller he ever worked with uniformly drab and dreary.

The first work from the Levitz/Giffen team was a blessed relief. Unfortunately, after the excellent Great Darkness epic the rot set in - each foe seemed to be stronger and more unstoppable than the last until it became just plain silly. Levitzí scripts deteriorated and Giffenís weirdo, "right-on" "experimental", European rip-offs were painful to look at.

There was a brief respite with Karlís Shoemaker and Kessel on the Tales of LSH, but by #25 of the Baxter series Iíd stopped reading LSH so I stopped buying it too, apart from the odd issue inked by Al Gordon. Nice stuff, but it didnít really get the pulse-pounding. (Iím now acquiring the missing issuses and I must say that despite some impressive covers, thanks to Ken Steacy, the contents are pretty dire.) I even went as far as selling a few of the really poor issues.

I picked up the new LSH out of curiosity and nearly dropped it after a couple of issues. The "new" that had been added to the title seemed to refer to the supposedly gritty, more realistic "adult" approach apparently meaning more death, lots of alien swear words (oh my Gawl, who gives a nassing dirj?) and titillation (nude scenes with the naughty bits coyly hidden and ludicrous crotch shots of thong clad amazons). The 5 year gap was a brave move but the new storyline was largely impenetrable. While the readers shouldnít be spoon-fed, but we shouldnít be starved of information either. It was just infuriating and boring not knowing whatís going on.

Still, in between the dull, dull, dull issues they kept coming up with little gems that hooked me. The first being #5, Iíve always been a sucker for "What If...?" type stories the more off-the-wall the better, then light relief with Tenzilís issues and cameoís ("My God, heís eating that manís head!" is my favourite Legion line ever).

Gradually, the Legion has become a source of unalloyed delight. There were one or two sticky moments. During Brendan Pattersonís tenure I nearly dropped Legion again. His sub-David Lloyd style was too stiff, dark and moody for superheroics. And many situations seemed to be engineered purely to shock: Blokís murder, the Sean/Shvaughn thing, the bloody confrontation between Sade and Bounty, the massacre scenes, the Moonís destruction, Earthís destruction...

Some of the memorable moments/things that turned me back onto the Legion have been...

  • the rehabilitation of Mekt,
  • the development of the Subs into a respectable fighting force, and wearing guns... zoff...
  • the LSHís early days, showing that they were as much a joke as the Subs,
  • the Sade/Bounty encounter,
  • Giffen settling down with a bearable style,
  • the cohesive feel of the latter artists Immomen, Pearson and Sprouse, the inkers
  • humour,
  • the development of SW6 (I was totally indifferent to their introduction),
  • the introduction of uniforms (real uniforms not just costumes that kept getting called uniforms erroneously),
  • the dropping of codenames,
  • the "integrated" costumes of the L*,
  • character interplay.

  •  In many ways both books portrayed aspects of superheroics as I always thought they should be. The adult book with its moodier, arguabley more mature feel. The teams almost para-military, corporate image adopting uniforms, while L* have the same basic costume design but vary the colours, decoration and insignia. Always thought that Cham was a bit harsh on his supplier. Hey, if he didnít explain why he wanted those specs they shouldnít be penalised for jumping to the wrong conclusions... use your initiative but only when I say so. Right on, Cham.

    Iíve since been prompted to re-read the back issues and they stand up much better when read as a whole and with the advantage of hindsight showing up the little clues as to what is to come. There is an added depth which wasnít readily apparent at first reading.

    Despite the "new" claim this incarnation of the Legion is no such thing, building heavily upon the past giving a true sense of history and continuity. For me, one of the reasons that the Great Darkness was so succesful was that so much lore was dragged up, with vast numbers of old characters having bit parts. Thatís why Legion is working now.

    Legionnaires is working for the same reasons that LSH worked in the first place - a flamboyant almost joyous portrayal of a colourful super-hero group.

    The whole Legion mythos combines super-heroics, teams and science fiction, the favourite of many a comics fan, something you just canít top.

    Hell, itís like being a kid again, itís fun, itís funky, I want to be a Legionnaire. Oh, what a sad man.

    And now we have the latest revision,

    Of course, there is still a downside, for instance, fights are generally handled ineptly and superpowers arenít used nearly enough (this is the Legion of Super-Heroes, for cripes sake!) nor particularly well. But it only takes a couple of good scenes to turn me into a drooling Legion fan once again.

    Oh BTW, I hate the Interlac alphabet. Itís ugly, impractical (itís useless for handwriting), inappropriate and it certainly doesnít make the future seem any more "authentic".

     

    Giffen Levitz lead to the Giffen Bierbaum era, perhaps one of the most personal runs


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