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Legion of Super-Heroes
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Legion of Super-Heroes

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Fred Hembeck

Legion of Super-Heroes
Uploaded March 21, 1999

Ah, the Legion.

The ultimate team book, with dozens of super-heroes in brightly coloured spandex, covering a wide - if sometimes extremely silly - variety of powers. The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of the most enduring elements of the Superman mythos. The Legion was introduced in a Superboy story, with three teenage super-heroes from the 30th century travelling back to Superboy's time in order to induct him into their group. Whatever the reason, that first appearance of Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl was extremely successful (ka-ching), which pretty much guaranteed subsequent Legion stories. More members were added over the course of those stories, and eventually the feature become so popular that it pushed Superboy out of his own series. Not once, but twice.

So much for gratitude.

You're stuck on my use of the word 'silly', aren't you? At the risk of offending Keith Giffen, I never quite got the point of characters of heroes like 'Bouncing Boy' and 'Matter-Eater Lad'. The former could inflate his body like a balloon, and, well, bounce, and the latter could eat and digest any substance. Not exactly the heroes I'd want defending me against the likes of Computo the Conqueror or the Fatal Five. Still, it's not like the applicant pool was particularly loaded. After all, who can forget (as much as we'd like to) such stalwarts as Blockade Boy, Eyeful Ethel, and Double-Header? Thanks for coming out kids, and here's your complimentary flight belt for the ride home.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh - much of the Legion's formative history was shaped by li'l Jimmy Shooter, just entering his teen years. Young Jimmy went onto to be a big kahuna for a while at Marvel, during which time his creation of the 'Secret Wars' series and management of a 'New Universe' will forever eclipse his Legion accomplishments. Way to go, Jim.

The three Legionnaires in this strip are, from left to right, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, and Saturn Girl. Cham can change his body into any living being or shape (stop that snickering!), Sun Boy generates intense amounts of heat and fire, and Saturn Girl is a telepath. The gag here lies in the fact that Saturn Girl was born on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and it is supposedly the influence of Saturn's rings that gave her people their telepathic abilities. 'Ring around the collar' is, of course, a 1970's advertising slogan. Now that I've placed the strip in its historical context, you may go ahead and laugh now. Go on, let it out. C'mon....there you go. Don't you feel better now?

At the risk of going all serious for a moment, I want to give credit to DC for trying something very innovative a few years ago. When Paul Levitz decided to step down from the book and pass the reins on to Tom & Mary Bierbaum and Keith Giffen (known collectively as TMK), DC suspended publication for a few months. When the series restarted, TMK had advanced the plot five years beyond the point at which Levitz had closed his run, leaving the readers to puzzle out what had occured off-screen in the interim. Not an imaginary story, not a time travel plot device so old it needs a walker, but an in-continuity, real honest-to-goodness storytelling choice. Characters had aged - a concept generally avoided in comics - and grown during those five unseen years, some for the better, some for the worse. Sure, some people were pissed off (not nearly as much as those agitating for the return of Hal Jordan - guys, please please please stop burning Ron Marz in effigy...) but the point is, they took a leap of faith with an admittedly drastic change in direction. Those kinds of risks need to be encouraged, particularly in the mainstream 'super-hero' tights, because the result can only be better comics. Sometimes the effort falls on its face....and sometimes it soars.

- NP

The copyrights, trademarks and publication rights to Fred's cartoons belong to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fred Hembeck where appropriate. Proud Robot Productions graphics, site design, cartoon re-coloring and commentary copyrights belong to Neil Polowin and Proud Robot Productions.

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