I Am Legion

Tonight’s post features another of my top five 100-page Super-Spectaculars: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes from June 1974.  Like the Santa issue of JLA, this one, with its pale-green cover, is seared into my memory.

I got it in Galston, in the summer of ’74; my brother and I were on our first holiday without (at least one of) our parents. My aunt and uncle were tenant farmers and I associate those holidays with sitting in a haystack reading a copy of Doctor Who and the Daemons – or trying to steer a tractor.

The milk for our breakfast cereal came straight from the cow: yellow and warm, with “bits” floating in it. I can recall the savour of herbs in my aunt’s garden and the tang of the homebrew kit in our bedroom- which had been my cousin’s before he went to University.

So, one sunny afternoon, in a  cafe on Wallace Street ( I think) Jonathan and I got three 1o0-page comics. I had already read three stories starring the re-designed  Dave  Cockrum Legion.  With this issue, after years of back-ups and stodgy reprints in the Relevancy Era, the LSH was established as one of my favourite comics, combining sci-fi trappings  with sexy superheroes. I read this issue until it fell apart.

Lost: a Million Miles from Home: a lightweight short featuring Shrinking Violet and Colossal Boy. It’s only really interesting because it features LSH newcomer Mike Grell  inking Cockrum’s pencils. Immediately,  dynamic and exotic characters start to feel stiff and posed.

The Legionnaire who Killed: I had actually read this Legion melodrama before, in a copy of Adventure in around 71 or 72. It’s  that popular soap opera trope: The Trial. Superboy  tries and fails to defend Star Boy, who has broken the code against killing.  It’s probably the most interesting thing that ever happened to the crewcut dullard. There is a happy ending as Thom is offered a place with the Substitute Legion.  Swan’s Dream Girl is ethereal yet regal and Polar Boy is short and a little pompous. Thoma and Nura became somewhat redundant however when Karate Kid and Projectra were introduced.

The Super-Stalag of Space: A two-part homage to The Great Escape. The prison camp commandant is a typical goofy DC alien but the story is lent drama by the deaths of some Bits of Legionnaire Business: heroes created by fans. Plant Lad is the first victim. The tale is marred by painful, “flip” dialogue and campy  narration worthy of Arnold Drake. It’s an attempt, I think ,to mimic Stan’s style. ENB tried it again with the Devil’s Dozen two-parter. Fortunately, when Jim Shooter starts scripting, some jokes  are actually mordant and funny

The Execution of Matter-Eater Lad:  In the second part, two more non- Legionnaires die: Blockade Boy and Weight Wizard. In a weird accident,  M-E Lad is inflated to Bouncing Boy proportions . Happily, it only lasted for six months. Tri-ocular sadist Nardo never returns ( to my knowledge).

Lore of the Legion: an expanded update on the origins, powers and new wardrobe of the Legionnaires. It’s my first glimpse of the new look for the androgynous Light Lass.

I must have copied those poses in pencil countless times; Star Boy’s cosmological costume is fiendishly difficult to draw.

The Wrath of the Devil-Fish:  This story is a sequel to the Erg-1 revival in the previous issue. Here the hero announces his new name: Wildfire.  I also get my first sighting of the feral Timber Wolf and the “batty” regalia of Shadow Lass.  The meat of the story is a Base Under Siege from a 30th-Century version of the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Although Devil-Fish doesn’t appear again for nearly twenty years, Cockrum had sold the character to Marvel too. His collaboration with Marv Wolfman- Manphibian – finally debuts in a tardy entry to the b/w horror market Legion of Monsters in 1975.

“Devil-Fish” is also Cockrum’s last LSH story before he leaves for Marvel…and the X-Men.

The Superboy of Bigville: I was bored by this short as a kid; as an adult, it’s a sweet, soap opera plot about a boy blackmailed into impersonating Supey to protect his father’s criminal past. It’s elegantly pencilled by the great Curt Swan.

Super-Talk: Cary Bates talks about the origin of Starfinger (who sounds amazing) on the letters page. I also read some other villainous names for the first time: Saturn Queen. Nemesis Kid. Tyr. I yearn to see them but it won’t happen for another four of five years .

Look out for a trio of Legion:77 posts coming to the ‘Optikon over the next couple of months! Meanwhile on Some Fantastic Place, there will be a second post on the short-lived Legion reprint title of 1973

Next: It’s an Injustice

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners.

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One comment on “I Am Legion

  1. Kid Robson says:

    “It’s an injustice”? Can it possible be – a post about Calimero?

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