Legion Lane

Keith in Moray was, until a few weeks ago, literally the place Where The Streets Have No Name. But now the local authority has changed all that and one of the streets is Legion Lane. Now, I realise this is a reference to the British Legion but for me, this is the Legion:

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This tabloid edition is dated October 1976, quite late in Mike Grell’s tenure as LSH penciller. And of course, this is a comic I bought a couple of years ago on ebay, so it was only an image in an advert when I was thirteen.  The sunny, wrap-around cover doesn’t indicate that the contents are old-timey Legion adventures from the late 60s but that was the era in which I first encountered the team.

In June 1968, Marvel unleashed Steranko’s Nick Fury in his own title with the psychedelic Scorpio. Dr. Strange had also spun off from Strange Tales so perhaps it’s appropriate that the villain in this 2-part Shooter-Swan classic is “Mordru the Merciless”, a gaint wizard who looks like a debauched and malign version of Thor.

The omnipotent Mordru has escaped from imprisonment in the Legion’s basement and four Legionnaires flee from him into the past – specifcally Superboy’s Smallville adolescence. There’s a sweet soap opera as the two girls Duo Damsel and newcomer Shadow Lass try to integrate into a Fifties High School. It’s much easier for that big dullard Mon-El, who once lived in the town as salesman Bob Cobb.

Foiling the invasion of gangster “King” Carter and his hoodlums inspires the quartet to resist Mordru but they are sold out by the wizard’s unwitting pawn, Lana Lang. Mordru materialises and announces he has crushed the rest of the Legion!

I owned a second-hand copy of part two- “The Devil’s Jury” in the early 80s when I first assembled my LSH back issue collection by mail order. Despite interference from Supey’s pals Pete Ross and the rather silly Insect Queen, Mordru levitates the entire town as Shooter will have his villain Graviton do in  Avengers nearly a decade later. The wizard also assembles a hanging jury of 30th century criminals. Not only do we get a groovy Lovecraftian reference to Yog-Sothoth, many of the Legion’s old foes are name-checked: The Fatal Five, Time Trapper, Universo, Dr.Regulus, Mantis Morlo and the Devil’s Dozen. Sadly, there’s no visual reference for this rogues gallery.

Wraithor, Mordru’s magical ally, betrays him however, and the master mage is buried alive again through his own hubris. Returning to the future, the Legion discover how Princess Projectra, Dream Girl and her sister the White Witch tricked the wizard . Huh! Imagine! Three mere girls! This is the second and final Silver Age appearance of the slinky, redhead White Witch but a year later, a Superman story refers to her as an ally of the Adult Legion. Perhaps Shooter had long-range plans for this Bridwell creation. She finally joins the team in the Great Darkness Saga of the early Eighties.

This is one of the great Shooter two-parters, alongside the “Outlawed Legionnaires”/Universo story and the Sun-Eater tale. This tabloud has additional features of course: a two-page map of the LSH HQ from Adventure Comics 403 and a guide to some of the other facilities “on campus” from the Bates/Cockrum/Grell era.

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Speaking of Cockrum, the centrespread from the marriage ceremony of Duo Damsel and Boucning Boy is reprinted from 1974’s SLSH 200. Among the guests are allies Rond Vidar; the Tornado Twins; the Substitute Legion, the Heroes of Lallor and the obscure Wanderers- including the doomed Quantum Queen. Cockrum threw in the Martian Manhunter and Tars Tarkas for fun since the wedding took place on the Red Planet. The key to the wedding picture mistakenly gripes about the Thark’s missing arms.

I think I would have been delighted with this comic if I had obtained it in the Seventies. It certainly entertains me now, particularly since the JLA tabloid was very dull. The cover of this first Legion Tabloid was re-interpreted by Alex Ross for a recent edition of Back Issue and captures the joy and optimism of the series.

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Coming Soon: The Return of the King

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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