Hai Karate

No images today- as yet. Maybe it’s a consequence of the flooding on Monday but I can’t upload any pictures at all. Of course, it may just be a result of Moray’s poor IT provision (compared to, say, East Ren);  this is reminiscent of the final days of Some Fantastic Place, when I couldn’t post anything at all…

Amended 13 Sept 14

Given the critical success of  GotG, Marvel’s new Star Wars homage *ahem*, it strikes me that DC are still sleeping on the job.

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Not only do they have a ready-made response in the form of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the team doesn’t even have a regular berth at present  (although that’s to be addressed- to an extent-  this autumn.)

Yet , thirty years ago, the LSH was one of two titles used to launch DC’s “hardcover/softcover” initative. This launch was driven by two factors: the quirky,  detailed and Kirby-esque art of Keith Giffen and an all-out war plot  involving the Legion of Super-Villains. 

Many super-villain teams are evil doppelgangers of the heroes- the Injustice Society; the Crime Syndicate;  the Frightful Four; the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Although the LSV had faced off against the LSH at least five times in the past , the last occasion had been back in 1975 with a squad of only six (rather pretty) Grell dopplegangers. Let’s take a look at the assault perpetrated by the massed ranks of Villainaires in the trade paperback An Eye for an Eye.

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 Here a Villain, There a Villain: The LSV swears an oath to kill the Legionnaires in the setting of a Kirbyesque castle. Meanwhile, Dream Girl has a prophetic dream that a Legionnaire will die. And those dreams always come true…

On the gamblers’ world Ventura, Shrinking Violet confronts her kidnapper, Micro Lad ( from the Yera/Chameleon Girl/impersonation plotline) but he is rescued by a space warp. Among the giant mushrooms of Winath, retired Legionnaire Light Lass is abducted by a bald Radiation Roy. President Allon resigns and Darkseid’s acolyte, the Daxamit child Ol-Vir, is practicing human sacrifice on the prison planet Takron-Galtos.

Where a Villain?: Light Lass/Ayla discovers herself to be the prisoner of her brother, Lightning Lord. The LSV attacks a site where Powerspheres are manufactured. This squad consists of Conway and Staton’s X-Men parodies, the League of Super-Assassins ( Blok’s adopted family) and newcomer Terrus, who vaguely resembles Marvel’s first Scarecrow.

Saturn Girl goes into labour as Earth’s polymer screen is stolen and we learn that the LSV, led by a former Legionnaire, is holed up on Orando. I wonder if the white glove of the ex-Legionnaire was misdirection? Could it be…Tyroc?!

Everywhere a Villain?: Nah, The LSV’s leader is revealed to be Jim Shooter’s creation Nemesis Kid,  alchemist and Legion traitor. The two Legions clash and Orando is teleported into limbo by Zymyr. This villain is a Gil’Dishpan: giant aquatic tube-worms with space-warping abilities. I long thought they were Levitz/Giffen creations but they may be inspired by the Brain Globes of Rambat from a 1962 Adventure/LSH tale.

 The founding Legionnaires, with the new baby ( born in the third LSH annual), discuss introducing new blood- this subplot will see fruition next year with the non-human Legionnaires Quislet and Tellus; Polar Boy, leader of the Subs and Adult Legionnaire; and Magnetic Kid, Cosmic Boy’s kid brother.

While Giffen’s humorous and inventive visuals had contributed to its huge success, he was replaced here by Steve Lightle, who brought some of Swan’s classicism back to the 30th Century.

Lest Villainy Triumph: the cover reveals the doomed Legionnaire. Hostage Karate Kid breaks free, as does Ayla who has her original lightning powers back. The Academy, Reserves and Subs are glimpsed.

KK is savagely beaten almost to death by Nemesis Kid but goes out in a suicide flight, destroying  LSV tech. This self-sacrifice was prefigured in at least two earlier Adventure tales, including his debut.

An Eye for an Eye, a Villain for a Hero: the LSV round on the hostage  Queen Projectra but Ayla arrives in the nick of time, defeating Lightning Lord. The siblings are warped away by Zymyr.

Projectra executes Nemesis Kid, snapping his neck. This is a shocking first for the Legion; its code against killing led to the (temporary) expulsion of Star Boy in the Sixties.

  Karate Kid is placed on a funeral pyre and Orando is transferred to another dimension for safety in exile.

Meanwhile, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Violet, Chameleon Boy and Element Lad trounce the LSV but are stranded in limbo. This event will lead to a two-part adventure in the Sun-Eater factory of the Controllers.

Silver Linings: the cover proclaims “She’s no lightweight any more”.  Joe Orlando, who reinvigorated the Gothic tradition at DC with House of Mystery and House of Secrets, pencils this coda.

Lightning Lass’s origins as explored through flashbacks as she and her brother are imprisoned in Zymyr’s labs. We are reminded that Dream Girl used “Naltorian science” (and maybe some White Witch-craft?) to change Ayla’s electrical powers to making objects super-light. It’s worth remembering who the Legion’s second-best boffin is.

Ayla duels with Mekt, defeats him and returns to Legion HQ in a new costume. This seems to be part of a long-range plan to replace the three Legion founders -arguably, the heart and soul of the team. Inexplicably, Levitz will return to this theme in his most recent Legion run.

This storyline certainly had the surprise power Levitz predicted when Giffen decided to kill off his least-favourite Legionnaire. It was rare for a hero to die as a result of brutal physical combat  and of course, this was more than a year before the Crisis started removing major DC players. Furthermore, Legionnaire deaths were rare but usually very significant and irreversible events. I felt the loss of Karate Kid- he starred in my third-ever Legion comic:

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and I had a few issues of his solo series. Granted, it was largely Seventies schlock but I learned his origin as a super-villain’s son there and, Supey aside, no other Legionnaire had ever supported a solo comic. Of course, various iterations of Karate Kid have subsequently appeared- even in the New 52- but none have really had the composure and will of the original.

 

Coming soon: Wonder Woman; Solomon Kane; Stalker; Thanos and Dr. Who!

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