Secret Origins #25: Legion of Super Heroes and Golden Age Atom

Ryan Daly and guest Martin Gray review the origin of the Legion of Super Heroes from Secret Origins #25. Then, Gene Hendricks returns to help cover the origin of the Golden Age Atom.

Listen to Episode 25!

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Sample pages from Secret Origins #25, written by Paul Levitz with art by Rick Stasi and Dick Giordano (Legion), and Roy Thomas, with art by Mike Clark and Bob Downs, and a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

#25cover #25page3 #25page10 #25page17-18 #25Bpage7 #25Bpage12 #25Bpage17 #25Bpage19

Plus, sample images from All-Star Comics #3 and #4 by Gardner Fox and Ben Flinton; Superboy #147 by E. Nelson Bridwell and Pete Costanza; Legion of Super Heroes #294 by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt; and Adventure Comics #12 by Scott Clark.

ASC3 ASC4 Superboy147 (6) Superboy147(8) LoSH294 Adventure12

Check out Martin Gray’s comics review blog at Too Dangerous For A Girlhttp://dangermart.blogspot.co.uk

And find Gene Hendricks at The Hammer Strikes: http://www.thehammerstrikes.com

and The Hammer Podcasts: http://twotruefreaks.com/shows.php?show=35

and The Quantum Cast: http://twotruefreaks.com/shows.php?show=36

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music this episode: “My Generation” by The Who; and “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones.

Long Live the Legion!

FlightRing

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

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20 thoughts on “Secret Origins #25: Legion of Super Heroes and Golden Age Atom

  1. Careful Ryan, the Legion gets in your blood and every few years you get seized by a sudden desire to visit with them.

    Another winning episode. So nice to put a voice to the online presence of the charming Martin Gray. His Too Dangerous for a Girl blog is probably the most reliable and trustworthy source of opinions on DC comics. Always good to hear Gene again.

    No Legion recommendation from me as you seem to be on the right path. I will put in a good word for L.E.G.I.O.N. if you’re feeling ready to meet Vril Dox, the best antihero the DC universe has ever known.

    Two great Al Pratt stories spring immediately to mind, both by James Robinson. It’s been recommended before, but The Golden Age is another winner for showing Al in all his human fallibility. James followed this up with More about Al in the Justice Society Returns series with the Adventure Comics #1 issue.

    Enjoy the break Ryan. It seems logical to me to use the hiatus to consider your next project once you’re done with Secret Origins. I’ll send you my suggestion via Twitter DM…

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  2. Really enjoyed hearing you and Gene talk about the Golden Age Atom. It is funny that, as you say, he wore a full-face mask, yet no fingerprint-covering gloves. Add in the fact that unless there were loads of 5ft 1in guys around saving college crimes back then, his height is a giveaway. All of which lends credence to the idea that the costume isn’t for disguise.

    Nope, the costume is for excitement; never mind wrestling, that is pure fetish wear – crotch-emphasising leather shorts connected to a leather harness, matching wristbands, executioner-style mask … the creators were fair begging for a 21st-century reading by, er, sophisticated minds. Why did Joe never leave their apartment? He was building the dungeon.

    What the heck was ‘a bearcat’? Would Joe call himself a bear today? And boy, calling someone a pansy is rather nasty, but that’s one limp-wristed punch Al is tossing off on the bottom of page five. And what was the line that came before Al’s ‘You want me to hit you WHERE?’ And what would we see if the ‘camera’ pulled back on the GROAN panel on p7. How sad does Joe look when Al has indeed gone off to the dance and left him all alone with only his thoughts and Al’s sweaty training gear. That’s the night he decides to stop sharing digs – too much pain… Were Roy Thomas and Mike Clark winking at us?

    I suspect it’s just us. Fun though. I have a new homosexual wish dream.

    Was ‘the Mighty Atom’ a popular phrase in the Golden Age? UK showbiz legend Bruce Forsyth – still going today after entering showbiz as a child in the early Forties – was originally billed as Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom.

    I guess Mark Waid’s name isn’t on this story because it was left over when Roy stopped being editor; it’ll be all Roy.

    Speaking of whom, Happy Birthday, Roy!

    Enjoy your break, Ryan, and thanks for letting me play?

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    1. Bearcat is a rough translation of the Chinese for the either (it is believed) the red panda or the binturong (both indigenous to Asia). Both animals look like a weird cross of a cat and a bear, though it is directly related to neither. It was a popular nickname in the first half of the 20th Century, especially in relation to athletes. There was an African-American pro wrestler named Bearcat Wright, who was a fairly big star. Gruman produced the F-8F Bearcat fighter plane, which was introduced at the end of WW2, though didn’t see combat until the French flew them in Indochina.
      The Stutz Motor Company produced their famed Bearcat automobile.

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    2. I’ve never once thought about The Atom as being gay and being into BDSM, nor even about him being a Bear until now. I don’t know if you deserve a smack or a round of applause. This, um, insight reads like something we’d find in “Watchmen.” In any case, now I have a new hero to, uh, dream about.

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  3. Congrats on a great show and enjoy a much deserved vacation.

    And thanks for getting Mart on the show. After years of friendship, it was great to put a voice to a name. I echo a lot of what he has to say about the Legion. It is such a great property when done well. And I am glad that you are getting into the book Ryan. Those early Levitz/Giffen issues really crackle with creative synergy. I would recommend reading all their stuff.

    I’ll comment on a couple of my favorite Legionnaires, as requested.

    My favorite Legionnaire is Wildfire. He has a great power set of strength and energy blasts. He also had a bit of a temper, which was novel for a ‘hero’ back then. Lastly, he had relationship issues (he is bodiless after all) wondering if he could ever be lovable, if the girl of his dreams would ever reciprocate his feelings. It is a bit juvenile, a sort of riff on the Anj of high school who wondered if a girl would ever notice him. I know, TMI.

    Thanks again for the show. So many stories I am looking forward to being covered here. In particular, I like the ManBat one an awful lot.

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  4. This is one of those issues I know I bought off the stands, but somewhere over the years…it just up and disappeared. I remember really liking that cover.

    Great to hear Martin on a podcast! I’ve always enjoyed his insightful commentary, so it was nice to put a voice to that. I’ve always liked the Legion more from afar than from practical collecting/active reading, but somehow I’ve amassed quite a bit of Legion knowledge. I blame Who’s Who. Speaking of which, Rick Stasi did some of the Who’s Who artwork in the back of the 89 DC annuals. Am I wrong remembering he had some sort of a staff job at DC at one point?

    I agree I like the Legion best when there is still some connection to Superboy/man. The Pocket Universe worked fine, I’m not sure why they screwed with it after explaining the whole thing away Post-Crisis.

    Always a pleasure to hear Gene. I was going to call foul on you two going overboard with the homoerotic undertones of the Atom origin…and then I saw that page you posted. Um…yeah. I doubt this was intended by Roy at all, as it would be WAY too divergent from published Golden Age lore for him. But it is VERY easy to read this into what is in front of us.

    From what I remember and what I’m seeing here, I preferred Mike Clark’s previous work over this story. The figure work seems very sloppy with huge heads and hands on display. But that’s just me. And call me weird, but I liked Atom’s “atomic age” get-up with the fin on his head. The wrestling look was more unique, but the finhead screams SUPER HERO to me.

    Enjoy your break, Ryan!

    Chris

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  5. Great episode!

    I loved the cover at the time, still do. There’s something very charming about a hall of heroes that future superheroes can go and visit. The Aquaman wing is to the left.

    Nice to hear Martin on the show. The SO circle grows ever larger…

    You and Gene were pretty harsh on the Atom! Let’s hope you now are stuck with that label and have it follow you wherever you go, so you can feel my pain re: the Legion (ironically enough covered in this same issue!).

    Re: the feedback–Jeff is right, the BLUE DEVIL SUMMER FUN Annual is fantastic, it’s worth picking up, It affectionately goofs on most of DC’s supernatural characters, when almost at the exact same time some of them were appearing in the SWAMP THING ANNUAL #2, written by Alan Moore, making for a real alpha/omega dynamic.

    Enjoy the break, and I hope all your listeners take notice of the fact that THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST does not take time off. Just saying.

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  6. I started reading the Legion back in the Mike Grell run (when Cosmic Boy was running around in a 30th Century corset and Superboy has sideburns) , starting with the death of Chemical King. I read it off and on, over the years and enjoyed the heck out of the group, though it took time to get a handle on everybody. In fact, it was the Limited Collector’s Edition, with the wedding of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, which featured a complete run down of each of the Legionnaires (including true names and powers) that helped me keep them all straight. Paul Levitz was by far the best writer on the series, though Jim Shooter is a very close second. For the long time, Levitz’s Legion stories were good adventures; but the Great Darkness Saga pushed it into the realm of epic. Even so, the lead into it is every bit as good.

    My favorite Legionnaires were always Wildfire and Timber Wolf. Wildfire has the great costume, powers, and the mercurial personality (and he was featured heavily in the Grell period) Timber Wolf was Wolverine before Wolverine. He tread a middle ground between wild animal and rational being and was one of the best fighters (as showcased in LSH #287, where he is part of a Legion Espionage Squad, which infiltrates the Khund homeworld. They end up in combat with the baddest Khundian gladiator, who Timber Wolf takes apart in a few moves.

    The story is a fine intro to the classic origin of the team and hints at the grandeur that would follow. Remember, this was a team where members died, which meant you had to pay attention, unlike other teams. Members dated, got married, got kicked off the team and rejoined; it had something more than your average superhero comic. It also encouraged its fandom, with voting of the next Legion leader and the like. You did, on occasion, have to tolerate some less than great stories, while you waited for the good stuff to come around.

    I always felt the Legion lost a lot when it lost the connection to Superboy. The pocket universe, Valor and the other retcons just never worked.

    As for the Atom, I enjoyed the character in All-Star Squadron and when handled by James Robinson, not to mention his crossover with Ray Palmer (drawn awesomely by Gil Kane). Count me in the fin-head costume camp; loved that one.

    This story? Well, Charles Atlas is still waiting for payment. Mostly, though, I just puzzle over the wonky art; it’s like Al Capp crossed with Dan Decarlo, then pumped with steroids. I’m pretty open to stylized art, these days; but this just seems off. I think it would work better if the story was more humorous.

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  7. ps The Jose Munoz that Martin mentions is the artist on Alack Sinner, an outstanding crime comic. Giffen swiped heavily from him, as did Frank Miller (the whole Sin City look and subject matter, really). Just prior to that, he also seemed to be channeling Philippe Druillet, creator of Lone Sloan, especially in some of his design work on armor, architecture and some other elements. It’s very prominent in LSH #287 and 288, just before the Great Darkness Saga begins (287 features the prologue, with the villain’s awakening).

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  8. Re: Feedback-thanks for the plug; but, I was an naval officer!!!!!!!!! 😉 However, despite what some enlisted would have you believe, my parents were married, before I was born. 🙂

    Enjoy your break!

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      1. All kidding aside, there is a difference, mostly in the legalities. Anyone who meets the age requirements can go to a recruitment center and enlist into a branch of military service (after passing a physical and background check, and a few other bureaucratic steps). They sign on for a specific length of service, then have the option of leaving the service or re-enlisting. To become an officer, you have to apply to a commissioning program (service academy, ROTC, OCS), be accepted, and then successfully complete the program. At that point, you receive a commission, signed (facsimile) by the Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of the particular service wing. The new officer’s service commitment has a minimum length of time; but no maximum. You serve at the pleasure of the CIC and Congress. You can resign your commission at any point, subject to approval from the service (meeting your minimum commitment, manpower issues, wartime events, etc…). You don’t have to “re-up.”

        The military is filled with jokes about officers and enlisted personnel and actual horror stories, as well as inspiring ones. The truth of the matter is that you all work as a team, though some teams work better than others. A successful team gets the best out of everyone, challenging each other, pushing to meet their goal. A good officer learns from his noncomcs and includes them in the decisionmaking. A good noncom takes care of the details so that the officer focuses on the “big picture.” Regardless of rank, you all share a bond that is pretty rare.

        So, yeah, we are all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines; but, we aren’t all enlisted.

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  9. Oh yeah, favorite Legionnaires. Hmmm…I always liked Wildfire’s costume, but for some reason I’ve always liked Lightning Lad. I just liked that Grell-designed look. And even the classic costume with the cape was cool. Plus, cool, easily understandable powers for a kid. When I was getting those Legion reprints in Adventure Comics Digests, he was a favorite.

    My other favorite is Mon-El. And it’s all due to that origin story. The fact that Superman had a “brother” blew my young mind. Still have a soft-spot for the original version.

    Chris

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    1. Loved Mon-El, as well. It was quite a while before I read the background, regarding the name and connection to Superboy. I was introduced to him as another Legionnaire, who looked a little like Superboy, seemed to have his powers, and a red suit and blue cape. The fact that he hung out with the very sexy Shadow Lass had nothing to do with why I liked him. 😉

      And yeah, those 70s costumes, from Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell: bell bottoms, thigh high platform boots; skin, skin, skin!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be a fan. It was like classic Trek; spaceships and skin!

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  10. Why do I love the Legion? My essay on the Legion of Super-Bloggers site says it best: http://legionofsuperbloggers.blogspot.ca/2014/09/minutiae-galactica.html

    There, I compare it to other wide expansive universes like those of Doctor Who and Star Trek, the kind of niche that AS A COLLECTOR I will always love. Because we collect trivia, we collect all the pieces of a universe, and the more you have to collect, the more satisfaction you derive from it. I often scoff at “mainstream” Star Wars fans who are so devoted to six films, three of which are often denied, whereas my fandoms require me to watch 700-900 separate pieces of TV and film even before I have to go extra-canonical. The Legion is like that because there are no recognizable touchstones, no New York, no 7-11s. It’s all invented and exists in a crazy oft-rebooted continuity. To be a Legion expert is a difficult, confusing and ultimately impressive enterprise.

    Of course, Sir Martin the Gray Knight hits the nail on the head when he says their origin is lame. I don’t know why it was retold and rebooted to still be Brande-related so many times.

    In the first American comic I ever bought, the Legion wasn’t at home so Superman teamed up with the Legion of Substitute-Heroes. I eventually gravitated to the Legion book, but it soon became Tales of, with new stories set DURING the Baxter era and then reprinting that series. Not having access to a comic book store in my teens, I have a full run of the Tales reprints, and then the 5YL era, and then the Reboot books (but not Lost and The Legion). Missed the Threeboot, but got back into comics in time to catch Jim Shooter’s run on that version of the book (lackluster, oof), and the a full run of the Retroboot Legion which includes Adventure vol.2, and LSH vol.6 and 7 (pre and post-Flushpoint). Joining the Legion of Super-Bloggers basically kept me from devoting daily content on the Blog of Geekery to the Legion. I had this harebrained idea to read ALL of Legion history (histories) in a single year, discussing several issues every day. Did I dodge a bullet?

    As for Al Pratt, the Atom, I love this character, mostly thanks to All-Star Squadron and the Parobeck-drawn JSA. I’m a tall fellow, but in high school, my best friend was Al’s size – cue Laurel and Hardy type jokes – which may explain my sympathy for his short stature. The origin is really loopy, and gives Al some major anger management issues, but he wasn’t like that in his modern appearances. More fun-loving and a good friend to similar “ordinary Joes who put on a suit to fight crime” like Wildcat. My favorite Atom tale is in an All-Star Squadron issue, I have vivid memories of the art, where Roy mimicked the style of the old JSA stories where they would split off to each fight a threat. I’d have to rummage through my boxes to give you more detail.

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  11. Goodness, what to say? When they said Legion, they weren’t messing around. This cast is huge. And honestly a bit much to digest for somebody who only knows the group through references made on this and similar podcasts.

    As for the Atom, this golden age version is quite the oddity. Like Ryan, I hear that name and can’t divorce it from the silver age atomic technology inspired version. The Atom as just a strong short guy… seems weird even for the times. And given where gay culture was at the time the 1980s rolled around, I can’t imagine that the writers/artists involved were oblivious to what could be read into all of this. I suspect they just had to be sure that it could still be read without that context for those who wouldn’t be able to process the notion, even as a joke.

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  12. So, while I find the idea of the Ranzzes as the Weasleys strangely compelling, I’m not sure that emphasizing the teen heroes aspect of the Legion is really the way to go. The best runs for the team were, hands down, the second Levitz era (to which the Great Darkness belongs), in which the characters were well into young adulthood with several married couples, and the fist year of the 5 years after version, where they were well into adulthood. And the series has been rebooted again and again, each time going back to that teen concept and never taking. I think that this is because the best Legion stories have to use the more mature form of the team.

    On the other hand, they also need the weight of their history behind them to fully work, and after the SuperGeniuses at DC editorial gave John Byrne the go-ahead to take a sledgehammer to load-bearing elements of DC universe history, it’s been tough to get that. Even in the Johns/Third Levitz most recent incarnation that sort of restored those versions, the team’s new history was too muddled to really be that kind of foundation.

    Favorite Legionnaire has to be Brainiac 5. Between being the ignored smartest person in the room and the idea of a hero descended (although it would be years before anyone figured out how that could actually work) from a supervillain, he just always appealed to me. Second pick would be Polar Boy, for his sheer perseverance.

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  13. You may recall that DC canceled the early ’90s Justice Society of America series and then killed off a chunk of their membership in Zero Hour not due to low sales, but because they were fighting the perception of being your (grand)dad’s comic book company. I wasn’t at all offended by this initiative at the time, as I was barely getting into the DCU, and I held that perception. I don’t think I started liking the JSA until I read an issue of Starman where several of the core members were battling the serial killer Rag Doll, the lights went out, and the perp was dead by the time they were restored. I respected that these were principled older generation heroes that did not commonly stoop to lethal vigilante justice, but that when a line had been crossed, they took on the social responsible to put a rabid dog down. By contrast, Batman’s inability to address the constant murder sprees of the Joker with finality made me come to look on both villain and vigilante with disdain.

    I mention this because before that Starman story, I thought all the JSAers were gaudy relics that should have been laid to rest with Crisis, and while many of them gained respect in my eyes over time, Hourman and The Atom have a running competition for Least Valuable Player (and that’s including Johnny Thunder and Red Tornado.) I prefer Al Pratt’s costume and his tendency to take up less story space than virtually any other JSAer, but otherwise Rex “Ke$ha” Tyler is marginally less worthless overall.

    Al Pratt’s entire being is defined by what my father called “little man’s disease,” but most folks would more diplomatically dub a Napoleon Complex. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, except his origin goes so far out of its way to rationalize that in irrational ways. Why can’t he just be a short guy who overcompensates to the point of becoming a first wave mystery man in spite of having no super powers? Why does his story have to be not only so convoluted, but damning in the details. As stated, why not foil the kidnapping of his object of desire in her home? Why not call the police after he follows the crooks to their hideout? Why repeatedly imperil himself and this unpleasant but innocent woman? What does he care if she likes him just because he rescued her, when he’s supposedly jumping through a bunch of other hoops to prove his worth as a partner anyway? Are we supposed to read into his obtuse super-career path ulterior motivations beyond those stated, or is his story just poorly thought out and we’re fan-editing? Also, why should I as the reader care about a rich witch who keeps setting herself up for trouble with ostentatious displays of her wealth during the Great Depression, especially one bigoted against a short fellow who is at least close enough to her social status to travel in her circles? Which begs the question, why am I rooting for this little dude who must have significant means and is fixated on a woman with whom he doesn’t appear to be compatible? Fish in a smaller pond then, asshat.

    There’s so much wrong with the why that I don’t even want to get started on the how. How hypersensitive do you have to be for “Atom” to be a hurtful nickname? How much abuse did Al’s dreadful personality and perpetual state of perceived slight earn him? What was Joe Morgan’s “long story” to being destitute? How did he keep on all that muscle if he was starving? Did he get some sort of stipend to survive on while trapped in a remote farm, or did Al just stock the cupboards and leave him to his own devices on weekdays? Was Al rich enough to buy an entire gym set-up, or was Joe keeping it in storage despite living on the streets? Why not set Joe up at a flophouse in the city and go to an existing gym every day of the week? Did Joe need to dry out or something? Seriously, why is Joe game for all of Al’s weird demands? Exactly how strong did Al get, and why no explanation for its extravagance like unusually concentrated muscle/bone structure because Al’s so compact? How did Al arrive at the decision to wear a mask when he initially only fought crimes that directly related to Mary, and seriously, was she in cahoots with all these hoods that she should keep finding herself in these situations? How did the Atom manage to have a less credible secret identity than Clark Kent while wearing a face mask, because how many 5’1″ bodybuilders do you know? How unlikely is it that Joe also trained Wildcat and Guardian, in what order did he train them, and why didn’t anyone but Al end up with quasi-superhuman strength? Space radiation? Perhaps most importantly, how and why did Kelly Jones travel back to the 1940s just to style Mary’s hair?

    Despite those paragraphs of critical questions asked, The Atom I still has a less vexing origin than Dr. Fate’s, because I recognize that this is a lightweight lesser character that probably had his stories hacked out quickly to make his unknown creators some dough in tight times. It makes as much sense as it needs to. Also, for once I’m not on the ‘mo-train with Al Pratt. I think this is a case of changing times, as there was greater comfort with male intimacy back in the 1930s. Folks didn’t even necessarily know there was such a thing as homosexuality, so there was no need to “watch out” for it or overcompensate so as not to send mixed signals. Joe was desperate and grateful for the help, while Al had no other friends and was being broken down and rebuilt from scratch. Circumstances and the bonding they elicited explain their relationship. On the other hand, The Atom I totally looks like a bondage freak, his costume constitutes beefcake fan service, and Al would be much more interesting than he is if he weren’t a sad, obvious, homogenic cisgender dude.

    The Secret Origins story is a decent enough Sunday afternoon trifle. Mike Clark’s art does the job here, but he’s not to my taste. His work never moves past drawings on a page, and his style is that of the big cheese on a fanzine that peaks early and doesn’t make a dent in the pros. I do appreciate that he consistently draws Al as a short stocky guy, instead of Hugh Jackman. My brother had that custom G.I. Joe from the inside back cover. He was cool. Oh, and those two sample pages from the Golden Age on the blog are better than this whole story. I’d read more like that!

    As I’ve said before and likely will again, I like Ray Palmer a lot, but couldn’t care much less about Al Pratt. It’s funny that the two share a motivation and a name, but the ties of legacy are much weaker between them and other Gold/Silver generational heroes. They were never friends, and only interacted occasionally and coolly. Ray also had nothing to do with Al’s true legacies. I liked Nuklon’s costume design, but he had no more personality than anyone else in Infinity Inc. That worked out well during his Justice League America stint, where he was the nice Jewish boy fending off Fire’s advances and looking out for his deeply troubled pal Obsidian. I’m less enthused about Atom Smasher, who reminds me too much of the similar trajectories of Al Rothstein and Colossus. As for Damage, I was intrigued by the ad campaign and got suckered into following his book for half a year. It was a case of everyone around Grant being more interesting and entertaining than Emerson himself, even with the later “fake daddy touched me” retcon. You could wipe out the lot and the DCU would be no lesser for it.

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  14. All of my earliest experiences with the Legion of Super-Heroes was tantalizing house ads for books I never saw on the newsstand in Texas. There was a short-lived comic shop on the side of a no-name grocery store in the barrio I grew up in that had a few Legion related comics in their quarter bins, specifically the annual that revealed where Validus came from, but I couldn’t make head or tails of any of them. Well, except for the DC Comics Presents with the Legion Substitutes, but that was more of an Ambush Bug showcase. It wasn’t until Zero Month that I found my “in” to the Legion, and I collected the two linked books until they came to an end ahead of Legion Lost. I liked the Riverdale Legion a lot for the first couple of years, but then they sent a team back to the present for a while and both books seemed to meander rather than progress past the novelty of a clean slate retro relaunch. Armed with a new understanding of Legion basics, I went back for some random ’70s issues that looked pretty but didn’t draw me in, and I got a good chunk of the early ’80s Giffen material that was nice enough. I understand why The Great Darkness Saga was such a big deal in the years between the shuttering of Kirby’s Fourth World and Super Powers, but in 1996 it left me saying “…and?” My pre-Zero Hour favorite was the Levitz/Lightle/LaRoque Baxter series, which was by turns pleasantly light and just heavy enough, with sex appeal and progressive ideals and the right amount of melodrama. It had run out of steam by the time of the 5 Years Later direction shift, so I understood Giffen’s drastic steps, but I didn’t want for opaque dystopia in my late ’90s reading. I completed my loop with that run back to the reboot, and then I jumped off for the various Abnett/Lanning titles.

    I’ve tried repeatedly to jump back on the Legion train, but it rarely works out for long, and I’m cooler toward the property with each failed attempt. The Waid/Kitson reboot was neither fish nor fowl, too backward looking to feel new and making too many changes to feel faithful. I quite enjoyed the year or so of Shooter & Manapul at the end of that volume, but that was it. The Johns/Perez mini-series looked like a hot mess, and I hated my sampling of the second coming of Levitz. Is that all of them? Seems like there should be another bold new direction or two in there somewhere. Whatever. The Legion is radioactive, and I’m too tired of the property and DC in general to trouble myself suiting up for more abuse and abortions.

    Martin really nailed his description of the Legion origin as “pedestrian.” Three adept teenagers were on a plane with Howard Hughes and went Scooby Gang on some would-be assassins. It’s like a rock n’roll movie where a manager stumbles upon a swell new band, signs them, and they make a string of critically acclaimed hit records without any conflict between the members nor substance abuse nor outside interference. It’s just peachy. I don’t find referencing the legacy of Superboy/girl particularly adds or detracts, especially given my preference for Legions that didn’t utilize those characters. The angle of having Santa Brande tell the origin isn’t novel, and Levitz is phoning it in. The art recalls Dan Jurgens, but somehow more boring. It was lovely to hear Martin’s voice in a podcast, and he did the best he could talking around this bland material.

    I think the main issue with selling the Legion is that they offer three standard issue young heroes for one unexceptional pilot story, and then BOOM here’s 15 more members right here right now GOOOOO!!!! It would be nice to do a six issue story arc with the Legionnaires 3, better establishing their characters and world building, then add a new member in each 2-3 issue arc in such a way that they contribute to a new story and demonstrate their value to the expanding team. Breathe a little. Maybe kill off some of the lesser loved or previously deceased Legionnaires in these early arcs to show why the future requires such a large pool of talent against threats of a greater scope than most super-teams ever have to face. Also, please, introduce entirely new members, a major concern of the book until sometime in the late Bronze Age when someone decided that they had enough and didn’t need to make more. Allow the Legion to constantly evolve with the time, for members to age and marry and have kids and die and be replaced. Make the Legion more like Menudo!

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