Well... that took a while. I've been picking away at this review for about a week. It's spanned three parties and one pot of chili. See if you can judge my mood and relative state of wakefulness by the tone of the prose! Fun! Anyhow, enjoy.
John Review, 3 September, 2007.
Okay, me hearties. It has been pointed out that this bloggish thing has become pretty Legion of Super-Heroes-centric. Now I don't actually think that this is a bad thing, but it occurs to me that I've only been sharing my thoughts on the Legion itself in a very oblique way whilst talking of super-powered losers and the like. Well, that shall not be the case any longer, as I am reviewing the whole friggin' Legion in one fell swoop. A caveat: this review, though long, is far from comprehensive. I'm using pictures culled from the "Origin and Powers of the Legion" segments in Adventure Comics No. 316/365 and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes No. 233, so no Blok or Quislet or whoever for you-all.
Here they come, in roughly alphabetical order. (Note: The LSH are all JOHN APPROVED. Any JOHN APPROVEDs or NOT APPROVEDs beyond this point are in reference to individual illustrations, editorial decisions, etc. Treat them as existing under the umbrella of the larger APPROVAL.)
AKA: Chuck Taine. This is one of the few Legion names that don't sound all futurey.
Bouncing Boy has a ridiculous power - that of inflating and bounding about like a rubber ball - but he seems to make it work. He's one of those Legionnaires that get a lot of stink-eye and occasionally get written out of the team altogether - people are offended by the silliness of a big, fat bouncy super-hero, I guess. Sad, because that's what I love about the guy. He's a big round goofball who gets the girl - everything that the classic superhero isn't (Batman has never really gotten the girl, and Superman took, like, sixty years. I'm just sayin'). Plus, the girl he got was Duo Damsel, and so was inspired all sorts of juvenile threesome jokes. Hell, I'm even fond of his blue outfit, even though it's the epitome of Lazy Costume Syndrome: the outfit he was wearing when he got his powers.
Also, I love this picture. Bouncing Boy looks so professional.
AKA: Querl Dox. A good solid alien name, worth a lot in a game of Scrabble.
As the name implies, Querl's the fifth to use the name Braniac, counting from the 20th Century super-villain. He uses his big brain to fight the space crime, plus he's got a super-keen force-field belt. The above picture is perhaps the only evidence that Braniac 5 uses that belt to get a good chuckle in by taunting the odd crook, but I like to think that he does it often. I mean, I certainly would. Also bees and large dogs.
I have to admit that I liked Braniac 5 a lot more before Star Trek got to him and he got all serious and Spock-esque (though with a few more hissy fits). Right about the time that the Legion Cruiser grew nacelles, you could just sense the writer struggling not to have Braniac 5 start talking about the logical and the illogical. Would that I could fire my Barry Ween collections back in time as an example that the super-smart don't have to be the super-serious. Still, the guy does love his D&D, plus his main squeeze is Old School Supergirl, so all is not completely lost.
Look at that - far too serious. NOT APPROVED.
Now that's an expository thought balloon. Also, those crooks have some interesting wardrobe choices going on. It's kind of like Chameleon Boy is being hunted by a gang of avant garde artists, hungry for press coverage. Watch out Chameleon Boy! You might end up in a 'found object' sculpture!
AKA: Reep Daggle. Terrible alien name, very fakey. Not worth much in Scrabble.
Chameleon Boy's an okay dude, I guess. He spends a lot of time in animal form, which is a kind of disappointing use of shape-changing powers. I'm always much more impressed when he turns his fingers into a key or something instead of just becoming a Deltoran Door-Opening Beast or something else that doesn't require imagination so much as a good memory. Still, he did get more interesting once that whole thing where people hated and feared shape-changers was established - it almost made up for the time that he got a date by turning into a creepy-looking guy with a bad haircut.
Okay, sometimes the animal shapes were kind of cool looking. JOHN APPROVED.
AKA: Condo Arlik. His brother's name? Duplex. (sorry)
Chemical King arrived and then died in the time between the two 'Origin and Powers' features, so all you get to see is his commemorative statue. This is especially sad because I loved Chemical King. He was a great addition to the team - he had the ability to speed up or slow down chemical reactions, so he could rust metal or boost his metabolism for short periods of super strength (or presumably in order to really get his nosh on at the Legion Klordny Day feast without bloating up for a week or so afterwards) or put his opponents out by slowing down their metabolisms. It was a really neat idea. Condo got in a few really good appearances but then started showing up less and less and thinking about how useless he was when he was around - all signs that he was not terribly popular with the writers (for you real nerds: I know, I know: Adult Legion story. But come on - he didn't have to go quite that quickly). Chemical King bit it while stopping World War VII, much to my disappointment. Plus, the Legion didn't even scour the garage for a way to bring him back to life, let alone the universe. Bad show, guys.
AKA: Gim Allon. In my head it's said with a hard 'g'.
Colossal Boy's a strange mix - I like him and I don't, all at once. I like his power, sure. I like that he's Jewish and has been since the mid Seventies. I like his new costume better than his old one, though I miss the cowboy gloves with the little star on them. I don't like the costume that he wore for a while that was like the one pictured below but with bare legs - it was odd and disturbing. Plus he had that really creepy crush on Shrinking Violet for a while, complete with awkward come-ons and the infamous 'flower girl' incident. On a related topic, I have no idea how I feel about the time that a Durlan was impersonating Violet and Colossal Boy ended up marrying her. It's creepy, sure, but a guy married to a shapechanger? That's cause for almost as many puerile snickers as Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel.
On the whole... I guess we'll go with JOHN APPROVED.
AKA: Rokk Krinn. I like it. Very tough. Ignore the 'kkk' in the middle.
Cosmic Boy's one of the original three Legionnaires, along with Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. He's got keen magnetic powers that apparently allow him to make parking spaces at will (that's what it looks like to me, at least). He's also got the worst run of costumes in a notoriously poorly-dressed group. In his first outing he had the pink spacesuit number pictured above, plus a bubble helmet and the words "COSMIC BOY" stenciled across his chest. Then he wore the basic pink spacesuit for a while, and THEN...
... and then he started in on the black bustier, pictured above. And he wore it for years. The pink spacesuit was a tremendous relief when he started wearing it again. Still, Cosmic Boy is possibly my favourite Legion leader. And he dates Night Girl, for which he gets much respect (I'm not usually attracted to illustrations but Night Girl? Damn.).
And he's such a handsome devil. JOHN APPROVED.
AKA: Dawnstar. When you can use your real name as your super-hero name and not have it sound lame? That's when you know.
Only one picture of Dawnstar for you, buckos. Dawnstar is great because she constantly surprises me. I look at her and think: Hawkgirl, and so am surprised whenever she does anything other than fly, which she does all the time because her power is basically that she is a spaceship. Check it: She survive unprotected in outer space and she can fly faster than the speed of light. Also, she can track anything, virtually anywhere. Aside from the fact the the phrase 'generations of inbreeding' occasionally pops up in her origin story, I think that she's keen.
AKA: Nura Nal. Not a bad future name but utterly forgettable. I won't remember it tomorrow. (Note: While editing this mess, I forgot it in the space of a half hour.)
Dream Girl's another one of those fun Legionnaires who I consistently underestimate. Since her power is decidedly non-combat in nature and her beauty is played up almost to the exclusion of her other character traits I always forget that she's really smart and competent. She put in a pretty good term as Legion leader, for example, despite a constant barrage of low-key space-misogyny from Wildfire and the like. For a while, too, her costume was getting shinier and shinier every time she appeared. I don't know if that meant anything, but it looked neat.
JOHN APPROVED (Though that hair almost tipped things the other way)
AKA: Jan Arrah. I'm not sold on Jan as a dude's name, so I pronounce it like 'John' with a really strong Brooklyn accent.
Element Lad's sort of got it hard and got it easy at the same time. On the one hand he's the last survivor of his race, no thanks to space pirates. On the other hand, well... he can transmute anything to anything. I mean, sure he's the last son of, uh (research, research), Trom, but putting aside the "wealthy with no effort whatsoever" factor, Element Lad's powers have greater potential for practical jokery than those of nearly any other super-hero, bar the Flash. Think of it: in the course of an ordinary meal he could turn Sun Boy's dinner into wax or his underwear into petroleum jelly - and that's just a poorly and rapidly thought-out example!
His costume was a bit lame at first, but it kind of went with the 'button-nosed scamp' look that he had going for a while. Once he grew out of that he got a neat green thing with an arrow pointing at his crotch, which is something that I might have to try. One thing that he did not wear, however, was this:
... which looks like it was designed by someone who had just spent a weekend drinking heavily while reading Jack Kirby's Fourth World saga and watching Charlie's Angels (The hair! Dear lord!).
AKA: Andrew Nolan. Shares half a name with my roommate, which gave me the giggles.
Ferro Lad was neat. First off, he could turn into iron, which is a pretty good thing to be able to turn into. Certainly better than strawberry-rhubarb pie filling (for example) or tar paper (for slightly better example). I'll bet that it sounded really neat when he walked around, too. Secondly, he was ugly. So ugly, in fact, that he never took off his mask. This is kind of awesome, especially as he was a pretty great part of the team. Heroism + tragedy = good reading. Which brings us to the third and greatest reason that Ferro Lad was great: he sacrificed his life to save the universe. He straight up carried a bomb into the centre of the Sun-Eater that was threatening to, well, eat the sun and he totally blew that thing to hell and gone.
For this, he was awarded a statue. Actually, since there were already statues of all of the Legionnaires sitting around already, they probably just bronzed one of his and stuck it in a room by itself.
AKA: Lyle Norg. That's just the kind of sleazy-sounding name that you don't want a guy who can turn invisible to have.
Invisible Kid could turn invisible. He wore a headband and was crushed to death by Validus. I really have nothing to say here - I need to go to bed and finish this in the morning.
Okay. Back to it. Nope, I'm afraid I agree with Sleepy John from last night - Invisible Kid left very little impression on me, which I guess is appropriate.
Check it out! Karate Kid looks just like Harry Osborn! The Green Goblin is now deadlier than ever!
AKA: Val Armorr. I don't know... it sounds like a name for a futureman, but not for a karate futureman. More like a space knight or something. Maybe a future businessman.
Karate Kid was always fun. He was the only guy on the team with no super powers whatsoever, but he had mastered every conceivable martial art and was a formidable enough fighter that he smacked the holy hell out of Superboy by way of an application to the Legion. In keeping with his martially artsy ways he was eventually revealed to be the son of a deceased Japanese super-villain and the protege of a wizened old Japanese super-hero (and subsequent to that he was redesigned a bit so as not to look 100% White Guy). This is noteworthy because as far as I can tell it is the only hint in the Legion comics that anything super happened in the nine hundred and eighty-odd years between the death of the last member of the Justice League (It was Batman, I'll bet) and the founding of the Legion. Seems the Japanese were hoarding all of the super.
That's right, Karate Kid! Put the fear into that weird thing with your mighty kick! And then... dangle from a steel wall by your ankle, I guess.
AKA: Ayla Ranzz. Not bad, but it puts me in mind of cave girls. Actually, since I've never read Clan of the Cave Bear, the first time I played Chrono Trigger I was left wondering why the heck they named a prehistoric RPG character after a future-themed super-hero.
Uh, because there's a cave girl named Ayla in Chrono Trigger (sorry, comic-but- not-video-game nerds!).
Light Lass was at one point Lightning Lass, twin sister to Lightning Lad and sister to Lightning Lord. The Ranzz family, it seems, likes to pick a descriptor and stick with it. She actually made her first appearance while Lightning Lad was dead, and posed as him for some reason that now slips my mind. Apparently it wasn't too heinous, as they let her stay after they found her out, although they did take her pants away (see costume, above) so there might have been some hard feelings.
Eventually, Dream Girl exploded something at her (again, can't quite remember why) and Lightning Lass became Light Lass, able to decrease the weight of any object. This was a great power for the Legion to have around - subsequent to the change, any number of buildings and so forth fell on our heroes in a like number of nail-biting cliffhangers, only to be rendered light as feathers and escaped from with minimal effort. Good job, Light Lass.
The first time I saw the above picture I didn't know too much about the Legion, so I kind of hoped that the floating tots were part of some sort of Legion Kids Auxiliary. Butterfly Babe and Star Snippet?
AKA: Garth Ranzz. Good combination of a conventional first name and a crazy future surname. Big points in Scrabble (actually, the Ranzz name originated in a game of Scrabble).
Just like his siblings, Lightning Lad gained crazy electro-powers when they were all blasted with lightning by some improbable-looking alien beasts - by far not the worst thing that could have happened. Garth was one of the three original Legionnaires and kind of had a Cyclops-esque boringness about him for a while. This was offset, however, by the fact that he kept dying or losing his arm to the Super Moby Dick of Space - I liked him because his tragedy entertained me!
He also had some pretty snazzy costumes, including the two pictured here. Blue and white with yellow lightning? that's a solid choice of palette, friend Garth.
And check out the sideburns! This picture was taken on the day of his best haircut ever.
TRIPLICATE GIRL/DUO DAMSEL
AKA: Luornu Durgo. Which is what I alphabetized her as, since she's been so changeable with the super-hero name over the years.
I have to admit that I like Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel much more now than I did before I started watching the new Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, in which she kicks much ass. Not that I hated her or anything before - far from it. How can you hate someone who is 2 to 3 hot girls rolled into one? Plus, she married Bouncing Boy, which is possibly the most endearing thing ever. I mean, what are the odds of a big fat nerd getting the girl(s) in a comic book, if it's not for a punch line? Okay, okay, better now than in times past, but that's kind of the point - they got married in the Seventies. True Love triumphs!
Her penchant for getting partially killed off, though vexing, makes sense, I suppose. "What an easy way to create drama without losing a character!" thinks the writer. It always vaguely saddened me, though - the whittling down of a person from extraordinary to mundane. Here's hoping the 'Una' version of her that's running around the present-day DC Universe gets some sort of happy ending.
All that and she's got the stones to wear purple and orange.
AKA: Tenzil Kem. Terrific name. Rolls off the tongue. Would take a bullet for you.
I may have mentioned this before but I'll say it again: Matter-Eater Lad is my favourite super-hero. I'm not sure what exactly draws me to him but I suspect that it might just be the old one-two punch of the underdog with the sense of humour. I mean (and it pains me to admit this), the ability to eat virtually anything is kind of inconsequential when people like Mon-El or Wildfire are running around with their invulnerability and their antimatter and so on. Matter-Eater Lad is forever undeterred by this, however, and sallies forth against Mordru or whoever with utter confidence that his gastrointestinal gifts will see him through. Except for just before he left the Legion, of course. But then that's a common occurrence - one second someone's engaged in an internal monologue on the topic of their value to the Legion, the next second they're dead or drafted into politics or something.
That's the other thing: Tenzil left the LSH because he was drafted into being a senator on his home planet of Bismoll. It's sad, but better than if he were dead. And it's an interesting system of politics, to boot.
See that? That's action eating right there.
In the original of the above picture the rock was bright green, thus illustrating that Mon-El was strong like Superboy without being a kryptonite wuss. Don't know if the rock in this later version is gray because of an oversight or because it's supposed to be lead, in order to showcase that Mon-El has gotten over his own brand of wussery.
AKA: Lar Gand. Good name, if slightly Nordic-sounding. always reminds me of flowers, for some reason. (UPDATE! Perceptive Mike Abbott has pointed out that it's probably because it's an anagram of garland. Turns out that my subconscious is awesome. Mike, you're JOHN APPROVED.)
Mon-El was an interesting cat. He was basically a slightly older Superboy with an allergy to a different substance, but he also spent a thousand years in the Phantom Zone, so was kind of technically an old man (the best part of the whole Phantom Zone thing was that when the LSH finally cured his allergy to lead he popped back inside one last time to taunt all of the Kryptonian criminals who were still languishing there. Classy!). I'm pretty fond of his formal wear-looking version of the classic superhero getup - it's like he's always ready to receive a medal or take an ambassador's niece out to the opera. Also fun: Mon-El dates Shadow Lass, in the closest thing to an interracial relationship that you'll find for quite some time in the comics, unless I miss my guess (NOTE: I have almost certainly missed my guess).
The other other interesting thing about Mon-El is the fact that his planet - Daxam - is still alive and well, unlike Krypton. This means that there are, like, millions of folks out there who just need to hit a beach under a yellow sun for a couple of days to be just as powerful as Superman, only with a weakness to bullets and pewterware. Which is kind of a fun thing to have hanging over everyone's heads, especially after that whole 'Great Darkness Saga' thing.
That's just a terrible picture of Mon-El. Sorry, Lar, it just ruins the mood.
AKA: Tinya Wazzo. Not a bad name, but I dislike the fact that I misremember it as Shrinking Violet's, thanks to the 'Tiny' part.
Phantom Girl is possibly the female Legionnaire who most consistently kicks the largest amount of ass. She can dematerialize as a result of being from the other-dimensional planet of Bgztl, which has a simply awesome name. Most of the time, Phantom Girl uses her powers very wisely, e.g., solidifying only long enough to punch some dude in the back of the head or flying into the floor, reemerging only in order to punch some dude in the back of the head. Way to go, PG! Keep on punching that head-back! She's also the brains in her relationship, since she's dating Ultra Boy, the lovable lunkhead.
Too, she's had a series of great costumes, including the original retro superhero getup with the big 'P' on the front. Man, she could hang out with the Justice Society in that number, maybe date Wildcat for a while, get a few head-punching pointers...
Her 1970s update costume is one of the few that I actually like, at least partially because I love seeing super-heroes wearing actual pants. She looks pretty dope in the new Legion cartoon, too.
AKA: Projectra Wind'zzor. Wind'zzor... huh. Oh! Because she's royalty, I get it!
A lot of the Legionnaires call her Jeckie, and I literally just realized that that was short for Projectra. Like, last week. Also, if her first name is Projectra, that removes all trace of cool from her super-hero name. She's just as bad as Radiation Roy, really.
Princess Projectra came from a medieval culture, with castles and so forth, and still managed to fit right in to the high-tech, fast-living Legion, so kudos to her for that. She had the ability to cast illusions, kind of like Command Kid, and just like him she mostly used them to scare people with big monsters and such. Seriously: she, Command Kid and Chameleon Boy should form their own Legion of Unimaginative Dopes.
However, she did marry Karate Kid, so points to her there - he's a cool guy, and on a purely tactical level their powers complement each other well. He did have to jump through some fairly ridiculous hoops in order to marry her, but I guess I can't really blame her for having a jerk for a father.
Dammit. I spent a while digitally removing Karate Kid from the above picture, but now I need him back. Okay - scroll back up the the KK entry and take a look at the second picture, then come back. Done? Good. The first time I saw this picture, it was in a LSH digest, which was about the size of an Archie comic, i.e., really small. For years (off and on, not constantly) I tried to figure out what the hell that brown thing next to Princess Projectra was. My best guess was that Princess P'd created an illusory stump for Karate Kid to jump over on his way to the steel wall, thus making his feat seem all the more impressive. It was actually kind of sweet, in my mind. Now it turns out to have been just another weird monster. I am sad.
AKA: Imra Ardeen. A nice name. Soothing. Plus you can make fun of people who spell it 'Irma.'
Saturn Girl started out in the Chameleon Boy School of Lame, in that she mostly used her astonishing mental powers to cause monsters to do her bidding. Later she got cool and used her abilities in all sorts of creative ways, but then she started wearing the worst costume ever (pictured below), at least until the mid-Nineties rolled around. When she's well-written, I really love her, and since I'm up to about 1986 in my quest to read all Legion comics ever, she's currently enjoying my approval. Seventies Saturn Girl is still dead to me, though.
That being said, this is possibly the best picture of her in that horrible costume. Also, check out the guy she's putting the whammy on! I wish that this guy had been a regular Legion foe - he could have kidnapped someone, say, then gloated and grimaced and stroked his magnificent whiskers. It would have been glorious.
Argh! Horrible! Horrible picture. Abominable hair. You're lucky you just had a baby, lady.
AKA: Tasmia Mallor. Nothing wrong with that name. However, she's from the planet Talok VIII, whose people apparently haven't gotten around to naming the thing that they all live on. "Well, it's the eighth planet out from Talok... just put us down as Talok VIII until we put a little more thought into it."
The colour's pretty washed out in this picture, so Shadow Lass is looking something less than her usual blue self. Also, it kind of looks like the guy in the foreground just shot her in the abdomen. Hopefully he's using some sort of Schroedinger's pistol that fires a bullet that's in a state of quantum flux. Thus she'll exist in an uncertain state between gut-shot and not until that goon gets a good look at her midriff. And really, how likely is it that that will happen?
Shadow Lass' powers of darkness-casting are kind of iffy, Legion acceptance-wise, but lucky for her she quite literally kicks a lot of ass. And I appreciate that.
AKA: Salu Digby. Every once in a while I read that as Salu Dibny and get all excited about a possible Elongated Man connection. Sadly, such is not the case.
Shrinking Violet is cool. She's another Legionnaire who uses her power very wisely to strike when advantageous and avoid undue harm, including a signature 'growing uppercut' that's always a big hit with the kids. When she first appeared she was especially interesting in that she really lived up to her name, being very shy. She hardly ever said anything and constantly had this very worried expression on her face, like she was afraid that someone was going to solicit her opinion on something. Over the years she became more and more self-assertive (and lost the old-lady-ish hairdo).
I'm not sure that I'm right but I've always assumed that the above picture was of Violet's home planet of Imsk. If this is the case, Imsk is possibly the funkiest planet in known space. Check out the hat! This crowd is ready to seriously get down.
Not sure what's going on in the above picture. Possibly Star Boy has forgotten that he has lost the Superboy-esque powers that he had in his first appearance. Could be that this is when he stopped wearing the purple-and-yellow outfit - after it was seared to his flesh by a raging firestorm.
AKA: Thom Kallor. Eesh. Hopefully that's a future-name of some kind and not a shortening of 'Thomas' because I have an irrational dislike of 'Thom' in the second sense.
Star Boy's power (after the first batch wore off) is to add mass to any object, thus making it super-heavy. This is pretty darned useful in a fight, plus it allows him to do a fairly accurate impression of Mr Heavyfoot from The Kids in the Hall.
Possibly the best thing about Star Boy, though, is the above costume, especially after the v-neck thing was eliminated. Way to be snazzy, Thom! It looks pretty good with the beard that he later grew as well. You know what I liked about that beard? It made sense. There's no way that as many teenage boys as are in the Legion could hang out together for any length of time without busting out with some facial hair. I'm frankly surprised that Braniac 5 doesn't have a soul patch.
AKA: Dirk Morgna. Say that in a deep voice. It's satisfying!
I sort of like Sun Boy despite himself. Even though he's a bit of a pretty-boy jerk, with all of the attendant womanizing and so forth, he doesn't fall wholeheartedly into the stereotype by being a coward. Sun Boy's a stand-up guy - he never shirks or backs down or runs out on his friends. He treats life lightly is all, and the flippancy and speed-dating are a part of that. Plus, that's a sharp costume, especially the logo.
Sun Boy's also one of the sub-class of Legionnaires whose origin really should have been the last sentence in their obituary. Like, "Garth was tragically electrocuted while vacationing with his brother Mekt and sister Ayla on the planet Korbal." or "Chuck accidentally drank a container of experimental plastic and asphyxiated. He was 15." or in this case "Dirk tragically lost his life after accidentally being locked inside a reactor at the family nuclear plant. He is survived by his father, Dr. Morgana. Family friend Dr. Zaxton Regulus has offered to fund a charity in Dirks memory, following his development and patenting of a method for amplifying solar energy using radioactive gold." What lucky kids.
SUPERBOY AND SUPERGIRL
Superboy cannot be held, even by your mightiest lederhosen!
AKA: Kal-El/Clark Kent and Kara Zor-El/Linda Lee Danvers. That's right, this is the original Supergirl, y'all.
Not too much to say about these two. They were the inspirations for and also members of the Legion, which is great for the time stream, thanks for asking. I actually try not to think too hard about the logistics of the whole thing - it got kind of complicated after a while, especially what with the fact that the two existed something like twenty years apart in Pre-Crisis DC continuity. It was always neat to see the Super Cousins interact with an actual peer group, but ultimately the LSH just outgrew them.
They did, however, miss the dance parties that they used to throw. Such a spectacle!
AKA: Brin Londo of the planet Zoon. Again, completely fun to say. Someone was having a good day when they came up with that one.
Timber Wolf was kind of like Superboy Lite. He was really tough, strong and fast, but not as much as Kal-El. I'm not sure what his one-unique-power-that-you-need-to-get-into-the-Legion was, but I suspect that it was the 'super acrobatics' thing that sometimes comes up when people talk about him. Personally, I think they fudged the rules a bit because they needed another member who could take a punch. Plus he was dating Light Lass at the time. Woo, nepotism!
Timber Wolf always had a neat costume, what with the stylized wolf's head and all, but he had that 'comic-book vampire' look to his facial features. He eventually got plastic surgery to look more pretty, and then a strange thing happened: his lean, athletic physique became really stocky and body-builder-ish. Damndest facelift I ever saw.
I really can't help but like Timber Wolf, thanks to his first appearance, in which he's suffering from amnesia and thinks he's an android. He's incredibly emo during the whole affair and wanders around thinking about how he can never have friends or a girl or a home because he wasn't really human. It would be kind of a Black Like Me experience except that I don't think that he learned a lesson from it (other than that he can get the girl, of course). Plus there were some really great monsters and gratuitous android destruction. It's possibly one of my fave Legion stories of all time.
AKA: Troy Stewart. Eh. It's a name. His last name should be Rockwell or something, to make Tyroc at least sound plausible as a nickname or something because, seriously, there's no explanation for it. (Oh, shit. It means "Scream of the Devil". I lose.)
Tyroc was cool, in a way. I always liked his power, which was the ability to use reality-warping yells to do all kinds of crazy things like travel across dimensional boundaries and create force fields and so forth. He was, however, the first black member of the Legion, and the writing suffered for it. He spent his first issue or two as an Angry Black Man, then had two or three good yarns, then basically disappeared for a couple of years (every time the Legion were getting together to do something someone would mention that Tyroc was very busy doing stuff at home). His last substantial appearance - up to the point that I've read to, I know he comes back someday - was basically him telling the Legion that he was leaving Earth forever and so long. It was kind of an inauspicious run for someone with so much potential.
Tyroc did have one other claim to fame: possibly the worst case of Lazy Costuming Syndrome ever. Not only did he wear his regular future-clothes as his super hero outfit, but they were basically the same clothes that he'd been wearing since elementary school. Seriously, there's a shot of him as a wee tot in his origin story and he's wearing a white unitard with a high collar and some chains across the front. I suppose that's what comes of being the only superhuman on an extradimensional island nation: you get to wear whatever the hell you want, even if it's totally stupid-looking.
AKA: Jo Nah. Possibly the worst name pun in DC history. (Because he got his powers by being swallowed by some sort of giant space beast, of course. Curse you, punsters!)
I'm pretty fond of Ultra Boy, for a couple of reasons. First off, his power was originally just eye-based. Rather than being able to switch between invulnerability, superstrength, superspeed and eye-stuff, he used to be just a guy with x-ray (or 'penetra') and heat (or 'flash') vision, much like Superboy's, the difference being that Ultra Boy's could see through lead. Now, Ultra Boy as the Legion bruiser is pretty fun, but him running around as just a guy with fancy eyeballs is to me even better. A good portion of the time it'd be like the Legion let in some kid with a gun and a periscope, which is awesome.
The other reason that I love him is the costume. That is one classic outfit right there. Wrist bands, giant belt, wicked bird insignia... I'm damn glad that nobody tried to change it. Up until the mid Eighties, that is. I think I remember an appearance by him in the L.E.G.I.O.N. comics of the Nineties where he was wearing some awful dragon-themed thing, but I'll ignore that.
Oh - also, he dates Phantom Girl, and she's a stone fox.
Great. It turns out that the best costume ever is also a Lazy Costume. Either that or he found it in that beast's belly. Eh. He's still JOHN APPROVED.
AKA: Drake Burroughs. Soap opera star Drake Burroughs. Dashing archaeologist Drake Burroughs. International playboy Drake Burroughs.
Drake Burroughs is made of antimatter. Drake Burroughs is full of angst. Drake Burroughs is a bit of a jerk. Deep down, though, Drake Burroughs has a heart of gold. Golden antimatter. Dlog.
Wildfire's okay. As far as character development goes, though, his got stuck at about the point that he became Legion leader and also a giant dick.I can kind of understand where he'd be upset with his lot in life, what with his being composed entirely of energy and not having the ability to get down and dirty with his main squeeze Dawnstar, but there's something to be said for having a character move on and deal with things and work around their unfortunate circumstances and such.
I actually like Wildfire best when his suit gets torn up and he's just floating around as a little pink cloud of energy. Especially that time he was mad at Invisible Kid and "haunted" him for a few issues.
BONUS: THE LEGION OF SUBSTITUTE HEROES
This is the pre-Giffen Legion of Substitute Heroes, when they were almost as good as the regular Legion and maybe just needed a couple more tries to get things done. The above is my fave picture of that very earnest bunch. Lookit! Don't you want to hang out with them?
AKA: Ral Benem. Looks like an anagram but it's not. (Great. Now I think that his name should be Lar Gand)
Chlorophyll Kid is fun, and not just because he didn't call himself Plant Lad. He must've known that Plant Lad would eventually appear in the "Super Stalag of Space" epic two-parter and that he was doomed to be shot down like a dog (or was he?). Plus, the name Chlorophyll Kid is mildly educational, in that it might make some stupid kid go, "What the hell does that name have to do with plants?".
Anyway, the Kid is tremendously endearing, like all of the Subs. I do however agree with the Legion on his rejection, in that he can't actually control the plants that he grows, so that he's entirely at the mercy of nature. Tricky thing, nature. Don't know if I trust it.
Still, JOHN APPROVED.
AKA: Ulu Vakk. Ew. His name makes me feel kind of gross.
It surprised me when I realized this, but I think that Color Kid might have the best case for being admitted into the Legion. He was rejected because his power wasn't terribly useful, but over the years he's been shown generating swathes of darkness (a la Shadow Lass) and light (one-half of Sun Boy's powers) and changing an object's color in order to camouflage it (which Princess Projectra could do but seldom does). So really, he's three super-heroes in one! Also, it's been established that he can neutralize kryptonite in some unlikely way by changing its colour. Man, if I were Superboy I'd never let this guy leave my sight! How awesome would it have been for him to confront Lex Luthor and his Kryptonite Lion or whatever and for Lex to think that he had the upper hand only for Color Kid to leap out from behind a bush and turn the thing blue or mauve. Can you imagine the expression on Luthor's face? It would be the best thing ever! Wheee!
AKA: Stag Mavlen. Stag, huh? Sounds like he went to a private school. His best friends were Chick and Flip, I'll bet.
Fire Lad could breathe fire. That's it. Not a bad super-power, but the Legion thought it might be dangerous and rejected his ass. I guess it is a bit dangerous, kind of like if someone radiated heat from their body, or shot lightning from their hands. Or were made of antimatter. Jeeze, Legionnaires. Stop being such milquetoasts.
Fire Lad is the one serious challenger to Tyroc's Lazy Costuming title, in that he was wearing that flame-themed jumpsuit when he got his powers. Just why, we shall never know. Bet there's a story there, though.
AKA: Lydda Jath. Ah, Lydda.
I've written elsewhere of my love for Night Girl. I mean, look at her: great costume, great hair, super strong, really tall... I think that she and I could really make a go of it, if only I were fictional. And if she weren't in love with Cosmic Boy. Oh well.
Night Girl is another one of the Subs who should really be in the Legion proper. Oh sure her powers only work in the dark, but that problem was solved the second that Shadow Lass joined up. It really is a terrible thing when a great character is neglected. Oh well again.
AKA: Brek Bannin. Now Brek, there's a proper Thirtieth Century name. Just futuristic enough without sounding all fake.
Leader of the Subs. Polar Boy's only problem was that he was too eager when he tried out for the Legion - he made everything too cold in the tryout room and the Legionnaires got both chilly and pissy. Polar Boy should've gotten in on the strength of the fact that his powers complement Sun Boy's so well. It would have really rounded out the team.
Polar Boy's kind of short, too. I like that.
AKA: Dag Wentim. Dag, yo.
Stone Boy's power is so patently useless that it's always really fun to see how he makes it work. He's all the time coming out on top whilst being in a hibernative state, just like my old roommate. On top of that, Stone Boy overcame the most horrible legacy of all: a home planet with absolutely no fashion sense. See, folk on the planet Zwen all have the ability to turn to stone so as to survive the six-month nights that they get. For some reason, they choose to acknowledge their triumph over the caprice of Newtonian physics by all wearing the same orange jumpsuit with the same badly-rendered rock on the chest. It's a pretty horrible sight, let me tell you. As you can see in the group shot, far above, Stone Boy eventually got much better costume. Good for you, son.
ANOTHER BONUS: RESERVE AND HONORARY LEGIONNAIRES
AKA: Pete Ross.
Pete Ross, huh? Yawn yawn yawn. I was never really a fan of the Rossmeister. He's like Jimmy Olsen Lite. His only claim to fame is that he knows Superboy's secret identity. Well: guess what, Legion? I do too! Do I get a flight ring? No? Cheap bastards.
AKA: Elastic Lad. Well, maybe it should be the other way around, but I can't find my Elastic Lad picture and I've been writing this on and off for a week. So sue me.
I'm pretty fond of Jimmy Olsen - I'm not really sure where the anti-Jimmy sentiment that I run into all over the place nowadays came from. I mean, he's just this nerd with a swelled head who hangs out with Superman and gets into scrapes and turns into things... what's to hate? Did I miss an issue of Action where he kicked a puppy to death? And another thing: why is it that every time Superman turns evil recently he starts jabbering about how irritating Jimmy's signal watch is? Didn't he make the damn thing? Couldn't he make it play Bolero or something? Come on, people.
Oops... off topic. Anyway, Jimmy joined up as Elastic Lad but couldn't be a real Legionnaire because he got his powers from a serum. He only really had two or three adventures with the Legion, but one was this great yarn where the female Legionnaires fawned over him to make his girl Lucy jealous but she wasn't watching the timescope because she was really vapid or something like that. It was kee-lassic Silver Age comedy, let me tell you.
Hey, I found my Elastic Lad picture! Now that is an inexpensive way to clean out the Clubhouse's septic system.
AKA: Lana friggin' Lang.
Lana always drove me crazy with her suspicious ways - she never knew when to give up. Mind you, she'd make a great protagonist in present-day comics, all spunky and independent-minded and such. In the context of the Silver Age, though, she just comes across as a colossal irritant. Also, Superboy acts like a douchebag around her, making for twice the tsuris.
I must admit some fondness for Insect Queen, however, what with her crazy turn-into-half-an-arthropod powers and excellent costume. Too bad about the "no powers acquired via magic ring" clause in the Legion Constitution.
Nice legs, Lana! (sorry)
AKA: Rond Vidar. Rond Vidar, futureman.
Rond is a neat guy. He's a time travel expert, he's a secret Green Lantern (because they aren't allowed on Earth, for some reason), and his father is the super-villain (and ex-Green Lantern) Universo. Such an interesting backstory for someone who's appeared so few times.
That's a pretty nice jacket, Rond.
AKA: Gnill Oprill. So many 'l's! It's madness!
Ah for the days when 'psycho' in a character's name meant that he had some form of psychokinesis. Kid Psycho, Dr. Psycho, Psycho-Pirate - all vestiges of that halcyon past and all pretty funny at this point (name-wise, that is). Kid Psycho was some sort of giant-headed mutant who could make force fields. Trouble was, every time he did so he shortened his life by a year or so. Since the Legion were squeamish about killing off the poor guy they called him a reservist and sent him on his way. And then he got killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't know. I'm tired, but I'm almost done, so you have to read this lame writup of a poor sap of a character.
Sure does look good in that turban, though.
THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS
I don't have too much to say about this bunch. Comet, Krypto, Beppo and Streaky - Super-horse, -dog, -cat and-monkey, respectively. They're all basically as powerful as Superman, whether because they're actually from Krypton (Beppo, Krypto), because of some sort of weird radiation from, uh, X-kryptonite (Streaky) or through an implausible series of events including Circe and a magic comet or something, I don't know (Comet). Comet's in love with Supergirl, which is gross. Oh! And they all think in complete sentences except for Beppo, the only primate in the bunch. He strings sentences together like a baby Bizarro who's been dropped a few times, like it's only natural that a monkey would be way more stupid than a cat. This all makes me crazy like Superbaby, man.
But enough of that sort of grouching. The Legion of Super-Pets is really only called out when there's some threat that only animals can take care of, like some brains in globes that can control human minds but not those of animals or a... giant who's, uh, really allergic to dander.
AHH! Kill it! It's an abomination before God! Burn the corpse and spread the ashes to the four winds! Swiftly, before it has to feed!
Cripes, what a horrible picture. And I like Proty II. I'm totally down with Protean Emancipation and all that. Making a pet out of a sentient being? For shame, Chameleon Boy. For shame.
That picture, though. Shudders!