Long Live Le Levitz Legion
by Michael J. Condon
The Legion has always been my favorite comic. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think its because literally anything could happen. Their members ran the gamut from world beaters to the barely competent, so virtually any situation could happen, from Dream Girl's foiling a futuristic cat burglar to the entire Legion and all of their allies fighting Darkseid and his three billion Daxamite slaves.
It also gave glimpses of dozens of alternate cultures and hundreds of alien forms that were springboards for flights of fancy of my own. Just how did those strange aliens that seemed to consist of feet, a bag of organs and a long single eyestalk manage to evolve, make themselves productive members of 30th century society or even feed themselves? Also, as it was set in the future and had an enormous cast of characters without comics of their own, the writers could have the Legion win pyrrhic victories where the villains are stopped only after a Legionnaire or thousands of civilians die.
Pre-Crisis comics were very careful about the amount of mayhem their villains could commit. The Joker could put Robin in a hundred intricate death traps but would draw the line at whacking him with a crowbar. 4 1/3 Legionaries died pre-Crisis, a huge number when one considers only two members of the Justice Society died during that era. Paul Levitz does get extra points for having the bravery/gall to take out the original Batman. Similarly I don't think any editors would have allowed the destruction of one of their fake twentieth century cities, like Coast City not to mention the nuclear bombing of a real city like Montevideo. But the death of entire planets occurred due to the machinations of the Legion's villains. Granted, readers invest more emotional energy in even Clark Kent's apartment than the entire planet of Dryad.
However, with this love comes a greater need to pick at inconsistencies or make speculations. I don't care that all of these guys and gals are impossible characters, but I do care that sometimes the rules that the writers made for themselves were not always followed or carried out to their full implications. So here goes...
I always liked the character, especially the reboot version, but always wondered about the usefulness of invisibility. I'll suspend belief and ignore the fact that an invisible man should be blind because light would pass through his head without registering on the retina, since otherwise we'll be running into a lot of trouble when we reach Mon El's entry. Lyle can still be detected by other senses or even by some forms of sight as his invisibility does not extend to non visible spectra, as was proved when Tharok managed to detect him in the Fatal Five's first battle with the reboot Legion. One would think though that someone as smart as Tharok would have realized that Invisible Kid was attacking him without switching to nonvisible light scanners when he saw pieces of his cyborg arm coming off. He had just trapped ten Legionnaires in a room and knew that one of them was Invisible Kid.
The reboot Invisible Kid had a limited ability to make other objects invisible, a trait shared by the first Invisible Kid as he neither charged into battle naked nor wandered around like a ghost wearing a leotard, but for the most part, if Lyle tried to move anything he wound up making a poltergeist impression. A useful trait if you wanted to scare the Scooby Doo gang, but a dead giveaway to the Legionnaire's general location. Also, as many comic book martial artists state, "vision is the least of a warrior's senses." I have no idea how true this is in the real world, but the more intelligent Legion adversaries should be able to compensate for Lyle's invisibility and render him ineffective.
The Silver Age Invisible Kid realized these weaknesses and used the finest 30th century technology to aid his invisibility. He had special padded boots that made his foot steps too silent to be heard by even Mon El and had metal strips sewn into his costume to baffle radar. One would imagine that 30th century technology would also provide him with a lotion that minimized his scent, if he didn't wear a transuit into battle for the same effect, (if it is able to protect him from a vacuum, it has to be sealed tight enough to not let any scent molecules out) and a white noise generator keyed into his bodily functions that produces sound waves that cancel out the noise of his autonomic body functions. (Superboy, Mon El's equal in powers, had been known to track people in a big city by focusing in on that person's heartbeat.)
Invisible Kid clearly violates the rule that members powers do not depend on devices. His invisibility serum did not depend on his blood chemistry, as Jacques Foccart and a criminal were able to use the same formula. If one argues that his mind is his superpower it runs into the objection that the Legion already had a super-thinker, Brainiac 5.
I always thought that Colossal Boy was one of the weaker Legionnaires. Growing big made him stronger, but also made him a bigger target, and while being 60 feet tall would protect one against bullets and knives they wouldn't be much use against our heavier weaponry, not to mention what would be standard armaments for criminals and hostile soldiers a thousand years from now. Also, he was usually useless in enclosed places.
Another argument can be made that he violated the cube square law, which states that if a physical object doubles in size, its material strength quadruples, but its weight increases by a factor of eight. That is why heavier animals have thicker limbs in proportion to their bodies than lighter ones. It is also why I'm currently nursing a sprained ankle for activities I was able to easily do many years and pounds ago.
I read somewhere that an antelope's thin legs give the same degree of support relative to its weight that an elephant's tree trunk-like legs do. If you were to double your height, your strength would quadruple, but your weight would feel as though it doubled. So a 150 pound fanboy turned into a twelve foot tall giant would move as though he were carrying a 150 pound pack. If this same fanboy were turned into an 18 foot tall colossus, he'd be immobilized by the equivalent of a three hundred pound pack. Colossal Boy has been known to reach Godzilla level heights on Earth, so he should have turned into a puddle of protoplasm.
I know It's silly to harp on the cube square law as giants have been a part of fantasy for as long as fantasy existed, and are easier to swallow than Daxamites. In an attempt to win a No Prize (I know, wrong company), I have some ideas that would make Colossal Boy more realistic. He gained his powers on Mars, a lower gravity world, where, according to calculations by Al Schroeder, twelve foot tall people would be more comfortable than our current variety. Colossal Boy has the standard comic book hero build that would allow him to function pretty well with an extra 150 pounds on his frame, and as Colossal Boy rarely involves himself with the acrobatics common to many other heroes, he could probably lumber along while supporting triple his normal weight.
Levitz portrayed him as the jock of the group, showing him working in the gym more often than any of the other heroes. Also, Colossal Boy has exhibited some degree of superstrength while at normal height, allowing him to carrying his extra weight when giant sized. In a panel in Adventure Comics #371, The Colossal Failure, which I would normally regard as a major continuity breach of I weren't acting as a continuity lawyer for the other side, Colossal Boy bends a magnanium steel bar in response to being berated for poor performance by Bouncing Boy. (One could argue that being berated by Bouncing Boy could inspire even Phantom Girl to bend a magnanium steel bar.) Once the Legion developed the antigravity flight rings Colossal Boy wouldn't have to worry about supporting his own weight, and like the water buoyed Blue Whale would be free to grow to gargantuan proportions.
I always thought this character's limitations were never properly applied. He had all of Superman's powers, and in the case of his heat and X Ray vision enhanced versions of those powers, with the limitation that they could only be used one at a time. However, as Al Schroeder reveals in his article THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF SUPER-STRENGTH http://userweb.nashville.com/~al.schroeder/nov1798.htm , having superstrength without invulnerability is a recipe for disaster. As a super-muscle contracts, it would rip away from the connecting bone, becoming useless.
Ultra Boy is regularly shown smashing things or knocking out invulnerable beings with his superstrength. However, as someone who spent six weeks in a cast after punching a wall (the guy ducked), I can tell you that Ultra Boy should not be unscathed when striking hard objects. Even if you believe that the ultra energy that powers his muscles could make them super-hard and protect the bones and organs beneath, the skin on his hands should look like hamburger after every battle. If I were writing the Legion I'd go with the super muscles idea and have him wear Inerton gauntlets or use an Inerton hammer when charging into battle.
If the writers messed up by not showing the consequences of super-strength combined with a frail mortal body they were better at showing the difficulty of using super-speed without adequate protection. The Flash is one of the coolest characters there is, and his granddaughter's illustrious career shows that there is a place for a super-speedster in the thirtieth century. So it might seem odd that Ultra Boy, who has the capability to move almost as fast as the Flash, rarely does so. The reason is that XS has two powers. Super-speed and an aura that protects her from the effects of friction. If Ultra Boy moved too fast he could incinerate himself. Iron meteors that move at only a tiny fraction of the light speeds that Ultra Boy could manage burn themselves to dust due to friction with the thin air of the upper atmosphere.
I have a problem with Ultra Boy's breath. No, not the one that Tinya does. I can accept that his ultra energy gives his lungs the power to set up an incredible suction and the ability to hold a football stadium's worth of air, however, he is usually shown blowing out, not in. Where does this extra air come from? I could see him using his power to expel a normal lungful of air with enough force to bowl over an overconfident villain, but not the tornado like blasts that sweep whole armies off their feet. Superboy and Mon-El, having the luxury of a dozen constantly functioning powers, probably keep several tons of air in their lungs for just such a purpose.
As long as you're going to have a heavy hitter who can only use one power at a time, why limit him to only Superman's admittedly impressive list of powers. If I were writing the Legion I'd have him realize that his admiration of Superboy/Valor (depending on what version of the Legion I'm writing) made him subconsciously copy only his powers. I don't know if I'd give a finite number of additional powers or let new powers crop up constantly, although that would make him Deus Ex Machina Lad, something that would horribly damage the character. His character seemed to be moving in this direction in issue 282 when he revealed that he had escaped certain death by becoming intangible and invisible. A fairly cool power if it could be controlled, but unfortunately it couldn't. He next used his Ultra energy to travel back to Superboy's era because he felt that Superboy could fix anything. This showed his fixation on Superboy and he admitted that he couldn't fully control this power either. To the best of my knowledge the ideas presented in this story were never followed up.
The main problem with this character was the same that writers of the Justice League of America had with Superman with the added difficulty that he didn't share Superman's weaknesses to magic and kryptonite. How do you come up with something that would challenge this character without making the rest of team unnecessary? The only thing that could easily take him out was red solar radiation, (if you consider being able to produce quantities of red solar radiation as easy) which made Dr. Regulus and the Suneater safe from him, but anything else was fair game.
One solution was to ignore his super-speed. Mon-El was usually shown going blow for blow with various menaces such as Validus when he should have been trading a thousand blows per blow. The true implications of his super-speed were shown in Legion of Super Heroes V. 4 # 110 where a team of frantic Legionnaires were overwhelmed by a disaster in one of Fawcett World's cities while M'Onel revealed that he had successfully dealt with similar disasters all over the planet.
Most comic book magicians can do anything. They may have standard tricks like Dr. Strange's Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, or the Spectre's death gaze, but anything can happen when they're around. The White Witch bucked this tradition, and was a much more interesting character because of it. She could only hold four or five spells in her head. She concentrated on magic that would come in handy in most situations, like life support, unless she had a specific mission planned.
One of the cliched powers of comic book magicians is the mystic blast. Even comic book characters who barely have any mystic ability, like Dr. Doom and the Scarlet Witch (who got her name due to her probability altering powers long before she learned any mystic skills.) have mastered this skill. I don't remember the White Witch ever using it. I'm not saying that she never used this power, but her doing so would be almost as out of character as her grabbing a blaster or a sword and charging into battle. This didn't mean that she wasn't dangerous in a fight. She once took out a cyborg that had battered Blok into unconsciousness by making all of his robot parts explode. He would have been better off being hit with a mystic blast.
Wildfire was one of the most powerful members in the 80's. He was able to fly at Superman level speeds, although he probably lacked Superman's reflexes, wielded energy bolts capable of knocking out Superman, had some degree of super-strength, and due to his energy body was almost unkillable. Because of his abilities the writers gave him a parcel of limitations.
First was that he was literally a ball of invisible anti-energy and thus couldn't touch anything or anyone without the aid of his containment suit. He had no sense of touch, was unable to eat and, probably, was unable to sleep. Also, without the containment suit, which got destroyed every now and then, he was completely helpless. One would think that if letting a portion of energy out could destroy a tank that a free floating ball of the stuff could go through just about anything. Antienergy is very strange indeed. I would like to thank DC comics for making me think that antienergy actually existed for longer than I should have. I reasoned that if matter and antimatter could come together to produce energy, then a meeting of antienergy and energy would produce matter. I think this is one of the reasons why I let my dream of becoming a scientist die. The other was Calculus.
Wildfire displayed a number of other powers in his first appearance such as super senses, the ability to shrink, grow, turn insubstantial and transmute elements. He was rejected because he didn't have any unique powers, (a useful rule I guess so as to prevent a rush of applicants from any of the worlds where superpowers were universal) and was unwilling to demonstrate his energy blast because he thought it would kill him. He wound up using his energy blast to save Colossal Boy from a giant vacuum cleaner and was presumed dead until he found his way back to his containment suit. I guess the readers liked the "One Shot Hero" but the writers, unwilling to deal with such a powerhouse made him lose the rest of his powers with the destruction of his original suit.
Like Invisible Kid, Wildfire brings up an interesting point. If he's completely helpless without his suit, shouldn't he have been banned from the Legion under the rule that members couldn't depend on devices? The original Quantum Kid also had an innate power, but he needed a device to make it combat worthy.
This character was just plain wrong. She was a girl who could split into three girls. That's it. No other powers, no specific skills that set her apart from her fellow Legionnaires.
Granted, she could be counted on to single-handedly clobber three or four Sklarian raiders or street thugs armed with vibro blades or blasters, but that seems to be the minimum requirement to be considered a name character in any super hero comic book. R. J. Brande or honorary member Jimmy Olsen could do the same if they had to. In her first appearance, she used her powers to confuse the three founders of the Legion and get them to admit her as the fourth member. It might have been better if the writers waited until the Legion had more members as having the ability to separate into an arbitrary number of people is marginally better than being able to split into three. Similarly powered duplicators usually have bonus abilities like Marvel's Madrox, the Multiple Man's near invulnerability to blunt trauma, or Firestorm foe Multiplex's scientific genius. I don't recall that being explored much with Triplicate Girl.
Her battle against Computo let the writers have their cake and eat it too by having the drama of killing a character but still having her around. She defeated Nemesis Lad, who had the magical ability to be undefeatable by any one being, which was pretty impressive if that being was Superboy or even Karate Kid, in one panel by splitting into two and socking him in the jaw. She stopped a war by showing the combatants that they could get along as one nation the same way her two selves were able to combine. Grimbor the Chainsman wasted considerable time and energy customizing a trap just for her; a rocket powered chain that could convert energy into matter and reproduce itself into a perfect duplicate to capture its duplicating target. Granted Grimbor took great pride in his work, and given the nature of his opponents, some customizing was necessary, like the energy absorbing cage he designed for Mon El, but creating a chain like that has got to take hundreds of times more energy than contained in an atomic bomb.
Her later incarnations were better. The SW6 version, Triad, was an obsessive body builder, although having the strength of three physically fit 15 year old girls isn't going to do much against most of the menaces the Legion fought. The reboot version was better still as her primary power was her brains supplemented by above average comic book martial arts and using the ability to split up and rejoin fast enough to avoid blows and confuse attackers. Also interesting is the insights into psychology that this nonintegrated psyche offers. The book The Metaphysics of Star Trek, by Richard Hanley reveals that some psychologists believe that just as human beings have redundant kidneys and lungs, the two hemispheres of the brain may very well be independently cognizant with the left hemisphere dominant and the right perpetually frustrated. Most of us are cut off from our bitter half, but some victims of multiple personality disorder, or those who hear voices may have some contact with their "right" minds. I don't believe this theory, partially because I feel its too horrible to be believed, but instead feel that it's possible that our personalities may be the result of a blending of two opposing natures, just like Triad.
Bouncing Boy has one of the goofiest origins in the history of comics. He gained his powers by taking an experimental chemical to a robotic sporting event and drinking it instead of the soda he had bought. Fortunately he wasn't harmed, although he may have been fired. The Legion stories weren't as detailed as some obsessives might like, but instead, he gained the power to inflate himself into a human sized bouncing ball. He was immune to impact and getting hit with a 250 pound beach ball is bound to ruin the day of any no-name villain.
I don't really remember seeing him do anything really effective with his power. In one early issue he alerted the villain to the Legion's presence by bouncing on top of a rubber like bush that sent him hurtling hundreds of feet into the air. In one of the least likely panels I've seen in 23 years of collecting comic books, he staggers one of Darkseid's Daxamite slaves, a being that would have given Superman trouble, by bouncing into its face. Grimbor thought enough about him to prepare a special chain with heavy weights attached. All in all not the best power, and the writers were wise to retire this character and Duo Damsel and make them teachers at the Legion Academy. Still better than triplicating though.
Plot device lass.
When I sent the first draft of this article to a friend I didn't have a chance to write anything on Dream Girl, so I just wrote the words plot device lass to show where I wanted to go with the article. My friend advised me that nothing could follow up that summary, but as I've been never one to leave well enough alone, here goes...
Dream Girl, along with Brainiac 5 fills an important meta-fictional role. How do you get the heroes to the action in time? The early 80's Justice League had teletransporters that sent the members to the crime scenes as they were happening. Superman and Green Lantern were fast enough to get to any location on earth almost instantaneously. Most other comics rely on the hero blundering into a crime in progress or being the victim of a vendetta. Brainiac 5 could rely on his incredibly advanced brain to find connections that no one else, especially the reader (so called "mysteries" that don't give enough information for the reader to solve them are a pet peeve of mine) could see and predict where the villain would strike. Dream Girl's method was more satisfying. She gave the Legionnaires a reason for being in a certain location, and, if handled right, could give the leader an idea of what members should go on a mission and let Brainiac 5 and the White Witch prepare whatever devices/spells might be needed. Unfortunately, most of her visions were too vague to allow for much preparation. They tended to be more along the order of "something bad is going to happen on the planet Zerox". Her current incarnation is a narcoleptic which is a bit of a homage to her fainting due to the horror she felt when foreseeing Darkseid's assaults on the galaxy.
It's just as well that her visions, especially those that deal with tragedy, tend to be vague. If not, Legion opponents would spend a lot of time creating scenes that seemed to show a disaster but were really designed to fool Dream Girl's power. In her first appearance, she foresaw the deaths of several Legionnaires in a spacecraft crash, but later discovered that it was dummies made up to look like Legionnaires that got destroyed in the crash.
Dream Girl was also a high caliber martial artist by comic standards and, in marked contrast to her usually vague plot device visions, was able to dodge most attacks due to her ability to foresee them. Her high willpower allowed her to use her flight ring to give herself some low level telekinesis and after Brainiac 5 and Invisible Kid was probably the best scientist in the group. She was responsible for altering Lightning Lass's powers from electricity generation to antigravity projection so that she could stay in the Legion after her brother, Lightning Lad, returned.
Like most other Legionnaires, Dream Girl was merely one of the most competent wielders of a power shared by all natives of the planet. I have often wondered about the implications of a planet full of prophets. Most people faced with the gift of seeing the future would look for the financial section of next week's newspaper, and it should surprise no one that Naltor was the financial capital of the United Planets. However, human nature being what it is, (to say nothing of Thanagarian, Bismollian or Braalian nature) most investors in the comfortably middle class United Planets would follow the lead of the Naltorians, regularly making stock bubbles and resulting crashes that would make the Internet bubble seem minor in comparison. One might imagine that the United Planets would bar Naltorians from engaging in stock speculation for this reason. Similar controls are placed on the potentially disruptive native powers of Durlans and Titanians.
Her name was alliterative, which was a plus in the Silver Age, I have no idea how we were spared the names Dream Damsel, Colossal Kid or for a certain Bgztlian beauty, Ghost Girl. However, it didn't exactly explain her powers. In many issues she functioned as a highly limited telekinetic rather than an anti-gravity producer. In two instances she used her powers to lift buildings. She lifted a section of a skyscraper out of the path of an aircar and in another issue tried lifting Grimbor's castle. Maybe building standards will deteriorate in the future, but today, gravity is not the only force holding buildings down.
One obvious use of her powers that I don't remember seeing is the ability to interfere with another being's ability to move. By making an opponent weightless, the force a person would usually use to walk or run would result in that person being propelled into the air. That person would then float helplessly as he would not have any surface to move against. Beings employing missile weapons would find their aim thrown off by the effects of the reaction of their missile weapon's firing pushing them in the opposite direction.
By the way, Light Lass should be insulted, after all the effort Grimbor put into making special duplicating chains for Duo Damsel, she was taken out by an ordinary chain shot out of the castle.
When she first appeared, her darkfield was capable of absorbing all energy, not just visible radiation, and she temporarily drained the Emerald Eye of power. (Foes of the current methods of marketing comics might be interested in knowing that the Statement of Ownership, management and Circulation present in this issue lists that an average of 707,000 copies of Adventure Comics were produced each month in 1967. Fans of the direct market system might be interested in knowing that a whopping 293,860 of these comics went unsold each month. )
By the time I read my first issue of Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, number 246, almost nine years later, she had sadly fallen. The Legionnaires were investigating a series of murders on Mercury and started succumbing when the heat overloaded their ship's cooling system. She was the first to fall, and the other Legionnaires noted that her shadow bred physiology couldn't handle the heat. Granted, this was probably written before Talok VII was revealed to be a blazing hot desert world, but blocking sunlight is her specialty. Having her faint from heat prostration is like having Cosmic Boy get knocked out from inhaling too many iron dust particles. She probably collapsed first because she was the only woman in that particular group. The other members were Sun Boy, who obviously was impervious to heat, Chameleon Boy, who could have turned himself into a Mercurian Meeblegrifter or some other absurd creature and thus resist the heat (he wound up collapsing without turning into anything), and Cosmic Boy, who should have fallen first. Feh. It was the backup story that involved the Fatal Five that got me interested in the Legion, and the "Man that Chained the Earth" storyline that came three years later that got me hooked.
She displayed excellent martial arts skills, I'd place her second to Karate Kid, (she was able to find pressure points on Validus) and her darkfields were good at distracting Darkseid's servants, but she was mainly used to distract Mon El in battle. He often had to rescue her or get enraged when it looked like she had gotten killed. I remember one letter columnist unfavorably comparing her to Color Kid, since he could project colors other than black. In Volume 4, following the lead of Marvel's Cloak, her darkfield gained the ability to psychologically attack those it enveloped.
Even worse than her powers was her personality. If the Legion could be compared to a high school then Shadow Lass played the role of a stereotypical stuckup cheer leader who was dating the alpha male, Mon El, and who made snide comments about all of the other Legionnaires, including my personal favorite, Timber Wolf. Of course, to my twelve year old mind her greatest sin was that that she dared say such things when she had such pathetic superpowers, not the fact that she said them. Interestingly enough, she first joined the Legion due to her infatuation with the non alpha male Braianiac 5. As this quote from Adventure Comics shows: "He's brilliant... strong-willed ... Proud, handsome...and so logical! Maybe if he had a little less logic, he'd have realized why I came!" Amazingly enough Brainiac 5 for once was interested in brunettes. "She's so foolhardy...Frail and beautiful! The way she stares at me with those dark eyes, as if...Bah! Illogical!"
I just noticed that there are no periods at all in this comic book.
I think this hero was more trouble than he was worth. Sure he was super-strong, invulnerable, and had an advantage over Mon-El in that several non-invulnerable Legionnaires could hide behind his huge frame if things got too rough. He also had a little known power that wasn't under his control. He was resistant to anti-gravity, which was an advantage in his first appearance as a member of the Legion of Super Assassins where his target was Light Lass, but proved problematic when he joined the Legion and found that he could barely fly even with three flight rings. Just one was enough to allow Colossal Boy to fly around while at skyscraper height. Because of this, he was almost always the last Legionnaire to enter a battle and most foes could outrun him. To make things worse, he was extremely clumsy and regularly destroyed doorways or other objects that came across his path. He had a hard time realizing that most objects were built for humans and was surprised when the diving board for the Legion swimming pool couldn't support him. He was often confused about how humans viewed the world, but this confusion was never used for more than one panel gags. Part of this was due to the limitations on character development with an ensemble cast numbering in the twenties. Still it would have been nice to see Blok dealing with the same "stranger in a strange land" problems that Hourman did in his series.
Blok's debut, issue 253, wins the prize for goofiest dialog on a cover. On the background the Legion of Super Assassins bursts through a wall and charge a half-dozen shocked Legionnaires in the foreground. Superboy says: "Are you newcomers joining the Legion?" And Lazon replies: "No Superboy - We've come not to join - We've come to destroy you all!"
I read the Legion because I wanted to expand my mind with the depictions of alien races, exotic planets and cool technology. But, let's face it, adolescent power fantasy was also a strong component, and no Legionnaire, no superhero, met my requirements for pulse pounding testosterone drenched action than Mr. Brin Londo. He had the right combination of toughness and vulnerability to make his combat dramatic. According to the role-playing supplement of Who's Who in the DC Universe, he had a strength rating of 18, the same as the Martian Manhunter, which allowed him to lift 6,400 tons, which seems extremely inappropriate for this character. Even more ridiculously, I think the pre-crisis Legion supplement made Timber Wolf able to lift 800 million tons. I always imagined him as more of a Spiderman unleashed type of character with strength in the ten ton range. I certainly never saw him lift anything much heavier than that.
His breakup with Light Lass was clumsily handled. It hinged on something happening between him and Saturn Girl on an asteroid made primarily of ice. Light Lass got upset because she saw him giving a comforting hug to Saturn Girl, who had suffered several broken bones in a starship crash and was convinced that she was going to starve to death on the iceteroid. I have given more sensual hugs in church. Granted, this was in 1982 when a postage stamp sized comic code authority stamp sat proudly beneath the price, so it may have symbolized a more intimate encounter, but even then they could have used some leeway, like an open mouthed kiss if the intention was to show some sort of sexual betrayal. The breakup is especially jarring as Light Lass spends the whole issue talking about how much she loves Brin.
One of my favorite panels of all time was a half pager from issue #287 that featured eleven images of Timber Wolf bouncing around a Khundish gladiatorial combat arena destroying TV cameras and taking out the Khundish champion with a roundhouse kick to the face. The panel had two captions. The first said
The second said : "Need we say more?"
He went to the twentieth century as part of an epic quest to win the hand of Princess Projectra. Whatever. A McGuffin is a McGuffin. He could have been in the past due to an exploding Emerald Eye, a wish to vacation in the "rugged" twentieth century or to discover the true origin of Mordru. But none of those premises for the series were picked. Nothing wrong with love as a motivation, unless you're planning on giving the hero a love interest in the new book. Which is what happened. Strike Two.
Strike three was the DC Implosion, which was in part caused by the great blizzard of 1978, which trapped many comic books in warehouses. The DC brass saw that sales were down for the first quarter and cancelled a bunch of books, including Karate Kid. Glad to see that management techniques haven't degenerated in the last twenty-five years. I find it interesting that all of the solo Legionnaire titles took place in the twentieth century. I wonder if Karate Kid or Invisible Kid could have supported a solo series set in the thirtieth century, one that dealt with the future on a more human level?
Anyway. His powers were just as unrealistic as Mon El's or Element Lad's, but he was the living embodiment of the comic book cliché that one could do anything as long as you grit your teeth and had the will to do it. He shattered Inerton bindings, something Superboy couldn't even do, through Thanagarian Muscle Flexing techniques. He beat the Fatal Five single-handedly and bare-handedly. Batman needed an armored suit hooked up to Gotham's power supply, a kryptonite arrow, and an atomic bomb to stun the John Byrne version of Superman.
Karate Kid could take on the pre-crisis Superboy while wearing his pajamas. His final fight with Nemesis Kid was one of the most violent and shocking things I had ever read in a comic up to that time. It was written in 1984. But he did beat Nemesis Kid, and he died sacrificing himself to save a world, not under the fists of his foe, and even then he might have survived if his sense of fair play didn't allow Nemesis Kid to strike first. You can have your Batman or Captain America, to me the ultimate hero when it comes to never giving up has got to be Karate Kid.
Well all good things must end, and so must this article. Time constraints have kept me from writing about Tyroc, Shrinking Violet, Brainiac 5 and Matter Eater Lad. Other things that have a tendency to end unfortunately is my Legion. My Legion is the optimistic one from the 60's to the 80's and its child in spirit from the 90's not the depressing mess left in the ruins of the United Planets after Black Dawn or the attack of the Blight.
Maybe one day the 30th century utopia will return, but until that time.....
Long Live the Legion!
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This piece is © 2001 by Michael J. Condon.
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